Sunday, December 22, 2013

Emily Gets Crafty: Pine Cone Christmas Ornament

Two craft posts in one week? I tend to make a HUGE mess when I'm feeling creative so I try to get it all out my system at once. Besides, this adorable pine cone ornament will be totally irrelevant in a few days.

I love this craft it's easy, it's pretty quick (took me less than 45 minutes), and it makes a GREAT gift. I set out to just model the first few steps for you and then via the wonders of the internet present one that is already done (ie: one I made last year), but I was having so much fun I accidentally made the whole ornament!

Here's what we're going for:

-Paper trimmer (or scissors/ruler)
-1 sheet of scrapbooking paper
-a Styrofoam egg from a craft store
-small straight pins

Start by cutting 1"X1" squares of paper. Take a square and gently crease it down the middle (not folding, more like bending). Then take two corners and fold them toward the midline, the result should look like this:
Next start to affix the pieces of paper to your egg. The points of the paper should be facing down toward the narrow end of the egg. Attach them with two straight pins in either upper corner.

 Your pine cone will look terrible at first...don't worry, as more of the pieces of paper are attached they will start to lie more uniformly. I usually pin four pieces to the bottom to form a point (this is when it looks the worst). From there work your way around the egg slowly spiraling upward overlapping the pieces so that none of the egg shows through underneath.

Work your way to the top of the pinecone, in the end you should have a small empty circle at the top. Mine in the picture is a little bit bigger than normal because I was just using scraps of paper and ran out, but even a circle this big is okay.

 I then cut a "wiggly" circle out of a coordinating piece of paper, fold it in half one way and cut a slit perpendicular to the fold, then fold it in half the other way and cut another the slit, the result is an "X", this is what we'll use to attach the ribbon to.

Finally, make a loop with your ribbon knotting it at one and and stick the loop up through the "X" you just cut. The knot will keep the ribbon from slipping out. You can then either attach the top with straight pins or with hot glue/craft glue if you have it. The top will not lie flat, it's not supposed to, that's why we cut a "wiggly" circle so it would look good with the ripples.

And VOILA! Pine Cone ornament, perfect to enjoy on your tree or be given as a gift

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What I'm Eating on Christmas:

We're getting down to the wire...the last week has been a blur of Christmas parties but we have the next few nights relatively free, I got the last few Christmas cards in the mail and now I'm sitting down to put together the menu for Christmas dinner. I love sharing recipes and getting recommendations from other people so I thought, "why not kill two birds with one stone and blog my Christmas dinner?"

Most people who know me know that I almost never cook. Nathan does most of our day to day cooking (really.) I just have the hard time wanting to put in the effort for just two people...but I LOVE cooking for groups of people, dinner parties are my jam. This year Nathan's family is going to be down in San Diego so I'll only be cooking for seven, it's a little more manageable than the usual 15 so I decided to be a little more ambitious with my menu.

Some of you may recognize some of these recipes because they're yours (thank you), others are ones that I'm "famous" for, and I'm even trying a few new ones...bold, I know.

Two things before I get started:

- These recipes are actually going to span Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day...but I'm going to lay them out as if it's all one day.

-Gotta give a shout out to Pepperplate! My friend Mackenzie turned me on to this website and I LOVE it for organizing and uploading my recipes all to one place. PLUS Nathan has the app on his phone so I can send him a grocery list when we're not together.


Raspberry Goat Cheese Breakfast Strata

This is a new recipe for me so we'll see how it turns out. But I really like that I can make it the day before and then bake it on Christmas morning.

Hors d'ouevres:

Triscuits with Cucumber, Cream Cheese, and Dill

I got this recipe from my friend Claire and it is always one of the first plates empty at a party!

Triscuits (plain or one of their fun flavors like peppercorn)
Cream Cheese
Powdered Ranch Dressing
Fresh Dill

-Mix one packet of the powdered ranch dressing into some cream cheese (probably about a cup)
-Spread onto a Triscuit
-Top with sliced (and peeled, if you like) cucumber
-Garnish with a sprig of dill on top

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates 

This recipes has you also stuffing the dates with almonds but I'm not a huge almond fan so I just stick to the goat cheese.

A little tip our friends Claire (different Claire) and Brian showed us on vacation one time...coat the bacon in two parts brown sugar, one part cayenne pepper...the sugar caramelizes onto the bacon and gives it a sweet/spicy kick.


Caesar Salad (nothing special) 

Artisan Bread w/ Oil & Vinegar for Dipping

Asparagus Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese

  We love this soup, it's easy but it feels fancy, and it's green which adds some nice color to the table.

Roasted Marinated Lamb with Lemon and Rosemary Potatoes
Another new recipe! When I saw this recipe it made me think of THIS "iconic" movie scene.

Side note: I'm going to use red potatoes instead of Yukon


Candycane Cheesecake

1 1/3 c. chocolate cookie crumbs [for crust]
2 tbsp. granulated sugar [for crust]
1/4 c. butter, melted [for crust]
1 1/2 c. sour cream [for filling]
1/2 c. granulated sugar [for filling]
3 eggs [for filling]
1 tbsp. flour [for filling]
2 tsp. vanilla extract [for filling]
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract [for filling]
3 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese [for filling]
2 tbsp. butter, softened [for filling]
                                                               2/3 c. crushed peppermint candy [for filling]
                                                               Sweetened whipped cream (1/2 of recipe)[for
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine first 3 ingredients and press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan; set aside. In blender, blend sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, eggs, flour, and extracts until smooth. Add cream cheese and 2 tablespoons butter, blending until completely smooth. Stir in crushed candy.

 Pour into crust. Bake on lowest rack of oven for 50-60 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool (cheesecake may crack while cooling), refrigerate overnight. 

To serve, use knife to loosen sides of cheesecake from pan; remove springform. Spread top of cheesecake with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish with round candy cane. Serves 10. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Welcome to the Family, Katie!

I’m getting a new sister! That’s the news around the block the past week and now I can finally talk about it! My little brother, Jeff, popped the question yesterday at sunset to his sweet, beautiful girlfriend Katie and we couldn’t be more excited. People have asked me if I like her, if I’m glad they’re getting married and my answer has been, “um…have you MET her?” Unless they haven’t met her in which case my answer is yes, yes we are very glad they’re getting married.
Jeff has been barely able to contain his excitement since he bought the ring a couple of weeks ago, carrying it with him everywhere, showing it to us at church. It was lucky for me that Katie’s been in Germany so I didn’t have to keep the secret for too long. We were laughing last night about how rude I was being ignoring her at church on Sunday, walking away when she came up to our group of friends to talk, but I just didn’t trust myself not to let something slip!

He took her on a highlight of their favorite dates throughout the day and got down on one knee at Discovery Park at sunset (which was uncharacteristically stunning for Seattle in December). They went out to dinner at Il Bistro and then came over to Bellevue for an engagement party hosted at Nathan’s parent’s house. Their friend Preston took pictures of the actual moment on bended knee and it was kind of surreal to see. It made me realize that in my head Jeff is still 7 years old and not nearly old enough to be getting married.

The cherry on top is that one of Katie’s best friends is Nathan’s little sister so there is already a tangled web of familial connections that will only get more entwined with marriage.

To Jeff and Katie: Nathan and I are so excited for you and what this adventure is going to look like in your life. Marriages have been happening throughout history and of course there are the dos and don’ts but the really neat thing is that everybody’s journey is unique to the two of them and I can’t wait to see what yours looks like. We’re excited to support you and hopefully not add too much to the craziness that is an engagement. Even more than being excited for you wedding, I’m looking forward to 20, 30, 40 years down the road when this is a distant memory and you’ve gotten to enjoy all that time being married to each other. We love you two.

"okay everybody....look REALLY excited!"

Monday, December 16, 2013

Emily Gets Crafty

I'm still figuring out this blogging thing, it can feel weird talking to the ether and feels a bit presumptuous to think many people are interested in what I have to say. However, one area I do feel confident in is anything creative. I'm excited to bring you my new projects from time to time and maybe spark some ideas.

I mentioned how writing on this little blog has gotten my creative juices flowing in other parts of my life. The latest outlet is quilling and I AM ADDICTED!

It all started when I saw this. I love all things paper-crafty (scrap-booking is my main obsession) but I really don't like "kitschy" stuff, this alphabet was perfect, very classy.

The best thing is it really wasn't that hard, so without further ado....the tutorial:

What you need:

-Quilling strips  (I used 3/8" for a more dramatic look but 1/8" is the standard)
-A slotted quilling tool (you can also use a needle or toothpick)
-Craft glue
- A shadow box if you're going to mount what you made.

For the letters I printed out a big letter in the font I wanted on printer paper, placed it on top of my mounting paper (a little bit heavier stock) and then traced the outline. The result is an indented outline on the mounting paper underneath.

I chose a strip of paper that I wanted to use to outline the letter and laid it along the outline without gluing it down, creasing and folding in the appropriate places. I then brushed the glue and tacked it down section by section until the outline was done. I really liked the Alena's Turbo Tacky glue because it dried pretty quickly so you weren't sitting there forever trying to wait for the paper to stick.

Next I started curling the paper. It's pretty easy to figure out on your own. If you have a slotted tool you just put the edge of the paper in and start twirling. I placed my thumb and forefinger on the top and bottom of the roll to keep it all even.

When you have rolled the paper around the tool you and slide it off and either let it unspool a little bit for a looser, bigger coil or glue it down right away for a smaller, tighter one.

There are lots of cool shapes you can make besides just coils. I found this website super helpful in trying out some different shapes. I mostly used "S coils" and "shaped tear drops" but I'm sure as I complete more projects I'll branch out a little more.

I found it best to make the coils all first and not glue any down. I didn't have an exact idea of how I wanted to fill the space so it was nice to be able to move them around and play with them. Once you have them situated how you like you can start gluing them down.

I started at one end of the letter and worked toward the other. Here's where the paintbrush and tweezers really come in handy. Sometimes I would paint the sides of the coils to glue them to each other and sometimes I would brush the glue directly onto the mounting paper. Either way works it just gets harder as you get closer to being done (kind of like painting yourself into a corner), the tweezers were nice because you could grab the coils and hold them where you needed them until they were dry, but they weren't necessary.

And just like that, you're done! Enjoy your handiwork...or if not your own, enjoy mine!

A "J" I made for my little sister-in-law Julie

"G" is for Grimm!

When I start my next quilling project (and there WILL be a next quilling project) I'll take pictures as I go and update this post.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tradishuuuunnnn! (tradition!)

 We have this joke in our family: If you want to get me to do something, just tell me it’s a “tradition”. I’m the tradition-keeper/creator/drill sergeant in our family. This goes double for Christmas time. After I moved out for college my mom once told my siblings not to let me know that they’d gone to a different tree farm than normal to cut down the Christmas tree (seriously!). 

I’m learning to let some of these go so as not to make myself crazy and thus defeat the point of trying to get in the Christmas spirit. As I am fully aware of how ridiculous I am when it comes to tradition-adherence, here is a self-deprecating look at some of my Christmas magic-making traditions (both past and present) and how they’ve changed now that it’s Nathan and I carrying them on.  I’d love even more to hear some of yours; I’m always looking for good ideas.

Getting the Tree:

OLD: This MUST be done the weekend after Thanksgiving to allow for maximum tree-enjoyment time. We must all drive out to the tree farm in North Bend, we must walk around forever and get into many fights involving tears and angry words about “whose turn it is to pick out a tree” (“Nuh-uh…you got to pick the tree LAST YEAR!) Once we somehow decide on a tree we all go in the little shed and drink hot chocolate and eat a candy cane while my dad tries to tie it onto the car.

NEW: This still has to be done the weekend after Christmas, this year we went and cut down our tree a few hours after running the half marathon. We found a great new place where all the trees are basically perfect so we just pretend to fight for a few minutes (we TOTALLY got YOUR tree last year!) because, well, it’s tradition. But now I grab cider for both of us and then actually help Nathan get the tree on the car.

The Nativity Set:

OLD: My family has a really beautiful ceramic nativity set made by my great great aunt Dede. It’s been the in family at least twenty years and is still in the original cardboard apple box, with the original packing peanuts, and the pieces are wrapped in the original paper towels! After the house is decorated we gather ‘round the box and take turns plunging our hands into the nasty packing peanuts to see what we pull out. Sounds pretty normal, right? Well, I have no idea how this started but once all of the pieces have been pulled out we take turns sticking our heads IN the box and then pulling them out to have the peanuts stuck in our hair. Everybody has to do it. I can only imagine what Nathan thought the first time he witnessed this whole situation go down.

NEW: The first year we were married my mom bought me my very own beautiful willow tree nativity set, complete with a large cardboard box, packing peanuts, and paper towels. We haven’t changed a single thing about this tradition in our home. I’ll let you know how the peanuts and paper towels are doing in twenty years…

The Candlelight Service:

OLD: Every year I try to keep myself up so we can go to church for the Christmas Eve Candlelight service. It’s simple, peaceful, and solemn and always just what I need to get my heart in the right place. We sing Christmas carols and read the Christmas story out of the Book of Luke, the last one we sing is “Silent Night”. The church is completely dark and everyone is holding unlit candles. One candle is lit at the front and the flame is passed back through the church until everything has a soft quiet glow.

NEW: Nothing has changed about this tradition either, it’s my favorite one. I know it’s a favorite for others too because there are a few old friends that I’ve mostly lost touch with, but I see them every year at this service. It doesn’t get done until just after midnight and I love getting to officially wish everyone “Merry Christmas” before heading home.

New Traditions:

Painting Ornaments: Every November Nathan and I go to paint the town and we each paint an ornament. It’s really sweet that he humors me this way, I’m usually WAY more intricate with mine so he just ends up sitting there waiting for me to finish (and he usually leaves to make a Starbucks run). It’s so fun to take them out every year and see what we’ve painted from years past. We’re starting to amass quite the collection.

Christmas Dinner and Devotional: We are so so lucky. Our families actually like spending time together. Every year on Christmas I host a dinner with both of our families and it’s a huge blessing not to feel torn between two houses. It’s not very fancy, usually baked potatoes or something I can prepare ahead of time, and it’s quite crowded…there are 15 people just in our immediate families. But it’s a great time to get together, eat, play games, and Nathan usually reads us a Christmas themed devotional after dinner. We have a favorite that is made up of the stories behind the people who wrote beloved Christmas Carols.

So, yeah, I’m a little crazy. I’ve always been a very sentimental and nostalgic person so this personality quirk isn’t entirely surprising but I’ve been trying to be careful this year to only celebrate the traditions that build in meaning, not obligation to this season. There can be so much a sense of expectation and performance that really steals the joy and magic. I’ve had to learn that just because it was great once doesn’t mean it will be great the following twenty times. I can tend to really fall victim to trying to incorporate traditions merely to try to recreate the magic of something that happened in an organic way, which is just not the same thing. It’s a learning process…hey! Maybe cutting one tradition every year can be my new “tradition”!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The days of Christmas: Jimmy Fallon Flashback!

Life has been crazy soon as we finished the marathon we had to turn around and start our final rehearsals for the Christmas show Nathan and I are dancing in at church. We actually just finished our first show of the day and I'm sitting in a Starbucks writing this and waiting for our next call time.

I'm going to try ("try" being the operative word) to write a post every day leading up to Christmas. Even though writing is not a particularly creative endeavor for me, the act of sitting down and doing it gets my creative mind really flowing in other directions, something I really enjoy the effects of as you'll see in a post later this week!

For this installment, as requested, a flashback to New York and our trip to see Jimmy Fallon taped live! Enjoy:

We spent Thursday morning laying low, Nathan took some of our clothes to the laundromat and I wasn’t feeling great so he let me lay around on the couch all morning. But we couldn’t do that all day, oh no sir, Thursday was Jimmy Fallon day! 

I was pretty anxious about getting down to 30 rock in time, I had heard it could be pretty hectic getting in and even though I had gotten the initial ticket (a feat in and of itself) they overbook all their shows so we weren’t guaranteed to get in. We found the place we were supposed to meet early and I was a stressed out wreck until we got our wristbands. *deep breath*. Now that I knew we were “in” we got to walk around and explore Rockefeller Plaza, which was super fun! They already had the big Christmas tree up but there was scaffolding around it and they were trimming off branches so it was hard to see. We watched the ice skaters and found all the places they took for the opening shots of the show 30 rock. Before we knew it, it was time to come back for the taping!

They totally seat you based on how you look. When you get your wristband they give you a letter, it has nothing to do with what time you get there. It’s not exactly a great practice but I had been reading a yelp review about the show and  knew they were going to do it so I tried to look like my usual “desirable demographic” self. Well it worked! We got to sit in the fourth row on the aisle. It was kind of weird though because they fill in the “pretty people” first (please know what we’re being sarcastic…but that’s how Nathan and I referred to each other as the rest of the night) and then everybody else sort of has to climb in over you, they aren’t too subtle about it.

One of the head writers came out to give us a rundown of how the taping was going to work and she was super funny (of course) so she did a really good job of getting us pumped up. After her the Roots came out and played some music and they had Wanz as a guest musician, which was SO great, and by then we were all bouncing off the walls.

The taping itself just flew by, Jimmy only stopped and started over after one little introduction. He was so high energy and just seemed like he was having a great time. It made me think that it would be weird to have to be so intense about the same thing every day, but he put on a great show. Damian (Lewis?) from Homeland was on, along with Steve Coogan who did some pretty great impressions.
It was super interesting to see all of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes to make the show happen and to see how Jimmy could be funny and spontaneous while still keeping track of so many other things and timing stuff perfectly.

I was excited when I heard they were going to play a game with the guests, those are always my favorite episodes, they played charades and I was so into it I almost yelled out the answer on accident! Sheryl Crow was the musical guest, I’ve never really liked her music at all, but she did actually sound really good live. Usually the musician sticks around afterward while Jimmy is saying goodbye but I think she had to catch a flight so she just left right after the song so he had to do a kind of awkward closing. But then came the best part…he ran through the aisles of the audience and Nathan and I both got high-fives. I’m typically more star struck by that type of thing than Nathan is but I still played it cool.

And WOOSH! Just like that it was over, what an experience to have!

 While we had been waiting to get our tickets for Jimmy, Nathan had called and gotten us some last-minute tickets to First Date, a new Broadway show starring Zachary Levi from Chuck (a show we love). It worked out perfectly; we grabbed a quick dinner and just walked over to the theater. I wasn’t expecting too much from the show, it hadn’t gotten a great review in the NY Times, but the tickets weren’t very expensive so we thought we’d give it a try. We ended up LOVING it! It was definitely a little bit edgier than Newsies (but Newsies is Disney, so that’s not saying much). The story wasn’t incredibly original but they told it in a really cool way. There were only seven people in the cast so they all played a bunch of characters and handled the sets and the costumes in a really creative way. 

Zachary Levi was so much better than I was expecting! I really liked him in Chuck, but you know how sometimes on t.v. it seems like people might just be playing themselves? It was fun to get to see him play a different character. He had GREAT comedic timing and the guy can SING! I’ve still got some of the songs stuck in my head three days later.

We were leaving the theatre after the show and saw a little barricade set up along the side of the theatre with about 20 people standing around it. I figured the actors/actresses would probably be coming out later but we kept walking. After about half a block we decided, “What the heck, it was pretty warm out; we can at least wait for ten minutes…”  I ended up getting my playbill signed by the whole cast and got to chat with each of them for a minute. Zach came out last and couldn’t have been nicer. We were standing at the end of the barricade so we were the last ones there. We got to tell him we liked the show and joked around a little bit and he was even nice enough to take a picture with us! I asked him if it would be weird to use the picture for our Christmas card and he laughed but he wasn’t sure whether we were serious or not…at the time neither was I. Full disclosure: I did upload the picture into our Christmas card just to see if it looked weird…it did. I can’t believe I just admitted that to you all!

Ah well, at least we felt famous for a night!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

What Running is Teaching Me

We just got back from the pasta feed/inspiration dinner before the half marathon tomorrow. Matt spoke at it and needless to say, now I'm all fired up! The clothes are all laid out, the weather forecast has been checked (50 and raining), and jitters are setting in...

So here's what running has taught me:

-I am strong

-I am also weak, but I can keep going

-Nathan likes to talk while we run…me? Not so much.

-We always start and end in the same place, what that means is a net zero elevation gain. I try to tell myself that when we’re running uphill that means that later we get to run downhill but it sure doesn’t feel like it evens out.

-I also tried to tell myself that the uphills are a gift because they make me stronger and the downhills are a gift because, well, they’re downhill. The problem with that is my bad knees make the downhills pretty painful. And who am I fooling? The uphills are NOT a gift. The Hills of Seattle and I are not friends right now.

-Cute running clothes are sometimes the only thing that gets me out the door on those cold, rainy days.

-Nathan is an excellent running buddy/coach. He could easily run faster than me (those long legs just aren’t fair) but he doesn’t. He runs with me. We were on an 8 mi. out and back and unfortunately the out was mostly downhill so the back was, yup…. We were on our way back I was staring up at the hill and it was the first time so far that I’ve said “I don’t think I can do this” (aloud, I’ve thought it plenty). Nathan was right at my elbow telling me, “head down, dig in, almost to the top, power through, use that mutant lung capacity” (it’s true, I have a measured outrageously large lung capacity)

-It’s been really awesome to have something that Nathan and I are pursuing together. Yeah, we have the Sounders and leading youth group and many other shared passions. But it’s fun to mix it up sometimes. Try something that we’re maybe not great at and encourage each other as we get better.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Why I Run

Whelp....we attempt the Seattle half marathon on Sunday. I wrote this latest post on the plane to New York but wanted to sit on it for a bit. As always, going back and reading my writing I find it falls short but the point is still valid so up on the blog it goes!

Here's what I want  you to get out of it: We have some incredibly people in our life going through really difficult stuff. I don't feel like it's my place to share the depth of their journey these last few months so this post is a whitewashed 1000-foot view off their story, but their example has inspired and motivated me and THAT is why I'm running.

Why I Run:

We’ve recently started training for the Seattle Half Marathon on December 1st. And by recently, I mean we’re on a seven week training schedule...not what most people recommend but it’s been working for us so far. Here’s how this little adventure all came about:

I come from a family of runners; my mom has WON the Seattle Marathon before, my Nana is a runner, my brother, I think even my dad has run a marathon or two. Hjorts are just built to go the distance. I was on my school’s cross country team when I was younger but I’ve had knee problems ever since so I tend to stick to lower impact exercise. Still, I’ve always wanted to do a long race. My mom would finish one of her marathons, I’d get all inspired and think “I could do that!”, look up a training schedule, realize I’d have to run at least five days a week and then my dreaming would go dormant as the reality of our busy life took over. 

Our pastor Matt was diagnosed with Hairy Cell Leukemia almost exactly a year ago. Thankfully this is a very treatable kind of leukemia with a very high survival rate. I’m sure he certainly wouldn’t call it a good time, but within a few months we were all celebrating because he was in remission. He volunteers his time as a track coach and used to run with his wife before they got engaged (there’s a pretty funny story there). So Matt and my mom decided to train for the Seattle Marathon this year and run it with Team in Training which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. The team is full of leukemia survivors or people who have lost someone to various types of cancer. 

Well things don’t always go as we plan them (ha!) and in September Matt received a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Hairy cell is like a warm fuzzy teddy bear compared to AML and the chances of one person getting both in their lifetime are literally astronomical. So it’s September, Matt’s not running. I’m praying and worrying, worrying and praying (which I know aren’t supposed to go together, but I’m only human). I was kind of taken aback at how much his diagnosis affected me. I’m a pretty easy-going person and wouldn’t normally categorize myself as a “fixer” but I just felt so helpless and REALLY didn’t like it.

I was having lunch with my mom in mid-October. We were talking about Matt, her half-marathon training, how much the team was missing getting to run with him, etc. And I don’t know…I just…wanted to run. So that night Nathan and I did just that. I had no idea how far I was capable of going…apparently 3 ½ miles. It was slow but I finished in one piece and from there we decided. We’re doing this.
I’m not under any illusions. I know that my running is about me, it's just a way for me to feel in control and that it has no material impact on Matt’s health, but as much as it’s wrecking my knees, it is healing my heart. I’ve been really intentional about not running with any headphones in, which on a long run is a lot of quiet time with my thoughts.  A lot of time to pray, and think, and question, and wonder.