Christmas Playlist

By popular demand, and just in time for some winter weather, I bring you my ginormous Christmas playlist. Full of new favorites like “Twinkle” by J.D. McPherson and “A Christmas Song” by Shawn Phillips and old standbys like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Elvis, Harry Connick, Jr., Natalie Cole, Rosemary Clooney, and Andy Williams. It also features some of my guilty pleasure holiday pop songs by Hanson (don’t judge), Mariah Carey, Wham!, and The Waitresses.

Oh! And “Dominick the Donkey” and “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” ūüôā

It’s sure to please everyone. From me to you, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

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Music Monday – Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is Thursday.

It’s an oft over-looked holiday from the music perspective and what’s a holiday gathering without music?

Don’t you worry, I’ve curated the ultimate Thanksgiving playlist, sure to please everyone who’s helping you in the kitchen or eating at your table. It’s full of songs from The Beach Boys, Bing Crosby, Joni Mitchell, Old Crow Medicine Show, Norah Jones, Johnny Cash, Louis Armstrong, and more.

Enjoy and take some time to reflect on all that you are thankful for this year. I promise, blessings abound.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Christmas Eve Pajamas

I’ve written previously about the traditions¬†my family had during the Holidays and also about the unfortunate turn of events that has surrounded some of them, like the fiery Advent wreath.¬†So it wouldn’t be Christmas without yet another story to add to the family history, right?

Every Christmas Eve, my family has a routine. We play games or work a ¬†puzzle (or both if you’re really lucky) and fill up on Christmas goodies like Hairy Eyeballs, Cookies, Buckeyes, and any other sweet you could imagine. Then, we gather in the living room around the Christmas tree and open one gift each.

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Every year we expect this and we don’t pack this because we know it will be supplied to us shortly.

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We open Christmas Pajamas on Christmas Eve.

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And this year, I even bought a similar present for the pups of the family, my sister’s dog Lilah and our faithful pup, Senna.

Well, we usually do.

This year my mom asked my dad to keep the gifts separate from the others so they would be easier to find on Christmas Eve and he kept them so separate that he forgot where he put them. So instead of opening a pre-determined gift on Christmas Eve, we got to pick one gift from under the tree to open and if we got lucky they’d be pajamas. None of us chose correctly, so instead of this awesome picture I had in my mind of my sister and me in our pajamas with our dogs, we got this:

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Taylor's Twinkies!

A post shared by Megan Taylor (@megtay) on

This picture is equally awesome because my sister and I had on our matching¬†Canadian¬†tuxedos, but it’s not the same as all of us in pajamas.

On Christmas morning, after all the gifts were unwrapped and none of us ever opened up pajamas, my dad went on a house search for the missing packages. They were found in an upstairs hall closet on the top shelf and had “Christmas Eve” written on each box.

Guess we’ll have 2 pajama pictures to take next year!

Our First Cookie Exchange

Santa Senna

Santa Senna helped us get ready

I’ve always wanted to host a holiday party, one that might become a tradition, and since we bought a house now’s as good a time as any to give it a go, right?

We brainstormed and decided since Adam and I both have a sweet tooth, we’d host a cookie exchange and that’s where this story begins.

About 3 weeks earlier, we sent out Paperless Post invites and started planning. I researched exchanges and swaps online and defined our “guidelines” based on what I read.

Several blogs I read recommended having each guest/family bring 7 – 11 DOZEN cookies each. We thought that was a bit extreme and went with an even 4 dozen per couple/family/friend. As guests arrived we had them grab a number off the table to label their cookies. These numbers would be used in the competition later – yes, we competed. Isn’t that what life’s about?

Guests ate, drank, and were exceedingly merry before we busted into the cookie sampling.

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B is for…

We had sugar cookies, chocolate chip varieties, bars, brownies, and more to sample before judging our favorites. The most festive and best tasting cookies were given prizes and bragging rights until next year.

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Most Festive

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Best Tasting

After everyone got their cookie induced sugar coma on, we had them fill boxes with their favorite cookies to take home and enjoy throughout the holiday season!

It was a wonderfully festive evening but since it was our first exchange we’ve made note of a few things we’d change for next year:

  • 4 dozen cookies per family/guest is waay too many, our house looked like Cookie Monster threw up in it, not that that’s a bad thing. (I can’t even begin to imagine the leftovers if everyone brought 10 dozen each) Next year we’ll have guests bring 2 dozen each.
  • Full size cookies were a bit too much for guests to sample everything everyone brought. Next year we’ll ask guests to bring bite size cookies or provide utensils for them to cut cookies into smaller pieces.

See? Cookie Monster.

Ultimately, our first cookie exchange was a success – we had a blast hosting it and learned that our house is PERFECT for entertaining. Which is great because we hope to host many more parties in the future.

Music Monday – Christmas Playlist

If you know me, or have read my blog for even a few weeks, you understand that music is a huge part of my life. At Christmastime and the holidays? I’m even more consumed by music and the jolliness it brings out in me. It’s just so cheery and festive – how can you not love it?

Usually, I reserve Music Monday posts for a single song that’s currently my jam, but today, in the spirit of the season, I’m sharing with you my carefully curated Christmas playlist. It’s been 2 years in the making and I’m sure I’ll be adding to it throughout the season. The playlist is chock full of my favorite songs – from Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong and the Vince Guaraldi Trio to Sting, Paul Simon, Natalie Cole, Mariah Carey and even a couple of Hanson tunes – there’s sure to be music to fit everyone’s tastes.

Press play and enjoy!

Happy Holly Jolly Holidays¬†– curated by Meggie’s Life

Music Monday – Adele

This Music Monday is very special to me.

Today marks our first wedding anniversary (I can’t believe it’s already here) and this is the song to which we had our first dance.

I remember that awkward moment of everyone staring at us while we danced like it was yesterday ūüėČ

Rest assured I’ll be reminiscing about October 15, 2011 all day today. I’m so incredibly lucky!

Make You Feel My Love – Adele

A Holiday Survey!

I came across this survey over on PB Fingers and thought I’d share my responses with you.

Enjoy and feel free to play along in the comments or post to your own blog!

  1. Eggnog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate. With peppermint.
  2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? We always have at least one Santa gift wrapped under the tree, but most were unwrapped and sitting around the tree.
  3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White is preferred, though I also have an appreciation for the vintage colored bulb strands.
  4. Do you hang mistletoe? Growing up, my parents always hung mistletoe in the hall of their home.
  5. When do you hang your decorations up? Typically, we decorate our home the weekend of Thanksgiving.
  6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Christmas morning my mom makes a breakfast casserole and an amazing bread dish she calls “Tutti Bread” – it’s smothered in a poppy seed mustard mixture, cheese and topped with bacon. Deeeelish!
  7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? My family gathering at my grandmother’s house on Christmas night and singing Christmas carols. A family favorite was “Twelve Days of Christmas” and we’d break into groups for each “day”. My uncle had the 5 golden rings part down! A close second would be The Advent Wreath mishap.
  8. What is on your Christmas wish list? Anything from my holiday gift guide!
  9. Do you open a gifts on Christmas Eve? Yep! We get to open one pre-designated gift on Christmas Eve and it’s almost always a new pair of PJs.
  10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? With random ornaments that have either been given to us or bought by us over the years. I much prefer a mismatch of ornaments that have meaning!
  11. Snow? Love it or dread it? Love it!! Too bad we were more likely to get ice than snow at Christmas in Arkansas.
  12. Real tree or fake tree? Real!
  13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Probably the Playmobil Victorian Dollhouse. My sister and I spent countless hours playing with it growing up. I loved making up stories for the dolls and tucking them in to their beds. I think it’s still stored in my parents’ attic and I¬†occasionally¬†dream about playing with it as an adult. It was seriously a gorgeous dollhouse.
  14. What’s the most important thing about Christmas for you? The memories made with family.
  15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? I am always up for a large serving of my mom’s dishpan cookies.
  16. What is your favorite tradition? I love going to the 11 o’clock Christmas Eve Candlelight service with my family. It’s a wonderful and peaceful service that reminds me every year what the season is truly about.
  17. What tops your tree? An angel always topped my parents’ tree, but this year Adam and I have a star topping our tree.
  18. Do you prefer giving or receiving? I love giving gifts, but I also equally love snooping to find out my gifts.
  19. What is your favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night
  20. Candy canes, yuck or yum? YUM!!!!
  21. Favorite Christmas movie? Elf!
  22. What do you leave for Santa? Dishpan cookies and milk.
  23. Do you have a Christmas morning tradition? My sister and I always had to wait and come down the stairs together before we could open our presents. We always wear our new Christmas PJs.
  24. Do you prefer to shop on-line or at the mall? Lately, I’ve enjoyed shopping online, but there are some gifts that are just easier to find in-person at the mall or local shops around town.
  25. Christmas letter or Christmas card? Christmas card.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I’ve always loved cooking, but leftovers? Not so much. I mean, I can enjoy them for lunch the next day, maybe dinner too, but typically after one additional meal I’m totally over it and want something different.

Now that we’re married, and basking in newlywed bliss, it’s been wonderful to fix a recipe and know that it won’t go bad before I tire of eating it – because there’s 2 people to eat the leftovers!

Last week, as we began to decorate our little abode for Christmas I decided to get in the kitchen and cook a meal. It had started getting chilly outside and I wasn’t really in the mood for soup or chili. Thankfully, Pinterest came to the rescue with Lemon Roasted Chicken and Hasselback Potatoes.

The chicken was phenomenal. Both Adam and I devoured it. Adam even requested that it be a regular meal in my arsenal – I’m good with that!

We both thought the recipe could easily be adapted for chicken breasts, though I cooked it as directed using chicken thighs. In fact, we’ll probably try it with chicken breasts next time. Mmm…next time, my mouth is already watering just thinking about it.

Added bonus: the chicken was just as delicious reheated the next night for dinner!

Now, I’m not gonna lie and tell you the potatoes tasted as good as they looked coming out of the oven. I mean, they were good, but the flavors didn’t blend throughout and sometimes you were stuck eating plain roasted potatoes with no seasoning.Plus, they were a pain to slice and season thoroughly ¬†– which probably explains why the flavors didn’t blend.

Next time, I think I’ll use the same seasonings but toss them with potato wedges or slices instead of the fanned whole potatoes.

Lemon Chicken

from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • Thinly sliced lemons, for garnished

Directions:

  1. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large zipper-lock plastic bag.  Seal the bag and shake well to blend.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in the bag with the marinade, pressing out excess air and sealing once more.  Refrigerate and let marinate for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425ňö F.
  4. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and transfer to a baking dish, skin-side up, reserving the leftover marinade.
  5. Brush the top of each piece of chicken with melted butter.
  6. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until the skins are crispy and well-browned.
  7. Halfway through baking, pour the remaining marinade over the chicken pieces in the baking dish.
  8. Once fully baked, cover loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Baked Hasselback Potatoes

from¬†Chicho’s Kitchen

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed (leave skin on)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • chopped chives for garnish
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 425ňöF (220¬ļC).
  2. Slice each potato crosswise at 1/8-inch intervals, cutting to within 1/4 inch of the bottom. Be careful not to slice all the way through. The potato will fan out a bit as it bakes.
  3. Combine olive oil, garlic, salt, smoked paprika and parmesan cheese in a small bowl.
  4. Lay the potatoes on a baking sheet.
  5. Carefully insert pinches of this mixture in between the slits of the potatoes.
  6. Rub the outsides of the potatoes with residual oil.
  7. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. The inside should be cooked through and the outside of the potato should be a bit crispy.
  8. Garnish with additional parmesan and chives!

Holiday Gift Guide

It’s time again for my annual¬†Holiday Gift Guide!¬†In an effort to minimize confusion for anyone buying me gifts, here’s just a few hints of what I’d love to receive under my Christmas tree this year.

These are a few of my favorite things for 2011…


1.¬†Ceramic Pig Speaker¬†from West Elm¬†($49), 2. Orysia shoe in Natural Fabric¬†from Nine West ($89), 3. Design Sponge at Home¬†by Grace Bonney¬†from Amazon¬†($23.10), 4. ¬†Small Square¬†Farmer’s Market Basket¬†from Anthropologie ($14), 5. Vintage Station Wagon and Christmas Tree Flour Sack Tea Towel from Etsy ($8), 6. Blu Bijoux Silver Pyramid Stud Earrings from Max&Chloe ($28), 7. Women’s SmartWool Frilly Knee Highs from Sahalie ($23.95)

Transitioned and Thankful

It’s been a month since I got married. A single, whirlwind month full of traveling, packing, Hog calling, unwrapping, unpacking, organizing, working, and more unpacking.

Needless to say, I’ve neglected my blog, but I’m in a groove now – or so I think – and blogging will return to normal soon.

In the meantime, my favorite holiday is upon us and the practice of giving thanks is something that also seems to be neglected in my day to day life. But, you see, I am thankful – I’m thankful for a lot of things.

I’m thankful that my husband supports and encourages me. That he tells me he loves me frequently.

I’m thankful for my health.

I’m thankful that I have a roof over my head, food in my kitchen and lots of warm scarves in my closet.

I’m thankful that everyday I can smile at a perfect stranger and get a smile in return.

I’m thankful that even in a new city, which I was hesitant to move to because it was smack-dab in the middle of Longhorn country, I already feel at home.

I’m thankful for my family, for the laughs we share and the memories we continue to make every time we’re together.

I’m thankful for my friends and their loyalty, even if I am almost a Texan now.

I’m thankful that the first place I learned to drive by myself to in Austin was Nordstrom Rack.

I’m thankful that I haven’t gotten lost yet – especially since I hear everyone gets lost when they first move here.

I’m thankful for an almost unpacked apartment and look forward to decorating it with flea market finds.

I’m thankful for inspiration found on Pinterest.

I’m thankful for the window next to my desk. It’s amazing what blue skies and sunlight do for my mood.

Most of all, I’m just thankful, for everything in my life.

I couldn’t imagine a life any better than what I have right now.

Operation: No More Beyonce

Adam and I have been together for 3 years and for the last, oh, year and a half, I’ve taken to humming Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” in the car whenever we have a dull moment. In part because I love the song and its accompanying video, but also because it was about dang time for a ring to show up on MY finger. ūüôā

I spent the week after Christmas ¬†in Austin with Adam where we shopped, ate at some of his local favorites, drove around looking for an open cupcakery, watched “Top Gear”, and chilled. Rarely do we have a full week together, but when we do I treasure the time we spend together. Long-distance relationships are hard, especially when said relationship has been long distance for a year and a half.

All week, Adam had mentioned going to the New Year’s Eve fireworks downtown, but after we spent the day downtown shopping and saw how bad the parking and traffic was already getting, we decided to scratch that idea. We got back to his apartment and freshened up a bit so we could go “out on the town” for the night. A bit after 5 Adam said, “Let’s go,” to which I replied, “It’s only 5. We aren’t grandparents.” Then he said he wanted to go catch the last sunset of 2010. Okay then.

The two of us loaded up in his car and he drove us to Mount Bonnell. Mount Bonnell has a gorgeous view of Lake Austin and the amazing houses surrounding it and a view of downtown Austin (complete with an unfortunate view of the Texas Tower), as well as a beautiful¬†pavilion¬†where lots of tourists snap pictures or hangout. After we parked the car we walked up the ridiculously steep stairs to the summit. Mind you, I’m wearing cute pointy-toe ballet flats – because that’s what all experienced hikers wear.

At the top, Adam takes me over to a smaller somewhat private overlook and I notice we arrived at just the perfect time, because the sun has just begun to set and cast a pink hue across the sky. It was breathtaking. We stand there for a good while chatting about how pretty the view was and which houses on the lake I wanted him to buy me.

Hey, a girl can dream right?

Next thing I know Adam is PROPOSING!! TO ME!!! I don’t even remember everything he said leading up to the “Will you marry me” part but I remember being a bit surprised. In a good way.¬†Right then and there I went from girlfriend to¬†fianc√©e and I was beaming.

He did a good job on the ring too – even if he had a little help from yours truly. ūüôā

I ended 2010 as Adam’s¬†fianc√©e and I’ve spent every day of 2011, thus far, with a huge smile on my face, because I get to MARRY the most amazing guy I know!! Ah!

And yes, in case you were wondering, Adam called this whole proposal preparation “Operation: No More Beyonce”. He’s a funny one ūüôā

A Redneck Corkscrew…

…and other Christmas shenanigans.

I’m baaaaaack!! After a 2 week holiday blogging hiatus I’m back at it and ready to see what’s to come in 2011!¬† Let’s start 2011 with a recap of my holidays, shall we?

Every year, I travel to my tiny hometown of 3606 people in Southwest Arkansas to spend Christmas in my childhood home.¬†This year¬†I spent 3 days having lots of cable and internet free¬†family time around roaring fires. We baked, attended my church’s “candlight” service on Christmas Eve, and exchanged Snoop Dogg jokes while driving around looking at Christmas lights.

On Christmas morning we awoke to the sound of Ottie’s electronic bird noisemaker, which chirps constantly until unplugged. I found it soothing and nostalgic, my sister – on the other hand – described it as cruel and unusual punishment. In either case, I knew that Ottie was looking over us smiling. Eventually, we got out of our warm beds and bounded down the stairs to unwrap our gifts while¬†wearing our traditional Christmas Eve gift of new pajamas.¬†Once we finished unwrapping¬†gifts, my sister asked for three gift bags. Why? So she could wrap our gifts from her – she’s always prepared.

Next was Christmas breakfast, to which my parents thought mimosas would be a nice addition. Being the heavy drinkers they are, mom asked my sister and I to Google mimosas on our phones. Ha! A Google search? My sister and I could mix a mimosa in our sleep.

By the time dinner came around we had spent the day vegging on the couch reading, texting friends, and watching movies. But there was an unopened bottle of Riesling in the fridge that we (ok, my sister and I) wanted to open. Then we realized we had no corkscrew in the house. Being the scrappy folk we are, my dad picked through my mom’s craft cabinet for screws and pliers and my sister grabbed a knife and an ice pick.

We quickly realized that the ice pick wouldn’t work and resorted to screws and pliers for the most effective method of cork removal. The first try revealed that a longer screw would be needed, and after tightening the screw into the cork using a knife…

…my dad used the pliers to pull the cork out. Success!!

Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I guess it’s only fitting since we started the Christmas season drinking. ūüôā