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.

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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 😉

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

Make You Feel My Love – Adele

House Tour: Breakfast Nook

Comfort.

Warm fuzzies.

These are the words that enter my head and cause a smile to spread across my face every time I look into our breakfast nook. This part of our home is where the memories will be made, meals will be eaten and the heart will grow over the years.

There are several meaningful parts of this room, but most essential is the table. This farmhouse table has been in Adam’s family for many many years (probably close to 100).

It has history literally etched into it.

The knife marks on the lower left corner from pigs being slaughtered for family meals and the faint indentions made by a meat grinder that was clamped to the table on bottom center of the picture above are the reminders of distant history.

In the middle of this picture, you see newer markings and scratches. Scars from a more recent history wherein this table held. up. a. house. after a tornado destroyed Adam’s childhood home. Memories, both good and bad, have surrounded this table for decades and now it’s ours.

Ours to create new memories around, as well as to share the old.

Another meaningful part of this room is the painting. I went to college at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and this painting (purchased at the AMAZING RiffRaff on the Fayetteville Square) contains every part of Arkansas that I love.

I look forward to many memories and good times in this nook. Game nights, cookie decorating, pumpkin carving and laughter. This will truly become the heart of our home and I can’t wait!

all photos taken by adam bartlett [aka my handsome hubby]

And then there were three…

Meet Senna.

Senna likes to be lazy.

Senna likes to go on hikes.

Senna can shake.

Senna loves toys.

He carries them through the house.

Then settles down in the den.

Within 5 minutes…

The toys will end up like this.

Thank goodness he’s a cutie.

House Tour: Den

One of my favorite things about our house is the cozy second living area we call our den. This room is my baby, so to speak. I spent hours thinking about how I wanted it to look, drawing inspiration from Pinterest and shopping for just the right pieces of furniture to fill the space. I wanted a bright, welcoming space that had a little bit of vintage flare to it.

Being new homeowners means being on a budget when it comes to making the new house our home. We ended up coming in under budget on our den, which was our main spending area for the house right now.

The first thing we did when the house was officially ours was start painting the den. I wanted to get rid of the brown textured accent wall as quickly as possible and change the taupe walls to a light dove gray shade. We found the paint at Treehouse, our favorite hardware store in Austin. I love the turquoise accent wall and the slightly darker shade that we used to accent the bar area!

The media center is actually an IKEA find that I love! It gives the look, feel and storage space of built-ins but at an affordable cost. The white shelves against the turquoise wall pops and makes me so happy and gives me plenty of space to play with books and decorative items.

After weeks of furniture shopping and never finding exactly what we wanted, we happened upon the perfect couch and coffee table at a local store called Five Elements Furniture. As soon as we walked into their showroom we immediately felt at home. Their furniture was so us and exactly what I had in mind for our den. The staff is so helpful and friendly and if we ever need more furniture, it will definitely be our first stop!

Because our entire downstairs is tiled, I knew we’d need to get an area rug for the den. Enter Overstock.com. I have a very good friend from college who had used Overstock to furnish her first home and knew she had good things to say about their quality, so I called her up and asked for advice. She told me to focus on pieces 4 star rated or higher and to read the comments because they give the best insight into the actual delivered appearance of your purchases. I knew I wanted a graphic rug for our den, but didn’t like the price of the options at local stores, then I saw the Alexa Chevron on Overstock and was sold. It was the perfect addition to the space!

One of my favorite finds in the den is the faux Eames Lounger we happened upon at my favorite local vintage store, Room Service. Adam begged for a recliner but said if I could find an Eames Lounger in our budget he’d settle for that. Thank God I found one. 🙂 Bonus: It’s super comfy!

Another favorite feature in the den is the vintage “B” we scored on a trip to Fredericksburg Trade Days that Adam then wired as a lamp. Every time I look at it, I smile – it’s such a quirky  part of our house!

Overall, I couldn’t be happier with how our den turned out. It’s cheery, bright, and cozy. Exactly what we wanted for the space!

all photos taken by adam bartlett [aka my handsome hubby]

Come On In My Kitchen

One room is practically finished which means it’s only appropriate to give you a glimpse into the house we are turning into our home.

The kitchen is one of the things that sold me on this house  [the other is the outdoor fireplace, but you’ll have to wait to see that transformation for a few weeks]. It’s a huge space that screams entertaining and has an island begging to be covered in flour and sugar on a regular basis. Also? Hello granite countertops and gas stove/oven. I’m living the dream!

Err…we. We are living the dream 🙂

You’ll notice there isn’t anything wrong with the kitchen in it’s present state (except for the lack of a fridge), but we wanted to inject a little of our style into it. The red walls are ventian plaster and perfect for Hog fans living in Texas. Yay for no painting in this room! Adam and I luckily have similar styles and visions for the house which has made it quite fun to toss ideas around. Ultimately, we wanted a kitchen that was welcoming and inviting with a bit of a vintage industrial undertone and once the breakfast nook is completed I think we will have achieved our goal.

We took a road trip to Fredericksburg – my FAVORITE small town ever because of its quaint shops in the downtown – and visited our favorite store red. Red is full of amazing vintage finds and contemporary patterns, not to mention one of a kind junk turned art accessories and mid-century style furnishings.

Basically? It’s my dream.

We went in red for inspiration more than anything and walked out with 3 light fixtures! Two to replace the too-formal-for-us island pendants and one to replace the completely not us light in the dining room (for almost 75% off which I LOVE and you’ll also have to wait to see – I’m such a tease).

Adam assured me that switching the pendants would be an easy job.

Ha!

We really are new and naive homeowners.

It took Adam several choice words and at least an hour to switch the first pendant because the electrical box itself wasn’t centered in the hole among other problems which he tried to explain to me and I just ignored didn’t understand. The second light was much easier to switch and he was practically pleasant to be around during the installation. He even let me snap a picture of him hard at work. Gotta love a handy hubby!

I really love how our new slightly vintage and slightly industrial lights look above the island.

The stools were also a happy accident. My parents visited this past weekend to help us unpack and organize a bit. Friday, while mom and I were out and about, we made a last minute stop at World Market. These stools compliment what will be our breakfast table chairs perfectly and also helped add an industrial feel to the kitchen.

Best of all? They were on sale and I got both for the price of one if regularly priced. Score!

Also, my mom? Is a pantry genius. Such a HUGE help, thanks mom!

The stools and the pendants were the big initial aesthetic changes in the kitchen, but the fridge was a necessity that Adam has been enthralled with ever since it was delivered.

Why?

Because it has one magical feature.

The water dispenser has an auto fill option. This means that you can place any pitcher or glass under the spout hit auto fill and walk away. Water is dispensed into the container without spilling and it is even measured in ounces on the screen for you. We’ve tried many different types of containers in hopes of tripping it up and we haven’t yet. So yeah, we bought a fridge and our favorite feature is the in-door water dispenser. What does this say about us?

Finally, we had to put a little Razorback spirit around the kitchen. 🙂

In the near future I want to add some rugs or runners around the island and in the “if money was made on trees” very distant future I’d like to replace the backsplash with some nice white subway tile and maybe refinish the cabinets.

For now the kitchen suits us perfectly and we couldn’t be happier!

Christening

We finished unpacking and organizing the kitchen and I cannot stop cooking on our gas stove. Seriously where has this been all my life? I feel like I’m on Food Network.

Ever since we bought our house I’ve said that our island was begging to be covered in flour and today it happened. Consider my kitchen officially christened.

Recently, I learned of fellow Austinite, Hilah’s, cooking blog. All of her recipes look fantastic and late this afternoon I decided to tackle an entire, made from scratch, taco dinner using her recipes. Partially because Adam had been craving tacos the past few today, but mainly because it meant I could cover our island in flour. YES!!

I’ve always been intimidated by making tortillas, but I really shouldn’t have been. They were super easy and Hilah’s recipe called for only 5 ingredients.

I mixed unbleached flour, baking powder, and salt before adding in oil and skim milk.

Then I kneaded the dough into a ball before letting it rest for 30 minutes.

The last step before cooking was rolling the dough into tortillas. In total, I got 10 tortillas out of this recipe.

Cooking the tortillas was easy peezy yellow cheesy. All I did was throw a tortilla on a hotter than Hades cast iron skillet, let one side start bubbling up, then flip to cook the other side. Super simple and fast!

I ate the tortillas along with Hilah’s Fluffy Mexican Rice and beef mixture from her Cripsy Beef Tacos.

We loved this meal and I have a feeling the tortillas will be made on a weekly basis so that we have some on hand anytime we want them.