A Glimpse of Christmas 2014

We are back from our Christmas road-tip to Missouri, and {as predicted}, it was such a great time spent with family that we hardly ever get to see.  Driving there took about 9 1/2 hours from Austin, but didn't seem that long at all.  It was a much-needed few days of relaxation, family stories, good food and card games.  And fuzzy socks for the girls in the family.  Is there a holiday that is not made better by fuzzy socks?

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord."  
~Luke 2:11


{Recipe} Peppermint Melting Moments

Happy Christmas week!  Today, as we prepare to leave on our little road trip to Missouri, Matt and I {let's be real, probably just me} are going to be baking a bunch of delicious cookies to take with us.  So, I'm sharing with you one of my favorites: Peppermint Melting Moments.  Growing up, a neighbor of ours would bring over a tray of homemade Christmas cookies every year.  It was one of my favorite traditions and one I'd like to start doing for our new neighbors.  Of the maybe dozen varieties of cookies on this tray, my favorites by far were the Melting Moments.  {They always disappeared the fastest}.  We've lost touch with this neighbor over the years, and I never got her exact recipe.  However, a few years back, I took up a quest to find a recipe of my own, and I have.  This recipe {with a few modifications from myself} is the very closest thing to the cookies I remember as a child!

Peppermint Melting Moments

1 cup flour
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar

3 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
tiny dash of peppermint extract
few drops of red food coloring

crushed candy cane pieces

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Combine all cookie batter ingredients together, and roll dough into 1 inch balls.  {Feel free to make them as large or small as you wish, this is just the size I generally make}

Bake for about 12 minutes {or until edges are slightly brown - times may vary with size of cookies}

For the frosting, combine the melted butter, vanilla, peppermint + food coloring in a new bowl, and whip until slightly fluffy.  Slowly mix in powdered sugar until mixture is smooth and color is even throughout.  Wait until the cookies are out of the oven and completely cooled before frosting.  The frosting gets harder to use as it cools and solidifies, so heat up in the microwave as needed to help you spread it.  Top with a sprinkle of crushed candy cane, and refrigerate to set frosting.

Serve + enjoy!

The great thing about these cookies is their versatility.  You can make them appropriate for almost any holiday simply by changing up their frosting color and topping {actually, no topping is necessary at all}.  The frosting flavor is another thing you can change up - remove the peppermint and use all vanilla extract instead.  I've even seen a variation with lemon which sounds like a delicious combo as well! 

Hope you're all enjoying the week leading up to Christmas!  See you later this week!


Snapshots of the Season

For me, Christmastime generally looks something like this: Chicago.  Icy.  Traffic.  Shopping malls.   Trying to find time to bake cookies.  Candlelight service.  Downtown dinner + show.  My family.  His family.  My family.  His family.  Gifts, gifts, and more gifts.  Not a bad picture at all.  However, this year, the season is looking a little different for us.  I haven't stepped foot in a mall.  There hasn't been much hustle and bustle.  We're pretty much foregoing gifts and just enjoying each other's company.  And we're spending a simple and slower-paced Christmas in Missouri with my side of the family who are all driving in to meet us!  I couldn't ask for more.

We've been super busy around our house this month, specifically with our master bathroom remodel, so our Christmas decor is a little more simple than in previous years {we didn't even put up our tree!  Crazy, I know}.  But I've kind of liked it that way, at least for this year.  Here are a few snapshots that capture the spirit of the season around here this past month.

*Find It*
mini clothespins {hobby lobby}
 nordic pine candle {target}
holiday scented pinecones {michaels}
address stamp {paper graces}

I hope you all are having a very festive season + are excited for this most special time of year!


A Few "Befores" + Some Big Plans

Since the majority of my decor posts will most likely revolve around my own home, I'd like to kick off the blog with some good old "before" shots to give you an idea of what we're starting with.  The following photos are a combination of shots taken during our original walk-through of the home and during our move-in process, so please ignore the mess {particularly in the garage!}.  As mentioned before, our house is far from a "fixer-upper", however, we do have big plans for it.

Entry: I love the very high ceilings in here, along with the large arched window that lets in a ton of light.  I also love the staircase and the loft/game-room that keep everything so open.  Our plans for this space include a fresh coat of paint, new light fixture {I love lantern-types}, dark wood floors & refinishing the banister.  Also, I'm thinking of possibly getting some type of window treatment to cover those side windows - it creeps me out a little at night to have those so open like that, but maybe I'll get used to it?

Off of the main entry is where you'll find the office as well as the living room and dining space.  All these really need are a coat of paint and a little decor.

Power Room: We'd like to update some of the fixtures in here, but {you can't really tell from this photo} the great thing is that the room is actually huge for a powder room - so much room to work with in there!

Kitchen: I love the open floor plan, I love the height of the cabinets/ceiling, and I love that there's an island.  Things that we'd love to update in order to make this into a dream kitchen: new, espresso cabinets, larger island, granite counter top, subway tile back splash, stainless appliances, a light fixture that does not involve a fluorescent tube... this may take us awhile to save up for.  As you can tell, this will undoubtedly be the largest project in the house.

And this pantry...love the size... but I can see a big organizational project just waiting to happen!  {Please ignore our random jars and bottles thrown in there - I promise it doesn't still look this bad!}

Family Room: The first thing that needed replacing in here was the patio door.  Our inspector informed us that it had started to rot out, and we wanted to replace it with a sliding one anyway {the original one was french}.  The fireplace is going to be our only other project here, as they are one of my favorite features of a room.  So, wee really want to update this one to have a larger mantel and a modern white tile surround that will really make it stand out in the space.

Backyard: This deck.  It was one of the features that attracted us to the house, but after further inspection, we've come to realize that it is warping in some areas and needs fixing/replacing.  It also isn't up to code - it's over 30" off the ground, requiring it to have a railing around it.  Not really an issue if you don't have any kids {which the previous owners did not}, but eventually we might have a couple, and I'd like to have one up and ready for them.  In short, our plans for the backyard include a complete overhaul - new or fixed deck {with railing}, new fences {just on the sides - the back is fairly new}, new shed & new landscaping.  I'm envisioning a fire pit, stepping stone path, lots of fruit trees and a veggie and herb garden!

Garage:  Don't judge.  A lot of these photos were taken on moving day!  I am an organizational freak, and this space is driving me insane.  As a lot of garages do, it has become our storage room.  We've come leaps and bounds since this photo was taken - installed a ton of new outlets in the walls, brand new can lights, painted the walls, ceiling, and even epoxied the floor!  We have a lot left to do as far as organization goes, though.  {Tools, I'm talking to you}.

Master bedroom & Bathroom: Paint - I love the ceilings in this room, and I think a darker color will accentuate the shape and height of those ceilings a great deal.  And a complete overhaul of the bathroom, which is in the works now {and all started from finding a little leak and some sub floor damage}.  Progress photos will be coming soon!

Guest Bath: I don't really have anything major I want to change in this bathroom, and after spending a ton of time and money on our master bath remodel, I feel like I can update it a little here and there on a budget.  I'm thinking of doing some cabinet painting, light fixture changes, maybe try to frame out the builder's grade mirror to make it appear much more custom... stay tuned:)

And there you have it - an overall idea of our "befores".  We do have a few more spaces that I didn't really show here, but I will show more as I work on each one.  Looking forward to making progress & making our house reflect more of our style.  Thanks for following along!


{Thoughts on} Becoming a First-time Homeowner

One of the reasons {okay, THE reason} I have felt like somewhat of a hermit since moving to Austin is the purchase of our first home.  I don't want to cast a negative light on the whole experience by any means, but going from a renter to a first-time homeowner really does change a lot of things in your life.  My husband, Matt, and I were completely ready for that change.  We had spent the past nine years of our marriage moving around from place to place like nomads, and the thought of having our own home {one that I wasn't afraid to invest my time, money, or energy in} always seemed soooo far off in the distance... Fast forward to our move last summer - we were so ready to find a house that we never even unpacked our boxes!  That's right, folks, we lived in a tiny, 1.5 bedroom apartment among stacks and stacks of unboxed goods, straight off the boat from our previous residence in Okinawa.  Add in another delivery of boxes from storage, and it was complete clutter-dom.  Even our TV sat on our living room floor, in it's box {along with our bikes and shop-vac - isn't that where y'all keep your's??}.  Our half-of-a-bedroom was stacked to the ceiling - we simply shut the door and pretended it wasn't there.  For someone whose skin crawls at the very thought of clutter around my house, you can imagine what it was like for me to live like that for months, tripping over each other at every turn, barely making it out the door alive each morning.

Enter: our new house.  I don't know if it was the house itself, the curb-appeal, the size you could get for your money in Texas, or the apartment we were sick of living in {probably a combination of each}, but we were in love.  Nothing else compared to this house.  Nothing.  By no stretch of the imagination was this a fixer-upper, but it was a little outdated {think 90's oak kitchen cabinets with laminate counter tops}.  Thoughts of what we wanted to upgrade were constantly running through our minds way before we even made an offer.  Which leads nicely into my next section:

{this is definitely NOT a full list of EVERYTHING we learned, but just a few points I'd like to make to anyone potentially looking to buy in the future}

1.) If you're walking through a house for the first or second time, already imagining what you'd like to change about it, take a second to rethink your decisions.  Are the things you'd like to change minor changes, like, paint colors, blinds, light fixtures, maybe replacing some unattractive shag carpeting?  You're all good.  Do the changes you'd like to make involve kitchens, bathrooms, decks, custom built-in's, moving walls...?  Maybe think about looking elsewhere or getting a house built.  Just saying.

2.)  Become a stalker.  Literally, stalk that neighborhood.  Take the time to hang out in the area.  See what the people are like.  Is it quiet, loud, friendly, safe?  Actually go talk to your potential neighbors.  Get their opinions.  Take the time to develop your own thoughts about the neighborhood, not just the house itself.

3.)  Find a realtor you trust.  One that "gets" you and what you really wants.  One that listens to you.  Find one that you can be super blunt and honest with, and one that is going to be super blunt and honest back to you.  {Shameless plug alert} If anyone is looking for a great one in the Austin area, our realtor, Charlie, was exactly that. Check him out!

4.)  Don't let someone else's ugly decor prevent you from picturing your own stuff in the space.  Use a designer's eye, and look past it!

I'll soon be posting our interior "before" photos to show you what we're working with.

Happy Weekend!


The Beginning

Oh, man, where to begin? Welcome! I’m a little out of practice, so bear with me friends! I finished my previous blog PASSPORT about a year and a half ago, and I can't  believe it has taken me this long to start another up again.  As I sat, pouring out my final thoughts on leaving life in Japan behind, I truly pictured myself already having my first 3 entries ready to post on my *brand new* blog as I stepped off the plane back into America!  I assumed my blogging hobby would effortlessly transition between old and new.  Not-so-spoiler Alert: that didn't happen.  Instead, life happened.  Why, you ask?  Because going from the military to civilian life after 9 years isn't quick or easy.  Packing up every one of your possessions and moving across the world isn't quick or easy.  Finding brand new cars and jobs in a brand new city isn't quick or easy.  And buying your first house isn't quick or easy either {unless you're not us - then it might be}. 

A lot has obviously changed in my life this past year and a half, and I’ve found myself really missing my beloved hobby – trying new things, capturing the details of a story through pictures, photo editing, graphic design, writing, sharing my thoughts {and all that blogging encompasses}. One of my personal goals for 2015 is to get back into some of my old hobbies {including photography, travel, paddle boarding and reading new books to name a few}, and I thought this would be a great place to start!  I’m also in a brand new city, in a brand new stage of my life, and I’m ready to live like I did when I was living abroad.   This is the perfect platform to document those experiences as well as my thoughts.  On top of that, I need this creative outlet and breath of fresh air back in my life!  I want to spend more of my time doing what I love doing - isn't that something we all strive for? 

This is a new beginning for me.  I have a lot to share. These past 18 months have been full of huge life-changes, so I might be doing some catch-up in the beginning.  I invite you to come along with me on my journey as I explore my new city, find beauty in the small things, experience the ups + downs of being a first-time homeowner, and generally try to {and hopefully inspire others to} live this life to the fullest! 

Read more about our past experiences, our decision to make Austin our home + my purpose behind this blog HERE.