Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone, from our family to yours!

What a happy little family... This is what really happens behind the scenes:

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas Eve + Disassembled Chocolate Turtles Snack Mix

Hello there!  How is Christmas Eve already?  I  definitely love Christmas Eve as much as I do Christmas Day, so you better believe Brett and I will be having a relaxing day.  Since we live so close to both his parents and my parents, we rotate having Christmas Eve with one side and Christmas Day with the other (which works out awesome because we get twice the Christmas fun!).

If you are doing some last minute party planning/host preparation, I want to let you in on this little recipe I whipped up for caramalized pecans.  I adapted my recipe from Gimme Some Oven's Candied Pecans recipe.  It is so easy and makes a great snack to have by the Christmas tree or to gift.  I was inspired by chocolate turtles, which I actually don't love *gasp*.  Chocolate turtles are such a staple Christmas chocolate, and I like all the things in them (pecans, caramel, chocolate), but for some reason don't 100% love it all together.  But I digress....

So I decided to make a snack mix with all the things I love that are in chocolate turtles.  And it turned out amazing.

Prep Time: 10 min             Cook Time: 40 min             Yield: 4-6 cups

4 cups pecans (or any nut really, this would also be great with almonds... yum)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 egg white
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup Skor chips
1-2 cups milk or dark chocolate chips (depending on your chocolate preference)

1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees
2.  Mix together dry ingredients and skor chips
3.  Whisk egg white until frothy, then add nuts and toss
4.  Add dry ingredients to the nut/egg white mixture and stir well

5.  Coat a pan with parchment paper (if you don't have parchment paper, aluminium foil would work as well) and spread nuts on pan
6.  Bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes, being sure to give the nuts a stir at the 20 minute mark
7.  Remove from oven and let cool until the nuts and sugar coating reach room temperature.

The last thing to do is put the nuts in a storage container or pretty serving dish!  I used these cute mason jars embellished (if you can even call it that) with some bakers twine.

I hope you all have a Christmas Eve and Christmas (or any other holiday you may celebrate) filled with love and all your favorite things. 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Sometimes life gets in the way...

Well folks, I am a little disappointed.  Last week (exactly a week ago actually, because this all started to go down on Monday) I started to feel a little off.  By the time Wednesday rolled around I had a full blow flu complete with stuffy nose, achy muscles, sore throat, intense headache and a fever.  Awesome.  Add to that Brett and I moved me home from the city for good (moving while ill is never a fun time) and I have been just exhausted.

Naps with George, pushing fluids and watching Youtube videos is about all I've been able to handle the past week.
I had so many grand plans for this time between the end of exams and Christmas.  I was going to pick up some shifts at work (I love making a bit of money to add to the Europe trip savings account), do some sewing (including beach cover-ups for Cuba and my tulle skirt for grad in January) and do a bunch of baking.  Sadly, I haven't been able to do much of anything other than sleep, watch a bit of TV/beauty bloggers on Youtube, and do a bit of writing for the blog (at least I got that done).

We learned in this post that I am a really terrible patient, and that definitely proved true once again.  I am not always easy on myself.  I love to be busy, even if it is knitting or doing some kind of craft in the evenings while Brett and I watch a show.  I like to have my hands busy.  And this past week (a week where I had tons of stuff I needed to do), I just wasn't up to it.  And I had to be okay with that.  It wasn't easy, but I am definitely thankful for it now that I am feeling a lot healthier.  

I've recently found Emily Ley through another blogger.  She is a blogger/mom/wife/business owner who built her stationary business from the ground up (find out more about her here).  One of her moto's - which I absolutely love - is "I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection".  I definitely think that is something we busy ladies need to remind ourselves of frequently.  There is so much pressure now days to be perfect, have the perfect home, perfect hair, perfect everything.  But all we can do is our best, so we should be holding ourselves to a standard of being a kind and good person rather an a perfect person.

Hope you have a good Monday, and a good few days before the holidays!

Friday, 19 December 2014

2014 Christmas Favorites

Christmas has snuck up on us again!  Only 6 days left and I am home for good now.  After writing my last exam of the term on the 16th, Brett and I have been a flurry of productivity in moving me home.  I am still trying to get my bearings and realize that I never have to move away from home again.  I am actually at the farm to stay... Nope, still hasn't sunk in.

In the meantime, I am going to do my Christmas favorites for 2014.  To be fair, last year's Christmas favorites post probably includes most of my all time favorites.  My favorite carol is still Oh Holy Night, I still love jewelry, etc.  But in the interest of not writing the same post over again, I will share some other/new favorites this year.

Smell: This one has actually changed from last year.  My mom introduced me to Willow Tree Collections, which is a store in our nearest city of Moose Jaw, SK.  They produce vegetable and soybean candles and wax melts, as well as body products for sensitive skin (they're amazing).  A ton of people are crazy about Sentsy products, but I personally like Willow Tree stuff better.  Plus I love supporting a local company.  In any case, my favorite Christmas smells come in the form of their wax melts - my favorites are Old Fashioned Christmas and Cinnamon Sugar.  Also, Willow Tree ships to both Canada and the U.S.

Tradition: This isn't necessarily a "tradition", but every year Brett and I are lucky enough to see both of our families because the farms are only about 20 minutes apart.  We alternate having a Baron Christmas on Christmas Eve and Tollefson Christmas on Christmas Day (and vice versa).  There are a lot of people I know who have to alternate years of seeing their parents or their spouse's parents, so it isn't lost on me how lucky we are to get to see our parents every Christmas (and really as often as we want throughout the year).

Movie: Yep, The Family Stone still takes this one for sure (again, I recommend lots of kleenex).  But I also love The Holiday (I usually can make it through this one without tears... But not always).

Hymn: I'm really loving Carol of the Bells these days, especially the Mormon Tabernacle Choir version.  It is almost hard for me to believe that there are actual people singing - it seems like they should be angels or something to have voices like that.

Memory: I am thinking back a lot lately to Brett proposing on Christmas Eve with all my family there.  It was so special that he did it on my family's Christmas day.  Definitely a Christmas I will never forget.

Gift: As I have mentioned before (anyone who has had to interact with me over the past month and a bit is for sure sick to death of me talking about this), I am most looking forward to the mukluks that Brett is getting me for Christmas.  I'm sure you will hear more about them, see pictures of them, etc. in weeks to come.

Sight: Christmas trees through peoples windows (does that make me creepy?).  I love driving by people's houses and snooping at what their tree looks like though their window.

Dislikes: Trying to park near the mall basically the entire month of December.  It is pretty much the impossible task.

PS - I wasn't compensated for talking about Willow Tree, I am just a fan of their products who wants to share.  I highly doubt they even know who I am.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Long Haul

Our wedding photos are courtesy of Diana from Infinite Moments Photography

This time in December will always be a special one for me.  This was when Brett decided he was really ready to get engaged (I had decided that months ago - like a typical man, it took him a little while to catch up... I am mostly joking).  This was when we decided to go to the mall and just "look at what was out there" for engagement rings, and ended up going home with one.  And Christmas Eve was when he proposed in front of my mom, dad, sister and grandma.

I've been thinking a lot about marriages lately, both because this was the season of our engagement, and also because December is the month that holds the most proposals.  But rather than my head going immediately to weddings and gowns and cake, I have been thinking more deeply about marriage.  What is it that makes them succeed or fail?  Fate surely plays a part in it, some people just aren't meant to be together.  But I think that there is sometimes more to it than that.

One of the things I said I was thankful for in our speech at our wedding, was the wonderful examples both Brett and I had been given of a true and lasting love.

My grandpa had a brain aneurysm before I was born which completely changed his personality.  Before that point, I have been told, he wasn't always an easy person to be around.  He could be stubborn and had a quick temper.  I remember being over at Grandma and Grandpa's house with my mom one day when I was small and listening to Mom and Grandma visit.  Grandma was regaling Mom with some story or other about Grandpa before the aneurysm and Mom asked "Why did you stick it out all those years?"  To this day I remember my grandma's response.  She said "On the day I married Otto, I vowed to God that I would love and care for him until death do us part.  I would never break that promise."

I don't have a whole lot of memories from when I was that little, so it seems kind of silly that that is the one that I still hold onto.  But when I reflect, I can see the deep impact that hearing her say that has had on me.  Now, this is certainly not to say that anyone should stay in a relationship where they are not feeling valued; an unhealthy relationship is an unhealthy relationship.  But for me personally, this is the reason why I was happy to be getting married young; it was also the reason that I found people's commentary on us being "too young" to get married so frustrating.

Were we young when we got married?  Yes (I was just 21 and Brett was 23).  Were we immature?  Of course we were!  We still are (and we will always seem immature when we look back on our younger selves, whether we are 15, 21, 40, etc.).  But the reason we were ready to get married was because we understood that we were taking a vow.  On June 29th, 2013 I vowed to God that I would love and care for Brett until death do us part - and that isn't a promise I plan on breaking.

Years ago now, my grandpa had a stroke which rendered him unable to walk or really care for himself.  Grandma tried to keep him at home with her until my dad and aunt and uncles convinced her that she just couldn't care for him by herself.  So the family moved him into long term care.  Many wives who had a difficult husband through much of their lives would have taken this as an out.  Would have assumed that the staff at the care home would deal with things from now on and pop by for a visit every few days.

That wife was not my grandma.  Every day (except for a very few holidays where she went to visit my aunt and uncles) she would go to the care home and feed him his breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Every day for years, until the day he died, just under a year ago.

This isn't that remarkable of a tale.  Just an old married couple.  But in today's world where we throw things away so quickly, give up on things so quickly, I think it is something that we need to try to remember.

Not every day of your marriage is going to be perfect.  Your husband won't bring you flowers every day, he won't make you breakfast in bed that often (if he does, high five to you.  Someone has to live the dream :).  Nor will I always be cheerfully making meals, or getting the laundry done right away.  If you are a farm wife, there will be some seriously trying seedings and harvests where your husband isn't a real fun person to be around.  But for me, that was what for better or for worse encompassed.

Daryl Cobbin wrote in this article that "Love is not just an emotion.  Love is a choice."  I could not agree more.  Every grumpy day, every day in seeding when I get to hear ranting about how the brand new seeder still isn't working, I make a choice to love Brett - and it is the best choice I have made yet.

Are you with me on the long haul?  What are your deep marriage philosophies?  I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Oh Hai!

Long time no talk!  Things got right out of hand for a few days with finals studying, but I think we are slowly getting things back on track (or as on track as things get during the Christmas season).

So you guys, what is the 4-1-1?  What has everybody been up to?  What is the hot gossip?  Tell me everything.  Sorry, couldn't help a Mean Girls quote.  My internet has been very patchy in the city for some reason and I have been watching my Mean Girls DVD a lot.

Anyway...  Things have been going good around here.  I am done two of my three exams, with the third to be written tomorrow.  These will be the last exams of my degree, since we don't write any for our final practicum/work term.  That excludes the NCLEX licensing exam of course... but let's not go there - I don't think I can handle the stress of thinking about that right now.

My new glasses have arrived and I am loving them!  The ones in these lovely awkward car selfies are from Ralph Lauren.  I got a two for the price of one deal, so I have a second pair that I have been wearing a lot as well.  Not that you could tell from most of my photos on this blog, I actually do wear my glasses 99.9% of the time (that 0.01% is when I am in photos when I go blind).  So it is nice to have two pairs of glasses that I feel really good in and might actually start wearing in photos now.

My passport finally came in the mail so we are actually for sure going to Cuba now!  Woohoo!  I never changed my name on it after we got married, since we left for our honeymoon the Monday after our wedding, I was still Aubrey Baron on all my documents.  The passport was the last thing with my maiden name on it.  I actually hadn't thought about that until right now as I am writing this... Now I am feeling sentimental.

Brett has been spending his time shepherding super-b's (the semi's that haul our grain away) in and out of the yard and burning flax straw.  Contrary to popular belief, farmers do still work in the winter.  They just work semi normal hours (8-5 if we are lucky) and usually/sometimes get the weekends off.

That's all for now!  Hope you have a lovely week!  

Friday, 5 December 2014

Holiday Party Outfits // Oh Hey Friday

Hello for Friday!  Holiday party season is approaching so for today's Oh Hey Friday, I am sharing my top five favorite party outfit ideas.  I made these outfit sets on - which is a cool site that lets you put different items together into outfits (really good site to waste time on).  As per usual I am Linking up with The Farmer's Wife and September Farm - click on those links to check out more of the Oh Hey Friday link up.

1.  Tulle skirt.  All the love for tulle skirts.

2.  Lace is a classic for a reason.

3.  Sequins are perfect for the holidays.

4.  A sheath dress is very Mad Men-esque.

5.  Last, but not least, you can't forget about the classic ugly Christmas sweater party.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

English Muffin Recipe

Finally!  I have finally gotten this recipe good enough to share with you here - it has definitely been a long time coming.  The reason for this recipe taking so long is I never ended up finding one that worked properly online that I could just tweak to make my own (generally what happens with a lot of my recipes).  I was literally starting from scratch with this one and crafting my own recipe.

Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to make these get the bubbles in the middle like the store bought ones have.  I do not know why, and I still have no clue as to how to make that happen (if you know, please take pity on me and fill me in in the comments).  However, I find that these still taste better than the ones bough in the store.  So is it worth the time making your own?  Yes, I would say it is.

So, after all that lets get started!

Prep & Rise Time: approx. 2.5 hrs          Cook Time: approx. 16 mins/batch          Makes:
Skill Required: Beginner

4-5 cups flour
3 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup milk
1 package quick rise yeast
2 tbsp oil

1.  In 3/4 cup water, dissolve 1 tsp sugar.  Heat this mixture in the microwave for 20 seconds.

2.  Fill a sink or large bowl with a couple of inches of warm water.

3.  Ensure the sugar water from the microwave is not hot (it should be merely lukewarm), add the package of quick rise yeast and give it a gentle swirl.  Place the water/yeast cup into the bowl/sink of warm water.  Let the yeast proof.

Note - this method of yeast proofing is very likely over kill.  However, I have had some bad experiences of dough never rising and have developed a very anal method of preventing that.  I haven't had dough not rise since I started this.

4.  In a large mixing bowl, mix 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp of salt.

5.  In a small mixing bowl, mix 3/4 cup milk and 2 eggs.  Microwave this mixture for 20 seconds (this may seem crazy, but pouring the yeast into fresh-out-of-the-fridge milk and eggs could kill the yeast).

6.  Gently mix the yeast into the wet ingredients, then gently add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

7.  Stir in one more cup of flour, then turn onto heavily floured board to knead.

8.  Knead dough for approximately 10-15 mins (the stronger you are, the less time this will require).  You can also put the dough into a stand mixer with a bread hook and knead the dough on low for 5-10 mins.
There are lots of ways of telling whether you are done kneading (such as the windowpane method).  But I just press my finger into the dough ball, and if the indent I made pops back out I know I am done (this is what both my Baba and Grandma taught me).  When you knead, you are building up the gluten in the dough (gluten is the substance that holds the bread together, keeping it from being too dry and crumbly).  The more you knead and build up the gluten, the less crumbly your English muffins will be.... But I digress.

9.  Pour the oil and 1 tsp of salt into a large mixing bowl (glass is preferred, tin often gets too hot when rising I find).  Taking the dough ball in one hand, rub the top around in the oil and around the bowl - this greases the sides of the bowl and covers the whole dough ball in oil so it doesn't dry out.
10.  Place a tea towel over the bowl and place the bowl in a warm - draft free - place to rise for an hour (best is in the oven).  My oven has a bread proof heat setting.  If yours doesn't you can simply turn on the oven light (many people find this to be warm enough), or turn on the oven preheat for about 3 mins (make sure you do not forget it on!!) and turn it back off.

Steps before rising.

The dough after having risen for an hour.

10.  Remove dough from bowl and roll out with a rolling pin.  It should be approx. 3/4" thick when you are done (this isn't an exact science, just keep in mind that they will rise a fare amount).

11.  Cut the rolled dough into circles.  I used a drinking glass for this.

12.  Cover the circles with tea towels and let rise another 45 mins to an hour on the cupboard.

13.  Brush a griddle pan with margarine (you can also do this in a frying pan on the stove).  Dip each side of the dough rounds into flour and place on the pan.

14.  Cook muffins for approx. 5-8 mins each side.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Currently - December Edition // Day 1 of Christmas Photo Challenge

Well folks, things have really hit the fan around here.  I am moving home because I got my final practicum in our nearest small town (YAY!).  We are also trying to get the house decorated for Christmas, finalize any Christmas shopping.  Oh yeah, and study for exams!  On top of those things, Brett is manning the farm solo this week and getting the run around from truckers (to try and get some grain hauled to the elevator).  The reason for this long rant it just to prepare you for some possible irregular posting in the coming weeks...  On the other hand, my posting could also become very regular as I attempt to avoid studying by writing lots of blog posts.

This year's Christmas tree.  My apologies for the poor quality photo.  I've been moving (again) and misplaced my camera battery charger and thus this photo was taken with my iPhone (which I find does a really poor job of taking photos in low light).
In any case, here is what is happening with us currently:

Baking: Unfortunately, not a whole lot is happening in this area lately.  But I am going to try throw together some English muffins today and post that recipe ASAP.

Drinking: Caramel apple cider.  Did you know you can get these for a Keurig?  Yep, it's pretty life changing.

Reading: I just finished Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant.  These are some good books.  One and two are definitely my favorite (I didn't really love the ending, I'm going to be honest).  But I loved Divergent and Insurgent.

Wanting: To get started with Christmas baking.  I've got a long list of recipes I want to try this year. 

Looking: At the snow outside our picture window.  There is something I just love about winter.

Playing: Fetch with George.  He is really enjoying attacking the Christmas ornaments, so I am trying to distract him.

Sewing: Nothing at the moment, but plans are set for a tulle skirt for graduation and a couple of beach cover-ups.

Enjoying: Having satellite TV for the first time in ages (I've really been missing Dr Phil and Say Yes to the Dress).

Wearing: This top from Target.  It is comfy but still looks nice.  I think I will probably end up getting one in every color.

Waiting: To start exams on the 8th.  I just want to get them over with!

Loving: Our Christmas decorations.  There is nothing like relaxing on the couch in the dark with the Christmas tree lit up.

Anticipating: Our trip to Cuba at the end of the month.  Brett and I got very very lucky when his parents decided to take us with them to Cuba.  I have never been on an all-inclusive vacation and am so excited!

Smelling: My English muffin dough rising.

Praying: For Brett to stay safe on the farm in this cold weather.

Feeling: Blessed to have a healthy family, lots of friends, ample food in the fridge and a truly wonderful husband.