Friday, December 30, 2016

The Evolution of New Year's Eve (and New Years in General)

With 2016 somehow coming to a close (seriously; how is that even possible?!), now is a great time to reflect on the last 365 days and begin making goals and plans for the next...

When I began thinking of things I would like to do and see happen in 2017, I realized that our family still needed to find a fun way to ring in this brand new year full of endless possibilities... but just how does one do this? According to society, we should be singing Auld Lang Syne among dear friends, sparkling wine, and lots of expensive black-tie apparel... but -- according to 3-year-old Jackson "I Run This Show" Sandmeier -- we do this at home because if we leave him with a babysitter, there will be hell to pay all throughout the upcoming year.

So just what do we do? I wanted this to be a special evening for all 3 of my boys, so I began thinking back to NYE's past to brain storm.

Here is how our last 4 New Year's Eves have played out:

2012

With less than a week to go until we said our "I do's," Brandon and I met friends at a local microbrewery and restaurant for dinner and drinks, which we followed up with games, more drinks, lots of laughing, and a champagne toast at midnight. Between having an awesome fiancĂ© and a great job as a reporter at our local news station, I was on cloud nine and decided right then that this was the way I wanted life to go and how I wanted to spend every NYE from here on out.

2013

After a sleepless night with a 1-week old, a busy cousin photo shoot, and lack of naps on both Brandon's and my part, we were all out cold by 10 pm.

Sleep. This is how I wanted to spend every NYE from here on out.

2014

Since Brandon was filling in for a manager at work the next morning (and needed to be across town by 5 am), we had a very low-key NYE. After eating a Mexican feast I had whipped up and watching some ABC News year in review special, we retreated to bed, where I proceeded to do marketing work from my tablet and then binge read magazines until 11 pm.

Relaxing in bed with digital home decor magazines. This is how I wanted to spend every NYE from here on out.

2015
2015

After making a full recovery from some 24-hour bug, I was ready to break free from the confines of our house and take full advantage of an Olive Garden gift card that we received for Christmas. Once we arrived home, it was time for pajamas, bed, and then fireworks out our bedroom window come midnight.

Wearing warm and cozy pajamas, watching the ball drop on TV, and then watching fireworks out the window with a wide-eyed toddler. This is how I wanted to spend every NYE from here on out.

2016
Needless to say, our New Year's Eves -- and life in general -- have made a complete 180° since 2012. Not only have I sworn off the news industry for good (which I will write about another time), but I am now working from home as a writer, part-time marketing director, and full-time mommy to not one, but TWO sweet little boys. 

On the NYE front, the current plan to is to pick up party favors from Dollar Tree, go to mass on Saturday evening, get Chinese takeout, and probably binge watch another home improvement show on Netflix (Jackson's and my current guilty pleasure). 

It may not involve champagne toasts, getting all dolled up, and staying up late with friends, but do you know what? 

This is how I want to spend every NYE from here on out.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Reflections

Today is my most favorite day of the year.

Even as a child, I think Christmas Eve was my favorite...

Why? 

For starters, I love it for our family traditions. For as long as I can remember, we (my parents and brother) have spent Christmas with my aunt and uncle and spend the day going to mass, having a nice dinner with drinks and LOTS of after-meal snacks, opening stockings, popping European Christmas crackers, wearing the paper crowns out of them, and jut visiting and enjoying each others company. 

However, the older I get and the more I think about it, I have realized that what it is I really love about Christmas Eve is the anticipation of the next day.

Our time with family has just begun... we will all wake up tomorrow, still be together, and spend a majority of the day with one another. 

I can finally give the ones I love the gifts that I have had stashed away for the last 6 months (I am one of those crazy people who Christmas shops all year and stores everything in a designated gift box so I don't lose track/forget about it). 

My family will sit down and share a wonderful meal together, as well as stories of Christmases past. 

Now that I am an adult, I realize that what I am anticipating the most is the birth of our Savior. God sent His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary and save us all from our sins... how amazing is that? The birth of any child is exciting (the memory of holding both of my sons for the first time is one of my most cherished memories), but the birth of Christ is truly remarkable. It is hard to relate to someone who is (literally) perfect like Mary, but I can imagine her excitement and all of the love she felt for Jesus the first time cradled, nursed, and comforted her child the only way a mother can.

It is for all these reasons and more that Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year.

To you and your family: Merry Christmas! May your days be blessed and your hearts be full from this truly joyous season.

(My Nikon skills aren't the greatest -- and I had the brilliant idea of taking these when it was dark -- but here is a peek at our Christmas home.)

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;

"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Simply Delicious Fruit Pizza

If you have been a Living Like Martha reader since the beginning, you know that I am all about simple recipes that quickly get you out of the kitchen and into the action. After all, why would you want to slave away on something so minute when the important things (Jesus, family, and fellowship) are what really deserve your attention?

All of this being said, today's dessert is both pretty and simple, and is guaranteed to wow your guests at not only Christmas parties, but any time of the year.

Friend; meet the fruit pizza!
Sorry for the less-than-impressive picture... I actually made this for a potluck at a friend's house last weekend and ended up not being able to go because my car broke down, leading me to quickly snap this photo before sending it along with another friend to take. 
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 package of refrigerated sugar cookie dough.
  • 8 oz. of fat free cream cheese.
  • 1/3 cup sugar.
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla.
  • Sliced up fruit(s) of your choosing
  1. Spread sugar cookie dough over a 14-inch pizza pan. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool in the pan. 
  2. Let cookie dough cool for an hour.
  3. Blend the cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla until completely mixed. Spread in a thin layer over the cooled crust.  
  4. Add sliced fruit to top. Slice into desired amount of piece and serve. 
Totally doable, right?! I love this recipe not only because of its decadence, but also because it is colorful and pretty darn pleasing on the eyes. Do yourself a favor and whip this together before your next party for a crowd-pleasing dessert that is guaranteed to be the hit of the gathering!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Gabriel's Newborn Pictures

We just received our son's newborn pictures on Friday and I cannot stop looking at them... there is nothing quite like a cuddly little baby (with rolls for days) to make you appreciate the beauty of life!

Something that I have worked hard on doing this year is intentionally thanking God for everyday moments. Too often, we get too caught up in the world around us to really stop and think about all the good in our lives, which -- I have found -- can easily be changed by just remaining still, taking deep breaths, and saying a quick prayer of thanks whenever we feel grateful for something.

Since Gabe's arrival, I have been finding myself doing this all the more during those fleeting moments that I wish could last forever (cuddling with both boys in the rocker, the sweet scent of Gabe, seeing how protective Jackson already is of his little brother) and I can't help but do it every time I look at these beautiful pictures:


Photos by the fabulous Brandy Caruso 
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