Thursday, December 29, 2011

anxiously awaiting...2012

I don't know why but every year around this time I just get antsy. I get melancholy, irritable and antsy to be precise. That is probably why I haven't written a post since before Christmas. I feel like the week between Christmas and New Year's is dragging like crazy this year and I am just ready for 2012 to be here so dang bad.
We had a great Christmas, so it is not as if anything bad happened but man I am just ready to m.o.v.e. o.n.

The other morning I couldn't sleep. All I could think about were things I want to change about myself. Things I want to do better in the new year. For instance, be more organized. Be a better blogger. Get a job that I love. Be a more responsible mom, (I am just really bad about following up with doctors appointments and stuff with my kids). That is pretty much it. I haven't ever really made New Years resolutions but this year I am and all of those things are on my list. Let's hope I can stick to them.

 This year was a good year for us. We found our new home in South Carolina and it has just been great. We have made lots of new friends that we truly enjoy spending time with. Things are looking up, I mean shoot compared to 2010 this year was a stellar year. It wasn't perfect. We are not exactly where we want to be in life and we are still adjusting to all the changes that such a big move bring you, but it's getting better. The way I see it 2012 is going to be even better yet.

I don't have much more to say, I just am not feeling real inspired right now but as soon as I do, I will be back. Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Clearly Willy Wonka did not have ADD.

In the spirit of giving (and trying to butter up all our neighbors and friends) we have been making some serious candy and treats around here. For two days there has been so much sugar, melted chocolate and peanuts around here it's just been crazy. I keep saying how I feel like Willy Wonka. My younger daughter, Gianna loves to cook and bake so she was excited when I told her I found a few recipes on Pinterest that I wanted to try. So I went to the store bought all the supplies and came home and we went to town!
The first recipe was super's called "crock pot candy". It really couldn't be any easier. You literally throw all the ingredients into the crock pot and let it go for two hours...I linked the recipe so y'all could try it too.It makes at least a billion candies so you will have plenty if the US coast guard  happens to drop by.

These are the peanut butter pretzel balls...Gianna took this picture. She's a bloggers daughter, I wasn't even in the room and she pulled the camera out! lol

 I also found this recipe for peanut butter pretzel balls. Seriously easy peasy. Gianna made these all by herself. We doubled the recipe and it still wasn't a whole lot so she made it again today and doubled it again. They are super yummy and surprisingly from Martha Stewart they didn't call for some random ingredient that nobody in their right mind has on hand.
So when we were done with all the easy recipes I thought to myself 'well, I am on a roll maybe I should try fudge one more time' see, here's the thing I have been trying to master fudge for many, many years. My mother was the queen of fudge. She made it every year, she was practically famous for it. I have her recipe. It is the same recipe that was passed down to her from her mother. It really couldn't be a simpler recipe....except for one thing. I have severe ADD. What that means for the 4 people that might read this who DON"T have ADD is that it is super hard for me to follow directions. I follow vague instructions. I don't do precise directions. It's not even possible. My head doesn't even know how to process things like 'cook on medium heat and bring to a boil stirring constantly' so does that mean I am stirring before it comes to a boil or after? or both? I STILL don't know. It is just stupid. So what happens in this instance is I wing it. That is how I cook. With candy making or baking you can't do that, you HAVE to know. So consequently for 857,000 time my fudge didn't come out. Seriously. It didn't set up. Y'all don't understand, I made TWO batches. They are both in the trash. Whatever. I am sticking to meatballs. I make a mean meatball. My mom was famous for fudge, I will be famous for meatballs.

Luckily the crock pot candy made so many that we had enough to put together jars and bags for our friends/neighbors without the fudge. Here is what they look like-
Some people I like more than others so they will get coasters and candy. Then the people that I like marginally will just get the bags of candy....(oops I hope nobody that gets the bag reads my blog!) Oh well, they still get something right?
So the candy shop is all closed up here at the Britton house. Tomorrow we will play Mexican train dominoes and yahtzee for entertainment. We will not be baking or candy making I guarantee it.

Linking up here

Monday, December 19, 2011

Creating new traditions

Recently I went over to my other blog and read some of the posts I had written last year at this time. Boy was I angry, depressed and feeling hopeless. I am so glad that time is over. So happy to say that we are here and loving it. With the holidays of course comes a little loneliness, a little aching for what we used to have. Friends, family, traditions...
We have made some great friends here and we are so blessed to have done so. Chris's parents are here too so of course having them here is a huge plus this Christmas. However, as I said before I am used to a big shindig on Christmas Eve. I love having everyone over. I am not a fancy girl. I don't set a table. I don't dress fancy when people come over. I like to be comfortable. I like to feel like I am at home, not like I am at a 'party'. I love when people walk in our home and say 'your house is so warm'. I am missing those Christmas get togethers this year. I am missing opening our home to friends and planning a big Christmas Eve spread. This has been bothering me a lot. All I can think of is how lonely it is going to be here this Saturday when it is Christmas Eve and it's just us. I asked some of our friends to come over but of course they are all new friends and have all been doing the same thing for years. I totally understand that. So I thought since they can't come over Saturday maybe we would try to do something a little more low key on Friday. Like maybe cookie decorating and pizza. I might throw a little craft into the mix too. I also thought that maybe on Christmas Eve we could drive down to Main St. in downtown Greenville and see all the lights and check out the ice skating rink. Maybe drive around and try to find good Christmas lights. It's not the party we are used to, we will be missing our CA friends and family so much but we will be creating new traditions.

Last week we had a new adventure with our friends. They called and asked if we wanted to go to "Hollywild", which of course we had no idea what it was but we said sure! My girlfriend Kathryn said "it will be really cold, bundle up!" Holy cow, she wasn't kidding.

This is my husband all bundled up. I told him he looked like Rocky going to train so he did a little pose for me.

 Hollywild is a zoo here in South Carolina. They put up a gazillion lights and decorate real nice....but y'all that's not the best part. The highlight of the evening is that after you drive through an open field and all the animals are just walking around. They walk right up to your car and eat out of your hands. There are deer, cows, zebra and ponies.
This guy was literally at the door of their van. He was eating the hamburger buns the kids were feeding him.
The zebra was my favorite. I don't think I have ever been this up close and personal with a zebra before!
Here we are all bundled up in the backseat of the van ready to see the lights and all of the cool animals.
After you drive through and check out all the free roaming animals you get to park your car and REALLY freeze!! Lol. They have a petting zoo, hot chocolate and hot dogs for sale, a couple of bonfires and some other stuff that I didn't really look at on account of the fact that I was so cold I had to go sit in the car!
I am such a California wimp with the cold this year. It hasn't even snowed here yet and I am being such a baby!
Here are the young'uns...shoot, they were 10 x tougher than I was about the cold weather! They were just so happy to be feeding all of those animals!
I hate to say it, but I am not even sure what this is? A buffalo? I guess. I just know he was real big!
This was right before I went to the car...I look like I am in pain because I am!

Well thanks for stopping by and reading. I appreciate it! If you get the chance and are interested go check ou all of my stuff that I put on sale tonight on etsy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

the joy of giving part 2

Last night after I clicked 'publish' on that post I just wasn't happy with the pictures I took. It was night time and the lighting wasn't great. So I thought I would add a couple more today.
See how much cuter these look when they are all wrapped up and in a basket...I just think the are super cute.
These are all the clipboards I made for Gianna's teachers.

I think this one is my fave. I hope this teacher likes it! I hate to say it out loud, but I am going to...I have never met this teacher...gasp! I am not exactly on the PTA at Gianna's school. As a matter of fact I don't know one other parent there and haven't ever had a conversation with any of her teachers other than 'hello' and that was on orientation night. Oops...Oh well, Gianna is doing great and she isn't in elementary school anymore, things change. The most important thing is Gianna loves her teachers and is thriving at this school. We appreciate them and even if I am not on a first name basis with them I want them to know they are appreciated this Christmas. :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Joy of Giving

Christmas is just 12 days away. Less than two weeks. Holy moly it is coming fast. I am so enjoying it this year. I knew that when 2011 started it would be a much better year for us and it was. It didn't start out that way, but come mid year it all started turning around. Last year I dreaded the holidays and this year I am excited about them and looking forward to Christmas especially.

Tradition is something that is very important to me. We are trying to keep as many traditions going as possible, obviously moving to South Carolina kind of put a wrench in some of our traditions, as so much of our Christmas holiday revolved around friends and family in California.
One tradition that we started years ago is pulling a name off of a 'wishing tree'. The first year that we did it we were able to pull 4 or 5 names. Oh. my. gosh. we went crazy. We had so much fun making the wishes of those kids come true. We bought a bicycle for one of them, a remote control car, clothes, I don't even remember everything but it was great. It was so awesome for my kids to go pick everything out. It was a wonderful experience so we have tried to pick at least one child every year or at the very least go help out at a church passing out toys or food.
This year there was a tree up at Allison's work. I was so glad, because being new here I didn't know where we would find one. In years past we have picked the names of the younger kids (I mean who doesn't love to buy toys) but this year all of the kids on the tree at her work were older.
This is the 'ornament' that our guy, Nicholas colored and wrote what he was wishing for on. As you can see Nicholas wants a watch. On the back of the paper is also the size of clothes that he wears in case we are able to do a little more. The idea that this kid is 14 years old and is living in a home for boys and all he wants in the world is a watch kind of breaks my heart. No, I take that back, it REALLY breaks my heart. I hate to think of him alone and wanting a family and traditions of his own. We will do everything that we are able to do for Nicholas. I will fill a stocking for him and buy him his watch too.

I just love giving. Isn't it just great? I love that my girls love to give also. My kids haven't had a lot lately. They have gone without for quite some time. When they were younger and we were able to they had wonderful birthdays and Christmases. That changed a few years ago and each year they have gotten less and less. Last year we hit bottom and they didn't get much at all. We even took the tree and decorations down before Christmas so that we wouldn't have to look at them anymore. It was tough, as a mom I was sad and felt like a total failure. You know what though? They survived. They still had a good Christmas and they still got to be a part of our wonderful, loving family and that is so much more than so many other children get to have and they are so appreciative of everything they do get.

This year both of the girls are really excited about giving. Especially Allison. She has had a job for quite some time now and has her own money. As a matter of fact, for the last week or two there has been one gift under the tree and it is for Gianna from Allison. It was making Gianna crazy that she didn't have anything for Allison so when she had the opportunity last week she bought a little something for her sister and now that is also wrapped and under the tree. Allison already sent out gifts to her three best friends, two in California and one in Virginia. She is making gifts for all of her teachers, co-workers and friends at school. Here are her supplies-
She is going to make mason jar cupcakes for her teachers, and Oreo cookie suckers for her friends and co workers and then she is going to personalize the two plastic cups with vinyl (using my cricut) for two of her school friends. Y'all that just makes this mama so proud. How cool that she has this money that she has worked so hard for and she is spending it on everyone else. I just love that kid.

Tonight Gianna and I made smores pops. I got the idea from Pinterest (of course). I have been making the Oreo cookie suckers (thanks to my friend Kristy) for years and I wanted to switch it up a little.
The tutorial for the smores is here.
Here is Gianna laying all the graham crackers out. The original tutorial didn't include many pictures so I thought I would add a few for you.

This was before they went in. Our first batch had chocolate chips inside with white choc. outside and then our second batch had butterscotch chips with milk chocolate on the outside. In the tutorial she had her toaster oven set to 400, since I was using the big oven I turned it down a little, I had it set to 350.
When the marshmallows started turning a little golden I took them out of the oven and immediately put the sticks in them.
I used marshmallows that are made specifically for smores, they are flat. I think it made it a little easier to smoosh them together. After the stick was in I carefully transferred them to a smaller plate and put them in the freezer.
After I covered them I laid them out on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper and let them cool and harden. After that all that is left to do is wrap them up.
I think all treats look better wrapped in cellophane. It just always makes them look so festive and like a gift.
We made these mostly for Gianna's teachers....and maybe for my favorite baristas at Starbucks.
I also made Gianna's teachers each a monogrammed clipboard. I sell them on etsy and they have been a big hit this year for teachers. I figured if so many people are buying them for their teachers I should make sure that our teachers got them too.
I was a pre-school and Kindergarten teacher for the better part of my adult life. I have such an appreciation for what these people do for our children. I always make sure that I remember them somehow. Most parents are so good about remembering to do a little something for their elementary school teachers but when their children get to middle school and high school they don't give them anything. It really is sad. Those folks are working with our kids when they are the toughest. When they have bad attitudes, bad habits and sometimes bad behavior. Shoot they need the little pick me up more than ever! Make sure you do a little something for your kids teachers this year if you can.
Well this has been a super long post and quite frankly I am beat. Happy gifting everyone!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

We're getting crazy up in here

It's Saturday night...
It's cold. (yes my phone is shattered...I dropped it 28 days after I got it and I am too addicted to Angry Birds to go back to my Blackberry)
This kid is out with her friends...her big sister is at work. In other words we have the house to ourselves.
It's already looking like a party, right?
I just made myself my newest favorite thing to eat...I like to call it "fancy pizza". It's real good. I don't use sauce, I use this stuff instead-

That's what makes it fancy. Then I pile on diced tomatoes, mushrooms, sometimes when I am feeling real fancy I add artichoke hearts, red pepper flakes and lots of mozzarella
I said 'lots' right?
The thin crust that I use is also what makes it 'fancy'. I also have a super fancy dessert planned-
I am really a simple girl. I say 'fancy' I really mean boxed cake that you can buy at the Wal-Mart for a buck seventy. After dinner, but before dessert we are going to watch this-
Oops...I forgot to flip the picture. It's okay, you get the idea right? I guess at this point you realize the movie selection was mine...I can't imagine my husband's position from that last picture is going to change too much so I should be just fine.
Hope y'all are having a roof raising time like we are!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chicken Love

Y'all here is the deal, I had no idea that when we moved to South Carolina it was going to be like the chicken capital of the world...we are inundated with awesome chicken places...we have Zaxby's, Chick fil A, Bojangles, and then of course your regular old KFC and Long John Silvers. Zaxby's is my fave. I just love their chicken it is just delish. The deal with all of this is since we moved here we have been on a budget and we are not eating out very often at all. In spite of the budget I kept finding myself craving chicken strips. So I set out to master them...and I kind of have! (not one to brag, they are pretty good though). I have made them several times and a few times my husband has said 'why don't you take pictures of this so you can write a blog post about them, they are so good' well tonight I did just that.

1 bag frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
quart of buttermilk
2 tsp. hot sauce
2 1/2 cups flour
all purpose seasoning of your choice
salt and pepper

Here is the first trick. You have to soak the chicken tenders in buttermilk and hot sauce for about 2 or 3 hours. You can put them in the bag still frozen and then leave them in the sink or put them back in the fridge if you are going to soak them for longer.

I just took this picture so you could see the seasonings I chose to use. I like the strips to have a little spice to them but not too much so if you want them a little spicier you can add more hot sauce to the buttermilk or more spicy seasonings to the flour.

This picture is so you can see the ratio of spices to flour I used. I think I used about a TBSP of the creole stuff and about a tsp of each of the others.
Next you are going to dredge each of the strips individually in the flour mixture and then lay them one at a time on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. This is the other tip that is very important. You need to let the chicken sit with the coating on them for a little bit until the flour mixture starts to look like a paste. If you aren't sure what I mean, I took a picture...
Do you see how the tenders look like they are kind of 'wet', that doesn't happen until they have been sitting there for a few minutes. In other words don't get ahead of yourself and just take the strip from the flour to the fryer, which is exactly what I used to do and then all the breading fell off.
I don't deep fry mine, mainly cause I do not own a deep fryer, so I just shallow fry them in a big frying pan, like this-
See how you can still see the tops of the tenders coming out of the oil? I fill the pan with about a 1/2" of oil. Fry them for about 5 minutes on each side.
Here they are all finished...and yes, that is homemade ranch dipping sauce to go with them.
So y'all are going to get a little bonus here. I have been trying to get my family to like homemade macaroni and cheese for years. They are ridiculous. I mean who in the world doesn't love homemade mac and cheese, right? Well here in the south mac and cheese is not a main course, it's a side dish, and you really shouldn't serve fried chicken without mac and I made some and I took a few pictures.
First, I have learned that one of the tricks to good mac and cheese is good cheese. I used these three cheeses as a combo, the Gruyere is a good melting cheese so I like to add it. I didn't use all the mozzarella, only about half of that block.
First I made the roux, which is 3 tbsp of butter and 3 tbsp of Wondra flour, mixed them together with a whisk and then added about a pint of whole milk, then added all of the cheeses and mixed them until they were smooth and creamy. Oh wait, I left out about a cup of the grated cheese to top the pasta with. Here is what it looked like before it went in the oven.
I baked it at 375 for about 30 minutes, which was exactly how long it took me to fry the chicken, I love when things work out like that. To balance out this meal a little tiny bit I added fresh, steamed broccoli. Here is a picture of my husband's serving.
I had to clarify that so that y'all didn't think I had eaten all that! It was all super yummy and the family loved it, even the mac and cheese.
Well that is about all I have to share today. Tomorrow you can go over to my other blog So They Will Always Remember and read a post that is super important to me and read why tomorrow is a very special day to me. For now, I need to go watch the X Factor...I am hooked on that show!

Monday, December 5, 2011


Y'all, I am just a happy southern girl. Things are just going real good right now. It's Christmas time, my decorations have been up for over a week, I have bought a couple gifts, I have made some awesome friends here in South Carolina, AND my etsy business has been doing really well. Life is good.

Over the weekend we went to my friend Heather's house for some yummy taco soup an for a few games of Mexican Dominoes. That was so awesome. I love that living here has been so much easier for us, I love that we have made so many friends and feel at home here. Especially this time of year it is important and it means so much to me.

Now about my etsy store, I have been selling on etsy for about 8 months. Some months are better than others for sure and in the beginning I was completely reliant on facebook for marketing and spreading the word and all of my sales were to facebook friends who were so unbelievably supportive. Now I have broadened my horizons and am selling to all kinds of folks. :)
Here is the thing, I am not selling 10 things or 20 things a day on etsy, I wish I was, but I am not, I am however selling about one thing a day and sometimes 4 or 5 things a day, and that? is super cool. Etsy isn't going to make me rich, it's not even paying a bill. It will pay for a few Christmas presents and that makes me really happy. I also love when I send things out to all these different states and think 'wow, something I created is going to hang in the house of someone I never met, will never meet in another state', well that is just crazy!

Here are a few things that I have listed lately.

I made one similar to this to hang on my own front door and then I decided to make one to list too. I figured a little subtle hint to the jolly guy wouldn't hurt, right?

Then I listed a couple new clipboards, I have about half a dozen more coming tomorrow. They have been selling really well. Especially as teacher gifts.

So with all of this Christmas stuff coming up I have been thinking about all the friends and family we left back in California. Thinking about all the holidays we spent with them. Growing up Christmas Eve was a big holiday in my house. I am Italian and it's a cultural thing. We do Christmas Eve up real big and then Christmas day is just more about the immediate family. When my family kept dwindling and more and more people were passing away it made me sad to think that my kids weren't going to have that tradition and those memories like I did. I don't remember what year we started doing it, but we started inviting all of our friends over for Christmas Eve. A makeshift family. A new tradition was born. It was awesome. I would cook, I would make lots of food, meatballs, stuffed shells or lasagna, salad, tons of appetizers and desserts. It was the best day of the year for me. I would be stressed and some years were definitely better than others. But no matter how I felt every single year my kids LOVED that day. It began to be as important to them as my big family holiday was to me as a kid. I knew we had succeeded in creating a new tradition.

A picture of Christmas past...such  great memories.

So now here we are, in South Carolina. Which of course is way too far from California for all 25 people that used to come over to come out and celebrate with us. It's a little difficult. It will be a little easier of course because my in laws now live here so that is great. My friends will still miss the party though. They love a good party. We are going to have to figure out a new tradition. It might not be the same, and it is going to take a while to get used to whatever it will be but we will do it. We are a strong family and we are looking forward to seeing where this new holiday season will take us.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 could gain weight just by reading this post...

Are you pinning yet? I am sure you are. It seems like everyone I know is at least aware of Pinterest at this point. It really is a wonderful website. Every once in a while, like once a week I go on a pinning frenzy and just find all kinds of projects, recipe, entertaining ideas, cute things...I mean you name it, it's on there. Tonight for dinner I made a recipe that I pinned a while back. It was actually the second time I made it but this time I wanted to share it. It originally came from this blog. It is really good, really super fattening and doesn't have a whole lot of nutritional value.

I mean my goodness, look at those ingredients! If it wasn't for the two vegetables in the picture it would be an artery clogger for sure.

Which, if I am being honest doesn't really concern me all that much. I am not one to not try something if it seems to have a lot of calories, if it looks good and looks like something my family will eat-I will make it. Tonight I decided I would add a little more nutritional value to the dish though by adding broccoli and mushrooms to it. It makes a tremendous amount of food so I make two casserole dishes of it, one with just chicken and one with the veggies added to it.
The other thing that I always do when I have a recipe that just calls for 'cooked chicken' I make sure I pound the chicken and marinate it. For some reason plain, boiled or cooked chicken has always grossed me out. I like my chicken to have a lot of seasoning, I know there probably isn't anything less appetizing than raw chicken but I want you to see how much Italian dressing and seasoning I put on the chicken so here you go-

Other than those two things I followed the recipe. Like I said it makes a lot of food so you could even use this for entertaining. I love when I find recipes that our entertaining worthy!

There they are all ready to go in the oven....

Yum! Don't they look just cheesy and delicious?

Well there you have it. My dinner tonight.

Oh, I forgot to fill you in on my day...(cause I am sure you were I met my friend Heather at Hobby Lobby and we walked around for quite a while, found a few things and then we headed over to my house. It was nice just hanging out with a friend during the week, during the day. I spend so much time by myself during the week that I just love when someone is available to hang out during a weekday. If you haven't ever visited Heather's blog you should go now. She is just as beautiful inside as she is out. She has a darling family and is real creative. Oh and she's a real southern girl. I just love that. She just has the most wonderful southern accent too!

Oh and I am looking for new blogs to read/follow. I need to expand my horizons. If you are here and you have a blog please leave a comment and I will come check you out and follow you. Also if you could leave the name of your favorite blog or two that would be great!