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Friday, December 28, 2012

Thanksmas 2012

We spent 3+ days at the end of November in Columbia for Thanksmas (Thanksgiving and Christmas) with Eric's family. This year Megan and Keith hosted Thanksgiving at their house and the Christmas portion later on was at Eric's parents.

The "Thanks" portion

Megan's first turkey. Don't ask about that morning's brine explosion.

Tablescape and spread. There were 12 adults and 4 kids but there was probably twice that much food... tons to choose from.

The "mas" portion.

This was in between meltdowns.

Keith hoping Brad becomes a world famous juggler with his new juggling set.

I know this is not straight on but it's somewhat of a miracle the 4 of them are in a picture together and all looking in the same direction and no one is crying or pouting.

Merry Thanksmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the LaForce's! Hope you are all having a wonderful day spending time with those you love!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles... or Pun'kin depending on how you pronounce it. Who doesn't love pumpkin and snickerdoodles?! The past couple of Christmases I have made regular Snickerdoodles so this year I decided to jazz it up for Girls Baking Day. Katie, Danielle and I get together for a day of lesisurely baking cookies usually with a Christmas movie on too and then swap some cookies to go home with.

I found several recipes and spent time reading all the comments to made some improvements for my recipe.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
adapted from Pennies on a Platter, makes 3-4 dozen

3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 ground nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 heaping cup of pumpkin puree (like Libby's pure pumpkin)
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract

For coating:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

In medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to blend and set aside. In another large bowl, using electric mixer, beat together butter and sugars on medium until light and fluffy. Blend in pumpkin puree. Beat in egg and vanilla until incorporated. With mixer on low gradually add in dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. If you make it the day ahead take it out an hour ahead to soften a bit.

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Combine the sugar and spices for the coating in a bowl and mix to blend. Scoop the dough (about 2 tablespoons) and roll into a ball. Coat the dough ball in the sugar-spice mixture an dplace on prepared baking sheet. Repeat to fill the sheet spacing 2 inches apart. These do not spread a lot.  Dip th ebottom of a flat heavy-bottomed drinking glass in water, then in sugar-spice mixture, and use the bottom to flatten the dough balls slightly.

Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes or until just set and baked through. Let cool on baking sheets 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. If needed, these cookies do freeze well in an airtight container.

I doubled this recipe so I could take some to the Alpha Chi Omega Alum recipe swap / ornament exchange. It made 6 1/2 dozen. This is more of a cakey cookie (because of the pumpkin) so don't expect the consistency to be like a chewy chocolate  chip cookie but they are delicious and not overwhelmingly pumpkin. So even some non pumpkin lovers enjoy these!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

LaForce Likes #28

After the big meals and desserts and cookies of the holidays what better time to do a good cleaning of your refrigerator?

And while you are doing that why not make some DIY fridge mats to make clean up in your fridge that much easier from now on. They are made out of cheap plastic placemats cut to size. This would be especially helpful in the crisper drawers that tend to get grimy looking quickly.

When we move into our new home I could totally see myself doing this in our refrigerator!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Skillet Lasagna

I am here to share another wonderful healthy recipe. This 1 pot (technically 2 due to boiling noodles) meal coincides quite nicely with those of you that participate in Meatless Mondays. But it could easily accommodate cooked chicken or ground beef/turkey if you wanted.

It was so fabulous and easy that this is the 2nd time we have already made in twice in the past couple weeks. The ingredients actually work well for making it twice before some of your ingredients expire.

Without further ado...

Skillet Lasagna
from Eat Skinny Be Skinny, serves 4, 275 calories per cup

-1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
-1 large onion, chopped
-1 cup mushrooms, chopped
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2  14.5oz cans italian diced tomatoes
-1/4 cup tomato pasta sauce
-3 basil leaves chopped
-black pepper to taste, we like a good bit
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 cup skim ricotta cheese
-1/2 cup part skim mozzarella cheese
-3 Tbsp parmesan cheese
-6oz lasagna noodles (half the box - reason this is great to make 2 times), broken into thirds and fully cooked
-1-2 tsp garlic powder or to your liking
-2 Tbsp parsley (fresh or dry)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until softened, about 4 minutes - these always take a bit longer than that for us. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook until garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Add in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, salt and pepper. Cook mixture until it thickens up a bit, around 5 minutes.

Add noodles to skillet and stir into the mixture well. Add scoops of ricotta cheese over the noodles; add in mozzarella and Parmesan. Stir in parsley. Cook about 2 more minutes, or until mixture is thick. Serve immediately with additional basil or parsley.

A few notes:
-I have never actually used fresh basil in this since this time of year it's pricier so I add in some dry basil but I cannot wait to make this with fresh basil in the spring and summer!
-The original recipe doesn't call for the garlic powder but who doesn't love extra garlic besides your spouse when sharing a kiss immediately after :) 
-For those of you that don't like mushrooms very much, hubby (non-mushroom lover) says you don't taste them when they are mixed with everything else.

We like to serve this with a side salad or some veggies.

Get a close up of this deliciousness. Bet you can almost taste it!

Linking up at these fun parties

Friday, December 14, 2012

DIY wooden block ornament {How to do a lyre ornament swap}

ü  Receive the invite for the annual Alpha Chi Alum recipe swap and ornament exchange of Lyre ornaments.

ü Google lyre ornaments. Come to the conclusion that there is not a lot out there and any that don't look terrible will either take too long to be shipped or are too expensive for this type of thing.

ü Google harp ornaments. Harps are kinda close right so maybe one will look enough like a lyre instead. Come to the same conclusion unless I want to go on a wild ornament chase at every Target, Kohl's, boutique shop and the like.

ü Come to the realization that I will be making a lyre ornament. Yes I know I said I would not be doing any handmade gifts this year... this is me breaking my rule.

How to make a wooden block ornament

-wooden block left from this project that used a 3x3 finished wooden post
-paints and/or paint pens - a sorority girl's best tool
-skinny ribbon

Get someone handy to drill a small hole through one of the corners of the block just big enough to feed a skinny ribbon through. What you are going for with the hole through the corner is so when hung on the tree, the block will be hanging on a diagonal. To further explain, the block corner you choose and the hole you make will sort of form a triangle. See pictures if you are confused.

Feed a ribbon through the hole and leave the desired length. Tie in knot or bow to hang it by.

I decided to leave the block natural but you could paint it if you wanted. Decorate the block with paint and paint pens and allow to dry well - it won't take very long. I used yellow, green and red. The paint pens were particularly great for writing words.

This whole project took less than 30 minutes so it's easy to complete in an evening and does not have to span many days like lots of crafts. This would be great with kid's names or paint each side a different color. Or a great project for kids to make their own ornament!


Linking up at these fun parties

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The year of the mouse {Clemson Reunion weekend}

Seems like a strange title. I'll get to that.

This year the Clemson Reunion weekend was for the Va Tech game. This is one of my favorite weekends every year because all of my college roommates and close Clemson friends get together. This year it was for the Clemson vs. Va Tech game in late October. We rented a house from an alum's ad on craigslist who I met and talked to before getting the key and giving him a check (turns out his wife works at the bank too). This was the first time they decided to rent the place. It was 10 minutes away from campus with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths... very hard to find places so close by. My college roomie Brooke and Lauren who was her roommate in Charlotte were staying in the the house too.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and dropped our stuff at the house before heading downtown. It was not too hard to find and the pictures I was given were accurate... it was an older home on the lake but we did not care. We were basically only going to be there to sleep.

rental house back deck view

We ate dinner downtown and hung out at Tigertown Tavern with everyone, a tradition. We are all about traditions.


Then the 4 of us went back to the house and went to bed. Then at about 3am.

Me: Eric, I hear something.
Eric: What
Me: It sounds like scratching. Like it's in the walls. Don't you hear that?
Eric: It's outside, go back to sleep.
Me: Okay

Fast forward to 6:45am when we wake up to gasps and shrieking.

Eric: Is that Brooke?
Me: Yes
Eric goes out in the hall to Brooke who has her door open and is standing in her room saying she saw something.
Eric: it's a mouse. Don't worry they are afraid of people.
Mouse darts into hallway and around the upstairs and even bounded down the spiral staircase like an Olympian.
Cue girl hysteria. (Actually to be fair Lauren was pretty calm since apparently she had dealt with some mice in her house)
Then another one darts from Brooke's bedroom into the bathroom. We named the original mouse Chester. I tried to tell myself that Chester just wanted to leave his family and go be a chef in Paris but that wasn't quite working (yes I realize that was a rat, not a mouse).

Apparently what I was hearing was not outside thankyouverymuch. Thank goodness I did not know what it was at the time.

Several minutes later the mice were no longer around. Brooke took all her stuff out of that room and moved it to Lauren's and we stuffed towels under her door. Since towels definitely keep mice trapped in. We had only awoken a little bit before our alarms anyway so we all got ready for a full day of tailgating and football!

It was a little chilly in the morning but actually felt good. There was plenty of eating (I brought fruit salad and mini muffins), cornhole playing and we did get to tell our mouse tale as well.

Another tradition... mimosas. This year in style... I brought the mason jars and the straws which made us feel fancy.

Roomie love.

It was a noon game so it had warmed up for going into the stadium. I didn't even need my jacket. We were in the upper deck fairly high but had a great view of the field.

Yay for a Tiger win! The usual ring picture...

After the game I got to meet up with Mary Ellen to give her a onesie and see her adorable baby bump!

After stopping to see a few others along the way, we had lunch at the tailgate with burgers, hotdogs, and lots of sides. This was a double recipe of the Beef Cheeseball shaped like a football that I made.

Tillman 920 girls. (ignore the color on the next few, trying to get these color corrected... who knows why my camera on ISO-Auto thought it needed to be at 1800 during the daytime outside grrr)

Keith and Megan were also at this game with one of Megan's friends so they came to hang out for awhile and we took some family pics.

Once it got dark we packed up the tailgate and headed downtown to hang at TTT again.

Then we said our goodbyes (many were leaving early in the morning) and the 4 of us headed back to the house after a stop at the good ole Central Walmart for mouse traps and peanut butter to put in them.

Eric put out the mouse traps and we checked around everywhere for the mice but saw no sign of them. We got ready for bed and had Brooke sleep in Lauren's room. A couple of hours later I woke up to the scratching again and woke up Eric. Then I saw Chester running up our bedroom door! No lie. We jumped up onto the bed fully awake at this point but then the mouse was no longer on the door.

I really had to pee so I made Eric check the hallway and bathroom. Despite Eric repeatedly declaring that mice were afraid of people, I made him stand in the bathroom with me. Then mid-pee the mouse darts under the bathroom door, through Eric and towards me. Naturally I freak out and jump into the shower right next to me and the mouse runs into the bathroom closet. So much for being afraid of people and so much for the mouse traps!

Clearly there was no way we were going back to sleep in that house so we went and slept/rested in the car. Thankfully Brooke and Lauren slept through all that.

Sunday morning it was time to depart the mouse house... they were off to get Brooke to the airport and Eric and I headed to one of my favorite eating places in Clemson, Pot Belly Deli, for breakfast. I was even able to get a chicken salad sandwich MY FAVORITE and put it in the cooler for lunch later.

We went to campus for a bit to take some pictures of Tillman Hall and Bowman field before heading home.

We had such a great time at this year's reunion and as Brooke said, we will always remember this as the year of the mouse! Not so funny at the time but I'm sure it will bring laughs in the future. The owners actually had no idea about the mice and were so apologetic and gave us a huge discount. If they completely take care of the mouse problem we might consider staying there again...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

LaForce Likes #27

We all know that mustaches are quite popular these days and popping up on all kinds of items. It's like the new owl. And with Movember just last month there are a lot of 'staches around. These are some great mustache mugs for the coffee or tea drinker (or even hot chocolate) and would make a great gift.

The classic

His and Hers

Colorful Set

There are a ton of options on Etsy and who doesn't love supporting handmade gifts!

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like....

Anything but Christmas. It looks more like it's a couple weeks after Christmas and we happened to leave out our Christmas wreath, vases filled with ball ornaments on the mantle and a couple of Christmas items on side tables.

Before you say we are Scrooges here is what's going on... several things in the LaForce household are different this year

1. We are not decorating the house for Christmas and putting up all the garland and icicle lights that look amazing. We have never skipped decorating before. We both love Christmas but since we have our house on the market and are really busy with the building of our new home, my stressful job, other holiday activities, keeping our house looking super clean for showings, etc. it just did not make sense this year.

2. In case it was unclear not decorating also includes not putting up a tree. This makes me sad because that is one of my favorite things to put up but I just remember that Christmas is definitely not about trees and decorations and lights. It is about celebrating Jesus. We do still blast Christmas music and burn holiday scented candles... mmm pine. And we are still having our annual gingerbread house making party at least. Apologies to the attendees who don't get to see all our decor this year.

3. I am not doing any handmade gifts this year like usual. No crafts. No sewing. No plates of homemade delicious goodies. All of that would mean making a mess and adding stress which really takes the fun out of making gifts. So I am saying no to that this year. I am still doing annual baking day with the girls at Katie's house so I have cookies to put out at the gingerbread party.  Normally I like to make all the snacks and desserts we put out but this year everything else will most likely be store bought. And after some convincing I am going to be okay with that. In addition to baking day cookies, good cheese and crackers and salsa and chips will do just fine right. A couple of people usually bring a homemade snack too so that is especially awesome this year.

We are still in the Christmas spirit although it is hard to believe it is already December! Hopefully it is not looking like the Grinch stole Christmas at your house :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Roasted Green Beans

I like my vegetable dishes to be fresh, simple and seasoned. I believe some people dislike vegetables because they have only had unseasoned or mushy vegetables which is exactly what you get if you just steam them or cook them stove top too long with no seasoning.

I was in charge of 2 vegetable dishes for Thanksgiving and quickly chose Roasted Green Beans from Skinnytaste for one. First of all green beans are a staple at a big Thanksgiving but traditional green bean casserole is so last year. And second I think vegetable dishes should at least be pretty healthy... there are plenty of other dishes in the unhealthy category so gotta balance that out.

We will definitely be adding this to our list of frequently made veggies sides.

Roasted Green Beans
by Skinnytaste, serves 4, 62 calories per cup

-12 oz green beans, trimmed - I used more since this was for Thanksgiving with 12 adults and 4 kids
-2 tsp olive oil
-kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
-1/4 tsp garlic powder
-1 1/2 tbsp shredded parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil. Lay out green beans and and drizzle olive oil over them. Instead of drizzling olive oil I sprayed using my oil mister so it was an even coat. Seriously one of the best tools in my kitchen. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Feel free to change up the seasonings to what you like. Toss to coat evenly and spread out green beans. Place on lower third section of your oven. Bake 10 min, shake pan to turn and bake another 5 min. Remove and sprinkle with grated parmesan.

Since this only took 15 min in the oven it was great to pop in during the time when the turkey was resting on the counter and being carved so it did not take up oven space while the turkey was in.

Many people there were very interested in what I was doing with the green beans. I guess roasting vegetables is not as common as I think. You have no idea what you are missing... start roasting your vegetables (with seasoning of course)! They will be tender and crisp!

This was the only side item where there was not enough left to even save. Mission accomplished!

I will definitely share my other vegetable side dish with you soon!

Linking up at these fun parties

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Clemson Family Weekend

At the beginning of October my parents came to visit and we went down to Clemson for the Ga Tech game for what has now become an annual tradition of having both our families go to a game. Hopefully Keith and Megan can come next year.

We stayed at the usual condo we rent right near the interstate in Anderson. On Friday afternoon we walked around downtown for just a little bit because I wasn't feeling super awesome. I had come down with a cold 2 days before. Perfect timing I know. And to top it off I forgot my camera. I was not happy about this because yall know how I am about my camera and taking pictures but luckily we got Eric's parents to bring their point and shoot so I could still get some pictures.

This is the jacket getting smashed. I love when they paint the store windows downtown.

We arrived at the tailgate around 9am. We always tailgate at Strom Thurmond for my Clemson reunion weekend so we have done that for family weekend too. Our niece, Abby, was a ball of energy at the tailgate and that's an understatement Apparently she woke up Mimi and Papaw at 5am saying "aren't we going to Clemson today?". She was super pumped just like last year.

Abby also drew a picture for me and spelled my name "Emule". Pretty funny. In all seriousness I know it's kind of a thing (definitely not my kind of thing) to spell kids names different than the traditional way so it wouldn't surprise me if somewhere out there someone named their baby girl Emily but spelled it like that. Sorry Emule, blame your too trendy parents.

Other than getting a few photos I mainly just relaxed (due to aforementioned cold) in the nice weather in the shade. We did breakfast food (pumpkin bread, fruit, ham biscuits) and later lunch food (chips and veggies with dip, pasta salad, turkey wraps, brownies) since it was a 3:30 game.

It actually got fairly warm in the game but not unbearable like some of those September games especially with the clouds. As far as the upper deck goes, our seats were great. Not too far up and on the 45 yard line.

And Abby lasted until halftime which was impressive since she refused to nap. Last year she only made it through the first quarter barely before she was ready to do something else. Maybe next year she will be able to last the whole game.

We had a great time especially with a Tiger win!

We were so glad my parents were able to come up to visit and they were also able to see our new lot since we had just signed the contract to build. Can't wait for the 3rd annual family Clemson game!

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