In October, Danni over at oh, hello friend launched a "twelve by 2012" project- twelve goals she wanted to complete by the end of this year. She's invited others to take part, and I thought it would be fun to do it. Here's the original post, the end-of-October check-in and the one from November!

1. Go on a weekend roadtrip. We went to the Gentry Wilderness Safari last month, and Little Rock this month. Neither one was a weekend trip- they were both day trips- but they were a lot of fun!
2. Find every day ways to take better care of our immune systems. We've still been working on eating more balanced meals (more veggies!) and exercising. We even sporadically take vitamins. Heh.
3. Organize the closets in our house. Done. Totally done. And everything else is clean, too-- our kitchen cabinets, under the bathroom sink, the bins under our bed, etc. It feels pretty amazing.
4. Do at least three creative (non-paid) photoshoots. Yes! We did one! With the lovely and amazing Christy! And then we did another one with Emily. Win! We didn't do three, but the two we did were great.
5. Get our state sales taxes sorted out. Everything is FINALLY sorted out. It only took four months of back-and-forth letters and phone calls. We're all up to date, we've paid the back tax bills for both of our businesses, and we're good to go!
6. Read at least fifteen books.
In the last two weeks of October, I read:
Vanish by Tess Gerritsen
Two or Three Things I Know For Sure by Dorothy Allison
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Last month:
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The Monsters Inside by Stephen Cole
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Awkward: What to do when life makes you cringe by Sam Scholfield
Storm Front and Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
Heartless by Gail Carriger

This month:
The Book of Lost Things by John Conolly
I hadn't read J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series since I was a teenager, and a dear family friend just gave me the first six books, so:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The Spell Sword and The Forbidden Tower by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Grave Peril, Summer Knight and Death Masks by Jim Butcher
Prey by Michael Crichton

That's 25 books- so I'd say I met that goal.

7. Go through my clothes and pare down what I own to what I need. (Embarrasingly), four trash bags of clothes and accessories= given away!
8. Make significant headway on paying off our credit cards. Down about 65%, which feels great. We still have a bit to go, but we've made good headway.
9. Write ten letters to send the snail mail way. In October I wrote four, in November I wrote five, and this month I wrote two.
10. Start walking again. Still a fail on this one, because it is chilly and it gets dark so early now. However, we did get a kinect, and we've been dancing with it all the time, which is way more fun than being freezing in the dark outside after I get home from work.
11. Switch banks from Bank of America to a regional bank. Successful as of last month!
12. Bake three new kinds of bread. I made pumpkin coconut bread and apple cranberry bread. Yum! I also made two batches of french bread, which is something I've made before, but is pretty delicious. 

Overall, I think this was a pretty successful experiment. Now that it's a new year, I think I may continue to make goal lists for two or three months at a time instead of trying to make resolutions for my whole year- which never seems to work. 

If you took part in this project, how did yours go? And if not, do you have any resolutions or goals for the new year?

I stumbled across this five minute coffee cake recipe over at Prudent Baby, and it's pretty adorable. (Just look at those mugs!) I wonder if it tastes good? We tried to make chocolate cake in a mug a few years ago and it was a total disaster, but this looks more promising.

Oh, tea. How I love you. I am part of a tea-drinking family, and although I like coffee just fine, tea is the hot drink of my choice. We have one entire shelf in our kitchen devoted to mugs, tea and coffee, and I would guess we have at least thirty different varieties of tea. I was trying to narrow down my favorites a couple of weeks ago to recommend a few to the lovely Erin, and it was sort of fun thinking about what I pull out of our (impressive) tea cabinet the most often! I think I managed to come up with a pretty good list.

My favorites:

Harney & Sons African Autumn - This is yummy rooibos with cranberry and orange. Lindi bought me a box of this several years ago and sent it to me in the mail over Christmas break while I was out of state, and it's still one of my favorites!

Republic of Tea pomegranate vanilla red - I really like red tea, and this is a delicious take on it.

Celestial Seasonings decaf India spice chai - I drink the decaf, although they make a caffinated version as well-- this is a nice, flavorful compromise for when I don't want to make ginger water for REAL chai.

Celestial Seasonings sleepytime vanilla - This is perfect for when my stomach is a little upset, or for just before bed. I like it better than the original sleepytime because of the subtle vanilla flavor.

Bigelow Perfect Peach - This is my go-to morning herbal tea. It it nice and strong, and when I was in college I got into the habit of taking this to class in my travel mug because I didn't have to put milk or soymilk in it and could just let it steep as I walked.

Republic of Tea ginger peach decaf black - They also make a caf version of this, and it makes KILLER iced tea as well as hot tea.

PG Tips decaf black - I went through a phase where I liked my black tea really black with just a little sugar in it, but lately I've been drinking it with a bit of soymilk as well.

I pretty much rotate evenly through my favorite teas, depending on the weather and what I’m doing/what mood I’m in. What are your favorite hot drinks- tea, coffee, or otherwise?
Lindi's music recommendations for the week: 1. Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton - Dr. Blind

2. Andrew Bird - A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left

3. Sigur Rós - Sæglópur

Our day is a bit of a whirlwind today as we go from one family Christmas to another, but here are a few photos of our tree at home. (It has an extra 20 feet of lights on it after Atticus electrocuted himself by chewing through the cord of one of the original strands. Oh dear. He's just fine, but it was scary!)

Merry Christmas (if you celebrate the holiday) and if not, happy Sunday!

In other news, Atticus has developed a great love for mixing bowls. Oh dear.

I think these chalkboard mugs from Wit & Whistle are pretty much adorable. Head over to her blog for the tutorial!

I was chatting with the lovely Lauren a few days ago about Christmas plans and how busy this week will be for us, and one of the things I said was how different my Christmases are now compared to the first twenty-something Christmases of my life. Because WOAH, are they different. My family moved several times before I started high school, most of the time to places nowhere near any other family, so Christmas, for us, was a close-knit, nuclear-family-only affair most of the time. Before last year, I can count on one hand the years we spent Christmas morning anywhere but home (once) and with anyone but my parents, my sister and I and my grandmother who now lives with my parents (three times). That's a lot of Christmases for just my tiny little family all by ourselves.

Last year, though? Oh boy. Lindi and I had spent all of our pre-married Christmases separately with our family and had 'our Christmas' on the day before or the day after the actual day. We got married in August, though, and decided that it was really important to us to spend Christmas morning together. So, we spent two or three days with Lindi's extended family (on her mother's side), then went to my parents' on the 23rd, spent Christmas Eve there, got up on Christmas to open stockings and presents and have a yummy breakfast, then left at around 10 to drive to Lindi's (paternal) grandmother's to have Christmas with them. We stayed there until mid-afternoon, then drove to Lindi's (maternal) grandparents' to have Christmas with them. Like I said, oh boy. It was a bit of a whirlwind. And this year we're doing it all over again, plus most of the years in our forseeable future, until we have children- at which point I'm sure it will change again.

We're lucky in that at least our various families live within a reasonable distance of each other- last Christmas, we only drove for maybe two and a half hours. Still, though, it's a bit overwhelming at times. I have a good bit of extended family, but they're spread out all over the country, and we mostly only see each other one at a time or for family reunions/weddings/funerals every few years. Also, I know all of my cousins' names. Lindi, on the other hand, has so many cousins that at one point in high school she and a friend of hers (who had known each other for more than a year) realized that they were cousins. She has a gigantic family, almost all of whom live somewhere in an hour radius of where we live, and even the family she is really close to adds up to a lot of people.

Even with the overwhelming things, it's a joy to have a huge family all of a sudden when I spent most of my life wishing I did. It's a little challenging to adjust traditions and figure out how to split things up without making anyone sad (including ourselves), but we're doing it. We're figuring out our baby family's traditions and what we do when, step by step, holiday by holiday.

What are your plans for the holidays? Have you had to change the way you do things at all because of a long-term relationship, family moving away, or some other reason? How have you handled the changes?
Lindi's music recommendations for the week: 1. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Home

2. Oh Land - Sun of a Gun

3. Foster the People - Pumped up Kicks

So, one of our favorite kinds of food is anything Middle Eastern/Greek/Jordanian/etc. We have two excellent restaurants here that serve slightly different takes on the same sorts of food: falafel, hummus, gyros, stuffed grape leaves... and baba ghanoush! Oh, the deliciousness. We want to go eat there ALL THE TIME, but sadly, it is not to be. We make hummus at home on a pretty regular basis, and a while back we decided to give baba ghanoush a try.
We went to the farmers' market- one of the very last of the season- and it was freezing! It was near the end of the market, and so when we bought an eggplant from one of the booths, the woman threw in a second one for free. That was actually really lucky, because although an eggplant LOOKS like it will make a lot of cooked eggplant, that is not really the case. So! We brought it home, and made delicious baba ghanoush. (We loosely followed this recipe from Pioneer Woman Cooks with a few modifications.)

Two medium-large eggplants
One red pepper
3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup minced fresh parsely
salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. Cut the red pepper in half, de-seed and place open-side down on a baking sheet.
3. Place the eggplants on a separate baking sheet. Pierce the skin with a fork several times all over the eggplant to stop it from bursting in the oven.
4. Roast both the peppers and the eggplants in the oven- the peppers should only take about 15 minutes, until soft and a little charred, while the eggplants will likely take more like 25-30 minutes. Remove the peppers when done.
5. The eggplants will look totally weird and gross, and that is how you know they are good to go! They will be shriveled and dark, which is exactly how they are supposed to look.

6. Set the eggplant aside to cool for a few minutes, then peel back some of the skin and use a spoon to scoop the insides into the bowl of a food processor. This is really messy, but it will be worth it.
7. Add the bell pepper, oil, lemon juice, garlic, tahini and parsely to the food processor and mix just until everything is incorporated. You don't want it to be totally smooth, just well incorporated.
8. Salt to taste, and enjoy with crackers, pita, sliced bread or anything else that strikes your fancy. (My favorite way to eat baba ghanoush is with toasted pita! So yummy!)

Whatever you do with this deliciousness, DO NOT put it in the fridge in an open bowl with the spoon still in it just to let it chill for a little while, then open the door, catching the spoon on the condiment holder in the door, and successfully splattering baba ghanoush all over yourself, the floor, the cat, and the fridge. Don't do that. I did that, and it's just a waste of amazing baba ghanoush. The floor just doesn't appreciate it enough.

Luckily, we still had enough to eat with dinner, and it was gooood. Enjoy!
My friend Michelle sent over this fun article, '25 clever things to make life easier.' It's full of fun little tips like how to easily hull strawberries, how to make a wire rack for holding rolls of wrapping paper, how to use a walnut to remove scuffs on furniture and how to use a magnetic strip as a bobby-pin catcher. Cute!

Photo originally from
Jessica over at How About Orange has put together a list of free printable gift tags- and they're all adorable. These ones, from Sass & Peril, are my favorite.

Lindi's music recommendations for the week: 1. Coconut Records - Saint Jerome

2. Kathryn Calder - Arrow

3. When I Was 12 - Explicit Content

Oh jewelry. I love you so. And here are some really lovely pieces that could make perfect gifts for someone in your life!

See part one of the series here: Holiday gift guide 2011: household gifts
See part two of the series here: Holiday gift guide 2011: artsy gifts
See part three of the series here: Holiday Gift Guide 2011: crafty gifts
Do you have someone crafty in your life? Here are some ideas for cute little stocking stuffers and crafty presents for them!

See part one of the series here: Holiday gift guide 2011: household gifts
See part two of the series here: Holiday gift guide 2011: artsy gifts

Wow, this has been quite the busy week for us out and about on the web! Today we're lucky enough to be part of the Visiting Artists Series over at Lauren's blog I'm Better in Real Life. (She also has a great holiday gift guide up over there right now, so check it out while you're over there!) We had a lot of fun mulling over and answering her interview questions together. Thanks, Lauren!
Here are some really delightful pieces of art, all of which are less than $35. Hooray!

 See part one of the series here: Holiday gift guide 2011: household gifts.

Are you engaged, or are you thinking about maybe getting engaged someday, or are you married but still subscribe to wedding blogs in your google reader (ahem)? Then you need to get this book. Seriously. A Practical Wedding remains one of my favorite online communities, because it's run by some seriously amazing women and it tones down the crazy of the wedding-planning world. Luckily for me, after we got married the site evolved into partly stuff about married life, wahoo!

Meg Keene, the head honcho at APW, wrote a book and called it A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for a Beautiful, Affordable and Meaningful Celebration. Here's one review, and here's another one. I can't wait to get my copy in the mail so I can read it and then share it with my engaged friends.

Today, APW has launched a book buy, to try and put the book in the top 100 Amazon books. Well, it's 10 a.m., and it's already gone from #30,000 to #659, so I'd guess it's working! This is a book that needs to be read, so if it looks like something that would be useful to you or someone you love, go for it! The publish date says it's still a few weeks in the future, but the book is already shipping from the warehouse and actually should arrive before Christmas. Yay!
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