Mid-December Recap

How is December flying by so quickly? It’s already mid-December. I can’t believe Christmas is next week! Are you done with your Christmas shopping yet?

I’ve been a bit MIA on the blog recently, due to lack of time because I’m working now and because the holiday season is always packed with adventures (what I actually mean is feasts). Activities lined up every single weekend until my parents come to town (yay, this weekend!). I’m especially excited about this year because we’re renting a cabin in Tahoe in between Christmas and New Years for my family and my in-laws. Don’t know if we’ll be skiing yet but there’ a high possibility!

Since my last post, I’ve had 3 holiday parties. One that consists of all you can eat Brazilian BBQ. And two other parties where I was one of the main head chefs (think pounds and pounds of prime rib). Here are some fun recaps from pics on my iPhone.

Here at Espetus in sequins and fur – my favorite combo!

Dinner

And now for the church Christmas parties – here are the goods. The Costco employees even commented on how much food we had in our carts!

Goods

And look at these awesome veggie trees – you simply buy a styrofoam cone, wrap it in plastic wrap to keep it from crumbling, and skewer veggies onto the cone with toothpicks. I carved stars from pineapple as toppers (remember to soak your pineapple in salt water so it doesn’t brown).

Veggie Trees

Crab cakes galore! I definitely made over 100 crab cakes.

Crab Cakes
Use my crab cake recipe here

And MEAT!

Prime Rib
My perfect prime rib recipe here

And here’s my little sweetheart guarding the presents. “You shall not open the presentz!”

Chubs' Present

I’m also taking my parents to The Christmas Story musical on Christmas Eve. Each year, Neighborhood church in Castro Valley hosts a broadway-like musical for only $5 per ticket. It’s such a great form of entertainment and good price too! Tickets are going fast so order ahead, and constantly check their site to see if there are new musicals on the horizon – totally worth the cost.

What are you most excited for during this Christmas season?
Jay

  

Annual Tree Chop

This past weekend was the Lam-Luu annual tree chop weekend! It’s a little tradition of ours now to go to a tree farm, pick out a tree, and chop it yourself to bring home. It’s fun to do now, so I imagine it to be even more fun with kids.

Well… the Luus brought their new kid, fur-kid that is, to the party this year! Meet Casey – he was adopted about a week ago, such a cute little guy! So happy that I have a little puppy to play with now.

Saturday was a gloomy and rainy day, but it felt perfect for a winter day to go tree shopping. It set the mood. This year we tried a new place in Los Gatos called Summit Tree Farms. This place was amazing, definitely better than the last few places we’ve been to! First off, it’s a huge lot with plenty of trees. And most importantly, all the trees were perfectly shaped triangles. After about 30 minutes of strolling the farm, we finally picked out our trees.

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Ming
^^^ My manly man!

Lam-Luus
Lam/Luus <3

Now that the tree was home, it was a decorating weekend! One of my favorite things to do during this season, I love digging through the stuff that I have, with each piece providing a little piece of my memory. I’m also reminded of the things I purchased post-Christmas and haven’t seen for a whole year! I’m all about those post-holiday sales.

With this little guy as my helper, I was determined to finish decorating the house to get into that Christmas spirit.

Chubs

Done
Ta-Da! All decorated in gold and silver with a little rustic burlap skirt (it’s the same burlap from my wedding!). Now I need those presents!

Often times, there are little branches that need to be trimmed from the tree. Those don’t go to waste in this house! I put them in vases and placed them around the house as well. They are such cute little editions to the home.

Branch

Toby

Decor

Wanna know something funny? MG and I bought our first real tree 2 years ago, back in 2012. We wanted to pick the fattest tree we could possibly find at the farm. Challenge accepted and succeeded. I present to thee, the Christmas bush. This is from my old iPhone since I didn’t even have a fancy camera yet. Notice how we still have blinds and white walls! In 2 years so much has changed.

Christmas Bush

Not even gonna lie, I miss the Christmas bush. It gave so many people lots of laughs! What are some of your friend/family traditions for this time of year? What gets you into the holiday spirit?

With love,
Jay

  

OCC Packing Day

It’s that time of year again! OCC packing time!

My church (Living Stones Christian Church) hosts an annual Operation Christmas Child packing day. The church provides the sanitary/school items, and we supply the toys.

So what’s OCC? It’s a program by Samaritan’s Purse that encourages people to pack shoeboxes filled with items for children. These boxes are sent all over the world during the holiday season to provide a way to share the Good News of Jesus. It’s a simple thing we can do as follows for the greater purpose of God.

To personalize the box, we write little postcards to our kids that are receiving the box. We also added a group picture of the church. But the most important part of packing these boxes, praying for the kids receiving this gift. Though this is a physical gift, pray that the kids receive an eternal gift from God.

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My boxes were for little gifts 5-7. MG made boxes for boys.

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We made three boxes each among me and MG.

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^^^ oh, hai!

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A total count of 222 boxes from our church!

My heart fills with joy when I look around the room and find that so many people are packing boxes, together as a congregation. It’s just so cool that such a small gesture from us can be part of a bigger story.

Have you participated in OCC before? If so, what kinds of things do you pack? And isn’t toy shopping so fun even as an adult?

In Him,
Jay

  

The Best Christmas Yet!

MG and I are leaving for Texas this week! I can’t wait to visit my family and friends back home. I miss them dearly. I better get to doing laundry and packin!

Sadly, no super sadly, I’m not bringing my Chubaloo home with me. There’s too much traveling to bring him along. I’m torn… already. And I haven’t even left this guy yet.

On a happy note though, since we’re leaving so soon, we celebrated Christmas with friends early this year. Lots of dinner gatherings, drinks a-flowin, and gift unwrapping!

Get this – best present yet. Actually, I don’t know if anyone can top this.

KitchenAid

I finally got a KitchenAid mixer!!!!

I’ve been eyeing this for so long, but for some reason MG and I didn’t put it on our wedding registry, and we haven’t mustered up the courage to get one. I have no idea why… But finally! My sweetest of sweet and dearly beloved friends got this for me for Christmas.

This has got to be the nicest gift I’ve ever gotten from a friend. Thank you so much for an incredible gift. I wholeheartedly love it and cannot show you enough appreciation.

Now, friends, what should I make with this? Give me some ideas!

What did you do this weekend?
Jay

  

Pre-Christmas

It’s the time of holiday parties!

MG and I had our own date night, gift opening party on Friday evening. I bought him some amazing Shun knives (basically I get to use them too, best kind of gift). And he bought me a Fisheye lens for my camera and Snake Oil, only the best game ever. I should let you know that we’re going to Texas to visit my family and friends for Christmas soon. That’s why we celebrated our own Christmas early and opened gifts.

On Saturday we went Christmas tree chopping! We’ve made this an annual tradition to go with our friends and chop your own tree at the farm. I can’t wait until the day all my friends and I have toddlers, and we can bring the little ones to run around and help saw the tree. Those will make for good memories. What are some of your annual Christmas traditions? Please share, I’d love to know!

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Doesn’t the tree on the right look like someone is hiding in camo? Freaky… and bushy.

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Give a guy a saw and he feels like Ron Swanson! (Any Parks and Rec fans here?)

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Sawing the perfect tree!

DSC03534Soooo muddy…

DSC03548The Luu’s tree ^^^

DSC03559Always a great time with these two

We also went to our church’s annual White Elephant Christmas party. Food was delicious. Fellowship was great. Gifts were… creative. I say this because the maximum amount you could spent was $4. I came out with an olive oil dispenser. I’m happy! I’ve discovered that at this age, kitchenware is the best gift you could get (am I old?).

DSC03663Singing Christmas carols 

BTW, did you notice I’m using my fisheye lens? Thanks hubby.

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My love ^^^

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We had a gingerbread cookie mansion decorating table. People were encouraged to continually add to the mansion. Look at that ice skating rink in the front and the garden on the right – so much imagination! Making a gingerbread house is SO difficult. Props to those that can make one look like something… Ha!

On Sunday night I celebrated Christmas with my lovely in-laws. We had a seafood feast at home, played a round of Snake Oil, unwrapped gifts, and then had some homemade vanilla ice cream. It was a splendid night of family.

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Our tree filled with presents!

DSC03687A fantastic family picture. Isn’t it Christmas card worthy?

What did you do this weekend?

Love,
Jay

  

DIY Wine Bags & Giveaway!

Congratulations to Connie for winning this giveaway! Please check your email for shipping information. Thanks to those who participated. It’s an easy DIY, so you can still own these wine bags!

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I love making gifts for people. I enjoy spending time getting creative and thrifty! Since Christmas is coming up, I’ve been busy coming up with ideas for presents. Repurposing things for gifts is my hobby. That’s a hobby right?

For instance, I love using paper grocery bags for gift wrap. I like using string or baking twine for bows. It’s also time to bust out those cassette tape pom poms!

Since my wedding, I’ve had a bunch of burlap laying around. While I was drifting off to sleep, I came up with the idea of making wine bags with the burlap (I tend to come up with the best ideas while I’m about to fall asleep. I have a journal to jot down my thoughts since I’ll wake up and totally forget). These make fantastic gift bags, and it’s great if you’re hosting a wine tasting party!

Tis the season of giving, so here’s another giveaway! Just comment on this post for a chance to win.

Bags

Materials:

  • 60 inch width by 30 inch length sheet of burlap
    • As long as you have 10 inch width by 30 inch length for each bag, you’re good to go
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine
    • For the no sew approach, you’ll need double sided tape
  • Ribbon

Burlap
You need burlap, minus the cat! For some reason kitties love burlap

Here’s the tutorial:

DIY Wine Bags

CRAFTER’S TIP:

  • Burlap can be hard to manage. What I typically do to ensure I’m cutting straight is take one strand of burlap and pull the entire string through. It will create a straight line to serve as a cutting guide (numbers 2 & 3 in the tutorial above).
  • For the new sew approach, use double sided tape to tape down the edges after ironing.

For the mystery tasting party, each wine was put in the burlap bags so that all labels and types were hidden. Guests were asked to taste each and rate aroma, body, taste, and finish. After adding up the scorecard, you find out which wine you like most. It’s so fun when you find out that sometimes the cheapest wine is actually your favorite!

I created a scorecard for the wine tasting party. Feel free to use this template! Download it here.

Pens
Scorecards and pens, with glasses ready to go

Cheese
Cheese is necessary on any and every occasion

Bottles
Wine bags are numbered and hidden

PartyEnjoying at this point!

Tasting

For a chance to win three wine bags, comment on this post!

Cheers!
Jay
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Only one entry per email. Email must be valid. Shipping address must be in the United States. This giveaway ends at 11:30pm PST on 12/10/13. Winner will drawn and announced on Wednesday, 12/11/13 at 12:00am PST via blog and email provided.

  

Advent Conspiracy & Fair Trade

Why do we celebrate Christmas? Truly think about that question.

Christmas tree

As a follower of Christ, I celebrate Christmas because it marks the birth of our Savior. Jesus came down to earth to walk with sinners and eventually paid for our debts. But for some reason, Christmas is about wish lists and presents. We rack our brains trying to figure out the “best gift.” But is there ever such a thing as the perfect gift? To be honest, if you wanted something really badly, don’t you just purchase it for yourself anyway?

This past Sunday at church, I was asked to share about Advent Conspiracy. This is a movement to bring Christmas back to what it really means, the birth of Jesus, not the consumption of goods. It’s hard for me to completely give up the idea of presents because I really do love giving presents. It’s usually the one chance I can buy gifts for people and show them a bit of love.

I recently entered into a Pinterest contest hosted by Global Partners to showcase fair holiday gifts. Then I thought to myself, I can buy fair trade Christmas presents, a gift with a huge story and a huge impact. With fair trade products, you are breaking cycles of poverty and paying for someone else’s dignity and independence. When you buy these products, you’re making the world a little bit better, sometimes in the poorest and darkest countries in the world. God called us to love the poor, the marginalized, and the outcasts. Purchasing fair trade is an action that can display faith.

Ultimately, buying fair trade is a way to live out the Gospel.

I made some stickers to be stuck on credit card to remind people to purchase thoughtfully this season. They look like the “activate your credit card” stickers. Maybe you’re interested in giving these stickers to a few friends, colleagues, and/or your congregation. Feel free to print them out on sticky paper, and stick it onto your credit cards! Download the sticker template here.

Activate

I’m posting a fair trade gift guide for those of you that need some ideas – consumables, gifts for women, men, and the little ones. See some of the awesome things I found online. There’s a range of costs so you can buy something that is within your budget.

Consumables
1 Divine Chocolate Holiday Gift Set (6 items) $39.99 // 2 Choice Tea Sampler (12 ct) $3.49 // 3 Canaan Fair Trade Infused Olive Oil 2-pack $28.99 // 4 Alaffia Spa Gift Set $30.00 // 5 Thanksgiving Coffee 4-Pack $48.00 // 6 Trade As One Gift of Good (one-time gift) $99.00

Women
1 Sweetheart top from Mata Traders $37.99 // 2 Aquamarine studs from Given Goods Co $109.00 // 3 Arrow clutch from Sseko Designs $65.99  // 4 Lace and leather pouch from Hearts $14.00 // 5 Camera strap from Fotostrap $85.00 // 6 Stationary from Noonday Collection $18.00 // 7 Print from Sevenly $24.00

Gifts for men
Blackwood sunglasses by SOLO eyewear $78.00 // 2 Bottle opener and horseshoe magnet from Sevenly $28.00  // 3 Men’s chukka boot from Oliberté $140.00 // 4 Watch from Fair Indigo $55.90 // 5 “To My Health” flask from Sevenly $34.00 // 6 Print from Sevenly $24.00

For the Kids r1
Alpaca baby beanie from The Little Market $28.00 // 2 Balancing monkeys from Rosie Hippo $23.00 // 3 Wooden fruit set from Rosie Hippo $20.00 // 4 Wooden stable from Bella Luna Toys $179.95 // 5 Wooden marble run from Bella Luna Toys $94.95 // 6 Knit donuts from Rosie Hippo $19.00 // 7 Cotton receiving blanket from Rosie Hippo $14.00

Are there any products that are your favorite? Do you have any fair trade items you’re putting on your wish list? Perhaps now you can buy a bit more consciously this year.

Let’s bring Christmas back to what it truly means – Jesus and giving for good.

In His Love,
Jay
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For even more fair trade ideas, check out my Pinterest board