Wednesday, December 25, 2013

merry christmas!

"Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy 
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David 
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: 
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes 
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.
{Luke 2:10-14}

Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas, full of Christ's love, joy and peace...

Monday, December 23, 2013

christmas tree tour

A couple weeks ago we bought our Christmas tree. In NYC, this means going to a nearby tree stand and picking out your tree there. I love seeing all the Christmas tree stands all over town...not to mention the fresh pine smell is amazing.
{the tree stand where we bought our Christmas tree}
Michael carried the tree all the way home and put it in our tree stand for us to decorate.
Here is our tree this year, all gussied up:
My family always had a live tree growing up, and I just love this tradition!

I thought it might be fun to take you on a little "tour" of our tree, sharing some of my favorite ornaments. For us, the ornaments on our tree represent a little bit of our history, and often times have special memories attached to them. Keep reading if you'd like to join me for a little peek at our tree!

First up we have this ornament from Paloma's Nest on Etsy. It's a little hard to read in this picture, but it says "Our First Christmas // Michael & Elise // 2012." It was a Christmas gift to us last year and it's a special one for obvious reasons. 

Next up is this maize and blue beauty:
If you've read our love story, you know Michael & I met at the University of Michigan,
which will always have a special place in our hearts. Forever, go blue!

This adorable ornament is a favorite from my childhood. Mr. & Mrs. Claus have been riding in their red & green hot air balloon since the late 80s. When you press a button on the bottom of the ornament it plays "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and the balloon lights up. I remember many quiet nights enjoying the glow of our childhood Christmas tree, listening to this ornament play its tune.
It's special to have it on our tree this year for the first time. 

These little shoes are from our honeymoon in Belgium. Michael and I have been collecting ornaments from places we travel as a couple since before we were married. It's fun to remember where we have been together each Christmas as we decorate the tree.

This Chrysler Building ornament was a gift from a dear friend this Christmas. She got it at the holiday market at Union Square (it's a holiday tradition for us to go shopping there). The Chrysler Building is my favorite one in the NYC skyline. I find it so classic, old-fashioned and charming, especially when it's all lit up at night.

This nativity scene silhouette is made of olive wood from Bethlehem. I bought it at the holiday market in Columbus Circle last year. Sisters from the Convent of St. Elisabeth in Belarus have a booth there, so not only is it a beautiful ornament, but it supports a beautiful ministry. It hangs front and center on our tree as a reminder of the Holy Family Michael and I hope to emulate.

Do you have favorite ornaments on your tree? I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

speculoos cookies - a tradition

Last Christmas was Michael's and my first married Christmas. It was such a special time for us as a couple, as we had not yet been together on Christmas (we had always been with our respective families). We wanted to start a tradition or two together, and decided that making Belgian speculoos cookies could be a fun one(as I mentioned here). Neither of us are Belgian, but we did honeymoon in Belgium - visiting Bruges, Brussels & Bouillon. At our bed & breakfast in Brussels, our hosts introduced us to Biscoff cookie spread. Have you tried it? Oh my yum. It is soooo delicious. I prefer to eat it on a delicious bread or on apples...or occasionally, I confess, by the spoonful. :) (Trader Joe's sells this, which I hear is similar, though I haven't tasted it.) The cookie spread is made from the Belgian speculoos cookies. Here is a recipe for the ones we make:

Speculoos Cookies
{The recipe we use is a slight variation on this one.}

We purchased our cookie molds at a local specialty cooking shop, but you can also purchase them online. Ours are made by House on the Hill. They are very well made.

3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup water
confectioner's sugar

{how to}
[Note: Make sure you set aside a good amount of time for this recipe - there are two periods of refrigeration needed and the cookies take a while to bake as well!]

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a large bowl.

Cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Beat in half the flour/spice mixture. Beat in water, then beat in the remaining flour/spice mixture. Shape the dough into three discs, around one inch thick. Wrap each disc in plastic and refrigerate for one hour.
Lightly dust your work surface and your cookie molds with confectioner's sugar. {And don't forget to re-dust your cookie molds each time you go to press a cookie!}
Roll out the dough to about 1/4" thickness. If you have deep molds, your dough may need to be a little thicker, as ours did. Press the cookie mold into the dough - and be sure to press it firmly!
Using a knife or spatula, cut around the mold. At this point we carefully and gently lifted the mold off the dough to reveal the design. Another option is to flip the mold over, and roll over the dough with a rolling pin before removing the cookie mold to make sure the pattern is well set.
Carefully move the cookie onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing about one inch apart.
Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place cookie sheet(s) in oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 250 degrees. Bake until cookies are set and beginning to turn golden brown around the edges, about 50-60 minutes, rotating the baking sheets 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. Let the cookies cool on wire racks.
Enjoy these cookies alone, or with a warm cup of coffee or tea. They really do come out beautifully, and they make great gifts, too.

Hope you have a blessed fourth Sunday of Advent!

This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

5 favorites {no. 2} christmas cookie edition

I don't know about you, but I love Christmas cookies. I wanted to choose my top five for this week's five favorites, but it is really hard for me to pick just five! I love baking. For many years I have enjoyed the tradition of baking cookies with my family each Christmas season. 
Here are the cookies at the top of my list this year:

These Belgian speculaas cookies are delicious, and they are a tradition my husband and I started 
last year. Check back for another post (coming soon!) for more of my thoughts about this one.

I just love these candy cane thumbprint cookies, too. Not only are they delicious, but they're pretty! 

I have had spritz cookies every Christmas, for as long as I can remember! My grandmother made them, and then my mom did, and now my sister and I make them with cookie presses our grandmother gave us. The recipe we use is in an old cookbook, but is somewhat similar to this one. For my taste, the key is to use all almond extract (as opposed to vanilla).


Classic sugar cookies with frosting are a tradition in my husband's family, so we've made it a tradition for us as well. As Michael says, there's something nice about the simple cookie with simple frosting.

These chocolate-peppermint thumbprint cookies are very rich, but such a delight, and easy to make. 
I like having a chocolate cookie to add some variety, too!

What are your favorite cookie recipes? I'd love to hear from you!

Click on over to Moxie Wife for more favorites! Thanks for hosting, Hallie!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2 perspectives on getting engaged {love story: part 3}

{If you are interested, you can read the first two parts of our love story by clicking here and here.}

For this post on how we got engaged, I thought it would be fun to share our engagement story from two perspectives: mine and Michael's. We originally wrote these reflections for our wedding website, but they've been edited a little for this blog post. Hope you enjoy!

{his perspective}

I decided on Saturday that this was going to be the week. I had the ring and had received the blessing of Elise’s parents, so the only thing left to do was to just do it. I wasn’t absolutely sure how Elise was feeling about this though. I was pretty sure she’d say yes, but just to be safe I decided to leave a few subtle (or not so subtle) hints on Saturday night. I told her that we should go on a picnic sometime during the week and that I wanted it to be a special picnic. I had decided to do it sometime in the middle of the week, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday. That would give me some time to get everything I needed and prepare it just the way I wanted. As it turned out, things didn’t fall into place quite as planned.

Sunday morning came and heralded an absolutely beautiful day. I met my friend John to go disc golfing in Ypsilanti around 7:00 a.m. Throughout the round, the weather just kept getting better and better. It was the warmest, sunniest day we had seen so far that spring. I had told John about my plans for the week and he suggested I ask her that day so that I could take advantage of the great weather. At first I kind of laughed it off, not thinking that it was possible to be ready in time, but the more I thought about it the more it sounded like a pretty good idea. As soon as our round was done, I sped off into the busiest, most monumental day I’d had in a very long time.

I stopped on the way home to stock up on supplies such as food, picnic basket, flowers, etc. Along the way I had some very important phone calls to make. First to my mom to ask if I was nuts and whether she thought I should wait or just go ahead and do it that day. I also tried to call Elise’s mom, to let her know what I was thinking but also to ask her advice about a complication that might move my plans back another week. Elise had her Master’s Voice Recital at the end of the week, which was causing her a lot of stress. The last thing I wanted to do was distract her from that and end up stressing her out even more. I’d been with Elise through quite a few performances, but her Mom had been with her through every one she’d ever had, so if anyone knew what getting engaged the week before Elise’s recital might do to her it was her mom.

After initially failing to contact Elise’s mom I started to prepare our picnic in the hopes that she would call back tell me that she thought it was a good idea. I made our picnic lunch and packed a little bottle of wine with two glasses (and put the ring in my pocket). Elise’s mom called back and, after some additional consultation from Elise’s dad, I had the green light. I was so nervous, but my excitement outweighed my nerves! I finished everything just in time. Elise had been directing the noon choir at St. Mary’s and I had called earlier to confirm switching our picnic to right after she was done.

When she came over we got into my van and the first thing I did was give her some red roses. I had received some wisdom earlier, “What girl doesn’t like flowers?” 
{the beautiful roses}
From there I drove her down to Nichols’ Arboretum (“The Arb”), and we started walking towards our picnic spot. I had been hoping and praying that the spot I wanted would be open. It was a very special one: some steps by the river where we had first said, “I love you.” By the grace of God nobody was in my spot, even though the Arb was very crowded that day. I laid out a blanket that I had brought, and we had our picnic. The whole time I was eating, I was trying to get up my nerve to ask her, and trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to say. Before too long, the food ran out and there was nothing to it but to do it. I got down on one knee, pulled out the ring and said,

“Elisebeth Claire, will you marry me?”
{newly engaged!}


It was an absolutely gorgeous Sunday. The sun was shining and it was very warm for April--April 10, to be exact. I was anxiously driving to Michael’s house after attending the Noon Mass at St. Mary Student Parish, where I had directed the music for the liturgy. Just calm down, I told myself. Don’t get your hopes up. It could be nothing more than a nice picnic.

Let me backtrack a little bit - Michael had mentioned a day or two earlier that we should go on a picnic sometime later in the week, with a bit of a serious sparkle in his eye. Loving picnics as I do, I certainly did not protest, and at the same time I got the feeling that this picnic, whenever it happened, might be a special one.

Michael texted me Sunday morning when it turned out to be such a beautiful day and suggested we go on the picnic that very afternoon. I said it sounded like a great idea to me – there were thunderstorms predicted Monday and Tuesday, and honestly, I was all jittery just thinking there was even a possibility he might propose – could this finally be the day I had been waiting for?! He said we would go on the picnic after I went to Mass “if he could get everything ready in time.” Really? How long could it take to get a picnic ready? My level of curiosity and excitement were escalating.

After Mass I checked my phone to see if Michael had contacted me. Sure enough, there was a text saying the picnic was a go if I was still up for it. Well, of course I was! I hopped in my car and headed towards his house, which is where I left off originally.

I parked my car and got into his, where he was waiting to drive me to our picnic spot. After a kiss hello, he reached into the backseat and handed me a dozen red roses. That was the moment I knew he was going to propose. He had never given me roses before, and this was just too much for a regular picnic. OH MY GOODNESS, I thought to myself! Just keep your cool. He hasn’t asked you yet.

We had a nice car ride over to the Arb, a beautiful park in Ann Arbor. Once we arrived he pulled out a fancy old-fashioned picnic basket, which I had never seen before. Something else special for our picnic! Hand in hand we walked down to sit by the Huron River. It’s a special spot for us – where we first told each other that we loved one another. With a blanket spread out for us to sit upon, Michael proceeded to unpack a lovely picnic, complete with fresh strawberries and grapes, salad with fresh parmesan cheese & balsamic vinaigrette, and white zinfandel (my favorite at the time). He had all new glass plates, cloth napkins, wine glasses – it really was quite impressive!
{pre-picnic...good thing I just happened to bring my camera...just in case}
Then it was time for lunch. But seriously? What girl can eat when she has a serious feeling she’s about to get engaged?! I had maybe two grapes and two bites of salad. Michael, on the other hand, wasn’t having any trouble with his meal. He was gobbling up all his food, not saying too much. Just get to the point, I was thinking. But I remained calm. Or at least tried to appear as such!
{can you guess whose salad is whose?}
{vanilla wafers with frosting and sprinkles...made with love}
After a little while longer Michael began talking to me about our relationship and the love we share. He said some very thoughtful, very romantic things and then reached into his pocket, got down on one knee in front of me, and asked me to marry him. “YES! YESYESYESYES YES!!!!” I think I said. I really can’t remember too much because I was so full of joy! He placed the most beautiful ring on my finger before getting up from his knee.

It really was the perfect proposal from the perfect man for me. Everything about it came straight from his heart, which is like no other heart I know. I am so grateful he will one day be I can now call him my husband!
{J O Y}
*     *     *

And now, I'm linking up this story of how we met & more with Grace and the other gals.

Monday, December 16, 2013

surprised by love

My sweet husband came home from work today with these beautiful roses for me.

We've been married for a year and a half today.

Roses are a special flower for us. Michael would get me flowers from time to time when we were dating, but he never gave me roses until the day he asked me to marry him. He planned it that way so it would be extra special on that day. He is so thoughtful!

Even though we have been together for over five and a half years, Michael still manages to surprise me from time to time. It always means so much to me when he does - it's one of my love languages. I always feel so loved, just knowing he was thinking of me.

In these moments of surprise I am also reminded of God's love...the source of Michael's and my love...He who is love. How blessed we are - every one of us - to have a God who loves us in a way I can't begin to comprehend. 

How have you been surprised by love?

Friday, December 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes {No. 4}

Happy Friday! Linking up as usual at Conversion Diary - thank you for hosting, Jen!

We had our first significant snow of the season this week in NYC! Very exciting. There's nothing quite like the beauty of snow falling silently and peacefully from the sky. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen this picture from that morning:
{snow mug for a snowy morning!}
I always find the first big snowfall of the year to be particularly special.
So special, it deserves two takes, I think! :)
{bundled for the snow!!}
{snowflakes that stay on your nose & eyelashes...and mittens!}

Do you watch Downton Abbey? My husband and I were late to hop aboard the DA train, but we couldn't stop watching all three seasons once we got started earlier this year! This week the Downton Abbey Tea Truck (yes, there is such a thing!) was making its way around New York City. 
My friend Mary and I went to visit the truck where they were passing out free tea and cookies (yum!), and showing a trailer and interviews about season four. Everyone working there was in full costume, as you can see in this picture (you may have seen it on my Twitter feed). What fun! Looking forward to the show starting back up again soon...
{so fun! and a little extra funny because my friend's name is Mary, too!}

Did you see that I started a new series on the blog this week? 
I invite you to join me! I think it's beautiful to see the ways the same scripture can touch different people at different places in life. Hoping this series will be a good place for sharing that!

I also started sharing our love story here on the blog. It has been so much fun to write!
Next week I hope to write about our engagement, and I will also do a post about our wedding day.


I wanted to share a picture of my finished Advent wreath, after showing the start of it in this post.
I was waiting for some greenery from our Christmas tree to add the evergreen element. I'll share our Christmas tree with you at some point soon!

Yesterday I went here:
{Magnolia Bakery - Upper West Side, NYC}
and I ate this:
{Y U M!}
This peppermint ice box cake is so good. And I mean SO good (yes, it calls for all-caps!). My favorite holiday treat in the city. If you're ever in NYC at Christmastime, make sure you have a slice. It's large enough to share. 

Michael has been away at a conference all week long, and I have been missing him big time! He is on his way back now though, and I am looking forward to some quality time together this weekend. I am so grateful for the gift my husband is in my life.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

P.S. Congratulate Caitlin on her new arrival! So exciting!! 
Related Posts with Thumbnails