Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's a Christmas Miracle!

As per usual, it was a Christmas holiday filled with tons of family, friends, food and fun at Andrew's parents house for the holidays.

It was a full house, with Amanda and Adam home for the holidays, and with my sister Amy and our friends Phu and Magali joining us in Plymouth for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Although we jokingly said we would all wake up at 9:14 a.m on Christmas morning (just so it wouldn't be too early), everyone surprisingly ended up rolling out of bed earlier than that.

First thing in the morning, Amanda and Adam helped A.J. get dressed:

Did someone say that Santa would make his appearance? Is it me, or does Santa look a little pissed? :) 
Then it was time to attack our Christmas stockings before breakfast:

Magali, Phu, Amy and I all received Sing-a-majigs in ou stockings. You need to see them the truly get how funny they are, but basically, they're stuffed animals with moving mouths that can sing and harmonize with each other.

Another Christmas tradition, egg casserole and coffee cake with currants (pictured below) for breakfast, yum!!

Gift unwrapping in all its glory took place in the family room this year, due to the sheer quantity of gifts:
Everyone was in good spirits and ready to tear into the pile: 

Midway through the unwrapping frenzy, everyone looked simultaneously happy with their gifts and overwhelmed by trying to keep up with what everyone else was getting: 

I'll go ahead and say it, "He went to Jared." And by he, I meant Tom bought Charlotte a lovely charm bracelet that we all admired:

Exhausted by the hours (literally) of gifts and a full breakfast, we were all ready for a nap. Adam and A.J. were especially cute, although we laughed at the fact that 1) Adam sleeps with his eyes open (not evident in this picture) and 2) A.J. and Adam kept changing positions in unison while asleep:

What do you do after a day of eating and unwrapping? Eat some more! And pause to admire Charlotte's beautifully deocrated dinner table:

One of my favorite parts of the day - Christmas dinner with turkey and a lot of the traditional trimmings:

Everone was comfortable and cozy in their pajamas from the morning:

We waited to tackle dessert until later in the evening, so we could share with my Uncle Rich and my cousins Andrew and Andrea (more "A" names to join the crowd!) - we indulged in a chocolate silk and an apple pie, a delicious cheesecake-concoction from Charlotte that included a layer of sliced bananas and a cherry/blueberry topping as well as another tradition, a Frangelico trifle (Andrew's favorite).

It all flew by too quickly, especially since Adam and Amanda ended up changing their travel plans abruptly due to the approaching blizzard and left late that evening, but it really made me realize why Christmas is such a special time of the year. Here's hoping that your holidays were just as merry!  (PS. The title of this post was a running joke for the weekend, it's not funny enough to explain but pardon me for its use!)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Decking Our Halls

It's funny, until we were homeowners, Andrew and I never paid much attention to holiday decorations.  I've always enjoyed wrapping gifts but never got into buying little decorative touches for my old place.  A $20 fake Target tree, a string of colored lights and a few ornaments, and I was good to go. 

But now that we have a house that we're proud of (ridiculously proud of, in fact) and the prospect of spending our first Christmas as a married couple (truthfully, not different from life before the wedding except the whole owning a house thing), we're inspired to make purchases like:

My first wreath ever (this is where I bring in the whole, "I grew up on an Army base overseas" thing and say that people didn't hang wreaths up in the countries I grew up in, therefore, I didn't grow up with this tradition) - this thing still smells fantastic:

Our very own stockings to hang over the mantel:

Speaking of mantels, did I mention that we finally had our chimney inspected and after a rather costly repair, we were ready to safely have our first fire in the house (and my first time living in a house with a fireplace, again, attributed to the reason mentioned above):

There were a few other purchases that I'll 'fess up to making (Christmas runner for our sideboard, Christmas kitchen towels, Christmas guest towels and Christmas soap for the guest bathroom [Sidenote: I am totally in love with Bath and Body Work's Winter Cranberry scent right now]).  This was all bought for a Christmas Adam gathering (Adam coming before Eve, December 23 coming before the 24th, it's a family term from Andrew's family) we held for our families.

The after-Christmas sales are going to be especially tempting this year. Usually, I stock up on half-off wrapping supplies but I think this year, I'm going to have my eye open for more decorative elements.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tired of Homemade Pizza Sauce?

Yeah, yeah, I know everyone is tired of staring my last post for the month and a half.

As my sister Amy and a bunch of other people pointed out, I don't have the wedding as an excuse anymore. 'Tis true, but I do have wedding wrap-up activities such as album making (one for the honeymoon, and one each for our parents, which took up many days and nights of organizing pictures) and the thank you notes (which were supposed to go out around Thanksgiving and only 1/3 are done).  Plus the holiday related prep.  Anyway, excuses, excuses.

I'm turning my attention back to the blog. One of my new year's resolutions is to focus on revamping the blog's design and focus. And also, just to get back on track with writing and posting regularly! So for now, enjoy a random hodgepodge of posts to end the year with.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homemade Pizza Sauce

Homemade pizza sauce is one of those things that is so easy to make that it makes you wonder why you ever defaulted to jar sauce.  While I may not be cooking full-time, I think I'm inching my way into making more things from scratch.  Particularly when I run out of a store-bought version of something and decide to whip up something on the spot.

This recipe is a modified version of one that I found on I made changes based on the recommendations that other people had made in their comments, plus what I had on hand in my cupboards.

1 (15 8 ounce) can tomato sauce (I liked the thicker consistency using just one can of tomato sauce)

1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried minced garlic (I used jarred minced garlic)
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried onion flakes

As for the directions? Basically just mix the tomato sauce and paste together, and then add all the seasonings. Voila! Delicious looking and tasting pizza sauce:

Throw that on some storebought fresh pizza dough and cover with mozzarella, parmesan and feta cheeses and some bacon for good measure, and you've got Andrew's favorite meal. I swear he would eat this for all three meals, seven days a week if he could.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Boys Will Have Their Toys

The alternate title for this post was, "Look Ma, I have all my fingers". 

Andrew just finished putting together a wedding gift from his brother Adam:

As he described it, "I put together miter saw."  I was fine with this description as I kept making the same mistake when describing all our new kitchen appliances.  And let's face it, it's not really my miter saw. Although I'm reaping its benefits already, as Andrew used it to cut down a piece of wood to use as insulation on our garage door.   I'm still not thrilled at how safe it is as a tool, which is why I had Andrew pose with both of his hands next to it as a reminder of how nice it is to have all fingers and thumbs intact.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


on Newbury Street - the second Pinkberry location in MA:

Also spotted at this location - extremely high prices (It ws $7+ for a large with toppings, which I believe is a full $2 more than Hingham or any other location I've been at in NYC). But same good frozen yogurt. I think we'll stick with the Hingham location from here on out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Freestone's City Grill

Following up on yesterday's post, while North Dartmouth has tons of chain restaurants that are close to campus, we decided to be adventurous and headed into New Bedford to find our dinner.  Andrew used to work in New Bedford, and had a hunch we'd be able to find a good place in New Bedford's charming downtown area - we're talking historical buildings and cobblestone streets.

We ended up trying Freestone's City Grill - there was a public parking lot around the corner, and thanks to some friendly locals, we realized you didn't have to pay for parking on Saturday (I'll admit to being skeptical of this but as the rest of the group accurately pointed out, none of the other cars had payment papers on their dash).

You can't see it very well from this angle, but Freestone's is actually in an old bank whose name is still carved in the front of the building:

In my hunger, I forgot to take a nice clear shot of the tables in Freestone's, but I liked how the standard wooden tables were dressed up with floral patterened inserts (if you squint at the picture below, you might be able to make out the floral pattern). What I liked even more was the French Onion soup that I got as part of my meal - nice flavor, ooey-gooey cheese on top, and a good amount of onions. I've never been a fan of the whole soggy bread in the soup thing, but for all you traditionalists, it did come with large round of bread on the bottom (which was oddly described as croutons on the menu):

Having hearty appetites, the five of us were able demolish a large dish of perfectly fried calamari:

As well as the wonderful creation called the Fried Cheese combo - fried raviolis, fried mozarella cheese and cream cheese jalapaneo poppers. I've seriously never had poppers that have had a fresh cream cheese filling squeeze out:

Amy went with the Freestone's Pasta - with a name like that and ingredients like shrimp, artichokes, onions, peppers, diced tomatoes, spinach, feta, parmesan cheese and ziti in a light garlic white wine sauce: 
My cousin Andrew picked the Oriental Stir-Fry with chicken:

Phu ordered the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich:

A typical Andrew order - Fried seafood platter including fried scallops and clams:

As for me, I was pretty full at this point but I can always do with more cheese. Especially when it comes in fondue form:

Can you say melty cheesy goodness? It came with a side of baguette bread, which is traditional, but the only thing that could've made it better was if it was toasted:
So why the rave reviews? I thought Freestone's offered a great selection of traditional bar fare, and did it well. Plus, I think their overall menu had a creative selection of sandwiches and entrees. I don't venture into New Bedford very often, but I think we'll need to visit my cousin Andrew at UMass-Dartmouth more often and make eating at Freestone's a tradition! Especially if there is fondue involved.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Going Back To College

Andrew and I had a chance to relive our glory days... well, at least the carefree feeling of being back at school when we visited my cousin Andrew at UMass-Dartmouth.  Sidenote: Oddly enough, both of the Andrews in my life have always been called just that, no Andy or Drew's for them. However, my cousin Andrew told us that somehow, he has been given the nickname of Andy at school, so I'm going to refer to him as that because 1) this post is all about Andy at school and 2) it will differentiate him from my husband Andrew.

Joining us for the ride down were my lovely sister Amy and our friend Phu, although both were in the process of recovering from colds and coughed the whole way there and back again. I guess I can't complain too much because Amy drove us in her sweet ride and we didn't end up getting sick after the weekend, haha.

Back to UMass-Dartmouth, the first thing we noticed when we arrived on campus is that it's very gray. It could've been the overcast weather, but really, all the buildings are the same monotone shade of gray. It was nice to see a pop of color from the welcome banner.


Andy met us in the parking lot and walked us to his dorm, which you guessed it, is gray as well.
Here's the freshman himself, opening the door to his room. I had to get a picture with the door because 1) doesn't the themed name sign totally remind you of your own college days (some things never change) and 2) I had to laugh because I went to school sooooo long ago, it was before iPhones existed so it was funny to see them being used as the theme for Andrew's floor: 
A look inside Andrew's room. I have to point out, at the risk of embarassing Andy, that it definitely smelled like a boy's room. Not like a really stinky smell that made you think it was time to do laundry, but just the moment you walked in, if you were blindfolded, you could tell it was a guy's room. We were amazed at how spacious it was, even more so because Andy doesn't have a roommate at the moment:
What you see Amy and Andy munching on in the picture was my "visit from home" gift for him - a tin filled with homemade chocolate chip cookies. Nothing fancy (besides a pinch of sea salt) and I thought it would be the perfect comfort food for him to share with friends (if he were so inclined):

Touring the rest of campus, I was struck by the simple layout of the campus. All the classrooms, dining halls and the student center are located in the middle of campus, which is surrounded by one loop of a road and offshoots for all the different parking lots and dorms. The most striking part of campus is the radio tower next to the student center. And, it even has bells that ring every 15 minutes!

My favorite part of campus, and the only area that had a lot of color was the outdoor ampitheatre - I think it resembles a labyrinth and I can imagine how cool it would be to listen to outdoor concerts here:

Clearly, the rest of the group was as enthralled as I was by the grass:

Finally, responding to Andy's pleas to spare him from dining hall food, we whisked him off campus and began our search for a good restaurant.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

One Month Mark

Lots of posts that I need to catch up with, including a recap of the Mystery Meet dinner we attended tonight but I wanted to give a quick shout-out to my wonderful husband of one month today!

I know we'll be having just as much fun with each other, even into our nineties!

Friday, November 5, 2010

My Heart Is Not In November

On cold, rainy days like this, I think fondly back to only three (3!) months ago to a beautiful summer day spent at the beach in Gloucester with Amy.

It's going to be a long winter, especially since I'm complaining already and we're still in Fall!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Leftover Halloween Candy Blondies

I seriously misjudged the amount of trick-or-treaters we would get this year.  Having lived in a house that was tucked behind another house, which were both on a little sidestreet with a small amount of families, I was used to getting four or five kids, total on Halloween. With this being our first year in the new house, and seeing plenty of kids running around the neighborhood, I thought to myself, "Finally. This is the year we get a serious amount of trick or treaters."  So I bought enough candy for the imagined hordes of kids I thought would be knocking on our door.  We ended up getting a respectable amount but there will still tons of leftover candy. Not wanting Andrew and I to take care of the problem by eating it all ourselves, I split the leftovers into two piles for each of us to take into the office. However, I did set aside a small amount of candy bars to try with a new recipe. I just can't believe I didn't think of doing this with Halloween candy before.  (And as I announced to my coworkers, the real Joyce is officially back. As in, the calm, relaxed Joyce that now has time to bake with the stress of wedding planning behind her).  Anyway, enough of the third person, onto the recipe!

This is based on the Candy Recycler Blondies posted on While I was intrigued by the salty component of it (pretzels and chips), I sadly didn't have any pretzels on hand so I decided to stick with just the standard blondie portion of the recipe. Which is why I ended up remaining them as well, since I didn't my version justified the "Recycler" title.


•2¼ cups all purpose flour
•1 teaspoon baking soda
•1 teaspoon salt (I used kosher salt for an extra boost of saltiness to compensate for the missing chips and pretzels)
•2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
•¾ cup granulated sugar
•¾ cup light brown sugar
•2 large eggs
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•1 cup coarsely chopped Halloween chocolate candy (I used 5 Milky Ways, 3 Snickers, 1 bag of M&Ms, 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/8 cup of peanut butter chips that I had leftover from another baking project)
•2 tablespoons coffee grounds, for the true spirit of compost
•¾ cup salty snacks, coarsely crushed (I used equal parts potato chips and pretzels)


1.Preheat oven to 375° F and grease a 15 x 10 baking pan.
2.Sift together flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
3.In another bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
4.Add in eggs one at a time. Beat until very well combined and light.
5.Add vanilla.
6.Slowly mix dry ingredients with the wet until completely combined (I chopped the fun size candy bars into six chunks and had a whole pile of chocolatey goodness waiting to be mixed in).

7.With a wooden spoon, slowly mix in your crushed Halloween candy.
8.Swirl in coffee grounds. (I'm not a coffee drinker and the thought of the texture of the coffee grounds in the bars scared me off from using them).
9.Very gently add the crushed chips and pretzels. Don't overstir or they'll break into crumbs.
10.Spread batter evenly into the greased baking pan.
11.Bake at 375° for 30-35 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and edges are golden.
12.Cool completely before cutting.

I suspect that I may have overbaked mine, but they were still too wet in the center at 30 minutes, so I ended up baking them for an extra five minutes.  These came out to have more of a buttery, crispy texture like shortbread.  My coworkers liked them, but I don't think I consider this a special enough recipe to make again until I have another overload of Halloween candy next year. I'd love to try Reese's peanut butter cups in them as well, but will be smart enough to set some of those aside before my coworkers can get them (which happened this year).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wedding Details

It feels a little silly to be posting a post about a post, but this is definitely worth sharing.

Our awesome photographers (Ciras Photograpy) created a neat little collage post to bring together some of the smaller details of the day:

I laugh looking at this because I was clearly in denial all through the wedding planning process. I kept telling people that our wedding colors were gray and purple with bright green as an accent.  Purple and gray just seemed perfect for fall without being too stuffy. In actuality, I gave into my love of green and we had a green and purple wedding with some minor gray accents. Anyway, it's all good in the end!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wii Would Like To Play

Happy Halloween from your friends Luigi and Toadstool:

You'll have to cut us some slack, we had absolutely no time to think of something creative for costumes this year so we went with convenient and fun.  My costume is actually a kid's costume that came with the hat and vest, which allowed me to buy regular sized clothing for the rest of the outfit. Andrew's mustache listed less than a minute before he abandoned it, since it was impossible to drink anything (or see his smile for that matter) with it on!

I told Andrew we'll have to make up for these storebought outfits with something super creative next year.  Some of the interesting homemade costumes we saw at my sister Amy's annual Halloween party were a cactus (it included marshmallows and toothpicks), a Chilean miner and a homemade Viking costume (complete with a beard expertly made from a spool of yarn), as well as my cousin Andrea's authentic appearance as - you guessed it: