Willamette Valley Wonder Woman

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Best Christmas Cookie Recipes

Check out The Best Christmas Cookies
by Melissa Kaylene at Foodie.com
Check out The Best Christmas Cookies
by Melissa Kaylene at Foodie.com

Good morning! I just dropped the girls off at school (we have a late start Monday which I LOVE because I get one more day to sleep in!) and Noah is sitting next to me at the kitchen table, both sipping our ‘coffee’ and planning for our day. My day is going to include a trip to turn in recycle and donating a bunch of old toys and outgrown clothes. I’ll clean the house a bit more and then get an early dinner ready so we can all eat before Anika's choir and band program at 7 pm. She is pretty nervous (as anyone would be!) but I’m excited because this is her first performance in middle school.

Before Noah and I head out to run errands though, I’m browsing around online collecting Christmas cookie recipes so I can pick up any extra ingredients I may need in town today. I love making holiday cookies every year and I’m planning on starting my baking frenzy tomorrow. There’s something so pretty about handmade and hand decorated treats, each one a different flavor and color. 

I like to have a variety of cookies, from intricate ones that take me a bit of time to make, to easy ones that the kids can pretty much do themselves – like the Rice Crispy Treat Trees I found while looking at Foodie.com. We are definitely making those together!

Different shapes and sizes are another thing I take into consideration – I love a good chocolate chip cookie or sugar cookie, but I don’t want all of the cookies to look the same! Thumbprint cookies are fun to make because they are visually different, as well as macaroons or snow ball cookies – after all I think cookie boxes should be little works of art, right? J

The Best Christmas Cookie Recipes #foodie #sponsored

Lastly I want to make sure I have multiple flavors when I give my holiday cookies – not too much chocolate or too much peppermint. I like a good balance between traditional holiday flavors and a few surprises like orange or raspberry flavors.

So, here are a few cookie recipes that I’ve found so far, and I’ll be looking for a bit longer before heading out. Are there any Christmas cookies that you just can’t live without? How many different kinds of cookies do you make each year?

Compensation was provided by Foodie via Mode Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Foodie”

Preschool Christmas Programs

Where oh where did this weekend go? I enjoyed a low key weekend – Anika had basketball games on Saturday, but I was happy that they were home games. Today Wayne worked and I spent the day cleaning and getting rid of a bunch of stuff in the kids’ rooms. I don’t do it enough and if you have kids you know how quickly it can get out of hand! With Christmas right around the corner I wanted to make sure that they had a clean slate to start with before they added a bunch of new presents in the mix. 

Tomorrow night we will be heading to Anika’s choir and band program – but today I just had to share photos from Noah’s Christmas program that we watched last Thursday. There is just something SO adorable about watching preschoolers perform for friends and family. I absolutely love that age, and how excited and proud they get over their moment to shine. Noah had a grin from ear to ear – and after their program they always play a video with photos from what the kids have been doing in preschool for the first half of the year. Noah sat on my lap and held my hand while he excitedly pointed out when he saw his face up on the screen.

After the slideshow we all gathered around and tasted many treats with a dessert buffet. The kids don’t usually get to take a plateful of goodies but this was a special occasion, and they loved it. By the end of the evening all of the preschoolers were sugared up and running around with tons of energy!

This was Noah’s last preschool Christmas program, and after four consecutive years of attending the annual event (two years of Emma followed by Noah) it’s a little sad for me. I’m happy that they are growing and learning, but sometimes I feel that it’s all moving too fast and I’m not ready. My entire life I’ve had babies and toddlers and I’m on the verge of saying goodbye to that phase.

One program down – two more to go. I love this time of the year.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Living Locally: Zoolights

It’s been a busy week filled with Christmas programs, holiday parties, basketball tournaments, and all of the other little things that happen on a day to day basis when having a family of 5!

Last week we drove up the Oregon Zoo for our annual Zoolights visit. Last year was actually our first year seeing the lights and we enjoyed the evening so much we've decided to add it into our festivities every year. This year we were very lucky because there was no rain and it wasn't too cold (unlike last year) so our coats and gloves with a cup of hot cocoa made the evening perfect.

 If you've never been to the Zoolights exhibit before, here’s the rundown – the Zoolights begin at 5pm every evening and you get to walk around the zoo and see tons of magical lights and exhibits. Most of the animals are sleeping, but there are some nocturnal animals that you can still visit. We actually went and saw the elephants and watched them eat dinner, and (bonus!) got to warm up inside of the building.

 There’s something so magical about walking around together as a family with hot chocolate in hand, admiring the twinkling lights and the atmosphere. It’s something that I know will create good memories that my kids will fondly remember when they are older.

If you are planning on heading up to Zoolights (which runs until January 4th, 2015) I’d recommend dressing with multiple layers, buying disposable hand warmers (they have some to purchase in the gift shop), and drinking lots of peppermint cocoa!

ZooLights Admission

Members: Free
Adults (12–64): $10
Seniors (65 and up): $9
Children (3–11): $7
2 and under: Free
General train admission: $4
ZooLights Schedule
Sunday–Thursday: gates open 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: gates open 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Grounds remain open an hour after gates close.

ZooLights is closed December 10, 24, and 25.

You should definitely make the trip up to Portland for this once a year experience! Read about our visit last year HERE. :)

* I was given complementary passes to the Oregon Zoo Zoolights, no other compensation was received. All opinions are my own. If you'd like to work with MelissaKaylene.com please visit HERE for more info.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to Create the Perfect Meat and Cheese Platter

how to create a meat and cheese platter from @melissakaylene

Hey everyone! Last night Wayne and I received a last minute invitation to a food writer dinner at a brand new brewery called Brannon's Brewery. We devoured tons of delicious food and I will have to share pictures of it soon, but in the mean time I've got some other tasty pictures that I hope will help inspire you to create a platter for your friends and family during the holidays. 

how to create a meat and cheese platter from @melissakaylene

These are photos from the meat and cheese platter that I created as my contribution to a Thanksgiving dinner we were invited to at our friend's house. I'm not sure if these pictures do it justice, but the platter used was my turkey platter - so there was plenty for a large crowd! (I always make sure I bring too much!)

I got to thinking about meat and cheese platters, and why I loved them so much. For one, I get to be creative when designing them - like which meats and cheeses to use, how I will arrange them, what kinds of spreads I'll have with them, as well as any other foods I fill the platter with. I'm no expert on what to use, so I just get some things that I like, and some that I know others will like and go from there. 

how to create a meat and cheese platter from @melissakaylene
how to create a meat and cheese platter from @melissakaylene

First I start with a list of what I'm going to buy. I'll search around and hit up what's on sale too. Grab a couple of kinds of cheese that you know people will like, then buy 2-3 more that sound interesting to you! The same goes for the meats - the one thing I always make sure of is that the meat is sliced thin, I hate taking a bite on a cracker when there's just a huge chunk of meat or a huge chunk of cheese on it. Make it thin so you can layer better. :) 

Here's some other ideas for food that you can add along on your platter:

pickled vegetables

also, think about spreads - I love having an herb cheese, mustard's, and my favorite? Red pepper jelly!

how to create a meat and cheese platter from @melissakaylene
how to create a meat and cheese platter from @melissakaylene
how to create a meat and cheese platter from @melissakaylene

After you've decided what you're going to have on your plate, it's time to figure out how to place everything. I like just using my imagination and letting my hands flow but if you have no idea where to start I'd begin by alternating meat and cheese sections. You don't have to do this by any means, but I think it looks a little more balanced. You can then also add the spreads onto the platter and anything else you desire. 

how to create a meat and cheese platter from @melissakaylene
how to create a meat and cheese platter from @melissakaylene
how to create a meat and cheese platter from @melissakaylene

Finally when I've tweaked the platter to how I'd like it to look I made a bread and or cracker basket that has a variety of different flavors, From whole grain to butter crackers there is something to please everyone's palates. 

how to create a meat and cheese platter from @melissakaylene

And there you have it - how I create (my) perfect meat and cheese platter!

What do you do differently with yours?


Monday, December 8, 2014

Taking a Mini Break and Having The Freedom to be Spontaneous

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone and should not be construed as medical advice. #TheMoodStrikes #CollectiveBias
The Freedom to be spontaneous #themoodstrikes #ad #cbias

Hey everyone! Like I said yesterday, this past week has been a busy one (what’s new, right?) But this week ended with a fun twist – an overnight trip to Seattle with a group of girls, most of which I hadn't seen in quite a while...as well as the freedom to be spontaneous when I returned home. 

My childhood friend turned 30 this past October and we finally got around to celebrating it two month later! She comes from a big family, so 4 out of the 7 of us were her sisters.  We hadn't all been together in years and it was nice reminiscing while having an adventure. We went out to dinner, checked out Pike’s Place Market, and attended a food demo event. After an entire week with an average of 4-5 hours of sleep at night, I was happy, but exhausted before we left, and of course we didn't get much sleep on our one night out, so yesterday I was really wiped out, so much so that I actually dozed off on the train home – which is really unusual for me.  I was only asleep for a little bit, and it definitely helped, but I was still tired when I got home last night around 10:45.

The Freedom to be spontaneous #themoodstrikes #ad #cbias
The Freedom to be spontaneous #themoodstrikes #ad #cbias
The Freedom to be spontaneous #themoodstrikes #ad #cbias

My husband happily greeted me and I noticed the house all clean. He was doing the dishes and our Christmas tree was in the stand all ready for us to decorate it. It was so nice to come home to a house that wasn't a complete disaster. It was refreshing.

When things get busy I’ll be the first to admit that the two of us don’t spend enough time to together, and even though I wanted to just curl up and fall asleep last night I stayed up for a while. We chatted and I told him about the adventure I had while he told me about Anika's basketball games she played.
We don’t talk together often enough.

Even though I was completely exhausted I took the time to sit and spend the time with him because I noticed just how much effort he put into making the house neat – he had even pre-made a dinner for the next day for us… things he doesn't often do.

The Freedom to be spontaneous #themoodstrikes #ad #cbias

 Sometimes when women are tired things like being intimate with their spouses just don’t happen as easily as they should because of many issues, including vaginal dryness… you may remember me talking about the K-Y Liquibead Challenge I began before Thanksgiving, and it’s definitely been helping! Even though I was tired the Liquibeads still allowed me the freedom to be spontaneous. 

The Freedom to be spontaneous #themoodstrikes #ad #cbias

The K-Y Liquibeads can be found at Walgreens and there are 6 OVULE Inserts in each package that you insert every 3-4 days that help provide vaginal moisturization – so in other words they help make intercourse more comfortable and enjoyable again. (Not to be used if you are pregnant or nursing though, always consult with your Doctor first!)

The Freedom to be spontaneous #themoodstrikes #ad #cbias
The Freedom to be spontaneous #themoodstrikes #ad #cbias
The Freedom to be spontaneous #themoodstrikes #ad #cbias
The K-Y Liquibeads are super easy to use, you simply:
1. Open one Liquibead package and place it on one of the disposable applicators that are provided
2. Insert the applicator – it's pretty much like inserting a tampon – and that’s it!
3. Use as directed (every 3-4 days)!

How was your weekend?