Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Recap & Happy New Year

Hello friends-
Hope you had a wonderful holiday.
Sorry I didn't mean to disappear the whole month of December. It was really filled beyond the brim. All fun & wonderful but I barely made it through at the tail end with just so much needing to be done in such a short period of time. I have a handful of posts that I started when i had just a moment, but time just got away from me.
Our Christmas was enjoyable. There is something magical about Christmas Eve so we choose to have our "fancy" meal that night and a casual brunch on Christmas {and gasp...dare I say, leftovers from the night before for our Christmas meal}. This year for Christmas I did a little English inspired meal complete with Christmas crackers. This was the first time I ever made popovers and can I tell you, it could be love! Good thing since I bought a special pan for them.
Christmas morning was an early one for me since I wanted to get up before the boys woke to have our annual Christmas morning donuts {chocolate iced with sprinkles this year} all ready to eat. Luck would have it they slept in pretty late that day {that rarely happens}. So, I just put some Christmas music on, snuggled on the sofa by the lit tree drinking a cappuccino waiting for the rest of the house to wake. The rest of the day we just lounged around and played with the boys and their new toys { I even snuck in an afternoon nap}.

So, can I play a little catch up?

Here are some highlights of our past month.

English inspired Christmas Eve menu:

Potato chip & herb crusted beef tenderloin
Gruyere & thyme popovers
Roasted pear & blue cheese salad
Jam & whip cream trifle
Christmas cookies

Wishing you a very healthy & happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

my days...

My fail proof pizza dough is rising...sugar cookie dough is thawing...and soup is simmering, so I thought I would chat with y'all about what's been going on these days. Today is wicked miserable weather. 39 with rain and wind. Typically, I would hibernate on such a day, but I had no choice but to go out in it due to a doctor's appt for Luc. Still being chilled to the bone, I am making pizza bianca & minestrone soup for dinner. The pizza bianca recipe is courtesy of Miss Edie {from Life in Grace}, check it out. dee-lish.

This past Saturday I snuck away for a much needed mommy-recharge day.
Hubby indulged me with getting a 90 minute massage {which once you have, 60 min just won't do...}and then I snagged the last table at my very favorite french market in town to enjoy a cappuccino, lunch and read a magazine. heavenly.  It could just be one of the quaintest little places. :) On my way home, I stopped by the library to pick up some good, classic children's books I put on hold for Reed. I feel like you really have to work hard to keep the childhood innocence and purity in this day and age. sad, but I am trying my darn'dest!

So, not exactly sure how I had my act together enough to be mostly done before Thanksgiving this year, but I actually have my Christmas cards ordered and almost all gifts figured out and purchased. It certainly helps that we have really downscaled the boys' gifts.  A Want, a Need and a Read. And they ask Santa for a gift as well {if they've been nice}. They also get gifts from grandparents & their cousins so it's not like they are so deprived and it's still alot. A couple years ago we started to go down that overindulgent path and thankfully this sweet boy clued us in it was just all too much. This is probably hardest for me because I am just an overly indulgent person in every sense of the word. But, I try to remind myself of this quote, "want your children to turn out good? spend half as much money on them and twice as much time with them". 

I wanted to have all the shopping done come December 1st so we could concentrate on the activities we have planned for our first annual Advent calendar. Each day we will do a different Christmas-inspired activity. Some small and some a little more involved {and pre-planning on my part}. Reed is no doubt counting down to Christmas so he can get the few gifts he has asked for {what child isn't, especially at four years old} but I want him to know that Christmas is so much more than that, and that exchanging gifts is just a small part of it. Besides him learning about the birth of our savior in his Christian school, I also picked up some good classic golden books about the baby Jesus and the Christmas story so he can start to better understand what this time of year and celebration is all about. I also want to emphasize it's also about giving to others and carving out extra time to spend with those that we care about.

I am so thrilled Reed is off school this whole week. It makes me so happy to see that sweet face of his all.day.long. We did our grocery shopping Monday morning to beat the Thanksgiving rush {we definitely weren't the only ones with that idea} and when we got home he wanted to help put the groceries away. Ummm, okay! I am so thankful for this loving, kind-hearted boy of ours. I just beyond adore him!

I am soooo darn cold. I know much of the country is experiencing a colder than normal spell, but I moved south to get away from the cold...so to warm our hearts & souls, Reed & I have been drinking lots of Trader Joe's hot cider and snuggling under the down throw on the sofa. I try to get Luc to snuggle too, but he is too excited to be walking now to care about being chilly. We'll see how much I love theses "charming" old windows after this winter. They are such a leaky sieve...

Last week I made the mistake of buying these cookies at Trader Joes. Have you tried them? Ridiculous is what they are. I barely resisted them yesterday, and frankly I am sad that they didn't go home with me.  But maybe once the scale starts going back in the right direction I won't be so sad. I suppose this time of year isn't the best to try to get back on track...

 I did however pick up a couple bottles of this for the holiday season {just in case they run out}. It's delicious champagne for a reasonable price. Jeff surprised me with a very romantic date night a few weeks ago and we tried it for the first time. Yum, yum, yum.  Who am I kidding, there is a good chance we will drink both bottles on a Thanksgiving. :)

We are having a cozy Thanksgiving for 4 again this year, and I am totally okay with it. We did get a couple gracious invites, but we decided to just have dinner at home and then go over to a neighborhood friends' for dessert. Luc is walking now and chasing him all day at someone else's house is not my idea of enjoyable way to spend a holiday.  But, a few hours, I can do.

I am not going overboard having 15 different dishes...just doing a stuffed turkey breast
with spinach, bacon & herbs, mashed potatoes, maple glazed carrots & parsnips, and green beans with shallots. Making peeeecan bars {my southern pronunciation} dipped in chocolate to share at our dessert hosts {and turkey iced sugar cookies for Reed}. I thought I would also bring them some yummy muffins to enjoy the next morning. After a day of cooking, it's nice to treat the host to something homemade {by someone else}.

Reed {& I} made our place cards for our family Thanksgiving table today. They turned out cute, and wait until his daddy sees his, it has four eyes, ha ha {we were laughing so hard...}

Okay, best get back to my food preparation.  Wishing you a warm & comforting Thanksgiving. May you have much to be thankful for this year.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

make your own {frozen} waffle sticks

Make your own frozen waffles 060

I am so not a morning person. Getting myself and two kids ready and fed,  Reed’s snack for school made and make it to school in a unhurried, pleasant manor is about all I can manage in the wee hours of the morning. Being able to turn on the oven to warm up frozen waffles some days is what works.

So, recently I have been making waffle stick batches that I then freeze and have the convenience of just pulling some out for the boys’ breakfast on school mornings. You can certainly just make whole waffles but for kids, waffle sticks are just so much more fun! The waffle iron I picked up at Target just happens to make waffle sticks, but I used to just cut up a whole waffle into “sticks”.

I use a gluten-free and vegan version from Gwyneth’s “It’s All Good” cookbook and have been adding pumpkin pie spice lately for extra yummy seasonal flavor, but certainly use your favorite recipe and just make a big batch and freeze. I find warming them at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes works great. We have been enjoying ours these days with some yummy pumpkin butter and a fruit of choice.

I hope you'll give this {make your own} idea a try. You know what ingredients you are giving your family, they taste so much better than any store bought version and yet are still quick and convenient on busy mornings. :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

handmade halloween

Hope y’all had a fun halloween and enjoyed the extra hour today!
I thought I would share a quick recap of our halloween with you. This year was definitely a handmade halloween. We started off the week making homemade ghost marshmallows.

Halloween 021
Reed and I made these cute, little pumpkin bags to fill with non-edible treats for his friends at school.  I picked up the muslin bags at Michaels, but created the rest with only things we had at home. Reed did the circle stamp on each bag {from his arts & crafts basket} and then I drew on the jack-o-lantern face & glued a small piece of green ribbon as the stem. He hand selected what each friend would receive. {We did halloween character bubbles, a “googly-eye” sticker and a pumpkin eraser since they are really focusing on writing in school this year}. I created the label using the trusty, ole picmonkey. Love that program!

Halloween 022

Halloween 026This year I created a “BOO” bag for Reed to trade in his trick or treat candy. The last two years, we just swaped out a few “safe” pieces of candy that he could eat due to his food allergies. But this year, I have really come down on what types of food goes into our bodies. I wanted to get rid of that type of candy altogether and give him a big incentive to be able to go out and have fun trick or treating with friends, but not to eat any of it and as his reward, get a really fun bag of treats {mostly non-edible}.
I showed it to him before we left, explained how it worked and it was a HUGE success. He had a blast trick or treating and when Jeff told him he had enough candy to “cash in”, he was ready to come home and see what surprises he had. I plan to adapt this idea as he gets older, but for now, it works great. I did include a few healthier food treats along with some stickers, a couple books, new character undies, and a character plane he has been working towards on his chore chart.  I will use this same principle with Luc, even without food allergies. It just suits our family values regarding the type of food we want to eat and that treats don’t have to be junk food.

Halloween 032 {fruit twists, Trader Joe’s lollipop and gummy fish all made spooky for the BOO bag}

Halloween 037
{while our marshmallows were cooling, Reed & I made these luminaries}

Halloween 046
This year, Reed wanted to be a dalmation, so this is what I came up with. I’ve made his costumes twice now and I so do enjoy making them.  I did get some black costume paint for his nose, but he wasn’t interested in that at all! But, he still got alot of rave reviews on his costume, though. Luc wore Reed’s Tigger costume from when he was a year old, which is just fine to utilize a hand me down when they are that age and don’t even care what they dress up as. :) 

nature walk and Luc invite 018

Reed picked out the faces for his & Luc’s pumpkin and “helped” Jeff carve them. We use flameless candles on a timer in the pumpkins so there are no worries and they can glow into the night.

This year, halloween seemed especially fun. :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

a french inspired brunch~Luc’s 1st birthday party

Luc 1st Birthday party 048

So our little Luc turned one October 1st. Wow, that was a fast year!!! We hosted a little french inspired brunch to celebrate. My inspiration for the party was black & white, all things mini and a nod to celebrate the season.
nature walk and Luc invite 086 {invites, front & back with fabric tape seal on envelope}
In lieu of gifts, we asked for a donation to our Atlanta Children’s hospital to give more kids the chance to celebrate birthdays

Luc 1st Birthday party 042v {back gate entrance to party}

Luc 1st Birthday party 037v

Luc 1st Birthday party 027 {“1” white mini pumpkins here & there}

Luc 1st Birthday party 028sd

Luc 1st Birthday party 004lb {screened porch after the party}

To keep with the black & white theme, I used black kraft paper on a big roll that I cut to length and found dustless chalk for kids {& adults} to draw with.
Mini black & white stripe bunting. I was able to cut two flags at a time using pinking shears and just fabric glued between seam binding. I think I cut about 100 flags, but it went really fast.

Luc 1st Birthday party 008lb {lots of mini white pumpkins throughout}

Luc 1st Birthday party 022lb{more bunting}

Luc 1st Birthday party 062lb {french hydrangeas and more mini pumpkins on island topped with the food spread}

Since I couldn’t rightfully take a picture of 90% empty platters of food after the party, imagine a black kraft paper topped island with all white platters and tiered stands,  piled high with yummyness!

french toast casserole with powdered sugar
mini quiche
fruit salad with honey vinagrette
mini ham & brie croissants
vanilla & chocolate macarons

Luc 1st Birthday party 063lb {wrote in chalk next to each food item on the black kraft paper}

Luc 1st Birthday party 013lb {hand-stamped mini white pumpkins with each child’s name for party favors}
.Luc 1st Birthday party 017  {these wood tags might just be my new favorite}

We had a great day!
Hope you enjoyed a peek into our little pumpkin’s birthday party. :)

homemade marshmallow ghosts

homemade marshmallow ghosts

It still amazes me how just  “life” can be so busy. Much has been going on. Luc turned one {will share the few pictures I took of our french inspired brunch, soon},  Jeff has been working ALOT, I am Reed’s class’ room mom and there always seems to be some extra food item I need to recreate so Reed can share in the class activity, halloween costume  making or embelishing, if you will, several doctor’s appointments and some health concerns of others that are weighing hard on my heart.  Some days, I tell you I am just plain weary.

I am behind on my chores, but I’d rather share these cute marshmallow ghosts with you.

This past weekend Jeff went away on a much needed guys weekend in Michigan for a friend’s 40th birthday. He has been working soooooooooooooo much and really hasn’t had much guy-bonding since we moved here. I decided the weekend was going to be all about indulgence for me and the boys. Indulging in a loose schedule, breakfast for dinner, fun things to do together and snuggly naps together on the sofa. It was an enjoyable weekend! :) One of the things Reed & I did together Sunday morning {while Luc napped} was make homemade marshmallow ghosts. Have you ever made homemade marshmallows? Warning, once you eat homemade, there is no going back to store bought! They are easy and so worth it. I have been wanting to make them for-ever, but when we thought Reed had a slight corn allergy {that was later negated} I was forced to find a corn syrup free version. I continue to make this corn syrup free version because who really needs to eat that stuff anyway if you can avoid it?

This is the second recipe I tried, and it’s perfect! I discovered it from Jennifer Rizzo.
Corn Syrup free marshmallows

I am working on getting Instagram up on the blog. So many times, I have wished I had it to capture just a quick update with y’all.

Have a great week!

Friday, August 30, 2013

maple sweet potato muffins

sweet potato muffins

I made these muffins yesterday for a playdate…they are just delicious!

The recipe is from Gwyneth’s book, ‘IT’S ALL GOOD'. The focus of this book is focused on eating heathier whether it be to “detoxify” our bodies from all the junk we’ve been eating or just a way of life.  These muffins also happen to be GF and vegan but I assure you that you won’t even miss the dairy, egg or wheat, they are that yummy! I am always skeptical when trying a new GF recipe on how the baked goods are going to turn out, the texture of white flour is always a challenge to replicate. But these have hit it spot on!

We ate them last night for dessert and then again today for breakfast. Baked goods NEVER last long in this house. I will be making another batch this weekend for sure! School starts Tuesday so I am always looking for new ideas for quick and wholesome breakfast foods for Reed on school days. They also would make a great school snack or addition to the lunch box.

Sweet potato muffin recipe
Have a great holiday weekend!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

natural relief for seasonal allergies

natural relief for seasonal allergies {original picture from Williams Sonoma}

How have your allergies been this summer? Mine are awful !!! It’s so draining. I don’t know if it’s this climate here in Georgia or the allergies are just worse this year, but I need some relief.  Since I always prefer a homeopathic approach, I have been researching ways to calm allergies, naturally. I kept seeing local {it has to be local since you want the bees to pollinate on the triggers in your area} honey come up again and again on giving amazing results in a teaspoon a day to seasonal allergies.
I was able to finally get over to our town’s Saturday morning farmer’s market this past weekend. It’s a small little market, but it had just what I needed for that evening’s dinner and local honey. I chose the sourwood honey. Wow, I have never had honey that was so flavorful. So, I have been taking a teaspoon a day since Saturday{and attempting to get Reed & Jeff to take it as well}. The farmer I spoke with told me he couldn’t believe the repeat customers who swear by the results even after a month. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!I sure am hopeful. :)
I will keep you posted.

Monday, August 5, 2013

french farmhouse bedding {in the making}

French farmhouse bedding 2

I spent some time this past weekend starting to decorate. Up until this point, furniture is in its respective rooms, but there was no personality. I am working on our master bedroom right now. I couldn’t stand it’s state any longer {that’s where we go at the end of the day to unwind for goodness sakes}…we finally put the furniture exactly where it should be {it was still off-kilter from when the painters were here} and I started putting together the bedding. My overall goal is to evoke a bit of a french farmhouse feel to the house. We don’t quite live in a farmhouse, but the exterior does have a nod to french architecture and we sit up high on a hill with lots of surrounding trees so it almost feels like we could be out in the country. {I have been known to sometimes run outside in my nightgown to throw out the trash, so to me, that’s something you could do in the country with no one around, ha ha}. But frankly, it's just a look that I am drawn to.

French farmhouse bedding 1

French farmhouse bedding 3

French farmhouse bedding 4

So, this is where I am at. Still lots more to do both short and long term. The rest of the bedding still needs to be decided, I need to hang art, add accessories, hang drapes and add some lamps but I feel good about the direction it’s headed.
Long term, we need to add interior shutters. Our windows are original and charming but very shallow so I can see why the previous owners opted to do exterior mount shutters in a couple of the other rooms. This will also keep all the front windows cohesive. We also have beams on our tray ceiling that are just painted a dreadful flat chocolate brown. We have an Annie Sloane retailer {where I recently took a class} in our cute little downtown. I asked the owner if she could paint them to look like old french reclaimed wood beams. We will see what that quote comes back at, white may be good, too. ha! And lastly, I have coveted this bed forever….see, I panicked when our bedroom set was being discontinued in our stain color years and years ago and instead of trusting my instincts {and my husband telling me to go with my instincts} to not match, I sure did get the bed anyway. It was a rather expensive bed so I have “lived” with it all these years, kicking myself that I didn’t get something like this instead. So, I continue to put it on the someday list…

iron and brass bed{iron & brass with chippy white paint-gorgeous}

Paint ~ Benjamin Moore Wickham Gray
Quilt ~ Kane County Flea Market, 2008
Crochet-inset Sheets ~ Ikea {I know, seriously}
Linen Euro Shams ~ Pottery Barn

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

creating moving cards {with picmonkey}

Hope your week is going good.

Finally my day to day life has gotten to a point where I could take some time to create our moving card to send out to friends & family to let them know our new address. I wanted to make it more personal by including a picture of the front of our home, but blur it out quite a bit so the words were the focus.

Moving card pics 004{here is the picture I chose, unedited}

I used picmonkey with different options to add just a focal point to the front door {since that’s where you greet your guests} and blur out the rest of the photograph. I really love picmonkey! I have photoshop elements, but these days, I find I just use picmonkey since I can pretty much do almost any kind of editing I need to in one place. After I had the picture blurred, I tried different font combinations. I really love a swirly script, but since this is an address card, I didn’t want there to be any possibility that it wouldn’t be completely legible. I am pretty pleased with how it all turned out.

Moving card for blog
I selected an extra-large postcard on recycled paper from vistaprint’s site. They are really very reasonable cost for quite a bit of quantity. They are all addressed now and ready to be mailed.  Address cards, check. {Are you a list checker-offer, too?}

So now on to the next project…

Monday, July 22, 2013

puppy party for Reed’s 4th birthday


Hope you had a great weekend!

I’ll be honest. I am dog-gone tired {pun-intended}. We had Reed’s birthday party on Saturday. It was inspired by all things puppies. He is pretty much obsessed with all things dogs these days, so when I asked him what kind of birthday party he wanted and he said a blue {his favorite color} dog party, this is what I came up with.  I really do love hosting and coming up with creative ideas for food, activities & decor, but putting it all together is still tiring nonetheless. I always think I am going to make it “simple”, but I just can’t. It’s not in my nature, ha ha.

I thought I would share the details of the party. I thought things turned out really cute. We had it at our home, because I think there is something so lovely & comforting about opening your home to your guests {despite recently moving in}.

I found these really charming evites through paperlesspost.com. Finally, an online invitation that looks like you could actually send it in the mail {and some of the designs you actually can}.
So this is what the receivers saw when they opened their invite {with their respective names, of course}:

Puppy Party invite envelope{used the ASPCA “stamp” that dontates 5 cents for every invitation sent}

Puppy Party Invite

puppy party invite message   {we decided a couple years ago that receiving gifts at the parties is just all too much…and frankly, spending the time with people you care about is the best birthday gift of all, and you know what? Reed not once asked where any gifts were}

pawty sign
{little sign at the top of the hill to direct guests through our back gate}

dog house copy {Jeff built this out of two cardboard boxes, we have a few of those around here…and I decorated it}

Table {set up the long table on our screened porch and dog faces & ears on balloons, by yours truly…the sad artist that I am…}

Reeds Pawty Sign 
adopt a puppy

treat table 
treat table 2

bark {Barefoot Contessa’s French Chocolate Bark recipe}

bones 2 {bone shaped rice krispie treats}

fetch sticks 2{pretzel rods dipped in chocolate with bone sprinkles}

puppy chow 2  {everyone has heard of puppy chow, right?}

bone sippy cups

reed and puppy 2  {happy guest of honor with his new adopted "puppy"}

I think everyone enjoyed themselves, kids & adults alike. :) We had hoped to have more of the party outside with it being summer, but it was sooooo ridiculously humid. The kids played outside a bit in the dog house and then we hid some “dog bones” made out of poster board and gave the kids clues where they were hidden, but other than that, they played in the playroom we created on the first floor and upstairs in Reed’s room while the adults hung out in the kitchen where the food and beverages {if you know what I mean"} were. :)