Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Our favorite roast chicken

Our weather here has turned to fall for sure. The colors are beautiful against the bright blue skies and our evenings turn real chilly as soon as the sun begins to set. It's just this time of year when I begin piling cozy throws in a basket, flannel sheets are on the beds, fresh candles are burning and I make sure to turn on lamps in the foyer and dining room as the sun begins to set to give the front of our home a warm, welcoming glow. When the weather turns cold, I especially strive to make our home feel extra cozy and comforting.
At the first chill in the air, I am inspired to cook good old fashioned comfort foods like roasts and stews that really warm you through & through. You know, those Sunday suppers we grew up with as kids. I love how our kitchen smells of delicious food roasting in the oven when Jeff walks in the door after a long day.
This roast chicken recipe is one of those meals and it is one my family's very favorites. It is also worthy enough for company as it always goes over well and there is never any leftovers. It's one of the few meals I serve that the boys ask for seconds! I usually serve the chicken, crispy potatoes and roasted carrots all on one platter and put it in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves. It's so bountiful! Last night Reed said, "this is such a feast!".
Although the chicken is very moist and delicious, I think the crispy potatoes are the hit of the meal. Make way more potatoes and carrots than you think, there never seems to be enough!

Here is the recipe I start with and just make a few changes. I use a bit more butter and add chopped rosemary & thyme to the salt & cornstarch mixture. I also add cut up carrots to the roasting pan at the 2nd 30 minutes with a bit of olive oil if there are not many drippings (from the first half of roasting) and toss the carrots and potatoes together. You could really use any root vegetable(s) that you like. It's just my favorite way to eat carrots. :) Hope you enjoy!

What are your favorite cold weather comfort foods?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

frugal living | new homekeeping schedule

Jeff and I have made some BIG financial goals. In order to achieve these, we need to make some changes in how we live our life a bit. This has been a natural progression for me over the years, but now it's time to step it up.
So, I have been immersing myself in discovering ways to live more frugally and consequently green. I really need to maximize the hard earned money my husband provides. Yes, cutting back on spending money is a huge part of frugal living, but it goes beyond that. There are so many little things that can be done every day that I think will make a drastic difference. My hope is create a new weekly series to share those with you along the way.
The first thing I did a few weeks ago was cut my housekeeper. Obvious, right? We were going to keep him (yes, a man, go figure!) until Luc went to school, but the guilt that I was having a lot of time on my hands now when I could be putting that money to better uses was building up in me and I was noticing more and more spots missed and just "buildup" from the months that he had been cleaning and that frustrates me to no end when I pay good money. He had been so good when I would have him here & there but no one cleans my house like I do.  Don't get me wrong, I slack (hence why we hired a housekeeper to begin with)  but when I clean, I clean darn good!
So, I scrapped my daily cleaning schedule because it clearly wasn't working anymore. Ii really thought about why it failed earlier this year. I would start every week gung-ho and by Thurs, be exhausted from all the other doings of the week and things on Thurs & Fri were falling behind. Now that Luc is older, I feel like picking one day a week to do full cleaning may work better. He plays independently more now and I don't think it will scar him one day a week if mom is less attentive in the morning. :) I chose to clean Tuesdays. It's still early in the week when I have the most energy, it's one day a week I won't schedule anything. Mondays are put the house back in order and really, really pick up so I can come in and clean quick, plus it's a day I already work out.  I alternate up & down floors and choose a room or area each time to deep clean. I am already in the cleaning mode, so I just take it a step further.  This way I don't have to schedule a separate housekeeping "extras" day. cleaning is every nook & crannie and surface is cleaned. Lighting/fans, all trim, inside of windows, crevice tool vacuum along baseboards are also included. I tell ya, cleaning day is a far bigger workout than I typically get and I am good & tired by the time we sit down to dinner. But it's just one day a week and it's a good tired to feel when I accomplished it all.

What things do you do to live more frugally?

Friday, September 19, 2014

save on groceries | make your own tortillas

Well, our school year has gotten off to a great start. Reed loves school. It took a couple weeks to adjust with him being gone all day, but Luc and I have a good routine for ourselves during the day. Now it's time to get some things in order around here.
Our grocery bill was out of control! I shamefully admit when we first moved we didn't even pay that close attention to what we were spending and then when I did, I tried to keep it at our budgeted amount, but it was still coming up way higher every month. When you don't pay cash and  just look at the credit card statement at the end of the month, it's funny {not funny as in " ha ha"} how you forget how much it really does add up. The endless frustration in overspending finally made me do something I've never really done...pay cash. I realize paying cash isn't a radical concept for some, but it's never been how we roll.  But wow, so much changes when you use cash besides just staying on budget. A lot of good is happening in this head of mine. So now I go to the bank every other Friday {payday} take out my budgeted amount for groceries for two weeks and that's it, no going back to the bank before payday. It's been going really good and after a few weeks I even had money leftover. It was $10, but still...money leftover from someone who was spending sometimes near double the "budget" amount is a huge victory I think.

Here are the top three changes I made to get my grocery bill under control:
Cook one meat dish a week {I make 3-4 meals a week and then we eat leftovers}
Make more staples from scratch
Pay cash

I will also mention another big factor was planning meals around what's available from our garden. Now that the big growing season is coming to an end, this won't have as much of an impact, but I am dipping my toe into a four season garden so hopefully we will still have some fresh seasonal produce to enjoy. 

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you may realize I really am a get back to simple, good, basics kind of gal at heart. We don't eat processed food and have home cooked meals nearly every night. I have been drawn to making more and more staples myself for awhile now. Since recently I was successful at making bread, I challenged myself to make all of our rolls, tortillas, etc. There is such a wealth of recipes out there. I have pinned many ideas on my "make your own".   And I will tell you, besides the fact that homemade food just tastes way better than anything store bought, it is a huge savings off your grocery bill. Not to mention the pride that you have when you make something yourself and are feeding your family good, wholesome food. 
So I've made these tortillas twice now. Both with regular all-purpose the recipe calls for and substituting whole wheat {which is the type of tortilla I would buy at the store}. Both times they turned out great. The second time it came so much easier and I have a better feel for how thin the dough should be before you cook them {thinner than you think}. I use a combination of the rolling pin and my hands to stretch and thin the dough out. Similar to stretching pizza dough. 
Here is the recipe I use: homemade tortillas.  You can divide the dough into as many pieces you need based on what you are using them for. I've made it into just four for burritos or eight for fajitas. I also pour about a 1 tsp or so of vegetable oil into the skillet and roll it around before I put the tortilla in the pan so it doesn't stick. I tell you, so so good. But gosh, it's homemade I would be surprised if it wasn't. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

homemade soft pretzels that are gf and vegan {or not}

Last fall I discovered a new soft pretzel recipe from Tessa @ nineandsixteen. So, so good!  I made them to give as holiday gifts to some good friends and a new neighbor from Illinois to welcome them to the neighborhood last Christmas.
This past Easter, one of the preschool moms was making Easter pretzels for the class party. So, the day before the party (no pressure) I thought I would try to make them gluten free and dairy free so Reed could enjoy a soft pretzel, too.  Every gf soft pretzel recipe I found called for egg (as well as the frozen ones) which we can't do, so I dove right in determined to make these. I swear, this is why I had a sudden interest in cooking & baking years before he was born. I needed to have the experience and confidence behind me to dive in and make all these delicious foods safe for Reed to eat. I had recently found a new multi blend flour that was giving me great results on flavor and texture to wheat flour. The pkg says does not work with yeast breads, but I saw that while the dough was rising, so I just kept my fingers crossed that they would still turn out. They did, maybe not as much rising as a typical wheat pretzel, but good nonetheless. And I figured putting cinnamon & sugar would make almost anything taste yummy if need be.
But they have been so enjoyed that I make them every so often as a special treat. I posted pictures of them waiting as an after school snack on FB his first day of school and I had several requests for the recipe.

So, here is the recipe I used.

You can use this regular recipe if you don't have any dietary restrictions or if you want gluten free and/or vegan read on:
To make these gluten free, I switched out the flour to Authentic Foods multi-flour blend. If you have any experience baking gluten free, you know it's all about the combination and you can't substitute with just any flour. This is by far the best flour I have found to emulate wheat. I have tried many, many flour combinations and even started putting my own combinations together until I found this. I order it by the case online for goodness sakes! So, I can't speak to how these will turn out if you use another flour. You use 3/4 cup for every cup of wheat flour in a recipe.

Here's the adaptations I made from the original recipe:

Approx 3 1/3 cup Authentic Foods Multi-flour blend(if dough too wet, add a bit more flour, but not too much bc gf flours absorb a lot of moisture that result in dry baked goods)

1/2tsp. Xanthan gum for a little extra structure

I also used dairy (and soy free) earth balance margarine (this has a great buttery taste) for any butter in recipe and for topping.

When rolling the dough out to shape into twists, don't make too thin bc this isn't as stretchy as a regular wheat dough would be and they can break apart as you are twisting or dropping into boiling water. Sometimes I have to re-roll once or twice (before boiling) if that happens.
I have found these need to bake for closer to 12+ minutes. You want them deep golden brown, so just watch closely in your oven.
I think that's all I did differently and followed the original recipe as otherwise stated.

Some other topping ideas I do are garlic powder or sea salt & chopped rosemary. Yum!

Monday, July 21, 2014

homemade apple butter

Our weekend was rainy and cool. Not quite the summer weather we would anticipate in late July. But, something about rainy days {and days} proved to be quite a relaxing weekend.
Reed and I had just been talking about eating waffles with apple butter so at the danger of appearing ready for fall, we piled our cart with pounds and pounds of apples. Even though this time of year isn't really apple season, we find Pink Lady apples still to be quite delicious.  I cooked apple butter all day yesterday. With the dreary weather and the apple and cinnamon scent filling the whole house, it could of almost been mistaken for fall. Thank goodness it's not quite yet. :) This was the first time I made apple butter and it couldn't be easier. You throw everything into the slow cooker and let it cook the whole day. The boys so enjoyed it on fresh waffles this morning as they watched the rain still coming down in buckets.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter
{adapted from this recipe}

5 lbs of apples, peeled, cored & sliced
{I used mostly pink lady and few granny smith because Reed wanted some green apples}
1/2 cup light brown sugar 
{the original recipe calls for 2 cups sugar, but we prefer the sweetness to come from the apples, so tailor to suit your taste}
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt {I use kosher salt}
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Place apples in slow cooker. Add sugar, spices and salt. Stir together. Cook on low about 8-9 hours or until apples are very easily mashed. Add vanilla extract. If you prefer a bit of a smoother texture you can use an immersion blender {or regular blender}. That's all there is to it. Enjoy!

This recipe made probably enough for a couple weeks for us in the fridge, approx 26 oz.

Next time I will be definitely doubling the recipe to freeze or give as gifts.

Monday, July 14, 2014

simpler living | baking bread

This summer just seems to be flying by isn't it? Although doesn't every summer? We have less than a month until school starts. :(

This summer I am finding a necessary pull for much simpler living.  Less chasing, less "plugged-in", less buying, just less of all these time and energy zapping activities. We took a 12 day "vacation" in June to Illinois to visit family & friends and it gave me alot of car travel time to do some great reading and soul searching. I realized I was finding these external influences were depleting my precious time & energy.  I have re-focused my days on what's important and necessary and say no to or limit everything else. My days are filled with time spent with the boys, sometimes getting together with friends at the pool, library trips, tending the garden, homekeeping, reading, grocery shopping and trying new recipes. The days are full, but not overflowing. It is good. 

Something that I have long wanted to try is homemade bread sans a bread machine. My sweet friend Helen brought this herb bread when they came to dinner in November.  It is amazing. We polished it off the next day. She jotted down the recipe for me that night and assured me it was so easy & straightforward.  Well, it is. It's a shame I waited this long to make it. My first try was Thursday when we got home from swim class. I didn't have enough flour to make a whole batch so I had to finagle the proportions a bit, but miraculously it turned out. We enjoyed it with dinner. On Friday I got more flour to try another go-around, to get a better handle on the makings of this bread. I brushed the tops with olive oil and sprinkled it with fleur de sel before I baked it too.  Soooooo darn good. We were headed to a friends' for dinner so I wanted to treat them to this delicious bread as a thank you for having us. Our hosts response confirms this recipe is a keeper. You will love it!

Herb Bread
{makes 4 loaves}

6 cups warm water 

3 Tbsp. Yeast
2 Tbsp. Salt
3/4 bag of all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp of minced herbs {this recipe I used 2 Tbsp thyme & 1 Tbsp Rosemary}

In a very large bowl, pour in warm water and sprinkle yeast on top.

Add salt to side of bowl.
Add herbs and flour and mix all together. 
Dough should not be wet, but just slightly sticky. Add a bit more flour if nessesary.
Cover with towel and let rise about an hour.
Empty dough onto floured surface and cut into 4 equal parts. 
Knead each loaf several times to get all the air out.
Place each small rounded loaf on a greased cookie sheet {I put 2 loaves on a cookie sheet so they had room to rise}. 
Brush tops with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. 
Put loaves into cold oven, turn oven to 400 and bread will rise as the oven is preheating. When the oven reaches 400, it should take about 30-40 minutes until top is golden brown. 

Just try and resist cutting into the fresh baked bread before it cools!!! :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

peach season | homemade peach cobbler

I love desserts, especially homemade.  I usually make a small dessert every weekend {for our "at home" datenight} so we aren't eating it for days and days. In the summer, I am inspired by the fruit that's in season. A couple weeks ago I made strawberry hand pies. So delicious. You can find the recipe from here. I think this is a great basic recipe to use for other fruit, too.

It's finally peach season here in Georgia! Oh, the taste of a perfectly ripe organic peach...heavenly. I always imagined having a peach tree if I lived in Georgia, but after doing some research, there are extensive challenges with growing them organically here. I am crushed. So for now, farmers markets and whole foods will have to do. 

This past weekend, I made a peach cobbler for the first time ever. I almost can't believe that, but I guess I've always just done crisps or pies using fruit.  Jeff raved about it and yesterday he said he looked forward to having some for dessert all day. He grew up eating amazing cobblers his Grandma used to make, so I knew this recipe was a keeper!

I think cobblers should be served warm out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, period.  But, if by chance there are any leftovers, reheat in the oven at 200 for 10 minutes. Here's a recipe for a very easy homemade vanilla ice cream I've been making for years. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

inspired to decorate | Reed's room

I don't know what it is about summer that makes me more inspired to decorate. Maybe it's because the days are more carefree with less things to busy my mind with. I am able to just "be". And that's exactly when my ideas start coming together and I was inspired to finally put together a design board for decorating Reed's room. I have had ideas floating around my head for months, but it really does give me a clearer vision once I put it all together.

Reed's is going to be five. So my feeling for the room is still to reflect his childhood sweetness and incorporate some of his interests,  yet have a color scheme that will grow with him for years to come.
I am going with cream walls and grey-ish/tan trim. I think I might have enough leftover hallway paint in BM's ballet white for the walls and thinking BM's bennington grey for the trim.
Reed's favorite color is blue {and starting to be mine, too}. The bedskirt and roman shades will be done in a deep blue cotton/linen, both will likely be trimmed in tan. His dresser is already painted blue, but I may need to deepen the color a bit to go with the fabrics better. I also happened to have an unfinished night table {my mom gave us} that I will paint the same color blue as the dresser. And we already have the bed. We had an extra guest bed that maybe was used once a year, so it made better sense to use it in Reed's room now that he had outgrown his toddler bed. I think we got him settled in his new bed in late January and he has been loving it {and frankly at the end of the day when we curl up in it together to read, I love it too}. We also already have the blue ticking duvet & shams and transportation sheets that Reed picked out. It is the bit of color that snuck into the room. :) I thought about dark blue euro shams also, but foresee them just ending up on the floor. For right now, I am going to keep the bed as streamlined as possible.  We also have a tall bookcase that we aren't really using, but I am really feeling a wider, shorter bookcase is better for this space. I would like it in a medium dark stained wood.
So, we've done a little bit, but now it's time to put it all together. The biggest delay has been deciding whether I am going to make the bedskirt and roman shades. Now that I finally found a fabric, I frankly need to price it out and that will be the deciding factor and then I can move forward. I don't want to start painting the room until those are ready otherwise he won't have any window treatments since I plan to remove the woven shades that there now and spackle the holes. My goal is to have everything ready to be installed, move him into the guest room for a weekend, paint the walls and trim and then put it all together and move him back in to enjoy. I would love to get this done in July because we start school early August down here and things are just too busy at the beginning of school year and the next thing you know, it's the holidays...etc.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

project | our screened porch

It's officially summer and it is my most favorite season of all. Lazy mornings, unhurried pace, extra time playing with the boys, warm summer nights, little family getaways, relaxing on the screened porch with hubby on a Sunday afternoon...{with or without a glass of chilled rose`}. heaven.

So can we talk screened porches? Charm, charm, charm. Love them. Always dreamed of having one. When we looked at our home for the first time, the screened porch, was at the very tippy top of my most favorite things about our home. After we moved in and I power washed it, we realized it was in sore need of some TLC. It wasn't terrible, we lived with it all last summer, but some good freshening up was definitely in order. So, first up, lots of painting. Need to pick colors for walls and floor. Ceiling is a light blue {very typical in the south} and in fine condition so that will stay {would love to make it beadboard at some point}and last year we had to replace our screen door and it still needs to be painted. So, out to my screened porch Pinterest board for some inspiration.
This project will have to be broken into two parts. Part 1-freshening up, Part 2-new furniture and finishing touches. We love our house, but by golly, it needs a lot and you have to prioritize. This year we had to spend some serious dollars that were otherwise slated for want-list projects on unexciting {and some unexpected}but necessary repairs. {actually, getting a new front lawn is exciting. I do have a weakness for a beautiful lawn and not holding my head in shame when I pull up to our home} Some may ask if we regret buying an older home and do we wish we bought a new home where nothing needs replaced. Not one teensy, weensy bit!!! For us, you can't beat the charm we have. :)
I have been looking at furniture to see what direction I wanted to go and frankly how much it was gonna cost if it was going to fit in the budget for this year. It's not. It's okay, it gives me more time to make sure what I want. I do know it's most definitely going to be mostly wicker. The epitome of southern porch furniture. I love a wingback. And except for our {freshly power washed} teak table, all the rest will go. We love our wicker rockers, but always wish we had a place to put our feet up when we are relaxing on the porch and they are falling apart. Hopefully they will last through the summer without anyone falling through the worn seat. The slipcovered chairs and folding chairs were always just stand-ins and not meant to be outside, really. We had them, so I used them to "fill in". I think the wood folding chairs are going to get painted a creamy white, though. They are not teak, nor pretend to be and look orange-y compared to the teak table.We will keep them for extra seating when the table is extended.
This is the color scheme we decided on. Grey-green floors and creamy white walls. The walls were already creamy white-but they still needed a fresh coat. The floor, was ick. Flat brown opaque stain that never looked good even freshly washed. Now the floors have a proper coat of porch enamel.
I like the light/medium brown wicker color with the paint colors too.

If I had to pull the trigger on furniture right now {and I almost did until I totalled it up}, it would be this chair and ottoman. Love the style, comfort and color. I'll take two of those, please.

A daybed or swinging porch bed would be amazing also, but without forgoing our table, I don't think we have the space for it all.  Curtains in the corners are also on the list. Mostly esthetic just to soften all the wood.

Paint current wood folding chairs white

When we swap out the folding chairs, I like metal with the teak

So, here is our porch at the moment, with freshly painted floors. It was a spontaneous thing-all furniture was out so i could power wash the whole filthy tree pollened thing and moving that table is no easy feat, so while it was out,  I just did it quickly one day during naptime and after bedtime. And I will tell you, I could paint floors all day long. Walls? dreading.
This past weekend we finally moved all the furniture back in so we could actually enjoy it. It's been great eating out there every night again.
So, that's my project I am working on right now. Getting it all fresh and new and then add all the fluff later.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Preschool Graduation-a bit too much to handle

Whew, it was a hard day! In my heart, I didn't want to go. I didn't want to believe that Reed really is done with preschool and growing up. I want to freeze time and keep him four forever.  I am really having a hard time with this growing up thing and attending such a monumental occasion to confirm it just makes me come undone. I was keeping it pretty together, until they had a darn slide show with a sappy country song. I bawled! And then the graduation music when the kids enter in their caps & gowns...that does me in everytime.

So, to my sweet Reed-
First know you are amazing! You constantly have us in awe. I hope you always know that and remember it even when your days are tough.
We couldn't be more proud of you.
There is just something about our relationship my sweet boy. Is it because daddy & I tried and tried forever to have you or that you are our first born...whatever it is, we have a bond so deep that makes neither one of us quite ready to move to the next step. These years went way to fast. One minute you were 2 1/2 and now you are almost 5 and graduating Preschool. It was just the two of us for most of the 3+ years before Luc was born and I cherish the time we had just you & me. It was so hard when you went to preschool but you learned to love it and that made me feel happy to keep sending you when all I wanted to do is keep you for myself. I know this kindergarten thing is big stuff. That you are a bit unsure and nervous because it's a big change. But know we will get through it together and I know after you take it all in, you will love it and have so many opportunities to shine! But let's not think about anything except the wonderful summer we have ahead of us. We will make it a summer to remember. Love you, sweet boy! 


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day

{not the most in focus picture-but the best we could get with these monkeys}

This is what I celebrated on Sunday. These loves! Being their mom is the best and most important thing I will EVER do. 

I am painfully aware that their time as young children goes way too fast and I am fighting it the whole way. When Reed was a baby, it felt like we had all the time in the world. Now time is flying too fast so I am trying to soak up every minute of it. Sure we have those moments {or days} that I wish for trying times to be over...but I try to catch myself because good or bad, I don't ever want to wish the days away.

Every night when I check on them one last time before I turn in, I pause and look at those precious faces and thank the heavens that I was blessed with another day with them. I still get choked up every single night.

There are so many times I want to hold them or snuggle forever...while they still let me. :) Too often though, that time is interrupted by something that needs immediate tending to or my resisting to "start a bad habit" at bedtime. I don't know if this fierce of love is "normal", but it's just the only way I know how to love these boys. I am pretty sure they know they are sooooo loved and that's the ultimate goal for me. To love on these boys so much, that they always know my love for them and it takes them securely through life.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

better with age

So, yesterday I turned 40. I often joked about how "old" I was turning. But in actuality, I feel really good about it.   I've always felt that it isn't the age you are, but if you are where you thought you would be at "said age" in life that can affect your feelings toward turning another year older. I have had some years where I have experienced some frustration on where life had gone off course from my "plan", but here I am turning forty and it all balanced out.  I am right where I had hoped to be in life.  Funny enough, as a young girl, this is the phase in life I always daydreamed of when I thought of getting older. Being a wife and stay at home mom is what I always envisioned my life being. And while I was daydreaming, I'd be living in the south too. :) Funny how things work out.  Sure, I became a mom far later than I had intended, but I think it's worked out even better this way.

{this picture from the fall pretty much sums up for ya the kind of personalities I'm dealing with}

I never long for my younger years, well maybe my effortless figure of my early twenties, lol. I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin and have such clarity on what I want in life now. I am where I want to be. I am ridiculously in love, have two amazing little boys, and we are settling into our life and home here in Georgia for the long haul. It feels good, really good. There is just a sense of peace about not having to chase those big dreams anymore.
Society seems to be embracing aging gracefully and as they say, 40 is the new 30! When you become more secure in yourself, maybe the physical aging is much more embraced to show a life well lived. Some of the most beautiful women I have met are middle aged and beyond and they just know how to take care of themselves. I feel fortunate to be able to celebrate the years.  I think I have inherited really good genes, but I do take care great care of my skin, always have and maybe that is paying off. For years now, i have tried to limit sun exposure, wear sunscreen and have finally found really good self tanners so I don't blind anyone with those white, white legs!
As with any birthday, this is the time I take to reflect on myself and see what personal goals i want to achieve. I have some things floating around inside my head. This past year was rough. I have never felt so stressed/overwhelmed for so long. Alot of it was circumstances-up and moving while just coming out of a new baby fog and it all kind of downward spiraled from there. The fact that I just haven't had the mental energy to do much decorating tells me something. One, it could be that I have other priorities {which is not a bad thing} and two, I haven't been making any time for me to do things that I wholeheartedly enjoy, even at a slow pace since my family is always my first priority. I find myself very happy when I am creating or working on a project. But, this year, it felt like another to-do added to the overflowing list already. So inadvertently, I did nothing. And it felt good to take a break. It was needed. I have come to realize, that I must make some changes to get me back on track, to lighten my load. Jeff has been encouraging me forever to do so, but I can be so darn stubborn, thinking I can do it all, not spend the $$, etc. I have a zillion reasons to not to, but one really great reason to do it-my sanity. And when mama's happy, everyone's happy. So, with summer vacation right around the corner {only 2 1/2 more weeks here, whoopee} I want to maximize my time with the boys so first goal of turning 40. check.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

what's growing in the garden

 This week we have had just gorgeous weather. I almost forget it isn't summer yet. I was at Target yesterday and they had all the Memorial Day "supplies" out and I felt a bit of excitement inside that summer is right around the corner. Aren't you ready for summer, too? I think most of us had a long, hard winter no matter where in the country we seem to be. Even here in Georgia I couldn't escape the cold & snow!
I thought I would share a few things growing in the garden these days. These beautiful purple/blue flowers are one of the many delightful surprises we have had come up this spring. We've already gone through yellow and white daffodils that have naturalized throughout the backyard under the trees. Now we have these gorgeous flowers. Anyone know what they are? I am still learning all the native plants of the south and have not seen these before.

In our actual vegetable garden, we have lettuce seedlings growing plentifully. One of my favorites is buttercrunch. I planted four different varieties of lettuce all along the front of the raised beds. Nothing like a salad of fresh greens just picked from the garden. Hoping these are as bolt-proof as the description says. :)
Our carrots and cilantro have just sprouted and we had two ripe strawberries today! I get such pleasure out of growing our food.

And here is one of the three flats grown from seeds indoors getting acclimated to the outdoors before planting. I just started leaving them out all night, but covered. They will get officially planted this weekend.  Look at the flowers on the cucumbers! Poor things are soooooo ready.

Have a great rest of the week. 

Jeff & I have a date Saturday night to celebrate my upcoming big 4-0 birthday! So excited, about the date, not the birthday, just kidding. I have been feeling actually proud about it when I really stop and think about it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Easter

Happy Easter, a day late. :)
We had just a lovely day yesterday. The weather couldn't of been more glorious and we couldn't of appreciated it more. Our weather has been so up & down, we never know if spring weather is here to stay.  We started our day with the egg hunt from the Easter bunny at our house and then I got to baking biscuits and dipping donuts in melted chocolate {and then Reed sprinkled them because in his book, donuts should always have sprinkles} to bring to brunch at our friends' home in our neighborhood. How fortunate we are that Reed met two wonderful friends in preschool last year and our families have all become dear friends. And this particular one is even in our neighborhood!
After brunch, the group headed over to the club for a petting zoo and Easter egg hunt, or race rather... I was just so thrilled we were able to be outside to soak up every bit of that sunshine. Not a cloud in the sky.
Later in the day, the boys took a nap and I ended up taking a bit of a impromptu nap on the sofa before I put together a simple Easter dinner I prepped the day before. Ham, scalloped potatoes, roasted carrots chocolate bunny lollipops {for Reed} and a coconut cream pie I picked up.
Regrettably, we have no pictures from Easter.
Last week I did make some homemade bunny peeps for Reed to share with his friends at school. We really don't eat anything with chemicals by choice so I love recreating a homemade version of a typical store bought version. And really, homemade always taste sooooo much better.
I followed this recipe from Martha, but chose to cover the oiled dish with the sanding sugar, poured the marshmallow mixture, and then immediately sprinkled the sanding sugar on the wet marshmallows so I only had to dip the cut sides into sanding sugar. They were crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Just perfect!
I am just loving these fabric tags. I found these at Michaels and just outlined a bunny image from the web and glued on a pom pom.
Well, off to the park with the boys. We have another beautiful day so I can't stand not being out in the sunshine while we have it. I hope to have our seedlings transplanted this week to share with you. They are soooo ready to be planted in the garden but our weather has been too iffy. I have become quite protective of these seedlings I grew... :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

master bedroom decorating

{sorry for the wrinkled linen sham...I am trying to get used to the inevitable with them, not quite sure I can}

So I think I last spoke about decorating our master bedroom in August??? I haven't done much else since I last shared with you. Yes, I am ranking up there on the slowest going decorating scale. I have unintentionally taken a decorating break and have just been "being", especially since the first of the year. It was a much needed and enjoyable break. But as a glimmer of warm weather is here and there, it inspires me to freshen and fluff our home a bit.
One little change I made was adding a simple trim to our lampshades. This is not a new idea for sure, but still one that makes such a difference in finishing a room. I hadn't even planned on doing it until I came across this trim in my craft room I've had for more years than I can remember and I thought it would be just perfect to use in our bedroom.


I just applied some fabric tac and worked my way around the lampshade. Quick & easy! 
It's subtle, yes but adds just the right amount of a finishing touch.


I have been hanging pictures and found some lovely accessories at our local antique shop so the room is starting to come together. I will share the whole room with you soon.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

starting a garden from seed

Ahhh, starting a garden from seeds...something I have long dreamed of doing but frankly it kind of intimated me.  But there are so many good reasons to start from seed.  I prefer to have an organic and heirloom garden, so searching through seed catalogs affords me lots of choices. Plus it's way less expensive. It really doesn't take much time to sow the seeds, either. Something new always can seem more daunting than it really is.

I started all my seeds that require a jump start indoors today. Now I have my fingers {& toes} crossed.  I am a smidge behind...kept putting it off because I fear failing. Don't we all? But, I was chatting with a fellow gardening friend this morning and my admittance of not starting the seeds yet guilted me into action. :) I have even added pressure of success because I promised her some seedlings.
Most of the seeds need very warm soil to germinate, about 80 degrees. Geesh, that is very hard to achieve in early spring, even inside. I have a long table complete with a grow light, heat mats and a space heater {because that room is chilly}all set up in our guest room. I used cow pots {they are composted manure} to start the seeds because these can be planted right into the ground and when they break down they fertilize the soil too.

These are all the vegetables and herbs I planted today. Lots of different tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and a few herbs that prefer to be started indoors. Our cats are going to LOVE the catnip!
Most of the seeds for our garden come from Baker Creek Heirloom. There were just a few varieties of vegetables that I wanted to grow that weren't available from Baker Creek, so I selected some heirloom ones from Johnny's Selected Seeds. But I will say, besides the beautiful packaging, I found the sowing directions and tips to be so much more helpful on the seed packets from Baker Creek. 

Outside the garden area has been cleared and the actual raised beds should be built this weekend.  I need to have some soil delivered so I can direct sow some seeds now that prefer cooler temperatures. It's getting exciting! I have so missed having a garden since we moved to Georgia almost two years ago. :)

Have a great rest of the week. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

homekeeping | soaking laundry

Happy Friday!

I do ALOT of soaking of laundry in this house.
I have found it helps tremendously for removing the stain before I can actually wash the item. As you may remember from my homekeeping series last year, I still assign a type of laundry to each day so I don't feel buried in the piles and piles of laundry if I did it all on one day.
I recently found this large {16x16} vintage enamelware basin. It is in such good shape. I had been hunting for one for awhile, but since it was to be put to actual use soaking laundry, there could be no chips {at least on the inside} that would rust and stain what I was actually trying to clean.

When I soak anything that has a stain, I always use cool water {hot water can set a stain}, a bit of laundry soap and a scoop of an enzyme powder to lift stains and just let it soak overnight. And then set aside to air dry until it's ready to launder.
I use Shaklee's unscented detergent and nature bright stain remover powder. Since I do laundry almost everyday, I keep all my laundry arsenal out on display so its easily accessible. I decant the nature bright powder into a large glass canister which looks so much more attractive than the bag it comes in and I seem to use it on almost every load that goes into the wash. :)

We are expecting glorious weather again this weekend which I hope comes true since I could use a little thawing-out from the mid-week cold spell. We need to get back out into the yard and finish cleanup and start making progress on building our garden! Yeah!!!

Hope you have a great weekend.

Friday, February 21, 2014

on motivation

It's a quiet morning while Reed is in school and Luc is napping. I have been looking forward to a day without chasing all week, yet I am kinda feeling melancholy. I caught up with a few blogs, perused Pinterest a bit and then started feeling guilty like I should actually do some housekeeping since much didn't get done this week. So, I washed out the knife drawer organizer that's been bugging me every time I open it and see crumbs. That's done.
Now here I am, chatting with you. I just can't get motivated to really do a darn thing. Remember when you were a kid and you'd say "I'm bored" and your mother threw out tons of suggestions and nothing sounded enjoyable so you just moped around waiting to be inspired or motivated to do something? Or was I the only one that did that? {wink}
That's where I am at.
When weeks are extra busy like this one has been and my routine is off, I find it so hard to get back on track. The house isn't going to magically get clean or any of my long list of want to-do's done the longer I delay.  I guess I think maybe tomorrow I will feel motivated??? And frankly that's usually what happens. One day I wake up and am just motivated to keep house, to create, to fluff, etc... And then once I get into it, I get really into it and it's hard to stop for the day and I am often puttering about well into the late evening trying to get just one more thing done. Almost forty years and I haven't quite figured out how I make that switch so suddenly...

So, what motivates you?

Monday, February 17, 2014

recipe | skillet chocolate chip cookie

I love trying new & exciting recipes but sometimes it's just nice to visit the classics. Nothing fancy, just good, straightforward ingredients that give a very delicious end result. I was looking back through some old Martha Stewart issues  {I think I almost prefer those older issues} recently and came across a recipe for a skillet chocolate chip cookie. I used to make those way back when...but I guess it was pushed aside as I found other new dessert recipes to try.
I decided to make it for our family valentine's dessert. The house smelled amazing like only chocolate chip cookies baking can do.  I served it slightly warm with a scoop of ice cream on the side.  It surely will be making a regular appearance in our house!

Here's the Recipe. Enjoy!

On a side note, I have been dabbling a lot at converting "regular" baking recipes to GF and vegan rather than just following those special type of recipes. The tricky part for me is the egg substitute {so much science behind that}, so with this recipe only calling for one egg, I knew it could be an easy conversion.  If you need or choose to eat GF and/or vegan, I would be happy to share my modified recipe with you.

Friday, February 14, 2014

all-natural heart soaps for valentine's day

Making homemade soap has been on my to do list for as long I can remember {probably when I became a Martha fan many, many years ago}.  I finally bought some all-natural soap base from bulk apothecary back in November to make some fishy soaps for the boys for Christmas, but never got around to looking into all-natural tinting, so I never made them. So, when thinking of ideas for valentine's day,  I decided to make heart soaps, but still needed to find an all-natural way to color the soap since white heart soap is just no fun! I found on Martha two soap projects that caught my eye. One was for making heart-shaped soaps with cookie cutters and another was for using herbs or fruit purée in soaps. I combined the two project ideas and puréed thawed strawberries to add to the melted soap base for the red color. Let me preface by saying, that although I love Martha, rarely do I encounter one of her projects without a hitch, yet I am usually pleased with the results, so I keep going back.  And a very strong cookie cutter is necessary to cut through the thick soap. Mine started to get misshapen the more I cut out, so some are a bit irregular heart shaped. :) A soap mold is probably better, but when you have a lot to make, this method just made sense.

Makes 16 {approx} two-inch soaps

2 lbs all-natural soap base {I get mine from bulk apothecary}
6 - 8 Tbsp strawberry purée, strained to remove seeds
10 x 10  pan or baking dish, oiled
cookie cutter

Cut soap base into small cubes to melt easier, {for 2 lbs, it took about 45 minutes to an hour to fully melt}
Put soap cubes in "dedicated for soap making glass measuring cup" {I bought a 4 cup size and it's the perfect size for this much melting at once, it made just over 4 cups when melted}
Place measuring cup in pot with low simmering water and let melt.
Meanwhile purée strawberries {or whatever fruit or herb you are using}. Because I didn't want seeds in this soap I chose to pour it through a sieve
Add purée to melted soap and stir until completely mixed throughout.
Pour into oiled or greased 10x10 pan {I didn't mind using a baking dish I use to bake in since this was all-natural soap and it sure cleaned up squeaky clean. }
Let cool at room temperature for an hour and the put in freezer for a couple hours. {Martha's directions said freeze until it came away from the sides, but mine never did until it came to room
temperature a couple days later}. I still ran an offset spatula around the edges and had to gently coax it out of the dish.
Cut out soaps with cookie cutter, using some good strength and maximizing how you cut out. You can always re-melt the soap and start over if you oops cutting out or want/need to use the leftovers.

Put in soap dishes around the house or package them up to give as gifts.

Reed is giving these as his valentines this year. We have also been enjoying ours at the kitchen sink and in the tub. The boys have so much fun trying to keep hold of the slippery, slippery soap...we just laugh and laugh!

Hope you have a lovely valentine's day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

homekeeping | how to clean stuffed animals

Are your kids anything like mine {or at least Reed, at this point} and they have quite a collection of stuffed animals?  I know I adored them as a child as well, just don't remember having had so many...
Reed just moved out of a small toddler bed into a big bed and he sure wants every stuffed animal to sleep with him.
I really try so hard keeping up on housekeeping to keep dust at a minimum, yet things such as stuffed animals {and baskets, but that's another post} can so easily be overlooked that collect dust too.  The thought of him sleeping all snuggled up to all the dust in them, made me cringe!

We are having yet another snow storm in Georgia today, so while we are all tucked in safe & snug at home, I thought what a perfect day to involve Reed in "bathing" his stuffed animals. I asked Reed to gather all his   {and Luc's} stuffed animals and bring them down to the laundry room. He made many, many trips up & down the stairs. Bless his heart! We did four loads of stuffed animals if that gives you any idea how many he has. Most of them he received as milestones in his life or are gifts he asks for, so how do I say no to something he so dearly loves so much?

This is how I have found to clean them good. My dryer had a steam {sanitary} cycle so I throw a load of them into that and then do another super dry on high heat to make sure they are really dry from any steam moisture. Initially I was concerned if they would be damaged by the high heat, but they come out just fine and are so fluffy and clean.  I think even without a steam cycle, you could toss a wet towel in to create your own steam. I used to do that to get wrinkles out of clothes, sheets, etc.
Reed helped me load them and then sat on the floor in front of the dryer for the first load watching them go around and around in the dryer. After they were all dry, he made many trips returning them to their respective homes in either his or Luc's room. He so loves to be involved and help, and I so appreciate the help, frankly. :)

I try to do this every month to keep allergies at bay. I sure felt better tonight tucking him into bed knowing he is snuggling up to clean animals. :)

Have a great rest of your week. :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

homemade peanut butter

Last week we were "snowed in" here in Georgia! Ironically,  it was just the kind of week I needed.  No chasing here & there, just playing with the boys, tending to housework and going to bed early {like 9 o'clock early!}. I am convinced that's why I was able to resist the illness that plagued Jeff hard the weekend earlier.

It was nice to be able to stay all warm & cozy inside all week waiting for the weather to warm up enough to melt the snow {that's what we have to do down here}. While Jeff shoveled our treacherous driveway {to give it a chance to melt and not ice over}I made some homemade peanut butter in my vitamix to give him the best tasting PB & J for lunch when he finished! Super easy, took maybe 5 min to grind smooth and creamy. The ingredients : peanuts of your choice. We like Trader Joe's 1/2 the salt roasted peanuts, but any kind you like will work.  It tastes soooo much better than any store bought PB.  And when it first gets blended, it's all warm and gooey. {Great to dip bananas in too}The best! Made ours with good quality grape jelly and sprouted whole grain bread.
I love using the weck jars. I love how they look, but they are also practical because you can freeze in them. If you make homemade peanut butter, its recommended to keep only a week or so in the fridge, so you can just make a big batch and freeze some for another time. It defrosts just great.

On a side note, if you don't already have one, I tell you it's really a great investment. I looked at them forever, hesitating because of the cost, but now I am so glad I took the plunge. It leave it on my counter because I use it almost everyday.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

delicious {& healthy} breakfast on a cold morning

The biggest meal I struggle with is breakfast. I just have never been much of a "first thing in the morning" breakfast eater. So, I am trying...it doesn't happen everyday, but on a cold, windy morning,  a warm bowl of homemade oatmeal was just perfect. The best part is it takes very little time so it's reasonable for a busy morning.

homemade oatmeal-makes one serving

1/2 cup old fashioned oats {not quick cooking}
1 cup of milk {dairy or not}
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

Add all ingredients to pot and turn stove to med-low stirring occasionally since milk can boil over rather quickly.
I let it cook for about 7-9 min to my desired consistency. Remove when it looks a smidge runnier than you prefer as it will thicken a bit as it cools. To me the cinnamon and vanilla are enough flavor that I don't need any sweetener, but a bit of raw sugar wouldn't hurt ya if you like it a little sweeter... :)
This morning I topped mine with thawed frozen blueberries and toasted sliced almonds. It really kept me full so I wasn't tempted to snack.

What do you eat to start your day?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

favorite {eco} laundry detergents

This year I am striving to live more simply, making time for the things most important to me and not whittle the time away. I want to give life much more forethought and intention.  It's then that you can really start to notice and appreciate the little everyday pleasures of life.
What's better than climbing into a bed of freshly laundered sheets after a long day, definitely one of life's lovely pleasures. :)

Although I typically use Shaklee's unscented liquid detergent for most of the laundry in the house, I love to use a scented detergent on our bedding, especially.

These are my favorites:

Mrs. Meyer's Geranium

Good Home Company Lavender

and in the summertime
Good Home Company Beach Days

I am rather sensitive to strong scents and none of these are overpowering and they are all non-toxic and eco-conscious. I think you will enjoy scenting your laundry with these! :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

{homemade} parmesan thyme crackers

Hope your 2014 has gotten off to a good start.
One of the recipes I made over the holidays was for parmesan thyme crackers, an Ina recipe I have been wanting to make for a long time, and now I had a great excuse!
Jeff's boss was having a house warming/Christmas party right before Christmas.  What do you seriously get a woman who has everything? She has exquisite taste {she got us some Le Petite Bateau gifts when Luc was born if that tells you anything}, makes quite an income, has no children and pretty much buys herself anything she could possibly want, but she doesn't cook. I have begun to realize that a gift of food is so much more appreciated than I ever thought and especially if its' something the recipient would not make themselves. I put together a basket of these homemade crackers, a delicious goat cheese to complement and some vintage silver cheese knives. I unfortunately wasn't able to attend the party, but Jeff told me she was just delighted! :)