Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The most wonderful time of the year!

Adam's parents came to visit for Thanksgiving and it was so nice to stay home!  We had a wonderful holiday with SO much to be thankful for!  After all the cooking and cleaning, I had plenty of time to work on Christmas cards.  It was lovely to be able to visit with everyone while they watched whatever football game was on... all while printing my labels, printing party invitations, etc.

I love Christmas cards!  I love receiving them, I love sending them, and if it has a photo on it, I keep it forever!!  See HERE for proof.

Everyone knows the photo is the hardest part!  Over the summer, it just so happened that we had two professional photo sessions- one at my family's lake house at Smith Mountain Lake, and one with Adam's family in Isle of Palms, SC.  So that made for plenty of picture options.  Sadly, Adam and Mary Fowler do not LOVE the photo I chose for the front of the card. It was a particularly sunny evening so we are all "squinty."  There were no "perfect" photos of all four of us.  But I do plan to have some of the others printed to display around the house, and I can put some on facebook so I'll be sure to ask for their vote next year.

They liked these photos better:
My hair + beach humidity= a mess!

I thought Adam looked like he was growling in this photo:)

I ordered from Simply to Impress this year.  They were great.  I received about 4 (of that brand) last year from other friends, and while I will always prefer the printed photo taped to the card, this was so much faster and easier.  Plus they have really cute, fresh designs.  The final decision was based on price.  They were running a special (40% off) and that made each card around $1/card which is usually about the best I can find... for my taste.  Plus, I was able to have the return address printed for pennies so that sealed the deal!

Since then, I have received some cards from CVS or Walgreens and Walmart that look great with good paper weight.  A quick online check showed they may be more around the 50 cent mark.  So I told my mom about those.  She has a whole-family photo she plans to use.  

Well, I'm off to check the mailbox!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Oh My! Mary Fowler

2 years old
10 years old
 I just ordered the children's school yearbooks and parents can choose to do a little note of congratulations to their 5th grade (elementary school) graduates.

I picked these two pictures of my pretty girl, and Adam and I tear up every time we look at them juxtaposed like this.  They conjure up so many thoughts and emotions!  I definitely need to do a special letter to her and get all these thoughts down on paper... but for now I just stare at these two very different but very same little girls and think, "Oh My!"

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cranberry Sauce with Apple & Orange

I love the story of this recipe.  One Thanksgiving I was lamenting to a friend that I was asked only to bring boring cranberry sauce, that I never even eat!  She shared this recipe with me and told me it is always a big hit.

She was right!  I made minor changes.  It is fun to make and really delicious!  I love it!  Also, it can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.

Cranberry Sauce with Apple & Orange

1/2 orange
2 cups water
1 tart apple like Granny Smith, pippen, or McIntosh
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Using a potato peeler, peel the zest of the orange (just the orange skin) and small dice.  Place the diced orange peel in a small saucepan.  Add the 2 cups water, bring to boil, and cook for 10 minutes.  Drain and set the peel aside.  Squeeze the juice of the orange half and set juice aside.  

Peel, quarter and core the apple, then dice into small pieces.  Place in a saucepan.  Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones.  Add to the apples along with the reserved, diced, cooked orange peel, the reserved orange juice, the sugar, and cinnamon.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover partially.  Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, the apple is tender and the cranberries have burst, 10-15 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and let cool before serving.  Or cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 3 1/2-4 cups.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Metallic Holiday Party

Mocha Eggnog Cocktail
Mocha Eggnog Cocktail

2 oz Kahlua
1 oz vodka
Pour measured Kahlua and vodka over ice in a glass. Fill the remainder of your glass with eggnog and stir. For a festive and tasty garnish, sprinkle a little nutmeg on top.

One of my neighbors kindly agreed to host our annual neighborhood Holiday party but asked for some help with a theme and featured cocktail.  She will not be serving red wine so I think we should also stay away from the usual red Christmas cocktails.  These egg nog martinis look festive!  

Since I am responsible for the invitations, I think I'll stay away from the usual red and green, and instead, set the tone with one of these sparkly, metallic ones!  The host provides the beverages and each couple brings an hors d'oeuvres (and a small $$ donation).  

We see the young families in our neighborhood daily, and these parties are nice for getting together with the other families we don't see very often.  


Caspari cocktail napkin

Simply to Impress

Simply to Impress

Simply to Impress

Simply to Impress

Kitchen Organization

I have been searching for some kitchen organization ideas for my cabinets and I came across these photos I pulled from an article by Ina Garten.  I love her!  I wish I could retrieve the article but at least I have the pictures saved.  These are all photos from her home and/or barn.

Wood and Stainless
 Another great idea- I noticed that one of my friends keeps a container like this by the sink with all of her kitchen handled sponges with handles on them (handle side down).  it keeps them nice and dry.  So clever.

Lemon and Limes

Pull Out Drawers

Recipe Sleeves

Serving pieces


Basket of Boards

Love the Silver spoons

Bowl o' Champagne

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Children's Book

My kids' school chose Because of Winn-Dixie as their One School/ One Book reading selection.  I love that they encourage families reading together aloud because, honestly, it is faster for the kids to do their nightly reading on their own, but it is SO special to all laugh (and cry) together.  Additionally, it is so neat to have the whole school reading the same book.  It's a shared experience.  While Mary Fowler read it in 2nd grade and Davis's teacher read it to his class in 1st grade, I had not read it.

This story is precious!  I loved everything about it.  I even plan to read it again- and I hardly ever do that!  Cannot recommend highly enough!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thanksgiving Meal Plan

my collage photo credit

This year we are having Adam's parents visit for Thanksgiving.  I get more excited when I have a menu, and I have learned over the years to keep things simple.  For me, that means offering the traditional items that everyone loves, while adding one or two new things.

It also means thinking about the color variety and the ingredients (not too many, keep it simple) and the kitchen capacity.  You can only do so many things in one or two ovens "at the last minute."

We love sweet potatoes, but not in a sweet casserole-way.  So I'd like to have plain ol' baked sweet potatoes with butter and salt:)  Speaking of potatoes, Davis loves mashed potatoes... I actually prefer scalloped potatoes, but I'll ask the family and see which they prefer.

For the Brussels sprouts, I usually roast them but I may try sauteing them this time- one less oven item.

Next up!  The cranberry orange compote.  One year for Thanksgiving my only assignment was the cranberry sauce.  I was not excited about it.  But after lamenting to a friend, she gave me her favorite recipe and it was delicious!  I don't know why I only make it at Thanksgiving because it is SO good!  Can't wait to share!

I'm very lucky that my mother in law is a fabulous pie maker so she will take care of the pecan and pumpkin pies!

I plan to post recipes on each item, so I'll start with my plan for the turkey.  This is totally my mom's "recipe."  She makes turkeys all year long and simply: buys a turkey with a pop-up timer and uses a bag.  It is foolproof!

The directions are inside.  Follow them.  Works every time and only takes about 2.5 hours (depending on the size of your turkey) as opposed to all day!  After the turkey is in the bag, I usually sprinkle liberally with Lawry's Seasoned Salt and some pepper.  Done.

Girls Weekend in Chicago

lots of cab rides:)

Two of my college sorority sisters and I met up in Chicago.  We used to see each other at least once a year but with the three of us spread out, geographically, more than ever... over two years have passed.  (I also think the "years of friend's weddings" have slowed down, so that has also attributed to time getting away from us.

I'll be honest, it took LOADS of text messages and snarky remarks to get ONE weekend picked out.  So, before anyone could change her mind, we booked the airline reservations and it was set in stone!  I was willing to pay a few more dollars for a direct flight which is worth it!!  Alyson was, too, so we arrived within 15 minutes of each other... arriving in the windy city by 11:30am!

Because I have recently moved all my photos from several nether-regions ALL onto ONE computer with iphoto, I fairly quickly was able to put a Shutterfly photo book together with every picture I had of the three of us since college/ off facebook.  I ordered three copies- one for each of us- as we all have birthdays around the same time.

Anne, the new Chicago resident, made all the reservations for us, drove us to and fro the airport (so we wouldn't have to deal with public transportation:) and even let us shack up with her.  Her one bedroom apartment in Lincoln Park is precious!  I especially loved walking across the street each morning to pick up the Starbucks.  (I took this photo to send Mary Fowler- she was quite jealous)  And no, I'm not a ghost, it was my reflection- the best I could do with my hands full.

Photo by RLRestaurant

Friday we started with lunch at the Ralph Lauren Restaurant, which I loved!  It is just the kind of ambiance I would choose, and I can't wait to take Adam there.  We even had a star-sighting!  Rod Stewart was dining a couple of tables away.  His hair looked great!

I LOVED the architecture boat tour!  Several people recommended it and, while we were a bit chilly, it was definitely the best way to see the landscape.

Photo by Rebar
Afterwards, we warmed up with a drink or two at Rebar in the Trump Tower.

view from another restaurant I can't remember

 My awesome jalapeno cocktail from Sunda New Asian.  Alyson chose a gorgeous raspberry rosemary concoction.  That must be Anne's water.

On our last night we started with a drink at BOKA and then headed to Balena for dinner.  I loved both places.  Balena has simple, homemade Italian food- one of my favorites.

Photo by BOKA

Photo by Balena

 We were very intrigued by these bottles of wine that featured notes of bacon fat, tobacco, and tar...

I might have to get my hands on a bottle of 2011 DeAngelis Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio for Adam:)

Sunday we slept in and then had a fabulous brunch at Carriage House.  It was like being in Charleston, in Chicago!  I could have eaten ANYthing on that menu!  Nothing plain here, everything was completely decadent, just the way I like it!  Picture a ginormous biscuit with a huge piece of fried chicken, plus pimento cheese AND gravy!

PS I do notice my hypocrisy... I like plain, I like decadent, and I like everything in between!  Yum!

Photo by Carriage House
 I have been to Chicago a couple of times, but I feel like I have much better bearings after this trip.  Can't wait to go back!!

And I couldn't forget the kids!  Some of our friends have this and my kids always enjoy looking it.  I found them online here, at a better price than I paid:)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mother/Daughter Weekend

Mary Fowler and I spent a 4 day weekend with some of our Roanoke friends at the Greenbrier!  When we moved, my sweet friend hosted a mother/daughter getaway and we've now done it for three years!

I picked Mary Fowler up early from school and she said she was a little nervous that maybe her friends would have changed and become "more sophisticated."  I told her that I could understand, and there was a chance her friends were worried about that, too.  So, when we arrived, Mary Fowler announced proclaimed, "I haven't changed a bit!"  The little girls laughed and laughed all weekend!  They loved the climbing wall and shopping!  Mary Fowler pointed out a pair of boots she would love for Christmas:)

It was so relaxing, and I loved spending time with everyone.  I have not been very good at navigating long-distance friendships and I have felt guilty.  But everyone said they completely understood.

While I feel bad moving Mary Fowler away from old friends, it is fun to have friends in different cities/states!  I guess kids aren't pen pals anymore, they stay in touch via Instagram!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Weekly Project Life

Confession.  I cannot throw away old past-year day planners.

I love that they are filled with everyday, mundane happenings that add up to a full life.  

When I started reading about Project Life by Becky Higgins, it sounded like a great way to record the special, little, daily things in our family.  I have always taken pictures but I never print any out.  I really didn't know what I wanted!

A lot of the examples I saw of Project Life were so bright and busy-looking, that they just didn't have the final "look" I wanted.  Then I found Ho Hum... and her pages are exactly the look I adore.    Take a look!  I've been stalking her to learn her system. 

I believe she has a background in design because she is meticulous.  She takes gorgeous photos, prints them out herself, prints filler cards and cuts them out and embellishes them... it really is the prettiest way.  The paper she uses is gorgeous.  ... But I have to do mine quick and easy, which means completely digital now.  I just needed to get started.

My pages are by no means perfect.  These are mainly iphone photos since that is the camera I have with me for those quick, daily snapshots.  There are many things I will try to tweak and change as the weeks go on, but right now, my motto is "done is better than perfect!"

I won't post all my pages, but maybe as I figure out some things out, I'll share some tips.  For now, I am so excited to have the month of September done and ready to send off to the printer.