November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I mentioned in my post the other day that I wanted to keep this Thanksgiving very simple, food wise at least.  Since it will be just the four of us this year, and since two of those four have very small bellies there isn't much point in making lots and lots of food.  Yet, it is a feast day and so menus are in order and preparations have to be made.  This year we are having a somewhat non-traditional menu.  I feel very lucky that my husband is not set on having certain dishes every year, year after year.  There is nothing wrong with traditions, I completely understand the pull towards that and we keep a bit of tradition too.  But we have always experimented a bit with different recipes and side dishes, and honestly I have always found it to be kind of fun and adventurous - in a safe, non-dangerous sort of adventuresome way.  =)  This year we'll be having this bay and lemon brined turkey which we've made before and loved, potatoes gratin, glazed carrots, my mom's cornbread dressing, popovers and for dessert, pumpkin cheesecake.  Oh, I almost forgot about the cranberry sauce.  And I do love cranberry sauce. 

As to what this holiday is really about, well, I'm not always so great at putting my feelings into words, or at least, putting those words out into the greater world.  That's the introvert in me.  There are so many things to be thankful for this year and without going into too much detail I can say that I feel blessed and happy and joyful this Thanksgiving.  Do we ever deserve God's blessings?  Most likely not.  But I am truly grateful for all that he gives us. 

Happy Thanksgiving and God's blessings to all of you!!

Also, please see the post below for details about Ella's Thanksgiving sale as well as the giveaway of Ella's latest eBook, Double-Page Design.

Double the Fun - a Sale & a Giveaway!

Ella Publishing Co. released their newest eBook this week titled Double-Page Design.  Written by members of the collective at Write. Click. Scrapbook. the book includes 37 two-page designs.  Whether you have 5 photos to feature on a page or 13, this eBook is filled with fantastic and versatile ideas to help you scrapbook them in style. 

I was very happy to contribute a layout to the book, and was even more estastic when Angie asked me to contribute bonus sketches for the book as well.  So as a supplement to the layouts in the book you will also find 16 bonus sketches by yours truly. =) 

If you'd like a chance to win a copy of Double-Page Design leave me a comment telling me what you're having (or had) for Thanksgiving this year.  I'll leave the comments open until Monday (11/29) 11:59 pm PST. The winner will be selected at random and announced sometime on Tuesday.

*Update*  The details of the sale have changed.  From Ella's blog:  "Now, through Monday, you can build your own bundle and save $4. Place any three eBooks in your cart (totalling $16.97 or more) and use the code BYOBUNDLE at checkout to enjoy your savings. Code may be used twice per customer, but they must be in two separate transactions."  Find all the details of the Amazing *Updated* Thanksgiving Sale on the blog.

I'll mention as well that even though it is Thanksgiving, it is still

over at Write. Click. Scrapbook.  Today's prize is a spot in Amy Sorenson's BPS class The Gift of Words.  Comments for that giveaway are open until 8:00 pm PST today. 

Hmm, so maybe the title of this post should have been triple the fun? =)

Until next time, God bless.

November 24, 2010

It is almost here

Although we are celebrating a very important American holiday tomorrow, and one that I do think is very important, I cannot ignore the fact that Advent is fast approaching.  The first Sunday of Advent is this Sunday, November 28th. 

Are you ready? I am not, as usual.

But, I said this last year and I'll repeat it again this year, I love our Catholic faith and that we have been given this special way of bringing on Christmas. This season for preparing our hearts to receive our Lord. We have some time to be quiet and to anticipate the joy. I find it comforting.  Those words are still so true for me. I am trying to find ways to introduce Advent to Gabriel (and Nathan too, although for him I think most of the meaning will not be understood.  I think at his age it's more about the ritual.  Creating memories that are tied to this season).  Gabe is now at the age where he will concentrate long enough on a craft or activity for it to impart meaning, if that is what I intend. So while I am by no means prepared yet, I'm working on making a list of simple activities that we (being me and Gabe) can do during the weeks ahead as well as activities that we can all do together as a family.

Growing up my mom did very little for Advent, (it's not a criticism, so why even bring that up?  Because I find that my husband and I truly are building this domestic church of ours from scratch.  We are learning as we go and doing our best to pass our Catholic faith onto our children) but we always had an Advent wreath, and it is a tradition that will continue in our family as well. Ours is very simple, the most simple - a brass ring with four candle holders.  It is from Catholic Supply and it only cost $4.95.  I do place a wreath of greenery around ours (that I bought at Michaels with a coupon, so again, very inexpensive).  More than anything else, the Advent wreath says to me, Christmas is coming.

As for resources and ideas, one of my favorite Catholic bloggers, Karen Edmisten, has compiled an enormous list of ideas and activities for Advent.  Lots of great ideas for children of all ages; I'm hoping to sit down with that list this weekend and make my final selections. =)  I will be turning to her book list for certain before we head-off on our next library trip (scroll down to Part IX).  Another resource that I'll be looking to for ideas is this book: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in the Domestic Church.
Although a quick scan of the book tells me that some of the crafts might be a little too complicated for Gabe.  I really try to keep things simple so that he can do as much of the work as possible, otherwise he loses interest.  I'll be taking a closer look at this book this weekend too.

Besides digging out the Advent wreath and finding age-appropriate activities for the boys, my other plans for Advent include spending a little more time in prayer. Since I love my monthly Magnificat and have been very happy with the quality and depth of the content there I went ahead and ordered their Advent Companion:

again, very inexpensive and yet something that I'm sure will bring more peace and meaning to the season.  (Also, I should mention that it's not too late to order - when I sent away for mine I received it very quickly and that was with a mail-in order.  You can buy it online as well).

Finally, if you're looking for something for yourself in the way of spiritual reading during this season, The Anchoress put up a list of books and links to keep in mind for Advent. I do wish I had more time to read something a bit deeper this year, but I'm trying to be realistic. No need to get overwhelmed unnecessarily, that is not what this season is about.

I'll try to share photos of the projects and activities that we do throughout this season, but as always, I make no promises.  Even as a scrapbooker sometimes I enjoy just sitting back and being in the moment, instead of trying to always photograph the moment.  Even if that moment lasts four weeks. =)

As always, until next time, God bless. 

November 22, 2010

I've been keeping a secret

and I'm finally ready to share it with you.  Watch this, and you'll figure out what it is:

(h/t to fellow WCSer Marie Taylor; hers was the first blog where I saw search stories.  Go make one of your own, they are so much fun!)

November 20, 2010

another month, gone too quickly

I can hardly believe that November is almost over.  It seems that we just went to the pumpkin patch.  And yet, these photos are almost a month old now:

That last one has a lot of motion blur. I didn't have the lens with me that I normally use, and Nathan is just too quick - always.  But, I love the moment that it captured.  He was so proud carrying that little pumpkin back to the car. =)

I am trying to savor these last days of November.  Today we did a little Thanksgiving shopping.  Originally, weren't going to have turkey this year, I know.  But I went to Trader Joe's yesterday and the turkeys were just calling my name.  My sweets really wanted to have ham, but since his birthday is coming up on the 30th we settled on a compromise - turkey for Thanksgiving, ham for his birthday.  Oh, and we were lucky to find a very small bird, 10.5 lbs.  Probably the smallest turkey I've ever cooked, but I am completely fine with that.  I'm trying to keep things simple since it will only be the four of us this year.  This year, for some reason more than in previous years, I'm really looking forward to having a long, quiet and restful Thanksgiving weekend with my husband and family.  Don't get me wrong, I always love a long weekend, but somehow it seems like it couldn't have come at a better time. 

Finally, before I go, if you want to focus on this week (rather than peeking ahead and looking to that other very important holiday coming up) and you're looking for ways to prepare for, celebrate, share or record your Thanksgiving you can visit the posts from this past week over at starting with this post on creating a Book of Thanks.  There are lots of ideas for making your Thanksgiving a creative and memorable one.

Until next time, God bless.

November 15, 2010

and the winner is...

The winner of Ella's newest eBook, Journaling that Matters, is...

Nicole Michelle Gray!

Nicole, you will find my contact information in my profile which you can access through the link on the left sidebar.  Congratulations!  And thank you all for your comments and participation.

November 12, 2010

Celebrate Friendship with Ella Friends

Today me along with the rest of the Ella Friends are hosting a blog hop!  Join us as we each share a layout, card or other project that celebrates friendship.  As I was thinking about what I wanted to share with you my mind naturally wandered towards - food!  After all, November is the month we celebrate Thanksgiving, spend time with our family and friends and share our favorite foods together.  I thought what better to share with my friends than my favorite fall recipes, specifically my favorite pumpkin recipes (we do love pumpkin around here).  Along with the recipes I want to share an envelope book that I made to hold photos of each dish along with the corresponding recipe cards.  Here is the cover of my book:

The book was inspired by this tutorial found on Martha Stewart's website.  The great thing about this little book is that it is so versatile and would make a wonderful gift for a special friend.  You can use the envelopes to house any number of items:  ephemera, photos, or letters.  You could also use this idea to make a gift book for someone and include special notes or gift cards in each envelope.  Or do what I've done and include your favorite recipes to share with a friend or family member.  The possibilities are limitless.

Getting to the details, the front of my envelopes are very simply embellished with labels that detail the contents:

And as I said above, my envelopes contain a photo card and the corresponding recipe card (or cards) for each dish:

Here is a link to the pumpkin scone recipe which inspired our family's version:  Starbucks Pumpkin Scones.  We do make some adjustments to this recipe, my husband is sort of a scone expert - in my opinion - he's perfected this recipe to his tastes, but I don't feel right taking credit for the recipe and so I'm sharing the original with you.  If you love the pumpkin scones at Starbucks, you'll love this recipe.

Other recipes that are included in this book are my favorite pumpkin bread pudding, penne with creamy pumpkin sauce and this pumpkin cheesecake.  I did include a few empty envelopes so that I could add more recipes later if I wanted to.  Again, we do love pumpkin in this house so I'm sure we'll discover more favorite recipes as the years go by.  =)

In addition to sharing this little recipe book with you I wanted to take this opportunity to share Ella's newest eBook with you:

About this eBook:

Journaling is hard. Even for professional writers, deciding what to say on a layout can be truly challenging, let alone figuring out how to make it authentic, creative, and meaningful. But struggle no more, because help is on the way!

Journaling that Matters is packed with 51 easy tips to help you write from the heart without breaking a sweat. You'll love the expert advice, inspirational layouts, practical tips, and timeless suggestions that are suitable for writers of all levels—from the most experienced journalers to the most insecure. Kelly, Angie, and their eight talented contributors will help you unlock important stories and tell them with confidence. Also featuring the work of: Linda Barber, Moon Ko, Donna Jannuzzi, Layle Koncar, Audrey Neal, Keshet Shenkar, Wendy Smedley, and Stephanie Wheeler.

If you'd like a chance to win a copy of Journaling That Matters leave me a comment telling me your favorite thing to share with your friends.  I'll leave the comments open until Sunday (11/14) midnight PST.  The winner will selected at random and announced sometime on Monday.

Be sure to visit the blogs of the Ella Friends and see all of the wonderful projects that the team has put together.  An extra incentive - more than one of us is doing a giveaway!  There are lots of chances to win something fun this weekend.

I want to mention that the comments on my blog are moderated.  But, I will be checking-in often to update the comment thread.  Don't worry.  As long as your comment is entered before 12am on Sunday you'll be included in the drawing.  Thanks! =)

November 8, 2010

We did it!

Almost one month ago, we went on our first long-ish road trip since Nathan was born (long-ish being about an hour and 45 minutes).  Granted, we've been on a long trip before with Nathan, namely our trip to New Jersey last year for Christmas.  But, this was our first long car trip with him and we were a little bit anxious about how it would go.  Turns out, it went fine.  I brought plenty of snacks and books and I even brought his little Leap Frog laptop which he got for his birthday this year from our neighbor.  He did great, no whining or crying or complaining.  He really was quite content to read his books and interchangeably play with his laptop:

Where did we go?  Here:

Riley's Farm to pick apples.  I have never been to an apple orchard before and since we were enjoying such lovely weather in early October I thought it might be something fun to try.  Despite growing up in the Northeast my husband had never gone apple picking before either so it truly was a new experience for everyone.  Both of the boys had lots of fun, but in their own unique ways.  Gabe took our instructions about the correct way to pick the apples from the tree very seriously and he was so careful about which apples he picked:

Nathan on the other hand wanted to put every apple he saw into our half bushel box, including the apples that had fallen off the tree and were lying on the ground.  We had to keep a close eye on him. =)  

And goodness, I could not get a photo of his face while he was picking - he was too quick!  Every time I'd get a shot, he'd be off again. 

I even handed the camera over to my sweets and had him take my picture:

We had some very tired boys when we got home (well at least one very tired boy and one crabby boy who was tired but wouldn't nap):

And a lot of apples and pears; I actually have no idea how many pounds we had total because I didn't measure:

That is the box with 3 lbs of pears taken from the top so that I could make this pear crisp with vanilla brown butter.  (Which was delicious by the way, but I'm not so sure that I liked the brown butter; as weird as it sounds I'm still deciding on that one.  I will say that this was better the second day than the first as it gave the flavors a chance to meld and mellow a bit). 

As soon as we got home I went online and started searching for apple and pear recipes; I was determined not to let any of the fruit go to waste.  The week after our trip we had a dish incorporating apples almost every night.  On Monday we had quinoa and apple salad served with leftover roasted chicken from the night before.  The apple salad is made with a curry dressing and I wasn't sure I would like it, but it was just the right amount of curry so as to not be overpowering.  Also, unless you're vegetarian I'd suggest serving it with grilled chicken or pork chops to make a more substantial meal of it.  The next night we had pork chops with apple chutney, very good and actually a recipe I've made before.  Thursday was apple, ham and cheese melts and then on Friday, since we don't eat meat on Fridays, we had apple-butternut squash soup.  I've made apple-butternut squash soup before and wasn't too fond of it, but this recipe is a keeper.  Not too heavy, not too sweet and with just the right amount of cream.  Along with all of our savory meals we also ate tons of apples as snacks, which is normal around here - Gabe says that apples are his favorite. 

In addition to the savory recipes I also made a few sweeter recipes that I'd like to share.  We made a double-batch of these chunky apple muffins and put the extra dozen in the freezer (I'm going to pull them out for eating this week).  I doubled the apples in the recipe too and they came out just fine (in fact with double the apples I think they're more true to their name than if I had made the recipe as is).  I used-up the last of our pears to make this slow-cooker apple butter, so obviously we had pear butter instead of apple butter.  I will say that I didn't bother with all the fussy instructions to strain-out the pulp.  After the butter had been in the slow-cooker overnight I simply took an immersion blender to mixture.  Turned out great, although a bit too spicy.  If I make this again I'll cut down on the cinnamon a bit (and this coming from someone who loves cinnamon).  We enjoyed our pear butter on french toast with mascarpone.  Yummy!  But we still had quite a bit leftover so I froze some and used the rest to make this spiced applesauce cake.  One note about this cake in case you want to make it for yourself.  In the instructions she says to use either an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan.  I made ours in an 8-inch pan (because that's all I have) and I had to cook it for a little longer than the instructions suggested because it was quite thick in the middle.  So some parts of the cake turned out a little dry.  Which didn't matter too much since the cake is iced with cream cheese frosting, I mean everything is better with cream cheese frosting (well lots of things).  But I'd suggest a 9-inch pan if you have it or perhaps an 11 x 7 inch pan.  Despite the touch of dryness the cake was still very delicious and I have been given instructions to definitely make it again.

So why post all of this now a whole month after our trip?  Because we finally finished the last of the apples this past weekend!  Also, apples and pears are great in the fall and I thought I'd give some recommendations on recipes that our family has tried and loved. 

And what about my goal of not letting the apples or pears go to waste?  Achieved rather successfully I think.  We only had to throw out a few pears and apples because they were rotting from the inside out - which wasn't because we hadn't got to them in time, but rather they were like that when we picked them and you just couldn't tell. 

Until next time, God bless. =)

November 2, 2010

It's Here!!

Every Tuesday.  This is the highlight of their morning.  Watching the garbage truck pick-up our neighbor's trash...

you can't see the garbage truck pick-up our trash unless you go outside.

They love this so much.  I guess that's part of being a mommy to two boys?  As soon as they hear the garbage truck make the turn into our little neighborhood they keep watch by the window.  And actually they get to do this twice each Tuesday morning.  Once for the garbage truck and once for the recycling truck.
And yes, that's Nathan standing on a bag of blocks on top his wagon.  Gotta get a good view.  =)


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