Tuesday, November 25, 2014

virtual book club + thanksgiving menu

In honor of my brother's upcoming visit, I've decided to (finally) read his favorite book. He's always been a voracious reader and it's time to get out of my comfort zone.
My parents will be pulling in the driveway around noon tomorrow, and for the first time ever I am hosting my very first Thanksgiving. I am breaking out my fancy serving platters, wedding silver, white napkins, and using our dining buffet for the first time as a serving station. As my friend Taryn loves to say, Wahooooo!  

I am ecstatic and have been pacing around the house all day in anticipation. This year the meal is a group effort. Our great friends are smoking the turkey and bringing the appetizers, and we are making the sides and dessert. I've been contemplating the menu for weeks and here is the final version!

Honeycrisp apple sangria (I've made this recipe three times and it's a WINNER)
Rubus Shiraz Barossa (a steal at 13 dollars a bottle)
...followed by Black Box Cab Sav (the 2nd round of wine...only rich folks get to drink top notch wine all night and we are po' folks!) - but BB is smashing good wine at a value!


Cornbread Stuffing (Paula Dean)

Pecan Pie (Ree Drummond)

And of course a big smoked TURKEY! As you can see, we decided to keep it simple this year with a few really great sides, and I love that we are scaling down and choosing quality over quantity. My "bigger and more is better" mentality with all things is taking the sideline this year, and I am choosing to scale back and focus on spending time with the people we love. 

from my sweet little 6 week old turkey! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

four weeks old + newborn essentials

Our baby boy is already four weeks old, and he is the sweetest little bundle of joy. I'm so lucky to be at home with him to see all the small subtle changes that are happening. He can suddenly put a death grip on my fingers and has the most adorable grumpy face I've ever seen. 
It's taken a month to feel like I have a handle on the Charlie show, but now that we are settling in to a routine with naps, bath time, bed time, and one middle of the night feed I'm ready to get out in the world a bit and actually cook a little! My mom has stocked our freezer with delicious meals so I have been enjoying my favorites for the last month. I literally skip into the garage every morning to make a selection from our freezer. I get to choose from her chicken gumbo, black bean soup, chicken lasagna, and beef bourguignon, and yes I know that I am spoiled rotten. This winter I am going to do a special feature on freezer meals with my mom's top 5 recipes. Truly, the best gift you can bring to someone that needs a boost is a homemade freezer meal. It's love in ziplock. 
This week I'm trying a weekly meal prep in an effort to eat more real foods without having to fuss with fixing anything at lunch time. I'm getting pretty tired of my flat out wrap turkey sandwichs, so yesterday I roasted sweet potatoes, made taco meat, grilled chicken, and quinoa. I have a vegetable drawer full of spinach, romaine, and bell peppers. I already feel great starting the week out with lots of healthy lunch options in the fridge. 

For the expecting or new moms out there, here are my top ten lifesavers from month one (all purchased on Amazon except the Milkin' Cookies and Moms on Call)

If you are wanting to surprise a new mom with a treat - the Milkin' Cookies are phenomenal. I love both flavors, and was introduced to them as a gift from a work friend. Freezer meals and wine also do wonders for the soul! 
  1. Halo microfleece sleep sack - I use the SwaddleMe during the day and Halo at night
  2. Fisher Price Rock n Play
  3. Chico stroller caddy to match our Keyfit 30 car seat - I can fit 100 dollars worth the groceries in the bottom basket 
  4. Mylicon gas drops and Gripe Water
  5. Moms on Call book (this would be the ONE book I'd buy looking back), along with Bringing up Bebe 
  6. Graco white noise machine - the swaddle and noise are key to daytime naps
  7. Mam pacifiers
  8. Earth Mama Angel nipple butter - essential for breastfeeding moms!
  9. Milkin' Cookies - I have one every afternoon with a small cup of coffee
  10. White newborn onesies and Aden + Anais swaddle blankets - Charlie lives in these every single day

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Virtual Book Club

Any Maeve Binchy fans out there? I've been wanting to read one of her novels for ages, and I think I picked a good one.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cookie Dough Greek Yogurt

As long as I can remember, Ben & Jerry's chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has been my favorite. A waffle cone with two scoops used to be the ultimate treat, saved for straight A's on report cards and the like.
Fast forward a few decades, and here I sit looking for healthy nutritious snacks to keep me fueled while I'm nursing Charlie. Unfortunately, ice cream is not on that list, but this greek yogurt dip is perfect! I love honeycrisp apples, and this dip is so good I hid it in the fridge so as not to be discovered by other household members. 

Cookie Dough Greek Yogurt 
from Family Fresh Meals

1 cup plain Fage greek yogurt
1 tablespoon nut butter (peanut butter or almond butter)
1 tablespoon sweetener (maple syrup or honey)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips
dash of sea salt

Mix ingredients together and stir well. Enjoy on it's own or as a dip for apple slices.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Perfectly Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

HalloWeekenend has arrived and they are calling for snow in the valley! There is no better fall treat than roasted pumpkin seeds and a cold Sam Adams Octoberfest, so this year we decided to perfect our pumpkin seed roasting technique.
For inspiration, I looked online and visited a few of my favorite blogs (Simply Recipes and Oh She Glows) who start by boiling clean seeds in salt water. We like really crunchy seeds, and this technique promised to deliver. It's quick, easy, and DELICIOUS. Since we were left with two pumpkins and a baby on our hands, we took full advantage and got a yearbook worthy picture, the kind that would be super embarrassing a few years down the road! 
On a side note, I followed these instructions and made the best grilled cheese sandwich today. What did I do differently this time? I grated the cheese, used a cast iron skillet and melted the butter in the skillet before adding the bread. Definitely worth the extra few minutes for the end result. If you're a little lazy, Amy's Organic chunky tomato bisque is a longtime favorite of mine. 

Perfectly Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
adapted from Simply Recipes
  1. Clean seeds using water and colander.
  2. Boil seeds for 10 minutes in salt water (I used 1 tsp salt and 4 cups water for 1 cup of seeds)
  3. Drain the seeds and pat dry with a paper towel
  4. In a large bowl or roasting pan, add olive oil and desired seasonings. Then spread in thin layer on roasting pan. (I used Tony Chachere's)
  5. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes, then stir and bake for additional 8-10 minutes. Taste a few seeds, depending on the size you may need to roast for a few more minutes.
  6. Enjoy with a delicious cold October beer! 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Five-Chip Cookies...and a BABY!

We welcomed little Charlie to our family on the 13th of October, and the last two weeks have come and gone in the blink of an eye. Josh and I felt like we were ready for a family and had always planned on it, but didn't realize just how ready we were until we held our 7 pound 5 ounce baby for the first time. I always knew Josh was meant to be a father, and I fell in love with him all over again seeing him hold and snuggle our boy.  
I didn't realize how HARD it was to have a newborn in the house, and I have a whole new respect for all the moms out there. It's one thing to read the baby books and conceptualize life with a newborn, and another to live it in real time. It's a 24/7 job, and most days just taking a shower and putting on a little makeup feels like a small victory. I also didn't realize how much joy a baby would bring to our lives. It's exhausted bliss. 
We are all doing great, our pediatrician described Charlie as "perfect" on our last visit and Josh and I are adjusting to the erratic sleep that comes with a newborn. I'm taking my own advice to focus on what really matters, and up until today the blog has been far from my mind. 
Last night Josh was telling me about a five-chip cookie he had years ago while hunting in Massachusetts, and it was served crumbled over vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with maple syrup. Since I haven't made a new cookie in awhile, I found this recipe and spent my "me hours" in the kitchen today baking these delicious treats. The combination of peanut butter and oats in the cookie along with all the chips is divine. 

Five-Chip Cookies
from Taste of Home magazine
Yield: 4 1/2 dozen

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup EACH milk chocolate chips, semisweet chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips and butterscotch cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

Combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chips. 

Drop rounded tablespoons two inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cook before removing to wire racks. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

exchange Busy for Meaningful

As I was reading my book yesterday (the 7 habits) one sentence really stood out to me. 

It is possible for people to be busy - very busy - without being very effective. 

I'm not sure why we glorify busy in this country, as if staying constantly "busy" was a noble feat that we should all strive for. Have you heard the phrase "busy is the new happy"? I'm not buying it. Often, I think we stay busy doing things that don't really matter.  I love this print below from Emily Ley so much that I framed it over my desk. 
My goal this week (while waiting and waiting for baby Charlie) was to spend my time effectively, doing things that matter. What did I do? I made dinner for my husband and we ate at the table and talked during dinner (no phones allowed!). I read a chapter of the 7 habits every morning. I organized my office and craft closet. I had an afternoon coffee date with an amazing friend. I talked to my brother on the phone for awhile. I read up on infant portrait photography and dug out my tripod. 

Honestly, it's not that I did that much, I was by no means "busy", but I felt like I spent my time doing the things that mattered. Once you realize what is truly important to you, it becomes clear what activities are aligned with your priorities. If you value your friendships, plan coffee dates and girls nights. If you value your spouse, plan a weekly date night. If you value spending time outdoors, go for a hike or a bike ride.  Just decide what you value, and the rest becomes clear.