New Year's Party

We will be ringing in the New Year at a very casual party with friends. We've decided it will be a family affair with seven kids five and under. These looked like the perfect party fare for our little party people:
Another great recipe from my favorite bakers.

Christmas Card 2009

Every year I design our Christmas card {usually last minute} and, true to form, I only had about an hour to get this one designed and off to my printer. We had so many great pictures that we wanted to use this year that I decided to do a collage of the some of our favs. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, considering the time crunch.

Christmas Eve Dinner

Our annual Christmas Eve dinner was a huge success this year. The Wild Mushroom Soup, a last minute addition, was a crowd favorite. We ended up with the following artisan breads:
Roasted Garlic
Kalamata Olive
Whole Wheat
Limpa (my version of a traditional Swedish bread made with honey, cardamom & orange zest)

All of the bread was made using recipes from my favorite cook book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes. (Yesterday, I bought the next installment of the book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes).

We're already thinking about how we can top this next year...


Pretty Packages

Are one of my favorite parts of the holidays. And I can't get enough of baker's twine these days. I use it on EVERYTHING. You can get here {or in lots of other places}. I'm also in love with this Italian cotton ribbon... which I also use everywhere.


Annual Christmas Eve Dinner {Planning}

~Cocktails ~
ChristmaPAMApolitan {Pomegranate Cosmos}
“Twas the Nog before Christmas” {Egg Nog with Burbon}

Wild Mushroom Soup

Frisee and Fennel Salad with Dried Apricots & Roquefort

Braised Short Ribs
Whipped Carrots & Sweet Potatos with Goat Cheese
Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Fruits of the Forest Pie
Assorted Homemade Christmas Cookies

Homemade Artisan Bread

Short post. Gotta run. We've got some cooking {and baking} to do!
Photo from Christmas Eve 2008


Our first snow day

Last week we had our first official snow day. The first of the season, as well as the first ever... at least technically - since JB just started school this year. I started out with the intention of trying to make it into the office, but it became clear quickly that I wasn't going to really get anywhere, anytime soon. So we spent the morning playing in the snow and clearing the walks and then went inside for bagel sandwiches and hot chocolate. I got to spend the rest of the day working in my pajamas.
I love how snow days make us slow down. Life should be more like snow days.



The other night we grabbed an extra box of glow sticks {leftover from Halloween} and our digital camera and had some fun in the dark {while playing with shutter speeds}.
Here are the results:

Pretty, huh?
Here is what it looked like behind the scenes:


Chicken Coconut Orzo Soup {better known as "dinner"}

4 tbs butter
1 whole chicken quartered
10 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 tbs ground thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup white wine {I used chardonnay}
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup orzo (or other small pasta)

In soup pot, add water and chicken bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool, reserving poaching liquid. When chicken is cool, separate meat from the bone and set aside.
Heat butter in the pot over medium heat and add celery, onions and carrots. Cook for 4-5 minutes until tender. Add thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Add chicken and 8-9 cups of the reserved poaching liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes partically covered.
Stir in parsley, ginger, wine, garlic, coconut milk and orzo.
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Serve with warm, buttered rolls.

P.S. This is the first time JB ever called something I made "awesome".


Writing letters

I just finished this book. It reminds me of a friend of mine who writes letters {and everything else for that matter} just like Sylvia did during WWII. It also made me realize two things: 1. We don't know how to write letters anymore. And 2. we are so protected from the realities of war. I hope we never have to experience them, but if we do, I hope I have the character to deal with them the way the characters in this novel did.

Bars and balls

Here is the outcome of our cookie baking this past weekend:Buckeyes and Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Coconut bars. YUM! The Buckeyes are a blast from my past {I used to live in the Buckeye State where Christmas wasn't Christmas without them}.


Christmas 2009: #12 Victorian Stroll

Thursday night on a little street called Broadway: We've decided that we're going to pull out all the stops this Christmas. No short cuts. No fake trees {fake to us means pre-cut}. No missed opportunities for holiday cheer. On our list of "to-dos":
1. Cut our own tree
2. Visit Santa
3. Watch all the classic Christmas movies {Elf down, 455 left to go}
4. See the "big tree" in NYC, skate at Rockafeller Center, visit FAO
5. Donate to a family in need
6. Pull out all the decorations
7. Host Christmas Eve dinner
8. Sing carols {often and, as far as I'm concerned, badly}
9. Make a snowman {check}
10. Go sledding
11. Send Christmas cards
12. Go to the Victorian Stroll {check}
13. Attend Midnight Mass
14. Get Advent calendars for the kids {check}
15. Make Christmas cookies {check}

I know I'm forgetting something... so this list may grow.


Grocery List

We're making cookies tonight for an annual cookie party tomorrow {where the white chocolate hot chocolate is something we look forward to all year long}. G just sent me this grocery list of things to pick up on the way home:

2 Large Jars of JIF Low-Fat Creamy Peanut Butter
4 Lbs butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 hugs
2 bags of powdered sugar
5 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 flat of Oreo’s
1 Small bottle of Crème de Menthe (Liquor Store)
1 oz. of forgiveness for wrecking your car
1 Btl of Peppermint Schnapps (Liquor Store)
1 Can of Oats
3 Kisses
3 Gallons of Milk (Skim)

I know I'll be able to find the hugs and kisses...and I think I can even muster up that ounce of forgiveness.

God, I love that man.

{And I love him even more for putting up with me.}

St. James Street, here I come...

I love wellies. Wellies are rubber boots that originated in England when the first Duke of Wellington asked his shoemaker on St. James street to fashion a pair of waterproof boots. I don't own a pair, but consistent with my modus operandi, my kids are dressed better than I am and have had several pairs over the years including one green pair that look like frogs and red ones fashioned as ladybugs.
Last night I found these {along with a matching Rugby!} from Joules, a UK clothing company. Funny how I found them only hours after booking a trip to London in January. I think it's a sign....


Far, far away... or not?

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away there were children who preferred playing make-believe instead of Playstation. Who traveled to distant lands and far-away places and didn't need a TV to entertain them. These play/real clothes from Patouche help us to remember how to bring far, far away just a little bit closer.


Chalk it up

How much to do you love these???
Not more than me! I must have one {or two??} of them from MaryKate McDeVitt for my kitchen....
{via Design Crush}



We're elbow-deep in preparations for our Thanksgiving feast and celebration over at Aunt L & Uncle J's. There's rumor of a backyard football game after dinner that I'm really looking forward to. That and my run this morning should help burn off some of the extra calories.
Here's an overview of our calorie contributions for the day: southern smashed potatoes, homemade artisan bread {from this book}, honey butter made with Big Bear's pure honey from our family in GA, and a little take-home treat for all of our guests; cranberry-apple jam {recipe courtesy of my favorite canning blog, Food In Jars}.
A little eco-note on the cran-apple jam jars; cloth is recovered from a Goodwill shirt find and the tags are cut from leftover letterpress scraps from the invitations for my brother's wedding last month. Our little way to thank mother earth today.
Also on my "I'm thankful for" list this year:
Cars that work in crashes
Jobs that survive the economy
Families that love & laugh together
Friends through sun, rain and sometimes pain
Baby butts and sloppy kid kisses {can't get enough}
Tickle fights
After-dinner dance fever to Cotton-eyed Joe & Can't Get Next to You
Having everything we need


Turkey Day!

We're looking forward to Turkey Day over at the Smith household. I was thinking about coming up with a few fun decorating ideas to add to the festivities when, lo and behold, Martha popped into my in-box in a serendipitous moment of crafty-esp. Get the tutorial here.


Birthday Celebration x 2

Note to self: When (if?) you have another child, have him or her in May. Or June or July. Or any other month in the year outside of October and November. JB & MK have birthdays exactly one week apart. This is only a problem for me because I have to cram all of my creative energy into two short weeks. I'd much rather have weeks and weeks to plan one party. Thankfully, I have the support of some pretty great blogs for fun ideas (see the Wedding & Entertaining blogroll at the right).


Oh, Baby...

I've got baby envy. And it's bad.
Last month at my brother's wedding the bridemaid that stood next to me was ready to give birth at any moment. MK was enthralled with her belly {"Mommy! What's IN HER BELLY?!" Why is it so big?} and I was jealous....

UGH! Jealous of what?! Jealous of feeling like you're hiding a tractor-trailer in your abdomen? Jealous of swollen feet shoved into high-heels? Jealous of waves of nauseousness every time the baby feels a need to stretch a little? Well, uh... yeah, actually.

I've got it bad.

And now I'm feeding this craziness {utter insanity!} by perusing the inspiration boards over at Serena & Lily.

To do list:
1. Get a baby
2. Get a couple extra {thousand} bucks to build nursery of dreams

My sane self is having a heart-attack right now.


"Bonfire," painting by Lisa Congdon.


The Gift of Days

MK and Cousin G

Everyone checking out the island campsite

Cousin G and JB

Last Thursday I flew "home" for a three-day weekend packed with festivities and preparations for my brother's wedding in October. I knew in advance that my trip promised to be non-stop and I'd be on my way home before I even had the chance to fully appreciate it.

What I didn't know was that I would spend the weekend fully aware of God's grace.

The kids and my mother-in-law, K, were in an accident last Friday while I was I busy getting ready for a bridal shower and G {the hubby} was hard at work. Amazingly, the kids came away with hardly a scratch and K with just a few bumps and bruises.

If you saw our car now, you'd never believe that last sentence. As JB said, "God cares.".

We had more than our share of miracles, a few of which came in the form of earthly angels. Including some of the first responders to the scene; a nurse and the chaplain from the local fire department and eventually, the EMTs and other emergeny personnel. All whom comforted, cleaned and cared for my kids {and K} while I was thousands of miles away.

We have all been given the gift of days and I've never been more grateful. They may be young, but I believe the kids know this, too. I received pictures in my inbox this morning that were proof of this. They were of the weekend I missed -- the kids clearly past their ordeal and enjoying their gift of days by the lake.


Play House

One summer when I was a kid I was shipped to my Aunt & Uncle's house for my first vacation away from my parents and to help out with their new baby {I'm pretty sure that I was not that helpful, though... sorry Aunt J!}. I came home that summer to a brand new "tree house" that my father had built while I was away. Although there was no tree involved, it was one story off the ground and was the best tree house I had ever seen. It had a roof and three open sides, a ladder and monkey bars. There wasn't much else too it, but it was my castle. I think I spent my entire summers in that tree house and on most warm nights I would hang old sheets* on the three open sides so that I could sleep out there. Over the years that tree house became a school room, a pirate ship, an army fort and countless other imaginary places that my brother's and I would dream up.
Things have been a little on hold for us over the last couple of years, but when we finally move into a new house, our kids will get a castle of their own. This playhouse from miko design is great inspiration.
*Now that I think about it, it's possible those sheets were not that old.... sorry mom!