Friday, November 22, 2013

Catch Your Kids In A Quiet Moment

It seems like my boys never get along, but when they do, it's magic. This is "their spot", the little corner landing on the back staircase in our home. After hours of what felt like nonstop arguing between the two of them, I caught them in this moment, quietly watching a movie together on the iPad in their spot, together. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Holiday Party Accessories

Tory Burch
I walked by these Tory Burch flats in Nordstrom over the weekend, and I had to stop & drool for a minute or two ten.  I live in flats, but these shiny, silver flats with a big, sparkly bow made my heart skip a beat.  They'd be so perfect for the holiday season!

For some more holiday party shoes, and clutches, necklaces & earrings, click here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Setting the Kids' Table for Thanksgiving

I love to set a pretty holiday table with a nice tablecloth, a seasonal centerpiece, my grandmother's china, wine glasses... for the adult table in the dining room.  The kids' table in the kitchen in another story.  That's the get messy, food all over the place, fun table.

My boys & I stopped at Target after school today, and we found this disposable table cloth that the kids can color and turkey paper plates & napkins--perfect for the kids' table!  We'll have five kids at our kids' table between the ages of 3 and 8, so unbreakable, disposable & fun will be the theme this year!

(We found these items at our Target store, not on the website.  Package of 10 dinner-size plates, $3; package of 20 dinner-size napkins, $3; disposable tablecloth, $3)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto

Risotto is my "I don't know what to make for dinner" dinner.  It's warm & comforting, and I can almost always make it with what I have on hand in my pantryThis recipe uses a whole butternut squash, one of my favorite vegetables, and one that's in abundance this time of year.  We've been getting the best winter squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti) delivered to our door by The Produce Box.

2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
coarse salt & ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 32-ounce box low sodium vegetable broth, mixed with 1/2 cup water and heated
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage

1. In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat.  Add squash; season with salt & pepper.  Cover & cook, stirring often, until the edges soften, 6 to 8 minutes.  (I find by covering the pot, the squash steams & softens quicker.)

2. Add rice; stir to coat.  Add wine; cook until almost all liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Add 1/2 cup broth mixture.  Cook, stirring, until almost all liquid is absorbed.  Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding more, 35 to 40 minutes total.  (I know most people constantly stir risotto, but I stir every other minute or so while trying to clean up my kitchen in between.  You just want to make sure you're adding more broth before the risotto absorbs too much & dries out.)

4. Stir in Parmesan, sage, remaining 1 tablespoon butter and salt to taste.  Serve immediately.  Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Martha Stewart.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gift Ideas for Boys

I got off course with my Holiday Series last week.  My car lease was almost up, and I spent the back half of last week car shopping.  Visiting car dealerships & test driving cars, while it sounds like fun, is just so time consuming & frustrating.  In the end, I stuck with the same car I already had, just the newer model.

This week I'm featuring some Gifts for Boys.  My boys are 4 & 7, and they've been circling things in toy catalogs for a few weeks now.  Here are some of their picks:
Playmobil Secret Dragon Fort

LEGO Legends of Chima The Lion CHI Temple

Disney Infinity Toy Story Play Set

Marvel Universe Titan Heroes
Batman Boys' Footed Blanket Sleeper with Cape
Bugs in the Kitchen Board Game

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Box of Books 5-7 & The Do-It-Yourself Book

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gifts for the Hostess

Every year, I always try to think of unique hostess gifts; something that can be used during the holiday season, or something the hostess & her family can enjoy when the party is over.

Stonewall Kitchen Pancake Mix

 A guest at one of our parties a few years back brought us breakfast for the next day--a coffee cake & orange juice.  I thought this was such a great idea.  This gingerbread pancake mix from Stonewall Kitchen would be perfect for the holidays; pair it with a bottle of real maple syrup & a container of strawberries.

Coasters from Target
 I try to have a few small gifts on hand for spur of the moment get togethers.  These coasters from Threshold at Target are just $14.99 for the set and are small enough to stash in a cabinet for last minute gifting.

Winter Wonderland Dishtowel from anthropologie
 I love to receive new dishtowels, because they're something I never think to buy myself.  I love the scene on this dishtowel from anthropologie; it could be used all Winter.  $18 for one dishtowel.  I've also found great seasonal dishtowels at Home Goods that I've given as gifts.
Hot Chocolate on a Stick from Crate & Barrel
 Everyone loves receiving a treat, and these hot chocolates on a stick look yummy & adorable.  You just stir them into a cup of hot milk to make hot chocolate.  They're $3.95 each.

Charity Mugs from west elm
Pair a hot chocolate on a stick with one of these charity mugs from west elm.  They're listed at a special price of $8 each with 50% of the purchase price going to the charity depicted on the individual mug.  My favorite is the blue map of the United States on the Teach for America mug.

Rose Hand Cream from L'Occitane
 Rose hand cream in a pretty tube would make a great gift.  Again, it's small enough to keep a few on hand, and this travel size is $12.  Package it with a patterned drugstore nail file in a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Free Birds

Free Birds

My boys were home from school today, so I took them to see Free Birds.  I know most schools have Monday off for Veterans Day--if you're looking for something to do, my boys always love going to the movies.  I read the reviews for the movie, and they weren't so good, but my older son & I thought Free Birds was cute.  The baby turkeys were especially cute.  My younger son polished off his popcorn then fell immediately asleep on my lap, kind of like the president's daughter in the movie.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

3 Holiday Party Looks

Here are three looks that will get you through the holidays, from a formal work party to your best friend's New Year's Eve bash...

Black Sequin Dress

Evening Pantsuit

Silver Dress & Leggings

Simple Thanksgiving Table

A few weeks ago, a friend & I put together a soup & chili luncheon for the teachers at our children's school. The school has a beautiful courtyard with picnic tables, so we prayed for nice weather in the days leading up to the event so we could host it outside. Parents signed up to bring everything--the soups, salads, desserts, and decorations. 

We decided to cover the tables with brown craft paper to keep the cleanup simple, and we found strips of burlap to use as runners. Parents dropped off pumpkins, gourds & mums, and we put everything together to create simple center pieces. I love how the tables turned out, and I'm hoping to recreate something similar for my own Thanksgiving table this year. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thanksgiving Dessert Ideas for the Kiddos

If the kids at your Thanksgiving table are like the kids at ours, they want nothing to do with pumpkin or apple pies.  (More for the adults!!!)  This year, I thought it would be fun to make them their own special dessert.  I love these turkey cupcakes from theKitchn.  They look super easy to make, and kids love cupcakes.  And chocolate, and candy...
I saw this next recipe for pumpkin whoopie pies on King Arthur Flour's website.  My kids like any kind of sandwich cookie, and they also like pumpkin bread and muffins, so this would be the perfect combination for them.  Plus, nothing says "Thanksgiving" like pumpkin, right?!

King Arthur Flour

 There's an apple orchard near my childhood home that makes the best apple cider donuts.  If my parents come to visit us in the Fall, I make sure they bring apple cider donuts from Roger's Orchard with them.  I've been on a search for an apple cider donut recipe, and I thought this one from What's Cooking in the Burbs would be a good one to try.  They're baked in a donut pan, not fried, so they'd be much easier to make for someone like me who's terrified of deep frying.  Apple cider donuts always make me think of Fall, and kids love donuts, especially ones covered in sugar!

What's Cooking in the Burbs

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Holiday Series and Gifts from Speck & Dressel

 The toy books have started to arrive at our house, and our boys are circling all of the toys and games they want to include in their letters to Santa.  The stores are being filled with holiday decorations, and Starbucks has begun pouring drinks into their red cups.  I enjoyed my first gingerbread latte of the season this weekend.

I thought this would be the perfect time to start a holiday series.  Each weekday until Christmas, I'll be sharing a tip or idea to help you (and me!) get ready for the holidays.  On Mondays, I'll post gift ideas.  On Tuesdays, I'll share a holiday recipe.  On Wednesdays, a decorating idea; Thursdays, an outfit or accessory that can be worn to a holiday party or during the holiday season.  And on Fridays, I'll post an activity that my family enjoys taking part in during the holidays.

Today, I'd like to share some gift ideas for the littlest ones on your Christmas list.  These beautiful gifts are lovingly made by my friend, Janet.  Her company is speck & dressel, and she caries the prettiest things for babies and children, as well as accessories, vintage home decor, and gifts for adults.
speck & dressel

I just love this set of three monogrammed burp cloths.  You can choose block or script lettering, the thread color, and you can include up to 5 letters.

speck & dressel

These 50's nursery building blocks would add a precious accent to baby's room, and older children can use them to practice stacking.
speck & dressel

Janet gave us one of these blankets when our older son was born, and we still have it to this day.  One side is the softest fabric, and the other side is a printed cotton accent fabric.  I used to put this blanket down for my boys to play on when they were babies.  It's also the perfect size blanket for an older child when you're traveling with a Pack N Play.

Join me each day until Christmas for holiday ideas, and fill me in on what you're doing to prepare for the holidays in the comments section below.