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December 20, 2012 / staceyj

Christmas Card Organization And Other Christmas Fun

I don’t know about your family but ours has spent the last two weeks rushing from one Christmas program to another.  If you live in these parts you may have seen us.  We were the ones near the front wielding cameras, smiles and coffee cups.  Nothing exhausts me more than actually having to be showered and dressed in a presentable manner with makeup applied…for multiple days in a row.  Why does getting yourself ready at times seem like an insurmountable task when you become a mom?  Is it because by the time you get to yourself you have spent all your energy talking your son out of wearing shorts and a tank top in the middle of December?  Or maybe it is because your daughter insists on dressing like Pinkalicious and her outfit won’t be authentic enough if you don’t help her find her favorite pair of pink socks?  You know the ones with the peace signs?  The pink polka dot ones you’re holding just won’t do.

Exhibit A:  My hair is clean and combed, jewelry is on and we’re smiling.  I must have documented evidence to show my children some day that I did in fact own something other than sweatpants.

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All my complaining aside, we had a blast partaking in their performances.  We laughed, we cried, and we were thrilled when they waved to us from stage.

We watched our sweet kids act…

Christmas Programs & Weather

…sing…

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…dance…

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…inspire…

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…and bring us the Good News.  Our last program was yesterday and just in the nick of time because last night Winter Storm Draco hit.

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And he wasn’t messing around.  My kids were so excited to see snow and couldn’t wait to get out there and play since they didn’t have school today.  They lasted about 20 minutes.  The 50-mile-an-hour country winds were too much for them (and our lawn furniture!) and they literally had to defrost once they stumbled indoors.  I’m not gonna lie.  There were red cheeks and tears.  Nothing a cup of hot chocolate and some hugs couldn’t cure.

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I spent the snow day finishing up some delicious Christmas baking (that post to follow soon!) and completing some Christmas crafts that have been on my to-do-list for weeks.  Well, first I slept in, then I watched an episode of The High Low Project with Sabrina Soto while still in bed and THEN…and only then…did I get about the business of Christmas.

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One of my favorite parts of this time of year is heading to the mailbox each afternoon.  I LOVE getting mail and with nearly everything these days being sent electronically, Christmas cards seem extra special.  Like little gifts from all the beautiful people in our lives.  And each year I like to display them.  In the past they have been individually hung on a special wall in our hallway.  When faced with hanging them that way again this year my mind immediately sped past the joy of looking at them as I passed each day to the much less fun day in January when I have to painstakingly take each one down.  And so I decided to save a roll of tape and about 70 minutes of my time and instead made a coffee table book of sorts with them.  I bought these book rings from Wal-mart.  They were less than $2.00 and will carry me through more than one Christmas.

Christmas Card Organization

To complete this project?  All you need is a paper punch, Christmas cards and about 15 minutes.  How retro…code for really old…is my paper punch?  I love it!

Christmas Card Organization

You will want to figure out the order of your Christmas cards before you start punching.  Size definitely comes into play here but so does the layout of the cards you have received.  Just be sure you punch them in a way that folks will be able to open and read them once assembled.  It takes a wee bit of visualization skill but I promise this project will exert no more strain on your brain than it spent trying to figure out if the Saturday Night Live sketch Mokiki Does The Sloppy Swish was funny or just plain weird.  I also used some scotch tape for those cards that came with a Christmas letter.  I just taped the letter to the back of the card.

Christmas Card Organization

Once all of your cards are punched, begin threading them through the book clip in your predetermined order.  And the best part?  As more cards arrive, it will be easy to fit them in where they work best.

Christmas Card Organization

I also decided to make a quick cover for the book in Word.  I printed it on a piece of card stock I already had on hand.  As I make more of these each year I can easily keep track of the individual years this way.  I may look for a more sturdy cover made out of cardboard or a heavier card stock once I can get out of my driveway.

Christmas Card Organization

And here is the book of Christmas cards on our coffee table.  Not bad for 15 minutes.  Not bad at all!

Christmas Card Organization

And yet another nice and neat way to keep my emotional hoarding under control.  Enjoy the snow and the forced rest everyone!

Stacey

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December 13, 2012 / staceyj

A Griswold Family Christmas

We are having a bit of a Griswold family Christmas.  Not in the ‘lights on every ounce of our house’ sort of way.  But more in the vein of ‘a very large Christmas tree on top of our car heading to our home’ kind of way.

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We don’t drive a family ‘truckster’ but we do drive a Sequoia.  A Sequoia is a very large vehicle so it makes our equally large Christmas tree look little.  But it isn’t.  It measured right around 8 feet tall and is very, very full.  It doesn’t look big in the great outdoors.  But let’s just say that when we brought it home it required some pretty serious pruning.

Christmas Tree Farm

One of our family’s favorite Christmas traditions includes heading to a local tree farm and picking out the season’s tree.  We always go on Black Friday, formerly known as the day after Thanksgiving, rain or shine.

It was cold.  It was windy.  It was frigid.  It was chilly.  It was breezy.  It was not ideal for my easily frost-bitten extremities.  But traditions are traditions people!  Did I mention it was cold?

The kids didn’t seem to mind.  They are bundled up and ready to search out the perfect tree.

Christmas Tree Farm

Beaut.One informed us awhile ago that she wants to be a photographer when she grows up.  Or a doctor.  Or a ballerina.  Or a hairdresser.  Hey, she likes to keep her options open.  Here she is trying to figure out how to snap photos with her bulky gloves on.  She hasn’t quite learned that the perfect photograph doesn’t wait for you to remove your comforts.  She wanted to document our day but decided it was too cold about five shots in.

Christmas Tree Farm

Beaut.two is our Christmas Tree Finder Extraordinaire.  He has business cards.  He so desperately wants to be the one to spy the perfect evergreen this year.  And his extremely scientific search method?  Run to each and every tree and ask if it’s the one!

Christmas Tree Farm

Is this it?  Seriously, this beaut is a pretty awesome tree.  Awesome.

Christmas Tree Farm

Hey guys!  How about this one?  And if you are really interested in reliving our tree hunt adventure, repeat this question at least 25 more times.

Christmas Tree Farm

Beaut.One has not one ounce of interest in being the one that picks the perfect tree.  Not one.

Christmas Tree Farm

Beau gathered up his bevy of beauties and led them to the promised land!  The Chosen One.  This beautiful, lovely and large Fraser Fir.  The sun was literally shining on it, beckoning our family to take it home.  And then the following conversation took place:

Me:  “It’s lovely honey but it looks rather large.”
Beau: “No, it’s just really full.”
Me: “Full is a fancy word for large.  This thing is large.”
Beau, with his Clark W. Griswold eyes: “It is perfect.”
Me: “Oh Sparky!”

Christmas Tree Farm

Our family beaming with evergreen pride!

Christmas Tree Farm

While the tree farm elves shook out our tree, netted it and tied it to our truck, we took a horse-drawn wagon ride.

We aren’t really this happy.  Our faces are still frozen from the previous photograph.  Did I mention it was cold?

Christmas Tree Farm

Beaut.two took a turn at the reins.

Me: “Look at mama so I can snap your picture!  Now quick, watch where you’re driving us boy!”

Christmas Tree Farm

Two beautiful horses gave us a tour of the tree farm.  The rest of my bevy is huddled under a blanket clinging to each other for warmth.  Clinging!

Christmas Tree Farm

The wagon stopped so some brave souls could get off and cut their own tree down.  Beaut.two wanted to join them but I lured him away with the promise of trains and hot chocolate in the gift shop.  We always stop at the farm’s gift shop to thaw out and buy our annual ornament.  By the time we leave I am usually sweating, but for two very different reasons.

Reason #1: The hot chocolate is very delicious and very hot and warms me from top to toe.
Reason #2: I am chasing the children to ensure they are not touching all the very pretty but very breakable ornaments.

Christmas Tree Farm

Once home, Beau went and got all manly on us.  Let’s just say that Carhartts were involved.  But I am very happy to report that no chainsaws were.

Christmas Tree Farm

However, some pretty serious pruning took place.  And while that minor surgery was taking place in the garage, the kiddos and I wrestled the lights.

Christmas Tree Farm

And Beaut.one gave me her most convincing Scrooge.

Christmas Tree Farm

She later channeled her inner Tiny Tim and put the star on top of the tree.  Let the Christmas season officially begin!

Christmas Tree Farm

If you look closely, you can see how the star is grazing the ceiling.  Perfect.  It is just perfect.

Christmas Tree Farm

I love this time of year! Do you guys prefer real or not-so-real trees?  We have both on display in our home so we are equal opportunity around here.

P.S. More posts on Christmas around these parts to come!

November 28, 2012 / staceyj

Threshold at Target

Is anyone else obsessed with the new(ish) Threshold line at Target?  I cannot walk into that glorious place without spying something lovely.  And it seems that every lovely thing I pick up has a Threshold tag on it.  The Threshold line has replaced the Target Home brand and I LOVE it!  If I were a paranoid type I would really begin to wonder if the Threshold designers had a direct link to my brain and were developing home decor and entertaining items just for me…ALL FOR ME!  But I’m not really paranoid.

Wait?  What was that?  Do you hear something?  I heard something.  I did.

According to Target’s web site inspiration for the Threshold collection is centered on the New England countryside, incorporating equestrian and heritage themes, Native American prints, menswear stripes and plaids, brass accents, different textures and hand-sketched elements. Texture  – like chunky knits – is also a big influence, and will show up on pillows, ottomans, throws and lamps.

You know how I love equestrian-inspired anything so for definitive proof that they are somehow linking directly to my brain click here.

Here is the aforementioned Threshold tag…cute key and all!

Over the last month or so I have collected a new Threshold-branded item or five.  Target had coupons, 20% off coupons, and I didn’t want them to miss out on fulfilling their redemptive calling so I used them.  Speaking of coupons, I just checked Target’s site and they have some still available:

+$2.00 of Threshold decor items $9.99 or up

+$3.00 off a select Threshold table linen item

+$2.00 off a select Holiday home decor item (which you could use on a Threshold holiday decor item)

Here are two throw pillows I nabbed.  I love the hand-sketched element of the feathers!

And the gold trim?  Yes, please!

And in my bedroom I bought this lamp and lampshade.  I like them so much I used birthday money…sacred birthday money…to buy these.

The first picture didn’t do the lamp base justice.  It is crackled glass.  Beautiful.  Just beautiful!

And it looks right at home in our room.  I swear these people are in my home…right now…in it!  No!?  I’m not the least bit paranoid.

And for a little holiday fun?  This cloche with a picturesque home inside.

A favorite with my beauties.  They like to look at it and decide which room would be theirs if they lived in it!

Happy shopping!

November 22, 2012 / staceyj

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving!

From our family of turkeys to yours…Happy Thanksgiving!

We are so grateful for each of you.  And wish you a lovely and silly and button-unbuckling from all the delicious food you’ve ingested kind of day!

Gobble!  Gobble!

November 8, 2012 / staceyj

Legends of the Fall…

Ah…fall.  I love ya!  As soon as the calendar finds itself inching past Labor Day I put away the swimsuits and the flip flops and head straight to my fall decor stash where I spend an unnatural amount of time oohing and ahhing over dried wheat.  It’s just not right.  And while I obviously love fall decorating, the simple truth is that I am a thrifty seasonal decorator.  I spend a majority of my fall decorating dollars on items that can last from mid-September to Thanksgiving.  I know it gives me more bang for my buck and has the additional benefit of tiding me over until the Christmas decor makes its grand appearance.  Because of my extremely unscientific theory I go really light on the Halloween decor and really heavy on the harvest, autumn side of things.

Exhibit A:  Our front porch.  Last year I decorated ours with this collection of lovely pumpkins and gourds from a local pumpkin patch.  I love a well-decorated front porch.  Come to think of it, I love a well-decorated house.  And a well-decorated table or party or backyard.  Heck, I love a well-decorated pantry.  Hold me.

These orange beauties proudly flanked our front door until the end of November.  It was the first year I went the pumpkin/gourd route vs. the mum route and I don’t think I am ever going back.  I think mums are beautiful and lovely and beautiful.  Did I mention that mums are lovely and beautiful?  But in years past I would either lose them in the first freeze or find myself having to remember to go outside and cover them up each cold and dark night.  And then I’d have to remember to uncover them again in the cold, frozen morning.  And they never made it to Thanksgiving.  I’m forgetful and I’ll do anything to avoid being cold so the poor mums didn’t ever really have a fighting chance.

And the best part?  This freeze-proof loveliness is so simple to pull off!  All you have to do is purchase pumpkins in three different circumferences and, if necessary, saw off the stems from the bottom two layers.  Then use your raw, brute strength to hoist the ‘kins on top of your pots or urns.  Voila!  Front porch gorgeousness.   If available, you can also add your red-headed son to the display.

See I told you I get abnormally excited about a well-decorated front porch.  Yessiree!  Abnormal amounts of excitement happening here.  Right here.

And now this year…our more subdued and budget-friendly version.  Last year’s front porch beauty ran us about $60.  This year?  A little over $20!  And I love it too.  I love its simplicity and the non-traditional green colors.

I feel calmer just looking at my front porch.  Attention Visitors & Guests!  Come!  Breathe deeply, become calm and behold the beauty of the porch.  Then come on in.  For heaven’s sake, it’s cold out there!

This year also has a soft spot in my heart because I love that we added a personal touch.  (The lighting on these photos is not super awesome.  It is washing out the beautiful greens and not doing them justice.  Sorry!)

The monogrammed pumpkin was one of the cheapest craft projects we have ever completed.  And the kids had a blast creating it!  I scored this decent looking (beggars can’t be choosers) pumpkin a few short days before Halloween for $1.00.  Yes!

Then I sized and printed out our initial.  I affixed it to the pumpkin with double-sided tape so it would stay in place while little fingers, hands and brushes went about the business of transforming this orange old boy into green gorgeousness.

We used three different tones of green craft paint I had around from a previous project.  Does anyone else use plastic yogurt lids for your craft paint?  They are just the best.

The kids used stencil pouncers…

…and their fingers to paint the pumpkin.

But no matter the method, ultimate concentration with tongue wagging is required.  My son…the Michael Jordan of craft paint.

My sweet crafters were really proud of their masterpiece. (Note: dried wheat referenced above is making an appearance in the background of this photo.)

In hindsight, I may have gone a wee bit nuts in the craft paint/pumpkin department this year.  But I won’t apologize.  I love these little metallic numbers.  And my kitchen does too.  And my kids can’t quit talking about them.  O.K.  That’s not at all true.  But me and my kitchen are huge fans.  HUGE!

And one last idea.  Simple leaves in simple jars decorate the built-ins in our dining room.  The cost of this project?  The time it took us to hike in the woods.  Free and me are friends.  Besties really.  We go all the way back to my very first days of life when I didn’t pay for a single thing and screamed until someone fed me.

Happy fall decorating!

October 29, 2012 / staceyj

I See Candy People…

I know I haven’t written in a while…in a very long, long while.  And I owe you a post on why and how and mostly why.  But I am not quite ready to do that yet.  And with Halloween just mere days away I wanted to share a fun project my daughter, BeautOne, and I have worked on together before the holiday passes us by.

Candy People!

We don’t live in a neighborhood.  We don’t really have any neighbors…unless you call wild coyotes, three horses and harvested fields neighbors.  With the lack of human neighborhood types comes a definite lack of trick-or-treaters.  So we head into town to partake in the candy fest.  And to keep the candy universe in alignment, we contribute to our community’s candy coffers by bringing treats to BeautOne’s class.  I, for one, am sure to stay in good standing with the candy gods.

They are a cinch to make.  Kids love them.  And they are made from easy-to-find treats.

Here are the materials you need to create these little masterpieces:

  • Hot glue gun
  • Wiggly eyes (I bought these at Hobby Lobby)
  • Boxed candy for the body
  • Lollipop for the head
  • Candy for the arms and legs, like Tootsie Rolls and Smarties
  • Yarn, not pictured.  My daughter decided to add a yarn mouth this year.  But she had this creative stroke of genius after this photograph was snapped.

Start by gluing the ‘body’ to the ‘head’.

Three large drops o’ glue will do.  (I’m a poet and I didn’t know it.)

Press the boxed candy firmly onto the lollipop stick and hold until set.

Then attach those candy arms!  Make sure you fold the candy wrapper end flat before applying glue.

Make sure you apply plenty of glue and hold firmly until set.  Trust me!  The extra 20 seconds you spend making sure the glue is set is well worth it.  The first year we made these we were so proud of ourselves and our craftiness.  We went to bed with sweet dreams of craft dominance.  And then we woke up the next morning and to our horror many of our candy people had lost at least one of their candy limbs.  And we had to reapply.  So take the extra time and skip the trip to the candy surgical unit.

The same song and dance happens with the legs.  Folding the candy ends flat makes them attach easier.

The candy person’s got legs.  And she knows how to use them!

Take a minute to snap a pic of your crafting partner.

Add the eyes…

And the mouth.  We opted for white yarn because it is the only yarn we had on hand.  BeautOne wasn’t interested in a nose.  Maybe next year?

The little one was so proud of her creation.

We lay ours flat to cure overnight.  It is quite the sight.  Like a little candy army waiting to delight.  (There I go getting all poetic again!  Ha!)

Happy Halloween from our family to yours!

May 30, 2012 / staceyj

Memorial Day Holiday: Boogie, Bomb Pops and Bundt Cake

We had a lovely Memorial Day holiday, just lovely.  It entailed some boogie (as in dancing!), Bomb Pops and beautiful Bundt cake.  It also included some much needed rest, fun with friends and family, fishing, tree planting, gardening, swimming, movie watching and more of that very necessary and aforementioned rest.

The Boogie:
I started dancing when I was three years old and have never really stopped.  Family dance parties in my kitchen are a weekly event and I also manage to get my dance fix by shaking what my momma gave me at Zumba classes.  And so when I heard from my dance teacher that she would be celebrating her 30th recital this year and was inviting alumni back to dance, I knew I had to do it.  And miraculously our schedule was free so we could go.

Here is my bevy of beauties and me before the recital began.  If you look really closely you will likely be able to spot small beads of sweat near my hairline.  I was nervous!  And excited!  And so very nervous!

We went in to find our seats and were surprised to see on the big screen a slideshow of thirty years worth of dance pictures.  I went from commenting on how much my children resemble me as a four-year old me sporting Mickey Mouse ears made an appearance on the big screen to visibly cringing as a permed, awkward and skinny fifth grade dance picture of me seemed to languish on the screen for what seemed like forever!

And then there was this one.  Blog friends, meet high school me in an elaborate pointe costume.  What a head of hair!

Then it was time to dance!  Here is me in action.  This girl can still snap with the best of them.  I credit that to our kitchen dance parties and great snapping genetics.

My dance teacher and me.  I couldn’t be more proud of her and more thankful to see her again.

My mom has always been my biggest fan and never missed a recital or performance.  And she was here for this one too.  She sat through two hours of dancing for four minutes of her daughter on stage.  That.is.love.

The Bomb Pops:
Each Memorial Day we decorate with a few flags.  The exercise of displaying them helps me remember why we even have this holiday in the first place.  To all those heroes protecting our freedom here and abroad, in battle and on the home front…thank you.

I am an old soul.  I listen to the 40’s on 4 on Sirius XM as I drive around running errands.  I prefer putting together a 1000 piece puzzle to playing any type of video game.  And Cracker Jacks are my idea of a perfect party favor.  I sometimes wonder if I was born in the wrong decade.

We decided to have some friends over to celebrate Memorial Day.  It was a perfect summer day and the kids experienced everything a summer day should include: running through sprinklers, swinging on the tire swing, playing tag, catching fireflies and Bomb Pops.  Bomb Pops scream “Welcome summer!  We love America!  Wow, look how red my lips can get!”

The Bundt Cake:
As Memorial Day approached I conducted an extremely scientific poll.  “Family.  Do you want a cherry pie, peaches-and-cream Bundt cake or ice cream cake for dessert?”  The results?  Two very enthusiastic votes for peaches-and-cream cake, one “What’s a bun cake?” vote and Tag’s (our dog’s) vote?  Something crumb-y please so I can ‘help’ clean up!  Bundt cake it is!

Ingredients
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, divided, plus more for pan
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), divided, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
4 peaches, peeled, pitted and diced small
2 1/4 cups sugar, divided
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Peel…

…and dice the peaches.

Prepare the Bundt pan.  Butter and…

..flour a 14-cup nonstick pan.  My pan is only a 12-cup one (It’s okay little buddy!) so we made tiny pancakes with the remaining batter.  Seriously, that was a stroke of pure genius on my hubby’s part.

Combine 3 cups flour,

baking soda,

and salt.

Whisk together and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons flour to peaches.

And toss to coat!

In a large bowl, using a mixer, add 2 sticks butter…

…and 2 cups sugar.

Beat until fluffy and pale yellow.

Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.

With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 2 additions,

alternating with sour cream,

and beat until combined.

Add peaches…

and vanilla.

Fold into batter.  This is one of the very best batters I have ever had the joy of tasting in my life.  EVER!

Transfer to pan.  (Don’t fill more than 3/4 full or else you may experience spillage.)  Tap pan firmly on counter several times to remove air bubbles and smooth top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour.  (I baked my cake only about 50 minutes because my pan was a bit smaller and thus held a bit less batter.)  Transfer pan to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; let cool.

Meanwhile, melt remaining butter.  Dream up all the food items you can make more delicious by dipping them in this sea of awesomeness.

Combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon.

Using an offset spatula or small knife, loosen cake from pan, then invert onto rack.  Let out a muffled scream when you realize part of your cake is still in the pan and your vision of a perfect dessert centerpiece is dashed.  Talk to your very wise and baking-experienced mother-in-law about what you did wrong.  Tell your cake-loving friends that if they don’t want dessert disaster like you, she recommends that at the first sign of the cake being stuck you stop and warm the pan back up a bit.  Try again.

Working in sections, brush cake with butter.

And sprinkle liberally with cinnamon-sugar.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

This cake is so moist and delicious and lovely.  Seriously.  It was a hit with human and canine (crumbs only!) alike.  And who doesn’t love a dessert that can also moonlight as a breakfast treat?  Oh yes we did.  We ate it for breakfast too.  After all, it was a holiday.

Enjoy, Stacey

Note: This recipe is from Everyday Food, June 2012.  I couldn’t find it online so there’s no link this time.

May 22, 2012 / staceyj

Homemade and Not-So-Homemade

I had a lovely Mother’s Day.  I felt celebrated, I felt thankful, I felt glad I wasn’t actually giving birth but instead celebrating this wonderful, exhausting, hilarious, challenging and amazing journey called motherhood.

My beauties and my Beau took great care to ensure that I was celebrated with homemade and not-so-homemade gifts alike.  Nothing says “My child gift wrapped this all by herself” like scotch tape around the entire exterior of the package.  I love it!  And my husband surprised me with an iPad!  If I’m honest, surprise is a bit of a stretch.  Beau has never been great at surprises.  He just gets way too excited so I’ve learned to instead be surprised by how lovely the gift or thought is no matter when I receive it.

As Mother’s Day was approaching he casually asked me, “So, do you have your heart set on anything special for Mother’s Day this year?”
Me: “Hmm…that’s a great question.  I’m not sure.  Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”
Approximately 13.3 seconds later…
Me: “You know what would be great?  Landscaping.  A new bed, some plants, some time with you at a garden center deciding on what we want to do out front.”
Beau: “Seriously?  I was thinking more along the lines of something fun.  You know, an iPad.  Or pretty much anything other than landscaping.”
Me:  “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”
3.0 Nanoseconds later…
Me: “I think we’d better go with the iPad.”

The gifts from my children were equally amazing.  Homemade gifts are just the best.  I scored some original artwork, a laminated bookmark, a book all about me and this crown that I proudly wore all day.  As a related but totally unnecessary side note, I am a sentimental hoarder so nearly everything my beauties make me ends up in storage somewhere.  It is a blessing that I’m organized otherwise we would have a serious problem.  Serious.

With my new iPad in hand, I immediately went about the business of finding the most stylish case in existence.  And find I did.  I guess I did get my flowers (sorta) and my technology too.

This iPad case is made by Angela Kay Designs.

I found her shop on Etsy and she has so many pretty things.  Click here to visit her store.

Seriously.  Have you even seen such a beautiful case?  It is not only lovely but practical too.  This beauty is lined with thick fleece to prevent your iPad, your Kindle, your whatever from scratching its pretty little face.

They come with either antique brass or nickel frames and kisslock clasps.  That clasp sealed the deal for me.  LOVE!

As if the exterior wasn’t stunning enough, the inside isn’t too shabby either.

I ordered mine, couldn’t stop thinking about it, and almost immediately ordered one (in a different style) for my girlfriend.  Her iPad suffered from very-practical-but-oh-so-masculine case syndrome and I just had to remedy it.

Doesn’t my iPad just look happy?  Oh.so.very.happy!

And I figure if this whole tablet craze is just a blip on the vast technology landscape then I’ve instead got myself an adorable clutch purse.

I’m always thinking.  Think.  Thinking.

And it even fits beautifully in my everyday bag.  Seriously, I think I may love the case as much as the new technology.  Although my ability to watch Saturday Night Live via my NBC app at 4:30 in the afternoon while making supper gives the stylish case a run for its money.

Stacey

May 15, 2012 / staceyj

Unplanned Beauty: Herbs

I am a planner.  I have been for as long as I can remember.  My childhood was filled with elaborate plans for my Barbies’ futures and coursework for the imaginary students I taught in my small, fully-stocked classroom.  I make lists, I keep an up-to-date calendar and I plan our family budget at least a month in advance. I don’t even head to a restaurant spontaneously.  I look up the menu, read a few reviews and plug it into MapQuest just in case I may not know the fastest way to get there.  Sick, I know.  But when it comes to our garden each year?  I don’t plan a single thing.  Nothing.  Nada.  And it mystifies me.  Apparently when it comes gardening I throw caution to the wind.

As evidenced by our small herb garden.  As you can see we have three beautiful herb plants and one not-so-beautiful bare spot.  Work with me here.  Use your imagination and picture a lovely, delicious parsley plant front and center.

We are forever using popsicle sticks around this house:  plant markers, craft projects, puppets.  I am a huge fan of reusing what we already have and since I haven’t spent a dime on these I won’t be bummed when my son removes them and I find them instead stuck in a houseplant, in a candy dish or in his pockets after they have been washed and dried.

Sweet basil.  We use basil a lot in our Italian fare.  In fact some of these babies are heading into our dinner tonight.  Why am I whispering?  I’m not sure.  I guess I’m worried they’ll hear me.  I planted the basil facing north so it won’t shadow the other plants as it grows taller.

Cilantro!  My very favorite herb ever!  I love it in salsas, salads, Thai food, sandwiches, chocolate brownies, you name it.  C. and I are as close as a herb and a human can be.

Rosemary.  This woody herb finds its way into many a dinner around here.  Especially in recipes that have some poultry in the mix.  It is so fragrant and hardy.

I’m off to buy parsley and finish planting the rest of my very unplanned but always miraculously delicious garden.  The picture of the strawberries is a little preview of the rest of the controlled chaos.

What are your favorite herbs?  Are you a garden planner or do you free-wheel it like me?  If you are a planner, can you pray for me?  I could really use some divine intervention.

Stacey

May 10, 2012 / staceyj

Ms. M’s Famous Potato Salad

Moms. I have a dear one. I am one. I have friends who are ones too. I want to be a great one. I have a husband who has a lovely one. I am always trying to be a better one. Some days I feel like ‘Super Mom’. Most days I feel more like ‘Not So Super, Mostly Frazzled, Let’s Just Hug It Out Mom’. Except of course when I make this potato salad. Then I land squarely back in the super column.

This is the only potato salad I would eat when I was a kid. When I was younger I figured it was due to the fact that it was basically the only potato salad I had been exposed to. I grew up. I spread my wings and tried others. And as a woman squarely in her third decade of life, this is still the only potato salad I will eat. I do not practice diversity when it comes to the potato salad and I don’t plan to anytime soon.

This is a family recipe from my mom’s side of the family tree. My great grandmother created it, my grandmother perfected it, my mom taught me how to make it and I’m here to share it. Enjoy!

Ingredients
6 good size russett potatoes
6 eggs
8 sweet pickles, chopped medium
1/3 of an onion, chopped medium
3 tablespoons white vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
2/3 of a mayonnaise jar (30 fluid oz.)

Peel potatoes, quite possibly my least favorite food prep task in the whole culinary world.

I then chop my potatoes so they cook faster. Patience is not my virtue when I’m waiting to get that first bite of p. salad.

Add salt…

…and potatoes to the cold water.

Cook for 25 to 30 minutes until they pass the ol’ fork test. (Don’t start sweating. The fork test is not an actual test. Here are the Cliff Notes: The potatoes are done when a fork is easily inserted and removed from the cooked potato. And if you’re an A+ student and haven’t overcooked the taters, they also won’t break apart when you insert the fork.)

Meanwhile, we need to hard boil some eggs. Once again, fill a pot with cold water and sprinkle in a bit of salt.

Add the eggs.

Once they start boiling, cook the eggs for fifteen minutes. Put together a short tap routine set to the rhythm of the clink, clink, clink of the boiling eggs.

After your timer beeps, run the now-transformed, hard boiled eggs under cold water. Let them cool.

Chop the sweet pickles. When my husband first came on the scene he wasn’t a fan of pickles. So my mom, God bless her!, would make the p. salad without them. And I was like “Umm. How does this newbie rate changing a family legacy?” As soon as we said ‘I do’ the pickles were back in! For a few years he would graciously pick them out. Now? He eats them up just like the rest of us. My side dish assimilation plan is working. (Insert maniacal laugh here.)

Chop the onion too. Set aside.

Drain the cooked potatoes.

Mash potatoes with a hand masher. Go on! Put some muscle into it.

Add the onion,

the pickles,

the vinegar,

the mustard,

salt,

and pepper to taste.

Combine and then place in the fridge for 3o minutes.

Go outside to peel your hard boiled eggs. You know, just to be close to your family. And instead of enjoying family time while also peeling, periodically have to duck from random water gun assaults. In hindsight, just stay inside and peel in peace and quiet.

Chop all but one of the eggs.

Slice one egg to put on the top for ohh! and ahh! effect.

Pull the mixture out of the fridge and add mayo until you reach desired creaminess.

Fold in chopped egg.

And stir, baby, stir!

Place your sliced eggs on top. And if you have time, I like to put the completed salad back in the fridge to continue to cool. Cold potato salad tastes best.

Plan a barbecue (stat!) so you have an excuse to make this. And then make the salad, have ‘something’ come up and cancel the barbecue so you can eat the whole bowl yourself. Is that wrong? I feel like that may be wrong.

Stacey