Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Unique Advent Book

Do you celebrate Advent (a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth) in your family?  Growing up, my family always did Advent readings.  I remember at least one year where we got to do crafts as part of Advent, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I also enjoyed getting to light the candles!
One of my family's favorite Advent books is actually a storybook that directs you in reading aloud one chapter a day until Christmas.  This book is called Jotham's Journey, and it tells the story of a shepherd boy who encounters all kinds of adventures leading up to the birth of Christ.  It's very exciting and your family won't want you to stop at the end of each chapter!

You can find Jotham's Journey on Amazon. (And, there are two other books by the same author: Bartholomew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels for after you read Jotham's Journey.)

I want to hear from you...
How does your family celebrate Advent?

Peppermint Biscotti

Forget your preconceived notions that biscotti is difficult or time-consuming to make.  This recipe is so simple that it makes having biscotti with your coffee almost too attainable.  It is the perfect addition to a holiday party, so go make a batch right now!  Your guests will thank me.  Original recipe found here (pictures and instructions are my own).
Peppermint Biscotti

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
chocolate chips, optional
crushed peppermints, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Using parchment paper, line a baking sheet.  Beat together eggs, sugar, and peppermint extract.  Stir in the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Dough will be very stiff.  Divide dough into two parts and roll into rectangles 1/2 inch thick.  Rectangles should be approximately 9"x4".  Lay rectangles on parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, then cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (4 inches long) with a serrated bread knife.  Return to oven (with the cut sides laying up) and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.  Cool completely.  (Optional: Dip ends of biscotti in melted chocolate chips and roll in crushed peppermints.)

Like this recipe? Follow me so you never miss a new recipe post!
For more of our family's favorite recipes, click here.

For more posts from my Preparing for Christmas Week, click here!

Linked to:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Tuesdays at the Table
Tuesday Night Supper Club
Tasty Tuesdays
Tatertots & Jello
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Creating and Preserving Family Memories

I have wonderful memories of Christmas as a child.  I can remember decorating the tree as a family while listening to Christmas music and generally being goofy, drinking eggnog, decorating cookies, driving around and looking at Christmas lights, reading Advent books as a family, wearing special Christmas outfits, getting new pajamas, hanging up our handmade stockings, and so much more!  I'm sure you also have great memories from your childhood.
Christmas 2009

As our family grows, Tad and I want to have family Christmas traditions of our own.  We've already established several, but two words keep coming to mind as I think about creating memories as a family.  (I'm definitely talking to myself here!)

1. Spontaneity
Some of the best memories I have with my family (not just at Christmas) were spontaneous.  ("Let's go to Fresh Market and buy Christmas treats!"  "Let's make hot chocolate and go drive around and look at lights!" etc.)  I think being flexible enough (and not too busy) to jump in the car and go somewhere fun or drop what we're doing to make a yummy treat is really important.  We want our holiday season to be memory-rich, and if we're too busy checking things off a list to go look at how a child decorated their own personal Christmas tree in their room, something is wrong!  (P.S. Yes, we had our own little trees in our rooms growing up!) This year I've tried to get shopping done early and have a few things made ahead in the freezer so that I can be more spontaneous and fun.  Who wants to be the mom that says "no" to driving around and looking at Christmas lights because she is checking things off a list?  Not me!

2. Intentionality
You might think that spontaneity and intentionality are contradictory, but I don't think they have to be.  I think both are very important in creating Christmas memories!  Intentionality makes sure that fun traditions take place and memories are made.  For example, if you want to do an Advent reading every day as a family, that takes being intentional (as do larger projects, such as decorating gingerbread houses, stringing lights on the outside of the house, volunteering in the community, and hosting Christmas parties).  This year I have tried to be intentional in creating memories by writing down some of my goals for the season and things I hope we can do as a family.

As far as preserving memories goes, I have two suggestions.

1. Take lots of pictures!! 
Store them on the computer.  Print them out.  Blog them.  Scrapbook them.  Send them to grandparents.  Just take tons!  If you're using a digital camera, they are free... so why not take a bunch?

2. Keep a Christmas journal
I'm starting one this year!  Write about fun things you did as a family, gifts you gave one another, people you had over to your home, and funny stories from the holiday season.  Won't this be fun to look back on and pass on to our kids?

I want to hear from you...
-Is it easier for you to be spontaneous or intentional?
-What traditions do you enjoy as a family?
-What is one of your favorite childhood Christmas memories?
-How do you preserve your family memories?

Using a Christmas Planner

Back in July when I was hugely pregnant and needed something to do, I created a Christmas planner.  I have been using it since July to plan and prepare for this year's Christmas festivities!

I used a cheap composition notebook and covered it with scrapbook paper and embellishments.  I used small pieces of red paper stapled to the pages inside to form tabs separating each section.  I glued a December calendar inside the front cover, and envelopes for receipts inside the back cover. 

My sections are:
- events
- menus
- gift list
- shopping list
- card list
- to-do lists
- ideas/notes

Your sections might look different; do what works for your family!  You may not even want sections and prefer instead to brainstorm and plan in a totally blank notebook.

I think my favorite section is the "ideas/notes" tab because it has allowed me to jot down all of my random ideas in one place, so when I start planning a party, I have lots of games and other ideas to reference as a starting point.

This has been so helpful that I'm going to create one of these each year!
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Preparing for Christmas Week Begins Now!

In case you missed the memo, this week is Preparing for Christmas Week at Feathers in Our Nest!  I have all kinds of exciting things planned for this week, so I hope you are looking forward to it!
Here's what's in store (I'll update this post with links throughout the week):
- free Christmas printables
- an idea for an organized Christmas season
- how to create and preserve family memories
- recipe for a sweet treat
- a unique Advent book
- creative gift packaging
- Christmas breakfast ideas and recipes
- keeping kids entertained at Christmas gatherings
- a fun wreath you can make (PLUS a linky party to show off your own Christmas wreaths!)

Thanks for joining us this week!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-lah!

It's the day after Thanksgiving, so I can officially start listening to Christmas music without earbuds, and I can begin decorating!  I whipped up some "Keep Calm" printables and I'd thought I'd share them with you, my lovely readers!  Feel free to share them with others as long as you link back here.  :)

Enjoy!  (Click each image to enlarge; right-mouse click to save)
Next week is Preparing for Christmas Week at Feathers in Our Nest!  Here's what's in store:
- ideas for an organized Christmas season
- how to create and preserve family memories
- keeping kids entertained at Christmas gatherings
- table settings to suit any Christmas gathering
- Christmas crafts
- creative gift packaging
- of course, a Christmas recipe or two
- ...and more!

Preparing for Christmas Week at Feathers in Our Nest is November 29-December 3.

Linking to:
Join  us Saturdays at tatertotsandjello.com for the weekend      wrap    up           party!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

image source
Our pastor read this passage at our Thanksgiving service last night.

1 Chronicles 16:7-11
"That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the LORD in this manner: Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always." 

Have a wonderful, gratitude-filled Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Creative Guest Chef at UCreate Foods!

I am excited to tell you that I am a Creative Guest Chef over at Ucreate Foods today!  Ucreate Foods is an awesome blog and I've gotten some great ideas from it.

Today I'm sharing a special family recipe that is the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving meal.  Ours isn't complete without it!  Head over to Ucreate Foods to read my post!

SIMPLE Giveaway

Today on SIMPLE I'm reviewing and giving away a burp cloth set from Posh House Originals.  Keep it for yourself or give it to a friend!  Read my post here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Classic Margherita Pizza

"In 1889, during a visit in Naples, Queen Margherita of Savoy was served a pizza resembling the colors of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). This kind of pizza has been named after the Queen as Pizza Margherita." (Source)

I made Margherita Pizza last weekend, proving that just because it's a vegetarian dish does not mean it has to be boring!  This pizza is loaded with flavor and is warm and delicious.  Here's the recipe.

Classic Margherita Pizza

pizza crust (we made our own using our tried-and-true recipe)
olive oil
garlic, thinly sliced
one onion, sliced
salt & freshly ground black pepper
three tomatoes, sliced and cut in quarters
tomato sauce
fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
fresh basil leaves

Prepare your crust as directed (for our recipe, see here).  Saute garlic and onions in olive oil.  Add tomatoes and 1/2 to 1 cup of tomato sauce and season to taste with salt & pepper.  Spread sauce over pizza crust.  Top with mozzarella cheese and basil leaves.  Bake until crust is done and cheese is melted!


Like this recipe? Follow me so you never miss a new recipe post!
For more of our family's favorite recipes, click here.

Linked to:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Tuesdays at the Table
Tuesday Night Supper Club
Tasty Tuesdays

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Spirit of Homeschooling

image source

I just came across this wonderful post written by a friend who homeschools her sweet boys.  This, to me, really speaks volumes as to the true spirit of home education!  I hope that I can be like Davene and "not let school get in the way of learning."

Read her post here!

Menu Monday

Salmon Baked in Foil Packets with Green Beans and Pesto

Broccoli and Pesto Tagliatelle

Beef Stir Fry


Thanksgiving Day 2!

Crunchy Garlic Chicken, assorted vegetables, baked potatoes

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vera's Three Months Old!

Dear Vera,

Happy three months!  We'll never forget how precious it was meeting you for the very first time three months ago today.  You were so tiny then, and we have loved watching you grow!  You are getting to be more of an "arm-full" and soon I won't be able to carry you with just one arm.  You have the most beautiful blue eyes your Daddy and I have ever seen!  They are so big and blue.

We love making you smile and giggle.  You love it when we sing to you, especially when Daddy sings "Come Thou Fount" to keep you from crying.  You like it when we bounce you and carry you around while we do things around the house.  You love being smack-dab in the middle of everything we're doing!

You love it when we read to you.  You seem to enjoy looking at the pictures already.  We hope you'll love reading as much as we do!

You have lost your newborn cry, and you definitely look like a baby, not a newborn now.  You still have almost all of your hair, except for a little bald patch in the back. (We think it's pretty cute!)

We love playing games with you and cuddling with you.  You are so beautiful and precious to us!  Everyone who meets you tells us how pretty and sweet you are.

We love you and are so thankful for you!

Mommy & Daddy

Food Choices

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Yesterday I watched the documentary called Food Inc.  The film opens with the statement: "The way we eat has changed more over the last fifty years than in the previous ten thousand."

As I mentioned recently, we are starting to consider more thoughtfully what food we are putting into our bodies.  What does this mean on a practical basis?  It means less processed food, more real food, no fast food, more good food.  It means cooking from scratch more and trying new recipes that incorporate a greater variety of foods.  And of course, it means reading food labels!  At the same time, we are still on a tight budget, so it means spending the same (or less) than we have been.

Some things that have inspired us:
- 12 Best Foods Cookbook (mentioned in this post)
- Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (watch it on YouTube)
- Jamie's Food Revolution (cookbook - borrowed from the library)
- Food Inc. documentary (watch it on Netflicks)
- 100 Days of Real Food (blog)

So I want to hear from you...
- Have you made any food choices for your family for health reasons (other than allergies)?
- Do you eat processed foods?  Only real foods?  (Real food defined here)
- What do you think about organic food?
- Do you completely avoid certain things, such as refined sugar or meat?
- Do you have any tips for staying within budget while still eating healthy?

Looking forward to a great discussion!

Linking to:
Windy Poplars

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vera: Thirteen Weeks

How to Make Your Home Smell Uh-mazing!

I love walking into someone's home that smells aaaaamazing, don't you?  Here are a few easy ways to help yours smell delicious!
image source

1) Light candles!  Not only do they add visual warmth, but they smell great!  Don't be afraid to mix scents as long as they complement each other (apple spice candle + creamy french vanilla candle = apple pie a la mode) and they don't become overwhelming. 
image source

2) Simmer spices on the stove.  Earlier this week I simmered a pot of water with orange peel, cinnamon, and cloves.  It smelled fantastic!

3) Bake something.  Bread, cookies, pie... all of the above.  You don't have to eat it yourself - take a batch of cookies to a friend or neighbor!  But you get to enjoy the pleasant aroma that lingers in your home.

How do you make your house smell great?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Morning Cleaning Routine

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I didn't sit down one day and think, "I should establish a morning cleaning routine," but over the last several months, one has emerged (by the grace of God).  It is how I keep my house in relatively good order, and it's how I maintain my sanity if I get little else done in the day besides nourishing my sweet baby.

My intent in posting this is to encourage you as you manage your own home, and to give you a few ideas that might be helpful.  Your routine will probably look much different than mine, and mine will probably look much different in a year!

This routine is my "ideal routine," so it rarely looks as perfect and streamlined as this, but it's my goal!

The Night Before
Yes, my morning routine starts at night!  The last 30 minutes of Vera's day (before her bedtime ritual begins) are Daddy Time.  Tad holds her during this time and often reads and/or sings to her.  While they're having Daddy/Daughter time, I use that time to finish up some tasks.  I finish folding and putting away laundry, hang cloth diapers to dry, wash up any remaining dishes, straighten the kitchen, pick up the living room, lay out Vera's pj's, and generally straighten other things in the house that need it. 

The Next Morning
As soon as I get out of bed, I make it (if not immediately, then shortly after...unless I'm washing the sheets that morning).  I pick up clothes on the floor and throw them in the hamper, and straighten books/etc. on our nightstands.
After washing my face, I straighten the bathroom (hang up towels, put things away, refill toilet paper, wipe down the sink, etc.).  If I'm feeling especially ambitious (or, about once a week), I'll sweep the floor, clean the toilet with white vinegar, and thoroughly clean the sink and mirror.
As I walk to the kitchen, I'll grab a load of laundry from the bedroom and throw it in the washer.  I feel like if I start the day with a load of laundry, I end up being much more productive overall during the day!
While my oatmeal is cooking in the microwave, I'll put away dry, clean dishes that I washed the night before.  Since I straightened up the night before, putting away the dishes gives me a completely clean kitchen!  I'll scan the menu to see if I need to defrost anything for dinner.  If I'm feeling especially ambitious, I'll sweep the floor or start cooking something (soup, etc.).
Living Room
This room shouldn't be too out of order since I straightened the night before, but I'll scan the room for anything that needs to be put away, or for baby laundry (burp cloths, etc.) that needs to be washed.
Blogging (I know, not cleaning...)
I try to schedule blog posts the night before (sometimes I pre-schedule a week's worth on the weekends) so I don't have to do that first thing in the morning.  Other days, I'm not so well-prepared, so I write a post and get it up on the blog.

So that's my basic morning cleaning routine!  Sometimes I get most of it done before Vera wakes up (rarely), sometimes she "helps" me (I've learned to do lots of things with just one hand), and sometimes (most of the time) I put her in her swing (which she loves) while I get these things done.

Three other things that help me:
-If it's open, close it.  This applies to closet doors, cabinets, drawers, etc. and helps make my home look neater!
-Never walk out of a room empty-handed.  There's almost always something that needs to be put away in another room!
-Don't "stand around" in the kitchen.  Always do something productive while you're waiting!  Wash/put away dishes, sweep, clean out the fridge, whatever.  Just don't waste time while waiting.

Do you have a morning/daily cleaning routine that works for you?

Linking to:
Works for Me Wednesday

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Whole Wheat Bread

My mom makes the best whole wheat bread!  Because whole wheat bread is SOOO good for you, I've been trying to make it more!  (It's also delicious.)  Here is the easy recipe.

Whole Wheat Bread

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. brown sugar (note: I now use sucanat)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. gluten
1 Tbsp. dough enhancer
3 1/2 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour

Combine all ingredients.  Let rise in bowl in a warm place for 45 minutes.  After that, punch dough down and shape into a loaf.  Place in a greased bread pan and split the top with a floured knife.  Spray with cooking spray, cover with  plastic wrap, and place in the fridge.  Let rise in the fridge for 2 hours (or overnight is fine too, if you want to bake in the morning).  Place pan on top of the stove while the oven preheats.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. 

Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then promptly remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.  When cool, slice and enjoy!

Like this recipe? Follow me so you never miss a new recipe post!
For more of our family's favorite recipes, click here.

Linked to:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Tuesdays at the Table

Monday, November 15, 2010

SIMPLE Giveaway

This week on SIMPLE I'm giving away a Bunvelope from the Buti-Bag Co.!  Go here to read my review of the Original Bundle, and enter to win a Bunvelope!

The 12 Best Foods

I've been reading a cool cookbook (yes, I read cookbooks for fun...) called 12 Best Foods Cookbook.  I checked it out from the library, but you can also get it on Amazon.

According to this book, the twelve best foods are:
  • blueberries
  • black beans
  • sweet potatoes
  • oatmeal
  • salmon
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • tomatoes
  • chocolate
  • walnuts
  • soy
  • onions
We eat  2/3 of those foods regularly (and there's only one that we never eat), and I'm going to start trying to incorporate even more of them into our daily diet.  I've been doing a lot of reading lately about real food and healthy eating, so there are going to be some big changes around here soon!  Yep, a mini food revolution is coming to Feathers in Our Nest!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Houdini Girl

I love Miracle Blankets.  They definitely (in my opinion) played a part in Vera sleeping so well so early on.  HOWEVER, my dear darling has recently learned to work her way out of hers!  For those of you who don't know, Miracle Blankets keep babies swaddled much more securely than a typical swaddling blanket. Please watch the video to see what I'm talking about.

Okay... so here's an action shot of her trying to get free.

And here she looks like, "Ooops... you caught me!"
Perhaps there is an escape artist career in her future?

P.S. I still really love the Miracle Blanket and would highly recommend it to anyone!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vera: Twelve Weeks


Here are a few bonus pictures today (sorry - couldn't resist!):
Limited edition prints are selling out; get yours today! ;) jk

Chicken Pot Pie

I love easy, homestyle meals like chicken pot pie.  I used this pie crust recipe, but for the filling I created my own recipe.  Adjust the amounts to suit your tastes and family size!  The crust is buttery and flaky, and the filling is flavorful and delicious!

Flaky Buttermilk Pie Crust

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
3 Tbsp. cold butter
1/4 cup buttermilk (or use lemon juice to sour milk)
2 tsp. oil

Whisk together flour and salt. Cut in shortening and butter with a pastry cutter until course crumbs form.  Stir in buttermilk and oil and mix until moistened.  Form two balls and chill before rolling out and using.  Makes one double pie crust.

Chicken Pot Pie

boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used two large)
salt, pepper, bay leaf
mixed vegetables (I used broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and corn)
potatoes, chunked
cream of chicken soup (I used one can fat-free)
reserved broth from cooked chicken (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
milk (about 3 Tbsp.)
seasonings (I used chicken bouillon, salt, pepper, and garlic powder)

Cook chicken breasts in water on the stovetop, seasoning with salt, pepper, and a bay leaf.  Reserve liquid.  Cut chicken into small chunks.  Steam veggies.  Cook potatoes.  Combine chicken, veggies, potatoes, cream of chicken soup, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of reserved broth, and 3 Tbsp. milk and stir.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chicken bouillon powder.

Roll out bottom pie crust and place in dish.  Dump in filling mixture.  Roll out top crust and place on top, decorating/crimping as desired.

As you can tell, this was my first homemade pie crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  My pie made 8 slices, which for us was 4 servings.

Like this recipe? Follow me so you never miss a new recipe post!
For more of our family's favorite recipes, click here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Planet Wise Wet Bag Review on SIMPLE

I'm reviewing a Planet Wise wet bag today on SIMPLE!  (FYI, wet bags are NOT just for cloth diapering moms!)  Go read the review and enter for a chance to win your own.

Also, later today on SIMPLE I will be announcing the winners of the Lots to Say Baby and Hoot Design Co. giveaways.

Cake Pedestal on One Kings Lane

I know you're totally sick of hearing about One Kings Lane, but I just have to share this find:
I just ordered this BIA Cordon Bleu Cake Stand using credits I earned.  I can't wait to get it!  Think of all the ways it can be used... during the holidays or otherwise!  I know they'll sell out fast, but if you hurry you might snag one.  The small ones are just $12, the medium ones are $15, and the large ones are $25.

I'm not sure if they're still doing it, but you might get a $15 credit if you sign up with my referral link.  (Maybe you already have the $15 credit and are waiting to spend it.) That would make the small or medium stands FREE!

A Pizza in Your Pocket

On Sunday afternoon, Tad spent some time in the kitchen making pocket pies!  (He also made dinner the following night.  Guess we should watch cooking shows more often!)  Here's his account of how things went down.

I used an Alton Brown recipe for my pocket pies (well, the dough; I made up the fillings myself).  I started by mixing the ingredients in the bowl.  Then I kneaded the dough.  My wife said I was punching it instead of kneading it, but it still turned out okay.  Then I rolled out the dough and cut circles out with a glass.
I rolled out each round into a flat disc.  Then I filled each pocket pie with ingredients.  I made pizza ones using leftover spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese, and bacon bits.  I also made some breakfast ones with blueberry preserves.  I folded over one half of the dough to form a pocket, sealed with an egg wash, and crimped the edges with a fork.  I pan fried the pies in butter in a cast-iron skillet, but if I had it to do over again I would bake them in the oven instead because it is a lot of work to pan fry them and it doesn't add that much flavor.
The pizza pocket pies turned out very tasty!  None of them exploded while cooking, which can happen if they are overfilled.
The blueberry breakfast ones exploded, but they still tasted fantastic.
Complete recipe here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pink Bathroom Wall Art

I added a few framed pieces of art to my wall in our guest bathroom. (Vintage floral wallpaper came with the house.)
I downloaded the vintage art from Vintage Printable and framed it in wooden dollar store frames.

For more pictures of our house, view our house tour.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Freezer Cooking Weekend (November) - Results

So I didn't get as much freezer cooking accomplished as I had planned (I have been battling mastitis this weekend), but here is what I did get done:

- Angel Rolls - double batch (about 6 1/2 dozen rolls)
- Cranberry Orange Bagels - double batch (18 bagels)
- Pumpkin Spice Bagels - double batch (18 bagels)
Maybe I'll get to my sweet potato casseroles this week!

P.S. Making bagels was totally fun and easy!  You should definitely try it if you never have.
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