Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stuff That Saves My Life

It's no secret that we're busy.  Truly, who isn't busy!?

This is a collection of some of the resources I have come to depend on to help me manage the chaos and make more time for F-U-N.  Cause, honestly, I like to have life at least somewhat in order so I can really indulge in the fun.

My latest find is {Relish!}  I went out looking for an alternative when our Super Suppers shut down.  I'd just started using Super Suppers and was pretty thrilled with how easy it was to have dinners at home every night.  If you didn't follow me in that tragedy, basically the story is this... I ordered enough for a month.  Loved every minute of it and told all my friends.  I went back the next month to order more and they'd disappeared, shut down, closed up shop!  I was devastated!  I didn't know what to do, so I attempted to duplicate the process at home.  That was a TON of work!  The food was delish, but too much work.  So, one day on the bus, I was surfing for alternatives and came across this gem... Relish!

They offer 15 different menu choices for your fridge each week and a collection of freezer items, too.  You select up five of each.  They include an entree and a side dish.  You plug in the quantity of people you are cooking for and press a button... out pops a PDF that has a grocery list that is divided up by store catagories, easy to follow recipes, and labels with reheating instructions for the freezer items.  What?!?  It takes all the brainwork out of planning... I love that!

But wait, it gets better!  They have an app!  It's web-based so it automatically syncs with what you do on the website.  (Which also means I can plan the menu and let Jeremy log in to the account for the shopping list at the store.  What now?!)

In my opinion, this is one of the coolest sections... "This and That" it offers all kinds of party menu ideas and even some fun Dinner and Movie night themed menus for a movie night at home!

If you decide to try Relish!, be sure to tell them I told you about it, please.  :)

Next up is the {FlyLady}... She has really saved my thinking about how to keep a home.  The biggest lesson for me is that it doesn't have to be done perfectly to be worth doing, meaning it's better to do a little at a time than none at all!  She teaches her readers how to implement routines to stay on top of home-keeping tasks.  I'd recommend reading her book, {Sink Reflections}, before subscribing to her on her website or Facebook.  Reading her philosophy in the order it comes in the book really helps to make the principles sink in better.
If you saw our {Routines and Chore Charts}, those were inspired by her.  Even Lexi knows her routines by the little pictures I included for her.  :)

If there's one thing I know I can't live without it's my iCal, which is synced with Jeremy's iCal.  The instant one of us enters a new event, it updates both calendars.  How cool is that?  We keep the entire family's schedule in one portable place.  It's fantastic!  We can see how potential plans and activities affect the rest of the family and set reminders for ourselves.

When I decide to step it up a notch, I go to the {Mommy Tracked Toolbox}.  There are all kinds of free organizational downloads.  My favorite is this...
It lets me post our plans for the week for everyone to see... including the kids' activities (and notes about what they need to remember for school!), dinner plans, and other ToDo items.  It helps for keeping Justus and our nanny up-to-date on what's happening with the Williams.

So, there ya go... a few things I use that give me more time for the important things, like family and FUN!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Having Ourselves a Merry Little Christmas

Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.  In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.  ~Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas

There is more decorating to be done!

Mi Case Tour: Volume 2, The Entry and The Dining Room

The Mi Casa Tour continues, however this time we're starting in a more appropriate place... the front door!  Wecome, we're glad you're here.  Hope you can stay a while.

As you can see, it is adorned with a "proper wreath" for Christmas.  The {Living Room} is straight ahead and the Dining Room is to the left. 

This is a parson's bench that was given to us by our friends, the Nohrs.  It houses many of our fun board games and also serves as a time out bench.  Straight down that hallway is The Master Suite and The Powder Room.  (Be patient, we'll get there in another post! ;)  )
Our entry table.  Love the bins in this piece because they are a great place to catch all kinds of items.  Down the hall on the right is The Kitchen, which we will see at a later date.  The decorations on here are kind of fluid.  I haven't felt like they are "done" yet, so I keep reworking them and obviously still have a little more space available.  I'm thinking it needs a plant or flowers to give it more life... I do like it as it is, but haven't deemed it complete yet!

View from the balcony above.

There's a collection of cherished family photos on the stairway.  I love the banister, too... it's so pretty!

A perfect dance floor, no furniture removal required.  Confession:  I cried some happy tears the day Jeremy was passing me in the entry and stopped me for a quick dance.  I was so thrilled with just how perfect it is!  It gets used... the occasional waltz or salsa, a little breakdancing with the kids, practice stage for Justus' We Love America program, etc.  That makes me super happy!

Perspective from The Living Room.  Cozy, huh?
The Dining Room is home to our Gathering Table.  There is tons of room on this table and I'm amazed at how I can fill it up with food some nights!  It's perfect for dinner with four couples.  We're learning how to make it work better with the little ones... passing food can be tricky.  I've always thought an oversized lazy susan might be extremely useful here, but not enough to actually get one!

One day I got a little spray paint happy and started altering some of the decorations I'd had around my house.  I like the off-white theme and plan to add more to the whole unit to tie it all together.  The indirect lighting at the ceiling is a pretty cool feature, as are the built-in speakers.

Jeremy built these picture frames for me.  Love my handyman!  My sister, Jill, had a pair of these candle holders made and gave them to me.  I love how they look and the warmth that candles on the wall bring into the room.

Last view of The Dining Room.  I really like the plantation shutters on the front of the house.

We're hosting the Soup and Salad Course for a Progressive Dinner with our friends on Thursday evening, so all this is getting a Christmas makeover this week.  Pics to come!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Day in Photos

Sweet nephew
So thankful to be her mama!
Watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade... it's the little things.
The table is set.

Cousins!  We love our "Give Thanks" T's, Meredith!

Dinner is served!

Apple Sausage, Cranberry, and Cornbread Stuffing
Green Beans with Bacon
Carmelized Sweet Potatoes
Whole-Wheat Buttermilk "Thankful" Rolls with Rosemary
Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

Apple Pie by Granda Ogle
Most of the photos were taken by my sister-in-law, Steph.  Check out her blog.

I am beyond blessed!  Every day, I think of at least one if not a thousand ways I feel lucky because I'm fairly certain I don't deserve the life I've been given.

Christmas in the Air

It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.  ~W.T. Ellis

We took Chris and Steph out to visit longtime friends, the Smith Family, and spend a little time at
The Holiday Acres Christmas Tree Farm in Manvel.  As with all of the trips we've made out to the farm, we had a blast!  The weather was simply gorgeous for spending a Saturday outside and a wonderful spot to put ourselves in the Christmas spirit.

When we pulled up, the place was hoppin'.  I have never in my life seen such a busy Christmas Tree farm!  But there were plenty of willing hands to help and tons of things to do there. 

We took a hayride out into the fields.  The trees looked great!

The kiddos took part in some Texas-style sledding on the sand pile.

Justus had to show off some of his daredevil moves!

Brother and sister playing together.

After that, they spent some adventurous time climbing around on the tops of the large round hay bales. We chatted with our friends and sipped some hot cocoa and apple cider.

We came home with a proper fresh wreath for the front door!  Love it!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Chris, Stephani, and my sweet nephew arrived safely yesterday afternoon.  Everyone is happily adding what they are thankful for as leaves to our Thanksgiving Blessing Tree.  Lexi needs me to help her add "Butterfly Kisses" this morning.  How precious is that?!?

As I told you before, I'm so excited about a normal Thanksgiving.  I'm delighting in our very vanilla Thanksgiving plans.  Parades and cooking.  The kids have Give Thanks T-shirts thanks to my sweet friend, who screenprinted them for us.  (If you pray, would you take a second and pray for her family this Thanksgiving?  Her five month old boy has RSV and her mom is really having a hard time recovering from her last chemotherapy treatment.  They will be skipping Thanksgiving this year.  That's a lot for one mama, so she is definitely on my mind today!)  Once the kids are dressed, I can get some pics posted.

Justus and I had to run to the grocery store last night (see story under Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake below).  We looked all over for Thanksgiving napkins to no avail.  It occurred to me that I might have purchased some last year on clearance and stashed them away.  Justus was pretty sure I hadn't done that, so a bet ensued.  It appears that I'll be the recepient of a 30 minute massage, including hands and feet (Justus' idea, not mine) AND I'll have cute napkins on my table today.  Love that kid! 

Speaking of the table... It's incredible how much effort can go into one meal!  Not only is the exertion immense, there is much passion around what must be on the table or it's not Thanksgiving.  What are your deal-breakers?  Mine are pretty basic... I must have turkey and mashed potatoes.  With Thanksgiving staples like that, I'm generally a pretty happy customer!

So what's on your table?

Our Thanksgiving Menu:

Roast Turkey with Prosiutto, Rosemary,and Garlic

Easy Gravy
not easy, as in warm it out of a jar, but pretty easy

Apple Sausage, Cranberry, and Corn Bread Stuffing
my first attempt at real, homemade stuffing!

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Green Beans with Parmesan Bacon
calling an audible on this one.

Carmelized Sweet Potato Wedges

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Rolls with Rosemary
these will be "Thankful Rolls".  We're going to bake them with a small piece of paper wrapped in foil baked inside that has a sentence starter about what or why you're thankful for various people or things.  The kids are going to love it!

Apple Pie by Grandma Ople

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake
I baked it and just as I was pulling the gorgeous dessert from the oven, the bottom of the springform pan collapsed up and the entire pie dumped in the bottom of my oven.  Another trip to the grocery store and another baking session later, a Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake sits proudly in my spare refrigerator.  And my little brother, who happens to be a cheesecake fanatic, is extra loved today!

And I'm pretty pumped about make some Creamy Turkey Soup with Cheddar Dill Biscuits out of the leftovers!  Sounds delish.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting My Craft On

I am sooo making a Faux Curled Rosewood Wreath!

It will be perfect on my front door right after the Christmas wreath comes down... but my Christmas wreath won't make it's debut until after Thanksgiving this year.  (Thanksgiving, I'm committed to you this year!  No skipping over you, PROMISE!)  And I love the $1 pricetag!  This should make up for the $40 in supplies I spent on my shameless copycat of Meredith's copy (did you ever finish it, Hon?) of Tatertots and Jello's Modern Fall Wreath that was a take off of  Amy Butler's door in Mary Englbreigt Home Companion Christmas Magazine!  (And isn't it so funny how we all learn from each other, but put our own fingerprints on what we do?  I love it!)  But it turned out oh-so-cute, at least I think so!

I'm also making some decorative clipboards.  I've started one for each member of the family to hold our routines and the kids' chore charts.  I chose legal sized clipboards so that some of the decoration could hang down below the papers.  We were pretty well on track with our routines at the beginning of the school year, but having them posted in the kids' rooms made it harder to enforce.  So, the new clipboards will find a home in the laundry room near the kitchen and hopefully will add some new life to structure and routine at our house!

I'll show you their routines and chore charts.  I plan on laminating them and use Vis-a-Vis markers to check them off each week, so we can be just a little greener!

Guess I'd better finish up those two projects before I start working on the other ones floating around in my head.  Oh, that reminds me!  Maybe Justus' "10 Things I Love About You" album arrived in the mail.