My Advents and a Feature

We are feeling crummy over here this week. Cold weather is upon us. So is the HOLIDAY SEASON! EEK. I love this time of year. It seems like there are way more things I want to do than I’ll actually have time for. I always try to get my Christmas shopping done before Dec 1 so I can focus on all the things to do to celebrate this wonderful season.

This year, I purchased a really cute and fun advent calendar from Upon the Shelf. I don’t know if they are still selling it, but it was only $10 and I had to grab one.  It’s called “the perfect advent calendar”. Original, I know. It caught my attention because it has three parts: do it/make it, trust it, believe it. Each day comes with something to do or make, a scripture, and something to pray for. I love the idea of making Christmas all about how to celebrate the real reason for the season. I can’t wait to share some of the things we do with this calendar!

I’m also planning to add a couple more advents to my walls:
Found Here

 I love the idea of a felt Christmas tree that Eliza can decorate how she wants. To double as an advent? Doubly Awesome.

I love the cuteness of this calendar and that you can just print it off your computer. So many ways to use this…stay tuned:)  Download here
Of course, they aren’t going to be finished before Dec 1, BUT, they will be available for next year, and the next year, etc. 
Also, good news, I was featured! If you are in need of some serious inspiration, go visit Charlene at A Pinch of Joy.

Featured at apinchofjoy.com

Ready for December’s Menu?

Enchilada Casserole
Teriyaki Steak
BBQ Chicken Fingers
Garlic Chicken Spaghetti
Italian Sausage Pasta
Potato Carrot Soup
Asian Chicken Salad
Coconut Curry Chicken
Red Curry Pad Thai
BBQ Chicken Stuffed Potatoes
White Chicken Chili
Didn’t get to making these recipes from last month, so they’re back on the menu!
Ham and Cheese Sliders
Chicken Spaghetti
Orange Garlic Shrimp
Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Crab Chowder
Saucy Hot Dogs
Fiesta Ranch Chicken

Recipe Review

Thai Chicken Stir-fry with Coconut Rice–via Last Night’s Dinner

I’m loving all things Thai right now. Maybe it’s cause I’m craving the yummy spicy flavor to warm me up as the temperature continually drops. However, I was a little disappointed with this dish. It was yummy, but next time I’m definitely adding more red pepper flakes, more garlic, and definitely curry. It lacked robustness. Curry makes everything better anyway. Also, as much as I love coconut rice, this was a HUGE letdown. You couldn’t taste the coconutty flavor at all. Plus, it messed up my rice cooker because all the coconut milk cooked out of the rice all onto my rice cooker. Fail! 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge–via Sally’s Baking Addition

Doesn’t that look absolutely scrumptious? Once again I was let down by the deceiving nature of Pinterest. The only time I tasted Cookie Dough was when I ate a chocolate chip. It was waay to sweet and the texture was all off. I like fudge to be ooey gooey deliciousness. This was a confectioners sugar disaster! Bummer, I was so looking forward to eating cookie dough fudge. Guess I’ll keep looking for something that meets expectations!

Good thing I decided to skip trying new recipes for Thanksgiving and stuck to the oldies, but goodies:)

House Projects Completed

I made it through the weekend unscathed. My house survived, barely, and we got a couple more projects crossed off the miles long to-do list.

This holiday we:
Finished building the dining room table and bench
Put the Christmas lights up!

I have to tell you more about this dining room table. I wanted THIS Restoration Hardware table, but at $2295 starting price, I knew I couldn’t afford it in this house right now. I really wanted something at least 9′ long and to be solid wood and a trestle table design. I also wanted something that WASN’T espresso or black or cottage style. Can I tell you how hard it is to find something that doesn’t fit that bill? In fact, all I found were tables that were at least $1000. Just for the tables! In my dream world I can buy exactly what I like right off the shelf, but sadly, I have to face reality. I also knew that since I found my dream table, nothing else would do it for me. After coming across Ana’s plan, I knew I could “settle” for it! In fact, after seeing the price tag of $65, I KNEW I could settle for it and actually be EXCITED.

Wow. HOURS AND HOURS of work but I am sooo pleased. I haven’t stained and poly’d it yet, but it’s at least constructed. We used Ana White’s plan for her Fancy X Farmhouse table and bench. I know I don’t need to review how awesome her website is or that she just published her first book Handbuilt Home for you. My husband and I aren’t super wood building savvy, in fact, this was our first attempt at building something out of wood. Unless you count our cute little dollhouse we built for Eliza’s second bday, which I don’t since no screwing was involved.

The plans are pretty straightforward, although you have to spend some time going over her “getting started” tips and for the unskilled like us, understanding what “countersink these with 1 1/2″ pocket screws here” means. Regardless of breaking two bits or having to go buy two extra 2×4’s, the building went pretty smoothly. In fact, I’m pretty proud at how profesh it looks!

Building the table with my hubby was so much fun. We balance each other’s work styles pretty well. He’s very meticulous with details and is so worried about everything being perfect. I get so excited about finishing the project that I rush through it. We find that balance right in the middle where we were okay with it not being exactly perfect, but not a rush job. This table is so sturdy it’s not going anywhere. We broke it in hosting all 16 of my family members using it and I love it.

{ignore the photobomb–we just finished and I had to snap a pic. This is all I got during Thanksgiving}

Have any of you attempted a big DIY project doing something you know nothing about?

PROJECTS

I’m over my head in unfinished projects. Therefore, before I start anything else I must finish my current projects. Its been a whirlwind this past month as I’ve tried to adjust to a new routine. I live by a routine and WOW does moving throw it off!
Here is a little sneak peek into what I have going on. These are a preview of some upcoming posts!

Home projects completed:
Epoxy garage floor
Upholster entry bench
Hang blinds and curtains
Seal concrete and deck
Garage door opener and wireless keypad
Low voltage wiring
Bought rugs
Cabinet organization
Art nook
Pantry organization
New linens for bed

House projects in process:
Building our dining room table
Organizing linen closet
Stenciling curtains
Toy storage for Eliza
thrifted mirror

Christmas Present Projects:
Building an A-frame tent
Making matching pj bottoms
Making hair bows
Dipping spoons
Hot pads

Photography:
Editing newborn and hospital shoot
Family photo session

Not to mention I hosted my family for Thanksgiving! I mentioned last week I would tell you some of our family traditions. I thought we probably would have a lot of the same as everyone, but we  tried out some new things this year.

A Wii tournament, thankful fortune rolls, turkey bowl, and of course Black Friday.

Did you try anything new this year?
What projects do you have going on?

How to Meal Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide for Busy Moms

You all know how I love to Meal Plan and I can’t wait to show you what one of my friends has developed for you! Her advice is so intuitive and easy to implement! She easily breaks down the menu planning process into five steps and then provides all the resources to follow them.

What I loved about her ebook:
She gives you direct links within the pdf so you can easily go to the websites she references and I even found new awesome websites for new recipe ideas! She includes some coupon resources and you know I love my couponing! She provides some great downloadable and printable lists for menu planning and gives you ideas to implement it in your own home. I especially love that she shows you how to make menu planning work for your family; not just a generic formula. I’ve tried many of her recipes and they are sooo good. Remember THIS POST?
She includes at least 21 recipes throughout the book, but there were only 14 in one place and the others were scattered throughout the book; I’d rather have one place where I can reference them and see them all together. 

Because I know menu planning has changed my life and made it so much easier to think about dinner each night, I want YOU to enjoy these benefits too!!! You can purchase it by following the link on the left of my blog, or by going HERE.

For a limited time purchase your own ebook for only $4.99 by entering LAUNCH in the discount code at check-out through November. 

If you want to know more, or want to join a great community of moms trying to decrease dinner time stresses, visit http://www.facebook.com/HowToMealPlan

Recipe Review

Sausage and Egg Breakfast Casserole–via Six Sisters Stuff



You guys know that I’m a HUGE Six Sisters Stuff Fan, but for some reason, this recipe just didn’t do it for me. I know it looks delicious, and okay, the sausage was a yummy treat, but, it was only so-so. I think it was the bread. I HATE soggy bread and what happens when you soak bread in an egg and milk mixture? You get soggy bread. It was supposed to cook through so that the bread was more like french toast texture, but after an hour of cooking it STILL wasn’t stiff. I can’t handle waiting over an hour to eat breakfast! Especially after cooking up the sausage I just wanted to eat that with the eggs and be done. Next time I’ll just make a yummy omelet and cook up some sausage.

Stay tuned for some really exciting house stuff!

Busy, Busy, Busy

My two year old is crossing that toddler threshold. The one where all the toys she has are “boring” and the TV is better. The one where the toys at her friends’ houses are always better. The one where my house looks like a disaster as she goes from one room to another and I realize that this has become my life. As our family grows, no announcement or anything, it’s just going to get worse. *SIGH*. I love it:) 
I love hearing her sing in “mama’s bath” aka my shower.
I love that she mirrors everything I do, from dancing in the car to washing dishes. 
I love that she is so polite and says “peease” and “tank you”.
I love that she knows all the songs in nursery.
I love that she pretends to call daddy on her barrette phone.
I love that she still takes a 2 hour nap and sleeps 11 hours at night.
I love that she pretends to feed every baby a bottle or binky.
I love that she tries to say hard words like “pony” and “gymnastics” and I’m the only one who knows what she’s referring too.
I love that she always wants “a-noher boo”, oh! another book!
I love how she says “mommmmy” and “ma! ma! ma!” 
I love when she runs up to me for a kiss and expects one for every little ouchie.
I love that she wants to wear lipstick, even if it’s just a marker or mascara, or toothpaste.
I love that I get to hang out with her everyday.

With all that mushiness, I decided I needed something to help keep her busy. Well, a bunch of my friends thought the same thing and we organized a busy bag exchange. I KNOW, RIGHT?

It was AWESOME! Do you want to know how to do your own?? I’m your new best friend.

Step 1. Find a really organized friend to set up a spreadsheet sign-up where you can choose which fab idea to re-create from pinterest. See ours HERE. and the pinterest inspiration boards HERE and HERE.

Step 2. Set a deadline for sign-ups and propose an exchange date.

Step 3. Send out multiple emails saying how fabulous this is and how much fun we are going to have. AND make sure to give the final count of people participating so you know how many to make.

Step 4. Get a crafting. I worked with a friend and we busted out 30 popsicle puzzles and 30 paint chip matching sets. Phew!

Step 5. Meet together and take a little time to explain how the activity works. Eat lots of dessert. Talk a lot about things that have nothing to do with toddlers. 

Step 6. Go home, one step closer to remaining sane.

Here’s a couple of the ideas:





Color Wheel by Living Creatively




GeoBoards by Planet of the Apes





Build a Rainbow by All our Days









You seeing the amazingness of this idea? Here’s what I served up: 


My friend Alyssa is a fabulous food photographer and my mouth started watering just from the pic. I went out and bought the ingredients that afternoon. I forced myself to wait until I had to share them so I didn’t eat the whole pan.

The farm girl’s PB Pudding Cookies. I’m a sucker for peanut butter and reeses pieces. There was a time I couldn’t eat chocolate (it was a dark time of my life.) and I told myself reeses pieces really didn’t count! They are still a comfort food.

And I couldn’t resist making some Funfetti cake mix cookies. I know you prob have heard all about how easy and delicious these are. But. Like. Seriously. I. Could. Eat. Them. Every. Day.

With these sorts of desserts making a rampage across pinterestland, I’m surprised I still fit in my jeans. And we haven’t even reached holiday baking season. 

(random side note. go buy hoards of baking chips and evaporated milk and all sorts of baking things right now, like for a year because they are at an all time low!! I scored on Ghiradelli chips for less than a dollar a bag. Thank me later.)

(another random note. Love that chalkboard effect? Go visit Sweet C Designs for the Tute!)

Chicken, Bacon, Ranch Pasta

Nap-Time Creations

EEK another feature! I love nap-time creations! Make sure you check her blog out.

I have been having a blast with getting to know some blogger friends across the nation and you’ll never guess what pre-Holiday special they have going right now…A $400 giveaway! Plus, runner up prizes:)
Visit any of the following blogs to enter:
If you’re not already following them, DO! They have great crafting, decorating, and recipe ideas. 
I have loved reading everyone’s thankful posts and I’m afraid that’s just one more thing to do I feel at this moment…Not that I’m not thankful or anything. But, seriously? I’m in over-my-head with things to do. Maybe it’s because we are trying to build our dining table before we host my family for Thanksgiving? Or, maybe it’s because I’m hosting a busy bag exchange this week and there are 29 people involved. Or, maybe it’s that my husband was out of town last week, and is gone this week. I have made my life tooo busy. Exactly what I’ve been trying NOT to do? So, I am going to be thankful all in one post. You probably won’t see it until Thanksgiving. We are going to try something fun and exciting for sharing our thankful lists so I’ll let you know how it goes.
This recipe was pretty vague and I kind of fumbled through the directions, guessing at what to do. Maybe it was because I was in a rush, but really, whatever, this dish was soo good I stuffed myself and had to lie down and do nothing for the rest of the night. Genius.

First off, before you read on, you need to realize that I don’t really like bacon. WhaWhat? yes, I am not a bacon-lover. Maybe it’s because I equate it with the smell of grease wafting through the house and lingering for hours (or days) after. Oh! some of you like that? (ahem, hubby?) Not Me. I like smells like freshly laundered clothes, or my skinny dipping scentsy…I found a way to humor the bacon-lover husband by discovering pre-cooked bacon! Yes! I cheat and use it. It cooks in like 30 seconds and there is hardly any grease so you can barely tell I cooked it.

I ate TWO helpings of this. Yikes. I’m convinced you will not be satisfied with regular chicken alfredo after this. Sorry:)

Chicken and Bacon and Ranch Heaven in a Pasta Dish
–via Beyer Beware

Ingredients:
please note, I usually cook for two adults with enough for leftovers for lunch so I changed the amounts all up. I like to keep the original amounts for those who cook for kids and hubbys who actually eat:) My amounts are in the italics.

1 lb. bacon, fried and crumbled, grease saved or, 3-4 pieces pre-cooked bacon. Do this, trust me, your body will love you more.

2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 1 chicken breast
2 tablespoons of ranch seasoning, half a ranch seasoning packet
1 bell pepper, diced, half a bell pepper
2 clove garlic, minced, 1 tsp minced garlic. This is actually the same amount. I confess, I love garlic.
1 lb. bow tie pasta, cooked al dente, 1/4 lb 
2 jars of Alfredo sauce, 1 jar. Are you sensing my halving the recipe?
1/3 cup of evaporated milk or regular milk, a couple Tbs milk
3 roma tomatoes, diced, one roma tomato
4 cups shredded Italian cheese blend, a handful or two, or three, of mozzarella and parmesean cheese.
Directions:
1) Cook pasta to al dente. Drain. Put to the side until the chicken sauce is done.

2) While pasta is cooking, cook or heat up your bacon in a skillet. Once crispy, remove and set aside, reserving the small amount of bacon (or a lot if you used the real stuff. *shiver*.) When it cools, crumble.

3) Cut chicken into bite sized pieces and coat with some ranch seasoning. Coat the chicken well, but make sure you have enough to add later. Saute in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease (again, if you use pre-cooked bacon you won’t even have a teaspoon of left over grease) along with bell peppers and garlic.

3) When chicken is cooked completely, drain grease and liquid from skillet. (I skipped this step since there was so little grease.) Return chicken and veggies to skillet.
4) Pour one jar of Alfredo sauce and milk into skillet with chicken. Stir in one teaspoon of ranch seasoning. Simmer for five minutes.

5) Layer the casserole by first pouring an alfredo layer (from the jar), then the cooked pasta, followed by the chicken sauce, tomatoes, and cheese (like a handful?). Top it off with some bacon. 

6) Repeat Step 5. (You’ll now have a lasagna like layering of sauce, pasta, chicken with more sauce, tomatoes, cheese and bacon.)
7) Bake for 30 minutes on 350. (Or until it’s bubbly. Since mine wasn’t as large a dish it was done in about 20.)