Monday, November 28, 2011

How lovely are thy branches....


We finally got to set up our Christmas tree tonight!  This is the first Christmas since 2008 that we were able to set our tree up as a family; last year we were in the process of moving to North Dakota so we spent Christmas in Utah with family.  The year before that, Brandon was deployed to Iraq, so Piper and I set it up with my mom when she came to help me out with Beckett (he was born that Halloween). 


It went considerably better than I expected!  Beck really got into it, which was awesome. I was expecting him to have more fun taking ornaments off than putting them on.  He was really excited about the set of Spongebob ornaments my aunt and uncle had given to Piper a few years ago! 



He also really loved the lights; he kept saying "Pweey!" (pretty) and just barely touching the bulbs with his fingertips. 


 Piper was a sweetheart as usual...so patient with her brother, even when he kept moving the ornaments she had hung. 


She's growing up so fast.  I know everyone says that, but honestly it seems like she's gone from this little preschooler that couldn't even spell her last name to a big kindergartner that's reading so quickly. Sometimes it makes me sad, but then I realize how much more we can do together now that she is older and I love it.  I can't wait till she's old enough to teach to crochet! 


This ornament is from our very first Christmas tree as a family; it was a Charlie Brown tree for sure, and we were so broke I had to make most of the ornaments.  I loved it though, and I want to make sure we keep this ornament on our tree every year as a reminder of how far we have come as a family. 


Daddy picked Piper up so she could put the star on the top of the tree. 

This is probably my favorite photo of the night, even though it's a bit out of focus.  Seeing the kids interact so sweetly with eachother makes me *so* happy.  They have such a great relationship...I know it won't last forever, and that screaming contests are coming quicker than I can believe, but for now, this sweetness is so amazing. 



We had a great night, and the tree is gorgeous.  I'm definitely hitting the after-Christmas sales to get a bigger one though; I forgot how small this tree was! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend.

My Thanksgiving weekend went from being insanely hectic to superrrrr boring pretty quickly!  As I mentioned in a previous post, we hosted Thanksgiving dinner for a few of our friends; it turned out great and we all had a really good time together!  All of the food came out delicious, except for the sweet potatoes.  I'm honestly not that much of a fan of sweet potato casserole anyway, so I'm not sure why I put it on the menu...but using canned yams just made it worse.  So mushy and sweet and just yuck. 

I did, however, use a turkey roaster for the first time...which I LOVED.  It made finishing all of the food at the same time a zillion times easier, since I had the oven free all day!  It is a huge honking guy though...took up a lot of my counter space. 


That's it up there on the right.  I got a great deal though; only $27 at Target!  It seriously was a huge lifesaver, AND as an added bonus, the turkey came out ridiculously moist and delish.  The roaster is basically just a giant crockpot, so I'm positive we'll use it more often than just on Thanksgiving.  I'm thinking a big pot full of chili for a superbowl party, warm cider for Halloween parties, even pot roasts at home!  I love it :) 


The apple pie and cranberry sauce came out fantastic as well. I finished off the last slice of apple pie for breakfast this morning (shhhh!) and dipped a turkey sandwich in cranberry sauce for lunch!  Best part about Thanksgiving weekend is the leftovers, by far...although this year they're seriously sabotaging my diet.  I ended up with over a thousand calorie deficit on Thanksgiving, thanks to all the cooking, but I definitely have not had that much of one the rest of the weekend.  I have a Body Media Fit armband that monitors my calorie burn (among other things), so it really helps with dieting and weight loss.  This is what my Thanksgiving stats looked like:



I'm not sure if the calorie intake is correct, since I didn't take the time to input the actual recipes I used (just chose entries from the system's options).  I do know I did not eat 3000 calories, so I feel pretty good about the actual holiday itself :).  It's kind of insane to think that if I hadn't eaten a thing that day, I would have lost almost an entire pound just by cooking all day. 


I'm really disappointed with the lack of pictures I took on Thanksgiving. I didn't even get a picture of all the food, or *any* of my family and friends!  Taking pictures at special events is something I really need to work on; I take tons of pictures on normal days, but zero on holidays or birthdays or date nights.  

How was your holiday?  Any turkey-dinner catastrophes? 


Friday, November 25, 2011

Small Business Saturday!

I have some great news!  I've decided to participate in Small Business Saturday this year (which is TOMORROW), and I've figured out a great deal for all of you!  Small businesses are something I'm growing to appreciate more and more as the years go on; yes, I still shop at Target probably a little too often, but I really do think it's so important to support our small business owners, both those with an actual store and those who sell online!  It breaks my heart to see walk through the mall and see so many stores "copying" artists and crafters who put so much hardwork and love into their goods, especially when it comes to crocheted items!  I can't even count the times I've seen a necklace or a hat or a piece of home decor that I recognize from browsing the online handmade marketplace months or even years prior.  It's obvious it's the big box stores copying the artist, as the quality is severely lacking.

When you're purchasing something a big box store is trying to pass off as handmade, not only are you spending your money in the wrong place, you're getting an inferior product.  They're sloppily made, they won't last as long, and I guarantee you'll be one of thousands that own the same exact thing.  The biggest thing I've noticed recently is obviously the one that affects me the most: animal hats.  They're EVERYWHERE.  JCPenneyHot TopicChildren's PlaceSears.  Sure, it's easier (and sometimes cheaper) to just walk into any of those stores and purchase the hat you want.  But is it really a better deal?  

Buy a hat from me and you know you're getting a hand crocheted hat that will last longer than your kids will be able to fit into it.  You get to choose every single color that goes into your hat, too!  Want a grey dino hat with lime green spikes? No problem!  Want a pink teddy bear hat with purple ears? You got it!  Your little one loves chocolate brown and teal? So do I! 

And really, when it comes down to it, would you rather put one of the hats I linked to above on your little one, or this one:



Or how about this one:



Or maybe even this one :







I'm not asking you to shop exclusively small business...I promise you I don't.  I finished up the kids' Christmas shopping this morning at Walmart and Target, as a matter of fact.  What I'm asking is to give small businesses a chance; TRY to buy handmade first.  Take a look around Etsy or Artfire or Storenvy. Visit a local craft show.  Take a walk down main street and visit the local shops in your town.  I guarantee your Christmas gifts will be the most original and the most appreciated, both by you and the person you purchased them from. 

As a sort of incentive to support small businesses, many of us have come up with some special deals for tomorrow, Small Business Saturday. I'm one of them :) 

For the rest of the weekend, use coupon code: iheartsmallbusiness to save 10% off every single thing in the store from now through Sunday, November 27th.  You can only use this coupon once, so make sure you've put everything you want in your cart before checking out.  I spent more hours than I care to think about adding every single thing I currently have photos for in my shop, so it's all there and ready for you.  I split the sizes up into individual shop sections, so just click on the size you're looking for over on the right side and you'll see the available hats. 

AND, to make things even more exciting for you, I will give you a $1 gift certificate to my shop for up to 10 reciepts you email me showing you have supported a small business this weekend.  It can be a forwarded paypal invoice, a photo of a reciept from a mom and pop restaurant, a print-screen of an artfire or etsy invoice...whatever. Something to show me you supported a small business at some point this weekend. 

Email your proof to me at sophie040384 at gmail dot com and I will create a gift certificate for you (it's all done electronically through artfire, so you will get an email Monday morning with your gift certificate info).  I absolutely will not take any more reciepts after midnight Sunday, November 27th, and will tally them all up and email out certificates Monday morning. 

And please, share this post with all of your friends and family!  It is so, so, SO important we support our small business community, especially in rough economic times like these.  Your purchases may very well make the difference between ramen noodles or roast chicken and rice for dinner for many families. 


Monday, November 21, 2011

Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving grocery list

Thanksgiving is only three days away, and I *finally* finished my menu last night!  I look forward to cooking Thanksgiving dinner every year...I love to cook and really get into all the shopping and planning and organizing aspect of putting a delicious Thanksgiving dinner on the table!  We always invite at least one person over; I tell my husband it's because they probably don't have anywhere else to go (it's usually one of our single friends), but really, it's because I want an excuse to make lots of veggie dishes!  My husband would be thrilled if I threw a turkey breast, a bowl of mashed potatoes, gravy, and store bought rolls and pumpkin pie on the table.  He's so picky!  So I invite people over and use them as an excuse to cook everything else. 

This year, we're sharing our dinner with 8 friends.  My poor neighbor, Jackie, has three kids all under the age of 7 and is due with their fourth child in 3 weeks...so the five of them are coming over with macaroni and cheese and some cookies.  My husband also invited one of his friends from work, so he and his wife will be coming too.  Last but not least, my dear friend Tom will be joining us!  I've known Tom for 10 years now; we actually went to high school together at RAF Lakenheath, England!  I ran into him at Marketplace Foods here in Minot, North Dakota...talk about a small world. 

I thought I'd share my menu here with you guys, just in case some of you are looking for last minute recipes to try! 

The Turkey: 



Pioneer-Style Herb Roasted Turkey - I can't find my usual turkey recipe which bums me out, but this will do.  It's similar.


The Stuffing:
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Sage, Sausage and Apple Stuffing -I've made this stuffing three years in a row and I swear it tastes better every year.  I usually throw a handful or so of craisins in there too...so good. 

The Starches: 

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Slow Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes  -I love doing the mashed potatoes in the crock pot...one less thing to keep my eye on! 

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Sweet Potato Casserole -I usually make a sweet potato dish that has bacon and green onions (among other things) in it, but I decided to go sweet rather than savory this year. 

The Veggies:

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Peas and Corn with Thyme Butter -I haven't tried this recipe yet, but I needed something to use up the insane amount of canned corn we have and Piper requested peas, so this will be perfect. 

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Sauteed Garlic Asparagus - My favorite way to cook asparagus!

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Sweet Roasted Rosemary Acorn Squash Wedges - YUM. I have a butternut squash too so I might make some butternut wedges as well. 

The Dessert:

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Pumpkin Cheesecake -I *hate* pumpkin pie, but I don't mind pumpkin itself, so hubs said he'd settle for a pumpkin cheesecake this year :) Works for me! 

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Apple Pie -Can't go wrong with apple pie! 


And now, I'm off to clean my house so our guests aren't disgusted by the dog hair and cracker crumbs.  Hardwood floors are nice because there's no kool-aid stains or what not, but MAN are they hard to keep clean! 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

The week in lunches...

When Piper's first day of Kindergarten was creeping closer and closer, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I'd be packing her a lunch every day.  Piper is super picky, and although I could be a hard-ass and make her buy lunch so she'd learn to try new things, school lunches aren't exactly the healthiest food around so I'm choosing to fight that battle at dinnertime.  I want her to be happy and full at school; she can go to bed without dinner all she wants (kidding...sort of). 

I kept coming across these awesome blogs written by moms who packed bento style lunches; bright, colorful, and fun little meals for their kids every single day.  I knew choosing this route would not only encourage Piper to eat different foods, it would keep things interesting for me.  Just another way to be creative.  So here we are, about two and a half months into the school year, and I'm still not dreading packing her lunch!  I don't pack her lunch every day; we check the calendar every night and she tells me if she wants to buy lunch or not.  Some weeks I pack five lunches, some weeks one or two. 

I thought it would be fun to do a weekly post of her lunches though...to give you guys some ideas and also for you to share ideas with me! 

On Monday, Piper wanted to bring a lunchable to school that she didn't eat over the weekend.
11/15/11

This was her lunch Tuesday.  She had some little appetizer toasts that were each topped with a flower cut-out of a fruit roll-up, a chunk of banana chocolate chip bread and a piece of rice candy, teddy grahams, yogurt raisins and kitty cat cut outs, and some carrot sticks.  She also had a little tub of peanut butter to dip her toasts in.  I packed everything in a frog box I scored at old navy on clearance for $2.50.  I LOVE these boxes. 


11/16/11


On Wednesday, I made Piper a mini cheese pizza on half of a 100-calorie thin bun.  She also had a banana, some mini gold fish, two oreos and a bunch of cinnamon apple straws.  This box is the same as the frog one, but it has a monkey face.  I love how they have a top compartment; I usually use it for her sandwich or to hold packages of fruit snacks or peanut butter dips. 

On Thursday, the school served chicken nuggets and mashed potatos, so of course, she bought lunch. 
11/18/11

Today, Piper had a heart shaped peanut butter sandwich, some carrots and a danimals, animal crackers and fruit snacks and a bunch of honey nut chex.  We were kind of running late this morning so I couldn't get too creative, but she just came home and all that's left is a couple carrot sticks, half a sandwich, and the animal crackers so I guess she liked it! 

I also got this box at Old Navy.  They're still at the registers in my store, and are only $5, so definitely check them out if you're looking for a low-waste way to pack school lunches! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Yay! kinda...

I've got good news and bad news. Well, really the bad news is just bad news for me, so I guess I've just got good news. Yay for you!  Ready? 

I'm opening back up my shop!  I know you all are super excited to be able to custom order some awesome hats for your family and friends, and honestly, I'm super excited too!  I'm coming at this re-opening refreshed and ready to get back to creating.  The last nine months have worn me the eff out; I love to learn, but going to college full time is definitely NOT do-able right now.  Between Brandon's insane work schedule (at work for four days, home for what is supposed to be five but is usually only two days), Piper's new Kindergarten and Girl Scouts schedule, and Beckett continuing to live up to his nickname ("The Human Tornado")....what little time I have for myself is being taken over by homework and that is just not how I want to spend my life.



He also makes a pretty sweet duckface in between coloring on every vertical surface in the house and dumping applesauce all over the courch. 


So, I'm dropping out of college.  Again.  I feel okay about it; I was able to earn 24 more credits towards my eventual English Lit degree, and I finished *all* of my generals and prerequisite courses.  Whenever I do go back (probably when Beck is in at least preschool), I'll only have my major classes left. That, my friends, is very exciting.  I think part of the reason I had such a hard time in school this year is because I was taking classes like Rhetoric and Critical Thinking, Effective Academic Writing, and TWO math courses. 

With this new re-opening comes a new shop location: I've moved to artfire!  Etsy has wayyyyyy too many fees and even more re-sellers; so we've broken up and I'm moving on.  I'm excited about artfire; I pay one flat fee every month and can list as much as I want!  I plan on spending more time here, as I'd really like for my business to be even more personable.  I want us to be bffs!  I'll be posting a lot about my family, crocheting and other crafts, and weight loss.  Yep!  I'm *finally* making a serious effort to lose the baby weight I gained from both my kiddos.  I started a month ago, and have already lost 7 lbs!  Very exciting.  Expect a post on my weight loss journey later this week :)

I'm off to snuggle with the hubs now...he's heading to work tomorrow so I gotta get those cuddles in when I can.