November 30, 2023

Welcoming December

We're gearing up for a warmer weekend here in the Northeast, but I'll certainly miss this white playground outside our door.
Our first barely-there snow, which fell earlier this week, has been keeping a certain boy and company quite busy.
It's so good to see him back to himself again.  Only a few visible marks remain on his skin to remind us of his hospitalization.  They're also reminders of how thankful I am that he is healthy and home.  I know this season will be a special one, since the spirit of gratitude continues to fill me up each day.  It inspires me to give more of myself to others, even if it's just a smile to an old man walking down the street.  After all, he was a child once too. 

Hope you have a lovely weekend!  We'll be ushering in December with a 1st birthday party for "Double Trouble" (aka my twin niece and nephew), reading some Christmas books and enjoying other seasonal activities.  Cookies just might be in our future again.
Someone can hardly wait!

November 28, 2023

Holiday Feathering

In case you didn't know anything about me, I'll inform you by saying that I like to decorate and feather my nest, particularly for holidays.  Handmade, natural items usually play a key role, like pumpkins for fall and pine cones for winter. 
I don't go overboard, much to the relief of my husband, but I do enjoy celebrating the seasons with decorations.  I think my kids like it; I definitely have fond memories of helping my mom make the house special for Christmas.  I also love to peek at other people's decor, like at night when we're out for a walk or just by reading blog posts that share photos of holiday decorating.  Hence, I'm sharing a bit here for those oddballs like me.
Like many of you, I pulled out the Christmas decorations this weekend (I'd prefer to wait until December, but it's just so much easier when your husband has a long weekend and there's more free time to do it).

I wanted to do something with this old sled that my brothers and I used as children (and I think my uncles and aunts too). 
It's been sitting in our basement for a few years, waiting to be painted.  My mom kindly let me "decorate" it as a pre-teen, when I painted "Merry Christmas" in bubble letters.  Ugh.  I really wish I had taken a "before" shot.  But what a great mother, allowing me to exercise my creativity by defacing a perfectly nice antique sled like that.  I wish for that sort of tolerance with my own kids.

After a few coats of red paint leftover from our front door, I tied on some scavenged fir branches, a bow made by my mom (she makes the best bows for all the cousins' weddings), some pine cones, fake berries and a laser cut wooden snowflake on clearance at Michaels.  I still left a lot of the rustic charm visible, like the runners and some of the weathered wood.
I think it's my favorite decoration this year.  My mom also made a matching bow for the front door wreath too.
Inside, we decided on just setting up a small tree.  Jude is at that age where he's into things that I hadn't even considered babyproofing, so I didn't want to add more stress to this time of year.
So out came our Charlie Brown tree, which actually doesn't look quite bad perched up on my grandma's old sewing machine table, in front of our photo wall.
It was nice paring things down to my favorite ornaments, rather than feeling the need to fill an entire tree.
Ornaments have the power to bring back memories, and the salt dough and clay ones made over the past few years bring back some good ones of the boys.
These wooden ornaments from Poland remind me of my late grandparents, who were both from there.
The straw snowflakes evoke those from Scandinavia, which is some place I've always wanted to visit at Christmastime. I swear, in a past life I was from that area; it just seems so much like "home" to me.

Here are some other corners of home.
So there you have it, colorful and eager to be enjoyed over the next few weeks.  Have you put up your decorations yet?  If you blogged about it, leave me the link in the comments and I'll come peek through your virtual windows.

November 27, 2023

Maintaining an Organized Fridge #MaytagMoms

Another big holiday has come and gone, and though we didn't host it this year, it was still a pretty busy week in my kitchen.  Between quite a few bags of cranberries and grapes (I made the cranberry sauce) and storing a lot of leftovers (my mom made way too much for 10 people), our Maytag Ice20 Refrigerator has been working hard.
We've been using this refrigerator for nearly two months , and still really like it.  I've read that some other owners, both bloggers like myself and reviewers on e-commerce sites, find that the fridge is a hard to organize, but for my family's needs, it's been perfect.

Based on unofficial research (ie. checking our other people's fridges) I'd say we're pretty atypical in terms of what we keep in our refrigerator.  I don't buy packaged drinks, like juice boxes, soda or iced tea, just milk, OJ and occasionally apple cider.  As a result, we seem to have a lot more space in our fridge compared to others.  99% of our meals are vegetarian, so we don't have a need for a lot of meat storage, specifically deli meats and cheeses. Hence, our fridge can sometimes look quite spacious.
While it may look exceptionally empty at the moment (usually there's a big container of soup in that big empty spot on the bottom shelf, but for now we're still working through Thanksgiving leftovers), the Ice20 has made it easier to access our food and keep items visible and not forgotten (=spoiled).  It's helpful to be able to see into the Easy Access drawer from inside the main compartment of the fridge.

Speaking of the Easy Access drawer, that's been the most unique feature of the Ice20 for our family (along with the door-mounted water and ice dispenser).
I keep healthy snacks for the boys in here, which has been very convenient (in true Pavlovian fashion, every time the drawer opens, Jude squeals "cheese!" and clamors for a cheese stick).  I store many of my vegetables and salad in here and have found this to be a great place to corral veggies, since the main compartment lacks the typical produce bins.
The snack drawer gives my older son a degree of independence due to the ability to get his own snacks.  It also circumvents the frosty stare into the fridge by all of us, wondering what we want to get and trying to locate it.  I always know veggies and snacks are in the drawer and we don't need to search the main compartment.  And the best choices for snacking are located in that drawer anyway.

The refrigerator doors are deep, allowing a variety of items to fit inside. While it seems like our last fridge had more space, or at least a layout that allowed for a long line of jars and bottles (it wasn't a French door fridge), I think I'm more organized with the Ice20 because I need to be selective about what is stored on the doors.
I'm more likely to purge expired or unnecessary items (do I really need 3 bottles of barbeque sauce and 5 kinds of vinegar?), which keeps me more organized.

The freezer has been exceptionally easy to keep organized, due to the compartmentalized drawers.
Indulging in a bit of empty calories there with those seasonal Peppermint Ice Cream sandwiches
Our last fridge also had a bottom freezer, but the door swung open and a large basket had to be forcefully pulled out.  It was heavy due to all the frozen food, and hard to get in and out of the freezer compartment.  The freezer drawer on the Ice20 is so easy to access.  The drawer slides out with ease, though it's not so easy that my toddler can open it (yay for not having to baby proof one more thing).

The freezer storage is two-tiered with dividers within each space.  This is really helpful in keeping things from sliding around, which was a problem with my last freezer.  Items would inevitably find themselves wedged in the back or bottom, freezer-burnt and forgotten (remember I said how hard it was to pull that old drawer out?).  With this freezer, I can stack things and keep like items with like items, helping contain wayward bags and cartons of frozen food.  My son likes to grab the waffles or pancakes out in the morning, which helps expedite his breakfast.  I'm half joking when I say I'm sorry the Ice20 doesn't have a toaster attachment. :)

To add even more storage space to the freezer, there are NO ice cube trays to fill and take up room thanks to the filtered water dispenser and ice maker built into the refrigerator door.  It was a little hard losing that upper space inside the main fridge compartment, but it's well worth it.
This feature has been abundantly welcomed in our home, not just because we now have cold water and ice at our fingertips, but also because I don't need to walk all the way across the kitchen to fill the tea kettle or to add some water to a dish I'm cooking. It's right next to the stove.

Now that probably has no value for anyone but me, so I'll expound upon some of the other cool features like the Measured Fill option, where I can take any cup and have the machine fill it to 8 oz. like it is a measuring cup.
It's convenient when I'm at the stove and need to add a certain amount of water to a dish but don't want to dig out the measuring cup.  I've used it when making homemade hot cocoa and just added the water directly to the pot.

The water and ice dispenser has also been a big feature for my older son, who definitely drinks more water now as a result.  The ice cubes are smaller than your typical cube, making them easy to slip into water bottles.

As for keeping the fridge clean, the slide-out adjustable Spill-Catcher shelves (with sealed edges that help contain spills) have been easy to clean, though I haven't entirely tested them out yet, having only had the fridge for 2 months.  Somehow we haven't had any major spills and any minor ones have been wiped up quickly and easily (I'm a neatnik, particularly about new items).

The Affresh cleaning products (samples came with the fridge) tested out well, though I tend to use green cleaners so I won't be using them continually.  The stainless steel is a pain to keep clean, (unless you like the charm of little toddler fingerprints all over it) however I've found wiping with the grain using a clean, dampened cloth diaper and then buffing with a dry one works well. Sometimes I need a bit of elbow grease, but it's an eco-friendly way to keep the exterior clean.

I am confident the Ice20 will continue keeping us organized, especially as we enter the busiest time of year for a fridge--baking season.  I expect pounds of butter, dozens of eggs, and logs of cookie dough to take up residence in there very soon.  I'm eager to see how the Ice20 holds up!

You can get more information from Maytag via their Facebook page, @MaytagBrand on Twitter and by checking out the other Maytag Moms (including the laundry moms) by following us under the hashtag #MaytagMoms.

Disclosure: I wrote this post participating in an Maytag Moms Dependable Kitchen Ambassador program by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Maytag. I was provided with a Maytag kitchen appliances set, including a refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, and range to facilitate my post.

November 21, 2023


There are so many things for me to be thankful for this month, number one being that my family is together, happy and healthy after a month of uncertainty and fear.
We've managed to carry on with our lives as usual, though every now and then I get overwhelmed with emotion, thinking of how close I was to losing my firstborn.
I don't feel like I've fully come to terms with what has happened, emotionally.  Certain things will stir up tears, like bringing out my knitting again after working on it continuously next to S's hospital bed.  Or reading an article about parents losing a child.

It's all so raw for me, and because my life is consumed with taking care of the boys, I don't have much time to deal with my emotions in the thick of things.  Diapers need changing, meals need to be cooked, and my needs take a back seat.  Once the kids are in bed, it's hard to conjure up those feelings again when I have the time to sit with them.  But slowly I'm inhabiting those memories, even if it's when we're outside enjoying the leaves and I get teary, thinking that Soren might not have been here to cover his brother in them and feel the warm sun on his face.
On this Thanksgiving eve, I'm grateful for the big and little things--leaves to be jumped in, beds soft and warm, friends who have kept us in their hearts and who have fed us, both literally and figuratively this past month.  And of course for the even little-er but still important things like hot coffee, Legos, and even cranberry sauce to be cooked (doing that later, it's my yearly contribution and seriously the best recipe).  I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, my American readers.  May your bellies and hearts be full!

November 20, 2023

The Annual Bake, Craft and Sew Along

I'm participating again this year in the Bake, Craft and Sew Along at According to Kelly
Come check out my Needle Felted Snowflake Tray and how to make it.
But, I get to help start the holiday season off with a bang, and treat you to an absolutely amazing giveaway as part of our crafty series.
:: this is Silhouette's newest electronic cutting tool for personal use. Like a home printer, it plugs into your PC or Mac® with a simple USB cable. However, instead of printing it uses a small blade to cut paper, cardstock, vinyl, fabric and more up to 8" wide and 10 feet long. The machine also has the ability to register and cut printed materials.

:: non-toxic and enviromently-friendly, DecoArt has one of the widest selection of paints and finishes for arts, crafts, and home decorating, which includes over 25 brands of paint and finishes.
* * * * *
Be sure to check out all the fabulous craft projects shared this month for this Holiday-Inspired Bake Craft Sewseries going on all month long.  Don't forget head on over to Skip to my Lou and A Southern Fairytale for more chances to win! a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 17, 2023

Hot Holiday Photo Designs at Minted

It's the time of year when I start thinking about holiday cards.  I know some people might consider them antiquated and not worth the time, however I enjoy receiving photo cards during the Christmas season.  I actually keep the ones I get in an album and like to look at them each year, comparing how the families in them have changed.  And even more than receiving them, I love making them--picking out the photo, choosing the design.  It's fun to look back on the ones I made of my family from years past, remembering the fun times we had during the holidays.

There are so many stylish designs in holiday photo cards, and the ones at Minted are the best I've come across.
The design above is one that I played with, adding one of my favorite family photos.

I like the whimsical, modern designs found at Minted.  Here are some of my favorites.

Holiday Map Postcard

Deconstructed Cheers Card

Happy Everything Card

Blushing Christmas Holiday Photo Card

Modern Headline Photo Card

All Is Bright Photo Card

I like that their cards are so customizable, like changing your photo to sepia tone or black and white, changing the card's color (most have a few different colorways) and adding different edges, like the scalloped one above, which is available on many cards.  It would be impossible not to find a card that suited your style at Minted.

And until Monday, you can receive 15% off your order of $150+ or 10% off of your order of $100 with the code FALL150.

You can get updates from Minted via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Disclosure: I received a gift certificate from Minted to use toward holiday cards in exchange for this post.  All opinions are my own.

November 16, 2023

Revisited Gratitude Boat Craft for Thanksgiving

While browsing my archives, I stumbled upon this post from a few years ago and thought it would be nice to re-share it. Enjoy! 

November is such an odd month for decorating, after the Halloween let-down. While I love scattering natural elements throughout the house, like mini gourds, pumpkins, acorns and leaves, sometimes I just feel like making something. With the theme of "thanks" that permeates this season, I decided to create a Gratitude boat based on the Mayflower.
This is a great craft to do with kids, and it doesn't require much in way of materials, just a paper grocery bag, tape, copier paper, scissors, a skewer and crayons.
Cut the bottom off of your paper bag. Save the rest of the bag for using later.
You will now cut along the seams along the bottom of the bag, which will make the template for your boat.  It should look like this:
Since you don't want to see that label on the side of your boat (unless you want to paint it, then don't bother with the next step), you'll use this piece to trace this same shape onto a logo-free area on some other part of the bag. 
Trace and cut it out.  If you'd like to make more than one boat, you can trace more out of the bag.
Time to fold the boat! Begin by folding it in half 
 Then fold the sides in, following the line where the angle meets the rectangle in the center.
Do the same on the other side so it looks like this:
Tape the edges closed.  Kids love this part, at least in my experience as an art teacher, they went crazy for tape and staplers.
Layer a few pieces, reinforcing the sides of the boat.  This would work equally well with Double-Sided tape too.
This would be the time to decorate the boat with crayons, if you wish. It's better to color it when flat.

Next, open up the boat. On the inside of it, flatten out the floor a bit. You might need to fold the inner ends, just to keep it open.
On to the sails.  Fold your piece of copier paper in half, 
and draw 2 half-sails, one small and one large.  They should be sized appropriately to your skewer so both will fit.  You can always trim them later to fit.
Cut out the sails
and write "Give" and "Thanks" on them. You could also use these as place cards and write guests' names on them instead.
Poke the skewer through the sails, and if you'd like, add a little colored flag on top.
Assemble the boat. I filled mine with crinkly paper, but you could use cotton, reindeer moss, shredded paper, or even some kind of food like cereal or beans.
Stick the sail into the boat.  For mine, the paper held it in place enough, but you may need to tape it to the bottom of the boat or stick it in a piece of play dough hidden beneath the filler.
I cut out some leaves from the extra paper and wrote some things I was thankful for on them.
This would be nice for kids to do on Thanksgiving, while waiting to eat.  Just cut out a bunch, leave out some crayons and markers, and let them have fun.
 Hope this craft cultivates thankfulness in your family.
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