Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful

Today is one of my favorite days of the year...getting to cook a huge meal! Sooo much fun.

I have so much to be thankful for...

I am thankful for the doctors, nurses, firemen, police officers, soldiers, etc. for whom working holidays is expected and necessary and hope you get to enjoy a delicious meal when you get home.

I am thankful for my amazing husband, family, friends both old and new, a steady income and freedom to have a job I enjoy, my beautiful home, the ability to cook a huge meal, my pets, my car, and a whole host of little things like my blog, Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, wine, great music, the parade, Facebook and Pinterest, lots of pictures, etc etc.

I am thankful that all of my basic needs of health, shelter, food/water, and clothing are met and most of my wants.

When my biggest problem yesterday was my DVR settings were incorrect and all of the syndicated Modern Family episodes didn't record, I know I am extremely blessed.  I am thankful to have a TV and DVR.  I am thankful to have time to watch Modern Family.  I am thankful for such a hilarious and touching show in a world of crap TV.

Or when my biggest complaint is Carrie Underwood as Maria in The Sound of Music.  She has a phenomenal voice...but not for Maria!!!  But I don't have to watch it!

And I am thankful (most) days of the year, not just today. On to the kitchen!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Christmas Garland

Continuing my saga of finally having a fireplace to decorate, I started thinking about Christmas decorations a couple of weeks ago.  I found a few mantel tableaus that I like on Pinterest, and set out to Hobby Lobby to come up with my own.

Pre-decorated garlands are expensive!  I decided to make my own.

Whenever I am buying materials for a floral project, I always put my project together my project in the store.  I picked up a generic pre-lit garland and carried it over to the Christmas picks.  My Christmas color scheme is red and gold, so those are the picks that I chose.

I start off buy choosing some picks that I think are pretty experiment with different locations in the garland.  I try to even out red and gold, large and small.


Here is half of the finished test.  I just chose two of each pick I used so I could make the garland mirror-imaged on the other side.


I went to pick out some ribbon to make my first big bow.  Normally I buy them, but wanted to at least attempt one on my own.

Here are the supplies I ended up with:


  • Ribbon to make a bow
  • Christmas picks
  • Garland
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
(Notice the London Catching Fire premiere streaming on my computer?)



First I made the bow using a tutorial I found online:


Unfortunately I did it on the couch, and glitter got everywhere...


I folded the garland in half to find the center and attached the bow.  I also ultimately decided the pinecones/berries already on the garland wouldn't work, so I cut them off and saved them just in case I wanted them for another project.


Then I sorted the picks.  Oliver likes to help with crafts.  Some I really liked, so I bought enough to use twice on each side.


Then I sorted them into each side, practiced putting them on one more time, and laid them out in order above the garland.  I also decided to use extra ribbon to run along the length of the garland.


I ended up using nine picks on each side, which worked out perfectly with the ribbon.  I was able to change the ribbon's position (above or below the picks) after every third pick.


Here is the finished right half:


Here I am working on the mirror image on the left side:


And here is the finished product and associated mess!  The final cost was $58, but to buy a garland so decorated it would be over $100.


Glitter Tip:
Every time I touched the garland, glitter seemed to rain from it.  I went to the store and bought a spray adhesive (like glue in a spray paint can- I found it in the craft section of Wal-Mart).  I protected the ground with an old sheet and sprayed the garland.  I think it helped with the glitter rain.

It is so pretty when it is plugged in, and I cannot wait to decorate and get it on my mantel!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire



I am sooooooo excited for this movie!  I am a big Hunger Games fan.  I have read the books several times, watched the first movie several times, and and am generally kind of obsessed.  I even watched the live streaming of both the London and LA red carpet premieres.

This movie technically comes out tomorrow, but I found out a lot of theaters are showing it at 8pm tonight?  Guess who's there!!!!!!!

I wanted to go at 5pm to see the double feature (they are playing the first one beforehand), but I didn't think I could talk Hubby into it.

This was my favorite trailer:


And the final one:




Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanksgiving Plan



I will probably wait to post my recipes next year when I have pictures to go with it (I am not making the homemade rolls and dressing until Turkey Day!!!).  BUT...I do have my Holiday Plan typed up and nearly finished.  Today I am going to share my Thanksgiving section with you.

THE PLAN INCLUDES:
  • my menu and corresponding grocery list
  • tablescape ideas
  • a timeline for cooking all of that food


I may be crazy to cook so much for just three people, but it is fun to me and I can freeze leftovers.

My favorite part of this is the timeline to keep my sanity while cooking.  Last year I kept forgetting to baste the turkey and it was a little drier than the previous year, so I wrote in a reminder every thirty minutes.

This plan is for a 10-pound turkey to be ready at 7pm (Hubby has to work during the day because I prefer a 1pm dinner time).


Since most people are cooking a larger turkey and eating earlier, I also created a plan for a twenty pound turkey to be eaten at 1:00 pm.


You can download my word document to edit yourself here.  It is not uploading correctly in Google Drive, but hopefully once you download it the pages will line up correctly again (it is supposed to only be a 3-page document).



Monday, November 18, 2013

Easy Jewelry Organizer


Up until recently, I had special pieces of jewelry that I wore every day.  One piece is a necklace that Hubby gave me on our first Christmas together, and I also had my wedding ring, my watch, and a small assortment of earrings.  I did not wear bracelets because my wrists are so tiny that I didn't think I could find any to fit decently.

I finally decided to branch out and wear a wider variety of jewelry (I think I was inspired by Pinterest).  I had my necklaces hanging on nails in the closet, and my bracelets and earrings were in an "organizer" in my bathroom drawer with my makeup and other products.  It looked terrible.  I took to Etsy to look for an earring organizer, and got inspired by some jewelry organizers that I saw.  I wanted to make one where you hang necklaces on cabinet pulls (they would have been much prettier), but have too many necklaces to make it really be functional.

I didn't have a clear plan in my head when I headed to Lowe's; I just wondered through the aisles looking at different options and formulated my design in the store.

You will need:
  • 16-inch piece of 4x1 board
  • 15-inch wooden dowel
  • 16 small hooks to hang below
  • 2 slightly larger hooks to hold the dowel
  • a drill


The guys at Lowe's cut the pieces to size for me; I should probably try to find my own table saw.


I turned the board on its side so I could see the bottom.  I began at 1/2 inch to drill my first hole, and spaced them one inch apart.  The holes are to screw the necklace hooks into.


I did not want to spray paint the hooks, so my next step was to spray paint all sides of my pieces.


After the paint was dry, I screwed in the necklace hooks, making sure the hooks all faced forward.


I measured 1 1/2 inches from each side to drill a hole and screw in the hooks to support the dowel.


The necklace hooks came in sets of three, so I need to go buy one more to complete the organizer.


Changes I would make:

I would sand the board better and put a pretty design on it (I really want a Silhouette Cameo...)
I may look for some small decorative end pieces (maybe a small cabinet pull or wooden finial)

Here it is with my bracelets and necklaces!



Friday, November 15, 2013

How To Roast A Turkey

I cooked my first Thanksgiving turkey a couple of years ago.  It seems like such a daunting task, but it wasn't really as difficult as I expected.  The day before I was to cook it, I read a lot of different turkey recipes and jotted down some ideas.



I only use this as a rough guide.  I kind of wing it now.  Here are the ingredients that I use:



2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 small onion
2 c. melted butter
cheese cloth

*This year I am going to brine my turkey in some salt water for a few hours before I cook it.  I haven't tried it yet, but I brined a chicken recently and it made a world of difference.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the giblets, rinse the turkey, and pat dry.  Let come to room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Cut some cheese cloth so it is large enough to cover the turkey.  Melt the butter and soak the cheese cloth in the butter.

Combine the seasonings in a bowl and rub over the turkey.  Last year I covered the turkey in butter first, but it made the gravy too oily.

Peel the onion and stick it in the cavity.

Use butcher twine to tie the legs together.

Place the turkey in the roasting pan.

Cover the turkey with the cheese cloth.  

We have a digital meat thermometer that stays in the meat during cooking (the thermometer goes in the meat and a cord is attached to the part that tells the temperature).  I love it and go ahead and put the thermometer in the turkey thigh before putting it in the oven so I can track its progress.

Put in the oven at 425 degrees.  After 30 minutes, brush the remaining butter over the top of the cheese cloth and any exposed parts of the turkey and reduce the cooking temperature to 350 degrees.  A higher temperature at the beginning ensures a beautiful golden brown outside, and reducing the temperature helps it to be so juicy.

Every 30 minutes, baste the turkey with the pan juices.

Remove the cheese cloth after two hours of cooking.

It can take anywhere from 3-5 hours to cook a turkey.  I think I remember my turkeys taking about 4 to 4 1/2 hours, but I rely on the meat thermometer. Here is a handy reference guide for how long to cook a turkey.  A turkey is done when the thermometer reads 165 degrees or the juices run clear.

The turkey will continue to cook after removing it from the oven, so I take it out when the thermometer reads just below 165.  Allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes after removing it from the oven to finish cooking and allow the juices to redistribute (although I can never resist sampling).



Enjoy a glass of wine and allow someone else to carve your masterpiece.

Wow, now I am really hungry and ready for turkey!!!

Find my entire Thanksgiving menu here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Traditional Thanksgiving Feast

I love Thanksgiving.  So much.  I have always dreamed of setting a beautiful table, roasting a perfect turkey, and lovingly preparing all of the sides and desserts to go with it.  I don't want help; I want to do it all myself.

After meeting Hubby, I started going to four Thanksgivings.  Did you ever see the movie Four Christmases?  That is pretty much every holiday for us.  His family's Thanksgiving is a lot different from my family's Thanksgiving.  They both have a turkey, but other than that they are totally different!  I am such a stickler for tradition that I lean towards the Thanksgiving feast that I grew up with.

A couple of years ago I got to take over cooking the feast at my mom's house.  I was so excited and nervous.  That year she did about half of the sides, but I tackled the turkey.  I researched so many recipes and tried to combine some that sounded delicious.  I even carted my big roasting pan with a rack to my mom's house.

It. Was. Ah-maz-ing!  There is one secret that I think made the big difference.  It was flavorful and juicy, and I was so proud.


Last year I tackled the dressing for the first time.  This was one recipe that I got from my grandmother-in-law and cooked it for her Thanksgiving, then duplicated it for my mom's Thanksgiving.  I tweaked the recipe a little, and it was slightly dry, but otherwise delicious.  Everyone seemed to like it (I hope they weren't just being nice)!

Last year I cooked everything by myself at my mom's house, but it's still not the same as hosting at my own.  At my house I have all of the fall decorations and beautiful place settings.  This year we are not able to go home since Hubby has to work, so I am hosting Thanksgiving for the two of us.  I will halve the portions and use a turkey breast, but I will be able to do the table setting and play background music and all of the things that go along with hosting besides just cooking.

This year my new dish to attempt will be the pumpkin pie.  Mom always buys the frozen ones, but I am going to attempt it from scratch.  If anyone has a deliciously easy recipe to share, please post it in the comments!  I am going to be researching recipes over the next couple of weeks.

Over the next couple of weeks I will share my Thanksgiving recipes, but here is my traditional Thanksgiving menu:

Roasted Turkey
Dressing
Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry Sauce
Green Beans (or Green Bean Casserole)
Turkey Gravy (my favorite!)
Corn
Sweet Potato Casserole
Dinner Rolls (homemade)

Apple Crisp
Pumpkin Pie

Sweet Tea
Wine

What are your Thanksgiving must-haves?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Easy Thanksgiving Centerpiece



I am thinking ahead to Thanksgiving, and wanted to share an easy centerpiece idea that I made a few years ago.  I made two pillar candle holders.

 First, I bought a half-styrofoam ball.  I stuck the pillar candle in the ball to create the indention (it is obviously not centered like it should be, but when the candles are in it looks ok).


I also bought some fall floral stems and cut the length off.  There are two large and two small flowers of each color (but you could use whatever flowers you want).


Begin pushing the flower stems into the styrofoam.  It helps to push them down at a 45 degree angle so the petals go up against the candle hole.


You want to alternate the colors in a pattern.  I did big red-small red-big yellow-small yellow.






Right now I am using them to decorate the buffet, but I have used them on either side of the turkey on my table.




Friday, November 8, 2013

Dressy Casual Outfit: White Button-Up, Blazer, Nice Jeans, and Pearls

First, a celebration:


I got a steady job!!!

I had been getting frustrated that I wasn't getting called regularly to sub.  I loved the preschool I had been working at, but just wasn't getting steady enough work.  I thought about it and decided to try being a part-time nanny.


Last Friday, I opened a Care.com account, created a profile, and found a job for a 15-month girl.  I applied to the job and her mother e-mailed me back almost immediately and we set up an interview for that afternoon.  She said she had a few other people she had promised to talk to and would get back with me.

She called me on Monday morning to let me know they would love to have me care for their daughter and that I really stood out above the other candidates.

It was so much faster and easier for me to find a job than I thought it would be, and I don't know why I didn't do it sooner.  When I try to think about my skills and things I like, most of what comes to mind is a stay-at-home mom:  taking care of kids, cooking, cleaning, managing the household, decorating, etc.  This job will encompass all of that!

I am so excited and will begin work November 13.  

I was freaking out after we scheduled the the interview.  I needed to rewrite my resume to fit a nanny position and figure out some questions to ask.  And of course, I needed to figure out what to wear.  I certainly wasn't going to wear a suit to a nanny interview, but I wanted to look professional.  I Googled it and a lot of suggestions were to wear nice trousers, but several people wear jeans, too.  I do not like the way my dress pants fit me, so I decided to go for a dressy pair of jeans.

I wore a white button-up shirt with a blazer, dressy jeans, boots, and pearl jewelry.  I am sorry for the picture quality; I was nervous and in a hurry.






After talking awhile at the interview, the mom told me I could wear sweatpants if I wanted to, but she appreciated me "dressing up" for her.  I didn't think I was particularly dressed up (and I won't be wearing sweatpants, haha).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fall Clearance Finds

I find the fall and Halloween decorations at places like Michael's, JoAnn, and Hobby Lobby to be adorable, but I don't want to spend a lot of money on them.  I know they often have 40% off sales, but I like to wait until after the holiday to get the clearance sales.

Sunday I went to JoAnn and hit the jackpot.  I was looking for some taller items to balance out my fall mantel.  Most of their Halloween and fall items were 70% off, and an additional 30% off that!



Autumn Canvas original price $29.99; purchased for $6.29.

Window Scarecrow original price $24.99; purchased for $5.24.



I bought the welcome witch at Goodwill for $3.

(Not Scary) Haunted House sign original price $19.99; purchased for $4.19.


Halloween Drink Bucket original price $39.99; purchased for $8.39.  It is marketed as Halloween, but I think it can be used year-round!


I paid $25.74.  I saved $90.85!!!