November 2012

Grateful: November Challenge Week 5

Today is the final recap of the 30 Day Gratitude Photo Challenge at Positively Present. If you want to read my other recaps they are here, here, here, and here.

Day 23, Energy: On this day, I was thankful that despite all the craziness, we all still had enough energy to get some major things accomplished while Brian had a few days off. I finally frosted the garage windows so everyone who drives by doesn’t have to see the mess that is our garage.
Day 24, Adventure: I struggled with this one. When I hear the word adventure I think of like an amazing trip with parasailing, zip lining, scuba diving or base jumping. I’m not a thrill like person (can’t you tell? as I drive 35 mph in a 40). Anyway, it got me thinking about more tame adventures, and I am definitely thankful for this adventure called blogging. I have met some amazing people as well has learned a lot about myself. Thanks for joining me on this wonderful adventure that basically started as a way to share recipes, DIY projects, and parenting tips. It has turned into another opportunity at ChicagoNow and 35 followers and growing (Shameless Plug: If you don’t read my other blog, check it out here).
Day 25, Beauty: Thankful for the daily beauty that makes me smile and enjoy life a little more. Here’s George watching his favorite animals (horses) at the zoo.
Day 26, Tradition: I am so grateful for tradition as I feel it helps connect me to people who live far away. On Thanksgiving morning my Mom would ask my siblings and I to break up all all the bread for the stuffing. I remember sitting with my brothers and sister in our jammies, watching the Macy’s parade, and breaking up bread into a huge bowl. I asked my kids to help me this year, and sent the picture to my brother Kevin who lives 2200 miles away. We reminisced together about Thanksgivings of yore.
Day 27, Sound: Sometimes the noise and the mess of having little ones can get to a person (I swear if I step on another Matchbox car and almost break my neck, I will lose it). However, I often think of how grateful I am for the noise and the mess. This time is very temporary and I realize that every day. Someday, I will have a perfectly decorated and clean home with no pitter patter, no giggles, no loud toys, and no pretend sounds. For now, I’m taking a deep breath and thankful for this, because I know I’m going to be one of those old ladies who leaves the radio on before leaving the house so there is noise when I get home. Here are the munchkins playing with the felt tree I made them.
Day 28, Comfort: Sometimes I still think I am destined to be a nurse. While I love to be comforted for and taken care of, it is still my favorite thing in life to do that for other people. I am thankful that I have many people in my life that I can help take care of and give comfort. Kissing Coco after a tumble outside.
Day 29, Art: I am thankful for Etsy. I know, after all that mushy stuff up there, it is silly. But honestly, when I need to cheer up, I just go to Etsy, and even if I don’t buy anything seeing all the beautiful things, crafts, and art created by people just makes me smile.
Day 30, Love: I am so thankful that there are so many days in my life I have experienced so much love, I think my heart isn’t going to be able to take it. This was one of those days.
Thanks for following along for the month of November!

Christmas Time is Here: Decorating the Tree

As I mentioned last week, we started Christmas decorating the house. Over the weekend we put up our BIG tree in the living room. This is the tree that holds all of Brian and I’s childhood ornaments, all the ones we buy for the kids every year, all the home made ones, and all the ornaments that Brian and I buy on our vacations together.

Every year, putting up the Christmas Tree at our house gets more fun, as well as more of an event (maybe because we have lots of little elves to help now).

After a dinner of Thanksgiving Leftovers and cleaning up toys, I made some hot cocoa, turned on the holiday tunes. Brian and I assembled the tree and plugged in with bated breath to hoping all the lights would work. They did!
Then, kids helped put up ornaments and beads on the tree. They had a ball and Brian and I had a ball watching them.

Here are the kids with their new ornaments from West Elm that Brian and I bought for them the day of the YHL book signing.
Trimming the tree.



My kids love snow globes.
Coco thought this was a necklace.
Do you have a family tradition regarding your Christmas Tree? Is hot cocoa involved? Holiday music? Does anyone get new ornaments?

Cake for Breakfast: Russell’s 5th Birthday

I kind of use this blog as an online scrapbook sometimes to share pictures of what we do around here. Maybe someday when my kids have access to the internet they can check out what their Mom wrote about our family and them. I will always have a real scrapbook for them, but this is more immediate. Let’s face it real scrapbooking takes a lot of time, and I might get around to finishing Coco’s baby book before she is three.

Anyway, last weekend my oldest turned 5! 5, people! That is practically a teenager… I kid, I kid. Still, we are sailing in unchartered territory here. He is entering the realm of big kid. It is definitely weird that it was 5 years ago I delivered a 6 week early 5 lb 6 oz munchkin. I guess it is true what they say: time flies when you’re having fun (or tired)!

Russell is a very thoughtful kid. So much so, that even on his birthday he is thinking of other people. He was so excited to share his new toys with George and Caroline and he made sure that everyone was having fun.

He also asked if we could help other people for his birthday.

A few weeks ago, we were watching Disney Channel and there was a story about a girl who collected shoes for her birthday instead of presents. Russell asked if he could do something like that for his birthday or Christmas. I told him to think about what he would like to do, and we could see what we could do. After nap time was over, Russell came downstairs and said, “I would like people to bring me glasses. I will give them to people who don’t have any. I wear glasses to see better, and some people probably can’t see because they don’t have money to get glasses.”

My heart melted. I really wanted to honor this request for him, so I started some online research, and I found a charity that collects gently used metal and plastic eyeglasses and sunglasses, called New Eyes for the Needy. I told Russell all about it, and he began making some posters. In a few weeks we will be collecting glasses from everyone we know and sending them. So far, I think we have 11 pairs. Which doesn’t seem like a lot, but that is 11 people who will be able to see better because of a (then) 4 year old boy. Amazing! George got wind of this and is planning what he can do for his birthday. Maybe this will become a birthday tradition in our home.

To celebrate, Russell specifically requested bowling with his friend and dinner at Red Robin. We gladly obliged as Brian and I love bowling as do George and Coco.

Birthday boy almost got a spare here.

George and Coco watching.

Keeping score.


Happy Birthday Russell!

He had his favorite dinner (cheeseburger, fries, apple slices, and chocolate milk). However when we got home there wasn’t time for both cake and presents, so Russell chose to open presents.

The next morning we ate cake for breakfast! I felt like that Bill Cosby comedy routine. “Dad is great, gives us chocolate cake!”

Gobble Gobble: Roasting a Turkey

I was more than a little stressed last week. While my sister usually hosts Thanksgiving, this year she asked if I would roast a turkey. Our family is getting bigger, and the kids are eating more, so this year we needed three turkeys to have sufficient leftovers for everyone.

I’m happy to announce, with a little help from Williams and Sonoma, America’s Test Kitchen, and memories of my Mom and Grandma Nano, my turkey turned out beautifully and tasted awesome, as did the stuffing.


I know that a lot of people buy frozen turkeys, but this year for some reason the fresh turkeys seemed to be reasonably priced so I went that route. If you want to try this recipe please make sure you thaw the turkey completely before the brining process. Another thing worth mentioning, treat your turkey and yourself with a lot of care. Wash hands and surfaces between steps to prevent cross contamination.

1 – 20-25 lb turkey thawed
1 can Williams and Sonoma Dry Brine
1 stick of butter softened
1 tablespoon Poultry seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 jar Williams and Sonoma Pomegranate Citrus Glaze

Stuffing (makes enough to stuff turkey and have leftover dressing)
2 loaves of white sandwich bread cubed
2 sticks of butter
2 onions minced
4 or 5 stalks of celery finely chopped
2 to 5 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning



Day before Thanksgiving (24 hours before you want to begin roasting turkey), rinse turkey, remove insides and put into a large roasting pan. Generously sprinkle dry brine mixture on all sides of the turkey. Then gently rub into the skin. (This has the same effect as liquid brining but without the mess). Then cover completely with plastic wrap and return to refrigerator for at least 8 hours, but 24 hours is best.


The next day, mix together softened butter and poultry seasoning and set aside. Begin to prepare stuffing ingredients.


Next, in a large sauté pan over medium to medium high heat, add butter, onion, and celery and cook until onions and celery are soft and translucent. This should take about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. While onion mixture cooks, in a large bowl add cubed bread and toss with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper (I know it is weird to not add herbs to onion mixture, but this is how Grandma did it). Remove onion mixture from heat and let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

While stuffing mixture cools, remove turkey from refrigerator and rinse brine off thoroughly and place in a large roasting pan. Then gently lift skin and rub butter and poultry seasoning mixture between meat and skin.

Once the onion mixture is cooled, add to cubed bread and stir gently. Then slowly add chicken stock until the bread is just moist. You will probably not use all the chicken stock.

Using 1/3 to 1/2 of the stuffing mixture, loosely stuff turkey. Pour reserved stuffing into a casserole dish, cover with foil,  and put in oven for the last 35-40 minutes turkey is roasting in oven.

Tie turkey legs together with kitchen twine and put in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and generously brush with glaze. Cook until breast and leg temperature reaches 170-180 degrees on an instant read meat thermometer. This took about 4 1/2 hours for me.

Happy Holiday!


Grateful: November Challenge Week 4

Happy New Year! Just kidding. Doesn’t it seem like so long since Thanksgiving already? Maybe it is because I’ve been soaking in every bit of the long weekend, which had the perfect balance of accomplishing projects around the house and spending time with family and friends.

Since I took a blog break for the holiday, today’s post it is a recap of my participation in the Positively Present’s 30 Day Gratitude Photo Challenge. To read the first three recaps, you can click here, here and here.

Day 16, Inspiration: Being a blogger here at Home Everyday and on ChicagoNow I sometimes get a little block about what to write about, so I am always grateful for inspiration. Sometimes it comes from the strangest of places. For example, these ornaments at Target are inspiring a crafty project!

Day 17, Weather: The fall here has been amazing here. We have been spending way more time outside that I ever thought possible this time of year. Here we are doing sidewalk chalk just a few days before Thanksgiving!

Day 18, Change: A big change happened this passed week. My oldest turned 5! 5?!?!? I am so incredibly grateful that I have a happy healthy 5 year old.

Day 19, Laughter: The past week has been filled with lots of laughter. Sharing jokes with my sister and Mom at Thanksgiving dinner, the kids giggling putting up Christmas decorations, and staying up late to watch Christmas Vacation have all made me thankful that we have lots to laugh about.

Day 20, Food: Prepping for Thanksgiving dinner kept me busy on this day. When I went to put the Turkey in the fridge to brine, I realized how full our fridge was. In that moment I was very thankful for a full refrigerator. Rearranging to make room for the turkey, turned into washing juice carton, and replacing with milk to make everything fit. This is a good problem to have.

Day 21, Home: I am grateful for the physical space of our home, and thankful that we are comfortable here, but mostly I’m thankful for the people who live here.

Day 22, Color: Did you know there are way more than 50 shades of gray? Now I do. While narrowing down paint samples can be frustrating, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to choose.


Spicey: Cabinet Organization

This time of year, I seem to do more cooking and baking so I thought one of my Pre-Thanksgiving organization frenzy days should be dedicated to kitchen organization. I also stocked up on a few things I know I need on hand like flour, sugar, chocolate chips, and poultry seasoning.



Here is the cabinet stocked up for the holiday season.


When we moved into this house, it came without a pantry so I had to get creative with how I used my cabinet space. I bought a plastic tiered spice rack, some Ikea spice jars, and used my scrapbook skills and tools to make little tags for labeling everything.


As for the other shelves, I bought some baskets for around $3 at Target to keep all my baking supplies organized.


And let’s not forget the glass jars from Target that I keep on my counter.


I am officially ready for a season full of cooking and baking.

Anyone else stocked up for the season?

Linking up at Serenity Now.

Something Wonderful is Happening

We put up two trees in our house every year. One is a big traditional tree with ornaments collected over time. The second tree is a small one my Mom gave us last year. We put it in the corner of our family room since the kids spend most of their time there.

The kids yesterday were a bit antsy with some of the boxes being out so I broke my usual rule of no decorations before Thanksgiving. We put up the small tree in the family room.
Here is how it turned out.
Last year, I bought a package of coordinating ornaments at Lowe’s on sale which is just enough to fill the tree. I love the chocolate brown sparkly ones best. I put a string of red shiny beads that I had on hand from years past and a small star ornament on the top. I set it on an end table covered with a table cloth and made a tree skirt out of some white fabric I had on hand.
We have a teeny bit of Christmas in our house this week. Anyone else started decorating yet?

Paula Deen Saved the Day: Mini Quiches

The holidays are usually a time when people drop by our house. There are some family birthdays this time of year as well as people just popping by to say hello. Personally, I love when people stop by (yay adult interaction), but sometimes I feel like a little treat or snack is always nice to serve our guests especially if they are bearing gifts. Also, I figure if someone stops over, a little bribe of food so they don’t tell everyone there are toys all over our house never hurts, right?

A nice cheese and some crackers with a bit of fruit was always nice with a beer or a glass of wine, but honestly it was getting a little blah, and sometimes we have visitors in the middle of the day who aren’t up for a cocktail.

So, I began the search for something I could serve in the evening with cocktails or in the afternoon with tea. It had to be easy and something that contains ingredients I always have in the house. So, I searched and who came to the rescue?

Paula Deen (of course) and her amazing mini quiches.


Who doesn’t have crackers, eggs, milk, butter, and cheese in the house (especially this time of year with all the baking)? Also, this recipe is very versatile as you can put just about any combination of cheese or herbs. Also, while they are in the oven, you can straighten in the house!

Paula Deen Mini Onion Quiches (I made a few changes but for the original recipe click here)

3/4 cup Saltine crackers crushed (I used Club crackers because that is what I had on hand)
1/2 stick of butter melted
Nonstick Cooking Spray
1 cup green onions chopped including green tops (you could sub. chives or any herb)
2 Tbs butter
2 large or 3 small eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup Swiss cheese grated (you could sub cheddar, gruyere, or any other cheese too)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray mini muffin pan with non stick cooking spray.

Combine cracker crumbs and melted butter. Divide this mixture among mini muffin cups and pat down with you fingers or with the bottom of a shot glass (not just for cocktails anymore).


Divide onions or herbs among muffin cups reserving a tiny bit for garnish. Then, in a bowl with a spout, beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper until well combined. Pour this mixture into muffin cups about 1/2 to 3/4 full (don’t over fill or they will run over when baking). Then sprinkle the tops with cheese. Put muffin tin on top of larger cookie sheet in case of run over and place in oven.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and cool slightly before removing from pan. Use a small pairing knife run around the edge of the quiche for any that stick to the pan. Garnish with remaining onions or herbs.

These can be served immediately or put in the refrigerator and reheated the next day.


What combination of herbs and cheese will you use?

Grateful: November Challenge Week 3

Good morning and Happy Friday! I have been totally amazed at all the grateful posts I’ve seen on Facebook over the last three weeks. It definitely puts things into perspective. Today is my third installment of the 30 Day Gratitude Photo Challenge. To read my first two Grateful Posts, you can click here and here.

Day 9, Holidays: This year, when it comes to the holidays I am truly thankful for the traditions that were established by our families, but also the ones that Brian and I have started together with our kids. Our favorite is the day after Thanksgiving we put up our holiday decorations. Here are the boxes waiting in the dining room to be unpacked. The kids are bursting to put up their stockings.


Day 10, Kindness: On this day, I am so grateful for how genuinely kind my kids are to others and to each other. I took this picture after family photos while playing with my camera. I didn’t come out as I hoped, but the point is I have it captured for eternity of the boys hugging.

Day 11, Friendship: In my lifetime, I have been blessed with many people whom I can call friend. However, today is a day were I am extremely thankful for my sister. It is a bond and friendship that I’m grateful for every single day. Here she is cooking with Russell.


Day 12, Music: Ok, I’m one of those people that listen to Christmas music early. So today, I was grateful that the Christmas station in Chicago started playing 24/7 Christmas music.


Day 13, Time: Just grateful I have enough time for the things that matter. The time to chat with Russell about his day at school. The time to bake muffins with George. The time to snuggle on the couch with Caroline. The time to stay up a little later with Brian and enjoy some quiet time. The time to wake up early and play trains.


Day 14, Creativity: I’m often amazed at the creativity of my kids and for this I am grateful. Sometimes I wonder if we should buy them an educational toy, or if I should enroll them in another park district class. Then, I see them using what they have to play rocket ship or make up a game together with a ball. They amaze me with their imagination. Here is George with goggles and all being a jockey… again.

Day 15, Family: Yesterday we took our family portraits for Christmas cards. This day typically makes me batty. Getting 3 kids ages 4, 3, and 2 clean and in nice coordinating outfits with hair combed, shoes tied and get them to stay clean while I get dressed with makeup and presentable hair by myself is crazy. Then we meet Brian at the photographer and try to get everyone to look decently happy with bribes of M&M’s and popcorn.  I’m still exhausted! However, I am well aware that this is something we don’t have to do and that I am blessed beyond measure to have a healthy and happy family that gets a family picture taken once a year. I am grateful for meeting Brian and us being able to create this wonderful family not just today, but every day.



Kickin’ It Celebrity Style: YHL Book Signing

This past weekend, my hubby and I headed up to Lincoln Park in Chicago to meet John and Sherry Petersik and get my new Young House Love book signed. With all the craziness of the past few weeks, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go, but I am so happy that I put some things on hold and went.

For those that don’t know, John and Sherry write the amazing blog, Young House Love and recently published a book with over 200 ways to creatively update a home. The photos in the book are fantastic, and upon flipping through the book for 10 minutes, I already got the itch to break out the fabric and paint cans. Some of the clever projects include furniture updates, painting, styling, and crafting. Put this book on your Christmas list if you haven’t already. It is awesome!

In addition to meeting John and Sherry, there were some other perks to this fantastic day. Brian and I were able to go together sans children for some quality time together, and the signing was at West Elm so there was an awesome chance to do a little browsing.

We got there about 10:45 a.m. for a 1:00 p.m. book signing, which I know sounds crazy, but once they arrived the line moved very quickly. The line behind us was super long, so we were glad we got there when we did. It was as if every DIYer in Chicago wanted to see John and Sherry (understandably). However, the waiting wasn’t so bad when cocoa and these beautiful babies showed up.


Brian and I enjoyed our cookies and cocoa and made some friends around us. We all exchanged stories of our DIY adventures. Then we started talking of other people we would wait in line to see. I mentioned Food Network stars (priorities people), and some people mentioned the president. So there you have it, John and Sherry, you know you’ve made it when the only other person that people would wait in line to see other than you is the president.


After cookie time, we were allowed inside. In addition to the people, the little details that were part of the book signing are what made it so fun. I loved the cookies, but my favorite was the cute table set up with crafts projects from the book along with details about which page to find the craft.


As we made it closer to the front of the line, Brian, my new found friends, and I started to get a little giddy. So giddy, that Brian actually started to do a little West Elm shopping (Brian is not typically a shopper). We bought a few cute things for some upcoming projects that I will share in the coming weeks.


Finally, it was time to meet the Petersiks. They couldn’t have been sweeter people, and I think were overwhelmed by the number of people that came to see them in Chicago. Brian asked John what his favorite tool is, and John said he loves the Kreg Jig. Now I know what to get Brian for Christmas. Then this happened:


Yeah, they remember me. I nearly fainted from excitement. With all the people that read their blog, it was so awesome to see that they really do remember comments. Again, they were incredibly friendly!

One more picture, and then it was time to go (Brian wasn’t big on being in the picture, but he was pretty excited too).


On the way out, they had a guest book that they wanted people to sign to remember their book tour (again, so clever). I of course took a few pictures of my book, and the book I got signed for my buddy Colleen who couldn’t make it. Merry Christmas, Colleen!


There you have my idea of a perfect date! Quality time chatting with the hubby, cookies, shopping, and meeting my two favorite bloggers. It doesn’t get much better than that.