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.
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.
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!”
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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 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.
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.
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!