Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

We celebrated the last day of 2009 by having a fondue dinner. Grace didn't care for the beef tenderloin, chicken breast, scallops or the handmade sauces but when it came to dessert she couldn't get enough of the angel food cake dipped in chocolate!

Have a wonderful evening - see you in 2010!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Our little family is ready to let the magic begin....

We wish you a Christmas filled with joy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Visit With Santa

Grace finally had the opportunity to visit with Santa Claus. When speaking with him she requested four items - a flashlight, pair of earmuffs, a fan that folds and a dinosaur egg. Everyone seems to get a chuckle out of her wish list, Santa included!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday's Holiday Happenings

Our day was filled to the brim with holiday fun:

We started our holiday baking by making brownie bites - Dean and Grace were the official Hershey Kiss unwrappers.

Crafts were made (along with treats for our backyard friends) at the library.

Lastly, after dinner we headed to St. Armand's Circle to see the holiday lights.

Grace didn't get a chance to Santa, one of the things we hoped to accomplish, so that's first on the list for Monday.

Enjoy the remainder of your weekend!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sugar Plum Pudding....Our Way

Grace had been rather insistent on making sugar plum pudding this holiday season. I'm not quite sure where she got the idea but after reading through numerous recipes I knew none of us would eat it. So.... I came up with another idea. I found a recipe for brown sugar pudding (here) - it contained the words sugar and pudding so that counted right?

After a bit of persuading Grace became content with idea of making a pudding sans plums (she dislikes them anyway). We made it today - what a delicious evening treat it was!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Crafting

Grace and I have been crafting like crazy for the holidays. Here's a couple of the projects we finished last week...

We made place mats and napkins using the technique (here). This was a project that Grace started with Brandon at the cookie bake, then we finished them at home.

Then we made little ovens for the Crafty Crow ornament exchange. The ornaments were inspired by the book, "Gingerbread Baby" by Jan Brett. Grace came up with the idea on her own - she sketched an oven (this was my "pattern") and found a recipe for cinnamon "cookies" in an issue of "High Five" magazine. As you can see from the photo, the gingerbread baby is tucked behind the oven door. If you open the door too soon... he'll escape and run away as fast as he can.

Now Grace is making frequent trips to the mailbox to see if she's received any ornaments from her exchange partners. Oh how she loves to receive mail!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Sweet House

I remember being in awe every year as I would thumb through my mom's December issue of "Good Housekeeping" magazine - it always contained the gingerbread house contest winners. A couple of years back I started a tradition with Grace of making our own gingerbread creation at the holidays. Our houses are nothing like the amazing ones highlighted in the magazine, but they're special to us just the same.

We always use the cast iron mold in the photo above, which I received as a gift from my parents, to create the pieces for the house. After baking, we leave the pieces on the counter for a couple of days to get crisp.

Then it's time for the assembly. After much effort to get the house to stand, Grace got busy decorating. She used a variety of candies that she'd selected from the bulk candy bins at Super Target. Of course while decorating she needed to "have a little sample" of each kind of candy.... covered in frosting.

Here's the finished product. The sweet house is now adorning our mantle - I just hope we're not singing "the ants come marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah" come morning!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Sorry for the lack of posting this week, there just hasn't been enough time left at the end of the day to be at the computer. I suspect this will continue to be the case until after Christmas is over but I'll do my best to post here several times a week.

One of the highlights to our week was Grace's holiday school performance. For the first part of the program she was an elf, then she joined her dance class for a rendition of the "Penguin Dance" (photo above). She'll be an elf again tomorrow when her class performs at a local nursing home. She's looking forward to it since she'll be riding on a "big yellow bus" for the first time - exciting times I tell you.

In addition to singing and dancing, Grace has been in the holiday art and craft mode. I finally got around to changing the header on the blog to highlight one of the many Christmas pictures that she's drawn this week. It's a sketch of how she would like to decorate the gingerbread house we're making - check back this weekend to see the finished product!

Monday, December 7, 2009


Dean's and my birthday happen to be a week apart. Neither one of us are big birthday celebrators so we usually keep things simple - exchanging cards and eating a piece of yummy cake works for us.

Speaking of yummy cake, Meme made a delicious apple cake with a caramel topping for my birthday (I celebrated with my parents while we were at their house last weekend).

And for Dean.... of course his cake had to be chocolate. Grace and I made it for him this morning. Just in case you were wondering, I often half the recipe for desserts but in this case was a bit of a necessity since I was a bit low on cocoa powder. Thankfully, Dean didn't seem to mind that half his cake was missing.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Weekend Trip

We're just getting home from our weekend trip to see Dean's family. It was a bit chilly but we had so much fun...

We saw a hint of fall color - a bit exciting I must say.

Fields were run in and animals were fed.

An evening holiday parade was attended, with Santa being the highlight.

Many presents were opened - yes, that doggy is larger than Grace.

But most importantly, time was spent with family!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Cards

Much to my relief, our Christmas cards have been mailed. In keeping with our goal of a handmade holiday Grace and I made the cards. We went along with a snow/snowman theme - Grace actually came up with the idea after seeing a similar project in a craft book. We spent many wonderful afternoons together at the kitchen table painting, cutting, gluing and stamping.

We hope our snowman cards will bring holiday smiles to those who receive them!

I'm off to pack for our trip to see Dean's family. Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Family Cookie Bake

On Saturday we (Meme, Grace and I) attended the annual Christmas Cookie Bake at Aunt Cathy and Uncle Steve's house. It's such a wonderful way to begin the Christmas season - it truly gets me in the spirit of things. So much fun was to be had...

....Uncle Steve helped the kids roll the dough and cutout the cookies.

....Everyone got in on the cookie decorating - check out that enormous gingerbread stocking, yum.

....Sarah brought along ornaments to paint - Grace painted her santa and snowman in a rainbow fashion.

....Lastly, Grace and Brandon spent time together outside in the garden, which included climbing a beautiful oak tree.

A great time was had by all - what a perfect way to spend our Saturday!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dinner Fireside

The weather was quite chilly today - chilly enough to start a fire in our outdoor fireplace. While I was preparing dinner Dean and Grace headed outside to get the fire going (no worries, Grace watched from a safe distance). Once the chili (our favorite recipe is here) was ready, I joined them fireside to share our tasty meal. What good times I tell you!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkey Time

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fall Baking

It's hard to believe that the month of November is coming to a close. That also means our fall baking is coming to a close too. I love baking in the fall - nothing is better than the aroma of apples cooking on the stove or the sweet scent of pumpkin muffins baking in the oven. We've enjoyed so many recipes this season, some of which were tried and true and others that we just discovered.

One of our newly discovered recipes was for homemade applesauce. We've made a batch weekly since (this) post. I recently purchased a counter-top peeler/slicer/corer which has sped up the process considerably. Grace just loves using this handy gadget since it's easy for her to operate with the added bonus of being "super fast".

Homemade Applesauce
Place several pounds of peeled/sliced/cored apples (we use several varieties) into a large pot. Add a half gallon of apple cider in with the apples. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples soften and break apart. When they reach a desired consistency, remove the pot from the stove and add several spoonfuls of cinnamon sugar, stir.

As a side note.... I was noticing on our recent trip to Whole Foods that the variety of apples has dwindled. I'm not sure what Grace will do when she needs to go back to eating the jarred variety.

In the photo above Grace is eating a pumpkin muffin made from a delicious tried and true pumpkin bread recipe. I don't actually remember the origins of this family recipe - all I know is that Aunt Cathi must know it by heart, as she's made one tasty loaf after another. When Grace and I make this recipe we think of her.

Aunt Cathi's Pumpkin Bread
3 1/3 cups flour
3 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
4 eggs
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
2 cups pumpkin

Place all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, whisk until well blended. Place the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, whisk well. Add the wet mixture into the dry, stir with a spoon. Place the batter into a loaf pan and bake for one hour in a 350 degree oven.

Enjoy the recipes and the last days of November!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Thanksgiving Feast

This morning was Grace's Thanksgiving party at school. Here's some pictures....

Our little pilgrim girl saying a prayer with her class.

Each child colored their own place mat - this was Grace's.

Here she is eating her Thanksgiving feast - the pumpkin muffin (which was our contribution to the meal), "orange" cheese and apple slices were her favorite.

Grace had a wonderful time celebrating with her classmates!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book Inspiration :: Turkey Prints

We recently went to the library in search of Thanksgiving books. Much to our disappointment the shelf was empty. That sent us in search of fall themed books in the regular collection. We ended up leaving the library with a tote full of wonderful books, one being "Setting the Turkeys Free", written by W. Nikola-Lisa and illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max.

In the story a little boy creates turkeys by using his handprint. Grace has done quite a few projects using her handprint in the past, even turkeys. She really seems to enjoy comparing her current hand size to the size it was when she was "little". So I wasn't surprised when this book inspired her to pull out the paint and make some turkey prints of her own.

Here she is post turkey hand art. After washing her messy hands she decided to do some additional painting at the easel....

This was my personal favorite - a roasted turkey upon a table, complete with a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Oh how I love her creativity!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holiday Gifts

Here's a little glimpse of the first holiday gift that I finished today. Sorry, I can't go into details - each of the grandparents are going to receive a version of the above. I certainly don't want to ruin it for them, especially since I know Meme and Pop are regular readers of this blog.

My holiday gift making is off to a much later start than last year. However I think it may work to my advantage since I always seem to accomplish more under pressure. My goal for this year is to have a handmade Christmas, or close to it. What I'm unable to make myself (such as art supplies for a certain someone) I plan on purchasing from Etsy (here) or a locally owned store. In these tough economic times I'm finding it important to simplify and a homemade Christmas fits the ticket.

I'm off to get some embroidery done - have a wonderful night!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Morning Walks

Our days tend to follow a routine. Every morning after breakfast we head outside for a walk. It's often just for a jaunt in our neighborhood but at times, especially now with the cooler temperatures, we walk at one of the county parks.

The park certainly offers a bit more excitement - for Grace there are treasures to find and feathered friends to feed, for Sophie there's the yummy scents to smell and squirrels to chase and for me, the change of scenery is refreshing. The only downside is the time it takes us to get there (oh and the crazy barking that occurs when we pull into the parking lot). Those things aside, our walks in the park are well worth the extra effort - in fact we have a second trip planned for Thursday.

No matter where we find ourselves walking, it's the perfect start to our day!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lunch, Doggie Chairs and Soup

It was time for my annual health screening at work, which meant a special trip to St. Petersburg was in order. To make the trip a bit more exciting I thought it would be fun for Grace and I to meet Meme at Mazzaro's Italian Market for lunch. So that's just what we did. We had a delicious lunch together and then spent time looking around the market, adding yummy looking items to our basket along the way.

After our wonderful time with Meme, Grace and I headed off to work for my screening. While waiting for our turn Grace discovered these adorable dog seats in the lobby - have you ever seen a chair soooo cute? Needless to say when we arrived home I "Googled" the chairs and found them (here). They come in four sizes - the largest will fit an adult. The only downside to the doggies are their steep price tag, so we'll have to add them to our "keep dreaming" list!

Now to totally change the subject, for dinner we had our first soup of the season. I made a pot of shrimp bisque (recipe here) and paired it with a tasty loaf of artisan bread from Mazzaro's. Oh how I love soup and bread - it's a perfect combo for a chilly evening meal if you ask me!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ornament Swap

Back about a month ago, while in blogland, I came across a handmade ornament swap (here). I instantly knew that I wanted to participate. After brainstorming awhile I decided to make little gingerbread houses. Here's what the front of the finished ornaments look like (Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of the back. I used a coordinating fabric that had peppermint candy and swirls - just like a gingerbread house)....

And who could possibly be hidden behind the closed door?

Well, a cute gingerbread cookie of course.

Now the ornaments are packaged and ready to mail. I'm looking forward to the first week of December - that's when I'll receive my box of swapped goodness. Oh what a fun day that will be!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Faces

Grace got a bit creative with her Haba play food - her table was filled to the brim with plates of smiling faces.

Here's to a happy week!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book Inspiration :: Leaf Art

Thanks to a recent trip to the library, Grace's book bag is brimming with fall themed books. After reading the book, "Fall Leaves Fall" written by Zoe Hall and illustrated by Shari Halpern, Grace was inspired to create leaf art.

We decided that a park would be the best place to collect leaves in a variety of shapes and sizes for our project. So this morning we headed to a local park in search of leaves, among other treasures such as acorns, pine cones, and moss. Once all the items were collected Grace chose the "perfect" picnic table, then quickly got to work on her creation - an ocean scene. The little leaves were the fish, the big leaf was the shark and the moss was the coral reef, quite cleaver indeed.

We had a wonderful time creating leaf art together (yes, I made a picture too) in the great outdoors!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Another Quilt

This past week I finished yet another quilt - it's for the current Craft Hope project benefiting Margaret's Hope Chest. This project helps children a bit closer to home than the other projects I've participated in. The quilts are going to be distributed to homeless children in the state of Michigan during the holidays. If you would like to participate too, just click the "button" on the sidebar - you have until November 15th.

My goal for this project was to use materials that I already had on hand, meaning no trips to the local quilt shop. That sent Grace and I sorting through the fabric in my stash. We happened to find a yard of a farm animal print, perfect for a child. So that fabric, along with some white muslin and a few blenders became the bright and happy quilt below.

This was one of those do good, feel good projects for me - a perfect start to my holiday crafting. It was the last quilt that I had planned on completing prior to the holidays. But....then I fell upon this post (here), so I may have changed my mind. Oh how nice it would be to finish my two "UFO's" in time for the New Year.

Happily off to start the next project on my list......

Monday, November 2, 2009


Our Saturday night was filled with Halloween fun. As you can see from the pictures, Grace was a panda bear. She came up with the idea just a week before she needed a costume for her school parade. With a bit of fabric and felt a handmade panda costume was born - including a headband, shirt, skirt and bamboo tote. And what a cute little panda she was....

We hope your treat bags were filled to the brim with Halloween goodness too!