Post-Christmas Winter Decor

We had such a wonderful Holiday season!  Starting with Halloween…then an amazing Thanksgiving…and a spectacular Christmas.  All filled with wonderful memories that I will cherish…also the reason for my scarce presence here.  I often thought about things I should write, but I was just completely consumed by my family…and I was loving it, so I didn’t fight it…I embraced it!

What really blew me away the most?  My kids decorated our tree.  I have one box of ornaments that contains all of the very most special ornaments…the bells my grandmother gave my mom, that she gave me…the kids handprint snowman ornaments…my small Radko collection…my Hummel from 1979 that Aunt Frances gave me.  I hang those high, following my Mom’s lead…realizing it all probably started with keeping them away from my curious little hands.  I was amazed at the fantastic job my babies did while I was cooking dinner…I didn’t find my OCD Christmas decorating self wanting to rearrange all of them.  Quite the contrary…I found my self smiling as I walked around the tree in utter awe of them.  Here are a few shots I got before starting the de-decorating process…

Those sweet little ornaments that they make at school…those times go by so fast!  Ethan is already beyond that age :(.  He was my ‘director of tree decorations’, when the others put more than one ornament on a branch…he relocated it…such a big guy!

I have to admit, that I really didn’t want to take the tree down.  Everytime I looked at it, it made me so happy I nearly cried.  All of the memories that are held in that tree, each and every ornament has a story…and now that is coupled with the visions in my mind of my 4 little elves placing all of those memories.  It really takes my breath away. 

Moving on before I start crying…with all of my Christmas put away, the house looks so empty and boring.  I started working on my mantle, playing around with changing out the focal point…I tried replacing the picture of the “Twins at the Fountain in Balboa Park” with what we refer to as “The Album Cover”.

 

I went with the fountain picture, as much as I love “the album cover” it just wasn’t right for the space.  It would have helped if it were oriented in a landscape format rather than portrait format (it needed to be wider than tall).  Plus, if I had used it…I would have felt compelled to take down the gallery of pictures hanging on the wall opposite our mantle that are from the same shoot.  After playing around for a bit, this is what I came up with…

Sorry about the glare from the upper windows!  I liked this, but it just seemed a little boring.  I posted the above pic to my FaceBook page…and got some great advice from my childhood friend Marian.  I thought about her suggestions, and when I woke up the next morning I was inspired!  So, here is the finished (for now ;) ) product…

I find it much more interesting…a little nature is just what it needed.  The bare branches also gave the added height that was missing.  I couldn’t get them to stand up just the way I wanted, so I added a scarf of scrap drop cloth…and some vase filler in the form of dry white beans.

On the other side, I added a pottery piece that I think contrasts nicely with the clock and candle holder.  The irregularity of the pottery adds some texture, don’t ya think?

What does your post-Christmas winter decor look like?  Please share pics on my FaceBook page!  Don’t forget to ‘like’ it while you’re there!

Today’s secret revealed…there is a reason that the only thing I have shown is the mantle…the rest of the room is a wreck!

Comfortably Fashionable

This post is a long time in the making.  Last summer I received an email from the media relations department at eShakti.  At that time I was having some issues with my blog’s email, and I noticed it as I was cleaning my inbox out…my heart rate increased a bit as I read the email.  They were asking me if I would be interested in doing a product review…ME!  This was not a site I was familiar with, which meant (at least in my brain) that they had found me, liked what they saw, and wanted to work with me…very exciting!!!  Our communication took a while to get all of the details hammered out…then I sort of fell off the face of the ‘blogosphere’ during the holidays, while I really focused on my family and enjoying those little moments.

As I was browsing the selections at eShakti (they told me I could order ANYTHING I wanted!), I had such a hard time choosing!  Did I want that one spectacular dress?  A fabulous skirt?  A trendy trench?  I finally decided on a wardrobe staple, and so happy with my choice!

I chose this uber versatile cardigan.  I wear it ALL THE TIME!  I find it to be extremely well made, with fabric that is so nice.  When I shop, I always go by feel first…if the fabric doesn’t feel good, I ain’t buying.  This cardigan also did me the wonderful service of allowing me to wear my leggings with a simple top (not a tunic that covers my ample upper legs ;) ).  The shape is flattering…and I can dress it up or down.  I have worn this with leggings, skinny jeans, regular jeans…the possibilities are endless. 

This is what I have my eye on from their pre-spring collection…it is a chambray maxi dress.  Again, a super versatile piece!

As stated, eShakti provided me with my choice of their available items.  I inquired about what the expectations of me were…but there were none specific, other than a post about my choice…what I wrote was all up to me positive or negative.  I hope you will check them out, they offer a wide range of sizes and will customize the fit for you.  Happy shopping!

Today’s secret revealed…I hope this is just a taste of what lies ahead for me…I am ready to get back to writing, so I hope y’all are ready to get back to reading!

Key Lime Truffles

Yes…they are so yummy!  They were really quite simple, too…which I think makes them even yummier.  My Mom and I sat one evening brainstorming all of the different types of truffles we could make while we were eating one of her amazing pecan pie truffles.  I have quite a list of flavors and ingredients.  Key Lime is the flavor I was most excited about trying.  I had found some key limes on my last grocery trip.  I decided to use Ghiradelli’s white chocolate chips as my base.  I don’t have an actual double boiler, and oddly I don’t have a stainless steel bowl…so I improvised.

Yep, I have a pot with a steamer insert that my sauce pan happens to fit nicely inside of.  So I dumped one bag of white chocolate chips in and started zesting limes.

Arent the key limes cute?  They are small, round, and smooth skinned limes…with a milder flavor than a regular lime.  You could substitute regular limes, but I would say one lime is equivalent to 3 key limes.  I used 6 key limes for this batch.  Then I added in 4 tablespoons of butter and 4 tablespoons of heavy cream.

This takes a little patience…stir…stir…stir…until it is nice and smooth.

I think the bits of zest are so pretty.  Then I added in the juice of those 6 key limes.  When I started, I didn’t know exactly how much of the zest & the juice I would need.  I wanted it to taste tart, but not too tart.  Here is my little trick when I zest and juice citrus fruits…

I flip the microplaner (or fine grater, whatever I’m using) over and juice over it…the holes allow the juice to go through, but also catches the seeds…no need for a strainer or another dirty tool ;).  Then I covered it and put it in the fridge to chill for 2 hours or so…until it was nice and firm.  When it has firmed up, you can scoop it out…I have a handy dandy cookie dough scooper that made this job much easier.  I started out with a melon baller, because I wanted them to be smaller…but the truffles did not want to come out of that. 

Working quickly, I rolled these between my hands to help form them into perfect little balls.  They didn’t stick to my hands much, but you really have to work fast to keep the mixture from softening from the heat of your hands.

These go into the freezer for a bit.  My original intentions were to dip these into melted white chocolate…I thought they would be so pretty.  I went through 2 bags of white chocolate chips…they kept seizing up.  I guess I scorched them…oh well, I’m all about plan B and improvisation.  I decided rolling them in powdered sugar would be the next best thing…

I think they look like little snowballs…perfect for the holidays! 

Key Lime Truffles
Print
 
Recipe type: dessert
Author: Natasha
Ingredients
  • 11 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 6 key limes, zest and juice
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Melt white chocolate chips together with zest, butter and cream in a double boiler until smooth and combined. Blend in the lime juice until well incorproated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  2. Scoop out balls of the chilled mixture and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Working quickly roll into balls with hands. Place in freezer for at least an hour. Roll in powdered sugar. I store mine in the freezer.
 

Today’s secret revealed…I may have shared this before…but prior to my pregnancy with Em, I didn’t care for lemon or lime flavored treats (except for key lime pie, always been a fan of that)…with her I craved all things lemon and lime.  I would go to a restaurant for lunch just to finish with their lemon bars!  Now I’m practically obsessed.

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Its Been A While…

I can’t believe more than a month has gone by since my last post!  Where did November go???  It was a roller coaster month for me…a little health scare (all is totally fine!)…a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend…some much needed “mama time”, meaning my Mom was here for a nice, not-long-enough visit…a quick get-away with DH (an early birthday celebration)…the football game of the year…and a HUGE surprise party!  This is just to name a few things that have happily occupied my typical writing time!

My amazing Mom, the best neighbor ever (Stephanie!), and Darling Husband pulled off one of the biggest surprises of my life…Em is still the biggest, with finding out about having twins a close 2nd ;).  They put together a surprise birthday party for me…at my house…without me having so much as a clue!  I am surrounded by amazing people!!!  It was SO MUCH FUN!  I still can’t believe they pulled it off!  God Bless my Mom!  She took care of my kids, cleaned my house, and threw a party!  How the heck does she do it!?!?!  I seriously thought that the big surprise was when our besties, Shawn & Brandy, walked in to the sports bar right before the SEC Championship started…they got me good!

 

My fabulous fashionista Melissa coined the WWTD, after I told her “sometimes you just have to tell him ‘I’m about to have a crazy girl moment, so just bear with me’ “.  We all have those moments.  Every bottle of wine was decorated!  Mom does not play around with the party throwing!

The fire hazard cake, it is my favorite…German Chocolate…YUMMY!  I have some in the freezer to eat on my acutal bday…THANKS FOR THAT, TOO MOM!

This Sunday is the big day…I will be 4o…how’d that happen?  Where did November go?  Where did the last 10 years go?  Heck, where did the last 20 years go?  I must say, I am not scared of 40…seriously.  I could not be happier in my life.  I have a wonderful husband, amazing children, fantastic family, and fabulous friends…what more could a girl ask for in life???  Well, unlimitied funds would be icing on the cake…and a body like Faith Hill (have you seen her before the NFL games???) wouldn’t suck…but I guess you can’t have it all ;).

These are the shoes that I will kick 40′s butt in…or at least prance around the kitchen while I’m creating some new dishes ;).  Thank you Melissa for sending me these amazing shoes!  Mark would also like to thank you…my man loves hot shoes!

Today’s secret revealed…I was almost nervous about writing today, it has been too long!  I promise my next post won’t take as long.

Anxiety Overridden

I was rediculously anxious about making Em a dress using a pattern…silly me!  I created my pattern pieces using the freezer paper method (and the help of my friend Missy)…I could have just cut out rectangles of fabric using the measurements in my pattern from Little Lizard King, but now I have all of the “puzzle pieces” to make more of them.  I decided on the Elizabeth Claire Peasant Dress, I wanted something that had more shape than the typical peasant dress.

I only had one MAJOR oops…I sewed the fabric together for the skirt on the wrong side…and didn’t discover it until I had already gathered the skirt :(.  How did I make such a heinous error?  It was kinda dark in my dining sewing room (that chandy doesn’t exactly put out bright light), and the fabric didn’t look much different from one side to the other.  Crisis averted…I was able to undo the seams and flip it and resew it without having to redo the gathering (which was my least favorite part of this little project). 

I was finishing this while I should have been packing for our week at Disney…I’m great at avoiding huge tasks with other unneccessary projects.  I’m actually avoiding folding all of the vacation laundry as I write this…this is my most used coping mechanism ;).

Drum roll, please….(I hear Ellen Grizwold in my head, right before the lights don’t come on…)

Em wasn’t overly cooperative for this pic…but I love it…and the dress.  Here is the fabric I am going to make her Christmas dress out of…

It has a coordinating green & cream tiny polka dot to be the border and sash, I’m so excited to start it!  I made a deal with myself that I have to fold Mt. Duckwall first…AND put it away.  I sooooooo want to hide out and make another dress instead.

Today’s secret revealed…I needed more thread to finish this dress, I ran out as I was adding the finishing touches to the sash, I had less than 12 inches of sewing to do.  While shopping for the thread, I ran across some gray and white chevron fabric that is seriously making me think twice about Em’s attire for the Christmas pic.  It was on the remnant table for $5/yard!!!  It is nice twill, so I can use it for clothing…or some random project (like floor pillows…lovely distractions!).

The Tradition Continues…

Thanks to another successful broom ride we had a most fabulous Halloween!  If you haven’t ever checked out the past posts, you should really see what fun we have at Halloween…every year seems to top the year before!  My mom goes to extraordinary lengths to make special memories…this year was no different!  She brought us all to Disney World…and my kids got to trick-or-treat at the Magic Kingdom!  Amazing memories they will have!  This year Pappy even got to participate in the broom ride!  The broom crash landed onto the porch of our condo in Orlando…

I love that all of my babies still enjoy the magic!  Here are all of my babies with their Witchy Mimi and Pappy fresh off of the broom!

Today’s secret revealed…everytime the broom flies in we have a full moon…we don’t intentionally plan it that way, but how appropriate :).

Intimidation

I am so intimidated by this dress pattern that I have purchased!  Not because it is a difficult pattern…but simply because it is a pattern!  I am, what I like to call, a free-sewer…kinda like a free spirit, but directly related to my sewing machine ;).  I have made window treatments, recovered sofa cushions, slipcovered a wingback chair…all by free-sewing, no patterns involved.  So today I used one of my favorite coping mechanisms…AVOIDANCE!  I spent part of my day yesterday learning the freezer paper technique of making a pattern, thanks to my dear friend Missy.  I got my pattern drafted (the one I purchased gives you measurements for basically rectangles), and 2 pieces cut out before I had to get home to meet the school bus.  I thought I would at least finish cutting out the fabric today, but I decided to hem my Joe’s Jeans instead.  Whilst looking for the thread I wanted to use, I found a pair of denim trousers that I had purchased while living in PHX (so more than 2½ years ago).  Again, my intimidation struck…and rather than hem those jeans that I had wanted for so long (fearful I would mess them up)…I re-fashioned the trousers.  What did I have to lose?  If I royally messed them up, then something I had literally forgotten I owned would become scrap fabric…and if successful, well, I would have a newish addition to my wardrobe.  This is what they looked like when I started, pardon my jammie top…

Not very exciting are they?  Not flattering…at all…waaaaay too long (so I got to practice my hemming skills).  I remembered seeing this tutorial on pinterest, that is what I based my trouser re-fashion on.  I turned them inside out…

That’s a good look, don’tcha think?  I started pinning (she suggested marking, but I wanted to save a step)…

I pinned one leg…got tired of bending over…and decided to match up the pinning with them off of me…

I matched up the seams, and put the pins in as close to the same spot on the other leg as I could.  This whole process really only took a few minutes.  Then I sewed along the pins, starting in the crotch of the pants and working my way to the bottom of the leg.  Once both legs were ‘skinnied’, I trimmed the excess and ironed the seams out.  Then I hemmed them up, I’m no expert at hemming…find a good tutorial and follow it.  One major piece of advice I have for hemming is be sure once you have your measurement to IRON the hem…it makes a HUGE difference.  So here they are all finished up!

I like them so much better now!  I’m sure I will get lots of wear out of these versatile pants :).

Today’s secret revealed…my jeans STILL AREN’T HEMMED!  I really need to do it while the process is fresh in my brain!  I know y’all are jealous of my pin cushion bracelet…not exactly a fashion statement :).

 

 

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Perfectly Shredded Chicken

I love having shredded chicken on stand-by in my fridge or freezer, it is great for so many quick dishes…and even my picky eater will eat it. I wanted to participate in The Nester’s 31 day series…on shredded chicken…yes, I have 31 (actually more) recipes that utilize shredded chicken. I have made that an aspiration for 2013, I procrastinated on working on photos for the series…and couldn’t make my family eat shredded chicken every single day of October ;).  I have already started preparing for next October. 

This is a busy time of year for most of us, especially if you have kids in activities.  I have two playing football, one in dance, and one ‘dabbling in golf’.  If I don’t plan ahead for dinners, chaos ensues.  I am going to share the easiest recipe-ready chicken…you make it in your crock-pot!  I’m using boneless, skinless chicken breasts…I threw them in frozen (DISCLAIMER…it is not recommended that you put frozen meat in a slow cooker, so either thaw them out first or proceed at your own risk ;) ).  Season with whatever suits you…I used garlic powder, kosher salt and pepper.

I cooked mine for about 6 hours…then into my Kitchen Aid mixer they went! 

Using the paddle attachment, ‘mix’ until it is perfectly shredded…took me less than 30 seconds!  Now I know this is an extra dish to wash…but 30 seconds!  Worth the extra washing in my humble opinion…bonus of no burnt fingers from the super hot chicken.

Yes, it is really that simple!  Now it is ready for whatever recipe you have in mind…we had barbeque chicken sandwiches with this batch.

Today’s secret revealed…I really wish I used my crock pot more often, I am so happy with how easy mealtime is when I use it.

 

I’m Still Here!

Between the back-to-back birthdays and this project…I have been a busy girl!  My Handyman struck again!  My laundry room shelves have been on my nerves since day one in this house.  I hang most of the adult sized laundry to dry, and I had maybe 8 inches of space between my dryer and the wall that would accomodate the length of our clothes.  That is not sufficient.  I got out my sketch pad and went to work.  Once I got my idea on paper, I gave DH his new assignment.  Here is the before…I hate those wire shelves.

The top of that cabinet was recessed, so putting things up there really didn’t work.  You can’t even see my inadequate hanging space, it is tiny!  I wanted a higher shelf that went the full length of the wall…starting on top of the cabinet.  I thought it would be difficult to match up stain, so we decided painting the shelf the same color as the trim work would be best.  I had to give up my laundry room for the better part of a week to get this project done.  With a family of 6 that added up to MOUNTAINS (plural) of laundry…piled everywhere but the laundry room.  I am currently looking at a clean mountain of needs-to-be-folded laundry…where’s my laundry fairy???  I sure could use a visit from her right about now, but alas, she has a job and lives 2 hours away.  Yes, I actually have a laundry fairy that visits from time-to-time :).

DH had a helper, our little rockstar handyman in training…he helped sand, paint, assemble.  He is DH’s shadow…not really interested in TV or video games like his brothers…he wants to help Dad, doesn’t really matter what Dad is working on…he is there.

Ready for the after?  I am super pleased with the amazing job my HandyMEN did!

My repurposed juice bottles of homemade laundry detergent weren’t photo-worthy…I am going to need some prettier containers!  Look at all of that hanging space!  The finished edges of the shelving that DH was able to achieve by adding molding has inspired him to possibly undertake that coat closet I want transformed into a drop zone!  Yes, the sketch pad will be back out…and my pinterest boards will definitely grow for that project.

Want to do a similar project?  Here is a tip for painting those wooden brackets…use a scrap piece of wood, place however many screws as brackets with space between to paint.  Here is what DH made…you can see one of the screws in the foreground…

Today’s secret revealed…I’m off to order my clothing sample from the website that has asked me to do my first product review!!!  I’m super excited because they contacted me out of the clear blue!

Silly Movies

I love silly movies…from The Goonies to Wedding Crashers…I love movies that make me laugh, even if it is because they are just silly.  Where am I going with this???  I have had one of those weeks.  My projects are not cooperating with me…is Mercury in retrograde, or something?  Any-hoo…a certain quote keeps going on in my mind…it is from a silly movie…NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER!

It all started with the Great Sofa Makeover, that is stalled for a bit.  I was pin-fitting the part your back would be against, got the first part sewn…I was proud of my progress…right up until I “right-sided” it to see how it looked “finished”.  That is when I realized that when it gets “right-sided”, it fits the other end of the sofa.  That took all of the wind from my sails and I decided to stash that for a bit.  I will not give up on this, just postponing until my Mom arrives and I have an extra set of hands…or until it drives me totally crazy and I go ahead and cut the perfectly good cushions off of that end.

I decided I would do an “easy” project…make a fall wreath for my door.  My dear friend, Lisa, posted this pic on my timeline….

I went everywhere looking for Indian Corn.  I finally found out that one of our local produce stands has another location (that I would be driving by on my way to football games!) that had some.  I was excited to get it…I had DH pick up a straw wreath for me…I found the most beautiful Indian Corn, it was HUGE!  Sadly, too huge :(.  My finished wreath would have been 4 feet across…waaaaaaay to big for my door.  I needed much smaller ears…still looking.

My next project is something I have never tried…making a dress for Em.  I am super nervous!  My MIL thinks I’m crazy…if I can make those slipcovers, she says a dress will be a breeze…but I’ve never really followed a pattern, just sewn by the seat of my pants.  I think I’ll wait until next week ;)

NEVER GIVE UP…NEVER SURRENDER!

Please tell me I’m not the only dork that has seen this movie!

Today’s secret revealed…I finally got to live out a long time dream…CINDERELLA came out on DVD this week!  Emma and I watched it together, almost brought me to tears.  Last time it was released, there were no daughters in my sights :).

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