Thursday, September 30

One year ago I was in the hospital holding my newborn son, and he changed our world forever... particularly his sister's.  I can't believe that a year has now passed and that my baby boy is no longer such a baby.  Happy Birthday little man!  Please let time slow down a little.

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Wednesday, September 29

A Tale of Two "Apple" Sandwiches...

This is the tale of two cheese and apple sandwiches...

The first sandwich... a basic grilled cheese with white cheddar, but cut into fun apple shapes with cheese leaves.

The second sandwich... an adult friendly open-faced sandwich with white Vermont cheddar mixed with a softer yellow cheese, apple slices, and pepper and salt to taste.

Which sandwich would you choose?

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Tuesday, September 28

Apple Picking

Looking for a fun Fall activity... go apple picking.  We went this past weekend to Carter Mountain Orchard.  It was hot (nature hadn't gotten the memo that it was Fall), but still fun.

Pack a picnic to enjoy before or during the picking.  Ours included:
  • Turkey Wraps with Vermont White Cheddar, Sauteed Vidalia Onions and Crisp Apple Slices
  • Black Bean Dip with Carrots
  • Chips
  • Cheeses and Peanut Butter to pair with freshly picked apples (don't forget a knife and cutting board)
  • Eclair Cake (courtesy of my mother)
We wandered among the trees, picking Jonagold and Golden Delicious from the high branches.  By the end we left with our freshly picked goodies, apple cider donuts from the bakery, fresh apple cider... hot and sweaty from our excursion but excited about the deliciousness ahead of us.

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Monday, September 27

Celebrating Fall

Italian Plums purchased at the
Falls Church Farmers Market
 I love Fall... the crispness in the air, the energy as everyone returns from the summer break, the colors, the flavors, and the impending celebrations.  Last Fall sped by due to my son's birth.  I was in those new Mommy days and only made a few token attempts to celebrate the season.  I don't want a repeat this year.

Here is my "bucket list" for embracing Fall 2010:
  • Apple Picking
  • Collect leaves with the kids
  • Celebrate Virginia Wine Month (October)
  • Make plum jam
  • Celebrate my son turning 1
  • Highland Games and Celtic Festival (not a traditional "Fall" activity, but part of our Fall)
  • Football (this one is for my husband)
  • Try new pumpkin recipes, with fresh pumpkin
  • "Carve" a jack-o-lantern with my daughter
  • Enjoy a Fall Picnic with my family
  • Decorate with candles and throws for extra coziness
  • Eat grapes... roasted grapes, lavendar grape tarts, wine, etc
  • Pull out the sweaters and shawls
  • Create an autumnal display for the front porch
  • Soups, soups, soups... and chili
  • Hot Apple Cider
  • Enjoy other seasonal flavors... pears, potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, apples
  • Take long family walks
  • Bonfires at Nana and Papa's, with roasted marshmallows and smores
  • Hay Maze
  • Photograph the sights of the season
  • Hiking
How do you celebrate Fall?

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Sunday, September 26

Organizing 101: Reader Ideas

Thanks to everyone for your comments this past week.  Here are some of your suggestions...
  • "One thing I do like to do is get the coffee set up the night before in my preset coffee timer, so when we wake up it's already made."  (Sue from Stay at Home Mom)
  • "Another time-saving idea I've been using lately is when line-drying laundry, I often put it on the hanger wet, hang it to dry, then put it straight in the closet. Why put in another step with clothespins if it's destined for a hanger in the closet anyway?"  (Julie from Heirloom Homestead)
  • "I made some fabric wall-art using large corkboard and covering it with batting and cute fabric. Hang it on the wall and I have a cute piece of art with texture on the wall. But then I can hang up my kids' artwork on top of it! yay!"  (Jane)
Wishing everyone a smoothly-running week...

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Thursday, September 23

Organizing 101: The Breakfast Routine

I love old housekeeping books.  They are fascinating tomes  full of tidbits and wisdom from the past.  I think of all the women before me that have read them as they planned how to manage their own homes in their own unique styles.  However, there was one piece of advice that I read many, many times and have only recently begun to appreciate... set your breakfast table the night before.

It's a simple thing to do.  But it is such a help with the morning rush.  Just set out the table the night before with any nonperishable items... plates, bowls, cups, forks and spoons, coffee mugs, bananas, bread on a cutting board with a knife, honey, boxes of cereals, tea bags... whatever makes sense in your family.

Five minutes at nice... maybe five minutes in the morning to actually sit and drink your coffee... those women before knew what they were doing.

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Wednesday, September 22

Organizing 101: Clothing Labels

This is a re-post of a former idea, but I wanted to share it again as part of this Organization week.  This is such a help in our life.  We have a set for me and for my daughter, and I'll be making a set for my son soon as well.  Anything that makes mornings easier is appreciated, and this makes sure that everyone has clean clothes, particularly when I am trying to work off of smaller wardrobes.

I originally saw the hanger label idea on No Fuss Fabulous.  The pink didn't exactly go with my beach-inspired room, so I decided to make up some custom designs for myself.  Using Microsoft Word and Clip Art, I came up with basic designs incorporating coral, sea horses, starfish, and sea shells.

I do laundry on Saturday.  Either Saturday or Sunday I run through and lay out my clothes for the week.  With the hangers, I always have something ready to go in the morning and don't ever have the dilemma of having nothing clean to wear.

The other great advantage is that my husband can help get my daughter dressed without having to ask what I want her to wear.  He just grabs the day's hanger and has everything he needs.  No thought dressing... particularly useful if he hasn't had his coffee yet.

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Monday, September 20

Organizing 101: Meal Planner and Family Organizer

This may be one of the greatest organizing tools in out house.  It serves as our central command center.  It controls what we eat and what we do.  It helps ensure we make it to doctor appointments and ballet classes.  All in all, it helps us keep it together.

In essence, it's a simple white board with a grid marked out in thin artist's tape along with a few "day" magnets and multiple marker colors.  Nothing more.  But this simple tool helps keep us organized.  Each week my husband and I plan out our week... ballet classes, church, dinner appointments, to do lists, etc.  Then we plan out our meals as well.  Everything is color-coded, include meals:  purple means I'm cooking, orange means he's cooking, and black means other.  It keeps us together.  Trust me, when we don't do that weekly plan, we eat out entirely too much.  We even use the same color-coding for our activities with a different color for every family members. 

How do you keep your family organized?

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Sunday, September 19

Organizing 101: Organizing Kid Artwork

There is something about Fall that makes me want to organize.  Perhaps it is the fresh school supplies and new clothes.  Perhaps it is a renewed interest in home as the days get a little cooler.  Perhaps it is just the busyness of activities resuming that screams for schedules.  Whatever the reason, organization is on my mind.

This week is Organizing 101... some tips and ideas that have helped in our lives.  Please share your ideas and suggestions as well.  After all, we can all use some help.

In honor of school starting, let's start with an idea for organizing artwork.  My daughter's room has a weird partial wall that we have turned into a rotating gallery.  It's a simple concept: three clear clipboards with coordinating scrapbook paper attached.  The clipboards hang on the wall just waiting for their next creation.  They are cute on their own, but let's be honest, that won't last long.  So when new artwork comes home, you can clip it up for as long as you like, and then rotate when the next piece comes in.  Simple and fun.
Recognize the Madeline hat and the Kite?

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Thursday, September 16

Not Perfect

Dear self,

I just wanted to let you know that it is okay that you aren't perfect.  Some days, that to do list doesn't get checked off.  Sometimes walking through your daughter's room means negotiating a minefield, and your living room is over-run by the rising tide of brightly colored miscellany.  Sometimes you may feel as overwhelmed as that little monkey on the floor, ready to give up.  It's okay.  It will be there tomorrow.  So for now just stop and take a deep breath.  Put the to-do list down.  Get a cup of tea.  And rest.


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Tuesday, September 14

Mimosa Cupcakes

Work lately has been crazy.  There were jokes about needing Mimosas to make our daily 8:30am meetings more relaxed.  Now, that is not a practical reality for a number of reasons.  However, Mimosa cupcakes were a possibility...

You can make these with sparkling wine or gingerale.  The orange is the hit of the show.  (Recipe here.)  Given my inability to follow a recipe, I did add a little more sparkling wine and a little more orange juice to the icing, which resulted in my icing not being quite stiff enough to hold its peaks.  It tasted delicious.  But if you want the pretty icing top, stick with the original recipe.

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Thursday, September 9

More Book Cupcakes

I love to hear from all of you.  I love seeing how people create things themselves.  I love inspiring others and being inspired in return.  Therefore, I was especially excited to hear from Dawn who had reached out to me regarding the book toppers I made for my Owls & Books baby shower.  Here's a picture of the cupcakes she made for her sister's shower.  Aren't they adorable?

(And if Kate is reading this, please send me your email so that I can answer your question about the cupcake books.  Your comment came through without an email address for me to contact.)

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Tuesday, September 7

Back to School

In my part of the world, the day after Labor Day signals one thing... the start of school.  And even though my children are still too young, the day still holds a certain reverence for me.  Our friends have been sending their children to the first day of kindergarten.  Middle and high schoolers once again form an obstacle course for me in the morning and I leave for work (my driveway somehow ended up as a bus stop).  And all of the teachers in the family start another year.

I have been blessed to be the daughter of one of the most amazing teachers around.  She's the teacher you dream of your child having... the kind that former students return to visit year after year, even when they are in grad school.  I have attended so many functions with my mother of the years as a show of support for her students (present and former).  There have been ballet recitals, soccer games, local community fairs, and even high school plays (my mother teaches elementary).

Since high school, I have often tried to leave something special for my mother to kick off her school year.  There have been notes hidden in her desk, sweet treats, and even a package delivered from a co-conspirator when I was in college.  It hasn't been every year.  But, I do like when I can do something special to honor such an amazing woman.  This year, I decided her classroom needed cheer... sunflowers and daisies in a pencil vase and a milk carton of candy, courtesy of Paper Crane's adorable milk carton printable.

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Monday, September 6

Wishing you a Sweet Labor Day

Here's wishing you a sweet Labor Day!  I hope it has been a restorative time that has renewed your spirit.

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Thursday, September 2

Jello "Watermelons"

Now you know that we couldn't do our watermelon celebration without jello watermelon.  There are a number of bloggers who have created these (often with mini chocolate chips for seeds).  Here are the lessons I learned in doing this:
  • Lime juice wreaks havoc on your fingers, particularly your cuticles.  You may want to wear gloves to save your hands from looking like mine.
  • I chose to use black cherry jello because I prefer the flavor.  Of course, I forgot that since you need to do the jello jiggler recipe that it makes for a really dark color.  In my case, I'd do it again because I like the flavor.  However, if you want a more realistic watermelon color, go for a lighter red jello.
  • Set the lime peel in muffin cups to hold it level for the jello.  This works really well.
  • I just the lime into wedges.  However, my husband had the idea that next time I should cut it horizontally into more of a slice.
  • Let me know if you determine a good knife for creating a clean cut.  I tried serrated knives, a chef's knife, and even a bread knife.  All resulted in slight texture in the cut.
This is a great project to do with the kids.  My daughter loved mixing the jello.  She and my next door neighbor were fascinated during the process and couldn't wait for the jello to harden (the neighbor had to come back the next day).  Then again, they also sat at the table and ate the lime pulp as I was scraping out the peel.  I acknowledge that probably isn't normal.

Let me know how your creations turn out.

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