2012 Christmas Gifts Round-Up

I’ve really enjoyed reading about gifts some of you have received, and I love learning about new books and products from fellow bloggers, so I thought I’d write a little about our goods, too!


All Jude really wanted for Christmas was a violin.  He’s been really interested in instruments of all kinds lately, and he’s watched a ridiculous amount of Little Einsteins since sister came along, so I’m guessing that’s what led to the obsession. Or maybe it is my adoration of Andrew Bird who pretty much played on repeat throughout my entire pregnancy with Jude. Ha.  Who knows?  Whatever the case, he was so amazed to see this toy one left by Santa on Christmas morning.  What did parents do before Amazon?  In addition to that, we picked up a train on Groupon Goods a while ago and this Batman toy has received A LOT of playtime this week.  We threw in a few other little things here and there, but those were his big items, and I think he seems pretty happy with them.


Norah, on the other hand, is just happy to have a few toys that are new and not hand-me-downs.  We kept it simple with her … a couple new cloth diapers, a Kicky Pants sleeper I found on Zulily a while ago, and a Sophie the Giraffe teether.  We also brought up the doorway bouncer from the basement and gave Santa the credit, and she LOVES bouncing in that thing.

I scored some great stuff myself as well.  Scot surprised me with a Kindle Paperwhite and a pretty new case for it. I have a first generation Kindle, and I know they’ve come out with all sorts of multi-functional readers now.  But I only use mine for reading books, so the Paperwhite is a perfect fit for me.  I complain a lot these days that I don’t have time to read with my current responsibilities in life, and my old light that I’d use on my Kindle was far too bright to take with me while rocking or nursing Norah.  This one is backlit very faintly though, so I can read while I am rocking her to sleep.  In the past 2 days, I’ve plowed though a quarter of The Chaperone in my little spurts of 20 minutes here or there to nurse and rock the baby. So this is a gift that got me reading again, and for that I’m really grateful!

Scott also took Jude shopping a while ago with the purpose of buying me something from Jude, and Jude insisted he purchase “a teacup” for me.  Apparently it’s all he would consider for mama.  So they went to Teavana, and I got an awesome loose tea infuser that I love  – coupled with the best tea I have ever had.  Ever.  I am not exaggerating.  It’s all I can do to limit myself to a cup or two a day.  Yum.  Add some Starbucks Christmas blend and this collection of stories from the gift exchange on my side of the family, and I am a happy girl.


I’ve got a little cash to spend as well, and Amazon should be arriving today with two cookbooks (this one and this one) I’ve been wanting for a while, and some kitchen odds and ends I need (hand blender and a pizza stone).  I’m vaguely thinking of purchasing an essential oils diffuser with the bit that’s left, but I am confused at the options.  Anyone with experience or interest in aromatherapy?  What kind of diffuser do you use?  I need some advice on that one.


So what’d ya get?  Anything fun or interesting for you or the kiddos?

fun finds

I spent some time last night reorganizing my Pinterest boards when I was iPad-ing with a sleeping baby on my chest.  Why do I feel uninspired when I’m making the weekly dinner plan before grocery shopping, yet I have a million things pinned or filed in the back of my mind?  Sometimes the internet is big enough that I get a little lost or can’t find what I ran across ages ago.

Anyway, here are a few fun finds from this week:

This post from Simple Kids inspired me to get Jude playing when he wakes up.  I currently use the t.v. as a babysitter while I am making breakfast and dinner, but this would be a much better way to wake up everyday.

These peach enchiladas are a great afternoon snack.  I use one peach for me, plus a teaspoon of granulated honey as a sweetener.  Delicious.

I had one of these Coffee-Banana Smoothies for my mid-morning snack today, and there are 5 more waiting for me in my freezer.

Slow Cooker Marinara is on the agenda this week.  I am doubling this recipe to freeze a lot of it.  I needed a use for my oregano and basil that are getting pretty lanky in the window boxes this time of year.

I’m flattered that Lee Anne over at Her Own Way included a piece of an earlier interview with me about balance and creativity.  That little segment is here, and she has lots of good advice about how to nurture the creative soul in all of us.

blog love and some quick photos

It’s hot, hot, hot here in Georgia.  We don’t play outside much after about 10 a.m. these days.

morning sidewalk chalk

Jude’s two cousins are over a couple of days a week, and the days they are here feel crazy and chaotic in many ways, and I rarely get anything done outside of changing diapers or keeping them all fed.  But on the other hand, now that we are falling in to a rhythm, it’s easier in ways in that Jude stays busy and entertained throughout much of the day.  Last week, my sister came to get her clan, and her oldest asked if she could stay the night which I didn’t mind at all since the husband was away, and it can get quiet around here anyhow.  I had to run to Joann the next day to get some fabric for a project, and I spent $6 on some cheap yarn and a crochet hook, and someone crocheted her little fingers off for about four hours that afternoon.  I cleaned the entire house as Jude was napping, and little Peyton stayed glued to the sofa with her feet propped up and her crochet hook weaving in and out of the craziest rainbow yarn you’ve ever seen.  Even after Jude woke up, she kept going.

So if you have a bored seven-year-old girl lounging around the house this summer with no school to keep her busy, spend $6 at your local craft store and grant her hours of entertainment.  Her patience is lacking, and so far all she has is a series of multi-colored yarn caterpillars, but she’ll get there; I’m sure of it.

I have some funny stories to share and some things to reflect on here and there, I know.  But my lack of peace and quiet in the mornings lately seems to mean no time to write, so I’m having to find a new rhythm and carve a new space for this blog in my day.  I hope you’ll bear with me and stick around until I work out the practicalities of changing a few things and making time for this again.  …. Well, what I really hope is that Jude will go back to sleeping until 7:30 or so again, and I can get back my morning time, but we’ll see.  This toddler bed transition is a scary one, and it’s wearing me out, but I’m reminding myself of the best of all parenting mantras: This too shall pass.  Quickly, I hope.

I have no transition for that last photo.  He was just eating jelly on toast this morning, and it was adorably messy, and I had to share it with you.


Switching gears completely, but I am overdue on sharing some link love.  A few great things I’ve run across recently…..

Dig This Chick has a great post on getting outside with the kids.  Georgia apparently thinks it’s August rather than June, so I’ve been complaining a lot about the heat lately and I need to get out more with Jude and find a way to do so without wilting.

Check out this awesome list of 101 things to do with your toddler.

Food love: This salad has me drooling, and I can’t wait to try it.  And we had this Basil-Lemon Pasta the other night, and it was delicious.

Jude’s birthday is about four months away, and I’m already beginning to think about his party.  (Shameful, I know!)  He’s obsessed with this book recently, so I want to go with the idea of an old-school train party, and I’ve been collecting ideas on Pinterest.  You can see my board here.

I love this quick read at OhAmanda about the disappearance of the no-niche memoir blog. The comments to that post lead to a really interesting conversation.  I’ve thought about this a lot because I think all of us who simply journal online know that our readership would increase if we developed a niche of any kind.  (It’s no accident that my party posts and my food posts are by far the most commonly read and shared.)  But life is scattered in my current season, and I end up writing about so many random things here, and I think I like it that way.  Thanks for sticking around, y’all.

Lastly, don’t step away from your computer without reading this.  Thoughtful.  Simple.  Inspiring.

A few of my favorite things…….

I’ve been running across links or recipes or ideas lately thinking, oh I should share that and forgetting to do so.   No graceful transitions here, a few of my recent favorite things……

Reading Material – Have you seen Brain, Child magazine?  I got my sample issue in the mail a few days ago and can hardly put it down.

Cleaning Product – I know I’ve heard of Dr. Bronner’s for years, but I am finally getting around to trying it, and now I’m obsessed.  It cleans EVERYTHING in your house from laundry to floors to the kitchen sink.  It’s effective, too.  Good stuff!

Blog Post – This super simple post from Small Notebook is the reminder I need sometimes when I lose motivation on the mundane chores that often fill my days as a SAHM.

Craft – I spent time with my niece this week as she stayed with us all day Tuesday and played with Jude.  I got to test the waters with two kids, and we did our own take on this craft while little Jude was napping.  We made a letter “E” for her name, and our rule was that she had to glue and count ten marshmallows before she could eat one.  It was a great exercise for working on patience, fine motor skills, and phonics as we talked about lots of other “e” words while we worked on it.

RecipeThis version of Chicken Divan is so much more than a casserole.  Scott calls it magic,and I totally agree.  It gets rave reviews every time I make it, and I’d kind of forgotten about it until I made it again this week.  I do the long version by making my own soup and it’s worth the extra effort.

Giveaway – My own!  Don’t forget to answer my simple question by Friday at noon and have a chance at winning.  You regular commenters aren’t commenting on this one yet, but I like seeing new folks, too.

Awesome Perk for Atlanta People – Have you checked out Nature’s Garden Delivered?  I’m getting fresh produce delivered to my door, and it is seriously yummy.  No fee to start or to temporarily hold or cancel for vacation or your own summer garden.  It’s awesome.

And my current favorite photo?

Jude feeding the goats at my Grandparents’ place.  It’s like Disneyland for him.

Fun Finds

I like to share the link love when I get around to it because the internet is a wide, wide place, and it’s often bloggers who help me find what’s good out there.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted some useful things, but I’ve stumbled on some great stuff lately.

Little Sapling Toys – They have some great wooden playthings for kids, and we got Jude’s birthday gift there.  I’m so excited to give him his wooden blocks in a couple of weeks!

This creepy article about mannequins giving birth (thanks, Jenna for sharing!) leaves me a little unsettled.  I mean, on the one hand, if it truly helps obstetricians learn to assist in a variety of deliveries, all vaginal, then great.  But one of these robots yells “I want an epidural.”  Really?  Seriously?  Doctors need to understand that birth is a moment of great change for a woman – a physical change, yes.  But also a profound emotional, psychological, and spiritual one.  No mannequin can communicate that.


I love my blogger and in-real-life friend, Messy Mom.  Her post on Loving Your Postpartum Body was exactly what I needed to hear.


These awesome Happy Halloween Printable Tags (yay free printables!) could be a great addition to some little treat bags or a great label on a hostess gift.


There’s a canned pumpkin shortage in case you didn’t know. I found some at Trader Joe’s this week though!  I’m totally making Martha’s Pumpkin Swirl Brownies when I get the chance.


Last but not least, my favorite local doula agency asked women for 100 reasons to breastfeed, and the awesome list is still going.  I think we’re up to 94 now!  Check it out on Labor of Love’s Facebook Fan Page.

Fun Finds: Recipes Edition

[This post is linked to Saturday Stumbles at It’s Come to This.  Head over and see what everyone else discovered this week!]

I’ve mentioned earlier that I hoped to master 10 new recipes this summer.  I don’t know if “mastered” is the right word there, but I definitely made some new dishes that will be making a reappearance on our table.  I’ll warn you that I’ve mentioned some of these in earlier posts, and I’ll also warn that a lot of them come from the same source because Martha is my main recipe guru these days since I’ve started cooking only “real food” without packaged seasoning. [If you haven’t checked out Everyday Food, by the way, you totally should.]  So here they are. All tested in my kitchen and GOOD.

Butternut Squash & Sage Lasagna – Dicing 3.5 pounds of butternut squash is somewhat miserable, but it’s worth the effort.  I love recipes like this that happen in two steps. I can “build” the lasagna while Jude is taking his afternoon nap and toss it in the oven when Scott gets home.  It’s a great option for a vegetarian main dish.

Broccoli Tofu – I am so proud of my tofu endeavors!  This one is really good, and it’s a great dish to make for myself and Jude when Scott’s out of town.  I just pick the cashews out and cut it up in tiny pieces for Jude’s portion.

Magic Tofu – Aptly named.  My husband likes it.  Even though it’s tofu.  Magical indeed.

Buttercream Frosting – What?  Frosting isn’t a major food group?  I know this doesn’t qualify as a “dish,” but it’s delicious, easy, and made from real ingredients you can pronounce.  Why waste your time with store-bought icing loaded with weird junk?

Cheese Danish – Ina Garten, you NEVER fail me.  I made these for a Father’s Day family brunch and then again for a brunch with girlfriends last month.  Easy, yummy.  Yes, please!

Chicken with Olives – Yeah, I just linked to this last week.  It’s that good.  I LOVE HEAVY CREAM.  And I don’t apologize for it.  I give Pioneer Woman credit for showing me the beauty of bone-in, skin-on chicken.  It tastes so much better.  No more wimpy, square, boneless chicken breasts for me!

Browned Butter Toffee Blondies – I am embarrassed to tell you that I made these for no reason at all.  I’m even more embarassed to tell you how fast they disappeared.

Peach and Chicken-Sausage Kabobs – Food Network magazine had a tiny pull-out section in June’s issue, and it had a ton of creative grilling recipes in it. Easy: marinate quartered peaches in oil and thyme.  Layer the peaches with chicken sausage on a skewer.  Grill it.  Yum yum yum.

Toddler Carrot Sticks – Jude will not eat purees now that he has teeth, and he prefers anything that he can feed to himself.  It’s hard to avoid giving him Cheerios and bananas all day, so I make these.  He LOVES them.  You can double the recipe and freeze the dough.  I have some thawing on my counter now so that I can bake more this afternoon.  They are a perfect on-the-go snack for little ones.

Simple Orzo and Vegetables – For some reason, I am only recently discovering the joy of orzo as a great side dish. Melt butter.  Add onions and mushrooms. Add orzo to brown it up a bit.  Add frozen green peas if you’d like.  Then add the water to cook the orzo, and it’s done in no time at all.  Simple, real, delicious.

……..And the recipe I can’t wait to make to inaugurate fall in this house?  Martha’s Pumpkin Cupcakes.


So what about you?  What’s cooking in your kitchen?  Any fun finds this week?

Fun Finds

I spend a lot of time online.  Too much probably.  But with most of “our shows” on hiatus right now, when I want to relax for a minute, I grab my laptop. I am always finding great stories or ideas, and sometimes I hurriedly bookmark the link, but at other times, I want to share what I found and spread the word about something good out there.  So here are this week’s finds:

Pioneer Woman’s Chicken and Olives – Y’all my belly is full of this right now, and it was SINFUL I tell you.  So so so good.

Decorating a Cupcake Stand by Tomkat Studios has some great ideas and photos.  I intend to use these tips at Jude’s party in a few weeks!

This and That and the End of a Hot August – Of course, this is my absolute favorite blog, but I love this post as one who is in Hotlanta but ready for fall leaves and chunky sweaters.  And speaking of autumn….

Pilgrim Hat Cookies – I can’t wait to make these this Thanksgiving.  Adorable.

The Joneses is not exactly a link but a movie.  We watched this on Friday night, and I really enjoyed it.  American materialism is out of control, and I love that this movie puts a different spin on that to make you think about it.

So that’s what I found this week.  Have you stumbled on anything you want to share?

Parties. And randomness.

A rare quiet moment in our household as Jude is sleeping and all I can hear is a humming washing machine.  It also smells like pears since they are on the stove for Jude’s newest food batch.  Yum.

I should be cleaning, but that’s no fun, so I am perusing the internet with a cup of tea.  Can I say that I LOVE parties?  Planning them, cooking for them, getting invited to them… LOVE them.  My friends and I are hosting a baby shower for a friend of ours at my place next weekend, and I won’t give much away yet because I intend to do a massive photo post of our cute little details, but let me say that we have some fun ideas thanks to Mr. Internet.  There are some incredible ideas out there about throwing fun theme-y but not too theme-y parties.

Jude is not yet 7 months old, and I want time to slow down, yet I am looking at fun ideas for his first birthday party.  WHY?  So far away.  But just look at the deliciously cute ideas!

more party details by caroline armelle photos.

photos by Caroline Armelle

Look at the fun Big Top Circus party one crafty mom did.  There’s a similar one at Thoughtfully Simple.  The photo booth is the best idea ever, and what a  great way to get away with serving cheap food!  Hot dogs, corndogs, pizza, chips….You could even serve popcorn in classic carnival popcorn bags.

As always, Etsy has a million ideas to correspond like these invitations, these tags to put on bags of party favors, cute circus-themed cupcake toppers, or even an adorable circus birthday boy tee.

So much cuteness.  I can’t take it.  I should be doing something productive, but I can’t stop looking.

Easter Goodness

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter.  The weather in Georgia was unusually HOT, even for here.  It was so nice to see the sun shining, though, and it made for a great Easter weekend.  Spring has arrived!

Aside from a bout of thrush that seems to be getting better for Jude and worse for me [OUCH], our Easter was perfection.  We put together Jude’s Easter basket from a variety of things we already had since God knows we don’t need anymore stuff.  While I am sure this probably seems pretty cheap to some of you, he’s six months old; he has no idea what’s going on.  Doing it for the sake of tradition, we didn’t want to purchase random stuffed animals and baby toys when we already have A LOT of things. I’ve been inspired by a number of blogs lately to simplify, simplify, simplify, and this was a good chance to do so.  I did buy some Burt’s Bees Baby Shampoo though.  There’s that.

So after pretending to be surprised and excited about the Easter Bunny while Jude looked the other way, we had lunch with Scott’s family and dinner with mine and all in all had a good day of family fun.  I made a delicious salad for our dinner get-together, and I’ll list the recipe at the bottom of this post.  It was perfect for springtime, and I’ll definitely be making it again.  The only thing yummier  than my spinach-strawberry salad?  Jude in his Easter outfit.

He's a very very serious reader.

Jude also got to hang out with his cousin, Evie, at lunch time.  He has a way of getting your attention when he wants to tell you something important.  He babbles SO MUCH already; I know when the real words start flowing, there will be no shutting him up.

Not that this can compare to that Easter cuteness, but here’s the recipe for the salad as promised.  Happy Easter and yay for spring!


Spinach-Strawberry Salad

One large bunch of spinach (It’s on the Dirty Dozen, so always buy organic.)

One 16 oz. package of srawberries (also on the Dirty Dozen, buy organic)

Half of a red onion, thinly sliced


Crumbled Goat Cheese

Toss the above ingredients together in a large bowl and pour the vinaigrette over the salad.  (Homemade vinaigrette: 2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar, 1 part red wine vinegar, teaspoon of sugar, poppy seeds if you have them on hand.)

Colorful and delicious!

Pondering Some Easter Deliciousness

When it comes to family get-togethers for Scott’s side of the family, everyone has a designated job for getting food on the table.  I’m always The Dessert Girl, so I need to find something good to bring for our Easter lunch next weekend.  I considered making something I’ve made before, but I’m feeling bored with my usuals.  So many delicious ideas; I love springtime treats!

Fun Bug Cupcakes

Adorable Rice Krispie Treats Easter Chicks

Lollipop Flower Cupcakes

Fun Cheesecake Bites (although I think I’d decorate the tops with green coconut and pastel chocolate robin eggs)

Chocolate Nests

Crispy Easter Nests

Yum….maybe I should make them all.  I can’t decide which one is cutest.  Help!