Thanksgiving is over, and you know what that means….

CHRISTMAS! I know.  I know….  Turkey Day deserves some attention as well, and that’s why I insist on waiting until today to put up the decorations, but I can’t take it much longer, so there’s Christmas music on the speakers here, and we are pulling out the boxes of lights and garland and wrapping gifts already.

I’m such a holiday fanatic, and Christmas is my favorite.  (Isn’t it everyone’s?)  Among all of the tasks that make me so happy in the month of December, I LOVE the tradition of Christmas cards.  Choosing them, addressing them, receiving them.  Love love love it. It’s so much fun to see how each card reflects the personality of the giver.

We’ve done photo card for a few years now, and I really enjoy looking at our past designs.  We’ve moved from a wedding photo to pictures of us with the dogs to photos of international travels, and last year I had the joy of sending out cards with images of a tiny, squeaky, squishy little newborn.  I can’t wait to weed through all the images we have of Jude and select and design this year’s card.   I’ve always used Snapfish for my cards in the past, primarily because it is linked with Flickr, but after the ASTOUNDING results and quality of  Jude’s One Year Scrapbook, I am sold for life to the great people over at Shutterfly.  I can’t wait to choose and send some adorable cards to wish our loved ones a happy 2011.

And with these incredible design options, I’m surely going to have a hard time choosing one.

Shutterfly has great folded cards, so you can personalize each one and have space to write to the recipients.  I especially love the subtlety and sophistication of monogram designs like this one.

Or how beautiful is this?  Simplicity at its finest with their holiday cards.

They’ve also got high-quality stationary photo cards that are printed on matte cardstock.  Gorgeous ways to update your friends and family on the progress of your entire year!  I love this little ornaments card. You can tailor this to say anything you want and really convey they heart and spirit of your own family.

Don’t forget they also have calendars, photo books, canvas art, and all sorts of perfect gift ideas in addition to a ton of holiday cards designs.  Be sure to check it out!  I’m off to wrap more gifts and design our cards and trim the tree and bedeck the mantle and indulge in all those cozy, happy Christmas-ing activities that only come once a year.   Mmmmm, leftovers and football and the beginning of  the holidays.  Is there anything better?

____________________

Disclosure:  I am receiving 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly in exchange for this promotion.  If you are a blogger and interested in doing the same thing, head here.

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?

Party Prep and Inspiration – Carnival Birthday

Jude’s birthday is around the corner.  (How do I have a ten month old!?  …..but that’s another post.)  I am in full swing for party prep around here.   I first saw the idea for a circus party, this post actually, late one night while I was up with a tiny newborn, and I have been in love ever since.  Now it seems like circus/carnival themes are EVERYWHERE, or maybe I am just noticing them more since it’s on my mind.  I love that so many elements are DIY and can save you lots of money since parties can be quite expensive if you aren’t careful.  The internet is a goldmine for inspiration on this theme, and Google Images is my best friend lately.  Behold the beauty!  (Click on the image if you want a closer look.)

Sources for the above inspirations: Peppers and Pollywogs, The Sweetest OccasionMartha Stewart Miko Design , Joyful Weddings and Events, The Creative Party Place, Gordon Gossip, 45 Wall Design , Jolie Jolie Design

_________________________________________________________________________________

With a mobile and curious little boy, I don’t have loads of time, so most of my crafting is done late at night after he’s asleep.  I have managed to sew a few pennant flags.

I love the idea of using fabric instead of paper so that I can reuse them in years to come.

….And make a banner for his high chair when he eats his birthday cupcake.

I can't wait to see him smash cupcake on his face!

There’s much more crafting to be done, and I know the date will sneak up on me, and I’ll be in a mad fury to finish half-done projects the week before, but as a party-planning fiend, I’m excited to see the final result.  I’m also designing my own invitations for the first time ever using my digital scrapbooking program.  In the end, after you pay for cardstock and ink, I’m not sure it’s that much cheaper, but I’m going to give it a try.

So that’s where I am on party planning around here.  What about you?  Do you have a favorite party blog that you use for inspiration?  What about a post of your own where you profile your own soiree?  If so, leave me the link in a comment. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got!

 

ETA:  See my completed birthday carnival extravaganza here or here.  🙂

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.

Boobies.

Boobs have been following me everywhere these last few days.  Seriously.  Or maybe I’m following them.  I don’t know.

Monday morning I awoke to a throbbing right boob as a result of a thrush problem we’ve been experiencing lately.  Jude has some oral medication for it, and my O.B. got something to me yesterday, so the wincing during feedings is disappearing already.

Additionally, I ran across this fabulous article yesterday and accidentally incited an Epic Facebook War by linking to it.  Apparently I’m a Lactation Nazi or something because I think 12% is an incredibly low number to breastfeed into the 6th month.  Anyway.  That’s neither here nor there, but have a look at it.  Some of it is stuff we all know, but the benefits of breastfeeding are presented in a dollar amount which I had never really thought of before.  It seems a little exaggerated perhaps, but I love that the piece ran in major newspapers and is getting mainstream exposure.  Maybe those LLL freaks know something after all.

Then, I ran across this gem earlier today that basically asserts that pumping on the job will ruin your career, so women should hang it up when they head back to work.  Ms. Ruth Mantell (who had a luxurious 6 month maternity leave, by the way) actually has the nerve to state, “While a can of premium formula comes with a premium price tag, feeding infants with formula uses less of one of mom’s most precious resources: time.” Ummmm, what? God forbid I spend TIME with my INFANT.  Everyone knows babies should never require any time, right?  Having managed to pump and work full-time for the past 14 weeks, I could write and write and write about this, but I’ve reached my boobie quotient for the week.

Tomorrow afternoon consists of a haircut (a daring one by my standards) and a pedicure.  Happily, no more pondering boobies for me.  They’re there.  I use them.  I’m happy to use them for the betterment of my baby’s health.  In summation, that’s all.  I’m boobied out.