Thursday, November 28, 2013

Things I'm Thankful For Thursday // 11.28.13

  • This amazing partnership with the man of my dreams ~ I'm so looking forward to what the next 15 years have in store for us.
  • Having family in Charlotte to spend this holiday with ~ I'm so grateful for the incredible meal we just enjoyed and especially for the luxury of not having had anything to do with the execution. The Klemash family (Brad, in particular) really knows how to lay out a spread!
  • A healthy family ~ Wow. What a difference a year makes.
  • Facebook ~ Really. It's a small but significant way to keep in touch across the miles and the years.
  • Knowing that my mom is doing well on her path
  • New friendships 
  • Dates with my husband
  • That our girls still love to crawl into our bed in the morning to "snoogle," giggle, and share their thoughts
~ Happy Thanksgiving, Friends! ~
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Queen City | Wing Haven Garden & Bird Sanctuary

We ventured out for a walk the other weekend and wound our way around the neighborhood until Greg and I remembered that Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary was just around the corner and open on a Saturday morning. We had visited the garden recently when we listened to Amy Stewart give a talk about her new book The Drunken Botanist; however, we had never been during the daylight hours and the girls had never been at all.
As soon as we checked in, the girls were outfitted with binoculars, clipboards, activity guides, and a bird watching chart. Judy, the volunteer host, greeted us and have us an entertaining and brief history about the house and gardens and sent us out exploring. 

Wing Haven is actually two gardens. According to the brochure, "A generation ago two extraordinary women named Elizabeth lived and gardened just down the street from one another…" In 1927, Elizabeth and Edwin Clarkson moved into their newly built home and began creating the spectacular garden (almost 3 acres of manicured beauty) that exists today. "Elizabeth Lawrence wrote the book on southern gardening: This Elizabeth, author of A Southern Garden, designed her garden as a plant laboratory in which she might grow some of everything that grows."
If you ever get the chance, I encourage you to explore this little gem in the heart of Myers Park.
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 11.21.13

  • Watching G perform in her Music Program tonight and then giggle, skip, and tackle-hug her friends afterward
  • Booking my first "get on an airplane girls' trip" since 2003 
  • Finding photos like this one while digging through the archives 
  • The yard that keeps my monkeys entertained for hours every day
  • All the stationery love! ~ Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the peeps who clicked on over to the Etsy store and got a little holiday shopping done early! Here's a small sample of what's been happily keeping me busy this week. 
  • Cricket magazine for children ~ Focusing on fiction, classic literature and nonfiction stories on culture, history, science, and the arts, this is a sweet magazine packed full of interesting material for G to consume. In fact, Cricket produces edutaining periodicals for a variety of age groups. This might be the perfect thing to suggest when Grandma wants to know what to get your kids for the holidays. 
  • The asparagus and seared scallop risotto special from Mezzanotte that I inhaled last night {still full}
  • Shaming cats ~ But not this guy; Richard Parker is too sweet to cause much trouble. 
  • When sometimes you meet people who blow you away with how generous they are of their time and willingness to extol their knowledge in a area where you're seeking help and information 
  • Fresh basil leaves (instead of or in addition to lettuce) on turkey burgers ~ Can't believe I've been eating turkey burgers all these years without the basil. Honestly, if it weren't for Miss B out in Oregon, I'd still be chewing on far less satisfying burgers. 
  • Mica Hendricks and her 4YO daughter's art collaboration ~ You can follow her blog or shop their prints. Slugs Need Hugs is at the top of my Christmas list. 

  • The parenting poem, Today I Lived and You Did Too by Rachel of Hands Free Mama ~ I'm also a fan of her other essays like this one and this one. Good reminders to savor the days (even when it's hard) and be present with our littles (because they're not going to stay small). 
  • How Adam Levine actually (and consistently) makes a point when he gives feedback to the contestants on The Voice. And also… that he made the cover of People's Sexiest Man Alive issue. {swoon} 
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    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    Holiday Fun List | 25 Ideas to Celebrate the Season

    I came across the idea of a Christmas Holiday Bucket List on Pinterest recently. Unfortunately, the picture/pin wasn't linked to a website or blog {sigh} and I thought that the idea of tying the list specifically to Christmas was a little limiting. I decided to come up with my own list for our family this year. There are 25 items on this list. I tried to keep cost in mind because it really is the thought that counts. 
    As it is already the season of giving, we are displaying the list now (on the fridge ). This gives us some "wiggle room" to select items at random and have some days slide by with no special activity. However, if you're an "Advent" kind of family, this would be perfect to pull out on December 1st -- That way, you'd finish the list on Christmas day (and hopefully, you'd have saved something like "Watch a Holiday Movie" or "Have a Family Dance Party" for Christmas Day. {wink}
    My hope is that you find something here you can celebrate and enjoy with your family no matter your beliefs. In addition, regardless of your age or whether or not you have children, I think there's quite a bit here for you to embrace. 
    Cheers to the season!
    ~ Have breakfast for dinner. ~ Whatever you're having, consider sprinkling powdered sugar on top
    ~ Bake and decorate sugar cookies. ~ Here's a recipe from (Just add icing + sprinkles.)
    ~ Have Family Game Night. ~ Some of our faves include: HedBanz, Life, and Tenzi.
    ~ Watch a holiday movie (don't forget the popcorn). ~ Elf, It's a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, The Polar Express
    ~ Send post cards to all of your cousins.
    ~ Make a card for your teacher. ~ Here's an easy and creative idea from They suggest origami or scrapbook paper--but scraps of wrapping paper would be very cute too!
    ~ Have a sibling slumber party in a homemade fort.
    ~ Go on a drive (or walk) to see the houses in your neighborhood all lit up with lights.
    ~ Take some treats to neighbors and friends. ~ Here's a sweet way to wrap them up for giving. 
    {images via}
    ~ Volunteer at a soup kitchen (hospital, nursing home, animal shelter).
    ~ Call relatives and sing holiday songs (or hit the pavement and go caroling). ~ Here are some Christmas Carol Music printables from Two Crazy Crafters.
    ~ Make tissue-paper snowflakes (and then hang them in the windows). ~ Melissa from the Chocolate Muffin Tree blog has a great tutorial. 
    {image via}
    ~ Have a family dance party (in your pajamas?) to your favorite holiday jingles. ~ Gabrielle of the Design Muse blog offers this list to get you started.
    ~ Make and send a card to a soldier overseas. ~ Address your card(s) as follows:
         Holiday Mail for Heroes
         P.O. Box 5456
         Capitol Heights, MD
    ~ Make an ornament or craft as a family keepsake. ~ I think we'll try these clay and stamp ornaments from the Pine Feather blog this year. 
    String popcorn and cranberries for the mantle (or tree). I really used to do this and it's so beautiful!
    ~ Buy a toy for a child in need. The link is to the Toys for Tots program, but there are so many others. I'm sure with a little effort, you can find an organization in your hometown to donate to.
    ~ Write a letter to Grandma and/or Grandpa!
    ~ Make reindeer cookies. ~ Like these from Our Best Bites. Nutter Butters are the bomb, yo!
    ~ Have dinner by candlelight on the longest night of the year (December 21st). What a kick this is going to be! I can't wait. The squirrels will be so delighted.
    ~ Make a present for a sibling or family member. ~ Parent's Magazine online has an amazing list of 9 absolutely impressive Gifts Kids Can Make. A tutorial for cute coasters can be found at Family Your Way. If you have a sewer in your crew, B-Inspired Mama has found 16 easy-to-sew gift ideas. If none of these leads tickle your fancy, check out the roundup of 36 kid crafts over at True Blue Me & You.
    ~ Host a holiday brunch or play-date. ~ If you have a brunch, can you please do a Mimosa Bar? And if you do, can you pretty please, invite me?
    {image via}
    ~ Build a gingerbread house. ~ Michael's has kits like this one for less than $10.
    ~ Go ice-skating (or sledding).
    ~ Make page-markers for your friends at school. ~ Here's an easy tutorial I did awhile ago.
    So that's it. What else would you add? Please leave a comment on the blog so I can add your idea next year!
    Below is my list in its entirety. 
    And then hang it up for everyone to see!
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    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Recipe Review | Balsamic Roasted Pork Loin


    This delicious dish came from a pin I found (Surprise! Not.) last week. I make a lot of pork loin recipes in the crockpot (like Cranberry Pork Roast) and usually purchase my pork loin from Costco. As you might imagine, the price is right--but the quantity is LARGE. Because I typically prep and freeze my crockpot meals ahead of time, this is not a problem. This time, I prepped half the pork for future meals and prepared the remaining half using this recipe. It was very easy and very delicious. 

    Balsamic Roasted Pork Loin
    What you need:
    2 tablespoons steak seasoning rub (I used what I had: 1 tablespoon of each. See photo above.)
    1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
    1/2 cup olive oil*
    2 pounds boneless pork loin (A typical pork loin is about 1 pound, which is why there are 2 in the photos above. You could half this recipe for a smaller crowd. If you do, your pork will still take about an hour to come to the correct internal temperature). 
    What to do:
    1. Dissolve the steak seasoning in the vinegar and whisk in the olive oil. Place pork in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Pour mixture over the meat. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. (Mine marinated for about 6 hours.)
    2. Preheat oven to 350F.
    3. Place loin and marinade in a glass baking dish and bake, basting occasionally, until the internal temperature reaches 145F, about 1 hour. Let the roast rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. 
    4. (optional) Spoon the excess "sauce" over the pork before serving.

    * 1/2 cup of oil sounds like (and is) a lot of added fat. However, pork is a very lean meat and much of the marinade/sauce (hence, the oil) is not consumed. I am considering adjusting this quantity when I make the dish again (because I know I will make it again). If I do, I will add a note to this post to let you know how it turns out.
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    Recipe Review | Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Quinoa + Cranberries

    When Thug Kitchen posted this recipe to Facebook on Thursday I knew I would make it right away. I've been obsessed with Quinoa lately (cauliflower too, I'm told) and I had all of the ingredients on-hand. I'd also been planning to make a Balsamic Pork Roast and this seemed like a terrific side dish. Getting back to the subject of obsessions, if you're not offended by extremely foul language, you MUST check out Thug Kitchen. TK offers legitimately creative, healthy, delicious, and often vegetarian/vegan dishes in an "unconventional" voice. I personally cannot wait for the cookbook to come out. One thing is certain, I'll need to ensure the book doesn't fall into any little hands around here! Having said that, these same little hands were busy Friday night scooping bite after bite of this tasty dish. I hope you try it. In my opinion, it is Thanksgiving worthy.

    Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Quinoa + Cranberries
    (via Thug Kitchen)
    What you need:
    1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, halved or quartered (depending on size)
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 cup quinoa, rinsed
    1 3/4 cup water
    pinch of salt
    1/3 cup toasted almonds*
    1/3 cup dried cranberries
    1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (I used flat-leaf parsley because I like it better)
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    pepper to taste
    (for the dressing):
    2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
    2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
    2 teaspoons dijon mustard
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    What to do:
    1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the brussels sprouts with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes on a shallow baking pan, turning halfway through.
    2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, bring the quinoa, water, and salt to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes until the water is fully absorbed. Place the roasted sprouts and quinoa in a large serving bowl.
    3. Whisk your dressing ingredients together and pour over the sprouts/quinoa. Mix well.
    4. Add almonds, cranberries, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix again.
    Serve warm or at room temperature.

    * To toast nuts, place them in a nonstick pan over medium heat and stir frequently. When the nuts begin to brown and become fragrant, remove them to a cool dish. Be mindful--nuts burn easily and burnt nuts can ruin a dish.
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    Saturday, November 16, 2013

    The Giving Season | Teacher Gifts

    'Tis the season to let your children's teachers know how much you appreciate their guidance, instruction, and patience. I've always thought that the best gift for your littlest students to give is a hand-drawn picture. Now that my monkeys are a little older, they write a note, letter, or poem to say what they love most about their teacher. 
    I think it's also appropriate to show your gratitude with a small gift. If you're considering going this route, I'd like to suggest thoughtful, custom stationery {wink}. An apple motif is the obvious choice like these, these, or these. However, personalizing a more general design, (and omitting Ms., Mr., etc.) is a great choice too--like this option or this one. 
    Aside from the go-to Starbucks gift card (always an excellent choice), how will you show your teachers how much they mean to your family?
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