Well Wishes...a homemade card shared every Wednesday.
Then, over the holiday weekend, I sat down to flip through the old Christmas scrapbooks. There was our family Christmas card picture in 2002 and I wrote about that we chose the one we did because Mac threw his hand in the air like a cheerleader. That was the year he became completely enamoured with cheerleading. Somehow it's already eleven years later and he's the cheerleader he always wanted to be. Scrapbooking caught that little detail that's such a big part of our lives now.
That's why I really want to keep documenting...these little memories really can matter when you look back on them.
With my crazy, plan-ahead ways when it comes to Christmastime I have been known to be wrapping gifts in late October...definitely by November...and no matter what there are gifts to go under the tree once it's set up on Thanksgiving weekend.
This year the tree went up and there were no gifts to be found. Heck, the heaps holiday wrapping paper just came down from the attic a few days ago. I tried to be laid back about it. I tried to remind myself it's no big deal and the gifts will be under the tree at some point.
And then I lost my ever-crafty-loving mind and wrapped and made tags all weekend.
I also added a few Christmas catagories to the sidebar, in case you want to peek at all the gift wrapping from the years before when I actully did start wrapping way in advance.
It's late on Thanksgiving Eve and most of the to do list is checked off. All of the side dishes are made, the house is clean, and the table is set (the kids picnic table too). Our nephew and nieces came over today to make turkey crafts which included decorating cups for everyone to sip out of tomorrow. In the morning we'll cook the turkey and we'll be all ready to celebrate my favorite holiday.
Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving too.
1. This is the best time of year for walking.
2. Sean and Mac have all of this week off from school. I kept forgetting all weekend that I had to teach today.
3. They met me at school today to go out to lunch. They also visited my Sociology of Women class and Sean said something to my students that he may never live down.
4. Today's topic was domesticity and we went around the room describing our favorite family recipe. Mac said he loved my sloppy joes. Sean said his favorite is what he calls "Alaskan Surprise". It's a box of macaroni and cheese, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and canned chicken...which I am pretty sure he has not made for himself since 2003. As someone who really loves to cook and figure out my own recipes, I could not hide my shame when he said that's his favorite.
5. Tonight I made a sausage, mushroom, caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza with a homemade garlic alfredo sauce. And you know I mentioned to Sean that the pizza was nowhere near as good as Alaskan Surprise.
6. Tomorrow I am grading two stacks of tests, setting the table for Thanksgiving and making compound butters.
7. My nephew and nieces are coming over on Wednesday morning to make pretty much every turkey craft idea I've saved on my "Auntie Nora" Pinterest board.
8. We bought an electric blanket. The pre-heat setting is life changing.
I had this idea on the 4th of July. I was packing up leftovers, like potato salad and baked beans, in random ziplock containers we had amassed and getting them organized into leftover grocery bags for our friends and family to take home. I ran upstairs to grab some office tags to tie onto the bags to keep everyone's leftovers straight and it occurred to me, by the time Thanksgiving rolled around this year, that I could make this whole leftovers endeavour a heck of a lot cuter. I raided Smart and Final a few weeks ago and came home with huge stacks of several different kinds of containers. We have hosted a few get-togethers this month and have already found this container supply super handy to have on hand.
I shared this project on Eighteen25 at the beginning of the month and shared a download of this "little more Thanksgiving" tag in case you want to print some out just in time for this week's celebration.
In addition to teaching me to use holiday paper plates, my mom also has awesome recipes. They can be made ahead of time, are pretty darn easy, and people usually love them. Her best recipes don't have official measurements, but I have done the best I can to estimate after making this stuffing for over ten years.
Easiest Thanksgiving Stuffing
Melt the butter in a very large saute pan. Add onion and celery with a sprinkle of salt (not the entire teaspoon) and poultry seasoning (again not the entire amount). Cook the onion and celery, stirring often, for five to ten minutes. Add the cubed stuffing to the pan, sprinkle with remaining poultry seasoning, salt and sugar. Poor chicken broth over the stuffing mixture until it is very damp, but not so much that it pools at the bottom of the pan. Sometimes we add some stuffing, dampen it with broth and then continue to add the dry stuffing and broth so that it all does not tumble out of the pan and onto the stove. When the stuffing looks sufficiently damp (it should look just a little too wet to eat) remove from the pan into a 9x13 buttered baking dish. At this point you can cool the stuffing, wrap it tightly and store it in the fridge for the next day. Cook stuffing covered with tinfoil at 350 degrees for 40 minute. Remove stuffing from the oven, stir it, and return it to the oven uncovered for an additional 15 minutes or until it has browned on top.
One of the best things my mother ever taught me was to use cute paper plates at holiday gatherings. There will be more than plenty of dishes to wash from cooking, no need to add to the pile.
I set the Thanksgiving table with them in 2011, 2012 and will next week too. This time I also used paper to make little place card pouches. I took some kraft wrapping paper off the huge roll I have, cut it down to fit a napkin and silverware, stitched it with orange thread, and stamped it with each person's name.
Can't wait to see all these paper plates filled with our families favorite recipes.
This might actually be the first recipe I futzed with enough to call it mine. It started out years ago as a butternut squash soup then I read a few more recipes and combined ingredients. This soup is made once a year for our Friendsgiving celebration...it has a lot of ingredients and steps, but I promise it's worth it.
Pumpkin Apple Bacon Soup with Caramelized Croutons
Roast the garlic tossed in a little olive oil to keep it from sticking in a tinfoil pouch for about 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven...it should be lightly browned and mushy. You can do this a day or two before and keep the cloves in the fridge.
The night before you can also toast up the croutons. Mix together the softened butter with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Spread the mixture onto the bread slices and bake in the oven until slightly browned and crispy...approximately 5 minutes at 400 degrees, but keep an eye on them. Croutons can be stored in the fridge, but take them out in advance to come to room temperature before serving the soup.
Use a big soup pot (I love my Le Creuset) to cook up the bacon, I usually cut it into pieces before cooking as opposed to keeping it whole and crumbling it after, but either way would work. Cook until crispy, take out all the bacon, and some of the fat carefully reserving enough just enough fat (about 3 tablespoons) to cook the chopped onion and apple in until it is softened. Add the salt, sugar, nutmeg, cloves and poultry seasoning.
Add the roasted garlic and the some of the chicken stock and some of the apple cider; SLOWLY not all 32oz of broth or 8oz of the cider, just enough to cover the onion, apples and garlic and then see if you need more. Allow mixture to simmer until soft enough to puree with an immersion blender or transfer to a regular blender and then back to the pot.
After you have a smooth consistency add the pumpkin puree, the Better than Bouillon and then slowly add some of the cream until you have the consistency and creaminess you want. If the soup is still too thick at this point you can thin it out with a little more chicken broth. You can continue to let the soup simmer for about twenty minutes before serving.
Serve the soup with a crouton floating in the middle and a sprinkle of the crispy bacon bits.
Super simple...a printable sign, a plate I found earlier this fall, the felt leaves I sewed together a couple years ago, a couple turkeys and some washi tape tealights. And fires in the fireplace. I know I have said it too many times, but it really is my very favorite time of year. I have a few more Thanksgiving ideas and recipes to share this week...
Last year I needed an appetizer to bring our street's holiday progressive dinner and was inspired by this recipe. Instead of cilantro and jalapeno, I went with lots and lots of green onion and some onion powder. And then I made fresh cranberry sauce the way I like to with orange juice, zest and lots of brown sugar. Add some butter crackers and it's one of my favorite recipes.
Cranberry Orange Green Onion Cream Cheese Dip
Rinse cranberries and drain them well. Place into pot with orange juice, zest and brown sugar. Bring cranberry mixture to a simmer and stir carefully while they pop open. When the mixture begins to reduce it may need to thicken up, in this case use a little cornstarch (1 tablespoon) mixed into a little more orange juice and drizzle it in until the sauce is really thick. If mixture is too tart add more brown sugar. Set sauce aside to cool completely.
Combine softened cream cheese, chopped onion and onion powder with a hand-mixer. If you can do this step a few hours, or even the night, before it helps the flavors meld. After the cream cheese mixture is made, smear a thick layer into a serving dish. Top with cooled cranberry sauce leaving the edges of the cream cheese exposed a little. You might not use all of the cranberry sauce on the dip, but you can save it for turkey sandwiches or something. Pile crackers around the dip and enjoy.
1. Photos from the last few days...some were shared on Instagram. Mac and I at lunch on his day off from school last week (had to take a photo of him taking a photo of his lunch). It's cold enough that the dogs are snuggling into the blanket on the couch. Watering plants. The photo of the cheer team at Thursday's game. The lobster roll dinner I am obsessed with on Friday night. Sean carrying too many rolls of wrapping paper out of Hallmark for me. First fire in the fireplace this fall. And we had a party with my friends from grad school on Saturday night...we laughed so hard and kept track of some of our joking on the blackboard in our entryway.
2. I will be listening to the Thanksgiving Day radio station on Pandora until further notice.
3. Had breakfast with friends this morning and used this pan to make a dozen scrambled eggs. The sides were high enough that I didn't spill any on her stove. It's officially on my Christmas list.
4. I discovered tonight that TED talks have a download button. So excited to share the videos I mentioned here without having to worry about the completely unreliable wifi on campus. The other trick I learned from Sean is using this site to download and save YouTube videos.
6. My mother has had the best record, by far, in our fantasy football league, but this week I beat her. She is still in the lead, but did I mention I beat her?
I try to share something every weeknight around here, but for the last couple of months Thursday nights haven't really been happening. I teach a four hour class starting at 8am on Friday mornings and most of Mac's home football games have been on Thursdays.
However, tonight is that last football game and, no matter how busy it makes us, I am so sad to see the season end. He's halfway through cheering at high school football games and it's all going a little too fast.
My planner has a new section...
I made a divider for it like the other ones I have.
I also printed out a few extra things to make the section a little cuter. And then I made up some sheets to start getting organized.
You can Download Gift List 2013 too if you need to get organized. Or you can also just tear photos out of catalogs and stick them in there with washi tape. I did that too.
I am trying not to think about the fact that I am usually way more ahead with Christmas shopping by this time of year...instead I'll just be happy that I have some ideas written down for now.
Somewhere in my random thoughts it just occurred to me the other day that November is my favorite month of the year. It's when you can usually count on Southern California to start delivering some weather below seventy-five degrees. It includes a little time off from school. It has my very favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. And there's always some holiday preparations in there too. The best part is the anticipation of it all. I absolutely love, love, love having so many things to look forward to.
I have said before that the day we fall back an hour is one of my favorites all year...love that you feel just a few moments ahead all day long. Today's extra hour was used to enjoy a crab cake eggs benedict breakfast. The afternoon was spent working on a Thanksgiving project. And tonight we made a couple dinners for this week and I am getting classes planned for tomorrow. Wouldn't it be nice to get an extra hour everyday?
It was our fourth year of driving about one hundred and sixty miles roundtrip to walk through an apple ochard, eat warm cider donuts and buy a couple gallons of apple cider. The drive is usually three times as long as the time we are there, but it is always worth it.
1. Sean got to play with Harlem Globtrotter Legends Team this weekend for a charity game in his school district. I have not laughed that hard in a long time.
2. There was not a lot of laughing on Thursday when our ten-year-old fridge abruptly decided that it was done working. This one lives here now...hopefully for at least ten years.
3. This is the week I get completely caught up with life...it's getting a little ridiculous around here.
4. Then I will read all of these...Thanksgiving magazines are my absolute favorite.
I think painted letter magnets are super cute.
I am borderline obsessed with the idea of having a roll of paper mounted on the wall.
And don't we need to eat maple bacon beer burgers while watching college football? I think so.
Cook//Make//Wish posts include three recent favorites discovered via Pinterest.
I mentioned that we went out to Redlands for homecoming this past weekend. At the luncheon I think I answered "Mac is 17" about seventeen times while mouths dropped open since he was tiny baby while we were all there. Not anymore...
Can you see Mac in the photo of the administration building steps back in 1996? I took those photos when he was about three months old and just a few pounds (he was only 2 pounds when he was born). Thankfully he humored me for an updated photo this past weekend.
And check out that cutting-edge scrapbook page...I even included the "R" in the mountains.
A couple of weeks ago I shared this project on Eighteen25.
I was at school from 8:45 until 4:45 today and now I am sitting at my desk as my industrial sized printer prints short-answer tests for two different classes next week. My class planner is out in front of me as I get the tiniest bit ahead for the next couple of weeks. I graded a stack of journals for one class today and have 59 more waiting in a digital drop-box for another class.
Today I discussed disabilities and People First Language with my family course. We brainstormed every romantic comedy we could think of in Sociology of Women as I wrote all of the titles on the board. We watched this video, the class got into groups to discuss what they have learned from watching these movies over and over. Next each group will work together to write about new characters and a plot for their own romantic comedy that takes into account what we have covered so far in class this semester. My intro course in the late afternoon discussed everything they loved that teachers have done in their classes and everything they hate, then we discussed two of Paulo Freire's teaching methods.
I have been continually amazed by my student's willingness to go along with an unconventional teaching style. It's been months now, of days just like today, and I still feel so darn lucky. I walked down the stairs from my last class thinking that I really have the very best job. And I am not exagerating when I tell you I have had that exact thought at some point every single day.
1. Sean has done the grocery shoppping ever since we figured out the bill goes up at least 25% if I go (don't ask about this weekend's Costco trip I went on). For the last several weeks he has included a bouquet from Trader Joe's on his list. It's the best $5 we spend.
2. Tonight's cheer booster meeting was a borderline disaster, as they all have been...awesome.
3. The homecoming preparations continue, next up is hosting a craft night at our house tomorrow to make these headbands, in school colors, for the girls to wear.
4. While discussing childhood milestones with my Sociology of the Family class I told them about the day I lost my first tooth. It was my 6th birthday and I was visiting my grandparents in Chicago. Since my mom was not with me she sent a clown to surprise me with balloons, which was the best surprise ever. Then I told them that the next birthday my mom was not with me was my freshmen year of college. Where she sent a clown with balloons to my dorm, which definitely was a surprise. The story was a bit of a tangent from a discussion of losing our first teeth, but it sure had the class laughing.
This week will be pretty darn packed with activity. Normally I would say "busy"..."we will be so busy this week". I would think we barely have time for it all. And, technically, we probably would not.
This summer, though, I came to the realization that the concept of "busy" is at risk for being misused. It was while we were setting up the first big fundraiser of the year for the cheer team. Since I am the only returning booster board member, I ended up in charge by default. Almost every step of the way I continually heard that parents could not help or did not respond to various requests because they were busy. I am not, in anyway, insinuating that they were not being honest. I actually completely believe that they were busy. Quite honestly, aren't we all really busy? Unfortunately it's pretty much built into our culture that we will always have too much to do.
Based on that interaction, I realized that I had likely been a frequent "busy" user too. I decided I'd start to try to avoid "busy" as a reason not to do something to the best of my ability. I wanted to make a conscientious effort when I am asked about how I am not to answer, "busy". I read about the perception of time and realized it was up to me to decide that I have enough.
I'll spare you what all is on the list, but despite the fact that I still feel a little completely overwhelmed looking at the next several days, I am not "busy" this week.
Yesterday I mentioned trying to make anything and everything cuter...and cords are one of them.
If they can't be hidden completely at least a little fabric or yarn can help.
A super cute little planter my mom gave me earlier this year.
1. I got a flu shot on Friday and the injection site has been super sore and hot ever since. I've joked that my upper arm apparently caught the flu...it's all achy and has a fever.
4. I am craving gallons of hot chocolate right now.
5. After trying way, way too many products without much success, I think I have found a formula for my baby fine curly hair. A dime-sized amount of gel and shaping lotion mixed together. I don't want to sound dramatic or anything, but this combination is kind of life changing.
6. This weekend is mini cheer camp, the cheer team's biggest fundraiser of the year. Next week is Homecoming and the team is in charge of decorating the football stadium. Oh and we are hosting the team dinner before the game for all 39 cheerleaders. So, if you don't hear from me...
When I was super lucky to get to participate in Eighteen25's Spooktacular last month, I thought of jars yet again. This time I tried to make them into into "carved" pumpkins.
We make homemade apple sauce almost every weekend in the fall and then pack it in our school lunches throughout the week. After experimenting with different combinations I think we have finally settled on a favorite.
Brown Sugar and Vanilla Applesauce
Wash the apples, core, and slice them. There is no need to peel them though. Place all the apple slices in a big stock pot with the apple cider. Cook apples until fork tender. Drain the apples and grind them either in a food processor or foley food mill. Add brown sugar and vanilla paste. Grab a spoon and enjoy a little while it's still warm.
On Sunday night I mentioned having the ingredients prepped to make some sort of dinner resembling this barbecue chicken and pineapple quesadilla recipe. I took the basic idea, but I cooked the chicken up in the crock-pot using something kind of like this crock pot barbecue chicken recipe. Then I decided to add gorgonzola since it's one of my favorite pizzas that we have been eating for a couple years now. Combining a bunch of recipes to make your own concoction is my absolute favorite part of cooking. We have had these for the last two nights and I am officially obsessed. There are a few extra steps to this recipe, but if you make them up in advance it's quick and easy to assemble the quesadillas in between school, meetings, tutoring, coaching, tumbling class and lesson planning.
Barbecue Beer Chicken Quesadillas with Gorgonzola and Pineapple
Place chicken in crock pot (we used three breasts), sprinkle generously with onion and garlic powder, pour about 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce over the chicken and then pour the beer on top. Cook on low for eight hours. When the chicken is done cooking you shred it all up to use immediately or put it away in the fridge for later. Make sure to drain the pineapple tibits very well to prep for assembling the quesadillas.
Saute onion in a little butter until soft. Place shredded chicken in a saute pan with another 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce to heat it all up. Cook up tortillas or place pre-cooked tortilla on a hot pan with a tiny pat of butter. On half the tortilla sprinkle the chopped onion, well-drained pineapple tidbits, a light sprinkle of gorgonzola cheese, the barbecue chicken and a pile of shredded cheese. Fold the tortilla in half and toast up on both sides. Cut the quesadilla into pieces and dig in.
When I made Mac's class planner a few weeks ago I couldn't resist starting my own too. During my many semesters as a student, I would make myself a "master syllabus" where I would combine the class schedule, readings and assignments for each class organized by each week. That way I could look at everything I needed to do each week all at once. I had planned to do that now that I am teaching four classes, but I decided I wanted more after putting together a planner for Mac.
I waited until I had my syllabus from my fourth class (that started a couple weeks into the semester) then printed out all four. One of the first assignments in every class was answering a couple of introduction questions and sharing a photo. I made myself "cheat sheet" photo rosters for each class...otherwise I have absolutely no chance at learning 170 students names.
A few pages for notes, a calendar for each month and then a class planning page each week for the rest of the semester. Then I used a photo from my crazy crayon photo shoot for the cover. This was just spiral bound a couple of days ago and has already helped exponentially. I will never, ever teach another semester without one of these things.
I have nothing to blog about.
I have three classes planned for tomorrow.
I have zinnias, cut from the backyard, in a mason jar in our bedroom.
I have a fridge filled with everything prepped for barbecue chicken and pineapple quesadillas and million dollar spaghetti...or least my take on both of those recipes since I made a few adjustments to both.
I have meetings three nights in a row this upcoming week.
I have new knowledge on how to make pizzas since Sean and I went to a demonstration class about them this morning.
I have a stack of journals almost graded.
I have a few new rows crocheted for the blanket I'm working on.
I have a new class planner five weeks into the semester.
I have an agenda ready for tomorrow night's cheer parent booster meeting.
But I have nothing to blog about.
This book has sat on my craft table for the last couple of weeks. I was becoming increasingly convinced that the school year meant there would not be time to finish a book of summer memories. Somehow, though, I made it through the stack of grading.
And that's it.