Wrapping Up November With Thanks and Joy

Season’s greetings! Is it too early to say that? I’m in the Christmas spirit early this year, and genuinely want to share with everyone the joy this time of year brings to me.

An Easy and Special Thanksgiving

gathering greenery

We had a happy Thanksgiving. This year, we stayed in town and celebrated with my husband’s side of the family who live in town, too. Not traveling or hosting allowed us to make the day our own, and it was a day that really did remind me that there is so much in my life for which to be thankful.

Knowing that I needed greenery to make Christmas decorations, my husband surprised me with a special plan when Bitsy and I woke up Thanksgiving morning: we would be going to a friend’s horse farm to gather greenery. We dressed and got coffee on the way. It was a beautiful morning: sunny and mild, just cool enough for a sweater or light jacket. The farm looks beautiful in the fall, with all the colorful leaves and the evergreens getting their time to shine.

gathering greenery fun

Bitsy had a wonderful time. We watch her closely but give her plenty of room to play. At one time, we were in a fenced-in area where we could gather holly branches and let her explore. She walked alongside us and played her heart out. By the time we finished gathering, she was falling asleep in my arms. I got great exercise carrying her and the baskets full of branches, leaves, and pine cones!

farm finds

A Simple Sidedish: Kale Salad With Apples and Dried Cranberries

We came home in time for me to prepare the simple side dish I was bringing to Thanksgiving dinner: a kale salad with warm cranberry vinaigrette. All I had to do was wash and tear the kale, cut a couple Honeycrisp apples into thin slices, and prepare the vinaigrette (olive oil, garlic powder and 2 cups of dried cranberries, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of honey, juice & zest of half a lemon and half an orange, a pinch of brown sugar, and salt & pepper to taste) in a saut√© pan, massage the kale with olive oil for about 90 seconds, then toss in the cranberry vinaigrette mixture and top with the apple slices and pecans. Bitsy napped the whole time I was preparing it–something else for which to be thankful! Those who like kale loved the salad, and those who don’t ate some to be polite ūüôā What more could I ask for?

My Most Precious Blessing

This was Bitsy’s second Thanksgiving, but the first since she started eating table foods. She loved the food, and had a wonderful time playing with cousins and made new friends with my sister-in-law’s brother-in-law’s children who are close to her age. She ran played, squealed, and laughed with the purest joy until she was all tuckered out.

And the Prettiest Sight You’ll See is the Holly that Will Be On Your Own Front Door

Christmas wreath

I’m usually not one to put up my Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. I like to wait until it’s officially Advent to even begin decorating for Christmas. Beautifying my home with Christmas decorations is part of my observance of Advent. “Make your homes fair as you are able,” says my favorite Advent hymn, “People Look East,” as we prepare for the coming of our greatest Christmas guest, Jesus Christ. This year is different because I’ve already collected all of this beautiful fresh holly, pine, and magnolia, and must go ahead and put it to use. I made my wreath and put it on the front door Saturday, and we are all enjoying it. For this one, and most Christmas wreaths I make, I used a metal wreath form, attaching the pieces with floral wire. Whenever I hang a wreath, Bitsy likes me to open and close the door so she can keep getting a look at it. I have plenty left over for more decorations, so I’ll be pretty busy decking the halls.

Loving the Fall and Looking Forward to Winter

It’s still fall for a while longer, but starting to feel like winter. Just a couple weeks ago we were enjoying the pleasant days of early fall, with lots of playing outside. I guess it wouldn’t be right to skip through the season without the obligatory toddler-playing-in-leaves blog post, so here we are having some family fun time outdoors a couple Sundays ago:

The day was still warm enough for bare feet, especially for my child who hates to wear socks and shoes.

leaves on porch

After helping Daddy with a little yard work…

approaching leaves

…it was time to play in the crisp dry leaves.

in the leaves xi

in the leaves 6

in the leaves xii

in the leaves xiv

Bundling Up

Now that the cooler weather is here, I’m happy we get to start wearing our coats and sweaters. I love this trench I got from¬†Stitch Fix¬†(this link will get each of us $25 off when you sign up and order your first box!) I got it two years ago, but it’s such a classic and high-quality piece that it should last me for years to come.

beforeMass Missal for Toddlers

Something to Read

In this pic we were just getting ready to leave for Mass. The book you see in the picture,¬†¬†A Missal for Toddlers, is a recent purchase I’m so glad I made. Bitsy loves the book (as you can see her clinging to it in the picture), so it’s a great way to a) start getting her interested in what’s happening at Mass, and b) give her something to entertain herself with if she gets restless during Mass. This board book is hardcover, but soft enough (almost like a padded feel) that it won’t be noisy if your toddler bangs it against the pew. The language is simple and relatable for little ones, and the illustrations are adorable. I highly recommend it for Catholic families with small children.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time…

It’s a busy but happy and invigorating time for me as the semester winds down and the holidays approach. I have one last big assignment to do for my collection development class, and so much decorating to do! We have to come up with a plan b for our Christmas tree this year, since we don’t have a good way to baby-proof it, and Bitsy’s too young to understand that it’s off limits. I know it’s just the type of thing she’ll want to explore, from the water in the tree stand, to the branches, lights, and ornaments. Right now, the plan is to have a very small tree on an end table. I’ll check in again soon with more decorations, recipes, and holiday cheer!

(This post contains affiliate links.)

 

Advertisements

DIY Halloween Wreath

DIY Spooky Halloween Wreath

This was one of the easiest wreaths I’ve ever made, and one of the most fun, too. I think it’s just the right combination of pretty and spooky for Halloween. All it took was some Halloween decorations you can easily find this time of year–I got these at Walmart–and basic craft materials I already had at home.

Here’s what I used:

  • a foam wreath form

  • greening pins

  • a few floral pins

  • Heavy duty floral cutter scissors (I use¬†Clauss No. 3412 Stainless Steel Floral Cutters)

  • Hot glue gun, glue stick

  • purple ribbon

  • about 20 artificial roses in Halloween colors

  • a bag of small plastic skulls (These were about $3.)

  • 2 sprigs of Halloween bouquet filler–one with a jack-o-lantern, the other with a spider

You could easily replace the Halloween decor I included with whatever is available at your store. I think it would be cute to use the spider rings you so often see at Halloween.

halloween flare

halloween wreath materials

I still had a Styrofoam wreath form from a fresh wreath I made a few weeks ago. I generally hate anything made of Styrofoam, but if I can reuse it many times, I don’t feel quite as bad about it.

halloween flowers

Once I got my materials together, the first step was cutting the roses. The strong wires in artificial flowers mean regular scissors won’t do the job. I was so glad to have my floral cutters, which had mysteriously made their way from my craft box to my husband’s tool box. Most artificial flowers have little grooves along which it is easy to make cuts. I cut the bloom at highest groove, separating it from the leaves but leaving enough stem to attach the flower to the wreath without needing any pins.

cutting off bloom

That leaves you with the stems and leaves to serve as your greenery. Pin those to the wreath first, sticking the end of the stem into the wreath, then pinning into place using U-shaped greening pins.

Halloween greenery

greening pins

pin to wreath

Next, pin the flowers to the wreath. You won’t need pins, just stab the wire at the end of the stem into the foam wreath.

After covering the wreath with black stems & leaves and the roses, I added the sprigs of Halloween bouquet decorations.

halloween floral

I could have left it at that–just a pretty, Halloween-themed floral wreath, but I really loved the skulls I’d found and wanted a more spooky/kitschy Halloween look.

The best way to attach the skulls was with hot glue. The mesh bag they came in had a few mini-skulls around the closure. I cut the closure off in one piece, with the miniature skulls, and pinned it to the wreath.

bag of skulls

skull bouttoniere

Next, I hot glued the rest of the skulls to the wreath.

I needed a few floral pins to attach a few leaves that came loose, to cover gaps, and finally to attach the ribbon–some I still had left over from my DIY wedding flowers and decorations. I don’t usually like big bows on my wreaths, just some simple ribbon for hanging it on the door.

DIY Pretty and Spooky Halloween Wreath

Ta-da! I’ve really enjoyed the wreath. It’s really helped me get even more excited about taking Bitsy trick-or-treating, then handing out candy. I made it during Bitsy’s nap. When she woke up and first noticed it on the door, she wanted me to keep opening and closing the door so she could look at it ūüôā

I think I’ll keep this wreath and use it again for years to come.

Happy Halloween!

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an associate, I earn from qualified purchases.)

Some Updates

(This post contains affiliate links.)

October is off to a nice start.

buggy cover

We’ve been using the¬†Very Hungry Caterpillar shopping cart cover¬†I bought after¬†the shopping trip¬†a couple weeks ago that taught me why we needed one. As you can see, Bitsy seems to be really happy in it. The cart is more comfortable for her now, and there are loops to attach some of her favorite toys. It’s great to have some things for her to play with that she can’t throw out of the cart. Since she has her butterfly and fox, she won’t need to try to play with the groceries! And I feel more confident that she is secure in the cart.

buggy cover toys

The toys don’t come with the cart cover. These were some fun developmental toys gifted to me from my¬†baby registry. They’re soft and cuddly, and are good for sensory development. Different parts make crinkly sounds when touched, and they have different textures and colors. The butterfly has a mirror, and Bitsy is sooo into mirrors right now.

Baby Rosary

baby rosary

We go to a mothers and babies playgroup each week. The children play together while the mothers chat. The head of family outreach does a wonderful job with this ministry. She creates a handout each week with the upcoming Sunday’s gospel, her own reflection and discussion questions. We read these together and pray together while the children play. This week we did this wonderful baby rosary craft. It was very easy, and gave us moms something creative to do with our hands while we talked. We used string, a plastic crucifix, and beads. Tape on the end of the string made it easier to run the string through the beads. The babies will enjoy feeling the different textures of the beads, and as they grow can say very simple prayers, like “I love you, Jesus,” “I love you, Mary,” for each bead. Now Bitsy gets to have her own rosary like Mama.

Fall is Coming Slowly

BITSYWALKING

Even though October is here, it’s still pretty hot. The mornings and evenings are a little cooler now, so family walks with Bitsy are much more pleasant now. Having her walk in shoes is going to be a process. They still feel awkward to her, and she prefers to be barefoot. She loves being outside and exploring. She chases her shadow, and stops to look at every little thing. She’s been reading¬†The Poky Little Puppy¬†a lot lately, so I tell her she’s like the Poky Little Puppy, stopping to learn about whatever she sees, hears, and smells. I tell her this is a good way to be: curious, and taking time to experience the little things.

I’m getting excited about Halloween. I don’t like to put up decorations too early. I’ll wait another week or two before I put up a Halloween wreath. I’ll make it in the next few days. Last year, Bitsy was adorable in her¬†Wonder Woman costume.¬†I’m really looking forward to taking her trick-or-treating this year, now that’s she’s so social.

Wonder Woman baby costume

Things are pretty busy with school right now, but I’ll get a little break between big assignments in a couple weeks. I’m taking Collection Development this semester. I’m working on a weeding assignment in which I choose items from a particular section of the library to weed. Weeding is one of the things I miss the most about working in the library, so this is like a dream assignment for me.

I hope you’ll all have a happy October. Even though I’m so busy, I will be slowing down and taking time to enjoy this fun season, and I hope to have plenty to share with you here.

 

 

Something We Read: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pe√Īa, illustrated by Christian Robinson

IMG_3303[1]

Last Stop On Market Street¬†was the first book I put on Bitsy’s¬†Amazon baby registry, and the first one I bought since I was too impatient to wait for someone to buy it for us. I was just so excited about having books for her, and this one in particular¬† I knew would be special. It received some of the most prestigious honors in children’s literature. It is a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, the winner of the 2016¬†Newbery Medal, and a 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.

These awards speak well for the book, but what attracted me most was its content and message. After church, CJ and his grandmother take the bus to the soup kitchen where they volunteer each week. CJ sees his friends go home in their cars, and wonders why he can’t do the same. He feels a little sorry for himself, but his grandmother patiently, lovingly, and wisely shows him how fortunate they are, and how to find beauty all around them in this ordinary excursion. Who needs a car when “we got a bus that breathes fire?” CJ’s friends who get to go home after church will not get the chance to meet all the people CJ and his grandma see on the bus and at the soup kitchen. CJ doesn’t need a smartphone to hear music when the man across from him on the bus has a guitar, and plays a song for everyone. CJ closes his eyes to appreciate the music. It takes him out of the bus to an imaginary place of freedom, beauty, and magic.

After CJ and his grandmother exit the bus in the neighborhood of the soup kitchen where they volunteer, CJ looks around at the “crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows, and boarded-up stores.” He asks his grandmother why “it’s always so dirty over here.” She points out a rainbow and tells him that being “surrounded by dirt” can sometimes help you be “a better witness for what’s beautiful.” CJ then recognizes his grandmother’s gift for finding beauty, and looks around to find it himself in the street lights, stray cats, and shadows around him. When they approach the soup kitchen and see the people they serve every week, CJ tells his grandmother he is happy to be there.

There are so many messages in¬†Last Stop on Market Street that I want to share with my daughter, and I’m glad I have this book to help me do that. I want her to be able to find joy and beauty in everyday settings, and be grateful for our many blessings. I want her to have close relationships with her grandparents, like CJ and his grandmother have. His grandmother is such a positive influence, teaching him some of the most important lessons for living a happy, meaningful, and useful life. The illustrations show diverse characters, something very important for every child to see in their books. Most of all, I love the sense of community CJ’s grandmother clearly has and is teaching him. She connects with the people all around her. She sees the bus as a valuable public space where people can interact and learn from one another. She smiles and wishes a good afternoon to all the other passengers, and has CJ do the same. The way she speaks of the people they serve at the soup kitchen shows that she does not condescend to the people she serves. She treats them not only as equals, but as wonderful people she and CJ are honored to know. I think the book conveys all of these messages without being preachy. I try to share these messages when I read it to Bitsy through my voice, expression, and pointing to the illustrations, delighting in all of the beauties CJ’s grandma points out to him. I’m so glad Bitsy has been enjoying this one. The message, as well as the condition of the book in its hardcover format, should hold up for her for years to come.

This post contains some links to items and services on Amazon. As an associate, I earn from qualified purchases. 

 

Reviving My Cut Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are so beautiful in arrangements, so it’s a shame they don’t last long as cut flowers. In the early stages of planning my wedding, I considered using hydrangeas. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Still, I just couldn’t resist some gorgeous blue hydrangeas at the supermarket yesterday. They were so perfect with the beautiful, very healthy sunflowers they had there. Add in some salmon-colored carnations, and the little bit of purple statice I already had at home from another otherwise wilted arrangement, and I had such a joyful mix of colors and textures.

Seeing how wilted my hydrangeas were this morning was disappointing, but this floral arrangement was bringing me too much joy to give up on it just yet. I found some advice on extending the life of cut hydrangeas from a florist’s web site,¬†Kay’s Flower School. They were already very wilted, so it was too late for preventative measures. I followed her advice on reviving rapidly-wilting hydrangeas. Dunk the entire flower head in a bowl of room temperature water–they drink from the flower heads.

all heads in the water

Here they are mostly, but not completely, submerged. I decided to stand them up and lean the stems into the rest of the flower arrangement next to them, like so:

after propping up

Another site, Associated Cut Flower Company, recommends leaving them in the water for 20-30 minutes. I ended up leaving them in there for about 35 minutes.

The results were very minimal at first. They were still quite wilted. I wasn’t sure if I’d see much improvement, but I decided to wait and see. I’m glad I did! After about 10 or 15 minutes, they perked up dramatically.

before pictoo

Before

after photo

After

They weren’t as good as new, but much improved from the soak. I’ll spritz the heads with water and get another day or two out of them.

Be sure to place a towel underneath the vase once you’ve returned the flowers after soaking, because they will be dripping water.

arrangement on towel

 

I’m really enjoying the colors this adds to our home. These flowers are a great way to celebrate the beauties of summer as they give way to fall.

arrangement on twl2

Something We Ate: Short and Sweet Skillet Cake

short and sweet skillet cake

Steel Magnolias is now on Netflix, which means it has been and will continue to be watched in this house. Of course, I already have so many of the lines memorized, but can’t get tired of hearing them delivered by that¬†wonderful cast¬†and looking at those glorious ’80s hairdos.

shelby and truvy

So when I was thinking up a spur-of-the moment dessert while preparing dinner one night this week, I must have been inspired by the easy recipe Truvy (Dolly Parton) shares with the ladies while styling Shelby’s (Julia Roberts) before her wedding. Her¬†Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa¬†is so easy you don’t have to write it down– a cuppa flour, a cuppa sugar, and a cuppa fruit cocktail with the juice. Bake until the crust is brown and the fruit gets bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream to cut the sweetness!¬†

What I did the other night was slightly different, but almost as easy. It did involve some very minor prep work, since I used fresh fruit–didn’t have a can of fruit cocktail in the house. I baked it in my¬†Lodge 8″ cast iron skillet. You may need to increase the amounts just slightly if using anything larger. I greased the skillet with just a little bit of butter, but you can choose to use oil instead, which would make this a nice vegan dessert!

This recipe can easily be made with whatever fruit you like. I used what I happened to have at the time (blackberries, grapes, plums, and pears), and it turned out so very juicy and delicious.

Here, at last is the recipe:

Short and Sweet Skillet Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2- 2 cups of fresh fruit, chopped
  • Orange wedge, for juicing (about 1/2 tsp of juice)
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 1/4 cups of sugar
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • dab of oil or butter to grease skillet

Directions

  • Combine chopped fruit in medium to large bowl
  • Squeeze juice from orange wedge onto fruit
  • Pour all of the sugar and cinnamon onto fruit and stir
  • Let sit in refrigerator for about an hour, until fruit is very juicy
  • Add¬†flour¬†to fruit mixture and stir until mixture is evenly combined
  • Bake in 350F oven 45 minutes to 1 hour, until fruit is bubbly, and crust is browned. Cake texture will be a little fluffy and a little gooey. The fruit is the star of this show!

Enjoy for dessert and if you have any left over, it also makes a great breakfast!

This post contains a link to an Amazon listing for a product discussed. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Something We Read: Family Storytime With Winnie the Pooh: Surprise Tails

Bitsy is fascinated with her books. She is now at a stage in which she finds a book and brings it to me, saying, “Read!” in that sweet baby voice. A book-loving mama could not be more pleased!

Yesterday, one of the books she brought me was Winnie the Pooh: Surprise Tails, which turned out to be a fun surprise for us.

Winnie the Pooh Surprise Tails.jpg

Bitsy’s daddy was home for a lunch break. He heard us reading this story in which Eeyore is the main character, and having recently found his old harmonica, played a blues lick for each of the old grey donkey’s lines! This was so fun for all of us. The music enhanced the story, but most off all it was fun for the three of us to be goofy, laugh, and share a story together. You don’t have to be musicians–we aren’t–to include a little music when reading to your baby.

The touch-and-feel features in this board book are so interesting to a baby. The first page has a tiny mirror, and Bitsy is soooo amused by her reflection now. My favorite is the wooly tail Kanga knits for Eeyore.

kanga

Sharing this little moment together was so special for us. I hope you’ve been finding little ways to make reading to your baby fun for the whole family. If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

This post contains a link to an Amazon listing for the book discussed. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.