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.)

 

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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 Ate: Chicken Tetrazzini

I love bringing joy into my household, and take pride in being able to do that in my new(ish) job as a stay-at-home parent. We don’t have to wait for celebrations and special occasions to experience joy in our homes; we can create it in small, simple ways every day.

My husband has shared with me that his favorite everyday joy comes from having dinner as a family. It is something he can look forward to during his workday, then enjoy a peaceful night with a full, happy belly.

I like for dinner to be special, but being busy with a baby and school can sometimes make getting dinner ready challenging. Of course, we occasionally end up ordering in. We try to reduce waste and make the most of our resources, especially when it comes to food. Composting helps us make the best of whatever food must be thrown away, but food’s real purpose is to be eaten. This means making the best use of leftovers.

Leftovers don’t have to be boring. Make them into something different, and the dish is just as new and exciting as last night’s.

Earlier this week, I made¬†Engagement Chicken–a meal good enough to get a¬†marriage proposal from a prince. I used a pretty large roasting chicken, so with plates for the two of us and some shredded pieces for baby Bisty, there was a good amount of chicken left over. No problem there–leftover chicken just gives us an excuse to have this rich, creamy baked pasta.

chicken tet

It’s not pretty, but it’s delicious. I snapped this pic before it finished browning. Once it was done, my husband was so eager to cut right into it, I didn’t get a picture of the finished product.

If you Google and Pinterest Chicken Tetrazzini, you’ll find a lot of variations. I’ll share with you the version I came up with that works best for us. I switch it up from time to time based on what we have in the house. For instance, I had some mushrooms in the refrigerator this time and threw those into the mix. Below is the recipe I use:

Chicken Tetrazzini

Ingredients

  • 16 oz (one box) of spaghetti, cooked
  • 1/2 cup (one full stick) of butter, plus more to grease pan
  • Cooked chicken torn or cut into bite-size chunks–I don’t measure this out but just use whatever amount of cooked chicken I have leftover. 1/2 to 1 lb is probably a good approximation.
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup, plus an equal amount of chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups of sour cream
  • 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms, if desired
  • 1/2 cup of garlic-infused vinegar–I highly recommend¬†Nakano Seasoned Rice Vinegar with Roasted Garlic. It is sooo good and makes adding just the right garlic flavor so easy. If you’re substituting with another vinegar or a 1/2 cup of dry white wine, just add a bit of garlic powder to the dish.
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, combine butter, chicken, soup, broth, sour cream, mushrooms, garlic-infused vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Use butter wrapper to grease baking dish.
  • Add spaghetti to the chicken mix.
  • Pour into baking dish and top with all of the cheese.
  • Cover dish with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Remove foil, bake uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is as brown as you like. You may want to raise the temperature to about 375 F for the last few minutes if you like the cheese very brown and a little crispy on the sides.

This dish is great comfort food. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does. This was Bitsy’s first time eating it. I was so glad to see she like it. She was a little behind the curve on her growth at her 12-months pediatric visit, so her pediatrician suggested including a bit more fattening foods in her diet to try to catch up. The butter, sour cream, and cheese should help ūüôā

Hold onto this recipe and substitute turkey for chicken as a great way to use your Thanksgiving leftovers. It’s a great stick-to-your ribs meal for a late fall night.

One of the links in this post is to an Amazon listing for a product I recommend. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualified purchases.