two thousand fifteen / Christmas recap

Monday, January 05, 2015

Haven't we all been waiting for this year for...years?



image from here

We are full-on into January, with bleak temperature forecasts, zero leaves left, and frozen landscape staring back at us through frosty windows.

Going through the holidays pregnant is fun in its own way--so much promise and unknowns looking forward to the next Christmas! And, you can't really "diet" per se come January 1 (though you can feel like you've definitely overindulged, need to cool it on the sugar, and quit indulging in so many long-winters'-naps (or maybe that's just me)).

This year, I was able to take a nice break from work, and enjoyed a good chunk of days at home with me and the little girls (their school closes the week between Christmas and New Year's, and with Daddy not in school this year to watch them, Mommy got to take the break!). Jonathan had some time off too, which was much-needed for all of us and so much appreciated.

We had such a wonderful Christmas with the girls! It was so fun! As I mentioned before, they had no expectations, mostly just excitement and joy with everything we did! Santa brought them one toy each and a book, and filled their stockings with mainly chapstick (oops) and new art supplies. Mommy and Daddy gave them each an ornament. I hope, along with Santa's help, we can retain this structure throughout the years, or shift over to the want/need/wear/read/give kind of model. Juliette got a doctor kit and Molly got a new baby doll (hopefully to help her practice a little for our new baby). Both are hits so far!

Look at these sisters so proud of their sister Elsa & Anna dolls from Nana and Papa:

I'm a little obsessed with how proud they look in this picture. Oh man. So so cute. Christmas with little kids is the best!

We made these cookies for Santa Christmas Eve afternoon (I made them a few years ago for the cookie exchange and they're a great gingerbread stand-in). Juliette wanted to leave Santa 8 cookies and was only slightly dismayed that he seemed to have only eaten 5. Ha.

Since Christmas, I've really been thinking a lot about how I want our Christmases in the future to look...what traditions I want to start, how I want to structure our day/the days leading up. Lots of good conversations with Jonny about this, and I look forward to revisiting it next November/December.





(above) Here are our little Christmas gnomes on Christmas Day, with cousin Jane (the best pic we could get!). Such a wonderful day at Grammy's, and we were all tired little chickens with full bellies crawling into our beds that night.

We're so enjoying our new swing set from Grammy & Deeda, on days that are not frigid/rainy (and even on some days that are!). SO excited to have this for this coming year! Cannot wait to take the girls outside in the summer with the new baby to swing.






WHY is this picture so funny? One, because she made me take it. It's a redux of what we did for our Christmas card (which I need to belatedly post)--Juliette insisted one day when we got home from somewhere (good and well after Christmas), that she wanted me to retake her picture and posed like this all on her own. What is this expression? I do not know.

Speaking of ham, I made my first ham on New Years Eve! This one. It wasn't that hard at all and turned out pretty well I think? I bought a half ham shank for not too much $, and it was pretty easy. I have yet to make soup from the leftovers, and the window might be closing on that. Maybe today (hopefully)!

I've gained a little energy back, and no longer crawl into bed as soon as the little ones' lights are out. Nesting has kicked in a little, but beyond putting away Christmas decorations and cleaning/cleaning out toys (which took a few days and still felt so good), everything is still theoretical.

Step one of real nesting is Operation Girls' Shared Room. I'm half excited and half scared about the sleep disruptions that will ensue, but also want to give us plenty of cushion before New Baby comes (or Captain Hook, as Juliette calls him/her). Plus there's a lot of cleaning out/reorganizing/shifting around that needs to occur for them to officially share. Maybe I'll be able to get myself together and do some before/afters of now-Juliette's/future shared room. Then it's on to neutralize the nursery and maybe even some work in the kitchen (I HOPE!). 

Happy New Year!!! I hope yours is full of fresh starts or continuing survival, whichever season of life you're in. Either way, this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. We are so grateful for this life.

Once more, in case you missed it:

2015 one-page calendar downloads (FREE)
2015 spiral-bound day planner (for sale)

The Christmas Season, etc.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The longer I stay away from writing here, the harder it is to come back! Why is this?

And I don't know why, either, this idea has wormed itself into my head, of not having anything to share with the world-wide internet when I don't feel like I'm knocking any area of my life out of the park currently. That's probably dumb because then the only person who could write on blogs would be Martha Stewart.

My kids are happy and busy, they love to sing, play and be with each other. They are not perfect angels all the time, by any means, but we've been having fun together with our extra time in the afternoons.

What I want to remember about Juliette on December 16, 2014: 

- She loves loves her books, and loves to sleep with them in her bed, mostly on top of one (whatever is the favorite du jour), and she will set up her stuffed animals likewise. We'll often go in after she's asleep and see her and three of her "friends" sleeping on top of a book also. So cute.

- Always the cruise director, she is either orchestrating picnics, slumber parties, or "dinner" for Molly and herself, and oftentimes me too. The activities include an ever-changing and ever-specific set of instructions that sometimes include the words "it would be amazing" thrown in there for good measure.

- She loves to speak for her and Molly collectively--like, "we don't want to do that" or "we're ready to get up and play." I love this so much, and Molly just grins and nods.

- Loves coloring/art-type projects more and more. I hope Santa knows this.


What I want to remember about Molly on December 16, 2014:

- She loves to hide, and will sneak off with a little grin on her face and say, "it's hiiide!"

- She can often be found wandering the house, calling, "Juuuu...Juuuu"

- Getting really good at singing! She'll chime in with perfect timing on words in songs like Jingle Bells (we've been listening to the Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters version and Michael Buble version), Sleigh Ride, and some Ben Kweller and Weezer songs. Ha! They love music so much.

- You can't talk this girl into anything she has her mind set against. Iron will, I think.


It's next to impossible to get a good photo of the two of them. These are the kinds of photos I end up with regularly:


Neither of them want to look at me, or one of them is making a weird face or moving or something. I guess this is typical little kid-photo stuff, but sheesh.

OK so Christmas! Once again, we've been enjoying Betsy's (a friend of a friend I admire so much) Advent Readings for the Very Young, which are wonderful. We have the Little People nativity set (I got it on super sale a few years back), which works well with this series too. I love teaching them about the Christmas story throughout the month, especially now that Juliette can retain this information a little better than last year (Molly likes to chew on the wise men, but that's par for the course right now, I suppose).

I've also been loving Oh Come Let Us Adore Him study book from SheReadsTruth. It's been so refreshing to my heart and mind to be in scriptures surrounding the story of Jesus' birth. Amazing, really. Also, we made the peppermint play-dough from the book, too! There are several recipes sprinkled throughout the study book, which I love! (Recipe posted here, but I used food coloring, not beets, with peppermint oil, and we only made one color--pink of course!)

It's so fun having kids at stages where their expectations for Christmas Day are nil. They don't really comprehend what "next week" means right now, and Juliette keeps telling us she wants Santa to bring her a candy cane. How great is that.

Everything we do (holiday activities/outings) is sort of a bonus, we can do as little or as much as we want. I hope we can always hold these parts of the Christmas season at arm's length--the traditions that can feel inhibiting, the gifts you think are "absolutely necessary" (not), and all the "stuff" of the season that is entirely besides the point of celebrating the birth of a Savior come to earth in the flesh. How marvelous, how hopeful, how joyful!


Baby 3 update - all is going well. I posted on instagram the other day that Juliette's name suggestions were "Captain Hook" and "Captain Von Trapp" over the course of a couple of weeks. Then this morning, she called the baby "Captain Von Trapp" again so we may have found ourselves with an in-utero nickname (we've never really done that before). I couldn't be happier with the selection. :)


End-of-year stuff: our 2015 planners are still for sale, and my 2015 one-page calendars available for download here. One week til Christmas (give or take a day)! I'm so excited!

2015 Day Planners!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The 2015 version of our "Long Leaf Planners" are here!



Almost identical to the August-August version we published a few months back, just a couple of subtle font tweaks!

If you're unfamiliar with this, here are a couple of features:

- 6.5" wide x 8.5" long x 2"ish thick (half a lettersheet)
- thick laminated cover and back cover
- weekly and monthly spreads
- meal planning line in weekly spreads
- plenty of notes pages in the back

Purchase here (and see more photos)!


On a similar note, 2015 one-page calendar available for free download through this link!

It's Cold = Chicken Pot Pie

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holy cow, it's been cold! According to my iPhone, it's not just us either. Pregnant or not, if it's cold out, I prefer to really bundle up...scarf, gloves, layers, boots, etc. (You'll likely never catch me in ballet flats in the winter, my feet get too cold!) (I realize that cold for us here in Memphis is relative to other parts of the country...but we've had several days over the past week or so that have stayed in the low/mid thirties. That is objectively cold, I don't care where you are.)

All I've been craving (yes, craving) since the legit cold came has been chicken pot pie. I posted a shortcut-easy chicken pot pie recipe several years ago that tastes good too, but I daresay I liked this one even better (and it doesn't use any cream of ______ soups). I have a few friends who have sung the praises of Real Simple's chicken pot pie recipe for years.



Like any mom, I've been trying to sneak in more veggies, so I was drawn to trying their Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie recipe. I adapted a few things (of course), so here's my version:

Ingredients
1 pound rotisserie chicken, de-boned, chicken chopped
1 tablespoon grapeseed or olive oil
2 onions chopped (or frozen chopped onions, if you're me. #sorrynotsorry)
10-ish oz. slightly defrosted/chopped "Normandy" blend veggies (mine are that organic bag from Costco) - includes broccoli, cauliflower, yellow and orange carrots - or you can just chop 4 carrots
3 T all-purpose flour (I used white-whole wheat)
1/2 cup dry white cooking wine (I used water)
2 cups whole milk (that's all we keep now)
1 10 oz package frozen peas
1 T thyme, scant
kosher salt & black pepper
1 store-bought 9" pie crust (found this brand in the organic section, tasted great)

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. De-bone rotisserie chicken and chop.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan (I used my dutch oven pot) over medium heat. Add the onions and "Normandy blend" veggies, stirring, until they begin to soften, 6 to 8 minutes (do not let them darken much). Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the wine (or water or chicken broth, whatever you have) and cook until evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and simmer until the sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken, peas, thyme, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Transfer to a shallow 1½- to 2-quart baking dish.
  4. Lay the crust on top, pressing to seal. Cut several vents in the crust. Place the pot pie on a baking sheet (I forgot this and now I have to clean my oven! drats) and bake until bubbling and the crust is golden, 30-35 minutes.

I really thought this was a winner. Not too goopy or rich, the cauliflower kind of camouflaged as potatoes (so paleo of them), and I do like that thyme flavor. I should've used a cuter casserole dish but I am the worst at gauging how big of a container one needs for a container transfer.

I don't know if yall have heard of/seen this Mark Bittman Time Magazine article that published in October--basically exhorting Americans to get back to the kitchen, for health, family, sanity. But the basic premise of his argument is always close in my mind, no matter how bad I've been doing at cooking recently (I'll blame pregnancy, but I'm a perennial hot-and-cold cook). 

Want to know exactly what's in your food? Make it yourself. Besides the pie crust (which I tried to improve upon a little), the ingredients in recipes like this are in their intended form, simple and straightforward, and the recipe wasn't complicated. I like it.


In other news, how awesome is JT (again)? #Grizzlies

Predictable / Good News / October Report

Friday, November 07, 2014

(Editor's note: I started this post on 10/27...this is just how life has been.)

A whole month of no posts. I can't believe it. This blog is in the back of my mind daily, seriously. The weeks just evaporate with their own craziness, exhaustion and....

BABY! 


(Grainy mirror selfie at your service.)

Yes, that's right! We're expecting baby #3 in May of next year, and we're so excited.

This was taken at a mere 13 weeks. The baby definitely wants to make him/herself known, but they say that's what happens each subsequent time (?).

Something fun about this pregnancy is that we're not going to find out the gender this time. I'm so excited about the mystery of it all! The girls will move into Juliette's big girl room together, and then I'll get to neutralize the nursery a little bit (very ready for a change in there after two baby girls anyway). So excited.

Please accept my apologies for the ole predictable first-trimester-blog-break. We get the girls to bed at night (or I do), and I immediately crawl into mine!

What else has occurred? Hmm...

Halloween of course! Mary Poppins & Burt graced our porch & neighborhood this year.


I found Juliette's suit/dickie on eBay and spruced up the hat with some Michaels accoutrements, and Molly's chimney sweep get-up was a jacket and hat loan from my friend Anna (thank you, Anna!). They had fun, but were fine with trick or treating at about three houses. Gonna ride that train while we can.

The Mary Poppins costume was Juliette's idea (one of her favorite movies right now, thanks to my rigorous training). I figured we could still get away with Molly in whatever, so just went with the Burt accompaniment. So cute.

Also in October, the girls and I were in my friend Laura's wedding, in New Orleans. It was a very warm and sweltery weekend, but we made some great family memories and enjoyed seeing some famous New Orleans sights. I will say, it was a bit tough with morning sickness + Cajun food (which is usually my jam). Oh well. 

Look at my sweet flower girl.

Molly had sort of had enough of everything by this point in the day (she came down with something the day of the wedding, unfortunately), so we didn't get too many photos of her in her get-up. 

Before the wedding day, we went a few days early and got to take the girls to the Aquarium, walk the French Quarter/Jackson Square, and of course, eat some beignets (we of course walked by Cafe du Monde (just out of the shot of the below photo), but ate at Cafe Beignet this time. I think the ones we got were too hot or something because the girls just licked off the powdered sugar. Lovely :)



We had a couple of rough nights sleeping (Molly not feeling well and such), but overall, they did really well traveling and rolling with all the punches of the weekend. 

So happy for George & Laura, the wedding was so lovely! Happiest of wishes to my dear friend "Eve." 

If you're traveling to New Orleans with kids, I definitely appreciate this post from Love Taza--we ended up breakfasting at Elizabeth's as a result, which was my favorite meal of the whole trip. Definitely recommend!

October, you were good to us! Though I'm happy to be speeding into the second trimester and (hopefully) feeling a little bit better.


I promise I'll be back here more soon. I made a good soup this week that deserves to be on the internet.

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