Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DIY Dropcloth Advent Calendar

It's been a few days since I've been on here, and I'm sorry for the absence, {I tried to get this posted yesterday but our internet crashed and I couldn't} but let me just say that I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family.  I didn't pull out my camera at all over the weekend, but my sister did.  You can read her post about our holiday here.  She has some great pictures, including one of our whole family.  Go on, check it out!  Interestingly enough, Sherri also posted about advent calendars yesterday, and here I am talking about mine today!  Can you tell we are sisters or what?  I love her :)

This year I've decided to make some Christmas crafts for our home, hopefully ones that we can use year after year.  My first project was an Advent calendar.  Advent really started this past Sunday, but most calendars begin with December 1st, so I followed suit.  Here's my finished product:

I guess it's not completely finished because those numbers are all pockets.  For my calendar, I'll be filling each pocket with a card on which will be an activity for that day, plus a Bible verse about the Christmas story.  I'll be including verses from our family Advent book {Christ in Christmas: A Family Advent Celebration}that prepare us each day as we look forward to Christmas Day, celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Ready for the tutorial?  It's very simple, but it was a bit time consuming.  You still have one day left before December 1st, so if you make really good use of your time you could get it done before then.  Or, who's really going to care if you start a few days late?

-canvas drop cloth {I used remnants from my dining room chair slipcovers}
-fabric paint
-number stencils
-sponge brush
-red thread {or other Christmas color}
-dowel rod
-holiday ribbon

1. Cut out two pieces of canvas 22" x 36" {you could make this bigger, if wanted, I used these dimensions because of the wall where I planned to hang it}.

2. Cut out 25 pieces, 4"x4"  for the pockets

3. On 3 sides of each pocket piece, fold over 1/2 " and iron in place.

4. Place a small amount of black fabric paint on a paper plate to use for your numbers.

Place the number stencil in the center of the pocket piece and gently dab the paint in the stencil.

 Repeat for all 25 pockets, remembering to center the double digit numbers appropriately. {The instructions on my fabric paint said to wait 4 hours to dry, which I did.  Just be sure that it's not still wet before continuing}.

5. Top stitch the upper pocket edge {side that you did not fold and iron} using a zigzag stitch.  I used red thread to add some contrast color to my calendar.  Repeat for all 25 pockets.

6. Place the numbers on the right side of one 22"x36" piece of canvas, starting with the top row.  Measure down about 3.5" from the top of the piece and 2" in from the side to place your first number.

 Measure 1" between each number across,

and 2" between each number going down.

You can eyeball this if you want, but these are the measurements I used and it worked for me.

7. Pin each number in place when you have them all laid out.

8. Using a zigzag stitch, top stitch the three folded sides of each pocket to the canvas piece.

9. Cut loose threads.

10. Place both 22"x36" pieces of canvas right sides together, lining up edges.  Sew on 3 sides using a 1/2-inch seam.

11. Turn right side out and press.

12. Fold over top edge of both pieces and press.  Stitch, creating the rod pocket.  Insert dowel rod.

13. Measure dowel rod and cut off the excess. {Using an exacto knife worked for me, but I wouldn't recommend it; I just couldn't find the hacksaw and didn't think a kitchen knife was a good idea}.

14. Cut a piece of ribbon long enough to hang the calendar and tie each end to the dowel rod.

15. Make small cards to put in each pocket for a daily activity to enjoy for the first 25 days of December.  Alternately, you could also place small gifts in each day; just be sure if you do this that you use hardware strong enough to hold any extra weight when you hang your calendar.

Linking to:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hiatus & Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  
As many of you know, my family is coming in for the holiday weekend {YAY}, so
things are pretty busy around here.  I'll be getting ready today and tomorrow,
then entertaining through the weekend, so don't expect any posts between now and then. 
I love blogging, but my family comes first, so I'll be taking a little hiatus until next week. 

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ways to Use Leftover Turkey

Well, Thanksgiving week is finally here!  My turkey is happily thawing in the fridge, my children are with my parents until Wednesday, and my to-do list is about to be tackled with a vengeance.

If you're making dinner for Thursday, you probably have your menu all put together, but have you thought about the rest of the week?  What will you do with all the leftover turkey?  I've gathered some recipes for you that I think you should consider as you put to use all of that wonderful meat.  My own plan is to make some gumbo {my mother-in-law's recipe}, which is a tradition for us every year.  Maybe I'll even share the recipe with you later on this week...if you're lucky!

1. Turkey Salad {recipe calls for chicken, but just substitute turkey meat instead}

2. Turkey Cobb Salad

3. Cranberry Sauce & Turkey Sandwiches

4. Turkey Alfredo Pizza

5. Turkey Cranchiladas

6. Turkey Monte Cristo

7. Turkey & Wild Rice Chowder

8. Turkey Dumpling Stew

9. Turkey Tetrazzini

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Finished Project: Privacy Roman Shade

We moved into our home almost 10 months ago now, which is hard to believe!  Our neighborhood was still under construction at the time and we had no neighbors for months.  We longed for people to be around us, but that also meant spending some money.  You see, only the windows on the front house came with mini-blinds; it was up to us to cover the remainder of the windows.  We weren't in a position to go out and spend hundreds of dollars getting blinds for every window.  We've slowly added blinds and window treatments to various rooms in the house and I love what we've done so far.  You can read about the kitchen windows, dining room panels, living room drapes, and bathroom valance.  I mentioned in this post the linen look drapes that I made for the family room.  They are perfect for a couple of reasons: 1) they are simple, 2) the light comes in so they can be pulled shut to provide privacy and natural light, 3) they were relatively inexpensive.

When we finally got neighbors behind us, we decided it was time to do something about the back door, which is all glass.  Rather than purchasing a shade for the door (they are expensive), I decided to use the same material as the family room drapes, and make a roman shade.  Roman shades always terrify me, because you have to get the rings/cords lined up perfectly in order for it to function properly.

Four rows of rings with cord looped through in order to make the shade pull up evenly.

Thankfully, this one worked well!

It had been hanging up, unfinished (I've mentioned before that I'm notorious for not finishing projects), for several months.  My husband finally told me this was one of the projects he wanted me to complete before our company comes for the holidays.  So, I got around to it the other day and love how it works.

I just need Bradley to hang the cord pleat so that the cord doesn't need to be wrapped around my kitchen plant in order to keep the shade up.

Notice the cord on the right hand side of the photo.  Soon there will be a hook on the door for the cord to wrap around.

We now have a nice shade on our back door to give us some privacy from the neighbors and also keep the hot sun out during the summer months.  I love it!  Best part, it only cost about $15!

Simple piece of trim on the bottom for a bit of difference.

Love the folds when it's pulled up.

Just to give you a picture of real life around here, this is what the door looked like before I washed it to snap some photos.  

This is what you get with an enormous St. Bernard who gets muddy playing outside.

What projects have you finished lately?  You can read about my sister's latest project here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust & Toll House Pie

Several weeks ago I posted a recipe for gingersnaps, one of my husband's favorite cookies.  I mentioned in that post that I'd be sharing with you a pumpkin cheesecake recipe which uses crushed gingersnaps.  Unfortunately, pumpkin cheesecake is not on our Thanksgiving menu this year, and since I don't think it would be a good idea for me to eat an entire cheesecake by myself over the next few days, I'm going to provide you with the recipe I used last year, and then how I changed the crust to work with gingersnaps.

The ingredients for the crust on this cheesecake are graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter.  I simply substituted gingersnaps for the graham crackers, omitted the sugar, and kept the butter.  You want to make sure your gingersnaps are good and crunchy or you'll end up with a chewy crust.

Also, someone asked what Toll House pie was in a comment on my Thanksgiving Menu post.  Well, here you have it!  I'm hoping to have recipes of all our favorite Thanksgiving dishes, but won't have them until the week of Thanksgiving.  I know, sorry!  If there's a recipe you really want, just email me, or ask in a comment and I can send you the recipe, sans pictures, of course.  Hope you enjoy these tasty recipes!

I never use nuts in my Toll House Pie, and I always serve it warm with vanilla ice cream.  Watch out, it's rich!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My New Favorite Breakfast, Lunch or Snack Food

This pregnancy has been quite different from my others, actually each one has had its own peculiarities, but for some reason I've been craving healthy food this time around!  If you know me at all, this will come as quite a shock.  Normally I want ice cream, candy, greasy foods, and basically anything that isn't healthy.  Over the past few weeks I've gone shopping at 8PM for the makings of a salad and purchased all items necessary for smoothies.  Yes, that's my new favorite food:  a fruit smoothie.

Why has it taken me so long to make one?  They're so simple!  I always thought that drinking yogurt was repulsive.  I was wrong.  This is the most delicious, healthy, versatile, and easy thing to whip up in all of 5 minutes, less if you aren't in the midst of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for your toddlers, fixing dinner and cleaning up messes all at the same time.

Grab your favorite fruits and enjoy!

Berry Smoothie

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup orange juice
5 frozen strawberries
10 frozen blueberries
1/2 banana, sliced

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree for about 2-3 minutes, until it looks like all of the fruit has been chopped and ingredients are well incorporated.  Pour into a tall glass.  Makes 1 serving.

*I have frozen strawberries and blueberries in my freezer from ones we picked last spring/summer, so I'm slowly using those up for these treats.  I like using frozen fruit because it keeps the smoothie nice and cold without having to use ice.  Fresh fruit would work just fine.  I'm looking forward to trying this with kiwi and raspberries*

Monday, November 14, 2011

Unproductive Weekend & a Feature

This weekend I set out with great plans to accomplish several projects, clean the house, go to the fair, and read. Unfortunately, the projects' goal was an absolute fail!  Nothing was accomplished on that front, except a short trip to Joann's.  I do have a very clean house, we enjoyed the fair and I finished a book and got halfway through another!  My husband and I enjoyed a much needed date on Friday night, thanks to a sweet friend who watched the girls.  So, I guess it was only unproductive in the sense that I have many projects to work on this week, including a mountain of laundry.

When I logged into blogger this morning I noticed some traffic on my blog that intrigued me, so I clicked on over to Home Stories A to Z, and noticed that I was featured!!  Beth graciously featured my post Holiday Entertaining: Out of Town Guests.   Click on this link to head over and read about the other blogs that were featured.  Thanks, Beth!  I'm so excited to display this image on my blog :)

Home Stories A2Z

Off I go to start chipping away at that mountain of laundry and hopefully work on some of my projects during naptime.  What are your plans for this Monday?

Friday, November 11, 2011

What to Serve for Thanksgiving Dinner

The other day I shared with you some tips on getting ready for holiday guests, which you can read about here.  Today, per the request of a sweet reader from Europe, I'm going to share with you some ideas of what to serve for Thanksgiving Dinner.  Some of you may already have your menus figured out, and others have given your requests to someone else who's making your dinner.  However, I can only guess there may be a few who are still looking for that great side dish, delectable dessert, or best way to cook a turkey.  This is for you!

Here is my Thanksgiving Menu:

Roast Turkey
Sausage Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes
Sauteed Green Beans
Turkey Gravy
Sweet Potato Casserole
Green Pea Salad
Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie
Pecan Pie
Key Lime Pie
Toll House Pie

Thankfully, I'll have some help, specifically with making all of those pies!  Below I'll provide what I believe are the most traditional and then a few non-traditional dishes for those who want to experiment beyond the norm.

1. Turkey.

Without a doubt, this is the most traditional portion of the meal.  In fact, I read in my Woman's Day magazine that somewhere around 46 million turkeys would be consumed this season.  That's a lot of fowl.  For those living overseas, turkey is not as easy to come by, and if you find it, most likely it is extremely expensive {I know this from experience}.  Chicken is a great substitute, as the other dishes that surround the turkey taste just as yummy with a smaller bird.

Here are some great links on how to prepare and cook a turkey:
How to Prepare a Turkey
How to Carve a Turkey
World's Simplest Thanksgiving Turkey
Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

2. Stuffing/Dressing.

Source: via Lauren on Pinterest

This just so happens to be one of my favorite parts of the meal, especially since I was introduced to a sausage stuffing recipe 2 years ago by my sister-in-law.  Traditionally, the turkey is stuffed with a bread and vegetable mixture, hence the name stuffing, that cooks inside of the bird.  The stuffing is then removed and enjoyed alongside the bird.  Stuffing the turkey is said to help keep the bird moist {as turkey can be rather dry} but there are other ways to have a moist bird, if you'd rather not mess with stuffing.  When you make the bread mixture without putting it inside of the bird, it's referred to as dressing.  The same basic ingredients are used, you just forego the hassle of sticking inside of the turkey.  There are countless ways to make stuffing/dressing, but here are a few favorite recipes that I found:

9 Turkey Stuffing Recipes
Maxine's Turkey Stuffing Recipe
Turkey: Stuffing 101

3. Mashed Potatoes.

 I'd really be curious to know what is estimated to be the number of pounds of potatoes consumed on Thanksgiving Day!  This is probably one of the easiest dishes to pull off, and again, it can be done in different ways.  Last year I was lazy and used red potatoes, so that I didn't have to peel the skins off. They tasted fine, but I did miss the smooth texture of 'the perfect mashed potato'.  Recently, I've discovered that gold potatoes work best for a smooth mashed potato.  Simply add some butter, milk, salt and pepper and you have an easy side to douse in gravy.  Here are some mashed potato recipes:

Step-by-Step Instructions to Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Paula Deen's Garlic Mashed Potatoes

4. Gravy.

I feel like I can't even really speak on this one because I have not yet mastered the art of cooking gravy.  I'm hopeful this year {as I'm sure my dad is} that I'll be able to produce a flavorful, non-lumpy gravy to accompany all of this delicious food.  Basically, you use the juices that cooked out of the turkey, add some flour and milk, and you somehow come out with an amazing liquid called gravy.  Since I can't tell how to do it, here are some great tips {which I will be reading and maybe even practicing before the big day}:

Step-by-Step Pictures for the Perfect Gravy
5 Great Gravy Recipes

5. Green Vegetable, such as Peas or Green Beans.

This is subjective, of course, but in my family, we traditionally had peas with Thanksgiving dinner.  As a kid I loved to mix my potatoes and peas as I thought that was one of the most wonderful food combinations.  I now have switched to sauteed green beans {with a bit of onion and garlic in them} to keep down the fat content, although many people serve green bean casserole, which is equally as yummy.  Here are some other vegetable sides to give some ideas:

5 Ways to Eat Brussels Sprouts
Green Bean Casserole
Scalloped Squash, Red Pepper and Corn Gratin with Cheddar Crust
Honey Glazed Carrots

6. Cranberry Sauce.

We always had jellied cranberry sauce from a can growing up, and that is still the preferred way for most of my family members.  I don't think I even knew that you could make it until a few years ago.  Ha!  If you're unable to purchase canned cranberries, fresh ones cooked with sugar and a bit of orange juice create a delicious sauce!

7 Tasty Takes on Cranberry Sauce

7. Rolls with Butter.

Homemade yeast rolls are my favorite, in fact, my aunt always made rolls when we had Thanksgiving at my grandparents' house, and I loved them!  Of course, now you can purchase frozen rolls that taste almost as good as the homemade kind.  I'm still debating about which version to use this year, mostly because I don't want to spend too much time in the kitchen kneading dough on Thanksgiving morning.

No Kneading Required Yeast Rolls
Thanksgiving Rolls
Thanksgiving Bread and Roll Recipes

8. Pie.

 The grand finale is most traditionally pumpkin pie.  However, any kind of pie will substitute just fine.  You'll see from my menu above that we will be serving 5 different kinds of pies this year!  And, I might add that those are the only desserts I'm making for the entire weekend!  It is nice to have two options, though, in case some people don't like one kind.  It may also be a good idea to have a small tray of cookies for those who don't like pie at all, or who want to eat both kinds of pie and a few cookies.

Thanksgiving Pie and Tart Recipes
30 Favorite Pie Recipes

9. Anything Goes.

Source: via Lauren on Pinterest

Thanksgiving dinner can be whatever you want it to be!  I had strict instructions from my brother-in-law not to make lasagna or soup, he definitely wanted turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing; but, these options I've given are certainly not the absolutes of Thanksgiving dinner!  The first time I ever cooked a turkey, it was just for me and my husband, and I went all out!  We had an herb crusted turkey, mashed potatoes, corn/squash gratin, dressing, cranberry cornbread, and I think asparagus.  It was delicious!  Be creative and just make sure that your guests are going to be happy with what you make and leave the table with a full tummy.

10. Be Thankful.

 Thanksgiving is about remembering to thank God for the many blessings He has given us!  Sure, we have a great meal together, but let's not forget to be ever mindful that everything we have comes from God and we should have a spirit of thanksgiving at all times!