Elving : Part 1

Ok, after I hit publish on this post, my attention will turn back to Thanksgiving (at least until Thursday!), but today we thought it would be fun to jump ahead and give you a sneak peek of the Christmas crafting that’s begun in our house. Somewhere along the way, Calder and I started referring to this as “elving” ~ sneaking away to my craft room to either work on Christmas presents or decorations. Today is labeled “Part 1″ because I’m sure this will be the first of many elving posts from the Seasoned sisters!

On Friday, I shared a picture of one of the Alex-friendly ornaments for the tree. Along with the filled balls, I’m also sewing a few simple felt ornaments. I have to admit that I really leaned on Pinterest for ideas this year, getting my inspiration for the ornaments from photos I saw while browsing pins and then just putting my own spin on them.

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Another Pinterest-inspired project is going to come from the white trees and ribbon of moss in the photo below. This little project surprise is something that’s so simple, and I’ve wanted to make it for years. So I may be a little too excited that it’s finally happening.

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Then, there’s my impulse buy of yarn last weekend that is turning into some fun red and white stockings for our house. I saw the yarn in Michaels, and knew it was bulky enough to knit up quickly, but I didn’t want to commit to knitting the stockings if it turned out to take longer than I expected (there are too many other little elving balls in the air to add a big unexpected knitting one!). I picked up two skeins, and they made one cute stocking. When I went back to the store for more yarn, I discovered that the white was out of stock in most stores and online (it’s a holiday made-for-tv tragedy in the making!). After calling a few more stores, I found some in stock and bought enough of both colors to make the remaining two stockings for this year and to add another to our mantel for next year… maybe I went a bit overboard and bought enough to knit stockings for every possible future family member, including future pets.

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I’ve mentioned our local apothecary a few times. I love that place, and it’s quickly becoming my number one elving resource this year. I stopped in this week to pick up oils, herbs, and other ingredients to make a few different gifts for giving. These are my top secret projects that I’ll be so excited to share come January when the gifts are all finally opened.

liveseasoned_fall2014_xmas_crafts1_wm So that’s just a snippet of what’s going on around here. What doesn’t come through in this post is that I may have already started playing my Pandora Christmas station and downing glasses of eggnog nonstop whenever crafting… I promised myself that I would hold off until Thanksgiving, but the mood struck when the elving started.

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Two Bits

Each Friday we share some tidbits from our week.  We want to break down these internet barriers and invite you into our lives and we’re hoping you’ll do the same.  You are welcome to share a bit of your week or day in the comments, or if they’re better represented by a photo, tag us on instagram @liveseasoned

Katie here:

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I know that Sarah’s been busy all week with a photo shoot, so of course the Friday post is late when left in my hands. And me? I’ve been busy all week with the general busy-ness of life – doctor’s appointments, dog sitting, haircuts, generally rough stuff :). But I was lucky enough to sneak in a few moments of Christmas planning here and there. I tested out a few methods for making some toddler-safe tree ornaments (that’s a work-in-progress shot above). And I was finally able to take that lip balm course at the local apothecary. It was so good! I made lip balm before, but it was nice to get the informed and tested tricks from someone who has a lot more practice. We also learned some simple and natural techniques for adding color to our balms and for making glosses too. I’m so excited to try making a batch for holiday giving!

 

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Sparkling Cider Mocktails

 Apples are our ingredient of the season. Check out our complete archive of apple drinks, recipes, and crafts.

If your holiday dinners are anything like ours, there will be at least one bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling cider or grape juice on the buffet. We may have outgrown the kids’ table, but we haven’t outgrown the kids’ bubbly. This year we suggest adding a bit of grown-up flavor to your juice in the form of cranberry and ginger-rosemary simple syrups, creating mocktails worthy of the adult table… of course, we won’t bat an eyelash if you add a touch of your favorite vodka or gin too!

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Each of these drinks gets their flavor from Martinelli’s Organic Sparkling Cider and an infused simple syrup. We’re sure your holiday menu is already full, so we purposefully kept these mocktails simple to make using ingredients that we always have on hand for Thanksgiving. As such, there’s no need to add an extra item to the mile-long grocery list, and if you’re short on time, you can assign the syrup-making to the first guest to walk through the door.

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 Rosemary-Ginger Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 4-5 1/4 inch slices fresh ginger
  • Place all ingredients in a sauce pot, bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 1-2 minutes until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Strain the rosemary and ginger from the syrup once it cools.

Cranberry Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • Place all ingredients in a sauce pot, bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 1-2 minutes until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Strain the rosemary and ginger from the syrup once it cools.
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Time to Mix!

The Martinelli’s on its own is too sweet for my taste and adding these simple syrups would create a drink that would make my teeth hurt, so I always start by cutting the cider 50-50 with seltzer water. I would suggest you do that, or, if you’re the drinking type, take our suggestion and add vodka.

  • 1 part sparkling cider
  • 1 part seltzer water
  • 1 Tbsp simple syrup
  • rosemary, fresh cranberries, and crystallized ginger for garnish

Place all ingredients except the garnish in your glass and  give it a gentle stir.

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I think my favorite part is coming up with the garnishes! Is professional garnish-er a job? If so, I’m available for your next party. A note about buying the ginger: I never keep crystallized ginger on hand, because it always seems to dry out and get hard before I have a chance to use it. Instead, I buy only what I need for any recipe from the bulk foods section of the grocery store. On this particular day I only bought 8 or 9 pieces; considering my love for buying in bulk, this seems silly, but it’s always so nice having fresh and soft crystallized ginger for a recipe.

In the ginger-rosemary drink I used a sprig of rosemary. It matched the flavor of the drink, and the green and gold combination looked beautiful. My rosemary stems were a bit flimsy, but if your rosemary stems are firm, use them to skewer some of the cranberries and ginger.

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For the cranberry drink I put a couple of cranberries and a piece of crystallized ginger on a toothpick. Even though there’s no ginger in the drink, the sparkling gold candy looked so pretty on top of the red berries. Don’t you think?

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Of course, even if you don’t have time to mix up these syrups, just adding a bit of garnish to your sparkling cider will make every feel special! Especially if you add something like the sprig of rosemary ~ each time your guests take a sip of cider they’ll get an added bonus with the rosemary aroma.

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Pressed Leaf Garland and Place Cards

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I love nothing more than bringing the outdoors in.  One day I hope I live in a mountain cottage full of fur, bones, feathers, antlers, crystals and insect specimens but until then I’ll build my collection and make leaf garland each autumn. If you follow us on Instagram you know that I tried to pick up a live praying mantis (I thought it was dead) the other day, what a shocking moment!  I actually found that big brown guy while I was collecting leaves for this project :)

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I love projects that encourage you to go outside and walk in the woods and making leaf garland is just that.  Wander around with a shallow cardboard box or bag and collect a big old pile of freshly fallen leafs.  You want some moisture in your leaves so that they haven’t started to brown or curl just yet.  You also want to preserve the leaves so that they continue to retain some color and lay flat on your string or table.

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There are several methods for preserving fall leaves.  I choose what I found to be the easiest and safest method, which is sealing them in wax paper.

  • Simply lay down a piece of material (I used an old pillow case) and tear off two pieces of wax paper.
  • Lay as many leaves as possible (without the leaves touching) between the sheets and then place the material on top as well.
  • Iron slowly and on the highest setting for a minute or two, flip the entire material, wax and leaf sandwich over and iron the other side for another minute.
  • Remove the wax paper and let it cool while you repeat the process on more leaves.  Once the wax cools, gently peel the pieces apart and release the leaves.

The leaves should be dry and coated in a very thin layer of wax.  They’re now ready to be used as escort cards or strung onto embroidery thread for garland or a table runner.

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To make the garland, simply cut a length of embroidery thread, tie a knot at one end and thread the needle at the other and start stringing them up.  This is a somewhat delicate process, but it’s easy enough that you can sit and watch a show while you’re working on it.  For the best results, pierce the leaf at least an eighth of an inch in the any edges and gently move it down the thread.  As you become familiar with the fragility level of the leaf, you can pierce several at a time making the process move right along.

Making the table running is similar to making the garland, but I found it helps to work directly on the space you’ll be decorating.  As you can see, my work in progress photos were taken outside, but that was solely to photograph them in good light.  It’s a little tough to pick up a finished table runner and carry it so I recommend choose the space that you’ll decorate and making it there.  Like most crafts that we make on Seasoned, we encourage you to inject your own creativity into it; the sky is the limit.  For the green table running, I cut a long length of green embroidery floss, tied a knot and threaded a needle. I then added the leaves in a spaced out, loose and layered way.  I wanted the leaves to look like they were simply placed on the table.  I also wanted them to kind of flow or drift through the center of the table, which is why I had them pointing in different directions.  I’m very pleased with the result, too bad I’m not entertaining this year!

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The escort cards and super simple to make as well.  Again, gather and preserve some colorful leaves.  Then use paint bottle with a tip or a paint marker to write each person’s name.  I propped mine up against crystals, but they look just as lovely laying flat on a cloth napkin or plate.

I had a great time making the leaf garland. I spent some time outside, had the opportunity to look closely at nature and then preserve it in my home.  It’s a free and simple craft that is great for kids too.  Iron up some leaves and let them do what they please.  How are you decorating your table for turkey day?

 

*Just so you know, I did press the green table runner leaves, but I didn’t press the orange and brown leaves that are hanging up and also arranged in a circle.  I kind of liked the transitional look for the hanging garland, but I didn’t want the table runner leaves to be dry and brittle.
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Roasted Root & Squash Soup

Last week Sarah shared her fantastic recipe for squash soup with a citrus zing. Then we debated: should share another soup recipe this week, especially another one that uses squash? The answer was yes, because for us, it’s most definitely soup season and squash season! I was also jumping at the bit to share this recipe before Thanksgiving because I think it could make a fantastic addition to your feast, but it’s also a great way to use up leftover roasted vegetables, turning them into a completely new dish so you’re not eating the same leftovers for days.

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I made up this recipe a few years ago, and I never make it exactly the same way twice. I truly believe that anything goes when it comes to the vegetables. In this post I’m giving you an example of a typical vegetable mix in our house, but you could easily add more vegetables to the mix and subtract the ones you don’t like. The same goes for the garnish. I don’t buy anything special for the garnish and always make a point of using what I have on hand. If you do the same, I’m sure you’ll come up with some pretty surprising and delicious combinations.

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Soup Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth + additional water
  • 1 medium/large butternut squash
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 medium/large onion
  • 2 large beets
  • 3-5 medium potatoes

Garnish Suggestions

  • beet or chard greens
  • tuffle oil
  • parmesan cheese
  • sour cream

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 How To

  • Prepare the vegetables for roasting. Cut the squash in half and clean out the seeds. Coarsely chop the beets, potatoes, and two carrots. Place all vegetables on an oiled cooking sheet or baking pan and roast until soft (about one hour), stirring halfway through.
  • While the vegetables are roasting, dice the onion and remaining carrot and saute them in olive oil until the onions are translucent.

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  •  When the vegetables are done roasting, add them to the soup pot (removing the squash from its rind) with the broth and enough water to reach the top of the vegetables. Bring this mixture to a boil and then turn down to low heat for blending.
  • Carefully puree the soup using either an immersion or upright blender. Return the soup to the pot and bring to a slow simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, and then you’re done!

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About the Garnishes

I think garnishes add a special touch to what is otherwise a homogeneous soup (not that that’s a bad thing). As I mentioned, there’s no particular right or wrong when it comes to the garnish, but you may want to think about using things that will add a different color, texture, or flavor to the soup. I often use some cooked greens because they add both color and texture to the smooth, pureed base. I like parmesan or cheddar cheeses for their nutty taste, but the tang of yogurt or sour cream is also a great compliment to the sweet flavor of the vegetables. And, as you know, I love the taste of truffles, and a dash of truffle oil works really well on this soup.

If using greens, saute them in some olive oil to prepare them. You can do this with a touch of salt and some diced onion and/or crush garlic or garlic powder.

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Alex loves this soup, I’m sure it has something to do with the sweet/savory combination from the roasted vegetables and the easy-to-eat pureed texture. I love knowing that he’s eating such a wide variety of vegetables with every bite. Oh, and I already have two quarts of this frozen for when I’m too tired to cook!

There you have it! A relatively simple soup that is so easy to prepare, packed with flavor, and with so many different veggies! Try making this for friends and family over the holiday season and I’m sure it’ll be a hit… if not, just send it to my house, I have a freezer that I’m looking to fill ;-).  
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Katie’s Pregnancy Favorites

If all goes well, we’ll be adding another little guy to the fam this spring! Of course we’re super excited, and we thought it would be fun to do a series of posts on pregnancy and baby-related products and tips that worked for me. Maybe they’ll work for you too?

First up, I wanted to share some of the products or tricks that I found useful while pregnant with A. Max, and that have proved helpful this time around too. I’ve made it a point of trying to be low maintenance when it comes to pregnancy and baby-related items, but even with a minimalist attitude, there are still some things that are worth the purchase. Below are my essentials along with some of the tips & tricks that made it easier to buy less maternity-specific stuff. To go to the product pages, you can click the numbered links below each collage or the links provided within the post’s text.

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Prenatal vitamins.

Ugg. I hate taking them every day, but am serious about doing it before, during, and after a pregnancy. Luckily I’ve found the brands that work well for me and minimize some of the negatives associated with other vitamins. I really like this multivitamin. It doesn’t have as strong as a smell as other vitamins, I never get an upset stomach with it, and generally felt healthy (although I never took another vitamin, so I don’t have a good counter example there). I also took a DHA supplement. DHA is one of the omega-3 fatty acids that’s important for brain development. Taking a prenatal DHA supplement is helpful because you won’t get as high of a dose of DHA if you take a basic omega-3 supplement. Also, while this supplement is made from fish oil, I’ve never had any issues with a fishy smell or aftertaste. I didn’t take a calcium supplement with Alex – I just tried to get plenty through my diet, but this time around I found Calcet’s lemon creamy bites, and no I’m hooked! I use them as a healthy treat when I need just a little something sweet, and I like them so much more than the other calcium chews that I took years ago but got tired of. The only thing I don’t like about these is that each chew is individually wrapped in a plastic shell – not that great for the environment, but it seems to be the key to their fresh, creamy texture. So I’ll probably be done with these after this pregnancy or this box… but I had to mention them, because if you need a calcium supplement, these are outstanding.

Clothes

When it comes to clothes, I’m fortunate in a number of ways. First, I’m pregnant during the exact same time of year, so I’m able to use all of those maternity clothes again.  Second, I mainly work from home, and while last time I had to go in to a job, I really only saw people a couple of days a week. So, many days yoga pants and long stretchy t-shirts or tanks were enough to cover my belly and keep me comfortable. I found that many of the dresses I already owned (I love ones from Title Nine with a touch of spandex, like this) were stretchy enough to fit over my growing belly for at least the first 6-7 months of my pregnancy. I was also lucky that sweater dresses came back into fashion – so I picked up a few of the boxier ones, some tights, and my favorite boots to get me through the rest of my pregnancy – this was an especially great outfit for days I had to teach.  Once my stomach got too large for my pre-pregnancy pants, I bought four pair of maternity pants and a few shirts to go with them – that’s it!

But, even so, there are a couple of specific items that are worth sharing. This maternity tank from Target is so comfortable, and I love how long it is. Late in pregnancy, it was hard for long non-maternity tanks to stretch around my stomach, but this tank does without trouble. I still have the only one I bought, and am thinking it’s time to add a second one to my closet – they are a perfect first layer under any shirt.

As I mentioned, I bought a few maternity shirts, mainly for work days to go with the pants I picked up. I didn’t know it at the time, but there are whole lines of nursing shirts with ruched fabric around the torso – making them perfect for a growing stomach during pregnancy and a slowly shrinking one afterwards. Buy these, especially if you want to try nursing, rather than buying a maternity-only shirt (I found that the BOOB brand really held up well to the wear and tear that is nursing and carrying a little guy).

Books & Other Info

We are just over halfway through this pregnancy, and it was around this time with Little A that I was ready to start learning about labor, labor support, and breastfeeding. Along with taking a labor class, there were a few books that I found really useful.

  • The Big Book of Birth - this book is packed with useful information, so at times it can seem a bit dense, but I really loved the straightforward and concise writing. She covers basic biology of labor as well as types of medical interventions and natural methods for easing discomfort and dealing with different problems that may arise during birth. Calder didn’t read the whole book, but I marked some sections that I thought would be particularly useful for him to read before our delivery, and I think it was helpful to both of us.
  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – This book focuses more on natural childbirth and methods for finding comfort and support through it. I have to admit that I didn’t read this one cover to cover like I did the Big Book of Birth, but I did find it extremely useful, and Ina May’s an expert if ever there was one.
  • The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers – Before I had Alex, it seems like I often heard about how hard or tricky breastfeeding could be, but I knew I wanted to do it. Knowing that I didn’t want to find myself with a newborn in my hands and unsure of what to do next, I decided to read and learn about the process before having the baby. I found both Jack Newman’s book and his website to be extremely helpful for covering the basics of breastfeeding and providing many useful images and videos of successful and unsuccessful breastfeeding – so I was able to get a sense of what I should look for and red flags for when things weren’t working.

In addition to these books, Calder and I took a seven-week prenatal and labor class together. Our class covered everything from the baby’s development in utero, to the biology of labor, support for labor, types of medical interventions, caring for a newborn, etc. It was so amazing, and really helps you to work through all of that material, especially when you’re working and are so tired that you would rather crash on the couch than read a book. We had the option of taking that class or shortened version of the class over the course of a weekend. I highly recommend spreading your course out over a few weeks – there’s so much information to learn, and you may find that questions develop only after you’ve had days/weeks to think about something from class – there’s no way you and your labor partner would get as much out of a weekend course (but, if that’s all you have time for, it’s better than nothing!).

General Beauty Products

In general, I use very few beauty products, but when I do, I try to stay as chemical-free as possible. One place where that’s hard to do is with nail polish. I would skip it altogether (and that’s what I did with my first pregnancy), but this time around, my nails are really suffering from the dry air. When they are dry, they crack, peel, and just become a general mess. A coat of polish along with daily applications of cuticle oil really helps to keep them healthy. So, this time around I tried Spa Ritual’s 5-free polishes, and really (really) love them. I use them with a base and top coat, and have found that they can go at least 5 days without chipping (less if I’m really doing a lot of mess work with my hands).

Another product that I’ve been devoted to throughout both pregnancies is Burt’s Bees Momma Bee Body Oil. I slather it on my belly after every shower throughout the whole pregnancy and for a few weeks postpartum (about 3 times per week). I was really lucky to end up with no stretch marks last time around. We’ll see what happens this time!

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Staying Healthy

When you’re pregnant, you hear over and over again that it’s important to get plenty of exercise and stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is even more important for me this time around since we’re in a dryer climate.

Honestly, after months of drinking water, tea, and chocolate milk, I start to go crazy for anything else to drink (we’re not big juice drinkers, just as a rare treat). I found a few tricks to help me stay hydrated. I’ll treat myself to cartons of coconut water – you get an electrolyte bonus! Trader Joes’ brand is always a good price, but I’ll take any brand that’s on sale. I also mix up my drinking vessels. The first time around I picked up one of those cold cups with a straw, and found that just switching between my drink bottle and that would have me drinking more. I also found the cup easier to drink out of while breastfeeding and rocking a newborn (rather than having to tilt my head back to use the drink bottle).

When it comes to exercise, having Ca$h the dog was such a big motivator. When he’s with us, I’m his main walking companion – so that meant that I went out on long (30 minutes to an hour+) walks with him twice a day. I did that all the way until the end of my first pregnancy and I know that it really helped me to stay in shape and stay a healthy weight. This time around we don’t have the pooch with us (he’s with Sarah!), but I’m making sure to get plenty of play time in with Alex, and it seems to be working :-).

In addition to the dog walks and Alex adventures, I liked to take some time to do some good, deep, yoga stretching. I tried out a few prenatal yoga classes, and they were great, but I also found it really hard to fit them into my schedule. After a bit of searching, I came across Yoga Download and was an immediate fan. There are a number of ways to access their classes, but I purchased a couple of prenatal yoga classes and downloaded them onto my laptop. It was nice to have access to them at any time and without having to worry about an internet connection. I’ve since purchases some regular (not prenatal) classes and have used them whenever I need a yoga boost – while I would love to go to a studio, practicing at home has become my new norm since Alex arrived.

Finally, there’s one other simple thing that I’ve done during both pregnancies to help myself eat right. Whenever I make a big pot of soup or stew, I put a quart jar of it in the freezer. So far I have about six jars in the freezer this time. This takes zero thought or planning, just fill the jar, label it, and freeze. They are so useful towards the end of pregnancy and during the first few months with a newborn when you’re too tired or busy to cook.

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Wow, I know that was a wordy post, but I’m hoping some other expectant moms may find this helpful… or if you know a momma-to-be, you may get some useful gift ideas from this post. A case of coconut water with a big bow around it never hurt anyone!

Did I miss anything that you found essential? I would love to hear what you found essential.

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Two Bits

Each Friday we share some tidbits from our week.  We want to break down these internet barriers and invite you into our lives and we’re hoping you’ll do the same.  You are welcome to share a bit of your week or day in the comments, or if they’re better represented by a photo, tag us on instagram @liveseasoned

Katie here:

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If you’re following along on our Instagram feed, then you already know that it was cold and snowy in Boulder this week! We pulled the sled out of the garage and took Alex for a stroll around the neighborhood on that first morning – he loved it!!! In the photo above he just got on and fell backwards, but he soon figured out how to hold himself up as the sled jerked to a start. It was just as exciting for us to see his joy. Every time we mentioned the sled, he would run for the door. So that’s been our main mode of transport – I pulled him over to his friend’s for a play date, our babysitter took him on a few walks (after teaching him the fine art of snow angels), and last night on the sled, he figured out that waving to the snowplows would get them to honk their horns. Important stuff going on around here!

Meanwhile, inside the house I kept a pot of soup on the stove every day. I think because this blast came earlier in the season than we would have expected, it seamed extra magical having the steamed up windows, fire in the fireplace, candles going on the mantel and the blanket of snow outside. I feel like the week was a slow dream, and other than the fridge of leftovers and “first snow” pictures, I don’t have anything else to show for it, but that’s not a bad thing either. If the snow’s coming your way, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Sarah here:

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This week was busy, busy over here! Lots of shoots, editing and meetings, but I did find time to rake the yard and go for a few hikes with the pup.  I also went shopping for clothes, which is a big deal for me. Those pants in the pic are newbies. Like ‘em?  I rarely buy threads.  I just hate spending money on clothes, which is hard because I’m always envious of other people’s style, yet I’m not willing to spend money on shirts. First world problems, I know.

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I also went on a date this week, whoop whoop! We went to see Interstellar, which is now one of my most favorite movies. I loved it so much. I’ve been thinking about it ALL WEEK and I even had a dream about it.  So, that’s kind of a big deal.  It’s rare that I go that bananas over a movie, but it was just so dreamy and intriguing.  Christopher Nolan is really securing his spot as my favorite director (I’m sure that is his most prestigious award yet..). This movie was just as mind boggling as Inception so if you enjoyed that, you’ll enjoy this. He also made Memento, The Prestige and The Dark Knight Trilogy and other greats.

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Apple Cranberry Crisp

Apples are our ingredient of the season. We love to eat them, but we also love to preserve them, drink them, and craft with them!

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It’s about time we shared the staple of all apple desserts ~ a crisp! What’s not to love? They are packed with fruit, covered in a hearty and nutty oat crumb. With the right combination of sugar and salt you can get that irresistible sweet yet salty flavor. Still warm, they make vanilla ice cream melt to produce a delicious sweet cream running through every bite. You can totally eat them for breakfast with plain yogurt and know you’re getting your day off to a great start. Or is that just me?

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I made this crisp yesterday. It was our first unbelievably cold day of the season that also blanketed us with snow. A perfect day for finding any reason to stick close to the stove. So I did a whole bunch of cooking and baking. One of the recipes I cooked earlier in the day resulted in boiled cranberries that were then filtered out of that recipe (that’s vague, but you’ll get the full details next week!). The berries looked so perfect that I thought it wouldn’t hurt to experiment and see if I could re-use them in a crisp. I used my standard crisp recipe, it’s a simplified version of something I found in the King Arthur Baker’s Companion (my go-to for all sorts of standard baked goods).  While I don’t do it every time, I’ll often add fresh cranberries to the crisp, luckily, yesterday’s “used” cranberries still had a lot of flavor and worked just as well as fresh ones. 
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Filling Ingredients

  • 5-6 apples, or enough to fill a pie dish, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped (I even leave some whole)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, separated
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, separated
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Crumble Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (or 1/2 cup not packed down)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 8 Tbsp butter

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How-To

  • Preheat the oven to 350F and heavily butter your pie dish (I will use about 2 Tbsp of butter and leave any excess within the pan).
  • Place all filling ingredients in a bowl and mix vigorously then transfer to the buttered pie dish.
  • Place all topping ingredients in a food processor and mix until crumbly. If you don’t have a processor, you can mix everything except the butter and walnuts, then cut in the butter and once crumbly lightly mix in the walnut pieces.
  • Sprinkle the topping over the apple mixture. Bake for about 1.5 hours, or until it’s bubbly and a nice golden brown color.

As you can see, the juices from this crisp ran over the side of my dish (producing those beautiful yellow and pink streaks on the outside of the dish – isn’t it cool that the apple and cranberry juices didn’t completely blend?). Depending upon how much I’ve over-stuffed my dish, I will often use a cookie sheet to catch the droppings – it’s much better than have the sugary syrup burn on the bottom of your oven!

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This recipe is easily customizable. You can begin by keeping or skipping the cranberries and/or walnuts. You can replace the water in the filling with apple cider or orange juice. You can play with the spice combinations and amounts. But whatever you do, don’t forget the vanilla ice cream (and yogurt for breakfast!).

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Dried Fruit Garland

Apples are our ingredient of the seasons. So far we’ve gone crazy with them in the kitchen, but today we’re filing getting crafty!

This year, after taking down our Halloween decorations and while waiting to up a Christmas tree, I was really feeling the urge to decorate. So I put together this simple garland that’s a snap to make, celebrates the bounty of the season, and is perfectly suited for my need to add a little touch of something to our November walls.

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Supplies:

This project requires relatively few supplies, but as with everything we do around here, the garland is easily customizable, so look around your craft room and get creative!

  • twine
  • dried fruit (more on this below)
  • wooden beads
  • simple yarn flowers (how-to below)
  • hot glue gun
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Drying the Fruit

I began the project by slicing and drying three pieces of fruit: red and gold delicious apples and a seedless navel orange. The fruit were sliced into quarter inch discs. Sharpening your knife will go a long way towards helping you make even slices with nice smooth surfaces. You’ll find it difficult to cut through the seeded area of the apples, but my advice is to keep your knife horizontal (rather than pushing the point or handle ends up and down) and to saw back and forth with even pressure.

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Once sliced, I removed all seeds and placed the pieces on cooling racks over cookie sheets for drying.  I then dried the fruit in a 200F oven for about 5-6 hours, flipping the slices twice to help minimize curling of the fruit.

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The Beads

In addition to the fruit, I wanted to add a few other textures and colors to the garland. First up, some natural wooden beads. I bought a 20-pack of these beads at Joann’s. Once home I thought about painting these, but didn’t have any craft paint, so decided to keep them natural and add color with a bit of yarn (something I have plenty of!).

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The Flowers

Using some rusty-red yarn, I made a few very simple flowers. I originally saw these flowers on Pinterest and made from twine. The link to that Pin was bad, but a quick Google search led me to this really helpful how-to video.

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The only supplies you’ll need to make these are a piece of cardboard, yarn or twine, scissors, a yarn needle, and 8-12 toothpicks. If you assemble that, you’ll be able to make a flower right along with the video because she explains everything at a nice slow speed.

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In the video, 12 toothpicks are used, but as I mention, you may need as few as 8, depending upon how large and full you make your flower. I made my flowers with cardboard discs that were 1.5 and 2 inches in diameter. As you can see in these photos, the diameter of your disc determines the final diameter of your flower.  I wouldn’t go any smaller than 1.5 inches, and if I were to do it again, would probably uses discs that were 2 and 2.5 inches. As you can see, my flowers are quite full with only 8 petals, and I think 12 would have been too much, but may be just right for a 2.5 inch flower.

*Don’t cut off the extra yarn ends when you’re done making your flower – these come in handy for tying the flowers to the twine.

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Assemble the Garland

With your garland swag in order, it’s time to assemble! I attached the fruit with hot glue. In order to get the fruit to hang nicely, you should glue the twine on no more than 1/3 of the way down the slice (rather than along the widest part, if that makes sense?). If you glue the twine too far down, the weight of the fruit will cause them to face downwards rather than out. The flowers were tied on by the extra yarn ends. If you cut off the yarn ends, you could easily hot glue these too. Once tied, I then cut any excess yarn off. And to make bead placement easier, I strung a whole bunch at once (as you saw in the photo above), then just knotted the twine on either side of the bead.

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With those instructions, just go for a random placement of your items, but still keeping in mind that odd-numbered groupings are more appealing. The beads sort of act as breakpoints in your garland, so I thought it was useful to place 3 or 5 of the fruit and flower items between any two beads.

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 Hang it up!

And now comes the hardest part, figuring out where to hang your garland. I started by stringing mine along one of our ceiling beams and thought that it looked OK, but maybe a little bit too puny for that space? What do you think?

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From there I took the garland over to our fireplace. First, I tried stringing it along the mantel and letting the excess hang down on either side. I loved the look of the garland along the skinny front of the mantel, but knew that if we were to keep it here, I’d have to shorten the ends to keep Little A from pulling on or trying to eat it.

So I moved the garland with the same hanging profile to above the mantel. I’m not completely in love with how it looks here, I feel like there’s nothing specific that’s anchoring the garland to that spot (am I wrong?). I do love being able to see it as we sit on the couch, especially when I catch a look at the fruit in the glow of the candle light. But, now what’s this renter to do with those ugly brown vents? Any tips?

So, that’s our simple bit of decoration for November. Just enough to tide me over until I go evergreen and light crazy!

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Squash Soup with Citrus

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If you’re starting to feel the chill of winter (shoutout to the northern peninsula of Michigan with its 15 inch snowfall forecast!) this squash soup with citrus is exactly what you need.  The butternut squash will warm your belly and the time it takes to roast in the oven will warm your house.  It all comes together in about thirty minutes so you can quickly cozy back up on the couch.

My mom actually blended up this soup when I was visiting last weekend and it was so tasty that I had to share it.  Usually I find squash soups a little bland, but that is not the case here.  The lemon and orange zest add a lot of flavor, so please don’t skimp on those two ingredients.  While this soup fits perfectly into the fall since squash is in season, the citrus flavors really remind you of summer, which seems so far away now.  It’s also a hearty vegetarian dish to add to your soup rotation for the coming cold months.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 medium to large butternut squash
  • 5 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 TBSP orange zest
  • 1 TBSP lemon zest
  • handful of roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 small sweet red pepper
  • small pinch of saffron threads
  • sprinkle of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

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The how:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°. Cut the ends off of the butternut squash, peel it, cut in half, remove the seeds and cut into chunks. Spread the squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 TBSP olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg.  Roast in the oven until the squash begins to caramelize, about thirty minutes.
  • While the squash is roasting, chop the onion, garlic carrots and celery.  In a large soup pot, drizzle the bottom with the remaining 3 TBSP of olive oil (no measuring necessary-just drizzle enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan).  Turn the pot onto medium-low and add the carrots, onions, garlic and celery.  When the veggies start to turn translucent and soft, stir in the saffron, lemon and orange zest.  After a few minutes, add a quart of water, turn the heat up to medium and allow the veggies to fully soften, about 15 minutes.
  • By now your squash should be starting to caramelize.  Add the soft squash to the soup pot.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. If you don’t have an immersion blender (welcome to the club!) simply add the soup to your regular blender little by little and puree.  It’s a little bit messier and delicate since the soup is hot, but it works just as well. Once the entire contents of the pot is pureed add salt if necessary.
  • Dish out the soup into small mugs and sprinkle roasted pumpkin seeds and finely chopped sweet red peppers on top.
  • This recipe is enough to feed 8-10 people.  If you plan on reheating the soup, I recommend doing in on the stovetop on low heat.

 

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I don’t know about you, but I am chest (cheeks?) deep in soup season.  This is the fourth soup I’ve made in two weeks!  I love the simplicity of only having to watch over one pot and I have to admit I love standing next to a hot stove.  My fingers and toes are always freezing so I tend to stand over the soup and stir it the entire time.  Maybe I was a witch in a past life?

*This recipe was slightly altered from a recipe found in Rachel Ray magazine.
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