Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year

  As I think of a new year upon us, it hardly seems possible.  This past year there has been so much to be thankful for... life also brought about a lot of change for us, but even though it seemed difficult at the time, now I look back and realize it also brought about many blessings. 

Somehow it seems so fitting that the Amaryllis bulb we picked up on clearance at Tractor Supply a few weeks ago would bloom this week.  We had just learned about plant growth in Jillian's workbook... every day we would wake up and comment on how much the Amaryllis had grown.  I had no idea what color the blooms would be, but I imagined red. 

And then we woke up and there was a bloom.  A perfect, beautiful, pink blossom.  I had just taken down our Christmas decor and the cheerful color was just right.  

"Mommy, look!  A flower!" 

Is there anything like the wonder in a child's eye... the beauty and joy they see in the simplest of things?

For some reason, yesterday I was remembering that growing up I always made a list and wrote down my New Year's resolutions. It's been a long time since I have done so; nevertheless, as a new year approaches, I always have a few things tucked inside that I want to work on and this year is no exception.

Our New Year's plans have changed as we have a sick little girl, but we'll still be together as a family and there isn't anything more I could ask for.

Getting to share a little of our lives on this blog has been a true joy for me this year, and I want to thank you for reading and for your friendship.  

I hope you have a beautiful New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Holiday Dinner

Our Christmas day dinner was one of my favorite parts of our holiday week - family gathering together to create new memories.  This year I cooked dinner for our family, which is something I love to do.  I love the planning, setting the table, cooking, and then enjoying time with family or friends. 

 This year I wanted to create a table that reflected the beauty of the holidays, but in a style I'm comfortable with: simple and pretty with just a touch of rustic. I also wanted to incorporate a few ideas that could be used year-round, not just for the holidays.

The dinnerware is Antique White by Mikasa.  About a month ago Mikasa contacted me and asked if I would be interested in trying some of their dinnerware.  When I saw this pattern, I was instantly smitten and even more so when it arrived.  I'm simply in love with it... a perfect white that easily transitions from casual to elegant and also coordinates perfectly with my antique dishes, yet is sturdy and dishwasher friendly. 

  I loved the way each place setting came together.  My mom saw the name tag idea in the Southern Living magazine this past month and we both just adored the idea.  It's simply a piece of velvet ribbon wrapped around the plate with a tag made out of scrapbook paper.  I sewed the napkins with some fabric I purchased at our local fabric store.  I already had a few burlap runners that I placed underneath each place setting. 

 The centerpiece is very simple and also short.  In the case of having a family meal, I can't imagine having to look over a tall centerpiece (smile). 

 I used the reclaimed wood bread board my husband recently made for me as the base.  I love adding the warmth of wood, especially with white. 

  As is typical with me, I simply went outside and gathered some cypress and berries to make wreaths with and wrapped them around a creamer and sugar filled with pecans and cinnamon sticks.  The creamer and sugar are antique but paired perfectly with the new white dishes. 

 Because I knew I would be busy cooking the next day, I set the table the day beforehand.  That evening we lit the candles in the dining room and I kept finding excuses to walk by and look at the table (smile). 

 Christmas day was cold and rainy here - perfect for spending time in the warm kitchen with the scents of holiday food coming from the oven.  I cooked a very traditional holiday meal: ham, rolls, glazed carrots, roasted potatoes and a green salad. 

The majority of the serving pieces are also from Mikasa's Antique White collection.  For drinks, I mixed together cranberry juice and ginger ale for a holiday treat.  You can find the icebox rolls recipe here; they were melt-in-your-mouth wonderful and best of all, the dough can be made the day before.

 My family were all great sports about me taking pictures while the dishes were being passed around... I think they're getting used to this blog (smile). 

(I assure you I only took a few photos though... I was hungry and ready to enjoy the meal!)

 Here's a photo of us all (minus myself) gathered together at the table.   I have to say that photos of our family at the table are some of my favorites.  I don't have that many of them but the few I do always bring back such lovely memories.

 Later that afternoon we enjoyed cake and fresh apple cider.  When the packages from Mikasa arrived a couple weeks ago, they also included these holiday accent plates from the Antique White collection. (I'm sure you can imagine my gasping as I opened everything and wondering why I was so lucky.)  They were so much fun to use.  Next Christmas I'll probably display them too.

I simmered the cider on the stove for a while and it smelled amazing.  Is there anything better than the smell of cinnamon and cloves? 

The cake was a chocolate velvet (batter recipe here) and although I've never made a perfect looking cake (and probably never will - laugh), it tasted divine.  Unfortunately, we had some leftovers and all week I have not been able to resist sampling a bite here and there (smile).   

Happy New Year! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Our Christmas Day

 How was your Christmas?  Ours was really wonderful.  Today it was just the girls and I... Justus had to go back to work, everyone has left, scraps of wrapping paper and food crumbs have all been picked up.  It's cold, rainy, and windy outside and the house has felt quiet and a little lonely. 

 When Jillian woke up from her nap this afternoon, she climbed in my lap (which doesn't happen nearly as often these days as she is growing up so fast), scrunched up her nose, and said, "I just wish Christmas day didn't have to pass."  

Then we sat together and talked about all the things we enjoyed so much.  It really was a wonderful day. 

So today I've just been savoring the memories of family, laughter and love (and eating way too much leftover cake). 

 (One of my favorite images from the day.) 

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas day filled with joy!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wishing You...

I wanted to post today to wish you all a very merry Christmas.  My heart is full of thankfulness for so many things, and one of those things is you.  I feel very thankful for the friendships I have made this year.  Your kind words and visits this year have meant more to me than you'll ever know.

 Today my husband is off for the next five days, and we're looking forward to soaking in special times with family.  This afternoon we get to see some of our close family on my husband's side that we have not gotten to see in months... Jillian is counting the minutes until she gets to play with our niece, her dearest friend. 

And then Christmas day will be spent at our house, where I'll be hosting and cooking dinner for my side of the family.   I am so excited.  This week has held some unanticipated events, so I have not made much progress on planning or grocery shopping, but we've still managed to enjoy a few simple treats this time of year brings.

 Gifts have been wrapped...

 Fresh berries have been tucked here and there...

 Hot cocoa has been made...

And even some homemade marshmallows...

(Which, by the way, was a first for me, and they were ooey, gooey, difficult to make, but absolutely delicious.)

 Stories have been read...

And even a gingerbread house decorated with Grammy...

 I wish you all wonderful days of love and happiness with your families and friends. 

Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Handmade Bread Board

 Hello, friends.  I hope you are all doing well.

Like you, my heart is breaking for the lost lives in CT.  All weekend my thoughts and prayers have been with the parents, the teachers, the families, all those affected by the tragedy.  Every time I think about what each parent must be going through right now, I am blinking back tears and mourning.

 This afternoon while everyone was napping, I went into the kitchen and started some bread.  While I listened to the gentle rain outside, I felt so very thankful for my two little girls, tucked safely in their beds.  There is not a second that goes by that I am not thankful for them, but it is certainly times like this we're reminded to hug those we love a little tighter. 

 When Jillian woke up we thought we'd put together a light Sunday supper of bread, fruit and cheese to nibble on. 

 We enjoyed corralling everything together on this bread board that Justus made for me yesterday.  We had some old barn wood planks laying around and one of them was just the perfect width to use for making one. 

I love the patina of the old wood and the fact that it was made with a loved one's hands.  I know I'll treasure it forever. 

Yesterday I took some photos of Justus making the bread board... it's really quite simple if you have the tools (or at least it looked it from my end - smile) and it doesn't matter if it isn't perfect... to me that just adds to its appeal. 

(I am glad with the rain today that we spent plenty of time outside yesterday playing... I love Saturdays with my sweet family.)

 Justus measured the plank to desired dimensions and cut with a jigsaw.  He was concerned that the board wasn't perfect, but I assured him that it didn't matter one bit to me. 

 Then he sanded the board until it was very smooth and applied a butcher block oil.  You can see here that the plank originally might have had some water damage. 

 We used this butcher block oil by Watco, which is completely food safe.  I plan to use this on my butcher block countertops here soon too. 

 We simply followed the instructions on the back of the oil and rubbed it in with a soft, clean cloth.  The oil darkens the wood beautifully and shows its wonderful character. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Old Cabinet

 Yesterday I finally rearranged the furniture in our living room.  An old cabinet I had in there no longer fit, so I decided to put it in the dining room temporarily until I found the right spot for it. 

 But after filling the bare corner in the dining room I often talk about, I ended up loving the way it looked (although let's face it, anything would have looked better on this large wall than a short white toy box!). 

 The truth of the matter is, when it comes to decorating, I really don't feel like I have a clue what I'm doing.  I gravitate towards simple and only use things I love or that are meaningful to me.  My vignettes usually consist of setting a few of my favorite things together and hoping it looks okay. 

 The only thing I have hanging on this side of the wall right now is this painting that was done by a friend.  She painted it specifically for our dining room and I love it. 

 I purchased this old cabinet a couple years ago before Rosetta was born.  At the time I needed a small cabinet for baby odds and ends that would easily fit in our bedroom.  I do believe there was some laughter when I dragged this cabinet home, but I'm always drawn to old furniture, peeling paint and all.  I put a couple coats of poly on and called it good.  I love the old latch. 

  This old piano stool is one of my favorite things and always has a place in our dining room.  My father-in-law brought it over to our house several years ago when we had our first piano... I believe it was his grandfather's.  I'm not sure if we're the technical owners, but I keep hoping nobody will ask for it back (smile).  Jillian always drags this stool over to the dining table... I guess now I think of it as hers. 

I'm not exactly sure what the right piece would be for the wall yet... maybe an old clock?  Or hanging plates? I'm sure I won't mind being on the hunt for something (wink). 

It's hard to believe Christmas is around the corner... I've been busy making lists and trying to get some things accomplished.  I can't wait.  I hope you are having a wonderful week so far!

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