Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving Extravaganza

Last week, we celebrated Thanksgiving three times.  It was a Thanksgiving Extravaganza, and it was wonderful and exhausting.  I made lots of delicious goodies I was able to share at all the events (I planned out my recipes earlier last week here).  Thursday was the Haugo Family Thanksgiving in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.  After making all my goodies, Josh and I were an hour late.  We missed eating a warm dinner, but the cold leftovers were delicious!

I'm a stickler for fresh pumpkin pies.  As in, I only make pumpkin pies with fresh roasted pumpkin.  So, the first thing I did when I got off work on Wednesday was roast a pumpkin.

While the pumpkin was baking, I put together the ingredients for the fresh apple pie, mini pecan pies, mini salted caramel apple pies, and chocolate peanut butter pie.  It was a little hectic.  I baked for about 12 hours.  I finished baking everything and still had some extra pumpkin leftover so I made mini pumpkin whoopee pies.  These desserts were certainly a labor of love, and I was so happy to share the with our families.

Haugo Family Grandkids
The "older" Haugos

Friday, we headed up to Maplewood, Minnesota, for the Huntley Family Thanksgiving with Josh's mom's side of the family.  There were almost 30 family members in attendance, and it was great seeing them all.  Josh and I accidentally wore matching shirts.  It makes us easy to spot in the family photo.

Huntley Family Photo

Saturday, I hosted Thanksgiving dinner with my mom, sister, four kids, and Josh and Sophie. On Wednesday, I made the brine for the turkey.  It was my first time making a brine, and I feel very sophisticated for making a "fancy" turkey this year.  I also tried making mashed potatoes in a slow cooker.  The convenience of letting the potatoes cook for hours on their own seemed lovely, but I don't think I'll ever make them like that again.  They ended up being kind of hard (not like my normal fluffy version); I think they were overcooked and I wasn't impressed.  My sister took photos on her camera; the only one I took was of my delicious peanut butter chocolate pie.  I doubled the peanut butter filling...and I don't think I'll ever go back to the original recipe.  More peanut butter is always better.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pinterest Challenge: Capture December

I saw this on Pinterest yesterday, and think it's a challenge I can actually complete.  So, here I go, accepting a Pinterest Challenge.  Lianne from A Content Housewife posted a Photo-A-Day Challenge where you take one photo every day that embodies the month of December.  Seems simple enough, right?  I'm already a lover of Instagram, so I don't think it should be too difficult, however I will have to remember to link to her Twitter hashtag: #ACHdecember. The challenge starts in three days.  I should start practicing now... 


Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Front Door

I did a little decorating tonight. After driving around almost the entire Des Moines metro area, I finally found a little (fresh) tree and some white lights for it. I planted the tree in a planter box I already had (this is what it looked like in the summer), which is conveniently located near an exterior outlet. I need to find a timer to put the lights on, but the only I ones I've found are $20, and I'm too cheap for that. The wreath is from about three years ago. I made it from crafty things at Michael's. The skeleton key door mat is from Target. I hope to get the rest of the front porch area decorated tomorrow. I love Christmas!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2012 Christmas Card

I love Christmas cards.  I love designing and mailing them, and I love receiving them.  It's so fun to have all of them displayed.  While I don't have a plan of attack on the card display yet this year (I'll figure out that later), I do have my Christmas card designed and sent to the printer.  I downloaded the chevron background for free here.  I used my favorite fonts:  Lavanderia and Century Gothic.  And I had to incorporate grey because I love it very much...and then sprinkled in a little lime.  We didn't have time to get Christmas photos taken this year, so I used one from our shoot last year with Amanda from APL Photography on the front.  The back of the card has photos I've taken over the year on Instagram.  Sophie wrote the letter on the back (I simply transcribed it for her since it's difficult for her to type).  I'm using to print them.  I've used them a lot over the past few years and am always happy with their work.

So, check that off the holiday to-do list.  Now I just have to wrangle up all my addresses...and go to Costco to purchase stamps.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving is this week, and we have three wonderful family-packed celebrations coming up.  I like to bring desserts to two of our family events).  Since no one else in our families eats g-free, I do my best to make sure what I bring is delicious and doesn't taste weird (I don't want to be "that" family member who brings the food everyone else avoids).  Here's what I have on my menu.

For Thursday and Friday's Thanksgiving celebrations, I'm bringing Salted Caramel Apple Bites, Mini Pecan Pies (it's a family recipe; I'll show pictures once I make them), an apple pie (with this awesome crust mix from the Gluten Free Pantry), and Pumpkin Whoopie Pies.

For Saturday, I'm hosting the dinner, so I'll be making more than just dessert.  Here's what's on the menu: a lovely roasted turkey (and thanks to The Pioneer Woman's show yesterday, I know how I'll be making it), whipped potatoes (I make them a little different every time I make them), cornbread stuffing (from a Whole Foods recipe), gravy (made with cornstarch like this recipe), roasted acorn squash, and a peanut butter chocolate pie for dessert (from Simply Gluten-Free).  Since I'm the difficult one to cook for, I like to make the tricky menu items and ask my guests to bring the easy stuff (like cranberries, veggies, and beverages).  After church this morning, we purchased all the ingredients, so I'm ready to rock for this food-packed week!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fab Finds: Very Jane

I'm all about finding a good deal.  When Jennifer shared this site with me, I got a little excited.  I've been over Groupon and Living Social for a while now (I hate that you have to buy a deal, and then hope you remember to use it before it expires), so I haven't even been open to looking at "deal" websites.  However, I really like Very Jane.  You get daily emails for cute things you can buy that day.  You place your order, and it gets mailed to you.  Here are some great things they're selling today.

$29.99 blazers
$7.99 custom wood ornaments
$19.99 pave chain link bracelets
$4.99 earrings
$8.99 custom mugs

Hero Homecoming Surprise

My sister is a teacher's aide at the elementary school where her two youngest kids attend school.  Yesterday, the school held an assembly where students spoke about who their hero was.  One fourth grader, Jackson, shared with everyone how his soldier dad was his hero and how he missed him very much because he was fighting for our freedom in Afghanistan.  Being an Air Force brat, I remember how hard it was when my dad (or my friends' parents) were gone for months at a time.  Dealing with uncertainty of whether they were coming back was awful.  So, stories like this always make me tear up.  When my sister posted this link on Facebook yesterday, I knew I had to share it.  Jackson, I'm so happy you get to spend Thanksgiving with your dad!

Read the article (and watch the video) on our local CBS affiliate station,  Have tissues close - you will need them.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Young House Love Book Signing in Minneapolis

A few years back, I used to peruse blogs in search of perfect locations for photo shoots.  A little blog called This Young House (they later had to change the name to Young House Love because of some legal nomenclature issues) was one of my go-to blogs (as in I read it daily, truly for work purposes).  Every once in a while, I would email Sherry if one of her featured reader redesigns would be appropriate to photograph for the magazine for which I worked.  Anyway, once her own budget bathroom makeover was complete (read about the project here), I emailed her and asked if we could photograph it to feature in the magazine (read about Sherry's take on the photo shoot here).  So, I've had lots of email convos with her over the years, but I've never had the opportunity to meet her in person...until Wednesday of this past week.

Wednesday started like any other day.  I woke up to the sound of my alarm; I turned on my bedside lamp.  I pressed snooze on my alarm.  Nine minutes later, I woke up again to the sound of my alarm.  I made get the gist.  Around 8:30, I hopped in my trusty Honda Civic, and drove two hours up to Josh's parent's house, where I met Jennifer (remember, she's the mastermind behind Thread).  We then carpooled up to Minneapolis for a fun-filled day revolving around a little book signing.

John and Sherry were on their book tour, and they conveniently had a stop in Minneapolis.  Like any Iowan, a four-hour drive up to Minneaplis is nothing - we do it all the time.  When Jennifer asked if I wanted to head up to Minneapolis for the day, I was game!  So, that's exactly what we did.

We started at Ikea where we enjoyed a lovely meal in their cafeteria (I got the meatballs; Jennifer ate a healthy wrap), and then headed downstairs to peruse the aisles.  After that, we drove over to the  Room & Board showroom.  Um...heaven!  I dream of a whole house furnished in Room & Board...  I digress...  Then, we parked at a parking ramp (conveniently located in the same building as The Container Store), browsed at The Container Store, and then got in line at West Elm...where we stayed for three hours (two outside, one inside).

Snoopy at Ikea

My high-school friend, Lindsay, also attended the book signing along with her friend, Brienna (Lindsay is the one who introduced me to Joia soda this summer).  We met up at the event and chatted for the three hours we waited in line.  It's always fun catching up with old friends!

We braved the Minnesota cold for two hours!
Unsigned copy of the book:  check.
Everyone was served cookies and hot chocolate from Common Roots Bakery while they waited in line.
After waiting three hours in line, it was finally our turn to get our books signed and have a photo taken with John and Sherry.  I introduced myself (knowing full-well they probably forgot who I was) only to have Sherry remember exactly who I was.  We reminisced for a brief moment (there were at least 700 people in line behind me waiting for a signature).  She said she loved my scarf (it's from Francesca's), and that I had great pins on pinterest.  Thanks, Sherry!  You're very kind.  It was a pleasure meeting you.

As Jennifer said, it's like we're five years old and meeting Mickey Mouse - big smiles!
It took about an hour, but Jennifer and I finally came down from our celebrity blogger high (or was it a sugar high?).  After a quick dinner at Good Earth, Jennifer and I drove back to Iowa.  I stayed the night at my in-laws' house; she stayed at her in-laws' house.  It's been two days...I'm still recovering from our awesome whirlwind day trip! 

Anyway, I made a goal to not be too dorky when I met Sherry and John (like I was when I met The Pioneer Woman last year at BlogHer in San Diego).  I hope I succeeded.  I'm pretty sure Ree thought I was highly creepy enthusiastic.  Seriously, my smile is HUGE in the photo below...and I had it pasted on my face for hours after meeting her.  And when I talked to Ree, I am confident I made no sense at all (I'm about 99% sure she did not get the gist that I can relate with her homeschooling stories and the whole rural living thing). At least I was able to have a back-and-forth conversation with John and Sherry...

Ree was SO cool.  I'm pretty sure we could be BFFs.
Read more about the book signing here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fab Finds: Thread

My friend, Jennifer, from thread makes super adorable t-shirts and onesies.  She made the little elephant onesie I gave Emily for her baby shower. I love the look of the Thread shirts, and have a feeling that most of my future baby shower gifts are going to be from her.

Yesterday morning, Jennifer hosted a made by hand open house.  She invited different local vendors to display and sell their handmade (and local) wares.  I purchased a bottle of wine from Penoach Winery in Adel, Iowa.  Michaun purchased a cute "1" shirt for her godson from Thread.  It was a great event, and I hope Jennifer hosts again next year!

Emily's DIY Baby Shower

Yesterday was Emily's baby shower, and I was thrilled to host it.  Ten girls (and three babies) were able to attend.  Spending the weekend with my closest college girlfriends (who also happen to be Kappas) was exactly what I needed.  The fact that we were celebrating Emily's baby (who we lovingly refer to as Bobby Roo) was just a bonus.

I tried to keep the shower simple.  In an effort to avoid having lots of plates, cups, utensils, etc. to clean afterward, I tried to keep the food simple.  Mixed berries in clear punch cups fit perfectly in the cupcake stand I borrowed from a co-worker.  Dessie, one of the guests, brought the homemade chocolate cupcakes.  Jessica brought the veggie tray.  Michaun made the food for the favors - puppy chow with M&Ms.  It was a group effort, and everything came together beautifully.

Favors - puppy chow with M&Ms

Chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Fruit cups

Michaun and I prepared two games for the baby shower.  The first one was a Baby Gender Name Game.  We looked up the top gender-neutral baby names from here and here, and made a list of our favorite top 20 names.  Then, we read the names one by one, and Emily decided whether she thought the name would be best for a boy or a girl by holding up either the pink lips or a girl or the blue mustaches or a boy.

Props for the Baby Gender Name Game

Action shot during the Baby Gender Name Game

The second game was baby jeopardy.  We got the idea here.  Michaun and I researched newborn baby facts and learned lots of fun facts here (like newborns sleep for about 16 hours a day, and they have more taste buds than their moms).  Then, we put together some questions and answers about Emily and Frank.  It was quite fun putting the games together and playing them with the guests.

Baby Jeopardy Game

Emily asked for hand-me-down and handmade gifts (though she still registered at Babies"R"Us and Pacifier), and I think everyone had fun putting together thoughtful gifts.  My friend Jennifer from thread made this adorable onesie for the baby.  I love the tiny little elephant, and so did Emily!

Handmade onesie from thread
The whole group

For old-times sake, we had to take a belly heart photo.  About a year ago, we took a funny photo of Heather's belly with Emily and I making a heart with our hands on her belly.  So, of course we had to do the same with Emily's baby bump.  Bobby Roo, we can't wait to meet you!

Baby Shower Sources
Tablecloth fabric: JoAnn Fabric
Cupcake stands: borrowed, but here is a similar option from Crate & Barrel
Favor bags: TJ Maxx
Yellow ribbon, mini forks, and tissue poms: Hobby Lobby

See a preview of Emily's baby shower here.
See Emily's baby shower invitations here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

DIY Baby Shower

Today was Emily's baby shower. Thanks to Michaun, everything came together. I'll show more photos later, but here are some detail shots from the afternoon.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sweet Potato Cauliflower Mash

I've wanted to make cauliflower mash for a while, but finally got around to making it tonight. Minna made it for my birthday dinner last month, and I've been dreaming of it ever since! It was surprisingly easy to make. Here's how I did it.

Sweet Potato Cauliflower Mash
1 head cauliflower
1 sweet potato
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Dash seasoned salt

Boil chicken stock, and add chopped sweet potato and cauliflower. When fully cooked, remove from heat and drain. Use a potato masher to mash ingredients. Add parmesan cheese and season with garlic and seasoned salt.

Deer Season

It's deer season here in the Midwest.  I grew up in North Dakota, and roadkill was just a way of life.  Pretty much everyone I knew growing up had hit a least once.  Anyway, I couldn't help but laugh when I heard this lady's account of those pesky deer crossing signs.  I hope you laugh, too.  She makes me miss North Dakota.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fab Finds: High-Style on a Budget (at Vestique)

As I scrolled around on Pinterest the other night, I found this little gem:  Vestique.  Founded by two college besties, they're based out of North Carolina, and cute as can be.  Plus, they're taste is impeccable - I'd be happy with one of everything in their shop.  Here are some of my favorites (if I had to pick).


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Babies, Babies, Everywhere

Next weekend, I'm hosting a baby shower for Emily.  I'm super pumped and can't wait to shower her with love (and lots of food).  I made her baby shower invitations on a whim one Monday night with nearly all supplies I had on hand, spending only $8 at Archiver's on three sheets of scrapbook paper and a white pen (some of my leftover envelopes from a past Christmas card were dark gray, so the white pen was for addressing them).  Here's a quick shot of them.  I love how they turned out (Lavanderia and Century Gothic are my go-to fonts currently) and can't wait to put together all the things I want to do for her shower. 

DIY baby shower invitations

Per Emily's request, I am not going crazy on this shower.  The invites literally took me about three hours to make from concept to completion.  I'm really trying to stay simple, and incorporate things I already have or borrow from some of my resourceful friends.  I've been stashing away lots of great ideas on my Pinterest baby shower board, but here are a few I'm loving.




And in other news, we found out last week Josh's sister is preggers!  Yesterday, I got to spend the day shopping with her for maternity clothes, and talking about some nursery things.  I'm so excited to be an auntie again - I'm a REALLY good auntie!  May 5, 2013 can't come soon enough!