A Slow Approach to the Holidays and StoveTop Potpourri

 

 

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My goal this year was to focus simply on creating memories and enjoying moments.  Every year I become so worked up and stressed out trying to make sure things are “perfect” what does that even mean?? I vowed to take a more laid back approach this time around. Turns out that you can get far more done when you remove the pressure. Nothing was forced. We did things spontaneously and everything turned out to be more prefect than if I had sat down and wrote out list upon list (like I usually do). I took things  as they came (not something that comes naturally to me). We attended parties with friends, we put together our own version of the classic gingerbread house with things we already had in our kitchen, we hopped in the car on a whim and went to see the most magical Christmas lights display I have ever seen. All of this creating memories that our children will remember forever. Rather than memories of mom running around frantically trying to check off ridiculous items on a meaningless “To Do” list. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of organization, lists and schedules but not when they come at the cost of your happiness. Because at the end of the day enjoying time with your loved ones is really all that matters. Did I slack on some things? Sure! We haven’t taken the obligatory family Christmas photo, we haven’t even wrapped presents but Im not stressing about it. My kids have experienced so many wonderful things this holiday season and its not over yet. Tomorrow morning we will wake to wrapped presents under our tree because it will get done. We will put on Christmas music, make mom a huge pot of coffee 😉 and open gifts without a single care of the mess in my living room.

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I made play time a priority. And rather than stress about spending a ton of money on decorations we made most of them at home and found a ton of unique items at the thrift store. I prefer thrift stores over mainstream stores for the simple fact that I can find higher quality items and ones that I know everyone in the world doesn’t already have. Like these beautiful stockings!!

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And of course made sure our home smelled like christmas.  I love candles. Especially holiday scents but they aren’t so great so to burning and breathing in all the time so instead I made with this easy stove top Potpourri.

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I just added about a 1/2 cup of cranberries, a few orange slices, 3 cinnamon sticks, a few cloves, some ground nutmeg and a few teaspoons of vanilla to a saucepan with 2 cups of water and turned the burner to low. Allow this to simmer for as long as you want just add water as the liquid will reduce over time. Hope everyone has had an amazing holiday season so far and Merry Christmas!!

xo,

Brittany

 

 

Creamy Broccoli and Sun Dried Tomato Fusilli

I have really come to look forward to the nicknames my kids come up with for meals in our house. Do anyone else’s kids do that? My boys will name dishes based on varying characteristics and it sticks and thats what the dish is called from then on. This particular dish has been renamed “Christmas pasta” for obvious reasons. It is made up of red, green and white ingredients. Then theres the fact that my kids call broccoli “trees” and I guess grated parmesan looks like snow. So with that being said I figured what better time to post a recipe for Christmas Pasta than right now!

This recipe is based off of a pasta dish from one of my favorite restaurants in California. I would order this dish almost every time we were there. I think the first time I ordered it, I was in high school. Once I started cooking I had to figure out how to make it myself. I decided to make a few changes. Theirs did not have a sauce. They simply tossed everything in olive oil which is also delicious but I am a sucker for cheesy sauce on pasta. So I took the fresh ingredients they used and added my own rich and creamy sauce. I think its a winning combination.

**You can make this a vegetarian dish by leaving out the chicken and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

Ingredients:

1 box of fusilli pasta (rotini would also work)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 cup of broccoli florets

1/2-1 cup of sun dried tomatoes chopped (I love them so I like a lot! but they are potent so use as little or as much as you like)

Salt, Pepper and Italian Seasoning

Sauce:

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

3 cups of chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions: (If using chicken, make your sauce in the same pan that you cook the chicken in!!! If not then skip straight to making a roux! )

Get the water boiling for your pasta that way its ready by the time you are done prepping everything else. In a smaller pot, boil water to blanche the broccoli. You dont need to cook it too long. Just long enough to become tender but not mushy!!! Just around 8 minutes should be enough. Drain and then place in an ice bath to stop the cooking.

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Sautee’ your chicken in your cooking oil of choice. I used olive oil for this recipe. I usually use coconut oil but ran out!!! Season with salt, pepper and Italian Seasoning.  Make sure not to over cook your chicken since it will continue cooking a bit in the sauce. Cook until just golden brown on the outside and no longer pink on the inside. Then set it aside to rest before cutting it into cubes.

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Lower the heat and add butter to that same pan you cooked the chicken in. Let the butter melt, add flour and whisk to make a roux. Let that cook for a minute or so.

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Add the chicken (or veggie) broth. Let that simmer until thick.

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Add cream!!

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Whisk until incorporated. Then add the cheese…

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Whisk until everything is combined. If you feel like your sauce is too thick at this point you can always add more broth if you have some left over or some milk.

Chop up your sun dried tomatoes and toss them in along with your chicken.

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Let that simmer for a few minutes to allow the tomatoes to soften a bit. Then add the broccoli and the pasta.

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Top with pepper and more grated parm to add to that “snow” effect!

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Happy Holidays!!

XO,

Brittany

 

Thanksgiving Shepherds Pie

We love Thanksgiving and we look forward to the amazing food that we get to share but we are usually left with a ton of leftovers that take over our entire refrigerator. Usually we make those delicious Thanksgiving sandwiches for days after which  while tasting great, doesn’t really help with the amount of space those leftover containers take up. So this year I wanted try something new. Something that would consolidate everything into one dish.

Shepherds Pie is something that we eat often in our house. I ate it as a child and I love making it for my family. I usually make it with ground beef or sometimes group turkey, a veggie (my family likes corn or peas) and mashed potatoes. I figured why not swap out the ground beef for the leftover turkey and then just top it with the rest of the leftovers. You can literally put almost anything in this dish and its going to taste amazing. Here is how I made ours.

Ingredients: 

Turkey

gravy

any leftover veggies. I had green bean casserole so I used that.

mashed potatoes

Instructions:

Layer!!! Start with your turkey. Then add a layer of gravy to prevent the turkey from drying out in the reheating process.

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Add a layer of veggies. I used leftover green bean casserole but you can use anything. If you made carrots, peas or roasted veggies. Pretty much anything would work.

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Then top with a thick layer of mashed potatoes.

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Add salt and pepper and you can add shredded cheese to the top if you want. That will just get nice and brown and add a crispy layer to the top.

This doesn’t have to be baked right away. You can assemble it and refrigerate. Just bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes when you are ready to serve it. I also set mine under the broiler for a few minutes  to brown the top

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serve with cranberry sauce for the full Thanksgiving experience!!

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I had some turkey left after making this dish so here is another option:

We have these mini loaf pans so I made cute little personalized pies. These are great to just quickly pop in the oven. I followed the sam process of layering turkey, gravy,  veggies and then mashed. With these I used peas.

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These do not need to bake as long. 10 Minutes in a 350 degree oven is perfect. Then brown the top!

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HappyHolidays!!!! xo

Green Bean Casserole

I think I was raised on the green bean casserole that we all know and love. But let me tell you that once I made it from scratch, I will never eat it another way again. It really is so easy and so worth it. There are a few dishes that scream Thanksgiving to me and this is one of them. I can’t really imagine a Thanksgiving dinner without it! Plus no matter how you make it, the flavors still give you that nostalgic feeling that only  the Holidays can give. Here is what you need:

Ingredients:

Apporx. 4 cups of green beans (trimmed and cut in half)

1/2 white onion (diced)

2 cups mushrooms (sliced)

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour

4 cups broth/stock  (veggie or mushroom if you have)

1 block of cream cheese (softened)

A cup of fried onions (pre packaged or you can use the remaining half of your onion and fry your own)

Instructions:

First pre heat  your oven to 350

Then prepare your veggies.

Trim the ends off of your green bean and cut them into equal halves. Also chop your onions and slice your mushrooms if you didn’t buy them that way.  Also start boiling water for your green beans. Now you can start cooking.

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Melt  butter in a large pan. Add your onions and mushrooms and sauté on med/high until mushrooms are tender and onions are translucent.

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Lower your heat and sprinkle in your flour. Stir to coat.

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Add your broth and whisk to incorporate all of that flour and to get all of the bits of flavor off  the bottom of the pan.

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Allow that  to simmer and thicken. This should take about 20min.

While that simmers, boil your green beans. Not too long! Keep checking them to make sure they do not get too soft but also aren’t too hard. Ours took about 10 min. Once they are done remove them immediately and put them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and keeps them that pretty bright green color .

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Once your space has thickened and is nice gravy like consistency, add that block of cream cheese. Allow this to heat up and melt then whisk until smooth. Their may be chunks at first. Just keep whisking. It will become a smooth and creamy texture I promise! If your sauce ends up too thick, which it shouldn’t but hey things happen, so if it does just add some cream or milk. Then add lots of pepper!!

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Place your green beans into a baking dish a pour in that delicious mushroom gravy soup mixture. Top it all with those fried onions.

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Bake in the oven for approx 25 Minutes until bubbling and the onions are crispy and golden brown on top.

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Happy Holidays!!

 

 

The Pre Teen Boy Holiday Gift Guide

I cannot believe Halloween is over and Christmas is just around the corner! I feel like every year it creeps on me so quickly and I am always left unprepared and scrambling for gift ideas. I promised myself that I wouldn’t allow that to happen again! With three babes this year, I really have to get things done early.

Gifts for the littles are pretty easy. I don’t really feel like I need to stress or put too much thought into what they will enjoy. My oldest boy on the other hand…. it gets a  bit harder every year. It seems that as he gets older he becomes more picky and the items on his list become more expensive. This means that I have to get a list of exactly what he wants and If I am going get him something that he hasn’t specifically asked for, it has to be very creative and well thought out. Which makes it a little harder (but not impossible) to surprise him with gifts.  The good thing about this age (he is 12 by the way) is that it seems all of his friends, for the most part, are interested in and want the same things. So in researching for this gift guide I was actually helping myself out!! I was hoping I could get some inside info from his friends and maybe be able to sneak a few surprises into the mix.

This pre teen age is kind of tricky. I feel like they still enjoy some childlike activities (even if they won’t admit it to their friends) They will mostly all ask for some sort of gaming system or phone. thats obvious. So I wanted to put together a list of gift ideas that strayed from those things. I try to give gifts that will take away from tv, iPads, video games and all other electronic zombifying distractions. Although I know that the use of these is inevitable, and we have gotten the giant gaming system and Ipad in years past,  we  try to limit the amount of time our son uses them. Here is my best effort at collecting ideas for creative, out side of the box gift ideas. (All ideas came from real life tweens!! lol) I hope you find this useful!

Just click on the image for prices and full description.

>>>Brain games and Building sets<<<

Under $10

*Rubiks Snake

(Both my 3 yr old and My 12 year old love this thing. They both have one and will sit and create shapes with it for hours. okay I’m lying not hours but in children time, they will sit for awhile. There are videos you can find on how to make animals and all sorts of other things. Its a great stocking stuffer!!)

$10-$20

*Perplexus

(This puzzle ball thing is super cool.  We have one and my 12 year old loves it. He will sit forever and try to solve this puzzle. Its a great brain game. He says “its awesome!”Its great for car rides, camping trips and times when we are trying to keep him from using electronics!)

*Klutz Juggling Balls and instruction book

*Laser Pegs

* Estes Model Rocket

(This comes with everything you need! such a great activity for dad and son bonding time)

*Logic Tangram

(Classic puzzle problem solving brain game!! My husband loves working these out with the kids)

>>Outdoors and Adventure<<<

Aside from gift items in this category, one of my sons friends had a genius request on his Xmas list! He asked for a day of Skiing/Snowboarding. how smart is that? I think that is a great alternative to buying a normal gift. Buy them a gift card or give them money towards an activity that they enjoy!!

$20-$50

*Bao feng Two Way Radio

*Canany Waterproof Sports Camera

(when you don’t want to drop the cash on a GO PRO!)

*Spooner Freestyle Board

(This thing is so awesome! You can pretty much do tricks that you would do on a skateboard but on a flat board without wheels! so cool for kids who eventually want to skateboard or even if they don’t, its really fun. I may or may not have used this a few times.)

*MineLab Go Find 20

Over $100

(This one is a bit more pricey at just around $100 but so cool for the adventurer who wants to search and dig for treasures and maybe earn some extra money!)

>>>Arts and Music<<<

Under $10

*Klutz Paper Airplane book

$20-$50

*Soyan 3D Printing Pen

(who doesn’t want 3d pen?)

*Casio Mini Keyboard

(The kids are always trying to play on dads expensive keyboard….so let them have their own)

*Toca Wood Bongos

(This might be my favorite item not this entire list. If you are a msucial family like we are, these are perfect! We love having little drum circles. )

>>>Books<<<

*Michael Vey book series

(This is supposedly a really popular Adventure series among all of my sons classmates. He says he is always trying to take these books from the library but they are always out!.)

*Percy Jackson and the Olympians boxed set

(This is a Fantasy series about Greek Gods! Sounds awesome to me!)

 

 

Gift Cards are also another great idea. I would suggest either an amazon card since they sell everything or my son also loves iTunes gift cards. That way he can purchase music or apps.

although we try to limit video games we understand that they highly desired among most kids this age so if you are looking to purchase a game system for your home the most popular one is the xbox one or the xbox 360

for a handled game system the nintendo 3ds is a good one.

I hope you guys found this useful!! Comment below if you have any other suggestions!!

 

 

Caramel Pecan Orange Rolls

This recipe has been in my husbands family for years and for very good reason. He made these for me on our first Thanksgiving together and I have asked him to make them every year since. They are the perfect amount of sweet and tart. They also fill your home with the sweet aroma of oranges and brown sugar. You can eat them with your meal or as desert and by chance there are any leftover, they are so good warmed up for breakfast the next morning! Once you make these I guarantee they will become a staple on Thanksgiving or whenever you are looking for a super decedent breakfast treat.

Ingredients: 

1 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed or store bought with pulp)

1 cup brown sugar

1 stick of butter (and some extra to grease your pan)

3 7.5 oz cans of small flakey biscuits

1/4 cup chopped pecans

about 1 tbsp orange zest

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Generously butter a bundt pan and add your chopped pecans to the bottom.

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Fan the biscuits around the bundt pan.

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In a sauce pan combine oj, butter and brown sugar. Bring to low boil then lower heat to simmer until it thickens slightly (about 20 min)

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Pour the mixture over the rolls. Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes. Until the tops of the rolls are golden brown.

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Remove from the oven. Place your serving tray onto of the bundt pan and flip the rolls over onto the tray.

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Enjoy!!

For the love of Halloween

I am sure I don’t have to tell you how much I love Halloween because Im sure everyone is sick of hearing it. Ive always been really into makeup and creating characters and the darker more “creepy” side of things  so obviously a holiday that celebrates all of that makes me very happy.

My love for this holiday grew of course when I attended makeup school years ago. I was really able to create anything I wanted and it provided me with the giant makeup kit to do so . Thankfully my husband is equally into creating and becoming characters and my children are extremely tolerant (for the most part) of me wanting to test ideas on them.

This post has no set topic. Just a quick little post of all of the things that make me happy this time of year. Unfortunately I didn’t get to create the indoor decoration set up that I had planned but I do have some fun DIY outdoor decorations to show you and maybe we will take a glimpse into some costumes of Halloweens past!!

Our decorations are a combination of DIY and store bought items.

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Halloween Wreath

This wreath is made of items from hobby lobby. I bought a regular green christmas wreath and spray painted it black. It took a few coats to cover the entire thing. Once it was dry, I added this black bird burlap ribbon and then I found this cute wall hanging that says “spooky” and I attached it with wire to hang in the center. This wreath also had some black birds attached with that same craft wire but Im pretty sure my toddler stole them :/

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Hanging Skeleton

This guy is just your average hanging skeleton that we purchased I believe from Spirit Halloween. We love him although his shadow tricks us every now and then and we think someone is on our front porch.

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Horror Sign

This is probably my favorite decoratation of all. My husband and I worked on this together which only adds to its charm lol. Ive seen these sold in store but I wanted ours to look more authentic and I wanted to be able to customize the wording on each sign. So I had my husband cut some barn wood pieces into varying shapes. From there I chose the writing and colors I wanted to use and we painted away. We used acrylic paint and then sanded over each sign with sand paper to remove some of the color and give it an aged and distressed look.

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Grave Yard

This little grave yard is my favorite set up and background for halloween photos. I had previously used the foam ones that you can find at the store but those never held up and always broke so we made our own out of wood. The tombstones were all made by my husband and we let our oldest son choose the wording and he also helped paint them. We used the same technique as we did on the sign above. We used a stone grey acrylic paint all over, obviously black for the words and we used the black to deepen the natural cracks in the wood. When that was all dry we hit it with sand paper. My husband just attached wooden stakes to the back with wood glue and hammered them into the ground! The skull and bones I found at target.

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Bench Decor

For the bench on our front porch I just added this cool pillow that I found at target in the dollar section!!! It was only $3. I couldn’t find it online to link for you 🙁 I also layed this gauze fabric over the side to resemble creepy graveyard fog!

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My husband did make me a few of these awesome wooden bats that I have placed around my house. He drew free hand onto a 1/2 inch thick pine wood. He used a band saw to cut them out. If you don’t have one you can find a jigsaw for pretty cheap. I created this little mini display on a shelf behind my couch. The Raven picture also came from target for $3 and the book I bought at Barnes and Noble not specifically for halloween but I am actually collecting all of their classic books. The little doll came from Savers Thrift store.

Now just for fun here are some pictures of our costumes from years past.

2011 Darth Maul

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2012 we were fresh on that Walking Dead craze!!

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2014

Wednesday Addams, The Joker, baby Jack Skellington and The best Jack Sparrow!

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2015

Mad hatter, Chucky, The headless Horseman and Moses

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2016 To Be continued…

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Happy Halloween!!

Valentine’s Day Rice Kripsie Treats

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Happy Valentines Day!!

Rice krispie treats are probably one of the easiest and quickest treats to make. I just added a few extra fun ingredients to make them cute and festive for Valenitnes Day but you can leave out the extra if you just want to make plain old Rice Kripsie Treats. You can also swap out the ingredients for ones that correlate with any holiday.

Here is what I used:

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cups of mini marshmallows
  • 6 Cups of Rice Cereal
  • 1 cup of white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup of Valentines sprinkles
  • 13×9 baking dish (spray or cover with foil)

Start by melting the butter in a pot over low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the marshmallows. Keep your heat on low and slowly stir you marshmallows until they are all melted. Once that happens you can add your Rice Krispies. Stir until combined. Then I added any  extra ingredients you may be using. I removed my pot from the heat at this point because I wanted my white chocolate chips to stay whole and not melt. Stir all ingredients until combined and then transfer to a 13×9 baking pan. Spread out your treats evenly and let them cool before cutting them into squares! Thats it! Quick, Easy and Adorable!!

*I used the Envirokidz chocolate Koala crisp cereal

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