LITTLE THINGS THIS WEEK.

a weekly exercise in gratitude for the little things in my very ordinary life.

1. this new plant friend…
img_0182from our first sunday supper guests.

2. these toddler height hooks, and adult height hooks above…
img_0170
for beautifying a very empty hallway in a very practical way.

3. this cute pipe cleaner ring…
img_9397
that my older students are making the next couple of weeks in the library for valentine’s day (make your own here!)

4. this travel mug…
img_0165
for getting me through nearly 100 school days so far.

5. this cozy, shapeless sweater…
img_0162
for keeping me warm this week while we had temperatures in the 40s!

in other news:

it was a long, short week, wasn’t it? around wednesday during school weeks, i start falling asleep on the couch around 7:30 barely able to keep my eyes open through one show, and even with monday off, this week was no exception. the weekend is due. mike’s getting home early today (pizza friday!), and after a week with him working late, it’s going to be so nice to have him home for dinner.

it was a week of sweaters, hats, and heat on in the car with temperatures down in the 40’s. charlie came over to me this morning with the blanket and asked to ‘get cozy’ which is maybe my favorite thing he’s ever said to me. we snuggled for the briefest of moments before it was time to head to school, and it’s made me so look forward to a weekend of ‘getting cozy’ at home with my boys.

my parents are coming down for the month of february and it’s getting SO CLOSE. next week!! i can’t even express how excited i am. i’ve done zero things to prepare, but as long as there is wine and good weather, then all parties will be happy! have a beautiful weekend getting cozy, friends!

 

MY NEW FAVORITE BROWNIE RECIPE.

img_9825If you couldn’t tell yet, I’m a huge fan of traditions. Weekly rituals that provide stability and comfort to my family, and they mostly revolve around food. I remember these kinds of traditions growing up myself and I want my kids to have the same feelings when the look back on their own childhoods. 

In that vein – we’re starting a new tradition this year: Sunday Supper. We’re making a big cozy, shareable family meal like we always do on Sundays – think Shepherd’s Pie, Spaghetti, a big pot of soup with crusty bread – but inviting someone or several someones to come join us for an early dinner. It just seems like a really nice thing to start doing. We had our first Sunday Supper this past weekend, inviting over some friends that haven’t seen our new house yet. Mike made a gigantic batch of spaghetti, we joined forces to make a green salad, garlic bread, and I made the most amazing brownies for dessert. Our friends raved over them, texting later that they were still dreaming about the brownies. 

I much prefer to bake from scratch than from a box, but even I have to admit that boxed brownies are amazing. It gives me a sense of satisfaction to bake things from the ground up. These brownies are worth every speck of extra effort expended. I googled “best brownies”, and after reading about 10 of the some 9000 (!) rave reviews on AllRecipes, it was settled. These were the brownies I would be making for Sunday Supper. I adjusted a few things, and have reflected the changes in my recipe – such as doubling the whole recipe, and a few changes in the frosting. But if you would like the pure unadulterated original, just click here for Angie’s original, much smaller batch recipe. 

I know I’ll be making these again for Sunday Supper in the not too distant future, and I know that these are the brownies that my boys are going to remember that their mom made when they were growing up.   

Best Brownies
Adapted from this recipe. 

For the Brownies:
What you need: 

– 1 cup butter
– 2 cups white sugar
– 4 eggs, beaten
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the Frosting
What you need:

– 3 tablespoons butter, softened
– 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 tablespoon maple syrup
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
– 2 tablespoons milk

What to do: 

+ Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

+ Grease and flour a 9-inch square pan.

+ In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat

+ Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla. 

+ Add cocoa, flour, salt, and baking powder until no dry bits are left. Mix with a wooden spoon so as to not overmix the batter. 

+ Spread batter into prepared pan.

+ Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.

To Make Frosting:

+ Combine softened butter, cocoa, maple syrup, vanilla extract, confectioners’ sugar and milk. Stir until silky smooth.

+ Frost brownies while they are still warm.

Enjoy for the brief moments that they last before they’re all gobbled up!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I’ve been soaking up my time with my family while we’re all home for the next couple of weeks! It was such a perfectly sunny and lovely Christmas Day with my boys and with Mike’s parents, opening presents, munching on yummy food and sipping on wassail. We’re off all next week too and I’m sending the boys in to daycare on Monday so I can get some little projects done around the house. These are sweet precious holiday days together and we’re loving every moment! I hope your Christmas was great!

OUR WEEK AT A GLANCE. {vol. 7}

img_5256ONE MORE WEEK! Five days. That’s it! That’s practically nothing. We can do this. Five little days stand between me and two whole weeks off with my boys at home. Lots of holiday events happening this week. The school concert, Charlie’s class party, Charlie’s school performance, school parties at my school. etc. etc. It’s going to go by soooo fast.

week at a glance (1).png

As for meals, Mike made meat sauce tonight for spaghetti tomorrow night, so that’s super easy. He never uses a recipe, just wings it and does it by muscle memory and tasting along the way. It’s the best. We switched over to ground turkey years ago, and haven’t looked by, but he does throw in a link of italian sausage for seasoning. Tuesday is BLTs. I got sourdough bread to toast, Hellman’s mayo, thick bacon, beefsteak tomatoes, and a head of iceberg lettuce. One of my favorite meals. I always do the bacon in the oven instead of the stove. If you aren’t doing it that way, you need to switch. asap. Set your oven to 400, line a cookie sheet with foil, and bake for about 15 minutes, checking frequently. Transfer to paper towels as normal. Wednesday, I’m trying a new recipe for Tuscan White Bean Soup from No Spoon Necessary. Thursday – leftovers, always, and Pizza Friday is basically a weekly holiday for us. I made Cranberry Walnut Bread this weekend too. I’m going to share the recipe this weekend! Such a good holiday loaf.

Many things remain on my to do list this week. You get just a little taste here. There is much, much more not shown. Mike’s parents arrive on Sunday, so we’re trying to get things together for them to visit, and to make sure Santa visits our house on time next week! Can you believe it’s only ten days until Christmas? It really crept up on me. This weekend was lovely though. Charlie started saying one of my favorite phases on repeat -“oh gosh” (hilarious) and has taken to calling for us by saying “honey!” in the exact tone that Mike and I use call to each other. Ben is so into everything, laughs every time Charlie laughs, and is only getting faster at crawling (lots of “oh gosh” for that).

Also this weekend – after much hunting, we finally got a chair for our bedroom reading nook. Remember when I was looking for all my favorites? We got none of those, and wound up with something that’s even more perfect. We also made it to the Christmas village today at our church and all I can say is wow. They really went all out. There was even SNOW! I think I was more excited than Charlie.

I hope your weekend was lovely too! I’ve got a couple good little posts planned for this week, so I hope you come back by to see!

img_5504-1img_5535

LITTLE THINGS THIS WEEK.

1. this santa garland…img_4921and the little boy who shouts ‘santa! santa!’ every time he sees it.

2. these chunky crayons…img_5026for being easy to wipe of tables, chairs, but not quite so easily off of walls. {i swear, you look away for ten seconds and that’s all it takes!}

3. this tiny salad dressing jar…img_5146because it makes salads at lunch a whole lot cuter.

4. this christmas card…img_4935for being delayed and then suddenly, unexpectedly ready for pick up!

5. these enchiladas and jar of beer…img_4897for being just the thing to soothe my soul.

in other news:

only five more days until i have two whole weeks off with my loves. there’s a mile long list of things to do before mike’s parents arrive next sunday, so we’re going to try to cross somethings off this weekend. a holiday party with friends on saturday, and then the christmas village at our church on sunday is going to make for a busy little weekend. i’m going to fit in some baking of cranberry bread, some granola bars for the week, some serious boy snuggles and we are going to clean, clean, clean the house from top to bottom. it’s going to be a good one, you guys.

THE HOLIDAYS: A TREE ADVENT CALENDAR.

I don’t recall doing an advent calendar growing up, but we (catholics) always had a little visual countdown with our advent wreath at dinner time. Every week leading up to Christmas, a new candle on the wreath is lit signifying Christmas day (and sweet baby Jesus) growing closer. Lighting (and blowing out) the candles was an event. Dad always lit them, but who would get to be the one to blow out the candle at the end of dinner? I begged for it every night. The glow of those purple and rose colored candles in the middle of the table added to the magic of the month. My parents light their candles every December to this day, and it’s a tradition that I want to continue with my family, but this year, fire is just something I can’t commit to yet with our tiny ones at the table

For now, opening little boxes topped with trees and filled with a small strip of paper with a holiday activity is such a sweet evening ritual to look forward to. It really makes the countdown to Christmas an event, and puts that whole “good cheer” and “merriment” of the season right in our midst. Within each box, I wrote a little Christmas activity to do on that day. I make sure to put all of our favorite Christmas movies and treats in the boxes. Some (especially weeknight activities) are easy, some more involved with a bit of planning. 

In a year or two, when the boys get a little bit bigger, I’ll start subbing in more activities for the good of others (Donate toys! Volunteer! Buy a gift for a family in need! Send homemade Christmas cards to a nursing home! Bake cookies for the homeless shelter! Etc. etc. etc.) and more outings as our kids age (Go to the Nutcracker! Drive around to see the Christmas lights! Go ice skating!). But for now, we’ll settle for a watch of The Grinch on the couch before bed, or a night of wearing Christmas hats with Christmas tunes tinkling in the background. 

In the rush of coming off of travel and Thanksgiving being so late this year, I didn’t even put our Advent calendar out until the 5th. But the 5th was just as good a day to start as the 1st, or even the 10th. 

I made our advent calendar last year, and love it just as much this year. I got everything from Michael’s when they were having a 60% off sale (as they are this week!) and the only other supply I needed was a sharpie and a hot glue gun, which I had at home. 

I used this set of 21 bottle brush trees from Lemax. To fill in for the other 3 boxes, I used this set of pinecones and a little bag of silver bells. Berries would be nice too. Make sure to set your trees out in the order that you’ll glue them to the boxes to make sure the heights are appealing to the eye. Try to vary the heights a little. 

The boxes are small kraft paper boxes from the jewelry section at Michael’s. These are very similar. I wrote the numbers on the outside with a thin Sharpie and then simply hot glued the trees, pinecones and bells to the tops. Inside, tuck your activity and set up on a long table, or windowsill for little hands to open when the day arrives! In the spirit of full disclosure, Charlie did pull a bell off of a box today, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with another dab of hot glue.  

To store, I have a sturdy little cardboard box that I tuck them into at the end of each season, and you could even tuck them away after the day passes, but I kind of like looking at them all lined up the whole month. They are a decoration as much as they are a calendar! 

No doubt, the holiday wants and needs of your family are different than my own, but here are 24 ideas that I tucked into my own Advent calendar this year. The dates may shift, activities may pop up unannounced and some may not even happen (Naps! Meals! Work! Foul moods!), but that’s the beauty of the holidays, isn’t it? 

1 – Set up the advent calendar, and fill with all our favorites!
2 – Choose Christmas books from the library!
3 – Watch The Grinch – the original, very Dr. Seuss-y version, of course.
4 – Put up the nativity.
5 – Put out shoes for St. Nicholas Day.
6 – Go out to get our tree & decorate!
7 – Our town’s Christmas tree lighting.
8 – Outdoor lights go up!
9 – Christmas hats & Christmas tunes blasting
10 – Make Peppermint Bark.
11 – Watch White Christmas!
12 – Visit our church’s Christmas Village.
13 – Make a tree shaped pizza!
14 – Bake Christmas sugar cookies!
15 – Watch Elf!
16 – Hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps and one million marshmallows.
17 – A seasonal coffee treat from Starbucks.
18 – Make salt dough handprint ornaments.
19 – Charlie’s holiday performance at school! (There is nothing on this list that I’m looking forward to more than this.
20 – Homemade egg nog with a little splash of something to warm our bellies.
21 – Wear red and green!
22 – Make a batch of wassail for the Metrokas’ arrival!
23 – Wrap presents with Christmas movies on!
24 – Appetizer night at home and mass, of course.

Can’t even believe that we only have two weeks to go!

THE HOLIDAYS: A PERFECT TREE.

We chose a sweet little fraser fir this morning down the road at the high school Christmas tree stand. We were the only souls there at 8:30am other than about ten high school honor society students. They were polite, helpful and happy to take pictures. 🥰

Charlie ran around the place with Mike chasing behind, while Ben and I slowly walked the aisles, on the hunt for the perfect tree. Not too tall, not too full, a little bit skinny and the best smelling we could find. She’s waiting on the porch now, while we straighten up, dig out the tree stand and have final discussions about placement. “Play room!” “No! Living room!” I have a feeling that Mike’s argument of playroom so we open present on Christmas morning right next to her will win. I can’t wait to see her all dolled up!

Do you have your tree yet? I feel like everyone but us has theirs already!