November 28, 2014

holiday gift guide: 50 gifts under $50

I have a confession to make. This may make me sound totally un-American: hate me if you must. You may think I'm crazy, but-

I DON'T DO BLACK FRIDAY.

I don't camp out, I don't wait in line. I don't do door-busters and I certainly don't look for the early bird specials. As a matter of fact, I've already finished 90% of my Christmas shopping this year! To me, it's worth the extra money to gain some peace and sanity (and extra time with my family) on Thanksgiving Day and the weekend that follows.

I do love a good deal, but today's highlight won't be how much money I saved on a widescreen TV we didn't need. Today, my friends, is "Christmas Tree Day"! Today is the day to crank up the Pandora Holiday station and sip peppermint hot chocolate while we deck the halls.

While I was getting a head start on my Christmas shopping, I thought I'd do a little leg work for ya'll since I love you and all. Here it is: may I present the first annual Hello Hive Holiday Gift Guide: 50 Gifts Under $50! Maybe you'll find a little something for someone you love while you're poking around this post!

The graphic below is shoppable: hover over the icon for pricing information about the products, and click through to shop. This post contains affiliate links. Hang in to the very end because I have a list of Black Friday offers to sweeten the deals!








Black Friday offers to love:


6PM | 15% off on Black Friday

CODE: 6PMEU112720141585

Alternative Apparel | 30% off sitewide thru 11.30

CODE: THANKFUL

Anthropologie | huge sale sitewide on Black Friday

ASOS | 30% off 11.27 (8pm EST) – 11.30 (8pm EST)

CODE: TGIBF

Banana Republic | 50% off 1 full-priced item on Black Friday

CODE: BRFIFTY

...and 40% off sitewide!

CODE: BRFORT

Everlane | Everlane has established The Black Friday Fund–donating all profits for the day to their factory partners in Hangzouh, China. All proceeds will go towards updating recreational facilities for the 300 people who live and work at the factory. By purchasing on Black Friday, customers will be able to see their individual contribution.

Express | 50% sitewide on Black Friday

Free People | up to 50% off select items on Black Friday

Gap | 50% off sitewide on Black Friday

CODE: BLKFRIDAY

J. Crew |  30% off select full-price styles and additional 40% off sale + free shipping, no mimimum thru 11.30

CODE: HOLIDAY

Lord and Taylor | extra 20% off almost everything + 25% off fine jewelry thru 11.30

CODE: THANKS

...and up to 50% off woman’s fall boots + extra 20% off thru 11.30

CODE: THANKS

Madewell | 25% off your entire purchase thru 11.30

CODE: GIFTON

Old Navy - entire store will be 50% off (Old Navy is bringing back its second annual “Overnight Millionaire” giveaway, where the first 100 customers to line up will receive a game card, loaded with a change to win $1 million!)

Sole Society | 30% off all footwear on Black Friday

Theory | 40% off sitewide thru 11.30

TOMS | 25% off everything (excludes core classics and sale items) thru 12.01

CODE: CHEER

Urban Outiffters | additional 25% off all sale online, additional 50% off all sale in-stores on Black Friday.

West Elm | Buy more, save more — up to 25% off thru 12.01

CODE: SUPERSALE

...and Decorative Boxes 20% off thru 12.08

World Market | save 50% on hundreds of products thru 11.30 and save an additional 10% + free shipping on orders $100

CODE: savebig10

Zappos | For every order placed on Zappos.com from Black Friday to Cyber Monday Zappos will donate 10 meals to families in need, in partnership with Feeding America. Their commitment is to donate up to 5,000,000 meals ($500,000). That many meals would feed the entire state of Kentucky! Through Feeding America’s bulk discounts, subsidies, etc. they’re able to use $1 in donations to generate 10 meals. Feeding America is a national top-rated charity with a network of over 200 food banks, and supporting 61,000 local charities in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico.

***

There, now I feel all warm inside and full of Christmas Cheer! How about you? Are you shopping this weekend?

November 26, 2014

mood | contented

Everything this week just feels so right. As I'm write this, midnight has ticked past and both my boys are curled next to each other in my bed, occupying the spot made vacant in Eric's absence. The little one is sleeping fitfully: three times since I started working on this mood board, I've had to crawl in next to him and soothe him back to sleep. I'm beginning to think his shiny new amber teething necklace is junk: it doesn't seem to help. But... there they are. My boys lying in my bed, breathing steadily in the cool air in my bedroom, and I think life is good.

Eric will be home this evening, and he'll be here all weekend. So, his paycheck this week will be short, but God knows I'll trade it all just to be with him. We'll be carving turkey with his family tomorrow and paying a visit to the Christmas tree farm first thing Friday morning. I'm so pleased, so content, so full of happiness. Maybe we'll go on a date this weekend. For sure, there will be some holiday crafting, cinnamon bread baking, Christmas music playing, advent calendar preparing, and general merry making! Yes, we are so blessed, and I am soaking in it. Thanksgiving, indeed.

mood | contented
Image Sources: boho entry | pretty pile of soap | stacked wool blankets | simple studio entry | casual work space | cinnamon roll braid | eucalyptus collected | chopped wood | Proverbs 27:19

November 24, 2014

eat make do | v. 07

Hello, lovelies! Happy Thanksgiving week, my friends. How was your weekend?

My family got together yesterday to celebrate early, because both my dad and sister will be working Thanksgiving. Last year was actually the only year in memory that we've ever actually gathered on Thanksgiving Day- I don't expect that will happen again anytime soon! Usually, we just chill at home and watch the Macy's Parade while we nom on leftovers on Thanksgiving.

I had a very busy weekend preparing for our family get-together, and I fully intend to be as lazy as possible this week. Seth doesn't have school, which means we can sleep in every day. Eric will be home at least on Thursday and Friday. He may have to be at work this weekend (we don't know yet), but I at least hope to hit up the Christmas tree farm before he goes back!

I have a strict no-Christmas-before-Thanksgiving rule. I am seeing so many folks with Christmas decor up already, and it makes me want to scream! Can't the Turkey Day just get a little love? I mean, come on, people.

More power to you if you've already gone there, but I'm just sayin'- for me, it's not going to happen. Believe me, the peer pressure is real. A lot of bloggers already have up Christmas DIY's and gift guides! I'm just not going to go there. Friday is fair game! But until then, this is a Merry Free Zone.

Off my soapbox now. Here's what's inspiring me this week!

eat, make, do | v. 07

EAT | Turkey Pot Pie with Butternut and Pearl Onions by Reluctant Entertainer
MAKE | DIY Copper Candle by the Merrythought
DO | Fall Table Centerpiece by Shanty 2 Chic

I thought that pot pie sounded like a delicious way to handle leftover turkey, and now I'm regretting sending the rest of our bird home with my parents. Last night, when our party started to wrap up, I realized that Eric would be heading back to Georgia soon and I'd be left with all that food to eat by myself. I mean, I just bought new jeans, ya'll. And none of them have elastic waistbands!

So I packed everything up and sent it home with people, and I called my neighbor to come over and rescue me from a mountain of cookies and pumpkin loaf. He gladly obliged. He says he'll share it all with the folks in his office today, but I'm not going to hold him to it.

So, Seth went home with Eric's parents last night, and today the house will seem awfully lonely and quiet. Hawk is a good little helper, though, and we'll have fun cleaning up the post-party disaster areas together.

I'd like to catch up on my blog reading, too, but I'm not sure it will happen. I plan to try, but first I have to install the new OS X Yosemite on my Macbook. I've been putting it off because I'd read that a bunch of people were having trouble with the install, but now all my programs are running s l o o o o w and wonky and I have a feeling the update is the only way out. I don't know how it's going to go down, but I can tell you it took two days (2!!! <--- three exclamation points!!!) to download it. Let's just hope the install is quicker than that. Ergh.

Soooo.... now that I've downloaded all the contents of my brain to this post, as well- how was your weekend?!

When do you put up your Christmas decorations?

November 20, 2014

a festive thanksgiving menu.

Woohoo, guys- one week until Thanksgiving! Only I don't have to wait that long, because my family is celebrating this weekend. Sunday works out best, scheduling-wise, with everyone in both mine and Eric's family- so, a Sunday feast we will have.

We're hosting at our house for the eight year in a row now! It's a lot of work but I always dreamed of being the one to host our family gatherings, so I'm happy to take up the mantle. Of course, this year brings a special challenge since Eric's been out of town. He won't be home until Saturday evening, so I'm preparing our casseroles ahead of time and popping them in the freezer.

We do a potluck affair, so I don't have to handle all of it. Whew! I love to do the stuffing and some sort of sweet potato casserole, and I usually pick a dessert as well. The rest gets delegated out to the others! My parents have a pretty swanky oven, so they bring the bird.

One day, I'd really like to try this mayonnaise roasted turkey recipe. Take a look at some other recipes I found for you guys. Maybe you'll find some inspiration for your own Thanksgiving gathering!

thxmenu

Mayonnaise Roasted Turkey by She Wears Many Hats
Maple Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce by Family Fresh Cooking
Apple, Sausage & Cornbread Stuffing by Fork Knife Swoon
Scalloped Sweet Potatoes by A Girl Worth Saving
Sauteed Zucchini with Mint, Basil and Pine Nuts by Alexandra Cooks
Roasted Parmesan Green Beans by Skinnytaste
Salt + Vinegar Kale Mashed Potatoes by Edible Perspective
Buttery Dinner Rolls by Dine & Dish
Pesto Deviled Eggs by Mother Thyme
Pumpkin Roll by Gimme Some Oven
Pecan Pie Brownies by Just a Taste

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

November 18, 2014

the life changing magic of tidying up

Almost a year ago, there was talk at Eric's work that he might be relocated for a job in Augusta, Georgia. The company was bidding on a project there and had in mind to send Eric as the foreman. If they scored the project, it would be a two-year process. They sent him to interview with the potential client and we were geared up to rent out our house and move east.

Moving five hours away didn't bother me. Instead, looking around me, all I could think was, "I just don't want to move all this crap."

Commence Operation Clean Out.

Here we are, one year later, and the company lost the bid on that job. Eric has been working in Tuscaloosa (for the most part), one hour south but still in commuting distance. The need to relocate has passed, but Operation Clean Out has continued into perpetuity, and I've been faithfully removing bags upon bags of unnecessary possessions every few weeks. Quite seriously, I'm not sure where we had been stowing all the stuff, but it was lurking there, in every spare shelf and cranny!

It was into this environment that The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up arrived, and I eagerly opened the crisp hardback cover to find out if the book was worth all the hype. The KonMari method for cleaning house has exploded in popularity in Japan, and has arrived in the United States to great fanfare. I was curious to know if I might learn something to aide my own quest for tidiness!

A while back, I told you all about my family's seemingly genetic predisposition towards hoarding. Like author Marie Kondo, I spent a good deal of time in my youth studying systems to organize and clean- not as much out of a passion for the topic, but as a survival mechanism and, well... because there wasn't really anyone around who could teach me these things, anyway. I spent many free weekends cleaning and reorganizing my family's home. I prided myself on my ability to fit amazing amounts of stuff into drawers and shelves!

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My first impression of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up was that Marie Kondo is obviously a genius. I think I arrived at this conclusion because her own attitude about possessions closely mirrors my own. Over the last year, I've applied my own natural instincts about tidying to my clean-out operation, and it seems that I've been on the right course in many ways. What a relief!

Ultimately, though, I didn't enjoy reading the book at all. I just didn't find the author's tone likeable, but I can't say how much of my reaction might be due to losses in translation from the original Japanese to English as well as differences in culture. The more I read, the more I realized that Ms. Kondo may not be so much a genius as she is obsessive-compulsive and neurotic. For instance, in one part she describes an event when the discovery of soap scum on her shower rack brought her to tears. I just can't relate!

The KonMari method rests on the underlying principle that tidying should be a one-time event, and that if it is done properly it will never have to be repeated. My only response to this approach it that it obviously was devised by someone used to being able to complete tasks without small children underfoot!

As much as I would love to ship my kids off for a week so I could dig in and complete my floor-to-ceiling, front-to-back tidying operation all at once- that's never going to happen! But I will say that I've been encouraged to dig in with a little more intensity with the hope that perhaps there truly is an end in sight. I do look forward to the day when I can call my cleanout complete and start enjoying a lifestyle of tidiness!

There are three approaches we can take toward our possessions: face them now, face them sometime, or avoid them until the day we die... If we acknowledge our attachment to the past and our fears for the future by honestly looking at our possessions, we will be able to see what is really important to us. (Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up)

Another aspect of the KonMari method that I can't bring myself to adopt is the advice to greet and give thanks to each of your belongings. I suppose this advice might be somehow rooted to Ms. Kondo's background in the Shinto religion, and she alludes to Shinto in several places. This practice probably resonates more deeply with KonMari devotees in Japan. I realized towards the end of the book, however, that perhaps I had been doing something similar in my day-to-day rituals in keeping with my own unique cultural backdrop. I am a Bible-believing Christian American, and I have recently begun to be far more intentional with my prayers of gratitude.

For instance, I walk into a room and admire the way it looks since I put up new curtains last week. I stop and pray, Thank You, God, for the new curtains. I like the way they look and the way this room feels. I pray you will give me more opportunities to share my home with others and I hope this room will be as welcoming to my guests as it is to me. Or, when dressing in the morning, I stop and express gratitude for my new shoes. God, thank You for the shoes. They are comfortable and I feel confident wearing this outfit. I feel fortunate to have nice clothes: help me find creative ways to help people who don't have enough.

I'd recommend this book to someone who's earnestly trying to learn how to be more clean and organized, but I'm not sure most Westerners are ready for the KonMari method. We like fads, and we like to do things the quick and easy way. We also love to accumulate things, and the method relies heavily on the presumption that you're going to get rid of a lot of stuff.

I do think that following these guidelines will change your life drastically. I've been in pursuit of a more minimal lifestyle for more than a year now, and I can definitely report I feel less anxiety, more creativity, and more positivity about the future now that I've shed many layers of belongings, much like layers of an onion. I have nothing but good things to say about the benefits of "tidying up"!

I received a review copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo from the kind folks at Blogging for Books. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

November 17, 2014

weekend adventures.

So, this one time, I took my kids to IKEA and realized when we arrived that I'd (inadvertently, subconsciously?) dressed them both in Swedish national colors, just like the iconic furniture retailer's logo.

Oh, yeah. That happened yesterday. So, once realized, I was compelled to take them both out in front of the store and commemorate the day.

Photo Nov 16, 2 57 36 PM

Here's how it all went down:

Friday night, I delivered the finished wedding pictures to my newly married friend and her dashing husband. We chowed down on some pizza while we watched a slideshow of the pictures on the TV and laughed until our jaws hurt.

With that job completed, Saturday morning dawned feeling void- Eric wasn't coming home and I didn't have pictures to edit (that's all I've done for three weeks, hence three weeks of substandard content on this here 'ol blog- MY BAD). What to do?

On the spur of the moment, I decided to pack for a road trip. I texted Eric to tell him we were coming and called in a favor to my mother-in-law to check in on the pets. So, Saturday afternoon, I loaded up the car and me and the troops headed northeast through cow country to visit Eric. I swear, I've never seen so many cotton fields and cows and more cows in my life!

Eric picked up some dinner for us at Applebees, and we watched the Lego Movie on HBO, all cuddled up in the Motel 6 bed in Nowheresville, Georgia. It was wonderful! Of course, we all had a hard time sleeping and Seth fell out of the bed- twice! Thank God for Siri, because when I packed us up first thing yesterday morning and cranked up the car, the first thing I did was say, "Siri, where is the nearest Starbucks?" And she dutifully led me a little south to a Venti Pike Place and blueberry muffins for breakfast.

We were about an hour north of Atlanta now, so of course we had to visit IKEA. I hadn't been in four years- since Seth was a wee baby strapped onto my chest in a Moby wrap. I had emptied the trunk in preparation for a possible haul, but to be honest? I was a little underwhelmed this time.

I don't know why- I've always had so much fun at IKEA in the past, but this time I just didn't l-o-v-e anything I found. I took a shopping list, and several of the main items I was hunting were sold out- womp womp. But we did snag a rocking moose for the littlest one. There's always that.

I got a few linens and some new pictures for the bedroom wall, and Seth picked a playmat with roads printed on it to drive his Matchbox cars around. It was an adventure, all told. I don't know if taking two kids under five to IKEA with no adult companion was the bravest dumbest thing I've ever done, but obviously we all survived and have arrive home intact.

So, that was my weekend- how was yours?

What is the bravest dumbest thing you've ever done?

November 12, 2014

weary bone.

Ugh, I know. I've been far less than social lately. I'm looking wistfully at my Bloglovin' app and thinking to myself... "Oh, woe is me. How I long to scroll thy feed!" (insert dramatic swooning motion here.)

I'm so ready to be done with these wedding photos I've been editing for going on three weeks now, see them delivered to my newly wed friend, and be on with life as normal. The whole process has been a privilege- I'm so grateful for the experience and for the confidence she's put in me.

I love this work, but it's hard to balance all the balls I've got in the air- this blog, my photography, church and Seth's school and trying to keep our house from burning down while Eric is away, much less keeping the kids fed and diapered and bathed and generally happy to boot. Spoiler alert- they haven't been happy most of the time (I think if Seth hears me say, "Not today, babe, I've got to work on these pictures..." one more time, he might explode- and I don't even want to discuss the baby's overall mood. The word deplorable comes to mind...)

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I powered through to finish the last of the photos yesterday, and now I'm in the homestretch. There's even a few pictures of our little kitty friend here that made the cut- hey, he deserves to be remembered as part of the day, too! Right? I've got some organizing and fine tuning to do before I put all these files on a disc and call myself done. You guys, this is why wedding photographers cost thousands of dollars. I did not charge thousands of dollars. Haha!

Ya'll, I'm planning to lay low the rest of this week and recuperate. I don't want to do that, but Lord knows I need it. My brain feels fried.  This, right here, is exactly why I am not "on the market" as a photographer full-time. As much as I'd love it, my family is far more important and I hate putting them on a back burner for anything! Hopefully a little break will do my creative bone some good and next week I can get back to the "regularly scheduled programming".

Obviously, I believe in the power of taking a break. If you've been around any length of time, you know I do that occasionally (more lately than usual!), and it does wonders for me, my attitude, and pretty much everything I do. So, count this post as permission. If you need a break, take it. Don't apologize to anyone- just do it! You can thank me later.

I'm turning off comments on this post, just because... I'd rather you turn your attention to my sidebar and go visit a few of my sponsors over the next few days. Send them all my love! (xoxoxo....)

November 10, 2014

love is like breathing.

Friday night, I had grown so overwhelmed with life that the feeling crept up on me and clutched my neck: before I knew it, I was balled up on the floor, sobbing. Seth curled up into my shoulder to comfort me (so sweet, my big boy). "I miss your daddy," I confessed into his little ears. "Me too," he said quietly, rubbing my hair.

It was late Saturday night when Eric came rolling in. The boys were already asleep and the heaviness of night had settled around my shoulders, drawing me to join them when I heard the crunching gravel outside. The dog began his excited whine and pacing and I rolled out of bed to meet him at the door.

In an instant, all the anxiety slipped out of me when I saw the contour of his face, edged with that red beard (the first thing I ever loved about him, now speckled with grey) and his sparkling green eyes. He wrapped his arms around me and I fell into his wide chest, so relieved to have him home.

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Times like this, when he's working away, I am so grateful for him. I ache when the distance between us is great but I'm so thankful for what he does for us- a family man, a wonderful father, an amazing husband. How did he ever find me, what did I do to deserve this gift?

Marriage is hard: I know you've heard it said 1,000 times. You know, it's a ball and chain, and all those other old cliches. Well, I'm here to tell you that finding a partner and making a life with him has been the best thing I've ever done. For every rough patch, there have been miles of even path for us to walk together. Usually, the key to moving past the hard parts is for me to let go of myself and my desires- then the next time, he's willing to do the same for me and it becomes an easy give and take- like breathing in and out.

In the quiet lull of the night, we shared cupcakes (Seth's idea- to celebrate daddy's homecoming) and battle stories from the week behind. We talked about the holidays around the bend and how the leaves sure need to be raked. He told me all about his work, and I didn't find a bit of it interesting but I listened anyhow.

"You know, I don't know how you put up with that all week," I said after hearing one of his battle stories. I mean, the working conditions he's been dealing with would have put me in the loony bin already!

"Nah, it's alright," he says in return. "I mean, it's much easier than what you're dealing with here at home. I can't believe you're keeping it together so well."

He gets it. Oh golly, this man, he gets it! I can't say I agree- I certainly think this life is pretty easy and wonderful, when you consider everything altogether. Daily, I'm humbled, daily I'm in awe of God's grace for me.

Life is good, my friends, life is so good. It's Monday again, and Eric's back at work this morning- three hours away and I'm missing him like a toothache. The boys are both going to be climbing all over me, and there are going to be temper tantrums and snot and tears (and goodness, I have a sore throat right now, to tell you the truth- that's never a good sign!), but Lord, this life is so good!

Never lose sight of the potential for sweetness, friends. Even if it doesn't feel over-the-top good in your world today: even if it feels like everything holding you up is crumbling under your feet: find something to cling to. Hold on: never let go. For every exhale, know an inhale comes again. When the inhale returns, for goodness sake- grasp onto the feeling, because it will be your strength!

November 7, 2014

casual friday | patterned pants

I've had my eyeballs on patterned jeans for quite a while, but I'm slow to adopt styles like that into my closet in real life. That's practical little me again, always afraid to drop money on something that might outlive the lifespan of the trend!

But, did you see the pants I was wearing on voting day? I love them so much, I decided to build a whole outfit around them for you today. The pattern is subtle, so they are perfect for commitment-phobes like me. And now I'm officially a patterned pants convert! The pretty, feminine print was all it took to take a basic outfit and make it feel pulled-together.


Hover over the icons on each image for more information- click through to shop the styles! 

I'm really digging that Aztec-printed tote. I haven't bought a new bag in a really long time, and this might be my next purchase! Last fall, I snagged an ombre denim bag from Target that set the bar really high for my next purse.

I was surprised how much I fell in love with my denim tote, and I've had a hard time imagining another purse could ever satisfy me! Is that crazy, or what? I don't think I've ever carried the same bag as long as I have this one, but it's starting to show signs that its time in my possession has passed, and I'm feeling sort of sad.

(This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible!)

How many handbags have you purchased in 2014?

November 6, 2014

gratitude | v. 08

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Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song. (Psalm 95:1-2 NIV)

  • I am so grateful to live in a country where I have the right to vote! This year's midterm election has come and gone- some of the folks I voted for made it, and some did not. Isn't that the way it goes? I'm a pretty moderate person and you'll rarely ever see me actually announce my political leanings publicly. I researched every race on my local ballot and voted for the people I thought most qualified for each job, regardless of party. The whole time I spent poring over news articles and public records to plan for the polls, I was covered in a feeling of complete pride in the the process and thankfulness for the people who worked so hard to earn the right the vote for women just under a century ago!
  • The texture of a new rug under my feet.
  • That sale over at Gap.com a few weeks back- everything 40% off. I replaced some of the items from my fall capsule that were a little threadbare and feel swanky in my new threads!
  • Hot cocoa with marshmallows.
  • Sneaking leftover Halloween candy from the bucket when my son isn't watching.
  • Rearranging the living room furniture. Again.
  • My friend whose wedding I photographed has returned from her honeymoon and came over to my house this week to play with the kids while I worked on her pictures. How many wedding photographers do you know that make their clients babysit for them? Haha. I am about halfway done now!
  • Potluck game nights with friends from church.

Have you added anything new to your closet lately?

November 5, 2014

herb roasted chicken (+ homemade broth)

Today, I'm going to share how I can take 8 bucks worth of meat and make three meals out of it. This is a lesson straight out of Thrifty Living 101, and one I wish I'd learned a lot sooner than I did! For years, I wouldn't eat chicken off the bone. And for many of those same years, I believed chicken was an expensive meal, and Hamburger Helper was a budget-friendlier option! Tsk, tsk. Little did I know!

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Fast forward to present the day, and you'll find me roasting whole chickens all winter long. It's a little more work, sure- and I had to get over my hangups about my food still actually looking like the animal it used to be... That aside, I'm surprised how simple it is to prepare and roast a chicken.

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First, I preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While it's heating, I prepare my rub. This time, I used a simple mixture of three Tbsps. melted butter, 1 Tbsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. poultry seasoning and 1/2 Tbsp. pepper.

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This is the part that turned me off whole chickens for the longest time. You gotta just take a deep breath and dig in here- literally and figuratively. Or, just pick the right package and it'll be really easy!

Many supermarket whole chickens still have all their innards intact. Yes, that means you've gotta scoop out the guts. I say that for the purpose of disclosure, now- don't get all icked out and come back yelling at me because I'm just going to say, "I told you so."

My saving grace here is Harvestland chickens- Hallelujah and Amen. That's my endorsement! They're a little pricier than the other brands, but I'm much more confident about the product I'm getting. AND. They've already gutted that bad boy for you- all you've gotta do is reach in and pull out the (neatly packaged/sealed) bag with the gizzard parts. Do whatever your heart desires with that- I choose to toss it, because I don't plan to eat it.

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Now, rub that little lady down with your butter mixture, put her in a roasting pan and pop her in the oven! Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, and crew will tell you to tuck the wings a certain way and tie the legs together and whatnot, but I never do. I just slide the chicken in the oven and wait about ninety minutes.

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After an hour and 1/2, pull the chicken out of the oven and stick a thermometer into meat between the thigh and leg. If the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 180 degrees, you're good to go!

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There are lots of variations to the roast chicken standard: it's such a versatile meal. I chose a basic rub for this chicken because I planned to take it apart and use it in a couple of different recipes, so I didn't want any of my flavors to clash with one another! I pulled all the meat off the bone, throwing the parts I won't eat into my crockpot as I went. I divided the meat into two portions, so I was able to use it in two different casseroles (which basically fed our whole family for almost a week!)

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I told you I can make three meals out of one chicken. The best part about using whole chickens is making homemade chicken broth! After I've divided the bones into the crockpot, I cover them with about 8 cups of water, 1 cup each of onions and celery, and two whole carrots. I simmer that on low overnight, or 6-8 hours. Then I strain the solid parts out of the broth, discard them, and then allow the remaining broth to cool before ladling it into Ziploc bags which get tossed into the freezer. We love to eat soup, and this homemade stock makes a perfect soup base!

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I'm probably going to make soup for dinner tonight, and I'm so thankful for the chicken broth we have stashed in the freezer! This time of year, we eat soup almost weekly. All my boys love a kale and sausage soup, but I'm partial to chicken and rice soup served with big fat yeast rolls. What about you?                                                                                   

What's your favorite kind of soup?

November 3, 2014

eat make do | v. 06

Our Halloween evening trick-or-treating and socializing was a complete success! My bestie invited us to come over for a Halloween party at her house. We try to do playdates often but sometimes life keeps us apart for too long. Our kids have so much fun together, it's so awesome. So, anyway- her family moved into this quaint little subdivision on the exact opposite side of the city (almost an hour away- ugh, how I wish I could have her next door! ) last year. We rolled up into the neighborhood Friday evening and my jaw just hit the floorboard. There were families in costume just crawling the sidewalks- hundreds of kids trick-or-treating!

Pardon me if this seems like a no-brainer to you, but I've honestly never seen this except in movies. Let me explain. When I was growing up, my family didn't celebrate Halloween- I wasn't even allowed to dress up. There was this one time my aunt bought me a Care Bear costume and, well, that didn't go over well with my mom and it was almost quite tragic. But I promise you, my lack of Halloween growing up hasn't traumatized me too much. Whatever.

We've celebrated every Halloween since Seth was born. He's been 1) a skeleton 2) a purple monster 3) a fireman 4) a superhero, and now 5) a knight in shining armor! This was Hawk's first Halloween to dress up, and he made a cute little dragon (even if he wouldn't wear the head). Usually, we go to Eric's parents' house and pick up our nephew for the evening and make the rounds at all our local churches- nearly every one of them hosts some sort of festival or trunk-or-treat. This was our first time to really go trick-or-treating, and I'm sure not our last! Seth had a blast.

Nearly every house in the neighborhood was decorated with spooky lights and lawn ornaments, and all the neighbors were sitting on their porches with bowls of candy. One family even set up a haunted house in their garage, but Seth was too scared to check it out! We had to wait in line at nearly every house, and the line was about eight or nine kids deep sometimes. We came home with quite a haul of candy! I won't lie. I'm sneaking a bit of it for myself when Seth isn't looking.

OK, ya'll. Now that story time is out of the way, let's Eat, Make, Do! This week, I'm inspired by:

eat make do v.6

EAT | One Bowl Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls by Minimalist Baker
MAKE | DIY Easy Macrame Wall Hanging by Love from Ginger
DO | Ikea Tarva Hack by Burlap and Lace

Whew, story time again. See, I go silent for a week and then I get all Chatty Cathy on you. Mmmmm, don't you love it? Saturday, I was curled up in a chair reading to Seth and this wave of pure joy fell on me as I thought to myself, "This is truly the happiest time of my whole life." I am so thankful- I don't even have the words! This life, it isn't perfect- but God just keeps pouring out blessing on top of blessing. I just had to share that!

That ecstatic feeling was partly fueled by some rearranging/redecorating projects I've taken up around here. Every now and then I get the urge to prettify the house, but I don't always have the funds to back it up. This time, we did have a little extra cash so I treated myself last week. My plan was for Eric to come home and say, "Whoa, is this the right house?" Haha!

I think this is in inherited trait, for real. I remember that whenever my dad went away on business trips when I was a kid, my mom would start these hair-brained projects. Like, one time she pulled out the sheetrock on one side of our living room to uncover an old fireplace- yeah it needed to be done, but couldn't that wait 'til dad was home?! Another time, we pulled up all the carpet in the whole house because she'd found hardwood under it.

I've been kind of vying for excuses to make the drive to Atlanta for an Ikea pilgrimage, and now I'm down to the part where I'm actually making the shopping list. Did you know there's an Ikea app that lets you save your wish list and gives you an estimate of your final total? Love it. I might be adding this dresser to it- I've never completed an "Ikea hack", but there's room for more firsts around here, if you ask me.

So I'm cuddled up with my boys Saturday afternoon, enjoying them, loving the changes taking place in our house, thinking about the holidays that are around the bend, remembering our adventure from the night before, and I just let myself get wrapped up in the euphoria of it all. How could it get better?!

Let me tell you. A few hours later, Eric texts me, "What's for dinner?" That's odd, I think. Maybe he's eating ramen and really missing a home cooked meal. "Leftover chicken alfredo," I replied. Well, about an hour later the back door comes crashing open and I almost passed out in fear. But there was no need for that! It was just Eric, oh, yes! So life could get even better. Turns out, his boss says they can't work seven days a week after all on this job- he'll be able to come home one day each week until the project is done. It might take longer than a month to finish it this way, but I'll take it!

We went out for Mexican, in case you wondered how dinner turned out, and spent Sunday lazing around the house and catching up on laundry. Hooray! That's a perfect weekend for you.

What was the last thing you did to make your home a little more homey?

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