The Friday Post. [vol 7]

A fun new format for this weekly update – This week in categories and the best of’s:

Snacking: Ice cold watermelon

Eating: Carrot Soup with Sharp White Cheddar Grilled Cheeses – will share the recipe next week!

Reading: Just finished Happy Place (SOOO good) and immediately started Daisy Darker

Drinking: Mint Juleps on Saturday for a sister cocktail Kentucky Derby

Pondering: The grey hairs that keep popping up all over my head

Watching: We’re in the midst of Florida Man on Netflix. It’s not amazing, but it’s also not bad!

Gardening: Planting lettuce this weekend with the boys!

Weekending: We got ourselves a sitter and we’re hitting the town on Saturday!

Home-ing: New doors that we’ve been talking about for two years.

Teaching: 15 days left!! Just trying to get all the books back from students and wind the library down. Free choice centers for the upper grades and simple story times for the lower grades.

In other, more link-y news:

Simple Joys Lately.

A weekly post to remind myself to look for and appreciate the simple things that bring joy to my every day.

This hat – for being the solution in the matter of the pesky thermostat. Now you see it, now you don’t.

Weekend potatoes – for being a constant in the rhythm of our weekends. I’ll choose you every Saturday forevermore.

This basket of books – for being (almost) all good. And the joy of knowing that I’m headed back to the library with them tomorrow for a fresh stack.

This vintage croquet set given to us by sweet neighbors – because my parents have the same set at home and it makes me feel all melty thinking about my kids having the same memories about their childhood that I do about mine.

This sister cocktail scene – for filling up my literal and metaphorical cup every Friday. And because the Gimlets did not disappoint this week. Up next – Sazerac.

These warm sugar cookies – because I didn’t even barely have to lift a finger to make them. Forever thanking my past self when I pull frozen cookie dough balls out of the freezer to bake on a whim.

Goodnight, friends! I hope you remember to pause and appreciate the simple joys in your life this week.

A Sweet Little Side Table Before & After.

I have a problem. It’s not life threatening or anything, but it’s a problem all the same. You see…I really love furniture. And we happen to live in a spot where people put furniture out on the curb all the time. For free. I call it Picking Day. Other people call it Trash Day. Every Monday in our neighborhood is Bulk Trash day. You can literally put anything out on the curb that you don’t want. And sometimes I get very lucky and find myself in the right spot at the right time and someone else’s trash finds it into the trunk of my minivan. This is only a problem in that we do already have a house with furniture so I often find myself shifting things around, making work for myself that I don’t NEED to do. It’s a problem, but perhaps I should call it a hobby.

I can’t even tell you how many things I’ve picked up on picking day. I’ve outfitted our house with these finds. But sometimes they need a little help. And that’s when my little hand sander comes in. Honestly though…Every time I sand something I say I’ll never do it again. It’s the actual worst. But I’ll also say that I never regret it once it’s done.

I did share about this on Instagram a few weeks ago, but thought I would save it here for future reference. Am I the only one who finds it terribly difficult to find something on instagram if I forget to take a screenshot in the moment?? I can’t be. Much easier to look at a website for future reference!

  • Sand with 80 grit sandpaper followed by 120 and 220 to smooth using a detail sander or a random orbital sander. I used my detail sander for this one with its straight lines but for a larger piece I would probably recommend an orbital. An orbital sander just has more power than the detail sander.
  • You may have to get in the curves, nooks and crannies a bit by hand. Keep going until you’re happy with the color and finish. Mine had these dark lines where the previous stain had seeped in very deeply. I just kept sanding until they were gone.
  • At this point you could apply a new stain in a different color. I liked mine as it was, so I next just finished it with clear matte polycrylic applied with a sponge brush. Matte means it won’t have a shine when it dries.

A note because there may be questions: I have tried the oven cleaner method on a couple things and it does work in taking off stain, BUT I feel that it damages the wood. It seems to sort of shred the wood finish while taking the stain out. Just stresses me out for my poor wood pieces. Not to mention all chemicals in oven cleaner. I prefer sanding because it freshens up the look while making it like new again. However, if you have a piece of furniture with lots of nooks and crannies – oven cleaner may be a good place to start for you. Curves and corners are notoriously difficult to sand! There’s also always citri-strip! You might have great results with that too! But for me – I have ended up having to sand even with other stripping methods. So you may have to do a combination of things if you have an orange-y gal laying around like me that could use an update!

Hope those tips and the process are helpful in case you’re not sure how to update your wood pieces!

My Mom’s Breakfast Casserole

Truly think that everyone should have an easy breakfast casserole recipe in their back pocket. It’s a crowdpleaser, everyone is always impressed, it takes no time at all, can be made ahead and you probably have all the ingredients on hand anyway. Bookmark this one for every brunch for basically the rest of your life. It can be made the night before and baked in the morning, or just bake it up and re-heat it in the morning. My mom made this for every holiday/special event for my entire life, and still does to this day. And now I am her copy cat because she really did know what she was doing.

If we’re having a crowd, I make the full batch, but if it’s just our family of five, I halve all ingredients and bake in a smaller baking dish. I do not deviate with extra veggies or greens thrown in, but you certainly could! Recipes are meant to be played with. We serve with salsa, hot sauce and ketchup for condiments, and always a big bowl of berries and breakfast bread on the side. Enjoy this family favorite!

Breakfast Casserole

1 doz eggs
8 oz shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 c milk
Sliced white bread-crust removed, butter on both sides
1 1b fried bacon or 1 lb fried sausage
¼ t salt
¼ t pepper

Preheat oven to 350°

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with pam and cover bottom with your buttered bread. Sprinkle with ⅔ cup of cheese, ⅔ cup of bacon or sausage.

Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour in your baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining meat and cheese. Bake 50 minutes or until brown on sides. Serves 8-12

A List of Recipes For Your Cookie Box

A little late, but links for cookie ideas for your own cookie box this year!

Last year’s box:

  1. Peanut Butter Blossoms
  2. Buckeyes
  3. Chocolate Chunk Shortbread
  4. Roll Out Sugar Cookies
  5. Gingerbread
  6. Peppermint Brownie Cookies
  7. Salted Caramels
  8. Molasses Cookies Dipped in White Chocolate

New Cookies to Try

How To Make a Cookie Box.

Two days until December and it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to assemble those cookie boxes this year. If you want to! Of course, it’s highly optional, but highly rewarding holiday gifting activity if you choose to do it!

Growing up in small town Indiana as part of a close knit and large extended family, cookie plates were a THING. You knew that Aunt Lee and Aunt Dianne and any number of any family members and friends were going to drop by the house the week before Christmas bearing cookie plates. Everyone had their favorite cookie on the plate and as one of six kids, you had to be quick if you wanted to get one.

Enter my own adulthood and last year I made my own cookie boxes for friends and neighbors down here in Florida. I’m not sure how other people do it, but I started early and it made for a really manageable Christmas cookie timeline that didn’t make me feel overwhelmed.

To do now: make your list of cookies/candies. I did 8 last year and will aim for the same this year. I’ll share recipes in the coming weeks, but I did – caramels, buckeyes, sugar cookies, molasses cookies, peanut butter blossoms, gingerbread, chocolate chunk shortbread, peppermint brownie cookies. I’m switching out a few but will keep most the same because part of the joy is the predictability.

To do each week from now until gifting time: make a couple doughs and stick it in the freezer. Did you know you can freeze cookie dough for up to 3 months? Last year I waited until the week before Christmas and made one dough each night and froze. It wasn’t awful but I think two a week is more manageable and doesn’t take away the joy. I’ll do one on a quiet night during the week and one on the weekend. Wait until the week of to make any candies (caramels, fudge, peppermint bark, candied oranges, etc) as those won’t freeze well. I have my sugar cookie dough in the freezer already and molasses cookies are slated for tonight.

To do at any time leading up to Christmas: find your cookie boxes. This actually gave me some trouble last year, so this year I’ll be scouting ahead. Hobby Lobby and Michaels seem to be the best resources for these little cardboard boxes for small or medium batches. Source your sprinkles and any cute decorations you want to use! Buy early as they sell out quickly. And get the giant cookie sheets. It’s 100% worth not having to do multiple batches and just getting the cookies all in the oven in one go. For your pretty instagram picture, you’re going to want to find a nice wooden box to arrange them all. I found a couple in the dollar spot at Target this year, and last year mine was from Michael’s. Check the jewelry section. They have a little wooden box with compartments that are perfect for cookies.

The night before baking day: put your doughs into the fridge to defrost overnight.

The week of: make your candies, your frostings. Pick up any extra supplies you might need.

The day before: bake your roll out sugar cookies. Stick them in the fridge after baking so that you can decorate them on baking day. You could even get these completely done and also ice them as they’re the most time consuming.

On baking day: set aside much of your day for baking and clean up. You’ve done the hard work! Now you just have to get it all baked and decorated. If you’re not dropping off your cookies on the same day – don’t make the boxes yet. Especially if you’re making a cookie with a peppermint or peanut butter profile. The taste will definitely seep into the other cookies.

Try to gift your cookies asap! The fresher the better!!

I’m going to do another post this week with some suggestions of cookies that are yummy! If it’s your first year, maybe just try a couple cookies and gift them to friends and family. Happy baking season friends!!

Any questions?? Drop them in comments! I

Things My Children Said This Week.

Someone put surveys in mailboxes at school to fill out and left a little thing of skittles to go with it so I ate mine in the car on the way to get the boys and immediately when Benny got in he said, “I smell candy. Mama can I have some candy?” Busted.

Me: Wow, Lukey really did a number on the playroom today, didn’t he?

Charlie: What number did he do? three hundred and twenty-eight?

Charlie: My teacher was sick today from all the talking.

Me: I can relate to her.

Charlie: I love you five hundred and sixty three miles per hour. I love you Ace. I love you four hundred and thirty two million feet.

Etc etc etc. 🥹

Do You Have Family Dinner?

I remember when we were expecting our first son, Charlie, we took a class called the Bradley Method to prepare for natural birth. It’s this amazing, kind of intense birth class. You meet for 12 weeks with a local Bradley couple and other couples signed up for the same session. I loved our meetings so much. We met with Rob and Clare, a chef and a banking executive who lived in a historic Spanish style house on a quiet street. Their three kids were in high school and we would barely catch a glimpse of them during our classes, but going to these meetings, while also truly being the only reason I was able to have three natural births, just really helped me visualize and prepare for becoming a parent. Our classes each focused on a different topic from how the body gives birth, coping techniques, the best way to nourish your body during pregnancy, and we had weekly assignments and exercises in a Bradley Method workbook. Well, one week we were supposed to (as a couple) come up with a list of what we were most looking forward to when becoming a family. On our list were things like holidays, family movie night, seeing our baby with our families, and high on both my husband and I’s list was family dinner.

I grew up in a big catholic family in small town Indiana, four brothers, one sister, and our family dinners make up such an important part of my childhood memories. I remember hiding food I didn’t want to eat underneath the table in a small alcove where the extra leaves of the table would have fit if we didn’t need all of them for our big family. I remember going around the table and saying the best and worst thing of our day. I remember our rotating jobs of cleaning up the kitchen while my parents went to the family room to read the paper. I just really remember that feeling of family during dinners. It was a formative part of my childhood. We, of course, had assigned seats, and I had the seat next to my mom (a seat I still prefer when we go home to my parents’ house) and she would give me the “love connection” if my brothers were teasing me too much (a squeeze of the hand, and declaration that Em needed “The Love Connection.”) Just lots of memories. Of course there were rules – no bare feet, you at least had to have socks on, no elbows on the table, you had to finish your milk, etc.

We’ve made good on our list from the Bradley Method and have been making our own new memories as a family at our kitchen table since Charlie could sit up in a high chair. I will always remember nursing Ben and then a year later Luke at the table while eating my dinner, dropping crumbs on their tiny baby heads. We always wait for that moment when my husband walks in through the door from work for hello’s, tight hugs and then we go to the table as a family to eat. I just have this feeling that my kids are going to remember family dinner the same way I do. It’s our daily way to connect and get really good focused time together every single day. Just a good, special family tradition to have.

Thought I would share a few ways to get your kids on board with Family Dinner, even if they’re tiny.

  1. Get them involved in dinner preparations, so they’re interested in eating it.
  2. If you have picky eaters, pick one thing that they could have as an alternative. For example, if our kids don’t want to eat whatever I’ve made for dinner, they can always either have a sandwich or yogurt. I refuse to make a separate meal for anyone, so they can either eat what I’ve made, or choose to eat a sandwich or yogurt instead.
  3. Always offer sauces – ketchup, italian dressing, and ranch are popular ones in our house. They will put them on everything and will eat it!
  4. They get dessert if they finish their meal. Always. It can be a cookie, cake, a piece of chocolate or ice cream. This always motivates my kids to finish their plates. I’m not one for “all food is the same”. I know that was big a few years ago, not to treat dessert differently, but we do in our house!
  5. Play talking table games. If your kids are small too, we play lots of table games to get them to stay at the table longer. We play math games (2 + 2 is what?), guessing games (I’m thinking of an animal, and you have to figure out what it is), I spy with my little eye, and what words begin with (what words can you think of that start with an A – Apple, Animal, Ark, etc.). Our kids are 4, 3 and almost 2, so Charlie, our oldest, really runs these games, but Benny is old enough to play most of them too.
  6. Ask questions. My husband is SO good at this. He will ask the boys five million questions about their days and just pulls all of this information out of them that I’m usually too busy when we get home to even think to find out about.
  7. Don’t give them a choice. They simply have to come to the table. If they don’t want to come sit at the table, then they have to sit in either time out or in their room.
  8. Light candles. Every night! A family dinner candle in the middle of the table just makes it all feel special and magical and your kids will feel it too.
  9. Let them sit on your lap. This one is very low on my list, but it will often get Ben, my three year old, who does sometimes resist coming to the table, especially if he’s very involved in play, to willingly sit at the table for a long time. He rarely needs to these days, but it got us through some difficult patches where it would have been easier to just let him not sit at the table for dinner.
  10. Start young. As soon as they are old enough to sit in a highchair – you start family dinner.
  11. Give an afternoon snack if they have a hard time waiting to eat until dinner. My husband doesn’t get home, typically, until around 6 at which point some of my family can start to get a little hangry. I usually give an after school snack around 4 to tide them over so they don’t get beyond the point of reason.
  12. This one is for the adults – no phones at the table! Even my oldest will say “no phones!” if one of us gets ours out.

I don’t even know if those are helpful, but I thought I would share! We’re soon going to start having the boys help with kitchen clean up because they’re about that age. Clearing the table, putting things back into the fridge, recycling, and wiping off the counters are easy chores for the 3-4 age to start with!

What about you? Does your family do family dinner every night? Or have you thought about it?

The Friday Post. [vol. 6]

Weeeeee! This week went fast, didn’t it? Or maybe it didn’t and it just went by in a bit of a blur for me. We’ve finally made it to Pizza night over here, and I can’t wait. I have a confession. I have not gotten it together enough the last few weeks to make homemade pizza. What with getting into the groove with school, I’ve just been wiped. So that dear, sweet husband of mine has been picking up pizza on his way home from work, and it’s kind of glorious? Like I don’t know what it’s going to have to come to for me to start making it myself again? I’ll probably get the urge after a few more weeks of this. But truly it’s been so nice to just be DONE. I just get to pick up my boys, go home, have a drink, and put my feet up. Such a treat. I have no reports other than that, so how about a few links from around the web?

I just finished this book and it was good! Took me a little time to get into it, but once I got to the good parts, I couldn’t stop. I think I’ll give it four stars.

Are you going to watch it?

My sister and I are having a Facetime date tomorrow night and are both making these. She starts school Monday and it’s a little farewell to our summer breaks.

The perfect little glasses.

I think I’m the Chore Jacket.

Making this for Lukey this fall, and picking the yarn up today!

All I’ve been able to think about baking lately, but I’m trying to make myself chill until at least September.

Definitely going to be recreating this in September too.

In other news, I’m going to get a little betta fish for the library, and I’m irrationally excited about it. I think I’ll name him Dewey.

What are you all up to this weekend? Anything fun? Whatever you do, I hope you kick your feet up and enjoy it!

Simple Joys: Clean Sheets on Sundays.

I’ve always tried to keep a bit of a gratitude practice. Just taking a moment to feel deep gratitude for bits of my life that I generally take for granted. I used to even keep a gratitude journal where I would jot down a few things every day. Studies show that this helps us feel more satisfied in our life as a whole and happier in the long run. You might not know this about me, but in my adult life, I’ve kept a number of blogs before, admittedly a bit erratically. And they’ve all been fairly similar, but I have never been very good about keeping up with the practice of writing. Nonetheless, the writing bug is within me, and I think I’m generally more satisfied when I have a spot to write. I’ve always written about memory-keeping, books, food, lifestyle. Things that matter to me. And one thing that I’ve always done is write essays about simple joys. The ritual of making an iced coffee in the afternoon, cracking the spine on a new book, tiny bouquets of wildflowers, taking the long way home, the feel of a tiny hand gripping yours, a favorite pencil, writing on the first page of a new notebook and the like. Just simple things that make my heart swell a bit in my every day life when I slow down to think about them. I’ve called these different things over the years. I believe I called them sparks of gratitude in one blog, a small, happy life in another. But for the last couple of years, I’ve thought of them as Simple Joys, so that’s what we’ll call them here. We’ll make this a bit of a series.

The first one I’m sharing is a simple joy that’s so fresh in my mind because I’ve just finished the ritual. Every Sunday, when everyone has finally tumbled out of their beds and bellies are full of warm breakfast, and I’ve had at least one (maybe two!) coffees, I declare to the whole family that it’s “Linen Day!!!” I generally exclaim it with great excitement, with what I’m sure looks like a crazed smile on my face. The boys (who are 4, 3, and 1) have no idea that most people don’t get jazzed about stripping the beds and washing all the sheets. Indeed, most people probably find this a chore that they *have* to do rather than *get* to do. Nonetheless, there’s anticipation in the air in our house. Everyone bounds off to the bedrooms to start taking the sheets off and carting them off to the laundry room. Today we even had the great fun of using our sheets as an excuse for an indoor sleigh ride. Three boys piled on a sheet, being pulled through the house amidst giggles of joy. If that doesn’t scream joy, I don’t know what does. But it’s not just that. It’s not just the stripping of the beds. Honestly the making of the beds is where things die down a bit. But then – THEN! there’s that moment just before bed, when my little ones crawl into their clean beds just after a warm bath and their breaths start to slow, heavy lids drooping with sweet dreams. At that moment, I take a deep breath, and I know that another week is about to come, and no matter what it brings, my kids have a safe, clean spot where they’re showered with love to sleep at the end of the day.

But those clean sheets you know, it’s not just for them. It’s for me, you guys. It’s for me. Obviously I wash their sheets, but I wash ours too. And that moment when I climb into our clean bed, I fairly shake with contentment. You can tell when a bed has freshly washed sheets on it. You just can. It’s like I’m giving myself a warm hug and a pep talk for the week. You can do this. It’s a new, fresh week, and you can do everything that lies ahead of you. It’s such a simple joy for me, friends, I hope you find some in your week ahead too.