November 2014Back Home Again: November 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

December Goals and November Recap

Here were my goals for November:
  • Plan Ewan's birthday party and get everything together. Done. The location is set, invitations have arrived and have been (mostly) distributed, gifts have been purchased, food has been decided. All I need to do is purchase his plates, cups and napkins. 
  • Make lots of pumpkin things. I guess you can call this completed. I made mac & cheese with pumpkin in it and pumpkin brownies for Thanksgiving. I also roasted and froze several of our pumpkins from Halloween. I didn't get to all of them before they started rotting on the porch though. 
  • Finish Christmas shopping. Done! I had everything purchased except a gift card before Thanksgiving. No mall craziness for me thank you!
  • Rake the yard and/or mulch leaves. This is as done as it can be - I even got it done before we got an early snowstorm. We have a pin oak that loses its leaves really late so we will rake them up as soon as we can. 
  • Enjoy Thanksgiving but don't overdo it. Our Thanksgiving meal was fabulous. I roasted a turkey and made green beans, mashed potatoes and rutabaga, homemade gravy, paleo sausage stuffing, mustard greens gratin, roasted sweet potatoes with olive oil and rosemary, pistachio pudding pie and parsnip cupcakes. While there were a few calorie bombs in there, for the most part it was really healthy. 

 And here are my goals for December:
  • Treat myself to my annual haircut for my birthday. 
  • Have a great birthday.
  • Have a successful cookie decorating party.
  • Take the kids to the Christmas light display at the fairgrounds followed by a visit with Santa.
  • Have all gifts wrapped and ready to go by the Monday before Christmas. 
  • Have a wonderful Christmas surrounded by family. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Financial Peace of Mind During the Holiday Season



Since it's Black Friday I figured I would use this opportunity to mention something that's incredibly important to me personally, especially around the holidays: Financial Peace of Mind. I know that at this time of year some of tend to go overboard with wanting to give our kids everything and losing sight of our financial goals by blowing the budget out of the water - I know I'm definitely guilty of it - then regretting all that spending come January.

I can't believe I'm admitting this on the blog, but we have a lot of credit card debt. We've spent the last couple of years trying to stick to a budget to pay it down and while it has worked for a couple months at a time, we always seem to get back in the habit of blowing the budget away and ruining the headway we've made on paying our credit cards off. Two months ago, my husband and I decided that we had had enough and created a new budget.


We finally figured out that by having a crazy strict budget where neither of us had any "fun" money or money set aside for the kids or eating out etc., then we were setting ourselves up for failure. As a friend of mine said recently, is it a life worth living without taking time to enjoy it? While it may take us longer to pay off our cards, by having set aside a certain amount of money each month for "fun" money, kids' activities, clothes, eating out, vacation, etc., we have found it much much easier to stick to our budget because we're not completely restricting ourselves. In fact, we've been able to pay off $4000 in credit card debt in two months. Has it been easy? Not always. And you better believe I have had my share of complaints about our new budget. But, you have no idea how much of a relief it is to see our balances steadily going down instead of the yo yo of the past few years. 

I strongly encourage you to check out Capital One 360's Black Friday Sale and start thinking about your own financial peace of mind during the holidays. Capital One 360 is decking the halls with deals you can bank on, including new account bonuses, referral bonuses and closing cost credits. All Black Friday Sale deals are designed to encourage consumers to keep their finances top of mind. In addition to taking advantage of deals on 360 Checking and 360 Savings accounts, Sharebuilder Accounts and Home Loans yourself, you can give your friends and family the gift of financial peace of mind by encouraging them to take advantage of the deals and refer them to the sale. If they sign up, you may be eligible for a $40 referral bonus.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and keep your financial goals in mind during all of the greetings and get-togethers this season!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Celebrate the Sauce with Tuttorosso and a Giveaway

As you all know by now, we love tomatoes in our house. Especially Tuttorosso Tomatoes, an Indiana company owned by Red Gold. I'm generally not a big fan of canned tomatoes because they always seem to have a metallic taste, but Tuttorosso Tomatoes don't. It's awesome.

In fact Tuttorosso Tomatoes currently has a Facebook promotion, Celebrate the Sauce, going on where you can win the grand prize, a Martha Steward Cookware set, a Tuttorosso apron weekly or a Tuttorosso wooden spoon daily. Just go to Tuttorosso's Facebook page to enter. The contest runs until December 23. 

Tuttorosso also wants to help you start your own tradition and has created six sauce recipes for you to try. I tried the Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce and added sausage and fennel. Amazing!


Tuttorosso also wants to give you a prize pack containing one 28-oz can crushed with basil, one 28-oz. can peeled plum Italian style, one 28-oz can of sauce and a 6-oz can of tomato paste, plus a Tuttorosso apron and a Tuttorosso wooden spoon.


Open to the US only and ends December 7. Good luck!


I received Tuttorosso Tomatoes in exchange for a review. However all opinions are my own. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Holiday Bundle of Gifts GIVEAWAY!!!

I'm very excited about this giveaway and I hope you are too. Who wouldn't want a bunch of gifts just in time for the holidays? What are you most excited about? Me, I love the subscription to Sock Panda. Good luck! 

Welcome to the Holiday Bundle of Gifts Giveaway!

Featuring: 14 prizes for one lucky winner!

bundle of gifts
Hosted by: Just Another Mom

Co-Hosted by:

The Cafe Coupon, Deliciously Savvy, Heartbeat Soulstains, Michigan Savings and More,

Joan's Five Star Reviews, Totally Temberton, Cupcakes and Flipflops

The Mama Games & Disabled Diva Reviews

With a BIG thank you to all of the bloggers who are helping to promote!

As we draw closer and closer to Christmas, Just Another Mom is pleased to present the Holiday Bundle of Gifts Giveaway! Featuring 14 gifts from The Holiday Gift Guide at Just Another Mom, one lucky winner will win over $300 in prizes with a little bit of something for everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Violated

Yesterday I received a message from a high school friend of mine that one of my photos on Flickr had been used without my permission on a huff post type article about my hometown. The photo wasn't bad and it's not like it was used as click bait or anything...but I feel so incredibly violated. I'm so glad that it was of me and not one of my kids. Alan thought it was hilarious because the photo is so me, but it wasn't funny to me. Not at all. 

I posted on the site that it was used without my permission and the photo was taken down, thankfully. However, I got flamed for requesting it. I know that internet trolls are stupid, but some of the things that were said were pretty hurtful. I had to stop reading because it's not worth it. 

I think people seem to forget that the people in those types of lists are real people and that it's all fun and games until it's a picture of you on one of those lists...one that how many thousands of people view and one that you had no idea was used. Feeling violated is such a horrible feeling. 

I know that it happens all the time on the internet and that by having this blog I put myself out there - heck, Alan had most of his Master's thesis ganked by students at SCAD and put on a website they created. It could be worse, much much worse. But, I just honestly don't know if I can continue my blog after this. If I do, I know that some things will be done differently. Right now, I am finishing some commitments and then we'll see.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Paleo Fudge

This was originally a guest post on my friend Sheryl's blog way back last spring. But, it's so good that I just had to post it on my own blog as well. Especially since it's going into the holiday season.  This is a paleo recipe I accidentally created that is really good (and addicting!). 

I was making paleo frosting for some cupcakes using this recipe from Elana's Pantry and had a ton left over. I had heard of making paleo fudge before using almond butter, a bunch of other ingredients and coconut oil. So, I decided to add some almond butter to the frosting to try to make fudge and success! I love it because it's so simple.

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Paleo Fudge

1 cup chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli 60% dark)
1/3 c coconut oil
1 tbs vanilla
1/2-3/4 c almond butter (I used Trader Joe's unsweetened)

Melt all ingredients and pour into a small baking dish
Let harden in the fridge

The fudge has to stay chilled in the fridge otherwise it will melt due to the coconut oil. Just a warning, it's really addictive! The batch I made to take photos didn't last a day in our house!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Annual Haircut

I usually only get a haircut once a year, around my birthday. At one time, I saved it as a reward for weight loss...but since that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now I'm using it as my birthday present to myself, like last year. 


This is one of my favorite photos of myself, from grad school. I was in the best shape of my life and I absolutely loved my haircut. Every time I have gotten a haircut since, it's always this style. I love it because it's so easy to straighten my hair - my preferred style. Ten minutes and I'm done. When it's long I almost never wear it straight because I barely have enough time in the mornings to get everyone and everything together, much less actually do my hair. I also won't do bangs...with my thick wavy/curly hair, they just do not work. 

But, I'm debating on deviating from the norm and doing something different. This is a big thing for me because I don't like change and the last time I was adventurous with my hair, I wound up with these awful layers and bright red hair with blond streaks. I looked like Rainbow Brite and it was awful. 

So what would you do? Go with the tried and true style that you love, or mix it up and possibly live with something you hate? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

We Got Snow!


We got 4.5" of snow last night, the first of the season. As you can tell by the photo, the leaves aren't even off all of the trees yet! I spent all day Saturday raking up what had already fallen in anticipation of the snow so we don't wind up with what happened last year and Alan's out raking in mid-January. Although since the pin oak in our front yard doesn't drop its leaves until mid-December, at this rate, he might be doing that anyway... Sunday I spent recuperating on the couch because I was (and still am) so sore that I could barely move. 

The kids were so excited today that there was snow on the ground...on the way to daycare they kept saying that it's Christmas and Ewan told me that I'm silly because I still have the pumpkin on the door and the pumpkin flag in the yard. He said that I need to put out the Christmas decorations when we get home today. I must admit that I am thisclose to doing it, even though I think that fall deserves its own celebration and Christmas shouldn't be allowed to come out until after Thanksgiving. Maybe it's because I'm a December baby, but there is something about the snow that is just magical and festive. I just love it, traffic hazard and all.  

Even so, my heart did break a little this morning when I realized that it's the first time Cecily will be playing in the snow at daycare...and I'm missing it. The wonder in her eyes as she glimpsed it this morning and how excited they got when their teacher said they would go outside...I want to play in it with them! 

Such is the inner turmoil of a working mom, I guess. 

Anyways, did you get snow where you live? 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Christmas Wish List 2014

I normally don't want to have anything to do with Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but Alan and my mom have been bugging me about what I want for Christmas and my birthday. So, I decided to just go for it and create my Christmas/Birthday wish list.

 

 

 

 

Aura Cacia AC Room Diffuser

Plus a whole list of essential oils from doTerra. And a gift card to Old Navy. I desperately need some new clothes. I haven't bought much since grad school...eight years ago and a lot of my clothes are threadbare!

What's on your Christmas list?

This post may contain affiliate links.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Quebec City

It's been two months since we went to Montreal and I've only posted a few photos just to tease you. I keep meaning to post in depth about our trip, but life seems to get in the way. So, I am finally getting on the ball and posting!


I really enjoyed our trip to Montreal, but my favorite day was our day in Quebec City. It is very Old World and the closest I will get to Europe for probably some time. Settled in the early 1600s, the lower city has been restored to what it looked like when the French first arrived.


Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Trust me, it's amazing!


Quebec City is also the only fortified city in North America that's not in Mexico. To get to the upper portion of the city you have a TON of steps to climb or you can take the incline up the bluff. I, of course thought it would be great exercise to take the steps. Alan was so mad at me because by the end of it he could barely lift his legs after walking all around Montreal the day before. Oops! :-)

These are only some of the steps! Can you spot Alan?


Chateau Frontenac is probably the most photographed hotel in the world. Before coming to Quebec City, I actually thought it was part of the citadel, but it's not. It was actually constructed by the Canada Pacific Railway.


It's located atop the bluff right above the lower city and offers amazing views of the surrounding area. We went in the hotel to look around but that's the closest we will ever get to staying there as it's just a little above our budget.

We had an amazing day there and I would love to come back and spend more time exploring because I feel like we barely scratched the surface of this beautiful city.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

While I love the fact that there is a special day, I don't normally post anything about Veteran's Day, mainly because I don't have any close loved ones that are vets. 

But, as an historian I just realized something. This year marks 100 years since the start of World War I. Holy. Cow. That's crazy to think that that was 100 years ago. Yes, this was almost 70 years before I was born...but it was still in the same century. It just seems crazy to me that that much time has already passed and that my kids will view it like I view the events from the nineteenth century...as a LONG time ago.

I know, why am I talking about WWI? Well, that's because Veteran's Day, aka Armistice Day or Remembrance Day was originally created to mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that was the end of the War to End All Wars...World War I. While I don't have a family member that has served recently, I do have a family member that served in the Great War...my great-grandfather was stationed in France. 


Did you know that the red poppy is the national symbol of Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom? Being the Anglophile that I am, I find this display at the Tower of London fascinating. Over 800,000 ceramic red poppies have been "planted" around the outer walls of the tower, each one symbolizing the death of a UK or Commonwealth citizen during World War I. What I would give to be able to see this is person. It looks beautiful.

I know our nation does some things, I remember going to the Veteran's Day parade in my hometown almost every year as a kid, but I so wish we had the pomp and circumstance of England. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Family Photos 2014

A few weeks ago we had some family photos taken. I don't know what Cecily's deal is, but every time we have photos taken, she doesn't want to cooperate at all. Yet, she's always asking us to take her picture...silly girl! We did, however, get some good shots and we lucked out in that the leaves started changing early where we are this year. We figured everything would still be green. I'm very glad that we got some great fall photos and I can't wait to hang them on our photo wall. 

Enjoy!






Saturday, November 8, 2014

LEGO® KidsFest Indianapolis

I was given 4 tickets to attend the opening night of LEGO® KidsFest Indianapolis. However, I was not influenced by the promotional materials. All opinions are my own.

Last night we were fortunate enough to go to LEGO® KidsFest at the Indianapolis Convention Center. Just in case you don't know what it is, LEGO KidsFest brings all of the creative hands-on, minds-on fun of LEGO building and experiences together in one activity and entertainment packed family event for children of all ages and builders of all skills and interests. We went last year in Louisville and had a blast so we were sure we would again.


We didn't tell Ewan where we were going, just that we had a surprise for him. It was killing me to keep the secret, but the look on his face when he realized where we were was worth it. 


He went nuts running all over the place and playing with everything. Cecily had also had a blast playing in the mountain of Duplo bricks. 



Ewan LOVES LEGO Ninjago and watches the cartoon all the time. He was so excited to go to the Ninjago section and fight Daddy with his favorite characters. 




He also built a square for a surfer mosaic, participated in the Challenge Zone and we all built a section for the Creation Nation, a giant map of the United States that you can help build. Cecily enjoyed playing in the LEGO Friends and LEGO Disney Princess areas, although she had much more fun throwing the bricks on the floor and picking them up than building something with Mommy :-) I don't know if they just didn't do this in Louisville or if we didn't get them because the kids mainly played with the Duplo bricks then or what, but we also got several free LEGO sets just for participating in several of the areas. That was really awesome!

Probably my favorite part of the entire event is seeing all of the LEGO Models. I just can't get over the amount of patience it must take to build those things!




LEGO KidsFest is going on through Sunday so if you're able to go, I highly recommend it. Trust me, you'll be glad you went! Just be aware that only Sunday Session 2 has tickets available. Everything else is sold out! 

The 2015 tour dates have also been announced if you want to check them out too. Hopefully you'll be able to attend!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Kit Kat Cupcakes

Since we had massive amounts of Halloween candy leftover because we didn't get many trick or treaters this year, I was trying to come up with ways to get rid of the candy so we don't eat it. The annual meeting for the community band I play in was last Sunday, so I decided to make something with the candy as my carry in dish. 


Enter Kit Kat cupcakes. We had tons of orange Kit Kats left and the kids had gotten several chocolate ones trick or treating. So, I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with orange bits of Kit Kat topped with leftover orange buttercream frosting from Alan's birthday. Then I put the chocolate Kit Kats on top.


As a friend of mine said, "Kit Kat cupcake. OMG. Thank you."


Kit Kat Cupcakes

2 c flour
1 1/3 c sugar I used coconut sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c shortening
1 c milk I used almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted

Combine dry ingredients then add shortening, milk and vanilla. Add eggs and chocolate. Fill cupcake wrappers 2/3 full with batter then place chopped Kit Kat bits on top (I originally poured the batter on top and the candy stuck to the bottom of the wrapper). Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frost with whatever you have on hand!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Holiday Bundle of Gifts Blogger Opp

Holiday Bundle of Gifts Blogger Opp

Fellow bloggers, come join me in promoting the Holiday Bundle of Gifts Giveaway, hosted by Just Another Mom!

Sign Ups will close on 11/16 and the Giveaway will go live on 11/18

The Giveaway will run from: 11/18 to 12/4

Prizes include:
* One month subscription to Sock Panda ($12 ARV)
* One necktie from Necktie Emporium (Up to $19.99 ARV)
* Two cloth Diapers from GloBug Diapers
* One Lambie & Me Lambie Lovie Snuggle Blanket ($29.95 ARV)
* One set of  Chinese-English Blocks featuring the Chinese Zodiac Signs ($18.00 ARV)
* One Gift Certificate for Curtain and Bath Outlet ($25 ARV)
* One set of Magformers (Price coming soon)

More prizes may be added, but as you can see this is a pretty nice list of gifts! If more than 20 bloggers are on board, I'll also add in a $15 Gift Card to the Prize Pack.

Free, Paid, and Co-Host Options are available.


And in the referral box, tell them I sent you!

Things I'm Thankful for This November

1. The beauty of fall. As you know, fall is my favorite season, but this year I've really taken the time to notice all of its beauty. The colors that surround us are simply breathtaking. Nature is so beautiful if you just take the time to notice it.

IMG_1722

2. Knowing who I can really count on. And being honest about it with myself. Unfortunately, the number of people I feel that I truly, without a doubt, know will be there for my family and I if we ever needed it are few. As in I can count on one hand. I've been doing some evaluating lately and it really sucks to finally accept that certain people just really are in it for themselves no matter how much you want that to not be true. 

3. Our extremely awesome, patient childcare provider. Early this year, we switched our daycare to one more in tune with our lifestyle. While there was nothing wrong with our old daycare, it was just time to move on. There have been some hiccups along the way, namely Cecily being a bully to the other kids, but overall it has been wonderful. Our current provider is so patient with the children and I can really see a difference in how they come home. They're learning so much there too. Maybe this is really pretentious of me, but I love the fact that at Ewan's preschool, he is so much more advanced than the rest of his class. It was such a great feeling to be able to tell his teacher that he could already do all of the goals for his class this year. 

4. Knowing where my food comes from. We have been blessed in the last year to be able to buy almost all of our food locally. It's such an amazing feeling to actually know the farmer that produces your food. 

5. My husband and children. Cliche, I know, but true. As we're coming up on one year since my grandmother passed away, I've been thinking about how important my little family is to me. They may drive me crazy at times, but my life would be so empty without them. I love you guys something fierce!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November Goals

My goals for October were:
  • Take the kids to the corn maze and pumpkin patch.  Done. They had a blast! You can read about it here.
  • Get everything ready for Cecily's birthday. Done. Her birthday was a success and I posted about it here
  • Do something special for Alan's birthday. He doesn't like a big deal made out of his birthday, even though I tried. I made him his dreamsicle birthday cake that I do every year and I also made chocolate orange cupcakes. However, he wouldn't let me tell anyone at work that it was his birthday, nor would he let the kids and I sing to him at home or blow out his candle! Lame. 
  • Continue to can and dry herbs until the frost takes everything. Done! We had our first freeze this past weekend and I think everything is pretty much done. I definitely got LOTS of herbs that will last all winter, not to mention all the goods I canned and froze from our CSA this year. I'll still probably wind up buying some produce when it gets closer to spring, but it will be a lot less than in previous years. 
  • Make lots of pumpkin things! I actually didn't make ANYTHING pumpkin during the month of October! I'm not really sure why, but that will change this month. I have five pumpkins on the porch that need to be carved and seeds roasted, plus I found this awesome pumpkin almond butter dip recipe that I want to make.

Here are my goals for November:
  • Plan Ewan's birthday party and get everything together. His birthday is at the beginning of January and it always seems to sneak up on us. I started planning way early last year and it worked out really well so I decided to do that again this year. I already have the venue set, just need to order invitations, any decorations and figure out the food. I so want to share what his party is going to be because it's so cute, but you'll just have to wait til it happens ;-)
  • Make lots of pumpkin things.
  • Finish Christmas shopping. Call me bah humbug, but I try to avoid the stores in December if I can help it. I worked in retail so much when I was younger that I want nothing to do with that mess during the holidays. 
  • Rake the yard and/or mulch leaves. We have several large trees in both the front and back yards. I love them for their shade in the summer, but there sure are a lot of leaves this time of year!
  • Enjoy Thanksgiving but don't overdo it. Thanksgiving is my favorite food holiday because there are so many yummy goodies. However, I intend on not stuffing my face this year with all the tempting desserts and just sticking to turkey, potatoes, green beans and a small piece of pumpkin pie. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Boo at the Zoo!

Last weekend we took the kids to Boo at the Zoo. It's a tradition that we started since Ewan was a baby and we'll try to take them every year.


We went on the last night and the kids enjoyed it at first but about halfway through got tired and we wound up having to carry them. Let me tell you how much fun carrying a two year old through our hilly zoo when it's pretty hot out is!

We couldn't get a photo of them looking at the camera at the same time. 

I'm glad we got to go even though we did wind up carrying them. Especially since Halloween here was super cold and windy and we only were out trick or treating for about 30 minutes around the loop our street makes. 


At least they're cute, right? :-)

How was your Halloween?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Improving Our Food Supply

As you probably know, we do a lot in our house to live sustainably and lessen our impact on the earth. Just some of the things we do include recycling, using compact fluorescents, mulching our leaves, growing our own food and composting our waste. Something that is really important to me is making sure that we have as much organic, non-GMO and preferably locally grown food as possible. Lessening your impact on the environment through any means could have dramatic effects on the the food system. The infographic below illustrates some of the issues with our current food system and how a sustainable food system can improve the environment and lives.

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