Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

We did it!  We hosted and survived our 1st Thanksgiving!  14 people, 32 lbs of turkey, 4 batches of green bean casserole, 10 lbs of mashed potatoes and 5 lbs of stuffing later, everyone is in a turkey trance and on their way home. 

Here are some highlights of the craziness...

My happy helper! 

I am so thankful that George stuck by my side and took on this crazy task with me!  I really missed having Thanksgiving with my family (my mom wasn't ready to give it up... story for my therapist another time...George's family was ready to order take-out and call it a holiday).  But we talked 4 times today, going over what we were making, when we were starting each dish, etc.... still, just not the same.

So I am thankful for my husband, thankful for a healthy and happy family, our good jobs, a beautiful home, health insurance, reliable cars, food on the table, clothes on our backs, Starbucks grande non-fat caramel lattes and Netflix instant streaming.

What are you grateful for? 

Monday, November 22, 2010

FCOR's 1st Birthday

My first cousin once removed (FCOR), Audrey had her first birthday this weekend...

Isn't she precious!  I just love her sweet-pea face and Cindy Loo Whoo hair. 

Her Grandma (my Aunt), has been making the first birthday cake for every child in our family for the last 32 years.  And the cake is almost always a self-portrait cake.  And with that same "doll" pan, she made Audrey's Audrey cake...

Yes, the top and the skirt match what Audrey is wearing!  Naturally, there is usually another bakery cake for everyone to dig into.  But I love seeing the cakes with every new baby in our family.  Maybe someday, if we are lucky, our children will get a portrait cake too.

Oh, and just because they are too cute not to mention, here are my other FCORs: Natalie, Lany and their brother Griffin...

Aren't they all too beautiful for words?!  And my cousin Jackie, is due any day now with FCOR Leah. 

I love my family.  And HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUDREY!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Boxed Wine is Fine

We live in the Finger Lakes area.  That probably means nothing to you, so let's just call is The Napa Valley of New York.

The Finger Lakes are is giving Napa, Italy and France a run for their money when it comes to wine.  With our warm summers and cold winters, the Finger Lakes offer the perfect environment for growing grapes.  The lakes help balance the climbs and fall in temperature, protecting the grapes for being shocked by the elements. 

About 5 years ago, I started working at a local winery where I gained a boat load of knowledge on growing, harvesting, making, bottling, storing and drinking wine. 

Two things I thought were odd but TOTALLY made sense we the industries interest in transitioning to synthetic corks (they let less air in than the porous, real corks) and cask or air-tight bag to replace bottling.  You might know it as BOXED WINE!...

Oh the horror, the horror!!

It actually makes a ton of good sense.  Boxed wine hold air-tight bags prevent air from getting to the wine prior to consumption.  Yes, it's great to let wine breathe so the flavors and aromas can develop.  But air eventually spoils the wine.  So after 2 or 3 days, your pinot noir tastes like pinot-of-crap.

There are a few brands that are leading the way in banishing the cheap-wine stigma that is associated with boxed wine. 

One is Black Box.

Their reds are full bodied, bone dry and really good.  Their whites range from a semi-sweet Riesling to a dry and citrusy Pinot Grigio.   The Riesling will pair well with Turkey (all Rieslings will) and be a hit with George's sweet-wine loving family.

For myself, I went with Big House Red...

I haven't had it yet but the online reviews are great and my wine shop pros were all a buzz over it.  For $16 and the equivalent of 3 bottles, I went for it!

The best part, once opened, these each should last 3-4 weeks!!  That will bring us into the holiday season with a well stocked bar.

I'm a firm believer in boxed wines taking over the market.  Glass bottles will never be gone completely but I do think the boxed wine will become the norm.

Have you had any great boxed wines?  I would LOVE to know what you think.

Thanksgiving Check List

As you know, George and I are hosting his family for Thanksgiving.  Yes, there will be about 18 of us packed into the first floor (cause the second floor is a bathroom and 3 bedrooms... boring) of our 1600 sq ft. colonial. 

But it's cool because we are in full-planning mode.

First, I have made my lists and have checked them 200 times.

List one: Wegmans!

Many of you are familiar with Wegmans or already adore the majesty that is WEGMANS.  However, where I am from, Wegmans is more than a store.  It's a way of life.  A respected institution.  Mecca.  It is our city.  Wegmans was founded in my hometown.  It employs a third of George's family and thousands in our area. Sure, there are a few other places to shop for groceries but none are as trusted as Wegmans.  People suffer through the economic hardships and lack of opportunity in our area because we know Wegmans is a catalyst for change.  They drive pricing competition (I know, I worked in PR for their top competitor), quality standards, green efforts, and bring other businesses to our area. 

And no one said it better than Alec Baldwin's mom -

Okay, enough of my Wegmans obsession and back to the list.

List one: Wegmans
2 turkeys - one 15 lbs. and one 22 lbs.
3 servings batches of green bean casserole
2 cans of corn
4 bags of dried bread cubes for stuffing
Parsley, Thyme, Sage
Onion, celery and carrots
Butter - 1 box of each salted and unsalted
Poultry seasoning
2 boxes of chicken broth
2, 5-lbs bags of potatoes
Cream cheese (for potatoes)
Sour cream (for potatoes)

List two: Perkins... I am getting some assistance on dessert cause sister needs a break!
1 peanut butter silk pie
1 pecan pie

List three: Liquor Store a.k.a. - my happy place... more on my wine interest later
1 box of Black Box Riesling
1 box of Big House Red
3 bottles of red wine
3 bottles of white wine

List four: Decor
Paper plates (the fancy brand)
Plastic utensils (the fancy brand)
Snack plates
Festive napkins
Clear cups (the fancy brand)
Brown craft paper - 1 roll
Area rug
coffee table
Table clothes
Folding chairs
Folding tables

Ahh, nothing better than seeing a bunch of tasks crossed off!

As you can see, we have a good start!   There are a few more things we need but we are getting there.  I anxious to finish up and start cooking.  We both took off Wednesday so we will get the rest of the items, start some prep work and make a few dishes ahead of time.

I would love to have grace but, as I mentioned before, George's family isn't religious.  So I am thinking about having a "Moment of Thanks".  We can all go around saying what we are thankful for.  I know this might open me up to some gruff but I want to start some traditions.  So we will see.

How are your plans coming along?  What new or old traditions do you have?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Soapbox Moment: Positive Thinking

I sometimes welcome the little-black-rain-cloud.  And though I think it's totally normal to have days were you don't want to do anything or don't want to turn on the smile, I do think I welcome that mopey mood too much. 

My can easily blame my former job, living with my in-laws, being unemployed for 9 months, money, our less-than-drama-free wedding, being new at a job that's not my ideal job, my hair/body/skin, etc., for being a grump or a little sad.  And I let it linger too long.

So here and now I am making a promise to try and change my Debbie-downer ways.  I will be more proactive in swiping that rain cloud away.  I have to think positive... but not loose the sarcasm completely!  I deserve to be happy.  I deserve to have happy people around me.  I deserve to have a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye.

(stepping off my soapbox)

Wordle: Cheap Art

While the search is on for bedding, I have started thinking about art and accessories.
I took some of the sand dune photos from our honeymoon, sharpened them, made them black and white, printed and framed those little lovelies to make a college on our largest wall.

Now I am turning to my old bag-of-wedding-tricks and making some art.  My assistant:

The program asks you to enter a bunch of words then they mix them up and gives you cool layouts, colors and fonts to choose from.

So I took a bunch of words from George's life that have meaning to him or us.  And a bunch of words from my life that have meaning to me or us.  And the result... his and hers art!

Now, you are not able to save your Wordle (without publically publishing it) but you can increase your monitor zoom, print-screen, paste in Paint, mess with the margins and paper size then you got some custom art.

Now, I just have to figure out printing and framing.  Stay tuned!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dream a Little Dream

George and I are in the midst of redoing the bedroom.
At first, we were going with something like this...

It was summer. It felt fresh and cool and, well, summery!

I had been craving a more patterned duvet for years now. We have been doing the solid and the solid-with-a-contrasting-boarder looks but I'm kind of over it.

I thought this was feminine yet not floral and the colors were obvious without being bold.

So I bought the paint and $80 and four months later; We ain't lovin' it.

We kept with the Pottery Barn Simply White walls (because sister is not about to take an $80 bite on paint) and are now researching new bedding that is in the grey-color palette with some scroll or geometric shapes.
Something like this...

And that's about it.  We want this bedding!  We just have to wait until the budget can let us have it.

Any thoughts on affordable grey bedding?  And ideas on how to make our white walls work?

Coffee Table: Before & After

We had purchased a matching set of living room furniture when we first moved in togther.  You know, the couch, love seat, coffee table and matching end tables.  We had nothing, we were renting... it worked.

Well, now that it's been about 4 years and our collection of stuff has grown and our amount of space has like tripled.  So we are kind of over the matchy-matchy and are slowly moving towards breaking up the set and adding new pieces to creat a fresh look.

The first thing out: the matchy coffee table.

The tables are perfectly nice, but we wanted something a smaller and round.

So I scoured craigslist and found this 1970's beauty...

"This stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers, garage sale COFFEE TABLE."
~When Harry Met Sally

With so much thick, dark wood in the molding and trim, we wanted to lighten things up.  So with a few cans of white spray paint and spray varnish, Ta-da!

We got EXACTLY what we wanted!  And our new area rug came in today from so it's a double-bonus day for our living room :)

The area rug is a bit more traditional than we wanted but the price was right and the colors are so wonderful... it's hurts. 

How was your Monday?

BTW... George is away on business, so you know what that means...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

5 Years

George and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary on Halloween.  Well, we said "Happy Anniversary" and exchanged a kiss then went to get trick-or-treating candy! 

We celebrated our anniversary a few days later with a wonderful dinner at a beautiful boutique hotel in in the posh suburbs.

And since we are watching-our-pennies, we got a $100 gift certificate for $50 from and agreed to spend $10 each on gifts.
We have a thing with cards.  I have actually saved every card we have ever exchanged. 

So when I came home from work, I was greeted with these lovelies...

Steffler is one sweet hubby!  He always gets/makes the best cards.  And when I say "makes", he is known for buying a card he likes, crossing out some of the words and adds his own.  I love it!

My gift for him was memory box.  I bought a cool, magnetic gift box from Barnes and Noble.  Yes, it's a gift box but I loved the map (kind of works with our plans to travel more).

I added a label to the front, like so...

Then I grabbed a bunch of pictures of us over the last 5 years... look how little we were!

And tossed in a stack of index cards and leftover wedding envelops...

We are writing our memories over the last 5 years on an index card and putting it in the envelop with the pictures.  We are also making a few predictions for the next year.

This can be our new tradition for years to come.  Add of few pictures, log a few memories, make a few predictions and look back on "us" over the years.  We can't wait for the day we can share this with our kids!

Happy Sunday :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Have a Little Faith With Me

I grew up in the Catholic church.  I really enjoyed that time in my life and that early connection I made with God.

I still have a very strong sense of faith but I have fallen away from attending church.  I have to be honest, I no longer 100% believe in the Catholic faith.  We did get married in the church, but I feel God made us all and loves us all and would never want us to hate someone that he made.  No Exceptions.

George and his family did not practice religion.  And prior to meeting me, like back in his high school days, George might have even said he was an Atheist. 

We discussed our religions and faith in the first months of our relationship (guess you could say we "knew" early on that we were forever).  And I asked him "If I was hurt, and lying in a hospital bed, and the doctors said they didn't know if I would make it, would you say "God please keep her here with me?" 

He said yes.  And I accepted that: I knew he was a man of faith.

After our Pre-Cana classes (which we LOVED... would do it again tomorrow), George and I really felt a connection with out faith.  That our union was greater than us.  It was kind of awesome.  We also walked away set on raising our family with faith.  Maybe not in the Catholic church but most definitely with faith.

Lately, I have been wanting to have that connection again.  We have not been to church since our wedding. I have had many talks with God, some of my favorite saints and praying almost daily.  But I am longing for that sense of community my old church had to offer.

We just don't have a church we belong to.  My childhood church is 30-40 minutes away but, like I said, I have fallen away from that church.  So I am looking for a fresh start.

How do you "shop" for a church?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving a la Martha: My Mother, My Mentor

True story, when I was younger, I told people that I was Martha Stewart's daughter she put up for adoption and people believed me.  I'm not sure what's worse; that I told this bold-face lie or that people believed it.

Yes, I was mesmerized by the Martha Stewart lifestyle at a young age.  So it was no surprise that when I was getting married, she was my first point of reference for guidance and support through the planning process.

Now that I am married, a homeowner and starting a family, she is still my go-to source for all things cooking/entertaining/crafting/organizing/decorating.  I may not find the most of-the-moment ideas from her but she has the classics down.

So when I started planning our first Thanksgiving dinner for George's 20 family members, I immediately went to and got my inspiration on.

After much research and testing (on roasting chickens) we are going with Martha's Herb-Roasted Turkey...

I love chopping the fresh herbs, mixing them in soft butter then rubbing the mixture all over. 

Next, and almost as important as the turkey, is the stuffing...

This is her Simple Stuffing that I am going to jazz up a touch with brown butter sage.

I also plan on turning to the Crockpot for help.

First I am going to make "Company's Coming" mashed potatoes.  They are a staple in my family and I hope George's family will love them too.  You make these the day before then put in the Crockpot to warm the day of.  They have butter, cream cheese and sour cream... fat, fat and fat so you know they are good!

Martha has a version very similar too:

Big Martha's Mashed Potatoes with Cream Cheese
3 1/2 pounds white or Yukon Gold potatoes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup whole milk, warmed
1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed


1.Place potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a medium pot, cover with cold water by 2 inches, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 35 minutes. Drain, and let stand until just cool enough to handle. Rub off skins, and discard. Cut potatoes into large pieces.

2.Combine potatoes, cream cheese, butter, milk, and 1/4 cup cream in a mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until combined. Season with salt and pepper, and beat to desired consistency.

3.Return mashed potatoes to pot, and place over medium heat. Add remaining cream, and cook, stirring constantly, until heated through. Serve immediately, or keep warm in a covered bowl over simmering water for up to 2 hours.

I also will be tapping a candied yams souffle from the Food Network...


And finally, my all time favorite side dish: Green bean casserole by Campbell's

I remember my first official Thanksgiving with George's family.  It was just after our 1 year anniversary and it was my first time not having dinner with my Mom.  I asked George to ask his family if they planned on having green bean casserole and, if not, would it be okay for me to bring it.  Well, his family had never had it and they were fine with me bringing something. 

I poured my heart into that dish!  I was so worried about it being not too soupy, not too bland and the crunchy onion topping still had to be crunchy.  My efforts paid off... it was a hit!  I have brought this to every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner since.

I will make homemade cranberries with orange zest and maybe roast root vegatable or squash, but the above are all in place.

Now I have to figure out a chocolate dessert since his aunt is bringing her famous (not joking) pies.  Don't worry, I know just who to turn to...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Um, P.S.

You may have noticed, we already have many of the items from the Living Room Mood Board.

Well, sit down my friend and let me tell you a story.

It was a cold and rainy day in early September.  Summer was just barely over but anyone in Upstate NY can tell you that, come August 1st, summer might has well be over cause we are all preparing for fall!

~sigh~ i <3 fall

Back to the story.  This early September day had me in the mood for all things fall ... apples, leaves, donuts, pumpkins, boots, donuts, cider, hayrides, donuts. 

We also happened to go to George's family for a visit that day.  As usual, the family is gathered around the table... one topic-of-conversation lead to another (the entire family has conversational ADD, like me!) and before I knew it, we volunteered to host Thanksgiving for all 20 members of his family!!

Um, yeah.  20.

And though I love all my in-law family members, I have this need to impress them still.   I think it's because I married the baby and the only boy...

So, yeah, we have been collecting all the necessary materials so we can host our FIRST THANKSGIVING!

The living room is almost complete.  We have all the pieces for the dining room and are still working on getting the arrangement just right.  We want to get the attic (which is finished, but we have nothing) in entertaining order as well.

George is gone next week on business so you know what that means: I'm preparing a While-You-Were-Out!

So that's the scoop.  Any tips on hosting a large, holiday for the first time? 

Living Room Mood Board

Yep, still without a camera.  But that's okay, I have the world of Google Images to get me through!

So, for your consideration, I present: The Living Room Mood Board

The wall color is Benjamin Moore's Frappe made with Behr all in one paint and primer. It is much lighter than it is showing... there is more of a cream tone.

The couch is from Ashley Furniture and was our FIRST purchase together from 4.5 years ago!  We got the whole set but I will be editing down so it's less matchy.

We have chocolate brown and steel blue throw pillows. Both are from Sears, just last week to be exact.  The brown are sturdy cotton for $7 and the blue are 100% silk for... wait for it... $13!!  I literally squeaked and loaded my arms up with 4 of these beauties.

We ordered the area rug from this evening ... we were originally looking for something a bit more basic with less print but our budget and color demands, this transitional-style area rug should do!  If not, they have a great return policy :)

The lamp is similar to the lamps I purchased from the Christmas Tree Shop a few months back.  They are tall and curvy with great white shades.  And for $14 each, I was S.O.L.D.

The white, round coffee table is my project for this weekend.  I purchased a round, solid wood coffee table from craigslist and will be giving it a new white finish.

Finally, I AM IN LOVE!  Yes, with George, but even more so with the drop cloth curtains!  I saw this idea from The Walton's blog (by way of Young House Love).  I bought, washed, dried, ironed and hung the curtains but they were lacking body and they were a bit too long.  So I got some hemming tape and brought the bottom up 6 inches and the top 4 inches.  It was easy as pie and made ALL the difference... I am smitten and plan to do the same for our French doors in the dining room.

So I know it looks a little shabby-chic, but I promise, I am not into the distressed look.  Washed out, sure!  But not beaten to death.  I like things to look new or in their best possible shape.

I also know what you are thinking: neutral overload!

I know, I know.  But I promise I am planing on injecting more color!  I love the idea of pairing the cool blue with spring-silvery sage greens and little pops of red. 

So, I'm not a pro, but what do you think?  Good base to play with other colors or are we WAY off base?