OTP | day 165 | 

  Hey guys. It’s been awhile, but I’m still hanging in there! 

It turns out remembering to take pictures of outfits is really difficult to remember, find the time, and right lighting for. But I got one today! 

  
Lately if you’ve seen one of my outfits, you’ve seen them all, as I’ve gone into a bit of a “mom uniform” slump lately. Cold temps and staying inside most days means lots of leggings, chambray, sweater, ponytail, repeat. Oh! And lots of cozy socks. I’ve come to terms with this monotony because these are the things that I am comfortable and feel pretty in. 

Christmas this year was much different from most because with the monetary gifts I was given, I was unable to go clothes shopping as I usually would- it’s really the best gift I can be given- the gift of shopping. Especially after Christmas- the sales!!!! 

But, I stuck it out and focused on purchasing items for our household that were needed instead of unnecessary clothing that I have more than enough of. 

So, for the second time in this project I’m going through my wardrobe to find those items I haven’t worn since I began 165 days ago.  (And binge watch Making A Murder as I go.) 

 I’m hoping by getting all of my wardrobe simplified before this is project ends that when I do go shopping again, I’ll have a much clearer idea of what I do and don’t wear. Doing so will  hopefully prevent purchases that will sit in my closet unworn. 

I am really understanding that quality definitely overrules quantity in the case of clothing. I don’t have a “clothing budget” so my purchases of clothing mostly come from birthday and Christmas gifts. I’m wanting to make sure I research the best quality clothing and purchase one item over several that may cost the same amount but won’t last as long. 

Because I have time to dream about what I would purchase if I could, here are a few items on my wishlist that I feel would make for a very simple, versatile wardrobe for a mom who wants to be comfortable and stylish. 

Gap Jeans

Need I say more? I’m dying for a new pair of jeans since my only options currently are pre-pregnancy jeans that aren’t quite the right fit or maternity jeans. So first chance I get you can bet I’ll be buying these jeans. 

 

 Madewell Dolman Top

This piece can easily go from casual to professional really easily. Dark denim and a pair of booties, a long gold necklace- very classic look. 

  
Madewell Vneck Tshirt
These are on sale right now in several colors, burnt clay is my favorite but any of them would be great! Run over there if you can, I would if I could! 

Pair with a long cardigan, dark denim and a simple long necklace or infinity scarf for a cute, quick ensemble.

  

Gap Cardigan
Last one- I personally would pair this sweater with the tee above and my The Jones Market Necklace. A great staple cardigan that would go with almost any tee or chambray. 

  

So there’s my update- almost 130 days after my last one. Hopefully my next one will only take 129 days! 

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An Old Fashioned Nativity |Part 2| 

This post will feature all things decorative, so if you’re not in to decorating for Christmas (Scrooge!) you can pass this by, but I promise there will be lots of inexpensive ways to fill your home with cheer! 

There’s a Danish term called hygge that essentially means “coziness”. They practice it mostly in the winter time (but really year round) and try to bring cozy cheer to their homes and each other. I’ve been trying to employ this term in our home and our evenings as a family. 

One really quick and easy way to instantly produce coziness is twinkle lights! 

  I purchased two sets of 50 white lights for $4 and instantly brightened up our kitchen and laundry room. These two areas are places I spend a lot of time (washing dishes, cooking, doing laundry) and making them feel warm and pleasant make my chores easier to accomplish on gloomy winter days. 

These lights as well as the ones on our Christmas tree stay on all day. Sometimes I think, “boy that’s probably going to add a couple bucks to the electric bill”, but then I realized that the small cost really is worth my sanity. I am home all day and especially on gloomy days little happinesses are necessary to make it through the winter! 

One decorative item I love to use (and that works for any season really) is a chalkboard! I picked up two of these from the thrift store for $2 and they’re definitely worth it! Little holiday phrases or designs instantly create inexpensive decor!  

 
I love natural, rustic decor as well, so most of my other decorations I either foraged or bought from the grocery store! Yep, the grocery store!  

It’s really easy to make these dehydrated orange slice ornaments! They give such a wonderful color to everything and when on the tree the lights shine through like stained glass! It also throws me back to the time of Little Women- again citrus was a rarity and a treat, so when I see these I always think of when Professor Bhaer gives Jo an orange. These simple decorations bring that era into my modern home and simplify it.  

  To make the ornaments simply slice oranges about a 1/4 inch thick and lay straight on oven rack or on a cookie sheet. Put in a 170 degree oven for two-three hours, flipping about once an hour. Once they’re dehydrated, thread with twine or Christmasy string.  

 The holly and boxwood branches in my hanging and wreath are from bushes in our yard, but if you don’t have any you can easily buy greenery from the grocery store or ask a neighbor or friend if you can clip a few from their branches. 

My wreath was made by simply shaping a wire hanger into a circle and attaching the clippings with floral wire! Virtually free project with a great end result! 

 

Don’t buy mistletoe, just take something green and hang it up! Who cares if it’s real, it will still get you a kiss, I promise!  

Fallen branches from trees can also easily become decor if placed in a simple glass jar! Evergreens instantly say “Christmas” without the need for other trimmings like ribbon or anything else fancy.  

This one was one that fell off of our Christmas tree and I loved the look of it on my dresser! 

Christmas decor doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take up bins in your attic- you can easily decorate for Christmas with fresh, real decor that makes your house cozy and full of hygge! Sometimes, less is more. 

Fa-la-la-la-la! Have fun decking your halls! 

An Old Fashioned Nativity |Part 1 |

In the Orthodox Church, Advent is called the Nativity Fast and it begins much earlier-on November 15th. It is often called “The Winter Pascha” (Pascha is the Orthodox word for Easter). It is a time of preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ, for quieting ourselves, and for almsgiving. 

It can seem somewhat difficult to combine this version of the holy day of Christmas with what the holiday of Christmas has come to mean in our modern day America. It is my goal this year to figure out what our version of Christmas will be, and what sorts of traditions we want to establish for our little family. Ultimately, I want my child (and God willing future children) to grow up knowing that this season is truly about slowing down and quieting our hearts, finding ways to be kind and giving to others.  

 So, I present to you my Old Fashioned Nativity! A combination of Orthodoxy, Little Women, Little House On The Prairie and White Christmas! 

First off, the traditionally Orthodox elements of our Christmas. To begin the fast we attended an Akathist service at our parish as a family. It was a wonderful way to officially start the season and remind us the reason we fast. We are attempting to attend as many weekday services as possible (even though it is difficult with my husband’s schedule and a nine month old) in order to continually “reset” and refocus. 

We will celebrate St. Nicholas day on December 5th which is his saint’s day. The traditional tale of Santa Clause of course comes from the story of St. Nicholas who (from my recollection) dropped a sack of gold into a family’s home with four daughters to ensure their dowries and consequently their prosperity instead of destitution. We will leave out our shoes the night before for St. Nicholas to leave gifts in.  

 In an attempt to combine this tradition with one of my favorite parts of Little House on the Prarie, our St. Nicholas day gifts will include gold coins (chocolate), peppermint sticks, and oranges or clementines. These come from the Little House story where Mr. Edwards brings Christmas gifts for the girls who otherwise wouldn’t be getting any- he brings peppermint sticks and oranges and the girls are overjoyed. I hope to raise my children to find joy in these simple gifts. My little bird will also be getting a little jingle bell stick from the dollar section at Target that I just could not resist.  

 We will however start out the morning by reading the story of his life, saying morning prayers and singing his troparion. 

Christmas morning will be spent not amid piles of wrapping paper, but in church. It will be our tradition as a family to spend Chrismas morning at Liturgy so our children always know that we are celebrating for a reason. Then we will come home to a joyous Christmas feast and exchange of gifts. I’ll discuss our gift giving practice in a later post.

  
  

In the spirit of almsgiving we will be picking some sort of donation to make- we haven’t decided which one- and I am trying to find other ways to be giving. Little things like baking fruit cake (recipe to come!) or cookies to give to neighbors or the mailman, people I don’t always interact with but should. This season is the perfect time to thank people you would normally not talk to and in that way share the light of Christ. 
Keep tuned for the next installment! Next up, Little Women and White Christmas! 

 

Complete Homemade Thanksgiving Guide

It’s not as hard as you think. I suppose you have to be a person who really enjoys making everything from scratch like I do, so if that’s you, I say go for it!

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The key, as is the key for most things, is planning.

So, if you’re up for it, here’s my guide to the first timer’s homemade Thanksgiving!

  1. Think ahead. Thanksgiving sales are great if everything you’re buying comes in a can or box, but if you’re buying actual veggies and making it yourself it can definitely break the budget. I started watching for sales three weeks beforehand! By doing so I managed to get ten pounds of organic potatoes for $2 because of a Managers Special! Potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, apple cider and butter can be bought farther ahead of time when you see great prices!
  2. Get recipes you trust and memorize them. Okay, maybe not memorize them, but study ahead of time. Cooking a turkey is like a test, but one people have to eat afterwards so it better be good! I used The Pioneer Woman’s directions for brining and cooking a turkey because every recipe of her’s I’ve ever made turns out great, and she literally has thousands of followers who love her food. I got her cookbook from the library and went over the directions several times the week before to make sure I knew it well enough to realize if I had skipped any steps. Which leads me to my next tip.
  3. IMG_2394  BRINE YOUR TURKEY. My husband normally only eats dark meat, but he gladly ate the white meat because it was that juicy. It gives the meat a really good flavor and generally keeps everything nice and moist while cooking. That being said, either buy a brining bag or have a stock pot large enough to submerge your turkey. Otherwise you’ll end up with a brine soaked floor and your turkey in a garbage bag-lined mop bucket like me. Work smarter, not harder, as my husband says.
  4. Prep as much as possible the day before. I made my homemade stuffing the day before and kept it in the fridge until I needed to pop it in the oven the next day, chopped my onions for green beans the day before and made all my chicken stock three days beforehand. There are lots of ways to cut down on day-of work (and dishes) by simply refrigerating. FullSizeRender (3)
  5. Know your limits and your audience. My family has a few things that are staples for Thanksgiving that I really didn’t want to mess with. Namely, I knew fresh green beans would not be eaten as well as canned so I went with canned. Cranberry sauce from a can is a tradition I couldn’t mess with either so I didn’t. I also desperately wanted to make giblet gravy, but it turned out sweet somehow (explanation below) so I conceded and used the jar of gravy my mom brought with her. I went into this meal knowing some things were bound to go wrong and I wasn’t going to let it totally ruin it for me because in the end it’s really about who you’re with and not what you eat that matters, so I didn’t sweat the small stuff.

These are the main points I’d say will help get you through a homemade Thanksgiving, but I’m also going to include a few of my “recipes” and tricks to help guide you in the right direction.

Appetizers

Cream Cheese Jalapeno Dip

1 tub spreadable cream cheese

1 jar Jalapeno Pepper Jelly

Crackers or tortilla chipsFullSizeRender (2)

  • scoop out half of cream cheese tub into a dip dish or bowl
  • scoop out half of the jelly on top and spread around to make a pretty top
  • serve with tortilla chips on the side and a cheese knife

Mulled Apple Cider

1 Gallon Apple Cider

2-3 cinnamon sticks

6-7 orange slices

pinch or two of nutmeg

  • Pour cider into crock pot until full, add cinnamon sticks, oranges and cinnamon, turn on low and simmer as long as you like. I put this in at six in the morning because I was up to see my husband off on his Thanksgiving hunt with my dad, but as long as it has an hour or so you’re good!

TurkeyIMG_2405

Follow this recipe, it won’t let you down. Also, I used an organic fresh turkey, and I really believe it makes a difference. (See above for the importance of buying a brining bag. I cannot stress this enough.)

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/my-favorite-turkey-brine/

and

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/roasted_thanksgiving_turkey/

Side Dishes

Chicken Broth

Chicken broth is a lot easier to make than you would think. On the Monday before I went to the store to just pick up a few things for meals the rest of the week and one item was a rotisserie chicken. I brought it home, pulled all the meat off to use for salads and sandwiches, and threw the bones into my crockpot. Just cover with water, toss in a little salt and pepper, some sage, rosemary, or thyme (whatever you have on hand, but none of these are necessary) turn on low and leave it there until the next morning! You’ll have flavorful, free broth for all your Thanksgiving cooking! Simply strain into a bowl and then store in the fridge until you need it! FullSizeRender (6)

Green Beans
Recipe:
4 cans cut green beans

1 yellow onion, cut into thin strips

5-6 strips of bacon, chopped

1/4 c-1/2 c homemade chicken broth

salt and pepper

  • heat skillet to medium and put in chopped bacon
  • cook until crispy, take out of pan and put on paper towel
  • eat a couple pieces to keep up your strength
  • put sliced onion in pan, turn down to low
  • slowly cook onions, stirring occasionally about 20 minutes until caramelized
  • add green beans to pan as well as chicken broth and salt and pepper to taste
  • keep simmering for as long as needed until everything else is ready (these can keep simmering for up to an hour, it will just infuse more of the yummy broth into the beans and make for amazing flavor).

Stuffing (or Dressing)

If you’re doing homemade stuffing, be on the lookout for the rack of day old bread from the grocery store bakery, it’ll save you the step of having to dry out your bread in the oven. Mine was already dry but I didn’t want to risk it molding so I kept it in the fridge until prep day.IMG_2339

I used this loose tutorial and went with a bacon and apple combination. I used semolina bread with celery and onions as the base and it was a big hit (we’re actually enjoying eating leftover stuffing which I can honestly say I’ve never done in my life). The only seasoning or herbs I used were salt, pepper and maybe a tablespoon of sage.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/articles/mix-and-match-stuffing.html

Simple Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs red potatoes cubed

5lbs russet potatoes cubed

1 can evaporated milk

1 stick butter

salt and pepper

  • boil a large pot of water and put in potatoes
  • cook for thirty minutes or until very soft
  • strain and put into a large bowl
  • use pastry cutter (or masher) to mash
  • mix in butter and add evaporated milk slowly until potatoes have desired consistency
  • season until you reach desired level of saltiness- but remember there’s gravy to go on top!

Cranberry Sauce

So, I ended up making sauce the day after to use on sandwiches and I have to say this is the easiest and best thing you can do. If your family doesn’t have the can tradition, do it!

1 1/2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)

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This is how you do leftovers. Turkey, cheddar cheese and cranberry sauce grilled cheese. Dunk in gravy for the best leftovers experience.

1/4 c dark brown sugar (or 1/3 cup light brown)

1/8 c water

  • put all ingredients in small sauce pan and turn heat to medium
  • once sugar is melted turn onto low and let simmer until cranberries burst (ten minutes or so)
  • stir and remove from heat (place in fridge if you want it to coagulate faster)

I literally walked away and forgot about these, came back and they were done, so as long as you don’t burn it, it’s hard to mess up!

Giblet Gravy

So I gravely messed up this recipe by using the mason jar of apple cider in my fridge instead of the jar of chicken broth. I will be labeling my mason jars from now on. I ended up with the perfect consistency, but a *very* sweet broth that no amount of salt could correct, but I’m still going to recommend it because I’m certain it would have been wonderful.

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/giblet-gravy/

Mmm neck meat. Ha.

DessertIMG_2367

Pumpkin Pie 

This is of course the staple dessert for Thanksgiving- but guess what- I don’t like it! Never have, more of an apple girl myself, but I made one because I love my family. And then we put candles in it to sing happy birthday to my grandpa who turns 72 next Saturday since we won’t get to see him then. My heart was happy and it made all this work totally worth it.

Make the day before and then day of leave your oven on 350 and put it in for ten minutes to warm.

No Fail Pie Crust

(I have never bought a store bought crust, that’s how much I love this crust)

This makes 2 crusts.

3 cups flour

1 1/4 cups butter (or lard if you want the best pie crust you’ve ever tasted)

1 tsp salt

1 egg

5 TBS water

1 TBS vinegar

  • Cut in butter with pastry cutter (or food processor) until butter resembles course crumbs
  • Combine egg, vinegar and water by whisking with fork
  • Add wet to dry ingredients
  • Get your hands in there to mix, you’re gonna be kneading it eventually
  • Split dough in half
  • Roll out until about a 1/4″ thick
  • transfer to 9″ pie plate

Pie Filling 

Again, defaulting to Pioneer Woman here.

This one’s from her book, but I didn’t use all the seasonings she did, so I’m putting my version here.

2 cups pumpkin puree

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

2 eggs

  • combine all ingredients, pour into pie crust
  • cover crust edge with foil
  • put in 425 degree pre heated oven for ten minutes
  • lower temperature 350 for forty to forty five minutes until set
  • remove foil about ten to fifteen minutes before set
  • refrigerate until next day or serve warmFullSizeRender (4)

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And that’s all folks! Everything you need for a homemade, delicious Thanksgiving. I really enjoyed doing this, and writing this blogpost so I hope it’s helpful to somebody! Don’t be afraid of homemade!

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I’m most thankful for this little sweetie this year.

 

 

 

This is what I’ve always wanted…

…so why am I constantly being discontent? 

I feel as though I look too much at what others have and focus on what isn’t in my life instead of what is right in front of me.  

 A family, a husband who loves me so wonderfully and puts up with all my crap- I really could not ask for more. My dreams are coming true before my eyes, but the clouds of selfishness and comparing are blocking  that from my vision.

I am not a naturally negative person, but when I let these thoughts creep in and then make camp in my heart, the black smoke billows out of me. 

I don’t want to be an angry mama, I want to be a loving and happy one, so as I now realize these things are preventing that, I am going to work harder to be the mama I always envisioned myself being. 

My husband is always reminding me that the present is truly the only place where God resides and I think that is what I have been forgetting. God is here, now, right in front of me. He is fulfilling my biggest hopes and dreams and I am slapping Him in the face by not realizing it or being happy about it. 

This time of year always brings these types of thoughts about for me, thoughts about thankfulness (and often realizing I don’t have enough of it) and this year especially I’m glad for the reminder this season brings. 

Love where you are, who you’re with, and what’s around you, and the Son will shine forth out of you. 

OTP day 28 | this one’s for the mamas

I can’t believe I’m only on day 28 of this project, it feels like it’s been much longer. I will say, however, it is getting easier. Knowing I don’t have the option to just go find something new really has me reevaluating my style.

I’m gonna go on a tangent now, if that’s okay? Okay.

I’m now six months into motherhood, and can I just say, it is not what I anticipated at all. Not the changing and feeding and burping type stuff, that I was prepared for. What I had no way of anticipating was the hormones and the mood swings. One of my favorite lines in Parks and Rec is when Anne Perkins is pregnant and she’s complaining to her boyfriend Chris about all the things in pregnancy that are driving her crazy. In her list she includes, “Also, I just read Brooke Shields’ book on post-partum depression. Now I have pre-post-partum depression anxiety.”

That, my friends, is a real thing. I had it, and I think I’ve had it for six months off and on. I honestly don’t believe I ever hit actual post-partum depression, but I had some low points that felt awfully close. I’ve been chasing these thoughts of who am I now? am I just a milk machine? Should I be doing something else? Am I doing enough? NO, I’m doing more than enough, in fact I should take a break (when I really wasn’t) for the last six months and I think I can safely say I’m somewhat coming out of the fog now.

I’m writing this because I think that my body image has had a lot to do with this moodiness. I too fell for the stigma our culture has created that women need to “snap back” right after baby and when I didn’t very easily I instantly started hating on myself and pushing myself farther into The Pit of Self Pity.

Mamas, please, please listen to me: be healthy, but don’t let your body image come between you and your child, and all the wonderful parts of new motherhood. I learned that too late and I really could have been such a better mother if I hadn’t been throwing a pity party for myself. Love that baby and know that for some, it does take time, but you’ll get there, and you will soon be feeling like yourself again.

This whole tangent was inspired by my outfit today. I’m starting to figure out what my “mom uniform” is, and I’m becoming much more comfortable in my own skin because of it. I also for some reason thought after having a baby that I had to dress like a mom, but then I realized, HEY! I’m twenty! I’m allowed to dress like I’m twenty!

I also recently started following a style/mothering blog that I love called Hey Natalie Jean. Her style can sometimes be a little too much for me, but I’m taking bits and pieces of her advice to try and make my wardrobe a little younger 😉IMG_0744

Also, I just now realized this awesome wall across from my house is a way better backdrop for photos so I’ll be using it from now on!

My jeans are American Eagle and I rolled them up twice to try and create a “boyfriend jean” type look. My chambray is Old Navy (and really the inspiration for this post-I remember trying on this shirt six weeks postpartum and not being comfortable in it. I’ve just assumed it would never
fit ever again and then I tried it on today and voila! It fit perfectly and even loosely! Happy happy joy joy!)

My sandals are also Old Navy!

Whew! Thanks for making it all the way to the end of this rambler!

OTP | day 13 & 14

Sooo… Hi. I completely skipped last week because 1. I forgot to take pictures every. single. day. and 2. it was a really weird week for me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that posting daily is just not possible for me right now, but I will continue to try to post at least every week, but most likely it will only be when I have a good outfit or finally have some sort of reflection to share with you all.

Today I’m posting from this past Sunday as well as yesterday because I had kind of a genius idea that I’m so excited to share with you!

Sunday was a day of church and relaxing at home, which was much needed. Here’s my outfit from church that actually earned me several compliments, so I figured it must be worth sharing!

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This dress has a funny backstory actually- It was a dress that I bought from Old Navy, but being the 5’2″ person that I am, it was too long! I cut off the top part to turn it into just a maxi skirt, but then even when I wore it high waisted it was still too long, so, I pulled it up and voila! It was a dress again!

Hilarious, I know.

Anyway, to make it church appropriate I added a sweater, and to give it some shape I added a belt. Loose hanging dresses only work on rail thin girls, generally, so if you’re like me and don’t want to look like a big blob, add a belt! And of course, my trusty Target flats rounded out the outfit!

My outfit for yesterday was a surprise to even myself!

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I have owned this simple floral dress for the longest time now, it’s made its way from a consignment shop to my closet to the bag of scrap fabric, back to my closet and now, finally, actually on to my body!

I never wore it because it was strapless and I didn’t really like pairing it with a sweater because it was too short! I decided I felt like wearing a summer dress yesterday, so I started off searching for a white crew neck t-shirt I was sure I owned, but might have ended up being donated… Anyway, I couldn’t find it, but I realized this Old Navy tank with the crochet piece on the top matched perfectly, so on it went, and you’d never know this is actually a strapless dress!

Add the belt and a simple pair of strappy sandals, and you have one of my new favorite outfits!

Check out your closet and see which pieces you have that you’ve never paired together before! You never know what greatness may lie waiting to be discovered!