Monday, November 24
This post is sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA) and reflects a collaboration with NEA’s Raise Your Hand for Student Success campaign. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own. Be sure to visit the NEA Parents’ Page for great resources for parents!
My kids have this entire week of Thanksgiving off from school. I remember back in the day only getting Thursday and Friday off, leaving you with just a few days to enjoy the holiday. I actually really appreciate having three extra days to relax with our family and enjoy some time off together. But having the whole week off means almost 10 days of no school!
I’m not one to buy workbooks and pull out the flashcards on school breaks. Honestly, I love getting a break from the homework grind. But just because homework and class time are on hiatus doesn’t mean learning has to be. Here are a few things we’ll be doing this week as a family to facilitate fun learning during the Thanksgiving break!
- COOKING! Of course we’ll be cooking up a storm this week and you can bet the kids will be involved. Not only will having the kids cook with me help form lasting memories, but there are ample learning opportunities in the kitchen, especially around math. Anna even got up this morning and made up her own “recipe” with yogurt and milk, so she is ready to go in the cooking department!
- READING! I am lucky that we have kids who love to read, so they’ll do plenty of reading on their own over the break. But even if kids don’t love reading, Thanksgiving break is a good time to get them excited to read. I always buy Christmas books during this week and we kick off the holiday season by reading those books together as a family. We also have fun Thanksgiving books to share together, too.
- DAY TRIPS! We have passes to the Natural History Museum in LA as well as the San Diego Zoo. We will be visiting one of those spots for sure this week! Museums really are a great way to mix learning with fun!
- CRAFTS & LEARNING ACTIVITIES: My Anna loves science more than a million ice cream scoops, so I’m sure we’ll break out our Green Kid Crafts science kit and do a science project together. My friend Marie also has about 1 billion projects on her website Make and Takes, so I’ll be seeing what ideas she has for us, too!
What do you have planned this week with the kids? I’m sure you all have all kinds of creative ideas, so please share them with the rest of us!
Sunday, November 23
It’s Thanksgiving week – I can’t believe it! Today it’s mostly all about the Thanksgiving menu, but I’ll also share our menu for the whole week, which is pretty sparse because all the attention will be on the turkey!
This year we will have Nate’s sister Jess and her family here with us for the entire week, and the Czarnecki family will be joining us on Thanksgiving. We will be surrounded by people that we love dearly and I can’t wait!
Time for the Thanksgiving menu! Here’s what we’ll be having. As usual, we’re sticking with everyone’s favorite classics.
- Turkey (Every year I try a different technique. This year I’m going with the technique that my friend Amy claims is the best, most reliable way to cook a turkey. I also bought 2 smaller turkeys instead of 1 big turkey, hoping for more delicious results.)
- Classic Mashed Potatoes
- Classic Stuffing
- Crescent Rolls and/or Squash Rolls
- Cranberry Slush (my great-grandmother’s recipe that we have EVERY YEAR NO MATTER WHAT)
- Cranberry Sauce (as per Jess’s request, there will also be canned jellied cranberry sauce)
- Sweet Potato Souffle
- Broccoli Casserole
- Butternut Squash (I’m going to cube it, roast it, then pan fry it in browned butter)
- Rose’s Creamed Onions (this recipe is from Nate’s great-grandmother)
- Pumpkin and Apple Pie (not sure what recipes we’re going to use yet!)
I’m not making green bean casserole this year, but if you are, you really should try my homemade version. It’s kind of to-die-for.
As for the rest of the week…here’s the menu plan!
MONDAY: Malibu Melt Wraps
TUESDAY: Taco Night
WEDNESDAY: Taco Leftovers
FRIDAY – SUNDAY: Leftovers Galore!
Please share your weekly menu as usual…but we REALLY want to see your Thanksgiving plans! Share, share, share!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 11:33 am 16 Comments
Categories: holidays, thanksgiving prep, weekly menus Tags: dinner plans, free printable, meal plan, menu plan, PRINTABLE MEAL PLAN, shopping list, thanksgiving, thanksgiving menu, thanksgiving prep, weekly menu, weekly menu planning |
Friday, November 21
This post is sponsored by Q Squared NYC.
I was recently chatting with my dear friend Amy about the holidays and she mentioned the dishes her mom used when she was growing up. Amy talked about how those dishes are firmly entrenched in her memory and that the dishes themselves are as much a part of the experience of the holidays as anything else. As she got thinking about it, she found she felt the same way about the dishes her grandmother used, too.
I loved this conversation because it really got me thinking. Often when I look back on holiday meals with the family, the food is what I focus on. In fact, when I pass traditions on to my kids it’s almost always focused on the food and sharing family recipes. But I haven’t thought much about the significance of the dishes we used. After chatting with Amy I realized my experience was the same as hers, that the dishes actually played a large role.
When I was very young, most of our holidays were spent with the extended family, so a lot of the memories of dishes I have are from my grandmothers. My Grandma Wallin was the type of woman who would bring china to the beach for a picnic, so you can imagine what her table would look like for the holidays. Crystal glasses (perfect for serving 7-Up!), crystal bowls and china dishes abounded. As a young girl, I loved it. Her dishes made those family dinners feel extra special and fancy.
My Grandma Blomquist had 7 children, so when that family got together it was always a large group. I’ll never forget the tall stacks of plates on the buffet table or the basket she used for her giant rolls. What stands out most, however, is the silverware. She had several sets of silverware, complete with intricate patterns. I remember helping get the silverware out of the drawer in her china cabinet (and how that drawer was always a bear to open!). We would wipe the silverware down with a towel and, when dinner was done, carefully put it all back in the drawer.
Eventually we moved far from our extended family, at which point the dishes my mom used for the holidays take over my memories. My mom had a set of Christmas china that made an appearance very year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We loved those dishes and using them at Thanksgiving quite literally marked the start of the holiday season in our home. Once the holidays were over, we would scour the post-Christmas sales to find more pieces to add to the collection. Those dishes are firmly planted in my holiday memories and, to this day, whenever I see that set of dishes at a store, I am transported back in time.
As I mentioned before, while I’ve always had these memories, I’ve never stopped to think about how strong they are. And, on a related note, I haven’t really thought much about the dishes I use for the holidays and whether or not my kids have the same kinds of memories. Our family is young, relatively speaking, so I’m still in the phase of collecting those dishes that will play a special role at our holiday dinner table year after year. After doing all this thinking about these particular memories, it makes me that much more excited about adding new dishes to our holiday collection and setting the table with my kids each year.
I want my children to have similar memories to what I have, memories like polishing silver and pulling china down from the high cupboard. Of course I have fond memories of the food, but as I ponder those holiday meals from the past, I find that the act of preparing the table for those meals is where the strongest memories lie. Making the table special and beautiful with the women that meant the most to me in my life ended up being the times where we talked and bonded most and I will be forever grateful for those memories.
I hate ending posts with open-ended questions because it feels super cheesy, but I’m breaking my own rule today because I really want to hear from you! Please tell us about your own memories!
Pictured above: I’ve added some really lovely pieces to our holiday dish collections from Q Squared NYC. For Easter we use white dishes combined with serving dishes from the Heritage collection. For Thanksgiving we’ve added serving dishes from both the Ruffle and the Diamond collections, both of which are pictured above. Also pictured is the Maple Apple Bijou candle, which is the perfect scent for Thanksgiving and looks beautiful on the table, too!
Tuesday, October 21
I have a monster of a post for you today (mwah-ha-ha!!!), complete with ideas for completely cute yet simple Halloween party table decor as well as a 13 (mwah-ha-ha!!!) ridiculously adorable Halloween recipes.
When it comes to entertaining, I keep it simple. I like to have a whole bunch of white serving dishes in storage that I can pair with a few accent pieces and a colored tablecloth for the occasion. Then I just throw a few decorations on the table – simple but elegant. A vase of flowers, a Christmas wreath with candles, a few pumpkins for a Halloween party…you know, SIMPLE. There’s enough going on to get ready for parties I just can’t go over the top with my decor. But I find by playing in a simple way with color and using lots of white dishes, the table always looks impressive.
My ruffle dishes from Q Squared NYC are just such pieces that come in handy for all kinds of occasions. The ruffle design is elegant and a little bit different than your standard white dishes. BUT…if you pair it with a black tablecloth and a few of Q Squared’s slate platters, those wavy white dishes suddenly take on a spooky air! Seriously, I can’t tell you how much I loved using these dishes to decorate a Halloween table! Throw a few pumpkins on the table and make Halloween-themed food and you’re all set!
I think Halloween food is the most fun food in all the land. Whenever October rolls around, I am always so impressed with the creative food I see in magazines and on blogs! Here are a few favorites I’ve found this year, including a couple I used for my own Halloween party decor!
My friend Kristen from Dine & Dish shared Frankenguac just this week. Is this not the cutest guacamole ever? Be sure to click through to Kristen’s post for details! (I put my Frankenguac on a slate platter and it was beyond adorable and a great centerpiece for the table.)
My friend Sommer from A Spicy Perspective posted these adorable Halloween skewers, which my kids happily gobbled up! I couldn’t find dark grapes, so I used blackberries instead. I think blackberries (i.e. black pickled brains!!!) might even be spookier. Check out Sommer’s post for more details! (The skewers looked perfect on the ruffle long platter.)
Here are a few more Halloween recipes I am dying to try! (Mwah-ha-ha!!!)
Butterbeer Popcorn from An Edible Mosaic (because I simply cannot resist anything Harry Potter!)
Well, that list should keep you busy until Halloween rolls around next week. Happy Hallowen!
This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. As always, all opinions are 100% my own. Seriously, those dishes I used are PERFECT for Halloween. Get shopping!
Friday, February 14
Happy Valentine’s Day! No matter your feelings on this oft-beloved and oft-detested holiday, I hope it’s filled with chocolate and cookies!
I have a bunch of stuff to share today. Get ready!
First, I’m now officially a member of the Netflix Stream Team (basically a bunch of bloggers who like Netflix). Our family uses Netflix ALL the time, so I am happy to be working with them! Also, I started a TV blog
to help alleviate the guilt associated with my excessive TV watchingbecause I love TV, so obviously I have no problem talking about television shows and movies! To kick off my stream teaming, just a few quick things:
- If you aren’t using Netflix already, you DO know it’s only $7.99 a month for the streaming service, right? My friend Rebecca loves TV as much as I do but hasn’t signed up yet. When I told her it was only $7.99 she was like, “That’s it? I had no idea!” and I think she might have even stopped at Best Buy to get a Roku that night. So, I’m just making sure those of you who have no idea how inexpensive Netflix streaming is now know. Totally worth it, even if the only thing you ever watch on there is Breaking Bad (please note that you should only click that link if you’ve seen the last season or you might hate me forever).
- Netflix profiles are the best. You can set up profiles for different members of the family. This, in my opinion, was the greatest improvement to the service that Netflix could have made. Now we always make sure the kids login with their account, that way Nate and my queue isn’t filled with kids’ shows and the kids never get inappropriate content (ahem, Breaking Bad) suggested to them.
- House of Cards season 2 is back today. Happy. Valentine’s. Day. To. You. WOOHOO! (Even Pres. Obama is down with Frank Underwood.)
Here’s all my Babble stuff from the week!
- A post with a little more detail about how to cut bread properly for stuffed French toast.
- 20 Chocolate + Pretzel Recipes (SO YUMMY)
- 15 Delicious Ways to Enjoy Root Vegetables for Dinner
And my posts on Cosmopolitan this week!
- 10 Copycat Fast Food Recipes That Taste Better Than the Original
- 20 Ultimate Last-Minute Party Snacks
- How To Cook Kale and 19 Fabulous Ways to Enjoy It
My kids don’t have school today, so I’m off to quickly finish work and then have some fun! We started the day with stuffed French toast and chocolate from Mimi. It should be a good day!
As always, please share anything you would like – links to funny/interesting/sad/inspiring stuff you found on the Internet this week, links to your own blogs, or just tidbits from your lives, it’s all good!
Thursday, February 13
Yesterday Nate was reading ESPN.com and there was a giant ad for Tiffany & Co. Of course I asked if the computer was showing him that ad because he had just bought me something from Tiffany for Valentine’s Day, to which he replied, “Oh yeah, I bought you tons of presents for a made-up holiday.” And then we both totally laughed. Yeah, we’re romantic like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating Valentine’s Day with our kids and I honestly don’t have anything against Valentine’s Day per se. In fact, any excuse to make pretty cookies and give them to friends and neighbors is fine by me.
Valentine’s Day aside, I have been thinking a lot about love lately, for many reasons that I won’t get into. You know the Beatles song All You Need is Love? That line has become cliché by now, but I really do think all you need is love. I can’t help but imagine how different the world would be if everyone loved first. Now, I know life isn’t always that simple. But I can’t help but think if we did love first that we’d all be kinder, more patient, more giving, more forgiving. At least I know I would be. Sometimes it’s not easy to love, but that’s what makes it all the more powerful. Nate and I teach the 16- and 17-year-olds at our church each Sunday. There is a lot to think about in this life, especially when you’re becoming an adult and navigating those often choppy waters. But I am surprised how often, when I am teaching them, it all comes back to loving others and serving without judgment. It’s so simple and yet one of life’s greatest challenges.
Nate’s Gram Maynard lived a life of love. We all knew she was amazing and most certainly the kindest person we had ever known. She knew what it was to love unconditionally and was a great example to me. When she died, we were all heartbroken. The world needed Gram. At her funeral there was time set aside for anyone who wanted to speak to do so. It was beautiful (and not at all surprising) to hear stories from people we didn’t know, sharing how Gram had served them and touched their lives in profound ways. We knew that she had loved. We knew she had served. We just didn’t know how much.
I recently saw this quote from Mahatma Gandhi somewhere and it really resonated with me: Where there is love there is life. When I think of Gram, a pure example of love, I can’t help but think of the full life she lived. A quiet life, filled with quiet acts of love. Her life was unremarkable by the world’s lofty standards. She was from the South Shore near Boston and lived there her entire life. She raised five children. She stood by the Red Sox through thick and thin. She had the most marvelous accent, once telling Nate’s mom she could find the fox in the dishwasher (10 points if you can figure that one out). She hardly ever cooked, but when she did it was always for others – I don’t know how many tins of her chocolate chip cookies were carried by postal workers nationwide. I don’t even think she ever flew on a plane. And yet, her love filled so much more of the world than just the South Shore. Her love made ripples that have been felt far and wide. She filled the world with life by simply loving. She was more remarkable than anyone could probably comprehend.
Like I said, lots on my mind lately. But I keep clinging to this word: love. I need to let it fill me the way it did Gram. I need to let it spill over.
Wednesday, February 5
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which means it’s time to break out the cookie cutters!
Anna and I decided to make some cute heart sandwich cookies yesterday to deliver to the neighbors. We used my favorite recipe for chocolate cut-out cookies (SOOOO good) and my other favorite recipe for cream cheese frosting, combined into one delicious sandwich of goodness. You can, of course, make these any time of year with different shapes and we do!
A quick rundown of how we made the shapes for the sandwiches and why this is a great way to decorate cookies with kids. If you want to make them exactly how I did, you’ll need 3 heart-shaped cookie cutters that are different sizes but the same shape. Using the largest cutter, cut an even number of cookies. In half of those cookies make holes with the next smaller cookie cutter. Plan it so you end up with an even number of the middle-sized cookies, too. Then take the smallest cookie cutter and cut out holes in half of the middle-sized cookies. Get what’s happening? In the end you will have two different sizes of peek-a-boo sandwiches and a bunch of tiny, super cute chocolate cookies. You can of course still do this with just two heart cookie cutters, you’ll just have one size of the peek-a-boo sandwich cookies.
I really liked having the two sizes of sandwiches along with the tiny cookies because it looked really cute on the plates for the neighbors.
Once the cookies are all baked and cooled, spread frosting onto the rough side of a cookie with no hole and top with a cookie that does have a hole, then fill the exposed frosting center with pretty sprinkles or colored sugar. This ended up being a really great way to decorate cookies with kids. It’s super easy for them to fill the holes with sprinkles and Anna had such a fun time with it. The other nice thing about making these cookies with Anna was that she was able to spread frosting on the cookies and it didn’t have to be a perfect spreading job because the frosting gets sandwiched inside the cookie and then covered with sprinkles. The project ended up being empowering for her because she could make a sandwich cookie from start to finish without any help and they looked just like mine, well, with maybe a few more sprinkles.
Without further ado, chocolate cream cheese cut-out sandwich cookies!
Rolled Chocolate Cut-Out CookiesAuthor: Recipe found on AllRecipes.com - I added in my own notes when typing the directionsIngredients
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- 1¼ cups white sugar
- 1 egg
- In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth – this will take several minutes. Beat in the egg and mix well. On low, beat in the sifted ingredients and mix until you can’t see any white flour.
- Divide the dough into two and form into round balls. Place each ball on a large pieces of plastic wrap then press the dough out into a dish, about ½″ thick. Refrigerate for about an hour. You can refrigerate longer than that, but you’ll need to let it soften up a bit before you’ll be able to roll it out. It is important to refrigerate it so that the dough is workable, otherwise it’s too sticky, but the original recipe said to refrigerate for 2 hours and whenever I do that the dough is just too hard to work with.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). On a surface that has been floured pretty heavily, roll out the dough to ⅛ inch thickness. When I do sandwich cookies I go pretty think when rolling it out so that when you bite the cookies later they aren’t too heavy on the cookie. You’ll definitely need to flour the rolling pin and make sure you keep the surface below the dough floured to avoid sticking. Even after refrigeration, the dough is prone to sticking.
- Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies on cookie sheet – I like to line mine with a Silpat. The original recipe says to place them 1½ inches apart, but the cookies do not spread that much, you can definitely get them closer together, about ½ inch apart.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven (mine are always done at 8 minutes). Cool cookies on a baking sheet for 5 minutes then carefully remove them with a spatula to cool on a wire rack completely.
Cream Cheese FrostingPrep timeTotal timeAuthor: Jane MaynardIngredients
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3½ – 4 cups powdered sugar
- Cream the butter and cream cheese with a hand blender or in a stand mixer until smooth. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth. Add powdered sugar until you get the consistency you want, somewhere around 3½ to 4 cups. (Whenever you add powdered sugar, be sure to start on low and then work the speed up so you don’t blow powdered sugar all over the kitchen. I may or may not have done this many times before. I plead the fifth.)
Sunday, December 29
THIS is what our kitchen looks like.
We are finally painting the wall after tearing out the kitchen cabinets over the counter last June. And, because I’m a crazy person, I also decided we needed to paint the 1970s wood paneled wall with built-in shelves in the living room the same weekend, so our house is pretty much a disaster. I can’t wait until we’re done and peace has been restored!
Despite the home madness, we have another fun week ahead of us!
– I’m taking the kids to Sea World for one last visit before our passes expire
– New Years Eve with the kids! Gram’s meatballs, Pat’s Oriental Chicken Salad, chicken tenders, spinach artichoke dip, cranberry slush, and of course sweet treats of some sort! Then early to bed so we can get up for…
– Heading to Pasadena early in the morning with the kids for the Tournament of Roses Parade! Then Nate and I are going to the Rose Bowl while our kids hang out with their Auntie Anne. Nate and I will eat at the game, I’ll let Anne figure out what to do with my kids
– Homemade pizza – planning to make this with the kids as a fun vacation activity, we’ll probably make margherita pizza and honey goat cheese pizza (the kids have all decided they love those flavors – yay!)
– Malibu Melt Wraps
– Eat out
– Grammy’s Orange Chicken
– Rice and Veggie
As usual, I am looking forward to seeing your meal plans for the week! Thank you for sharing!
Happy New Year!!!
Tuesday, December 24
Merry Christmas Eve! I’m going to take the week off, with just a quick Show and Tell post on Friday. But I wanted to take a moment to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
I also wanted to share my two favorite rolled cookie recipes, you know the kind of cookies that require cookie cutters! The girls and I will be spending the day decorating cut-out cookies, which just may make it the perfect day.
I have two favorite recipes that I use and love – one for sugar cookies and one for chocolate cookies. They are both on All Recipes and I don’t have any changes or notes on either of these recipes. They are both perfect!
Click here for my favorite sugar cookie recipe. (Side note: My mom’s sugar cookie is also mighty fine and uses sour cream. You can find that recipe by clicking here! Her recipe has a bit of a lighter texture than the All Recipes cookies. I don’t feel like I’m describing that correctly, but it’s the best I can do!)
Click here for my favorite chocolate cut-out cookie recipe. These cookies are so, so, so good.
Happy baking and celebrating!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 8:23 am 2 Comments
Categories: fab faves, featured recipes, holidays, Recipes, sweet things Tags: chocolate cookies, christmas, cookie cutters, cut-out cookies, sugar cookies |
Sunday, December 22
Christmas cookie decorating has begun!
I’m going to try to take it as easy as possible this week with work (work schmwork!) and really enjoy this magical time with our kids, including some fun cooking!
– Breakfast for dinner: Swedish Pancakes (Cate’s always begging for these, so figured it would be fun to do this week)
– Chinese Take-Out, a Maynard Christmas Eve tradition!
– Homemade pizza night
– Take out
– Leftovers or tomato soup or something simple
Looking forward to seeing your menus for the week, whether they are simple or filled with fancy Christmas food. All menus welcome! Happy Holidays!