Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Valentine Decorations and Potato Sausage Kale Soup

It has been nearly a month since I have last updated my blog. January flew by faster than I could believe. I will try to update my blog more frequently, but since I have found myself busy with many different projects, I may not be able to update as frequently as I have written in the past. I still have many posts I would love to share, and hopefully will get back to more frequent posts in the future. I have been fairly active on my YouTube channel- April's Home doing product reviews, and sharing some of the different things I purchase as well as meal plans and seasonal home tours, so you can catch me over there a couple times a week as well. I have been having a really fun time learning how to edit video. 

I am excited that spring is just around the corner,  Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring, as did our zoo's local hedgehog. However there is also a tradition that if the day is 'fair and bright, winter will take another flight", and around here is was a pretty sunny day, so we'll see if we have that early spring that was predicted. While the rest of the US has had blizzards and storms, we have had an extremely mild winter, I have even had the windows and doors open to cool down the house on multiple days! I wouldn't mind a nice small little snowy day at least once this year, but over all, I love the start to the gardening season and am looking forward to getting back out in the garden. 

Around the house I have been getting ready for Valentine's Day, I love decorating for all of the little holidays this time of year. The main area of our home that I have decorated is the dining room. I have found many fun little pink red and gold decorations to set around the bookshelves.

I made a cute new little seating area in the dining room with a little mirrored glass table I found on clearance after Christmas, along with some seasonal pillows on the chairs. It is a nice spot to sit and look through a book.

My side table is full of fun Valentine touches, with both some old favorite decorations as well as some new ones.

I have also put out on display some vintage reproduction Valentines that remind me of the ones I would cut out as a child. I found many of my new Valentine decorations at Target's dollar spot, they had so many cute decorations this year for very affordable prices, it was fun to pick them all out.

I have also added Valentine decor to the living room this year. I even included the dogs, I found them each a Valentine rope tug toy and some very cute miniature Valentine colored mini milk bones which they have been enjoying. My husband brought me my first bouquet of pink tulips of the spring, he knows that tulips are my favorite and I always think it is so sweet that he surprises me with flowers. :)

In the living room I have also replaced my large train print with this really interesting wooden cubby with metal and number details,  it looks like an old post sorting shelf or something, I have enjoyed bringing in some wooden elements to my living room for a change.

The other wooden decor item I have brought into the living room is this giant letter M (our initial) that I found after Christmas as well, I fell in love with it, and knew it would be perfect for the large space above my fireplace. I've also included some pretty pink candles and lights to the mantel, which will also work for my Easter decor.

Here are some of the other little things in the living room, candy dishes and little wooden signs and things, as well as the fun plaid heart pillow, another after Christmas clearance item that I thought would work well for Valentine's decor.

This past Christmas was the first time I really decorated our Master bedroom for Christmas as much as I did, so I decided to decorate our room for Valentine's Day as well, and found some fun pink decorations to make a nice display.

I really love Valentine's Day, not just the romantic parts of Valentine's Day, but just honoring the concept of love, and remembering to love our neighbor. :)

You can see a video of our Valentine decor home tour below-

In addition to all of the Valentine decorating I have been doing, I have been sticking to writing out and planning my dinner meal plan in two week sections. I have found that I am able to budget my grocery expenses a lot more efficiently, as well as serving healthier dinners. Last month one of my favorite meals was this Potato, Sausage, and Kale soup which we enjoyed with rustic French bread. 

Here is my simple recipe for my Potato, Sausage and kale Soup

In a large soup pot saute a bunch of chopped celery and one chopped onion in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until softened and slightly translucent. Then add a 48 oz box of Chicken broth and bring to a simmer. While the broth is simmering clean and chop about 12 nice boiling potatoes a good red or gold variety, I leave on about half the potato peel for color and texture, you can leave on as much of the peel as desired. Add the chopped potato to the soup pot and continue to simmer. I also add at this point a tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a little salt and pepper to taste, as well as a few cups of water to make sure the potatoes are covered and that there will be plenty of broth. In a separate skillet brown a pound of regular ground sausage like Jimmy Deans. When the sausage is cooked through and browned drain thoroughly and add to the soup pot. Simmer on medium low heat until the potatoes are cooked though. About 30 minutes before the soup is done clean a bunch of Kale, I like the curly variety, remove any of the tough stems. I like to pull off the leave and rip into smallish pieces, then add to the soup. Then add about a half cup of cream, perhaps a little bit more if needed until the soup looks slightly creamy. Check seasoning, add a bit more salt or pepper if needed. Serve when the kale is softened and cooked to your liking and the potatoes, onion and celery are all cooked through. I like to serve this soup with a crusty rustic french bread topped with a little butter.

We enjoyed this soup while watching a family movie. Our new tradition for Monday nights is to watch an old classic movie, during January we watched some old Cary Grant movies as well as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, it has been fun sharing these old movies with the kids. Our goal is to continue watching one new classic a week for the whole year and by the end of the year we will have seen quite a good selection of classic movies. So far that is my favorite resolution of the year! :)

I hope everyone is doing well, thanks for stopping by!

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Happy New Year 2016

It has been quit some time since I have been able to sit down and get back to my blogging, the holiday season has been a whirlwind, and kept me very busy. Although this holiday was super busy, I really enjoyed celebrating with my family.

I made all of our traditional Christmas Cookies, and had fun wrapping everyone's gifts in the beautiful wrapping paper I found this year. My favorite wrapping paper this year was the antlers on blue background as well as a gold faux bois patterned paper, I also found some beautiful light pink and glittery vintage looking paper to wrap all of the girl's gifts. We spent time with family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which I really enjoyed.

The following week I got my Christmas decorations down and put up my New Year's Eve decorations. I love decorating for New Year's Eve, it is one of my favorite holidays. I kept out a lot of gold candles and things that I had used for Christmas, as well as some of my New Year's Eve decor from year's past like my glittered clocks.

I decided to keep out the bear I used to decorate our Christmas mantel, and added some antler candle holders I found on clearance after Christmas, and burned our Champagne Toast Bath and Body Works Candle which smelled wonderful! :)

I made our traditional appetizers, every year I make a cheese and cracker platter, bacon wrapped dates, a batch of homemade Chex Mix, Chips and Dip, A Brie En Croute with fruit and bread, crescent wrapped li'l smokies, and Cinnamon Palmiers for dessert along with fresh apples, grapes and mandarin oranges. We also had sparkling limeade, and sparkling cider. The food was delicious and we snacked on it for lunch the days following New Year's Eve.

I thought it would be fun to set up a photo station with different photo props, we played records on my new record player that my hubby and I got for Christmas, which was really fun. We also played board games throughout the evening.

I set out lots of noise makers and confetti poppers of various types. We also had a big confetti stick that used compressed air to send out a big shower of very pretty confetti. My kids and my young niece and nephew had fun playing with all the confetti, it was everywhere and it actually looked quite wonderful covering every surface of the living room, it was no problem cleaning it up and well worth the effort for how much fun the kids had playing in it! :) We of course made lots of noise with our clackers and poppers and horns when the clock struck midnight! :)

I set out candy dishes with "kisses for midnight" and we toasted the new year with sparkling cider. We stayed up late and had a great time, then spent New Year Day relaxing and eating good food and watching movies. Overall it was a wonderful way to kick off 2016!

Here is a short video I made of our New Year's Eve 2016 celebration.

I hope everyone had a nice start to the New Year. I am going to spend the rest of the week getting things a bit more organized around here, cleaning up from the holidays, and then I hope to spend more time on my blog this year. I have some organization goals for this year that I intend to share about over the next month.

Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Visiting a Tree Farm and Our Christmas Tree

We live in the heart of Christmas tree production here in Clackamas County, Oregon. Our county grows more trees than any other county in Oregon, and Oregon grows the most trees in the US. So you can imagine that we are literally surrounded by beautiful tree farms all around our small town. I love it, the air smells of Christmas trees all through the surrounding rural area throughout Christmas tree cutting season. You can see helicopters lifting loads of Christmas trees from the fields to the shipping locations starting in November.

Here is a helicopter hard at work that we spotted on the way to church in mid November.

The past few years we have been busy with school events and purchased our tree from local farmers that sell right here in town, but this year we decided that it had been quite some time since we had cut down our own, so we took a short drive outside of town and found the perfect tree farm. The drive there was beautiful, acres and acres of tree farms that all looked so beautiful all along the way.

The farmers at the tree farm we chose were very friendly, I spotted stacks of fire wood at the entrance to the farm, something about stacks of firewood always intrigue me, I had to stop for a few pictures.

All the trees were lovely, just about any tree would have been great, finally we settled on one, and when we lifted the branches to start cutting it down we spotted a toad stool next to the trunk, which I thought was fun and perhaps a gift from a Christmas elf. ;)

My daughter loves trees and was right at home among all of the trees, she had fun exploring and balancing on all the tree stumps. :)

My son Joe decided that he would do the bulk of the tree cutting this year and got right to work with a hand saw.

After a bit of work he finally got our tree cut down. The farmer was so kind and brought a truck out to the field to drive it down to be bundled for us, we got the tree shaken out and all wrapped up and made our way home.

This year we decided to put the tree in our living room, so we got it all set up and ready to decorate.

It took us a few days to finish decorating because everyone was busy with various end of school term finals and choir practice. But finally we got it all decorated and it turned out really pretty.

This year we chose to put up a lot of our red ornaments, as well as some of my new faux fur ornaments, and forest themed ornaments, and some of our special family ornaments. One of my favorites this year is the lumberjack below, as well as my big faux fur letter M, and all the little red mushrooms I found at Ikea this year. My daughter found the pretty whale ornament below that is very cute, and we have a bunch of different fox ornaments this year as well. I love having the Christmas tree in the living room this year, we have the lights on every evening, and it is nice to see while we are watching Christmas shows together. :)

I made a fun video of our trip out to the tree farm as well as a closer look at our decorated tree.

This weekend I will be spending my time doing lots of baking and wrapping gifts. This December has flown by and Christmas is right around the corner. I am really looking forward to seeing all of my family on Christmas weekend. I hope everyone is having a nice Christmas season!

Thanks for stopping by! :)

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Christmas 2015 Home Tour

I love decorating for Christmas, it is something I look forward to every year. This year I decided to update a lot of my decor, and I was excited to plan out some new decor ideas, update some of my old favorites, and this year I even decided to decorate my bedroom. Here is a look at how I decorated for Christmas this year.

I have really been drawn to all things metallic this year, so I decided to do my entry and dining room in gold and mixed metallic colors. I love my little gold tree that I decorated with tiny metallic baubles and pinecones. I flanked the tree with two glittery deer and added some gold mercury glass votives. I decided to soften the room with a faux lamb skin from Ikea.

Here is the entry tree close up, I found a cute glittery cutout "Merry" ornament that made the perfect addition to the tree.

The garage and coat closet doors each got wreaths. I love the simple green felt wreath, I added a sparkly Noel ornament to tie it in with the metallic look of the room. I found a tiny gold wreath for the garage door, as well as a cute little sign for the door handle.

The entry opens up into the dining room, which is also done largely in metallic colors. I found these cute picture frames with gold antlers as well as a great marquee style glitter star and a deer bust. I added pictures of our fall picnic to the frames. On top of another bookcase is another marquee style lighted star, with a beautiful gold bottle brush tree and a wood cutout Peace decoration.

On my hutch bookcase I got out some of my favorite Christmas books and added some of my Santas, as well as a copper colored geometric shaped deer from Ikea, and a copper wolf from Target. I tucked in a few other favorite little decorations like my little pinecone elves around my books.

My dining room doubles as my library, so I have a lot of bookcases that I can decorate. On one set of bookcases I displayed one of my favorite finds this year, my gold deer head from Target, along with mercury glass hurricanes filled with led twinkle lights, a white and gold Santa, and a marquee Joy sign, with some pine garland to soften all the metallics.

I strung a metallic geometric garland across the window, and the last bookcase is decorated with a gold foiled deer, a glass lighted white and copper tree and two gold bottle brush trees. I added some mini pillows to my chairs as well as my plush polar bear.

On the table I have a cute sparkle themed wooden sign as well as my fox handled wooden tray with my gumdrop tree and some cute plates featuring animals dressed dapper style with gold accents, as well as a tall gold deer with a fur collar.

The side table is decorated with a burlap runner, gold deer, and other gold decor and floral picks, and features my two nativity scenes, my Celtic nativity and my olive wood nativity.

I love my Celtic nativity scene and look forward to having it out every Christmas, I love its simplified beauty.

On the way to the living room is our little hallway table, this year I decorated it with laser cut flat trees from The Container Store surrounding my little group of Santas, along with little red lantern ornaments.

The living room is decorated in woodland and lodge themed decor with red and green as well as wood and faux fur accents.

I found a new centerpiece for the mantle, a wonderful wood slice bear rimmed in rustic metal, I fell in love with this bear as soon as I saw it, both me and my hubby agreed it would be perfect. We kept with our tradition pine garland with red lights and red glass ornaments, and added some red candles in metal lined candle holders. To add height to the display I found these cute little wooden skis in Target's dollar spot, and they were perfect. I had originally purchase only one set of skis and they were on my TV stand as you can see above. Then I held it up to the wall and thought how nice it would look on the wall if I only had two. My Target's dollar spot gets picked over fast, so I wasn't very confident I would find any more of the skis since Black Friday had come and gone. However when I was out shopping with my mother, I popped over to Target and they had exactly two left, I was so happy to have found them.

I found some cute fur buckets to store extra blankets and pillows, I found a very comfy faux fur throw, as well as a plaid fur lined pillow. I want to have many cozy evenings enjoying Christmas movies along with hot cocoa, so I found a sturdy wooden tray that I thought would be perfect for serving hot cocoa and snacks. I love how cozy our living room turned out. I am currently in the process of decorating our tree which we cut down this past weekend, I will be doing a separate post of our tree when it is finished as well as some pretty pictures of the tree farm we visited.

I always like to add Christmas decor to the main bathroom. I wanted to do classic red decorations, I displayed one of my nutcrackers with some of my little silver deer, as well as a cute whimsical light up reindeer. I set out Christmas towels, and Christmas tissue in a cute metal basket. For the bathroom door, I found a cute red sled with vintage lettering.

This year I decided to decorate our bedroom, I have never really decorated our bedroom for Christmas, but now that the kids are young adults, and they often have company, I thought it would be nice to have a festive little retreat area for me and my hubby to enjoy some Christmas movies while the kids are busy with friends or finishing up college finals work. I love pastel Christmas decorations but they don't work very well with the rest of my house, so I thought it would be fun to do a pastel theme with a white tree for our bedroom. I found a faux fur white wreath for our door. I added a faux fur throw and some faux fur pillows to our bed along with my Snoopy. :)

On our TV cabinet I set up a pretty pastel Christmas scene. I used my old pink paperboard church, lots of pastel bottle brush trees, a pink mercury glass tree, and a wonderful collection of glass dessert themed pastel colored decorations that I found at Macy's this year and fell in love with.

I love doughnuts and two of the ornaments are beautiful glass doughnuts, as well as a gumball machine, a cupcake in a glass domed stand, a cute snowman ice cream cone and a 2015 candy and sweets themed ornament. I also added some inexpensive mini pastel baubles.

I found a pretty doll ornament wearing a cream colored winter outfit that I thought would be perfect for my display, I also added a glittery little deer and some of my old glittered mini wooden houses. I also found a pink metal candle holder from IKEA (I have the same one in red in my living room), and I knew the pink one would be perfect for my pastel Christmas display. I love how it turned out, and it makes me happy every time I see it from our bed.

So that is our Christmas home, I had so much fun updating my decor this year. I also made a video of our Christmas Home Tour for my Youtube channel which you can view below.

I hope you enjoyed checking out my Christmas home, I will leave you with a picture of my old friend and fur baby Xena, she is my 12 year old German Shepherd/Lab who is my constant companion, along with her "younger sister" my young lab Zoey who is far to busy to stop for a picture. Xena loves sitting by the fire every time it's on, and I'm glad I was able to snap a few pictures of her. Xena knows the drill every year and looks forward to Christmas decorating, she loves when the tree goes up and the fireplace is on. :)

Thanks for stopping by, I hope everyone is having a nice holiday season!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Home and Two Turkey Left-Over Recipes

This year our family is celebrating Thanksgiving with my husband's family. I am looking forward to waking up on Thanksgiving and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade then heading out to visit family. Even though I am not hosting the Thanksgiving meal I still like to put out Thanksgiving decorations, so I thought I would share some of the decorations that I put up this year. I also thought I would share two Thanksgiving leftover recipes.

This year I added some fun new wooden signs to my Thanksgiving decor, I found the signs in the Target Dollar Spot for $3.00 each, which I think is a great deal. I paired the wooden signs with candle holders I already had, as well as a few animal figures and of course my Thanksgiving Snoopy.

I used a lot of the same decor as previous years, in addition to using all of the pumpkins that I painted with metallic paint for Halloween.

On my bookcases I tucked in my little Thanksgiving figurines that I have had for awhile now.

I also had fun decorating with some of the cute fox decor that I found at Walmart earlier this fall.

Since I am not hosting Thanksgiving this year I decided to cook a turkey last week so we could still have our favorite Thanksgiving foods as well as our leftover meals. I cooked the turkey from a frozen solid state following directions I found online. I have always wanted to experiment with that and it worked out great. I was very careful to remove the plastic giblet bag as soon as the turkey thawed enough to remove it. Of course the Turkey took a lot longer to cook, but we were in no hurry. I was glad to have tried out the method, it worked great and I did not have the fuss of thawing out my turkey. I made stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, brussel sprouts, and mushrooms, and we also had canned cranberry sauce, and rolls. Everything was yummy.

I love using all the turkey meat in leftover dinner recipes. This year I made one of my favorites- Creamy Turkey Noodle Casserole.

Here is my Creamy Turkey Noodle Casserole Recipe-

1 pound Rotini pasta, 2 cups chopped cooked turkey, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 soup can of milk, rounded half cup of grated cheddar jack cheese, half a bag of frozen green peas, salt, pepper, 15 Ritz crackers, 1 rounded Tablespoon Parmesan, 1 1/2 Tablespoons of olive oil.

Cook and drain one pound rotini pasta (or any of your favorite shaped pasta)
while the pasta is cooking chop up about two cups of leftover cooked turkey into small cubes. Return drained pasta to pan, add turkey, one can cream of mushroom soup, 1 soup can of milk, half a bag of frozen green peas, and a rounded half cup of cheddar jack shredded cheese (add a bit more if you like cheese), add salt and pepper to taste. Stir until combined then transfer to a greased casserole dish. For the topping crush about 15 Ritz crackers in a small Ziploc bag, add a rounded tablespoon of grated Parmesan (just the sort in a jar), and about a tablespoon and a tablespoon and a half of olive oil, seal the Ziploc bag and shake until combined, then top the casserole with the crumble mixture. Bake the casserole at 350 F. until the casserole is heated through and the crumble topping is golden brown, about 25 minutes.

I like to serve casseroles with extra veggies and sometimes a muffin or apple bread side dish.

The next night I made a family favorite Thanksgiving leftover- Turkey and Stuffing Roll-Ups. I came up with this recipe a couple of years ago, and it is always yummy. Here is a link to my Turkey and Stuffing Roll-Up Recipe.

I have been thoroughly enjoying all of the fall weather we have been having, the cooler temperatures have finally arrived and along with it, it is seems we have quite a few more birds in our garden. Last week I was sitting at my computer and kept hearing the cutest little chirping going on in my front yard, so I thought I would take a peek. I was surprised to see all of my burberry bushes filled with the cutest little birds flying around so quickly you could hardly catch a glimpse. Upon closer inspection I realized they were bushtits. I got my camera and tried to get a couple of good pictures through the window, they were so fast it was tricky but I managed to get a couple. Bushtits are so tiny, the body is only about an inch long, the tail is about another inch as well. I just love these birds!

Apparently they were quite fond of my bushes, I couldn't tell if they were eating the berries on the shrubs or something else, but I'm glad they enjoyed them. I hope they come often. :)

Here is my Thanksgiving Home Tour, Recipe Idea, and November favorites video if you are interested in seeing clips of my home decor, as well as checking out some of my November favorites.

I hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving and has safe travels,

Thanks for stopping by!

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