Christmas Window Boxes & Urns

Morning, friends! 
Can you believe today marks the last day of November? 
I have to admit that I really don't catch the Christmas spirit until we near December.  I'm not one to decorate the day after Thanksgiving.  However, living in New England means snow can arrive at any moment, so I'm feeling compelled to decorate the outside of our house before I freeze my patootie off.  Our new house has window boxes - fun! I've never had them before - and while I'm a bit intimidated to keep plants alive in them in the warm weather, I think I can handle sprucing them up for the Christmas season.  Just look at these beautiful inspirations:

I also have large urns by the front steps that I like to put cut evergreens in. 
How welcoming and festive are these?

While the sun is shining I am off to ring in this merry season around our house!
Hope you have a wonderful day!

Photo credits in order of appearance: 
uncommon gardens/midwest home magazine, mylifetime.com, white flower farm, martha stewart, washington post, southernliving.com, landscaping.about.com, bhg.com, frontgate, bhg.com.


I awoke this morning with
devout thanksgiving for my friends,
the old and new.
Shall I not call God the beautiful,
who daily showeth himself so
to me in his gifts?
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Patriots kick off at 12:30 EST - a little Brady action can only make your Thanksgiving finer!

Check out these printable activities for the younguns while you're busy preparing your feast.......

and give thanks for your blessings.  I am so thankful for family near and far, including you!
Happy Thanksgiving!

I love hearing from you! {Comments welcome!}


Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes & Place Cards

Happy Thanksgiving Eve friends!

If you are still looking for a side for your Thanksgiving feast, try the Barefoot Contessa's Sweet Potatoes.  These are devoured by everyone in our extended family!

Smashed Sweet Potatoes With Apples
from Barefoot Contessa Parties
4 lbs. sweet potatoes (about 6 large)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (I substitute my fave juice, Simply Orange)
1/2 heavy cream (I substitute half & half)
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground cinnamon
2 T kosher salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper

3 T unsalted butter
3 McIntosh or Macoun apples - peeled, cored and cut into eighths
3 T brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375.

Scrub potatoes and prick them several times with a fork.  The BC calls for baking them for 1 hour, but I microwave until fork-tender.  Slice the top and let cool for about 15 minutes or until they can be handled.  Scoop out insides into an electric mixer w/paddle attachment .....
and add OJ, cream, melted butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt & pepper.  Pulse together until combined but not smooth, and pour into baking dish.

For the topping, melt the 3 T of butter in a skillet over medium heat. 
Add the apple wedges and brown sugar and cook for 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned on both sides.  Place on top of sweet potatoes in casserole.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until heated through.  {And then taste-test a wee bit when it comes out of the oven just to make sure it's okay ;) }  If you're thinking this looks like baby food - it does - except it tastes so delicious! 
{I divided this dish into two small casseroles and froze one (photo above).  It was great to have on hand for a night short on time!}

Thanksgiving Place Cards -
A Craft To Keep The Kiddos Busy While You Cook

Now for something for the kids {and adults!} to contribute to the Thanksgiving festivities - place cards!
In my family, we all love to set a pretty table, but we don't really worry where everyone will be sitting - as long as there are enough seats.  However, I love how place cards personalize a table either for a casual or formal affair.  They give each person a place of honor.  How lovely are these for your Thanksgiving table?

 Photo:  Beverly Brown

Photo:  Good Housekeeping

Photo:  Southern Living

Sometimes when I'm busy preparing a meal, I'll ask my kids to make colorful place cards to keep them occupied.  My kids have always enjoyed that they had a part in making the table special.

This is what we'll be making today - new turkey thumbprint placecards for each guest at my parents-in-law's house tomorrow.  My mother-in-law was so gracious when we presented her with these a few years back - being the wonderful grandmother she is, she welcomed the kids to put them on her beautifully set table.   How pretty the china, crystal and beautiful flowers looked mixed in with the children's handmade placecards! 
To make these placecards, have each child use their thumb to make the big print for the body/face, and the tips of their fingers to make rows of feathers.  We used a white paint pen to make the eyes, and when they dried we added a dot of black marker.  The legs are drawn with marker, and the "gobble-gobble" thingamajiggy is scrap of red tissue paper.  So easy and so cute for your Thanksgiving meal!  You could even have the kids make the turkeys and then write the names yourself in fancy handwriting.  I know you love fancy!

I'm pretty sure the ones we make this year will be sparkly - I feel some glittering coming on!

I hope you can enjoy this day of preparation and find much to be thankful for. 
I am thankful that you joined me here today!


I love hearing from you! {Comments welcome!}


Whimsical Animal Art

Today I want to share with you the artwork of my amazing friend Amy from Harvest Moo Studio.

Amy is the artist who painted this name sign in Hannah's room,

but Amy's real passion is painting animals in a whimsical and colorful way.   Amy is commissioned to paint pet portraits, and the likeness is uncanny.  I have a soft spot for this one of "Heidi" because she's a Saint!

I can't get over the expressions Amy manages to capture.

When I was picture framing, I had the pleasure of working with Amy and seeing her art up close. You would not believe the detail in her work.  I had to laugh when I saw this foursome below because right away I recognized the pets.  Those cute one-eyed dogs are my former neighbors, Sadie & Helen.

Amy is so talented........

I also love these portraits of random animals - Amy paints cows, geese, sheep, and everything in between.  Aren't they so fun?  
They would be great in a kitchen or playroom {or this one below in a beach house!}

Amy has recently been exploring a fun and interesting new direction:

Amy's art is now being sold all over the Boston area and I'm so thrilled for her!
If you'd like to see more of Amy's artwork or inquire about pet portraits, head to Amy's facebook page, Harvest Moo Studios.

Have a great day!


Sending Yuletide Greetings

Can you believe that the Christmas season is {almost} upon us?  I am really looking forward to it this year as the last two Christmases we were in house-selling mode and not able to decorate and entertain as much as we would have liked to.  One of my all-time favorite traditions is sending and receiving Christmas cards.  I'll admit that I've tried to reduce the number of cards that we send out, but then I came to the realization that for me, this is part of the reason for the season:  to reach out to others in the name of God. 

This is the only time of year that we connect with some distant friends and family who we are so fond of.  I'm from a ginormous family - my mother is one of 10, my father one of 5 - and between Mark & I, we have relatives spread across the country and the globe.  We also have lots of friends from different times in our lives that we don't have the opportunity to see, but who we just adore.  It's hard to narrow down the Christmas card list, isn't it? 

As the recipient, I truly love, love, love receiving cards at Christmastime.  How joyful it is to open photo cards of friends' beautiful children and see how they've grown from one year to the next, or who has added to their family!  From my relatives across the sea, it is so wonderful to hear from them and stay in touch.  We hang the cards we receive all over the house; besides our tree they are our main Christmas decorations and we all enjoy them throughout the season.

So now - to score a Christmas card photo of my kids and get the cards out in a timely mannerThanksgiving Day provides me with an opportunity I don't get very often: to take a photo of my kiddos in something other than sweatshirts and athletic pants! {Although, come to think of it, this is exactly what they were wearing in last year's Christmas card photo!}

Have you seen the cards at Shutterfly this year?  It's so fun to browse through their designs, plus Shutterly always has great deals so I can afford to send one to everyone on our mailing list.  I am a huge fan of flat stationery cards.  I think these are my top three faves this year:

 I feel like I can never get a photo of my three kids that does everyone justice.  Someone always has to take one for the team.  This one is cute of Hannah and Sean, but Peter is looking away.  This is a good one of Peter and Hannah, but Sean is making that silly face......ugh!!  Last year I created a card that had an individual photo of each child and then one big one of them together.  That way there was a decent photo of each kid.  I can't believe how many choices there are at Shutterfly for layouts -  if you want to create a card with many photos, or just one, you have lots of options.  For multiple photos, I love the simplicity of these:

This one had me at chevron:

Last year my daughter gave her CCD teachers and girl scout leaders these cute pads of stationery paper from Shutterfly that are customizable with a name.  I always love to receive stationery; in this day of email and texting it's so nice to receive a handwritten note from a friend in the snail mail!  {It's also nice to have a some pretty notepaper to send the kid's teachers a message, isn't it?}

I recently discovered invitations at Shutterfly too.  I used this one for my little guy's First Communion last spring:

.....and isn't this cute for a Christmas party?

Shutterfly is having a sale (20-30% off) that ends today.  Hop over there and get your cards ordered so you can check this one thing off your to-do list, and enjoy the reason for the season!

Blogging friends, check out this promotion from Shutterfly for 50 free cards!
Have a great day!
I love hearing from you! {Comments welcome!}