I can’t believe that December is already here and we are dreaming up great New Year’s projects for you! Of course, I am featuring glittered projects and upcycle projects that could be enjoyed any time of the year. The best part is that you can find many of the materials for these projects at your local Goodwill Store for a fraction of the price compared to other retail stores.
Each year, I find myself coming to the topic of simplifying the holidays. Don’t we just all wish this time of year was a little easier? Despite my best efforts to simplify, it can feel impossible in the midst of the kid’s holiday programs, get togethers, shopping, wrapping, sending of cards, gift-giving, & holiday baking.
I don’t want to brag, but this year we really did achieve that simple holiday we have been longing for and I am partnering with Ritz to share how you can avoid the parade of endless holiday to-do’s and instead embrace a simpler holiday.
Simplify the Giving of Holiday Cards
I love, love, love having pictures that I am in and having someone else take them for me, but we lost track of time and weren’t able to book our usual family session. Instead of not sending cards, I set my camera up on a tripod and we took our family shot by setting the timer on our camera and having me jump into the family picture. By getting everything set up in advance before my family came outside, we were able to get our picture in a mere five minutes. Before everyone had their coats off, I had our photos edited and cards in the mail. The best part is that we have moved our family session to the Spring, a time of year we decided was much less chaotic, and will really enjoy it all a little bit more.
I will admit that I was also was more laid back about how we did our cards this year and enlisted one of my favorite helpers to assist me in this year’s mailing. Not only was she excellent at adding our stamps and sealing the envelopes, but she also kept me on track because she was waiting for me to get those addresses on so she could do her part with them. It gave us time to chat while we were doing them and ended up being fun instead of a holiday chore this year.
Simplify the Holiday Baking
This year we decided to skip the big baking day and make easy treats instead. Although I usually love holiday baking, this year I focused more on creating knitted gifts than my typical holiday treat box. Fortunately, we found a fun holiday treat that we could make that didn’t require a bit of baking, but was just as delicious. On the Ritz Holiday Parade site, we found an easy recipe for Mint Thins to create together that tasted just like one of our favorite cookie treats, but were made with Ritz Crackers, chocolate, and crushed candy canes.
It just goes to show that making holiday treats doesn’t have to be an elaborate baking day. My kids loved helping to crush (and eat!) the candy canes for our cookies and we enjoyed eating these while watching, “A Christmas Story,” this year. Yet another simple and easy tradition is born!
Simplify the Gift Giving
I often talk about our commitment to do the Four Gift Rule, but this year we took it a step further and asked the kids if they would like to skip the presents and just take a family adventure together. We gave them lots of options for places we could take a mini-vacation to and they chose a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan for our holiday getaway. We are so excited to take in all of the museums, holiday lights, ice skating, and see the sites of the city.
If your kids are struggling to come up with gifts this year or your home is overrun with just too much stuff, consider creating your very own, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” vacation in lieu of gifts. Not only did I have a lot less to buy this year, but I also get to spend four days with my family making incredible memories that I hope they will remember forever.
Start planning and dreaming ahead for next year though because those vacation rentals do go quickly!
Focus On the Fun
Ritz wants to bring back the fun for the holidays and this year they have created a fun interactive Ritz Parade where you can visit the site and build your very own float. You can add up to twelve items on your float from toys, characters, celebrations, and banners. The pieces can be scaled to your desired size and placed anywhere on your float. Once it is complete, you can share your holiday float with others. It’s a fun little interactive tool that you can use to keep the kids busy while you are putting those last minute touches on those holiday festivities. Since we adopted a cat this year, we loved making a float of her for our holiday parade. I am sure this illustrates just how special she has become to all of us!
In addition, the Ritz parade allows consumers to unlock deals to help decrease the stress of gift buying! You can check out all the deals here!
I love sharing ideas for cute hostess gifts and today’s gift idea is a free pattern for a wine hat and scarf that you can use to adorn bottles of wine or champagne for your favorite hostess over the holiday season.
Walmart challenged me to create a New Year’s Eve craft and I immediately thought of a fun way to decorate a bottle of bubbly or wine for the holidays. I love this project so much because these are so fun to create and can be decorated in any combination of yarn colors and you can even experiment with stitches and hat toppers.
You may recall that I made knitted sweater coffee cozies for our teacher & bus driver gifts this year? I used the Red Heart Super Savers yarn and I still had some left despite wrapping all my holiday gifts in the yarn, knitting hair bows for gifts (coming soon!) and even making my yarn ball ornaments. I can’t believe how many projects you can create with just $2.47 of yarn!
I wanted to create a festive gift I could share with others when I attend our holiday gatherings this year. What is more festive than tiny hats and scarves for your wine bottles?
Modifications Were Made to The Featured Pattern. Please Read Carefully!
I tried a few different needle sizes since the pattern said you could use a few different sizes, I recommend going with the largest size (US 8) recommended because it created the fullest scarf (the red one in the back was done on US 8 needles). There were also some interesting stitches in the pattern for the scarf and I tried it three different ways (recommended, my own way, and then a simple stockinette). I loved just simply doing a simple stockinette (knit one row, purl one row- repeating) with the US 8 needles. The scarf will curl in a bit, but I think it added more texture to the top of the bottle. You can, of course, experiment with what you think looks best though.
These tiny hats are knitted on double-pointed needles. If you haven’t tried using double-pointed needles before, this is a perfect project to try them on. You can find a few tips from me over here on needle recommendations and getting started! Don’t be scared, it is easier than you think!
While you are buying it, you might as well as buy the larger size because you will be just as addicted to me as pom-pom making!
I hope you all have the best holiday season and that a few of the projects I have shared on MomAdvice have helped with your gift-giving this year! Cheers to you, friends!
Grab the Pattern HERE on Ravelry (FREE!). Don’t forget to friend me while you are there! I love new knitting buddies! Oh, and here are 54 MORE Handmade Gift Ideas to get you thinking about crafting this holiday season!
What could be more fun than decorating for the holiday season? For this month’s holiday project, I wanted to share with you a fun DIY project for creating festive yarn trees that you can create to decorate a ledge, table, or mantle in your home. You will only need a few affordable supplies from your craft shop to create this craft. The best part is that you can enjoy doing this craft while watching your favorite holiday movies!
I am absolutely in love with these trees for the holidays and I am sharing my tutorial for them on the Kenmore Blog today. Check out my DIY Holiday Yarn Trees over there and find out how you can make this craft for your own home!
Ever since my children were small we have had a tradition of making a Cinnamon Roll Christmas Tree. The best part about this tradition is that it is fast to create, can be decorated by your kids, and it is something they will look forward to every year.
There is no recipe to this one unless you are feeling ambitious and want to create some easy bread machine cinnamon rolls to make this with, which is something I love to do on Christmas morning!
Shape these into a Christmas tree shape on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake as directed on the packaging. Tint the icing green with a few drops of food coloring and let them decorate the rolls themselves.
I slide the rolls off of the hot cookie sheet and let them decorate while they are still hot, reducing the risk of burn elbows and arms by removing that hot sheet.
This recipe is practically fool-proof, unless you were up with a screaming baby one night and on Christmas morning grabbed blue instead of green.
And maybe you declared it the year of the retro Christmas tree.
As is tradition for the holiday season, today I wanted to share great gift ideas for under $25 to add to your Christmas wish list or to share with someone you love in your life. These are a few of the items that are on my own personal wish list this year!
If you thought I was obsessed with owls this last year, I have found a new obsession with another woodland creature. I am in love with this novelty-printed fox scarf for adding a whimsical layer to my wardrobe. I hope Santa will wrap one of these up for me for under my Christmas tree! ($22.99)
I have never tackled a Jane Austen book although I love every movie adaptation I have ever seen of her books. Each Christmas I ask for one of these beautiful reissued classics from Barnes & Noble and try to read it for the year. Why just buy one book though when you can get seven in one? I am adding this affordable 7-in-1 books to my Christmas list this year. ($18)
I am always looking for prints to add to my office and I absolutely love this reminder for my home office. The Motivated Type offers loads of motivational prints for living in beautiful typography. I would love to fill every room of my home with pretty font-filled motivation, but this print in particular speaks to my heart. For your $25 budget, you can get a size 11×14 print! ($25)
We are all about celebrating the big and little occasions around here and I would love to get this beautiful, “Celebrate,” banner in silver to top our baked doughnuts, cakes, and pancakes in the morning for those moments. I am a big fan of Lisa Leonard and her amazing company Lisa Leonard Designs. Although this one is priced at $28, she offers a 15% discount if you sign up for her newsletter (see along the left-hand side of her page). What a beautiful detail to add to our family celebrations! ($28)
Man, my farmer’s market visits just got a lot more fun with this hilarious tote from West Elm. In all seriousness, I love a good tote bag and I think this one really delivers on the fun and functional factors. ($18)
Oh, the housewares at Anthropologie just make me swoon. This color-blocked stand would be a perfect addition to my cake stand collection and I love the antique details on this one. Although the $25 budget only affords me the small one, it would be just perfect for my food photography (Small- $16)
I may be moving on to the foxes this year, but I still love my owls. For my mother-in-law last year, I got her a cute set of sock monkey stitch markers. She says it is her favorite thing and such a fun addition to her knitting supplies. For knitters, it can be hard to come up with fun new gifts to add to their arsenal of tools, but a cute set of personalized stitch markers are a one-of-a-kind gift that any knitter would love. If these sell out, check winemakerssister for lots of other fun knitting notions and gifts ($11.95)
It’s no secret that I am a big fan of our site sponsor Flourish Boutique! There is rarely a day you will catch me not wearing something from their beautiful shop. This wool hat is a perfect example of beauty and functionality. I am crazy about anything with rosettes and these neutral colors mean it would match with anything in my wardrobe. Although this is priced a little out of my $25 and under budget, our readers get a 25% off discount code using WEB25, putting me right under budget! ($29.50)
I am always looking for new ways to journal, but I have a hard time coming up with things to write about, especially on a daily basis. I love this idea for a journal because it offers 365 questions that you can answer over the course of five years. I think this might help me with my writer’s block that I have when trying to find the words to describe our daily life (affilate link to Amazon for purchasing- $14.16)
Well, if you aren’t into woodland creatures, I’m afraid that half of my list just isn’t for you this year! Sorry about that! Every year I try to get one cute new mug and this year Anthropologie captured my heart with this woodland creature mug with, “these wood are lovely,” nestled inside. I can picture enjoying my morning coffee in this one and the price tag on that fits just right too! ($10)
Continuing with our Thanksgiving theme this week, today I wanted to share an easy recipe for Cranberry Pancake Syrup made from your leftover cranberry sauce. This cranberry pancake syrup recipe is made from two simple ingredients; your leftover cranberry sauce and maple syrup.
Walmart challenged me to create a recipe using some of our Thanksgiving leftovers and I immediately thought of this idea that I had for our leftover cranberry sauce.
This was the first year that I made my own cranberry syrup for Thanksgiving and I loved it so much that I wanted to use it as an ingredient in another dish that we could share after the holidays were over. This Brandied Orange & Cranberry Sauce was so heavenly that I knew it would be the perfect accompaniment with a big stack of pancakes.
I couldn’t put this sauce on just any pancakes though, it had to be our family favorite- the Fluffy & Light Pumpkin Pancakes that we share (almost) weekly on Sundays in the autumn months.
When the pumpkin and cranberry are combined together, it is like experiencing Thanksgiving Day all over again! I hope you can give these a try with your own leftover cranberry sauce. I promise, it is a recipe that will not disappoint!
I’m back again with another fun Thanksgiving make-ahead recipe. Today’s recipe is an apple, sausage, and sage sourdough stuffing that tastes just as good as it sounds. This recipe is easy to prepare and can be made-ahead and placed in your freezer for the big day, which means one less thing for you to worry about on the day of your big feast!
Have you ever made your own stuffing? It is one of the easiest and most rewarding dishes to create for the holiday season. My grandma made a mean dressing when I was growing up, but stuffing was definitely something that came out of a box. I remember in sixth grade when we had to do a Thanksgiving play and I was supposed to pretend to make stuffing and had no idea what the teacher was talking about when he handed me a loaf of bread and celery.
What the heck was that for?
Being the true foodie I am, I still don’t think the boxed stuff is that bad, and you can’t beat the ease of preparation. It doesn’t hurt to gourmet things up a bit once in awhile though, especially when you can put this in your freezer and save it for the big day!
The biggest challenge with stuffing is all of the dicing and chopping to get the ingredients prepared. A handy food chopper can be your best friend when chopping up ingredients like onions or herbs. Once the ingredients are chopped though, it is just a simple matter of mixing them up and then placing the stuffing in the pan for baking.
I really love the ingredients in this recipe because they are the perfect balance of sweet and savory. I used turkey sausage in this recipe, but you could certainly substitute with chicken sausage instead. I love Granny Smith apples for baking because they maintain their texture and firmness in this dish. Leave the skins on for a little added color to your stuffing (not to mention, a little fiber too!)
I baked up a little dish for you to show you what this looks like when it is all done. The top is crunchy and the inside is delicious and fluffy. The apples add tartness while the onions, celery, and turkey sausage add a little savoriness to the stuffing. When these ingredients are all baked together, it is like a little symphony in your mouth! Reserve a few sprigs of sage to garnish the top of your dish!
Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread bread cubes out on two large rimmed baking sheets and bake until dried but not browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage from the casings, and add it to the skillet to cook, breaking up chunks with a spoon, until browned, about 6 minutes.
Add apples, celery, onion and butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until apple and vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes more. Add to toasted bread. Stir in broth, poultry seasoning, sage, salt and pepper.
Add stuffing to a freezer-safe greased 9x13 foil pan. Place in the freezer (for up to four weeks). 1-3 days before, remove the stuffing from the freezer. Drizzle a ½ cup additional chicken stock over the top to moisten the stuffing. Heat oven to 350°F and bake until lightly browned and crisp on top, 50 to 60 minutes. This stuffing can also be stuffed in your turkey, just be sure that the stuffing has cooled before proceeding.
I’m back with another make-ahead recipe for Thanksgiving Day today. This week I am sharing a fantastic Make-Ahead Gravy recipe that you can have waiting in your freezer for the big day. I am excited about this recipe because it provides, yet again, one more dish that you can create to make your day as stress-free as possible.
To begin this recipe and create the base, without the turkey, you can use chicken or turkey wings along with onions that you roast in your oven to make those magical drippings that you need to create the base of this gravy recipe. I was not able to locate turkey wings at our market so I substituted with the always available chicken wings. Don’t be surprised if your kitchen already smells like Thanksgiving with just the base of this recipe!
After scraping your roasting pan up and getting all of the stuck on bits that make your dressing so rich and flavorful, add these to your pot along with some other components like carrots, celery, fresh herbs, turkey or chicken stock, and a little poultry seasoning to round out the flavorings. Allow this to simmer for an hour and a half and then, after straining, you can add the flour mixture to the gravy to thicken it.
There you have it, an easy make-ahead gravy that makes eight cups of delicious gravy for the big day!
Don't panic about the gravy this year! Try this easy make-ahead gravy recipe that makes eight cups of gravy for your Thanksgiving feast.
6 turkey or chicken wings
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
2 tablespooons olive oil
1 cup water
2 quarts chicken broth, divided
¾ cup chopped carrot
1-2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme (leave on the stem and add to the pot)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange a single layer of turkey or chicken wings in a large roasting pan. Scatter the onions over the top of the wings. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 1-1/4 hours or until wings are browned.
Place browned wings and onions in a 5 quart stockpot. Add water to roasting pan and stir, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour the the water from the pan into the stockpot. Stir in 6 cups broth, carrot, thyme, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper (to taste). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 1-1/2 hours.
Remove wings from the pot and place on a cutting board. When the wings are cool, pull off the skin and meat. Discard the skin and save the meat for another use. Strain contents of stockpot through a large strainer into a 3 quart saucepan. Press on the vegetables to extract any remaining liquid. Discard the vegetables and skim the fat off the liquid. Bring the contents of the pot to a gentle boil.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour into the remaining 2 cups chicken broth until smooth. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the simmering turkey broth; simmer 3-4 minutes or until the gravy has thickened. Stir in the butter and pepper. Serve immediately or pour into containers and refrigerate or freeze.
Continuing with my make-ahead Thanksgiving theme this week, I wanted to share with you a make-ahead green bean casserole made only with the freshest ingredients and that can be made ahead and tucked in you freezer for the big day.
Walmart challenged me to share my meal preparation strategies for getting my Thanksgiving dinner on the table and my strategy this year, and all the years in the past, is to get as much done early as possible so that I can truly enjoy the day with my family. I am taking you along on my make-ahead Thanksgiving meal preparation journey by providing some really great dishes that you can make early so you also can enjoy that special day with your family.
Have you been following along in our make-ahead series? If not, here are the recipes I have created so far!
This week I will be sharing my final dishes: a Make-Ahead Gravy & a Make-Ahead Apple, Sausage, & Sage Sourdough Stuffing, and Make-Ahead Buttery Bread Machine Rolls so please come back so you don’t miss those fun dishes!
Green Bean Casserole is one of those dishes that our family absolutely loves, but this year I wanted to create a dish that didn’t rely on canned food ingredients and instead relied only upon fresh ingredients.
Fresh green beans and mushrooms are tossed in the the world’s most delicious cream sauce and then topped with a crunchy topping of fried onions, that we all know and love, along with a healthy dash of panko (found in the Asian foods section of Walmart) to create the ultimate crunchy topping.
To prep this dish ahead, I purchased some inexpensive foil pans and poured my casserole into it. On the lid, I jotted down the instructions for the big day. The panko & onion topping was poured into a baggie and placed in my pantry so it doesn’t get soggy in the freezer.
The difference between the canned casserole versus the fresh casserole is amazingly different. The green beans are crispy, the cream sauce and mushrooms remind me of a rich and creamy mushroom soup, and the panko adds a crispy crunch to the dish that helps to round out the flavors. Although this dish is far more time consuming than a canned casserole, one bite will have you (and your guests) convinced that this is a dish worth repeating every year!
A completely fresh green bean casserole that can be made-ahead for your Thanksgiving feast. Once you try this fresh take on this casserole, you'll never go back to the canned type again!
½ cup panko
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon table salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups canned fried onions (about 6 oz.)
2 lbs green beans, ends trimmed and halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 lb sliced white button mushrooms
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ cups low sodium chicken broth
1½ cups heavy cream
In a small bowl, mix together panko and fried onions with two tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside.
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. of water to boil. Add two tablespoons of salt and the green beans. Cook beans until bright green and crisp-tender, approximately 6 minutes.
Drain beans in colander and plunge immediately into ice water to stop cooking. Set aside.
Add butter to your now-empty pot and melt over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add mushrooms, garlic, ¾ teaspoons salt, and ⅛ teaspoons pepper; cook until mushrooms release moisture and liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes.
Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and bring to simmer, stirring constantly. Add cream, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced to 3½ cups, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add green beans to sauce and stir until evenly coated. Arrange in even layer in 3 quart (or 13 x 9") baking dish.
Store your onion & panko topping in a baggie in your pantry. Freeze in a freezer-safe container or in a foil pan. Allow the casserole to thaw 1-3 days before your event.
Heat the casserole in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes, then add the topping and bake for 1-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling on the edges.
Do you have any Thanksgiving meal planning strategies to share? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!