Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Norwood Family Advent

I have been wanting to make an Advent calendar for YEARS, but it's just not as fun when you don't have a child!  Now that I have a child, I can't wait!  There are so many different Advent calendars out there, it was hard to choose.  As a kid, I had calendars where you opened up little paper windows every day and there was something inside.  It was so fun!  However, instead of treat calendars, I've been loving all of the family activity Advent calendars I've seen all over Pinterest.  I was most inspired by my friend Mindy's calendar last year that she did with her kiddos.  This year I shamelessly copied it!   I even stole the title!  Thank you, Mindy!!  Side note:  I know that Ava is still a tiny baby and that she will not understand this in the least.  However, I think it's never too early to start a tradition, and it will be fun for Brent & I to do a small Christmas activity with her each day, even if she doesn't even know what Christmas is!

My calendar consists of 24 small paper bag envelopes with cards I bought at Hobby Lobby.

Then, I designed some number stickers to go on each bag.  I used standard shipping labels.  You can access the PDF here if you want to print your own!  Merry early Christmas!

I cut the stickers to fit my envelopes and stuck 'em on!
Then, I found some great printable Advent Scripture cards from the Happy Home Fairy blog. You can download and print the PDF from her blog here.  I cut them out and taped them on the back of each envelope using double stick tape.
I printed out our daily activities, cut them out, and taped them on the cards that came with the envelopes.

Finally, I put a hole punch in each envelope and attached the envelopes with sparkly ribbon to a little tree I got at Crate & Barrel years ago.  Each day, we'll read a verse and do the activity on the card!

Here are our planned Advent activities, in order by day in case you want to steal them like I did!  I tried my best to make the activities super simple and 10-month-old friendly.  I'm sure we'll add, delete, and revise as she gets older!  What are your advent ideas?

  1. Attend Quad Cities Festival of Trees.  
  2. Make hot cocoa cloud dough.
  3. Wear Christmas PJs.
  4. Make Christmas tree cookies.
  5. Make and play with peppermint play dough
  6. Dance to Christmas music.
  7. Walk the mall & window shop.
  8. Visit the nursing home in the neighborhood.
  9. Check out Christmas books at the library.
  10. Play with a felt Christmas tree.
  11. Make spice crackers.
  12. Make candy cane cookies.
  13. Make hand print ornaments.
  14. Drive around & look at Christmas lights.
  15. Read Christmas books by the Christmas tree.
  16. Make treats for the Sacred City Church staff.
  17. Finger paint Christmas cards.
  18. Make treats for our nanny & housekeeper.
  19. Make & deliver treats for our neighbors.
  20. Watch a Christmas movie.
  21. Go to the Family Museum.
  22. Make & deliver treats to our grocery store workers.
  23. Travel to Texas!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

November Necessities

 Here are a few things I am loving this November! 

Sorel Boots
Cold weather is a new phenomenon for me, and I am ill-prepared for snowy weather.  You can't wear flip flops all year... what?!  I asked a few of my Midwestern friends what I should splurge on, and they all said to get a good, sturdy, warm, cute (OK I added that) pair of snowboots.  They all recommended Sorel boots.  Both Brent and I purchased boots on sale at 50% off online, and we Love them with a capital L.  I got the boots below except in a darker grey.  They are the warmest, coziest, cutest boots my feet have ever touched.  It's snowed twice already and my tootsies were warm and dry.  Bring it on, winter.

Merona Knit Brim Hat
I picked up this hat for $10 on sale the other day at Target, and it makes me look about ten times more hipster than I really am.  It's so cute with hair down or up, and it covers my ears and has a built in visor to boot.  They come in all sorts of colors, but I loved the Ivory! 

Cover Girl Hunger Games Capitol Collection
Raise your hand if you're excited about Catching Fire!!!!  I have not been to a movie theater since I saw the Hunger Games.  True story.  But you can bet my next movie outing will be Catching Fire.  Cover Girl has this totally wacky new line inspired by the movie.  I can not (will not) wear 90% of this stuff, but I'm loving the tiny "glosstini" nail polishes.  They have all sorts of trendy glitter colors, but at $3 a pop, you can try it without much commitment.  I picked up "violet flicker" for my nails.  If you like Hunger Games and want to have some fun and see some cool makeup, go here:

Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush
I saw that this blush won an Allure beauty award, so I tried it when my old blush ran out.  This stuff is amazing.  It's not a powder or a cream - it's a hybrid of both.  It goes on creamy and sets in a powder finish.  I think all of the colors are super flattering and subtle, but they stay on all day!
Cover Girl Clean Whipped Creme Makeup
A while back, I posted about my favorite face makeup - Nature Luxe by Cover Girl.  I used it for years, and then they went and discontinued it in stores.  Rude.  I was forced to find something new, and I'm so glad I found this.  The "whipped creme" foundation comes in this cute little pot, and it goes on like butter.  It is incredibly lightweight and covers really well.  It does not go on shiny, so there is no need for powder.  I love this stuff, and I'm already on my third pot.

 Fisher Price Music Table
Now that Ava is standing and cruising, this is our GO TO toy.  She gets a little obsessed.  She can play with it for 30+ minutes and never get tired of it.  It's a workout, too, because she literally walks laps around it.  My nephews loved this toy, so I knew we had to get one as soon as she could use it.  It plays over 50 songs, and I do believe I have all of them memorized.  Sometimes after  Ava has gone to bed, our conversation goes like this:  Brent:  "Which song do you have in your head?"  Katie:  "Polly wolly doodle."  B:  "Yeah. I had that for a while.  Now I've got On Top of Old Smokey."  We are really cool.

Balboa Baby Shopping Cart Cover
When Ava was old enough to sit in a shopping cart or high chair, life got a whole lot easier.  Now we can go to Target, the grocery store, and restaurants with ease.  Ava likes to lick anything in arm's reach, so this shopping cart cover has been essential.  It is also a high chair cover, so we use it all.the.time.  People always ask me where I got it because it's pretty darn cute and functional too.  I got mine from Buy Buy Baby, but you can buy it online too.

Bath and Body Works Leaves Candle
This is my all-time favorite fall candle.  It smells AMAZING.  You wouldn't think leaves would smell good, but this candle sure does.  I'm on my second one of the season!  When I get that "2 for $22" email, I'm all over it.

Out of the Spin Cycle by Jen Hatmaker
This book has really blessed me lately.  It's not new, but it's new to me.  The daily devotions are short, funny, but oh-so-deep and oh-so-true.  It has really resonated with me in ways that other devotional books have not.  Her stories hit home as a new mom, and they have not only changed my actions but also my heart.  Love this book!

Dole Banana Dippers with Almonds
How do I love these?  Let me count the ways.  (1) They are made with all natural ingredients:  bananas, dark chocolate, and almonds.  (2)  They have only 120 calories for a whole pack with almonds or 100 without.  (3)  They satisfy an ice cream treat craving in a much healthier way.  (4)  My husband doesn't like them so I get the whole box to myself.  These are life changing.  Get them. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Creamy Chicken & Artichoke Tomato Soup

Since moving to the Quad Cities, we have been on a quest to find the best restaurants.  With no disrespect intended, we're not frequenting Chili's or Texas Roadhouse.  We are mostly looking for delicious, fresh, local, cute restaurants.  Recently, we found a new favorite, and we have lunch there almost every weekend.  It's called Cafe Indigo, and it's lauded as the Quad Cities' "best kept secret".  I'd have to agree since I think it's delicious, yet there is never anyone there.  Sad face. I hope they stay in business, so if you live in the QC, go to Cafe Indigo!

Anyway... Cafe Indigo makes two homemade soups a day, and they are always AMAZING.  One time, they had an artichoke, chicken, and tomato soup that was just to die for.  It was unique, and I've never had anything like it.  Since that day, they have never had it again, and I've been craving it!  I searched the web for a recipe, but I didn't find anything that was exactly right.  I ended up taking ideas from multiple recipes and making up my own version.  It tastes just like the original!  Although it has "creamy" in the title (and it's definitely creamy), it's very healthy as it contains only 1/4 cup of cream for the entire pot of soup.  The rest is chicken broth, skim milk, and veggies!  I love a good bowl of soup for lunch on a cold day, and this really satisfies! Try it out and let me know what you think!

Katie's Creamy Chicken & Artichoke Tomato Soup
6 servings

2 T unsalted butter
1 cup yellow onion, diced (about half of a large onion)
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 T flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup skim milk
28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 8 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup heavy cream
shredded white cheddar cheese or Parmesan cheese (for topping)

1.  Chop all of your veggies.

2.  Melt butter in a soup pot or dutch oven.  Cook onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in butter for 5-8 minutes on medium-high heat, until veggies are just tender.  Then, add flour and stir to coat.  Cook for one minute.

3.  Add chicken stock and milk, scraping the bottom of the pan for any browned bits.  Drain your artichoke hearts.

4.  Add tomatoes and artichokes to the pot and bring to a low boil / simmer.

5.  Add cut up chicken and red pepper flakes.  Let simmer for 15 - 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked and flavors meld.  Stir in the cream at the very end.

6.  Serve with grated white cheddar cheese or Parmesan. 

Enjoy!  This is a great soup for leftovers.  Add a salad and bread, and you've got dinner!  Thanks for the inspiration, Cafe Indigo!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pumpkin Patch and Halloween

Random fact:  I love pumpkin patches.  I think it's because I love fall, and a pumpkin patch is quintessentially fall!  Now that we have Ava, I was pretty excited for our first annual pumpkin patch trip. Bonus:  we live in Iowa where the pumpkin patches are legit.  Not to hate on Texas, but in Texas, a pumpkin patch usually consists of hundreds of pumpkins in a church parking lot.  Here in Iowa, the pumpkins are actually attached to the ground on vines.  I know - crazy.  We went to a pumpkin patch called Pride of the Wapsi in Long Grove, Iowa with our church missional community.  It was way out in the country, and we had to stop for deer on the way, making it more authentic, in my opinion!  There were a ton of games and fun things to do for older kids, but Ava was able to do a few things!  I can't wait to take her back when she's older.  The highlight for me was riding the tractor way out to the pumpkin patch and picking out our pumpkins.  It was pretty fun and met all of my pumpkin patch expectations.

Ava loved petting the lambs.  This was her second petting zoo, and she loves animals!

Instead of a sandbox, they had a corn box.  Obviously.  We spent 2.5 seconds in here because I bet you can guess what she tried to do with the corn...

Here we are riding through the cornfield to the pumpkin patch!  (It was REALLY cold and REALLY windy!)

Ava and I with our mama pumpkin, daddy pumpkin, and baby pumpkin.

This was the only ride Ava could enjoy.  It was a snug fit with both of us in there, but we worked it out :-)  These barrels were pulled by a tractor.  She LOVED it.

This was our first Halloween in a trick-or-treating neighborhood.  Unfortunately, it was freezing cold, raining, and windy!  We still took our little pumpkin to a few houses around us to say hi to the neighbors.  We gave out fun toys and chocolate covered pretzels to the 10 houses nearest us.  Then we parked ourselves in our garage with a big bowl of candy, blankets, and hot apple cider, which was a huge hit on the cold night.  Our goal was to meet our neighbors, reintroduce ourselves, and bless the freezing cold parents with a hot drink.  We had a great time, but I do hope the weather is better next year!

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