Favorite Things Friday

Its another “favorite things Friday”. Welcome! Any one else participating? If you want to join in, please do and leave a comment with a link so we can see what some of your favorite things are too.
Here we go (in clockwise fashion):

Oil Lamps: I only have a couple, but I do love oil lamps. Dear friends of ours that now live overseas (hi Jason and Kristen!) gifted us a large clear one before they left. This little amber glass one was a $2.00 find recently and a perfect fit into the growing collection.

Meal Journal: When Mike and I moved to Orlando a decade ago (oh my gosh…I totally just dated myself!) I started this meal journal. It’s a simple little leather bound journal I picked up somewhere random with really no purpose for it. But the pages now chronicle meals we share with friends. I write in the date and what we served and who we had over. It’s a great way not only to remember those times but it has, more than once, been a great resource when I need to bring together a meal quickly for guests and am stuck for ideas.

Mighty Leaf Tea: My green tea obsession is apparent to all who know me well. My daily tea is just a basic Bigelow Organic Green Tea. Nothing too spectacular. But in my cupboard I have a box of really amazing tea that I treat myself to on occasion. On occasion because the small box is a whopping $10.00! Ouch! My neighbor, Toa, turned me onto this tea. This is what she and her husband serve at their amazing Thai restaurant, Thai Orchid Café, here in Lexington. She spoiled me with it one day (she often spoils us with Thai goodies) and it is definitely one of my favorite things nowadays.

Thai Spoons: Speaking of Thai food, here’s another of my favorite things. Thai spoons. Well, maybe that isn’t their correct name. I’m not sure what their proper name is. But here at the Smith Homestead they are Thai spoons. Two of our dearest friends, Michael and Rachel, bought us a set years ago and they are the go-to spoon for soups, stews and curries. I love these things.

Kathe Kruse Doll: 9 years ago, my sister-n-law bought this little lavender doll for our first born, Canaan. It smells divine and is so soft and smushy. 9 years and 3 boys later we still have this little doll and it still smells like lavender. And believe it or not, that isn’t because its been sitting in a drawer, untouched. This little doll has been carried around, slept with, tossed around and sat on for many years. I am so happy its made the journey. Now that our littlest one isn’t so little anymore, I think it is now my duty to keep good watch of it for the grandkids, right?

Letters: I am an avid fan of correspondence. As convenient as emailing and texting are, I am incredibly thankful that I grew up in the pre-computer, pre-cell phone era. In my younger years I would spend hours writing to friends I had met at summer camp or cousins that lived far away. Some of the most precious letters are ones that were written between me and a dear friend during an extended trip overseas. Throughout those months, I would run to the mailbox daily, hoping for a letter describing adventures in the wilds and trips to remote villages. I love that I still have those letters to hold and read. Memories that are so many years ago yet feel like yesterday.
Nowadays having a clean email box ranks pretty high on my overachiever list so everything eventually gets trashed (that sounds terrible). I guess I should print off letters and keep them.

But oh, how I miss running to the mailbox for a letter.

Photo to Wood Transfer Art

A few weeks ago I was hunting for a project. Just a little something to do to scratch that crafty itch I get. I used to not have this problem. I had loads of time for crafting, sewing, knitting and such but lately my creative energies have turned towards writing and my poor sewing machine sits unused for weeks on end.
If you'll remember, I shared a picture from a recent anniversary getaway Mike and I took. I wanted a little memory of that weekend somewhere in the house and decided this craft project would be perfect. I had seen this project floating around here and there and wanted to give it a try. This video was helpful.
The supplies are fairly cheap. Only pennies, really, until you have to buy the gel medium. But even that is manageable because you'll use it for other projects down the road.

Here's the directions in their simplest form: a cheap photocopy of a picture, adhered to a wooden board using gel medium, rub off all the paper so you’re left with just the image and apply a quick coat of varnish. Easy peasy.

**Click below for full instructions plus step by step photos

Springtime in Kentucky ; A Family Photo Session

It was quiet over here at the blog last week. A bit unintentional. I had intended on blogging while out of town, but that didn't quite happen.
A trip north for a few days to visit family and friends and to tuck myself away and work on a far-too-long-on-the-back-burner writing project was both exhausting and exhilarating.
Before I headed out of town last week, my sweet friend Tina from Vrai Photography swung by to snap a few family photos in the backyard. Springtime is incredible on our back property. Feels like the country yet only minutes from downtown...lucky ducks we are.

No Flour or Sugar? Say it Ain't So...

First order of events: The Jeni's giveaway winner from last week.
That would be Sara! who said her favorite flavor of ice cream is Jeni's Roxbury Road. (yum). Sara, be sure to contact me within the next couple of days via email and I'll make sure your Jeni's shirt arrives at your doorstep.

Secondly, lets discuss this blog post title. Its week four in my Monday tips about losing baby weight. This week its the dreaded topic of cutting out flour and sugar. Ugh...I know. Hated topic. Stay with me though.
I am a firm believer in everything in moderation. I don't like the idea of cutting anything out entirely and so I am not making a blanket statement that I think all flour and sugar must be eliminated in order to lose those last few pesky pounds.
But I will say, for the first little bit, go ahead and try just cutting it out completely. The first three days are utterly terrible. You will crave only things with flour and sugar during these first three days. Mind over matter, people. You can do it.
I stayed off flour and sugar completely for a little over a month. Now I eat it only on the rarest occasions and honestly I would probably allow myself to eat it more if it wasn't for the fact that I have, for the most part, lost my taste for both.
I really just don't enjoy a big bowl of pasta or a slice of bread like I used to. I do however still LOVE cake. That will never change. When I make pasta for dinner (the family's favorite) I steam a bag of broccoli for me and just top the broccoli with sauce and sprinkle it with cheese like everyone else. I haven't had a sandwich in months...I don't really miss that either although I don't deny myself a sandwich ~ I just haven't had a taste for one.

Lunch time is one of the hardest for me to figure out what to eat. Especially because lunch time usually means eating things like sandwiches. Many times I will have a spinach salad topped with loads of veggies and a splash of balsamic vinegar (not vinaigrette, just vinegar). But salads get a little boring after a while and I am always on the hunt for something easy to whip up with Otto underfoot nearing naptime.

This beautiful plate of goodies has been a delightful lunch companion recently and takes less than 15 minutes to make. Last week I used tilapia but I also love salmon and tuna. Pretty much whatever is on sale, I grab.

If you missed the previous posts on this topic, you can see them here and here and here

15 Minute Fish and Veggies

1 filet of fish (no...not the kind from McDonalds)
Shredded or thinly sliced vegetables (if you have a food processor, use it for this and the meal comes together even quicker).
     cabbage, carrots, zucchini, eggplant, etc.... I also had some corn on hand so I used that as well.
     the sky's the limit here, depending on your mood. On this particular day I went with south of the    border flavors like cumin and chili powder.

Here's what to do:
Using a nonstick skillet, spray the bottom with a light coating of cooking oil. Saute the veggies on medium high heat until soft (I like mine with a bit of crunch still...just cook to your liking) about 5 minutes. Add a few seasonings here and there.

Scoop the veggies to a plate and place the fish in the pan. Sometimes I rub the fish with a few spices before, sometimes I don't. I am a mercurial cook.
The fish needent cook long. Especially white fish like tilapia. 3 or so minutes per side should do the trick.

For this lunch, I added a small dollop of avocado (remember those good fats!) and some lime.

Easy peasy and really yummy.

Favorite Things Friday

I'm starting a new series for the next few weeks...feel free to join in on your blog as well!
Its called Favorite Things Friday and its just that...showing you some of my favorite things. I thought it would be a fun way to let you in on a bit more of who I am ; my past, present, future dreams, things I love and items I treasure.

So here we go...(in a clockwise fashion)

1. The Alarm Clock~ This was my grandmothers alarm clock. Both she and my grandpa were deaf. On the bottom left side of the clock it reads "flash alarm"...no sound, just a bright flashing light when it was time to wake up. As a small girl I would spend every day with my grandma while my mom worked. My grandma and grandpa both lived in a deaf retirement community in Columbus, Ohio and my days were spent drinking Tang (remember that drink? My grandma always made a pitcher and kept it in the fridge), watching the Price is Right and soap operas on mute (there was no need for sound, I suppose...and I was too shy to go turn up the volume for my own listening ears), and eating meals in the very quiet dining room where hundreds of people were chatting it up using sign language...most of which I didn't understand. It was a fascinating way to spend the day. Ones I really cherish so much. This clock brings back so many of those memories.

2. Josie Maran Cheek and Lip Stain~ I am an avid fan on Josie Maran cosmetics. Are you familiar with them? They are sold on QVC and at Sephora and although a bit pricier than most, they are natural and really last forever. This lip and cheek stain stays in my purse at all times and is my "go to" item for a just a boost of color throughout the day.

3. Wooden Spools ~ I scoop them up when I can. At thrift stores, vintage stores, antique malls....I have a few mason jars full and they are great for decor, photo props and just so darn pretty to look at.

4. Tiffany Earrings~ I am a girl and thus I love Tiffany & Co. If you are a girl and you say you don't love Tiffany...well you probably haven't been in one. (kidding) I am not a jewelry girl, per say. In fact, most days I don't even wear my wedding bands because I always have my hands in a batch of dough. Two Christmas' ago, Canaan bought me these earrings with some of his marshmallow company money. The moment probably should have been captured on camera when my 7 year old handed me that turquoise box. I am still dumbfounded.
During the recent tornadoes, we went as a family and hunkered down at the in-laws basement. The last thing I grabbed on the way out the door were these earrings.

5. Green Stoneware~ This is a recent purchase, actually, but definitely "favorite" enough to make the cut. I found it at a thrift store last week for $1. I have a fondness for stoneware, usually white, but when I come across these beautiful shades of greens or those vibrant turquoise blues...they need a good home.

6. Wooden Chain~ In 1998 Mike spent a summer in Papua New Guinea. In '96 I had been there and in 2001 we both made it there together. During his summer trip he picked up a piece of wood and started carving this chain. Its pretty impressive, actually. He never finished it but it lingers around, moving from state to state, town to town and house to house. Its a fixture at the Smith Homestead.

Have a beautiful weekend ahead~ and don't forget to enter the Jeni's Ice Cream giveaway that ends on Sunday night~

Jenis Splendid Ice Creams Giveaway & Recipe

If you know me at all or have followed this blog for any length of time you probably know I'm a bit obsessed with Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. We even featured it over at our travel site a couple of years ago. 

(by the way...there are lots of great links in this post. So grab a cup of coffee and stay for a while.)

waiting in line on a hot summer day at the Short North Jeni's location in Columbus.

When in Columbus (my hometown) we go to Jeni's for ice cream. Its non-negotiable. And my flavor scoop of choice is non-negotiable as well; fig and goat cheese. Ridiculously amazing. Although I've never had anything short of amazing from them and can't imagine I ever will (Hummingbird Cake is the schnizzle right now, I've heard). They make their ice creams with Snowville milk and cream and lots of local ingredients. Super impressive. Mike always gets a pot of french press coffee (they make awesome french press) and we sit and watch the buzz of activity on High Street. 
A Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich...I kid you not.

If you don't have a Jeni's near you (they are only in Columbus and Nashville right now), you can find their frozen goodness at Whole Foods Markets and online~

Without further ado...a recipe and a giveaway.

Which do you want first?
Oh heck...lets do the giveaway...

The generous team at Jeni's is giving a lucky Art of Homemaking reader one of their famous Jeni's tee shirts! These are no ordinary tee shirts, people. Oh no. I have been swooning over one of these puppies for 2 years now. In fact, even though it is completely unethical, don't think I didn't consider entering under some alias to win this American Apparel bad boy. Its soft. Its cozy. Its hilarious. Its up for grabs! (in your size...directly from the shop.)

The giveaway runs Monday, March 12 through Sunday, March 18th at 9pm. I will announce a winner next Monday, March 19th so check back! Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream will send you your lovely tee shirt in the mail directly.

Three ways to enter...and be sure to tell your friends:

1. Leave a comment and let us all know your favorite ice cream flavor.
2. "Like" The Art of Homemaking on Facebook by clicking that nifty button over there on the top right sidebar. Let me know in a separate comment if you do so.
3. "Follow" The Art of Homemaking on Twitter by clicking the other nifty button over there on the top right sidebar.  Let me know in yet another comment if you do so.

And now for the recipe.
Click below for the recipe~

A Layoff...the Road to Something Good?

15 months. 15 months of interviews, phone screens, brag books, nervousness, expectations and let downs. 15 months into a layoff.
Readers often email me and say how perfect life here at the Smith Homestead seems. And for the most part, its pretty close to it (given your perspective). But I will be honest and say, 15 months into a layoff will eventually wear anyone down. Even the most optimistic family.
And we are feeling pretty worn down. 
Some great friends and family have been in the trenches with us this past year helping us navigate through the mud and the muck of anxiety, fear, insecurity and frustration. Thank God for those few that 'stick closer than a brother'.
These past 15 months, as taxing on us as they have been, have also had successes and opportunities. I am blown away at the writing jobs that have landed in my lap this year and continue to come my way. We have pursued some amazing creative outlets as a family with great outcome and we know without a shadow of a doubt that this LONG season will seem like a blip on the radar someday...just a bump in the winding road to some pretty spectaclar stuff.

On a brighter note...a big GIVEAWAY on Monday!!! I can't wait for this one.
                 And a big ANNOUNCEMENT sometime next week.

See you then~

Altering a Vintage Dress

The past 5 days have been busy...and amazing. I love when out-of-town guests come to visit and in the span of 5 days we have had 3 sets come through. Some as overnight guests and some just for lunch. No matter the time span, it's refreshing to my soul to connect with good friends ~ especially those we don't see often.

There isn't alot to post about today but I did want to share just a tid bit of craftiness with you. Altering clothes. Do you alter your own clothes? Hemlines, waistlines, necklines? I am an avid thrift store shopper and as you may know if you too shop at thrift stores, clothes typically just don't come off the rack in our size.

I love this dress. When I bought it a couple of years ago it was too big and had big bulky pockets at the hips (lovely.) I wore it like that until recently and finally took the time (about 15 minutes) to alter it and make it fit my body shape more appropriately.

How to alter your own clothes:

Here's what I typically do: (I am not a trained seamstress. Do not do this to a dress you spent $200 on at Nordstrom. This technique works but experiment on some things you are willing to practice on.)

1. Put the item of clothing (shirt, pants, dress, skirt) on inside out. Button it, zip it...whatever you need to do like you would walk out of the house with it on inside out.

2. Have your hubby or friend (don't get your 5 year old help with this...that could be painful) help you. With straight pins follow the natural contour of your body to pin (vertically down your body, not horizontally) the outline of your shape. As in the case of this dress, there was about 2" of excess fabric on each side plus those pesky pockets that I did away with all together.

3. Once you have 'taken in' the piece to an appropriate size (don't go too snug, leave a little wiggle room), take off the garment and lay it flat on the floor (inside out still). As with this dress that had buttons up the front, I re-buttoned it before laying it flat.

4. With a pencil or white sewing pencil, measure 3/4 inch away from the pins (towards the outside of the garment) and make your mark lines there. You don't want to cut right where the pins are. If you do that, your clothes will not fit when you sew them. You must leave a seam allowance + a little more.

5. Draw the outline of the shape you are after with the 3/4 inch allowance. Once you have that outline drawn, cut along the line, leaving the pins in place for the time being.

6. With a 1/2 inch allowance, use a long stitch (the longest your sewing machine allows) to sew along the pencil line. Once both sides are done, try it on. If it is too tight, take out your stitch (this is why you use a long stitch so it comes out easier) and try again. If you like the way it fits (it lay nicer once you get a finished stitch on there and iron the seam flat...don't worry) the head back to the sewing machine and use a shorter stitch, follow that same line and sew.

7. Once finished, press the seam flat and turn right side out. Voila!

*This technique works well on tee shirts and skirts too.

Eat Banana Splits for Weight Loss

It's week 3 in my "Bye Bye Baby Weight" Monday series. This week the word is yogurt. More specifically, Greek yogurt. Even more specifically, 0% plain Greek Yogurt. I'm sure most brands of Greek yogurt are great, but I'll say, when the budget allows Fage is the what I grab. Oh how I love it so~

This yogurt thing...its pretty amazing in terms of weight loss. I eat it in the morning (about 1/2 cup) either plain, with a bit of museli on top or sliced strawberries. A drizzle of honey would be a good option too. It has loads more protien than regular plain yogurt and research shows it helps you lose weight without losing muscle. And this girl is all about keeping muscle tone.

Over a year ago I posted about my good girls banana split concoction. I thought I'd share it again this morning because it is still pretty darn genius in my book (patting myself on the back right now).

Its simple and delicious and good for you AND helps with those sweet tooth cravings when you are trying to lose the last of the pesky baby weight pounds.

There isn't much to the recipe. Here ya go:

Good Girls Banana Split

1/2 cup plain yogurt
5 strawberries (either fresh or frozen and thawed)
1 banana
2 T. Nutella warmed in the microwave to make it drizzleable (is that a word?)

Of course you could add pineapple or coconut shavings or a few chopped nuts. My version is pretty bare bones but a perfect combination to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Otto's pretty fond of it too.

What's your healthy indulgence?

3 Quotes That Are Transforming My Thinking

Last week at this time I was sitting at Blissdom. The opening speaker, Jon Acuff, kind of blew me away. I wasn't expecting that. It was the highlight of the conference for me, actually. What he said resonated deeply with where I am at both personally and professionally right now. If you haven't heard of this guy, he's pretty incredible...see for yourself.

Three things he said during the opening keynote have stuck with me all week. In fact, they are typed out, sitting on my desk and I read them often. Powerful words, indeed. I thought one (or some) of you might feel challenged by them as well.

What words are challening you lately?