500th Post Giveaway!

I am just back from the beach. A full week of sun, fun, turkey dinner, beach time and limited computer usage. Glorious~

Thanksgiving Day which also was Mike's 37th birthday.
This post marks a milestone for this little blog ~ #500. I remember sitting down over 5 years ago to write my first blog post. Canaan was 3 years old and Ezra was 4 months old. We lived in an 80 year old rented duplex that was blazing hot in the summer and frigid cold in the winter. Alot has changed in 5 years, yet much remains the same. I love the opportunity blogging has given me and continues to give me to record the events of our lives here at The Smith Homestead. Thanks for coming along on the ride with me~

Cradle Will Rock, one of our sponsors, is helping me celebrate this milestone by offering an amazing giveaway this week.

 One lucky reader will win this gorgeous girls pillowcase dress~
(any size newborn-7 years)
This dress is super versatile and can be worn as a dress or a top.
Perfect for all seasons layered with a long-sleeved shirt and leggings
so your little girl will be able to wear it for seasons to come.

You can enter up to 3 times to win. Here's how:

1. Head over there to the right hand bar and become a friend of The Art of Homemaking with Google Friend Connect. When you do this, let me know in the comment section.

2. Follow The Art of Homemaking Facebook Page and let me know in a separate comment when you do.

3. Follow Cradle Will Rock's Facebook Page and let me know in yet another separate comment when you do.

There you go...3 chances to enter!

**The contest runs through Sunday night at 9pm. A winner will be selected at random and announced here on Monday morning. This contest is open to everyone...so start spreading the word! Even if you don't have a little girl, this would make a fantastic Christmas gift~

Also, Cradle Will Rock is offering a 35% discount until Friday to all readers. Use the code CYBER35.  This company has some amazing handmade clothes and have been rocking out the industry in California for a long time now. We are lucky to have a store front here in Lexington~ and if you don't live here you can still buy their amazing clothes online....35% off....this week only.....so head on over now (after entering, of course!)

Good Luck!

Thanksgiving...Resort Style

Florida...day 3. Sun, water, 80 degree temps, sunscreen, sliced limes on drink rims, lazy river....
Life is ridiculously mellow right now.

We will be sharing lots about this amazing place over on our travel site soon.
For now, we wrap up our time here and head northeast a couple of hours to St. Augustine where the grandparents live. We will be spending the holiday in the oldest city in America...
Happy Thanksgiving!

Florida, Thankfulness, Black Friday & Marshmallows...

It has been a little over 3 years since we last treked to Florida. Ezra was 2 and Canaan was 5. This weekend we will make the long 13 hour journey to Grandpa and Grandma's house in St Augustinewith not just 2, but 3 boys. The verdict is still out on how Otto's first trip to the Sunshine State will turn out...and whether or not Mike and I will have any hair left when all is said and done.

I may post an update or two during our trip ~ there will many fun things to report, I'm sure~

I am thankful for so many things this year. Despite Mike's continued layoff (heading into month 12) we are sustained, happy and healthy. I have a big life update to give you all once I have time to sit down here at the computer for more than 5 minutes at a time.

One thing that I am so thankful for is YOU! For all of you that bless and encourage me each day with emails, notes and comments. Thank you for allowing me to share my heart, my life, my ideas and my inspirations here each week. Thanks so much for coming and being a part.

If you will be doing any Black Friday shopping this year, don't forget to shop with my sponsors~
Lots of handmade goodies ~ dresses, hats, scarves...and marshmallows.

Cradle Will Rock

Love this hat from newly opened Etsy shop, Die Spinne Crochet Shoppe~

The Marshmallows Company amazing marshmallows~
Incidently, Canaan (our 8 year old CEO) will be re-appearing on The Suze Orman Show in December as one of her favorite guests of 2011! Also, check out this crazy, amazing review of
his marshmallows by The Nibble in NYC.

Today I will be sending out the PDF print out of this year's Thanksgiving Day Menu. Complete with a cooking timeline and the recipes that are not found online. If you want one (it is beautiful and mighty useful!) go over there to the sidebar and "sign up". Also, follow The Art of Homemaking on Twitter and Facebook (those cute little icons over there to the right). I'm always updating.

Have You Taken A Sabbath Lately?

Some days…some weeks, well heck, some months feel like Groundhog Day around here. Laundry, grocery runs, picking up the toys, making beds, cooking meals… and on it goes.
The biggest part of me loves it, despite the monotony. But there is a small part that finds it really draining. And in recent months I have even been feeling a bit of…dare I say it, resentment.
Those feelings of ill will about washing 5 peoples dishes 10 times  a day or reminding a child (yet again) to not put the toothbrush behind the sink faucet, but rather in its proper place have been creeping in and gaining a foothold in my homemaking attitude.
I occasionally catch myself mumbling under my breath, having a quiet pity party. Its embarrassing to admit that but I think I may not be alone in this. Am I right?

Recently I have been challenged to bring this situation, this attitude, under control.

For all of us that are feeling a little worn out by the day to day demands. Those of us feeling even the slightest bit overwhelmed, under appreciated, spent, uninspired or frustrated.
Mike and Canaan meandering through a Labyrinth at sunset in Ohio

Have you ever taken a Shabbat? A Sabbath? Growing up, a Sabbath day was just the day we went to church. Plain and simple, it was a church day. Over the years, I have grown a bit in my understanding of its historical importance, but I can’t say it has had much of an impact on my weekly schedule.

Until recently.

A few weeks ago I was cleaning the office upstairs. I had the radio on for background noise to drown out Otto’s constant toddler whining (gotta love this stage…is it crying, is it happy squeels?? I may never know.)
Anyhow, the radio program was about working mothers and balancing a healthy schedule. My ears perked up. A smart, well spoken mom of 6 (yes, six) was talking about balancing her job outside the home and life inside the home. The change in her schedule that made all the difference between sanity and insanity of juggling it all was the practice of taking a weekly Shabbat ~ a day of rest.
She spent the next few minutes describing how she is realistically able to do this. I thought she was speaking a foreign language. A whole day of rest?? No cooking? No cleaning? No picking up toys or sweeping up the crumbs? Was this even possible as a mom with small kids? I don’t feel like I usually have an hour of rest, let alone 24.
I listened and took what she said to heart but it didn’t go beyond that. Not believing in coincidences, I had to chuckle when I read an article on…you guessed it…taking a day of rest. I think Someone might trying to tell me something.
I gave myself the next week to prepare and get organized to take my first Shabbat. The night before, I finished up all of the laundry, got out the boys school clothes, put a meal in the crockpot (I have one with an insert so I put the whole insert in the fridge overnight and then began to cook dinner in it the next morning.) I made sure the dishwasher was empty so we could just put dishes directly in there. It definitely took some extra time the night before but I was eager to give this little experiment a try.
The next day I did nothing. Yep…nothing. Well nothing in terms of any “work”. No cleaning, no cooking, no writing, no blogging, no emailing, no working out. I read magazines on the couch while sipping tea, I played outside with the boys, we took a family walk to the park and I took an extra long bath that night.
I won’t say it was easy doing nothing. It wasn’t. By 3 or 4pm that day I was a fidgety mess. I wanted to sweep up the crumbs under the dining room table SO BADLY! I had to stop myself on numerous occasions from carrying toys and clothes upstairs. Mentally it was really hard to separate myself from the tasks of the home.
I am not sure the boys noticed much of a difference that day because in all honesty I have that multi tasking thing down to an art. I can be pretty darn present with them, slip away for a few seconds to do a chore and be right back.
But the experiment wasn’t for my kids and it wasn’t for Mike.

I needed this.

The following 6 days seemed to breeze by. I felt like I cleaned a lot less (yet still had a clean house.) Dinner seemed to come together each night almost effortlessly and overall I just really had an amazing week. Hmmm…maybe there was something to the practice?
The following weekend we were out of town and I was “on assignment” for an article. Part of the assignment was due on Monday which meant I really needed to work on it the following day. Since I had been “working” to cover the assignment on Saturday I had intended on taking a day of rest on that Sunday. I was in a quandary. I finally decided that I would indeed take a Shabbat, get up on Monday morning and try to get the assignment in on time. I prayed, “God, I want to give myself a day of rest each week, which honors You, by taking a Sabbath, please bring everything together for me to get this article done in record time and to the best of my ability.”
And you know what? I finished that article in record time and without needing to make any revisions after the first draft was sent off to the editor. Crazy. Amazing.

I have learned so much about myself through this process. I am astonished that a day of rest makes the other 6 days so productive and easy. I feel sharper mentally, more energetic, much happier throughout the day and way less stressed...and nothing beats the beauty of a stress-less mama.

Handmade Gift Tutorial Guide

Only 7 short weeks until Christmas. Usually at this point in the year I am well on my way to finishing Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, this year I have barely begun. I foresee lots of handmade gifts again this year and have turned to some of my favorite blogs for inspiration! See what amazing things I dug up? Click on the caption below each photo for the link...and have fun!

(and of course, look up top and click on the "crafts" link in my blog. Lots of past projects, tutorials and ideas over there.)

*sidenote: Yes, I am familiar with Pinterest. No, I don't use it...yet. I am sure down-the-road (or maybe soon) I will. But I have been avoiding it thus far. Not enough hours in the day, too many projects already waiting in the wings....Pinterest can wait, for now ;)

An adorable vintage inspired DIY cupcake stand from Giverslog

I have had my eye on this project over at Becoming Lola for a long time now.
I love this! Everything Marueen makes is so colorful and beautiful~

I forsee lots of these amazing book/utensil holders given this season.

I think our tree needs some funny little gingerbread this year.

The most comprehensive list, I've found (yet) for gift tutorials. I can get lost for hours on this...

Please, oh pretty please, share what lovely ideas you have found too!

A Girlie Lunch

Today two of my favorite girlfriends came over for lunch. A rare treat for all three of us who were able to sneak in a couple of hours, leaving the toddlers behind with their dads (the newest, who is only weeks old, slept peacefully nearby~), and enjoy a lunch date together.
It amazing how much quality conversation us gals can cram into a lunch date, isn't it? From grocery lists to sleepless nights to insurance rates and goals for the future we covered it all and left feeling refreshed, encouraged and re-energized.

Because I took a day of rest yesterday (we'll discuss that newly acquired practice in another post soon), I didn't have as much prep time for the meal as I usually give myself. Nonetheless, after a quick trip to the store this morning I came home and whipped up a little lunch for us gals ~ which was not only simple, but really yummy. (I love what the Barefoot Contessa comes up with.)

Here's the recipe. I served it with a salad and the roasted red pepper and tomato soup we love here at the house ( you can find that recipe under the "recipes" section of the navigation bar).

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts
(from Ina Garten)
(**I have made note of the changes I made in this recipe below)
  • 1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
  • Good olive oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
  • 3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves
*I omitted the garlic. Not a huge fan of garlic or the breathe that lingers for hours afterwards.
*I didn't have dry white wine on hand but I did have some cooking Sherry.
* I used plain goat cheese and mixed in my own homemade pesto.

Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide ( I used the bottom of the tea kettle), cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.
Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.

Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.

What lovely things have you been whipping up lately? I've been a bit of a dud in the kitchen recently and could definitely use some inspiration. Send some my way, pretty please!

Oh Tenenbaum...

This little 50's bungalow of ours has been a work in progress for almost 4 years now. Gutting the kitchen, tearing out walls, updating plumbing and wiring, renovating 2 bathrooms...you name it, we've done it. All of it except for the stairwell. It has been the only untouched, unpainted, unpatched area of the house. And oh, how I have longed for the day to get my hands on that little area. I think you can probably see why.

Its been an eye sore from day one. Someone befor us loved faux painting techniques just a little too much. Streaky mustard yellow paint? Wowzers.

So last week we finally tackled the stairwell. Thanks mostly to the half off Porter Paints Groupon recently. In all honesty, Porter Paints doesn't have a ton to offer in the color selection so I didn't end up with a color I was super excited about. In fact when we first painted I was really bummed.

So in an attempt to cover the sterile blue hue, I started grabbing all of the unused artwork from around the house. We have a ton of it. Vintage paint-by-numbers we've picked up at thrift stores, canvas paintings from the boys, paintings I have done over the years, and other random lovely things from here and there. I also framed some old National Geographic maps of a few of the travels we have taken (Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Grand Turk).

Yesterday Mike became my stairwell art hanging slave (he was such a trooper) and within a couple of hours the stairwell magically came together. At first I was afraid it seemed a bit overkill. Alot of artwork in a little space. I asked Mike to which he replied, "It looks like the Royal Tenenbaum house". In that moment I knew it was perfect.

The Royal Tenenbaums, one of my top 3 favorite movies of all time, has one of the most amazing movie sets ever! That house! Dreamy. And to have my husband say that our house resembled it...made my week~

I've left plenty of space to add more photos and artwork as time goes along too...

The light fixture was in some random box I had won at an auction several years ago. It was black and rusted (a previous life as an outdoor light fixture). We spray painted it and Mike wired it for indoor use. The plate up top, which had to be big enough to cover the massive hole cut in the drywall from the previous light, was a stroke of genius. We had looked at Home Depot for a lamp plate...all of which were both too small and too expensive. I came home discouraged and headed out to the garage to find a solution.

And then I saw it...the bottom ring to the pressure canner. We had 2 of them and it happened to be the perfect size for a ceiling lamp ring. Who would have thought? Mike looked at me like I was crazy but I snatched it up, spray painted it the same color as the lamp and voila! A perfect, meant-to-be answer to the problem.

At the bottom of the stairs I hung back up our previous solution to not having a coat closet (gotta love these 50's homes with no closets), which are the 4 silver hooks. Between the hooks we hung 3 baskets, one for each of the boys, to put their hats, gloves, sunglasses, etc... in. Utter perfection for this organizing queen.

All in all our grand total was $70.

Paint - $30 (half off, thanks to Groupon)
Frames- $6.50 (thrift store)
Spray Paint - $3.50
Baskets - $30

Thanksgiving Day Menu 2011

Thanksgiving Day Menu 2011
** For a free PDF print out of this years recipes and cooking timeline, sign up in the right sidebar as a subscriber. I will be sending it out in a week or so.
photo courtesy of Martha Stewart

Appetizer - I'm not one for planning for a bunch of finger foods prior to the meal. But let's be honest, its always nice to have a little plate of something to munch on and a festive drink in hand while making the final preparations! I love this idea from The Kitchn for a modern twist on the old relish try (my husband continually gets freaked out by the term "relish tray". Do you call it that? Is it just an Ohio thing?)
Winter Sangria (you could serve this hot or cold. I'm thinking of using dates and pears in place of the figs and raisins. It seems like a pretty easy recipe to play with.)

The Meal
Perfect Roast Turkey (This recipe from Ina Garten is my go-to turkey recipe. No messing with brining, long cooking times or special spices. This is a recipe that turns out a perfectly delicious turkey year after year.)
The Best Gravy Ever (another Barefoot Contessa recipe that is a standard at our table)
Balsamic Roasted Sweet Potatoes ~ can be found in the winter issue of Cuisine at Home
Sauteed Green Beans I love this recipe...read on down and see all of the unique flavor combinations
Corn Casserole If you are going to splurge on a buttery casserole, Paula Deen's recipes are the way to go.
Maple Oat Dinner Rolls (these puppies are delicious)
Jellied Cranberry Zinfandel Sauce ~ this too can be found in the winter issue of Cuisine at Home. A similar recipe on Epicurious could be used, substituting the water for Zinfandel.

The Dessert
Pecan Bourbon and Butterscotch Bread Pudding (my husband is crazy for bread pudding so I am winning lots of brownie points with this recipe)
*buy a yummy, store bought ice cream to go with both. Or of course, you can always make your own. Check the recipe tab up top for my Butternut Squash Ice Cream with a Maple Swirl recipe~

Hope this helps give you some fresh ideas for your own Thanksgiving meal this year. Leave me a comment and let me know what you'll be whipping up too...