Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes

"What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets.  I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?" ~ Erma Bombeck

Thanksgiving Menu

Cranberry Salsa with Wheat Crackers
Mixed Green Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Dried Cherries, Crumbled Goat Cheese, Candied Walnuts and Raspberry Vinaigrette
Orange-Sage Turkey with Stuffing
Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet Potato Cobbler
Cranberry-Apple Bake
Deviled Eggs
Green Beans
Whole-Berry Cranberry Sauce
Fudge Pie
Orange Cupcakes
Orange-Chocolate Tea Cake Sandwiches
Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

This year we enjoyed traditional favorites like orange-sage turkey, sweet potato casserole, cranberry apple bake and fudge pie. Find those recipes here. I tried a new appetizer recipe that I discovered on Pinterest. Served over cream cheese with Wheat Thins on the side, cranberry salsa was a delicious balance of flavors: tart, sweet, spicy, citrusy and creamy. Find that recipe here.

New additions to this year's menu included orange cupcakes and orange-chocolate tea cake sandwiches my sister made; and sweet potato cobbler and chocolate chip cookie pie my father's new wife brought.

Sweet Potato Cobbler

2 large cans crescent rolls
Frozen sweet potato patties, thawed and cut in half
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon (or more) cinnamon

Separate crescent rolls, place half potato inside and roll up. Place in a buttered casserole dish. Heat until sugar dissolves: sugar, water, butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Orange Cupcakes
1 box premium white cake mix
1 (3 ounce) box orange Jello-O
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup milk
1 stick butter, softened
3 eggs, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients, and  fill cupcake liners 3/4 cup full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes, and frost with icing of choice.

Orange-Chocolate Tea Cake Sandwiches
1 pound (4 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon orange flower water or orange liqueur
20 ounces (about 4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate
Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the orange zest and orange water, and beat well. Sift together the flour, baking powder and a small pinch of salt. Gradually work the flour into the butter and sugar mixture. Cover the dough and chill.

Jennifer found the dough sticky enough that she froze it overnight. She suggests dividing the dough into small portions and covering with parchment paper. Flatten the dough with your hands to the thickness you would roll a pie crust, about 1/8 inch.

After dough is frozen, cut into 1 1/2-inch rounds or symmetrical shapes such as stars or hearts. Transfer them to a cookie sheet, over parchment paper, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Bake the cookies at 375 degrees until they are lightly browned around the edges, about 8 to 9 minutes. Cool them on a wire rack and set aside.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, spread over cookies, and sandwich them together.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie
1 unbaked pie shell
2 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
Small pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate morsels (plus additional chips for drizzle)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Beat the eggs on high until foamy. Beat in the flour and then both sugars. Beat in the butter. (The batter will have some specks of butter.) Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Spoon into the pie crust and bake for 55-60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

For the topping, melt 1/4 cup chocolate chips. Add about a 1/2 teaspoon oil. Stir and pour into a zipper bag. Cut of a tiny corner and drizzle over the pie.

If desired, serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

(Note: You may use a frozen pie crust, thawed according to package directions, or make a homemade no-roll pie crust with 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons cold milk.)

We enjoyed a great meal together this year, but the real feast was the time together. Coming up tomorrow, an easy recipe that makes use of some of the Thanksgiving Day leftovers.

"Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day." ~ Robert Caspar Lintner

Many of the photos in this post were taken by Nathan Prichard; used with permission.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thankful Family

Baby Jonathan is on the lookout for his cousins.

Left to right, Mary Ashley, Christian, Emma, Bailey, Kadence, Carson, Jonathan, Caitlin and David.

I told my sister, Jennifer, that she looks so pretty in this picture that I wanted to caption this photo that it was me putting the finishing touches on our Thanksgiving table. But alas, I must admit it is my sweet sister.

I love our kitchen filled with family and bustling with activity!

Joe and Jennifer's husband, Dave, pause for a moment before dinner is served.

The girls table. These four have many years ahead of them to sit together. And when my side of the family gathers for Thanksgiving again in two years, perhaps little Bailey will be big enough to take a seat with the girls.

Jennifer has never cared much for green beans, but she overheard Christian telling his cousin David that if they don't like green beans, it's because they've never had his mom's. I sat by Baby Jonathan, and he seemed enthusiastic about eating them, so I thought I had won him over. Green beans disappeared quickly off his tray, but after dinner I found a line of green beans tossed against the wall.

On second thought, I'm not sure if those were Jennifer's or Jonathan's.

Shana, Jennifer and Bailey share a moment.

Kadence is on the move.

Nathan and his girls: wife, Shana, and daughters, Bailey and Kadence.

Photos by Nathan Prichard; used after wrestling him to the ground for his camera. Just kidding.

"For hearts that are kindly, with virtue and peace, and not seeking blindly a hoard to increase; for those who are grieving o'er life's sordid plan; for souls still believing in heaven and man; for homes that are lowly with love at the board; for things that are holy, I thank thee, O Lord!" ~ Walt Mason

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Table

"So once in every year we throng

Upon a day apart,

To praise the Lord with feast and song

In thankfulness of heart."

~ Arthur Guiterman

This year we celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. I wanted to use the Spode goblets I inherited from my mother this holiday, so set the table with my Spode Blue Room transferware plates.

My sister made adorable cupcake picks for the occasion, and these made sweet place cards for our table. I will share her delicious orange cupcake recipe later this week.

I found these pinecone candle holders last year after the holidays and anticipate using them through the winter.

A vase filled with pumpkins, gourds and fresh greenery made a fuss-free centerpiece.

Here you see a sampling of Jennifer's cupcake picks. She used a slightly different turkey for each family group. Aren't these adorable? I appreciate her attention to detail!

This year's Thanksgiving table was vibrant and full of color.

I  wanted to monogram the pumpkins at each place, but simply ran out of time. Maybe next year ... .

A framed copy of Psalm 136:1 adorned our sideboard, along with pumpkins and fresh greenery. The frame was a gift from the ladies of the Buford, Ga., Church of Christ -- a sweet memento of our ladies day this fall. To make the green arrangement, I tucked wet floral foam into a small blue and white pot. Then I slipped fresh greenery into the foam and covered the foam with moss. This was an easy, no-cost arrangement, and it added fall color to that side of the dining room.

Here is a view of the table from my seat.

When we gathered with my family two years ago, my nieces Caitlin and Kadence were babies. So this year we were eager for them to sit at the girls table with Mary Ashley and Emma.

I set each girl's place with a little bowl of mandarin oranges, and as you can see, they were eaten before we got any pictures of the table. Every hostess loves to see the bowls licked clean!

I have more photos and recipes to share, so I hope you will stop by for extra helpings of turkey and dressing this week!

Photos by Nathan Prichard; Used with Permission.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

(Click to download image.)

Framed and displayed on the buffet, Psalm 136:1 stands ready to greet loved ones who will gather for this year's Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We have been busy all week cooking, cleaning and making preparations for today's celebration. I will be back with photos, recipes and reflections in the days to come, but for now wanted to send you warm wishes from our family to yours.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Lesters!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pickin' and Grinnin'

A Little Scuffle

Nine-year-old Christian and 7-year-old Mary Ashley were bickering on the way to church Wednesday night when suddenly Mary Ashley gasped. "Mommy," she cried, "Christian just slapped me!"

"I just did it softly," he retorted.

"No, you didn't," she insisted. "You did it hardly!"

Crowning Glory

Looking over the form that fourth-grader Christian brought home recently for a class field trip to see The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever brought back fond memories for me. I remember my own fourth-grade teacher getting choked up as she read the book to us in class.

"Oh, you will enjoy going to see this," I said with nostalgia as I filled out the permission slip.

"I doubt it," Christian said with surprise. "I don't like beauty pageants."

Fall Is in the Air

"It feels like fall," Joe said with satisfaction as he and 7-year-old Mary Ashley stepped out into the cool evening air.

"We have a candle in our classroom that smells like fall," she replied.

"Oh, really? What does fall smell like?" Joe asked.

"Smells good, Daddy."

"A laugh is a smile that bursts." ~ Mary H. Waldrip

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pretty as a Picture Frame

For a while I have wanted to make a picture frame to display my favorite photo of Mary Ashley and Emma -- a beautiful black and white shot captured by my friend Allison Hilyer last year when the girls were flower girls for our friends Neil and Haley Scott. I can't help but smile each time I look at this photo, so I am so glad to finally have it in a special frame. To make this one, I painted a wooden craft store frame white, then covered it with a favorite scrapbook paper. (Paper and frame, Hobby Lobby; ribbon, Elaine's in Montgomery, Ala.) Directions follow for making your own.

Decoupaged Frame

1. Paint a wooden frame, and allow it to dry.

2. Measure the frame, and cut a rectangle of scrapbook paper to fit. If the paper has a pattern repeat, as the one pictured above, keep this in mind when you decide where to cut. For a decorative edge to the paper, use shaped scissors or carefully tear the paper.

3. Make sure the paper fits the frame, then turn it face down on a cutting mat. Place your frame face down on top of the paper, and use a pencil to lightly trace the opening of the frame onto the paper. Use a sharp craft knife to cut out the opening. See if this fits the frame, and carefully make any more cuts as needed to ensure a perfect fit.

4. Coat the frame with a thin coat of Mod Podge with a sponge brush, and press the paper into place. Smooth out any bubbles that form by pushing the air out to the edges of the frame. Go over the top of the  scrapbook paper with another thin coat of Mod Podge, and allow it to dry.

5. Repeat with another thin coat of Mod Podge. When this coat dries, you can move on to the next step, or re-coat if necessary.

6. Hot glue a fluffy bow to the top of the frame. (Be sure to finish the edges of the ribbon with a no-fray solution or clear fingernail polish if you choose a ribbon that frays.) If desired, finish the knot with a pretty bauble pinned or glued to the center.

7. Place a pretty photo inside, and your frame will be picture perfect!

Speaking of picture perfect, congratulations to the winners of the giveaway for 25 photo cards from Shutterfly: Kim Lessig, Angela Maddux and Taryn Brodie!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inspiration for Emma's Room

What is it about expecting company that inspires home renovation and redecorating projects?

Daughter Emma's room has been in need of a makeover since we removed the crib. We decorated the nursery before Mary Ashley was born, painting the walls a baby soft pink and filling the room with family heirlooms and feminine fabrics. But now that we are taking the room from baby to big girl, the space needs to reflect 5-year-old Emma's fun personality. Although Emma is a girlie-girl, she favors brighter colors and bolder patterns to the chintzes and toiles I chose for the nursery. Here's a peek at what I have planned so far. 

The walls in Emma's room are still soft pink, much like Pottery Barn's Pink Cadillac. I plan to leave  the walls pink, but bring in accents with colors like PB's Stem and Sweet Taffy. (Find the PB Kids Benjamin Moore paint palette here.) And I have a fun wall treatment planned to bring in Emma's favorite bright pink. Photos and monograms will help personalize the space.

The inspiration for Emma's new room design came from the Premier Prints fabric pictured above, Suzani Maggie in Candy Pink (find it on here). I plan to use this for curtains, along with polka dot sheers from PB Kids. I love the ornament hardware from PB Kids, too.

For the bedding, we plan to trade out Emma's twin bed for a full-size. I am partial to matelasse coverlets because they look nice and suit our mild Alabama weather year-round. I am hoping this rose-colored coverlet from LinenSource will be a good match for the Premier Prints fabrics I have chosen for the bed linens I plan to make. With the holidays upon us, I am not sure how quickly I can bring the room together. But I will be sure to fill you in on all the details when Emma'a big girl room is complete! If you have any go-to resources for design, please share them in the comments below.

Be sure to enter last week's giveaway here. Three readers will win 25 free photo cards from Shutterfly!

"Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy, the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence." ~ Norman Podhoretz

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shutterfly Christmas Card Preview & Giveaway

"Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given -- when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes." ~ Joan Winmill Brown

Can you believe that it is already time to order Christmas cards? It seems we were just walking to the mailbox, hoping to find holiday greetings from friends and family. And now it is nearly time to send out Christmas cards again.


Enter online photo processor Shutterfly, and the most difficult part of this holiday task is choosing which Christmas card to send. With oodles of designs to choose from, you are sure to find one that suits your family perfectly. Here are a few of my favorites.

I love the freshness of a square card, and this one is adorable. Of course, those giggling little girls are cute as they can be.

Early on, I had my eye on the card above. What a great option for showcasing pictures of four children. And I am always drawn to holiday items that bear my middle name, Noel. Ultimately I decided on another card, but I will definitely bookmark this design for next year.

Again, Noel. This design looks so nice with an artsy black and white photo. (Find a great selection of folded, flat stationery and flat photo cards here.)

And, of course, the southern girl in me always falls for a monogram. So this blue design, aptly named Sweet Monogram, was also a contender for this year's card.

Another adorable monogrammed option in red, white and lime green -- one of my favorite holiday color schemes.

Another red and white design, perfect to showcase a single photo.

Sweet & simple is key in this design.

I like that Shutterfly offers a wide selection of colors in their Christmas cards. Having used a red and white card last year, this year I found myself drawn to several blue designs.

Wouldn't this elegant card be great for an engaged or newly married couple?

And who could resist getting warm wishes and sandy kisses in this beach-themed option.

Which card did I choose for this year's card? Well, that is still a secret, but thanks to quick turnaround and a generous offer from Shutterfly, I already have them in hand. Now my biggest challenge is trying to figure out the address list stored on my computer.

Now it's your turn to pick a favorite holiday card! But before you make your final selection, please take a moment to enter my giveaway for holiday cards. Shutterfly is giving away 25 holiday cards to three readers of A Little Loveliness.

Simply leave a comment below to enter, and I will announce the winners next week!

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