thanksgiving 2015

We had a really low-key Thanksgiving this year. I was the only Nielson child to not go to Arizona this Thanksgiving, which was sad for me, knowing that my parents' house was filled with the voices and laughter of my family. It's pretty hard these days to get all eleven kids and their families together so it was sad to be the only one not there. If only plane tickets for five people weren't so astronomical!
Luckily, our friends invited us to their house for the feast so we didn't have to be alone. We still got to enjoy lots of quality family time together all day as I cooked four pies (I have problems), sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce to contribute to the meal. We had the Macy's Day parade and the football game on in the background and the yard was covered in white from some serious frost we've been having, which felt perfect.
I didn't take any pictures of the food, which is SO not like me, but I did manage to get a few pictures of the kids in their nice Thanksgiving clothes in front of the Christmas tree. They did not want to take a picture though, so there's that. Haha. Oh well.
I have so much to be grateful for. I have running water, a warm home and food to eat. It's a really good life and I have so much. Whenever I feel like I wish we had more, I just have to remember that we have so much more than a huge percentage of this world. I am safe. I am warm. I am fed. It is more than enough. I wish for a world where everyone has safety, food + clean water, love + peace.
I'm so thankful for this family I have. I'm thankful for a husband who is kind-hearted, fun, talented, attentive and hard-working. I'm thankful for William with his gentle, sensitive soul and for all the help he gives to me and his cleverness. I'm thankful for Fritz and the way he can make me smile and laugh like no one else. He is strong-willed and loving and a joy to be around. I'm thankful for Louisa and her sweetness. She brings so much light to our family with her cheerful disposition and interest in everything around her. My kids are smart, healthy and wonderful and, to me, they are perfect.

I am thankful.


mudroom + laundry progress

David's big project(s) last weekend was spent in the laundry/mudroom (here's my previous post on this room if you're interested). We don't currently park in the garage since it's full of renovation stuff right now and disorganized toys but, especially with the rainy season upon us, we're really motivated to finally get in there. Our garage doors are original to the house (1970s) and there's no garage door opener (meaning it has to be opened from the inside and manually pulled up) so it's really inconvenient for us to park in there. New garage doors cost a lot, so we're probably going to just buy a door motor that we can attach to the old doors until we can afford to replace them.  
poor Louisa was mad that I didn't wait for her. Sorry sweet babe.
We also have a coat/backpack/shoe/rainboot storage issue, living in a split level house. That means that when you walk into our house, you immediately come into the stairs leading you upstairs to the living room, kitchen and bedrooms or downstairs to our laundry room, family room, guest room or guest bathroom. There's no room for coats, bags or shoes in the upstairs or in the entry. We do have one small hall closet upstairs that we are planning to remove next month when we work on our floors (but more on that later). 
Our laundry room is directly in from the garage. Originally, when you entered the house from the garage, it lead you to a dark hallway and a wall that was one of the interior walls of the laundry room. We decided to take down that wall and create a large opening that flows from the garage, which will be our main entry to the house for our family. Then we'll create a dual function laundry room and mudroom in here that will be great for us as we enter the house. David's going to build some benches with storage and hooks that will give us a designated spot for backpacks, keys, shoes and coats. 
He took down this wall and found that it had a load bearing beam that he will have to move over a few inches to get us the open doorway we want. He didn't get to that part yet since he needs some special tools to do it but he made lots of other progress.
On the other side of the laundry room, is our guest room that had a closet that ate into the laundry room space. The guest room is really large so we decided that we would move the closet to the other side of the guest room and still have a large room. That gives us a lot more space in the laundry room to create a mudroom bench with storage. David got to work taking down this wall. He had to move a few electrical outlets and put in one on another wall in the laundry room (to replace the one that was in the wall he removed) and put in another on the other side of the wall in the guest room.
By the end of the day, he made great progress. That lower part of the ceiling houses our duct work. It's kind of an eye sore but I've learned to accept it. The laundry room is really dark, with only one tiny light switch and no natural light. David is going to put some can lights in that will really brighten the room. It also helps that the wall blocking off the hallway is gone and it opens things up a lot.
I'm also anxious to get a new door. That black thing behind David is an old, crummy door that leads to our backyard. It's the only entrance from the downstairs to the exterior. I'd love to have a Dutch door there but I'm still searching for a good place to get one. If anyone has a resource tip, please share! :)
Our next steps are:

- Finish moving the load bearing beam
- Drywall the holes where the closet used to be
- Mud and prime the walls
- Install can lights
- Replace flooring (we need something hard-wearing and easy to clean)
- Replace door with Dutch door
- Install laundry sink and cabinet
- Install upper cabinets above washer, dryer and sink
- Build bench and storage with hooks
- Decorate (that's a long way away, but I'm trying to remember that this renovation stuff is fun too!)


snow weekend

Will has been asking about snow for weeks now. He's heard rumblings at school that it might snow here and he's been asking when it was going to snow at our house. I haven't had the heart to tell him that it doesn't always snow in Seattle but we've been excited to take an hour drive up to the ski resort. It was really beautiful. I love snow. Everything looks magical but I really appreciate living about a hour away from it and not having to deal with shoveling, scraping and slipping on a daily basis for months.
I couldn't stop (won't stop) taking pictures of Louisa because she was cracking us up with her funny laugh. She recently started doing this really throaty, deep chuckle... like an old man. It's so cute. She was thrilled to see snow for the first time and couldn't stop laughing and squealing with delight, which made us all laugh and squeal with delight at her adorableness. Gosh, we love her!
The boys loved having a snowball fight. William's dream came true. we made a snowman (which some other kid kicked over minutes after we walked away - c'est la vie) and Will made a snow angel. We also brought a sled, which the boys were convinced was going to be super fun, but when we actually started to use it, they were out.
their love melts me.
Then we came home and I made coq au vin + mashed potatoes for dinner. Cause what better way to warm up from a chilly day in the snow than a big pot of flavorful braised chicken? Yum town.


cheese + charcuterie board

David and I are typically Häagen-Dazs (caramel cone forever!) eating parents after 8 p.m. but we've recently become really obsessed with making a charcuterie and cheese board after the kids are in bed. My kids aren't very picky eaters (thank goodness) but I don't think they truly appreciate special cheeses quite yet. Plus, it's so fun to put together a board and talk about different yummy combinations as adults. This weekend, I hit up Whole Foods and bought a bunch of yummy cheeses, salami and bread. It felt special to eat it sitting in front of a fire and talking.
Here's what I put on our cheese board on Saturday night.

P'tit Basque: French, mild sheep's milk cheese that's semi-hard and creamy + nutty - we liked it with the apples and the salami. I think it's a cheese that everyone will like.

Point Reyes Blue: Californian and probably my favorite cheese of all time. Even if you don't like blue cheese, you'll probably like this creamy, flavorful blue. We paired it with toasted sesame crackers and peach preserves and with every bite, I was in heaven. I have a hard time finding this cheese except at specialty stores. It's also my favorite cheese to put in salad dressing.

Beecher's Flagship: Seattle's handmade signature cheese that you can buy at any grocery store here or visit the original shop in Pike Place, which is always fun. It's extremely popular, and for good reason, with it's nutty, creamy flavor that's a mix between an aged cheddar and Parmesan-Reggiano... but smoother. It's excellent with Honeycrisp apples! I also use it a lot in recipes like macaroni and cheese and it goes great in eggs too.

Snowdonia Green Thunder Aged Cheddar with Garlic + Herbs: English, mature cheddar that packs a punch! Definitely a savory cheese that was delicious with the olive ciabatta slices and salami.

I filled in the board with Honeycrisp apple slices (thinly sliced), toasted sesame crackers, peach preserves, slices of an olive ciabatta loaf and a few types of salami (Calabrese and Italian dry). I also love Trader Joe's rosemary raisin crackers for serving with cheese - excellent with aged cheddar.

What are your favorites? Especially with the holidays coming up, it seems like the cheese selection at any store doubles! I want to try some new cheeses for a dinner party so tell me what you like.


[early] deck the halls

We put up our Christmas decorations this weekend and I know that this bugs a lot of people, because you know, Thanksgiving. But since we are going to be gone for a big chunk of December to visit family, I wanted to be able to enjoy our Christmas tree and decorations. We drank hot cocoa and watched White Christmas while we put everything out. It was perfect.
Our tradition continues with our sunburst mirror multi-purposing by holding our Christmas cards. I'm trying to figure out a longer-term solution for all our cards but in the mean time, it looks pretty fun.
I continue to love drawing on my windows with chalk markers. Once I get a little more organized, I'm going to deck all the windows out in various festive scenes. I think it'll look really fun with the hanging wreaths. I also found these adorable colored trees at Target and I'd love to put them on our mantel, once we have one. For now, they're hanging out by the window above our entry. They have a pretty nice view of everything going on.
I have a big basket of books that I keep on our ottoman. For the holidays, I replace them with festive books... and we have a LOT of Christmas books. I love finding the kids on the sofa, looking through the books and pictures, by the light of the Christmas tree. It makes me very happy.
Every year, around November 1st, I start receiving magazines with Christmas decorations. I pine (har har) for beautiful Christmas trees that I see in Serena & Lily, West Elm and Anthropologie. I dream of having one of those trees, perfectly spaced lights with gorgeous, hand-painted globes that coordinate with beautiful ornaments. But every year, when we pull out our decorations and I look at each one as we put it on the tree, I think about how nice it is to have reminders of vacations to Denmark, first ornaments that I picked out for my babies, our wedding cake topper that I put a ribbon on to hang and beautiful others gifted to us from family and friends. This mish-mash of ornaments, and my cheap bulbs that I got from Big Lots that are mostly broken now, may not make the most beautiful tree but it lights up our home with beautiful light and memories. And that makes Christmas perfect to me.
this is Louisa's ornament this year. I love the little Clara dancer!
one of my all time favorites - William's first ornament
our wedding cake topper made into an ornament
we bought this one in Copenhagen a few years ago
I have been eyeing this pretty print for a while but decided that I'd try to replicate it at home, just for fun. It didn't turn out nearly as pretty as the original but I think it looks OK for free dollars. I had it in another frame and was trying to figure out where to hang it, until Louisa knocked it over and broke the glass. Oh, babies. I moved it into this frame and I still don't know where to hang it so I hide it behind the fireplace screen for now. It looks reeeeeal classy... as does our fireplace. I am so anxious to get our mantel and surround completed but hopefully by the end of the year!
And that's it, folks!