Picturewhite lights + 2 goofballs = photo fun!
Hi there! Mama here.

Well, the first snowfall has arrived here in Michigan and some people aren't thrilled, but I can't help but feel excited. The frost in the air and the snow on the roof just make me smile because I know it means the holidays are coming... and I don't know about you, but frost and snow and cold weather all add up to winter-time goodies for me! 

Some of my fondest holiday memories involve the familiar scents and tastes of holiday goodies: Going to my grandma and grandpa's house on Christmas Eve and excitedly dumping out stockings filled with our favorite Christmas candies, my other grandpa carrying those little peppermint Christmas tree nougats in his pockets, getting a box of chocolate bells every year after the church Christmas program, chocolate oranges from my dad, and the scent of my mom's Christmas cookies and breads filling the house with heavenly smells. When I look back on it all and remember how I enjoyed the food more than almost anything else about the season, I wonder...is it really any surprise I've ended up doing this? ;)

So last night Papa and I watched The Green Hornet (way better than the Green Lantern movie, just in case you were wondering) while we savored a couple steaming mugs of hot cocoa (Raspberry for him and French Vanilla with peppermint extract for me). If you don't feel up to making your own from scratch, I highly recommend Land O Lakes brand because, well, it's the best store-bought hot cocoa I've ever tasted. I always make sure to keep at least a dozen of their individual packets around in various flavors during the holidays for guests to enjoy, and trust me--they DO enjoy it!

Aside from just the goodies, holiday crafts are super fun, too. I was looking for one to do with Little Boy Blond and came across one Christmas-time creation that would be just perfect. We use a lot of glass jars here in the Sweet Home kitchen and there are always at least four or five of them just sitting around waiting to be filled with Sweet Home Granola or other goodies. So when I came across Martha Stewart's DIY snow globes, I knew I'd found a winner! Just take any old (clean and dry) glass jar with a lid and a tight seal, and voìla: instant snow globe success! You don't even have to use a Christmas theme for these to be fun; Papa and Little Boy made some with footballs and airplanes and they turned out super cute! (Cotton balls for clouds? Papa is so creative.)

What else? Well, we decided to do a family photo shoot to get some (hopefully) good pictures for a photo card this year (since Mama never actually got around to sending out cards last year...oops), and we had a ball! I was inspired by two Christmas light themed photos I saw on Pinterest: one of three kids and one of a newly engaged couple. I kind of took the lights idea and ran with it, and one of the final results is the picture in this post. We wanted something funny, so I thought up the idea that Little Boy had wrapped Papa in Christmas lights and left him hanging--they both loved it!

Anyway, I hope you're enjoying the season and taking some time out to spend with the ones you love, because--snow or no snow--that's what really makes it feel like Christmas!

Sweet Home à la Mama

What kinds of goodies or crafts are you enjoying this holiday season? Leave a comment and share!
PictureLittle Boy Blond and the Great Pumpkin!
Hi there! Mama here...and to my great joy, autumn is here, too!

As for news, we've recently moved (thus the lack of recent posts--sorry!) and we are recently expecting a new little one as well! It's so much nicer being pregnant in the cold months...let's just say I prefer to pull on a sweater over my bump instead of trying to attempt shorts and a tank top with a belly band, lol. Little Boy Blond is going to be a big brother (I have to call him "Little Boy" now, as there's going to be a new "Baby" around soon!), and we couldn't be happier. :)

With the move comes excitement as well as a minor disappointment: our living space has doubled, but the Sweet Home Kitchen is now about half the size as it used to be! I was bummed at first, but as I've purged unused cookware, a thrice-used cake-decorating kit, and a few random doodads that I can't remember ever using (A melon baller? What was I thinking?), I've found that the space is quite sufficient for everything I need

I'm also glad that this move was in the fall. Our last move was in the worst humid heat of August, and it was a real doozie. Not only did the cooler weather this time of year make moving easier, but it's really nice to settle into our new home with hot things like bread and roasts baking in the oven to share around our family table. For those of you who've never had the pleasure of autumn in Michigan, allow me a moment to digress...

There is nothing like autumn in Michigan. The weather changes so quickly that it catches us all off-guard...the dog days of summer melt into the glory days of fall, and all of a sudden the green, lake-lined edges of the mitten state are transformed into a sea of gold and rose as leaves begin to turn and fall. Ah, fall.

Along with the changes in color come the cool, biting winds that are as tangible as the crisp red apples you eat at the orchard as you search for the perfect pumpkin: not too big, not too small, and nicely rounded and presentable on at least three sides (because at least one side will be facing the wall, of course). Once you've got your pumpkin and pet a few farm animals, you can hop on the hay wagon and ride through a corn maze before heading back to the mill for cider and doughnuts that taste that much better because they're so fresh that the edges of the doughnuts are still crunchy and warm from the oil. Mmm. Fall.

Sadly, the apple crop on this side of the state wasn't too hot this year and many of the mills had to order apples from the western side, hiking up the prices from last year. While I've avoided the fresh made cider at $10.50 a gallon (yikes...guess I'll be buying it at the grocery store this year), I'll admit I did indulge in a few fresh doughnuts, just for the sake of tradition. ;)

But anyway, this post was supposed to say something about granola!

For the home (not for the shop), I've been working on mimicking a favorite product of mine: Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Granola. This time of year I can't help but long for anything pumpkin (Have you tried the Better Homes and Gardens recipe for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies? I have and um, yeah, amazing), and since I'm kind of a granola fanatic, pumpkin granola in autumn is a must. 

The first time I tried, I added way too much molasses to my recipe, which made it very, shall we say, robust. Not quite the light, airy texture of the Nature's Path version. Also, my puffed rice bits were larger than theirs (since I was experimenting, I went cheap and bought the massive, off-brand kind on the bottom shelf...big mistake), so it was kind of a weird mix altogether and not very pleasant.

Since I didn't feel like testing another batch (moving has been kind of overwhelming, to say the least) and really just wanted that delicious pumpkin seed flavor, I've resolved to dump a handful of pumpkin seeds in with my regular granola mix and call it a day. It's not quite the same as the Nature's Path version, but it makes for a great fall-flavored granola and nips that pumpkin fix! Now hopefully my chestnut craving will hold off until after Thanksgiving...

So here's to a new beginning, and to the holidays ahead! Be sure to watch the blog for more seasonally-inspired goodies!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama

What are your favorite fall recipes and/or pumpkin variations? Do share!