Moving On to a New Collaboration

     I have been frantically working on my New Year’s resolutions since I last posted.  Not surprisingly, some are going better than others.  At least the house seems to be better organized than during the holidays.  Most of the flurry of activity, though, has been leading to this one big Collaboration:

The Launch of

Gracious Posse Banner

     Starting now, The Gracious Posse is a new lifestyle website celebrating the art of living in an emptying-nest.  This site seems the natural progression from the me-center of Avad Fan to the we-focus of the Posse who share our life journey.  Join my dear friend Ellen and me, along with a growing Posse, as we use our blessings to create our way into a gracious life that no longer is almost completely devoted to raising children.

     The Gracious Posse will be posting everyday with a weekly round-up on Sundays.  Posts will range from inspirations to recipes and how-tos to good and beautiful works happening around town, as well as across the country.  We will also soon begin offering unique and hard to find products that we believe will appeal to our Posse.  We hope that The Gracious Posse will become the one place that you want to visit with your cup of coffee in the morning or your glass of wine at night.

     Avad Fan will remain on-line so that you can get to the Recipes (it’s one feature of this site that I use all the time, especially in the grocery store), as well as the Archives.  I have loved building Avad Fan with your wonderful support.  This blog has taught me so much about the on-line world.  Now I feel ready to embrace my new career as a creative entrepreneur in collaboration with my smart, fun and practical friend, Ellen.  I sure hope that you will come share the journey at The Gracious Posse.

     Thank you for everything!

With grateful love,
Alison
a/k/a
Avad Fan
 

 P.S.  Definitely stop in at The Gracious Posse tomorrow to find out who in the heck the Gracious Posse is after all.


Happy 2013: The Year of Living C

     How is it 2013 already?  Annually I inevitably ask,  “Why does the end of year have to come at the same time as Christmas?”  There’s just too much to do and plan in such a short amount of time.

     I do have some big plans for 2013, and the resolutions that go with them all happen to begin with the letter C.  Hence “The Year of Living C”.  By posting these resolutions, I am now accountable to you for putting them into action.  Please help me to remember them.

Condense

     This is the healthy living portion of my annual “Lighten Up” resolution.  This year I want to focus on condensing (a/k/a reducing) my consumption and my stuff.  We all know that too much of anything (except love) is not good.  I hope that the word “Condense” can become my mantra

condense

for shrinking this 50-something belly fat (thank you, menopause) and leading me to a more organized life with less clutter in my home and in my brain.

Consider-ate

     I really want to “Consider” all others whom I meet.  Years ago, I was part of a DOCC (Disciple of Christ in Community) group at my church.  One of the many wonderful results of it was the renewed conscience awareness of Christ’s presence in every human being.  The awakening of what should not have been a revelation helped me begin to really try to make a connection with each person whom I encountered.  Over time since that year-long course, I have gotten lazy in my efforts, but the recent wave of “Random Acts of Kindness” have reminded me that it is time to start refocusing on others.

Free Printable from Thumba-Lea

Free Printable Random Act of Kindness cards from Thumba-Lea

Free printable cards from Justina's Random Acts of Kindness blog

Free printable RAOK cards from Justina’s Random Acts of Kindness blog

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness form MOMumental Savings

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness from MOMumental Savings

More RAK'ed printables from Make Them Wonder

More RAK’ed printables from Make Them Wonder

     Ironically, this wave of kindness, sometimes accompanied by a cute little card like the ones above that I spotted on Pinterest, has arisen from the ashes of the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook and has reminded me that the light of God dwells in each one of us.  How then can I not be considerate of each person whom I encounter?  I also need to remember that consideration starts at home, and then I can carry this practice out into the world.

Collaborate

     My son’s school has been telling us that the buzz word for education in the 2010s is “Collaboration”.  Without collaboration, our children will not be able to navigate the global economy that they will face as adults.

creative-collaboration-6-22-2012

2013 is the year that I embrace collaboration.  Much more news on that will be coming soon, so please stay tuned.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

     In the meantime, what have you got planned for 2013?  I look forward to seeing it all unfold.

     The happiest of New Years to you and your loved ones!


A Smoked Turkey Makes Quite the Savory Gift

     One of the most delicious gifts that we received this Christmas was a mesquite smoked turkey prepared by dear friends on Christmas Eve.  Turns out that a smoked turkey is the gift that keeps on giving.

Don’t let the blackened crust scare you.

     After being the centerpiece of our Christmas dinner, the carcass became 26 cups of smoked turkey stock the next day.  I placed two cups each into quart freezer bags, then placed them on a tray to put in the freezer.

Now I’ve have stock in convenient amounts that will serve as the basis for many a smoked soup in the coming winter months.

     I also had enough leftover meat to make three casseroles.  In addition to the family favorite, Tamale Casserole, which was particularly delicious with the smoky flavor, I experimented with a basic turkey and wild rice casserole recipe that I found on Cooks.com.  With some simple adjustments, I added a bit of green to this otherwise very white dish and got loads of compliments to go with it.

Turkey with Wild Rice and Spinach Casserole

1 medium onion, chopped
8 0z. sliced mushrooms
1/2 C butter
1/4  C flour
1 1/2 C chicken or turkey stock
1 1/2 C half and half
3 C cooked turkey, cut up
1 box Uncle Ben’s Original Wild Rice
8 oz. package chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dried of as much water as possible
1/2 C slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350° and lightly grease a 2 quart casserole dish.

Cook onions and mushrooms in butter over low heat, stirring frequently, until onions are transluscent but not browned.  Gradually stir in flour until thickened and well blended.  When it begins to bubble, stir in the stock and half and half.  When blended, bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Once boiling, continue to stir for one minute.

Remove from heat and stir in spinach, wild rice and seasoning packet and turkey.  Pour into prepared casserole and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for one hour.  Remove aluminum foil, sprinkle evenly with almonds and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool slightly.

Serves 6-8.

     So many delicious dinners from one little ol’ bird.  What a wonderful gift!


Have Yourself a Funky Little Christmas

Spotted this decorated tree on a walk in an adjoining neighborhood last week, and it brought a full-blown smile to my face.

May your home be filled with full-blown smiles this Christmas Day!

xoxo,

Alison


Share Your Sweet Side with Peppermint Cookie Trays

     While baking Christmas cookies is always a tradition around our house, the kind of cookies that we bake is not.  Every year something new comes out of the oven, and this year is no different.  Not surprisingly, this year’s inspiration came from Pinterest and a post from the blog, Joy the Baker, forwarded by my dear friend who had also forwarded on the letter from the Newtown PTA about the Sandy Hook snowflakes.

     When the flour and powdered sugar dust had settled over the weekend, we had Peppermint Trays filled with these:

Peppermint Meltaways

Rosemary Clementine Thumbprints

Blueberry Banana Mini-Muffins

Red Velvet Black & White Cookies

A few filled trays were gifts to neighbor students studying for exams.  The rest of the cookies are being inhaled right here at home.

     The Black & Whites are definitely this year’s favorite, no doubt because they are the most time-consuming to make. I really like the grown-up, not-so-sweet flavor of the Thumbprints. The Meltaways were super-simple and are egg-free, while the mini-muffins are an old Southern Living recipe that I have been making in a variety of sizes for years.

     Next up on the baking agenda:  Christmas Morning Scones.  In addition to Cheddar and Canadian Bacon Scones, I’ll be trying Cranberry Pumpkin Scones using the basic scone recipe but substituting ½ cup pumpkin for the sour cream.  What are you baking this Christmas?

P.S.  The Rosemary Clementine Thumbprints and the Red Velvet Black & White Cookies were prepared for a blogger cookie swap with Ina Garten for Better Homes and Gardens.  Can you imagine being one of those lucky bloggers?  What a Christmas gift!


Christmas Holiday Project: Make Snowflakes for the Sandy Hook School

NB: See Comment below regarding closing of Sandy Hook Snowflake Project due to overwhelming response and consider the idea of creating a local wonderland as a sign of support.

     A friend passed along an email from the Newtown PTA/PTSA about a project that we can all work on when the kids are out of school for the Christmas holidays:

Dearest Newtown Families & Newtown School Staff,

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of you today. 

We know that our town is looking for a way to support Sandy Hook School and
all of Newtown in this hour of need. Your local PTA/PTSAs met on Sunday with
representatives from Connecticut PTSA with that goal in mind and this is the
result:

“Let’s Give Sandy Hook School a Winter Wonderland”  
Snowflake Drive – Like our children, no two snowflakes are alike. We invite
you to create snowflakes to decorate Sandy Hook School’s new home. Be
creative! All colors and designs are welcome.  We know that children will
enjoy creating art that can adorn the walls of SHS’s new elementary school.
CT PTSA has been contacted from schools across the state and this is a
project we can all share. “Snowflake” drop boxes will be available at all
schools or can be mailed to: Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building
12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514, by January 12, 2013.

“Newtown Teachers & Staff, We Love You”
Teacher & Staff Appreciation Luncheons – Newtown public schools will host
potluck lunches district-wide on Friday as a sign of appreciation for our
teachers and staff.  We will also provide a catered lunch for the staff at
Central Office. Stay tuned for details from your individual schools.

“What Else Can We do?”

Sandy Hook School Fund — Many people are looking to help by making a
donation. Please be cautious before contributing money and make sure the
fund is legitimate. With the help of CT PTSA, we have created the “Sandy
Hook School Fund” and donations will be accepted through CTPTA.ORG. You can
pay online or send a check to Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway,
Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514 (if online contributing is made
available, we will let you know).  No fees are charged and all monies raised
will go directly to help Sandy Hook School and Newtown. The beauty of this
fund is that we can designate its use farther down the road, when we can
determine where it will do the most good for the families of SHS and our
town.

Newtown PTA/PTSAs thank both the CT PTSA and National PTA for their support
at this time. Soon the media attention will fade and we will continue to
support each other in private. We love Newtown and our wonderful families.
Don’t hesitate to contact your local PTA/PTSA officers with any of your
concerns; we are here for you and each other.

Newtown PTA/PTSAs

With snowflake inspiration all over the internet, this project seems like the perfect way for all of us who want to do something for this devastated community and let them know how much we love and care for them.  Just click on the pictures to link to the how-tos.

And from the queen of crafts, Martha Stewart:

Spending time with our children on this project might help heal us all a bit, as well.

Updated information regarding the Sandy Hook Snowflake Project via Peanut Butter Fingers:  the snowflakes should not have any writing on them, but please include a note explaining their origin (school, class, town, state) to display along with your snowflakes.


Christmas Floraspirations

I prepared this post to be published before yesterday’s unfathomable tragedy.  As we all mourn for the innocence lost and made even more painful by its occurrence during this season of hope and light, we know that we cannot let evil stop our preparations for the coming of Jesus.  With unbound sympathy for the parents and families of the victims in Newtown, Connecticut, I pray that these Christmas decorations and traditions will comfort and remind us how much we need the grace and comfort of Jesus Christ not just during this incongruous holiday season but all the year long.

     The annual Christmas decorations are finally up, and all but a box or two has been returned to the attic.  Now it’s time to find and arrange the flowers and greenery that will hopefully take us past Christmas Day.  My Three Chopt Garden Club has been my source of floral inspiration (hence “Floraspiration”).  These designs that a small group of us created for the Kent-Valentine House, as well as the elegant green and white arrangements created by some talented ladies for our Club’s annual Christmas party, have inspired me to try some new looks this year.

(Drooling over this mirror-top. It’s a perfect idea for my dining room.)

     Are you feeling inspired to get arranging yet?

All photos by Avad Fan on iPhone.