Monday, November 28, 2011


It starts with a tradition. A family tradition spanning several decades. Thanksgiving morning always begins with the Gardner breakfast casserole. It's as important as snuggling up on the couch in PJ's watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

It's delicious. Mr. G prepares the breakfast casserole the evening of Thanksgiving Eve. Bacon, sausage, cheese, eggs, a loaf of bread. There's not an exact recipe - he wings it every time and gets it perfectly crisp and fluffy each time.  I've never asked for him to write down how he puts it together, although I'm sure one of you will beg ask for the recipe so I probably should. I mean, there is bacon.

A new Gardner tradition started two years ago. Smoked Turkey. We literally cook our turkey in a barrel - but call it a trash can and you're in trouble. It's a smoker. A steel drum converted to a BBQ. There's nothing like it. The juiciest turkey you will ever eat.

It makes me happy. But not as happy as seeing the two men in my life spending uninterrupted time together. I'm crazy about these guys.

And my little princess who adores her grandpa. It's so fun watching my daddy play with his grandkids. Love bursts from his smile. See it?

My mom and sister are always on their feet. Big celebration or not. These two are amazing. Whipping up food like there's no tomorrow and cleaning up so fast you would never know a feast took place just moments before. They are both nurses, nurturing is in their blood.  

The secret to a holiday with kids is gifts. In this case, coloring books and stickers. It kept them busy long enough for grandpa to watch some football in peace.

Along with smoked turkey, we fry a turkey and bake a turkey. Three turkeys, three ways. We don't mess around.

And it wouldn't be complete without green bean casserole, mac & cheese, two types of stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, rolls, ham, my brother-in-law's mother's sweet potato casserole and the rest of the fixin's.

Then we gather around the table (picture sans my sister and I). We talk about how much food we've prepared and compliment each dish. We thank God for each other, our children, our health and we pray for our troops, those home and those keeping watch at that very moment.

It was Noah's first Thanksgiving. One that he won't remember, but mommy always will. 

I'll remember how he tried to keep up with his cousins, how his eyes lit up every time grandma walked in the room, how he cuddled with his daddy, how he was ran over by Evan and was given the nickname "speed bump," and how he fell asleep in his car seat in the living room during our loud laughter and chatter. 

And how he loved his Thanksgiving dinner. Scarfing down the turkey and corn, and delicately pinching the mashed potatoes until finally grabbing a hand full and shoving it in his mouth. 

After our feast we relax and stay several hours past our intended departure time. The turkey is mostly to blame. That darn tryptophan.

At the end of the night we say our goodbyes, although we know we'll all be together at the end of December to celebrate our Savior's birth. And we can't wait.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful {Oh Snap Linky}

I am not a patient person. I can be selfish and hurtful. I wouldn't say that I'm the most generous or thoughtful. But I'm thankful. Every day my heart pours out thankfulness to my Heavenly Father for all He has given to me.

Especially for these three amazing people.

Every time I look at their faces I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I don't deserve them. And even when I'm holding them in my arms I can't believe they're mine and how abundantly I'm blessed.

And I'm thankful that despite all of my flaws, Christ still loves me.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Crafts

We've been crafting away at the Gardner house lately. Here are a few of my favorites---

Cut out a tree pattern on brown paper and put out a few different colors of finger paint to make fingerprint leaves.

Making Thanksgiving Day place mats was one of my favorite things to do in school. Noelle and I made this one at Art Class (she wasn't too interested in elaborating the turkey features).

Leaf bracelets - all of the kids love this fall activity. Wrap a strip of tape - sticky side out - around the wrist and let them find leaves to stick on their "bracelet." A fun thing to do on Thanksgiving Day, then use the bracelets as place cards on the kid's table.

Noelle's hand turkey. Trace and cut out the hand prints, make a turkey body, glue them to paper and draw a face and legs (Noelle wanted orange legs so you can't really see them). And if they want to, let them continue to color their turkey.

I took out the Christmas decorations (going up today) and found this one from last year - our family turkey. We're going to need to make a new one this year with Noah's hand prints.

Linking up with I Can Teach My Child
Where you will find amazing crafts and activities to do with your little one!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Noah, 9 Months!

This little man is into everything. I can't keep up. Luckily his sister informs me of his location during those few times I'm not following his every move.
"MOM! He's climbing on the couch!"
"MOM! He's in the kitchen! OH NO! The dog food!"
"MOM! He has the remote!"
"MOM! He's going to my ROOOOOM!"
And on and on. He is literally on the go from the moment he wakes up until he passes out at nap time. His on-the-go time wouldn't be bad if he wasn't so attracted to the kitchen and dining room which has hard tile flooring. When he first started climbing up the cabinets he would fall a couple of times a day and I felt horrible. He eventually learned to kneel down and safely get back to crawling position, but for about 2 weeks I seriously considered buying a helmet for him.

Noah pulls himself up on everything, including walls. I've rounded the corner in the hallway several times to find him standing against the wall. I wonder why he gets half way down the hall and decides, "I think I'll stand right here." Goofball. 
Recently Noah started putting his hands in the air when he wants me to pick him up - it's so cute! I can't resist those little arms reaching for me. 
He also gives high fives, claps and gives kisses - things he was doing at 7 months. And now we are working on waving and saying mama, daddy, sissy, dog, up, ball, milk and food. 

I gave him his first hair cut this month. He looked clean cut for about a week, but it became quickly apparent that he inherited his father's super fast hair-growing skills. I've been cutting Mr. G's hair for the past 6 years and Noelle's hair for 3 years. I guess I'll be cutting his hair every 4 weeks also.

Noah is a great little eater. He tolerates being spoon-fed but really loves feeding himself. The only thing I spoon-fed him now is yogurt for breakfast and 2 purees a day. The rest of his food he picks up and eats on his own. He pushed the food to the front of his mouth and chews with his 6 teeth (4 bottom, 2 top) and he loves to hum and "talk" while he is chewing. It seems his favorite things to eat are bread, chicken and scrambled eggs. He also nurses 6-7 times a day (including a 3am feeding). I estimate that he drinks about 18-24 oz a day of breast milk.
(eating bread)

Here's a list of things Noah eats throughout the day:

YoBaby yogurt
scrambled eggs, toast or pancake

Diced banana or diced kiwi

Fruit or veggie puree
bread and shredded cheddar cheese

Fruit or veggie puree
diced chicken or pasta (small pieces of whatever we are eating for dinner)
peas, cooked & diced carrots, diced mango, diced avocado or diced banana

(eating banana)

One of his favorite things to do is play with his sister. Noelle loves showing Noah all the fun things to do like building forts in the living room, playing "picnic" in the playroom, reading him books, playing with puzzles, and climbing at the park.

Noah has also been fighting his first cold and double ear infection for a couple of weeks now - along with his top 4 teeth coming in. It hasn't been fun but he is feeling much better now that he is on antibiotics.

Noah naps 2 times a day. A morning nap from 10am-12pm and an afternoon nap from 2-4pm. Bed time is between 7:30-8pm and at 9 months old he still isn't sleeping through the night. Lately he has been waking up 3 times a night but I only nurse him at 3am. The other 2 or more times I will lay him down and give him a pacifier. Trust me, I've tried everything.

That's what my boy has been up to. Only 4 short months and he'll be ONE. Unbelievable.
I love you sweet Noah!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oh Snap Wednesday {LINKY} - 11/16

{Another} Harvest Fair

 This one was put on by the High School Ag Department

So much fun!

Link up your photo post here

Thursday, November 10, 2011

{Kid}ding Around LINKY PARTY - 11.11

Welcome to {Kid}ding Around Friday
{Kid}ding Around Friday is the place to share your kid-related posts about:
Crafts, Milestones, Homeschooling, Kid-Friendly Food, Pregnancy, Decorating, Photography, 
A Funny Story, Great Deals, Organization and more!

{To Join the Party}
Growing Up Gardner

1. Follow your hosts, Katie & Amanda (first 2 links).
2. We'd love for you to grab our adorable little button.
4. Enjoy reading through some of the other posts and make new friends!

Each week we will feature a few posts from the previous week.
By submitting a link, you are granting Katie and I permission to use the photos from your post.


Isla's first Halloween
Seriously, could Isla get any cuter? Great job making her costume, mama! 

Noah, Jaws, Pretend Play...OH MY!
I completely know where you're coming from girl friend. I LOVE teaching Noelle, playing games, reading, doing puzzles - but pretend play is so not my favorite. 

Ready in a Flash: Chicken Enchiladas
Looking good! I love an easy meal (that's also delicious).

Since the holiday season is coming up and we are two busy ladies, we are going to take a break from {Kid}ding Around Friday until after the new year. This will be the last link up until then. If you don't have a specific post you want to share this week, go ahead and link up your main blog. We hope you have a wonderful time enjoying the holidays with your family and we look forward to reading all about it!

Team Mom {Part 5 & 6)

Week 5 of Water Polo season was Halloween week. I made the boys rice krispie treats and punched them out with my pumpkin cookie cutter, then used frosting as glue to attach sugar cookies. I bagged them in jack-0-lantern treat bags and included a tag. Apparently the boys look forward to reading the quotes on the tags as much as they like eating the treats. Mr. G said they fight over who gets to read it first. How cute is that?
"Good, better, best
Never let it rest
Until your good is better
and your better is best." 

Week 6 was the last 2 games of the season. I was SO nervous for the boys. I wanted them to win so badly! And they didn't disappoint! The Tigers are WYL Champions!!!

For week 6 I made them chocolate-dipped pretzels in the team colors - purple and gold.

Saturday is the first playoff game!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gardner Grub - Shepherd's Pie (Thanksgiving leftover style)

If your family is like mine, you come home Thanksgiving night in a sleepy daze with 2 Target bags full Tupperware containing leftovers. Turkey, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, green beans, rolls, sweet potato casserole, ham, three different stuffings and corn. I can usually take care of the turkey leftovers on my own - I love turkey sandwiches with American cheese and mayonnaise, it's my favorite part of Thanksgiving. But the other sides get pushed to the back of the fridge. Sound familiar?

I've been making this recipe since Mr. G and I got married (going on 7 years) and it has always been one of his favorites. It is the best way to use up the mashed potato and green bean leftovers without dinner tasting like Thanksgiving all over again. It's super simple and I haven't met anyone who doesn't love it. I think real Shepherd's Pie has lamb in it, but that's what I've always called this, so there you go.

{Shepherd's Pie}
1 pound ground beef
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 can of cut green beans, drained (or leftover green beans)
1 small onion, diced
1 can of cream of mushroom soup (Heart Healthy with no MSG)
1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350.
In a skillet add the ground beef and cook. Before all of the beef is cooked through add the diced onions and stir. When the beef and onions are cooked, drain the fat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the green beans and soup. Mix.
Pour the mixture into a 2 quart casserole dish and top with 1 cup of cheese then the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes.

And Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Oh Snap Wednesday {LINKY} - 11/9

There is an orchard down the street from our house. Walnuts, I think. Some kind of nut...anyway, it's one of my favorite places to take pictures (of Noelle). 

She calls it "the forest." I can imagine how big it must feel to her. Have you ever revisited a place from you childhood that was gigantic to you back then, but tiny as an adult? Mr. G and I recently drove by the middle school we attended and could not believe how small it is to us now compared to how massive and intimidating it was all those years ago. 

Once she's deep into the "forest" she twirls around and pretends to be Rapunzel. I love watching her play and dance and smile and be the amazing little girl she is. 

One day she'll drive down this street and remember all the times we stopped and became princesses. She'll no longer see the magical forest but hopefully she'll remember all the fun we had chasing woodland creatures and making precious memories together. 

{link up your photo post here}

Thursday, November 3, 2011

{Kid}ding Around LINKY PARTY - 11.4

Welcome to {Kid}ding Around Friday!

{Kid}ding Around Friday is the place to share your
kid-related posts about:
Crafts, Milestones, Homeschooling, Kid-Friendly Food,
Pregnancy, Decorating, Photography, 
A Funny Story, Great Deals,
Organization and more!
{To Join the Party}


1. Follow your hosts, Katie & Amanda (first 2 links)
2. Link to a specific kid-related post.
3. We'd love for you to grab our adorable little button.
4. Enjoy reading through some of the other posts and make new friends!

Each week we will feature a few posts from the previous week.
By submitting a link, you are granting Amanda and I permission to use the photos from your post.


Tangled Birthday Party

Halloween Craft

Pumpkin Crumb Cake

Featured? Grab a button on the left sidebar. Thanks for linking up!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gardner Grub - Bacon Macaroni & Cheddar Cheese

Comfort food at its best. Enough said.

{Bacon Macaroni & Cheese}
3 cups elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups 2% milk
4 oz. Philadelphia Chive & Onion Cream Cheese
4 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese
4 oz. Velveeta Cheese
1 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar
8 bacon strips, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Panko
3 Tbsp butter, melted

Heat oven to 350.
Cook macaroni according to the package.
In a large saucepan melt the 1/4 cup of butter, stir in the flour and gradually add milk. Bring to a boil and stir for a couple of minutes until thickened. Stir in the cheeses, bacon and salt & pepper.
Add the macaroni and stir until mixed. Transfer to a greased 8 inch square baking dish.
Combine panko with 3 Tbsp melted butter and sprinkle over the top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

**Side note - You can use the entire 8 oz of Chive & Onion cream cheese and omit the regular cream cheese or vice versa. I like this combination the best. And I usually end up making more of the panko mixture because I like a lot of crunch on the top.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Decorating Harvest Fest and 2011 Costumes

My church puts on Harvest Fest each year - a safe alternative to trick-or-treating on October 31st. There are bounce houses, cake walks, games, candy, hot dogs, frito boats, cotton candy, pop corn and lots of candy all for FREE! It's an amazing event for the community. My pastor's wife asked if I'd put together a photo area, of course I hate doing that sort of thing so it totally sucked :P

I couldn't wait to get started so I made a few sketches of what I wanted the area to look like and it came together just as I planned.

A scarecrow led the way.
 from Michaels (60% off with an extra 20% coupon). 
I painted a little wood plaque also from Michaels and hot glued it on.

I painted these pumpkins white then distressed them with fine sandpaper and painted on the letters SVCC (South Valley Community Church).

Harvest '11 bunting
I cut burlap into triangles and used stencils to paint the letters then hot glued twine to the back.
For the Corn Husk PomPoms I used this tutorial from Centsational Girl.

My Ariel.

I also decorated a couple more sitting areas around the church campus.

 Sebastian & Ariel had a great time at Harvest Fest! Over 4 thousand people attended :)

And just like that October ended and today I started getting down my Christmas bins to remind myself what I bought on clearance last year and plan out my 2011 Christmas decorations. No, it's not too early. Now is the best time because several stores (Michaels, Hobby Lobby and Kohl's) have Christmas decor at 50% off and in my opinion it's perfectly acceptable to listen to Christmas music all year long in November.