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And a Very Happy New Year to You!

Happy New Year!! It’s been a great week since Christmas. I’ve been posting pretty regularly on Instagram (LINK) and Facebook (LINK), but its time for a blog update.

Christmas Day

On Christmas we had our girls, their guys, and the grandkids over. This year we had a plan.  We had the kids open their gifts and to enjoy the morning with them. Once they went down for naps, we opened our gifts and finished dinner. The good was great: rib eye steaks, lobster, and all the sides. It went pretty much according to plan. We made a lot of fun memories on Christmas.

The Holiday Bowl

On the 27th, the hubs and I headed down to San Diego to take in the Holiday Bowl. My husband is a native Michigander and avid Michigan State fan. When we were in Michigan in September, we went to a Michigan State football game and had a fabulous time. So, I decided to surprise him with tickets to the Holiday Bowl to see Michigan State play.

There were SO many Michigan State fans everywhere in San Diego. Many more than Washington State fans. We stayed in the Gas Lamp Quarter and took the trolley to the game. It was a lot of fun and we can’t wait to return to San Diego again soon.

The Holiday Bowl parade was really cute!

 

We loved staying in the Gas Lamp Quarter

 

The food at Rockin’ Baja Lobster was delish

 

The final score at the game

Our Annual Christmas/Gift Exchange

The day after we got back, we had our annual family Christmas and gift exchange. I planned craft activities for the kids to keep them engaged while we readied dinner. They made some really cute placemats and plates. Dinner was yummy and the family time priceless.

New Year Motivations

I am so exited about the New Year. How about you? It’s almost like a new start or a clean slate when you wake up on New Year’s Day.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day taking down the Christmas decor, packing up ornaments, and putting away the tree. My rooms looked so bare afterward…

So, when I woke up this morning I had goals in mind: watch a couple of episodes of Fixer Upper (for motivation) and spruce up the living room. During the commercials, I trolled my house looking for decor items/photos to put in the bare areas of the living room.

Then, in true Renae fashion, I got really motivated and rearranged the whole living room. Thankfully, I got a little help from my husband because our reclining sofa are heavy. I’ll post pics in a post later this week, or check my Instagram or Facebook for a preview of the changes!

Until then,

New Year

 

Have Yourselves A Merry Little Christmas!

I wanted to jump on here and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Before I know it, it’s going to be fun and chaotic. So, I’m enjoying my coffee and solitude while I can.

Merry Christmas

 

One of my favorite Christmas decorations is this cute Nativity Scene that I got from Avon at least 25 years ago. My kids and grandkids have all played with it over the years.

I saw it this morning and decided to set it up on display as a reminder of what today really means. The birth of Jesus.

Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas from my home to yours! I wish you love and happiness today and always. May you find peace and special meaning on this Christmas Day.

 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I want to wish everyone a wonderfully, blessed Thanksgiving. To me, Thanksgiving is an important time to reflect and give thanks for my blessings.

I have so much to be thankful for in my life. A loving family, good health, the ability to pursue my dreams, and a country where we are free to express ourselves and live our version of the American Dream.

Here are some of my thankful moments over the past year:
The opportunity to enjoy moments with these boys (and Makenna)

 

Exploring places like the Caribbean with my husband

 

Our tour of the ship’s bridge on our cruise

 

Watching these boys collect (or not collect) eggs on Easter

 

Family brunch in November

 

Family photos in December

 

These grandkids!

 

Backyard antics

 

Playing at the park

 

Going with the grandkids to the Zoo

 

 

4th of July – 2017, 2016, and 2015

 

Terry and I at the Michigan State game in September. It was SO much fun!

 

Pre-game rally

 

This view from our condo in Maui never got old!

 

Selfie at the pool

 

How did I ever live without this sundae from Lappert’s in Wailea?

 

Pumpkin Patch in October

 

The boys helped me celebrate my birthday

 

This hot air balloon got off course and flew right over our house

 

Canning together was a definite highlight
What are your blessings that you’re thankful for this Thanksgiving? Share them below.
Thank you for visiting my blog and Happy Turkey Day!

Canning on a Fall Saturday

My daughters and I canned last Saturday. It was our first family canning experience. We’ve been saying for years that we were going to do this, and we finally did!

Initially, we were going to make spaghetti sauce with meat and pressure can it. But, when I got out the pressure canner, it was missing parts. So, we went to plan b and made it without meat.

Let’s Get Canning
Canning
We cored and cut 30 pounds of tomatoes!

 

We started with the Ball’s Home Canning recipe for Spaghetti Sauce with Meat. This called for coring and cutting the tomatoes, then putting them through a food mill. We did our first 15 pounds of tomatoes like that, so when we switched recipes we continued with that process for the next 15 lbs.

Canning
Cooking down the tomatoes

 

 

The sauce needed to simmer for at least 2 hours. Once the sauce was ready, we added it to the jars and put them in the canner to process. Then we celebrated on the back patio while the first batch was processing.

 

 

 

We used pint jars and processed them for 35 minutes.

 

All total, we made 18 pint jars of spaghetti sauce. Since my canner holds 6 jars at a time, we processed three batches.

 

Not bad for a Saturday’s work and we had a lot of fun doing it!

Here are a few of my recipes that you can use this spaghetti sauce in:

http://thefeatherednester.com/index.php/2017/08/18/italian-meatball-casserole-dinner/

http://thefeatherednester.com/index.php/2017/07/19/lasagne/

 

Why I Love October!

In case I’ve never mentioned it, I love October. Maybe it’s because of the beautiful weather here in California during the month. Could it be the way the air smells different? Or how when you go outside at night the air smells of wood burning fireplaces? Oh, and let’s not forget how there are pumpkins everywhere you look!

Honestly, though, the reason I probably love October is that it’s my birth month and I get to celebrate my birthday three weeks into the month. And after that, its Halloween! What a fun month.

It’s a Birthday Celebration!

We celebrated my birthday a day early, on Friday, because one of our daughters would be out-of-town for the weekend. My one year-old granddaughter, Makenna, missed the fun because she was sick. So, she had to stay home with her dad.

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The boys love singing happy birthday

And then it was time to blow out the candles!

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They did a great job at blowing out candles!

The cake was delicious, in fact, the leftovers were gone by Sunday.

I’ve been wanting a smaller purse for evenings out, concerts, and travel. I was so excited to get this for my birthday:

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The Favorite MM

It was a great evening, celebrating with family.

The following night, we went to dinner at Flemings. My favorite meal is a wonderfully cooked steak and that’s what I had.

 

Now that my birthday festivities are over, I am looking forward to Halloween. This weekend we are doing some Halloween decorating outdoors. We just love handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters, and this year I am going to make treat bags for them.

I hope you are having an awesome week! Check back later this week for some new recipes. I will be featuring barbecue baked beans (the best recipe I’ve ever tasted), cheeseburger soup, and wedge salad.

The Empty Nest…So, What’s Next?

Eleven years ago, this month, my baby girl went off to college. Even though I’d known it was coming and tried to prepare myself mentally, it was still a blow. Ironically, it almost didn’t happen.

A Little Background…

Though you’d never know it now, our youngest wasn’t the most motivated student. She struggled with ADHD, and though I was never formally diagnosed, I did too. Both of us learned to survive and thrive in a non-ADHD world.

Homework was always an issue with her. Remembering it, doing it, and turning it in.

Just before spring break of her senior year, we received a progress report showing she was failing Algebra 2. She had to pass, with a C, to get into college. In fact, she’d already been accepted and we may have even attended her college orientation at that point.

The teacher said she didn’t see how our daughter could pass the class. But, she buckled down, made up her homework over spring break, and passed her final. She passed the class! It came right down to the wire.

“The Day” Has Arrived

That story relates to what occurred the day we left our youngest at college, and joined the ranks of empty nesters.

After getting her all settled into her dorm, it was time to go. As soon as we rounded the corner of the hall, I started sobbing. It’s such an ugly sob that my face is buried in my husband’s chest, and he has to lead me out of the dorm, down the street, to our car.

As we get settled in the car, my husband (who is trying to cheer me up) says, “don’t worry, she’ll be home before Christmas.”

His statement is based on the fact that we have had to push, prod, prompt, institute weekly schoolwork monitoring, and generally micromanage her schoolwork to get to this point. He thinks she won’t be able to cope in college without us there to push her.

The good news is that my husband was wrong! And, it’s probably the only time he’s been so thrilled to be wrong. She didn’t turn into the best student overnight, but she stuck with it and graduated from college.

Mission Accomplished

When our girls both graduated from college, my husband and I were almost more excited than they were. Although they’d done all the work, he and I accomplished our goal of providing them with what we considered the best start for adulthood.

empty nest
Heather received her BA in Public Administration (left) and Danielle her MA in Counseling (right), June 2011

 

What’s Next?

While my daughter was loving college in “The City” (she started at San Francisco State), I was at home wondering what was next for me. Mentally, I was at a crossroads. We lived in a really small town and I didn’t have a real network of friends for support.

This was before Facebook (for non-college students) and blogs. It was the age of My Space and Yahoo Groups. I looked for groups relating to empty nesters and didn’t have much luck. That’s one reason, all these years later, I started this blog.

The empty nest can be a really rough time in some parents’ lives. I was emotionally invested in raising my children, and at the time I only worked 12 hours a week. I enjoyed being a homemaker, but I wasn’t used to the quiet and abundance of free time I now had.

It took me about a year to get my bearings and adapt to this new phase of life.

Getting Your Bearings

Once I got my bearings, my life got so much better. I had the time to focus on myself and doing the things that gave me happiness, like cooking. Cooking was fun again because I didn’t have to satisfy picky teenagers. I had a husband who loved what I made. And, no more chauffeuring kids, monitoring curfews, or supervising homework!

Oh, there were still kid issues to deal with and plenty of worries, like when my daughters didn’t answer their cell phones after a night out. I still worried about their safety, a lot.

Around the one year mark of my empty nest, I left my part-time job for a challenging, full-time sales job. After spending years as the homemaker/house cleaner, I hired a cleaning woman.

My husband’s career was doing well, too, and suddenly, paying for two kids in college wasn’t so financially draining. We started redecorating our home and taking exciting vacations. Life was very good.

Overlooking San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2011

 

Welcome to The Feathered Nester

If you find yourself here because this is your new phase and you are struggling, I can relate. In case you missed it, here is my post on coping strategies for surviving and thriving with an empty nest (HERE). If you’re not struggling, that’s awesome. You are way ahead of the curve.

I named my blog “The Feathered Nester” because even though my nest has emptied out, I’m still feathering away. I am all about home and family: creating beautiful memories, working on our dream home, and loving on my husband, daughters, and my grandchildren.

I’m so glad you’ve joined me!

Hawaii, October 2015

Life Sure Gets in the Way! What I Have Been Up To…

I’ve been preoccupied for the last week or so with school work, specifically finishing up my final projects for class. In case you didn’t know, I’m an online college student. Next week is the beginning of my last semester! You have no idea how excited I am about finishing my BA in Early Childhood Development. It feels like it’s been forever since I decided to return to college but I can say this journey has been life changing, in a really good way.

Guess What? Our Steam Oven Finally Works!

The big news in my household is that after over a year we have a working steam oven! Mind you, I have zero experience with steam ovens. Actually, this is a convection steam oven. When we were doing our kitchen remodel (HERE), I saw the Thermador steam oven in a few kitchen galleries. I was told that the convection steam oven could do everything a microwave could do except reheat coffee and pop popcorn.

From the beginning, the convection steam oven was a lesson in frustration. Every time I tried to use the steam only function it never seemed to work right. Everything else about the oven worked fine, so I assumed I was doing something wrong. I got distracted with life, and it wasn’t until March that I realized that the oven, and not me, were the issue. After many twists and turns, including having the oven replaced with a new one, we found out that the electricians had not followed the electrical specs and the issue was the wiring to the oven.

I can finally say that steam ovens ARE amazing! Most restaurants utilize steam ovens in their kitchens. Often, they prepare much of their meals ahead of time and use steam ovens to reheat the food when it’s ordered. Steam ovens are able to reheat foods so that the food tastes freshly made. We have used it a number of times in the last week and love the results! I will definitely be sharing some steam oven recipes and experiences with you in the coming months.

Back to the 80s!

I took a little time out from schoolwork on Sunday and Monday for an out-of-town concert at Vino Robles in Paso Robles, CA. We went with my sister and her husband. It was a blast back to the 80s (at least for me, further back for some others) with Don Felder, from The Eagles, REO Speedwagon, and Styx. Here are a few photos we took:

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My hubby and I with my sis and her hubby
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Don Felder from The Eagles
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Styx was amazing!
It’s What’s For Dinner

Since I discovered that most corn tortillas have no sodium, I have been making more Mexican food. Tonight, it was Beef Taquitos (baked!) and the night before it was Chicken Tacos. I’ve already gone through a container of Mrs. Dash’s Fiesta Lime Seasoning. Pasta is another item that I discovered has no sodium. So look for more pasta recipes in the following weeks, along with foods from the steam oven.

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Beef Taquitos with Guacamole
It’s Time for “Worth the Splurge?” Again

I’m working on another installment of “Worth the Splurge?” I’m still trying to narrow down the possibilities on what the post will be about. Should I do it on clothing? A handbag? An appliance? Household décor? Makeup? Haircare? Put your requests in below!

Family Fun With Mason and Dillon

We have had some family fun with our little grandsons, Mason and Dillon, over the past month. We watch them a few days a week, and these two together are the definition of fun! I thought I’d share some of our more memorable moments.

We Found A Baby Frog!

The cutest moment has certainly been this video I made of Mason hopping like a baby frog! We were at the park last week when we found a baby frog. After watching it hop around in the grass, Mason decided he wanted to hop like it!

 

At the Park
Family Fun
At the park a few weeks ago
Family Fun
Grandpa helps Mason on the jungle gym
Doing the “fitness trail” last week
At Play in the Backyard
Family Fun
Playing with play dough
Family Fun
Team work
Around Our Neighborhood
Our neighborhood ducks, in a neighbor’s front yard. We enjoy seeing the momma and her 8 ducklings as they wander up and down the street.

 

Out for a ride

 

Hope you enjoyed my cuteness post today. These guys are a hoot, that’s for sure!

2nd Annual Mother’s Day Trip

image credit: Hotel Valencia

Mother’s Day Weekend Trip!

My daughters, Danielle and Heather, and I had our 2nd Annual Mother’s Day Trip over the weekend. This year, seven-month-old Makenna joined us. Our destination for the weekend was Santana Row in San Jose. Once we arrived there, we met with another three generational group, my friend Melanie, her daughter, and two granddaughters, for lunch.

IMG_3529 Trip
Auntie Heather and Makenna at Pizza Antica

Did Someone Say Pedis???

After lunch, we headed off for our pedicure appointments at a local nail spa. There was so much going on that Makenna enjoyed looking around and cuddling with her mom.

 IMG_3546 Trip
Bubbles!

After our pedicures, we hobbled in our post-pedi flip-flops over to Hotel Valencia to check-in.

IMG_3554 Trip

Naptime

The adults rested while Makenna took a nap. After resting and changing, we decided to head out for dinner. Unfortunately, our first restaurant choice had a two-hour wait so we decided to walk around to find another venue. While walking down Santana Row, we lucked upon this great Mexican bistro. We ordered a pitcher of Sangria and table-side prepared guacamole & chips while we perused the menu.

IMG_3556 Trip
Sangria and Guacamole (you can see a peek of it off to top right)

There were so many delicious looking entrees, it was hard to decide. I went with carnitas, which is my turn-to-favorite and my girls had the fajitas for two (it actually could have fed three!). Dinner ran longer than we expected, so Danielle and Makenna left as soon as they were done eating. She wanted to get Makenna ready for bed. Heather and I decided to go a little shopping before heading back.

At Sur La Table, I picked up this cute Staub knob for one of my Staub dutch ovens. I must confess, I am a recovering rooster addict…I still love them but my kitchen is no longer exclusively rooster themed!

Trip

Sunday, Mother’s Day

The next morning we slept in a little late and had a great complimentary breakfast at the hotel.

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Heather’s breakfast

Us girls did some shopping after checking out. I posted a Style Reveal on something I picked up at the Gucci store HERE, so be sure to check that out. One of my favorite places to go on Santana Row is The Container Store! I love getting my “organization on” there. When you’re organizing with such pretty containers, it doesn’t feel like a chore at all.

Our 2nd Annual Mother’s Day Trip was a wonderful weekend and I can’t wait for next year!

What did you do for Mother’s Day? Do you have any family traditions? Leave me some comments below!

*I receive absolutely no compensation or discounts for any of the brands I discuss in my blogs.