Avocado Tips and Tricks

love avocados.  I could live on sliced avocados on top of an avocado salad, with a side of guacamole!  And I’ve been eating them for 30 {ahem} some odd years!  But only recently did I find out some tips and tricks to making these delicious fruits even easier to eat!

Avocado Logo Square

I like to buy several avocados at a time, and then place a couple in a brown paper bag, next to some bananas on the counter.  This helps them ripen faster, and within a day or two, the firm avocados have become slightly soft when you gently squeeze them.  That is your first clue that they are ready to eat.

Avocado Tips and Tricks- Palmettos and Pigtails

The second tip to check ripeness is to pop off the little stem thingy {yes, that’s the technical term thankyouverymuch}.  If it’s greenish on the inside, then your avocado is ripe!  The trick with this though is to only pop off the stem if you’ve already checked the fruit for a little squishiness… because if you take the stem off and it’s still brownish, then you’ve used up that opportunity to check for ripeness.

Avocado Tips and Tricks- Palmettos and Pigtails

After slicing the avocado lengthwise, use a sharp knife {one that has a wide blade…no pairing knives} to “Hi-ya!” into the pit.  Again, another technical term.  You will hit the pit straight on with your life, hard enough that it sticks into the pit.

Avocado Tips and Tricks- Palmettos and Pigtails

Then gently twist the knife, and the pit will slide cleanly right out of the fruit.

Avocado Tips and Tricks- Palmettos and Pigtails

Then, if you want cube-ish pieces, draw a grid of lines with your knife through the flesh {be careful not to cut through the skin}.  If you are using the avocado to make guacamole, feel free to not cut a grid, but just scoop out the flesh into a bowl for mashing.

Avocado Tips and Tricks- Palmettos and Pigtails

Use a spoon to gently scoop around the edges of the flesh, scraping the inside of the skin…and all of the cube-ish pieces will come right out into your bowl.

Avocado Tips and Tricks- Palmettos and Pigtails

For avocado salad, add some mozzarella balls and tomatoes with a little white or balsamic vinegar.  My favorite healthy lunch!

I don’t have a photo, but if you are making guacamole, prepare it fully in your serving bowl, then take a piece of cling wrap and lay it directly onto of the guacamole.  Make sure all of the top of the guacamole is touching the cling wrap, ensuring that there is no air in between.  Seal off the guacamole all the way to the edges of the bowl and up the sides.  Then take a second piece of cling wrap and lay it over the top of the whole bowl.  Your guac shouldn’t turn brown, as long as there is no contact with air!

Enjoy!

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DIY Circle Picture Frames

One of my favorite projects in Lincoln’s nursery is the set of three circle picture frames I made for the wall above the rocking chair.  Although I would definitely say the room has more of a “vintage” theme {if any!}, there are also some nautical notes scattered here and there.  And I think the circle frames give a nod to that a bit by subtly mimicking portholes.  I’m even thinking about lining the edges with rope, perhaps.

DIY Round picture frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

The hardest part about this project for me, was picking out the scrapbook paper for the backgrounds, and choosing {only} three photos from Rachel Weber’s Newborn Photo Shoot.

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

Materials:

- 3 wooden circles {I actually got 6 of these and used wood glue to secure two together to make them a little thicker}

- 3 plexiglass sheets

- 3 sheets of scrapbook paper

- 3 five by seven photos

- Modge Podge and sponge

- 3 frame hangers

- 12 tacks

- sharpie

- Kobalt glass cutter and/or X-acto knife

- 150 grit sanding sponge

- measuring tape or ruler

- straightedge

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

If you want to make your circles a little thicker, use the wood glue to secure two together.

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

 Put something heavy and flat on top and let glue dry completely.

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

Cover one side of your wooden circle with Modge Podge and secure your scrapbook paper to it.  Be sure that any imperfections in the wood are on the back, not under the scrapbook paper.  Use your X-acto knife to carefully trace around the circle to cut the paper.  I didn’t push down very hard, but rather gently cut around the edge several times, and you can see that the paper still ripped a bit on the edges…so be gentle!

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

I then covered the front of the circle {over the scrapbook paper} with Modge Podge to create a protective barrier, and give it a little shine.

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

Use some wood glue to secure a frame hanger to the back of the circles…make sure you position the hanger how you want your circle to hang.  My striped circle ended up being a little crooked, and it drives me crazy! {Dave assures me that no one will notice unless I point it out, so I’ll never tell you!}

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

The sheets of plexiglass that I got at Hobby Lobby were the bigger size above {not sure exactly what size they originally were}.  Use the sharpie to measure out a 5 1/2 X 7 1/2 rectangle.

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

Use your glass cutter or X-acto knife and the straightedge to score the plexiglass.

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

Gently cut over the lines three or four times.

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

You should be able to use your straightedge to carefully break the plexiglass along the scored lines.  Be careful, as the edges will be rough.

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

Use the 150 grit sanding sponge to gently sand the edges of the plexiglass, only moving in one direction.  Also, be carefully to sand completely straight along the edge, so you don’t scratch the front of your glass.

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

Carefully position the plexiglass over your photo, taking care to be sure your photo will be straight when you hang your circle.

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

I found that by gently sticking a tack on the edge of the circle, aligning it with where the center of my frame hanger was, helped me center my photo and plexiglass on the front of the circle.

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

Then use the tacks to secure the corners of the plexiglass.  This will allow you to change out the pictures as often as you’d like!

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

DIY Round Picture Frame tutorial for a vintage-themed baby nursery - Palmettos and Pigtails

And thanks to the Panoramic setting on my iPhone, here’s a picture of the whole room!

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Summer Recap 2014

It’s official….the summer has yet again, flown by!  So today I thought I’d give you a quick recap of our summer in pictures!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

Millie graduated with honors from the 2 year old class at her pre-school…mastering the potty, recognizing the letters in her name, and making silly faces instead of smiling.  Jayna aced the 4 year old class and bittersweetly moved on to kindergarten.  She is reading chapter books, writing letters and riding her bike!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

Did I mention that we had a baby?  Lincoln Christopher joined us in mid-May and is rounding into his fourth month already!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

He is a completely chill baby who will smile at just about anyone!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

The girls had a whole lot of Loo Loo time while I bonded with Lincoln.

Caution Tape Construction Wreath for Vacation Bible School Decor from Palmettos and Pigtails

Both girls got to experience a couple of Vacation Bible School sessions over the summer.  Although I couldn’t volunteer during the sessions this year, I was able to help out with decorating for the “Workshop of Wonders” construction theme.

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

Our summer was filled with neighborhood gatherings, from a festive 4th of July parade and fireworks show, to a laid back Bluegrass and BBQ festival.  There were also less formal occasions, as our closest neighbors shared meals, childcare and old-fashioned fun!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

We were able to get up to Montreat again this year, to catch up with our best friends and reminisce a little about my summers there.  And last weekend, we were SO excited to welcome our newest God-daughter, Penny!  Lulabelle and Ro will be such great big sisters!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

We had lots of visitors…including Great-Grandparents on both sides of the family!  I’m so proud and thankful that my kids know their Greats so well!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

We also traveled around the state of Florida to visit the grandparents in St. Augustine and St. George Island.  The girls had lots of beach days and lots of day trips!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

I was hoping that we’d have a nice relaxing summer…you’d think that would be easy with a newborn, right?  Not for this busy family!  We were just as active as ever, but had a wonderful summer!

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From Florida with Love: Saint Augustine

Our last stop in our roundabout tour of Florida {to visit the grandparents}, was to the quaint old town of Saint Augustine, just south of Jacksonville.

Recap of our Florida Vacation from Palmettos and  Pigtails

We obviously needed a break from all of that relaxing in Saint George Island….so we packed as much as we could into this trip!  Every day was a new adventure.

First up was a quick {and hot!} tour of the Castillo de San Marcos.  Otherwise known by my girls as “The Fort.”  MomMom and GP took the girls here when they visited in the spring….and the firing of the cannons was all they talked about for days after their little vacation!  Millie loves shouting, “Cover your ears!”  We also ran into a few pirates who wander the town on a daily basis.  This guy happened to be a “good guy,” offering to pose for a picture and giving the girls Gold Doubloons {aka pirate booty}.

One evening, we headed into town to find out that the evening concert that we’d been headed to, had been canceled.  But the night was saved when we ran into this pack of princesses, who were participating in a photo shoot.  We did nothing less than stalk them for an hour, posing for pictures and borrowing their props {Ariel even had a Dinglehopper!}.

Right up the road from MomMom and GP’s house is the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm.  It’s a zoo that has at least one of every type of alligator and crocodile in the world.  Not to mention the hundreds of alligators that we were able to help feed in the massive pond there.  As we walked across the boardwalk that spanned the pond, the alligators were literally climbing all over each other to get to the “Gator Nuggets” we were throwing to them.  But the highlight of the girls’ day was the unexpectedly social Komodo Dragons!

On the hottest day of the week, we took advantage of the half price offerings of the Jacksonville Zoo due to the high temperatures.  We actually lucked out, because thanks to a few rainstorms, in never got too hot…but there were no crowds either!  Jayna and Millie  got to actually touch the sting rays {which was exciting because they had seen a few in the water in SGI}, and they had an amazing tiger habitat that let the animals travel through multiple exhibits.

But my favorite part, was seeing family! My grandparents and my aunt came to visit from Ft. Myers and Atlanta to meet Lincoln and spend some time with the girls.  The girls are so blessed to have such wonderful relationships with all five of their great grandparents!  And Lincoln turned out to be a complete Great-Grandma’s boy!

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September 2014 Cleaning Calendar

Good morning!  There is just something about September that makes me want to break out my boots and order a Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Even though it’s still 104 degrees outside!  Dave and I have had many discussions lately about decluttering and simplifying our life, so I figure this month is as good as any to really do a good cleaning out of the house.  In addition to the things listed on my September 2014 Cleaning Calendar, I plan on making some much-needed trips to Goodwill, and really paring down the amount of “stuff” we have around.

September 2014 Cleaning Calendar from Palmettos and Pigtails

Click on the picture above, or here, to download and print your own copy of the September 2014 Cleaning Calendar

We are blessed to have a big beautiful house, but I feel like we take it for granted most of the time, and use all of that extra space to collect “stuff.”  We have so many projects and improvements we’d like to do to the house, but I feel like we can’t get our thoughts together because of the clutter!

For me, our worst room is our bedroom.  We have mismatched furniture, piles of “stuff” looking for a home, and admittedly, it’s the last room in our house that gets cleaned {mostly because no-one ever sees it!}.  One of these days I’d love to do a makeover in there….I have lots of ideas {just no money or time!}.

If you could make-over a room in your house, what would it be?

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From Florida with Love: Saint George Island

Recap of our Florida Vacation from Palmettos and  Pigtails

So, I may be kicked out of the family for saying this, but my in-laws are crazy.  I love them dearly, but they are absolutely nuts.   After moving only once in the past 9 years…I can safely say that I find it to be extremely stressful and a huge hassle.  However, my in-laws don’t seem to mind it!  Last time we were together, we counted and in the 6 years that Dave and I have been married, they have lived in 7 houses in three different states.  Crazy, right?

Now, don’t get me wrong…most of these moves have been due to job changes {and now, finally retirement!}.  But after about a year in a location, we kind of start expecting an announcement of their next location.

You may remember back in 2012, our family joined SueSue and Papaw {and Granna and Paw Paw} in Saint George Island, Florida.  The beach, located on the panhandle of Florida on the Gulf Coast, is a favorite vacation spot in the family.  So when they announced their most recent relocation, we were thrilled that they had decided to retire to SGI!

There is something about that beach that is just magical…and I only had one other trip there under my belt.  I can’t even imagine how the rest of the family feels, after having vacationed there for 25 years!  So to be able to retire and spend all of your days in this friendly town, seems like perfection!

SueSue and Papaw’s new house is about two blocks off the beach…a three minute walk or so.  It’s so nice to be able to leave our umbrellas and chairs on the beach, come back for lunch and naps, and then head back in the afternoon when it’s a bit cooler.  Dave and his dad love to sneak out in the evenings to go surf fishing.  I like reading on their massive screened in porch {because I prefer not to know what they are catching in the water that I swim in!!}.

Jayna and her Dad started prepping for the school year, by getting up early and walking on the beach to see the sun rise.  They also spotted crabs, dolphins, sting rays, starfish, and clams.  But more importantly, they formed a bond between the two of them that hadn’t existed before this summer.  Hopefully their relationship will continue to grow since Daddy will be the one getting Jayna ready for school and putting her on the bus in the mornings.

Since Saint George Island is about 9 hours away from our house, we are going to have adjust to not seeing SueSue and Papaw on a fairly regular basis anymore! =( So we celebrated Millie’s birthday early, with homemade cake and a purse-shaped piggybank!

One of the things I love about their house is how creatively the girls get to play there.  With only blocks, stuffed animals and an abundance of purses and Mardi Gras beads….the girls were still able to play all week long without getting bored!

Between the beach, climbing the forest of live oaks in the backyard, swinging on the porch swings under the deck, and taking trips into town or into Apalachiacola for shopping…..we stayed just busy enough.  And I was happy because I got to read an entire book AND take a nap almost every day!  My kind of vacation!

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Montreat 2014

My favorite summer tradition is going to Montreat, NC.  This tiny college town on the edge of Black Mountain and about 20 minutes northeast of Asheville is my Mecca.  Each summer the kids and I trek there to meet our oldest and bestest friends from Maryland.  They are youth councilors at the church we grew up in, and take their group of high schoolers to Montreat for the annual Presbyterian youth conference.

But luckily for us, the schedule at the conference is flexible enough that we get some amazing Betsy and Jay time while the teenagers are in their small groups in the middle of the day.

And now that my parents have moved to Florida, it’s really the only one reliable time that the kids get to see their God-parents!  I just love that all of our kids are so close in age….just wish they could spend more time together.

But there is another reason why I love taking the kids there each year.  It’s because of the actual conference.  The convergence of hundreds of teenagers from around the country.  Watching the interactions between groups of teens, participation in silly games, and getting a glimpse of their Christian journey is magical to me {especially since I lived it!}.   And I can specifically say that Betsy and Jay’s group of teens are “no exception.  My girls {especially Jayna} loooove the Big Kids.  She talked the whole way home about her new “Teenager Friends, ” Anna and Victoria…and how she wished she could stay longer to hang out with them.

Each year, I am tickled to briefly get to know these teens again {I watched most of them as babies when I was a teenager, volunteering in our church nursery!}.  I’m always amazing at how polite and caring they are, choosing to not only spend some of their free time with Betsy and Jay’s kids {who they know well}, but also with mine!

And sure, they are teenagers…so my kids get a little exposure to a little rough language, short shorts and rough play…but overall I feel just fine about having my girls look up to them.  And I can only hope my kids turn out just as well!

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Hold Me Close Nursing Cover and Infinity Scarf

*I was given the products mentioned in this post for free in exchange for a review on my blog.   As always, all opinions are 100% honest and my own!

Back when I was coordinating all the the Etsy vendors for my Big Baby Giveaway, I stumbled upon Hold Me Close Nursing Etsy shop.  Sondra makes infinity scarves that double as nursing covers…I was tickled to be able to include one in my April giveaway AND also review one for you now!

She’s got a zillion different colors, in solids, prints and chevrons.  The fabric is long, so there is more than enough to cover you and baby!  For a quick video on how the scarf works, check out the Hold Me Close Website.

Most recently, I took the scarf that Sondra gave me, to Montreat.  It was perfect since the mountain air was a bit cooler than what I was used to.  And for the church services at the retreat, I felt like I needed a bit more coverage over my tank top.  I was able to be stylish, while still practical and discreet while nursing.

Sorry for the selfie in the hotel room, but it was all I could do!  My scarf is the mint chevron, but this model does a much better job of showing you how the scarf works!

The fabric is a stretchy jersey knit, which is a little heavy for the heat of summer, but perfect for fall, winter and spring!  And the colors are bright and cheery (and lots of them coordinate with local teams….hello football season!).  And if you are like me, and like your scarves to be a bit longer, you may want to consider the Extra Long scarves.  And Sondra even has little scarves for your mini-me!

This is a great gift for the new mom {or new Big Sister!} in your life!  Get a jump start on your holiday shopping at the Hold Me Close Etsy Shop with 20% off with the code PIGTAILS20 {until August 27th!}!

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Five Years of of First Days

Yesterday was the first day of school for Jayna.  She started kindergarten this year, at “Big School.”  Also known as the local Elementary school….but we’ve been calling it “Big School” for years now to differentiate it from the preschool she went to for four years.

2010-2011 School Year {18 month class}

She started preschool when she was only 18 months old!  Crazy, I know!  But at the time, we didn’t have many stay-at-home mom friends with kids the same age…so it was more for the socialization aspect than anything.  So she started her school “career” in Ms. Leigh’s class {who is Millie’s teacher this year too!}.

2011-2012 School Year {2 year old class}

Throughout her four years in preschool, she kind of stayed with the same {Tuesday/Thursday} group of friends, until last year…as all of the kids went four days a week.  Needless to say she’s pretty well socialized at this point! =)

2013-2014 School Year {4 year old class}

So four years, four classes, and 8 teachers later….here we are in public school.  Kindergarten.

I thought I’d have more sappy emotion yesterday, dropping my first born off for her first day of school.  But as we were riding to school {we carpooled with neighborhood friends}, I started thinking that although this is a big milestone for her, she’s really a pro at this.  She’s been in school for four years now.  We had already met her teachers, seen her classroom, and established that she had no fewer than three friends that she already knew in her class.  In fact, when we went to “Meet the Teacher,”  she walked right up to her teacher and gave her a huge hug…sight unseen.  Needless to say, she was prepared for school.

First Day of School

So we did all the obligatory photos with friends, in front of the school, and holding her Kindergarten sign.  And when she got to her classroom, she gave me a hug and walked away.  No tears. On either side.

I skipped the “Boo-Hoo Breakfast” that the school puts on for all the teary-eyed moms, and headed home to spend some quality time with my middle child, who proceeded to cry the rest of the morning.  Ironic, huh?

Did you cry when your kid went to kindergarten?

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{From the Archives} School Lunch Ideas

This is an oldie, but goodie!  My school lunch ideas round-up has been one of my most popular posts ever!  So I thought I’d repost it for you with a couple of new ideas at the bottom too!

AND…Don’t forger that I have a giveaway going this week for some Jamberry Nails!     Click here to enter!

It’s that time again!  School starts next week, and this year I’ll need lunches for two kids!   So twice a week for Millie, and 5 days a week for Jayna, I have to come up with fresh, healthy, and portable food to eat.  And their routine lunch of peanut butter and jelly, heated up leftovers, a bunch of grapes, and a fruit snack won’t work at school.  And yes, they really does eat all of that!  And to top it off, I’m just not that creative {or a morning person}….so I can’t be one of these moms.

A round up of peanut-free make ahead school lunch ideas from Palmettos and Pigtails

 Source

So I’ve been scouring the internet {aka Pinterest} for some easy, make ahead meals.  Preferably ones I can maybe freeze too.  Here’s what I came up with:

A round up of peanut-free make ahead school lunch ideas from Palmettos and Pigtails

I love the idea of smoothies.  Healthy AND yummy.  But they are kind of a pain to make every morning…..but, if I make several and freeze them, by the time Jayna’s lunchtime rolls around, they shold be nice and thawed in her lunchbox!  This site has a bunch of different flavor ideas.

A round up of peanut-free make ahead school lunch ideas from Palmettos and Pigtails

Meet the Dubiens

And I found a bunch of cute ideas of muffin-tin lunches.  Although the kids won’t have access to a microwave, I’m hoping if I heat them up and wrap them in foil, they’ll stay pretty warm.

Little Potpies stocked with veggies and meat and topped with Bisquick!

A round up of peanut-free make ahead school lunch ideas from Palmettos and Pigtails

Betty Crocker

Don’t you just love the tiny pepperoni?

A round up of peanut-free make ahead school lunch ideas from Palmettos and Pigtails

Really From Pinterest

Here’s one I’ve actually made before.  The personalized mac and cheese bites are definitely a crowd pleaser!

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Bites Recipe - A round up of peanut-free make ahead school lunch ideas from Palmettos and Pigtails

Palmettos and Pigtails

And the next two are from my friend Jaima….she has tons of great freezer and toddler recipes on her site.

A round up of peanut-free make ahead school lunch ideas from Palmettos and Pigtails

A round up of peanut-free make ahead school lunch ideas from Palmettos and Pigtails

 Ring Around the Rosies

And the seven layer dip that we bring to um, every single party? What if I just make them in little individual Tupperware instead?

A round up of peanut-free make ahead school lunch ideas from Palmettos and Pigtails

The Girl Who Ate Everything 

I also had a few of my own ideas too! {gasp!}

  • I make these little cream cheese pinwheels for parties using tortillas, cream cheese and dry ranch dressing….I’m thinking of doing those again, but adding more veggies (like peppers, broccoli, carrot strips,etc.) inside before rolling them up and slicing them.
  • We routinely make stuffed crescent rolls for dinner and it has become a favorite quick dinner.  We’ve done pesto, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes….cheddar, apples and onion vinagrette….and of course string cheese, pizza sauce and pepperoni (I’m sure you can find that on pinterest!!).  What about ham and cheese?  Or bacon and eggs inside?  Super portable and freezer-friendly!
  • I also thought about making little burrito bowls.  Taco meat, cheese and salsa in a Tupperware in the freezer.  Thaw it out and top with sour cream for the lunchbox? Hmmmm…..

I also plan on stocking up on and pre-washing, cutting and bagging various fruit, veggies, cheese cubes, dried fruit and crackers.

How about you?  Got any ideas for me?  Leave me a comment!

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