Thursday, October 29, 2009

Making a House a Home--Halloween Style; and a Few Yummy Fall Recipes!

Meet Dana. Wherever I have lived there has always been at least one individual in my neighborhood that becomes my lifesaver and sanity. In my current neck of the woods, one of these friends would be Dana. She has brought me dinner when our household has been sick, treats for no reason at all, flowers and a luxury magazine I'd never buy for myself on my birthday, and has shown up on my door step when somehow she intuitively knew I was having an awful day. She is always insightful as we try to solve life's problems and as we commiserate about raising teenagers, and well...we just laugh when we're together, and I love her!

Now, Dana has a darling home. It's one that you walk into and you instantly feel at ease, comfortable, cozy, and at home. I love visiting her house. Another thing I learned quickly when she moved here was that she loves Halloween more than anyone I've ever known! About August she is pining to put up her decor! So with that, I just had to share with you how she makes her house a home, Halloween style. So, while it might be too late for some of us delinquent decorators (I did finally get up my decor two days ago!) to apply these ideas for Halloween, but we can always utilize her cozy ideas for the rest of the year. Enjoy the tour...

Doesn't her front door look inviting in the photo above? I love how she utilizes twinkle lights with her garlands year round--not just at Christmastime.

When you walk into her home, her entryway is bedecked with all things festive. This hanging quote is one of my favorites that describes her to a T...

Simple, yet such festive table decor...

Don't you just want to sit down in that cozy corner and read for a while?
Every nook is so inviting...

Always a candle burning to make her home smell delicious.
Notice the tiny details in the ribbons and tags...
I love the simple basket of apples displayed in the background.

I LOVE these festive wreaths tied to the backs of her chairs!
Um, I want to eat dinner here.

Berries on the chandeliers... Another one of those extra little touches that adds so much.

Dana is also a fabulous cook! I've adopted many of her soup and bread recipes into my repertoire, and my family is never disappointed. I have made her Cream Cheese Potato Soup countless times, and we absolutely love it around here:

Cream Cheese Potato Soup

6 medium potatoes diced (I like to use new or red potatoes and leave the
skins on)
1 large onion finely chopped
1 cup celery finely chopped
1 quart water
4 T. butter
3 T. flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp dill
1 package softened cream cheese
1 tsp minced garlic
(can also add crumbled bacon if you desire)

First saute' the onion and celery in a little butter. Then combine
potatoes, onion, celery, water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil;
reduce heat and simmer until tender (about twenty minutes.

In a skillet melt butter; add flour; cook and stir until mixture bubbles. Remove from heat. Stir in milk. Return to heat; cook and stir until thickened.

Stir mixture slowly into potatoes; cook and stir until thick. Add
seasonings, garlic and cream cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and
blended. (If you are going to add bacon go ahead and add now). Makes 6
cups. (I always double it).

Shelli here again...I'm making this delicious pumpkin recipe again today. I must be a cinnamon junkie, as I took a look at the recipe Dana had given me a few years ago, and I had upped the cinnamon to 4 tsp! (So, decide how strong you like your cinnamon...and you know me, I can't ever resist an opportunity to add few mini chocolate chips as well!)

My Mom's Delicious Pumpkin Bread
(this bread is so moist and because it has no eggs in it people with egg allergies love it too)

5 cups flour
4 cups sugar
4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 cup water
1 large can pumpkin (not the pie mix)
1 cup oil

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl and add water. Add pumpkin and oil.

Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees in greased pans. Make sure to insert toothpick in center before taking out to test them to see if they are done. When done take out and let cool a bit, then turn them out on their sides to cool some more. Mmmm good.

Thanks, Dana, for giving us a tour and sharing these delicious recipes! Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Crazy Halloween Dinner Tradition

As you've probably guessed by now, while I love the Autumn profusely, Halloween, on the other hand is a bit understated in our house (still haven't gotten my decor up yet!). However, one Halloween tradition that was started about 6 years ago is one that my kids look forward to each year (I even really like this one!). It's the Crazy Halloween Dinner.

Here is how it works:

Each person is given a menu with 12 items to order which will be divided into 3 courses. On the menu, you choose which course you'd like each item to be served in. However, the caveat is that you don't know exactly what it is that you're ordering...You see, each menu item is disguised by a crazy Halloween name that vaguely describes what it might be. And the clincher? You not only order your food for each course, but also your drink and silverware.

Every year, someone inevitably orders their spoon, a knife, a side dish, and a roll for one course, and the next they have their dessert, a main dish, a napkin, a drink, with no silverware. Yep, a little crazy, but lots of fun! It's especially entertaining when we have another family over to share the surprises with.

The following is a past year's menu and key for you to use if you'd like to implement this yearly tradition! Just click to enlarge, and print.

This year, my niece and her husband hosted our dinner, so it was entertaining for me, as I didn't have a clue what I was ordering either! They were great hosts and came up with unique new dishes that our family hadn't tried before, which made it extra fun for us all!

The most popular and talked about dish of the night? The "Kitty Litter!" It consisted of vanilla pudding topped with crushed graham crackers and an occasional melted tootsie roll that looked like...well, you know what. Rather disgusting, but delightful for the youngsters at the same time!

Here is Blondie determining which menu items she wanted for each course:

A.W. had to eat his "Ogre Buttocks" (ham) and "Sliced Snail" (pumpkin roll) with a knife:

And by the time Blondie got to this course, she had no silverware!

It was a great night, and filled with great memories!

Dinner was followed with pumpkin carving a la "Tim the Tool-Man Taylor"...

and a "Bertie Botts Every Flavor" Trivia game.

If you answered a question incorrectly, you had to take the jelly bean that the hosts chose for you. The most awful tasting of the night? The pizza, ketchup, gravy, and onion jelly beans.

Here A.W. is not too keen on the cheese flavor he just ate!

The Crazy Halloween Dinner is a great tradition in our home, and if you try it, I hope it's a fabulous time for your family as well!

What Halloween tradition does your family enjoy?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Turn Up the Heat with Some New Hot Pads!

It's been a busy few weeks! One of the things I've been finishing up are some hot pads and instructions for You Can Make This. Now, I don't know about all of you out there, but the hot pads in my kitchen drawer are not pretty! They are worn and well-loved, and not exactly fashionable. And you know, I never think of purchasing new ones for myself, although I love it if anyone ever gives me some!

All you have to do is down load this FREE project here at You Can Make This, and in no time you'll have some trendy new hot pads. The instructions will walk you through everything you need to know.

I've already decided that these are at the top of my list for gift-giving this holiday season. They are perfect for using up scraps of fabric, and of course, it's always fun giving a gift that comes from your heart.

And did you know that when you sign up for the variety of newsletters that You Can Make This offers, you receive a bundle of free ebooks just for joining? You can't beat that! By receiving the newsletters, you are sure to keep up with the latest projects and available patterns as they are released. Click here for the link to sign up today.
Happy Sewing!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How Cute is This Little Scarecrow?

Can you believe that it's Oct. 22, and this is the ONLY bit of Halloween or Autumn decor visible in my house? (Well, other than the tower of pumpkins that my little gal made on our back door!) How sad is that...and I love this time of year! I've been so busy with projects and keeping 3 young kids busy that I have not gotten to that item on my laundry list of tasks (we have year-round school here, and my three youngest are all out for the entire month of October. Yikes!). So, by the weekend, my goal is to have my decor up, even if it's for a few days. I'll be posting a few of my favorite things later!

But I thought this little guy was just too cute. A few weeks ago, one of the Young Women in my church taught a group of us how to make these adorable, friendly little scarecrows at an activity, and it was super easy and fun!

Here's what we used to make him:

*a softball that we painted orange--I tried to criss-cross my paint marks for an added straw-like appearance

*an empty Vienna Sausage can for the stand--cleaned out, of course! We simply hot-glued thick ribbon around it. The softball head just sits on the top. A tuna can also works for this.

*a felt circle rolled into a cone, glued, folded, and smunched a bit for the hat.

*buttons for the eyes

*rafia for the straw hair

*paint for the nose and mouth

*a variety of leaves and berries as embellishments

That's it! A fun, last minute kid-friendly craft for the season! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Autumn Inspiration...

Oh, how I love the autumn...the colors of the leaves, the coolness of the air, the harvest, pumpkin patches, and somehow the sky just appears to be a brighter shade of blue to me. This burning bush in my yard is my absolute favorite! If I could bottle a bit of autumn to last the year round, I would! And if I could blog my love of it each day, I would! But unfortunately, life itself keeps us from doing everything we'd love to just sit and do sometimes, doesn't it?

So for today, here are just a few samplings of some things that I love, and all things autumn...Enjoy!

First of all, my friend Belinda over at Blue Ribbon Designs has been cranking out the pillows and items for home decor, and they happen to be some of my autumn designs! Each one of hers was stitched out with her embroidery machine, but a few of them are or will be available soon for hand stitching. I was so excited to see how hers turned out!

She is a also a talented designer, and for you cross stitch fans, she has some beautiful and festive new designs released for fall. Be sure to check them out on her website. They are stunning!

In addition, she is hosting a give-away for some beautifully sewn, quilted, and zippered pouches that that she has made. Any of you crafty people that need organization for scissors, thread, and doo-dahs of any sort will love them.

Secondly, my comrade, Kris at JesseKate Designs(whom I adore and have officially dubbed the "Most Creative Person I've Ever Met") has a delicious looking recipe for "Easy Apple Crisp" and THE cutest ideas for a teacher's fall luncheon that you've ever seen. Cake pops, take home bags, and decor ideas....her creativity simply astounds me! I'm certain the teachers at her school feel so loved and appreciated.

Thirdly, I was so pumped when I saw that "Your Home Based Mom" has a College Cookbook available for purchase. This collection is full of many of her easy to make, family favorites. If you've tried her recipes, you know that they are all fabulous! What a great gift for that college student or newly wed in your life. You know I'm a fan!

And lastly...well, autumn just wouldn't be autumn without the quirky, adorable, homemade decor created by our kids, right? I just love my little one's tower of pumpkins that she dreamed up, drew, cut out, and taped up to adorn our door all by her little wee self.

Happy Autumn!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Make a No-Sew Knotted Handkerchief Bag!

I'm a guest contributor for the You Can Make This Blog today! Click on this link to learn how to make these cute and funky bags! These are perfect for carrying library or piano books, for sleepovers, and just hauling all the stuff a girl's gotta have.

I love this project because my gals and I were able to make them together, and there is not a stitch of sewing involved. My daughter was home sick from school for two days, so I pinned and cut, and she tied the knots while she was resting on the couch. We made three of them and she loved it!

And the other fun thing...they are each made out of 2 handkerchiefs that I bought from Wal-Mart for $1.00 each. At my local store, they have dozens of darling coordinating patterns to choose from, including the Halloween print you can see in the photos.

I have to send a shout out to my crafty, young friend, Hannah, who taught me how to make these in the first place. She's been making them for her teenage friends right and left, and having a great time doing it. Thanks, Hannah!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wickedly Easy Pumpkin Cookies

So, I'm amazed at these niece introduced me to these little charmers last year at a family gathering, and I couldn't believe how I'd possibly missed out on them for the last 40 years. They were incredibly yummy and moist, and when she gave me the recipe, I learned they were so... um, wickedly easy.

Don't you just love the smell and tastes of the autumn? These cookies make your house smell heavenly, and, well, who can resist a cookie that smells that good and has chocolate chips? It's a win/win, and a serious necessity in our home for this time of year.

My 9 year old kept eating them yesterday after she came home from school, and each time I caught her with another cookie (to be fair, they were pretty small), she just shrugged at me and exclaimed, "They're just so good!" ...There you have it, folks...the stamp of approval from one of my biggest critics.

Wickedly Easy Pumpkin Cookies

1 box of spice cake mix (a friend told me yesterday that carrot cake works well too)
2 cups of canned pumpkin (or a 15 oz. can)
1/2 to 1 bag chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate, and uh, the whole bag)

Mix ingredients together, and spoon onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes.

So, yeah... My pantry is now stocked with these key ingredients so I can easily whip these out when the urge arises or when I need a speedy autumn treat. Enjoy!

And one more thing. I tried these delicious spiced pumpkin waffles the other day as well. Love them!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Insights from a 5 Year Old Princess

A bit ago, Little Missy came bringing me her latest artwork to show me. She had cheerfully requested me to draw some paper doll shapes, and I was happy she was so busily drawing and cutting to allow me some time to get things done. She happily ran to me later to share with me her creativity. However, all the smiles turned to frowns as she started talking.

Me: Wow...what interesting faces you've drawn on your dolls. Tell me who these people are.

L.M.: (With great gusto) Well, this one in the crown is me, because I'm the princess. And I'm crying!

Me: (A curious grin growing inside of me) Hmmm.. I can see that. Why are you crying? You should be happy...if you're a princess.

L.M.: (Volume increasing) I'm crying because this one is so mean to me. That's (Blondie). She's always bugging me and teasing me, and making me cry. And this one is (Mr. T). He's the meanest one in the family! He's never nice! The only one nice to me is (A.W.). So that's why I'm crying.

Mom: (With a stifled giggle) Aw, honey. I'm so sorry you feel that way.

We hugged briefly, and then she cheerily skipped away to her next activity.

Now, just so you know, I was not laughing inside AT her, but more at the passion and zeal with which she was describing her life at that moment in time, and of course, her cute little artistic rendition. I have chuckled to myself repeatedly as I have gazed at that little bit of insight into her world. The funny and amazing thing is, she pegged each of her siblings perfectly.

Mr. T., our oldest, is hormonal...a teenager that the earth supposedly revolves around (believe me, we're trying to change that perspective, but boy, is it a challenge!), and everyone and everything is annoying to him, including his sweet baby sister. (Okay, so she's not sweet all the time, but certainly a good chunk of it!) But to his credit, Little Missy doesn't grasp his adult-like sense of humor that keeps my hubby and I laughing, or the ways in which he is maturing in responsibility and leadership. Despite his occasional grouchiness, he is a great kid most of the time.

Blondie ( our third) is a tease through and through, and sometimes just can't help but pester L.M. to get a rise out of her. She delights in hearing her scream! She too, has her great qualities that the little one doesn't always grasp. She is strong-willed and a natural leader---and one of my friends joked that one day she'll be president of the United States. Given responsibility to babysit someone other than her little sister, she is a natural, and the little kids all love her.

A.W. (our second) is the gentle heart that holds her hand when they walk out of the school together, and hugs her before bed to tell her he loves her. He is the child whose actions show me that perhaps I'm doing something right as a parent. On second thought, maybe that's not it...he probably just came that way. But to be fair, he does his share of teasing and torturing like most brothers!

And Little Missy, well...despite the fact that we've never labeled her as such, she IS the princess of the family, and I crack up that she labeled her own darn self as that. She does have her daddy wrapped tightly around her pinkie, and her genuinely sweet spunk is irresistible (even to her siblings most of the time).

Don't get me wrong....of course, I don't love her anymore than any of my other kiddos. They are each delightful to me in their own ways. But I can tell she is definitely the baby and I have had more time to spend with her by herself. I have relished being home alone with her before kindergarten while her siblings are all in school.

These little creatures are pretty amazing in the things they learn, pick up, and perceive at such an early age. Despite my chuckles at her drawing and currently accurate description or her siblings, I hope those thoughts of her brothers and sister aren't lasting. I hope I can foster in her, as well as each of her siblings, enough love, values, good teachings, and a happy outlook that will outweigh the negative moments and stay with them throughout their lives. {SIGH} Motherhood is a delightfully difficult challenge, isn't it?

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