Thursday, October 30, 2014

Last Minute Halloween Gifts

I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating again.  


I love everything about it.  Not the gore and the horror {although scary movies are my most favorite to watch}, but everything else.  There will always be a little kid in me that just wants to trick-or-treat, veg out on candy, and watch as many scary movies as I can.  And let's be real.  I sorta still get to do that, but nowadays I send my kids door-to-door and when we come back home to check out our loot, I take their candy...y'know, only the pieces that look unsafe to eat {aka: my favorites...sour patch kids & kit kats}.  Once the boys come down from their sugar high, we send them to bed and then stay up late watching old scary movies, laughing at the parts that used to freak us out as kids, and enjoy every last bit of that "unsafe" candy I took away from the kids earlier.  Life is good.

Now I want to share a few last minute Halloween treats if you're in search of something to send to school with your kids tomorrow.

If there's any day in the school year that teachers need a little pick-me-up, it's Halloween.  And Valentine's Day.  And, well, any day that involves copious amounts of sugar.  But seriously, teachers need to know you stand with them in solidarity on this crazy, crazy day.  So we're sending our teachers a batch of homemade cookies this year because teachers like sugar, too :)  And hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em ;)  

About a week ago, my youngest was begging to make Peanut Butter Blossoms.  I've never made them before, but he had some at a friend's house and he couldn't stop talking about them.  So I went on a hunt for a recipe and then stumbled upon this recipe and picture.  


I wanted to try it.  I really did.  But I decided a batch of regular PB Blossoms would do the trick because ain't nobody got time for all that.  And then I went to Target and found these little Wilton eyes in the baking section.  And a little squeeze tube of icing.  And then I was all, "I'll make time for that" because sometimes I like to torture myself and do things completely unnecessary.  

And it was fun.

I do realize that these guys look a lot more like the worm from "Diary of a Worm" than spiders, but hey...they'll work.

I bought these darling cookie containers at Dillard's last year a few weeks after Halloween.  I wish I would've bought more.  I scored 'em for a whopping $3 a piece!!!!  I LOVE scouring the sale shelves at Dillard's after season.  You can find the best stuff for the cheapest prices!  Perfect for gift giving!!!   I pulled them out the other day and knew our little spider blossom cookies would be a perfect fit!  Unfortunately, I only had two, so I improvised and pulled out another cookie jar I've been holding onto for a few years and I'll be using that one to send to school also.  

We gave these little boxes to the boys' teachers last year.  I found the printable from My Sister's Suitcase HERE and stuffed the boxes with a cozy pair of socks and foot cream.  Simple and sweet!  The cups were a fun treat for their friends...I just cut out & glued on a mouth {drawing them took too long!}, googly eyes, and filled them with cheese balls!  Couldn't have been easier!

My oldest wanted me to make goodie bags for his class again this year and I was totally on board.  Then I saw this on Pinterest {for the love!!!!}

I can't melt white chocolate without burning it every.single.time. so I wasn't really sold on the idea until I found these melts at Hobby Lobby.


So I made a class set of these for both boys to take to their friends tomorrow.  I mean, they'll get plenty of candy trick-or-treating, so this seemed like a pretty fun alternative and they really didn't take long at all to make! And they were SO easy!!!!! 

This will be the first year that Mr. Spouse won't be home to trick-or-treat.  SADSVILLE.  He has a game that night and we're thissad about it.  When he works {he's an athletic trainer} so do his kids.  I remember being in high school and still trick-or-treating.  {Confession:  I went trick-or-treating when I was a freshman in college.  I definitely dressed up as a cow and tagged along with my younger siblings and cousin.  Growing up at that point wasn't an option :)} Those big kids are bummed they'll be missing out on all the Halloween festivities this year and that makes me sad.  So we're bringing a little bit of Halloween to them.

I wanted to do something a little special for them to say 'thank you' for everything they do and hopefully make them smile.  Even big kids are still kids.  So they'll be getting these tomorrow...

Of course, gauze would've been cuter, but all I had was crepe paper and it works just the same :)  I used a dollop of hot glue to adhere it in place then tied it all up with a little ribbon.  The paper inserts on the lid were printed and then cut out with a 2.5" circle cutter {found at Hobby Lobby}. It was the perfect size!  I didn't glue it down or anything...I just placed it on top of the lid then screwed down the rim to secure it in place.

The jars are filled to the brim with candy....good candy {there IS a difference! Ha!!!}  

Can't wait 'til tomorrow!!!  And if you're a teacher, God bless your sweet soul.  I'm sure you wish you could press fast forward until Saturday {oh, sweet Saturday}.   Look on the bright side.  At least you're not dealing with a full moon, too ;)  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Copycat....I Think?!?!?!?

I'm a girl who likes taking breaks.  CLEARLY.  Taking a little step back from the blog is necessary from time to time.  Especially when life gets a little crazy....hence my recent weeklong {& then some} hiatus.

I spent few days in Franklin, TN last week for a conference where I was presenting.  Franklin might be my new favorite place in the U.S.  I fell in love with Nashville last year and this year I couldn't get enough of Franklin {even though I was only there for a few days}.  Tennessee is trying to take me away from Texas.  I swear.

Is this not the most charming downtown you've ever seen?!?!  And look at those leaves!!!  We don't get the luxury of colors here on the coast.  It's either green, crunchy brown, or bare :)  I was ecstatic to see so many different colors in the trees!!!!

I met up with some friends while I was in town and we headed out for a little shopping downtown and then a most delicious dinner at Gray's on Main.  Chicken & Waffles.  Creole Mac & Cheese.  My taste palate couldn't have been happier.  My pants?!  Notsomuch.  I pulled out the elastic band for the pants the morning after.  There's nothing quite like a food hangover in the form of ill fitting pants and a muffin top :)  If you've never been, you MUST go!!!  Amazing service, perfect atmosphere, and the food is just...well...perfection on a plate!  Did I mention the Sweet Tea Banana Pudding we shared for dessert??  HELLO.  SO good!  If I wasn't worried about looking like the lush at the table, I would've devoured my very own mason jar full of it in NO time!   My waistline was thanking me for showing a little restraint :)

All that to be said, I sure couldn't wait to get back home and see my little family.  And crazy enough, I couldn't wait to get back in the kitchen.  I love it when other people cook for me {eating out might be my favorite pasttime}, but I sure love cooking for myself even more. Don't get me wrong.  I could eat gourmet chicken & waffles every night of my life {sad, but true}, but there's something to be said for a home-cooked meal.  Wouldn't you agree that home-cooked meals from mom are the best?!  Even when it's just a sandwich?!!??!  

This soup was the perfect homecoming meal.  I can't even say enough.  It's a copycat soup, but I have NO idea how close I came to the real thing because I've never had the real thing to begin with :)  I typically stick to the pasta when I frequent the OG, but I clearly need to branch out!


6 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of heavy whipping cream
2-4 cups of kale {I used 3 1/2}
5 red potatoes, cut into small bite-sized chunks
2 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. hot Italian sausage
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes {or more...depending on your heat preference}
salt & pepper, to taste

First up, let's brown the sausage.  Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium/high heat.  Toss in the sausage, onion, & garlic.  Cook until the sausage is browned, remove from heat, and drain.  Transfer the sausage/onion/garlic to a dutch oven/large stockpot. 

Chop up your kale...or if you're like me, just leave it whole!...then toss it into the stockpot/dutch oven.  Cover with chicken broth and potatoes.  Then toss in the red pepper flakes and mix well.

Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer {covered} for about 20-25 minutes.  Pour in the heavy whipping cream, mix well, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.  

Ladle yourself a heaping bowl and top with shaved parmesan cheese.  


Like I said before, I have no idea how close I came to the "real thing", but either way, this is pretty dang good!  Mr. Spouse loved it.  I'm pretty sure he really just loved me being home more than anything and dinner was an added bonus.  You know, instead of him having to cook for himself and the boys for those three nights I was gone, I was able to take over the domestic duties once again ;)  

Seriously though, he really did love it!  This was a great home-cooked meal...hearty, flavorful, you name it.  If you aren't as big a fan of potatoes, just cut back on the number you toss in or delete them altogether.  I **highly** suggest including them.  And as many as you can :)  

I say this with every soup I try and make, but this is one of my new favorites :)  I'm looking forward to making this part of our regular dinner rotation once the weather starts getting a little bit cooler.  If you haven't tried this one just yet, I highly suggest trying it soon!!  Or as soon as it starts getting cool :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Current Favorite Cold Front Meal

We had a little cold front blow in yesterday and I'm currently cozied up in my jeans, tee, and blardigan.  I heard it was woven by angels and I had to splurge after my friend, Kara, showed me hers.  Oh my.  It's all it's cracked up to be and then some.  But I digress.  Our family up north thinks we're funny when we say it's cold here.  This cold front will bring us lows in the 70's and highs in the 80's and let me tell you...that's cold enough for me :)  My Texas blood goes into shock when the temps dip below 70.  

The best thing about these "cold fronts" are enjoying warm weather meals.  Meals that just don't bode well with the sweltering heat and 100 degree evenings.  Soups are one of my most favorite "cold weather" meals.  I like soups just as much as I love pasta, so when I found this recipe that combined the two I knew it had to make it's way into our dinner plans.  It seems like most of my recipes lately have been from Damn Delicious, but I can't help it.  Everything I've tried from her has been amazing!!!  And this one is a perfect cold front meal!  


1 TBSP. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
5 1/2 cups chicken broth {3 cans}
1 {14 oz.} can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 {14 oz.}can Italian style diced tomatoes {basil, oregano, garlic}
1 {20 oz.} pkg. cheese stuffed tortellini {refrigerated}
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 pkg. baby spinach
kosher salt & pepper, to taste
shredded parmesan, to taste

This is one of the easiest meals to make.  If you're into fast, easy, and delicious...and who isn't?!?!?...then you seriously need to consider adding this to your menu!!

First up, grab a large stock pot or dutch oven.  Let's heat the olive oil over medium/high heat.  Add the garlic and onion and cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the onions are a little translucent.  

Now add the broth, diced tomatoes, spices, and bay leaves.  Whisk the mixture and then toss in the tortellini making sure to stir well to coat.  You can season with salt and pepper if you so desire.  

Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and continue to simmer until the tortellini is cooked through. Add the baby spinach and cook until it's wilted.

Ladle yourself a serving and top it all off with a little bit of freshly shredded parmesan.

As you can see, I modified the recipe just a bit so that we'd have enough for leftovers for the week and I really wanted to use up the last of the diced tomatoes I had on hand.  
Mr. Spouse gleefully exclaimed that this is his new favorite soup.  I would have to agree that this one is right up there for me, too.  Truly one of the most delicious "cold front" meals I've made in a long time!!!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Halloween Porch

I finally got around to decorating the front porch.  I really wanted to last year, but all I could muster was a chalkboard and some pumpkins.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with that and our little porch rocked the minimal decor, but this year I wanted to do a little something different.  Trick-or-treating is a big deal in our neighborhood and I wanted something that would be fun for the kids.

This past weekend I headed out to a local trade days with my little family.  My mom came along and talked us into getting this cute little wheelbarrow.  I'm so glad she did!  I love it and it's a perfect fit for our porch.  I added a few bails of hay {Michaels}, some gourds {WalMart}, and a little piece of subway art I scored for $6 from Michaels!  Simple and fun.

The branches and crows are probably my favorite.  We found some great branches/sticks in our burn pile and they were all a little charred, so I love the touch that added.  I put them on either side of our columns and then placed the crows on the branches for a fun little detail.  I got the crows from the Dollar Tree.  I'm just praying they don't fly away when the weather gets crazy.

I found this fun little party kit at Michaels {Recollections brand}, tied ribbon around the wire, and then hung them underneath our porch.  This is my boys' favorite piece of decor.  I got a "SO COOL!!!" and "THIS IS AWESOME!!!" so I think it's a keeper.  And I'm praying these stay put, too!  HA!!!  Mr. Spouse is certain we'll be seeing these lanterns floating down the streets of our neighborhood in no time.  I got that darling wood banner from Marshall's about 2 months ago and it was only $7!!!  I'm so glad I didn't pass on it because I love the fun little flair it adds to the decor.  Now all I need is a festive doormat and maybe a new wreath.  That one has seen it's better days. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Winning Trifecta

Happy Tuesday!  I'm back after spending a few days on the road.  If y'all haven't figured it out by now, I LOVE living in Texas.  I love absolutely everything about weather and all :)  This past week I drove a couple of hours west and headed to Round Top to enjoy the last little bits of Texas antique week with the girls.  If you're not familiar with Round Top, let me just tell you that I think you'd LOVE it!  Miles...and miles...and miles...and miles of stuff...old stuff...thrifted stuff...clothes...antiques...and cocktails :)

We spent the day shopping...our first stop was Junk Gypsy.  Big love.  We even stamped our very own leather bracelets and I apparently don't know how to do this the right way. #stampingfail  

Then we walked around...browsed the booths...shopped....posed for pics...and enjoyed a champagne popsicle at the Bubble Lounge while we were waiting out one of our lovely, albeit unexpected,  Texas storms.

After walking back to our campsite completely wet and muddy, we washed off {with baby wipes...#noshame} and got ready for Prom.  Such fun!!!  

We left the next morning after burritos for breakfast and then I came home and slept like crazy.  7 girls in a pop-up camper doesn't make for the best sleep :)  I was telling my mom I wanted to go back, so we decided to hop in the car the day after that and head back up to see what we could find.  After 6 non-stop hours of shopping {and eating!}, we drove back home with a trunk full of goodies.  I can't wait to go back in April!!!  

Speaking of eating, I could eat bowls and bowls of pasta.  A non-stop buffet of decliciousness.  This is, hands down, my favorite carb :)  I decided to take a few old family recipes and mix them together to create a new(ish)-to-me pasta dish.  I love lots of different variations on the tried and true bowl of spaghetti and this one did not disappoint.  The best part of this whole meal was the quick and easy prep.  Fast, easy, and flavorful...a mommy's dream trifecta :)


1 lb. penne pasta
1 lb. chicken thighs, cut in small bite sized pieces
1 TBSP. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag of frozen onion/celery/pepper blend {green/red peppers, onion, celery}
1 jar of Classico Tomato & Basil spaghetti sauce
1 {14 oz.} can of Italian style diced tomatoes
2/4 C. Zesty Italian dressing
Salt & Pepper, to taste
6-8 slices of bacon, cooked & crumbled
Shaved/shredded/grated parmesan {optional}

Let's go ahead and start cooking the pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, cut your chicken into bite sized pieces.  I like to do this because I feel like the chicken cooks faster and nothing scares me more than uncooked chicken {{{shudder}}}.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the chicken once it's all warmed up.

Cook the chicken until it's no longer pink on the inside and then remove from the skillet and set aside.

In the same skillet, add the bag of onion/celery/peppers and garlic.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes or until the pepper blend is translucent.  

Now add the chicken, spaghetti sauce, diced tomatoes, and dressing to the skillet.  Mix until well combined and simmer for about 15 minutes.  You can add a little salt and pepper here if you want, too.

While your sauce is a simmerin', bake {or fry} your bacon.  I like to bake mine.  Frying and I don't mix.  I've got the burn scars and burnt bacon to prove it. So baking it is.  Remove the bacon from the bacon sheet and set aside to cool.  Once the bacon has cooled, crumble it into little pieces.  Or big. Whatever you prefer.  The bacon will be the proverbial cherry on top if you know what I mean :)

Drain pasta and return to the pot.  Now toss the chicken/sauce mixture over the pasta and mix to evenly coat.  Serve yourself a generous portion and top with the crumbled bacon bits.  Then garnish it with a little shaved/shredded/grated parmesan if your taste buds beckon.  

Like I said, easy, and flavorful.  A winning trifecta in my kitchen.

This is definitely a perfect little twist on the tried and true original.  And the addition of bacon was definitely an added bonus.  I loved that savory little crunch.  I wouldn't skip that part if I were you, but then again I really do love bacon, so maybe that's just my taste palate talking.  This dish is delicious with or without the pork, so do whatever your little heart desires.  Either way...just do it. Give this little number a whirl.  You'll be so happy you did!!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

'Tis The Season To Be Spooky!

This time of the year makes me feel like a giddy little school girl.  I absolutely LOVE all things October/November.  I know, I know...I sound like every other person when I say it, but it's true. I'm notsomuch a fan of the "all things pumpkin" movement...although I do love a good chocolate chip pumpkin muffin...but I love the feeling this time of the year evokes.

For me, this time of the year reminds me of my childhood.  It reminds me of my Mawmaw's homemade pasta...Thanksgiving dinners at Grandma & Grandpa' mom's homemade costumes {there were 4 of us to dress-up}...kicking my way through crunchy leaf piles at Grandma Gloria's...trick-or-treating with my cousins...Halloween carnivals & parties at school.  The list could go on.  

I anticipate Fall decorating as soon as school starts.  I'd decorate in August if I could.  Not because I want to rush through life and get on with the next thing, but because I love that feeling I get when this time of the year starts to settle.  I definitely decorate way too early...and I have no plans of changing that any time in the near future.  My boys love it...I love it...and {thankfully} we don't get tired of it...we just like to enjoy the heck out of it for as long as we can :)

This year I started my Halloween decorating the 2nd weekend of September. I love a little holiday creep ;)  I changed things up just a little from last year's display.  I added a few new things...tossed a few things out {those darn squirrels in the attic mangled a few of my things...thank you, country living}...and changed a few things around.  Overall, I'm lovin' it.  I think I like decorating for Halloween more so than Fall because it lends itself to being a little whimsical with the decor...and I really, really love the orange/black/white combo!  Plus, I have a plethora of random Halloween stuff and I sure don't want it to go to waste :)  

Here's this year's mantle...

When I buy seasonal decor, I most usually don't have any idea where I'm going to put it.  As I was unpacking all of my Halloween stuff, I realized I had quite a few 31's, so I figured I'd display those together.  I think there's definitely power in a collection...especially when that collection is displayed together.  

Those white shutters tend to be a permanent fixture on my mantle throughout the year because they give a little height to that space.  Our fireplace goes all the way to the ceiling and the shutters seem to do a pretty good job of centering everything.  I propped up an old window pane in front of the shutters and then draped cheesecloth over it.  I love the way it turned out.

I drew the 31 on the white chalkboard.  The circular 31 that's hanging was a fun find at Ross last year.  I got it for $3.99!!!  I saw the same one at Kirkland's last year...a little bigger maybe??...for a lot more!  I love getting a good steal!  I found the large black and white October 31 sign at Marshall's a couple of weeks ago {$12.99}.  They had it in orange and black, too! 

I made the standing 31 with paper mache numbers, scrapbook paper, mod podge, and a distressing ink pad.  SUPER simple.  I also made the glittery 31 that's adhered to the damask board.  I just took a plain wooden square {Michael's}, painted it black, then mod podged the top with the damask paper, distressed the edges with the distressing ink pad, and then hot glued the numbers to the top.  First, I painted the numbers orange and rolled them in fine orange glitter.

The banner was from Michaels {last year} as were the cheesecloth & glittered spiders.  The jack o'man, the pumpkin sitting on the candlestick, and the BOO sign are all from Hobby Lobby.  I don't like paying full price for anything and was so excited to find those after Halloween one year for 75% off!!   That sweet little pumpkin man on the pedestal next to the black & white 31 sign was from Marshall's this year...$6!!!!  I love him!!!

This little display is sitting on a tray on my coffee table.  Speaking of coffee tables, my brother is building me a new one and I can't wait!  We've had this one for the last 10 years and's about time to retire this one to the game room.  The sweet little Jack with the witch hat was from Hobby Lobby.  It used to stand on a pedestal, but my boys were playing, knocked it down, and it broke.  I actually like it this way  little better!  The cloche is from Hobby Lobby and the pumpkins inside were a fun find at Marshall's.  I think I got a whole box of them for $6!!    The tall apothecary jar is filled with moss covered stones {Dollar Tree} and a little pumpkin that didn't have a home.

I have built-in's flanking both sides of my mantle and they're a beast to try and decorate.  I don't have near enough to fill the shelves with Halloween or Fall decor, so it's all spread out and not cohesive whatsoever.  I need to work on that.  However, I did take a few of my white pitchers from my ever growing collection and I grouped them together with this little Happy Halloween sign {Dillard's last year, I think} and displayed them above our TV.  It's not my favorite, but it's growing on me. It needs more color, for sure.

In the room right next to my living area I have these bookshelves on either side of our little couch.  I know these little jack o'lanterns are cheesy, but Lawd...I love 'em!!!  

This little arrangement is sitting on the coffee table in that same room.  Don't ask what the purpose of that room is.  Really...right's just a sitting area.  The layout of this house still confuses me.

Right across from our sitting space is our "formal" dining area. We have a very open floor plan so you can see all the main rooms from...well...every room.  

These sweet little bats are from the Martha Stewart collection {Michaels}.  Those sticky dots they came with were a joke.  I put them up last year and they all fell down the next day.  This year I have them sticking up with painter's tape.  So far, so good.

I didn't change much about this set up from last year's.  However, I decided to forego the spanish moss this year because my boys enjoyed using it last year as toy.  I was finding random bits of spanish moss throughout the house for MONTHS!!!  Ha!!!  This year I just used a little cheesecloth which I probably could've omitted, too.  But I like it.

The table runner was a new find this year!  I LOVE Marshall's!!!  It was $12 and a great little addition to this little "tablescape".  Is that what you'd call this?!?!?!  Or centerpiece?!!?!  Whatever.  

Right next to the dining room table is this little corner table.  I recently painted it yellow and I'm a little obsessed.  I like having completely random pieces of furniture in the house.  Here's my theory on decorating...decorate with what YOU like.  It's too hard to keep up with the trends and I'm definitely not trendy enough to try.  If you like it, use it :)

I found the mercury glass poison bottle at Marshall's {$7} as well as the burlap covered trick or treat sign {$5}.  The black skull and crow are from the Dollar Tree.

I have this turquoise table set up on the wall right across from the yellow table.  Talk about color clash...but I love it.  All the colors tie in with my curtains, so that's how I justify the randomness :)
This little vignette is a hot mess and I'll probably be changing it up.  I got the sign and the cloche from Marshall's last year {shocker!}

This little table recently got a face lift.  It was brown and I painted it I just need to go in and distress it.  All that aside, here's the random set up here, too.  I'm not a huge fan, but it's growing on me.  It's a space I never know how to decorate.  Grrrr.

The cute witch feet were from Kirkland's a few years ago.  I love them.  I found that Harvest subway art a few years ago at Marshall's for a whopping $3!  I was so excited!  I put my Queen of Halloween sign on top of an old distressed shutter I had lying around and now looking at it I can see that it's slightly askew.  Dangit.  How'd I not notice that?!?!  The big BOO was a fun find from Wal Mart just last week...$3!!!! 

Moving into the kitchen....
This is the only thing I've got set up.  Our kitchen is pretty open, so I don't need much in this area.  And now I'm realizing that my pumpkin blends in with the granite.  #decoratingfail

Mr. Spouse built these shelves for me and they're still a couple of my favorite pieces.  I never really know how to decorate these either, but here's how they look this year...

If you saw my Halloween post last year, you might remember my scary little Halloween boy.  Mr. Spouse says that this figurine gives him nightmares {{{shudder}}}.  I like to torture him with it.  Last year it was on the mantle and it watched him as he cozily sat on the couch watching TV.  He requested I not put it there again.  Now it sits in the kitchen watching him eat dinner instead :)  This little guy makes me laugh every time I look at him.  #winning

And here's my latest little chalkboard.  I'm kinda lovin' this one!!!  

Next week I'll be posting my Halloween porch decor :)  I'd do it today, but I haven't started on it yet...hahahaha.  I'm hoping I can cross that off my to-do list this weekend!!!