Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween and Oliver's (the cat's) Homemade Costume

Happy Halloween!  I hope all of your costumes are coming together, your pumpkins are carved, and you have all of the candy ready for trick-or-treaters.  I hope we get some trick-or-treating this year; I sure bought plenty of candy!  I guess I can find somewhere to donate the leftovers if we don't get many.  I don't know what to expect since we are in a new neighborhood this year, but we have never had any.  I am so excited for it.

Oliver (the cat) has been a bad kitty.  He has been exploring the fireplace.  We decided that he was just trying to make his Halloween costume.

The question:  Is he trying to be a...

Black cat or chimney sweep?

All that on his belly and legs?  It's supposed to be white...

Somebody's getting a bath today!  Luckily he does okay in baths (watch me jinx myself here).  He doesn't like them, but he'll let me bathe him.

*Update:  The bath didn't work...does anybody know how to get soot off of fur?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Baking for Two (Makes Too Much Food!)

I really love to bake.  I have been baking cookies from scratch since I was in middle school and use a lot of recipes that have been passed down in my family.  As an adult, I have branched out to cakes, breads, and brownies, too.

The problem I have is, since it is just the two of us, baking makes too much darn food!  We really don't need three dozen cookies between the two of us, or an entire cake!  So I have begun baking once a month, keeping a little for ourselves, and sending the rest to the hospital with Hubby to share.

What kinds of goodies have I baked for each rotation this year?

1. Chocolate chip cookies
2. Brownies
3. Cinnamon rolls
4. Pumpkin bread

According to Hubby, they are a big hit.  He never brings any leftovers home, so I am assuming they appreciate it.

I only missed one rotation because Hubby went to a lot of different places and said there was not really a good central location to put a treat.

Do you do something similar?  Where do you send your extra goodies?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Versatile Outfit!: Houndstooth Dress, Red Cardigan, Black Boots

I wore this outfit to work the other day and absolutely loved it!  I wore it out to dinner that night and think it could be very versatile.

I found the dress at J.C. Penney, and it came with the belt.

The cardigan was originally from The Loft, but I found it at a consignment shop.

I have had the Aerosoles boots for a couple of years, and they are beginning to wear out.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Casual Outfit: Fall Sweater, Boots, and Gold

On Columbus Day, one of my favorite thrift stores was having a 50% off all clothing sale.  SOOOO exciting!  I picked up this sweater for $2.  It had a tiny hole in the front that I just used a couple of stitches to close it up (since it is an open-stitch sweater, it only required two places to look better).  I found the gold watch at an outlet for $10, and those are the same skinny jeans (consignment, $13) and boots from previous outfits.  The earrings and bracelets are from Charming Charlie.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dogs and Sticks

Owners especially love a collection of chewed-up sticks on the mat outside the back door.  Thanks, Callaway!

I really need to take a video of her running around with these enormous branches that have fallen recently.

Freezer Meals

I have two weddings and a bachelorette party coming up in the next month or so, and of course Hubby can't come to any of it due to his schedule. There are two weekends back-to-back where I have a bachelorette party in Florida and a wedding in Georgia. I refuse to drive to Florida, back to North Carolina, then to Georgia, and back to North Carolina, so I am going to spend the week in between in Georgia.

Hubby is on a very time-consuming rotation right now.  He goes in around 5:45am and usually gets home around 7pm (weekends included).  I feel bad for leaving him for so long, not to mention that I am really going to miss him (although honestly, I would only see him for a few hours if I was home).  I know that I would not want to cook after working those long hours, but shudder to think about all of the money he could spend eating out every day, so when I planned my most recent round of meals, I included meals that I could easily freeze for him to easily reheat or cook while I am away.

Yesterday afternoon I rolled up my sleeves, turned on some music, and got to work in the kitchen.  It was fun, but it made a big mess as much as I tried to keep it clean as I went.

Here is the final product:

And here are all of the meals:

The large container holds the leftover chili from the other day.  I will also cook pot roast the day before I leave so he can have those leftovers, as well.

The small container holds some of the ingredients that I use to make Mexican rice.  All Hubby has to do is cook the rice in chicken broth and the contents of this container.

I had never made freezer meals before.  I have frozen chili, spaghetti sauce, and taco soup, but not really anything else.  I hope they turn out for him, haha!  Everything is already cooked except the fajitas, so all he has to do is defrost and reheat everything.

Let me know if you want the recipes and I will post them.  I found them in a variety of places.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chili: Easy, Quick, and Simple

The weather this week has turned from cool to downright chilly (40 degrees this morning!).  I got to use my fireplace for the first time and turned on the heat this morning.  It is perfect chili weather!

I make the same chili that my mom makes; I don't know where she got the recipe from.  I love this recipe.  It is very easy and perfect for a picky eater (like me).  The only difference between how she cooks it and how I cook it is that she heats it on the stove for an hour while I use the crock pot.

This recipe literally takes five minutes to throw into the crock pot.

Easy Chili

1 lb. ground beef or turkey, browned
3 cans of tomato sauce
1 can of kidney beans (dark or light)
1/4 to 1/3 c. chili powder (I use 1/4)
Salt to taste

Crock Pot Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours or until warm.

Stove Top Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a pan and heat on the stove for an hour.

Topping Suggestions:
Crumbled saltine crackers or oyster crackers, sour cream, shredded cheese, or jalapenos.  

Here is the chili right after I combined the ingredients.

This was Hubby's bowl with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and jalapeno peppers.

This was my bowl with lots of crushed saltine crackers.  Yummy!

Here is another tip for keeping the kitchen clean while cooking.  Since I need to stir the chili periodically and keep the spoon out, I just rest the spoon on a little saucer to keep my counter clean.

Often I will throw this recipe together in the crock pot the night before and refrigerate, so in the morning all I have to do is set up the crock pot.

This recipe also freezes very well so, as easy as it is to make for the first time, it is even easier to defrost leftovers!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Organizing The Dreaded Tupperware

I have seen so many Tupperware drawers and cabinets where containers and lids are thrown in haphazardly.  Finding a lid is a nearly impossible task.  There are a lot of commercial products advertising to solve your Tupperware organization problems.

When I first lived on my own, I had a conglomerate of plastic containers.  I stored them with the matching lids on each container and stacked them neatly.

My plastic container cabinet is very organized now, and I have one secret:  I use the same kind of plastic container so they stack neatly and use the same lids.

This is the one I am talking about:

And this is how it looks in my cabinet.  I actually own two sets of these; one from when we got married and another was a gift this past year.  You can see the two random containers I have in the back of the top shelf.

I have two larger containers that are stored in a drawer because they wouldn't fit in my cabinet.  I gave away all of my old containers that were not matching except for the one on the top shelf.

It is really easy to organize plastic containers when they are all the same!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Burlap Fall Wreath

I already had a fall wreath that I bought pre-made at Michael's, but I was not in love with it and had been thinking about making my own.  I was inspired by this post on the blog Echoes of Laughter to make an easy wreath.

I went to Michael's to buy my supplies when they had fall floral at 40% off.  When I am buying materials to make a wreath or floral arrangement, I actually put it together temporarily in the store so I know what pieces to buy.

I began by wrapping burlap around almost all of the wreath, leaving room for the floral picks and the bow.

I then selected two anchor pieces with sunflowers on them to go in the middle of the floral arrangement.  I put them in opposite directions so the flowers are in the middle sitting diagonal of each other and the rest of the picks are spreading out from the middle.

For this wreath, I selected one other big piece with another pumpkin on it to add a third "anchor" element.  I slid it into the top and created a little triangle with the flowers and big pumpkin.


Finally, I added two smaller pieces (one on the top and one on the bottom).

I have not mastered bow-making yet, so I bought a premade bow that I tied onto the left corner.  I also spread out the ends and wrapped them around the sides of the wreath.

Since it is a grapevine wreath, it is not perfectly circular.  This wreath does not require a lot of talent to make; just an eye for balance.  I tried to make sure that whatever I do to the top, I also do to the bottom.  The extra pumpkin pick adds just enough interest.

Here is a current picture of my front porch now that the mums have blossomed some.

You can see the right yellow mum is a little lopsided; that is because someone threw a rolled-up newspaper on top of it.  I wasn't thrilled, but I guess it's not really a big deal.

Happy fall!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rush, Rush, Rush...The Benefit of a Morning Routine

When we lived in Georgia, my job was a 45 minute drive away, and I got there at 7 a.m.  I obviously didn't like getting up any earlier than I absolutely had to, so I streamlined my morning routine.  I was thankful for that on Wednesday morning when my old phone decided to turn itself off in the night- an unfortunate incident because it is also my alarm clock!

I had a sub job at a preschool that morning and needed to get there are 8:45.  Hubby came home from a night shift around 6:30 a.m. and terrified me by saying it was 8:00.  I went back to sleep and when I woke up to check my phone, it was off and Hubby's clock said 8:22.  I know this happens to people, so you know how jolting it is!  I leaped out of bed and walked out the door 9 minutes later.

Of course, this is how I looked doing it:

Picture from

Here is my morning routine (that went into hyperdrive Wednesday morning and was helped by Hubby, who got out of bed to get some food ready for me to eat in the car).

The Night Before:

*This is the most important part to getting ready quickly, in my opinion.

When I know I have a job the following morning, I always set out my outfit for the following day, down to the jewelry and shoes.  It saves time staring at the closet trying to figure out what to wear!

I also normally shower at night, although since I hadn't been working it would happen any time during the day (Morning?  Sure.  Afternoon?  Why not.  Night? Ok!).  The caveat to this is my hair looks better when I can blow it dry in the morning, but when I have a regular earlier job, I would rather have 30 minutes of more sleep.

In the kitchen, I would pack my lunch for the following day and leave it in the refrigerator, and I also set up the coffee maker so all I had to do is turn it on.

I have also begun writing my blog posts in advance and setting a time for them to publish, especially now that my schedule can be unpredictable with subbing.

In The Morning:

1. Get up and plug in my straightener.
2. Feed the cat.
3. Now I have to let the dog outside and feed her.
4. If Hubby is already gone, I make the bed.  If not, he makes it.
5. Get dressed and fold/put away my pajamas.
6. Put in contacts, brush teeth, and use deodorant.
7. Work on my face (wash with an Olay cleansing wipe, put on moisturizer, and do basic makeup).
8. Run the straightener over my already straight hair (to smooth creases and attempt to make the ends flip under).
9. Add accessories.
10. Start the coffee pot and rustle up some breakfast.

I am a creature of habit.  One time I was in the shower and didn't do everything in my usual order and ended up washing my hair twice.

Also recently, since I haven't had to get to work as early, I will get up a little earlier and take my time.  I will save my shower for the morning or watch The Today Show.  

This morning was harried, but thanks to being prepared, I was able to complete most of my usual routine in 9 minutes.  Thankfully Hubby was home and was kind enough to go downstairs and get some food together for me to grab as I ran out the door.  He also put my pajamas away for me since I left them in the bedroom floor.

I am just sooooo thankful that I woke up on my own in time!

I walked into the classroom at the preschool at 8:48.

Now, this does not allow for children and will obviously change once we do have kids, but I feel like a lot of the preparedness is the same.  Make lunches, pack bookbags, and select outfits the night before.  Those are really all of tips I have as far as that goes.  Give me a few years to have children and establish their routines and I'll post again.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wine Night!

On Monday night, I had the pleasure of hosting wine night for the resident spouse group I am a member of.  It wasn't as big of a turnout as the first wine night (I think October is a big month for resident vacations), but we had seven guests and we had a great time just talking and hanging out!

When I set up drinks and food for any party, I try to keep them in separate areas so neither table becomes too crowded.  I placed the wine in the dining room and the food on my kitchen island.  We ended up congregating around the food, although I had the living room ready for seating!

The Wine

Everyone brought white wine, but I did have a place for red wine. 

I went ahead and attached the wine charms to the glasses.  I only have six regular glasses left after some casualties, so I also put out glasses from wine tastings we have done.

I also filtered some water in a pitcher and tried to float some lemon slices on top, but they sank to the bottom.  I arranged it all on a little tray and added some fall floral stems to a wine glass to dress it up a bit.

Here is the complete setup!  I also included a place mat at the last minute because I wasn't sure how my table would react to water drips from the ice tub.

The Food

I only made a few appetizers, and everyone said they enjoyed them.  I planned finger foods so the ladies wouldn't have too many things to juggle.

This was my menu:

1. Tomato Mozzarella Skewers:  I wish I had not frozen all of my basil, because I think the skewers would have been even better with a basil leaf.  Instead, I just sprinkled a little dry parsley on the plate to add a little garnish.

2. Spinach and Feta Cups:  I mixed together some chopped spinach (thawed with the water squeezed out), 8 oz. of feta cheese, and 4 oz. of cream cheese, filled some premade phyllo cups, and baked them at 400 degrees for eight minutes.  They were popular, but I was going for more of a spinach dip in phyllo cups.  

3. Meatballs:  I have pinned Incredible Baked Meatballs, and this was the first time I made them.  They were delicious; I wanted to take a bite as I was rolling them!  I just tried my Pinterest link and it didn't work, so here is the recipe:

1 lb. ground hamburger
2 eggs, beaten with 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 cup panko bread crumbs (I used 1/2 c. regular and 1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs)
1 small onion, minced (I omitted this)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
1/4 c. minced fresh basil (I used 2 tsp. of dried basil)

Mix all ingredients with hands.  Form into golfball sized meatballs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

4. Grapes:  I went ahead and took them off the stems so it would be easier for my guests to get.

This was the entire setup!  I think everyone had a great time and I enjoyed planning and preparing it!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Casual Outfit: Navy Stripes, Pink Cardigan, Gray Flats

Hubby and I went to the fair this weekend and had a blast.  It was a lot different than the enormous fair back in Georgia that we are used to, but it had almost everything we wanted on a smaller scale.  The first thing I did when we walked in was eat a corn dog.  We spent most of the day at the fair looking at exhibits and watching the entertainment.  I missed out on riding rides, but it was so expensive and just wasn't worth it.  We did walk through the midway, though.

The fair involves a lot of walking, so I knew I needed a comfortable outfit.  Normally I wear tennis shoes to the fair, but we only spent half a day there so I went with flats instead.

I found the navy striped shirt at The Limited outlet for $13.  I have had the pink (fuchsia?) cardigan for a few years; I found it on clearance at Kohl's.  I have also had the skinny jeans for several years (also from Kohl's).

I paired it with simple silver jewelry (a chain necklace, silver studs, and my watch) and gray flats.  

The cat wanted in the picture :-)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Journaling and Remembering a Life

My grandmother has been in poor health for many years.  A few weeks ago, my mom called me and said things did not look good, so I began preparing myself for a trip to Missouri.

Hubby and I had a planned trip to Georgia last week, and as I was packing on Tuesday for the trip, Mom called to tell me they were pulling Grandma off of her medication and that it would only be a matter of hours.  We were halfway to Georgia when she called to tell me that Grandma had passed away.  Even though I was prepared for it, hearing news of a loved one's passing is never easy.

We continued our trip to Georgia and stayed there for a day, then I traveled to Missouri with my parents for the visitation and funeral.  It was a very nice service.  We have an enormous family (the number that was counted up was that Grandma had 5 children, 16 grandchildren, and 33 great-grandchildren).  Since we have always lived so far away, it was good to see and catch up with aunts, uncles, and cousins that we rarely see.

During the visitation and service, Grandma was remembered for her love of her family, for her sewing, and for her cooking.  I am so blessed to have some things that she made for me that I treasure dearly.  The most special is probably the quilt she sewed for me for my college graduation despite being in poor health.  I also have some pillowcases that she made, as well as some stuffed animals from my childhood.

We wrote letters for about a year after Hubby started medical school, so I have those as well.  One of my cousins also took a video of her telling me hello and that she loves me a year or so ago, and that is a video I am so thankful to have.

I also have many of her recipes, and all of my friends should expect oatmeal cookies for Christmas!

We stayed with my uncle, which is also where Grandma's things are stored.  After the funeral, he told my sister and me to go downstairs, look through her things, and pick out anything we wanted.  I found a beautiful pin, and also her sewing basket.  More special items to treasure!  I didn't want things just because they were Grandma's (she loved her bear knick-knacks, but I didn't want one just because it was hers).  I wanted something of hers that I could use and cherish.

One of the items we ran across was a planner from 1997.  We could tell that Grandma had updated it every year and used it like a journal.  It was so fun reading excerpts from it.  She used the monthly calendar pages as a reminder of people's birthdays, anniversaries, and deaths, and she used the weekly pages as a journal.  She also had two other journals that we read through and found some special entries.  I took pictures of the pages that I wanted to remember.

On April 6, 2009, she wrote, "Well, I was going to keep the journal up to date.  Need I say more!  Well, this is the 6th, you can figure out the rest!"

I love how she described this lady as a "grand" friend.  Another woman she described as a "dandy lady."

Another entry cracked us up:

I write all of this to say that I think she had a "grand" idea to use a planner as a journal.  The other two were just regular journals, but this was so much fun to read and remember her.  I would like to leave behind something like this for my children (or even my future self!) to read.