Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Homemade Gifts: Slow Cooker Chocolate Candy

I have a confession: I am addicted to the Food Network.  I feel like I really know those people personally because they cook in my house everyday.  I am also addicted to HGTV, but that is another post.  Back to the Food Network.  I love making Christmas goodies....cookies {see more here}, hot chocolate mix {see more here}, and now (thanks to Trisha Yearwood) slow cooker chocolate candy with peanuts.  Second confession of the day: this recipe is not mine, I saw it on Trisha's cooking show.  I am here however to tell you how absolutely delicious and easy it is to make (and gift).

Monday, December 19, 2016

Chocolate Ritz Peanut Butter Cookies

When I was growing up, we always made Christmas cookies for my teachers, neighbors, and friends.  As a parent, I have continued that tradition with my children, and they love helping me make them.  These cookies are chocolate covered Ritz and peanut butter cookies.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Holiday Home Tour

It's the most wonderful time of the year....Christmas.  My family and I love decorating for Christmas.  We love it so much that we do it after Halloween.  I know, I know, there are many mixed emotions on that front.  However, I think that we can all agree that Christmas is a fun time to decorate, both inside and out.

We live in Katy, Texas, which is just right outside of Houston.  This means that our Christmas season is often times warm instead of cold.  Because of this, we still use our front porch this time of year so I like it to be cozy.  

The Norfolk Pine on the table makes me think of Christmas, but it is actually a tropical plant that works well outside down here in Texas.  This plant also makes appearances inside of my house because it is also a great houseplant.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hot Chocolate Bar & Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe

I am all about traditions, and Christmas is my favorite time of year.  Every year when we decorate the Christmas tree, we drink hot chocolate and listen to Christmas music.  When we are finished, we watch "It's a Wonderful Life" in the dark with only the movie and the Christmas tree lights.  The ornaments that are on our tree are ones we had growing up, and we add to them each year with new ornaments for every member of our family (even the pets).  Watching the kids decorate the tree and talk about which ornament is who's, where we got it, and where it should be put is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season.  I feel like when they are adults and decorating their own Christmas trees that they will remember doing this and talk about their memories and carry on the tradition with their families.

My kids and I make homemade hot chocolate mix every year using the same recipe that I used to make with my grandmother when I was little.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Thanksgiving Tablescape

There is something about this time of year, when summer fades into fall and fall fades into winter.  From football season through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, all of these celebratory occasions make everything seem cozier and more inviting.  I love planning (if you are a reader of mine, you already know this) for this time of year while it is still summer (don't worry, I don't start putting up the Christmas tree in July, I at least wait until after Halloween).  I have been planning my Thanksgiving table for a few months now, playing with this arrangement and that arrangement, and I finally came up with something that I really like, that really shows more of our family style.  We are not extremely formal, but I do want a touch of formality mixed in with our laid back style.  I also love greenery and plants, and anytime I can mix in those things, the more it feels like "us."

Texture is a key component

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hearty Beef Chili

When my husband and I first got married almost 16 years ago, I had no idea how to make chili.  I searched every cookbook that I had (this was before Pinterest), and I could not find one that I truly liked.  That's when I decided to come up with my own version of a hearty beef chili.  It took a few tries, but I finally came up with my current recipe.  My husband has always loved it, and now so do my children. 

My chili has also evolved into a family tradition.  Every year on Halloween, I make a big pot of chili that we enjoy after a night of trick-or-treating. My family expects this chili, along with some Halloween cupcakes, when everyone is tired of walking the neighborhood asking for candy.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family and I do.

See recipe below.

Monday, October 3, 2016

DIY Halloween Banner

"This is Halloween, this is Halloween
Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!
In this town we call home,
Everyone hail to the pumpkin song"

So my family might have watched "The Nightmare Before Christmas" his weekend because don't you agree that the movie is more of a Halloween movie than a Christmas movie?  My family and I love this time of year: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.....and football.  Thoughts of cooler weather and pumpkin treats fill our minds during the month of October.  In the spirit of Halloween, my kids and I made a "Happy Halloween" banner to hang on our mantle.  It is super easy and cheap to make.

Materials Needed:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Yard Tour: {Late Summer} What's Growing in My Yard

I did a Yard Tour (see that post here) back in June for my spring blooms, but now it is late August in Texas, so it is hot (very hot).  I have several containers on my front porch, in my front flower bed, and on my back patio because this is a hobby that I really enjoy (see my post on Front Porch Container Gardening here).  Plants and flowers look different in late August than they do at the end of May or early June.  Some have gotten bigger, some have bloomed more, and some have suffered heat exhaustion.  Fortunately, few of my plants have suffered from the latter, even here in Texas.  I made sure that I planned for that factor when I was determining what I was going to plant in my flower beds and containers.  Some of these plants and flowers in the containers will be replaced soon with fall and winter plants that will give me color and blooms all the way until spring (see my post on Planning Containers for Fall here).

I take tons of pictures of my plants and flowers (just see my Instagram account for proof) so I have a lot to show you.  Please tour my yard via my pictures below.  Enjoy!

All of the colors of lantana make me swoon.  I love this plant.

Lantana has my heart....

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Casseroles are the perfect dish for a hectic work and school week.  They are easy to put together (even the night before) and pop in the oven while you go do other things that are demanding your attention.  This Tuna Noodle Casserole will not disappoint.  It is everything you want it to be: warm, delicious, and easy.  I usually double this recipe because I like to have leftovers (who doesn't?) to make life even easier.

(Recipe below)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Back to School: Meal Planning

Three of my four kids started back to school this week (8th, 5th, and 1st grades).  Starting the school routine back can be stressful, especially to the crew who were sleeping until 9:00am and now have to get up at 5:45am. One thing that I like to do to reduce this stress is meal planning. I have done this for years, and it definitely makes our life run smoother.  It also makes the inevitable question "What's for dinner" much easier to answer.  I get more relaxed about meal planning during the summer, but during the school year, it is a must. 

FREE Printable: Weekly Meal Planner

To download a Meal Plan Template, click here

This also makes grocery shopping easier to plan.  A category that I find important to put on my meal planner has nothing to do with food, but is something that can affect when and where we are going to eat: "Events/Appointments." For example, I know that Thursday night is a dance class night for my kids so meals have to be earlier and less complicated on that night.

By downloading my FREE Printable for Weekly Meal Planning, you will be able to type in the date, your events or appointments, and what you plan to have for Breakfast, AM Snack, Lunch, PM Snack, and Dinner.  I hope this helps you as much as it helps our family.

For recipe ideas, please see the following:

For other Back-to-School Ideas, please see the following:

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If you like what you see, please share or like or pin my post.  Thanks!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Home Tour: The Story of Us {The Den}

I got married right out of college, so my "nesting" began at a young age: 22.  I remember being told to wait before decorating our home (at that time apartment) because we didn't "know who we were yet."  But, being a naïve twenty-two-year-old, I headed straight to Pier 1 and Pottery Barn to make my "wishlist."  In the beginning, we couldn't afford much in the way of décor, so we accepted a lot of "hand-me-down" furniture from our parents.  Little by little we filled our apartment, then a house, and as the years have passed, houses. Everywhere we have lived or visited, we have collected items, whether it be a coffee mug, a Christmas ornament, or a piece of art.  I remember one day looking around thinking, "this is us."  All of the hand-me-down furniture, the items we had collected from various places, even the silver that was my grandmothers, all of it was us.  The words that I had heard years before rolled through my mind again and I realized that I then knew who we were.  The objects in our home, while not straight from the showroom floor at Pier 1 or Pottery Barn or even Magnolia Market, told the story of us.  Most of our pieces have a story that comes with them, and walking through each room feels like visiting with old friends and relatives or reminiscing about our past. If there is one thing I want to pass on to my children about setting up their own home, it would be to listen to their heart and tell the story of them.

Furnishing our home has been a journey, one that conjures memories, and tells stories.  Not to say that everything we own is old, some of it we bought new.  For example, we purchased our couches one Mother's Day after a trip to the zoo when our second daughter was a baby.  The gifts that we received at our wedding showers are highly regarded.  The soup bowls that we just ate from were from my maid of honor.  The coffee cup holder was a gift from a dear friend.  The coaster that I placed my glass upon was from a friend who is no longer with us.  A set of picture frames that hang on my wall  were from a childhood friend.  My list is extensive, and I'm sure those friends don't even remember giving the gifts, but the items make me remember them.  Everything has a page in the book that tells the story of who we are.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Back to School: Labels

I am a type A personality, I like everything organized and neat.  I also like school supplies.  I was that kid who was more excited to go to the office supply store to buy school supplies than to go to the mall for shoes.  As an adult, it has not gotten much better.  The only difference now is that I have passed this office-supply-loving gene down to my children.  They love these stores too! Now if only I could get them as organized as I secretly wish they were. 

I currently have one child in junior high (8th grade), two children in elementary school (1st and 5th grades), and one child that stays at home with me (2 year old).  For the two that are in elementary school, I label everything.  For the one that is in junior high, I feel privileged when she allows me to label things.  That being said, I am about to focus on my two elementary children and their labels.  Everyday I have to pack them a snack in a zip-top bag with their name on it.  I know that it is easy to write their name on the bag with a Sharpie, but I love labels.  I can't help it, it's my type A personality.  So, I used Avery labels and to create labels for their snack bags.  These labels were so cute, that I could not just use them on their snack bags.  With my new revelation (and labels), my type A personality and I went roaming throughout the house to find other things to label for school.  I have now labeled their devices, folders, notebooks, pencil bags, pencil boxes, and snack bags.  I am sure that I can find more things later, but for now it is a good start.  Now I want you to see how cute these labels are:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

#WIDN: Planning Flower Containers for Fall

What I'm doing now....thinking of is just right around the corner.  I know, I know, it is only August, and I live in Texas so it won't be cooling off any time soon.  However, I need to go ahead and plan what I am going to plant in my containers for fall.  I will not be ripping everything out that I had planted for the spring and summer (click here to see what I had planted) because some of it will still be blooming/growing into the fall.  I love fall, I love the coziness of if, the change of seasons, football, Halloween, Thanksgiving...the list is long.  As usual, I have sketched out my plans for the pots that are having a make-over.  But before we get to that, let me show you my fall porch from a couple of years ago from our previous house:

Mums, crotons, zinnias, ivy, and pumpkins....porch made in Heaven.  I am aiming to recreate this slice of Heaven this year on our porch.  The space we have at this house is more than what we had in that picture, so I have more to work with.  Hopefully it will give me goosebumps like this porch gave me.  So without further ado, let me share my plans with you.  Now remember, I have several containers that are not changing at all (10 to be exact).  I have a total of 5 in the front of the house that are completely changing or getting a make-over.  Here are my plans for the front porch:

Monday, August 15, 2016

Taco Soup

Nothing evokes the feeling of fall than the smell of soup cooking in the kitchen.  Maybe I am bringing it just a tad early this year seeing how it is still Texas. However, because of the storms that blew threw last night, the temperature for much of this morning was 30 degrees cooler than normal (yes, you read that correctly...30 degrees cooler).  Which means that it felt like 78 degrees as opposed to 108 degrees.  Whatever the reason, I was really just looking for a good excuse to make this Taco Soup.  I love taco soup so much that I could eat it just about every day.  Even on a hot one, or a less hot one. 

See recipe below:

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Yard Tour: What is Blooming in My Yard

I have tried to sit down and write this post for the past week, but finding time to do so in the first week of summer has proven to be difficult. I have been taking pictures of what I have blooming in my yard. I have a several containers (see my post on Front Porch Container Gardening) on my front porch, my back patio, and in my front flower bed.  Gardening and plants have become my biggest hobby.  I love them in the spring, and I love them in the fall.  I even love them in the winter and the hot summer.  The quickest way to make your home more attractive and inviting is with landscaping and container gardening.

As some of you may know, we moved to Texas two years ago from Mississippi (to see pictures from my Mississippi landscaping, click here).  At the time, I was pregnant with our fourth daughter (who was born in the month of May), so we did not do much with our landscaping our first year in this house.  Last year, we ripped out all of the "builder beds" and replaced them with what suited our style (more on that in a later post).  This year, I have been trying to find out what will grow well in the containers in our yard, on our front porch, and on our back patio.  Our back patio faces the west and has no shade (thank you brand new pasture neighborhood).  Obviously that means that our front porch faces the east, so things are a little easier to grow here.  Bake and fry are what happens to plants in the Texas sun on a patio that faces the west, so we will see if I am successful this year with the plants that I have there. 

I have taken tons of pictures of what I have blooming in my yard (front and back) that I am sharing with you below.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pancakes: One of my Most Versatile Recipes

Sixteen years ago at one of our wedding showers, we received a gift of a blank cookbook; one in which we could write our favorite recipes.  I remember that I thought that it would take forever to fill the pages of that cookbook. While I have not filled every page yet, I am currently on page 52.  Looking back through the pages, I can remember writing just about everyone of them in there.  There are lots of memories starting from when we are first married with instructions on how to cut the recipe in half to later recipes with instructions on how to double (and sometimes triple) the recipes now that we are a family of six.  It is amazing how fast time flies, and however cliché that sounds, it is the absolute truth.  The days are long but the years are short.

One of our most versatile recipes in my cookbook is the recipe for pancakes. They can be for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I like to make them on a Saturday morning, I like to pack them in my kids' lunches, and I like to have them for "breakfast for dinner." As much as we like them, it is important to have a good, reliable pancake recipe on hand. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Week Wrap-Up

With the month of May having Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought I would post some of my favorite homemade gifts for teachers.

One of my favorites is the rainbow jar of M&Ms.

Rainbow M&M Jar

This teacher gift was easy to put together.  The directions

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Blueberry Muffins

There have been many muffin recipes come and go through our kitchen, but there is one that stands out as a favorite for my entire family. My kids, husband, and grandfather love these muffins. The great thing about it is that it can be a blueberry muffin recipe or a chocolate chip mini muffin recipe (the latter will be a different blog post for a different day). Today it is blueberry muffins, and, as I write this, the number that are left from the batch I made earlier is dwindling... These muffins are great for breakfast or a snack or just because you want one (confession: I am currently eating one for "artistic inspiration"). Look at these muffins, don't they just beg to be eaten?

See recipe below.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Front Porch Container Gardening

Planting season is the time of year I look forward to; it's a time for things to begin anew again, a time to get dirt under your nails.  I have an abundance of pots at my house, so many that I can't even fill all of them because there is no room for them all on my porch, flower beds, or patio.  If I have a hoarding tendency, it is probably toward pots (probably a few other things too if I'm honest or if you ask my husband).  I have containers in a few different areas of my house: the front porch, the front flower bed, and the back patio (for now....).  Because there are so many of them, I like to plan what I'm going to plant in each one of them.  This is a process that I have built on for years.  I have had to start over a couple of times because we have moved to different growing zones, but I always keep a record of what works (and especially what doesn't).  I also like to draw diagrams of my containers and of what and how many plants I will put into each container.

Below are the plans from my Sketchbook (pages 1 and 2) for my Front Porch Containers.  I am starting with these because I love to sit on my front porch and drink coffee, watch the kids play, people watch, read, and look at my plants.  We moved into our current house two years ago when I was very pregnant with our fourth daughter, so that first spring and summer I was not able to really get into the landscaping and gardening of our house.  This will be the second spring that I have been able to do that.  Last spring we ripped out all of the builder-grade landscaping and started over (there was nothing wrong with the builder-grade plants, but I wanted to put my own stamp on the house....and it's what we do everywhere we live so why stop now?).

Page 1 of ROF Sketchbook: Front Porch Containers

Page 2 of ROF Sketchbook: Front Porch Containers

Now for the pictures of the plants that I planted in those pots: