30 September 2010

Delicious dinner: Chicken casserole

I have previously mentioned my love for autumn temperatures, which today is something that translates into a perfect cool weather meal. Each time I've made it, I have received rave reviews and barely had any leftovers. This three cheese penne with chicken and broccoli casserole is perfect for with a side salad, Italian bread, and a white wine.

Next time I make this recipe, I'd like to add corn to the mix. You could also add peas, carrots, or celery to try a few varieties of the original.

Now for the recipe -- click on the picture below and print. Take it to the kitchen & you're ready! Try the recipe this weekend and I'd love to know how it turns out for you!

29 September 2010

Reduce, reuse, and upcycle

As I browse on Etsy and other online shops, I find so many items for sale that have been "upcycled" -- making new uses for old materials. I love the concept because it is something that naturally makes sense. Why throw the spaghetti jar away if it might possibly have a new life as something else?

On the Re-Nest website, I discovered a gem of 49 Creative Reuse Ideas that inspired me to take a look at my attic's holdings with fresh eyes.

One of my favorite upcycled items is this repurposed printer drawer jewelry hanger.

I adore almost anything made with chalkboard paint. In our next house (at least two years down the road at this point), I would love to have a wall or cupboard in the kitchen painted with chalkboard paint for grocery lists, messages, or perhaps a calendar. In the meantime, I can make do with upcycled vintage frames with a chalkboard center. I love this vintage green and gold frame chalkboard.

What have you upcycled?

28 September 2010

Let's all be brave

Sometimes being brave, particularly in the midst of something difficult or an event that truly rattles you, is just plain tough. There is no way around it. Some days are harder than others to feel brave. 

You choose to be brave and get out of bed, shake it off, develop a thicker skin, and think positively. No room for negativity. It doesn't help anyone.

This is all part of the human condition: How much can each person handle and carry? What is your breaking point? It is probably something that changes daily, dependent upon many factors such as mood, social connections, weather, health, and deadlines.

Let's all take note of this paper print by Mae Chevrette. I found it inspiring.

{ to be brave print }

I would rather take the adventure and be scared once in awhile than the alternative.

27 September 2010

Weekend wrap-up & a question

{My momma and her birthday cupcake}

Over this past weekend, we celebrated my pretty momma's birthday with a three-cheese chicken casserole (recipe to follow), cupcakes, Candy Land, and the first viewing of our wedding DVD. The food was delicious, the company was incredible, and watching the wedding made me cry. Of course it made me cry. As our peanut asks, "Can we go back to the wedding?" Yes, I would truly love to go back and try to remember even more of it.

Oh, I didn't mention my weekend adventure: cleaning the basement. Ugh. What a task. I don't know what I was thinking Saturday morning when I decided it was an ideal time to perform a major overhaul on our dingy basement. But alas, instead of relaxing before company arrived, I was scrubbing and sweeping and moving things around. I must pat myself on the back for the motivation. I am happy to report that it looks amazing. 

For an interactive Monday post, I have a question for you. What are your favorite things around the house?

I took a more focused look at our collection of home decor and household items, and chose my favorite pieces. The pieces that help to define our home and the space we love. I picked:

1. Gorgeous & hearty Jade plant on the front steps

2. Original wedding print by the talented Erik Mueller

3. Armoir display of birdcages and metal W

 4. IKEA lighting fixture

5. Big red corduroy sectional couch (coffee table pushed aside)

and 6. Patterned curtains in living room

Email me with your favorite items for a possible feature on your home!

24 September 2010

Happy Friday dear friends

via { weheartit }

{ via Design*Sponge }

{ via weheartit }

{ via jerseymaids on Etsy }

I leave you with these truly lovely images as I plan my goals for the upcoming weekend. I have weekend goals... yes, somehow it's true. Nothing too strenuous: celebrating my amazing mother's birthday, playing outside, some sort of art project with the peanut, and perhaps a bit of crafting for a friend's wedding. I'm also aiming at documenting more of these things in photographs (as long as I remember to put the memory card back in the camera, arggg). What are you doing this weekend?

23 September 2010

A warm welcome to autumn

{ via weheartit }

How great is this photo? The frilly skirt, boots, and jacket are so darn cute.

When I stumbled across this photograph, I immediately thought of our little peanut (or me...) swinging into a large pile of leaves. Patience, Jackie. It is only the first day of autumn. 

I adore the colorful and cooler season that has just begun. My top three favorites of fall: pumpkins (decorating, carving, and eating), scenic drives with my hubby, and cozy slippers.

What are your fall favorites?

22 September 2010

Announcing :: Sweet Little Thrills


Hooray! Yippee! I have waited and the time is here. I am ecstatic to launch my design & inspiration blog, Sweet Little Thrills. Hip hip hooray (again)!

It has been a long-held desire of mine to begin a blog that would contain features on design, art, fashion, and weddings. My husband and I created a logo once I decided on the blog's name and bought the domain. From there, we eagerly drew up the layout for the website, chose a color scheme, and began the custom development of a WordPress theme.

It became an addiction to me... I was constantly scribbling notes to myself on whatever paper I could find (sometimes bills, oops). I had so many ideas that it almost became overwhelming. On that note, I have to thank my very patient hubby for putting up with my "creative craziness" as I spilled each and every idea to him. He also gets credit for masterfully developing the beautiful theme for my website. I knew what I wanted it to look like, and somehow, he was able to reach into those dimensions of my mind in order to create it. Bravo, dear!

My main introduction into the blogging world was during my own wedding planning. I read blogs before that, but nothing in any regularity. In the last year, I have become completely consumed by the expansive blogosphere. I began with wedding blogs, moved into interior design blogs, fashion blogs, shopping blogs, and before I knew it, I was deep into web design and art blogs. I was digging a hole, but I wasn't attempting to get out. I wanted a bigger shovel and maybe a water.

If the last year of intensely reading blogs has taught me anything, it's that you can find a blog about literally anything. You love trout fishing? Or the bokeh effect of photography? There are many blogs about both. [If you're new to blogs, go to Google and enter an interest of yours followed by the word "blogs." The results will astound you]

Head over to Sweet Little Thrills to see my new work... our web design firm, Wibu Design, did an amazing job on this site! Enjoy!

21 September 2010

Man caves: friend or foe?

Last week, I spent a lovely evening with some friends enjoying Mexican food, margaritas, and a man cave. The hosts were newlywed friends that are renting a great house in a beautiful neighborhood. The house is updated and even has a large backyard... but the basement took the cake.

I was introduced to the house's "man cave," complete with a huge wall-mounted flat-screen, leather sectional, pool table, and bar. We enjoyed the room while we ate dinner and drank our festive beverages. I kept thinking: My hubby would love a man cave like this at our place... okay someday... (he was at home taking care of our sick peanut).

Our current basement has low ceilings that would not be conducive to a man cave, but I know in the next house, he will be planning his special room. As I watch HGTV, I see many home-buyers that are specifically looking for a man cave as they house hunt (well, the men at least). It got me thinking: Are man caves a good idea?

The debate could really go either way depending on the couple and the time spent in the man cave. If my husband was spending all of his free-time (which is in short supply as it is) in the man cave, believe me, I would not be pleased. With a huge flat-screen, video games, and other time-suckers, I know it would be easy to get lost for hours... but please, I want attention too (I have no problem admitting it).

So are man caves really a good idea? Truthfully, they are... as long as the women are allowed to enjoy them as well. In a home full of household demands, kids, pets, phone calls, etc... I see the intrigue of a getaway. Plus, what better place could there be to watch your favorite team on Sunday with the typical accompaniments (ahem, snacks and drinks)?

In a bit of internet scouting, I found some pretty amazing man caves. Below are a few favorites, but you can see more here and here.

 { Poker Man Cave } - my dad would LOVE this

{ The Basement Nightclub }

{ The Team Room }

Reader response: Does your house have a man cave? How is it decorated? If not, is your husband begging for one? What do you think?

20 September 2010

Foodgawker: for those of us that gawk at food

This attractive website offers a bounty of beautiful pictures and corresponding recipes from various internet locations. I do my best to contain my drool as I browse the selections. You can search by type of dish or ingreidents. Try the "randomizer" button on the top menu if you don't know what you're looking for. Once you find some yummies that you want to save, you can add them to your "favorites" tab by selecting the heart in the bottom corner. Plus, you can submit your own pictures and recipes to the site. 

I've also spent time on the dwellinggawker site looking at spectacular homes. There is also a weddinggawker and craftgawker to boot. Danger: You may not be able to stop looking.

Chili chili bang bang

This weekend, in all my domesticity, I wanted to make an "I can't get enough," delicious, amazing chili. The only problem was: I didn't have a recipe for it. Yet again, I thank the internet and all of the recipe finders for making the process of obtaining a chili recipe so easy. I scribbled down a few ingredients, made a mental note of the rest, and scurried down to the kitchen with my ambition in tow. I seem to find difficulty in following any recipe with extreme preciseness. So instead of using any single exact recipe, I chose to combine many of the recipes I found to create the chili I was craving.

[If you click on the recipe, you can print it on its own page & take it to the kitchen!]

I made the chili in my favorite red enamel cast iron chili pot. It has officially become one of the most-used wedding gifts we received (along with our cast iron skillet). The chili tasted even better than I was expecting... something that surely doesn't happen often when testing a new recipe! The hubby and peanut loved it, and needless to say, this recipe will be a cold weather staple at our house.

If you try the recipe, let me know how it turns out for you! For a spicier chili, use more chili powder and pepper, possibly less honey and brown sugar. The options are endless.

17 September 2010

Smashing Magazine public signage contest

While our photo may not have been the winner of the public signage contest hosted by Smashing Magazine, it was still featured on the "Forbidden" signs page! This is exciting. Check it out here.

Warm & cozy sweaters, scarves, sleeves, and more

I immediately had goosebumps when I got out of my warm, cozy bed this morning. Instead of jumping back in and throwing the covers over my head (the weekend routine), I grabbed my thickest sweater and slipped it on. I'm pretty sure it looked sexy with my sweatpants.

I never jumped on the Snuggie bandwagon, and I am a bit proud of myself for it. However, I wore a sweater almost daily last fall/winter. My husband affectionately dubbed me "the sweater lady." This year, I will be trying to get a little more variety while maintaining my love for all knitted things.

After I saw this mug sleeve (this Etsy shop carries the sleeve in lots of colors), I wanted oatmeal. Or soup. Or more coffee. The toggle button makes it even better.

I have been crushing on circular scarves since last year. They are a bit easier to wear since you don't have to figure out how to rope them around your neck. I thought there might be a slight strangling effect, but in this sweaterish scarf, I think I could die a relatively happy death.

I normally consider capes within the realm of superheroes. But this sweater cape... ah, I swoon a little. It looks so comfy. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I purchased this, I wouldn't wear much else.

My husband and I had to elicit extreme self control after seeing this at Old Navy yesterday. Our little peanut would look tremendously cute in it. But alas, she has a few sweaters for this fall/winter, and doesn't need another (sigh).

16 September 2010

Andrew Jenks rocks my socks

{ World of Jenks } airing Mondays at 10 pm on MTV }

I rarely watch MTV anymore... I said it. I am a twenty-something adult that has moved on. The process wasn't completely intentional. Instead, it was really more the result of occupying time with HGTV or Comedy Central. After that and some odds & ends, my television time was maxed out. During my hiatus from MTV, I was missing the World of Jenks.

Andrew Jenks is a 24 year-old filmmaker that actually moves in with different strangers each week to gain understanding of what it means to be in their world. He captures his new surroundings and experiences on his MTV show.

World of Jenks was recently recommended to my husband and I, so we gave it a try. I was particularly moved by the episode as Jenks spent a week with a young man with autism. The truth in this episode is startling and amazing. Carry on dear Jenks.

Pumpkins, how i love you

I caved and already put a pumpkin on our front steps. I know it's early... and normally I like to wait a bit longer, but that little bugger makes me happy when I walk up the steps to our front door.

On another pumpkin-related note, a friend told me yesterday that the pumpkin canning industry has stocked grocery shelves for this fall after last year's shortage (people were selling canned pumpkin on Ebay last year!). This is good news for the 50 million pumpkin pies that are baked each year for Thanksgiving.

Today, on the rainy morning that blankets (and demotivates) me, I decided to do a little pumpkin scouting. Part of this is really just a good excuse to hunt on Etsy (one of my favorite sites for all things homemade) for some homemade goodies.

Etsy has an enormous collection of natural bath products, and I am loving these pumpkin-inspired soaps. I would love to purchase all of them. Self control is difficult.

I also have a ridiculous love for seasonal children's books. I can't get enough of the illustrations that depict each season's activities. This was part of my personality long before I became a teacher (it just made more sense as a teacher). For those of you with small kiddos, here are some pumpkin/autumn book recommendations from a prior teacher:
- Pumpkin Town by Katie McKy
- From Seed to Pumpkin by Wendy Pfeffer
- The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll
- Let it Fall by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
- Strega Nona's Harvest by Tomie dePaolo

If I make it to the store (on a rainy day it never seems appealing), I plan to make these delicious little morsels. You can get the recipe here.

15 September 2010

Wishing my parents a happy, happy anniversary

Watching me get married {taken by Ian Gattie Photography }

My parents are celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary today... and still monumentally love each other. This photo was taken only six weeks ago at my own wedding to my very wonderful husband. Their marriage is a phenomenal example to us as we embark on our first year. 

Sappy? Perhaps. But truthfully, how many marriages last 31 years anymore? How many last that many years HAPPILY? Very few.

They cook together. They make each other laugh. They give each other space. They buy expensive knives from their daughter's salesperson friend (Allie still adores my parents for this). They watch their ever-growing family with loving, watchful eyes. They rock.

No more chemical cleaning products!

In a recent conversation with a very dear aunt, I began to further understand the unnecessary use of chemicals in my daily life. My aunt mentioned that she has only been using vinegar or baking soda as cleaning products for the last few months. This fascinated me for a few reasons: a) less money spent on cleaning products, b) better for the environment, c) resourceful use of regular household items. 

I am a cleaner and organizer, so being true to form, my under-sink area is full of various products. I got to thinking about how much money I probably spent on all of these... and truthfully, it was a lot.

In the last few weeks, I have been on a kick to simplify things around the house (downgrading our cable, cleaning out closets and the attic, fewer trips to the store). And this morning I used my last Clorox wipe. I am officially going to switch over to vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice as part of my detox.

After looking online at the uses of these three natural products, I realized I can clean nearly everything without other chemical products. Baking soda can be used to get rid of smells in the refrigerator or to scour the tub. Vinegar is my new favorite product for its multitude of uses (many more than I ever imagined). I have already used it in the shower after shampooing to get rid of styling product buildup and add shine. Thirdly, lemon juice is not only a disinfectant but also adds a clean scent to garbage disposals.

For more ways to use these three products, check out the following links:
- baking soda: http://www.thenewhomemaker.com/bakingsoda
- vinegar: http://www.vinegartips.com/scripts/pageViewSec.asp?id=7
- lemon juice: http://www.ehow.com/how_2212471_clean-lemon-juice.html

14 September 2010

Back-to-school favorites

September is well-known for back-to-school displays of colored pencils, backpacks, and fall clothing. This year, I have ventured away from the traditional store displays and moved onto online hunting. I have found so many amazing items that my Bookmarks tab is busting at its virtual seams. Maybe it is the fact that I'm not teaching this year, and it makes me a bit nostalgic for the beginning of the school year. Or perhaps its because the products are just designed so well. Either way, here are some of my favorite children's finds:

The vendors of these products have oodles of cute toys, creative activities, and much more, so please have a look! Hope all of you and your kiddies are off to a wonderful fall and new school year!

13 September 2010

Crockpot applesauce success

After an ambitious morning spent organizing the attic (yeesh!) and decorating the house in autumn decor, I felt an overwhelming craving for some homemade applesauce. I have truly become domestic.

Peeling apple after apple left my hand sore, and I was continually wishing I had this helpful device. By my next attempt at applesauce or an apple pie, I hope to have this in my possession.

I looked at approximately a dozen recipes for applesauce in the crockpot. They were all pretty similar with only slight variations. 

I used: 8 medium apples (peeled and cored, sliced into small pieces), 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. I mixed the ingredients in a large bowl before transferring to the crockpot. I added in 1/2 cup water to the mixture and stirred well before putting on the lid.I stirred the applesauce once an hour or so, trying to break up the softened apples.

After about 4 hours on the low setting, the applesauce was done (and the house smelled amazing). The recipes recommended 8 hours, but the taste test (yum!) indicated that it was ready.

It was delicious! I'll absolutely be making this easy treat again.

10 September 2010

The beginning of summer's departure

{ Homemade goodies at The Crawford County Fair }

{ Happily near all the food }

{ Lazy afternoon in the hay }

{ Merry-go-rounding }

All summer I have been looking forward to purchasing (and devouring) a candied apple at the nearby fairgrounds.  Not only that, but also a funnel cake, taffy, and homemade lemonade. All of these wishes became reality. It was well worth the wait. However, that high amount of sugar should be saved for a great fair and of course Halloween. It led to a sweets-induced coma/nap that would definitely hinder a regular day's accomplishments.

The fair is usually a noticeable sign that summer began its sweet and subtle departure. I usually whine (just a little bit) when this happens, but this year, I am welcoming the general nature of autumn with open arms and hands. Perhaps the reason is that our home office felt like an oven when it was a daily 90 degrees outside, making it quite difficult to feel motivated and productive. The reason may also reside in scarves and the vintage red cowboy boots I can't wait to get into. Or it could be the beautiful fall leaves that I am anxious to photograph. 

For today's fall-inspired mood, I have started hunting for some new crockpot recipes. The staples that I made last fall/winter need a little updating. If you have a recipe that you can't live without, please send it to me!

09 September 2010

I adore my combined trio

This beautiful moment was captured at our wedding reception as I danced and twirled around the dance floor with my new husband and daughter. Smiling and holding hands lasted all night long. So did the dancing and laughing. Tremendous. We had the night of our lives. Our wedding was exactly what we had envisioned.

As I look at the ways my life has changed, I can only feel blessed and grateful. In the past year, I have had the fabulous opportunities to fall in love with the man of my dreams, give oodles of love to my new 4 year-old daughter, purchase a home, start a home business, and share all of it with family and friends. I might not be as able, or willing, to jump at an invitation to happy hour the way I was prior to these changes, but my priorities have shifted. And I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Each day as I open my eyes, take hold of the new day ahead, and begin slowly moving out of bed, I have thoughts filling my mind: "I'm thirsty. Oh, Ed is still sleeping. I wonder if the peanut is awake... I bet the kitty woke her up already."

Barely two years ago I would have stopped after "I'm thirsty" to reevaluate the night before, get a glass of water, or simply fall back asleep. Now, my mind is thoughtful in the morning. How did that ever happen? Believe me, I didn't see it coming.

My new life is unfolding each day, and I hope to share it here.