Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Falling For You

Now that it is OCTOBER 24th I figured I should get some Fall Decorations up in this house.  Before this year the total amount of seasonal fall decor I owned = ZERO.  I was always discouraged by the price tags I saw on wreaths and fall decor while browsing through seasonal decor sections in stores.  This year I spent some time browsing through pinterest and got inspired by all the wonderful ideas.  So I decided, "Enough Is Enough," I am at least going get a fall wreath up on my door!!

Surprisingly, the actual inspiration for my wreath didn't come from pinterest but from one I saw for $12.99 at our BRAND NEW local HomeGoods!  I wish I would have snapped a picture but alas, I didn't.  What I liked about it was a "stick based" wreath with berries, fall leaves, and pine cones.  I looked at it and liked the combination and the price tag wasn't too bad on it either.  However, I wasn't in love with it and I thought: "I think I could make one for cheaper or the same price that I like even more." and "Hey! I have a blog now, this would be a fun thing to blog about!"  So I left HomeGoods empty handed (which was a very difficult task) and decided I would get out in the next couple of days to get supplies to make my own.

I eventually made my way to Old Time Pottery and got the following supplies:

10" Grapevine Wreath-                                                              $3.99
Two 12" Picks with Wheat and Pumpkin-                            $1.11 (each)
Two 12" Picks with Laurel Leaves and Berries-                   $1.49 (each)
Set of 4 Ornamental Pinecones on a stick-                           $.50 (clearance for all four!!!)
                                                                                                              $9.69 TOTAL (Score!)

Here are pics of what I got pre-assembly

The first thing I did was cut the sticks off the pine cones.


I was originally planning on taking the picks apart and rearranging and removing some of the pieces.  But the more I looked at them and arranged them on the wreath I decided to go ahead and leave them as is.   To assemble I simply took the picks and pushed them through the gaps of the grapevine wreath like this:

I started with a berry Pick (please excuse my big pregnant belly that photo bombed this picture).

Then added the Pumpkin Pic with the darker pumpkin.

Then I added the other berry Pick and the other pumpkin Pick.

The more I looked at it and tried to fit in the pine cones the more I decided that I really liked it as is.  So I nixed the pine cone idea for this one.  Also, I was planning on hot gluing the picks for extra support but they were pretty securely set in the wreath that I decided to forgo that step.  The jury is still out if I will glue them before I put the wreath in storage for next season.

Here are a few pics of the final product:

I love how Josiah is peeking out at his pumpkins in this picture.  He does it all the time.  He loves those things!  He is going to be really sad when they have to go!

So what did I do with the left over pine cones?!  I used the, of course!  I had an empty vase I stacked them up in.  I the vase on my fire place mantle with some 3" decorative pumpkins I snagged from Old Time Pottery for $.99 each while picking up the wreath parts!  I plan on using the pine cones in a vase with some Christmas Ornaments for my Christmas decorations too.




So this completes my first year of Seasonal Fall Decor!  Even though it is only a few things, I am pleased with the touch of Fall they bring to my home.  It helps that my year round decorations are very "fallish" anyway so it doesn't seem like so little.  Now I am so excited to get started on home made Christmas decorations!  But for now you can hear me walking around my house saying to myself, "Must wait till after Thanksgiving to decorate, Must wait till Thanksgiving to decorate."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gobble Gobble

It is officially one month until Thanksgiving.  It just so happens to be my favorite holiday (so much so we planned our wedding on Thanksgiving weekend!)  What can I say:  I love spending time with family, fall weather, fall decor, fall food, and a holiday completely dedicated to giving thanks!  There is something about celebrating relationships and giving thanks for those around us without any consumerism mixed in.  Any who, here are a few more of my favorite fall recipes, including a fantastic Make Ahead Mashed Potato Recipe that I highly recommend for your Thanksgiving Feast!

Roast Beef

This is one of my all time favorite Fall recipes.  It came from a long time family friend Mark Lee.  I think it is the best Roast recipe I have ever had but you can decide that for yourself.  This one I made in the crock pot because I was teaching lessons all afternoon so I wouldn't be home.  I do prefer it in a good 'ole fashioned Roast Pan.

Roast Beef
4-5 lb Chuck Roast
2 Chopped Onions
1/2 C Water
1/4 C Ketchup
1/3 C Dry Sherry
1/4 tsp Rosemary
1 Bay Leaf
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp Dry Mustard
1/4 tsp Marjoram
1/4 tsp Thyme

Salt and Pepper the Beef then dredge in flour, Brown.  When almost browned add 2 chopped onions.  When completely browned transfer to roaster pan.  In a separate bowl mix together the remaining ingredients and pour over beef.  Bake at 300 degrees for 2 1/2-3 hours.  Strain broth and make gravy.

Crockpot directions:
Salt and Pepper the Beef then dredge in flour, Brown.  When almost browned add 2 chopped onions.  When completely browned transfer to crockpot.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours or High for 4-6 hours.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Who wants to eat cold mashed potatoes?!  Anybody, Anybody?  Not me!  However, when you are planning a meal like a Thanksgiving Meal it is always a tricky task to make sure you get them done just at the right time.  Well here is the solution!  My mom makes these ahead of time and then on Thanksgiving day she transfers them to a chaffing dish and warms them up that way.  This way they stay warm even for the second round! This recipe relieves stress on the day of the meal and is also DELISH!

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
5 lbs Potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 (8oz) Pkg Cream Cheese
1 C Sour Cream
2 tsp Garlic Salt/Onion Salt
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
2 T Butter
1/2 C Milk (optional)

Boil and mash potatoes, add all ingredients.  Place potatoes in a greased casserole dish.  Back at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated thoroughly.  Freeze up to 4 weeks and thaw completely before baking.  Serves 10-12.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pumpkin Painting and Lighting Updates... Oh Yeah!

Steven has been doing a major renovation project on one of the houses on the church property.  The plan for the house is to be used as a large space for a coffee house for the youth, Sunday school classes on Sunday mornings, and also a variety of other groups who use the building through out the week (women's bible study, quilters, etc).  The whole renovation project is turning out phenomenal.  When he was looking for light fixtures for the renovation project he stumbled across a light with a fan for less than $50!  He picked up two for the Church House renovation and then remembered how much our living room fixture needed a major update.  Less than $50 certainly fits in our family budget so he went ahead and grabbed one for us too!  You would be proud of me to know that I said OK to the whole thing without even seeing the fixture in person.  He did send me a photo to my phone just as an extra precaution.  I have really learned to trust him and his taste as we have done things to our house over the past couple of years.  So I thought $50?  Why not?!!!

Here is a before picture our our light fixture in our living room.  This picture was taken almost three years ago before we had done ANYTHING to our house.  We hadn't even painted the walls (Steven did that all himself in a mad rush when I was in my 3rd trimester with Josiah).

Once we painted the walls a darker color we realized just how much we needed to update that thing!  I wish I had a recent before picture but I was too busy keeping Josiah away from the screw driver he was committed to driving through his head.  The first step was to remove the base of the existing light fixture from the ceiling:

After this step I realized this was going to be WAY to complicated to do with a very curious 18 month old running around so I got Josiah busy on a project.  We had been to the Tate Farms Pumpkin Patch the day before and I was inspired by my favorite blog in this post to have Josiah paint a pumpkin this year.  One of the things I enjoy most as a parent is starting holiday traditions with my son.  I knew he wouldn't be able to participate in carving so I really like this idea of taping off a jack-o-lantern face and having him paint over it.

Here are the steps I did for our pumpkin painting project:

STEP 1. Clean Pumpkin:  I washed the pumpkin of with some luke warm running water in my kitchen sink.  I had a sponge I was getting ready to throw out so I used the scruffy side to make sure to remove all the dirt that was stuck to the pumpkin.

STEP 2. Tape Jack-o-lantern face:  I set up Josiah to play in the yard while I taped off the face.  I used a different technique than they did in the YHL blog because I had read that post a LONG time ago and was just going off my memory.  They covered the pumpkin with tape and then used a knife to cut out the the face.  I just used good old painters tape and a pair of scissors and made the face as I went.  It looked like this:

STEP 3. Check on Steven's progress and make sure he doesn't need anything before my toddler and I get covered in paint.  Here is my stud muffin in progress.  He had gotten pretty far with us being out of the way!

STEP 4: PAINT!  We used crayola washable finger paints and I also had some cheap-o sponge brushes from a previous project.  BRAG ALERT: My husband had purchased the finger paints and sponges for my mother's day present from my son.  He had him paint a memory box with his hand prints so I could put all my special treasures in it from my son.  So sweet!  Now back to the project... Since the paints were washable I just set the pumpkin on top of our plastic storage bin for out door toys and let Josiah go to town. He took a little prompting because he usually airs on the cautious side (he is so much like his father) but he quickly got into it!

STEP 5: Let dry: Once he was done painting I put the pumpkin in the empty side of our garage to let it dry away from the elements.  It wasn't until later that evening when I reviewed the blog that inspired me when it occurred to me that the paint might peel off when I remove the painters tape.  So I went to check on the pumpkin and it was pretty much completely dry.  I peeled off the tape and luckily it wasn't a problem at all.  I was concerned about the paint being washable and staying outside so I thought about getting a glaze spray to spray over the paint.  I decided just to leave it as is and see what happened.  It has now been 13 days and that pumpkin is still going strong. Here is what it looked like that night on our porch (Please excuse our extremely weathered rocking chairs.  I need to paint them.  That will probably be a future post).

STEP 6. Reveal to Josiah his masterpiece:  We have a hard time getting him to sit still during a picture but he really liked seeing the pumpkin.  Here are a few shots I captured of Josiah+Pumpkin:

STEP 7. Enjoy the fruits of all my husbands labor!  Here is the new light fixture we have in our living room.  We feel it has REALLY improved the feel of the room.  That night we laid on the couch for a while admiring it and talking about how much we liked it.



So that's that!  Do you have any fun family holiday traditions that you like to do every year?  What were your favorite things to do as a child?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kanye What?!

Seven years ago today I was getting ready to play in a concert with "a major recording artist" as I was told in the correspondence email.  When I think back to that day and experience it was such a blur.

It all started with an email saying that a major recording artist was coming to Columbia, Missouri (my college town.. GO MIZZOU!) to do a concert and they were needing two cellists and 3 violinists to play for the concert.  I saw the $300 paycheck (a lot for a days work for a poor college student) and I was sold.  I sent in my pictures and I was approved.  It turns out it was Kanye West.  Its funny because at the time I had NO idea who he was.  I called my best friend Jessica and told her I was going to be playing a concert for "Cain-yah"  West.  I still get a hard time from her to this day about that.  How did I get that far and not know who he was, I have no idea... But that's the story of my life, ha!

So for those that know me (especially in my school age years) know I was a total nerd.  2005 was a time before facebook had status update options.  I remember going through each person on my contact list and writing on their wall that I was going to be playing for his concert... yeah that's a little embarrassing.  What can I say, I was pretty quirky but proud of it.  In the words of my good friend Vanessa, "You're the weirdest person I know that I actually like!"

Anyway here are a few pics of my experience that day.  I apologize for the major cheesing out I'm doing in some all of the pictures...

cheesing out with my backstage pass and my cello...

Here we are doing some practicing during a rehearsing break.  We weren't allowed to take the music home or get it a head of time so we had a long rehearsals in the morning and the afternoon then it was show time.

Fantasia Barrino, the winner of the third season of American Idol opened up for Mr. West.

Yep, that was me, member of the Kanye West band for a day... haha!

The concert was in the Mizzou Arena.  It was actually a sold out show.  We were in the longest screen box on the stage.  The would shine lights in different ways on the boxes so sometimes you would see us, sometimes just our silhouettes, and then other times they would play videos on the screens.

Here is a picture of the inside of our box.  My chair was the second from the right. At the beginning of the concert (right after the prayer...ha!) we went to our places and Kanye West sat right behind us until it was time for him to go on.  I didn't get the nerve to turn around and say anything I had used all of that up to stand next to him in the group picture. I just remember my heart pounding out of my chest thinking "he is RIGHT behind me!" The harp player traveled with the tour along with the violinist who was the leader.  She ran all our rehearsals and such (she sat on the far left).

I thought it would be really cool to take a picture from the view from my seat, but this is what I got.  Jaw dropping, I know...

Here's the pic of the the group from Mizzou with Kanye. It kind of looks like I photo shopped myself in because of the shadow from the flash.  But I promise I was there!

This cropped out photo gets the award for being my longest running profile pic on facebook.  I was a little ecstatic (once I realized who he was).

So that's my one claim to fame.  It has turned out to be a pretty cool thing to tell my students that gives me a little credibility right of the bat (in their minds).  I like to use it as an example that learning classical music can open you up to a whole world of possibilities.  There is no way I would have been able to play some of the songs in the key of c-flat major if I hadn't had the classical training.  Thank you to my father for teaching my AP music theory class in High School! Moral of the story: keep practicing kids... and listen to what I tell you.  Ha!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fall Food Time

I don't know about you guys but sometimes I have a real hard time coming up with a weekly menu of meals to cook.  I love it when I find new recipes and get ideas from what friends are making.  Fall is one of my favorite "Food Seasons" so I am full of ideas right now.  Here are two dishes that I have made recently that go over well with my family.

Chicken Pot Pie

This is a recipe I got from my friend Angela when we went back "home" to visit friends and family in Kansas City.  It is a meal that somebody brought her right after she had her son.  It is very toddler friendly as it is packed with lots of veggies.  I don't know if anybody else has a hard time getting their child to eat veggies but I do.  Josiah doesn't even seem to notice them in this dish (except he picks the carrots out first to eat them... they are his fav).  Plus, the cheese biscuit topping is Delish!

WARNING:  This makes a very large amount that could easily feed 10.  When I am making this for my family of 3 (soon to be 4 *big grin*) I put half in a freezer/oven friendly pan before baking.  This way I already have a meal ready for a busy night!  I've been doing this quite often lately  for when I cross over into my third trimester and I have less energy to cook.

A few other notes:  I really dislike the taste of boiled chicken.  So this is what I do.  I get a (2 pack) package of split chicken breasts with the skin on. They are usually pretty cheap/on sale too!  I cook them in the crock pot on high for 2-3 hours or low for about 4 hours with a tiny bit of salt.  When it is done I peel off the skin and the chicken practically falls off the bone.  Watch out for the long skinny bones that are easy to miss.  I discard the bones and skin and the meat cuts up wonderfully.  I also use red potatoes and cook them in the microwave. :-)  If you choose to do it this way then I would combine all the filling ingredients except the chicken and potatoes, bring it to a light boil, then add the chix and taters.

Chicken Pot Pie
4 cups cooked cubed chicken
1pkg (12 oz) frozen broccoli and cheese sauce
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
2-3 medium potatoes, cubed
3/4 C chicken broth
2/3 C sour cream
1 pkg (12 oz) frozen veggie medley
1/4 tsp pepper 
3 C biscuit baking mix
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 C Milk
6 Tbsp butter, melted 
Cook Chicken and potatoes in pot (cook potatoes until the chicken is cooked through.)
Combine all filling ingredients in a dutch oven or large pot, bring to boil.  Transfer to greased 9x13 baking dish.
In a small bowl combine the topping ingredients, spoon over the top of the filling.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly and topping is golden brown.

Salisbury Steak

I know, I know, when you think Salisbury Steak you usually think of the frozen dinners that are less than appetizing.  For some reason my mind goes back to the cartoon "Doug" from my child hood.  I have a memory of the characters being served Salisbury Steak and it NEVER looked appetizing.  However, this is one of my husband's favorite dishes.  Which is actually a funny story.  I made this for him the first couple weeks we were married.  When I told Steven (who is usually NOT picky at all)  that I was making this he gave me a very skeptical look.  He was shocked when he tasted it and even had seconds (which he normally doesn't do... he's not a big eater).

CONFESSION: I did use Hungry Jack instant potatoes in the particular picture (blush).  However, I do have a fantastic make-ahead mashed potato recipe for those of you who are very busy as well.  I will post it closer to Thanksgiving because I will certainly be making it this year.

Notes: Make sure the patties are not too large (make 6-8 patties) and the skillet is set just above Medium.  This will prevent the onions from turning to bitter crispies.  This is not a nice touch, trust me.

Salisbury Steak
3 Tbsp butter
1 onion
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 1/2 C bread crumbs
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1-2 Brown Gravy Mixes 
Directions:  Mix beef, bread crumbs, and spices.  Make into patties.  In non-stick skillet melt butter, cook onion until slightly tender.  Place patties in skillet and cook, flip halfway through.  Make gravy in separate pot.  Pour over patties and let simmer.

There is nothing like going down nostalgia lane with wonderful food.  Does anybody else remember Salisbury Steak from the Doug show or am I just crazy?  Do you have fun fall recipes that you specifically wait in anticipation for the weather to change to justify making them?  Please share I would love to try them!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tate Farms Pumpkin Patch

We took Josiah to the pumpkin patch for the first time this weekend.  His first word was "out" and he has now graduated to saying the two syllable "outside" so needless to say, he had a WONDERFUL time.  We went during for our church's family night and that definitely made it even better.

It was a beautiful fall day and the weather was perfect. Josiah got to jump with Daddy on the big inflatable.  He loved is as long as he was in Steven's arms.

Then we went to the petting area to see the animals.  Josiah loved to look and point.

He was really comfortable until they decided to look at him.  One look from this goat sent him over the edge and he created quite a scene.  As we were leaving the goat pen strangers were asking me if he got bit.  But no, he just got a little frightened by this little guy:

Next we went to his favorite thing: the corn crib.  He was a little leery at first because of the goat incident but he quickly warmed up to it.

This action shot captures the mood perfectly I think!

Steven and Josiah were brave enough to go down this giant slide.  It was very bumpy in side and everyone had shaky voices as they went down.  It was pretty funny.

By the second time I was able to get a picture with a smile!

We then snapped a few family pics, hoping for a framer.  Unfortunately, Josiah is in a stage where he doesn't look at the camera very often.  But we got a few good ones.

Next we went on the hayride to the pumpkin patch.  Josiah was thrilled at the fact that we were being driven by a tractor.  He loves those things, especially John Deere!  Please excuse my swollen preggers body!

Josiah picked the pumpkin right in front of him here.  So we had to get it.  He loves to look out our front window at our pumpkins.  He is still working on getting that word.

It was a great evening and the beautiful thing was Josiah was WORN OUT by the time we got home. 
Happy Fall to everyone!