Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Scent-sational" Autumn

When I was a newlywed, I read a book that talked about filling your home with things that delight the senses...sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. I have always been smell-sensitive, and love to bring beautiful fragrances and scents into my home. Some of my favorite scents are those of autumn. They conjure up so many wonderful memories of home and family, the excitement of a new school year, the changes of seasons, and the anticipation of upcoming holidays! When I smell apples and cinnamon, I am suddenly a fifteen year old girl coming home late in the evening from play practice and opening the door to the smell of freshly baked apple crisp. When I smell pumpkin and cloves, I am transported to pumpkin patches and hayrides and Thanksgiving dinners around our table. There is just a cozy comfort to autumn scents, and I love bringing them into my home. I was thrilled to find two new scents this season at Bath and Body Works. Their wallflowers fragrance releasers, which are a great alternative to candles for those of us with little ones around the house, give out a steady but not overpowering stream of comforting scents. I tried Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin and Leaves, both of which are wonderful. I must say, the Leaves is my favorite and the candle I've been burning when my kids are either asleep or out of the house is simply "scent-sational!" If you are a lover of fall fragrances like I am, you may want to run out to Bath and Body Works and give these a try!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm Going to Want To Remember This...

It was an ordinary day.

I was buried under a mountain of laundry that needed folding, thanks to my notorious habit of washing and drying laundry then putting it in a basket or pile to fold on another day. Folding laundry is on the list of tasks I like to do the least, though that may be partially due the fore-mentioned bad habit that makes this not just a chore, but a huge ordeal.

Oh well. That's not really the point anyway.

The point is, I was putting some of my daughter's laundry in her dresser drawers when I caught a glimpse of her dresser. I see this piece of furniture every day, but don't always actually look at it. But on this day the brightly colored bottles of nail polish and handmade wands and the cheerleader doll and beaded lamp and all other evidences that a pretty-in-pink four year old princess lives in this room made me stop and stare and soak it in.

And I thought to myself, "I'm going to want to remember this."

I thought of how soon that dresser will be covered in different older-girl things, and how those items will change through the years, and how the evidence will one day reveal that a little girl no longer resides here, but instead a young woman.

But for today the girl in the room with the pink walls still has a basket of hair bows and barrettes that she wears in her long, silky hair and loves the princesses on her lamp and thinks that one day she may marry the little boy in the picture in the pink frame, and that if she does he is going to wear a red and black checked shirt to the wedding. She still plays with the dollhouse on the other side of the room and is constantly changing into something from the purple dress up bin in the closet. She is still sugar and spice and youth and innocence, just as the items on her white dresser reflect. She is still my little girl.

So for an extra moment the laundry sat and waited as I grabbed my camera and took a picture of her dresser piled with things so that I, and she, will someday remember.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Confessions of a Clearance Rack Queen

For those of you who did not know, I am a coffee mom of nobility. Not only do I have a royal heritage as the daughter of the King of Kings, but I am also a queen - of the clearance racks, that is!

I grew up either wearing hand-me-downs from Emily Steplowski (a girl two years my senior thanks to whom I had both a Coca-Cola rugby shirt and a pair of ankle zip Guess jeans in the 80's, can I get a witness?) or clothes my mom had found on the clearance rack. With a red dot for an extra 20% off. And with her 15% off coupon.

I remember going into our local Peebles department store (anyone remember those?) or Hechts (before Macy's bought it out) and seeing an outfit I just had to have. I would beg and plead to take it home that day. My mom wouldn't necessarily tell me no, she would tell me to wait. "It will go on sale" she would say. And it did of course, because mothers are always right. (Well, mostly.)

I am thankful that I grew up on a tight budget for several reasons, one being is that as a stay-at-home mom and ministry wife I am still on a tight budget! Another is that I learned from a young age that you can still look stylish without wearing only the popular name brands and spending ridiculous amounts of money on clothes that you may only wear for a season or two.

And without a doubt, if money was no object and I could just buy anything I wanted off the racks without thought to cost, I would miss out on the thrill, the joy, the ecstasy of finding that perfect item for that unbelievable price. I wouldn't have the experience of having my temples bead with sweat and my heart race as I look down in amazement that this pair of jeans, the lone ones on the rack, that happen to be my size and the perfect wash and fit, are $4.74 at Target. Score another for the under $5 category!!

Unlike some who shop on the cheap but like to pretend they are couture, I am very proud of my bargains and when someone compliments me on a piece of clothing, like to proudly announce, "Oh you'll never guess! I found this at Steinmart on the clearance rack for $3.50!!!" I wear my Clearance Rack Queen crown with great vim and vigor, and relish having a large wardrobe, much of which was purchased for under 10 dollars!

All that said, I raise a glass (that I found on discount at Homegoods) to clearance racks, shoestring budgets, and the irreplacable thrill of the price-slashed find!

*The outfit I'm wearing in the above picture is a combination of recent finds - the shirt was indeed under $4 at Steinmart and the jeans under $5 at Target, oh yes. :)

Pumpkin Bread, Paula Style...

This time of year always makes me crave the flavors of autumn and quite often I find myself in the kitchen baking anything with pumpkin, apples, cinnamon, cloves, and other savory ingredients. The other day I was craving some fresh-baked pumpkin bread, and decided to see if Paula Deen (one of my all-time favorite cooks) had a recipe I could use. Sure enough she did, and my two loaves turned out deliciously! I'll post the recipe...definitely one to try when you are craving a little cinnamon and pumpkin (and have an entire cup of vegetable oil to spare). Enjoy!

  1. 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  2. 1 cup vegetable oil
  3. 2/3 cup water
  4. 4 large eggs
  5. 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  6. 3 cups sugar
  7. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  8. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  9. 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice to add more savor)
  10. 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease 2 (8x5-inch) loaf pans. In a medium bowl, beat pumpkin, oil, water, and eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
  2. In a separate medium bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Gradually add to pumpkin mixture, stirring to combine.
  3. Pour into pans, and bake for 1 hour, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.
Makes 2 loaves

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Birthday Brunch!

This morning we finally got to celebrate my parents' birthdays as a family! I felt so badly that we had not gotten a chance to do this already, but my parents were out of town on my dad's birthday and then various other trips, activities, sicknesses, etc. delayed us from celebrating until this morning. I had fun preparing the food and setting my table. On the menu: Farmer's Breakfast Casserole from a Gooseberry Patch cookbook, scrambled eggs, apple-cinnamon muffins, Snickerdoodle bread and spread from Williams Sonoma, cinnamon rolls, orange juice, chai tea, and coffee. The sweet and savory mix was perfect for an October celebration! I set my table with many disposable things for easy cleanup, but everything was done on a budget. The scrapbook paper that helped stage my centerpiece and give me a theme idea was from the dollar bin at Target, as was my red plastic tablecloth. The plates and napkins were on clearance for under a dollar at Target as well! The green and red apple scrapbook paper gave me the idea to put a red apple one everyone's plate, and use Granny Smith apples in a trifle bowl for a simple, natural centerpiece. I purchased zinnias for 99 cents each in the garden section at Target, and put them in buckets that my mom and I had found in the Target dollar bin months ago. As you can see, I am a huge Target fan and also a fan of making creative, lovely things on a budget! The table was inviting, the food was yummy, and celebrating two of the people I hold most dear with my family was a wonderful start to our Saturday!