Friday, September 30, 2011

Oh, I Meant To Tell You...

This one is for my fellow pumpkin lovers out there.  The other day I got one of these to go from Cracker Barrel...

It's their new pumpkin custard with gingersnaps. I had been wanting to try this, and when I had a chance to sit in my green chair and enjoy it, I was thoroughly impressed!!  Pumpkin lovers, you won't want to miss this one!  Definitely a nice fall treat.  Even the whipped cream was flavored with fall spices!  My friend makes a similar pumpkin pudding, and she gave me the recipe last night.  I think I'm going to make it this weekend and can't wait!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fun Additions To The Treats For The Sweet Tray!

When I saw these cute (and tasty) Pumpkin SpiceMallows at Walmart today, I couldn't resist adding a jar of them to my 
Treats For The Sweet Tray!

Who can resist anything pumpkin spice?  I know I can't!  

Also, my mom asked me to make her some tags and while I was at it, I made a tag to add some whimsy to my tray.

I've been busy working on other little projects which I'll share with you soon, but I am getting close to being finished fluffing my nest for fall!  Well, as finished as I ever get around here - there's always details to add if I have a moment of creative inspiration!

The Broken Pilgrim

Last year during the fall season I had my eye on a decorative pilgrim at Steinmart.  He was tall and stately, very serious and determined.  I think he started in the $20 range, and every time I went there I checked on him.  On the day the price with my coupon was merely a little over $3, I brought him home.  Thanksgiving was over at this point, so I was going to save him to use this autumn.  But somehow before he even got out of the packaging, he was broken into pieces.

I don't want to be presumptuous, but I have a feeling a certain little boy whose name may or may not start with the letter T may have had something to do with this!  Bless his heart, he is sweet as pumpkin pie but rough and tumble and 100% boy.  Practically every Willow Tree figure I own has a head being held on by hot glue or a glue dot after coming into contact with this little fellow.  It is getting better as he gets older, but there were lots of accidental casualties during his terrific two's and three's.

I almost threw the pilgrim away; but I had waited a long time for him and hated to toss him in the trash.  So I held onto him, and the other day I pulled out the glue gun to see if he could be pieced back together.

He has some some chips and dents, but overall he came back together nicely!  The only exception was his cracked foot, but I was able to place him in a spot where everyone who comes into the kitchen doesn't have to see his broken shoe.  He is slightly wounded, but still standing, keeping company with pumpkins and apples and other signs of harvest.

While the glue gun was out, I also fixed the head of smaller pilgrim that had come into contact with the T-man a year or to ago.  When the glue gun was cooling and I stood back to take a look at what had been mended and restored, a thought flashed through my mind.

God in His grace and mercy uses and restores broken pilgrims every single day.  

And that is a reason to give thanks.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Treats For The Sweet Burlap Lined Tray!

Remember my hot cocoa tray from last December?  I wanted to do something similar to welcome Fall, so I took my trusty Longaberger tray that has been with me for nearly a decade and lined it with some burlap I had sitting around, then transformed it into an autumn style
Treats For The Sweet Tray!

 I think trays are so inviting, don't you?!  I used peanuts and candy corn, one of my more recently discovered favorite fall snacks, as sort of an inspiration for this vignette.  I used a frame I already had and my alphabet stamps to make a welcoming little sign...

I love using these little stamps.  No need to worry about the imperfections, they add to the old-fashioned charm!

To go along with my theme, I took my Southern Living hurricane, another nearly decade old companion, and put a candle in it.  I then poured candy corn around the candle to fill the hurricane, and it can now glow sweetly in my kitchen!

I also found a darling candy corn votive at Pier One for $1, and a cute little candy corn dish in the Target value section for $2.50.  This made a very inexpensive and fun accent.

That little polka dot Happy Halloween bucket was $1, also found in the Target value section.  It is housing York Peppermint Patties, a favorite low-fat chocolate snack of mine!  At Christmas you may remember I found sweet little gingerbread men marshmallows for my hot cocoa tray.  Well, last week at Walmart I happened to see these cute GhostMallows and thought they would be fun for this Halloween season!

I put them in one of my canning jars next to a container of pumpkin spice hot cocoa (also from Walmart) for a warm and comforting fall drink.

This cocoa is delicious made with a mug of water heated in the microwave, 3 TBSP of the pumpkin spice cocoa mix, a splash of pumpkin spice coffee creamer (my favorite is from Aldi), and a few GhostMallows to top if off.  Such a treat, you should come by sometime for a cup!  We'll curl up in my green chair corner and chat while we sip!

And we'll have to bring the jar of candy corn and peanuts too...this perfect blend of sweet and salty can keep company with us while we catch up!

Right now my Treats For The Sweet Tray sits on my kitchen counter, inviting me to stop, sit, snack, and savor.  I hope you'll come on by sometime to enjoy it with me!

Happy Fall Y'all!  Be sweet and stop in for a treat!


(This is my first blog mom loves getting inspiration from this one...I hope I am doing this right!!)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Do You Know What Was In My Owl Bowl This Morning?

A gorgeous, bright red, juicy grapefruit!

Between this natural goodness, two kids who got up for school more easily and pleasantly than usual, and a nice walk and talk with my husband, it was a good Monday morning!

The Pumpkin Cheesecake That Almost Wasn't

This past Sunday was my morning to bring breakfast to the adult Sunday School I greatly enjoy being a part of at our church.  We have been going through Francis Chan's book Crazy Love as a group and it has been a very convicting and thought-provoking study!

I had been dying to make a recipe for a Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust, and figured my since I was signed up to bring breakfast, this was a perfect opportunity to make it.  After all, who says you can't have cheesecake for breakfast?  I for one am perfectly fine with it!

The thing is, I should have known it was going to be an ordeal making this because before I even started, I went to wash out my KitchenAid mixer bowl (which was precariously perched on some other dishes waiting for some personal attention in my sink), threw some dish soap in it, and started to fill it with water.  This was evidently a bad idea because half a minute later I heard a SHA-WHAM and my daughter and I both jumped and turned to see my bowl falling into the sink with a crash and all the water flying in slow motion into the air and onto my floor.  She thought it was hilarious.

I threw some towels down to sop up the soapy water, and did the dishes that I should have done in the first place.  I do always feel better when I'm baking or cooking and start with a clean kitchen and empty sink, cause it doesn't take long for me to mess it up and fill it up when I'm on a roll!

I used my handy chopper that I've had forever to chop the gingersnaps.  I needed 1 1/2 cups...

Then mixed them with 6 TBSP melted butter and 3 TBSP granulated sugar, and patted it in the bottom of a springform pan.  I baked the crust at 350 for 4 to 5 minutes until just set, then let it cool.  Meanwhile I mixed 2 blocks of cream cheese and 3/4 cup light brown sugar until creamy.

Then I added 1 1/4 cup pumpkin and 3 large eggs and beat until smooth.  Then I added 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cloves, and continued beating until smooth.  The mixture smelled delicious!

I poured the smooth batter into the crust lined pan and put it in the oven.  Which is when things started to get crazy again.

Apparently I need a new springform pan because I am 99% sure it was some of the butter from the crust that had leaked all over my oven...because something sure had and I didn't realize it...and about a minute after putting in my cheesecake there was smoke billowing from the bottom of the oven and the kids were just sure the house was on fire.

I didn't know what to do, but I was not about to waste that scrumptious looking almost cheesecake!! So I did what every girl does in times like these. I called my mother.  And thankfully she lives just down the road so I asked her to heat her oven to 350, put the springform pan on a jelly roll pan, and very, very, very carefully drove it to her house.  Backing down my steep incline of a driveway was tricky, but the cheesecake arrived safely and went into her oven to bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

I drove back to my house where I started cleaning up the new mess in the kitchen.  My kids were happily playing with Star Wars lightsabers while I was busy at work.  I was just about done when I heard shrieking - make that bloodcurdling screams - from my little Jedi's.  There had been an accidental injury with both parties involved.  This was when my poor husband, who had been mowing the lawn oblivious to the chaos going on inside, had come in from his outdoor work.

(Note:  Saturday was the 13th anniversary of our first date.  We always eat Subway on this day because that's what we ate on our first date picnic in the park on a beautiful fall afternoon in the Blue Ridge Mountains during our Liberty University years.  I think it was about this point in the day between the smoky kitchen, noisy hood fan, and screaming children that we were pretty sure he should just run out and get the subs to bring home.  Ironically, with his sub he decided to warm up some leftover Bang Bang Shrimp, and one of them seriously blew up and left carnage all over our microwave.  It was a wild Saturday night around here, I'm telling you.)

Our lightsaber injuires were minor; the kids calmed down; my husband got the subs; I ran down and took the cheesecake out of my mom's oven (and it smelled comforting and yummy like Thanksgiving); and after it had cooled on a cooling rack for a few hours, I picked it up and put it in our refrigerator overnight.

The next morning I took it out and no one would have ever known the chaos that surrounded this scrumptious little cheesecake that almost wasn't.  It was fragrant and lovely!

It was a hit in Sunday School; and my mom commented when I picked it up from her house that she hopes I'll make one on Thanskgiving this year.  I think I will.

But only after I buy a new springform pan that doesn't leak.  And maybe evacuate the house.

Here's to coffee, chaos, contentment, and cheesecake!


*The recipe I used was from A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash by Lou Sibert Pappas.  Amazing cookbook!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shop 'Til Your Frugal Flip-Flops Stop At A Starbucks!

Madi and I had a girls day out today, which was such a treat for me!  It was fun to spend some one on one time with her, and we did what girls do best - shopped until we almost dropped but then stopped at a Starbucks for some energy!

It all started last weekend when we were out and about and Madi saw a fancy, feathered masquerade mask.  She wanted it so badly but it was over $40, so it was one of those you-are-definitely-not-getting-it-and-please-don't even-touch-it kind of things.  Later that week when Trevor and I were out running some errands, we stopped in Kirkland's and I saw sparkly feathered masks that were fabric with an elastic headband for $4.99.  Now that was the right price, so I told Madi about them when I picked her up from school that afternoon - of course she wanted to go right that minute, but I knew there would be no time between teaching music lessons and church activities during the week.  I told her if she was good, we could go out Saturday and she could pick one out.  I can vouch that this proposition brought some serious excitement and anticipation to her 6 year old world!

She was good and I kept my word, and this morning we headed off to purchase the mask.  We first stopped in Belk and browsed the clearance racks, on which I have found some absolutely amazing deals lately (you know my love for clearance racks, and I am a tried and true end of season bargain shopper).  A few weeks ago we were in Belk with some girls and Madi, who had recently grown out of almost all her shoes, saw these cute flip-flops she loved. They were well made and flip-flops are an almost year-round shoe here in the sunshine state, but the $25 shoes were only on sale for $19 and I told her there was just no way I could afford them.  She was very disappointed; there were sad tears; you moms have been there, done that.  (I felt like I was reliving my own childhood!!  Bless my mom's heart.  I cried more than once in a store when I was a kid.)  So like my own frugal, stay-at-home used to tell me, we were just going to have to wait to see if they went on sale further and we left empty-handed. we were a few weeks later and I am happy to say the flip-flops were down to $12.50 with an extra 50% off, so at $6.25 I was able to buy them for her!  She was thrilled, and it made for a very good conversation about not getting everything we want, or everything right away, and the importance of waiting and being wise and frugal.  A happy girl wore her flip-flops for the rest of our girls day out!  And I was excited to be able to treat her to them because last week her teacher gave us the most glowing report about both her academics and character, and Jimmy and I thought a small reward was in order.

Our next stop was Kirkland's where she picked out a sparkly purple mask, and promptly put it on and wore it for the rest of the day!  We had fun browsing the home decor and looking at the fall and Christmas decorations.  When we got home, she played dress up with the mask for hours, and it is still on as I type!  I imagine I will see it a lot in the days to come.

And just because I love a good value and I know many of you do too, I have to tell you about my other clearance racks finds.  First, a maxi dress for $4.99.  Yes, I said $4.99!  (By the way, where were these amazingly comfortable but stylish dresses during my pregnancy and post-childbirth days?  I had kids during the tucked-in-and-tailored era.  What was that about?! I am a dress-wearing sort of girl, and am loving this cute and comfy look!)

And then probably one of the best bargains of my life.  Four very nice mens' shirts for $13.92.  Total.  I was so tickled when I saw the cost $13.92, you saved 107.99!!! Now that is my kind of shopping!

After our browsing and bargain hunting, I took my frugal flip-flop and sparkly mask wearing girl to Starbucks.  She adores the pumpkin bread there, and I got my first pumpkin scone of the season!  I also finally got to try the Salted Caramel Mocha, and was quite certain I approved.  Yum!  While we had our snack we chatted about this and that, and talked further about making wise choices and how waiting is a good thing.  Slightly ironic since I was drinking an almost $4 cup of coffee, but hey, some things are worth the splurge now and then!  And I waited nearly 3 weeks since my last Starbucks splurge for that treat!

Good things do come to those who wait.  :)

Happy Saturday to you all!  Hoping your day was grand!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Life With My Little Boy

There are so many things that I love about life with my little boy.

Like today when he picked this out of the treasure box at school for his sister...

And when were playing at the coffee table and he left the room for a minute saying, "Mommy, don't fight all the bad guys, I'll be right back."  Okay.  I was going to, but I'll wait.  :)

And then when he put this jar on the table and said, "I'm going to put this here just in case I need some energy."  Now that is a plan.

I love that earlier when I was baking he told me that he was a "great chef" and said, "I will help you since you don't have a pal."  So I ended up making pumpkin muffins with the very best pal of all!

I love that the other night he asked me if God takes naps, to which I was grateful to say no, He doesn't (Psalm 121:4), that He is with us all the time.  I love that he followed it up with, "But does Jesus take naps?" Which was a harder question to answer, trying to explain that He did when He was on earth (Matthew 8:24) but He doesn't now in Heaven.  It's hard enough to explain how Jesus was 100% man and 100% God during his ministry on earth to an adult, let alone a four year old!  But how precious that we are already talking about Christ's deity, thanks to a tender heart and inquisitive mind.

I love the way he has an endless supply of motorized sound effects when playing, a giggle that comes straight from his gut, and how he still can't say an "L' to save his life, or should I say wife.

I love that he talks to everyone with open friendliness whether it is the waiter at a restaurant, the cashier at the checkout counter, or the older gentleman parked next to us at Aldi the other day.  His window was down and Trev said hello and told him he had a nice car.  This old man and his wife in an old red car grinned from ear to ear.  He made their day by noticing them.  By acknowledging them with a friendly smile.

I love so much about this little fellow, but one of the things I love most is his praying heart.  He has been a faithful prayer warrior for so many people in need over the past year or two.  Faithful to remember them each day.  He believes in prayer, and in healing, even of the slightest boo-boo.  "God will heawl it," he says.  The faith of a child.  The kind of faith I want.  Last night a precious teenager from our youth group came by, and ended up sharing dinner with us.  Her grandmother had passed away earlier yesterday.  Before we ate, Trev said he would pray, and that he was going to say a special prayer for Marissa.  And he did.  This morning I was feeling a bit under the weather like I was trying not to get a cold, and happened to mention that I didn't feel great to Trev when I picked him up from Pre-K.  Immediately he said to his teacher, "Miss Wisa, my mommy doesn't feel good.  Will you pray for her?"  In the car on the way home he said to me, "Don't worry Mommy, I will pray for you."  And then he did, right there in his carseat.  Prayed out loud for me to feel better.  And you know what?  I did.

Oh Lord, may I pray like my little boy.  May I trust You like my little boy.  May I welcome others like my little boy.  May I laugh and live life with a twinkle in my eye like my little boy.  And may I learn every single thing You want me to from this four, almost five year old who has been the best wittle buddy a mom could ask for since he was placed in my arms.

He is a gift from You.  And I am grateful.

Simple and De-LIGHT-ful Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Yesterday I made the most simple and light little muffins using a combination of recipe ideas and ingredients.  They have a different texture than most muffins as they have no eggs, oil, or added fat, but that made them light and they were also filled with nutritious ingredients.  The kids loved them, and I get excited when they love food that has "good for you" stuff in it!  It was gray and rainy by the time we got in the door from school, and it was comforting to have this cheerful and healthy little snack waiting for them.

All I used for the batter was one box of spice cake mix, 1 1/3 cups pumpkin, 3/4 cup apple cider, and one lunchbox sized cinnamon applesauce cup.  Mixed it up, baked them at 350 for 13-15 minutes.  This made 24 small muffins, though if you added more batter to the cups (which should be okay because they aren't going to rise the same as a regular muffin) you could probably make 16-18 larger muffins.  The apple cider along with the spices in the mix gave them great flavor!

Madi deemed them "awesome!"

And Trev was in the middle of saying "Mmmmm!!" when I snapped this photo!

I made them some chocolate milk and as the rain pounded against our windows, they gobbled up their muffins and I let them blow as many bubbles in their milk as they wanted!

Because after school snack time is a fun time.  :)

*Note: I put the leftover muffins in the freezer - after a 25 second microwave warm up, the kids had homemade and nutritious muffins for breakfast this morning, and will have them for several more breakfasts or snacks over the course of the next month.  I am all about baking, freezing, and reheating when I can instead of going for pre-packaged stuff.  Did the same thing with some pumpkin apple cider pancakes I made last night.

Breaking News!

Okay, are you ready for this?  The other day at Aldi I got two loaves of honey wheat bread for 75 cents each.

Which in this day and age is extremely exciting!  Bring on the "peter butter jewwy sandwiches" as Trev says!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Apples of Gold

Proverbs 25:11

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

The past few years have given me many opportunities to ponder this verse and the critical importance of words fitly spoken.  Every day we are each given the chance to use our words poorly or wisely.  This can be a huge struggle; as the book of James says, the tongue can be like a wildfire in a forest, a huge force of destruction.  But words can also be used to spread the love of Christ; teach the truths of the Bible; give wise and godly advice; build up and encourage; nurture and love.

The other night our family was talking and laughing and getting ready for prayers before bed time.  As I was snuggling my kids, we were reminiscing and remembered how when they were little and first learning to talk I would constantly have them fill in the words to this sentence.

"God made you special for our family."

I can still hear their toddler voices trying to pronounce the word special and recall smiling as they sweetly said that precious word "famiwy."  It's a fond memory of words that I repeated over and over with them to enforce certain truths... that they are made by God; that they are so unique and special; and that they are loved and valued in our family.  It hit me that though simple words, they were fitly spoken.  Apples of gold.  

Yet every day I have a chance to speak careful, wise, loving words to my kids.  Sometimes I do.  Other times my words are short and frustrated and impatient.  Words not fitly spoken.

We can all think of examples of how we've spoken wisely and spoken poorly.  And we can all recall times we were spoken to with wise, careful words; and those times when we were not, and how that made us feel.

I had been wanting to put a visual reminder in our home of Proverbs 25:11.  I've had a beautiful silver bowl since early in our marriage, and I thought about buying wooden apples and painting them gold to place in it.  However, I was thrilled the other day when I came across large, golden apples for $3 each at Pier One Imports.  They were absolutely perfect for my Proverbs project, and so reasonably priced!  

I dusted off my silver bowl, lined it with burlap, and set my three new apples of gold inside.  The reason I chose burlap was because of the contrast between the rough, plain fabric and the brilliant gold and silver.  I thought it was a great reminder that wise words can smooth out rough situations or help others during a rough time.   Loving words can be comfort in a rough and tough world.

Here are my apples of gold in a setting of silver...

My reminder to strive for words fitly spoken.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hello, Cranberry-Pecan Pumpkin Cookies

It was incredibly nice to meet you.

I made these the other day from a recipe out of that cookbook I was telling you about...

They were chock full of autumn flavors. They made the house smell amazing.  And they had more nutritional value than most cookies, thanks to the pumpkin, pecans, and craisins.  I was a fan!

Cranberry-Pecan Pumpkin Drop Cookies

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spread 3/4 cup pecan halves in small baking pan and bake until lightly toasted, 8-10 minutes.  Chop coarsely.  (I will give you original measurements, but I doubled the recipe).

Use electric mixer on medium speed to beat 1 stick butter until fluffy.  Gradually add 1 cup brown sugar, beating until creamy.  (Don't you just love recipes that use only brown sugar?!)

Add 1 large egg, 2/3 cup pumpkin, and 1 tsp vanilla extract and beat until smooth.  In a medium bowl stir together 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, and a pinch of salt.  Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix until just incorporated.  Stir in chopped pecans and 1 cup dried cranberries.

*Note:  I didn't have allspice so I used apple pie spice instead...and when I doubled the recipe, I used 1 cup craisins and about 3/4 cup of craisins with orange essence.  The orange in those went so nicely with the cloves, giving them a truly seasonal taste...they would be great at Christmastime!  The author also said you could substitute walnuts and chocolate chips for the pecans and dried cranberries for a variation.

Drop the batter in rounded teaspoons onto baking sheets.  Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes.  Cool and store in airtight container for 3 to 4 days or wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.

Since I doubled the recipe I had some to eat, some to freeze, and as always, some to give away.

This is just one of the many recipes that I plan on trying from that beautiful cookbook - other autumn cooks out there, I found it at Cracker Barrel in case you are interested!