Friday Finds – Christmas Prep

I am in full-on Christmas prep mode….possibly because I could go into labor any day now and things just have to get done!  Of course most of my “preparing” has been browsing around Pinterest for ideas.  Here is what I’m loving:

  1. Custom Family Name Cookie Cutter/Stamp – This is just adorable.  If you are into making Christmas cookies, this will definitely take it to the next level.  Just be aware, Etsy shops usually need 1-2 weeks to ship because they are custom made.
  2. The Lettermate – I’ll admit it, I’ve never sent a Christmas card in my life, but if I did, I would totally get this stencil.  It’s actually something that would be great beyond the holidays when sending something special in the mail like wedding/birthday invitations, etc.
  3. Christmas Candle – I love the smell of a fresh Christmas tree.  We have an artificial tree, so having an evergreen scent in our house around Christmas is a must!
  4. Gluten Free Gingerbread cookies – These look so cute and delicious.
  5. Favorite Things Party – I love this idea for a girls only Christmas party with close friends or even ladies in your neighborhood.  Gag gifts are fun, but nice gifts are better!

Happy Preparing!

Steph

 

DIY Thanksgiving Place Cards – Keepsake Coasters

Tile coasters are not a new thing in the DIY world, but I thought I would put my own spin on them.  I wanted to be able to do something special for Thanksgiving this year with the kids, and I remembered as a child, loving the job of being the “place card maker.”  I got to create name cards for each family member and decide where each one would sit.  Quite the honor.  So, this year, we made some place cards that could be taken home and enjoyed long after the turkey and sweet potato dinner.

tiles 7

It was important to me that these be personal, and what’s more personal than a picture drawn by a sweet little one?

So here’s how we did it.

 

Materials:

  • Ceramic Tiles
  • Mod Podge (Dishwasher safe version)
  • Paintbrush
  • Felt Pads
  • Child’s artwork/Scrapbook paper/ Letter Stickers

Steps:

  • I used ceramic coaster tiles. You can find these at the hardware store, or if you are at Michael’s, you can pick up a 4 pack for around $3.

tiles

  • I traced the tiles onto plain white paper, and had my 5 and 4 year olds draw a picture inside the box.  They used markers, but they had a tendency to smear a little. Colored pencils may help with that.
  • When they were finished, I cut the square slightly smaller than the tile.
  • I then applied the mod podge to the back of the paper.  I found this helped it stick better than applying the lodge to the tile.

tiles 4

tiles 1

  • Next, I placed the paper onto the tile smoothing out the bubbles I went.
  • Then I waited about 30 minutes for it to dry.
  • Once dry, I added 2-3 coats of mod podge on the front, letting each coat dry in between.

tiles 2

  • During this process I noticed several wrinkles/bubbles, but they disappeared as it dried.
  • Once they were all dry, I added the sticky felt pads to the back.

tiles 6

 

I’m so happy with the finished product, mostly because these are special keepsakes.

tiles 3

tiles 8

These would also make a great Christmas gift for grandparents, Aunts/Uncles, etc.

Have a great week!

Steph

Kicking Off the Holidays Right

The holiday season starts at different times for everyone.  For some people, Christmas Carols before Thanksgiving is enough to make their toes curl.  For others, October comes and they are already finished with their Christmas shopping and enjoying a cup of hot cocoa in front of their twinkling, pristinely decorated tree. I’m somewhere in the middle.  Once November hits, I’m starting to get excited.  I’m thinking about Thanksgiving recipes, gift ideas, Black Friday, Christmas lights and all the other typical things that go along with this time of year.

But I’ll admit, it is easy for me to get distracted by all the good things and forget that I already have the best things. So, before all the craziness begins, I want to get my head and heart in the right place so I can truly enjoy all the “best things” in the midst of the “good things.”

These “best things” I’m talking about are not super glamorous or commercial worthy. They are things like quiet snuggles with my 4 year old, while still in my Snoopy pj’s and no makeup.  Or when I hear the keys jingling at the front door signaling my husband’s arrival home.  Those things aren’t showing up on my Instagram feed, but they are incredibly precious to me.

I love being a wife and momma, but as amazing as those things are – the truest “best thing” is the Hope I have in Jesus.  It is in this Hope where I am able to find contentment in the quiet, small places of my life.  And yes – to be honest, sometimes I have to fight to focus on my true Hope and not the world’s “best.”  Because it is so easy for me to focus on what I don’t have instead of what I do have.

That is why, my goal this season is to soak in all the little ordinary things that probably don’t mean much to anyone else. It will be the things I have to be intentional about seeing. It will be those precious moments with my family and my Savior.

So by all means, let’s enjoy the hoopla, but keep in mind, it’s only a good thing…not the best.

Steph

 

 

 

Fall Party Idea – Lumberjack Style!

 

lumberjack1

Fall parties are the best.  The more rugged the better, in my opinion.

Do you have anyone in your life that can take scraps, odds and ends, and turn them into something magical? Because..I have about 4 of those types of people in mine.  My mom and her three sisters amaze me with what they can dream up with minimal resources.

My brother turned 18 last week, and all he asked for was to be outside with his friends by a campfire.  What was birthed from there was a party fit for teens and family alike – lumberjack style!  There were beards, axes, flapjacks and flannel.

lumberjack12

In lieu of presents, guests were asked to bring a piece of wood.  I love that! It set the tone of the gathering, and I’m sure the teenage boys were relieved to not have to pick out a gift.

lumberjack3

 

The dutch oven hung over the campfire was a great touch.  It was hanging from a campfire tripod.  I’m not sure if it was actually filled with anything, but hot apple cider would be perfect!

lumberjack9

As soon as all the guests arrived and were socializing in soccer chairs, hammocks, and mats on the ground, flapjacks were served.  Such an easy and fun appetizer.

Shortly after, they were ready to dig into some “real food.”

lumberjack10

Nothin’ like eating straight off the grill!

 

lumberjack8

The cleaver stuck in the wood board adds to the theme, and is oh so manly.


lumberjack7

 

As you can see, flannel from the fabric store makes a lovely table cloth, and an old metal truck is the perfect holder for “firewood”…I mean pretzels.

lumberjack4

No 18th birthday party is complete without a fun backdrop for photos and selfies. Cardboard trees covered in felt, log fabric, and woodsy decor did the trick.  lumberjack5

And of course, you can’t take your selfie without a paper beard and fur hat! Having a box full of props brings out the “silly,” which is great for getting guests to relax and have fun.

lumberjack11

To end the evening, they all enjoyed a wood stump cake.  This is 6 layers of cakey goodness covered in chocolate.  I’m not sure I could pull this one off on my own, but it’s adorable nonetheless.

Hopefully this sparked some ideas for any fall gatherings you might be planning.  If at all possible, keep it outdoors!  Don’t worry about how your house looks.  Just light a fire, roast some marshmallows, and enjoy the crisp air with good food and even better friends.

Have a great week!

Steph

 

 

Friday Finds – Gluten Free Goodness

I have been sans gluten for 18 months and have grown accustomed to “living without.” Of course that is until I come face-to-face with donuts, onion rings, and pretty much anything fried and delicious.  So, when I come across a gluten free recipe that actually tastes awesome, I cannot keep it to myself.  I thought I might share some of my favorite gluten free recipes with you today.

Some of these have been recommendations from friends, others I have happily stumbled upon.

  1. Cheesy Hashbrown Potatoes – I have searched high and low for a hashbrown casserole that didn’t include “cream of whatever” soup, and this one not only checks that box, but it really delivers in the flavor department. It’s creamy, cheesy, and oh so delicious. Use fresh parmesan – it makes it!
  2. Chuys Creamy Jalapeño Dip – If you like things a little spicy, this is the dip for you! Enjoy with chips, roasted potatoes, or even atop grilled chicken.
  3. 5 Ingredient White Chicken Chili – This is a great fall recipe.  It has some spice to warm you up, and leaves you feeling full and satisfied.  Don’t forget to serve it topped with cilantro and diced avocado.
  4. Soft and Chewy Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies – So, I have tried my fair share of GF cookies, and these are by far the closest to the real deal in my opinion. I may have eaten 2/3 of the batch.
  5. Raw Brownies – These are really yummy and actually good for you! My whole family loves them and I don’t feel guilty for indulging in several of them.

All of these recipes can be enjoyed if you are avoiding gluten…or not!

Enjoy!

Steph

The Insecure Woman’s Guide to Entertaining

 

We’ve all experienced it:  the dinner party where the host has thought of everything…from the themed menu, all the way down to the organic, environmentally responsible candle lit in the powder room.

I am always so impressed by this, probably because this is something that does not come so naturally to me.  I admire those that can pull this type of gathering off: their drive and the sheer amount of things they are able to accomplish in half the time it takes me to think, “what was I just doing?”

I’m a laid back person in general, but now that I’m eight months pregnant, I’m venturing into “just plain lazy” territory.  My home is rarely company-ready, and even when it is, it is far from perfect.

I have insecurities about inviting people into my home sometimes, but if I let that stop me, I will miss out on a huge blessing.  So here are a few of my thoughts on how to entertain when you are not feeling like super woman.

My main goal: just keep it simple.

 

place setting with words

 Food

  • The slow cooker is your friend.  Seriously, it takes minimal effort and does the work for you.  Throw a roast, potatoes, carrots, and beef broth in there; then 8 hours later, it might as well be beef bourguignon prepared by Julia Child herself…or something close to that.  This recipe has been my go-to many times when I have company.
  • For a simple appetizer, create an Antipasto Platter.  These are great because they require no actual cooking, just assembling.  You could even delegate this job to your spouse or kids if they are feeling creative.
  • Lastly, do not underestimate the power of Pizza.  I have yet to meet someone who does not like pizza.  Order from your favorite delivery place and call it a day.

Decor

  • No need to go out of your way to dress up your home.  I’ll be honest, if it’s last minute company, I have a twinge of “oh no! they are gonna see the real deal” and “why can’t I get myself together!”  I think most people are relieved when they walk into a home that feels “lived in” and normal.  I think having a humble, yet loving home is a huge asset in setting people at ease.
  • Clean, but just remember, it does not have to be perfect.  Focus on the kitchen and sitting area in the living room.  A clean kitchen makes the food more appetizing, and being on a comfy couch without having to brush the crumbs off your back side when you stand up is relaxing.  Do a quick wipe down in the bathroom and you’re good to go. Just don’t offer to give a tour of the rest of the house and be sure to close those bedroom doors!
  • Don’t apologize about the things in your home you don’t like.  Chances are, your guests won’t even notice.

Focus

  • Focus on your guests.  The purpose of having people into your home is not to impress them with your cooking, or make them envy your impeccable style.  It is about loving people in an intimate setting that communicates, “you are important  and I want you to leave feeling poured into and loved.”
  • Don’t worry about the dishes.  Sit and linger at the table awhile after dinner.  Or better yet, use paper plates.  Your guests will appreciate your presence so much more than fine china.
  • Be intentional about your conversation.  If chatting doesn’t come easy to you, focus on asking about the other person.  Be curious about what they are interested in and passionate about.

Entertaining is just a fancy word for showing kindness to people by opening up your home and inviting them into your imperfect life.  Don’t be intimidated by all the ways you feel you “don’t measure up,” but instead, embrace reality and all the wonderful ways God has made you.  You have a ton to offer…perfect home or not!

Enjoy your week, and invite someone in!

Steph

DIY Fall Centerpieces

 

One of the things I love most about fall decor is that it can be rustic and natural, but not look like you got it out of your backyard….even if you did!

I like to sort through what I already have when decorating for fall.  It’s way more fun shopping in your own home than shelling out cash for decor that will only be around for two months out of the year.  Just add some outside elements and you’ve got yourself some magazine worthy decor for free!

fall centerpieces

 

So, this first centerpiece is great for a kitchen table or even a coffee table as long as you don’t have small children…I’ve made that mistake before!

fall centerpiece 3

Let’s break down the basic elements:

fall centerpiece 4

  1. Basket – I love this basket for so many reasons.  It’s simple, rustic and aged.  It was holding our mail, but it is the perfect size for this centerpiece.
  2. Fabric – Using fabric in your centerpiece adds texture and warmth.  This is one of my favorite tablecloths folded with a couple corners hanging over the sides.  This tablecloth pulled double duty because it filled the basket to give the other elements lots of height.  Otherwise, everything would hide in the bottom of the basket.
  3. Tiny Basket – Do you remember my basket of river rocks?  I decided to repurpose it for a couple months.  It’s quite small, and I didn’t want it to disappear, so I added something underneath for some additional height.  Any ideas what I used? A magic eraser. It was the perfect size!
  4. Acorns – You may have an oak tree in your yard that provides you with hundreds of adorable acorns each fall.  If so, grab em up! I don’t, but found some at my kids’ T-Ball field.  Keep your eyes open when you are outside.  You never know what you may stumble upon.
  5. Candle – Any candle will do, but as you probably saw in my previous post, I have some favorites that I like to use.  My candle is a beautiful pumpkin orange.  I tied some twine around the top to add a bit of fall-ish whimsy.
  6. Foliage – I borrowed some berries and faux green hydrangea out of a bouquet I had saved from my sister’s wedding last year. If you don’t have an old bouquet lying around, you could easily use mums from your garden, or even sticks.  Use it to fill in the holes around your bigger elements.
  7. Pumpkin – This will probably surprise you, but I don’t actually have a pumpkin patch in my backyard.  So, I had to break down and buy this cutie for 69 cents at the grocery store.  I kinda feel like it was worth it though!

These next two photos were taken of the centerpieces at our wedding.  We were married on a gorgeous day in October, and the fall colors were plentiful.

fall centerpiece 1

I love the base of this centerpiece.  It’s a lid from a crab basket! Only in Maryland.

It also has lots of grassy foliage and an unraveled grapevine.  Simple and beautiful.

fall centerpiece 2

That bright, orange pumpkin makes me smile.  There are really no rules when it comes to making a fall centerpiece.  Keep it cheap and go wild!

I have to share one more centerpiece.  This shows how much our little kiddos are watching and learning from us.  After I finished my centerpiece, my five-year-old daughter put this one together.

selah centerpiece

It is humbling realizing God has given me the underserved gift of parenting my sweet little girl. These moments are precious.

Have a lovely week!

Steph

 

 

The Best Fall Scented Candles

It’s fall ya’ll! There is just nothing like crisp leaves, sweaters, fall festivals, and pumpkin everything!

I would say my favorite thing has to be the amazing smells.  I’m not the best baker, but I’ll whip up some homemade banana bread just for how wonderful it smells cooking in the oven.  I’m also oddly drawn to those stick brooms you see at the grocery store that seem to be doused in cinnamon.

I have been slacking on my fall decor so far this year, but it’s amazing what a candle can do.  For this reason, I thought I’d share my favorites for this cozy season.

 

fall candles

Here are my top 3:

1.  Cinnamon Stick – Village Candle

This candle gives you that true fall experience.  It smells natural and fills the whole room with a spicy scent.

2.  Apple Cinnamon – Glade

This inexpensive candle is great for when you want something to freshen up a smaller room, like a bathroom.  Just remove the sticker, and no one will know you only spent 3 bucks on it!

3.  Orange Cinnamon – Village Candle

This has to be my all time favorite.  It is great for fall, but is mild enough for year round use.  I am picky about my scents, especially in the kitchen.  They can’t be too floral, or compete with whatever I am cooking.  This one does the trick.  Even my husband asked me to buy another one after we burned our last one down to the bottom!

fall candle

If you haven’t tried the Village Candle brand yet, I highly recommend it.  I prefer it over Yankee Candle, and my local Giant grocery store carries a good selection of them.

Make your home smell amazing this week!

Steph

 

 

The Launch Pad

We’ve all seen the beautiful mud rooms and front entryways on Pinterest, where everyone’s everything is neatly organized and still amazingly stylish.  Unfortunately, that “pin” has yet to become a reality in my home.  Until it does, this will do just fine.

launch pad2

I have never been an “on time” kinda person.  Despite all my mother’s efforts of teaching me to use an alarm clock, setting the timer at breakfast, and planning ahead, I still have become “that mom.” Wet hair and all.

But, I’m getting better.

One thing my momma implemented when I was a wee young thing, was the “Launch Pad.”  This was a chair that held everything I needed to get out the door.  We would make sure it was ready to go the night before.  She would add my freshly packed lunchbox in the morning.

After school, I would drop my backpack, shoes, jacket, etc. there so that it wasn’t a mad dash the next morning to find all my things as I was running out the door.  As I grew, the contents would vary.  In middle school, my instrument was added on band days, and three times a week, my gym clothes would be folded neatly next to my backpack.

I never needed to ask my mom, “hey mom, where’s my….?” I always knew to check the launch pad first.

So now I’m a momma, trying desperately to be better at getting out the door on time.  Tomorrow is our first day of our homeschool co-op, so it seems appropriate to post this as an encouragement to myself to get it together!  Now it’s not just me needing to be on time, it’s my kids too!

So, I think we will be implementing the launch pad for them…and for me too.

Happy Back to School Everyone!!

Steph

Cute Pen Holder From a Tin Can

old bay pen holder

 

So, this one goes out to all my fellow Marylanders.  I love Old Bay.  When I was pregnant with my son, I craved cucumbers with vinegar and Old Bay.  Although, I may or may not have just licked the Old Bay straight out of my hand, sans cucumber.

Obviously, there are few things better than Maryland crabs dipped in melted butter and smothered in Old Bay Seasoning.  But alas, all good things must come to end…and that includes crab season.  We had a good run this summer, but it’s time to close up shop.

Enter, cute magnetic pen holder.

Even with all the apps that are available for grocery shopping and to-do lists, I’m still partial to the old-fashioned way of writing it out.  I love having a note pad and a pen right on my fridge whenever I think of something I need or something I need to do.  I also enjoy the satisfying feeling that comes with crossing out the items that have been completed.  It’s the little things.

What I Used:

  • Empty Tin Can
  • Magnet
  • Hot Glue Gun (or other adhesive)

What I Did:

  • This can be done with any square tin can.  I really like the Old Bay can because the colors are great, it has a fun retro feel, and it reminds me of home.
  • Either hot glue a magnet you already have, or use adhesive magnets.
  • I had trouble removing the lid, so I just used the main compartment to store my pens.

And done! It’s seriously that easy.

This is cute on the fridge, but could work in a locker or just sitting on a desk in a college dorm.

Enjoy your last few days of summer!

Steph