Welcome to Southern Comfort!

Hi, I'm Elizabeth and I invite you to grab a glass of sweet tea and join me as I (along with my husband, John) renovate our love nest. We're both born and raised in the south and love to share with you some of our favorite recipes, stories and our life. We hope you'll come back often!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Readers Vote!

Happy New Year Everyone! I hope you've been enjoying the holidays with your friends and loved ones. We've been trying to keep things pretty simple around here. We had a wonderful Christmas spent together. This was our first (in 4 years!) of spending Christmas eve/ Day together. In the past we each went to our respective families to celebrate, which was fine when we were dating, but aftering spending our first married Christmas apart, we wanted to spend it together. And it was FABULOUS. Low key. Hot cocoa, sitting around the Christmas tree, spending time with the kiddo's. Perfect.

But other than just the holidays, we've been busy this year! At first, I wanted to do a round up of this year and pay tribute to each of our accomplished projects. But then I figured, you've already read about them, so why hash it? So I started thinkin. And I read other blogs to get inspiration. Then it came to me. I need to be asking YOU, my dear readers the questions about this year. What you liked. What you hated. And, what you want more of.

So, I pulled together another poll, for you. So I can know what you all like. And hate. And all the in-between. :) You can thank me later. I want for 2011 to be so much fun and filled with things you want to read about, not just my rantings. So, without further ado, here is the 2010 end-of-the-year poll.

And I want to thank each and every one of you for reading this here blog. It means so, so, so, much to me that not only do you read it, but you enjoy it. So, from the bottom of my heart, Thank YOU!

1. What is your age? You don't have to answer it if you don't want to, but it would be great to have a guide as to whom I'm talking to .. crickets.. umm.. anyone out there?

2. What sort of posts do you want to see more of? Big renovations? Before and Afters? Crafty projects you can do? Recipes?

3. Do you like it when I get technical and show you how we tackle projects? Like removing vanities, how to remove doors etc? Or do you just want results?

4. Do you like it when I post stories about us? Funny family happenings? Or would you rather it be all business and house oriented?

5. Do you have pets? Do you want me to feature your house, family or pets in my posts?

Again, I'd really appreciate it if I could get some feedback. Y'all are the reason I write, so I want to post what you want to read about.

Happy New Years Everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I've Been Keeping a Secret from you

I'll admit. I've been withholding information from you. We totally have a new surprise in our house and it's been a long time coming. Our early Christmas present comes in the form of another fuzzy. She's cute, cuddly, and super purrrfect! I'd like for you to meet the newest member of the Early family, Pepper.

Pepper has been a long time coming for us. We've been battling with Pickles for about a year now with personality "issues". I'd never call her a problem, but she was keeping us up at night. Scratching on our furniture, sitting outside our door crying incessently, and sitting on John batting at him as he slept. We hated having to put her upstairs at night, feeling like we'd ostrasized her from us. So after consulting many, many friends and our vet, the conclusion was Pickle was bored. She slept all day and wanted to play (with us) at night.

The good news was, there was a remedy. Get her a playmate. The best news is, we've lovingly had Pepper for over 2 weeks now and John and I have slept peacefully EVER SINCE we brought her home.

(sorry for the grainy pic. it's the only one I had)

Because we're such suckers for animals in need, we too, adopted Pepper. She was born on July 29th, making her about 4 months old. So from now on, we'll be adding another birthday party to the bunch :) She loves to cuddle and is absolutely captivated with computer screens. Seriously. I married an IT guy, who sits on the computer most nights with this itty-bitty 1 lb. kitten on his lap and while he works, she follows the cursor, mouse or any movement on the screen. Totally cute. See? Never did I think there was a kitty-geek out there.. until now. :)

The adjustment went really well. Much better than either of us thought. At first Pickle wasn't very excited about the new "addition". She shied away from her and if there was contact, there was a lot of hissing involved. Luckily, that only lasted about 2 days. Maggie could have cared less. She sniffed Pepper a bit and decided, "ok, another one". Pepper, having never met a dog, was very apprehensive of Maggie and would hiss (funniest thing I've ever seen is a baby kitty try and fluff up all big n' bad for a 70 lb. dog) and bat at her. After realizing Maggie could care less about her, they're all living peacefully.

again, sorry for the crap-tastic photo

I'm not typically a parent who dresses her pets, but this little jacket was too cute. And perfect for watching the snowfall. One of her favorite activities.

See? Too cute!

Unfortunately, now that we have 2 cats at home who like to play, and no one there during the day to supervise, the Christmas tree is taking a beating this year. Whoopsie.

Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful time celebrating with your families. I'll be spending lots of time with family and enjoying Christmas with my fuzzies. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a white Christmas and being snowed in with John.  I'll be back next week!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A View from Outside

 Believe it or not, the outside of the house was the first to be decorated. John and I tackled this project the weekend after Thanksgiving. We figured we could keep the neighbors from thinking we're total slackers ;) And it really helps we've gotten several snow showers already this Christmas season. So the pictures are extra Christmas-y.

I used the same toparies from last year along with my ornament wreath.You can read all about how to make your own here.

 I bought the toparies last year on black Friday (aka the worst shopping experience of my life) but I must confess, I'm not 100%  happy with them. I wish they were a little fuller and fluffier. I can't get past the fact that when I look at them I think of toothpicks with lights. Maybe I can fluff them up myself, or should I just save my money to buy some really nice ones? I need your input on this one. But I digress...

Last year I had the idea of putting a christmas tree on one end of the porch. I stalked Craigslist until I found the perfect one. Then this fall I found a 7ft. prelit tree for 15 buckeroos. Awww yeah. I did a little happy dance for the entire evening when I picked it up. It's perfect. Yes, I realize the fake tree is outside and the real tree is inside, but that's just how we roll ;)

On the other end of the porch is a little black bench with some wrapped packages stacked on it.

Cute huh? I love how the red from the pillows picks up the colors from the packages and from the tree too. It's all matchy-matchy without looking matchy-matchy. Do you get what I mean?

This picture I just thought was pretty. Our street is pretty steep so not many people get out of the cul-de-sac when it snows/ices. It's so nice to have our "winter wonderland" a little longer than the rest of the neighborhood.

Do you think we did good this year? Do I need to add anything else? Maybe the tree is too much. Give me your thoughts. I'd love to hear what you've done to your house too!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I need to start this post with a huge Thank You. All the heart-felt emails, calls and comments have both John and I completely humbled and Thankful. We are so lucky to have each and every one of you in our lives. Your out-pouring of love has truly helped us both. Thank YOU!

Ok, now I can put the tissues away and get on to the fun stuff. :)

Ever since I read Sasha's post, over at Lemonade Makin Mama, on homemade laundry detergent I've been wanting to try it. I don't know why, but I was intrigued by it. Captivated. You can make your own? Really? And it works? My inner home-maker self took over from there. I HAD to try it.

Lucky for me, Sasha had done all the hard work. Researching whether to make liquid or powder, how much for each load etc. And her pictures are beautiful. She's genious, and fun, and a girl after my own heart. You must check her out. So here we go.

This past saturday night I went on a hunt for the 3 ingredients.
  • 1 box of Borax (found in the laundry isle)
  • 1 box of Arm and Hammer Laundry super washing soda/ washing powder(also found in the laundry isle. Not to be confused by Arm and Hammer Baking Soda or regular laundry detergent. Make sure the box says laundry washing soda. Ok? Got it? awesome.)
  • 1 10 pk. of Ivory Soap Bars (I found mine in the bodywash/soap isle)

I want to say the total for these 3 items was around $12 buckeroos. Even more awesome-er.

So after gathering my items in my buggy and being on the verge of annoying with excitment (Yes, I know, it's a sickness to be this excited about laundry detergent). I skipped home and couldn'tgetinthedoorfastenoughtogetstarted. :) I'm pretty sure the cheese and butter had to be put away by John because I dropped the rest of the bags of groceries on the floor. Hehe.

So here goes.
The long-awaited recipe. And I don't blame you for not reading all the stuff leading up to this point. :)

Original Recipe
1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Powder
1 Bar Ivory soap, Grated

Mix well with a wisk. Or your fingers, because I like getting my hands dirty.
For each load of laundry use 1 Tbsp. of powder (for a energy efficient model) Because we still yearn for one of those and still have top loaders, I use about 1/4 cup. Which is still waaaaay less than what I use when I buy the bottled stuff.

I bought a really pretty jar from Walmart to put it in. Because I'm an over acheiever. But you could easily use tupperware or anything with a lid.
But when I put in the recipe above I only filled about 1/8th of the jar. So I ended up quadruple-ing the recipe.

This stuff smells just like my Gram's laundry. I remember cuddling up in blankets when I was little and this is THE SMELL from those blankets. The Gram smell. I'm hooked. And just for extra goodness, it's also safer on the environment, and about $0.04 per load.

I'd say it's worth the 5 minutes of prep. I can get on board with that. And best of all, now I have a pretty jar sitting on my dryer and not that jug of bright blue/orange/green. It's the little pretty things that get me. Every. Single. Time.

In case your wondering, because I know I did, I still use my stain remover spray or bleach  if I need it. This is just detergent and isn't a cure-all for all your laundry needs. I'm still researching that ;)

I do hope you'll try this recipe. I am just so excited to share it with you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

And the Angel Said Unto Her...

It's Christmas. The holiday of Joy, of peace, of laughter, of magic. My favorite holiday of the year. As I grow older, each season is different. As a child, I can remember the excitement and the wonder of Christmas. Barely being able to sleep at night, being so excited about Santa, and Christmas lights, and magical trees, and family fun that I couldn't contain myself.

Growing up my parents tried very hard to instill in my siblings and I that Christmas is a season, not a day. Christmas is about celebration. About life. And about Jesus. Yes, the presents were looked forward to, but not a necessity for us. It was about family. About tradition. It was about baking cookies together for loved ones, wrapping gifts, singing happy tunes, family gatherings and giggling at the kids table. It was about celebrating Jesus.

Now that I'm an adult, I still adore the lights and I still yearn for the silly-goodness the holidays bring. But the older I get, the more the season means to me. People who were once a part of my life, aren't any longer. Grandparents are gone, but their memory lives on. Christmas is about gathering. About celebrating.
It's not about gifts anymore. It's about quality time with those you love. It's about food. love and laughter. It's about cuddling up close with a warm blanket and a warm cup of cocoa and being thankful for your blessings.

John and I have been through some very difficult times over the past month. We've had to make decisions about our family. About our values. About where God is taking us. We've discussed whether we're reaping or sowing. We've discussed if we're following God's plan. A lot of this weight has fallen on John's shoulders and I hate that for him. The holidays are to be fun and light. I can see he is struggling. I see it in his eyes. I see it in the way he carries himself. I see it with every long sigh, every forced laugh at something he used to always think was funny. I see the pain.
This year Christmas is so different. Because my sweet husband is struggling. We didn't even want to put up a tree. It was like it took too much effort. We aren't having a holiday party. We aren't having people over to see our decorations. So putting up a tree and all the decorations seemed fruitless. We did decide to buy a tree and put it up (at last, it happened last night) but we didn't even pull out all the ornaments. The tree only has the minimum about of lights on it. Everything seems so solumn.

I want to bring cheer back into our lives. I want to bring back the light. I want to enter into all the fabulous blog-y parties there are out there for holiday decorations, but I don't know. I don't know how to mend him. I don't know if it's worth it now to pull everything out, take pictures, edit, and post. I don't even know if enough people read this little blog to care. Now, Sure I can be there for John. I can be his best friend, and listen, talk and be his rock. I'm good at that. But I don't know how to fix broken. Is it time? Sleep? Prayer? I don't know, so I pray. I pray for him. Day and night. To find his path. To find his feet. To find his giggle box again.

I want to bake him all his favorite  holiday goodies. I want to bring the cheer back into his eyes. But to be completely honest, he's beginning to bring me down. I thought to myself this morning on my drive to work, why should I do so much hard work when I'm not sure he'll enjoy it? It would be so much easier to "skip" a lot of the holiday preparation and not have to "worry" about it. I don't mention my beliefs much (or at all) on the blog, because I want this to be a place for people to come for inspiration about their home, and not have to sift through scripture. But today I feel so strongly about this I needed to say something. God smacked me. Hard. It was like he spoke right into my ear.
He said, "Elizabeth, of course you have to prepare! You have to prepare for Christmas because you are John's eyes this season. He may not have the drive to do it, but that means you have to drive for him. You are his advocate to bring Christmas back. Celebrate baby Jesus' birth. If you don't, who will?"

So today, I'm putting my Santa hat on and getting busy. Regardless of whether I "feel" like it or not. I have to. For God. For Jesus. And for John. After all, it's Christmas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Peppermint Inspired Mantle

All week my goal was to have the mantle decorated so I can participate in Layla's Mantle party over at her place, The Lettered Cottage.

The Lettered Cottage

Well, what-da-ya know, I'm late. Story of my life this week. But I *finally* have it done and I'm SO EXCITED!
Ever since I dreamed (yes, I really dreamed it) of red and white holiday decor I knew I had to do it! So here she is, all dressed up for Santa.

Isn't she cute!?! I love, love, love it!

Here are a few more pictures, just for fun :)

So glittery. I made the cones out of styrofoam from Michaels. I smeared them with glue and carefully poured glitter over them. It took a couple days for the red/white one because I had to do it in layers. I wish I took pictures of it, but I was in a hurry to get it done. I know, bad blogger.

The banner I made with my Cricut cutter. Looove.
See those branches in the photo below? I spent the afternoon wrangling branches from a tree in our backyard. Do you know how hard it is to break up branches and keep the dog from chewing them up? Hard. She's a fast little girl!
Once I got them together, I spray painted them white, then sprayed them with Santa Snow.
I like them on the mantle, and they definatley balance the decor, but I think they need something. Maybe small ornaments? Some small candy canes? I'd love to know what y'all think.

And just so you know, I do have the mantle done, but the rest of my house is a wreck! The fall decor is still sitting here:

It appears a tornado hit the coffee table. I will say, I'm loving re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia. Perfect Christmas books.

And My kitchen table looks like this:

But the mantle's done!

Hopefully we can keep the holiday decorations going and get the tree up soon :)
Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Thanksgiving We'll Never Forget

I know, I know, Thanksgiving was soo long ago with Christmas popping up everywhere, but I had to share this story with you. This year was a first for many things. Some good, some bad, some funny, and some things that just make you go "huh". And I swear, I can't make this stuff up.

It all started on Thanksgiving afternoon. John and I were to meet my family at my parents house for the most looked-forward-meal-of-the-year. And just to give you a little background of the evening, we were there along with: my sister, Annie, her hubby, there 2 dogs, and Annie's and classroom guinea pig. Then there was our Grandma (on Dad's side, who's not all "with it" these days if you know what I mean). And because mom is the most fabulous cook, and we love to have the house bursting at the seams with family, we also invited my Godparents, there 4 kids (whom are all grown now)  and their 2 grandchildren, ages 2 and 5, and their Grandma was along too. Just to help you with that math,in total we had 15 adults, 2 kids, 4 dogs and a guinea pig.
Shew. The house was FULL!

Not long before dinner, Grandma #2 said she wasn't feeling well and went to the back of the house to lie down. The day before, she'd been released from the hospital for congestive heart failure because she didn't take her heart meds. Once she was lying down, she told us she hadn't taken them today either. Awesome. We feared tonight we'd be back in the hospital. Luckily, we had 3 nurses in the house who helped look after her.

Meanwhile, dinner is being prepared, stirred, plated and the house is bustling with laughter and music. Out of no where, Scout, one of Annie's dogs, lets out a yelp. We figure she's just gotten under someone's feet or one of the kids played too hard with her and all will be fine in a minute. Sure enough, things calmed down long enough to say the blessing.

We sit down for dinner and conversation ensues. We are all animal lovers at this house, so we naturally turn to watch the dogs play, talk about their personalities etc. Michaela, who works for a vet, calmly says "you know, Chris' dog is going through a false pregnancy at the moment".
We all stop.
Look at her.
Do what?
"Yes, Lexi, who hasn't been fixed,for some reason her body feels it's pregnant even though she's not.
The boys find her facinating right now."

Interresting. What do you say to that?

Our evening continues, the pregnancy comment easily forgotten minutes after it's said. Shoe-less kids running about playing, dogs barking at one another over the last piece of turkey, dishes and silverware clanking together. The sounds of happy and full bellies all around.

Another yelp from Scout, the 2 year old sitting beside her.  Annie goes over to investigate.  Here was Henry, pulling on Scouts poor nipples. He said it was because he pulled on Lexi's the other day. I swear I can't make this stuff up. It amazes me what boys find to play with,  Poor dog was getting titty-twisted at Thanksgiving.

The evening winds down. Dessert is consumed with gusto. Mom's pecan and pumpkin pies are to die for, and didn't stand a chance. I expect Grandma #1 to want to head back to the nursing home at any minute. She typically doesn't want to stay for long after eating these days, and I'm more than happy to take her home. I begin getting my keys and purse together and sure enough the woman has disappeared. I go looking for her and find her in the back bedroom undressing herself to go to bed. She used to stay with Mom and Dad a couple of years ago before we got the nursing home things straightened out. I don't know if she was confused about where she was staying or what, but sure enough, she was determined to get nekkid and climb into bed. She reminds me a lot of the grandmaw on Raising Hope (if you haven't seen that show, you must. So funny!).
So we now have one Grandma laid up in the bed with a bad heart, a poor dog whose nipples are being twisted by a toddler, another confused Grandma trying to get nekkid, and a guinea pig who can't seem to catch a break from other dogs wanting to "sniff" her, all while trying to be thankful for this past year and our time spent together.

I know what you're thinking. This has got to be the end right? Nope. The blessings of the year continue into the next day.
The day after Thanksgiving is Chili day. For years our family has always fixed a HUGE pot of Chili for friends and family to come enjoy. It's casual, fun and a break from the turkey.
As I mentioned, we had a guinea pig along with us for the holiday weekend. I didn't get a chance to snuggle with him on Thanksgiving day with all the commotion, but Friday night I wanted my turn! Big mistake. Within 3 minutes of holding that little snuggler I broke out in the worst case of hives. My skin literally blistered as it spread. My eyes swelled shut, my lips grew to the size of plums and oh my goodness did I itch!
I ended up spending the rest of the evening at the urgent care clinic getting shot after shot of benadryl and steriods.

Today I'm feeling much better. The swelling has subsided completely, I do still itch a bit. I'm hopeful that will fade as the week progresses.

Thanksgiving this year was unforgetable, as John puts it. I am so Thankful for so many things this year. I am thankful to still have Grandmothers to celebrate life with, I am thankful for all the warm critters our family has been blessed with (even with allergic reactions). I am thankful for wonderful friends and family who, year after year, continue stay close and dear to us. I am thankful for our good health and a warm home. But I am most thankful for my husband. He is the most caring, thoughtful, wonderful caretaker of me when I'm feeling good, but even more so when I'm not. I don't know what I would do without him.

So from this crazy Thanksgiving to many, many more just like it. I am Thankful! 

I've been busy working on our Christmas decorations around the house the past couple days, and I can't wait to share with you. Squeeee! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Preparing for Thanksgiving Guests

If you follow me on Facebook, you've known for a while I've been preparing for the crowd. Each year we celebrate Thanksgiving with John's family on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and make a weekend of family being in town. This is our third year hosting and just love having the house filled with family!

                                               photo source

Let's face it, there's a lot to do to prepare for guests coming. Over time I've learned what works and what doesn't for extra company. Here, I have my own set of "must-do's" to be prepared for extra company. I figured we can all use a little extra help this time of year, so I wanted to share with you my "To-Do List" to prepare for company.

  • Wash the sheets on the guest bed. No one wants to sleep in dusty sheets. I try and wash mine about a week before (if I know ahead of time they're coming).
  • Dust and vacuum the bedroom and get it clean. Same goes for the guest bathroom.  
  • Set out extra pillows. Everyone has their own taste for their pillows. I'm a soft 2 pillow person, John prefers a firm set. Allow your guests to be choosy, they may be away from home, but everyone wants a good night's sleep.
  • Place a water bottle by the bed. I try and keep extra water in the guest bedroom just in case of a sudden cough, or dry spell. There's nothing worse than having to tromp downstairs in the middle of the night for something so simple.
  • Make sure you have plenty of extra towels and blankets (in plain view, or let them know where they are) for guests. Make sure they know they're welcome to help themselves.

  • Check the lightbulbs in the lamps to be sure none are burnt out or flickering.
  • Stock up on toilet paper in the guest bath. There's nothing worse than not having extra when you need it! I keep mine in a small basket on the back of the toilet. That way there's no fumbling through cabinets and drawers trying to find it.
  •  Leave a book or stack of magazines on the dresser or nightstand for entertainment to wind down at night.

Those are my Must-Do's for guests. If you have time, here are some other ideas:  set out a bowl of chocolates for a little treat, change pictures in the frames of family/ friends visiting to make them feel more at home. Have travel bottles of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and floss in the bathroom in case they forgot anything.

So there you have it. My little list of things to make my guests feel a little more at-home and welcome when they come to visit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

November Love Continues

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned my love for November in this post? I asked you do tell me your favorite Novmber memories, fun mentions and facts and I was bombarded with comments and emails galore!

One of my favorite bloggers, Jane from jayayacee blog, posted her favorite things about November and I just had to share her post with y'all. Jane is such a treat to read. She's a girl after my own heart with her crafts. Her knitting skills have me green with envy at all her amazing creations, not to mention she's a fabulous cook! I love browsing her recipes getting ideas for entertaining, dinner, and treats. You must pay her a visit. She's an absolute treat. :)

Here's her post:
Thanksgiving Favorites

Elizabeth over at Southern Comfort has invited us all to share our Thanksgiving memories in her Thanksgiving Favorites post. Wait until you read hers ... I've been laughing for days!!!
I've been a big fan of Southern Comfort (the blog, not the whiskey) for a long time now. Elizabeth is fun to read, gives details on wonderful DIY home projects (the monogram in the picture frame is one I especially love), great recipes and stories about her sweetie pie Hubby and their adorable 4-legged children. As she says, "Pull up a chair and have a glass of sweet tea."

Here are my Thanksgiving Favorites ...
1. What does Thanksgiving mean to YOU this year?

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays -- everyone gathers together to share the best meal of the year, it's the prelude to Christmas but there are no gifts involved =D and it's Fall so the temperatures have cooled off here in Phoenix. I think that moment when we all sit down at the table together and I realize we've made it another year is just so sweet for me ... pure happiness!
2. What are you THANKFUL for?
When I hear about people losing their jobs and their homes and dealing with illnesses, I am just so grateful that we have gone through the last year without these personal trials.
3. Do you have a favorite dish that you MUST have for the big Turkey dinner?
The turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy are a given. A few years ago, I found a recipe for Cranberry-Sour Cherry Chutney that has become one of the favorites at our table. Everyone seriously raves about this dish and I plan to make it every year forever.

4. Do you have a favorite family TRADITION you do each year for Thanksgiving (big or small)?
We like to go around the table and say what we're especially grateful for. It's always nice to hear the special good things everyone has to say.
5. What do you love most about NOVEMBER?
Living in Phoenix with our yard full of palm trees, we don't get the dramatic color changes that cooler parts of the country do, but it is still one of my favorite things when I see a tree with gold and orange leaves on it. I also look forward to the craft fairs that start popping up all over and the fragrance of cinnamon when you walk into the craft stores.

6. What is your FAVORITE family/silly/fun memory from Thanksgiving in years' past?

I love cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Give me a 25-pound turkey to stuff and I'm happy. But as much as I love to cook, several years ago, when we were still running our stationery store, I hadn't been cooking much at all and especially not during the craziness of our retail holiday season. On Thanksgiving morning, I started pulling pots and pans out of the cupboard to assemble my cooking tools on the kitchen island. Our Youngest Daughter was living at home and one of her cats jumped up on a barstool and peeked strangely over the edge of the counter at me. I said to Hubby, "Why do you suppose this cat is looking at me like this?" He replied, "Because she's never seen you in the kitchen before." Ha ha! Actually, it makes me laugh every time I think of it!

Thanks, Elizabeth, and happy early Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Jane, It's been a pleasure having you participate in the Sweet November fun! I've learned a lot from blogging, but one of my biggest lessons has been; you dont' have to see someone to be friends. I consider Jane to be one of my friends, even though we've never "met".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Front Porch Fail

I have this dream about our front porch. When we bought our house the outside colors didn't really reflect our style. The exterior of our house is a butter-yellow, which is fine. But our faded blue shutters and doors need a little cleaning up. I knew it would end up on our project list at some point.
Here's what I envision:
A red glass door, that lets you see the sparkle of indoor lights at night. Black shutters that will clean up the exterior of the house from the faded blue ones we have now.  A new, larger, black light fixture (as a nod to our shutters) with clear glass that sparkle at night. A bench with comfy pillows to sink into for a mug of hot cocoa and watch the kids play in the street. Swoon. It's my dream.

Well, so far this dream porch hasn't happened. I've tried. When my grandmother's house was cleaned out over the summer I found the perfect door. It was exactly the size we needed and it was 1/2 glass on top. Perfect. So my Dad dropped it off and it got some love. Primed, and painted the perfect color red. We were on our way. 3 coats of paint later it was time to hang. I literally jumped out of bed that Saturday morning, threw on my play clothes and grabbed my half-awake husband to help me. Poor guy. I didn't even let him eat first.

Needless to say, it was utter failure. The door didn't fit. You would have thought I'd lost my best friend. That was about a month ago. We are back at square one. I still need to find a new light fixture, paint the shutters (I already have the paint), find a new door, and buy more red paint (after I finished painting the door, I accidentally knocked the paint can off the banister and it spilled all over our bushes. Do you know how hard it is to get red paint off thorny bushes? Hard, I'll tell you. I still have scars). No laughing. I still get hell from John about it. He likes to tease me, in a nice way. A little jab at my attempt at my dream porch. I guess he's still upset I woke him up and made him help me without breakfast. Sigh.

So the door didn't work. It has been demoted to the back of the house. Where it will stay until I can find the time to donate it to Habitat for Humanity. So someone else can make their dream porch come true. Back to square one...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thanksgiving Favorites

Because November is such a sweet month, and in an effort to acknowledge it instead of getting so caught up in December happenings as I mentioned in this post,  I've decided to challenge each of you.

Here are some fun questions about November and Thanksgiving happenings that I encourage each of you to answer. Some are family oriented, some are favorites of your own, some are just for giggles. I will also be forwarding them to other blogg-y friends to challenge their readers as well.

I can't wait to see what you all have to say about November!

1. What does Thanksgiving mean toYOU this year?

Thanksgiving means fellowship. I look forward to seeing old friends, family from all over, and being able to cook and enjoy the season with everyone.  I am going to do my best not to get too caught up in whether the house is clean enough, or if we have enough food (which we always have leftovers), or stress over everything being perfect. I want to slow down enough to enjoy cooking with my family, eating with my family, and enjoying my family's company.

2. What are you THANKFUL for?

This year I am especially thankful for my family, my house and my job. Over the past several years we've all seen and heard of the devistation of the economy and most of us have been touched by it one way or another. This particular year, I am thankful for the love of friends and family, a dry (albiet messy at the moment) roof over my head, and a job to go to every day.

3. Do you have a favorite dish you MUST have for the big Turkey dinner?
I have to pick just one?!? Shoot. I should have thought this question through. Hmm. To me it wouldn't be Thanksgiving with the turkey, but I want everything with the turkey too (the dressing, rolls, cranberry sauce, broccoli casserole, corn pudding, sweet potatoes, oh, and pumpkin pie). Does that count? Sure it does. I made up the question. :)

4. Do you have a favorite family TRADITION you do each year for Thanksgiving (big or small)?

My favorite family tradition actually is the Friday after the turkey. My parents started this tradition when they were first married over (30 years ago). They were really close with their highschool/ college friends and since everyone is home for Thanksgiving, they decided each year tohave everyone over for "Chili Night". It was a great excuse for Mom to cook (something other than fixin's) and to have everyone over to enjoy the holiday for one last shebang. Everyone brings their favorite brew and a dessert or side to share. It has now become not only my parents tradition, but my siblings and our highschool and childhood friends tradition too. So each year, we see, catch up and enjoy not just family, but years worth of friends too!

5. What do you love most about NOVEMBER?

I love the transition from Fall to Winter. Today the weather is dreary, a steady cold rain. Leaves are falling from the trees and it's cold enough for a jacket.  A perfect day to be inside with a fire.

6. What is your FAVORITE family/ silly/ fun memory from Thanksgiving in years' past?

Oh my. We've had some Griswald years people. Sure I could tell you all about the sappy, loving stories of family and playing with cousins in Grandma's basement for hours on end, or the year the string beans fell all over the kitchen floor when my brother tripped over the dog, but that wouldn't be near as entertaining. So let me tell you a story that I still can't believe to this day.

My mom is a nurse. She worked Labor and Delivery for 30 years. Shifts are sporadic and long hours are expected. This particular year, she had off. Thank goodness. But one of our dear friends didn't. Libby has a family of 4 children of her own, all grown now, and 2 sets of in-laws. Because Libby had to work that day, we all decided to have a huge family Thanksgiving with both families to take the stress off Libby having to cook/ clean and prepare for family after working and being on her feet for 12 + hours. It was going to be awesome. 

Across the street from my parents live this couple. We'll call them Steve and Maria. They have 2 teenage children, but don't have a good marriage. They are both stubborn and have tempers. Maria tends to drink to "get away" from her troubles. She is loud and opinionated. He is quiet and reserved. They rarely have people over and I have yet to see Maria cook.  You can see this is all adding up to be one big, happy family right?

So Thanksgiving day comes, we eat, we enjoy company, we eat some more. Dessert comes. Out of know-where Maria comes in the door. Holding a beer. Nothing new here (the beer that is, not the coming through the door unannounced). Followed quickly by her husband Steve. Apparently they had gotten in a arguement. Awesome. Both are drunk. Have I mentioned Libby's family is Mormon? No? Well they are. 
They continue their argument in our living room. I can't even recall what they were arguing about. I think we were all still so stunned by their entrance we really weren't paying attention to the yelling. After about 20 minutes of trying to enterject ourselves to calm them both down Steve disappears. He returns a few minutes later with a bottle of Champagne he apparently found in my parents spare refrigerator from who-knows-when, and is swigging from it. Good Lord I can't make this stuff up.
Now that the yelling has stopped, we've separated the two and are trying to resemble what was a peaceful Thanksgiving. Libby's family stays for about another 20- 30 minutes to help clean up and such. Once they begin their goodbye's for the evening we figure Maria and Steve would get the hint.
To make a really long story short, we all end up going to bed and saying goodnight to them while they are still in our living room. Steve has passed out in the recliner with the bottle of champagne and Maria is sitting on the couch with her 6-pack (she did leave long enough to go grab more booze) reading gardening books.
We're not really sure what time they left. When we got up the next morning they were gone. They haven't mentioned that evening since. That was 6 years ago.
They are still Mom and Dad's neighbors.

What about you? Answer the questions (or just one or two) in the comments section. I can't wait to hear what you have to say!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sweet November

Poor November. I really feel sorry for this particular month. Sure, there's Thanksgiving and lots of food to look forward to, but for the most part, November is overlooked by it's fellow sidekicks. Let's delve further into this thought for a quick minute.

By the start of school in late August (or early September if you're lucky) all retailers have already started pulling out the pumpkins, goblins and fake spider rings. Gearing all of us up for all things spooky. For the most part, we overlook it until the weather *finally* makes a turn for the cooler. Which can seem like forever if you live in the south like us. But by the time we are ready for Fall and all the fun it brings, other holiday decor is slyly being brought into our favorite dollar spot and seasonal sections of stores. With it brings a certain anxiety and overwhelming feeling to us all. Seeing it forces us to think about a certain chubby, toy hauling, reindeer guiding, chimney sliding man. Makes us think about all the present wrapping (and buying), cooking, tree trimming, family get-togethers, decorating, church services, cleaning, baking and all the joys of the holidays.
With such a early reminder, it really doesn't leave a whole heck of a lot of time to think about one of the most spectacular Fall months. November.

I wish it wasn't so. I love this month of the year. I love the sweet smell of the leaves as they fall. I love the cloudy, cold weather. I love how I can ENJOY cooking and making our house smell like an oooey-gooey cinnamon bun without having to worry about who's coming over when, or if the bathroom is clean (and John really appreciates this, because if we're having company, I'm cooking, and he's cleaning.. it's how we work).

So for the next few weeks, you can just imagine that I'll be outside playing in the leaves with Maggie, baking pies, cookies and yummies to my little heart's content, and enjoying all that is November. At least until the family comes for Thanksgiving dinner, because right after they leave, you bet I'll be pulling all the Christmas bins from the attic and all hell will break loose.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tomato Pie

Do you ever have moments where you need something to take to a friend, a picnic, or a brunch and have no idea what?
I know I've been there.
This recipe will save the day. It's quick. It's easy. And it's delicious.

Tomato Pie

Using a deep dish pie pan. Makes 1 pie.

3-4 medium or 1-2 large tomatoes peeled and sliced.
*-10 basil leaves
1/2 C. chopped scallions (using only the green part)
1. C. Mayonaise
1 C. Shredded mozarella chesse
1 C. Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 Box rolled pie crust (found in refrigerator section. each box contains 2 pie crusts)

Bake 1 pie crust according to package directions.
Peel and slice tomatoes- let them drain.
Chop basil and scallions
When tomatoes are no longer draining, layer them in the cooked pie crust. Salt and Pepper to taste.
Spread basil and onion over tomatoes evenly.
Mix mayo and cheeses together. Spread evenly over tomatoes.
Place uncooked pie shell over pie and bake 30 mins @ 350 or until browned.

*If you're looking to be a little more ambitious, you can substitute the pre-made pie crusts for your own home made version. I would even venture into adding a little extra cheese on top of the crust, but you know, I'm an overachiever and lover of cheese. 

I am a true believer in sharing recipes and wonderful food. That being said, I'm sorry I don't have a picture to go along with the recipe. But it's too good not to share, and I thought that was more important. :) 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall Around the House

 Over the past few weeks I've really enjoyed getting the house looking like Fall. I must say, one of my favorite places to decorate is our mantle. I've never had a mantle to decorate until we moved into this house. I never get tired of playing with it. Last year we were in the midst of our wedding so all the decorating was put on hold until the Thank You notes were written and mailed. So finally, here's what I did for Fall this year.

I love how simple it is. Simple and warm. I threw some pillow covers over our existing pillows. This way I dont' have a ton of extra pillows everywhere, but I still get to change them out for the seasons.
 This is the FIRST ever picture of this window on the blog. I hated it until a week ago when we cut down the size of the hardware and bought a new valance. Before this, it looked horrible. I had been trying to make my own valance, but it looked horrible. So I took it down. Then I tried to make a roman shade, but it looked worse. So it stayed up for about 4 months until I took it down. If you've come over and seen it, I apologize at how horrible it looked. See, I just got stuck. I didn't know what to do about this window. I didn't know what I was going for and I couldn't get out of my rutt. So the ugly stayed. It stayed until JCPenny had a sale 2 weeks ago. And my problem was solved with $12.00 on the debit card, free shipping and 4 days of patiently waiting. The ugly window is no more! It's been such an ordeal with this window.. like 15 + months or ordeal. sigh. I am so proud to be able to *finally* share it with you. And just so you know, I bought 2 valances that day. This one for a neutral color and a red one for the winter months. I can't wait to show you in a few weeks :) yes, christmas is around the corner. shhh. Don't tell John. He's likely to attack you at the mention of the "c" word right now. Until the Halloween candy is gone, it can not be mentioned in our house without a hissy-fit.


Now, beause I've never shown you the window, this little desk was never pictured either. My Dad refnished it and gave it to John and I as a christmas gift 2 years ago. I just love it. The lamp I found at Goodwill and recovered a drum shade with some muslin I had on hand. It's the perfect place for Trick-or-Treat candy our dessert bowl before all the kids come to eat steal it on the 31st.

Please ignore the box of crap under the desk. It's the Goodwill box. No judging.
Here's another look at the room from the viewpoint of the fireplace. Again, ignore the wreath on the staircase. I have run out of 3M command sheets to hang it on the door. It's there as a reminder for me ;) That's how I roll.

The table was decorated using a card a made at one of my stamping events. I just popped it into an old frame. The leaf I tore off from one of the garlands and put it in a frame too.

My other favorite place to decorate is our buffet in the kitchen. Here it is after a little Fall love.

Everything looks better under glass doesn't it?
Check out that awesome pumpkin cake my mom made! She's where I get my wannabe baking skills from.

I love this little sign. I can keep it up all season long. It's another fun decor item I made at stamping class.

What about your home? What have you done to bring fall in? 

I'm linking up with the DIY Showoff's Fall Festival Linky Party. Check out all the entrys and awesome inspiration!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Stuck in a Bind

Let me take y'all on a little journey with me. This is a journey of childhood, sibling rivelry, and things Mom didn't know.

It was the early 90's. I grew up in a ranch style house in a quiet neighborhood. Most of the houses were built in the 1960's. Large trees cover the roads, generous sized lots, and lots of hills. Kids were around to play with on the weekends and afternoons after school, but for the most part it was a quiet neighborhood in mid Raleigh. Our house was on a corner lot, and the back yard backed up to our elementary school. We had a pretty large yard. About 3/4 of an acre. Mom and Dad wanted us to have a large yard to play in, and we loved it. Large oak trees provided shade for the driveway and parts of the back yard. We had a swing set, sand box and a tire swing. Our black lab, Blackberry, would always romp with us. We had plenty of room to ride our bikes and run around like kids do. Later, it was also where our wedding reception was held.

 Every morning my brother and I would get ready for school, grab our lunch boxes and walk up the sidewalk to school. He would always walk a few steps ahead of me as the 'leader'. I suppose this is what big brothers do, they lead. Younger siblings follow. He always had to be first.

Once my younger sister, Annie, was in Kindergarten, I took over the roll of the leader. Evan, moved on to better things in middle school. With our school being so close, it made after school events and activities so much easier to attend, for us and Mom and Dad.

On this particular fall evening, Mom and Dad needed to attend a parent-teacher conference for Annie. It was the beginning of the school year, and Annie was so excited to show Mom and Dad her desk, her classroom and show off her new school for them.
Because Annie was the child involved, the older kids stayed home. Knowing our parents were just a few feet away, we felt comfortable with them leaving us for an hour. Just to be on the safe side, Mom agreed to pay Evan to watch me and she paid me to be good. A win-win.

So off Annie, Mom and Dad went toodling down the sidewalk. I, like any other 9 year old, decided to see what Evan was doing. I will say this in secret, I loved to pester him. And because I like to pester him, we fought. A lot. We wrestled, hit, poked, and body-slammed each other until one of the other cries (it was usually me) or got hurt (again, usually me). Well, on this particular night, Evan wasn't having a bit of it. He warned me, I didn't listen (as usual). He man handled me into the kitchen and got me in one of the kitchen chairs.
Next thing I know, out comes the Duck-Tape. Evan was the neighborhood yard mower and always smelled of gasoline, exhaust, greas and oil. I don't know how he got his hands on Duck Tape that quickly. Probably had it hidden in his pants for this very moment.
He wraps me up so tight in that chair, I can't move. He leaves. I am left in the kitchen. Awesome.
I thought he was playing a game and I knew in a few minutes he would come back and get me and we would continue our 'rough housing' as Dad put it. He came back. But he came back with his socks. His sweaty, grass-covered, exhaust smelling, nasy BOY socks. My hands were tied. I had no way of blocking it. I was doomed. He stuffed those things IN my mouth. Me screaming and writhing the entire time. I can still taste them to this day. He stood over me so proud, like I was some kind of creation he had built. Smiling.

I didn't cry, in my head we were still playing a game. A mean game, but still a game. I sat there. I'm sure giving him the best 'sad' eyes I could muster. Then he turned and went into his bedroom. Crap. Now I'm stuck. Stuck, bound, gagging and beginning to panic a little. I got MAD.
Really, really, fuming, mad. I'm sure I was a sight. Mom's going to killlll him once she finds out what he's done! I'm so tattling on his butt when she comes home.
So I sit. And wait. And wait. And wait. Not the fun evening I envisioned. At. All.
After waiting for seemed like forever. It was proabably no more than 30 minutes in real time, he came back for me. He knew the others would be getting home any minute. Since he didn't want to be getting in any trouble (which I had total intentions of!) he let me go.

I ran to the bathroom, closed the door and brushed my teeth like they would fall out if I didn't. I flossed, used mouthwash, the works. Anything to get that nasty boy sock taste out! Once done, I came out to find Evan waiting for me in the hallway. Great. What now? Atomic wedgie? Swirly?
Quietly he came closer to me. I was ready to run if need-be. He simply said, "if you want to get paid, you won't say a word".
He had me. I wanted my money. Mom would know I had pestered him into putting me in that chair if I said what he did. Then I really wouldn't get my money. But he wouldn't either.
I calmly brushed past him and went to watch TV. I needed to think about this. Not 10 minutes later did Mom and Dad walk through the door.
I never said a word.

It wasn't until 7 years later did the truth come out about that night. We were sitting as a family for dinner and talking about how we used to beat each other up. Evan said, "remember when I Duck-Taped you to that chair and stuffed my dirty socks in your mouth and left you there? That was awesome".
I thought Mom was going to come out of her chair, cross the table and wring his neck. Never had I heard her squeal like that.
Dad just chuckled.
I sure am glad I didn't tell her.I enjoyed him tattling on himself.
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