Sunday, November 15, 2015

Favorite Things Party {2015}

Hi everybody!  Hard to believe, but it's already that time of year again for Melissa's annual Favorite Things Party! Except for last year when I took a blogging break, I have been participating in this since 2009 - aka the blogging Dark Ages!  ;)   I love getting a big cup of coffee and checking out everyone's links and getting new gift ideas - it's like getting a bunch of free personal shoppers at once - I love it! And I'm so honored to be part of the link-up this year - so thank you, Melissa! :)

As usual, since we seem to be on a perpetual budget over here (ha!), I have kept everything super affordable on the list - in fact, this year I believe everything on here is less than $10! It's always a bummer to see a blogger rave about something fabulous only to find out it's way out of your price range - so my goal was to find, once again, things that I loved that hopefully everyone could afford.  I figured if I can afford it on my budget, anyone can! ;)  

I've included gift items, personal items, some favorite foods, and even some favorite recipes below.  So grab your favorite drink and come browse - I hope you leave inspired with something new! :) 

{T O   B U Y}

{1 - Starbucks Packets}

Sometimes Christmas gifts are easy to find, but stocking stuffers can be tough  - am I right?  Enter...these fabulous Starbucks packets.  Just add warm milk, pop it in the microwave, and you are good to go!  My husband loves these drinks and they can be found at Target and other stores. (I found mine at Christmas Tree Shop this year for only $4.99!  They make a ridiculously cold New England day a little easier to bear!}

{2 - Essie Polish in "Velvet Voyage"}

Another fun item to gift is nail polish - no size required and every girl likes a fun new color to try out! :)  I love Essie colors - they go on thick and I can go longer between coats than other brands.  This color is a little darker than I normally go (it's a deep, DEEP purple) but I've been loving the bold color this fall!  

{3 - Yes To: Coconut Lip Balm}

I'm slightly seriously obsessed with all things coconut and this Yes To one is fabulous!  No scary ingredients and easy to find at drugstores - it's like a little bit of summer on your lips all year round! ;) 

{4 - Earrings from Walmart - YES, Walmart!}

I can't remember where I first heard that Walmart sells jewelry, but they do!  And most of it is crazy cheap - these earrings were $2.88!  Now I'm not saying that they might be the best quality metals (haha!) but I've been wearing these silver ones for months now and they haven't bothered my ears at all.  For $2.88 (!!!) they have lots of fun choices so you can pick a pair up to add to a gift or just buy something fun for yourself! :) 

{5 - Sugar Paper Products}

Every year I go to Target to get my Sugar Paper calendar!  They are simple, gorgeous, and affordable.  I mean, if you have to look at a calendar every day, it might as well be pretty, right?  

{6 - Secret Deodorant: "Stress Response"}

Lastly....deodorant.  You may ask why I'm including this in a favorite things party - well, because I sweat.  Like a lot.  Like A LOT a lot.  I am a nervous sweater, which means I am the lucky kind of person who can literally sweat through a sweater if I get nervous enough.  It's awful. I have literally tried every single deodorant out there, including a prescription for a while but it burned so bad I had to stop.  This deodorant is pricey (it will run you about $9 or so probably) but it is SO WORTH IT.  I'm not saying I don't still sweat, but it helps it bajillion times more and - how to put this nicely - helps you not be stinky.  If you are like me and sweat like crazy, seriously try this!  It will help!! :)  

{T O   E A T}

{1 - Trader Joe's Coconut Cookie Thins and 72% Dark}

Continuing on the coconut theme, if you have a Trader Joe's near you, you MUST go purchase these Coconut Thins!!! The coconut flavor is SO good - seriously, you just have to trust me on this!  And if you're a highly classy eater like me, break off a piece of the 72% dark (they sell it right by the registers) and alternate bites of dark chocolate and coconut crisp cookie. can thank me later! Haha! 

{2 - Starbucks' Caffe Verona blend}

Whether for you or for a gift, Caffe Verona is our favorite blend lately.  I totally won't pretend to be smart enough to know about "finishes" and "notes" and all that stuff when it comes to coffee...but this has a deep, rounded (?) flavor that Chris and I both love.  Plus it's a dark roast so we can get by with slightly smaller tablespoons when filling the coffee pot - see? Delicious AND cost-effective. ;)

{T O   M A K E   &   B A K E}

{1- Feta Dip from Clover Lane}

For the last several years, I have made this Feta Dip from Clover Lane for Christmas Eve with my dad's side of the family.  I buy a baguette at the grocery store (although she also has a amazing baguette recipe on her site that I've made before, too!), slice up some thin rounds, and serve it alongside the dip.  It always gets devoured - it's easy and delicious, and BONUS points - with green onions and Roma tomatoes in it, it automatically has Christmas colors in it! Try it for your next party - I promise you won't regret it!


Photo via Clover Lane

{2- Paula Deen Cheesecake}

The second recipe is a little more complicated - but only because it has several steps (the steps themselves aren't difficult).  The recipe is Paula Deen's "Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping" (say that five times fast! lol!) and it is TO DIE FOR.  Shortbread crust, then cheesecake, then chopped apples with cinnamon, then a brown sugar crumble, then drizzled with caramel.  HELLO!!!  I'm including it here because it would make an amazing Thanksgiving dessert.  I made it in October for our small group and everyone loved it too - you really can't go wrong with a Paula Deen dessert! ;) 

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

Photo via Food Network

That wraps it us for me this year! Please take a peek at all of the other fabulous ladies participating this year, and thank you to Melissa for having me! {If you don't follow Melissa already, you must - she is so down to earth, her style is impeccable, and she just has wonderful ideas to share! I've been following her for years now and she continues to have great content to share.} I'm the last girl to share for today, but tomorrow Centsational Girl heads the list so be sure to pay her a visit! :)

If you want to see things I've shared in years past, click this link to see what I've shared before - things like my favorite perfume and movies haven't changed.  Either that makes me boring or traditional - you can decide! Haha!

Let me know if you were here and if we share a love of anything on my list!  Happy Monday, everyone! :)

Displaying favorite things 2015 at 320 Sycamore.jpg
Displaying favorite things 2015 at 320 Sycamore.jpg

Friday, November 6, 2015

Currently. {November}


My mom's friend Patti stopped by last week and saw my Geo Mesh wreath and asked if I would make her one, too.  I was very flattered that she loved my big ol' wreath! :)  I started to get super nervous though when it wasn't coming out right because I just could not get that bow to sit straight and I was so afraid she would be disappointed!  Thankfully I finally got it worked out and she loved it! I know the big puffy Geo Mesh look isn't for everyone but I'm still totally in love. ;) It's like the Texas Hair version of wreaths, am I right?!! LOL!! And novice wreath maker here - I forgot to take a pic of my finished product so thankfully she took this pic for me when she brought it to her house. :)  



Oh sweet mercy.  We live far from Trader Joe's but I was up there on Tuesday and they were sampling this salsa at the sample table.  It's like chutney and salsa got married and had a perfect little spicy fall baby.  (hahahahaha)

They paired it with crackers but I picked up these Sweet Potato chips and OH MY WORD the combination is perfect!  Go get some! I am soooo sad my jar is almost gone - why did I not buy 5?! WHY?!



Speaking of food, we are LOVING this fabulous Spicy Thai Noodles recipe from A Small Snippet.  I've eaten it hot and cold and loved it both ways.  Sooooo yummy!  A few things to note: her recipe card at the end of the post doesn't include carrots - so scroll above to see that part!  Also, I think using a whole box of pasta was a bit much - next time I'll just use about 3/4 box to concentrate the flavors better.  And I followed everyone's advice to just use the sesame oil and not the veg oil too - and I used 1 T red pepper flakes and felt that was fine.  Chris took the rest for leftovers this morning but I informed him that I needed to take a pic - so hence the dark 7:15 am photo of the noodles.  Make these - you won't be sorry! I am more than a little sad they are officially gone now.  ;)



I love this view out my front window when I sip my coffee in "my" chair.  Today it's overcast but fall is still so beautiful!  And don't even get me started on the fabulous damp leaves smell lately!  I probably sound crazy if you live in a southern climate, but there is just nothing like that smell to me! 



Yesterday my friend Amber and I decided to venture out to an Aldi's grand opening near us.  It was a little bit of a drive but we were told that there would be golden tickets passed out for the first 100 people in line.  The store opened at 9 and I got in the car at 8:08 only to realize I was out of gas! Ahhh!! So I made the epic decision to only get half a tank - and I'm so glad I did!  I pulled up and the line was crazy so Luke jogged beside me while I hauled Livi on my hip, my huge purse and my reusable bags to grab a carriage (because so help me I was not going to shop without a carriage) and then booked it to the back of the line!  Please imagine me doing all of that while simultaneously trying to look cool, calm and collected!  LOL!!

Amber came a few minutes behind me and I think she was number 97....and the reason this is under "Laughing" is because I texted Chris afterward and told him "Opening Day at Aldi's isn't for sissies!"  There were tons of people in there and I waited in line to get in but I ended up getting $15 off and when you're on one income that is great - but WOW what an old lady thing to do.  Standing in line for a discount grocery store opening?? Hahaha ;) 



We were invited by some friends to go to the zoo this week on Election Day since local schools were out.  It was a gorgeous New England day and we had a wonderful time with them.  Since my friend is a member, she was able to get us in for free and I was so grateful for the unexpected free "field trip" for my kids! 



We had a fabulous Halloween with lots of chances to wear our costumes this year (Liv was Elsa and Luke was a pirate and they had a blast!) but I'm thinking I need this candy out of my house!  The Reese's cups are too much to handle! Actually as I typed this I just got up to freeze them.  I'll save them for a desperation day.  LOL



Lastly, I'm loving this picture of my girl I took yesterday at the library! I just want to squeeze her sweet little cheeks! I've said it before, but after my postpartum experience with Luke I was DONE having kids.  We had always wanted to adopt anyway, so we just went ahead with it.  We got licensed to foster-adopt in the state of CT on May 4th 2012, and I found out I was pregnant on May 30th - just a few weeks later.  I was scared TO DEATH to be pregnant again but God knew we needed her!  She is such an absolute joy to us and we just adore our little surprise.  So grateful God plans our lives and not us! 

Looking forward to this weekend - Happy Friday, everyone! :) 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fall Around Our House {2015}

  As someone who always loved school and then became a teacher myself, I've just always loved the fall season! The awful humidity of the summer has gone, the cool breezes have begun to blow in, and to me, everything starts to feel new again  - with all the promise of the start of a fresh new year.  It's no secret if you know me that I'm super sentimental, and fall is just so chock-full of memories and traditions that I like to try to keep.  I love all of it and most of all Thanksgiving weekend.  It is far and away my most favorite four days of the year!

And the rest of the fall, with all of its coziness and focus on family,  just makes my heart happy too. I love when my house gets filled with all the warm colors and textures of the season! Just thinking about it makes me smile. :) 

If you've known me for a while, either in real life or here on the blog, you know that I don't have much money each year to spend on decorations.  There's a wonderful blogger I read who gets lots of gorgeous things each year from Pottery Barn...while I would LOVE to be able to afford that stuff, even on clearance, it's usually not an option.  A long time ago I wrote a post sharing some tips about how to decorate seasonally, and I would reiterate here...when money is tight, focus on a color, add candles, and shop all year round.  A good smelling candle on a pretty orange plate can cost you just a few dollars and will go a long way toward making your home feel seasonal!

And as far as shopping year will feel a little crazy buying that faux pumpkin at a garage sale in May, but you will be so happy to unearth it come September - and be even happier it only cost you 50 cents when all the new decor in stores costs much more.

I also have a small house, so there's nothing "grand" here - just little bits of the season woven throughout my home.

Be prepared...I uploaded a lot of photos! ;)
Grab a cup of coffee or some hot cider....and come on in! :) 

I would say nearly everything I've purchased on clearance, made myself, or bought at a yard sale!  And yes, I use many of the same things from year to year, just switched around or updated... :)

A few months ago, we were gifted a piano!  As a music teacher, I love this for many reasons...not the least of which is that I now have another space to decorate seasonally! Haha!! ;) The black and white photo is of my mother-in-law back in the 50s...I saw it at her house this summer in a pile of old photos and I just had to have it!  It's the sweetest little picture of her, and she has played piano her whole life so I thought it was only fitting that she be framed on top of our piano. :)

I made this Geo Mesh wreath earlier this year and I love it! It is so easy to just add a ribbon and have a "new" wreath multiple times each year.  Lots of videos on YouTube if you want to make one yourself! :)

Hot coffee and Southern Living...good afternoon in my book. ;) 

 Something new I added this year was this adorable wood and burlap garland from Target.  Only $3 in the Dollar Spot!

At the Dollar Tree you can find little faux orange candles (the battery-operated kind) two for a dollar!  Such nice ambiance when you have kids and don't necessarily want a real flame right near where little hands get washed.  lol

I found this fabric last year at Hobby Lobby and my mom sewed up cases for me.  The combo reminds me of candy corn and I love them.

We are so lucky to live behind a small farm and we are given these glorious farm views all year long - here is our gorgeous backyard last night!  The farm starts right behind the rock wall that borders our property.  Ahhh!! Fall bliss! :)

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a wonderful day!