Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Giveaway at Fiona and Twig

Fiona and Twig have a GREAT giveaway: an Anthropologie gift card and a great book on thrifting. You should check it out here! (Or maybe you shouldn't... more entries means I am less likely to win. Hmmm...)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Spanish Cream Cake

I got this incredible recipe from a friend of my Paw Paw's. It was my first time making a cake from scratch (I try not to bake too often anyway, since I don't need all the sugar). And it turned out great! Here are the directions in case you want to try it, too.

Spanish Cream Cake

2 C. sugar

1 C. buttermilk
½ C. shortening

2 C. sifted plain flour
½ C. butter

1 tsp. baking soda
5 egg whites
5 Egg Yolks

½ tsp. salt
2 C. coconut
1 tsp. vanilla

1 C. pecans, chopped

Separate eggs...

... and beat egg whites until stiff. Set stiff egg whites aside in a separate bowl.

Sift flour, soda, and salt over chopped pecans and coconut.

Beat sugar, shortening and butter until fluffy. Add egg yolks, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat well.

Add dry ingredients and beat well.
Gently fold stiff egg whites into mixture.
Pour into 3 (9-inch) greased and floured pans.
Bake @ 350° for 30 minutes or until done (more like 15 for my crazy oven).

Allow cakes to COOL thoroughly to room temperature.

1 C. butter

½ C. coconut
2 tsp. vanilla

2 lbs. powdered sugar
16 oz. original Philadelphia Cream Cheese

Beat well the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. (I actually used the 1/3 less fat cream cheese and only 1.5 lbs of powdered sugar.)
Slowly add the powdered sugar by cupfulls. Beat well. Repeat until all the powdered sugar is fully blended.
Add coconut and mix well.

Frost between layers, top, and sides. Refrigerate.

I'm linking up to Kimba's DIY Day.

I'm also linking up to  
Dare to DIY

Alabama - Tennessee Rivalry

I have spoken before about my love for the South; one thing I love the most is just how important football is. I. Love. Football. Alabama football of course (since I did graduate from there), but nearly any football. Our Saturdays are devoted to trying new game day foods, walking the dogs in the cooler weather, and watching nearly every football game that finds its way onto TV. And today is the Alabama/Tennessee game.

If you, by some chance, don't care about football or know nothing about the SEC or Alabama, this is one of the biggest games of the year--every year. There is just this incredible sense of pride (on both sides) in the histories of the programs and the tradition of the game. Alabama has 12 national championships and Tennessee has 6. I wish I could make someone understand how enthused (and crazy) fans get in the South during football season. But unless you actually experience it, you can't understand. Here is a sampling of what you might see on a fall Saturday in the South (specifically in Tuscaloosa).

Big Al, our mascot, is always doing something crazy. Dancing...

... or crowd surfing.

We can claim the greatest coach that ever lived: Paul "Bear" Bryant. Under him, UA won 13 SEC championships and 6 national championships.

Now, we have another incredible coach, who has pushed our team from a pathetic 6-7 record in 2006 to a 12-1 record in 2008; we currently have 19 straight regular season wins.

Enthusiastic student section.

Bryant-Denny Stadium.

And then of course there are the crazy fans. But they also make the game day experience more fun.

We all love the Bear, but come on...

And one of my favorite Alabama football moments: "The Catch." At least that's what I will always call it. No other explanation needed.

Watch it here.

What a stinking incredible catch. It still amazes me just to watch it.

Football really is one of the greatest things on earth. It nearly brings me to tears that football season is over half-way finished. ("Hey! There's no crying in football!".... or something like that.) I hope that whatever team you cheer for, you are having a great time during this season! Unless you are a Tennessee or LSU fan... then I hope it's miserable. :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Goodwill Finds

After making my weekly trip to Goodwill, I wanted to share my finds. Let me preface this by saying that I have recently discovered how badly I needed two things (among others): new coasters, and a holder for my fire wood.

Goodwill to the rescue!

Shut the front door (as one of my fave people on the planet, Stacey London, would say)! These coasters are incredible! Of course I have my doubts about them being real silver, but they sure do look elegant either way. And how much were they? Two measly dollars. You can't get coasters for two dollars if you buy cloth ones at Wal-Mart. So I was pretty pleased. And then...

I found this beaut. It's a little scratched, but for $5, I couldn't say no! A little polish will fix that, but even if not, who cares? It's just going to be holding wood.

As a little bonus (because I'm in a sharing mood today), I'll let you in on the real prize of the weekend. This picture of my doggies loving on my nephew. And him having no clue what to do.

He's so precious, I know. And so are my sweet puppies.

Monday, October 19, 2009

DIY Fall Wreath

I love autumn, and I love wreaths. But I hate autumn wreath prices. Hobby Lobby's wreaths are $30 and up (and that's half off, usually). I can't justify spending that much money, but I wanted one--badly. So I decided to make one myself. I bought this wreath at Hobby Lobby for $2.50 (half off the original $5).

I also bought a leafy garland for $5 (half off $10) and some berry sprigs ($1 a piece). The garland was 20 feet long, plenty to wrap around the wreath several times. I then broke apart the berry stems and stuck them haphazardly in the wreath.

I decided to hang the wreath with a strip of burlap; I saw this idea here and loved it. Just cut a piece about 3-4 inches wide, drape it over the top of your door, and put tacks in it to hold it there (I had to put about 6 I think). I think it looks very "autumn-y".

In total, this project cost me about $9 and took approximately 10 minutes. Not too bad!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Taco Soup and Yogurt Cake

I always have problems thinking of what to cook when we are going to have company. Trying to cook a four-course meal or anything similar is always time- and energy-consuming. However, there is one recipe that I always feel comfortable making; everyone always loves it, and it is super easy to make: taco soup.

As I said, it is ridiculously easy to make. And yet, so yummy.

Taco Soup

2 cans whole kernel corn
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can Rotel (tomatoes with chiles)
2 cans kidney beans
1 can pinto beans (or vice versa: 1 kidney and 2 pinto)
1 package dry Ranch dip
1 package taco mix (JC and I use 1.5 packages because we like a little extra, but either is fine)
1 to 2 lbs browned ground beef (we use extra-lean for a healthier option)

Here are the directions. Pay close attention, because it's really tough. Open all cans and packages. Pour in a large pot (do not drain the cans). Cook for 30-45 minutes. Done. Isn't that great? If you're like me and you think, "I'm tired. I don't want to cook when I get home," this is a great option. Plus, it is easy to make in bulk to either freeze or feed a large group of people. Not to mention what it offers on a cold night (which we have been having a few of lately). We usually eat it with tortilla chips and maybe top it with some cheese, but those are both optional. Yum, yum.

For my birthday, I wanted a cake (of course), but I wanted to find a healthier (not healthy, but healthier) option. I stumbled upon this recipe, and even though I was skeptical, I tried it. Even JC loved it! Always nice to bring your hubby over to the healthier side, also.

Yogurt Cake

1 box yellow, white, or butter yellow cake mix
8 oz. strawberry yogurt
2 egg whites
1 cup water

8 oz. Cool Whip
4 to 8 oz. strawberry yogurt

Mix cake ingredients together and cook according to box directions. My oven seems to cook much faster than others, so it was actually finished in half the time. However, I'm not sure if this was because of the different ingredients, or if it was just my oven. So check it about half way through (stick a toothpick in the center and see if it comes out clean).

After taking it out of the oven, let the cake cool. While it's cooling, mix the Cool Whip and yogurt together for the icing. I started out with 4 oz. of yogurt, and added more to taste. I think I ended up using about 5 or 6 oz. When cake is cool, spread on top and put in the fridge.

Once again, super easy and super yummy. Plus, I don't feel as bad about eating it, since it doesn't have an extra-sugary icing and lots of oil in it. I'm sure you could use different yogurt (such as lime, blueberry, etc.) for different flavors. I'll have to try that sometime. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall Has Really Begun

Of course we all know that fall technically began about a month ago. But to me, it's not really fall until the weather gets cooler, you buy a few pumpkins, drink a little hot cider, and start your first fire. Well, tonight is the night for our first fire. Further, it's a real wood-burning fireplace--none of that fake gas stuff. I'm not saying the gas fireplaces don't have their merits, but there's nothing better than actually smelling the wood burning. Mmmm....

Anywho, here is a picture of our living room on this "first" fall night.

Yaye! And I'm off work tomorrow, so staying up late to watch football and have an extra cup of cider is completely acceptable. Oh, happy day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Foiled Plans and New Favorite Blog

I had great plans for today. Great plans, I tell you. But they didn't come to fruition.

While at work, I got an itch to go bargain shopping at Dollar Tree. I am not sure why; perhaps because you can always find a bargain there. So after work, I moseyed on over (can you actually classify it as "moseying" somewhere if it takes you 30 minutes to get there? That term actually implies that it was fairly close...) to the Dollar Tree in hopes of finding something grand. And I did. They always have some great cheapo seasonal items. This was my first find, and my, was I happy. I love large mugs (for the sole purpose of drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate and cider during this time of year), and this one is a snowman!

Of course I purchased several other items. You might ask, after purchasing such a fantastic mug (for $1, of course), why am I so disappointed in how the trip turned out? Well, the purpose of the trip was to really get one thing: a can of chalkboard spray paint. After seeing several ideas from other bloggers I have been following (such as here, here, here, and here), I was nearly salivating over the idea of chalkboard spray paint. I was actually contemplating ways to turn half of what I own into chalkboards. But it was not meant to be. After desperately winding through Wal-Mart aisles for 15 minutes, I finally went back to my car, dejected and sans the chalkboard paint. How sad. I guess my chalkboard-mania will be put on hold for now.

Anywho, on to better things. I have recently discovered a new blog, through a blog I was already following. It's called "Our Best Bites". And the title does not lie. At least from what I can tell. Let me start off by saying I have an enormous sweet tooth. But I am trying to eat less sugar, since diabetes does run in my family, and I do value my longevity more than a few extra cookies/pies/cakes/muffins.... or at times I do. Anyway, check out some of these recipes.

The first is a pumpkin pie milkshake. Yes, you heard me right. If any of you love all things pumpkin like I do, you probably just jumped and your ears perked up a little. Cinnamon, ice cream, graham crackers, brown sugar, and of course pumpkin--what could be better?

Next up, we have homemade cinnamon and orange rolls, but get this--no yeast. Fantastic. And they look incredible. Just looking at them is nearly enough to make me not care if I develop diabetes, and therefore poor circulation and a shorter life span...

This next one (or ones, I should say) are the cutest things ever. And they would be fantastic for parties, for kids or even for adults. She has put together a list (with directions and pictures, of course) of some great options for finger foods.

Mummy dogs...

cheese fingers...

and witches brooms...

... are just a few of the things she's dreamed up. What cute ideas!

Another great idea: single serving pie in a jar.

As she states in her blog, these would be great Christmas presents or party favors. And they look so good! Not to mention the old adage that a single-serving package will keep you from eating more. I'm not sure how well that would work on me, but for normal people, perhaps.

For the aforementioned reason, I have not yet tried any of these. When and if any of you do, please let me know how they turn out. But I can't imagine them being anything but delightful!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Goodwill and Estate Sale Finds

Since I had a long weekend (thank you, Christopher Columbus!), I decided to pay a visit to the Goodwill to see what kind of goodies I could find. One thing I know about going to Goodwill is that it is hit or miss. Sometimes I go in there and find tons of inexpensive treasures; at other times, I spend 45 minutes to an hour and come out empty-handed. I was hoping today would be one of the former times. Well, I didn't find "tons" of things, but I did find a few. Like this precious little teapot. Its color doesn't exactly fit in with the warm tones I have in my kitchen, but I figure a paint job can fix that, especially when it was only $2.

I also happened upon this little vase, which is nothing super-special, but it was only 88 cents, and I needed something to put my candy corn in.

I tied some raffia around it and filled it up to add a little more fall color to our kitchen. I thought it would be purely decoration, since I don't like candy corn and my DH said he didn't like it. But approximately an inch or two of candy corn has disappeared since this afternoon, and since our dogs can't reach the counter, I know it to be JC's doing. We'll see how long it is before I have to buy some more.

I also love Christmas, so I was quite pleased to find this little red sled. I am sure I would have paid at least $8-$10 for it at Kirkland's or Hobby Lobby, but this little gem was only $2.40! How exciting! I may end up giving it a paint job also, because I'm not sure about the holly leaves on it, but we'll see. Updates to follow if so.

One last find from this weekend came from an estate sale. I love estate sales because they usually contain lots of older items, which I always fall in love with (but usually can't afford). These regular old apothecary jars, however, were pretty cheap--under $10 for the set--so I snatched them up and filled them with a few autumn-looking things around the house. I know lemons are more summery than autumn-y, but that was all I had around the house. Perhaps I'll change it out later.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall is Here!

After doing my daily blog-browsing, I decided it was time to not only be excited about Christmas decor, but all seasonal decor. Since it's October, it seemed like a good time to start. I drove myself to Hobby Lobby, where I indulged myself in the 50% off fall/autumn section. However, I know they will soon change that to 80-90% off, a little further into the season, so I kept my purchases to a minimum. When that time comes, I will definitely be one of the first in line to buy more.

Anyway, here's our mantle. You may notice that some of the tags are still on--I took pictures as soon as I put everything up. They won't stay for long!

This is probably my favorite piece:

Now I know that my outdoor decorations are not exactly up to par. But that's about all I have time for this year.

Next year I hope to have some more time, and maybe have something more like this, from Debra at Common Ground, or like this, from Aunt Ruthie. They are both so talented! Of course for Halloween the pumpkins above (as well as some others, possibly) will be carved with nothing other than fabulous script A's (for all you Alabama fans out there), but that will come later.

Yard Work

So, something had to be done with our yard. I love our house, our neighborhood, etc., but something needed to be done with our yard. By looking at the before, I'm sure you can tell why.

There were little scrubby bushes everywhere, and it was a bunch of visual clutter. That is one thing I can't stand--visual clutter. So my husband JC and I took the shovel and the hedge clippers and tore up the front yard. Three hours and seven lawn bags later....

...this is what we have.

We aren't completely finished yet, but it already looks so much better! More updates to follow.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Country Living and Birthday Gifts

I am a pretty old-fashioned person; I have often been called an "old soul". I think this is probably due to the fact that I usually enjoy things that only soccer moms and grandmothers like. Some examples are: seasonal decorating (my whole attic is devoted to Christmas decor storage), baking, yard saling/estate saling, and redoing old furniture. I appreciate places where mom-and-pop stores abound, neighbors sit on their porches and wave, and there are wide open spaces. Unfortunately, my career will probably never allow me to be in such a place. Atlanta doesn't fit into that description for sure. But I can dream, right?

However, I did get a chance to visit home, which would fit the term "country living" very well, and it was fantastic. The Harvest Festival never disappoints. The whol
e town shows up for the hundreds of arts-and-crafts booths, Greek food, funnel cakes, fried Twinkies and Snickers, and local entertainment. It also happens that I received my birthday gift from my husband while there. We were in an antique shop, and I saw this beautiful etched glass cake pedestal and dome. I knew I had to have it, but it was a little on the pricey side. Since my birthday was coming up, JC got it for my birthday present. Definitely the best present I have gotten in a while.

This isn't the exact one (mine doesn't have as much design on it)--since it isn't quite my birthday, I haven't actually been able to open my gift yet--but it is similar. I have also recently discovered my love for baking, so I can't wait to use my new present!

Back to the original post about loving the country, I ran across the following recently, which I think perfectly describes my feelings about the city vs. the country.

Why I Love Country Living

By Rick Rouse

As someone who has lived in both places, I can tell you that country living certainly beats the hustle and bustle of city life! Living in a rural area has advantages that simply can't be bought at any price.

In the city I was bombarded with the sounds of horns blowing and sirens blaring. In the country I'm soothed by a chorus of whippoorwills, bullfrogs and crickets, along with the pleasant sound of a cool breeze flowing through the trees.

On congested city streets I had to deal with frustrated drivers and careless pedestrians. On winding country roads I have to try my best to ignore the postcard-like beauty of the farmland and forests so I can keep my eyes on the road.

Yes, country living is the lifestyle that I, like most people who have had the opportunity to experience it, prefer. Instead of pushy salespeople knocking on my door hoping to leave with some of my money, I have warm, friendly neighbors dropping by with baskets of fresh vegetables from their gardens. Not to sell of course - they simply enjoy sharing the rewards of their country lifestyles with others.

Living in the country means that I can get up at 8:00 in the morning and enjoy a leisurely jog down a deserted lane or simply sit on a riverbank under a huge shade tree with a fishing pole in my hand.

City folks have the convenience of a store on every corner. I get to enjoy the tranquility and peace of mind that results from watching colorful birds flitter around my lawn or deer grazing in my neighbor's pasture field.

Yes, I do enjoy my country lifestyle very much! Having spent much of my life living in various cities around the world, I can now enjoy the peace and tranquility of my country home. For me, a country lifestyle makes it easy to look forward to the next day!

For more about country living, check out one of my favorite blogs, "The Pioneer Woman". She has tons of great recipes, incredible photography, and other things that are generally enjoyable.