Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fall Favorites

Last Sunday marked the first day of Fall. Around here, it will be warm well into October, maybe even November. I've been seeing ladies wearing boots but I've also been seeing ladies wearing white pants...the fashion "guidelines" just don't apply here - anything goes with the warm weather that hangs around.

On Sunday we made a big pot of chili, marking the beginning of fall and winter soups and stews. We are big chili fans - we like regular chili, turkey chili and have a special love for Cincinnati chili too. I didn't take pictures of our inaugural fall chili but I will post the recipe soon. It's our go-to favorite.

The Fall season has me craving some of our favorite soups and stews. I've mentioned before what a fan I am of what I call "one pot wonders" - dishes that are self-contained in a single pot. I can't wait to make this Chicken Tortilla Soup this season:
Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

or this Jambalaya:
My favorite jambalaya recipe

or this Ragout:
Ragout recipe
And I can't wait to try some new soups, stews and chilis. I'm sure we will be trying and sharing lots of new recipes. What's your favorite soup or stew recipe?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Getting Creative With Nursery Decor

I recently shared that we welcomed little Lucy in June (see a picture of sweet Lucy here). Although I had these nursery projects complete before her arrival, I hadn't shared them yet. They're both pretty simple projects you could easily recreate and both would work or a sweet baby boy as well.

I knew when I started thinking about how to decorate our nursery that I would not want a particular "theme" and that I wouldn't want it to be matchy-matchy. I decided to go with a pink and green theme if you even want to call that a theme. It let me mix and match patterns and shades of each color, offering a lot of flexibility.
 
I took some inspiration from Pinterest for the two projects I want to share. First I created a mixed media type piece that involved a canvas and a metal cross. Here is the inspiration image:
Cross art for nursery
It was simple enough - they used a piece of wood and mounted a cross on it. I went with canvas instead and bought a metal cross to spray paint white from Hobby Lobby for about $6 (with 40% off coupon, of course).
 
I started with painting the canvas with a few layers of pink acrylic paint. To make sure I got all of the sides, I used thumb tacks to raise it up. I just used scrap cardboard underneath so I didn't get paint on the table.
Cross art for nursery
I added the white polka dots with a few layers of white paint. Sorry, no photo of that. Then I spray painted the cross with a few layers of matte white spray paint, letting it dry thoroughly between layers.
Cross art for nursery
Once everything was dry, I used E6000 glue (You know, the really strong adhesive) to make sure the cross stayed put - it was kind of heavy since it was metal. I stacked several hardcover books on top of it for a few days to make sure it was securely attached, and it worked. Here is the final product:
Cross art for nursery
The second project I did from some Pinterest inspiration was a nursery collage like this one:
Nursery Collage
This project is a little easier. You could use fabric, but I chose to go with scrapbook paper. It's easier to narrow down what you want to use and is a more economical route. I picked out pieces with green and pink since that's the overall theme, and I also picked out a sheet with only green and a sheet with only pink to balance it out.

I also picked up some old frames from a garage sale and purchased the rest. The garage sale frames got a few coats of matte white spray paint (are you sensing a white spray paint theme in the nursery?), and I let them dry thoroughly between coats.

After looking at my scrapbook paper options and frame arrangement options I decided to go with this:
Nursery Collage
I love that I can switch up what's in each frame to refresh the wall too.
 
Both projects were relatively simple and give the nursery a personal touch. They also would be easy to do for a sweet baby boy too.
 
 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Introducing Our Baby Girl!

Our sweet baby girl arrived last month! We have been adjusting to our new schedules, but are enjoying every minute!

We were back and forth on names and had it narrowed down to just a few options by the time we were at the hospital. I'm a planner at heart so that is kind of surprising. We wanted a name that wasn't a super popular, top-twenty type name and what we landed on really fits her personality perfectly.

Introducing Lucy!

You'll have to excuse the lag in posts...more fun to come, just maybe a little slower, and maybe a little more baby related!

Also, I wanted to share a fun resource for moms-to-be, especially first timers. I found Lucie's List extremely helpful along the pregnancy journey...telling me what to expect, what to register for etc. and none of it was sugar coated, which I appreciate. There are so many products out there for babies, and it's completely overwhelming for a first time mom. Lucie's List provided a lot of really helpful information and insight. They even have an email list you can sign up for, which I recommend, and a registry checklist, which I also recommend consulting. Tell all your mom-to-be friends - they'll thank you!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Cutest Dress I Ever Made

What do these two fabrics have in common?
Making a toddler dress
Not much until I made a reversible dress using them together. They don't match. They don't have to though - that's the beauty of a reversible dress. You can put any two fabrics you like together and it works because you only see one at a time.

I mentioned before that I got a sewing machine last summer and have been working on learning how to use it. I've been gathering project ideas and my soon-to-be-a-mother self has been brainstorming tons of ideas for baby-related projects of course.
 
I decided to get some formal training, so I took a 4-week class at a local fabric boutique (I'm not sure that's a real term but I'm making it one - it's basically a really cute shop with really cute fabric) where I learned basics of reading a pattern and sewing clothing. I was supposed to learn to read a pattern but let's be honest...it's difficult for a novice. I am sure that some brands of patterns are easier than others but I'm not sure I could completely understand what to do from a pattern without a little help from a veteran. Practice will make perfect, right?

I got to choose what I wanted to sew from a few patterns and I chose a simple toddler dress. I also chose to make it reversible instead of just making it with a lining. Might as well make it double duty I think. It will be perfect for my baby girl in about a year, which is the perfect season for fun, colorful dresses and perfect for the fabrics above. Picking the fabric was hard for me - I saw so many options that I really liked. I ended up going a little bold on one side (the pink and orange combo above) and then making the other side a more calm, but so cute, pattern (green with polka dots).

Over 3 of the 4 weeks of the class, we cut out the patterns, measured and cut the fabric to the pattern shape, sewed through all the steps for the outfit of our choosing and assembled the piece. I even did button holes, which I learned are super easy on my machine.  Some others in the class had more complex button hole functions, so I was thankful mine was so straight forward. I even learned about the proper "foot" to use for that. I had no idea!

In the end, I wrapped up my project and am loving the results. Sure, I can see some imperfections here and there because I know what areas I'll improve on next time, but overall, I think it turned out beautifully. What do you think?
 
Side one: 
Making a toddler dress
 Side two:
Making a toddler dress
A close up of the button choices for each side:
Making a toddler dress
Making a toddler dress
 
I look forward to trying out some more fabrics on some more dresses like this one. Now that I have a pretty good understanding of this pattern, I can create other dresses...just need to narrow down the fabric options - easier said than done with so many gorgeous options out there!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Baby Shower Love

Baby girl will be arriving hopefully in about 5 weeks so things have been a little busy around here! There's plenty to do in preparation for her arrival, but the one of the fun parts is the baby showers. I love getting to spend some time with friends, family and co-workers at the showers. Some of these people I don't see nearly often enough, so getting to see them and talk about everything from names, to diaper changing advice, to their labor stories is so much fun.
 
I have to share about one recent shower in my husband's hometown in North Alabama. It had several hostesses and they did such a great job with planning and decorating, and of course, food.

The overall theme was Sugar and Spice. The adorable invitation introduced the theme and the hostesses carried it throughout. The food table below feature pennant banners that said "sugar" and "spice"...
Baby Shower
...and the gift table featured a pennant banner that said "everything nice"
Baby Shower
 I love all the girly, pink patterns on the paper they used for the pennants. Of course the food was sweet and spicy too - they tied it in so well! The punch bowl even had a custom-made tu-tu - how cute is that? It was made from a baby headband (the stretchy kind) and tulle. So creative!
Baby Shower Punch Bowl Tu Tu
I also couldn't forget to show you the amazing cookies - they had flowers, onesies and simple squares, all perfectly decorated. I feel like cookies this pretty wouldn't taste good - you usually have one or the other - pretty or tasty. These were actually really delicious. I think I could have eaten 5...maybe that's the baby talking though!
Baby Shower Cookies
For fun, the hostesses did a bingo game where guests filled in a blank bingo sheet with gifts they expected I'd receive at the shower. Then, as I opened gifts, they marked off the ones I received, all trying to bingo first. It was a really great way to involve everyone while gifts were being opened. Bingo winners got Sweet Pea body wash, which was of course pink. Very fitting!
 
They also did this really cute activity for guests to contribute to involving diapers and messages. I've never seen it at a shower but would recommend it if you're planning one. Guests were encouraged to take a diaper (or multiple diapers), and write a message on it for Will and I to find during those late-night diaper changes. For fun, we haven't looked at them but I saw a few that were really funny like "hope it doesn't stink" and "what did you feed her??" I'm sure we'll be entertained by them soon enough!
Baby Shower Games
One of my hostesses made the cutest "corsage" for me to wear too. It had the bright pink that I love and some burlap with stripes (did you know I love burlap?). It was adorable!
Baby Shower Corsage
And for good measure, here's a shot of me with my sister-in-law to be, Emily and my sister-in-law, Carrie. They were some of the hostesses that helped make the shower such a fun success.
Baby Shower
And of course my husband Will had to come help load gifts after the shower was over:
Baby Shower
I had a really nice shower at work this week as well. I am blessed to be surrounded by co-workers who are as thoughtful and sweet at mine are. I unfortunately did not take any pictures but I can tell you everything was so perfectly coordinated and I loved getting to catch up with everyone. They did a great job and definitely spoiled baby girl! We have lots of moms that I know will be a great resource for all things baby, which I am thankful for.
 
More to come soon on the baby girl. We've still got plenty to do but we cannot wait for her arrival!

 
 
 
 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Weekend Beach Trip (and Lots of Good Food)

Last weekend, Will and I went to Destin, Florida, (one of the preferred Florida beaches if you aren't from the South) with some friends. It was a great "last chance" beach trip while I can still travel a little before our baby girl makes her debut. The weather was nice - not too hot yet. The ocean was cold but the pool at our resort was heated. We had a great time even though it was just a long weekend. We also had some great food, so here's all of that.
 
Friday night, we went to a tourist favorite that was close to where we were staying called The Back Porch. It's your general seafood restaurant and happens to be beach front so you get great views of the sand and surf. They have a nice deck, (and welcome customers walking up in swimsuits) but it was raining so we just sat inside by a window and watched the ocean. I chose not to do fish/seafood Friday night because I was being on the cautious side with my pregnancy and the allowed amount of fish each week. I also apparently chose not to take any pictures (sorry!) but I can tell you there were plenty of oysters, fish and hushpuppies. Apparently hushpuppies are a pregnancy craving for me - I ordered a side of them and ate way too many!
 
Saturday we spent some time on the beach in the morning and went to a local pizza place for lunch before hitting the beach again. It wasn't anything special but it was lunch. That night, we went and met some friends who happened to be in Seaside, a smaller beach town nearby, at Bud and Alley's, a popular bar and restaurant. Seaside is a picturesque beach where everything seems to be done just perfectly. Located right in the town square area of Seaside, Bud and Alley's is also beach front and full of beautiful views, and was packed. It was sunset time - check out the view from Bud and Alley's:
Bud and Alley's, Seaside, FL
And a selfie of Will and me at Bud and Alley's:
After a little bit there, we headed to Stinky's Fish Camp in nearby Santa Rosa Beach (All the beach towns run together, you know.) for dinner. It's a seafood restaurant that seemed to have a bit of a New Orleans twist. We had heard really good things about Stinky's and despite the name, we decided to give it a try. The good reviews we'd heard were right--the food was pretty amazing!
 
I'd saved up my "fish quota" (because of my pregnancy) for Saturday night so I indulged in everything from crawfish hushpuppies to crab cakes, seafood chowder to seafood stew. It was all delicious but my favorite by far was my entree, the seafood chowder. It was rich and creamy, full of shrimp and crab. It was completely satisfying and filling, and I just wanted to keep eating it. I would eat it right now again if I could!
Seafood Chowder at Stinky's Fish Camp
I also ordered the crab cake (appetizer) with my dinner. It was good, but the chowder was definitely the star.
Crab Cake at Stinky's Fish Camp
The crawfish hushpuppies were a favorite at the table and came with the perfect dipping sauce: 
Crawfish Hushpuppies at Stinky's Fish Camp
Will ordered Stinky's Stew, which is basically a seafood stew. He loved it! It was full of seafood - snow crab legs, shrimp, muscles, fish and oysters, along with corn, potatoes and tomatoes in a broth. As if that wasn't enough, it also came with a crab po-boy, which was barely touched because Will focused on the stew. Check out all that seafood:
Stinky's Stew at Stinky's Fish Camp
After all that food, I think we were all in a coma, but we were still up for a big brunch Sunday before heading back home. One of my friends we were with frequents Destin with her family and they have a tradition of going by The Donut Hole before leaving.
The Donut Hole, Destin, FL
They have donuts, hence the name, but also serve breakfast and brunch food. Drool over this bakery case with all their donuts in the back:
The Donut Hole, Destin, FL
and then drool over the pies:
The Donut Hole, Destin, FL
They are known for their key lime pies and even have a key lime pie filled donut. I wish I'd gotten that because I love key lime pie. Next time!
 
I think we all might have over-ordered based on the spread that arrived at our table, but it was really good. I went for breakfast food, Will went for brunch food and it looks like it was a mix from everyone else's food. Aerial views:
The Donut Hole, Destin, FL
 The Donut Hole, Destin, FL
There's something I just love about these aerial shots. Mabe the composition. Maybe just all the food!
 
We got donuts to go of course too--I got Blueberry Cake, which is my go-to donut favorite. I ate it on the way home. It didn't let me down!
 
This post turned out way long. Sorry about that--just too much yumminess to share! Do you vacation in Destin? Do you have Destin favorites that you go back to time after time?
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Caprese Kabobs

Spring is here for sure in Birmingham and I'm loving the warmer weather and longer days. With the warm weather comes lots of good fresh produce options, including tomatoes, one of my more recent favorites. You've probably heard of the Caprese Salad. It's a popular Italian appetizer consisting of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil, and usually some sort of sauce like a balsamic. Combining tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil creates the perfect combination of flavors and textures...not to mention the colors work together beautifully. This time of year is perfect for it with fresh tomatoes and basil leaves being so easy to find.

If you haven't tried it, I think you're about to; I tried a new recipe for Caprese Kabobs with the most delicious (and simple) Basil Vinaigrette dressing. I cannot wait to make it again! It's an impressive appetizer that takes a little time to assemble, but you'll be glad you did it.
Caprese Kabobs With Basil Vinaigrette
Here is the recipe:
Caprese Kabobs
Grape or Cherry Tomatoes
Ball of fresh mozzarella
Fresh basil leaves
Wooden skewers
 
Basil Vinaigrette (from Southern Living)
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (loosely packed)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic gloves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
 
Trim skewers to desired length.  To make them appetizer friendly, keep them to about 6 inches or shorter. Cut tomatoes in half. Slice mozzarella into small, bite size chunks. Thread a tomato half, mozzarella and basil leaf on each skewer, repeating as many times as needed to fill skewer. Leave some space at each end. Repeat until you have created as many as you'd like. Create more than you think you'll need--people will love these and eat more than you expect!
Caprese Kabobs With Basil Vinaigrette
For the Basil Vinaigrette, process the first 6 ingredients in the blender until smooth. Turn blender to high and slowly add remaining 3/4 cup of olive oil. Taste and adjust if needed.  
Basil Vinaigrette - Perfect for Caprese Salad or Kabobs
Generously drizzle the Basil Vinaigrette over your kabobs. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving for best flavor - you want to give the flavors time to incorporate.
Caprese Kabobs With Basil Vinaigrette
Caprese Kabobs With Basil Vinaigrette
Caprese Kabobs With Basil Vinaigrette
It's perfect for this time or year as well as the summer when you can find beautiful tomatoes at your local farmers market or the grocery. If you try the recipe, let me know what you think. Enjoy!