Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Honoring Mom


This past Saturday evening I decided to celebrate Mother's Day early with my family.  It was a beautiful night outside and a lovely time together as we honored Mom with some of my favorite homemade Mexican fare!


The table was set simply with feminine details that I thought Mom would appreciate like using my country rose china along with my everyday white dinner plates and glasses.  I found some pretty paper napkins to add color and simplify the clean up. 


For the centerpiece of the table I used a burlap runner that I folded in a bit, with a round wooden board as a base for a simple heirloom peony arrangement straight from our flower bed!  Peonies smell so good and the large flowers are stunning! I sent Mom and my sister home with one each to enjoy for the next few days. 


The views are so pretty out of our windows, so it's easy to look past the table and into the green yard beyond.  Last year when we moved into this house we changed out many of the light fixtures in this home including the one over the table.  I wanted to find a light that virtually disappeared so it wouldn't detract from the windows, and I think we achieved that when we ordered this one from Birch Lane after seeing a similar one on Fixer Upper (our favorite show!).  We love the simple elegance of the shape and the Edison light bulb that we have in it.  It's a favorite in my kitchen!



Stealing a kiss!


Here's a candid picture showing a mom's job is never done.  I appreciate my own mom soooo much more now that I'm one myself! 


The afternoon sun filled the kitchen as I was finishing up the meal.  I made some chicken fajitas with Cuban black beans, buttered lime rice, roasted corn and avocado salad, and homemade guacamole with chips!


Mom is the one who taught me that cooking for your family is more than just preparing food, but it's showing love to those around your table... making them feel nurtured and feeding their bodies with the rhythm of sitting around the table every night! I still absolutely love it when we're in each other's kitchen and we can cook together!!  We're constantly sharing recipes or new tips and tricks we've discovered in the kitchen!  She gave me this apron I have one about 5 years ago at Easter and has given me most of my favorite ones. She wears an apron almost everyday while cooking.

Mom is so very appreciative of my food and cooking as I am hers.  With us both being moms now, like I said before, we have a better appreciation and understanding of all that we do for our families and our homes. 

Many weeks I've found myself calling her or texting her to pray for me as I need wisdom in the newest struggle in parenthood or wondering if she ever felt like she would never again catch up on laundry when we were kids.  It's those real moments as an adult (especially as a wife and mother) where I realize I need mom now as much as I ever have!


We call ourselves 3 peas in a pod, because my sister, mom and I are so much alike!


This lovely lady has shaped so much of who I am from the time I was their tiny first born baby in her arms. 32 years of life and I've learned a thing or two along the way!

So much of the content I have on my blog from the recipes, the home décor, the love of beauty, talent of singing, and especially my love and passion for Jesus and my family has been encouraged and inspired by Mom!!! 

As I look back she and Papa have cheered me on in every stage of life from the second I thought I was a soccer player in middle school (ha) to the first time I ever lead worship at church and every time since I can honestly say they've prayed and encouraged me along the way. 

I want to honor Mom for who she is to me!


I only hope one day my children will be able to feel half the love and appreciation for me that I do for my wonderful mom! 

Just the way Granny (her mom) passed down to her and she passed down to me, I want to carry down the legacy of love for the next generations to look back and see that this family heritage was built on learning from each other and leaning on God one prayerful day at time!!!


"Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise."  Proverbs 31:31



Thursday, May 5, 2016

Summertime Roasted Corn with Avocado Salad


I'm excited to share with you a recipe from one of my newest cookbooks that I'm a huge fan of already!  First thing is first, this cookbook is fantastic.  It's called Seasons in the South and it's by a Georgia gal name Ginny McCormack.


I've fallen in love with how she almost tells a story through food!  The recipes are tried and truly Southern, and they're divided into the 4 seasons and by meal or occasions, which makes it more enjoyable to look through.  I'm a seasonal cook, and I've always appreciated the different seasons so it is delightful to find a cookbook like this one that divides the recipes that way!  The pictures are extraordinary in here.  Each spread has a large photo that's beautifully capturing the essence of the season through scenery, table-scapes, and the prepared recipe.



The cookbook is filled with bits of stories or quotes that apply to that particular season or the meal the recipe is in. It's really a delight to look through!

This is in no way a paid endorsement, but I want to pass my favorites along to you all.  This cookbook is definitely a favorite!



This roasted corn salad comes from the summer section of the book, and it is every bit as tasty as it sounds!  I made it for the very first time tonight, and I can honestly say my pictures don't do the flavor justice... It's sooo delicious!

Our son even asked for seconds.  For a salad!!
This dish is easy to put together and has ingredients in it that nod to a summertime picnic "on the grounds", as my family would say.  The corn is roasted in the oven and couldn't be simpler to prepare, but you can certainly grill it to take the flavor one step further.  There's something about the toasted flavor from the fresh corn alongside the spicy onion, bright tomato and creamy avocado that whisks you away to a tropical beach along the Mayan Riviera! The vinaigrette with citrus and spice isn't heavy at all but enhances all the flavors.

Get out some extra lemon and lime and make some delicious sweet tea or fresh lemonade to sip as you chop up the salad on these sun drenched evenings.  Fire up the grill and put on some steak, chicken or even fish tacos would be decadent with this on top!! I hope this will become your new favorite summer salad, I know it will be mine!



Roasted Corn with Avocado Salad
Adapted from: Seasons in the South

Salad:
6 ears corn, husks removed
olive oil for brushing
3c. grape tomatoes
1/2c. red onion, chopped (I had Vidalia so that's what I used.)
1/2c.green pepper, chopped
1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into small chunks
1/2c. fresh cilantro (I used flat leave parsley)
8 oz. feta cheese (I omitted this particular time.)

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a small bowl whisk together vinaigrette ingredients. Set aside.

Brush ears of corn with oil.  Place them on a baking sheet (I used a cast iron skillet.)and roast for about 30 minutes until they begin to brown. Line the pan with foil for easier clean up. I turned them a couple times. Allow to cool a bit before removing corn from the ears with a sharp knife.

In a mixing bowl, combine corn and all remaining ingredients.  Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Vinaigrette:
3/4 c. (extra virgin) olive oil
4 Tbsp. lime juice (I just had lemons so I used lemon juice.)
2 tsp. ground cumin
11/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper

Makes 8 servings


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Spring Decor & the Essence of Making a Home


Good morning and Happy May! 

I LOVE the month of May.  It's up there with October for me.


The beautiful, warm, spring weather that has made the grass come back and thicken up and the trees get their youthful green back to them is just my cup of tea... or coffee is more like it.  




Gorgeous flowers in their array of colors are coming back in my gardens and we've filled most of our pots with pretty annuals to adorn the otherwise stark patios on either side of the house.  


The hydrangeas are taking off and should start to bloom later this month, and I have about 12 (twelve!) peony plants that have stolen my heart!  The smell of those is captivating!


I'm always inspired to freshen up inside my house and brighten things up a bit. Putting away the plaids of winter and getting out my spring décor. 

Speaking of home décor, I wanted to show you what came in the mail this week!  We ordered some curtains for one of our long windows in the kitchen. My kitchen is filled with windows showcasing the views of our property and that's one of the reasons we were attracted to this house, but there are evenings at suppertime when the bursting sunset kindly blinds our eyes as we sit to eat.  Not fun.  So I found some perfectly cheery yellow buffalo check curtains from Country Curtains, and I am loving them!


Note that these kitchen pictures were taken on Monday and it was a dreary kind of day outside, so I didn't have the help of natural sunlight.

My mom and I have always liked the look of buffalo checks.  I think it has a very classic Southern feel and that's exactly what I was going for.  Mom has these exact curtains in the red buffalo check in her dining room, and I've always liked the way they hang and look adorning the window. I'm so pleased with the way they turned out in our kitchen! 


With the cream color on the walls the yellow curtains adds a sunny pop of color, and they really compliment the red accents I have.  My favorite color is red so I have many red accents and that's one reason I chose the yellow (technically they call it gold in the catalog), because I was afraid the red would compete too much.  I also like the classic pattern with out subway tile back splash. 

As you know, I don't have a strict "style" that I adhere too, but I do love farmhouse meets Southern.  

I've reread this last night and I was thinking about my "style" some more. I use that term loosely.  It's hard to even say, because instead of thinking sooo much about one style throughout the house I think of how I want that particular space to feel, if that makes sense.  Everything ends up working together I think, but it's probably not anything a designer would put together; because my home is personal reflection of us and and tells our story!

I just want to put things inside my house that please me and make a house a cozy place for us!  Those unique kind of finds, like the ones I have hanging here.  I LOVE collecting things from travels and "hole-in-the-wall" places we visit.  Layering things together add personality and character to a space.

This vintage strawberry tray came from a peddlers-antique mall in Louisville.  It's a favorite I pull out every spring and summer!  The cookbook is something my husband bought me last summer when we visited this very bakery -- The Back in the Day Bakery -- in Savannah, GA.  One of our favorite places to vacation is staying at a cottage on Tybee Island and strolling along the Spanish moss draped live oak tree-lined squares of the old city of Savannah!!!  It's like heaven on earth to us!  If you ever go to there, please do yourself a favorite and visit this delicious bakery!  It will be a special place to remember, and this cookbook has most of their recipes so it helps me to remember that very special morning all the time.


My husband most recently surprised me with this apron at beautiful shop at a winery in Southern Illinois.  The food and atmosphere at the restaurant is wonderful, but this shop was filled with unique finds!


I spotted this apron that used to be a skirt, and I just fell in love with the pattern and colors.  I knew it would be lovely in our kitchen, and so my husband surprised me by buying it for me!  (He's so much fun!!)  I think it's adorable hanging here next to the curtains.


Let me show you a few more little things here and there around my kitchen. My parents gave me this chalkboard at Christmas.  I enjoy being able to write messages or scriptures or songs to fill our soul with beauty and inspiration.




My favorite salt and pepper shakers that look like 2 love birds in a nest, a precious gift from my sister. 


This is how I keep my seasonal coffee mugs!  I love how I can display them all and it feels that much more special to choose one each morning to drink from. I collect mugs and use them like nothing else in the house... we are big time coffee drinkers!


YES!


Table is set for supper with my cornflower blue floral china and simple yellow cloth napkins. Store bought rotisserie chicken with smashed potatoes and green beans is the menu.  The yard looks vividly Irish green, doesn't it? Must be all the rain we've gotten. 


At last the sun decided to show up at least for a few moments, so I tried to capture it streaming in!



Home is what you make it. 

It really doesn't matter the size or the style or the views.  We've had almost all of this furniture and décor in a small 1,000 square foot house in the middle of a prairie field, a carriage house apartment over a friend's garage, and even a cape cod cottage in the city that had absolutely no view except for the next house about 30 feet away. 

It doesn't matter! I've always been determined to make a home, even since I lived in our first home as a married couple which was "college courts -- married housing" at the university that was nearly a one room 500 square foot apartment that literally hasn't changed one iota since it was built in the 1950s -- think post--nuclear fallout shelter, cinder block walls, etc.  I laid down colorful rugs over the cold industrial tile and instead of using the harsh fluorescent lights, I set out warm lamps in every space. I set my table for dinner each night, lit candles and put on music we enjoyed, and I made a home out of that sterile place!  Now we look back on those honeymoon days of marriage in our tiny place fondly! 

Home making is in the food we prepare and the coming together almost every night to the same table for supper.  It's the beautiful practice of breaking bread together, be it family or friends.


Home making is being resourceful. Instead of paying for an expensive fresh flower arrangement, snip branches from blooming trees or bushes like this red bud and forsythia.  Another favorite is hydrangea bushes or whatever lovely thing blooms outside in your yard.  Whether it's the homemade desserts or the deli's rotisserie chicken, the secret is in whatever brings the family together!


Homemaking invigorates the senses.  Candles, music, soft blankets, warm bread in the oven, delicious smelling hand soap. 

It's not fancy things. 

You can get an creative as you like, but it doesn't have to be pricey!  Go to the dollar store and pick up what you need, or get out your nicest gifts.  Actually burn that $25 dollar votive that smells like a dream when you're reading a book or you have a family dinner!  It's worth it.


Home making is creating an atmosphere!  Get an inexpensive chalkboard and paint the edges if you like, but there you can write on it something to inspire your family.  Put words in your home that mean something to you and that bring life! That's usually why I write a Bible verse, or lyrics from a worship song.  I have a couple chalkboards around the house for this reason.

Home making is personal.  Put your own personality in your home and then own it! It's your unique style that makes your home interesting and not straight out of a showcase.  I like unique so this is something that comes easy for me.

Home making is not perfection!  I live with a real family and we do life the way everybody else does! Lately I've been the hot mess mama just trying to finish homework in these last few weeks of school.  I've found myself running late almost everywhere I go and yes, I forget to throw out the not-so-fresh flowers before they get smelly! 

I've decided relationships in my life, people in my life, come before home décor! 

So that may look like taking the Christmas tree down a couple weeks late, not scrubbing the bathtubs every week, or having take-out instead of homemade meals...but home making is not perfection, so give yourself some grace!!

You should be proud of where you live. If you aren't, think of simple changes you can make and start with just one today.  It requires little resources, but just thoughtfulness and your own creativity. 

I just showed you a few of my favorite things give me bits of joy in my home, now what's some of yours?  How do you make your home a place your family enjoys?








Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Delicious! Chocolate Birthday Cake filled with Fluffy Marshmallow Frosting


Hello again!  We celebrated another child's birthday over the weekend! We threw our son a fun all-boy birthday party to celebrate 6 whole years of wonderful life! 


He invited some of his best buddies over for grilled hot dogs, cake and ice cream, and lots of playing!  This originally was going to be an outside campfire type party, and we were going to have a tent set up for the boys to play in. I had big ideas to be roast the hot dogs over the fire, have all the eating and playing outside the whole time, but it rained the night and morning of the party and a cold snap had come through... so we brought the party inside. 

Moms learn to roll with the punches, am I not right?!!!

That being said I simply decorated in colorful bandanas and my favorite birthday décor--balloons!  It was fun and just right for boys who honestly probably didn't care as much as I did.  I found some boxes of Avengers stickers and scattered them on the table along with chocolates.  No party bags to take home here, but the boys could have what they wanted of those fun little table tokens!


Our son requested a chocolate cake (his favorite), like he does every year, and I decided to make it myself instead of ordering a cute character cake this year.  It saved us a lot of money which made up for the time of making it, but really it just took me about 3 hours from start to finish. 


This may surprise you but I don't consider myself a super cake baker or decorator! So listen up Moms and Dads out there, give yourself a break and a little grace in the kitchen! 

Don't be intimidated by baking cakes!  If you want to make a birthday cake yourself, you can do it, and it doesn't have to look Pinterest perfect for it to be incredibly delicious!! I'm cheering you on!  It's easier to make a sheet cake, so if that's what you do--awesome!! The love that goes into a homemade cake goes a long way.

Since I enjoy baking and being creative in the kitchen, I decided to give his birthday cake a little twist by adding a delicious marshmallow frosting on the inside. That marshmallow frosting really made it special! The cake is semi-homemade as I used a box mix to help me out. Instead of going by the box recipe exactly I substituted melted butter for oil and used extra large eggs.  Extra large eggs are key when baking cake. 



I made our very favorite homemade fluffy chocolate buttercream and topped it with a mound of cheerful M&Ms!  What's not to love about a candy topped cake filled with marshmallow frosting?  I made it the day before frosting and all, and I wrapped and stored in the fridge for the day of the party.  I got it out about 2 hours prior to the party beginning so it could come to room temperature again.  Needless to say, it was a hit!!!  A couple moms wanted the recipe, because it came out so moist and the taste was outstanding! I will definitely be making this very cake again, so I thought I had to share the easy recipe with you!

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Butter cream Icing and Marshmallow Filling
This makes a 3 layer cake. Serves 15-20 people.

For the Cake:

2 boxes of Chocolate-Fudge cake mix (I think I used Duncan Hines)

Follow the box's directions in making these with just a couple alterations.  Use extra large eggs and substitute melted real butter for oil. The proportions will be the exact same of butter for oil.  This will make the cake taste incredible. 

Carefully pour the batter evenly into 3- 8 in. round pans.  (You may have extra batter, and if you do simply make a few cupcakes!) Bake according to the box directions until a toothpick comes out almost entirely clean. Cool a few minutes before turning the cakes out carefully.  Allow them to cool completely!

At this point, if they look a little lopsided and you want a professionally even looking cake, use a bread knife and gingerly cut off the tops to make them more flat and even. They don't have to be perfect because the filling and icing covers a multitude of cake sins! Once this is done, you're ready to add the marshmallow filling evenly between the layers and then frost the cake.  When frosting I usually work from the top of the cake down.

For the Marshmallow Frosting (filling):

1 jar Marshmallow fluff
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 c. heavy cream (you may not need all that)
1/2 tsp. real vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and marshmallow fluff together well.  Add the vanilla extract and then begin adding the cream and sugar alternately ending with the powdered sugar. Only use as much cream to keep it creamy but not too thin.  This is a filling so we don't want it to be runny or oozing out the sides too much, but don't over think it!  Beat it all well and set aside until you're ready to frost.



Me and the birthday boy!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Life!


Friends, it has been way too long.  It's been a very busy year this far!  "All good things, all good things!", as Olaf would say, but I really haven't had any spare time to sit, upload photos and write what's been on my heart or in my kitchen.  I've recently received a few kind notes from some of you since I haven't written in a while, so thank you for your concern! You know I don't often think of my blog as having too much of a following, but I do think I have meaningful followers.  For that I appreciate YOU!:)  Your reading keeps me writing even when life calls!  Speaking of my life...
 
Let's go back the beginning in those winter January days and let me bring you up to speed.  I thought I would share through pictures more than words, because they say a picture speaks 1,000 of them.

First let me say this:  

This winter has been one the best winters I've had since my childhood! 

It's been full of good memories and blessings for my husband and I and for our family.  We have a lot to be thankful to God for in the big and small.

So here we go...


Soups!  I made lots of them.  Cozy white bean and spinach soup here.


And these incredible Cuban black beans.  Oh, my goodness. I took these to a Latin themed dinner that our friends had with succulent Cuban pork with chimichurri sauce and plantains!  Sigh...it was comfort food good for the soul! The next day I added chicken broth to make a soup with the leftovers... and that was delicious.

Did I say that I love soup!?


I also love snow!  This picture was the biggest snowfall we got this season.  It came about the 3rd week of January and brought around 6 beautiful, fluffy inches.  That may not sound like much to you Northerners, but it's a good amount for the South.


We really enjoyed snow days cozy in our new home!  The property was gorgeous and serene like I hoped it would be.


We even have a little hill just big enough for a little sledding and snow boarding!  Yes, I snowboarded for the first time, and it was awesome!! Here's our smallest snow bunny doing her sweet thing!



Mr. Cozy and I were able to visit a favorite coffee shop of ours! It's in Louisville and it's called Quills. Please go there if you live near there or just passing through. You'll probably find a lot of students inside studying, but there is a quaint spot of a patio outside between the buildings that is really nice to sit and relax. They have superb coffee and a really friendly staff.  We brought our friends there to experience the perfect warm sipper, the Alchemist.  It's sweet and spicy and frothy and wonderful in a gulp! We all agreed it's one of the best coffee drinks there is, and beautiful too!


Here I am with the kids relaxing a little in the sun room on a snowy morning.  This was a sweet moment.

I love those two amazing kids more than words!

They really bring charisma into our house, but sometimes they're the ones who also bring...depth.  They see life up close and are so good about sharing that experience with us big people.



Cappuccino muffins with espresso glaze! Our favorite muffin on a snow day, or any day!!!



Snow day activities.


This is a special memory!

Here we are now in February, and our baby girl turned 5 years old!  She had the quintessential girly-girl birthday!   We threw our daughter a "flower" party!!


It was precious in every way. 

For the little girls I got out my different floral dishes and my butterfly napkins.  Jars filled with silk flowers and Spanish moss, antique plates, candles, silver and burlap!

I wanted it to really feel like a young ladies garden party for her and her friends.  The girl in me really came out while I decorated for it, and it was so much fun!  Flowers, fresh and silk, were arranged all around the house.


She couldn't have been happier. Or more beautiful!!!


Strawberry cake from the best place in town.


She wore her sweet birthday hat she's worn at every party for the past 3 years when she blew out her candles!  Some things don't need to change.


Y'all, here is a special photo!  From the left to right is my Granny (mom's mom), yours truly, my sister Faith, and my mom.

I am so proud of these women I call family!!!  My Godly, good cookin and good lookin heritage all together in my kitchen!  What a precious moment, and I'm so glad we got a picture of it.


A couple days after the party and the lemonade jar is clean but still out along with some March flowers.


It's smoothie time! I make a fruit smoothiealmost every day for me and whatever child is home, because they love them. 


I had little helpers at Kroger recently, even baby Lula came along! Hehe.  This was the first time I've gone to the grocery and have been brave enough to let both kids have their own carts!! I prepared them before hand to make sure no sweet elderly lady would be plowed down, and sure enough they did a wonderful job! They were a help, but the sweetest thing was to see how proud of themselves they were.


A beautiful morning to behold.


We have caught up to just last week. We had monsoon rain for 3 day straight.  It was one of those stretches of gloomy days that I'm not a big fan of, but I made the best of them.  I decided to snap some pictures of my kitchen without any frill or seasonal decor at all. This is the only time of year you will see that, because you know I love nesting. My house isn't decorated for anything right now, but I'm about to put out my spring this week!



Vintage towels that were a birthday gift from my Grandmother, who also gave me this antique wash stand that was passed down to me. It's really a lovely piece in the kitchen, and it adds a great sense of nostalgia and soul to the room itself.







One of my favorite things, and we have enormous amounts of them! March flowers are blooming all around here!  They're such a happy flower, and a symbol that indeed spring is very near again!  This house was build on an old farm, and I can tell by all the old fashioned March flowers and irises coming up all over the yard!


The Noah's Ark week we had last week has paid off....
God surely knows what He is doing, because the everything is prettier than ever and the green has finally arrived!!


Yesterday I walked down the driveway and snapped these (unfiltered) pictures nearing sunset.  I was almost overwhelmed by the natural beauty!  The grass and moss on the ground is vibrant.



Huge puddles of rain is all that remains. 

What a good reminder that it's usually the rains of life  that can bring the most beauty and growth once the storm has passed.  God has a purpose for everything!






Kitty needed to play in the stream like a child needs to splash in a puddle! He really enjoys when we're outside as a family, and I'm sure he is also thankful to be dried out and fluffy again!  We've had several cats over the past 10 years, but he is the very best one we've had.


Home sweet home in our very own Kentucky "shire".


Smiles all around!


So here as I sit and write, it's a warm, beautiful spring like day outside and winter has passed. At least here in my little place in the world.  My daughter turned 5 last month and my son is turning 6 this month! We've been on 2 retreat weekends as a couple and we've had friends and family in our homes for suppers, parties, snow days, Sunday afternoon visits, campfires and the like. I have painted and finished a few more projects around the house. Our son has played basket ball as a Little Dribbler for the first time this season. We are back in ministry at our church and it had been such an answer to prayer to be on the worship team leading and serving once again! He has brought the dearest of golden friends back into our lives that we do life together, and given us new and wonderful friends that feel like old ones already.  He has given our children so many precious little friends that warms my heart.  My family lives all around, and we're almost always celebrating something. No family loves celebrating joys in life together more than mine.  That's where my zest for life must come from!


I'm not sure what exactly God has in store this year, but I'm sure it will include more muffins, more puddles to splash.

More flowers to pick and more weeds to pull.

More scrapes to aide and more stories to read. 

More mundane rainy days and more dates with my groom.

More candles to blow and more crumbs to clean.

More homework to teach and more chores to remind.

More songs to sing and more people to pray for.

More answers to prayer and more reasons to praise!

Because no matter what "it" is that keeps me busy it will primarily involve my people.

Those ones that are placed in my care, because it's what we do every single day that really makes, Life.



I hope it won't be so long this next time!  How is your year going so far?  What have I missed?  I would love to hear. :)