Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Changes in My House, and the Reason Behind It All

Recently, I had a blog follower of mine ask me to post more pictures of my home again, because she liked my posts on decorating the house.  It's been a very long time since I've shared photos of inside the house!  I thought she was so kind to say that, but I couldn't help but feel I had nothing at all to show!  For a long time I made no changes whatsoever. 

After adopting our (then) 2 yr. old daughter and 3 yr. old son and becoming a stay at home mom last year, my entire life has basically been devoted to the adjustment of my new precious sweet peas.   Just keeping up with day-to-day housework was more than enough of a challenge!  My priorities have had to change while my schedule at home has been not about myself but about my children, learning their ways, and bonding as a family unit.  That's what God had called me to devote my entire first year towards. A sacrifice that ultimately has been so very worth it when I look at those faces and see it's somehow my whose attention they want!  And our house is where they'd rather be!  That's what I wanted and how we planned for it to be, but that means my home decor has been put "on the shelf" for the past year, as I've just tried to keep up with life!

Well, the last couple of months I've felt a positive shift in myself and in our family dynamic.  I'm becoming more comfortable in my blessed role as mommy, my children are bonding to us on a deeper emotional level, and I'm embracing our new routine better than ever!  Also with small thing, like with summer being here, the kids play in our fenced back yard and that gives me time to be in the living room and watch them while folding laundry, cleaning, blogging(!) or getting other things accomplished that just frankly didn't get done last winter.


This means, I've slowly been able to start bringing in other things I used to enjoy back into our life.  We've opened up our home to more friends inviting again (without anxiety) over for dinner or dessert, and I've been able to pay more attention to the cleanliness and decor of my home.  This is a great feeling!  Balance is the key here!  Family obviously comes first, but finding ways to also spruce things up brings out the homemaker side of me, gives me an outlet of sorts, and allows my kids to watch me do things that set a good example for them!  I think it's good for children to also see that mommy and daddy have talents or passions to pursue... Only not at their expense.

This picture just makes me smile!  Mr. Cozy buys fresh flowers to keep in the house at least once a month, but I think these bright and cheery sunflowers may be my favorite yet!  

So, I'll show you around our living room and point out some if the recent changes we've made!  I was feeling tired of the dreariness in this room after bring cooped-up at home all winter, and was itching to spruce it up--on a budget, of course!
I knew I wanted some new pillows for the couches.The other ones we've had for years!  I asked him about me buying some for our (old) couches to give them a second wind, and he agreed it would be much easier to spend $100 on pillows then a couple thousand on new couches at this time.

 .... Off to my favorite Home Goods I went.  My (amazing) husband even kept the kiddos so I could think clearly to make a good decor decision. Haha, I still have trouble multi-tasking --especially in public--with the kids, so his offer felt generous and was much appreciated!

I came across these great down-filled pillows.  (I already had the green scripted ones.)  When I saw the yellow ones with the gorgeous white embroidery, I knew I had to have them.  I'm loving yellow accents, and these are just gorgeous!  At $20 a pillow, I thought that was well worth it for 2 of them!  Then I found these beautiful deep blue pillows with the white hexagonal pattern.  After walking around the store with the pillows in my cart I thought about how they would look in the space, and I finally decided they would be the right choice.  They add a new sophisticated look that would give an eclectic design to my cozy-casual couches.  The blue pillows came in pairs, and I bought two pairs (4 pillows) for about $25 a pair.  In total I bought 6 pillows for $90 plus tax.  Score!  I couldn't wait to go home and try them out...

I was excited by how much they transformed our old couches and added a whole different feel to my living room.  I've never added blue to my decor, but this deep navy is gorgeous!  I stood back and admired the red, white, and blue and realized how patriotic my living room looks for summer!  

The next big project were these shutters.  Mr. Cozy and I devoted a day last month to work on them.  We brought them up where they were just sitting in storage in the basement.  We began scraping, priming, and painting these shutters that were completely worn out and originally belonged on the front door of our cape cod style home.  We didn't want to use them outside, so I thought in the house as a design element would make them even more unique!  The work payed off because, we love how they turned out!  We hung our large family print over the shutters, and now the room is not only brightened but that wall has more interest and dimension!  It was a fun spring project to finish.  Also I think the yellow and white pillow is adorable next to the yellow dress I have on in the picture, too.  It was meant to be:) 

My precious mom came for a visit last week and she gave me this adorable pillow as a gift, to brighten my home with some loving cheer!  

I am in love with this darling pillow!  

What's not to love about a brightly colored, burlap pillow with a chevron striped heart flower and the words, "you are loved!" written on it.  This pillow means more to me than you can imagine, friends!  Mom is so thoughtful!  It came from Peniques, in Murray.

I  don't have a close-up picture, but I painted the round side table by the couch the same pale color as the shutters.  It was a very deep wood tone that was original, but dreary and too dark for the room.  Now it's more of an elegant show piece that would cost much more than we paid!  I think that table was bought for about $25 at an antique store, plus the cost of primer and paint.  It would sell for way more in a store!

I wanted to show you my 4th of July wreath I just put together.  I especially like the fun chevron red ribbon I found at Hobby Lobby!  Now the colors in this also look cute with the red walls and new blue pillows.  I certainly have a summer color scheme going on!

The living room is our hub.  A place my husband play music, and our son can "play" along, too!  Look at how he is growing!  My precious boy.

It's also a place I find time to myself some days while the kids nap.  Yesterday it was a coffee and Irish chocolate sort of afternoon as the summer storm was rolling in.  From time to time, I think every mom needs a little time like this.  Give me a just an hour of quiet with my coffee, and I almost feel like I'm on vacation!

Lastly, the living room is a place to jump and play if you're this little girl!  It's a place for her sing aloud, to rock baby dolls, do gymnastics or sit and cuddle with me! 

Everything I'm doing now is for this sweet little face.  God has given me a husband and a whole family to pour my life into!  His goodness is abundant!  

A clean and freshly decorated house is ultimately for my family to enjoy!  I want to provide them with a cozy, safe haven where God is exalted foremost.  I also want our children to grow up appreciating the beauty of a home well taken care of, so one day my daughter will know how to do the same for her family, too!

Before I go...
Here's the new, beautiful lamppost my husband installed all himself!  He can truly do whatever he sets his mind to!  I love how it lights our path and adds a glow to our entry in the evenings.

The door is also new.  This spring we had a break-in where the burglar destroyed the frame and hurt the door badly.  (It was awful, but God had us to not be home!) I love our new door with the lantern, and new landscaping my hubby also did.  

Thank you Honey for working hard at work and home!  

Friends, thank you for coming to my home. I appreciate every time y'all read my blog when there are so many grander more beautiful ones out there.  I pray my home will exude love we have and a comfy-cozy look more than anything!   Have a wonderful day!!!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Summertime Strawberry Icebox Cake

Summer is officially here!!!  

Our family is so happy about that.

This is the season iconic for it's hot, humid days filled with sunshine and muggy nights lit by stars and twinkling fireflies!

Relaxed schedules with easy-going mornings begin the day and late nights outside with later bed times for kids and parents alike!

Swimming, beach towels, popsicles, the scent of coconut, lemonade, watermelon, baseball, the county fair, and the drive-in movies make their way into our lives like a brand new dress we can't wait to try on!!

The itch for vacation, staycations, long weekends, and road trips, finally come to fruition as we've waited through to the end of the school year.
The food gets a little bit lighter, fresher, and healthier as farmer's markets come alive and family gardens over flow with tomatoes and other delectable vegetables and fruit.

Although we love tradition and look forward to the season's favorites, summer seems to whisper, change.  

We are ready to try a new or the latest ... Haircut, paint color, polish color, bathing suites, book series, and recipes!

Speaking of food, this no-bake dessert is a true taste of fresh summer fare!  Strawberries, whipped cream, and graham crackers are layered up and topped with a drizzle of chocolate before getting comfy together in the fridge.  This is a very easy dessert to make, because you basically just layer everything up and it requires no oven.  The texture is obviously different than a regular cake, but more like a pie or trifle.  Best of all, it's really delicious!!  Refreshing strawberries, creamy whipped cream, sweet graham crackers that become soft and of course chocolate that's always a good match with... Anything! 

My family raved over this one and seconds may have been had. :)

Strawberry Icebox Cake with Chocolate Drizzle
Original recipe from: The Actors Diet

1 box graham crackers
2 lbs. strawberries
2 containers Cool Whip or *homemade whipped cream* 
1 c. Bittersweet chocolate chips or 1 bar of chocolate, melted (I used Ghirardelli)

Homemade Whipped Cream (if using):
With a mixer, beat a quart of cold heavy whipping cream with about 1 T. Sugar and 1 t. pure vanilla extract until you achieve a firm whipped cream.  Please don't make butter, just watch it. :) Set this aside until ready to assemble.

Get out a 9x13 inch dish.
Slice the strawberries.  
Spread a layer of whipped cream on the bottom of the dish, next a layer of graham crackers; then more whipped cream, strawberries, and so on with the layers so you end with strawberries on the top.  Drizzle on the melted chocolate all over. 
Refrigerate for 4-12 hours. 
Eat up soon, but that's the really easy part!

**The original recipe calls for Cool Whip, but I whipped homemade cream.  This way it tastes best to be eaten over the next 12 hours or so after assembling, but it's oh-so good.  Also, I didn't have to use quite an entire box of crackers.  Lastly, use whatever kind of chocolate is your favorite, to drizzle over top.  (You can't go wrong with chocolate.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Very Berry Cobbler

Just imagine for a minute...
Summer berries tossed in good ole white sugar and a dash of cinnamon.

Piled into a dish topped with buttery crust and washed with frothy egg. 

Showered in a veil of sugar.

Baked until the crust is golden and crisp, and the fruit is bubbly and oozing from it's pockets.

That dear Friends, is very berry cobbler, and it's a cinch to make.  

Even easier to EAT!!

That said...

Very Berry Cobber
Serves 6

1 pkg. of Frozen mixed berries + extra 1 c. Frozen strawberries, since I love strawberries (Yes, frozen. I said easy!)

1/2 c. granulated sugar

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

Dash of ground cinnamon

1 of your favorite pie crust (I had homemade pie dough in the freezer from months ago.  I use Pillsbury refrigerated usually.)

1 egg

2-3 tsp. granulated sugar

In a large bowl mix frozen berries, sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch together.  Pour into a buttered 8 or 9 inch pie pan.

Roll out your dough generously in flour, if using homemade.  Carefully place overtop.... Imperfect crust is beautifully rustic!

In a small bowl whisk together one egg and a splash of water.  Brush all over the crust.  (You will have leftover egg.) Sprinkle sugar all over to finish.
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 45-50 minutes or until crust is very golden.  Allow to cool for about 20 minutes before digging in this rustic cobbler.  Enjoy a bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Leslie's Easy Eggplant Parmesan

Our family LOVES chicken or eggplant Parmesan when it's done really well!  

(Pssst... Tyler Florence has the best recipe.)

This eggplant parm is delicious too, and something I can throw together quickly.  Granted, I tend to make homemade marinara sauce a lot so it doesn't take me long, but here I use "semi homemade" because I also add in a jar of marinara sauce.  If you're very short on time, just use the jarred sauce and it's still really good.  No judging here! ;)

This may recipe may sound like it should be complicated, but when using already sliced and breaded eggplant, that eliminates all the work that goes into preparing it.  This sauce is hearty and full of flavor!  Let it simmer on low or put in the crock pot on low to meld together in richness and flavor all afternoon!  It would smell great to come home to after church or work.  If you cook the eggplant and pasta while the sauce simmers, it saves a lot of time.

Good timing is essential when cooking! 

We enjoy this meal with a salad and sometimes salty garlic rolls, but last night I chose sautéed summer squash instead.  Delicious!  Enjoy for yourself!

Heads up:  This recipe is original to The Cozy Little Kitchen, and those of you who have followed long enough know most of my recipe ingredient portions are somewhat guesstimated.  It's just how I was raised to cook, so adjust seasoning to your own liking!

Easy Eggplant Parmesan
Serves: 4-6

1 jar of favorite marinara sauce (no meat please) I happened to have Prego Garden Veggie

1 large can of diced tomatoes undrained or crushed tomatoes (depending if you like a chunky or smooth sauce)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Or 2 cloves Minced Garlic (I used pre-minced in the jar.)

1/2 medium onion or about 3/4 c. diced (I used pre chopped frozen onion.)

1 Tbsp. Tomato paste

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

Dash of crushed red pepper

1 tsp. Sugar

Salt & Pepper

1 lb. pasta, cooked according to directions (I used more like 2/3 the box, but we like saucy pasta!)

Frozen breaded Eggplant Cutlets (I used Trader Joes brand.)

Mozzarella cheese, about 1 1/2 cups

Parmesan cheese, about 1/2 cup

Basil leaves for garnish

Set a large pot over medium heat and add a couple swirls of oil around the pot. Once hot, add the onion and cook until soft and tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute before adding the canned diced tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir together until tomato paste is blended.  Add the Italian seasonings, crushed red pepper, sugar, and generous salt and pepper (to taste!).  Allow this to simmer for a few minutes before adding the entire jar of marinara sauce.  Stir together and taste to see if anymore salt or pepper needs to be added.  Sometimes here I add a splash of EVOO for good measure and extra richness. Put the lid on a simmer for about 25-30 minutes on med-low heat.  Stir occasionally.  I use a heavy glazed cast iron pot to ensure it doesn't scorch.

While that simmers, preheat the oven according  to directions on the frozen eggplant box.  Place the eggplant on a sheet tray lightly sprayed with oil or lined with parchment paper.  

Bake the eggplant according to directions.  Mine was about 18 minutes.  Bake on a rack in the middle of the oven to get them crispy.

Once the eggplant is done, spoon some of the finished marinara sauce right over the eggplant while still on the sheet tray.  Sprinkle with cheeses and place basil leaf on top.  Bake another 3 minutes or until melted.

While that's in the oven, add cooked and drained pasta to remaining marinara sauce in the pan and stir together.

To serve it up, ladle a portion of saucy pasta in your large bowl, and place 2 eggplant Parmesan on the top!

Voila!  Enjoy.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Friends, Food, and Fun!

A couple weeks ago we had some of our friends from church over for a long over-due gathering!  We had dinner at one of their homes last April (2013) and since then one of the couples got pregnant and just had their baby, and we now have two children, so it took us over a year to reunite--and it felt so good!! (Hehe... I had to.). So our little group had grown from 6 adults with two kids to 5 kids!  What a blessed year and so much to catch up on!

Since we all have families of our own, these gathering with friends --or any other for that matter--is extra special.  So, I decided to make the table setting casual but elegant to reflect just how special this time together was.

I used my new dishes that I am in love with!  Almost 10 years with our other "everyday" dishes, and surviving about 7 moves, let's just say they have more chips than a Lays bag!!  The new dishes are elegant and yet simple.  The cream color goes with everything well, and we bought them at my favorite store Home Goods!  Hurrah for a good price!  I used cream and yellow cloth napkins along side.

Mr. Cozy bought me some gorgeous roses that I put in the silver pitcher as a simple centerpiece.  I placed the arrangement on a cut glass platter to anchor it and add more antique feel that I like so much.  I kept the candlesticks we got for our wedding on the table, but forgot to light them.. Boo.  In the small lotus dish there you see an herb butter for the rolls or corn on the cob.

The kid's table was kept colorful and easy! Disney paper plates and paper napkins on our little card table.  It was pretty cute!  I think it makes the kids feel big when they get to talk amongst each other at their own table.  (Granted the ones seated were just 2-6 years.)  The new baby slept through most of the meal, although I did get to hold her quite a bit!! I love babies... Preciousness!

I used an old vintage runner passed down from my husbands great grandmother as a simple table dressing.  It's actually supposed to be used on a fireplace mantle, and that's why it's asymmetrical. It reminds me of the handmade linens we saw while in Switzerland! 

It was a beautiful evening outside, and good thing since Mr. Cozy was grilling the food!  He grilled the BEST chicken and corn on the cob in the husk.  What a good man:). I cannot wait(!) to give you this marinade recipe next.  It's just so delicious and more flavorful than any I've had.  Marinating in this for 2 hours tastes like you have all day long.  Yummy!

I also made The Pioneer Woman's baked beans, which were divine!  I am a baked bean fan and every summer gathering in my family requires good homemade baked beans.  These sure fit the bill!  No simply heating up a can of pork and beans around here.

Also, another personal favorite, PW's mashed potatoes..   Oh my gosh!  Cream cheese.  Need I say more!?

I've ran out of pictures, but i also made PW's rosemary rolls which my mom introduced me to. YUM!!!  Molly brought a delicious fresh strawberry-spinach salad to round out the meal.  We made Ninth Street House tea (also known asHouse of Grace) to drink and coffee for after dinner.  For dessert I made my Strawberry Shortcake Trifle, which the recipe is on the blog already.  Always a winner!

Anyways, we had such since night laughing and sharing stories and food, drinking coffee and passing around the baby.  It's so very nice to be reminded I can still have people over for dinner despite the sometimes craziness of being a mom. I felt like a real friend again, hahaha. (Does that make sense?)  This was the first "big" dinner we've put on since having the children, and it was a good feeling!  The kids loved having friends come to play with, so everyone was happy!  They were all so cute together.

I went to bed that night feeling very joyful and satisfied with a full heart.  New memories with friends as an entire family. A sense that our life is settling back into more a good groove a year after getting the children!

hope to post some of these yummy recipes here soon... Especially the chicken marinade.  I hope you all are having a beautiful start to summer, too! Have a blessed day!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Overnight Cinnamon- Pecan French Toast

What a beautiful May morning to round out the wonderful month it has been!  Mr. Cozy has been on vacation for almost 2 weeks now, and he's about finished with his second year of residency!  Can I get an AMEN and praise my sweet Jesus for this??!  We've had so much fun together as a family this month.  I celebrated Mother's Day officially as a first-time mom to our two precious kids, but all of that is for another blog post!

This morning we ate this scrumptious overnight French toast bake topped with farm fresh strawberries and real Pennsylvania maple syrup!  What a dreamy breakfast to eat on the patio with the family.  

This French toast bake is a great idea for a special breakfast to make ahead of time so your morning can be spent being with the people you love instead of just being in the kitchen.  It comes together quickly the night before and rests in the fridge.  All the bread pieces soak up the brown sugar and butter on the bottom of the pan and the vanilla-cinnamon  custard poured overtop!  It's sprinkled with chopped pecans for the crunchy finish I love, but you can leave those out if you like.  In the morning it bakes until puffed and golden, and it's ready to eat with your favorite syrup or fruit and whipped cream... Or a little of it all!

We enjoyed it with sliced cantaloupe and a mug of dark roast coffee while the kids had cold milk.  I hope this is a breakfast you will find the time to make on one of these lovely summer mornings! 

Overnight Cinnamon-Pecan French Toast Bake
Adapted: Virginia Willis, Bon Appetite Y'all

1 loaf Italian, French, Challah, or Brioche 
3/4 c. Brown sugar
4 Tbsp. Butter, melted
8 Eggs
1 c. Milk (I used skim)
1 Tbsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Apple Pie Spice
Pinch of Salt
1/2 c. Chopped Pecans

Topping (Optional): Maple Syrup, Fruit, Whipped Cream 

Cube the bread into 1 inch pieces.  Set aside.  Combine the melted butter and sugar and pour into butter 9x13 in. pan and spread out.  Put the cubed bread on top.

Combine the eggs and remaining custard ingredients and whisk together until well combined.   Pour this all over the bread and lightly push down bread to soak into egg mixture.  Sprinkle pecans over the top.

Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for 3-13 hours.  Take out of fridge and sit for 20 minutes before baking in a 350 degrees oven for 30-45 minutes. (I baked 45 minutes.)

Cut into squares and enjoy warm with your favorite topping.

** I like to put my cold French toast bake in the oven as it preheats to prevent the dish from cracking.  Therefore I bake it the full time, and it saves time letting it come to room temp first!

The creator of this recipe, Virginia Willis is the real deal!  She is classically French trained Southern style chef!  So take it from me, this is yummy!!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

His Mercies Are New

I absolutely love writing in the solace of the morning, so here I am again...

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'  The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  It is good that one should wait patiently for the salvation of the LORD. "
Lamentations 3:22-26

This scripture was written by the prophet Jeremiah during a very hard time for the Jews.  A time that was filled with tragedy and sorrow.  In the midst of what is known as a rather depressing book in the Bible, he pens these words of hope that come out of his heart from God.  

These words of life and hope are what the prophet chose to meditate on amidst otherwise very dark times!  I had this verse on my mind this morning, because I'm so thankful for new mercies every day, but as I read deeper in the chapter, it's amazing to see how such peaceful words came about in a time devoid of peaceful circumstances.  That same inner peace is what I am accepting from God, and that is truly a peace that passes all understanding!  

The dew is fresh and the air is still cool, as I'm here sitting outside on my patio in my PJs, (warmest) robe, with a cup of favorite dark roast Caribou coffee.  I've been talking to my Lord, and I'm thanking Him for the wonderful things I have in my life, and the promises He's fulfilled!  My marriage, children, house, my personal growth in knowing God, and so much more than I have time for now.

Thanking Him for carrying me in the times I couldn't lift my head from the fog of worries and fear.  When Psalm 91 was my air in the day, and blanket of security at night.

For the future and hope He has for my family that I have yet to know!  While there are crossroads we'll meet, and bridges to cross, the Holy Spirit will continue to comfort and direct us along the way.  There is not even one place we could ever go in our mind, or heart, or on the earth that is out of reach for God to meet us there.

I'm sitting in wonder at the incredible beauty that all my senses are soaking in! Just sitting in the small part of the world that He has given Heath and I to live.

admire the old yet strong, steady, heaven-reaching oak that stretches his massive branches up and into about 4 different yards surrounding us.  It has endured years of storms and change, yet keeps growing!

The flowers so delicately formed, so varying in color, so dependent on the water I give in order to stay fresh.

The squirrel families who chase or dance from branch to branch and tree to tree with all the energy my own two "squirrels" wake up with each day!

The chirps of birds in the neighborhood singing a song about something that invites me to want to be a part of.   Maybe it's the tune of their babies hatching or perhaps it's their own way of celebrating God's creation!  Either way, it's a lovely sound.

The once orderly patio that now parks a pastel pink tricycle and Spider-Man bike, is waiting for eager little feet to jump on and find roly-polies to play with. The stack of coloring books with a jelly jar of well-used crayons waiting for innocent hands to make their black and white pages come to life.  The crumbs on the table from last night's supper eaten on the patio.

There is no denying God exists, when we take a moment to truly look at what is going on around us.  He will not only open our eyes but fill our senses with new wonders every single morning, if we just ask Him to!  

Speaking of new, I'm crazy thankful that His mercies are brand new every morning!  My heart and soul (cup) can be filled over and over to overflowing and I can once again receive His joy, peace, hope, love, patience, forgiveness, grace, direction, & wisdom .....

New every morning, Friends!  The God of Wonder gives us new mercies!!  

Let us wake up and come to Him laying our doubts and trials at the cross, at His feet.  Let us accept His free gift of forgiveness, love and peace in order to live the life He has planned for us.  At His feet, freedom is found!  There are no limitations to God using a humble heart who is free in Christ and willing to serve Him!  

Today is --again-- a new day for me, and today I choose to accept the gift of mercy and peace!

My coffee is gone and though I could go on and on, my sweet ones are waking up!  Excuse me as I use my new portion of His love on my family this beautiful spring morning!