Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving to all of my blog-readers. I have always loved this holiday. I have to admit that this year my week leading up to the holiday has been for some reason a very stressful one...I have had minor disasters, crazy busy days, and lots of day-to-day "what next" moments. But even in the midst of this I know I should be so thankful... We always spend this holiday with Craig's family and they make a huge spread! However, Monday, I attempted to make a mini-thanksgiving day meal for my parents so that I could choose some of my traditional favorite Thanksgiving foods. I didn't think of the fact that I would be home alone with the kids all day and the preparations wouldn't go as smoothly as I had imagined...still, it all turned out okay. (I say "okay" because I had planned on another dish that didn't get made, and on setting a much more elaborate table, but we didn't quite get to that.)

I made "holiday brew" or a spiced punch. I call it wassail (you know like "here we come-a-wassailing among the leaves so green...") I thought maybe I had made this name up so I googled it, and it is an actual name for this punch. At any rate, it is Cran-Apple juice with a blend of holiday spices and cinnamon that is served hot.  I also made an appetizer that is quite unusual for me. I bought mushroom caps and stuffed them with an imitation of The Melting Pot's "Green Goddess" dip. Its unusual because I don't care for mushrooms, but I have found a way that I love them! I think I'll try them again and attempt to perfect the recipe even more.

There was turkey - of course! However, since this meal was only for three people I simply bought a turkey tenderloin and baked it. It wasn't as yummy as the traditional Thanksgiving turkey in my opinion but it was really flavorful and juicy. I also made stuffing. I find that adding a few dried cranberries, some apples, and if you like them - onions and celery - make an ordinary box stuffing a little extra special.

I like cranberry sauce. I know that not everyone does, but I really enjoy it and wish I ate it more often. I threw some crushed pineapple in for extra flavor.

Smashed potatoes - So good! I left just a little bit of the skin on and added some chives, sour cream, and parsley. There was gravy too, naturally.

I had some rolls... As an example of my "what next" moments - I opened one of my grocery bags to find that my rolls were completely smashed because they were in the bag with the Cran-Apple juice. Really?... Oh well, we ate them and they tasted the same I suppose.

Probably my favorite part of the meal...dessert! I made pumpkin cupcakes with pumpkin cream cheese frosting and caramel drizzle.

These cupcakes tasted like a tiny pumpkin pie! They were so moist. Honestly, this is one of my favorite cupcake recipes yet. It is definitely recipe worth sharing so I am posting a link to the recipe here! The only chages I made were that I used a Butter Pecan cake mix (so good) and I added a drizzle of caramel on top. Again, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I am thankful for each of you for taking the time to read my thoughts and for commenting, encouraging me, and for being so supportive! Whether or not the bread gets smashed, or Savannah spilled a bowl full of my first dip all over my freshly mopped kitchen floor...(yup, lol) I  enjoyed dinner with my family, and will enjoy time with more family today. ...I truly have so very many reasons to be thankful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Bowman Family

Check out these photos of this super sweet family! I am so glad that Drew and Amy asked me to take family pictures for them. Their baby girl, Ella, has the most beautiful blue eyes. To see more of their session click here!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Farewell to Fall...

Although autumn doesn't actually end until well into December, its starting to look at lot more like winter here in East Tennessee. The peak of the leaves has come and gone and most of them have fallen to the ground much like completing a grand finale' and taking a bow. Enjoy this picture post of a walk that the kids and I recently took as we tried to soak in the last bit of autumn beauty.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

She Sells Seashells...

I have long wanted to create a gallery wall in my home. I often check them out on pinterest and eye the gallery frames in the pottery barn catalogs. However, they can be quite pricey (starting at around $15 a frame.) As I formed my plan for Savannah's new "big girl" room, I decided that I would finally create such a wall. It was about this time that a friend of mine shared with me a new business that she and her husband have started creating custom vinyl decor. This would the perfect addition to my gallery wall! I decided to use pictures of my kids from the beach to match Savannah's hibiscus Hawaiian style bedding. I ordered a custom vinyl that says "she sells seashells by the seashore." Then I hunted for frames.

Because my goal was to spend very little on this project, I did not order fancy gallery frames. Instead I got the absolute cheapest that Hobby Lobby had to offer and they were 50% off of the sticker price. They ranged from $2 to $3.50. All five of my frames totaled $12.50. I was so excited to come up with a design. I tried several different layouts centering around my vinyl phrase.

Of course, these frames are only available in one brown color, so I spray painted them white with some paint that I had on hand. I sprayed a very thin coat so that they would look weathered and "beach-y." Then to imitate the look of mats without purchasing anything expensive, I used scrapbook paper - which only costs about thirty cents a sheet - in various styles and colors to mat the photos I had chosen.

Finally, I was ready to put everything on the wall! I measured some and eye-balled some of it. The first thing I did was apply my vinyl since it would be the center-point. The instructions were simple. I laid the phrase face-down on a flat surface and ran a card over it. This made it super simple to peel the backing off of the word art.

After applying the art by placing it and slowly peeling the plastic away, I carefully placed and hung each of the pictures around it, and I am in love with the final results! (I had to bump up the contrast in these pictures. Although you can see the art easily when standing in the room, my camera had a little bit of trouble capturing the white on pale pink.)

I added some real star-fish to the wall. Little touches like this make a big difference in the overall look.

So there you have it. My first gallery wall. A big thanks to Stacie and Joel for making an awesome piece of custom art! You'll definitely want to check our their business, Wisdom on the Wall, by following this link! They have several great pre-made designs if you need inspiration or they can make a custom vinyl of your choosing in variety of colors and fonts! Its an inexpensive way to make a big impact on a bare wall. I am slowly finishing Savannah's room and I will be completing it soon. I'm ready to focus on Christmas, but I'll admit that I'm not the greatest multi-tasker! I am happy with the way things are shaping up, and I especially love sitting on the edge of her bed and seeing this.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Savannah (Life is Messy...but sometimes cute!)

Savannah Mackenzie. Sitting there, smiling sweetly and looking like the picture of innocence. Don't be deceived. At that moment she is probably thinking about where she can find some markers, or if she should hide my phone (and change my contact list while she's at it.) Savannah is full of spunk and a little bit of mischief. Just a couple of weeks ago she decided to expand her portfolio of artwork in our hallway.

We had barely started the day! She wasn't even out of her pajamas yet. Look how proud she looks!

Terrible twos are a real thing. Savannah is strong-willed and we have to deal with meltdowns often. But the thing is that as mischievous and stubborn as she can be, she is also growing sweeter every day. She is at an age where she is starting to see the wonder in every day things like a dandelion. She gets extremely excited when I do over little things. My favorite moments are those when she climbs up and my lap and says "I love you." I smile just thinking about how affectionate she is.

Not to mention she is just so cute! She loves getting dressed up. Her boots are her favorite shoes.

Other than her boots she really loves wearing my shoes, especially high heels.

Although some days she drives me crazy, she is also the bright spot in my days! I love how much she's talking now and sometimes I have to laugh when a new sentence emerges from her mouth. Its just funny to hear my baby try to reason, saying things like "We can't have it now? We'll have it later, okay?" (Usually in reference to Halloween candy which she asks for multiple times a day.) She is growing up. This past week, she moved into her big girl bed. I'm really proud of her for staying in bed all night (phew) and doing so well although I could tell at first she wasn't sure if it was still her room.

I will post pictures of her new room in just a few days...its a work in progress. For now I have to wrap this up. Savannah's favorite time to be sneaky is when she knows I'm busy and I'm watching her open my kitchen cabinet and dip her finger in sugar as I speak. She may be a mess, but she has stolen my heart.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Miranda - Class of 2012

Meet Miranda, senior in the class of 2012! I had such a great time shooting these photos with her because she was up for just about anything. This session turned out beautifully, just like her. Please click here to see more! 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Welcome Micah

This is one of my favorite pictures that I have taken - ever. There is just something so very sweet about a sleeping, newborn baby. I loved being able to spend the afternoon with Micah and his sweet mommy. He was so wonderful for his first ever photo shoot though he was quite worn out by the time we were finished. Follow this link to see his adorable session!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Creamy Chicken Noodle

One of the best things about colder weather is the foods that it inspires. Soup, for example. Although I eat soup all year, it seems to taste much better on a cold day. It just hits the spot. This soup has become one of my favorite comfort foods. I got this recipe from my sister-in-law (thanks, Bekah!) I have tweaked it very slightly. I am not a huge fan of chicken noodle soup because I don't care for the broth. But this creamy version of chicken noodle is delicious. You'll need the following ingredients:

2 Chicken breasts - cooked then diced
*(OR used pre-cooked chicken to simplify! I use either the frozen diced chicken breast or I buy a rotisserie chicken and pull the chicken off the bone which really punches up the flavor!)
2 Cans cream of chicken soup
2 Cans cream of celery soup
Chicken broth (this recipe calls for up to 10 cups but I use a little less because I add milk at the end.)
2 and 1/2 cups raw egg noodles
1 Can sliced carrots (or chop fresh carrots if you have them)
Celery chopped - to taste (this was own addition because I love the crunch!)
1 lb Mexican Velveeta cheese cubed
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tbs pepper
Milk (to thin if needed)

Start out by chopping your celery. Isn't it pretty? If someone brought me a bunch of celery with a ribbon on it I think I would like it as much as flowers. I use the tops of the celery too - there is a lot of flavor, not to mention nutrients, in that leafy green part. Then slice your Velveeta in small cubes so that it will melt easily. If you boil your chicken you can retain the broth from the chicken and add boxed broth to supplement. Otherwise, start with you boxed chicken broth and add the raw egg noodles. Once your noodles have cooked (About ten minutes) add all other ingredients and heat until cheese is melted and celery is cooked. (Remember to stir it often to keep it from scorching.) If the soup is thicker than you like you can add more broth of some milk to make it extra creamy.

There you have it! A yummy soup that is so filling and will feed a small army. (I usually freeze the leftovers because it makes so much.) Add some crusty bread and you've got yourself a perfect meal on a chilly evening. Leave a comment and let me know if you try this recipe! I hope all of my readers have a soup-er weekend. (Sorry, I couldn't resist...)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shorts All Year

I don't claim to be a trend-setter, nor am I a fashion expert by any means. However, I do love clothes and I like trying new trends! There was once a time when I would look at outfits in stores or on other people and think, "Wow, that's so cute...I could never pull that off." One day it just dawned on me that there was no reason I thought this way so I started trying things on that were a little bit out of my "comfort zone." (You know the one...jeans and simple solids.) I tried on clothes that I thought I would never wear and loved them! This is how I started to expand my wardrobe horizons. Its fun. It doesn't even have to involve shopping! Put together different outfits with the clothes you have. Mix unusual pieces, accessories, and colors. Play dress-up and see what ends up looking great! The most recent trend I kept seeing and loving on Pinterest was shorts with tights and cute boots. Why not? We wear skirts and dresses with tights! I love shorts an easy way to make your summer dress shorts work all year. So I pinned the look to my board and decided to go for it.

I am really loving all of the colors of fall. This mustard yellow is one of my favorites and I fell in love with these tights paired with simple muted tones. The pop of color is just enough.  I loved the look so much that  couple of weeks later I put together a second look with tights - this one just a bit more monochromatic. (The self portraits aren't the best but as you can see I had fun with some "fashion" presets in my editing software.)

So there you have my version of one of falls super cute trends. If you're thinking "I could never pull that off..." Try it! You might just be surprised.