Fabulous Fall

I have mentioned many, many times on this blog that fall is my favorite time of the year.  I love everything about it.

Lovefall

Today was a glorious, sunny day and I wanted to find some activity to get outside and enjoy the weather.  I have been noticing that several of my neighbors have been very creative in their fall decor so I decided to snap a few pictures and share some of the eye candy with you.

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Are you inspired yet?  Have you done any outside decorations at your house, if so send me a picture!  If you need additional inspiration, here are some links to fall related items that I have done in previous years.

October

Pumpkins and Mums

It’s Fall, Y’all!

It’s beginning to look alot like….

Fall entertaining workshop

 

 

 

New Patio and Firepit

We built our current house twenty years ago this November and over the years have often thought it would be nice to have a bigger patio area than the standard builder’s size that was installed originally.   Last winter we finally drew up a plan and obtained a few quotes.  We made our final decision in April which is the WORST time to get in the que for landscape contractors.  Everyone is thinking of their outdoor projects and hiring these contractors at the same time.  We were told there was about a twelve week waiting list which would make our install mid to late July.    Even though half the summer would be over by that time, we figured fall would be the best time for the fire pit anyway so we decided to go ahead with the plan.

Our contractor, Hinkle Hardscapes, did a great job of keeping us updated with a weekly on-line newsletter showing us the updated que and teasing us with photos of their current projects.  Amazingly enough, the install process started very close to the projected date they provided 12 weeks earlier.  This is not always the norm when hiring out for construction projects.  They had told us the project would take about five days and in reality it only took four.

The first day they delivered a dumpster to our drive-way which they used to haul off the construction debris.

They also demo’d the existing patio and set the forms for the new one.

At the same time all this was going on at our house, our triplet grandchildren decided to be born so we became a little too distracted to take pictures on day two.  However, on that day they prepared the area for the concrete by laying down gravel, leveling it out and installing the rebar.

The third day, the crew poured and stamped the concrete and I managed to take at least one picture when they were done.

On the final day of install, many activities were completed including, cutting expansion joints, sealing the concrete, staining the border and building the firepit.

 

 

 

After the crew left we had a few things to finish off; some touch-up painting around the door and trim, adding dirt and grass seed around the edge of the patio and decorating with furniture both new and old.

 

 

There are so many things I love about this new space including four different conversation areas,

 

the new dining area and space for the grill and smoker,

and of course the firepit!

We wasted no time inviting friends over to cook-out and enjoy the patio.  We had a beautiful, and somewhat unusual cool August evening that was perfect for the first fire.  When the sun went down all ten of us pulled our chairs around the new fire pit and there was easily room for a couple more.  Pretty sure this is my new favorite “room” in our house!

Now for the before and after…….

 

Strip Quilt

Before my grand daughter Aria was born I made her a gender neutral quilt because her parents chose not to find out if they were having a boy or girl.  My daughter Kayla decorated the nursery with a cute mint/gray color scheme that I matched for Aria’s quilt.

Finished1

You can read about that quilt here.  Infants do not use bulky quilts much so that quilt still seems almost brand new.  Since one of Aria’s new baby brothers (yes, she will soon have three new siblings!) will be using that original mint/gray bedding, Kayla is going to pass that crib quilt down to him.

Aria recently moved into a new room with a new toddler bed and I had been thinking about making her a new quilt to match.  A few weeks ago I made three mini quilts for her triplet dolls.

triplets

Kayla told me that night Aria insisted her mom and dad lay those three mini quilts over her for bedtime even though they probably did not even cover her legs.    I knew I needed to get her new quilt made quickly.

I had been wanting to try a “quilt as you go” quilt because it was suppose to be fast so I went to the fabric store with a strip quilt in mind and selected five different fabrics.

Fabric

I cut the fabric into strips the width of the material and into random 1 1/2″ to 5 1/2″ pieces that when pieced together would measure approximately 48″ long.  I think I cut 19 strips in total.

Cut-Strips

I also cut a piece of fabric the size of the quilt backing and strips of fabric for the binding.  I laid out the strips randomly to see how it would look as a finished quilt then sewed them directly onto the batting and quilt backing.  There are several good tutorials on-line that shows exactly how to do this, including the one I used here.

Quilt-1

After purchasing and washing the fabric, it took about eight hours to cut, sew and bind the quilt.

quilt2

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It was a fun,  fast quilt to make.  I hope she likes it as much as she did the doll quilts!

Two Weeks In

A couple of my former co-workers asked what I had been doing these first two weeks of retirement so I thought I would share.

First of all I have been much busier than I thought I would be, I have been:

eating popsicles;

Popcicles

eating frozen custard;

Custards

Trying to swim in the water table;

Watertable

Running at the splash pad;

Splash-Pad

Making cookies with playdoe;

Playdoe

Having tea parties;

Tea-Party

and getting ready for the triplets by making the three mini doll quilts.

triplets

Just the normal retirement activities!  Loving every minute of it!

P.S. The black eye seen in the first few pictures was not on my watch!  Just making that clear!

Bits and Pieces #10

It has been soooooo long since I have done a blog post.  Let me catch you up and offer a few fun things

  • On May 27th, after 17 months of long distance planning, our youngest daughter got married in a perfect wedding.  The entire week leading up to the event and even a few days after were full of fun family events including a golf tournament for the guys, bridal luncheon for the girls, a meat-a-poulouza cook-out on Memorial Day, a KC Royals game with 27 family members in attendance, an elegant rehearsal dinner at the Carriage Club, a no-rain outdoor ceremony at The National Golf Club of KC (amidst tornado watches in  the area) followed by a wonderful party celebrating the newlyweds.

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  • Back in February we found out our middle daughter was expecting a big surprise….TRIPLETS!  We were all in shock for quite some time (especially Mom and Dad) but now are just so excited to welcome these three babies to the world.

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  • On top of all the excitement in our household these last few months, I have also decided it is time to hang up my calculator!  Today I am closing  out the accounting manager/systems analyst/project manager part of my life after 37 years!  I certainly am excited but also feel a little different than what I expected.  I will miss my co-workers but pretty sure I will not miss having to plan my life around month end GL close and new system implementations. Woohoo!

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  • My travel bucket list is long and I hope to start marking a few things off the list in this new chapter of my life.  My vision of retirement includes traveling and staying in a location for several weeks to really get to know the area.  Have you ever thought about selling everything you own and hitting the road for a long period of time?  I personally know two families who have done this, one in retirement which does not seem too radical and one family with young kids who are just getting started on their 1000 day journey.  You can follow them on instagram at #moldyadventures.  I also came across a blog of another family who packed up their four kids and took the adventure of a lifetime.  Their very interesting story can be found here.

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  • You all know that I am a list maker extraordinaire!  I wrote about my list making obsession a few years ago in this post so it will be no surprise to you that I have been making list of things I want to do in retirement.  I am having a very hard time prioritizing those items though because I am excited to tackle each one.  However, one of the first things will be doing is to organize/simplify/de-clutter this house of mine.  And yes, that sounds exciting to me!  I follow several amazing bloggers who write about organization but my favorite is Jen from IHeartOrganizing.   Tons of  inspiration and creative ideas can be found on her site.

Till next time friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challenge Accepted: Mini Sky High Chocolate Mousse Pies

Have you ever visited the blog Sally’s Baking Addiction?  I have been a regular reader for a few years and love all her recipes and beautiful photography.  I must admit that I have been much more of a reader than a baker but this year I decided to up my baking game by participating in Sally’s Monthly Baking Challenge.  Each month Sally provides a recipe, step by step directions and even a video to increase the baking skills and confidence of her readers.  This month’s recipe is Sky High Chocolate Mousse Pie.

3-mini-pies

 

It was a fun assignment and my only deviation from her recipe was to make 3 mini pies instead of just one pie.  The intent is that I will share the pies and Dave and I will not have to eat the whole dang pie, because I know we could do it!!  As Sally describes on her site, there are three steps to this pie:

  1. An Oreo crust.
  2. Chocolate Mousse
  3. Whipped Cream

Everything is made from scratch except for the Ores of course!  I even made a special trip to one of my favorite stores in the world, Cockrell’s Mercantile, to buy some individual fiesta ware pie plates.  Any reason to buy more fiesta ware is a good reason to me!

Step one – the Oreo crust.  I have made Oreo crust several times before and each time I do I tell myself that next time I am going to double the recipe because I never seem to have enough to take the crust up the full sides of the pie plate.  Not sure if the fact I used three mini pie plates instead of one made a difference or not.

3-crusts

 

Step two – Chocolate Mousse.  This step consisted of three parts, melting the chocolate, making and adding meringue, then making and adding whipped cream. This was definitely the richest mousse I have ever tasted, so, so good!

chocolate

meringue-step-1

meringue-step-2

adding-whipped-cream-to-mousse

Once the mousse was complete, it was spread over the Oreo crust, topped with a layer of crushed Oreos, then another layer of mousse.

layer-of-mousse-and-layer-of-oreo-crumbs

Step three – Making whipped cream.  This was definitely the easiest step, just whipping heavy cream, sugar and vanilla into a beautiful, melt in your mouth whipped cream.  Each mini pie was then topped with a generous amount and chocolate shavings were added for the final touch.

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For the detailed recipe visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. Can’t wait to find out what is up for next month!  Now, who wants one of these extra mini pies?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NYC or My Evening with Adam Levine

I thought that title might pull a few of you in…..to be honest, I visited NYC for work last week and Maroon 5 was the featured event at the conference I attended.   I really did get to spend the evening with Adam it just happened to be along with about 5000 of the other conference attendees.  Since I had never been to New York City before, I had my hubby tag along so we could take in a few of the sites together.

Our first stop was a visit to the 911 Memorial which was worth the entire trip in itself.  We paid for a guided tour of the memorial and visited the museum on our own.  It is a very humbling experience and meant to be a remembrance and place of quiet reflection.  At one point I saw a guard stop a lady who was jogging through the park and told her she could only walk through the memorial.

911-Memorial

The memorial itself consists of two square pools on the site where the twin towers stood.  Names of the victims from that day and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing are inscribed in the border around the pools in what is described as “meaningful adjacencies.”  Our tour guide told us that meant people with connections to each other had their names close together.  As we walked around the pools our guide told us personal stories of victims and their families from that day.  He also pointed out that on a victims birthday a white rose is placed in their name.  It was an extremely overwhelming and emotional tour.

White-Rose

The museum is seventy feet underground and includes many, many artifacts from the day such as burned out firetrucks, pieces of papers found in the ruins, pictures of all the victims, 911 calls and many pieces of twisted metal from the buildings.  The picture below is a piece of metal from the initial entry of the plane into the north tower.

 

Twisted-metal

Another favorite stop of mine in NYC was the Chelsea Market, taking up an entire block in the Manhattan Meat Packing District.  It is an indoor food court and specialty shopping mall.

Chelsea-Market-directory The shops were amazing and I could have spent an entire day there.   There are artisanal cheese makers, multiple bakeries, a donutery and a chocolate shop selling a weakness of mine, peanut clusters for $38 per pound.  I may or may not have bought just a couple.

chocolate

In addition there was a spice vendor, a german sausage maker, craft beer vendors and way too many more to list.  One in particular I could just not get my thoughts around, Takumi- Japenese Inspired Mexican, say what????

Chelsea-Market-2

Our hotel, the Intercontinenal, was right in the middle of Times Square and all I can say to that is I have never seen so many people in my life.  The sidewalks were packed at 7:00 a.m. and at midnight.   It was sure fun to people-watch though and boy did we see some interesting things.  There was a large police presence everywhere you looked with MANY carrying large rifles.

Times Square

And of course I cannot forget to share a few pics of Adam…..

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New York City is a must on your travel list, so many things to do.  However, it made me really appreciate my little hometown of Lee’s Summit, Missouri!

 

Five Days of Salads

Salads and I have a funny relationship.  I love them when the weather is warm and the sun is shining, but not so much during cloudy, rainy or cold days.  On those days I just want soup.  A few weeks ago when we had several days in a row of great weather I challenged myself to make a different salad everyday for lunch.  A couple of the recipes I made were from my own recipe book while a few others were new to me.

I have always loved caprese salad  and make it often for dinner, but adding the diced avocado really put this concoction over the top.  This was definitely my favorite of the week.

avacado-caprese-salad

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I sliced grape tomatoes in half and paired it with mozzarella pearls and diced avocado.  For the dressing I drizzled with olive oil, basil, salt and pepper.  Super easy!

For day two I made this Southwestern Chopped Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing from damndelicious.net but added some leftover grilled chicken that I had in the fridge.  So good….

Southwest-Chicken

The salad is romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, corn, black beans, avocado, fresh cilantro, toasted tortilla strips and grilled chicken.  For the dressing, 1 cup cilantro leaves, 1/2 plain yogurt, 2 cloves minced garlic, juice of 1 lime, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 T apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt combined in the food processor.  Neither Dave or I were fans of this dressing, a little too tart for us,  but there are many versions of Cilantro Lime Dressing on the web so next time I am going to try a different one.

Day three consisted of a fruit salad inspired by the Orange Honey Rainbow Fruit Salad @ theslowroasteditalian.com, however her recipe serves twelve and with just Dave and I around much would go to waste so we cut it down and modified it a bit.

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I included sliced strawberries, green grapes, blackberries, bananas and kiwis for my salad and altered the sweet dressing a little since I am not a fan of mint leaves.  My dressing included 1/4 cup of orange juice, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of honey.  This was a great lunch!!

On the fourth day I made a version of the Strawberry Spinach salad with Strawberry Lime Vinaigrette as found on the blog bakingwithblondie.blogspot.com.

Spinach-Salad1

Spinach-Salad

The salad was awesome with strawberries, spinach, blue cheese, thin sliced red onion, sliced almonds and bacon crumbles.  The dressing consisted of 1/2 c chopped strawberries, 1/4 c lime juice, 1/4 c olive oil, 1 Tablespoon of honey and salt/pepper all pureed in the food processor.  Yummy!

For the final day I made one of my own recipes I have been making for years, Broccoli and Cauliflower salad.

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Broc-Cauli2

The salad is 2 cups each of raw broccoli and raw cauliflower cut into small bites, along with 1/2 cup celery, 1/2 cup red onion and 1 cup peas.  I usually just toss those ingredients with 2 cups of ranch dressing and then top with parmesan cheese.  I think this taste much better if it chills for a few hours in the fridge before eating.

This was a fun way to lighten up my lunches and try new recipes.  I still have many other salad recipes I would like to try so I might need to do this again sometime.

 

 

The Cookbook Club

Many of you followed our groups adventures in the ABC Dinner club where we ate our way through the alphabet at restaurants in Kansas City.  That club came to a close a few months ago when we finally (after 5 years) made it to the letter Z.  One of our club members had a friend who was part of a cookbook club and suggested we try that for our next adventure.

I have read about cookbook clubs in the past and there seem to be as many versions of these types of clubs as there are cookbooks themselves.  Basically it is like any other book club, you get together with friends to eat, drink and discuss the book.  The difference is that in a cookbook club each person cooks a recipe from the selected book and brings it to share with the other members.

cookbooks

Here are the guidelines for our version of the Cookbook Club:

  1. Each member of the group will have a turn selecting a cookbook.
  2. We will meet monthly to share and discuss prepared recipes.
  3. Husbands are welcome (and encouraged) to assist with the recipe selection and cooking.
  4. Each member will select a recipe from the cookbook for that month’s meeting. The monthly meeting does not need to be a meal with complimentary dishes selected.  It can just be a tasting of random recipes.
  5. We will continue making recipes out of the book until we have a good feel for it and decide we are ready to move to the next cookbook.
  6. We can change these guideline whenever the heck we want to…

The first cookbook selected is Pioneer Woman Cooks – Food From my Frontier by Ree Drummond.  Below are selections from our first meeting on April 30, 2016.

cookbook cover

 

Corn Casserole with Peppers – easy to make, would be great in summer when corn is cheap.  Discussed buying corn during the summer in bulk, cutting off the cob and freezing.  Tasted great!

Corn-Cassarole-with-Peppers

Buttered Rosemary Rolls – these rolls are excellent and easy to prepare since you start with frozen unbaked dinner rolls.  The coarse salt and fresh rosemary make all the difference in taste, the butter probably does not hurt either.

Rosemary-Rolls

Spicy Caesar Salad with Homemade Cornbread Croutons – the addition of chipotle peppers kicks this salad up a notch from a normal Caesar. For those of you that care (like me) there are raw eggs in the dressing which is also normal for Caesar dressing.  The croutons were good but if made in the future would probably just buy croutons instead of going to the trouble of making from scratch.

Spicy-Caesar-Salad

BBQ Chicken and Pineapple Quesadillas – easy to make and tasted great.  Serve with sour cream, salsa and a pineapple wedge on top.

Barbeque-Chicken-and-Pineapple-Quesidilla

Tangy Tomato Brisket – if you have six or seven hours to let this cook on a low temperature there is nothing better.  Easy to prepare and boy does it make your house smell good all day.  Turned out moist and tender which I can say is not always the case with brisket.

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Knock You Naked Brownies – delicious but very rich.  The recipe is a little more complex than simple brownies but good for a special occasion. Wish I would have taken a picture of the gooey caramel and chocolate on the inside which is the star in this dish.

Knock-you-Naked-Brownies

Let me know if you are or have ever been in a cookbook club.  I would love to hear how other’s operate.

 

 

The Grandkids Room

A couple of months ago I shared with you a set of sheets I found that inspired me to make a star quilt for the room where my grandkids stay when they come to visit.  You can read that post here.  Those sheets and that quilt were the focal point for decorating the rest of the room that I finally finished this past weekend.  Here is the overall look.

Facing-windows

Here is another view that shows the 11″x14″ prints of the kiddos I printed on my new Canon Pro-100 series printer.  I am having so much fun with that printer…but that is a story for another post!

Bed-and-Crib

Now before you start yelling at me about the 34 year old Basset crib I am using let me state for the record that my husband thoroughly researched the problems with old cribs and ensured they were not an issue with ours.  The problems typically relate to how close the spindles are together and how well the mattress fits in the crib.

Crib-with-Pillow

Our spindles are close enough so a little head can not get through and the new mattress fits tightly up against the sides.  I also checked with both sets of parents to make sure they were ok with me using this bed.  I am so happy that the crib we used for all three of our girls now holds their little ones.

I also added some new curtains and made a window seat cushion.

window-seat

Check out this adorable little retro table and chairs that we pulled from the basement of my mother-in-law’s home.  When I saw the gray top and the red chairs I knew it needed to be in this room!

table-and-chairs

My favorite part of the room is the new gallery wall.

Gallery-wall-2

It took me a lot longer to pull that together than I thought it would.  I really wanted  to include items that the grandkids would enjoy, like pictures of all the granddogs and our kitty cleo.  Pinterest was a great source for inspiration.

Gallery-Wall

I made the ABC and Twinkle Little Star posters using Photoshop Elements but I have seen both for sale on Etsy.  I bought the map for $4.00 when I was at the Magnolia Market in Waco last month and I specifically wanted to mount it on something where I could use push pins for the cities where our family lives.  I had not originally planned on putting up a board for holding artwork but when I walked through the garage a week or so ago I noticed some old baseboard trim Dave had stacked in the corner.  I picked up a piece of it was the perfect size for the space.  All we did was fill a couple of nail holes, give it a few coats of paint and add twine for hanging the pictures.

Overall, I am pretty happy with how the room turned out and I did not finish too soon because my youngest granddaughter and her mom and dad are moving in with us on memorial day weekend for a few weeks while their new house is being finished!  I hope she likes it!