Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Decorations 2011

Happy Halloween!!!

I know it's a little late, but I wanted to share my Halloween decorations for this year with you guys (and I just finished them).

I want to keep our decorations more creepy than scary, with my little munchkin in the house now. Some of the stuff out there nowadays is just gross and disturbing. I'm going to stick to bats, rats, spiders, black cats, and pumpkins from now on.

The spiders are a play on my fighter pilot husband's call sign "Spydr". Thought that was kind fun.

My all time favorite place for Halloween decorations in the Dollar Store, where I got the black "creepy cloth", the spiders 2/pack, rats, and the "cobwebs". I got the little pumpkins at Walmart last year on sale for $0.50. My Mom got me the Jack-O-Lantern thing years ago. It's lights up and I love it. 

I'm in LOVE with my Halloween subway art. It was a free printable I downloaded HERE and printed at Staples for like $1 and then used a frame I already had (and swapped out one of our wedding pictures :)

All in all I spent maybe around $5 for mantle decorations this year.

These were some odds and ends I already had and just threw them up on our shelves with some of the cobwebs.

In the kitchen I went with a Jack-O-Lantern theme. Normally I put out all of my Fall and Halloween decorations at the same time, then put Halloween away for Thanksgiving. But this year I just put up Halloween-y things and will take those down and put up Fall decorations. I love it. Much more festive and I won't get sick of everything being up for 2 months.

Here's a bunch of stuff I liked and just threw on this table in our foyer. I probably should have edited it down, but didn't feel like it. Oh well. Fun.

The one place I didn't do Halloween specific decorations was on the outside of the house. I really wanted to make a Halloween wreath this year. Oh well, next year.

I love my Fall wreath. I just used a $3 grape vine wreath from Michael's, made a bow, and stuck some grape-y leaf things in there. I love wreaths. It's the easiest way to instantly make the outside of your house festive.

My husband has been trying for years to overtake the title of "Pumpkin Master" from Dad.  He still has a ways to go (my Dad is AMAZING) but he's getting really close! Love this big pumpkin eating the smaller one.

And, of course, the F-16/Spydr pumpkin.

But you didn't think that's all there was to it, did you??

You wouldn't if you knew my husband....

The back is carved out to display his name "Spydr" when the pumpkin is lit. He cracks me up :)

Note the details...complete with little pumpkin missles. HA!

Okay.. have a big batch of chili in the crockpot, pumpkin seeds waiting to be roasted, a bowl of candy by the door, one last pumpkin to be carved, and a baby girl ready to go Trick-Or-Treating for the first time! Happy Halloween everyone!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Yes, that's right. Pumpkin Mac and Cheese. I saw this recipe and thought, "I HAVE to try that!"

Friends of ours are having a "Pumpkin Party" this Saturday and everyone is to bring a pumpkin food or beverage (I'm going to be so pumpkined out after this month! I think I've had something pumpkiny like everyday! :) So I figured everyone will probably bring something sweet because there aren't too many savory pumpkin recipes that come to mind. I was searching through recipes for something different to bring to the table, and I came across this Rachel Ray recipe: Pumpkin Cheddar Mac & Cheese

I did a test run last night and cut the recipe in half (which was still more than enough for Immanuel and I). It was SO different and really yummy! Immanuel gave it his approval, and you know how much that boy loves his mac & cheese! The cheese sauce reminded me of a beer cheese soup. The pumpkin adds a creaminess and an added depth of flavor, although you can't really taste the pumpkin.

*A few notes:
- I added chicken to make it more of a meal.
- I also used brown rice pasta to make myself feel better about eating such a rich heavy dish.
- Be careful with the spices... nutmeg, clove and cayenne are strong spices... you don't need a lot and you can always add more if you need to.
- I used a Pumpkin Beer. It only seemed right. And you can drink the rest of it with the meal which pairs perfectly!

Ok now give it a try and let me know what you think!

Here is the recipe:


  • 1 pound whole wheat or whole grain short-cut pasta, such as rigatoni or penne
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 slightly rounded tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup amber beer
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • A couple of pinches ground cloves or 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • About 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin purée or 2 cups puréed fresh roasted pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese, divided
  • Sweet paprika, for sprinkling
  • Chopped parsley or chives to garnish

Yields: 4-6


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and reserve. Preheat broiler.
Melt butter in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, cook for 1 minute, then raise heat a bit and add beer. Reduce until almost evaporated then whisk in honey or syrup and milk. Season with cloves or allspice, mustard, cayenne, a little freshly grated nutmeg, some salt and pepper. Thicken to coat spoon, a couple of minutes, then taste to adjust seasonings.
Whisk in pumpkin purée then stir in about 2 cups grated cheese with a wooden spoon until melted. Combine pasta with sauce and arrange in a casserole or individual ramekins. Sprinkle remaining cheese and a light dusting of paprika. Broil to brown and bubble. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vegan Pumpkin Bread (and Muffin) Recipe

Let me start by confessing that the main reason this is vegan is that I was out of eggs and too lazy to run to the store. Our friends invited us to dinner tonight and insisted we didn't need to bring anything, so I needed something that would eliminate my guilt at showing up completely empty handed, while also not completely disregarding her request.

I scanned my pantry and fridge and it didn't look promising until I noticed the can of pumpkin I've been saving for something special. I thought a pumpkin bread would be perfect. It can be served as a dessert or saved for breakfast and snacks.

I was out of eggs, so tracked down a vegan recipe here, at Joy the Baker. I modified it a little, eliminating the walnuts because I didn't have any, cloves because I don't like them, and adding a ton of extra cinnamon. I also added some ground ginger because I like it, had it, and saw it used in other pumpkin bread recipes, but that's totally optional.

It turned out amazing! I did end up playing around with it after all the ingredients were mixed. Since it doesn't have eggs, you can go to town taste testing the batter.  I ended up adding some more sugar (crazy, I know, I'm usually trying to cut it. But because this was for friends I wanted it to taste great). I also kept adding more cinnamon and allspice.

makes 2 loaves (or 4 mini loaves and 12 muffins) *Freezes well

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour ( or whole wheat flour… or just use only all-purpose flour)
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon (to 1 Tablespoon) cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or just under two cups
1 cup vegetable/canola oil**
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water

**I usuallly try to avoid these oils, but I had some to use up. Next time I make this I will try 3/4 c coconut oil and 1/4 c applesauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place a rack in the center of the oven.  Grease and flour loaf  or muffin pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
In a medium bowl, carefully whisk together pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup and water.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to fold all of the ingredients together.  Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl well, finding any stray flour bits to mix in.  Fold in most of the chopped walnuts, reserving some to sprinkle on top of the batter once in the pan.

Divide the dough between the two greased pans and sprinkle with a few walnut pieces.  Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven.  Let rest in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.

Serve warm.  Maybe even wrap one loaf up in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for future munching.

I wrapped up the mini loaves in plastic wrap with this adorable gingham ribbon and gave them out to friends for a little Autumn cheer. Made me so happy. Almost as happy as eating this yummy breads with a glass of warm apple cider. Enjoy this lovely little Fall treat! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Easy Halloween Craft

I did a Halloween craft!! I think I'm really starting to get into this crafting thing. I really enjoyed making these! Aren't they cute? I got the idea and "How To" here. I was looking for a craft to do and I thought they looked fun, cheap, and easy. And they were! They were pretty hard to mess up and easy to make them look good. I used orange, red, and purple tissue paper and came up with the faces myself. You can't see in the picture but I also added some glitter so they are pretty and sparkly during the day. When Austin saw them he was shocked that I made them! He said "Really? I thought you bought those". Always a good sign.

When my husband is out of town, I like to try and fill-up my evenings with fun things to do to keep myself occupied. So I went out and bought the supplies, then in the evening I popped in one of my favorite Halloween movies, made some hot cider, lined my kitchen table with lots of newspaper, and went to work! To me it sure beats just staring at the TV for hours. It was fun to have something to do while I, well, watched TV. But at least I was getting something accomplished I suppose. It was fun!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hello Autumn!

I thought a good first post for me after our SisBliss hiatus would be to write about my favorite time of year, the fall! And everything I love so much about the season. It will be hard to sum up and put into words, but here goes...

Ever notice how the fall just kinda creeps in? I can always feel the Earth changing. Even those last few days of Summer in September when the weather is still warm, there is something different about the air, the sun. Then you get that first cool, cloudy day and BAM! It's Fall. Time to pack away summer and pull out fall decorations!

My favorite part of any season is getting to decorate! I love the excitement of pulling out all the boxes and going through them. Then running around the house figuring out a good place to put everything. The boxes always have a particular smell to them. The smell of the decorations I suppose. Anyone know what I'm talking about? Then that night when the house is all decorated and candles are lit, you get to relax with a good seasonal movie and enjoy all your hard work! Or what I like to do is bake something special that night. There is nothing like the smell of something sinful baking in the oven to kick off the season!

There is nothing I love more then a blustery autumn day, sitting outside all bundled up in my favorite fall sweater with a cup of hot cider. I love the wind. The way it blows through the trees, carrying with it the leaves from the branches that have finally surrendered to the season. I love the sound of the dead leaves on the ground being stirred by the breeze. And the feeling of the crisp fall wind blowing the hair away from my face and neck. Such a rejuvenating sensation! 

And the smells! ahh the smells... Best part of any season in my mind. The smell of camp fires off in the distance and fallen leaves. The smell of apples and spices in the air. 

There is a magic in the fall air that is almost palpable. You can feel is all around you. The Earth has this eerie stillness, even when the wind is blowing. Like the world is finally relaxing after a long hard Spring and Summer of growing things and being lively. 

These kind of blustery fall days are the kind of days that I feel anything could happen and anything is possible. I do believe there is a magic in the world. A magic that is always there if you know where to look and is just waiting to be discovered. Or maybe is doesn't want to be discovered, and that is what makes it so special and mysterious.  

Fall is the time for homemade soup simmering on the stove. For apple pie, pumpkin bread, and anything with lots of cinnamon! It's for cozy nights in front of the fire, big fuzzy blankets, and a comfy couch. A hot cup of tea and a good book you can really get lost in. Or for one of those fantastical movies I've been waiting all year to watch (Tim Burton anyone?) 

Each season is wonderful and special in its own way. But autumn is the one that stirs something inside me!

I would love you girls to help me kick-off the rest of October with everything we love about the fall! What do you love most about the fall? What are some of your favorite fall memories?


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tiffany's Garden Results 2011

I mentioned back in April that I was attempting to start a garden from seeds this year for the first time. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time, but really intimidated me. I figured the best way to get over that was just to jump in and give it my best shot.

And, to my utter astonishment, they actually grew!! I'm not sure why that was surprising, given that's what seeds were designed by God to do...but it just simply amazed me to watch them grow.

But I couldn't keep them protected forever inside my home. Eventually the big moment came to move them outside out into the big world and see how they would do.

I felt like a nervous parent sending their child off to college. What would they do without me checking on them all day, every day? Would they get enough food and water? Be too cold? Were they really ready to go? Was a sending them off too soon? Too late??

Kind of ridiculous for a bunch of plants, but goes to show how much of yourself you put into raising them from seeds.

So you can imagine how gratifying it was when, in July, I looked out my back door and saw this:

And this:

In the beautiful raised bed my husband built to help support my dream.

I would just marvel at the beauty of the life I had helped create.

To think, this particular exquisite flower would never have existed without my help.

Or this bean pod.

My first harvest!

Aren't they simply lovely??

It's sad now to watch it slowly wither with the change to cooler weather. Overall, I'd say my little project was a total success and I couldn't be more proud of myself! I'm already working on some plans for next year, deciding what I want more of (peppers!) and less of (squash). I highly encourage and challenge everyone to take a shot at growing something, anything! I'm going to start another batch of wheatgrass this week, to keep something growing inside over the Winter, to hold me over until next Spring when I get to do it all over again!! Can't wait!!