Party Planning: All the Prep

Monday, October 30, 2017

So, the dinner party is set for Saturday night and the invites have been sent. I've made several decisions since I last shared. We have a dinner menu, signature cocktail, and dessert. I've got an appetizer that is going to be amazing and I've done plenty of research on the best antipasti platter I can find. I've been planning dinnerware, flatware, glassware, and dessert glasses and I love it all! And, I've created my trusty timeline that you know I love to make. Lists are my jam!

Let's recap. I have my inspiration for my tablescape centerpiece, but I have to truly decide on the one I love most. I'm leaning toward the pumpkins. So simple yet so chic.

I'm thinking I'm going with the peacocks! I've never used them and now is the time to introduce them to the world! I've purchased a linen table cloth in a very neutral taupe with napkins to match. However, they only had four, so I'm on the hunt for another set, possibly in a contrasting color like chocolate brown. I'm using the grapevine chargers to offset the fancy dishes and using simple glassware. Keeping it rustic is key!

So now we have the menu. I'm going to serve an Italian fest. I'm making my mom's famous, famous to us, lasagna. I'm going to have a hardy salad with homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette, and simple hunks of bread. But up first, an antipasti appetizer that will hopefully look as glorious as these!

And with the apps, we're serving up a signature cocktail of a Spiced Pear Moscow Mule. It sounds define and easy to make. That's key. You don't want to be making a bunch of drinks all evening. One simple cocktail, with ingredients written for refills, keeps you engaged in the party and conversations. What I can't decide is where to have the bar. I've got a dry sink at the entry of our front door and a buffet in our living room. Either would be the perfect space. I just need to decide which space would be easier to use. 

Can you see the dry sink by the front door? It is one of my favorite pieces in my house. Aside from my Hoosier Cabinet and Pie Safe. (My living room has changed a little since this photo was taken. Old pieces removed and new ones updated the space.)

Here's where I am so far! I have a lot to do, but at the same time, I feel prepared. I've made my list, started the cleaning/straightening process this weekend so I'm not overwhelmed come Saturday morning. And with Friday being my birthday, I won't be doing too much party prep. Instead, I'll be doing some celebrating! I'll keep you posted this week on how things are coming along!


Party Planning: Rustic Dinner Party

Monday, October 23, 2017

I am at it again! I'm in party planning mode and I'm in heaven! Aside from constantly updating my house, and running around town with my family, party planning is one of my all time favorite things to do. And this one stems from the fact that my birthday is coming up and it's on a Friday this year. Now, we will be celebrating with family on the actual day, but the next evening is completely free. And we are filling in the evening with a dinner party with our friends. I'm so excited!

If you followed along last year during my holiday party planning posts, you know that I love to start with a theme and build my party from there. It's fall, so with all the gorgeous browns, burnt oranges, and creamy neutrals, I'm going totally rustic! Think nature inspired decor like pumpkins, wood, pine cones, acorns, and whimsical florals. And candles! You have to have candles. But unscented because you don't want to interfere with the aromas that will be coming from your dinner! 

I've been doing my Pinterest research and I've found some amazing inspiration for my table decor. Honestly, there are so many gorgeous settings that I can't decide where to begin! And how to decorate. But, I've narrowed it down to the centerpieces I like and that's a start!

How incredibly romantic is this? I love the subtle glow of the candles and the simplicity of the greenery and wood slices.

This screams rustic fall!

This is beautiful, but probably not right for a centerpiece. However, I thinking it will help dress up the bar or the buffet.

And this would last all season long! Perfect for your Thanksgiving table later in the month.

So now that we have some centerpieces to work with, let's look at our dinnerware. It just so happens that I have plenty of pieces to chose from! I've got stunning teal plates with gold peacocks, sweet salad plates with darling birds (you know how I feel about birds in decor), and my vintage Iroquois Harvest Time dishes. Placed over grapevine chargers, the rustic vibes is incredibly vibrant. Earth tone stemware and gold silverware are perfect compliments. And I'm going to use neutral a tablecloth and napkins. And the pitcher would make a darling floral vase.

With all of this inspiration, it's time to go out into natural and see what I can gather! I know from experience that pine cones are gorgeous decor and so easy to prep. Yes, you have to prep your pine cones if you've picked them off the ground! Head here to see how! Tiny pumpkins can be picked up at the grocery store, but I better stock up now! As for the other supplies, I will just start filling in as I find what I love! 

When you think rustic, how would you decorate your table? And would you do it all yourself or head to your local craft store and hit up their amazing fall sales? I'm thinking a little of both! 

There is so much more to discuss. We have the dinner menu, the signature cocktail, setting up the bar, what dessert to make, and so much more! I can't wait to share it all!


Give Me All the Sweatshirts

Friday, October 20, 2017

From time to time, I like to break things up on the blog and talk about my second love, fashion! These are posts I like to refer to as Mama Style File. You know, things that are fashionable for the drop off/pick up line, Starbucks drive through, and weekly Target runs that still look chic and pulled together. My daily look has become a little more casual these days, thanks to all the darling sweatshirts that are currently on trend! I've always loved my graphic shirts, but now there's the addition of puffy sleeves, oversized ties, and faux fur! And you know how much I love faux fur on anything! Oh, and then there's the sweatshirt dress! EEKK! Seriously, sweatshirts are my new favorite thing in my wardrobe.

Now that the weather is turning cooler, depending on the day around here, I've been shopping all the sweatshirts styles that I can get my hands on. I've found eight that I'm pretty sure none of us could live without and they are all so affordable. Even better, right? 

These dressier versions of the sweatshirt can be worn with everyday jeans, but I'm also thinking about those cute J.Crew camo pants I'm obsessed with or with my faux leather leggings, if they pass the length test! Also, if styled right, any of my leather mini's! 

But then there are days where you just want to say it on your shirt and these immediately caught my eye! Etsy is a rabbit hole of darling sweatshirts and I found myself trapped for about an hour yesterday. I laughed out aloud, alone in my office, and then called my mom to share them with her. These made the cut, for now, but don't worry. I have plenty saved to my favorites for later!

Sure, these seem laid back, but I love how they paired them with a gray denim. I love gray denim. Such a chic break from your average pair of jeans! I also have a black pair of coated denim that would be so cute with these. And seriously, "Wish You Were Beer" is fabulous!

This new trend is one I can whole heartedly embrace! And, being the ever fabulous Stella & Dot Stylist that I am, I am already planning darling accessories for each look. From statement chandelier earrings to sweet delicates, there are definitely ways to take these from sweat to sweet!

Which is your favorite? Would you wear these with just simple jeans or with your finest leather? The styling options are endless!

Happy Friday, All!


An Apple Crisp with all Those Apples

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I'm still making my way through the apple pile and I've loved experimenting with recipes I've never made! Aside from apple pie and caramel apples, what other things are synonyms with apples and fall? An apple crisp! And man it was it delicious. And super easy to make!

I borrowed a recipe from the Tastes Better From Scratch blog and modified a few things. Like making my own caramel sauce. But if you aren't feeling that adventurous, that's okay. She has a really easy caramel sauce in her recipe. Armed with apples, and my recipe, it was time to get to work.

Again, I used my handy apple corer and slicer for the job, as as well as my peeler to peel the apples. These tools are a must for any apple task going forward!

Once you have the apples cored and sliced, you are going to take the slices and slice them even thinner!

Following the recipe, you are going to combine the ingredients to layer the apple slices with some yummy goodness! Like all that cinnamon and sugar that's coated all over! I could eat the slices just like this!

Now, if you are going to make your own caramel sauce, here are the things you'll need. A stick of butter, brown sugar, milk, and vanilla. Melt the butter in a sauce pan and then add the brown sugar and milk. Stir the mixture for 1-2 minutes until thick. Then add a teaspoon of vanilla and stir to combine. I added mine back into the measuring cup so I could easily drizzle it over the apples. Again, I could eat this with just a spoon! So good over the ice cream you'll top over the crisp! 


Now for the crumble. It's a standard crumble. Oatmeal, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Just follow the recipe!

You can mix the crumble with what works best for you. I started with a fork and decided to just go in with my hands. You can also use a pastry cutter. Again, what ever works. Below is the consistency you want.

Pour the apples into a 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish. I wish I had used a few more apples and a smaller baking dish, but it didn't matter in the end. Every last morsel was gone!. Drizzle the caramel sauce all over the apples, leaving a little extra to drizzle over the servings.

Layer your crumble all over the apple mixture.

And here is the yummy baked apple crisp! I loved pulling it out of the oven and seeing those edges bubbling over! It smelled divine and it was everything you think an apple crisp should taste like! You have to try it!

If you are keeping track at home, that's two apple recipes down and more apples to bake! Up next, apple fritters!


A Romantic at Heart

Monday, October 16, 2017

I am a romantic. I love sappy love stories, a good romantic comedy, and silly love songs. I've always been that way. Anyone else out there like me? If so, what is it about romance that gets us all swept up? Real life isn't terribly romantic, so maybe that's part of it. We personally don't walk or kiss in the rain. We don't sit by a roaring fire sipping wine with only the flames of the fire to light the room. And we don't run off on last minute trips to romantic cities just to get away from it all. Instead, we fall asleep on the couch from exhaustion most nights. We have a date night maybe once a month which consists of dinner and/or a movie. And we haven't taken a trip together since before McKinley was born. It's not to say that there aren't romantic gestures from time to time. But again, real life isn't all that romantic.

This is why I've fallen in love with the Hallmark Channel. They feed my need for romance. I've been a fan of their Countdown to Christmas for years, but I've never really tuned into their movies throughout the rest of the year. That is until this fall. And I'm hooked! It started with their original movie All Of My Heart and the sequel All Of My Heart: Inn Love. I missed the first one which debuted in 2015, and because of it's popularity, the fans begged for a sequel which premiered earlier this month. And of course they aired them back to back so I was forced to record them both. And I loved them. And I cried during both. And I have decided I want to move to the country and open a bed and breakfast complete with baby goats! That's what these romantic movies do to me! They cause me to start thinking about what life would be like, if I lived in a small town, and had unlimited fake money to spend while fixing up a dilapidated house, and turning it into my dream B&B! To quote Sleepless in Seattle, "You don't want to be in love. You want to be in a love in a movie." And it's true!! 

Movies allow you to escape real life and to have a fleeting thought of what could be. For instance, the most recent Hallmark movie, Love Struck Cafe, is about a man and woman who have both come back to their hometowns, as adults, and who just happen to be high school sweethearts. And of course you know they end up falling in love again, but you find yourself completely engrossed in the entire story line because it's endearing. And it reminds you of your youth and your first love. Could it possibly happen to you? Could you move back to your hometown someday and find your first love, (and you both happen to be single for whatever reason), and fall back in love like the first time? Of course you can! Because it's a movie. It's a story. How many people do you know find their first loves and just pick up where they left off 20+ years later? And if they do, I applaud them for living out their real life romance! 

Is it wrong for us romantic types to let our mind wander and think about a life filled with all those movie scenarios? To allow yourself a fleeting moment of imaging life with a vampire that's half our age? Or to fall in love with the forbidden priest and then spend a week on a deserted island only for him to leave you, yet again, for God? Uh, I cry every time I watch that movie. To let a photographer into your home, while your family is away, and then fall madly in love with him. And then letting him go as quickly as he arrived. I tell her every time to open that pickup truck door. Open it, I beg you! Those love stories are incredibly beautiful, yet so unrealistic. And, I fall for them every time! I tell you, I'm a hopeless romantic!

So what is romance in a real life? For me, it's not about being wined and dined. Or flown off to romantic cities for a brief getaway, although that sounds amazing! It's small things like opening a door. Filling up my car with gas on a winter day so I don't have to get out in the cold. Helping me with my coat. Buying me a chocolate cupcake from the grocery store bakery when running in to just get a loaf of bread. And going to see a romantic comedy when you would rather see anything else! It's supporting my crazy dreams about opening a B&B, or a children's bookstore, or a traveling Airstream boutique, or any other ridiculous idea I come up with regarding my entrepreneurial spirit. Most importantly, romance is just allowing me to be me and not questioning any of it. 

Do you live the movie like romance? Or do you live the common every day romantic life like me? Which would you prefer? And, what is romance to you? Whatever it may be, I hope your day is filled with chocolate, roses, champagne, and fire light!


All Those Apples

Monday, October 9, 2017

So after you go apple picking, you find yourself with a lot of apples! Then you start thinking, what am I going to do with all of those apples? And then you start thinking, I'm going to have to peel and slice most, if not all of them, and that's so time consuming. I still haven't finished that task!

Last week I decided to make cooked apples as a side for our dinner. There's nothing like pork chops and cooked apples. Anyone out there remember The Brady Bunch episode where Peter was a detective and he kept saying "porch chops and applesauce?" Even the writers knew the pairing was a hit. However, I wasn't going to be home in time to actually cook the apples like I normally would so I decided to take it to the grill. Joel was going to grill the chops anyway, so why not get all the dinner on it!

I washed, peeled, and sliced about five apples. You can use more or less depending on the size of your apples. And I used Granny Smith. I think they are the best for cooking and baking. Oh, and let's be honest, I didn't actually slice them. I used my handy slice and coring tool. It's the best tool in my drawer! 

From there, I threw handfuls of apples onto two pieces of aluminum foil. I eyeballed all of the added ingredients which consisted of brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon. I then added a couple of pads of butter to each bundle.

Then just wrap them up and place in the fridge until you need them.

I would have loved to show you an after photo, but due to some miscommunication between me and the hubs, the apples never made it to the grill! He thought he I said that he only needed to grill the chops when he asked if there was something he needed to do to the apples. My response to that was, no just grill them. Not sure where the breakdown came from, but he grilled them after dinner and then took some for lunch with the leftovers. I forgot to ask him if they were any good!

I'm going to be sharing my apple recipes so you too can have ideas for all the ways to use your apples, especially before they spoil. Tonight, I think it's either an apple crisp or an apple shortbread bar! 

As they saying goes, "An apple a day."


Fall Family Outing

Thursday, October 5, 2017

McKinley came home last Thursday afternoon from school with a low grade temp. By midnight it was 103.5! Yikes! It came out of nowhere. He was home from school on Friday and was a puny little mess. Saturday was much the same. He ran a low grade to semi-high temp all weekend. That is until late afternoon Saturday. His temp was finally 98.6 and it stayed that way through Sunday morning. With his fever gone, and this household being stir crazy, we decided to have an easy going family outing. We packed up and headed to the apple orchard!

Fall is one of my favorite times of year. The weather turns crisp. You finally get to wear all those comfy sweaters. Pull out the edgy leather jacket you've been missing. Oh, and all the boots are on rotation! I can't get enough. But it's also pumpkin patch and apple picking time and we spend all of our weekends doing family fundays. McKinley requested the apple picking outing and we had a blast! Joel had never been and I'm pretty sure he had fun as well. With the exception for climbing apple trees to get the best ones that were hanging out at the top. We found ourselves scraped and scratched, but it was worth it to hear McKinley direct us to the best apples in the orchard. (Note to self, don't wait until apple season is almost over! Or take an apple picking tool with you for those hard to reach fruits!)

Before heading out, I packed us a little picnic lunch. We threw several blankets, the wagon, and bug spray in the car and off we went. What did I love most? Seeing how many families were out there doing the same thing. It truly is a family bonding experience. Here are some pics from our afternoon.

We have officially kicked off fall! What is on your family agenda? Up next for us is visiting Johnson Farms for a little pumpkin patch picking!


For Baby

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I am truly at a loss for words after the tragic events that took place in Las Vegas this weekend. Everything always seems so insignificant. Today, as I dropped McKinley off at school, I found myself lingering a little longer. I wasn't ready to walk out of the school. I know I will be back there in a couple of hours, it's my volunteer day in his classroom, but in the meantime I've been teary.

I seem to lean on music when my spirits need to be lifted. But today, I turned to my beloved trio Peter, Paul, and Mary. As we arrived at school, he was telling me about something that took place in music class last week, and his little narrative had me smiling and chuckling. And as we made our way into school, with his little hand in mine, I was reminded of this song. Sweet baby boy, I hope you always know how much I love you.

For Baby

I'll walk in the rain by your side,
I'll cling to the warmth of your tiny hand.
I'll do anything to help you understand,
I'll love you more than anybody can.

And the wind will whisper your name to me,
Little birds will sing along in time,
The leaves will bow down when you walk by,
And morning bells will chime.

I'll be there when you're feeling down,
To kiss away the tears if you cry.
I'll share with you all the happiness I've found,
A reflection of the love in your eyes.

And I'll sing you the songs of the rainbow,
Whisper all the joy that is mine.
The leaves will bow down when you walk by,
And morning bells will chime.

I'll walk in the rain by your side,
I'll cling to the warmth of your tiny hand.
I'll do anything to help you understand,
I'll love you more than anybody can.

The leaves will bow down when you walk by,
And morning bells will chime.

electric toothbrush