Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Fall Potpourri Simmer Pot!

When I was growing up, my mom would buy potpourri simmer pots and they always made our house smell soo good!  

And as great as a fall candle is, there is something even more amazing about real ingredients simmering away on your stove top making your house smell like the most delicious fall ever - I am not even kidding, can you tell how passionate I am about this?  This stuff iz goooood.

Anyway, this simmer pot is great for a day when company is coming over, or any day that you feel like being fancy and celebrating fall!


Put all of your ingredients in a small pot, add a bit of water, and put on the stove over low heat.


The water will eventually evaporate, so make sure you add more water as needed.




Monday, September 29, 2014

Weekend Recap!

Happy Monday!

John was away this weekend doing a rim-to-rim hike at the Grand Canyon, and while he was gone I did a whole lot of sleeping, crafting, and watching TV... it was glorious!  

But I am SO happy to have my hubby back home with my kitty and me (Winnie was not happy that John left...). :)


I started the weekend with some sushi and gathered pine cones for my garland. It would have been much less awkward if I had Scout with me when I was gathering, but since she is away at camp, I had to search solo.  I found one pine cone in particular that was really great, but it was right by someone's window - I didn't go get it, but if you can tell, I'm still thinking about it...

In addition to my garland, I made the most amazing gourd and pumpkin soy candles!! 
DIY instructions coming soon because these babies are pretty awesome.


John had a blast on his hike, which is a very good thing...  it's not like you can decide half-way through that you're done.  John said that there are signs everywhere that say "down is optional, up is mandatory" - word to the wise...

John started down the North Kaibab trail from the North Rim (before sunrise), hiked along Bright Angel Creek at the bottom of the canyon, and then took the Bright Angel trail up to the South Rim. All in all, he hiked 25 miles from 5:30 am to 4:40 pm. 

Other than hiking in a torrential downpour for the last 10 miles (...), everything went smooth enough!

Here are some of the pictures from his hike.









Thursday, September 25, 2014

3 Month Countdown - Christmas Card Inspriation

I don't know about you, but it is absolutely crazy for me to think about Christmas being only 3 months away - how did this happen?!!

One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is to send out Christmas cards, and as crazy as it sounds, it's about that time to be thinking of inspiration (especially if you plan on hiring someone to take your photo for you!). My hubby thinks I'm crazy and dramatic, but this is serious stuff to me - the holidays are how I express myself...!! :)

Similar to last year, John only agreed to Christmas card photos if Scout can be involved... so the pup will definitely be included!

Here are some Christmas cards designs (all from minted.com) that I am absolutely loving (obviously, the photos would be different... but you get the idea!).












Here are my picks from last year - so many great choices!

Do you send out Christmas cards?! Does your hubby comply? Where do you order them from?


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

assemble-and-freeze meals!

I don't know about you, but after a long day of work, I'm ready to eat dinner... and if you didn't catch that, I'm ready to eat dinner - not make dinner.  ;)  I absolutely love to bake, but when it comes to weekday cooking, I'm not a huge fan, and to be honest, it feels like tacking on more work to my day!

So, to help prepare for my transition back to work (and anticipated lack of interest in meal prep), this past weekend I made 12 freezer meals for John and me to eat throughout the month.  The total cost of the 12 meals was about $135 (including the disposable baking pans that I bought)... so about $11/meal.  Money aside, I decided to do this for the convenience of a tasty post-work meal with basically no day-of work required!


To make things easy, I used chicken for all 12 of my meals, but if you are feeling ambitious, you can most certainly prepare a variety of meats.  All in all, I used about 10 lbs of chicken.

I made...
- Chicken pot pie (2)
- Pesto ravioli and chicken (2)
- Chicken and wild rice casserole (2)
- White chicken enchiladas (2)


For the majority of these recipes I used the Dream Dinners cookbook, but there are plenty of resources and recipes on Pinterest that provide similar information for freezer meals.

Tips for meal prep:
-  If the recipe calls for cooked chicken, cook your chicken in the crock pot the day before... this way it requires very little prep work, and it will shred very easily.  Or, buy a rotisserie chicken - even more yummy!
-  Prepare the meals in dishes that can go straight into the oven (and then be disposed of, if you are clean-up lazy like me!).
-  Serve the meal with something fresh, like a salad... we always buy the salad kits (again, it's a convenience thing), but I realize it is way cheaper (in the end) to buy all of the ingredients separately.
-  Label everything! Label what the dish is and how to prepare it.  For example, specify whether the dish must be thawed first, or if it can go straight into the oven.
- Since you will be essentially assembling a large number of meals in a single day, it will take some time.  Invite a friend over to join, turn on some music, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy the process (these 12 meals took me about 4 hours in total).
-  Once the meals are assembled in baking dishes, wrap them in airtight foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper... proper packaging will help maintain quality and prevent freezer burn.

Tips for tasty meals:
-  Carrots, zucchini, onions and celery are vegetables that freeze best.
-  Dice vegetables no smaller than 1 inch; larger chunks will freeze and reheat better than smaller pieces.
-  Cream cheese will dry out when frozen if not blended with other ingredients (instead, try a yogurt-based spread).
-  Heavy cream and mayonnaise do not freeze (substitute with sour cream which freezes better).
-  If you plan to freeze cooked pasta, do not fully cook the pasta.  It should be a bit firmer than al dente.
-  If any of your meals have a finishing sauce, freeze the sauce separately from the rest of the meal so the food does not get soggy. 


Have you made freezer meals before?  Any go-to recipes?!



Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekending!

Happy Monday! Keeping it short today, since I'm officially back to work at a new job!! 



ONE
John and I dropped Scout back off at bird camp this weekend, and we will very much miss her.  

(John insisted I further explain what "bird camp" is because he thinks it isn't clear.)  
Scout is a French Brittany, which is a bird hunting breed. Some examples of other bird hunting breeds ("bird dogs") include German Shorthaired Pointers, English Setters, and Springer Spaniels. When we first brought Scout home as a puppy, we had the intention of training her to do what she was bred to do- find and "point" birds.  "Pointing" happens when the dog catches the scent of a bird in a bush or tall grass and instincts cause the dog to freeze, often with one paw up, which makes it look like the dog is pointing to where the bird is hiding. The training facility that we are taking her to helps further these instincts.  She will learn a lot of these things by practicing, but the professional training gives her a good foundation and speeds up the process.  Here in Arizona, quail season opens in two weeks, and John would like her to be fairly functional to start.


TWO
There is something about a lunch date that I think is so romantic!  On Saturday, John took me to lunch at Postino, and I ordered a cucumber honey lemonade... and it was uh-mazing! 

Not too sweet, and very refreshing - I may try to recreate this gem at home.


THREE
After lunch we did a little bit of shopping, and I finally purchased the Zara scarf that I have been seeing everywhere.  Last week this scarf was on 5 or 6 people's blogs, and every time I saw it I said something along the lines of "Ahh! Need that!"  ...So finally it's mine.  It is too hot to wear it outside, but I have no problem rocking it in my living room.

BY THE WAY, did you know that Forever 21 does not do returns?  I went to return a shirt that I bought the day before, and I swear they treated me like a criminal for suggesting I wanted to return it - it was super confusing... Not exactly quality customer service (but I guess that's to be expected when you're purchasing clothes for $10).


FOUR
For lunch on Sunday, John and I went to Blanco and had the most amazing chicken, short rib, and carnitas tacos... the location that we went to is just a walk-up window, so we enjoyed our delicious food outside under some misters (it was actually pretty nice outside with the breeze)!


FIVE
To prepare for going back to work, I made 12 premade freezer meals to eat throughout the month.  I'm actually quite excited for them!  I spent about $135 (including the dishes) to make the 12 meals... not too bad!  All have chicken in them, and they should be pretty tasty when we decide to eat them.  

I'm all about no-prep post-work dinners, and this is the only way I can think of to avoid eating out every day of the week.  More on this tomorrow!


SIX
We didn't get a chance to make it to the apple orchard this past weekend, but we did indulge in some delicious Arizona apple cider - Mm, mm, mmm!  Gotta get what you can!


Friday, September 19, 2014

Five on Friday

Happy Friday! This week went by way too quickly, and it is hard to believe that October is right around the corner and Christmas is less than 100 days away... what?! Now, on to my Five on Friday!
 

ONE 
 
One of my best friends, Hannah, booked a flight to come visit me over Halloween weekend and I cannot wait to see her!! Hannah and I have been good friends since high school, and when I lived in New Mexico, she also visited over Halloween - so I guess that's our thing... and I like it!!

Next Halloween, she won't be able to visit because she is doing the World Race.  Have you heard of it?!! It's pretty incredible... she will be traveling to 11 countries in 11 months to share the Good News and love of Jesus.



TWO

This week I put out some of our fall home decor, and I am SO happy I did... it's incredible what a little seasonal decor can do for your mood!

Here is a little glimpse into our festive home. :)



THREE

Monday means back to work for me! Since I had a week off between jobs, I was able to enjoy a little down time and have lunch with John several days this week.  It's so great to see him during the day... it makes me feel like it's the weekend!

I am excited (and a little nervous) to get back into the full swing of work! Starting a new job is always a transition, but I'm hoping it will go smoothly.

 
FOUR

Scout goes back to bird camp this weekend for two weeks.  We will miss her dearly, but the timing works out pretty well with me starting a new job.  

After dropping her off, there is a pumpkin and apple orchard near Scout's camp that we are going to visit! Can you believe Monday is the first official day of fall?! There is no better way to celebrate than some you-pick apples.



FIVE

Can someone make me these caramel apple cheesecake bars?! Please and thank you!



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

DIY: Coconut Oil Lotion Bars

Have you ever tried Lush's lotion bars? 
Apparently they are now called "massage bars"... fancy! Either way, I have purchased a few in the past, and they are fabulous! Living in Arizona, the air is so dry and I am constantly applying lotion to my hands to keep my skin from feeling tight and uncomfortable.  
These bars are a fun and mess-free alternative to traditional lotion!

When I came across a DIY on Pinterest to make them, I knew I had to try it. 
They are so incredibly easy to make, and they only have two ingredients!  


By the way, this was my first time working with coconut oil, and I have about half of a jar left... any suggestions on what I should do with it?! 

I know that people swear by this stuff for all sorts of things!


How to:
1.  Begin by melting the bees wax in the microwave.  It takes a bit to start melting, so be patient.  Once it starts to soften, break the wax into smaller pieces... it will start to melt faster this way.
2.  Once the bees wax is melted, add an equal amount of coconut oil.  I just eye-balled it, but feel free to measure if you want to be exact.  Stir until the coconut oil is completely mixed in with the bees wax. If you want to add any essential oils, add them at this time (I added lavender!).
3.  Pour the mixture into soap molds.  Let sit until completely cooled (after mine sat at room temperature for 10 minutes, I moved them to the refrigerator to speed up the process).
4.  Once the lotion bars are completely set, they should just pop right out of the molds. 


I used about 1/4 lb of bees wax and my mixture made 10 seashell-shaped lotion bars.
Store the lotion bars that are not being used in a Ziploc bag and keep out of direct sunlight and heat.


To use the lotion bars, warm the bars in the your hands by rubbing them together (similar to a bar of soap).  Below 75 degrees the coconut oil is a solid, but when it rubs together with your hands and body heat, it will slightly melt.  Rub the oils into your skin.


By the way, I added a DIY tab to my blog to help organize my past projects... check it out for more DIY ideas! I plan on doing a similar tab for recipes (it just may take me awhile to sort through my old posts) - blog organization for the win!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lofthouse Copycat Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Soo, the pumpkin baking has officially started! And these gems should not be missed!

You know those amazing Lofthouse cookies that everyone loves?  The ones with the bright colored frosting and sprinkles?!

Well, here is a pumpkin spice version... and they are absolutely amazing!


What you need:
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
 - 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 large eggs
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

How to:
1. In a large bowl mix together the butter, oil, pumpkin, sugars, vanilla and eggs, until incorporated and smooth.  Slowly mix in all the dry ingredients.
2. Roll the dough into balls and place on a lined cookie sheet.
3. Dip the bottom of a glass in a bowl of sugar, and flatten the cookies to your desired thickness.
4. Bake for 9ish minutes at 350 degrees.


Once the cookies are fully cooled, top with a pumpkin spice glaze.

What you need:
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 4 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Mix together all of the ingredients, top the cookies with the frosting, and let the frosting set before serving.


Have you started your pumpkin baking yet?! 
September is officially half-over, so I think it is time :)


Monday, September 15, 2014

Miss America!

Last night there was some serious drama in the Pray household! 

Just kidding, but in all seriousness, John loves Theodore Roosevelt, and there is a new mini series that started last night on PBS about his life.  The only problem is that it was on at the same time as Miss America!

Thankfully, I convinced my hubby that Miss America is like a woman's super bowl, and it just isn't the same unless it is watched live.  So, being the great man that he is, John joined me for a little viewing party! 


I'm not much of a pageant girl, but I'm always up for a competition!

My pick: Miss Mississippi                           John's pick: Miss Oklahoma

                      


Evening wear:  
(I'm not even going to comment on the swim suit portion - those girls are in serious shape!)
Loved, loved, loved Miss New York and Miss Mississippi's dress... the only evening wear that I wasn't thrilled about was Miss Florida's.

Talents:
Both John and I thought Miss New York was on the bottom for the talent performances... the whole cup routine was interesting and different at first, but I felt like it fell a little flat half-way through.

 
I also thought Miss Florida killed it with her dance and both Miss Mississippi and Miss Arkansas did a great job singing.

When I heard that Miss Ohio was going to do a ventriloquist act, I was scared for my life... but very surprisingly, she pulled it off well enough (although I had very, very low expectations)!


As far as the question round, I'm not going to lie, I thought they all did pretty well.  It has got to be so nerve wracking having to come up with an answer to a highly political question on the spot!


Did you watch Miss America? Who were you rooting for?!

And if you're wondering, John and I plan to watch the first part of his mini series tonight to make up for missing it last night. :) :)  
(Don't worry - I already have Dancing with the Stars set on my DVR!)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Five on Friday!


ONE  |  Seattle
John and I booked flights to Seattle for a little Thanksgiving break vacation!  John lived in Seattle for close to 4 years when he was growing up and has very fond memories living there... I have never been, and I am excited for him to show me around a bit!  The first thing I did after booking our flights was check out Brittany's great Seattle/Vancouver guide!  

Anyone else have any suggestions of must sees?!


TWO  |  Arizona Driver's License
So I finally switched my license plate and driver's license over to Arizona from New Mexico... and let's just say that my new picture left a lot to be desired.  Normally at the DMV they let you view your picture before committing to it, but they did not let me see it until after they printed it out.

Let's put it this way - You know when you're in grade school and there is always one person's picture in the yearbook whose face is way closer than everyone else's?  And you're like wow that picture makes that person look like they have a huge face.  Well, that's me... in my picture I have no shoulders, no neck, and hardly a chin... it's bad.  The worst part? It doesn't expire for FORTY years!  So unless I lose it, I won't need to renew my license until I am 66, ha!



THREE  |  Macarons
The Whole Foods by our house sells macarons, and every time I walk by those beauties, I just can't help but indulge... howeverrrr, they are never very good! They don't taste as fresh as they could... so, I decided to email to company who makes them and let them know (hey, if someone was selling stale macarons with my name on them, I would want to know too!).  And the company emailed me back and sent me a big box of fresh macarons! Mmm!

John and I ate them all in a single sitting and they were dee-licious!  I'm the kind of girl who will email Sour Patch Kids if I don't have enough reds in my bag... so it really is nothing personal, more of an FYI.  Just kidding, but you get my point. ;)



FOUR  |  Last Day of Work
My last day of working from home was on Wednesday, and I will be starting my new job on the 22nd.  I have all of next week off, and I am SO excited.  

I plan to do some baking, put out all of my fall decorations, and finish up some long overdue errands.


FIVE  |  Work Clothes
I was looking for some new simple shirts to wear to work and started perusing Old Navy online, and I found a couple really great pieces! And, even better, they came in tall sizes - since I'm 5'9" it is very difficult for me to find shirts that are long enough to have the option to tuck in, so hopefully these will fit the bill!

They are currently on sale for $14 each, but there was an additional 30% for online purchases making them $9 each (and free shipping!).  Holler!




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Interior and Exterior Fall Decor

I have yet to break out my fall decor, but plan to do so within the next couple of weeks.  I usually add a few fall pieces to my collection every year, and this year is no different - I am very much looking forward to perusing Hobby Lobby and a good ole Target shopping trip! And who knows, maybe a DIY?!

So (not surprisingly) I went straight to Pinterest to pull some inspiration.  
Below you'll find my interior and exterior inspirations for fall!


Interior


Exterior

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Football Food

Now that we are a few weeks into the college football season, it is time to really start with the game day food.  John is big on his game day food - he needs it to get the full "experience" (or so he says!).  And I'm with him - there is something about extra tasty food that makes the game more fun to watch (and especially when you can snack on things all day long)!

Wings, spinach dip, and chips and salsa are regulars, but I thought I would switch it up with a crab rangoon dip. It was very rich and very yummy - I'm sure this recipe will be on repeat!


What you need:
- 2 8oz packages of cream cheese
- 1 6.5oz can of lump crab meat
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 2 tbs of chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup of chopped scallions

How to:
1.  Combine all ingredients, except the crab, and mix thoroughly.
2.  Fold in the crab meat.
3.  Place the dip in a oven safe dish (I used a nonstick spray first).
4.  Top with breadcrumbs (optional).
5.  Bake at 400 degrees until bubbly (it took me about 45 minutes).

Serve with tortilla chips and Triscuits.



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