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October 29, 2013

Emma's Halloween Costume | Easy DIY Princess Dress

I really wanted Emma to be a Pumpkin for Halloween.  Mike and I were both pumpkins when we were toddlers and I love the idea of the classic costume.  However, a couple of weeks ago someone asked Emma what she was going to be for Halloween - Cinderella.  Humph.

I knew if I still wanted her to be that sweet little punkin' I had envisioned, it would be a struggle.  Yes, I'm sure I could coax her in it for 10 minutes, but she wouldn't be excited - there would be no thrill for her.  

Emma loves pink, she loves dresses, she loves jewels and she loves shoes, and I knew that if I made her a big poofy pink princess dress complete with jewels and pink shoes she would light up.  And, well, that's what we live for, right?

I was a little intimidated by making a dress from scratch - I don't know how to install zippers and every time I try to make her a piece of clothing the proportions seem to be off.  I wanted this dress to look like a real dress, but be something she would be comfy in and could play dress up with for the next year or so.  

So, I started with a cotton twill dress I found at GapKids for $8 - it was on clearance.  I thought it would work perfectly as a structure, as my plan was to just put on a fancy pink facade.  

I started by putting a hem in the bottom of the pink fabric for the skirt, then pinning it onto the dress, overlapping it every couple of inches to make pleats.  *Please note, I am not a professional seamstress, so I realize my techniques are not perfect, but I just did what I needed to do to try to make something cute... maybe I'll inspire you to try it.

I stitched (with a machine) around the waist, then trimmed the excess fabric.

Next, I pieced the top together, allowing extra fabric to fold over the seam around the neck and arm holes.

I should also tell you that I left the zipper in the back and just allowed extra fabric to fold over it to hide it.

Done!  I'm going to wait until Halloween for the big reveal when she goes dressed for her school party, but you can see a tiny peek below. 

UPDATE : Here is the reveal of Emma in her dress

Pretty Pink Princess Slippers... we bought them a couple of sizes too big so she can get them on and off herself.

I loved how excited she was to try on her dress - let's just hope she doesn't want to wear it to church!

October 16, 2013

Bacon Braised Green Beans

Mike loves green beans.  Knowing this, I've attempted to make him several of my favorite versions - sauteed with shallots, sauteed with garlic, lemon zest and parmesan, and sauteed with pancetta.  All of these recipes were met with so-so reviews.  No matter what I paired them with, he just doesn't like sauteed-and-still-crunchy green beans.  He likes good old fashioned green beans that are cooked for a long time with onions, bacon and salt.   It turns out - so do I.  My Granny was famous for green beans just like these - they were cooked all day on the stovetop.  I made my own version of these to go along with our "Relaxing Sunday" dinner.  I couldn't bring myself to cook all of the color out, but I did make sure they were nice and soft (even granting Mike a test), versus crunchy.  They might be everyone's new favorite.

Bacon Braised 
Green Beans

New! Printable Recipes, here.

1 pound of green beans
4 pieces of bacon, diced
1/2 cup of onion, diced
1 cup of chicken stock
sea salt & cracked pepper

In a saute pan that has a fitted lid, cook the bacon on medium until the fat has rendered.  Add the onion and cook until soft.  Add the green beans, chicken stock, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook on medium for 10 minutes, then cover and cook for 30 minutes on a low simmer.  Season with more salt, if necessary.

October 15, 2013

Braised Red Cabbage with Goat Cheese

Houston's is one of my favorite restaurants.  Yes, it is a chain, but they do what they do really well and many of my favorite recipes are derived from some of their menu items.  We went to dinner there on Saturday night and I had one of the best restaurant meals I've had in a long time.  It was this very meal that inspired our Sunday night menu - Pork Chops, Applesauce & Braised Red Cabbage.  The sweet applesauce, served alongside the vinegary cabbage is unbelievable... especially when topped with creamy goat cheese.  This will be a new favorite of ours this Fall and Winter.

Braised Red Cabbage
with goat cheese

1 head of red cabbage, shredded
3 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of white wine vinegar
1/2 cup of water
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
sea salt, if needed
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
4 ounces of goat cheese

In a dutch oven, melt butter, then add cabbage, vinegar, water and brown sugar.  Cover and put in a 325 degree oven for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

Serve warm topped with crumbled goat cheese.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Homemade Applesauce | Relaxing Sunday Menu

This recipe comes from yesterday's post - "Our Relaxing Sunday Resolution."  See the entire menu here and look for the rest of the recipes this week.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin
with Homemade Applesauce

New! Printable Recipes, here.

Serves 4-6

2 pork tenderloins (about 2.5 pounds)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
2 teaspoons of worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of dijon
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
8 apples (any kind)
2 tablepoons of butter
1/2 cup of orange juice
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of brown sugar

Begin by marinading the pork.  Mix together garlic, soy, worcestershire, dijon, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a plastic bag or shallow dish.  Marinade pork in mixture for at least 30 minutes.

Next, make the applesauce - it bakes for 1 hour, so be sure to make it ahead of time.

Peel and core the apples - keeping some of the red peel.  I add some of the red peel to the cooking apples to give it great color.  Cut the apples into 1-inch chunks.  In a saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar for 2 minutes, then add apples, orange juice, cinnamon and a piece of the red peel.  Cook on the stovetop for 10 minutes on low, then cover and put in a 325 oven for 1 hour.  If your saucepan is not oven safe, transfer to a covered casserole dish.

When it is finished cooking in the oven, breakup of the apples by stirring with a whisk.  Serve warm.  You can make this a couple of days in advance and just reheat as needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the pork, heat a medium skillet, then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Sear the pork on each side for 3 minutes, until nice color is achieved.  Put the entire skillet in the oven (uncovered) and cook for another 20-25 minutes, until the pork reaches 150 degrees on a meat thermometer.  Again, if your skillet is not ovenproof, then transfer it to a baking sheet.

Remove it from the oven, cover with lid (or foil) and let rest for 5 minutes.  Slice and serve with warm applesauce.

October 14, 2013

Our Relaxing Sunday Resolution | Pork Tenderloin, Braised Cabbage with Goat Cheese, Bacon Green Beans, Homemade Applesauce & Sticky Toffee Spice Cake

A couple of months ago we made a resolution to make Sundays a real day of rest.  Sundays used to be filled with projects, laundry, fresh sheets and cleaning - which used to work, pre-Emma.  When it was just Mike, Mr. Darcy and me, getting all of those things done on Sunday used to feel good, then we would curl up on the sofa, have a cozy dinner and watch TV.  With Emma, trying to accomplish those things all in one day + have a relaxing dinner, is just crazy.  

The original goal was to get everything fresh and clean ready for the week ahead, but instead we were just wearing ourselves out and feeling overwhelmed at the end of the weekend.  When we tried, we would take turns playing with Emma while the other ran around trying to be productive, then we switched.  We were exhausted at the end of the day, only about half of our projects were half-started (mostly more messes made), and the worst part of all - Emma didn't have much fun either.  The old method just wasn't working.  It took me a while to realize this... almost 22 months.

So, we've changed our ways.  Instead of waiting for Sunday to get the house tidy, we do it on Friday (or Saturday morning, if I have to work on Friday).  Laundry, cleaning, target trip, etc.  We try to have fun with it - Target/Starbucks trip in the morning, then lounge around in the living room and play while we fold laundry, and I do most of the heavy cleaning while she naps in the afternoon.  Since we rarely have dinner at home on Friday, there is no dinner to prepare, and I try to have everything done when she wakes up from her nap so we can go on a walk or go to the park.

I love that the house is clean and ready for the weekend - leaving us with an open agenda to take fun adventures or just lounge around and play. 

As a project-aholic, it took me awhile to really get on board and not plan any project for Sunday.  It is so tempting to try to get things done that I think will make our house "feel good," but it was really was going against the true goals I have for our family.  With Emma in our lives, we've discovered we don't get as much pleasure from completing those projects as we do spending no-stress, relaxing time with her.

Now our Sundays are all about family time.  No goals, no agendas, no plans, no projects - just real family time.  We take walks, we go to church, we drink lots of coffee and hot cider, we cook, we eat, we lounge and we play.  It feels so good. 

I love to make a big, low maintenance family-style dinner for Sunday night.  I know that it is our "day of rest," but there is nothing I'd rather do than be in the kitchen with Emma and Mike's help.  I try to make low maintenance meals and that will make the house smell good.  This Sunday we had Mike's parents over for dinner - it was a big feast, but it really only took about an hour of hands-on time in the kitchen.  Mike's Dad doesn't eat meat, so I always try to have lots of vegetable sides he'll be able to make a meal on.

Our Sunday Family Dinner :

Pork Tenderloin with Homemade Applesauce
Braised Red Cabbage with Goat Cheese
Bacon Braised Green Beans
Mashed Potatoes
Maple Roasted Acorn Squash
Salted Sticky Toffee Caramel Spice Cake with Whipped Cream

I'll be sharing all of these recipes this week - mostly tomorrow and Wednesday, then I have more Halloween treats to share!

Happy Monday!

I hope you are all rested and ready for the week : )

Right : Emma pre-Church on Sunday morning sporting her new pink cowboy boots.

October 09, 2013

Welcome to Our "Fall-ized" Home

Welcome to our "Fall-ized" home.  I added sprigs of bittersweet to a simple wreath that always hangs on our door.  The deep red-orange color of these berries has really attracted me this season, so I've used it several places in our home to create a bright pop of color against our mostly neutral palette.

The second pop of orange is the linen pillow I made for the sofa.

I've recently made a couple of new purchases for this room from a Barbara Cosgrove sample sale.  Barbara is from Kansas City and her daughter happens to be one our neighbors. 

I purchased this fabulously simple and elegant brass table.  I won't tell you what a steal-of-a-deal it was... but let's just say I couldn't have purchased a knockoff from Target any cheaper.

My second purchase was this pair of lamps.  Barbara helped me select these based on a photo I showed her of my living room.  I love the larger scale - my old ones look ity-bity in comparison.  She said the most common mistake is using shades that are too small.

I love a cozy sofa full of pillows.

I made this pillow with a half yard of "pumpkin" linen I purchased from Nell Hills.

These are a fun new addition to the store for for Halloween.

Here are some of the pumpkins Emma picked last weekend.  We have quite the collection of small pumpkins - she loved that she could carry them all by herself.  Isn't that stem fabulous?

My third purchase from the sale - I'm obsessed with this pair of artichoke lamps. 

I put them on the mantle for now, but I'd love to have them on a console table at some point. 

Here is a view of the room coming back from the dining room.

And the room complete with a peek at Emma's shopping cart in the corner and her lamb chair.

The dining room sporting another pop of the deep orange.

 Our boots.

Just outside the dining room on the side porch - I've moved my herbs from the garden to make them more easily accessible.

I love this framed print of our wedding day - Mike had it done (picked it out all by himself) for our first anniversary.

The view upon entering our bedroom.

Another orange linen pillow - this one embroidered with our monogram.

Thanks for taking my little tour - Happy Fall decorating!

October 04, 2013

Emma's Fun on the Farm x2 | Pony Ride, Apple Picking & Overalls

We had a major Fall Fun weekend last weekend.  In fact, it is Thursday night and I'm just now getting to sort thru the photos - we're still recovering from all of the Fall Fun we had.  I'm not sure why or how our weekend got so packed, but packed it was.  Here are just a couple (errr...) photos from the weekend. 

Here is Emma dancing in her new favorite wardrobe item.  These overalls were worn first by my sister, then me, then my brother, and now Emma.  They are amazing.  Especially over jack-o-lantern pj's. 

We spent Friday night with my parents in Lexington, and got up bright and early to have breakfast at the Horse Farm near my parents' house (Big River Ranch).  Nothing like biscuits and gravy for breakfast while you're sitting outside, on a horse farm on the first "fall feeling" morning.  Emma, clearly, loved it.

Just woke-up face.

She didn't want to get as close the horses as she thought she did... 

Storm headed our way!

One more of the "bibs."


Do you remember this pic from last year?  She couldn't even touch the ground : )   I can't decide if it seems like a month ago or ten years ago...

Now she's definitely in charge of driving.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and we found ourselves at yet another farm.  This time we were at The Red Barn Farm in Weston.  It was our first visit - it is fabulous.  Picture perfect in an authentic, really beautiful way.  Last year we visited another farm that was a little too circus-like (bounce house, etc...), but this was an absolutely fabulous experience. 

Above : We took a horse-drawn wagon ride through the fields. 

A view of the farm in the distance.  

Emma and Mike ready to visit some animals.

Emma galloping like the horses... she was starting to warm up to them.

Turns out, she loves horses.

 But she does not like chickens...

About 2 seconds later.

Our Fall weekend wouldn't have been complete without a little apple picking.

And an impromptu family photo using the timer delay...

Sort of worked!  Very rare to get all of us in one photo.

Oh Emma - you are such a sweet girl : )

By the way, here is a photo of Emma in the same cardigan last year at Thanksgiving.  Again, could have been yesterday or 5 years ago!

We tried to avoid the pumpkins, as we have an official pumpkin patch trip planned this weekend (complete with cider donuts).

But, a little looking never hurt anyone!

We've got a couple more fall traditions planned for the next couple of weeks - pumpkin carving, halloween sugar cookie making and I'm working on Emma's costume. 

What are your favorite Fall activities?  There is really nothing better for us than exploring with Emma as she tries new experiences... especially this time of year (though I expect I'll say the same about the holidays).  I'd love to hear what you've done with your families to make fun fall memories. 
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