Rustic Christmas Mantel (without looking country)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Christmas decorating is in full swing (during nap time) around here!  I like to take a few days to leisurely take out all of my Christmas decor and think about where to put things.  I enjoy the process as much as the end result!

I knew that my Willow Tree Nativity should go on the mantel this year (away from curious fingers) and didn't think my usual glittery ribbon mantel decor would go well.  

I'm loving all of the rustic-without-being country Christmas decor this year.  No burlap or wooden creatures.  Maybe rustic chic is a better description?  I just made that up, but it sounds right. 

Taking a cue from this rustic trend, I decided to go on a hunt in the backyard during Lucy's nap for some new decorations.  

And this is what I came back with.  Perfect.  

I took a large vase and added the holly, large twigs, and evergreen branches (I had bought a bunch at the grocery store for $4).  Then I filled the bottom of the vase with cheap old gold ornament balls (8 or 9) and added a few extra glittery sticks (purchased last year at a craft store).  Ta-da!

Rustic, practically free, and I think it looks pretty good.  

Especially with our Velvet Stockings that I love love love. 

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
My Thanksgiving Top 5 is as follows: 

1. Relaxing with family
2. Pecan Pie
3. Stuffing
4. Leftover Pecan Pie (the Black Friday breakfast of champions)
5. The Macy's Parade

I mention this because we are responsible for bringing the pecan pie this year and I decided to try a new recipe... It better be good or my holiday will be 2/5 ruined.  I went with  Paula Dean's Bourbon Pecan Pie and so far it looks good.  

My husband and I are skipping the hometown bar scene this Thanksgiving Eve, but I did find the perfect wine for the evening.  

Love it. 

Warm and safe wishes to everyone traveling in the horrible weather on the east coast today!  

Black Friday Prep: Wrapping Station!

We will be heading to my parents' house for Thanksgiving so my prep for turkey day is limited.  Instead, I've been focusing on preparing for Black Friday.  All of the fall decorations are put away and I have transformed our dining room into a wrapping station.

More like a wrapping haven.

I love to wrap gifts.  Love.  There is something about adding a little glittery touch or a beautiful bow on the outside of a Present for a loved makes it so much more special.  

I wrap presents as I buy them, and then use the pretty packages around the house as added decoration during the holiday season.  My mom always did this and I've continued the tradition in our home.  Why hide them under the tree?  

Here's what I keep stocked in my wrapping station for the season:

Wrapping paper in a variety of red, green & gold
Bags in several sizes- don't forget the wine bags! 
More ribbon
Baubles, bells & bows
Tissue paper in multiple colors
Tape, scissors, labels, pens
Envelope for receipts- this is the easiest way to keep them in one place! 

And don't forget the mischievous cat. 

Happy wrapping (and shopping)!

Thankful for a blog break

Sunday, November 24, 2013
I didn't mean to take such a long break between posts, but it just happened.  

Blame it on a combination of having transitioned Lu to one nap, celebrating 5 birthdays (including my old husband), and not feeling overly inspired to create/make/bake.  

Between these myriad of reasons, I also (consciously) realized that I was thankful for a bit of a blog breather.  I think it is so easy to get caught up in wanting to do something for the blog, rather than wanting to do it to do it.  I'm thankful for the few weeks of separation... And ever thankful that you are still following us at home!

To wrap up, I thought I'd share this recent weekend of not-being-busy (the first we've had in a loooong time, I might add.).

It including playing in jammies (and Daddy's ties) for a good part of the day. 

Falling asleep while reading a good book. 

And the first real dusting of snow.  

Doe it get any cozier?!  What a perfect way to welcome the first week of this holiday season! 

November Seasonal Ingredient Kickoff... Cranberry Clementine Muffins

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Nothing says November and Thanksgiving quite like cranberry sauce.... so I had to pick cranberry as this month's seasonal ingredient.  :)

First up, Cranberry Clementine Muffins.  I used This basic recipe for cranberry muffins and added my own citrus twist. 

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins)
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 egg (beaten)
Zest of 1 clementine
1/2 can whole cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Then add wet ingredients and mix until large lumps are gone.  Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake until golden (approximately 18-20 minutes).  Enjoy! 

Friday Favorites- Halloween Edition

Friday, November 1, 2013
Happy (belated) Halloween!

We had a wonderfully festive week with Halloween parties and Lu's first "trick-or-treating" last night.  We dressed her up last year, but she didn't go door-to-door.  This year, we made it to 4 houses on our street before she was ready for bed.  (Gotta love a kid who thrives on a sleep schedule!)

Favorite #1-  All things spooky spider! 

We went with a spider theme this year- complete with a spider web covered front door, spider jack-lantern, and our very own Very Busy Spider.  I thought this was the perfect costume since the Eric Carle classic is one of Lu's absolute favorite books right now... And it was the right bubble-style for her to scoot around!  

Favorite #2- Lu learned that ghosts say "boo!"  So cute.  This haunted house board book has become a favorite.  

Favorite #3- All of Lu's Halloween clothes and Jammie's that she's been rocking since after Labor Day.  I'm sad to pack them away... But I might be ready to look at the clearance rack to scoop up some festive wear for next year! 

Favorite #4- Post-Halloween Peppermint Mocha.  Yup, I'm going there already. 

Next week starts a new monthly seasonal ingredient, so be sure to check back in on Monday to see what it will be!  Have a great weekend! 

Halloween Recipes (for the whole family!)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Happy Halloween Eve!  I hope your week is just as festive and Halloween-fun-filled as ours has been.

 I have a few great pumpkin recipes that I rounded up on Pinterest to share with you (the last three recipes for this month's seasonal ingredient!). 

For breakfast- Pumpkin Nutella Muffins.  They are amazing.  Tip: I halved the recipe and it made 12 muffins.  

Use the other half of your can of puréed pumpkin to make one of the two following pasta recipes for dinner...  

Tortellini with Pumpkin Cream Sauce.  We have eaten this twice this fall and I forgot to take a picture both times.  It is so good.  

Pumpkin & Sausage Penne.  A heartier (and healthier) alternative to the pumpkin cream sauce- and equally as good.  My tip: use sage pork sausage and add kale.  I also halved the original recipe and it made 4 good sized servings.  

If you missed the other pumpkin recipes this month, check them out here:
Pumpkin Walnut Butterscotch Cookies
Pumpkin Pancakes
Pumpkin Pecan Bread

As for making your little one's Halloween extra festive?  Try serving up a  jack-o-lantern grilled cheese with a 'ghost' banana. 

Stay tuned to see Lu's costume tomorrow! 

Friday Favorites- Free Printables for Late Fall

Friday, October 25, 2013

Happy Friday!  

I'll be honest, the Friday Favorites series has been missing for a few weeks because there haven't been any just-can't-live-without-it items that I wanted to share...

But, yesterday I ended up printing out a few cute free printables that I thought I'd share.

In our playroom there is a wall with two large Ikea frames.  The frame on the left holds a whimsical floral & rabbit illustration (also Ikea) and the frame on the right I fill with something seasonal and festive.  99% of the time it is a free printable I found via Pinterest or a great blog.  There are so many cute things out there, but rather than have a ton of wordy art all over the house I just rotate prints in one frame.  Easy and free.  Does it get better than that??

This month was Halloween subway art.  Source  Love it- and it comes in purple and green! 

Here are my five favorite free printables that will be gracing the playroom frame as we switch from Halloween to Thanksgiving (really, pre-Christmas!!) festivities.

1. I {Leaf} Fall Source

2. Give Thanks Source

3. Make Believe Source

5. Alphabet I {Heart} U Source

Click the button below to Follow me on Pinterest to see other free printables that I love! Follow Me on Pinterest

Dog Surgery Isn't Fun (Round Two)

Thursday, October 17, 2013
Lu isn't the only baby in the Sparrow family.  She was preceeded by one cat and two dogs.  Our dog Niles is really our first baby, since we adopted him shortly after getting engaged in 2008.  Fun story: we picked him up from the shelter on the day of our engagement party and took him to the party that night (where he stole the show!).

Niles tore his left ACL last year and had to have surgery to fix it.  The worst part of this injury in a dog (aside from the cost and recovery time) is that there is a high likelihood that the dog will tear the other ACL as well.  Not shockingly, Niles started limping on the right side and x-rays this summer confirmed that he had torn the right ACL too.  Not awesome.  As the vet said, "the good news is he only has two knees."  

Our sweet boy had surgery yesterday and came home last night.  I spent about 2 hours on the floor with him before he finally fell into a drugged sleep. 

We were worried that it would be hard to keep Lu away from him.  To say she loves him is an understatement.  Her first words were "dog" and "Ni" and she is always scooting over to pet him.  She will lay her head on his belly and hug him.  Yesterday, while he was in surgery, she asked for him several times, repeating his name and looking around the room. 

But, this morning, when Lu saw Niles with a shaved bum, cast, and cone she was skeptical and keeping a distance.  By this afternoon, the sight of him was making her cry.  Hopefully we can get back to keeping a distance soon?   It is tough taking care of two babies when one is afraid of the other...

Pumpkin Pecan Bread

Sunday, October 13, 2013
Happy Columbus Day!  

I'm sharing my interpretation of a classic breakfast bread with this month's seasonal ingredient (pumpkin!).  Don't forget to check out my other seasonal ingredient recipes this month for Pumpkin Walnut Butterscotch Cookies and Easy Peasy Pumpkin Pancakes.

I used this recipe as my pumpkin bread base, but changed the seasoning and added a pecan crunch.  

Forget bacon- Isn't everything better with pecans?! :)

Pumpkin Pecan Bread (makes 2 large loaves)

3 cups sugar
1 cup veg. oil
4 eggs lightly beaten
1 can pumpkin purée
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
2/3 cup water 
1 cup chopped pecans 

Preheat your oven to 350 and spray 2 loaf pans with nonstick spray.  Combine dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl stir together the sugar and oil.  Add eggs and pumpkin.  Slowly add the dry blend and water, alternating back and forth. (A little dry, a little water, a little dry...)  Last, add your pecans then divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans.  Cook for approximately 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  

Fair warning:  I gave a loaf to a friend (who happens to be pregnant) and she texted me to say it was "like crack" and she couldn't stop eating it.  Pregnancy binge or is it really that good??  Answer: It really is that good.  


Easy Peasy Pumpkin Pancakes

Wednesday, October 9, 2013
This month's seasonal ingredient is pumpkin and today I'm sharing the easiest no-brainer recipe for pumpkin pancakes.  So easy that the recipe in fact is two lines:

Add 1/3 can puréed pumpkin to your pancake batter.  Cook pancakes as usual and sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice before flipping.  

That's it!  

Ridiculously easy, but it makes the perfect fall breakfast.  I served them with sliced cantaloupe to boost the orange fall vibe.  

We'll pretend that the toddler was impressed...

Don't forget to use the other 2/3 can of pumpkin purée in my Pumpkin Walnut Butterscotch Cookie recipe. 


Herringbone Love... I've been featured!

Monday, October 7, 2013
This little novice blog is swelling with pride because it has been featured...TWICE... in one week!!  

I'm kind of a big deal. ;)

Apparently I am not the only one who loves my Herringbone wall Mudroom makeover.  I was featured over at Sumo's Sweet Stuff and Dimples and Pigtails in two incredibly inspiring link parties.  Thank you, ladies!  I am so humbled and honored to be picked when there are so many great projects out there. 

Aside from being simultaneously shocked and giddy, I've realized two things:

 1. I need to do more makeovers to turn our house into what we want it to be- not a bland version of what it should be.  We're young(ish?) and our lovely home should reflect that.

2. I need to trust my gut and just go with it.  Much, much more.

So, you can anticipate more inspired makeover posts this winter.  Are you as excited as I am?!

In the meantime, one honest shot of our Mudroom (rainy day clutter and all) because I really do love it that much.

Sassy Scarf Swap

Thursday, October 3, 2013
Let me start by saying, I love reading another blog getting inspired and thinking, "I should do that!"  

This happened a few weeks ago when I read about an annual scarf exchange over at Mix and Match Mama.  While reading her post my mind immediately started racing with thoughts of how quickly I could organize this with my own friends... we all love a cute scarf... and it was such a clever idea! 

Side note:  When I told my husband this idea his reaction was, "if I wanted a new tie, I'd just buy it myself."  Girls' night it is! 

I sent out an evite and the Sassy Scarf Swap was born.  It works like a Yankee swap, but everyone was instructed to bring a new wrapped scarf to swap (steal).  I also suggested a $20 spending range- to keep everyone on the same page! 

We all have such good taste (or are too polite?) that only one person swapped her scarf!  

I would highly recommend this as a festive fall girls' night, or even a good theme for a holiday season Yankee swap. 

It was a great excuse to get together on a Tuesday night and sip wine and hot cider!  Of course I had to throw together some fall treats, like chili-biscuits and individual apple tarts.  Yum! 

Seasonal Ingredient Series Kick-Off: Pumpkin Walnut Butterscotch Cookies

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Happy October! 

In my opinion, there is no better way to get into the spirit of the season (any season, really) than fiddling around in the kitchen.  Think beautiful summertime salads to Christmas cookies.  Can you see where I'm going with this??

To boost the seasonal vibe in your kitchen, I am going to highlight one seasonal ingredient each month.  I'll work to give you a set of easy recipes using that seasonal ingredient.

Let's kick it off with pumpkin!  (It is October, after all.)

Of course the first recipe has to be a sweet one. :)

Pumpkin Walnut Butterscotch Cookies

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
2/3 can puréed pumpkin (save the last 1/3 for another recipe!)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.  In a small bowl combine flour, soda, salt, pie spice and set aside.  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars.  Add egg and then pumpkin and continue beating until combined.  Slowly add dry mix.  Now, I split my batter and added the walnuts to one half and the butterscotch to the other half.  You can mix both ingredients into the entire batch if you prefer.  Spoon onto greased baking sheet and bake 9-11 minutes, or until browning on bottom edge.  Set on cooling racks until you can't wait any longer!

These still taste great after they are frozen- you can make a large batch and save some for later. 

And share with your child guilt-free because this cookie includes a vegetable. ;)

Friday Favorites- Bathtime Edition

Friday, September 27, 2013
Happy Friday!

Lu started requesting a "bah" this week as soon as we finished dinner.  Bathtime has always been her favorite time of day, but it was unbelievably cute to hear her verbally request a bath for the first time. 

To honor that love of bathtime, I thought this week's favorites should be bath related.  Here are our favorite things in the bath right now...

Favorite Baby Bath Product: California Baby Calendula Bubble Bath

Lu is obsessed with bubbles, or as she says "buhbuh."  Even though the California Baby products are a little pricey, the bubble bath is definitely worth it.  A small cap full makes a lot of bubbles, so the bottle will last a long time.  Not only is the natural fragrance amazing, but it also has no gross toxic additives which means I don't worry when Lu shoves a handful of suds in her mouth.  Extra bonus- it comes with a bubble wand so you can blow real bubbles in the air!  Fair warning: your child will  point to the bottle requesting the wand every.single.night. 

A close second for our favorite baby bath product would be Burt's Bees Shampoo & Wash.  It is 98.9% natural and doesn't have a fragrance- so your baby smells like a baby!

Favorite Tub Accessory: Skip Hop Moby Bath Spout Cover

This was a baby shower gift that keeps on giving- by preventing bath boo-boos.  Lu flops around in the tub liked a beached whale sometimes and I am forever grateful that she isn't slamming into the hard metal spout.  Plus, it is adorable that Lu likes to touch the whale's face.

Second place in this category goes to the Boon Frog Pod toy organizer.  We only put the toys away when company comes (just being honest!) versus the spout cover which is appreciated daily.  But both are cute and functional!

Favorite Bath Toy: My First Slash Foam Cubes

We've been through all kinds of tub toys- rubber ducks, stacking cups, you name it!  Lu's current favorite are foam cubes from Babies R' Us.  I got them from end-of-summer clearance and they are a big hit!  She loves to squeeze the water out, while saying "weeze," over and over.  We have also been working on identifying new animals on the cubes.  She pinches her own arm when I ask her to find the crab.  Too funny. 

What are your favorite baby or child bath accessories?  I'd love to hear! 

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