Fall Porches

If you know me, you know I adore Fall. That is really an understatement. I am giddy when I see the first leaf fall and when there is a breeze knocking off a whole bunch of leaves? Wow. My heart smiles. I am just all about every part of it except for the fact that the season goes way too fast. Then I feel sad. Thankfully when Fall ends, we are heading into Christmas so it helps settle the pain a little ;) Then I go broke while Christmas shopping and that is a whole other issue. Ha ha!

So why Fall? The air is crisper, Apple Hill is open, it just feels like the air is alive in Fall!! Everyone is getting excited about Halloween, Fall Festivals and the change of seasons. I love all of the vibrant colors mixed with the earthy wonder. Brown, red, orange. It’s just all so lovely. Yesterday was a breezy Fall like day here so I decided it was the perfect day to do some yard work. At one point I just sat and watched the leaves fall. I think it was the best part of my day. So lovely!! In honor of my favorite season, I wanted to share some Fall porches with you. So I am scouring the web today and below are my finds. Enjoy!!

Source Unknown

Better Homes and Garden

Source

Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn

HGTV

Better Homes and Garden

I hope you are inspired!! I know I am :) The first official day of Fall is September 22nd but I like to do my kick off on September 1st. My house — my rules, right??

A Special LOCAL Photography Project

I’ve said it before — I love meeting people and hearing their stories. This past week I had coffee with a mom that I’d chatted a little bit with. We have kids in the same grades and we recently ended up in the same Cub Scout Den. The plan was to discuss an upcoming photography shoot and a fabulous idea she has for a very special book. Well this coffee date turned into a 3 hour coffee date {that could have probably gone on but I had to leave town that afternoon}. I left feeling so inspired and excited to share her idea with all of you in hopes that maybe you could help her idea become a reality.

Jen Tarbox Photograpy is local to El Dorado Hills. She does photography because she loves it. Her goal is to never get too big because she doesn’t want to feel like it is work but more of a hobby that she loves. What I really love is that she is not about making a major profit, she likes the idea of shaping her business {and her world} around charity. For example, a percent of proceeds for photo sessions with get donated to a charity. I love this idea and it seems so unique. Her energy was so inspiring and I seriously left our “date” feeling like I should and could do more with all of my little ideas. She is in the process of revamping her website but you can bookmark her site for whats to come and also follow her along on Facebook.

Now, about this amazing project that she is working on and how you can possibly be a part of it. Jen is planning to create a photography book that highlights the everyday life of local children with special needs and life changing illnesses. It is a book that will tell their stories and also offer information on how to find charities that support these illnesses and special needs. It will also talk about how really, we are all capable of so much — regardless of the things that make us different. I really love the idea as I think teaching our kids about diversity and how we treat others regardless of their uniqueness as people is so important. She personally has a cousin with Downs Syndrome and Leukemia and knows a little girl with Cystic Fibrosis. I have friends with children that have Dwarfism, Autism, Aspergers and Cerebral Palsy. All of these children are just that — children. Regardless of their differences.

If you know of someone who would like to be a part of this project, please contact Jen at (916) 605-9202 or jenmiller.tarbox@gmail.com.  If you’d like to be a part of the book, you will get a FREE photo session {and yes, this can include siblings} as well as a FREE book when it comes together. Again, I am so excited to see this project come to life so if you know of anyone that would want to be a part of this, please pass the word.

 

Knock You Naked Brownies

Oh.My.Goodness.

I saw this recipe and had to make them. Well let me just say that it took two attempts. The first attempt failed due to the fact that I have two ovens. This is hardly an issue and I am so thankful for it BUT for the first time ever, I put something in the wrong preheated oven. Let’s just say that 475 for 20 minutes cooks quite differently then 350 for 20 minutes. Yes, there was some smoke and I couldn’t pry the burnt brownies out of the pan. I am not a quitter though so I went back out today and bought the ingredients .. again. Let’s just say that I am so glad that I did cause they really are amazing. My test taster son said that they were, “the best thing EVER“. OK, I thrive on compliments. It means I succeeded at following a recipe ;) This recipe came from the wonderful and oh so famous Pioneer Woman. I want to hug her.

Knock You Naked Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 box (18.5 Ounce) German Chocolate Cake Mix (I Used Duncan Hines)
  • 1 cup Finely Chopped Pecans
  • 1/3 cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 cup Evaporated Milk (additional)
  • 1/2 cup Butter, Melted
  • 60 whole Caramels, Unwrapped (I used the little round caramels that I buy at Target – no unwrapping needed!)
  • 1/3 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, chopped pecans, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and melted butter. Stir together until totally combined. Mixture will be very thick.

Press half the mixture into a well-greased 9 x 9 inch square baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and set aside.

In a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water) melt caramels with additional 1/2 cup evaporated milk. When melted and combined, pour over brownie base. Sprinkle chocolate chips as evenly as you can over the caramel.

Turn out remaining brownie dough on work surface. Use your hands to press it into a large square a little smaller than the pan. Use a spatula to remove it from the surface, then set it on top of the caramel and chocolate chips.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for several hours. When ready to serve, generously sift powdered sugar over the surface of the brownies. Cut into either nine or twelve helpings, and carefully remove from the pan.

*Adapted from the classic “Knock You Naked Brownies” recipe, based on a dessert at the Salt Creek Steakhouse in Breckenridge. These brownies don’t really knock you naked…but almost.

A couple of other side notes:

  • I did not cool them cause I wanted an ooie gooie brownie warm with a  glass of cold milk. That being said, I don’t have a pretty photo to add cause mine was a yummy, sticky mess on my plate. Which was a good thing!!
  • I forgot to sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  • They were still amazing.

Enjoy <3

Hurrah for Teachers

I am not a teacher nor do I feel worthy of being one. I believe that it is one of the most challenging and underpaid careers out there {my own belief — please don’t yell at me if you feel different ;)}. I have friends and a sister that are teachers. I know that they work very hard and sometimes don’t get the respect that they deserve. I also know that I can barely manage my two kids and they manage upwards of 30. So again — they are rock-stars to me!! So aside from the fact that I think teachers rock, it also happens to be the kick off to a new school year. In honor of that and awesome teachers, I wanted to share some fun gifts to start your child’s teacher off on a happy note.rock-stars

Funky Polka Dot Giraffe created this super fun Teachers Survival Bucket. I actually created my own version of this which you will see below.

Below is my version, I left a few things off of the list and switched up a few things {I added a Starbucks gift card but didn’t add the reusable cup} but I think it came out super cute.

The list of what is included — Funky Polka Dot Giraffe has a printable which is much cuter but I had to delete some things so I recreated my own and I don’t have many fonts on my Mac yet. Click here for her free downloadable print. I did add a few school days stickers after I took these photos which dressed them up a bit.

My basket – using baskets I already had {from the Target dollar bins at Christmas time}.

Happy Clippings offered up this idea by repurposing an old can, wrapping colored pencils around it, securing with a  rubber band and pretty ribbon and then using it as a vase by adding some pretty flowers.

 

The Diary of Dave’s Wife did a cute little gift using a soda and a printable that says, “Soda-lighted you are my teacher.” She has the printable on her site. So cute and simple!!

Oh Whipperberry, how I <3 you!! This idea using a rain boot is adorable!!

Catered Crop was showcasing some stamps but I thought this jar of  licorice with the attached, “You’re the sweetest” was a perfect teacher treat.

Everyday Scrapbook added a bunch of pencils to a reusable iced coffee cup {or tea .. or water.. or vodka, wait – did I say that?}. I love these cups and they make for a great gift alone but stocked full of pencils? Awesome!! Maybe stick a Starbucks gift card in the inside too?

Brandy’s Crafts is right up my alley with her ‘One Smart Cookie’ teacher gift. Cause I like to bake cookies and stuff ;)

I hope you enjoyed these fun and creative ideas <3 Remember, be thankful for your teachers — they work so hard!!

 

 

Chicken Caprese Sandwich

O – M – G! This was dinner tonight and it was delish!! Even my picky 7 year old said, “Mommy, this chicken is so good”. The child who won’t eat a sandwich so I just gave him chicken. I will definitely make them again but I think next time I will add some pesto or garlic aoili. Otherwise they were perfect. If you are looking for a lower carb/calorie option, you could serve it without the bread. Or fries. Those don’t help  ;) I did a little Pinterest search for ‘chicken sandwiches’ and found this one. It originated from the Random Anderson blog.

This photo is courtesy of her blog. We were very hungry so there wasn’t time for a photo op. Also, we used ciabiatta. Which were giant — like the size of my head! I’d downsize the bun next time.

Chicken Caprese Sandwich

2 small chicken breasts pounded very thin (1/4 inch) and cut in half crosswise (I used tenders as we had them in the freezer)
garlic powder
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup your choice grated Italian cheese (I used and recommend Asiago)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 thin slices ripe tomato
2 1/4 inch slices of fresh mozzarella
6 basil leaves
2 sandwich buns

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Season both sides of chicken breasts with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
2. Combine breadcrumbs and cheese in shallow dish.
3. Heat oil in large oven proof pan over medium high heat. (If you do not have an oven proof pan, you can just use a rimmed baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.)
4. Dip chicken in egg and allow excess to drip off. Then dredge in breadcrumbs.
5. Place chicken in pan and quickly brown both sides of chicken breasts (2 minutes each side).
6. Place one mozzarella slice on two pieces of chicken. Transfer pan to oven and bake just until cheese begins to melt (3-5 minutes). Remove pan from oven (careful – the handle will be hot!)
7. Stack two pieces of chicken, one with mozzarella cheese, on sandwich bun. Top with 2 slices of tomato and 3 basil leaves.

Yummy!!! I can’t wait for my tomatoes to start turning red. Seriously, there are a million green ones and I have recipes so I need em’ to turn already.

Lego Birthday Party

My little one turned 7 last week — wow, that went SUPER FAST!! For his birthday party we decided on a Lego theme. It was so much fun and pretty easy actually. I love that they kids got to interact and also be creative. It was fun for them and a fun party theme for this mama too.

Here is the run down on what I did …

First off, I utilized the primary color scheme since there are so many options. I also love that Lego is an ever popular toy among boys and girls. It is one of those things that kids of all ages can get into building and creating. I was able to use a few things I already had at home for centerpieces and displays.

  • Lego candy came from Snooks Candy Store in Folsom.
  • Lego candy molds came from the Lego Store and Amazon. I used the melting chips from Michaels for the cupcake toppers. They were so easy to make and added a special touch to the cupcakes.
  • The Happy Birthday printable was a free find at eighteen25, they have so many fun and fabulous printables!
  • The Happy Birthday banner came from Target.
  • Goodie bags were also from Target and I found the matching paper to make them look like Legos at Michaels. I used a circle punch and raised adhesive dots to make them stick out. I filled the goodie bags with various primary colored goodies like salt  water taffy, a packet of Lemonhead drink mix, a deck of cards and a silly straw. Most of these items came from the dollar store so I didn’t spend a fortune.
  • The amazing Lego cookies were made by my creative sister Carly. She is not in blog land though ;)
  • I used the July 4th Funfetti cake mix and plain ol’ primary colored cupcake wrappers.
  • I also made Lego shaped ice cubes using Grape Koolaid and then we dropped the ice cubes in a glass of Sierra Mist. It was a fun added dose of sugar ;) Isn’t that what kids parties are all about? Actually .. come to think of it, I like sugar at my own birthday parties! That and cheese and most often, wine.
  • I also did a “guess the amount of Legos in the jar” game. Usually I do this with Jelly Beans but I went for the Lego theme and then the prize was a $5 gift card to our local fro yo shop, Rockin’ Frog. My friend Kelly helped her lil’ girl guess 160 and there were 162. Wow! Talk about close!!

I also had the kids play a few games and gave out gold coins to the winners {I rewarded everyone at the end with a gold coin for their efforts}. The categories I used were:

  • Build the tallest Lego
  • Build the most creative Lego
  • Build a shape using Legos
I love themed parties and I will say, this was one of the most fun and creative parties I have thrown. Well, that and the carnival theme but that was a few years back. I <3 parties!! Besides, aren’t they little for only so long?
Do you host parties at home or take them to venues outside of your house? I’d love to hear about your party planning ideas!

The kids had a blast and their creativity was so much fun to watch!