Halloween Home Tour (Part 2)

Welcome back to the Halloween Home Tour y'all! Part two is all about outdoor Halloween decor with some of my favorite pieces and tips for decorating the yard. If you missed part one of the tour that featured the interior, you can find it here

My style for the outside is very similar to the inside...festive, fun, not too spooky, a lot of lights, with a bit of traditional mixed in. I really enjoy decorating outside most because it's shares the excitement of the season with the neighbors and even complete strangers driving by. Cars that pass will slow down to get a better look and we've even had people roll down their windows if we happened to be outside so they could compliment us on the decorations! Since we have an elementary school at the end of our road, the kids going to and from school get to see it as well! 

The Porch

The porch is where I really bring in the classic and nostalgic decor, especially on the steps, which are usually a mix of both Fall and Halloween. I carefully pick out mums and pumpkins each year as an easy solution to switch up the look or color scheme. This Fall I stuck with simple orange, black, and white and pulled in a bit of purple and cranberry with the mums! I used my grandma's cast iron kettle as a flower pot for the bright purple mum and that's definitely my favorite part of the porch decor this year! 

My mom and I went to my favorite produce stand at the NC/VA state line to pick out the pumpkins and mums. They are so much more affordable back home than the stores here in the Triangle! Since it stays warm throughout most of October, I dip the pumpkins in a bleach bath to help keep them from rotting too early. 

You can NEVER have enough pumpkins!

You can NEVER have enough pumpkins!

I put this fun mirror on the porch to go with the orange, black, and white theme this year! I made the bat by cutting it out of plywood and painting it black. I got the tulle idea from Pinterest as I was looking for something different to fill some ceiling space on the porch!

I put this fun mirror on the porch to go with the orange, black, and white theme this year! I made the bat by cutting it out of plywood and painting it black. I got the tulle idea from Pinterest as I was looking for something different to fill some ceiling space on the porch!

These strobe lights are perfect for pumpkin buckets! I like that they change rhythm and pace opposed to a standard strobe light.

These strobe lights are perfect for pumpkin buckets! I like that they change rhythm and pace opposed to a standard strobe light.

My dad and I got this skeleton for his house when I was in the FIFTH grade! I still love him!

My dad and I got this skeleton for his house when I was in the FIFTH grade! I still love him!

The Grandin Road strobe lights in action! Pumpkin buckets are $1 and budget friendly!

The Grandin Road strobe lights in action! Pumpkin buckets are $1 and budget friendly!

The Graveyard

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Last year I started a graveyard on the side of our yard and it has been such a blast! My dad helped me cut the tombstones out of plywood, then I painted them black and went back over with grey paint using a kitchen sponge. I position floodlights to make the tombstones visible at night and outline the graveyard with standard string lights in Halloween colors. The fence is made from spooky cloth and step-in fence posts. Since this area is beside the neighbor's metal fence, I covered his fence with spider webs. The falling leaves get stuck in it for a natural effect and the green floodlights reflect so well off the white webs! 

Grandin Road witches!

Grandin Road witches!

This year I added these awesome witches with glowing heads from Grandin Road and I LOVE how much they upgraded the whole display. When I was young my dad and I had made a witch's cauldron display out of a flood light and sticks so I used that same idea for these witches! I dug a hole, put an orange flood light in it, and arranged sticks together to cover the light and replicate a fire burning under the cauldron. 

The glowing heads are just the right amount of spooky!

The glowing heads are just the right amount of spooky!

I also have to shout out my neighbor Beverly. She's super crafty and innovative and came over multiple times with great ideas. I needed to elevate the witches so they could be seen from the road, but was having problems with the wind blowing them over in the pots I had staked them in. Beverly came over with traffic cones (seriously!) and helped secure the witches by rigging a stand out of the traffic cones...she's a lifesaver! I'm so grateful that my neighbors are on board with my decorating and seem to enjoy it as well. This is exactly why I do it...bringing people together in the spirit of the season and celebration! 

The cauldron fire!

The cauldron fire!

We attached the tombstones to wooden stakes to keep them securely in place.

We attached the tombstones to wooden stakes to keep them securely in place.

A look at the graveyard at dusk. I like that the dead leaves that fall from the trees overhead add some character!

A look at the graveyard at dusk. I like that the dead leaves that fall from the trees overhead add some character!

A closer look at the step-in fence posts. I painted them with black spray paint and draped spooky cloth between them to make a fence! Fire and ice lights projected onto white gauze adds a cool moving light effect. I cut holes into the cloth so the wind will move freely through it, but left the ends loose so they would blow in the breeze for a more haunted look!

A closer look at the step-in fence posts. I painted them with black spray paint and draped spooky cloth between them to make a fence! Fire and ice lights projected onto white gauze adds a cool moving light effect. I cut holes into the cloth so the wind will move freely through it, but left the ends loose so they would blow in the breeze for a more haunted look!

With LED flood lights I was able to uplight the witches to make them more visible. The purple also reflects well off the white cloth above.

With LED flood lights I was able to uplight the witches to make them more visible. The purple also reflects well off the white cloth above.

I drew the tombstones by hand on banner paper, then used those as stencils for cutting the plywood. The great part about Halloween is everything doesn't have to be perfect! Rough around the edges makes them even better!

I drew the tombstones by hand on banner paper, then used those as stencils for cutting the plywood. The great part about Halloween is everything doesn't have to be perfect! Rough around the edges makes them even better!

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The Spider Web

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Years ago I had a spider web like this from Target and it lasted so long! I finally had to replace it but I highly recommend these! I use twine to suspend it between two trees in the yard but I've also put it against the house, on a wall, etc. and it looked great anywhere it has been placed!

Run, don't walk, to get one of these webs...they are so neat!

Run, don't walk, to get one of these webs...they are so neat!

Halloween Home Tour (Part 1)

Happy (almost) Halloween Y'all! Anyone that knows me is well aware that I go all out on Halloween decorations. While I love pretty Fall decor with white pumpkins and subtle earthtones, it's all about Halloween in our house! What I love about Halloween is that you can have a lot of fun with it...the tackier the better for this holiday! 

My personal style is festive and I like to incorporate lots of traditional, classic pieces such as jack-o-lantern buckets and blow molds. I tend to stay away from anything too spooky or gruesome as I'm such a scaredy cat myself I don't think I'd be able to sleep if things were too creepy! I also use a ton of lights when decorating for holidays. Colorful lights make everything more fun and interesting, especially at Halloween.  Many of my decorations were passed down from my parents and it brings me so much joy to decorate with things I've had since childhood! Nostalgia has a lot of influence on my decorating style. I want everyone that walks in our door to feel like they've stepped into their favorite childhood Halloween movie (cough, Hocus Pocus, cough).

Since I have so many different styles and a diverse collection of decorations going on at this point, I try to separate areas of the house into different themes. Each year I tend to mix things up a bit and focus on changing or adding at least one new area or theme. This year it was the dining room tablescape and Harry Potter inspired guest bathroom. 

I'm excited to share my home in all its Halloween glory! We'll start with the interior on this post and I'll share some of my favorite pieces and tips for your own decorating. Thanks for checking out my Halloween home tour...let me know what you think in the comments! 

Entryway

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I love the Halloween arch I got many years ago at Target. Once the lights eventually burn out, I replace them with another strand of orange lights and secure them with zip ties. One of my other statement pieces is a tree I got from Michael's that I wrap in purple lights. Last year I had been eyeing the lifesize animated witch and was lucky enough to catch it on clearance after Halloween! I used the arch, tree, and witch with some jack-o-lanterns and an assortment of tombstones to create a grand entrance as you walk in the front door.

The arch and this tree are my staple pieces because I can wrap string lights around them, then easily replace the lights when they burn out. 

The arch and this tree are my staple pieces because I can wrap string lights around them, then easily replace the lights when they burn out. 

Purple lights reflect off white so well!

Purple lights reflect off white so well!

I use foam tombstones, Target Dollar Spot rugs, and spooky cloth to help hide cables. 

I use foam tombstones, Target Dollar Spot rugs, and spooky cloth to help hide cables. 

I can't believe I got this witch for $17! Staying patient for larger items in after Halloween sales really pays off! 

I can't believe I got this witch for $17! Staying patient for larger items in after Halloween sales really pays off! 

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Throw some costume accessories on a coat rack or hooks near a door so all your creatures are ready to go!

Throw some costume accessories on a coat rack or hooks near a door so all your creatures are ready to go!

These "curtains" are made from two pieces of fabric with a wire ribbon tie back. 

These "curtains" are made from two pieces of fabric with a wire ribbon tie back. 

One of my new ideas this year was these "curtains" I added over the entrance to the dining room. They are two pieces of Halloween fabric from Jo-Ann's that I didn't even bother hemming. I added coordinating wire ribbon, tacked in place as tie backs. This was so easy and effective...it covered such a large area and was super cost efficient! 

Another go-to in my Halloween decorating is spooky cloth! I personally prefer black but it comes in various colors and lengths and is easy to find at local stores. You can do so much with spooky cloth and it's a great space filler. 

Dining Room

The black wine glasses from World Market are my favorite Halloween drinkware!

The black wine glasses from World Market are my favorite Halloween drinkware!

Another area I updated this year was our dining room table. I started with a plain plain white tablecloth under the spider web cloth that I already owned to give it a different look and make the pattern pop. The tablesetting was curated from some of my favorite stores. The placemats and plates are Homegoods finds while the orange dinner napkins and black wine glasses are from World Market. For a personal touch I designed the caldron soup bowls that are now available for purchase in my Etsy shop!! My favorite features on the table are the vintage milk-glass vases, as they highlight my black and white design that I chose to match with varying accent color(s) for years to come. I experimented a lot with texture in this tablescape and really love how well it all came together! 

These bowls are available for purchase in my Etsy shop!

These bowls are available for purchase in my Etsy shop!

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For the open wall in the dining room above my bar cart, I wanted black silhouettes for a stark contrast against the cooler blue wall. I picked up these paper bats from Jo-Ann's and I love that they are 3D! I used a strand of bat strobe lights above them to illuminate them and make an awesome effect at night. 

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This vintage bar aid belonged to Kendall's grandparents...it's so fun to pair old with new in displays!

This vintage bar aid belonged to Kendall's grandparents...it's so fun to pair old with new in displays!

Living Room

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Many years ago I found the spider mantle scarf and black rose garland pictured above, which have inspired a black, white, and purple theme ever since. I've collected various bedazzled skulls and candle holders to glam up the look. This year I found the skull mantle scarf from Jo-Ann's which was a perfect fit to fill the large mirror over our mantle. I added a milk glass vase, various sizes of white pumpkins, and a black boa to the top of the mirror for a full floor to ceiling display!

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You can never have enough candlelight...never!!

You can never have enough candlelight...never!!

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I pushed a strand of wire lights into this hurricane to help bring out the details in the print.

I pushed a strand of wire lights into this hurricane to help bring out the details in the print.

Tombstone (or any) silhouettes are simple and work well in narrow spaces since they don't take up a lot of space. I tried these tombstones going up my stairs for something different! Add pieces that are battery operated (such as marquee lights) in places that you wouldn't expect since they don't have to reach an outlet. 

Tombstone (or any) silhouettes are simple and work well in narrow spaces since they don't take up a lot of space. I tried these tombstones going up my stairs for something different! Add pieces that are battery operated (such as marquee lights) in places that you wouldn't expect since they don't have to reach an outlet. 

My dad and I made these ghosts when I was younger and I've held on to them. I hang them between the stair railings so the ghosts appear to be scurrying up the stairs. 

My dad and I made these ghosts when I was younger and I've held on to them. I hang them between the stair railings so the ghosts appear to be scurrying up the stairs. 

Harry Potter Bathroom

Etsy printables are such budget friendly options, like this Sorting Hat above our potions and spells shelves. 

Etsy printables are such budget friendly options, like this Sorting Hat above our potions and spells shelves. 

My absolute favorite part of our house this year is the new Harry Potter bathroom! I have always wanted to incorporate Harry Potter into the decorations and this year I decided to go for it. I used props I already had with a few new items and DIY floating candles to create the most magical space. I literally squeal every time I turn on the floating candles because the Hogwarts vibes are so real! 

I spray painted a rubber snake from the dollar store to make the Chamber of Secrets! 

I spray painted a rubber snake from the dollar store to make the Chamber of Secrets! 

This owl Wallflower from Bath and Body Works reminded me so much of Hedwig! 

This owl Wallflower from Bath and Body Works reminded me so much of Hedwig! 

Paper towel and toilet paper rolls with hot glue, white spray paint, and fishing line hold battery operated votives for "floating" candles. They really appear to float in real life! This is one of the best DIY projects I've ever done! 

Paper towel and toilet paper rolls with hot glue, white spray paint, and fishing line hold battery operated votives for "floating" candles. They really appear to float in real life! This is one of the best DIY projects I've ever done! 

Time to Tailgate Y'all!

Our pregame tradition is to sing the UNC fight song and follow it with a shot of Southern Comfort!

Our pregame tradition is to sing the UNC fight song and follow it with a shot of Southern Comfort!

It’s tailgating season and I am so excited!

I started tailgating sophomore year of college with my friend Sarah and her family and have pretty much been hooked since. The food, the drinks, the people, and the school spirit make for such an ideal day! I have a few recipes that have become staples over the years at our tailgates and anytime I try to get by without making one I get a lot of complaints…so it’s safe to say these are all hits!

My goals for tailgate dishes are low prep time and feasibility to make for a group. As a Carolina fan, I know all too well about noon kickoffs and waking up at 6am to prepare food that can cook while I get ready.  I’m often asked for recipes and I always say these are SO easy that you don’t really need a lot of experience in the kitchen. You’ve probably even seen a couple of similar recipes to these on Pinterest but I’ve jazzed them up with additional seasonings and flavor.

After many upside down deviled eggs and BBQ sauce stains on my car interior, I’ve learned a lot of tips for tailgating along the way that I’ll share after the recipes. Tailgating should be fun and low stress as possible! 

Y’all have asked for them and I’m excited to finally share my go-to recipes that have delighted taste buds at our tailgates the last eight years and evolved into my regular party spread due to their popularity! Enjoy!

*These recipes are based on larger servings I make on game days. For smaller gatherings you may want to cut them in half.

Easy-Breezy Game Day Meatballs

I've been making these meatballs for years! No one can believe how easy they are!

I've been making these meatballs for years! No one can believe how easy they are!

-About 30 oz. frozen meatballs of your choice (original/home style is best)
-32 oz. Sweet Baby Rays Sweet ‘n Spicy Barbecue Sauce
-1 tbsp red pepper flakes
-1 tbsp chili powder
-1 tbsp garlic powder
-1 aluminum casserole pan

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Spread out frozen meatballs in pan, and cover with barbecue sauce so that there is enough to cover all meatballs. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, chili powder, and garlic powder. 
3. Bake for 60 minutes, gently stirring occasionally to ensure all meatballs are covered in sauce. If the meatballs aren't fully coated, feel free to add more BBQ sauce. Cook until meatballs are moderately soft. 
4. Remove from oven and cover with foil. Serve with toothpicks and simply dispose of pan when finished…these are sure not to last more than an hour.

*These can also cook in a Crock-Pot on high for 60 minutes. This makes for easy transportation as well by simply removing the stoneware w/ glass lid to load up.

Hot Ham & Cheese Poppy Seed Sliders (Also known as “Funeral Sandwiches” in the South)

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(adapted from this recipe) For the sake of an easy tailgate morning, prep these the night before so you can just pop them in the oven on game day.

-2 packages Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
-12 slices honey ham (the longer, rectangular size slices)
-12 slices Swiss cheese
-⅓ cup mayonnaise
-⅓ cup miracle whip

Poppy seed sauce:

-1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
-2 tbsp yellow mustard
-1 tbsp minced onion
-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
-1 cup butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Keeping Sweet Rolls in contact, and use a large knife to slice  in half. In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise and miracle whip. Spread lightly onto both sides of the inside of the rolls. Put rolls back in white paper "sleeve", leave top off. 
3. Place ham and cheese across the “bottoms” of the rolls (still in the white paper sleeve). Cover rolls with top halves.  Use a sharp knife to cut between/separate rolls (but still leaving them in white packaging).
4.Sit each package of rolls on a large sheet of aluminum foil, securing the foil around paper packaging to keep poppy seed sauce from leaking out.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the poppy seed sauce. Pour evenly over all of the sandwiches. 
6. Completely cover each set of rolls with foil, place on cookie sheet, and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Uncover the top layer of foil and cook for 2-3 additional minutes or until the tops are slightly brown. Wrap the rolls back up in foil to keep warm during transportation to tailgate. 

*I have used the new Jalapeño Hawaiian Sweet Rolls for these and they added a nice kick of spice! Highly recommend it!

Bacon Wrapped Maple Chili Smokies

These smokies seriously don't last much longer than 30 minutes on the table...they are SO good!

These smokies seriously don't last much longer than 30 minutes on the table...they are SO good!

-2 packages Hillshire Farms Lit’l Smokies (I get beef but either works)
-2 lbs. bacon (each strip cut into thirds)
-2 cups brown sugar
-2 tbsp chili powder
-1 stick of butter
-3 tbsp maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Mix brown sugar and chili powder in small bowl. Spread a thin layer of half the mixture in the bottom of a large glass baking dish. Roll up each Smokie in a third of a bacon strip, secure with toothpick. Arrange the bacon-wrapped Smokies very closely in the dish (depending on size of baking dish, you may not be able to fit every Smokie and will likely have some leftover bacon).
3. Melt the stick of butter and stir in the remaining brown sugar/chili powder mixture. Pour the mixture over the Smokies, then drizzle with the maple syrup.  Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the heat up to 400 to bake another 5 minutes. (I usually broil mine on low for an additional 1-2 minutes to char the bacon a bit, keeping a close eye so they don't burn)
4. Remove from oven and realize you may need to make 2 batches next time (they will be gone within minutes).

Flake’s Famous Deviled Eggs

It's a bit audacious to self-proclaim these myself as the best deviled eggs, but I've been told by several people that they are in fact the best they've ever had!

It's a bit audacious to self-proclaim these myself as the best deviled eggs, but I've been told by several people that they are in fact the best they've ever had!

-12 large eggs
-4 tbsp mayo
-1 tbsp yellow mustard
-5 tbsp (about 1/3 cup) white vinegar
-2 tbsp sweet relish
-1/4 tsp ground black pepper
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp garlic powder
-1/4 tsp onion powder
-1/4 tsp chili powder
-Dash of cayenne powder
-Paprika

1. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, use tongs to place eggs in a single layer on the bottom of the pot. Cover and boil for about 3 minutes, then turn off the heat but leave the pot on the burner. Let sit covered for 12 minutes. 
2. Use tongs to transfer the eggs to an ice bath. Let the eggs sit at least 10 minutes.
3. Peel eggs, cut in half, gently remove the yolks with a spoon and place them in a separate bowl.
4. Use a fork to mash the egg yolks and combine with all the other ingredients (except the paprika). This can also be done in a food processor but I prefer to do it the old fashioned way with a fork. Mash the mixture until there are no chunks of yolk left. If the filling appears too thick/dry, add a teaspoon or two of mayo until it thins some.
5. Spoon the mixture into the egg halves.  You can put the filling in a ziplock bag with a snipped corner to “pipe” it into the egg halves but honestly…deviled eggs weren’t created to be pretty and that takes far too much time in my opinion.
6. Lightly sprinkle with paprika to taste. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to chill before serving.

*I love vinegar so I tend to add a little extra.
**Eggs will vary in size of yolk (especially between store bought and fresh farm eggs) so I start with these measurements but add additional mayo and vinegar if the consistency is too thick. I prefer my deviled egg filling a tad on the runny side since I make them the night before and they set up overnight. Use less mayo and vinegar if you like your filling thicker.

No Hassle Tailgate Tips:

  • I usually cook these dishes simultaneously on 350° and leave the smokies in a bit longer since they would cook at a higher heat if cooked individually. 
  • Use disposable foil pans when possible. I always cook the meatballs in a foil pan so that it can easily be disposed of when we’re done.
  • Use insulated casserole carriers! After removing everything from the oven, transfer immediately to the carriers and they will keep warm during transport to the tailgate. 
  • Bring a couple of Tupperware bowls so you can save any leftovers before tossing foil pans (though I doubt you’ll have any leftovers).
  • Use a plastic cupcake carrier for deviled eggs. You can easily put the eggs on your round egg platter, put some ice in the bottom of the carrier, place your egg platter on top of the ice, then secure the lid on the carrier. I have one with a handle and it makes the eggs so much easier to transport while keeping them chilled (especially during these early season games that are hot).
  • Prep everything you can the night before! I go ahead and make my deviled eggs and prep the smokies and sandwiches the night before, storing them all in the fridge. I place the deviled eggs in the cupcake carrier (without the ice) to keep them airtight. The smokies can be covered with foil. Wrap the sandwiches in foil as well and place them back in the bag they came in, securing with the bread clip.
Blue Moon is my go-to tailgate beer! 

Blue Moon is my go-to tailgate beer! 

Fill 'Er Up Friday!

Happy FriYAY!

Beyond my seasonal/home decor, party, and food posts, I always want to share other things I’m loving with y’all. I’m starting “Fill ‘Er Up Fridays” as a place to share all the things currently filling my happy tank that I just can’t get enough of!

From goodreads, fashion and home finds, to flowers and Starbucks drinks, these will likely be all over the place! I’m a girl with a lot of interests and hobbies, what can I say?!

Let me know if you end up purchasing any of my suggestions and what you think!

-Liz

I have a lot of books on my list this week! First up, congrats to Courtney at Pizzazzerie on her book release this week! Courtney speaks all my love languages so I pretty much adore all her work. She is one of the first bloggers I met when I started this thing and I am SO glad because she is serious entertaining goals.

The Cooking Gene is another release I received this week! Michael Twitty traces his ancestry through food from Africa to America, from slavery to freedom. I can’t wait to read about the history of Southern cuisine and the origins of soul food! Congrats Michael!

Save the Date has officially made me a Mary Kay Andrews fanatic. Shoutout to my coworker Jasmine for letting me borrow this! I seriously couldn’t wait to get home at night to read it. Speaking straight to my Southern heart, it features a Savannah florist solidifying her career and navigating love. I’ve never wished so badly that a fictional character was real so that she could plan my wedding!

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I picked up these Steve Madden Booties during the #NSale and I love, love, love them! The stretch of the material make them so comfy and I love how different the round chunky heel is! I’ve already picked up some shirts and dresses to pair with the Olive color! They’re no longer on sale but are back in stock!

Last weekend I spotted this denim dress in Target and immediately fell in love but realized it was a maternity dress. There are few things I love more in the Fall than the color cranberry and with the off-the-shoulder sleeves I decided to size down and went for it! It actually worked and now I'm considering the blue color...

I seriously CAN NOT WAIT FOR FALL. But I’m also trying not to rush it because I have A LOT of decorating to do! These velvet pumpkins from Jo Ann Stores are everything. My favorites are the wine (of course) and orange.

Photo by Instagram user beckycrowley_

Photo by Instagram user beckycrowley_

In my effort to not wish away the end of Summer too quickly, I am loving all of the pictures of Dahlias being shared right now on Insta! The color of these blooms are so pretty! Shoutout to Becky Crowley and Mandy at BlueRidgeBlooms for two of my favorite pics this week of these beauties.

Have a great weekend y'all!

Thank You for Being a Friend!

  

  

Did you know the first episode of Golden Girls was set in June? Blanche’s first line in the pilot episode was while she was (of course) getting ready for a date:

Blanche: “Dorothy, can I borrow your mink stole?”
Dorothy: “It’s Miami in June – only cats are wearing fur!”

I remember occasionally watching the Golden Girls with my mom growing up but they really got me through lots of late nights in college. Despite seeing every episode multiple times, I still crack up when I watch…I swear the show becomes more humorous the older I get.  I don’t think I could choose my favorite character because I truly believe I’m a mix of all four ladies…Southern like Blanche, sarcastic like Sophia, witty like Dorothy and tender hearted (as well as a bit naïve) like Rose.

While brainstorming for 28th birthday party themes, I decided it was time to host a Golden Girls party. I wanted to do a dinner party since we have been working on a patio remodel the last couple of months, and what better place to have a Golden Girls dinner party than on our upgraded “lanai”?!

I started browsing my favorite party supply shops and came across the Troppo Leaf products at Paper Eskimo, which immediately reminded me of Blanche’s bedroom. I paired them with Toot Sweet Stripey Dusty Pink plates from Meri Meri and the rest of the details fell into place from there!

In case you were wondering, my friends from college still refer to me as "Flake" (my last name). Thanks to my co-worker for designing these invites for me!

In case you were wondering, my friends from college still refer to me as "Flake" (my last name). Thanks to my co-worker for designing these invites for me!

Troppo plates and napkins from Paper Eskimo,  Toot Sweet Stripey Dusty Pink plates from Meri Meri, and bamboo cutlery from Amazon all went so well together!

Troppo plates and napkins from Paper Eskimo,  Toot Sweet Stripey Dusty Pink plates from Meri Meri, and bamboo cutlery from Amazon all went so well together!

I rented two tables and folding wedding chairs from a local event rental company.  With a wooded background and lots of green and gold accents, I didn’t want the party to feel too dark so I lightened things up with white and light pink table linens.

The Southern-inspired menu was served buffet style and included Zbornak sandwiches (pimento cheese and chicken salad), Big Daddy’s fried chicken with cornbread, a St. Olaf cheese tray, Shady Pines meatballs, and Count Bessie’s deviled eggs. I intended to have a Sicilian pizza but completely forgot to order it until dinner had already started (oops!). For dessert, we had Betty White chocolate cupcakes, Devereaux peach cobbler and of course…cheesecake!

These cornbread loaves from Sam's Club were convenient and delicious!

These cornbread loaves from Sam's Club were convenient and delicious!

Not your traditional dinner party spread but it was far too hot for heavy food and keeping the prep/cook time to a minimum allowed me to enjoy my guests. Thanks to my awesome friends that helped in the kitchen! The banner on this table is actually from my birthday last year, but it is from JazzHandsPaperCo on Etsy.

Not your traditional dinner party spread but it was far too hot for heavy food and keeping the prep/cook time to a minimum allowed me to enjoy my guests. Thanks to my awesome friends that helped in the kitchen! The banner on this table is actually from my birthday last year, but it is from JazzHandsPaperCo on Etsy.

This Spritz banner from Target was exactly what I needed for the dessert table! The Troppo baking cups came from Paper Eskimo to match the plates. 

This Spritz banner from Target was exactly what I needed for the dessert table! The Troppo baking cups came from Paper Eskimo to match the plates. 

Thanks to my new friends Sharon and Pat at Balloon & Tunes in Carrboro for doing a great job with the balloons! This is the first time I’ve worked with them and their shop blew me away. It was full of arches, arrangements and tons of fun orders ready to be picked up. They have so many options to choose from and make sure the height and specifications of everything are just right before you leave. They will even help you load your car (or in my case, pick pieces of mulch outta my trunk so the balloons would be safe in transport). I can’t wait to work with them on all my events moving forward!

The 36" balloons from Balloons & Tunes made such a statement! 

The 36" balloons from Balloons & Tunes made such a statement! 

Besides the plates and balloons, other accessories came from Etsy and some of my favorite home décor stores. Everything turned out absolutely stunning.  The humidity felt close to that of Miami, but luckily the rain held off. Thanks to the Proxy Lighting patio string lights we recently installed, my guests and I were able to party well into the night after dinner!

I’ve linked all my sources in the captions below each picture! Hope you enjoyed my Golden Girls dinner party!

The string lights from Proxy Lighting created a beautiful glow and ambiance!

The string lights from Proxy Lighting created a beautiful glow and ambiance!

Can we talk about these AMAZING floral picks from Jo-Ann's?!? As soon as I saw them I knew they'd go in an arrangement for the centerpiece. I used white roses and pink peonies with some baby's breath and daisies as a simple yet beautiful arrangement. The picks really brought out the gold accents on the table!

Can we talk about these AMAZING floral picks from Jo-Ann's?!? As soon as I saw them I knew they'd go in an arrangement for the centerpiece. I used white roses and pink peonies with some baby's breath and daisies as a simple yet beautiful arrangement. The picks really brought out the gold accents on the table!

I designed this print, used my Cricut to cut it out of vinyl, and applied it to dollar store drinking glasses. These doubled as favors for my guests. 

I designed this print, used my Cricut to cut it out of vinyl, and applied it to dollar store drinking glasses. These doubled as favors for my guests. 

Y'all know I couldn't have a party without my bar cart! The cart is from Wayfair and the "bar" sign from the Target Dollar Spot!

Y'all know I couldn't have a party without my bar cart! The cart is from Wayfair and the "bar" sign from the Target Dollar Spot!

The wine bottle labels are from HHPaperCo and the Stay Golden printable is from ClaresPrintables (both are Etsy shops). I put the printable in a frame from Michael's and I can't wait to use it on a gallery wall in my office!

The wine bottle labels are from HHPaperCo and the Stay Golden printable is from ClaresPrintables (both are Etsy shops). I put the printable in a frame from Michael's and I can't wait to use it on a gallery wall in my office!

Another view of the table...I got those cool candleholders a while back at my local At Home store.

Another view of the table...I got those cool candleholders a while back at my local At Home store.

My fellow Golden Girl Bella, who needed a haircut, was tired of her Mama running around like a crazy person, and absolutely refused to get out of pictures.

My fellow Golden Girl Bella, who needed a haircut, was tired of her Mama running around like a crazy person, and absolutely refused to get out of pictures.

When I spotted this dress at Old Navy I had to have it for the party! (Told y'all Bella would not stay out of any of my pics)

When I spotted this dress at Old Navy I had to have it for the party! (Told y'all Bella would not stay out of any of my pics)

How sweet are these Sophia coasters?!? My friends gave them to me as a gift at the party so I'm not sure where they are from, but they are awesome! I love them so much! 

How sweet are these Sophia coasters?!? My friends gave them to me as a gift at the party so I'm not sure where they are from, but they are awesome! I love them so much! 

This rose crown filter showed up around midnight during the party! It had never been an option for my Snapchat until then so in my head it was released special, just for me, at my birthday party. I'll call it the Nylund filter from here on out! 

This rose crown filter showed up around midnight during the party! It had never been an option for my Snapchat until then so in my head it was released special, just for me, at my birthday party. I'll call it the Nylund filter from here on out! 

Thank you to all my friends for making this such a lovely evening! 

Thank you to all my friends for making this such a lovely evening! 

Bella's Birthday Bark Cart

Bella checking out her goodies!

Bella checking out her goodies!

Bella is my sweet and petite Maltichon with a big personality. On May 2nd we celebrated her 11th birthday!  She has been my right hand lady through high school, college, and now post-grad life and while she is spoiled every day, I make sure she feels extra special on her birthday! 

I had originally planned a party for Bella and all her fur friends but we had consecutive busy weekends with weddings and human birthday celebrations so unfortunately there wasn’t time for another event. I was bummed we couldn’t make the scheduling work but I took Bella on a girls’ shopping trip to pick up the essentials for a party of two that evening!

Continuing my monthly bar cart themes, Bella helped me set up a fun “bark cart” with our favorite treats. We ate, danced, and had the best time enjoying each other’s company. Hopefully we can make a party with her friends happen next year, but there will definitely be more bark carts in our future!

See the details below for some inspiration for your bark cart. The best part of these is you don’t need a whole lot to make a dog’s day special…a few treats and a lotta love go a long way!

We had so much fun picking out treats together at the Petco treat bar! (Bella only had a couple of these, we stored the rest for later)

We had so much fun picking out treats together at the Petco treat bar! (Bella only had a couple of these, we stored the rest for later)

The tutu, bandana, and toy are from Petco...Party hat made with my Cricut machine.

The tutu, bandana, and toy are from Petco...Party hat made with my Cricut machine.

Mommy's treats included La Croix, some wine, a fun glitter wine tumbler from Total Wine & More, and some pretty pink tulips to enjoy through the rest of the week! "Mind the Dog" sign was purchased years ago from Homegoods. The birthday banner was made with my Cricut, check my shop to place an order for your own customized banner!

Mommy's treats included La Croix, some wine, a fun glitter wine tumbler from Total Wine & More, and some pretty pink tulips to enjoy through the rest of the week! "Mind the Dog" sign was purchased years ago from Homegoods. The birthday banner was made with my Cricut, check my shop to place an order for your own customized banner!

So much excitement for one day! Shortly after this we cuddled up on the couch and relaxed together. If you put together a bark cart please share! We'd love to see it!

So much excitement for one day! Shortly after this we cuddled up on the couch and relaxed together. If you put together a bark cart please share! We'd love to see it!

Tobacco Road Rivalry Bar Cart

Football is a big deal in the South. We love food so it’s no surprise that we look forward to congregating around grills in parking lots all day. Besides tailgating, the South tends to be pretty darn good at college football. The SEC football culture is deeply rooted in competitiveness and dominance. Gamedays in the SEC are entire productions. Have you seen those Ole Miss tailgates?!

I do love tailgating and a good football game, but this North Carolina girl lives for college basketball and the Tobacco Road Rivalry. The close proximity of Carolina and dook (located only eight miles apart) and history of both programs fuel the tension between the two archrivals.

Many folks in Chapel Hill and Durham have been making their Kroger beer runs. Others have been up since 6:30 am to get in to College GameDay or their favorite bar to snag a table for the game (that doesn’t start until 8pm). Me? Well I decorated a corner of my dining room in anticipation of the big game…that’s normal right?!

Soon to be followed by the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, to me this is the official start of March Madness. I’m extremely fortunate that I’ll be in the Smith Center tonight, but I’m sharing my watch party inspiration with y’all! I’ve styled my bar cart with the essentials and kept it casual…game days should be fun, not stressful!

Below you'll find one of my go-to wing recipes and some beer suggestions (all from UNC alumni-owned breweries) that you should indulge in tonight while watching the greatest rivalry in college sports. Enjoy your Saturday and GO HEELS!

Alsager Serving Cart from Wayfair.com

Alsager Serving Cart from Wayfair.com

Chapel Hill Toffee is delicious!

Chapel Hill Toffee is delicious!

The Assist IPA from Top of the Hill Brewery, Angry Angel Kölsch beer from Big Boss Brewing Company, and Sky Blue Golden Ale from Carolina Brewery

The Assist IPA from Top of the Hill Brewery, Angry Angel Kölsch beer from Big Boss Brewing Company, and Sky Blue Golden Ale from Carolina Brewery

No one has time during a basketball game to fish for tortilla chips with tongs...filling popcorn boxes with the chips make them easier to grab and go! 

No one has time during a basketball game to fish for tortilla chips with tongs...filling popcorn boxes with the chips make them easier to grab and go! 

Honey Sriracha Chicken Wings

Honey Sriracha Chicken Wings

Honey Sriracha Chicken Wings

Adapted from Damn Delicious recipe

Ingredients:

Wings: 

-2.5 pounds chicken wing portions (can use drumettes as well if you prefer)
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
-4 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 teaspoon kosher salt
-1 teaspoon ground black pepper
-Sesame seeds and chopped cilantro (for garnish) 

Honey Sriracha Glaze:

-6 tablespoons unsalted butter
-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
-1/4 cup of honey
-1/2 cup Asian-style hot chili sauce (found in Asian section of local grocery store)
-2 tablespoons Sriracha (I also use 1 tablespoon of Texas Pete)
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-1 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/2 teaspoon chili powder
-Dash of cayenne pepper, salt, and ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine wings, olive oil, butter, garlic, salt and pepper.

3. Place wings onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, using tongs to turn halfway through.

4. While the wings are baking, start the glaze. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until lightly browned. Stir in honey, both hot sauces, soy sauce, and add remaining spices (garlic powder, chili powder, cayenne, salt, and black pepper). Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat until wings are done.

5. Remove wings from oven and brush 1/2 of the glaze on top. Return to oven and broil 3-4 minutes. Remove wings from oven again, flip, brush with remaining glazing, return to oven and broil for 3-4 minutes until desired crispness. 

Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro. 

Southern Comfort and NC's Fish Hippie Wine for those that don't love beer. And of course, no UNC game day is complete without a blue cup from He's Not Here! 

Southern Comfort and NC's Fish Hippie Wine for those that don't love beer. And of course, no UNC game day is complete without a blue cup from He's Not Here! 

Sweet & Salty Snow Day Bar Cart

Alsager Serving Cart from Wayfair.com

Alsager Serving Cart from Wayfair.com

We don’t get snow days very often in the South so when we do it’s a BIG deal. School and business closings run along the bottom of the local television channels before the precipitation even starts. Sleds come out of storage and no loaf of bread or gallon of milk are left behind in grocery stores. I’m not even sure I will ever grow out of running to the front door when the first flakes start falling to scream “IT’S SNOWINGGG!”

We’ve been lucky enough to already have a few snow days this year when it snowed/iced a few weeks ago. Although I made the obligatory grocery run and cooked up some yummy soup, I was disappointed in my snow day snack preparation. When you’re stuck inside for several days a good snack line up is essential, so I decided my January bar cart theme would be dedicated to our next winter wonderland blessing!

As I was thinking about the best snacks I kept coming back to sweet and salty…I actually can’t eat anything sweet without following up with a salty treat. So behold, the sweet and salty snow day bar cart.

I've been looking for an excuse to pick up a cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes…they are AMAZING and so pretty. My favorites are white chocolate raspberry and lemon but you really can’t go wrong with any of their cakes. Forget the bread and milk, I’ll be picking up another one of these next time we are anticipating snow!

You can substitute the snacks with your sweet and salty favorites but I’ve posted all the details of my cart below as inspiration for your next snow day!

Disclaimer: snow is not actually required for setup, no judgment here if you decide to snack your way through next weekend ;)

North Coast Sauvignon Blanc from William Hill Estate Winery. Marquee light from Michael's.

North Coast Sauvignon Blanc from William Hill Estate Winery. Marquee light from Michael's.

I worked the color scheme of this cart around these Fitz and Floyd Daphne wine glasses from Wayfair.com. I fell in love with them at first sight and knew I needed these for future projects!

I worked the color scheme of this cart around these Fitz and Floyd Daphne wine glasses from Wayfair.com. I fell in love with them at first sight and knew I needed these for future projects!

White chocolate raspberry cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes...all of their cakes are d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

White chocolate raspberry cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes...all of their cakes are d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

 "Snowballs" (powdered sugar donut holes)

 "Snowballs" (powdered sugar donut holes)

These dark chocolate and sea salt caramel Ghirardelli squares were a perfect addition to this month's bar cart.

These dark chocolate and sea salt caramel Ghirardelli squares were a perfect addition to this month's bar cart.

Dip pretzel rods into melted white chocolate for a super quick and easy treat!

Dip pretzel rods into melted white chocolate for a super quick and easy treat!

I cut out snowflakes with my Cricut machine to jazz up these popcorn bags from Michael's. The cake stand is from Homegood's!

I cut out snowflakes with my Cricut machine to jazz up these popcorn bags from Michael's. The cake stand is from Homegood's!

DSC03124.JPG

Comment below with what your ideal snack bar would include!

 

New Year's Eve Bar Cart

Alsager Serving Cart from Wayfair.com

Alsager Serving Cart from Wayfair.com

I can't believe that the holiday season is coming to a close! I don't start taking down my decorations until New Year's Day so I can squeeze out one extra week of nights by the Christmas trees, but then the transition back to "normal" will begin.

Although I haven't quite yet given up my Christmas decor, I always make sure to find a place to put out some fun New Year's Eve frills and sparkles. My new bar cart from Wayfair inspired a black, gold, and white art deco theme this year.

I stocked the bar with champagne and all the makings for Moscow mules with Tito's vodka. Moscow mules are great for celebrations not only because they're delicious, but the copper mugs are beautiful! Below you'll find all the details for my New Year's Eve bar cart and a recipe for Moscow mules. Happy New Year my friends, can't wait to see what 2017 brings us! 

Cocktail napkins, confetti, decanter, and clock plates from Homegoods. The vintage bar aid is from Kendall's grandparents' house...how cool is that?!?

Cocktail napkins, confetti, decanter, and clock plates from Homegoods. The vintage bar aid is from Kendall's grandparents' house...how cool is that?!?

This Cheers! bottle stopper was gifted to me from my friend for Christmas. She had no idea I was doing this bar cart and it matches perfectly! Thanks Sarah! 

This Cheers! bottle stopper was gifted to me from my friend for Christmas. She had no idea I was doing this bar cart and it matches perfectly! Thanks Sarah! 

Stemless champagne flutes from Marshalls. Champagne bucket from Homegoods.

Stemless champagne flutes from Marshalls. Champagne bucket from Homegoods.

ODI original Moscow mule mugs from Amazon.com. Drink stirrers made by me!

ODI original Moscow mule mugs from Amazon.com. Drink stirrers made by me!

Art deco "Happy New Year" banner made by me!

Art deco "Happy New Year" banner made by me!

Moscow Mule Recipe

Ingredients:

2 oz vodka
1 oz fresh lime juice
4 oz ginger beer
Lime wedge, for garnish

Directions:

Pour vodka and lime juice into a mug; top with ginger beer and ice. Stir to combine.

Garnish with lime wedge.

Enjoy! 

moscowmule

NC Mountains Wildfire Relief T-Shirt Sale

If you have watched the news in the last month then I'm sure you're aware that disastrous wildfires recently ripped through the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Homes, businesses and lives were lost.

In an effort to raise money for the relief efforts, I'm hosting a t-shirt sale with Underground Printing. There are several styles ranging from basic cotton tees to Comfort Colors and American Apparel options. There are also youth options available.

Click the link below to get shopping! Orders can be placed through 11:59pm on Sunday, December 18th. We'll ship your shirts directly. To see product specs and size guides, click on the product and there will be a link to the right of the page. Of course if you have any other questions, don't hesitate to email me at theseasonedsoutherner@gmail.com.

Thanks in advance for your support! 

Click here to order your shirts

North Carolina Mountains T-Shirt (Shown in Comfort Colors Blue Spruce)

North Carolina Mountains T-Shirt (Shown in Comfort Colors Blue Spruce)

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Hey Y'all! 

Hope everyone is enjoying lots of holiday festivities! I can't believe Christmas is right around the corner! 

I wanted to share this fun recipe with y'all while you still have time to make it this holiday season! This weekend I was in the mood to bake and hit Pinterest for some ideas. After finding a gingerbread cake recipe, I decided to pair it with some cinnamon buttercream frosting.

This cake wasn't difficult and ended up being absolutely delicious! My house smelled like what Christmas dreams are made of! The cinnamon in the frosting is so beautiful you could leave it undecorated, but I topped mine with some rosemary trees and Wilton cake beads.  

Click the links below for the full recipes! Happy Baking!

Sugar Spun Run Gingerbread Layer Cake

Two Sisters Crafting Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

GingerbreadCake

A Taste of Home

I have been anxious to see some fall foliage. Since it’s not quite time for our area, I started considering a brief trip back up to my hometown of Pilot Mountain, North Carolina in hopes of catching some early color. Although I found out that the leaves weren’t quite changing much yet there either, I realized it was the weekend of the annual Autumn Leaves Festival in nearby Mt. Airy (also known as “Mayberry”). Immediately the famed collard green sandwich came to mind and I knew I had to go.

You may have just muttered the word “gross” as many of us did when we first heard about the collard green sandwich, but one bite and you’ll quickly change your mind.  This sandwich constructed by collard greens and fat back between two pieces of cornbread has been a longtime favorite of the festival.

Andy Griffith Squad Car

Andy Griffith Squad Car

Mom and I headed downtown early Saturday morning but walked past the booth twice because we didn’t recognize it without a line. A lady attending to a large pot of collards turned around and said “we open in about an hour.” No wonder there wasn’t a line yet.

Since I’ve never had a real look at the operation behind the hustle and bustle, I took a few moments to check things out. I watched the lady running the show, presumably Shelby King, chairperson of the Sandy Level Community Council that brings us this annual delicacy.  It tickled me that the most popular food vendor at the festival still uses an old gas range stove and standard white fridge in the booth.

Shelby King setting up for the day

Shelby King setting up for the day

“Guess you’ll just have to settle for a ham biscuit this year baby girl,” Mom said as we headed back to the car. I do love a good ham biscuit but my mother knows me better than that…I would get a collard green sandwich before all was said and done.

We passed time by going up to a produce stand at the state line to pick out pumpkins but when we returned to the festival it was a much different scene from less than an hour earlier. I hopped in line with at least 50 people (probably more) ahead of me. Locals knew exactly what that long of a line was for but out-of-towners stopped to ask. “Oh, I heard I needed to try one of those!” Yes, yes you do, but the end of the line is back thataway.

The line for Sandy Level Community Council's booth

The line for Sandy Level Community Council's booth

While not so patiently standing in line, I had the pleasure of meeting some good folks behind me all the way from Charlotte. They, too, were motivated enough by the sandwich to make a two and a half hours drive for the festival.

Some old friends passed by and I got to rub an expecting friend’s belly carrying a baby girl that will likely be here in a few weeks, a part of the next generation of collard green sandwich consumers.  Ironically enough, it was this family that first introduced me to the sandwiches long ago.

One hour later, I had my three foil-wrapped collard green sandwiches in hand (might as well get a couple to go if you wait that long). There were vinegar and onions to dress them with but I opted to take mine as is to spare my mom any stronger aroma in the car than the collards already emit. I said goodbye and parted ways with my new and old friends.

After devouring one when we got back to the house, I loaded my extra sandwiches, pumpkins, and two kinds of apples (one for frying and the other for pies) into my car and hit the road back to Durham where I now reside.

I had gone home intending to see some colorful autumn foliage, but it’s quite possible that my heart was longing for a little something more. As they usually do when I leave home, a couple of tears fell on the drive down Highway 52 to 40 East, where I would see the sunset in my rearview and a huge, red hunter’s moon rising in the horizon ahead of me. I thought about how fulfilling of a day it had been visiting family, friends, and old stomping grounds. I realized that despite their beauty, dying leaves could not have made me nearly as happy as the day’s adventure had.

Thank you to the Sandy Level Community Council. Your popular offering allowed me to fill my heart up on whole lotta hometown love in the disguise of a sandwich. 

Until next time, Surry County.

Collard Green Sandwich  

Collard Green Sandwich

 

Two Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Happy Fall Y'all!

I am SO excited that Autumn is here! I have spent the last couple of weeks shopping for Fall goodies and decorating the house! This past weekend my dad and I accomplished an outdoor decorating marathon, including a special project that I added to the lineup this year...I am SUPER excited to share all the details about that later!

After such a productive weekend I decided we needed to have some celebratory mimosas on Sunday evening. I had recently picked up some Pumpkin and Cider Spice flavored sparkling juices to try out, so I opted for those instead of orange juice for an ultimate Fall cocktail.

Then I had the notion to make some super easy pumpkin spice muffins that a coworker introduced me to a few years ago. They require only two ingredients and are seriously way too delicious to be so easy! I actually put cream cheese frosting on them, so I guess that technically makes them "three ingredient cupcakes"...but either way you want to do them, they're great!

I also grabbed a candy apple and some Pumpkin Spice LINDOR Truffles (thanks to Pizzazzerie for the heads up on these!) to make an Autumn treat spread! It was simple, yet delicious!

Not that you really need a recipe for these, but check out the directions below and enjoy!

Two Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins

(Yields 12 muffins)

Ingredients:

-1 can of pumpkin puree (not pie filling!)
-1 box of Spice Cake mix
-1 can of cream cheese frosting (optional)

Directions:

-Preheat oven to 350. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray or arrange baking cups into tin.

-Stir the pumpkin and cake mix together until a batter forms (be patient, it will happen!).

-Fill each muffin 2/3 way full.

-Bake for 18-20 min until toothpick comes out clean.

(Let cool before icing if you opt to add the cream cheese frosting!)

Cajun Shrimp & Pimento Cheese Grits with a Red Pepper Jelly Drizzle

Hey Y’all!

I hope everyone enjoyed your Labor Day Weekend! I was lucky enough to visit two great cities and although I am exhausted today, I had an absolute blast! 

We purchased tickets months ago to see UNC football play UGA at the Georgia Dome on Saturday, but I later realized Southern Living Magazine was having another 50th anniversary weekend in Nashville. After the amazing time I had on my birthday back in June at the Southern Living Live Editor’s Dinner in Charleston, I HAD to make Nashville happen!

I spent last week packing up, organizing and shredding 15 lbs. of cheese for the mac & cheese I was assigned to bring to the big tailgate on Saturday. On Thursday morning I hopped on a flight to Nashville and spent the next two days exploring the Music City and all it has to offer. Friday night I attended the Southern Living dinner at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. SO MUCH FUN but more details on that later! 

The beautiful family style dinner under a tent at Cheekwood.

The beautiful family style dinner under a tent at Cheekwood.

After the dinner, I hit the road to Atlanta in a rental car…and ended up having to stop for a short nap at a truck stop outside of Chattanooga. Upon finally arriving at our Airbnb in Atlanta, I was able to sneak in another 30-minute nap before following Kendall to the tailgate lot so we could drop off a car and secure our parking spot.  

I returned back to the Airbnb to start on the mac & cheese. I guess you’re wondering at this point how I got all the cookware and ingredients to Atlanta since I started out my trip on a flight. This is where Kendall and his awesomeness comes in…I had packed up my car with all of the tailgate supplies and organized the fridge with Tupperware full of shredded cheese and the other ingredients before leaving for Nashville. He packed the rest into coolers and drove everything down to Atlanta on Friday so that I could do my thing when I arrived on Saturday morning. How amazing is he?!?

I was also grateful to have two sous chefs, Sarah and Jessica, that let me run around the kitchen like a chicken with my head cut off and assisted with the two HUGE pans of mac & cheese. We loaded ourselves and the mac & cheese into an UberXL and headed to the tailgate! 

Losing the game was definitely a bummer but we had a great time and one of the best tailgates to date! Sunday we made time before heading home to stop for brunch at Buttermilk Kitchen in Buckhead. It was the most darling spot down to every detail, including jelly and mason jars for drinking glasses and recycled milk bottles as water carafes on every table.

Buttermilk Kitchen Brunch

Buttermilk Kitchen Brunch

I returned home last night overwhelmingly inspired by both Atlanta and Nashville so I decided to make a Labor Day Brunch today influenced by some of the delicious food I had in both cities!  

For brunch in Atlanta at Buttermilk Kitchen, I had a chicken biscuit with red pepper jelly and a side of pimento cheese grits. Yep, you heard that right...PIMENTO CHEESE GRITS.  Of course Nashville is the home of Hot Chicken so I knew I wanted to incorporate something spicy and what is better than shrimp and grits?!?

And that my friends, is a rundown of the insanely busy, crazy, fun Labor Day weekend I had and how I came up with Cajun Shrimp and Pimento Cheese Grits with a Red Pepper Jelly Drizzle!  

Enjoy!

 

Cajun Shrimp and Pimento Cheese Grits with a Red Pepper Jelly Drizzle

Ingredients:

For the Grits:        

  • 1 cup Stone Ground Grits
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups Chicken or Beef Broth
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 4 oz jar diced pimentos
  • 3 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder

For the Shrimp:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 lb peeled and deveined uncooked shrimp of your choice
  • 3 tbs butter

 

  • 2 tbs red pepper jelly
  • Chopped green onion for garnish

Directions:

1.     Mix minced garlic and all shrimp seasonings together in a medium sized bowl. Add the shrimp, stir to coat, and sit aside.

2.     Bring water, broth, milk and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Whisk in grits, stir well, cover and turn down heat to low. Continue to whisk frequently and cook for at least an hour until grits are creamy. I cooked mine about 1 ½ hours.

3.     With about 10 minutes left on the grits, melt butter in skillet on medium high heat and then add shrimp. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side.

4.     Remove grits from heat, stir in butter, pimentos (including juice from the jar), cheese, salt, pepper and rest of seasonings.

5.     Spoon grits onto plate, top with shrimp. Melt red pepper jelly in the microwave for about 15 seconds and drizzle over shrimp. Garnish with chopped green onion.

Tips:

  • Make sure you use Stone Ground Grits! They take longer but are worth it. Low and slow is the way to go!
  • Never use pre-shredded cheese…always always always shred your own cheese.
  • Buy your the Red Pepper Jelly local and homemade.
  • Add more cheese if you’d like…you can never have enough cheese.

8-20-15

Deaths are hard. I’ve spent the last year with my fingers to the keyboard hoping to find a way to put it all into appropriate words. While I still haven’t thought up the most enlightening thing to write that makes loss any easier, I can say that I’ve finally found the positive in death, which is...the food.

I had not dealt with a close loss (at an age old enough to remember) until my great-grandmother passed away my freshman year of college, and my duties included holding down her house while neighbors and friends stopped by with food. “Write down who brought what so we can send them a thank you card.”

I didn’t realize that my great-grandmother had known enough people still alive to bring more food than you could even find on a Friday night buffet at the Golden Corral.  Plate after plate of fried chicken and side dishes were brought in. I saw enough variations of pound cake to fill the dessert section of the First Baptist Church’s next community cookbook. That was the week I learned that the older she is, the better her pound cake is.

When my Papa passed last August, I didn’t want to think about life without him in our family. Papa and I saw each other every day while I was growing up and this loss was much harder for me. Regardless of how poorly I kept it together, I had to sit at the house and greet the food…errr, I mean, the people coming by to pay their respects while mom and Granny were out taking care of the arrangements.

It turned out to actually be refreshing. Sure the food was delicious, but I listened to the stories each family friend or church deacon had to tell about Papa. Sometimes they needed comforting just as much as we did, and that attested to the type of man my Papa was. People came and went, dropping off trays of food with the date that everything was made clearly marked, and cake carriers initialed in permanent marker so you knew who to return them to…and you had better return them eventually.

A foil pan of what we thought were from-scratch country ham biscuits was delivered and they were so darn good that we almost fought over them. Each morning that I was home I’d go out and have one with Granny so she wouldn’t have to eat breakfast alone (and partially because I didn’t want to share them). When we eventually found out that Polly Love “up the road” didn’t make them and that they were really from a restaurant in town called “Cousin Gary’s,” we had the best laugh together over how well those biscuits fooled us. I’m not sure whose cousin Gary is but he can be mine if he makes those ham biscuits every time someone dies.

Ya know, there’s something special to be said about comfort food. I always thought of comfort food as simply an excuse not to count calories because you were stressed for some reason or another. But maybe comfort food is more than just an excuse to put your arteries at risk because you’re having a bad day.

Maybe it’s the intention and community behind comfort food that makes it what it is. In the South, food is love and a death is essentially just a somber potluck that lasts several days. You eat home-cooked food, visit with friends and relatives you haven’t seen in a while and cherish that time with the people around you, despite the circumstances that brought you together. Maybe comfort food actually is a reminder of the feelings we get from love and home…and hence the name, the comfort of it all.  Perhaps it really is food for the soul.

As we approached the one-year anniversary of losing Papa, Kendall received news that his grandfather had passed. He was in New Jersey for the funeral when he texted me that he was on the way to repast…reminding me of the one we had in the fellowship hall after Papa’s funeral.  Maybe Northerners aren’t so backwards after all, I thought.

Upon returning back home in North Carolina, Kendall unloaded an entire cooler of Ziploc bags full of green beans, mac and cheese, pound cake and the some of the best cornbread I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. I noticed everything was marked with 8-17-16, the date which they were packaged, and it tickled me at how similar things were to my own experience this time last year.

Realizing that my previous discovery regarding the positive in the midst of a loss may not exclusively be just a Southern thing, I was grateful to have so much comfort food in the days to come that would undoubtedly be tough.  Then I proceeded to unwrap some pound cake and went about determining the age of the lady who made it.

 

P.S. Don’t tell anyone back home that I complimented a Northerner’s cornbread that much.

 

 

 

All Y'all

“I think there’s just one kind of folks: folks.”

-“To Kill a Mockingbird” (Harper Lee)

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

It’s no secret that I love the South. I love celebrating our people, our culture and of course, our food. When I think about my dream house I imagine a wraparound front porch with light blue ceilings, a porch swing and rocking chairs. I picture myself sitting on it with a mint julep or a glass of wine (depending on time of day), while eating pimento cheese and reading Southern Living magazine. 

Few things make me happier than being Southern.

However, as much as I love being from the South, I’m not oblivious to our vices. As most places, our history is not all one to boast about…there are many things I’m ashamed of and wish I could rewrite. I often times find myself conflicted about this place I cherish so much, especially when I see the negative ideologies and stigmas of our past infiltrating to our future generations.

While I wish I could rid us of all our baggage, I don’t have all the answers. I’m not sure how to explain our contradictions, but I damn sure won’t defend them. I don’t always know what to say or have the best words to say it, but as Rick Bragg notes, “I know a little about our South, how the things that make us most ashamed of our past -and present- are not always our actions but our silence.” 

I pray that us Southerners can keep our ears and our hearts open. Let’s listen and understand each other. Let’s work together to eradicate any lingering hate and negativity that still plague us. All kinds of people helped build this region into the great place that it is…and it wouldn’t be so lovely without every single one of us. 

Let’s simply love one another. Lord knows there is enough hospitality and bread to break down here for EVERYONE...just don’t forget the butter. 

Peace & love, y’all. 

This post is dedicated to the Emanuel AME Church, in memory of the victims of the senseless tragedy that occurred on the evening of June 17th, 2015. May their families and community continue to find peace and strength one year later. We are all #CharlestonStrong.

Flowers and tokens of love left by visitors on the gates of Emanuel AME Church 

Flowers and tokens of love left by visitors on the gates of Emanuel AME Church 

A Birthday Weekend in Charleston

I had been contemplating a weekend getaway for my birthday when Southern Living announced their 50th Anniversary weekend in Charleston for the same dates. Anyone that knows me well is aware that I live, eat and breathe Southern Living magazine, so it was pretty much fate!

I talked my friends into joining and we booked an Airbnb that ended up being the most adorable home full of Southern charm. The house was located within walking distance to King St. and just a short Uber ride to everything else we wanted to do (or eat).

It wouldn’t be my birthday if there were no theme so I decided to go with pineapples to commemorate the pineapple fountain on the Charleston waterfront. Pineapples are also a symbol of hospitality and I wanted to let my friends know how much I appreciated them coming to celebrate the weekend with me!

A hospitality table for my friends complete with photo booth props I made.

A hospitality table for my friends complete with photo booth props I made.

I spent a lot of time researching activities and restaurants since traveling with a group can be difficult when deciding what to do and staying on some form of a schedule. We ended up eating SO well and having such a blast so I wanted to share our weekend with you!

Friday:

This was the night of the Southern Living Live Chef + Editor Dinner at Circa 1886 and I am literally still so excited I can’t even put it all into words yet. I’ll have more to share on that later but I’ll talk about everything else we did Friday.

I needed (or wanted) some birthday shoes so we hit up King St. for some shopping. While out, we stopped for a quick bite at Hyman’s Seafood. I was eating light in anticipation for the dinner so I only had a crabcake and salad, but the fresh fish selection looked super yummy. The walls were adorned with mementos from famous people that had stopped in and the tables with plaques of who had sat there, so it made for a fun experience. Rick Flair had sat at our table! 

After shopping, I went to my appointment at Tease Blow Dry Bar to get a blow out. Although my big hair didn’t last long in the South Carolina humidity it was nice not to have to do it myself. If you are in town for a girls’ weekend, wedding or some other type of event it’s a nice way to relax and get pampered for an hour.  Also, they serve wine (enough said), but be sure to schedule an appointment in advance as they fill up fast!

Although I’m saving dinner details for another post, I do want to recommend Circa 1886. Chef Marc Collins planned the most delectable menu for our event so I can only imagine the other dishes they offer. The restaurant is located in a carriage house of the beautiful Wentworth Mansion and the atmosphere is stunning…GO.

The rest of my friends arrived in town while I was at dinner, just in time to hit up the King St. nightlife. We went to Republic, which was a great spot if you are looking for more of a hip-hop music scene. Afterwards we walked over to Callie's Hot Little Biscuit and although I have to admit I don’t remember much about anyone’s meal (it was my birthday, cut me some slack!), I heard nothing but positive reviews the next morning. Last year I had the pimento cheese sandwich and it was delicious so I trust that it was just as delicious this year too.

I brought an instant camera and set up a "photo booth" on a blank space of wall

I brought an instant camera and set up a "photo booth" on a blank space of wall

Saturday:

My goal for Saturday was to map out a good walking tour with plenty of food and drink stops along the way so we wouldn’t have to deal with any transportation.

We started out at Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe, a hidden gem attached to a convenience store. They have everything from chicken and waffles to a tomato pie that they bake fresh upon ordering. I had the State Street Biscuit, which is a fried chicken biscuit smothered in gravy and topped with a fried egg. My stomach was as happy with this biscuit as my arteries were mad at it. I was too full for dessert but the pies looked scrumptious.

We then headed to City Market to walk around and check out the vendors. They have a fun collection of art, knickknacks, souvenirs, etc.…most of which are handmade. I bought a hand painted cooking oil cruet as well as some pralines and a variety of meat jerky.  

The Rooftop Bar at Vendue

The Rooftop Bar at Vendue

Next stop was the The Rooftop Bar at the unique Vendue art hotel. Inside you’ll find cool exhibits such as an assortment of View-Masters to look through and a huge pin art-thingy. Do those have names? Anyways, we went up to the roof for drinks and convo. I had a Peach Mule and Spicy Mango Margarita, both of which were delicious and the views of the Historic District and waterfront were beautiful.

The human size pin-art board at Vendue (we had so much fun!)

The human size pin-art board at Vendue (we had so much fun!)

From The Rooftop we headed to Waterfront Park to take pictures in front of the pineapple fountain with the tanks I had made the group, then over to the famous Rainbow Row.

The last stop on our afternoon adventure was The Gin Joint.  I love the cocktails at The Gin Joint, which serves pretty much everything except vodka. My favorite is the “Bartender’s Choice” where you choose two words such as fruity, spicy, strong, sweet, etc. and the bartender comes up with a drink based on the words. I chose “spicy” and “fruity” and ended up ordering a second of the same because it was that good. The beef jerky here is made in-house and has an awesome flavor. 

After some down time and napping off our fun-filled afternoon, we hit up Swig & Swine for dinner.  I’m not going to add much here about my opinions regarding South Carolina pulled pork BBQ as they may be too biased, but Swig & Swine had a great selection of meats and all the portions were large. I am picky about my BBQ sides and their's were well made. We ordered take out but their craft beer selection inside also looked solid.

Saturday night we headed to the Market St. area and discovered Pavilion Bar atop the Market Pavilion Hotel (clearly we have a thing for rooftop bars). There is a pool with fountains on the roof and plenty of tables/seating for groups. The atmosphere was lovely and we really enjoyed the night views of the city!

As we finished our drinks I ordered pizza from Pizzeria Di Giovanni to pick up for late night. The single slices are huge but if you’re with a group, go for the 28” pizza! It was a quick walk from the bar and placing the order ahead of time cut down on the wait. The pizza was so big it had to go in the trunk of the Uber but it was perfect late night food!

Sunday:

Before heading home Sunday morning we headed to Hominy Grill for brunch. Make sure you arrive early to avoid the rush, but even the wait is bearable since there is a window to the bar on the outside of the building so you can order bloody marys and mimosas (among other options) while you wait.  I love the tin roof ceilings and homey décor inside and the food at Hominy Grill lives up to the hype. I’ve had the fried green tomatoes, salmon potato cakes and shrimp and grits…all of which were great! Their Charleston Nasty Biscuit also looks amazing.

As you can tell we didn’t do a whole lot other than eat and drink in Charleston but it is such a good walking city that you can definitely get your steps in to burn off some of the calories. We barely scratched the surface of all the awesome things to do, see and eat in the Holy City so I’m already looking forward to next trip!

Can’t wait to hear about your favorite places to visit in Charleston! 

 A recap of the weekend's activities! 

 A recap of the weekend's activities! 

My Not So Serious Yet Very Important Decision

I have been eyeing Dutch ovens for several years, drooling over the variety of sizes and colors Le Creuset has to offer. Fortunately I have saved up several gift cards to Williams-Sonoma and am beyond excited to make my first Le Creuset purchase, buttttt I’m torn between colors. Since these pieces last such a long time and I'm a bit (okay, very) obnoxious when it comes to color combos, I’ve spent far too much time debating which I'm going to get!

I love to entertain and often cook in larger batches so I’ve decided that the 7.25 Qt. signature round oven is the best fit for me, and I’ve finally narrowed down the colors to White with a Gold Knob and Matte Navy. Both are Williams-Sonoma exclusives and beautiful!

I'm usually not a big fan of anything white; white appliances, white socks, white shoes, white furniture…ugh, I cringe. However, I am a big fan of gold so I'm obsessed with the gold knob on this one and how it contrasts so eloquently to the glossy white. I really, REALLY love that gold touch!

Photo from Williams-Sonoma.com

Photo from Williams-Sonoma.com

It does concern me that the bottom and outside of the white may wear and stain quicker but based on several reviews I read, if you properly care for the Le Creuset the white should not show much more significant staining. The only hesitancy to the gold knob I'm so in love with is that I have a stainless steel KitchenAid mixer. Our other appliances are black so the mixer is really the only worry about clashing with the gold.

On the other hand I'm really into the color navy and matte finishes, and I’m thinking the navy will likely show less wear and tear in the long run. The navy would go well with the lighter shades of blue in our kitchen, but could clash with our black appliances and pops of black on the counter tops. However, the stainless steel knob on the navy will better match my KitchenAid mixer than the gold knob of the white oven.

Photo from Williams-Sonoma.com

Photo from Williams-Sonoma.com

Since I am so torn, I've decided y'all will help me with my big dilemma! Let me know which Le Creuset should be my first by using the drop-down survey below! I'd also love for y'all to leave comments about your favorite Le Creuset styles and colors!

Use the drop-down menu to select your vote!

 

Side note:

I did a lot of research about Dutch ovens before deciding to go with Le Creuset. I highly recommend the Lodge brand (under $100) as a less expensive and very comparable option. Reviews did note quicker staining on the Lodge but that it still yielded quality cooking results.  If I didn’t have some gift cards saved up, I would totally go with the Lodge.

The Verdict on Early Holiday Decorating

It’s mid-November and your co-worker posts a pic of her homemade burlap wreath with a red bow that she’s already got on the front door. Underneath her grandma’s typo-filled/all caps compliment is sure to be the “it’s too early” guy condemning early holiday decorating, completely bewildered at the thought of Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. By now the majority of your Facebook feed is likely an attack on department stores that roll out the red and green at midnight on November 1st. 

I’m here to address early holiday decorating and why it was perfectly acceptable for me to start listening to Christmas music by November 12th on 99.5 WMAG. I apparently need to explain why it’s none of your concern if I want to see my Thanksgiving turkey reflecting off glass balls on the Christmas tree.

Are y'all really that against skipping Thanksgiving decorations? For starters, I’ve never met a cornucopia that I thought was all that pretty. I’m not against mini gourds or corn stalks if that’s your thing, but if it’s not ours then please allow us skip to the greenery and ornate inflatables.

I have a lot of holiday decorations…A LOT. Enough to make the men in my family consider disowning me whenever I have to move. Decorating for me is a process that takes several weekends. I want to spend the month of December relaxing (drinking) with friends and family…not picking up a fully decorated Christmas tree that toppled over in my kitchen (true story). I’m also very serious about my Christmas lights and I’m warning you now…Wal-Mart runs out of certain varieties of lights early. Make sure you don’t get yourself in a traditional-LED mismatch because you waited too late to start decorating.

Thanksgiving is like the kickoff to the holiday marathon ahead through Christmas and New Years. If your holiday decorations start going up before Thanksgiving you can rest easy in stretchy pants during that food coma that you know is sure to come.

For goodness sake, early Christmas decorating doesn’t mean I’m not thankful. Christmas decorations are the dearest reminder of my childhood. My mom LOVES Christmas…she puts up more Christmas trees each year than there are rooms in her house. Christmas reminds me of my dad letting me decorate with as many tacky blow molds as I wanted if it made my heart content. It wasn’t about the presents…it was about decorating together and the girls making our uncle coconut bon-bons even if all those chocolate melts made me nauseous. It was about pulling out card tables and banquet chairs after locking the spare bedroom door right before guests arrive, lying to yourself that you'll actually get it cleaned out before next Christmas.  It was about eating my Granny’s cream corn and my Mama’s yeast rolls.

Christmas decorations bring out a certain type of gratuitous nostalgia from within me that will literally produce tears when Delilah drops that “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” or a Lorraine calls in to talk about how blessed she is. This doesn’t mean I’m only thankful during the holidays, but Christmas is special in that it just brings out a certain type of magic and comfort.

I want so badly for everyone else to feel the holiday spirit my family instilled into my heart. I spend a lot of time putting up decorations because I want you to enter my home during the holidays and feel like you’re in whatever cheesy Christmas movie I have on the Hallmark Channel or ABC’s 25 Days of Christmas (spoiler alert: someone probably moved off to the big city and lost their Christmas spirit). I want you to think about all the special holiday moments in your past that brought you joy. I want you to feel like a kid again. I want to drink wine with you and tell you how much I love and appreciate you until you get annoyed with me.

So wouldn't it make sense that on Thanksgiving...the most giving of thanks day of the year...that I should set the scene for ultimate nostalgia? 

Besides, there are families that may have to celebrate the holidays early due to military service, distance, etc. Is it really necessary to put up a cranky PSA attempting to regulate early holiday decorating just because some of us want to catch the Christmas cheer Megabus a few weeks early?

Do what you want with your November but what happens in my yard is none of your business no matter how “interesting” you think my light display is (yes, I was outside and heard you). Have a holly jolly November and in the words of Rick Bragg*:  

“I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very hefty light bill!”

 

Southern Living, December 2011