Southwest Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

Saturday, May 28, 2016

If you're looking for a quick and easy potato salad recipe that isn't your run of the mill recipe, then this recipe for you. There are two tricks to this recipe. First, it features sweet potatoes. So, every other potato salad at the summer cookout will be oh so jealous! Second, you roast the sweet sweet potatoes, so you don't spend a lot of time on the recipe and you also don't heat up your kitchen quite as much as standing over a pot of boiling potatoes! Easy peasy!

Perfect recipe to take to all your upcoming cookouts!

Southwest Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 c quinoa, prepared as per package instructions
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 can corn, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 c chopped cilantro
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 c lime juice
2 tsp honey

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place prepared sweet potatoes on cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 25-30 minutes.
  3. While sweet potatoes are roasting, prepare quinoa according to package directions.
  4. In a large bowl, combine corn, black beans, green onions, and cilantro. Add quinoa and sweet  potatoes once they are finished cooking. Add salt, cumin, garlic, and mix to combine.
  5. In a measuring cup, whisk together lime juice and honey. Pour dressing over mixture. Toss to combine.
  6. Refrigerate overnight before serving.


To make the prep work for this salad even quicker, you can purchase pre-cut sweet potatoes in the produce section of your grocery store. 

This salad also makes a great filling for vegetarian burritos and can also be served with tortilla chips!

Lexi's Latest Jam: Rocky Top

Friday, May 27, 2016

We just returned from a long weekend in the hills and hollers of Tennessee, and it was there that I was reminded that our little one, Lexi, sure does enjoy herself some pickin' and grinnin'.  Of course, she gets it honestly.  I love it too!  And you cannot- CANNOT- get away from any such jam session in the great state of Tennessee without hearing good ole Rocky Top somewhere on the set list.  It is one of the official state songs of TN, and has become a fan favorite at all of the University of Tennessee games too.  

In any case, Rocky Top has become Lexi's latest jam.  Although she's heard it many times before, something just clicked this time, and now she's asking for it by name.  So I play it for her over and over.  And we dance, dance, dance all around the house.  What fun!

Incidentally, another thing we cannot seem to get away from every time we visit the mountains of TN are the old time photos.  Here we all are this most recent trip.  That's the Harris Sisters' Daddy and his wife Nancy, along with my hubby John, sweet Lexi, and me.  Daddy looks like he just walked out of one of his favorite westerns!

And there's little Lexi just being precious.  She's so good at it.  I loved her little dress, and she did a great job holding those flowers too!

And it was actually just this time last year we were in the same part of the country with John's parents for a long weekend, and we took similar pics then too.  That's John's dad, Larry, his mom, Jan, and of course me and our little family.  Lexi was only a year old and we were all shocked that she sat still for this picture.  Larry also looks like he just walked straight out of a Western. :)

And of course, long time followers of the blog will remember these fun photos.  That's all the Harris Sisters: Misty, me, and Donna, along with Misty's daughter, Charlotte.  These pictures were taken a few years ago on one of our famous Girls' Weekends. 

So what do all these photos have to do with Rocky Top?  Well, they were all taken on trips to Gatlinburg, Tennessee over the years. And Gatlinburg is actually the birth place of the song Rocky Top!  If you listen to the lyrics, you will pick up on references to the country life- "Ain't no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top.  Ain't no telephone bills."  And for your reference, I'm including the full lyrics below.  You will need them when you start singing and tapping along to this classic.

So here's one of my favorite videos of the Osborne Brothers performing their hit.  They do a great job giving a little history of the song right before they dive into it, so listen up.  It's so much fun!

And here are those lyrics for you.... 

Wish that I was on ol' Rocky Top
Down in the Tennessee hills
Ain't no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top
Ain't no telephone bills
Once I had a girl on Rocky Top
Half bear, the other half cat
Wild as a mink, sweet as soda pop
I still dream about that

Once two strangers climbed ol' Rocky Top
Lookin' for a moonshine still
Strangers ain't come down from Rocky Top
Reckon they never will
Corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top
Dirt's too rocky by far
That's why all the folks on Rocky Top
Get their corn from a jar

I've had years of cramped up city life
Trapped like a duck in a pen
Now all I know is it's a pity life
Can't be simple again.

Rocky Top you'll always be
Home sweet home to me
Good ol' Rocky Top
Rocky Top Tennessee, Rocky Top Tennessee

And to leave you with another fun video, here's our Lexi (and me) jamming to Rocky Top from our most recent trip to the mountains. 

And here she is dancing with another sweet little girl who saw Lexi dancing and decided to join in. 

We had front row seats at this concert, so Lexi just made herself at home.  But that's what you do in the mountains, right?   

So that's a little look into what we've been up to lately, and definitely what we've been listening to lately.  Never a dull moment around here!  

Sock Monkey Toddler Dress

Friday, May 20, 2016

Little Miss Lexi recently celebrated her second birthday, and in honor of the occasion I wanted to make her a special handmade present. I had an EXACT theme in mind because this little miss has had her Jo-Jo (sock monkey) by her side for nearly as long as I can remember.

The original Jo-Jo sock monkey belonged to her dad John, and he has also passed along all of his monkey-shining knowledge to this little girl. So, sock monkey was definitely the way I wanted to go. I just needed to find a pattern.

I ended up completing the size 2 Garden Lattice Jumper free crochet pattern using these stash yarns for the Sock Monkey look:

  • Bernat Denim Style Rodeo Tan*
  • Lion Brand Baby Soft Cream
  • Caron Simply Soft Red

Note: This was a yarn that I had available in my yarn stash. It is no longer manufactured by Bernat. However, Vanna's Choice makes two tweed yarns that would be good substitutes: 

  • Oatmeal (brown option) 
  • Grey Marble (grey option)

Rather than cross stitching on the bodice as per the original pattern instructions, I finished the dress with an iron-on sock monkey applique.

Add this free crochet pattern to your Ravelry queue here: Garden Lattice Jumper

Lexi (and Jo-Jo) approve of the finished product! Doesn't she look adorable?

If you're interested in other crochet patterns for children, check out these popular posts:

Captain America Hat

Friday, May 13, 2016

To celebrate the recent release of Captain America: Civil War, I whipped up this Captain America hat using a free crochet pattern. The pattern couldn't have been easier to complete, and you might even have some stash yarn you can use!

I completed the pattern exactly as written and used Red Heart Super Saver in Royal and a stash white yarn. The only thing I did differently was that I tacked down the wings to the side of the hat so that the hat looks a little more like Captain America's helmet in the movies.

But why are you making a winter hat in the middle of spring? I'm so glad you asked!

With two little boys under foot, you can only imagine that we are ALL superhero all the time in this household. By the age of 3, Aidyn had already aligned himself with Team Spiderman, and he was kind enough to choose Team Captain America for Jaxon when he was born. (I mean, babies don't know anything about superheroes, but Aidyn felt like his brother needed to form some sort of an allegiance with a superhero. It was the right thing to do.)

I give you Exhibit A:

Fast forward 7 years and Jaxon is still firmly aligned with Team Captain America, so you can imagine that he was thrilled to find out that Marvel was releasing another movie featuring his favorite superhero.

So he didn't mind one bit that his hat isn't really in season right now. He'll wear it to play with and then he'll wear it even more when the weather gets cooler. This pattern would even be perfect for school character dress up days or Halloween costumes. The possibilities are endless!

You can add this super FREE crochet pattern to your Ravelry queue here:

Other superhero projects you might be interested in:

Weekend Playlist

Thursday, May 12, 2016

This little playlist has a certain theme to it, if you will.  Keep reading, and you will figure it out.  But that aside, they are all new country tunes, and they are all fabulous.  Certainly worth a listen, and a good way to kick off your weekend.  :)

The first one in this set is a relatively new comer on the county scene.  Her name is Maren Morris, and she's giving the ladies of country music a run for their money.  I'm so glad to see some new blood in this group of country music crooners, and she's about as real as it gets.  Take a listen to "My Church" by Maren Morris. 

Next up is the latest from country duo, Florida Georgia Line.  They are the modern day version of Brooks and Dunn. They have their front man and his duet partner, and together they are country magic.  Their latest tune is called "H.O.L.Y".  The first time I heard it, I was literally singing along by the end of the song.  Give it a try here. 

And finally, Carrie Underwood is on a roll again.  This time, her latest is called "Church Bells".  It's a cross between a modern day version of  two of my favorite Reba McEntire songs - "Fancy" and "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia".  She literally just debuted this video on Good Morning America earlier this week so it's hot off the presses. 

So that's what I'm loving this weekend.  What's on your weekend playlist?

Recycled Robot Art Project

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I'm a little late posting this but I wanted to share. This year, Jaxon's teacher sent home a project for the class to complete in conjunction with Earth Day.

Students were asked to start saving boxes, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic, and any other recyclable materials they could think of to create a robot. His teacher taught a whole unit on how to take care of the environment by reducing, reusing, and recycling.

This is the robot that Jaxon came up with:

Once we started saving recycled materials, the robot just sort of took shape by himself. As you can see, this particular robot is a cowboy-themed robot. The deciding factor in that theme was the individual Pringles container, which looked like a cowboy hat when turned upside-down. From there, we added a horse sticker to one of his buttons and glued on a plastic star. To recreate this look, follow these steps:


2 egg cartons (dozen size)
1 64 oz juice bottle (flat sided)
2 toilet paper rolls
1 pot-sized spaghetti box
1 8 oz. cashew container lid
1 individual Pringles container
6 various color plastic bottle caps from various containers (shown here from spice container, juice bottle, Gatorade, water bottles, lemon juice bottle)
2 bottle caps from glass bottles
1 plastic star (this was from a broken Christmas decoration)
1 black styrofoam tray
1 pencil
1 horse sticker
Letter and number stickers (to label project)
hot glue gun and hot glue sticks

  1. Glue the flat side of the egg cartons to either side of the bottom of the juice bottle.
  2. Glue the toilet paper rolls above the egg cartons to represent arms.
  3. Glue the bottle caps to larger plastic caps. Once dry, glue them onto the spaghetti box for eyes. Glue another plastic cap underneath the eyes for a nose.
  4. Draw a mustache shape onto the black styrofoam tray and cut out. Glue onto the nose. Attach the spaghetti box to the cap of the juice bottle.
  5. Glue the cashew lid to the top of the spaghetti box. Glue the Pringles container upside down on top of the cashew lid.
  6. Glue the remaining plastic caps onto the flat front of the juice bottle to represent buttons. Attach the horse sticker to one of the buttons. Glue the plastic star to the upper chest.
  7. Label your robot on the back with letter and number stickers if desired. We named ours the Jaxon-Tron 8808. (Jaxon's birthday is 8/8/08.)

And here's the final robot with Jaxon to show about how large it turned out. Not too shabby for a project made with recycled materials.

How to Make Mickey Mouse Cupcakes

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

These little cupcakes come together so easily, and are just the cutest EVER for a Mickey Mouse lover, like our little one.  We made these to celebrate her second birthday, and they were a huge hit!

Vanilla Cupcakes

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

(yields 24 cupcakes)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cupcake pan with cupcake wrappers. 
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
  3. Add eggs one at a time. 
  4. Add flour (mixed with baking powder and salt), alternating with milk.  Beat well.  Stir in vanilla. 
  5. Divide evenly among pans and bake for 18 minutes. 
  6. Let cool completely in pans.

Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 Tbsp milk
Food coloring, as needed (optional)

  1. Cream room temperature butter until smooth and fluffy. 
  2. Gradually beat in confectioners sugar until fully incorporated. 
  3. Beat in vanilla extract. 
  4. Pour in milk and beat for an additional 3-4 minutes. 
  5. Add food coloring, if using, and beat for 30 seconds until smooth or desired color is reached. 

Decorating your Cupcakes

As you can see, the decorations are what make this cupcake special.  So here are the finishing touches you will need to make your Mickey Mouse cupcakes take on that Disney magic!  

For the final touches, you will also need:

  • Red polka dot cupcake wrappers (I purchased mine on Amazon.)
  • Red food coloring (I used an entire bottle to color my batch of frosting.)
  • Red sprinkles
  • Oreos
  • Mini oreos
  • M&M's (You will only need the yellow ones, which luckily leaves you with lots of extras!
To complete your cupcakes, follow the directions for making the cupcakes and frosting.  Your frosting will need to be red.  So I completed the steps for adding food coloring to my frosting.  I did use an entire bottle of red to achieve the color you see here.  Once you frost your cupcakes, add red sprinkles to the top of each one.  Then add two yellow M&M's to mimic Mickey's buttons.  The Mickey Mouse ears are made using Oreo cookies.  You will need to carefully separate the Oreos so the cream filling remains on the back of the cookie.  Then attach the two mini Oreos, using the cream filling (or some extra cupcake frosting) to hold the Mickey Mouse ears in place.  Carefully place your Mickey Mouse cookie creation into the frosting of each cupcake. And voila!  There you have it!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words; I told you they were a hit!