Decorating for Autumn: Our Halloween Mantel

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

So, as I mentioned recently, fall is upon us and so begins my decorating of the house for Halloween. And as it turns out, the kitchen table isn't the only thing I'm getting ready for Halloween this year. Just take a look at my mantel.  I'm pretty pleased with how it has shaped up!

I start by removing everything completely from it, to begin with a clean slate.  Then I slowly add my favorite Halloween pieces along with some fall floral and see where it takes me.  The finishing touch is always my Happy Halloween banner.


Here's a closer look at the banner. It came from Pottery Barn about four years ago.  I thought I had lost it last year- couldn't find it anywhere; racked my brain and the whole house and still came up with nothing.  Thankfully, I finally remembered that I had stored it from the year before in my spell book (which was sitting on the mantel itself).  Crisis averted.  In any case, I have seen similar banners at Target and Hobby Lobby so far this fall.  Although, I'm pretty sure Pottery Barn no longer sells this exact one. 


And here are a few close ups for you. The glass pumpkin with the swirly stem is my favorite!  (hence it's place of honor on the mantel) And I love the old replica vintage Halloween greeting card.  


There's that spell book I was just talking about!  It's rather large and does do a nice job storing my banner when not in use!  Notice the large fall leaves I tucked into the display too.  They are at least a foot tall, so a few go a long way.  I found them at the local craft store a few years ago.  


Add a couple of oversized gourds to each end, and there you have it!  


Stay tuned to the blog for more Halloween decorating!  It's that time of year and it's what we do!


Decorating for Autumn: Halloween Tablescape

Sunday, September 20, 2015

It's that time of year again!  Fall is nearing; the sun and shadows play in new patterns as the days grow shorter. There is a coolness to the breeze, hinting of things to come.  Pumpkins, squash and apples ripen to their finest.  And so we begin to long for a change of seasons and all that autumn brings.  

For me, as always, a change of seasons also marks the change of my kitchen table setting.  And this time of year I bring out my Halloween table.  It's a lot of fun, a lot of orange, and not at all scary.  :)

Here's a bird's eye view of the Halloween table in action.


But let's break things down and bring you in a for a closer look.  This giant candy bowl came from Sam's Club years ago.  I haven't seen one there like it since.   It sure is a treasure though, and I'm glad I found it back then.  

Next to it is a vintage owl pitcher.  It's got some age on it.  We found it while out treasure hunting in North Carolina a few years ago.  Since there's nothing particularly Halloween-y about it other than the fact that it's shaped like an owl, I get other use out of it too.  But I do think he looks just right tucked into this table.



Now, let's take a closer look at the individual place settings.  This is my seat at the table, hence the owl plate.  I'm an owl lover from way back- before owls were as "cool" as they are today.  Each place has it's own different Halloween plate.  There's also a pumpkin, a bat, and a black cat.  The spider web napkins came from Pottery Barn.  The Jack O'Lantern mugs were a flea market find.  And I found the pumpkin-shaped place card holders in Lexington, KY at Christmas time one year!  


I've had this little bronze colored owl for as long as I can remember.  The acorn shaped bowl and spoon came from Hallmark last year (gift with purchase), as did the acorn candle beside it.  But that one is new to table this year. 


The copper colored squirrel came from Walmart, of all places, last year.  I think he was literally $3 or less.  You just never know where inspiration will strike!


And I'm in love with this bowl of vintage Halloween noisemakers!  The bowl itself is part of the set of tin Jack O'Lantern mugs that I just mentioned, but makes a nifty home for these old Halloween toys!



The table is full of pumpkins too.  I love, love, love the pumpkin bucket in the background of this pic. The candy bowl in the foreground is another favorite.  I usually fill it with candy corn, which doesn't last long in this house!




And check out my placecards!  I decided to print some and add them to my pumpkin card holders this year.  I thought "Samantha" seemed appropriate for the witch.  Here's the link to these retro Halloween placecard printables.  They are free and they are fabulous!
 


And finally, remember my vintage mini blackboard?  I last used it for my cherry table over the summer months.  Now it's back on the table again, this time for Halloween.  


So there you have it!  Hope your Halloween decorating is off to a good start too!

Crockpot Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Monday, September 14, 2015

Now that Fall is right around the corner, we're breaking out the crockpot for some down home recipes that you can simmer all day for a tasty dinner (with not much effort).

This one turned out pretty tasty and even had my meat-eating husband going back for seconds. We're definitely adding this one into the rotation. With such a small amount of prep time, there was a definitely a big payoff with these sloppy joes.


Crockpot Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

1 1/3 cups dried black eyed peas
1 cup minced carrots
2/3 cup quinoa
2 Tbsp minced bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1//2 tsp liquid smoke
6 cups water
1 cup minced greens of choice
6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce
salt and pepper to taste
buns for serving

  1. Wash the dry beans. Place them into a pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Let them soak 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain water and place the drained beans in a crockpot. Add minced carrots, quinoa, minced bell pepper, garlic, Cajun seasoning, liquid smoke, and water. Cover and cook on low setting for 7 to 9 hours.
  3. About 1 hour before you wish to serve, add minced greens, tomato paste, and barbecue sauce. Cover and cook on low for an additional hour.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving on buns.
Notes:
For those of you unfamiliar with cooking with dried beans, please do not dump the opened pack directly into the pot! Sort through the beans a handful at a time and remove any discolored or misshapen beans (or anything that looks suspiciously like rocks). Place them in a colander and rinse them before placing in a pot and cooking.

Keep in mind that if you've had a bag of beans sitting in your pantry for a while (or even if you just bought them but they've been sitting on the grocery shelf for a while), they might take even longer to cook. So it's always best to leave yourself a little wiggle room with the timing of a dry bean recipe. Always make sure to give it a taste before serving! ;-)

If you're looking for a tried and true traditional Sloppy Joe recipe, give this one a try. It's a staple in Harris Sister Deanna's home for Halloween night.

One Man's Trash: Vintage Items Turned Halloween Decorations

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Well, I've waited ALL THE WAY until September 12 to start talking about Halloween. I've actually had my house decorated for Halloween for a few weeks now. Pro tip: to avoid having your house looking like the sad pumpkin in the second part of this meme, you have to start decorating early. :-)


So, today I thought I would share a few vintage items that I have repurposed as Halloween decor. The first is a vintage Pelham SM Witch marionette that I purchased on Girls' Weekend this year. You may remember Harris Sister Deanna writing about the vintage Pinocchio marionette that she purchased on that same trip. We actually purchased these from the same vendor.

I knew when I purchased mine that I would save her and use her for Halloween decor. Here she is next to my hand-painted Witch Sisters' Charm School sign and a small glass finial that is the perfect size to serve as her crystal ball for the season:




She is a little "loved," but I think that adds to her charm. Witches aren't supposed to look perfect anyway!

My second vintage item that is currently on display as Halloween decor is Mama's Remington typewriter. Because it is gray, it fits in perfectly with the black and white Halloween decor on display in our red dining room. 





But what the heck does a typewriter have to do with Halloween, you ask? 


I typed the phrase "If you are reading this, then you are blissfully unaware of what is creeping up behind you . . . . " into Microsoft Word and printed it out using Secret Typewriter, which is a free typewriter font. That font, as well as many other free typewriter fonts, are available at The Shabby Creek Cottage.


Make sure to take the full Halloween Home Tour from last year to see my many Halloween decorations on display including how I use my Grandmother's vintage lava lamp and Daddy's vintage Tilso skull ashtray.

And make sure to also check out Vintage Items Turned Christmas Decorations - Christmas will be here before you know it!

Meet Chance, the Rescue Pup

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Today is one of our boys' birthdays. He's a whole year old today. This is our boy Chance.


He was actually our "big" Christmas gift to the boys last year. Instead of purchasing a dog before Christmas for the boys to "unwrap" (which I would generally recommend against for many reasons - the least of which being that puppies plus other assorted Christmas festivities equals enormous amounts of stress), we instead sent the boys on a scavenger hunt around the house for letters that they then assembled to spell out the word "puppy." 

After the Christmas festivities died down, we set out to a local rescue group to meet some pups. I had researched online beforehand, so I already had my eye on him (because hello? was he not THE most adorable thing you've ever seen?) and of course, we all fell in love with him when we met him.



Here he was visiting Santa last year right before we met him. Of course, I think he asked Santa for a new family (and Santa ALWAYS delivers).


The rescue group had actually rescued his mom (a German Shepherd) from the mall, and they named her Victoria after the mall store Victoria's Secret. If you're wondering what THIS Victoria's secret was, it was that she was pregnant. She gave birth to a litter of adorable puppies shortly after they rescued her, and the rescue named all of the puppies after other mall stores. Our Chance was actually named Pacsun when we adopted him. And if you look closely at the photos below, you can see that he wasn't much bigger than his "big" brother Smitty when we adopted him:





We would have probably kept his original name if it hadn't rhymed with Jaxon. But to keep my own sanity, we felt it best to think up something a little more distinctive. After kicking around a couple of options, we decided to name him after the Abba song "Take a Chance on Me." (His middle name is actually Trouper, from Abba's song "Super Trouper.")

If you're wondering why we chose to name our new puppy after Abba songs, well both Ryan and I happen to love the Abba Gold album. And these two particular songs have verses that could easily describe what a rescue dog must think at any given time during his life:

Take a Chance On Me (excerpt)

If you change your mind, I'm the first in line
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
If you need me, let me know, gonna be around
If you've got no place to go, if you're feeling down
If you're all alone when the pretty birds have flown
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
Gonna do my very best and it ain't no lie
If you put me to the test, if you let me try

Take a chance on me
(That's all I ask of you honey)
Take a chance on me

Super Trouper (excerpt)

So I'll be there when you arrive
The sight of you will prove to me I'm still alive
And when you take me in your arms
And hold me tight
I know it's gonna mean so much tonight

Tonight the
Super Trouper lights are gonna find me
Shining like the sun
Smiling, having fun
Feeling like a number one

And if you're wondering about our boy Chance. Well, he's adjusting perfectly. He follows me all around the house, plays with his brothers, has learned all of his commands, and is particularly fond of sticks. Just a big baby with a super big heart - and really that's all you can ever ask for in a pet.


Here he is today in some familiar poses (although he's a tad bit bigger). Note his bed, Ryan, and the boys are roughly the same size as they were when we adopted him (for size comparison). What a difference a year makes!




And if you haven't ever considered rescuing a pet, give it some thought. If you're looking for a particular breed, age, gender, etc., start with Petfinder.com. You can enter your location and any of these criteria to narrow your search. This website will find a local rescue group that has a pet that meets these criteria. Could not be easier!

The rescue group that we worked with to adopt Chance was Stepping Stones Canine Rescue. They are a charitable and educational non-profit corporation located in Winston-Salem, NC. If you are looking to adopt in this area, I cannot recommend this group enough. They are very thorough and really care about the animals that they rescue.

Read about the origins of brother Smitty's distinctive middle name here.

One Man's Trash: Vintage Greeting Cards

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Look what my husband found recently at a rummage sale- a stash of old greeting cards!  And the best part is that they are all still in unused condition.  No writing inside any of them and they all have their matching envelopes!  

And even better, if you look closely, you might notice that two of them are addressed to "Mom"- one a Mother's Day card, and the other a Valentine for "My Mom".  Another is a birthday card for "My Wife", and the final two are Wedding Anniversary cards.  So, I'm thinking that all of these would work for me!  Hey, we do have an anniversary coming up soon.  :)


I flipped through all of them to see if there is a copyright date anywhere on any of them, and there is not.  But you can see they are all American Greeting cards with the old trademark and they were also made in the U.S.A., Cleveland, Ohio, to be specific.  


It turns out that American Greeting has been making cards for over 100 years now, and have been headquartered in Cleveland the whole time.  If I had to guess, I would say that perhaps these came from a box set from a while back.  The drawings make me think of the 1950's- especially the cocker spaniel and the children on the bottom two cards. 

In any case, he paid less than a dollar for these wonderful old cards, and they make me super happy. Ahh, another case of one man's trash...  

How To Dry Your Own Herbs

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Drying your own herbs really couldn't be much easier.  It only requires a few simple tools and a couple easy steps.  Hey, if I can do it...  

This is the time of year that my herb garden overflows to the point that I know I won't be able to use all my fresh herbs before they succumb to the cooler Autumn months ahead.  So now was the perfect time to harvest my herbs to dry them for later.  Incidentally, I did leave enough in the garden to keep using what is left for now. 



Here are the only tools that you will need.  Paper bags, a hole punch, and some twine.  That's it!  So let's get started.



Begin by labeling each bag with the name of the herb that you will be drying inside.  Then punch holes throughout the bag.  The holes will help with the drying process, allowing air to move through the bag. 


Next, take your harvested herbs and tie them off at one end with a small length of twine. 


Then place your herbs inside the bag, and tie the bag shut with another piece of twine.  The bag will also collect any herbs that fall in the drying process. 


That's all there is to it!  I told you it was easy.  Hang your bags in a cool and dry place for about a month.  They will be good and dried by then and ready for use as dry herbs.  



Note: I hung all my Italian herbs together in the pantry but decided to hang my mint separately because it has a noticeably different scent and taste, and I didn't want to "mix" them.  That's really my only word of caution regarding this process.  

Here's looking forward to cooler months ahead and lots of yummy spicy dishes made with my very own dried herbs!