Spinach Stuffed Shells

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I know what you're thinking - why am I posting a baked pasta recipe when we're a few days away from the start of summer?

The answer is easy! You've never had pasta until you've had it with fresh marinara sauce and fresh basil from your garden.

Add to that the quick cooking nature of this recipe, and you've got a winner!


Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Spinach Stuffed Shells

Spinach Stuffed Shells


32 jumbo pasta shells
1-1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
8 oz. fresh spinach leaves, roughly-chopped
32 oz ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese,
1 large egg
1 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cups marinara sauce


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and place cooked shells in a single layer on cookie sheets to cool. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic and cook until it begins to brown, about a minute or two. 
  3. Add the chopped spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves begin to wilt but are still bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. The spinach should be reduced by half. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  4. In a mixing bowl, stir together the spinach, ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, basil, salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined. Pour 1/2 of the marinara sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. 
  5. Stuff cooled pasta shells with a generous amount of the spinach and ricotta mixture and place them in the baking dish.
  6. Cover with the remaining sauce and bake covered with aluminum foil for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top begins to brown and the sauce begins the bubble, another 10-15 minutes. 
  7. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella and cover again with aluminum foil. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving. (Mozzarella will melt during this 10 minutes.) Serve warm.

Tips:

  • Cook a couple of extra shells in case a few break while they cook.
  • If you would like to use jarred marinara sauce, a 26 oz. jar will work.
  • If you're growing basil in your garden and need to know how to preserve it for fall and winter cooking, make sure to read about how to dry fresh herbs.

Our Memorial Day Week(end) in Pictures

Saturday, June 3, 2017

I almost didn't post this to the blog this year because, let's face it, Memorial Day has come and gone now for almost a week AND this year's Memorial Day weekend was extra rainy for us, which snookered a lot of our plans (and thus the corresponding pictures too).  But since I have posted the pics from our Memorial Day weekend for the past several years, I finally convinced myself that I didn't want a gap in my posts even if there aren't as many fun pics this year.  Now that I have majorly talked this up (HA!), I share with you our Memorial Day Weekend in pictures from 2017.

Our long weekend started as many of them do for us- with a little drive to one of our favorite Nashville neighborhoods- 12 South, for dinner, some window shopping, and a little walk around. Here we all are on that Friday night.  Lexi saw this bench and made a bee-line for it, then asked me to take a picture of us!  As I was trying to get a family selfie, a nice man walked by and asked if we wanted him to get our picture, so he did.  (and it turned out a lot better than my selfie!)


We dined outside on the patio at our favorite little barbecue place.  It filled up pretty quickly after we sat down so we did get lucky there.  There were tons of lively folks and their pups out for a nice night.  Here's Lexi "holding on to her hat" as she said.  Every time the wind kicked up, she would grab her hair and say "hold on to your hats!".  Yep, that wind was about to blow in some weather, as we say here in the South.


After dinner, I visited one of my favorite 12 South shops, Draper James.  It is Reese Witherspoon's shop- named after her two Southern grandmas- Grandma Draper and Grandma James.  Everything in there is as sweet and southern as can be- just like this tote.  What would Dolly do?  She would buy this tote, that's what she would do!!!  But I did not.  I was only window shopping, but what a cute bag!  Oh, and I asked the clerk there that night if they ever saw Reese at the shop.  She said, "Oh yes, she was just here a few weeks ago!"  You never know who you will run into in Nashville!


Then it was on to more shopping- this time at the pop up flower shop down the street.  It was gorgeous and Lexi sniffed every flower in that place, I think!


My window shopping turned into actual shopping here.  I had been looking everywhere for a bougenvilla and couldn't find one anywhere this year.  I found one last year and it was so pretty all summer long.  They are popular in the New Orleans area, but harder to find around these parts.  Long story short, this shop had one!!  And it came home with us! 


I did find one other hanging basket that I couldn't leave behind, and then we headed off for ice cream as we finished up our night. 


Saturday brought the rain and much cooler temps, and our hopes of making our first trip to the swimming pool were dashed.  So Plan B was a morning spent at the indoor bouncy house place that Lexi loves so much.  On the up side, there was hardly anyone there (which is unheard of) so Lexi had her run of the place.  As I look at this picture, I am reminded that I bought the sweet little handmade dress that Lexi is wearing in this picture last year on Girls' Weekend.  It's much shorter on her this year, but it does still fit.  Thank goodness it has matching bloomers!  And thank goodness for Girls' Weekend.  It's coming up soon again this year!


An iffy kind of day turned into a stormy night, so John and I made our way to the movies for a date night while Lexi spent time with her grandparents.  This isn't a great picture, but then the movie we saw wasn't that great either- Baywatch.  It was the summer Memorial Day release movie this year. Don't get me wrong- it wasn't horrible.  It actually wasn't that bad, but I don't think it's going to win any awards or anything.  And yes, David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson both made cameos in it. 


Sunday's weather was up and down all day too.  The ground was pretty wet and it wasn't as warm as most Memorial Day weekends, but we were ready to get outside, so we did between the showers. Lexi caught up on her swinging.  Although, if you were to ask her, she's never really caught up!


I caught up on my planting.  This was the other hanging basket I bought at the flower market.  It's called Fuchsia.  This plant was super well established and full of big bright blooms.  


Just looks at all those buds!  It is literally dripping with them!


I did a little maintenance on the roses too.  I always cut my roses back to little more than 12 inches tall every Spring.  That helps them to grow out nice and full instead of just straight up.  


We planted these urns with succulents this year.  And they have taken off.  Succulents winter over nicely in our part of the world, so these beautiful pots should last us a long while.  That's my chenille plant hanging behind it, and gerber daisies in the pot on the deck.


This picture made me so happy.  It kind of looks like Lexi is exploring another flower garden, but no- that's our back yard!  So all that rain is good for something.  


The rain finally let up in time to watch a movie at sunset in our back yard.  We installed an outdoor movie screen last year.  We leave it up all summer and take it down when the weather starts to cool each year.  Lexi quickly snagged my chair and settled in for her movie.  It was Zootopia for the family friendly flick, and then Office Space for me and John after Lexi was off to bed.  It felt so good to set up camp in the back yard after a couple days of rain.  


Then Memorial Day Monday came, and the skies cleared.  The sun shone bright and hot, and we knew it was time to make a trip to the nearby splash pad.  We weren't the only ones with that plan, but it wasn't terribly crowded- just lively and fun.  Lexi played and ran and splashed herself silly. 


I imagine that water was a little cold, but she definitely didn't seem to mind.  The nice thing about this place is that it's enclosed so kids can't run away.  We her let in with the other kids and grabbed a nice shady picnic table to watch her play. 


We brought a picnic lunch with us- fried chicken and all the fixins.  But John's parents joined us for lunch and brought these pretty plates.   So pretty, so fresh, and I love the plate too.


Then it was off to splashing again.  We were all so glad to finally see a nice day and enjoy it outside together.  After Lexi tuckered herself out, she settled down for a super good nap, while John's mom and I did a little shopping, and the guys stuck close to home to watch after the babe.  It was a cookout for dinner and the long weekend drew to a close.


I hope your long weekend was just as nice, if not a little less rainy, than ours.  In any case, the summer is upon us.  Let's all make it a great one this year!

One Man's Trash: Vintage Snoopy Plush

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Looky who I recently rescued!  It's an oversized Snoopy from many moons ago, and he is just fantastic!!  Never one to pass on vintage Peanuts, this pup was just too good to be true.   I spied him at the very last second as we were literally walking out the door of my favorite hometown "treasure" shop this spring.   I grabbed him up the second I laid my eyes on him and walked him directly to the register.  

I believe I paid a whopping $8 for him, which is pricey compared to a lot of the loot for sale in this particular shop, but I'm pretty sure the owners also knew they had something special here.  

They certainly don't make stuffed animals like this anymore. He has one small tag that doesn't really give any clues about his age.  But I have my own personal connection to help me date this pup.  When we were little girls, Mama used to let us look through her old photo albums, and I will never forget a single photo that she took of her collection of stuffed animals when she was young.  Among those stuffed animals was a Snoopy that looked exactly like this one! That is all I could think from the moment I spied him.   I had to have him! And if my calculations are correct, that would date this little fella to the 1960s, I'm thinking.   If so, he is roughly 50 or so years young, if not more. AMAZING!   And he's all mine.  He's found his forever home, and we are both just over the moon!

Heaven South

Friday, April 21, 2017

Brad Paisley just released a new album today, for the first time in three years.  And among the new releases is a song called Heaven South.  As a long time Brad Paisley fan, of course I like it.  But once I caught a glimpse of the video, I was sold even more.  He actually filmed the video in our own backyard- downtown Franklin, TN.  GASP!!!




We have lived here for years.  It is just a few miles south of Nashville (perhaps appropriately lending itself to the song title "Heaven South") and has all the small town southern charm that you could ever hope for.  It's a modern day Norman Rockwell painting come to life.  It's also home to many of the great country music stars old and new- Brad Paisley included.   What a beautiful place to call home!  


Brad Paisley hasn't even released this video yet to his YouTube channel, but he did pop it out on his official Facebook page yesterday, and my little town has once again become "Facebook famous"!  

   
Yep, that's our town square, our courthouse, our local theatre, our main street, and our little back roads.  Yes, we live in Heaven South.  We kind of always knew it. 

Finding a Little Free Library Near You

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

In honor of National Library Week, which falls on the second full week of April each year, and National Bookmobile Day, which falls on the Wednesday of that week, I thought I'd remind you guys of Little Free Libraries, which is one of the newer ways to scout out books.

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

The idea of the bookmobile started in the 1800s in England.

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

Concerned that the library was not reaching everyone that it could, a Maryland librarian started the first bookmobile in the United States in the early 1900s.


Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

While bookmobiles are still in service, they are more rare than they once were. Possibly as rare as a paper library card? This is my library card from my childhood, and today's library cards look nothing like this. This one was certainly well loved.

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

The first Little Free Library was built in 2009, and the movement is still going strong.

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Finding a Little Free Library Near You

A Little Free Library is a neighborhood book exchange where people passing by can take a book to read or leave a book for someone else to find. In order to keep a Little Free Library stocked with new books, it's a good idea to bring a few books to share each time you visit.

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Finding a Little Free Library Near You

While most of them look like little houses with a protective roof and door to keep the books safe from inclement weather, some people have gotten really creative with the design of their Little Free Libraries.

This one's a colorful, whimsical design:

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

This one's designed to look like one of Britain's iconic red phone boxes:

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

This beach Little Free Library is made of a hollowed out piece of driftwood:

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

And this one looks like Dr. Who's TARDIS (a blue British police box):


The first day of our Spring Break, I took the boys to the Little Free Library in our neighborhood. The one in our neighborhood is less than a mile from our house, so it only took a nice early morning walk with the dogs to visit.

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

It is designed to look like a little house, and the interior is wallpapered with book pages.

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

We left a set of level 1-3 readers that the boys have grown out of:

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

Two storybooks, and a set of bookmarks:

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

Aidyn found a copy of Bridge to Terabithia, and Jaxon found a new in package Disney Haunted Mansion Pop-Up Book and Amelia Bedelia Helps Out:

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Little Free Libraries Near You

If you'd like to find a registered Little Free Library near you, you can visit this Little Free Library map. As of November 2016, there were 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries worldwide.

If you find that you don't have a Little Free Library in your area, you can start your own with a little information about how to start a Little Free Library.

This is definitely a fun activity that you should get your kids interested in and a sure-fire way to help beat summer boredom. 

For another way to get free books for kids under age 5, sign up for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

Make sure to check out our big list of 100 Things to Do This Summer for other great ideas or check out 40 Books Your Kids Should Read for some great summertime reading ideas.

Happy reading!

This post contains affiliate links.

One Man's Trash: Vintage Mickey Mouse Shooting Target

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

We have long collected vintage toys- since well before our little one came to be.  Once she was born and we started decorating her little bedroom, we used our stash of vintage toys to decorate her old fashioned nursery

Some things never change.  While we were out at one of our favorite small town thrift stores recently, I spied this vintage Mickey Mouse Shooting Target- still in nearly perfect condition.  (It has a little wear from the years, but clearly it was never used for shooting practice.) It is made of tin with a cardboard back stand, and features vivid colors and some well known cartoon character friends on the front.  It measures about 7 x 11 inches.  And at $2, it was a steal by any standards.  


This little beauty is going right into Lexi's now-big-girl bedroom with her other vintage toys on display.  What a cute find!  


How to Hula Hoop

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

One thing you might not know about The Harris Sisters is that we can all hula hoop. You might remember us hula hooping at our Girls' Weekend in Beaufort, NC

What's the big deal about knowing how to hula hoop, you might ask. 

Well, not everyone knows what to do to keep a hula hoop going after you've started it (and spinning a hoop around your waist only to watch it immediately fall to the ground is really no fun at all).

Since summer will be here  soon and you might be looking for fun things to do with your kiddos, learning to hula hoop is a sure winner!

Here's a quick hula hoop tutorial to get you started:

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: How to Hula Hoop


Hoop Size

Make sure you're using the right size hoop. Stand holding the hoop in front of you with the bottom on the ground and make sure the top of the hoop hits somewhere in your midsection. The general rule of thumb is that the hoop should come at least to your belly button. 

So, while it's easy to find kid-sized hoops, they're probably not the right size for an adult (especially if you're a beginner). Bigger hoops will rotate around you slower, making it easier to get started. Smaller hoops rotate faster, which is more challenging.

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: How to Hula Hoop

How to Hula Hoop

The motion you'll need to master is this: 

  • Plant your feet to the sides, a little wider than your hips with one foot slightly in front of the other.
  • Bend your knees just a little and stand up straight.
  • Shift your weight back and forth.

Once you've got the motion down, hold the hoop against your back a little above your waist. Then, push the hoop around your waist toward your belly button, keeping your arms up and out of the way. Shift your weight back and forth on your feet to keep the hoop moving.

In terms of which direction to spin your hoop, give both a try! Right handed people generally hoop counterclockwise (pushing off with their right hand), while left handed people generally push off with their left hand and hoop clockwise. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. Here's a picture of left handed Harris Sister Misty hula hooping, and she's clearly pushing off with her right hand.

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: How to Hula Hoop

How NOT to Hula Hoop

Many people try to move their hips in a circular motion with the hula hoop, which actually makes hooping a lot harder. Remember: you are not Elvis! (He was singing about the actual hula dance in Rock-A-Hula Baby, not hula hooping.)

If you master the motion described above, you'll notice that you're not moving your hips in a circle at all, but just rocking back and forth on your feet.

The Benefits of Hula Hooping




You may never have expected this, but hula hooping is an excellent form of exercise for the entire body. By helping you burn calories, hula hooping can help you lose weight around your midsection and tone your core muscles to create a slim and strong waist.

I actually purchased a weighted exercise hula hoop right after Aidyn was born, and hula hooping was my main form of exercise to lose the baby weight (after having both my boys).

The continual rocking back and forth to keep the hoop spinning activates all of the muscles in your core, which helps slim your waist while you're having fun!

AND! Hula hooping helps to calm the mind and relax the body, which can help relieve stress.

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: How to Hula Hoop

Give hula hooping a try for yourself - you'll have more fun than you know! 

This post contains affiliate links.

Roxboro Rocks

Monday, March 27, 2017

Has the rock hiding trend hit your town yet?

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Rock Hiding Game

Here in our very own Little Town, USA (aka Roxboro) people are painting and decorating rocks, and then hiding them at parks and restaurants, in downtown, in the Walmart, even!  Then, other people (like my rock adoring child) hunt them down (at which point, you can re-hide it or keep it, if it suits your fancy).

There is even a Facebook page to give out hints and share photos of your newly acquired treasures.  I have actually been seeing little posts here and there for a while about this, but I just checked it out today.  We got a nice haul, and then proceeded to dig out our rock painting kits (because rock fiends like my child own not one but two of such kits!) and proceeded to fancy up some rocks of our own.

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Rock Hiding Game

I chose to paint a few to represent plays my oldest has been in over the years. On the back, I included a nice little saying from the play and the tag Roxboro Rocks, so people know, "Hey, this rock is definitely for you!"

Harris Sisters GirlTalk: Rock Hiding Game

We tried out geocaching a few years back.  You can read about our adventures here.  Spoiler alert: We found Oz--as in the Wizard of!  Somehow, though, it didn't produce as much excitement as these rocks have.



This post contains affiliate links.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Spring is the perfect time of year to make a homemade carrot cake. With Easter right around the corner, this cake would be a perfect dessert for your Easter celebration. (Because what does the Easter Bunny like more than carrots? Carrot cake, right?)

And don't let a made from scratch carrot cake intimidate you! This recipe is really easy to make, and it tastes delicious!

Harris Sisters Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

1¼ cups unsweetened applesauce
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
2 cups all­ purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup crushed pineapple (not drained)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Set aside.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine applesauce, sugar, and eggs. 
  3. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. 
  4. Stir in carrots, coconut, nuts, vanilla, and pineapple.
  5. Divide cake batter evenly between two prepared pans.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Let cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Then, remove to cooling racks and let cool completely.
  8. Prepare cream cheese frosting while cakes cool (recipe follows).

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup butter (softened)
16 oz cream cheese (softened)
2 tsp vanilla
2 lbs confectioners sugar

  1. Place the butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the confectioners sugar and vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. 
  3. Use to frost the top and sides of the cake of your choice.
  4. Refrigerate frosted cake for an hour before serving for best results.
Harris Sisters Carrot Cake


If you're looking for other recipes for your Easter get-together, give these tried and true Harris Sisters recipes a try: