Cranberry Bellinis

 I love a good festive cocktail around the holidays!

Last weekend our friends came from out of town for a little pre-Thanksgiving celebration, so it was the perfect time to fancy up my favorite Prosecco with some holiday flavor.
This is quite possibly the easiest drink recipe ever. 

Rustic Centerpiece DIY

I went antiquing in this cute little town called Waynesville the other day while my mom was in town and got just a little bit obsessed with these cute wooden planter-style boxes that I saw in several different shops. They ranged in price from $35-$80 depending on size (keep in mind these were empty with no seasonal fillers!), which I most definitely did not want to pay before trying my hand out at making my own. 
DIY just leaves so much more in the budget for fillers and other decor, right?!

Buffalo Chicken Mac 'n Cheese

I love buffalo chicken in just about any form.
 From traditional wings to dips, there are so many yummy ways you experiment with buffalo flavor. This mac and cheese is my new fave, and I'm pretty sure it'll be on heavy rotation in our house this winter (hello, elastic waistband pants!). 

Sriracha-Ginger Mayo aka The Best Sauce Ever

I am a sucker for a doctored mayonnaise, and this one in particular is my absolute favorite these days. This spicy and flavorful Sambal Chicken dish can be served in so many different ways and has been on repeat in our house for the last year. The first few times I made it, I didn't use a dipping sauce or drizzle of any kind, and kept searching for something that add some cool creaminess to the dish. After tinkering around with some ingredients, I came up with this flavorful and super easy sauce. It's great drizzled on flatbread, as a dipping sauce or slathered on a sandwich!

The Lowdown on Homemade Bread: My Fave Recipes and Shortcuts!

Pardon this latest absence- as my husband likes to tell me, I tend to shove about 15 pounds of "stuff" in my 5 pound bag (that's the PG version!) each day, leaving me little to no time to actually blog about the "stuff" I've been doing, ha!

Anyway-I've tried to at the very least Instagram my recent adventures @thislifewellloved. In the meantime, I've gotten lots of requests for different recipes I make and a lot of questions specifically about baking bread at home.

I always found the idea of baking your own bread a little overwhelming until I actually tried it myself and found some nice little shortcuts. 
 Here are my favorite tips:
For one thing, I don't use a bread machine. Like never. I use my trusty Kitchen-Aid stand mixer or just a big bowl and a fork for my favorite bread recipes. 
-Another tip is to keep your yeast in the refrigerator in a Ziploc. That way you can buy the bigger -containers and keep them fresh for months.
-When I'm in a hurry, I'll microwave a cup of water until just boiling then put my dough on a sheet in the microwave with the door shut for a half hour or so to speed up the leavening process.
-I keep leftover dough in the fridge for up to three days. When I'm ready to use it, I just let it rise on a baking sheet covered with a towel for a few hours. I typically take it out in the morning and let it rise throughout the day.

Decor Hack- Storing Your Seasonal Home Accents

As each season comes to an end, I get the itch to break out the next season's decorations...
The tons of fall pins floating around (and don't even get me started on how early I saw fall decor at Hobby Lobby and Michaels!), and the first day below 80 degrees killed any willpower I had left to keep my summer decor out any longer...
I get a little tired of looking at the same decor all of the time, so I have quite a few decor pieces that I like to swap out as the seasons change. It freshens up the look of my house and keeps things from getting boring. I love the way a good decor piece can change the whole feel of a space, and it's a fun way to usher in each new season just by making a few simple adjustments around the house.

Peanut Butter Fudge Pie

 I made this peanut butter fudge pie for our sweet friends who came to visit us from Indianapolis last weekend. I took a few not-so-fantastic pictures with my cell phone when I was serving it (and, of course, not a single one while making it) then posted it to FB and Instagram and received several requests for the recipe.
So please pardon the less-than-stellar photos and keep in mind that this pie was eaten so quickly I barely got a chance to take pics!

My Summer Garden Tour

It's our second summer in this house, and I've really especially loved my garden this year.
In June, I traded in my car for a bigger SUV for the purpose of holding a ton more flats of flowers fitting in more of my kids' sports, etc. stuff. I've been able to cram all sorts of new garden finds in there!
Anyway, as a little break from the recipes I've been posting lately, I wanted to share a few recent photos of my garden:

I did two matching planters near the table on our deck and filled them with tuberous begonias (yellow), lobelia and a spike for height. The lobelia have such a pretty blue flower, but weren't as hardy as I'd hoped. Next year I may do a creeping vine for a filler and forego the pop of blue.

I followed the thriller-spiller-filler rule:
 find a "thriller" for height and pair it with a "spiller" that will go over the edges of your pot and a "filler" to take up most of the area inside the pot.

Vacation Recap and Savannah Recommendation

We spent last week in Hilton Head and had a blast visiting the beach and the different parts of the island. The girls LOVED every minute of their first time on an airplane, and I have to say how pleasantly surprised and appreciative I am of the outstanding treatment our family received by the TSA agents in Dayton & Savannah!

Here are a couple of my favorite pictures from our trip:

We loved the dolphin cruise we took from Seapines!
We saw two dolphins that danced around our boat for almost the whole trip, and our guide did a fantastic job of showing us how to cast and reel a crab trap!
 Pretty sure I need this sign in my house...
 One night we popped over to the beach (which was only a few hundred feet from our hotel) to take some sunset photos of the girls.
 They hammed it up for the camera, but I was able to get quite a few sweet shots.
 They bicker like crazy, but I absolutely adore the bond these two yahoos share with each other.
We had a few hours to spend in Savannah before our flight, so we grabbed lunch at the historic Crystal Beer Parlor. 
We loved all original building features, photographs and old newspapers dating back to the late 1800s.
And the food was pretty yummy too ;)
The absolute highlight of our Savannah sightseeing was our visit to Kitchens on the Square.
The girls LOVED playing in the vintage kitchen and testing out all of the fun gadgets. They had a million and one different cookie cutters and all sorts of fun signs, tea towels and kitchen tools.
And speaking of tea towels...
I picked up this hilarious Primitives by Kathy towel and another fun little towel as a gift for my amazing neighbor who watered my garden every day while we were gone.

I put my new towel up in the kitchen and my sweet big kid keeps reading it out loud then commenting "It's funny because it's true!"
She kills me.

I can't say enough good things about this store!
The staff was so kind and everywhere you turn there is something new to see. I probably could spend a whole day here!
I also have to say that I was super impressed by the way the store welcomed my kids to wander and enjoy the cool products; the girls absolutely loved it!
I bought my neighbor's tea towel then came back later for mine and was so pleasantly surprised to see that the woman who rang me up gave me the Buy 2 discount (taking $4 off) without batting an eye. 
Love this place!

We are back home now and enjoying our last few weeks before school starts...
Feels SO good to be home!

Your New Favorite Oven Fries

We LOVE fries at our house.
In fact, we probably eat them about 3-4 times a week.
Thankfully, we bake our fries in olive oil, avoiding the extra fat and calories of a traditional fry. Don't get me wrong, there's not a lot that's tastier than a deep fried french fry, but there's no way we'd be able to eat those as frequently as we eat my version!

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

What began as a few days away quickly snowballed into a nearly two month blogging hiatus!
I've honestly just been enjoying my summer, spending as much of this monsoon season outdoors with the kids...
We've gone boating and tubing, taken a class on honeybees at a local farm, thrown a super-memorable joint birthday party, made great strides at the pool (no more water wings, woohoo!) visited a million and one parks and taken the girls to their very first Cubs game. Throw in some fun visits with friends, a trip up to Chicago to see our sweet new niece and two short summer camps, and we've been busy bees. Whew!

I'm excited to be back and am hoping to start posting a little more regularly as summer winds down and we get back into our school routine. To start back, I want to share one of my summer faves: sun-dried tomato pesto. 

DIY- Summer Tabletop Decor

I've been on a kick lately to spruce up our deck!
One of my very favorite things about our not-so-new-anymore house is the backyard, so we tend to spend a lot of our time on the deck during the warm months. Last week, I made a few simple additions to our deck decor to make the space feel more like an extension of the house and less like a separate space.

I got so excited about the changes that I totally neglected to take a "before" picture!
I started by adding this fun patterned rug from Target to give a pop of color and define the lower part of the deck.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans, Cranberries and Bleu

Oh. My. Goodness.

If you are a fan of Brussels sprouts, then this recipe is a must-try!
I have somehow never in my life cooked these yummy little veggies, but they are likely going to become a staple...
Even my sprout-despising husband said "hmm, not bad!"

This is a super simple recipe that is foolproof and only requires a handful of ingredients- try in and let me know what you think!

Trash to Treasure: DIY Plant Stand

It's been a whirlwind few weeks filled with birthdays, school/preschool activities, gardening, boating and play dates. Because we've been busy with all sorts of family adventures, my blog has been pretty neglected. By the time I've stolen a moment to myself, I'm usually either trying to squeeze in some yoga practice or just lying on my bed trying not to fall asleep for days. 
I've completed a bunch of projects around the house, and I wanted to share one of my very favorites. I love a good trash to treasure story, so when my sweet neighbor, J., stopped over with a decrepit plant stand she rescued while walking her dog, I knew this was a perfect opportunity to flex my developing DIY skills.

I Survived the Lilly Pulitzer for Target Launch!

So this weekend marked the launch of the Lilly Pulitzer for Target line.
 Since this:
 I thought I'd go check it out. 
I talked to the barista at my local Target Starbucks who told me that when the Neiman Marcus line launched, you could pretty much hear crickets.

A Peek at my Early Spring Garden

 I am sad to report that nap time is now a thing of the past...
This girl is very lucky she's so stinking cute.
 She loves our neighbor's garden, and looks like a little gnome sitting on these adorable benches...

Easter Weekend Recap!

We had a fantastic Easter week around here (and there!).
We were lucky enough to participate in three egg hunts and had Grandma and Gigi in town to help us dye eggs.
Look at the concentration and those eyelashes just kill me!

Some Funnies and an Egg Hunt

I am loving every minute of these warm, sunny days...
Wine on the deck, bike riding in the cul-de-sac and bulbs emerging from the ground everywhere you look.
It's the best.

The Lazy Girl's Guide to Sushi...Spicy California Bowl

Sushi is probably one of my favorite meals in the world. 
I typically don't mess around with sushi-grade fish at home (mostly because I'm the only one who eats it!), so I am usually making spicy California rolls when a sushi craving hits.
And sometimes usually I am very lazy and ravenous and can't be bothered to actually roll the sushi.
Hence the Spicy California Bowl.
Spicy, crunchy, creamy... all of the fantastic flavors of a roll with far less effort.
Oh, and I usually eat this with my favorite cucumber salad (which is where all of my cucumbers went, leaving none for my sushi bowl, ha!).

Frosting Magic: DIY Swirled Cupcakes

I am SO excited to share this fun tip with you!
 After a whole lot of trial and error, lots of reading and quite a few big messes, I've finally figured out how to make swirled frosting in the least complicated way possible.

What's even better? 
The cleanup is a breeze!

Homemade Silly Putty

As we move from Winter snow to spring rain, we're still having quite a few stay-inside days in the Midwest. 
As a matter of fact, it's currently hailing outside. 
 A few weeks ago we thought it would be fun to make our own rubber bouncy balls. What resulted was not the least bit bouncy, but just as fun! As it turns out, our little project yielded colored silly putty (which is probably safer for my windows and other breakables anyway...). 
It was a super simple activity using materials we already had on hand from previous crafts and science experiments. 
That's the best kind of project in my book!

Hump Day Humor

It's time for more funnies! 
I love writing about crafts, cooking, decorating, etc., but it's a nice change of pace to share some of my favorite silly finds.

So it's been over a week, and I am still recovering from the nonsense that is Daylight Savings.

Have you read this yet? It is hilarious!
I keep coming across it in different places, and it ALWAYS makes me laugh.
 Read more of this text exchange here...

Spicy Soy Glazed Salmon Pasta

Salmon is one of my very favorite things to cook for myself.
No one else in my family will even take a courtesy bite of any kind of salmon, so I get to eat it all!
This salmon recipe pairs pan-seared Sockeye salmon with rice noodles and veggies in a sweet, spicy soy sauce. The sauce coats each rice noodle, giving you sweet and heat in every bite. It takes about fifteen to twenty minutes from start to finish, so it is the perfect weeknight meal. 
You can play around with different proteins for anyone in your family as adverse to salmon as mine, and the veggie combinations are endless! 

{Everything-but-the} Kitchen Sink Cookies!

This cookie recipe is a show-stopper. 
Seriously, they are so yummy.
The cookies are chewy, rich and delicious with crispy edges and a decadent marshmallow chocolate drizzle.

I always plan to eat one and end up eating three or four.
 It's fine because they have oatmeal in them, right?

Guest Post: Curio Cabinet Rehab

I am SUPER excited to share a guest post from a friend of mine who does an incredible job transforming dated, undesirable furniture into gorgeous, showstopping pieces! She's a working mama of three who still finds time to turn old into new, and I am thrilled that she's stopped by TLWL with one of her fantastic projects! 
Buffet Top.jpg

March Decor Update- C'Mon Spring!

So this is happening AGAIN.
We had a quiet weekend here with dinner guests on Friday night and not much else happening besides playing, crafting, napping and a little decor update.
Because Spring is {hopefully} right around the corner, I made a few minor edits to my seasonal decor for the month of March.
 I used things I had around the house and made about $5 in purchases. 
Not too shabby!

DIY: Dresser Refresh!

Check it out!
I painted an entire dresser and didn't have to throw it out afterward, ha!

When we moved into our new home this summer, the sweet former owners left us this long dresser in the basement bedroom. In order to remove this piece from the basement, it would pretty much need to be destroyed to get it up the stairs (as it was down there before the basement was remodeled). I've been dying to get my hands on a piece of furniture that I could update without fear of destroying something I paid for or a piece that I loved.
 Low stakes here, people, it's the way to go!

A Little Laughter to Help You Through Your Day...

1 teacher work-day + 1 holiday + 4 snow days + 1 delay = 1 exhausted mama!

That's the kind of math I'm working with these days...

I have been working on a few DIY/recipe posts, but I thought I'd take a break today and share some of my favorite funnies. Even if you haven't been stuck in -25 degree wind chills and seemingly endless snow, ice and wind, I'm sure you can use a good giggle!

Here we go!

I find this one especially funny since, most days, my kindergartner gets off the bus and announces "You have no idea how hard I had to work today!"
It's a rough life they lead!

Icy Gazing Balls

So this week we were hit with sub-zero windchill factors and a good six inches of snow resulting in NO SCHOOL for the entire week! We painted, made flubber, danced, sang, cooked and baked (and yes, my yahoos bickered constantly once or twice) and were pretty much out of indoor activities by day three. I had seen a few pins about outdoor colored ice balls, so we decided to give it a whirl. 
The girls definitely thought this activity was the highlight of the week!

Kitchen Hacks: My Favorite Tips and Tricks

I absolutely love finding good shortcuts in the kitchen. Whether it's a tip on storage or an idea for a new gadget to use (or a new way to use an old gadget), I'm game!

Here are some of my favorite tried and true kitchen hacks:

When you're sauteeing veggies, use a combo of butter and olive oil.
Olive oil has a lower smoke point than butter, so you'll be able to increase your heat by adding a touch of butter to the pan.
And, as an added bonus, it's tasty!