I Love {Alison Evans Coastal Ceramics}

Artist Alison Evans creates the most swoon-worthy, sea inspired ceramics.  Each unique piece is hand molded, hand glazed and totally gorgeous.
After falling in love with bestie R's Alison Evans oyster plates, I started a collection of my own abalone and tortoise plates Christmas before last.  Since then, Honey has been a doll and slowly added to it for various occasions (Valentine's Days, birthdays, Christmases), and then I rounded it out with a few more choice pieces on my recent jaunt down to New Orleans.  I finally pulled them all out of the bowels of the closet and set to work incorporating them into my den decor.
Now, I'm dying to get my hands on a few in bone white.
I do have a birthday coming up, after all!!

See the rest of my oyster inspired posts here and here.


So Easy Pom Pom Garland

While digging around in my craft closet for the lacing for our 100 Day necklaces, I unearthed these pom poms purchased last year for a Valentine's Day craft that never came to fruition.  So, I grabbed a couple of supplies and set to work turning out a pom pom garland to use in my Valentine's decor.
Here's what you'll need:
Pom Poms of various colors and sizes
Spool of white thread
Secure a long piece of thread to your needle with a knot.  You'll want to thread right through the center of the pom poms to ensure they are secure.  It can be a little hard to push the needle through so I set the needle on a magazine with the point up and then pushed the pom poms down on top of it.  Spread the pom poms out to your liking and cut it to fit your space!  So easy!

Happy crafting, y'all!

Flattered for the feature at Warm & Fuzzy!  Find me at Jennifer Rizzo.


Valentine's Day Decor

While I really only go crazy with decor for Christmas and Halloween, I almost always have a little something around for the other holidays.  For Valentine's Day, I put up the wreath I made last year and festooned the dogs with their red XOXO ribbons.
The entry way received a quick little DIY pom pom and XO garland (see how here) and a bowl of cinnamon jelly hearts (hands down my favorite thing about the holiday.)  The X and O are red glittered ornaments scored 75% off from Byrd's Cookie Company at their after Christmas sale.  (Thanks Sister for pointing them out.)
And in the basement I put out the little's Valentine's runner and stuffed alligator.  The remnants of the pom pom garland made their way to top off the chalkboard.


Mad Scientists

After what seems like days of raining cats and dogs around these parts, we were absolutely giddy to get outside at the first sign of the sun peeking through the clouds!  I've been wanting to do this fun little experiment for weeks but there was no way I was doing it inside (which was totally justified when the littles began stirring, mixing and flicking colored water all over creation.)  Here are the details:

Fizzy Color Explosion Experiment
You'll need vinegar, baking soda and food coloring - all of which I already had in my pantry!  I used plastic spoons and cups left over from a party for easy clean up.

1. Lay plastic spoons on a plate and put a couple drops of food coloring in each spoon.
2. With another spoon, pour a generous heap of baking soda in each spoon to cover the food coloring.
3. Fill plastic cups 2/3 full with vinegar.
4. Instruct littles to swirl a magic spoon in each cup and watch them delight in the fizzing color explosion :-)
Thanks to Mom to 2 Post Lil Divas for the inspiration!

As for the rest of the weekend, we're catching up with dear college friends tonight and headed to mass in the morning.  In between we'll be doing one of the things I love most...absolutely positively nothing!


100 Days of School {Free Printable}

The hundredth day of school is upon us and it's cause for big celebration around these parts!  The PCP has been jabbering non stop about the snack they are making, the projects that have started to roll into class, and how the second graders are going to dress up like they are 100 years old and parade the halls.  It's barely underway and he's already proclaimed it what will "probably be one of my best days yet."
Each student was asked to complete a project at home representing his first 100 days of school.  His class is known as Mrs. B's Butterflies so he had the great idea to use a butterfly theme.  After a little brainstorming, we decided to glue 100 Fruit Loops onto a butterfly to make its spots!  It's just darling and the PCP had quite a lot of fun making it... you know, the one for me, one for the butterfly kind of mentality.
Once that project was underway, John asked to make a necklace with 100 Fruit Loops as well.  Soooo...being the indulgent crazy woman that I am, I said "SURE!  Let's make one for the whole class!!!"  Honey and the PCP worked on counting out the cereal and stringing it into necklaces while I made a bag tag and packaged them up.
Here's what you'll need to make your own:
Fruit Loops - we made 20 necklaces and used 1.5 boxes of cereal
Plastic lacing
4" by 6" cello bags (Michael's)
Bag toppers
And here's the link to your free bag topper printable.  The first page in the file says "100 Days in the Kindergarten Loop" and the second page says "100 Days in the School Year Loop".  The tags are sized to be 4" by 4" when cut, and 4" by 2" once folded and stapled onto the tops of your bags.

Get creative with helping your littles count to 100 - we counted by ones and then counted by fives and tens by separating the cereal into piles.  And stringing the cereal on the lacing really uses the fine motor skills.  An educational, developmental and FUN activity all rolled into one!
Happy hundredth day, y'all!  (Only 80 more to go!)


The Doctor

It's been a long, long time since I've had an excursion with the littles like I had at the doctor earlier this week.  Since the PCP went off to Kindergarten and I generally run about with just the baby in tow, I am quite obviously out of practice.  Alas, I suppose I was due.  I'm going to dub this picture "terrorists in disguise."
Here's how our 3- and 6-year check-ups went down...

After the nurse asked the requisite questions and made the obligatory measurements, she sent us back to our little pen to dress down to the undies.  And as I stand there urging them to sit and undress in my nicest possible mean voice (just in case those rooms are bugged or videoed to monitor parenting skills) they are making an obstacle course out of the room.  Jump on the bench, climb on the table, leap off, run around the stool, repeat.  And repeat.  And repeat again.  By the time I catch them and start undressing them myself, the doctor is coming in the room and John yells out the two words that instantly trigger madness and mayhem in my littles... "UNDIE MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Please take a moment to picture my two littles, clad in nothing but their undies, making all sorts of super hero moves, poses and leaps, yelling "UNDIE MAN" at the top of their lungs while the doctor stares on.  oy.

By the grace of God, they calm down and the doctor starts "interviewing" John.  Let's just say things went much better when Mommy got to answer the questions.
Doctor: John, do you play outside?
John: Not really.  (HUH????????  Have you seen the gazillion pictures of my littles playing outside in sun, rain, sleet and snow??  They play out side e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y.  If for nothing else but to keep ME sane.)
Doctor: Oh.  I see.  Do you like to watch tv?
John: Yes.  I love it.  It's my favorite thing.  (Really?  I'll give you that the baby adores the tele, but John does not and never has.  I'm not even sure that he's seen a full episode of a single cartoon.  Ever.)
Doctor:  Well, we're going to have to limit your screen time to one hour a day. (As he gives me the evil, you're a bad mommy accusatory glance.)
John:  *whining*  Ohhhhhhhhhh noooooooooo.  Not fair.  This is so unfair.  One hour?  Please, please don't do it.  Pllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssssssseeeeeeeeeee.

While I'm frantically trying to think of a way to change the subject (and the doctor is ignoring my protests that he DOES play outside), the baby steps in.  He bends over right in front of the doctor and pulls down his undies in the back.  And like fifteen toys fall out.  Really.  I could NOT make this stuff up.  Three pirate eye patches, three mini swords, a pirate flag, his Disney World Key to the World card, the medal off of a soccer award, two K'nex connectors, a pirate coin and a short piece of Thomas the Train track.  The worst part of all?  Definitely the mini sword that I had to manually extract from between his cheeks with the doctor looking on. If things hadn't been so chaotic I surely would have noticed this extra load and have been able to discretely deal with the issue.  Needless to say, the littles find this completely HYSTERICAL.  John is bellowing about how Cookie pooped out pirate swords and Cookie is trying to shove it all back in his undies and I am trying to wrestle it away from Cookie to put in my purse while urging John to stop saying "poop."  I must've been as red as a beet at this point because I can certainly say that I was completely mortified.  Being so mortified, I was NOT about to take out my phone and immortalize the incident on film.  Instead, I snapped this one of the "undie loot" once we arrived back home and I emptied out my purse.
That episode behind us, it's time for the baby's interview.  It went something like this...
Doctor: What's your name?
Whit:  Whit.
(Me: whew!  This is going to go well.  Things are definitely looking up.)
Doctor: How old are you?
Whit:  Twenty.
(Me: Scratch that.)
Doctor:  Twenty??  Really, how old are you?
Whit: Twenty.
Doctor: You just had a birthday.  How old did you turn?
Whit.  I. TWENTY.
(Doctor frantically types away in his little laptop thingy.)
Doctor:  You're three, Whit.  Now, are you a boy or a girl?
Whit: I adult.
Doctor: If you're an adult, what am I?
Whit.  A doctor.

Oh, and the whole time he's hopping around on one foot because the doctor had asked John to demonstrate this ability and Cookie evidently found it quite attractive.

We wrapped up shortly after that exchange.  The doctor proclaimed the boys "completely normal and healthy" as he whisked out of the room.  (If THAT was "normal and healthy", I shudder to think at what "wild and bad" must look like.)  Really, I shouldn't have been surprised at any of this.  It's like something about me is exuding the immense desire to show off my perfectly groomed (we put on all clean clothes, brushed teeth, made appropriate bribes for good behavior, etc.) well mannered children at the doctor.  And my littles pick up on this signal and decide to thwart my plans if it's the last thing they do.  Isn't that like the law of mommy-hood or something?

Oh, and I'd love a little peek into our permanent record.  I can only imagine the things it must say.


Chili & Beer Tasting {The Eats}

At long last I'll wrap up the review of our Chili & Beer Tasting party with the recipes!  We tried to carry the theme all the way through the meal and it really turned out splendidly.

Beer Cheese Fondue
2 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar
4 to 6 ounces shredded Gruyere
1 rounded tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup German lager beer (I used Heineken)
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
A few drops hot sauce
A few drops Worcestershire sauce
We served with:
summer sausage
french bread
apple slices

Combine cheeses in a bowl with flour. Add beer to a small pot and bring up to a bubble over medium heat. Reduce the heat to simmer and add cheese in handfuls. Stir constantly, melting the cheese in batches. Stir in a figure-eight pattern with wooden spoon. When the cheese has been incorporated fully, stir in the mustard, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Transfer fondue to warm fondue pot.
Source: Rachel Ray

Beef & Bean Chili
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 lb ground beef
3 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (10.75-oz) can condensed tomato soup
1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes/sweet onions (undrained)
1 (10-oz) can milder diced tomatoes/green chiles (undrained)
1 (16-oz) can chili beans in mild sauce (undrained)
1 (15-oz) can black beans (drained)
desired toppings (oyster crackers, sour cream, cheese, green onions)
Preheat large saucepan on medium-high 2–3 minutes. Place beef, chili powder, seasoned salt, pepper, and one-half of the onions in pan; cook 4–5 minutes, stirring to crumble meat, or until meat is brown and no pink remains.
Stir in remaining ingredients, including remaining one-half onions. Bring to a boil, stirring often.
Reduce heat to low; cook and stir 10 more minutes to blend flavors. Serve.
Southwestern Chili
1 pound ground beef 
1 cup coarsely chopped onion 
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (16-oz.) cans light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes and jalapeños, undrained
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes and mild green chiles, undrained
1 (14-oz.) can beef broth
2 cups frozen yellow and white whole kernel corn
1 (1-oz.) envelope taco seasoning mix
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Toppings: sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, avocado and chopped fresh cilantro

Brown ground beef, onion, and garlic in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring often, 10 to 12 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink and onion is softened; drain.
Stir in kidney beans, next 8 ingredients, and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in cilantro just before serving. Serve with desired toppings.
Source: Southern Living
White Chicken Chili
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans chicken broth
2 (4.5-oz.) cans chopped green chiles
1 (1.25-oz.) package white chicken chili seasoning mix
3 (16-oz.) cans navy beans
Toppings: sour cream, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, avocado

Sauté onion and garlic in hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in chicken, next 3 ingredients, and 2 cans navy beans. Coarsely mash remaining can navy beans, and stir into chicken mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring often; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Serve with desired toppings.
Source: Southern Living, January 2012
Black & Tan Guinness Brownies
Tan Brownies:
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Cooking spray
Black Brownies:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Guinness Stout
4 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place one rack in lower third of oven; place another rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare Tan Brownies, place 6 tablespoons butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Weigh or lightly spoon 4.5 ounces (about 1 cup) flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine 4.5 ounces flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring well. Add flour mixture and pecans to sugar mixture, beating just until combined. Spoon into a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with cooking spray, spreading evenly with a knife or rubber spatula. Bake at 350° in lower third of oven for 15 minutes.
To prepare Black Brownies, melt chocolate and 4 tablespoons butter in a large microwave-safe bowl on HIGH for 1 minute or until melted, stirring after every 20 seconds until smooth. Add granulated sugar, stirring until well combined. Add 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and Guinness, stirring with a whisk until well combined. Weigh or lightly spoon 4.5 ounces (about 1 cup) flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine 4.5 ounces flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring well. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring to combine. Pour mixture evenly over Tan Brownies.
Bake on the center rack at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out almost clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack; cut into squares.
Source: Cooking Light
Happy eats, y'all!


Chili & Beer Tasting {Invitations}

The Chili & Beer Tasting party invitations were a fun precursor to the party and were really a cinch to make.
We started with Yuengling Light bottles.  Why?  Because when I went to the grocery I was looking for a solid brown bottle without any weird dimples, grooves or etchings and this particular option happened to be on sale.  That being said, I'd totally recommend them because the labels came off with no effort at all compared to the Miller Light bottles I used for the centerpieces.  We started by soaking them in water over night.  The next water they peeled clean off.
I designed new labels for the bottles, printed them, cut them by hand and then used a glue stick to adhere them to the thoroughly dried label-less bottles.  I used our custom monogram at the top and New Yorker Engraved and Schindler Small Caps fonts for the text.  For reference, the main label measured 3.5" by 2.5" and the little neck wrap was about 1" wide.
I then printed and cut tags designating which variety of beer to bring to the party.  The kraft card stock was left over from the cowboy party, but originally purchased at Michael's.  Because I had it on hand, I used a short length of Divine Twine to tie on the tags.  The tags measured 2" by 3".
Since everyone lives within a couple of miles of our house, we hand delivered the invites.

Check in tomorrow for all the recipes!

See the rest of the details at:


Chili & Beer Tasting {The Party}

Over the last couple of years, we've been fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of quite a few lovely families in our new neck of the woods.  Along with seven other couples we participate in a monthly supper club, and were thrilled to take our turn hosting the crowd last weekend!

After a little discussion and a few loony ideas (think everything from a white trash party to a southern bbq), Honey and I agreed on a Chili & Beer Tasting party.  The beauty of this particular party theme is not only that nearly everything could be prepared in advance, but that chili definitively tastes better the next day anyway!  It's customary that the host couple provide the entire meal, while guests bring their beverage of choice.

Although it's not by any means required to send an invitation for this monthly gathering, y'all know I couldn't resist!  Kraft paper tags designated whether guests should bring ale or lager.  And I always love a good excuse to use our custom monogram.
All of our menu items kept with the chili and beer theme.  We started with a Beer Cheese Fondue appetizer served with apple slices, french bread, sausage and cauliflower.
The chili tasting bar offered cups for "just a taste" and bowls to "fill up."
We served three different chili options - Beef & Bean, Southwestern and White Chicken - will all the fixin's.  A chalkboard designated suggested pairings.  And because I'm super duper type A, I covered the stove with burlap so that things looked pretty :-)
(we added the sliced avocado just before serving)
Salad and honey cornbread muffins were served family style at the tables.  And, speaking of the tables, with such a large crowd we had to split up between the dining room and kitchen.  I used a kraft paper runner, paper napkins and kraft paper place tags.  I was in a real pickle for some sort of center piece and last minute threw some yard clippings into empty beer bottles and clustered them on the table.  It admittedly looks a little last minute :-)
We finished our meal with Guiness Brownies a la mode.  I scooped and refroze the ice cream in cupcake liners the night before, which made for super easy serving at the party.
The beer tasting bar featured a bucket of ales and a bucket of lagers.  It was so much fun to try all the different kinds of beers people brought to the table!  We provided blueberries, lemons, limes and oranges for garnishes and sheets to keep track of beers we adore and beers we abhor.
Of course, we also offered iced water and sweet tea.
Stay tuned for more details on the beer bottle invitations and all the recipes!

We had a packed house, full bellies and loads of fun with a group I hope we'll be hanging with for years to come!  This place is finally starting to really feel like home.

Read more:

Excited for the guest feature at Not So Homemade and ThRiLlEd to have won THIRD PLACE in My Insanity's Party Party!!

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