Books, Summer Reading

My Summer Reads

Well, YEAH! it’s summer, and that means summer reading. It is funny how many (kids) would think of that as an oxymoron. Or an anathema. Or just plain torture. Not me. No sirree, Bob.

Summer reading is a treasure. I plan for it. And to that end, I have a list and a book order that has arrived. So, here we go!

True Confessions

I could not wait for summer. I sneaked one in at the end of May. It was worth the sneak.

Beatriz Williams is a favorite author of mine. You will see her again in a minute. She writes really good historical fiction and teams it with a modern day story line. This one has a funny, funny opening scene and some terrifying twists and turns in the past. This book reminded me why I love to read – entertainment, knowledge of new things, another place, another time. And, just look at that cover…⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

And since I was back in the saddle – mixed metaphorically speaking – I dove into some Mary Kay Andrews I had been saving for such a time as this. If it is summer, there must be MKA.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but Summer Rental disappoints. The opener is disgusting, the plot is predictable, the characters seem too familiar – as in weren’t these guys in another book? – and nothing comes along to redeem it. The bad guy was in both Fixer Upper and The Newcomer. The love interest is a loser. And her BFFs were boring. I will say this…

These three books looked really cute stacked on my bedside table.

The Real Deal

Now that it is really summer, here is my list. Having only read two so far, I will book-review later. If you have read any of them, let me know which you loved and which I should skip.

1.

One Italian Summer

In my TBR pile, this one is set in Italy where our main character heads after the death of her mother. They were besties and she is heartbroken. And while she is there, apparently, she runs into her thirty-something deceased mother. So we have to suspend reality in this one. I’ve heard it is good…I will let you know!

Update: I read it and I liked most of it. If I go into details, I will spoil the plot, so I will keep my thoughts to myself. If you have just lost your mom, skip this for awhile as it might be just a bit too much. It does make a great beach read or something for the plane/airport/car trip. Just be forewarned. You are probably going to get the itch to see Italy. 🇮🇹 ⭐️⭐️⭐️/⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️(As in somewhere between three and four stars.)

2.

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

More Italy! All I know is that The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany gets rave reviews. I’m kind of saving it as my summer book highlight. I don’t think it will disappoint us. To be determined…

Update: I loved this one. There are layers to this book that make it a keeper. The modern day and backstory are equally well-developed, and the characters are engaging. I loved Poppy to death! Again, I just know you will want to travel to the Amalfi Coast after spending some time with these ”second sisters”.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

3.

The Home-Wreckers

I wanted to love this book, really I did. I mean the cover and the title are both so cute. And its Mary Kay Andrews, for heaven’s sake. The premise is a reality television show about flipping old houses. But the network people were just yucky and unlikeable. The news people were, well, news people. Are they high on anyone’s list except perhaps their own? So that only left a couple of sort of worn-out stereotypes. The main character did not one thing unpredictable. Can I say this? I’m tired of the speed with which these young people are jumping into s-e-x. Come on – get to know each other first. And of course she had an African-American sidekick. Maybe she should have been the main character. At least her mother had not been the maid who raised the white heroine, right? All that being said, there is a mystery or two that will keep you going. But I swear to you that the ending is just about identical to the one in Summer Rental.

So, here is my advice. If you haven’t read all of MKA’s books, read this one. If you have read and loved most of her stuff, I’m afraid you may feel let down. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

4.

The Lost Summers of Newport

And then I picked up this one for my second new summer read. And wouldn’t you know they were doing a reality television show about old houses? But this one has three separate-but-connected story lines. One from the late 1800s, one from the 1950s, and the reality show. If you decide to read this one, plan to take notes to keep track of the family lines. As I finished the book, I built a family tree to help me understand the plot lines. It helped a lot. ⭐️⭐️⭐️/⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

5.

Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook

I chose this book because I once attended Miss Graham’s Country Day School, so it seemed charming. Then there’s that word…cookbook. And I know neither is a good reason to buy a book. But I had read and LOVED Jennifer Ryan’s The Kitchen Front, and they sounded similar. Hmm? Well, there are spies and intrigue in post-WWII Germany. I am still betting on this one. I think it will be my summer sleeper.

6.

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle

This book is a brand-new release. It just came out so recently that I had to pre-order it. Readers who got ARCs are raving about it. Jennifer Ryan writes wonderful books set in World War II that are always from the most interesting angles: The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and The Kitchen Front. I suspect this one is going to be cherished.

So now I have read two of them…I will let you know about the other four. Happy summer! And happy reading!

*Look for the orange updates as I finish them! I promise not to keep you in suspense.💙

A Craft Project, Easter

A Little Bit of Easter


Feeling crafty? Sometimes pulling out the glue gun is therapeutic. So since it is spring and Easter eggs and bunnies abound, I thought I would whip up a little wreath. It is easy, inexpensive, and quick. You still have time before that silly wabbit shows up.

Here is what we need.

  • straw wreath
  • plastic eggs
  • a bag of excelsior
  • options: ribbon, bunny
  • hot glue gun and glue sticks

I really like these plastic eggs. They are painted in muted colors and speckled with dark paint. The large ones came in a package of one dozen, and the smaller size came in a bag of about twenty. I got mine at Hobby Lobby, but Michaels and Walmart are good sources.


Step 1: Cover the straw wreath with the ”nest“ of excelsior, gluing down a patch at a time. This is the messiest part.

Protect your fingers or use cool melt glue sticks!

It is okay if the straw shows through a little. You will be putting lots and lots of eggs on there. I did kind of leave a bare spot for positioning my hanging ribbon.


Step 2: Wrap the hanging ribbon around the top of the straw wreath. I wanted mine plain – no bow – because there was already a lot going on. I selected a muted green burlap ribbon, very wide. I extended a loop about 8” from the wreath and double glued it with the hot glue. No pins needed. Be sure to glue it from the the front of the wreath so it will hang flat against the wall or door.


Step 3: Position the rabbit. This little guy is a flat, painted, and lightweight. He fit with his ears and legs just touching this small wreath. I dabbed some hot glue where he touched the straw and that was plenty to hold him in place. He does need to be glued on before the eggs so that his spot is saved. If you use a larger wreath, you could hang him by his ribbon.


Step 4: Adding the eggs. So I bought way too many eggs. I wasn’t sure how many I would need, and I bought two different sizes. I wanted shades of blue and green and cream, but the bags of small eggs also had pink and purple. I did not use those, but they would be cute, too, if you want more color. A pink, cream, and green wreath would be sweet in a little girl’s bedroom or bathroom. The bunny cutout came in pink, too.

All of them are very lightweight, painted, and speckled. Ready to use!

Start dabbing hot glue to the backs of the eggs and nestle each egg into the straw. Turn them different directions and nestle the smaller eggs into any spaces between the larger ones. Push down on the egg and hold it until the glue has cooled.

Continue gluing until you are satisfied with the arrangement of the eggs, mixing shades and sizes, and the directions you are gluing them in.


Step 5: Go back to the patches of straw and tuck in some extra bits of the excelsior. Let some of it curl out, over, and around the eggs. Be a little messy!

I let mine sit overnight before I tugged on some of the overly messy pieces and the strings of hot clue.

Hang it on a door, a cabinet, a mirror, or an old shutter. Mix it in with a gallery wall or hang it from a bedpost – anywhere you need a sweet touch of Easter. 🐰

And if you hang it on the door, maybe add a spring doormat!
Yes, more sweet bunnies…🐰

Happy Easter, friends! He is risen!

Finding the Fun Stuff!, Home

Home Sweet Home

Recently I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with my brother and sister-in-law in their lovely home. I have tried to put my finger on what it is about their home that is so very charming.

I asked lots of questions. I looked at everything. I took no pictures. I mean, it is their home and if she wanted it published, she could splash it all over the internet without my help.

But I found pics of similar concepts in real houses that are internet-available. So let me try to explain my takeaways.

Wallpaper and Painted Paneling

It was everywhere. The entry, the dining room, the bathrooms. This home was built in the 60s and, let’s face it, those builders bought brown paneling in bulk. But my SIL did not tear it out; she had it painted.

I am just one of those people who loves painted paneling. Today, people – auuuugh – rip the stuff out. And if you are Joanna Gaines or one of her devotees, you install shiplap. But shiplap is trendy. Painted paneling is not.

Source: Greg Premru for Patrick Ahearn Architects

It is classic. It adds architectural charm. It makes walls interesting and textural. And it doesn’t look brand new.

Dang, now I want it on my ceiling, too.

And the Wallpaper

In one of the bathrooms, my favorite bathroom ever, was blue and white toile. I can’t even find a look-alike to do hers justice.

This really isn’t even close to how charming her bathroom is.

But here is what she did. She tore out everything. Everything. The builder grade vanity and cabinets and mirror. The floor. And she made it classic.

She put in a pedestal sink not at all like the one above. Timeless criss-cross hot and cold handles. A carved wooden mirror frame painted white was hung over the sink, against a sea of blue and white toile wallpaper and more painted paneling.

Now, she didn’t do this, but…

Take a look at the painted dresser tucked between twin sinks. We are getting the same mood. I could love this bathroom, too. But back to our original. Sis replaced the vanity with a piece of furniture – an old dresser and mirror painted in the same white as the mirror frame over the sink.

No, she did not cut a hole in it to drop in a sink. It is bathroom furniture.

A place for a lamp, some small blue and white china pieces holding soaps and a candle, a glass jar full of soaps and bath bombs, and vintage, embroidered hand towels. More white on white on white. Timeless. And hand towel and bath mat of course monogrammed with her initials.

Underneath the dresser was a large basket stuffed with thick, fluffy bath towels.

But the best, if I can even choose just one thing, is the cabinet over the commode. She replaced the builder-grade cabinet with an antique wooden piece which was painted a soft blue, much like the dresser in the bathroom photograph above.

Hers was a rustic wooden cabinet, with a pediment at the top. You could not see inside, but I think this one would work. It’s from Modern Farmhouse, and it could be painted. I mean, we need something blue

I might remove the hooks but use the rod for a hand towel or two.

Or we could – as I did – put vintage wooden wall cabinet on our Thrifting To-Do List. They are out there. Maybe in the garage? I’ve wanted one ever since Michael Wurm, Jr. @InspiredByCharm displayed his Christmas ribbon in one.

Painted blue, of course. Please note his painted paneling…ahem. I still think wooden doors might be better, you know, just in case we want to stock it with TP or unmentionables. And I think underneath, my Anne of Green Gables print, probably a stack of books inside.

From elizabethwadestudios.com

I cannot tell you how nice it was to walk into a bathroom lit only by a table lamp. There was no overhead light, just a fixture that could be turned on over the sink.

There was needlepoint on the wall. I have that! A painted wooden tool box full of magazines. Mine would have books…

I guess the secret to this bathroom is that it was decorated like a room instead of a bathroom.

And of course her home had many lovely things collected over a lifetime by a woman with great taste. Beautiful china mixes together. A gathering of blue and green toile, checks in a variety of sizes and shades, fabrics covering chair seats in all different places but blending when moved together and rearranged to suit the family’s needs.

These rooms were designed for comfort where three young men grew from babies to now. Beautiful yet practical. Classically home.

And so a design board…you will get the idea. Look for things you won’t tire of. Be purposefully selective. Don’t buy everything in one place or at one time. Sometimes I look around and think how much I love what I see. And sometimes I spot the mistakes – like the three matching blue and white prints I bought at HomeGoods. Gotta find replacements for two of those, probably resale shopping.

Here are some favorites…

Just keep pinning and gathering, creating and collecting pieces you love. We, too, can do this. She’s a real person with a real life. She just managed to design some beautiful, unique spaces. Home. 💙

A Recipe for Breakfast, Celebrations

Merry Christmas!


This post originally ran last Christmas Eve, so this is the updated version. At the end you will find the perfect breakfast for Christmas morning and still have time to shop for the ingredients. Actually, I think some scrambled eggs would be a good addition…

Tonight we will load up onto a party bus to see the Christmas lights around town. I’m in charge of the hot cocoa. We will have marshmallows, candy canes for stir sticks, and white chocolate chips to stir in. But you could load up the SUV with some quilts, drive through Starbucks, maybe even grab a tin of Christmas cookies, and head out. Every town has that one neighborhhod, don’t they?

This entire yard is fenced in with these Santas – some two levels high. That big guy in the doorway is Big Tex, the iconic gigantic cowboy greeter at the State Fair of Texas. He burned a few years ago, but this head was salvaged; this lucky family brought it home.

This Christmas Eve is an experiment in baking – Italian Cream Cake. I’m using Trisha’s recipe. If you watch the Food Network, you know I’m talking about Yearwood. I sure hope it turns out because I’m bringing the Christmas Eve dessert tonight. Here she blows!

She was pretty, wasn’t she?

Update: Well, it was dry. Maybe I baked it too long. Maybe it’s Trisha’s fault. But I have not given up. This year, Southern Living gets the nod. And I am using my own favorite cream cheese icing. This cake needs plenty of icing. Wish me luck!


We will attend Christmas Eve services. It is our first time back since the pandemic hit. We had to make reservations for socially distant seating, and we will be wearing masks.

You know, if you can’t go, what if you turn on the Christmas tree, light some candles, turn down some lights, and read the Christmas story? Just to be sure we remember the Babe in the manger and keep him in our hearts. You can read it here. Luke 2:1-20.

Update: We – our immediate family – all wound up having covid, but we are all fine. We thank God for that. Church is kind of back to normal. It does not seem as full, but we are sitting in a different spot. Maybe it looked fuller from our old seats. And we sit socially distant, but no masks. And no rules. We are left to ourselves to make the decisions about protecting ourselves. Some of us were triple-vaccinated, some not at all. We will gather for Christmas.

A friend shared this gorgeous rendition of Patty Lovelace singing Beautiful Star of Bethlehem. You can listen here. It’s country and beautifully simple. It is worth taking a moment just to listen.


Christmas morning breakfast will be Monkey Bread and Sausage Roll. Monkey Bread has been around forever. You can even buy it in the freezer section at the grocery store. We cut up canned biscuits, roll them in butter and cinnamon sugar, sprinkle in some finely chopped pecans (we don’t use raisins, but some people do). The glaze is just butter and brown sugar cooked until the sugar dissolves. Bake it in a tube pan and invert it onto a platter while it is still warm. The glaze just pours down over the baked biscuit chunks. It is pull-apart and gooey and yummy.

Monkey Bread

  • 2 cans biscuits, cut in quarters *1 package frozen Parker House rolls work even better!
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans *We left these out this year and think they were better w/o.
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup melted butter or margarine (1.5 sticks)

Grease a Bundt can. Pour sugar into a zip lock bag, and add some of the biscuit chunks (or dough balls). Shake them around until they are fully coated. Arrange in the pan. Sprinkle in some pecans. Repeat the process until all the biscuit chunks are in the pan. Now make your glaze. Heat the brown sugar and butter until the sugar dissolves, about one minute. Pour it over the biscuits. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove it from the oven and run a knife around the edges, then let it sit for about 10 minutes. That’s when you turn it over onto a plate. Put the serving plate upside down on the top of the Bundt pan and flip the whole thing all at once. Let it sit like that for a minute or two so that all the glaze and pecans slide out of the pan and onto the monkey bread. Pull apart chunks to serve.

Update: So we ditched the biscuits for Parker House dough balls and we liked them much better! Everything else is the same. This was really the best one we have ever done.

And…our Sausage Roll from Christmas morning. I have had so many people ask for this recipe, and I thought I had shared it here before. It is yummy!

If we use the Crescent Roll sheets – you’ve seen those, right? – we won’t have those silly perforations. But no one seems to mind…

Sausage Roll

  • 1 block cream cheese cut into chunks
  • 1 roll sausage – we prefer hot Jimmy Dean
  • 2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls – the sheets if you can get them

Brown the sausage in a skillet and break it up as it browns. Tear off a sheet of wax paper about two feet long. Working on one can of crescent roll dough at a time, lay the dough flat on the waxed paper and press the seams together to make a solid rectangle of dough. Place another sheet of waxed paper on top and roll it out with a rolling pin. It should end up about 18” x 8”. Stick that whole thing, waxed paper an all, into the fridge while you do the other roll.

Don’t burn your sausage! When it’s cooked, turn off your burner and stir in the cream cheese that you diced. It will melt into the warm sausage. Stir it all together and divide it into two sections. You will use each half to fill a sheet of dough.

Spray a long cookie sheet with Pam.

Get one sheet from the fridge and remove the top sheet of paper. Spread your filling down the center of the sheet of dough. Pick up one long side by the waxed paper and roll it toward the center. Peel back the waxed paper. Repeat on the other side. Pinch the dough together in the center and on the ends. You don’t want the filling to leak out during baking.

Pick up this long roll along your forearm and flip it over onto one side of the prepared cookie sheet. Carefully peel off the waxed paper. Repeat the entire process for the second roll. Leave a couple of inches between the rolls. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown. Slice into two-inch wide segments and serve warm. Yum!

Merry Christmas, Friends!

Crafting

A Skirt in a Flash

Do you need a quick little Christmas tree skirt? At the last minute? Like you are putting up that tree tomorrow and today is full of non-cancellables? If it sounds like the voice of experience, that’s because I lived it. Don’t be like me.

Leslie @my100yearoldhome.com created this one.

I saw this pretty little skirt on a favorite blog, My 100 Year Old Home.

I really liked the white-on-white of hers, but it was going under an old-fashioned, all different colors kind of tree. I needed playful. And fast. I did not have time to order from Joann’s or Amazon. And I was in Michaels buying wreath supplies anyway. So I went in search of bolts of felt. The choices were limited, so I went with green. Red would have been cuter. And wool felt balls would have been better than my little pompoms, but I needed to play the hand I was dealt. So here is what I did.

Supply List

  • A large square of felt.
    • Because the felt was 36 inches wide, I bought one yard. That gave me a square of fabric 36”x36” from which I could cut one 36-inch circle. *Note: I just let the width of the felt determine the skirt size. If I wanted a particular size, I could buy a yard and a half and piece it on a sewing machine. Too complicated for this quick little project.
  • Pompoms
    • I wanted multi-color to go with the tree lights, but they were pretty picked over. I found a bag of red and a little craft project filled with white ones. That was as playful as we were going to get.
  • Red embroidery thread
  • Basic sewing supplies
    • A needle with a large eye, straight pins, scissors, and a tape measure

Construction Steps

Suggestion: Before you cut your felt, go through these steps on a piece of paper. It will make the process more clear if you do a run through. Fold any size paper in fourths and make the circular cuts. See how easy it is? So here we go!

  • Lay the felt on a table, still folded as it was on the bolt – selvedge-to-selvedge. Except felt doesn’t have a selvedge…
  • Fold it in half again. Now you have an 18” square with folds on adjacent sides.

Picture that without the little circular notch cut from the corner. Because my square is 18”, I set the metal tape measure to 18 inches.

  • Place one end of the tape measure on the corner where the folded sides intersect and hold it in place. Now either mark or pin every few inches as you move the tape measure across the fabric. Don’t let go of that one end of the tape measure.
  • Without unfolding the felt, cut along the pins or marks to make a perfect arc. If you cut slowly and smoothly, when you unfold it, you will have a perfect circle.
  • Before you unfold it, though, cut out the little circle that fits around the tree stand. use the same procedure except this time set your tape measure for 3 inches. That will make a 6” circle.
  • Open the skirt and lay it flat. Cut a straight line from one curved edge to the other. Just follow the tape measure, cutting only through one thickness of felt. Done!
See that straight cut from edge to edge? Felt is great – no hemming required.

Now for those pompoms…

I did a blanket stitch around the ling edge of the skirt because I thought that is what Leslie told me to do. Turns out she did a running stitch. Gee, that would have been much simpler. And probably more attractive. Hmm.

  • First, start on one corner and measure every three inches. Mark with a pencil or a straight pin. Those marks are where you will sew a pompom.
  • So I blanket stitched and stopped to sew on a pompom every three inches. Just run the needle into the pompom, stitch a loop to the skirt, and start blanket stitching again. You will be finished in no time!
Now my blanket stitch is pretty wobbly. I have decided wobbly is good. It adds to the charm.

I honestly did the stitching and pompoms in the car while we drove from Dallas to Houston – just three and a half hours. The hardest part was trying not to spill my pins and pompoms all over the place! This is a one-afternoon project, from shopping to done.

And here it is! Not fancy, but it looks festive. Not bad for an afternoon’s work, right? An entirely different look than the white one. I still think red would be fun. With white straight stitching and red and white pompoms. Or white with all colors of pompoms. Even turquoise would look good with multis. Checked that off my to-do list!

By the way, I’ve now watched Elf, White Christmas, the newer version of Christmas in Connecticut, Home Alone, and The Family Stone from our list of Christmas movies. What are you watching? And my favorite Hallmark movie is on now The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. It really is, isn’t it?🎄

Up next? Menu planning and cookie baking! ❤️


Christmas

Christmas at the Movies

I don’t know about you, but Christmas just would not be the same for me without some classic Christmas movies. I watch them in my jammies and socks, snuggled under a blanket. They play in the background while I bake or wrap or create. And while I plan for them in November, they almost got away from me this year. So I am sharing my list with you just to save you the trouble or the heartbreak of missing one. Set the DVR and you will have them at your fingertips. Here we go.

🤶🏻 White Christmas

The sister act, Bing and Danny, Mary Wickes, all that snow, the songs, the wardrobes, and that dreamy country inn. It is the most classic of the classics.

AMC on Dec. 11 @2:45 AM. Can you imagine? What was AMC thinking? Record it…


🤶🏻 Christmas in Connecticut

A Christmas love story with a twist. Barbara Stanwyck is a 1940s Martha Stewart, only she can’t cook. Watching the mayhem is fun, and of course there’s a gorgeous inn, snow, a sleigh ride, and S. Z. Sakal as the adorable, scene-stealing Felix. If Barbara Stanwyck is not your favorite, you will love her comic talent here.

TCM on Dec. 12 @3:15 PM.

And if you like that one, a new version came out in 1994 starring Dyan Cannon and Kris Kristofferson. I remember loving it, so I have it set to record. Haven’t seen it in years…

TCM on Dec. 10 @3:00 AM


🤶🏻 On Moonlight Bay


Snowball fights, Wesley wearing a petticoat as a choir angel, ice skating on the pond. This isn’t a true Christmas movie, but it will put you in the mood. A perfect cookie-baking movie.

Sadly, no one thought to put this one on this season, but if you saved it this fall…



🤶🏻 Elf

I have to say I thought this movie was ridiculous. I just did not find it funny. Then I watched it with my grandsons and laughed and laughed and laughed! When Elf attacked Santa Claus for being fake, we laughed our fool heads off. Now I smile any time I look at Will Ferrell in his elf costume.

STARZ on Dec. 9 @8:48 AM and 8:00 PM. Other times and dates, too.


🤶🏻 Miracle on 34th Street

I love both versions of this classic. Natalie Wood was an adorable little Susan, but so is Mara Wilson. Sir Richard Attenborough does make a perfect Santa. I often watch them both.

HBO FAM (I didn’t know there was such a thing) on Dec. 7 @1:12 or 4:12 or many, many other days and times.

*Want a happy surprise? HBO FAM advertised the 1994 version, but broadcast Macy’s and Maureen O’Hara! 🎁


🤶🏻 Home Alone

A modern classic already, it’s an annual event at our house.

FRFMHD on Dec. 7 @10 AM Look around, though, and you will find it again.



🤶🏻 The Family Stone


Check out that cast! This is not new, but it’s not 1940s either. You will hate Sarah Jessica Parker until you love her. The kitchen scene when she drops that egg casserole is perfect comedy. Diane Keaton is the dying matriarch and Claire Danes is her most young and beautiful self. A winner for funny family Christmas drama.

Bravo on Dec. 10 @6:00 and 8:30 PM


🤶🏻 Christmas Vacation

Oh my gosh! Cousin Eddie, hilarious Chevy Chase, and Julia Louise Dreyfus next door. The cat that has been wrapped and the squirrel running the family up, down, and around the house. Going in search of the perfect tree. There just is not a best part. An annual must-see.

AMC on Dec. 8 @7:00 PM and the 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th – just look for it all month long.


🤶🏻 It’s a Wonderful Life

This is one I wish had been remade when Tom Hanks was young enough for the Jimmy Stewart role. It would be fun in color, too. I know it’s a classic, but Lionel Barrymore and Thomas Mitchell need an update. But Clarence is a pretty adorable angel.

USA on Dec. 15 @7:00 PM


So, of course there are others, but many are On Demand this year. I can’t believe TCM and AMC didn’t buy more this year. I thought TCM owned everything anyway. But between these and all the fun over at the Hallmark Channel, Christmas movies abound. Bring on the hot cocoa and marshmallows. Baby, it’s cold outside!

Christmas

Christmas Crafting

Two new projects for Christmas have filled my days lately. Well, when I wasn’t cooking. Just for the record, two of my three Thanksgiving pies were excellent. I made Pioneer Woman’s chocolate pie and her pecan pie. They were both amazing. Amazing in that they turned out well – I am not really famous for baking great pies. But the pecan pie recipe in her A Year of Holidays cookbook is melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

The book is $14 at Target and Walmart. Seriously, a small price to pay for that pie recipe! Find it on page 282 with step-by-step directions. The only change was to bake it longer than Ree called for. It really did shake like a bowl of gelatin, and it was perfectly baked. Cover it with foil for most of the bake time to keep it from browning too much. We will need one for Christmas, won’t we?

I should have taken a picture, but we were eating it. Here’s Ree’s.

It’s as good as any I have ever eaten…and certainly my best ever.

So while I was on a roll, I went with her chocolate pie, too. I had to find it online, so here’s the link. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of the chopped up bittersweet chocolate. If you make this delicious chocolate pie, I recommend whipping your own cream. No Kool Whip on this one. Every bite is just yummy. I can see why it is Ladd’s favorite. It is ours, too.

So, the Crafts

I made a wreath! A Pinterest-inspired wreath. I had a faux-fir wreath hanging in a closet and decided to rework it. So off to Hobby Lobby I went with my husband and a five year old in tow. Can you guess which one complained first and loudest? It was too hot. It was too crowded.

I came home with a string of battery-operated twinkle lights, one spool of ribbon, and a single fire truck ornament. I was not feeling inspired. Next I headed to Dollar Tree. Solo. Much better! But they had absolutely nothing. I guess those ships loaded with cargo containers are full of craft supplies.

Those pine cones came off next.

On to Michaels. Even they seemed picked over, and this was two weeks before Black Friday…

But I came home loaded for bear. After studying Pinterest, I knew the key was ribbon. And this wreath was for a special little boy. So Santa, gingerbread, candy, snowmen, and toy soldiers were all part of the theme. A YouTube video explained the ribbon process.

And by darn, I used it all! I just kept going and going and going until it was jam-packed.

See all that ribbon? Fat, skinny, shiny, natural, stripes, and Santa!

See that notch missing from the polka dot ribbon? We need to cut those.

First I pulled three coordinating ribbons, looping one, placing it on top of another, and repeating. All of them are wired. I scrunched up the center – that’s a technical, artsy-craftsy term – and twisted a length of florist wire tightly around the whole clump. Pipe cleaners work well for this, too. I pulled the loops around and fluffed them up. This was my anchor bow. I wired it onto the top of the wreath.

Next I made the flat ribbon bows. I started layering strips of ribbon – all different kinds. Stick to odd numbers pretty much. That is just an old design tip. I cut 6-8inch strips and stacked them. This is a good time to cut the tails. Fold each ribbon in half lengthwise and snip a diagonal aimed toward the center of the ribbon. It makes a V when you open the ribbon flat.

You can wire the little pile together in the center, or I like to use some skinny, non-wired ribbon to tie a knot instead. I scrunched the center of the pile before I tied the little bundle. And then I tied those little flat bows onto the wreath wherever I thought they looked good. I planned three, but eventually added another to fill in a bare spot.

All that green on the right side needed brightening, so I made one more flat bow for that area. I like it much better red and white.


I really think that ribbon under Santa needs to be shorter, but I’m afraid to ruin it. I hot-glued all the picks, gingerbread men, and glass ornaments around the bows. Gosh, it was fun to make!

Here are some closeups. Lots of red and white…and anything to make a little boy smile!


It all comes together happy and messy and playful. And when those tiny lights flash, it’s pretty darned cute. What a fun way to spend an afternoon – listening to some favorite Christmas music or with Christmas in Connecticut on television, burning my fingertips with hot glue. Why have I waited so long? ❤️

Up next: a quick Christmas tree skirt. Seriously, I made it in the car!🎄

Finding the Fun Stuff!

Autumn Love

I collected a quote from Anne of the Island last week. Am I the only one who does this? I find a line or paragraph in a book and just know I don’t want to lose it, so I snap a picture with my phone. You do that, too, right?

Anyway, this is what sweet Anne with an E had to say.

Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1915

So we are embarking on red maple leaf pages this week. To celebrate, I’m starting with a plan. Movies, books, Halloween surprises. I’ve found some good ones.


A Movie Playlist

If we start now, we can watch them all. Oh, where to start…

Out of regard for my favorite fall movie of all time, I am sliding Stepmom ahead of the football movies. If you want to get in the autumn leaves falling – cool, crisp weather – pumpkin bread in the oven kind of mood, Susan Sarandon and cast deliver. Her gorgeous house, New York in the fall, the Thanksgiving play with a flying turkey – Stepmom has it all. I don’t know who cast this movie, but they were spot on. Watch the trailer here. Ed Harris, the cutest kids in the world, and Julia Roberts. It’s all in there.

I cry every time.

Then we have the football movies. Thanksgiving dinner in The Blind Side is The. Best.

Oh, and Rudy. It will melt your heart.

When you get to Little Women, stop to read my post on the various versions of this precious classic. My very favorite is the newest, but Elizabeth Taylor is the most adorable fainter you will ever see. Check it out here.

If we start next Wedneday – the Official First Day of Autumn, we can get them all in before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. 🦃

Kelle Hampton has a blog where I first found this list. Check it out. She invites you to print the Fall Movie Marathon list for hanging on your fridge. That’s where mine is.🧡 But she has great stuff to share. Reading all her suggestions for a successful road trip with kids makes me want to borrow a couple and hit the open road.

Fall for these tees…

These are from Life Is Good, and they are so cute. Just thought I would throw them in here. If you don’t have to wear team colors, these would be perfect for Friday Night Lights or Saturday morning soccer. I mean, we still can hit 90 degrees down here!

Fall Reading

If I were going to recommend one series for fall reading, I would go with the entire Anne of Green Gables series. They are the best feel-good books, and that’s fall to me – feeling good. Anne with an E is the best of all the feel good books. I’m starting Anne of Windy Poplars, but the first three are such special books. Anne and Gilbert are so endearing.

These books are sweet and old-fashioned, but they aren’t just for girls. This grown up loves to get lost on Price Edward Island and at Redmond College, and now at Summerside.

A second series I highly recommend is Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford. These, too, are feel-good books. The characters are funny and sweet and real. Father Tim’s buddies at the gas station and The Grill, Cynthia Coopersmith and the little yellow house. Mitford is a place to live as much as it is a book.

The final series that makes for good fall reading is by Nancy E. Turner. They will take you back to the Arizona frontier. Pioneers, Cherokees, Arizona and Texas Rangers make for some rip-roaring adventures. Very Lonesome Dove-ish. If nothing else, you will appreciate your ancestors. Not living in the 1880s is something to be thankful for! There are four of them – read them all. And read them in order!

Need Some Witch’s Feet?

Just for fun for a Halloween treat, these are the cutest things! Look at them here..

And then head over to Home Is Where the Boat Is to see how to make them. I promise they are straws and mushed up Tootsie Rolls. They look so easy! She has tons of other Halloween fun going on over there, too!

A slew of spiders, maybe? So many ways to say ”Boo!” Of course they need to be crawling all over that spiderweb paper, too! I am pretty sure I will be packing these to take to some darling little boys. Oh, those spiders! 🕷

And Two Quick Recipes

When that first cool front hits, you will find me in the kitchen. Pumpkin bread is coming. There are so many recipes out there, but this one is still my favorite. As it cools, the top gets soft so when it is unwrapped – I use Saran Wrap for freshness – the bread has an extra layer of pumpkin bread goodness instead of a hard crust.

See the chunky texture in there? Those are pecans and raisins which some people don’t care for. Just leave them out! The bread is soft and moist and – if fall had a taste that isn’t a latte – tastes just like fall!

I have seen loaves with a glaze over them, and that sounds delicious. I have also known someone who served hers with a dish of cream cheese frosting, and I can tell you it was yummy.

This is my tried and true recipe which I am fairly certain originated from my very old, falling apart Betty Crocker Cookbook. The page was so dirty and torn that I finally typed up my own copy, but Ms. Crocker gets all the credit. It makes two beautiful, big loaves – one to eat warm and one to gift. Just kidding…one to wrap in Saran so the top softens as it cools. And the house will smell heavenly.

And a Quick Dinner for a Cool Night

Chicken Pot Pie

Now I’m sure Ina has her version of this dish with made-from-scratch pie crusts and a stewed chicken from the coop out back. She probably puts white wine in the sauce, too. Mmm, that is sounding good. But you saw ”Quick” in that title, didn’t you? I made up this recipe because I just love chicken pot pie but refuse to serve Swanson’s from the grocer’s freezer. And I was a teacher who usually got home at six.

Yeah, who told you teachers leave at three? And you believed them?

Ingredients

  • Rotisserie chicken from the grocery store
  • Pillsbury pie crusts from the dairy section, room temperature (1 box, 2 crusts)
  • Diced carrots and peas – frozen – 1 bag
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 stick butter – yes, use real
  • flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • milk or chicken broth

Directions

  • Spray a nice large pie plate with Pam and preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  • Cook your bag of peas and carrots until tender but not mushy. Just follow the directions on the bag. They will cook more when your pie bakes. While they cook, work on your first pie crust. When they are finished, drain out all the liquid.
  • Unroll one of your pie crusts – you will use both.
  • On a piece of waxed paper, lay one pie crust. Cover with a second sheet and roll out the crust with a rolling pin until it is large enough to fit your pie plate.
  • Carefully move your pie crust into the pie plate, centering it. Press gently. Don’t prick it! You don’t want your filling to run underneath the crust.
  • Do whatever magic you do to your pie crust edge. I fold mine under – so it’s nice and thick – and crimp it with the old thumb+2 fingers squish. But use whichever technique makes you happy. It’s starting to look homemade, isn’t it?

Mine looks like this one, but not as neat. Also, this crust wasn’t rolled large enough. See how it looks perfect at the top, but is too small to crimp at the bottom? It needed a couple more rolls with the rolling pin.

  • Pull all the meat off the chicken and cut it into bite sized pieces.
  • Dice an onion. In a large (deep) skillet, melt that stick of butter. Stir in the diced onion and sauté until tender. Leave it in the skillet.
  • Now make the white sauce using your favorite method. I generally make a water and flour flurry to pour over the onions/butter. Stir that in, add some salt, and pepper. Now you can adjust your liquid. Milk works, but so does chicken broth. Add just a little at a time – you don’t want it too thick or too thin. You can simmer out some of the liquid if you get it too thin. Of course, that cuts out some of the ”Quick” in the dish, and at some point you are going to want to prop up your aching feet.
  • Into the white sauce, stir your cooked and drained vegetables, your diced chicken, and anything else you like. I know some people like mushrooms or diced potatoes. Both would be good, but you will need to cook the potatoes before adding them. That takes still more time…
  • Salt and pepper that yummy filling until you are satisfied. Pour it all into the unbaked pie shell.
  • Now comes the artistic part. Slide that other pie crust out of the packaging, but leave it rolled up. Take a sharp knife and slice the roll into about one-inch chunks. The two in the center should be the same length. Unroll them gently, and lay one of them across the pie in the center. Now take that other one and lay it the opposite way so they criss-cross in the center.
  • Take the next pair, and unroll them gently. As you lay these two on the pie, lift the original first strip, and lay #3 underneath it. See how you are weaving the strips? Continue that process with every strip you lay until your lattice top is built. Over – under – over – under…
  • By the time you get to the shorter rolls, the circle has gotten smaller and the strips don’t need to reach as far. Press gently around the circumference of the pie to seal the strips onto the original crust.
  • Bake in a 325 degree oven until the crust is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly – about 30 minutes.
  • I slice mine into pie-shaped wedges. That beautiful filling pours out of the golden crust onto the plate. It looks like it belongs on Pioneer Woman.

So, here’s how I look at Chicken Pot Pie. It’s got your chicken, and your veggies, and your bread. It’s a whole meal in one dish. All you need with it is a glass of iced tea! But a salad would be nice, too. It is a warm, stick-to-your-ribs, reminds-me-of-home, winner of a meal. Enjoy!

A Special Fall Quilt

I just love this quilt. It reminds me of the changing of the leaves we are about to treasure. It is fall without being overpowering – nary a pumpkin in sight – just the trees beside my driveway. And look at that border. Isn’t it just perfect? It’s a Pen and Paper Pattern that you can buy here for $12. Oak Moth. Interesting name. Hmm. Fat quarter friendly, it needs to be these colors. Gosh, I do love it.

A Little Fall – Family – Home Music

Mary Chapin Carpenter – you remember her! She had Lyle Lovett’s hand upon her thigh – is singing about going home. Here. Family Hands. 🤎

🍁

Finding the Fun Stuff!

I’m Loving These

I think it’s time to share some fun finds and favorite things. Just to say, Hey, guys! I love your stuff! Good job! And don’t miss the last one. I had no idea!

1. This Jacket

Chico’s $79

Fall is really coming – even though we are in the high 90s this week. And everywhere we go is air conditioned. So how about this updated longer denim jacket. In my mother’s era, they were called car coats. Dropping the kids at school, running errands, even just looking put together on that Zoom call. I think it’s cute. Good job, Chico’s!


2. Collectible Glassware


Cloverhouse_vintage on InstaGram

Now, there are some crazy old things being collected these days. Rusty kitchen scales? Old spice tins? Globes? Where are you going to put a globe collection? Hang them from the ceiling? No. But I think these states glasses are cute. They would be fun to collect at thrift stores and antique malls and estate sales. And we can drink from them when they aren’t sitting in the cabinet. I’m going on the hunt for these. Cute collection, Cloverhouse_vintage!


3. This Book

First of three by Nancy E. Turner

The author took her great-grandmother’s diaries and turned them in to three wonderful books. This is the first and it’s just mesmerizing. Each entry tells part of the story of young Sarah Prine as she travels across a very young country from the Arizona Territory to Texas and back again. If you want to watch a character grow and change, this is your book. By the third book, she has grown up and married and raised a family. I recommend all three. But don’t rush through them. When that last one ends, you are going to want more. Great books, Nancy E. Turner!


4. Spaghetti

Oh, those garlic sticks are better than the famous Olive Garden breadsticks. They are from the freezer section at the grocery store. New York Bakery Bread Sticks. $2.99 for a box of six.

I guess spaghetti is about my favorite dinner for a couple of reasons. Mainly it’s just yummy, but especially so because my husband cooks it. Happy dance here! And how cute is it on my new blue and white calico dishes that I found at HomeGoods? I just think they are the most cheerful little guys. Of course, I volunteer to clean up so I can load them gently into the dishwasher. He thinks I’m being nice. I think I don’t want him chipping my new plates. Good job, Lar!


5. Baby Classics

Beaufort Bonnet Company

When my grandsons were born, I pictured them dressed in these sweet onesies and saddle shoes, maybe with white knee socks. Just beyond adorable. But they wore Dry-Fit comfortables with little tiny Nikes. I managed to adjust. But you have to admit these are precious.

They make sweet things for little girls, too. See? Good job, Beaufort Bonnet Company!

I just love, love these sweet clothes.


6. Shower Tile

It glows.

StephGowla on IG tells the story of redoing her 500-year-old home in England. They did the work on this tiny bathroom themselves. And I think she chose the prettiest shower tile ever. It looks like jewelry. Or oyster shells. Her home is done in creams and natural materials – old stone walls and painted woodwork in gorgeous shades.

Isn’t this something?
Just amazing.

Now we can’t all live in ancient stone houses, but she will show you how they redid a bargain kitchen that looks like it was all custom work. Her IG account is just a sweet place to spend some quiet time with a mug of something. It’s dreamy. Good job, Steph!


7. Ken Burns

American Storyteller

If I were a young person sitting down today to determine a path for my future, I would make Ken Burns my role model. His career has produced an amazing body of work. He has documented the stories of America – baseball, country music, jazz, American wars, Jackie Robinson, and so much, much more. Recently I discovered that he has an amazing collection of American quilts.

Hundreds of beautiful quilts found in antique shops and roadside stands…
housed in a gorgeous old barn

We can only hope they inspire a new documentary by this amazing storyteller. The International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska discovered this treasure and exhibited them in their museum. That story is told on this YouTube video, Nebraska Stories| The Quilts of Ken Burns. Great job, again, Ken Burns! And great job, too, Nebraska Stories and The International Quilt Museum.

The museum exhibition with his quilts beautifully displayed.

Finding the Fun Stuff!

Summer Living: Episode 1

Are you a jigsaw puzzler? I’m telling you, they are one of my top summer pleasures. At home, at the lake, with the kids or grandkids. It’s a vacation-kind-of-feeling thing. Jigsaw puzzles are for when you don’t have to go to work tomorrow. You have some extra lazing around time. Spread one out on the table, mug up a Diet Coke or sweet tea, and spend some summer hours with a little box of fun.

You know puzzles aren’t just for senior citizens. We worked them as children. They are good for children. Want to develop spatial skills and concentration skills and memory skills? Puzzles do all that. They are much better for a child’s eyes than screen time. No blue light. And they are communal – we talk and laugh and work together, handing off a piece that might fit in the section someone else has claimed.

I often receive jigsaw puzzles on Mother’s Day or as birthday gifts. One of my very favorites was a Winnie the Pooh puzzle that my eight year old grandson decided I needed. Of course we worked it together. And I recall working them with my own grandmother as well. Those puzzle pieces build great bridges between generations.

So, this week I headed to Barnes and Noble after church to pick out a new jigsaw puzzle. They have these…


Michael Storrings beautiful designs are some of my favorite puzzles. The details are fun, the colors are bright, and the images are playful. They are hard enough to be a challenge but not so hard that they aren’t fun to build. The image goes all the way to the edges, so there aren’t four inches of blue sky or a tree line at the top. They are $16.99. I bought this one.

It’s Cuba. Funny that they’ve turned up in the news…I thought those cars would be fun. And the buildings. And that little pedal-car.

And – just to be prepared – I bought this one, too. For a rainy day, maybe? ☂️

Those umbrellas look fun! Also $16.99.

So there’s a reason I am telling you the prices. Well, two reasons. First, they are inexpensive fun. Really, you can’t go to the movies for $17. Not if you buy popcorn and a drink. And of course we buy popcorn and a drink…So jigsaw puzzles are not just fun, they are bargain fun!

Reason #2? They are on sale this week at Hobby-Lobby. 40% off. I wish I had known that before I headed to Barnes and Noble!

Seriously. The same puzzles. Well, they don’t have Michael Storrings, but both stores carry many of the same puzzles. Look. These two are identical, but Hobby Lobby is $7.20 less. Heck, that’s almost enough for another puzzle!

And it’s not the only one, either.

Okay, we just saved another $5.95. So I could buy both of these for the price of one! And Hobby Lobby has some good ones, too!

And so many more…they’re all 40% off.

So if you’re in the mood to puzzle, now is the time to go to Hobby Lobby. Throw one in the suitcase when you go on vacation. You just might need a break from the heat or the rain or the rush. 🧩