2/14/17

A sweet treat for Valentine's Day: Caramel Butter Bars



When we think of Valentine's Day, we typically think of romantic couple dates, proposals, flowers, chocolate, and wine.  But Valentine's Day doesn't have to be just about that one special someone in your life.  It can be a day to show some love to friends, family members, and other special people in your life as well.

If you have kids at home, why not do a little something special for them?  And what about your parents, an elderly couple you know, your kids' teachers, or even a widow who doesn't have anyone to do those special things for them?  I say we take this holiday a step further and spread the love all around!

Giving Valentine's Day gifts to my closest loved ones is nothing new for me.  Sometimes we may also go out to eat, but other times I may decide to make a special meal for them at home....especially when the holiday falls during the week.

Tonight I'm cooking a nice meal to share with the Mister, my son who's home right now, and my mom.  My dad passed away nine years ago, so I always try to do something special for her to ease the pain on this holiday.  I won't bore you with the details of the meal, which will consist of crock pot chicken, sauteed squash, organic brown rice, and roasted cauliflower.  But I did want to share a recipe with you for the dessert I'm making.

Back around Christmas, the Mister saw this recipe on Facebook for Caramel Butter Bars.  I never got around to making it, so I decided Valentine's Day would be a good time to try it.  I'm pretty sure he's going to love it!

Here's the recipe if you're interested in making it for yourself or someone you love:

Caramel Butter Bars



Ingredients

1 lb salted butter room temp
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs vanilla 
4 cups AP flour

For the Filling

1 bag (14 oz.) caramel candies (about 50 individual caramels unwrapped)
1/3 cup milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt



Instructions

To make the crust:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees

2. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using mixer on medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms.

3. Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust.  Wrap remaining dough in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator.

4. Bake crust until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. (I had to bake about 30 minutes).  Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes. 

5. While the bottom crust is baking and the remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling. Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl.  Add the cream. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth.  If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth.

6. Once the caramel is melted, add in your 1/2 tsp vanilla and stir until combined. 

7. Pour the caramel filling over the crust.  If you are going to salt the caramel sprinkle it on caramel layer now.

8. Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel. (I'm not the best in the world with fractions. Don't know if I didn't use enough dough for the bottom crust or what, but it didn't need quite all the rest of the dough crumbled on top....so I had a little left.  That's ok....some for me to eat lol). 

9. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 30 minutes.  (Again, I had to bake a little longer to get the top done).

10. Let cool before cutting into the squares.

Note: store in airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes 24 bars

I hope this day is filled with sweet surprises for you as well.  Be sure to let those you love know how much they mean to you.  Do something special for them....even if it just means spending a little quality time with them today.  Sometimes that means more than any gift you could give.


1/30/17

How to make comfy, cozy pillow covers for winter



If you're like me, you like to swap out your throws and couch pillows for the different seasons.  Because decorative pillows can be so expensive, I decided to get my mom to help me with a fun little project I found on Pinterest.  Julie has a complete tutorial on how to make cozy, comfy winter pillow covers.  Think cable knit sweaters!  It's super simple, low cost, and takes no time at all, so I thought I'd share it with you.


These are the two pillows I wanted to cover.  They actually already have covers over them that I purchased at Hobby Lobby.  I love the chevron, but wanted something softer for winter.


I found three sweaters at Goodwill for $5.00 each.  I wanted something soft and neutral and found three that I loved.  Each pattern was a little different which gives me some variety.  I only needed two, but I also purchased the gray one for an extra pillow I'll do later.  I recommend you purchase men's sizes to make sure they are large enough to cover the pillow.....unless, of course it's for a very small one you'll be working on.


I picked out wood buttons from Hobby Lobby to accessorize.  


My mom is an awesome seamstress, so this project took her no time at all to complete for me.  So thankful for my mom and all she does!


After she sewed the buttons on for a more finished edge, she based the edge of the sweater to secure it to the pillow.
And there you have it!  Comfy, cozy pillows for winter!


1/24/17

Easy Organizing for the New Year

                

There is nothing I love more than an organized home.  I believe everything should have a place and everything should be in its place.  Having said that, I'm not so anal about it that I freak out when the Mister leaves things lying around for a few days.  Truth be told, I do the same when I'm tired or in a hurry.  But I can only take a mess or disorganization for so long before I do freak out.....and trust me, that's not a pretty picture!

I love being able to easily find what I'm looking for.  And the thing that makes organization even better is that there are lots of ways to add beauty to a functional, well organized space.  And you don't have to break the bank to do it.

At the beginning of a new year, I always feel the need to reevaluate spaces in my home to simplify the organizational process.  I go through closets and cabinets and get rid of unwanted items by donating to local thrift stores.  Then I look for ways to make my spaces more attractive as well as more organized.

I'm not through with the process yet, but I wanted to show you a few small ways you can bring order and functionality to your home as well:

I've shared my new coffee bar with you already.  If you're on Instagram, you've seen pictures of it and Insta stories as well.  I cannot tell you how much I am loving it!


There is plenty of space for my Keurig as well as my KitchenAid coffee maker and all the things you need for a good cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or hot tea.  The space is pretty to look at as well, and that makes me want a cup of coffee even more :)


I still need to style the space below where the little stool is sitting. I've got some ideas, including making it an area for Lucy's food bowls to sit out of the way. The bottom cabinet is where we are keeping our K-cups, bottled water for the Keurig, as well as tea bags and a coffee bean grinder.  

What you haven't seen yet is my new space for those important phone numbers and dates that I used to hang on the side of the refrigerator when the space was actually used as a desk.  Scott purchased a small piece of sheet metal from Home Depot and cut it to fit the panel.  He easily attached it with command strips and it's the perfect spot for my magnetic calendar and important phone numbers for anyone to access if needed. Because it's hid inside the cabinet now, it's not an eye sore to distract from the coffee bar.



Last year, I set out to make my pantry a little more organized and functional as well.  I decided to purchase white bins of different sizes to match the white wire shelving.  I use the bins to store snacks, bread, chips, plastic bags, and so much more.  Because it's hard to set organizers such as risers on wire shelves, the Mister used some thin wood he had in the garage and cut boards for the risers to stand on.  I purchased some pretty shelf paper that would compliment the space and we covered the boards with it.


We decided the easiest way to cover the board was to do one side at a time.


We cut the paper a little larger than the board itself and then cut at an angle on the corners.


Then we folded one side down securely to the board.


Repeating the process for all four sides.


And then trimmed off the excess on the ends for a smooth finish.


We repeated the process for the other side as well.


Originally we thought about extending the board to the end of the wire shelf so it would be the exact width, but we didn't have enough board on hand.  And I didn't want to purchase any just for this little project.


But as you see, it serves the purpose.  The risers have something to stand on now and items underneath have a smoother surface to sit on as well.


Maybe I should have bought groceries and stocked my pantry full before taking photos....it's looking kind of bare this week since it's time for a trip to Kroger.  But I think you can tell how easy it is to organize a pantry with shelving, risers, and baskets.  It's not the most decorative pantry in the world, but it's realistic and it works well for me and my family.  


So how about you?  Do you have any simple, cost effective projects you've done recently to organize your home? If so, I'd love to hear about them.  I'm always looking for ways to improve my home's function and organization.  




1/7/17

Simple Ideas for Winter Decor


When the holidays are over and the Christmas tree and decorations are taken down and removed, our homes can all of a sudden feel so bland and plain.  But this is a perfect time to embrace the beauty of the winter season and leave little glimpses of  it around our homes.

When you think about winter, what thoughts come to your mind?  I always think about the possibility of snow and ice and the beauty found in nature during this time of year.  I also think about reading a good book in the coziness of my warm home and surrounding myself with simple pleasures like candles, fuzzy throws and pillows, and of course, a good cup of coffee.

I've had some questions and comments about my winter decor, so I thought I'd share a few tips and photos with you of how I bring winter into my home after the holidays.

I hope it encourages you to do a little decorating around your home as well and embrace the winter season for its beauty and simplicity.


Glass, silver, and pewter are perfect pieces to use in vignettes around your home this time of year.  I love to fill my pie safe in the kitchen with silver trays, glass accessories, and pieces of pewter I've collected over the years.  The white-washed pie safe showcases the pieces and brings on the look of a snowy winter wonderland.


A simple white pompom garland draped across the front plays off the snow theme as well as the snow owl on the bottom shelf nestled in a nest of faux snow balls.


My breakfast room table holds a white tray filled with silver and white pieces: a white deer bookend, winter scented candle, and a tree and candle holder made of mercury glass.  A child's wooden tool box holds pine boughs with snow dusted pine cones.


In the living room, my winter mantel showcases a white and silver floral wreath from Michael's hanging over a neutral color framed mirror.  A country clock, old books, log candle holders, and other white accessories complete the look.  


Nothing says warm and cozy like a nice fur throw and pillow. I keep throws in a basket for those chilly nights and there are plenty of pillows on the sectional to relax on or enjoy a short winter nap. 


Another snow covered pine candle wreath sits on the foyer table


During the holidays, I fell in love with making snow globes. I decided to keep them out a little longer and enjoy them this winter season on the bar cart in the living room.  It will probably be the only snow we see this winter :(


Last year at Target, I found the cute little white deer and fox and they're hanging out for a while as well.  A glass hurricane lamp sitting on a silver plate holds clear glass ornaments on the bottom shelf.


And nothing says cuddly and warm like our furry babies enjoying a nap on a cold winter day.  
And I think I'll join her right now :)  



Enjoy the season.....it'll be spring before we know it!

12/31/16

Kitchen Desk Turned Coffee Bar



Months ago, I got the idea to transform a rarely used area of my kitchen into a coffee bar.  When you have a coffee maker and a Keurig, as well as regular hot cocoa and tea drinkers visit your home, it's nice to have an area to house supplies for all of these things.

When we built our home eight years ago, we converted an open space into a desk area for our then desk top computer (does anyone still use those?).  I guess we might still would for convenience if ours still worked, but it died.  And so did the printer in there.



Since we all have laptops, iphones, and ipads now, that desk area was just becoming a catch-all for junk.  When we finally got around to removing the computer and printer, I remembered seeing Katie with Bower Power convert an area like this into a coffee bar and I loved the idea!

Well, months later, I finally got this project completed.  When Dillan was home for Christmas holidays, he and Scott helped get rid of/hide all the cords.  And then the fun started for me!


Without using this as a desk, we were able to unplug the lamp (plan to install under cabinet lighting), and the paper shredder, and even realized we should move the wireless internet router to the top of the refrigerator out of the way.

my hired help :)

I moved the magnetic board and calendars off the refrigerator as well and Scott plans to install a small piece of sheet metal inside the far right upper cabinet to post those important phone numbers and what have you.  In case you're wondering, all those upper cabinets hold decorative items and extra dishes and serving pieces when not in use.  You can NEVER have too many cabinets, right? 


hiding all the cords


While doing some after Christmas shopping, I found the cute "Treat yo Self" canister and the little white tea canister at Home Goods.  I purchased the log pieces at Hobby Lobby for each coffee maker to sit on and to hold the tea, honey, sugar cubes, and dish of candy.  The "but first coffee" sign also came from Hobby Lobby.


My two-tiered tray holds containers of marshmallows and chocolate/caramel chips to add to hot cocoa.  I'm still looking for a white container to house the cocoa but for now it's labeled in a clear canister.  


 This cute little broom hanging like a tassel on the tray is a gift from my in-laws from their trip to the mountains this summer. It's actually a pot scrubber, but I would never in a million years use it for that.  It's hand made and so cute hanging there as a conversation piece.


I love how this area turned out!  It's so nice having these items in one space.  And can I tell you, this is my first Keurig.  I know right.  Hard to believe. When they first came out, I didn't want one because I thought it would be a waste of time just making one cup of coffee at a time. (I drink 4 cups every morning before doing anything).  But I recently decided it wouldn't be an inconvenience at all and I'm so in love with it!  Now I'm obsessed with all the different types of coffee/tea I can use with it.


We'll still use the two desk drawers and upper cabinets like we have been, but Dillan suggested turning the empty space under the desk into an area for Lucy's dog bed.  I'm seriously thinking about that since we put her in the kitchen behind baby gates when we're gone.  We always have to move her bed from the living room to the kitchen, so this would be very convenient.  What do y'all think?  Would it look out of place or could I fix the area up to make a cute little place for her to rest?

Also, the bottom cabinet has held office supplies and such that we will be moving.  I can always use the space to store trays and extra serving pieces or appliances.  If you're one to enjoy wine or a nice mixed drink frequently, such a space could also be used to house alcohol.  And that would totally be appropriate for a bar area like this.  

I'd love to know what you think of the space.  Shoot me a quick email or reply in the comments for this post.

12/28/16

Christmas 2016: Pancakes and Polaroids


My family and I had another great Christmas this year.  As always, it comes and goes so fast and I'm always left feeling a little sad when it's over.  There's just something special about spending time with family this time of year.  Thankfully, Dillan is still able to be home for the Christmas holidays and we always enjoy having some quality time with him as well.

         

I guess you could say, we officially kicked off the holiday weekend with our annual themed Christmas party.  It will forever be impossible to beat our Whoville theme last year (you can read all about it HERE).  But this year's Pancakes and Pajamas theme was so much fun!  It was also easy to pull off and didn't require alot of extra decorating or special dishes for a meal.  And let's face it....sometimes the easy things are just what's needed for the time.
 
                                   

We usually have a backdrop in the garage for family pictures, but decided to just use the Christmas tree/mantel area in the living room this year.  Again, it was just the easier thing to do this year as we were pressed for time.

                                    

We keep a box of props in the attic and always have fun pieces to use for our pictures.

Me and my sisters: Shaana, Suzanne, and Lisa
                           

the grandchildren
                           
On Christmas Eve, our church held a candlelight service and we observed the Lord's Supper.  It was a very special time and I'm so glad we could attend as a family.  Without any other obligations that night, we were able to go home after the service and enjoy a nice meal and relax until bedtime. Even though Dillan is 22 years old, I always make him go to bed before us so Santa can come :)  His gifts from Santa are wrapped in advance under the tree, but stocking stuffers are put out last minute.....and I don't want him to see it until the next morning....LOL!




I found myself reminiscing about Dillan's first Christmas and looked at a couple of his personalized books given to him at 9 months of age by one set of grandparents.  So sweet!

                    

I love my little family so much and thank God for them every day.  I can't image my life without them in it.

                             

Dillan got a Polaroid camera for Christmas and we had alot of fun with it.  In case y'all can't tell, we LOVE pictures!

                       

We always enjoy having lunch with my mom and sisters and their families on Christmas Day.  We sure miss our daddy alot, but I have to say that it gets a little easier over time.  It's just the new normal, I guess.  So thankful to still have our mom and hope we do for many, many years to come.

the Futch girls with our mom


Me and Dillan
                                 
The day after Christmas was spent with Scott's family. We enjoyed lunch with all of them as well.  In addition to other gifts, his parents also give us several gift cards each to enjoy and we always have so  much fun hitting the after Christmas sales the next day.  As a matter of fact, Scott, Dillan, and I shopped for about 7 hours that next day and also enjoyed a great meal at Outback before returning home.  I realize how lucky I am that my guys love to shop with me.  That's so rare, I know, and I count my blessings every time because we have so much fun together.

                                   

So today started the process of doing some purging and reorganizing.  Taking down Christmas is a slow process for me.  I like to leave the tree up til New Year's, but I work on getting other rooms in the house back to normal.

In the middle of all of that today, I also worked on setting up a coffee bar in my kitchen. I can't wait to show you how it's turning out, so be checking Instagram for updates.  Until then..........