Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

 Today has been the perfect day to wrap up one year and begin another.

It is snowing in Kansas (still, at this hour) and has been all day.  It was one of those glorious snow days when we didn't have anywhere to be, so we didn't have to worry about the road conditions or getting in and out of vehicles.  Sigh.  I love these days.  I may or may not have worn pajama pants and a hooded sweatshirt all day.

New Years Eve is my time to reflect on the previous year and make plans for the new.  We usually sit down as a couple and review our lifetime goals list - checking off those things we accomplished over the year and set our sights on new goals for the upcoming year.  Done.

This year I found a great resource from Susannah Conway.  Her blog is fantastic and I love her photography.  I also really, really like this planning workbook she offers for free on her website.

So, in addition to our planning as a couple, I spent a good hour or so working individually on my road map for the year.  Susannah's workbook leads you through a process of selecting a word for the year and encourages you to select some supporting words.  More on my word(s) later.

I really encourage you to check out Susannah's workbook - one of the best that I have found.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A great life...

A friend from work gave me this cute saying.  I plan to display it at my office as a reminder that the little things that are the sum of each day add up to big results.  It is really easy for me to get lost in the details and to sometimes be discouraged about progress towards important goals.  This saying is a great reminder!

There are a couple of bloggers/writers/entrepreneurs that I follow that speak to similar concepts.  Both are wise, accomplished women and each has a take on finding simple truths about life.

Becky Higgins often posts ideas that speak to her thoughts on living a good life.  The posts always begin, "Part of cultivating a good life is..."  You will really like her website with links to her blog and free printables.

I am also a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin.  Her Twelve Personal Commandments and Secrets of Adulthood really resonate with me.  She posted the Secret of Adulthood graphic below.  It seemed like a good fit for my reflections on making a difference through incremental effort.

I imagine that many of you are reflecting on 2012 and preparing for 2013.  Whether you are in the middle of a deep cleaning project or thinking about your hits and misses of 2012 or planning some exciting new adventure for the new year, I am wishing you the best.


 I am surrounded by creative, talented friends.  A dear friend from college has a growing business in which she sells her glass creations.  She takes glassware that you might find in an antique store or thrift shop and transforms it into beautiful and functional works of art.

My Christmas gift from her was this elegant two tier stand.  It is small enough in size and the pattern on the plates subtle enough to be cute and classic all at once.

I can see several different uses - in the kitchen and dining rooms to display treats, in our bathroom to hold soaps and lotions, and in my studio for scrapbooking and craft supplies.

I am really excited to have some of her work in my home!

She displays her work at festivals and fairs during the warmer months. If you would like to see more of her creations, let me know.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A December birthday

A dear friend has a birthday right before Christmas.  I have always felt sorry for her (and anyone else who has a birthday so close to a major holiday).  Whether it is true or not, I always imagine that she didn't have a party as a kid or her gifts got combined into a birthday and Christmas gift.

I knew her birthday was coming soon and I needed to get a card in the mail.  Most of my cards on hand didn't fit her personality or our friendship or the time of year.  (It didn't seem right to send a card with sand and flip flops during December in Kansas.)

So, I decided to make a card!

Using inspiration from Pinterest, I decided to use some scrapbooking paper and one of the techniques I learned this year (making a banner) to put together a card.

I think it turned out ok.  At least when I showed it to my husband, he said it was cute and when I quizzed him about what it was, he guessed right...after he told me it looked like sticks of dynamite.  Ok, candles or dynamite, I guess it works.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cookbooks...I can't resist

 So, I broke a promise to myself.  I vowed to buy no more cookbooks, ever!  I have stacks and stacks - some I purchased myself and others gifted to me.

I love to read cookbooks and think about making great recipes.  The reality is that if there are more than 10 ingredients, I lose interest.  Most cookbooks are beautiful to look at (and I do adore beautiful food photography), but not practical.  I make one or two recipes and the books just sit.

Plus, with the online resources and Pinterest, one can find a recipe for anything at anytime and no need to think through which book had the recipe, wrestle with the index, and search through different books until you find the recipe you need.  This all sounds practical and prudent, too practical and prudent.  There is something about holding the book in your hand and dreaming about beautiful, tasty dishes you might make.  I am especially fond of walking on the treadmill and reading cookbooks.  This practice always seems funny to me.

Well, in the span of two weeks, I bought two cookbooks.  The first is a fundraiser for a student group I advise.  My mom has always told me that the cookbooks that are a collection of favorite recipes from a women's group at church or in this case a group of college women, are the best.  Real people offering their favorite recipes (and sometimes family secret recipes), and the results are usually really good food!

I like the quotes on the section title pages and the cookbook title itself is very sweet - From Field to Fork.

If you are interested in a cookbook, let me know.  There are a few left and the money goes to a great cause - supporting collegiate aged women interested in agriculture.  Their professional development and philanthropic activities get a boost from your monetary support.

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through!
- Unknown

Monday, December 24, 2012

The alpaca stockings were hung...

My husband has the best luck in Secret Santa exchanges.  Every year his school gives the staff the chance to participate.  Everyone who is in draws a name and gets a completed questionnaire with some of the favorites of the person.  Instead of the usual boring stuff, my husband comes away with some awesome gifts.  This year was no different.

His Secret Santa gave him a Christmas stocking that was hand knitted with alpaca yarn and features a felted alpaca.  His colleague is an awesome knitter.  She also made the super cute and cuddly bear that I blogged about over a year ago.

We love this stocking - super cute and very meaningful. Thanks, Ashley!

Owl measuring cups

I was delighted to receive these CUTE owl measuring cups for Christmas.  A friend from work knew that I am an accidental collector or owls from some of my previous blog posts.

These have been on my wishlist.  The Pioneer Woman highlighted some pretty measuring cups and spoons from Anthropology and I wanted to find something similar.

These little owls are perfect and I can't wait to use them!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Plant geek: winter containers in Chicago

Our trip to Chicago helped get me in the holiday spirit.  We have had warmer temperatures and no snow to speak of in Kansas.  There is something about cold weather and snow that triggers my psyche that it is time for Christmas.

I tend to feel like my internal clock for holiday prep is off and I like to blame the retail stores for pushing the holiday decorations, gift sets and commercials as close to Halloween as possible.  Of course, every year we get busier and busier which makes it hard to even think about the holidays until they are almost upon us.

We took off for a quick 36 hour trip to Chicago at the end of November.  It was just cold enough to have that lovely brisk feeling, but not so cold that we were uncomfortable.  The city was dressed up beautifully with lights and decorations in so many places.  I found inspiration in the touches of the season - greenery, lights, decorations, and other seasonal items that made it feel like Christmas.  This was just what I needed. 

 The plant geek in me was in love with the containers.  I had to take some pictures to try to remember some of the combinations.  I am a huge fan of the flowering cabbage and the dried grasses featured in the planters in front of the Art Institute.  Last summer, I took a picture of these same planters with this same grass.  You can see the summer version here.

 I had a short list of things I wanted to do while in Chicago and one of them was to see the wreathes on the lions in front of the Art Institute.  Nerdy, I know.  We actually met a really nice couple who agreed to take our photo with one of the lions.  He was wearing a K-State sweatshirt, so we hit it off right away.
 In Millennium Park, there were several different neat arrangements.  I really loved the combination of twigs and branches and the evergreens. 
 I found this arrangement to be just right - elegant and stately.  I wanted to show you the scale with this shot...
 ...and the detail with this shot.
 Love the color and variety in this arrangement.
 It takes a special husband to see a streetscape and ask if it includes the same bark that I had been talking about after visiting Minneapolis.  Yes, it sure is!  Here is where I blogged about the awesome fall containers from that trip.

 This is my favorite!  I really like the topiary and the combination of foliage and accents at the base.  It also has nice drape.  (I can hear my husband laughing at me now..."Nice drape.")
 This is my second runner up.  This arrangement has good height with the sticks.  The pine cones and the red eucalyptus are really striking.
See what I mean?

I am adding to my 2013 goals that I actually install containers for the fall and winter seasons next year.  I usually cover spring and summer and give up after the heat zaps my summer version.  With all of these ideas, I am sure to make it happen.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chicago adventures: Toni Patisserie and Cafe

 We are of the belief that there is no shortage of exceptional places to eat in Chicago.  When we visit our favorite city, we try to balance our intense desire to go back to tried and true places that we love and to adventure out and discover new places.

On our most recent trip, we had a quick 36 hours to fit in a concert, some shopping, taking in a few seasonal sights, and eating amazing food.  We did pretty well on all accounts, including finding a new culinary treasure for our favorites list.

On Saturday morning, we wanted to find a breakfast spot - something local and unusual.  We took off in The Loop with our sights set on seeing the wreaths on the lions at The Art Institute and finding breakfast along the way.

We are early risers, so we found a lot of places that were still closed.  We looked down a side street and saw this promising looking bakery - Toni Patisserie and Cafe.  It was open, had a nice crowd, and the window display was impressive.  We decided to give it a try.

The place was simply charming.  The menu featured a good selection of breakfast items and the cafe lunch menu looked equally as good.  The bakery items were out of this world - really beautiful and elegant!

I loved the bistro tables and the giant menu chalk boards above the counter. This is a place where I could bring a book and spend all day.
The building itself has character, including a vintage revolving door and beautiful display windows.  In the first photo in this post, you might notice a cool seasonal decorating idea.  The display had medium sized pine cones on candle sticks mixed in with the display of baked goods... I loved this look and want to incorporate in on a holiday table.
Along the wall near our table, there was a photo collage that was very well done.  I loved how the top of the frames in the top row were at the same height, as was the bottom of the bottom row of frames.  I kept wondering how they got everything to line up so well and imagined us trying to get the same results at home.  Mixed in with the framed photos were vintage hand mirrors - a beautiful change of pace from the linear frames. 

And, take a look at that display cake!

 I really loved our table marker - the French alphabet card was cute, casual and classy.

We will certainly add this to our list of stops for our next trip!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Adventures in Kansas City

 Last Sunday we took a quick trip to Kansas City.  We had two things in mind - take in a Broadway show at the Music Hall and enjoy a lunch before the matinee.

The first stop was blanc burgers and bottles on The Plaza.  We had a Groupon (insert teasing from my husband).

We really loved this place.  The menu had so many items that sounded delicious and we had a hard time selecting the burgers we wanted to sample.  We settled on the bison and American Kobe and an order of onion rings.  They have house made pickles - super delicious!
When a table near us got their order, I was so excited to see that their sides were served in mini shopping carts.  Are you kidding me?!  Too cute!

We also chose two Mexican sodas from a whole list of options (hence the bottles part of the name).  They even serve my favorite - Izze soda.  This might be our new go-to restaurant in Kansas City.  We want to sample the truffle fries and I have at least two other burgers that are on the top of my list.
 After lunch, we made our way to the theater.  We had a frustrating time getting into the parking garage and I got high praise from my husband for keeping my cool - no horn honking or excessive gripping.  

The show was Les Mis and it was the first time for either of us to see it on stage.  Beautiful.  We had an awesome time and enjoyed every minute.

Seeing the show was a goal since I read Les Mis in high school English class.  After we finished the unit, our English teacher offer to let us have our copy.  We were, for some reason or another, phasing out that book or it was time to replace them.  I remember being one of the only (or the only) student who took the book when it was offered.  This, of course, matches my love of books, free things, and stories that are timeless.  (And, I am a nerd.) I still have my copy and think winter break might be a good time to curl up and get lost in Les Mis again.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sweet Potato Souffle

Sweet potatoes are always on the menu for Thanksgiving dinner in our home, but truth be told, my recipe has never won any awards.  This year, I was inspired by Trisha Yearwood's recipe for Sweet Potato Souffle.  
We watched her make this on her show on the Food Network, Trisha's Southern Kitchen.

This dish, out of all of the Thanksgiving menu, got rave reviews.  Seriously.  It tastes like a dessert - very yummy and sweet, but different from the sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top from my youth.

If sweet potatoes are on your menu for Christmas dinner, give this recipe a try.

Sweet Potato Souffle



  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature, plus more to grease pan
  • 5 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Pinch of salt


  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), softened


For the souffle: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with butter.
Poke the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake on a foil-covered baking sheet until they are soft, 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes, place the flesh in a large mixing bowl and mash until very smooth. Add the eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, milk and salt. Combine well with an electric mixer or hand mixer. Turn the mixture into the baking dish.
For the topping: In a medium bowl, stir together the pecans, brown sugar, flour and butter until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mixture over the sweet potatoes, making an even layer. Bake the casserole until slightly browned, 40 minutes. Let the casserole sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Finally getting

A couple of weekends ago, I finally had a moment to catch my breath from the fall craziness.  We had more than a couple hour stretch at home and I was determined to finish a multi-part project.  The end game was to get my jewelry more organized.

I tend to wear a few pieces - usually those that I can see easily while I am getting ready.  My former storage was a couple of inadequate organizers on top of my dresser, a few small drawers built into my dresser, and lots and lots of piles on top of my dresser.  It really wasn't working very well.  (Someday I will remember to take a before picture.  Trust me, it wasn't pretty.)

I had this awesome Coca-cola crate in yellow and red that was from my husband's grandma and had been stored in our garage for years.  It looked like it could serve as a set of shelves and with a little work, it cleaned up really well. I put some old watch tins, a favorite vase from our trip to Oregon, some vintage milk glass containers with green lids from a pharmacy near my hometown, and a couple of other favorite knickknacks.  My goal was to get more surface area and to have beautiful things in this space, as it is the first thing I see when I wake up and the last things I see before I fall asleep.

I also had a really sweet set of owl hooks that were a gift from a friend.  These hooks are perfect for my longer necklaces.  I had been waiting for the perfect spot to use this gift and as usual, my desire for perfection stopped me from making any progress.  It all started to come together when I found the three owls in the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" poses - the owls were in the perfect colors.  Together, the owl hooks and the ceramic owls look right at home.
A note on the owls...the accidental collector strikes again.  Years ago, I attended a summer institute for women in higher education.  One of my dear friends and I latched onto the mascot of the host campus - the owl.  The architecture on the buildings had owls incorporated into the detail.  I loved to find a "surprise" owl during my walks and early morning jogs around the campus.  I spent a lot of time taking pictures of the found owls.  Since then, my friend and I exchange owl gifts as a remembrance of how we met and the owl is one of my good luck symbols.

Overall, I think a lot of women struggle with how to organize their jewelry.  The Pioneer Woman had several posts talking about her own search for jewelry organizers.  She blogged about this option and this option and this option.  There are a lot of different solutions available and it's hard to know what might work.  I was especially proud that I didn't buy anything new, except the owls.  Every part of the organizing effort used items we already had at our home and actually put two items that we really liked, but had in storage, into use.

The biggest difference maker in the process was that I cleaned out a bunch of stuff that I didn't wear any longer and moved some special pieces that I didn't wear for everyday to a different location.  It took some time, but I was really glad to sort through everything and think through what to keep, where to keep it, and how to best store it to keep it nice.  It was a good feeling to have a cleaner and nicer looking bedroom.

Now, I have about a dozen other organizational problems to solve - winter break is coming soon!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The accidental collector of saints

 Most people know that I am an accidental collector.  Something captures my attention, and then like items tend to follow, until suddenly I have a collection.

A few months ago, we purchased two hand carved saints at an antique store in Colorado.  I had the chance to stop by the same booth in the same store earlier in the fall and found another carved saint.

This piece has Honduras mahogany, an artist's name, and '77 written on the back.  I would love to know the story!

I think vintage and antique objects capture my heart because of the story and all of the wear and love.  This piece is a great example of art with meaning and an amazing story, if only from my imagination.

The corner of our living room features my little collection of saints.  I find a great deal of comfort in looking at them and imagining them looking over us.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Yarn of the week!

We were really excited to hear from The Shepherd's Mill that we were the Yarn of the Week for September 24.

And, then I kind of forgot...

And, then my mother and father-in-law brought our yarn to us over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Tucked inside the box was a laminated certificate recognizing us for our award.

This means that we have fresh from the mill yarn for my knitting and crocheting friends.

We also have roving for my felting and spinning friends.

 We have LOTS of roving and yarn.  Look for it at The Wicked Stitch in Wamego or give us a call.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

These two pillows passed my test.

If I think I want to buy something, I'll usually put it on hold for awhile.  Usually, I forget about whatever item I just had to have and move on, but occasionally, the item sticks with me and I know it will be a good purchase.

These two pillows were offered individually or as a set from Acacia.  They caught my eye in a catalog mailing and I marked the page and moved on.  A few weeks later, I still loved these pillows.  I mean "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" on a LITTLE pillow.  Too cute.

So, these pillows have a home with us now.  Can't wait to have all of the holiday decorations up!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Junk Gypsies

 The Junk Gypsies is one of my new favorite shows on HGTV.  Sisters and designers Amie and Jolie are a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.  I like their style - air stream trailers and old pick up trucks, things with a little rust, and lovely layers.  Their story, style, and the fact that they work with their family in making a thriving business from humble beginnings, really inspires me.

They had a special a few weeks ago and I wanted to be sure to grab a necklace that had caught my eye and along the way, I picked up a couple of other items.

My number one find was the air stream pendant with their tag line - not all who wander are lost (also a quote from j.r.r. tolkien).  I love their use of the Madonna image and you'll see it in a lot of their designs; I couldn't resist getting the pendant.  And, have you seen their packaging? Great imagery on their label on a awesome brown paper box.  Love.

And, I couldn't resist another tote because I love the design and I love bags of all shapes and sizes.  This bag in particular is just the right size for a road trip travel bag.
Set your DVR to catch and episode of Junk Gypsies.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I am only a couple of seasons behind.

 Thanksgiving weekend marks the beginning of the Christmas holiday season in our home.  We love to decorate our house for Christmas and the New Year holidays and we usually combine storing all of our fall decorations with putting up the tree and winter holiday trimmings.

In most years, I have the Halloween decorations already stored away by Thanksgiving.  Not this year.  Ghosts, goblins and witches stood guard over our Thanksgiving meal.  They had good company with our turkey decorations.  I just didn't take the time to tuck things away, even temporarily before company arrived.  Maybe next year?

I did want to share some super cute Halloween items I picked up on sale.  The terra cotta pumpkins were on my wishlist all fall.  I didn't want to pay full price, so they were on my watch list.  During each visit to one of our local grocery stores, my mom or I would do a price check.  The morning after Halloween, I found two on deep discount - score!  My mom called me a few days later to tell me that she had three more that she bought for $1 each!  Now, I have five of these little gems for next year.

The bottom is open so you can set the pumpkin over a tea light.  I think they will be great on our porch.

One of my favorite catalog and online retailers, Wisteria, had these awesome jewel-toned skulls in purple, green and orange.  These are miniature in size and perfect for a garland or hanging as ornaments on a tree branch.  I am thinking about how to display them - maybe tied with ribbon to barbed wire or attached to a grapevine wreath or garland?  We'll see.  I have a year (or so) to figure it out.  (And, they were only $4 for the set!)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Flint Hills Discovery Center

 Last week, I finally had the chance to spend some time at the Flint Hills Discovery Center.  The Center officially opened last spring and is part of a larger redevelopment project.

I was hosting a mini event for students one afternoon  this week and was really excited to finally check things out for myself.

The Center is really striking.  I loved the lobby and meeting spaces and the views were really spectacular.  We did get the chance to sit in on the 4-D movie which was nice.  The 4-D elements of the movie included smoke, wind, and bubbles that felt like snow.  I am in love with the prairie, so it was neat to see prairie presented as important and beautiful.

There were some amazing voices telling the story of the prairie throughout the movie.  A quote stayed with me, " is beautifully irrational to love a landscape." Love this.  It perfectly captures how I feel about the prairie.

The outdoor meeting space is well designed with an outdoor fireplace and some water features.  I could imagine having groups of all ages use this space and having a great time.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fall arrangements

 My travels this fall took me to several great cities and towns.  During my short stay in Minneapolis, I saw some of the best fall arrangements!

Across from my hotel in downtown, there was a small plaza with outdoor seating and these great flat screen TVs.  Decorating the plaza were several beautiful, giant fall arrangements.

I loved the scale of the arrangements and the pots.  It is hard to make an impact with a design element in the middle of so many tall buildings.  The combination of elements - grapevine, mums, pumpkins, branches, flowering cabbage, and more - all fit together so well.

Love, love, love every single part and piece!

I was really impressed with the grapevine "window" and wreathes.

The bamboo poles connecting these two smaller containers were really neat elements that I have never seen before.

The purple and green color combination of flowering cabbage is a favorite.  I have a hard time finding this plant and I think it is because I look for it at the wrong time of the growing season. I really want to try to incorporate this in next year's fall containers.  I also would really like to actually plant my fall containers instead of just letting the summer plants play out.

Love the pumpkins tucked into the arrangements.

Love the drape they achieved for this combination.

The Loft restaurant that I blogged about earlier also had some great fall arrangements - both hanging baskets and large containers.  The containers had these stacks of rolled birch bark that were just stunning.  I am seriously thinking about how to use this for winter arrangements this year.

One of the best things about travel is finding inspiration in unexpected places.  I am blessed.