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.

Friday, November 16, 2012

My husband is a basketball coach...

My husband is a basketball coach and I should be a comedian because his life is a wealth of material.  I could have set after set of funny, funny stuff.  This week has been especially rich.

This week included two away games.  On Thursday, the girls would have their toughest match of the season.  My husband was geared up for victory and he had a plan to change up his team's pre-game routine to better focus the girls.

He was planning very little warm-up time on the floor in pre-game and he had an inspiring locker room speech prepared.  He had six main points: sureness, attitude, aggressive, passion, hustle, and (...wait for it...).  He tells me that he is giving the locker room speech of his life, and he is nearing the final point - play with heart.  There isn't a large marker board in the locker room, so he is using his small marker board that he keeps on the bench.  He is ready to reveal the last point.  He draws a beautiful heart and colors it in with purple marker.  He turns the board around and says, "What does this mean to you?"  One of his players says, "You love us!?!"

My husband says in an exasperated voice, "...I do, but...that's not what I meant. I want you to play with heart!"

The girls are ready to break their huddle and storm the court for the orchestrated two minutes of warm-up.  They circle up and three girls say that they need to use the bathroom.  They wait for everyone who has to go and then they finally break the huddle and make it to the court for around a minute of lay-ups.  The best of plans...

The first half was phenomenal...first quarter score, 5-2 (us) and end of second quarter, 5-5.  They were feeling good and playing the best game of the season.  The second half was a whole other score, 30-7.  Sigh.


Earlier in the night, a student who was injured, and told by her doctor not to play, decided that she wanted to play.  My husband said that he couldn't let her play unless her mom cleared her from the injured reserved list.    She called her mom on her iPhone and handed it over to my husband.  He put the phone to his ear and thought it sounded like the mom was on speaker phone.  They have the conversation and he hands the phone  back to his player to see that he was actually video chatting via Facetime with the mom.  Or, I should say, she was Facetiming his ear!


One player asked him if she should wear her glasses during the game. He asked her if she needed them to see and she said, "Yes." Yet, she decided to not wear them. Her first two shots were about four feet short of the basket. He told her that she needed to pretend she was shooting from the three-point line.


He has a player who is kind of petite and she is SUPER nice.  My husband had everyone in the huddle and he asked her, "Do you ever get mad or angry?"  She says, "No" in a little voice.  He tells her, "I need you to get mad, to get mean!"  She responds by putting her had up in a cat gesture and saying, "Rawr!"  The huddle busts up with laughter and then she does it again, "Rawr!  Rawr!"  The good news is that they win the game in over time - first victory of the year for this team!


Before the game, my husband met with the officials.  The crew was an experience official and a young guy who shared it was the very first game he was officiating.  My husband decides to joke around and say, "It's my first game, too."  At the pre-game meeting, the young official brings the team captains and coaches together.  My husband's assistant stood in for him.  The young official takes the lead in the pre-game rules discussion and begins his speech by saying, "So, I hear that it's somebody's first game."  Everyone just looked back at him and it was completely silent.  He was referring to my husband who was definitely not coaching his first game.


Then, tonight, there was a mix up with the bus shuttles.  My husband and I ended up driving two players to meet their parents because there was no bus available.  On the drive, we were talking about their Thanksgiving plans and what they had studied at school.  One of the girls started talking about her genetics assignment in science.  This part of the conversation started when she said, "Well, today, I found out that I had a girl."  We held back laughs and asked a few questions about the assignment.  She started telling us the characteristics of her theoretical baby based on the genetic probability and flipping a coin to determine traits.  She meant to say that her theoretical baby had a cow lick, but she ended up saying something totally not appropriate and we aren't even sure she knew what it meant.  We both showed a great deal of restraint and tried to change the subject.  When both girls were out of the car, we died laughing all the way home.