Fall Comfort Food: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Kale, Brown Butter & Herbs

Food for Grownups
fall comfort food
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So my sisters have done the “23 and me” genetic testing and we are virtually positive there’s nary a trace of Italian that runs through our veins. But sometimes I just feel that in another life, I would be barefoot in a kitchen in Tuscany, whipping up all kinds of Italian specialties I can’t pronounce and dramatically talking with my hands. Basically Sophia Loren meets Julia Child.  Sounds glamorous and delicious, right?

Now that I’ve settled back into my nest after a very exciting two weeks on the road for my sons’s wedding and visiting the Hallmark movie set for one of my books, I’m finally able to spend some time in my kitchen. It’s restorative and grounding to be home. It recharges my batteries.

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My Son’s Wedding: The Dress! The Flowers! The Epic Mother Son Dance!

Celebrate Life, Family, Hospitality and Entertaining
mother son dance

It seems like yesterday when my youngest son thought every single animal, no matter what it was, was a cow. Moo! (it was a cat), Moo! (it was a dog). Moo! (It was an elephant for goodness sake).

Just to embarrass him, here’s a picture of him as a little ball of fluff. Adorable, right?

Oh, and here is one from those awkward middle school years with braces.

It’s my right as a mother to share these on the internet, yes? I think so.

Fast forward 25 years or so, and here I am, just getting home from his wedding in Maine—unpacking my fancy clothes, scrolling through the photos, and wishing we could do it all over again. continue reading

Grammy’s Craft of the Month Club Strikes Again: Yarn Pumpkins, Messes, & Pinterest Fails

Creativity and Crafts
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Living to be over fifty and all, you’re bound to pick up a few life lessons.

Here’s one of them: when it comes to crafting, Pinterest can either be a trusted friend or a misleading purveyor of emotional breakdowns and lies. Sometimes the result is just so, so good. Other times it’s what I like to call a #PinterestFail.

Before we get into my recent crafting project and #PinterestFail, here are a few nuggets of wisdom I’ve accrued during the 2,452,856,818.50 hours I’ve spent on Pinterest. continue reading

Pumpkin Decor Inspiration for your Front Porch and Your Table

Creativity and Crafts, Home Matters
pumpkin decor

For all of you super organized ladies, you probably had your pumpkin Pinterest boards ready for action since August, so this post might be old news to you. But, if you are anything like me, and haven’t had time to spruce your nest with bright orange pumpkins and autumnal glow, go ahead and keep reading this post. This one’s for you.

So what’s the big deal about pumpkins, anyway? Well, around the world, they are considered a symbol of the harvest season. For me, they remind me of childhood, and New England, and pretty wrapped pumpkin bread and too many pumpkin spice lattes.

This past week, I got to take three of my grand-darlings to a real-life pumpkin patch. We bought too many pumpkins to count and had the best time. Stay tuned for next week to see the fun kid-friendly crafts we did with them! (Spoiler alert: it was messy). continue reading

Best Day Ever: On the set of Christmas Everlasting

Books, Celebrate Life
christmas everlasting
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Have you been reading my newsletter or reading my Facebook posts over the last couple of weeks?

If so, you’re undoubtedly aware that one of my books, The Second Sister, is being made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie with the title Christmas Everlasting.  (I’ve only posted about it around ten thousand times.)  It will air on the Hallmark Channel on November 24th, 2018 at 8pm Eastern Time, 7pm Central. I hope you’ll watch it!

In fact, I hope you’ll watch it with me! But more about that in a future post. Suffice it to say, plans are in the works. Stay tuned.

christmas everlasting continue reading

The Art of Easy Entertaining and the Cutest Fall Baby “Sprinkle” Ever

Hospitality and Entertaining
easy entertaining
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I love to entertain.  Always have.  I’d go so far as to say that I enjoy throwing parties even more than attending them.

But for a lot of women, the idea of entertaining at home is an intimidating, even frightening prospect.

I think that’s because many people have the wrong idea about what it takes to entertain.  You don’t need to have buckets of money, a fancy house in a fancy neighborhood, or the culinary skills of Martha Stewart to throw a good party.

Showing hospitality is simply about sincerely welcoming others into your home with a warm and open heart. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or expensive. In fact, some of the best parties I’ve ever been to, or given, have been the simplest.

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Fierce Roundup: The Very Best Heathy Tacos On The Internet

Food for Grownups
healthy taco recipes

This post is dedicated to one of my favorite foods: the taco! Not only are they delicious, but tacos are the perfect vehicles to load up on big flavor without a lot of calories. The hot sauce, cilantro, feta, and salsa are all healthy ways to jazz up some lean protein. It’s like magic.

There’s a lot of flexibility here to make healthy tacos work for my Weight Watchers Freestyle program, so that’s another added bonus.

I would say that my love of healthy tacos originated from my time spent living in Mexico, but it dates back further than that. They are consistently a mainstay on the menu, no matter the season. I have a clever habit of transforming leftovers into “creative” tacos. As in, tikki masala tacos, Korean beef and broccoli tacos, you get the idea. I pretend like it’s super fancy “fusion” food. The Chairman doesn’t know the difference. continue reading

Garage Makeover Part 2 (And Why an Organized Life Pays Off)

Home Matters
garage makeover
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Okay, first things first.

Several months ago, I wrote a post about my big plans for a garage makeover, saying I wanted to finish it by the end of summer.

As is so often the case when it comes to construction projects, it took longer than I thought it would. But we did wrap it up before the end of summer. I think it turned out really well! Take a peek! continue reading

Join The Party: The Power and Importance of Female Friendships

Cherish Relationships, Friends and Community
female friendships

“No, thanks. I’m not really a joiner.”

How many times have you heard that? Or said that? If you’re anything like me, the answer is plenty – on both counts.

Though I’ve written whole novels and even a whole series of novels centered on the subject of community and friendship among women, I don’t think of myself as a joiner.  Much of the time, I prefer to keep my own company or hang out with the imaginary friends who inhabit my books. I spend so much time alone, and so comfortably, that I have occasionally been accused of being a hermit. continue reading

Beautiful homemade wreaths for Fall!

Creativity and Crafts
homemade wreaths for fall
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If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on quite the Fall crafting kick. So when my daughter in love recently called me up to tell me that she just made two amazing homemade wreaths for Fall, I had to share.

She may not be over fifty (that would be weird, right?), but she is fierce as can be and crafty to boot! How did I luck out on a daughter-in-law that loves crafting as much as I do? I’ve enjoyed bonding over our love of crafting and it’s fun to see my grand-darlings joining in on the fun as well.

I certainly hope my son appreciates how beautiful his doors look like this season. He would be a fool not to.

Wreaths are the ultimate symbol of hospitality and festivity. And fresh wreaths made with local foliage mirror the season’s colors better than anything you can buy. Plus, store-bought ones or wreaths from the florist don’t come cheap!

So why not try your hand at making your own wreath? My daughter-in-love promises that if you can safely wield a hot glue gun and are tall enough to trim leaves off of a magnolia tree, both of these wreaths will be a cinch.

Perhaps she will mail one of these to me. Wouldn’t they look lovely on, say, my front door?

I’m heading out of town for a few days but cannot wait to give a wreath a try when I return home to The Pinery!

 

Acorn Wreath

It’s that time of year for many parts of the country where acorns scatter the ground and squirrels run wild. So why not pick up a few acorns and make something wonderful? The squirrels have enough acorns.

What You’ll Need

  • 1- to 14 inch straw wreath form
  • 16 cups of acorns
  • hot glue gun and a ton of hot glue sticks
  • ribbon for hanging and general flare

Instructions

  1. Collect around 16 cups of acorns. You will need more than you think. Look for acorns that aren’t half eaten by squirrels or bugs. Try to have some of the acorns still “wearing their hats.”
  2. Clean and roast the acorns. Here’s a tutorial that explains how to do that and why you should.
  3. Using a generous amount of hot glue directly on the straw wreath form, place each acorn individually. Try to use glue under and in between the acorns to help them stay put once it dries.
  4. Mix up the angles of the acorns, because perfection is overrated. Plus, the variety masks any mistakes you might make! 
  5. Work your way around the entire front of the wreath until completely covered on the front and sides.
  6. Remove any visible hot glue strings.
  7. Loop ribbon around the top and display on your door with pride. You did it!

Note: If squirrels are especially pesky in your neck of the woods, spritz finished wreath with clear acrylic spray. You really can’t blame them for wanting to make a buffet out of your acorn wreath. Just try to make it as unappetizing as possible. 

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Southern Magnolia Wreath

My daughter-in-love has a giant Southern magnolia in her front yard, so trimming 100 leaves was no problem for her! Here in Bend, a Southern magnolia is about as common as a palm tree. But a similar technique could be used with all kinds of leaves or greenery. See the note below.

What You’ll Need

  • About 100 magnolia leaves, with as much of the stem intact as possible
  • 10 to 14 inch Styrofoam wreath form
  • sharp object to poke holes in wreath (like a kebab stick)
  • Ribbon for hanging and adornment (navy gingham and frayed burlap ribbon were used here)

Note: If magnolias don’t grow where you live, try boxwood, spruce sprigs, or other local foliage. You can’t go wrong! 

Instructions

  1. First, sort out your leaves by size so that wreath will have a more uniform appearance.
  2. Starting at the outermost side of the wreath, Using a sharp object to “pre-drill” the holes on the styrofoam wreath form, pierce wreath at an angle to ensure that leaves arrange themselves at a uniform angle throughout. Drill holes every 3/4 of an inch or so. Do four or five concentric circles until close to the innermost part of the wreath. 
  3. Now it’s time to add those pretty, shiny leaves! Start with the largest ones on the outermost circle and work your way around. You might need to trim the stem to more of a tapered shape to help it fit in the hole.
  4. Keep going ’til all the holes are filled with beautiful foliage and the form doesn’t show any more.
  5. To help the bright green stick around a little longer, spritz leaves with foliage sealer.
  6. Wrap a generous amount of ribbon around the top and put this beauty on display!

Note: If wreath form is still showing, you can use a foam brush with green paint to make it blend in a little more.