Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Under that tough exterior, this ninja is really a prince.

I hope your weekend is full of sweet treats and delicious surprises!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tricks and Treats

We have cupcakes as far as the eye can see today!

I made 72 yesterday for upcoming Halloween events. Imagine my surprise when I took a quick break from baking and discovered a big surprise ... .

What a treat!

I have been featured on Today's Creative Blog! I have been a huge supporter of TCB for a long time and find so much creative inspiration on the site. You can find Kim's sweet review here.

Thank you, Kim and TCB! I am beyond thrilled and so appreciative of the encouragement!

I hope you will discover some special treats -- as well as learning a few new tricks on Today's Creative Blog -- today!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mum's the Word

And the word is "Welcome!"

Ladies at the Henderson Church of Christ sent me home Saturday with this beautiful fall arrangement. Positioned outside our kitchen door, these mums have given our family a warm welcome home each day since.

Make an arrangement like this one by clustering several potted mums into a larger terracotta pot. Fill in the arrangement with seasonal grasses, camouflage the plastic pots with moss, and tie a ribbon around the terracotta pot.

When it comes to saying "Welcome, Fall," just remember, mum's the word!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Throwing in the Towel

As a southern girl, I think loving monograms is in my DNA. But I have recently discovered that personalizing household items also helps teach my family personal responsibility. Lately I have grown frustrated finding wet towels dropped carelessly around the house, so when Horchow put these monogrammed Ralph Lauren Lawton towels on sale, I saw my opportunity to teach some "personalized responsibility." I considered ordering only one monogrammed towel for the real culprit, whose initials are IWM. He must be to blame for our scattered towels, because whenever I find one and demand to know who didn't hang up their towel, I'm met with a chorus of "It Wasn't Me!" In the end I decided to order one for each person in our household, so we can all identify and hang up our own towels. If you are thinking about throwing in the towel on your family's bath-time organization, find the lowest prices of the season on the fluffy towels pictured in the link above. And get free shipping with the coupon code FREESHIP through tomorrow morning!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Favorite Things

I was so glad my daughters wanted to join me on my weekend trip to Tennessee for a ladies day at the Henderson Church of Christ. Some of the teenagers provided childcare during the event, and one of the ladies of the congregation offered to take the girls downstairs before we began. When Kira returned, she told me about a sweet conversation she shared with 5-year-old Mary Ashley.

"Do you like going to ladies days with your mommy?" Kira asked as they descended the stairs.

"I like doing everything with my mommy!" came Mary Ashley's enthusiastic reply. "I like to sleep with her. I like to go to ladies days with her. I like to be with her all the time!"

I was so touched to hear what my sweet girl said when I wasn't nearby, and I thanked her later that day for her kind words. What she said next surprised me, and her words have stuck with me since we returned home.

"Mommy," Mary Ashley began, "do you know what my very favorite thing in the whole, whole wide world is?"

Intrigued by her question, I considered the possibilities briefly before realizing I honestly didn't know. "No, Sweetheart, what would that be?"

"Playing the girl games and having story time with you," she revealed.

A swirl of emotions filled my heart when I heard this. First of all, I was honored to learn that many of Mary Ashley's happiest moments are spent in my company. And I was immediately struck by the simplicity of her expectations. Her greatest joys do not require elaborate planning or great sacrifices on my part; in fact, snuggling up to read Fancy Nancy or pausing to play The Princess Match Game actually allows me to slow down and relax too.

But realizing how much she treasures our quiet moments together, I felt humbled knowing how often I allow the demands of school, housekeeping and extra-curricular activities to crowd out simple family rituals. Too often I tuck the children into bed -- wondering how the evening got away from us again -- turning down requests to read a story or play a game as I turn down their covers, offering weakly, "I'm sorry that it has gotten so late tonight, but I hope tomorrow we will have time."

But now that I know how easily I can incorporate Mary Ashley's favorite things into our day, I feel a serious shift in priorities and planning taking place.

Still pondering Mary Ashley's confession to me, I asked my other children last night what makes them feel most joyful.

Three-year-old Emma called out, "Swimming in our pool!"

Seven-year-old Christian said, "Hearing something funny that makes me laugh."

And 10-year-old Carson said, "Being successful at something really difficult, like making a good grade on a test that was really hard or playing basketball and making a basket just before the buzzer sounds."

Immediately my wheels started turning, and I'm already looking forward to sitting poolside next summer, reading a funny book to Christian and Mary Ashley while I watch Emma swim, calling out challenges to Carson as he attempts perilous feats off the diving board.

In all sincerity, I am so thankful for my conversation with Mary Ashley because she reminded me that the greatest joys are often found in life's littlest moments. And I'm hoping that in being a student of what makes my loved ones happiest, I can give them love gifts each day tailored to fit their unique needs and tastes. And in sharing these special moments with my children, I hope to show them every day that my favorite thing in the whole, whole wide world is spending time with them.

"The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family." -- Thomas Jefferson

(I am linking this post to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky. Click here to discover more gifts of everyday joy.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Take Me to Tennessee

Congratulations to my friend Lara, who won the Focal Point Photography Etsy shop giveaway!

I love the photo above, a beautiful fall scene my brother, Nathan, took in Tennessee. My heart feels drawn to Tennessee in the fall, so I am looking forward to experiencing the crisp air and pretty foliage as I travel toWest Tennessee this weekend. I will be doing a ladies day at the Henderson Church of Christ Saturday. Please join us if you can!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shop Happy!

I am positively giddy this morning knowing Montgomery's Junior League Holiday Market is now open! With monogrammed acrylic pieces, pewter, linens and gourmet foods for the ladies on my list, I get a bulk of my Christmas shopping done during this event each year. A few things will make this shopping experience even better ... .

1. Enjoying the Event with Friends! Emma and I plan to hit the Holiday Market today with girlfriends Stacey and Cathy. I wanted to start off our day of gift-buying with a little gift-giving of my own, so I have surprises for my shopping buddies.

2. Personalized Travel Mugs. I made these for Cathy and Stacey using design-your-own mugs from Dollar Tree. I traced the included pattern onto a fun pink-and-green print, cut out the insert with pinking shears, and added style with trendy monograms. Easy and inexpensive -- a busy bargain shopper's dream!

3. Fill My Cup. I can only think of one thing that would make these mugs any better, and that would be filling them with yummy goodness that celebrates the warmth of the season. I experimented with recipes over the weekend, and here's what we'll be sipping while we shop ... .

Pumpkin Spiced Lattes

Enjoy this delicious coffee drink guilt-free knowing your wallet and waist will thank you for saving money and calories making this at home.

3 cups skim milk
6 packets Splenda artificial sweetener
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
8 ounces double-strength brewed decaffeinated instant coffee
Whipped cream, to taste
Caramel syrup, to taste
1 pinch pumpkin pie spice

Heat milk in a heavy saucepan just until hot and bubbly. Combine the hot milk, sweetener, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice in a blender; blend on frappe setting until frothy. Pour the mixture into 6 coffee mugs to about 2/3 full. Then fill almost to the top with coffee. Garnish each latte with rings of whipped topping, drizzles of caramel and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.

I can only think of one more thing that would make this shopping experience perfect ...

4. An Unlimited Budget! Although my husband probably can't approve that request, I will count my blessings anyway. My Christmas shopping list is long, but I'm grateful that it reflects a life blessed with so many people to love. As I fill shopping bags with pretty wares, my heart will be full as I reflect on the priceless gifts of love I am given each day. And although my spending will have limits, joy will not as I take in the blessings of a beautiful autumn day with friends.

With girlfriends, monogrammed gift ware, and a glimpse of the holiday fun still to come this year, I'm shopping happy today!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pumpkin Sundae

Fall for the flavors of the season with pumpkin sundaes! Sprinkle caramelized pecans over a scoop of pumpkin ice cream, and drizzle with caramel sauce for a delicious twist on traditional fall desserts.

Caramelize pecans in a heavy saucepan by cooking 1/4 cup sugar over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly. As soon as the sugar turns to liquid, stir in 1/2 cup pecans and pour the hot mixture onto aluminum foil. Allow to cool, then break the pecans into pieces. Sprinkle them over pumpkin sundaes, or toss them in with favorite fall salads.

Come back tomorrow for a fall treat I'm certain you will want to make again and again!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Falling for Emma in Pink and Green

Although we are enjoying the last blossoms on our pretty pink azaleas, Emma will bloom throughout the fall in pink and green.

I used New Look pattern 6880 for Emma's knit pants, although I made a more generous ruffle. Find this fun floral-print fabric at Hobby Lobby.

This long-sleeved tee from Wal-Mart -- bought on clearance last year at the end of the season -- blooms this fall with a personalized applique. I adapted the "Simply Spring Applique Too" design to coordinate with Emma's floral pants. Download this and other free embroidery machine designs from Bunnycup Embroidery here.

Topping off Emma's new fall outfit is a matching headband I made by recovering a fabric headband from Wal-Mart. (See this post for a tutorial on making personalized headbands from dollar store headbands.)

And now Emma is dressed up for the crafting party Kim hosts every Tuesday at Today's Creative Blog!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pumpkin Roses

Let your soup bowls overflow with autumn's splendor!

I love my white pumpkin soup bowls! These came from Lillian Vernon a couple of years ago, but I can't find them on the site now. When they are not filled with favorite fall recipes like chicken-vegetable chowder, they can lose their lids for favorite fall flowers.

I found these golden-orange flowers at Fresh Market. Simply cut floral foam to fit the soup bowl, and soak it according to package directions. Cut floral stems short (at an angle), and insert the stems into the foam. Forage for berries and foliage, and tuck the stems into the arrangement.

Then add warmth to your table with some "souper" fall color!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Picture This: A Focal Point Photography Giveaway

I have loved sharing my brother, Nathan's, photography with you here on the blog. I am so pleased to announce the opening of his fine art photography shop on Etsy! Visit Focal Point Photography's new home on Etsy here.

Pull up a chair to browse all the great images. From romantic garden photos to chic urban images, you are sure to find something you love!

Leave a comment below to enter our Focal Point Photography giveaway: a signed fine-art photograph of your choice! Just visit the site, and comment here to let me know which photograph you would like to have matted to an 11"-x-14" size. I will announce the winner next week!

And for a limited time, Nathan is offering a special discount to blog readers. Just mention "A Little Loveliness" in your convo to receive 20% off your purchase!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall Fun for Preschoolers

Emma's recent preschool Harvest Party was full of activities perfect for preschoolers. Along with visiting the pumpkin patch to pick a pumpkin, one of the highlights of the day was a hayride through nearby farmland.

Pounding pumpkins was great fun for these little ones! All you need is a pumpkin, wooden golf tees and plastic hammers, and you have hours of preschool fun.

Of course, no harvest party would be complete without treats! The children loved fishing for books. We couldn't wait to read this one during our fall break!

Indoors the children planted pumpkin seeds and helped make pumpkin muffins. It was a Harvest Party full of fall fun!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cinderemma Picks a Perfect Pumpkin

A pretty, pretty, princess ...

picks a perfect pumpkin ...

at her preschool ...

Pumpkin Patch!

(Mommy's Pumpkin Patch pick: the Princess!)

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