Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cutest Pumpkins in the Patch

I promise, cross my heart, to post a picture or two of  "Dorothy" and "Cinderella" later this week, but for today I thought I'd share a few pics from our annual Pumpkin Patch Day with our MOPS group.

Every good trip to the pumpkin patch involves animals, and while my children sometimes behave like the 4 legged variety, there was no shortage of the real deal at this local farm. We were greeted by this gentleman, who was very curious about the girls, but rather shy.

I have a secret...I was almost as excited about the horses as Natalie and Michaela Byrd.

We had time for a few snapshots before the main attraction.


And some time for fun in the barn...

Let's just say that we all needed a nap when we got home that afternoon!

Hope you have fun tonight Trick or Treating! I have two little girls who have their costumes and treat bags ready to go. I'll be sure to share some pics later this week.

Stop by tomorrow for a very cool (surprise!) Giveaway!  

*Thanks to today's Sponsor, one9designs!

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Friday, October 29, 2010

::Weekend Bloggy Reading:: Link Up!

{What are you doing this weekend?}

Today is Natalie's preschool Harvest Party, and she'll be attending as Cinderella. I'm so excited to be there and take some pictures...hoping to leave the little one home with T so that I can really enjoy the party with my oldest. My mother-in-law is sweet enough to host a Blessings Unlimited party for me tonight, and we expect a good turnout. I. just. want. to. rest. on Saturday. And maybe knock out some of the laundry? And you know what Sunday will bring...CANDY! I may or may not impose an excise on the incoming treats as the parent who will be carting the children through the neighborhood in the dark.

Today is the fun day where I share a few of my favorite posts from around Blogland this week, and you get to link up the best post from your own blog this week.

All I ask is that you please include my party button within your post (code is below) OR a link back to me within your post. Don't make me be a meanie and delete your link from the party. Pretty please?

Here are some of this week's favorites:
sources credited below

~Ashley made a Cocoa Peanut Butter Pie.

~Richella created a simple, yet fabulous Burlap Vase. Love!

~Melissa took her readers on an Autumn Walk.

~Holly is hosting a Pottery Barn/Ballard/Restoration Hardware Knock-Off Party today. There will be some fun links for sure!

~And me?
This week I shared the Easiest Ever Crock Pot Roast Recipe and I decided that if Bat Man gets a Bat Cave, then I need a Mom Cave for the super hero-sized work I do around here. I showed you some pics from our trip to the National Zoo, where we did not eat Cheetohs. And yesterday, I wrote about our neighbors, the "Griswolds," and their love for all things Halloween in The Return of the Griswolds' Halloween...they're baaaaaack!

*The winner of the Willow House Giveaway was Alicia from Titere Con Bonete. Congratulations, Alicia! Email me so I can get you in touch with Carmella.

More big news? Stay tuned on Monday for a big Giveaway!! I don't normally do Giveaways on Monday, but this is something special, so keep an eye out, okay?
Time to link up your best post of the week to share! Let me know if you need help getting your link to appear.

Here's the button code if you'd prefer to use that instead of a link-back:
Weekend Bloggy Reading

Party is open for new links until 10 pm (ET) on Sunday.

Have a great weekend!
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Return of the Griswolds' Halloween

Meet the Griswolds.

Or, their house, rather.

Trust me, this is tame in comparison to years past. The photo above is actually from last year. The Griswolds haven't hit the light switch yet, but the graveyard is up, and I saw the ladder on the side of the house yesterday. Seeing the ladder reminded me of this old post, and I decided to share it again today.

Their name isn't really Griswold. I just started calling them that around Halloween time the first year we moved across the street from them. Their house reminded me of something, but I just couldn't put my finger on it....

I remember watching in fascination and horror that first October, as Mr. Griswold perched precariously on his roof line, stringing strands of flashing orange and green lights around each window frame. Lights covered every flat surface of the front of the home.

My mouth was agape as he determinedly staked blue, red, and yellow spot lights on the graves in the front yard, making sure to focus on the spooky skeleton draped across Dracula's headstone.

The blinking skull lights wound around the street lamp next to their driveway about sent me over the edge.

My parents weren't into Halloween, and I spent my early years in a house set so far back in the woods that no one wanted to visit on October 31st. The rest of my childhood was spent in a neighborhood of yuppie McMansions where everyone decorated their front porches with tasteful Autumn leaf wreaths, pumpkins, and the occasional "Boo!" sign on the front door.

So the Griswolds were a bit of a home decor shock to me back in 2003 when T and I moved in. Each October was marked with the sight of Mr. Griswold's busy adornment of his house, and it eventually became a tradition to watch him work and wonder how long it would take him this year.

Last year, Mr. Griswold was later than usual hauling his wares out of the garage. When I told him how much Natalie enjoyed the nightly show, he smiled and said he wasn't sure he was going to do it because his children were off at college. The next night, I grinned to see how excited my girls were when Mr. Griswold's Halloween handiwork lit the neighborhood night sky on L Avenue.

Sarah's post on making your home YOUR haven made me look out the window and think of the Griswolds. Their way of decorating their house might not be my style, but they spent years creating a fun place for their kids to enjoy Halloween and now they offer my kids a nightly show to rival a Pink Floyd concert.

I don't cringe anymore when Mr. Griswold clambers up his ladder. I smile in anticipation of the shouts of excitement each night when the lights go up.

Happy Halloween!

See you tomorrow for Weekend Bloggy Reading! Bring your best post of the week to link up.
Weekend Bloggy Reading

*Special thanks to today's Sponsor, RJ Charms!

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It Was a Zoo

A couple of weeks ago, I told the girls that we would be having a surprise that Saturday. I really wanted to surprise them with the zoo.

"Donuts?" asked Natalie
"No," I replied. (Bless her heart, she's just like me)
"Ice Cream?" she tried again.
"No, it's better than that." I said. "We're going to go somewhere."

I guess my kids are easy to please. If it involves shopping and food, they are happy. They are more like me than I could have ever imagined.

We made it all the way into DC, through the Pentagon City Mall, on and off the Metro, and down Connecticut Avenue to the big Zoo sign before I told them where we were:

They allowed me one photo opp before we headed full tilt inside...

As we meandered away from the Visitor's Center:

Me (reading sign): Oh, the cheetahs are that way.
Michaela Byrd: Cheetohs? I want Cheetohs!
Me: No...not Cheetohs. Cheet-ahs.
Michaela Byrd (looking around wildly): I want some Cheetohs!
(People passing by begin to laugh. I worry that they think I might feed my two year old chips on a regular basis)

It was an interesting day. We were more than a little disappointed that we didn't see a single panda bear, and the elephants were so far away that you needed binoculars to really see them. The last time T and I were in the zoo was back in college, and the pandas were all over the place. But the surprise was fun, and I couldn't leave this post without a few cute pictures.
We ended the day with a very late lunch in the Pentagon City Mall on the way home. T may or may not have also taken them to the candy store. I don't know of a better way to end a fun day like that....  

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mom Cave, Not to Be Confused with the Bat Cave

Does this look like a Mom Cave to you?

If it does, we need to chat.

Now that my girlies bunk together, we have a spare room again. My 4 year old's former room (tour here!) is ready to revert back to a guest room, but I'd like it to do double duty as a Mom Cave!

My friend Kate is hosting a Mom Cave Party with Home Goods, and I could really use the $250 prize to take this room from Candy-Stripe-Sweet to Mama-Chic.

To me, Mom Cave says "comfort without sacrificing style; color, rest, peace, and quiet." (Can you throw in a padded, sound-proof door, Kate?) I think Home Goods could help me reach my goal with lighting, unique accessories, and some fun pillows to go on my white wrought iron daybed.

Moms do the work of super heroes every day, except we don't get super cool costumes. If Bat Man has a cave, I want my own version!

Whatever I decide on, it will not, under any circumstances resemble Tim the Toolman's version of a sanctuary. "Come home to chrome?" I think not...

Home Goods, I showed you a "Before." Will you help me with an "After?"

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Easiest Ever Crock Pot Roast

Today I thought I'd share a great recipe to throw together on busy Fall days. When T and I were first married, I found a great crock pot recipe on the old Southern Living message boards. It seems a tad bit salty to me, but my picky husband practically hovers over the crock pot all day as the roast cooks, so it must be pretty good!

It doesn't get much easier than this...

1/2 cup water
1 packet Italian Dressing Mix
1 packet Ranch Dressing Mix
1 packet Brown Gravy Mix
1 Beef Roast, sized for your crock pot
Mixed vegetables (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower--you can use a bag of the frozen stuff if you're in a hurry)
2-3 potatoes (skins on), cut into hunks. (You can use canned new potatoes if you're in a pinch)

Pour 1/2 cup water into base of crock pot and place roast inside. Pour dressing packets and gravy packet over roast. Cover and cook 4 hours on Low. Add potatoes and vegetables around the roast. Cook another 2 hours on Low. (You'll want to cook the roast for 6-7 hours, total)

(Veggies still frozen in this one, but you get the picture)

I didn't have time to bake bread, and forgot to pick some fresh stuff up at the store, so we settled for (don't judge me!) frozen biscuits. They were not bad.

Late announcement! The winner of the McKenna Layne Designs Giveaway is #13, Jan from The Simpler Life. Jan, email me so I can get you in touch with Melissa!

*Thanks to today's Sponsor, The Shabby Chic Cottage.
treasures to transform your cottage, castle or casa

Linking to Tasty Tuesday.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Giveaway and a Party, Still Going Strong!

I hope your weekend is going smoothly! I kind of, sort of, slept in until 8:15 this morning. The girls were playing (albeit very, very loudly) in their room, but for some reason they decided not to come to their door and call "Mooooommmmmy, we're huuuuuuungry" until 8:15. So, there you have it.

Right now, I am sipping a frappucino and catching up on some Weekend Bloggy Reading. Natalie has a birthday party to attend at noon, and I'm hoping Michaela Byrd and I can head across town and browse Borders.

If you have entered the Willow House Giveaway yet, head over pronto! Carmella is offering a $40 Gift Certificate to her online shop for one lucky reader. Lots of eye candy in that post!

You can earn an extra, automatic entry in the Giveaway by linking up (with a valid link!) to my Weekend Bloggy Reading party with your best post of the week. I love having a neat variety of posts from across Blogland to read over the weekend...lots of fun! Here's the button code if you'd prefer to use that in your post rather than a text link-back.
Weekend Bloggy Reading

{Happy Weekend!}
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Friday, October 22, 2010

::Weekend Bloggy Reading:: Link Up!

{What are you doing this weekend?}
I have another Blessings Unlimited party to do for a friend this afternoon after preschool pick-up, so it will be interesting to see how my kids behave. Thank goodness J billed this party as an afternoon play date. Michaela Byrd can be a bit Linda Blair-ish when she misses a nap, so I pray her head doesn't start spinning around while we are there. Pizza with Mimi tonight, a birthday party tomorrow, church, and a meeting Sunday night round the weekend out. Nothing too crazy. I need to work on choosing light fixtures for the kitchen!

Today is the fun day where I share a few of my favorite posts from around Blogland this week, and you get to link up the best post from your own blog this week.

All I ask is that you please include my party button within your post (code is below) OR a link back to me within your post. Don't make me be a meanie and delete your link from the party. Pretty please?

Here are some of this week's favorites:
{sources listed below}

~Kelli got creative and turned a lemon of a situation into, well, Inside Out Caramel Apples

~I like Gina's simple Un-Mantel.

~It finally (!) feels like Fall here, so Kate's Soup Recipes came just in time.

~Did you know that you can Use Your Cricut to Cut Contact Paper? Ashley will show you how!

~They're voting about Emma Pillsbury's Hair (from Glee) over at What Would Emma Pillsbury Wear?

~And me?
There is an awesome Willow House GIVEAWAY going on this weekend. If you link up to this party (and link back to me!) you'll earn an extra entry! Sunday was the day I showed you some of my best Shopping Scores of the week...the super-skinny jeans came home with me. On Monday, I showed you how to make a Personalized Trick or Treat Bag, and Tuesday was a cute Pom Pom BOO Banner and some Halloween Decor.

Time to link up your best post of the week to share! Let me know if you need help getting your link to appear.

Here's the button code if you'd prefer to use that instead of a link-back:
Weekend Bloggy Reading

Party is open for new links until 10 pm (ET) on Sunday.

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Willow House Giveaway from Southern Fried Gal

When I first heard that Southern Living at Home was closing its party-at-home doors, I was sad for about five minutes until I read that they were reappearing better than ever as the newly designed Willow House. My friend Carmella from Southern Fried Dreams is a Willow House consultant, and the newest sponsor here at Serenity Now.

She agreed to offer a $40 Gift Certificate this week to one lucky Serenity Now reader! Come and see what Carmella has in store for you!

I was curious as to how the company chose their new name after such strong branding with Southern Living, and Carmella's reply made perfect sense. Willow House embodies "grace, warmth, and a bit of magic." The company might sway with the trends, but it is certainly not overpowered by them. Willow House roots are "firmly grounded" as consultants "impact with the world...with a feather-light touch."

I like that standard of business, but most of all I like knowing that Willow House continues to provide beautiful, quality products with that same intrinsically Southern feel! When I took a peek at Carmella's online Willow House shop, I was pleased to see some new products, some oldies but goodies, and lots of eye candy!
Carmella got her start with Willow House in 2005, when it was still under the SL umbrella. After shopping at some home parties, she was excited about the idea of purchasing the starter kit and receiving some beautiful products at a steep discount. She didn't intend to stick with it past a month, but now Carmella is a leader in the company, earning full-time income on a part-time schedule! Most of all, she enjoys being able to stay home with her six year old son, who is already learning about entrepreneurship by helping his mama with little tasks around the house. I'd love for him to come and teach a seminar to Natalie and Michaela Byrd!

Carmella's best selling item, and--coincidentally--my favorite item in her shop, is the French Wire Tiered Stand. Check out the lines on this beauty. I can see so many uses for this piece: holding ribbon in a craft room, as a serving stand for mini quiches at a brunch, or for displaying treats at a party, as they've pictured below:

Speaking of parties, we have some major holidays coming up! If I should ever {ahem!!} get to host a holiday in my own home with my family, I'd want to make it as lovely and memorable as possible. Willow House offers all sorts of lovely products to make entertaining a joy:

Who says you have to serve your Thanksgiving dressing (for my readers in the North, that is like stuffing, but in a casserole dish--wink--) in an old baking pan? That Highland Casserole Caddy will dress your dining room buffet right up.

You can't expect your guests to wait around all day for a turkey dinner, so why not indulge their appetites with one of Willow House's special mixes? I think the Pound Cake or the Ciabatta Bread look scrumptious!

My most favorite holiday of all is right around the corner...Christmas! Carmella's shop featured some really pretty pieces. I love the whimsical Roxy Reindeer line, and the "Jolly" stockings (which can be embroidered) are too much fun!

I was also excited to find a Willow House Outlet on Carmella's site: a spot with items from past product lines. The items are deeply discounted, but only available online and for a limited time. Most items ordered online ship within a few days...this is an excellent alternative for busy wives and moms who don't have time to attend local at-home parties.

When Carmella is not busy in sales, she enjoys blogging to stay sane. Her blog, Southern Fried Dreams, showcases her favorite recipes, door decor, kids' projects, and Willow House products.

Carmella is generously giving away a $40 Gift Certificate to one reader! You have have until Sunday night at 10 (ET) to enter. Please leave a separate comment for each entry!

1. Visit Carmella's Willow House shop and leave me a comment here with the name of your favorite item (mandatory to enter)
For Extra Entries You Can:
2. Link this Giveaway on Facebook.
3. Link this Giveaway on Twitter.
4. Blog about this Giveaway.
5. Link up to my Weekend Bloggy Reading party, which will open at 8 am Friday morning. The code for the party button is below.
Weekend Bloggy Reading

{Good luck, and happy shopping!}

*If you're interested in advertising here at Serenity Now, please visit my Advertising Page for details and to read what my Sponsors have to say about working with me!*

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