Monday, November 25

Planning and preparing Thanksgiving dinner

Planning for Thanksgiving dinner and actually preparing the feast can be a bit intimidating, can't it? But it needn't be overwhelming.  Here are some ideas to get you going in the right direction.

Today I'm trying to finish my grocery shopping and all the planning for our Thanksgiving feast.  I'll start cooking tomorrow!  In case you're looking for some good additions for your Thanksgiving dinner, here are some recipes you might enjoy.

I ALWAYS make this Simple Holiday Salad.  You won't believe how easy it is--or how delicious!

If you're looking for a side dish that's a little different from the norm, you should try my Baked Apricots.  Melt-in-your-mouth good.

One of our holiday traditions is to have these super-easy Sausage Balls.  They couldn't be much simpler--just three ingredients!  Best of all, you make mix them up the night before and simply bake them in the morning.  We have these on Thanksgiving morning and on Christmas morning.  (Bonus: kids can wash their hands thoroughly and help you roll the dough into balls.  Simply pinch the dough out into the right-size portions and have kids do the rolling!)

I always make a batch of Pumpkin Bread to have on hand throughout the holiday weekend.  It makes a super breakfast or snack.

And just in case you're wondering about the best way to cook a turkey, here's my tried-and-true technique!  My photos aren't fancy, but they'll illustrate the process step by step.

What's on your Thanksgiving menu?  Do you have a special dish you make every Thanksgiving?  Please share it!

Sunday, November 24

Friday, November 22

Thanksgiving decor

I've transitioned my Autumn decor into more specific decor for Thanksgiving, and thought you might enjoy a look around.

Starting with the front porch:

I changed the chalkboard sentiment.  Not fancy, but it gets the message across!

I added a few little touches like a brass wishbone on the coffee table in our new living room:

Dear friends of ours (who are more like family than friends!) from Michigan usually visit us for Thanksgiving.  They gave me the wishbone last year, and I'm so proud to display it!

I didn't change the dining room too much:

I did put my turkey platter on display on the primitive sideboard.  The turkey platter I'd owned for 20 years broke, so my sweet husband bought me a new one.  It's too pretty to keep in the cupboard!

In the kitchen I changed my Autumn centerpiece to include my papier-mâché cornucopia.  This cornucopia is now celebrating its 23rd Thanksgiving in our house; I bought it when our oldest son was a tiny baby. I'm surprised it's survived all these years in a household full of boys and dogs!

As you can see, I placed the cornucopia on a tray so that I can easily whisk it aside.  I love having a centerpiece on this table, but the table is not for show--it gets used every day!

Out on the screened porch I've added a couple of Thanksgiving touches, too.

One of my favorite things is my "Give thanks" pillow--created from a canvas dropcloth and a black Sharpie!  (Full tutorial here.)

Now we're ready for school to get out and our friends to travel to North Carolina so we can make some more wonderful Thanksgiving memories!

Do you do any special Thanksgiving decorating at your house?

Tuesday, November 19

Pumpkin Cake with cream cheese frosting

This November has been one of the most beautiful months I've ever seen.  October this year had more than its share of grey days, but November has more than made up for that!

In these beautiful Autumn days, I just can't seem to get enough of foods made from pumpkin.  So I pulled out an old recipe that I hadn't made for a long time, and I'm so glad to share it with you.


Oh, my friends.  This is so good, you'll be tempted to lick the plate.  Here's the recipe (click here for a printable version).

Pumpkin Cake


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups pumpkin purée (I used a can of Libby's solid pack pumpkin)
1 cup oil (I use vegetable oil)
4 eggs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a tube pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix dry ingredients together.   Add pumpkin and oil, then beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 1 hour.  (I start testing for doneness after 55 minutes of baking time.)  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on wire rack.  Frost when completely cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped (optional)

Mix first four ingredients together thoroughly.  Stir in pecans.  Spread on a cooled cake.

Just looking at the photo makes me want to have another piece, so I'll forewarn you: bake this when you have lots of people with whom to share!  Each slice is decadently good.

Do you have a favorite recipe for this time of year?

**I'm joining the Holiday Baking Party at A Stroll Thru Life.**

Friday, November 15

Super-easy DIY Christmas pillows

With Thanksgiving still two weeks away, I haven't started my Christmas decorating yet.  I have started getting some things ready, though, and today I'm excited to show you the easiest thing I've made in a long time.

While shopping in Pottery Barn the other day, I spotted these beautiful Christmas placemats for $9.50 each.

These placemats are 2-ply: two pieces of fabric sewn to one another.  I simply popped open the seam in the center of the bottom of the placemats:

Then I stuffed them and closed the seam back up.  (To be honest, I hot-glued the seam closed; if you're a good seamstress, you could sew them closed.)

That's it!  Making them took less than 10 minutes per pillow.  And look how pretty they are!  I made some for my new sofas in the living room:

And one for the leather chair that sits in the corner of my husband's study.

It's cold outside, so that fire makes me want to cozy up with a good book!

Have you started getting things ready for Christmas decorating yet?

Linking to:

Amaze Me Monday at Dwellings
Tutorials and Tips at Home Stories A to Z

Wednesday, November 13

New living room: details and sources

It's such fun to share my new living room!  Today I'm delighted to share with you the room's details.  (See this post for more photos of the room.)

First, the floor plan.  This room had always been a puzzle to me regarding furniture placement, so I sought the help of a professional.  I almost always do my own interior designing and decorating, and I love doing it.  But when faced with the prospect of purchasing new furniture, I didn't want to make expensive mistakes.  I knew I needed some help, and Darlene Weir of Fieldstone Hill Designs was the answer to prayer.  Now, we had some money set aside for purchasing new furnishings, but we didn't have a lot to spend on design services.  Darlene's services were very reasonably priced, and I truly believe that her help ended up saving us money in the long run--not to mention sanity!

If you're not already familiar with Darlene's business, you should know that she offers online design consultation.  She works with clients to help them define their style and their needs, then gently guides them through choices to end up with a room they love.  Let me tell you, she's a master at this.

Here's the furniture placement plan Darlene created--the very thing that had always eluded me when trying to make this room work for our family.

And here's the design board she created.  Darlene produced this after weeks of working with me regarding every element of the room, always leaving the selection of pieces up to me.

You see those numbers?  Those are linked to a master list of products and sources, most of which Darlene had found online.  Here's what ended up in my room.

Walls: Fieldstone by Benjamin Moore. Bookcase backs: Twilight by Benjamin Moore.  Choosing paint colors was a hoot.  Darlene asked what I was wanting for the room, and I mused aloud to her I was thinking of something lighter than I'd had previously but still dark enough to contrast with the white woodwork, maybe something sort of grey-green-taupe-ish.  Her immediate reply was that she thought I'd like Fieldstone.  One sample pot later and I was hooked.  Then I emailed her and said I'd wondered if we should paint the backs of the bookcases, and she replied that she was just about to contact me to ask if I'd be open to that!  She suggested Twilight for that color, and I love it, even though it took four coats to get full coverage.

Sofas: 96" Kensington by Restoration Hardware.  Having two facing sofas was my dream; Darlene made that a reality.  After Darlene recommended a chesterfield sofa, we looked at a lot of them; these from Restoration Hardware were our choice.  And because Darlene so carefully worked out the details of the floor plan and we were confident in our choice, we were able to get them on an incredible clearance deal (so low that no returns were allowed--we had to be sure!).

Rug: The rug is bigger than most commercially available rugs, so at Darlene's suggestion I found a wool carpet I liked and had a 10' x 13 1/2' piece bound into a rug, which was a great way to get a custom-sized rug.  This pattern is "Bonaire II" in Prairie by Karastan.

Chest:  I've owned this for many years; it was one of the pieces I wanted to keep in the room.

Coffee table:  "Troy" by Williams-Sonoma.  Again, we shopped carefully and got this on sale with free shipping.

Wing back chairs: I already owned the two chairs.  They're Steelcase chairs I purchased back in 1997--very sturdy chairs that I knew were worth re-upholstering.  Darlene described the kind of upholstery she envisioned for the chairs, and I found a fabric I liked at Not Just Linens in Durham, North Carolina for $7.99 per yard!  Having these two chairs reupholstered was so much cheaper than buying two new chairs.

Small brass table:  Addison by Ballard Designs.  I used a great coupon that I found in Southern Living magazine for this purchase.

Ottomans:  Funny story. Darlene sent me the idea for two ottomans along with several suggestions for sources.  I walked into Target one day and found ottomans that seemed to me to be just what she was describing, so I sent her a photo of the Threshold X-Bench Ottoman.  Neither of us liked the brown leather upholstery, but I knew I could easily re-cover the tops.  The fabric now on the ottomans is from Online Fabric Store, which I recommend very highly.

Lamps: Walnut Turned Column Wood Floor Lamp from Lamps Plus.  Another funny story: The lamps on the back wall weren't quite as tall as we'd envisioned that they'd be, but I really liked them.  So I glued round wooden bowls to the bottom of each lamp to make them taller!  You can read more about that little decorating adventure here.

Urns: Aged French Urn by Wisteria.  Darlene suggested these, and I couldn't have been happier with the suggestion.  I used a coupon to purchase these and got great service from the folks at Wisteria.

Mirror: Scallop Edge Mirror by Wisteria.

Painting over fireplace: We've owned this for years. It's an oil painting (artist unknown) in the Flemish floral style.

Fabrics: Premier Prints Towers in Village Blue from Online Fabric Store (a fantastic resource for fabrics with great customer service at very reasonable prices) and Scoma 519 by Kravet from (a good resource for designer fabrics).  Again, Darlene and I collaborated on fabric choices.  She suggested a floral and a geometric and gave me lots of choices without trying to sway me one direction or another.  When I'd made preliminary choices, she urged me to order fabric samples, which was great advice.  I sewed the pillow covers myself using this technique and stuffed them with down inserts I'd collected over the years.  I think the pillows turned out great, and they ended up costing very little except for my time.

Small accessories: Darlene made suggestions and listed potential sources for accessories.  For the most part, I used her suggestions as guidelines and then made my own choices based on what I liked and what I could afford.

Large platters at top of bookcases: Pottery Barn
Laquer tray on chest: Pier One
Turquoise bowl of apples on coffee table: Pottery Barn
Vases on mantle: I spray-painted and glazed two vases I already owned
(I used Krylon Bahama Sea spray paint, Valspar mocha glaze)

One other funny story: Darlene suggested a very large wooden tray for the coffee table, but I couldn't afford the beautiful one she found.  However, I owned a large teak tray table that I used on the porch occasionally--I'd bought it years ago at HomeGoods, but it was beat-up and just sitting in my garage.  I simply stained it a rich mahogany color and finished it with a high-gloss polyurethane.  I'm tickled with the way it turned out!

Whew!  I think that's everything.  Let me know if you have any questions; I'll be glad to answer them if I can.

Note:  I am not affiliated in any way with the companies listed above, except as a satisfied customer, nor did I receive any kind of compensation for mentioning them.  Just wanted to share good sources with you.

Linking to Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now
The Scoop at Stone Gable

Tuesday, November 12

New living room

I'm so excited to share my new living room with you.  Please come in!

I shared a glimpse into the room during my Fall Home Tour.

At that time I didn't have things finished up enough to share the whole room then.  The truth is, it's still not finished, but I've accepted that it's not going to be completely finished for awhile.  And it's finally finished enough to share!

Before going any further, I'll show you the Design Board for this room created by the incredibly talented Darlene Weir of Fieldstone Hill Design:

Starting at the entry, I'll give you some views around the room.  These were taken at various times over several days, so the light varies from photo to photo.  (Lots of pictures here; lots of details and sources listed in this post.)

This room is tricky to work with.  It's a large room, but it has six French doors and windows, three built-in bookcases, three doorways leading into other rooms, and a fireplace.  With all that, there's only one solid wall in the room!

Darlene was able to see past all the challenges and design a floor plan that works with the room's difficult layout.  I'd always loved the idea of having twin sofas facing one another, but I never thought it would work in this room.  Darlene made it work!

Darlene gently probed into our family's desires and tastes, designing a room that's reflective of what we like and how we use this space.  This room is at the center of our house, so we wanted it to be lovely.  But it's our living room, and we use it for everyday living.  In fact, here's how the wing chairs look very often:

The room still isn't completely finished.  The right artwork for the end wall has eluded us so far.  But it's not hurting us to live with some blank space while we wait.

Click here to see all the details and sources!

What do you think?

I'm joining these wonderful parties:

Amaze Me Monday at Dwellings
Inspire Me Tuesday at AStroll Thru Life
One Project at a Time at A Bowl Full of Lemons
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style
Open House at No Minimalist Here

Monday, November 11

Veterans' Day

Today is Veterans' Day.  For you, it may simply be a day when the post office and banks are closed.  For me, it's personal.

This is my Uncle Richard, my hero.  Have you ever wondered where my name, "Richella," comes from?  The answer is that it comes from this man.  My name is a feminine form of Richard, and I couldn't be more proud to carry someone's name than I am to carry his, my mother's younger brother.

I was five and a half years old when my Uncle Richard was shipped out in February 1969.  Less than a month later, he was grievously wounded in combat.  He nearly died.  My childhood memories are seared with images of this brave man as he worked his way back to life.  His journey back wasn't easy (and it still isn't).  He's one of the best and bravest men I've ever known.

How about you?  Do you have a personal hero?  If so, I hope you'll thank him or her today.  And I hope you'll join me in saluting the men and women who have valiantly served in our country's armed forces.

As a step in that direction, I hope you'll take a few minutes to watch this video.  It'll do you good, I promise.

Saturday, November 9

Lighting up Black Friday

Thanksgiving is nearly here!  How I love this holiday devoted to the idea of giving thanks for all our blessings.  And how I need it!

Hard on the heels of Thanksgiving, though, comes a day that almost seems to be devoted to forgetting all our blessings and clamoring for more: Black Friday.

Of course, it's not so simple as that.  Retailers depend on pre-Christmas sales to push them from the red into the black.  Many people who need jobs are able to find employment in stores in anticipation of the rush of sales.  Lots of gift-givers depend on pre-Christmas sales to be able to afford the things they'd like to give away.  Some parents count on Black Friday in particular as the one day they're able to do their Christmas shopping.   So it's not all bad.

But when bargain-seekers trample one another in a race to grab the best deals?  That's bad.
When drivers are reckless in their rush to secure parking spaces?  That's bad.
When shoppers are rude, even abusive, to weary clerks and store managers?  That's bad.

Is the answer to boycott Black Friday?  Is the answer for all of us to stay home and buy nothing? Maybe.  But that approach ignores the good things about Black Friday, doesn't it?

Perhaps a better approach is for us all to consider how we might light up Black Friday.  I wonder how we could do that?

Some of us could stay home, for sure.  But perhaps instead of vilifying retailers and condemning shoppers, we could pray for their well-being.

Some of us will be working on Black Friday.  Instead of feeling resentful toward shoppers, we could be grateful for our jobs and thankful that our businesses can move from the red into the black.

Some of us will be shopping on Black Friday.  Instead of focusing solely on our own shopping agendas, we could look out for one another.  We could stop to help a fellow shopper in need.  We could express thanks to store personnel for their hard work.  We could wait patiently in long lines, smiling at one another rather than rolling our eyes.

Or here's a radical thought.  What if those of us who go out shopping took some treats in our pockets and purses?  What if went out with the intention of blessing those around us as well as finding the items on our lists?

Wouldn't it be cool if some of us, instead of giving a store clerk a grumpy frown, gave him or her a smile and a candy bar?

Wouldn't it be neat if some of us, instead of allowing ourselves to be frustrated by the shopper who is irritating us, gave him or her a smile and a piece of gum?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all tried to share our lights on Black Friday, and we thanked others for sharing theirs?

What do you think?  Could we light up Black Friday?  Do you have any ideas on how we could do it?

Wednesday, November 6

DIY Jewelry Organization

Organization is a struggle for me, but I've just completed a small project that's going to make a big difference.  I organized my jewelry.

Let me be more specific:  I organized my necklaces.  I don't have problems with small things like rings and earrings.  They fit neatly in my jewelry box.  But my necklaces were a mess--they were lying in a drawer, all tangled up with one another, and I'd swear that they were becoming more tangled as they lay there!  Once I finally got them all separated, I vowed to do something to keep them disentangled.

This was a very inexpensive and easy project.  All I bought were two 20" x 30" foam core boards.  Mine are inexpensive boards made by Elmer's; I paid less than $4.00 each for them.  I used two just to make the whole thing a little sturdier.

I found a piece of fabric in my stash large enough to cover the board, and I simply wrapped it like a present, securing it in back with a staple gun.  The staple gun worked like a charm on the foam core board!

I knew that I wanted to hang my board on the wall, so I wanted it to be extra sturdy.  To that end, I cut off six inches of spare wooden yardstick and glued it to the top of the back of the board with E-6000 adhesive.

Then with the same E-6000 adhesive, I glued on pop tops from soda cans onto the yard stick to serve as hangers.  

Then I flipped the board over and added push pins in a neat row across the top.  I just used clear plastic push pins that I already owned.  I figured the jewelry would make the board beautiful, so why bother with buying pretty push pins?

Hanging the board was easy.  I measured the distance between the two hangers, then drove two nails into the wall that distance apart.  I used a yardstick and level to make sure my two nails were lined up correctly.  One nail is attached to a stud.  The other is just attached to the drywall, but it seems quite sturdy.  If I have any trouble, I'll re-do it using a drywall anchor.

My jewelry board is hanging in my long, narrow walk-in closet, which is unfortunately a bad place for taking photos, but you get the idea:

Not a tangle in the bunch!  Bonus: since I can now see my necklaces, I'm wearing them more often.  It's a win-win-win.

Do you have your jewelry organized?  Any tips to share?

I'm joining these wonderful parties:

One Project at a Time at A Bowl Full of Lemons
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style
Tutorials, Tips, and Tidbits at Stone Gable