Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! We had a great fall day. It is back in the 60's and much of the snow has already melted! We carved our pumpkin this afternoon and dressed like burritos to get free burritos at Chipotle for dinner. Some friends came over to play games and enjoy homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream while we passed out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Until we have little ones of our own to dress in fun costumes, a highlight of Halloween for us is seeing all the cute kids that come to our door. We had a TON of trick-or-treaters and went through 5 bags of candy in less than an hour and a half! I had to turn off our light because we ran out of candy. So sad! I had no idea our neighborhood was such a Halloween hot spot since this is our first year in the house. Now I know and will make sure we are fully stocked next year!

Touches of fall have found their way into our home these last few weeks. With autumn being one of my most favorite times of year, I love to tuck little bits of fall around our house. I am not big on decorating for Halloween, because I prefer fall decor that can stay out until Thanksgiving (when it gets packed away and the Christmas decorations come out!)

There is something about the rich colors of autumn pumpkins and fall leaves that add such a coziness both inside and out. We are enjoying every last day of fall before the cold days of winter arrive!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Snowy Fall Day

I was planning to share some photos of my fall decor this week, but my plan changed when we woke up to this:

We are having an early winter storm, and the snow is piling up outside. I've been sitting on the couch all day watching the flurry of flakes fall. We had a staff meeting with our ministry team at our house this morning, and we watched inches and inches accumulate while we worked. We had a staff member from India visiting, who joined us at our meeting, and this was the first time he'd ever seen snow!

The first significant snowfall of the season is always exciting in a childlike way. Last night when the snow started falling, I turned on our back porch light and peaked out the window each time I walked by, checking to see how much snow had fallen.

We have about 14 inches right now, with 2 foot tall drifts in our backyard, and the snow is still falling. They are forecasting snow for the next 25 hours, with several inches overnight and several more inches tomorrow. I think it might be time for us to buy a shovel!

I love the natural slowness that comes with a winter storm. Curling up with a blanket and a warm drink on the couch, watching the snow fall, with no place to be because everyone else is also at home, escaping the snowy weather. After the busy seasons of spring and summer, winter is like a natural, built-in season of rest....staying home more, movies and reading, having friends over for dinner and game nights, and weekend trips to the mountains. We still have several weeks of fall to come, and more gorgeous sunny fall days ahead before winter comes to stay, but I'm enjoying this little snow storm, and a return to the little joys of seasons. I'm also enjoying my hubby's face and amazement as he learns about life in a state with true winters.

Don't worry, it is supposed to be back in the 50's this weekend, which hopefully means melted snow and a warmer evening on Halloween for little trick-or-treaters decked out in the costumes they've been begging to wear for weeks! Maybe I'll post my fall photos on Saturday.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Food For Friday: Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

I tried a new pot roast recipe tonight. I wasn't intending for it to be my Food for Friday recipe, but it was so delicious that half way through our meal I decided to share it with you. As you can see, my hubby really enjoyed it. I barely snagged a photo before he cleaned his plate.

This was such an easy meal and the meat was flavorful and fall apart tender! It took me 10 minutes of prep this morning before we headed to campus, and a delicious aroma greeted us when we came in the door this afternoon. Truman was hungry all afternoon smelling the pot roast simmering from his office.

This recipe makes a richly flavored gravy with the roast that can be spooned over the meat and mashed potatoes. (Adapted from a pot roast recipe by Paula Dean)

1 (3-4 lb.) boneless chuck roast (I just used a 2 lb. roast for the 2 of us)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion sliced into pieces
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 can cream of onion soup (I am not a fan of mushrooms, so I substituted cream of onion soup, but you can also use cream of mushroom soup.)
1/4 cup red wine (I recommend using a wine that you would enjoy having a glass of with dinner since you only need a small amount for the recipe!)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 beef bouillon cube
3/4 cup water

Preheat a skillet to medium/medium high heat.

Season both sides of the chuck roast with freshly ground pepper, kosher or sea salt and garlic powder.

Heat the oil in the skillet, then brown the roast, searing it on both sides. Place the roast into the slow cooker. Add the onions and garlic to the skillet and sautee for a few minutes to absorb any leftover roast juice. Place into the slow cooker with the meat and 2 bay leaves.

Combine the can of soup and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl and pour over the roast. Dissolve 1 beef bouillon cube into 3/4 cup warm water. (If it doesn't dissolve completely, it's ok.) Pour the water over the roast and add the red wine to the slow cooker. Mix the liquids together in the slow cooker.

Cover with the slow cooker lid and simmer on low for 5-6 hours until meat is falling apart tender. If there is visible fat on the top of the gravy, skim it off. Stir the gravy. Remove and discard the bay leaves.

*If the gravy is not thick enough, remove the meat from the pan and pour the gravy into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and thicken it by adding 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup cold water, stirring constantly.

Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

4 Russet potatoes (I use organic because potatoes are one of the Dirty Dozen)
3 cloves of garlic
Land O Lakes Fat Free Half & Half
2 tablespoons butter
fresh ground pepper
sea salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese

Boil a pot of water.
Wash the potatoes and dice into large cubes (approx 1 1/2 inch cubes) with the skin on. Remove the skin from 3 garlic cloves. Add both the potatoes and the garlic cloves to the pot and boil for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain.
Put the potatoes and garlic into a large mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of salted sweet cream butter and allow to sit for just a minute to soften. Add half & half to desired consistency. (I used approximately 1/2 cup.) Using a hand mixer, mix until creamy, but still chunky. Add a few shakes of fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Sprinkle in 1/2 to 3/4 cup of freshly shredded parmesan cheese to taste and give the potatoes another mix to blend.

This is a perfect meal for a chilly fall or winter evening. I know it will be on our weekly menu again soon!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Food For Friday: Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice Copycat & Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

With fall in full swing, we have been enjoying some fall treats at home. This time of year always makes me crave Starbuck's Caramel Apple Spice drink. One day I wondered if I could find a recipe to make them at home. I did! I also love the cinnamon sugar roasted almonds at our local natural food market, but I don't love the price. I searched for a recipe to make them at home and found a perfect match. These are two of my favorite treats this autumn!

I found an ingredient list online for Starbuck's Caramel Apple Spice drink. One key ingredient is their Cinnamon Dolce syrup. I discovered that they will sell you a bottle (as long as you catch them on a day where they have plenty of bottles in stock) and I was shocked at how affordable the price was. Only $6.00 and some change for this huge bottle of Cinnamon Dolce syrup!

100% Apple Juice (they use Tree Top)
Caramel Ice Cream Topping (I love this no mess squeeze bottle of Smuckers because it's easy to use straight from the fridge and doesn't require a spoon)
Whipped cream
Starbuck's Cinnamon Dolce syrup

Simply heat up a mug of apple juice in the microwave. Add 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of Cinnamon Dolce syrup (depending on how strong you like the cinnamon flavor) and a squeeze of caramel topping and stir. Top with whipped cream and caramel.

It's that easy and tastes exactly like the Carmel Apple Spice drink I love at Starbucks! And I can enjoy it for a fraction of the cost without leaving home.

These Cinnamon Roasted Almonds are delicious and easy and I absolutely love the cinnamon scent that fills our home while they are baking!


1 egg white
1 teaspoon cold water
4 cups whole almonds
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Lightly grease a 10x15 inch rimmed baking sheet.

Lightly beat the egg white; add water, and beat until frothy but not stiff. Add the nuts, and stir until well coated. Mix the sugar, salt, and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the nuts. Toss to coat, and spread evenly on the prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until golden. Allow to cool, then store nuts in airtight containers.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wicked turned wicked evening

While living in Austin, Tru and I had season tickets to the Broadway series. The show that we were most excited about for the season was Wicked. We had both heard so many rave reviews that we couldn't wait to see it. Except we moved to Denver 2 months before the show, so we missed seeing it!

We were excited to find that it was running in Denver this fall. Last night, for our date night, we headed down to the Performing Arts Center to try and score lottery tickets for last night's show. We didn't win the lottery seats, but they offered everyone who showed up for the lottery 60% off orchestra seats for the show, so we jumped on the chance to see it!

We headed to get dinner before the show at a Mexican restaurant in Larimer Square, anticipating finally seeing Wicked! By 1/3 into Wicked, I had severe burning and pain in my stomach. At first I thought it was just indigestion, but it continued to get worse. By the time the show ended, we were rushing home because I was so ill. Our fabulous evening out for Wicked quickly turned into a wicked evening. After 6 hours of vomiting, our family doctor advised me to go to the ER for IV treatment for dehydration. 3.5 hours in the ER later, we were heading home at 8:00 am with a very different ending to our fun date night than we had expected! The ER doctor believes I had food poisoning from our dinner out.

I'm still quite sick, but the IV treatment did stop the vomiting for which I am incredibly thankful. I am on a liquid diet for at least 24 hours and extremely weak, so I'm just trying to get a lot of rest and hope to be back to normal by the end of the weekend!

But, if you haven't seen Wicked, you must! It is such a fabulous show! In fact, it was so enjoyable that I was engaged and loved it even with severe stomach pain. I told Truman last night that I was so thankful I didn't get sick before the show ended because I would have been so sad if we had to leave early! The music was memorable and fun, the costumes and sets were excellent, and the storyline and all the little details they tied into the Wizard of Oz were remarkable. We definitely give it two thumbs up! We had high expectations and it did not disappoint.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Embellished Wood Clip Frame

Now that we are pretty much settled in our home, I've been finding some time to craft and create. Some sweet friends of ours went above and beyond in the ways they served us during our move. I wanted to make a thank you gift for them to let them know just how much we appreciated and were blessed by all their help!

I made them an embellished wood clip frame in colors that they have in their home. One thing that is fun about clip frames is that it is easy to switch out the photograph, so you can rotate new pictures.

I started with a wood plaque from Michaels and painted it with two coats of acrylic paint. I cut a piece of scrapbook paper to fit onto the front and used a rub-on to add words to the bottom. When the paint was dry, I applied a thin layer of mod podge to the front of the plaque with a foam brush, and then smoothed the scrapbook paper on, being sure to get any bubbles out from under the paper. Using a sponge and a chocolate brown ink pad, I applied ink to age the edges of the paper and the frame. I tied pieces of several kinds of ribbon, eyelash fur, chenille yarn and textured yarn onto a piece of yarn the width of the plaque, until it was nice and full. I used a bead of craft glue about 1 inch down from the top of the plaque to attach it. I hammered a small nail just underneath the ribbon embellishment (hidden) for the clip to hang on, making it easy to switch out the photo.

I love creating gifts and had a lot of fun making this frame. I am working on another gift that I'll be sending out soon...I'll post pictures after it is delivered! I have been enjoying time in my craft room lately and am excited to start some other projects I have planned.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Food For Friday: White Chicken Chili

We are still in the mood for soup here at the Lo's, so I wanted to share one of our newest favorites! I got this White Chicken Chili recipe from my friend & teammate, Emily. She entered it into our Cru Chili Cook-Off a few weeks ago and it was so delicious I just knew I had to have the recipe! It's easy and full of flavor, with a little kick. We made it for friends tonight and they loved it to. I'm telling you, it's a winner!


5 chicken breasts, cooked & cubed
2 medium yellow onions
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil)
1 can drained white beans (I used Northern White beans)
1 can drained white hominy
4 cans low sodium chicken broth
2 small cans chopped green chilies (not drained)
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups sour cream
1 cup half & half (I use Land O Lakes fat free)

cilantro, chopped
limes, cut into quarters
shredded Monterrey jack cheese
(optional: Fritos)

Grill the chicken (in a pan is fine) and cube.

Mince the onions. Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large soup pot over medium heat, then add the onions and garlic, sautee until the onions are almost translucent.

Pour in the chicken broth and let simmer on low for about ten min.

Add the beans, chilies and hominy.

Add the chicken.

Add the spices and salt & pepper to taste.

Let simmer for at least 3o min.

Right before you serve it, stir in the half & half and sour cream, and heat through.

Serve with bowls of the garnish so each person can garnish their bowl of soup. Top with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, fresh chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. You can also toss some Fritos on top.

I like to serve it with warm cornbread. I'll share my mom's secret for fantastic, moist cornbread...add a box of Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding! Use one box of Jiffy Cornbread Mix, and prepare as directed on the box. Add in one small box of Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding and additional milk to bring it to the right batter consistency, (approximately double the amount of milk the cornbread box calls for) and beat well. Bake in an 8x8 or 9x9 glass casserole dish for 20-25 minutes. Everyone always loves our cornbread!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

An Inspired Hutch Vignette

If you are visiting from Show and Tell Friday, welcome!

In our last house, this hutch sat on the wall in between our kitchen/dining area and our living room. I had plates displayed on it. But in our new house, it is in our living room on the entry wall by our front door. The plates felt out of place in the new spot, so I set out to fill the shelves with other accessories instead.

I went "shopping" in our house, hoping to use all items that we already had. I am really happy with how the first shelf came together.

We received this beautiful Chinese tea set as a wedding gift from dear friends of my husband's parents. I love it and have been wanting to display it, but had a hard time finding the right place for it in our Austin home. I started with the tea set as the inspiration for this shelf, adding a few books under it for height. We received the wooden carved Asian fan as a favor at a friend's wedding and I liked the texture and contrast it added propped up behind the tea set.

This print was painted by Truman's grandfather, who was an artist and art teacher in Hong Kong. I love being able to decorate with items that hold memories or significance. It's a great way to personalize your home and to enjoy keepsakes.

I remembered seeing this idea on the Shabby Nest, using an old paperback book. It is an easy project that adds a lot of texture and character. You simply fold each page in half, tucking the end into the center of the book. As you fold, it fills out, creating a cylinder. I thought the colors and feel fit in well to finish off the shelf.

I am still working on the second shelf. I find I have to live with it for a few days, arranging and re-arranging, until I find a look I am happy with. What are your hints for creating displays on a shelf or table?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Food For Friday: Tuscan Soup

I first had this delicious soup at my friend Jami's. My husband loved it, as he does anything with sausage or bacon as an ingredient, and it has become one of his most requested soups! In honor of the crisp fall weather we've been having here in Colorado, I wanted to share this recipe. In my opinion, chilly days are the perfect time for warm soup! We enjoyed Tuscan soup with some crusty multigrain bread on one of our first chilly days last week. This is a quick soup and doesn't need to simmer for an extended time for good flavor.


6 cups chicken broth
1 onion, finely chopped
3.5 oz (approx. 3 links) spicy Italian sausage
3 large potatoes, washed
1 bunch fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 cup evaporated milk
freshly ground pepper
fresh grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Remove casing from sausage by cutting a slit up the sausage link and turning the meat into a skillet. Crumble and brown sausage over medium heat. Add chopped onion & cook over medium heat until onion is soft and meat is no longer pink.

While meat is cooking, cube the potatoes into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. Wash and chop the spinach.

Place meat in a large pot, add stock and potatoes. Boil until potatoes are cooked through and fork tender. Add spinach, and continue boiling until spinach is wilty and slighty cooked.

Remove from heat, stir in the evaporated milk and season with freshly ground pepper to taste.

We like to serve it with freshly grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top!