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Fall Festival Family Fun

Have I mentioned how much I love our neighborhood? Because I really really do. Last weekend we had our annual neighborhood Fall Festival and it was a blast. The kids look forward to the festival every year and so do I! This year there was a petting zoo, face painting, a rock climbing wall, arts and crafts, and lots of yummy snacks. 








The very first thing the little kids wanted to do was see all the animals. I think we spent most of our time in the petting zoo area. They had a horse, goats, and bunnies. Good news- the kids had so much fun. Bad news- now they want a bunny…and a horse. 

















Once they got the rock climbing wall set up the kids decided to venture out of the petting zoo for awhile to try their luck at climbing to the top of the tower. This is the first year Mase has been big enough to try the climbing wall and he was super stoked! Maia isn’t a huge fan of heights but she gave it a go too this year. 


























It didn’t take long before Ty saw the little kids climbing the wall and wandered over with his friends to give it a try too. He and his friends took turns racing to the top of the tower. 








After cheering on Ty in his races the other kids were ready to head back to the petting zoo area where the horse was ready to give some rides. They had been waiting patiently for their turn on the horse.  This would be about when they started begging Matt to buy them a horse for Christmas. I’m pretty sure he said no. I hope he said no. I don’t think the HOA will let us have a horse in the back yard. At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. 























The horse fell in love with Mase. Everywhere Mase walked the horse followed him. It was so funny. The horse kept sniffing and snorting at Mase’s hair and trying to lick his face. Matt and I couldn’t stop laughing at the expressions on Mase’s face. 








After peeling Mase away from his new best buddy we headed over to let the kids have their faces painted and do some arts and crafts before the festival ended.


























It was a fun family day. The kids saw all their friends from the neighborhood and so did Matt and I. It’s fun seeing the same families year after year and seeing how much their kids grow. I can’t wait for the Christmas party- spiked eggnog….yum!



Planning & Hosting A Large Thanksgiving Feast




Every year I host a large Thanksgiving Feast at our home. It’s a tradition that started almost 7 years ago and it’s still going strong. We have family come in from all over the country to stay with us and help celebrate Thanksgiving. For the past few years we’ve had around 18-20 people at our annual feast but this year I think we’re going to approach the 30 people mark. I love to hostess and entertain but don’t get to do much of it during the year so I go all out on Thanksgiving! It’s a lot of work but over the years I’ve developed a system for making it all run smoothly. 


6 Tips For Hosting a Large Thanksgiving Feast


1. Make a guest list and get a firm headcount. I typically have my final head count by the first week of November and then I add 3 to my final count because we always end up with an extra body or two. Plus, it’s better to have too much food than not enough!


2. Plan your menu. I have a very established menu now but it took me a few years to nail it down. This is the part where you can reach out to other people for assistance if you want to. For example, my mom always brings the ham, the stuffing, and rolls. My sister is in charge of the turkey and the collard greens. That leaves the appetizers, the rest of the sides, and the desserts for me to prepare. I’m sharing my favorite recipes below!


3. Make a checklist. I break my checklist down by the week and I involve my family. Everyone has jobs to do. For example, I assign cleaning jobs to my kids the week of Thanksgiving. Matt is off of work the day before Thanksgiving so he has a job list too. Making a checklist is the only way to make sure you don’t forget to put clean sheets on the guest bed for any overnight guests. I’m a visual person, I need to see the list in order for everything to get done on time. 


4. Go disposable. Seriously, the last thing you want to do after a full day of entertaining is deal with dishes. I always use disposable plates, silverware, napkins, and cups. Now I don’t just grab the ugly generic stuff- I get the pretty ones but the point is I don’t have to wash dishes at the end of the evening. 


5. Start cooking the day before. There are quite a few things on my menu that can be made the day before. I will ** them down below beside the recipe so you know. All the pies are made the day before, the pumpkin crescent rolls, the cranberry sauce, the deviled eggs….it saves so much time on Thanksgiving Day. 


6. Create stations. In order to keep things flowing when the food comes out I create different stations around the kitchen and dining areas. I set up the plates, napkins, and silverware in one station for people to grab on their way to the food.  The food is laid out on the main dining table buffet style for people to serve themselves. Then I have the cups and beverages set up in another station for people to circle around to after getting their dinner. It keeps everyone moving in the same direction- like stations in a Kindergarten classroom. When dealing with a large crowd of hungry people it’s always best to have a system or it’ll become a free for all. 





My Appetizers


Bacon Wrapped Brown Sugar Smokies


1 pkg Hillshire Farms Lit’l Smokies

1 pkg thick cut bacon

1 cup packed brown sugar


Cut each bacon slice into 3-4 pieces. Wrap each sausage with piece of bacon; secure with toothpick. Place in baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until bacon is browned and sugar melts and forms sauce.


Cream Cheese Sausage Balls **


1 lb sausage, uncooked

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 1/4 cups Bisquick

4 oz shredded cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 400. Mix ingredients until well combined. Roll into 1 inch balls. Bake for 20-25 minutes.


Pumpkin Crescent Rolls**


8 oz cream cheese, softened

15oz can pumpkin

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 T flour

2 T cinnamon

1 t pumpkin pie spice

8 pkgs crescent rolls

1/2 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 375. In mixer bowl, blend cream cheese, pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, flour and spices until combined and smooth. Unroll crescent rolls, separate and lay flat. Evenly spread 1 ½ T of pumpkin mix over dough. Roll into crescent shape and sprinkle top with sugar. Bake 11-13 minutes until golden brown.


Triple Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms


48 medium white mushrooms

10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed

4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

2 oz cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese


Using damp paper towel, wipe mushroom caps clean. Remove and discard stems. In colander, squeeze liquid out of spinach until dry. In bowl, mix spinach, feta, cream cheese and 1/4 t salt. Fill each mushroom with heaping t of spinach mix. top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.


Sweet & Spicy Deviled Eggs**


12 large eggs

1/2 cup mayo

3 T apricot preserves

1 t curry powder

1/2 t salt

1/8 t cayenne pepper


Place eggs in large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Peel and cool completely. Cut eggs in half lengthwise and gently squeeze yolks into bowl. With fork, mash yolks with remaining ingredients until smooth. Spoom mix into white halves and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.


Bite Size Crab Quiches


1 tube large refrigerated Buttermilk biscuits

1 can crabmeat, drained

1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1/4 t salt


Separate each biscuit into 5 equal pieces. Press onto the bottom and up sides of 24 ungreased mini muffin cups (discard rest of dough). Fill each cup with 2 t crab and 1 t swiss cheese. In bowl, combine egg, milk and salt. Spoon 1 1/2 t into each cup. Bake at 375 for 15-20 min or until edges are golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes.


My Side Dishes


Corn Pudding Casserole


1 can cream corn

1 can whole kernal corn

2 eggs

8 oz sour cream

1 stick margarine

1 pkg sweet cornbread mix

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese


Melt butter in casserole dish. Add cream style and whole kernal corn. Add cornbread mix and sour cream. Beat 2 eggs with fork in bowl and add to mix. Stir well. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, uncovered.


Cranberry Apricot Sauce**


2 bags fresh cranberries

1 cup orange juice

1 cup apricot jam

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 t ginger

1/4 lb dried apricots, finely diced


Stir all ingredients together in large pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, until berries pop and sauce starts to thicken, about 8 minutes. Cool to room temp. Cover and chill.


Green Bean Casserole


1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup milk

1 t soy sauce

4 cups cooked, cut green beans

dash of pepper

1 1/3 cup French’s Fried Onions


Mix soup, milk, soy sauce, pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Stir. Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes.


Made Ahead Party Potatoes**


7 1/2 cups  water

12 T unsalted butter

2 t garlic salt

2 t onion salt

2 pkgs cream cheese, cubed and softened

1 can evaporated milk

16oz sour cream

1 pkg Hungry Jack instant mashed potatoes

bacon, cooked and crumbled


Heat water, butter, garlic salt and onion salt to boiling. Remove from heat. Add cream cheese, evaporated milk and sour cream, stirring until cream cheese is dissolved. Stir in potato flakes, mixing until all ingredients are well combined. Spread mixture into greased baking dish. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Top with crumbled bacon.


Praline Sweet Potato Casserole


3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes

1/2 cup sugar

1 stick butter + 3 T

1 T vanilla

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 t cinnamon


Melt stick of butter in casserole dish. Mix cooked sweet potatoes, sugar, vanilla, eggs and milk together until well combined. Pour evenly into casserole dish. In small bowl, combine pecans, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add remaining 3T butter and rub in with fingers until mixture is evenly moistened and forms clumps. Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until topping is browned.


Whiskey Glazed Carrots


1 stick butter

2-3 lbs baby carrots

1/2 cup whiskey

1 cup brown sugar

1 t salt

1/4 t pepper


Melt 1 T butter in large skillet over high heat. Add carrots in 2 batches, cooking 60-90 seconds each. Remove from skillet. Pour in whiskey and allow to evaporate for 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining butter. When butter melts, sprinkle brown sugar over top. Stir together then add carrots to skillet. Cover and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking for additonal 5 minutes until sauce thickens. Serve immediately.


My Desserts


Dark Rum Pecan Pie**


1 cup sugar

3 T butter, melted

2 cups pecan halves

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

2 t dark rum

1 frozen pie shell


Mix sugar and butter until well combined. Add pecans, eggs, corn syrup, and rum; stir until combined. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Reduce temp to 350 and bake 35-40 minutes longer or until filling is set around edge but center jiggles slightly. Cool completely.


Pumpkin Streusal Pie**


1 can pumpkin

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 large eggs

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t ginger

1/2 t nutmeg

1/2 t salt

9″ unbaked pie crust

Streusal topping:

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup cold butter (no substitutes)


Heat oven to 425. Whisk pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt in bowl until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350 and bake 30 minutes. Combine 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 1/2 cup flour in bowl. Cut in 1/4 cup cold butter until mix resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over top of pie and bake an additional 10 minutes.


Sweet Potato Pie**


2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup half and half

4 T butter, melted

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 t vanilla

1/2 t cinnamon

9″ unbaked pie crust


In bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat sweet potatoes and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and half and half; beat 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add butter, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon; beat until blended. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until filling is puffed and set around edges but center jiggles slightly.


Turtle Cheesecake **


Apple Crumb Pie**


7-8 medium apples, peeled & sliced

1/3 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

pinch salt

dash of lemon juice

1 t cinnamon

9″ unbaked refrigerated pie crust

crumb topping:

1 stick butter, cold

1/2 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup flour

1 t cinnamon


Combine apples with flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice in medium bowl. Gently stir until apples are well coated. Pour into pie crust. Combine topping ingredients and mix until resembles coarse sand. Spread over top of pie. Bake at 325 for 1 hour 20 minutes.


 Of course, these are just the recipes for the dishes I prepare each year. For beverages we try to keep it simple- sweet tea, apple cider, red and white wines, and a few varieties of soda. I really do enjoy hosting our large gathering every year. It’s a lot of work but it’s also so much fun. It’s the one time of the year when both sides of our families come together in one place to celebrate. 

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A Fun Family Halloween Night

We had a great Halloween last night! My sister came with her fiance and little boy and we noshed on pizza and beer before heading out to trick or treat in our neighborhood. The kids were so excited- it’s so much fun watching them be so into Halloween because I know it’s not going to last forever. Ty even decided to come with us and I’m pretty sure this will be the last year he goes trick or treating with the family. It sad to think about one more tradition ending but I guess it’s all part of them growing up. 










This year we had a pirate princess, a dinosaur, a kitty cat, and a disgruntled businessman. The disgruntled businessman started out as an undead zombie businessman but he didn’t like the make up so he washed it off. Ty’s wearing one of Matt’s old work suits and the fact that it fits him pretty well makes me sniffle.  I took a ton of pictures, some with the good camera and some with my iPhone so prepare yourself for photo overload. 











I must say, it’s getting much easier to take pictures of all of them together now. They’re old enough to stand still and actually look at the camera! Matt and I watched my sister wrestle with their little guy, who will be 2 in December, all night and high-fived each other repeatedly that we are done with that stage! Ha!














We made the same loop around our neighborhood that we’ve made for the last 8 years and most of the homeowners are the same so it’s fun to see them each year. They’ve watched our kids grow up in the neighborhood and it just feels so familiar and homey to us. 
















 And I have to say, it’s so nice going trick or treating with older kids. All 4 of mine were able to walk, follow directions, go up to the houses on their own, carry their own candy buckets…I like this stage. Matt and I watched my sister chase my nephew all night long and exchanged more high-fives along the way. Ha!














It was a long night and we saw a bunch of friends from the neighborhood as we walked through the streets. It’s so fun to see the same families and kids every year and watch them grow up. 













The kids had fun, we had fun, and they got a whole lot of candy! But you can tell it’s time to head for home when one loses his head and the other has a perma-scowl on her face. 








The kids were exhausted and after consuming about 5 pounds of candy, they passed out in sugar comas for the night. Matt and I rounded off the evening with a bottle of wine and Paranormal Activity 4 on Netflix. It was a great Halloween! 



Ghost Bowling Halloween Party Game

 This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Cottonelle, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #CottonelleTarget http://cmp.ly/3/8vNxcO


I am in charge of planning a game station this year for Mase’s Kindergarten class Halloween festival. Finding a game that will appeal to a bunch of 5 year old’s while also taking into account their limited attention span is always a bit of a challenge. The teacher requested that the game not involve candy and would allow for some physical activity. Clearly she is a very smart lady. 


After discarding all the games from previous year such as Halloween Bingo and Pin the broom on the witch, I nailed down a fun idea that fit the teacher’s criteria. I tested it out on my kids and their friends at our annual neighborhood Fall Festival this weekend. We love our neighborhood Fall Festival, it’s something we look forward to every year and I was excited to be able to contribute this year. Knowing how many kids I would have to entertain I chose a game that was easy enough to be fun for the little kids and inexpensive enough to not bust my limited budget. 






Ghost bowling could not be any easier to set up and the kids had so much fun. All you need to do is grab a 12 or 20-roll pack of Cottonelle Triple Roll toilet paper while shopping at Target. There is even a great coupon you can print out to use at a Target near you for a free box of Kleenex tissues with the purchase of a 12 roll or larger Triple Roll pack of Cottonelle while supplies last. 






I used a black sharpie to draw the ghost faces on 10 of the rolls of toilet paper, stacked them up in a pyramid, and let the kids roll a small sized pumpkin as a bowling ball. You might need to cut the stem off of your pumpkin in order for it to roll in a straight line.  The kids were excited to help me set up the game. A cheap black vinyl tablecloth for the back drop helped contain the game so when the pumpkin crashed through the toilet paper ghost pins I didn’t have to chase any of it down the yard.






Watching the little kids giggle and shriek as they tried their hardest to knock down all of the toilet paper ghosts was hysterical. Zoey went first and I soon discovered the key to keeping everyone engaged and happy was to have the smaller kids line up closer to the pins while the older kids moved further back to roll the pumpkin. 

















The game is so easy to set up that I was able to put the kids in charge of re-stacking the pins after every person took their turn. They took this job very seriously and carefully stacked the toilet paper ghost pins in a perfect pyramid formation. They were having so much fun that they even took turns willingly without being asked. 















Soon even the big kids wanted to get involved.  You know a game must be fun when the 8 and 13 year old are begging for a turn with all their friends!  The 13 year old refused all attempts to be photographed enjoying himself but I managed to catch the 8 year old having fun. Oh and when I say big kids I am totally including the husband in that. He took a few turns and had a great time….even if the 5 year old threw more strikes than he did. Ha!









I can’t wait to see Mase’s little Kindergarten friends playing Ghost Bowling this week! Can you imagine all the cuteness? If you’re having a Halloween party or throwing a fall carnival and need a last minute game to entertain the kids, you should try Ghost Bowling! Cheap to put together, easy to set up, and tons of giggles for everyone. 



5 Habits Of Highly Organized Families




In my quest to become one of these highly organized families I spent the last few months studying families we know who are super organized and always seem to have it together. These families astound me- many kids, homeschooling, active in the community…I want to be one of those families. So I started asking questions and working towards making changes in my own family. I’m sure some of those moms I pestered with questions thought I was off my rocker but they were very gracious and gave me some tips. I’ve already implemented some of them and I’m still working on others.





1. The Family Command Center & Master Calendar. This was the number one thing mentioned by every single mom I talked to. They all have master calendars large enough to keep track of every family member’s activities. Some even color code each person’s activities with colorful sharpie markers- I really should start doing that too. One mom told me “If it’s not on the calendar it does not exist”. They also have family command centers to keep everything organized and easy to find. 


 2. The One-Touch Rule. I’ve heard of this before and always thought it was a good idea but never made a conscious effort to follow it. The One-Touch rule means you only touch an item one time. For example- you see your kid’s jacket lying on the floor. Instead of picking it up and moving it to the couch you take the extra minute to walk it to the front closet to hang it up. Or you see your daughter’s doll on the table. Instead of putting it on the stairs to take up to her room later you walk it up and put it away right then. I always thought it seemed counterproductive and quite frankly, like a lot of work. Since implementing this rule in our house I’ve been amazed at the difference in how picked up and clean the house has remained. 


3. Utilizing a Cleaning Schedule & Kid’s Chore Routine. This was huge for me. By creating a daily cleaning routine the housework never piles up and becomes this albatross around my neck. It makes it easy for me to whip through a room every morning and get the work done quickly. Giving the kids chores not only teaches them responsibility, it also shows them how to work together and function as part of a family unit. Plus, the kids doing the smaller chores frees up mom to take on the bigger projects. 


4. Limit Your Commitments. As one mom told me “there’s a fine line between being involved and being over-involved.” She was right. Lately I’ve found myself tired and stressed out with projects and time constraints pushing on me from all sides. I had to let go of a few projects and committees so I could focus on the ones that really matter to me and focus on my family. Being able to take a walk to the neighborhood playground for half an hour after dinner instead of rushing off to a meeting makes for a happier family and a more connected mom.


5. Break Large Jobs into Small Increments. Putting off bigger jobs because they are time intensive is something I do often but then they never get done. Breaking up the job by setting a timer for 10-15 minutes and doing as much as you can until the timer goes off is a great way to tackle big jobs. I did this with my Magazine Reference Binder– well, I’m still doing this with my magazine binder project. It’s nice to see some progress and I know the job is getting done even if it’s getting done slower than I would like. 


You can see all the posts in my 31 Day Series HERE. New posts are added daily.

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