Finished Knit–“Starshower”


cowl finished 2.JPGHalloween was a very busy time for us, but now that the carnival has passed, I’m ready to focus on all the fun of holiday planning. That is, when I’m not working my tail off to earn more dinero for the holiday budget. In the meantime, I finished up my Starshower cowl, which I absolutely love. Now, I’m diving into the Christmas gift knitting…in mid-November. Nothing like procrastination to make it exciting. cowl finished

Pattern: “Starshower” (available for purchase through Ravelry)

Yarn: Madelinetosh Merino Light in El Greco colorway.

Needles: Size 6 circulars with 24-inch cable

Notes: Used Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off method. Blocking per instructions left a crease that required additional wetting and shaping to remove. Overall, great easy pattern and resulted in a very wearable accessory.

Holiday Budget Planning–Commonsense Tips to Keep Your Wallet from Hemorrhaging to Death


With Halloween over, retail land has official declared it to be the Christmas season. While I hold fast to the “no decorations until after Thanksgiving,” now really is the time to think ahead in order to keep your holiday budget under control. Unless you are sitting on piles of cash, the expenses will start adding up before you know it.

  1. Spread out your decorations expenses starting this week. Inevitability, I will need to replace several strands of outdoor lights, or invest in a new extension cord. So, rather than face $100 or more in extra expenses right after Thanksgiving, I will be buying a string of lights each week. I’ll also watch the sales and gradually pick up any other decorations supplies that I know I will need. This will also save time and frustration during decorating time, as I won’t have to stop and run to the hardware store.
  2. Ditto on the stocking stuffers. The more you spread these expenses out over the next two months, the less impact it will have on your  budget later.
  3. Start guiding your kid’s expectations. If your child is clamoring for something that is either out of your budget or you won’t let into the house, you can slowly and subtly help reframe their expectations. Additionally, start making lists of things you know they want/need so that you are prepared for when a relative asks. I usually suck at this, and am always like, “Ummm… clue,” so I am starting this today.
  4. Plan now for all of those expenses we often forget about. Wrapping paper, the Christmas tree, holiday meals, teacher gifts, gas for travel, holiday outfits. These are the things that sneak up on you, and when you are head-scratching about where all your money went, these little extras are usually what nickeled and dimed your budget away.
  5. Stock up on non-perishables and frozen food during November. Most major grocery chains have their best mega sales this month on food and pantry staples, and when you take the time to clip a few coupons, you can take the pressure off of December.
  6. Make a list this week of gift ideas for everyone you plan to buy for, as well as a per-person money limit. When you have specific ideas as well as guideline for spending, you can take advantage of a sudden sale, clearance, or other opportunity.
  7. Understand that Black Friday is not the end-all, be-all. I do not shop on Black Friday at all, because no amount of money is worth watching people battle like gladiators over stupid stuff. Not to mention the hours wasted standing in line or sitting in horrific traffic. I think the smarter strategy is to be vigilant throughout these two months and spread expenses out.
  8. Check for deals or coupons before you walk into a store. I do this everywhere. A quick Google search on my smartphone while I am still in the parking lot takes about 20 seconds, and can save big time. Likewise, download the apps for the stores you shop at the most. Target, for example, will have one toy at 50% off every day between now and Christmas and you can find it in the Cartwheel app. Michaels’ app has great, unadvertised coupons, and Walmart’s savings catcher give you the difference if there is a lower, advertised price.

While I’m no fan of the way retailers starting cramming Christmas at us even before Halloween, I also know that most of us probably don’t like financial stress either. Start now, plan ahead, and use an extended time frame to keep your holiday budget under control.

Tasty Tuesday–Pumpkin Bread

bread 2After three months of no rain, magic water fell from the sky this weekend, finally allowing temperatures to drop below 80 degrees. We procured Halloween costumes for the Heathens, put in more work on planning the school Halloween carnival, and celebrated the return of the braised pork and roasted butternut squash pizza from our favorite restaurant. This week is shaping up to be busy beyond belief with carnival preparations, but I decided to hit the pause button yesterday and whip up that pumpkin bread I’ve been longing for. This recipe is super easy, an since it makes two loaves, you can surprise someone special who also needs a little autumn pick-me-up.

Pumpkin Bread


  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two standard size loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

This bread tastes better the next day. Serve warm with a little softened butter and bask in the flavors of fall!


A Collection of Random Events From an Overheated and Sleep-Deprived Loony Tune

Last week was not a good week around here. My little corner of Louisiana broke the record high temperature for October at 97 degrees. You read that right. Ninety-freaking-seven. Fall is still elusive, and rather than boots and scarves, I’m still rocking the cutoffs, tank tops, and sandals. The heat that never ends has made everyone snarly, and it’s definitely worn our it’s welcome. It’s not helping things that my Fitbit confirmed that my sleep habits lately leave a lot to be desired. I need a nap and a major attitude adjustment.

With the school Halloween carnival just around the corner, I’ve been deep in planning and organization mode, while also trying to balance work and the Heathens. While my sewing machine has taken up residence on my dining room table, it’s been cranking out carnival booth backdrops rather than anything fun. However, the boys brightened up this less-than-fun week with perfect report cards, which earned them dinner at their favorite restaurant and this mom a margarita.

After our week of record heat, my husband was out of town over the weekend, so I hosted my sister, her boyfriend, and his kids for a delicious Sunday lunch and fun. In typical sister fashion, she played on all the scooters, the seesaw, the pink powerwheels, but boyfriend and I drew the line on riding the skateboard. She has a tendency to forget that she is no longer 13, and very accident prone. I’m sure my neighbors wonder if she’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket, but’s it is highly entertaining to watch a nearly 40 year old woman ride a go-cart.

Meanwhile, I cast on for the Starshower cowl, but progress is slow with so much to do.

cowlNow, I’m off to buy pumpkins for next week, as I learned my lesson last year. Come Monday, you will be hard pressed to find them as retailers are clearing the way for Christmas inventory. And maybe I’ll make some pumpkin bread. If it doesn’t feel like fall, at least it can taste like it, right?

Adventures in Rethinking Food Waste and Reimaging Leftovers

chicken salad

So, my husband and I have been talking a lot lately about food waste. I’m embarrassed to admit that we waste way more food in my house than is responsible or ethical, and we are trying to make some changes.

Our grocery budget is soaring and I see way too much going to waste. Part of this waste comes from poor menu planning on my part. I need to be more conscientious in planning meals with intersecting ingredients rather than selecting dinners willy-nilly. This will ensure that items get completely used up, rather than seeing those half-wilted bunches of green onions or a stray, sprouted sweet potato go into the trash (before you say it, we can’t have a compost bin in our neighborhood). I think better planning will alleviate a good bit of the issue.

However the other main culprit in our food waste comes from leftovers. Ohhhh…the fights we have about leftovers. My husband fusses at me that I throw out too many extras, and tells me to save everything. But, do you know what happens? It sits in the fridge for a week, and then I throw it out anyway and have more dishes to wash. He has good intentions but if I pack dinner’s leftovers for his lunch, he forgets to take it with him… without fail. If I have a ton of dinner leftover, it means the family probably wasn’t a fan of the meal and they are unlikely to go back willingly for a second round. If they actually loved the dinner, there’s probably not enough left over for round 2, so I’m stuck with how to get rid of it without fighting.

Honestly, however, my kids just aren’t leftover fans anyway. They have the attention spans of goldfish, and they want to come home to something different each night. I swear my pet peeve is that they ask me what’s for dinner the second they hit the car seat, and it annoys me to no end to see those crestfallen, disappointed faces when I announce leftovers. You’d think I kicked a puppy. Spoiled much, Heathens?

I started thinking about Thanksgiving, and how I have a roster of creative leftover recipes, and am always trying to reimagine cool ways to get the most out of that food. After all, after spending so much time and money on one meal, I better get a return on my investment, right? Well, that philosophy needs to bleed over into everyday meal planning if we really want to cut down the waste.

So, here’s the plan. My goal over the next few weeks is to create a weekly meal plan such that at least one meal is comprised of leftovers reinvented. While I had to wing it this week (since I had already bought groceries), we still stretched that fried chicken meal quite a bit. Our favorite re-do was to transform it into chicken salad by de-boning and chopping the chicken yet keeping that tasty/crispy skin. We then combined it with finely chopped celery and some mayo. It didn’t need any additional salt and pepper since the chicken was so well seasoned. Finally, we halved the leftover biscuits, ran them through the toaster, and built the most delicious chicken salad biscuit sandwiches. Cool, huh?

And then I got on the treadmill…but that’s a story for another day.

Finished Knit–Pumpkin Dishcloth

pumpkin dishclothIt’s October…and it’s 90 degrees outside. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Fall is still a long way off for us it seems, so to inject a little spirit back into my week, I knit up a cute pumpkin dishcloth for fun. I don’t usually waste time on dishcloths since I have a long list of other things I want to knit, but a seasonal, instant gratification knit seemed like a good way to get over my heat-induced grumpiness. Overall, I accomplished my goal of knitting something fast and fun, while holding out hope that cooler weather is just around the corner.

Pattern: Pumpking (available free on Ravelry)

Yarn: I Love This Cotton (which I like much better than Sugar & Cream)

Needles: Size 5

Notes: Requires blocking to lay flat, but that’s fine. I also pinned the vine into a spiral to shape it similar to pattern picture, and that worked great. Only downside I see is that the edges are different on each side, which bugs me a little bit.

Tasty Tuesday–Coconut Cream Pie

pieWe had a little family get-together this weekend, which included epic card games, cocktails, and lots of fun. I made a huge meal of fried chicken, rice, gravy, biscuits, and veggies. If that wasn’t enough, I cranked out a couple of pies, one of which was this coconut pie at my husband’s request. (On a side note, my butt will be on the treadmill every day this week after that marathon of indulgence). I officially need a weekend from my weekend, and maybe a salad…or ten.

Anyway, this is Granny’s super-easy recipe, which comes out rich, creamy, and oh, so decadent. Whip one up and I guarantee you will impress somebody…if you don’t hoard it for yourself, that is. I won’t judge.

Granny’s Coconut Cream Pie


  • 1 deep dish frozen pie shell or 1/2 pkg. refrigerated pie crust (or go homemade if you’re ambitious)
  • 2 cups whole milk (Granny insisted that you cannot use reduced fat in this recipe or the custard won’t set right)
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut, plus additional for garnish ( This can be found in the baking aisle, usually by the nuts and chocolate chips)
  • Fresh, sweetened whipped cream


  1. Bake pie crust according to package directions, and set aside to cool.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, butter, flour, sugar, and egg yokes with a whisk. Cook this mixture over medium-high heat, whisking constantly (seriously, dude). Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken, about 7 to 10 minutes give or take. Once the mixture starts to bubble/boil, continue cooking for one more minute.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in coconut extract and flaked coconut, whisking well to combine. Pour mixture into pie crust and refrigerate until cold. Top pie with plenty of fresh, sweetened whipped cream and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Sprinkle with additional coconut to garnish if desired.

pie 2Yummers!

Weekend Mayhem–Finished Knit and Halloween Decorations

decorationsWe spent Sunday dragging out both the interior and exterior Halloween decorations, including a full graveyard with fence and our revamped witch silhouette. We have our outdoor decorations up and perhaps excessively electrified, so much so that we found several neighbors standing and staring in front of our house later that night. The rest of the house is decked out, and just when I was wondering if all these decorations were worth a full day’s effort, the neighborhood kids went absolutely bananas. Nothing like squeals of “How cools is that?!?” to remind us why we are those crazy holiday people. We still have a few finishing touches to accomplish, but I am thrilled that we made my October 1st goal.

Meanwhile, I whipped up a quick gift for G-man that will be tucked into his stocking. It’s a basic ribbed hat with colors inspired by The Legend of Zelda, G-man’s favorite video game. I tend to stick with quick, basic knits for the boys, because as middle schoolers, their tendency to misplace things is legendary. No need to add any more angst to already overly angsty kids. Don’t let the pic fool you, as Bear is the model since this is a gift. He’s much smaller than G-man, which means this hat will fit him like a proper beanie.

zeldaPattern: Hot Head from the Stitch & Bitch book, size medium

Yarn: The green and brown are Bernat Softee Chunky while the yellow is Loops & Threads Charisma

Needles: 10 1/2, both circular and DPN for crown decreases

Notes: Modified pattern to knit in the round instead of flat/seamed. Only used three colors instead of four, so stripe placement was random to my preferences, using the stripe key as a guideline. Only light steam blocking as the pattern’s negative ease doesn’t really require much.

Finished Knit–“Gone Glamping” Hat

hatRight about the time I cleared the last overdue work off my calendar, I declared myself caught up for first time since June. Of course, it only took 5 minutes for my next manuscript to land in my inbox. However, I carved out time over the busy weekend to finish up this hat. It’s more fitted than the pattern depicted, which other knitters noticed as well. Regardless, it’s another cozy knit to add to the cold-weather wardrobe box.

Pattern: Gone Glamping by the Plucky Knitter

Yarn: Berroco Comfort Worsted in 9716 Blue colorway

Needles: 6 for the ribbing and 7 for the remainder of the hat

Notes–I would have added another repeat or two of the cable pattern for the more slouchy look that the hat seemed to have in the pattern pictures.

Tasty Tuesday–Maple-Mustard Grilled Lamb Chops

lambMy sister’s birthday was this weekend, and I cooked a big meal in her honor, complete with some of her favorite foods and a towering chocolate peanut butter cake. Since she loves lamb, I decided to make these little beauties which are always a hit. I love this recipe when entertaining because I can marinate the lamb the night before, and with a fast grill time, I have a stunning yet deceptively easy meal ready in a flash. Lamb, in years past, hasn’t been readily available in my little corner of Louisiana. However, now most grocery stores and Sam’s Clubs carry it. I still miss those big, bone-in legs of lamb we used to get when we lived in California, but at least we are no longer completely denied.

Maple-Mustard Grilled Lamb Chops


  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (the real stuff)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 racks of lamb
  • Kosher salt and black pepper


  1. Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut lamb racks into individual chops. If your butcher will do this for you, go for it. Place lamb chops in a large, resealable zip-top bag.
  2. Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, whisking well. Pour marinade over lamb, shaking bag well to coat. Place bag in a large bowl (just in case it leaks), and refrigerate at least 6 hours. Turn the bag occasionally to ensure even marinating.
  3. Remove lamb from bag, discarding marinade. Salt and pepper both sides of the lamb chops. Grill over medium-high heat until desired doneness, 3-4 minutes per side. You can serve these as an appetizer or an entrée.


The leftovers make great sandwiches. I smeared some of the cheesy, twice-baked potatoes on one of my husband’s toasted homemade onion rolls and topped it with the lamb. I’m obscene like that. Don’t judge, it was dang tasty.

lamb 3


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