Happy Halloween!

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Josh and I live in an apartment. In an apartment building. In an apartment complex. Do you know where I’m going with this? We are renters. In a large community of other renters and, as such, cannot plant a garden, or make drastic renovations to our space or put up wacky Halloween decorations inviting trick-or-treaters to our door. (Note: We may not actually even get trick-or-treaters, which is sad, but we bought candy anyway.) What we can do, however, is make our inside space a little spooky - so that is what I did.



And I even added some Fall themed decor with that vase (the one behind the skull) of pine cones and gourds!

To get us even more into the Fall/Halloween spirit, I also finally used the remaining apples from our apple picking to make apple cider! Josh loved the apple cider so much that it was gone in days and he kept asking if it was easy to make. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be making more pretty soon. But that’s okay, because it was super easy! All you need are apples, a food processor (or blender), and some cheesecloth.

First, cut the apples into 4 quarters and then cut out the core.


Then, slice each quarter into 2 or 3 slices (depending on your apple size) and place the slices into the food processor. I found that I could fit about 3 apples into the food processor at a time.


After you have turned the apples into mush using the processor, place the apple mush into the cheesecloth (placed over a bowl) and strain.


And voila! You have apple cider! 1 used about 20-22 apples and got about ¾ of a gallon from them. It tastes like fresh apples and we couldn’t get enough! Josh even thought it was better than the apple cider we bought when we went apple picking.

 


Have any of you made apple cider? Or apple juice? Have you decorated your small (or big) living space for Halloween? Either way, I hope you have wonderfully eerie and spook-filled Halloween!

Tasty Puppy Treats

Hello again everyone! I'm back with a short happy Friday afternoon post for all of you to show you these delicious doggie biscuits I made for Nash! He likes the Milkbones, but doesn't seem to LOVE them, so I'm hoping that these peanut butter treats do the trick.

Sniffing out the new treat...
I found the recipe from Paula Deen and it's called Bodeen's Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits. They look delicious and they've made our entire apartment smell like peanut butter! (Josh says it smells terrible, but I don't mind it, although the peanut butter smell has become a little bit stuffy. Oh well.)

The best part about these? They were super easy to make! First up, the ingredients:


3/4 cup of milk
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 egg
1 cup peanut butter
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour


After the first 2 cups of flour, I took the dough out of the bowl and mixed the remaining bit with my hands. Then I lay it out on the counter, dusted it with more flour, and rolled it out to about a 1/4" thickness. Nash is a small dog, so I just used the top to one of my empty spice containers awaiting a refill to cut a small circle for each one in the dough. About half of one of these will be perfect for Nash, but I didn't have anything smaller to use as a biscuit cutter.



Then, I lay them out on parchment paper and cooked them in the oven at 325 for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, I took them out, turned each biscuit over, and put them back in the oven for 15 more minutes. 




After that, I took them out of the oven, let them cool, and gave one to my official taste tester! And the result? He LOVES them! 


Sleepy treat nibbles


Isn't he just the cutest? He's a little sleepy here - I urged him awake with the peanut butter aroma. These were so easy to make and Paula Deen says they can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months! I plan on making a huge batch of these and storing them for later use. And it feels good to know that I made these and I know only the best ingredients went into making them. But enough about the biscuits, you really just want to see another picture of Nash, right?




Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! See you next week for some new DIY projects, the release of a special November challenge, and the celebration of Josh's birthday! 

New Series: Read This!

For those of you who know me well, you know that I read a lot. For those of you who are just getting to know me, you’ll soon learn that “a lot” is an understatement. A big one. I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my mom would take me to the library often and as a grew older, I quickly amassed a large collection of books. Even today, as my life gets busier by the minute, I always find time to read - whether its on the T, while eating my lunch, or even just waiting in line somewhere - and I am almost always carrying a book with me. So, in an effort to bring my love of reading to this blog, I give to you, my wonderful blog readers, a new monthly series:


Each month I will pick a new book, let you know what it is prior to the start of the month so that you may read along with me if you choose to and then, by the end of the month, I will write a review. In each review, I will include not only mine, but also a few others so that you can get a wider grasp of what the book may be like. Please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments or send me an e-mail - I’d love to hear what you’re reading and I am always on the lookout for new reading material. 

The READ THIS! book for the month of November is:

Image from Entertainment Weekly

From Alice Hoffman, The Dovekeepers is described by Amazon.com as follows: “Yael was born of a dead mother and father who knows how to become invisible. Revka learned silence when her grandsons lost their voices after witnessing their mother’s brutal murder. Aziza became a boy to protect herself, and hates being forced to turn back into a woman. And Shirah will do anything to protect those she loves from the horrors of the world. The power and violence of these women is evident in every word of The Dovekeepers. Hoffman’s prose is vivid and unforgettable, scorching like the desert heat, and will stay with you long after you finish the last page. A story of sacrifice, endurance, and above all, survival, The Dovekeepers is homage to anyone who’s ever held fast to their beliefs in the face of nearly insurmountable adversity.”
I’m looking forward to reading this book and I’d love if you joined me by reading along. I hope you have a wonderful Friday and that you’ll check back later for an afternoon treat-filled post (dog treats, that is)!

Introducing Nashville {Thankful Thursday}

Josh and I have some incredibly exciting news to share with you! We have added a new member to our family! Only with us since last night, we would like to introduce to you our new puppy, Nashville!
Nash, taking his first steps in his new home!
Nashville, Nash for short, is a mini-dachshund puppy from a wonderful breeder, ShirlsWhispering Winds, in Westminster, MA. Josh and I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of our puppy since last Spring! We originally found the breeder and placed our deposit in April, thinking that our puppy would be born at the end of May and we would have him even before we moved into our new apartment. But, we wanted a black and tan, smooth male and none were born in the May litters. So, we waited for the next round of litters and on August 31, 2011, Nash was born!

Why Nash, you ask? Shortly after Josh and I met, we’re talking less than a month, we took a wonderful road trip to Alabama and Mississippi, stopping in Nashville along the way. This trip brought us closer together and, we like to say, is when we fell in love. And so, it was clear to us that there was no better name choice than Nash. (We’re a little sentimental and a lot in love, so we don’t mind that sometimes we get a little cheesy.)

We picked him up last night after I got out of work and brought him to his new home! I took today and tomorrow off from work to spend enjoying his company and helping him get accustomed to his new home! Today, I am thankful that Josh and I have one another and that we are able to welcome this handsome ball of energy into our lives. He is incredibly cute, so much fun and, we can already tell, definitely super smart! Today, enjoy these new pictures while Josh and I enjoy the time we have with our wonderful new puppy!



Sniffing his way around...
Crawling over Josh
The cutest!
Playing in his puppy bed with his new toy!
Nash likes the Kong ball
Tentative steps...
Learning how to pick it up
His toy is as big as he is!
Nibbling on his Kong ball!
Happy Thursday everyone! 

DIY: Leaf Art

While I was at Michael’s this weekend, meaning to only pick up one quick thing I needed, I happened to discover that they were having a HUGE sale. Just a few of the amazing deals included canvasses (Buy 1, get 1 for a penny), Halloween gear (40%-60% off) and Autumn Florals (60% off) - and, although none of these were on my original shopping list, I ended up with a little bit of each. And all of these deals led me to this simple project: 


I bought a vase at IKEA for under $2 a little while ago, knowing that eventually I would like to put something into it. Until now, it has sat in our kitchen, unadorned. But that all changed this weekened when I saw a beautiful purple flower int he Autumn Florals sale section at Michael's. I bought the flower, brought it home, cut it down to size and put it in the vase. And it is perfect. BUT I had these leaves leftover after:
Now, some people might have just thrown these out with the rest of the scraps. But nope, not me! I allowed them to inspire a little bit of art in our home. You see, when I was at Michael’s, I also picked up a display frame, thinking that I might, at some point, be able to find a use for it. I washed the glass, arranged the leaves in the pattern that I wanted, and TA DA! Leaf Art was born!
 


I’m not entirely sure where we’re going to put this little gem yet, it’s currently sitting in this spot with some other art that is currently looking for a place in our home.


I’m absolutely thrilled with it though and it was so easy to make! I think, although I’m not positive, that it may earn a spot in our entryway as soon as we have that all finished. Have you turned any scraps into art lately? Framed anything that wasn’t necessarily meant to be art? I’d love to hear any ideas that you may have! 

(Note: Sorry about some of the spacing weirdness in this morning's post. I'm not on my usual computer and things aren't exactly spacing as planned. I am working on getting these issues fixed.)

Cookie Bake-Off: Heavy v. Light

Last week, when I posted about the apple crumb cake, I mentioned that I had melted the butter (as I always do when I bake). Later, my friend Beth commented that melting the butter would ruin the texture of the cookie. I told her that I was pretty sure it didn’t make a difference and that I had been doing this since I was in high school. Well, Beth insisted, and the idea for a little test came about. In our discussion, I also happened to mention that I usually use light butter, instead of real butter; this too, became a part of our taste test. 

Softened Butter vs. Melted Light Butter: Can you tell the difference?
Here’s what went down:



I used the Nestle chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the semi-sweet morsels bag, halved the recipe, and in one half, used melted light butter, and in the other half, softened real butter. The results may surprise you. (Okay. Or not, but still. It did turn out well.)

I mixed the flour, baking soda and salt in one bowl, and set it aside.


In the larger bowl, I mixed the butter (and light butter), sugars, vanilla, and 1 egg in each.


You can see the difference the melting makes.
Then, I slowly added in the flour mixture, thickening the dough. After this was all mixed well together, I added the chocolate chips.




I then dropped the dough onto the cookie sheets and baked for 11 minutes at 350 degrees. After all the cookies were baked, and cooled, I brought them out to my official testers tasters: Josh, Nick and Greg, who were all over at our apartment for Sunday football.

The softened butter is on the left, the melted light butter on the right...
The Results:

Beth and I were both right! The butter made the cookie a little sweeter (“more buttery,” as one taster commented), but the melting of the butter didn’t change the texture at all. So, for all of you butter softeners out there, you now know that if you forget to soften the butter ahead of time, your texture will remain the same. All tasters said that while the light butter cookie wasn’t as sweet, it was still good and definitely not something they would turn away.


Light Butter


Real Butter
I’m considering experimenting with a little PAM Butter Spray the next time I bake cookies to see if the zero calories spray, which really does taste like butter, would make the light butter cookies equally as sweet. Have any of you ever tried this? Is it wrong of me to even consider making cookies without using real butter? Should I just give up and figure that if I’m eating cookies, I’ve already ventured far enough away from healthy eating that it isn’t even worth it? I’d love to hear from you!

DIY: Zig Zag Tray

Good morning and happy Monday everyone! This weekend in Boston was another perfect Fall weekend. Josh and I took a day trip on Saturday to Plymouth, used a BuyWithMe (link) coupon for a new restaurant called Waterfront Bar & Grill (link) and got some things done around the apartment. I hope your weekend was as wonderful as ours.

A few weeks ago, while wasting spending some time on Pinterest, I came across this Zig Zag Tray that was for sale on Etsy. It had already been sold, so I couldn’t buy it, and I decided to try to make my own instead. I set out to find the perfect tray at a garage sale or a thrift store somewhere, but I didn’t have any luck. Then, I was in Pier One a few weeks ago, and found the perfect tray for only $10! And I had a 20% coupon so I got it on sale! I didn't want anything too expensive just in case my design idea didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. After I brought it home, I set about making my zig zag design with blue painter’s tape:



I roughly eyed a matched design to the one on the Etsy tray, and making sure my corners were all even as I went along.



Then, I took the tray outside (specifically to my parking garage), laid down a large piece of cardboard, and got my Rust-Oleum, Oil Rubbed Bronze (ORB) spray paint ready to go.



Then, I sprayed 2 thin coats, about 3 minutes apart. I hung out for about 20 minutes while it dried to the touch, and then brought it inside to dry the rest of the way. After an hour, I removed the tape, and then let it continue to dry for about 4 more hours. And here, is the final product:


Here's the tray sitting on our hallway table!
(Please ignore the empty picture frames, they're being filled!)
It isn’t exactly like the one on Etsy, definitely not as bright and shiny, but I like it, and it has given me some great inspiration for some further zig zags – maybe on coasters or picture frames… Any of you obsessed with spray paint? Or zig zag patterns? I think I’m obsessed with both.

PS. I linked up with the Twice Owned Tuesday Party over at House of Grace!

HOG

DIY: Easy Stamp Art

Good Morning and Happy Friday! I’m looking forward to some exciting adventures this weekend, as well as some relaxing downtime on Sunday. I also have a couple of movies from Netflix to watch and I’m excited for some home projects that Josh and I will be tackling!

I recently decided to get into stamp art and bought these stamp sets at Michael’s. They were originally $9.99 each, but I used a coupon to get one half off, and then I bought a few ink pads for only a few dollars each.



I also bought a bunch of different cardstock to play around with, but I decided to start easy. There’s a song that, while a little silly, holds special meaning for us and I used our favorite line to create this art. I took a picture frame I picked up for $1 at, you guessed it, the Dollar Tree, and measured the cardstock to fit the inside. Then I took the piece of cardstock, eyed where it would be the most even, and stamped away! When it was done, I framed it and placed it on the dresser in our walk-in closet (yes, you can be jealous) so that Josh would see it when he’s getting ready in the morning.


It was a quick and easy project and one that holds a large amount of sentimental value. I love adding personal touches to our home. I think I may do a few more with some inspirational quotes to put in a few other places in the apartment – I think that they could have an impact.

Am I the only one who is newly addicted to stamps? Any of you bitten by the stamp bug for a lot longer than I have been? I’d love to hear from you about any projects you may have to share!

PS. I linked up to Remodelaholic's Friday Link Party!




Thank You Cards {Thankful Thursday}

When I was younger, and my mother would tell me to write a thank you note after I received a gift from someone, I always dragged my feet. Didn’t the person who gave me the gift already know I was thankful? They gave me something I wanted, I said thank you to them when I received it, for what reason would I possibly have to have to thank them again? But my mother told me to write them, so I wrote the mandatory notes quickly and then moved on. Then, for a brief period of time in college, I stopped writing them altogether. There a came a time, however, where I decided that there was in fact a very good reason to write a thank you note. You can never be too thankful or too gracious and no one ever tires of being thanked for their gift giving. Whether electronically or by hand, sending a thank you note lets the gift giver know that their gift was valued and that it means something to you. I was recently reminded of this as I wrote out thank you notes for gifts that I received for my birthday and as I spoke to my newly married friend Beth about the thank you notes that she’s writing now.

I love being able to put my thanks for something into words to the person who gave it to me. And it felt good to write a letter to my grandmother to put into written words how much her gift, and her presence in my life, mean to me. At some point, most likely when I get married one day, I will invest in personalized notecards. However, now I tend to pick up new cards all of the time so that I have a wide variety to choose from. This time, I chose this card from the Hallmark Stationary series:




I thought the colors and the dragonfly design were beautiful and there was more than enough room on the inside to display my individual messages to my friends and family. And it felt so good to write my words of thanks. I have an incredible family, and they are wonderfully generous, and I am so lucky to have them in my life.

Do you write thank you notes? Or do you find them tedious, just another thing to add to your to-do list? If you do, try not to think of them as a burden, but as a way that you’re able to brighten someone’s day by sending them a sweet note. 
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