An Autumn Trip to the Arboretum

I finally got to the arboretum in Autumn!

The last time I was there in Autumn, I discovered that my camera was broken when I got home, so all of the great pics I thought I had taken were over-exposed from a broken shutter.

Yesterday I only had a chance to literally run through the place because I arrived less than an hour before closing, but hopefully, I’ll get back there for more pics before all the leaves are gone!

Crispy Halloween Sweet Potato Fries

What could be more fun and festive than a Halloween pumpkin patch of your own, right on your dinner plate? These little cuties are made from sweet potatoes, baked to crispy perfection! Fun, delicious, and the perfect comfort food on a chilly Autumn day!

These little cuties are made from sweet potatoes, baked to crispy perfection!

I don’t like to share a recipe that I have not yet tweaked to near perfection, but I’m sharing this one early because it’s a Halloween recipe. At the end of the article, I will talk about how I will be changing and hopefully improving this process for next time.

So here are the basics of how to make them!

Ingredients:

  • Sweet Potatoes, the bigger the better!
  • Cooking oil. Whatever oil you prefer. I used Avocado oil.
  • Seasoning. Whatever combination of seasonings you prefer. I used 2 teaspoons of Old Bay in this recipe, but in the future, I will be using my custom “Gadzooks” seasonings instead. These would probably also be great with pumpkin-pie seasonings as well….and maybe even marshmallows for a sweet treat!
  • Cornstarch: 2 Teaspoons, (though I am not yet convinced this was necessary (more on that below.))

Instructions:

  1. Buy some nice plump sweet potatoes, the bigger the better.

2. Slice the sweet potatoes about a quarter or a third of an inch thick. A mandolin slicer is the safest and quickest way to go.

Soak the slices in water to remove the starch so that they get nice and crispy when baked.

3. Use pumpkin-shaped cookie cutters on each sweet potato slice.

4. Cut faces into the pumpkin cut-outs.

5. Toss the slices in oil, making sure to cover all slices completely. (make sure the slices are nice and dry before adding the oil. This will help them crisp better.)

6. Add Seasoning to the oil-covered slices. I suggest doing this in a plastic bag, shake and bake style.

7. Bake 425 degrees. On parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil. 15 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Don’t overcrowd your baking sheet! They need some space to get properly crispy.

That’s it! Enjoy!

Notes, Fixes, and Updates:

Slicing: This is the first spot where my plan needs some improvement. I used a mandolin slicer to do this which should be quick easy work, but it was not. The sweet potatoes were so firm that it was difficult to slice through them. Maybe pre-cooking them slightly would make this work better.

Soaking: I soaked the slices in water to remove the starch so that they would bake to crispy perfection. After scouring the internet, for tricks and tips to get sweet potatoes crispy, some sources seemed to say that the key to a crispy sweet potato is removing the starch by soaking, while other recipes claimed that the key was in adding corn starch to the seasonings. Why remove the starch and then add it back in again? I am not sure, and need to do more experimenting!

Cookie Cutter: When I used my cookie cutter on each sweet potato slice, again, the slices were so firm that this was quite difficult. I had to use my meat tenderizing rubber mallet to get the cookie cutter to cut through the slices.

Faces: When I cut faces into the pumpkin cut-outs, once again this was difficult because the raw sweet potatoes were so firm.

Oiling and Seasoning: I used Old Bay seasoning, but I am not a big fan of the celery salt in Old Bay seasoning, so I think I would change the seasonings to my custom “Gadzooks” blend of:

  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesean cheese.

Baking: I ran out of parchment paper, so I had to use aluminum foil. I think they would be better on parchment. I pulled mine from the oven 5 minutes early, but I think they would have been better and more crispy if I went the full time. Also maybe a little blast from the air fryer setting would probably help as well.

Easter 2017

We finally got a brand new Dining table. We had the last one for just shy of 30 years, so it was definitely time!

It always drove me crazy because it did not match any of the other wood in the house — not the kitchen cabinets, or any other furniture, which is why almost all my table settings involve table cloths!

We don’t have the chairs yet, but already my decorating style is evolving, because I am not trying to “cover-up” the table!

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Table

Groundhog Day Breakfast: Punxsutawney Pancakes

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It’s Groundhog Day…again.

Sure…it’s groundhog day, and we all know what that means. It’s the one magical day each year that we all collectively lose our minds¬†and look¬†to a fortune telling rodent for answers.

We can chalk this up to the fact that being cooped up indoors may have started to adversely effect our mental capacity, but instead of seeking help for our addiction to psychic rodent prognostication we can just embrace the insanity and celebrate it for all of its goofy silliness!

What better way to start your Groundhog Day with¬†with a nice hearty breakfast in the shape of today’s meteorologist of honor, the groundhog himself.¬†It literally only takes minutes!

Here’s what you’ll need;

  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate Chips
  • A heart shaped cookie cutter
  • Pancake mix or the frozen pre-made pancakes¬†(we used Aldi’s Gluten Free,¬†because we believe that the Glutens should¬†run wild and free, and prance through meadows – and stay the heck away from our intestines)

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Press the¬†cookie cutter into the¬†pancake, and use the spare parts to make little half circle ears, and some paws if you’d like.

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Add the chocolate chips for eyes and cut a marshmallow in the shape of teeth, and you are done!

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A fun and festive breakfast to start your day in groundhog jubilee! For extra fun, pour your syrup off to the side in the shape of a shadow, and/or sprinkle powdered sugar as snow.

Happy Groundhog Day!

P.S.  Punxsutawney Phil and Holsville Hal both predict an early Spring! Yippee!!

However, no prediction has been made by this actress.

Orange is the New Black’s Pennsatucky is not a groundhog and is not in any way related to Punxsutawney Phil. She may or may not be able to predict weather trends better than a groundhog – more research is needed. Always consult an actual groundhog before making any weather related decisions. Thank you.

For more Groundhog Day fun, check out these fun Groundhog Day Treats!

Instagram KrispieGroudhog

 

 

Celebrate

Official Magical Giggles articles packed full inspiration and festive ideas to make the holidays you celebrate extra special — and discover brand new reasons to celebrate every single day!

Don’t forget your ABC’s – Always Be Celebrating!

A Kiss at Midnight:A New Year Tablescape.
Check it out here: A Kiss at Midnight: A New Year Tablescape

 


Winter Wonderland Tablescape 2015
Check it out here: Winter Wonderland Tablescape 2015

Thanksgiving Tablescape: The Splendor of Autumn
Check it out here: Thanksgiving Tablescape: The Splendor of Autumn

Halloween 2015: Halloween Home Tour
Check it out here: Halloween 2015: Halloween Home Tour

Pineapp-O-Lantern: A Tropic’alloween Treat!
Check it out here: Pineapp-O-Lantern: A Tropic’alloween Treat

Star Spangled Seashore Celebration for the 4th of July
Check it out here: Star Spangled Seashore Celebration

Oysters and Pearls – A Seashore Tablescape for Summer

Happy “Bird” Day and Mother’s Day Celebration for Our Evie Bird.
Check it out here: Happy Bird Day and Mother’s Day Celebration

Cinco de Mayo Celebration.
Check it out here: Cinco de Mayo Celebration

Kentucky Derby Soiree
Check it out here:Kentucky Derby Soiree

Kentucky Derby Soiree – Hot Brown Bake

Check it out here: Kentucky Hot Brown Bake Recipe

Kentucky Derby Soiree – Hot Brown Bake

Check it out here: Benedictine Spread Recipe

Kentucky Derby Soiree — Mini Derby Pie
Check it out here: Mini Derby Pie Recipe

Easter Celebration
First Day of Spring Cupcake Party or a St. Patrick’s Day Treat
St. Patrick’s Celebration: Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

St. Patrick’s Celebration: Irish Soda Bread
Check it out here: Happy St.Patrick’s Day!

Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration
Check it out here: St. Patrick’s Celebration – Decorating

Potato Soup for ¬†St. Patrick’s Day!
Chinese New Year Celebration!
Monte Cristo for Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Celebration!
King Cake for Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Celebration!
Mardi Gras Celebration!
Valentine’s Day Celebration!
Groundhog Day Coco Krispy Treats!
Superbowl Party!
Superbowl Party!
New Years Eve…Cheese Ball Drop!
I finally made Pepper Pumpkins and Mashed Boo-tatoes!
I finally made Pepper Pumpkins and Mashed Boo-tatoes!
Our dining room converted into a beach-house theme for the summer.
Our dining room spiced up for a Cinco de Mayo Celebration.
Check it out here: Cinco de Mayo Celebration.
Chinese New Year Celebration.
A trip to China without leaving our home! (Take-out required!)


Easter preparation and celebration!

Easter preparation and celebration!
Easter and Spring table setting.
The back Deck, all decked out for the Fourth of July! I love seeing it through the french doors!
Our dining Room showing it’s patriotic side for Independence day!
Big flouncy bows really transform the chairs!
We had to have a patriotic breakfast in a patriotic dining room like that! Fresh strawberries, blueberries and Greek yogurt..YUM!
I love cupcakes, I love pumpkins, I love Halloween. The contents of this photo could make my head explode. Fun to make, but more fun to EAT!
I love, love, love orange twinkle lights. This ghost helped me hang them from every possible light hanging place in the house!
I’ve never posed a turkey for a photo shoot before, but I am so glad I did it this one time before we gobble gobble gobbled it up!
Christmas morning, chocolate pancakes with whipped cream.
Santa is great, but Peggo gets the credit for these lovelies!
Cocoa Crispy Treats. YUM!
Cream Puffs.
Why?
I don’t know, but here they are.
So, everyone has had a nut party, right?
Nuts, served in coconuts.
Almond Milk and the Blu Ray of The Nut Job. – a Nut party.
Movie night!!
Check it out here: A Nut Party for Autumn!
Our Easter Eggies! 
Egg salad sandwiches for……forever!
Tropical Fruit Salad for a tropical party.
Warm glowy, sparkly and pumpkins.

This is the living room from many years ago, decked out for Halloween.
Paying it forward!!

Thank you for the link party!

No Minimalist Here

A Kiss at Midnight: A New Year Celebration

 
Spending New Years Eve at home¬†doesn’t¬†mean you can’t celebrate and bring in the new year with style!¬†
 
We dressed the table in a lovely “Kiss at Midnight” theme complete with silver and gold accents, a clock plate at every place setting to count down to midnight, confetti streamers and of course, Hershey Kisses so that everyone gets a kiss at midnight!


Sparkling Cider or Champagne makes a great centerpiece. The non-alcoholic grape juice or apple juice versions mean you can bring this celebration into New Years Day for a lovely New Years Day brunch, or let the kids stay up late on New Years Eve and toast the new year with their own kid-friendly glass of bubbly! 

Pssst…Want to hear a secret? These lovely clock plates were made right here at home, and you can make them too. It’s just a clock face printed, cut out and placed under a clear glass plate on top of silver charger plates. If you’d like to make these yourself, you can get the free printable below! Also check out some more great custom table settings you can make with clear plates here! (link coming soon)

Make sure you have some Hershey Kisses saved from the Christmas candy stash for your midnight kiss! I put aside some of the red and green ones as well – to find out why, look here!

 

..and just a few photos with only the warm glow of the Christmas lights.

Free Printable to use at your own New Year’s Eve Party. Happy New Year!

Winter Wonderland Tablescape 2015

Last year we created a cozy warm burgundy Christmas decor to welcome home our Evie who had been in the hospital for 4 months. We wanted it warm and inviting as a big welcome home. This year we went in a completely different direction, creating a winter wonderland look full of frosty snowflakes and sparkling silver.

Both the table and the sideboard are decked out with pine bough garlands, with silver balls and snowflake accents. We spent forever polishing every piece of silver in the house so that everything would sparkle in our frosty wonderland.(Once again, please ignore the empty picture frames – two professional artists in the house and we have empty frames – yep- cuckoo birds!)

The snowflakes have been carefully placed to appear as though they have just randomly fallen from the sky and landed around the house.

 

 

Mr. and Mrs. Clause are a cherished family heirloom that come out every Christmas. This year they have taken center stage as our Christmas table centerpiece.

 

We placed a few Christmas balls in silver candlestick holders. An elf seems to have photo-bombed our decorating photo shoot! So fun! Such an awesome trick for taking ADORABLE pictures of your pets, kids, grand-kids or even some whimsical selfies. 

Check out how it’s done here:¬†

 

These gorgeous silver ornaments are actually salt and pepper shakers. Its quite a rare delight when form and functionality meet like this.

 

 

Here’s the table place settings with baroque silver charger plates and baroque silver candy dishes on top. The candy dishes will be filled with candy for Christmas day.¬†

 

Our sideboard/buffet has got a cascading sheer cover that has an embroidered lace pattern that subtly mimics snowflakes.

 

At night, this look really comes to life with white twinkle lights everywhere!

I’ve just realized there are no pictures that include the tree or any other parts of the house. More pictures to come!

Thanks for stopping by, and have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday and Joyous Season!

Here is a look at¬†last year‘s cozy warm burgundy decor.


Last Christmas! Check out more pictures here:
Christmas 2014

Super Easy Trick: Adorable Christmas Pics

A Super Easy Trick for the Most Adorable Christmas Pictures!
Facebookpreview ChristmasPhotos2 

I was photographing some Christmas decorating ideas when a little elf photobombed my pictures! The results were so adorable that I immediately knew I had to share the idea.

All you need is an adorable baby, an adorable child, adorable pet, or your adorable self and a shiny reflective Christmas ball for the cutest and silliest pictures or video you’ve ever seen.

The giggles will abound and the memories will last a lifetime.

SPECIAL TIPS!¬†If the Christmas ball is on the tree you’ll have a lovely pine background, but you can also place a Christmas ball in a candlestick holder making it easier to take the picture in the best selfie (or elfie) lighting!

If you have some antique heirloom ornaments this would be an even more sentimental picture. Taking these pictures every year as a family tradition would be a great alternative to a more serious family portrait, and they would look great on your own custom Christmas Cards!

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Above: The Christmas ball is hanging on the tree.

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Above: the Christmas ball is placed in a silver candlestick holder making it possible to take the picture in the best selfie (or elfie) lighting!

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You can sneak the camera in over their shoulder and hide behind them for a solo portrait, or you can both squeeze into the shot together for a unique holiday couples portrait.

Have fun with it, and let me know how your pictures turned out in the comments section below!

Thanksgiving Table: The Spendor of Autumn

This Thanksgiving I used all my restraint to resist the urge to let our Christmas decor arrive early. So often I cannot resist that urge and we end up with a Thanksgiving/Christmas fusion. 
 
Everything stayed well within the Autumn color theme this year without even a hint of Christmas!
Burlap has always been an inexpensive fabric mostly used for making things like potato sacks or for wrapping shrubbery for the winter, but somehow it has become very popular in decorating as well.
It does offer a nice warm neutral base and lots of texture so it makes sense that decorators would be bringing this into their designs. 
 
What does NOT make sense is that this traditionally inexpensive fabric is now carrying a designer fabric price tag! I had to shop around a bit but finally found a nice large bolt of burlap at Walmart for a reasonable price.
 
So, on with the show… The table and the buffet are both topped with the above mentioned burlap. Burlap is a fairly open weave, so pairing it with a nice pumpkin colored table cloth really worked well together.


Gold beaded charger plates and white china (retired pattern Alsace by Farberware) with the salad plate swapped out for a lovely leafy pattern plate that harmonizes well with the autumn theme.


I know right now that tree slices as chargers is all the rage in decorating, but for me this is a sentimental accent. These tree slices are from the tree in our yard. 

I grew up with this tree and when a hurricane took it down I was heartbroken and I requested some mementos in the form of tree slices. I had no idea what I would do with them, but all these years later and they have finally found a home on our Thanksgiving table.


I fell in love with these white porcelain pumpkins. I’ll admit I am a bit pumpkin obsessed, but these just sent me over the moon. I want more! Here they are sitting on some silk autumn leaves and my beloved tree slices.


See that silverware? Yes, I do too. I swapped it out for gold flatware, but not until after discovering the error in this photo shoot. Details, details!

 

Halloween 2015

This Halloween we wanted to create a spooky haunted forest but still keep it light and playful enough that it was still warm, inviting and not too gloomy.  

Some dead tree branches from the yard were perfect for making a huge impact – and the best part is that they cost NOTHING!


When you bring lots of natural elements into the decor everything falls into place. Sea shells, leaves, branches, pine cones and any other natural element can cover your decorating schemes for all the seasons and holidays.


“Creepy Cloth” is a very loose weave gauze-like fabric that can be draped from almost any surface to create a delightfully creepy look. Here we have draped it on our picture frames (two professional artists in the house and we have EMPTY picture frames….we’re cuckoo!).


A simple branch in a flower pot with some floral foam and a centerpiece is born!


Birds perched in random places makes it feel as if they have landed there themselves, and that we are being quietly outnumbered by some spooky guests.

 


Orange and black is such a traditionally Halloween color scheme, but it can feel a bit tacky at times. With the right balance and some natural elements some Halloween elegance can be attained.

A bird and some silk leaves on each place setting helps tie the buffet decor to the table. We found our birds at Dollar Tree.

We like to bring out the ornate silver charger plates and accessories for a Halloween look because it feels like they could be right out of an old haunted mansion!


We found some lovely salad plates with a subtle embossed leaf pattern covering the entire surface of the plate. The natural leaf pattern makes them ideal for autumn decor and because they are plain white instead of fall colors they will fit in beautifully with Spring and Easter decor as well.


Here is a look back at last Halloween with our buffet in burgundy and black. 

As always, thanks for stopping by! Likes, shares, pins, follows and comments always greatly appreciated!