Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My favorite things ~ September 21-27

No two weeks are the same around here. Each one presents new opportunities, new experiences, and new things to try, to learn, and to enjoy. Here are a few highlights of a really good week, and a few of my favorite things that I tried and enjoyed this week.
1. Girls Night and Cameron Hughes Napa Valley Triage Red Blend. I loved hanging out with the girls Saturday night. Thanks to Beth for hosting, and thanks to Beth and Senecca for filling me in on this little secret: Cameron Hughes negotiates with wineries to bring what would be an expensive bottle of wine to us for $10 to $15 or so per bottle.This was my first time trying this wine, but definitely not the last. I have ordered and am awaiting a case now.  I was reading reviews, and evidently you can't even buy this in the stores form less than $25 per bottle in NC, so I went ahead and ordered from the website. You know what that means? Next Girls Night is on me.
2. Campanelle at Molasses Grill, a flavorful combination of campanelle pasta with chevre, balsamic, and greens. I looked the Molasses Grill menu up on the web so that I could write the exact name of what I ate, along with the ingredients, but it is not listed, so it must be a seasonal item on the menu. I ordered it with chicken. It was divine. Truly. One of the highlights of my week.
3. Silly String Tag. Never heard of it? That's because I made it up. I bought Miss Courtie and her friends each two cans of silly string from the Dollar Tree, and I didn't want them to go straight through the cans in thirty seconds, so I made up a game of tag. You don't need directions. Just wing it. You can figure it out. This is good stuff right here.
4. Brunswick Stew Day. Need I say more?
 5. Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting. Mix 1 box spice cake mix with one 15 oz. can of 100% pure pumpkin, and nothing else.  Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes, give or take. They are honestly the ugliest muffins ever.  Add cream cheese frosting for a more aesthetic muffin and for added scrumptiousness. There are lots of boxed muffin mixes you can buy. These are the best of both worlds, though, because you have the ease and convenience of a box mix, but the full flavor and moist texture that only pure pumpkin provides. I took two dozen of these to Brunswick Stew Day (see #4), and none of them came back home with me, which is a first. I guess word got around that they were that good.
Try these. You'll thank me later.
Four out of five of my favorite things this week involved edibles. Blogging may be like going to the grocery store: Never do it on an empty stomach. I promise I did more than just eat and play silly string tag this week. I decorated a cool bench here, scoped out Disney's Frozen Halloween costumes here, and sent the summer off in style here. Carrington and his friend Alexander played outside finding sticks which they were convinced held hidden messages from the Civil War (they asked me to document such with the following photos.) 
I watched Mark coach Carrington in a game of baseball at a church picnic, and thanked God for giving me a husband who wants to spend quality time with my son, and for giving my son such an involved father. I never take either of those blessings for granted. 
This week is already shaping up to be good, fun filled, and interesting one. I met with a film crew this morning, have had play rehearsals, attended a meeting where I got lots of ideas that are already making my head spin, and the week is just beginning. Don't forget the Halifax County Fair is this week, starting tonight at the Halifax County Fairgrounds. Have you seen the itinerary? Anything or anybody you are looking forward to? I have one music act I am dying to see, but don't want to jinx myself. Let me get my hands on tickets first...
Until then, enjoy your week.  Set your mind to appreciation the simple things and seek the extraordinary in the everyday, mundane, ordinary tasks of life. It's more fun that way.
xoxo, Erin

Friday, September 26, 2014

Oh, for the love of stew!

If you ask my children, they will tell you that they look forward to stew day about as much as they look forward to a field trip!  Brunswick stew is so good, right? It is also so much work! These folks at Centerville Baptist Church in South Boston, Virginia, started working on their Brunswick stew at about 4:45 am this morning. Centerville Christian School, where my children are 2nd and 5th graders, use this as a fundraiser to help keep school costs down. Without these generous volunteers there would be no stew, and there would certainly be no stew day at CCS.  
So thanks a mint to all those volunteers who get up before dawn to peel potatoes, heat the huge stew pot, and take turns stirring the stew. Thanks to those who market the stew, who package it, and who serve it and get it ready for takeout customers. Thanks to those who prepare the veggies, who donate the meat, and for those who organize it. 
Thanks to all of those who order the stew, and thanks to all who help support this school that we love! Thanks to the parents who bake and buy desserts, to those who roll the napkins and spoons, and for those who make and those who pour the iced tea. It is such a group effort! 
Carrington says, "This is the best stew ever!"
Courtland made her teacher, Mrs. Marion Ridgeway, bunny ears out of a balloon, which she learned how to do from Marlo the Magician. Mrs. Ridgeway is such a good sport. My Courtie loves her so much!
Mrs. Ridgeway and a bunch of happy children in her class, thanks to the volunteers and hard workers that make stew day possible!   With much gratitude for all you do, Erin

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Autumn Bench Makeover

When I saw this bench for sale on Facebook a few weeks ago, you would have thought I had won the lottery. I had been looking for a bench just like this one to go alongside an exterior wall brick wall of our house.  I had looked at three local stores, but had not found exactly what I wanted. I love the wooden bench on my mother-in-law's front porch, and this one was just like it. Thank you so much, Bunny Propst for letting me know about this bench. I owe you one! 
I picked the bench up from its home at Ed's Honda, loaded it into Big Red, and headed home.  I wanted to give the bench a little fall flavor and use it as part of my autumn decor. I had visions of mums and pumpkins for fall, but wasn't quite sure what to put where. 
I took this picture of the bench to Reaves Lawn and Garden in South Boston, where owner Wanda Reaves made some suggestions as to what I could do with it, such as using my existing plant stands to add height, and to balance out either side of the bench. I like symmetry, but it isn't necessary. Two or three small plants and a pumpkin or two on one side can balance out a large plant on the other side.  I like to take my cues from the professionals when it comes to projects like this, so I looked around Reaves to get some ideas. These are a few of the images that caught my eye.
I love the look of the large mums with the tall grass in the center, which gives height, dimension, and a little extra color to the mum. The use of pumpkins intermingled with the mums is easy and attractive, so I decided to use both techniques.
Fortunately, the bench I bought for $25 from Ed's Honda was in excellent condition and very sturdy. I cleaned it with a mild detergent and my favorite cleaning utensil, the potato brush. I then placed the large mum into a planter I had purchased at Lowes, a medium mum and pumpkin on the opposite end of the bench on two plant stands which I already owned, and another medium mum on the ground. The smallest two mums were gifted to me a couple of weeks ago, and I had planted those together in a flower pot I already had in my garage, placed in front of a grapevine wreath which had also been hiding in my garage.  I purchased the black cat for an extra spooky Halloween feel. Just kidding, that's our sweet Elvis. I finished off the bench by placing another medium sized pumpkin next to small mum pot, and that was it. Super simple.
It is important for me to keep things as simple, affordable, and low maintenance as possible, while still maintaining a clean, classic look.  This simple selection of a few mums and two pumpkins worked very well for this project, and was within my budget. I left most of the bench empty for a reason. I like pretty things that are also functional, so I made sure to leave space for at least two people to be able to sit on the bench while comfortably holding a cup of pumpkin spice coffee. What good is a decorated bench if you can't use it for the truly important things in life?
I am currently working on another project, a wicker rocker in dire need of a makeover, and hope to have a completed project with pictures soon. Until then, visit your local lawn and garden center or raid a friend's pumpkin patch, with permission of course.  Enjoy the autumn colors and have fun decorating for fall. I would love to see what projects you're working on. Feel free to share them with me. Until then, have a very happy fall, y'all!
xoxo, Erin 
Have a daughter who wants to be Queen Elsa or Anna for Halloween? How about Olaf? Southern Virginia Mom has done her homework (and yours, too!). Here are some super cute Frozen costume ideas with accessories, plus a coupon code to make it a little easier. Disney's Frozen costumes and coupon code here.  Looking for even more Halloween costume ideas? Check out the extensive selection from one of these sponsors, and be sure to use the advertised coupon code. Special thanks to our sponsors.
Anytime Costumes

Wholesale Party Supplies and Halloween Costumes

Monday, September 22, 2014

Disney's Frozen Costumes and Accessories, plus a Coupon Code in time for Halloween

Halloween seems to sneak up on us every year. If you don't want to be scouring the aisles for the leftover costumes in the final days before Halloween, you'll want to be prepared.  I have done my homework (and yours, too) and have found some of the cutest Frozen costumes and accessories around, plus a coupon code to make shopping for your Anna, Elsa, or Olaf a little bit easier. I hope you'll see something you love on my list.
Deluxe Elsa Costume $41.98
Deluxe Anna Costume $41.98

No Frozen costume party would be complete with Olaf!
Is this Olaf toddler costume not the cutest thing you have ever seen?
Anna Costume $19.98

Of course, you can not forget the shoes or the tiara! Every queen should have a tiara. Shoes $17.98 Tiara $13.48.
For the little girl that still shines brightly in all of us, who remember wanting to grow up to be a princess, and for those of us who simply love to share the magic with our own little princesses, I have found the adult Anna costume.
Last but not least, the magic wand.
Wishing you and your inner princess a magically Frozen Halloween!
Also, save 15% of $25 or more by using the coupon code SALE15. 
Anytime Costumes

I heart Gymboree. Especially when it's on sale!

Love Gymboree? Love it even more when it's on sale?  For those of you who love all things Gymboree, here's a link to the website and the current sale: 25% off Fall Merchandise, Halloween Shop 25% off, and markdowns starting at $5.99.
Gymboree Children's Clothing
I was just saying yesterday that Courtland always looked like she stepped right out of a Gymboree catalogue!  One of my favorite parts of looking through her baby pictures is ooohing and aaaahing over the precious outfits I used to dress her in. She always had the shirt and pants or skirt, the cardigan, tights, matching hairbows, shoes and socks, and of course the purse and/or sunglasses. They're only little once, right? You might as well dress them that sweet while you can!  I want to go through those pictures one more time and share a few of my favorite ensembles. I have a few friends who are even more fanatical about Gymboree than I am. I won't name names, but you know who you are!  If you have any favortie Gymboree outfits that you have dressed your little ones in, or if you have a few from the website currently on your wish list, I want to see them. Please share the sweetness with me!
Until then, happy shopping! Remember, they're only little once! xoxo, Erin
Thank you so much Gymboree, for helping me dress my two children from head to toe, and for sponsoring this post. All words, opinions, and strolls down memory lane are truthful and completely my own. Sincerely, Southern Virginia Mom

Saturday, September 20, 2014

These are the letters we read to our daughter every year on her birthday...

Before I joined the digital age of scrapbooking, I did  it the old fashioned way- with paper and scissors and stickers and letters and notes and ribbons and notions.  I spent time crafting these books that I hoped the children would one day treasure as much as I did.  A friend scoffed at my scrapbooks once, saying that the children would never want them, not knowing where to put them or what to do with them after I am gone.  That may be true, but I cherish these books. Isn't that enough? Some of them stay on shelves in the attic, but I bring them out from time to time to look at them. To pore over them, truthfully.  I wouldn't trade anything for these books. Not only do they hold pictures that tell a thousand words, but they are filled with Mark's and my thoughts, our own words. They are a journal. I consider them a gift from our past. And they begin with these letters. The children may one day scoff at the sheer volume of pages, but for now, even they appreciate the pictures and words on those page.
Courtland Elizabeth, my firstborn, will be ten years of age tomorrow.  I remember waiting for her. I was so impatient. I obsessed over how she would look. Would she have dark hair and olive skin like mine, or Mark's slender legs and golden hair? September 9, 2004, twelve days before our daughter was born, Mark and I wrote out our feelings about the anticipation of Courtland. "Dear Courtland," I wrote, "I am so excited about you!"  I wrote paragraphs to her, and finished my letter by telling our daughter, "If there is one thing that you get from this letter, it should be that our love for you was here before you were even born, and it will always be. We love you unconditionally! Love, Mommy"
Mark's tells Courtland about how he longs to protect, love, nurture, and teach her. He describes his anticipation of watching football games with her, riding windows-down in the truck with a dog riding along in the back.  He explains to her, "My parents raised me in  loving Christian home; both my parents taught me so much about being loyal, faithful, optimistic, dependable, and hardworking. I promise you that I will do my absolute best to pass along to you all the things that I have been provided." 
There are many things in life I wish I would or would not have spent time on, but recording our feelings of anticipation, our hopes for the future, and putting our words of love for Courtland onto paper has not been one of them. Tomorrow afternoon, on the anniversary of her birth, we will gather as a family, snuggling, laughing, reading these letters, telling stories, and sharing memories. Tomorrow we celebrate Courtland Elizabeth. We loved her then, but could not even fathom the love that is now and the love that is to come. Happy birthday, Miss Courtie. We love you so!
xoxo, Mommy and Daddy

Friday, September 19, 2014

Savoring Summer

Pumpkin-everything is on the shelves at the grocery stores, and mums are in full bloom at the local garden store. Technically it's still summer, though, and we're savoring every last moment of it! Fully stocked with pizzas, sparklers, glow-in-the-dark jewelry, and sidewalk chalk, we celebrated the last days of summer with hide-and-go-seek, a game of chase, backyard ziplining, bicycle rides, and gathering with neighbors and friends.  We will be welcoming autumn soon enough, but for now, we savor the warm evenings, the late sunsets, the smell of freshly mowed grass, and the feel of it underneath our bare feet, shorts, tank tops, flip flops, late budding roses, bicycles on the curbs, and giggles of children in the yards that line our street. Months from now in the dead of bitter winter, we will wish impatiently for warmer weather, for a night such as this. So for now we savor it while it is here. Everything in its time, I say.  Here's to one last sweet, but simple summer hoorah.

After running, chasing, singing, laughing, sidewalk drawing, glowing-in-the-dark, pizza, and sparklers, the boys all went home, and a few of Courtie's friends stayed for a sleepover.
Fortunately for Mark and me, they didn't last too long, so the grownups were still able to get our beauty rest. We have a picnic today, a last summer farewell, and by this time Monday, I will stop by Common Grounds to get my pumpkin spice latte on. Until then, I am enjoying these last few days of summer. I'm not wishing it away, but savoring every last moment of this summer season.  I have decided the pumpkins and mums can wait for two more days. I promise.
xoxo, Erin