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HOME DECOR | Fall Home Tour 2018

Thursday, December 6

We are now 6 days into December and I'm sitting here wondering what happened to November.
What happened to these beautiful pumpkins?
And the wheat sprigs?
And the grateful?

I actually have a love-hate relationship with the month of November.
And that's unfortunate because it's my birthday month...
and a wonderful month filled with 2 other birthday celebrations in our home...
THREE birthdays under one roof...
within one month.
AND then...Thanksgiving.

It's wonderful...
and wretched at the same time.

I would love to relish in the celebrations...
and soak them in...
and gobble them up. (pun intended).

Instead, I find myself strategically going from one celebration to the next.
There is no time to soak it all in or gobble it up.
There's barely time to breathe at all let alone breathe it all in. *wink*

So...despite it being December...
and despite the Christmas festivities and the decor that swooped down upon us all as soon as the last slice of pumpkin pie was dished out...I am taking the time to celebrate the touches of fall I was able to enjoy when Autumn visited...even if was for just a second.

Our table behind the couch was decorated with a giant "pumpkin cake" - which essentially means I created a stack of pumpkins to resemble layers in a cake and then added beautiful fresh + dried florals to the layers.

It was inspired by Erin's pumpkin cake over at Cottonstem.
Ours are considerably different as far as the florals are concerned but I just realized when I went to grab the link to her site that I ended up using the same color scheme of pumpkins - in the exact same order.

I loved using dried wheat mixed with fresh seeded eucalyptus and other greenery all over the house to create an organic vibe in our home this year. I also used a faux garland to run down the middle of our dining table, again mixed with fresh greenery and dried wheat. (more on that in a minute)

I was also excited to try my hand at baking pie in a different way...using a different pan.
If you follow me on Instagram you know I attempted my first "slab pie" - which was my original plan for Thanksgiving dessert this year. (i was testing out my skills early...I realize...but I was excited).

When it came right down to it though, we had a smaller scale, more intimate Thanksgiving at my house this year.  So I scaled back the desserts by doing a couple of "Mini Slab Pies" - the pumpkin one above and this mini pecan slab pie below. 

LOVED them.
Here's why...
They are smaller versions of our classic pie recipes...using only half the amount of pie filling you would normally use for regular pie-plate pie.

I highly recommend that you buy THESE PANS to make your next pie. They are relatively inexpensive - especially compared to my favorite pie plate
To put it into perspective, I bought three pans for the same price as one pie plate.
And they create a beautiful scalloped crust! I absolutely love them!

I also added a few small pinecones which I always think adds a charming rustic touch to fall decor.

Truth be told though, my favorite part of my fall decor was the "pumpkin cake".
It was sitting on this table for a bit but then about 5 days before Thanksgiving, I moved it to the front porch for the rest of the world to see. She sat right outside our door and greeted family and friends as they poured into our home for Thanksgiving Day.

I really wish I would have photographed her sitting on the porch, along with the pumpkins and other front porch decor. All I have is video from Instagram when I shared it. Are you following me over there? If not, you are missing LOTS of behind the scenes.

Speaking of which...
I shared the how-to on this table garland I created for our Thanksgiving dinner table...on my Instagram stories.

There are a few things I absolutely adore about this table garland.
1. It's really skinny and doesn't take up a lot of space for plates, glasses and food.
2. It's a mix of a faux and fresh florals and greenery - along with some more dried wheat.
3. I intentionally created it to flow right into Christmas...I'll tell you more about that in a minute.

Yes! That is my Christmas tree in the background. I know!!!
Honestly, it had been up since September when I was photographing product for Hershey.
I almost took it down but then changed my mind...and here's why.

I figured November was so busy with birthdays and Thanksgiving I just really craved for a more simple December. One of the ways to achieve that was to decorate EARLY so when it actually arrived, I could enjoy it.

So yes...the house was a mix of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Thanksgiving on the front porch and dining table.
Christmas everywhere else.

And you know what?
I think I'm going to stick with that theory from here on out.
I love Christmas tree lights and the peace they fill my home with - always have.
If it wasn't weird, I would leave it up year-round. Ha!

Back to the table garland for a second...
I chose a green faux garland as my anchor so-to-speak.
I selected something that didn't lean toward any specific holiday so that it was more versatile.
I then chose some "rusty red" faux florals - which works for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I added some faux creamy/beige "wheat-like" florals along with some dried wheat.
I then added some fresh greenery I picked up from Trader Joe's.

The addition of amber glass really gave the table some fall warmth as well and now...
for Christmas...
all I had to do was pull the dried wheat to get rid of the fall vibe.
I'll be sharing the Christmas version of it soon.

So that's it friends!
I hope you don't mind me taking a minute to reflect back on November.
It did my soul some good to take a minute a look back on it all.


Friends! I am making a dream of mine happen today.
I'm hopping on a plane to visit Waco, TX - to soak in everything Magnolia.
Follow along on Instagram!!

LIFE | The Kind-of-Sort-of Halloween Costume

Monday, November 12

I interrupt this regularly schedule programming of all things Fall + Christmas for a quick Halloween costume recap...because I just can't not share, even if it's a couple of weeks late.

This girl wanted to be a Greek Goddess for Halloween this year.
So I walked into Party City a couple of weeks before Halloween and bought the dress she spied online, a goddess headband, a gold snake arm band she specifically requested and gold bangles for her wrist. All in less than 5 minutes mind you. #momwin

Halloween night came...she got all dressed up in her dress, we fixed her hair, I added a little gold shimmer to her cheeks and a splash of lipstick and then she chose not to wear ANY other goddess accessory she had requested or picked out. What?! kind of sort of looked like a goddess. *wink*
What can I say...
The girl chose comfort over costume...she's pretty smart like that.

With some friends by her side she had a pretty great night.
Second year trick-or-treating in our new neighborhood...
in our new town...
in our new area...
with new friends...
and new experiences.

It's feeling a little more like home.

Truthfully though, with the pillowcase she was carrying to collect candy, all wrapped around her shoulders in this picture...
well...she kind of looks more like a princess.
Or like she's going to another daddy daughter dance. *wink*
Regardless...those freckles of hers are darling and she's definitely the cutest sort-of-kind-of greek goddess I ever did see.

I hope you all had an enjoyable Halloween with your kiddos as well.

I am SO glad I did not pursue finding the golden wrap-up-your-entire-calf-to-your-knee sandals she originally wanted. Pretty sure she would've never even put those on.

Oh...and all of that Hershey Halloween Candy I've been sharing on my Instagram stories was a hit with the neighborhood. We got rid of almost all 200+ pounds of it.

Oh! And scroll back up to image #3...
see those black things in the planter behind Ella?
Those are dead plants. Plants that died from the ridiculous Florida heat.
So...with it being Halloween, I just left them as part of the decor.
Yes...I tried to pass off dead plants as intentional Halloween decor.
It actually kind of worked.
Although it would've been more convincing had I followed through on creating the "Dead Head" Flower Shop sign idea I had in my hang or put in front of the pots. Clever, right?
Maybe next year. *wink*

FUN | Spooking Season

Saturday, October 13

It's Phantom Pumpkin Season! Ella and I are on top of our game this year and we've actually already started our annual family tradition of "spooking" unsuspecting neighbors by leaving treats and surprises at their doorsteps.

This year I did something a little different for the homes with kids. I created a printable Halloween Bingo game and left a bag of black, orange and white Hershey kisses for the game pieces. So fun! And PS - you can use these adorable assorted kisses instead which are incredibly adorable too - check out images 4 + 5...look familiar? *wink*

These would be so fun for a Halloween party or how about a fall CLASS party too!!
I actually designed the bingo game using a combination of images I had previously designed for various projects so it was fun mixing them all together to create something new.

Of course there are some neighbors who are empty-nesters so we kept things sweet and simple by leaving cute treat bags behind. I mean look at how frightfully adorable they turned out! (below)

Again, using an idea I came up with while doing some work for Hershey's I decided to turn the creations into these printable jack-o-lantern, ghost, and spooky cat faces available as free printables for YOU. (see what I did for Hershey here - images 2, 3, 4, 5 + 6)

All you need is a cellophane bag, the color foiled kisses of your choice (black, white or orange) and a twisty tie. (or a cute ribbon as shown on the spooky cat). Print your faces, cut them out and stick them on with double-stick tape. Done!

I think the spooky cat is my favorite. *wink*
And not just because it's got the cute orange ribbon.

I hope this inspires you to get out there and spook some of your own neighbors and friends or if anything, create some adorable halloween treats! 

I know if you and I were neighbors...I'd certainly be spooking you my friends.

love you guys!

It was just Ella and I this year.
And we broke tradition and did it during daylight hours instead of after the sun went down.
I was the getaway driver and she was the runner.
We made 5 deliveries on our first round of spooking.
Unfortunately, when we tried to finish the 2nd round of spooking a couple of days later,
Ella rolled her ankle as she was running back to the car. *tears*
Needless to say we called it a night.
With Ella back to 100% we have 4 more spooks left to do.


HALFWAY HOMEMADE | Halloween Monster Cookies

Tuesday, September 25

*Affiliate links are included in just about every blog post I share here on Pen + Paper Flowers.
 These links allow me to easily share with you the same or similar items and tools I use for recipes, crafts or projects. 
These links also provide me with a small commission should you decide to click on them and purchase something. 
The commissions, collectively, allow me to continue sharing ideas and content with you.
Thank you in advance for your ongoing support of my blog and small business.  xoxo, Jess

You know I love baking from scratch.
I also love to save time in a pinch when necessary.
Combine the two and you've got something I call "Halfway Homemade" or "Pretty in a Pinch".

I've used this technique many times throughout the years to create delicious things to eat by combining something store-bought with something homemade. (ex. Salted Caramel Mini Apple Pies, or these Chocolate Peanut Butter Mini Oreo Pies, and this Pretty In a Pinch Cake).

It's kind of the same thing as buying pre-packaged pastries or baked items and then making them feel homemade by removing them from their bulky, plastic packaging and placing them in a cute basket lined with a pretty linen napkin. If you're going to a potluck adding a handwritten label to identify the baked goods adds even more charm. I've done this plenty of times.'s example of Halfway Homemade are these monster-sized cookies which I appropriately named "Wickedly Delicious Monster Cookies".

You are essentially taking chocolate chip cookies and elevating them to an entirely new level. They are comprised of store-bought chocolate chip cookies, store-bought frosting in the middle, one side dipped in melted chocolate and sprinkled with crushed cookies. Wicked good my friends.

The finished product looks impressively homemade or even like something you'd find in a made-from-scratch bakery. I love that.

The idea behind these cookies is to gift them during the Halloween season. So I'm also sharing how to package them up to make them frightfully cute too - including the FREE Wickedly Delicious Monster Cookie Tags I made. I used these for our Phantom Pumpkin night but these are also perfect as sweet treats for teachers, co-workers, and friends too.

I shared this idea about 5 years ago and thought I should update the post to include even more straight-forward instructions and additional ideas for simplifying the process. (for instance, substituting the homemade buttercream with store-bought).

So let's get going...

SUPPLIES NEEDED (makes 5 monster cookies)

The Cookies
12 - oversized chocolate chips cookies from the bakery section of your grocery store
       2 for every cookie you want to make PLUS 2 or 3 cookies crumbled
Buttercream frosting from the bakery section of your grocery store
       they sell it already mixed up in tubs - one tub should be enough
1 - 12oz. bag of chocolate chips for melting + dipping - semi sweet or milk chocolate
Wax Paper to cover your work area and cookie sheet PLUS for wrapping finished cookies.
Cookie sheet for transporting cookies to and from freezer
                     make sure it'll actually fit inside your freezer first.

The Packaging
These items can be found at your local craft store but I've included some Amazon links here for those of you who prefer online shopping.

Striped black and white bags
Wax Paper or Parchment paper for wrapping cookies
Ribbon for finishing
Wickedly Delicious Monster Cookie Tags

Cover cookie sheet with wax paper.
Arrange 6 cookies bottom-side up
Spread on buttercream frosting on all 6 cookies - enough so it will show after being sandwiched.
Top each cookie with another cookie.
Freeze for 10-30 minutes.

Melt chocolate chips using double boiler or microwave
Dip one side of frozen cookie into melted chocolate.
Place dipped cookie on wax paper and top with cookie crumbles.
Cool until set - approximately 30 minutes.

Wrap set cookies in parchment paper - secure with tape or twine if necessary.
Slip wrapped cookie into favor bag and fold to close. - tape if you'd like.
Wrap with ribbon.
Print + cut Wickedly Delicious Monster Cookie tags
Tape to bag as a finishing touch.

I hope these simplified instructions inspire you to try them out this year - if you haven't already.
Halloween is right around the corner...let's get freaky my friends!


I thought I coined the term "Halfway Homemade" but then googled it.
There's a cookbook called Halfway Homemade. *eyeroll*
BUT I do have to say most of the things I'm seeing are from 2017, 2018 - sooo...since I used it back in 2013 should I still get the credit? *giggling*

PS - Not a lick of Halloween or fall decor out yet.
Wrapping up a Christmas project for Hershey and THEN the decorating will begin!!
Oh! And Ella wants to be a "goddess" for Halloween this year. I'd better start figuring that out.
Except she has me all pre-occupied with her double-digits birthday party coming up in November. *wink*

LiFE | Summer 2018 (Video)

Thursday, September 20

Summer ends officially on September 22nd.
That's only two days from now and, as usual, my mind is not wanting to bend in that direction.
It's the whole one foot in the boat and one foot on the shore mindset - loving both summer and fall with the added dimension of not being well-versed in letting go or saying goodbye.

Summer was the backdrop for a few milestones for my girls. We celebrated Ema graduating high school, high-fived Clara for being on the UCF Dean's list at the completion of her Junior year, and supported Ella's choice to walk away from gymnastics.

We grew tomatoes, rode scooters in the summer rain, drew sidewalk chalk towns together, walked on the beach, ate cotton candy, lost my sunglasses in the ocean waves, made homemade strawberry shortcake, invited friends over for playdates, enjoyed BFF sleepovers, lavished in pool days, among other fun things.

There was also one thing in particular I'm so happy we made time for this year.
We enjoyed a "Girl's Camping/RVing" experience with my mom at Salt Springs this summer.
In fact, it's one of the very first things we did which helped kick off our summer on the right foot.

Here's a visual diary I created of our time together...
(and mom...if you're reading this...I'm sorry...for that one part in the video). *covering eyes*

So yes, our summer may not have been filled with lush vacations and jet-setting around the world but our days, and more importantly, our hearts, were spilling over with adventure and fun.

They say forever is made up of the perhaps we really can have a "forever summer" because we certainly filled it with a lot of "nows" I will always remember.

With that said...I think it's time for me to do some letting go...

xoxo my sweet friends!!

I rolled my ankle stepping out of the RV on the first day of our camping trip. *laughing*
I fell on the ground and had dirt and grass all over me while Ella and my mom looked on in disbelief. 
I laughed so hard and could NOT believe I had done that while also holding back tears from the pain.
It swelled up immediately and I thought I had broken it. 
I put on a brave face, iced it every day and medicated myself with some Advil.
Thankfully I didn't break it and was still able to enjoy the rest of our time together. did take a solid two months for me to feel comfortable putting full weight on my ankle again.
(which has now exacerbated into lower back + foot pain because of my body overcompensating for it). *eyeroll*

BAKING | Hummingbird Cake + Cupcakes

Thursday, June 7

*Affiliate links are included in just about every blog post I share here on Pen + Paper Flowers.
 These links allow me to easily share with you the same or similar items and tools I use for recipes, crafts or projects. 
These links also provide me with a small commission should you decide to click on them and purchase something. 
The commissions, collectively, allow me to continue sharing ideas and content with you.
Thank you in advance for your ongoing support of my blog and small business.  xoxo, Jess

Hummingbird Cake is about as southern as it gets when it comes to cakes. In fact, this classic cake has been the single most popular recipe in Southern Living Magazine since it was submitted back in 1978. (Let me do the math for you on that...for 40 years!

So you would think this girl right here would have tasted this cake a time or two and even attempted baking it at least once by now, right? Nope.

I don't even have a good excuse for not having tried it yet. It could be that my memory just isn't the maybe I actually have tried it in the past and it's just been soooo long ago it just completely slipped my mind?

Umm...yeah...I'm really not buying that excuse because now that I have actually tasted this cake, (as of this weekend), I just cannot imagine it ever "slipping my mind" because it's just really delicious.

Having officially baked it and tasted it now, I've determined the Hummingbird Cake to be the sister-cake to Carrot Cake. The crushed pineapple and bananas in the Hummingbird Cake certainly seem to give a nod to the Spring/Summer season while the shredded carrots in Carrot Cake shake hands with Fall - the peak carrot season. 

So yes...if you love Carrot Cake (imagine me throwing both arms up in the air with an emphatic "yes!" and waving them around like a crazy cake lady) then you will love this cake too! Guaranteed.

Thank goodness my oldest daughter, Clara, came to visit for the weekend.
She had one thing on her mind: baking...with me. (you know that made my mama heart happy).

So that's just what we did too. We baked.
One of the things we made was this cake.
I'd like to say we had things all planned out before Clara even arrived but that would be far from the truth. We simply sat down together once she got here and thumbed through a couple of Southern Living Magazines I'd picked up over the last couple of months: Southern Living Famous Southern Cakes + Pies and the Southern Living Special Collector's Edition Cakes + Pies - apparently I have a thing for cakes + pies. *wink*

The Hummingbird Cake caught our eye and was in BOTH of the magazines. We just couldn't say no.
I didn't have three 8-inch cake pans so we opted to do a smaller 3 layer cake and made cupcakes with the extra batter. (plus she got to take the cake home and the cupcakes stayed here with me - a win for the both of us).

We love how the cake + cupcakes turned out. So moist. So delicious. And did I mention cream cheese frosting? very favorite.

I definitely encourage you to try it. It will not disappoint you or anyone who's lucky enough to sample it. I have an idea!! How about making it for any of those summertime potlucks and gatherings you've got on your calendar. (although be mindful that cream cheese frosting doesn't pair well with sitting outside in the heat - you'll want to make sure you have an air-conditioned space for keeping/serving).

by Southern Living Magazine


3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8oz) can crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
2 cups chopped ripe bananas (about 6 bananas)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
vegetable shortening - for pans

2 (8oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup salted butter or margarine, softened
2 (16oz) pkg. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

12- 24 pecan halves, toasted - for decorating top of cake
1/2 - 3/4 cups chopped pecans, toasted - for decorating sides of cake

1. Prepare the cake layers: Preheat oven to 350ºF.
    Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring
     just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, bananas, and toasted pecans.
2. Divide batter evenly among 3 well-greased (with shortening) and floured 9-inch round cake pans.
3. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. 
    Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely, 
    about 1 hour.
4. Prepare the cream cheese frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on 
    medium-low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Increase speed to medium-high,
    and beat until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Assemble cake: Place 1 cake layer on a serving platter; spread top with 1 cup of frosting. Top with
    second layer, and spread with 1 cup frosting. top with third layer, and spread remaining frosting over 
    top and sides of cake. Optional decorating: Arrange pecan halves on top of cake. For a more "fancy"
    finish, gently press chopped pecans around the sides of frosted cake using your hand.

Tip: For cupcakes, bake for 18-20 minutes. Once frosted, roll edges in chopped pecans. 

(Thought you might also enjoy this step-by-step video for Southern Living Hummingbird Cake I found while typing up this blog post). 

Enjoy my sweet friends!!
I hope you'll try it and report back.

PS - Let me know if you'd like a cute printable Hummingbird Cake Recipe Card. I'm not really sure if you all prefer just reading the recipe right off the blog or if you love the free recipe cards I've created and shared before? Or maybe you want both? I'd love your feedback.



1. I prefer my cream cheese frosting to be a tad tangier than this version but it's still delicious. (And until I find the recipe I want to share with you this one will have to do). Ha! And by all means, if you already have a fave cream cheese frosting recipe...use it!!

2. Clara and I didn't realize I only had a bag of pecan halves instead of the whole pecans we needed to to decorate the top of the cake. So, we did what any good OCD baker would do and we painstakingly took time to try to match up pecan halves to make them look whole. I think we did a dang good job. I can hardly tell when I look closely at the photos. Ha!!

3. These photos turned out surprisingly well despite the immense pressure I was under to "hurry up". Clara was trying to head back home and she was behind schedule so with each push of the shutter button on my camera and every rearranged shot of the cake I made in an attempt to capture the perfect image,  I could feel her hot eye balls glaring at me while she stood impatiently nearby waiting to drive off with the cake.  Some things never change - she's never been very patient when it came to me + my photo-taking. I still love her though. And besides, this cake wouldn't have happened this weekend without her. Thanks Clara!! *wink*

MAGNOLIA TABLE :: Lemon + Lavender Icebox Cookies

Tuesday, May 22

*Affiliate links are included in just about every blog post I share here on Pen + Paper Flowers.
 These links allow me to easily share with you the same or similar items and tools I use for recipes, crafts or projects, while also providing me with a small commission should you decide to purchase something. These commissions, collectively, allow me to continue sharing ideas and content with you. 
Thank you in advance for your ongoing support of my blog and small business.  xoxo, Jess

If you've been following me on Instagram then you know I've been sampling recipes from the *Magnolia Table Cookbook and leaving reviews and feedback in my InstaStories. (you can access my archived stories to catch up if you've missed it).

I even took a poll on Instastories to see which recipe I should try next...the Lemon + Lavender Icebox Cookies or Jo Jo's Chocolate Chips cookies. Obviously from today's blog post, you can guess who the winner was.

So, here are my honest thoughts + feedback on the Magnolia Table Lemon + Lavender Icebox Cookies....

My kitchen was filled with the scents of fresh grated lemon zest and *lavender as I was preparing the cookie dough. I'm telling you it smelled soooo very good my friends and my tastebuds could not wait to taste the final baked cookies.

The cookies are pretty simple and plain and I was thinking there would be more pops of noticeable lavender but the buds actually get lost in the dough for the most part.

Aesthetically, the cookies aren't going to visually "wow" a crowd...and I don't believe they are meant to. The flavor is soft and subtle, matching the overall appearance. In my mind, these cookies were never created to be the "star" of the show but rather as a simple addition to some afternoon tea.

Also, because these are slice and bake cookies there are lines left behind on the top of the cookies due to *the lavender buds you come across while slicing. It really can't be avoided. (see images below)

At first, I found the lines to be off-putting and looked at them as if they were somehow "imperfections". (and then I also immediately made the connection that perhaps that's why the cookbook photographer decided to stack the cookies and avoided an overhead shot of them for the cookbook?). *wink*

My perspective has changed though. I find the lines left behind from the *edible lavender buds to be charming - the "signature look" of the inscription of sorts with the message to anyone nibbling on these simple cookies that "these are authentically and lovingly sliced + baked and imperfectly perfect homemade cookies".  And I like that.  Better yet, I love that. *wink*

Magnolia Table Cookbook - pg. 313

4 out of 5 stars

✓ Easy-to-follow recipe
✓ Soft + subtle flavor
✓ Baked as expected
✓ Family enjoyed them

In a nutshell, these are simple cookies to make with a soft and subtle flavor profile.
They do require refrigeration time prior to baking - hence the "icebox" part of their name.
I gave them 4 out of 5 stars only because I prefer a little more "umph" in my cookies - meaning I like chunks and chocolate over a simple sugar or plain cookie.

I baked one "log" after a couple of hours and another log after a full week of refrigeration - both were great. Next time I will try adding a few lavender buds to the center top of each cookie prior to baking - just to pretty them up a little more. I tried pushing in some lavender buds on top of the cookies right when they came out of the oven but they didn't stick very well. I did not rotate my pans 1/2 way through baking as suggested but I can see where that would come in handy for some ovens.Very curious to try the key lime version mentioned in the time. And I have even considered rolling the dough into balls next time just to see how they turn out vs. the slicing method.


If you have not purchased the *Magnolia Table Cookbook and you love down-home cooking and baking - I think you'll love it. You know I love Jo and Chip and I'm a big fan of pretty much everything they do.

This cookbook is no exception; The black binding, the lovely cover image, the font selection, the photography throughout of the fun recipes and of Joanna in the kitchen truly makes this beautiful cookbook a great gift idea!! You can *purchase the Magnolia Table Cookbook right here.

I have already made the "Three Cheese Quiche", "Baked Chicken", "Chicken Spaghetti", "Best-Ever Fluffy Pancakes" and Jay made the "Beef Stew" this weekend. I'll be back with some reviews on those recipes as well!!

Love you friends!!

I do have to warn you that if you are watching your waistline...well...this cookbook is probably not a good fit for that. Unless you plan to choose to eat salad every night while your family enjoys the fun meals you've cooked for them. Ha!!  Just saying!!

And by the way, I was sure everyone would have voted for the chocolate chip cookies but I was so wrong. Lemon + Lavender cookies won with 71% of the votes.

PS - Do you love the new look of the blog? *wink*

LiFE | The Beauty in Change :: Daddy Daughter Dance 2018

Monday, May 7

"Everything is held together with stories"...

I love that quote.
It couldn't be more true about life.
That's what this blog has always been about for me...storytelling.
And through storytelling I share bits + pieces of my life...things that may inspire you, recipes that make me happy, things that add sunshine to my soul, and maybe even things that add a little sunshine to your own life.

My story today is about the beauty we can find in change.

Our move almost a year ago has certainly presented us with some tough days.
• tearful afternoon carline pickups with Ella missing her old school.
• getting lost + turned around a time or two trying to find our way around a new town.
• tearful prayers for me as a mom, missing my two older daughters who chose to stay behind.
• loneliness and disconnect at times.
• tearful tuck-ins at night with Ella missing friends and "home".

All of that is normal.
Those of you who have moved away from home know what I'm talking about.
You just miss the heck out of everything you ever knew and loved - people, places + familiar faces.

There's also soooo much beauty in change.
Although we've had some hard days and sad moments having moved away,
we have also thoroughly enjoyed the new experiences we've been able to have in our new town.
In fact, it truly has been an adventure of sorts.
There have been so many new places to see, restaurants to try, friends to make + meet, a beautiful neighborhood to explore and ultimately a new house to make into a home.

And then there was the daddy daughter dance this year.
If you've been following along for some time you know Ella's been enjoying this annual tradition at her old school since she was in pre-school.

This year, of course, was a much different experience for her...for us...since it brought with it a number of significant changes.

First of all, she didn't get to attend with her best friend Elise, like she has done every other year. (2016, 2015, 2014)

Second, her new school didn't end up hosting one, (even though it was on the schedule at the beginning of the school year).  When I found out they had changed the "Sweetheart Social" to a "Dance Party" for the entire school, I originally thought we just wouldn't even be able to continue our annual tradition.

However, here's the "beauty" part of things.
Our neighborhood made a surprise announcement it would be hosting an inaugural Daddy Daughter Dance  - right in our own neighborhood at one of our own beautiful amenity centers. Yes!!

So although Ella was missing her bestie, (and I was missing all of the usual traditions of the evening photographing Elise + Ella and their daddies together), she still had a very special night with her dad.

And they literally walked to the dance together, hand-in-hand, down the sidewalk and across a pretty grassy field.

Our neighborhood spares no expense in creating fantastic, memorable events and this one was no different. It was a small scale Daddy Daughter Dance compared to what we're used to but it actually turned out to be quite a magical night since it was more of an intimate setting; filled with sweet treats, photo booths, hula hoop competitions, daddy's on their knees holding their daughter's hands while exchanging daddy daughter promises to one another and of course dancing the night away.

I wouldn't change a thing about how the night turned out.
And I wouldn't change a thing about us moving either.

It's not been easy at times but there have been more than enough wonderful things that have happened since our move that have opened my eyes to the true beauty that can be found in change.
And for that, I am so grateful to be able to add this experience to our story.


It also doesn't hurt that the area we have moved to right along the St. Johns River is so gorgeous.
The sunsets here are absolutely stunning.

PS - I kind-of-sort-of made Ella's wrist corsage this year.
J brought home a boutonnière from Publix instead of a corsage by accident so I deconstructed it a bit and turned it into something she could wear on her wrist. Ha!!
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