Monday, October 24, 2016

Simple Halloween Decor

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This summer, my husband and I sold our house and moved to a much smaller apartment that was more centrally located to public transportation and an interesting social life.  We're enjoying it a lot, but it is still an ongoing challenge to learn to live smaller and more simply, and we're still creating our 'look'.

But holidays come when they come, ready or not, and while I am not able to totally deck out the place for Halloween, this is still my favorite time of year, and I wanted have a few touches.  I keep a bin of Halloween decorations (now living in an offsite storage room), and rooted through there to see what I could use, and we wound up buying an item or two that caught our eye, and this is what we came up with:

We'd just set up this shelf arrangement near the door shortly before it was time to decorate for Halloween - we needed a place to hang keys and our dog's leash, as well as have a landing zone for my husband's loose change.  So, when it's not Halloween, we have this row of hooks (that are actually dog butts) for the hanging items, the rustic blue crate shelf that holds two little stoneware cups for change (one of them is specifically for quarters for the laundry room), as well as a sign about dogs and a dog motif cross stitched piece I did.

We didn't take down any of it, but I did add an additional cross stitch piece, a couple purchased raven items, some fresh mini-pumpkins (now sitting on the upturned change mugs, so there went that bit of organization), and some artificial autumn sprigs from my Halloween bin.

The thing I like about this is that the shelf and dog butt hooks are fastened to the wall, but everything else just sits on it, letting me change out the decoration without putting any more holes in the wall.

On a small end table that sits to one side of the living room, I tucked some artificial sunflowers and other seasonal sprigs inside our tripod lamp.

A beat up hanging clock (from Michael's), another older cross stitch piece I did, and a small ceramic skull created a nice, shabby Halloween still life that will transition easily into November with the removal of the skull.

On a whim, I covered the shade with a black lacy poncho-style shawl of mine.  It provides a little more atmospheric l
lighting down in  that part of the room.

Nearby, we have an IKEA ladder that is currently rather overflowing with things (we're still deciding what it is we want to do with that space).  I had a length of grapevine garland and several ornaments which I'd normally put up on a year round tree I like to decorate each season.  Here, we just have no space for it, but I was sad to not get to show off my ornaments, so I draped the garland around the top of the ladder and hung them off of that.

Our biggest addition to what we already had came about on whim - while we were at Michaels Arts & Crafts, we came across some of those inexpensive Halloween portraits they have that look like antique photos if you look at them one way, and scary demonic undead things if you look another way.

They are simply glued onto a plastic molded frame, good enough as a disposable ornament, but we decided against them because they looked as cheap as they were.

But then we saw this really nicely made roughed up cabinet-door style picture frame, which I would have wanted with or without a plan.

After the holidays, I'll replace the photos with more personal to us family photos, but for now...

We bought two of the cheap Halloween pics, and, after cutting them out of their molded frames (which was tedious and involved some non-ladylike words), put the one of the twin demon babies into the top section, and the nice gentleman that turns into a half-skeleton monster into the center section.

That left the two smaller panes unfilled.  Well, as it happens we have a really lovely antique store that is a two block walk around from our apartment.


I took a walk down there to see if perhaps they had any old photos I could use for the bottom panes, and they did!  Sadly, not identified, but I selected one of two children looking very stiff and uncomfortable in their finery, and one of a mother for this little family. Her photo had faded with age, giving her a ghostly appearance.

The pictures did not quite fit in the frame, so rather than cutting them up, I scanned and printed them onto photo paper so they would be the right size.

I really like the end result!

My final decorated spot was outside on our balcony, where I was able to use a few more of my favorite goodies from the bin without making our indoor space look overly cluttered.

The Witch plaque hanging on the utility door was bought years ago from a dollar store, and still makes me smile everytime I see it.  Bright orange autumn flower garland is draped overhead, where we took a length of rope and wrapped it around a long metal beam for our various hanging needs - we use large S-hooks from IKEA to quickly add and remove whatever we want up there.

The two tin Witches Hats are also dollar store finds from years gone by - they have little doors so that you can set a tea light inside.  I have some remote controlled battery operated tealights in them to provide a bit of glow in the evening.

Even when it's necessary to keep things simple and easy to switch out, I find that being able to decorate for the holidays goes a long way toward making a new apartment look and feel like 'home'.  I may still be trying to figure out where I'm going to put my spices, but at least I know where the spooky stuff goes.

Review/Giveaway: B.A. Landtroop's Serenity Coloring Books


I recently got the chance to review B. A. Landtroop's wonderful line of Serenity Coloring Books.
When I first received the package I was surprised by the amount and variety of the items that I received.

In my package, there were two Coloring Books, two Coloring Journals, an art print and Coloring Cards – a lot to color and enjoy.

B. A. Landtroop is an award winning artist in watercolor, acrylic, pen & ink and mixed media. Her books are sold throughout the world and most online stores have her Coloring Books available.
Over email she told me that she is basically a one woman show. The quotes in the books are hers. The art, design, layout and file creation are all done by her. The only step that she doesn’t do herself is the printing. Her items are also decently priced, ranging from $7.99 to $11.97 on Amazon.

She says about herself and her art:

 “Life creates how we see the world around us. How I respond is found in my art.  Each piece of art is an experience expressed with color, medium and the texture of emotions acquired in living”

Her books are also filled with a lot of dreamy, calming and motivating quotes that contributed to the relaxing experience of coloring.

If you find the time to check out her website, you will also find even more information as well as upcoming events where you can meet her yourself & some of her other works.

The first thing that I noticed when I actually started taking things out of the box was that each and every item was wrapped in a protective plastic cover; once removed I just couldn’t stop rubbing my fingers over the cover and pages.

I’ve owned quite a few coloring and specifically adult coloring books in my day but none have ever had such a strong, soft and wonderful paper quality! In addition, each of the coloring books comes bound with an extra sheet of paper between each colorable, to ensure no bleedthrough.

My very first coloring experience with the Serenity line were some of the Cards.

I just loved the idea of it and it sounds cliché, but the first one that I colored I ended up sending to my granny back home who loved it just as much as I did.

The coloring cards are such a great way to add a personal touch to a note. It is not just a card that you will send or give to someone, it is a moment of your time that you spent personalizing.

The art print ended up finding a spot on the wall in my daughters’ room. She likes bunnies and just didn’t let go of it once she got her tiny hands on it.

The quality of the print isoutstanding. So much detail and a soft touch. We ended up framing it to protect it from dust and the frame added even more character to it.

Unfortunately, the cards and art prints are currently only available at events, but she is working on trying to include them online in the coming year.

The Serenity Coloring Books Calm Breezes and Enchanted Waters seemed similar, but my favorite was Enchanted Waters.

The books are filled with detailed images that long to be colored. You will also find inspirational quotes in the Coloring Books which add a nice touch to the coloring experience.

They come in a convenient 8 x 10 size which allows you to just slip them in your purse if you plan on taking your kids to the park and grant yourself some relaxation while they play, and to frame your creations in a standard photo frame later, if you like.

My absolute personal favorite of the entire package were the Coloring Journals. They combine all my favorite creative parts: beautiful images for you to color, wonderful & inspirational quotes and lots of space to write down your own thoughts, memories and ideas.

In the past few months I’ve spent a lot of time doing personal writing and these journals helped me spark my creativity on a whole new level. They would also make a great diary.

I absolutely enjoyed reviewing these items and they would make great, thoughtful gifts or just treat yourself with some Serenity time.

B.A. Landtroop is generously offering a discount of $4.00 off the Calm Breezes Coloring Book though her Createspace store.

Regularly $11.97, our readers can get this for $7.97 by using the code TC9VCQZ9 at checkout. This code expires 11/14/16, so don't delay!

Even more generously, the author is providing an entire prize package to one of our readers that includees items currently unavailable for purchase online!  Read on for details and to see how you can enter to win!

This is an exciting giveaway!  One of our readers in Canada or the US (including overseas APO/AE addresses) will win 1 Enchanted Waters Coloring Book, 1 Moments in Time Coloring Journal, a hummingbird art print, and a pack of 3 coloring notecards, for a total value of $41.94.

To enter the giveaway, you must leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Giveaway Tools Entry Form below. This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US/CAN & APO/AE and will end just before midnight ET on 11/6. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway. In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Once the winners have responded and confirmed, their first names will be posted on our Giveaways  page.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Awesome Life Friday #83

Welcome to Awesome Life Friday!

We're so looking forward to seeing what you've been cooking, creating, growing, decorating, reviewing, giving away, and thinking about this week!

While you're here, leave your posts at the other link up we co-host here - Party in Your PJs!  It starts on Tuesday evenings, and runs through Sunday.  I hope you'll join us there as well!

Here's what some of us have been up to here:
We hope you'll check them out if you haven't already!  Don't forget to peek at the sidebar and check out what other giveaways we currently have going.

And now our favorite part - the FEATURES !  This week we are all about the pumpkins! If you're one of our featured posts, we'd love it if you'd grab a button, and thanks to all of you who shared with us last week!

The Paranoid Man Pumpkin Craft // The Boondocks Blog

Banana Pumpkin Pancakes (GF/Vegan) // Strength & Sunshine

DIY Galvanized Pumpkins // Savvy Apron

Honey Sweetened Pumpkin Cake // Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth

DIY Sugar Skull Pumpkins // The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl

Chewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies // Gluesticks

If you are one of our FEATURED bloggers, this button is for you!

Thank you all so much for sharing your awesomeness!

Are you all ready to party?  If you like, we'd love it you'd help spread the word by grabbing our button:

Here we go!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

No-Sew Chunky Crocheted Socks


My sister-in-law recently sent me a picture of some crochet socks that she found on Pinterest and asked me if I could make her some.

I instantly agreed, especially since I was getting really really tired and bored with my current project – a king/queen sized Star Wars C2C blanket that consists of way too much black, white and grey!

I spent the rest of that evening just looking at free and paid patterns and just couldn’t really find the right one and I did not feel like sewing a whole bunch of pieces together.

When it comes to socks I am usually a knitting person, but she definitely wanted the chunky look of crochet, so I just kept trying out different ways and styles until I came up with my own pattern.

After sharing it in one of my favorite Facebook crochet groups, I was so overwhelmed with the responses that I got that I ended up making another pair to double check the pattern to share it with everyone – For Free!

This pattern is made to fit my own shoe size (and my sister in law luckily has the same!!).

Size 6 No Sew Crochet Socks

As with every pattern that I have shared so far, I would like to ask a few things of you.

These are just some basic ethical  standards that I hope people will follow for other crafters who share their work, too:

Don’t tamper with it and then go around claiming it as your own. It’s a bitch move and I am probably in every crochet group that exists and I will find you!

Do not copy and sell this pattern. Just don’t. Don’t be that person. No one likes that kind of people.

Please let others know where you got it from and include a link to this blog when sharing the pattern. Sharing is great! And if you want more free patterns, this is how you get it. Share the blog link and I will find the motivation to type up that huge folder that I have laying right next to me.

What you need:    
  • Yarn
  • Crochet Hook (I used an I hook)
  • Yarn darner
  • Scissors
  • Patience
>Magic loop with a chain 2 and 10dc                                                                   =11
>Increase every one                                                                                              =22
>18 rounds of dc                                                                                                   =22/each
>18 dc for the next 6 rows                                                                                    =18/each
>1dc, 8 dc decrease, 1 dc                                                                                      =10
>1 dc, 4 dc decrease, 1 dc                                                                                     =6
>join with a slip stitch into the beginning loop of the row                                   = n/a
>chain 2, 1dc in same spot, 7 dc, 2 dc increase, 4dc, 2 dc increase, 7dc, join     =28
>chain 2, 9dc, 1dc increase, 9dc, 1dc increase, 7dc                                             =30
>2 rounds                                                                                                              =30/each
>chain 2, 4dc, 1dc decrease, 20dc, 1dc decrease, 1dc                                          =28
>20 rounds                                                                                                            =28/each
>chain 2, 6dc, 1dc increase, 8dc, 1dc increase, 11dc                                           =30
>3 rounds                                                                                                              =30/each
>chain 2, 7dc, 1dc increase, 11dc, 1dc increase, 9dc                                           =32
>1 round                                                                                                               =32
>chain 2, 8dc, 1dc increase, 13dc, 1dc increase, 8dc                                           =34
>6 rounds                                                                                                              =34/each
>chain 2, 11dc, 1dc decrease, 13dc, 1dc decrease, 4dc                                        =32
>chain 2, 13dc, 1dc decrease, 8dc, 1dc decrease, 6dc                                          =30
>1 round                                                                                                                =30

It is really simple. The decreasing at the heel will form a natural cup like shape for the heel. Then you can just work your way up the leg.

Now, like I mentioned above, this pattern was created to fit my feet, which are a Size 6. If that would be too tight or too loose for your own, you should be able to simply adjust it by starting with more dc or increasing or decreasing more.

Happy Crocheting!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Party in Your PJs #128

Welcome to Party in Your PJs!

Happy Tuesday!  Welcome to the Party in Your PJs Link Party, where your posts will be seen on four different blogs each week.   In addition to Kim from The Cookie Puzzle, you'll also find Party in Your PJs every Tuesday evening at Grandma IdeasWood of Bell Trees and... here!

You'll also find the Awesome Life Friday link-up here at RCHReviews, every Thursday evening at 8pm ET so we hope to see you there as well.

Are you ready to party? I can't wait to see what you've brought to share!

Kim ~ The Cookie Puzzle | Facebook | Pinterest 
Nina ~ Grandma Ideas | Pinterest | Twitter
Lynda ~ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos | Facebook | Pinterest
Heather ~ Woods of Bell Trees | Facebook | Instagram

 Meet the Co-Hosts

Kim @ The Cookie Puzzle 

Kim is a small town girl who love simple things. Simple cookies, simple crafts and simple people. She is a wife, mother to one son and two adorable fur babies. Slightly addicted to reality TV and sitcoms, but she loves curling up with a good book or a good walk while listening to podcasts. You can find her at The Cookie Puzzle, where she shares her love for cookies and crafting. 

Nina @ Grandma Ideas 

How is this: Nina is wildly in love with her grandchildren. She delights in doing activities with them that strengthen their relationship –- playing games, doing crafts, snuggling, reading stories to them, and cooking together. She enjoys reading, technology, and traveling. (Tahiti is her most favorite place on earth!)

Lynda @ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos 

Lynda lives outside DC with her husband Michael and elderly beagle, Sadie. She and her daughter Jackie started RCHReviews as a way to spend time together in spite of living across country, and along the way they've added several friends as regular contributors. Between them all, they bring together many different perspectives and lifestyles with one common philosophy - try new things, have fun, and remember you are awesome!

 Heather @ Wood of Bell Trees

Heather is a wife of a peanut butter fanatic and mom of one silly human and one furry canine, wrangling life on 2nd shift and glitterizing everything as she goes!

The rules for the group board include:
1. Limit of one pin a day.
2. Just like the party anything goes, but clear wonderful pictures with great descriptions are most successful.
3. Please no Spam ( Spammers will be deleted without warning)
4.  If you pin to the Pinterest Board, please link to the Party in Your PJs Party also, the party runs from 7 pm Tuesdays-Midnight Saturday (Central Time)
5.  Finally have fun and share this group board  with blog friends and followers!  The more success the group board is the more success you will see from your pins.

Want to be added to the group board?  Follow our Party in Your PJs board and email Kim at

Features from Last Weeks Party!

 to see their features - we each pick our own!

Were you Featured? Grab a button!

All links are pinned to a Party can follow the board on Pinterest...feel free to follow the board, there is lots of inspiration to be found there.

Ok...let's party!

Rules -Link to post, not your home page
-Link to something YOU made, wrote or thought
-No Etsy or Business Pages
-Link Parties, Roundups and Giveaways welcome
- Don't Link and Run! Please visit other links, make friends, learn something new, leave a comment, we all love comments
-If you were featured, grab a"Featured" button, found below.
-Consider adding our Party button to your Party Page or Post.

Review/Giveaway: Furious Sauces (with Recipes!)


I'm not a wimp when it comes to spicy foods, but I will admit that I have a strong preference for flavor over heat. A food that merely has the ability to peel off the top layer of skin inside my mouth is not going to cut it.

For this reason, I regard the whole extreme-sport challenge of trying to survive the highest Scoville heat rating possible with extreme suspicion. I like food, and that means I like flavor, and burned off tastebuds can't taste anything! (If you read regularly, you know my co-writer Daniel does not agree with me!)

So, at first, when I heard about Furious Sauces, a Harrison, VA based small business that produces artisan hot sauces, I was hesitant - but then I read on their website that their stated purpose is "To create unique and delicious hot sauces that pair great with any kind of food without overpowering the taste."  And with that, I was in.

I received a bottle of each of their five hot sauces for review, and the first thing I did was open each one so I could taste them, and start planning how they might be used.

I was very excited once I'd gotten a taste - yes, these are good and spicy, but each one has a wonderful heady taste all its own that shines through.  I was full of inspiration for how to use them!

The first two are straight up hot sauces, with a good bit of body (that is, they're not watery and full of vinegar - these are actual sauces).

The Angry Assassin is a tomato-based Habanero sauce with a bit of smoky flavor that makes  the heat rich with flavor, and should be a reasonable enough level of heat to please all but the most bland palates.  We've been using this on almost everything, from eggs and hashbrowns to tossing a few dashes on top of a taco salad.

I am avoiding using it in any large quantity at a time, though, because the label notes that it includes bell peppers in the tomato blend, and I'm sensitive to them.

Yes, I know - weird. I can handle hot chiles, but not sweet peppers.  In any event, I did not notice any negative reaction to a small dash here and there.

The Dragon's Smoke is also tomato-based and replaces  the habaneros with ghost peppers, the infamous insanely-hot chile that is currently enjoying so much of popularity.

I was, frankly, afraid of this one, for all the reasons mentioned above - but they've managed to make this powerfully hot, but still flavor-rich. For the first time, I felt I was able to actually experience a little of what ghost peppers taste like, instead of just experiencing their heat.  After giving it a taste, I was even brave enough to try this is a mess of sauteed greens (see recipe below), and it behaved beautifully.

The next  three are flavored hot sauces, and since they aren't tomato based (meaning, no bell peppers),  I was able to use these with great abandon - and I have been!

Volcano Sunrise is a mango - habanero blend that is incredibly delicious!  It is a perfectly balanced blend of hot and sweet that I used as a cooking sauce with chicken (see recipe below).  The only downside with using it that way was that I quickly had no more Volcano Sunrise to enjoy - this was one of my two favorites.

Monstera's Agony is similar, except it is a Pineapple-Habanero blend. Like the mango, the fruit flavor comes through clearly, while the chiles provide a spicy foundation that is perfect for anything that would be served well by some tropical heat - we used out on some pork chops and, at Furious Sauces' suggestion, we'll be trying it soon with fish.

Saving my favorite for last, GoldenElixir is a Maple-Habanero Sauce that is so good that every time I taste it, my eyes roll back in my head.  I've enjoyed it with everything I can think of - the other night I brushed it on some bacon-wrapped kielbasa bites and it was amazing (did I take a picture? sigh.. no.)!

I also found it made a wonderful autumnal dipping sauce for sweet potato fries!  The recipe (such as it is):

Spicy Maple Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise (if you have a homemade recipe, use that!)
1/4 cup Furious Hot Sauces GoldenElixir Sauce

Mix together until well blended.

Serve with sweet potato fries or as a sauce to go with salmon, etc. The flavor will be warmly savory-sweet with rich maple notes.

Above, I mentioned a couple more simple recipes I wanted to share!  The first one uses the Volcano Sunrise Mango Habanero Sauce:

Mango Habanero Chicken
(serves 4)

8 chicken thighs, bone in & skin on
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup butter
5 oz (one bottle) Furious Sauces Volcano Sunrise Sauce
2 Tablespoons vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
1 teaspoon Worchestershire Sauce

In a large ovenproof skillet, heat olive oil and brown chicken 4-5 minutes per side, until lightly browned.  (It will not be cooked through yet.)

Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 375F.

Add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan, stir and cook for a few minutes until butter is melted and the sauce thickens slightly.

Return chicken to the sauce, turning to coat all sides, ending with the meaty side up.

Place the skillet in the oven (make sure your pan is oven capable! If not, put everything into a shallow casserole dish), and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

You may notice that this is quite similar to Buffalo Chicken Wings - any of Furious Sauces flavor blends would make great chicken wings!  We found this version to be delicious and flavorful and surprisingly, given that we used the entire bottle, not overwhelmingly hot.

I can't wait to get more of the Volcano Sunrise Hot Sauce, nor am I alone in loving it - this past weekend it was announced that this took a 3rd place award at  the Scovie Awards!

The last recipe I want to share was put together on the fly after our weekly produce box included both Rainbow Swiss Chard and Collards, and I needed to do something with those greens, and was not in the mood to go hunt up a bit of fatty pork to braise them in for hours.

For this, I used the Chard, and wound up with a quick side dish to serve along with some sausage.  And I decided to be brave and use the Dragon's Smoke Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce (gulp!):

Ghostly Hot Sauteed Swiss Chard

1 bunch of rainbow swiss chard
1/2 red onion, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons Furious Sauces Dragon's Smoke Sauce

Mince the red onion and set aside.

Wash and dry the swiss chard.  With a sharp knife, cut away the leaves from the center stem.

Finely slice the stem, and saute in the olive oil along with the onion until softened.

Stack the leaves on top of each other, roll them up, and then thinly slice. Slice through them again to create small bite sized pieces.  Add these to the onion mixture, and continue sautee'ing for a few minutes until all is softened.

Add the ghost pepper sauce to the pan, blending well.  Serve hot as a side dish.

If you're fortunate enough to live in the Harrison, VA area, you may find Furious Sauces at your local Farmer's Market. Otherwise, you can purchase Furious Sauces from their website for $5.98 per 5oz. bottle, plus shipping via USPS.  If you're interested in trying something really different than the usual heat-first hot sauces, I highly recommend them!

If you'd like to give them a try for free, Furious Sauces is allowing us to give away one of their Tropicana 3-Packs to one US winner!  That's a bottle each of the GoldenElixir, Monstera's Agony, and Volcano Sunrise - you won't want to miss this one, so read on to see how you can enter to win!

To enter the giveaway, you must leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Giveaway Tools Entry Form below. This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY and will end just before midnight ET on 11/1. 

The winner(s) will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway. In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Once the winners have responded and confirmed, their first names will be posted on our Giveaways  page.

Good luck!