Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas time was here!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas celebration! Ours was (as always) an exhausting but wonderful whirlwind of families, gifts, church services, and food. Lots and lots of food! I have zero will power when it comes to peanut butter balls, or peppermint bark, or brownies, or gingerbread cookies you get the picture! Those healthy new year's resolutions are just around the corner...

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite shots from Christmas Day.


Here is a simple egg casserole that we made for Christmas morning. I prepped most of the ingredients the night before, so Matt could just mix everything together (while I slept!) and pop it in the oven. It was hearty, delicious, and just 6 servings (a nice alternative to the giant recipes one generally finds).

Christmas Breakfast Casserole

1/4 cup ham, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
6 eggs, beaten
2-3 cups potatoes, shredded or chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Thyme, 1/4 tsp dried
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Pour into a greased pie pan and bake 40-45 minutes or until set.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Make: Tulip Skirt

I think it's time to take a break from all of the holiday crafts and share this fun "Tulip Skirt" with you!

I don't want to get into the habit of recreating tutorials, like this one from Cotton & Curls, but I actually had a difficult time following her written instructions. So I re-wrote the directions for my own sake and have decided to share this more detailed version with you.

Funny story: Although I just made this skirt a few weeks ago, I feel like it counts as vintage! You see, over the summer my grandmother (or rather, Mimi, as she is known in my family) found a bag of untouched fabric that had been burried in her closet for years. It had been so long that she couldn't remember what she had intended to do with it. While investigating, we found a faded receipt stating April 1993! That's a whopping nineteen years! She gave me the fabric with the stipulation that I make something nice with it. I think I was successful.

1.5 yards of flowy fabric
Buttons (2-3)

1. Cut the piece of fabric in an elongated half-oval. The top line of the shape should be your waist measurement x 2, then add another 12-16 inches (since it will wrap around your waist). The larger this measurement, the more gathered the final product will be. I used another skirt to determine the length.

2. Hem the curved edge.
3. Gather the top of the skirt, enough that it equals your waist measurement + 12-16”. If you don't know how to gather fabric, here is a great tutorial.

4. Bias Tape: decide how wide you want the waistband, then multiply that number by 2, and add an extra inch. Cut a strip of fabric (length = your waist measurement + 12-16") with that final width. Hem the short edges. Fold it in half lengthwise and iron. Then fold down both of the raw edges 1/4 inch and iron—DO NOT HEM.

**See Note**

5. Pin and sew one of the folded-under edges to the inside of the skirt (along the top) and sew a straight stitch.

6. Fold the bias tape over the waistband to the outside of the skirt and pin down. Sew a straight stitch along the edge of the waistband.

7. Add 2 buttons to the front of one end, 6" to 9" apart (depending on how much you want the skirt to cross over).

8. Now make 2 buttonholes the same width across on the other side. You can make extra holes to adjust waist size.

 **Note: If you want one of the buttons to be hidden (like mine), sew a single buttonhole on just one side of the waistband before step 5.

I felt oh-so-awkward taking these photos.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Make: $2 Centerpiece

This year's Christmas Centerpiece is brought to you by the dollar store. Oh, how I love the dollar store! These warm feelings go all the way back to my childhood. In an effort to teach my sister and me the joy of giving, my mom would take us to the dollar store to buy Christmas or birthday presents for the family. We roamed the aisles, painstakingly deciding between tchotchkes. To this day, my dad still has little ceramic kittens and puppies displayed in his office. I imagine his co-workers are surprised by his apparently juvenile taste in office décor. That's the love of a father for ya...

Where were we? Oh right, my centerpiece. I must admit that I completely stole this concept from my friend Mary, who originally got the idea from Decor Chick. It is so easy!

Simply glue a glass candlestick holder to a (not-too-tall) glass vase. That's it. I spent more time  getting the superglue off my fingers.

I guarantee that you will find these two objects at your local dollar store. Mine were even cheaper because I have approximately 1 million vases leftover from my wedding. While you are at the store, why not look for filler to put in the vases? I made three apothecary jars and filled each with different holiday things: peppermints, colorful ribbon, and ornaments. Other ideas include bells, candy, bows, faux snow, strings of lights, berries, twigs, or pinecones.

The best part? As I explained in my fall décor post, glass containers easily transition between seasons. Before long I'll be brainstorming springtime fillers!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Make: No-Sew Ruffle Tree Skirt

For the past two Christmases, my make-shift tree skirt has actually been a few swatches of plaid fabric draped around the tree's base. Was this cute? Not really. However, I just couldn't bring myself to settle for an expensive (or cheap but ugly) store-bought skirt, so I draped the fabric and quickly covered it with wrapped gifts. Then last year, immediately after Christmas, I stumbled upon this fantastic tutorial on HG-TV for a no-sew ruffle tree skirt. I was positively smitten!

Fitting adjectives for this project: beautiful, sophisticated, easy, time-consuming, and finger-burning.

That last part is thanks to the massive amount of hot glue sticks I used to create this beauty. I was legitimately surprised at how long it took to make this, but I think that could be shortened with two easy steps: 1) use wider strips of fabric and 2) don't be a crazy perfectionist. Remember, it will be under your Christmas tree and admired from afar. That being said, I'm very happy with the final product!

Materials Needed:
Large square of fabric (mine was 3 ½ ft x 3 ½ ft)
4 yards of additional fabric
Measuring tape
Sharp scissors
Hot glue gun
Hot glue sticks

Create Base:
Fold the large square of fabric into quarters. Now cut the outer edge into a quarter circle and cut a much smaller quarter circle out of the remaining point (see photos below). When you unfold it, you should have something reminiscient of a giant donut shape. Cut a straight line from the outer edge to the inner circle (so you can actually wrap the thing around your tree!).

Create Ruffles:
Using fabric shears, cut the remaining fabric lengthwise into 2" wide strips.

With your preheated glue gun, apply a thin line of glue along the edge of the circle--no longer than a few inches. Working quickly (before the glue hardens!), press a strip of fabric on the glue, pinching it as you go. You should have a tiny ruffle before you!

Continue this process around the entire skirt, starting each new row approximately 1 1/2 inches above the previous one (agjust this accordingly if using wider strips). Round and round you'll go till the entire skirt is covered.

And there you have it! Depending on your style, you can make it in one solid color (as I did), complementary colors, fun prints, or (if you're feeling really ambitious) an ombre design with slightly changing shades every few rows.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Time is Here!

I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. At the end of the day, my belly was full and my fridge was stocked with more sweet potatoes than any one person could eat. Anyone, that is, except Matthew. Before the leftovers could even be reheated, I had moved on to the real star: Christmas! I know, I know, Thanksgiving is certainly a special day; one to spend with friends and family, to enjoy good food, and to reflect on blessings. But to me, Thanksgiving is just the opening act, the prologue, the stepping stone to my favorite holiday--nay, season--Christmas Time. By Saturday morning, Matt and I were up to our eyeballs in ornaments while Sufjan Stevens provided the hall-decking soundtrack.
When it comes to our Christmas décor, I think we've settled on the word eclectic. It is a somewhat odd mix of kitchy ceramics inherited from grandparents and relics rescued from our childhood homes (all of which we are way too sentimental about to discard), rustic purchases, and the growing collection of my crafts. It might not be everyone's cup of tea but I love it. I get such a warm, happy feeling in our festive family room that I wouldn't trade any of it for a pack of brand-new, shiny store-bought decorations.

I made these sheet music trees last Christmas and still love them! If you would like to make your own, check out this tutorial.


Matthew's grandmother painted these ceramic Santas; the sleeping fella (on the right) we fill with coconut clusters, her favorite candyalways a nice surprise for curious guests! The middle scene previously decorated my childhood bedside stand; everyone gravitates towards it and rearranges the pieces. I feel that incorporating such objects helps to bring back just a tiny bit of that holiday magic we felt as children.

That's it for now! I'll show you some new projects in the weeks to come. I hope you make your home  as cheery as ours this Christmas season!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Make: Reversible Table Runner

I've recently realized how superior table runners are to tablecloths. You get the same pop of color and design as a tablecloth, but we can move it out of the way during meals thereby avoiding spills and stains. In our household, this is a legitimate concern as many once-pretty table linens have bitten the dust.

So the other day, while admiring my store-bought runner I noticed its simple construction. The thought, I bet could I make this! was quickly followed by another, more creative one: Why not make both sides out of cute but different fabrics?? So off I went in search of a fun (but grown-up) holiday fabric and a neutral print that could carry us through post-December winter. I am just so happy with how the runner turned out! So much so that I've decided it will not be displayed at our Christmas Kick-Off Party, because our friends seem to be as bad about spills as we are! This beauty must stay pristine!

An easier version would use bias tape around the edges--I felt like 75% of my time was spent lining up the edges perfectly. Here I wanted a simple design without a border, but in the future I'll probably opt for bias tape.

Materials Needed
2 rectangles of coordinating fabric (mine were 17" x 43")
Sewing Machine

The construction is quite easy and straightforward. Begin by hemming the edges of one fabric piece. Before you hem the other, you want to ensure that the two rectangles will line up nicely. I did this by laying the finished piece on top of the unfinished (right sides out), then marking/pinning everything into place. Sew the whole shebang together around the edges (whatever decorative stitch you prefer). To finish, iron.

Easy, right?!

No-Sew Version: simply iron the rough edges back to create faux hems, then use stitch witchery to fuse the two pieces of fabric together.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eat: Roasted Acorn Squash...a Matthew Ritter production

The world is comprised of those who like to cook and those who do not. Of the former, the divide continues further with recipe people and non-recipe people. I fall into the first camp. Matthew falls into the second. I want/need to know exactly how much of exactly what to add exactly when. Matt, on the other hand, is a freewheeling MacGyver in the kitchen. This is the man who added coffee--coffee--to a pot of chili! Grape jelly in stir fry! Soda in barbecue sauce! And do you know what? It works deliciously every time. He is a nice yin to my culinary yang.

All that is to say that this recipe for Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash is a Matthew Ritter original. The dish is a great combination of fancy presentation and comfort food taste. The ready-made bowls present prettily with their scalloped edges and orange flesh. The acorn squash itself has a smooth texture and subtle nutty flavor. Both of these characteristics areamplified by a filling of walnuts and couscous. Then every few bites you get the unexpected yet complementary tart kick of cranberry. A wonderful mix!

On an unrelated note, I would like to add that I have been very busy lately crafting it up like you wouldn't believe. However, all of my recent projects have been Christmas-themed and I'm afraid that it is just too early to start posting it. The retailers of America would disagree. So get ready for a flurry of fun posts in a few weeks!

Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2 garlic cloves
2 shallots
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup ginger ale
2/3 cup couscous
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4-1/3 cup dried cranberries

Begin by cutting the squash in half horizontally and removing the seeds and stems. Pour a small amount of water into a shallow baking pan, just enough to line the bottom. Then place each squash half (cut-side down) into the pan. Roast for 40-45 minutes at 355°F.

Towards the end of roasting time, you should prepare the stuffing. Heat the olive oil in a medium size saucepan and add your sage, garlic, and shallots. After a few minutes, pour in the water and ginger ale. Once boiling, stir in the couscous and remove the pan from heat. The couscous should absorb all liquid. If not, heat additionally as needed. Lastly, stir in the walnuts and dried cranberries

After the squash are roasted, plate each half and fill with stuffing.


Want another great fall-time recipe? This week I made Pumpkin Spiced French Toast.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Make: All-in-One Planner (free printable!)

In the Ritter house, we like to joke that I am the social gatekeeper. If you want to know when we are free for dinner, what date that appointment is scheduled, or when the parking pass was last paid, you best come to me first. My little datebook is never too far from me. Actually I have two datebooks. Crazy, I know. One is very small and fits in my equally small purse  and the other is large so I can write notes while appreciating alternating pages of fine art prints. But I digress.

Gradually, it became clear that we needed some way for all relevant household parties to know what the coming week had in store, not just me.

I was simultaneously growing tired of drafting several partial-grocery lists on random slips of paper, just to be lost somewhere in the ether. Or worse, I would run out of garlic and make a "mental note" which is the equivalent of deciding I shall never again use garlic.

Plus I needed a convenient (and noticeable) spot to remind myself of things like "call so and so about such and such" or "take salsa to work party Friday!".

I love browsing all of the organizational print-outs, binders, and such on lady-blogs. However, I am not a homeschooling mother of three who needs so much elaborate stuff. Thus I grabbed the bull by the horns and made my own handy dandy planner for my refrigerator. It is streamlined, simple, and small. I laminated it, attached a small dry-erase marker, and then added magnets on the back.

I've been using it for several months and quite like it. So much so, that I figured I might as well share it! Feel free to print it for private use. If you don't have access to a laminator, you can buy laminate pockets at most office supply stores. I hope you find this helpful!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone! As a lover of this holiday, I hope you are making it a fun one: handing out candy, trick-or-treating with the kiddos, partying somewhere in a non-sexy costume, so on and so forth...

Tonight, Matthew and I continue our tradition (3rd year running!) of bundling up and hanging out on the front porch, regardless of how cold gets. We fight the chill with the help of glühwein, or warm mulled wine. The first Halloween in our neighborhood we underestimated how much candy to buy, with the children arriving in large packs. So naturally, last year we overshot it and barely had a dozen trick-or-treaters! Tonight will tip the scales one way or the other.

I also made a batch of super easy Halloween snack mix (or if you are feeling especially festive, Scarecrow Crunch). Here's the recipe:

Mix together in a large bowl...
  • 4 cups cereal (shredded wheat, cheerios, oatmeal squares...whatever you like)
  • 4 cups mini pretzels
  • 22oz bag candy corn and pumpkins
  • 2 cups caramel popcorn
  • 2 cups Reese's Pieces (tip: a bag of chocolate/peanut butter chips is way cheaper!)
  • 1 cup Teddy Grahams
You can add to this list or substitute any of the ingredients with similar fare.

On a related note, I have spent a good chunk of the last two weeks getting our costumes ready for a friend's Halloween party. I've alternated between hunching over my sewing machine and roaming thrift stores. I will share the final products after the party, so we can enjoy the element of surprise!

Have a great night!


Fall Recipe of the Week: Curried Sweet Potato & Lentil Stew

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Make: Laundry Detergent

My mom has been making her own laundry soap for years. I never really thought too much about it until I was an adult who actually had to pay for detergent. Don't get me wrong--I definitely did my share of laundry growing up, but I wasn't footing the bill! Even with my Sam's Club membership, the cost of detergent is steep. So last year I got the "recipe" from my mom and haven't looked back!

This is definitely the type of project that becomes more cost effective the more times you do it. That's because you will likely have to buy larger boxes of ingredients that can make several batches.

The first time I tried this, I made a double batch that lasted approximately 7-8 months! I do 2-3 loads of laundry per week, using one heaping tablespoon per load. I do have a big store-bought bottle to use whenever I am in between batches. I recommend you do the same.

Powder Detergent

You will need:
1 bar of Fels Naptha, grated
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda

Mix together thoroughly. That's it. Use 1 tablespoon per load.

Now, I'm not going to lie to you or pretend that it didn't take a while to grate that bar of soap. Just think of it an as opportunity to practice those meditation techniques you've been meaning to try. Another upside is that your kitchen will smell fantastic!

Some people report difficulty in finding the ingredients, however, I found them with no trouble at all at the nearby Walmart. Actually, they were all shelved right next to each other in the laundry aisle.

Prefer Liquid Detergents?

There is also a liquid version of homemade laundry detergent. I can't personally vouch for it, but my sister uses this technique. According to her, it takes "some time" but is definitely worth it and she plans to keep making it in the future. Although it involves many more steps, it yields far more detergent. Keeping that in mind, my sister notes that you want to ensure you will have enough storage space to house several large jugs (of the detergent).

You will need:
1/2 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
Fels Naptha Soap Bar, grated
5 gallon bucket with lid
10 (1-gallon) milk jugs or other containers with lids.

Put the soap shavings in a large pot with 4 cups of water. Heat on medium-low, stirring continuously until soap is dissolved (roughly 10 minutes). The texture may be foamy.

Fill the bucket halfway with very hot water. Add the soap mixture, washing soda, and borax. Stir thoroughly.

Add additional water, until bucket is completely full. Stir thoroughly. Cover and let sit overnight. The next day, the texture should be somewhat thicker; stir again.

Now you can funnel the detergent into the containers, but ONLY HALF-WAY. Fill the other half with water and give the jug (lid on!) a good shake.

Use approximately 1/4 cup per load.


So there you have it! An easy way to save loads of money while doing loads of laundry!

Fall Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin Blondies

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Make: Fall To-Do

Generally, whenever something becomes overly prevalent in the populace I'm turned off by it completely. That's just the hipster hidden inside me, I guess. That something might be a fashion trend, celebrity, book, movie, or catchphrase. "Bucket List" definitely falls into that last something category. However, I do appreciate the sentiment. So I decided to apply the sentiment (but not the word!) to this fall season. I love autumn so much and it always flies by too quickly! So I thought it might be smart to make a priority list and thereby better use our time.

I also just love making lists. So much.

Confession Time: I originally printed this out in cute fonts and colors with the intention of displaying it proudly on the fridge, but...I lost it. Oops.

So here it is with a little mid-term progress report!


Visit a pumpkin patch OR vineyard
           This is currently penciled in my datebook. Ste Genevieve, here we come!

Go on a picnic

           Is it cheating if I combine this with our vineyard trip?

Make an autumn banner 
           Well, I did half of it but then decided I do not like the design; back to the drawing board! 

Make s’mores
          Done! Complete with a fire pit and friends.

Front Porch Halloween Tradition
          14 days to go!
Tour Anheuser Busch
          I have no clue when we are going to be able to do this.

Spend as much time as possible outside, be it sitting or walking
          This was Matthew's suggestion, and we have indeed been outside many times.

Try one new fall-time recipe each week
          So far, so good! I've tried Pumpkin Chocolate Cookies, Butternut Squash Stuffed Pasta, Butternut Squash Chili, Honey Apple Pork Tenderloin (I also threw in 4 chopped sweet potatoes), and up next are Pumpkin Oat Muffins.

What do you hope to do this fall? How can you get it from To-Do  to  Done?!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Eat: Butternut Squash Stuffed Pasta

While the dish was great, this photo is not. For that, I apologize.

This delicious dish, Butternut Squash Stuffed Pasta Shells with Thyme Butter Sauce, was the result of an impulse buy. Matt and I had just finished up a brunch date with his mom when we decided to mosey over to the next-door produce stand. I was in need of a pumpkin for the front porch and it offered an impressive selection.

We felt like such hip, locally-conscience urbanites shopping at the little stand that we began roaming the aisle trying to decide what other produce we could plausibly need after a recent trip to the grocery store. We both stopped in front of the butternut squash box and knew we'd found our treasure. Before we made it to the check-out counter, I had already chosen this recipe from my mental list of Pinterest Finds To Try.

The dish had a very long preparation and (honestly) was poorly selected as a workday meal. Fortunately, Matt can tell when I'm getting overwhelmed and the wheels are about to come off. He graciously jumped in, helped out, and by 7pm we were digging in to some extremely tasty pasta. The texture of the filling is smooth and creamy, with a subtle sweetness. Usually after conquering an involved recipe, I rarely think I will repeat it--mainly because I enjoy attempting new recipes. However, this was so good that I fully intend to make it again, although probably as a lasagna for faster assembly.

I modified the original recipe a fair amount, and I strongly suggest you follow my ingredient list!

Butternut Squash Stuffed Pasta Shells with Thyme Butter Sauce

Butternut Squash, peeled and chopped (4 cups)
Jumbo pasta shells (roughly 20, depending on how stuffed you want them to be)
16 oz Ricotta
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup frozen spinach, drained
1 egg
Salt & pepper, to taste

Toss the squash in some olive oil and spread the pieces out in a large baking pan. Roast for 15-20 minutes at 425°F.

Utilize this time to cook the pasta shells according to the package’s directions.

Once the squash has roasted, you should be able to easily smash it with a fork. If not, continue cooking in the oven for a few minutes at a time, checking it regularly. In a large bowl combine the smashed squash, Ricotta, Parmesan, garlic, spinach, egg, salt, and pepper.

Wait until the pasta shells are cool enough to touch, then stuff each with heaping spoonfuls of the filling. This is a great time to call in the family for assistance.

After putting the shells in a greased baking pan, bake for roughly 10 minutes at 350°F.

NOTE: The original recipe calls for 20 minutes at 400°F. Don’t do this! I followed the instructions and regretted it; a few of the pasta shells were overcooked and crunchy. Gross.

To prepare the sauce, melt 1 stick of butter in a small pan, then add thyme to taste. Drizzle this sparingly over the pasta. If desired, sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Loveliness: a second anniversary tale

In short:

Our anniversary celebration was positively wonderful!

In long:

Part I

Last Wednesday marked our second wedding anniversary. We kicked off the festivities by dining out at Water Street Café in Maplewood. It's one of those intimate, low light, warm colors, cool music restaurants with small menus and square plates. It was perfect.

The meal itself is worth detailing. Trust me.

We shared a plate of warm medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese & basil, wrapped in bacon with a balsamic reduction. Yowza. And I do mean yowza. I think I could have eaten a dozen of them and called it a night.

Then we ordered a flatbread with kalamata olives, chorizo, spinach, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella and split a maple-bourbon salad with spring greens, pears, gorgonzola, candied almonds, red onions, and maple-bourbon vinaigrette. Yes sir!

Part II

The rest of the week carried on like usual, but by Saturday morning we were peeling out of town like Bonnie and Clyde.

We spent the day roaming the small town of New Haven (Missouri, not Connecticut). It rests on a hill right next to the Missouri River, with a little square of historic buildings that once bustled with the energetic commerce of the steamboat industry but now hums with the quiet chirping of the cicadas. This calm is regularly interrupted by the whooshing and whistling of trains storming through.

We settled on the adjective "sleepy" to best describe New Haven as there is next to nothing to keep one's self occupied. Despite the number of homes, we saw very few actual human beings. Matt kept referring to it as "our town" since we appeared to be the only folks for miles. So we explored a few antique shops and sat next to the river, me reading, Matthew writing.

The Historic District, and yes, that is City Hall.
The Visitor's Center (left) and a random caboose (right).

A few points of interest from our exploration:

Around mid-day, we found a scenic view atop New Haven's big hill; this was the perfect spot to enjoy our Tex-Mex to go.

There were two teenage girls riding their bikes in an unending loop around the historic district. The entire day. I repeat, the entire day. We started to imagine them as the witches from MacBeth, constantly watching and circling us, cackling to themselves.

No matter where you go or how far you travel, there is always an antique store waiting to creep you out with vintage toys.

Being good visitors, we visited the Visitor's Center. When asked for a restaurant recommendation, the friendly volunteer in turn asked us what other towns we would be visiting. After our reply of none, she seemed at a loss and just trailed off without offering a suggestion. I feel like she needs some additional ambassador training.

A troop of Lewis and Clark reenactors had just sailed their way down the river and were starting to set up camp. This happened to coincide with a wedding party hoping to take pictures along the riverfront. The ensuing scene provided ample entertainment and prompted some debate as to whether or not these two events were somehow related, like a reenactment-themed wedding. Turns out not.

New Haven must be the safest place in the United States, because we noticed multiple police vehicles with not only the windows rolled down but the doors unlocked as well. And yes, there appeared to be loaded rifles in the back seats. Fantastic.

We stayed overnight at a bed and breakfast built in the late 1800s. I'd like to note that Matthew and I are B&B enthusiasts. We often muse aloud together about how we will run our own B&B someday and brainstorm clever puns as potential names. With that critical credibility established, we thought Central Hotel was great (although breakfast was somewhat underwhelming). It had a warm, rustic feel but was fully updated and had a clean newness to it. Plus, our room was HUGE and boasted its own balcony. We spent a good part of Saturday afternoon sitting on the porch, returning friendly unsolicited waves from Townies.

Part III

On Sunday we had another batch of peace and quiet but of the one-with-nature kind. The Shaw Nature Reserve, for those of you who don't know, is a 2,400 square foot private reserve run by the Missouri Botanical Gardens. The farther one gets from the entrance, the rougher the terrain becomes. It really was so beautiful. It is not easy to turn off my ever-changing, ever-growing mental to-do list, but this hiking trip had instantaneous success. You should give it a try! By the end of the day, we were exhausted but in a good, happy way!

Some of you may know that the thistle, thanks to our recent trip to Scotland,
 is a special flower to us. We were excited to find one!

So here we are back home with two years of matrimony under our belt. I am so grateful to have little getaways like this, time to be with Matthew, looking for adventure, laughing at things that no one besides us would find funny, gazing up into trees, talking about everything, being reminded of how blessed we are.


Fall Recipe of the Week: Butternut Squash Chili