Friday October 20, 2017

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Decorating Wisely
Friday, 06 October 2017 20:59

Decorating Wisely: Halloween Party

This past weekend we hosted Grayson’s last Halloween party. To say that I’m sad is an understatement.


We’ve hosted a Halloween party since she was in Pre-K. Yes, there were many years that I thought to myself, “Why in the world did I start this tradition?” but in the end I am ever so glad that we continued it. Parents of young children, heck, even older children, I strongly urge you to start some sort of tradition with your kids. Now, it doesn’t have to be a party, it can be anything, just something that they look forward to every year and that they will look back on as a good memory. I promise you that you won’t regret it.

Grayson has always loved Charlie Brown, so she really wanted to do a “The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” party. This was actually pretty easy to pull off with minimal costs. Of course, it started with the invitation that was Charlie Brown themed. We opted to do a dinner and movie kind of thing. You guessed, it the movie was “The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” We set up our projector and outdoor screen and lots of blankets. The outdoor screen was made of PVC pipe and a white king-sized bedsheet. Grayson had a whole vision for this outdoor movie night. She wanted café lights for the lighting, so I ordered a few boxes from Amazon and we strung them near the movie area. Just an FYI, I try to make or repurpose as many things as I can, but when I do have to purchase things, I try to make the purchase count, like the café lights. I know without a doubt that they are something I will reuse over and over again. For example, I know we will use them at our Friendsgiving celebration.

For the dinner, we served chili, a veggie tray, and other small finger foods. For the movie, we set up a popcorn bar. Guests were able to scoop their popcorn and add whatever they wanted like candy corn, M&M’s and pretzels. This was a big hit!

Also, Grayson made a Charlie Brown-themed banner for photos. She did this with Linus picture she enlarged on the printer, cut out stars from her Silhouette and a twin-sized bedsheet.

The party was a big hit and the weather was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything better for her last party.


grayson alex carley 002

popcorn bar 002

photo banner 002

group halloween 002

outdoor movie 002

Saturday, 30 September 2017 15:56

Decorating Wisely: Magnolia Garland

Hello all! I hope you enjoyed a break from me last week. I’ve been busy with my last semester, Grayson’s last Nutcracker and so many other “lasts” this year ahead of many firsts next year. I was able to play hooky for an afternoon last week and get my front door fall decorations finished. I posted a picture on Facebook and had a couple of people ask me how I did it. I thought I would devote this column to helping you out with garland tips I’ve learned throughout the years (after many, many failures).

First of all, I didn’t want to spend much money so I had to figure out a way to get what I wanted without spending a fortune. I made a Facebook post that I was looking for magnolia tree trimmings and my friend responded that he had just trimmed his tree and I was welcome to as much as I needed. Donnie loaded up the back of his truck and brought them home. Score!

Here’s what you need to get started with your own garland:
• Whatever base you want. My base was magnolia branches, your base can be cedar branches, pine branches, etc. You will need more than you think, so load up twice as much.
• Paddle wire. This is simply wire wrapped around flat plastic. You can purchase this at Wal-Mart or any craft store.
• Rope (optional)
• The proper screws in the proper place (we’ll get to that in a minute).

To get started you will need a large space to spread out (preferably outside because it will make a mess). Next, layer two or three branches and start wrapping with the paddle wire. Do not cut the wire, you want one continuous piece.

(Hint: Leave your branches a little long. Don’t cut them too short because it’s nearly impossible to make a full garland with little sprigs.)


Now, just keep layering and wrapping with the wire. It will take a little bit to get in the groove of it, but eventually you will get in the rhythm of it. Don’t worry about a few bare spots because you will be able to fill in with smaller sprigs when you hang the garland. At this point, you’re just getting the bulk and length of the garland done. I mentioned a rope was optional. Some people prefer to use a rope to help with the process, i.e., you do the same thing but attach the branches to the rope with the wire. The rope is sort of a guide. Iv’e never really done this, because I didn’t learn it that way, but it may help you so I thought I would throw it in.

Now that the bulk of your garland is complete, it’s time to hang it. This is where the proper screws in the proper place comes in. After all these years, I still try to do things my way and it never works out for me. Donnie had the flu this past weekend along with a bad cycling accident and I just really wanted to hang the garland myself and be done with it without disturbing him, but I’m sure you can guess how that went. Grayson and I tried everything to do it ourselves, but to no avail. It was just too heavy and too long to not have the right screws in place so I had to break down and call one of our subcontractors to come over Monday morning and put the brick screws in for me. Low and behold, after he left I easily attached the garland in a matter of minutes by myself.

Finally, after the garland is hung, fill in any holes with smaller branches.


Now, all you have to do is add other décor like mums and pumpkins and enjoy!

Friday, 15 September 2017 22:59

Decorating Wisely: Thanksgiving planner

I know it seems a bit early, but I’ve already started thinking about Thanksgiving. I mean, heck, we’re already to mid-September, wasn’t it just Labor Day?! Also, this year will be a bit different due to Ashton’s work schedule. You all know what a stickler I am for holidays and traditions, so we’re figuring out a way to preserve our holiday traditions while working around scheduling.


Ashton’s normal days off are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so if the holiday falls on one of those days she’s golden, but I guess you know where that leaves her on Thanksgiving because the news never stops even for turkey and dressing.


Yes, Thanksgiving at the farm will have to be scheduled a bit earlier in the day this year, so she can go before work, but where does that leave all of her co-workers that don’t have any family nearby? One of them told me that the station bought them Chinese food last year for Thanksgiving.


I said, “Oh no, not on my watch! You will have a traditional Thanksgiving meal!” We have opted to do a Tuesday before Thanksgiving Friendsgiving. Now you guys can see why I feel the need to start planning now because I’m finally in my last semester at UAFS and technically, I’m still in school on that Tuesday, but fingers crossed I will not get sick and have to use any of my days allowed by my professors until that day.

Technically, Thanksgiving is about 9 ½ weeks away, but I believe you can never start too early planning and working out timelines. I apply this to most everything I do. Am I saying I never have a problem or late? No way, but I sure would hate to see my life without all of this initial legwork. It would be bad, very bad!

For something like this, I personally don’t think it’s too early to send out invitations. Especially for a holiday celebration. They all know they will be working, therefore, I just want them to know that we will be doing something special on a day that they can come.

• Pin, pin, pin away on Pinterest and look through old cookbooks for tried and true family favorites.

• Sift through and turn all those ideas into real plans by finalizing the menu and recipes.
• Make a shopping list of all the ingredients you need. This includes everything you have on hand, because at this point, you’re just trying to figure out what you need. This includes cooking gear, i.e., a roasting pan, etc.
• After you make the list, go through your cabinets and mark off anything you already have.
• Make a general serving plan and the items you need for that.
• Finalize décor.
• Start clearing out cabinets. This is also a great way to take inventory of your cooking gear.

• Divide the list from Week 6 into three categories: Perishable, Non-Perishable and Cooking Gear
• Start purchasing nonperishables and cooking gear as your budget allows. It’s a lot easier if you spread the expense out over the next few weeks.
• Order anything needed online and reserve anything you need to rent like tables and chairs.


• Develop your cooking plan based on your recipes and menu items.
• Based on the plan, divide the perishables by the date you’ll be buying them.
• Clean out the fridge and freezer.
• Press or dry clean table linens.

• Buy the perishables you will need based on your cooking plan.
• Items to make ahead and freeze are pie dough, bread, cornbread.
• Arrange your tablescape and other decorations. If using fresh flowers, go ahead and place the empty vase where you want it and then all you’ll need to do is fill it with flowers.
• This is the time to do what my mother-in-law calls, “clean the corners” i.e., get in there and scrub all the stuff you miss the rest of the time.
• Buy the turkey! Dang..almost forgot the star of the show!

• Buy any remaining perishable items.
• Start defrosting piecrusts.

• Prepare pies and like items.

• Chill wine/beer.
• Prepare sides.
• Defrost breads and other premade frozen items.

Of course, this is a general suggestion as to how I do things, but tailor it to your needs and traditions.

As I’ve mentioned I love tradition and I think it is so very important in a family, but I think there is always room to add new ones and evolve as your life seasons evolve.


I’m looking forward to this new tradition and inviting new people to be a part of our old traditions.

Friday, 08 September 2017 22:20

Decorating Wisely: Fall

I hope you all had a fun-filled, relaxing Labor Day holiday. Ours didn’t start out that great since we hit a deer on the way to the football game, but when it was all said and done it ended up pretty good. The Sooners won and I got some of my fall decorations out. Every time I look at my pumpkins on my cabinets, it just makes me happy.


I’ve noticed a lot of fall decorations this year painted in chalky Farmhouse colors of light blue, greys and white yet they still look warm and fallish. I love the look of these colors nestled in a milk glass bowl with greenery and acorns. These colors also complement the traditional warm fall colors. This is an easy weekend painting project. All you need are a few small pumpkins, small bottles of chalk paint and a sponge paintbrush and then start painting your pumpkins.


Staying with the milk glass theme, if you have an old pitcher laying around simple fill it with wheat for an instant table centerpiece or complement to a side table. Fall to me is about simplicity and utilizing items from nature and what you have on hand. It’s about enjoying the little things like pumpkin bread, hayrides and cooler temperatures. I think your decorations should emulate that feeling. Whatever that feeling is for you, that’s how you should approach your fall decorating or, heck, decorating in general. I think that’s why the Farmhouse style has gained so much popularity. People want to feel at home in their home.


Another easy idea is to simply use old, worn terracotta pots and white pumpkins as a decorating element. If you don’t have any old terracotta pots, you can age them by wiping (very messily) white chalk paint on them. Don’t do this in a kind of orderly fashion; just try to make them look like they naturally aged that way. Stack a few pots together and then place a pumpkin on top and a few around the pots. That’s it. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

While we’re enjoying this time of, pumpkins and such, let’s not forget about all those that are suffering from natural disasters by keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.

Friday, 01 September 2017 22:50

Decorating Wisely: Suffering

I had planned on writing this week’s column about fall decorating since it’s Labor Day and, well, you know how I feel about’s the beginning of the holiday season for me.


However, that just feels very inappropriate given everything that has happened this week like Hurricane Harvey and the Cameron school fire. It just doesn’t feel right to go on about decorating with pumpkins and such when so many people are suffering right now.


I realize that people suffer every day, week after week when I write my column people are suffering in conditions that I can’t even imagine in my wildest dreams, but I can’t seem to put my heart into it this week.


My life has truly been blessed beyond anything I thought possible growing up in Smalltown, Arkansas. I’ve had the opportunity to live and travel to many places in this great United States of America and beyond. I’ve had the privilege of crossing paths with some pretty amazing people in my lifetime.


One family in particular is the Bromens. As you may remember they were our next-door neighbors in Florida, we’ve had Thanksgiving dinner with them, watched one another’s kids, celebrated birthdays and rode out Hurricane Ivan with them. I’ll never forget what Pete said after that hurricane. He said, “I believe that a person has a handful of truly significant life-altering things happen to them in their lives and this is one of them.” He was right about that, that Hurricane did change my life, not only the fact that we moved back to Poteau, but the way I looked at things and how much I appreciated things like running water, electricity and a yard without debris strewn about.


I’m sad to say that Pete and Brenda have had more than their fair share of “a handful of life-altering events.” He’s proudly served our country through the Air Force and fought overseas and been an amazing role model of not only a husband and father, but a human being. You see, Brenda has been struggling to beat breast cancer for the past six years and the last few years have been heartbreaking to watch unfold for them.


On Sunday, she passed from this life just a couple of weeks away from her 47th birthday. I know she is no longer suffering, but I can’t help but feel selfish and sad. It’s absolutely incredible how quickly life can pass us by. It feels like just yesterday that we were moving into our house in Florida and meeting the Bromens for the first time.


We both had small children and were stay-at-home moms with husbands that traveled a lot for work. I know life changes and we can either sit there and wish for what was or get up and face new challenges and experiences head on. I just don’t know why it has to be so darn hard and hurt so much sometimes.


I guess, what I’m trying to say this week is enjoy the life you have, don’t get too self-absorbed in the material things you don’t have, take as many life experience opportunities you can get and let God lead you to places that aren’t even in your realm of thinking.


I will leave you with Brenda’s famous pumpkin bread that I’ve made for years now and it’s one of Grayson’s favorite parts of fall.


For the bread:

• 3 cups flour
• 3 cups sugar
• ½ tsp. baking soda
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 tsp. nutmeg
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 1 cup oil
• 3 eggs
• 2/3 cup water
• 2 cups pumpkin puree

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Grease and prepare loaf pans.
3. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.
4. Mix wet ingredients together with a mixer.
5. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.
6. Pour into loaf pans and bake for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.


For the Glaze:

• 3 tbsp. buttermilk
• ¼ cup butter
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 1 cup powdered sugar

1. Bring to boil the milk, butter and brown sugar.
2. Remove from heat.
3. Mix in powdered sugar.
4. Glaze loaves.

When you’re having a piece of this delicious bread, take time to just sit and really enjoy it. Even better enjoy it with a friend over a cup of coffee.


It’s all about the little things.

Friday, 25 August 2017 23:08

Decorating Wisely: It's Football Yall!

Next weekend kicks off tailgating season! I’m beyond excited. I love the energy and excitement of being on campus especially for the first game and I equally love tailgating and all the fun preparation. Ashton and I are exactly alike when it comes to tailgating and events in general, we love to be just a little extra. Admittedly, we’re not so much extra that we hand paint almonds to look like footballs with icing. Although, I love and secretly envy the person that has time to do that!

Alrighty, let’s get to it. Here is our basic tailgating checklist. Once this is established and put in the tailgate wagon, it’s really just a matter of changing food themes for each game. We let the time of the game dictate the type of food. For example, the OU-Texas game was early last year, so we had various types of bagels, chocolate-covered strawberries, quiche, bacon, and, of course, mimosas (in my opinion, the only thing good about an early game).


Here we go!
 Portable grill
 Grill utensils
 Coolers x 2 (one for perishable items and the other for drinks)
 Bottled water
 Crackers, chips (things that store well without refrigeration and have a long expiration date)
 Bottle openers
 Paper towels
 Disinfecting wipes
 Hand sanitizer
 Football/game-themed napkins
 Disposable plates, cups, utensils
 Pop-up tent
 Chairs and folding tables
 Trash bags

 Plastic tablecloths and cloth tablecloths (you know me, I tend to stick with white and use other things to accent) and table clips to hold down the tablecloth

 Plastic trays for serving (Dollar Tree is the best place to get this stuff and if’s only $1, so if it breaks or gets mistakenly thrown away you’re not out a lot of money)

Team and football themed decorations, such as pennants, banners, etc.

Now that you have the basics ready to go for each game, you can easily change up your themes and add those “extra” elements like an AstroTurf tablerunner or a fun theme such as something with a Mexican flair and serve walking tacos. The possibilities are endless and the best part is you can do this whether you’re actually going to the game or not.


You can have a fun tailgate party in your own backyard and invite friends over to watch the game. It’s fun, it’s relaxing (well, unless your team is losing) and a great way to kick-off the fall fun!

The other day I happened upon an article on Facebook that was titled, “20 Home Décor Mistakes Everyone Over 45 Should Avoid” by Maureen Wiley. I don’t usually bother to read a lot of this stuff, because let’s face it everybody is an expert anymore and everybody has an opinion on what we should and shouldn’t be doing. For some reason this one piqued my interest, maybe it’s because I’m over 45, maybe I had a weak moment, maybe a little of both, regardless I read it to see what this “expert” had to say. Here are her “tips” she basically demanded:

1. Decorate with fake plants. She says and I quote verbatim, “It’s obvious to all of your guests if your plants are fake. It will also make your house look like it is a portal to the 90s.” I have to disagree with her because there are some beautiful silks available on the market these days that look so real you can’t tell them apart. For example, I love orchids, but growing them, I’m just not so good at. I have several faux orchids. The key is to buy quality silks that will stand the test of time.

2. Floral furniture. She says, “Florals are currently big in the fashion world, but not so much in the home decor world. No matter how long you’ve had that floral sofa, you need to get rid of it! Floral furniture is a dead giveaway that your house is an ‘old lady house.’” First of all, home décor typically mirrors current fashion trends. Maybe she is referring to the kind of floral couch that I grew up know, it’s various shades of brown with some kind of windmill or something on it. Anyway, I think an accent or two of a floral print brings a little softness to a room.

3. Covering all surfaces in framed photos: Her thought-process is that if you display more than a couple of framed photos in a room it immediately screams “grandma’s house.” Personally, I like going to people’s homes and seeing pictures of their families. I love seeing random photos of things like vacations, celebrations, etc. I think not having enough family photos in your home, makes it look a little cold and uninviting.

Here’s my thing with this kind of article and title, why does Maureen really care what is in my home just because I’m over 45? I agree that my 23-year-old daughter’s home décor is different from mine; it doesn’t make either right or wrong. Her home offers a more simplified style with greys and whites and cleaner lines. My home has more of a beige neutral pallet with less clean lines. I mean after all, I’ve raised a family; we’ve lived in our home for a lot of years the lines aren’t going to be perfect anymore. Are there things we can all do to keep our homes updated? Yes, of course, but your home should make you happy and be a reflection of you and not a reflection of some random blogger. You do you! Oh, by the way, this is all in my very unexpert opinion!

Saturday, 12 August 2017 00:09

Decorating Wisely: Distressed Pumpkins

It’s hard to believe that summer is over and school is back in session. My Gracie girl is a senior this year, so I’m not doing well at all. I really am not ready for my kids to be grown. I don’t even know how this happened, one day I’m in Florida raising an elementary-aged daughter and a toddler and the next I’m in Oklahoma with a college graduate and high school senior. I know I’m not the first person to ever fear empty nesting, but it still makes me sad nonetheless.

Fortunately, I know just how to cheer myself up! Fall decorating! No, no, I haven’t been decorating just yet, but I am in the preliminary fun stage of pulling out old magazines and pinning away on Pinterest. I’ve been looking for new ways to use old things or at the very least ways to jazz up inexpensive things. In fact, I just pinned, “Distressed Dollar Store Pumpkins with a Crackle Finish” by I love those gorgeous distressed pumpkins, but I don’t love the price. I will definitely be trying this out this year.

White or School Glue
Small paintbrushes
Latex or acrylic paint (In the final pumpkin color)
Dark brown craft paint for glaze
Grey or black paint for splatter (you could also use more of the brown color)
Old toothbrush
Small wooden branches
Hot Glue Gun



1. Cover the pumpkin in white glue until it is tacky. Note: the direction of the stroke marks will influence the direction of the crackling.
2. Once the glue is tacky, coat a thick layer of paint. Note: the direction of the stroke marks.
3. Allow paint to dry.
4. Next, to get that finished look, water down the craft paint, spread it over the entire pumpkin, and then wipe it down. This method is similar to glazing cabinets. The darker color will remain in a few cracks and crevices.
5. After the glaze dries, use an old toothbrush to splatter the grey or black paint onto the pumpkin. This technique takes a bit of practice. Gracie and I took a splatter painting class earlier this summer and there really is a method to it. Dip your brush into the paint, then while holding the toothbrush in one hand tap it with the other. How hard you tap determines how much paint comes off the brush. Just practice on a piece of paper, you’ll the hang of it.
6. She removed the stem that was made on the pumpkin and add a wood stick. I really love this idea and it sure adds a designer touch to the finished product.

Now, you have one inexpensive fall project ready to go! Be sure and get those pumpkins early at the dollar store, as they always seem to go fast!

I want to wish all of the students, teachers and school staff a safe and fabulous school year!

Friday, 04 August 2017 23:34

Decorating Wisely: A mercantile

Is it possible that a store ( store to be exact) make you want to do a better job at life? I think so, because it happened to me! I’m pretty sure we were the last people in Poteau ta mercantileo go to Pawhuska to visit The Mercantile by the Pioneer Woman. It was such a treat and well worth the three hour drive.

I have long been a fan and admirer of Ree Drummond. We’ve cooked tons of her recipes, followed her blog and watched her on TV for years now. I’ve always loved how she has stayed true to her family and roots as she became more and more successful. The Mercantile did not disappoint. There were little touches of Ree throughout. From the butterflies on the curtains to the whimsical coffee mugs to the ranch-inspired décor it all screamed, “The Pioneer Woman”. As I’m typing this, I’m sipping coffee from my Mercantile coffee mug. I swear my coffee tastes better!

“How can a store make you want to be a better person?” you may be asking yourself. For me there was no one thing, it was a combination of all the little things. No detail was not thought of. It reminded me of a book I read this summer, The Little Things: Why You Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff, by Andy Andrews. I highly, highly recommend this book by the way. It’s about how the little things really do make a difference every day. One example he uses is Michael Phelps.

...the difference between first place and tenth place is less than a second...American swimmer Michael Phelps once won a gold medal by a hundredth of a second. Think about it. A hundredth of a second is smaller than the amount of time it takes lightning to strike...

Here is the truth that average achievers never bother to consider: the advantage in any arena of life is earned far in advance of the moment one is required to perform.

Michael Phelps and Ree Drummond although wildly different in their accomplishments are similar in many ways. They both do what they do extremely well, they both work hard for their successes, they persevered to achieve their dreams and I believe they left room for God to work his magic. For the Pioneer Woman I believe she had a vision and didn’t stray from it. As I mentioned every last detail had her special touch.


The water dispensers and beautifully wrapped faux silverware in the bakery, the beautiful shopping bags, heck even the to-go containers. Although it was busy, busy I never felt like a number. I felt like I was being welcomed into someone’s home. The food was phenomenal. Although we were in the middle of restaurant, we felt as if we were enjoying a big family dinner with more food than we could ever eat. In fact, I’ve just awoken from my food coma!

To answer the question, “How is this driving me to be a better person?” It makes me want to pay even closer attention to the details in everything I do. I want to make everyone feel special when they come to my home. None of this takes any extra money. It just takes one extra thought or one extra minute of preparation.


That one extra can make someone feel a million times more special and appreciated.

Speaking of making someone feel more special, my girls and I are working on a special project with the Women’s Crisis Services called, “Pass It On”. It is a store offering items at no charge to individuals and families in need. The hope is to inspire our community to generosity and giving to people to provide help, hope and understanding to those struggling with limited financial resources. Please watch for more details in the coming weeks. This has been on my heart for a long time now and I feel it’s time to move forward with it.

Speaking of the Women’s Crisis Services, our annual Brave the Mud Run is fast approaching, so get signed up today!



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