A Pirate Party Recipe


Total Time: Settle in. It’s Gonna Take Some Work

Level: Medium

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Nothing says Homecoming Dance fun like a Pirate themed party. The secret to success? Larger than life decorations, gold spray paint, and a wicked cool Art Deco Building. Mixed together with a few craft injuries and late work nights, it’s the perfect recipe for salty, Sea Dog fun! Stay tuned for individual tutorials, but for now, here’s how I put it all together.


  • 30 Over-sized black balloons – the bigger the better
  • 30 Fabric Tassels in Piratey Colors
  • 75 Floating Candles
  • 6 Packing Box Crates
  • 6 Concrete Tube Pillars
  • River Rock for Pirate Booty
  • Yards and Yards of Muslin Fabric for Sails
  • More Gold Spray Paint and Glitter Than You Ever Thought Humanely Possible
  • Coffee. So. Much. Coffee



  1. Hoist the Main Sail!. If you’re lucky enough to have 3 or 4 large pillars in your location (and I was) they make for pretty good ship masts. Simply cover with adhesive vinyl to transform into beams, attach additional lengths of PVC pipe, hang fabric, and quicker than you can say, “Shiver Me Timbers”, you’ve got yourself a pirate ship.DSC_1519 (681x1024)
  2. Raise the Flag. No Pirate ship is complete without a Jolly Roger or two. Use decorative duct tape to cover the cheap looking grommets and hang from the top of your masts.DSC_1525 (681x1024)
  3. Load Cargo. Use large packing boxes to hide any objects too large or heavy to move. Use billboard paper printed with a wood design to cover boxes. Liquid starch works great as an easy paper mache glue.
  4. Set Anchor. Use concrete tubes from your local hardware store to create pillars or buoys. Cover with the same adhesive paper and wrap with a few lengths of rope to complete the effect.
  5. Blow Me Down. Use a few  over-sized balloons to fill a large area. It makes a more dramatic impact than dozens of smaller ones, and saves time. Use gold spray paint and gold glitter to add a bit of sparkle. Attach a few fabric tassels for color.DSC_1526 (1024x681)
  6. Light the Way. Hang floating candles from the ceiling for a spooky Piratey feel. Use tealights equipped with timers so you don’t have to worry about turning on individual lights before the party. Rolled card stock and a small mountain of hot glue are all you need to create these little beauties.
  7. Hunt for Treasure. Use rocks or even chunks of concrete for Pirate Booty. Spray with metallic gold spray paint to create chunks of gold. Add a few doubloons and some jewels and you have a bounty any pirate would be proud to lay claim to.DSC_1535 (681x1024)

For more Pirate ideas, check out the individuals tutorials*, and visit our Pineterest Board.

*Crafts and tutorials SHOULD be posted on Mondays.






Fall Pumpkins

It’s once again that wonderful time of year when we pack away all things Halloween, and immediately begin arguing over the timeline for Holiday decor. Feel free to debate the matter among yourselves. All I can say for sure is that it is certainly time for some Thanksgiving decorating, and there’s few things I love better than a fall pumpkin display.

Think it’s too late for pumpkins and mums? Surprisingly not. Many local nurseries still have overstock of pansies, mums, and even pumpkins left, with the added bonus of deep discounts. Now is the perfect time to do a little searching and grab a few plants at a bargain price. And remember those great fabric pumpkins from Halloween? Re-purpose them by soaking in water for a few minutes and peeling away the fabric.

This year, I went a little crazy with the pumpkin stacks, but loved the way it turned out. I added ribbon and moss to break it up and tucked in a few mums for color. I also stuck to a simple color palate, but feel free to make it as bright as you like. There’s no need to do anything as big as this, it works on whatever scale you’re comfortable with, even a few pumpkins and a mum or two can be surprisingly effective. Here’s a few tips to get you started:

Moss and ribbon add interest, and balance (literally) to your pumpkin stacks. Try tucking a few strands of ribbon under your pumpkins to help add stability and keep your pumpkins from toppling. Moss works great for this too. But keep in mind, dyed moss will fade in the sun.
Moss and ribbon add interest, and balance (literally) to your pumpkin stacks. Try tucking a few strands of ribbon under your pumpkins to help add stability and keep your pumpkins from toppling. Moss works great for this too. But keep in mind, dyed moss will fade in the sun.
Pumpkin stacks are a great way to add height to your displays. Try to choose pumpkins with a flatter shape, and always try stacking them at the nursery before you purchase. You'd hate to drag all those pumpkins home, only to find they don't really work.
Pumpkin stacks are a great way to add height to your displays. Try to choose pumpkins with a flatter shape, and always try stacking them at the nursery before you purchase. You’d hate to drag all those pumpkins home, only to find they don’t really work.
If you're unsure about color, pick a few pumpkins in various shades of the same basic color. A monochromatic theme always looks elegant, especially when paired with a brighter color (like the purple mums)
If you’re unsure about color, pick a few pumpkins in various shades of the same basic color. A monochromatic theme always looks elegant, especially when paired with a brighter color (like the purple mums)
If you have a large space to fill, go for size over quantity. A few larger pieces look less cluttered, and are generally more cost effective than multiple small items.
If you have a large space to fill, go for size over quantity. A few larger pieces look less cluttered, and are generally more cost effective than multiple small items.
Pumpkins, fall, Thanksgiving,Holiday, decor,
Fall doesn’t always mean red and yellow. Try an unconventional color for something different. I loved how these purple mums looked with the blue and orange pumpkins.
After you've placed all your pumpkins and mums, string a bit of ribbon throughout to tie it all together. I tied a few bows and left long "tails" on the ends to wind through the whole display.
After you’ve placed all your pumpkins and mums, string a bit of ribbon throughout to tie it all together. I tied a few bows and left long “tails” on the ends to wind through the whole display.


The Attributes of Milk

A guest quote from our friends over at Little House in the City. Few things in life can compare to the wisdom of Graham Ballew.

 “Mama, don’t you fink chocolate milk is so handsome?”
“Handsome is an interesting word choice for milk. How did you choose it?”
“Well, stwawbewwy milk is beautiful, so chocolate milk is handsome.”
“Nice! What is white milk?”
“Bo-wing. And I fink he knows it, too.

-Graham Ballew

Milk Attributes-Recovered

Halloween Pumpkins

So yes, it’s the day before Halloween. And yes, most people have long since decorated their pumpkins. BUT I would bet my hidden stash of bite size snickers that some of you are as behind as I am. So, in the spirit of mutual procrastination, I present to you,the first of two seasonal pumpkin guides.

Cinderella pumpkins are named for their fairy tale shape and come in a variety of colors.

If you haven’t even purchased your pumpkins yet (no judgements) then might I suggest getting a “Cinderella” type. They have a beautiful shape, and last longer than your traditional pumpkins. If you don’t carve them, they will keep well past Thanksgiving. A simple, although slightly messy alternative to carving, is to cover your pumpkin with fabric. It’s really simple and can be done with any lighter weight fabric. You can even use strips of various patterns to create something truly unique. Best of all, the fabric can be removed with a little water and elbow grease. SO, if you’re on a budget, or just like to re-purpose your holiday decor you can easily use the same pumpkins to create a lovely Thanksgiving arrangement next week.

As we are on the heels of All Hallows Eve, I am using a black and white houndstooth pattern, but you can use whatever suits your mood. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time for your pumpkin to dry, and for heavens sake be sure to cover your work surface with plastic, or newspaper, or something – it can get messy. Enjoy!

Fabric Pumpkin Tutorial

An Opossum Tale

The opossum isn’t a rat. I repeat this mantra to myself as I stare out my mother’s glass door at the creature happily eating from the dog food bag on the porch. Opossums aren’t rats. Mentally, I understand this, but it is a difficult fact to come to terms with. My mother seems to agree. Equally horrified, she joins me at the door to stare.
“They’re actually not related to the rat family at all.” My words of wisdom fall flat as we stare at the long pink tail sticking out of the bag.
The evening had started quietly enough.  I was returning a baking dish to my parent’s house and secretly rejoicing in the momentary freedom of being out without the kids, when the attack happened. As I approached the back door, I heard a rustling from the dog food bag, then a low hiss as the angry possum bared his teeth and snapped wildly in my direction.  The vile creature had stealthily hid in the  bag and had waited ’till the dark of night to make his move. Narrowly escaping the total loss of my right arm, I retaliated by screaming mercilessly, waving my hands in an erratic manner, and diving for the door.
Now glued to the window, mom and I consider our options. We both realize something has to be done to get rid of him, but neither of us is altogether eager to tackle the situation. The first and most obvious course of action was to send Daphne out to handle the affair. Daphne is my parent’s bulldog. The bulldog is a noble breed, known for their loyal nature, their dignified intelligence and above all, their courage and resolution. Daphne is known for none of these. In fact, if one were so inclined, it is possible to glimpse the great Universal Void simply by staring her directly in the eye. However, it is not recommended as she has the foulest breath known to man.
The most beautiful Daphne in all her glory.
The most beautiful Daphne in all her glory.

Also, she stinks, she’s ugly and she is constantly digging up my bedding plants.

Even so, this falls under her job description, AND the nasty little varmint was eating her food, so I felt she had a vested interest in rectifying the situation. So with the slightest sense of guilt, I cracked the door and ever so gently shoved Daphne into the night to face her opponent. Mom and I were tense, the opossum was silent, Daphne was…. confused. As with most situations, it took her a minute or two to acclimate to her surroundings, but she did finally catch the scent and turn to face the creature staring at her from no more than 2 feet away.

And now we brace for….. nothing.  As it turns out, the two are long time acquaintances. Not so much as a growl. Daphne gently approaches the rat creature, they sniff at each other , then turn to mind their own affairs. Either Daphne believes this to be the cat sporting a new look, they have met previously, or perhaps she is merely pleased to finally encounter an intellectual peer.

“Well, now what?” Mom asks, still hovering directly behind me. Together, we are mesmerized,  peering through the glass door at the perfectly contented couple outside. Opossum eating heartily, and stupid Daphne lounging by the stairs.

“I guess we’ll have to shoo him off ourselves.” I decide. It’s not my favorite option, but still I leave Mom to keep watch while I search the garage for my weapon of choice. My husband would later inquire why I chose the fluffy headed mop over the shotgun, but I stand behind my decision. Partially because I failed to see how adding a hole in the wall and a massive leg wound would benefit the situation, but mainly because the thought never occurred to me. Any well documented woman vs. vermin scenario I had ever seen featured a broom, mop or other such cleaning device.

Armed and ready, I pause for a mental pep-talk and strategy debate. Ultimately, I settle on the “poke and scream” method of removal. It’s a simple procedure really. Mom remains glued to my back while leaning ever so precariously forward to crack the door. I then steady myself, jab the opossum with the mop and scream in unashamed terror. Mom echoes, and the process repeats.  What it lacks in effectiveness, it makes up for in commotion. A few good “poke and screams” later and we succeed in knocking the opossum into the food bag head first where he decides to play the waiting game.

I understand that America has a no torture policy. I respect that. I also stand solidly behind our commitment never to negotiate with terrorists, but our options were dwindling,  it was time to make the tough decisions.  Water-boarding is a last result, but sometimes a necessary evil to ensure the peace and safety of the general public. And so, the new plan of attack came down to dowsing both opossum and dog food with water until the beast surrenders. The first cup of water hit home with no effect. The second was equally uneventful. It was the salad bowl filled with ice water that finally got him to sit up and take notice. Literally. His tiny, white face now peered at us over the food bag, but in place of fear seemed to be a look of determination as I have never seen on any rodent’s face. He may be wet, but he was far from defeated.

There’s only so much a person can bear, and to be taunted by a thieving, nomadic  marsupial was quite frankly, more than I was prepared to live with. It occurred to me that we had made a poor impression by allowing ourselves to be held hostage in the living room. The only thing a bully understands is brute force, and I was prepared to give it to him,  in the form of a vase filled with decorative floral rocks. Luckily, on a previous occasion, I had purchased said rocks for a lovely floral arrangement. They proved to be a good investment, both for adding character to rose bowls and for extracting pesky opossums from the front porch.

Mind filled with indignant rage, and fists full of floral rock, I made my final stand. War is an ugly thing, and this proved to be no exception. I entered the night, flailing wildly, screaming and throwing at anything that dared to move within a 10 foot radius; all the while darting behind lawn furniture for added protection.  I imagine it was the sight of this crazed 5’10” blonde banshee and not the stoning itself that ultimately convinced our furry friend to seek better lodging. As he finally vacated his hiding spot and fled into the night, I felt a sense of pride and satisfaction. I had stood toe to toe with a wild beast and had emerged the victor. Sure, it would have been more impressive if my assailant had a few more pounds on him, but still, a victory none the less. I would hold my head high. I would  retell the tale with pride.

And I would most definitely carry that mop with me to get back into my car.



  1. 1.     Timing is Everything

Granted, not all of life can be scheduled around almighty Football; but when there’s a choice, choose wisely. Is opening day really the best time to schedule a romantic getaway? Only if you’re cool with a solid portion of it being delegated to the game. Babies, funerals, and  weddings are the only events that should show up on the Fall calendar. And even then, there’s a solid(good) chance you’ll be competing with the opening snap.


  1. 2.     It’s Really About the Clothes

Look, as long as you can work it around your team colors, now is a great time for a little retail therapy. Just about anything can be worked into game day attire, so have some fun, be creative and for sure(definitely) grab that great bag you’ve been eyeing all season…and that dress, too.  And you’ll need accessories. (What? It’s for the game?) Perfectly valid.


  1. 3.     No Need to Be an Expert 

Nobody likes a know-it-all. Especially if the crowd suspects you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Unless you really do live and breathe football, it’s best to just own up to your ignorance.  Sure there are exceptions, but it is typically understood that the female portion of the viewing audience isn’t all that up to speed on stats, strategy, and general trivia. You’ll look far worse by faking it. (See item 7)


  1. 4.     Just Enjoy the Experience  

View football season as a holiday unto itself. It marshals in the Fall season and all the greatness that goes along with it. Warm blankets, cool nights and hot chocolate. It’s a social event to be shared with good friends and family and that alone is reason enough to celebrate.


  1. 5.     Sit Back and Let Your Man Show Off

For the most part, this is his show. And a great excuse for you to do a whole lot of nothin’. Is he great at the grill? Fantastic! Throw some meat at him and tell him to get after it.


  1. 6.     Silence is Golden

The next few hours are for watching football. Not for discussing relationship issues, upcoming schedules, life goals and aspirations, (or) ANYTHING really. If it’s not about what’s currently happening on the screen or field in front of you, it’s just not that important. Unless the house or chair is on fire, it can wait.


  1. 7.     Don’t Fake it

He’s gonna know.  The guys can always tell.  If your enthusiasm isn’t sincere, a nice, “Way to go!” or “Great Job!” or “Was that a touchdown?” will suffice.  


  1. 8.     Let the Boys be Boys

If you really HATE football look at it as your excuse to do what you love. Get out with some friends. Read a good book. Take his credit card and do some shopping. (See item 2)


  1. 9.     Pick a Side

You’ll enjoy the whole experience a lot more if you have a reason to. A word to the wise: unless you’re looking for a little drama all your own, its best to side with your significant other’s team. Especially if your heart isn’t really in it. (See Item 7)


  1. 10.                        Feed the Masses

It’s amazing what a few wings and beer can do for your reputation.  However, now’s not the time to break out that super fantastic recipe you just found on Pinterest.  Simple, one word foods are best. Chips, dip, brats, beer. You get the idea. Hate to cook? Great! This really isn’t cooking, it’s just supplying. Step 1: Open bag. Step 2: Stand back and enjoy praise.  OR Step 3: Let your man do the hard work. (See item 5)


The 4-Year Old Theologian

DImageo you know if “napping” is an actual spiritual gift? If it is, it would make sense. I mean…I am really good at it. And one’s passions and gifts are often aligned. You just try asking me about naps. My face will light up with joy as the discussion of one of life’s legitimate pleasures commences!

I plan on doing some research on it, starting by reading through the New Testament and writing down all of the passages where naps are mentioned. Then I’ll grab the concordance and do a word study, going through every instance the word “pancake” is used. Based on my experience today, if that food is consumed, then “nap”, “napping”, “will soon nap”, “hath nappeth”, or some other conjugation of the Greek verb “nappos” will be right around the corner.

This afternoon at 3:30, Thatcher and I had just gotten up from our very pleasant Sunday afternoon nap. Nicole was out grocery shopping and we were relaxing and gradually waking up on the couch, he with his Ipad, and me with my Kindle. My brother, Allen, had just sent me a link to an individual’s web site and recommended I check it out. I was reading an article he had written about his own conversion when this conversation between Thatcher and me took place.

Warning: The text of this conversation has not been altered in any way to protect the ignorant (me) or the innocent (Thatcher). This is exactly as it took place.

“Daddy, do you want to play one of these games?” Thatcher said as he looked up from his Ipad.

“Not right now, tiger. I’m reading an article in a magazine (on my kindle).”

Thatcher: “What’s an article?”

Me:  “It’s like a story in a magazine.”

Thatcher: “I don’t like magazines, do I?”

Me: “Well, this is a story for adults. It’s about how a man became a Christian.”

Thatcher: “What’s a Christian?”

Me: “It’s a person who has dedicated their lives to Jesus.”

Thatcher: “Do I have it?”

Me: “Do you love Jesus?”

Thatcher: “I do.”

Me: “He loves you too.”

Thatcher: “But I don’t want to go to heaven. Do you Daddy?”

Me: “Yes, but not now. Right now, I’m here with you guys.” Daddy and Thatcher fist-bump.

Thatcher: “When, Daddy.”

Me: “That’s not for me to decide.”

Thatcher: “Who does then?”

Me: “God.”

Thatcher got pensive as he processed and then goes back to playing his Frisbee game on his Ipad.

It’s fun having a 4-year old who is inquisitive. Oh wait…every 4-year old is inquisitive. Oh well.

I do love my Thatcher.

The article I was reading was “The Golden Fish: How God Woke Me Up in a Dream” by Eric Metaxes

Nicole’s Blackened Chicken

Nicole’s Blackened Chicken in 10 easy steps.

1. Place chicken on a low grill setting
2. Return to computer to make stupid, meaningless comments on Facebook/Twitter
3. Check emails
4. Straighten kids’ playroom
5. Wait for that nagging sense that you have forgotten something to wash over you…..Nope. Nothing there.
6. Make a nice cup of tea
7. Load the dishwasher
8. Return to computer and read a great recipe a friend has posted for crock-pot chicken
9. Realize that you are the crock-pot that left the chicken on the grill for over an hour.
10. Toss said chicken into bushes
11. Test smoke alarms for future culinary adventures.


Flat-Tire Monday

Well, its “Flat Tire Monday”. Not really a weekly celebration, more of a “happens only on frigid, snowy mornings after you’ve trudged up a hill with a four-year old and are late for pre-school” kind of deal. This year it falls on December 9th, but as it is an off-year there is a possible recurrence in mid February. Be sure to mark your calendars.

With the whole Christmas  thing first and foremost on my mind, I completely forgot to check all tires for said holiday; but it all clicked into place about 2 miles into our drive when I couldn’t decide if it was just the ice packed roads making that horrible sound, or if they had decided to install rumble strips right in the middle of my lane. That shaking feeling was a little “off” as well.  My powers of deduction clicked into place immediately eventually and I pulled into our neighbor’s drive. It’s a long, steep, winding drive that climbs  to meet a beautiful home on the hill.  I’ve always loved this house. It was built in the French Chateau style and overlooks the valley and river. I’ve often wondered what it must be like in the winter to try to navigate that drive. I’d have my answer in under 30 minutes, but that’s skipping ahead slightly.

The tire had moved well beyond flat and into the realm of nonexistent – somewhat detached from the rim and bearing the shape of one of those surreal melting clocks in all those Dali posters people hang to prove their deep understanding of art.

We weren’t driving anywhere on THAT, and so it was time to marshal  the troops. A few quick calls and mom was on her way to take a panicked Thatcher to school, Brian had called a tow truck and I discovered that I did, indeed have a spare tire hidden in the secret floorboard of my trunk. Who knew?

Nothing to do now but wait for help and enjoy the warm car and a little solitude. It took a minute for me to notice the grey Jeep creeping down the hill. Apparently the driver had managed the first leg of the journey only to find herself sideways at the first bend in the road. Seeing as how I was squatting at their mailbox, I thought it prudent to introduce myself and assure them that I had the situation completely under control. I had nearly closed the distance between us when the Jeep began to creep forward, and then to slide. As the vehicle slipped past I calculated the wide-eyed, panic-stricken driver to be all of 17. In those few seconds we had a lovely conversation the went something along the lines of:

“Hello. Who are you?”

“My name is Nicole. It’s nice to meet you. I have had bit of car troubles but have contacted a tow truck and will be out of your hair in no time. And, as you can see, I have the situation completely under control.”

“Yes, well, I am not so certain I care all that much at this moment seeing as how I am careening to my death – and toward your car incidentally.”

“Ah, so you are. Well, I’ll follow you down I suppose. Don’t panic, as I’ve said, it’s completely under control.”

I figured the best plan was to try to follow as quickly as possible and offer helpful driving advice such as “make sure its in low” and “do you have it in 4 wheel drive?”. My words of wisdom fell flat, her tires remained locked and she picked up some serious speed. I was silently bidding my little silver car a fond farewell when the miraculous occurred and the Jeep found its footing, the inevitable collision avoided by inches.

I never did get her name, but I deduced from her cell phone conversation that she was the daughter of the establishment and she was none too happy with her mother for making her drive to school on this fine winter morning. We said our goodbyes and I sent her off with assurances that she should be fine from here on out, then retreated to the warm safety of my own car.

It wasn’t 5 minutes later when a little blue truck pulled up beside me. The couple inside spoke English just about as well as I spoke Spanish, but luckily we were both fluent in charades and one word sentences. I came to understand that they were concerned for my well-being (thank you kindly but as you can see, I have everything completely under control) and secondly they were headed to work at the house on the hill. I convinced them to reconsider such actions by dramatically retelling the Jeep’s story as a cautionary tale. After a quick call up the hill it was decided that the lady of the house would simply come down and pick them up.

As I had just seen this story play out I decided to take up shelter behind the safety of the over-sized brick mailbox. Peering cautiously over the top I watched as the black Suburban followed the previously worn path, slide right on cue and come to rest quite perfectly between myself and the little blue truck. When all parties had come to their senses and examined the situation it was agreed upon that it sure was slick out today, that it was in fact a very cold morning, and that yes, I did have a flat tire but was perfectly fine and everything was completely under control.

As all three piled back into the Suburban, the tow truck arrived and I saw my prospects for surviving this adventure intact steadily climb. My savior du jour’s name was Bill and he had quite a Monday himself. We swapped war stories about flat tires, cars in ditches and the growing epidemic of keys being locked in cars. He nodded sagely as I confessed to being a recovering  key locker     myself; once having stranded myself twice in one day. I felt a bond with my new tow truck friend and wished him well. We parted ways, me with a new tire, and him to further exploits sure to bring him fame and fortune. Or at least, I hope,  a kind smile and an appreciative wave from some other poor soul who, just like me, forgot to double-check her tires.

A Word, My Dear

My Dearest Isla,

Kindest greetings as always cousin.  It is with a troubled heart that I write to inform you of a somewhat distressing discovery I have just recently made. Are you aware that “bunny” is pronounced just as such? Precisely as that. Bunny. Until this point in time, my parents were perfectly content in letting me walk around with that darling stuffed rabbit  calling him “bun-oo” without the slightest correction. Can you imagine. All the while,  I have been introducing Bun-oo to countless visitors with the confidence that I, being the proud owner of said animal would know his proper name. As it stands I seem to have been the only member in attendance completely ignorant of the truth.

Not only that but my beloved “kit-oo” is actually a kitty and as you may have already guessed the “pup-oo” is, in fact a mere puppy.

I find myself not only embarrassed but somewhat at odds with Mama and Da, supposing that is what they are truly called. How is one to further trust a couple who seem to be willing participants in such an elaborate ruse as this.

I realize this must all come as quite a shock. Please do advise quickly. I grow increasingly suspicious of the integrity of not only my parents, but possibly even Grammy and Granddad, as they been more amused than seems necessary when I ask to see the “horshes” at the barn.

All the best,

Your cousin Chandler