The Pumpkin King & Queen

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, Y’ALL!!
First of all, I hope you have a spooky day filled with pumpkin flavored goodies, clever costumes, and enough candy to keep your dentist in business.

After our fun adventure at Bates Nut Farm, we finally carved our pumpkins!

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Bret was kind enough to clean the dirt off our pumpkins, and then we were ready to work. I set up our stations on our dining room table. I opted to keep the table cloth on the table, and instead put plastic wrap and tin foil down so we didn’t make a huge mess (this was also very easy to clean up!).

We cut the tops of our pumpkins and gutted out the inside. We both scraped our pumpkin so you could not even see a piece of the pumpkin gut that had once inhabited it.

I thought of our pumpkin design, which I won’t tell you now. You’ll just have to wait and see how they turned out!

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mary-carving

I was really excited about this carving time. One, because I love carving pumpkins. Two years ago I decided to try a new technique: shaving. Instead of going through the pumpkin completely, you shave down a piece. This creates a really cool effect, almost like a shadow. The pumpkin below was the first pumpkin where I used this technique. My design is of a mason jar with fireflies flying around it.

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Bret’s design didn’t call for any shaving…which was probably good because this was only the second time he’s ever carved a pumpkin. The first time was when he was 14 years old! Ten years ago!!!! I almost fell out of my chair. But then I had to remind myself that he came from a family that didn’t celebrate holidays.

And now time for the big reveal, drum roll please!

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I think our pumpkins turned out great! I’m really proud of the work we both did. Bret did the top design and I did the bottom.

If you are not sure of who our designs are of, check out Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. It is a 90s stop-motion animated film that is simply wonderful. It’s constantly playing at our house for two reasons: (1) the music is my favorite, and (2) it’s a combination of Halloween and Christmas so you can watch it all season long!

Did you and your family carve a pumpkin this year? What are your plans for Halloween?
I hope you have a fun and safe Halloween!

Our First Pumpkin Patch

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This holiday season has been more exciting than past years.

Why, Mary? You may ask.

Because I have a boyfriend and he’s never (really) celebrated the holidays!!!

Yes, you read that correctly. A grown 24 year-old man has never truly celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

My boyfriend, Bret, and I started dating in May, but we’ve known each other for a long time. He recently left the church he grew up in and can now make his own way.

So naturally I decided he needed to do that by going all out for the three biggest holidays of the year.

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We grew very differently. My family goes all out for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We decorate every inch of our house, bake desserts and cook food to our little hearts content, and we play an excessive amount of Christmas movies and music (even when it’s not December). On the other hand, Bret grew up in a family that doesn’t celebrate holidays.

The first major thing we did this year was go to a pumpkin patch. We went to Bates Nut Farm with my mom, sister, brother-in-law, and niece. I cannot even begin to describe how excited I was for this trip.

Luckily in Southern California, there are a ton of places to get pumpkins. Bates is probably one of the more well-known places. But if you travel to Ramona, Julian, or Valley Center, there are plenty of family farms. If you don’t want to travel that far to get pumpkins on a family farm, you can easily find a little makeshift farm in a town in San Diego County. Tom’s Adventures is a local favorite!

Bates Nut Farm is a great place to spend time with family. In addition to the field and mounds of pumpkins, Bates has two cute gift shops, games and face painting, and a petting zoo. We fed some of the goats and sheep, and we almost walked out of the gift shops with more Christmas decorations.

Besides spending the morning with my family, one of my favorite moments was Bret pushing Layla (my niece) in the wheelbarrow all around the farm. At one point she asked him: “Am I your nephew?”

First of all, how stinkin’ adorable is she? She’s 11 years old and truly the person who makes my heart beat. We have such a special bond and I always tell people how much she means to me.

Secondly, I am seeing a common thread among young kids who think their “status” changes depending on if they have an aunt or uncle. Know what I mean? She thought if she has an uncle, then she is a nephew, and if she has an aunt, then she is a niece.

Well, I set her straight, but it kept Bret and I smiling for the rest of the day.

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Now that we have our pumpkins, we need to think of a design and carve them. I suggested Jack and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. Although we may come up with something super random! And, not to toot my own horn, but pumpkin carving is a certain non-resume skill I happen to excel at.

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Have you and your family gotten your pumpkins or visited a pumpkin patch this month? If so, what design do you plan on carving into your pumpkin?
Let me know in the comments below!


My Fall To-Do List:
Make s’mores over an open fire
Go to a pumpkin patch
Make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
Wear every blanket scarf in my closet
Play in a pile of leaves
Carve a pumpkin
Go for a night stroll
Visit the farmers market
Go apple picking
Make chili and have a living room picnic
Go through a corn maze
Have a Halloween movie marathon (minimum of 3 movies)
Go on a hike

All Things Pumpkin

If you’ve read any of my past posts, seen my Instagram, or follow me on Snapchat, you may have noticed I am a little pumpkin obsessed.

Now, when I say pumpkin obsessed, I don’t mean pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice cereal, and pumpkin spice Oreos (although my best friend did say those are actually tasty). What I mean is I am obsessed with pumpkin baked goods!

This month, I have already baked pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and now (drum roll please) pumpkin muffins!

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Last year was the first time I ever had a pumpkin muffin. My friends and I were having our dinner break and we decided to go to Souplantation. Souplantation is a soup and salad buffet, and it’s actually delicious. Each month they feature a different ingredient depending on the season. October/November is usually pumpkin.

Last year, Souplantation had pumpkin muffins and maple butter. My friends, that combination sent my taste buds to Heaven. I’m pretty sure I even did a little dance in my seat while I ate them (I usually do that when I like what I’m eating).

Luckily for me, my mom and I went to Souplantation a couple weeks ago. Lo and behold, they brought back the muffins and butter. Praise Jesus, God is good!

That’s when it hit me that I could probably bake them! And, to Pinterest I go!! I was a little nervous looking at all the recipes because they all called for coconut oil. Now, I don’t know about you, but I am a traditional baker, none of that modern and healthy coconut oil stuff. However, I then found out that coconut oil makes muffins a little more soft and melty (that’s not a word but that’s the only adjective that is coming to mind).

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I decided to go for it and try out one of the recipes.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the process was so smooth and the muffins taste just like Souplantations! (Now I just need the maple butter)

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree*
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extra
*I used a large 29 oz can of pumpkin puree, so instead I added 1 3/4 cups to my mixture because I didn’t have a way of measuring out 15 oz.

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1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, both sugars, baking soda, salt, and spices.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. (I actually used a whisk instead of my hand beater, you could probably use either but a whisk did the job just fine!)
4. Mix in dry ingredients to the large bowl with the wet ingredients.
5. Scoop muffins into muffin tin lined with muffin cups. I use an ice cream scoop to do the job (I use this for cookies and cupcakes too).

Remember to fill the batter to just below the top of the muffin cup (cupcakes is where you want only half the cup to be filled). The reason for this is to achieve the dome. On muffins, you want the dome/muffin top. Whereas on cupcakes, you want a flat top because you are presumably putting icing on top. The more batter you put in, the more it will rise.

I did try a little something different by adding pecans to four muffins. I love pecans in baked goods. I think it adds a something-something to it.

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After I had mixed the batter, I scooped three servings into a separate bowl and added pecans. I mixed in the pecans and then scooped the servings into different muffin cups. I used orange for regular pumpkin and black and white for the ones with pecans so I could easily tell which one was which.

This recipe was found on Pinterest HERE.

Have fun trying this recipe, I know I did!

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Living Room Picnic

One of the things on my fall to-do list is to have a living room picnic with homemade chili.

Chili is one of my favorite meals to have on a cool fall night.I usually make chili in the crock pot and let it simmer all day (recipe post to come soon). When done this way, my apartment smells so delicious the entire day. However, on this night, my boyfriend decided to make his chili for me.He had yet to make me chili so this was a treat!

While Bret cooked the chili, I set up the picnic in the living room. We have a rather small apartment. We do have a dining room but the table is always covered with school stuff because it doubles as my desk. So instead of eating at the dining room table, I set up the picnic on the coffee table.

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We rarely get to enjoy dinner together because Bret currently works 2:30 pm to 11:00 pm. Ugh. So we cherish the nights when we actually get to enjoy dinner together. I also like it because we make something homemade, rather than opening a can of soup (my go-to).

I wanted the picnic to be festive so I covered the coffee table with some fall patterned fabric. I love grabbing fabric from Hobby Lobby or Jo-Ann’s Fabrics and making them into table runners for the dining room table or table cloths for the coffee table.

Once Bret was done cooking, we sat on the floor eating the chili and drinking wine. It was a nice change of pace since we usually eat in front of the TV.

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Below is my to-do list tally…I still have a long way to go. But! I’m going to a pumpkin patch this weekend and will be making cookies this week too!

My Fall To-Do List:
Make s’mores over an open fire
Go to a pumpkin patch
Make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
Wear every blanket scarf in my closet
Play in a pile of leaves
Carve a pumpkin
Go for a night stroll
Visit the farmers market
Go apple picking
Make chili and have a living room picnic
Go through a corn maze
Have a Halloween movie marathon (minimum of 3 movies)
Go on a hike

Cross Stitch: Heartfelt Christmas Gifts

When I was young, I used to watch my Mom partake in hobbies of all kinds: painting, making ornaments, cross stitching, and sewing. Although I picked up all of these hobbies over the years, the one that has stuck with me most is cross stitching.

The history of cross stitching is rooted in the 1800s, but goes as far back as the 1600s. Young women and girls were taught to cross stitch as a way to embellish every day household items, such as table cloths, doilies, and dishcloths, usually with a pattern that identified the family or owner. If you had an American Girl doll growing up, you might remember Samantha hating working on her sampler. I got a Samantha doll for Christmas one year and loved learning about her and cross stitching through her book series.

Nowadays, cross stitch pieces are made into gifts or as decorations for the home. That is how my Mom and I use our pieces. My Mom makes small pieces, turns them into ornaments or the tops of mason jars, and uses them as gifts for friends and family.

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Two small pieces I did in college that I have hanging on my map where I keep memorabilia of all kinds.

Starting out, you can purchase packs that include everything you need: fabric, a needle, the pattern, and the floss. The packs come in different sizes and feature patterns for all skill levels. I personally enjoy the small and medium sized patterns because they’re quick and easy, and can easily be made into gifts.

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As I have gotten older, I’ve ventured into the realm of larger patterns. There are packs that have large patterns (for all skill levels), but you can also purchase books of patterns. Pattern books only come with the pattern, so you have to purchase the fabric and floss needed to make a certain piece.

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The middle book is from Hobby Lobby. The other two are from my Mom.

My Mom has a collection of pattern books and floss, so when I finally decided to make my Grandma a piece from a book, my Mom had all the materials I needed.

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This is the pattern I used for my Grandma’s piece.

This piece took me quite a bit of time. I worked on it on and off for several years while in high school and college. Last year, I finally framed it and presented it to my Grandma. This piece features her favorite Bible verse (Psalms 118:24) and two children. I love the image of the two children playing in a puddle because it reminds me of my Mom and Uncle Tom (my Grandma’s two children).

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My cute little Grandma Mary when I gave it to her. She couldn’t believe how much time I spent on this and that I had actually stitched every square.

The most recent piece I finished is the Halloween piece below. This was a pack I found at Hobby Lobby which came with white fabric. However, I found that if I used black fabric, I would save loads of time by not having to do all the black stitches, and it would look spookier. I absolutely love how it turned out!

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Per the title of this post and as I previously mentioned, cross stitch pieces make great gifts! You can make them into ornaments or the tops of mason jars. These pieces show the receiver that you truly care about them because of all the time and effort you put into creating the piece. Even though the small patterns are quick and easy to make, it is a gift that is heartfelt and everyone truly appreciates.

Swing by Hobby Lobby or Michaels Craft Store today and pick out a piece to do. It’s so easy and time flies when you stitch while watching Gilmore Girls or Grey’s Anatomy!

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Growing up, I thought my favorite cookie was the classic chocolate chip cookie.
Boy, was I wrong!

When I went to college in Dayton, Ohio, I was introduced to a wonderful placed called Potbelly. Not only did they make a great sandwich, but they also made delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They were made fresh every day and I always snagged one at the register when checking out.

Potbelly’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are perfect! They are chewy and soft, the chocolate is gooey, and it literally melts in your mouth. After taking my first bite, I knew this is what they must eat in Heaven.

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I love baking cookies. It’s something I like to do when I have free time or just need a break. Baking is like science: everything is measured out and if one ingredient is wrong, the whole thing is ruined. For some reason, I like the rush of making sure everything is perfect. And since I share my cookies with friends and family, I don’t want them thinking I’m a terrible baker, so there is pressure to get it right.

If you look at Pinterest, there are so many cookie recipes, especially oatmeal chocolate chip. However, none of the recipes seem to be right. So I took the general base of all the recipes and figured this one out. And the end result has me thinking I may be giving Potbelly a run for its money!

ingredients

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups Quick oats
2 cups Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Butter
1 cup Brown sugar
1 cup White sugar
2 Eggs
2 cups Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Then, set aside.
3. In a separate large bowl, mix together butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until creamy. Add in one egg at a time, beating after every time you add one. Then, mix in the vanilla.
4. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in the large bowl. Then, mix in chocolate chips.
5. Scoop dough onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
6. Bake for 13 minutes.

I hope you enjoy your delicious treat!

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A Proverbs 31 Woman // Cheers to 100 Years

Today is my grandmothers 100th birthday. If she was here today, I can guarantee she’d be celebrating with a half suprema tostada from Tony’s Jacal and a Negra Modelo. However, she’s not here. She passed away three years ago.

Jean Marie Beach was born on October 11, 1916. She was the oldest of ten children. She lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the time I thought bangs were a good look for me.

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She was the epitome of a Proverbs 31 woman:
She is clothed in strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her;
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Proverbs 31:25-31

One aspect of her life that many admired was her unwavering faith in God. As my uncle said at her funeral, “My mother was the closest thing to a real live saint that I will ever know.” She was admired by her children, grandchild, great grandchildren, and many friends and family.

I have part of Proverbs 31 hanging on my wall. Every morning I read it as I lay in bed not wanting to get up for the day. And every morning I think of the incredible women that embody Proverbs 31. I am so thankful my grandma was one of those women.


I still remember where I was when I found out she had passed away.

In 2013, I was a junior at the University of Dayton. I was living in the Theta Phi Alpha house with five sisters. It was the finals study period. I came downstairs and sat in the kitchen, talking to Brooke (my roommate/best friend), while I took a break from writing an essay. It was April 25, around 5 pm, and I had just remember to call my dad. It was his birthday.

“Happy Birthday, Dad!” I said rather loudly and cheerfully.

“Oh, thank you.” There was something in his voice that sounded off. I could tell he tried to mask it, but he didn’t do it very well.

There was a pause in the conversation; the sound of dinner cooking in the background seemed to fill the temporary void.

“Grandma Ashes died this morning.”

My heart dropped into my stomach and I immediately burst into tears. I was crying harder than I have ever cried in my life (and I’m considered the crier in the family). Everything my dad said after that was lost; I could not focus.

My sisters ran over to me, held me, and didn’t say a word.

I hung up the phone and ran straight for me bed. My other best friend, Dan, came over, crawled into my bed, and held me while I cried. Brooke and her boyfriend, Pickles, sat on the other bed in silence.

I was heartbroken. The woman I had looked up to my whole life — for her strength, her love, her faith — was gone. I was going home in a week and she wouldn’t be there.


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It’s not easy losing a loved one. It’s even more difficult to lose someone you are significantly close to.

Every Saturday during high school and college, my dad and I would wake up early and drive to Cardiff-by-the-Sea. It’s a quaint little beach town. It’s known for homes squished together with killer views of the ocean. It’s also home of VGs Bakery.

We would pick up the same order every week: two Devils food, one chocolate glazed, one cinnamon Danish, and one pecan sticky bun.

Then we’d drive down the street into Solana Beach where my grandma lived. There we would spend our morning eating baked goods and drinking coffee while reading the newspaper or staring out the window at my grandmas garden that had seen better days.

I lived for Saturday. Not because I was a teenager who had a love/hate relationship with Monday thru Friday, but because spending time with my grandma gave me such great joy.

She used to tell me about her childhood, her siblings, my dad and his siblings as children, and so on. I especially loved hearing about my grandpa, Papa Bill. He had passed away in 2002, just six days before my 10th birthday.

She was an incredible woman that I will never forget. Although, it’s a little difficult to forget a woman whose face I see every day. I have a painting of her and Papa Bill hanging in my apartment. This may sound corny, but sometimes I talk to them, just like I talk to Jesus. I tell them about my day and ask them to pray for certain things to happen in my life. It makes me feel like they’re still here with me.

But those who leave this earthly world never truly leave. As long as we keep them in our hearts, their legacy lives on forever.

Grandma, I hope you’re having a massive party in Heaven with everyone. Have a beer for me! I love you!

Love always,
Little Mary Elizabeth