Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

It's a Halloween-themed Pink Saturday today. I saw a really cute Halloween cake where someone had pushed cookies into the top of it to make little headstones so I decided to adapt the idea to cupcakes. I made Devil's Food cupcakes (appropriate for Halloween), wrote on some Milano cookies and inserted them into the little iced cakes. It's like a cute little graveyard of cupcakes, all in my pink carrying tray. Easy as could be ~ and spookily delicious. :)

Thanks to Beverly at How Sweet the Sound for hosting Pink Saturday. Stop by her place for a list of this week's participants.
Have a wonderfully fun, safe holiday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Simple Pleasures... Apples in autumn

Apples are one of the best things about autumn, one of the simple pleasures I am enjoying right now. You can eat apples all year round, of course, but autumn is really when they come into their own. Country Living has a great primer here on what types of apples are best at this time of year, including descriptions of the varieties and the best uses for them in cooking. Some of the seasonal beauties include Jonamac, Gala, Cortland and Empire ~ all among my favorites. Granny Smith and Pink Lady are other favorites of mine; Red Delicious ~ not so much. (I know they're very popular but I find them to be kind of bland.)
Did you know Agatha Christie was a great lover of apples? One of her characters, Ariadne Oliver, a parody on herself, was never to be found without a pile of apples nearby. I always think that's somewhat appropriate, since I love curling up with an Agatha Christie mystery when the weather cools. There's something about a good mystery, a warm blanket, a cup of tea, and yes, an apple, that makes for a heavenly afternoon. And, of course, with Halloween just around the corner, there's always bobbing for apples and caramel apples to enjoy. Not to mention it's the perfect time of year for warm homemade applesauce (click on the Recipes tab at the top of my blog for an easy recipe.) It just wouldn't be autumn without apples.
Do you have a favorite apple?

Photo credits: Top photo Skanska Matupplevelser via flickr; bottom photo - nettsu via flickr


I am linking to Simple Pleasures at A Collection of This and That. Stop by for more Simple Pleasures posts.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beauty on Etsy... Shabby Cats and Roses

After an unintentional break ~ September and the first part of October just got away from me ~ I am delighted to have several shops lined up for my Beauty on Etsy feature. I'd like to get in as many as possible before the holidays so people will be aware of some of the fabulous, one-of-a-kind beauty that can be found on Etsy ~ just in case you'd like to shop there instead of at a big box store. Please be sure to check out the other shops I've featured this year; they can be found easily by clicking the Beauty on Etsy tab near the top of my blog.
This week's featured Etsy shop, Shabby Cats and Roses, really takes one-of-a-kind creations to heart. Brenda's shop is full of beautiful goodies ~ pillows and Christmas stockings are her specialties, as you'll see. And if you're a pink lover, well, you're in for a treat. 

All images courtesy of Brenda/Shabby Cats and Roses

My Name: Brenda

Etsy shoppe name: Shabby Cats and Roses

Etsy URL:

Blog Name: Shabby Cats and Roses

Blog URL:

What you will find in my shoppe: Most of the items that I offer in my shoppe are one-of-a-kind originals created by me, such as pillows, stockings, decorative hand towels, and on occasions some vintage items that I have "given a new life to."

What inspires me? I love sewing and creating things that bring beauty to one's home. I never know exactly how a pillow or stocking will turn out... I simply put together some fabrics and trims, and start putting it together and watching it come to life. I truly love and enjoy what I do. It's also amazing to think of all the different places here in the United States, as well as all the different countries, my items have gone to.

My philosophy? Well, I guess it is that I wish to only create things that are one-of-a-kind; I don't want to "mass-produce" an item that I've created. I like knowing that it's the only one there is, and that is what makes it special and unique, and not something that you will find in every home.

Please be sure to stop in and visit Brenda. And come back next week for another Beauty on Etsy feature.  Wishing everyone a week filled with beauty...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When all else fails...

Great advice, don't you think?
I hope everyone is having a lovely Pink Saturday. I picked up this journal at a bookstore recently ~ I just couldn't resist the saying or the pink; it's such a happy combination. Cupcakes are one of my absolute favorite things in life. All that delicious beauty, in a tiny little package ~ seriously, who can resist? And when they are as beautiful as these creations below, why would you want to?

Photo by aj stephens via flickr

And since it is October, a sweet little reminder to all the beautiful ladies out there to take care of themselves...

Photo by Sugar Daze via flickr

It's been a couple weeks since I've been able to participate in Pink Saturday, so it's nice to be back. As always, thanks to Beverly at How Sweet the Sound for hosting this weekly tribute to pink. Stop by her place for a full list of participants, or to see how you can join in.
Be sure to come back here next week for some more Etsy beauty. Wishing everyone a lovely weekend...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pumpkins in the rain...

We're having that lovely mix of rain and cool, autumn weather this week, so the pumpkins on my front step are glistening. You can see the rain drops if you look closely. The big pumpkin will be transformed into a jack-o'-lantern for Halloween to greet all the trick-or-treaters. The little ones will probably come inside and be transformed into vases for mums once Halloween is over. I think they'll be just adorable.
Are you doing anything special with your pumpkins this year?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Comfort food: Shepherd's Pie (from scratch)...

There are few things more comforting in life than a meal that nourishes both body and soul, especially on a cool drizzly day (of which we’re having a lot of right now). Made with fresh ingredients, from scratch, Shepherd’s Pie can really tick all the comfort boxes.
I realize that one of the virtues of Shepherd’s Pie is that it can be put together speedily, using frozen vegetables and even ready-made mashed potatoes. But having tried it every which way over the past year or so, starting from scratch with fresh ingredients is really the way to go. It’s so much tastier. Truly. And while it will take you a little longer in the kitchen than the quick version, it's still not like you'll be slaving away for an entire afternoon, and there are ways to break it up beforehand with a little planning. I really think if you try this recipe, you'll be a believer.
One other thought: This is a great dish to make even if you have company coming. It’s veggies, meat and potatoes all-in-one, and when you add some good crusty bread and a glass of wine, it takes on a more sophisticated air. Try it and I bet your friends will be surprised and wowed.

Shepherd's Pie

You’ll need:
green beans
corn, still on the cob
potatoes and ingredients for mashing (milk, butter, etc.)
cream of mushroom soup

Please note that amounts vary, depending on how much you want to make. As a general guide, you'll want enough hamburger to cover the bottom third or slightly more of your casserole dish/pan; same for potatoes.

1. To start, peel and boil the potatoes, adding a little salt to the water. While the potatoes are cooking, brown hamburger in frying pan with some chopped onion; season with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder. 

2. When potatoes are done, drain and set aside. Wash and chop carrots and green beans and mix together in a microwaveable bowl. Cut the corn from the cob and add it to the bowl. If you have fresh peas, you can shell and add them to the bowl. Frozen peas will work fine, as I know fresh ones can be hard to get sometimes. (Fresh onions, potatoes, carrots, green beans and corn on the cob are always easy to find, though.)

3. Add a little water to the bowl of vegetables, season with salt and pepper and microwave until they are nearly cooked. Do not overcook them as they still have to bake in the oven. This is just to give them a jump start in the cooking process.

4. When the hamburger is nearly done, add some mushrooms. It's important not to add them too soon or else they'll cook down into hard little nubs - not tasty. Once the hamburger, onion and mushrooms are done, add up to a can of cream of mushroom soup, to taste (or possibly up to two, if you're making a large pan, such as a 9x13 size). Mix together well and reduce heat to medium, then low once heated through. 

5. While that is simmering, mash the potatoes. Everyone mashes their potatoes to their own liking; I put butter, mayo, cheese, salt and pepper in mine, and just a splash or two of milk. Some people only use butter and milk. Do whatever you like, just make sure they are not runny. The potatoes should be thicker for this dish.

6. Add the vegetables to the hamburger mixture and mix well. Taste a little bite to see if more seasoning is needed and if so, adjust accordingly. Do the same for the potatoes. It’s important that each layer be seasoned appropriately. Add a little shredded cheese (your preference, but I find Monterey Jack works best) to the hamburger mixture and mix well again.

7. Grease your dish/pan. Pour the hamburger and vegetable mixture into the pan and spread out evenly. Spread the potatoes on top. Sprinkle a good layer of cheese on top (I use Cheddar) and bake in the oven at 400 degrees until you can tell its bubbling underneath and the cheese is brown - usually 30 to 40 minutes.

8. Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes. Serve and enjoy.

SHORT CUTS: Aside from using frozen peas, you can also cut up your vegetables in advance and put them in the fridge. You also make your mashed potatoes in advance ~ for example, make extra if you're having them earlier in the week. Additionally, this dish makes great leftovers if eaten within a couple days, so you can always make extra and have it for lunches, etc., later in the week.

I am linking to:
Tuesdays at the Table
Tuesday Night Supper Club
Fat Camp Fridays

Stop by and visit for more delicious recipes and inspiration.
Bon appetit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A relaxing evening...

A pile of yarn + a pile of books + a comfy chair = a relaxing evening. Hope your weekend was lovely and relaxing, full of indulgences to make you smile. Come back later this week for my delicious, perfected-over-time Shepherd's Pie. It's comfort food for body and soul.
Wishing everyone a blissfully calm week...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Change is in the air...

It's that time of year ~ change is in the air. The leaves are turning, the days are getting shorter, the air cool and crisp. And there's change here at The Art of Living Beautifully, as you can see. I wanted to simplify and open up the look of my blog a little, solve the loading problems some folks were having and still keep it looking feminine and familiar. It was a lot of trial and error and pouring through new templates, but I think I've got a look that will work for awhile. I moved some things around and will be adding some things ~ more food/kitchen posts for one, as that's one of my big interests here lately. I'll also be gearing up with more Beauty on Etsy posts for holiday shopping ideas ~ September completely got away from me, so I'm a month behind (shhh, don't tell).
Please let me know what you think of the new look and if you find anything that isn't working, etc. I hope all of you are enjoying the beauty of seasonal changes in your lives.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Time for a renovation...

Several people have had a problem getting my blog to load lately - it's something to do with the background image, from what I can tell. And it happened again today. I figured that is as good of an excuse as any to renovate. So, for the next several days, I'll be working on redoing the look of my blog. If you stop by, you'll probably see chaos, but eventually all will be put to normal. I know some of you just love how my blog looks (bless you!) and I promise, I will try to make it just as pretty while simplifying the look a little bit. Wish me luck as I try to navigate to a new template, etc. Tips welcome.
I'm joining Kathie's Wishes for Wednesday at Just a Happy Housewife. Stop by to join in. I'll see you on the other side of my blog renovation (fingers crossed)...

Monday, October 11, 2010

The joy of autumn colors...

There are few things I find as lovely as the colors nature bestows upon us in the fall. The plums, reds, oranges, golds and browns represent bliss to me: Brown and burgandy mums inside and out, a nice walk to see the oranges of the trees with a red scarf wrapped around my neck, and a house that smells like pumpkin pie and warm apple cider ~ these are some of my favorite things. I feel more connected with the Earth, with Mother Nature, at this time of year. There is beauty and simplicity everywhere ~ pleasures for all of our senses...
Wishing all of you some lovely autumn color to brighten your days.

Photo by The Art of Living Beautifully

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Healing wishes for my Emily...

My sweet, beautiful Shih Tzu, Emily, is feeling under the weather. She's been sneezing a lot, etc., so we took her to the vet and they told us they think she has an upper respiratory infection. They don't think she has kennel cough, thank goodness, but she's got something, the poor thing. So, my wish for this Wednesday is that she gets better, and quickly. It's awful to see my beautiful little pup not feeling well.
If you have been wondering whether or not to join in Wishes for Wednesday, here's a little encouragement: Last Wednesday, I wished for cool autumn weather and rain. And I got it in a big way. We had an unexpected thunderstorm late last week ~ a rarity in Southern California ~ and that broke the heatwave. Ever since, we've been enjoying gray, cool, rainy weather. In fact, it's raining right now as I write this. And it's expected to continue for the next couple of days. I hope my wish this week comes true just as quickly as that one did.
Hop on over to Kathie's place at Just a Happy Housewife to join in Wishes for Wednesday. I hope all your wishes this week come true.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dishes and memories...

I've been clearing out and sorting dishes lately ~ a task I actually enjoy. It's fun to rearrange and rediscover and make room for more. And reminisce. The dishes I really, truly love are usually tied to something in my mind ~ a person, a place, a memory. The teal and pink tea cup and saucer and matching plate in the top photo I got during a visit to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. Every time I use it I remember how much I enjoyed the weekend I spent there on the estate. The white and pink tea cup below belonged to my grandmother. During one of her clear outs, it came to live in my house (along with many others). In fact, most of the dishes in that bottom photo came from my grandmother. I always accept the dishes she offers; some of them have been passed down for a few generations. Using the same dishes my great-grandmother used adds a bit of beauty to my days.
Thanks to Terri and Martha for hosting Tea Cup Tuesdays. Head over to Martha's Favorites or Artful Affirmations to see more tea time loveliness. And be sure to stop by tomorrow for Wishes for Wednesday.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

An autumn Pink Saturday...

Don't you love it when you stumble across something beautiful unexpectedly? I came across this art photo on flickr and was struck by its beauty. I love the pink leaves on the tree, the way the brown encroaches from the sides and the burst of blue from behind. It seemed perfect for an autumn Pink Saturday.
As always, thanks to Beverly at How Sweet the Sound for hosting this weekly tribute to pink. Stop by her place to see all the Pink Saturday participants or for more on how to join. Wishing all of you a beautiful weekend and a lovely October!

Photo credit: ddulitz50 via flickr