Friday, January 31, 2014

Easy Tomato Basil Soup and Homemade Bread Recipe

I posted some pics of this tomato basil soup on Instagram and got a few requests for the recipe, so here it is. :)

It's so easy and good! I personally think it tastes just like the one at La Madeleine. 

Here's what you'll need:

I'll post the full recipe at the bottom of the post.

First, you'll want to puree 3 cans of diced tomatoes in the blender.

Wash about a dozen fresh basil leaves and set aside a cup of tomato juice. (you're going to puree these together later)

Then put the remaining 4 cups tomato juice and pureed tomatoes in 6 qt. stock pot and simmer for 30 minutes over medium to low heat. You can see I also have my butter out to soften.

After it simmers for 30 minutes, you'll want to puree the basil leaves and one cup of tomato juice (that's them in the blender above) and add that mixture to the pot, along with 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and a stick of butter. Then just stir over low heat until butter and cream are incorporated. This makes about 6 bowls. 

homemade bread in two hours

I also made homemade bread to go with our soup. Yum! The recipe can be found HERE. It makes the most wonderful bread in about 2 hours, start to finish. 

homemade bread ready in two hours

This soup is so, so good! 

How much you puree the tomatoes is a personal preference. We like ours pureed a lot. (my kids won't eat it if there's chunky tomatoes in it) 

Just look at the butter melting on that fresh bread! 

easy tomato basil soup recipe

Here's the recipe:

Three (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
Five cups tomato juice
12 Fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
One stick butter
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Puree tomatoes in blender. Put pureed tomatoes and 4 cups tomato juice in 6 qt. pot. Simmer 30 minutes over medium low heat. After it simmers for 30 min., puree the basil leaves with one cup tomato juice, then add to pot along with cream, butter, and pepper. Stir over low heat until butter and cream are incorporated.



I'm joining these parties: By Stephanie LynnDwellings The Heart of Your HomeMaria Elena's DecorSavvy Southern StyleWe Are That FamilyImparting GraceChic On A Shoestring DecoratingI Heart NaptimeJennifer RizzoA Stroll Thru LifeCommon GroundThe Blissful BeeLiz Marie BlogI Should Be Mopping The FloorCraftberry BushCupcakes and Crinoline

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Foyer Basket and Dining Room Sideboard

Hi there! I thought I'd show y'all how I changed up my wicker basket on the entry table. The last time you saw it, it probably looked like THIS

After all the holidays, I knew I'd want to fill it with some hydrangeas for my everyday decor. 

BTW, these pics were all taken before we painted. Everything is so much lighter now and I can't wait to show you the big paint reveal. :)

I went to Michael's to price the hydrangeas and they were around $6.99 each. I knew if I waited, they'd go on sale. Just one week later, they were on sale 40% off! I hurried down there and picked up lots of them.

I just snipped off the stems and arranged them in the basket. Easy peasy. 

I really like the neutral colors. 

hydrangeas from michaels

You can see below how I took some things off my dining room buffet too. I like the clean, uncluttered look now. I actually have a question for y' this called a "buffet" or a "sideboard" or is either name fine? I never know what to call this. When we bought it at the antique store, the tag said "buffet" but I've always heard them referred to as a "sideboard." Let me know your thoughts on this, please. :)

Almost every time I show a pic of my floors, I get an email asking what I clean them with. This is what I use. You can get Bona products at almost every grocery store and also on Amazon. When we had our hardwoods installed, they gave us some of this and told us to "never, ever clean them with anything else" so this is the only thing we use. 

I also thought I'd show y'all what's inside my buffet (sideboard) drawers. In this drawer, I keep napkin rings, candle holders, tablecloths, napkins, and some ribbon for my napkin rings. You can see HERE how I use the ribbon on the napkin rings for different holidays, etc.

In this drawer I keep my green napkins. I have lots and lots of them. :)

In this drawer I keep some bowls, holiday napkins, table runners, and serving platters. 

Also in that drawer, there are some instructions for cleaning my tablecloths, etc. I like to keep some of the tags from the items I buy so I'll remember how to clean them, or what sizes they come in, etc. 

In this bottom drawer, there are more platters, trays, a set of dollar tree plates, and our "cookies for Santa" plate and cup that were purchased from the J.C. Penney catalog about 20 years ago. :) 

dining room sideboard

 Where do y'all store all your serving pieces?

 I'll be back Friday with an amazing Tomato Basil Soup recipe. It's so, so easy and very delicious!


Friday, January 24, 2014

A Few Of My Favorite Things ~ Part Three

Hello everyone! I thought it was about time for another "Favorite Things" post. I know I always enjoy seeing what products other people are enjoying, and hopefully you do too! If you missed the first two Favorite Things posts, you can see them HERE and HERE

As promised HERE  I'm sharing the perfect jeggings I recently found. I looked everywhere and was willing to pay just about anything to find jeans/jeggings that were comfortable and stayed up. I hate those "low rise" kind that are constantly slipping down. Well, I finally found these at Walmart and I only had to plunk down $11.94 for them! They're available in stores, but you can also order them online. I had intended to give you a link to them on the Walmart site, but for some reason, it's not letting me copy and paste the link. Sorry about that. If you just go to and put Jeggings in the search bar, it'll bring up several different ones. Just scroll down to the ones that say "Faded Glory Women's Knit Color Jeggings." They're $11.94. 

In my store, they were on these hangers and were hanging on a wall by the cardigans and sweaters.

comfy jeans

Look at all the fun colors they come in! They come in sizes like small, medium, large, and extra large too. I think that makes it easier, especially when ordering online. They have belt loops and pockets and look just like the denim material of jeans, but they're WAY more comfortable. They're actually "pull on" meaning they don't have zippers and buttons. But don't worry, there's no granny style elastic at the top. They look just like a regular pair of pants with belt loops and everything. They are seriously the most comfortable thing in my closet (besides my sweat pants) ;)

Here are a few pics of the ones I bought. You can see how they really do look like regular pants. Below is a picture of the back of them. They have two back pockets.

Here's a pic of the front. The front pockets aren't real. :) 

Here's a close up pic of the "faux fly" Lol! I really just wanted to show you the fabric. See how it looks like denim?

Below are the four colors I got. From left to right: Greystone, Warm Fudge, Urban Camel, and Black Soot.

They go perfectly with my boots (they stay tucked in) but they also go great with my flats, flip flops, or Chuck Taylors. 

They're very versatile and did I mention how comfy they are? :) Let me know if any of you order them and fall in love with them like I did. I bought one color in the store, then came home and bought the other three online! more thing...of course since jeggings kind of fit close to the skin, you kind of want to wear shirts to cover your backside. ;) Remember the famous saying "Jeggings/Leggings are NOT pants." Lol! Below are some shirts I got on clearance at Old Navy for around $7. They were the perfect length to wear with my jeggings. Plus, they came in all these colors!

Now that I'm done extolling the virtues of jeggings, let's look at my next favorite thing. Actually, this could be a 2 fer. I was actually just going to talk about how washi tape is one of my favorite things, but I'm really digging this devicewear iPad case too. :) For now, let's just stick to the washi tape...get it...stick to??? Hee!

Everyone in my family has the exact same case for their iPads, so I wanted to be able to distinguish mine from everyone else's. I used this tie dye washi tape on my case and it worked perfectly! 

What I love about it is that it doesn't leave any residue on anything. You can put it on, then peel it off and there's no evidence it was ever there. We've all seen the millions of uses for washi tape, and this is just one more. :) You can find it at just about any craft store. I got this tie dye one on clearance at Michael's for about $1.

The pic below is the first washi tape I put on my case. I liked the chevron pattern, until I remembered I had the tie dye. :) I just peeled the cheveron off and slapped up the tie dye. 

How about some beauty products now? I was very late to get on the makeup primer bandwagon, but now I don't think I'll ever get off. :) 

I'm pretty loyal to Neutrogena as far as my makeup/skin care routine, so I was very happy to see they now make a primer!

neutrogena make up primer

This was about $12 at my local grocery store. It was right next to all the other Neutrogena makeup. Basically, you put it on a clean face before you apply your liquid foundation. I used to use a moisturizer (Neutrogena, of course) before I put on my makeup, but now I use this primer in place of the moisturizer. 

It fills in all those pesky lines, wrinkles, or scars on your face and really helps your makeup go on smoother and last longer. I used to think all this talk about using a primer for makeup was hogwash, but it really does seem to keep my makeup on longer. Can't believe I just used the word "hogwash" ha! 

Here's a closer look at the packaging.

Next up is my Otterbox Defender case for my iPhone. This is another thing we were really late to get on the bandwagon with. We didn't get smartphones until about a year and a half ago. We kept putting it off because we were dreading our cell phone bill being as much as a car payment. (we have two boys and knew it would be expensive for all four of us to get them) 

But, we finally caved and bought them for all of us. What's funny is that my hubby kept saying "Y'all can get an iPhone, but I don't think I would use it that much." Well, fast forward to the present day and he's the one who's ADDICTED to his! Ha! 

Anyway, the one stipulation we had when getting them was that the boys HAD to get an Otterbox case for it. (hubby and I actually got them too) The Otterbox cases are REALLY durable. They can be dropped, stepped on, etc. and the case will protect it. 

Above is my iPhone with the Otterbox Defender case. We paid about $50 for our cases, but it has saved our phones many, many times. We bought ours at the Verizon store, but you can also order them from I figure if you're going to spend that much on a phone, you better pay a little extra to protect it. :) Did you also notice I used washi tape on my case? Yep, one more use for the very versatile washi tape. :)  

 I used to spend a lot of money on what I thought were "good" sheets. I recently gave our master bedroom a makeover and got all white bedding. I quickly realized I now needed white sheets too. I bought several sets, but every time I brought them home and set them down on my bed, I realized they weren't white enough. I guess my bedding is "bright white" because all the sheet sets looked ecru or off white compared to it. 

Then I remembered my $5 Family Room Curtains. I bought those white flat sheets to use as "curtains" at Walmart, so I quickly brought one of my new "bright white" shams into the family room and held it up to the white Walmart sheets and it was a perfect match! The whites were identical! Yay! I also sat there for a minute rubbing the Walmart sheet up to my cheek to make sure it would be soft enough to actually sleep on, and it was! 

I hightailed it to Walmart and bought these sheets. I just purchased the flat sheet, fitted sheet, and pillow cases separately. The queen size flat and fitted sheets are about $11 each and the pillow cases come in a two pack (standard size) for about $6, so you can get a complete set for around $28!

Here's a closer look at the package. As you can see, they're 200 thread count and fit mattresses up to 14 inches thick. We just bought a new mattress that's pretty thick, and they fit it just fine.

These may not be for everyone, but they seemed to work just fine for us. And you can't beat that price. :)

Now on to perfume...or "perfumed cologne spray" as the case may be. :) This perfume has been around a long time. I remember my mom using it back in the 70's. I recently tracked some down on Amazon and when it came in the mail, and I took a whiff of it, it was like sense memory for me. Or maybe I should say "scent memory" ha!

perfumes from the 70's

It's called "Interlude" and I absolutely love it! I'm extremely picky about perfumes. I don't like really strong ones, and I always have a hard time picking one out. But, since I already knew what this one smelled like, I knew I'd like it. It's made by Frances Denney and this 4oz. bottle was just under $30 on Amazon.

It's hard to describe the scent. It's not really "floral" or "fruity" or anything like that. It's just a good combo of intriguing scents, if that makes any sense. One friend described it as "mysterious" and another described it as "dramatic" if that tells you anything. :)

Now on to another beauty product...  

I have naturally curly/wavy hair, and I usually blow dry it straight, so in my past favorite things posts, I showed you lots of products to keep your hair straight. Well, I recently decided to let my hair do its own thing and go curly. :) So, this time around, I'm showing you something to keep your curls in tact and frizz free. It's about $6 at any drugstore.

I love this mousse! It's called Loreal Ever Style Curl Activating Mousse. I shampoo and condition my hair, then leave it up in a towel to dry for about 10 minutes. Then I comb through it and apply this mousse and blow dry it about 90% dry with a diffuser. 

paraben free beauty products

This works really well and doesn't leave my hair "crunchy" feeling like some mousse.  It's really creamy too. I actually wash my hair at night and sleep on it, and it's still nice and curly and frizz free in the morning. :) And for those of you who are interested, this mousse is also alcohol free, paraben free, and 100% vegan. ;)

Ah, the Lip Smackers...I've used them since I was a teen and still love them. I used the Dr. Pepper scent for years, but have since moved on to cotton candy and strawberry. (yes, I'm 12) Of course, these can be purchased pretty much anywhere for next to nothing. I'm pretty much addicted to it and use it every night before bed. I've used other brands, but these seem to stay on longer and I love all the fun scents. 

cotton candy lip gloss

Speaking of my night time routine, I also use Lubriderm Advanced Therapy lotion on my hands, elbows, and feet every night. :) This stuff is great! It's about $6 at any grocery store/drugstore. It really has staying power too.  

It's totally non greasy just like it says. It absorbs into your skin and doesn't feel like you have anything gloppy on. :) In the Summer, I also use their version with sunscreen in it. 

Well, I guess I've talked enough for one day. I hope you found something new to try and as usual, I'm not getting paid to endorse any of these products. They're just things I honestly use and enjoy and thought you might too. 

Thanks for visiting and let me know if you try any of these!


I'm joining these parties: By Stephanie LynnDwellings The Heart of Your HomeMaria Elena's DecorSavvy Southern StyleWe Are That FamilyImparting GraceChic On A Shoestring DecoratingI Heart NaptimeJennifer RizzoA Stroll Thru LifeCommon GroundThe Blissful BeeLiz Marie BlogI Should Be Mopping The FloorCraftberry BushAn Extraordinary Day

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Little Painting Sneak Peek

Oh y'all...I'm so, so sore this morning. So, here's what happened...I woke up Sunday morning and decided right then and there I wanted to paint some rooms in our house. Like, I immediately wanted to paint. My hubby was sitting next to me on the sofa, drinking his morning coffee and this is how our conversation went:

Me: I think I want to paint the dining room this weekend.
Him: Hmm...
Me: I also want to paint the foyer...and the hallway...and the living room...and the kitchen...and the breakfast area...and our bedroom...and our bathroom. :)
Him: (first he took a deep breath) Really??? (then he paused for about 5 seconds) Well, okay. I guess I better start figuring out how much paint we'll need.

I mean, is he just the best husband ever?! He was totally on board with me! While I went to lunch with some friends, he worked on figuring out how much paint we would need and what supplies we needed to get.

After my lunch, I stopped by Sherwin Williams to pick up a few sample pots of paint. I had narrowed my choices down to three, but wanted to put them all up on the walls before I made a decision.

I posted the choices on Instagram and thank you to all who weighed in. I really wanted to go lighter in here, so we went with the lightest of all three. It was a hard decision because I wanted a lighter color, but still wanted all the white trim and woodwork to stand out. Thankfully, we're very happy with our decision.

We were able to finish the entire dining room, foyer, and living room all on Monday! I think we'll wait till next weekend to tackle the kitchen, hallway, and bedroom.

For now, here's a little sneak peek of the dining room:

If you remember, this room used to be really dark. The original paint color was called "coffee kiss" so that tells you how dark it was. :) 

Here's a pic of that same corner, just to refresh your memory:

We had the same dark color in the living room and foyer too. I was so glad to get rid of the dark walls we've had for 9 years! It was always hard to photograph those rooms because not only was the paint really dark, but we also have solar screens on the windows, so we didn't get any natural light. (and I'm also a pretty lousy photographer) Lol!

Would you believe we didn't even have to prime the walls first? It only took one coat to cover the dark paint. I'm definitely a fan of Sherwin Williams paint. It is kind of pricey at about $58 per gallon, but the coverage is unbeatable. It's also washable, which will be nice. They just happened to be having a 25% off paint sale this weekend, so the timing was perfect. :)

I plan on doing a whole post about our painting project soon with lots of before and after pics. Oh yeah...we totally rearranged our living room furniture too. I've been wanting to do that forever and am so happy with it. 

I had hoped to get a couple of new posts up this week, but I'm not sure if I'll get to it or not. But, I'll definitely be back Friday for my Favorite Things Part 3 post (which includes the most comfortable jeggings ever I talked about earlier) :)

So what do you think? Do you like the new lighter, brighter look or are you a fan of the darker colors?


Friday, January 17, 2014

Backyard Before and After Pics

Did I ever show y'all what our backyard used to look like when the boys were little? Well, here's a pic...

Yep, that's the same backyard. :) When we built this house almost 14 years ago, our boys were 6 and 1, so we made sure they had plenty of backyard space to run and play in. I knew that before long, the playset would come down and I could have a pretty backyard again. :) But, oh the fun we had in that backyard when the boys were little!

In the upper right of the pic below, you can see where the playground used to be. It was in that far back corner. Disclaimer...these pics were taken last summer when everything was green and blooming. It definitely doesn't look like this in January! :)

Here's looking straight on at that back corner. Back in the day, if you were to walk straight forward, you'd bump into a pirate ship. :) 

That arbor is right behind where the fort and slide used to be.

adirondack chairs

The pic below is pretty much from the same point of view as the first pic with the playground. My, it looks different now. :)

Y'all have heard me talk about this before, but this is the furniture my hubby made out of the wood from the playset. When they dismantled the playset, he kept a lot of the wood and used it to make these adirondack chairs and bench. It's so nice to still have a little piece of the playset back here. :)

outdoor furniture made from dismantled playset

This was the former home of a pirate ship, wave climber, fort, slide, and log cabin. Along with numerous motorized jeeps, fire trucks, play gas pumps, diggers, and hot wheels cars by the millions (and a cozy coupe or two) 

Here are a few more pics of the olden days...

Below, you can see there was nothing planted along the back fence yet. You can also get a little glimpse of the tiny bald cypress to the right of the log cabin. That's one of the fastest growing trees I've ever seen. You can see how the once red jeep was now bleached almost white from the sun. 

You can see the bald cypress is starting to get bigger.

Again...there was absolutely nothing along the back fence. :) We refrained from planting a lot of trees/bushes back then because we wanted the boys to have plenty of room for soccer, football, baseball, etc.

These are all pictures of a picture, so the quality isn't that great. 

You can see in the pic below that I finally started to plant a few things along the fence, but the playset was still getting daily use. By the way, that's one of the grandpas pushing someone around in a gigaball. Lol!

Then one day when the boys were a little older, we started the demolition of the beloved playset. The boys helped take it down. You can see I had already planted a few things in the background. A lot of that wood was about to be transformed into an adirondack chair and bench. :)

When my youngest was 10, he put together that arbor all by himself! We still have it today. 

Here's one more look at the playground in its prime. :) I spent many an hour sitting on that park bench watching the boys play. 

When we had the house built, we just marked off where the playground would go, so they wouldn't put grass down there. It was nice because we just put down some weed guard on top of the soil, then had the mulch delivered. The mulch we used is called "playground mulch." It's light colored so it won't stain and it provided a great cushion for all those little falls that took place. :) We did have to periodically bring in more mulch every couple of years or so, just to beef up the protection. 

Happy times, indeed! Thanks for going down memory lane with me!


I'm joining these parties: By Stephanie LynnDwellings The Heart of Your HomeMaria Elena's DecorSavvy Southern StyleWe Are That FamilyImparting GraceChic On A Shoestring DecoratingI Heart NaptimeJennifer RizzoA Stroll Thru LifeThe Blissful BeeLiz Marie BlogI Should Be Mopping The FloorCommon GroundCraftberry Bush

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