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Knitted Stripe Baby Blanket


I recently finished this simple, sweet baby blanket for my friend Rachel as she and her husband prepare for the arrival of their second child, a tiny baby girl (name unknown). Rachel’s first child, Obadiah, is so incredibly adorable and sweet and has the cutest cheeks ever so I can’t imagine how precious her little girl will be as well.

knitted baby blanket

This knitted blanket is incredibly easy to make and has become my go-to pattern (if you can even call it a pattern) for all baby blanket gifts.

knitted baby blanket

To make this blanket, simply cast on 100 stitches of color A and knit the entire ball of yarn. Switch to color B, knit 1/4-1/2 the ball of yarn. Switch to color C and knit the entire ball of yarn.

knitted baby blanket

That’s it, simply knit on knit through 2-1/2 balls of yarn. Easy as pie!


Fall Break + Woolly Worms


Fall break is over and what a break it was. One of my dearest friends flew out from Oregon with her 1-year-old son and husband. We were able to visit with one another for 5 whole days. It has been 2 years since we have seen friends from home so I cannot express to you just how wonderful it was to be with them again. Jack and I are truly blessed with the friends we have both back home and here in Tennessee. Here’s a family picture from our day out at the farm.

What else did we do on our Fall break? Well, we held a little pumpkin carving party, took a drive up to Roan Mountain, and best of all…attended the Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, North Carolina! Yep, you read it right, the Woolly Worm Festival.

According to their website, last year’s festival had over 20,000 visitors from all over the East coast and 1,000 participants racing their woolly worms.

I bet you are wondering, “how exactly do you race a woolly worm…?” Up a string of course. The Woolly Worm trainers, race their worms up a 3 ft. string in small heats throughout the day until the final heat in the afternoon, where the finalists compete for $1000. This year’s winner, was YoYoMa from NC.

I took some pictures of the festival, they are nothing special but I wanted to give you an idea of how big of a deal this really is…

Now, don’t mistake this festival for just a hokey Southern gathering. No, there is a point to the worm racing, are you ready for this? Apparently, the woolly worm winner predicts what type of winter we are going to have, week by week, by the width of his stripes.

This year’s weather, week 1-13: Lt Snow & Cold, Cold & Snowy, Cold & Snowy, Cold & Snowy, Lt Snow & Cold, Normal Cold, Cold & Snowy, Cold & Snowy

So there you have it, looks like lots of cold and snowy weather coming our way!


Munsey Wedding


The past two weekends have been full of wedding frenzy. Two weekends ago, I helped out a friend by coordinating her special day and this past weekend, Kristin and I hosted a bridal luncheon for a sweet bride out at the farm. Linda was on a family vacation so it was up to us to plan the luncheon, cater, and put together the arrangements for the wedding. So, although busy, it has been a fun two weeks. I’m now thinking my nursing degree may be the financial backing for an event planning/flower arranging/catering hobby, if indeed you can call that a “hobby.” Now I just need some clients.

Anyways, back to the wedding…the ceremony was held at Munsey United Methodist Church, which has one of the most exquisite sanctuaries (see below). The bride was very laid back (which we always appreciate) and was happy to use whatever was blooming on the farm for the arrangements. Lucky for her, there are lots and lots of beautiful flowers blooming on the farm right now.

We tied shepherd’s hooks to the ends of the aisles with raffia and hung ball jars on each filled with a variety of wildflowers. The sanctuary is very large and to line every row with flowers, although exquisite, would have been very expensive. Instead, we adorned every other aisle for the first 10 rows. I was worried the flowers might get lost in the sanctuary but was pleasantly surprised with the finished result.

Here’s a close-up of one of our ball jars for you.

The front of the sanctuary has a set of stairs, followed by a choir loft and then a back altar area, all very intricate. In order to not have the main arrangements overshadowed, they had to be big, bold, and beautiful. I think we succeeded!

Here’s a close-up of the main arrangements. These are compiled of sunflowers, lisianthus, feathered black-eyed susans and various grasses.

At the bridal luncheon on Friday, I helped our bride, Anna, put together her bouquet. The final arrangement consisted of dahlias, zinnias, limelight hydrangeas, and lisianthus. The green collar around the outside is a bubby bush, which is also commonly referred to as either sweet shrub or carolina allspice.

I also braided ribbon down the stem of her bouquet.

Kristin and I used lisianthus buds, frosted explosion, ivy leaves, and blue thistle to make a few varieties of boutonnieres.

Ball Jar Arrangements:

Shasta Daisies, Dahlias, Green Zinnias, Pink Lisianthus

Zinnias and Sunflowers

Pink Zinnia, Lisianthus, Ageratum

This wedding was simple and elegant, a combination I love. As you can see, wedding or event flowers do not have to match to go together and be beautiful. You can mix a wide variety of flowers, fillers, and color and still end up with a unified presentation.

I hope these wedding pictures give you a bit of inspiration today. Happy arranging!


Crumble Top Zucchini Bread


Working in the Milligan College public relations office has given me the opportunity to test out various recipes on the hardworking individuals in my building. Luckily, they make it easy for me as a few days ago, a bag of squash and 3 very very large zucchinis were left on the back table for whomever wanted to take them. I, of course, couldn’t pass up the opportunity and decided to try my luck at baking my first batch of zucchini bread.

After perusing 30-or-so zucchini bread recipes, and realizing I could not, in fact, choose just one, I instead decided to combine a few recipes and techniques for my very own version of zucchini bread.

The finished result was very moist and sweet (would you expect anything else?). I am in love! This recipe makes 2 loaves of bread. The zucchini was so large I only ended up using half of it to get my 3 cups worth of shredded zucchini. However, I believe 2 normal-sized zucchinis should be enough for you.

Bread Ingredients:

3 eggs
1/2 c. applesauce
1/2 c. vegetable oil
dash of nutmeg
3 cups flour
2 cups white sugar
3 cups grated zucchini
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Crumble Topping:

4 tbsp. butter (melted)
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. brown sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease 2 bread loaf pans. I also sprinkled flour in the bottom of mine to help keep it from sticking.

Whisk eggs until frothy. Add in sugar, vanilla, applesauce, and oil. Combine well. Add in 1/2 of the flour mixture, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Grate zucchini and add to mixture. Add remaining flour. Mix well. Pour mixture into 2 loaf pans.

Combine crumble topping ingredients well. You want the flour and sugar to kind of stick together into little granola-like clusters. Sprinkle on top of batter.

Place loafs into the oven for 60-70 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Update: I received a comment recently about difficulty getting the center of the loaf to cook through. I’ve made this recipe a few times and it was always cooked through so I’m thinking it could be my oven which tends to run a bit hot. I’d recommend testing your loaf with a toothpick and adjusting the temperature and cook time accordingly. Thanks for the feedback!

Allow to cool and enjoy!


Cookbook Review


Following a busy weekend as wedding coordinator in Mechanicsville, Virginia, I came home to find a wonderful surprise. After a long year of watching and waiting, and waiting and watching, and perhaps a little impatient complaining, Whitney Miller’s first ever cookbook finally arrived at my front door. Miller is the season 1 winner of MasterChef (summer 2010). Her new cookbook, “Modern Hospitality” has been one year in the making and is 172 pages long.

In the past two years I have become quite obsessed with cooking shows, mainly those involving either Chef Curtis Stone or my all-time favorite, Gordon Ramsay. Last summer’s MasterChef became an instant favorite with the 22-year-old Southern underdog, Whitney Miller, rising to the forefront. I enjoyed watching Whitney create her dishes because she uses simple ingredients and simple techniques to create fabulous looking and I’m sure, fabulous tasting food. Although she is far more skilled than I am (and younger, I will now swallow my pride), I feel that our cooking methods and priorities are similar, therefore, I can’t wait to dive into her cookbook.

Whitney’s cookbook is a modern twist on Southern cooking and hospitality. She takes many of the “boring” and less-sought-after vegetables and somehow manages to glamorize them.

Some of my favorite recipes so far include a carrot souffle, cauliflower mac n’ cheese, upside down quiche, turnip green pesto, and pulled pork BBQ. She also gives a southern affogato recipe. Affogato is a type of ice cream dessert, usually in the form of a scoop of gelato with shots of espresso over the top. When I was living in Ukraine, this was one of my all-time favorite treats. Whitney’s version has a home-made butter pecan ice cream. Yummy!

If you can’t tell yet, I am so excited to dive into this great southern cookbook. So, off I go. I’ll be sure to update you all as I cook my way through Whitney’s recipes.


Mini Blueberry Pies


The Fourth of July is far from my favorite holiday. Can I say that without getting into trouble? I think it has something to do with having to stay up late to enjoy fireworks that only last about 10 minutes. I have never been a night owl, and I fear that the older I get, the earlier and earlier I hit the sack.

I have many wonderful memories from the fourth. I enjoy families gathering together, the variety of BBQ smells wafting through the neighborhood, my father lighting fireworks from on top of a ladder in order to give us more height (that’s my favorite). One more thing I love about the 4th of July, bountiful blueberries. I picked fresh blueberries once and the experience somehow sold me on the fruit. Blueberries are, simply put, a fun fruit. Small, blue, sweet and tart all at the same time. They can be used in salads, pies, and drinks. So much versatility. Seeing as I have an insatiable sweet tooth, this week I opted for the traditional blueberry pie, in mini form.

mini blueberry pie

For this recipe, I simply threw in a mixture of powders and sugars hoping the proportions were right. I think you will agree, the finished result was exceptional. I also finally found the perfect ramekins for me at World Market (yes, I am a picky ramekin shopper). They’re blue and I’m in love! I was so excited to fill them with mini blueberry pies that I couldn’t even wait until the 4th.

Filling Ingredients:

1 pint fresh blueberries
1/3 c. flour
3/4 c. white sugar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. lemon
1 egg
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 stick of butter

Crust Ingredients:

2 c. flour
2/3 c. shortening
7 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions:

Wash blueberries and let drip dry while you make your pie crust.

Mix flour, salt and shortening by hand. I use a fork to press the shortening into the flour to make it crumbly. Once the mixture is crumbly, add in the water 1 tbsp. at a time.

Roll out the dough and 4 circles 1-1/2 times the size of your ramekin as well as 4 circles that just fit the size of your ramekins.

In a large bowl, mix blueberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and lemon. Let sit for 10 minutes so the blueberry juices absorb the sugar.

Press large dough circles into the bottom of the ramekins. Scoop blueberry mixture into each dish. Cover the top of blueberries with 3-4 thin slices of butter. Cover with dough and twist edges into each other.

mini blueberry pie

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Pair with vanilla bean ice cream and enjoy!

Servings: 4 Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes


Summer Adoption Auction


Those of you who know me personally, know that my experiences living in Ukraine have made me a passionate supporter of international adoption. After working in Ukrainian orphanages for 9 months, I firmly believe adoption is somewhere in the Weinbender future.

Because of this belief, I am taking a break from my usual posts to help spread the word about the Chase family Summer Adoption Auction. Please head over to the Team Chase blog to read their story and follow their journey as they raise money to adopt two little ones from Ethiopia.

Even if you choose not to buy anything from the auction, I think an encouraging word would go a long way as they move closer toward bringing home their Ethiopian children.

You can also purchase coffee that will go toward their adoption fund here.

Team Chase 4 and Counting


My Blue Jeans


I think David Dundas’ song “Jeans On” pretty much sums up my attitude toward blue jeans. If you have only heard the Keith Urban version please go to this link and listen to the original before reading further.

“When I wake up in the mornin’ light
I pull on my jeans and I feel all right
I pull my blue jeans on
I pull my old blue jeans on (cha-cha)
I pull my blue jeans on
I pull my old blue jeans on (cha-cha)”

It isn’t because the lyrics are all about the greatness of jeans (because they’re not) however, the melody of this song is exactly how I feel when I pull my blue jeans on.

When I wake up in the mornin’ light, pulling on my jeans really does make me feel alright. Cha-Cha!

This post was actually inspired by a post I read a few days ago at Made (I must admit, her post is much more amusing then mine), which showed images of her wardrobe consisting only of T-shirts and jeans in various colors.

If you are an avid blogger, or at least an avid reader of blogs, I’m sure you have run across the vast array of “style” posts. These are the posts that make you feel incredibly guilty for not looking like a size 0 model in $700 jeans every day of the week. The featured outfits usually include a few of the following: high-heeled boots, peasant blouse, vintage blazer, bedazzling jewelry, skinny jeans, large belts, leather hand bag, lots of makeup, and so on.

As much as I may like these featured outfits, I am the Queen of Practicality. It’s true. Just ask my mother who sends me birthday money with a note saying, “do not use for bills.” So, what does this practical girl buy every single time she reluctantly changes out of her sweatpants to run to the mall?

T-shirts and Jeans.

Now, I’m sure you are thinking, “that’s not a big deal, I wear lots of T-shirts and jeans.” My reply, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

The pictures I’ve included are just a few of the T-shirts and jeans that I currently own. The picture above features 10 pairs of jeans (2 are skirts), and 10 t-shirts/tanks. I have 6 more jean varieties in the closet and many more T’s, not to mention all my Milligan t-shirt attire (2 drawers full).

Although the amount of jeans and t-shirts does seem to go against my previous statement of being practical, I do actually wear them all, all the time. That is more than I can say for the few dressier items I own. And, since I’ve pretty much been the same size since 8th grade, my jean collection is 9 years in the making. So, it’s maybe only half as bad as it seems.

Do I ever dress up? Of course, I actually enjoy dressing up from time to time and I DO own a few dressier items, but jeans and t-shirts are the majority by far.

A Pros list for practical me:

  1. All of my jeans can be paired with all of my t-shirts. Talk about versatility and easy dressing.
  2. Dress them up with heels, a jacket, and jewelry.
  3. Dress down with flip-flops and a cute headband.
  4. For cooler days, pair your t-shirt with a sweater and throw a pair of rain boots on over your jeans.
  5. For warmer days, pull out the jean capris or skirt and a pair of flip-flops to keep you cool.

See, now the next time you are staring dazed and confused into the wreckage you once knew as a closet, just throw on your favorite pair of jeans and a t-shirt, thus allowing for more time to enjoy a cup of coffee, or actually eat breakfast.

“I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes. -Yves Saint Laurent


A Few of My Favorite Things


Jack and I celebrated three years of marriage on Tuesday. Woohoo! Here’s a little tidbit about year three of marriage…apparently, leather is the gift of choice for three years of marriage because it is at this point the couple realizes the durability of their relationship. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I like the sound of it. I can hear you married veterans chuckling right now, “oh newlyweds.”

Anyways, I was able to take the entire day off for some much-needed R&R. Poor Jack still had to go in for most of the day, but I was able to catch up on a bit of cleaning and partake in a few activities I’ve been missing.

So, what did I do today, you ask?

After waking up at the delightful time of 9:30, I lazily walked into my kitchen for a cup of coffee and was greeted by a beautiful lily plant and a very sweet card from my best friend and hubby. This particular lily had three blooming flowers, one for each year of marriage. Awww.

Next, I enjoyed a cup of coffee on our front porch and watched the morning haze wear away. Here’s a picture of our porch growing progress.

I then walked down to the mailbox and was blessed to find five anniversary cards from our friends and family. Thank you all for the well wishes. We wouldn’t be where we are today without your love and support.

After a tearful read over the cards. I headed to the bank and then our local Starbucks to get coffee #2, but more importantly, to say hello to my friend Jane.

After a brief visit, I made the trek down the block to Target for a little “window shopping,” or at least that’s what I told myself. Just look, don’t touch, don’t buy, just look. That didn’t last long.

I’ve been wanting a pair of boots for the farm since last summer. These were cheap and cute enough for me to finally cave.

I mean, just look at these beauties, aren’t they perfect for a wildflower farm? I love boots!

I wasn’t completely selfish, however…I bought Jakie an individual mug/french press that he’s had his eye on for months.

We decided the one thing we absolutely wanted on our anniversary was sushi. So, we headed to our local Earth Fare and bought a few varieties of sushi, artisan bread, and Tillamook cheese. Yes, we bought sushi from a store, not a restaurant. Trust me their sushi beats any restaurant in the area.

I thought Tillamook Cheese would be a treat as well since we can’t buy normal blocks of it like we do back home. In fact, half the amount of Tillamook cheese costs double the price here in Tennessee. So, it truly was a treat.

We also rented a movie we’ve wanted to see since February. You ready for this? Gnomeo and Juliet.It was SO cute and my kind of clever with remarks along the lines of, “What’s in a gnome?” Yes, I am easily entertained.

We followed dinner with another favorite, French Silk Pie from Dairy Queen.
All in all, a very enjoyable anniversary, probably my favorite so far, and all for a reasonable price. Which, for practical me, feels wonderful.

A fabulous day of all the things I love: coffee, friends, gardening, sushi, Tillamook Cheese, boots, French Silk Pie, and of course, Jack. And now, I am finishing the day with one last favorite, blogging. So, thank you for indulging me as I take a break from the usual crafts and recipes to bring you a few of my favorite things.