Patio Style

I’ve completely neglected our outdoor spaces this year. Every summer I think it’s going to be the year we makeover the patio…and then summer is over before we know it. This year is no exception. But then I saw this post at Arhaus, which inspired me to consider a patio makeover again. For reals this time. P.S. If you’re curious about Arhaus, be sure to check out their outdoor sectional sofas and sectional sofas for your home, along with some of their other products!

041516_outdoor_bal_harbour_sectionalNow back to my patio. It’s bad. Currently, we’ve got a giant trampoline on our patio, while the grass recovers from an incident with a waterslide/bounce house. But I dream of turning it into a fun little lounge area. It would be the perfect place to sit with some friends and some dessert. Or curl up with a cold drink and a good book after a long day. 

I know my dream patio changes every year; and that’s probably why I haven’t committed to making it happen just yet. But this one is my favorite patio design yet: 

Outdoor Living Space-01

I’d keep the accessories pretty neutral and simple with gray pillows and a rug. Plenty of seating is a must; as is a fire pit to add a little ambiance and warmth when the evenings get chilly. You need to make sure your guests have somewhere to put their drinks; so throw in a few little side tables. I’d also add the comfort of inside with a lightweight throw and some potted plants. I love outdoor glasses so broken glass isn’t an issue; and I’d make sure the puppy feels welcome outside, too, with a home of her own. 

Here’s a shopping guide for this year’s patio wish list: 

  1. Indoor/outdoor rug
  2. Medallion Pillow
  3. Teak sectional
  4. Turned-leg planters
  5. Side Table
  6. Fire Pit
  7. Beverage dispenser
  8. Striped Throw
  9. Outdoor glasses
  10. Coral pillow
  11. Dog house

We’ve probably got another 2-3 months of summer weather ahead of us, so maybe it’s not too late for my back yard, after all. 

Spooky Smoothies

Most Halloweens, I get to the end of the day and realize I haven’t eaten any real food all day. We even have a Halloween birthday in our family; and after all the candy, donuts and other sugar-related shenanigans, choking down that birthday cake nearly does me in every year. Spooky Smoothie BarSince Halloween is on a Saturday this year, I’m going to do a Spooky Smoothie bar for breakfast…so we can throw in a few fruits and vegetables before things get crazy. The kids and I gave the smoothie bar a test-run the other day. It was a hit! You can’t see it very well in the photo, but the “snake venom” is apple juice, and I put an eye-dropper in it so they could add some to their concoctions.
I pretty much raided the fridge + freezer for this, so here are the ingredients I used: 

  • Frozen Fog: ice cubes
  • Eye of Newt: grapes
  • Witch Fingernails: apple slices
  • Pickled Brains: frozen (pitted) cherries
  • Poison Ivy: spinach
  • Vampire Blood: cranberry juice
  • Slug Tails: frozen peaches
  • Swamp Slime: vanilla yogurt + food coloring
  • Hearts of Toad: sliced strawberries
  • Snake Venom: apple juice
  • Bat Droppings: blueberries

Spooky SmoothieI had a label for “mud” that was supposed to be Nutella; but it disappeared while I was setting up. You could label really any food with these labels and your kids will be grossed out. Mine loved it. I gave the kids a cup, they filled it up; and then I blended each smoothie individually. Then I poured it in a black cup with eyes glued onto it. Super quick and easy. 
Smoothie Order FormI decided to change things up a bit for the older kids, with a blind order form. (You can download it here). It’s a checklist of the ingredients, and they pick what goes into their smoothie without knowing what they’ll end up with. Bonus: you don’t have to make the table look pretty with labels and bowls, etc.–just pass out an order form and keep the ingredients in the fridge until you need them.

If you want the printable ingredient labels, they’re available over at Honest to Nod.

Happy Halloween! 

Caramel Pecan Pie

Let’s talk about pie. There’s nothing better than homemade pie. In fact, I’ve never met one I didn’t like. The only obstacle in my love affair with pie is that I’m terrible at making pie. Like really, really bad. Pie-making for me usually turns into a full cardio workout with a lot of swearing; some burned gunk in the oven, a huge mess in the kitchen and a sad, sad looking pile of fruit at the end. But there IS one pie that I can pull off consistently: Caramel Pecan Pie! 

Thanksgiving Pecan PieThis pecan pie became part of our Thanksgiving celebration around the time my grandmother wasn’t well enough to make pie anymore. She was the expert pie-maker in the family, and she passed the torch to my mom. They make it look easy as…well, pie. Maybe with another decade of practice, I can achieve consistent results. Until then, I’ll stick to pecan pie. 
BattleOfthePiesGraphic copyWhen my buddies at Wayfair invited me to be a part of their Pie Bake Off*, I jumped at the chance. Not because I’m awesome at making pie; but because I love a good contest. And since I’ve only got one pie in my arsenal, deciding what to make didn’t require a lot of thought.  
I’m sharing the recipe with you here today, in case any of you are similarly pie-challenged. Plus, it’s delicious. My husband claims it’s the best pecan pie he’s ever had. And he’s extensively explored the wide world of pecan pie. For real, though, the pie holds together beautifully without being too gloppy; and it’s topped with beautiful caramel-glazed pecans.

Pecan Pie

Caramel Pecan Pie
Serves 8
Perfect, easy pecan pie; topped with crunchy caramel-glazed pecans.
Cook Time
40 min
Cook Time
40 min
For the crust
  1. Favorite homemade (or frozen) pie crust recipe
For the filling
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 1 C. Karo syrup
  3. 1/4 C. packed brown sugar
  4. 1/4 C. sugar
  5. 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (melted)
  6. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 tsp. salt
  8. 1 C. chopped pecans
For the topping
  1. 1/3 C. packed brown sugar
  2. 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  3. 3 Tbsp. honey
  4. 1 1/4 C. pecan halves
  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Prepare crust, according to your favorite recipe (or package directions)
  3. Roll crust to fit a 9" pie dish; with about 1" extra dough hanging over the sides.
  4. Gently ease the crust into the pie dish.
  5. Pierce with a fork in several places.
  6. Tuck the edges under, or make your favorite edge design
For the filling (combine in a large bowl)
  1. 4 eggs (slightly beaten), Karo syrup, brown & white sugars, melted butter, vanilla and salt.
  2. Mix to combine.
  3. Stir in chopped pecans.
  4. Pour into pie pan
  5. Bake for 40 minutes. (check crust intermittently to make sure it's not burning).
While the pie bakes, make the topping
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey and brown sugar. Stir constantly over med/low heat until sugar is dissolved. Add the pecans and stir to coat.
  2. After the pie has baked 40 min; remove from over and spread topping evenly on top. Cover the edges of crust with foil and return to oven 10-15 minutes; or until the topping is bubbly and warm.
  3. Cool completely; and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Christina Williams
PecanAnd there you have it. My one pie wonder. Happy baking! 
Caramel Pecan Pie

*This post is sponsored by Wayfair. Recipe and photos are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands who support my work. Visit my full disclosure policy here, for more information on how I work with brands. 

DIY Skull Crystal Balls

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know I’ve been cooking up some spooky fun with my Sprout by HP and its 3D scanning technology. A couple things before we get started: 1. This post is sponsored by HP.* They sent me the new 3D scanning platform so I could use it for this project. 2. I’m a complete newbie to 3D design. 3D scanning and printing seem so futuristic and overwhelming. But if I can do this, anybody can. And, 3. I’m late for everything, so I’m giving myself 10 bonus points for doing a Halloween project before the month of October. 😉Crystal BallsIf you need a refresher on the Sprout all in one desktop, you can check out my previous posts here and here. Or check out the Sprout Creator Gallery to see all the other fancy things people are doing with the Sprout. Sprout has also unleashed a host of new updates, including a Stop Motion app; and dual-screen Adobe Illustrator capabilities. I can’t wait to try them out! For this project, HP challenged me delve even further into Sprout’s capabilities. I think Bryce was initially more excited about 3D scanning than I was. And to show him how easily he could use the 3D platform for his work, I did a test-run with one of our creepy Halloween skulls. After the skull, I scanned in a bunch of fruit, but that skull was haunting me. So I ditched the fruit and turned this into a Halloween project.

Sprout 3D ScanningHere’s a look at the scanning process. Sprout guides you through the whole thing step-by-step. First you plug in the 3D platform, and let it calibrate; then it tells you where to put your object. Hint: glue dots work wonders to keep your object in place. And use a blob of play-doh as a wedge to scan tricky surfaces.

Sprout 3D ScanNext, Sprout scans your object in eight different segments. As each segment scans, you see it pop up on the screen. After the whole cycle is through, you simply reposition the object on the stage so Sprout can scan the missing surfaces. You can scan through as many cycles as you need to make sure the whole surface is scanned. When you’re done, Sprout magically merges all the scans into one complete 3D object. 

Sprout 3D EditorThen, you can open your object in the 3D editor. Here you can play with the size, orientation, and outside surface of the object. I’m not going to lie…I actually had a great time flinging the skull around just to watch it spin. Also, sorry about my creepy witch fingers. I’m double-jointed. But this is a Halloween post…so it’s perfectly festive.

3D ManipulationYou can resize things without losing quality or detail. 

Sprout 3DOr make it smaller. After you’re done pretending to hold a tiny skull in your fingers, get back to work. From here, you can choose to send your object to a 3D printer; or save it as a 2D image. I turned my skull into a series of 2D images showing different surfaces of the skull. 
SkullsThen I printed them on transparency; and made these creepy crystal balls. This project is inspired by these amazing crystal ball candlesticks by Flamingo Toes. She’s got a great in-depth tutorial, so hop over there for more details. 

Halloween SkullsI followed Bev’s instructions for the crystal ball part; and instead of using candlesticks, I spray painted a bunch of treat cups, turned them upside-down, poked a hole through the bottom, and hot glued the ornament into the hole. 
DIY Skull DecorationsI used the largest clear ornaments I could find this time of year (4″). How fun would it be to do a mini-size?! For the base, you could use small paper cups, or even toilet paper tubes cut in half. I discovered it’s best to leave the bottom of the cup white, otherwise, the skulls are hard to see. We’ve had these on the table for a few days, and I still get creeped out when I catch a glimpse of a floating skull as I walk into the kitchen. 
Skull Crystal BallsHere’s one final shot of Mr. Skull and his ghostly mini-me. In the 3D design software, I took the outer surface off…so what I printed is just the “structure” of the scan. Like a skeleton of a skeleton. I thought it looked creepier this way. But you can also edit your objects to look like wood or metal which is super cool.
DIY Halloween Crystal BallI’m always on the lookout for awesome, yet inexpensive Halloween decorations; and this fits the bill perfectly! Since they’re visible from both sides, these would make fantastic centerpieces for a spooky Halloween dinner. Or make a tiny version as a place card! You could also put a battery-operated tea light in the opening in the ornament to give it a glowing effect.

Oh, and I made a printable of the skulls for you. Download it, print them out on transparencies, and then follow Bev’s instructions for making the crystal balls. Happy Haunting!

*This post is sponsored by HP. Photos and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands who support my work! (If you want more information on how I work with brands and sponsors, read my fancy pants disclose here.)

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