Pop the Top! Plus: My Recipes: Butternut Squash Spaghetti

Yesterday had to have been one of the busiest days I've ever entertained in my life. I mean, I was on the go from before I got out of bed (my brain started churning the second my eyes fluttered open) till the very minute I finally decided to call it quits and fall back into my pillow. Just to impress you with my Energizer Bunny-like energy that I found stashed in a moving box was able to resort to, let me briefly walk you through my day: I started off by doing two loads of laundry, feeding and medicating my two old cats and answering work emails before I ever left the house, and was still at the tire store by 9am. It was exciting - I finally got new tires on my Avalanche! They are beautiful all terrain wheels and I love them. I also don't have to worry about my old over worn tires exploding while I'm burning up the highway miles... whew. From there, I made a stop for booze at Specs (but not to drink on the road, unfortunately), worked out at 24 Hour, bought some vitamins, grabbed a quick salad at Sonic, finished our Christmas shopping with stops at Hobby Lobby, Target (twice) and Walmart (also twice). I got photos developed at Walgreens, went to Academy for a few items, filled up with gas, picked up my husband's Christmas gift (a new Evo smartphone, he loves it!!!), dropped off dry cleaning, went to the bank, and made it home in time to prep dinner, help the husband get a big sago palm out of our backyard, chill some Champagne, finish wrapping all our gifts and eat dinner.

WHAT!?!?!? (That's you, amazed at my invincible-ness.)

Yeah, I'm awesome.


We wanted to mark the holiday season - as well as having a house at last - with a little bubbly, so we popped the top on some Champagne and sipped away while noshing down on a great pasta dinner. I made it with items in the fridge I needed to be rid of since we are leaving town soon. Here's the breakdown:


Ingredients
Whatever's in your fridge! Seriously...
Pasta (whole grain if you wanna be healthy)
Big jar of your favorite pasta sauce
Can of quartered artichokes
1 big ol' butternut squash, rid of the skin and chopped
1 medium purple onion, sliced
1 lb. ground beef (lean if you wanna be healthy)
1-2 cups of cherry tomatoes (halved)
Fresh sea salt & ground pepper
Parsley & Basil (dry is fine, but fresh also works)
Worcestershire sauce

While a large pot of salted water is coming to a boil, begin to brown your beef in a large saute pan. Can add a little EVOO if desired. Give it a good dousing of the Worcestershire sauce and grate on some salt and pepper.

While meat is browning, place butternut squash in a microwaveable steamer, or simply put in a glass bowl and cover tightly with saran wrap and poke a couple teeny holes. Microwave on high for 4-5 minutes, until soft.

When the beef is almost cooked through, add your onions and tomatoes and cook until softened. (Don't forget to add your pasta to the pot when water is ready!) Once the meat and veggies are ready, stir in your butternut squash and pasta sauce, season with a little more salt and pepper a liberal sprinkling of the parsley and basil. Let it heat thoroughly while you drain your pasta, then serve hearty bowls of your cozy dish!



I was so tired by the time I went to bed I probably couldn't have even told you what my name was. But the important part was that I got a lot done. Like all the gifts, and I felt very proud about each and every one of them. It's a good feeling to see all your thoughtful purchases wrapped and ready beneath the tree! (Here's hoping they just don't get squished on the way from Houston to Dallas...)


As you can partly tell, no Bell gift giving would be complete without penguin wrapping paper and gift bags. The husband does enjoy a comical penguin, as I mentioned about our tree ornaments here


Of course we didn't forget our two gorgeous labs either, and cannot wait to see them and bring them home with us once and for all at last!!!


It would have been nice to have an extra hand or two, but the four-legged critters chose to spend their time lounging nearby and occasionally bat at the ribbon or rafia when it was flailing around. (Their owner isn't the best bow-tier in the world and I may or may not have used my big toe as a placeholder once or twice....)

"You want me to do WHAT? I don't think so."

"I'm trying to get my beauty rest. Please go away."

Pre-holiday prep can be a brutal and exhausting process sometimes but, to quote Proverbs, "the desire accomplished is sweet to the soul." My soul is warm and full as we prepare to spend some time with family and friends, and I hope yours is too.

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, 
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there..."

Read my words!

I wanted to share with you all a very exciting moment in my editorial profession: the release of my first issue of Dallas Brides magazine! Before the husband and I moved to Scotland for a year, I was the editor of Houston Brides (published by the same company) and enjoyed it so much. This comes as a surprise to many of my friends, I know, as I'm not generally one for flowers, dresses and cakes. But there's just something I love when it comes to writing about weddings!


Since our return to Texas, I was delighted when I was offered the post as editor-in-chief of Dallas Brides, a sister publication to my former magazine. And even better, it's in my hometown! I had a blast jumping back into my "old shoes" and assembling a matrimonial resource for Dallas-area brides full of local reporting, trends, bling and beautiful, beautiful dresses. (I could seriously look at wedding gowns all day.)

To read my editor's note below, click on the image once and then twice to zoom. Or read the entire issue, cover to cover, right here!

I also relished the opportunity to pen pieces for CS Brides in Chicago (click here and here) and The Atlantan Brides in Atlanta (here and here).

Looking for wedding tips or trends? In search of a freelancer to freshen up your blog or write about the latest bridal news? Visit my professional site to learn more and contact me!

Oh, Christmas Tree!

My mom and step-dad spent a week with us helping unpack boxes and get settled into our new house, which also included setting up the Christmas tree. I think my mom had it done in less than 30 minutes! She was itching to get it up from the moment we started hauling things in. It's always so fun to relive memories with each ornament drawn from the box. Though my husband and I have only been married four years, we already have a ton of memories and amazing times between us, many of which are reflected in our ornaments.

Our tree, complete with raffia and loaded gift bags underneath!

We have a few A&M ornaments (the husband is an Aggie), and this is one of our favorites.

We obtained this ornament during our last trip to Vegas, where my synchronized swim team and I placed first in the US Masters competition!

We went to Paris in December 2009 and completely forgot to purchase a keepsake ornament. Fortunately my mother-in-law had this one waiting for us that Christmas!

Both of us are loyal Cowboys fan and this guy proudly adorns our tree.

This bauble is significant of the year we lived in Scotland (2009-2010).

The husband loves penguins, he just thinks they're cool. This dude was a recent housewarming gift from the husband's brother and his girlfriend. He's now referred to as "Herman."

Speaking of penguins, here's a few that perch on our holiday tree limbs...

Christmas is just days away! Many folks have already started their festivities and holiday travels, and we will soon. I'm looking forward to lots of yummy food and some special gift giving - we finally found the box that held all our treasured trinkets acquired during our recent year abroad. There are so many special memories still lingering from our time in Scotland, but this year we look forward to making even more new ones with family at home in Texas! And at long last, I'll soon have the DIY ornament post I've been promising with one as a special giveaway... so c'mon on back!

Cowboy Christmas

I am loving having our regular holiday decorations up this year, we were very happy to get to move in before Christmas! Last year in Scotland, we had to make do with a mini tree and a handful of ornaments that I'd brought with us for a taste of home. Though our Scottish month of December involved plenty of beautiful snow, train rides and a trip to Paris, we are quite content to cozy up in our new home in Katy and enjoy all our things that we've missed. In our front entryway is our "Texas tree," festooned with all my Lone Star ornaments I've acquired over the past couple years.

A hand painted glass ornament with cowboy boots by my mom.

A Texas license plate-esque ornament from my sister.

A rustic Cowboy figurine from the Neals.

A tin star ornament I purchased in Gruene, TX.

Our original tree topper for our main tree purchased years ago. It now adorns the hall tree.

A cute welcome sign from Hobby Lobby.

Our Texas country Christmas hallway!

What special ornaments do you decorate with? How do you choose your tree themes each year?

It's beginning to feel a lot like...

...Christmas and a cozy new home! 

The beginning of our move-in. 

You'll notice I've been a bit absent on my blog, but I promise it's been for good reason! In the past week, we closed on our new place, my mom and I cleaned it from top to bottom then we all moved our entire lot of belongings into the house in about two days, unpacked, decorated, painted, shopped and cooked. I am so very, very, very grateful that my mom and Louis Dean came down to Katy and spend a solid week helping Mike and I get unpacked and settled in. They were a wonderful encouragement and motivation, and it made the house seem so much more homely to have loved ones sharing it with us. Needless to say, the husband and I are beside ourselves with happiness over such a great home. We love it here! 

Tonight everything was quiet and it was our first evening in the house alone. We heated up leftovers for dinner after organizing the garage a little bit, then plopped down onto the couch and caught up on a few TV shows (we enjoy Hawaii 5-0 and all the CSI's). The little things really make our days right now, it is nice to look around and see all our things, watch American TV on a big screen, prop up our feet in our leather reclining sofas and have our animals with us (our two dogs will come home after Christmas).

He and I went from being packed into a guest room (graciously provided by close friends of ours during the near four-month house process)...



...to a beautiful home fit just for us!


You might recall reading about my two kitties while the husband and I were living in Scotland. My white cat, Snowball, became deathly ill while staying with my cousin - though the circumstances as to how are still unclear - but she has made a fantastic recovery. She prowled around the new house for awhile before finally deciding it was okay!


My older cat, July, is about 18 years old and took an immediate liking to the dwelling. She rolled all over the carpet and ran from room to room exploring!



Then my mom and I lit our "ceremony" candle... it's a Yankee Candle dubbed "Christmas by the Beach." It's packed with holiday aroma and a hint of coconut. Perfectly me. I had purchased a fall candle months ago thinking we'd have a house by then. When we didn't, my mom picked up the Christmas candle hoping we could light it together in my new home before the holidays were up. And we did! It was truly a special moment and made the whole experience that much more memorable. Then again, mom's just have a way of doing that, don't they?


The "movers," aka some of the husband's buddies from work, my mom and my step-dad, were wonderful and helped us move in both storage units. We couldn't have done it without them! The entire event took a matter of hours.






Whether you follow my blog or are just passing through, you must know that I love to cook. I post my recipes on here frequently (and intend to more often now that I've got my own kitchen!) and putting together good food is an enjoyable hobby for me. I also like to cook for people, so having my mom and step-dad stay with us for several days was the perfect excuse to break out my never-used Spode Christmas china (a thoughtful gift from my mother-in-law). I whipped up a two-minute centerpiece for the table, using materials I found in nearby boxes, like those oversized ornaments you're supposed to hang from your outdoor tree limbs. It was easy to locate all the Christmas supplies since everything was sitting in the garage! 


While I never require things to be picture perfect all the time, I have missed my "stuff." After reading so many great interior design blogs over the past year (like this one and this one) and sitting in a foreign flat with ideas swirling through my head, I've just been dying to get my hands back on all my things and be creative. Whether it's dressing a table in record time or working on handmade Christmas ornaments or hanging up new picture frames, I'm all about the nesting and the "pretty." Hence my Spode Christmas china for our very first dinner after moving in.



We chowed down on a quick and easy hearty meal, made of whole grain pasta, Prego's three cheese tomato sauce, freshly sauteed halved baby tomatoes, ground beef and artichokes. Yum!



Our down time was spent hogging the remote control...

 

...enjoying the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls that my step-dad made from scratch (using a wine bottle as a makeshift rolling pin!)...


 ...and enjoying a little sunshine during moving breaks. Or all the time, if you're a furry white critter.



Now I know I haven't shown you much of the house, but I do intend to! It's just a ways from being ready yet. I have several posts planned over the coming weeks that entail DIY window valiances, our Christmas trees (yup, we managed to put up more than one!), a shelf makeover, big paint plans for the office, a seaside guest room theme, our new Texas china hutch that holds some of our favorite dishes (which are on display for the first time ever) and more fun, country and otherwise cowboy-inspired details that we're working to implement throughout our home. We love that rustic, hill country touch - it's our personalities to the core. Relaxed, fun, a little bit country and a whole lotta comfy!

In the meantime, though, I will give you a sneak peek of our newly-adorned bed in the master, which I took the liberty of outfitting with a bit of Christmas cheer...



Christmas cheer is all around this place and it's merrier than usual. We are blessed to have come into a home that feels so "right" for us and we are equally grateful for generous family, like my parents, who could come down and help us out. My husband's parents are still keeping our dogs until we can get to Dallas for Christmas and retrieve them, and we appreciate all the TLC they've been given while we've been gone! God is good, and he's been really good to us.

Now I just can't wait to share it all with you!

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