Christmas Home 2017: Exterior Decor


2017 marks our second Christmas here in Virginia.  But because we had just moved in last year, I would say this has been our first year that we have really been present for the holiday season. 

We had a quiet Thanksgiving at home with a sick little one but it ended up being really nice.  After many years of bouncing house to house on the holidays, a little quiet in the country has been really refreshing. 

Of course we miss our family but we are learning to function and create memories as a family of three.  It's been something many told us we would gain from being on our own but it wasn't until just recently that I personally started experiencing the benefits.


The exterior house decorations are pretty identical to last year's (with a few new additions/changes).  But after years of dreaming of a little farmhouse with wreaths on all the windows, I had to repeat this beautiful look.


The wreaths and red bows are from Walmart.  I think the wreaths are around $2.  You get what you pay for - they aren't super fancy.  But for outdoor decor and buying many, it really is an inexpensive way to create a unified look.


I added a few things to the porch after looking at last year's photos.  The front door looked a little bare without a wreath so I pulled out an old large green wreath for the door and picked up a large red bow (also from Walmart).  I used command hooks to hang them on all the windows.

I then also put out these little trees I already had to add to the front door focal point.  I am really happy with how it all turned out and that my few new additions seemed to complete the look.


It is so nice to have a covered porch that allows us to leave out the chairs and pillows all year around.  Close up it feels kind of coastal which I think is also fun.


I would love to one day have wreaths that look a little more fresh and real but honestly, with how much money that is spent during the holidays, I just can't get myself to do it.  The frugal girl in me runs deep.  Plus I really want to be content with what I have.  It's a bit of a battle I have had this month on using what I have and decorating with less.  I will share more on this topic when I post about our indoor decorations.


Then when the sun starts to set is when the magic really happens.  Last year we bought an automatic timer that turns the lights on at dusk and stays on for however many hours you set it to.  We have been very happy with it!


My husband was sick with the flu when I took these pictures.  So trying to be a nice wife I did not make him turn the TV off while I photographed the house. :)


And here are a few pictures of our sweet boy playing outside while I took pictures.  But in all honesty, he was super fussy that night.  Just keeping it real friends.  Total melt down that lead to a time out came moments later.  But these photos help capture how much he loves being outside as well as the Christmas lights.  He points at the lights all the time making it so fun to see the magic of Christmas through a little one's eyes.


Then the sunset came.  I am not out much these days during the sunset so it was especially breath taking to see it set behind our holiday lit house.


After years of vintage multi-colored lights (ones that were on my parent's house when I was growing up), I finally decided that I wanted to give white lights a try.  My husband was very pleased because this meant he could finally put up LED lights instead of our old school electricity sucking ones.  We were both quite pleased with how they turned out (LED has finally come along way in making warm lights!) which I would say is a marriage win for the day!


And there is nothing like driving up to Christmas lights on the house.  Anyone else swoon over their lights like I do?  It really is a favorite part of the season for me.  We probably only have three neighbors who actually see our house and we don't have many guests come by very often.  So the work that goes into this is for our own desire and satisfaction!  And thankfully having a blog also helps!



I hoped you enjoyed my little tour of our exterior Christmas decorations this year!  I will be back next week to show you what I did inside the house.  Happy December friends!

3 S'mores Inspired Holiday Drinks


'Tis the season for all the hot and cozy drinks!  This is my favorite time of year to cozy up with a yummy warm drink - whether shared or alone.  When I think back to some of my fondest moments with friends, it is quite often that it was shared over a hot cup of coffee or tea.  I love that the simple act can bring people together and that with a few easy ingredients I can even create these moments at home.


Even in my current season of life - home bound with a little one in a new town - having a warm drink to savor come nap time or at the end of the day is such a treat for my taste buds as well as my spirit.  There is a calmness and pampering with each sip.

I have always been a make your own drink at home kind of girl.  I love having new and festive combinations to serve to guests as well as just for myself.  So whether you are serving a crowd or just need a little midweek pick me up, I have three delicious s'mores inspired recipes to share today!


All the recipes are made with Torani Sugar Free S'mores Syrup which makes them simple, easy, and delicious!  #AToraniHoliday


Smores Latte

Nothing seems fancier than pouring frothed milk over your coffee!  Taking the time to steam or froth milk is definitely worth it for that coffee shop luxury! 

Ingredients:
1 cup of coffee
2 tablespoons Torani Sugar Free S'mores Syrup
1/2 cup of milk (more or less depending on the ratio of coffee to milk you like)

Make your coffee and pour in a cup.  Combine milk and Torani Sugar Free S'mores Syrup in a separate cup.  Heat milk in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.  Use a frother to froth milk (or steamer if you have one).  Pour frothed milk over coffee.


Smores Hot Chocolate

We love a good cup of hot cocoa around here!  For this recipe you can use any type of hot chocolate.  This concoction is definitely a sweet one but if you love hot chocolate like we do, this will not dissapoint!

Ingredients:
1 cup/serving of hot chocolate (packet, instant coffee machine, etc)
2 tablespoons Torani Sugar Free S'mores Syrup
Whipped Cream
Graham Cracker and Chocolate for garnish

Make your hot chocolate in a cup.  Pour in Torani Sugar Free S'mores Syrup.  Top with whipped cream.  And if you are feeling really fancy include a piece of graham cracker and chocolate!  Yum!



S'mores Steamed Milk

Of all the drinks this one is probably my favorite.  It is so simple yet so delicious and such a nice treat at the end of the day with a cookie to dunk into!  If you haven't had steamed milk before, I encourage you to give it a try!  It's a great wind down at the end of the day treat that will make you all warm and cozy inside.

Ingredients:
1 cup of milk
1 tablespoon Torani Sugar Free S'mores Syrup

Pour milk and Torani Sugar Free S'mores Syrup into a cup.  Microwave for 60-90 seconds.  Use a frother to froth milk (or steamer if you have one).



// And in case you choose to stock up on a few Torani Syrups soon, I recommend Sugar Free Vanilla, Black Cherry, and Coconut.  These are my all time favorites.  When in need of a cold drink I will add these to diet sodas or sparkling water.  I also am known to put a dash in my protein shakes!  Yum!

Torani's got you covered for the holidays.

This holiday season, make sure to have Torani on-hand for those "spur of the moment" Holiday gatherings.  With Torani in your pantry, the possibilities are endless - so don't wait until it's too late!  Pick up a couple of your favorite holiday flavors and enjoy a stress-free season!

Torani offers unique flavors that are simple, easy to use and versatile.  Torani's original line is made with real, simple ingredients like pure cane sugar and natural flavors.  Torani offers the largest varieties of sugar free flavors that are simple, easy to use and sweetened with Splenda - so all of the flavor with none of the guilt!


For more information, you can visit Torani at http://www.torani.com/.


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This post is written in partnership with Torani.  Monetary compensation and product has been provided by Torani but all opinions are my own.  Thank you for supporting the brands that help make this blog possible.

Easy Freezer Potato Wedges


We are big fans of potato wedges around here.  With a little olive oil and seasoning, this simple side dish never goes wrong.  While the recipe I have used for years is very simple, it was always a bit time consuming to cut all the potatoes before cooking.

So I set out for an easier prep process and learned how to blanch potatoes to freeze (this allows the potatoes to remain fresh tasting after being frozen).  This also cuts the baking time in about half since blanching partially cooks the potatoes.

When I bring home a giant bag of potatoes I cut, prep, blanch, and freeze the potatoes all at once so that when I am ready to make a batch I can just pull it out of the freezer and put it in the oven.

Easy Freezer Potato Wedges

Bag of potatoes
Olive oil
Seasoning (we really like using Red Robin seasoning but salt, pepper, and garlic powder also work great!)
Bowl of ice water

1. Bring a pot of water to boil - how big of a pot depends on how many potatoes you are blanching.

2. While water is starting to boil, wash and cut potatoes - I cut the potato into quarters and then cut 2-3 wedges per quarter.  This gives me about the right thickness of potato wedge I like.

3. Add cut potatoes to boiling water.  Blanch for 3-5 minutes.

4. Strain potatoes.  Add potatoes to a bowl of ice water and let sit for 5-10 minutes then drain.

5.  Once cooled, place potatoes on a baking dish and put in freezer.

6. Once frozen the potatoes can be placed in ziploc bags for storage in the freezer.

When ready to cook your frozen potatoes:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Line baking sheet with frozen potatoes.  Add olive oil and seasoning.  Toss until coated (you can also do this in a bowl but I like to have one less thing to clean!)

3. Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes (depending on thickness of potato).  I start checking around 20 minutes and let cook an additional 5-10 minutes, checking each time, until done.



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