Friday, August 28, 2015

Little Things

We have been super busy since the boys started back to school.  It has certainly been an adjustment getting to bed early so we can get up early.  Little sis has been getting up early with them and keeping them company while waiting on our carpool to arrive.

My sweet hubby turned 40-something!  We had a great time celebrating him all last weekend.  It is almost impossible to get a picture with all 5 of us cooperating for the camera.  This was the best pic I could come up with!

Kyle started taking golf lessons with best bud L.  He is loving it so far!

This little girl missed her first day of PreK because she was sick with a sore throat and low grade fever.  Is this not the most pitiful face?

Those are some of the Little Things going on with us.  Hope you are having a great day!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Santa Ynez Valley

A while back I shared with you about our trip to Santa Barbara but am just now getting around to sharing our experience in the Santa Ynez Valley.  After spending a few days at the lovely Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara, we wandered up to the Santa Ynez Valley to explore that area.  Basically our trip can be summed up with 2 words: wine & food!

Our first day there, we took a wine tasting tour with Stagecoach Wine Tours (highly recommend!).  Our guide, Kurt, was very knowledgable and took us to 4 different wineries.  We were so busy enjoying the beautiful scenery and the enjoying the wonderful wines, that I didn't take any pictures!

Andrew Murray Vineyards

Andrew Murray was our first stop of the day and was a fun place to get started.  We enjoyed the very modern tasting room at the vineyard.

photo from Andrew Murray

Buttonwood Farm

Buttonwood was a complete contrast to Andrew Murray.  It is a true working farm and the tasting room atmosphere was more homey and felt like you were in a farmhouse.  We were able to meet the winemaker, Karen, and she autographed a bottle of wine for us!  A picnic lunch was served on the grounds along with a bottle of their delish sauvignon blanc.  It was a memorable meal!

photo from Buttonwood

Santa Ynez Wine Club

Next, we were taken to the Santa Ynez Wine Club, where we enjoyed a tasting by the pond.  It was an intimate setting, as we were the only group there.  The view was gorgeous and the wines were great!

photo from Santa Ynez Wine Club

Bella Cavalli Farms and Vineyard

Bella Cavalli was probably my favorite tasting of the day.  Of course, the wines were great, but the setting was incredible.  A true working horse farm, we enjoyed the views of beautiful horses (and even petted a few), stables and the friendly company of the owner, who sat with our group for a long time discussing everything under the sun.

photo from Bella Cavalli Farms and Vineyard

On our second day in the Santa Ynez Valley, we decided to visit the little towns of Solvang and Los Olivos.   We passed through these towns on our wine tour and both peaked our interest, so we went back to explore.

Solvang is a Danish community in the middle of southern California.  We started our day with a delicious breakfast at Paula's Pancake House, which several people had recommended.  Yum! 

photo from Paula's Pancake House
After breakfast, we walked through the town exploring the quaint shops that lined the street.  We kicked ourselves later that we didn't buy pastries to enjoy later from one of the several Danish Pastry shops.

photo from
Next, we headed over to Los Olivos.  It is a very small town, but the downtown is packed with cute shops and LOTS of different tasting rooms.

photo from

photo from
This was one of our favorite tastings of the day - Carhartt Winery.  It has a teeny-tiny tasting room with a relaxing courtyard in the back, which was full of shade.  It was HOT that day, and the shade came as a welcome relief!

photo from trip advisor

After visiting a few more tasting rooms, we enjoyed lunch at Sides Hardware.  It was an old hardware store turned into a restaurant.  The food was delicious!  

photo from daytripsocal

Our time in Los Olivos was wrapped up with a visit to the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company taproom.  Hubby enjoyed a new favorite beer- Davy Brown Ale.

After a day full of food and wine (and a little beer), we Uber'ed our way back to our hotel to call it an early night.  Our 4:00 am wake-up call to catch our plane back home came early!

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley!  We found some great new wines to enjoy and hope to make it back some day soon!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

When Ty and I were engaged and preparing for our wedding, at one of my bridal showers my future mother-in-law gave me a very special gift.  It was a recipe book she had put together that contained family favorite dishes from both Ty's family and mine.  I can't begin to imagine the amount of time and love she poured into this sweet, sweet gift.  Each recipe had a note about where it came from and who especially enjoyed each dish.  I definitely want to do the same for my kiddos when they get married!

This spaghetti I am sharing is one of the recipes included in this book.  It was one of Ty's favorites growing up, and it is now our kids' favorite!  There are never any groans when I announce we are having spaghetti for dinner!  Gotta love nights like that!

The Little Things: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce recipe

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

3 t. salad oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs. ground round
1 can Italian tomatoes
2 small cans tomato sauce
1 small can mushroom pieces
1 large can tomato paste
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 T. sugar
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 t. dried oregano
2 T. dried parsley
2 t. worcestershire sauce

Saute onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic in oil until golden in color.  Add ground round and brown.   Drain fat.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, mushrooms and all seasonings.  Simmer covered 1 1/2 hours (or in crockpot on low 3-4 hours).  Serve over noodles.

The sauce freezes well!  

Baby girl enjoying her spaghetti a few years ago!  She loves it just as much today!

We hope you enjoy this, too!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

The Little Things: Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole is probably one of our all-time family favorites.  It makes an appearance at least once a month on our dinner menu.  It is often requested by the kids for birthday dinners, celebratory meals and just about anytime I ask for their advice for weekly menu planning.  It is also my go-to dish when I need to take a meal to new moms or families who just need a little a little extra love for whatever reason.  It freezes great, and I usually take a frozen batch to enjoy on our beach vacation each year.  Basically, it's a great comfort food dish that pleases just about everyone!

The Little Things: Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 - 10 3/4 oz can cream of chicken soup
1 - 8 oz carton of sour cream
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
1 sleeve of Ritz crackers (about 40 crackers), crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted

Combine chicken, soup, sour cream and poppy seeds in a bowl.  Spoon into a lightly greased 11x7 baking dish.  Combine crushed crackers and butter, and sprinkle over chicken mixture.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Serves 4.

I usually double this recipe and cook in a 9x13 dish so that we have plenty of leftovers.  Also, the kids love to have the job of crushing the crackers in a ziplock bag and mixing in the melted butter!

We sure do love this dish; and we hope you do, too!

I am linking up with 



Monday, August 17, 2015

Sharpie Bouquet Teacher Gift

The Little Things: Back to School Teacher gift - Sharpie Bouquet.  Free printable

We love to spoil our teachers!  As a former elementary teacher, I realize how much time, energy and love these special people invest into our little ones.  Each year, I like to send in a little gift for them on the first day of school.

This year I am sending in a Sharpie Bouquet.  Who doesn't love Sharpies?  I especially love these fun colors!  I can imagine they would be appreciated by all teachers - preschool through high school.

The Little Things: Back to School Teacher gift - Sharpie Bouquet

Yes, one of Allie's teachers is also Angela!

The Little Things: Back to School Teacher Gift - Sharpie Bouquet

The multipack of Sharpies and the chalkboard buckets were both found at Target. 

Below I am sharing free printables of the tags:  one version has space so your little one can write his or her name.

I am linking up with The Scoop!

Hope you are off to a SHARP school year!

Friday, August 14, 2015


Chips and salsa are very popular at this house!  I had been on the hunt for a great recipe, and my sister J delivered!  She found the original recipe here, and we have tweaked it to our taste.

chili's salsa copy cat


14.5 oz can rotel
14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes (with the juice)
4 tsp canned diced jalepenos (add less for a milder flavor or more for a spicier version)
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 tsp garlic salt*
1/2 tsp cumin*
1/4 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Process jalepenos and onion in food processor for a few seconds.  Add rotel and diced tomatoes.  Add garlic salt, sugar, cumin, minced fresh garlic, lime juice and cilantro.  Process all of the ingredients until well blended (don't puree).  Place into a covered container and refrigerate.  Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

*I usually end up adding a bit more to taste.

This salsa gets better with time!  If possible, make 1-2 days ahead of time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Back to School Dinner

Back to School Dinner at The Little Things.  A fun tradition to get the school year started off on a fun note.

Last night we had our annual back to school dinner.  It's nothing fancy, but it's a fun tradition we have to get the school year started off on a fun note.

back to school tables cape

The table is set with decorations I use year after year.  The weather was beautiful, so it was fun to be able to eat on our new screened porch!

back to school centerpiece

chalkboard charger plate

I love these black chalkboard chargers I picked up at Hobby Lobby last year. 

chalkboard charger plate

chalkboard charger plate

back to school gift

I like to give the kids a little "happy" gift they can use during the school year.  Since their school supplies are purchased by their teachers with our supply fees,  we don't have to go out and buy school supplies.  I included little things they can use at home or school such as mechanical pencils (they love these!), erasers, highlighters, post-it notes and of course their favorite candy.

back to school gift

back to school gift
Even little sis got something.

The kids look forward to this fun little tradition (and so do I!) each year.  It's the little things that make life special!

You can check out our 2014 Back to School Dinner here.

I am linking up with The Scoop!

Take care,

And They're Off!

The boys have started back to school!  The morning went off without a hitch, and everyone was up and ready to go in record time.  If each morning for the next 9 months can be that smooth, that would be great!

Obligatory pic by the front door.

Hayden, 7th grade

Kyle, 5th grade

New backpacks

This little girl sure is going to miss her brothers.  In a mere 365 days, she'll be joining them.  I am already dreading that day.  Until then, she starts Pre-K in just a couple of weeks.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wrapping up Summer

Today is the last day of summer break.  We have mixed emotions at our house.  One of my boys is excited to start back to school and one is not so sure.  It is bittersweet for me.  I will miss sleeping in, hanging at the pool, as well as vacations and quick trips; but I do look forward to earlier bedtimes, routines and getting back into sports and dance.

We enjoyed a fun-filled weekend to celebrate the end of our break.

Our neighborhood had dinner and a movie at the pool.  We dined on food truck yummies and watched Megamind.

Our street hosted a Back-to-School party.  We love hanging out with our awesome neighbors and are so fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful friends!

 The kids enjoyed a great game of kickball for all ages - kindergarteners through high school seniors joined in on the fun!

Since the pool has been our second home the past few months, we thought today we would take one more dip in the water to commiserate celebrate!

Goodbye pool, hello school!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Dirty Rice

We love foods with a bit of spice around here.  This dirty rice recipe certainly delivers and is one of a few meals I can count on everyone in the family enjoying.  These types of dishes are rare and hard to find!  It's definitely on regular rotation at our house!

This is from one of my favorite cooking websites, Southern Plate, and from Christy Jordan's book Come Home to Supper.  I love that her food is simple and oh so yummy!

Southern Plate Dirty Rice

Dirty Rice

4-5 cups cooked rice (we use brown, but white is great, too)
1 pound uncooked sausage (or ground beef)
1-3 Tablespoons Creole Seasoning (we use Tony Chachere's or Slap Ya Mama)
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped or minced garlic
4 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley (or 2 Tablespoons dried)

In large skillet over medium heat, place celery, bell pepper, garlic, onion, parsley, and sausage.  Break up sausage and cook all, stirring regularly, until sausage is fully cooked and vegetables are tender.  Add Creole seasoning and stir.  Stir in rice and continue cooking over medium heat until rice is heated through, stirring well the entire time.

I usually only put 1 Tablespoon of the Creole seasoning in the dish while cooking, and those who want a spicier version sprinkle a bit more seasoning on their plate.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara

My wonderful husband works so incredibly hard for our family.  Through his dedication and perseverance, he earned a trip for the two of us to the Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara.  The trip just so happened to be around the same time as our 15th wedding anniversary, so we decided to extend the trip and spend some time in the Santa Ynez Valley wine country.

Bacara was beautiful!  The grounds were stunning, the service was impeccable, and the views were breathtaking.  We've already decided that we need to go back for our 20th anniversary!

Of course, we were having such a wonderful time, I failed to take many pictures!  

Photo courtesy of Bacara

Photo courtesy of

Santa Barbara

There was a beautiful trail that ran along the coast.

Santa Barbara

Photo courtesy of Bacara
 The pools were gorgeous, but it was a bit too chilly for me take a dip.  That was one thing that surprised me the most - we left the south with a heat index over 100 degrees to go to beautiful southern California with temps in the high 60's.  What a welcome change!

Photo courtesy of Bacara

We ate at Ocean House restaurant to celebrate our anniversary.  It was wonderful!  We had reservations to dine outside; but as luck would have it, a quick rain shower caused them to close the terrace.  We were able to get a table by the window overlooking the ocean and were exceptionally thrilled with our view:

Santa Barbara

We saw a beautiful double rainbow as we enjoyed our special meal.  That must mean double good luck!

We absolutely loved our time at Bacara and really hope to make it back again!

Thanks for stopping by!