Happy All Hallow's Eve!

Hi all and welcome to a Halloween edition of Mangia Mondays!

It's been so much fun to co-host this foodie blog-hop with Kristin of Delightfully Dowling each week!  I love seeing what you all link up for recipes, restaurant recommendations, and kitchen tips and tricks!

We are having quite the memorable Halloween since Mother Nature (or maybe devils and demons???) decided to send a snow storm our way.  We came home from a Halloween party on Saturday night to no power, which thankfully was restored to our street late last night, but many of our friends and neighbors in town are still without.  School was cancelled today and trick or treating has been moved to Friday night!
How wacky (and spooky, strange and bewildering) is that??

If you were around here last year, you may remember these mummy cupcakes I made thanks to Jennifer's inspiration over at Hope Studios.  They were a big hit with a class of third graders and oh-so-easy!

There are so many yummy and ghoulish-looking treat ideas floating around for Halloween, aren't there? Every Halloween I find myself looking for something relatively healthy to feed my kids before they fill up on oodles of candy.  Here's a round up of some fun foods for a quick pre-trick-or-treating dinner!

You just can't beat a pile of veggies with dip!  Especially when they are in the shape of a skeleton or a pumpkin.  So clever!

I'm going to make these spiders over chicken soup for my kids.  So easy with Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry!

I adore this whole meal - how cute and easy are those banana ghosts???  And look for food markers in the baking section of your grocery store for making cheese sticks (and whatever else) a little more fun for the kiddos.

These creepy choppers by Michelle of Ten June are so fun!  I'll be substituting the marshmallows with raisins stuck in peanut butter as part of my kids' Halloween dinner (and to remind them what their teeth will look like if they fail to brush adequately!)

Don't you love how easy it is to combine some of these fun foods to make Halloween at your home something your kids will fondly remember when they grow up?  I mean that glass of milk - come on! - so cute and easy peasy!!!

I hope you enjoyed these ideas for a tiny bit of nutrition on Halloween!
Kristin and I would love for you to join the Mangia Mondays fun!  Link up or share in the comments!

Happy Halloween
all my little ghosts and goblins out there!


Choosing Color For Your Stairs

My stair project is coming along....a little clean up of the trimwork and she'll be ready for a big reveal!

There are SO many color options for stairs.  You could literally spend hours upon hours garnering inspiration from the likes of Pinterest and Houzz but who in their right mind would spend all their time doing that?? ;)  
{PS - If you're looking for ideas, check out my Pinterest board on stairs.}

Our stairs and railings were a tired and worn light oak.  This is the third house we have owned with light oak treads and railing and we were craving something a little different this time.

We have outdated 80s tile at the bottom of the stairs right now, but eventually it will be replaced with oak like the rest of the rooms on this floor have. Mark and I LOVE dark stained wood floors, but we've heard from friends that they show everything: every little particle of dust, dirt, fur and so on, as opposed to light or medium colored wood floors. While I'm all for keeping a tidy house I don't want to be a slave to the floors - plus, we really like the warmth of a light or medium toned wood floor. The options we were leaning toward with our stairs were

1) stain the railings dark and refinish the treads with a clear coat of poly (no stain)
the crazy and controversial option
2) stain the railings AND the treads dark.

Traditionally stair treads are stained the same color as the rest of the wood floors in a house, even if the railing is dark.  This was our initial plan (dark brown or black rail and lighter treads) but after stripping and sanding our treads they were still a bit beat up and stained in some spots.

Also...we just love the contrast of the dark staircase and the wood-tone floor!

Exhibit A
See how the black in the stairs is repeated in the living fireplace surround, the lamp and the zebra rug?
{And isn't this foyer amazing?}

Source: houseandhome.com via Lisa on Pinterest

Source: houzz.com via Lisa on Pinterest

Exhibit B
This staircase has been in my inspiration files since before I started blogging.  I love the millwork!

Exhibit C
I adore this black & white staircase (and the fun gallery wall - plus how cute are those munchkins?)

Exhibit D
Kate's staircase redo is what sold Mark on the dark staircase with the contrasting floors.  Kate is thinking of darkening her floors in the future but I think the contrast makes the stairs very dramatic.

Exhibit E
Last but not least -
my all time favorite stairs (and foyer!) ever!!

Another view......forget the stairs - look at those windows!!

Unlike choosing a wall color, making a decision about flooring is a bit scary because of the commitment involved - it's not like you can easily change it if you don't like the outcome.  This is exactly why it's so wonderful to have the world wide web at your service.  Study pictures of what appeals to you and mull it over for a good long time.

We are happy with our choice because we get a taste of the dark floors we love without the constant maintenance.  The dark stairs also pick up on other black elements in our home and our foyer looks  different than every other standard colonial on our street.

The final touch will be adding a sisal or seagrass runner - more on that later!

I hope you are having a fabulous weekend!
Don't you love Mother Nature's sense of humor by the way?
Funny.  Realllly funny!


Stairs Redo, Part I: He Said The "L" Word!

Last year I gave our foyer a mini-makeover.

Do you remember where this room started?
Not exactly offensive, but in need of some loving, right?
When some nice fellas came to replace our upstairs flooring, I got into the spirit of ripping out the old, stained carpet and tore out the stair runner on a whim.  We were so happy to have finished hardwood underneath, albeit worn and discolored.  After removing 1,477,803 staples, I painted the risers and spindles white, which made a huge difference, but put the treads on the backburner while I finished painting every other room in the house.

10 months and a thousand inspiration photos on Pinterest later, the time has come to finish this project.

First up:  the railings.  You know I have a thing for dark railings and since we've had light colored railings in our last two houses we were ready for a change.  Also:  we live in a very basic, boring colonial that is lacking any kind of architectural detail.  After painting all the walls and trim, the next phase of our renovation plan is to add character and bring some interest into this blank slate of a house. This is the fun part!

After reading about Rhoda's railing redo at Southern Hospitality, I thought I'd try Minwax Polyshades, which is stain and polyurethane all rolled into one and allows you to change the color of wood without stripping it first.

I tested on the upper railing that isn't visible from the foyer.   This is the first color we went with:  Bombay Mahogany.

After the first pass went on, neither Mark nor I were in love with the color.  Even before the second coat we were wavering on our color choice.
Between brown leather couches and a lot of wood-toned furniture, we decided we have enough brown going on around here.  We had seen a very rich, dark brown/black on a banister in a hotel that we loved and decided to try that, so like Rhoda, I mixed two Minwax Polyshades colors to achieve the tone I wanted:  Bombay Mahogany with this Classic Black below.  The Polyshades come in pints (as well as quarts) so we were able to play around with our stain cocktail without spending a fortune.

After the second coat of the dark brownish black stain,  that's when he said it.
My husband who is not known to get too excited about home projects actually stood in this foyer and uttered the words
"I Love It!"

So what's a girl to do?
Take full advantage of this moment and make a bold suggestion.
This is where this project really got dramatic and exciting!

Now do me a favor and keep your fingers crossed that we're still feeling the love when this baby is done!  Only one more coat to go and I'll share with you the afters!
Check out some more beautiful stairs on my Pinterest inspiration board.

I was not paid by Minwax for this post.....just wanted to share with you a product that worked for me!

My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones and their homes at the hands of the Earthquake in Turkey.  
Sometimes blogging about DIY projects seems a little silly when I think about all that is happening in this crazy world of ours.  On the other hand, as my mother would say:  
it's not going to help for you to sit around twiddling your thumbs.  
So I will keep working to make our house a home for my family and maybe one day I will have the opportunity to use these skills to help people like the earthquake victims rebuild their lives.
In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with those in Turkey as I am reminded to be ever-thankful for the roof over our heads.

Hope you are having a great week...thanks for your visit!


Mangia Mondays:: Fancy Nancy Rice Krispies Treats

Hey there - welcome to Mangia Mondays, the weekly blog hop I co-host with Kristin of Delightfully Dowling!

Did you have a good weekend?  My kiddos had a case of the doldrums yesterday so we spent the afternoon baking - doggy biscuits, brownies and these divine chocolate dipped Rice Krispies treats that we brought to dinner at my sister-in-law's last night.  There is nothing like a little chocolate to elevate the mundane to fabulous!  They were a hit even with the adults.

Here goes!

Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispies Treats

Start with your basic Rice Krispies Treat recipe off the back of the cereal box:
3 tablespoons butter
4 cups (1 10 oz. package) regular marshmallows, or 4 cups of mini-marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Grease 9x13" baking pan.

Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.  Remove from heat.
Mix in cereal and stir until evenly coated.
Spread the mixture into pan using waxed paper sprayed with baking spray (this makes it so much easier to spread in the pan!)  Cut into 2" squares when cooled.

Melt 2 cups of chocolate chips or a container of dipping chocolate.
I used this one, Dolci Frutta, yesterday but we frequently use plain old semi-sweet chocolate chips.  These are my favorite for taste and meltability!

Melt chocolate in the microwave on 30 second intervals.  Mix between intervals until smooth and glossy.

Lay out a piece of wax paper on your countertop.

Using a teaspoon, dip half of the Rice Krispies Treats into the chocolate and smooth evenly.   Immediately add sprinkles and jimmys and lay on wax paper until chocolate is hardened.
With the kids, I found this process went a little better if I dipped the treats in chocolate and the kids did the decorating with sprinkles - otherwise there was chocolate here, there and everywhere (as you can see from Sean's hands!)

Make sure to leave a few squares unadorned for the Rice Krispies Treat purists in the crowd!

We are big fans of making regular goodies a little more special by dipping them into chocolate (remember our Chocolate Dipped Ice Cream Cones and Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons???)
We also love to dip pretzel sticks - so cute as a holiday gift!  And of course, who on earth could resist a chocolate dipped strawberry, I ask?)

Okay, so we may or may not be chocoholics in this house!!!

What yumminess have you have cooking up in your kitchen?  Join in Mangia Mondays by linking up a food related post of any kind!  Thanks for visiting and look forward to seeing what you've got cookin'!


My Next Big DIY Project

A little hint of what I'm knee-deep in at the moment....possibly the scariest DIY project to date!
Any idea?

Source: google.com via Lisa on Pinterest

Source: houzz.com via Lisa on Pinterest

Source: houzz.com via Lisa on Pinterest


Mangia Mondays:: Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Welcome to Mangia Mondays, where I'm sweet on sweet potatoes today!
The foodie rockstar Kristin of Delightfully Dowling and I have been hosting this pardooski for the past 32 weeks and it's been such a blast!

Now how about the yumminess disguised as good-for-you food......

Sweeeeet Potatoes!

Low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and full of good things like fiber, vitamins B6, A and C, and potassium!
Lets pretend that's why I love them so - but really it's because they are SO delish when roasted, I could eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Keep those skins on for added texture and crunch (and oh yeah, even more goodness for your bod, blah blah blah.)  Spice them up, or not, depending on your mood!
I am always amazed that my kids with their picky palates don't even notice that I've spiced these up, the flavors just enhance the sweet potato so perfectly.

So are you ready?  The quantities in this recipe serve my family of 5 without any leftovers; plan accordingly! 

2 sweet potatoes
About 3 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped (not too finely)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash, then slice each potato in half, and turn onto flat side.  Chop into fries, trying to keep their size uniform (I aim for about 1/2"-1" thick but sweet potatoes come in funky shapes so just do your best!)
Throw them onto a baking sheet along with the garlic.  Drizzle with olive oil until they are slick but not sitting in puddles.
Combine salt, chili powder and onion powder in a separate bowl and then sprinkle over the fries.
Toss to evenly distribute oil and seasonings.
Bake up those suckers for 30-40 minutes (depending on size) until fork-tender, turning once during bake time with a spatula.
{You may notice in this picture below that I mixed white (russet) potatoes with the sweet potatoes.  Beware if you do this that russets require a longer baking time than the sweets....approximately 10 more minutes for fork-tenderness.  I keep the different varieties separate on the baking sheet so it is easy to remove the sweets when done and let the whites finish up.}

If you like your fries crispy, after baking the fries until fork-tender, turn the oven down to 200 degrees and set the timer for 10 minutes.  The fries will dry out a bit.
Oh so good!  I wish I had this plate in front of me right this very instant!  These are a great side for dinner or even served with eggs & bacon at breakfast.

Join in the Mangia Mondays fun by linking up a recipe, a restaurant review or just about anything to do with cooking and/or food!  We'd love to have you join us!

Hope your week is off to a great start and thanks for visiting me today!