Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3: Partin Cattle Ranch, St. Cloud, Florida


Words can’t even describe how peaceful it was to stay on our friend’s family ranch for their wedding. Located in St. Cloud, Florida, the ranch we stayed on was 10,000 acres yet part of the bigger Partin Cattle Ranch. Our friends, Anna and Jarrod Cowell, live on the ranch, which is home to multiple houses of their families.


I’ve never spent time in Florida’s “country”, and it’s a little different than the country scene I’m used to at home. Their “forest” includes tropical ground cover and the occasional palm tree. It also includes critters like armadillos, deer, gators, bald eagles, and they’ve even spotted the occasional bears and a panther. Anna also kept talking about some “skunkape” but I’m not so sure about that one.


We spent our New Year’s Eve here with our friends around a campfire after taking a late night drive around the ranch spottin’ gators. Except each time we spotted eyes they belonged to cows. Bummer. As the ball dropped at midnight, our friend Nick popped the big question to his girlfriend Stacy, so that was really exciting. Hopefully another fun wedding around the corner?


We stayed in “Pa’s House” and it was like a dream to stay in a country ranch home overlooking pastures of cattle with the windows open and the breeze a blowin’. By the way, on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch, I guess you fence your houses in and let the cows roam free. Our favorite afternoon was the day of the wedding, because the groom’s party was spread out through the house chilling out. We had cooked a big breakfast together, ate it on the front porch while soaking up the rays of the 78 degree sun. This made us all sleepy, so some of us took naps. It delighted me to lay down in Pa’s room atop a hand-sewn quilt, windows open, reading a book until I fell asleep.


It was tough leaving this place, but the good news is that we can always go back to visit our friends. Jarrod kept saying that we all needed to go get a cabin somewhere together  like the movie “Grown Ups,” but I was like “What the heck do you think we’re doing now?” Haha. We grabbed a few ripe oranges off a tree for the road and reluctantly began our journey back to Indiana.


Congrats to the newly weds, Anna and Jarrod Cowell. Ain’t she purdy?


Miss some of our travel memoirs? Check out other posts from our New Year’s Eve roadtrip here:

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1: Gatlinburg

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1b: South Carolina

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2: Savannah

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2b: Crossing Florida’s State Lines

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3b: From Florida thru Nashville and Atlanta


Cupcake Decorating Party


We had a Cupcake Decorating Party today. Thought it would be a good creative outlet while socializing (and it let me finally use my new Martha Stewart Cake Decorating Kit). We had about 15 gals show up to decorate.


I jazzed up the house by decorating with a cupcake theme. I covered existing hangings with cupcake art I made using scrapbook paper. I made a festive curtain using matching fabric scraps and tied cupcake ornaments to it.


My family helped me bake a bajillion cupcakes ahead of time as well as icing. We laid them out on the tables along with sprinkles so we could get down to business.


You didn’t have to tell this bunch of girls twice to get started!


This is like coloring for adults. Everyone really got into it and enjoyed playing around with different tips.


There was even an attempt at a tie dye cupcake. Pretty neat if you ask me.


Even the kids got involved. I made sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free cupcakes from scratch for them. We even made the icing sugar-free and dairy-free by using Ideal xylitol and Earth’s Balance.


Guests took home cupcakes in these cute carriers I found at Big Lots. In the end I think it was kind of therapuetic and a fresh twist on the holiday cookie decorating. Nothing’s better than spending an afternoon with friends than adding cupcakes to the mix!



Fall Celebration with Table Settings for Autumn


The following fall festival took place at our church in celebration of our 10th Annivesary. And I’m not joking, the actual date was Oct. 10, making the theme 10-10-10. We were blessed to have Matthew West lead in us worship that morning before celebrating with an outdoor lunch, planned by yours truly and a few other gals from the church. I was able to snap these photos minutes before everything let loose.


I designed invitations with matching posters and had an RSVP system of taking a ticket from a table in the foyer, and we kept count of how many were taken.


The table was decorated with actual decor we’d be using at the party, including mini bales of straw, split green peas, galvanized tins, ball jars with votives, sunflowers with pear picks, and burlap. Very country and rustic, right?


This system worked pretty well – we had almost 150 tickets taken, but we served lunch to around 200 that day. I think some people invited family members at the last second when they heard Matthew West would be singing!


We set up a tent right outside the church front doors, and spilled the party out onto the patio. We were lucky because most items were borrowed or donated, including the tent, tables, chairs, linens, vases, galvinized tins, pumpkins, bales of straw, and corn stalks. Everyone just kind of came together with the items we needed for the decor!


We kept the drinks simple, serving iced tea and lemonade from pretty drink dispensers and offered bottles of water in a large galvanized tin.


There was a buffet-style serving line featuring BBQ from a local favorite, T.C. Memphis BBQ. Even though his storefront shut down, most don’t know he still caters. And when he does, people go crazy! He still has so many fans of his menu–surely he’ll reopen someday! The line started with plates held upright by an old crate and plasticware wrapped in yellow napkins and finished with a bow of twine.


Of course we offered PBJs for the pickier eaters.


There was a carmel apple bar, with dipping carmel kept warm in crockpots and a few choices of toppings to sprinkle.


And then the beautiful dessert bar, filled with crunchy pumpkin bars and brownies from scratch that several ladies made for the festival.


I made all the food labels and tags the morning of (eek!). There weren’t that many so I handcut them all the secured them with double-sided tape to ribbons.


We created the centerpieces using a bulk order of sunflowers from Sam’s Club combined with greenery from my backyard, including fresh sage and evergreen arranged in floral foam. We also had some artificial pear picks that really helped fill in holes! Everything was accented with burlap, mini-pumpkins, and ball jars holding split peas and tealights.


There were some other fun features at the party, like this couch and chair we built from bales of straw. I threw a quilt on top with some toss pillows.


We also set up a photo booth by stapling a vintage sheet background to an outdoor wall, defined the space with some bales of straw, and set up a camera and remote with easy instructions. I also bought a few frames from Goodwill and spray painted them orange and green. We handwrote some signs and made mustaches to complete the ensemble.

Some of the photos:


Me and my hubby.

The event couldn’t have gone better. We even had enough food for everyone! This would make such a cute Thankgiving tablesetting as well. I attribute the success to the many loving volunteers who worked their tails off setting up the event and to be well organized. I had created a large packet of setup instructions, complete with diagrams, layouts, and photo mock-ups. I’m so glad I did because my partner in crime with 37 weeks pregnant and went into labor the night before setup. It pays to be organized! I love fall festivals, and this one was my favorite.



For more Thanksgiving ideas and to see where I partied:

Keeping It Simple The Girl Creative Making

You’ll Never Believe What We’ve Been Up To…Home Projects Marathon

Sometimes you need a deadline to get things done. Since we were hosting our first family gathering in our new home, that gave us incentive to get some serious projects done! Here’s some of the things we did:


We BUILT a dining table. Yes, we built it from scratch, by hand! We have been eyeballing the farmhouse table from Knock-off Wood for months. Love this site–we actually combined two of her plans to get the exact look we wanted. For around $100 in supplies and 15-20 hours of work this week, we have a table that seats 12. I plan on collecting mismatched old chairs and staining the table a dark shade.


We hung an antique old window . See it hanging on the wall above my dad? I found it in my grandpa’s old barn. I love it! For now, I just added multi-color scrapbook paper but I have so many more plans for it. I might cut out some letters and spell something, add photos, change the paper with the holidays, hang a wreath on top of it, hang a shelf below it to display decor, or add hooks on the front to display some things. We hung it using a hook and eye system, but we used anchors in studs because it weighs about 30 lbs. So far, so good.


We displayed an old door. I found this in the barn too (I have about 20 more doors and windows in our shed, just waiting to displayed!!) I just propped this door in the corner–I love how our interior brick compliments it and vice versa! I had a sage wreath that I received live last Christmas and dried. Then I found this antique luggage wrack while antiquing in Nashville for $12! Planned on painting it but like the bright green for now. It holds a basket of our blankets.


My hubby built a new kitchen island. We installed a dishwasher in the island, requiring a new one. My hubby built-in a bookshelf that you see when you walk in our front door. We added beadboard and painted it black! We’re still arguing on weather to add wood brackets underneath the countertop. I also distressed it then added stain to give it an aged look.


We created a wall of mirrors.I had a lot of mirrors and no great spot to put them so I painted them all white and put them at our entrance with a few “E”s. We’re building a console table to put here as well in the front hallway, using more plans from Knock-off Wood but using an old barn door as the tabletop.


I hung photo frames from an old ladder. I found the matching photo frames at a garage sale and I bought the ladder from an antique store. I have to admit that this project did not come out as I planned, but it isn’t bad! I meant to order smaller photos and have a colored scrapbook paper background to give it color. And I meant to center it from each rung. But I was over it–it is what it is! It features photos I’ve taken of my nieces and nephews in black and white prints.

Cyrus. Look at those crystal eyes.
Lachlan. Never have to tell her how to pose–she is a natural model!
Annabelle. This photo series is beautiful!
Annabelle and Beau. How dreamy…
Beau. Yes, we really did place live chicks in a basket with a newborn!
Everyone fit into one room…I love it!

Most importantly, we fit all of our family into one room! Our new home has been a blessing–God gave us every little factor we asked for, like large rooms that fit groups of people.

Did I mentioned that besides cleaning and cooking, that we all finished decorating our whole house, had our carpets cleaned, re-arranged the furniture, and landscaped?!?

Next on our list: stain the dining table, build console tables, make curtains for the living room, make outdoor pillows, and winterize our landscaping. But after a week off!



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Bridal Shower Dinner Party Inspired by Gift Registry


This weekend’s bridal shower was a hit. The hostess wanted a dinner party with a nice but subtle theme. Also, the guests didn’t know each other too well, as they are coworkers. So, I drew inspiration from the bride’s registry. Plans were based off a patterned tablecloth from Target. A lot of her items from the same family of colors and contained a natural look with leaves and tree branches.


Custom monogram used throughout party decor.

I designed a personalized monogram based off a patterned shower curtain on her registry. I printed it on sticker paper to use throughout the decor.


Party favors made of Amy Butler scrapbook paper are filled with candies.

The paper crafts were made using Amy Butler scrapbook paper. The colors and patterns were similar to the tablecloth and worked perfectly. I made paper cone favors that we hung off the chairs, filled with candy.


Cupcakes adorned in wrappers made from Amy Butler scrapbook paper.

Using this template, I made matching cupcake wrappers. I topped them with flower pics that the host purchased at Hobby Lobby. They also had matching coasters. I converted some of the flower pics by gluing to skewers and poking in to the centerpieces, along with their monograms.


Napkin rings were made with strips and scrapbook paper and fastened with a flower pic.

The flower pics were also used in the napkin rings. I used strips of the scrapbook paper to wrap around the napkins, hole-punched it, and then held it closed with a flower pic.


Center pieces were made using branches gathered from the backyard.

The host made the centerpieces using branches from her backyard. The vases came from Hobby Lobby.


Photo book transformed into glamorous game using Amy Butler scrapbook paper.

We planned a few games with some cute prizes. The host asked me to think of games that would help everyone get to know each other better. One game we played was “Pass the Book,” a cute poem that gets guests thinking of details about one another as they pass the book along. I recovered a cheap photo album in scrapbook paper and placed the printed poem in the sleeves.


Answer sheet designed for game using same pattern from monogram.

Another activity we came up with was the “Spice of Life,” and prompted guests to share advice with the bride based on a tag they drew containing various spices. The bride was also given little jars of these spices and required to guess the contents. At the end of the game, we collected to tags and tied to the corresponding jars. Some of the spices were pepper, lemon, and vanilla. For example, the bride received advice about marriage sometimes being sour and sweet based on the lemon label. We served lemon drop martinis and lime margaritas at the beginning of the party with some appetizers.

The host’s dinner menu was made of items that were prepared a head of time, including ham loaf, twice-baked potatoes, and seven layer salad. While the host led her guests in games and gifts, I warmed, plated, and served dinner. It worked out great. The host’s house is beautiful and one-of-a-kind, and has a butler kitchen. I found it easy to do the dirty work in that smaller kitchen, leaving the bigger kitchen clean for food presentation and martini shakin.’ My favorite part? Using the bride’s gift registry as inspiration, especially because she got to take home major parts of the party’s decor!


Handmade cupcake wrappers and flower pics from Hobby Lobby make this cupcake the cutest.


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Green and Brown Baby Shower for St. Patrick’s Day


A baby shower with a subtle Irish theme

I pulled together a successful baby shower right before St. Patrick’s Day for my sister-in-law. The decor set a an exciting mood, guests raved about the menu, and the room was constantly filled with laughter and smiles. My sister-in-law has an Irish background and loves all things Celtic, including St. Patrick’s Day. So my goal was to throw a baby shower with a subtle Irish theme without it being cliche or cheesy.


Invites were handmade and designed.


Envelopes featured Pippin’ elephant labels

I started with handmade invitations. There were only 20 to make, so I did everything from scratch using scrapbooking materials and an inkjet printer. I tried to find a subtle Irish-like background paper and paired it with a sparkling brown. Using Illustrator, I redrew the elephant icon featured in baby’s room, Graco’s Pippin.


Vases are reclaimed glasses from thrift store and spray painted.

The food kept in theme, featuring only green and brown foods. I forgot to take photos of the food! We had basil pesto, a green veggie tray, green deviled eggs (colored with fresh herbs), roasted turkey and herbed chevre spinach tortilla roll-ups, and brownie pops. I bought Wilton’s brownie pop mold at Hobby Lobby and used Trader Joes brownie mix to make the pops. I popped in skewers when they were still warm and dipped them in melted chocolate. Be sure to dip all the way to the stick–it seals the pop and keeps it from falling off. I dipped the pops in crushed pistachios, nonpareils sprinkles, and colored sugars. We made pedestals for everything by stacking glasses under plates, secured with some clear tape.


Lemon cake with a dried sage wreath.


Cake table makes a big impact with floral arrangement.

The cake table was a favorite feature. My mother made a lemon cake (as requested by the mommy-to-be) and we made a floral arrangement to go around it. I bought wine goblets and glasses at Goodwill, spray-painted them silver, and then ordered blooms from a florist. The arrangement was cheap since I provided my own containers. The arrangement looked great, but I was disappointed not to get any Irish moss or clover. The felt garland banner hanging above the cake says “Welcome Wee Little Lad” and was made to match the nursery. Mommy-to-be kept the “Wee Little Lad” section and I’m posting the “Welcome” section on Etsy for sale. The gift table also featured a large framed Irish blessing, custom designed for the nursery. There was a peg shelf above the gift table, so we strung coordinating ribbon and used clothes pins to attach coordinating baby goodies as decorations, such as a stocking cap, booties, pacifier, etc.


Felt garland banner reads

We made the games a little bit too easy, although fun. I picked up cute prizes from Hobby Lobby and The Christmas Shoppe. The first game was placing 10 items in brown bags, passing them around, and writing down your guess of what the bag contained. We had several new mommies who got nine out of ten correct. The only item they couldn’t guess was a little baby toothbrush. I had one diaper and one bib, which confused a lot of people.  The next game was test-tasting jarred baby foods. I only had five, all close in color, but a lot of people guessed all five. The prizes went quick with so many winners! We cut the game list short since we ran out of prizes. We played one more just for fun. We had alphabet letters in a bowl and made everyone draw two. Since baby hadn’t been named yet, guests were to give creative suggestions for names using the two letters they drew. That was fun!


Answer sheet for games matched party theme.

Other things I made were tags for the paper bag game and an answer sheet for all the games. I love planning parties! It’s so important to focus on Mommy-to-be’s tastes and plans for the baby and then use that as inspiration for the party. It was really hard to find ideas for an upscale St. Patrick’s Day party, but I think I pulled it off. It took making decorations from scratch and incorporating basic Irish elements, like the Irish blessing and greens for the floral arrangement.


My niece and I wearing green.