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Simply Home

Since my childhood in northern Michigan I’ve bounced back and forth from West Coast to East, passing right over my home state and missing it all the while. I try to visit at least four times a year, but sometimes nothing can quell the homesickness, especially around the holidays.  Between Prentiss’  after school activities and Meredith’s play groups a spontaneous trip to the heartland isn’t so doable right now.  So I’ve decided to bring a little of my hometown to me!  In Petoskey, Michigan, where I grew up, there’s a place called American Spoon that makes “spoon preserves,” so thick with real fruit that they’re easier to spread with a spoon than a knife. This week I’m going to make some simple rolls dressed up with their delicious pumpkin butter, which will — partially, anyway — satisfy my hunger for home.

So that’s my prescription if you’re feeling nostalgic and far away from home this time of year: Whip up some childhood flavors for your table, whether it’s a Georgia peach pie or pastry flavored with Vermont maple.

Isn’t food always the best way to fight homesickness? What are some of your hometown faves?

Parker House Rolls

With American Spoon Pumpkin Butter


2 cans            pre-prepared dinner roll dough

1/2 cup American Spoon pumpkin butter (www.americanspoon.com)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees or as directed on the package.
  2. Unfold the dinner rolls and line them up on a cookie sheet.
  3. Make a crisscross mark on the tops of the rolls with a knife about 1/4 inch deep into the dough.
  4. Use a kitchen thermometer or other pointed device to make a hole in the side of the dough on each roll.
  5. Cut off the corner of a plastic sandwich bag. (You have just created a pastry bag.)
  6. Fill the bag with the pumpkin butter and place the tip inside the hole you made in the roll.
  7. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon into the center of each roll.
  8. Cook as directed on package or until rolls start to brown.

image source

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Simply Festive

Growing up, my mom was the queen of decorating our front door for every occasion.  On Christmas and Thanksgiving, of course, our door was decked out.  But that was just the tip of the iceberg – she found a reason to celebrate the festive elements of any occasion (“Oh, it must be tax day!”), and she did it with gusto.  While as teenagers my siblings and I might have done our fair share of eye rolling, as it turns out, I’m just like her when it comes to festive décor (Thanks mom!).  For a little inspiration on how to transition our front stoops from Halloween to Thanksgiving, here are some images from around the web of people rocking out with dried corn and corn husks.  Go ahead, do your mom proud.

Decorating From the Heart

Front Porch Ideas and More

Grandin Road

The HomeSlice

The Gardener’s Rake

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Simply Spicy

I’m not a coffee or tea drinker, really, but I do like an excuse to have something different and warm to drink, especially in the fall.  To me, there is something so special about the simple ritual of drinking something warm and fancy out of a pretty cup.  Growing up in Michigan, a festive tradition that we never skipped was having mulled cider around the holidays (and my mother always made sure we used pretty dishes).  This tradition became so important to us that when my sister got married, I gathered several beautiful, mismatched teacups from various thrift stores as a wedding present.  I wanted her to remember what we learned from mom:  Make something warm.  Pour it into something beautiful.  Sit down.  You deserve it.

From Katie Brown’s Weekends and Katie Brown’s Outdoor Entertaining:
Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider


7 cups apple cider

5 cups cranberry juice

2 oranges, zested and juiced

1 bay leaf

3 cinnamon sticks

4 whole cloves

1 lemon, sliced

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1 inch peeled ginger root, sliced

Pinch of salt

1 ½ cups brandy

½ cup Triple Sec, or other orange-flavored liqueur

Get Cookin’

1. Combine all of the ingredients except the brandy and the Triple Sec in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Lower the heat to low to just keep the cider warm. Add the brandy and the Triple Sec and strain into mugs.

Serves 12


Toffee and Peppermint Hot Chocolate


4 cups milk

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 bar toffee candy and peppermint candies, crushed

Get Cookin’

1.     In a saucepan, combine milk, water, and sugar.  Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil.  Remove from heat.

2.     Stir in chocolate.  Whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is frothy.  Pour into thermos.

3.     To serve, pour hot chocolate into cup and top with crushed candy.

Serves 4


Butterscotch Hot Chocolate



½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder3. Serve to warm and happy faces. 

1 ½ cup butterscotch morsels
Get Cookin’

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk.
2. When milk is hot, whisk in the cocoa powder and the butterscotch morsels.

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Simply Potluck

It’s Wednesday!  I love planning a fun activity to do mid-week, when the previous weekend is fading a bit and Friday still seems like a distant dream.  One of my favorite activities for a casual weeknight get-together is a potluck.  Nobody has to think about more than one dish, and after dinner we can throw all our kids in a room to play together while we steal a few moments of adult conversation (hopefully).  If you invite really good friends, they won’t even notice your sweatpants and your messy kitchen.

Even though the theme of this get-together is CASUAL, I can’t resist sending my friends home with a little something.  Check out these Recipe Take-Away Bouquets for a quick party favor.

Recipe Take-away Bouquets


Chinese take-out containers
flowers of your choice
Note cards for recipes (have your guests bring these)

Getting Started

1. Soak your oasis overnight.
2. Place a little piece of oasis in the bottom of each take-out container, and arrange moss and flowers to your liking.
3. Have your guests bring recipes to the dishes they brought so you can attach them to your bouquets, and each guest can pick which recipe and flower arrangement they’ll go home with!

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Simply Eataly

We went to Italy for lunch this week, and were back in the Brooklyn workshop by 2 o’clock.  Oh, did I say Italy?  I meant to say Eataly (“EEEEEEE – taly”), the newest delicious amazement Manhattan has to offer.  Part marketplace and part restaurant destination, what strikes me about Eataly is how beautiful and intimate this 50,000 square foot extravaganza manages to be.  I mean, here I am at the grocery store trying to buy some potatoes, and out of the corner of my eye I see a beautiful young couple canoodling over fancy wine and cheese, oblivious to the hubbub of shoppers surrounding them.  This collision of the every day with the intimate and special is so fresh and exciting.  The fact that we can have it all – gorgeous food and design products to buy, exquisite restaurant choices, and delicious, juicy people watching, all under one roof – What an experience!  I can’t wait to go back (But next time, I want to be the one on the wine and cheese date).

Enough talk! Feast your eyes on these pictures:

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Simply Treats

I can’t believe that Halloween is officially over.   The day after and I’ve already got a gazillion ideas for next year.  Honestly, this Halloween was one of the best ever.  We had a complete blast.  My husband and I went as ketchup and mustard and Prentiss and Meredith’s witch and cat costumes were a huge hit.   Halloween really is such a colorful whirlwind —from crafting costumes for the girls and decorating pumpkins to getting together treats for school parties and, of course, actually going door to door on the big night, there is always so much sugar-buzzed excitement.  Now that the big day is over, we have a huge bowl of leftover candy…  and I’m not completely sure why, but we have an abundance of Peppermint Patties this year.   To have some post-Halloween fun,  I adapted my Gingersnap Ice Cream Sandwiches in Katie Brown Entertains to put these plentiful and perfectly zingy peppermint patties to work.

Pattycake Sandwiches

What You’ll Need
12 large, soft cookies (I like double chocolate)
1 pint of vanilla ice cream
24 York Peppermint Patties

Get Cookin’
1. Place cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet

2. Using a stand mixer or just good old-fashioned elbow grease, blend the ice cream until it is spreadable.

3. Plop some ice cream on each cookie and spread it out.

4. Put a cookie on top of each one, completing the sandwich.

5. Place in freezer to set for 30 minutes.  While waiting, unwrap and break up the Peppermint Patties (your kids will be a great help with this!).

6. Take out the cookie sandwiches and roll the edges in the broken candy pieces.


Hopefully everyone had a sweet and spooky Halloween.

Photos from here, here, and here

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Simply Pun'kin

I’ve got a little secret…I didn’t actually carve pumpkins this year! Don’t get me wrong—scooping that slime is so fun (and strangely satisfying, right?), but this year I couldn’t resist going down the pumpkin decorating route.

I’ve rounded up some inspiration for last-minute stoop decoration or impromptu Halloween parties…

With ribbons, buttons, wire, sequins or tacks, you can totally make it work—without the goop!

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Simply Candy Corn

Around this time of year—every year—my family likes to remind me of “the candy corn incident,” in which the hallway bowl full of the delicious Halloween fare was devoured handful-by-sneaked-handful in one fateful afternoon. I was young, it was Halloween and I’m a sucker for sweets…what more can I say?

Not much more in the way of my candy habits has changed since then. Luckily, I’ve discovered how to manage my habit—by making irresistible desserts that combine all sorts of sugary goodness!

Cater to the candy goddess inside you with this awesome and super easy Swirled White Chocolate Candy Corn.

What You’ll Need
12 ounces of white chocolate morsels
Couple drops of orange food coloring
1 cup of candy corn

Get Cookin’
1. Over medium-low heat melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
2. Pour the melted chocolate onto lined baking sheets and drop in a couple drops of food coloring. Using a knife, swirl chocolate to create a pattern in the chocolate.
3. Drop candy corn on top of chocolate.
4. Place in the freezer until hardened. Then break into pieces.

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Simply Costumes

It’s inevitable. October 1 rolls around and you never hear the end of it. “What am I going to be for Halloweeeeen?” Our kids can dream up some crazy costumes (do you really want to be that extra-fancy double-the-price princess with the real gold crown??) and it’s hard to squelch that creativity. It’s also hard to cough up so much for a one-night-only outfit.

So, find a happy medium and start with what you have. I was lucky this year: my 6-year old Prentiss wants to be a witch and while Meredith doesn’t quite get the whole Halloween thing yet (she’s almost 2), Prentiss thought she’d make an excellent cat.

To make the witch and cat costumes spectacular we don’t have to look too far away from their closets. We’re going to use a black skirt and turtleneck that Prentiss already has and spook it up with some fake spider webs and glitter.  With a touch of face paint, a witch’s hat (which are a dime a dozen this time of year) and some mini cat ears for Meredith we’ll be all set for the biggest sugar fest of the year…for well under $20.

If you’re stumped for ideas or just in the Halloween spirit, take a peek at these clever kids costumes:

Real Simple came up with this cute highway idea- all you need is a matching pair of sweatpants and sweatshirt and some toy cars!

Piglet in a Blanket
Real Simple again with the cutest piglet ever! I’m thinking you could cut the tip of a bottle and attach to elastic for the snout. Some felt ears on a headband, pink jammies and that snuggly blankey are the only other things you need!

Hot Air Balloon
Kids might like the balloons more than the candy…well, maybe! Grab a bunch o’ balloons and make a cardboard basket with paper bag weights. Reminds me of Up the movie, which I’ve probably seen 50 times by now…

Some red felt and a fluffy white beard are all you need to buy for this adorable gnome outfit. Make sure you get lots of good garden pics of your little one!

OK the kids are taken care of…Now I just have to figure out where I put my magic wand and crown…

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