happy halloween!

Halloween is such a great holiday for so many reasons.  There are the obvious perks like mountains of candy, or getting to wear a costume without anybody staring at you like you’re nuts.  But the main reason that I think that Halloween is so beloved is because it’s an opportunity to shed inhibitions and express one’s own creativity.

So many ways!  Clever costumes, make-up, decorating, cooking, art and sculpture.  The imagination is limitless and that fact is easily seen on Halloween.

With those thoughts in mind, I wanted to share the art of Ray Villafane, the man that Martha Stewart called “the Michelangelo of pumpkin carving”. His carvings and the way he creates them are astonishing, starting with a whole pumpkin (he uses other mediums as well) and transforming it into something so real that you can almost see it pulsating with life.

The video below is a short biography on the life and art of Ray Villafane from CBS News, which highlights the obsession that so often goes with genius:

Happy Halloween!

 

pumpkin potato head

Have you seen these adorable pumpkin push-in kits in stores this year?

image by dthoskins

My two-year-old had a blast making this pirate.  It’s like Mr. Potato Head, but so much better.  Some adult supervision and assistance was required, but there was no mess to clean-up!  Perfect for a last minute Halloween Jack-0-Lantern.

Happy Halloween!

biking in the bluegrass {guest post by ashley koch}

Almost immediately I fell in love with the Bluegrass after relocating to attend school in Lexington.  My fate was fully sealed when I finally started exploring the region from two wheels instead of four.  Fall easily became my favorite time to explore.  The cool, crisp air, which I find refreshing, turns away many riders and gives those brave souls more freedom on the road.  The diversity of foliage found in the area also makes for breathtaking rides as you enjoy the full array of colors fall has to offer.  Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned rider, start pedaling.

Starting in Midway, this trek out to Woodford reserve and back is my favorite fall ride.  While it is beautiful any time of year, it is the perfect way to enjoy two gems of Kentucky while absorbing the changing colors of the regions varied trees.  The ride itself follows the gently rolling hills on the western edge of the bluegrass and truly showcases the colors of fall.  Not to mention a taste of some of the best Kentucky has to offer to warm you up after the first half, or to get you going for the ride back, makes this ride phenomenal with or without the added bonus of the fall colors.  Don’t forget to take in a late lunch or dinner in downtown Midway to finish the entire experience.

For those looking for a longer ride or a ride that can be broken into individual pieces, this ride is a great place to start.  I have never completed this ride in an entire run (245 miles can be hard on the butt…) but I have pieced almost the whole thing together over many different rides.  While you cannot go wrong choosing any section of this trail, my favorite section is the loop around Lexington-Fayette.  As you travel around the heart of the bluegrass you get to see all that the region has to offer historically, culturally and geographically; the horse farms, and rolling (some more than others) hills, homes dating back to the first settlement of the area, and historical markers from the Civil War, just to name a few.

For a family friendly ride, or for those looking to stay more urban, follow this route and explore the remarkable history Lexington has to offer.  When I bring my little girl to Lexington for the first time she will definitely enjoy the tour from atop two wheels.  This ride, with all of its memories, reminds us that biking is definitely more about the journey than the destination.

For more rides I highly recommend consulting the Bluegrass Cycling Club.  I was a member for a year once I finally found the courage to try riding with a group of experienced cyclists.  I could kick myself for not joining them earlier; they welcome any willing riding with open arms.  Their website also has great maps and rides with cues that are very easy to follow.  Do not hesitate to walk into a bike shop and ask for recommendations from the workers.  They make their living working with bikes for a reason.

There is never a bad time to take a ride around the Bluegrass but if you are looking to start out, fall is the perfect time.  If you are still not sure of which route to follow, just grab your bike, a map, maybe a friend or two and head out and get lost for a while.  There is no such thing as a bad ride around the bluegrass.

-Ashley

Ashley is a mother and science teacher currently living in the Bay Area. She can’t wait until her daughter is big enough to join her for biking adventures.  She was a 2007 graduate from Transylvania University.

images by dthoskins

oxfords in fall

Above: My Polyvore set, oxfords in fall.  Click on the image for info on where to purchase the items in this set

It’s been a particularly warm and beautiful fall this year, and I can’t help but be inspired by all the brilliant colors.  Above, navy and leatherette (cruelty free) oxfords are the key piece.

For these Indian summer days, pair them with a sleeveless dress and a brown belt.  As the weather cools, go ultra preppy with a tweed cardigan, pencil skirt, and tights!

diy photobooth

My sweet little boy just celebrated his second birthday, and I couldn’t resist throwing an over-the-top fall festival/carnival/animal birthday party for him.  (I mean, he’ll only turn two once, right?)

When I am planning an event, I always like to create something for guests to do as they are arriving to avoid any awkward moments.  I want there to be something to do, something to talk about or something to eat/drink immediately. This is where my photobooth idea came into play.  Photobooths have become quite popular at weddings, but why not at a birthday party?!?

The fabulous Mary of Honey Heart Photography was there on hand as guests arrived to snap their photo in our homemade front porch photo booth.  It made an impressive entry to the party and it gave guests something to talk about.

What we used:

  • plastic faux barn board door covering
  • carnival signs printed from the fabulous Phyllis Hoffman Celebrate magazine
  • bushel baskets to fill with props
  • mini chalkboards with cute sayings
  • 2 pennant banners
  • hay bales
  • a quilt with fall colors
  • pumpkins
  • potted mums
  • lanterns
  • wreath
  • stool for a seating option
  • animal masks/headbands
  • safari hats

Set the stage:

1. I covered one window on the front of my house with the barn board door covering. I used double stick tape to secure the carnival signs to both barn board and the shutters. The shutters were the perfect accent to this simple backdrop.

2. I assembled props in one of the bushel baskets for guests to wear.  They had to be animal themed for us, of course.  I picked up some foam animal masks, plastic safari hats, animal ear headbands, and an inflatable monkey for guests to “play with” in their photos.  It was so fun to see what everyone chose!

3.  I hung pennant banners between all of posts on the front of the house for a festive touch.

4.  I placed the hay bales, pumpkins and lanterns in the foreground of the photobooth for visual interest

I also purchased some mini chalkboards to hold in the photos.  I added the phrases: “Monkey See” “Monkey Do” “Gabriel is 2!” in white chalk.  These turned out to be my favorite photo prop!

BONUS:  I mailed each guest a copy of their photo in their thank you notes.  So cute, right?

Would you have a photobooth at your next party?  What would you use as props?

All images courtesy of Honey Heart Photography

leaf peep: Natural Bridge State Park

Clockwise from the top:  The Skylift at Natural Bridge; Shadows of my hubby and I on top of the Natural Bridge in the Red River Gorge;  Underneath the bridge–the sky was so blue!

My fall day-trip pick this year is Natural Bridge State Park.  This is a favorite spot for my husband and I for hiking and taking in great views of the Red River Gorge.

It looks like the leaves will definitely be peaking this weekend, which makes the easy drive (about an hour southeast of Lexington) even more pleasant.  When you arrive, you can either drive up to Hemlock Lodge and hike, or if you are looking for something less strenuous, you can follow the signs to the Skylift which carries you straight up to beautiful views of and from the bridge.

Even if you decide to take the Skylift up, you can still get in a good hike from the top with several trails of varying lengths to choose from.

There were two huge rocks that looked as though there were faces carved into them in two separate areas of the park.  Left: Facerock on the Hood’s Branch Trail; Right: Facerock on the Skylift ascension (Sidenote: Skylift Ascension would be an awesome Styx tribute band name).

If you go down on the Skylift, check out the fudge in the gift shop.  Tip: Hash out your fudge plans during your hike instead of on the Skylift.  It’s hard to resist fudgey thoughts as you descend toward the inviting little cabin that is the gift shop.  My husband and I spent half of our Skylift time discussing impending fudge–rookie mistake–the Skylift ain’t cheap, so enjoy every minute.

Above: A DIY Instagrammed (is this a verb yet?)  photo of the bridge from Lookout point, which is easily accesible from the Skylift

Trail maps are available at both Hemlock Lodge and Skylift gift shop.

If you go:

Natural Bridge State Park
2135 Natural Bridge Rd
Slade, KY 40376

Follow signs to either Hemlock Lodge or The Skylift.

The Skylift is open daily at 10am and runs through the last Sunday in October.  Adults $10, Children 12 and under $7 (children 3 and under free), Seniors $8, Military $9.  Call Hemlock Lodge for more info at (800) 325-1710.

All images by dthoskins

entertaining with appetizers

image credits: dthoskins

We’ve all been there—a last minute get-together at our home and we have no time to make anything.  Your best bet?  Entertain with appetizers!  It’s fun, delicious and a great way for guests to mix and mingle.  My favorite is to serve a simple cheese board with a few bottles of wine.  Pop a vase of flowers on the table and voila—-a very chic and very easy way to entertain.

My Five Elements of a Great Cheese Board*

  • One hard cheese.  Something classic like a good Cheddar is an excellent option
  • One soft cheese.  Brie is my go-to soft cheese because it will be familiar to most guests.
  • One blue cheese.  Roquefort is a great palatable option.
  • A cluster of fruit.  I love grapes and strawberries for their vibrant colors and because they are an easy finger food
  • Crackers.  I love to use Carr’s Water Crackers, both original and cracked black pepper.

 

*If you aren’t familiar with cheeses that you would choose, try shopping somewhere with a cheese counter that has an attendant.  They can offer suggestions and allow you to try several cheeses before you buy.  I recommmend Whole Foods and The Mouse Trap.

 

Happy entertaining!

 

protein smoothie

Adding whey protein to your diet may be a very good idea according to one study published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Participants of the study were split into three groups where each group consumed either a whey protein supplement, a soy protein supplement, or a carbohydrate supplement.  All supplements were consumed as shakes and all participants continued to eat as they wished.

At the end of the study, the participants taking the whey supplement had a lower body weight and a smaller waist circumference than those in the other groups!

Upon learning this, it sounded to me like a good excuse to do two things that I love:

  1.   eat more
  2.   use myself as a test-subject

So, I decided to add whey protein to my diet several months ago and continued to eat as I wished.

My unscientific results are that I have definitely lost weight since I added whey protein to my diet.  I’m unsure about my waist size because I didn’t measure, but it I think/hope that it’s smaller.

The best part is that I feel better after I have my shake.  I don’t know if it’s the fruit, the vitamins in the powder, or the tryptophan in the milk, but whatever it is I’ll take it!

If you want to get started with whey protein, here is my favorite recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces skim milk
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I use Pure Protein brand powder, but there are many to choose from)
  • 1/2 frozen banana (make sure you freeze for at least 2 hours, but they’re best when frozen overnight)
  • 4 whole frozen strawberries

Place into a high-powered blender and pulse until blended.  I just got this blender (pictured below) and I love it.  See it here.

See how the straw just stands there in the middle?  That’s because it’s trapped by thickness!

I have this as a post-workout shake, or as a dessert because it’s such a treat!

References:

Whey Protein but Not Soy Protein Supplementation Alters Body Weight and Composition in Free-Living Overweight and Obese Adults1,2
David J. Baer*,Kim S. Stote, David R. Paul, G. Keith Harris, William V. Rumpler, and Beverly A. Clevidence
http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2011/06/15/jn.111.139840.abstract