Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!

We are in the car, heading back to Atlanta after yet another tender, Tennessee Christmas. Always the delinquent blogger, I have completely failed to add a post about our holiday decorations.

As always, our life size Santa Claus sits on our front porch, confounding our neighbors and the pizza delivery guy alike.

I made bunting for the living room (more on that, hopefully, in another post coming soon).

We filled the various crystal bowls around our house with vintage ornaments that I scored for 75-cents to $1.50 each from the antiques stores in Crossville, TN.

And what Christmas would be complete without convincing one of our dogs to wear the tiny Santa hat?

Happy Holidays, from our family to yours!

Friday, November 23, 2012


If you have already recovered from the Thanksgiving turkey-induced stupor, make some BLT dip.

What you need:

One pound of bacon

One medium tomato, diced

One bunch of green onions, sliced

Two cups of shredded cheddar cheese

16 ounces of sour cream

One cup of mayo (extra needed to adjust texture)

Italian herbs (oregano, etc.)

Black pepper

What you do:

Cook the bacon; set aside.

Drain most of the grease from the pan, then toss the diced tomato into the pan with the Italian herbs, cooking briefly until tender.

Mix all ingredients, and add pepper to taste.

Chill and serve!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Brad's Birthday Buffet

Not much going on with the home front at the moment, although we are gearing up for the holidays. I will have some Christmas decorating and holiday cooking blog entries headed your way soon.

For November, the big news (other than the installation of our awesome metal turkeys in the front yard, per my last post) was Brad's birthday.

Brad is now the ripe old age of 29, and like any still twenty-something, he had one request for his birthday bash- lunch at the Blue Willow Inn, in Social Circle, Georgia.

With the motto "Georgia's Greatest Little Town" and a population of about 4,000, it is not hard to imagine the small town charm that Social Circle exudes.

The Blue Willow Inn Restaurant is probably the town's chief attraction (second only to the general warmth of a small town). The restaurant is located in a historic home (one of several along the main drive through Social Circle), and it draws its name from the blue willow china that is used by its guests.

Blue Willow Inn features a buffet of good Southern food, with all the trimmings- ham, macaroni and cheese, chicken n' dumplings, you name it. Brad stopped by this place for lunch on a work trip, and it is no wonder that he wanted to come back.

The restaurant's cookbook (available at the gift shop on the property) has some great options for a "down home" meal. It is not exactly "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," but then again, what is? (Other than MTAOFC itself, of course.)

Please consider making a reservation in advance if you plan on visiting the Blue Willow Inn. We arrived before the doors opened for lunch on a Saturday, and the line was already starting to form on the front lawn.

And wear a pair of stretchy pants... you will leave there stuffed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Get Your Gobble On

Here at Casa Vaughan, we proudly support rustic yard art.

(Ok, I love it. Brad tolerates it.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Food for the Fair Weather Fan

Let's be honest- it is tough being a UT fan these days. Every Saturday begins with the hope that we will rise above the criticism and unbelievably low expectations to recapture some of the glory of days gone by. Every Saturday ends with the shedding of silent, bitter tears and/or rants on Facebook.

To cope with this roller coaster of emotion, we do what we do best- eat!

My preferred crutch for a troubled football season- homemade pulled pork BBQ nachos, based on a recipe from the Cooking Channel:

What you will need:

3.5 lb. pork butt roast

Paprika (1.5 tablespoons)

Salt (1 tablespoon)

Black pepper (0.5 tablespoon)

Garlic salt (0.5 teaspoon)

Chili powder (1 teaspoon)

Mustard powder (0.5 teaspoon)

Half of a can of lager style beer (I used Yuengling)

Cider vinegar (0.5 cup)

Liquid smoke (1 tablespoon)

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 330 degrees.

Combine the seasonings.

Rub the seasoning mix on all sides of the pork, then place the pork in a Dutch oven.

Add beer, vinegar, and liquid smoke to the Dutch oven, pouring them over the pork.

Cover the Dutch oven, and cook the pork in the preheated oven for about three to three and a half hours, basting the pork frequently with the juices in the Dutch oven, until the pork pulls apart easily when you place two forks in it and pull in opposite directions.

Remove the pork from the Dutch oven, and place the pork on a tray or cutting board. (Note: hold on to the juices in the Dutch oven. Just set the Dutch oven aside for a few minutes.)

Pull the pork apart, getting it down to appropriate sized chunks.

Once you've shredded the pork, toss it back in the Dutch oven, to get some of those yummy juices back on the individual pieces of meat.

Then, toss the shredded pork into a skillet over medium heat, to crisp up the edges.

Serve the pulled pork over nachos, with your favorite toppings. I usually layer the pork on top of the restaurant style tortilla chips, then pile on cheese, sour cream, cilantro, jalapeƱos, black olives, and BBQ sauce (from Central BBQ in Memphis, a must-have).

Go Vols!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Halloween: Pass and Fail

I am not even going to comment on how long it has been since I last posted a blog entry....I'm just going to jump right into what we've been up to lately.

I love Halloween- I have so many great memories of trick-or-treating in Strawberry Plains as a kid.  Halloween is one of those holidays that you have to pay forward.  As a child, you (hopefully) get to enjoy the enthusiasm of your neighbors who decorate their homes and hand out sackfuls of the "good candy," and it is only fair, in my view, that once you are an adult with your own home, you should return the favor and make Halloween special for another generation.

So, here we are, getting ready for another Halloween in our lovely home with the white picket fence and the tree stump.  I have to be very particular with the decorations (i.e. I must avoid putting any decorations in the front yard where Toby can eat them).

Not to be trusted. . . .

The strategy then is to add enough Halloween "flavor" to the front flower bed, without going too overboard (and driving Brad nuts). 

My mom and I hit up Old Time Pottery in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  OTP is definitely the place to go for good deals on holiday decorations.  Sadly, OTP falls right into the trend of putting all of their Christmas holiday items out on the shelves the minute that the first leaves fall off the trees in September.  In any event, we still had plenty of Halloween decorations to choose from, and here is what I went with- a pumpkin patch theme:

For the front porch, I also scored a vintage wreath holder on a recent trip to Brad's hometown and a super cute wreath from the Apple Festival (on the same trip to Crossville):

On the same shopping trip in Pigeon Forge, my mom and I also stopped by Tuesday Morning, where I scored mason jars with numbers printed on them.  The idea- to display our house number in a fun way.  I put candles in the jars and set them out on the front porch.  The jars will probably stay out at least through Christmas:

I usually decorate our mantle with a Halloween theme for the month of October.  Our dear friend Kelley stopped by a cute roadside stand in Tennessee and picked up a large assortment of gourds that have a lot of character and look very cool just on their own.  Kelley stacked her gourds in a large glass jar, for her mantle (super cute idea):

 I love this!  Wish I had thought of it!

Kelley was kind enough to give me some gourds as well, and I used them to fill out our mantle:

I also wanted to do something fun with painted pumpkins, after being inspired by a recent edition of Country Living. 

The goal was to create a white and orange chevron pumpkin for the front porch, based on the picture from the magazine.  Unfortunately, the paint that I used for the chevron pumpkin (an outdoor acrylic paint) peeled off from the pumpkin in huge chunks when I removed the painter's tape:

 One project that worked out a little better- painting a pumpkin with chalkboard paint, to create a chalkboard pumpkin.

The finished project. . . a chalkboard pumpkin for the kitchen

So, some Halloween DIY projects totally failed (not sure what Country Living did to their chevron painted pumpkins), but I still had fun putting them together!

Wishing everyone a Happy Halloween!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The (Not So) Secret Garden

For months now, Brad and I have been battling the field of weeds in our front yard, which stretched across the white picket fence and up to the sidewalk on the other side.

In April, I blogged about our efforts to rip out the weeds and put in a flower bed in the foot-wide space between the fence and the sidewalk.

Back in April 2012....
We have been struggling to turn this small space into a sidewalk garden over the last several months, and unfortunately, we were losing the battle.  As of last week, we were looking at a long stretch of dead weeds (thanks to some successful Round-Up bombing by Brad) and dying marigolds (hey, their time had come, that was not my fault).

The "before" shot from this weekend, after my mom and I ripped out the dead weeds

Thankfully, with some help from Brad (and from my parents, who were in from Knoxville with my sister for Labor Day weekend), we got the sidewalk garden back to form and built a new flowerbed!

Toby, our beloved basset hound, is notorious for eating flowers.  Life is his garden bar.  So, we have been hesitant to put a flower bed in the front yard itself (which is why the rocky, weedy narrow space between the fence and the sidewalk has been so appealing for my gardening impulses).

However, my mom has been holding on to a hydrangea bush for me that was originally purchased for the Wilson-Vaughan wedding back in 2009.  While we were still newlyweds with just an apartment and not even a law degree to call our own, Mom planted the hydrangeas in her garden for safekeeping.  They have pretty much exploded and provide gorgeous green to white blooms all summer long.

I am super excited about having the hydrangea set up now in our own front yard in ATL, in a slightly built-up flower bed, thanks to the help of Mom and Dad.  Hopefully, Toby won't be tempted to eat this one. . . .

I guess this hydrangea is like our "love fern"?

Back to the sidewalk garden: after my folks left Atlanta on Sunday, Brad and I went back to working on the sidewalk garden.  The original plan was to just put in some new plants for the upcoming fall.  Home Depot has a great selection of "mini-mums" right now, for less than a dollar.  Who could resist that?

Placing the mums. . .

Planting the mums. . .
We also did some rearranging with the planters that we had out in front of the fence, bringing them closer to the gate (so they look a little less random).

My parents both suggested that we consider adding a border along the sidewalk garden, to make it easier to build up the soil over time. (When we started this project months ago, we were dealing largely with red Georgia clay and rocks where we wanted to plant.)

So, several trips to Home Depot later, we managed to buy up enough metal garden borders to frame the whole sidewalk garden:

If you are in the Atlanta area, we literally bought the ENTIRE STOCK of these babies from the Home Depot in Vinings.  When we needed more, we went to the Home Depot in Lithia Springs...we were on a mission!

Here is the new and greatly improved sidewalk garden, with a fresh layer of cypress mulch:
Sorry, Toby. 

So much better than before...
. . . and now we are ready for the fall!

However, the "Wilson Quest" for a sidewalk garden did not stop there.  On Labor Day, Brad and I decided to just finish off the little garden area that we put in around the mailbox too:

Keepin' it fresh, so we switched over to the "Azalea Garden Border" for this part.

So, we are all done...except for the part where we commit ourselves to weeding and watering.  :-)  Can't forget that this time!