November 29, 2012

DIY Secret Santa Gifts, Stocking Stuffers and Holiday Treats to Make & Share

Happy Thursday friends! I am so excited for today's post because I'm joining the folks at Knoxville's WTNZ Fox43 this morning to share some easy DIY Secret Santa gifts. These simple holiday gift ideas would also make wonderful stocking stuffers or hostess gifts for those last minute holiday parties you get invited to.

{A video clip of this segment can be found at the end of this post or you can find a complete list of Fox43 segments here}

I don't like to spend a lot of money so each of these is fairly affordable, some even use things you might have around the house. First, for the glamour girl on your list, a couple of beauty product gift ideas that are sure to make the recipient feel like a Hollywood star.

This DIY body scrub is so easy to make and it's a fraction of the cost of the ones sold at fancy spas.

DIY Sugar Lemon Body Scrub Recipe:
  • 3 cups sugar (I used Turbinado raw sugar)
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 T vanilla
Mix these ingredients together first. It's important to completely coat the sugar granules with oil or else the lemon juice will dissolve them. When the sugar/oil is mixed well, add the juice of one lemon and the zest of two lemons. It's as simple as that! 

Pop it into some cute jars and add personalized labels for an easy DIY holiday gift. 

Another project I've been wanting to make for a long time is homemade perfume! My blogger friend Amy shared this idea a couple years ago, but I've been saving it for the right occasion.

DIY Perfume Recipe: 
  • Distilled water
  • Vodka (I used vanilla flavored)
  • Essential oil (your favorite scent...I used grapefruit)
Mix together equal parts water and vodka. Then add drops of oil until the smell is as strong as you like. The original recipe called for 24 drops of oil to 2 teaspoons of water/vodka. Place the mixture in a spray bottle and shake well. It will need to sit for about 48 hours before the scent develops. So easy and so refreshing! I'm thinking of making a lavender version next. 

Now, a couple ideas for the hostess with the mostess. Did you know you can write on glass with plain ol' sharpie markers? Of course you can also use special dry erase markers but sharpies work just as well. This cute DIY message board can be made from just about any glass surface, such as a white ceramic plate or tray.

I also turned a simple picture frame into a message board with a piece of scrapbooking paper. This is a great way to keep your to-do list front and center and then erase (or check off) items as they are completed.

Finally, a gift for the food lovers. Pecans are such a southern staple and I always have a couple bags of them in my freezer. This easy spiced pecan recipe is a huge hit at my family holiday celebrations. They can be packed into jars and given as gifts or just served straight from the me, there won't be any left!

Spiced Pecan Recipe:

Melt 2 T butter (or Earth Balance spread) in a small saucepan. Stir in a tsp of Sriracha (Rooster Sauce). Mix together well. Toss over 3 cups of pecans until coated.

Arrange pecans in a single layer on a baking pan or cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees. Yum!

I hope these easy DIY holiday gift ideas inspire you! I think it's always good to remember that we don't have to spend a lot of money to give a gift that makes the recipient feel really special!
Posted by Kate Spears

November 28, 2012

Goodflicks: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Pretty soon we'll be in the middle of Hollywood film awards season, and while I haven't seen many of the biggest blockbusters from the past year, there's one film I did see that is getting some attention. Beasts of the Southern Wild is a magical, yet heartbreaking story about a little girl named Hushpuppy who lives with her father in an area of the Louisiana bayou called 'the Bathtub.'

If you saw the film, I'd love to hear what you thought! I only saw it once in theaters but I am sure that it is one I will watch again and again, as some parts are so subtle, it's easy to miss them the first time. What was the best movie you saw this year? Do you think it deserves a Hollywood award?

Thanks for stopping by! 

- Kate Spears

November 27, 2012

Anti-Recipe: Carrot Horseradish Casserole

Growing up in the south, I thought I'd heard of every possible casserole that ever existed.  Then I attended a friend's Thanksgiving celebration where the above dish was featured. At first I thought it was sweet potatoes, but upon closer inspection, I realized this dish was made with carrots. Topped with a zesty horseradish sauce, it was the perfect combination of savory with just a hint of sweet. I'll definitely be making it again!

Here's the anti-recipe:

  • 8 carrots, sliced into rounds or ovals
  • 2 T chopped onion
  • 2 T horseradish (store-bought is fine)
  • 1/2 cup mayo (or Vegenaise) 
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 T melted butter (or Earth Balance buttery spread) 
  • 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs 
First, cook your carrots for 5-7 minutes until just tender. You don't want them to end up overcooked and mushy. Save the juice. Combine onion, mayo, horseradish and pepper with the carrot juice. Spread the carrots in a greased casserole dish and top with the horseradish mixture. Combine bread crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle on top. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.


November 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Tina Turner!

I'd always thought my love for singer Tina Turner was because I'm a child of the 80's. But I recently learned we have a deeper connection than that. And since today is her birthday, I thought I'd share.

I've long known that Tina, born Anna Mae Bullock, hails from the tiny, unincorporated community of Nutbush in a rural area of West Tennessee. You've probably heard her song "Nutbush City Limits." What I didn't know was that as a child, she also lived in Knoxville (my current home) and performed on stage for the first time at a local church, Spring Hill Baptist. I wish there were a recording of that performance!

She's had an interesting, albeit difficult life, but her success is a testament to her resilience. I like to think it's because of her southern upbringing. Today is Tina Turner's 73rd birthday and I'm sure she's celebrating it in style.

Happy Birthday Tina! You're simply the best!

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving 2012


My dear, sweet wonderful friends...I hope each of you knows just what a treasure you are to me. On this day (and every day!), I am thankful for you. 

As we gather with the ones we hold dear today (and during this holiday season), I hope we can be conscious of what really matters and let all the little things that don't slip from our thoughts. 

This year has been an eventful one, but no matter what hardships we face, there is so much to be thankful for and my hope is that we can foster an attitude of thankfulness that dwells deep in our hearts. 

Traditions change, loved ones pass from our midst, pie crusts burn...but the things that matter most, the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts will never leave us. Hold the ones you love tightly today. 

If nobody else tells you so today, I'm THANKFUL for YOU! I'm glad you were born and I'm glad you are your fabulous, unique, wonderful self. Keep shining your light because the world needs it! 

Happy Thanksgiving & God bless! 

November 20, 2012

Easy Recipe for Ritz Cracker Candy

I can't take credit for the heavenly goodness pictured above, but I certainly ate my share of it this weekend. I attended an annual "Friends' Thanksgiving" event and this dessert was definitely one of the highlights. I decided to hunt down the recipe and share it here with y'all because it sounds so easy and the pay-off is HUGE. 

I've heard this treat called everything from "Cracker Crack" to "Puttin' on the Ritz," but I think Ritz Cracker Candy is the most simple name. See the recipe below: 

Ritz Cracker Candy

  • 1 to 2 sleeves of Ritz crackers
  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips/white chocolate chips 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and arrange the crackers on it in a single layer. 

Melt butter and brown sugar together in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. After it's melted, increase heat to medium-high and boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour this mixture over the cracker layer. 

Bake for 5 minutes and remove from oven. Sprinkle crackers with chocolate chips and place back in the oven for 3 minutes (the oven will be turned off but still warm). Spread the melted chocolate over crackers and top with pecans and remaining chips. Allow to cool completely and break apart to serve. 

I don't have to tell you to enjoy because it would be impossible not to! Happy Tuesday friends! 

November 17, 2012

Remembering Shelby Foote, Southern Icon

Today would have been author & southern historian Shelby Foote's 96th birthday so I'm sharing this wonderful interview from several years ago where he sat down with C-SPAN. I could listen to his southern drawl all day! If you have a chance to give the clip a watch, you won't be disappointed.

November 15, 2012

Easy Thanksgiving Crafts for the Whole Family

This morning I joined my friends at Knoxville's WTNZ Fox43 to share some easy Thanksgiving craft ideas. Hope you enjoy the clip! You can find this and other segments on my Fox43 page.

Southern Belle Simple is brought to you by Kate Spears

Simple Family-Friendly Thanksgiving Projects

It's that time bi-weekly segment on Knoxville's WTNZ Fox43 and this week, we're talking Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and it seems like each year it gets a marginalized a bit more as stores and cities begin putting out Christmas decor closer and closer to Halloween! I want to enjoy Thanksgiving without glossing over it and zipping straight to Christmas so I'm sharing some ideas that I think will help!

One idea for making Thanksgiving a bit more meaningful is creating a 'thankful tree.' This version (by Simply Vintagegirl) is adorable and oh, so easy to make. To make the thankful tree I created for today's segment, I found a branch and stood it up in a vintage champagne bucket. Then I cut out some paper leaves in different fall colors. (I used orange and yellow construction paper and some striped scrapbook paper I had lying around, but you could use whatever you like). 

Another idea I had is to use the leaf shapes as place cards and have your guests write what they are thankful for on the back. Then, everyone can add his or her leaf to the thankful tree as a sweet gesture of thankfulness. 

I love the idea of capturing a thankful memory with a photograph. Everyone at your Thanksgiving celebration could take turns writing what he or she is thankful for on a small chalkboard sign and then have his/her photo taken while holding it. This heart-shaped chalkboard sign (available on Etsy) is one option, but I made my own with some chalkboard spray paint and a canvas I picked up at my local thrift shop for $2. These photos could be compiled into an album to help cement the memories of Thanksgiving 2012!

Finally, what's Thanksgiving without a little turkey? In this case, a sweet treat everyone can enjoy making together. We often have some type of little craft or project planned for the kids in my family to enjoy after the big Thanksgiving meal. This would be perfect because it's so easy and fun, not to mention delicious!

I was inspired by another blogger to create these MoonPie turkey treats and I'm so happy with how they turned out. I think the ones shown in the photo are made with full-size MoonPies but I could only find the mini versions. I also used the mini Nutter Butter cookies (instead of the full-sized as shown above) since they fit the scale of the smaller MoonPies. 

Everything gets held together with cake frosting and they set up well if refrigerated for awhile. The eyes are M&Ms and the wattles are red jelly beans (although I used red licorice instead). These are a fun Thanksgiving treat to make and enjoy and I think even the youngest kids could create them with a little help. 

I hope you got some inspiration from my ideas! I think we can make Thanksgiving feel extra special with just a little effort. You don't have to spend a lot of money to create lasting family Thanksgiving memories. Have a happy day friends! 

Southern Belle Simple is brought to you by Kate Spears

November 14, 2012

Passion for Fashion: Casual Sunday Brunch Outfit

This past weekend the southern beau and I ventured to downtown Knoxville, one of my favorite spots in the city. We had brunch at the Tomato Head, a fabulous local eatery offering lots of vegetarian and vegan options that are oh so tasty and good. 

Afterward, I made him snap a quick picture of my outfit because I'm linking up today with some lovely fashionista bloggers (here). For this edition of "What I Wore Wednesday," I'm sharing an outfit that was kind to my wallet, as most pieces were thrifted or bought on consignment. 

My jeans were purchased (on sale) at the go-to source for jeans since about 1997. The shirt I'm wearing is from one of my favorite local consignment shops (where I also sell clothing to make a few extra shopping dollars from time to time). The boots are second hand from the same consignment shop and my bag (a vintage Coach) is from a thrift store in Florida (purchased by my mom while she was on vacation...I sort of stole it though).

I love being able to find clothes for a great deal, whether on sale, at a consignment shop or at a thrift store. If you're willing to invest a little time in the hunt, it can really pay off! One good way to get more bang for your buck is to get to know the folks who work in the stores. You might make a friend who can be on the lookout for items that would be perfect for you. A way to maximize your thrifting efforts is to find out when the store puts out new merchandise and time your visits accordingly. 

What great thrifty finds have you run across lately? 

November 13, 2012

World Kindness Day 2012

Today is World Kindness Day and while I know the word kindness might get used lightly, I don't think there's ever a chance of having too much of it. The quote above was first shared with me by one of my dearest friends' grandfather. It was definitely the way he lived his life and how he taught his family to live theirs. 

My own grandfather once told me that you can never do too much good for another person. I've thought of this many times and it causes me to remember his life and legacy. It's not like we need a special day to be kind to each other...if anything, we need 'World Kindness Life.' 

But maybe things like this at least serve to remind us that anytime we can be kind, it's a good thing. 

November 12, 2012

Collecting: Vintage Ironstone China

I was inspired to write this post because of an earthquake. I know it might sound crazy but there was recently an earthquake in Tennessee. Saturday, I was standing in my living room and all of a sudden, my ironstone china started rattling. Assuming it was fireworks from the football game being played at nearby Neyland Stadium, I just went about my business. Later, when I heard it was an earthquake, I was inspecting my ironstone china collection and that's when I wrote this post.  

I can't remember what prompted me to begin collecting English ironstone china. I don't even know which piece started my collection. Most have been picked up pretty cheaply at estate sales or thrift stores. I even brought an entire thrifted tea set back from Florida in my carry-on luggage. For awhile I didn't have enough pieces to display them all together, but now I've got a fairly sizable collection and I like the visual impact of seeing them in a grouping.  

I think it's fun to collect long as it doesn't take over your life. When I first started collecting, I was always on the lookout for pieces of ironstone, ready to snatch them up. Now that my ironstone china collection has grown, I try to pass on pieces unless they are really unique or different from what I already have. I don't want to end up with so much that I can't really enjoy it because my house is overrun with it. 

Most of my ironstone china pieces are Johnson Brothers or Meakin. I prefer the solid white pieces but some of mine are ironstone china transfer ware and I like those too. I think I'm drawn to ironstone because of its history. I love that each piece was created so long ago -- made to withstand years of use.

Some of my pieces are a little cracked, either from the previous owners or from my own klutzy use (and now they've survived an earthquake!). I don't mind this because I think it adds to the unique story these pieces have to tell.

Do you collect something that holds a special place in your heart? Are you a new collector or is your collection fairly developed? I love hearing your stories about this sort of thing!

November 7, 2012

Fall Favorite: Pumpkin Spice Tea

I've always been an iced tea drinker (un-sweet with lots of lemon) so when the folks at R.C. Bigelow contacted me about sending me some samples of their new pumpkin spice tea, I was very excited.

Not only is the Bigelow Pumpkin Spice Autumn Spiced Tea very tasty as a hot or cold drink, it can also be used in a variety of different recipes...including this one for pumpkin spice cupcakes

I'm such a sucker for a warm drink this time of year. I even added a splash of store-bought cider to my pumpkin spice tea. I shared a recipe here on Southern Belle Simple for an iced tea punch that I think would be really good made with the Bigelow pumpkin spice tea...have you tried it? I'd love to hear what your opinion!  

From hot tea to cider, cocoa to cappuccino, what's your favorite cold weather beverage? 

November 6, 2012

Only in the south: The Sassy Buck

While traveling to my hometown recently, I made a little stopover on the way and stumbled into a cute ladies shop called The Sassy Buck. All I can say is....only in the south! I've never been a hunter (a huntress?) so I can't say that this particular style appeals to me, but I appreciate that many lovely southern ladies do enjoy this pastime. 

Do you fancy yourself a sassy buck? Oh wait...wouldn't it be a sassy doe? I guess that doesn't have quite the same ring to it. 

November 5, 2012

Fall Back -- Give Thanks

I hope everyone had a lovely southern beau and I enjoyed a nice Sunday afternoon hiking at an East Tennessee nature area (although we didn't encounter anything nearly as exciting as the so-called big foot seen in Utah...yikes!)

Fall is my favorite time of year. In spring, all the trees and plants are working so hard to create new life and in summer, everything is just growing, growing. I like fall because it's a time when everything can heave a big sigh of relief...another growing season came to a close and the important work is finished. 

Fall, leaves fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree. 

The previous excerpt is from a poem by Emily Bronte...I think it's fitting because of the time change that just occurred...anyone else having trouble adjusting to the change? The days will be getting shorter and these chilly nights that are coming will find us piled up under our sweaters with a little cocoa or cider (if we're lucky). 

I feel very lucky these days. Some of my dear friends on Facebook are taking each day during November to share different things (and people) for which they are thankful. I'm thankful for a great many things, including you dear blog reader. I'm thankful for the opportunity to work from home and pursue my various passions. I'm thankful that I was fired from a job which was causing me to lose sight of my true self. I'm thankful for the Grace of God that continuously surprises me by empowering my heart to love people I had previously deemed unlovable (spell-check says that's right, but unloveable looks more right to me). 

I'm learning that the things I thought mattered so much really don't at all. And the things (read: people) I often overlooked are what truly matter. Instead of constantly living for the next great adventure, I'm taking each moment and enjoying the simple beauty it contains. Are you showing your thanks this month in a special way? I definitely don't think you have to make a public proclamation to have a thankful heart, but sometimes it's just fun to share those things that matter most. And you are one of those things. 

If nobody else told you so today...I appreciate you. You matter. You are loved. 

I hope we all have a fantastic week! 


p.s. Today would have been Vivien Leigh's 99th birthday...she will always be Scarlett O to me! 

November 2, 2012

Happy Deviled Eggs Day!

Surely you didn't think I would let National Deviled Eggs Day pass by without a blog post commemorating it? (who thinks up all these wacky holidays anyway?). I've made it very clear that my love of eggs is deeply rooted (as evidenced in this post featuring a child-version of myself holding a chicken). I've also talked at length about my love for deviled eggs...whether as chic hors d' oeuvres at an elegant southern wedding or a comforting part of southern funeral food offerings.

Whether you prefer fancy deviled eggs (with exotic additions such as caviar or pimento cheese) or more traditional versions (Paprika!), you are part of a long tradition of folks who enjoy this delicacy, which dates back to ancient Rome. I wonder if the ancient Romans had their version of the deviled egg plate (like the Fire King version I was lucky enough to be gifted from my grandma's collection).

My dad has always called them 'dressed eggs' and when he married into the family, my mom's devout Baptist grandmother also adopted that term because I'm sure she had always been secretly offended by any reference to the devil.

Since I started eating vegan this year, I haven't had any deviled eggs (which makes me pretty sad when I stop to think about it). But that doesn't mean I can't celebrate the holiday in spirit! Hope y'all have a wonderful weekend and enjoy a deviled egg for me!

November 1, 2012

Saving Treasured Family Recipes in Creative Ways

It's that time again...I'm joining my friends at Knoxville's WTNZ Fox43 for a morning segment and this week, we're talking about recipes. Not just any recipes, but beloved family recipes that have been perfected over the years and handed down from generation to generation.

With the holidays coming up, I thought this was a great time to mention some of my favorite ways to honor the memories of all the fabulous cooks and food lovers who have gone before me. I come from a long line of wickedly good cooks and thankfully, I have many of their recipes in my cooking arsenal. One of my most treasured possessions is my great-grandma's old recipe box. At first glance, it's just a rusty metal box in that popular 1960s shade of olive green, but it holds a treasure trove of  delicious recipes that my grandma collected and perfected over the years.

I know many folks want to have their recipes in electronic format these days, but I prefer a 4x6" index card any day. Call me old fashioned (I know it's true). Besides having recipes on cards, I also love cooking from vintage cookbooks, especially Junior League and Ladies Auxiliary versions, the more grease-stained and well-worn the better.

I've always loved church cookbooks too. There are several websites that let you create your own beautifully-bound cookbooks, many that don't require a minimum order. This would be a great way to share a bunch of family recipes with several creating a custom family recipe book as a holiday gift.

I guess I'm a total foodie, but I think recipes are pure art and my next couple of ideas definitely elevate recipes to a more artsy level. I took my great-grandmothers' handwritten southern biscuit recipes and put them in a shadowbox. It's just a simple project but it means a lot to me each time I see it. For something a bit more large scale, I scanned a recipe card and printed it poster size. Then I mounted it on a cheap canvas I picked up at an art supply store. I love this wall art with my great-grandma's scribbled notes about how to make the perfect cole slaw.

These are just a few simple ideas that you can do without spending much (if any) money. As southerners, our recipes are part of our history and I think it's really important that we preserve this history for generations to come.