Category Archives: Holidays

The Homemade Gifts I Gave

The world wide web is a beautiful thing, my friends. It’s where I did about 60 percent of our Christmas shopping this year. Etsy, Rue La La, Amazon, West Elm… I loved coming home to new packages on our doorstep every couple days. But despite how easy and hassle-free online shopping can be, I’ve decided DIY gifting is my preferred way to go.

This year, my favorite gifts we gave were five mason jars filled with homemade potpourri and adorned with DIY glitter tags. We gave them to my four sisters-in-law and stepmother-in-law. Of course, the idea came from Pinterest via The Yummy Life blog. The Yummy Life does a great job of detailing all of the steps and variety of fragrances, so I won’t try to recreate her post. Definitely check it out if you decide to gift these yourself.

Of the five scents outlined on The Yummy Life, I chose three:

{Oranges, Cinnamon and Cloves}

orange cinnamon cloves

{Lemon, Rosemary and Vanilla}

{Oranges, Ginger and Almond Extract}


All you do is buy the ingredients, measure them out or chop them, put them in a jar, fill the jar with water and refrigerate until ready to give. Then, your lucky recipient can pour the contents of the jar into a pot, heat it on the stove and let the enticing aromas fill the house. When finished, cool the potpourri, return to jar and refrigerate until ready to use again.


The ingredients: cinnamon sticks, almond extract, vanilla extract, cloves, allspice, fresh ginger and fresh rosemary


Ingredients: oranges and lemons


Stuffed in a jar and filled with water


A close-up of the citrus and herbs

As for the jars and tags, I purchased the mason jars at Michael’s for under $2 a piece. I made the tags using gold ribbon and my handy dandy embossing tools — a stamp, embossing glue, embossing powder/glitter and an embosser (a staple for self-proclaimed scrapbooking enthusiasts like myself).

It was fun to spend a day doing something crafty. I even tested out the lemon, rosemary and vanilla mixture myself with the leftover ingredients I had. It smelled lovely.


When all is said it done, these were an easy, inexpensive but thoughtful way to wish our family members a Merry Christmas. Now I’m tempted to try out some of the other scents on The Yummy Life that I didn’t attempt on this first round. And I’m also thinking about who else I can gift these to. Too bad the guys in our family aren’t much into potpourri.


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Filed under Hobbies, Holidays

Our Merry Little Christmas

In our family, Christmas isn’t just one day. It’s more like four days. Four days of family gatherings. Four days of giving and receiving gifts. Four days of really, really, ridiculously good food. All done (for the most part) in pajamas, with a wrapping-paper obsessed dog, with a wee bit of your inner hoosier and with a pesky cold (yep, it’s bound to happen). And that’s how you get the 2013 edition of our Merry Little Christmas.

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Filed under Family, Holidays

Top 10 Moments of 2013

Yes, dear friends, it’s that time of year when I’m scrambling to put up the Christmas decorations, running around like a madwoman at the office, holiday shopping till I’m dropping and cooking my way through an endless array of Pinterest recipes for one family gathering after the next. After all that, plus a bag of chips, I finally managed to get the Christmas cards purchased, printed and shipped. And in true Riley tradition, the cards are complete with our Top 10 Moments of 2013.

We’ve been doing these Top 10 lists for four years now. Click to see 2012 and 2011. Mikey and I have really come to like them. It gives us a reason to reminisce and compare this year’s successes to last. And I love being able to give people a glimpse into what life was like for us over the past 365 days.

This year, the Christmas cards were a little more hurried than years past. I usually enlist my photographer father to photograph the three of us, but with so many things going on during the weekends in December, I decided to use an iPhone photo of The Bear as our 2013 Christmas card hero image. Then, our home printer was giving me problems for a good week as I was trying to print the card stock for our Top 10 list. But not to fear… the cards and list made it out the door yesterday. And so, here goes. Our 2013 in review…

Mike, Larissa & Teddy Riley’s Top 10 Moments of 2013

10. After a few tries at brewing his own beer, Mike finally nailed his best beer yet, a small batch jalapeño saison. 


Its been about a year and a half now that Mikey has been experimenting with different home brew recipes. This jalapeño saison from Brooklyn Brew Shop has proven to be his most successful. Not spicy or overwhelming like you might expect from a jalapeño. Well-balanced and full-flavored. We shared the wealth with friends, family and coworkers who were all pretty impressed. But I warn that this is not for timid beer drinkers. If you’re a tried and true Bud Light drinker or less open to trying new flavors, this will probably be out of your comfort zone.

9. Larissa wrote a food review on her blog for The Libertine, a new restaurant in St. Louis. The review was featured on The Libertine’s Facebook page and picked up by the Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch, a local online news source. 


If you haven’t read the review, check it out here. And if you’d like to see the feature on the Patch, click here. Now it goes without saying that our experience at The Libertine was great. But it’s also worth mentioning that whoever is managing The Libertine’s social properties (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)  is doing it right. Since sharing my post on their social networks, I’ve noticed that they continue to keep their finger on the pulse of what other people are saying about them. That includes average joes like myself as well as local and national food critics. They’re being good listeners and creating conversations with current and prospective fans. So thumbs up to them. And if you’re in St. Louis, go there already!

8. This year marked five years of marriage for us. Seems like just yesterday when so many of you helped us celebrate our big day.

It was October 4, 2008, and the weather was absolutely amazing. Blue skies, sun on your face, temps in the low 70s. God did an extraordinary job orchestrating the weather that day.

We celebrated five years of marital bliss with dinner at Niche in Clayton. We hadn’t been to Niche since Chef Gerard Craft relocated the famed St. Louis restaurant from Benton Park to Clayton. Per usual, our dinner did not disappoint. Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of the great time and food we had. It was one of those occasions where I chose to be in the moment without a camera to document it. Again, if you’re in St. Louis and haven’t been, go there for your next special occasion. Craft has built quite a reputation in St. Louis. It shows. And it tastes incredible.

7. We enjoyed our fourth annual “Teddy Vacation” at the Lake of the Ozarks. Teddy still reigns as champion dock diver of the family. 


I recapped this relaxing getaway in a previous post here. This yearly Teddy Vacation tradition is always something we look forward to at the end of the summer. For Teddy Vacation 2014, though, we’re thinking of switching it up and going to a coast!

6. We caught our first waves during a surfing lesson on a trip to Hawaii in the fall… and now we want to move to Hawaii. 

Surf Lesson 6

I also captured the memories from this experience in a previous post here. Definitely an unforgettable moment. And if I do it again, let’s hope my equilibrium doesn’t screw with me again.

5. While vacationing in Maui, we visited the summit of Mount Haleakala and stood a jaw-dropping 10,023 feet above sea level.


I still have yet to blog about this visit to Mount Haleakala. I’m not even a fourth of the way through documenting our Hawaii vacation, but it’s coming. I promise!

4. We visited a good friend from college in the spring during a trip to Arizona and saw everything from the red rocks of Sedona to the magnificent Grand Canyon. We even rafted the Colorado River! 


I remember this trip proved to be so much more spectacular than we expected it to be. We left with a new-found appreciation for nature and the beauty it brings. Follow these links  to see how the whole trip unfolded — Scottsdale, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Colorado River, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.

3. The Riley house underwent major structural repair this summer. The only fun part was when it ended. All is back to normal – until the next thing breaks! 


To be completely honest, I never want to hear about this project again. But it was certainly worth mentioning on our Top 10 list, considering how much grief it gave us — followed by joy when it was over. Read all about the debacle here.

2. The recent trip to Hawaii allowed us some long overdue quality time with Larissa’s grandmother. It had been six years since our last visit.


A visit to see Lola was long overdue. And it was nice being able to have real adult conversations with her now that I’m a full-on grown-up. I learned a little bit more about my dad’s side of the family. She told stories of how she and Papa met. How she left her family behind in the Philippines to meet Papa in Hawaii. Even how Papa moved to the Big Island, Hawaii as a youngster to work with his family in the coffee fields. Now the plan is not to wait so long to see her again. Six years is just too much.

1. Mike, Larissa and Teddy are now featured on Dog Chow Light & Healthy bags across the country. Look for us at the grocery store, on and in magazine print ads everywhere!

We took this photo at a Safeway grocery store in Hawaii. Its been fun seeing our faces on shelf and online. (You can’t see it here, but Mikey is featured on the back of the bag as well.) Even friends who live far away from us write me on Facebook to tell me they saw me on a floor mat in Kroger or a print ad in People magazine. Pretty amazing that we now have a legit claim to fame.

There is no doubt that our little family has a lot to be thankful for, and we’re fortunate that we’ve been able to say that every year. As the holidays draw near, I hope your holidays are full of good food, family, friends and fun.

2013 Riley Christmas Card

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Filed under Family, Holidays

Like Dahlias in the Sky

I’ve lived in the St. Louis area for 16 years now and can honestly say I still haven’t figured out my favorite way to celebrate the 4th of July here in the Lou. I’ve done the small-town fireworks on the Illinois side of the river and thought they were decent. I’ve gone downtown to the Arch grounds a few times and loved the fireworks show there. Unfortunately, the crowds are just a little too much to bear.

This year, we decided to check out the fireworks show in Webster Groves. The fireworks show is presented as part of their Community Days summer celebration. It’s complete with all the things that make summer — carnival rides, games, BBQ and live music. While it was fun and all, the fireworks weren’t as showy as the ones down at the Arch. Yes, I know that’s to be expected. A national monument is surely going to wow more than a small St. Louis suburb’s display. But the Webster Groves show didn’t include my favorite fireworks (the ones that look like weeping willows). And because we were newbies to the Webster Groves display, we weren’t sure where exactly to position ourselves to get the best view. Without any idea where the fireworks were going to be shooting off, we just plopped ourselves onto a hill and camped out until nightfall. It turned out the fireworks shot off right above a series of tennis court lights — many of which made multiple appearances in my photos that night.

Anyway, as much as it might come off that I’m complaining, it really was an enjoyable night. St. Louis weather has been extremely kind to us lately. I was actually wishing I had a sweater once the sun started to set. Sweaters in July hardly ever happen here. And of course, I was pleased with a handful of the fireworks photos I snapped during the show. (Minus the fact that none of them were weeping willow fireworks.)


This inflatable tiger butt photo bombed nearly all of my carnival photos.






























Next year, I’m really tempted to get a hotel room on the riverfront. Preferably one with a balcony that faces the Arch. Maybe then I’ll get the big showy fireworks display minus the sweaty elbows poking me while I try to position my camera correctly.

Or maybe we’ll decide that seeing fireworks isn’t really a necessity. In the whole grand scheme of things, celebrating our freedom with fireworks is just as American as drinking a cold brew on the deck behind our house (which, let’s face it, the hubs and I do well and do often).

No matter how you celebrated 4th of July, I hope you had a good one!


Filed under Holidays, St. Louis

Top 7 Moments of 2012

It’s day 1 of 2013, and I have spent the entire day cleaning the house and organizing our junk room. Let’s hope that’s not a sign that I’m turning over some sort of weird “neat freak” leaf. Instead, let’s hope it’s a sign of progress and productivity in the new year.

Even though we moved forward in the house cleaning department today, there’s been a lot of looking back at 2012 over the past few weeks. In fact, some of you may know that every year, we send out our Christmas cards with a top 10 countdown of our best moments from the year. So it’s typically in early to mid December when I start reminiscing about all the good things that happened to us over the past 12 months.

So to officially wrap up 2012 with a nice little bow on top, I give you… Mike, Larissa & Teddy Riley’s Top 7 Moments of 2012. Sorry, I’m shortening it to seven for the blog because some of the moments are ones that I’d like to keep under wraps. And no, that doesn’t mean I’m preggers, people. (Sorry to burst your bubble, MOMS!) The omitted moments are work-related, and the hubs and I just like to keep that stuff between family and friends. No offense.

Mike, Larissa & Teddy Riley’s Top 7 Moments of 2012

7. In May, Mike and Larissa took a spontaneous trip to Las Vegas with two of Larissa’s best friends from college and their husbands.

Reunited with my former roomies, sorority sisters, bridesmaids and BFFs!

Reunited with my former roomies, sorority sisters, bridesmaids and BFFs!


No trip to Vegas is complete without the sun on your face and sand in your feet!

6. Mike acquired a couple hobbies this year – brewing his own beer and smoking meats in his new smoker.

Bringing in the goods.

Bringing in the goods. The Bear trails behind for security purposes.

Beer Kit

A new beer kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop. Towels from NestaHome on Etsy.

5. Mike turned 30 in November and celebrated at a local microbrewery with a big group of family and friends.


Posing at the Urban Chestnut bar, where many beers were had.

4. Mike and Larissa visited friends in Seattle and saw many sights, including the Space Needle, Bainbridge Island and more.

Seattle Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle

On a ferry to Bainbridge Island

On a ferry to Bainbridge Island

3. While in Seattle, Mike, Larissa and their friends took a side trip to Vancouver to watch the St. Louis Blues hockey team play the Vancouver Canucks. The Blues lost, but it was fun nonetheless.

Blues fans Vancouver

On Vancouver’s home ice with friends, Doug and Katie.

2. Mike and Larissa took the trip of a lifetime to Ireland in October. In eight days, we drove the Irish countryside, visiting six different villages along the way. An unforgettable experience, for sure.

Rossbeigh Beach, a stop we made along the Ring of Kerry.

Rossbeigh Beach, a Blue Flag beach along the Ring of Kerry.

The magnificent Cliffs of Moher

The magnificent Cliffs of Moher

1. Larissa’s mom, Connie, underwent treatment for her third bout of breast cancer this summer. She came out thriving, surviving and cancer-free. The whole family couldn’t be happier!

My mom, the survivor!

My mom, the survivor!

I’m curious to see what 2013 will bring, but like every year, I hope it involves a lot of traveling! But more importantly — good health, happiness and prosperity. Happy New Year, all!

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So yeah, about those New Year’s resolutions…

This morning, Mikey and I woke up around 9am (glorious!) and then laid in bed for even longer. I started thinking about our 2012 New Year’s resolutions and that got us talking.

Me: Do you have any resolutions for 2013?

Mikey: Hmm, I haven’t really thought about it.

Me: Well, we failed miserably at our 2012 resolutions.

Mikey: Really? What were they again?

Me: I resolved to start waking up on time for work every day and stop hitting the snooze button so much, which obviously did not work at all. And you said you were going to cut back on how much beer you drink.

Mikey: Oh well, I think I did pretty good then.

Me: No, you didn’t! You failed miserably!

Mikey: Blaspheme!

It is true. As much as the both of us would like to deny it, our New Year’s Revolutions (as I referred to them earlier this year) were an epic fail. If anything, my obsession with the snooze button and his love for beer doubled this year. It doesn’t help that home brewing has become a hobby of his — one that I have encouraged as of late with the purchase of a few new beer-making materials for his 30th birthday. He also just received a sweet stash of new bottles from his mom and stepdad for Christmas. And we’re brewing a Smoked Wheat Beer tomorrow afternoon. So um, this whole cut down on the beer intake thing just isn’t really working out the way we planned it.


48 beer bottles and a happy, bow-clad Mikey

The one member of the family who kicked his New Year’s Revolution’s butt this year is The Bear. He resolved to go to the dog park more often. I’m patting myself and especially Mikey on the back for this one. We have taken him to the dog park almost every day — even now in chilly winter temps. We’ve even taken him in the rain. That’s some serious dog parent dedication!


Rain can’t keep The Bear down.

Now that we’re thinking about resolutions for 2013, I’m not even going to attempt to redo my anti-snooze campaign. This may just be something I have to come to terms with about myself. But frankly, I’m just up for a different challenge. And that challenge is blogging more often. I’ve been blogging here for almost two years and can remember the first year when I was so on top of it — pretty much blogging every other day. Its been a great outlet for me to find my own voice, recap life’s happenings and savor those fleeting moments that I ordinarily would forget or not even notice.

But lately, my time spent blogging has dwindled down to a once a week sort of thing, if that. I know exactly where to place the blame — the gym. Mikey and I joined the YMCA and were getting our money’s worth by working out anywhere from four to six times a week. On weeknights, that whole process takes about two hours if you factor in the time you spend cooling off and then showering. Then your body is so exhausted from both the workout and the eight hours (sometimes more) of work you put in at the office that the thought of sitting in front of the computer to blog is laughable.

In the past two months, Mikey and I have both fallen off the workout bandwagon, so now I really have no excuse not to be blogging. But I hope that in 2013, I’ll find some way to balance both. Although you know I would much rather be blogging that sweating it out at the gym.

As for Mikey, his resolution, like many others, will be to lose 15 pounds this year. His stretch goal is 20 pounds. I’m pretty confident he’ll do it. More confident than him cutting back on beer — although he may have to do both if he wants to shed 15.

The Bear is not resolving to do anything this year. And why should he? If you ask me, his life is pretty darn perfect, and there isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t wish I could trade places with him. His only concern is how many squirrels he’s going to have to fend off in the yard and in his dreams on a daily basis. With the amount of time he spends barking in the yard and the 13 hours of sleep he gets a day, I’m sure there are a plethora.


See, The Bear could pass for a person some day, don’t you think?

So how about you? What are you resolving to do or not do in 2013?

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Filed under Dogs, Holidays, Marriage

Christmas Four Years Ago

Every year when Christmas rolls around, I’m reminded of the very first Christmas we celebrated in our new house four years ago.

That first year of Christmas decorating was interesting, since we didn’t have anything — no tree, stockings, ornaments. But we eventually lucked out on a tree. One of Mikey’s coworkers was giving one away that year, and so we ended up with a decent-sized tree for free. (And by decent-sized, I mean quite the hefty fake evergreen. Till this day we still leave the bottom fourth of the back of the tree off because it’s a wee bit big for our small living room. If that doesn’t say classy, I don’t know what does.)

Back then, The Bear was still a little tyke, who thought ornaments were animate objects — as one of my all-time favorite Teddy videos demonstrates below.

The Bear was also still small enough to carry in pictures.



Well, just barely for me.

These days, our collection of Christmas decor has filled out. The Bear no longer picks fights with ornaments. And he’s also large enough to give rides to small children if he ever feels the need to channel his inner pony.



But he does have a tendency to poke around the gifts under the tree, sniffing for bones, tennis balls and doggie Christmas cookies, which he did today for about half an hour before giving up and resuming his spot on the couch.


Eyes are locked in on a target — three fresh tennis balls wrapped in tissue paper.


His version of a Christmas vigil


Starting to give me “the look”.


“No, actually I don’t understand the meaning of waiting until Christmas to open your presents.”

It made me realize how funny it is to actually wrap a gift for a dog. It doesn’t matter that the item is covered in tissue or wrapping paper. The nose tells all, so the gifts might as well be left unwrapped altogether. I wrapped them anyway though. Because there’s always the fun of watching him tear through the paper to get to his toy. Kind of like this…


The Bear’s first Christmas. He ripped through the wrapping paper while the family opened gifts at my parents’ house. He was thoroughly entertained. Obviously.

The hubs and I are gearing up for a marathon of Christmas celebrations on all sides of the family again this year. It’s always exhausting, but the good company and endless array of eats make it all so worth it. Here’s to wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Screen Shot 2012-12-23 at 9.32.09 PM

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30 and Nine Days

This year, Thanksgiving happened to be more low-key than most Turkey Days. My parents spent the holiday in San Diego, visiting my aunt, and while I missed the big feast over at my mom’s house, I have to say it was the most relaxing Thanksgiving we’ve had in almost a decade. Our list of family gatherings to make an appearance at went from three to two, and it surprisingly made a difference in how much down time we had that day.

The following day was Mikey’s 30th birthday, and since we both had the day off, we had the pleasure of sleeping in till 9:00. And the rest of the day was spent stuffing ourselves with all his favorite foods. Homemade biscuits and gravy for breakfast/lunch. Chicken Piccata and Mushroom Orzo for dinner. And his preferred alternative to a birthday cake — a seven-layer taco dip, complete with beer candles.

Chicken Piccata


I surprised him with a new beer kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop and a set of beer towels from Nesta Home on Etsy. (Cute stuff, you should check out her shop.) So it looks like we’ll be brewing a batch of “Smoked Wheat” in the near future.

Beer Kit

And if that wasn’t enough beer for the birthday boy, we celebrated with a large group of friends, family and coworkers the following night at Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (UCBC). It’s Mikey’s favorite St. Louis microbrewery, and the fact the place was packed from wall to wall from the time we got there at 6pm to the time we left at 11:30pm shows that plenty of other people feel the same way about this place.


Work friends!


Joe & Kate


The Walsh’s


Me and the birthday boy

Between the two of us, I’m pretty sure we tried every brew on the menu. But I would have to say my favorite of the night was a Spruce Ale, called Old Tjikko. It’s not for everybody. In fact, Mikey, the die-hard UCBC fan, didn’t care for it so much. But I like that it tastes like you’re drinking a Christmas tree. And who doesn’t want a hint of Christmas in your beer during the holidays? Here’s the blurb on Old Tjikko from UCBC’s website if you want to learn more.

Twas the season to ‘spruce’ up a beer…literally. So we did. OT is an aggressively ‘pined’, higher ABV, palate smacker that gets its name from the nearly 10,000 year old Norway Spruce living in the climes of Sweden. Like its namesake, this beer is dark, complex and fantastically fragrant. ABV- 6.3%, IBU’s – 37, OG – 15.0 Plato.

Naturally, Mikey spent the next day in recovery mode. The Bear made sure to keep him as comfortable as possible.


I’ve always known my husband to shy away from the mention of his birthday. He’s never been the type for birthday parties either. But I think this year, he really enjoyed himself. Not that it was any huge surprise to me. Throw his favorite microbrewery into any situation, and you’re as golden as a UCBC pilsner.

Nine days later, here’s to one last “Happy Birthday!” for the hubs!


Filed under Family, Holidays

No Luck. Our Pumpkins Sucked.

I’m a little late in posting this, considering our trip to the pumpkin patch back in October was weeks ago. But even though Thanksgiving has passed, the script hasn’t officially flipped over to twinkling lights and eggnog at our house just yet. I figured our pumpkin story is somewhat seasonally appropriate.

So yes, back in October, Mikey, my parents, my neices and I made a trip out to Eckert’s Farm in Belleville, Illinois to pick pumpkins for Halloween. It had been a while since doing the whole pumpkin patch thing, so I was kind of excited about this little weekend adventure. That is, until we pulled into a majorly packed parking lot and took part in the cattle drive long lines to get onto the hay ride that then took us over the river and through the woods to the actual pumpkin patch. I’m sure you parents of youngsters out there are nodding your heads, thinking duh, that’s what to expect when you sign up for these things. Well, apparently I wore my rose-colored glasses leading up to our pumpkin patch excursion. I didn’t even think of all the hoops you have to jump through before you get to the patch.

Finally arrived!

Anyway, we eventually hopped off the tractor to go pick our pumpkins and snap a few photos. My niece, Delaney, thoroughly enjoyed digging her hands in the dirt. Aside from getting her feet stuck in pumpkin vines and then getting restless from a lack of nap, I think she enjoyed herself. My other niece, Lillian, looked like a little pumpkin herself, conducting thorough inspections of every giant orange ball she touched.

Pumpkin bumpkins

Mikey and I made our selections. A perfectly round green one that had yet to ripen, a big fat orange one with a gnarly (but cool) stem and a standard one with a flat face, perfect for carving. We even added a few gourds to the mix.

Fit perfectly in the palm of my hand.

This dirty little fella was one of three that we bought.

Our other two picks basking in the sun

The sun was beaming brightly the whole time, so once we all made it back to our cars, we felt a bit worn out from all the sunshine. But no reason to complain about clear blue skies and full-on sun in late October. All in all, it was a pretty good day.

But here is where our poor pumpkin luck begins.

  1. When we brought out pumpkins home, we decided to leave them out on the front porch until we had time to wipe the dirt off of them. They ended up sitting there for a couple days, and of course, the pesky birds got to them. Wounded within the first two days. Awesome.
  2. With a few pecks of flesh eaten off the tops of the pumpkins, we decided to bring them inside. We left them alone for a few days before realizing the big fat orange one was rotting. When Mikey tried to pick it up by the stem, it completely came off, and the pumpkin was soft and mushy around the top. It had to be tossed. Awesome.
  3. The night before Halloween finally came, which meant time to carve these babies and get them out of our hair for good. The only carve-able pumpkin remaining was the flat-faced one. Mikey dug in and cleaned out the insides. Then, I made the outline of an owl and handed the reins back to Mikey to let him do the carving. Herein lies the problem. The person who outlines should be the person who carves. If the outliner and the carver are different, you risk the carver not being familiar with the outlines. And so Mikey kinda butchered our owl design. I tried to salvage it, but it kept getting lamer and lamer. So we threw up our hands and tossed that one as well. Awesome.

The upside to our poor pumpkin luck is the gourds we scored at Eckert’s and the one green pumpkin that is finally glowing a bright orange in our kitchen window. Next year though, I have every intention of skipping the pumpkin patch, buying the pumpkins from the grocery store and putting the outlining and carving duties in the hands of a single soul. No more of these ridiculous pumpkin shenanigans.

At least we got some good pics out of our trip.

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Filed under Holidays, St. Louis


Summer has yet to officially kick in, according to the calendar. But if you’re anything like us, the baptisms, graduation parties, weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, etc. have hit the ground running. Throw Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in there, maybe a birthday or two and you’re pretty much spent as far as gift-giving goes.

Don’t get me wrong. Gift-giving has always been fun for me. I really do like finding the perfect gift for someone. There’s the shopping part of it that I love (obviously). And the gift-wrapping part (obviously). And of course, the joy of seeing someone smile when they open it. Yes, even if deep down inside, they hate it and have every intention of sending that baby back. The process of getting there is still fun for me.

Well last month, I discovered a gifting option that totally changes the gift-giving game. It’s called Wantful. I heard about it through a coworker who tweeted about this hot new thing. I checked it out and thought it was a really cool concept. And perfect considering that Mother’s Day was right around the corner.

Here’s how Wantful works:

  • Visit Tell them who you’re shopping for. Say for instance, it’s your dad.
  • Then, you take a quiz that helps Wantful get to know your dad.
  • Based on your answers and the price range you have in mind, Wantful then curates a collection of items they think your dad might dig. And we’re not talking crappy, cheese-ball stuff here. It’s stuff like a BBQ utensil set or a charity donation to an environmental organization (if he’s into that).
  • Peruse the collection of items and select 16 that you think Dad would like.
  • Those 16 items then get published into a mini book that Wantful sends to either your house or your dad’s.
  • Dad then flips through the mini book and chooses the gift he wants.
  • To redeem his gift, all Dad has to do is visit, enter the gift code that’s printed in the mini book and select the lucky gift. A few days later his Wantful gift arrives in the mail, and everyone is happy… as the video below implies.

Mikey and I decided to give a Wantful gift to his mom for Mother’s Day, and it went off without a hitch. When she made her gift selection online, we received an email notification from Wantful, letting us know. She chose the Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker.

What I love best about it, is it’s more than just giving a gift card. You’re still taking the time to curate a catalog of gifts that you think your friend or family member would like. But it gives them the benefit of choice. And it’s fun when you have options.

So not to get all advertising copywriter on you, but if you’re looking for the perfect gift and really don’t have the time or patience to shop till you drop, check out Wantful. It’s now Larissa Riley approved.

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