Acorn Squash Soup + Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted acorn squash soupSometimes I think what you garnish a soup with is almost as important as the soup itself. And that's the case with this particular recipe. The acorn squash soup is pretty delicious all on its own, but it's made WAY better with the addition of salty, roasted chickpeas. They also make this meal idea more filling with added protein. 

Roasted acorn squash soup We received a couple of acorn squashes in our CSA box during the last few weeks, so I'd been itching to try to make some soup, and I decided to think outside the box with the garnish. I could eat warm soup with a hunk of baguette all day every day, but variety is the spice of life. And I'm happy to report that this slightly more healthy alternative is just as flavorful. Try it!

Acorn squash soupAcorn Squash Soup + Roasted Chickpeas, serves 2-3.

2 acorn squash
1/2 yellow onion
1 tablespoon butter
juice from 1 orange
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
salt + pepper to season

Start by roasting the squash and chickpeas. You can do this at the same time to cut down on total cook time. Or you can roast the acorn squash ahead of time in a slow cooker. For the squash, cut in half and place cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Prep the chickpeas by rinsing and draining them from the can. Place in a bowl and drizzle on the olive oil, making sure each bean gets coated. Then sprinkle in the cayenne and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet lined with a baking mat (or parchment paper).

Roast the squash and chickpeas at 400°F for about 35 minutes. Depending on the size of your squash, you may need to roast for an additional 5-10 minutes. Test them by seeing if they can easily be punctured with a fork.

Roasted chickpeasWhile those roast, in a pot or saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the finely chopped onion and saute until it begins to brown and caramelize. Remove from heat.

Once your squash is ready, scoop out and discard the seeds. Then scoop out the soft insides and place in a blender. Add the cooked onion and the orange juice. Puree until smooth. Depending on your blender size, you may need to do this in two batches. You could also do this step directly in the pot using an immersion blender. Up to you.

Roasted acorn squashOnce smooth, return the mixture to your pot. Whisk in the stock over medium/high heat. Taste and season with salt or pepper as needed. If you want to add a little richness to your soup, feel free to pour in a little cream or stir in some Greek yogurt.

Roasted acorn squash soup  While everything is still warm, serve with the chickpeas tossed on top. Enjoy! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

Pumpkin Chalkboard (Plus a Printable Template!)

Make a pumpkin chalkboard for thankful lists or fun to-do listsEvery fall, our family keeps a mental note of all the fun seasonal shenanigans we want to get into before snow falls. This year, I decided we might stand a better chance of crossing off that list if we moved it from our brains onto a cute little pumpkin chalkboard! Made sense to me! Check out how easy it is to whip up this pumpkin chalkboard— perfect for fun to-do lists or for displaying a thankful list.

Make a pumpkin chalkboard for thankful lists or fun to-do lists Materials:
-craft plywood (.25" plywood and masonite will work too)
-chalkboard paint
-200-300 grit sandpaper
-pumpkin template

-jig saw (with clean-cutting blade)
-pen or pencil

pumpkin templateClick the image above to print out the pumpkin template. I included margins, so you don't need to shrink or re-size the image before printing.

Make a pumpkin chalkboard for thankful lists or fun to-do listsStep One: Cut out the template and trace it onto the plywood.

Step Two: Use a jig saw to cut out the shape of the pumpkin. You can clamp the plywood to a table if you have trouble holding it while cutting, but I ended up being able to just hold it with my left hand and saw it with my right hand. Be careful that your hands are nowhere close to the moving blade!

Make a pumpkin chalkboard for thankful lists or fun to-do listsStep Three: Sand down the edges of the plywood pumpkin shape, and also give the surface of the pumpkin a light sanding. If you have any uneven edges around the pumpkin, use a lower grit sandpaper (like 80 or 120) to smooth them out.

Step Four: Cover the pumpkin cut-out with dark primer. After the primer dries, lightly sand down the surface with a high grit sandpaper. This will knock down those rough little wood hairs that stuck up because of the moisture of the primer. It will make your chalkboard really smooth. You don't want to skip that step!

Finish with a couple coats of chalkboard paint in the color of your choice.

Make a pumpkin chalkboard for thankful lists or fun to-do listsI glued magnets to the back of my chalkboard so I could hang it on the refrigerator, but you could also use those removable adhesive strips to hang it anywhere you want.

Make a pumpkin chalkboard for thankful lists or fun to-do listsWhat would you put on your list? Our list is actually much longer than the one photographed above, but we've almost done everything on it! We've yet to cross off that hayride though. I'm glad I've got this cute little chalkboard to remind me to fit it into our weekend! -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella and Spring from the Signature Collection.

Breakfast Cereal Popcorn Balls

Breakfast cereal popcorn ballsPopcorn balls totally remind me of fall festivals at school growing up. I'm pretty sure everyone uses "fall festival" as a way to not say "Halloween." Probably because at a certain age Halloween was still a little too spooky for me. I remember having my first scary Halloween when I was twelve. I spent the night with a few of friends from school, and we watched scary movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. And yes, those were scary to me when I was twelve. 

I digress. No matter how you say it, fall festival, Halloween, the-leaves-are-changing-so-I-need-a-treat... whatever: popcorn balls are awesome. They are SO easy, taking only about thirty minutes to make. And they are great to wrap up and give to friends, to have ready at a party, or just to devour by yourself while watching scary movies. 

Breakfast cereal popcorn balls These are particularly fun because they involve breakfast cereal. Which, the sugary kind are pretty much a dessert in and of themselves, right? You could totally customize this to fit your favorite variety: Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Apple Jacks, or (my favorite) Lucky Charms. 

They are magically delicious after all. :)

How to make popcorn balls Breakfast Cereal Popcorn Balls, makes about 2 dozen.

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
9-10 oz. mini marshmallows (they usually are in a 10.5 oz bag so just use "almost all" and you're good)
2 bags standard size bags of microwave popcorn (lightly salted or plain)
2 cups cereal of choice

First melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat.

How to make popcorn ballsNext add in the marshmallows and sugar. Stir until everything melts together.

Have the popcorn and breakfast cereal already combined in a large bowl (or two largish bowls if needed). Pour the mixture over the popcorn and mix well with a large spoon. Watch out, as the mixture will be hot. 

Once the mixture has cooled just enough to handle, butter your hands and quickly form balls from the batter. Place onto parchment paper and allow to fully cool.

Homemade popcorn ballsGo on—make some popcorn balls even if you don't have any kiddos in your life yet. Breakfast cereal popcorn balls can totally be enjoyed by adults too. :) xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

4 Easy Fall Garlands

4 Easy Fall Garland IdeasI like to think of garlands as necklaces for the home. While I'm just as excited as the next girl about chunky knit hat season, I might be even more into accessorizing my home than my head. I whipped up a few garlands that are perfect for draping across mantels, over door frames, or just taping onto a wall. They add such a festive flair for the fall season! Check out the easy instructions below.

Paper Leaf Garland— print the template to make your own!PAPER LEAF GARLAND

I love the beautiful fall leaf garlands you can find at craft stores this time of year, but I wanted a more minimal/crafty look for our house, so I cut some leaves out of card stock and strung them onto hemp twine. The most difficult part of making this garland is trimming out the leaves, but it only took me a couple of episodes of Gilmore Girls to make all of these leaves and more.

Paper Leaf Garland— print the template to make your own!

Leaf template
Above is a leaf template you can use to print out the shapes onto the card stock of your choice. (Click for the full-size image— Do not shrink/re-size image when printing, as margins have already been added.)

Paper Leaf Garland— print the template to make your own!After cutting, I could still see the black lines from the template, but I just made sure that side of the leaf was facing backwards when I strung them onto the twine. If you don't have a hole punch, you can certainly tape the leaves to the twine or string that you use.

Paper Leaf Garland— print the template to make your own!PINE CONE GARLAND

This pine cone and wooden bead garland is delicate and earthy—perfect for just a little touch of the outdoors inside the home. This garland is a cinch to make, and just a few supplies can make a lot of garland!

Delicate fall Pine Cone garlandTo make this garland, you will need:

-some rope or twine
-wooden beads (stained or natural)
-pine cones
-a hot glue gun

Make a delicate fall pine cone garlandI began my garland by first evenly spacing the wooden beads. I tied a knot on either side of each bead to keep it in place. After all the beads were in place, I used small globs of hot glue to secure the pine cones in place. If you want, you could also drill through the pine cones and thread the twine through them as you are placing the beads. But hot glue was pretty easy, so I decided to go that route.

You can customize the look of this garland by painting the pine cones or using different kinds of beads. Space everything out, or crowd them closer together—It's totally up to you!

Make this gauzy ghost garland— easy project to do with kids!GHOST GARLAND

This little ghost garland is more cute than it is ghoulish. It's a great addition to your Halloween mantel decor and works best with a dark background. This project is also really fun to do with kids! Even my two-year-old was interested in helping.

Make this gauzy ghost garland— easy project to do with kids!To make the garland, you will need:

-styrofoam balls (I used 1.5")
-black and white brads
-thin twine or string

Make this gauzy ghost garland— easy project to do with kids!Cut out a square of folded cheesecloth that will evenly surround the styrofoam ball. My cheesecloth was folded in four layers, so I left those layers as I cut. Pull the cheesecloth around the edges to stretch it out and make it look gauzy. Then push two black brads into the wrapped styrofoam ball to look like eyes and also to hold the cheesecloth in place.

Make this gauzy ghost garland— easy project to do with kids!Pull apart the two prongs of a white brad and wrap them around the string. Push the prongs back together and then pierce the top of the ghost with the brad to connect the ghost to the string.

Tip: I would wait to attach the ghosts to the string until the string is hung where you want the garland to go. This will keep the ghosts from falling off the garland as you hang it or transport it.

Paper Halloween garland— click through for more garland ideas!HAPPY HALLOWEEN GARLAND

I love the look of pennant garlands and thought a simple black version with white lettering would look great in my home. This is a simple project that would also work well for birthday parties or any other kind of celebration.

Paper Halloween garland— click through for more garland ideas!All you need for this garland is:

-black cardstock
-white puffy paint
-string or twine
-tape or hole punch
-craft blade, cutting mat, and steel ruler
-pencil (optional)

Paper Halloween garland— click through for more garland ideas!I cut my black cardstock into 3"x 4" rectangles. Then I cut out 1"x 3" triangles from the bottom.

Paper Halloween garland— click through for more fall garland ideas!I used a pencil to draw out the shape of the letters. Then I traced over the pencil lines with puffy paint. I let the paint dry for a few hours before handling. Drawing with a puffy paint bottle is much easier than painstakingly brushing on white paint with a thin paint brush. And the bonus? It goes on opaque, so you only need one coat of paint.

I strung up the pennants through holes I made with a small hole punch, but you could easily use tape on the back too.

Fall garland ideasThere ya have it! Four easy garland ideas to choose from. Try one, or try them all! -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella from the Signature Collection and Pearl from the Fresh Collection.

Burgers + The Brooklyn Flea Market

Fun date idea! burgers + brooklyn flea marketThe more kids we have, the more I realize that, even though I do love alone time with Peter, days where we adventure around the city as a family of four are in fact some of my favorite. Very favorite to be exact. No matter how many times you've done the same thing in New York City, it really doesn't get old. Everyone is a little bit older, wiser, in a better mood, and there are new strangers to meet and familiar people to catch up with. Each outing is like a mini family reunion for us. Most of our friends are always moving and shaking, and with two kids, we hardly get to fully catch up via phone or text message. So our weekend dates as a family are for those too. 

The other weekend we decided to take advantage of the weather and soak in one of the last days at the Brooklyn Flea. But the Flea can't truly be enjoyed without a full belly for all first. Burgers, the Flea, and a bit of music and visiting friends too. It was fantastic!

Fun date idea! burgers + brooklyn flea marketFun date idea! Burgers + brooklyn flea marketFun date idea! burgers + brooklyn flea marketPart One: Burgers

Peter and I have a long relationship with Pop's, located in Williamsburg Brooklyn. It's one of the many places in Williamsburg where we come back and reminisce each and every visit. A few years back during one hot summer, Peter and I sat on the front bench of Pop's and decided that our daughter River would be named River. I remember that day so clearly, and when River gets older, I want to take her back to Pop's and explain it all to her once again. 

Even though I haven't had a beef burger in 10 years, Peter and I agree that Pop's does the beef and turkey burger just right. Our combination is always topped off with the largest order of soft fried fries to share, and plenty of ketchup for dipping. 

Fun date idea! burgers + brooklyn flea marketFun date idea! burgers + brooklyn flea marketWhat I love about this burger place the most is that it's owned by a local family. The owner's wife and I were pregnant around the same time (she was pregnant with twins) when I was pregnant with River. We try our best to support local family-owned places. We also make it a point to only eat at child-friendly restaurants, like this one. The music is great and loud enough, and it doesn't get too crowded. Both are great if your kids end up crying and if you have a stroller in tow. 

Fun date idea! burgers + brooklyn flea marketPart Two: Flea Market

We are big fans of the Brooklyn Flea market, and make it a habit to roam around, visit friends, and shop a little a few weekends in a month. We have one closer to our home in Fort Greene, but I tend to be a sucker for the Willamsburg one because of the crazy Manhattan skyline you see while shopping. Also, the grassy area with a little train park for our tired toddler isn't too shabby. 

Fun date idea! burgers + brooklyn flea marketFun date idea! Burgers + brooklyn flea marketUsually before we go, I try and purge a thing or two from my closet that I no longer wear or I don't intend on wearing. This helps with the shopping guilt. ;)  Between the inexpensive baby clothes, vintage home accents, and costume jewelry, you've got so much eye candy. The flea market has over 150 vendors (including food), so it's hard to leave empty-handed! 

Fun date idea! burgers + brooklyn flea marketSome people have weird feelings when it comes to purchasing used shoes, not me! I'll take all the vintage oxfords, please and thank you. 

Fun date idea! burgers + brooklyn flea marketFun date idea! burgers + flea market dateSince it's getting colder here in the city, the Flea has moved to a beautiful parent-friendly location in Crown Heights Brooklyn. The new space is a beautiful loft, with over 30,000 sq ft! 

Fun date idea! burgers + brooklyn flea marketThank you for letting me share our typical date as a family here in New York City! 

Credits// Author and Photography: LaTonya Staubs. Photos edited with Bella from the Folk Collection

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