Happy Place Cinnamon Rolls

Sunday, March 30, 2014
Baking, it's undeniably one of my great loves. And more often than not, I don't have the time to spend in the kitchen whipping up a tasty delicacy. But, a few weeks back I tried out a new cinnamon roll recipe, and worked with it, tweaking some things to make it my own. So, with snack duty this Sunday for our Young Marrieds class at church, I knew exactly what I would be bringing. As with anything homemade, you take the chance of a recipe gone wrong, especially if it's only the second time trying it out. To my delight, I think I nailed it and my class was quite pleased with these super tasty rolls (see the title). I encourage you to try it out; while the recipe looks intimidating at first glance, I promise it's not difficult at all and it's sure to put a smile on anyone's face!

  • What You'll Need:
    • For the Dough
      • 1 TSP dry yeast
      • 1 & 1/4 cups lukewarm water
      • 4 TBSP sugar
      • 5 cups bread flour (I used unbleached)
      • 1/4 TSP salt
      • 3/4 cup hot milk
      • 1/3 cup butter (at room temperature)
    • For the Filling:
      • 1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)
      • 1 & 1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
      • 1 1/2 TSP ground cinnamon
      • 1/4 TSP nutmeg
      • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen; and more if you prefer)
    • For the Glaze:
      • Zest of half an orange
      • 1/4 cup butter (at room temperature)
      • 1/2 a block of cream cheese
      • 1 & 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar (more to taste if so desired)

  • What You'll Do:
    • Combine the lukewarm water, 1 TBSP of sugar and the dry yeast in a bowl. Stir well and then set aside. 
    • In a large bowl, sift in the bread flour. Then add the remaining 3 TBSP of sugar, the salt, and room temperature butter. Mix well.
    • Now, add the hot milk (which we heated in the microwave for 35 seconds) and the dry yeast liquid mixture. Stir until the dough is formed.
    • On a floured surface, turn the dough out and kneed it until it is smooth and elastic. Set aside for 10 minutes.
    • After the dough has rested, roll it out into a rectangle of 1/4 inch thickness. Spread the half cup of softened butter over the entire surface. 
    • Sprinkle the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, leaving a small, untouched edge on one side (used for sealing the dough after having been rolled into a log).
    • Take the edge brimming with filling ingredients and begin rolling it into a log. Make small folds as you roll the dough so the cinnamon roll log is tight. Be gentle.
    • Next cut the log into segments of about 2 inches. You should end up with 12-14 rolls, plus two end pieces.
    • Bake the buns at 350° for 25 minutes in an edged baking dish. I used a 9x13 dish.
    • While the buns are baking, mix the glaze ingredients together. Using a mixer, cream the butter, cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, and orange zest until thick and smooth. Taste along the way to ensure you get the desired taste.
    • After the cinnamon rolls have completely baked and are out of the oven, spread the glaze over them. 

Enjoy these scrumptious treats and share with me some of your favorite dessert recipes! I'm always looking for new ones to try out!

Plans In The Works

Friday, March 28, 2014
Happy Friday! My what a crazy week it has been and oh how I am glad to have a restful weekend with husband to rid of the cold that has been keeping me unwanted company. So even if the forecast does call for rain, I will gladly take the allotted time for projects, a movie, and some cuddles. 

And by projects, I have a very particular one in mind. Husband and I have been working diligently on some plans for a special kind of something, which we will be launching here on the blog on April 28th. That's one month people, and we've got some details to work on, some organizing to do, and some dreams to make come true. Are you curious? Because, I know I would be. And I am so looking forward to sharing it with you soon! 

For now (look up), here'a a little sneak peek of some of the details I've been working on. Silhouettes are kind of my favorite. And the best part about these....they're husband and I. Can you see it? Have a super enjoyable weekend, friends! 

Quinoa Stuffed Pepper Recipe

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
I've got a recipe to spice up your day, whether you're in a sunshine state or watching the snow fall (like I am). I thought it was supposed to be spring....just saying. Any who, husband and I tried this recipe out last week as our Meatless Monday meal, because yes, we are still sticking to our themed eating! And we were both pleasantly surprised with its delicious taste and filling qualities. Paired with some tortilla chips, salsa, and guacamole, you've got a healthy meal sure to please your taste palette. 

  • What You'll Need:
    • Olive oil
    • 1/2 an onion
    • 2 medium carrots, diced
    • 2 garlic gloves, minced
    • 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
    • 3/4 TSP salt
    • 3 large bell peppers of your preference (my fave is yellow)
    • 1 can of black beans, drained & rinsed
    • 1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
    • 1 TSP chili powder
    • 1/2 TSP cumin
    • 1/2 TSP oregano
    • 1/2 TSP paprika
    • 1 TSP cilantro (we used dried, but you can use fresh)
    • Reduced-fat mozzarella cheese (or to your liking)

  • What You'll Do:
    • Preheat the oven to 375° and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
    • In a saucepan, heat the olive oil, onion, and carrot until the vegetables have softened and the onion becomes translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 2 more minutes.
    • Next add the quinoa, 1.5 cups of water, and the salt. After the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the saucepan, allowing it to simmer for 20 minutes or until all the liquid as been absorbed. 
    • In the meantime, get the peppers ready by washing them, cutting each one in half, from top to bottom, and removing the stem, seeds, and membranes. 
    • Arrange the peppers, cut-side up, on the baking sheet and coat in baking spray. Bake the peppers for 15 minutes and then remove them from the oven.
    • Back to the sauce: once the liquid as been absorbed, add the black beans, tomato sauce, and all the spices. Mix thoroughly and then divide the quinoa mixture amongst the 6 pepper halves. Pat down the filling in order to pack it in. 
    • Bake the stuffed peppers for 20 minutes and then top them with your desired cheese and amount, putting them back in the oven until the cheese has melted. 

Spring Has Sprung Pt. 2

Monday, March 24, 2014
If you haven't guessed, I'm fairly smitten with home design. I truly enjoy taking a blank space and turning it something that reflects the Hills' style. It's a challenge I love working with until I get it to place that feels 'right'. As is with every season, I like to switch things up around the house to create a cozy space that emanates the time of year. Fall is my favorite to decorate for, but you can't count out spring, because it is a fresh and beautiful time of year that brings the Earth back to life. That means lots of colors, flowers (my fave), outdoor accents, and blossom-like scents!

I've found, throughout the years, how to really take my own stance on what does and doesn't work seasonally. This way of thinking keeps me from decorating in a cliché manner and to really push boundaries, finding new innovative and creative methods for subtly turning my space into something special. What I enjoy most, is taking an original piece (that I've found for little-to-no-money) and refurbishing/repurposing it. In particular for this new, outdoor-inspired season, husband and I will be taking a hand-me-down, plastic, outdoor table and giving it a new look with some navy spray paint. The chairs that were also handed down to us are white; so we will be looking for bold cushions to add to them after giving each chair a good cleaning and we'll be on the lookout for table lanterns to top the table with. Something so simple can be made so lovely with a little extra care and an eye for detail. 

So here are a few of my favorite pieces for this spring and I hope it inspires you in adorning your home with personal, seasonal touches! I truly hope you feel inspired to even take on a DIY project after seeing some of these beautiful spring touches! Leave me some comments with ways you like to use spring décor in your house and how to turn the ordinary into extraordinary!

nine. branson glass vases

ten. green pear vase filler
eleven. octavio green napkin
twelve. florita vases

thirteen. poppy scroll outdoor pillow
fourteen. pb found olive bucket
fifteen. greta medallion table runner

Be sure to check out my must-have clothing and accessories for spring (here)!

Spring Has Sprung Pt. 1

Thursday, March 20, 2014
It has finally arrived! Spring is here and I'm most looking forward to blossoms, neighborhood walks, trips for frozen yogurt, front port relaxation, cups of brimming sweet tea, open windows, green grass, floral scents wafting in the air, beginnings of tan lines, outdoor adventures, etc. I haven't even put a dent in the list of favorites that I am so excited for as Mother Nature welcomes a whole new season of beautiful, God-gifted, lovely things. 

One of my favorites about the changing seasons is the switch-up of clothes. I am so excited to pack away the heaviest of sweaters and down-filled coats and to begin pulling out spring-appropriate clothes and shopping for them too. Who else is with me? In honor, of the gorgeous spring that awaits us, I've picked out some of my top spring clothing looks. And share what your spring closet staples are.

So Long Winter

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Today is the LAST day of the winter season! And even though the weather may not be cooperating, I am ecstatic in thinking that we have less than 12 hours left in winter itself. Tomorrow, we will all wake up to spring. Feeling happy? Because I sure am!

I've got big plans for spring, starting with a garden and a flower box. Because husband and I got all excited and over zealous a few weeks back when the temperatures reached the sixties, we may have prematurely purchased some plants. Plants that are thriving in our kitchen and not outdoors. But, as soon as the threat of frost and snow is behind us, I will be in a gardening and planting frenzy. There are tulips and hyacinths, strawberries and blueberries, onions and squash, spinach and beets...the list goes on. I can't wait to smell the fresh dirt and the floral scents as we go to work on our first spring and summer gardens.

....and p.s. if anyone knows of where I can purchase edamame plants/seeds please let me know!

What are some of the vegetables, fruits, and flowers that are a must-plant for you garden??

Contentment In The Present

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's days like today that I consider moving to a forever-sunshine state, where the weather isn't trying to decide which season to honor. Virginia has once again been showered with snow and sleet after a mostly-beautiful weekend in the high fifties. I think I speak for the general populace in saying that this winter weather has overstayed its welcome, especially with the spring-like temperatures teasing us. Nonetheless, I'm thankful for a weekend of incredible fun and bonding. No bad weather can put a damper on that. 

This weekend was a lot about family, relationships, the here, and the now...which was exactly what I needed. Lately, I've found how easy it is to get caught up in the future, of the things to come, the things you hope for, the way you'd like to see things play out, etc. It can be tiring and overwhelming to map out the next year, much less the next five years. Luckily, I have a husband that helps me keep my head on my shoulders and points me/us in the direction of God, whom I can rest in. But, let me tell you, until I keep that in the forefront of my thinking, I completely stress out and become anxious over the things I cannot control with precision. Type A personalities, do you hear me?

So, I've decided to try my best at enjoying my life in the moment. Job security: it will come when the time is right, husband's graduate school application acceptance: it will or will not come to fruition when the time is right, spring: it will come when God says so (are you sensing a theme?). I have been so deep in things of the future that I won't allow myself to be submerged in the happenings of my present. And what a toll that takes on a person.

I have been spiritually nudged, in a sense, to be happy and content with where I am right NOW. Because I'm really bad at looking ahead for what will satisfy me, I miss out on seeing the pleasures and joys in my present. I am challenging myself to rid of the false concept of satisfaction on this earth through earthly things, in part to relinquish my "pretend control" of what is to come. Oh, the happiness I can find in resting in my Savior's plan for me and simply enjoying what He has so graciously given me in this moment.

While it's not bad to dream of the future, make sure to take in every daily blessing and appreciate the hours you are living right now. Be assured you have certainty in Jesus and He will take care of the rest. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Warm Weather + Giveaway Recipient

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
The weather today. I just can't get over the temperature being forecast in the 70's. And instead of going to work, I'd much rather spend all day outside; I've got some vitamin D to soak in and tan lines to form. Luckily, I know I've got a picnic date with my husband waiting for me this evening. So, if I can't get the sun in now, I'll happily anticipate my outdoor time for later. 

In the meantime, I'm SO excited to announce the blog's first giveaway recipient! After using a random drawing system (remember my husband was so excited to create one!), the winner is:

Congratulations, Martha! If you will please email me at: hillcollectionblog@gmail.com with your address so that I can send the gift card along to you! I hope you enjoy your Starbucks Dirty Hippy and today's beautiful weather!

Thank you to everyone who participated! And be sure to watch out for future giveaways!

DIY Spring Door Décor

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring awaits us in 10 days and what anticipation I hold for the warm weather, beginnings of tan lines, cookouts on the deck, flowers blooming in ceramic pots, and gardens taking root. If you can't sense my excitement, I'm telling you that I am jumping for joy around here. This weekend was an early treat of the spring that we're heading toward. And if that's not enough, today is supposed to be a high of 65° and tomorrow is better with a high of 71°. If my legs weren't so white, I'd be pulling out my shorts. 
With the beautiful weather in store for the weekend, I used Friday evening to craft together a spring wreath for our front door. Husband lounged on the living room floor with me, cutting wire and threading it through the flower arrangements as I wove them into the vine wreath. 

DIY is one of my favorites, especially when it's an original idea. Albeit, a spring wreath is not original, but this one in particular is unique to my style and crafted with tenderness. If you're looking for an inexpensive way to dress your door up for the seasonal change, I recommend making your own décor. With a wreath, you set a vision and follow through at your local craft store. If you're like me, you have an idea, but without seeing the materials you can select from, you don't have specifics. It took standing in Michael's for about thirty minutes, with husband being super patient with my out-loud-thinking and change-of-mind for me to finally rest upon a decision of the flowery combinations to go with. And now I have a fun wreath that exudes the spring! 

In making your own wreath, my suggestion for materials goes as such:
  • A vine wreath because the twisted vines create an environment to secure other materials to it. If you're going with an inside wreath, you won't necessarily have to use floral wire to make everything stay in place. But for an outdoor wreath this is a must unless you want the wind to carry off your flower arrangement, one by one.
  • Floral wire! I used green wire instead of silver because it blends better.
  • Depending upon the fullness of the wreath you are going for, you will select at least two different floral pieces. I went with three because I wanted a vibrant wreath, and let's be honest, I couldn't stop at just two. You will only need one bundle of each.
  • Wire cutters for trimming down the flower bundles and cutting them apart.
  • Skinny-nose pliers for grabbing the wire and threading it through places that your fingers are just too big to fit. 
  • Patience. You will run into issues with placement and getting the wire to wind around the vines correctly, but breathe through it and you'll end up with a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind wreath!

Couples Retreat

Tuesday, March 4, 2014
A retreat it was indeed! Our time in the Great Smoky Mountains was just what the four of us needed for ourselves, our marriages, and our friendship. It was a weekend of relaxation, tasty food, downtown explorations, Bible trivia (yes, Amen!), mispronunciations of various things, and shopping outlets (the husbands' fave). Oh, and I can't forget the hot tub, which we frequented at least twice a day. In fact, it was probably our favorite part of the entire trip, with conversations had and nature to take in.

Sitting in our little chalet, miles up the mountainside, we were tucked away in the trees. It was kind of like our own adult treehouse, complete with a giant stone fireplace and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. The weekend was close to perfection and all I want now is to go back. Having time with some of my favorite people is priceless, especially in a world that never stops moving and demanding your time. We've already got our next rendezvous plans brewing and we're pretty certain this mountain trip is going to become an annual thing. Being all cheesy, I can totally see us years from now, one by one, as our children join us on theses trips. It excites me for the future and the friendship we will continue to grow. The Hills are so thankful for the Paulettes and the absolutely amazing time we shared! 

For more pictures from our weekend getaway, check out my Instagram! And don't forget about the giveaway that's up for grabs this week on the blog! 

Happy Monday + A Giveaway! [now closed]

Monday, March 3, 2014

It is a snowy/rainy mix of a Monday and that calls for a steaming cup of coffee, which in my case is a hot, caramel latte. It's no secret I am a huge Starbucks fan and given the opportunity I'm there ordering one of my favorite drinks. Since it's the start to the week, and a bit of a bleak one at that, I thought it would be fun to share some cheer with a giveaway for you! Up for grabs is Starbucks card with $10 on it (who can pass up free Starbucks?!). 

Here are the entry criteria:
  • FOR 1 ENTRY:
    • Leave a comment below sharing your favorite Starbucks drink and then share this giveaway with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. 
    • Become a follower of the blog and join this site. If you have already joined, then leave that information in your comment. After this step, you'll be entered to win for a total of two entries.

It's super simple to enter this coffee-filled giveaway! And through a random selection program that my sweet husband jumped at the opportunity to create, the winner will be picked and announced next Tuesday morning on the blog! This giveaway closes next Monday, March 10th @ 5:00 PM.

If you have any questions, email me at the following: hillcollectionblog@gmail.com