Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Paula Deen's Pumpkin Bread Recipe
This recipe will make either 4 dozen cupcakes OR a dozen cupcakes and three loafs of pumpkin bread
Recipe for icing provided as well

So I will fully and willingly disclaim that this recipe is 100% not my own, but that of the cooking queen herself, Ms. Paula Deen. I'm simply sharing this recipe with y'all for two reasons. The first being that it's National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. Since I am no master at cheesecake, I decided what better way to celebrate than by baking some scrumptious pumpkin cream cheese cupcakes. Close enough right? The second reason being that this is literally the BEST recipe for pumpkin anything that I have ever come across. Last fall my good friend Ashton shared this recipe for pumpkin bars with me. I'm not a "cake" or "bar" person, so I decided to see if I could develop it into a cupcake, bread or loaf recipe. To my surprise, this recipe adapts to all three!! Between last fall and this, I have made this recipe numerous ways and many of times. This is the most versatile recipe I've found, you just have to adjust the cooking times. Paula Deen's recipe has made quite the impression on me and my friends, and I know it will on you too.

So grab all the necessities and bake till your heart's content. After all, it is National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. If you can find a slice of pumpkin cheesecake, make sure you enjoy that too.

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Over the Weekend, Blue Suede Shoes

Over the Weekend I went on my third of three trips in the past three weeks. If I didn't know any better, I might just be a flying pro at this point. Eight flights in three weeks can be exhausting. I have no clue how some people travel all the time for a living. I just couldn't do it! Even though the traveling has worn me out, I wasn't going to let the fun weekend I had ahead be affected by my tiredness. I flew down to Memphis, Tennessee to watch my sorority big sister marry the man of her dreams in the most elegant and southern way possible. 

Friday morning began with a tour of the wedding site and rehearsal. After several practices of walking down the aisle, the bridesmaids enjoyed a fabulous lunch and afternoon of pampering ourselves with mani/pedis. After all the bridal fun, we took a quick power nap at the hotel and then headed off for the rehearsal dinner. It was seriously like a fall scene out of a Southern Living catalog. There were lanterns, pumpkins, fall flowers and candles everywhere. A family friend of the grooms had decked out her entire backyard with hanging twinkle lights, burlap table cloths and sparkly pumpkins. I just had an absolute fit over the decor. I love a good fall southern theme. After dinner and wedding games, the bridal party gave their toasts and the future Mr. and Mrs. said there last single goodbyes.

The bridal party and flower girl with the bride, Morgan

Saturday morning was an even earlier wake up call (what is up with all these weekends in a row without sleeping late? so not like me, ha!). First stop was to the salon for hair and makeup. I tell ya, I must have been doing something wrong for the past 24 years because my hair and makeup have never looked so good! The person looking the best though was our gorgeous friend and bride! Morgan was absolutely radiant with her bustled hair and jeweled headband. My big was stunning!! The entire bridal party was; all thanks to the amazing staff at Empire Hair Studio in Memphis! Seriously y'all, I would pay to fly them all to DC to do my hair and makeup everyday if I could afford it. Once all the pampering was finished, we were surprised with a LIMO!!! Our driver Sam took us to the wedding site and boy were we all feeling fancy. I could get used to that… hair and makeup done for me, escorted limo, ha! Thanks Mrs. Denison and family!!

The rest of the wedding day was just purely stunning, from the bride and groom, to the decor of Heartwood Hall. It felt like we were on a South Carolina plantation it was that gorgeous. We couldn't have had any better weather and there wasn't a single hiccup throughout the day. I am so excited for my big sister and new hubby!! I hope they enjoy an exciting honeymoon in Disney World and a blessed life full of happiness together!! Hope y'all like some of the photos I took Over the Weekend.

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Chocolate Swirled Caramel Apples

One of the things I love about fall is all the scrumptious foods that accompany it. My favorite sweet treat, other than pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes of course, is delicious melt-in-your-mouth caramel apples. I'm not talking about that prepackaged nonsense you get at your local grocery store, NO! I'm talking about the freshly dipped (personally I like mine double dipped) honey crisp apple, where the caramel is still warm when you eat it. Growing up I would take trips to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Think "Disneyland - meets biker city, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains." I wouldn't leave that town without a fresh caramel apple from one of the bake shops. As a kid, it was the highlight of my trip. 

Since I currently live so far away from these sweet treats, I realized the only way I was going to get my caramel apple fix this fall was to make them myself. I decided to go the traditional route, but with a twist, adding some chocolate to the mix. I mean who doesn't love chocolate and caramel together?!

Chocolate Swirled Caramel Apples

What you'll need:
  • Honey crisp apples
  • 2 bags of Kraft Caramels pieces (2 packages = about six apples)
  • Heavy Whipping Cream 
  • Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Baking Chips
  • Sticks to hold the apples (store bought or free in your own backyard)
  • Non-stick aluminum foil 
Now Follow Me:

Wash all of your apples, dry them and then set aside. For the sticks, you can either purchase candy sticks online or at your local craft store, or for a free version you can use sticks from your own backyard. If you choose to go the free route, I HIGHLY recommend washing them with soap and water. I mean you're only going to be using the stick to hold the apple, but it's better to make sure they're clean. Real sticks also give your caramel apples an added touch!

Make sure you have everything cleaned, sticks placed in the core of the apples, and ready to go. *You may need to use a skewer to start digging the hole in the core of the apple. Sometimes a stick isn't strong enough to get deep into the core. The caramel does NOT stay melted long, so you have to act quickly. Unwrap one bag of your caramels in a microwave appropriate dish (I recommend this one) and add a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream. The cream helps the caramel melt more evenly and stay thin, easy for dipping. Start melting in 30 second increments, stir and continue till mixture has a "soupy" texture. * It may look tempting to stick your finger in the delicious caramel and taste it, but DO NOT! I have warned you! If you want to burn your finger off, go ahead. Quickly dip your apples, coating as much of the pealing as possible and set down on non-stick aluminum foil to dry. Repeat the melting process with second bag, or until all apples are coated. Leftover melted caramel? Double dip them!! This is the one time double dipping is acceptable.

Once the caramel apples are dry, you can begin to melt your chocolate using the same dish you used for the caramel (clean of course). Melting chocolate is WAY harder than it should be. It burns easily and can turn into a chunky mess. So I highly recommend baking chips. They melt better than regular chocolate chips at your grocery store. Melt about a cup of chips, starting in 30 second increments and stirring. Once melted, take a spoon and drizzle the melted chocolate all over the caramel apples. Make sure to leave the apples on the foil till everything has dried. I'd say about an hour or more, to make sure the caramel has hardened. 

Plate your apples on a fun dish and serve. Happy Fall Y'all!

There are a million and one ways to make caramel apples. Personally, I like to stick to the original recipe but add a little twist of my own. These chocolate swirled caramel apples will make a great impression on all your party guests!

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Over the Weekend, Fall Break in Chicago

Okay so this week's Over the Weekend is more than a few days late, my apologies, but it was too good not to share. Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably already know that I spent my fall break (a.k.a. Columbus Day Weekend) in Chicago. I wanted to share with y'all a fun recap of my action packed few days in the Windy City. I apologize for the length of this post. Soooo many people have asked what my friend Liz and I were up to, what all we saw and wanted to see more photos. So I thought why not include it all here! Hope you enjoy!! xoxo

Friday, October 10th 
Friday was the longest day of my life, literally. I was awake for a full day, 24 hours straight. It started by waking up at 2:30 a.m. to get ready and finish packing. I didn't necessarily have to be up that early, but was just too excited to sleep (I would regret that later). The shuttle service to the airport picked us up shortly after 4:00 a.m. and we made our rounds picking up other passengers. If you're in the DMV area and need to get to BWI or Dulles Airport, I highly recommend SuperShuttle Service. It's only $30 for the first passenger and $10 for each additional. It's a great service if you're traveling with a large group. After a short wait at Dulles Airport, about a two hour flight and lots of turbulence #reasonsIhateflying, we finally landed in the windy city. To save some money we decided to take the train into the city. It only cost us $5 and a short 30-minute ride, saving us a ton of money since we decided against a car service. We then headed to the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront, where we'd be staying throughout our trip. Thank you to our dear friend Wendy and the fabulous crew at Wyndham (thanks Sarah!), we were given a room on the 38th (top) floor, with the most amazing view from a hotel room I've ever seen.

My friend Liz and I quickly threw our bags in the room (which was ready for us at 8:45 a.m. by the way, killer service) and headed out to tour the city. First stop was Millennium Park to see "the bean" and then off to walk through the River North area. We ate lunch at Public House (the most amazing pumpkin beer, ever) and headed down to Navy Pier to catch our boat tour. Seadog Speedboat Cruises was one of the only boat tours that offered both lake and river views, so we just had to do it. It was blisteringly cold, and windy (shocker), but worth every second for these incredible views. Oh and side note, did you know the Farris Wheel was founded right there at Navy Pier in Chicago?! The first one EVER was built and tested in the same spot where the current one stands!! How cool!

After the boat tour we decided to warm ourselves up at the local Margaritaville with a drink and then headed back to the hotel for a quick outfit change. Later in the evening we met up with one of our sorority sisters (and friend who hooked us up at the Wyndham) Wendy and her boyfriend. After a quick dinner and drinks, we headed down to the ever popular Hubbard Street to experience Chi-Town's nightlife. At this point I had been going for 20 hours straight. After three cups of coffee and one five hour energy, a single beer put me to sleep. So we cut the night short and headed back to the hotel.

Saturday, October 11th
This was by far my favorite day! After going 24 hours straight, my friend Liz and I decided to sleep in late on Saturday morning. We enjoyed some House Hunters: Renovation marathon on HGTV and some in-room coffee before heading out to Chicago's famous deep dish pizza chain, Giordano's. I've had Chicago style pizza before, but never stuffed. It was pretty good, but I will always be a New York City style pizza girl (sorry Chicago)!

Another one of our sorority sisters, Hannah, met up with us at Giordano's before we headed downtown to the John Hancock Building. That is where I witnessed the most impressive view you will ever see out of a women's restroom, EVER. I'm not kidding. People flock to the Signature Room's women's restroom for the greatest view in the city. Every now and then you'll catch a woman trying to sneak her boyfriend or husband into the bathroom to see the view as well. It is really THAT impressive.

After waiting in line for almost an hour and a half, we made it up 96 floors and back down. Talk about ears popping. We then headed a few blocks down the road to The Drake Hotel for "high tea" time. Let's just say the fanciest non-fancy people enjoyed some cheap Prosecco instead of tea and devoured with our hands some meats and cheeses #sorrywerenotsorry. I felt so fancy and wished "I'm so fancy" was playing over the speakers.

To continue our marathon of sightseeing, we took an Uber (PTL they have Uber in Chicago too!) to Lincoln Park to meet back up with our friend Wendy and her boyfriend. We walked around the neighborhood, stopped for some pics outside Wrigley Field, and then headed to a fun Mexican restaurant for dinner. To finish off the night we had a drink at a local pub and then headed back to the hotel.

Sunday, October 12th
Our last day in the Windy City was a relaxing one. Filled with shopping, more eating at Joe's Crabhouse and Sunda New Asian (the best brussels sprout salad, ever), and walking around the city. I snagged the most perfect white dress for the holidays and a few essentials from H&M. It was an early night in, as we had another early wake up call for our flight back to DC on Monday morning.

I've been told countless times that Chicago is truly an amazing and clean city. I never really knew what people were talking about till I visited. The views are incredible, the dining and nightlife scenes are fantastic, the streets are impeccable (with almost zero trash and the sidewalk planters are filled to the brim with mums and pumpkins for fall), and the people are just out of this world friendly. If I could live anywhere other than DC (because I just love the District wayyy to much to move), I would live in Chicago. I highly recommend a visit soon if you've never experienced it!

Happy Hump Day friends! And if you made it this long and read every word, I have some Garrett Popcorn waiting for you as a reward, ha! 

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Over the Weekend, Home Sweet Home to Me

Dress / Necklace / Purse (old, same brand) / Boots (similar) / Polish

Over the Weekend I traveled to my first of three cities over the next three weeks. I headed to my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee for a weekend of football and family time. While my VOLS couldn't pull off the win against the Florida Gators, it was still a great weekend on Rocky Top. There was plenty of good food, seeing old friends, tailgating, and loving on my dog Stella! On Sunday I spent the morning at Church and then went to brunch. I found the perfect dress for the occassion (thanks College Prepster and District Sparkle) from Brooks Brothers. I love a good plaid print for fall and this dress is perfect for the season. The fabric is light enough to wear with the warmer temps right now, but heavy enough to pair with a jacket / cardi / vest as the season goes on. 

Here are some more photos from Over the Weekend

View as I flew into Knoxville

Ate dinner downtown one night, near the historic Tennessee Theatre 

My sorority little sister (and photographer of outfit photos) Randi

What were y'all up to this weekend? 

Happy Monday and have a great week loves!!


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