Fall To-Do List 2015


I’m sure most people would think I’m nuts for making any sort of to-do list when I have a 3-week-old baby at home. But I have a thing for lists, and there are so many fun (and a few practical) things going on this season that I don’t want to miss out on or forget to do. Here’s my list of things to do this fall::

1.Pick out pumpkins! We likely won’t make it to an actual pumpkin patch this year, but as long as we have some by our front door, I’ll be happy.

2. Find a Halloween costume for Leighton. We have a great neighborhood, and every year, we all celebrate with an outdoor potluck and kids parade through our streets for trick-or-treating. I’m so excited to finally have a little one to dress up this year!

3. Scarecrows in the Garden at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. For the past several years, I’ve gone to this event with my puppet coworkers, and it’s my favorite fall tradition. This time, I’m meeting up with them for the Thursday night Fest of Ale and am planning to bring my mom and Leighton along for some outdoor fun!

4. Celebrate Craig’s 33rd birthday in October — his first one as a dad!

5. Eat lots of pumpkin bread (from local Smyrna bakery, McEntyre’s).

6. Go back to the Center for Puppetry Arts for a spooky adult puppet show! The Ghastly Dreadfuls show is back, and it’s my absolute favorite! If you’re in Atlanta in October, I highly recommend getting tickets.

7. Make Craig’s delicious chili recipe and several other soups and stews this season.

8. Make Leighton’s birth announcements and work on her baby book.

9. Take Christmas card photos and send them out before Thanksgiving.

10. Visit the Center again in November for the grand opening of the newly expanded Museum! This project has been years in the making, and I’m really looking forward to going back to my old stomping grounds to see the finished product. It’s such a huge accomplishment for everyone involved!


batman + robin do halloween

Well, folks…. another Halloween has come and gone. But before we get into full Thanksgiving/Christmas mode, here’s a little recap of Batman + Robin’s Halloween adventures.

We had a potluck lunch at work, and of course several of my fellow puppet coworkers donned their best costumes… I am partial to Ursula the Sea Witch (which is funny because I was absolutely terrified of her as a child).

My contribution to the potluck — Ghost Brains! (aka Nutella S’mores Rice Krispie Treats)
Ursula brought a lovely concoction of Zombie Meat Hands. Yum!

Thanks to The Bert Show (a local Atlanta radio show), I got the great idea to hand out glow sticks to trick-or-treaters, and it was a big hit! I couldn’t give up candy completely, so we had both… and ran out of both. First time ever not ending up with a large bowl of extra candy for weeks!


Our next door neighbors LOVE Halloween. They take off work and spend the entire day decorating their lawn and house, and it’s gotten bigger and better each year we’ve lived there. The 100 lb pumpkins were smoking so much when I pulled in from work, I thought someone’s car was on fire.

Batman + Robin
Coco despises anything being placed on her, so she was not up for a costume this year. Instead, she chose to wear a glow stick necklace. 

And this is why I love our neighborhood on Halloween. We just set up camp on our driveway, and we get a parade of little costumed characters early in the evening, and then another round of older kids once it’s dark. This year, some of our favorites were Rick, the Sheriff from The Walking Dead,  a pint-sized minion, a sister and brother dressed as Snow White and Sleepy Dwarf, and a dad dressed up as a life-size parrot.
Batman got the non-chocolate bowl.
The neighbors’ concoction for the adults, complete with gooey eyeballs
Coco got a little rowdy once things got going, so this is how she spent most of her Halloween night. At least she had a good view of the action.

And Halloween 2013 is done! Batman + Robin OUT.

pretty pumpkin projects

October is one of my favorite months… and it seems to be the case for a lot of people I know (and follow online). In honor of one of the best things about this month — PUMPKIN EVERYTHING — here are some fun decorating ideas! I’ve really been drawn to painting my pumpkins this year, but I really love the shiny thumbtacks used to create funky patterns.

Country Living

Woman’s Day

Better Homes & Gardens

Neon Fresh

Country Living

Madigan Made

Martha Stewart 


Thistlewood Farms

Country Living

Kelli Trontel

The Swede Records


weekend adventure:: pumpkins!

I’ve been dying to go to Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in North Georgia for years. It seems like it we should wait until we have kids who would really enjoy it, but I couldn’t. wait. any. longer. I had to check out the pumpkins! So last Sunday, we made the trek up to Dawsonville to cross this item off my fall bucket list. And boy, was that a trek. It took close to 1.5 hours to get there, but it was a pretty drive through the country once we got off 400.


We arrived just after 10am, and the parking lot was almost completely full. I couldn’t believe how busy the farm was.

There were SO many different types of pumpkins to choose from…. standard orange, HUGE orange, white, green/blue, pink/orange, pumpkins with warts… the options seemed endless.  If you’re in need of some out of the ordinary pumpkins, this is the place to be. And it was just fun to kick off the beginning of fall with a very fall-ish activity! 



Our wheelbarrow of loot.


The (for now) finished product! We have to find some time to carve our big orange pumpkin, and I also have a fun idea for the 4 little guys… I’ll be back with an update!


fall bucket list


I don’t think Fall Bucket Lists are quite as popular as those made for the summer, but I’m going to make one anyway. There are always so many fun and festive things to do throughout the fall, so here’s my list of to dos from now through Thanksgiving!

1. Try 2 new restaurants each month (Sept / Oct / Nov) — completed Sept (Corner Taqueria, The Family Dog, Bell Street Burritos, Cafe Lapin, Pasta Vino); completed Oct (Smash, Heirloom BBQ, Farm Burger, New Yorker Deli); Nov (Hottie Hawg’s BBQ)

2.  Cheer on the DAWGS at a UGA home game — DONE!

3. Host some game day parties in the man cave for Auburn football (and Georgia, of course…) — DONE!

4. Go to Rhinos and Winos at Zoo Atlanta — DONE!

5. Scarecrows in the Garden at the Atlanta Botanical Garden — DONE!

6. Pick out pumpkins at Burt’s Farm in October — DONE!

7. Celebrate Craig’s 31st in Nashville! — DONE!

8. Take 1-2 more photography classes through Southeast Photo Adventures —  one DONE!  (online class re: lighting) 

9. Make Craig’s fabulous chili recipe more than once (or at least several soups and stews this season) — DONE!

10. Make homemade pumpkin donuts — DONE! (made pumpkin muffins because I don’t have a donut pan)

11. Finish re-doing the deck — DONE!

12. Finish the kitchen/front room/guest room valances — DONE!

13. Finish Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving

thanksgiving festivities

Our Thanksgiving was wonderful – filled with loads of family and even more food. We went to my brother’s soon-to-be in-laws’ home for our now annual pre-Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night, and had way too much delicious lasagna, bread, chicken, and goat cheese-stuffed fried green tomatoes. We topped that off with a 13-layer cake. What a great way to get ready for the biggest eating day of the year, right?

You can’t celebrate Thanksgiving without fancy turkey cupcakes!

Hayes family photo for Thanksgiving Day 2012::

After watching the Macy’s parade and having breakfast at Cracker Barrel (yum!), we had Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle’s “party barn” in Cartersville. We gathered with about 50 family members and friends (probably 1/2 were under the age of 10)… it’s always very loud and entertaining with the Sims/Baxter crew!  We stuffed ourselves like turkeys, watched some football, and played with all of our cousins’ kids… perfect way to end the day!

Fresh corn that my dad brought up from a farm in FL::

We had friends join us for dinner with the family::

3 lawyers walk into a party…

Gator rides for the kids::

My cousin’s daughter, one of the most precious little girls ever::


3 meats on one plate!

The Sims Family::

Hope your day was wonderful, too! Happy Black Friday shopping!

happy thanksgiving, y’all!

In honor of  Thanksgiving, I’ve been posting something I’m thankful for every day on facebook. I love Thanksgiving because it marks the beginning of the holiday season, and it’s a time to gather with loved ones and enjoy each other’s company and lots of food and give thanks for the many, many blessings bestowed upon us throughout the year.

We have so much to be thankful for this year! I celebrated my 6th year at the Center for Puppetry Arts and my 2nd year as a Stylist with Stella & Dot. Craig got a new job within his company and is now a Business Systems Analyst… don’t ask me what that means, but I know he’s happy to have made the change. We’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time traveling around the country this year… I think Costa Rica, Lake Tahoe, St. Augustine, and NYC were some of our favorites. My brother was sweet enough to include us in his proposal while we were in Costa Rica this spring, and we could not be more thrilled to officially welcome her into our family next year. I’ve always wanted a sister, and she’s the perfect one! Coco just turned 2 today — it’s hard to believe she’s not a “little” puppy anymore! And to top it all off, we’re all healthy and happy. It’s been a wonderful year, and I’m so looking forward to what next year brings.

Here are some shots of our turkey week so far, as well as some festive inspiration::
Photos of pilgrim hat cookies, Thanksgiving definition, and “give thanks” banner courtesy of Pinterest.

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is filled with lots of turkey, pie, and a table full of the people you love. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

happy halloweenie festivities

How is Halloween already over?? Here’s what we were up to on the spookiest day of the year!

One of my favorite things we do at work (Center for Puppetry Arts) is the Halloween Potluck. It’s one of the very few times each year when most of our staff can gather all in one place. The assortment of food is always interesting with so many people attending…. this year, some of the dishes included “Tape Worm” pasta salad, “Band-Aid” graham cracker treats, mini sloppy joes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin floats, and some really yummy bread inspired by a couple of our coworkers’ trip to Bahrain earlier this year for a cultural arts festival.

The two Melissas at the Center (also known as Martha, according to some people we talk with on the phone)::
(and thanks to Jeff Domke for the fun photo!)

I love our neighborhood – there are so many kids and fun friends, and it’s the best on Halloween. The streets turn into a block party of sorts, and this year, all the kiddies did a loop around the neighborhood in a little parade to show off their costumes. Lots of super heroes and princesses, as to be expected. We hung out on Craig’s tailgate to watch the festivities and hand out candy until it got dark… I’m amazed at how much earlier everyone trick-or-treats these days! After the flow of trick-or-treaters slowed, we enjoyed some chili and witches brew with our neighbors until it was way too cold to be outside anymore. I can’t say the same for poor Coco — she was a little too excited for all the action taking place, so she had to settle for watching from the window inside.

Had to share this funny photo of Coco hiding under one of the guest beds — it’s her favorite spot in the house::

Coco’s ready to pass out candy::

Little Miss Elephant dropped her candy::

Hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween! Now onto the most festive time of the year!

one of my favorite fall activities

I love it when fall rolls around… so many great outdoor festivals and events that allow us to enjoy the nice cool weather. One of my favorites is the Scarecrows in the Garden at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. This was the 3rd year in a row that I’ve gone, and it’s something that’s not to be missed in Atlanta. Every October, the Garden is decorated with more than 100 scarecrows handcrafted by businesses, individuals, schools and organizations. This year, the Center for Puppetry Arts made our first scarecrow, Mr. Jon von Hinespyder! He was the creation of several of my coworkers, and they did a fantastic job.

And every Thursday in October, you can celebrate the harvest season with seasonal brews and live music at the Fest-of-Ale. Our friend David Stephens and his band, Banjolicious, perform each week. Some fun favorites include “Banana Pudding,” “Krispy Kreme,” and “Wal-Mart Song.” Be sure to check him out for some good old fashioned banjo tunes!

Meet Mr. Jon von Hinespyder::

Some of my other favorites::

We also enjoyed the interactive scarecrows::

Although we went on this little field trip a few weeks ago, I have to give Karen a shout out today — it’s her 30th birthday!! Happy happy birthday to one of my very first friends from college!

And I’m really looking forward to going back to the ABG for Garden Lights, Holiday Lights when my parents are in town for Thanksgiving or Christmas. We went for the first time last year, and although it was FREEZING, it was really neat… sort of like Christmas lights on steroids. It’s supposed to be even bigger and better this year, so I’m excited to turn this into a fun family tradition!

DIY project:: sparkly pumpkins

It’s officially fall!!! I don’t know about everyone else, but I can feel it in the air in Georgia, and it’s glorious! I am quite enjoying the cooler weather, especially in the morning, and not getting sweaty walking 20 or 30 feet to my car after work. To help get into the fall spirit, I decided pumpkins needed to be purchased. Not real ones just yet since it is still September…. so plastic ones would have to do the trick. But I wanted something a bit less “pumpkiny” than these guys below. So, enter the spray paint.

I had the hardest time deciding on colors…. I must have spent 15 minutes staring at different bottles and color combinations at Michael’s. I ended up deciding on some super glittery spray in both gold and silver and got the “sparkling canyon” in satin to round out the metallics.

Craig was sweet and set out a big drop cloth for me to work on in the garage. I set them all out in groups so that I could divide them up among my 3 color choices. The large pumpkins were fairly easy to spray, but it was a bit difficult to control clumping where the spray rolled around to the bottom side of each pumpkin. The little mini pumpkins were almost impossible to cover! Every time I sprayed one, it would go flying across the drop cloth. I don’t know the best way to remedy that problem…. buy heavier pumpkins, I guess.

After a couple light coats on each  pumpkin, it was clear that the awesome glittery spray paint was just not cutting it for this job. The silver spray bottle got stuck in the “on” position and proceeded to just spray tons and tons of glitter everywhere…. everywhere except for the pumpkins. The gold did something similar. So it was on to Plan B with those sets…. this time, I went to Home Depot — and was AMAZED at the assortment of spray paint they have!! I chose non-glittery metallics in gold and silver to cover up the crazy, half-glittered pumpkins. These cans are great — easy to spray and they don’t stick like the others did.

And here’s the finished product! Lots of sparkly pumplins in various shapes and sizes… some a little more glittery than others, thanks to the first round of painting-gone-wrong. I tossed them (meaning I actually very carefully placed them so you can’t see the dried clumps of paint here and there) in a big glass bowl on our dining room table.

And then I accented them on each side with two of these guys!! Our family friend Leslie had gotten several of these gems at the local Dollar Tree in Arcadia, and I just loved them, so I had to get some of my own. Next time, I’ll stick to the pre-made glittery items. Happy Fall, y’all!