The Real Mom Series is back again, and we're all sharing about holiday traditions that we are either beginning or have already started with our families. I definitely encourage you to read everyone's stories because they are all SO different. Getting diverse perspectives is one of my favorite things about this series. The Effortless ChicFreutcake, A Daily Something, Parker, Etc., Sacramento Street, Apartment 34, The Refined Woman

What if sometimes you had a tree on Christmas and sometimes you didn't. Would it "feel" like Christmas without the tree for you? What if you ate ham on Thanksgiving instead of turkey? Is it still Thanksgiving? What makes it Thanksgiving afterall? 

When I sat down to write about this topic I thought I didn't have much to say because I didn't grow up with any traditions that we consistently did for the holidays other than the basic things such as opening gifts on Christmas, eating turkey on Thanksgiving and trick-or-treating on Halloween. That's all I have currently established for my kids too with the exception of also attending church on Christmas Eve. 

At first I felt sad thinking about the fact that there was no baking tradition, special book I read, or football game I played, and that I haven't implemented that for my kids. But then I was realized I was feeling sad over expectations of having and doing certain things that come from things and people I don't even know. They come from Pinterest, they come from other families, they come from movies and magazines...I realized that being fairly "tradition-less" was a gift that my parents have given me because it has really freed me to not have major expectations for the holidays. 

Sadly, the word "tradition" is often met with the word "expectation" in this day in age, and specifically in the United States where we have so much. Whether it be a child expecting to always bake cookies every Christmas or an adult making their kids bake cookies, I don't want to pass down the expectation of always doing that just so a holiday can feel like a holiday. 

Instead, the "tradition" I would like to pass down to my children for the holidays is to simply contemplate the holiday they are about to celebrate and then celebrate how they want. Maybe it's throwing an insane birthday party for Jesus's birthday that's decked out with glitter and neon colors and maybe the next is to pick a family to give gifts to. All I know is that this year we plan to trick-or-treat as a family, host a yummy dinner for our extended family for Thanksgiving and this Christmas we may try the polar express. I just hope my kids experience the holidays for which they were intended and that is to have a blast on Halloween by being creative and eating candy, taking a moment to think about all they are thankful for and on Christmas celebrate the birth of their Savior Jesus Christ. If we bake cookies, watch a holiday movie, sing song and happen to ice skating that's so great. I'm all for it, and I think that's awesome that other families do those fun activities. I just hope that isn't the sum of traditions that make the holiday, but, rather, the holiday that brings about the acts of celebration. 

Photo by Rennai Hoefer


Potatoes cooked in any shape or form are always a "yes" in my home. Scalloped potatoes is a dish I grew up with, and when I have a bit more I like to make them instead of mashed potatoes. Often times you see scalloped potatoes made with golden Yukon potatoes, but I thought it would be really pretty to make this dish with purple potatoes and sweet potatoes. 

This is definitely a side-dish that is pretty enough to serve for dinner parties, and will always win people over with taste because it's comfort food. When you pour a cheesy cream sauce on top how can you not win? Am i right? haha!  In fact, I may just make this dish for Thanksgiving instead of mashed potatoes. Although I anticipate the traditionalists in the family may need the gravy and mashed potatoes too. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Tri-Color Scalloped Potatoes
by Brendan McCaskey

Yields 6 servings

Overall Time: 1 hour & 30 minutes

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour & 15 minutes




- 3 yellow potatoes, peeled & sliced 1/4" thick

- 3 sweet potatoes, peeled & sliced 1/4" thick

- 3 purple potatoes, peeled & sliced 1/4" thick

- 3 tablespoons olive oil

- 1 teaspoon salt

- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Cream Sauce:

- 3 tablespoons butter

- 3 tablespoons flour

- 1 1/2 cups milk

- 1 teaspoon salt

- pinch of cayenne pepper

- 1 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese, separated

- 1 cup bread crumb

- 2 tablespoons butter, melted


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss potato slices with olive oil, salt, & pepper in a large bowl. Spread evenly on two parchment lined baking sheets. Place in oven for 10-15 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets half way through cooking time. Potatoes will be tender, and a fork should be able to go through easily. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Lower oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small sauce pan on medium to high heat, melt butter and add flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes creating a roux. Whisk in milk and lower heat to low to medium. Stir and cook sauce until it begins to thicken, and is smooth and boiling, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in salt, cayenne, and 1 cup of the shredded cheese.

Layer potato slices in a casserole dish on their side, alternating each color, in rows.  Carefully pour sauce over potatoes, and top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Toss bread crumbs in melted butter and sprinkle over the top of the potatoes.  Place in 375 degree F oven for 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly. Remove pan form oven and set aside to cool for 4-5 minutes. Serve family style from pan.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer; Recipe by Brendan McCaskey


This post is sponsored by Zappos. 

Shopping for the perfect pair of jeans can be feel daunting at times, but when you find the perfect pair you feel like you have won the lottery. Am I right? I've already told you about my obsession with online shoe shopping on in past posts, but here's a case for doing your jean shopping online too. It's fast, free shipping both ways and their 365 day return policy allows me to avoid long dressing room lines while trying on my jeans in the comfort of my home. I also particularly love this way of shopping for jeans because then I can create outfits with my clothes and try my pants on with my shoes to see if it all works together. Besides, you'll have more room for those awkward hops, plie squats and moves to get your jeans on and off and listen to Justin Timberlake while you're at it.

Case in point, my new trooper green, skinny Hudson jeans. I've been on the hunt for a neutral color like this olive green, which also happens to be having a moment in the spotlight of fashion right now, and these jeans with built in stretch are perfection.

Hudson has always been a brand that fits me well. I have very long, thin legs, and after having two babies their mid-rise style with stretch is the a great solution to keep any signs of a muffin top at bay. They are so comfortable, and give you that cool factor that only British brands can do.

If you're scared of wearing color on your bottom half you shouldn't be. In fact, olive green is a less assuming color verses bright red or cobalt blue (I have had those colors too). Some ideas of tops and colors that work well with these pants are: pastel pink, rose gold/copper, ivory; white; brown; camel; navy; chambray; light blue; black; rust; maroon; mustard yellow.

This is a quintessential fall outfit for Arizonans. Fall colors of olive and rust are obvious, but my sleeveless knit tank and a boho element of a long scarf ties it all together for a west coast look that doesn't make you sweat in our 80 degree weather.Be sure to give online jean shopping a whirl, and let me know how it goes!

Photos by Katie Jameson


Sides are sometimes the hardest part of dinners. Have you noticed that? I always can come up with a main dish, but I have a habit of leaving sides to the last minute. I usually default to salad because it's easy and fast and doesn't require cooking. But my kids don't eat salad (duh, what kid does?). So, as long as I remember to buy a bunch of fresh green beans at the store I'm set. This side is fast, simple and doesn't require much cooking either!

In fact, this is a dish you'll want to substitute your traditional green bean casserole for when you host Thanksgiving or other dinner parties. Spicy, garlic green beans can be as hot as you want or as "garlicy" as you want. We like a bit of kick here in the southwest, and I'm Italian. So, you can bet I like a lot of garlic.

This recipe was created by my friend Brendan McCaskey who has culinary training and is an artist in the kitchen. He gladly shared it with me and I get to share it with you! I hope you love it.

Spicy Roasted Green Beans
by Brendan McCaskey 

Yields 6 servings

Overall Time: 20 minutes

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes



- 1 1/2 pounds whole green beans, trimmed

- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and shaved

- 1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

- 2 tablespoons oilive oil

- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

- 1 teaspoons salt

- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl mix green beans, garlic, & shallots with olive oil. Add red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper and mix together.  Spread beans evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in oven for 15 minutes, stirring half way through cooking. Beans will be tender, and lightly golden brown and caramelized.

Serve family style on a long platter.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer


You learn quickly in the fashion world that when all else fails go with black. I remember going to one of my first fashion events about seven years ago, and wearing what I thought was the coolest outfit. When I got to the event everyone was wearing black and I was sticking out like crazy. Maybe it was a good thing, but at that moment I just wanted to fit in with the fashion scene. Haha. The truth is that when you wear head to toe black no one really can judge your fashion because black is always acceptable.

But, I rarely wear all black. I often times dress how I feel, and most of the time black feels too dark for me. Recently, I was in Austin, TX to talk about all things Pinterest at BlogHerFood, and I decided to wear an edgy outfit combination reminiscent of the 90s that was mostly black.

Sometimes when you go to new places where no one really knows who you are you can have some fun and reinvent yourself. That's one of the things I love most about fashion. You can put on one dress and immediately look and feel different. 

Something about Austin made we want to play up the funky part of my personal style. I wore a white t-shirt, black choker, black lace cami and skinny jeans with boots (get the whole look below). It was a comfy, causal and moody outfit that transformed me instantly into this west coast style fashion blogger. And the rest of the conference I played into this archetype for fun. 

I, of course, would wear this outfit while in Arizona. It's a true aspect of my style, but I wouldn't say it's my go-to, daily choice. And that's okay to have those outfits. Do you have those outfit that morph you into an alter-ego? If so, what are they? I'd love to hear!

Get the look: Lace camisole; white t-shirt; black skinny jeans; back boots; choker; black hat (similar)

Photos by Katie Jameson; this post contains affiliate links