Thanksgiving Appe-teasers


Pete and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year, and while it’s not our first time, it will be our first time in our new house which makes it feel extra special. I really love entertaining, it’s fun for me, but I also know my limits and am always glad to take people up on their offers to contribute. Especially for Thanksgiving when people have such strong opinions about the dishes, it’s always nice to let guests bring the dish that is the most important part of the meal to them and know that it will be prepared to their liking.

This year, my mom will be bringing a special appetizer, gravy and rolls, Pete’s mom will do the stuffing and mashed potatoes, and Molly & Sally are in charge of dessert. That leaves me responsible for the rest of the appetizers, turkey, a salad, veggie side, and a mac n’ cheese we are trying out this year. Super manageable, which means I will be able to actually hang and enjoy time with my people. Still, this weekend Molly and I decided to host a little “Friendsgiving” with some of our coworkers to recipe-test some of the new dishes so we could feel extra confident on the big day!

We chose three recipe’s from the new Garden & Gun cookbook that I have been obsessed with lately, all of which could be made to some extent ahead of time- as well as a festive beverage from my favorite cocktail book Shake. All three recipes ended up being delightful- and I thought I would share with y’all in case anyone needs a last minute idea for their own Thanksgiving feasts!5N2A8715

Slice & Bake Cheese Wafers


1 stick unsalted butter, sliced

2 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon thyme leaves for garnish

-Combine butter, cheeses, salt cayenne & flour into food processor and pulse several times until crumbly. Then process for 30 seconds until a mass of dough forms.

-Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment paper and roll into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap like a tootsie-roll and refrigerate at least 1 hour to overnight.

-Preheat oven to 350 and cut chilled dough into 1/4 inch slices and arrange on parent-lined baking sheet. Top with thyme garnish and bake for 12 minutes, or until golden and crisp.

-Immediately sprinkle with salt and transfer to cooling rack.




We decided to add a little flair to the recipe and used some fall foliage cookie cutters. I didn’t think about it before, but it would have been better to roll a bigger log that was closer in size to the cookie cutter. Instead, I cut 2″ thick slices of our log and pounded it out to the correct 1/4″ thinness and cookie-cut. I recombined the scraps, and rolled into another dough ball that I did the same with. I put them into the freezer for a couple of minutes before popping them into the oven so they would chill off a little after they warmed while I worked with them. These were SO delicious! Like extra-special cheese-its. I think these are going to be a strong feature in my repertoire from now on.

Devilish Eggs


12 large Grade-A Eggs

2 Tbspns white wine vinegar

1/2 cup mayo

1 1/2 tsp grainy mustard

1 tbsn sriracha

1 1/2 tbspn bacon greese

Salt & freshly ground pepper

-Hardboil your eggs (the book is very detailed about how to do this, but I’m lazy and don’t want to write it all out, and you should buy the book anyway)

-Combine egg yolks, mayo, mustard, sriracha, and bacon grease in a medium bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk ingredients until smooth.

-Pipe mixture into the egg yolk halves and garnish




Pete made these guys, and they have become his favorite party trick in the past few weeks. He garnishes with a scrumptious bacon bit. So delicious and a great southern classic.

Sausage Balls


1 cup fine-ground cornmeal

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tbspn brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tsp minced fresh sage

2 tbspn sliced fresh chives

1 10 0z block extra sharp cheddar grated

1 lb bulk spicy breakfast sausage

2 tbspn grated onion

2 tbspn buttermilk

-Preheat oven to 350 and whisk together cornmeal, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, pepper, red pepper, sage, and chives in a large bowl. Add cheese and toss with cornmeal mixture to evenly coat.

-In a separate bowl combine sausage, onion, and buttermilk. Pour cornbread and cheese mixture into the sausage and mix with your hands to thoroughly combine.

-Roll packed tablespoons of dough into 1 inch balls and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 22-25 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.




The recipe says to use parchment paper, and I don’t know if it was the kind we used, but ours stuck to them and we had to tear them off. Which was a pretty huge bummer because those little crusty bits at the bottom looked delicious. These are so moist and have a much more complex flavor than your usual party balls.

Rosemary Maple Bourbon Sour

Ingredients (makes 2 drinks)

3 Shots Bourbon

1 & 1/2 Shots Fresh Lemon Juice

3/4 Shot Dark Amber Maple Syrup

2 Springs of Rosemary

-Crush 1 sprig of rosemary in your hand and add it to the shaker.

-Add the bourbon, lemon juice, maple syrup, and ice to above the level of the liquid and shake for 15 seconds.

-Strain the mixture into a rocks glass over one large ice cube and garnish with rosemary sprig.




This cocktail from my favorite, Shake, has changed my whole perspective on bourbon. I had felt like I was in a tequila/margarita rut, and wanted to branch out to some other spirits because sure why not? I used to think I hated bourbon, but was feeling adventurous and tried the recipe for this cocktail. Turns out, I LOVE bourbon. Which may not be the best thing, but it’s the holidays and I’m pleased with it.


What a delightful little spread! Shake and The Southerner’s Cookbook are two of my favorite cookbooks right now, and I would highly recommend both. Wishing y’all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

All images by Molly Miller for Peppermint Bliss

Our Houston home, now & then

Thank you all for the warm welcome back! Y’all are making it much easier to dust off the keyboard after so much time away. Continuing the farewell tour of our old house, here are a few more “now and then” shots! As you can tell, we didn’t really change much over our three years in our old home. For the most part, it was more a process of growing into the spaces.

Kitchen 2012d3524105ead0e85d0791e9287761fa90

2015Shot_05_035 copy

The kitchen was always one of the rooms I was proudest of. It came together exactly like I had hoped, and it never stopped delighting me. We eventually added shades in one of my favorite fabrics by Peter Dunham, that we carried into the attached breakfast nook as well…

Breakfast Nook 2012Emily Johnston_McCarthy Houston 1 copy

2015Shot_07_048 copy

There are actually quite a few changes we made here, but they are subtle. I switched out the table from a reproduction that wasn’t quite right to the real deal, reupholstered the window seat cushion, added a shade in a matching fabric, brought in some art, and switched out the light fixture.

Dining Room 2012
Emily Johnston_McCarthy Houston 12 copy

2015Shot_15_091 copy

Soon after our first shoot with Emily we hung curtains we brought with us from our Austin dining room, which really brought things together. We eventually added in a rug, which you can’t really see in this shot, and hung some more art, but otherwise this room pretty much stayed the same. And, I cannot stop laughing at my super creative styling efforts of the table in 2012. That would be an embroidered shawl layered over a linen table cloth? Goodness. Gracious.

While not a lot changed downstairs, we did do a mini-makeover on our master bedroom…



2015Shot_25_189 copy

Those who have been around here for awhile probably have heard this all before, but I had purchased the DeGournay wallpaper for our bedroom in Austin. As I mentioned in my last post, almost immediately after we moved into our house in Austin we felt like we had made a mistake and should have stayed in Houston, and so I held off hanging it since the super special panels wanting to save them for wherever we ended up.

(Our Austin bedroom for reference & funsies)


When I decided not to hang the wallpaper, we painted the walls a similar gray/blue thats in the paper but the room felt unfinished, so we put up an accent wall of a much less expensive paper from Osborne & Little that had a lot of the same colors, but it never really came together like I had imagined.

Houston 2012Emily Johnston_McCarthy Houston 16 copy

2015Shot_26_194 copy

Obviously, we did decide to move back less than a year later, and so when planning our Houston master bedroom I pretty much just applied the original plan for our Austin bedroom. We hung the wallpaper, which I loved, and used all of the same furniture we had in Austin including cutting down the rug to fit our new smaller space- except for the side tables which we switched out for the side tables we had in Chicago, and new lamps.

One thing that never quite felt right about version 1.0 was our bed. Our bed in Chicago was low and cozy with a canopy, and the yellow bed (which was a restoration hardware bed we had painted and recovered in the yellow velvet) was much taller and more open. I always felt a little Princess and the Pea perched up so high, and so eventually we decided to add a canopy and go back to a lower bed. Choosing a canopy fabric was tricky since I didn’t want to mess with anything else in the room (rug/curtains/wallpaper) so I had to choose something that worked with the colors & patterns we already had going on. The hot pink Les Touches worked for me because it was more graphic and modern than the wallpaper and that contrast makes it interesting, but still reads somewhat classic like an animal print. The color matches a subtle accent in the wallpaper, and the small scale of the print balances the larger scale floral. I matched the hot pink in the velvet of the bed, and tied it back into the chartreuse accent with a trim that was already on the windows.

Looking at our original bedding combo from 2012 makes me smile. We had just launched Biscuit and it was my first chance to put my own line of bedding on my bed. I was so excited I couldn’t choose a pattern, so I went with our Austin in a multi, the Paul pale blue (which stayed), coral border duvet, and I think there was a Katie coral dot in there as well. All of the things!!!! By the time we left we had paired down to just the Paul, which is one of my all-time favorites, and brought back some monogrammed shams that were a house-warming from my Mom when we moved to Austin.

Shot_24_186 copy

It finally came together! I think the smaller size of our Houston room helped make the design feel more lush and layered and cozy. We got amazing light, and the wallpaper is still one of my all-time favorites.


This picture! Pete is clean-shaven, my hair is super house-wifey, and Gigi is so LITTLE with so much ‘tude! Love it all.


Shot_27_273 copy 2

Then, of course, the best change we made to the house in our three years there was adding our wild, sweet, HarrBear to the mix! Thank you to everyone who has checked up on Harry, he is doing much better, and he and his big sister are becoming the best little odd-couple buddies you ever saw. I feel like the luckiest. ♥

2012 Images by Emily Johnston // 2015 Images by David Land

Home again, home again.

We moved a few weeks ago, which even though it was time, felt bittersweet. We were in our last house for over three years. After having to move suddenly from Chicago when we found out G was sick, and a short time in Austin, it was the first place that felt like “home” for our little family. When I was 5 we moved from our first house into the house where my mom still lives 24 years later, but every time I pass that first house where we probably only lived for two or three years, I feel a little pang of “that’s my home”. It’s funny how we attach to homes and the lives we lived there.

I have stayed very attached to our Chicago home. A few weeks before we moved we were in town visiting Pete’s family, and as I always do, I took a walk around our old neighborhood and past our house we lovingly called “Clifford”. The new owners were very gracious to let us go in and tour it a few years ago, but they have been there longer than we were now and I didn’t want to impose. I wondered what would have happened if we been able to stay in Chicago- would we have lived there forever like we thought, or eventually trekked out to the suburbs like so many of our friends are doing now?

I actually got an email from the current owners a few days later- apparently they have had two kids since they bought the home, and felt it was time for more family friendly space and that they were planning to sell. It was fun to see the listing and how much of the design they kept, and what they had changed to make the house work for them.

Before our most recent move, I had our house shot professionally one more time for my own memories. The first time we shot the house for Matchbook we had only been in a few months, and I wanted to capture how the house had changed and grown as we settled in with our family. It has been fun to look back on how the rooms changed over the past three years, and to compare them to their counterparts in our Chicago and Austin houses. My favorite part is seeing how much has actually stayed the same.

Chicago 2010 :: Photos by Emily Johnston

Emily Johnston_McCarthy Chicago 23 copy
Emily Johnston_McCarthy Chicago 24 copy

Continue reading “Home again, home again.”

Santa Claus is coming to town! The #BiscuitPaintWall specifically.


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here, and to kick off the Holiday Season with our hearts in the right place we are once again hosting Santa at The Biscuit Paint Wall!

Continue reading “Santa Claus is coming to town! The #BiscuitPaintWall specifically.”

Coastal Living 2015 Showhouse: Bunkrooms Before & After

The last two rooms on our Coastal Living 2015 Showhouse tour are both bunkrooms located on the first floor of the home. When we first toured the house, our guide from Cinnamon Shores explained to us that since the community was a “more the merrier” type of place where you were likely to host different combinations of family and friends throughout the summer. Homes in the development needed to be able to sleep as many people as possible- while still providing comfortable and private spaces for your guests.

There were already two well-appointed masters on the second and third floor, so the initial thought in the plans was to have the two bedrooms on the ground floor serve as kids rooms- one bunkroom and the other with a pair of twin beds.

This arrangement would work well for families with older kids, but as a mom of young children- one of whom frequently tiptoes into my bedroom at night because of bad dreams, a potty break, or sometimes just to say a quick “hi!”- I immediately recognized the potential impracticality of that arrangement. While it is nice to have a separate space for the kids when they get older, the remaining sleeping arrangements needed to be flexible enough to accommodate families of all ages.

We would keep one bedroom as a traditional “bunk room” with a pair of bunk beds, and the other would have a queen bed- with a twin bunk above. If the house was hosting older kids the two rooms could be used as separate girl and boy bunks, but in the event younger families were staying there, parents could comfortably stay on the same floor as the kids- and even stay in the same room while maintaining some privacy.

5N2A7694 copy

Continue reading “Coastal Living 2015 Showhouse: Bunkrooms Before & After”