4 Homemade Upgrades to Your Store Bought Pumpkin Pie

Take it easy this Thanksgiving with the convenience of a store bought dessert and the impressive flair of homemade flavor.



A Peaceful Home with Autumn Appeal

Rachel Paxton combines a neutral color palette, vintage furnishings and cozy textures for a look that is both elegant and comfortable.

Homey yet elegant, the china cabinet in the dining room is a family heirloom, as it once belonged to Rachel's great-grandmother. Pulling a wooden bench to the inherited dining table is a kid-friendly touch.
Homey yet elegant, the china cabinet in the dining room is a family heirloom, as it once belonged to Rachel’s great-grandmother. Pulling a wooden bench to the inherited dining table is a kid-friendly touch.

What a dramatic difference paint colors and finishes can make! When Rachel Paxton, editor and designer of the website, Maison de Pax, and her husband were shopping for a new home in Austin, Texas, they were surprised by what they found inside this two-story house with a traditional, white-brick facade.

“It was head to toe yellowish beige with a Tuscan feeling—lots of faux travertine tile and warm buttery ceilings and walls,” says Rachel. “It’s just not our style. I love warm wood tones with lots of whites and grays, so a big part of what we did was changing the palette of the space.”

Rachel Paxton of Maison de Pax brings a comfortable elegance to her decor with rustic finishes and traditional furnishings.
Rachel brings a comfortable elegance to her decor with rustic finishes and traditional furnishings.

So, she set out to redo all of the colors and finishes of the home to make it appeal to her taste and function well for a family. All the upstairs rooms had a pale beige carpet, for example, which wasn’t going to work for their family, which now consists of four kids, ranging in age from seven weeks to seven years. “I’m not going to be able to keep carpet that clean with a bunch of kids,” Rachel says. “Before we moved in, we replaced all the beige carpet with wood floors.”

A double-sided fireplace provides a homey warmth to both the living room and family room.
A double-sided fireplace provides a homey warmth to both the living room and family room

Artful Touches

Most noticeable in Rachel’s home are the antique furnishings and decor with a fresh, old-meets-new look. “We spent a couple years living in France, and I have a love for French things, so I like to give little nods to French style, [like] the dining set has a French flair,” says Rachel.

One lovely focal point in the home is a fireplace wall with bookcases Rachel had built in their living room. Formerly a freestanding fireplace in the middle of the room, Rachel switched it out with a double-sided fireplace and bookcase. “We built the bookcase next to the fireplace to close off half that opening and the double-sided bookcase acts as a wall between the living room and family room,” Rachel says.

Having enough shelf space for books was important, as Rachel Paxton’s husband used to teach high school English, and they both have a love for literature. Antique books—some in English and some in other languages—have beauty and character in and of themselves.
Having enough shelf space for books was important, as Rachel’s husband used to teach high school English, and they both have a love for literature. Antique books—some in English and some in other languages—have beauty and character in and of themselves.

Having enough shelf space for books was important, as Rachel’s husband used to teach high school English, and they both have a love for literature. Antique books—some in English and some in other languages—have beauty and character in and of themselves. That’s why Rachel chose to display them backwards with their spines facing out to show their color and age.

“I thought it was neat to see that side, and it gave a more neutral feel to the bookcase,” Rachel says. “We have tons of other books elsewhere that we read on a regular basis [and aren’t on display], so it’s easy to keep these turned around. A lot are antique books with irregularly cut pages. I think they were hand-sewn, and you can see the texture of the pages. I thought it was pretty and just went for it.”

"One of the home's best features is the windows. I love all the natural light we get," says Rachel Paxton of Maison de Pax.
“One of the home’s best features is the windows. I love all the natural light we get,” Rachel says.

Neat and Kid-friendly

Much of Rachel’s home has a stylish rustic vibe, and her antiques lend a sophisticated touch to the aesthetic, but she’s careful about making everything kid-friendly.

The china cabinet and table in the dining room are very special, as they once belonged to Rachel’s great-grandmother. She previously had some upholstered chairs from her great-grandmother in there, but they’re packed away for now, considering the small children. Those were replaced with a wooden bench that not only has country charm, but is more practical for the little ones’ meals and schoolwork when they homeschool part-time.

Much of Rachel’s home has a stylish rustic vibe, and her antiques lend a sophisticated touch to the aesthetic, but she’s careful about making everything kid-friendly.
Much of Rachel’s home has a stylish rustic vibe, and her antiques lend a sophisticated touch to the aesthetic, but she’s careful about making everything kid-friendly.

“We use our dining room table for art projects all the time, and the china cabinet houses everything from crayons and markers to school books, glitter and Play-Doh. We just keep it all behind that door and put everything away when we’re done,” Rachel says.

The view from the entryway into the dining room reveals the heirloom table, perfectly set for an autumn gathering at Maison de Pax.
The view from the entryway into the dining room reveals the heirloom table, perfectly set for an autumn gathering.

She’s also mastered the art of curating décor and carefully hiding away things that should remain hidden. Upstairs in her boys’ room, they converted a closet into a reading nook with wooden crates repurposed as a bookcase styled with vintage books and a few toys.

Downstairs, they have catchall storage for kids’ stuff that won’t clash with the home’s charm or coziness. “We have baskets downstairs that we hide toys in, but we try to not let the house be completely overrun with toys,” Rachel says.

 



The Prettiest Pumpkins For Fall Decorating

With so many unique varieties to choose from, we've picked the prettiest pumpkins for natural fall decorating.



Natural Fall Decor is Simply a Walk in the Park

Pull on your coziest sweater, it's time for a stroll though the autumn trees to discover natural (and free) fall decor.

“Autumn brings a second spring when every leaf is a flower” – Albert Camus

For many of us, fall is a favorite time of the year. The changing colors, crisp air, cooler weather and abundance of pumpkins all make up the season’s splendor, the inspiration of poets and nature lovers alike. So, what better way to pay homage to autumn’s glory than by bringing nature’s golden harvest into your own home?

A stroll through a wooded park or your neighborhood can yield a bounty of decor opportunities in the forms of fallen pinecones and acorns, as well as branches of changing leaves. Here are our suggestions for bringing the nature indoors.

Styled by Nora Murphy / Photo by Darryl Arbesman

Vibrant Leaves

Snip thin branches baring leaves that have transformed from green to their autumn hue.

These can be arranged into tall vases with stunning results as seen in Nora Murphy’s dining room tour or assembled into garlands and wreaths for the table, front door or something less expected, such as this chandelier.

Like flowers, fresh leaves may not last very long once they’ve been cut.

If you plan to use fresh leaves as a centerpiece while you entertain, take into account the time involved with process of putting the centerpieces together.

Thankfully, these branches look lovely with little effort for an elegant and naturally imperfect style.

Pinecones and Acorns

When it comes to pinecones and acorns, where one is found, there are generally dozens more nearby. This makes a large collection easy to find all at once for a “more is more” approach to decor. Shallow bowls or clear glass centerpieces allow these natural artifacts to show off for full effect.

However, if you do choose to find these in the wild, be sure to check them for critters that would be unwelcome in your home. KariAnne of ThistleWood Farms has a funny story about one such mishap that you can read here.

Potential problems can be exterminated during the cleaning and drying process. First, soak your finds in a solution of vinegar and warm water for about an hour. Next, lay them out until they are dry to the touch. Finally, spread them out on an aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet and set your oven at 200 degrees fahrenheit. An hour should do the trick, but we recommend checking the progress half-way through to turn your acorns and pinecones over. Drying in heat will also cause pinecones to open, or bloom. Don’t be afraid to add drops of essential oils like orange, cinnamon, or nutmeg to capture wonderful fall scents.

To be fair, a stroll through your local craft store will also produce these items in everlasting faux varieties.

 



Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte

This blend of two fall coffeehouse favorites will have you playing your own barista.

Cinnamon chai spice and everything nice makes for a tasty take on the classic pumpkin spice latte.

When the line in Starbucks is just too long, don’t you just wish you could make your own pumpkin spice latte? Take one super-spiced sip of this take on the PSL topped with maple-sweetened whipped cream and you’ll be addicted!

Pumpkin Chai Tea Latte

Recipe by Shanna Schad

Prep: 10 minutes
Simmer: 10–15 minutes

Serves 2

For the whipped cream:
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup

For the latte:
1 cup prepared, sweetened chai tea concentrate (like Oregon Chai or Tazo)
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whole star anise, to serve (optional)

1. For the whipped cream: In a medium mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks. Add in the maple syrup and whip again. Taste and add more maple syrup if desired. Chill until ready to use.

2. For the latte: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the chai concentrate, milk, pumpkin purée and vanilla extract. Whisking constantly, heat the mixture until it just reaches a simmer. Taste for preferred sweetness, adding more milk if needed. (You can strain out the pumpkin purée at this point if you prefer.)

3. Pour the latte into Irish coffee cups or large mugs, top with whipped cream, a sprinkling of ground cinnamon and a star anise if desired. Serve immediately.



Pumpkin Spice Bundt With Maple Glaze

With a glaze infused with bourbon, this cake is about to become your new fall favorite.

Beautiful and boozy, this pumpkin spice bundt cake will be the perfect centerpiece for your fall table.

That crispness you sense in the air means it’s time to start thinking about your fall baking plans. If you’ve got a beautiful bundt pan you’ve been itching to use, pull it down from the top shelf and get to making this amazing crowd-pleasing cake.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake with Bourbon Maple Glaze

Recipe by Jonathan Melendez

Makes 8 to 12 servings

For the filling:
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 cup sour cream, room temperature

For the glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 tablespoon milk
chopped pecans, for topping

 

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. Set aside.

2. To make the filling, in a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix with your hands until the butter is brown down into coarse crumbs the size of peas. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the pumpkin purée and mix until evenly incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating between the sour cream and dry ingredients.

4. Pour half of the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Top with the filling and then add the remaining batter, making sure to spread it out evenly. Bake for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 30 minutes in the pan. Run a knife along the edges and middle and then carefully invert onto a cake plate or stand. Allow to cool down completely.

5. To make glaze, whisk all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. If too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar, or if too thick, add a splash more milk. Pour the glaze over the cake and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Cut and serve.



Salted Caramel Pumpkin Toffee Cheesecake

It's all of your favorite flavors rolled into one incredibly decadent statement dessert.

Even if you aren’t the biggest cheesecake fan, trust us—this one is irresistible.

Thick, velvety and rich, this king of all pumpkin cheesecakes sits atop a royal crust made of irresistible chocolate cookie. Top it all off with a salted caramel sauce and you’ve got a decadent experience for even the most discerning pumpkin aficionado.

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Toffee Cheesecake

Recipe by Jonathan Melendez

Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 70 minutes
Cool: 30 minutes
Chill: 1–2 hours

Serves 8–12

For the crust:
25–30 chocolate wafers
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

For the cheesecake:
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons whole milk

For the salted caramel:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup toffee pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cover the outside of a 10-inch spring-form pan with aluminum foil. Place in the freezer until ready to use.

2. For the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the wafers and sugar. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the butter, and then pulse once more to combine. The resulting mixture should be wet. Pour it into the prepared pan, and press down to form an even crust, just barely coming up the sides of the pan. Place the pan back in the freezer.

3. For the cheesecake: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin purée and pumpkin pie spice, and stir until evenly combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the milk.

4. For the salted caramel: In a large saucepan, mix the sugar and water until combined, and then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, untouched, for about 3 minutes, or until deep amber in color. Stir in the heavy cream (it will splatter a bit) and continue to whisk until fully combined. Stir in the butter, vanilla and salt. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

5. Remove the crust from the freezer and pour in half of the caramel on the bottom. Sprinkle with half of the toffee pieces and then pour in the cheesecake batter. Bake for about 70 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the center is somewhat firm. (It should still jiggle a bit.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Chill before serving.

6. To serve, pour the remaining salted caramel on top and sprinkle with the remaining toffee pieces. Cut and serve with whipped cream.



Less is More: 3 Tips to Edit Any Room

Overrun with stuff? Follow these short and simple tips to edit out unnecessary extras.

Heirloom pumpkins add color to Courtney Allison's curated collection of servingware
Courtney’s hutch is carefully curated with her collection of servingware and styled for fall with heirloom pumpkins.

In spaces big and small, maximizing your space and clearing clutter are musts. No matter your home’s layout or style, work with the space you have and highlight the details that matter most to you. Follow these tips to edit each room to look its best.

Minimize everything: Reduce each room to the most basic furniture pieces (multifunctional pieces are ideal) and only decorate with a few key accents to truly shine.

Make it personal: Personal and sentimental touches, from children’s art to sweet family photos, make a house feel like home.

Seasonal flair: Bring the beautiful colors and textures of the season to your home with freshly picked flowers and fruits for an extra dose of color and whimsy.



The Apple Cider Recipe You Will Need This Fall


Nothing complements a fall afternoon quite like a warm mug of apple cider. Not only is it a comfort for the soul but for the body as well. This ancient drink is low in calories but high in antioxidants. Refrain from the urge to tear that packet of powdery mix. Just follow these simple steps to make your own, authentic cider.

Apple Cider Recipe
With its delicious flavor and rich aroma, it is no wonder hot apple cider is a welcoming addition to the season.

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon apple juice or apple cider
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1/2 cup orange peel, cut into strips
  • 1/2 cup lemon peel, cut into strips
  • Large stock pot or crock pot

 

Directions:

  • Pour one gallon of fresh cider or juice into pot or slow cooker.
  • Add a half cup of brown sugar.
  • Place cloves, allspice, orange and lemon peels, and cinnamon sticks on a square of cheesecloth and tie up. Add to the pot. (Coffee filters or a tea ball can be substituted for the cheesecloth).
  • In a crock pot: heat for 2 hours.
  • In a regular pot: heat the cider to a boil, stirring regularly. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the spices from the pot and serve.

 

Tips and twists:

For a different flavor, add cranberry juice.

For decoration, float orange slices in the pot or a whole apple, studded with cloves.

For kids: serve each mug with a cinnamon stick, kids love using them as straws.

For Adults: add a splash of rum or brandy to really spice things up.