holiday how-to: quick-fix praline bars

Here’s a typical story from my life: Earlier this month I celebrated my 30th birthday party with a cookie swap at my favorite bar. The party was starting in half-an-hour, and, of course, I hadn’t had time to bake a single cookie. I knew it would be OK for me to skip the swap, but I still wanted to contribute a little something sweet. Into my brain, like a saving grace, popped this recipe…a holiday favorite of my Grandma Mary. The simple ingredients and unfussy proportions make it an easy one to recall by heart, and before I knew it, I was on my way out the door, tin of cookies in hand, with a minute or two to spare.

Before I share her recipe, please know one thing: No one’s going to “ooh” and “ahh” over how these bars look. They’re not showy, they’re simple. But whatever they lack in looks, they make up for (ten-fold) in taste. I figured I’d share the recipe with you this week, in case you too find yourself in a pinch and need to whip up something for a holiday party or potluck at the last minute.


Grandma Mary’s Praline Bars


24 graham crackers (roughly two packs from an average-size box)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans (or walnuts)


1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Arrange graham crackers on a foil-lined jelly roll pan.

3. Heat brown sugar and butter to boiling in a saucepan. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly; remove from heat and quickly stir in the vanilla.

3. Working fast, spread the caramelized sugar on top of the crackers, as evenly as possible.

4. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.

5. Bake for 10 or so minutes, or until the caramel starts to bubble. Watch ’em carefully because they can scorch from just a minute or two of over-baking.

6. Let them cool and then break into squares or pieces.

This recipe doubles like a dream, which you might as well do because they take literally 15 minutes start-to-finish and you will want to gobble them all up as soon as they are cool.



seasons greetings

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Disagree all you want, but for me, Christmas mail is the best mail. Lately after work, I’ve found myself going straight to the mailbox too see what’s arrived that day. A pretty card, a letter from family far away, cute baby photos from friends…every night it’s a little dose of happy. Speaking of happy mail, I scanned in a collection of Christmas cards from my mom and had to share them with you. Each is a treasure in its own way, from the staged sing-a-long to the oh-fer-cute garlands.

Are y’all enjoying the onslaught of holiday mail too? Better yet, did you send a holiday card this year? If so, here’s hoping it too is treasured.



t’s for texas


Hey friends! Just popping in to let you know that it might be quiet around here for a few more days, since this afternoon, I’m heading to Texas to celebrate my boyfriend’s grandparent’s 65th wedding anniversary (!!!). After a crazy busy couple of weeks, I’m so looking forward to a few days away away with my honey. As usual, we don’t have a ton of plans set in stone, except for a day or two at the beach, a quick trip over the border to Reynosa, Mexico and a drive-by of the Freddy Fender water tower. I hope to squeeze in a few quick thrift-store visits too, of course, but we’ll see how that goes! I’ll be posting lots of pics on Instagram while I’m away, so if you feel like seeing what mischief I’m getting into, find me @highplainsthrifter.

Take care while I’m away, OK?



life lately

This week’s been a busy one. Working all day, busting butt each and every night. I’ve been occupied mostly with readying my humble little home for the arrival of a very important guest…my boyfriend’s beautiful daughter Ian, who flew in from California late last night. She’s visited a few times before, but this time it’s different. Because this time, she’s here in Minneapolis for good.

It’s no secret that I absolutely love living on my own. But to be able to welcome her to this city, this next chapter, and provide her with a comfortable place to stay while she gets her bearings? That makes my heart nearly burst with happy. And that kind of joy makes the small sacrifices required when sharing one’s home so. totally. worth. it. Anyway, speaking of hearts bursting, we’re off to visit her grandma, aunties, uncle and cousins in St. Cloud. It couldn’t be a more beautiful, sunshine-y afternoon for a reunion…

I hope you have the most lovely of weekends, dears!



she get it from her mama

I didn’t get an Easter basket this year. Instead, on Easter Sunday, my mom gifted me this beautiful dress. She found it at our favorite up north thrift that’s right across the street from our favorite up north pie shop. (Blueberry pie is kind of a big deal up there.)

It cost a whopping $1.50.

How a dress from fancy pants Neiman Marcus wound up in little ole Iron River (population 1,059) is a bit beyond me. A little digging led me to discover that CB II by Castleberry was an ’80s trademark owned by Leslie Fay Inc., a label you’ll see often at thrifts. Unlike Neiman Marcus.

What I love about this dress…the way the pattern switches from horizontal to vertical and then back to horizontal (is there a fashion-y word to describe this? If so, I don’t know what that word is!), the cinched 3/4-length sleeves and the sash-y belt at the waist. It’s always a bonus when you score a cute dress with the original matching belt. It’s like a mound of Cool Whip on top of a blueberry pie á la mode. Pie + ice cream = great, but pie + ice cream + Cool Whip = even greater. Same with vintage dresses and their matching belts.

Thank you for this sweet dress mama! I’ll take thrifted finds from you over a basket full of chocolate any day. (Iron River blueberry pie on the other hand…)



P.S. If you like this dress, I found a similar one, also by CB II, on Etsy.

happy new year!

It’s been a busy month, but I had to pop in to wish you all a very, very happy new year. And while I’m at it, I figured I’d share this photo of my grandma Mary (second in on the left, next to the guy in the glasses) on the eve of 1957. The thing I love most about Dec. 31st doesn’t have anything to do with bubbly drinks, big meals or fancy dresses. Taking stock of the year that has past and making plans and resolutions for a better, brighter and happier new one—that’s where it’s at for me. I wish you all wonderful evenings, whether you celebrate in sweatpants or sequins. Call a cab, sleep on a couch or get a free ride home, just be safe.



from grandma ella’s recipe box: sloppy joes

Something you should know about me: I could read recipes all the live-long day. Another thing you should know about me: I absolutely love projects, especially ones that require sorting or better yet, alphabetizing. So yesterday, when my mom pulled out two huge recipe boxes full of my grandma Ella’s recipes, and asked me to categorize them all, I was pretty much in heaven.

I came across a lot of old favorites from growing up, including this one for Sloppy Joes, aka one of my most beloved comfort foods.

It makes a batch large enough to feed a small army, but it freezes like a dream. I remember eating this at Grandma’s on a homemade whole wheat bun, with raw veggies, ripple chips and dip. And now I’m hungry.