December Favorites

 

A Nod to Navy 

Only 4 more sleeps till Christmas! Remember when you were a kid and Christmas seemed to take forever to get here? And now it comes so fast it seems to sneak up on you and hit you in the face? If that’s not an analogy for adulthood, I don’t know what is.

There is so much inspiration floating around out there on the interwebs that it can start to feel like you aren’t doing Christmas right if you aren’t doing all the things.  This year I decided to make a simple list of four things I’d like to do this season – that way I have both a plan so I don’t feel overwhelmed, and the satisfaction of feeling like I enjoyed the season to its fullest. And you know what? It worked! I made a dried orange garland, started and advent calendar, made homemade hot chocolate, and planted paperwhites.

In honor of that list, here are four of my favorites from around the web this past month in all of their festive goodness:

  • In an effort to slow the season down and enjoy the little moments, I made stovetop potpourri yesterday and let it simmer on the stove all day. To me, it’s what Christmas would smell like if you could bottle it, and it’s so easy. I used a sliced up orange, a couple of cinnamon sticks, a pomegranate, and some rosemary. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer (just remember to add water throughout the day so it doesn’t dry out).
  • Gift guides for the holidays abound throughout the internet, but mommypotomus always curates a great one. Her suggestions are useful, healthy, and she always manages to come up with unique ideas that you don’t see duplicated on other gift guides.
  • The White Buffalo Styling Company just revealed her newly renovated kitchen and it turned out amazing. As someone who currently lives in a small space and is about to embark on a renovation with our new house, it’s inspiring to see a reveal that looks both beautiful and attainable.
  • Edie from Life in Grace is doing an Advent series on her blog. It’s such a good way to take a moment out of your day to really concentrate on the true meaning of the season.
  • If you don’t already follow Half Baked Harvest, you should. The photography is to die for and her recipes draw you in unlike any other. Her baked cinnamon crème brûlée french toast with raspberry preserves is a recipe I’ve put on my must make list.

Merry Christmas!

 

Touches of Christmas Around the House

Good Morning! I thought I would share some touches of Christmas around our home, nothing fancy, just the little stuff that makes the season feel extra special.

I have been looking for just the right advent calendar for what seems like forever. The majority of them seem to be geared towards having a gift or treat in it each day. I was looking for something that had a fun way to celebrate each day of December without being so gift centric (although I have seen some cute ideas for how to do that with Bible verses or quotes). I finally found what I was looking for this year at Paper Source (it’s sold out online, but still available in some stores). The cute houses remind me of european architecture, and moving the santa doll to its new pocket each day is a cute tradition to look forward to.

I think a lyric or verse from a Christmas song is always such a fun and unexpected way to add some holiday cheer to a room. I’ve had this pillow cover from etsy for a couple of years and still enjoy pulling it out to use.

Who doesn’t love a little bit of whimsy at Christmas? For me, ornaments are one of the easiest ways to add it. The llama ornament from World Market.

I pulled out some classic Christmas books like The Night Before Christmas and The Nutcracker, as well as some winter books like You Belong Here for the shelves in the nursery.

Some wreaths around the house are a simple, easy way to add cheer. For me, boxwood wreaths are a bonus because I leave them up throughout the winter to keep the house feeling cozy after the Christmas decorations come down. The juniper wreath and dried boxwood wreaths are both from Target.

I used fresh evergreens for the first time this year with clippings from our yard. It’s one of those things I wished I hadn’t waited so long to try. You can see how I used them on our Christmas Mantle and Festive Dried Orange Garland.

I hope you are enjoying the season and the simple delights it has to offer. Thank you for stopping by!

DIY Festive Dried Orange Garland

 

Try adding a touch of the homemade to your house by making this simple and festive dried orange garland for the Christmas season.

I watched some of my favorite Christmas movies this past weekend (I think Little Women might be my all time favorite) and was inspired to make something truly homemade to add to the Christmas decorations in our house. Citrus fruit used to be a Christmas delicacy that was given as gifts and savored, so I thought I would try my hand at a traditional dried orange garland. They add a pop of color when added to a plain evergreen garland, and they smell amazing. The best part? They are so simple to make, and I’m all about a simple DIY. Here’s how I made mine:

  1. I started with a large baking sheet and cooling rack. I used two oranges sliced into 1/4 inch slices.

2. Place the slices on the cooling rack with a baking pan underneath. Pop the pan in the oven and bake at 200 degrees for 3 hours, make sure you flip them over halfway through so they dry evenly.

3. And voila! Three hours later you have dried orange slices ready to string into a garland. I used regular cotton baking twine and a large gauge needle to thread the orange slices.

4. Enjoy! I added my garland to a homemade evergreen garland that I hung over the kitchen sink for Christmas. I love how the orange and green play off each other and it adds a little bit of Christmas cheer while I do the dishes. It’s the little things, right?

 

Village House Christmas Mantle

 

Hello! I thought I would share a bit of our home with you today as I add touches of Christmas here and there. I’ll be sharing more in the weeks to come, but thought I would start with our Christmas mantle.  We actually have two fireplaces in our home, one in our living room and one in our family room. This is the family room fireplace. The room is open to the kitchen and has patio doors opening out to the backyard, it’s also painted an aqua color that changes throughout the day depending on the light. All this to say, this room has a lot going on, so I always try to keep the mantel pretty basic.

This year I used evergreen branches clipped from our backyard for the first time to make a fresh garland. I added in some red winter berries (also from the yard) for some pops of color. To make the garland I just laid the branched out along the mantle and tucked the berries into the branches – so easy!


The little wooden houses are the nesting houses from the Hearth & Hand collection at Target. With the white painted brick and all of the green tones, I think the wood houses really add some warmth.

I hope you all are enjoying adding touches of Christmas to your homes this holiday. Is there anything new you’re trying that you’ve never done before?

A Simple Christmas Wreath

 

Simple is always best. Isn’t that how the saying goes? I’ve always adhered to the idea that less is more, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s really become my mantra. I think we all love to appreciate the beauty of simplicity, but sometimes all the of the stuff gets in the way, especially at Christmas. Even though I crave simplicity, every time I walk into a craft store around the holidays the consumer in me wants to buy all the stuff. It’s a constant battle.

I always start my Christmas decorating with the front door each year. It just seems like the perfect place to start welcoming people into your home, and so many people see it – friends, family….the mailman.  So without further ado, the simplest Christmas wreath ever:

I start by buying a pre-made plain boxwood wreath at Trader Joe’s. They come out around Thanksgiving weekend each year, and for around $10 you really can’t beat it. If you have your own boxwood growing around your house, making your own wreath would be a great option too.

Next I add a festive element, this can be anything from bells to pinecones – one year I even did a pair of children’s ice skates I found at a thrift store. I think this adds a bit of interest to the wreath and ends up being a beautiful, simple, focal point. The bells I used above are from Hobby Lobby although I have seen them sold by other retailers.


Lastly, I added some color because it creates a pop of visual interest. I used some leftover cranberry colored satin ribbon from the dollar store tied loosely into a bow. I used a straight pin to secure the ribbon to the bell rope and then tucked the bell hanger through the wreath branches until it felt secure.

I think the reason I like this wreath so much is because it doesn’t look like it’s trying too hard. It says, hey, come on in and enjoy the simplicity of the season…

 

Chocolate Christmas Powder

 


I’ve never been a coffee drinker, I like everything coffee flavored – except for actual coffee. Anyone else? Most mornings I have a cup of black tea, but when I want to indulge it’s always with a good hot chocolate. Starbucks is my favorite hot chocolate, but having that on a regular basis can get spendy, and sometimes you just don’t want to have to leave your house on a cozy Saturday morning to brave the drive thru. The below chocolate powder recipe is the closest I’ve come to Starbucks, and might even be better;) I use it with this milk frother, which has pretty much paid for itself over the last year in substitution for ordering our drinks out.

Who doesn’t love a good chocolate recipe? Especially one that can be used is endless ways. Use this chocolate powder for pretty much whatever your heart desires – rolling cookies in, sprinkling on desserts, milkshakes, or my favorite, hot chocolate. If you’re feeling really adventurous add some homemade marshmallows from Whole Foods bakery department.

Recipe for Chocolate Christmas Powder

  • 460 grams granulated sugar
  • 116 grams cocoa powder (I like this brand)
  • 3 grams vanilla bean, ground
  • 2 grams salt
  • 2 grams cinnamon

Pour the sugar into a large bowl. Sift the cocoa powder, vanilla bean, salt, and cinnamon directly over the sugar, and then whisk to fully combine. Enjoy!

Guest Bath Design Board

Today I wanted to follow up on my earlier promise to start sharing some design board ideas for our upcoming home remodel (you can read more about the whole story here).

  1. Bath & Shower Faucet Set  2. Turkish Towel  3. Subway Tile  4. Bathtub  5. Floor Tile  6. Baskets  7. Vanity

As the new year approaches, I’m starting to have a little bit of anxiety about the overwhelmingness that remodels can entail, particularly budget. What I don’t want is for us to get so caught up in everything big picture that we forget to plan ahead – because planning ahead can save money, especially with finishes. Waiting until your finishes go on sale can add up, after all, $100 here and there can make the difference between coming in under, on, or over budget.

So where do you start? For me this means making design boards. Design boards help me figure out what feel I want for a room, as well as catalog the sources I want to use. There is no faster way to break your budget than to just walk into a store and buy a faucet on the spot (or whatever your looking for) because your plumbing is scheduled to be installed the next day. Figuring out what faucet style you want, reading reviews, and checking prices all takes time. Add waiting for something to go on sale to the equation, and you can see how budgets and timelines get broken all the time.

For me, a design board helps me track what I’m looking for as well as helps make sure I don’t impulse buy something just because it looks good to me at the moment but doesn’t actually fit with the room I’m shopping for – which is exactly what I’m trying to do with the above guest bath. This is just a preliminary board to try and gather the “feel” I’m looking for. Our new (to us) house is set in the woods at the base of mountains, so I’m trying to give it a modern cabin/mountain house feel, but still keep it light and airy.

What I am sure about it is wanting some sort of statement tile either in the guest bathroom or the laundry room. Since a guest bath is used by everyone, but not necessarily seen constantly (like a main living space is) it seems like the ideal place to be a little adventurous with my flooring choice. Enter the plaid tile. I think it’s modern, a little whimsical, but still gives a nod to the cabin vibe we want to inject throughout the house. What do you think? Is statement tile too permanent for you or would you take the plunge?

 

Natural Cleaning & DIY All Purpose Spray

 


Over the past year I’ve been doing a major purge and replacement of our household cleaners in an effort get as many toxins as possible out of our home. It’s kind of a trendy thing to do right now, but I actually grew up in a home where my mom tried to eliminate items she thought were harmful, so it’s not a totally new concept to me. I also had my first child this past year, and I like the idea of not having to worry about her crawling through something toxic I used to disinfect the floor.

While there is so much more information out there now than there use to be, it still takes a bit of effort and research if you want to go natural with you household items and stay on a budget. I thought I would pass along the tools that have been helpful to me as well as the products we use and like. I wanted to make sure these products stood the test of time, so all of the products I’m going to highlight we genuinely like and have been using for the past year on a regular basis.

Tools

There are two main tools I’ve used to research and vet products. Basically, I would concentrate on one household area at a time, for instance laundry, and then research different options for detergent, whitener, dryer sheets, etc. The first tool I use mostly at home to compare products, the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website. If you haven’t heard of the EWG, they test and rate products based on their toxicity levels, as well as provide a list of alternative products based on the category you are searching.

The second tool I use mostly when I’m out shopping, it’s the Think Dirty app. This app is basically an extension of the EWG website in that it pulls all it’s data from there. The beauty of it is it’s ease of use. When you’re out shopping, you don’t want to have to search through the EWG’s website in the middle of the detergent aisle, and that’s where this app comes in. It allows you to use your phone as a scanner. You just scan the barcode on the back of the product, and Think Dirty automatically pulls up its rating and any know toxins, what they are, and potential harmful effects. The caveat is that this works great as long as the product is in Think Dirty’s system, if it’s not, they have an option for you to add it so their researchers can look into it and add it to their database.

Below is a round-up of our favorite cleaning and household products as well a simple recipe for a disinfecting/all-purpose spray that happens to smell amazing (I use this everywhere – the floor, the counters, highchair trays, you name it). Keep in mind this list is by no means comprehensive, and there are a lot of great alternatives to the ones I have listed below. I hope this helps, I know sometimes it can seem like the product choices are overwhelming. Thank you, as always, for stopping by!

 

 

All Purpose Spray Recipe

  • 20 drops Rosemary essential oil
  • 20 drops Lavender essential oil
  • Fill the remainder of a 16 oz glass spray bottle with distilled water. Make sure you shake before each use.

Enjoy!

November Favorites

via Cherished Bliss

In honor of what seemed like the longest week I thought I’d do a little Friday favorites round-up. This time of year has so much design inspiration everywhere. I think it has to do with the obvious fact that we focus so much on getting our homes ready for the holidays, but also because of all of the natural elements that come with this time of year – the pumpkins! the candles! the snow!

Isn’t the above tablescape amazing? I think what I love most about it is the transitional elements. It almost feels like a combination of a Thanksgiving and a Christmas tablescape pulled into one. The pumpkins and leaves keep it feeling fallish while the tartan blanket and pinecones add the perfect touch of Christmas without feeling over the top.

Here are some other items I’m loving from around the interwebs:

  • Is anyone not talking about Target’s new Hearth & Hand line with Chip and JoJo? I unintentionally went to our local Target on the launch day and was pleasantly surprised at the number of items still in stock. It really is a cute line – simple, clean, modern lines with a touch of traditional Christmas. My favorite picks were the nesting houses, the juniper wreath, and the striped pot holders.
  • Boxwood Avenue is one of my favorite blogs to follow and she is currently participating in the One Room Challenge. Her dining room is turning out so dreamy, I want to move in!
  • I just order these cozy blankets for christmas gifts and may have added one to the cart for myself. #buffalocheckforever
  • We’ve been contemplating getting rid of our cable tv lately – the bill just seems to keep climbing. I’ve been researching different streaming services and am excited to try out Sling TV (my husband not so much). I’ll report back on how it goes.

I hope you all have a great weekend, and thank you so much for stopping by!

Paleo Pumpkin Cookie Bites



A couple of years ago our family started to take a closer look at what we were eating. Digestive issues, fatigue, and a pattern of less than healthy eating habits were the norm in our house, and we knew that needed to change. Enter paleo. While the concept is fairly well known now, a couple of years ago, before it had reached is currently level of popularity, I stumbled across an instagram account devoted to the paleo diet. This account introduced me to what paleo was, and how to start incorporating it into what we ate.

Now, let me put the caveat out there that I don’t believe in a one size fits all approach to healing your body through food, I think we are all made differently and each of us has to figure out what works best for our health and family. That being said, paleo was a huge chunk of the clean eating puzzle for us. Here is a good basic definition of paleo if you’re wondering what it’s all about. Starting was definitely the hardest part, but once we got some basic meals down, we started to expand our recipe repertoire.

The biggest change I’ve noticed throughout this journey is our tolerance for sugar. When you stop eating the overly sweet, artificial foods that you’re use to (especially candy and desserts), your tastes change – suddenly everything is just too sweet, too saccharin. While the options for paleo cookies and desserts at the store has exploded over the past couple of years, sometimes it’s still fun to bake your own. Below is a basic paleo cookie recipe adapted for the fall season by adding some pumpkin. Because pumpkin makes everything better, amiright?

Paleo Pumpkin Cookie Bites Recipe

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (or honey)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix together almond flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin spice powder. In a separate small bowl, whisk together coconut oil, pumpkin puree, syrup, vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to dry. Mix together until wet, and sticky. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes (this allows the dough to get a little more sticky and firm). In a small ball, mix cinnamon and coconut sugar. Form dough balls that are about 2 inches in diameter, roll dough into cinnamon sugar mixture. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes (depending on oven and thickness of cookies). Cookies bites should feel firm on the top, but may be soft in the middle. They will continue to get firmer once out of the oven. Cool completely on the cookie sheet. Enjoy!