Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays!

However you celebrate this Holiday Season, I hope it was a great one! 



image via

Now... Matt and I are off to sunny Mexico for vacation. YAY!


Talk to you all when we get back!

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Dessert and Drinks with Friends



Thanks to Duncan Hines for sponsoring my writing. There's no limit to the baking possibilities, so grab your favorite Duncan Hines mix and Comstock or Wilderness fruit fillings and Bake On! www.duncanhines.com


Hope everyone is having a good week! I’m loving all things Christmas around here. Its getting pretty cold (for Portland), but it just makes me want to snuggle my cats my husband and watch Christmas movies.

I’m also excited because I have Cooking Club with my girlfriends this week! (One of our fave recipes here.) We try to have Cooking Club once a month, but as these things go, sometimes we miss it and sometimes not everyone is able to come.

This month all the gals are available and I’m so looking forward to catching up with everyone. In true Cooking Club form, we decided that we’d just have pizza, salad, and drinks to leave maximum time for chatting :)

So when I was given the opportunity to write about Duncan Hines, it was perfect! What a great time to make an easy dessert and fun drink to share with my friends! 

brownie-martini

I made the Duncan Hines milk chocolate brownies. Its family size, so there was enough to give Matt a couple and have plenty for the girls.

brownie-mix-applesauce
I just followed the super easy directions on the back, but replaced half of the oil with homemade applesauce. It turned out great!

To go along with the brownies, I made a festive peppermint martini. The peppermint flavor is the perfect complement to the brownies, they taste great together!

brownie-drink-combination
Now Cooking Club isn’t until Thursday but of course Matt and I had to taste test the drinks.

Here is the easy recipe.

Peppermint Martini 
Combine equal parts 2% milk (could use cream or nonfat, just depends on your preference), vodka, and peppermint coffee creamer. Put in a shaker with a few ice cubes. Shake and pour. Simple as that!

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The peppermint martini and Duncan Hines brownie combo is a perfect holiday dessert for a night with friends! Can’t wait :) 

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Do you have a favorite holiday dessert or drink? Please share!

Remember to check out Duncan Hines' website www.duncanhines.com to find some great recipes for your holiday get-together! I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Oh, Christmas Tree

Last weekend Matt and I joined my sister and parents in a hunt for the perfect Christmas trees.

Actually, the Christmas trees were more of an excuse to visit this guy.

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Plus all of his animal friends. Our family went to a Christmas tree farm on the outskirts of the Portland suburbs in order to visit some cute animals.

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The baby alpacas are so cute! We loved them. We also got to visit a cute set of friends – a sheep and a cow (damn! I don’t remember what type of cow it is but I think he’s Norwegian).

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On our walk to the tree lot, we got to say hi to these gals. Matt and I don’t think we’ve ever seen a camel in person before!

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Don’t worry – we did remember to get a Christmas tree. We decided to put it in the TV room so it was visible as you walked in the house (and let’s face it, Matt and I spend a lot of evenings in front of the tube).

We had Spanish coffees, turned on the Christmas music, and decorated the tree. Diego helped.

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I love our tree! We throw all decor rules out the window and just use colorful lights and ornaments that have been given to us, ‘borrowed’ from our parents, or picked up along our travels.

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I got that tree skirt at the dollar store. For a buck, its perfect :)

Here’s the cats view. They sit under the tree a lot. I think they’re pretending they are outside, but with a heater :)

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Have you decorated your tree? Do you have a decor theme? Use sentimental ornaments?

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

How to Make a Snowflake Wreath

Last weekend I completed my first Christmas craft – a snowflake wreath for the entry way. Like most of my crafts lately, I avoid thinking for myself by spending time on Pinterest first :)

I was inspired by this wreath.

 

from bhg.com via pinterest

Of course, like most things on pinterest, mine ended up looking different. But I still love it!
snowflake-wreath

It actually was pretty easy to make. I just poured myself some wine, turned on the Christmas tunes, and started hot gluing away. Here are some instructions (though it really is pretty easy! I only got hot glue on the carpet once :)


How to Make a Snowflake Wreath 


You’ll need:
flat wreath form
white spray paint
hot glue and glue gun
snowflake ornaments (I got mine at the dollar store. I used 4 10 packs)
ribbon
hot-to-make-a-snowflake-wreath
(All the necessities) 

1. The night before you want to make the wreath, spray paint your wreath form white. This will make it less noticable if any wood shows through.

2. Remove the hooks from your ornaments, if needed, then glue the ornaments to the wreath form. I put a little hot glue in the center of the ornament, and overlapped each ornament to fill in most gaps.
now-to-make-a-snowflake-wreath

Also I should note that since these ornaments were 10 cents each at the Dollar Store, they broke easily. Its okay to use the broken ones. Just hide the broken side underneath the next ornament.

3. Once you cover the whole wreath form, your wreath will look like this.
snowflake-winter-wreath
I wanted to see the entire snowflake, so I glued a few more ornaments on top.

That’s it for the wreath!

I planned to hang it on a mirror in my entry way. I always wondered how people did this without putting an extra hole in the wall. I folded the ribbon over the top of the mirror and used painters tape on the back to hold it in place. Its working pretty well - the wreath is still in place!
snowflake-wreath

I love the touch of winter in the entry way! 
I’m thinking this can last past Christmas into January and February. (Once I finish decorating the table in there, I’ll show you the whole room :)  

snowflake-wreath-christmas


Have you started (or finished!) decorating for the Holidays?

Linked up at Home Stories A to Z. Pin It

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Delicious, Fresh Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Since Thanksgiving is coming oh so soon, I thought I’d the very best cranberry sauce recipe in case you need something to add to your meal on Thursday.



My friend J Bo (first told you about her here), shared this recipe with us while we were living in Maryland. Although we were far away from family, we got to spend Thanksgiving with great friends and J Bo delicious cranberry sauce :)

The best part is that its really easy. WAIT! Actually, the best part is when you have leftovers and you can make cranberry crisp… for breakfast.



How to Make Fresh Cranberry Sauce

cranberry-sauce-recipe 

Ingredients
4 packages cranberries (3 lbs)
The rind of 3 oranges
One cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar



fresh-cranberry-sauce

Pick over and wash cranberries and place in a roomy saucepan with sugar, brown sugar, orange rinds, orange juice, and cinnamon.

Bring to a boil, stir occasionally, cover and boil just until the cranberries burst - four to five minutes.  Sauce jells when cold.

(For me it was sorta hard to tell when the cranberries burst. It looks like this.)

cranberry-sauce-recipe


Makes about 2 quarts (and makes your house smell great!).

cranberry-sauce

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Creamy Butternut Squash Risotto Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   butternut-squash-risotto

Its starting to get chilly in Portland, which makes me crave soup, apple crisp, hot cocoa, pretty much any comfort food. I love curling up on the couch with a blanket, hot dinner, and a little Modern Family. (Yes, we usually eat in front of the TV. We take advantage while we don’t have kids. Once kids come along, to the dinner table we go.)



One of my favorite comfort food recipes is this butternut squash risotto. Some of my girlfriends and I get together around once a month to try new recipes, drink wine, and best of all, gossip :) I got this recipe last Fall from one of my cooking club friends, and I’ve made it several times since then. Its delicious!

Creamy Orzo Risotto with Butternut Squash (serves 4)

Ingredients
1 spray cooking spray
2 cups butternut squash, cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup uncooked orzo
1/2 a small onion (not part of the original recipe, I just added it)
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup canned chicken broth
1 tsp thyme, fresh, or 8 whole sprigs (sprigs preferred)
2 Tbsp fat-free half-and-half
1/3 cup(s) grated Parmesan
1/8 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper, freshly ground, or to taste
Wine (at cooking club, we don’t dine without wine :))


butternut-squash-recipe

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat a small rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

(My first step is to con my husband into peeling and chopping up the squash. For some reason I just really don’t like this step.)

squash-recipe


In a medium bowl, toss squash with oil and salt; spread in a single layer on prepared baking sheet, leaving space between squash cubes. Roast, stirring halfway through, until squash is tender and lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.

butternut-squash


Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat; add orzo. Stir constantly until orzo begins to smell toasty, about 3 minutes. This is where I added the onion. It was still pretty strong but a great addition. Next time I’d probably sauté the onion first for a couple minutes before adding the butter and orzo.

Add water, broth and thyme sprigs; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is nearly absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Remove thyme sprigs; stir in half-and-half, cheese and roasted squash. Season well with salt and pepper; serve.

butternut-squash-orzo


Can I just say that food is really hard to photograph? I can’t seem to get a picture that looks appetizing :)

I’d love to hear if you try this recipe! What is your favorite comfort food for the chilly weather?

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bathroom Vanity (almost) Complete

90%. We’re almost there. That’s right, the world’s longest bathroom remodel is 90% complete!

A couple weeks ago I showed you a sneak peak of our new bathroom counter. We hadn’t hung the mirror, caulked the granite or anything so I wanted to wait to show you our new, working vanity!

bathroom-remodel

Well… I still haven’t caulked the granite. But the sink and mirror are in. Since we’ve already replaced the floor, installed the toilet, and remodeled the shower, we’re almost there! We still have quite a bit of finishing work to do, but now our guests can use the bathroom for all things its supposed to be used for :)

But let me back up a bit. The counter. A long while back (when I was less realistic about our laziness), I asked for our readers help in picking a pattern for the tile counter.

I had purchased some cheap granite pieces that I had planned to make into tiles for the counter. The tiles were only $30 and fit with my low budget goal, but we just couldn’t decide how to design the counter. Nothing was really working for me us.

Like the agreeable husband that he is (I’m a lucky girl!), Matt jumped on board with the plan to totally blow our budget and buy a slab of granite for the countertop.

slab-bathroom-counter

We bought a remnant piece from an overstock yard (is that what they’re called?) so as far as granite goes, it was still pretty inexpensive. And I love it!

diy-bathroom-vanity

I’ll be honest, I had a few freak outs. Like, mumbling nonsense words, dramatically throwing my head in my hands, threatening to try and return the slab freak outs. Yes I know. Its just a countertop. So maybe I needed a little perspective at that moment? :)

The whole thing (granite, backsplash, and sink) was $270 and that is a lllooott of money for us. The sink hole is slightly off center and I was worried the warm gold-colored flecks in the granite wouldn’t go well with the black tiles in the shower and grey tile on the floor.

But, the gold flecks are really subtle and even my OCD mom said the off-center sink is ok. It allows us to actually keep something on the right side of the small counter.

I’ll be back later this week with a tutorial and some tips for installing a granite counter and undermount sink, and a final budget for the bathroom remodel. But for now, I wanted to show you this before and after. Its like the bathroom can breath now! No more crazy colors :)

bathroom-before-after
As you can see from the caulk and TP in the ‘progress pic’, its not staged :)

diy-bathroom-remodel

I’m sure you noticed, the 10% we have left to do is all the finishing work. Touching up paint, installing trim, caulking the countertop, and a few other touch ups here and there. I’m worried about my motivation level to finish up now that the whole bathroom actually works, so I haven’t let myself accessorize yet :)

I’ve been saving a Macy’s gift card to get a new shower curtain and I have some candles that’ll go perfectly in there… those will be my reward for getting the bathroom 100% done.

Do you procrastinate on the last little details? What is your motivation to completely finish big projects?

Linked up to Not JUST a HousewifeHouse of Hepworths, The Shabby Creek Cottage, and Thrifty Decor Chick. Pin It

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Clever Storage Solutions {Pinterest Tips Round Two}

Last month I share a few household tips to make those nagging chores a little easier. Of course, I got the ideas from Pinterest :)

Well, I’ve spotted some more great idea that I’m excited to share with you guys. This time, its all about clever storage ideas.

Our house is plenty big enough, but our storage options pretty limited. Our kitchen is small and the master bath has a pedestal sink. No storage space at all! These storage solutions would help us organize a lot.

The first idea is something I need to do right away. This rack would help organize our pots and pans shelf so much!

store-pots-and-pansfound here on pinterest

And this measuring cup/spoon rack would make it so easy to find what I need!

Pinned Image
found here on pinterest

Here’s two ideas that would help organize our small bathroom so much. Clever storage solutions go a long way in a bathroom that’s only about 5’ x 5’ :)

bathroom-storage
found here via pinterest


Pinned Image
found here via pinterest (how cute!)

And finally, look at this idea that would help all of us hoarders thrifters store our finds until we’re ready to use or repurpose them. Our garage would be so clean if everything was kept on the ceiling instead of the floor.

Pinned Image
found here via pinterest

Hopefully my urge to purge (sorry, couldn’t resist) will continue this weekend and we’ll do a little organizing and take some trips to Goodwill. To donate. I’ll try really hard not to buy anything!

What are you up to this weekend? Organizing? Halloween-ing? Watching football?
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Entry Way Display

Hi guys! How was your weekend? Our was great. As usual it went by too fast, but Matt and I went for a run in Forest Park (It was sunny. In Portland. In October!), watched the Beavs win with family and friends, and I canned a whole bunch of pears with my girlfriends. All in all a great weekend, minus a itty bitty hangover on Sunday :)

I also finally got around to taking some pics of my Halloween decor in the entry way.


halloween-entry-way

Sorry about the weird angle of this pic. Our entry is pretty skinny so its hard to get a decent shot.

I had our summer decorations up way too long, so I was excited to change it up with the Halloween decor. I keep it pretty simple in the entry since its so small, but I love having a little space to decorate. I already know exactly what I’ll do for Christmas (damn you, Pinterest!).

Anyway, the decor was centered around using my fancy Halloween candles. 


halloween-candles

I splurged and bought these at Pottery Barn last year (I had a 10% off coupon from attending a class). Usually PB is way out of my price range but I knew I’d never be able to DIY these candles and I just love them.

I’m also digging the bright orange in the Chinese lanterns (that plant grows like a weed in my yard) and the pumpkins in the vase.

halloween-decor

The silver and black gourds I bought at the dollar store and spray painted. Funny enough, my sister-in-law (the clever bat pumpkin artist) bought the same ones and spray painted them gold for her fall decor. Great minds! :)

Last but not least, my favorite part of the decor is Black Jack.

halloween-entry-way

Although his wild purple hair does not go with anything else, and he’s just a randomly placed toy on our entry table, he’s definitely my fave :) He reminds me of “playing trolls” with my sister when we were little. We went through barbie and stuffed animals phases too. We were only weird some of the time. He also reminds me of trick-or-treating in the old ‘hood, trying to wear a costume over my raincoat (oh, Portland), and collecting pillowcases full of candy.

So even though Black Jack takes the sophistication of my decor down a notch, he’s most definitely my favorite part about it. (And I’m telling myself that with Halloween, most people aren’t looking for ‘sophisticated’ anyway.)

halloween-entry-way

Did you guys save trolls from when you were young to use to decorate? No? Just me? :)

I know you guys DO have some great mementos displayed in your home. What is your fave?

PS. I changed the blog template without ruining our site! I was nervous about it, but it wasn’t too bad. I still need to fix the header but hopefully its a little more user friendly around here now!

Linked up to A Bowl Full of Lemons and Today's Creative Blog.
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Pardon the Mess

I'm updating the blog template. Its a total breeze and I'll be done in a sec really confusing so I'll probably be working out some kinks for a while.

Please let me know what you think! I used a template I found online that seems to be working pretty well. I'll write a post with the links to the resources I used once my eyes uncross :) Thank you for your patience!






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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pumpkin Carving Party {Halloween Celebration}

Last weekend Matt and I had a few friends over to carve pumpkins. So fun! I love carving pumpkins, we’ll probably continue the tradition forever.

Armed with yummy hot cider (recipe here) and some Pinterest inspiration, we started carving.

carve-pumpkins

Most of us chose a design, scooped out the seeds and carved away. Then there was Andy.

Granted, his design was intricate and looks great, but seriously. It took him hours to carve his pumpkin! The rest of us carved, had hors d’oeuvres, more cider, and roasted seeds, while he was still carving away.

carve-pumpkins Yes, Andy looks a lot like Matt. Twin brother.

Have you ever roasted seeds? Its super easy and delicious. We just rinsed off the pumpkin bits and baked them on a baking dish with a little bit of salt, stirring every 10 minutes or so. I think it took about a half hour to fully bake? And Andy was still carving :)

pumpkin-carving-skull

Its tradition for us to vote, by cheering loudly, for pumpkin winners. We line up the pumpkins, light candles, turn out the lights and vote. Yes, we’re all adults, but what is more fun than slinging back a few ciders and yelling for your fave?

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We had four categories, scariest, most creative, best overall, and most like Charlie Sheen. You’d think the pumpkin enjoying a beer would have been voted most like Charlie Sheen.

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But the little guy in the middle of this pic won. I think its because of the facial expression :) (The pumpkin on the right was dubbed scariest).

pumpkins-candles

My creative sister-in-law won best overall with her cute bat.

pumpkin-bat

Poor Andy didn’t win anything :(

I didn’t either. The only votes I got were from the cats.

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After carving was over, we kept the yelling going with a rousing game of catchphrase. It was a wonderful Halloween celebration!

Also, on Monday I shared a sneak peek about our finished bathroom vanity… sorry I’m slow in sharing it with you guys :) Tomorrow we have a dodgeball game but I’ll post it soon, promise!

Linked up to Serenity Now and Fingerprints on the Fridge. Pin It

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