Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review

Happy New Years Eve my friends!!

I know I've been completely absent for the past few weeks, but I have to say... it felt GOOD to completely check out like that.  It's been all about enjoying family, friends, and recovering from the worst cold/flu that is still lingering after almost three full weeks.

While this blog is a little pet project of mine, my favorite thing about it (aside from seeing it grow, and making all sorts of fun blog friends) is the self reflection.  The ability to document our life, and look back at the end of each year.  Without getting all ooey-gooey, I wanted to look back at some of the most popular posts from 2013...

My DIY Roman Shade is at the top of that list... not just for this year but for all time on my little blog.  I still get emails and comments from readers about how I sewed on the loops, or what brackets I used to mount.  I'm happy to say that this little roman shade is still going strong in our hallway, and it's still one of the projects I'm most proud of.

A close runner up was the Dresser turned TV Stand.  And I mean... I can't be surprised!! Who DOESN'T love a good Ikea hack??

We love everything about this dresser - it's super functional, hiding a TON of stuff that hoarders like me can't part with, it has cute little lion heads for the pulls, and the ultra-marine blue paint is so rich and pretty.

Oh yeah... and we can see our TV when we're laying in bed now.  LOVE!

You guys also loved The X-bench Makeover... possibly the easiest and most satisfying DIY I worked on this year because it took me maybe an hour to complete.  There is something to be said for instant gratification my friends!

The benches are super functional and have added additional seating to our living room; they are super solid, and have been holding up well, and I am still absolutely loving the grey chevron fabric I went with.

I'd say that's a win!

If the x-benches were the easiest and least labor intensive DIY of 2013, my next project was just the opposite.  The post I get privately emailed about most often is the Upholstered Headboard with Nailhead Trim which took me and my parents a full weekend, and quite a few curse words to complete.

Regardless of the time it took, it was well worth it to me - it's perhaps my favorite project I've worked on to date.  I am so thrilled with how it turned out, and I think about it every day when we make the bed, or when we lean back against it to read or watch TV at night.

It's mainly laziness that keeps me from writing up the full DIY, but that's a goal I'll be carrying with me into 2014...

I SWEAR... it's coming!

And finally, my Cheap-o Wine Rack Makeover rounds out the list of most popular posts of 2013.

Things got real when I my best friend called me and said that my house showed up on Google as she was searching for a wine rack.

It got even more real when I was on Pinterest and saw my wine rack in our living room "pinned" from some random woman.

I was so excited I just had to screen shot it and send it to everyone I knew...

All in all it's been a really great year, but I'm ready to say goodbye to 2013.

It started out rough with Kris' accident, but got better as it went. It was hard watching my love be hurt and sick - lots of late nights, lots of hospital and ER visits, and lots of stress.  Thankfully he's well again, and the long nights are just memories now.

It was a year of new beginnings... starting a new job, getting out of my comfort zone, and working harder than I knew I could. Again, lots of late nights, travel, and stress... a few tears and weak moments when I feared I'd made the wrong decision, but I've come out stronger and happier than I thought I could be.

This year didn't have any big exciting moments - no huge vacations, or big life changes.  I was talking with girlfriends the other day about 2013, and I think we all agreed that it was a year of transition.  A year with heartache, and new - sometimes scary - beginnings.  My theory is that 2013 was the year to set up 2014... a year that is going to be filled with big changes, like learning to live with my best friend on the other side of the country, a year of making another house our home, and another year with the love of my life.

Sayonara 2013... I'm ready for 2014.

Cheers to a year of health and happiness.  Be safe tonight my loves

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Custom Stationary

Who else here reads Cupcakes and Cashmere??  Emily was the second blog that I got into after discovering Centsational Girl.  It was like my eyes had been opened to this awesome little world that I had no idea existed!!

Well Emily has made quite a career for herself, having already published a lifestyle book that spun off from her blog, and she is so talented and relatable - I think that's why I (and so many others) just love her.  I look to her for inspiration for fashion, crafting, and recipes all the time, but this week she posted about creating your own stationary, and a light bulb went off in my head.

photo via cupcakes and cashmere

I've already ordered my own embosser, a few stamps, clear ink, and some heavy cardstock and I'm like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning right now...  I cannot WAIT to test it out!  For more details on how to do this on your own, by all means check out her tutorial and examples...

In the meantime, I've been looking for inspiration for stationary that I want to try and re-create on my own...

How fun would it be to make some stationary that gives a nod to our little city by the bay??  This would be so cute!

And simple personalized stationary is so lovely with just their initials embossed on it.  This one would make a really great, personal gift for a friend.
And one with chevron... I need to find a larger chevron stamp, but I'm sure I can make that happen... imagine this in gold.  AMAZING...
Anything with dogs would be perfect too... I mean how cute are these??

Ok, the embosser needs to get here already!  I'm raring to go!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Three Cocktails to Liven up your Holidays

It's 5:00 somewhere... am I right??  Today I'm participating in the link up party at The Lovely Cupboard, where there is bound to be quite a few yummy cocktail recipes abound!

After getting our new bar cart, I went wild at BevMo, so we are stocked to the gills with delicious holiday beverage accouterments.... everything from brandied cherries (these are just AMAZING in a manhattan), to flavored syrups, whiskey, vodka, mixers, and LOTS of champagne... 

To keep things feeling festive, I've devised three holiday cocktails to perpetuate that warm feeling of holiday cheer (or is that warm feeling from taste-testing three different cocktails in the afternoon...)

The hard part about this post wasn't coming up with three cocktails, but, actually limiting myself to just three!!  I had a little too much fun with this one!

The first cocktail up, is the Rose "merry" and Cranberry Cooler... ya like that name??

I, for one, LOVE mixing savory and sweet flavors, and the rosemary in this recipe gives this cocktail a nice earthy balance.  

It also could not be easier to concoct this bad boy, and it's as delicious as it is pretty!  I mean come on... red and green??  It doesn't get more festive!

  - Vodka
  - Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
  - Simple Syrup
  - Rosemary
  - Ice
  - Campari

Muddle Rosemary in your cocktail shaker.  Pour in one part vodka, two parts unsweetened cranberry juice, one part simple syrup, and 1/2 part Campari.  Add 4 large ice cubes, and stir 30 seconds.  Strain into martini class (or here, I used a pretty crystal coupe from my mama).

This drink is sweet, but also bitter (from the campari) and a bit sour from the cranberry juice, and earthy from the rosemary.  It's a little TOO good...

If you're not a fan of Campari, just leave it out - I made a second version without it, and it was also absolutely delish!

Next up, is the Orange & Mango Fizz...   This is a bit of a twist on the classic mimosa, but the bitters and the mango spice it up a bit... 

  - 1 orange wedge
  - 2 1/2 cups sparkling wine, prosecco or champagne
  - 3/4 cup mango nectar
  - 1 teaspoon orange bitters
  - orange zest twists, for garnish

In a large pitcher, combine the wine, mango nectar, and bitters. Serve in a champagne flutes, and garnish with an orange zest twist.

It literally could not be easier, and this serves four! Perfect for Christmas morning if you ask me, and aside from the mango, most people have everything else on hand already!  If you don't usually keep bitters on hand, you should start!  Great in food (mainly sauces, soups and broths as an aromatic) and drinks.

Finally, onto dessert.... err... I mean dessert drinks.  

The Snowy White Russian is so sweet and yummy, you'll want to skip the fig pudding... or yule log... or grandma's fudge, or whatever traditional Christmas dessert you have!

  - Vodka
  - Kahlua
  - Milk (I've used non-fat before, but 2% is better)
  - Chocolate Syrup
  - Whipped Cream

Combine one part vodka, one part kahlua, and one part milk in a glass, stir.  Add three large ice cubes, and top with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.

You can thank me later.

Making this one totally took me back to my college days - my girlfriends and I would make these on a regular basis, regardless of season, and now I remember why.  They are SO GOOD.

I mean... YUM!!  Can we get a close-up glamour shot here??

Ohhh yeahhhh... nom nom...

And how cute are these glasses?

Kris got them from his sister as a birthday present, and I'm kind of obsessed (they originally came from Restoration Hardware although I can't find them online anymore).  They are labeled to measure out how much "medicine" you might need after a grueling day of caroling, or an especially brutal snowball fight...

Super cute, right??

So that's it!!  Do you have any favorite holiday beverages??  Mulled cider?  Mulled wine?  Some sort of yummy whiskey cocktail??  A hot toddy???  I could go all day people!

May your holiday's be merry and bright(er) with these fun cocktail recipes!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Shelf Decor

Hello friends!

I've been sick as a dog, spending as much time as I can in bed resting, but I'm stopping in briefly today to post a few pictures of the holiday decor I've added to the shelves in our dining room / office.

Everything we added to this space was either re-purposed from past years, or it was free...

One of my favorite parts about the holiday updates on these shelves were the "chalkboard" printouts from online.  I just took the prints that were previously in these frames and swapped them out.  So easy, and it cost me nothing - my favorite kind of update!

I also took the faux holly berry sprigs that had been in our living room last year, and cut the stems short, putting the berry branches in a few small pots we had on hand.  Another super easy, free addition, and it added instant holiday cheer to the shelves.

The faux potted amaryllis was a score from Target last year, and is livening up our pretty little bar cart.

This is not a "Christmas" update, but you might also notice a pretty addition here... my mom gifted me one of her crystal decanters!  I am dying to get some port decanted in there, but for now, it's just looking very pretty.

Also, not holiday specific, but the striped red straws were another Target find recently!

On the other side is a pretty close mirror image... in a small space, keeping things symmetrical helps keep things from feeling super busy...

Notice the fake snow tucked behind the pot of berries?  It's actually fake cobwebs leftover from Halloween.  Woot woot!!

On each of these shelves is a little project I worked on - the stacked paper Christmas trees. I got the idea from this post on Style Me Pretty from last year, where they made all these adorable paper Christmas trees. Mine didn't quite come out the same, but they aren't terrible either...

I ended up cutting up one of my Sookie Stackhouse books for this project (don't worry, it was not some piece of classic literature) - different sized square pieces, and stacked away.  I used the leftover branch from cutting down the holly berries for the tree trunk, and called it a day.

Next time around I'd use thicker / stiffer paper, and more of it, so each tree was bushier, but for a first attempt, it wasn't a total fail.

I especially love this space at night... there are lots of candles in here, and it creates the most cozy atmosphere...

I kind of hated the full mirror wall for the longest time, but while it's totally 80's, it also does make the small space feel more open.  I also love that it reflects back the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree...

So that's all for our dining room holiday updates...

It's festive, without being over the top, and they were all easy, inexpensive (or free) updates!  Ok, back to bed for me...

Friday, December 13, 2013

Splurge or Save: Malachite Boxes

Malachite... so hot right now. Right Hansel?

But seriously... it is...  it's everywhere from wallpaper, to wrapping paper, to tabletops to jewelry boxes...

Do you know which of the above jewelry boxes is the splurge??  All I'll tell you for now is that you could get almost 5 of one of these for the cost of the other.

While you think about that, let's look at some pretty malachite inspiration...

I think malachite really gained it's popularity last year when Pantone named "Emerald" as color of the year.  The green in this stone is so pretty, who wouldn't want to have it everywhere??

Anyway, I don't think I'm about to wallpaper my (non-existant) powder room with malachite wallpaper, but a jewerly box seems safe enough, and so luxe!

Did you guess which of the jewlery boxes was the splurge and which was the save??

A pretty dramatic difference, right??  And I think the West Elm version actually looks quite a bit more pricey!!

Who knew!?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

O Christmas Tree

December is almost half way through (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!), and after getting our tree decorated last weekend, let's give it a moment in the spotlight...

Pretty, right??

I feel like there are two types of Christmas tree decorators... the traditionalists, and the theme decorators.

Myself, I'm a traditionalist - my favorite part about decorating the tree is to hang all the sentimental ornaments I've gotten year after year and reminisce (much to Kris' chagrin) all about when I got them, and the stories behind each...

Mixed in with all the sentimental ones, I've got colorful globes, and glittery ribbon woven throughout.  I had big hopes this year to swap out the gold ribbon for a fun black and white stripe, but it was impossible to find.  So gold ribbon it was.  At least I upgraded from my sheer ribbon last year to a big, chunky glitter ribbon.  It really stands out and sparkles so much at night when the lights are on.

This year, the tree is a bit different from years past - I could not find our tree topper to save my life, but instead of going out to  buy a new one, I just rounded up some ribbon we had stashed in one of the boxes to make a pouf for the top.  

It's not my favorite, but it's not half bad and adds almost an extra foot to the top, so I'm ok with it...

I've been collecting one ornament a year since I was a baby (some years more than one), so that's quite a few unique ornaments. I got these ballet slippers when I was maybe 8 years old.  I remember so distinctly - there was a small antique shop near our house, and even though these were one of the more expensive ornaments I wanted them so badly... at the time, there was a book about a ballerina I was obsessed with... it was called The Silver Slippers and the book came with a ballet slipper necklace (one of my most prized possessions) - thus I NEEDED this ballet slipper ornament.

I have no idea what happened to that book (or the necklace) but this ornament is still one of my most cherished.  Isn't it funny how some things stay with you?


In addition to the personalized ornaments - the angels, the bears, the little birds, and the Santa with his surfboard (that's Kris' ornament) my mom has been giving us a box of vintage glass ornaments every year as well - they totally remind me of the ornaments in the movie A Child's Christmas in Whales.  It's a family favorite, and I love being able to hang those up as well.

I love that the tree is colorful and fun - maybe one day I'll have a second tree to decorate as a "themed" tree - all bird ornaments and feathers, or all jingle bells and silver sparkles - but I love the character this has, and I love how packed in all the ornaments are.  It's the one time of year that "more" is better (I think).

Growing up, we'd go with our parents to cut our tree down in the Santa Cruz mountains, and while we've skipped it a few years, I love our new tradition of going to the school around the corner from our house to buy the tree, and walking it home in the chilly evening.

Even though we haven't cut ours down this year, I honestly cannot imagine not having a fresh tree.  To me, there would be no magic in taking a tree out of a box, and the smell... oh the smell... it's SO GOOD.

It's like a fresh fir forest in here I tell ya!

It's pretty in the daytime, but at night is when it's really magical...

Now, not to brag, but I've got to take a moment to give myself some credit for thinking creatively. Storing stuff is always in issue in this little apartment... after the ornaments were on the tree, we were left with boxes upon boxes, and without anywhere to put them, I decided to wrap them.

Yep, those presents under the tree are just empty boxes my friends.  What better place to store them than in plain sight - the tree looks so much better with presents under it, and I don't have to worry about what to do with these boxes... win-win.

The guy at the tree lot also cut quite a lot off the bottom of the tree, so we ended up putting a box under the Christmas tree stand to bump it up a bit.

I actually think we will do this every year from now on.  I like how it creates space under the bottom branches for the presents to tuck under!  Another happy coincidence...

So what about you??  Are you a Christmas tree traditionalist or do you prefer the themed trees?