Five Lovely Things

Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? I’m not! But, if I were, I’d be looking to some of these amazing images for inspiration…

FiveLovelyThanksgivingClockwise from top left: Gilded Harvest Place Cards from Cupcakes & Cashmere // Harvest Tablescape from Ruffled // Printable Thanksgiving Bread Wraps from Whipperberry // Golden Harvest Candles from Anthropologie // Pumpkin Welcome Display from Budget Decorator

I hope you have a great weekend!

 

Hello Again, World

It’s been several months since I’ve shared my little life snippets, projects & stories here in my little corner of the blogosphere. My self-imposed hiatus was filled with the ups and downs of life, and for a while my heart just wasn’t in the writing. Increased demands at work and less personal time for crafting and decorating also contributed to my break.

But with the cooler, rejuvenating air of autumn greeting me today, I finally felt that little spark in me urging me to rejoin the land of blog. I’m back – and ready to hit the ground running with projects and photos. I expect my posting will still be a bit less frequent than before (thanks to those day-job demands I mentioned), but I hope to again find a rhythm that suits me – as I attempt to bring inspiration and joy to your computer screen!

To start, I want to share with you some of the amazing blogs I’ve still been reading, even on my own break from writing. Talk about inspiring…

Bliss at Home

Kristen’s design & lifestyle blog is one of the few that I receive to my email every day (rather than check in through RSS feed). I absolutely love her laid back style & budget friendly but stylish design choices. This month, I particularly loved her quick tribal painted pumpkin DIY. The design reminded me of the Campland font I used in our wedding day invites – reminiscent of girl scout camping trips and S’mores – but trendy enough to feel Nate Burkus – ish.

painted-pumpkins

Lacquer & Linen

I am pretty much obsessed with Sarah’s decorating style over at Lacquer & Linen. Her home entryway, decked out for fall in this home tour post, is so cozy & chic. I’m in love with the color palette and the mix of textures. I love a little bit of gold mixed in with neutrals and outdoorsy elements… yum yum!

Fall-Home-Tour-17

Decor and the Dog

I love reading Decor and the Dog for two reasons – one being Michelle’s awesomely creative projects, and two being all the pictures of her adorable dog Ike. Anyone who shares such devotion for their four legged friend is a kindred spirit in my book. I’m dying to try making Michelle’s Pumpkin Spice Sugar Body Scrub – I feel like I can smell it through the computer screen!

Pumpkin Sugar Scrub

So, while I haven’t been writing – I’ve been doing plenty of reading & getting loads of inspiration from these lady bloggers who are much more talented than I… so I suggest you click those links & check ’em out – you won’t be disappointed!

I, in the meantime, will be working on shaking out the past few months of silence & vying once again for a place in your morning blog feed! Thanks for sticking with me!

Wedding DIY // Caramel Apple Favors

DIY-ing close to one hundred and fifty caramel apples as wedding favors for our autumn wedding was one of my favorite projects out of my long list of handmade wedding details.

ApplesEdit2These favors were really a DIT (do it together) project that I could not have accomplished without help from a big group of friends & family who helped to dip, sprinkle and tag – and who kept me (relatively) calm throughout the process.

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The idea came from my brother, and it sounded really great while we all sat in our beach chairs by the ocean on a beautiful summer day in July. As the wedding approached and I began to research how to go about accomplishing such a large order, I ran into a few roadblocks. Through experimentation (which also included taste-testing, duh) I settled on a method which worked nicely and was relatively simple.

My first plan was to create delicious gourmet apples dipped in chocolate and covered in a variety of delectable toppings. I tested my plan, creating these whoppers:

apples

They all tasted amazing, but took three times as long and cost twice as much as my final version. The good news was, me & the hubs got to eat them all. (Tip- when eating a giant apple covered in delicious goodness, slice it into quarters and ENJOY.)

After that experiment, I turned towards Caramel apples and discovered Kraft bags of Caramel Bits. These are by far the BEST way to make caramel apples in bulk – no unwrapping hundreds of little Kraft caramels, and no worrying about a homemade caramel recipe (who has a candy thermometer?)

I found the Caramel Bits at Target around Halloween time, however my two local stores only carried a few bags each. Enter Kathy, my mother’s best friend, who saved the day by visiting 5 or 6 Targets and Walmarts to collect about 20 bags for me! We ended up having some leftover, unopened bags- but I of course wanted to be sure I would have more than enough to make all of our apples.

We melted a bag or two at a time (mixed with the correct proportion of water- directions are on the bag) in a large pot on the stove. After inserting white lollipop sticks into our apples, we dipped the apples in Caramel and placed them on cookie sheets covered in wax paper to cool for a few minutes, then rolled them in bowls of colored sprinkles.

ApplesEdit1

Here are the finished apples, set out to cool on my mother’s dining room table. We kept the heat down low in the house that night, and let them sit overnight to harden before packing them.

Apples2After sprinkling-up each apple, we placed them into cupcake papers – both because it looked super cute, and made them much easier to package!

apples2I put each apple in a clear plastic treat bag & tied them up with some jute twine (like I used in my invitations). I designed the tag using the same fonts as my invites/programs/etc., and printed them on Kraft paper using my home computer.

AppleEdit3If you want to try these DIY favors yourself, here are some tips based on my experience!

Enlist help. As a bit of a control freak, I usually answered every friend or relative who asked me throughout the planning process if I needed help with an assurance that I had it alllll under control. In the case of the caramel apples, however, I gratefully accepted help that was offered, and am so glad that I did! I could never have done this without the help from my family, friends & my bridesmaids!

– Use small-ish apples. This will help keep your cost down, by using less caramel/sprinkles/etc., and will make it easier to bag your favors. If possible, use fresh apples grown locally – without any waxy or other preservatives that could keep the caramel from sticking. My parents ordered three bushels of Empire apples from an orchard near their home, so they were like a little nod to my hometown. Plus, they were delicious!

– Keep ’em cold. The caramel sticks better when the apples are cold, so we kept our outside (it was late October) until we were ready to use them.

– Accept (and embrace) the imperfections. I did not shell out over ten bucks a pop for perfectly dipped apples like these. As amazing as those professional apples most surely are, I DIYed my favors for more reasons than just saving money. I wanted our guests to take home something that I put time & care into making, which was a theme throughout our wedding. That said, not every apple looked perfect – but I’m sure they all tasted great, and I loved how they looked on the tables tied with my handmade tags!

– Taste test! As if I need to tell you this – but half the fun of DIY-ing an edible favor is getting to enjoy them while you make them! Once enough apples for each of my guests were cooling on the dining room table, my friends & family got to dig in to the leftover apples & caramel. It was a tasty reward for our hard work!

By the way- this project took place on the Thursday night before our Saturday wedding. Homemade caramel apples stay tasty and delicious for about a week (longer if refrigerated), so I knew that making them two days in advance would ensure our guests had fresh, finger-licking treats to take home!

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In case you are wondering, I unfortunately did not keep exact track of how much theses favors cost – but a guess based on all of the materials brought me to somewhere in the 2-4 dollar range per apple, which was not bad!

So what do you think? Did (or would you) you DIY your own wedding favors, too? Or do you think it’s more trouble than it’s worth?

Monday Motivation #20

For today, just a few things that are making me smile:

 
Cure For Homesickness ~ My parent’s lovely front porch all decked out for fall. (And for my second bridal shower – details on that to come this week!)

For a Brighter Home ~ This lovely little mason jar arrangement from Whole Foods (gifted to me by my future mother in law!)

For a Laugh ~ The little Phillies-Fan Gnome I left in my mother’s garden while home. Little family joke. 🙂


I hope you are having a great Monday & that you have little thing in life that make you smile, too!

Pumpkin Mania!

It is officially here. Fall- the season of boots, rich colors, and pumpkin EVERYTHING. The national obsession that begins with the arrival of the pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks, and ends with your mother’s pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. (After Thanksgiving, move over, pumpkin- and make way for peppermint & gingerbread!)

I’ve been enjoying the occasional pumpkin latte from Dunkin over the past couple of weeks – though typically iced since we’ve yet to dip below 70 degrees! This morning, facing a day of unpacking & organizing, (yesterday was my second shower- yay! Details to come!) I helped myself to two pumpkin treats to celebrate this second day of autumn.

 

Thomas Bagel Thins in limited edition Pumpkin Spice. Made with whole grain & real pumpkin, and only 110 calories each.

To accompany my bagel thin, I made up my own pumpkin spice latte.

While my espresso was brewing, I mixed:

1 cup of skim milk

1 tablespoon of pumpkin puree

1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice

Heat everything up in a small saucepan until very hot but not boiling. Remove from heat & add 1 tsp of vanilla extract.

For a sweeter taste, you could add sugar as well. I chose to skip the sugar this time.


I used my hand blender to get the milk mixture nice and frothy. I poured it into the mug with the espresso, and while I would have loved to top it off with a little whipped cream, refrained from that as well.

Delicious!

I enjoyed my bagel & pumpkin latte with the windows wide open. It is a beautiful sunny & cool day, I have a home full of gifts from my wonderful generous family & friends, and I am marrying my love in just 34 days. Life, my friends, is good. I hope it is treating you well today, too!

Pottery Barn Inspired Faux Mercury Glass Pumpkin

So Pottery Barn has these gorgeous antiqued mercury glass pumpkins available this fall, and I’m obsessed. This week, I experimented with DIYing my own faux mercury glass, thanks to Martha Stewart’s super easy technique using just water & Looking Glass Spray Paint. I also happened to spot this inexpensive glass pumpkin cookie jar on the “decor” shelves at my local CVS (who knew?)… and inspiration struck!

Yup- you guessed it- I spritzed & sprayed that piece up!

In case you missed yesterday’s post, this DIY is super easy. Just spritz the inside of your glass vase/pumpkin/whatever using a water spray bottle, then lightly coat the inside with Krylon Looking Glass Mirror Spray Paint, and dry upside down (using a baking rack or some ventilated-upside down-drying-method, like my rolled up magazine pages).

I still might go at this baby with some vinegar, which apparently can be used to rough-up that finish for a more authentic mercury glass look. But I set him up with some artificial pumpkins I got on sale at Michael’s, and am totally digging the first touches of fall decor in my home!

I won’t really be able to utilize the cookie-jar-ness of this pumpkin, because it is not safe to store food in one of these DIYed, spray-painted glass items. I certainly do not need any excuse to keep cookies in the house, though, so it’s all good!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Monday Motivation: New [School] Year Resolutions Edition

For me (and teachers everywhere), Labor Day marks the end of summer (even though myself and nearly every teacher I know works throughout some or all of the summer, it is still a break from the stress of the school year), and the start of a new year: new kids, new colleagues, and new state and/or federal laws carrying huge implications for educators everywhere. If it were any other year, I might be dreading the start of school (tomorrow), but this year I am simply excited for all of the wonderful things to come! Labor Day is the educator’s New Year’s Day- a time of new beginnings and (in my opinion), and excellent time to make some New [School] Year resolutions!

Here are some ideas to help motivate me to meet my goals for the 2012-13 school year!

Resolution: Be Accountable (to myself)

I’ll use this iTunes app “Streaks” – a motivational calendar that tracks how many days in a row you stick to an exercise or diet plan, practice an instrument or skill, or write in your journal (or blog!). Buy it for $1.99 here.

 

Resolution: Hydrate!

I have a very difficult time trying to get the recommended eight 8oz glasses of water a day. Here’s a tip to help keep yourself on track- mark up water bottles with specific times of the day and stay on schedule! (Original source here).

 

Resolution: Waste Less

Reduce your carbon footprint & drink your iced coffee from a mason jar – turned travel mug thanks to Cuppow. Bought it. Can’t wait to use it.

 

Avoid throwing away chicken that you *meant* to cook, but did not get to until it went bad! Prep in advance, and make up freezer bags full of slow-cooker meals. This will help avoid wasting food, and save loads of time! Check out this ebook from Mama and Baby Love for recipes, shopping lists, and printable labels!

 

Resolution: Stay Calm

The fall can be an especially stressful time for teachers. My typical fall is quite busy- and expensive. And this fall, there’s a wedding to plan (and lots of things to buy and vendors to pay). I’m resolved to love as much of the process as I can, and get a massage when it becomes overwhelming. Or, there is this option:

 

And with that- I’m off to prep some freezer crock pot meals & pack lunches for me & FH for our first day of school tomorrow! 🙂 Happy Labor Day everyone, and Happy New [School] Year!