Thursday, December 27, 2012

I Heart Organizing: Under Bed Storage!

We've had a nice little break over Christmas but if you are suffering from Mini Manor withdrawl (okay, I'll just pretend you are), I have a post up on Jen's I Heart Organizing, with a rare peek at our third bedroom.
An $8 project using Ikea As Is drawers as under bed storage on wheels. The whole How To is on I Heart Organizing, I hope you'll check it out and let me know what you think!!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

Every year we buy around the same number of Christmas Presents. I always thought that we purchased (or made) a very respectable number of gifts, It always filled up the bottom of the tree. But it's amazing how downsizing from a 12 foot Christmas Tree to a 3 foot Christmas Tree can make your presents seem overly abundant.
Maybe it's the Christmas Spirit, or maybe it's our tiny tree but I'm feeling especially grateful this year.

So from all of us . . . to all of you!!!! MERRY MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Lots and Lots of Love:
Ashli, Lee and Max too! :)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Behind Closed Doors

This post is a little uncomfortable to write. I hope to do it with as much grace as possible, well, as much grace as someone talking about tampons can have. ;S

I'm a bit shy, when it comes to things behind closed doors, I figure there's a reason you close the door right?? So I thought about when I'm at a party and I realize my eye makeup is smeared and I need a q-tip, or I'm there and I realize that one hour of nervous chit chat with your husbands boss has used up 13 hours of your 12 hour deodorant's promise. Whatever it is . . . things happen at parties.
We're hosting a few holiday parties this month, and I made up a little kit to deal with . . . well, everything.
I call it my Powder Room Party Kit.
I thought of a few situations I've been in at parties (I bet you're looking at the picture thinking I've been in a couple of those situations), and made up a kit to handle each of them.
1) Matches in the bathroom. I'm not sure if I need to say anymore but I will for those of you who don't know what matches in a bathroom are for. When matches are lit the sulfur dioxide smell masks the 'other smell'. Better than any air freshener on the market ;).
2) Tampons, there is nothing worse than having to casually ask the hostess for a spare. Especially if she's had a few too many egg nogs and keeps screaming "What?? You Need What??" over the music, because I guarantee the second the music goes dead you scream out TAMPON!
3) Mouthwash, with a few little plastic shot glasses from the dollar store. There is also a roll of dental floss inside there, you could also offer some toothpicks.

4) Panty liners.
5) Some Medicine, Aspirin, Tums, and Benedryl. I always make sure to keep an allergy pill close at hand when entertaining and would suggest others do the same even if they don't have allergies. You never know when someone might really need one.
6) Small deodorants from the travel bins at Target. A couple of little deodorants is a good idea. I have a small note on them, suggesting people take them home if they used them because honestly we aren't going to re-use them, and throwing them out would be a waste.
7) Q-Tips, always handy.
8) A travel bottle of strong hold hairspray, a hair elastic, and a bobby pin!

We keep our kit in our main floor powder room, under the sink. Oh and I almost forgot to mention . . . EXTRA TOILET PAPER always make sure there is extra toilet paper! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Organizing the bits and pieces!

In every home there are pretty things to organize and there are the not so pretty things that need to be organized! This is a post about the not so pretty.
I received an email last month calling me out on not sharing the ugly, and it was true I glossed over where we store the not so pretty but totally necessary parts of home. The light bulbs, batteries and a host of other paraphernalia that goes into making a home run smoothly. But no more, I've written about the good, I've written about the bad, and now, I'll write about the ugly.
In short, it's stored here:
Our front hall console stores most of the ugly. Before our laundry room remodel, where we lost an entire cabinet, the ugly use to live there. After the remodel we moved it into the empty console.
In the top left drawer we keep a little Ikea tool kit (btw, one of the handiest things I've ever bought). Lee has more than his fair share of fancy tools in the garage but a small set in the house is really handy and nice. We also keep a couple of flashlights,some sticky felt furniture pads, some lint rollers, tape, a lighter for candles (usually there are two lighters but our other one just died), and some super glue, we got through a surprising amount of super glue. We also have a 'wood marker' in the same tone as our floor, in case we get a scratch we can cover it up. And the small yellow case beside it is a bunch of exacto knives, those are really handy to have around.
On the left, the second drawer down stores our batteries and our light bulbs.
The battery organizer is from Harbor Freight.

The bottom drawer on the left, houses some of our DIY bits and pieces. Most of our DIY tools (like drywall tools, levels, paint trays, saws etc...) live in the garage in a tool box, specifically marked HOME. But we do keep a few home tools inside, like a couple of paint rollers, tape, paint brushes, caulk, a couple of hooks and some drywall sponges for sanding (although those will end up in the HOME box when I get a second to move them).
But most importantly, the bottom drawer houses our touch up paint supply. Because all of our wall colors are made by Martha Stewart we were able to buy tester pots of paint (on sale) and we keep those for touch ups. They're the perfect amount, they are sealed up really well, and there's a little paintbrush inside attached to the lid!
In the jute baskets we hold our candles and candle holders.
Since making my own soy candles we have a lot of candles in jars hanging around, so now they take up both baskets in the console.
As for the right side of the console two drawers are empty and one drawer holds Max's, shirts, leashes, collars, errr. . . poop bags.

I believe that if you make room for it, it will come into your life. So, I'm very conscious of not filling up every nook and cranny in our home. Since we want to add children to our lives, I like to make sure I have made room for those children. I imagine, little toques and mittens in those leftover drawers. :)

Next project, organizing our CD's, and DVD's.  We need to get rid of some using musicmagpie.com, and then we'll decide on a space and a system for the rest.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Outside Moodboard Inspiration

With Christmas almost here and the end of the year fast approaching, I feel a bit reflective. We had such an amazing year this year (blog wise). Our readership grew, we found some amazing sponsors to help keep the bloggy lights on, and our moodboards were a big hit! I tackled somewhere close to 50 boards  this year and they were each so much fun . . . way more work than I thought . . . but fun!!! :)
I don't feature the boards I do unless someone gives me permission to, the way I see it is, they paid me to make it for them so they own it. If someone gives me permission to share I will definitely share it!
Which brings me to this post, here's an exterior board I made recently. I have a serious LOVE of Yellow doors and I finally got a chance to put one in a board. Along with this FABULOUS window box in the top left corner done by Miss Tracey Ayton
I've always loved the middle picture (originally from Blueprint Magazine) and I was so excited to use it as inspiration and put it into a board! Along with some colors, some plant choices, painted stone (bottom left) and a light from Lowes.

Pop back tomorrow for a post on Bits and Pieces. More specifically, a  post one where and how, we store all the miscellaneous bits and pieces that come with home ownership. You know, the candles, dog leashes, light bulbs, screw drivers, batteries, the not so pretty, yet necessary parts of home.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fashion on Friday: Eye Color and my Colored Contacts

This post is brought to you by 1-800-CONTACTS.

"Jeepers, Creepers, where'd you get those peepers?"
Answer: I bought them in a box! tee hee

Despite what you may think, colored contacts aren't just for attractive vampires in blockbuster movies (you know what I'm talking about). I wear colored contacts from time to time as well.

I have terrible eyesight, but one of the upsides is I get to experiment with my eye color. I have a menagerie of colored contact lenses. I usually wear freshlook colorblends, and between my sister and I, I think we've tried every color they have. I've personally tried Blue, Green, turquoise, brilliant blue and right now I'm wearing sterling grey, and so far it's my favorite.

Here are my brown eyes, which I am still more than happy to rock most of the time:
Here are my Brilliant Blue eyes:
 Here are my Sterling Grey eyes: (this is what happens when you think your husband is taking a picture of just your eyes . . . you make weird duck lips)
With my ever changing eye balls, I get to play around with eye makeup and different colors. So I set out on a fact finding mission, what colors work best with which eye colors.

Blue eyes: 
Brown, Rose, Lavender, neutral tones. Also, try Navy liner instead of black for a softer look.

Make sure to tone down you lip color so that all the focus is on those baby blues.
Dark Brown and Navy eye liner is always preferable to black for blue eyes (I never knew).

Brown Eyes:
Naturally I have VERY dark brown eyes. Darker colors like Plum, and charcoal grey  or dark neutral colors have always looked best with my dark browns.

Medium Brown Eyes: 
The world is your oyster, everything works for you. My sister has medium brown eyes and honestly ever color looks great on her.

Light Brown eyes: 
Try dark brown liner, it's less harsh on light eyes than black.
Warm Metallics will reflect the glints of color in your eyes.

Hazel:
Try champagne tones lined in dark brown! 

Green:
Purple is your best friend. Avoid Silver and Black instead try gold or charcoal. And I am insanely jealous of you green eyed people ;).

For the most part avoid colors that are the same as your eye color,
and a smokey charcoal eye looks good with almost any eye color . . .  even Vampire Red ;).

If I have one piece of eyewear advice it would be . . . Don't wear these:
 aren't those the creepiest joke glasses you've ever seen??

Thank you to 1-800-CONTACTS for sponsoring today's post. Right now they are offering free shipping on web orders over $50. So you can get your new peepers in time for Christmas! :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pop a Top!

We always do a lot of entertaining during December, which means lots of bottles being un-corked and lots of food being eaten.
Lee's not much of a beer drinker . . . he's more of a gin and tonic man. But when I saw this bottle opener I couldn't resist it, with it's vintage vibe.
I also convinced myself it would come in handy during our Christmas Parties! :) And so far I'm pleased to announce, many o' tops have been popped thanks to this little guy. . . but not too many . . . errr . . . a reasonable amount . . . yes a reasonable, healthy, non-alcoholic amount. ;) hehe
If you are looking for one of your own, we found ours at Target for $4. Here's the link.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Leftover Turkey Tetrazzini

Oh Man! This is a good one! (if I don't say so myself) ;) I wanted to share this recipe with you in time for all the Turkey Leftovers you'll have from Christmas!

I don't love leftovers, in fact I almost never eat leftovers (who am I kidding with Lee in the house there are almost NEVER leftovers).
But when there are leftovers, I will always choose to turn them into something else, rather than eat them as is.
So a few weeks ago I had Rachel Ray on in the background while I typed away on the computer. I saw her recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini and I fell in love with the recipe. Using all of the leftovers from a Turkey Dinner . . . not just the Turkey, but ALL of the leftovers! The pea's, the cauliflower, the turkey, the gravy, the broccoli, even the leftover white wine (not that there's a lot of that around here either ;).
We've made this recipe twice now with a few changes, but for me, that's what recipes are for . . . changing and tailoring it to your own family and your own tastes.
So definitely check out Rachel Ray's original recipe, found here. But here is how we do it.
I'll cook a big turkey or chicken dinner! Then the next night we make Tetrazzini!
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup Chicken broth
  • 1/2 cups turkey gravy from the night before (or just another 1/2 cup broth)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, the fresh stuff, not the powdered stuff (trust me it makes a difference, this time).
  • 1 pound cooked leftover turkey, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked cauliflower (we bake ours in the oven)
  • 1/2 cup peas (could be frozen if you want, or leftover from the night before)
  • 1 pound cooked pasta shells.  
Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF.
Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the butter. Add the onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Add the flour and stir for 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken stock, then the gravy and milk. Let thicken enough to coat a spoon and stir in the parmesan cheese.
Add the leftover meat and vegetables, add the pasta, heat through and pour into a casserole dish. To top the casserole, I melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add about 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs, sprinkle all over the top and bake for about 30 minutes.

It is seriously good! And the funniest part is . . . I don't eat leftovers but I LOVE this casserole as leftovers. So apparently I will only eat leftovers if it's leftovers, from a meal, made of leftovers!  haha I am nothing if not complicated!

I really hope you'll give it a try, we've made it with Chicken or Turkey, with roasted vegetables or frozen vegetables, either way it's amazing. Lee's in LOVE, I'm in Love, Max didn't have any but he seemed pretty enamored with it as well ;).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ashli's Favorite Things!

So no one is fainting, and definitely NO ONE is getting a car . . . sorry. But I thought I'd go ahead and offer a post on my favorite things. My favorite part of Christmas is picking out gifts for friends and family, I always try to pick things out for people that I would like for myself. With the exception of my sister (we're super different so that won't work for us).  Here's the first ever installment of "Ashli's Favorite Things" haha Feel free to Scream, and jump up and down now. Or not.

I would LOVE a set of these tea towels, and this apron is beautiful!
There's nothing I love more than white mixing bowls (maybe cake plates), and I couldn't resist this apron as well.
I've mentioned this fruit basket before but here it is again, this wood piggy basket is super cute and a personalized cutting board is too luxurious not to buy for a BFF (and at $39 I thought it was really well priced).
If you're looking for a little more color, these ceramic baskets and tea towels were so cute!
I've been obsessed with these knitting bowls, if you knit you'll probably share my love of them, and because of my firm belief that EVERY room needs a little whimsy   these little rocking birds were too sweet not to include.
If you're shopping for a fashionista, a couple of accessories I would love to have hanging in my closet would be, a bubble necklace ($10.99 by the way) and these chevron studs!
And lastly, these are on my list . . . Lee! They're on my list . . . Lee! ;) These earrings, I would wear them all the time and love them and never get sick of them, and they would make everything in my wardrobe fit together perfectly (and apparently they are magic ;).
I hope you enjoyed some of My Favorite things . . . if you have any must have items, I would LOVE to know what they are! 
Thanks for reading, and guess what ??? "You get a car, and you get a car . . ."* Yeah, I knew it,  that felt really good, oh to be Oprah!
*Disclaimer: No one gets a car.     :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

My new favorite read: The Weekend Homesteader and a Giveaway

I go through reading stages, one month I love books on voluntary simplicity, another month it's all about organizing, lately I've been reading books on Homesteading. I always had the idea that homesteading is something you do, when you live on a farm and say things like "Don't count your chickens before they hatch" and "Fences should be horse-high, pig-tight, and bull-strong". (I especially like the last one). But Homesteading has gone urban, and everyone from Suburbanites to high rise apartment dwellers can homestead.
The Weekend Homesteader by Anna Hess is an amazing book for weekend, or week-day homesteaders ;). I think that if I was to write a book I would organize it the same way. It was almost like reading a blog. Lots of projects, organized month by month. She shares ways to transform your lifestyle step by step, utilizing whatever space you have.

I especially LOVED the section on Drying fruits and vegetables. Of course I LOVED the sections on Chickens (man oh man, I'd love a set of backyard cluckers). I really enjoyed the section on Voluntary Simplicity (it starts on pg.195). And there was also a splattering of recipes throughout the book . . . I made the garlic and thyme chicken legs on page 254 and it was pretty darn good.
If you are looking for a really easy to follow book, FULL of easy projects I would definitely recommend The Weekend Homesteader! It was the perfect balance of serious homesteading projects, and easy changes anyone can make to their own manor in the hopes of  creating a little "home on the range" ;).
I should also mention it's on Amazon for $12 right now. Definitely worth the $12! It's gets the Mini Manor stamp of approval (one of the most coveted literary awards out there . . . move over New York Times Bestseller list . . . ) 

Okay, so the New York Times Bestseller list might be a bigger accomplishment than landing on our List, but . . . Does the New York Times Bestseller list GIVE AWAY copies of the books they review??? I actually have no idea . . . they might. But I do know for sure that WE DO!!!

We have a copy of The Weekend Homesteader up for grabs today!

Here are the Details: 

To Enter: Comment Below and let us know if you're more of a 'Weekend Homesteader'-someone who loves the ideas and the principals behind the homestead movement, but only have the time or energy to tackle small aspects.
Or if you're a 'Week-day Homesteader'-Someone who would like to grow and preserve all their own food, while collecting eggs from your chickens and milking your cow. Spending most of your days dedicated to every aspect of homesteading???

~I can't wait to see what your answers are . . . personally, I'd say we're Weekend Homesteaders, hoping to lean more into Week-day Homesteading one day! ~

Open to: Residents of Canada and the USA.

Contest Closes: Friday, December 14, 2012 @ 11:59 pm  PST.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows

You might be asking "why make my own marshmallows when I can buy a giant bag at the store for less than $5?"
Homemade marshmallows are to store bought marshmallows,
what pizzeria wood fired oven pizza is to a pizza pocket.
Or your mother's famous meatloaf is to a lean cuisine.
Yes a store bought marshmallow will do the trick, but it's not nearly as good. Homemade marshmallows are a dessert all to themselves.
They are amazing . . . simply calling them marshmallows doesn't do them justice. They are tiny clouds of sugary goodness. ;) hehe
They were insanely easy to make (albeit a little bit sticky), and very very good. Definitely worth the effort!
  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup (Light)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar for dusting after. 
  • another 1/2 cup water.
1) Pour half a cup of cold water into your mixer bowl (it is best to use a kitchenaid mixer or other stand mixer because there is a lot of mixing about to happen).
2) Add 3 packages of unflavored gelatin to the water, let sit.
3) While the gelatin in sitting, add the corn syrup, 1/2 cup water and sugar to a small pot and heat until granulated sugar dissolves.
4) Once sugar is dissolved, raise heat until it reaches around 250 degrees (or just under) it's suggested that you use a candy thermometer to do this. I don't own a candy thermometer (I know, the nerve), so I just used a meat thermometer and watched it go close to the 250 mark.
5) Turn the mixer on, and slowly mix in the syrup we just made in the pot.
6) Once it's all in the mixer, turn on high and beat for 10-15 minutes! Add Vanilla.
7) Dust an 8" x 8" pan with confectioners sugar, and pour out marshmallow mixture.
8) Let cool on the counter for a few hours, or overnight.
9) Loosen edges and pull out of the pan. This was the hardest/stickiest part. You'll have to figure out your own way of doing this, it's a bit difficult and a bit messy but nothing too crazy.
10) Cut into large squares, and dust each with confectioners sugar so they don't stick together.
Done! Fairly easy and oh so worth it. Just imagine a cup of hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow on top!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Getting Krafty, with Kraft wrapping paper

This year I wanted to stick with our simple theme, so I decided on Kraft paper wrapping. I've seen all the great ways to dress up simple kraft paper and since we already had a big old roll of it in the closet, my evil plan was coming together (commence finger pyramid of evil).
Here's how I took this:
and turned it into, this:
It was really easy, I made tissue paper flowers for the girl's presents and Lee folded paper airplanes for the boy's presents.
The tissue paper flowers were really easy to make, if you've ever made a tissue paper pom pom it's the same process but you only puff up one side of the pom pom making a flower.
  1. Cut a rectangle of tissue paper, use about 5-7 sheets of tissue paper. Use more tissue paper for Large flowers (7 sheets) and less paper for smaller flowers (5 sheets). 
  2. Start folding an accordion about 1- 1 1/2 inches wide. 
  3. Now that your accordion is folded. 
  4. Tie the middle together. I use small zap straps but you can use a twist tie or a piece of wire or even string. 
  5. Round the edges on both sides.
  6. It should look like this. 
  7. Then unfold,
  8. and gently pull each layer of tissue paper to the center. 
I wanted all the presents to match but be different, so I used similar toppers (flowers for girls, and airplanes for boys). But added different colored ribbons for the different families receiving gifts from us.
Yellow for one family,
Pink for another.
This way we just look at the color of ribbon and know that we got all the presents for that family.

I'm all done shopping for Christmas! But my side of the family does what we call "Homemade Christmas". We are a family of crafty craftersons so we make each other gifts. I'm about halfway through those gifts but I haven't wrapped any of them yet. So hopefully by next week we'll have some more presents under this tree:
I hope you like our kraft wrapping as much as I do. I think I might be doing this every year! It would be so easy to change up the accents every year. And it's really cost effective. LOVE IT!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Our Christmas tree is in a Garbage Can!

This will only make sense if you play the tune of Oh Christmas Tree in your head ;).

Oh Christmas Tree, Tiny Christmas Tree.
How lovely are your branches. 

Your branches are so very small.
Overall you're not very tall.

Oh Christmas Tree,  Christmas Tree
You are so very Lovely!

We have a tiny Christmas Tree. Like Really tiny . . . like a Max sized Christmas tree. Hauling out 12 feet of Christmas tree like we have here and here, wasn't going to work for us this year . . . because of a BIG (like super big) project in the Office/Library we have planned to carry out over the Christmas break!

So without further ado . . . here's our Christmas Tree, our tiny Christmas tree.
This year we added a Faith sign, some small white poinsettas, some white ornaments and some very cute pinecone ornaments from the Dollar Giant (4 for $1).
A little Max!
And lastly,
The whole issue of our tree being in a garbage can . . . it's true! Our Tiny Christmas tree is sitting in our powder room garbage can. You see the tree comes in a really UGLY plastic base, so I popped it into our garbage can and it looks way better. The knitted pattern on the sides of the can make it perfect for Christmas :)

Anyone else going TINY for Christmas???

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Mantel

I Love Christmas Time but . . . . this year we're going a little more "Low Key" it's shaping up to be a busy December so we're going to keep the decorations nice and simple this year.
Starting with the mantel: I found this garland at Homesense for $16.99 and that's the ONLY thing we bought for Christmas Decor this year! A Whopping $17! I've been in a real "use what you have" stage and only spending $17 feels really good.
Aside from the garland, I added some crystal candlesticks,
some wood pillars, and some paperwhites in small lace containers from Ikea.
But if I'm being perfectly honest right now the paperwhites are on the back porch . . . THEY SMELL SO BAD!

I sewed each of the stockings myself. I used the linen from Lee's old linen pants (they shrunk in the wash and I thought they would make better stockings than shorts), and for the white fleece fringe, I used an old Ikea blanket. You know the $5 fleece blankets they are always selling. We had one that had some seriously pilling in the middle so I used each of the fringe ends as stocking toppers. A big one for Lee, a Medium one for me and a little one for Max!
Another small Christmas touch in the living room, is the grouping of ornaments on the coffee table. I used our wood bread basket (it's one of the long ones for serving baguettes). I just stacked up a bunch of ornaments we had . . .

filled in some of the gaps with smaller silver decorations and a long, lean, Christmas arrangement.
And that's all she wrote . . . errrr . . . . that's all she decorated, as it were.
We have some other decorations going on, a tree, presents, dining room etc . . . but just like the living room, we'll be working with what we have and keeping it simple!

Anyone else keeping it simple this year??  Anyone else walked around their house for two days saying "what the heck smells so bad?" only to find out it was the paperwhites??
or was that just me?

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