Friday, December 31, 2010

afternoon delight

One of my favorite places to play on a winter afternoon is in the kitchen.  And although peppermint is at its peak leading up to Christmas, I never tire of it until spring.

While my ideal way to eat marshmallows is on a graham cracker, next to a campfire (aka summer), this peppermint version is looking quite irresistible.  It looks like the perfect way to indulge on this wintery day.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

holiday ambiance

Although Christmas has passed, I still love to indulge in the warm, coziness of the  holiday season.  To maintain it through the new year, light up your nest with candles.  Check out these various options from Real Simple.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


104566686, Thomas Barwick /Lifesize

As Christmas passes by and we get ready to settle into winter, I often find myself in a bit of a slump looking forward to spring.

And that leaves me wondering, where do we find our contentment?

Read this post by Sara about contentment and satisfaction.  She always is able to challenge me and helps me to refocus my priorities.

As she says, "we are in this world, but not of it."
I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bow Pillow

This whimsical, but still fashionable pillow would be perfect in Whitney's apartment, I am sure. I've been wanting to make one pillow for a while. It may just be the perfect stuck inside, winter day activity for you. 

Monday, December 27, 2010


I have promised myself I would try this out this winter.


Won't you join me?
(and if you do, let me know how it goes!)
85071968, Trinette Reed /Iconica

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

May your Christmas be filled with joy, love, and wonder.

We'll be posting fun links for you to explore between Christmas and New Year's. We'll be back in the new year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas Eve!

Safe travels to see your loved ones today!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

on getting organized

My bag home for Christmas was nine pounds over Delta's limit, which translates to an additional $90 fee. Fortunately, when it comes to packing, Jim is a minimalist, so he took on my extra weight.

However, it was indicative to me that not only did I pack too much, but that I might be tied a little too tightly to my belongings.

What better time of year than right before Christmas to do a closet clean out?  With so many new things coming in, it's beneficial to create a little additional space.

The first step to a successful purge is determining where you need the extra room.  Is your closet already overcrowded and you asked for more clothes (my scenario)? Or did you ask for all new Tupperware and your cabinets are exploding with mismatched containers? Isolate where you need to minimize.

Next, go through each item individually.  If you haven't worn it or used it in more than a year, get rid of it.  If it no longer is useful - for example a bowl with no lid - get rid of that too.

Once you've purged the space of unwanted items, begin to manage what is left.  If you're a beginner, you might need some new supplies for effective use of the space.  What you need will be determined by what you're organizing.

I put my shoes in individual boxes, for example.  They're clear, plastic boxes that I stack up.  That way I can see what is in them, and organize them neatly under my skirts and shirts. Other people prefer something that hangs over the door, or goes under the bed.

I put my jewelry in tackle boxes.  Each piece has a different slot, so nothing ever gets tangled.

If you want help determining the best way to organizer your selected item, feel free to email us.

Once you have it all organized, remember to save room for the new items you are expecting.  Also, be sure to take your purged items to Goodwill, or the charity of your choice.  While you may be done with those gauchos, someone else may be out there looking for them.

image via cupcakes and cashmere

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sweet Melody...

Christ, the Savior is born!

I love how peaceful and yet joyful this version of this song is.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One Last Ornament

I know we're down to the final hours before Christmas, but you might have just a minute to whip up one last ornament. I always find myself wanting to make each gift a little more special or create one more decoration before Christmas is upon us. This would be an adorable addition to a present, perhaps tied on next to the gift tag.

Why not make a Christmas dove? All that is required is some felt, a needle and thread, and some ribbon. Batting or stuffing of some kind is optional.

Step One: Draw your dove onto a piece of paper or cardstock.
Step Two: Cut out your pattern.
Step Three: Trace your pattern onto your felt. I used white, but colored felt could be fun, as well.
Step Four: Cut it out. I cut both pieces of felt at the same time.
Step Five: Sew around the dove, leaving a gap at the top to stuff and for the ribbon. You could easily sew by hand. 
Step Six: Stuff him.
Step Seven: Sew the ribbon into place, while closing off the hole.
Step Eight: Admire your good work.  

I used recycled felt to make my dove and bamboo to stuff it. You could also use old clothing to make the dove. I am thinking about making a garland of mutli-colored birds to hang in Griffin's room all year. You could also stuff the bird with scraps of fabric or bits of old socks.

Monday, December 20, 2010


106572297, Brian Yarvin /Photodisc

Pesto is a staple around the Smith household.

Surprisingly, both of my kids love it and it is a meal I am always guaranteed they will eat.

It is so easy and when homemade, it is quick, inexpensive and can be made healthy.

We are not big garlic connoisseurs around here, so I love being able to control that aspect of the meal, plus I love knowing that only fresh and healthy ingredients are in our dinner.

A basic pesto recipe looks something like this:

2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
2 T toasted pine nuts
1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 clove of garlic (which I normally reduce or omit)
olive oil

I add everything except the olive oil into our food processor and begin to process.  I slowly stream in olive oil until it is the consistency I desire.  Many recipes call for up to a 1/2 cup.  I don't use nearly that much, as I don't like it to be a very thin mixture.  But, you can use as much as you desire!

And one of the most fun things about pesto is all of the ways you can vary it.  Here are some of my favorite variations:

- Arugula Pesto.  Swap the basil for arugula.  Delicious, peppery, and fresh tasting.  My kids love it!
- Broccoli Pesto.  Again, trade the basil for broccoli.  A fun change and a great way to get vitamin C, folic acid and potassium.
- Spinach Pesto.  Swap the basil for spinach or do a mixture of both.  A milder, yet delicous, earthy flavor.  And a great source of iron and vitamins.  My one year old doesn't do so great with leaves of spinach on his plate, but can scarf a whole plate of spinach pesto!
- Walnut Pesto.  Trade the pine nuts for walnuts.  Again, delicious and a great omega-3 punch!
- Sun Dried Tomato Pesto.  I love to add sun dried tomatoes to any of the above recipes to add a fresh flavor.  They are filled with lycopene, too!  If you use sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, you can reduce the amount of olive oil you add.

I love the make a double batch of pesto and freeze half of it.  It freezes wonderfully and it is a great start to a busy weeknight meal!

We love to serve it over whole grain pasta, on a pesto pizza, as a dip, with veggies or on crackers.


Friday, December 17, 2010

(Om)y goodness

Since arriving in Atlanta, I've been determined to find a new yoga studio.

After taking some time to grieve the loss of Simply Yoga, I decided it was time to get down to work.  I grabbed my mat and water bottle and put my Om face on.

After six weeks, multiple studios, Vinyasas, Ashtangas, downward dogging, flipping the dog, and a whole slew of other styles and poses, I have officially found two studios that I love.

The greatest asset to my search was the Lululemon store in Atlanta. Not only did they recommend excellent studios, but also gave me multiple free passes for first time attendants. To me, one of the worst feelings is when you try out a new class, and it ends up being terrible, and then the entire time you just think about the $16(+) wasted on it.  Being able to try new classes penalty-free is amazing.

After doing yoga at least once a week since last February (and quite a bit more since moving to Atlanta), I have never felt more strongly about the importance of taking time for yourself.  I feel so much more centered after I force myself to slow down, and do something I really love.

Although for me it's an added bonus that yoga is a great workout, your indulgence may be very different.  It might be time spent reading a book, getting your nails done or taking a bath.  I firmly believe that those who remember to take care of themselves first, are more successful in their relationships and careers.

So, as you head into the weekend - go for a bike ride, drink a glass of wine and listen to music, or go to a park and people watch.  Happy indulging!

Photo via Lululemon

Thursday, December 16, 2010

pillow fight

Growing up, my mom nearly brainwashed us all into believing that less is more.  In fact, her (amazing) style has been dubbed "barren chic".  And it is just that - slightly barren, fabulously chic.

However, if there is one piece of decor my mom cannot get enough of, it's throw pillows.  When we moved last year, she brought bags upon bags of them with her.  We may not have wreaths on our walls, or kitschy items on our shelves, but we certainly have pillows on our couches.

And although I never saw this coming (seriously), I've been drawn to them lately.  They add so much to a couch or chair, but don't take up any space.  They're the perfect decorative item!

True to form, I am only attracted to those with clean lines and simple patterns.  Of course, nothing with messing beading...

1. I'm smitten over this Westminter pillow by Barbara Coupe. I think it would look beautiful on a fluffy, white couch.
2. Love pillow by Pillowfactory: What's not to love? It would add a nice retro-modern element to a room.

3. For a nice festive touch, I love this Merry and Bright pillow.  It must be the easiest form of post-holiday clean up around.
And, if you're feeling especially craft on this winter day, you can try making them yourself.  Both the Love pillow and Merry and Bright pillow are just stamped and painted.  

image via outblush

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

St. Nicholas

As a young child, I would lie in my bed on Christmas Eve dreaming of Santa Claus zipping down my chimney and tip-toeing through the living room.  

It was so magical and special.  It filled me with hope and excitement.  I loved it and I remember not wanting to "stop believing" when I got older.  I never felt cheated or lied to, but felt a sweet reminiscence for the childhood fantasy that brought me such happiness.

Yet, as Lily has gotten to the age of grasping who Santa is, we have struggled a bit in regards to our stance on the man in red. We have been somewhat vague in our answers and only recently has she started to ask more questions that require a straightforward answer.  

My hesitation has been in not wanting to overshadow what we are truly celebrating during the advent season.  I don't want my children's excitement to be wrapped up in the gifts they will receive.  I want them to be excited about the gift of Christ and the time spent celebrating with family. However, there is something so special about Santa and there is so much good in the history of St. Nicholas. 

My amazing friend, Katy, and I have spent a lot of time discussing how to handle Santa and she recently read this quote to me by James Dobson:

 "I don't believe that those early, early fantasies really interfere with later Spiritual beliefs. I haven't seen any evidence of that, either in the life of my kids or in the lives of those I have had anything to do with. To allow a little bit of fantasy in a child's life enriches his intellectual life and I think he needs it. Children thrive on fantasy. It enriches our mental existence. Reality can be a pretty cold and hard place. I think children need the fantasy that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and other childhood mythical creatures bring."

I certainly understand why parents decide to avoid the "Santa issue" altogether, but this quotation encouraged me to remember how precious the years of fantasy and make believe are.  And as long as we focus on the precious gift of Christ, I believe our kids won't get too wrapped up in the gifts from Santa Claus. They might feel a little love for a mythical man who flies in a sleigh, but isn't love what the season's all about?  

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Make Some Snow!

Talk about frugal! All you need to make the loveliest decorations I've ever seen, is some paper. When I decorated my first Christmas tree, I couldn't afford to buy a bunch of ornaments, so I cut snowflakes out of some sketch paper. For this tutorial, I used origami paper in blue and gray. Snowflakes are so easy to make if you know how to fold your paper. Follow these steps.

When you're finished folding and cutting, unfold your paper. You may need to do a light ironing to flatten out your snowflakes. If you have time, you could also lay them inside a big dictionary for a couple days.
I've been wanting a Christmas decoration to hang in my son, Griffin's room, and I thought these snowflakes would be perfect. So, I strung them on some light colored thread and tied them with a slip knot to the blinds.

Tips for cutting snowflakes:
Create as much space as you can. It makes them feel light and airy.
Only cut all the way through at the very top and bottom.
Try to make the shapes you cut fit together like a puzzle.
Cutting a triangle into the top always makes a pretty shape.
Snipping the pointy tip off makes a star in the middle.
Experiment! If you mess up, you've only lost a little time and a single piece of paper.

Monday, December 13, 2010


During this pregnancy, I have struggled to find food and drinks that sound good and then also sit well after consumption.

One area I have most struggled is in finding things to drink.

I love water and drink it constantly, but I have really craved carbonated drinks (ahem, diet coke) and drinks that are sour.  They taste delicious and seem to quell that nagging first trimester feeling.

However, I have sworn off of diet coke and so many other options are packed with so many calories.  I have tried to avoid all artificial sweeteners and so I have felt slightly deprived when I have wanted something other than water.

Well, I have finally found a solution that is satisfying, economical and also not calorie laden.

My new favorite beverage is about 1/3 part juice (usually cranberry or grapefruit) mixed with 2/3 part flavored seltzer water (usually mandarin).  The juice adds just enough flavor without too many calories and the seltzer water adds the desired carbonation.  Add some ice, lemon or lime and a straw and it feels like a real treat!


Friday, December 10, 2010

go bamboo

In case you're still struggling to contain your favorite beverages (even after our guide to sustainable travel mugs), we have you covered.

Introducing the Bamboo Bottle.  Not only is it stylish, but also taste-free, chemical-free, and basically indestructible.  The glass core is protected by hand-cut, hand-selected bamboo that's completely renewable.

What more could you need?

Since we've taken care of the leg work, now you just need to figure out what you want to fill your trusty bottle with.  Cheers!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Little Change

During the Christmas season, I want my home to feel especially festive. But, I don't enjoy doing major clean-up after the holidays or spending a lot of money. Luckily, small changes have a major impact.

To prevent a cluttered feeling, clear your "to be decorated" surfaces and store those year-round decorations in your Christmas decoration storage containers. When you are returning the decorations to storage, they'll just trade places with the others. So easy!

Beyond decorating the Christmas tree, creating a beautiful centerpiece for your dining room table is a nice place to start. Most of us have a glass vase in the basement or kitchen from a bouquet of flowers. This is a perfect time to reuse it. 

Cut a few twigs from the base of your Christmas tree to line the outside of the vase. Then, fill the vase with some of your favorite holiday decorations. I spent less than ten dollars on a cranberry garland and some cinnamon pinecones.  If you buy a garland, use wire cutters to trim a few short sections to line the inside of your vase. Fill the center of the vase with pinecones. If you have additional garland, you could lay it like a wreath around the vase to give the centerpiece a fuller look.

Other ideas: I considered using fresh cranberries and stringing them to make a garland, but am hoping to pull my centerpiece out of my Christmas box next year. Another option would be to collect pine cones and twigs from your backyard, if you have lovely, large pine trees. Or, fill the vase with ornaments that you didn't use on the tree.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


This is a time of year when so many people express thankfulness.
From Thanksgiving on, you hear people talk about their sentiments of thankfulness.  And we all spend time showering one another in gifts as a sign of our love and thankfulness for our relationships.

Yet, it also seems to be a time when so many people seem exasperated and overwhelmed.

I am fully aware of how much there is to "get done."  From decking the halls, to buying or making gifts, to baking and sending cards, to traveling and celebrating.

It is undeniably a busy time of year.  But, we have created it to be like that.  It feels this way due to our own expectations of ourselves and the pressures we put on ourselves.

I'll admit, there are many things I hope to accomplish prior to December 25th.

But, I also admit, when I look at what Christmas is truly about, none of it matters except for the state of my heart and that of those around me.

I am sure that when Jesus was born, the manger was not covered in sparkly lights and there weren't hot cookies being served.  Cards weren't sent out explaining all Mary and Joseph had done over the preceding year.  And the manger certainly wasn't perfectly clean and tidy.

But, one thing I am sure about is that Jesus was surrounded by His family.  And they were all abundantly thankful for the gift they had been given.  They felt love and thankfulness and an abundance of gratitude.

And that's all that really matters.  It is all so simple when we get down to it.

And for that I am abundantly thankful.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

DIY {from coast to coaster}

I had this idea that once I got my own apartment, I was going to turn into a DIY queen.  I envisioned myself creating incredible holiday decorations, having Sundays full of homemade projects, and giving my friends handmade gifts, to which they'd say, "where did you get this? it's lovely!"

I quickly learned, though, that a new venue does not necessarily mean new habits. Or, more importantly, new skills.

I was in desperate need of coasters, as the ones I took from a local bar were not really matching my decor.
I decided that instead of buying the ones I really wanted, I would try to save a buck and make them myself.

Although the start up costs ensured I spent almost as much as the coasters from Kate Spade, I like the way they turned out, and next time, I won't have to buy quite as many supplies.

To make them you'll need:
Cork-board circles
- A hot glue gun and sticks
-Anything to decorate them (I found that flat buttons worked the best, and if you have extra ones around your house, using them would eliminate the primary cost - and would make it so your coasters are eco-friendly, budget-accommodating, and recycled)

To make them, I hot glued each individual piece to a cork-board circle. Initially, I tried using little paper flowers and although they looked cute, they haven't held up against condensation the way the buttons have.
I've also found that the coasters with only one color of buttons looked cuter (granted I'm a minimalist).
If I were doing it again, I would have gotten glitter and made sparkly coasters for the holidays, too.

Happy crafting!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Vegetarian Meatballs

Years ago, my dear friend, Kristi, gave me a recipe for vegetarian meatballs.

It has since become a family favorite of ours.  I have tweaked it quite a bit to make it our own and it is not only delicious, but simple and healthy...and we have pleased many a meat-eater with them as well!

Vegetarian Meatballs


1 c finely ground pecans
1/4 c shredded parmesan or cheddar cheese
1/2 c cottage cheese
4 eggs
1 Tbs chopped onion
1 c breadcrumbs
1/2 t oregano
salt and pepper


1) Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined.  Occasionally I will have to add additional breadcrumbs to make it a "meatball" consistency that will stick together when formed into balls.

2) Place meatballs into a 13 x 9 baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3) Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

We love ours served over whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese on top!

You can also use different nuts according to what you have on hand.  I have used almonds, walnuts, pecans or all three depending on what is in our cupboard.  Walnuts are one of the healthiest nuts around, so that is one I tend to use often in these!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Sustainable gift guide...

Since I've only recently put myself on a budget, this holiday season is coming as a shock.  Have there always been so many reasons to purchase?

Gifts I want to buy, gifts I have to buy, things I want to buy for myself (party dresses!), things I have to buy for myself (food. meh.)...

I decided if I'm going to spend, I'll attempt to support companies that have sustainable business practices.

Although, it's been easier said than done.

Why are eco-friendly clothes always cotton and cream? And when they do use color, do they have to be earth tones? I'm a warm.  The clothes always feel so obviously earthy.

I have recently stumbled upon People Tree and I couldn't be happier about it.  The company supports Fair Trade and organic clothing; everything is handmade and from all over the world. They were also named the Most Sustainable Fashion Brand and the Global Fashion Awards. And, as if I wasn't already hooked, Emma Watson is designing a line for them next summer.

Since it's a UK based company, I better shop now so I can have these lovely gifts in time for Christmas...

For her...
1. Grace fleece jacket
2. Check weekend bag
3. Sash prom dress
4. Draped Neck Tunic
5. Shaggy short cardigan
6. Long socks
7. Flower gloves
8. Blue egg shell set
9. Pearl border skirt

For him...

And! Right now, you can win a Fair Trade stocking, too! Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Simple Binder

Nothing makes a home feel as cozy and welcoming as a good meal. While we definitely have regulars that tend to appear on my husband's meal request list, I don't like to get stuck in a cooking rut. If you're like me, you're always on the hunt for a new favorite recipe. I often visit the Food Network website for ideas, but my favorite place to find my dream dinners is in Cooking Light.

Cooking Light (1-year auto-renewal)I recognize that subscribing to a magazine may not be the most eco-friendly thing to do. But, my recipe saving system has limited my guilt about that. For a long time, I saved my issues of Real Simple and Cooking Light, knowing that the information and recipes in them were too valuable to recycle after a single use.

I found a simple, three-ring binder in my basement. I bought a couple packages of page covers. Then, I sat down with a stack of magazines. I used an exacto knife to slice out the recipes that I loved or really meant to try. Then, I sorted them into piles based on the type of dish they would create--dessert, pasta, soup, bread, side dish, breakfast, etc. (Use as many categories as your heart desires.) Now, whenever I am planning a dinner party, brunch or family dinner and feel stumped for ideas, I simply open my binder. And, since it keeps me from buying new cookbooks, I guess it is a little green after all.

*In the end, I recycled the portions of the magazines that I did not save for the binder.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'Tis the Season

I love the preparations that precede Christmas.

I adore the music.  I love the decorations.  I enjoy the celebrating.  I get so much joy in shopping for friends and family.

However, every year as December 25th approaches, I find myself trying to clear some of the clutter in my mind that accompanies the festivities and I consciously try to spend time to savor the true meaning of Christmas.

This year, a particular verse that has given me pause is Mark 10:21.  
It states: Jesus looked at him and loved him.  "One thing you lack," he said.  "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me."

Wow. That convicts and challenges me.  
Thinking of how much more we could do for the poor.  
How much less time I could spend thinking of materialistic things. 
How much more could my true goals be eternal and not of this world.

I am not confessing to have it all pulled together or to even be close.

But I do know as Christmas approaches, my prayer is that my focus is on Christ.  And even as we enjoy giving gifts this season, that we would look most forward to the amazing gift we will one day receive in eternal life with our Lord.

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