2. tacky christmas sweaters
- my family - i am so blessed to have such wonderful relatives! my immediate family is incredible, as are my grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. i love you all!
- our house - as much as a i am planning to get a place of my own soon, i love living with my parents for the moment. our home is warm and inviting and i certainly don't have it too badly.
- my friends - i have so many wonderful girlfriends who make everything so much more fun.
- starbucks - it just makes my life happier. end of story.
- chilly weather - this fall has been unseasonably cool. i couldn't be happier about it.
- part-time jobs - yes, in all honesty they kind of suck, but i am so thankful for mine since i've been unable to find a full-time position for several months (stupid economy). if it weren't for them, i'd be flat broke and bored out of my mind.
- my mom's cooking skills - she passed all her knowledge down to me and i am so grateful. i absolutely love to cook and i am thrilled she has shared such a wonderful hobby with me!
- thrift stores - my room and closet would be missing so many fun things without them, and i would be bored. treasure hunting is so much fun!
- my cat, kitty - she brings me joy every day (if you met her, you'd understand why).
- the fact that i'm not in control - in general i really like to be in charge. but when it comes to big big things like my life, i'm really glad that someone who knows a heck of a lot more than i do about things is taking care of it for me. it's a good feeling, especially in this time of waiting that i've been experiencing lately. it's nice to trust someone else for a change.
*Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in my jammies and with a cup of coffee in hand.
*Make roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes with orange marmalade.
*Join my family for Thanksgiving lunch and feast, feast, feast.
*Wake up and feast, feast, feast on leftovers.
Happy Turkey Day to you and yours!
i saw this idea done recently at an open house and it was so totally cute: use real pumpkins as serving dishes! love it. also, i like votives in tall glass vases. a very good idea for the table - with all the passing and reaching, open flames can always be a little dangerous at my house!
for those of you that don't know, the paper source is "the premiere seller of fine, handmade papers from around the world", according to its website, but in addition to the bolts and bolts shown below of handmade paper, they also sell a variety of cool gifts, cards, stamps, craft supplies, etc. and i'm in love. lacey and i hit the grand opening (right as the doors opened!) on saturday and spent two hours checking out the goods, watching free demos, eating free coffee and snacks, and taking in all the creative vibes they had to offer. i'm so excited that we now have this store in charlotte!
handmade wrapping paper
gorgeous original holiday cards
one of my very favorites!
journals, calendars, and fun gifties
wall o' stampsa rainbow of printable cards and envelopes
a delicious spread of my favorite candles - paddywax. they're strong, long lasting, pretty to look at, and inexpensive!
a store after my own heart - a spread of free goodies courtesty of dean and deluca! (lacey and i had already visited dean and deluca that morning for coffee, but there's no rule saying you can't have it twice in one morning, right?!)
cute cute mugs with which i want to fill my cupboards!
lacey rocking a basket full of crafties and christmas presents!
one of the things i like most about the products offered at the paper source is that they're very personal. what other store focuses soley on creating beautifully wrapped presents, handmade and very personal cards and correspondence, and unique gifts for the people that we love? even the toys and gifts offered are reproductions of old-fashioned toys and things you would never find at target. some of them are even fair trade, such as the cute cute knitted animals made by women in africa. i love the paper source because it focuses on beauty, creativity, thoughtfulness, and personal touch - something of which we need a lot more in this consumer-driven economy!
let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
let the rain sing you a lullaby
the rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
the rain makes running pools in the gutter
the rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
and i love the rain"
- langston hughes
happy friday before thanksgiving!
I am one of those people who tries to squeeze every ounce of Christmas out of November and December that I can. I understand that you may not be one of those people. You may already be angry that I haven't mentioned Thanksgiving. You're saying, "What about Tom Turkey? What about corn pudding?" I'm saying, "I love Tom Turkey, and I LOVE corn pudding, and I LOVE LOVE the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade." I'm not against Thanksgiving at all. The only reason I am writing a post about Christmas is for your benefit. It's to help you get a head start on what some of you may dread about the Christmas season. You see, this post is all about GREAT CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS! See? I knew I'd win you back over. You're feeling bad for hoping that I'd choke on cranberry sauce, aren't you? (Speaking of which, how many of you like the stuff from the can and how many like the kind made on the stovetop?)
When it comes to Christmas gifts, if you are a savvy shopper, you know that you have to start shopping early and you have to shop smart. If you don't plan ahead, there is no way you can buy gifts for your family, your friends, and your co-workers AND still have money left over to treat yourself to Peppermint Mochas from Starbucks. (By the way, they have started serving their coffee drinks in their signature red holiday cups!) I have found that the more time I give myself to buy gifts for other people, the more thoughtful and appreciated the gift is. (Except that one year when I thought a little too hard, and I made my brother a baseball themed mobile made from lined paper and dental floss.) When I shop early, I also save money because I don't end up blowing a wad of cash on an expensive gift at the last minute. I always make a list of everyone who I know I will be getting a gift for, and I start jotting down gifts so I can have several ideas to come back to. Here is a list of some of my favorite gifts I have either received or given over the years:
*Gift baskets/Stockings. My favorite thing about opening my stocking on Christmas morning is that I get a million little gifts in one! This idea is not original, but it is so fun and easy to put together for someone. I love to yard sale, and I am always finding the cutest little trinkets that remind me of my mom or one of my girlfriends. These little tokens of my affection make a great gift individually, but imagine a whole BASKET full of these little pressies! You can go with a theme and make, for example, a spa basket, filling it up with nail polish bottles, foot scrubbers, face masks, shampoo bottles, and nail filers, or you can just pull the random card and put in things you know the gift receiver will like. For example, if you were going to give ME a gift basket, I love anything chocolate, anything pink, or anything from Michael's craft store. Fill up a basket or stocking with tiny pressies, and you will make someone happy! You can ALWAYS find great stuff for gift baskets or stockings at dollar stores. Represent the Dollar Tree!
*Magazine subscriptions. I love the magazines domino and Lucky. I ask for them every year, and believe it or not, magazine subscriptions are cheap! Well, maybe the magazines I like are cheap. I can get a year subscription to domino magazine for $7. When you think about it, you're paying $7 for one magazine a month for 12 months. So, you're really getting the person 12 gifts! It's like a cheese of the month club except way cheaper! Believe me, you'll be at the TOP of their gift list next year.
image via etsy.com
*Homemade Sweet Treats. One of my older brother's best friends from high school always brings my family homemade Reindeer Chow during the holidays when she comes to visit. She and her mom make it every year, and it is sweet to know that they always make a batch for my family. They mix Chex Mix cereal, pretzels, and M&M's together with melted white chocolate and package the chow in clear gift bags tied with red string. The Reindeer Chow is delicious and impossible to resist, but they way they bundle it up makes the gift even more special. It's all about the presentation. If you wanted to bake a batch of cookies as a gift, a great way to present them to your lucky recipients would be to put them in a Christmas tin, a glass bowl, or a basket. Never underestimate the power of edible gifts. (Read the the tune of We Wish You a Merry Christmas: Oh bring me some Reindeer Cho-ow! I won't go until I get some, so bring some out here!)
*The World Wide Web. No, I don't mean that you should go buy your family a six month contract with Road Runner high speed Internet. They would probably cry upon opening that envelope. (People love fast Internet. People do not love getting it as their only gift from you on Christmas). I'm talking about the great sites that offer affordable gifts-handmade and otherwise. Check out these two Web sites for some great ideas:
http://www.etsy.com/ is my favorite site for handmade goodies. I think I go there about 8-27 times a day just to see what new items have been posted. People from all over the globe can set up an etsy shop and sell their pottery, original artwork and photography, hand knit scarves and gloves, paper crafts, furniture, etc. You can search by artist or category, and you are guaranteed to get something unique and handmade.
image via eyeslipsface.com
http://www.eyeslipsface.com/ is a great site for makeup products that usually sell for about $1. Nope, not kidding. The same amount that can get you an order of five chicken nuggets at Wendy's can also get you a tube of pretty lip gloss. This site does have some products that are higher priced such as their line of mineral makeup and their sets of professional makeup brushes, but the majority of their products are reasonable and have a tendency of filling up your online shopping cart. (But just think of all the stuff you're getting for $20! or $45! or $73! or whatever your total may be...)
I hope my gift ideas have helped. I know I would LOVE to get ANYTHING from the above mentioned gift ideas...hint*hint...you know where I blog...
Happy beginning of the holiday season and happy shopping! See you back next week!
this one is fairly traditional but i love the different levels!
this one is my favorite! i never thought these ugly "chinese chestnuts" as we call them here could be cute but this is probably my favorite placecard idea ever.
i like this arrangement of eucalyptus branches and osage oranges!
images: 1. country home 2. better homes and gardens 3 - 5. martha stewart 6. domino magazine
i promise i won't bore you with all the details, but november is diabetes awareness month and today is world diabetes day. i think the name sounds a little ridiculous, but i certainly like the idea of a day to raise awareness about this disease that affects over twenty million people in the united states alone.
i have been type I diabetic since i was ten years old. i wear an insulin pump, count carbohydrates, and am really good at giving injections. i get a little annoyed, however, when people don't know the difference between type I and type II diabetes and make comments like "i thought people with diabetes were overweight, but you're not," etc.
which is why you are lucky enough to get a little diabetes lesson today:
there are two types of diabetes, and although the name is identical, they are actually quite different:
- type I diabetes is usually known as "insulin-dependent diabetes" or "juvenile diabetes", as it is usually diagnosed in people under the age of 25. this is an auto-immune deficiency, meaning that antibodies are triggered (often by a physically or mentally traumatic experience) to attack healthy organs within the body. in this case, the pancreas (manufacturer of insulin) is attacked and killed and insulin must be artificially obtained. this type of diabetes is chronic, meaning there is no cure or way to make the pancreas start producing insulin again. in the simplest explanation, insulin acts as a can opener in your bloodstream, allowing nutrients to be absorbed by your cells. without insulin, sugar that would otherwise be absorbed builds up, causing "high blood sugar". diabetics maintain their blood sugar by finger pricks to test the amount of sugar in their blood, and by injecting insulin (usually three to five times a day). Many diabetics (including myself) now wear an insulin pump, which is similar to a small IV. the pump has the same effect as the shots, but uses only one type of insulin and infuses it continually. the pump is much more convenient than shots as it does not require a rigid schedule.
-type II diabetes, or "adult onset diabetes" is generally diagnosed after the age of 25. in this case, the pancreas becomes overworked and produces less insulin than is necessary or stops producing all together. this can be a result of any number of factors, but in the united states is often a result of obesity, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits. this type of diabetes has a number of different levels. because the pancreas is merely overworked, most can regain function from weight loss, an exercise plan, a healthy diet, and in many cases, medication in the form of a pill. some cases can be more severe, resulting in the need for injections of insulin.
so there's a little lesson for you - don't you feel smarter? while having diabetes is certainly not fun, i am thankful that i can live a fairly normal life without too many concerns about my future. i recently attended a lecture by a prestigious researcher for diabetes, and while a cure is still going to take some time, he is confident (and so am i!) that there will be a way to cure type I diabetes in my lifetime, and for that i am so grateful. thanks for reading and for more information check out the juvenile diabetes research foundation (my favorite) or the american diabetes association.
and have a happy weekend!
This past weekend my mom and I went to a FREE (!!) cooking demo at a local kitchen store called Kitchen Essence. I found out about the free demos online, and since I'm interested in all things free and all things food, I decided to make a date with my mom and see what it was all about. It turned out to be the BEST decision I made all weekend. The store was adorable and filled with every kitchen gadget you could imagine. Until Saturday, I didn't even know icing pens existed, but now I want one in my stocking. (You reading this, Santa?) As soon as we walked in, our FL skills went crazy, and we spotted a sample plate full of dark chocolate pieces. Could this get off to a better start? We were smitten. The demo was held in a small kitchen at the back of the store. My mom and I found a seat and made ourselves comfy, and the other seats filled up fast. The chef, Chef Kim, (no last name, very mysterious and chefy) was featuring a product from the Stonewall Kitchen line called Apple Cranberry Chutney so she used a jar or so in every appetizer she made (save yourself $6 and buy some Food Lion brand raspberry jam). The first thing she made were Cranberry Brie Bites. Who, besides me, was under the false impression that appetizers were time-consuming and complicated? This appetizer required puff pasty, brie and the Apple Cranberry Chutney. That's it. Period. She started by cutting a sheet of puff pasty into two inch squares and placing the squares in mini muffin tins to form tiny pastry cups. She cut up the brie into cubes, stuck one piece in each cup, poured a little of the chutney over the cheese and popped them in the oven. I think I breathed once, blinked once and she was done. You could tell the other ladies in the room were equally impressed. They were giving each other raised eyebrow nods. I was already all revved up about the easy recipe when my day got even better. In walked a gentleman with two bottles of wine and about 10 empty wine glasses. I sat up a little straighter and stared. Could it be? Yep. Free wine. Kitchen Essence has its own wine store, and they just happened to be having a free tasting that day. Hello Best-Saturday-of-All-Time. As Mr. Wine Man started pouring, Chef Kim continued demoing the other two recipes-Oven Roasted Yams and Potatoes and Glazed Chicken Skewers-Both as easy as the first. The demo only lasted about an hour, and then we were on our way. I was totally inspired by how easy everything was to make AND how good everything tasted. It turns out, Kitchen Essence holds these free demos every Saturday, and they are different each week. I already told Chelsea that I am going to take her one weekend when she comes to visit me. I think they have a cookie demo coming up for the holidays! I'm pretty sure we'll get to lick the cookie batter spoon since me and Chef Kim are pretty much besties now. I asked her if you could use chevre in place of the brie in the cranberry brie bites. At that moment, she looked at me as an equal. She knew I was serious about my future in the kitchen. (You can find any of the recipes I mentioned and more at http://stonewallkitchen.com/)
While you may not live in a town as small as mine, I hope you can start honing your FL skills to find every good and cheap thrill that your town/city has to offer! Check out community events Web sites, scan the paper or find out if you have a town crier and see what that flyer for the 4th Annual Redneck Can Shoot is all about. (Ok, maybe don't go to that.)
problem solved: enter tastebook. i read about this last week in oprah's christmas issue of O magazine and figured it was too good to be true. but then i checked out the website and it is seriously the easiest, coolest thing ever. so you have a mess of recipes that you want to organize? join tastebook (it's free), enter your own recipes and upload photos for each, import your favorites from online sources (tastebook has partnered with nearly every well-known online recipe resource out there so all you have to do is drag the specific recipes you want into your file), choose a cover photo and title for your book, and bam! (in the words of fellow chef emeril lagasse) your own, personalized tastebook is mailed directly to you.
i'm sure at this point you're probably imagining something really crappy (i know i was, based on all of the "homemade" fundraiser cookbooks i've encountered) but these books look like something you would buy in a store (see below for a sample image). you can choose your own photo for the hardback cover, and the inside is a spiral binder, allowing you to remove or rearrange recipes as you choose. all of the photos in the book are in color and each section has an easy color-coded tab divider (sigh!). and here's the best best part: it's only $35! that includes 100 recipes, which you don't even have to add all at once. you can order your book, and add new recipes online over time. each one will be mailed to you as a beautiful, matching page to snap into your book. and the website is so fun: there are videos from creator tori ritchie to help you every step of the way.
so, seriously, what are you waiting for? fix that jumbled mess of magazine tear-outs and illegible recipe cards from aunt ruth and get organized already! you'll be every bit as cool as bree van de camp.
here's a little list of things that i love:
" life is an ugly, awful place not to have a best friend." - sarah dessen, someone like you
and isn't it true? sometimes when i'm feeling sorry for myself i have to remember that god gave me a couple of amazing friends with whom i can weather any storm. one of those girls happens to be lacey, a best best friend whom i met during my sophomore year of college. she lived on the ground floor of my dorm while i partied in a corner room by myself on the second (and yes, i even had my own bathroom, which works out well since i seemed to miss out on learning how to share in nursery school). neither of us are actually sure how we started hanging out so much but i'm pretty sure greatness just attracts itself. after that, we were basically inseparable, along with another classmate and equally awesome lady, sarah. while most other college students were drinking their weight in warm pbr's, lacey and i chugged more chai lattes than i can count, studied a little, played a lot, and made lots of people wish they were cool enough to be friends with us.
thankfully, our friendship is now stronger than ever as we have overcome distance, break-ups, living with our parents, and becoming adults. i am so blessed to have lacey as my friend! here are a few of my favorite things about her:
- her closet is full of awesome clothes that she lets me borrow
- she loves jesus a lot
- she drives a stick shift
- she likes box wine
- she has her own line of cards and paper products (see them here) and is amazingly creative in every sense of the word
- she inspires me
- she is the best car dancer i have ever met
- she has no problem acting stupid in front of other people
- she has the coolest family ever
- she makes me laugh A-LOT
- she's really hot
- she lives in a really cool town
so get this: as thursdays are terribly busy for me, lacey is going to be guest blogging here at blooming branch each thursday! how EXCITED are you!? i know i am! so enjoy her first post and stay tuned for more! yay!
This amazing chair was picked up for $5 at a sale in town. Doesn't it look like it should be sitting on the deck of a home in the Adirondacks? I love the style, although I'm still trying to find the perfect mustard/canary/gold color to paint it. I think I made a bad decision with this color called "Happy Jonquil." The name itself should have been a dead giveaway.
I got this wooden silver platter this past Saturday, and it's already covered in my arts and crafts mess. I haggled the gentleman having the sale down from $50 to $1. Ok, not really. I hate haggling. I paid $3 for it. But it was worth $3. I mean, look at that shine.
I recently got this gorgeous knee-length winter coat at a sale for $5. It may look fancy, but I like to fool people into thinking I have an exciting life by dressing up for a stop at Starbucks. "Oh, wow. She looks dressed up. Fancy dinner party? Date night?" I like to leave them guessing. I'm the only one who has to know I was in my PJ's all day up until then.
This bike is not actually my own sweet find but my mom's. When I told her what I was doing, she got very excited and wanted me to showcase her red bike that cannot actually be ridden. It's rusty, the tires are flat, but doesn't it look homey and cute propped against the studio?
I can understand if, at this point, you are feeling ridiculously jealous of my knack for finding incredible deals. The only advice I can give you is to keep getting up on Saturday mornings at the crack of dawn, grab your coffee, grab your bad hair day hat and get out there! Also, don't be afraid to elbow a random grandma or two if you think they might be a threat.
Have a great rest of your week!
guess what!? it's ELECTION DAY! after a long and glorious weekend i am back in town and will be heading to the polls soon to brave the lines and make my voice heard. after nearly two years of presidential campaigning, i am so excited to finally have this monumental election play out and be over with, as i'm sure are most americans. (are political ads driving you crazy, too?)
anyways, i'll be blunt. don't be stupid. don't make excuses. go out and vote - it's such a wonderful privilege we have as americans. see you at the polls!
p.s. as if taking part in choosing our leaders isn't enough of a reason to vote, starbucks is giving away free tall coffee (!!!) and ben and jerry's is giving away free cones with your "i voted" sticker. the right to vote AND free starbucks - there are some things i just love about being an american!