get in the spirit!

image via flickr
it's apalling to me, but not everyone finds it so easy to get into the christmas spirit. here are some of my favorite christmas songs/albums/movies/books in case you need some help getting in the mood!
my ultimate christmas playlist: (p.s. some of these songs are lame but remind me of christmas when i was younger and are therefore okay)
"holiday" by michael bolton
"christmas canon" by the trans-siberian orchestra
"baby, it's cold outside" by dean martin
"all i want for christmas is you" by mariah carey
"believe" by josh groban
"the gift" by jim brickman
"this christmas" by boyz II men
"last christmas" by wham!
"this gift" by 98 degrees
"oh come oh come emmanuel" by sufjan stevens
"christmas hymn" by amy grant
"where are you christmas?" by faith hill
"the happy elf" by harry connick jr.
"have yourself a merry little christmas" by james taylor
"welcome to our world" by chris rice
"merry christmas, happy holidays" by n'sync
"christmas in hollis" by run dmc
my favorite christmas albums:
"december" by george winston
"december morning" by mark douthit
"a merry affair, starbucks swinging songs of red velvet and mistletoe kisses"
"merry christmas" by bing crosby
"miracles: the holiday album" by kenny g
"let the world rejoice" by fred bock, tom howard, and the maranatha children's chorus
my favorite christmas movies:
"love actually" (best.movie.ever)
"the holiday"
"a christmas story" (a family favorite)
"the muppet christmas carol"
"home alone"
"the family stone"
"the snowman"
my favorite christmas books: (which you really need to read if you haven't!)
"twas the night before" by jerry jenkins
"skipping christmas" by john grisham
"the polar express" by chris van allsburg


fifty little things (i love about christmas)

image via listverse.com
thanksgiving's over folks. after an early morning of nursing the turkey hangover while fighting off serious power-shoppers at target, and an afternoon of trimming not one, but two trees, it is totally offically, no more excuses, CHRISTMASTIME. it is also, coincidentally, my fiftieth blog post since i started blooming branch back in the fall, so, in celebration of both monumental events, here is my little list of fifty things i love about christmas. hope you enjoy, and for goodness sakes turn on some bing crosby and put up your tree. we have less than a month to enjoy the merriment!

1. non-stop holiday songs on the radio.
2. tacky christmas sweaters
3. eggnog in my coffee (you should try it instead of wasting your money on crappy flavored creamers. so delicious.)
4. christmas lights everywhere
5. the smell of evergreen
6. salvation army bell-ringers
7. seeing santa at the mall (no, i don't sit on his lap, but i do get super excited when i walk by his throne.)
8. finding ornaments and decorations packed away about which i'd forgotten
9. holiday parties
10. the cabarrus dance academy's annual christmas ballet
11. christmas eve service at church (my favorite!)
12. shop windows downtown
13. christmas specials on television
14. all the festive excitement at the mall (even with the crowds i like it!)
15. red cups at starbucks
16. watching kids get so psyched about santa
17. baking christmas cookies
18. helping mom decorate the house
19. vanilla bean noel lotion at bath and body works
20. christmas issues of all my favorite magazines
21. baking our family's annual buche de noel (yule log)
22. watching my cat play with/destroy the christmas ornaments
23. wrapping presents
24. christmas eve dinner with my family
25. getting christmas cards (especially the ones with enclosed photos)
26. shopping for angel tree kids and operation christmas child boxes - so much fun!
27. singing carols at church
28. stuffing stockings - my favorite part of christmas presents
29. black friday shopping with my mom
30. christmas movies (stay tuned for a post on these in the future!)
31. fake christmas eve/day with sarah and lacey
32. the annual concord christmas parade
33. old-fashioned ornaments/decorations
34. holiday poker games with my parents and brother
35. falling asleep on christmas eve
36. cinnamon buns and orange rolls for breakfast on christmas morning
37. decorating the tree with my family
38. watching regis and kelly's holiday special on december 24th (don't ask me why - i've watched it every year since kathie lee was around)
39. helping my dad shop for my mom
40. watching people open presents i've given them
41. christmas coca-cola commercials
42. christmas tree lots
43. candles
44. nativity sets
45. hot chocolate with peppermint
46. celebrating advent, and not just christmas eve/day
47. ice skating
48. our annual breakfast reunion with all of my high school friends
49. leftovers!
50. my parents' snowman clock that chimes a different christmas carol every hour (sounds tacky, but is actually quite awesome)

whew. what a list. what are some of your holiday favorites? (is there seriously something i left out?)


i am thankful for...

painting "the first thanksgiving" by jean louis gerome ferris

happy thanksgiving everyone! i have finally managed to pull myself off the couch and get out of my pj's (the macy's parade gets my full attention for the entire three hours. except today, when i fell asleep on the couch after david archuleta's float came by. i did, however, wake up in time for santa.) and the smell of our turkey cooking is filling the air. i am so fortunate to spend this day with my family and i hope you have a blessed day as well. here are a few things i am thankful for this year!
  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. my friends - i have so many wonderful girlfriends who make everything so much more fun.
  4. starbucks - it just makes my life happier. end of story.
  5. chilly weather - this fall has been unseasonably cool. i couldn't be happier about it.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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!
  9. my cat, kitty - she brings me joy every day (if you met her, you'd understand why).
  10. 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.
overall, i am so blessed and thankful for the gifts god has given me. i often focus more on the negatives in my life but i am grateful for this day to remind me that i have so much - including a savior who loves me more than anything and is always in control.

happy thanksgiving!

happy thanksgiving! - a post by lacey

image via real simple
Plan of action for Thanksgiving Day 2008:
*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!


the thanksgiving table, part II

so tomorrow's the big day! hopefully your linens have been pressed, your pies have been baked (i made a delicious looking pumpkin one this afternoon), and your home is filled with the warmth and sounds of family and loved ones. while i find it extremely important to have a gorgeous table around which to gather, i shouldn't forget the thing for which i'm most thankful: those that gather around it with me! here are a few more ideas to inspire you! happy day-before-thanksgiving!

it's definitely going to be too cold in north carolina for this idea, but if you live somewhere warm this time of year, i think sharing a meal outside would be so much fun!

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!

i ripped this out of a pottery barn catalog recently. while this table is a little bit over-the-top for my taste, i am completely obsessed with the idea of bringing natural elements indoors. who knew sticks could be so classy? this works with lots of natural things, too: pinecones, holly, evergreen boughs, berries, etc. take a walk in your yard and be creative!

images: 1. thisloveisforever.com 2. oktavia 3. country living 4. pottery barn


a (very!) grand opening

charlotte is a growing city. when we first moved here when i was young, there wasn't much to talk about. now, super targets have sprung up everywhere, two giant malls have been built, and in the spring we are even getting our very own beautiful blue and yellow ikea! while i'm still waiting for a charlotte h&m and zara, we did get a very exciting new addition this weekend: THE PAPER SOURCE!

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' stamps

a 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!


rainy monday

image via holga.tumblr.com
"let the rain kiss you
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 weekend!

image via flickr

happy friday before thanksgiving!
soak up all the last beautiful bits of fall while you still can before christmas takes over!
i'll be spending a jam-packed weekend with lacey doing early christmas things and attending a very exciting grand opening. stay tuned for some fun blog posts next week!!


a christmas post already!? - a post by lacey

image via asa.org.uk
Once Halloween has come and gone, it is, in my opinion, officially acceptable to play Christmas songs on the radio, hang your stockings with care, wear the hand knit candy cane sweater that your auntie made for you, and bake the first fruitcake of the season. (You can't knock fruitcake until you try my Dad's. He soaks it in brandy for about three weeks until it's ready to eat. Mmmmmm).
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!



the thanksgiving table, part I

with thanksgiving a little over a week away, i'm assuming that those of you hosting a meal this holiday are scrambling to get things together to decorate your home and table. as important as the food is to guests, having a stunning table on which to share it is equally important and here are a few fun pictures/ideas to get you inspired!

this one is fairly traditional but i love the different levels!
i love two things about this setting: 1) the shiny pumpkins (what a pretty and simple idea. once can of spray paint and...done) 2) the untraditional use of blue. i don't think you really have to use red, orange, yellow and brown to make a stunning holiday table.

i really like this idea. start with a white tablecloth, scatter it with leaves, real or artificial (use double-sided tape to keep them in place), and cover them with another sheer tablecloth. so pretty!
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


a lesson for friday

image via poppytalk.blogspot.com
happy friday, happy weekend and happy world diabetes day!

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!


small town fun - a post by lacey

I live in a little town in Eastern, NC. It's very small-town America-cute, cozy and family-friendly. Living in a small town has its perks, sure. There's not much traffic, we have chili cook-offs, we have a tiny, drive through coffee stand called "The Pony Espresso", our downtown is the cutest I have ever seen, and we have a real wooden town crier in front of the post office (my step-dad built it!) that people actually post announcements on. (How adorable are we?) On the other hand, at around 5 o'clock it pretty much becomes a ghost town. All of the mommies and daddies are at home with their kids, all of the grandpas and grandmas are setting up their bingo tables, and all of the young folk like myself are in bigger cities where they belong. It's hard to find things to do when you're you're a 20 something living at home with your family AND when you're out of money more than you're in the money. BUT thanks to this great skill called FL or "freebie locator" that my mom passed down to me, I can sniff out the cheap thrills like the best of them.
image via kitchenessence.com

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.)


the organized chef

image via aurorae.tumblr.com

you've probably heard of the pampered chef but check it out: now you can be the organized chef. (and the pampered one, too, if you feel like it!) if you know me well you should know that i really like to be organized. i know where most everything is all of the time and i get really bothered when there is a stack of un-filed (or worse, unpaid!) bills and paperwork on my desk or if an article of clothing in my closet is hanging in the wrong place. also, if you know me well, you should know that i really, really like to cook and have quite a collection of recipes even though i am both single and living with my parents (not a lot of need for those at the moment). while i have a nice section for all of them in one of my great accordion files, i am annoyed that they are not nicely filed alphabetically by section somewhere (i.e.: appetizers, breads, cakes and cookies, etc.) on neat, matching recipe cards.

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.

image via tastebook.com

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.


christmas came early!

if you haven't yet noticed: christmas is coming! target is completely made over, starbucks is handing out red cups again, and the world is becoming a little happier. i've even been jamming out to my ultimate christmas mix (more on that later). you can get excited about all the fun, festive posts i'm planning, which will start after thanksgiving since some people get really weird about christmas coming early. i am not those people. i'm those annoying people who like every little bit of christmas, like jimmy stewart at the end of "it's a wonderful life", or ebeneezer scrooge at the end of "a christmas carol". i get really excited very early and this year is no exception.
anyways, christmas came a little early for me this year. i browse thrift stores weekly and generally find some treasure but i hit the jackpot on halloween. i was browsing the shelves at the local crusty but often rewarding "value village". most retail stores are more like me, assuming that christmas season starts when halloween ends, so the employees were stocking the place with lots of secondhand christmas goodies. stuffed at the end of one of the unorganized dusty shelves i found two boxes of pink vintage shiny brite ornaments (circa 1950's) for $1.21 per box! i was so excited! the ornaments are completely intact (except for one random gold one that i love so i don't mind) and in their original boxes. i just priced these on ebay and they generally run up to $30 a box. the paint on these beauties is all crackly and i keep taking them out of the closet and admiring them. i can't wait to find a happy home for them when it's time to haul the all christmas decor out of the attic and i should probably warn you to get excited about blooming branch's month of christmas coming soon!


saturday staple

here's a little list of things that i love:

1. shopping
2. contests
3. free stuff
4. chunky jewelry
5. giant bags
6. weekends
7. winning

today, my good friend blair over at the other sister called me to tell me about this wonderful contest that incorporates my love for all things listed above. the shabby apple is a super-cute website featuring easy-to-wear dresses, and cute accessories to wear with them. being a super girly-girl myself, i love dresses (especially ones you can just wear and go), so i am certainly smitten with this site's adorable frocks.
even better, shabby apple's cute cute blog is featuring a contest: make a cute vignette (or a complete outfit, if you're not familiar with that word) from its merchandise and if your look is selected, you can win it all! who doesn't like that!?
i tend to be a bit indecisive about, well, everything (unless it's something like wearing sandals with socks or panty lines. i'm pretty certain about how i feel in those areas.) so it took me forever to come up with this outfit. there were a number of cute dresses from which to choose but i am really happy with the way my vignette, saturday staple, came out. it's just the right amount of everything and i love the teal and pink paired with the brown. i am also slightly obsessed with the boots.
if you haven't already guessed from my blog posts the past few months, fall is my favorite time of year, and this outfit is perfect for nearly every activity in october and november. i love fall weekends more than anything but i usually end up feeling frumpy and not-so-cute when i bundle up in comfy clothes for my saturday routine of errands and thrifting. i think this outfit would be perfect to wear on those saturdays, especially with an ivory cable sweater coat (if it's cold) and a magenta snakeskin belt that i have. it is casual and comfy enough for the weekend but looks so much more pulled together than my jeans and chuck taylors that are my usual saturday favorites. this look says "i am feminine, creative, and ambitious" without looking over-the-top. i just love it!



the coolest girl i know

i read a book recently with this quote:

" 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:

  1. her closet is full of awesome clothes that she lets me borrow
  2. she loves jesus a lot
  3. she drives a stick shift
  4. she likes box wine
  5. she has her own line of cards and paper products (see them here) and is amazingly creative in every sense of the word
  6. she inspires me
  7. she is the best car dancer i have ever met
  8. she has no problem acting stupid in front of other people
  9. she has the coolest family ever
  10. she makes me laugh A-LOT
  11. she's really hot
  12. 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!

treasure hunting - a post by lacey

Hello! My name is Lacey, and I have the privilege of being today's guest blogger. Chelsea and I have been besties since sophomore year in college, and when she asked me if I would be interested in doing a guest spot, while I was flattered and excited at the possibility, I really didn't know why she asked ME. She has plenty of other friends who are much cooler than I am. I mean, I live at home with my parents, I answer phones for a living-I don't even have a blog of my own! But then I thought about it a little longer. I do drive a stick shift, I make a mean chicken burger and I have seen the Beach Boys live in concert. I guess I am rather cool. Fall is my all-time mostest favoritest time of the year. I love the colors of the leaves, I love bundling up in scarves and tights, I love drinking hot lattes and I especially love that colder weather means Christmas is on its way. (Christmas!) Perhaps the only thing that makes me a little sad about this time of the year is that Fall signals the end of Saturday morning yard sales. I am not ashamed to admit that I love a good yard sale. There's nothing like hitting several good sales in a row. What a high. That blissful emotion sometimes comes out like this: "Ohmygosh! ANOTHER Richard Simmons workout video? Is Lady Luck on my side today or what?!" Anyone relating with me? Unless you're on of those swanky people who "winter" in Florida or California where it's delightfully warm in January, there is a point in late Fall where it just gets too cold to go yard saling. So today I am dedicating my post to some of the glorious finds I happened upon during my many yard sale excursions this past Summer. Get ready to be blown away. You may experience intense feelings of jealousy.

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!


it's the BIG day!

image via kissmygumbo.com

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!