Thursday, December 19, 2013

An easy way to spiff up any winter party

I hosted a Christmas party for my family this past weekend.  I love to bust out my creativity when I am having people over but with two littles, I have to be realistic.  Usually my method these days is to go simple on most everything and then choose one thing to make extra special.  I don’t want to be stressed and tense when people arrive (that’s hard to do!), therefore, I try to pick a menu that I can easily accomplish, then I give myself the freedom to “go all out” in one area for a special memory at my house. 

I like to choose something that people can get involved in when they arrive.  When you welcome people into your home and give them the option of a destination to visit during the party, along with something to do with their hands, even if they don’t know another soul, it helps them to feel welcome and at ease.  It’s also fun and shows the thoughtfulness you put into your guest’s experience in a tangible way (this is a great way to show love and hospitality!).

Because it was a winter event, this time around I chose to go with a hot cocoa bar!

It was suuuuper simple thanks to the help of Sam’s Club.  The whole idea was built around the concept of being able to DIY one’s own personalized cup of hot chocolate.  I purchased a large variety pack of some of the. best. cocoa. ever.  It had at least six packages of eight flavors (oatmeal cookie, caramel, raspberry, s’more etc.) so guests could choose their own special one.  The variety of different hot chocolates is a must-have and is what makes it so fun. 

Other than that, the special goodies to put in the cocoa are up to you.   I purchased some yummy biscottis from Sam's and they were a hit. I think they make the cocoa even more fun because it gives you something to bite into and easily elevates the drink to something more gourmet.  

I also had peppermint and regular whipped cream (not pictured) and gingerbread and French vanilla marshmallows.  I hunted high and low for the gourmet marshmallows you see at some specialty or confectionery stores but didn't find them the day I was shopping.  Usually they are square-shaped and uniquely flavored, oftentimes even dipped or dusted in chocolate or other sweet things.  However, when all else fails, your kids are crying, and you just need to buy something to plop place on the table, holiday ‘mallows from Jet Puff are great too J

Add some fun mini cookies or things for guests to nibble on and there you go! 

You can use paper cups, Styrofoam cups, or mugs from your cupboard.  I put some colorful paper straws in a glass for guests to use as stir-sticks.  

The other thing I had was an electric kettle.  My cocoa bar was set up upstairs, far away from my kitchen, so this was the best way to have hot water available to people.  For bigger gatherings I would recommend something like this as it heats itself up real quick (mine was from Target) .  If it’s just a few friends, a kettle on the stove is fine.  I wouldn’t send people to the microwave as it would get congested and take too much time.

Here are some more ideas you could add to your Cocoa Bar:
  • A chalkboard sign with something to incorporate the theme
  • A cute garland or bunting, tablecloths and platters.  
  • A paper tablecloth you can write on, pointing to different ingredients on the table and labeling them
  • Crushed peppermints or dark cocoa powder for dusting on hot chocolate
  • Andes mints for sprinkling on top—hey, even sprinkles for that matter!
  • A variety of syrups people could add into their cocoa
I set this whole thing up in about 15 minutes. You can have it be simple and casual (more like mine) or go all out with apothecary jars filled with goodies and a lot more décor. Whatever you have time for and whatever you want to do. Have fun and let me know if you try this at your next event. It won’t disappoint your guests on a cold winter day!


Friday, December 13, 2013

Olioboard + a beautiful post on Christmas decorating

Today I wanted to share with you a little something I thought you might find useful.  Maybe you have heard of it but if you haven't and you like to decorate, then you probably need to know about it. When I first heard of it 6 months ago, I said to my husband, "How did I not know about this until now?!".

Introducing Olioboard...

This amazing website allows you to create "mood boards" for rooms in your house. Mood boards help you to see everything together in one place to know how colors, textures, patterns and different furniture will all play off of each other. 

Sure, you can make something like this in Photoshop or PS Elements (if you have those programs) but it could literally take you hours and hours finding and cropping all the photos you need for your design board.  Olioboard saves you the hassle and crops the backgrounds out of the images for you and even has a library of products to search that can easily be added to your board.  Also, you can have an "add to Oliboard" button on your browser's bookmark bar so when you find something at that you want to incorporate into your mood board, you can click the add button, and voila, it's added to your account on Oliboard!  LOVE!

Here is a board I made for our art room:

If I showed you pictures of our art room I think you could see how this references the board.  That room isn't 100% finished but someday I will photograph it and show you!

This is a board I made for our master bedroom:

We haven't started in on that room yet (who knows when we will!) and my design may change along the way but I like what I have so far.

Next, I will probably do a board for our TV room.  It's dark and has low ceilings, I REALLY need to work some magic in there!  I might even solicit your help for that :)

So, check out Olioboard.  It's simple and easy to use.  I promise you will love it!

I also wanted to share with you this beautiful post from The Nester.  Sure the photos of her home are gorgeous but the heart behind the photographs is what I really love.  Nothing is ever perfect and neither are our homes. None of us have it all together and in the adjacent room to something beautifully decorated, might be spilled cheerios on the floor that I have been stepping around for two days.

I have a deep desire to be authentic in my life.  I love sharing my heart; probably to a fault.  So I hope this blog will be apart of my heart as you journey through my home.  You may see my tree that I lovingly decorated but you don't see how my kids broke an ornament the night we decorated it, I yelled and they went up to bed crying.  Sigh.

Life happens here.  Joy, sorrow, strife, peace, stress, tears... it's all here, it just might have a pretty bow on it.  So let's be real together.

See you real soon!

Monday, December 9, 2013

These are a few of my (new) favorite things!

Our family went to Florida over Thanksgiving this year and I came home with a few goodies.  After unpacking for at least an hour, I got into full Christmas-decoration-mode and bought a few more items.  It seems every year I need to buy a few things in order to get my house fully fluffed and feathered for Christmas.  But, like I mentioned in my last post, I like to use what I have on hand or make something as often as I can. 

I just don’t make clocks very well.  Or mirrors.  Or blankets… 

Anyway, it’s on to the list of my (new) favorite things:

Birch candles | World Market | $6.99 // $9.99

These look very real.  More real than the Pottery Barn ones I saw at the mall on Saturday and probably cheaper.  I will never burn these babies.  They will live eternally on pretty pedestal candlesticks. 

Vintage clock | IKEA | $5.99

My son wanted to buy this clock when we went to IKEA over vacation.  I took one look at it and said, “YES!”  It’s not super heavy but it looks awesome and at less than $6, I love it even more! 

Silver Mirror | Kirkland’s | $29.98

I wanted a mirror for over our fireplace to make our living room feel larger, and since we have tall-ish ceilings, I needed a mirror that wouldn't look dinky.  I am sort of a cheap-skate so any item over $40 is really painful for me to buy.  Most mirrors I had seen this size (about 2.5’ x 3’) were at least $60, if not $100.  Ah, I mean a mirror is nice and all but I’d rather spend $100 on new shoes or a cleaning lady ;)  That being said, I LOVED this when I saw it.  It was on sale for $20 off and had the touch of bling I was looking to add to my rustic living room. 

*I bought this for $40 and now it's on sale for $30.  That's an AWESOME deal if you need a good-sized mirror!  

I wanted to add some knitted pillows to my couch for the winter but I wasn't finding what I wanted in my price-range so I hadn't bought anything.  When we went to IKEA I found some beautiful cable-knit throws and decided to just get a throw instead. The one I originally saw was out of stock so I had to get this one.  And I am SO glad I did.  It’s so luxurious and soft. I adore it.   

In keeping with my cabin-chic theme for my décor right now, I also wanted to add some touches of plaid to my house. I had looked and looked for plaid pillows on Etsy and finally found this gem.  I love it because it’s got Sherpa on the other side.  I also love supporting handmade because I know how much every sale means to those small businesses! 

And that’s that!  What have you found out and about this season that you’ve taken home with you?  

Come back soon,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

O Tannenbaum

We recently moved to the country and so this year I wanted my Christmas décor, and especially my tree, to reflect the feel of our new house and surroundings.  I went with what I call a “cabin chic” theme.  It’s a little rustic, a little vintage, a little sparkly—red, green, metallics, book pages, plaid, burlap.  It’s a lumberjack’s beautiful wife, all dolled-up and ready for a night on the town with her man.

We went to the tree lot for the first time in four years to pick out a tree.  Now that we are out in the “boonies” (not really), the Christmas tree farm is just a hop, skip, and a jump away.  Which is nice, since most everything else isn’t anymore. All that to say, when something is close-by us out here, we get pretty excited. 

So we picked out a tree, all 9 ½ feet of her and brought her home to find that she was too tall.  Our ceilings are about 9 feet tall and so we had to chop a little off the top, or so to speak.  We also turned her so the big gaping hole was at the back and facing the corner (the lot was pretty picked over this year!) ;)

Here she is: 

So in keeping with my theme, I trimmed her in all sorts of cabin-in-the-woods type things.  White lights and burlap garland (Michael’s has it) made a great base and then the rest of the stuff went on.

Big puffy snow-flakes that have a hint of sparkle filled in larger gaps and gave the tree focal point areas. 

I stuck in sprigs of white glittery stems and red sequined ones too.  It’s a little something unexpected here and there.  

I love vintage ornaments- especially these balls that are a little worn but still beautiful.  I used the red, green and silver ones I already had.  

“Vintage” keys adorn her with a little something different and in a contrasting material than most items I chose.


My favorite project were these tree slices that I hand stamped with common Christmas phrases and song lyrics. The stamped slices were inspired by Jones Design Company where she cut a large slice, stamped a quote, and hung it on the wall in her boys' room.  My husband used his table saw to slice these pretties and then drilled a hole for a strand of hemp.  I used a cheap-o stamp set that I bought at Michael’s in the dollar section and a regular black ink pad for stamping.  To finish them off and add a pop of color- I tied on red ribbon.  I love projects where I use what I have (or in this case, find outside) because they don’t cost me any extra money and oftentimes, it really gets my creativity flowing!

Red glitter snowflakes to add to the "chic" side of things.  

A couple years ago I made these book page ornaments by simply slicing up vintage book pages and sticking them in glass balls.  They always work with whatever I am doing because they are neutral.  So easy and pretty.

I had a craft night a few months ago and my friend Annie cut a pattern from this adorable fabric.  She left the scraps in my “scrap jar” and I had the idea to tie them to my tree.  Yep, just find some fabric that speaks to you and literally tie it to your tree.  Ragged edges are a plus J  Scraps are free and this was so simple and cute! Just the perfect touch of “cabin”.

Lastly, I put on our stash of family ornaments-- at least the ones that weren't purple or bright yellow :) My mom has always given me a Christmas ornament every year-- now she gives to my kids as well. This one was from last year & it's one of my favorites.

I bought these burlap potato sacks at a junk show a couple years ago.  They are my go-to tree skirt now.  I <3 them.

And we topped her off with a red glitter star. 

So that is that!  I love it because it feels so cozy and welcoming.  She looks put together but unpretentious.  My kind of girl!

I'm a big fan of using what I have when I decorate.  Mainly because I change things up a lot and it would cost me a fortune to always be buying new.  I DO buy new things (the silver sprigs were new) but everything else were things I already had on hand.  I tend to buy items that fit the same genre so I can reuse them for different moods or seasons.  I added pops of red and sparkles to neutrals and it instantly became "holiday".  

Nature is also a great place to find decor.  Got some old branches?  Spray paint them and put them in a jar, hang ornaments (or envelopes for an advent calendar) and you have huge impact at little cost.  Be careful not to spray paint branches infested with bugs!  I did that one year, it was NOT fun to find teeny tiny crawly things on my dining room table ;)

So do you have a theme when you decorate for Christmas?  What is your theme this year?

Come back soon,