Saturday, December 8, 2012

DIY Cedar Wreath

Why buy something when you can make it yourself and save your hard-earned moolah, right?! During this holiday shopping season, I have been drawn not to ornaments or the glitzy glam decor, but I have REALLY wanted a fresh wreath. Considering my only Christmas decor is a tree with no ornaments, I figured a wreath would be a good next step, and a nice addition to my naturally natural decor.

I was tempted by the $15 Costco wreaths, and then even more tempted by the $10 Trader Joe's ones. I couldn't bring myself to buy one since the forest is my backyard, so instead I bought a $3, 18 inch wire wreath ring from Joannes (with their weekly 40% coupon of course!) and clipped branches from a cedar tree in my yard. Ta da! Three dollar wreath that took less than an hour . . . and I can re-make it every year.

DIY Wreath
All you need is branches and a ring. No wire, no glue,  no nothing!
I don't think there's too much of a science to this. Messy is nice. 

Step 1: Get a wreath ring, clip lots of branches (2 different sizes)

Step 2: Wind 10-12 inch branches through the wire at 45 degrees

Outer ring done

Step 3: Wind 6-8 inch branches on the inside loop, pointing opposite direction as outside layer.

Step 4: Hang and enjoy (or add other festive things)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Giant Samoa Girl Scout Cake

Everyone and their mother seemed to pin this recipe on Pinterest awhile back, so I decided to make this giant Girl Scout Samoa Bundt Cake for a special fall dessert event we had recently. If you're interested in making it yourself, here's the recipe, from BetsyLife. It was definitely tasty, and it sure gets points on presentation. But there's a couple things I would do differently if I did this again.

1. Not make the mistake of using salted butter for the frosting (salted caramel is still yummy, but it would have been better without it).

2. The recipe is actually 2 cake batters swirled together. One chocolate and one shortbread. For the amount of time and effort it took to do this, I was disappointed that the shortbread flavor and texture didn't really show up. I would speed up the prep time by dropping the shortbread and just using a plain old chocolate cake mix. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hike to Mitchell Peak

So, back when I was telling you that we went on vacation to Hawaii, and then took a couple stay-cation days at home, I mentioned that we did a hike and that I would tell you about it. So here it is! This was a hike to Mitchell Peak (yes, it was actually the tippy-top of a mountain). It was a 7ish mile, round-trip, hike in the Jennie Lakes Wilderness, which I kind of didn't realize was so close to where we live (about an hour away). 

Right away from the first 20 steps, which were, of course, up hill, I knew this was going to be a hard one. I don't think I've ever complained so much on a hike, as I did this one (although my mother would tell you about the famous Mother's Day Hike we took as a family, where us kids were miserable monsters). I don't think I even complained once when I did the 15-mile Half Dome hike. Luckily I have an amazing husband who put up with me on this one.

 By the time we got near the top I had to take a breather every other minute. The elevation was over 10,000 . . . so I told myself that it was ok to be winded. The summit was actually a huge pile of rocks above the tree line, so we had to do a little bouldering to get to the top (Yay, finally!) We had a fantastic 360 degree view from which to enjoy our tuna sandwiches and to take some pictures. The whole thing was definitely hard work, but worth it for the view. 

After our hike I decided that I was tired of being out of shape, so now I'm back to running. And I'll do my first race in December!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Reclaimed Wood Side Table

What do you think about this new table in our living room set up? This little guy is metal and reclaimed wood, and is actually a table that is designed to fit under a regular sized coffee table. We only got this size, and initially we felt like it was strangely sized for either a small coffee table, or for a big and low side table. But it's kind of growing on me as a short side table. What do you think? Keep, use somewhere else, or sell?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Re-done Nightstands

Happy weekend everyone. Check out our newest project. We've been married a year now, and finally just got some nightstands at Hume Lake's annual Country Fair for $10 each. We repainted them black with gray drawers, laquered the tops, and kept the original hardware. I'm thinking I may starch some fun fabric into the drawers. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Soakin' Up the Hawaiian Sun

Vacation. Ahhhh. I kind of wish I could be on vacation forever. Especially if it's with this guy . . . the location doesn't even matter. We celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary on the North Shore of Oahu, soaking up the sun, hiking, reading, sleeping in, snorkeling, and watching sunsets. Then we did a couple of stay-cation days at home, and that was just as fun. More to come on that! Today was our first day back at work, and we were reminded of how important it is to take a break, slow down, and just enjoy the important things. Plus, it makes work not so bad after a break. 

You may be wondering, how to do two newly married, non-profit employees, both with degrees from a private university who hate debt, pay for a Hawaiian vacation? Here's how:

1. Pay off college first.
2. Take the new flight from Fresno, CA to Honolulu at only $150 each way.
3. Stay in a home rental instead of a resort (about $100 per day).
4. Make our own food and don't eat out.
5. Get a rental car through Costco ($86 for the week!)

We hiked to Hidden Beach, and had it all to ourselves. 

Sunset at Sunset Beach

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

A few weeks ago I made some homemade ice cream sandwiches for Nathan's birthday. There was homemade lemon ice cream with molasses/ginger cookies (which seems to be our favorite flavor combo lately) and Tillamook vanilla ice cream with oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Here's a few tips I learned while making these in case you want to make some too:

1. Melt the butter in the cookies before it's mixed with the sugar. The warm butter will help make the cookies flatter.

2. Freeze the cookies prior to making the sandwich part. They aren't as fragile then.

3. Scoop the ice cream (not too melty, but not too hard either) with a small cookie dough scoop. It's easy to control the portion and the sandwiches end up with about an inch of ice cream.

4. Press both cookies and ice cream together slightly so it all sticks. Then refereeze till your ready to eat!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Missing My Mac

You'll have to excuse me if this post doesn't look too great. It's really just a test. My MacBook Pro decided this week that it was time to quit unless I'm willing to do a $300 fix. Insert sad face. So until I figure out a new computer situation I will have to settle with the Blogger App for the iPad, which so far, is not awesome. I will gladly be accepting any Apple computer donations. I'm the mean time, let's see how this app does with pictures. Although, blogging by an outdoor fire is pretty great on a holiday weekend. Insert happy face.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Glass and Wood Drink Dispenser

All summer long I have been been wishing that I had a drink dispenser that would hydrate more than 4 people. So when I came across this guy, a 7 liter glass and wood teardrop dispenser from World Market for only $20 . . . I couldn't resist. Plus I still had a gift card from my birthday, 5 months ago (anyone else love stretching gift cards out as looooooong as possible, like me?). Happy late birthday to me. We used this for an outdoor movie night party on our deck to celebrate the hubby's birthday last week. I guess it's happy birthday to both of us!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Farm Fresh Eggs

Have you ever had farm fresh eggs? I don't think I ever had until last week when someone brought us these as a gift. Aside from all their fun colors, they sure made some delicious omlettes. It kind of makes me want to have a couple chickens . . . but only kind of. These also make me wonder why all the eggs in the store are white . . .

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Honey Balsamic Mint Dressing

I have absolutely found my favorite new summer food. I can't fully take credit for this though. This is my re-creation of a seasonal salad I had at a BJ's Restaurant recently. I would give you the recipe, except I would say "to-taste" on every ingredient. So instead, here's the list:

Salad Ingredients
Watermelon in bite size pieces
Lettuce (I've used all different types)
Crumbled Feta Cheese
Slices of Red Onions
Finely Chopped Mint

Honey (proportionally . . . use most of this)
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Black and White Chevron Pillows

Remember that time I got an awesome couch? One that I could set up in a million different ways?  It's my favorite piece in our house . . . and I've slowly been piecing together the rest of the living room, topping off the current look with some 100% feather, black and white chevron pillows from Home Goods for $20 (for the set of 2!) I've always been a sucker for black and white so I couldn't help but give in to this current trend. Now. . . if only I could decide what to do with the wall.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Verve Espresso Review

Awhile back I promised you that I would let you know how the Verve espresso turned out on my Rancilio machine at home. I was really impressed with this espresso in the Verve shop in Santa Cruz, CA. It was fantastic, and I even dreamed about it and woke up the next morning and all I could think of was how much I wanted to buy the 6 month (subscription?) for it.

So I bit the bullet and paid the whopping $20 for a pound to try it at home before making any major commitments.

And the results?! . . . . Definitely less than steller at home. It was missing the wow factor and the flavor was a little flat. Don't get me wrong, it was still a pretty solid tasting espresso, but not nearly as delicious as other espressos have been in my Rancilio (my favorite home espresso is still "World's Best Espresso" from Klatch). Over the course of the next week or two, the flavor suffered even more. I've come to the conclusion that fancy espressos are much more temperamental and their flavors change quicker than mid-level espressos.

Final thoughts: Go try Verve in their official store, it's awesome. But don't waste the money on it at home unless you've got money to burn, or want to drink the entire pound in a day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Blog Benchmark?

Whoa, whoa whoa!! Sometime within the last 24 hours my blog just passed 10,000 views. I am proud, slightly baffled, and happy all at the same time. Thanks to everyone for stickin' around. And feel free to let me know if you want to see more or less of anything. You're the best!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Maybe I'll Start a Garden . . .

This spring I really had the itch to start a garden. Well maybe less of a garden and more of a "let's redo this ugly flower bed." Maybe it was due to the fact that I got married 9 months ago, or moved to a new house five months ago, a subconscious desire for a little blue-collar work outside of my normal white-collar job, or simply the fact that my mom and grandma both keep gardens, so maybe I should to. Whatever it was, I spent hours digging up tons of junk in order to make room for my plants. It was so fun, relaxing and spiritually refreshing as I pulled the junk and dead stuff out of the ground to remember that my life is the same way. The dead and the ugly easily creep in and can choke and cover any good thing or joy I have. Thank goodness I have a loving creator who cleans and forgives, prunes away the dead and gives life.

And no . . . I didn't just plant tufts of Irish Moss. But who says I can't transfer my love of simple style and clean lines into my flower bed? The moss is right by the front door, and there are flowers everywhere else. Everything was planted in April and is really starting to grow. I'll post the rest of the project soon.



Sunday, June 10, 2012

Black Ballerina Flats . . . from Ebay!

Happy weekend everyone! I hope yours was as nice as mine was. After being gone the last 4 weekends, I savored my time at home and filled it up with lots of sleep, house cleaning, hammock time, weeding the garden, a movie, hosted a fire-pit s'mores party and drank lots of iced-tea.

Anyways . . . I love a good deal, so I just have to show you my new favorite shoes in case you need some fun black flats too. These were around $11 from ebay. They came from China (sorry, I still haven't quite bought in to the whole buy-American thing). They aren't going to last a lifetime, but they are perfect for casual wear, or to dress up a little. These also come in teal, watermelon and cream colored. I'm tempted to buy another pair. I think what I love most about them is that they are plastic, so I can easily wipe the dust and dirt off that's just a given living in the mountains. Winner winner!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

DIY Wedding Guest Seating Tags

Ok, it seems like it's time to once again post some little details and projects from our wedding last September. I'm trying to spread out my wedding posts so that I don't use up all my good photography in one fell swoop :-) Here was how we did our seating assignments for our guests. First, we borrowed the door frame (gotta love free wedding decor!), bought mini clothespins from ebay or Amazon, bought some jute string, made the chalkboard ourselves (wood, a saw and chalkboard paint), and then my sister in law hand-wrote all the names on little tags that we punched out on paper we got from Michaels. Oh, and we borrowed the tag punch too. I couldn't tell you exactly, but this whole project probably cost around $30. Perfect for our do-it-yourself wedding on a budget!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Verve Coffee Roasters - Santa Cruz, CA

I love it when something "wows' me.  I think it's because I have a desire for excellence in practically everything. So I was thrilled when earlier in April I found myself at Verve in Santa Cruz, CA. Not only was their environment awesome (think Restoration Hardware-ish), the seating was fun and different, the retail selection was simple and looked great and the menu was mostly non-frilly/coffee appreciator drinks. I think they've also won some recent espresso awards and a design award.  But I was totally wowed by the first sip of my soy cappuccino. I couldn't even tell you what it tasted like, but it was the best espresso I've had in a loooong time. And of course, the latte art is always a plus. The espresso is pretty pricey at $20 a pound, but I ordered some which came today. I can't wait to try it tomorrow morning and see if it tastes nearly as good as at the shop. I'll let you know! 

Trying out some new espresso at home

 Soy Cappuccino from Verve in Santa Cruz, CA

 Latte from Verve

Salted Nutella Cookie Sandwiches

When salted Nutella cookies popped up on Pinterest a couple of weeks ago, I of course had no choice but to try them. The original recipe posted was for a crunchy cookie . . . and I don't know about you, but I think cookies should always be nice and chewy unless it's an Oreo. So I used my staple chocolate cookie recipe, sprinkled a tad of sea salt on the cookies before they baked, and then put a large dollop of Nutella between two cookies. Yum!
I had every intention of putting the chocolate cookie recipe on here . . . but I can't seem to find it at the moment. Sorry about that!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Single Serving Sparkling Mint Lemonade

I'm not sure what triggered this evening's brief moment of inspiration . . . but tonight I made me, myself and I, a refreshing sparkling mint lemonade. I was actually in the process of prepping some stuff for lemon ice cream (tomorrow's project!) and I ended up with an extra half of lemon that had already been zested. So I juiced the lemon, added some sugar, and then poured my lemony mixture over sparking mineral water. And it just seemed appropriate to add mint from the herb garden I planted today (pictures of that to come too!) 

In case this is something you want to try, the 1/2 lemon made just under half a cup of juice, stir in sugar to taste, and then I used probably 8-10 ounces of sparking mineral water from Trader Joe's. It wasn't super sweet like lemonade, but was just right in my opinion.

*The gray and white striped straw was bought here on Amazon. They come in packs of 144 for less than $7. Waaaaaay cheaper than anything you'll find on Etsy or any specialty party store . . . believe me, I've looked.

DIY Refinished Hall Tree

Wow . . . my blog has made it to 90 followers . . . thanks everyone! I hope you've enjoyed my random projects and recipes and such. I've been looking forward to posting this project, so here it is! This is our less than $35 do-it-yourself redo of an old ugly hall tree. We found the piece and purchased it for $20, and were even more pleased to discover all the Martha Stewart paint on sale for half price at Home Depot awhile back. So, since we bought her paint and love her trademark teal . . . we decided to paint it teal. 

After a simple sanding, we took the paint gun to it. It was so fast and easy. The whole thing took less than an afternoon. We even kept the original worn out iron hooks just the way they were. You may notice in the "before" picture that the hall tree seems to have traces of some old triangle piece near the top. There were several screw holes there, but no piece . . . and since the wood seemed a little sketchy to patch up . . . we took an old frame, painted it the same color and filled it with one of our home made chalkboards. Now the holes are covered up and we actually have a functional piece. And as our style and preferences change . . . we'll just keep changing the color. Next I'm thinking some shade of royal blue.



Monday, April 9, 2012

Gray Tufted Couch Set

Meet our new couch set, the "Tory" couch from Macy's. It can be set up in so many fun ways! And because Macy's delivery company was lame . . . . we saved a good chunk of change because it was delivered eight weeks lake. Now we'll just have to figure out what to put on the walls.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Today's Latte Art

It's starting to look like a leaf!

Nutella Meringues

To kick of my little spring break last week, I decided to take on a delicious new dessert recipe. So I ventured into the realm of meringue and made Nutella Meringues. I came across these on Pinterest (you can follow me at This is actually the first Pinterest project I've done. Yay! They were so easy and yummy I just had to share. I'd post the recipe, but I figured I'd direct you back to the source. Check out the recipe posted on the blog Cream Puffs in Venice.

My presentation wasn't awesome. Next time I'll try piping them through an icing bag. But they were nice and light and were especially tasty with a cup of English Rose tea from the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

DIY Custom Coffee Sleeves and Tags

Thanks to my talented graphic designer sister, we were blessed with custom graphics for our wedding. I loved the personal flair it added to everything. And these are graphics that we can still use for lots of other things! We had this first one made into a rubber stamp (about $10 at, bought a stamp pad ($5) and then stamped some kraft paper coffee cup sleeves (about $20 for 250 on ebay). Combine that with plain white cups and black lids, and we instantly had our own custom coffee cups, which were perfect for our wedding espresso bar with a custom coffee menu that yours truly created. Now I use these cups and sleeves at my little personal home coffee shop. Love it! We also used this same stamp on the little brown paper bags at our candy bar.

The second graphic we had was used for tags to tie up our cutlery. We printed them on kraft paper purchased from Michael's (we kind of have an obsession with "brown paper packages tied up with string"), and then they were punched out with a gift tag punch. A regular hole punch on top and some chunky jute string and knots completed our look. 

If you're interested in custom graphics send me a comment and your email address I'll put you in contact with my sister.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wedding Shoes

One of my favorite details of our wedding was our shoes. We both wore matching Onitsuka Tigers in Caribbean Blue purchased from My hubby has always loved these particular shoes and they come in so many fun colors that we couldn't resist having the groomsmen wear this style as well. Wearing tennis shoes for my wedding was so fun made me feel so much freedom to run around, jump and just have fun . . . and my feet were never sore. Plus I get to re-wear them all the time and people recognize them as my "wedding shoes."