inspiration for the New Year

This year for me has been about living out a dream.  
Finding passion. 
Doing what I love to do and going for it.
Is this the year for you?
Here are some of my favorite inspirational thoughts from my Pinterest boards:

Pinterest via

Pinterest via

Pinterest via

Pinterest via

Pinterest via

Pinterest via

And finally, just for New Year's Eve:

Pinterest via

May you be inspired to make your dreams come true, and find fulfillment and happiness in the coming year!

Favorite projects of 2011

Wow!! Where does the time go? 
I can remember my first project of this year like it was a couple weeks ago!

 This year was a time of great growth and there was so much creativity and fun for me. 
As we go through memory lane, you can click on the link under each picture, and it will take you to the original post

My first project of 2011 was this:

office rope shelves

It looks just like this today.  Loving it!!
However, the office still isn't finished. One of my goals for this year was to see projects through to completion. I think I just have to accept the fact that I just don't do that with my house. It's a process.

Lots of fun furniture pieces. It's amazing to see how I've grown this year, and what I've learned in just this area alone!
Frenchy chair makeover
vintage cabinet makeover
Olde world dresser transformation

nail head coffee table makeover
trash to treasure table
Gray Gardens dresser makeover

Bossy dresser
Mademoiselle Claude
Good Day dresser

The kitchen makeover was personally my most anticipated project of the year, and probably the most popular post I've done. We are in love with our kitchen and I have zero regrets!
kitchen makeover

I'm also glad our nook is finished.... Well, for the most part. Still not satisfied with the staging. 

nook buffet and farmhouse shelving

My second most popular post of the year wasn't one that gained any notoriety from link parties. It just seemed to connect with how a lot of us feel about blogging. 
My heart was overflowing from your comments.  Thank you.
What I've Learned About Blogging- A Newbies Perspective

Can I tell you something? This is the longest we've lived in any house we've owned! It will be four years in May. I have yet to do a "house tour"on my blog. I just haven't felt like anything has been "done" enough to show you all. (or feel worthy of showing....)
Hopefully that will change for 2012.

craft room makeover

My studio was a big blessing to get off the ground. It's in a state of disarray after everything that's been going on for my little business for the past 3 months. Time to reorganize!

One of my goals for this coming year is to improve my writing.  You'd think with all of the AP classes, college courses, etc, that wouldn't be a problem.  It is.  I found too many of my sentences started with "I"  (just like this one....)  drat!!

Exclamation points were something I really seemed to enjoy using! Alot!! So I attempted to write with feeling and not using so much punctuation!!!!!!! LOL.  ;)

I am so excited to get going on some new projects for the new year. High on my to do list is the master bedroom, the living room chair, some slipcovers for our dining room chairs, and some new pillows for our family room. I have our laundry room and master bath that are being eyed for some fresh looks.

Most of all, I am so thankful to all of you who visit, comment, and stalk my blog. I'm growing steadily (albeit slowly) but I'm OK with that. I am a needle in a haystack of blogs, and as much as I'd like to devote more time to actively network, that means something else important to me would have to go. And right now I don't want to do that. I love seeing and commenting on all the creativity out there, there are just times where that happens less. :(  
Yes, this is an apology of sorts- I know it seems like I'm unfriendly at times for not visiting or commenting as much as I feel I should, and it's not meant to be.  Still trying to figure out a way to make it all work! 

I just want to say Thank You So Much for your friendship and encouragement. 
I can't wait to see whats in store for 2012!

O Holy Night

Every year, a house near ours puts out an amazing life size nativity.  
I love seeing it each Christmas season.

With warmest wishes for a wonderful Christmas~


Christmas nook- a look at last year and today

I came across a photo from last year's decor for our nook. It wasn't much, and I had hopes of making this a more finished look by 2011.

Here's how it looked last year.

And today:
I'm so glad it is a completed space instead of a nearly empty wall! Still simple, but a more useful area. (and a MUCH prettier chandelier over the table this year!! I disliked the previous one so much I strategically shot it sans light fixture....)

I'm looking forward to sharing more of my favorite projects of 2011 next week!

saved from an ill fate

Today is all about getting the Christmas shopping wrapped up, so I'm keeping this short and sweet.

A couple days ago I acquired these two lovelies.
They were going to be thrown away!!!

I was so excited to save them.

One for me.  One for the shop.

Just needs a good cleaning.
I love me a good rescue.

simple peppermint bark

This is our favorite Christmas candy, and it is so simple to make.
It's pretty, has all the colors of Christmas, and so delicious.  Especially when you put it in the fridge for a couple minutes before you eat it.

I realize that the main ingredient might be kinda hard to find, but that's why I included a pic of the packaging.
I prefer it to peppermint candy bits because the candy I use stays nice and crispy, not chewy.

2 ingredients:
vanilla melty's
peppermint candy crunch

That's it.

In a double boiler, melt the melty's until smooth.  Remove from heat, and pour in the peppermint chips.  I like to add enough in so that it's pretty colorful and lots of bits in every bite.

Pour onto a cookie sheet and smooth out flat with a spatula.  Pop the tray into the freezer and let harden for 5-10 minutes.  Take tray out and have fun smashing up the pieces! Usually this breaks up pretty well by just picking up the cookie sheet a little and dropping it on the counter.  

Yummy for parties or to make as holiday gifts!  
I get our peppermint chips locally from Confectionately Yours, a local bakery supply shop.

What's your favorite Christmas or holiday candy?


holiday entertaining - tips and recipes

Our Progressive Dinner was so much fun!
We enjoyed some great food and made some fun memories.

One thing that I am so thankful for when it comes to events like this, is my hubby's help.
We really work pretty well together to divvy up the jobs beforehand.

Last year, I felt really rushed, and I attribute that partly to not having our table ready.   
Here are some of the things we like to have done prior to the day of a party:
 #1: If you're able, set your table the day before- you will feel more confident in how the decor turns out, and have time to focus on other things.

#2.  Music is something we always have at our parties.  Set up your play list a few days in advance.  One thing that we are REALLY loving is the Jambox.  It's small, puts out some great sound, and because it is wireless, you can hide it / place it anywhere.  Your play list comes from your iPhone.  Genius.
(and for all you gangsta types, you can also buy it with a big chain and wear the Jambox around your neck.  Seriously.)

#3. I always lay out my serving pieces (including flatware) so I won't be running around at the last second.
If you have helpers who will be dishing up or bringing food, put sticky notes on your bowls / platters so everyone knows exactly what goes where. 

#4.  Candles!  I always prefer votives- they are versatile to use anywhere and everywhere, and inexpensive to buy.  Safer than tapers, no drips to clean up off of the table or furniture, and they cast a beautiful glow.  We put scented ones in our powder room and entry, and unscented in our dining areas. 
We also installed a dimmer switch on our dining room chandelier, and it was one of the best things we ever did!

#5.  I prefer making things from scratch whenever possible when it comes to the food, but let's face it- sometimes that can be more trouble than it's worth by the time the event rolls around.  
A combination of 'from scratch' and some ready made / pre-packaged items is great.  Making as much a head of time is always a smart move too. I did this with our mashed potatoes the day of the party.  They were cooked later in the afternoon, and then put in a crock pot on low to keep warm until it was time to serve.  

A couple years ago I invested in a warming tray, and it was one of the best purchases ever!  Highly recommend!  Ours has a removable set of warming compartments so it's very versatile.  I got ours at Target.
Oster buffet warmer

#6.  Lastly, if you've never done a progressive dinner, here's how it works.  You can have as many people participate as you want, you just need to adjust your time accordingly if you have lots of stops.  We allow about 45 minutes to one hour for each house.  If you were doing an appetizer only progressive dinner, you could allow shorter time at each place. 
If you plan on serving alcohol through most of the evening, have a designated driver, RV, or party bus to take you from each place.  It's a lot of driving for an event like this, and you don't want to be worrying about your guests.  
Try and keep the houses that are participating within a certain radius, so that you aren't spending the whole evening driving.

Since our house was the main dish on the stop, I decided to cook a turkey.  
I always brine our turkey, and it makes it perfectly seasoned and moist (yuck, I hate using that word!!!)
A brine is a really easy and yummy- here's the one that I use.  It's very simple. I found this recipe in BHG years ago when they featured a San Francisco restaurant that sold brining kits.

Turkey Brine:
1 gallon cold water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
 6 bay leaves
1/4 cup cracked peppercorns
4 rosemary sprigs

Heat water and salt until salt dissolves.  Add in remaining ingredients, and then soak turkey in mixture.
Let turkey sit overnight in the brine.  You can use a small cooler (make sure you only use it for your turkey brining!!) or a large cooking bag.  In my case I used a large cooking pot.  Discard brine when you're done!
  I always use a roasting bag to cook the turkey in.  No basting necessary- once it's in the oven, you are good to go.
Put a little turkey pop up thermometer in the thickest part of the breast before you seal up the bag, and then roast it at 325 degrees for the amount of time needed for the size turkey you have. 

If you plan on making pan gravy with your turkey drippings, you rarely need to season with salt, thanks to the brine.  I forgot about this, so ours was a bit salty- a good reminder to taste it before seasoning!!
Pan gravy is easy to make and so much better than anything ready made. 

Reserve the drippings from the roasting pan.  I strain mine through a strainer to get out any pieces of skin that has been left behind in the drippings.  Pour strained drippings back into the pan, and put the pan on your stove burners on medium high heat and allow to come to a low boil- stir constantly to keep from burning.  Here's a handy tool: if you have a Hidden Valley Ranch dressing shaker, add a couple tablespoons of flour and about 3/4 cup of water and shake mixture together.  Once you have your slurry, and while still stirring drippings, slowly pour slurry into drippings to make your gravy.  This will thicken as it cooks.  Once it is thickened, add a bit of pepper, and serve!

For the mashed potatoes, I just use a basic recipe, but once they are mashed with a hand masher, I whip them with my hand mixer.  Nice and fluffy and smooth!

We also had Christmas Broccoli salad:

I got the recipe from
You can find it and print it by clicking here.

My cheat was the stuffing.  Yep, right from the box.  And it was delicious!

It was a great night, great food, all spent with wonderful friends!
 Here are some snapshots of the fun decor from our evening:

Lois' entry table with our gifts she made!
Janie's newly upholstered chairs.  Gorgeous.
Janie's mantel decor
our table in action for dinner ;)

the girls- Lois, me, Janie, and Tiffany.  And we weren't trying to coordinate, it just worked out that way!

the guys- Mark, Brian, Jon, Rex

Lois' fun kitchen decor- she is the best baker I know!