Tuesday, January 16, 2018

How to Stay Warm Without Cranking Up the Heat


Even though it was 60 degrees not even a week ago, the forecast predicted a high of 16 today and there is currently snow on the ground. This is our first winter in our new house, and I'm sad to say that our central heat system is not quite cutting it. We have a heat pump and, even though I don't really know what that means, my brothers who are experts on the subject have tried to explain to me that heat pumps are not known for their efficiency and that this or that might be the problem on why our house struggles to keep a steady 65 degrees without the help of our fireplace. Thank goodness for our fireplace!
But beyond an imperfect heating system, finding additional ways to stay warm on those extra cold days will make a huge difference in your monthly bills! So here are some ways that I stay warm in the winter without cranking up the heat and breaking the bank.

1. Layer up!


I'm sure layering clothing isn't a new concept for you. However, I've found that sometimes people forget this extremely simple concept. A lot of people out there just don't like to dress for a season. And I get it! Layers can be restricting! But you would be amazed at how much you can save on your energy bills by adjusting your thermostat by a couple of degrees. If you hate layering, invest in some kind of thin thermal wear that was created for layering and staying warm. These types of clothes are less bulky and more comfortable when layering. It was especially cold the other day and I ended up wearing a pair of thin leggings under a pair of sweatpants and it was amazing how warm I was!


2. Think about your feet


You may have heard that you lose most of your body heat from your head (it's actually a myth btw) but, in my experience, it's your feet that matter. Wearing thick socks and slippers will make a surprising difference in how cold you are. If your feet are cold, you'll be cold. Not to mention, they're also just really comfy so why not?


3. Eat hot, homemade meals


Nothing warms you better than a bowl of hot soup, and nothing heats up the kitchen more than cooking a hot meal! I'm always surprised at how cooking warms me up so fast. So get cooking and stay warm and happy all winter long!


4. Electric blankets


This is my favorite tip for staying warm! I love my electric blanket and will never be without one again! My favorite way to use an electric blanket is on my bed (I know, shocker, using a blanket on my bed!). The magical part about it is that you can turn it on about 15 minutes before bed and never have cold sheets again. Your bed is as comfy getting in as is when you wake up all warm and don't want to get up (you know what I'm taking about). Sometimes when I mention this tip to people they're worried that the blanket might go up in flames while they're sleeping. I suppose it's possible but highly unlikely! Especially with a newer blanket. All blankets made after 2001 have safety features that keep them from overheating. But even older blankets are quite safe to use. My mom and grandmother used electric blankets for years and lived to tell the tale! Just be sure to take gentle care of your blanket and follow the recommendations from the manufacturer for washing and storing.


5. Space heaters


Using a space heater to warm up a small room like a bathroom or office while it is in use can be a good way to warm you up without having to heat the entire house. I have a space heater in our freezing downstairs bathroom and use it when I take a shower. It definitely makes the freezing bathroom bearable to be in, especially since space heaters have gotten more efficient in that past few years. However, I would not recommend this method to heat a large room or the majority of your house.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New for the New Year



As you've probably noticed, 2017 is now in the past and 2018 is upon us! I've never really taken new years resolutions very seriously. I mean, you can't even think about resolutions without feeling hopeless failure coming on. But maybe that's the problem, resolutions are culturally set to fail. So here are three reasons why you should make resolutions and how to stick to them!

1. Where are you going without goals?

If you don't have goals, then what are you doing with your life? I totally get going with the flow, but not setting goals sets you up for failure. With no goals, you have very little control over your life. In addition, how can you be motivated to move forward with no reward in sight? The difference between setting goals and working toward them and not is like setting out on a sailing trip to a desired destination and setting out on a sailing trip and just letting the currants and wind take you away. In the first scenario, you have something to look forward to and you are able to plan in advanced so that you can have a comfortable and well-prepared journey. In the second scenario, there's really no way to prepare because you don't know what your destination will be like or how long it will take to get there. Another difference in these two scenarios is that in the first, when unexpected things arise, you can make better informed decisions on how to change course. In the second senecio, everything in unexpected so you could end up in paradise or you could end up on a desert island...
So even if everything doesn't go as planned, setting goals and adjusting them as necessary is still more productive than just going through life hoping everything turns out ok.


2. Goals can be specific or not

Your goals don't have to look like someone else's goals. Two people can have similar goals that are phrased differently. One might be "I would like to be able run a mile in 8 minutes," and the other might say "I want to get in better shape." One of these goals is very specific and the other is more vague, leaving room for options along the way. It's up to you depending if you have a specific goal in mind or more of an abstract idea. Both are totally ok!


3. Be realistic

One of the best ways to make your new years resolutions a reality is to set realistic goals and set priorities. It's easy to look at yourself and want to change all at once but making unreachable goals is setting yourself up for failure. The ultimate goal you might have in mind might take more than one year to reach. Set goals that are doable. You will feel so much better about yourself if you accomplish more than your goal rather than coming up short. Also, don't overdo it by focusing on too many goals. It's ok to just have one goal. But if you have a list, prioritize what's most important to you and then work your way down from there.

4. Write it down

It's important to write out your goals. Writing your goals out is the first step in making them a reality. It can help you not only see what you want to do, but also help you make a plan on how you're going to make it happen. Jordan and I just did this ourselves. It was such a great way to get on the same page with each other while helping us decide what's most important to us. So whether you're making a list to share or just for yourself, I think we can all agree that there's nothing more satisfying than crossing off a to-do list!



I've come to realize that setting goals, if for nothing else, can be the carrot at the end of the string that keeps us motivated. Motivation and the hope of reward is what propels us to keep working and moving forward to become a better version of ourselves, even if it's not what we expect at the end. The point is that we continue to grow. If you are always working towards something, then it's not failure if you don't reach your original goal and end up somewhere unexpected. That's just life. It's only failure if you stop growing and changing. The ultimate goal in setting goals is to not be stagnant in our lives, take control, and hopefully look back and see our accomplishments over time.

Some of my goals for this year are:
Be able to run 3 miles
Be more organized overall and not let un-needed junk into my house
Blog regularly
Finish renovating the upstairs in my house 


Happy New Year! Comment some of your goals for this year below!

Also check out this post from La Beaute for more ideas on setting goals for this year! While you're there, check out some of her other posts like 10 Winter Wardrobe Essentials + Outfit Ideas! or Best Hairstyle Trends for Fall 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Most Delicious Orange Butter




I came up with this butter because I had made some cranberry orange bread that wasn't orangey enough for me. I thought orange butter would fix the problem post-baking, and it was delicious! So I decided to make more and came up with this recipe. This recipe is super easy and very flexible as well. I used my Young Living orange essential oil to give it a little something extra special, but you could definitely make it with or without it if you don't have orange oil (or you could use this as an excuse to get some and try it because it smells amazing, tastes amazing, and is just really all-around amazing). I highly recommend it! This butter would make a great Christmas gift along side some cinnamon bread (<--seriously it's so good with this bread. The BEST). There are so many super sugary gifts this time of year that sometimes a low sugar, but still delicious, gift really hits the spot. Or keep it for yourself because you'll definitely want some!

Orange Butter

- 1 stick butter - softened 
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest (I used a clementine so that works too!)
- 2 drops Young Living orange essential oil

Above is the exact recipe that I made and it's great! But you can definitely switch up the ingredients if needed. If you don't have orange oil, just use more zest. If you don't have zest but you do have orange oil, no problem! You'll just end up with an orange butter that looks like normal butter. And the honey is optional. 

The most important thing about this recipe is that, while making it, your butter should be room temperature, soft but not melted. If the butter is too cold, you'll have lumpy butter and an uneven flavor and will just generally make your life miserable while mixing it. If it's melted, it'll just be weird. Trust me. Don't try to speed things along by heating the butter. It's worth the wait. Just let it sit out on the counter until it's soft.

Once you have all your desired ingredients, just mix everything together with a mixer or a fork and that's it! If you use a fork to mix your butter like I did, you'll find that it's a lot easier to mix if you do a little bit at a time.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Cinnamon Artisan Bread









This is a twist on classic, crusty artisan bread. Unlike most cinnamon breads, it's not sweet. It just has a hint of cinnamon and smells amazing. It's also incredibly easy to make! I usually make sourdough but decided to change things up this time. I wanted a cinnamon swirl kind of bread that wasn't sweet and wasn't a "loaf pan" type of bread. I realized while recipe searching that it was harder to find than I thought!

As usual, I decided to just modify a good bread recipe and make my own version. Let's be honest, that's what I was going to do anyway! So I found a recipe that looked good and got to work. The only thing that didn't go exactly to plan was that I didn't end up with as much of a cinnamon marble as I was hoping for, but I feel like I could fix that next time by just doing a better job of twisting the doughs together. I'm happy with the end result regardless! It turned out beautifully and is just what I wanted.

You will need:

dutch oven or covered casserole dish

- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour

- 1 1/2 cups luke warm water (Not hot! You want to wake up the yeast with a relaxing bath, not burn them to death)

- 1 packet active dry yeast

- 1-2 tablespoons sugar

- 2 teaspoons salt

- Cinnamon to taste (I probably used around a tablespoon or two?)

Instructions

This looks like a lot of steps but I promise it's not! It's actually really easy! I just like to be as detailed and as clear as possible. So don't let the 7 step instructions scare you!

1. Simply mix everything except the cinnamon together in a bowl until it's incorporated but not overworked. It will form kind of a lumpy ball.

2. Next, divide the dough in half, leaving one half in the original mixing bowl and putting the other in a new bowl. One of my halves was bigger than the other. Do this however you feel led! Add cinnamon to one of the halves and lightly work it into the dough. Don't worry about it being perfectly distributed. The amount of cinnamon that you'll need depends on how big your cinnamon half of the dough is and how cinnamony you want it to be.

3. Cover and set aside both lumps of dough to rise. The original recipe I looked at said to let it sit for 8-24 hours, but I baked mine after about 5 or 6 hours and it turned out super fluffy. It really all depends on your dough. When it's about doubled in size, it's ready.

4. Once your dough has risen, flour a surface. Some people use a pastry mat or wax paper to keep the surface clean, but I use a floured 9x13 baking dish because it makes cleaning up so easy. But anything will work, even just a clean countertop! Lightly kneed each lump, adding flour if needed. Do not overdo it! Then mix the two doughs by gently twisting and mixing until you form one smooth ball of dough. Again, don't overdo it! Lightly wrap your new lump of dough in plastic wrap or in an oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap and set aside while the oven heats.

5. Set your oven to 450 degrees. If you are using a cast iron dutch oven to bake your bread, go ahead and put that in the oven to heat as well. If you are using a covered casserole dish, letting it heat for 5 minutes after the oven has heated will be sufficient.

6. Once the oven reaches 450 and your baking dish of choice is hot, carefully place your dough in the dish, cut some slits in the top of the dough if you would like, cover, and set to bake for 30 minutes. I also sprinkled the top with cinnamon before putting it into the oven as well, but that's totally optional.

7. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for about 10 minutes so the bread can get nice and golden and crispy. The "browning" time will vary depending on your oven so make sure to keep an eye on it during the last few minutes.

8. Be amazed at your baking skills and don't eat the entire loaf in one day.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Beautifully Frugal DIY Christmas Decorations




This being our first married Christmas, Jordan and I were very excited to decorate our new home for Christmas! Also because this is our first married Christmas, we had no decorations or ornaments to speak of. Christmas decorations can be expensive. Like ridiculously expensive, especially when you're starting from scratch. Even though we started with nothing, we've managed to have a well-decorated tree thanks to hand-me-downs from our families and a little creativity!

I've never been into super crazy colorful decorations. My favorite decorations are classic natural/homemade kinds of decorations, which I think fits perfectly with my classic natural/homemade kind of house (fun fact: Our house was made by my neighbor and his father-in-law from logs cut from our backyard). Not only can these kind of decorations be elegant but they can be made for pennies and most likely smell nice too! Here's how I made three different ornaments on the cheap!

Gold Pine Cones

So I didn't exactly make these from scratch, but you totally could! I got these in bunches of three at Hobby Lobby for 50 cents each, cut them apart, and added a little floral wire making each ornament about 17-20 cents each. That's a pretty good deal if you ask me! These would also be really easy to make if you have a pine tree in your backyard. Just spray paint them and add a ribbon!

Orange Slices

I love dried citrus! I bought some oranges and clementines off the sale rack at the grocery store and sliced them fairly thinly. I dried them in my food dehydrator, but you can also dry orange slices in your oven by setting it to 200 degrees for a couple of hours. Make sure to flip them half way! Once they're dry, you can add a hook or some ribbon or string.

Cinnamon Apple Ornaments 

These are fun to make and smell amazing! They're nice because you can make them in any shape you want by either free-hand cutting them or using cookie cutters. They're so easy, you don't even need an exact recipe. Just start with some apple sauce and add cinnamon until it forms a workable dough. Roll out your dough, cut out shapes, then dry in your oven just like drying the orange slices. You can customize them even more by painting them when they're dry or adding glitter or other spices to the dough for some sparkle or a different scent. I think these would make really amazing fancy gift tags that double as an ornament! They also keep their scent for years.

Other ideas for fun Christmas decor on the cheap are to make a popcorn or cranberry garland, salt dough ornaments, or a wreath out of clippings from your Christmas tree!

Merry Christmas and happy decorating!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fluffy, No Roll Biscuits






My mom always made the absolute best, fluffiest biscuits ever. I'm still not sure how she does it. Every time I tried to copy hers, they just didn't turn out the same. And they always made a huge mess because you had to get the dough just right, roll them out, cut them, and repeat. Although my mom's biscuits are always worth it, I needed to find a way to make biscuits fast, easy, but just as fluffy and yummy. These biscuits were the answer for me. I've been making them for years and never had a complaint!

Although they take second place in beauty to my mom's famous biscuits, these biscuits are quick and easy enough to make last minute any morning, and they're also very versatile. You can add some sweetness by rolling the dough in cinnamon sugar before baking or brushing them with honey butter just before you take them out of the oven. You can also make them into savory dinner biscuits by just adding in some grated cheese, herbs, and substituting the salt for garlic salt (think Red Lobster cheddar biscuits). Another great reason why I like these biscuits is because the dough is pretty forgiving. Once you get the hang of what the consistency is supposed to be, you can make them for 2 or for 12 without having to do the math to double or triple the recipe. You can just kind of eyeball it and 9 out of 10 times they'll turn out fine!

These biscuits are also known as spoon biscuits or drop biscuits because you don't roll and cut them. You simply spoon them up and drop them into the pan, bake, and you're done.

- 2 1/4 cups self rising flour
- 1 cup milk + a couple of tbsp more if needed (any kind of milk should work, I usually use almond milk because that's what I have)
- Approximately 3 tbsp cold butter + a little more for the pan
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder (optional but I think it gives it that extra fluff) 
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (also optional, omit if using buttermilk)

1. Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees (this is important, don't skip the preheat).

2. Next, you have options. I like using a cast iron skillet to bake my biscuits, but if you are using a baking sheet instead, grease the sheet and move on to step 3. If you are using a cast iron pan, put a pat of butter in the pan and stick it in the oven to preheat as well. Just make sure that it's not in there so long that the butter burns. When you take the pan out to add the biscuits, swirl the pan around so that the melted butter covers the bottom and sides.

3. Put all of your dry ingredients in a bowl then use a cheese grater to grate the cold butter into the dry ingredients and mix well so that the butter is well distributed in the flour without clumping. You can also cut the butter into the flower with a knife or pastry cutter like you would if you were making a pie crust, but I find that gating it is way faster and easier.

4. Then it's time for the milk. If you're using vinegar, add it to the milk. This will sour the milk and give your biscuits more of a buttermilk taste without having to use buttermilk. Add the milk a little at a time to make sure that your dough doesn't get too wet. Once you've added all the milk, if it seems too dry, add about a tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a sticky ball but is not wet to the touch. Mix until combined, but don't overdo it! Too much mixing means flat biscuits.

5. Finally, use a spoon to drop balls of dough onto your pan and put them in the hot oven. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until a small amount of color starts appearing on top.

6. For pretty biscuits, brush them with butter or honey butter or even herb butter 5 minutes before you take them out of the oven.

This recipe should make enough to serve 3-4 people, but like I said above, it's so easy to adapt this recipe for however many servings you need! Just start with flour and build from there. At the end, add milk until you reach the right consistency. If you know the consistency your looking for in each step, it doesn't matter if you start with 1 cup of flour or 8. As long as you add salt and butter, you should end up with decent biscuits!

Friday, November 3, 2017

How to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons


Groceries are a necessity but they don't have to break the bank! Usually when you think about saving money at grocery stores, you think coupons. I don't typically use coupons for a variety of reasons: They aren't usually for products I usually buy, I forget about them and they expire, and I'm also not subscribed to a newspaper. Now I know you don't really need newspapers to find coupons. There's tons of online coupons out there, but I just find them annoying and difficult to use on my phone. Maybe it's just me, if you use digital coupons, more to you! I also buy very little packaged/prepared food. I buy mostly produce and meat and cook everything myself. Even though they do exist, produce and fresh meat coupons can be a little hard to find. So, if you're like me and want to save money without coupons, this is for you! And if you do use coupon, this is still for you too! Here are my best tips for saving money on groceries without coupons!

Buy in Season


My best tip is to buy in season. I repeat, BUY IN SEASON. This is good for more than just getting lower prices, you'll also just be getting fresher food. Fruit and vegetables that are not in season have to be grown far away where they are in season and then they have to be shipped to where you are and you have to pay for all of that. I was recently shopping for winter squash because that's the type of squash currently in season. I was just thinking about how amazing the butternut squash looked and what a deal I was getting at $1.49 per squash (and they were huge!) when I looked over and saw the pitiful display of dinky summer squash... It's November! Eat November food. Now I understand that we still need to eat fruits and vegetables in the dead of winter when pretty much nothing is in local season, but stick to this general rule and it will save you a lot over the course of a year.

Buy it when you can get it


Grocery shopping can be a little like the stock market - buy low, sell high! Ok, just kidding about the selling part but completely serious about the buying low part! Basically what I mean is stock up while prices are low! I usually wait for a really good sale and I buy ridiculous amounts and freeze it. For example, when strawberries were on sale for 99 cents a pound this summer, I bought about 30 pounds over the course of 3 weeks and ate my fill and froze the rest. We have bags of frozen strawberries that should last us for at least a few more months. I also do this with chicken. I'll buy about 10-12 pounds at a time when it goes on sale and freeze or can it for later use. This will take you time, but it will also save you money in the long run. It's up to you to decide if you need the time or the money more.

Plan your meals


Planning your meals for the week will not only help your budget, but also just help your life. If you're not planning meals, then you should be. But don't let that overwhelm you! Meal planning is only as detailed as you make it. Some people like to plan their meals so that they know exactly what they will have every day of the week. I do things a little more loosely. I plan what meals I'll have and then play it by ear what meal I choose for what day. I simply make a list of meals and then pick from the list as I go. That way if I ever blank on what we're having for dinner, I just reference my list and go from there. 

Plan meals around current sales


Plan your meals around what's on sale. I usually sit down and look at what's on sale and think of meals that I could make that include those items. A great resource for this is an app called Flipp. It has sale papers for just about everywhere, and you can also make your grocery list in the app. It will even show you coupons and deals that are available for the items you need.

Don't Waste


Another way to save money is to use what you buy! I can't say that I'm not guilty of buying things and then not using them or leftovers going to waste, but if you can avoid this it will save you money and your conscience. Again, meal planning can go a long way in this area. When you plan your meals for the week, try to think about how you can reuse your leftovers in the next meal if needed. For example, leftover mashed potatoes are great for thickening soup. Soup or stir fry is also great for reusing leftover veggies and meat. Be creative!

Stretch your meals


You can stretch your dollars by using more expensive items more sparingly. I do this mostly with meat since meat is one of the more expensive things you will buy on a regular basis (you know, unless you're a vegetarian). I do this by saving "meat and three" type meals for special occasions and making things like stir fry, soup, and tacos on a more regular basis. for example, I can make a huge pot of soup with only one large chicken breast, and I can add beans (which are super cheap) to my tacos to make it go a little farther. 

Use a Rebate app


If you don't use Ibotta, you should be. Ibotta is a really great app that gives you rebates on groceries (including produce!) and a ton of other stores and items. It's really worth it! I currently have around $100 in accumulated rebates on my account just for buying things that I needed to buy anyway. 

Compare Prices 


And last but not least, compare prices. I know this might sound like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people just walk through the store adding things to their basket and having no idea what each item costs. The first time I heard of someone doing this, I literally couldn't believe it.
Looking at prices isn't necessary if money isn't an issue for you, but if you're reading this blog post, it probably is and so you should most definitely compare prices. And I don't mean just comparing the price on the tag. If you haven't noticed before, most price tags on the shelf also show a "price per unit" or "price per ounce" that you should be paying attention to. This tells you how much you are paying for what you are getting. Sometimes the "cheaper item" isn't really cheaper at all, it's just smaller.

So there are my 8 best tips for saving your hard earned dollars in the grocery aisles! What are some things you do to save money on groceries? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Have you heard of Brandless?



I came across the website, brandless.com, that sells a variety of simply packaged items including some food, heath and beauty, home and office, and more for $3. Every item, no matter what it is, is $3. They are based out of San Fransisco and Minneapolis and they boast of "Better stuff, fewer dollars".

I love this idea! I hate how certain brands are so over glorified and I put most of my pantry items into plain glass jars when I bring them home anyway, so simple packaging sounds good to me. Some of the items seemed to be a good deal while others seemed a little overpriced at $3, but I suppose that's pretty typical for a one price fits all, or any online retailer for that matter.

I did notice, however, that while I scanned through the items I found myself wondering what I would actually get when ordering an item. How would I know what to expect? What would the quality be?
Brands can become grossly overpriced just by carrying a logo. It's really crazy, but at the same time, can bring a certain reassurance of what you're buying. You know what you're getting and if you like it enough to pay the extra or not. Some favor certain brands over others, not for the quality, per se, but for that special something that one band has over the other. Maybe you like skippy's crunchy peanut butter more than Peter Pan because it's crunchy but not too crunchy? Who knows? So when shopping on brandless.com am I supposed to just blindly trust the people at Branless? And does that in turn make Brandless just another brand?

Either way, I do think it's kind of cool and I will defiantly be checking it out in more detail. Have you tried brandless.com? What do you think about the company, their products, and their mission?


Monday, October 23, 2017

Sloped Backyard Transformation DIY




We used Minwax stain in dark walnut on all the wood to give it a more finished look.

We used 12 inch pieces of rebar to hold the landscaping timber in place.

You can see our neighbor's horses, Lucky and Jenny. I love when they visit at the fence!

This is the view from our patio at the top of the pathway I made leading down to the fire pit area.

If you follow me on Anchor, then you've probably been hearing all about our home projects as they come along, and most recently, our biggest home project has been transforming an overgrown hillside into a usable fire pit and entertaining area. It took a lot of work and a lot more money than we originally thought, but the finished project ended up being better than we ever thought and definitely worth all the long days and sore muscles. It was also well worth the cost! After adding up all our receipts the project cost around $600 and 2 weeks of long days of work, which is more than we thought we were getting ourselves into, but now that it's finished, we're totally happy with it and realized that it definitely would have cost us well over that if we had not done it ourselves. I think we'll get at least $600 worth of use out of it, plus we added value to our home by adding more usable space and getting rid of an ugly weed patch. Who wants a view of weeds from their patio?

We decided to terrace the hill for two main reasons: first, to level out the hill so you can actually walk around on it safely, and secondly, to add built-in seating. We did this by making the upper retaining walls double as benches.

When we started this project, we had a general idea of what we were doing, but it really wasn't as planned out as you might think. It started with me just digging the basic shape I thought it would be while Jordan cleared brush and removed stumps. The great thing about me and Jordan working together on projects is that we both bring different skills to the project. I usually have the idea and vision that starts the project and then Jordan makes sure it gets done right. Neither of us are experienced enough to know exactly how it's going to end, but it's kind of fun to figure it out as we go and see it shape into the finished project through the process.

After I had dug out the basic outline, we decided to start on the retaining wall. We chose to use concrete landscaping bricks for the base wall because we thought it would be the hardest to repair when the wood eventually broke down. We wanted something that would last. We went with wood for the upper, smaller walls since they would be much easier to eventually replace. Wood is also a lot cheaper and less bulky which allowed us to get the exact shape we wanted for the seating. We used treated lumber for everything but the seats of the benches which we stained and sealed with at least 2 coats of marine varnish. We used marine varnish instead of deck sealer because it has great water protection and looks nice and shiny and feels super smooth and finished. The staining and varnishing was probably the most frustrating part of the entire project because we were so close to being done and all we could do was sit and wait for it to dry between coats.

One thing we learned while doing this project is that the most important thing to building retaining walls is plenty of good drainage (Thanks YouTube!). You should have at least 6 inches or more of drainage stone behind your wall. We also learned that the drainage material is where most of the cost is going to be. So make sure to factor that in when planning to build a retaining wall!

From there, we just started building and digging and building and digging until it started to take shape. We wanted it to feel as natural a flow as possible so we worked with the shape of the existing hill to decide where our walls and benches ended and how tall they ended up being while still being a reasonable bench height. We also didn't really have to add much dirt. We were able to pretty much just use all the dirt from what we dug from the hill to level out each tier.

One of the features of this project that I am probably most proud of is the stairs/path leading from our existing patio down to our new fire pit area. Because our patio sits on top of a rock wall, we needed some stairs. How the rocks are stacked, however, made it a little bit of a problem, and it was really hard to figure out how to make it work. It wasn't steep enough to just simply add stairs but wasn't sloped enough to walk down. I stared and thought for quite a while before I had any luck. One night when Jordan was gone, I went out and just started working on it. I looked around the yard for rocks I could add and just dug and placed rocks until it formed a walkable pathway. I still can't believed I got it to work without having to build a staircase. I ended up gluing some of the rocks to make sure they weren't going to move over time, and it seems to be pretty solid.

All in all, we couldn't be happier with the finished project! And if us newbs can do it, then I think just about anyone can with some hard work and research! Living in the age of the internet really makes learning how to do anything possible!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

How to Plan a Wedding in 3 Months or Less

Photo by Terry Bonham Photography

Photo by Terry Bonham Photography

Photo by Terry Bonham Photography

Photo by Terry Bonham Photography


You might have noticed on my post about how I made my wedding dress that Jordan and I were only engaged for 3 months. Actually, it was just shy of that at 12 weeks and 3 days, but who's counting. It's a common thought that you need at least 6 months to a year to adequately plan a wedding, but in reality, how long it takes to plan a wedding is all subjective on you, what you want, and your budget. I have a very good friend who pulled together a stunning wedding in a week. Yes, I said 1 week!

I'm actually not sure exactly how much time went into planning our wedding. I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted before we were engaged. I feel like most girls have at least an idea even if they don't admit it. So, once we had sealed the deal, it was just time to start actively putting the pieces together and making it happen. It was going really well for the first couple of weeks but started to go down hill when we bought our house a month later. We were so excited about our house that we put all our focus on house stuff, and I completely forgot to keep planning our wedding. It was 2 weeks before the wedding when I snapped out of my house brain and realized that we were getting married in 2 weeks and I still had a ton to do! Can you say freak out moment? I pulled together an emergency meeting at Starbucks with my sister and my mom to get things done. So, in a way, I only really actively planned for our wedding for a month and 2 weeks.

I really wanted a longer engagement but, once we were engaged, we both agreed that we were glad we went the quick route. We were so ready to be done with dating and move on with our life together that a long or just simply average engagement time would just be frustrating. So pulling off a wedding in 3 months or less can be done! However, planning a quick wedding comes with some conditions that you need to be aware of.

Limitations and Advantages


The first thing to be aware of is that there might be some limitations to what you can get in short notice, but with those limitations you might find some advantageous discounts. Some venues book a year in advance so last minute venue shopping can be tricky, especially if you have a particular venue in mind. But don't lose hope if this is the case, there are often cancellations and you can sometimes scoop up those dates if an opening does come available. This isn't always the case, but in some instances booking last minute can land you a discount. Most venues like to stay booked and when a cancellation happens, they want to fill that spot because some money is better than no money. Don't be afraid to barter pricing for last minute bookings! Just know that this is not true for all venues and might depend greatly on how in demand it is. Don't expect a discount if there are 5 others behind you wanting that date. But on the other side, you have the advantage of being the crazy bride booking 2 or 3 months before the date. There won't be that many of you.
That being said, you will have to be flexible on your date. If you have a specific date in mind that can't be moved, then you'll have to be more flexible on your venue choices and pick from what's available. These limitations unfortunately aren't just limited to venues, you will probably find yourself making these types of decisions a lot with last minute planning. Will you have enough time to get the dress you've always wanted if it's not in stock? Is your favorite baker booked till next November? And so on... You just have to decide if that's something you and your fiancé are ok with. Consider your priorities and ask yourself the question "How important are the details of my dream wedding?" and "Am I ok with not getting exactly what I want?" which leads me to my next point...


Think Outside the Box


Creativity can go a long way! If you are set on what you want and you still want to have a short engagement, then it's up to you to make it happen. Realize that it's going to be a lot of work but it can also make all the difference. When you run into a problem, find a way around it. Say your dream dress is not going to be possible on short notice, find a way to get something that you'll love just as much. You could buy a similar dress and get it altered to look more like the one you wanted or figure out something you love even more, whatever that might be! Having the need to be creative during planning can help you realize options that you might not have considered in the first place but might love more than your original idea. Even if you just want to get married and couldn't care less about what your wedding is like, a little creativity can still come in handy to just get it done! So get those creative juices flowing!

Make a Schedule (and stick to it)


I made a schedule and it would have worked out great if I had only followed it instead of getting so sidetracked with our house. So I highly recommend making a list of everything you need to do and and then setting goals for how and when you are going to get them done. I used an app called Wedding Planner by Wedding Wire and it was great! The app comes with a timeline checklist that you can edit to add your own items and take off things you don't need that the app's added. Even though the timeline was much longer than mine, it gave me a good place to start and had things on the list I might have forgotten about. I just kind of attacked the list and tried get caught up like I had been planning the whole time. I highly recommend it! Especially if you are doing a lot of diy projects for your wedding, doing a little bit at a time as you go will make it seem a lot easier than a mountain of crafting all at once. Also, try to plan out everything to be done a week earlier than your wedding. Last minute things will come up that last week, but the less you have to worry about the better. Plan for that last week to be a time to enjoy your last week of being engaged, think everything through in a relaxed state instead of a crazy stressed state, and get plenty of sleep. If I have one regret, it's not sleeping enough those last couple of days.

Tips on making a priority list:
First focus on the big ones: how, when, where, who, what

How many guests are going to be invited? This is important because it affects where and what.

When is the wedding going to be? This is a given, you obviously have to pick a date. Even if your date is flexible or dependent on venue options, you will need to at least think about options and black out any date that would absolutely not work, that way you don't jump on a venue booking just to remember that your grandmother is having surgery the day before...

Where is the wedding and reception going to be? Once you know how many guests are expected to attend, then you can start looking for venues that fit your needs.

Who is going to be involved? If you haven't already, you'll need to decide who will be involved in your wedding, including wedding party, officiant, ushers, and anything else that might be covered by family and friends.

What is everyone going to eat? You need to decide on a menu. Whether it's simple hors d'oeuvres or a full meal, you need to know what it's going to be and who is going to provide it.

What are you, and your party going to wear? Your dress will be the crown jewel of the ceremony so you'll want to get that taken care of! Along with what the beautiful people around you are going to wear as well.

What's left? Last, you need to fill in the gaps with whatever is left over that you need covered, such as cake, flowers, photos, etc. Luckily, I have a very wedding talented group of family and friends and didn't have to hire any vendors outside of a caterer and a venue, but you might not be so lucky and will want to have these things taken care of.

Another big thing to think about early on is anything that you might need to order. Online shopping will probably become your second job and you will want to make sure to leave plenty of time for everything to arrive on time!

Once you have these biggies covered, everything else is just details.

Get Help


This goes for any wedding planning process, but especially for planning in a short time. This is one thing I was very bad at. As a creative and somewhat stubborn person, I don't always know how to ask for help. It's not that I don't want help, it's just that I don't know how to ask for it. I usually have everything planned out exactly how I want it and sometimes it seems easier to do it myself than take the time to explain to someone else what I want and how they can help. For my wedding, I really didn't get any help until the last 2 weeks of planning after my freak out realization that I needed help and fast!

Be Confident 


One of the most important things you will need to pull off a quick wedding is confidence. Be prepared for people to think that you are crazy... or pregnant when you're not. be prepared for wedding industry workers to laugh at you and look at you like you have 3 heads when you tell them your timeline. Be prepared for people to tell you that you can't have a nice wedding in that amount of time. It will probably happen and you will have to just brush it off knowing that it is possible and that you can make it happen! Don't be intimidated by dress shops, bakers, and venues who look at you like you are a child who obviously doesn't know anything about anything because what they don't know is that you've got this! Even if you are having to prove it to yourself, just know that it is possible and that you can do it. You'll be surprised at what you can accomplish if you just tell yourself that you can do it!


In all, short engagements aren't for everyone, but they are possible if it's what you want and you're willing to put in the work! Our wedding was almost everything I ever wanted! I say almost because there were some things that didn't go to plan, but whether you are engaged for 3 months or 3 years, know that there will always be things that don't go to plan. Ask anyone who has ever gotten married and they will tell you that stuff happens. So don't let the fear of things not being perfect keep you from doing what you want! In the end, almost what you wanted can be more than you even dreamed of.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Easy Baked Pears






Fall is the season for pears. Baked pears can make a beautiful, healthy dessert topped with a little ice cream or drizzled with nuts and caramel. They also make breakfast or brunch extra special! The best part is that they are incredibly quick and easy to make! They pretty much speak for themselves so I'm just going to skip the fluff and get straight to it!

You will need:
-Ripe Pears
-Butter
-Sugar or honey
-Cinnamon

Start by cutting your pears in half length wise and then scoop the core out using a spoon. If your pears are ripe enough, this should be pretty easy. You can also remove the stems, but I like to leave them on because I think they look pretty.

Lightly grease an oven-safe skillet, backing sheet, or dish. I like to use my cast iron skillet, but anything will work.

Arrange the pears in the skillet and place a small piece of butter in each well left by removing the core. I usually slice a pat of butter and then cut that pat into 4 pieces and put one of those pieces into each pear. It's really not a lot of butter. Next, sprinkle a little bit of sugar (or a drizzle of honey) and cinnamon on top of each pear.

Broil the pears on the top rack for about 10 minutes or until soft and golden. Different ovens cook differently so keep an eye on them.

That's it! So easy. So fast. So good. Now go impress your friends, husband/wife, mom...whoever!