Merry Christmas

photos via snippets&ink

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! Wishing you all the loveliest of celebrations today.

Thinking of those of you who have lost loved ones this year and sending you especially warm thoughts. May your holiday be filled with wonderful memories and your new year be blessed with hope and peace.

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Pay It Forward

Around this time last year I posted a "pay if forward" list of ideas that I had hoped to achieve during 2011. Looking back, I can both happily and regrettably say that I finished nearly half of the deeds on my list. While I do not think a kind gesture should be pre-calculated, tallied, or kept in a memory bank, I do like to jot down ideas to keep my mind and heart in the right place during a season filled with so many distractions. I am going to repost my same list, because quite honestly I think I should follow such guidelines more often.

My 'Pay It Forward' List:
  • Hand write and mail a note 'just because' to a friend or relative.
  • Bring a meal to a neighbor or friend when they are sick.
  • Spend an hour playing games with the residents at our local convalescent hospital.
  • Pay for the person behind me in a fast food line.
  • Mow my neighbor's lawn or pull weeds out of their planters.
  • Bring a pile of old magazines to my doctor's office for her waiting room.
  • Take unused clothing and household items to a shelter or Goodwill.
  • Tape the exact change for a soda or snack to a vending machine.
  • Leave a couple pieces of candy on a coworkers desk with a note.
  • Pay for the person behind me at a toll booth.
  • Call a family member or friend on the day of a test or other important event and tell them I'm thinking of them. (I want to push myself to go beyond my comfort zone and actually call them. No text messages, IM's, Facebook comments, etc)
  • Offer to babysit for our friends who have kids so they can enjoy a night out.
  • Draw colorful pictures and bring them to St. Joseph's or LA Children's hospital for patients' windows.
  • Leave behind my magazine or book on a plane.
  • Make an extra sandwich and snack bag for a homeless person I see often.
  • Start off by telling a customer service agent "I know this problem is not your fault." I often blame them, which is completely unfair and not right.
  • Return an extra shopping cart to the front of the store.
  • Write a note with an encouraging thought and put it in someone's lunch bag or coat pocket.
  • If nothing else, simply open the door for someone and leave them with a smile.
I'd love for you to join in as well and create your own lists (don't worry about repeating ideas- all are welcome!). If you do, please be sure to link your post in the comment section below. I'd love to read them!

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Old Charm

Nothing can beat a light, airy house with touches of old charm. The white hardwood floors, cozy fireplaces, intricate molding, and simple design esthetic all make for one wonderfully alluring and charismatic space. I especially love that the walls are void of any color; fantastic inspiration for those hesitant or unable to paint the space they're currently in.

photos Alvhem

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Last Minute Gift Guide + Six Festive Free Holiday Printables via Thank You Cards Shop Blog

Buying or making gifts for your family and friends can be the happiest time of the season, but when time is running short the act of giving can turn stressful quickly. Here are my picks for last minute gifts that anyone will enjoy, starting as low as $5!

Amazon magazine subscriptions (some as low as $5/yr) 2. Shoe Mint monthly subscription ($79) 3. Harry Allen pig bank ($125) 4. Marc Jacobs dot printed cashmere & silk scarf ($200) 5. West Elm modernist mugs ($10) 6. Amazon Kindle ($79) 7. Kate Spade graffiti iPhone case 8. French Connection winter leopard belt 9. DODOCase iPad 2 cover ($85) 10. Rifle Paper Co. 2012 fruit calendar ($16.50) 11. Vivienne Westwood squiggle bag ($287) 12. Kate Spade Guide to Living Colorfully (set of 6 books - $35)

: The lovely Amy at Thank You Cards Shop Blog (I love her site) is offering six of her holiday printables for FREE! Her cards, labels, bookmarks, and recipe cards are so chic and festive- I can't wait to print them out tonight and use them. Visit her site here to download yours as well. Thank you, Amy!
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Hosting a Holiday Craft Party

I love the idea of hosting a holiday craft party for your family and friends like this one featured on Style Me Pretty. Gather some old books and make a trip to the craft store for styrofoam wreaths, balls, and trees, fake moss, and lots of extra hot glue gun sticks, and your party is ready to begin. I think it would be fun to put some extra holiday labels on each table in case guests choose to give their crafts as gifts to neighbors or friends.

photos by Millie Holloman via Style Me Pretty gallery here.

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Trendy Home Decor: Patterned Rugs

While I love the simple jute rug in my living room for many reasons (the main being how sturdy it has held up), I do have grandiose dreams of replacing it with one that makes more of a statement like these chevron, lattice, and stripe patterned rugs. Here are a few photos of patterned rugs I'm tucking away in my inspiration folders:

photos 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

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Gift Wrapping Accessories

Gift wrapping seems to be the most daunting task for most during the holidays. I posted about a quick and easy way to wrap gifts with kraft paper and glitter ribbon here, but I wanted to share a few more ideas for making this process even easier. Outside of simply buying a bag, these accessories will make wrapping gifts this season a breeze. Start with a base of kraft paper or any wrapping paper you'd like, and add these ribbons, labels, or decorative tapes for simple yet festive gifts this season.

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Currently Loving: Classic Bikes

One item perpetually on my imaginary wishlist is that of a classic, vintage inspired bicycle (I've written about my love for bicycles before). Living so close to the beach I go back and forth on this all the time, but I've yet to take the purchase plunge. After seeing the city bike unveiled by C.Wonder (number 4 below), I think I'm finally ready to do so, although there are so many gorgeous bicycles it may be hard to choose. Here are my top favorites:
1. Gary Fisher simplicity 3 2. Papillionaire sommer 3. Pure lowstep 4. C.Wonder city bike

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Classic and Elegant Spaces

There's nothing I love more than a classic yet elegantly decorated home. Keeping the range of colors at a minimum, interiors in this scheme look stunning with simple hues of white, grey, black, and even gold or brown. I appreciate how this decor can handle the chunkiest of pieces as well, whether it be an antique mirror, dresser, or chandelier. Here are a few of my favorite spaces:

photos via Skona Hem by Per Gunnarsson & here

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Beauty Lover's Holiday Gift Guide Under $30

Beauty products can make some of the best gifts this time of year, especially because the recipient will be able to use them long after the holiday's end. From eye shadows to body scrubs, makeup brushes to cosmetic bags, all of these products will make the beauty lover in your life smile brightly. Here are a few of my favorites, all priced under $30:

1. Stila shimmer ($22) 2. Philosophy amazing grace body butter ($28) & L'OCCITANE shea butter ($28) 3. Stila cheek color duo ($24) 4. NARS velvet matte lip pencil ($24) NARS lip gloss ($24) NARS lipstick ($24) 5. bareMinerals READY eye duo ($20) 6. Perfume to go: Ralph Lauren romance ($20) ViktorRolf flowerbomb ($25) Burberry brit ($25) 7. Bobbi Brown metallic eyeshadow ($22) 8. Jane Iredale brushes ($15-$17/ea.) shown: camouflage brush, deluxe shader, crease brush, eye contour brush 9. OPI for Sephora nail color ($9.50/ea) shown in And a Cherry on Top & Spark-tacular 10. CLINIQUE naturally glossy mascara & lash doubling mascara ($14.50) 11. Benefit beauty bag ($25) 12. Fresh milk bath & shower cream ($18.50) & milk bar ($13)
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How to Throw a Holiday Party

Throwing a holiday party can be stressful and overwhelming to say the least, but entertaining your family and friends this time of year can end up being the brightest memory of the season. Whether you envision a grand event or intimate affair, these are my tips to help guide you through the entire party planning process.

Guests: Tis the season to be with friends and family, but a party too large can lead to disaster. Choose a set number of guests that will fit into your space comfortably, and invite a handful more in anticipation that not everyone will attend. To avoid hurt feelings, keep the list to your closest family and friends only, and consider celebrating with coworkers and acquaintances on a smaller scale, like the office holiday party or a dinner out.

Invites: This aspect of the party planning process is simple and shouldn't break the bank. Sending out Evites for cocktail parties, or even a simple email, will suffice. For a full menu dinner party fancier invites are suitable, but no need to go all out. Invitations cards like these from Rifle Paper Co. are perfect.
- when to send - cocktail party: 1-2 weeks in advance with rsvp up to 3 days prior - dinner party: 3-4 weeks in advance with rsvp up to 2 weeks prior

Food & Drink Too many elements will clutter your party, so choose one thing and do it well.
Cocktail party: If you decide upon a cocktail and hors d'oeuvres party, be sure to say so on your invite so guests don't show up expecting an entire meal. A week prior to your gathering choose a signature cocktail that can be made in batches prior to the party, and offer an assortment of wine, beer, juice, and sodas as well. Determine 3 or 4 hors d'oeuvres that are easy to eat with your hands and don't require a lot of time spent in the kitchen. Shop for your party assuming each attendee will consume 3-4 drinks and roughly 10 hors d'oeuvres pieces.
- suggestions - signature drinks: cranberry martini, candy cane cocktail, maple butter kiss, 103 holiday cocktail recipes - easy appetizers: brie with cherry chutney, fig and olive tapenade, double tomato bruschetta, antipasto pasta salad

Dinner party: If a plated dinner is something you had in mind, planning your menu a week or two in advance will make all the difference. Choose sides that can be made ahead of time so you're not stuck in the kitchen the day of the party. Keep appetizers simple and store bought: nuts, crackers, cheese, fruits, and dips. Pour them into festive dishes to fancy them up.
- suggestions - main course: maple glazed roast turkey, holiday rib roast, apricot brown sugar ham, stuffed winter squash (vegetarian) - make ahead sides: roasted pumpkin apple soup, traditional mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, chilli glazed sweet potatoes

Decor: Keep decor at a minimum, allowing the drinks, food, and company to be the star. Simple table cloths or table runners, glass or mercury votives with unscented tea candles, and fresh greens from your tree or the store will be more than enough to create a holiday party wonderland.
- suggestions - mercury glass votives, winter white garland, striped table runner

Entertainment: Nothing trumps good conversation and laughter amongst guests, so keep the entertainment factor simple with a mix of your favorite holiday tunes. Create a playlist on your iTunes or log into Pandora for free and find a holiday station to your liking.
- suggestions - Michael Buble holiday, Diana Krall holiday, Nat King Cole holiday

Favors: This step is completely optional, but if you want your guests to leave with a little something in hand, homemade gifts from the kitchen might be the perfect ending to a great evening.
- suggestions - brownies wrapped individually, roasted nuts in a small mason jar, hot chocolate packets with a bag of mini marshmallows

For even more holiday party planning tips and accessories, check out my Decemeber article on Houzz here.

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Simple Gift Wrapping Idea with Glitter Bow DIY

Wrapping a present for any occasion can be the most tedious part of the entire gifting process, which is why I tend to lean toward simple wrapping techniques to save time, money, and my sanity during the busy holiday season. As a base, I prefer basic kraft paper, allowing the added elements to really stand out. For this gift I chose a left over strand of glitter ribbon, which I cut into two pieces, wrapping each one individually around the gift (creating a cross) and securing in the back with tape. To finish, I placed the bow (DIY below) in the center. From start to finish this took about 5 minutes, a small victory in the game of gift wrapping.

photos by Brunch at Saks
Creating the perfect bow:

1. Start out with an 8-inch piece of ribbon. Loop one end up and over to the center. Secure with double-sided tape. 2. Repeat with opposite end. 3. Place bow on the center of a 3-inch piece of ribbon. Wrap ribbon up and over bow, creating the "knot." Secure with tape. 4. Voila. Use on gifts or anywhere a little pizazz is needed.
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Chic Paint Color Palettes

a. Benjamin Moore tucson coral b. Martha Stewart gypsy moth c. Martha Stewart butternut squash d. Martha Stewart ballet slipper

A reader wrote me an email recently asking for help in finding a particular paint color, which in turn led me on a surprisingly addictive search through beautiful arrays of wonderful paint color palettes. After sourcing the original color I set out for, I found myself feverishly wading through additional delicious hues and eventually pairing my new found favorites with a few interior photos I had saved on my desktop. I'm especially loving aqua-meets-seafoam green colors in the middle set.

a. Benjamin Moore antiqued aqaua b. Benjamin Moore picnic basket c. Benjamin Moore antique glass d. Benjamin Moore cool breeze

a. Benjamin Moore marmalade b. Benjamin Moore creamy beige c. Benjamin Moore pineapple orange d. Benjamin Moore pernod

photos 1 - 2 - 3

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Homemade Cheez-Its - Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free Snacks

Homemade Cheez-Its (gluten free, dairy free)The greatest challenge I found after being diagnosed with food allergies was finding snack foods with suitable ingredients. Naturally I began with simple eats, namely fruits, veggies, and a few nuts that I was still able to tolerate. While those are still the safest route for me, every once in a while the need for a salty, gluten-resembling snack arises, which led me to this recipe for gluten free cheezits. With only 7 simple ingredients, these delectable little crackers carry the exact same taste as the name brand, but without the long list of ingredients and allergens. The only thing I would do differently next time is make a bigger batch.

Homemade Cheez-Its (gluten free, dairy free)
Homemade Cheez-Its (gluten free, dairy free)
Homemade Cheez-Its (gluten free, dairy free)Homemade Cheez-Its (gluten free, dairy free)
photos by Brunch at Saks

{New to eating gluten-free? Check out the items in my gluten/dairy/soy -free pantry here}

Recipe below:

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