Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Few Thanksgiving Shortcuts

Image via Pinterest
Thanksgiving is coming up fast and furious and everyone is buzzing around planning their meals and decor. Here are a few of my favorite things to help you streamline your day so you can spend more time with your family and less time in the kitchen or in the dining room getting ready.  Happy Thanksgiving!

For Decor ~ There are so many great free printables around the internet but my favorite are from Caravan Shoppe. They have festive invites and place cards that you can download and print off for FREE. It's a great way to add organization and a festive feel to your meal. I also love that they have coordinating thank you notes to send out after the holiday.

image via Caravan Shoppe
For Food ~ I always make ahead the cranberry sauce and gravy the day before. It's a huge time saver and I don't have to worry about making the gravy while everyone is waiting and the food is getting cold. I use the Barefoot Contessa's gravy and make a fresh cranberry sauce that couldn't be easier to make. If you can boil water, you can make cranberry sauce. Both will keep well if you make a day or two ahead of the big day.

Image via Pinterest
For Guests: I love using Chinese takeout containers from Smart and Final or Amazon to send your guests home with leftovers without having to part with your beloved tupperware or glass storage containers. If you want to add a little something extra special, you can print off these cute labels from Oh Happy Day, to label your leftovers for an extra special feel. Use full sheeted adhesive labels from your local office supply store to print off the free printable on. I also pick up craft colored or white handled bags, like these, from my local dollar store to use to pack up the takeout containers. It's nice to be able to hand your tired guests a bag that they can put in the fridge when they get home for the next day, or a midnight snack.

Image via Oh Happy Day
A few, fun extras ~ This mocktail looks delicious and would be a fun drink that you can serve your entire family to get your everyone in a festive mood. This page is full of fun and easy crafts you can set up for the little ones in your life to keep them entertained while the food is cooking and the adults are visiting. Most of the supplies for these crafts can be found at your local supermarket and/or dollar store.

Image via 
PS.  Between posts you can find me on Instagram (caracrowley) sharing highlights of daily life.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

And the winner is...

Thank you to all who voted on the last post.  It was fun to have the feedback, especially those who took the time to leave their own creative ideas on the direction I should go to create an accent wall in my home studio.  In the end, the treatment that received the most votes (by a landslide) was the stenciled circles.  I'm excited to go in this direction and take this idea and make it my own.  In the original tutorial, you are to glue painted doilies to the wall but I'm going to use a stencil to paint the circles on the wall so I can change it out when I'm ready to move on.

Image via Redbook

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Poll: Which Accent Wall Would You Choose? (Poll Now Closed)

The year is flying by and like usual, I can't believe it's the first part of November.  The holidays are on their way, rain is moving in, I'm planning lots of crock pot meals from this book and working on making the house as warm and cozy as I can.  I'm also finishing up current client projects and making room for professional growth in 2015.  One of the tasks I'm working on is painting an accent wall in my office.  My office has been every color you can imagine and I've rearranged the furniture placement as many times as I've painted.  Earlier this year, I painted the walls a nice, crisp white. I was ready for a little simplicity and an organized, bright feeling.  I really love the change but it's left the walls feeling a little plain.  In the coming year, I'm adding coaching to the list of services that I'll be providing (I can't wait to fill you in on more details soon) and will be using Skype to connect with clients that are out of the area and I want paint an accent wall on the wall behind me.  I want it to be something fun, colorful and inspiring.  I've collected a some ideas via Pinterest but I can't seem to narrow the choices down myself so I've decided to let you make the choice!

I'm leaving voting open until Saturday, November 15 at midnight and I'll let you know the results next week.  I'm excited to see what you choose!

Update: The poll is now closed.  Thank you for voting.  

Image via Pinterest
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Giving Your Basic Jeans an Update

Last week when the Boden catalog arrived, I pawed through it looking for a couple of options to update my fall wardrobe.  I saw these boyfriend jeans and marked the page to keep as a possibility to order.  When I went back through my dog eared pages the next day to narrow down the items that I was going to order, I realized that I had already purchased a pair of boyfriend jeans a few days before at the Nordstrom Rack for about half the price.  All of a sudden the pair that I had purchased, didn't look as appealing anymore.  What was wrong with me?  Why did I want these other jeans so badly? I tried to dissect my desire and then realized that I loved the small detail of the navy and cream twill ribbon that covered up the seam on the outside cuff.  That's it.  That's why I loved them.  Was it worth $78 to get that small detail when I had jeans that fit me perfectly for half that price? Nope, especially because I knew that I could DIY my way to the same look.

I stopped at a local hole-in-the-wall fabric and notions store that is near my house, for local Sacramento residents, I stopped at Hi-Fashion Fabrics on Franklin Boulevard.  Hi-Fashion is a gem of store and I always try to stop here before heading down to JoAnn's.  I took the Boden catalog in with me and showed the gals that were at the front counter and they directed me to a wall of ribbons sold by the yard and I quickly located a ribbon that was very similar to the photo.  The ribbon was $.99/yard and I purchased 4 yards which was way more that I needed for this project but I thought this ribbon would make great ribbon to wrap a present, tie napkins for a summer party, use as a headband or any other DIY project in my future.  For this project, I only needed 10" of ribbon and took the ribbon, jeans and picture with me to my local dry cleaner that also does small alterations and asked her to sew the ribbon to the first 5" of my cuff so that when I turned the cuff over twice the ribbon showed.

I could have sewn in the ribbon myself but I wanted the it to really be secure and hold up the daily abuse of being worn and laundered.  She charged me just a few dollars for the job and for me it was well worth the money to have the project done and ribbon securely attached.  If you are a better seamstress than I am, you can sew this yourself and then buy yourself a cup of coffee with the money you saved.

Materials Needed:

  • A pair of jean
  • 10" of ribbon 1" - 1 1/2" wide 
  • Matching thread

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to ~ Hydrangeas

This spring, I posted photos on Instagram of freshly cut hydrangeas from my garden and received a lot of questions about how to care and grow them.  I originally planted 12 Nico Blue hydrangeas nine years ago in the front garden bed.  At the time the bed was about half the width as it is now and it didn't have anything but a small palm that I removed when I widened the bed before planting.  I purchased the hydrengeas at Target, back when Target had a garden center, and they had one bloom on a stem per plant with a couple of leaves and cost $2.99 per plant.  At the time I planted these, my front yard was full sun that was a little too intense and the first few years the bushes did get burned but over time the front of my house has become more shaded as the trees around my house have grown in size and I now have more of desirable area for them and they do much better throughout the hot summer months.  In the nine years since I've planted them they have grown from one blossom and 8" high to hundreds of blooms to close to 6 feet tall! Here are my tips for growing hydrangeas ~
  • Water every other day.  Water the roots only, I don't water the leaves or the blooms as that can set the plant get burnt by the sun.  I flood the front bed with water and let the water seep into the roots of the plant.  I think this might be why my plants have done so well and have grown so tall.  
  • When cutting blooms for vases, cut 12"-15" below the bloom and clip above a leaf cluster and use clippers that are sturdy and made for woodier stems.  Do not use scissors since that will not result in a clean cut.  I clip as many blooms as I like, it doesn't seem to effect the amount of blooms the next year.  
  • In the late fall, you'll need to tend to and clean up the plants.  Clip off all dead blooms and remove any leaves that may still be on the plant, leaving the bare canes long.  Clean up the base of the plant by removing leaves and debris that may have collected at the root of the plant.   With garden clippers remove canes that are old, dead or diseased.  Don't clip off all canes, only those that aren't healthy anymore.  
  • After pruning and cleaning up the plants, fertilize with a fertilizer that is specific for hydrangeas and high in acidity.  If the colors of the blooms aren't the color that you desire, you can change that with the acidity of the soil.  
That's it!  I keep it as simple as I can and it's payed off with prolific blooms and tall lush hydrangea plants.  

{Earlier this spring when the hydrangeas were still in the early stages of blooming, I took a lot of better photos with my good camera but in an effort to be organized and efficient with my photo storage, I deleted them (!!!).  These photos are from my iPhone and still show their color and scale but the blooms were much more colorful in person. I'll hopefully capture them next year.}

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Delta Drives and Summer Fruit Stands


Most Sunday's I go for a Sunday drive along the Sacramento Delta river roads.  I love driving past the old river homes, the small sleepy towns, vineyards and farm after family farm.  I usually stop on my way out of town and pick up my favorite latte, turn up my radio, put my cell phone on airplane mode and relish in not needing to rush off anywhere and just enjoying the drive.  Sometimes it can just be an ordinary day where I need a break and other times I use my time to think about and make big decisions.  I have made every major life decision, big and small, along these river roads.  I'll leave home feeling jumbled and confused and when I return, I feel clearheaded and free.  I love where I live and I love being so connected to the cycle of food and life that we get to experience living so close to the fields where some of the best strawberries, blueberries, peaches and pears are grown.  I love hearing how a local farmer took a boat down the river to pick up a daily harvest of asparagus that will grace my dinner plate.  I love picking up jars of jams, preserves and olive oils that are made and produced right here in my back yard.  This is what fuels me and what makes me want to stay and raise my family here in this beautiful part of Northern California.  Most Sunday's I follow the river road to the intersection of Highway 12 and California State Route 160 to my favorite homegrown farm stand where my friend Susan greets me with a smile and offers me the gorgeous fruits of her and her husband's labor.  They pick strawberries in the cool summer mornings, and clip the most fragrant sweet peas from their cutting garden towards the back of their property.  They sell the most delicious cherries, apricots, blueberries and asparagus.  They also sell beets, cabbage, squash and other seasonal veggies.  The prices are low and the quality is exceptional.  Susan and her husband, Choy, are open 7 days a week from 9am-6pm.  They are some of my favorite people on the planet and I hope if you are local that you are able to take the beautiful drive to see Susan and purchase some of the most delicious produce that our area has to offer.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Peach and Mixed Berry Pie

Sunday's are my favorite days.  I generally don't take many design appointments on Sunday so they are days that I can run to the Farmer's Market, Target, pick up my favorite latte, go for a drive along the levee, and have the boys over.

This past Sunday, Luke and William joined me at the local Farmer's Market that is held under the freeway from 8am-12pm every Sunday morning.  I like to get there early when the crowds are less and the produce is abundant.  However, this past Sunday it was more of a spur of the moment decision to go and we ended up getting to the market around 11:30.  We were a little miserable as we walked around since the heat was climbing to a high of 106 degrees and many of the stalls were closing up since they had sold all of their goods.  However, we quickly saw the beauty of shopping at this hour is that farmer's are ready to be done from a long morning of selling and they have special deals on very ripe produce and vendors are giving away bottled water that they were once selling but now giving away so they don't have to carry back with them.  One of the amazing deals we found was a huge bag of very ripe white and yellow peaches for $3.  I picked them up thinking that I could freeze them for morning smoothies.  William on the other hand had a different plan and while handing the money to one of my favorite famers asked if I would make him a peach pie since I was the "best baker he's ever known".  How do you say no to that?  You don't and that's how you find yourself making a peach pie on one of the hottest days of the season.

I hadn't planned to bake but since I make up this very easy recipe for pie crust and store it in the freezer for occasions like this or to quickly make quiches, tarts and seasonal galettes, I had all the ingredients on hand.  I used both the yellow and white peaches along with the ends of the fresh blueberry and raspberry half pints that we had also purchased earlier that morning.  

Peach and Mixed Berry Pie

3 lbs. peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup vanilla sugar, sugar that I left a vanilla bean pod in
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons lemon juice, from one lemon
A pinch of salt
Assorted berries, totaling approximately 1 cup

1 egg yolk combined with a splash of water or heavy cream to make an egg wash
Dusting sugar, or a pinch of vanilla sugar to sprinkle over egg wash before baking

One double pie crust or one package of all natural pre made pie crust, I like the crust that you can find in the freezer section of Trader Joe's.  I usually make crust from this recipe and freeze it until needed or stock up on the Trader Joe's version when I can find it, usually around holidays.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine vanilla sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt.  Prep peaches by peeling and slicing thinly and combine with vanilla sugar, cornstarch and salt mixture along with the berries you are using; let sit for 15 minutes.  If using your own pie crust, lightly flour a rolling pin and work surface and roll out half the dough to a 12-inch round.  Place in a 9-inch glass pie plate and brush with egg wash.  Pour in fruit filling.

Roll out remaining dough to a 12-inch round and place over fruit filling.  Trim excess and crimp edges to seal.  Brush egg wash over the top of dough and dust with sugar.  With pairing knife, cut several small slits on top to vent.  Set on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until crust is deep golden brown and juices are bubbling, about an hour.  (Tent loosely with foil if crust browns too quickly.  Let pie cool completely on a wire rack, about 3 hours.

{In between posts, you can find me on Instagram, documenting my daily life in photos.}