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Thursday, October 23

Fantastical Homes

By Adrienne Breedlove

If there was one word to describe the Halloween season, I would use fantasy. It’s the time of year where everything seems magical and reality is a bit skewed. We can pretend to be other people in other places, while taking in the changes colors of our environment and enjoy the brisk weather.

I’ve said in the past that your home should be a reflection of you and your style. We all have fantasies when it comes to living spaces. Those grand, unique ideas that are beautiful but expensive, quirky but impractical. But there are some individuals out there who have the means and the creativity to make it a reality.

To celebrate this season of imagination, I thought I’d share a few fantastical homes that bend the rules of realism, and feature some uncommon characteristics.

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When you think of wallpaper, I bet your first thoughts go to kitschy patterns and bright colors. The last thing you may think of is moody scenery. This wallpaper is so well done with the high ceilings, that it actually appears as though the living room is set in another place entirely. You can purchase this wallpaper and many others at Pixers.

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The stairwell to this home is only the tip of the iceberg. The “house vvdb” is as intriguing in the interior as it is externally. Extravagant and daring in some areas, while refined in others, this house is a work of art in and of itself. I sincerely suggest you click on the above picture to view the photo tour.

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This home puts tree wallpaper to shame, actually incorporating limbs into the structure of the house. The home is actually built with natural, unshaped lumber. The result is what feel like a tree house, with the branches organic curves lending themselves to the architecture.

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You may have thought that Hobbit homes were things of fiction, but it became reality for Simon Dale in 2003 when he began constructing the “Hobbit House”. With help, the home was built and his family was moved in within 4 months. Since then, he’s built several more of these “shelters.” You can see them all by clicking on the above photo.

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I think we all dream about giving our children (and maybe a little for ourselves) the coolest room imaginable. Designer Steven Kuhl has set the bar pretty high with this pirate themed bedroom. He’s created a unique play and sleep area for his son, and I’m sure his friends love it as well.

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This Moroccan bedroom is just oozing with glamour. Such a beautiful and ornate ceiling is something most of us can only dream about. While renovating your bedroom for a similar look may not be on the top of your to-do list in reality, it would still be quite a sight to see every morning.

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Fellow book lovers, what better place to display your hardcovers than inside your staircase? While this unusual organization and decor tactic is interesting, and maybe even a little compelling, those steep stairs seem a wee bit dangerous!

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Lastly, I leave you with The Teahouse, the most adorable little house I have ever seen. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the interior, but I just couldn’t resist sharing it.

Happy decorating,

Adrienne

Thursday, October 23

The Great Laundry Experiment

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A few weeks ago I had fallen down the rabbit hole we call The Internet and I came across a post from a woman who got rid of all of her clothing as well as her children’s clothing in order to cut way down on a chore she detested: LAUNDRY. Ok, so she didn’t exactly get rid of everything, she kept about three days worth of clothing and packed up the rest in boxes. Let me repeat that. Three. Days. Worth. I immediately had to know more! So I asked Laura if she would write about her experience and share a “how-to” here on my blog because I thought this was a remarkable idea and one that really resonated with me. 

When you think about housewives in days of yore, you forget that people didn’t have as much stuff! Kids only had a few daily outfits and then their Sunday best. The same held true for the parents. Obviously things have changed and we are now fully integrated into a consumer system with huge closets full of clothing. I am not saying that is always a bad thing, but when it comes to staying on top of laundry, I am wondering if maybe returning to the way things were in the past could be part of the solution. This might be an extreme example, but I think there are some really good ideas here, so please enjoy.

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By Laura Roberts

I stood in my laundry room, staring at the piles (and piles!) of clothes waiting to be folded and thinking about the other loads still waiting to be washed upstairs. Ugh!

That was the last straw. I had HAD it with SO MUCH laundry!

Right then and there, eyes wild and determined, I decided to try an experiment: I decided to pack up most of my kids’ and my clothing and try living with a minimal amount of clothing in our closets for one month. We had so much more than we needed; our family’s laundry situation was just plain OVERWHELMING. I figured that if I washed one load of laundry every day, we would always have something to wear, even if the selection was drastically reduced.

I started with my kids’ clothing. I began by packing up the “backup clothing”—the things they only ever wore if there was nothing else to wear. Once I was left with the clothing they actually wore, I decided how many items of clothing they would have in their drawers for the next month, and the rest was washed, dried, and packed into the box.

My children were surprisingly supportive of the idea and the process; it made me wonder if they were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of clothing they had as well! As long as I promised not to give everything away immediately, they were happy to show me which pieces of clothing were their very favorites, and which ones they could live without for a while.

Those four weeks of minimal clothing were LAUNDRY BLISS.

There was a noticeable lack of clothing strewn around the house and over bedroom floors. There wasn’t nearly as many articles of clothing making their way into the car or piling up…anywhere. I didn’t feel suffocated by ALL of the clothing EVERYWHERE. I could breathe!

In order to stay on top of things, I did one load of laundry a day. Each morning I would gather up the dirty clothes that had been worn the day before. At some point during the day, I would switch the load to the dryer and then fold it. The clothes made their way back to closets by nighttime, ready to be worn again the next day. However, if I got behind for any reason, it couldn’t be for long! After two days, closets were looking bare. And after three days of getting behind, nudity was imminent! I couldn’t procrastinate, by much anyway. When you are operating with minimal clothing, however, the best part is that it only takes a couple loads to get all caught up again…not TEN (and an entire day’s worth of your life) because those “backup clothes” have bought you an extra several days!

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I noticed my five-year-old daughter would choose what to wear more carefully. Prior to the experiment, she would get so excited about all of the dresses to choose from in her closet that she would change FOUR times a day, just to get a chance to wear them all. With fewer to choose from, the panic about wearing them all seemed to fade; she would pick one dress and wear it all day. I liked thinking that it was one less thing for her to have on her mind as well.

Laundry actually became enjoyable for me. I liked that it was something I could take care of, and be finished with…instead of feeling like there was always more that needed to be done. The load off my mind (pun intended!) was positively liberating! I remember even passing up some super-cheap and super-cute clothing at a garage sale because I was feeling so “zen” about our minimal clothing situation! I didn’t want to mess with that feeling. Ha!

I learned so much from that simple experiment.

I learned that my daughter actually does not like jeans! She did not wear them once the entire month! Her daily uniform was a dress and leggings, or a skirt and shirt. Now I know where best to spend my money when picking out clothing for her, or when sorting through hand-me-downs from others. I learned what patterns and colors are best for my two youngest, who are still pretty little and pretty…messy. Stain-hiding colors for sure! If it hid stains, it lasted longer in their closet…a concept that I didn’t care enough about before because they had SO much to choose from anyway (it was almost like I was glad to have an excuse to get rid of a shirt or two because of stains). I learned how to choose clothing that would earn the space it occupied and would work hard for my kids, getting worn often and loved well…what fabrics, what fits and styles, and what brands, even! Some things did wear out pretty quickly; but when they did, we were satisfied that they had been used to the best of their abilities, worn right out, and were retired with love. I then knew exactly what needed replacing, and could select a replacement more efficiently.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned was a deeper appreciation for what we had. We took the time to look for lost articles of clothing, to remove stains, to mend seams…because each piece of clothing was an important part of their wardrobe. Strangely enough, it didn’t feel burdensome like I expected; it felt like I was truly caring for the things we had, with gratitude. I felt a kinship with homemakers of years past, who hand-washed entire loads of laundry, felt proud of their whitest whites, and made-do with a minimal wardrobe themselves. Have you seen closets in older houses!? Tiny! Compared to our standards these days, anyways. I also felt a sense of how silly it was to have SO much more than we needed, when so many others went without. Surprisingly, living with less made me feel more grateful and richly blessed than when we had more stuff hanging around.

When the four weeks were over, I opened up the box and grabbed a few things to add back to the kids’ wardrobe, or to keep in a small box of extras to have on-hand. The majority of the clothing, however, ended up donated to a charitable organization. It felt good to spread the wealth. And it felt good to find what worked for our family, a way to live without the weight (mentally AND physically!) of clothing clutter.

(Interesting fact: I actually did this experiment with my clothing as well. I just remembered that the box I packed up is STILL in the basement, four months later! I clearly have not missed those clothes…)

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Want to give this a shot?
Everyone’s ‘minimal amount’ of clothing will be different! But if you’d like to try cutting back on the laundry chaos for yourself, here are my best tips:

  • If you’re nervous about getting rid of clothing, just call it an experiment like we did, and do it for a month or two. It’s easier to do something drastic if you know it’s just a trial run. It might surprise you how easy it was to forget about your out-of-sight clothing!
  • Think about what you really like to wear, consistently. Do you have a “uniform” of sorts, or a style that you wear on a regular basis? I found that when I embraced my love of flowy/feminine tops, skinny jeans, and vintage dresses, the “extras” (clothes I only wore if all my flowy tops, etc. were dirty) in my closet became glaringly apparent…and easily weeded out.
  • Ask yourself: do I feel beautiful in this? Is this a staple item? Do I love it? Do I wear it often…or would I wear almost anything else first?
  • Give yourself a predetermined number of items (ie. I’ll keep three sweaters). It will help you decide which ones you like enough to make the cut!
  • Once you’ve pared back, get into a good laundry routine that works for you. This comes so much easier with less to wash! Once you find your groove, you’ll have your favorites available all the time. This will also make it apparent which items you are only keeping around “in case” your favorites aren’t available…they’re the ones that remain unworn!
  • Remind yourself to appreciate your clothing, and do what you can to take care of it. Again, it’s so much easier to do with less! And it’s so good for the heart and soul to live with appreciation and gratitude!
  • Don’t feel bad if you really need to bring something back out of the box. You’ve learned that you really use and miss that particular item!

Good luck! And many thanks to Bethany for inviting me to share our family’s experiment with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts/experiences!

Wednesday, October 22

Amazing Cranberry Bars To Try Right Now

 

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I love pumpkin spice as much as the next person, but ladies, I think it has jumped the shark. When I walk into Trader Joes there is a HUGE display of all things pumpkin spice: cereal, granola bars, bread, croutons, cookies, butter, lotion, the list goes on and on! You know how you hear a cool new song on the radio and you love it so every time it plays you turn the music up and sing at the top of your lungs. But then the radio stations start playing it twice an hour and after a few weeks of hearing the same song over and over you are totally sick of it and can’t remember why you liked that song in the first place? That is how I feel about pumpkin spice.

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It totally bums me out how fun traditions are often marketed into oblivion. So to get away from pumpkin spice and yet still celebrate the season, I have decided cranberry is the new pumpkin. Think about it: this berry only comes out for a short amount of time during the autumn and early winter, the flavor is bright and tart, and the color! Who doesn’t adore that vibrant shade of deep scarlet?

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To start my cranberry commemoration, I thought I would make these amazing cranberry bars in individual portions. I have a difficult time cutting bars into squares or rectangles, so I thought it might work to put them into cupcake tins with cupcake liners. It turns out by using this method the bars don’t have to cook for as long, which is nice, and they automatically come out of the oven in perfect portions and look festive with their ruffled “collars”. They look beautiful displayed on a footed plate, and I ended up taking the final batch (it took me a few tries to get the proportions correct) to my son’s elementary school as a treat for the office staff.

Cranberry Bars

Cranberry Bars
Serves 12
An easy dessert that highlights the tangy sweetness of cranberries in individual portions.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Crust and Topping
  1. 1 cup AP flour
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1/2 cup ground slivered almonds or cashews
  4. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/2 cup cold butter cut into small pieces
  7. 1egg
  8. 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Filling
  1. 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (I used frozen)
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. Juice of 1/2 orange (4 teaspoons)
  4. zest of 1/2 orange
  5. 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. In a food processor, chop the nuts into small pieces, about the size of small breadcrumbs. Next add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse 3-4 times to combine.
  3. Next add the butter to the mixer. Pulse 10 times and then check to see how small the pieces are. They should be quite small, similar to the aforementioned breadcrumb sizing. If they are the size of peas they are still too big and pulse again until you get the right texture. I had to pulse 13-15 times.
  4. Pour mixture into a bowl and add the egg. Mix with fork until combined. This will be very dry and crumbly- not like a cake batter or even raw cookie dough.
  5. Now it is time to make the filling. Rinse out the food processor and then add all the filling ingredients. Pulse until the cranberries are the size of relish. You want them to have a bit of texture so don't puree them.
  6. Lay out the cupcake liners in the cupcake pan. On the bottom place a HEAPING tablespoon of the flour/butter mixture and then use your fingers to press into the pan. This is the base of your bar. When finished, add the cinnamon to the mixture and stir. This will now be your final topping. Set aside.
  7. Now we add the cranberry filling using the same tablespoon. I believe it was about 2-3 tablespoons per bar, but you can eyeball it. You might not use all of the cranberry mixture.
  8. Now top with the rest of the flour/butter mixture.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. They are done when the tops are a light golden brown. Do not over bake! I made this mistake and they ended up like hockey pucks and had to be thrown away.
  10. Let cool and enjoy!
Notes
  1. This is for 1 pan of cupcakes (12). Double the recipe if you want more.
Adapted from Betty Crocker
Adapted from Betty Crocker
The Glamorous Housewife http://theglamoroushousewife.com/
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