zombie houses

Last night I had one of my zombie dreams. It was one of those dreams where I was thinking and dreaming at the same time. I was thinking about a great treehouse design. The house was built in a huge tree and was big enough to house several people. The only way from the ground was to climb up a rope.

Zombies can't climb trees, that's what my dream was about. It got me thinking about tree houses you could live in, or other kinds of houses that might be good in a zombie apocalypse, that you don't see so often. Like great houseboats, or stilt houses or, the obvious choice, island homes.
Sources: 1. 2. 3.* 4. 5. 6.
Those stilt houses look a little broken up, but you get the idea. You should definitely check out the link to the island house, it's absolutely gorgeous. And, who wouldn't want to live in a treehouse, just because? 

I've always been fascinated by tree houses in particular. When I was younger I used to watch Extreme Homes on HGTV. They feature all kinds of unusual houses like these, and I remember one episode (though maybe it was different program) where they talked exclusively about amazing tree homes around the world. 

I sure hope I'm not the only weirdo thinking about the perfect post-zombie apocalypse house. Let me know I'm not alone! :)

-A.

*I do not have a source for this photo, I just found it on Google image search....

simple crafts: glitter critters

These adorable little guys are another part of my DIY Christmas. I found these wooden critters at Michael's for $2 a piece.
For this cute fish I used Martha Stewart Crafts Glitter paint in Smokey Quartz and Aquamarine. I like this paint because so far it seems as though the glitter sticks pretty well. Since I'll be giving these creatures to my five-year-old niece, I wanted to be sure the glitter wouldn't be flaking off all over my sister's house. So far, the paint seems pretty solid once it dries. 
 For the snake, I used the same Martha Stewart aqua glitter paint (which is more green than teal), but first I did a green wash by mixing a little of the green paint (that came with the wooden snake) with water and coating the wood. I let that dry thoroughly before adding the glitter paint. 

The glitter paint requires several coats to create the glitter coverage you see on the fish and the snake. The fish especially because I didn't paint the wood first. I probably did ten coats there, to ensure the wood was completely covered. I found dabbing it on worked better than brushing.



I did the same thing for the gecko as for the snake, except that I used red paint that came with the kit and the smokey quartz glitter paint. I decided for this guy to use the glitter paint only on the head, legs and back of the body and not to do so many coats. I liked the way the red looked.

It was a really simple handmade project which I think makes a great gift for little ones! It'd be great to do with kids, too.

And how cute are they?

Peace & love,
-A.

the burlap wreath

I'm pretty jazzed about this post. I do plan on doing a tutorial in the next few weeks, along with the first ever l'√©lan jolie giveaway, so stay tuned for that! 
This particular wreath I made for my mother for my DIY Christmas (like this scarf, for my niece!). It was really easy and the result is beautiful (if I do say so, myself!). I got the idea from this wreath which I posted about here.
Burlap wreaths seem to be the thing right now and it's easy to see why. They're so simple and so rustic and lovely.

I'm excited to show you how I made mine! It came together easier than I anticipated. The trickiest part was definitely positioning the flowers. I let them sit on the wreath a while before I committed to permanently affixing them. I could make a million of these, it was so much fun.

Check back in the coming weeks for the step-by-step and the chance to win a wreath of your own :)

Peace & love,
-A.

fry fail

Here's a really good example of why "winging it" is not always the best way to cook. This past weekend I tried to make some baked carrot and sweet potato fries. I'm not sure where I went wrong, but they started getting a little blackened before they came anywhere near being crispy fries.

I set my oven to 425 degrees. I cut up the sweet potatoes and carrots very thinly, as uniformly as possible. I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper (we don't have non-stick baking sheets, though maybe I should pick some up?). I drizzled with a little olive oil. I baked for like 40 minutes, turning them over a couple times.

Here is a really great simple recipe for baked sweet potato fries that I probably should've looked up before attempting (though, in my defense, it seems tough to screw this up). I have more sweet potatoes so I will definitely be attempting this again.

It seems my biggest error was an over crowded pan. I'm super impatient so I didn't want to do two batches. Also, the recipe I linked says to cover the fries evenly with oil, which I did not do, and heat to 450 degrees, and not to use parchment paper because it will burn. Which it did.

So there you have it. Sometimes I'm wrong. But at least I admit when I am! :) You can trust me!

The not-fries were still yummy, though. They just turned out to be like, roasted carrots and sweet potatoes (imagine!). I've been having them for lunch at work, along with the chickpeas I made. Pretty satisfying.

Peace & love,
-A.

six more etsy shops to love...

Here are six more Etsy shops to fall in love with. I think the one I'm most excited about is number 4. These coats look lovely and they're very reasonably priced. Unlike the metal stag head. Not to say it's overpriced--you can't put a price on art--but $6500 is just a smidge out of my price range. 
1. Dolan Geiman 2. Foxberry Hill 3. Leanimal 4. Luckystore829 5. Marry G Knit & Crochet 6. Old Box
It's still pretty cool though . . . and it's always fun to look! 

Peace & love, 
-A. 

sauteed chickpeas

Last February I decided to go vegan. I did pretty well for about six months and then the whole thing imploded. I'd like to go back to being vegan at some point. I didn't realize how good I was feeling until I started eating dairy again. Some people report almost instantly feeling better on a vegan diet. It was more gradual and subtle for me. And it can be tough, especially if you're the only vegan you know.

Personally, I had a lot of great support from the people around me. Even the folks at work started ordering vegan pizzas for us (there are a few vegans in my office) at pizza parties (we get one once a month!).

One of the things I always found really exciting about veganism was discovering new recipes. One of the things I realized I'd been missing my whole life is sauteed chickpeas. They are SO good! And really easy, too!
For my chickpeas, I took a 15oz can and drained and rinsed the beans in a colander. Then I spread them out on a baking sheet and put in the oven while I was pre-heating it for something else (that story is for later this week...). I stirred them around a couple times to make sure they were getting dried out (you could also dry them with paper towels, or a clean towel. I don't like to waste paper towels and I'm afraid of fuzz, so I use the oven).

Then I tossed them in some olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne (seasonings to taste, oil enough to cover evenly). In a pan I heated a little more olive oil over medium high heat and threw in the beans, stirring regularly until they started to brown.

They are truly delicious. They'd be great with some garlic, too. Anything, really. I've done them a few different ways, but I like that they're good plain, too.

-A.

party wish list

1. Asos 2. Etsy 3. UO 4. ModCloth 5. F21
6. Ruche 7. F21 8. UO 9. F21
This year the company I work for is throwing a huge party to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Last year we had a glamorous holiday party, which is what we usually do every year. These parties are crazy. Open bar. Guest lists. Security. I work in fashion (or, as I like to say, near it), so everyone is always dressed really well. This year I'm doing the financially responsible thing and wearing a dress and shoes that I already own . . . but if I had more money I would probably but a whole new outfit. 

These are a few of my picks from around the web... what do you think?

Peace & love, 
-A.

diy nail polish - any color - for less than $5

I am not the first person to do this. I saw the idea somewhere on the internet some time ago. I'm gonna tell you how it's done. And then I'm gonna tell you what it's really like.

Materials:
Clear nail polish (I used NYC brand because it was a $1)
Eye shadow (I used Wet 'n' Wild, also because it's cheap)
Your receipt (or a piece of paper, if you're using old stock)
 Use the brush from the eye shadow to crush the color you want to use. Crush it up good an' fine.
 Use the receipt to funnel it into your bottle. I poured out some of the clear polish to make a little extra room. This also helps it to mix up more easily.
Shake a bunch and there you have it. Your own half-way homemade nail polish in any color you can find cheap eye shadow in.

The pros are, you have custom polish and the coverage is pretty good, it goes on decent. You can make it more or less sheer by adding less or more powder.

However, because of the powder you're adding to the polish, it's going to be flakier than your standard polish. And your polish is only going to be as reliable as your base (and actually slightly less), so, the cheaper polish you use as your base, the less staying power it's going to have. You are going to want to do a top coat definitely and bottom coat, probably, of some other more chip-resistant clear polish.

But, the pros are pretty great, right? If you're dying for a color of polish that you can't find, you can make it! And though I haven't tried it yet, you could certainly mix up different eye shadows to create a truly unique color. I'm also interested in trying this with the NYC matte clear polish that I saw at the drugstore yesterday. Maybe with one of the eye shadows I have left. Of course, you can do this with any powder makeup.

Try it and out and let me know how it goes!

Peace & love,
-A.

hearty vegetable chili ... from scratch!

This morning it snowed for the first time this year! While the first snow is always pretty and exciting, and pretty exciting, it means winter is coming and winter is a long, long time in the Northeast.
But, there's chili. What would winter be without it? It's darn near perfect. It's hearty. It's spicy (if you want). It's warm. It's versatile. It's delicious.

I take the same approach to making chili that I do for everything else. I wing it. Always. Chili is easy to do that with.

Here's what I put in this chili:

1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red peppers, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped (optional, to taste)
1 small white potato, chopped (optional)
1 portobello mushroom, chopped (optional)
5 smallish vine-rippened tomatoes, chopped (could sub 1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes)
1 15oz can dark red kidney beans
1 15oz can black beans
2-4 Tbsp chili powder
1 good shake cayenne (optional, to taste)
1/4-1/2 Tbsp dried cilantro (optional, or you could use fresh)
2-3 good shakes of smokey chipotle Tabasco (optional)
1 small drizzle of agave (because I thought it might be getting to spicy, this is definitely optional)
1 cup beef broth (made from water and Better Than Bouillon beef base, optional ... if not for this, this chili would've been vegan. You could use a vegetable broth or just go with some plain old free water)

I also threw in some celery because I had it to use up. You could add any color pepper. I've put corn in there before. You could use different beans. Ground beef, ground turkey, bison, moose. TVP. Rice. Basically, as long as you have beans of some kind, peppers, onion, garlic, and tomato, you can throw in chili powder and have chili. The rest is up to you. I've also put in cocoa powder in, in the past. I'm not sure if it really had a big affect, but it's an idea to play with.

At any rate, I sauteed the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until the onion had become transparent (stir regularly, leave the lid on). Then I added the peppers, mushroom and potato. I let that basically heat through, stirring occasionally (lid on), while I chopped the tomatoes. I added the tomatoes and let this whole mixture sit over high heat (lid off), stirring regularly until the vegetables released all their juices and reduced their size by about 1/3 (when your pot is 1/3 less full than when you started, in other words). Then I threw in my beans, spices/seasonings and the broth mixture and cooked over high heat, lid on, but cocked to the side, allowing steam out, until the potatoes were soft (if you can stick a fork in 'em, they're done).

That's all. That's chili for you.

Feel free to share your special chili renditions in the comments!

Peace & love,
-A.

my dream library

all above photos found here
I love books. A lot. It's not even just for a love of reading that I love books. I do love to read, though I don't do it as much as I'd like to/should, but there's just something about a book that I find really satisfying. I'm not sure I can really explain it. A book is a whole world contained on paper between two covers. There is something to be said for the permanence of books.

I think also, I am a very tactile person. I have a Kindle that was gifted to me last year at Christmas, and I do love it, it's really handy on the train, but it'll never replace books for me.

Recently I had to throw away nearly all of my books (a story for another time) and it was one of the more heart-wrenching things I've had to do. I've had breakups that were easier than shoving my beloved books into a trash bag.

I will, without a doubt, build up my collection once again. I still have many books safe and sound at my parents house.

As sure as my future home will have a wood stove, it will also have shelves upon shelves of books. It will be a library of sorts. A cozy, warm sunny library and hopefully by then I'll have found a way to make a living sitting at home with a cup of tea and a book.

What special features would your dream home have? Post your thoughts in the comments!

Peace & love,
-A.

how to add tassels to a scarf

For all I know there is a much fancier way of doing this. As I've mentioned before, I am far from expert when it comes to crochet. I just made this up. Worked for me :) 

This is the first perfect scarf I've ever made and that's because I had to unravel half of it four different times to fix mistakes. But when I finally got to the end, I was so pleased! It was really worth the extra effort.

Especially because this particular scarf is a gift for my lovely five-year-old niece. Isn't the yarn so cute? I thought of her immediately when I saw it. And it'll last her a long time because it'll go with any color jacket (you know, since growing children need a new one almost every season!). 

I wanted to make it a little more interesting than just a plain old scarf, so I decided to add some tassels. Here's how I did that. 

1. Cut three pieces of yarn a little more than twice as long as you want your tassels to be (longer is better, you will be trimming them at the end). 2. Fold them in half. 3. & 4. My scarf has ten chains. I tried to space the tassels as evenly as possible, even though 10 is not evenly divisible by 4. Poke your crochet hook through where you want your tassels to be. 5. Hook the loop of your tassel and pull through. 6. Widen the loop with your fingers without pulling the ends through. 7. Fold the ends of your yarn over the end of your scarf from below and pull through the loop. 8. & 9. Pull to tighten. 10. Repeat, spacing your tassels evenly across the scarf. 11. Trim the ends of your tassels to the same length. 12. Aaand you're done!

I hope it's pretty straight forward, but please feel totally free to post any questions you may have in the comments! The best part of this is that you aren't knotting anything (though you can, if you want to), so if you don't get it right the first time, it's really easy to start over.

Peace & love,
-A.

gift ideas: online shopping

1. cast iron barn owl 2. carnivorous creations dome terrarium kit 3. owl planter 4. green peony burlap wreath 5. Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar
Christmas can be a stressful time for me. Isn't it for everyone? Holidays are tough! There is so much to be done, and you're under so much pressure to also appear to be enjoying yourself while you do it.

For me the stressor is trying to find an affordable gift for everyone that they will actually enjoy. I'm REALLY good at picking out gifts for myself (I can't be the only one!) but I am awful at picking out gifts for others. I think and think about it all year but I have trouble getting into the minds of others to come up with something they might want, without them just straight up telling me.

So this year, I'm starting a little early. Like, right now. I already picked up one thing for my niece. Here a few gift ideas I've come up with for my other loved ones. And I still couldn't help myself when it came to picking out those owls! Even though in our family, owls are my thing.

Loved ones take note, these are not your actual gifts! Just preliminary ideas ;) No spoilers.

Where do you turn for gift inspiration?

Peace & love, 
-A. 

learn a new skill: crochet






































A couple years ago I taught myself how to crochet by watching videos on Youtube. I'm not an expert and I sort of end up re-teaching myself every fall, but it's something that I enjoy doing, even my scarves end up skinnier by the end than they were when I started. Whatever, right? It's relaxing and there's something comforting about holding all that soft yarn in your hands.

I once also took knitting lessons, but I wasn't able to pick it up the way I had hoped. I think it may be a more versatile skill but it doesn't go as quickly as crochet. I'm a pretty impatient person so quicker is always better for me.

Crochet I think is also a lot easier to teach to yourself. It's just one hook, versus two needles. Whenever anyone expresses to me an interest in learning, I try to impress upon them how simple it is for them to teach themselves. Maybe I'm not great at it, and I can't do anything fancy, but I picked up the basics in a single day. I just need to practice more.

Above is a pictures of a scarf I made recently. I'm pretty lucky that I get to crochet at work if I want to. That's where I finished this!

Here are some great resources if you feel inspired to start learning a new skill!

Peace and love,
-A.

the peppermint bark ordeal

 I know, I know. . . it's still a little early for candy canes. But I was at the drug store the other night and they already have their Christmas merch out! And peppermint bark squares at the counter!

I love peppermint bark. I can't remember the first time I had it but it was fairly recent in the grand scheme of things. I really should've been eating it long before. It's amazing.

Last year we got all the stuff to make peppermint bark but never did. Those chocolate and white chocolate chips disappeared, of course. The parchment paper got used up, too, but I still had the peppermint flavor, so I decided to get it in early, just to make sure I get to it at all. It's really easy to make, though I did make a couple of silly mistakes, I'll share with you my process and my recommendations. Do as I say, not as I do!

































As you can see, the white chocolate of my peppermint bark is in the inside, rather than on top like I meant for it to be. That is because I do not know how to melt white chocolate, apparently. We'll get to that....

What you need for this is:

Most of 1 bag of chocolate chips
Most of 1 bag of white chocolate chips
Candycanes or peppermints, crushed (you can do this with something solid and a Ziplock bag, or do what I did and break them into little pieces, put them in a bowl and then pulverize with a glass jar. It's a little messy, but fun, and you save a plastic bag!)
Peppermint flavor (optional)
Parchment paper on a baking tray

I melted my chocolate chips in the microwave on high for 1 minute, stirred and kept putting them back for 20-30 second intervals until thoroughly melted. Then I added a few drops of peppermint flavor (more or less depending on your preference, or you can omit altogether for a more subtle peppermint bark).

I spread the melted chocolate out on the parchment paper and allowed to cool. Well, I was in a hurry (as per usual) so I stuck it in the freezer for about 10 or 15 minutes. This was silly because the chocolate didn't really set up in that time, it just got cold so it appeared to be set, but melted as soon as I tried to spread the white chocolate on... I recommend putting it in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

I then set to melting my white chocolate in the microwave, as well. As I began, Tom said, "Aren't white chocolate chips really hard to melt?" I said, "I don't know, I've never heard that." But, as it turned out, he was right. They started to melt, at first, but then ceased melting and became just a kind of solid-ish mush. I tried to spread this on the chocolate but the chocolate melted and it started to mix. I put it under the broiler a bit to see if it would melt more (Tom's idea, thank goodness he was there to keep me from flying into a panic about my weirdening bark), but it didn't really help. So I ended up just flattening it out, best I could, and put the dark chocolate over the top.

While still melted, I sprinkled the crushed peppermint over the top and pressed in gently with the back of a spoon. I let this harden in the freezer over night, though it probably would've done just as well in the fridge (I just didn't have room).

I've melted white chocolate before in a makeshift double boiler (with a glass bowl and a pot of water) and that worked fine, so I highly recommend doing that. Here are some really straight forward directions for that.

Anyway, it turned out really yummy (Tom-Approved) and prettier than I'd expected, which is what really matters, anyway, right?

Peace & love,
-A.

foolproof french onion soup ... from scratch!

It's soup season folks! And isn't the best kind of soup one you can bake in the oven with bread and cheese? Last night I decided to make a French onion soup because, swiss! And French bread!

I always just assumed this soup was was really hard or complicated to make, but happily, neither of those things are true! So even if you're not so comfortable in the kitchen, I have a non-recipe here for you that is super easy. For my soup I used:

3 medium to large yellow onions
2 medium red onions (you could do all red or all yellow, it doesn't matter)
Half a stick of butter (you can do salted or unsalted, it doesn't matter, you can add salt later if you want)
Approximately 1 Tbsp (more or less, to taste) of Better than Bouillon beef base
Approximately 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinaigrette (optional)
A few small shakes of ground thyme (optional)
Water
1 baguette (or crusty French bread, or Italian bread, or any bread, really!)
Swiss cheese, sliced (or shredded, or Gruyere which is even more delicious, but kind of expensive)

I chopped all of the onions like this (the first method). I melted my butter in a big pot over medium heat and threw in all of my onions. I put in the balsamic vinaigrette and thyme (your onions will create a really wonderful flavor on their own, you don't really have to add these things if you don't want to, or don't have them on hand). I cooked the onions over medium heat, stirring every five minutes or so until they became very reduced and began getting browned, for about 30 minutes. I wanted to cook them for longer, but I felt a little rushed. If you're not in a hurry, definitely cook for longer (45-60 minutes is best), just be sure to keep stirring so they don't burn, and reduce heat as needed.

I filled my pot with water about 3/4 to 2/3 full and stirred in my beef base. I tested the broth after the base had dissolved and it didn't taste strong enough so I added a little more. It's best to start with less than you think you'll need. You can always add but you cannot subtract.

I let this simmer for about twenty minutes. Again, I'd like to have let it go longer, but by now I was hungry and still feeling rushed. You can let yours go as long as you can stand it. 30 minutes is best.

Anyway, when it was done enough I ladled some into an oven-safe bowl. I sliced the bread on a bias and put two pieces on top. On that, I laid two slices of swiss cheese (one would suffice, I happen to be a glutton). I warmed the broiler on my oven, and put the bowl of soup on a baking sheet. I put it under the broiler for a few minutes. You really ought to WATCH it while it's under the broiler. I cannot tell you how many times I've burnt things this way. You can see in the picture, that even though I was watching this, it still got a little over-toasted.

When the cheese starts to bubble and brown a bit, it's done!

This soup was really good! The first part, with the onions, is a little time consuming, granted, but it's well worth it and it's so easy! You could add so much to this, too. Worcestershire sauce is a common ingredient, as is wine, chicken broth, different herbs. Look up a few recipes online and see what sounds good to you!

simple crafts: diy pickle jar terrarium

Last winter sometime I got in my head that I wanted to make a terrarium. I was getting really into succulents because I love the way they look and they're really easy to take care of. I'd seen a tutorial on how to make a terrarium out of a lightbulb and so I set out to do that. But I couldn't break into the lightbulb I bought the way it was described in the instructions so after several attempts there, I gave that up.

I decided to go, instead, for something a little bigger and easier. One night at the grocery store I spied a huge jar of pickles and I had to have it. I love pickles, but in this instance I really just wanted the jar itself. But I hate to waste, so I ate all 80 servings of those pickles (with the help of my boyfriend, Tom) and . . . well, it was a gallon jar of pickles for like $5. They weren't that great.

But after turning it into a terrarium, I've forgotten the pain of eating 80 servings of blah pickles. I love my terrarium!



I bought a few small succulents from a plant shop in Chelsea. They're pretty expensive in New York. I bought one medium (pictured below, to the right) and three small plants, one of one kind and two of the other. I think it cost me around $25 just for those. The rocks I bought at Michael's in their florals section. The organic soil was borrowed from Tom. And I put a little stone llama in there.
To make your own terrarium, layer your rocks on the bottom to help with drainage. I did about 3/4 to 1 full inch of rocks (1/2 of a package). Top that with 2 - 3 inches of potting soil. Cover the roots of your little succulents. You'll want to get very small succulents so you can be sure they'll all fit together. You can add little rocks or knick-knacks to make it your own. Water thoroughly the first time. Then allow soil to dry out between waterings. I water mine once or twice a month depending on how dry the weather.

The plants were a little smaller than these when I started. They were the smallest I could buy.

These little ones haven't grown much because I keep them in these tiny pots that I found at Dead Horse Bay. (Note: these smaller ones dry out much quicker than the terrarium, so I water them about three times a month.)

It's not that I'm bad with plants, but I find finicky ones tough to take care of because I spend a lot of time out of my apartment. I did manage to keep a basil plant alive for several months, but it died the last time I went on vacation. (I'd previously kept it alive while on vacation by stuffing saran wrap around the base of the plant, to keep the soil moist. Basil typically needs to be watered every day or two.)

There are hundreds and hundreds of varieties of succulents. They are hard to kill (or I would've done it by now!), and they look really cute! If you feel intimidated by plants, I highly recommend having a go with these.

Peace & love,
-A

six etsy shops to love

My day job leaves me with a lot of free time between tasks which is great most of the time. Sometimes, though, it's hard to find things to do. Luckily there's Etsy! 

One of my favorite pass-times is window shopping on Etsy. There are so many wonderful shops with really really beautiful products made by super talented people! Here are a few of my most favorite shops! 
(Clockwise from top right): 1. Unitedthread; I love this shop so much. Michelle Morin's colorful bird and floral paintings are inspirational and one of these days I'm going to make one a nice home in my room! Visit her shop and her blog! 2. Whitlock & Co. makes the most beautiful "curated pillow covers handmade in the woods of North Carolina." 3. By Csera; What can I really say? I. Love. These. Cases. I am hoping to procure one for Christmas . . . we shall see! 4. Rosella Resin; Jessica and Gwynne Burgess' Rosella Resin was a featured shop on Etsy back in 2012. I, however, have only had the pleasure of discovering them recently. Their rings and bangles are just to die for! So beautiful. See for yourself! 5. River Luna; These prints are simply gorgeous. They are also whimsical and they just make me so happy when I look at them. 6. Last, but definitely not least, Wit & Whistle; Amanda Wright's cards are too funny. She's such a clever gal and her blog is just as entertaining. It can be found here. She was a featured seller, also in 2012, here is her interview!

Peace & love,
-A