Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DIY Enhance Your Shower Curtain

I was scrolling through Pinterest (as usual) and saw a GORGEOUS bathroom. The part that really struck me, though, was the scripted shower curtain. It reminded me of one I had seen a while back and really loved. The curtain was around $100, but that is totally unnecessary! The same thing can be made with just a few materials...


1. A light colored shower curtain + the sharpie of your choice
2. A medium colored curtain + the paint marker of your choice
3. A black curtain + a white paint marker or a bleach pen


You can always use stencils, too. Our curtain was black so I opted to use the paint marker that we already had. You can get paint markers at any craft store, I usually have several on hand. Fabric paint would work as well, but I feel like the markers give a cleaner look. I would have liked to try bleach, so maybe that will be a future post.
Before :)
I laid our curtain on a piece of large cardboard and free handed a quote from my favorite book. I started with really large lettering and then made it smaller each line, creating a box effect. I did that to mirror the sentiment of the quote, but it would be really beautiful to use a smaller font (the last line of my quote) and scroll script from top to bottom and side to side, covering the entire curtain. I wish I had another to do again!
It took me about 3 coats to get the shade of light grey on our black curtain. The pen was actually white, and I could have given it a few more coats to make it more white, but that would have taken every last drop of ink. I liked the black/grey look. Using a lighter colored curtain would yield much easier results. How beautiful for a cream curtain with brown lettering?? I *wish* our second bathroom had a curtain!! Maybe I'll put a false curtain up :) 
finished, but not hung
Also, don't think only in terms of lettering, you could do anything! Trace a map or a large, bold flower... your imagination is your only limitation! If you have access to a printer and projector: print out the exact design you want on transparencies, tack your curtain to the wall, project your design on to your curtain and then trace it from there. I've traced several things that way. 
Our curtain was around $10 at target. Just think, for $10 plus the cost of a sharpie/paint/bleach pen you could really change the look of your bathroom.
I did mine without a plan and by hand, that's usually how I do everything here. I really don't enjoy planning anything like this out. 'Measure twice, cut once' should be, but is in fact NOT my motto. So, maybe you just want to go for it too, or maybe you'd rather use stencils or trace from a projector- you will definitely get better results- whatever you do, make it yours! I apologize again for the photo quality. Seriously. Start sending camera suggestions to 
me. 
If you live in the Lansing, Michigan area you definitely experienced the insanity of last night. It took me forever to get home. I work 17 miles from our apartment, but I left at 9:50 pm and got home after 11! Ahhh. It was harrowing. I'm venturing out again today. I have a drama rehearsal for a piece we'll be doing in a women's home this weekend. I also have to pick something up from Macy's. We had to sell all of our cookware/bakeware when we got Odette. There was so much we didn't know about birds before we got her and apparently the fact that nonstick kills them was one more unknown fact! I *finally* replaced it last night (after nearly 5 months!) with a deeply discounted stainless steel set from Macy's. The sales lady sold it to me last night, but kept it at the store til today. By doing that I was able to access a sale and get an additional 25% off... it was really exciting. If I love the set, I'll blog about it :) We've been making do with 3 pieces currently, two copper and one stainless. So far I really prefer cooking with them over nonstick, despite all the horror stories I heard about burning/sticking/scorching. Today is going to be a wonderful day for me, and I hope it will be for you as well. As always, thanks for reading!
*Note: yes, I do realize that I'm missing the "i" in Antoine... dyslexia is taking over!

TERMS OF USE (Modified from ISLY)

This project is free for personal use is not to be distributed/republished without my consent. If this inspires a project for your own blog, that is awesome! But please remember to link back to my original post. Please do not copy this text, use the images or steal this idea for any publications. Thanks for promoting the freedom to INSPIRE!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fuse Box Overhaul + My Obsession with Aprons

Today is a day of apartment improvement. I keep finding zillions of little things to do around our home! I can't wait to show them to you this week (I painted our shower curtain, it goes up tomorrow!) :) 
The fuse box in our apartment has always bothered me. I want everything to be pretty. To make matters worse, my collection of aprons surrounds this monstrosity, which is just a shame. I love aprons. I have 14 at our house alone, and I'm always looking to add more (though, you'll see there isn't much room for any more!). 
Before + tape
Today I was looking at the fuse box and decided that it just *had* to change. I have 3 versions in this blog because I'm not sure what I'll end up with. First, I grabbed a piece of pink card stock and the extra flowers left over from last week's DIY advent calendar and brought them into our laundry room. I put the card stock against the opening panel and traced out the areas that needed to be cut. Then I cut it out and used double sided sticky tape to attach it. I did the border with the extra flowers and again, double sided sticky tape. I'm not sure if I want to leave it without the flowers, with the flowers or take it to the third level: frame, baby. I think this needs an 8 X 10 portrait in the middle. Then it may look like a matted and framed picture. Much better than an ugly old fuse box right in the middle of my prettiness. However, I think the flowers/ flowers + picture might be a little bit too overwhelming. That area is already full of so many patterns. We'll see. I just love those flowers! I want them all over our house, haha. 
Version 1
Anyway, hopefully you're inspired to do something fun to your fuse box, if it's something you have to see every day. I see mine about a zillion times per day, so there was no excusing it.
I didn't want to leave her out!
Also, my wonderful readers, I need some help. My camera is pathetic. It used to be nice, but it doesn't work well anymore. It's malfunctioning all the time and the quality just isn't good for blogging. I want a really nice camera, but not a $2,000 nice camera. If you have any suggestions, e-mail me at aundrea525@aol.com or leave a comment. It would be so appreciated! 
I have a lot more creativeness to move through, so that's all for today! Enjoy your November 29th and as always, thanks for reading!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Traditions Part 4: A Christmas Party!

Today is potentially a super full day, so I'm reluctant to make anything just yet. Tomorrow will be a big day for crafting, though! Instead of creating something new today, I thought it would be fun to share another tradition. This one isn't from my childhood, it's one that John and I started when we began dating.
The very first Christmas party
John was a straight up bachelor. There was NO cooking or anything else of the domestic variety (except for incessant cleaning...never saw a cleaner toilet in my life). From time to time he would venture an attempt at Kraft Mac & Cheese or boxed spaghetti + a can of sauce, but generally he ate massive quantities of fast food. When our first Christmas together came along, we decided to ditch the bachelor-mode for a day and make a massive party at his little apartment (which was so dear and will always be missed!). We had so much fun at our personal Christmas party that we've had one every year since!
COOKIES!
Our Christmas party, which actually requires an entire day off from work in order to be acceptable and accommodate all of the festivities, includes a massive array of fun! This is the day that the tree goes up and the season officially begins for us. John loves the tree... the first thing he does when he gets up or comes home is to turn the lights on for the tree. It goes up for us asap, usually the weekend before Thanksgiving, and then stays up through January. Is that a long time? Yes. We just can't bring ourselves to take it down! Plus it just takes soooo much work, it needs to be there for a while. I'm not showing my tree in this blog yet because I'm going  to do an entire blog about it soon.
yum.
We always bake scads of cookies as well. As the list of allergies has increased, our cookie variation has decreased. In the glory days, we had several kinds of sugar cookies, lofthouse inspired creations, chocolate chip and so on. We also had different kinds of frosting (buttercream and icing), but now it's mostly sugar-based. For this year, we were able to find a pretty good GF sugar cookie mix. I'll blog it this Friday. The cookie decorating is fun because we don't take these cookies seriously. Generally, they're all gone within two days, so it doesn't matter how goofy or wild they look. And, believe me, the more frosting and sprinkles... the better. 
There are tons of other elements; Christmas movies: The Grinch, Frosty, Rudolph, Elf... all the goodies. Popcorn tubs! We go through several of those each season, from drug store versions to the gourmet, we love them all! We always make a delicious lunch and dinner, remember, this started off as a break from bachelor life for John! Christmas music kicks it off each year and plays the entire party, as long as we aren't watching a Christmas movie. We put up our little, tiny mistletoe as well as the rest of our decorations, too. Oh, and it always includes a little nonsense like reindeer ears (so hot, right?) and what not.
The Christmas party is a huge deal to us. We talk about it all year long! It's our favorite day together and our favorite tradition. Traditions are so important in life, they bring people together and give them something to look forward to. Maybe you already have a specific "Christmas party" with your little family or roommates or whoever, or maybe you'd like to start one! I promise, setting aside an entire day and turning it into an entire celebration makes the entire season, and the process of getting a home bedecked in tinsel, so much more fun. 
John decorating :)
So there you have it! Our favorite tradition. I used pictures from a few different years, and 3 different locations! I hope you have a fantastic day and as always, thanks for reading.




Friday, November 25, 2011

Gluten Free Friday! Pizza Crust Review

I love pizza.
I love homemade pizza more.
Despite my dairy affliction, I generally consumed a lot of pizza pre-gluten abandonment and would just skip the cheese. But let's get real, what's pizza with no crust AND no cheese?! The very first thing gluten-free time I bought was Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free Pizza Crust. I was pretty excited since Bob's Red Mill generally gets high marks for their gluten-free line. However, the first attempt was vile. I really didn't like the pizza at all. It was so obviously NOT pizza crust, beyond being bland, the taste was gross. However we have made our our pizza crust for some time, and I figured there was an easy solution. I tried it again, and this time it was much better.
Want to make it better?
Here's how.


STEP ONE:
Follow the instructions. After the resting/rising period mix in 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp onion powder, salt + pepper (as much as you dare) and 1 tsp Italian seasoning. Divide into two portions, wrap and place in the fridge for a few hours to 3 days (that's as long as the mix lasts in the fridge). The longer your dough is in the fridge, the more time the spices have to permeate and flavor it. 



Rolled out
STEP TWO:
Roll the dough out super, super thin. This dough really rises in the oven... like crazy. The thicker the dough is, the worse it tastes. According to the package, this mix makes one 16 inch or two 12 inch pizzas. Not true. I rolled 1/2 the mix out to the very, very edge of our pizza stone (16 inches) and once it came out of the oven, it still rose to be pretty thick! I think you can easily get two 16 inch pizzas out of this mix. The thinner, the better. So, roll it as thin as possible and then stick it in the oven for 11-12 minutes before topping. Personally, I think the crust really needs to be in the oven before longer than the instructions listed before toppings can go on, otherwise it's soggy. Ovens do vary though. I reduced the amount of time that my pizza was in the oven with toppings to compensate (12 min).



STEP THREE:
All puffed out after 1st baking
Flavor the crust. Anything that won't be covered by sauce (which needs to be as little as possible!) needs help. Sprinkle some salt. Rub in some garlic and oil. Add some pepper and other seasonings. Grind on some hard cheese (asiago, romano, parmesan) if you aren't allergic. It will sooooo help.


STEP FOUR:
Add your toppings, bake and enjoy!



We're going to have this again tonight with some ham and pineapple on top. I'm pretty excited. I hope you had a safe black friday! I have to say, I left for work this morning at 2 am and just got home at 2 pm.... it was AMAZING to me how many people were out shopping so early this morning! Hats off to them, if I had the choice, I'd have been sleeping every time. And now... it's time to relax with John before drifting off (finally) to sweet dreams! As always, enjoy your day and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

DIY Love Bottles/Ditch the Plastic

"auna" painted on bottom
Way before the discovery of BPA leaks, I knew that plastic couldn't be good for humans. The "worst case scenario" dweller inside of me always wondered if chemicals were somehow leaking into our liquids and then we were consuming them. And it was true! Everywhere you look now, you'll see 'food safe' and 'bpa-free' plastic being sold, but I still wonder what they'll find leaking into our liquids next. 
Due to that constant paranoia, I've been drinking out of large glass bottles for some time. The ones I use hold between 27 and 32 oz of water, which is generally enough for anywhere I'll be at a given time. It's much safer, environmentally friendly and requires less trips to the drinking fountain... yay! 
Square bottle/decor tape
I never leave home without one, and they seem to get a lot of attention. Lately the girls at work have been asking me to bring them these bottles, too, which I spice up and make pretty, a la "Love Bottles". If you haven't seen a love bottle, google it. They're great. The only part I can't get on board with is the price. Way too much for me! I started to think that if so many girls at work liked them, maybe I should share it with 'la vie'... so here we go!
First, hit up your local T.J. Maxx, Homegoods, Marshall's or any sort of specialty grocery store. There you'll find the perfect bottle! I buy a French brand of fizzy pop at any of those places called "Rieme". It is the exact same shape and size as a love bottle. There are a few other brands as well, you'll see them. They cost between $2.99 and $3.99 per bottle. Much cheaper already! 
Possible supplies
Now, I don't enjoy pop, but John loves Rieme, so I give it to him. You can drink it, share it or pour it down the drain :) Next, fill your sink with SUPER HOT, soapy water and submerge the bottle(s). Let them sit for an hour or two and then rinse them clean. You should be able to entirely peel the label off with ease. If you still have residue, soak a cotton bottle in rubbing alcohol and go to town, I promise- it will get rid of it!
Next up is decor. You can choose how crazy you want to get.


(A) If you want to go super cheap, use a sharpie (but you'll have to reapply). 
(B) You can also get glass paint at Jo-Ann Fabric for $2/bottle. 
(C) There are paint markers as well, but again... I've found that those wash and rub off.  
(D) Michael's also sells transfers. I got a really cute key design for $1, I'll update you about how long it stays on.
(E) Use packing tape to secure on collage paper, stickers, designs printed from the internet/your computer. This won't be permanent, either :)
(F) You can purchase decorative packing tape at craft stores as well.
Transfers from Michael's


Stencil on a design you like (or your name!) and then color it in with your medium. If you mess up, use nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol with a q-tip to erase it.
You're done! A super cute bottle, personalized for you, and at a far greater discount. Enjoy!


Transferred on
I'd like to do some beautiful, complex design with the glass paint on to a bottle, but I'm out of bottles AND time. Maybe this weekend we'll pick up another Rieme and I'll update this afterward :)


I'm debating about a Thanksgiving post. I shouldn't... but there's so much to say this week! If I don't post tomorrow, here's to a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving! Celebrate and be content. And try not to venture out on Black Friday :) 

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

DIY Advent Calendar! + Twitter Account

Is anyone else out there super sentimental? I have a hard time throwing anything nostalgic away, including certain pieces of wrapping paper! Don't worry, I'm not a candidate for reality hoarding shows (yet). So, when my best friend threw me the most INCREDIBLE bachelorette party (even though I was already married), I had a really hard time even considering parting with some of the pieces from it. You see, she is Martha Steward's protege (or should be, anyway) and she dip dyed (by hand!) ombre tulle as well as hand panting zillions of flowers for decor. I saved both the flowers and the tulle (you'll see what I did with the tulle soon!) to be repurposed. 
Stephanie also sent me a picture of some Christmas art she thought would go well in my (very) pink home. It was a giant Christmas tree from all sorts of collage paper and magazine cut outs with 'Merry Christmas' across the top. Loved it. And when I saw it, the flowers immediately came to my mind as the centerpiece. It has been at least a year since I saw that photo, so I'm going from memory... the actual piece may not have looked anything like this! Also, I've been wanting to make an advent calendar (which always reminds me of Germany), so I decided to combine the two into this piece. Originally the background was going to be black, but I decided I didn't want a black on black frame, so I went with white instead. I'm going to make a smaller, strictly art (no advent) version in black as well. Maybe two. I really like it. 
So, what do you need??

20 x 30 piece of foam board in the color of your choice (or you can paint it with acrylic)
collage paper/magazine cut outs in your color scheme
card stock in your color scheme for the date pockets (1 piece is enough)
decorative paper for the advent tabs
glitter (if you'd like)

I don't have a printer, so I had to free hand all lettering/numbering. If you have a printer, you can do a much better job by printing those parts. If not, you can use a marker like I did.

One other part worth mentioning about this advent is that I filled the dates with things to do rather than candy. The Christmas season seems to fly by each year, so it's a fun idea to do something Christmas-ish every day. I'd love to say this was my idea, but it wasn't!  I have no idea who to credit for it, though.

STEP ONE:
Create your 24 experiences. John and I wrote them together and recorded them in my inspiration notebook. A dear friend (anna, das ist DU!) gave me a beautiful notebook with a picture of the Eiffel Tower being struck by lightning. I love that. It speaks to me... and for some reason in my head, it equates to inspiration. Every time something inspires me for 'la vie' or an idea comes to me, it gets written down here. SO- we wrote them down here. They include things like driving around to look at lights, doing a good deed, baking for the neighbors, watching a Christmas classic, opening a present early, etc. Decide what says CHRISTMAS to your family and go from there! My favorite is "around the world day" where we'll choose a culture and research their version of Christmas. From there, we'll incorporate one of their Christmas traditions into our own celebration. Fun, right? If it's foreign, it's for me! We then wrote down the experiences on little slips of paper (1 inch by 3/4 inch). I used paper because I plan to remove the slip of paper from it's pocket each day and throw it away. That's how we'll count down. If you want, you can use something like card stock with two different colored sides. As you move through the calendar, you can flip it over so that it shows a different color than the days you haven't gone past yet. I thought about using pegs above the date pockets as well, but we don't have a hole puncher :) 

STEP TWO:
Paint your board if necessary! You need to give it time to dry. If not, start laying out your tree. You can do one of two things: you can just go for it and lay out your collage pieces and scraps of paper into a tree shape OR you can cut out a tree shape from poster board and then attach the paper to it. Use all sorts of jagged pieces of paper and don't forget to put ornaments on in a contrasting color! I thought about using the zebra paper to put ornaments on my tree, but I felt like the glittered flowers were sufficient in that respect.

STEP THREE:
Close up shot of the advent section
Cut out your date pockets (I used 2 inches by 1.5 inches) and label them. Again, using a printer would be much easier, but I didn't have that option. Measure out how you want them on your board, I spaced mine 1 mm apart. Leave enough space at the top of each row for your slips of paper to poke out like tabs. After you have it all measured out, glue these first. It's easier to adjust the size of your tree than to adjust the date pockets. I only made 24 because I wanted the rows to be even. I didn't make a pocket for Christmas day, but you can definitely add one in! I glued down my pocket with the tiniest bit of glue right along the edge. Remember that the glue will spread and you need space for the slip of paper to fit in. It would be easier to use a glue stick for that purpose. Lastly, I glittered 3 dates in gold (1, 2 and 3 weeks out from Christmas), again that's just a preference. 

STEP FOUR:
Glue down your tree. This part actually took the longest amount of time for me. I started at the bottom and worked by way up, but it would be much easier to do it the other way, I think. My collage had a lot of layers, if yours doesn't, it will be easier to move quickly without compromising the shape.

STEP FIVE:
Add your lettering. If you aren't aware, I love France. I've been there multiple times and have had private French students from time to time after having taught for our community center. I love the culture, food, countryside, fashion, look, music... everything. So... I'm constantly looking for ways to sneak it into our home :) I chose to say Merry Christmas in French, but you can do it however you'd like. I hand wrote it (again... printer...) on the card stock and then cut it out. I added a line of glue over the lettering and then covered it in black glitter. I used 3M to attach these two pieces to my board, everything else was straight up elmers.


STEP SIX:
Frame and mount! You don't *need* a frame, but I think it's so much prettier! I'm showing you a picture of the calendar without a frame so you can see how much the frame adds. You can always go to the local thrift store and get a cheap frame and then spray paint it in any color you'd like. 
I really love these colors and I'm so excited to incorporate those gorgeous flowers from some one so important to me. Maybe for your tree you'll use family photos? Maybe you'll use invitations from your wedding or other important mementos. No matter what you choose to make your tree out of, I hope you have a great time and really slow down and enjoy Christmas this year. Having the experiences under THIS tree will be so much more precious in the years to come than any other presents you may give or receive under the original Christmas tree. If you're lost for ideas- here are the 24 I have in my calendar. If you have any great ideas, please add them!
1) Create a Christmas paper chain
2) Put up lights 
3) Mail our wishlist to Santa
4) Bake Christmas cookies 
5) Decorate the house
6) Watch a Christmas movie
7) Decorate the small tree 
8) Bake for the neighbors
9) Make an annual ornament 
10) Wrap presents 
11) Go sledding
12) Watch a Christmas classic
13) Go ice skating 
14) Remember those not with us
15) Go light seeing 
16) Have a candy cane eating contest 
17) Go window shopping
18) Donate to charity
19) Go caroling
20) Go sledding
21) Open one present early
22) Do a good deed
23) Drink homemade cocoa + read the story of Jesus' birth
24) Read T'was the Night Before Christmas 
Now then, I officially started a new Twitter account. This time it's specifically for all things 'la vie', which means quick links to all things crafty, beautiful, gluten-free and fun. Feel free to follow me at 'lavieauna'! Remember, you can also follow 'la vie' through twitter, networked blogs, your google account, blogger or the "follow by email" option on the left hand side bar. As always, thanks for reading!





Monday, November 21, 2011

Traditions Part 3: DIY Tepee

I really struggled with what to post today since I have 5 or 6 blogs ready NOW. I want to post them all at once, but we all know that's sliggghttlly excessive. The tepee wins out, however, since Thanksgiving quickly approaches!
If you didn't catch my post last week about Pilgrim Log Cabins from cardboard boxes, you may not know the back story. I won't repeat everything, you can read it in the link, but this was a huge part of my childhood. Every Thanksgiving my brother and I got t choose between building a log cabin and a tepee in our living room. I LOVED the tepee. We also made little headdresses to go with the theme and played to our hearts content.
Like the log cabin, the tepee is super easy (though a titch more difficult). I have no idea how either idea came to my mom, the 80's was definitely not the era of crafting or DIY. In all of my childhood homes, we had little forest areas in the backyard. For tepee years, we'd go to the back woods and round up 6-8 long, slender branches. They'd need to be about 7-8 feet long and about 2-3 inches thick. We'd bring them home, bunch the tops together with twine and spread the legs out to create the cone shape of a tepee. Next my mom would cover them in brown butcher block using a stapler and then Nick and I would decorate them with crayons and markings in what we thought were Native American symbols. Voila! Your very own, and *so* authentic tepee ;)
It honestly was great fun. My mom mentioned that she's doing the same thing for my brother's eldest daughter. Penelope is about as adventurous and adorable as they come, so I can only imagine how much she LOVES it. If you have a little person in your life, and access to branches (though you could always use lumber or PVC pipe from Home Depot) give it a whirl! They will have the greatest time and you'll be creating moments that last forever.
We have a full line up in 'la vie' this week! I've got a gorgeous advent calendar, DIY Love Bottles, lots of fun Christmas decor, Gluten-free goodness and more! As always, have a wonderful day and thanks for reading! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

BEST EVER GF Chocolate Cookies + 3 Variations

I don't even know where to begin with these cookies. I saw them floating around on pinterest a long time ago and saved them for my sister who has Celiac Disease. They looked soooo incredible and enticing, despite the gluten-free label on them. The final selling point was the fact that they are also dairy free, and then I knew that I had a casein allergy (milk protein). If you haven't heard, I was also recently told the cut the gluten out of my diet, and now 'la vie' is going gluten free! I immediately knew this had to be my first recipe, I loved it because it didn't contain the usual GF ingredients that make the specialty food taste "off". Let me tell you what. These are amazing. Whether you have dietary restrictions or not, you will LOVE these. I promise. Fudgy, chewy, insanely chocolate filled... oh.my.word. I adapted the standard recipe from Epicurious, tweaking it a bit. I also am including three other variations of the cookie as well for the holiday season. I made all 4 kinds today and they were all awesome the first time through, so the post can be done today! Maybe Friday will now be Gluten-Free Friday for "la vie".

STANDARD RECIPE
Nonstick vegetable oil spray/Misto (I use a Misto)
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (about 9 ounces), divided
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar + more for rolling cookies in
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

Mint Chocolate
VARIATION ONE: Mint Chocolate
Sub in 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract for the vanilla/almond
Sprinkle the dough balls with crushed starlight mints instead of powdered sugar

VARIATION TWO: Aztec Chocolate
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Sprinkle the dough balls with chili powder

VARIATION THREE: Peanut Butter Chocolate
Replace 1/2 cup of chocolate chips with 1/2 cup of peanut butter chips 

Ready to make them? Here we go!
Aztec Chocolate
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray. Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in a double broiler, taking care not to burn. Alternatively, melt them in glass bowl in the microwave, stirring twice, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly.
Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar. Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow creme. Whisk 1 cup sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend, stir in extract. On low speed, beat together the sugar/cocoa mixture into the meringue. Stir in lukewarm chocolate and 1/2 cup chocolate chips (dough will become very stiff).
Peanut Butter Chocolate
Place extra rolling sugar (or peppermint, cinnamon sugar) in a small bowl. Roll 1 rounded tablespoon dough into ball; roll in sugar, coating thickly. Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and tops crack, about 10 minutes. Cool on sheets on rack 10 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.
If your dough isn't thick enough to roll into the sugar, just let it sit for a few minutes, it will become less runny.

Close up ;)
I couldn't wait for them to cool before devouring so props to you if you can! Today has been a really great day and I'm excited to see what happens next. Last night I experimented with GF pizza and it was vile. John said he couldn't tell the difference. That means that I'm officially looking for a new taste tester ;) Just kidding, John!! However, I have a plan of attack and we're going to try the pizza again tomorrow night. I'll let you know how it turns out. Enjoy your day and as always, thanks for reading!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

DIY Upcycling Sweaters

Have you ever wished you had taken the salesperson's advice? I have a series of sweaters from Express that I love. I started with one and ended up with 4 in different colors! But when I first tried it on in the fitting room, I decided I liked the larger size of two that I tried on. I thought it looked cool baggy. The lady running the fitting room saw me and insisted that I go down a size, but I refused. 
Well. She was right.
I dread wearing the first one I got (black, see left) because it looks soooo unappealingly huge.  I've mentioned before that for work, I have to wear all black. I'm really not into buying clothes for work, so I've been trying to repurpose what I already have. This is the first (and easiest!) piece that I'll show you. It is SO simple that I'm only showing one picture! 
So, if you have a sweater that is too huge (or you want to steal one from the man in your life!) you can definitely tailor it down to fit you. I really like sewing knits. 
As you can see, All I did was turn the sweater inside out and pin from bottom to top. Then, run it through your sewing machine (zig zag stitch), cut off the excess and you're done! My sleeves fit ok so I didn't need to trim them. If you discover that you need to trim yours then just keep pinning all the way to the tip of your sleeve. Remember  make a gradual turn along the underarm, you don't want any sharp edges, the sweater won't lay right. 
Today is (technically) my day off this week, but I've got a haircut, French lesson and ballet scheduled so I'm in quite a rush! I'll keep it short and sweet. I also want to stop off at the goodwill in town to find a certain black item that can be turned into a dress.
Have a great day and as always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Traditions Part 2: DIY Log Cabins for Children

My mom absolutely loves Thanksgiving. In fact, it literally breaks her heart each year to see it get swept away in the midst of early Christmas decorations and Black Friday. She absolutely refuses to start Christmas until after Thanksgiving is over and I think she's secretly disappointed in my choice to set up my tree every year well before then. Given her huge respect for the that special Thursday in November, it really isn't any surprise that she made Thanksgiving so fun and exciting for Nick and I. Every year she gave us the choice of transforming our living room into the humble abode of either a pilgrim or a native american. So, that means that every year an entire room in our house was devoted to either a tepee or a log cabin! Today I'm featuring the log cabin, because I can't find a picture of our *awesome* tepee scanned into my hard drive. Don't worry... I *will* find one! 
As you can in the photo above, Pilgrims Nick and Aundrea are sitting down to a lovely meal, surrounded by our favorite friends (note the white bear wearing a headdress of some sort?). Also note that Nick is eating a plastic apple. Hahaha. Love you, brother! We had a great time, though, and these days of building our little home and playing in it rank really high as favorite memories. If you have little people in your life, I really encourage you to take this on... it is so much fun!
For our log cabins, my mom would find the BIGGEST boxes she could. Massive boxes. Then Nick and I would draw on the outside to make it look like we thought it should (which you can see is clearly... very interesting). After that, My mom would cut in windows and doors for us with a box cutter. We also got little pilgrim hats from construction paper. Then we didn't have many options, but the craft world has exploded since my mom was in her twenties. Now, you could get a roll of wood-esque paper for $3 from Michael's to cover the outside with! How about decorating the window sills with paper flowers? Be free: explore, expand and have fun with it!
I really do hope this inspires you. It's one of the more personal things I've shared with 'la vie'. My mom was (is) a pro at making the best of what she has. She always did that for Nick and I. They were very, very young parents who were just starting out in life, but everything for us was always fun and special. So mom and dad, I'm *so* very thankful for your lives this Thanksgiving, I really hope you know how much I love you! For everyone else, enjoy! Create some lasting memories with your own little people and check back soon for the Tepee (which was my favorite!). As always, thanks for reading!



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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

'la vie' announcement!

Today is announcement day! 
Are you ready?
I guess it isn't that big of a deal for you... but it is for me ;)
Those of you who know me well know that I already have an astounding number of food allergies (dairy, eggs, rice, iron... the list goes on...), but this past Saturday I got some news that apparently I'm also gluten intolerant. 
The dreaded moment of my life.
My (beloved) sister was diagnosed with Celiac disease nearly 10 years ago. I have watched her for years now and been so sad for her. A life without bread and pasta seems no life at all. I just *knew* down in my heart, though, that someday I'd have to join her.
That day has come.
I don't know if I can really stress enough my love affair with all things wheat. I absolutely love all of it. In fact, because of my other allergies, I subsided mostly on bread. However, as sad as this diagnosis is, it isn't nearly as grim as it could be. When my sister was taken away from the wonderful world of wheat, there were ZERO options for her. None. Now there is a plethora of gluten-free products to choose from! It's a much better time now.
So, what does this mean for 'la vie'? Well, from now on the cooking/baking aspect of my blog will be centered around this. 'la vie' is gluten-free, baby! I'm really excited to try my hand at baking and cooking without gluten. Here you'll be able to find which stores carry which products and for what price. I'll also provide delicious options (scones, anyone?) and I'm currently working on a pizza dough recipe that you can make for yourself! For those of you who can still eat bread (jealous.), I'll be sure to include the original recipe before it was de-glutenified. 
So- that's my news!
Today is short and sweet... it is a GORGEOUS day outside and I want to take a bike ride when John gets home! That means I need to get this house in order before then ;) 
Enjoy your day and thanks for reading!

Monday, November 14, 2011

DIY Peppermint Hot Chocolate

What is your favorite flavor combination in the world? I have a hard time saying anything is my absolute favorite since I have several favorites of ... *everything*. However, chocolate + peppermint is way, way up high on the list. I absolutely love it. I cannot get enough of it. York peppermint patties, mint chocolate chip ice cream ... I love it all. Peppermint just speaks to me.
Recently I posted a blog from McDonald's about two elderly ladies having a hilarious conversation. I went there to kill some time between engagements and while in line I saw that they now have a Peppermint Mocha and a Peppermint Hot Chocolate. Yum! As appealing as they looked, though, I couldn't get on board with the price. The smallest cocoa was $1.99 and the smallest mocha was $2.49. No thanks. I could feed John and I a great dinner for $2.49! I have a real issue with spending money on drinks, hence my DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte. Creating these two drinks is so insanely easy that I couldn't justify buying them and decided to make blogs instead. If you missed the Peppermint Mocha, click here. 
Homemade hot chocolate is fun to make and tastes so much better than the swiss packets. As the weather cools down, you can expect a blog from me next week with a basic hot chocolate recipe and then several variations of it (caramel, aztek, cinnamon... you get the idea). There aren't too many ingredients needed today, only....

1.5 cups of milk (any kind you'd like. Whole dairy or soy will give you the creamiest texture)
3 tbs semi-sweet chocolate chips OR 1.5 tbs dark cocoa powder
5 crushed starlight mints (reserve some for topping)
4-5 large marshmallows
Whipped cream and chocolate sauce (optional- toppings)

First, crush your starlight mints. I got a small pack of about 20 mints from the local gas station for fifty cents, which is way better than buying a large pack. My mom would use a hammer to crush them, but I used a rolling pin. A hammer works better. Unwrap your mints and place them in a ziplock bag. Place the bag on a cutting board and crush! You can leave them wrapped if you'd like, just make sure you unwrap them over a bowl since they'll be messy.
The more finely you crush them, the easier the recipe will be. Place your mints in a cup and add your chocolate chips. Set aside. As you can see, mine are chocolate chunks. They were chocolate chips once upon a time, and then I left them in a sunny car. Oops. It worked still, though, I crushed them up and then measured my chunks of chocolate.
Next, place your milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Tear up your marshmallows into little pieces and drop in. You can use mini-marshmallows if you'd rather not tear up big ones. Stir in the mallows until they melt and reduce the heat to medium (simmer). Continue stirring the milk mixture with a whisk. Add in your chocolate and peppermint. Stir until melted. You'll have to keep stirring here, you want those peppermint pieces to melt and not to stick to the bottom of your pan. If they stick to your whisk, that's fine. Just keep stirring and eventually they'll melt in.
Once everything has melted and is well combined, pour it into your cup! Top with whipped cream add the remaining crushed peppermint. You can sprinkle on some cocoa powder or chocolate sauce for extra credit. mmm. I love it. It's a known fact that John doesn't like warm drinks (he reallyyyy doesn't) and hates peppermint + chocolate (sad, sad boy) but he still admitted that it was pretty good! I considered that a huge feat. I actually offered it to him having forgotten both of those massive dislikes, but that's ok. He drank it anyway. Isn't he sweet?
I have some big changes (more!) to announce about 'la vie' this week. I may write another blog about it today or I may save it for later this week. Right now, I need to go sew some more black pieces for the November Refashion series. I should probably clean the house, too, in preparation for Christmas decor. Our tree goes up this week!!! I'm very excited. We're going to try placing it in a new spot this year, I think it will work better. Oh, by the way- I'm not sure if I mentioned it or not, but this recipe only serves one. You can double or triple to your hearts content, though. Well, I'm off! Have a beautiful day and as always, thanks for reading! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

DIY Peppermint Mocha

I'm pretty excited about how this turned out! It only took two tries this morning to get perfection and let me tell you... I really enjoyed drinking my mocha at 7 am. It would have only taken one try (since the recipe didn't change) except that my first method caused a massive explosion of coffee and chocolate across my kitchen.
Oops.
Anyway, I'm including multiple versions/ingredients depending on your preference or how much time you want to give, so be sure to read the footnotes.

ALL STAR VERSION:
6 oz. coffee (I used plain- extra credit for peppermint or chocolate flavor)
1/3 c. milk
2-3 tbs semi-sweet chocolate chips*
6 crushed starlight mints**
Whipped cream
Chocolate sauce***

*You can substitute 1.5 tbs of dark chocolate baking powder
** You can substitute a shot of peppermint syrup
*** You can omit entirely, this is to drizzle on the whipped cream

STEP ONE:
Brew your coffee, crush your starlight mints (reserve the equivalent of one mint for topping your whipped cream).

STEP TWO:
Combine coffee, crushed mints, milk and chocolate chips in a pan. Simmer til the chocolate and mints have melted.

STEP THREE:
Pour into your mug, top with whipped cream. If you'd like, drizzle on chocolate and add a dusting of cocoa powder and crushed starlight mints.

STEP FOUR:
ENJOY! Note, if you'd like a quicker version, use peppermint syrup and cocoa powder or chocolate sauce. These don't require melting. You can just add them to your coffee and stir... however, the result isn't as wonderful. You can also just add the chocolate and crushed mints to super hot coffee and allow them to melt before adding in your milk.

my two favorite things
I'm going to give the hot chocolate another go tonight... I want it to be SO delicious! Check the blog tomorrow to read the post. Also, I have two or three pieces almost ready to blog about for the black fashion repurpose. I have a sweater, skinny pants and a boyfriend blazer. I'm especially excited about the latter since I've been waiting for a full month to make it! I stole one f John's blazers foreeevverrr ago, but with a broken sewing machine it just wasn't happening.
As always, thanks for reading!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Only at McDonalds?

Generally, I don't spend much time at McDonalds. However, you'll often find me here abusing the wi-fi privileges with a yogurt parfait if I'm between engagements. I have an hour before dance and it isn't worth the gas to go home... so here I am.
I just have no other choice but to blog about the bizarre-ness that I'm currently drinking in. I chose a nice, quiet corner to be alone in and quickly was joined by two elderly ladies having a little social get together. I'd say they're both in their 80's. One has a very southern voice and the other speaks in such a way I've never heard. Her voice is the sort that actresses fake while playing elderly villains for Disney cartoons. High pitched? Check. Nails on a chalkboard quality? Check. Sends chills of terror down your spine? Check.

My introduction to them began like this...
(said to me about my laptop... by the scary-voice) "Is that an i-pOd?"
(me) "no, ma'am, I wish it was!" (i could sell it on ebay for another laptop PLUS some ching!)

I thought that was funny enough... but their conversation has been super entertaining. Enjoy some bits, as I hear them...

(Scary voice)"There's no cream in my coffee! Did you get cream in your coffee? My coffee is black! Why wouldn't they put cream in my coffee. Do you have cream in your coffee? Is your coffee black?! ... let me go get some cream for your coffee..."
(Southern voice.... 30 seconds after her friend left, loudly...) "By golly- this IS black! There is NO cream in this coffee!"

(Southern voice... reading something, I'm not sure what) "Vendooor and son. Vendor and son. John Deer. Venndor and son. Vennndooorr and Son. John Deer. Hm."

(Southern voice) "it smells so fresh... especially the sheep!"

(Scary voice) "She has 29 kids and she's having another one!"
(Southern voice) "No she has 19 kids"
(Scary voice) "No... she has TWENTY NINE kids!!"
(Southern voice) "NO, she has 21 and she's having one more!" (what happened to 19??)
(Scary voice) "Maybe that's it. But I think she has 29 kids" (talking about the Duggar family, I believe)

(Scary voice) "My daughter said she's coming to see me tonight. She says if she isn't here by 10, she isn't coming."
(Southern voice) "Oh my... I could NEVER stay up til 10!!"

(Scary voice): "Last night I had spaghetti... and then I put clam chowder on top!!"
(Southern voice): "Mashed potatoes. I like mashed potatoes."
(Scary voice): "I know how to eat those... I put some water on top and stick them in the microwave!"

(Scary voice): "It's snowing!!!" (seriously, it isn't. there are flakes in the sky... maybbeee)
(Southern voice): "We'd better hurry up so we can make it home!"
(Scary voice): "No... maybe that's hail?"
(Southern voice): "it is REALLY coming down!" (It's not... I promise.)
(Scary voice): "We'd better stay here and wait it out."
(Southern voice): "I'm not waiting- I'm leaving before it's too late!"
(Scary voice): "It's 'cumulatin', we'd better wait til it quits!"

(Southern voice): "Welp. We're in Michigan!"

(Southern voice): "My coffee's too hot"
(Scary voice): "well drink it!"
(Southern voice): "No... did you put cream in it?"
(Scary voice): "Well...  don't you DARE put sugar in it!!!!!"

And that's all I have time for today! Enjoy. They're really quite sweet... and somehow I see my future in this.

In other news, tonight I'm going to create my own Peppermint Mocha and Peppermint Hot Chocolate... Check back tomorrow night for the post!

Ps- Now they're fighting with a McDonald's team member about whether her uniform is khaki or green. This girl doesn't stand a chance.