Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fall... soothing & tranquil

I remember a couple of weeks ago, I opened up my social media apps, and it was as if, overnight, the whole world had gone stark-raving mad with piles upon piles of fall decor.

It made me feel kind of sick.
I experience this same feeling each year around this time, and it's definitely caused me to pause and consider, before bedecking my own little halls.  I've definitely changed my ways, as my style has changed into a bit... less over the years. And the question I'm always asking these days as I scroll through my feed of chaos is, "Shouldn't seasonal decorating be more about enhancing the soothing and tranquil vibe our home heralds for our loved ones?"  It seems like more and more, it's become all about morphing and transforming your home into a space that's completely new and different.  And spending gobs of money on these massive transformations.  Wha???

Remember when grandma's house was peaceful because it was predictable?  Everything that came out during the seasons were familiar (perhaps quirky and old fashioned, but even that holds a comforting familiarity that seems to be lost these days.)  Now, people are racing to places like Target, to gobble up every scrap of seasonal tidbits that can be scattered on every flat surface, and it gives your eyeballs a headache after too long.

I want to be a slightly different voice out there at this point in my life.  My father is slowly dying before my very eyes and what I thought was really important, wasn't.  What's actually meaningful to my family, is a place that feels soothing, rather than jarring.  I've always been big on making our home a haven, but seasonal spaces often go by different rules.  This year, I decided to keep the "rules" much the same and keep everything pretty much the way it always is around here. 

I am too tired to try to transform my entire space into a place that neither of us have ever seen before, (and just why?) and also, I'm on a budget, so heaping my table with impractical centerpieces just so I can snap a great, fake, staged house tour image makes no sense.  (Those drive me bonkers and I think they need to stop.) (And this is coming from a girl who loves centerpieces...but the real ones!)

Today, I swept my floor, unrolled a brand new rug that my husband sweetly included into our budget (Wayfair), to replace the really tiny $30 shabby one we had been using, and since the sun was out, I snapped a few photos of it all, for you... as it was.  (It was clean because I clean.  It wasn't staged, it was just picked up because that's how it is here on a pretty much constant basis.)  I barely did anything extra to welcome fall this year, and it's perfection to my own heart.  A touch here and there, real life, functionality and simplicity.  I crave that in social media.  Do you know what I mean?

One of my friends and I were texting as the fall craze hit social media, and both of us were pulling things back off shelves and such because our brains hurt from the overload.  We saw a photo with a single pumpkin sitting on a shelf, and it was like a calm in the storm.






 

 I'm trying to be patient while I wait for the completion of my birthday present open shelf here... I can't wait to stock simple while plates and bowls there.




 I also want to share about this pillow because it fits perfectly into the minimal fall sweetness I'm working on creating over here.  (It was gifted to me, and I couldn't love it more.)  It is well made and simple and I'm pretty sure this is going to be a forever favorite.  It was made by a local girl with an Etsy shop and her pillows are all lovely, and come with the inserts too!

Please do check out her holiday designs- They are swoony! (You can click here to shop.)




Throughout the home, my goal was to make fall... soothing and tranquil. 

I pulled out furry blankets and throws, plumped pillows, freshened bedding, and set out yummy smelling candles, several that were gifts. (I recently had a birthday and was massively spoiled.) These are things I do each year, seasonally and that alone feels like the best form of simplified fall decorating.  I do enjoy seasonally changing out a few artwork pieces and wall hangings, but this year, I found myself leaving many more open and empty spaces on the walls through the house.  

I don't know if you've experienced the seasonal social media overload like I did, but I do hope this post encourages you to take a step back, make it work, make it function, and make it a haven.  

XOXO,
Sasha
 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Effortless fall cake- Pumpkin with maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

The weekend is nearly upon us, and I'm already planning the fall-ish goodies I can make and feed my family...

Last weekend, we were extremely blessed to spend time with my grandma, who had travelled to see us.  I got the privilege of hosting a nice, loud extended family gathering in my home and I have a few things to say about it.  When you gather seventeen people for food, a little planning is needed. (Like huge water dispensers with plastic cups and sharpies to mark everyone's names, along with an empty garbage and disposable dining supplies.) But here's the main thing... more people would do this if they had a few tips and tricks up their sleeve. For example, my son had a huge cross country meet the next day so I knew I'd be making pasta for him.  I decided to make two huge pans of lasagna ahead of time, and I assembled them in about ten minutes time, using no-cook gluten free lasagna noodles. (I did this all the day before) There are several dietary concerns in this crowd so I also made a small noodle-less lasagna using all the other same ingredients (meat sauce, mozzarella and parmesan) except I substituted zucchini strips for the noodles.

I delegated as people asked what they could bring, by taking several family members up on bringing apple cider, a green salad, and some garlic bread.  All I needed to prepare was the lasagna, and like I said, I don't fuss and bother, I do sauce with meat in it, cheese, noodles, repeat.  So easy and quick.  I wanted to make a special cake since this was an occasion to celebrate, and I'm a bit partial to bundt cakes in the fall.

Here's how easy this was.

I purchased a gluten free vanilla cake mix (I used Bob's)- any could work well, and prepared according to the instructions.  (Before mixing this, I buttered the bundt, and then used a tbsp. of the dry cake mix to "flour" the pan.  This is a trick I learned years ago and it works wonderfully. Do this over the bowl you're mixing the cake in, and an excess will simply fall back into it)  I also added half a can of pumpkin puree, and the spices it listed for a pumpkin pie, on the back of the can.  Those were 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger and1/4 tsp cloves.

I popped the cake into the oven and baked it.

For the frosting, I dumped two cans of cream cheese frosting into a bowl, and stirred in 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup, 1/8 tsp pure maple extract (don't skimp on this) and 1 tsp cinnamon.  You can add more if you need a more intense maple cinnamon flavor but this was perfect for us.  Once the cake was cooled and flipped onto a plate, I used a pastry bag (a spoon works well too) and piped lines of frosting back and forth over the top.  It looks almost fancy but it couldn't have been easier.  Almost homemade, but mostly just tweaked.  And yummy. 
I meant to snap a few "after being cut" images, but it was gone that very night... inhaled mostly, and I need to tell you this.  There are a few gluten free food haters in the crowd and they were all mumbling around mouthfuls of cake, "Seriously, this is gluten free???!!"

I also caught my uncle dishing up all the icing that had been left on the cake plate with his second slice.  So there ya go.  

This cake may actually unite families.  Or perhaps simply unite them over liking gluten free pumpkin cake with maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting. 

Either way, I'll take it. 

XOXO, 
Sasha 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Celebrating, my way

I recently had a birthday.  Birthdays are a pretty big deal in this family four pack.  We love to celebrate the heck out of each other.  Honestly, that's how everyone should approach birthdays in my opinion.  My people always try to make it extra special, especially my man.  This year was no exception.  He ordered me a gluten free birthday cake from a local bakery and ripped a cupboard off the wall for some open shelving (more on that soon I hope.) Everyone agreed to play Phase 10, and the rule was that nobody could skip the birthday girl. 

(So of course I won. And I felt no guilt either.)

There were also one minute dance parties in between shuffling for rounds, to 90's music.  (Those should always be a thing, don't you think?) Adrain totally caved to our peer pressure and did his signature dance move, the T-rex, in which he actually dances as though he is a T-rex dinosaur.  It is maybe my favorite thing ever.  (Why don't I have this on video tape?)
We also had what we dubbed "hat rounds" in which we all had to wear a crazy hat.  There was a cowboy hat, a couple of lacy bonnets, a beret, a purple velvet hat, and a George Washington hat.  (There was also a George Washington costume, which got worn by two of the men of this house at various points, to my absolute delight.) (I also wore a tiara that my daughter handed me most of the afternoon and evening.  I had a revolving door of beloved friends popping in with treats and flowers and such, and not one of them seemed to find it odd that I had that on.) (Which tells you everything you need to know about my friends.  I read a quote once that said, "Show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are."  Yup.)





I'm not sure if you're considering hosting a small, celebratory gathering soon, but this was such a low-stress event, I can't recommend it enough.  Honestly, one of the things I love, is the easy, effortless casual feel this kind of night has.  For dinner, we made two giant cheese trays for easy nibbles. Everyone always loves this, and it takes minutes to put together.  We did one at each end of the table, placed crackers into small buckets from the grocery store, and let people dish and help themselves on tiny plates.  Olives, cashews, sliced meats, various cheeses, crackers and savory jams rounded out the evening alongside some pink champagne for me, and wine for the other adults.  It was such a fun party from start to finish.  This was definitely my kind of celebration! 

XOXO, 
Sasha 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Currently...

Hello Lovelies...

Happy September to you all.  We are still experiencing a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest so it doesn't yet feel like fall is "right around the corner" but I know it is, and my boots are ready!  I even bought some ingredients for a pumpkin spice bundt cake so stay tuned because I'll share the recipe once it cools down enough to turn the oven on again.

We've been getting settled into school starting and I've been struggling (as always) to find the family rhythm of routine again.  It's been so fun watching my kiddos drive off together, rather than take a school bus.  I sure love having them in the same school, and on the same time schedule this year!  I've been making it a point to focus on all of the things I have to be thankful for, rather than what is difficult or challenging. 

I'm working hard to journal my simple thankfuls on Instagram, because those small things can be such a joy if I only have eyes to see them.  It's easy to get really bogged down by the daily "must do's" and "what if's" instead of focusing on the good, the blessed, and see the peace in the moment, of the story that's been planned out by the Creator.  I keep my simple thankfuls journal, as a way to daily, turn my focus onto the good.  Lately, the verse about being weary and heavy laden has swirled in my head and I know that I'm not meant to carry such heavy loads.  God promises to give us rest if we give our burdens over.  Finding ways to be thankful in all things is a practical way for us to do that....and in return, we get peace and rest. 


With my kids back in school again, I walked around tweaking and cleaning the other day.  It had been a long time since I had incorporated a "currently" post, so this is sort of along those lines.  I spent an entire day painting and touching up all of the white in our home... trim, cabinets, doors, etc. That is the reality of living in a white home.  It does require upkeep in order to look fresh and clean.  I decided it was also time for some new kitchen hardware.  I'm slowly replacing knobs and handles and I'll be sharing those with you soon, as that is such an easy way to bring your space up to a more current feeling. 

In my office, early bits of fall are appearing, with this jar of pheasant feathers.  It was so pretty and simple, I wanted to share this as one of my current loves.  The jar was from Ikea several years ago, but I'm pretty sure they still carry them.  The feathers came from Michael's also years ago, but they always have them as well. 

We are currently loving this football schedule and it's a really good idea if you've got some fans in your home! (The chalk door was getting so banged up that it needed a repaint, and I decided to go back to all white, rather than another coat of chalk paint.) I love these small rolls of masking paper from Sherwin Williams (about $3-5) because they come in different widths and are perfect for hanging.  I strung mine with a strip of cream leather on a command hook and used a chalk pencil for the schedule.  My boys really love it and keep track of wins and losses on it.  I love it because it's pretty.  Truth. 

I'm  a little bit obsessed with this entire corner.  The corn husk wreath gets all the heart eyes from me.  I honestly think I may find a place to keep it up year round, but would that be weird?  It is a corn husk wreath... might get all dusty.  Anyway.  I made it after seeing it on Martha Stewart's site. 

Honestly.

I wanted to throw it all out a window about eleventy-hundred times while making it.  She makes everything sounds so easy!  It's not.  And it's messy.  And I had third degree burns all from my hot glue gun.  But... just look at it...

You can search for the diy on her site but it's not very instructional.  All I can tell you is that it's such an inexpensive craft.  The straw wreath form was $3.  The corn husk packages were about $2/ea and I grabbed two from the Mexican food aisle at the grocery store and had tons left.  I already had a spray bottle of water, glue gun and straight pins.  It took about two hours to make, and was definitely trial and error until I got going, then I had it figured out and it went like clock work.  It's mostly about spraying and shaping, pinning, and then gluing when dry.  And then cleaning up massive mess once done. Ha!


Another current love.  Nibble dinners.  We are so busy, this is the perfect late summer, early fall weekend meal.  Still so warm outside that we're grilling, and not using the oven so we do a lot of meat and cheese platters.  I've searched Pinterest so many times and there are many easy combos for pulling nibbles out of the fridge and pantry and feeding your people.  Easy and I love that. (This olive dish was from Amazon and I am pretty passionate about my love for this dish. Ha!)
I am currently loving this good idea.  Yoplait has a new yogurt out called "Oui" and it comes in the most darling, tiny French jars.  I bought a bunch, (made Adrain eat the yogurt) and then peeled labels off, washed them and they are perfect for tea lights! They aren't flat on the bottoms so the tealights can be tricky.  (I don't like adding sand to every glass vessel, so I light a candle, drip wax in the middle and then adhere my tealight to that, to center them. That works okay until they get too hot.  Maybe Yoplait will heart of this idea and start making them flat for candles...)

Now this is a diy that isn't actually a diy but I'll give you the general idea on how to make these yourself.  It's my current obsession.  Leather earrings.  Joann's sells scrap leather packs and these three actually came together.  I loved the combos of gray, redish leather and a textured sparkly pale shade.
I purchased earring hooks (no idea what they are called) and jump rings and cut out tear drop shapes in varying sizes.  You'll want to create a template on paper first for all three sizes, then trace and cut out with sharp scissors. (Tip, if you fold the paper in half, you get a symmetrical shape.)  I used a large needle to make holes for the jump rings at the tops, closed the jump rings over the earring hooks.  After that, I cut a fringe around the bottoms of each leather drop to finish them off.  I love them because they are light statement earrings.
So easy to create! 
I'm hoping the weather cools a bit soon, because I'm so ready to jump ahead into nightly soups and crock pot meals and I can't wait to blog about all things fall...  I think everyone loves Fall.  It seems like the most perfect season, sprinkled with pumpkin everything.  I am like a moth to a flame when it comes to fall flavors.  I even broke out my knitting the other night.  However, it's awfully easy to get trapped into always looking forward and never being here, currently.  You see quotes all over the place about not looking back and I'm sure that's a thing for a lot of people, but honestly there needs to be more quotes about not jumping into the next season too soon because most of us are guilty of this (myself included) and then we miss the now! I'm sharing two late summer/early fall loves in this post, but cautiously, because  I feel as though social media is inundated with constant looking too far forward.  I think it causes us undue stress and more weariness and burdens to be honest.  We can't wait for fall, and people are breaking out fake pumpkins in August and starting home tours before the leaves are even changing.  We can't wait for the holidays and there are Christmas decorations for sale before Halloween! (WTFruitcake!!??)  It's easy to not be currently present... I read a quote the other day that stopped me still.  It said, "It is a mistake to look too far ahead.  Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time." (Supposedly by)- Churchill

I'm just as excited about fall as the next person, (if not more) but I'm working on being here, now, and being thankful in this here and now.  I crave peace alongside appropriately timed anticipation, like it was when we were kids.  We vaguely knew fall was coming, and with it, Halloween candy, pumpkins, thanksgiving and such, but were still busy playing hard outside while the days were warm. Life is hurtling forward on me, and I find myself digging my heels in a bit  to slow the passage of time so I can anticipate it and savor it a bit more.  Losing my daddy slowly, day by day to Alzheimer's and having teens so close to flying the nest sure makes me appreciate this very moment a lot more. 

Don't let the world push pumpkin everything on you too soon dear ones.  Savor today with me....

XOXO,
Sasha