I’m Feeling Inspired – Holiday Cookies

Today is my last day in DC and it’s been an amazing trip, I’ve loved every second. So since I’m still travelling, this weeks grocery challenge is delayed until I get back into town, and over to the store tomorrow. Until then, I thought I’d share some amazing holiday cookies I’ve found on Pinterest.

I’m curious…what is your favorite holiday cookie? Or, favorite holiday dessert?

Mine used to be a simple oatmeal cookie (with orange zest) dipped in dark chocolate. Now I’d probably reach for the homemade toffee.

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Via: Annie’s Eats

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Via: Martha Stewart

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Via: Your Cup of Cake

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Via: Apple A Day

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Via: PinLaVie

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Via: Chef in Training

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Via: The Girl Who Ate Everything



See ya when I’m back home!

Mental Dumbbells – November 2012

I’m a little late in posting the Book recap for November, but so far it includes some of my favorite books, and a new favorite author. In October I discovered Michelle Moran’s book, Cleopatra’s Daughter which I LOVED! So I went in search for her other novels and found historical fiction novels for ‘The Heretic Queen’, ‘Madame Tussaud’, and ‘Nefertiti’. More on them below and she still has one other story that I’m reading this month. I’m obsessed I tell you!


What have you been reading?


The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe (P.S.)

I believe I purchased this book at Target and it did not disappoint. It was so much more than I thought it would be, and incredibly inspiring. It’s the story of a country in turmoil, and a family that had to figure out a way to survive as the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan. I found the book fascinating (and at times sad/disturbing) in the description of how women, in particular, were/are forced to live. Female children being banned from school, curfews enforced, attire dictated, women beaten in the streets if so much as a wrist shows, etc. It’s certainly not something that I’m familiar with, and I found it to be a great learning opportunity for me to better understand what another country was going through. Throughout the book you are following Kamila who became the breadwinner for the family when her father and brother had to flee for their safety. She taught herself a new skill, created a business that not only provided for her family, but provided a means for other families to support themselves. It was an incredibly inspiring (and true!) story. Definitely recommend.



From Notting Hill with Love…Actually

After the above book, I wanted something that was light and funny. I’m not sure why, but I started this book with very low expectations. However, I really enjoyed it. It’s a romantic comedy, the story of a young women who LOVES the movies. She finds herself somewhat stuck in life, and take a 1 month ‘vacation’ to house-sit at a gorgeous home in Notting Hill. She has the classic funny Rom Com pitfalls. Meets the cute neighbor, goes looking for her long-lost mother, and ends up in a love triangle. It has a sweet ending that left me smiling. If you’re familiar with films, then you’ll also enjoy the numerous movie references throughout.



Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

So here we are back with the same author that wrote Cleopatra’s Daughter. Michelle Moran has become one of my favorite authors this past month so I won’t say too much. I don’t want to bore you as I gush about how much I LOVED all her novels. Just know that I do…LOVE LOVE LOVE them. This book was the story behind the Madame Tussaud wax museums. I had no idea there was  history to how those came about. I honestly thought they were a tourist trap, but after reading this book I want to visit one. Granted she takes some liberties with the histories to make them slightly more interesting, but this story was fascinating. The story involves Marie Antoinette and her family and how Madame Tussaud survives the Reign of Terror.

Simply fascinating.



Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love

I had to break up the novels at some point in the month and I’m a huge fan of the blog, Young House Love, so this was a no brainer. Loved the book, great ideas and layout. Easy to read and will be a great interior reference book in my library. Easily one of my favorite decorating books/blog…enough said.



The Heretic Queen: Heiress of Misfortune, Pharaoh’s Beloved

Another Michelle Moran novel. This one is probably my third favorite so far. I should have read Nefertiti first, since this book dealt with a relative of hers and how her actions affected this young girl. There were moments that lost me since I wasn’t familiar with Nefertiti’s story. Other than that, loved the book. It’s a detailed and interesting about how a young girl blasted by her relation to a ‘heretic’ becomes queen. Amazing historical detail, a fascinating story.

(Not the cover I have)


Nefertiti: A Novel

Okay, last book for last month and it caught me up on the story I read previously. My least favorite of the bunch since I really ended up disliking the main character, but still a fascinating read. It’s amazing is that given the liberties the author takes, these are still stories based on real people. The author includes a section at the end of the book, to outline the fiction vs truth of the novel which I really appreciate. There are obviously things they say and do that we cannot know, but she does an amazing job putting these novels together.

For anyone interested in how ‘Nefertiti’ and ‘The Heretic Queen’ connect…Nefertiti’s sister is ‘The Heretic Queens’ mother. I would recommend you read this one first if you plan to read both stories.



*Please note that book links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links; however, all opinions are my own and all books were purchased with my own money.

Etsy Finds Friday – Art Favorites

I’ve always thought of art as a great holiday gift, and not given enough. It’s personal, doesn’t have to be ridiculously expensive, and it’s fun/creative. You can chip in with others and get a large piece that you know they’ll love, or a small postcard size piece perfect for their office desk. A collection of vintage postcards are a great gift for your travel/art loving friend. You can usually find a variety of options at local antique stores for a few bucks each. I even found a few from the 40’s & 50’s that have writing on the back. It’s cool to get a glimpse into someone else’s life (ya know…before blogs, facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc).


So it seemed fitting to do an art themed Etsy find Friday this week as people are working on their holiday shopping. These are a few of my favorites.


Summit Ridge

I only came across this store recently and was blown away by the detail in their designs. They sell custom water color maps! How amazing is that Paris map? LOVE. They also have prints of several of their designs that are less expensive than the water color original.



Native Vermont

If there was only one art piece on my Christmas list this year, it would be from Native Vermont. The picture of the brown lab looks so much like my pup that it was love at first sight. I haven’t bought it yet (hint hint family and friends!), but I plan to after the new year. They have several other dog designs, as well as beautiful other pieces. I don’t know where I’d put it, but I love the fox.

 Mister Fox GRAPHIC ART Illustration 7x7 giclee print SIGNED


Bold and Noble

I can’t explain Bold and Noble better than they can, so this is from their Etsy shop page.

“We created Bold & Noble to design beautiful artworks that don’t cost the earth, in both the financial and ecological sense. We make products that stand the test of time, by hand, in the old-fashioned way. And we believe in living. If it’s a sunny day, we’ll be out there looking for inspiration—providing all the work’s done.”

I’m specifically enamored with the foil finish limited edition pieces. Absolutely beautiful!



Orignaux Moose

This gets the prize for most original. I’ve never seen this type of work done anywhere else and it’s really lovely. The calligraphy style state names are shaped like the actual state. Even better, the 8.5 x 11 prints are priced at $10, so you can purchase a few for a larger gift. You could give a pair of ‘home’ states to a Newlywed couple, or start collecting them as you visit new states during your travels. I’m thinking of doing this myself and adding them to a future photo wall. 



What do you think of Art as a gift? Too personal or just right? I know it can be difficult to pick out art for someone else, but if you know their style, then I think it’s the perfect gift.

Enhancing Simple Canvas Art

A few snapshots from DC last night. All the holiday lights are so beautiful! I love this time of year. Today is going to be a lazy…mainly because I feel lazy after travelling all day yesterday. Also because it’s in the 30’s outside! This California girl is shivering just thinking about it.


As promised…here’s a fairly easy project I did a few weeks ago to dress up a wall in my hallway. I don’t have a great picture, but it’s a pretty narrow hallway so I couldn’t put any type of furniture here. I was also worried about doing anything with glass since, while playing, the dog knocks into this wall fairly often. I don’t want to risk broken glass on the carpet.  Shattered glass and puppy feet do not mix, and he doesn’t seem to understand me when I’m yelling at him to stay away from the glass. Go figure.

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It needed something.

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For the first year I was living in this house, I put up this wood piece. I picked up a pair of these at HomeGoods and it seemed to fit well. The other half is nearby on another wall. But after a while it seemed boring and I wanted some color. 

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So enter another piece of HomeGoods art. I love these pieces and actually have a second one hiding in the spare bedroom to use in the office remodel.

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However, the art if almost the same color as the wall. The art has a little more beige and the wall is a little more pink. Even with the type color, it was blending into the wall. 

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So I built a backer.

I wish I could articulate how easy building something like this truly is. If you have some sort of saw (circular seems to work best for me) and a drill/screwdriver, you’re all set. After a bit of measuring, I cut down 2 – 1 x 6 boards to make this. To make it a lighter (and a little cheaper), I didn’t use long planks in the middle.  After cutting the planks, I used a thin unfinished moulding strip and some screws to hold it all together.

Using just the screws means it is a little wobbly when you’re holding it. However, it’s solid once up on the wall. You could add more screws and some wood glue to make it more sturdy.

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I finished the backer with a dark Kona stain and hanging hooks.

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In order to hang the art, I added a nail to the front.

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Not only do the colors pop, but I love the rustic feel to the wood backer. The larger backer also helps balance the wall space better.Enhanced Art Wall_10

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I had the thin moulding on hand, but they’re fairly inexpensive. I believe an 8 foot strip costs about $4 at Lowes. The 1×6 board ran about $3 each. So over all the project cost me $6 since I only needed the 1×6 boards. Even with the moulding and screws, it would have been less than $15. Not bad to create a larger impact piece out of some simple canvas art. 

Let’s Catch Up

Greeting from 39,000 feet, somewhere above Arizona! I’m currently flying from San Diego to DC to spend a week with family. This is my first time visiting their place since they moved cross country about 2 years ago, so I’m ridiculously excited. I didn’t even mind the crazy 3:45am wake up call this morning to catch my early morning flight. I scored super cheap roundtrip tickets through Southwest recently and the early morning flight time was the only option, but the inexpensive cost was worth it. It’s also nice that the plane is nearly empty so I have an entire row to myself! Hopefully that lasts when do a quick layover in Texas.

I really wanted to check in and apologize for disappearing the last few weeks. It was completely unintentional and I really missed blogging. However, the day job took over and then I got sick. The cold from hell knocked me out over the Thanksgiving holiday, I even lost my voice for the last week. Needless to say, it’s nice to be able to talk again without sounding like a life long smoker. It was bad.

Aside from work and being sick, not much happened around the house in terms of projects. I’ve been slowly deep cleaning my entire house and pulling items for donation. Essentially Spring cleaning in November.

Thanksgiving was low key since our family is small, but really nice. We had a delicious meal and then my mom and I bundled up for our yearly girls night out for Black Friday shopping. I ended up finishing almost all my Christmas shopping on BF this year, and per usual, I scored a bunch of great deals for me as well. We typically hit the Outlet mall first, but regular stores opened really early this year so we started at Target (and Starbucks – required to shop all night), then hit up the local outlet mall where we spent a few hours. Next we went to Sports Authority, then over to Dicks Sporting Goods, then (like the crazy people we are) we went past the mall. We ended up getting home around 3am and went to bed. Later in the day we went past Best Buy and Frys. I was surprised that it wasn’t that busy during the day at Best Buy, and they still had ‘doorbusters’ on hand. I was able to score the Dell monitors for super cheap and speed through the line.

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So what did I get? (I did not include any item that is a gift for someone else, just in case they read this post.)

Best Buy:

  • 2 Dell 24” Monitors (I’m working on the office remodel)


  • The Big Bang Theory DVD Season 5
  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo DVD

Crocs Outlet

  • 2 pairs of Crocs on BOGO Free sale (I wear them when I walk the dog since he likes to dance in the mud on a daily basis and it destroys all my other shoes. While they aren’t my most attractive shoes, I can easily rinse them off when we get home without ruining them.) They cost me $10 each.

Adidas Outlet

  • Dark Purple Cropped sweatpants
  • White Hat

Banana Republic Outlet

  • 2 long sleeve sweaters (Teal and Purple)
  • Blue Dress

Fossil Outlet

  • 2 long necklaces
  • 2 watches (50% off, and BOGO 50% on top of that!)
  • 3 bracelets

Cosmetics Outlet Shop

  • Bobbi Brown ‘Beach’ soap
  • Smashbox face powder

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I’ll be back while I’m on vacation to share some of our adventures (I hear we may go ice skating!) and I do have an easy DIY project to share to dress up simple art around the house.

I think I might try to get a nap in on the flight since I can stretch out. See ya from the east coast!