Life & Style

Hot Chocolate, What You Need to Know (with Recipes!)

Hot Chocolate is a favorite drink this time of year. With all the skating and skiing here in the Midwest U.S. a warm cozy drink is a necessity. Nothing feels better than wrapping your hands around a warm, steamy mug after a jaunt in the snow. Add a few marshmallows and a candy cane and you have a real cup of joy. But where does it come from?

 An Abbreviated History of Hot Chocolate

As much as we enjoy it in the winter, as a compliment to our cold weather, it is surprising to learn that hot chocolate originates in Mexico. As early as 500 BC the Mayans were drinking their own version of crushed cocoa seeds, water, and chilis. Of course, they drank theirs cold. (1) The word chocolate itself derives from the Mayan word xocoatl. (2)
 
From Mexico, drinking chocolate traveled to Spain with the explorer Cortez in the early 1500s. It was there that the drink began being served hot, and sugar was added. The elite of the Spanish court kept the drink secret for around 100 years. But, eventually, the drink made its way to Europe. (3) Once it reached England the addition of milk to make the drink creamy became popular.

 Hot Chocolate Today

All the way from cold and flavored with chilis, to warm, creamy and sweet, hot chocolate has seen many different iterations. Nowadays we love to get creative with the flavors and the sugary sweet additions like marshmallows. The recipes and flavor combinations are endless.
 
While many of us think of hot chocolate as a dessert, it does actually have some health properties. Cocoa has many antioxidants and helps with indigestion. The Mayans often used it to aid stomach maladies. It also contains phenylethylamine, which is a known mood enhancer. (3)
Did you know hot chocolate and hot cocoa aren’t the same? While they are, in general, interchangeable terms, there are differences. Hot Chocolate comes from actual, melted chocolate. It is usually characterized as being thicker and richer than hot cocoa. Hot cocoa, made from sweetened cocoa powder, is thinner and sweeter. (4) Who knew right?!
Now that you know a little more about this great drink, forgo the powdered cocoa. Get back to basics and try the real thing. You can really wow your guests this winter season with a warm gourmet treat. Need some ideas? Check out the collection of recipes below. Click on the images for the details.
Nutella Hot Chocolate | https://cafedelites.com
Nutella Hot Chocolate
 Who doesn’t love Nutella? How could it not be better with warm, melted chocolate! Cafe Delites is responsible for this cup of goodness.
Butterbeer Hot Chocolate
Butterbeer Hot Chocolate
I am a huge Harry Potter fan, so a fandom themed drink sounds like the greatest thing ever! Thanks to the creative genius of Darla at Bakingdom.com for this one!
S'mores Hot Chocolate + Charity Water E-Cookbook #minimalistbaker
S’Mores Hot Chocolate

A favorite dessert in a mug, amazing! Thanks to #minimalistbaker for this gorgeous and tasty work of art.

Have a favorite recipe of your own? Share it with us!

(1) https://www.thespruce.com/the-history-of-hot-chocolate-764463
(2)https://whatscookingamerica.net/Beverage/HotChocolate-History.htm
(3) http://albanykid.com/2011/12/11/hot-chocolate-hot-cocoa-and-xocoatl/
(4)http://www.amanochocolate.com/faqs/whats-the-difference-between-hot-cocoa-and-hot-chocolate/

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Please note that some of the below include affiliate links. Meaning I may receive a small payment if you should click on or purchase one of the products. To know more read my full disclaimer HERE.

Style Spotlight: Velvet for Your Home & Wardrobe

Velvet, even the word is smooth and alluring. It evokes feelings of comfort and luxury. It is an ancient textile that has maintained its presence in the market for centuries. People have always sought out velvet to add class and refinement to spaces and garments. Modern times are no different and advances in science and technology have made it more accessible than ever. Everyone can enjoy adding some velvet to their home and wardrobe, it is a classic that never truly goes out of style.

 A Lesson in Velvet

When I stated centuries, it wasn’t a joke. Velvet can trace its roots back to 2000 BC. The earliest known producers were the early Egyptians.(1) They began producing velvet textiles by weaving with an extra set of yarns. After weaving the extra yarns, known as “pile” yarns, are cut on the surface side of the fabric. The cut yarns create a hair, or furlike finish of short, dense yarns that stand erect. The word “velvet” actually refers to this structure.(2)
From Egypt, velvet made its way to Asia, the Middle East and then on to Europe.(1) These early textiles were all made from silk fibers and were very expensive and delicate. Which explains why, historically, it was a textile reserved for the elite and royal. To this day, it still carries a reputation of luxury and comfort.

 The Rise of Modern Popularity

Unlike in ancient times, today velvet is much more accessible to the average user. Of course, much of the “velvet” in the market is actually “velveteen” or “velour.” Velveteen is a faux velvet mostly made from cotton, and velveteen from cotton-blends.(2) The use of these alternative fibers has increased the durability of velvet-looking textiles. Gone are the days when all velvets would bruise and blemish from slight mistreatment. Another factor that has increased accessibility by decreasing cost is machine weaving. 

Velvet for Your Home

There are many other contributing factors to velvet’s current popularity, especially within the home. Note that the below products include velvet and faux velvet.
Please note that some of the below include affiliate links. Meaning I may receive a small payment if you should click on or purchase one of the products. To know more read my full disclaimer HERE.

The boom of transitional (modern mixed with traditional) styling in homes. More than ever people are gravitating towards the aesthetics of bygone eras. In uncertain times, it is very comforting to surround oneself with the comfort fo the past.blue velvet armchair

The jewel tone trend. Rich, saturated hues are all the rage and velvet has the uncanny ability to take on these deep tones. Pinks and Purples are heavy favorites.

The deep tones get enhanced when lighting gets involved. The nap and texture of the surface cause the light to reflect differently off of curves. Highlights and shadows get created that have a dramatic effect. This phenomenon is why tufted (drawing the fabric together) velvets are so widespread.

Dramatic velvet can look particularly lovely against a dark backdrop. With black, navy and other dark tones being popular paint colors, jewel tone velvets are a perfect accompaniment. The result is a very decadent feel.

Lux finishes are also currently in vogue. The trio of marbles and precious metals would not be complete without velvet.

modern chic interior purple velvet

Used elegantly and sparingly the addition of this ancient textile in your home will not date. Do be careful though, because using too much will look like you raided a medieval castle.

Velvet for Your Wardrobe

The use of velvet in your wardrobe may not be as long-lasting as using it in your home-but who can resist?

Velvet dresses and skirts are the perfect go-to for party wear this winter. The soft texture makes it warm and cozy, while the overall look is elegant and sophisticated.
Velvet blue dress

If you already have an outfit in mind, invest in some luxe accessories. Chokers, shoes, and bags in this luxurious finish are great options.

Men and women both can add some flare to the closet with a velvet blazer. Day to night, the look is classic.

men's velvet blazer

For men, a tie or pocket square is a small addition with a big impact.

No matter how you choose to incorporate velvet into your life, I would bet that you will have no regrets. Velvet is a tried and true textile staple.

(1) https://www.estout.com/designthreads/archive/History-12_16-History_of_Velvet.vbhtml
(2) Fabric Science [9th Edition] by Allen C. Cohen, Ingrid Johnson, Joseph J. Pizzuto [Fairchild Pubns,2009] [Hardcover] 9th Edition

Friday 5: Etsy Holiday Gift Guide 2017

The holiday gift shopping season has begun and the holidays are coming up quick. There are times when the whole hustle and bustle of the whole season becomes daunting. I struggle with the societal pressure to buy a gift for everyone I know which becomes so overwhelming. The pressure can take away from the magic of this special time of the year. That being said, the holidays are a wonderful opportunity to show appreciation for the people that really matter in our lives.
 
A gift, big or small, can mean so much when given with thought and love especially when they are handmade. Since we don’t always have the time, or skills to make all the items we would like to give, we have Etsy. Etsy, for those of you unfamiliar, is an online marketplace for handmade and vintage items. It is a great place to shop for unique items made by artists and artisans from all over the world.
 
Of course, there are times when we want to give a great gift, but can’t seem to find the right one. This gift guide is here to help. I have collected some items from Etsy, all $50 (USD) or less, for tough to buy for loved ones on your list. Happy Shopping!
1. The Teenage Girls
Unicorn-themed items are very trendy right now and that is why I picked this great sugar scrub. ModBathandBody has many other options as well, and they are all practical, usable and fun.
Unicorn Dreamer Whipped Sugar Scrub
Sugar Scrub Unicorn Dreamer | Unicorn Soap Sugar Scrub | Sugar Scrubs | Whipped Sugar Scrub | Exfoliating Sugar Scrub from ModBathandBody

The second option is the makeup brush travel bag. Great looking and it could double as pen or pencil holder or storage bag for the girls that aren’t as into makeup.

Makeup Brush Bag
Makeup Brush Bag Travel Makeup Brush Holder Makeup Brush Pouch Brown makeup bag Makeup Storage Travel Cosmetic Bag from LudaMelnick
2. The Teenage Boys & Men

Guys, in my opinion, can be very hard to buy for but I feel like I hit the jackpot with the following items. A great looking, yet masculine phone speaker is perfect for any music lover on your list.

Acoustic Phone Speaker
Acoustic Phone Speaker OKTIE Passive Phone Speaker Wood Phone Dock Android and iPhone Great Gift Retro Speaker Amplifier from OKTIEofficial

The phone stand that works as a storage area and charging station is perfect for today’s day and age. Bonus, it works as a small item storage and display area.

Rustic Wood Phone Stand
Black Vintage Industrial Rustic Wood Phone Stand / Docking Station / Charging Station / Cell Phone Holder / Phone Stand Wood from IndustriralMatter
3. The Kids

While you may not think of children as hard to buy for with all of the toys available today, it is hard to find gifts that are not electronic and that stimulate the mind. Get the kids on your list into reading with this fun nursery rhymes book that is personalized to incorporate their name.

Timeless Nursery Rhymes and Poems Baby Book Gift
Timeless Nursery Rhymes and Poems Baby Book – Beautiful Baby Gift, Child’s Christening Present – Baby Shower Treasured Keepsake Gift from MyMaginNameBook

Another personalized option is the wooden name puzzle. Puzzles are a great, technology-free way to build problem-solving skills.

Personalized Wooden Name Puzzle Gift
Personalized wooden name puzzle, newborn baby birthday gifts, nursery decor wood letters, toddler toy, wedding gift, for family, custom word from YourWoodenMaster
4. The Host & Hostess

This time of year sees a lot of holiday parties, but what to bring the host or hostess? While it may seem a little generic, the beautiful marble and rose gold coaster set below is a great option. The style is a classic, yet very popular and they will last forever.

Hexagon Marble Rose Gold Coaster Set of 4
Hexagon Marble Rose Gold Coaster Set of 4 Drink Coasters, Bar Coasters or Home Décor from MarbleObject

Want to stick to the basics and just bring a bottle of wine? No problem, but why not dress it up with one of these fun gnome bottle toppers that can be reused for years to come?

Adorable Santa Face Wine Bottle Toppers Gift
Adorable Santa Face Wine Bottle Toppers Olive Oil Bubble Bath Bottle Toppers Set of 3 from Sunflowermom
5. The Newlyweds

Buying for the couples that just celebrated their nuptials can be a challenge. They just received a plethora of gifts, one of which was probably from you, so keep it simple. Of course “simple” doesn’t need to be thoughtless, a great option is the customized wooden snowflake ornament below that also commemorates their wedding date and location.

Wooden Snowflake Ornament Gift
Wooden Snowflake Ornaments, Christmas gift Married Christmas Ornament Wood Christmas Decorations, Snowflakes Christmas tree ornaments from WoodenEngravedShop

 

Commemorative items are a great way to celebrate new couples, and at an amazing price, this one can’t be beaten. Starting at $5 you can give a customized gift that will help to create the setting for a perfect first Christmas for a lucky couple.

Soy Candle Newlywed Gift
Holiday Scented Candles, First Christmas as Mr and Mrs, Newlywed Christmas Gift, Christmas Gift, Christmas Candle, Soy Candle, Newlywed Gift from AtoZCandles
Bonus: The Traveler

I threw this bonus item in because I think it is awesome! For anyone who travels in your life, this would be an amazing gift. A beautiful map of the World or smaller various regions, you choose, that you get to scratch off locations as you visit.

Scratch Map from TravelMapPoster
Bestseller Map with golden foil, 88 x 63 cm (34.6 x 25.2 inches) from TravelMapPoster

Happy Shopping! And remember, it is the thought and love that counts, not the price tag!

Make the Best Pumpkin Pie This Holiday Season


Thanksgiving is coming up quick. For many Americans, that means pumpkin pie on the dessert table. This year, instead of stopping by your favorite bakery, try making one from scratch. I will warn you, that “easy as pie” does not actually apply to pie making. But, with some patience and a good recipe, you will be well on your way to being the star of Thanksgiving.
Best Pumpkin PIe First, we start with the crust. A homemade crust will far outshine a store bought one, but either one will work. I use a traditional, simple recipe from Genius Kitchen for my crust which you can find HERE. This recipe includes vinegar which helps prevent the formation of gluten that causes tough crusts (1). It also is a good recipe for either Lard or Vegetable Shortening approaches. I have made it using both and do tend to prefer Lard crusts which are crispier and flakier. Note that you do not need a pastry blender to make this recipe. All you need to do is use two knives in a crisscrossing motion to “cut in” the lard or shortening. For a great video on “cutting in” lard or shortening click HERE.
Cut In
 When your dough is ready or purchased, you will move onto prepping and pre-baking your crust. If you need to roll out your dough make sure you use plenty of flour on your work surface, the dough and the rolling pin. Flour keeps your crust from sticking to things and tearing. Always roll from the center of the dough ball towards the edges. Be careful not to overwork your dough or get it too warm or you will end up with a tough crust.
 The important thing when it comes to crust for a pumpkin pie is that it is blind-baked, meaning it is pre-cooked. Pumpkin pie is a “custard” pie, it only uses a bottom crust and the filling is liquid when added. You need to pre-bake the crust so that the filling does not seep into the raw dough and cause a gooey mess. The directions for blind baking a homemade crust are below. All store bought crusts should include directions for blind baking on the packaging. Once you get your dough into your pan and form the edge, step by step instructions below, you will begin prepping for pre-baking.
Raw Dough in Pan
 Note that this step calls for pie weights. Weights are important as they prevent the crust from bubbling and tearing. You can buy them for a few dollars on Amazon, or even simpler, use rice or dried beans. Use all the weights in a set, or fill the center using the beans or rice. You will remove all the weights for the last few minutes of the pre-bake to brown your crust.
Pie Weights
 Next comes the filling, you put all the ingredients in the bowl and mix them, what could be more simple? The filling recipe below is very nice because it makes a spicy, moist filling that will not be runny. I have refrigerated this pie for up to a week and have not had it liquify, which has happened to me with other recipes. Add the filling to the crust and bake, but be attentive while it is in the oven, pumpkin pie is easy to overbake. The pie is done when the edge of the filling has begun to set and slightly darken but the center is still jiggly. If it goes for too long you will see cracks in the filling and have scorch marks near the edges.
Filling
 Last, but not least, dress up your pie with a dollop of homemade whipped cream. The flavor will bring your dessert to the next level. This might all sound like a lot, but once you get going it goes very quickly. Have some fun with your pie and dress it up. Use fun cutouts on the crust, or spice up your filling with your favorite spices.
Any way you make it, a homemade pie, made with love, is always well received.
 
Print Recipe
The Best Pumpkin Pie
A nice firm and spicy filling, paired with a flaky crust makes for one delicious dessert.
Prep Time 30 Minutes
Cook Time 1.5 Hours
Servings
Slices
Ingredients
Pie Crust
Pie Filling
Homemade Whipped Cream
Prep Time 30 Minutes
Cook Time 1.5 Hours
Servings
Slices
Ingredients
Pie Crust
Pie Filling
Homemade Whipped Cream
Instructions
Crust
  1. Follow the directions for your chosen pie crust recipe, if you need a good recipe see the one I listed above. Make either half of the recipe or cut the final in half, saving the other half for later use as that is all you will need for this pie. If you want to make a patterned crust make the entire recipe. *If you are using a pre-made pie crust follow the directions on the packaging for blind baking the crust.
  2. Remove your dough from the refrigerator and let sit on the counter 5-15 minutes, or until malleable. Flour your work surface and place the dough on top. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and also rub some flour onto your rolling pin.
  3. Begin rolling your dough from the center toward the outer edges working your dough into a smooth disc. Add flour as needed to keep your dough from sticking to your rolling pin or work surface.
  4. Continue rolling until your crust is around 13" in diameter and about 1/4" thick-try not to overwork your dough or let it get too warm.
  5. Carefully transfer your dough to a 9" deep dish pie pan. Gently press your dough to fit into your pie dish. Don't worry if you get a tear, simply patch it back up by pressing the two sides of the tear together and smoothing out.
  6. Trim the crust about 1/2" beyond the edge of your pan. Fold the edges under to create a rim and press down to create a smooth edge.
  7. Crimp your edge using your fingers or a fork and pressing down into the rim. *To create an edge using leaf cutouts as shown above leave the rim smooth rather than crimping. Roll out some dough, to about a 1/4" thickness and use the leaf cutters to cut out pressed leaves. Place the cutouts on a baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Once you have finished baking the pie simply place the baked cutouts around the edges.
  8. Refrigerate the crust while you heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  9. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and place on a baking sheet- The baking sheet will make the pie much easier to move.
  10. Cover the crust with a piece of parchment paper and fill the crust with pie weights. If you do not have pie weights you can use dried beans or rice.
  11. Tent the edges with foil or use a silicone crust cover to prevent the edges from burning.
  12. Bake the crust for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment paper and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the crust is golden and flaky. If it bubbles a little bit at this point just press it back down using a flat spatula. Leave the foil or silicone protector on the edges.
Filling
  1. For the filling, whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl. Once combined, pour into your pre-baked crust.
  2. Bake your pie for 50-60 minutes. Remove the foil or silicone cover after about 40 minutes to let the edges brown. The pie is done when the edges have just set and the center is still a bit jiggly.
  3. Let your pie cool at room temperature for a couple of hours, then either serve or refrigerate until ready eat.
Whipped Cream
  1. 1. Combine the heavy cream, sugar, and splash of vanilla in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk using an electric mixer until stiff peaks have formed. Use as soon as possible or store in an airtight container for up to 12 hours.
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5 Coco Chanel Quotes to Inspire Women Everywhere

Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel was a French-born designer who revolutionized the fashion industry. Known to this day for her tailored suits, little black dresses, and signature scent. Inspired by menswear, her clothing designs focused on comfort over constraint. At a time when many women were still wearing corsets, she created comfortable and freeing, well-fitted clothing.

The only fashion designer on Time’s 100 Most Influential People of the Twentieth Century, her style remains iconic to this day. Coco Chanel was a hard worker with a passion who made a true difference. She believed that fashion wasn’t just clothes, that it was in everything around us. That luxury was about comfort and being yourself was true style. She defined elegance for the modern woman. Her wisdom is still applicable from wardrobe to home decor to life in general. I have collected some of my favorite, most inspiring quotes below. I hope you take something from them as I did.

The Words of Coco Chanel

"Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside." -Coco Chanel

Fashion and luxurious lifestyles can only take you so far. It sounds cliche to say that “beauty comes from within,” but Coco believed and we should practice.

"Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance." -Coco Chanel

Her little black dress is the epitome of an iconic design, and for good reason. It was simple and straightforward, yet captivating. She created a piece that let the woman in it shine through her clothing.

"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud." -Coco Chanel

Coco voiced wisdom at the beginning of the Twentieth Century that is still beyond relevant today. Women should be heard as well as seen, and living that is true courage.

"Keep your heels, head and standards high." -Coco Chanel

One of my personal favorites. I repeat this to myself as a mantra at times. Feeling down about yourself and your progress in life? Don’t. Keep your head up and keep fighting for what you want and deserve.

"If you're sad, add more lipstick and attack." -Coco Chanel

Coco was truly a wise woman who embraced being a woman. A difficult feat for a businesswoman of her time. None the less she persevered and fought and we can all thank her for a lot. A true revolutionary who continues to be as relevant as ever.

Bonus Inspirational Quote:

Katharine Hepburn, another female revolutionary, played Coco Chanel in the Broadway musical “Coco,” which chronicled her life. She reminds us that we have to work hard if we want success.

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Style Spotlight: Plaid for Your Home and Wardrobe How To

The beginning of October means that Fall Fashion Weeks’ in Europe and America are wrapping up. From the runway to the street this years’ events welcome back a classic, plaid. From handbags and footwear to wide leg trousers and jackets the traditional pattern was a standout. Worn by models and fashion elites alike there were many different styles on display. Not surprising since plaid comes in an endless variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

A Lesson in Plaid
You may be wondering what the difference is between many of the different styles of plaid. Is there one? Yes, there are technical names for many standardized plaid patterns even though the term is often used as a universal name for many. While these patterns come in a wide variety, they do all have one shared characteristic. All plaids use the intersection of vertical and horizontal lines at 90-degree angles to create patterns. Let’s look at a few examples.
Tartan Plaid
Tartan
Tartan is a traditional Scottish plaid that dates back centuries and is still seen today. The Tartan pattern uses a line repeat that is exactly duplicated on both the horizontal and vertical axes. Unlike a more generic pattern which may have unique line repeats on each axis. Yet, both of these patterns use the overlapping regions of their lines to introduce new or mixed colors.
Glen Plaid
Glen Urquhart
“Glen” or “Glen Urquhart” plaid is another lesser known pattern. It uses an alternating series of large and small checks. Often seen in suiting fabrics and utilizing houndstooth, Glen plaid traditionally uses muted colors.
Rob Roy Tartan
Rob Roy
Furthermore, a variety of check patterns  are often referred to as a “plaids,” including “Buffalo Plaid” and “Rob Roy Tartan.” These patterns use two or more alternating colors to create equal sized squares, and where the lines overlap, other colors appear.
Modern Plaids
These traditional plaids have taken on some modern twists in their latest iterations. By playing with scale, color and repeat textile designers have freshened up and modernized a classic. Modern versions often have bright, unique mixes of colors and playful line repeats. Large scales and metallic accents are being used to add a bit of whimsy.
For Your Wardrobe
Women, ready to add some plaid to your wardrobe, but not quite sure where to start? Grab a simple plaid shirt, skirt or scarf, and pair with sweaters, jeans and leather jackets. A few good pieces will provide an endless supply of mix and match opportunities. Shirt dresses are another on-trend way to spice up your attire this season.
Plaid for WomenFor men, plaid flannels have always been a staple. But, in the day and age where plaid is loud and proud, ties and even full jackets are a fun addition to the closet.
Plaid for Men
For Your Home
As popular as this trend is in the fashion industry right now, it is also a popular trend in home décor. Plaid evokes feelings of winter holidays and coziness. In preparation for the cold months ahead add some plaid touches to your favorite rooms. Use a plaid upholstered chair or sofa, or even wallpaper to create an eye-catching focal point.

Checkered Sofa

For a more subtle approach layer in plaid adorned throw pillows and blankets to create depth and interest. While it can be a very fun pattern, keep in mind that it can become overwhelming if overdone. Use patterns with similar color schemes or pair with chunky knits and neutral textures to avoid this issue.
No matter how you embrace it, plaid is a fun yet traditional way to dress up your autumn wardrobe and home!

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Please note that some of the below include affiliate links. Meaning I may receive a small payment if you should purchase one of the products. To know more read my full disclaimer HERE.
1|Plaid Table Decor-Frosting Home Decor on Etsy.com  2|Plaid Throw Blanket-hhprint on Etsy.com 3|Women’s Plaid Any Day Tunic-Target.com 4|Red Plaid Stag Throw Pillow-Cost Plus World Market 5|Women’s Sylvia Alexander Plaid Scarf-Target.com 6|Buffalo Plaid Knot Headband-shopantsypants on Etsy.com 7|Mid Mod Oval Stool Wood Legs-Plaid –Target.com
 

Friday 5: Things To Do On An Autumn Weekend

Autumn is officially here once again and before we know it, it will be Winter. As the days get shorter, don’t forget to stop and inhale the crisp air. Partake in some seasonal activities and enjoy this special time of the year. Looking for some ideas? Check out my curated Autumn Weekend outline below.

Please note that some of the below include affiliate links. Meaning I may receive a small payment if you should purchase one of the products. To know more read my full disclaimer HERE.

Saturday

Saturdays are days for fun and adventure and family and friends. Take the opportunity to explore and spend time with those you love.

 1. Take a Drive

In our pursuit to get more done and be more efficient, we often take the shortest route to our destination. Forgo the quickest option this Autumn weekend and indulge in taking the scenic route. Roll the windows down and enjoy the Autumn sights and the sounds of the road less traveled.

 2. Head to a Pumpkin Patch or Apple Orchard

No Autumn weekend is complete without a trip to the local pumpkin patch or apple orchard. Find the perfect pumpkins to adorn your front stoop or holiday table. And, don’t forget to pick up a gallon of fresh pressed apple cider (you’ll see why later).

 3. Cook a Homemade Meal

Making a homemade meal to share with family and friends is one of the most rewarding activities you can do on a cozy Autumn weekend. I know some of you aren’t best friends with your kitchen but there is no reason that cooking a dinner has to be hard. Opt for a one-dish meal with minimal prep and let your oven do most of the work. One of my family’s favorites is Stuffing and Pork Chops with Apples. Find the simple recipe HERE.
***Bonus Idea: After a great meal, relax a little and enjoy the evening by having a bonfire in your backyard. Cold weather is coming, so take a moment to indulge in the crisp air and enjoy some stars. Remember to always check bonfire rules and regulations with your local municipality.

Sunday

Saturday saw a long day of driving, gathering, and cooking. Now, Sunday should be a day of rest and relaxation before another week.
4. Make a Steaming Cup of Hot Apple Cider

After a restful morning dig out that fresh pressed apple cider you picked up at the orchard and make the ultimate Autumn treat. A flavorful cup of steaming apple cider. One of my favorite ways to prepare is with Martinelli’s Organic Mulling Spices (available on Amazon, find it HERE). You can make either a single cup or a whole pot to share. Either way, prepare for an amazing aromatic experience.

5. Cozy up with a Blanket and Good Movie or Book

Now that you have a warm mug of happiness it’s time cozy up and kick back. Find a favorite blanket and a comfy seat. If you are looking for a new throw to add to your collection check out an awesome option from Target.com (pictured above, find it HERE). Next, pop in that movie you’ve been meaning to watch or open that book that’s been waiting for you. Take a few hours to escape reality.

No matter what you do slow down for a few minutes and enjoy the changing of the seasons.

Greenery 15-0343: Pantone’s Color of the Year 2017

As I sit here writing not only my first post of 2017 but my first post ever, it feels that the optimism of a New Year has already begun wane. In a frightening world, where the Doomsday Clock is resting at two and a half minutes to midnight, we must remind ourselves that every day is a new start. Every day is a new chance to get back to what is important and meaningful to our lives. We must embrace the effort to create a world that promotes positivity and healthy growth. It may seem trivial to tie color and design into a discussion on the global environment, but The Pantone Institute of Color did just that when they chose the color of the year. The Institute chooses one color every year as an interpretation of our modern world. This year’s choice could not have been more insightful this year.

 
The chosen color, 15-0343 “Greenery,”is a bright, clean and lively yellow-green hue. Leatrice Eisman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, described it as a color that “bursts forth into 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose.” Green is the most common color found in the natural world. It is only logical that it reminds us of our most basic need, to connect to the world around us.

Understanding Green and “Greenery”

The Scientific Effects of Green

Nature is of supreme importance to our health, but we must also consider the impact the indoors has on our lives. Americans now spend an average of 90% of their time indoors (1.). In an era controlled by technology, we are beginning to crave nature more than ever. Brain scans have proven that interacting with nature improves mood. It also lowers stress hormones in our bodies. The same study also connected living in urban environments to greater risk of mental illness. (2.) Interaction with nature along with smart interior design decisions can help us improve our mental and physical well-being.
 
Many psychological studies have shown that the color of a room can influence body functions and mental activity. Shorter-wavelength colors, like blue and green are less mentally stimulating. They provide stronger feelings of tranquility and help the body to relax. Green can even improve focus and increase reading speed and retention. Longer wavelength colors like Red and Orange are more stimulating and distracting. (3.) Green has also been shown to stimulate the pituitary gland. Stimulation of the pituitary aids the dilation of blood vessels and make muscles more relaxed. It can also decrease the effects of histamines (allergens) in the body. (4.) Bottom line-Green is a very powerful color, with powerful effects.

Green in American Society

In our modern American society, the single color green also has many positive and negative symbolic associations. Green is the color of a stoplight, signaling you to go forward towards your destination. It is the answer button on an iPhone. The color of “Mr. Yuck” who warns consumers of dangerous or poisonous goods. We tell people they look a little green when they are sick. We associate the color with feelings of envy. Our dollar bills are green and we reference an account with a positive balance “in the green.” Companies and initiatives focused on ecological efforts declare themselves “green.” So many different facets of our modern world are symbolized in the expression of one color. Color may not be something that everyone sits and contemplates but it is a very powerful part of our world. It is too often overlooked as a purely aesthetic element.

 How to Incorporate Green into Your Everyday Life

Good design is all about making educated and mindful choices that allow our environments to work for us. You don’t need to be a trained designer to make planful choices that will affect your life. Here are a few ideas for incorporating Green and Greenery into your life this year. 

Hang some nature-inspired art.

The green hues and natural themes will bring calm and the peace of the outdoors into your home or office space.

Paint a room.

Paint a library or home office a nice shade of green to increase your retention of information in that room. It can also provide a balance to stressful work that may take place in that area. A few to start with: Benjamin Moore “Spring Meadow Green,” Hirshfield’s “Green Thumb,” or Farrow & Ball Cooking Apple Green. While these aren’t exactly Pantone’s shade they are great room colors none the less.

Add some accessories.

You can add Greenery colored accessories anywhere. A great place to start is a bathroom. There is a reason you see the color so often in spas. Imagine taking a relaxing bubble bath in a room that is also working with your body to reduce stress. Some candles, a rug, or some plants (faux or not), are a great place to start.

Get Outside.

I know this one seems crazy, but make a conscious effort to leave your house or office for a while each day. Observe Greenery out in nature. Enjoying your backyard or a nearby park can reduce blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex. It is an area of the brain associated with brooding and focusing on the negative. By reducing the blood flow to this area you will improve your mood and outlook on life. (2.)Green Hike

 
Thinking of color may not seem like a priority in these uncertain times. And it isn’t. But embracing the effects and ideals of being “green” can make a difference in all our lives. No matter how cold the winter is spring comes and the leaves sprout and life return. Remember that every day is a new start. A new chance to reconnect with people, nature and the important parts of life returns.
 
  1. https://cfpub.epa.gov/roe/chapter/air/indoorair.cfm
  2. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/how-nature-changes-the-brain/?_r=0
  3. http://www.livescience.com/36735-does-the-color-green-boost-exercise-s-effects.html
  4. http://www.sensationalcolor.com/color-meaning/color-meaning-symbolism-psychology/all-about-the-color-green-4309