Thoughts on 2016

4:17 PM


Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I'm sad that Christmas is over, but I must say that it feels good to be free from the obligation to listen to Christmas music and drink only out of Christmas mugs. It's also exciting to look ahead to 2016 and see what's to come. For me, it's going to be a year full of scary and exciting change, namely, leaving high school and going to college. The life I've lived for 17 (almost 18) years is about to change completely. Just the thought that I have absolutely no clue where I'm going to be this time next year is crazy!


Holiday Linzer Cookies

10:40 AM


Merry Christmas Eve! I'm cutting it close by posting these holiday cookies the day before Christmas! But in case you're still in need of a traditional Christmas cookie recipe (or just want to keep celebrating Christmas afterward), I've got you covered. I've made these cookies twice this season, testing out different recipes. And I believe my search has been successful. I decided on this one.

So what are linzer cookies? They are traditional Christmas cookies that originated in Linz, Austria. The cookies are made with a nut flour, then sandwiched with jelly or preserves and dusted with powdered sugar. The small cut-out in the center is traditionally a circle, but other shapes, such as stars and hearts, have also become popular. (Side note: The hearts would be so cute for Valentine's Day, especially with red jam showing through!) If you've heard of the linzer torte, it basically the same recipe, but adapted for cookies.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

2:16 PM


So... I know I usually only post on Sundays, but I realized that I had planned out all these Christmas posts and didn't have enough Sundays left to share them all! So hello on a Tuesday! Hope you're enjoying the holidays as much as I have been. 

I've especially been loving all the holiday baking. I've made these gingerbread cupcakes twice already! They turned out so delicious! I was inspired to bake them after watching Zoella's video (who, by the way, is posting a new Christmas video EVERY DAY in the run-up to Christmas). But I wound up using this recipe instead because Zoella's recipe used grams (as they do in England) and I was unable to convert it exactly into cup measurements. 

DIY Christmas Pillowcase

5:36 PM


Phew! Finals are over! I'm officially halfway through my senior year! I honestly can't believe I'm a senior still. The days are long but the years are short. Never have truer words been spoken. 

Anyway, Christmas is almost here! I'm so excited to spend the next two weeks of Christmas break doing all of my favorite things: visiting family, baking cookies, reading by the fire... And sewing Christmas pillowcases!

This pillow came about through improvisation... I was playing around with some fabric and lace that my grandma gave to me, and I actually like how it turned out! So I decided to share how to make it here. I know the holidays are busy, but this pattern is really flexible and works just fine for nonseasonal pillowcases as well.

Christmas Essentials

11:39 AM


Only 12 days 'til Christmas! In celebration of the season, I wanted to share with you nine Christmas essentials that I enjoy every holiday season!

candle with a wooden wick - I love these because they smell so good and they crackle like a mini fire! This one is from Target.

vanilla bean noel lotion - What is there to say? It just smells amazing. I use it year-round.

Let It Snow - It's kind of become a traditional of mine to read this every year during December. This year, I was really excited, so I started it a bit too early and already finished it. Oops.

hot chocolate on a stick - This makes the best hot chocolate! It's basically a cube of chocolate on a stick that you swirl around in warm milk. Yum! You can find this one at Trader Joe's or save some money and make it yourself.

twisted peppermint lotion - I have had this lotion for a few years now. It sits on my dresser all year, but I don't let myself use it until after Thanksgiving. When my hands smell like twisted peppermint, you know it's Christmas time.

peppermint hot chocolate - 'Tis the season for hot chocolate and everything peppermint. This particular peppermint hot chocolate is from Trader Joe's. Drink it with a candy cane for even more peppermint flavor!

candy cane green tea - This was the first tea I ever liked. I call it "level one" tea. So even if you're not a tea drinker, give it a go! And it's only at Trader Joe's during the holiday season, so stock up! (I buy about 5-6 boxes in December so I can enjoy it all year round!)

fuzzy socks - Fuzzy socks are a must. They also make great gifts, because who doesn't want another pair of fuzzy socks?

linzer cookie cutter set - I've been having so much fun making linzer cookies with these! Find them at World Market.

I hope you enjoyed this quick round-up of Christmas essentials! Happy Holidays! 

Orange Pecan Snowball Cookies

9:57 AM


Happy Holidays! I've been busy getting into the holiday spirit -- with blankets, cozy fires, candles, hot chocolate, and three local tree lightings! Suffice it to say, I love the holidays. And to be perfectly honest, the anticipation is like 75% of the fun! Another part of the holidays I love is baking holiday cookies. To kick it off, I made these simple orange pecan snowball cookies. I added the orange because, well, who doesn't want a little hint of orange in their cookies? You can substitute walnuts for the pecans if you'd like. These cookies are pretty flexible. They're so great for the holidays because they look festive and they taste festive -- the crunch of pecans and the sweetness of orange. Plus, the moment you sprinkle the powdered sugar on top, this dessert turns into a winter wonderland! Pile them up like a stack of snowballs! If you're taking them to a party or holiday cookie exchange, I think they'd also look really cute in mini cupcake liners, then arranged in a good ol' holiday cookie tin. And yes, I just used the word 'holiday' eight times in that paragraph. (I'm excited.) 


6 Christmas DIYs to Try

10:59 AM


First, let me just say that I am totally excited that the holidays are (almost) here. And I think I'm dreaming because 25 of the most amazing bloggers on the Internet have come together for Christmas time to create a holiday pop-up blog! It's called the Holiday Collective. Go check it out!

For now, here are a few of their DIYs from the past to get you in the holiday spirit!

Wooden Tree Advent Calendar {The Merrythought}***
Gold Glitter Block Letters {Hey There Home}
 Wreath Gift Labels {Damask Love}

***Yes, I guess it is a little late for making advent calendars, seeing that December 1st is this Tuesday, but this idea would still work for the 12 days of Christmas!

Cranberry-Filled White Chocolate Cookie Cups

11:10 AM



If there's one thing I've learned from watching the Holiday Baking Championship on Food Network, it's that every kitchen disaster can be turned around. 

This started off as one such kitchen disaster. I was trying to develop my first ever cookie recipe, but in the oven, the cookies expanded so much, they almost looked like pancakes! Then, a miracle happened. They turned into something innovative, beautiful, and, more importantly, delicious!

6 Thanksgiving Printables

5:23 PM

Thanksgiving is a little more than a week away! To celebrate, here is a quick round-up of Thanksgiving printables!

Thanksgiving Menu {Almost Makes Perfect}
Thankful Tags {Almost Makes Perfect}
Thankful Booklet {Oh Happy Day}
Pie Box {The Merrythought}
"I Am Thankful For" Cards {Jones Design Company}

Pear Cranberry Pie

11:53 AM


One of my favorite things about fall is baking. During the summer, baking makes me hot, sweaty, and frustrated... and having to heat up the oven to 400°F doesn't help. But during the fall and winter, when there are clouds outside and I'm indoors with my tea, all I want to do is tie my apron on and get out the flour!

DIY Pumpkin Spice Soap

4:51 PM


Pumpkin spice. Nothing is safe from it this time of year. The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is Starbuck's famous pumpkin spice latte. Everyone goes crazy for it! I much prefer the pumpkin spice steamer, but that's just because I don't like the taste of coffee (sorry!).

Did you know you can make your own pumpkin spice soap? Yep. You bet you can. There is no end to the limits of pumpkin spice.

Let's get right to it!

Fall Craft: Leaf Garland

8:20 AM



It's already week 3 of the Fall Craft series happening right here on the blog! So far I've shared how to make a Wood Slice Chalkboard and a Painted Craft Pumpkin!

This week, I'm going to show you how to make a leaf garland. It's super super simple and an easy way to add some fall charm to your home!

Columbus Day Weekend

6:40 PM




Why can't every weekend be a 3-day weekend? I had this last Monday off from school (Columbus Day) and had the best time biking around on Angel Island. Angel Island is off the coast of San Francisco. In addition to nature, biking trails, and amazing views, it also has a lot of history. I'm not usually super excited about history, but there's something about being in a place where history actually happened that is so intriguing and powerful. It's especially cool when you can see a picture of the rubble you're looking at as it was years and years ago, in use and surrounded by people.

Fall Craft: Painted Craft Pumpkin

7:43 AM



Chances are you're going to have guests over sometime this season. I know I'm going to have family over for both Halloween and Thanksgiving. What better time to show off your craftiness with some fall-themed DIYs for your guests to admire? This painted craft pumpkin is very simple and leaves a lot of room for you to be creative and add your own touch to it. Pinterest has countless ideas for painting craft pumpkins. I for one really love this design. You can't go wrong with gold!


Fall Craft: Wood Slice Chalkboard

7:54 AM



You know how you feel at the start of a new year? That blank slate? A new start? That's kind of how I feel about the start of fall. It's a new season. Everything shifts from summer to fall. The food, the wardrobe, the Starbucks drinks, the decor. It's exciting! There are so many things to look forward to this season! I had to make a fall bucket list to make sure I do everything I want to do!

This craft wasn't on my bucket list, but it's still a perfect craft for fall! It's super fun and super simple.

DIY Flamingo Pillow

7:30 AM

Today I'm going to show you how to make one of my favorite DIYs ever. The idea came from a post by Francois et Moi that was featured on the blog Sugar and Cloth. Lately, I've kind of been obsessed with flamingos, so this craft was right up my alley! And I think it turned out really nice.

I bought the lumbar pillow from a thrift store. Though the case was not my favorite, it was the perfect size and shape for this craft.


Happy Fall!

7:15 AM


Just a couple things I want to do this Fall:

drink apple cider
take pictures of fall leaves
carve pumpkins
wear sweaters and leggings
make candy apples

I'm so excited to see what this new season brings!

Random Ramblings: Books, Music, and Style

7:39 AM

Hi. I didn't feel like posting a normal blog post today. So I wrote this. Just some random things for you to read. About me. About life.

Peach Pie

8:46 AM


Can summer please just stay forever? I haven't gotten my fill of sun and pools and flip-flops and skirts!

In an attempt to snag at the rapidly disappearing rays of summer, I decided to make this peach pie. It was actually really spontaneous. I was at a produce stand and saw the piles and piles of ripe, yellow-orange peaches and it just sort of went from there.





Hula Tassels

7:59 AM

DIY Hula Tassels | damask love

{via}

Over the weekend, sometimes all I need is a simple, cheap craft to help me de-stress and clear my head. This craft is perfect for that! It took me back to my friendship bracelet making days. And it was such a fun way to play with colors! Seriously, if you have not been in the embroidery thread aisle at Michael's, check it out! I swear I heard angels singing when I laid eyes on it.

Anyway, I found this craft on Damask Love. Feel free to check out how her tassels turned out! (And don't you just love the name hula tassels? That makes them sound so fun!)
 

Chocolaty Chocolate Ice Cream

8:03 AM

Remember when I got my ice cream maker? Well, I've been playing around with it and am finally ready to share an ice cream recipe! It's a simple, classic ice cream flavor, loved by all for generations: chocolate ice cream.

This ice cream takes the chocolate part seriously. The chocolate taste is so rich that its sure to satisfy even the most fanatic of chocolate lovers!

You start off by using cocoa powder.



 

Customized Composition Book

8:06 AM



Well, like it or not, it's back-to-school season. The bright spot: new school supplies! But that doesn't mean you have to spend extra at the store. All it takes is a little creativity! I took a regular ol' composition notebook and simply covered it with a pretty piece of scrapbook paper! I love how it turned out.

Summer Galette with Tomato, Zucchini, and Corn

9:07 AM

This summer, my family had our annual "Birthday Bash". It's a day when we all get together--aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents--to celebrate the birthdays of all the adults. It usually involves a gift exchange for the adults and a raffle for everybody, including the kids/teenagers.

Well, this year I won my great grandma's rolling pin. It's old with red handles. And I love it. I love baking, and now I have something I'll take to my own kitchen someday that has some family history attached.

So, on to the point of this random tangent. I proceeded, after receiving this rolling pin, to check out books about pies from the library. So I could use this said rolling pin.

That's when something unexpected happened. Instead of fruit pies, I was drawn to making a savory galette. On the way to my last vacation on the coast, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch and I had a galette with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and caramelized onions. That sealed the deal. It was so delicious, I was convinced I just had to make my own. So I did! And got to use my rolling pin! Mission accomplished. 


High School 101

10:21 AM

Why, summer, why? 

That was my plea this morning, when I discovered myself awakening on the last day of summer. It's so hard for me to go back to school, whether it be after summer vacation or winter break or even a three-day weekend. No matter how long I have off, it's so hard to say goodbye to slow mornings and crafty afternoons and bonfire nights and beach days. But since school is, unfortunately, nonnegotiable, I decided that I might as well make the best of it. This is my senior year. My last year before heading off to college. Since I have, in fact, endured three years of high school so far, I think I can call myself a high school expert. And today, free of charge, you get to read my Top Six High School Tips. You're welcome. (Also check out my top 5 tips for taking the SAT here!)

Healthy Blueberry Oat Muffins

10:43 AM


Since when did muffins become a dessert?

Lemon poppy seed. Raspberry lemon-glazed. Chocolate chip. Strawberry coffee cake. Cake is using muffins as a disguise to sneak itself into our breakfasts! I mean, have you had Costco muffins? Tell me those are not small, individual cakes.

But I am bringing back the healthy muffins! If only for just this once... (I still love you, Costco muffins!) These muffins you can eat for breakfast and actually feel good about! The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups rolled oats and a full cup of blueberries. There is no butter and only 1/4 cup of sugar. Not bad, considering what muffins have become. And these were perfect for bringing along on my camping trip. (You can see the pictures from that trip here.) Simply store them in a plastic container, seal the lid, and pack them up! If possible, make them as close as possible to your departure day. That way, they'll be fresh!

Camping Hack: Eggs in a Bag

5:11 PM



Camping is a summer tradition in my family. I love retreating to a beautiful mountain lake and spending time with my family and with myself--painting, reading, and taking pictures. Nature has a way of making everything else in life feel far away and unimportant.

But I think we can all admit that camping can be a little hard. Not for super outdoorsy people like Bear Grylls, perhaps, but it is for the average person (that's me). I mean, you're living outdoors for a few days, without most modern conveniences. No refrigerator, no TV, no Wifi, no AC (though during my last camping experience, the heater was most missed). It's not impossible by any means to sacrifice those things, but I'll be the first to admit it isn't easy.

One of the hardest things about camping is planning meals and packing food. (Luckily for me, however, most of that chore is left to my dad.) Wouldn't it be great if you could just put all the ingredients in a bag, place it in a pot of boiling water, and out comes a meal? But wait... it is possible! Introducing: eggs in a bag. Eggs in a bag is a super easy breakfast idea because it's easy and delicious and each person gets to chose their own mix-ins!

Mar Vista

7:18 AM

Are you ready for a picture overload?

I hope so, because I took a crazy amount of pictures on my latest trip. It was just too picturesque to not whip out my camera every five seconds. Mar Vista Cottages is located on the California coast. I've been staying there ever since I was just ten years old. My family's first visit was back in 2008. We obviously fell in love with the place, since we've been back so much! It's a gorgeous place and a very peaceful and relaxing stay. 

On the way, we stopped at a delicious restaurant called Sea Ranch. I had the Humboldt Fog Tomato Galette, which was amazing! It had Humboldt Fog goat cheese, caramelized onion, and sun dried tomatoes. Yum! It inspired me to try making a galette myself.

In Honor of Ice Cream Month...

4:22 PM


{via}

The last day of National Ice Cream Month has arrived too soon. Not only does it also mean the end of July (and consequently the first month of school) but it also means that I let all 31 days of National Ice Cream Month pass by without doing anything at all to celebrate.

But not to worry. I have decided to do something that will make up for my celebration procrastination. The ultimate way to show ice cream my unconditional devotion and love.

I will buy an ice cream maker. 

In fact, I can't believe I haven't bought one until now. Homemade ice cream on demand? It's the greatest thing ever! I have chosen one from Amazon after some tedious research and brand comparison...but I feel confident that this one is the best for the price. Of course, there are better ones out there... But I'm not willing to pay $200+ at the present... So $53.99 it is. Here's the one I got (click on the picture for the link to Amazon): 

http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-ICE-21-Frozen-Yogurt-Ice-Sorbet/dp/B003KYSLMW/ref=sr_1_1?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1437965770&sr=1-1&keywords=ice+cream+maker


Wish me luck on this new ice-cream-making adventure! Expect some ice cream recipes up on the blog soon!

And happy last day of National Ice Cream Month!

P.S. So usually I only post on Sundays, but I'm considering breaking that habit. I'll still post on Sundays, but I may add some other posts during the rest of the week. We'll see how it goes!

Sew Your Own Pencil Pouch!

7:58 AM


The start of school is coming up.
There, I said it. Hold your moaning and groaning, for I have an idea for making the transition back to the classroom slightly more enjoyable.

Here it is: fun school supplies. Even better: fun, handmade school supplies. The best: fun, handmade, colorful school supplies. This pencil pouch fits all those requirements! And it's really easy to sew, even if you're not an avid sewer. Can you sew a straight line? Good. Then you can do this, no problem.

Don't let the zipper scare you away either. You don't need a special zipper foot. Your regular one will do just fine. Also, there's no need to shorten your zipper or use a fancy bar tack or any of that jazz. Straight lines. That's it, I promise.

Camping Trip!

8:06 AM

Well, I've returned safe and sound from yet another summer adventure. I came home just yesterday after five days in the mountains. It was refreshing to retreat to the wilderness and do nothing but paint, read, and sit with my thoughts. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to finally take a shower and sleep in a real bed when I returned. 

This week, I'm just going to share some pictures of my trip -- from a foot selfie to roasting marshmallows to the gorgeous wildflowers growing at 8,600 feet elevation.

How to Carve Your Own Stamps

7:36 AM



Hello hello!

One of the best things about summer is having time to do all sorts of fun DIYs. Hmm... What should I do today? Carve my own stamps? Sure! Why not?

This was actually a lot of fun. At first, it seemed like a rather difficult craft, but if you have the right tools and a pinch of patience, the stamps turn out great.

My England Adventure

6:40 AM


Guess what? I just took a trip of a lifetime.

For nine days, I was in England. I spent three days in the bustling city of London and the rest in the beautiful vivid green English countryside. It was, to sum it up in a word, incredible.

I was travelling with nine other people, for a total group of ten. Plus our guide and driver. So I must say that it was a little crazy at times, particularly in the airport and on the plane and rushing about from place to place. Nevertheless, it was definitely an amazing experience.

The Best Fluffy Waffles

7:27 AM



It's summer! You know what that means...

More time for breakfast! During the school year, all I have time for is a bowl of microwavable oatmeal, and occasionally a smoothie. But now, I can make a delicious breakfast for my whole family. Bring on the waffles!

I haven't made waffles often in the past, but with the discovery of this recipe, I know that I will in the future. They are so delicious! Beating the egg whites before adding them to the waffle mix makes the waffles extra fluffy.

DIY Drawer Organizer

6:45 AM

Cluttered drawers. We all have them. My bathroom drawer in particular was extremely messy. I had to stick my hand in and dig around for a bit before I could find anything! That's why, from the first moment I saw it, I fell in love with this idea.

 
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a before picture. Fortunately, you don't get to see how messy and disgusting this drawer was before I organized it.

I love, love, love this idea! (Did I already say that?) It's fairly easy (though kinda time-consuming) and completely free. You don't have to buy any special supplies for it plus you get to recycle empty cereal boxes! I think the end result looks beautiful, too. The wrapping paper really gives your drawer a fun pop of color! I smile every time I get ready in the morning now.

Video Recipe: Carrot Cake!

8:03 AM



Once again, happy Sunday!

Today I'm going to do things a little different. Instead of sharing a written post, I'm going to share a video post! In the video below, I will show you how to make a delicious carrot cake I found in the book Teens Cook Dessert. (It's a great dessert recipe book. I recommend it even if you're not a teen...) So go ahead and click play to learn how to make this yummy cake. If you need to see the recipe in writing or the measurements for all the ingredients, I have it down below the video for you.

Enjoy!


How I'm Going to Drink Less Soda

7:52 AM

Soda is the second most consumed beverage in the United States (with water being the first). Americans guzzle 57 gallons of soda per year. Yes, that's per person.

While it may be delicious, soda negatively affects the human body in multiple ways. As you already know, one can of soda contains a monstrous amount of sugar. Approximately ten teaspoons! Consuming soda causes blood sugar to skyrocket, which can lead to diabetes, weight gain, and several other health problems. It can also cause the build up of plague and a higher chance of cavities. It doesn't even hydrate the body because of all the sodium, caffeine, and sugar. To make it worse, there are absolutely no health benefits whatsoever in soda, so it can't even counterbalance any of its negative affects.

After reading that, you must think I'm a health nut. I'm not. I love my soda (Virgil's Dr. Better is the best). There is no way I can eliminate it completely. My goal is to simply drink less of it. How am I going to do it? Here's how.

The sparkling water 30-day challenge.

How to Jazz Up Your Paper Clips

7:40 AM

First of all, happy Sunday! Time for another post! I can't believe it's my 13th one already!
Second of all, I want to apologize for the short post today. I am currently wrapping up my junior year and have been very busy lately. But summer is almost here, so expect some exciting stuff in the near future!

Now on to this week's craft tutorial!

Paper clips are very functional. However, you must admit they're lacking in the looks department (even my pretty colored ones). This is a super simple craft that took me less than five minutes. And I didn't have to go to a craft store to buy any new supplies!

5-Minute Nutella Hot Chocolate

7:04 AM


Did you know?

One jar of Nutella is sold every 2.5 seconds.

There's no doubt about it. The world is obsessed with Nutella. And I am no exception. Creamy chocolately hazelnutty goodness on a spoon (yes, I eat it off a spoon).

Now, I am happy to announce that I have found a way to drink Nutella. Nutella Hot Chocolate! It takes 5 minutes to make and tastes delicious!! And (since the weather refuses to get warm here!!) it is the perfect treat for cold, cloudy afternoons.

30 Ways to Upgrade Your Oatmeal

9:02 AM


If you saw my Favorites post, you know that my all-time favorite breakfast is oatmeal. I use rolled oats from Trader Joe's (see picture below). I either make it in the morning, using the recipe on the bag, or use the overnight oats method, where I mix together 1/2 cup oats and 1/2 cup milk in a jar, leave it in the fridge overnight, and then heat it up in the microwave the next morning for one minute. The former takes about 10 minutes to make, from start to finish. The latter is super easy, because all you have to do in the morning is heat it up for a minute and add in the good stuff.

Now, I know that to some, oatmeal is a bland, boring breakfast. But I have discovered that it is everything but! Here are thirty yummy add-ins to make your oatmeal amazing!

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

7:30 AM

 
Happy Sunday! Today I would like to share with you an amazing cookie recipe! I made these last week and they were so delicious and easy. I love anything lemon. Plus, I have a lemon tree in my backyard, so I have an unlimited supply of lemons (which actually comes in handy more often than you'd think). Follow the recipe below (adapted from Cooking Classy) to make some of these yummy cookies for yourself.

Easiest Pillowcase Ever!

8:00 AM

Today I'm going to show you how to sew the easiest pillowcase ever. It is so simple and turns out looking so professional. This method is known as the "Hot Dog" method. You'll get the analogy in a bit.

The fabric that you'll need is 1/3 yard of fabric for the border and 3/4 yard of fabric for the body of the pillowcase.