Archive for the ‘Christina’ Category

Stock Your Holiday Bar Cart

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

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A few months ago as Rob and I were preparing for our pumpkin carving party, we headed out to BevMo with plans to stock our cute vintage bar cart. Before heading out, I searched the web for a recommended list of spirits and mixers that one should have on hand when hosting a party. Alcohol is spendy and I wanted to provide a variety of options to our guests without breaking the bank. Unfortunately I came up empty handed, unable to find a list that would help me shop smart. So, the shopping list included all of the ingredients we needed to make our signature cocktail (an apple cider margarita), along with a few spirits and mixers that I’d consider staples.

The pumpkin carving party was a success, with most guests sticking to our signature cocktail. When a couple folks decided to mix their own favorite drink, I was relieved to see that our little bar cart was stocked with everything they needed. In typical blogger fashion, I thought I’d share my shopping list which includes a selection of staple spirits, mixers and garnishes that will make a wide variety of drinks; along with a few tips to keep in mind when shopping for booze.

Stock Your Bar Cart Shopping List

Spirits
Gin
Vodka
Spiced Rum
Whiskey/Bourbon

Mixers
Tonic Water
Soda Water
Ginger Ale
Orange Juice
Cranberry Juice
Aromatic Bitters
Grenadine
Triple Sec

Garnishes
Lemons
Limes
Oranges
Maraschino Cherries
Green Olives

Tip #1: Select a signature cocktail or two for your party. Choose a drink that will pair well with the food you serve and it will be an easy choice for your guests. This will also make shopping much easier as you’ll spend most of your adult beverage budget on the ingredients needed to make one drink.

Tip #2: Don’t buy everything! You could quickly spend hundreds of dollars stocking your bar cart unless you keep it simple. Provide your guests with a variety of staples and they’ll be able to mix up a delicious drink. Your guests don’t want you to go broke providing unlimited options. And, if they have a soft spot for an obscure spirit encourage them to bring a bottle to share with the group. What a great conversation starter!

Tip #3: Keep a few cocktail recipe books on hand. Unless your friends are bartenders, you’ll probably have a few guests that don’t know the recipe for their favorite drink. This will also help them mix their own drink later in the evening.

Tip #4: Post the recipe for your signature cocktail(s) near your bar cart. You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all night making drinks. Greet your guests with a pre-made signature cocktail, then let them have fun mixing one of their own.

Next week, I’ll be back to share the Wilderness Girls favorite champagne cocktails. A bubbly champagne cocktail is the perfect signature drink for your New Years Eve celebration!

Did I miss anything? Be sure to share your bar cart must haves (or the recipe for your favorite drink) in the comments below!

O Christmas Tree

Friday, December 13th, 2013

When it comes to Christmas, I’ve always been a traditional red & green kind of gal.

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This year I decided to do something a little different. I wanted to decorate a tree that would fit in well with the decor in our home and I knew that I wanted to buy a new tree, but struggled when trying to decide on a color and theme. I bounced back and forth between a retro themed pink tree filled with pink and blue vintage ornaments (like this) and a rustic, woodsy white tree filled with woodland creatures and metallic ornaments (like this). I chose a rustic, woodsy theme for my new white Christmas tree, mainly because I didn’t have time to search for affordable vintage ornaments and I knew that I could reuse a lot of the ornaments that I already had.

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The tree is from Treetopia, it’s their pre-lit 6′ Winter White Christmas tree. I made the garland using jute rope and strips of burlap. I Iove a full tree, so I added lots of gold, silver, white and chocolate brown bulbs and then filled in with silver icicles, wooden nutcrackers, snowflakes and fuzzy woodland creatures. Many of the ornaments came from Target; and I also picked up a few boxes of glass bulb ornaments from Michaels. The tree is filled with lots of ornaments that I’ve had for years. There’s a silver reindeer hanging out underneath the tree along with a vintage leather suitcase to keep the presents up and away from the puppies.

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I do wish I’d purchased a taller tree. The six foot tree is dwarfed by our 9′ ceilings. I knew it was too small after we’d unpacked the tree and set it up in the living room. Determined to find a creative solution that would add height to the tree, I decided to covert a tree stump into a tree stand. We purchased a stump off Craigslist for less than ten dollars. Then, Rob cut the stump down to a height of about fifteen inches and drilled a hole into the center using a spade bit. I love the new stand like crazy.

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I’m a little obsessed with our new tree; it’s still cozy but fits well with our decor, and it’s not fussy one bit. Mission accomplished.

Quick Gift Idea: Poppin’ Pedicure Set

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Have you ever been handed a sweet little package by someone who wasn’t on your gift list? I just hate that! While I believe it’s the thought that counts, I like to keep a stash of little gifts I can give in return as a way to say thank you.

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Supplies needed: toilet paper roll, gift wrap, scissors, tape, ribbon, nail polish & pedicure tools. 1. Cut a piece of gift wrap a couple inches wider than the toilet paper roll (this will allow you to tie the ends off). 2. Wrap the toilet paper roll and secure with a small piece of tape, leaving both ends open. 3. Tie off one end of the popper with ribbon. 4. Place pedicure tools inside the popper. 4. Tie off the open end of the popper with ribbon. 5. Fluff ends.

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These little pedi poppers would make great gifts for neighbors, co-workers or your boyfriend’s best friend’s new girlfriend. They don’t have to be filled with pedicure tools either. Fill them with candy, art supplies, or even a cute pair of earrings.

I can’t wait to make more!

My Thanksgiving Table: One Place Setting, Three Ways

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

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I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is only a week away! This year, we’re staying in Arizona and will be hosting a small group for dinner at our house. Though we’ll be a tiny bunch, I still want dinner to feel special, and plan to set a charming table.

As I played around with different color and theme options for my table, I thought about my post from last week. I wanted to stay true to my concept of decorating for the holidays by combining pieces I already own with items that can be used throughout the year, for more than one holiday.

I thought that it would be a fun challenge to style one place setting three ways. I started with the basics, a muslin tablecloth, burlap placemat, white dishes, mason jar cup with a black and white striped paper straw and simple enamel flatware.

White, Brown, Gold & Black

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I love that this place setting is rustic with a touch of glitz. The place mat and napkin were both made with fabric purchased from Joann Fabrics, I left the edges raw. The pumpkin is from the dollar spot at Target (I covered it with gold glitter) and the place card was made using a simple manila tag, stamped with a sweet message and tied with twine.

White, Brown, Green & Black

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For this place setting, I flipped the polka dot place mat over to create a more subdued vibe. The napkin was made with fabric purchased from Joann Fabrics. I painted a little pumpkin black and for the place card, I stitched my guest’s name onto a simple manila tag (using embroidery thread) and tied it around a mason jar with yarn.

White, Brown, Ikat & Gold

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This might be my favorite place setting of the three! The simple burlap place mat stayed (though I think it would look great with the polka dot side up too). The napkin was made with fabric purchased from Joann Fabrics. I reused the glittery gold pumpkin and stamped a delicate white feather with the word “thankful”. The place card was made using a simple manila tag, stamped with my guest’s name and tied around a mason jar with yarn.

Are you doing anything special to personalize your Thanksgiving table this year?

My Favorite DIY Pins: Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Can I tell you a secret? I love holiday decor. But, I hate that so much of it is limited to use around one specific holiday. It seems crazy that we make and collect all of these lovely, festive bits only to have them on display for a few short weeks each year.

This year as I’ve added to my holiday stash, I’ve been trying to follow a few simple rules. First, I’ve been looking for easy DIY pieces that can be used across a number of holidays or even year around. They also need to work with the style of our home, adding a hint of holiday cheer without the cheese factor. Finally, I’ve tried to avoid buying pieces that were similar to something I already own. If I do buy to replace, I donate the old items.

I’ve been scouring Pinterest for weeks and have found some really lovely DIY projects that I wanted to share with you. Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in a few of these projects before Thanksgiving!

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1., 2., 3., 4., 5.

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6., 7., 8., 9., 10.

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11., 12., 13., 14., 15.

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16., 17., 18., 19., 20.

Need more inspiration? Head over and check out our Thanksgiving board on Pinterest.

Honoring Our Veterans

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Veteran’s Day was first celebrated in 1919 to commemorate the first anniversary of the armistice of World War I. Fighting ceased on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – November 11, 1918. President Wilson proclaimed Veteran’s Day a national holiday intended to celebrate and honor the American service men and women for their bravery, patriotism and service. You can learn more about this holiday by visiting the US Department of Veterans Affairs online.

The Wilderness Girls all have special veterans in our lives – people we love who have loved and served this country, protecting us from dangers most people can’t imagine. Nobody knows what it is like to serve unless they have taken that oath and lived that life. Today Christina and Rachael are honoring two veterans in their lives by telling their stories.

Christina’s Grandfather: Jack E. Grant

My grandpa Jack E. Grant (1924-2011) was a veteran of World War II; he served as a pilot in the United States Navy. Jack was a handsome, charismatic, outgoing man with lots of stories to tell. Only he rarely said anything about his time in the service – I can only assume his silence was a result of the tragedy he experienced at such a young age. He was a larger than life figure and so much of what we know about his service feels fantastical and after so many years the truth and myth have blurred together.

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One of the last conversations we shared is one that I will hold close to my heart for as long as I live. It took place during a chaotic time for our family. My grandfather, faced with losing his home and independence sat with me in the rehabilitation wing of a hospital in his small Montana town. It was one of the first times he’d opened up about that part of his life to me. As we reflected on the many ways technology has changed pilot training I asked him how he learned to fly. His eyes as big as saucers, “they put me in the plane and made me fly”, he replied matter-of-factly. He went on to admit that he could still see the faces of the friends he’d lost at sea; images burned into his brain long ago. One of those friends was lost off of the end of the carrier they were stationed on together and he attended his funeral in the middle of the ocean. Behind his watery eyes I could see the open footlocker that held all of those excruciating memories for so many years close. For my grandpa’s generation (the greatest), service wasn’t a sacrifice; it was simply what you did. You didn’t regale your family and friends with stories from the front lines, you locked those memories away and carried the burden on your own.

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Next July will mark three years that he’s been gone. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t give him nearly enough time while he was here with us on Earth. When I was younger I thought him old fashioned and stubborn. I resented the fact that I knew so little about the head of our family, that he expected me to be the one to reach out. But, now I reflect on the result of my reaching out – he opened up, and I have the memory of one conversation that I’ll carry with me always. We’re rapidly losing the men and women of our greatest generation to death, it’s estimated that we lose someone from their generation every two minutes. If we don’t ask, they might not share, leaving those memories gone forever.

Rachael’s Father-in-Law: Bobby Ruelas

My father-in-law Bobby Ruelas served in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He was stationed in Thailand and later in Vietnam as a supply clerk for 3rd Air Marines. His primary duties were moving supplies and jet parts and making sure they were available to the Marines where and when they were needed.

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He was fortunate in that he was never sent into active combat at the front line out in the bush, but the base at which he served was deep within the jungle and it was bombed often. There were three major targets at the base: the ammo dump where missiles were stored, the revetment where the jets were parked and the supply huts where he worked. When I asked him about that he told me one day a M-105 (missile) came through the tin roof of the Quonset Hut he worked in and landed about 20 feet from him but it didn’t explode right away. All of the men immediately dropped to the floor and crawled toward cover. The bomb squad was called in and the missile was a dud, but that kind of danger was part of their life every day.

Even toward the rear of the fighting there was really never a moment of safety. In the line of duty he was exposed to Agent Orange, which was a chemical defoliant used to clear the jungle of trees and plants so the enemy couldn’t hide under the lush foliage. In the years after it was shown to have terrible health consequences and he is living with those effects today. When the Marines of the Vietnam era came home they were greeted with hostility instead of respect. There were protesters at the airport when Bobby arrived back in the US after his tour and they spat on him and called him murderer and baby killer. And then there were the nightmares. Still, to this day Bobby identifies as a Marine. He says once a person is a Marine there is no going back. His service changed him, in some ways for the better and in other ways for the worse. When I asked him if it was 1970 and he had it to do all over again what he would choose, he didn’t hesitate when he said he would enlist again. Semper Fidelis.

If you have veterans in your life, take a minute today to let them know how important their service is and how much they are appreciated. We would love to hear your stories in the comments below. You can also share photos of your veteran(s) on Instagram and use the tag #ilovemyveteran.

Refreshing Vintage: Chair Makeover

Friday, November 8th, 2013

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In the past few years, an increased demand for vintage has left prices up and inventory down. It’s harder to find that diamond in the rough. So, when I found this chair for less than twenty dollars, I was excited. It reminded me of the Circle Chair designed by Tony Paul.

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The chair was in rough shape, the seat had been poorly recovered, one of the legs was missing a cap and the paint was chippy. When you find a piece of vintage furniture with great bones, be sure to consider the added cost of materials if you plan to give it a makeover. This can quickly drive up the price. With some vintage inspired fabric and a poppy paint color, I knew that it would be a cheap and easy refresh.

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I searched Etsy for weeks looking for the perfect fabric but came up empty- handed. With all of it’s thousands of listings, the site can provide too many options making it hard for me to choose. (Am I the only one with this problem?!) I’d been searching for something in vinyl or oilcloth so that it would be durable. Thank goodness for my crafting stash; I found the perfect fabric buried in a pile of fabrics I’d purchased for my art space makeover.

I prepped the chair for paint by removing the seat and wiping it with a wet rag to remove years of dirt and debris. Next, I used a piece of steel wool to roughen up the surface and remove the shine. I sprayed the chair in Oatlands Daisy from Valspar’s Color Radiance line.

Next, I removed the black vinyl seat cover and used the remnant as a template to cut the new seat cover. I covered the seat with the new fabric and secured it with staples. The new fabric that I’d selected was a simple cotton quilting fabric, for added durability I chose to cover it with a layer of clear gloss vinyl. Finally, I let the paint cure overnight and reattached the seat cover.

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I’m in love with my new chair! I spent less than twenty dollars on materials and put in about two hours worth of work. It just goes to show that with patience, a little digging and the willingness to invest some elbow grease you can still get great vintage at a great price!

Preparing for the Holiday Road Trip

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

There is a certain feeling of freedom I get from being behind the wheel of a car and driving down the open road. Along with that freedom lies a certain responsibility, and for me that means making sure my family is safe.

We live in a pretty harsh climate in Arizona and when we travel to California to see family for the holidays or take weekend road trips we travel through some pretty desolate areas, especially in the summer.

Coming up with a plan to make sure you and your vehicle are prepared is essential so I would like to share a few things I do before taking a trip. I am by no means a mechanic but here are a few very simple checks you can do before loading up the car and hitting the road.

1. Check the tires. Make sure they look to be wearing evenly. Also check the air pressure. Most tires will have a recommended air pressure on the side. I use an inexpensive air pressure I gauge I purchased at my local auto parts store for about a dollar.

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2. Check your oil. It’s best to do this on a level surface and when the engine is cool, you don’t want to accidentally burn yourself. Your car’s dipstick will have lines or dots that indicate low and full oil levels. Be mindful of your oil level, you never want to let your car run low. Add oil if needed. Check your owner’s manual for oil type and filling instructions.

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3. Make sure the air filter is clean and isn’t black from sucking in too much dust. A little is ok but the dirtier it is the lower your gas mileage gets and the harder it is for your car to breathe. Most modern cars are set up the same way and house the air filter in a black box secured with three or four metal clips. It easily pops right off and you can pull the air filter out. Now that you know how to check your air filter you can save money by buying and replacing it yourself.

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4. Now that you have your hood up, why not take a look around? Are there any damp areas or loose wires? Check the other reservoirs and make sure they are full. For example the windshield wiper fluid always seems to be low in our car. If you see anything questionable it might be a good idea to take it to your mechanic before going on any long trips.

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5. Tool kits are always great to have in an emergency. I keep a simple kit in the car with a few extras. A pocket knife, zip ties and a flashlight are essentials in my book. Kinda seems like a MacGyver setup but a lot can be done with these things in an emergency.

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Along with snacks food and plenty of water those are the basic steps I take to get ready for a road trip.

**A few things to remember. Be sure to turn your engine off and let it cool before performing any maintenance Always park on a level surface and make sure the vehicle is in park with the emergency brake

Pumpkin Carving Party

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

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Rob and I hosted the other Wilderness Couples for a party at our house over the weekend. We’ve lived in this house for just over a year and put off hosting friends until we had the main living areas finished. Together, we’ve worked really hard over the last couple of months, crossing lots of to-dos off of our list and decided it was time to break-in the place. We thought it would be fun to host friends for a pumpkin carving party.

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I was really excited to decorate the house for the party. I was inspired by the bright colors and folk art of Dia de Los Muertos. We filled the house with tiny pumpkins, candles, brightly colored flowers, feathers, doilies and of course lots sugar skulls.

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We built an ofrenda using a vintage leather suitcase, thrifted fabric and tea light candles. In our invitation, we asked friends to bring photos of lost loved ones and fruit, which is a traditional offering. Everyone brought something to add to the shrine. As they placed the photos among the fruit and candles, they shared memories of their lost loved ones. Rachael even brought strawberries, her grandmother’s favorite.

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We served baked chicken taquitos with a creamy cilantro lime dipping sauce, a chopped green salad with avocado, roasted red peppers, corn and pepitas, spicy popcorn and chips with spicy queso blanco. For dessert, there were Mexican hot chocolate donuts, sugar cookies and lots of candy. Rob & I stocked our bar cart ahead of time so that guests could mix their own cocktails or use the recipe we featured on a chalkboard to concoct our drink of the night — an Apple Cider Margarita.

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Outside on our patio, the set-up was simple. We wrapped our new table in craft paper and set out pumpkins, carving tools and bowls (to collect sticky pumpkin guts). All of us ate, drank cocktails and carved pumpkins into the wee hours of the night. It was bliss.

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I’m so happy our first party in this house was a success. We love our home and feel really lucky to live here. It doesn’t hurt that we have such great friends either.

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Be sure to read this week’s Friday Links post, when I’ll share recipes for the delicious food we served!

Gourmet S’Mores Bar

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

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One of my favorite memories from last year’s fall foliage trip was roasting marshmallows under the stars. We’d packed the fixings to make a traditional s’more — marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers.

This year, our accommodations were a tad less rustic, with no fire pit for a campfire. We did have a huge fireplace though, which called for a s’mores upgrade. I’ve always wanted to put together a s’mores bar and this was the perfect opportunity.

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I packed a variety of chocolate bars, marshmallows and sweet crackers. All of the chocolate bars came from World Market, they have a great selection with lots of unique flavors. It was really hard to choose! After pacing the aisles for a while, I landed on salted caramel milk chocolate, candied ginger and orange zest dark chocolate, Lindt milk chocolate, coconut dark chocolate and raspberry cream dark chocolate. I also picked up organic graham crackers, butter biscuits and vanilla, strawberry & toasted coconut marshmallows.

We had so much fun trying different combinations. Over the evening we each found a favorite flavor combo and took turns preparing our signature s’more for the other girls.

Here are our favorites:

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I think this would be a really fun dessert bar for a party; your guests will have a blast getting creative and testing different combinations. Feature the recipe for a few signature s’mores on a chalkboard and set out small takeout boxes so that guests can take home the ingredients of their favorite.

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Have you ever put together a s’mores bar before? Are you a s’mores purist? Be sure to tell us below in the comments!

Craving more fall foliage photos? Check out our photostream on Flickr.