Archive for August, 2013

Friday Finds: 08/30/13

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Ever find something on your trip down the internet rabbit-hole that you just have to share with the world? The Wilderness Girls do! Every week we will link you to our favorite bits of the internet right here on Friday Finds.  Click the links below to check out this week’s selections!

She Keeps Me Warm: My favorite part of the VMAs was definitely seeing the gorgeous Mary Lambert on stage with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Check out her single version of She Keeps Me Warm.

We, the Miley: It’s so easy to sit in front of our tv screens or laptops and shake our heads at these girls coming of age in the limelight. I’m guilty of it. But, this post by Rebecca Woolf of the blog Girl’s Gone Child stopped me in my tracks.

40 Days of Dating: Two friends. Six rules. A really interesting social experiment. Check out what happens when two friends decide to date for 40 days and document the entire process on this entertaining blog.

This Pulsing Earth: The passing of Earth’s seasons from outer space looks a lot like the pulse of a beating heart. I watched this one, fascinated, for a long time thinking about how we are all so interconnected.

Don’t forget to check out our blogroll in the menu bar to see more sites that we are addicted to. Find something that you would like to see shared on Friday Finds? Send us an e-mail at editor@thewildernessgirls.com and you could be featured on TheWildernessGirls.com.

Art Space Inspiration

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

When Rob & I purchased our first home in late 2012, one of the items on our wish list was a third bedroom. In our condo, our spare room had worn many hats, serving as storage room, office, guest room & art space. Needless to say, it was always cluttered and only had room for an air mattress. We were hoping for two spare bedrooms so that guests had a real bed, room to unpack and weren’t forced to share space with my art supplies. I also wanted a separate room so that if we had someone staying with us long-term, I’d still be able to work on projects, manage my Etsy shop and do school work.

We were fortunate enough to find a great house, with a third bedroom for my art space. However, when we first moved in the room became a catch-all for art supplies, spare furniture, shop merchandise and random bits. I shut the door and there the piles sat. I went to work getting the rest of the house put together and planned to set-up and decorate the room once that was all done. Even though I didn’t have a functioning space, I still had projects to work on and schoolwork to do. Before I knew it shipping boxes, textbooks and art supplies had crept into every room of the house! In September we’ll have owned our house for a year and I’m determined to have the room set-up before then.

The room is pretty small, it measures 10×10. I need room to sew, paint & scrapbook, do homework, blog, and manage my Etsy shop. I also need plenty of storage for supplies, magazines & books. I’d like to be able to display my collections, art and inspiration material. It’s also really important to me that I have extra seating, so that Rob can hang out and read while I’m working or to host friends for the craft nights I’ve been dreaming of.

I’d like the space to feel airy & feminine with bright art & accessories and an eclectic mix of furniture. The color palette was inspired by Patricia Bravo’s Summerlove fabric collection. I was also inspired by the art spaces of two of my favorite bloggers: Danielle from Kischy Digitals & Jamie from Raising up Rubies.

Here is an inspiration board that I put together featuring furniture and accessories that I already own or hope to buy and DIY projects that have inspired projects for the room:

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MASKROS Pendant Lamp
“Don’t Give Up” Print
Eiffel Ghost Side Chair
Wall Terrarium
Mid-Century Walnut Bookcase
DIY: Twin Track Bracket Shelves
NIPEN Table Leg
Gooseneck Desk Lamp
DIY: Wood Shim Wall Art
Edland Dressing Table
RASKOG Utility Cart
DIY: Torn Fabric Garland
Yellow Chevron Pillow

I’m a few weeks into this project and have already made a lot of progress.

I started by clearing out the room; anything that wasn’t going back into the room found a new home or ended up in the garage. I removed the sliding doors from the closet to make it more accessible. I painted the walls and hung a bamboo shade and curtains over the window. I also hung curtains over the closet opening. I stashed all of my junk in the closet. Then Rob helped me move in my existing furniture we which we re-arranged several times before finding the perfect layout. I already own the EDLAND Dressing Table (discontinued) and a basic white desk from IKEA that I plan on adding the NIPEN legs to. I’ll use my Nanny’s sewing table to house my sewing machine.

I’m still on the hunt for a mid-century bookcase, a comfy vintage chair and inexpensive storage bins. I’d also like to plant a terrarium and buy a potted plant or two. I need to hang art, shelves that will display my collections and there are several DIY projects that I should be wrapping up soon. I’ve got lots to do – I better get to work! I can’t wait to show you the finished product!

Christina Profile Picture Circle

Food, Glorious Food!

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

After reading Midnight in the Garden of Grits and Sweet Tea you now have successfully planned your very own road trip route. So, the weeks go by, you pack, and you get on the road to your first destination. Then it happens. Your tummy starts growling. Now what?

You could fall back on places you know – McDonald’s, Cracker Barrel, etc., but why? Just because you have never been to a city before doesn’t mean you have to fall for the tourist traps or chain restaurants that are “familiar.”

Here are some quick tips on finding out where those diamonds in the fast-food landscape are:

* Make your hotel concierge/desk clerk/bell hop your new BFF. They live in that town. They know the restaurants that are good based on what type of food you want, and they will also know the places you should avoid. In Charleston, we were referred to Slightly North of Broad (SNOB), a fantastic Southern with a modern twist restaurant that we never would have found on our own. So don’t be shy!

* Yelp! (Disclaimer: I am not being sponsored or paid in any way by Yelp. I am just a big fan.) Yelp is great as it has a GPS tracker so it can show you restaurants nearby, as well as actual reviews. Word of warning on reviews though: try to avoid the extremes either way. Some people are always going to be haters, and some people are overly enthusiastic, so read more than one or two reviews to get a sense of a place. In Athens, GA, we found a stupendous restaurant through Yelp called The Last Resort. It was an old jazz/comedy club turned restaurant. Again, it was Southern food with a modern twist. The fried green tomatoes and made-from-scratch red velvet cake were amazing. So even in a college town, we found a great place thanks to Yelp.

* Talk to people BEFORE you go. As I mentioned in Midnight in the Garden of Grits and Sweet Tea, people you know back home can be a wealth of information. My good friend at work has a sister in Savannah, so she was able to recommend places to eat, as well as places to avoid. Because of her advice, we skipped right by Paula Deen’s and hit up Vik’s On the River and had what we deemed the “best grits of the entire trip.” So, don’t be shy about asking for advice before you go.

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* Travel to a destination where you know a local. This isn’t always doable, but in New Orleans, we have a very good friend, Daneel, who lives there and grew up there. Part of the reason that we love NOLA as much as we do is that we always follow her recommendations. This last trip, she was able to pick us up and take us to a different part of the city for dinner at Jacque-Imo’s. We never would have found this place on our own, and because she knew of the usual 2 hour wait, we got there early enough to only have to wait 20 minutes. The alligator/shrimp cheesecake (think quiche-style texture) was worth the trip alone.

* Take risks. If you tried all the steps above and still are not lucking out, just try a place. One bad meal on your trip isn’t the end of the world. We all can’t pick winners 100% of the time.

So, settle that grumbly in your tumbly by talking to the locals or using that Yelp app on your smartphone. Enjoy the local cuisine. That is part of what makes the trip special – when you get into the local scene and culture and enjoy what the region has to offer.

Adventure is out there!

Jenny Profile Picture Circle

You Can Sew Your Own Way

Monday, August 26th, 2013

I’m a knitter by nature. I am also the owner of a very nice sewing machine. It was my Mamaw’s and I have beautiful memories of hanging out with her and my mom while they measured, pinned, chatted and stitched together. Often I was the beneficiary of their creations and now that I’m a mom I think I’m ready to up my sewing game so that I can give my daughter that same gift. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve sewn simple stuff in the past – curtains, pant hems, a full-size basset hound themed quilt for a fundraiser (long story!) – and my projects come out OK most of the time. I attribute my success so far to tribal knowledge acquired by hanging around the women in my family. Before I started this project I had no prior training or knowledge of how to use a pattern. When in doubt, check the internet. When in doubt about sewing, check with Mom. I did and she suggested I start with an apron pattern because it is simple but it teaches the basic skills of following directions and matching up pieces. I remember Mom and Mamaw flipping through the McCall’s pattern books back in the day so my next stop was their website. I found the pattern I wanted, #M6536 and headed to Hobby Lobby to pick it up and choose my fabric. Hobby Lobby had a wide selection, the associates in their fabric department are friendly and knowledgeable and they always have coupons available on their mobile site.

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In theory, if you’re sewing from a pattern you just follow what the pattern says and you will be OK. There’s a security in knowing that you are working a tried-and-true method and your fabric investment won’t go to waste on a homegrown experiment gone awry. On the other side of that coin, there are some limitations to following a pattern exactly and, well, rules are sometimes meant to be broken. In this case, I liked the size and shape of the apron but I didn’t like the patchwork section along the bottom. Instead I decided to make it my own by doing the waistband, pocket and bottom trim in a contrasting fabric. I followed the pattern (with a couple of tweaks) and the results were fantastic. I’m really looking forward to making a few more of these as gifts and then graduating to something fancier, maybe even something with sleeves!

Here are some valuable tips I learned from my first “official” sewing adventure:

1. Success begins at the fabric shop. If you’re not sure about what material works or what changes you can safely make ask the cutting counter attendant. She should be able to help guide your choices.
2. You must pre-wash. Yes, I know you are excited to start and maybe still on a little craft store high but this step is imperative. Prewash and succeed; skip it and suffer the consequences.
3. Prep your gear. Don’t start cutting or stitching a single thing until you have everything you need assembled.  For starters I like to have pencil and paper, calculator, pins, pincushion, shears, ruler, ironing board and iron.
4. Iron out the wrinkles. This is almost as important as the pre-washing but it is the step I most want to skip. Ironing is the most tedious of all household chores and should be avoided whenever possible but in the case of sewing, ironing is the difference between having a sharp, expert quality finished product and having something that’s eternally rumpled.
5. Measure twice, cut once. You will cut around a pattern but you still need to double check all your fabric placements before you make the first cut. If there’s a pattern, are you cutting your pieces so the pattern looks good on the finished product?

When was the last time you sewed something new? Share your sewing successes stories and let us know about some of your favorite projects.

Top Five Reasons You Need Mason Jars

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

5. You can use them for awesome crafts. Just check out this Pinterest board.
4. They’re glass; that means no scary plastic chemicals touching your food.
3. Easy single-serve meal prep
2. Dry storage of bulk foods
1. Canning & preserving food (naturally!)

If you don’t have any jars hanging around from Mom or Grandma, you can pick up a case at many grocery and mass merchandise stores for less than $15. Often they’re easier to find during the summer. Right now my local Target has them on an endcap right at the front of the store, but if you try to find them at Christmastime it’s a whole other shopping experience. Of course you can buy them anytime directly from the manufacturer but I like the instant gratification of picking them up in person. Besides, you’ll want to have your jars handy because we will be talking about each of the Top 5 Reasons You Need Mason Jars in more detail with recipes, how-to’s and links to useful resources online.

Rachael Profile Picture Circle

Midnight in the Garden of Grits and Sweet Tea

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

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As you may have noticed from my post, Holiday Road, I am a big fan of road trips. Here are some tips that will help you get started on planning your own mini-adventure.

After our Route 66 trip, Bryan and I started pondering our next road trip destination. We debated going through South Dakota to see Deadwood and maybe even real wild buffalo, or doing a jaunt up the California coast. After a discussion of cities that we had always wanted to visit, as well as wanting to go to New Orleans to visit our good friend Daneel, we settled on a road trip through the South. This decision also served the purpose of checking off a bucket list item for me – visiting Savannah.

When I was in college, my dear friend Amy and I were not like all the other girls. While most of our friends were swooning over Ben Affleck or Matt Damon, Amy and I were infatuated with Kevin Spacey. I will pause here to give you a moment to laugh that out. Because of that infatuation, we ended up watching “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” together, and from that moment on, I decided it was my destiny to visit Savannah at least once in my life.

Ok, so we have the region picked. Now what?

Step 1: Look at a map. It’s been a while since I have taken geography, so I thought it might be a good idea to ensure that Savannah and New Orleans were both possible to cover during a road trip. So, Step 1…check.

Step 2: Tell everyone you know. Why? Well in our case, when we told my dad about our plans, he suggested we visit what became one of our favorite cities, Charleston, SC. We never would have chosen that stop if it weren’t for his suggestion. I also found out that a good friend at work has a sister that lives in Savannah, so she sent me lists of information on tours, restaurants, hotels and general tips that she recommended (as well as places to avoid). You would be surprised who might have interesting information about where you are going, or tips on places that you can’t miss. There is nothing better than a personal recommendation.

Step 3: Finalize your route. Once you have your list of recommendations, revisit that map that you looked at in Step 1. Use a map service like Google or AAA TripTik to devise how you might travel that route and then do some research on the in-between parts that you aren’t familiar with. In our case, we knew that we would start in Charleston, go to Savannah, and somehow end up in New Orleans. By doing some research, and knowing that I wanted to see as many plantations as possible, we decided that the in-between would be heading up the Antebellum Trail to hopefully catch some historical sections of the pre-Civil War South, spending a night in Athens, GA (home to the University of Georgia), then a night in Montgomery, AL before getting to New Orleans. The route ensured that we would be in the car no longer than five hours on any day, allowing for spontaneous stops at any “Worlds Largest Ball of Yarn” or “World’s Best Peach Pie” sites we might encounter.

Step 4: Start booking. If you are the type of person that could simply book your plane and then wing it when you get there, thus having a truly spontaneous experience, I admire you and you should go for it. As you will learn, I am a bit OCD and not capable of that kind of “letting go.” So, if you are like me, what you will want to do next is book your plane, car, and hotels. I found that Yelp and TripAdvisor (or whatever trip website you prefer) were excellent in determining where we should stay. In all cases except New Orleans, we had never been to any of the cities. We didn’t know where the city center was or where a good place to stay would be.

To determine that, I looked at what the hotels were near, and in our case, we always wanted to be near the historic district. I then scoured my travel site of choice looking for ratings and reviews on hotels. In all cases but one, my husband was wowing at how well I did on the booking. You will have your flops, but those can give you fun memories too. Again, this IS an adventure, right?

Step 5: Stop planning. After I booked the major things (ensuring we had passage to and through our trip as well as a roof over our heads each night), I stopped. This is BIG for me. Usually I would have all the details planned, restaurants researched etc., but I reminded myself that this was supposed to be a fluid trip, where we planned as we went, so I didn’t think about the trip again (other than packing) until we got there. In the future I will show you how Yelp and the Concierge in your hotel are your new best friends when it comes to this type of travel.

So, in five easy steps, you can now get started on planning your very own tour de (insert where you are going here).

Adventure is out there!

Jenny Profile Picture Circle

Berry Yogurt Breakfast Smoothie

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Berry Yogurt Breakfast Smoothie, serves 2

I stumbled upon this recipe by accident. One Saturday morning, I was in a rush to get ready for a meeting and didn’t have time to eat my normal breakfast of Greek yogurt with berries and granola. I asked Rob to throw everything into our Vitamix with a little almond milk and ice. Voila! The Berry Yogurt Breakfast Smoothie was born.

This recipe has been a lifesaver. I’m one of those people that has to force myself to eat Greek yogurt. I know it’s a smarter choice over the processed, flavored yogurts that I used to eat– it’s low in calories, high in protein & calcium and contains probiotics that can improve digestive health. But, for all of its benefits, I’ve always struggled with its tart taste and too thick texture. I actually prefer to add Greek yogurt to my smoothies now, it binds the other ingredients together and makes for a silkier smoothie.

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½ cup almond milk
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup raspberries
1 frozen banana
1 cup easy healthy homemade granola (I use this recipe)
1 tablespoon flax seed
3 cups ice

Add almond milk, yogurt, raspberries, banana, granola & flaxseed to vitamix and blend on variable 4 for 30 seconds. Add ice to vitamix and blend on high for 45 seconds or until blended smooth.

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Serve cold.

I’m excited to branch out and try Greek yogurt as a substitute in other recipes.

Have you used Greek yogurt as a substitute in recipes? Please feel free to share in the comments.

P.S. you don’t need a vitamix to make this smoothie – you could easily use a blender or bullet instead! Just be sure to add ground flax seed instead of whole if you use a blender as it’s easier for your body to digest. If this smoothie is a little tart for your taste, add a tablespoon of raw honey to sweeten it up a bit.

Christina Profile Picture Circle

Sustainable Home Economics

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

If I can get socks for $3.50 a dozen why would I knit one? Cans of tomatoes are 98 cents, so who in the world would pick and jar her own? Why would I sew something I could just buy for a couple bucks cash and a lot less hassle? Who even talks about Home Economics these days anyway?

Maybe “Home Economics” brings to mind an image of 1950’s girls in classrooms learning to bake bread and honing their husband-catching skills. Maybe it makes you think of girls in the 1970s learning to sew their own pantsuits and perfecting casseroles made with cream-of-something soup. You’re right; those are images of what Home Economics can be, but that’s not all there is to it. Home Ec is not just for the ladies. My dad was the first male student to take a Home Economics class in his high school and he had to stand up for the right to do so. My husband is a chef and culinary artist. Home Ec is for everyone who wants to live well and make the most of the resources available to them.

Economics is the study of how we deal with scarcity, so Home Economics is the study of how we deal with scarcity in the home or family unit. Very few people have limitless resources to allocate without having to prioritize and make some decisions. Home Economics is how we decide what to buy and what to leave on the shelf. It’s how we decide where to source the food we feed our families; it is how we select a contractor or home service provider to work on our home. It is frugality, making the best with what you have, saving money and spending wisely. Home Economics is all that other stuff you imagined too: laundry, cooking, cleaning, sewing, knitting and crafts. Yeah, you can buy an apron for $15 but, for the same $15 you can buy fabric and a pattern and customize your experience. That apron could be a perfect personalized gift. That’s part of Home Ec too, by the way – thoughtful gifting, good manners and remembering to send your favorite auntie a birthday card.

Home Economics at its most basic level is taking care of your house and family. By extension it is caring for your community, your country and the Earth. Home Economics at its very best and most altruistic is taking care of and loving your planet and your fellow humans. I call that Sustainable Home Economics and it’s my favorite. I’m looking forward to some throwback Home Ec lessons – home canning! – and talking about things like finding great deals and selecting sustainable options where they make sense for a family’s needs. What are some of your ideas about Sustainable Home Economics? Do you have any smart, sustainable tips to share?

Rachael Profile Picture Circle

How I Budget for Home Decor: Part One – The 70/30 Rule

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

I’m bananas for home design. No, seriously. I’ll splurge on a piece of Bitossi pottery over a great pair of shoes any day of the week. If I had to nail down our home’s style in a couple of words I’d call it 60’s vagabond surfer meets mid-century modern. I love to mix airy curtains, colorful, quirky accessories & art with warm, dark woods and furniture that is more masculine in shape.

In my perfect world our home would be furnished entirely with vintage furniture, original artwork, kilim rugs & plush linens. Alas, I live in this world and my budget is tiny.

I’ve found that the key to creating a well-styled home on a tiny budget is knowing where to spend, where to scrimp and where to shop.

In each room of our home, we use the 70/30 rule; we take 60-70% of our budget and spend it on items that will fill about 30-40% of our space. Take a large chunk of your budget and spend it on high-quality foundational furniture like a couch, dresser, china hutch or coffee table. Take your time and choose wisely. These are the pieces that you’ll own for a long time; you want them to be comfortable, an appropriate size for your room and to fit your style. Next select a few unique pieces that you love, think art, small accent furniture and lighting. Now use the rest of your budget (30-40%) to fill in the gaps and make your space feel homier with plants, frames, candles and textiles. Start by selecting mostly neutral accessories, in solid colors or classic patterns, avoid trendy prints. Ask yourself – can I use this in a different room if I grow tired of it in this one? Don’t forget to have a little fun! This is also your chance to purchase accessories for your room that reflect the current design trends. By creating a foundation with high-quality pieces that reflect your personal style and then filling in with trendy accessories, you extend the life of your room design. Because you didn’t break the bank buying that super trendy fill in the blank, you won’t feel bad trading it out for something new next season.

So, that’s how I budget for home decor. First, I invest in high-quality furniture, art & a few unique accessories. Then, I fill-in the gaps with neutral & trendy pieces that can easily be switched out with the season. I buy new, used & vintage. I shop at antique shops, big-box stores, local boutiques, thrift stores, on Craigslist & online.

This rule of budgeting has really helped me to be a smarter shopper. Now, I keep a list of items that I need to complete the various rooms I’m working on. If I find something on the list and it’s in the budget, I can buy it. If it’s not on the list, well then it has to be amazing. Remember, sometimes rules are meant to be broken!

In future posts, I’ll show you how I used the 70/30 rule in our living room and share what I buy when I shop at big-box stores.

What about you, how do you budget for home decor? Feel free to let me know below in the comments.

Christina Profile Picture Circle

Holiday Road

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

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It wasn’t very long ago that road trips were commonplace in American family vacations.

When I was a kid, I remember summer trips meant getting in the car and driving for hours or even a couple of days to our final destination We played the billboard alphabet game, stopped and got snacks and sodas we weren’t normally allowed to have, and sometimes even stayed at a hotel or motel along the way. It wasn’t boring or an inconvenience. It was exciting and made the trip feel like an adventure.

Over the years, as we were able to afford plane tickets, and flights became more numerous and available, we started to fly more. I don’t know when it happened, but after a while, I couldn’t even imagine spending eight hours in a car to get somewhere we could fly in two. It became less of an adventure, and more about getting to that end point.

Two years ago my husband, Bryan, received a photography assignment to capture relics and images from Route 66 destinations in Arizona. He invited me to come along for a mini-trip, and sealed the deal by promising a Vegas getaway at the end. As we got closer to our trip, I started to worry. It had been so long since I had been on a road trip that involved “stopping along the way” that I feared I would be bored. I even considered not going as I knew this was a business trip for my husband and I didn’t want to be the bratty wife sitting in the car asking when we were leaving.

What happened was surprising – the trip was amazing!

We stayed in Flagstaff for two nights, and hit the East side of Route 66 the first day which had us going through “ghost towns” and ending in the Painted Desert. The second day we took the Western route, starting in Williams making a detour to see Meteor Crater (which had an 80’s style sign that would have had you BEGGING your parents to stop), and ending in Oatman (a mining town that involved driving almost literally on the edge of a cliff). We stopped about every 20-30 minutes in a new town. We drank Coke in a glass bottle, took funny pictures, and talked. When the hubby had to shoot, I played Monopoly and card games on my iPad. I felt like a kid again.

We got to stop and see places that we never would have seen before. We let the day take us where it wanted. We were hooked and started planning our next trip.

The way we, as a society, travel now, forces us to be isolated. We put in our earbuds, we focus on our laptops, and we get where we are going. We then fill our days from morning to night, not allowing for spontaneity. I encourage you to take one trip where you hit the road, stop at the little local pie shop that has painted signs along your drive, and TALK to your family. Play the alphabet billboard game, download an “icebreaker” questions app and quiz everyone in the car, or find some way to interact with your friends or family. You will find that the moments in the car, the ones you thought are not worth your time, are some of the ones you will cherish the most.

Adventure is out there!

Jenny Profile Picture Circle