Archive for September, 2013

A Taste of Fall: Mulled Wine

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Fall is hands-down my favorite season, and the one I miss the most living in Phoenix. There is nothing better than the feel of the crisp air, the mild scent of firewood as people starting using their fireplaces, the sight of bright colorful pops of red, yellow and orange leaves on the trees, and the taste of spiced cider and pumpkin bread.

Since Phoenix still has temperatures in the 80s and 90s and green trees in the fall, I resort to taste to fill my autumn needs. Taste is a very powerful thing. There is a scene in the Pixar film “Ratatouille” where the menacing food critic takes a bite of ratatouille and is whisked away to memories of sitting at his mother’s farmhouse table. Upon opening his eyes, he smiles, and wolfs down the rest of the dish. This is how mulled beverages and pumpkin spiced baked goods work for me. One taste and I am transported back to Halloweens of my childhood in Ohio,eating caramel apples and watching “Monster Squad” with my good friend Ryan.

Last fall, The Wilderness Girls took our first trip to Flagstaff to get a taste of the season we all miss. My culinary contribution was mulled cider. I used basic William’s Sonoma mulling spices and simmered them with cider until the flavors were infused. The girls loved it and requested that this year we upgrade to mulled wine. That left me with the task of finding a recipe, and so I thought it would be fun to share this recipe with you.


I am going to show you two methods of mulling wine – a super fancy-pants version from Bon Appétit, that would be perfect for a very special occasion, and an easy version using premade mulling spices, perfect for the crazy busy schedule that most of us have during the holidays.

Let’s start with the Bon Appétit version.

Bon Appétit Mulled Wine

10 whole cloves
1 tangerine, clementine, or small orange
1 750-ml bottle of Merlot (use your favorite brand – I used Coppola Merlot)
1 1/2 cups fresh apple cider (or you can use the store-bought cider, like I did)
4 Pink Lady apples (optional)
1 cinnamon stick plus 6 for garnish (optional)
1 green cardamom pod, cracked
1 cup tawny Port (I used Fonseca Bin 27 Tawny Port, available at Safeway/Total Wine)

Press stem (pointed) end of 5 cloves into the tangerine, piercing through the skin. Place tangerine, wine, cider, Lady apples (if using), cinnamon stick, and cardamom pod in a large pot. Bring to a bare simmer over medium-low heat; cook gently for 20 minutes.

Mulled wine can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature. Rewarm gently over medium-low heat before continuing.

Stir in Port. Divide among six glasses; garnish each with a cinnamon stick and a Lady apple, if desired.

The result was delicious! Don’t have the time to tackle the Bon Appétit version? Don’t worry! You can make mulled wine using premade mulling spices and a diffuser (a mulling diffuser is different from a small tea diffuser, but a tea diffuser will work just fine).

Simple Mulled Wine

2 tablespoons mulling spices
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 cinnamon sticks
1 750-ml bottle of Merlot (use your favorite, but again, I used Coppola Merlot)
6 orange slices for garnish (optional)

Take two tablespoons of the mulling spices and place them in the diffuser (or you could use cheesecloth and tie it at the top so the spices don’t fall out) and close the diffuser. Put a 750-ml bottle of the Merlot of your choice, and 1/3 cup of sugar in a large pot, put the diffuser into the pot, bring to a slow simmer over medium-low heat, and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Ladle the wine into four to six mugs, garnish with a cinnamon stick and orange slice, and you are done!

Below are some vendors online where you can find mulling spices and a diffuser:

Mulling Spices

Williams-Sonoma Mulling Spice
SpiceCubed Mulling Spice Tin
Morton & Bassett Mulling Spice
Penzeys Spices Mulilng Spice
World Market The Spice Hunter Mulling Spice Balls (the bonus to this one is that it has the spices already in the cheesecloth, so no diffuser is needed)


Williams-Sonoma Floating Mulling Spice Ball
Stainless Steel Mesh Ball

You could also use cheesecloth, available at most grocery stores, and tie the spices with kitchen string. Most tea shops also have diffuser balls, so that is also an option (just make sure it’s stainless steel).

So, there you have it, two fantastic recipes that will get you in the spirit of the season. I am looking forward to making this for Christie, Christina and Rachael at our 2013 Fall Foliage trip.

What is your favorite taste of fall? Let me know in the comments below.

The olive wood board featured in the photo above is from local vendor Arizona Olive Wood.

Friday Finds: 9/27/13

Friday, September 27th, 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!

Honey Launderers: A story of greed and honey. This terrified me in so many ways: the callous greed, the antibiotics snuck into my food and the slap on the hand for the soulless people who would treat our food so carelessly. I’m ready to run for my local honey stand at the farmer’s market this weekend.

Brooklyn Nine Nine: I know that everyone has their own taste in TV but I adore this show so much after just two episodes that I’m worried it will fall to the Fox ax. It’s quirky, funny and endearing right from the first episode. The only problem is that it may encourage my husband to wear a brightly colored speedo at this job.

Can We Gain Strength from Shame?: Are you listening to the TED Radio Hour? It’s a new addition to our local NPR station. I’m in love. I was blessed by this talk from Brene Brown. I hope you are too.

How to Read a Recipe: The holidays are just around the corner, and in my house, that means the baking season is about to begin! Joy the Baker (a blog I discovered thanks to fellow Wilderness Girl, and baker extraordinaire, Christie) lays out some basics on reading a recipe that will help you achieve success in your baking adventures.

DIY Crochet Rug With Yarn & Old T-Shirts: Ack! Someone save me from myself! I feel another craft project coming on!

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 and you could be featured on

Green Beer, Wet Chalk and Raving: 5K Fun Runs

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

If you have never participated in a race before, a 5K is a great way to get active without the weeks of training and commitment required for a half marathon (beginners you can find a 5K training schedule here). For those of you training for a half marathon, a 5K is an opportunity for you to experience what the race day atmosphere is like and get in a training run, all at a much lower mileage than your half marathon day.

Over the years, 5Ks have become extremely popular, and thus more and more are coming on the market. The great thing for you is that there are a lot of fun themes and races out there every month of the year! My rule tends to be, if I get to wear a costume, I am in!

Below is a list of some of the 5Ks I have raced in the last year:


TD5K: Most cities have a Thanksgiving morning 5K that enables you to feel a little bit better about the food you eat later that day. This year I took part in the Lifetime race in Phoenix. They had a food drive, turkey hats, and the best quality souvenir shirts I have ever received at a race. It was a great way to start the day and I will be participating again this year.


The Color Run: There are a lot of copycat “colored chalk” races, but this one is the original. As you race the 5K, you run through color stations where you are doused in cornstarch dyed with one of four colors. Normally, you would end the race looking like a beautiful rainbow. Unfortunately, it rained this year in Phoenix, so, as you can see from the picture above, I looked like a hot mess. But it was fun and I look forward to racing it again in better weather.


Climb to Conquer Cancer: Although technically not a 5K, each year in Phoenix, at South Mountain, you can take part in the Climb to Conquer Cancer. It’s a five-mile walk up the mountain, and my favorite part of this race is that it’s a rolling start. What that means is that you just start when you get there. That keeps the crowds light and the hike enjoyable. Once you get to the top, you get amazing views of the Phoenix area.


Kiss Me I’m Irish Run: The great thing about this run is that you can choose to do a 4K, 8K or 17K, so for those of you that would like a bit of a challenge, you can choose a longer route. This starts and ends at Westgate in Glendale, and was a really fun race. But how could it not be when you get a green beer and a mini bundt cake at the end?


The Rave Run: This was one of my favorite races because my Wilderness Girls Rachael and Christie walked with me. We got to rip our shirts, load on the make-up, put on glowing and blinking accessories, and stack our wrists with beaded bracelets that Christie made for us. The streets were filled with lights and music and the “people watching” was incredibly entertaining (especially considering it happened to be prom night, so we saw a lot of well-dressed teens heading towards their downtown venues).

So, as you can see, there is no shortage of fun races to take part in. What are some of your favorite races? Is there a race that you take part in every year? Share with us in the comments below.

Happy racing!

Chalkboard Jars

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

A quick visit to Pinterest and it is easy to see that mason jars are a household essential. Of all the crafty applications out there I was most excited to try chalkboard paint labels on a few jars. As I mentioned in a previous post, you can get great deals when you buy bulk food but the lack of packaging can lead to a tangled heap of plastic bags in the pantry. Storing dry goods in jars keeps everything neat and tidy and the clear container helps you remember what you have so you don’t double buy or let things go to waste.

Today I have two quick and easy tutorials for you: chalkboard jars and chalkboard lids. The jars are great for labeling even when you don’t need a lid. I use one for small craft supplies that I don’t want to misplace like my x-acto knife, glue stick and scissors. The chalkboard lids are a great way to re-use lids that have already sealed a jar. They won’t seal again but they remain airtight and with a coat (or three) of chalkboard paint you turn a single-use item into a multi-use item.

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Here’s what you will need:
Mason jars, quart size
Flat jar lids & rings, preferably used
Chalkboard paint (I used Transform Mason chalkboard paint by Ball)
Paint brush
Paint palette (I prefer a clean yogurt cup rescued from the recycle bin)
Scotch Blue painter’s tape, 1 7/8” wide

Chalkboard Jars

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Every jar has a smooth side, a logo side and a side seam where the two halves were fused together. Naturally you will paint the smooth side of the jar but getting a perfectly even, consistently sized place to paint isn’t as easy as it looks. The best way to get even paint lines every time is to line up your tape with the side seam. From there, move on to the top of the jar. This is the trickiest part because there is a big difference between the jar and the neck, however creating a piece of painter’s tape one and a half times the width of your side seam tape and measuring up from the countertop will put your paint line in the perfect spot. Finally measuring from the counter top and applying 1 width of tape to the bottom gives you a perfect square to work with.

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Apply chalkboard paint in thin, even coats allowing to dry for a few minutes between applications. After the third coat allow at least one hour drying time before you write on it with chalk. The first coat goes on very thin and the glass shows through — I thought perhaps there was a problem but after I applied the second coat it evened out nicely. When the paint is completely dry you may hand wash or use the dishwasher top rack. Avoid direct contact with the food in painted areas. Although the manufacturer doesn’t specifically call it out, I do not recommend using these for water bath canning. Once you chalkboard paint a jar it is best to reserve it for dry goods only.

Chalkboard Lids

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Making chalkboard lids is even easier than making jars. For this all you need to do is paint a used flat jar lid with three even coats of chalkboard paint and as with the jars allow at least one hour drying time after you apply the third coat. The advantage to painting used lids instead of jars is that you would still be able to use the jars in water bath canning with new lids. If you have a limited number of jars or need to keep them in the canning rotation, chalkboard lids might be the right choice for you.

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If you try this project please let us know. What other mason jar or chalkboard paint projects have you done? Share your tips, tricks and ideas here.

Eye Candy: BOHO Bedrooms

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

I’m a procrastinator. I also have a hard time living in the moment, choosing instead to spend my days making big plans for future days. Occasionally this can affect my productivity. Which is why it’s no surprise that in the midst of putting the finishing touches on my art space and preparing to re-do Rachael’s master bedroom, I’ve been daydreaming about making over my bedroom. I’m curious – can you call it a makeover if the room was never decorated to begin with?

Prior to moving into our home last year, Rob and I sold most of our furniture, if it didn’t work in our new space, we didn’t want to move it. Since then, we’ve been able to replace most of what we sold with furniture that fits our space. We were much more thoughtful as we shopped. Gone are the days of buying something simply because it’s cheap or it fits.

The master bedroom is a different story. Bedroom furniture is kind of essential. Rather than sleeping on the floor until we found the bed of our dreams, the old furniture came with us to the new house. There it has sat untouched for one year. I suppose we always assumed that we’d get to it once everything else was done. The crazy thing is we spend a ton of time in our bedroom. Who needs a living room when you can watch Apple TV in bed?

Why do we give so little attention to the bedroom?

Personally, I’m never quite sure how I want my bedroom to feel. Peaceful? Sexy? Bright? Stark? All of the above? I want to fall asleep in a quiet room with a moody vibe and wake up in a bright sunny one. Can this be done? Yes! Bohemian style is the best of all worlds.

Here are a few rooms I can’t get enough of:






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Now, I just have to talk my husband into it.

A girl can dream, right?

Friday Finds: 9/20/13

Friday, September 20th, 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!

Thirty Days of Honesty: Sometimes applying a good idea to fit into a business model is tough. Thirty Days of Honesty is being written by the co-founders of Dabble ( who have a successful business in many ways except really the key one: profit. I love their idea, I love their honesty and I’m rooting for them.

How to Re-Make a Vintage Dress Using a Pattern: I only discovered this wonderful blog a few weeks before I started the sewing class I’m currently taking. So, I can’t wait for the day when I can actually use this tutorial to re-make one of my vintage dresses! I’ve got big plans for an eBay find that was poorly constructed using the most amazing fabric.

Samantha Lee’s Instagram: Bento art is starting to get more and more notoriety. Check out this mother’s Instagram site for a great example of this artform. She covers everything from London tourist attractions to Lady Gaga.

Who Died?: I love movies + I love infographics. This one shows which actors have racked up the most death scenes in their movies. What more can a gal ask for?

The Most Influential Sci-Fi Movies: Empire? The Fifth Element? In an infographic? LOVE!

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 and you could be featured on

Fuel Your Fire: Coconut Almond Energy Bars

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

When doing any kind of long-distance training for a race, it’s important to choose a snack that gives you the right balance of carbohydrates and protein so that you slowly burn off the energy from the snack, thus allowing you to go further.

Energy bars are an easy and convenient way to do this. There are a lot of energy bars on the shelves of your local market or health food store (check out this great article at Cooking Light for a list of their top 8 store-bought energy bars), but it’s just as easy to make your own.

After doing some searches for something natural, quick to make, and tasty, I found and tested this recipe from Runner’s World for “Coconut Almond Bars”. They take less than 30 minutes with prep and baking time and they are delicious!


Runner’s World Coconut Almond Bars

2 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned)
1/2 cup whole cashews
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seed kernels (you can find these in the nut aisle)
1/2 cup chopped dates (you can find these in the same aisle as the raisins)
1 cup flaked or shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
1 1/2 cups peanut butter (it’s best to use a mass-produced natural creamy like Jiff Natural)
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (oats, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, dates, coconut). Set aside.

In a medium microwavable bowl, stir together the peanut butter and honey. Microwave on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the peanut butter and honey can be stirred together. Add the vanilla and stir until smooth.

Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until everything is coated evenly.

On a baking sheet, press the mixture into a “rectangle” (I put quotes because mine was a very loose interpretation of a rectangle) that’s about one inch high.

Place baking sheet in oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Let the bars fully cool and then cut into 12-24 bars. (The calories range from 200 per bar for 24 bars to 400 per bar for 12 bars.)


For a great video tutorial of this recipe, visit the Runners World site here.

Do you have a favorite snack or recipe that helps get you through training? It’s always great to have new ideas on fueling up for a race, so please share in the comments below.

Happy racing!

Downtown Phoenix Public Market

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Left to my own devices, I hit my stride in the afternoon and I could go until midnight without the bat of an eye. All of that is behind me since our bright and early daughter came into our world. I don’t know how it happened but I gave birth to a morning person. Now I rise early to “Mama, I like yogurt!” bellowing down the hall from her room. Getting up at the crack of dawn isn’t all bad, really. I act like I don’t like it but the truth is I appreciate the solid Mama-Daughter time with my girl and we often go out in search of adventures while Jacob catches some Saturday morning ZZZ’s. Sometimes we do mundane chores like groceries, post office and bank. Other times we treasure hunt at a thrift shop or run around the park with our arms out to the sides pretending to be airplanes. Sometimes we stay in our jams, eat kid cereal and watch TV. When it is not oppressively hot we enjoy a trip to the Downtown Phoenix Farmer’s Market.

On a recent Saturday morning adventure we picked up fellow Wilderness Girl Christie and hit up the market. Our first stop was the Market Café. A few months back the café changed ownership and it is a whole new experience. The food is simple, fresh and healthy, often made with ingredients from the farmer’s market next-door. So far the frittata is my favorite dish. The griddled new potatoes are not to be missed but the two together are a feast so I recommend finding a friend to split the bounty. You’ll have plenty to satisfy you but still leave a little room for a mid-market snacking and sampling.

Our second stop on this particular morning was the One Windmill Farms farm stand where I spoke with Dave. I asked what is most important to know about the farm and he explained to me that all of the produce is grown organically without chemicals or pesticides. He went on to say that everything is Arizona-grown on land in Queen Creek or Wilcox. This means all of the produce travels less than 200 miles from farm to table. There were red and green champagne grapes, a few varieties of beautiful purple eggplants, beets bigger than my fist, rows and rows of red ripe tomatoes — all of it just a few days removed from the soil. I selected some potatoes and leeks, patty pan squash, sweet potatoes and three of those lovely beets. The food was selling fast and Dave told me that most days they nearly sell out but what is left is donated to charity and the scraps are fed to the free range barnyard chickens. Nothing is ever wasted.

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A few rows down at a much smaller booth a woman sells cucumbers, melons, parsley and eggplants. At the very center of the table is a large stack of flatbread. The woman is an Iraqi refugee. She and her husband till, plant, tend and harvest a small piece of urban farmland in partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC). When we ask more, the woman reveals she fled Iraq four years ago and she misses home. She is working hard to learn English and takes classes at Rio Salado Community College four days a week. Her hard work is paying off and we enjoyed the conversation with her. She offered us a taste from the tall stack of naan and we were hooked. Her bread was flecked with white and black sesame seeds. It had a crisp texture on the bottom and dough bubbles throughout balanced with an incredibly satisfying chewiness. For me, this is a market must-have.

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One of the largest booths at the market is Maya’s Farm which is an organic farm that practices sustainable, biodynamic methods of cultivation. This booth has the most variety and is so beautifully arranged that the produce practically jumps out at you. We saw lovely varieties of squash, peppers and beans. Maya herself was at the booth to answer questions about her beautiful flowers and interesting fruits.

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In the very center of the market amid all the hustle and bustle, a woman spins yarn from wool. Celia is her name and she owns the Chili Acres farm. They started out raising goats for cheese and other goat’s milk products. A few years ago Cecilia took a weaving course from Navajo elders and fell in love. From there she started getting interested in sheep and spinning. On this morning she was spinning wool from her Navajo churro sheep, Cousin It. Into the wool fibers she spun bits of red and pink from the cochineal she harvested from the cactus on the farm. There are bits of green in the skein she just finished and those are derived from carrot tops. No chemicals go into the yarn she spins, the cheese she crafts or the gluten free baked goods she offers for sale. Next week (9/26) in partnership with the Phoenix Permaculture Alliance, Celia is teaching a class on felting with a “make and take” project for students.

My favorite baker, AZ Bread was at the market with their beautiful hand-formed, hearth fired loaves of country sourdough, chili cheese and cranberry orange. Husband and wife team Gretchen and Ron man the booth together and they’re always happy to talk about the different breads and even share samples.

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What’s bread without a little peanut butter? Our last stop of the morning was at the Peanut Butter Americano booth. This was my first taste of PB Americano but Wilderness Girl Jenny has been a fan for quite some time and she has impeccable taste so I knew we were in for a treat. The company was founded by two classmates who share a passion for service, believe free enterprise is the solution to poverty and are working in a very personal way to help make that change for some of the poorest people in the Americas. While the founders weren’t able to make it to the market that morning they did send a proud mother in their stead. It was such fun to talk to her and hear the story behind PB Americano’s philanthropic mission.

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If you want to visit the Downtown Phoenix Public Market here’s what you need to know:


Café: Daily 7am-10pm
Open Air Market: Wednesday 5pm-8pm, Saturday (May-Sept) 8am-Noon, Saturday (Oct – April)     8am-1pm
Food Truck Friday: Friday 11am-1:30pm

Payment: Cash is best but there are several vendors with card readers attached to their smart phones. You can also use the market ticket system to collect tickets as you browse for everything you want to buy then settle at the main tent and go around with your receipt to pick up your wares.

Parking: Parking in the adjacent lot is free and there are several metered spots in the surrounding blocks. Meters don’t have to be fed on Saturdays.

Dogs: Polite leashed dogs are always welcome.

Don’t forget: A reusable bag for your treasures. During summer it is a good idea to leave a cooler in the trunk of your car to prevent wilting/melting/spoiling.

Where are your favorite farmers markets? Do you have vendors you have to see every time? Tell us all about it in the comments — we love to hear from you!

How I Budget for Home Decor: What to Buy at Big Box Stores

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

In my last post on budgeting shared a little bit about the 70/30 rule that I use when decorating my home.

I break my budget down into three categories:
Foundational Furniture (High-Quality)
Beautiful Things I Can’t Live Without (Lovely & Unique Conversation Starters)
Accessories (Neutral & Trendy)

You can maximize your design dollars by shopping big-box retailers and knowing what to buy. They’re a great, affordable resource for both neutral & trendy accessories.

Accessories will make your house homey. Start with plants, framed photos, candles and cozy textiles. When choosing neutral accessories, select solid colors or classic patterns. Neutral accessories should be able to stay through a room re-design or be used in a different room. When selecting trendy accessories, have fun and look to current design trends. But, remember to check price, they should be inexpensive enough that you won’t feel guilty switching them out with the season.

I’ve compiled a list of my favorite stores and the types of accessories I like to buy at each one:

Lamps, Linens, Candles & Bath Accessories

Home Goods
Woven Baskets, Lamps, Pillows & Quilts

World Market
Bath Accessories, Curtains, Hardware & Homemade Accent Pieces

Frames, Pillows, Plant Pots & Curtains

Dollar Tree
Glassware (think mason jars, bud vases and tea light holders) & Plant Pots

In my next post on budgeting, I’ll give you a tour of my living room and breakdown how I utilized the 70/30 rule along with a source list and budget breakdown.

What are your favorite big-box stores? Feel free to leave them below in the comments.

Friday Finds: 9/13/13

Friday, September 13th, 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!

Origin of the Poodle Skirt: I’m currently having a re-obsession with cirlcle skirts and came across this fabulous interview with Juli Lynne Charlot the creator of the original poodle skirt.

Multitasking:There’s an App for That: Looking for an app (or 12) that will solve all your problems? I’m guilty. Jeff DeGraff makes a strong arguement to stop multitasking already!

Awkward Years Project: Remember those years between when you were a kid and your now awesome self? This site is a great reminder that we have all been awkward at one point, and it’s ok!

A Tiny House: This guy built a tiny house out of a dumpster. It has all the basic needs and some pretty crafty engineering. I’m not looking to move in, but it is pretty interesting.

More Tiny Houses: The dumpster house is one-of-a-kind but it is not the only one. Check out these beautiful teenie tiny houses.

And a few Tree Houses: Some big, some small, some short some tall – check out these fascinating tree houses from around the world. Many are constructed of recycled or reclaimed materials and have minimal impact on the trees so inhabitants can truly celebrate nature and keep their footprint light.

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 and you could be featured on