A Life Update | 2015

Christmas is over and the lights are being taken down, the tree disassembled, and all my hanging wreaths get the greens pulled out and the frames put in storage, waiting patiently for next year. As I wait for the Christmas sugar rush to subside and emerge out of my food coma, I am amazed at how quickly time passes. You have to buy presents, decorate, bake cookies, and in what seems like the blink of an eye, it’s all over. Even so, I hope your holidays were filled with laughter and love and that you gathered with the ones closest to you.

I struggled as I thought about how I was going to begin the new year with blogging. I had all this inspiration from fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas that there seemed nothing comparable. I don’t even do new years resolutions (why do we set goals only once a year? We should be doing that all the time). And then something much more pressing came up. I got ENGAGED!!! My fiancé, who said he would never propose on Christmas day, did it on the impulse of the moment. It was perfect and unexpected (notice my nail polish chipping, but I don’t care)!

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So now I have this large and looming WEDDING in front of me that I need to plan. I’m so excited and nervous! For those of you who know my style, I’m going for outdoors and simple. I want it to be perfectly “us,” but like most other things in life, perfect is hard to come by. So it is what it is. We’ll be married and that’s all that matters! I would like to share the journey of planning with you, as much as I can.

As I look ahead to 2015, I’ve decided to take my blog in a little bit different direction. I have a desire to use my degree in Environmental Studies. Not because I feel I have to, but because I want this blog to help people. You will still see an overall theme of slow living and simplicity but with a new twist.

I am particularly passionate about food sustainability and knowing where our food is coming from. Healthy eating emerges from this, but it’s more about our rights to clean and safe food. If you would like to read more of my thoughts on this matter, you can go to one of my previous posts.

Slow living still plays a part in this because we want to slow down enough that we can say with assurance where this food came from. We need to make an effort to be more connected to our environment and the delicate balance of the food chain. Whether I am in the kitchen, tending to the garden, or at the supermarket, I want to show you how you can make sustainable choices in your everyday life. It’s easy and hard all at the same time; but it can be done. I also want to arm you with knowledge, being that knowledge is power. Then, you can come to your own conclusion based on the facts.

I am so excited for what 2015 has in store! I’m not a fan of resolutions but change is enough to liven things up! What about you? What things are you looking forward to in this new year?

Christmas Cookies & Christmas in Arkansas

It’s that time of year again. Can I just be honest and say I’m really glad Christmas is almost over? Come on, tell me you’re not with me on this. We do all this preparation for one day and it’s over like that. I love spending time with family and friends and I even love giving gifts to show that I care. I like going to Church and being reminded all over again that a relationship with Christ happens everyday – not just on Christmas. What I don’t like is the commercialism, and the drive to impress with dinners and decorations. If you know me at all, you know that I would love nothing more than to be snowed in in a cabin for the duration of the holiday madness.

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My great grandmother, Norene Garms, painted this of their farmhouse in Arkansas

This Christmas I tried to revive a wonderful holiday memory. About every other year, my family would spend Christmas with my great grandmother and great grandfather (or grand daddy as we called him) at their farmhouse in Arkansas. The drive was enough to make a small child go insane with anticipation, but once we got to that winding dirt road, I knew we were on the home stretch. All at once the hills opened up and we started our way down the lane to their house. All around were hills and pastures where cattle roamed. The house seemed to sit on the cusp of wilderness. It was a self-sustaining gem and an idyllic setting in the winter months.

When I was young, Christmas in Arkansas was just another time to receive presents and play with my cousins in the snow. Of course my great grandparents have since passed on and the house is no longer in the family. Looking back, I wish I would have been old enough to appreciate the relaxation and the beauty that was all around.

But I do have some fond and cozy memories of the place even at a young age. Specifically I remember my great grandmother’s peanut brittle. She always had it sitting out in a tin for everyone to enjoy. I didn’t like nuts at the time (I still don’t really) so I would eat around the peanuts. But I loved the taste, the sweetness, and how the candy just seemed to melt in your mouth.

So this year, I tried to relive those days and make peanut brittle. Unfortunately, it did not work out. But actually it tasted great. I just didn’t have a candy thermometer so it never hardened up. It just stayed kinda gooey. So I will provide you with the recipe in case any of you have any last minute baking to do and want to try your hand at peanut brittle.

The cookie that did work out this year was one I’ve done in the past, but with a little different twist. It’s a Nutella cookie with almond meal. I usually use flour but I had some almond meal left and I decided to use it. Almond meal is healthier than flour and it gives the cookies a more nutty taste. There is no need to add any sugar to this since the Nutella is already sweetened (unless you want to). Better yet, there are only a few ingredients, it’s simple to make, and takes no time at all.

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My peanut brittle debacle is just one example of the fact that I’m human. I don’t have my life all put together and I don’t want anyone to think that because it’s not real. I make mistakes. I’m sure even my spunky great grandmother, who I once saw clean a fish, made mistakes. I’m just a girl trying to get back to simpler times – like Christmas in Arkansas. My advice would be to forget about perfection and focus on your family and friends; or if you are in an idyllic setting like I was, appreciate the beauty around you.

I will be taking a short break from my blog until after the new year so I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you all for your continued reading and support! See you next year!

Adele

Recipe | Almond Nutella Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

Ingredients:

1 cup Nutella

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups almond meal (or 1 cup flour)

about 1 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Combine the Nutella, egg, and baking powder until creamy and mixed through. Next add your almond meal until it forms a dough. Mix in the white chocolate chips. Scoop out onto a spoon and drop onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Recipe | Peanut Brittle by Norene Garms

You will need a heavy pan large enough to let the syrup boil freely and a heavy cookie sheet. My grandmother used a clean pair of gardening gloves to stretch the candy out on the cookie sheet while it is still hot so if you don’t use them be careful.  If you use a spatula to spread the syrup out, butter it first or else the candy will stick to it.  The candy needs to be spread out rather thin – if you leave it too thick, it won’t break very easily and will be hard to eat.

 Combine in the heavy pan

·         2 c. sugar,

·         1 c. white corn syrup

·         Pinch of salt

 Bring to a boil and cook until the syrup comes to the soft crack stage or 285 – 291⁰ on candy thermometer.

 ·         Add 1 to 2 cups raw Spanish peanuts

 Bring back to a boil and cook until the syrup is amber color.  The peanuts will pop a little.

 Remove from heat and add

·         1 TBS. butter

·         1 tsp. baking soda

·         1 tsp. vanilla. 

(The mixture will foam so be ready to stir)  Stir quickly. In my grandmothers words, “Stir fast and good”.

 Pour into a well-buttered cookie sheet.  Pull and spread out the candy as it cools.  When completely cooled break into pieces.

Simple Gift Wrapping & Afternoon Tea

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It’s that time of year again; time for family, shopping, busyness, and lots and lots of sweets! It’s a time of year that is indicative of happiness and merriment, but often times leaves people feeling conflicted. Some of us have lost loved ones, have family that is far away, or maybe there’s something that just makes Christmas too painful. Busyness, it seems, has become our answer for the loneliness. Maybe these are just words from a writer who likes to think (or who would prefer not to think), but Christmas makes me more contemplative than usual. Whatever it is this season, in the midst of all the busyness, don’t be afraid to take some time to be introspective and get with God.

Wrapping presents allows me to slow down and appreciate the last remaining days until Christmas. This time I paired it with a hot cup of black tea for a moment that was cozy and rustic. Although there’s nothing wrong with buying loud and shiny wrapping paper and bows from the store, it’s just not my style. I use brown craft paper with some twine or ribbon, then I stick in a piece of foraged greens and a tag to finish it off. It’s a simple look but it goes a long way – people who receive your gifts will appreciate the personalized touch. There’s no hard and fast rule to this; so feel free to play around with it and see what you like!

If you’re looking for ideas for gift tags, you could buy some from the store, but there are so many free printables available online! I used these black and gold tags and though I found them too late, I also like these handwritten tags. Simply click on the link to download, print out on card stock paper, and cut out using the outline.

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I encourage you to slow down when you wrap this year, if you can. Have a hot cup of tea or listen to Christmas music while you work. Lock the door to your bedroom if you need to shut the kids out. You’re going to have to take the time to wrap anyway, why not enjoy it? At the end of the day nothing else matters than the time we spend with friends and loved ones, and the birth of our savior. So I like to keep things simple – especially when it comes to gift wrapping. Whatever your style is, go for it and most importantly anticipate each day until Christmas!

Cheers!

Adele

Made from Scratch | Make Your Own Holiday Wreath

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Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are all prepared for today’s festivities! There’s nothing more warm or comforting than spending quality time with the people we love. Even though I love Thanksgiving, I’m really looking forward to Christmas! And if there’s one thing I despise most during the Christmas season, it’s tacky and fake decorations. There is so much beauty in the natural world and it is just waiting to be discovered. You could pay around $20 for a pre-made wreath that doesn’t look that great anyway, or a couple bucks for a wreath you can make yourself. All you need is a wire or wooden frame, some scissors, and twine. Most of all you need some greenery. Real pine is free and it’s beautiful. The only downside is the needles fall off like crazy after a while. So, if you want your wreath to last until next season, you can do fake pine. You’ll still save money by doing it yourself.

Other than saving money, why would anyone want to make their own wreath? Nobody has time for that. Just go to the store and buy one, right? Well, it’s all about being more connected to our surroundings and appreciating what goes into making a product. Convenience has become our alma mater in the United States, particularly. The truth is someone somewhere had to take the time to make that wreath. And we take their handiwork for granted as we snatch up that product before someone else has the chance to get it. Although I don’t make everything myself, I do try as much as possible to take the load off others.

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The beauty of wreath making is the possibilities of how you want it to look are truly endless! A few weeks ago, I made a simple foraged pine wreath with some dried flowers I stuck in for embellishment. But I knew I wanted to expand on that. This time I did an off-set wreath with blue spruce and holly berries. I also did a wreath with Italian Ruscus I had leftover from my gathering. The only greenery that cost me anything was the Italian Ruscus; everything else was foraged.

Something else kinda cool is hydrangea wreaths. The bunches of hydrangea create a lush and beautiful wreath. Since hydrangea can range from brown to green to pink in color, you may want to spray paint it to give it an even color. Or, you can let it keep its natural color. After that, you can decorate with pine cones or berries if you’d like.

And once you start doing wreaths, you’ll want to do other natural decor too like garlands and swags, and maybe a real Christmas tree instead of a fake one (trust me, that’s all on my list for this season).

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My main point out of all of this (other than to show you pretty wreaths) is to demonstrate that the Christmas season can be less hectic if you choose it to be. Foraging and making things from scratch forces you to slow down. You can’t do this stuff well in a hurry. I know as I was making these, I appreciated the nature God provides and the ability to work with my hands to create something beautiful.

It’s not about being like Martha Stewart as my dad so lovingly puts it (although she does have a lot of good ideas). It’s about getting back to our roots and living how we were meant to live; in touch with our surroundings and working with our hands. We’ve become so desensitized by our modern culture that we no longer appreciate where something came from, how it was made, etc. It’s time to turn the tides on that. You can make a difference just by choosing to make something from scratch instead of buying it from a store.

I hope I gave you some inspiration for your “made from scratch” Christmas! What are some of your favorite wreath designs?

Have a lovely Thanksgiving everyone!

Cheers! – Adele

How To Make Hydrangea Christmas Wreaths

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When my boss told me we were making wreaths with dried hydrangea I thought, “What? How’s that going to look?” But after it was all said and done it looked great! This isn’t my only wreath tutorial this season, but I thought it was interesting enough to show you in case you wanted to try it! It’s pretty simple and you only need a few things to make it work.

– dried hydrangeas (it’s okay if not all of it is dry)
– straw wreath outline (you can find these at any craft store)
– scissors
– hot glue gun
– spray paint in green or any color of your choice (optional)

The process is pretty straightforward and simple. You’re going to take pieces of the hydrangea and cover every inch of the front, so you can’t see anymore straw. There is no need to cover the back side. If you don’t have a hot glue gun you can stick the pieces in the straw or the wire that’s wrapped around the straw. (Just be careful when you’re cutting the wrapping off that you don’t cut the wire).

After that how it looks is up to you! You can leave it brown like it is which I think is a really pretty and rustic look. It looks nice too if you spray paint it green. Then you can add pine cones, berries, etc. to give it an even more festive look!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and that you try it yourself. Let me know how it turns out if you do!

I’m looking forward to showing you more festive wreath ideas for your holiday season!