{Design} Gallery Wall Inspiration

When we first moved into our condo a year & a half ago, I already had big plans for a gallery wall.  I wasn't sure where in our home it was going to go, BUT I knew I just HAD to have one.  After spending copious amounts of time browsing through Pinterest looking for inspiration, I decided I wanted to keep my frames a bit more neutral.  We were painting our walls a soft grey & thought white, silver & a few gold frames would look best.  Well, fast forward a year & tons of gallery wall images on Pinterest & I'm ITCHING to change up my current wall.  I still love most of my prints, but there are definitely some I can do without.  I just completed a big living room remodel (details to come!) & decided tackling the gallery wall would be my next project.  Instead of my frames being so monochromatic, I want to add just a little pizzazz to make the wall less matchy & more eclectic. I'm thinking of adding in some thin, black frames, some mirrored frames, maybe even some colored frames.  I've got a ton of ideas & I've already started re-arranging/replacing in my head, but today, I want to share just some of the inspiration that has kicked off the update!  Stay tuned to see the final project!


Reading Challenge: Book #2 Review

As some of you may be aware, instead of making resolutions for the new year that I would inevitably fail at, I decided to take on a 52 book reading challenge.  You can read more about it here. The 2nd book I decided to read was Wonder by R.J.Palacio. The category: A book with a one-word title.  I'd had it sitting on my shelf for some time & had heard good things, but I didn't actually know what it was about. I think the initial audience for this book was intended for kids/young adults because it is a very straightforward & easy read...BUT, the story & the message is so important, everyone SHOULD read it, no matter your age.  Like I did for my first book review, I'm stealing the summary from Good Reads. I 100% recommend this book to anyone with kids or anyone who could use a good reminder in life not to judge a book by it's cover.

You can't blend in when you were born to stand out.

My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go.

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?

Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, WONDER is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

Book #2 complete!



{Recipe} Slow Cooker Skinny Butternut Squash Soup (Vegetarian!)

The first time I ever had Butternut Squash soup I have to admit, was only 2 years ago at my dear friend Jen's wedding.  I had absolutely no idea it was so delicious!  Clearly, I've been missing out. With it being a bit chilly here (I'm sorry but 50 degrees is chilly) I've been trying to venture into more soups.  The week before I made One Pot Lasagna Soup & that was a huge hit.  This time I wanted to try something in the slow cooker & butternut squash seemed like the perfect vegetable to slow cook. This soup was SO delicious!  It was filling & creamy, yet really healthy! It did require a few steps before tossing everything in the slow cooker, but worth the 20ish mins of work.  Now, I did cheat & used pre-cubed squash & that saved me lots of time.  Personally, I love using the pre-cubed veggie because cutting a squash is a giant pain. Also, an immersion blender will come in REALLY handy for this, BUT a regular blender will do.  This vat of soup lasted us 3 nights, but it probably could have lasted 4 if we weren't such gluttons so hungry! I researched many different varieties & ended up going with a recipe from Betty Crocker (probably because she included cream cheese in her version & well, yes.) 

Serves: 6-8
Cook time: 6 hours 45 mins
How difficult was this? Pretty easy!

2 tbsp margarine or butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 butternut squash (2lbs), peeled & cubed
2 cups water
1/2 tsp dried marjoram leaves
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
4 chicken bouillon cubes (first time using these!)
8oz reduced fat cream cheese, cubed

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion & cook until tender

In a 3-4 quart slow cooker, mix onion & remaining ingredients except the cream cheese.

Cover & cook on low for 6-8 hours. I could only wait for 6 hours.

Using the immersion blender, blend on high until smooth. Otherwise, in a blender or food processor, place 1/3rd of the mixture at a time in the blender & blend until smooth. See why the immersion blender is a lot easier!

Stir in cream cheese. Cover & continue to cook on low for an additional 30 mins or longer until the cheese is melted & smooth.

Looks REAL delish doesn't it?? But really, I promise it is!



{Lately Loving} Slim Aarons

For a while now J & I have talked about getting a new couch.  I love my couch, but with our current living room, we can only seat 4-5 people & it just isn't practical since we love having people over. I've always wanted a sectional & we finally decided to go for it.  However, with a new couch came a new coffee table. With a new coffee table came a new lamp. With a new lamp, came a new plant (J is unaware of this until now. Surprise!)  With a new lamp, came new living room art.  And here we are. J & I can rarely agree on art & usually I just buy what I like & he deals with it.  However, for the living room I really wanted to do something fun & what we CAN agree on is photographs, well most of the time. A while back I posted about a photographer I've become obsessed with, Gray Malin & while stalking browsing his Instagram, he mentioned a photographer, Slim Aarons.  Of course I had to go check him out & I just fell in love. His images scream California & they would certainly brighten up our little LA abode. I knew I had to get one of his photos & since I was suddenly redoing our living room, it was the perfect chance to incorporate  his work. Of course, like most things I'm drawn to, his photos are expensive.  Well, thanks to Christmas/Hanukkah, I was able to get some gift cards to One Kings Lane.  I will be doing a living room reveal once I have it all put together, & some of the photos below might be found in our new place...so stay tuned for that!  Anyways, here are some of my favorites. I'd love to hear yours!






Reading Challenge Book Review: Book #1

Last week I mentioned I was joining my good friend Erica in a book challenge.  There are 50 categories, 52 books total.  I was 30 pages into a book when I decided to join the challenge & luckily, Erica said I could count that book.  So the first book I read for the challenge was The Vacationers by Emma Straub.  This book falls into a few categories, but I'm going with  "Book that takes place in another country."  I absolutely loved this story.  It takes place in the Balearic Islands of Mallorca.  I knew these islands were off of Spain, but I didn't know much. After a little Googling, it has become apparent I MUST GO THERE.  I mean, look at this place:

Source: Tapena


Part of what I loved about this book is there were so many interesting characters each with their own secrets & stories.  Plus, it felt like I was on vacation with this crazy family. Now, instead of trying to give you a summary of this book, I'm going to cheat & steal one from Good Reads.  Hey, at least I'm being honest.
For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.

This is a story of the sides of ourselves that we choose to show and those we try to conceal, of the ways we tear each other down and build each other up again, and the bonds that ultimately hold us together. With wry humor and tremendous heart, Emma Straub delivers a richly satisfying story of a family in the midst of a maelstrom of change, emerging irrevocably altered yet whole.
Would I recommend? Absolutely. One category down, 49 to go!

{Recipe} Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh hello my new favorite cookie, don't you look like you want to be gobbled up! Ok...talking to a cookie about eating it...not weird at all.  ANYWAYS for New Years Eve, J & I headed up to our friends cabin in Big Bear for 3 days of nothing but hanging with friends, eating, drinking & more eating.  I didn't have a ton of time to prepare some good snacks, but I did make the regular Buffalo Chicken Dip staple.  I also wanted to bring something to munch on that was easy to pass & not incredibly difficult to make. Heading over to Pinterest (where else) I did a quick scan of my Sweet Tooth board & found a few different cookies.  This recipe seemed like the easiest & didn't involve a ton of ingredients I didn't already have. Plus, red velvet?? You don't have to ask me twice! 

These cookies were pretty DELICIOUS.  I'm actually certain I ate half of them.   They were rich & a bit more dense than normal cookies, but still amazing.  Something to note, they do take a bit longer to make as the dough needs to fridge for an hour so it's not so sticky. Thank you Sally's Baking Addiction for the recipe!!

Makes: 20-24 cookies
Cook Time: 1 hour 45 mins (dough needs to chill for at least one hour in fridge)
How difficult was this acc to me? Not too hard! 

1.5 cups + 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg at room temperature (I learned a trick on how to do this, see below)
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tbsp red food coloring
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (I used mini bc that's what I had on hand)

Toss the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda & salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer with a  paddle attachment, beat butter on high until creamy. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as needed.

Switch mixer to medium, & beat in brown sugar & granulated sugar until combined.

Beat in the egg, milk & vanilla extract scraping down the sides as needed.

Once mixed, add food coloring & beat until combined.

Add in bowl of dry ingredients that had been set aside.  Use the low setting & beat until a very soft dough is formed.  Add more food coloring if desired. (I didn't add more)

On low, add in chocolate chips. Make sure thoroughly combined.

The dough will be quite sticky at this point. Cover tightly with aluminum foil & fridge for at least one hour.  You can store the dough for up to 4-5 days.  If chilling for more than one day, make sure to remove them from the fridge & let sit for 45 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper if you have. I used tinfoil as a substitute & sprayed with cooking spray.  Worked just fine.

Scoop 1.5 tbsp of dough & mold into a ball.  The dough will be sticky...I should have taken a picture of my hands.

Bake for 7-10 mins.  Mine were done after about 8 mins. 

The cookies may have only spread slightly. That's OK! Simply press down on the warm cookies with a fork to flatten & form crinkles.

Stick a few chops into the tops of the warm cookies.

Allow the cookies to cool on cookie sheet for 5 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 7 days.