One dollar planning toolThis trick is SOOOO simple to make/use, but it's been a big game-changer in my life this year. So I thought I'd share. 

Basically, at the beginning of 2016, I was evaluating the past year, looking forward to the coming one, and thinking about how I could improve and also avoid making the same mistakes again. One thing that's been happening in my life since ABM started growing and my career started changing over the past few years is there are times I'm just too busy. I like staying productive, we do a lot of things at ABM, and I have a lot on my bucket list in life. I'm happy with a full life, in other words. But when life gets too full, I can start to feel super stressed, I miss out on time with friends and family, and I don't allow time for me to do my best work and to also reflect and think on how I can improve or if I'm happy with the direction things are headed. In a nutshell, I'm looking for the same thing probably most of you are looking for – a balanced and fulfilling life. 

I want to work hard but not be a workaholic.

I want to spend time with my family and friends, but still achieve work and personal goals.

I want to be a good wife, daughter, friend, and business owner. And someday, mom (this is NOT an announcement, just something I think about).

I want time to reflect, chill, meditate, and hopefully come to realizations that help me be a better person. 

Work / life balance is not something I'm an expert at, and I probably never will feel that I have it mastered. BUT, that doesn't mean I won't try. :) I decided that one thing that could help me a lot is if I could view my entire year at once. My thinking was, if I can take a more big picture approach to my career and personal life, then maybe I can find ways to have a healthy, balanced amount of both. 

Emma's favorite one dollar planning tool
So here's what I did: I took out a piece of paper and drew nine boxes for the coming nine months. Why nine? I think I just liked the symmetry of the 3x3, and it just so happened to be the last 9 months in the year. :) I have this hanging near my computer at my desk, and I add to it constantly. It doesn't contain any "regular" activities. All my usual work tasks, or off-duty habits don't necessarily make it on to the calendar. Instead it's filled with big deadlines, work trips, vacation travel, work duties that fall outside of my usual stuff, and some personal events (like a friend's wedding, etc.). And unlike my calendar that closes like a book and buries plans in pages and pages of dates, it's clean, simple and at-a-glance. It's a quick macro view of my year.

My goal was to try to spread out my life better. If I knew I had a big work deadline one month, I tried not to schedule vacations or commit to other big personal things around that time (if I could). If Trey and I plan a vacation together, or a family trip pops up, I try not to overlap work stuff with that time frame. 

Simple, right? But that's exactly the point and why it's more useful to me than any macro calendar you can buy. It's so simple I almost feel ashamed I wasn't doing this sooner! But it's been a HUGE help to me this year. I can't control every event or opportunity that comes my way, but I feel a lot more confident saying no when I can see that a particular month is already too full. I don't feel guilty or scared that I'm passing up a big opportunity, because I can see that I've already said yes to other things that I've deemed are important. 

That's it! Paper, pen and other fun stuff like markers and stickers if you wanna make it cute. Once a month or two has passed, I update it to reflect the next nine months. If you wanted to make it twelve months at a time, that would certainly be pretty easy. I just decided I wanted a bit more room to write, so I left it at nine. But if you try this little trick, make it work for you – that's what matters! xx. Emma

P.S. The stickers and the cute print behind my calendar are from past Happy Mail kits

Blueberry muffin cookies (via  These embody all of my favorite parts of a muffin, namely sweet, delicious flavors (these feature blueberries and candied ginger) and the crown, crumble tops. I LOVE crumble tops! But who doesn't? It's made of some of the most addictive ingredients in baking: butter, sugar, and flour. Simple, but so good.

Blueberry muffin cookies (via these are at the core a cookie, so I'm not putting this out there as a healthy breakfast option. Oh no, dear friends, this is a treat – and such a fun alternative to any classic cookie you might make more often, be it chocolate chip or peanut butter. 

You'll note in the recipe that I've left the candied ginger as optional, but I highly recommend you add it if you can find it in the spice section of your grocery store. I really love adding a little candied ginger to all sorts of things: cookies, quick breads, pie crust, or cobbler recipes. It adds such a fun contrast of flavors and a little bit of heat/spice. 


Blueberry Muffin Cookies, makes one dozen

1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour*
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated candied ginger, optional
1 cup fresh or frozen, thawed blueberries

For the crumble tops:
3 tablespoons cold butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup flour
a pinch of salt

*If you'd like, you can use 1 cup all-purpose flour instead of 3/4 cup and then 1/4 cup whole wheat flour. Up to you.

In a bowl, cream together the softened butter, sugars, and vanilla extract until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet and stir until combined and crumbly dough begins to form. 

Grate the candied ginger, and then measure out a heaping 1/4 teaspoon and add to the bowl along with the blueberries. Stir, then refrigerate for a few minutes while you prepare the crumb topping.

Blueberry muffin cookies (via Cube the cold butter and combine in a small bowl with the sugar and flour. Use your clean hands to press together until a very crumbly mixture forms.

Spoon the batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat. Top each with the crumble topping. Bake at 350°F for 15-16 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes before enjoying. The cookies will still be quite soft once they come out of the oven, so it's best to let them cool a little before serving. 

Happy cookie baking! xx. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

Katie's Gallery Wall with A Beautiful MessHey, friends!! This morning we wanted to update you on the results of this recent contest we hosted with Canon USA, where we got to give away a new printer, $1,000, and a little visit from us. It's not every day that we get to visit a blog reader's home and help them make over a wall. We had SO much fun! 

The winner of our contest was Katie Thierjung. She's a college student with an incredible Instagram and super cute Etsy shop. We immediately loved Katie's whole aesthetic and begged her to use some of her own photos in her gallery wall. 

Here's a photo of Katie's bedroom before: 

BeforeShe made us a pin board with a lot of inspiration, and then we pitched her three ideas to choose from. One was a crazy tissue fringe covered wall, one was an abstract painted wall, and the last was a classic gallery wall. Katie chose the gallery wall and after really knowing her space, I think she made the right choice! It turned out so fresh and nice. 

Before we arrived, Katie did a few updates she had already been wanting to do, painting her walls white and replacing her bed with a sofa bed. It brightened the space up and served her function as a bedroom and workspace for her design work. 

Katie's Gallery Wall with A Beautiful Mess We started with a few fun prints from past Happy Mail boxes. Emma and I raided our stashes at home and brought a bunch of pieces for Katie to choose from. 

Katie's Gallery Wall with A Beautiful Mess  Next, we printed a bunch of Katie's Instagram photos using the Canon PIXMA iP8720 Crafting Printer that she won in the contest. It's a wide format printer and very useful for a gallery wall project like this. It's crazy how good the quality is when you've only seen a photo TINY on Instagram. Her photos looked incredible blown up. 

You can also see here that we used colorful poster board to trace all the frame sizes, and then we hung them in place to make sure the spacing looked right. 


Katie's Gallery Wall with A Beautiful Mess   Here we are halfway through the hanging process. 

Here's a video where you can see a time lapse of pretty much our whole day! 


Katie's Gallery Wall with A Beautiful Mess    SUCCESS! This gallery wall made a huge impact, and we had it done before sunset – wooooo!!! 

Katie's Gallery Wall with A Beautiful Mess      Katie's Gallery Wall with A Beautiful Mess      Katie's Gallery Wall with A Beautiful Mess      What a fun day! High fives all around. xx- Elsie + Emma 

Credits//Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Video and Music: Jeremy Larson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

Instax Mini ScrapbookHey, guys! Happy Sunday! I wanted to share kind of a random scrapbook project I made this week, just for fun!

As many of you have noticed, I haven't scrapbooked for a bit. Honestly, it's been almost a year since my stuff has been in boxes (yes, a lot of my crafty stuff is STILL in boxes), and I've been so busy with other projects I haven't given it much thought.

With that said, we made a lot of really special memories this year, so I wanted to try a new way of quickly printing them out and throwing them into a little photo album. This week I've been printing out a ton of photos from my iPhone using this really cute novelty printer. It prints your iPhone photos onto Instax film. Because as much as I LOVE my Instax camera, I hardly ever think to carry it around, especially during travel. I actually really only use it during nighttime parties (party pix vibes!) 

Instax Mini Scrapbook  So basically, you sync your smartphone with this little printer and you can print out any photos from your phone onto Instax film (the exact same film you use in the Instax camera). It comes in rainbow too

Instax Mini Scrapbook So I printed out a bunch of random memories from this past year and a half. Then I threw them all into this cute pink Instax photo album. I used a few stickers and embellishments that came from Happy Mail and Messy Box as well. 

Instax Mini Scrapbook   Here's a few pics of my finished album! 

It was really fun and REALLY easy to put together in one afternoon. However, I will say that the quality is not NEARLY as good as what I'm used to (with our Canon printers). I think it's OK since this is a novelty printer, and I have my photos saved/printed other places. It's basically just like an instant photo, imperfect in sort of a cool/artsy way.

Instax Mini Scrapbook    Instax Mini Scrapbook    Instax Mini Scrapbook    Instax Mini Scrapbook    I always love getting an album done... even when it's a little mini one like this! It'll be on my coffee table if anyone wants to see it! ;) 

Oh! And I had some extra film, so I just kept printing more and more fun/random photos and displayed them in this little basket in my living room. Feels REALLY GOOD to be filling out our home with memories and personal details. 

Have a great Sunday my friends! xx- Elsie 

Credits//Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.


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