Jalapeño Popper Dip

Best jalapeno popper dip recipeThis dip is very much inspired by a dip served at a bar in my hometown. I don't know their particular recipe, but I imagine there are many different variations out there. I've made this on a few different occasions, and I'm happy to share my favorite version with you. And good news—it's REALLY easy to make.

We got to work with Kettle Brand chips on this. You'll see we'll be using their Jalapeño chips for the topping on this dip. Very fitting, no? True story: As soon as I saw an email come through that they wanted to work with us, I immediately told Trey he had to make it happen. Kettle chips are my go-to snack! (Salt and Ground Pepper chips, anyone?) 

Best jalapeno popper dip recipe  I served this as an appetizer before our Friendsgiving feast this year. I love having an appetizer option just in case the meal ends up taking a bit longer to prepare than I was planning. Although this year I was fifteen minutes early. Sigh. I never would have made it in the restaurant world. 

Our office wants to let you know that this was tied for favorite dish served at Friendsgiving this year. It's a good one! This would also be great to serve during a ball game (football or otherwise) or really any casual or semi-casual get together. It's a crowd-pleaser for sure.

Best jalapeno popper dipJalapeño Popper Dip, serves 8-10 as an appetizer.

(2) 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayo
1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1/3 cup canned jalapeno peppers, diced
1/4 cup green chilies
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Kettle Brand Jalapeño potato chips, crushed

In a large bowl, stir together the first five ingredients listed. This doesn't have to be perfectly smooth, just mixed well so you'll get an even distribution of everything in every bite.

Even distribution. That's important.

Jalapeno popper dipSpoon the mix into a pie pan or an 8" x 8" square baking dish. Top with Parmesan cheese and the crushed potato chips. 

I actually made this two days before my event. So I left the potato chips off (sealed in a Ziploc bag) until just before baking. I covered my baking dish with plastic wrap and just tucked it in the refrigerator until I was ready for it.

Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes, until the edges begin to bubble a little.

Best jalapeno popper dip recipe Serve warm alongside some kind of delicious bread. I served mine with pretzel bites, which are just store bought pretzels I cut up and warmed. Easy peasy, and so delicious. Enjoy! xo. Emma

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

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How to Stay Motivated & Achieve Your Goals (Part 2: Rewards!)

6U8A2279We are already into part 2 of our series on how to get yourself motivated and complete all your awesome goals. Hopefully you are feeling much more driven to actually achieve your dreams after Emma shared the motivational trick of list-making that works for her, but if that wasn't a method that speaks to you, it's totally OK! We still have two more methods to share with you, and Sarah is going to guide you through her rewards-based method today. Maybe this will be the one for you! Tips for using rewards to motivate you to achieve goals (click through for more!)Hey guys, Sarah here! I read once that it takes 30 days of doing something consistently to develop a habit. Sometimes even attempting to develop small habits (like cleaning your house for 15 minutes a day, or going for a walk every day) feels like a major lifestyle change. If you're like me, then making a major lifestyle change can be pretty daunting and nearly impossible without a reward system in place! But hang on, it might not even be that easy. Rewards can cover so many things! You might be one of those blessed personality types that just completing your goal is the reward. Oh, bless you very much. Others of you might be motivated by a movie night, a new jacket, or a lovely cheese pizza just for you. But maybe you haven't found a reward system that works. 
I think the real key to setting a motivational plan is to not listen to what other people are putting in place as their rewards, and instead, to ask the person who knows you best (you!) what rewards would motivate you. Here's my basic thought process:

1. What would you like to receive as a gift?

I've tried so many reward systems on myself that I'd given up believing that rewards could work, and then I had a real "duh" moment. Laura and I were talking about gift giving and what gifts we like receiving. I thought pretty hard about it when I realized my favorite gifts are just gift cards! It sounds really dumb, but it's like someone is giving me the gift of guilt-free shopping. I love shopping, but I'm usually shopping for things for the home, or for our daughter (baby girl stuff is impossible to resist. Resistance is completely futile). So, it's a pretty special gift when I get to just shop for myself. 

Oh and here comes the "no doy" moment! What if my reward was just money to spend on myself? 

And then the motivation began flowing through my veins. I sat down and devised a three-month plan to reach my next health goal. I made mini goals along the way, so that with each completed mini goal, I'm accruing for myself a little more shopping money—but I'm not allowing myself to cash out until my three months are complete. Make sense? I've never been more motivated, and I've already completed two of my mini goals! So what would be your favorite (realistic!!) present you could receive right now? 

2. When will you get to collect your reward? 
 
Are you the type of person who would work longer and harder towards a big long term reward, or do you think you'd like a constant small reward for working hard weekly/daily? Nobody knows you better than yourself! You can try both—I would start with setting a long term goal/reward system, and if you find yourself slipping, you might try rewarding yourself each week to keep up the motivation. :) 

3. How much can you budget for your reward? 

Earlier I stressed the word realistic because, you know, we all would love a whole new wardrobe from Madewell or Anthropologie right? (Just me?) But finding that in our checking account is a whole other story. You might be able to budget $10-20 a week to put towards your big reward, but you might only be able to budget $1-5, or nothing at all! And that is totally fine, because the best things in life are free, correct? Here are a few ideas that I would consider rewards for myself that fall under several different budgets.

-Take a half day off work and go thrifting!
-Have an evening at home alone with Netflix or a good movie/book. (If you're on the introverted side, "time alone" can be a huge reward!)
-Make something you normally wouldn't make, such as cookie dough without eggs so you can just eat it. :) 
-Plan a day trip—find an interesting place in a 2-3 hour radius that you could drive to one weekend, explore, and then come home all in a day.
-Allow yourself 1 hour of guilt-free treats! Get a donut, order a large latte. No judgies.
-If you're a parent, time alone or time with your significant other would be a huge treat. Plan something super special as a reward! 
-Sometimes a new pair of shoes is a great reward.
-If you're on a larger budget (total budget would be accruing over $100-200), then plan how you're going to use that money to redecorate a room, or buy new bedding, or go craigslisting for a new accent chair. Something that's an investment in our living space always feels like such a reward for me.
-Just for once, skip the cheap coffee for your home brew and buy a bag of really great quality coffee. It's the reward that keeps on giving for like a week! 
-Buy a new book—one that you know will be positive and motivational. 
-Plan a movie night, invite friends over, and celebrate reaching your goal together! Or better yet —make it a dessert night and everyone has to bring pie. And please invite me to that one. :)
-Is there anything you've been wanting to do for a long time? For instance, I've always wanted to learn screen printing, so a good reward for me would be to take a screen printing class, or a pottery class, or an upholstery class, etc. You can always check your local community colleges for classes you can audit at night. 
-If a long term reward doesn't work as well to motivate you, try a weekly reward for meeting your goals each week! It could be something small like an ice cream during lunch breaks on Fridays, or going to a matinee and getting popcorn every Saturday, or going on a latte run before work one day a week. Clearly, I am driven by food and coffee—but you get the idea.
 
Tips for using rewards to motivate you to achieve goals (click through for more!)   Tips for using rewards to motivate you to achieve goals (click through for more!)   Guys, setting goals and making them happen is so much harder than it sounds, but I know you can do it! Have friends alongside you that are cheering you on! Even if it's just a goal to keep your house cleaner, or to pay your bills on time every month—it's all worth celebrating if you are making strides to make it happen. And have fun with it! :) xo. Sarah
 
Credits// Author: Sarah Rhodes, Photography: Sarah Rhodes and Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.
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Friendsgiving 2014

ABM Friendsgiving 2014We love sharing occasional parties and/or entertaining-type content with you here on the blog. Gives us an excuse to hang out with friends and loved ones. This is our third annual Friendsgiving event, which was basically a blogging idea we came up with years ago so that we could share Thanksgiving-style recipes in time for readers to have them to use for their own Thanksgiving feasts. So once again, thank you, blogging, for making my life awesome. I am thankful for the Internet and every single one of you! 

Okay, enough with the rabbit trails for now. You want to see how Friendsgiving went down at our house this year?

Paper flowersPaper flowers Table decor ideasLaura created these beautiful paper flowers for the center of the table. We had to remove a few of them once all the food was ready, which was heart-breaking because they are so pretty. But, good news, paper flowers don't die—so they're still around the office over a week later!

ABM Friendsgiving 2014 Friendsgiving 2014ABM Friendsgiving 2014  We also hung some faux autumn leaves from the ceiling. Our dining room has rather high ceilings, so it's fun to find some kind of decor element that can draw the eye up. Plus these were easy to throw together. If you have lower ceilings, or are looking for something to decorate a bare wall, check out what we did last year.

Emma setting the tableCocktails for large gatheringsEasy thanksgiving recipes   MocktailsEasy thanksgiving recipes On the menu this year: Elsie's cranberry mimosas and a mocktail version (for those who don't drink), turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, jalapeño popper dip, compound butters (these doubled as party favors), peanut butter cup bars, and sweet potato crème brûlée.

Over the years I've developed a few tips that help me host a dinner party like this and not find myself stuck in the kitchen or feeling too stressed out during the event. I have three golden rules.

1. Make everything ahead of time that you can.

I deliberately plan at least two thirds of my dishes as items that I can make ahead and either bake or rewarm just before serving. This means I don't have to be up at 3 am to make everything the day of. 

2. Plan stovetop and oven dishes.

If you're like me, you probably have four stovetop burners and can have your oven set to one or two temperatures at a time max (our office has a double oven, and it's awesome for Friendsgiving!). No matter what you have, plan for it. Don't plan six stovetop recipes if you only have four burners. Seems pretty obvious, but I've mistakenly not planned for what I have available before. Also—remember the power of a slower cooker. :)

3. Make a game plan.

I literally have a handwritten checklist of everything I need to get done the day of, with times by each item. I also don't usually "get ready" (as in, do my hair and makeup) until about and hour or two before the meal. I just find a natural break to do that so I don't have to wake up any earlier. Can you tell I really don't like waking up early?

Easy thanksgiving recipesHost your own thanksgiving with ease Thanksgiving hosting tips Thanksgiving hosting tips  Thanksgiving hosting tipsMy favorite is always dessertWe've shared a few of the recipes from this year's Friendsgiving already, and we'll be sharing the rest all this week. Even if you aren't hosting a Thanksgiving any time soon, I hope this can help to inspire you that if you have an interest in hosting a dinner party but feel intimidated, you can totally do it! If I can do it, so can you. :) Thanks for letting me share. xo. Emma

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

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My Foolproof Turkey & Gravy Tips

Friendsgiving turkey 3How to brine a turkeyAnother year, another turkey. That's how that saying goes, right? So as some of you long-time readers know, every year Elsie and I host Friendsgiving together. This year we hosted on a Monday and included our entire staff and their families (if they could come; it was a work day after all). This is our third time hosting together, and I'm getting to a place that I feel really comfortable with my turkey routine. 

If you want to read my tale of worry and nightmares from my first year, check here. Roasting a turkey is a daunting task if you've never done it before. And there are about one million different methods out there, so it can feel overwhelming deciding what to do. If you're looking for what I would consider a foolproof method, I'd be happy to share what I do. Spoiler: I'm a briner. But I've got some new tips for you. You'll see.

Cranberry and white wine brineWhat is brining? Basically, we're looking to soak our bird in tasty liquids for about 8 hours. This helps to create a juicy, tender bird during roasting. And you can just do this overnight and your bird will be ready the next day, ready to roast. 

Every year I change up my brining recipe. This year was all about white wine and cranberries. I used 64 ounces vegetable (or chicken) broth, 1/4 cup sea salt, 1/4 cup fresh cranberries, 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns, 5 bay leaves, 1 sprig of rosemary, 3 medium onions (sliced thin), 1 bottle dry Riesling, and then enough water to cover the bird.

Over medium heat, stir together the broth, salt, cranberries, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Stir so the salt dissolves, then remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients (except the water).

Brine your turkey overnight in a coolerIf you have a frozen bird, be sure to thaw first. Also, remove the innards before brining. I always buy a fresh, locally raised turkey every year, so this step may be a little different for me than for you if you buy a commercially raised turkey. I highly recommend local if you can find one in your community.

Now one issue I run into sometimes at Friendsgiving is running out of refrigerator space. We've got to keep our bird cold while it brines overnight, or it could spoil. But if you put it in your refrigerator, it may take up a LOT of the available space. So one solution is to brine your bird in a cooler. Simply fill one third with ice, add your bird in a brining bag, fill with the brining liquid and enough water to cover the bird, seal, and top off with more ice. Shut your cooler, and it should stay cool through the night (unless your house is unseasonably hot or something).

In the morning, discard the brining liquid and rinse your bird. Pat dry. Rub down with softened butter or olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Fill the cavity with aromatics such as sliced onion, lemons, oranges, rosemary, and thyme. Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together so your turkey will keep its shape. Place on a turkey roasting pan (this will have a main pan and then a rack that the bird sits on, allowing air to circulate all around it) and roast at 500°F for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and roast until your bird reaches 155-160° (use an instant read thermometer to find this). My turkey this year was a little over 21 pounds, so it took about 4 hours and 30 minutes to reach this temperature. Once you remove the turkey from the oven, allow it to rest for 30 minutes, loosely covered with aluminum foil. So this is a great time to make gravy. :) 

How to make perfect thanksgiving day gravyFoolproof gravy recipeGravy tied with crème brûlée for my favorite part of the meal this year. I feel like I finally have a good handle on turkey gravy. And it turns out it's not that hard to make at all!

First, collect the drippings from your turkey roasting pan (you can see mine above). If you let this sit in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, the fat will begin to separate from the liquid. You can use just the liquid or both. 

For gravy you'll need 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter or turkey fat, 1/4 cup flour, 1 to 1 1/2 cups turkey dripping liquid, and 1 cup vegetable stock or water to thin.

Melt the butter (or turkey fat) in a large saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the butter melts, add the flour, and whisk to combine. Let that cook, continuing to whisk so it doesn't stick, for a minute or two. Add in the dripping liquid, and whisk to combine well. Now you can use your stock (or water) to thin the gravy to your desired consistency. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.

Perfect thanksgiving day turkeyI like to present the turkey with some kind of garnish underneath the bird, mainly for aesthetics. You could use something that hints at the brining flavor (like I did with the cranberries), or you could just use something pretty. Some good options are cut lemons, cut limes, cut oranges, cranberries, pomegranates, rosemary, edible flowers (if you use this, make sure they are food safe!), coffee beans, prepared stuffing, or raw green beans. Get creative—there are a million things you could use here to dress up your hard work. Enjoy, and happy turkey day! xo. Emma

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

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Felt Flower Wreath

Felt flower wreath for doorThings finally cooled down in Southern California (yay!), and we're ready to handle a wreath on our front door. Since it doesn't feel like summer every day anymore, I wanted to keep moving forward with the autumnal decorating. Since I already had a dried flower wreath hanging inside, I wanted to make a felt flower wreath to hang on the outside. 

I love working with felt, so I'm happy to share how to make this floral felt wreath with you!

Felt flower wreathSupplies:
- felt flower and template

-felt fabric in various colors (at least 1 yard in various colors is more than enough)
-40" 16 gauge steel wire
-scissors
-glue gun
-glue stick

Felt flower wreathStep One: Bend your wire into a circle, and overlap the ends together. To close the circle, twist and bend the ends of the wire together. 

DSC_3740 copy
Felt flower wreathStep Two: Cut out about 75-85 felt leaves. Add a dollop of glue to one end of the leaf, and attach that to the circular frame by wrapping the base of the leaf (with the dollop of glue) around the wire. Continue to glue each leaf on the frame, slightly overlapping the bases of the leaves on top of each other. Fill the entire circular frame with the wool felt leaves. 

Felt flower wreathStep Three: To make the center of the flower, cut a 1" x 6" strip of felt and make small cuts throughout the entire length. Add a dollop of glue at one end, roll the strip, and add another bit of glue to the other end to secure the center.  

Felt flower wreathFelt flower wreathStep Four: Cut out your flower petals and add a dollop of glue to the base of each flower to attach it to the flower center. Continue around until the entire flower center is covered with petals. For my wreath, I made nine flowers; you can certainly make more or less. It's totally up to you how many flowers you want on your wreath.  

Felt flower wreathFelt flower wreathStep Five: Decide on the placement of your flowers on the wreath. Add some glue to the base of the flower (the bottom of the flower center), and attach each flower to your wreath.  

Felt flower wreathNow that you know how to make this one, you can make another next month for Christmas. Maybe you just want to do all white flowers and green leaves on the wreath, or you can go for the green and red color scheme. I think it would be cute to make felt flowers to use to adorn a present instead of a bow, or you can make some small felt flowers and attach them to some headbands as gifts for some little ones in your life (or for yourself). You can really do so many things with felt! -Rubyellen 

Credits // Author and Photography: Rubyellen Bratcher. Photos edited with Valentine from The Signature Collection

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