Elsie's iPhone Photo Challenge

Elsie's iPhone photo challengeToday I wanted to share a little about a personal challenge that I've just given myself. First, let me set the scene. For the past few months I've been feeling super motivated to work on my photography. I spend a good portion of my work days working on our new photography e-course as well as another lifestyle photography/scrapbooking class that is coming out really soon. This was a lot of fun and also really healthy for my personal growth. I've been using my DSLR daily, which feels awesome! 

So, you're probably thinking, "Well, what's the problem then? That sounds great." Right? Well, I often think that creativity is a swinging pendulum, especially for those of us who like to do a lot of different things. And in that time when I was bonding with my SLR, I didn't notice I was kinda un-bonding with my phone. And sometime around the holidays I started to post less on Instagram because, well, I didn't have anything to post. Not that there's some kind of rule that I have to post, there's not. But ever since I started Instagramming (sometime shortly after our wedding) it's been a daily part of my life that I really, really enjoy. And suddenly I wasn't enjoying it anymore, and I didn't like that. 

Elsie's iPhone photo challenge So I spent a few weeks analyzing my funk. You know, not constantly or anything, but I did spend some time asking myself questions like, "Do you even want to improve your iPhone photos? Do you care?", "If you're so bored with Instagram, could it be your own fault?" (guilty), "OK, so, what can you do to make it fun again? What can you do to feel inspired and fresh?" 

And then all of a sudden, it all felt more clear.

Elsie's iPhone photo challenge  I realized that I was using my SLR camera for all the photos in my life that I considered "important", and I was using my iPhone for all the photos that I considered "boring". Unless, of course, I only had my iPhone handy, like with this photo above. This photo above is absolutely on my 2014 top ten photos list. It's so special to me and I don't necessarily think I would love it any more if it had been taken with an SLR.

I realized that if other people could take incredible, inspiring photos with their phones, that I could too. I just wasn't trying. I wasn't giving it a chance. I was making myself bored

And that thought was encouraging to me because as soon as I realized it was my own fault, I realized I could fix it myself too! 

I knew what I had to do next. 

Elsie's iPhone photo challenge   So, here's my solution. I am going to try to take ALL my personal photos with my iPhone for a month or maybe two months. I don't know, however long it takes me to feel like I can get really great photos with my phone. It's that simple. 

Elsie's iPhone photo challenge    I'm so excited and inspired. My goals are to play with color and to focus on capturing Jeremy's and my everyday life in a way that doesn't feel boring to me. I have my little idea notebook in my purse. (That's how you know I'm really into something, it always gets its own notebook!)

Elsie's iPhone photo challenge     I realize that pretty much all that's changing is my mind, but that's OK. I needed to remove some mental blocks and rules and get a fresh start. It feels good to have a mini-goal going on. In a couple weeks we're going to take a trip and I really might leave my camera at home, which is something I've never done before! I'm excited to learn and grow in a new area. This is going to be fun. Follow me on Instagram if you want to. Cheers to doing old stuff in a fresh new way! xx. Elsie 

Credits: Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos taken with the iPhone. 

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15 Easy & Healthy Recipes for the New Year

Quinoa stuffed peppersPersonally, I believe almost everything is good in moderation. So, I try to eat mostly healthy all year long with room for occasional treats and splurges. But I love using the new year as a time to reset and refocus my mostly-healthy eating habits. It feels like a lot of people use January as a time to kick start in this way too. So if you're looking for some more healthy options to spice up your weekly meals, here are 15 ideas to try. First up are these quinoa stuffed bell peppers. Yum!

Brussels sprouts saladBrussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables, and I love this warm brussels sprouts salad

Farro and kale saladThis farro and kale salad is super delicious and filling. It would make a great take-to-work lunch too.

Carrot and ginger dressingI think I could easily eat a salad every day for lunch if only I have a good variety of dressings to keep it interesting. One favorite of mine is this carrot and ginger dressing

Vegan chocolate puddingHaving a chocolate craving? Yeah, me too for the last 28 years. Ha! Try this no-dairy chocolate pudding recipe—it's amazing!

Cauliflower crustLighten up your favorite pizza by swapping out your usual crust with this cauliflower crust. Who knew vegetables could be so amazing like that!?

Fresh spring rollsFresh spring rolls can feel like such a treat when paired with a great dipping sauce. Yum! 

Easy chia puddingA little over a year ago we started loving chia seed pudding and life has never been the same. 

Kale hashBut what about breakfast? Try this kale and potato hash.

Garlic green beansIf you are a garlic fan (raises hand emphatically!), then you're gonna love this green bean dish. Serve it alongside some brown rice and you've got a super filling meal. 

Lightened up browniesFeeling the need to bake this season? I hear you. Try these lightened up chocolate and orange brownies. Yum!

Kale saladThis is easily one of my all time favorite salads—kale, apples, and a creamy dressing. What's not to love?

Quinoa shrimpQuinoa and shrimp scampi, a slightly more healthy version of my favorite red pepper shrimp scampi

Melon sorbetDid you know that you can turn frozen fruit into a delicious ice-cream-like dessert? Try this melon sorbet and you'll see. No ice cream maker required.

Quinoa pattiesI'm currently loving these peas and pesto quinoa patties. They make a great meal when paired with a salad, or you can snack on left over patties for a quick afternoon pick-me-up without any guilt. Mmm.

What about you? What healthy recipes are you loving this month? xo. Emma

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Organize Your Bathroom Vanity Like A Pro!

 Organize Your Bathroom Vanity Like a Pro! (click through for tips) OK, OK, I don't have a degree in "Bathroom Organization," but I do feel pretty confident about my organizational instincts, so just go with me on this one. As much as I love keeping an organized space, it just doesn't always stay that way in the real world, and every so often I need to regroup and give myself an organizing intervention. I realized I may have come to that point in our master bathroom when every time I needed an item, I would end up literally digging through drawers/cupboards that had become layer upon layer of different items. Also, when you are trying to straighten your hair and there is no open space on the bathroom counter to even set your appliance, well, that means a change is in order. If you are feeling like me and need a little motivation to get your bathroom space in order, then follow along and let's get to it!

Organize Your Bathroom Vanity Like a Pro! (click through for tips)1. Clean out your junk. I mean it. This is actually my favorite part of organization—the throwing away part! Of course, you can find new homes for any unwanted items that are still in good condition (what friend doesn't like looking through another friend's "giveaway pile" and getting a better hairdryer than the one they have?), but the goal here is to remove all the stuff that you don't use on a regular basis. That nail polish you thought would be cool but makes your skin look green? It's gone. The curling iron that never seems to get hot enough (and your hair won't hold curls anyway)? It's outta here. That eyeshadow from 2007 that makes your eyelids puff up (but it was so expensive so you kept it)? Bye-bye. I know you may not believe me, but you don't need eight kinds of body lotion. Pick one and go with it. You can see that I don't have a giant vanity space, but I got rid of four grocery bags worth of stuff. FOUR BAGS. You should have seen my husband's eyes when I showed him how much I had removed. They were as big as dinner plates. Very big (but very proud of me) dinner plates. There will probably also be a lot of items that you are keeping, but simply need to move to a more appropriate spot elsewhere in your house (like your medicine cabinet or cleaning supplies shelf). Leave everything you are keeping on the floor and clean and wipe out each drawer for probably the first time since you moved in. Ahh, feels better already.

Organize Your Bathroom Vanity Like a Pro! (click through for tips)        2. Separate by group. Now you'll want to separate all your items into piles: haircare products, hair accessories, appliances, nail care items, nail polish, makeup, dental items, feminine products, etc. Keep like-minded items in the same drawers when possible to keep a coherent system (e.g. all my nail care items and polishes are together).

Organize Your Bathroom Vanity Like a Pro! (click through for tips)   3. Everything needs a home of its own. This means there should be no "stand alone" items that don't have a drawer/bin/or container to call home. I would say there are a few exceptions to this rule (like a soap dispenser or cool perfume bottle you like to keep out for looks), but you really want to make sure everything has a contained space to live in and this will really help with counter clutter. For me, anything I want to keep on my counter has to fit in the 3-drawer makeup holder or metal basket next to the sink. Otherwise, it has to find a new home elsewhere. This step is where those plastic dividers and drawer bins come in handy to separate and keep each category visible (and only one layer deep) within your drawers. They make bigger systems that fit in the space under your sink, and I really like the slide-out feature of this one.

Organize Your Bathroom Vanity Like a Pro! (click through for tips)         4. Use makeup bags for small collections of items. I had a few categories that felt too loose to keep in a bin or open container. I bought a few extra makeup bags (you can find really cheap ones at places like Forever 21) to hold my headbands, extra sets of hair pins, or any other group that felt like they would end up floating around in a drawer if not contained. A couple of cute bags in a drawer feels a lot less cluttered than several loose collections of smaller items. 

Organize Your Bathroom Vanity Like a Pro! (click through for tips)    5. Get items off the counter. This is where a little bit of wall space can save the day. I made this copper cup organizer specifically to keep things that are usually on my counter up and out of the way, but still within arms reach. You can use shelving or other pre-made hanging organizers to achieve the same results, so you don't have to make this part a DIY project unless you want to. 

Organize Your Bathroom Vanity Like a Pro! (click through for tips)     Organize Your Bathroom Vanity Like a Pro! (click through for tips)        I felt like I was twenty pounds lighter (or at least four grocery bags lighter) when I looked at my finished bathroom. It felt so much more simple, clean, and streamlined than when I first started. So far, I love living with my new system and it's been really easy and fast to find everything that I'm looking for. Plus, there's always something about a major clean that makes you want to do all the other trouble spots in your house. Looks like I have a few cluttered closets to tackle next! xo. Laura

Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman. Photography: Janae Hardy. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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Five Places I want to go in 2015

Places I want to go-CharlestonI don't know about you, but lately I've been feeling the urge to travel more. I really want to make it a priority to take more time off in 2015 to see more of this beautiful world that we live in. There are SO many places that I have never been to! Just for fun I thought I'd share the top five places I'd love to travel to this year.

1. Charleston, South Carolina. I really don't know that much about Charleston, but my sister just surprised me by booking us a sister trip there for my 29th birthday later this month, and I could not be more stoked! It looks absolutely charming. I can't wait to eat some great food and take some photos of this new-to-me city.

Places I want to visit-New Orleans2. New Orleans, Louisiana. Every few years I go through a thing where I want to see New Orleans. It's such an eclectic, delicious looking place. I love French food (especially pastries), I love old buildings, I love good bars... I think this town might be just perfect, right? I've never been, but I really, really want to make 2015 the year I finally make it happen.

Places I want to go-Washington DC3. Washington D.C. My nation's capital. Trey has a few cousins who live there, and we'd love to see them this year. In addition, I've never been to this city, so I'd LOVE to play tourist at some of the monuments and museums. 

Places I want to go-Dallas4. Dallas, Texas. Trey is originally from Texas and lots of his family on his father's side still live there (many of them in Dallas). So this is another visit-family-and-see-the-city type trip we'd like to take. Truthfully, I've never gotten to explore Dallas much outside of the airport and the Texas state fair, so it could be really fun to spend a long weekend there.

Places I want to go-Chile5. Chile! The last place on my list is a little more exotic, I mean, I had to include at least one international spot. Trey and I have been kicking around the idea of visiting Chile. Neither of us have been anywhere in South America before, and for some reason Chile keeps coming up. 

Will I really get to visit all five destinations this year? I don't know. Maybe. I'm at least going to try to be open to whatever comes my way. 

What about you? Any travel dreams brewing in your mind? Also, if any of you live in any of the cities I mentioned and want to give us recommendations, I will take them—so feel free! xo. Emma

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman. Photos: Charleston left/right, New Orleans left/right, Washington DC left/right, Dallas left/right, Chile left/right. I tried to find all the original sources for these beautiful photos, but if I've missed one or linked one incorrectly, please let us know!

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Easy Rope Coaster DIY

Easy Rope Coaster DIY (click through for tutorial)    I am totally that lady that's a little bit crazy about making people use a coaster. I don't care about wet cups on every surface of my house, just mostly when it comes to my coffee table. It was the first piece of real furniture that I bought when I graduated from college, and I saved up for a long time to buy it from an expensive modern home store in town. With it being the new year, Todd and I are aiming to be more intentional about making items last, rather than just constantly spending money replacing things. Plus, I just love this coffee table and I want to baby the wood top as much as I can so it will last as long as possible—that's where coasters come in! Coasters are a fun (and usually inexpensive) DIY to make, and there's a lot of tutorials out there for different types of looks. I've seen tons of variations on rope coasters, so I thought I should try a few with neon pops of color to match our living room and see if they are as easy as they're advertised to be. 

It's kind of perfect that we're working with Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores on this project, because this month they're focusing on finding DIY solutions for New Year's resolutions!  

Easy Rope Coaster DIY (click through for tutorial)Supplies:
-white felt
-1/4" drawstring cord (you can buy it by the yard in the store)
-neon cord
-large yarn needle (big enough for the neon cord to fit through)
-glue gun
-fabric scissors
-white electrical tape

Easy Rope Coaster DIY (click through for tutorial) Begin with a piece of drawstring cord that is about 48" long. Wrap each end with electrical tape to keep the cord from fraying and trim the cord so only a 1/4" of the taped cord still remains. Starting at one end, coil the rope in a circular pattern and use the hot glue gun to secure the coil as you go. Keep gluing and coiling until the whole cord is attached. Tuck the end of the cord under the edge of the coil out of sight. Glue the end in place on the bottom side of the rope coil.

Easy Rope Coaster DIY (click through for tutorial)    Thread your yarn needle with the neon cord, and, starting from the bottom, begin to sew a series of two side by side stitches scattered throughout your coaster. You can make your stitches all the same length or vary them like I did (my stitches were either two or three rows of rope long). You can either knot your cord on the bottom of the coaster when you start and finish sewing or you can simply hot glue the ends in place. The bottom of your coaster will look like quite a mess when you're done with this step, but that's OK! The next step will hide all that.

Easy Rope Coaster DIY (click through for tutorial)    Use the hot glue gun (or fabric glue) to glue the bottom of the coasters onto a piece of white felt. Place something heavy on them (like a big book) for a few minutes while the glue cools, and then trim the excess felt from around the edges. That's it, you're done!

Easy Rope Coaster DIY (click through for tutorial)    Easy Rope Coaster DIY (click through for tutorial)    Easy Rope Coaster DIY (click through for tutorial)    You can use a thinner embroidery thread or multiple colors of cord for this project, but I really like the simplicity of the neon yellow and white. This project was surprisingly quick to complete (I was done before I knew it!), so it wouldn't take much time at all to make a matching set of two or four for a coffee table or counter. You could also do a different color cord for each person in the house so everyone knows which one is theirs. I love how these turned out, and I think my coffee table is going to be happy with me too! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.


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