French Toast Bites

French toast bites  These are more of a hybrid between French toast and cinnamon toast. Normally I don't really think of French toast as crispy/crunchy. But these have a little crunch to them as the sugar caramelizes under the broiler. Sort of a brûlée situation.

French toast bites     These are also really party-friendly since they're served on skewers. We passed these around the office and they were gone quickly. I think it could also be sort of fun to throw the French toast bites in a small bowl with the fruit. Then it's kind of a breakfast Panzanella, which sounds both weird and DELICIOUS. Or maybe that's just me?

French toast bitesFrench Toast Bites

4-5 slices of French or Italian bread
3-4 eggs
2 tablespoons cream or whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar

Cut the bread into cubes. I think it's best to do this the night before and leave the bread in an open ziplock bag. Drier bread works well for French toast because it soaks up the egg mixture without getting soggy, like fresh bread can sometimes. 

French toast bites In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, and vanilla extract. Add a pinch or two of the cinnamon. In another bowl stir together the remaining cinnamon and the sugar. Dip the cubed bread into the egg mixture, then coat in the cinnamon sugar. Place on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat mat. 

Broil for 1-3 minutes, flip, then broil another 1-3 minutes. I realize 1-3 minutes is actually a pretty big difference when working with a broiler, but all ovens are a little bit different. So, it's best to keep a close eye on your toasts so they crisp to your liking but don't burn. Once done toss in a little more sugar and assemble your skewers.

French toast bites   You can use any fruit you prefer and don't forget the syrup! Enjoy, and happy brunching. xo. Emma

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

How Did that Hold Up? (Round Two)

Feather pendantLast October we shared an update on how well some of the DIY projects we've shared on this site held up over time. You can see that post here. We thought we'd update you on a few more projects that we've lived with for a while.

First up is this feather pendant light. It has seen over a year of use now, and it's still going strong! It looks and functions exactly the same as the day we hung it. Hooray!

Copper leg tableWe're still very much in love with this white and copper dining room table that Josh built about this time last year. I think we all assumed that structurally it would hold up great (and it has!), but what about that white surface? Would it get stained over time with use? Although I don't think this table sees quite as many meals as others, it is sort of used as our studio house break room/lunch table at times. We also hosted our annual Friendsgiving on this table this year, and the white has held up like a champ. 

Bedside benchOK, so this bedside bench turned out not to last as long as I thought. Structurally nothing was wrong with it, it probably would have lasted for years (it was mostly decorative, so not a lot of sitting happened on it). But, the rug I chose had some black and darker tones in the pattern and this showed my dog's blonde hair A LOT. I would use my vacuum attachment from time to time to clean it, but it never looked anywhere near as good as the day I made it, no matter how much I vacuumed and lint rolled! So, for that reason I ended up not loving it as much as I thought I would. 

Recently I repurposed the legs for our coffee table. Never waste good furniture legs! Reuse them if the opportunity comes up as it can save you a pretty penny and reusing is always good in my book. 

Standing deskLast year Trey and I built this simple standing desk around our "home office" room. Really, we use the room as a home office, music room (for him), and sewing/craft room (for me). So the desk gets used pretty often for all sorts of tasks. And it has held up great!

No sew curtainsThese super easy no-sew curtains that we have in our office bathroom are a great example of a project that is both simple and durable. I think a lot of times people think, "If you don't do it the hard way, it won't last and isn't worth doing." And I think that can sometimes be true. If you're cutting corners to be lazy (which I've done!!!), then you may regret it. BUT, that doesn't mean that doing things the "easy way" can't be beautiful and durable too. These curtains have been hanging up for almost a year, and they are showing no signs of wear yet. :)

Felt pillowsI think we all wondered how well these pretty felt pillows were going to hold up over time. Felt isn't always considered to be the most durable fabric. But these decorative throw pillows are still looking vibrant and beautiful to this day!

Macrame curtainStill in love with my macrame curtain in our home office! The taped ends haven't frayed at all, and I still love the texture that it adds to the space without being overwhelming.

Floating shelvesOur DIY floating shelves have help up great too! We store plants, books, and all sorts of knick knacks on them, and they have held up like a total champ this year. 

Growing crystalsLoved learning how to grow crystals inside egg shells. Too cool! I encased mine inside plaster for a fun paperweight project. It's been about six months, and I still have two of the three weights I made. I lost the red one. Boo! I guess it just up and walked off my desk one day. But the blue and purple are still sitting on my desk as I type this. The color in the crystals has faded some. They look a little more cloudy than the day I made them. But other than that, the crystals seem to be holding up OK.

Mineral photo displayAnd last, a little update on my mineral photo display. I wondered if wires might sag or get bent overtime, but they have held up fine this year. I have moved this display around our house some, mostly from the fireplace mantel to the bookshelf. I have had a few of the photos fall out before, especially when it was on the mantel since it was right by our back door and a gust of air would sometimes blow a few of the photos off. I used my jewelry pliers to pinch the hooks more secure, and it's been fine since then. Maybe in another year I'll update the photos, we'll see. :)

Thanks for letting us share!!! xo. Emma

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Check the original posts (linked throughout) for the photographer. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

At Home with Shailey Murphy

Livingroom We're excited to welcome Shailey Murphy to the blog today as she shares her beautiful home with us:

"Our home was built in 1950 by the long-time Superintendent of the school district (fun fact the neighbor shared with us after we moved in). It is an all brick ranch style home and has that Mid-century modern feel my husband and I both love. We looked at possibly moving out into the country when we were house shopping, but this quiet, cozy street and charming neighborhood stole our hearts. We love having neighbors who have lived in their homes forever and raised families here. It makes us happy to be a small part of this little community. One of the most important factors for us was finding a home with unique, original features you don't see everyday.

Livingroom  Pretty artAt home withOne of our favorite things to do in our home is sit on the couch, put our feet up, and watch a great TV series together. For that reason, our living room is probably our most loved (and most used) space.  The living room is where Christmas gifts are opened, late night conversations happen, and my friends and I spend time when they come over. Of course, the kitchen is always a favorite space for anyone who loves food (and who doesn't?!), but our living room has become so cozy and comfortable, it's the hands down favorite. I picked out our first couch at Anthropologie (that my husband lovingly nicknamed the "Swiss Family Robinson" couch). So naturally, he got to pick our our second "man couch" that has a deeper seat and darker leather. We have both worked to make the space what it is and somewhere we both love. As someone with a background in Interior Design, it's hard not to feel the need to "over design" every single space. For us, it's most important to create a space that is the right fit for us and allows us to live comfortably and enjoy living in our home. 

Abstract artFireplaceLivingroom     LivingroomLivingroom           DoorwayI love anything old. If my husband didn't edit my purchases, my home might look like a I was a mini hoarder. I've learned over time that space it too limited to have anything in your home you don't absolutely love. I always take my time to find the right piece that really makes me fall in love with it.  Jonathan and I get to travel internationally often for work, so I always love to pick up an item from every country we visit. For example, the gold vases on my mantel are from a flea market in The Republic of Georgia. The tension pole lamp in the living room and the emerald green velvet chairs in the bedroom belonged to my grandmother. When I walk by and look at any of those items, my memory is flooded and I get to have a little piece of that trip or that person with me for just a moment. I also love collecting artwork from local artists. (I also love commissioning custom artwork of our dogs...guilty!) The coffee table, floor lamps, stump table, and blankets in the living room are thrifted or vintage. The orange chairs in the dining room are also vintage and found locally.

Dining roomKitchen        Kitchen    Kitchen  KitchenKitchen We moved into our house about 2 1/2 years ago. The previous owner did a wonderful job and we really had a great starting point. We replaced the countertops in the kitchen with poured concrete (a DIY project with help from a friend). We also replaced the backsplash with white honeycomb tile.  We kept all of the original kitchen cabinets that match the kitchen window trim and large paneling down the hallway. (I hope those cabinets never get replaced! The wood grain is too beautiful.) We have worked our way through most of the house and painted the majority of the walls white. White allows you to do whatever you want with the artwork, furniture, and color in your home and makes everything so cheery and bright. Over time, our home has evolved into a place that is uniquely us, which is what a home should be."

You can see more of Shailey's home and follow on IG at @shaileymurphy

Credits // Author: Shailey Murphy, Photography: Janae Hardy. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

What is Magic Hour?

What is magic hour      What is magic hour       The phrase "magic hour" is music to my ears. It's that time of day when all things are right in the photography world. I've nearly wrecked my car as I've passed a gorgeous field illuminated at magic hour. The beauty of the dripping golden light falling everywhere making everything glow is just unbeatable and so darn pretty. If you aren't sure what magic hour is (sometimes called golden hour), then let me explain. It is that time of day when the sun is near the horizon, glowing, and just about to set. It is the hour as the sun rises and the hour as the sun sets. Before the sun rises/sets, it emits this hazy light that makes everything gorgeous. Most photographers agree that this time of day is THE best time to photograph. Magic hour's name is very true. The light is truly magical!

What is magic hour            What is magic hour             What's the difference between taking pictures during a sunny afternoon and magic hour?

Taking pictures in the afternoon is really challenging. Think of holding a flashlight above your head with the light coming down your face. It would create harsh shadows of your facial features. Now think if you had the flash light pointed directly in front of your face. You wouldn't have such harsh shadows and the light would be more even on your face. The same holds true when the sun is pointed directly in front of you, instead of directly above you. The direction of the light is everything! 

What is magic hour           Is there a difference with morning light and evening light?  I think one is better than the other. Both times of day create beautiful light, but when the sun is about to rise is my favorite light! The light is sometimes foggy and gives a dewy soft look to the photos. I also think that the light is not as strong as the evening light, which casts a strong warm hue. The morning light is more pure if that makes sense :) 

It's worth the wait to get the best light. Determining when magic hour happens in your location is really important. There is an app called Magic Hour that will tell you when magic hour happens in your area...it's super helpful!

What is magic hour          If you can't photograph during magic hour, it's not the end of the world. If you have absolutely no choice but to photograph during the afternoon when the sun is high, don't get discouraged! Taking pictures in shade is a great alternative. This is really easy when you go to a city or urban area because the buildings cast shadows that create a scene of even light. Stick your subject in an area that is shaded (often called "open shade"). Taking advantage of the even lighting will definitely enhance your subject. Harsh lighting will create strong shadows on your subject and let's face it, who wants harsh shadows all over their face? If the scene you are wanting to photograph your subject in has no available shadows and your only choice is to photograph in the open sunlight, then grab a scrim and a helper. A scrim is just a piece of light-weight fabric that diffuses the light. The scrim is placed between the light source (sun) and subject. As the light goes through the scrim, it is softened and diffused and takes away the harsh shadows and bright highlights. Investing in this piece of photography equipment is well worth it and will give you a ton of freedom to photograph at whatever time of day you like!

What if magic hour light doesn't happen? This has happened many times. A photo session will be scheduled months in advance, the time is set at magic hour, and then it turns out to be cloudy...what to do? If that golden light is just not happening, it can be really disappointing if you had your heart set on it! But don't be discouraged because the cloudy weather actually diffuses the sun and makes the light really soft and even. You won't get the sun streaming through and making your subject glow, but you can still capture beautiful images. 

iPhone and magic hour? Let's face it, we always have our phones, and it's more convenient to carry around your phone rather than a large camera! Some of my favorite photos of magic hour were taken with my iPhone. If you point your iPhone on your magic hour scene, the whole picture/scene will likely be dark (this is because the phone will balance/meter the light by darkening the picture to compensate for the bright sun). When you are about to take a picture on your iPhone, simply tap a darker spot of the scene on your phone screen. By tapping the dark spot you are telling your phone to meter the light based on the spot you just tapped on, and your scene should brighten right up! If it brightens too much, then try tapping a spot that is a little lighter than the last spot. Sometimes I have to tap 3 to 4 spots on my iPhone screen before I like the light.

What is magic hour  Be ready! Catching the great light will mean that you have to keep your camera handy and also be spontaneous. One morning as I was making breakfast and my husband was headed out the door for work, I stopped him and said, "Wait, I'll be right back!" I had spotted the most beautiful fog-filled light behind our house. I went outside to the alley that was behind our house and took pictures, trying to catch it with my camera. My husband was a little late to work that day (bless his heart)...but the pictures were amazing because the light was juuuuussst right. What is magic hour   Sometimes you just have to drop what you are doing, get your camera, and catch the good light! Hope you get a chance to wake up early or wait until the sun sets to capture some stunning light! -Janae

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

Suede Colorblocked Catchall DIY

  Seude Colorblocked Catchall DIY (click through for tutorial)        Being a DIY-minded girl, I often see pretty items being sold in stores and instead of thinking, "I want that!" it's usually "Can I make that?" I saw this cute little suede catchall dish online and my brain went straight to how I could recreate the idea at home. In case you aren't sure what a "catchall dish" is, it's a little dish or container that people keep on their entryway table or counter where they can throw their keys, loose change, or other items that are floating around in the vicinity. They're great! It's like a junk drawer for your keys! If you don't want to use suede, you could also make this with a thick wool felt—that would be pretty as well.

Seude Colorblocked Catchall DIY (click through for tutorial)
Supplies:

- suede (real or faux) in two colors
- scissors or rotary cutter and metal ruler
- leather punch (anything that will punch a hole through leather as big as your screw posts will work)
- leather glue
- 1/4" screw posts  (4 sets)
- hammer
- small square object as a corner guide

Seude Colorblocked Catchall DIY (click through for tutorial) First you'll want to cut a square of leather that is 7" x 7" and another smaller square of your second color that is 4.5" x 4.5". Use the leather glue to glue the smaller square exactly in the middle of your larger square. Well, as close to exact as you can anyway...

Seude Colorblocked Catchall DIY (click through for tutorial)        Align a square object (like a small box or a square vase) with the corner of your inside color square and pinch the larger square sides up with your fingers at the corner. Use a marker to make a small mark on the outside of the leather where the corner is made.

Seude Colorblocked Catchall DIY (click through for tutorial)        Use your leather punch to punch a hole in that marked spot, pinch the corner in half again, and trace the hole you just punched onto the other side of the suede fold. Punch that hole as well so you end up with two mirror image holes. Repeat this process with each corner.

Seude Colorblocked Catchall DIY (click through for tutorial)        Screw your posts through the holes to connect the sides.

Seude Colorblocked Catchall DIY (click through for tutorial)     You can leave the corners pointed if you want, but I took fabric scissors and chopped them off a bit for a cleaner look. To get the sides to stand up straight at more of a right angle, you can fold each side in towards the middle, take a hammer, and hammer across the folded seams where the bottom meets each side. This will create a crease in the leather so it will be more willing to bend at that spot. That's it, you're done!

Seude Colorblocked Catchall DIY (click through for tutorial)     Seude Colorblocked Catchall DIY (click through for tutorial)     Seude Colorblocked Catchall DIY (click through for tutorial)     Seude Colorblocked Catchall DIY (click through for tutorial)         I love that this was such a simple project to make and it turned out so cute too! You could make a couple of theses at once to give out as gifts or be a little selfish and just keep them in different spots around your place. You can do all one color if you like (still cut out the two sizes of squares though so it gives the dish more shape), but I think the color blocked bottom is fun. Time to show my keys their new home! xo. Laura

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

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