Mermaid Shell Sweatshirt DIY

I’m definitely a big fan of the sweatshirt in winter. For whatever reason, it’s hard for me to find sweaters that I like (although this pom pom one is right up my ally!), so I tend to stock up on the ol’ sweatshirts for warmth. My favorite ones, however, usually have some sort of fun graphic or design on them to make them feel a little more special and making mermaid costumes for Lola and me this Halloween made me think that I should probably have a mermaid sweatshirt too! Don’t worry if you are a beginner DIYer, this one is really easy!

Supplies:
plain sweatshirt
gold iron on vinyl
mermaid shell template
-scissors and tape
-iron

Print your mermaid shell template and cut out your shell with scissors. Roll out a section of your iron on glitter vinyl and use the shell to trace two shell shapes onto the back of your vinyl. Feel free to print your shell larger or small depending on how much “shell coverage” you want on your sweatshirt.Once your vinyl shells are cut out, try on your sweatshirt and make a mark with tape where you want each shell to be placed. Take the sweatshirt off and evenly space your shells onto your sweatshirt (you can use a ruler to make sure they are even heights, etc.). Use small pieces of tape to keep your shells in place while you move it to your ironing area. Heat your iron to the setting in the vinyl instructions and carefully remove the pieces of tape from one shell while you keep it in place with the other hand. Iron your vinyl decal in place. Repeat process with other shell.Allow the shells to cool and then peel off the plastic liner on top of each shell. Now your mermaid sweatshirt is ready to wear! Looove it!! Totally the type of thing I would wear with a holographic bag, some gold heeled boots, and our Pink Ranger lip gloss. Just because it’s getting to that dreary winter season (at least in this part of the country), that doesn’t mean that you have to dress dreary too! You can stay warm while having a bit of fun too, right? 😉 xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

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Boozy Apple Cider A La Mode

The best part about fall and winter is a warm drink. Boozy mulled apple cider comes in at the top of my list for most perfect chilly weather cocktail. The aroma of apple and spice is so delightful and mulling cider is one of my favorite domestic activities this time of year. The scent fills the house and makes all my worries melt away! I guess the bourbon helps with that too. I’ve recreated a classic mulled cider and made this Boozy Apple Cider A La Mode by adding bourbon, vanilla liqueur, and fresh whipped cream. It’s like a warm piece of apple pie in a glass!

Boozy Apple Cider A La Mode, serves one

1 1/2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. Licor 43
mulled apple cider
sweet whipped heavy cream
freshly grated nutmeg

Mulled Cider

2 quarts apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole allspice berries
2 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
1 orange thinly sliced

To mull your cider, place all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. I let it simmer for 10 minutes to really bring out all the spices. If you have allspice liqueur on hand, you can add a 1/2 oz. of that as well, but it’s optional. I like adding it to take the spice element up a notch! Spoon or strain out the spices.

Now it’s time to get your whipped cream ready! Add your heavy cream to a bowl and add some sugar to taste. I like to whip the cream by hand because it gets too fluffy when I use a stand or hand mixer. You want it to be stiff enough to float on top of the drink but still pourable. I whipped mine with a whisk for a few minutes. How I test to make sure it’s the right consistency is I drop a dab of it on the back of my hand. If it doesn’t roll off, it’s ready. I like to sweeten my cream with some amaretto or faretti liqueur too. It gives the cream some flavor and who doesn’t want some booze in their cream? It adds some nuttiness to the drink and complements the rest of the ingredients.

The best part about this drink is the assembly. It’s so easy! Add your Licor 43 and bourbon to your serving vessel and then pour the hot mulled apple cider on top. Stir to incorporate and then float your whipped cream on top slowly. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. Sip and enjoy!

This is a very simple recipe that can be thrown together in a matter of minutes. It’s perfect for hosting a fall-themed party, serving by the fire, accompanying dessert at Thanksgiving, or if you’re just looking for something seasonal to unwind with. Licor 43 is made from 43 different ingredients, including vanilla, citrus, and other fruits, as well as aromatic herbs and spices. I love using it for fall and winter cocktails because of the vanilla flavor it adds. It pairs perfectly with bourbon and the freshly mulled cider and made the drink really taste like apple pie. This Boozy Apple Cider A La Mode is soothing, sweet and has just the right amount of spice to it. What’s your favorite way to stay warm? I’m looking forward to having a few of these on the cold days ahead. Cheers and happy mulling! xo Natalie

Credits // Author and Photography: Natalie Jacob. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
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3 Tips for Creating a Healthy Morning Routine

I wanted to talk a little about morning routines. I’ve found that how I start my day can really impact how productive I am and how good I feel. I’ve had lots of different morning routines over the years, and I’m sure I’ll have many more, so I wanted to offer three tips along with a bunch of random thoughts/suggestions that may help you if you’re looking to change up how you start your day. I’d also really love to hear what some of you do, so please tell us in the comments!

In this post, we’re working with Care/of. They create personalized daily vitamin packs that I am a big fan of, and so excited to tell you more about them (and what I think) in my first tip below. So let’s get to it!

Tip One: Fuel Your Body

We’ve all heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” and although I’m not 100% sure if research really does show this, I still think the morning is a great place to put some healthy habits in place. One thing to think about is hydration. Are there any coffee drinkers out there? (You can’t see it but I’m raising my hand emphatically, ha!) I love to make a good cup of coffee for me and my husband every morning. I currently brew with a Chemex. And although I love coffee and have it as part of my morning routine, I try not to make that my only morning beverage, as it can be more dehydrating than hydrating. Adding a little lemon to a glass of water feels really refreshing to me in the morning, so I typically do that. And in the winter months, I’ll often warm my water first.

Other great options if you’re not a coffee drinker (or just want to change it up) are tea or chia seed water. It’s totally up to you and your preferences, but find ways to hydrate yourself! If you want to learn more about the role of water in our lives, check here.

And the second habit I’d really encourage you to make a part of your morning routine is taking your daily vitamins. Recently, we had two great articles about supplements from our Ask a Dietitian series (see here and here). Knowing what vitamins you should be taking can feel a little overwhelming, I know. And that’s the first reason why I really love Care/of. When I went to shop for my vitamins, I LOVED that they had an online quiz where you can explore what you may need—like if you’re a vegetarian (or mostly, like me), if you have trouble sleeping, how active you are, etc. From the quiz, Care/of will recommend a vitamin pack for you and your needs, which you can then change or add to if you want. This was SUCH a better experience than when I’ve been standing in the vitamins/supplement aisle at stores reading labels endlessly and ultimately just guessing at what I needed.

I also love that the vitamins come in little packs you open each day (complete with your name and a little challenge or quote on each package—too cute). And Care/of ships your vitamins every month, which creates this built-in accountability system, so you’ll see if you haven’t been taking them because they will pile up. (You can pause shipments in your account too, but I like the built-in accountability the system creates, so I wanted to highlight that.) Initially, I was skeptical because honestly they have the most beautiful branding, so I felt unsure if they were legit. (Maybe that’s a weird reaction? I don’t know.) But I love their commitment to transparency, that they tell you exactly where they source from, how much information and “levels of evidence” they provide right on their site, and all their products are tested by third party accredited labs for both safety and purity. Love all of that!

All this being said, taking supplements is not my favorite activity of the day (does anyone love swallowing pills?). So I like to do this first thing in the morning, so it’s done for the day. Added bonus: It naturally forces me to drink a glass of water before my morning coffee. Double win!

Tip Two: Prepare Your Mind

I think it’s super important to find something to do in your morning routine that gets your mind ready for the day. There are a million options here, so I thought I’d just share a few of the things I’ve done or currently do to get into the right mindset to have a really great day.

Meditate/Pray/Journal – For me, this is about gratitude. Some weeks, it’s easy to be and feel thankful, and some weeks are harder. Life is full of ups and downs, but taking a little time each day to say thank you to the universe for what you have can have such a big impact on your overall mood and happiness. Some other things you can focus on in addition to gratitude, or as needed, are opening your heart towards forgiveness and love to yourself and the world. For example, if I have a bad day on Monday, like I felt unproductive and wasted too much time during work hours, or if I snapped at Trey when he came home from work, or something else that made me feel mad at myself. The next day, I will take a minute in the morning to forgive myself and remind myself that today is a new day and it’s an opportunity to grow and do better.

It could be you only have time to do this kind of thing during your commute to work or for just a couple minutes while your coffee brews. But if you can take a few more minutes, make it even more intentional by adding other mini routines you like. You could add some light stretching or yoga to this time, diffuse some scents you love, listen to some music that gets you going, or whatever else feels right during this time. One tool I really love is the 5 Minute Journal. As the name suggests, it’s super quick, but a great tool to get in the habit of gratitude.

Tip Three: Wake Up Your Body

Some people like to get their workout in during the morning. I’ve gone through seasons of this, but currently it’s just not my thing (unless I have to for scheduling reasons). But if you’re a workout in the morning person, go for it, friend! Even though I’m not, I still like to do something that helps me feel more awake. This can be simple like taking my dog on a quick walk. Other options could include taking the stairs instead of the elevator (at a parking garage or at your office building), or sometimes even just a shower can do the trick. Keep it simple, make it fun, but find ways to get a little active or wake up your body to start your day.

So those are my three tips, which clearly can be changed up in lots of ways to fit you and not just me. 🙂 But I also really want to encourage you all as you think about your morning routine because I know a lot of people can feel like they don’t have any time in the morning to themselves. Maybe you have a super long commute to work, or you have young children who need basically all of your attention to get them ready for the day, leaving little room for you. Don’t be discouraged! I think the important part is to find a routine that can work for you in whatever season of life you are in. Some seasons you may have a very limited amount of time in the mornings, while other seasons you could do an entire crossword puzzle over a leisurely breakfast everyday. Don’t wish for a different season or compare your time to what others may have. Enjoy what you have by accepting its limitations as well as its gifts. One day you may long for those crazy, busy mornings getting the kids on the bus before school, so try to enjoy them as much as you can now. Anyway, would love to hear more about what you do (or wish you did) in your morning routines!

P.S. In case anyone is curious, here’s what’s in my daily vitamin pack: Multivitamin, Calcium Plus, Astaxanthin, and Rhodiola. And if you check out Care/of, be sure to use our code to get 50% off your first pack: BEAUTIFUL50

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Color Story for Desktop.

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Make Your Own Latte at Home (Without An Expensive Espresso Machine!)

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably wondered at one point if your expensive latte habit is a little out of control and if you’d be better off making more of your coffee drinks at home instead of buying them at trendy coffee shops. You may even have gone as far as to look up a home espresso machine, only to be like, “nope!” once you saw the price tag. Fear not! We’ve got several ways you can make your own latte at home and for various prices, so you can find a method that fits your budget and needs! OK, first let’s talk about making your homemade espresso shots …

Home hack espresso: OK, so this method is pretty straightforward. Simply brew your coffee the “normal” way at home, either in your automatic drip coffee maker, or in a pour over method like a Chemex, but brew it double strong by increasing the coffee grind amount (or decreasing the water amount) so that you have a much stronger tasting coffee. You can also try a bolder flavor of coffee for this method as well if you usually buy a more mild flavor for your normal cup of joe—that will give your coffee “espresso” a more intense flavor. Since this method is a bit more experimental, you may need to play around a bit to find the right amount of grinds for your faux espresso. But start with doubling your grind amount and then back off or add more from there.

Basic method espresso: OK, so a great way to make espresso at home for a very reasonable price is by using a stovetop espresso maker like this Bialetti model. It comes in a variety of sizes so the advantage to this one is that, depending on the model, you can make between 1-12 servings of espresso at once. So the bigger sizes are great for larger families or gatherings. You basically add water to the bottom chamber, put coffee in the metal filter in the base, screw them onto the top and place onto a stovetop burner until the water boils. Once the water boils, your espresso comes flowing into the top chamber and voilà! Your espresso is ready! The only downside to this method is that you need to keep the lid open while the water is heating up and keep an eye on the pot until the espresso comes out, since you want to remove it from the heat immediately once it’s done. But, if you make the same amount on the same heat setting every day, you’ll know about how many minutes in it boils, so you’ll have an idea of when you need to be around to take it off.

Mini splurge espresso: So, did you know you can have a mini espresso machine that will travel with you as well as make your coffee at home? This MiniPresso machine will make you a single shot of espresso by adding boiling water into one end, your grinds into the other, and then you pump a button that pops out which forces the hot water through the grinds and out the other end (you can even use one of the caps as a cup on the go). While the travel feature of this machine is really cool, it’s also great for home because it’s so small and takes up way less room than an espresso machine would. In fact, you can just keep it in a drawer with your utensils and it takes up no counter space at all! I found this method makes the most “authentic” tasting espresso shot compared to a larger espresso machine of these three options. And while it’s a little more expensive, it’s still just over $50 and when you factor in your latte habit (plus tips) at your cool local coffee shop, well, it will pay for itself pretty quickly. The downside with this method is that it’s a one-at-a-time espresso shot, so it’s doable to make two in a row, but I wouldn’t suggest this if you want to have larger brunches and get everyone a latte efficiently …

Home hack frother: All you need for this hack method is a glass jar with a lid (like a mason jar). Warm the amount of milk you want to use on the stovetop or in the microwave and pour into the jar (you’ll want a size jar that’s no more than halfway full when you add your milk so you have room to create bubbles). Add the lid, and shake the jar for 30-60 seconds until you have warm milk on the bottom and a layer of foam on top! Pour your warm milk into your espresso shot, holding the foam back with a spoon as your pour and then scoop the foam on top of your latte. You’ll get some foam with this method, but not quite as much as the next methods and the foam will be larger bubbles visually.

Basic method frother: You’ll still have to warm the milk first in a different container for a handheld milk frother, but the milk will froth very quickly and you’ll get a tighter, more dense foam than with the jar-shaking method. It’s a pretty small device as well, so it would be easy to keep in a utensil drawer if you didn’t want it out on your counter on the stand.

Mini Splurge frother: If you want to handle all your milk needs in one step, try an electric milk frother that will warm the milk for you and give you a thick, dense foam. It will also just steam the milk if you want to add it without much foam. Just press a button, no need to shake this one!

There’s definitely debate over which kind of beans are best for each coffee system and how coarse or fine the coffee should be ground, so I would do what the manufacturer recommends for each system and then experiment from there if you don’t like the results. So now that you know how to make your espresso and froth your milk, you may be wondering about the right way to put them together. If you want to make a latte, you use 1 part espresso and 3 parts milk, a cappuccino is 1 part espresso and 2 parts milk, and a macchiato is 2 parts espresso and 1 part milk. If you want to add some flavoring (like our homemade pumpkin spice syrup), add that to your espresso shot before pouring in your milk and scooping your foam on top. Since the holidays are coming up too, any of these items would be great in a “coffee lovers kit” with our Oui Fresh “damn fine cup of coffee” mug (with those amazing marbled napkins from Anthropologie), and a beautiful coffee book too. Happy coffee making! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
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