Everyday Inspirations


~ home ~

Bananagrams. It looks a bit like Scrabble, but it's a lot crazier.

Sometimes the very best thing to do when you're spending a night at home is to turn off the TV and pull out your favorite game. I adore this tradition and absolutely love that I'm dating someone whose family also loves to play games (probably more so!). In fact, Dan's mom is the one who introduced me to my newest obsession: Bananagrams. Holy cow, that game is FUN. And I'm not even being paid to say that. Bananagrams = my new favorite game EVER, and if you come over to my house, you better be prepared to play with me. Maybe even 10 games. I'm just saying.

On Sunday we had a pre-Christmas get-together at my parents' house where Dan and I introduced Bananagrams to my family. It didn't take long for everyone to get into it, especially when they thought I made up the word "suss." To their chagrin, it is a real word -- and I DID know it!

Dan and I have a collection of games we like to pull out every so often (except for Bananagrams, which is played several times a week). I love those quiet moments where we're able to just play and enjoy each other's company. It's definitely something I'll be doing this long holiday weekend.


~ fashion ~

head wrap
Not sure why, but whenever I think of head wraps they make me think of fall. But I discovered winter is really the best time for them! Between the wet weather and the dry air, my hair is anything but cooperative in the wintertime. Enter head wrap and suddenly a frizzy ponytail is covered by a cute woven wrap. Not only that, it's a fancy set of earmuffs as they keep your ears nice and toasty. And this one in winter white (which goes great with those snowlike accessories from this post) is great any time of year. Perfect for those bad-hair-day Mondays when it's icky out.

P.S. No I didn't pose my dog like this. She's just natural for the camera. She wishes she had a cute head wrap too.


~ how to ~


You know how everyone has something they never learned how to do? For me, it's how to sew (other than reattaching a button, which doesn't count). I recently discovered that a certain person in my life doesn't know how to properly wrap a gift. Which really isn't a big deal, but is a skill most people should know. So I decided to teach this person--who totally is not my boyfriend--how to easily wrap a package.

By the way, pardon my not-even-close-to-being-cute hands in these images. A hand model I am not. Oh, and remember clicking on the images enlarges them...
Proper gift wrapping tools
Wrapping paper
A box
Tags (to, from...)
Optional special touches (see this post)

To make sure you have enough gift wrap for your package, start by laying it on the floor and unrolling the wrapping paper until there is enough on each side that the two sides overlap when pulled over the box (see photo 1). (By the way, can you get over our adorable wrapping paper this year? Happy holiday puppies?! So sweet.) Cut the paper, and don't worry if the edges are ragged. We'll fix that later.

Next, cut off any excess paper (photo 2). You want to make sure you'll have enough paper to cover the entire box, but not so much it becomes a total pain to manage.
Fold the paper over your first long side and secure with tape (photo 1). Remember, this side won't be seen, so it doesn't matter if your jagged scissor line shows. Next, flip your gift around and fold over the jagged edge in about 1/4 or 1/2 inch (photo 2). See? No one needs to be able to cut a perfectly straight line... and who can anyway, with those super long wrapping paper rolls? Not me. Secure your nice creased edge with tape (photo 3).
Now, the sides. This is where it gets a little bit tricky, but no fear. First, you're going to want to trim off all that extra paper. A good rule of thumb is to estimate the height of your box and keep the appropriate amount of paper. For example, the side of this box is about one inch, so I measured about an inch of paper (plus a little more, just in case) and chopped off the rest (see picture 1).

Next, hold the box toward you, grab each side of the paper, and bend in, creating two triangles on each side of the top and bottom (see photo 2; photo 3 shows the opposite side).
Starting with the bottom flap, fold the paper in to hide jagged edges (photo 1). Secure flap one with tape (photo 2).
Repeat with the top flap, folding in (photo 1) and taping (photo 2). Simple! Now add ribbons, tags, and any other special touches, and start getting excited to watch your loved one tear it open.
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~ small inspiration ~

My favorite part of the holidays is seeing all the amazing people in my life. My brother comes in from 2,000 miles away; I get to see my grandparents, parents, aunt, uncle and cousins, and my awesome in-laws; the girls I grew up skating with have a get together; I have dinners with my friends to pass out Christmas presents. It's like I a two week friend-a-thon, seeing so many loved ones in such a short period of time. Each year I just try to stop and take it in. All the love gives me energy and inspiration to put more love into the world. I couldn't ask for a better gift each Christmas.   

~ our world ~


The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Dan and I braved the cold to wander around downtown Salt Lake City. Since it's only Dan's second Christmas in Utah, we had to stop by Temple Square. Every year, it is completely covered in thousands of lights. I can only imagine how much time it takes to set up. 

It's so much fun to see my beautiful city shimmer and shine. I had a blast photographing it all (even at the expense of my poor fingers--the gloves I brought along did nothing!). I took the picture above simply so I could capture that spotlight, but I love how the entire scene turned out: lights everywhere, reflections on the water, the silhouettes of the visitors. Something about it seems magical and so very perfect for this time of year.

~ food ~

egg nog recipe
There are few holiday treats as festive as the classic cup of egg nog, perfectly dusted with a little nutmeg on top. Now if you've tried the stuff from the store and don't like it, I completely agree. I'll admit, I've never been a big fan of that stuff so I always thought I didn't like egg nog. But this recipe is just so fluffy and creamy, it's hard not to enjoy. And if you live somewhere cold and happen to make a vat of it and but have no room in the freezer, just cover with saran wrap and toss the bowl on the back porch where it will stay nice and chilly in the snow.

{Egg Nog}

6 eggs*, separated
2 cups heavy cream
3 cups of milk
3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup bourbon (if desired)

In a large bowl (bowl you will store final egg nog in) beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and creamy. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then stir in 1/4 cup sugar. In a third bowl beat the heavy cream, vanilla and a pinch of nutmeg until thick. In a large bowl, pour cream into the yolk mixture, then gently fold in the egg white mixture. Pour in milk and bourbon. Chill in the freezer before serving. Serve with fresh nutmeg on top.

*Because this recipe calls for raw eggs, be sure to only use fresh, refrigerated eggs.


~ a better you ~

My lean, mean, butt-busting machine

I'm officially nearing training for my annual half marathon. Even though it's cold outside, I'm pushing myself to maintain my strength and endurance in preparation for that training routine. Lately I've been resisting any sort of workout that requires me to do more than just walk outside my door. Because of this, I've started regularly running hills.

I used to avoid hills like they were the plague. But since I moved to a neighborhood located in Salt Lake's benches, I decided to start embracing the natural training that's right outside my door. My routine involves running up and down the steepest streets I can find, catching my breath on downhills or crosswalks. Sure, it's not always fun, but I know it's beneficial. Hill running is making me stronger and faster (and tightening the tush, of course). It's a great workout during the winter... I'm most definitely not cold after running up a hill or two.

Intrigued? Read this great article from Runners World to get started.

~ home ~

how to make an apron
Christmas dinner, my Grandma Gifford in her apron (far right).
As I thought about what to do for Christmas presents this year I had many ideas. Then we started our 12 days of holiday do-it-yourself and I'll say it...I got inspired by our little concept. That's the idea right? I played with different ideas, but when I landed on this one, it had its own special meaning -- aprons.

Why? Well for starters, I love to cook and I think the kitchen is as good a place as any to look fabulous. Sharing this with my friends and family just seemed appropriate. But the bigger reason is it felt so sentimental to my family history. Back in the 40s when my great-grandpa died, my great-grandmother took on her own entrepreneurial spirit to provide for her household and sewed aprons to sell. She went to downtown Chicago and bought as much fabric as she could carry for her custom orders. She would get up at 5am to do her housework, get kids to school, then would sit at her sewing machine and do what she needed to provide for her family. I have always been inspired by this story and the entrepreneurial spirit my great-grandma had. I couldn't help but think that my Grandma Gifford was smiling as I sewed my very own set of aprons.

What you need:
3/4 yard duck cloth (or if you buy 2 yards, you can cut about three aprons)
2 1/2-3 yards thick ribbon for the waist tie
2 yards for the trim
matching thread
sewing machine
Step one: find your fabric. Duck cloth is preferred since it is stain-resistant, which is after all, the point. I had a surprisingly hard time finding duck cloth (though I did in the end, luckily in this super cute pattern), so if you're not able to, look for non-stretchy material that is 100% cotton. You'll need about 3/4 yard of fabric. Also look for coordinating ribbon and embellishments. I used about three yards for the waist tie and two yards for the decorative ribbon on the top and bottom.
Step two: cut your pattern. I actually used another apron I had for my pattern, which is a great option if you have one. If not you can purchase a pattern, or make your own. If you cut yours from an apron you have, be sure to leave 1/4-1/2" extra for your hem. When cutting, I folded it in half before I cut to ensure both sides were symmetrical. 

Step three: hem the edges and sew together. Pin it up and stitch around the entire apron with an even hem. Fold the top and bottom half, then pin together so the top in sewn on in the center. Then do one more quick stitch to attach the top and bottom.
Step four: add embellishments. First add any trim, pin the ribbon along the area you want it. Depending on the ribbon you can put your stitch down the middle (it adds a cute look to the ribbon, especially if your thread is a different color) or you can choose to sew down each side of the ribbon. You could also add ruffles or lace (though slightly less friendly for washing) should you choose. If you are using ribbon for the waist tie, be sure to double over and stitch the ends to prevent fraying. Finally, add the waist tie, lining it up to center and pinning like with the top portion. Add cute bows or other embellishments as you choose.
This makes a super cute gift you can personalize for your friends' tastes. Or, make one for yourself!

~ fashion ~


This is going to sound totally silly, but during the holidays I always have this urge to add something winter-y to my outfit. I don't mean by throwing on a scarf of hat (though I do that). I mean that I want something on that reminds me of winter. I want to wear pieces that are sparkling, silver, delicate...  like snowflakes or icicles. THAT kind of winter-y.

I've found the best way to do this is by adding beautiful, simple accessories that remind me of snow. Paired with a simple sweater or tee (I love these pieces with ice blue or cream-colored tops), you'll feel effortlessly lovely.

~ how to ~

Yesterday I called Ashley because I had to tell her how much her post yesterday inspired me. After a series of unfortunate events I was in one hell of a mood and her little holiday rant was exactly what I needed to hear. You'd think this time of year people you see out and about would be extra generous, joyous and courteous. Instead when you face the crowds during the holiday season, you meet parking lots, stores and checkout lines full of raging, greedy people who don't have patience to wait for anything. I nearly got run over by someone's cart the other day. Did the woman stop to apologize? No. Her shopping was obviously more important than my safety. There's something about this shopping pressure that turns normally kind people into idiots. All that being said, I think it is possible to savor the holiday season and not get caught up in the chaos. Here are my top five favorite things that help me keep the holidays in perspective and savor the season.

Follow traditions. Traditions represent a legacy of joy and excitement we share with loved ones. I decorate the tree with my family and reminisce trips where we bought ornaments. Every year my brother and I come up with a new dessert recipe we've never made to share with the family. On Christmas Eve we each open one gift. These are the things I remember and look forward to from year to year and make my heart smile.  

Embrace the people you love. This time of year brings together people I love -- immediate family, in-laws, friends I see regularly, and friends I haven't seen in all too long. This week I will be seeing all of those and that makes me happier than ever. These people are really what make the season the beautiful time it is and when I focus on that, the lady rear-ending my cart is a little easier to deal with.

Remember the joy of giving. Here's where people get stressed. They have to buy a gift for all these people and have no idea what to get. They rush around the busy mall trying to find something, only to battle other frustrated people. It's hard to get excited about giving in this scenario. I counteract this with a few things. First I really try to buy ahead all year. I know that doesn't help you 13 days before Christmas, but when I see something I buy it and save it for December. Goal for next year perhaps? Next, whenever I can, I buy online. There's a much bigger selection and you don't even have to get in your car much less fight traffic, angry mobs and winter weather. Finally, I keep it simple and try to really think about each person before shopping. For me the joy isn't how much I spend or the number of gifts I give, but how meaningful the gift is. I want it to be personal because the joy of giving for me is about finding something I know they will cherish.

Send kindness to others. If you're feeling like a Scrooge, try doing something for someone else. Bake a loaf of bread and bring it to work. Shovel your neighbor's walk. Volunteer at or donate to the homeless shelter. Give a needy family presents. Bringing others joy is sure to allow you to remember the happiness of this season. 

Try to slow down and take it in. There are so many parties to attend and errands to run, but sometimes you just need a breather to put it in perspective. You shouldn't run yourself into the ground to make it everywhere. Take time to enjoy the holidays exactly how you want to, rather than just the way you're "supposed to." If that means snuggling at home by the Christmas tree with your family instead of going to the eight parties you've been invited to that night, so be it.

Hope you all have a happy holiday and can savor this amazing time of year.