Sunday, January 4, 2015

BEACH COTTAGE CHRISTMAS

Beach Cottage Christmas - Table Setting

Ahhh, the beach at Christmas time.  What a unique experience.   I actually relish being on the beach when it is not sweltering hot.  No beach umbrella or sunscreen necessary - just you, the waves and a cool breeze.

Decorating the cottage was a fun endeavor.  I wanted to add some special holiday decorations, however, I didn't want to go overboard.  Our storage at the cottage is limited, so I decided to focus on the front door and great room.  Also, I didn't want to spend a lot of money, so I tried to make the most of things we already had on hand.  Finally, I wanted to stay with a color scheme that reflected colors already in the house - the color aqua made a lot of sense, and the use of burlap worked well with our casual style.

WREATH 

 
The wreath is the inspiration for all the other Christmas decorations for our beach cottage.  It was pulled together the year before, shortly after we purchased the cottage and got settled in.  I used random supplies I had on hand (my absolute favorite kind of projects) and I was happy with the result.  The only thing purchased "new" for this wreath were the aqua bulbs from Hobby Lobby.  I have a separate post here that goes into more details on how I put this wreath together.
 
Beach Cottage Christmas - Wreath


BANISTER

 
The banister is a pretty clear focal point for the great room, so it was an easy decision to add some d├ęcor for the holidays.  I thought about duplicating the fishnet bow from the wreath, but I liked it so much on the wreath - I wanted to keep it "special".  So. . . I decided to incorporate the fishnet on just the swags, and made the bows out of burlap.  The rope was leftover from the spool tables I made for one of the guest bedrooms (see post here).  The burlap ribbon was purchased from Hobby Lobby along with the garland and the bulbs.  The bulbs were hung from simple pieces of twine.

I didn't want anything wrapped around the top of the banister railing as this could get in the way as people walk down the stairs.  I originally wanted to use 3M hooks to hang the garland on the outside of the spindles without any damage, but the ones I purchased were too large.  However, I ended up just tying everything to the top of the spindles with twine and this worked out fine.


Beach Cottage Christmas - Banister

The fishnet from Hobby Lobby was cut into three strips.  Then used some light beige paint and painted the net randomly with a roller.  The reason I did this was originally not planned.  I had fishnet left over from my "failed fishnet paint technique" attempt and it was covered in light beige paint (see that post here and the paint on the fishnet will make more sense).  When I used this fishnet on the Christmas wreath - I liked the effect.  Repeating this same effect on the banister was an easy choice.  Without the light beige paint - the fishnet comes across as brown and dingy.  It's an extra step to put the paint on it, but I think it's well worth it.

TREE

 
The tree us a narrow artificial woodland style tree my Mom purchased from Hobby Lobby awhile back and was no longer using.  I set it on a milk crate to give it more of a presence in the corner of our dining room and covered the white tree-skirt in fishnet from Hobby Lobby (it worked perfectly draped over the base right out of the package).  For garland I used some leftover rope from a rope lamp shade I created awhile back (see that post here).
 
Beach Cottage Christmas - Tree
 
We included several "beachy" ornaments from our regular collection, as well as some items from our beach wedding.  The sailboats are left over escort cards used in our wedding (see that post here), as well as some leftover seashell napkin rings draped on the tree (see the post that includes the napkin rings here).  Last but not least - more aqua bulbs from Hobby Lobby.

I thought about winding burlap ribbon through the tree for additional garland, but I didn't think of that until after it was completely decorated.  I'm glad didn't try to add the burlap in there, as I pictured myself knocking off ornaments and having them break on the tile floor.  I'll keep that idea in mind for next year...

Beach Cottage Christmas - Tree

The starfish on top is a resin starfish.  I emphasize this is not a dried dead starfish, as I really dislike having any of those around.  I am a scuba diver and I get to see these beautiful creatures alive in their natural environment.  To me, that is where they belong, and no need to have creepy dried ones around your home. (Ditto for sand dollars - have you ever seen a real one?  They are super cool.)  The twine works out perfectly to secure the resin starfish to the top of the tree.

Beach Cottage Christmas - Tree


DINING ROOM TABLE

 
I honestly didn't plan much for the table setting.  I was trying to keep things simple and hassle free.  I knew I had the tablecloth, but the centerpiece and napkin rings came together at the last minute.
 
Beach Cottage Christmas - Dining Room Table


The centerpiece made use of the Coca-Cola crate that always sits on the table.  See post here on how I painted and distressed the crate.  I brought the bells and candles from our home in Alabama.   Rosemary from our bushes out front worked as a nice accent around the candles.  Since I used only  items we already had on hand - total cost $0!

Beach Cottage Christmas - Centerpiece


The napkin rings were a last minute DIY made from the extra burlap ribbon from the bows on the banister.  I just folded the ribbon in half and secured it with hot glue.  Then I cut them into 8 inch strips and used hot glue to configure the strips into napkin rings.  Some extra silver ribbon was tied on the outside, but this can easily be changed out if I want to use these plan or embellish them for another occasion. The napkin rings are another item I can brag about being free!  The blue napkins were purchased from Pier One and they go perfectly with the tablecloth I found at Homegoods.

Beach Cottage Christmas - Napkin Ring
 

The seashell dishes were purchased from Target and used year round at the cottage (an awesome find).  The wine glasses are from Old Time Pottery - you can buy them in a box of a dozen for less than $1.50 a stem.  If one breaks or chips - who cares - just buy another box!

 Who says a beautiful table has to be expensive?

Note that the main elements of this table setting are not holiday specific (the dishware, glassware, napkins, tablecloth, etc..).  This table can be modified slightly to be used for any occasion.  Can you imagine switching out the bells in the centerpiece for some red flowers, and some red ribbon around the burlap napkin rings?. . . and "poof" you have a 4th of July Table!


For more beach cottage posts see my Beach Cottage page.
 
 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELS

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

These pretzels were not originally in my plans for holiday snacks.  My husband likes to snack on pretzels in the evenings and I bought a case of organic pretzels to try them out.  This was an attempt to fall in line with the "real food" direction we are going for the rest of our diet.  I figured if he was going to eat something like pretzels - they should be the best quality ingredients we could find.  The pretzels were good, but my husband was not crazy about them as they have very little salt on them.

The brand of organic pretzels I used is "Newman's Own".  They provide a lot of other good organic products out there.  I'm delighted to see items from this brand at our local Publix.  Earthfare also carries some, but if all else fails - there is always the internet!  I ordered these from Amazon.

I decided I needed to do something with this large quantity of pretzels we now had on hand.  I had never made chocolate covered pretzels. I was surprised to hear it is recommended to add shortening to chocolate chips in order to do this!  I get that this is necessary to thin the chocolate down and also allow it to harden after dipping, but I couldn't bring my self to add shortening to the recipe for my chocolate covered pretzels.  It just seems unnecessarily bad for you, so I proceeded without it.  I used Ghirardelli's Milk Chocolate Chips.  (I would like to try this with the organic chocolate chips I can get at Earthfare, but I have not done this yet.)  It's easy to melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler over the stove. 

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

 
The chocolate is rather thick (because I refused to add the shortening), so dipping just 2/3 of the pretzel works out pretty good.  It also makes this process really easy because the undipped part of the pretzel serves as a sort of "handle".  This is much easier than trying to cover the entire pretzel, and trust me - there is plenty of chocolate covering the 2/3 of the pretzel (since the chocolate is so thick).

Chocolate Covered Pretzels


Immediately after dipping, I laid the pretzels down on cookie sheets lined with waxed paper (UPDATE 6-1-2015: I found that parchment paper works better as the wax on the waxed paper tends to melt when the hot chocolate touches it and it sticks to the cookie sheets.)  Next I sprinkled the pretzels with sea salt.   I found I can do about five in a row, and then sprinkle them with a bit of sea salt and the chocolate is still warm enough to easily take the sea salt.  NOTE - because these pretzels have so little salt - the sea salt is a nice addition and creates a nice contrasting flavor with the chocolate.  If you are working with a well salted pretzel to begin with - the sea salt might be a little much.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

I put them in the garage to cool quickly and allow the chocolate to harden (I think the chocolate would have taken forever to harden if I had just let them sit at room temperature). Ultimately, I stored them in the refrigerator a tin with waxed paper (or parchment paper) between layers.  I'm honestly not sure how they would do sitting out at room temperature.  For us, this is a good thing, because if they were sitting out and easily accessible all the time, they wouldn't last a day in our house!

I'm not under the illusion that these are "good" for you, but in my mind, if you are going to splurge and have a sweet snack occasionally - use better ingredients like organic pretzels (a good way to avoid GMOs which are typical in any food with made from wheat), good quality chocolate (and possibly organic chocolate), and sea salt (instead of regular table salt).

BATHROOM ORGANIZATION

Small Bathroom Storage Solution

This guest bathroom in our beach cottage is rather small.  It is a functional three piece bathroom - (tub/shower, toilet & sink) however, the space is rather tight.  There is limited storage in the cabinet below the sink, but that is it.  I was looking for some way to store small items like TP and washcloths. 

The long narrow basket above the towel hooks was my solution.  I like this solution because it takes functional advantage of some unused space that might otherwise just provide a spot for something decorative.  It creates easy access to these items for guests (rather than having them dig through the cabinet).  I also like how it is easy for me to see when the items need to be re-stocked (I don't need to dig through the cabinet either).

Small Bathroom Storage Solution

The basket was purchased from Target and was labeled as a "media" basket.  It fits the two rolls of toilet paper perfectly as well as a few washcloths.   Two screws were used the adhere the basket to the wall (one into a stud, and a drywall anchor for the second screw).  The basket is very sturdy so this method of mounting it worked just fine.

Overall I like the way it looks and I'm happy to free up space in the cabinet below the sink!  I must thank Pinterest for the inspiration for this idea.  You can find all sorts of ideas out there for baskets and wall storage.  NOTE - the clothespins on the towels are "towel-charms".   They make it easy for guests to keep track of their towels.   See the my post on these towel-charms here.

For more beach cottage posts see my Beach Cottage page.