Make Lunches Easy This Year With Salads in Jars!

5 easy salad in a jar lunch ideas! (click through for recipes)      OK. Let's get this out of the way. You either saw this post and thought, "That's genius! Why haven't I thought of that?" or, "Yeah, I know. That's so March of 2014..." I only say that because apparently the idea of "salad in a jar" lunches went crazy online at some point last year, but this girl (who is online A WHOLE LOT) had never heard of it until a few weeks ago. I felt a little dumb for being completely oblivious to a giant food craze, but when I started asking around, I realized there were actually a lot of other Pinterest-loving ladies that hadn't heard of it either. So, I thought I would check it out and share my thoughts with you since I wish I had heard of this a lot sooner.

The main pros to the salad in a jar thing are twofold: first, you can make all your lunches for the whole work week in one sitting (like on a Sunday), and your worries of what to eat everyday for lunch are already solved. I know this is a giant thing for me. I hate making my own lunches and I never know what to make, so I buy a lot of soups or make big batches of tuna salad and then eat that same thing for several days in a row. Second, since this isn't called "cheeseburger in a jar, " it's also a way to encourage you to eat better and make good lunch decisions. Of course, you can make a salad that's 99% percent cheese and ranch dressing and that one spinach leaf on top isn't going to help much, so make sure to pick a well-balanced salad that's still going to do you a lot of good.

5 easy salad in a jar lunch ideas! (click through for recipes)       All that said, you can see why the concept is so appealing to a person that's lazy-yet-health-conscious like I am. I thought I would find 5 different recipes that I really liked and would be excited to eat everyday, and I think I did a pretty good job. Oh, and I also wanted salads that were filling. There's nothing worse than finishing your salad at 12:55 and feeling hungry again by 1:15, so I made sure that all the salads had either a meat or grain protein added to fill me up longer. Of course, if you do a mostly vegetarian diet like I do, you can always add more beans or grains in place of a meat option. To get a "making salad in a jar 101" lesson, this is a great post to start with. Some people suggest that you should keep more perishable items (like meat, cheese, soft vegetables (like avocado) and fruit) out of the jar and add them to the top that day instead, but I also saw that a lot of people said they didn't have a problem when they put them in at the beginning of the week.  Coating the soft fruits and veggies in a little lemon or lime juice first and packing the jar as tightly as you can helps them keep fresh all five days. Now that you've got the basics under your belt, here are the five salads that I liked the most!

5 easy salad in a jar lunch ideas! (click through for recipes)    I am a big fan of Mexican food, and we make a lot of tacos and burrito bowl type dishes at our house. I can already tell this black bean and corn salad will be a pretty popular one for us, and I think next time I'll even add some rice or quinoa to the top to make it extra filling, yum!

5 easy salad in a jar lunch ideas! (click through for recipes)    I love the mix of the mango, black beans, avocado, and quinoa in this salad. It's nice to have a bit of sweet in a savory salad and the mango gives it a bit of a tropical feel. I did run across a few salads like this one where they suggest making only three days' worth because of the shelf life of certain ingredients (so you would have to make that one twice that week), but hey, making lunch twice is still better than five times if you ask me!

5 easy salad in a jar lunch ideas! (click through for recipes)    In the summer, I can't get enough of making Caprese salads with the tomatoes and basil we grow on the back porch. Add a little fresh basil into this tomato and mozzarella salad and you'll feel like it's summer again!

5 easy salad in a jar lunch ideas! (click through for recipes)    The only problem with this quinoa and sweet potato salad is that I can't eat all the roasted sweet potato before I put it into the jars (so good)! I also appreciate that this salad has a lot of filling ingredients that will help keep you full long after lunch is over. 

5 easy salad in a jar lunch ideas! (click through for recipes)    Olives are one of my favorite foods on the planet (I'm the only person I know who stands by the olive tray all night at a party), so adding Kalamata olives to this greek chicken salad makes me a very happy girl. A little salty feta cheese goes a long way on this salad and the baby cucumbers add a delightful crunch to the dish.

5 easy salad in a jar lunch ideas! (click through for recipes)     Don't they look so delicious! At lunchtime, just pour the salad into a bowl and give it a stir with your fork—easy! I would definitely recommend making one salad to try before you make a whole week's worth of that variety. I had a giant taste fail with one of the first salads I tried, and I was really glad I didn't already have a week's worth of them in the fridge. I'm going to challenge myself to do a month straight of salad in a jar options during the work week and see how I feel and what tweaks I'd like to add to these recipes. Do you think you'll give the salad in a jar idea a try? Or, if you've already tried it, do you have any tips or favorite recipes that you love? xo. Laura

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

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Emoji Nail Decal DIY

OMG! Emoji nail decal DIY!! (click through for tutorial)     As you might imagine, there are lots of projects here at the blog that are just plain fun. There are also lots of other people's projects that I like helping with, like when Emma needs "help" and wants us to eat her latest culinary creations and give her feedback. That is my favorite kind of helping. Especially when I forget to bring my lunch. Aaaaaaanyway, I had seen a few tutorials of people attempting to print their own nail decals, and I thought it looked like a really fun project to try as part of our Canon USA collaboration. Although I loved the girls that printed little cat faces to put on their nails (so cute!), I thought emoji nails would also be a fun statement. There were a couple of ways that people went about making their decals, but this way worked best for me, and I even made you your own emoji design sheet download with 3 sizes to choose from!

OMG! Emoji nail decal DIY!! (click through for tutorial)     Supplies:
-white nail polish
-clear top coat nail polish
-Rub-Onz Film Paper
-scissors
-tweezers
-popsicle stick or a coin
-emoji nail decal (right click to download)
-Canon PIXMA MG7520 Photo Printer

Start by painting your nails with a few coats of white nail polish. Then, follow the instructions on your Rub-Onz film paper and print your emojis onto the matte side of your frosted film paper. Of course you need the color to really pop on these, so using our PIXMA MG7520 was a big help here. Any time you're using these specialty papers, you have to watch for loss in color, and of course our printer didn't disappoint. :) Be sure to adjust your print settings for the best quality.

The downloadable images are already flipped backwards so they will look correct once applied, but if you make your own design, be sure to reverse the image before you print them. The Rub-Onz kit comes with two kinds of paper: one type of frosted film paper that you print your design onto and one type of paper that has an adhesive film with a white liner to transfer your design.


OMG! Emoji nail decal DIY!! (click through for tutorial)     Once your designs are printed onto your frosted paper, cut a piece of the white backed adhesive paper that is big enough to cover your emojis. Gently peel back the white backing from the adhesive film and place the clear adhesive film on top of your emojis. Make sure as you peel the two layers apart that the sticky adhesive layer is sticking to the clear film and not the white backing that you discard. Use a popsicle stick or a coin to rub the clear adhesive and printed layers together and remove any air bubbles between them.

OMG! Emoji nail decal DIY!! (click through for tutorial)      OMG! Emoji nail decal DIY!! (click through for tutorial)     Use scissors to cut around your emojis, getting as close to the printed edge as you can (the designs seemed to transfer better when I cut as close to the edge as I could). 

OMG! Emoji nail decal DIY!! (click through for tutorial)     Peel off the clear liner layer on top of the design to reveal the adhesive lining, flip the design over, and place the design onto your nail. I found it helpful to use tweezers for this part since the decal is rather small. Press the design onto your nail and use the popsicle stick or coin to rub the design in place. There is still a protective layer on top of the design, so keep rubbing until the corners on the protective layer begin to lift and separate from the decal. Once you see the corners lift, pull the protective layer off and finish the nail with a layer of clear topcoat to seal the decal on the nail. 

Repeat the process until you have all the desired nails covered. To remove, just use regular nail polish or acetone remover and it should come right off. 

OMG! Emoji nail decal DIY!! (click through for tutorial)      OMG! Emoji nail decal DIY!! (click through for tutorial)      OMG! Emoji nail decal DIY!! (click through for tutorial)      How fun are these nails?? And you don't have to do every finger on your hand either. You can choose just your thumb or ring fingers if you want a smaller statement. I saved all the extra decals in the studio bathroom closet so I can pop one on a nail whenever the mood strikes. You've heard of wearing your emotions on your sleeve, but I think it's even more fun to wear them on your nails...xo. Laura ;)

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

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Tips for Keeping Indoor Plants Alive

Plants1I always thought I would have a brown thumb because my mom wasn't very good at keeping plants alive. Well, lo and behold, I actually have a green thumb. One of my favorite things to do with my husband is to go plant shopping. He goes to nurseries looking for fruit trees and I check out the indoor plants, and we both usually come home with something.

Keeping plants alive isn't as hard as you think it is. Here are a few tips on how to care for your indoor plants...

Plants41. Water: Overwatering is probably the most common reason a plant doesn't thrive. They are a few plants that like to have very moist soil, but most of the time, plants do better when you let the soil dry out a bit between waterings. Stick your finger an inch into the soil (closer to the edge of the pot), and if it's dry, it's time to water. After doing this a few times, you'll get to know your plant and have a better idea of what kind of watering schedule it should be on. 

I like to gather all my plants in the sink to water them. To water, lift up the leaves and water the soil until you see a little bit of water trickle from the bottom. If you have a saucer to catch the excess water, be sure to dump it after about 30 minutes. It's not good for plants to be sitting in water. Plants like a shower, but they don't want to soak in a bath.

Plants32. Drainage: I find it works well when I put a 1/2" - 1" layer of pebbles at the bottom of the pot. The pebbles will keep the water away from the roots. Also, for some plants that like a little humidity, if there is a little bit of water in the pebbles, that will help provide that. When repotting (which is probably another post on its own), use a pot with drainage holes. Good drainage is critical to plant health. Pots with no holes will keep all the water in, and more than likely root rot will occur.  

Plants23. Light: Always pay attention to the care label of your plant when you first purchase it, or do some research online. You need to know if your indoor plant wants full sun, partial sun, or shade. My fig tree loves the sun, so it's by a big window to get bright light. Now fig trees also grow towards the sun, so I have to rotate it once in awhile to prevent it from leaning one direction. Typically, most plants like really sunny rooms, but there are a few like the snake plant or ZZ plant that do moderately well in low light environments. 

Pay attention to see if the plant is lanky or has paler foliage. This may be an indication that it is not getting enough light. If so, gradually move it to a spot where it can get more light. If a plant has been in a certain spot for a long time, it can go into shock if it's moved too suddenly, so you want to gradually transition it to a new area.  

Plants3If you want to ease into indoor plants, these are some of the hardy ones that are almost impossible to kill: philodendron, aroid palm, and the snake plant

It's still winter, and we were gone for two weeks for Christmas, so I can totally tell some of my plants feel a little neglected (some seem lankier and not as green), but I'm hoping they will perk back up with some TLC. Though I do have four kids, so they get my attention first. And of course, with kids around, the occasional torn leaf or broken branch happens too. Or in the case of my cactus, they made indents all over it with their nails because they thought the thickness was interesting (oye!). Anyway, plants add so much beauty to a space, so don't get intimidated, and start with one. As long as you don't overwater, you're pretty much good! -Rubyellen

Credits // Author and Photography: Rubyellen Bratcher. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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Art Teacher Necklace DIY

Art Teacher Necklaces DIY (click through for a sourse list!)Hey, guys! I have been meaning to post this for quite some time now. Over the last few years, jewelry trends have gravitated toward bigger, chunkier, and sometimes homemade looking jewelry. I LOVE this trend! Emma and I call these necklaces "Art Teacher Necklaces" because they remind us of our mother, who was an art teacher when we were growing up! 

And in fact, art teacher style is one of my inspirations! I love the messy bun, pair of overalls, chunky jewelry, and some accidental paint on my hands look. To me, it's the most comfortable and natural style in all the world. 

So today I'll show you how I've been making these fun little necklaces. I've also bought plenty from awesome Etsy shops, my friends, and stores like Anthropologie. You can't have too many. They're a worthy collection. 

Art Teacher Necklaces DIY (click through for a sourse list!)  Supplies:
-leather cord (or jute string)
-wood beads
-scissors
-a Sharpie
-acrylic paint (optional)

Art Teacher Necklaces DIY (click through for a sourse list!) I have bought my beads all over. Some are from craft stores. I like to buy plain wood beads as well as beads that are already colored. I also found some cute geometric shape beads from Wish Supplies on Etsy.

Art Teacher Necklaces DIY (click through for a sourse list!)   Step 1: Add details! 

If you want to get super specific with your colors, you'll want to purchase acrylic paint (or craft paint) to re-color your beads. After that, use a Sharpie to add fun patterns quickly and easily! 

Art Teacher Necklaces DIY (click through for a sourse list!)    Art Teacher Necklaces DIY (click through for a sourse list!)    Step 2: String 'em up! 

Make sure your leather cord is long enough that you can just barely slip the necklace over your head. Simply knot the ends of the cord to secure the necklace permanently. It could not be more simple and the necklaces are super cute and wearable. I made one for all the girls in my office! 

Art Teacher Necklaces DIY (click through for a sourse list!)       Art Teacher Necklaces DIY (click through for a sourse list!)       Well, what are you waiting for? Grab some supplies and make this your next weekend project. I can't wait to see your creations on Instagram at #mybeautifulmess :D If you guys have any questions, ask me in the comments! xo. Elsie 

Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMMA!!!! 

Credits// Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Actions

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Funfetti Buttermilk Birthday Cake

Buttermilk Funfetti Cake (via abeautifulmess.com)It's my birthday today, guys! I shared my birthday cake with you last year, so I thought, why not continue the tradition. I also mentioned in that post last year that I was working on cooking my way through a cookbook. I did not make it all the way through in a year as I had hoped. But, I did make it pretty far and learned a TON during the process. 

One thing I worked on a lot last year was different kinds of frostings. I actually don't bake cakes all that often as they are a lot of work, and you really don't want too many cakes sitting in eating distance of you if you can help it. I have a real problem with saying no to sweets, if you can't tell. 

Buttermilk Funfetti Cake (via abeautifulmess.com) Anyway, through all that frosting research, I found a few new favorites. Turns out I am a pretty big fan of Swiss meringue buttercream. It's amazing and also super rich. Which I say, if you're celebrating, why not? Just don't make it every week. Which I would never do because it's actually a fairly difficult frosting to make. But I have a trick I learned (that I'll share with you) that makes even the most lumpy Swiss meringue come out smooth every time.

I also decided on a funfetti cake this year. I can't really explain why. It just sounded good to me. Oh—and yes, I decorated it with Trix. I'm 29 today, guys. If I want to decorate my birthday cake with kid's cereal, I can!

Best homemade funfetti cake recipeFunfetti Buttermilk Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream, makes one.
Recipe lightly adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

For the cake:
1 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 3/4 to 2 ounces rainbow jimmies

In a bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and salt. Give that a good whisk to combine and remove any clumps from the cake flour. Set aside.

In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Then add the eggs two at a time, stirring well in between. Then stir in the vanilla extract.

Now add half of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk. Stir until combined. Then add the remaining flour and buttermilk, and stir until combined. Last, stir in the jimmies. 

Add parchment paper to two round cake pans and butter the edges. Divide the batter into the two pans. Bake at 350°F for 30-32 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans before removing to a cooling rack. You really want these cakes to be completely cooled before adding the frosting. You could even make these a day or two ahead, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator before assembling with frosting. 

Tips for making swiss buttercream frostingFor the frosting:
2 1/4 cups sugar
9 large egg whites (make crème brûlée from the yolks!)
3 cups softened (room temperature) butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a heat proof mixing bowl or glass bowl set over simmering water, whisk the sugar and egg whites for 2-3 minutes. We're looking to completely dissolve the sugar without cooking the eggs so our frosting with be smooth (and not grainy) in texture. You can check if your mixture is ready by rubbing a little bit between your fingers. You should not be able to feel any sugar granules. 

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium for 5 minutes (this allows the mixture to cool). Then increase the speed to high and beat for another 6-7 minutes until stiff, glossy peaks form. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter a tablespoon or two at a time while the mixer is running. You really want your butter to be at room temperature here so that it will more easily mix into the frosting. Once you've added all the butter, pour in the vanilla extract. Once you've added all the butter, if the frosting looks lumpy or cottage cheese like—don't freak out. This happens to me too, at least half the time I make Swiss meringue buttercream. 

Trick for "fixing" lumping Swiss meringue: Remove about 1/4 cup of the mixture from the mixing bowl. Microwave on high for a few seconds, just until melted. Then, with your mixer set to medium, add the liquid frosting to the lumpy frosting. Beat until smooth. 

This will make slightly more frosting than you may need, depending on how you decide to decorate your cake. But, better to have just a little too much than not enough. :)

How to fix grainy swiss buttercream frostingWhat's this poorly lit photo? Well, I wanted to show you how temperamental this buttercream can be. See the top of the cake, with the melted looking frosting? That's from having the candles lit for just a minute or two. This frosting is mostly butter, so it can melt or harden quickly depending what you do with it. So, keep that in mind. I find that making this just before I need it is usually the best way to go. You can store it in the refrigerator for a few days if you need or if you just won't have time to make it fresh before your party, but it can be difficult to get it back to room temperature so it's smooth and spreadable again. If you do store it, try my microwave trick again to get it smooth if you think that it's just not looking as good as the day you made it. 

Buttermilk Funfetti Cake (via abeautifulmess.com)  Thanks for letting me share my birthday cake with you all. Wish you had been in our office late last week and I could have handed you a piece. :) xo. Emma

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

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