Roasted Grape + Honey Goat Cheese Crostini

Roasted Grape + Honey Goat Cheese Crostini (click through for recipe)      Perfect party food alert!! This is not a drill, you guys. I really have found one of the best party appetizers ever. I discovered this delicious little gem when I went to a birthday party at our office manager, Jacki's house a few weeks ago. Her friend Mallory had brought the most delectable looking little crostinis topped with roasted grapes and rosemary garnish. I've certainly never had roasted grapes before, so I didn't know what to expect. But they were so good that I literally stood next to the table for the next 45 minutes and ate more than my fair share of them. I made a few small tweaks to Mallory's recipe, and I think it's a winner!

Roasted Grape + Honey Goat Cheese Crostini (click through for recipe)
Roasted Grape + Honey Goat Cheese Crostini, makes 20 crostinis.

3 cups washed and halved grapes
2-3 sprigs of rosemary
6-8 oz. of honey goat cheese (or just mix in some honey to taste with regular goat cheese if you can't find honey flavored)
1 large baguette
olive oil

Begin by taking your washed and halved grapes and putting them in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil on top. Finely chop your rosemary, add it to the grapes and olive oil, and mix together.

Roasted Grape + Honey Goat Cheese Crostini (click through for recipe)      Preheat oven to 450˚F, and place the grape and rosemary mixture on a baking pan. Bake the grapes for 17-20 minutes until their skins are wrinkled and begin to blister.

Roasted Grape + Honey Goat Cheese Crostini (click through for recipe)      Turn the oven down to 350˚F. Cut your baguette into thin slices. Brush each side of the bread slices with olive oil, and bake on another baking sheet for 7 minutes or so until they are toasted.

Roasted Grape + Honey Goat Cheese Crostini (click through for recipe)      Spread your honey goat cheese onto each crostini, and top with your roasted grape and rosemary mixture. Mallory used a combination of goat cheese and cream cheese for her creamy base, but I thought that honey goat cheese would be delicious as well and add another layer of flavor to the bite. Try it both ways!

Roasted Grape + Honey Goat Cheese Crostini (click through for recipe)      Roasted Grape + Honey Goat Cheese Crostini (click through for recipe)      Roasted Grape + Honey Goat Cheese Crostini (click through for recipe)      The creamy and tangy taste of the honey goat cheese pairs so well with the sweet earthy taste of the grapes and rosemary, and it all comes together in a nice crunch with the crostini underneath. This would be great for a holiday party appetizer, and I seriously can't wait to have people over so I can make this (although mostly for myself to eat of course). Think you'll give it a try at your next party? xo. Laura

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

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Elsie's Week In The Life Album

Elsie's week in the life album A few weeks ago I took a challenge to photograph a week in our life and make an album out of it. The challenge was created by my pal, Ali Edwards, and you can read more about her thoughts on it here. I've read Ali's blog for, like, ten years (hers was the first blog I ever read actually, and an early inspiration for starting my own blog!), so I've seen her do this challenge year after year, and I've always loved the thought of it. But for whatever reason, I never joined in myself until this year. Today I'm here to show you my album and share my experience with documenting a week in my life through photographs and then an album. 

Like most people, I don't feel like my everyday life is all that interesting. For the most part my weekdays and weekends are pretty routine. I go to work at 8am. I sometimes take either a coffee or lunch break with Jeremy. I work till five-ish. We eat out a lot. And some nights we cook easy meals at home. We watch The Mindy Project and Scandal and The Biggest Loser. And on the weekends we do brunch and usually work a few hours in the afternoons (Jeremy loves working to break up a day, and I am always behind on my to-do list), and then go to a Mixtapes show or hang out with another couple. And to me, that pretty much sums it up! We have a happy life, but I didn't feel like I would have a lot of different things to take photos of. I was worried my album would be boring. 

Well, I was right, and I was wrong. 

My week wasn't perfect, and it wasn't always photogenic. It was boring at times. It was a stressful week at work, not one of my best. I didn't get tons of awesome photos every single day. But what I did get, I LOVE. Taking the photos and making the album made me realize how many special in between moments each week is filled with. 

Looking back through it now, I am so glad I took the challenge. I am so glad I didn't quit on Tuesday. I feel like the album accurately portrays the ups and downs that my real life is made of. The week happened to fall on Halloween (yay!), and there are some super special fun photos in there of our funny costumes and my niece's Disney princess moment. But there are also photos of the little things, like a cleaning day I had and some outtakes from a work shoot that I wouldn't have normally printed. 

All in all, I'm so happy I took this challenge. It inspires me to do more. Next up, December Daily! (Last year was my first year and it was totally worth the time invested.) 

Alright—enough talking. Here's a bunch of photos of my completed album—

Elsie's week in the life album- the inside cover Elsie's week in the life album- the inside cover (I used our Emoji Stamp Set and Jet ink to stamp the entire inside cover of my book. I love the pattern it adds as well as the sentiment of a very emotional week!)

Elsie's week in the life album

Elsie's week in the life album

Elsie's week in the life album

Elsie's week in the life album

Elsie's week in the life album

Elsie's week in the life album
Elsie's week in the life album
Elsie's week in the life album
Elsie's week in the life album
Elsie's week in the life album     (Had to include a closeup of Penny's epic solo sword fight.)

Elsie's week in the life album
Elsie's week in the life album
Elsie's week in the life album          What do you think? Do you feel like everyday life is awkward or special to photograph? I think it's definitely both. :) xx. Elsie 

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

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Use Nail Wraps to Create a Geometric Nail Design

Use nail stickers to create geometric shaped prints on nails (click through for tutorial)  I have to admit that I've never been the girl that's really into nail art. In fact, if there was a "skip" button on Pinterest, the same way you can skip a song on Pandora, I would probably have skipped the entire category all together. However, I have been noticing lately that there are some simple nail ideas that I not only like, but that I would actually do myself at home. I've also been noticing the really cool nail decal patterns that are around now, and this is a simple way to use them to make a custom look without a trip to the salon.  

Use nail stickers to create geometric shaped prints on nails (click through for tutorial)     Supplies:
-nail file and buffer
-base coat nail color (I used this)
-patterned nail decals (like these)
-clear top coat (I used this)
-small scissors

 Use nail stickers to create geometric shaped prints on nails (click through for tutorial)  1. Trim and file your nails to your desired shape and smoothness. Paint 1-2 coats of your base color with adequate dry time between coats.

2. Lay the corresponding size of nail decal strip next to your finger and line up the beginning of the strip with your cuticle. Flip the strip over to the blank side and mark with a pen where the tip of your nail ends. Use your scissors to cut the nail strip into a triangle shape that comes to a point at that mark.

3. Peel the top and bottom backing off the nail decal triangle and stick the tip of the triangle onto the end of your scissors. Position the rounded bottom of the triangle just above your cuticle and press the bottom of the triangle in place. Slowly peel the scissors away from the tip of the triangle and smooth out the rest of the decal (you could also use tweezers to position the decal as well).

4. Finish your look with a quick-dry topcoat, and your new mani is done!

Use nail stickers to create geometric shaped prints on nails (click through for tutorial)  Use nail stickers to create geometric shaped prints on nails (click through for tutorial)

Use nail stickers to create geometric shaped prints on nails (click through for tutorial)  If you like to keep your nails on the shorter side like I do, you can actually get two manis out of one set of decals. Just cut your triangles from one end of the strips for the first manicure, and then use the opposite end as the widest part of your triangle next time. I think this look is really fun, and I like that it feels simple and modern as well. I guess there's a whole new world of nail designs out there, ladies, and I don't know about you, but I think I'm going to get on board! xo. Laura

Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman, Photography: Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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String Art Advent Calendar

String Art Advent CalendarCan you believe it's already time to make an advent calendar? The holiday season is upon us! 

If you've never made an advent calendar, try it this year! Advents are a fun tradition because they give your family something to look forward to each day. My friends with small children tend toward candies and small toys on their advent. This year for Jeremy and me, we decided to fill each day with a fun activity. Each envelope holds something like a new recipe to try together, a cheerful spot to visit, or a special album from our childhoods to listen to while we eat dinner. There are endless ways to fill your advent calendar, so choose what best fits your family and routines. The purpose of an advent is to pause each day and appreciate this season that flies by way too fast. We are working again with our longtime supporters at Canon USA to bring this project to life.  

Here's a video of how I put together our advent tree! (It's super easy!)

The video shows the basics of how to make everything. This isn't a super technical project and most of you could probably figure out how to make it just by looking at it. I did, however, want to back up and explain a few extra tips... especially printing on envelopes!

How to print on envelopesI use this technique to print on any small paper, tags, envelopes, or special paper for my scrapbooks. This is one of those techniques that you'll use all the time after you try it the first time! We're using my go-to printer in the office, the PIXMA iP8720 printer, because (1) I LOVE the color accuracy, and (2) the wide format makes it possible to get more numbers on one page. 

1. Print whatever you'll eventually print on your envelopes to just a regular piece of photo paper. These will become your markers for where to tape your envelopes! At this stage you can make sure your spacing works and there is no overlapping. Mark the top of your paper, and note whether you need to send the top through first like I did (so your numbers don't print backwards). 2-3. Tape envelopes over every number. Be sure the number is completely covered because your new numbers will print in the exact same spots. 4. Send the envelope-covered sheet back through your printer and you'll have beautiful printed envelopes! 

Printed numbersPrinted numbersDownload the printable here: 8.5" x 11" or 9" x 13"  

How it looks from behindHere's what the back of the wood looks like. It's about 2' x 3'. If you are comfortable with hammer and nails, you could make one out of 3-foot planks from any hardware store. Or you could just buy a larger piece of plywood that's already the size you need.

Nail art placementOne last thing! This sketch shows how I did the nails for the string art. I nailed the pink nails first and then just filled in straight(ish) lines of nails between each point. I added three extra nails into the middle just to give more places to wrap the string for a fuller look. 

And here are some photos of the finished project! 

String Art Advent Calendar String Art Advent Calendar  String Art Advent Calendar  Cheers to the holidays and to taking time to enjoy each day. xo! Elsie 

Credits: Author: Elsie Larson, Project Assistant: Laura Gummerman, Photography: Sarah Rhodes and Elsie Larson. Photos edited with Suzette from The Lightroom Collection. Video and Music: Jeremy Larson. 


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Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

Slow cooker mashed potatoes     Mashed potatoes have got to be one of the ultimate comfort food side dishes. So, so good. Creamy carbs? Now it's a holiday!

This is about the easiest EVER way to make mashed potatoes. The only way it could get easier is if farmers/food scientists could create some kind of self-peeling potato. I don't know if I would ever eat that as it sounds INSANE. But I would sure be tempted.

Maybe for Halloween next year I should be a mad food scientist. Which would pretty much be a mad scientist who is holding a bag of potatoes all night. 

Or maybe that was the worst idea I've had this week. I'll never tell. 

Slow cooker mashed potatoes Oh, this totally feeds a crowd. Look at the giant pie pan of mashed potatoes! Don't make this amount for just you and your significant other, or you'll be eating mashed potatoes for a week.

Slow cooker mashed potatoesSlow Cooker Mashed Potatoes, serves 6-8+ as a side dish.

5 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup milk (go ahead and use whole milk if it's a holiday)
salt + pepper
chives or cheddar cheese to garnish

First peel and cube the potatoes. Throw them in the slow cooker with the vegetable stock (or water) and butter. Cut the butter into small cubes before adding. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours and 30 minutes. 

Crock pot mashed potatoesOnce the cook time is up, mash the potatoes. I used a potato masher. You could also use an immersion blender, potato ricer, etc. But I think the masher is the easiest option. 

Add the sour cream and milk and stir to combine. If it still seems too thick to you, add more milk until you get the consistency you prefer. Taste and add as much salt and pepper as you think it needs. 

Slow cooker mashed potatoes  Just before serving, top with chopped chives or some shredded cheddar cheese (or maybe some french fried onions—go nuts!). If I'm serving gravy, then I usually omit any cheese to my mashed potatoes, otherwise I add plenty of cheese. But that's just a preference thing, so change it up based on what you and your guests like best. Enjoy! xo. Emma

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

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