Holiday Shopping Home Stretch (ModCloth Giveaway!)

Modcloth wishlist

We are in, what I like to think of as, the holiday shopping home stretch. I've got about half of the folks on my holiday gift list done. Their gifts are in my dining room, as our dining room table has become wrapping paper central for a couple weeks. But all this means is that I still have half my list to go! And the worst part is it's all the tough ones. You know the type, the family members who have everything, so your main objective is to just make them laugh or smile wide when they open their gift. I love to make my family and friends laugh! It's almost a gift to me really. :)

Maybe you're feeling like you're in the holiday shopping home stretch too? Or maybe you're one of those people who got something for everyone on their list before December even started? Either way I think I know what could help your predicament: $150 to Modcloth! You can use the gift certificate on those last few loved ones on your list or you can use it on yourself. I won't tell. Our good friends at ModCloth have their beautiful Holiday Gift Guide up and are working with us to bring you this fun little giveaway! You can enter below.

Holiday Home Stretch Wishlist: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12

ModCloth Giveaway

The giveaway is open until next Monday, and the winner will be contacted directly shortly after. Good luck! xoxo. Emma

A Beautiful Mess Giveaway Rules 


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Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!)

Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!You may not know this about me, but I am a champion gingerbread house maker. No really, when I was growing up I won the gingerbread house contest at the library three straight years in a row. Impressed? You probably should be. The ones I can remember were a Hansel and Gretal type cottage with a thatched (shredded wheat) roof, and a two-story English tudor style mansion. I really owe it all to my art teacher mom who taught us all the cool tricks to making unique gingerbread houses. When Emma suggested we make a house for the blog this year, I almost leapt out of my seat. I had Palm Springs on my mind at the time, and it seemed like the perfect style of house to "candify" for this project. Houses like this one are pretty involved, so instead of an exact DIY, I'll share my top tips for making a gingerbread house so you can make your own idea! 

Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!             1. Think outside the box. Listen, any gingerbread house is cute, but to take it to the next level, try to think of an idea that's different from the standard house. Put your house in a tropical location, make a French country cottage, or maybe a Swiss ski chalet for a winter house twist. The more unique the location, the better!

Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!          2. Royal icing is your friend. If you've made a gingerbread house before, you can probably sing your own praises about royal icing. It's great because you can make big batches of it, tint it as needed, and use it in lots of different ways. You can spread it with a spatula for larger areas of color (like I did on the sides of my house), or you can put it into a baggie, cut off the corner tip, and use it as decorative piping or to glue something in place. I used this recipe this year.

Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!         Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!                 3. Cheat! It's not the SAT/ACTs, people. You are free to cheat in any way you can think of when it comes to gingerbread houses. Since I was planning on covering all angles of my house with either graham crackers or icing, I didn't choose gingerbread as the base of the house and used a foam core structure instead. Another cheat is to use hot glue as needed. Even though the royal icing is what's holding almost everything in place, there were a few times I needed a little bit of hot glue to really secure the item. Ain't no shame in my hot glue game. Also, those palm trees weren't going to stand up that tall without a little help. I glued wire structures to the base so I could slide the cookie tubes down onto the wire. The palm tree leaves got some help from a thin wire as well.

Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!           4. First search for the candy versions of items you need (even if they are weird). Spending some time doing an Internet search or scouring your local candy stores before you try and make it yourself can really pay off (and you may be surprised at what you find)! I couldn't believe it when I found a chocolate mold for a prickly pear cactus, but it was exactly what I needed for my landscape. And since it was a mold that I could do myself, I was able to mix my own colors. Who would have thought that existed?!

Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!                5. Think about levels. Adding some levels to your gingerbread landscape can really give your house some depth and make it feel more realistic and interesting. Even though my house is a one story ranch-style house, the towering palm trees add a lot of height to the scene. I even made the base of the house two layers thick with foam core so I could cut out the pool in the top layer. That way it would actually sink into the ground. 

Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!                 6. Don't forget the details! I think gingerbread houses are really made in the details. It's the little things like mixing different colors of cacti and shrubs, adding little stone retainer walls around all the plants, placing an inner tube in the pool, or making two tiny pool loungers with a beach towel on the chair. And I know it's not edible, but isn't that vintage pink bug just to die for?? These are the things that really make the house come to life, so don't get so caught up in the big things that you miss adding some small touches too. 

Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!                  Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!                  In case you're wondering what all the items are, here are a few charts to identify all the materials I used. With the exception of the cactus molds, the pink car, and the bulk order of green sprinkles, all the materials were found locally either at a candy store or just at the grocery store. 

Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!                  Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!                  Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!    Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!    Palm Springs Gingerbread House (OMG!!) Click through for more pics!    This is probably one of my favorite projects that I've done this year. It was just too much fun! I can't wait to start thinking of ideas for next year. What kinds of unique gingerbread house would you like to see? xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Project Assistant: Josh Rhodes. Photos edited with Stella from the Signature Collection.

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Woven Stocking DIY

Weave your own stockings this year! Find the full tutorial on www.aBeautifulMessLet's continue with the weaving trend this year, shall we?  Handmade stockings are always my favorite—so much so that I've made a new set for our family each year as our decor has changed. My kids won't grow up with memories of the same stocking each year but rather stories of how crazy their mother was. Nevertheless, it's safe to say these are my favorite stockings I've ever made. They are functional, whimsical, cheerful, and look way more expensive than they actually were to make. 

Woven Stocking DIYIf you're into the idea of weaving but haven't tried it out yet, may I suggest you peruse my basic weaving tutorial and the tutorial for creating shapes from earlier this year. They will break things down even further for you.

-cotton yarn for your warp
-5 to 7 different colors of medium to thick wool or synthetic yarn for weaving
-1/3 yard of fleece for every stocking you make
-slab of wood measuring a little taller and wider than you want your stocking to be
-finishing nails
-tapestry needle
-sewing machine and thread (hand sewing is an option)

Step1Step One: Nail about 14 finishing nails across your board about 1/3" apart from each other. Then nail 14 more nails directly under each of those but at a downward angle in the shape of a stocking. Then create a toe shape with more nails spaced about 1/3" apart. In total, I used 41 nails. You can use a traditional stocking as your template for this or just eyeball it like I did. 

Step Two: Tie a loop knot on one end of your cotton yarn and hook it over the nail in the top right corner. Loop it down and up and down and up as shown until you get to the last nail left on the toe side. Carefully tie another loop knot and hook it over your last nail. Trim your ends.

IMG_3931You can see how I've hooked the last knot on to the top nail left in the toe section.

Weave Your ToeStep Three A: To make your toe shape, start from under your weaving and come up and over one row at the lowest point on your stocking shape. Weave up and over two or three rows and then turn back the way you came after wrapping over or under the last row. 

Step Three B: Weave past the row you started, and then turn back to the left. You'll continue weaving past the next row before turning back to the right. Continue increasing by one row one last time on the right. This helps build your toe shape out a little bit. 

Step Three C: Keep filling in your toe shape on the left by increasing a new row or set of rows depending on how much room you have to fill. Chunky yarn will make this process faster than small to medium yarn and is a good size for this kind of weaving project. If I were using thin yarn, I would have needed to use more nails to create a tighter weave.

Step Three D: After the halfway point of filling in your toe shape, start decreasing your rows on the right. Your shape will naturally decrease rows on the left as you fill it in. If you run out of yarn, tuck your leftover end to the back side and add another length of yarn that comes up from the back as if it were still connected. For reference, see steps 13 and 14 from this tutorial.

Step4and5Step Four: Repeat the same process on the heel. I eyeballed the shapes but you can always use a marker in the same color to help mark your pattern on top of the cotton warp. 

Step Five: Now you will fill in the rest of your stocking. You can do thick stripes, thin stripes, add tassels, or skip the heel and toe shape and just free weave the whole shape. Just be sure to start at the lowest part of your weaving and work your way up. I started my hot pink row from behind and came up between two rows and then went over and under to the right about four nails as shown before heading back the other direction. To get the random shapes, I just increased and decreased rows as I filled in the space. For a refresher on filling in spaces, see steps 20 and 21 in this tutorial. It's okay for this to get a little messy. It adds to the whimsy.

Step6and7Step Six: Work your way all the way to the top. I made sure to try and balance out my colors so that I had each spread throughout. I also used longer strands of the medium red yarn and shorter strands of the thickest white yarn for obvious reasons. I do suggest weaving two rows of the same length of yarn all the way across the top to help join all of your rows like a dowel rod would if you were using one. 

Step Seven: Once you've finished those top two rows, gently pull the top off of the nails, and then gently pull the bottom and toe piece off. Be sure not to stretch things as you go.

IMG_4128Step Eight: Since the back side will be covered, I just tied off the ends into knots and trimmed the extra to help thing stay put. Then lay your stocking with the right side down on TWO layers of fleece in a coordinating color. Pin along the edges of your stocking so that your pins go through all three layers.

Step9an10Step Nine: Starting at the top right corner, back stitch and then stitch along the perimeter of your stocking. Be careful to leave about 1/4" seam allowance (space between the edge and where you're sewing) so that things don't unravel when you turn it right side out. You can also stitch this by hand if you don't have a sewing machine. Just be sure to use small stitches. Leave the top edge of your stocking open.

Step Ten: Once you're done sewing, trim off the edges and discard. 

BlanketStitchClosedStep Eleven: Turn it right side out and help it get it's shape by poking the toe out, etc. Then press the fleece closest to your weaving and your weaving together, and use a blanket stitch across the top to sew them together. This will keep the back side of your weaving from getting pulled and messed up when you fill your stocking. Tie off your end with a double-knot and trim thread. Attach a loop of yarn with a tapestry needle along the seam or through the back side of the fleece to hang.

Woven Christmas Stocking TutorialOnce you've finished you can add pom poms if you like or go the more minimal route and leave them as they are.

Weave your own Christmas stocking! Full tutorial on www.aBeautifulMessWoven Stocking TutorialEach of these stockings took me about two hours to complete but didn't cost much to make at all, and I love that they look like they came straight out of a boutique Christmas store. What do you think? Are you feeling brave enough to weave your own stockings? -Rachel

Credits//Author and Photography: Rachel Denbow. Photos edited with The Folk Collection.

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How to Scrapbook Your Memories with Not-So-Good Photos

How to scrapbook your memories with not-so-good photosThis week I want to talk about a subject that's pretty dear to me. How to still make a special scrapbook even when your photos are bad (or non-existent even!). It's not always easy to get good photos during celebrations with friends and family. And you know what, that's a good thing. It's not cool to spend your whole life glued to your camera or worried about how to get a nice photo at a super dark party. With the sun setting earlier, it's not the easiest time of year to get awesome photos of all your fun events. Many times I realize after a party that I have zero photos, or maybe a few grainy selfies with my friends. It's not ideal, but that doesn't have to keep you from scrapbooking your happy memories. 

So if you've struggled with photo guilt, you're not alone! Today I'm here to share a few simple methods for compensating for less-than-perfect photos. 

How to scrapbook your memories with not-so-good photos So our holiday party was this past week. It was an incredibly fun night full of great conversations, amazing food, drinks, and... bad photos. Above you see most of the photos that exist from the whole evening. Not ideal, but I'll show you how I made up for it and still scrapbooked our fun night! 

How to scrapbook your memories with not-so-good photos    Idea 1. Stamp your favorite moments. 

Above are many of the memories that I wish I would have captured photos of. But since I didn't, I stamped them, cut them out, and used them on this cute card. Now our happy memories are present in a cute way, and it really fills out the page with my awesome grainy photos. Try this—it's easy! 

How to scrapbook your memories with not-so-good photos      Idea 2. Use found paper. 

Do you have receipts, menus, or handwritten notes from your night? Above are my toast notes from the party, just cut down. It's a personal detail that may not mean anything to anyone else, but I'll always remember what it is when I look through my book. 

How to scrapbook your memories with not-so-good photos        Idea 3. Journal on your photos.

You can use Messy Pens to do this. They're photo safe. This photo is kinda awful, but the little journaled sentiment helps—I think! 

How to scrapbook your memories with not-so-good photos  Idea 4. Doodle the details.

Last weekend we had a brunch date with the Gummermans. We got a few cute photos, but definitely not enough to share a complete story. So I doodled some of the sweet things from our morning on a card to round out the page. This is an especially good idea when you have an event (like brunch) that doesn't necessarily need any heartfelt journaling, but you'd still like to capture some details about the experience. :) 

I hope these ideas are helpful and encouraging! It's fun to have amazing photos, but when you don't, it doesn't have to stop you from creating a special scrapbook! xx. Elsie

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12 Days of Giveaways: Win a Camera + DSLR E-Course (CLOSED)

Canon rebelCanon rebel It's a bittersweet day because today is our last day of the 12 Days of Christmas giveaway series. That's the bitter part. The sweet part is today one lucky reader is going to win a DSLR camera and our DSLR Basics e-course! It's no secret that we are crazy for photography here at ABM. I can honestly say that learning to take great photos over the years has changed my life in such a positive way! Sure, we take a lot of photos at work. But also, being able to capture all of life's special moments to print for our photo albums means so much to us. So, we can't think of a better gift we'd love to give this season than the tools needed to document your own life. We're giving away a Canon EOS Rebel because we love Canon cameras and their Rebel is the perfect camera to start with. 

Dslr basicsWe are also giving away a copy of one of our latest e-courses, DSLR Basics. This course can help you go from knowing nothing about how to set your camera to feeling confident that you can take pro-level photos no matter what you're photographing. The course also emphasizes finding your own photography style and getting creative. Setting your camera, and photography for that matter, shouldn't be all about rules—it should be fun!

Ready to enter to win? Sign up below, and you'll also see that you can submit more than one entry by following us or signing up for our newsletter. If you already follow us or have already signed up for the newsletter or follow us on Twitter/Pinterest, simply do it again below to receive the extra entries (it won't cause you to receive duplicate newsletters or anything; it's just so we can verify your entry). Good luck! xo. Emma + Elsie

1st Day of Christmas

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We are blown away by all of your support and honored that so many of you entered our giveaways! Love you guys! We'll be contacting the winners directly shortly.

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