Colorblocked Scratching Post DIY

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           If you have a cat (or two!) and have ever roamed the pet store aisles looking for a good scratching post, then you probably already know about my personal anguish. Our cat Mac has taken to occasionally scratching on a few rugs and chairs that I would rather keep "unshredded", so I thought we should get him a post so he can direct his scratching instinct in a more positive direction. The problem with cat scratching posts is that most of them are pretty, well, boringly hideous. I mean, if I want a piece of furniture that's going to stand out in my house, I want it to be a cool vintage chair or plant stand, not a dull-looking scratching post. Thankfully, what's a girl to do when she can't find what she wants already made? You guessed it, DIY to the rescue!

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)              We’re happy to be working with Fancy Feast, who just launched their Broths with Chicken (you can see Mac is loving it!). It's part of their #WaysToWow campaign, sharing tips to wow our furry little buddies. As part of our partnership, Fancy Feast is making an additional donation to Humane America Animal Foundation (behind Adopt-a-pet.com), who helps homeless pets get out of shelters and into loving homes. It's in conjunction with the brand's history of raising awareness about shelter animals.

You may already know, but I have a pretty big heart for the humane society and pet adoption. I adopted our first kitty Charlie over three years ago, and we loved her so much that we adopted a little brother named Mac for her a year ago. Since I have a husband that is on the road touring a lot for his musician job, it can be really lonely when he's out of town, and I have to say that the loneliness was really getting me down. As soon as I got sweet Charlie though, it was a million times more fun to be home alone and so comforting just to have another heartbeat around the house. Mac's playful spirit (and constant willingness to cuddle) has brought even more joy, and I always tell people that I feel like they rescued me instead of the other way around. I love those furry babies so much. 

Supplies:
-18" round wood circle
-4x4 wooden fence post (about 20" tall)

-drill and long wood screws
-white 4x4" post cap
-white paint

-150 ft of 1/4" nylon rope*
-pink and yellow dye

-bucket and salt (to dye the rope)
-staple gun (or hammer and small nails)
-white and pink (or white and yellow) electrical tape

*It seems like sisal rope is actually the rope of choice for scratching posts (I think it holds up to long-term scratching better), but it looked like I could get a brighter dye color and a whiter white with the nylon rope instead. Either rope works though and the sisal can be dyed as well.

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           So, the first thing you'll want to do is attach your post to your round platform. Find the middle of your platform, place the post in the middle, and use a pencil to trace around the edges of the post so you can see where to put the screws. Use a drill bit that's slightly smaller than your wood screws and drill four holes within your marked square that go all the way through to the other side of the platform. Flip the platform over and line up your traced square to be on top of your post (so basically your whole scratching post should be sitting upside down). Since you pre-drilled your holes all the way through the wood, you should be able to see where to screw in your four wood screws from the underside to secure the platform to the pole. (Get someone to help hold it in place if you need to while you drill. It's a bit awkward to hold yourself) Flip the scratching post right side up when you're done and paint the bottom platform with a few coats of white paint.

 

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           To dye your rope, you'll want to get a bottle of dye for each of your colors (I chose pink and yellow). Since I wanted three colors of rope to color block with, I dyed 50 ft pink, 50 ft yellow, and left 50 ft white. Fill a large bucket halfway with hot water and add 1/3 cup of salt to the water (the salt helps to set the dye). Mix in your first dye color and stir. You can control the color you want by adding more dye, more water, or simply leaving the rope in for longer or shorter amounts of time (I did one full bottle of color and left the rope in for 30 minutes). Just keep checking the rope to see how it's progressing and leave it in longer or add more dye if you want a darker color. When you are happy with the color, pour out the dye and rinse the rope in cool water until the color runs clear. You'll really want to rinse the rope until all excess dye is removed so you don't end up with dye on your kitties' paws. If you would rather not use a manufactured dye, you can also look into some natural dye options as well, but if you rinse the rope really well, the dye shouldn't transfer from the rope.

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   Once your rope is rinsed, hang it up or place it on a cookie sheet in a big pan to air dry.

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   After the rope has dried, take your white rope and staple gun the end to the bottom of the post. (You could also use small nails instead of a staple gun.) Wrap the rope around the post as tightly as you can, pushing down on the rows every so often to make sure they are packed tightly together. 

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   When it comes time to change colors, cut your white rope, take your white electrical tape and connect the end of the white rope to the beginning of your pink rope. The trick with electrical tape is that you want to pull on it and stretch it while you wrap it—that's what makes it really secure. Continue to wrap your pink rope around the pole and repeat the process of joining ropes again with the pink or yellow electrical tape when you switch to yellow rope, and again with the white tape when you switch back to the white rope to finish the pole. Remember to wrap tightly and push down on the rows every so often. 

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   To finish your rope wrapping, cut your rope and secure the end with electrical tape. Use your staple gun to secure the rope end onto the pole. Glue your post cap onto the top of your post (I just used a simple epoxy glue to secure mine), and you're ready to show kitty the new scratching post!

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)             So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)          So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)            I rubbed some catnip onto the sides of the post and brought Mac in to check it out. I did a few scratching motions myself on the post and it didn't take him very long to give it a try himself! If your cats aren't already using a scratching post, you may need a few tips to get them used to using the new scratching routine (check out this post for ideas). And man, I still really love those junk food cat toys I made recently and they still play with them everyday...

I have to say, I was a little worried that a cute scratching post might not be possible, but I'm so pleased with how this came out! Since the colors and feel of the post match the rest of our home aesthetic, it really blends in with the rest of the room and doesn't awkwardly stand out (and of course you can change the dye colors to match whatever your home colors are). It's cute, functional, and the kitties love it. So I would say it's a win for everyone! xo. Laura

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

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Espresso Marshmallows

Espresso Marshmallows (via abeautifulmess.com)In my opinion, hot chocolate season is in full swing. Which means, we should totally make marshmallows. And if you're not a hot chocolate person, then have you ever tried a vanilla steamer? I had never had one until a couple years ago when I tried it from the Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco (although I now know that many coffee shops offer them as well). Not going for a vanilla steamer? OK, well, what do you think about just adding a marshmallow to your afternoon cup of coffee?

Espresso Marshmallows (via abeautifulmess.com) If that sounds silly to you, hang on. What if I told you that it was a marshmallow lightly laced with espresso? Oh yes. Now I've got your attention. These marshmallows are indeed caffeinated, but it's really not too strong. The entire batch contains about the equivalent of a 1/2 cup of strong coffee (so don't feel bad if you do add one to a cup of coffee!). The final marshmallows also appear a little more tan/brown than I think they look in these photos. Don't let my kitchen window light deceive you. :)

If you've never made homemade marshmallows before, I think you'll be surprised by how easy it really is. The only special equipment you need is an electric mixer (hand held or a stand mixer) and a candy thermometer.

Espresso marshmallow ingredientsEspresso Marshmallows, makes around 2 dozen (depending how you cut them).

1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder*
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup powdered sugar

*If you can't find instant espresso powder, then you can use strong brewed coffee instead for a similar taste. Simply substitute the 1 cup water with 1 cup of coffee. Be sure to allow it to cool to room temperature before use.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine 1/2 cup of the water with the gelatin. Just pour the gelatin over the top of the water and let that sit while you work with the sugar.

How to make marshmallowsIn a medium sized pot, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, espresso powder, sugar, and corn syrup over medium heat. Stir until dissolved. Turn the heat up to medium and allow the mixture to reach 240°F (also called "soft ball"). Watch that the mixture doesn't boil over from the pan. Just give it a stir if it seems too close. Once the mixture reaches the desired temperature, remove from heat.

Turn your mixer (with the gelatin water) on low. If your mixer has a splash guard, here's a good time to use it. Carefully pour the hot sugar mixture into the mixer while it's running. Be careful when working with hot sugar! Now pour in the vanilla extract. Turn the speed up to medium/high and beat for about 5-6 minutes until the batter looks fluffy, like marshmallow cream. 

Easy homemade marshmallowsIn an 8x8 square pan, spray on a thin coat of nonstick cooking spray. Then sprinkle generously with powdered sugar and a little more espresso powder so you'll get some pretty flakes in your marshmallows. You could use a larger, rectangle baking pan for a thinner marshmallow. Totally up to you! I like to make mine thick and then cut them into small cubes or shapes. So that's why I use a square pan. Pour in the marshmallow cream. Sprinkle on some powdered sugar and espresso powder. Then cover and allow to set for at least three hours, or overnight.

Espresso Marshmallows (via abeautifulmess.com)  The next day gently peel the marshmallows out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Use a pizza cutter to slice into squares. Or you can use cookie cutters to make shapes! Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Dear Vegans,

I'd love to hear about any fool-proof vegan marshmallow recipes you have. I'll take book suggestions or website links, whatever you have as long as it's a recipe you've tried before that's worked. I've been wanting to have a vegan marshmallow recipe that I can recommend to ABM readers since I often get asked if I have one. I've been trying out vegan versions this past year (I think I've made four so far), and none of them turned out to be a recipe that I felt was worth sharing. So, if you have one, especially if it's your own, I'd LOVE to try it out. So let me know. :)

Thank you in advance, Emma

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

Scrapbook Sunday: How to Make Scrapbook Pocket Cards

How to make scrapbook pocket cardsHey, friends! After nearly a year in development, my scrapbook album system and kit are getting very close to launching. I'll be revealing the first Messy Box and albums here in a few short weeks!! So to lead up to that, I am going to spend the next couple weeks sharing fun, EASY ways to make things for your scrapbooks from scratch. This week we'll make pocket cards! In my album system, there are four pocket sizes—9x12 (which is a full page), 4x6, 3x4 and 3x3. We do have a few ledger packs available that fit the pockets, but since I want even more variety, I decided to make some. Plus—I LOVE making cards. It's super fun and addictive. 

Today I'll share three easy ways to create your own custom cards from scratch! 

How to make scrapbook pocket cards Prepping paper: I always like to have a stash of 3x3 and 3x4 cardstock on hand. I prep this in advance by cutting down cardstock to size. It's nice to have a stash always available. 

How to make scrapbook pocket cards  Watercolor paint: I love watercolor paint because depending on how much water you use, you can really control the color intensity. I like cards that are easy to journal on and messy but have soft patterns. 

How to make scrapbook pocket cards   Markers: Use markers and a ruler to create your own grid and line patterns for journaling. I like to use soft colors for journaling so that the black pen shows up better. 

How to make scrapbook pocket cards    Stamping: Stamping is a super fun way to create patterns. I am a big fan of repeating patterns and usually just fill the card with one stamp impression over and over. I also love letter stamps. My "no way bae" card is a joke for my husband because he won't stop calling me Bae. Good story, right? No? OK... moving on.

So anyway! On the red cards you can see I am using white ink. It's super fun to play with. I normally avoid a color base on my cards, but that white ink is a game changer! 

The stamp set I am using for all of these cards is the newest Ali Edwards Story Stamp. I like that they are small and text based. Easy to mix and match. 

How to make scrapbook pocket cards     Here's a completed page. You can see here that these cards are super easy to mix and match. I like that the patterns are soft, but personalized. If there is one pet peeve I have in scrapbook products, it's when stuff feels really generic. Making my own cards and customizing them really eliminates that problem. I like my books to feel simple, but personal! 

Hope you guys have a great Sunday! Who's watching the Oscars? I am! xx. Elsie 

PS. Learn more scrapbook techniques in my new e-course Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks

Credits// Author and Photography: Elsie Larson 

Clean Your Whole House in Only 15 Minutes!

I can do this! Clean Your Whole House in Only 15 Minutes! (click through for more info)   If you live in a giant palace with a whole staff of housecleaners, this post is not for you. However, if you are a Regular Joe (or Regular Joan) that has to clean up their own messes (and probably the messes of others too), then you've come to the right place. Now, I do know a few people that genuinely enjoy cleaning their house. While I understand how it can be a therapeutic thing to watch something go from dirty to clean, I would always rather skip the actual cleaning part and just have it go right to the "it's-already-clean" stage without any help or interference from me. That being said, clean doesn't just happen by itself though, now does it? I tend to do the procrastination method of cleaning where it's a pretty big mess until the night before there is a party, event, or my husband comes home from a long trip. For some reason he prefers walking into the house vs. wading into the house. Weird, I know. So when a job that I don't really want to do anyway now involves cleaning the entire house all at once, well, it's no surprise that it takes forever. Emma said recently she knew someone who kept their house clean by only cleaning for 15 minutes a day, and I was certainly intrigued to try the mini cleaning solution. After I thought about it for a while, I came up with a process to make it work for my house too!

I can do this! Clean Your Whole House in Only 15 Minutes! (click through for more info)Estimate your efficiency: First, you'll need to gauge what you can actually clean in 15 minutes. It might be helpful for the first couple of days to spend time each night cleaning for 15 minutes and see what actually gets done. You might be surprised at how much you can get accomplished, and you'll want to adjust your list accordingly.

Decide if you want to do light maintenance or deep cleaning: It's kind of your call whether you want to spend the time doing "light" or "heavy" cleaning during your 15 minutes. Light cleaning would be things like dusting, putting away clutter, or easy vacuuming, while heavy cleaning would be chores that involve lots of scrubbing or need large pieces of furniture moved to get underneath. Some rooms like the bathroom or kitchen may have more of the heavy cleaning (scrubbing out the tub or drip pans), so you might want to have both a light and a heavy cleaning day for those rooms.

Make a cleaning supply basket: I think a lot of people are like me and have their cleaning supplies spread all throughout their house. Some supplies are in the garage, some are under the kitchen sink, some in the bathroom...so if you only have a 15 minute window to clean, you probably don't want to spend it running from cabinet to cabinet trying to find the mirror cleaner. Make a little basket of your most commonly used cleaning products, and then you'll have everything you need already bundled together when you start.

I can do this! Clean Your Whole House in Only 15 Minutes! (click through for more info) Keep a cleaning calendar or chart: There's something about having a "to-do" item written down in plain sight that makes the probability of it actually getting done go way up. Once you get an estimated cleaning schedule together, write each area on the appropriate cleaning days and keep it where you'll see it often. Like I said, it may take you a few weeks of adjusting before you get a schedule that works. It's kind of like when we first started a written financial budget and it took a few monthly rotations before we figured out the right amounts for certain categories. 

Sorry, but you can't count your must-do-everyday cleaning routines: Unfortunately, you shouldn't count the 20 minutes you just spent cleaning up after dinner towards this cleaning challenge. If you're like me and love taking advantage of the privilege of eating several times a day, you'll constantly have to keep up with those messes and you'll never get to anything else in your 15 minutes of cleaning. The same goes for other habitual cleaning categories like pet chores that have to happen everyday. I don't think the kitties (or us) would like it if we only got around to their litter box every 8th day. Gross. 

Share the list! Unless you live alone and your pets don't have opposable thumbs, there are probably other people (like significant others, roommates, or kids) that can help with the cleaning challenge too. Imagine how much more can get done if two people are doing this every day! In case math wasn't your strong subject in school, the answer is "double the cleaning." I know it can be tough to rope people into helping clean up, but if you set a timer for only 15 minutes, well, it doesn't sound like a very huge commitment and your chances of group participation goes way up.

Speed clean your house in only 15 minutes a day!Of course, depending on your house or apartment size, the number of days it takes for your rotation to start over again will vary, but I'm really excited to get my cleaning rotation established and going strong. I do love my house best right before guests come over for a party when everything feels so clean and neat, so I would love to get as much of that feeling everyday as possible. What are you waiting for? Get out your feather dusters and get cleaning! xo. Laura

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

Cheddar Chive Popovers

Cheddar Chive Popovers (via abeautifulmess.com)This picture is kind of deceiving because I bet you might think this is going to be about soup, huh? Well, it's not. Today we're focusing on a great side character for soup: bread! Specifically, cheddar chive popovers.

Cheddar Chive Popovers (via abeautifulmess.com)  There they are! Front and center. Popovers are a personal favorite of mine. There's an upscale restaurant in town that serves them as the bread that comes with everyone's meal, and I just love them. They also are my grandma Norma Jean's favorite. So I feel like I'm channeling her when I enjoy them. She's one of my heroes, so that's a good thing. I'm gonna have to make these for her sometime.

Norma JeanStarted talking about my grandma, so I thought I might as well share a photo I took of her recently. Last month I asked if I could take some portraits of her and my grandfather around their town (Buffalo, MO) because I don't think they've gotten pictures taken together in years and that's just criminal. So, anyway, here's my grandma. She's a real rad lady.

OK, I got a little derailed there. Let's get back to baking popovers. :)

Best popover recipeCheddar Chive Popovers, makes one dozen.

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

First whisk together the eggs and milk for a full minute. You want to incorporate a little air here, so really go for it. Then stir in the flour, chives and cheese until just combined. This will be a similar consistency to pancake batter.

How to make popoversPreheat your oven to 450°F. While it preheats, go ahead and pop the pan in there so it can warm up too. Once preheated, remove the pan and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each cup 1/2 to 2/3 full of batter. Top with just a little more cheddar cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven off but leave the popovers in the oven (with the door shut) for another 8-10 minutes until the edges look golden (like in the above photo).

Cheddar Chive Popovers (via abeautifulmess.com) Here's the inside of a popover in case you've never had them before. It almost looks like the inside is undercooked, but I promise it's not. It's just very egg-y. In a good way. 

*You can use a regular muffin pan to make popovers. The shape will be slightly different and this may change your bake time by a few minutes. But as long as you're willing to keep an eye on them as they bake, you really don't have to purchase a special pan for these.

Cheddar Chive Popovers (via abeautifulmess.com)   These are best served warm, right out of the oven. If you pair them with soup, then you are a lady (or dude) after my own heart. :) Enjoy! xo. Emma

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

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