Easy cranberry pie bars (via abeautifulmess.com)And now for my favorite part of our Friendsgiving meal: dessert! This year I decided to make cranberry and vanilla bean pie bars topped with vanilla ice cream. These were the perfect combination of tart and sweetness coupled with plenty of pie crumb goodness. Great way to end a good meal with friends. :)

Cranberry pie bars with vanilla ice cream Cranberry pie bars with vanilla ice cream  We were stoked to partner with the Cranberry Marketing Committee again for this post (and our cranberry wreaths) as part of the #FriendsgivingCranberryContest (the winner gets $2,000!). Such a fun, tart flavor and the bright pop of red that they add to everything is just the best. Cranberries are naturally festive. :) And they make great pie bars, let's discuss.

Cranberry sauceCranberry and Vanilla Bean Pie Bars, makes one 9x11 inch pan which is roughly 14 bars depending how you slice it.
*You could easily cut this recipe in half and bake in an 8x8 square pan if you are serving less at your event.

18 oz. fresh cranberries
1 cup brown sugar
seeds from one vanilla bean
juice from 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
1 1/2 cups cold butter (3 sticks)
1 cup powdered sugar
3 cups flour, all purpose
3-4 tablespoons cream or cold water

To make the filling, combine the cranberries, brown sugar, vanilla bean seeds and lemon juice in a large pot with a lid. Cook on medium heat with the lid on for 5-6 minutes until the berries begin to soften and release their juices. Continue to cook for an additional 3-4 minutes so that some of the juice begins to evaporate. Then stir in the corn starch to thicken the filling. I like to dust the corn starch in through a fine mesh sieve when I add it to avoid getting any big clumps. 

Cranberry pie fillingAfter another minute or two on the heat your filling should be done. You should be able to drag a spoon through it and it will leave a trail and then quickly seep back in. So it's not quite as thick or gelatinous as jelly, more like a chunky sauce. 

Cranberry pie barsThen make the pie crust by mixing together the cold butter, powdered sugar and flour. You can use a pastry blender or your clean hands for this step. (I usually use my hands. Remember to take any rings off you don't want covered in dough.) Blend until your mix resembles very small pebbles. Then add a few tablespoons of cream or cold water and stir until a loose dough ball forms. If the mix seems too dry to hold together, add a little more water or cream. 

Divide the dough in half. In a rectangle baking pan lined with parchment paper plop half the dough in and press into place. It doesn't have to look like a perfect rectangle, but do try to keep the thickness fairly uniform throughout. Bake this for 12 minutes at 350°F.

Then spoon the filling onto the crust and spread. Top with the remaining dough. Just crumble it all over the top. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes until the top crust begins to brown.

Cranberry pie bars with vanilla ice creamYou can make the filling and dough ahead and just bake when you're ready, or you can go ahead and bake the bars a day before and rewarm them in the oven briefly before serving. I chose to do the latter so that my event went super smooth—I'm a make-everything-you-can-ahead kind of hostess. :) Top warm bars with ice cream and watch them disappear. Enjoy! xo. Emma

P.S. If you haven't gotten a chance to post your favorite cranberry photo and enter the $2,000 #FriendsgivingCranberryContest yet, read the full details here! Contest is open until 12/14/15.

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

Elsie's Den (BEFORE)Of all the things that initially drew us to this home, this room was not one of them. In fact, the dark stone fireplace was such a deal breaker to me that I didn't know if I could ever love it and originally wanted to rip it out and start over (my husband talked me out of that). 

This is the second room you see when you come into the house. The first is the "formal" living room that's immediately after the entryway. Then there is a hallway to your right and this room to your left. 

Of all the rooms in the house, it is by far the darkest. There is a large magnolia tree just outside these windows that blocks a lot of light. 

Our original checklist of items to change was— 1. Paint or replace the fireplace. Like I said above, Jeremy talked me out of replacing it. He said to paint it white and see if it would grow on me. I'm so glad he did because it HAS grown on me. And while it's still not what I would choose if I was building from scratch, I really like it now. 2. Paint walls, trim and shelves. We were VERY lucky that most of the house came with white trim, which is my preference. So we only had to paint the trim in a couple rooms. This was the most tedious because of the double doors and bookshelves. I know a lot of people wouldn't paint those bookshelves. They really were beautiful as they were (and very hard to paint because of 8 zillion coats of furniture polish applied over the years), but for us, white was the right choice. And it really did open up and brighten the space. By the way, we did all of the painting ourselves to save money (and we're not done yet!) 3. Removing that carpet. We weren't a fan of any of the color choices in this room. So goodbye red carpet! One of the first things we did after I snapped these photos on closing day was pull up the carpet to see what was under there. 

SmAR5A4785We were happy to find undamaged wood floors. That's always the BEST feeling after buying an older home. This house was built in the 70s, which is a gray area for original hardwood (meaning it won't always be under there—you just never know until you pull it all up and check!). The color was very yellow, so we realized we'd want to restain them, which we were OK with.

At the time I was considering either WAY light or WAY dark wood stain. We went with the light and have loved it SO much. 

Elsie's Den (BEFORE) Besides that, it was just a matter of changing the finishes. 

Even though this room wasn't my favorite at first, I was pretty sure we could make it what we wanted eventually. This room is going to be the television room, by the way! 

Elsie's Den (BEFORE)   This bookshelf is actually much bigger than it looks in this photo (wide angle lens distortion). Don't hate me for painting it white, and I won't hate you if you say you would have kept it wood. Deal?

With the fireplace, windows and bookshelves, there really wasn't a good place for the television. Unless we wanted to mount it to the wall opposite the fireplace (which I thought would be a bit awkward). It just didn't seem to fit. 

Our friends Ryan and Cayt had a genius television solution in their home. They have a projector screen that comes down (via remote) in front of a bookshelf. I followed "girl code" and asked permission to rip off their idea, then immediately ordered a screen online. Instead of a TV, you buy a screen, a projector and a speaker system. Then the projector can be synched with Apple TV or cable or whatever you use (I think we're going to go with Apple TV this time). I'll share more details about that project when it's complete. I'm really excited to see how it turns out! 

In the meantime, we've been watching TV on our laptops. 

Elsie's Den (BEFORE)    Just immortalizing that red carpet one last time. #RIP 

Elsie's Den (BEFORE)     The drapes were pretty heavy and didn't let much light in. The room doesn't need the extra shade, so we decide to replace them with something lighter. 

Oh! And yes, we're painting those beams. 

Elsie's Den (BEFORE)      See that cute little desk in the corner? 

Elsie's Den (BEFORE)       Here's a closer look. I love this little nook and want to turn it into something really cozy. I'm thinking a pretty chair, a big painting and some pretty artwork. I think this would be the perfect spot to pay bills and write thank you cards. I REALLY want to become a good thank you card writer. 

So our current plans for this space include some white shiplap, some dark charcoal gray, some brass details and a big, cozy overdyed rug. I want it to be a good spot to watch Mindy, to make s'mores and to hang out with family. I mean, I'd love it to be cool and stylish too, but cozy is my #1 priority for this space! 

Thanks for following along! If you'd like to see more updates from my new house, check out my progress tag. xx- Elsie 

Credits// Author and Photography: Elsie Larson.

Love these! simple nude mani 3 ways (click through for more)        The classic nude and French manicures have been around forever. They are kind of the "little black dress" version of nails that go with everything and are always appropriate. I love that lately people have been doing slight variations on the classic look that keep the same neutral feel but add a bit more of a modern flair that brings the nude mani into current trends. The good news is that you don't have to be a professional nail technician to pull them off either! Here are 3 of my favorite (and easy to do!) options:

Love these! simple nude mani 3 ways (click through for more)
-emery boards and buffing block
-nail clippers
-white nail polish
-nude nail polish
-topcoat polish
-rounded tip guides
-painter's tape
-small paintbrush

Love these! simple nude mani 3 ways (click through for more) Start out by trimming your clean nails and shape them with your emery boards to your desired length. Use a buffing block to buff each nail, and then apply several coats of your nude polish. This will be the starting point for each manicure. Make sure the polish is totally dry before doing any of the manis that use tape.

Love these! simple nude mani 3 ways (click through for more)        The Half Moon: For this look, use your tip guide to block off the rounded area near your cuticle and paint in the area with white polish. Complete a second coat of white if needed, and, when mostly dry, carefully peel off each guide to reveal your design underneath. Finish with a clear topcoat.

Love these! simple nude mani 3 ways (click through for more)        It's like a reverse French tip—so cute!

Love these! simple nude mani 3 ways (click through for more)            The Half Slash: Cut your painter's tape into strips and place them diagonally across your nail to block off the front section of each nail. Use your white polish to fill in the top half of each nail. Use a second coat if needed. When the polish is mostly dry, peel off each strip and finish with a top coat once the white section has set.

Love these! simple nude mani 3 ways (click through for more)         I love the graphic quality to this look. It's a bit more bold than the others, but still not so crazy that it can't go with everything.

Love these! simple nude mani 3 ways (click through for more)        The Polka Dot: Use a small rounded tip paintbrush to create a white dot right above your cuticle. Use a brush that is thick enough to create your desired size dot by simply placing it once on the nail when it's full of polish. That way, all your dots will be the same size and thickness. Allow the dots to dry and use a topcoat to seal.

Love these! simple nude mani 3 ways (click through for more)        I think this one is my current favorite. It's actually the easiest one to do (even though it looks so precise), but seeing all those tiny dots when I look down just makes me smile. As you can see, you don't have to be a trained professional to get into some of the current manicure trends, and keeping the colors white and nude will ensure that whichever look you pick will compliment your outfits regardless of color scheme. Which mani is your favorite look? xo. Laura

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

Tiled countertop DIY (click through for tutorial)               We are getting pretty close to getting our kitchen renovation "completed". I say that in quotes because we actually have a phase 1 and phase 2 plan for our kitchen renovation, but the first phase is pretty much complete. In the future, we want to add more counter and storage space by putting in extra cabinets and a peninsula for counter stools, but since it will be a bit before we can afford to do that, we needed to come up with a plan in the meantime. The kitchen had an existing extra tall bar height peninsula with a black stone top. But since it was so high, it wasn't really useable as a kitchen work space and we wanted a lighter color top since we were staining the floors dark. As we had to take out the peninsula anyway to install new flooring (which you'll see in various stages of completion in the photos), we decided to cut the existing cabinets down to counter height and make a new top for it so we could use it while we saved up for phase 2. 

I've had a bit of tile experience making photo boards and other small projects, so I decided that a tiled countertop would look neat and clean, and, if I measured correctly and used the right tile, I wouldn't even have to rent a tile saw! 

Tiled countertop DIY (click through for tutorial)                This is the bar height cabinet before it was cut down shorter. It's hard to tell in the picture, but I would have needed a step stool to use it for kitchen prep!

-wood board cut to desired size, about 3/4" thick (home improvement store can cut it to size for you)
-Hardie backer board and box cutter for trimming
-tile of choice (I used these large subway tiles)
-tile grout
-tile adhesive
-tile trowel and rubber float
-tile spacers (only if using tile that doesn't come on a mesh backing)
-grout sponge
-grout haze remover (if needed)
-wood trim to frame the sides with, mine was 1 1/2" tall and 3/4" thick (home improvement store can cut it to size for you)
-wood screws and drill

Tiled countertop DIY (click through for tutorial)OK, in order to make this a non-tile saw project, I had to determine how big of a countertop I needed and then find tiles that would work out about to those measurements once placed together. Since only one side of my countertop would face the wall and I wanted a large overhang on the side the counter stools would go, I had a pretty big range of dimensions I could be within that would still look balanced and suit our needs. When you are looking for the right tile to fit your dimensions, don't forget that the size the tile says on the box isn't always the actual measurement of the tile inside (measure it yourself), and if you are using individual tiles rather than tiles on mesh backing, you can buy various widths of spacers to make your overall dimensions a little smaller or larger as needed.

Once I had my tile and spacer size chosen, I laid out all my tiles (with spacers) so I could measure out the exact size of the tiled area. You want your board and Hardie backer to be the same size as your tiled area, so measure twice to be sure!

Tiled countertop DIY (click through for tutorial)          Have your local home improvement store cut your wood board to your tile dimensions. To cut the Hardie backer, mark out your dimensions on the backer and use a box cutter to make deep scores along those lines. Then snap the pieces apart. I find it easier to line up the scored line with the edge of a table or step and push down on the part you are snapping off. Once your Hardie backer is the correct size, place it on top of your wooden board and use screws and a drill to secure the backer to the wood. The Hardie backer has circles for each place you should use a screw, but make sure to use screws all around the perimeter (about 1" in from the edge) so the backer doesn't pull away from the wood once you add the tile adhesive.

Use a trowel to add a thin layer of tile adhesive to half of your board and score lines in the adhesive.

Lay the tiles onto the adhesive with your spacers in the corners. Make sure the corners and edges are lining up correctly with the board below. 

Continue to add more adhesive and tiles until the whole board is covered. Adjust any tiles as needed and let the adhesive set for 24 hours.

Tiled countertop DIY (click through for tutorial)In case you are wondering, "Are you sure I need the Hardie backer?? Maybe I'll just tile the wooden board...," let this above photo be a lesson to you. I tiled just the board on my first try and the moisture from the adhesive warped the board overnight into a nice upside down "u" shape. Dang it. Apparently the Hardie backer absorbs the moisture from the adhesive and grout so the board stays straight as...well...a board!

Tiled countertop DIY (click through for tutorial)Once your adhesive is set, use the rubber float and push the grout into the spaces between the tile until all the gaps are full. 

Tiled countertop DIY (click through for tutorial)Keep a bucket of water and your sponge nearby and quickly wipe the grout from the tiles, getting off as much as you can. I would grout a section, then wipe it down and repeat until the whole board was done, and then go back over the whole thing again. Make sure to clean off your sponge with fresh water often and change out the bucket water as needed. The more grout you get off the tiles in the beginning, the less haze will remain on the tiles. 

Let your grout dry for 24 hours and use a haze remover if there is still grout residue on the face of your tiles.

Tiled countertop DIY (click through for tutorial)Once my tiles were set, I cut wooden trim pieces to size so I could make an outer frame around the countertop. I used a miter saw at home so I could make the 45° angles where they come together, but you can just have them make straight cuts for you at the store if you don't have a saw. I painted the edges, nailed them in from the sides (you can use wood screws too), and filled any gaps between the wood and tile with acrylic caulk. We attached the counter onto the newly painted cabinets with wood screws from the underside, screwed the cabinet into a stud on the wall (so it wouldn't topple over when leaned on), and we were back in business!

Tiled countertop DIY (click through for tutorial)              Tiled countertop DIY (click through for tutorial)              Tiled countertop DIY (click through for tutorial)              It's the first time in four months that we have had a counter height countertop again, and it's so nice to have more useable space! I love the brightness that the painted cabinet and counter adds in contrast with the dark colors that were there before, and the tile is easy to wipe up and clean as needed. I feel like I learn more about working with tile each time I do it, so it's nice to do a bigger project than I have before. And when you are renovating a house on a budget, it's nice to have all the DIY skills you can get! xo. Laura

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

Three incredible stove simmers! Click through for the ingredients list. You guys know I have a deep and abiding love for all things cozy. I have shared my go-to stove simmer recipe in the past but wanted to branch out and try some new recipes this year.

If you've never used a stove simmer, here are the basics! You fill pot with water and some ingredients that will create a lovely smell, then you leave it simmering on low heat and your home will fill with the scent. It's natural and smells stronger than any candle I've ever used. You can use it for a couple days (refilling the water as it get low) and it will keep working, although it gets REAL ugly by the end. If you've never tried it, I insist you must!

Recipe 1- Bay leaves, lemon slices, lime slices, 2 cinnamon sticks and some cloves in half a lemon. 

This simmer is light and fresh. I made is specifically for those of you who don't love the heavy spice scent (which I do love!). After an hour of burning, it wasn't quite strong enough for me. So I added a few sprigs of eucalyptus and an extra cinnamon stick and you could smell the light fragrance throughout all our living areas. So fresh and clean! 

Three incredible stove simmers! Click through for the ingredients list.Recipe 2- One orange halved with cloves, 3 cinnamon sticks, fresh cranberries and lemon peels.

This one smells like apple cider (but better) and every person who walks into your home will ask you what you're baking! 

Three incredible stove simmers! Click through for the ingredients list.  Recipe 3- Pine cones, apples and cinnamon. 

This one is perfect for fall! It smells like you're baking an apple pie in EVERY room of your home. So good! 

Let me know which ones you guys love! I wish I had a scratch & sniff feature here on the blog so you could test them out. :) xx- Elsie 

Note: Be sure to use only natural ingredients without dyes or artificial scents.

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


Check out our new product line,
Photoshop Actions and E-Courses!

Back to Top