DIY Holiday Centerpiece | Tree Branch Leftovers

You're on track, and your Christmas tree is up! If you want to bless your home with a little extra holiday cheer, snip some of those straggling branches from your tree. Adding those leftover branches to bottles or vases is a great way to scatter the amazing smell throughout the house, needless to say that it gives your space a cute, rustic feel.

Christmas tree branch vase, holiday centerpiece

And a little greenery for the bathroom.... 

christmas tree branch vase, holiday centerpiece

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Outfit Ideas

I had no luck at the thrift store while shopping last minute for an ugly Christmas sweater to wear for an upcoming party. Instead, I stumbled upon a festive potholder. With a simple sewing job on a plain average sweatshirt, my attire was complete!

If you can’t find that perfect ugly sweater at the thrift store or a relative’s closet, here are some other speedy solutions that will make you fit right in with the holiday festivities!

  • Sew small felt stockings to a solid sweater, or sweatshirt (find at local craft store)
  • Make a glammy necklace made out garland
  • Wrap yourself in xmas lights.. Be careful you don’t sit on any!
  • Make a headband made from gift-wrapping bows
  • Tie a large bow under a collared shirt
  • Tie a large, festive bow around your waist (multi-purpose belt!)
  • Go classic with a Santa hat 

Workout Inspiration Needed

It's monday, it's raining and a cold front is coming. I was tempted to go home, make hot tea, and play with the pup next to the christmas tree, until Pitbull started playing on Pandora.

The Hot Cocoa 15K is Jan 13, so with only a few weeks away, Pitbull and I will head to the track after work today. Were you thinking of slacking on this cold rainy monday? Don't do it. There will be plenty of time for lounging and sipping egg nog later.

Speaking of eating sweets, Lululemon posted this today on Facebook. I am only one holiday party down on a long list of cookie swaps and pot lucks. Mr. Gingerbread man - I will keep you in mind.

Here's to starting new year's resolutions early. Enjoy your workout today.

5 Reasons to Have a Workout Buddy

workout buddy

We've all been there. You just got back from your fabulous vacation, and you haven't exercised all week. Whoops!... you didn't really mean to eat that chocolate fudge a la mode last night, but you were toasting to the end of your glorious getaway before it's back to the real world. You still haven't hit the gym a week later, and you just find yourself in a workout slump. FIND YOURSELF A WORKOUT BUDDY! Here's why..

1. Consistency - Having a workout buddy forces you to rely on each other. You don't want to let your friend down, so are more likely to make the effort to be at the gym. Getting there is the hardest part!

2. You'll get stronger - You can challenge yourself by increasing your weight, and you'll always have a spotter nearby. If you're struggling, your partner can give you assistance and that extra boost to get you through all of your reps. 

3. Support system - You and your partner should always be pushing each other just a little bit harder. Mental hurdles can hold you back and it simply takes someone saying, "you can do it," to overcome it. It sounds like a simple concept because it is.

4. Shorter workouts (not literally) - When you have extra company, your mind isn't constantly concentrating on what you're doing, and how you wish you were back in bed. Before you know it, you've gossiped, vented, caught up from the weekend, and it's time to hit the showers!

5. Extra cardio boost - A lot of people hate to run, but dogs love it! Who says your workout buddy needs to be human? Do it for your adorable four-legged friend. You'll be done with your mile (or 2!) in no time!

Taco Soup for Supper

When calendars are crammed and weather is wintery, nothing soothes the soul better than a hot bowl of soup, especially when all you need to do is heat it up. I often double my soup recipes so I can do just that. Here is one of my all time favorites - Taco Soup.

2 lbs grassfed beef
1 diced onion
1 15oz. can pinto beans
1 15oz. can kidney beans
1 15oz. can black beans
1 15oz. can niblet corn or frozen corn
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes with lime juice and cilantro (or any mexican tomatoes)
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes with green chilis
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion
1 4.6oz can sliced black olives
1 large packet ranch seasoning
1 taco seasoning packet
additions: sour cream, shredded cheese, corn chips

Brown beef with onions. Drain excess fat. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for several hours. Top with shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.  Also goes well with blue corn chips. 

Speaking of soup, I am planning a souper christmas party for my family at my house before Christmas - the perfect meal after long hours of travel. So more soup recipes to come!

Holiday Mantel Decor

Broken legged reindeer, tacky scarf angel and bronze angel from my estate sale finds, are all making their debut appearance in this week's holiday mantel post.
I don't like making excuses, but I must say that this photo does not capture the coziness of my holiday mantel. When it's dark and cold outside, the lights from the garland bring a warm glow to the room. The fireplace crackles with the smell of real wood. Wrapped up in plush blankets, we watch holiday classics on screen. The Christmas tree glows from across the room  and only then do you feel Christmas all around you.

But any photographer knows that daylight brings the best photos and man made lights don't photograph well, especially when you have a $100 camera, so here is my mantel in all her daylight glory.
The mantel we built is over 10 feet long with a large television smack in the middle, so I wanted to keep things simple and attempt to blend the decor with the electronics.
Garland: borrowed from a friend
Glass Covered Jar: Home Goods $15 -  filled with perfectly prepped pine cones from my front yard. I added a simple crystal to a jute rope to give more character for $2. 
Birch Planters: Whole Foods $15 to match my $1 birch reindeer from an estate sale. I love using real plants in my decorations, as they can be planted outside once the holidays are over. 
Pottery: Pottery Barn $10 with coupon plus red berries from Michael's for $1 a stick. 
Mirrors: Home Goods $25. They look very similar to the Ballard Design mirrors but are 1/3 the price. I also use these in my foyer year round. 

I made our stockings for our first christmas in our first house. Can you tell which is Siler's? I loved the black and red corduroy fabric and also used it for the holiday pillows by the fireplace. Look for both the stocking and holiday pillow tutorials this month. 

Holiday Stockings in Plaid Corduroy
Estate Sale Re-Do Angels
My estate sale angels turned out perfect. I removed the tensile scarf from the larger angel. I added the same crystal I used on the glass jar to give her some glamour. With silver and pearl spray paint, my angels are brand new. 

I attempted chalk board art with no success. I think I will save this project for next year when I have more time to practice and perfect. 

I hope your holiday projects and decor are turning out as planned. We would love to see them so send us a message or comment below! 

The Lettered Cottage

DIY Salt Dough Ornaments

This is the first 128 Hours Christmas, so I thought we would get in the spirit and make something to help us remember our first holiday.

Here is an easy, kid-friendly project that will keep your kitchen tidier than baking cookies. You could also plan a fun project night for your  holiday gathering with the girls.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Acrylic craft paint
  • Krylon finishing spray [Michael's]

Step 1: Preheat oven 200 degrees F. After dry ingredients are mixed, thoroughly incorporate water until you reach a dough consistency.
Step 2: Flour your working space and roll dough to about 1/4" thick. I don't own a rolling pin, so I used an empty wine bottle.
Step 3: Use a cookie cutter-like tool to cut your ornament shapes. I used wine glasses to get a perfect circle (wine is becoming a theme!).

Step 4: Use a straw to cut the hole that will be used for hanging.
Step 5: Bake for about 4 hours, flipping over if necessary.

Step 6: After ornaments have cooled, go to creative town with your acrylic craft paint.
Step 7: Seal your design with a finishing spray to help protect your design.
Step 8: Tie a pretty bow and find a perfect place for it on your tree!

Make-Up Must-Haves

It made me feel like I've been doing something right when I saw some of the products I use highlighted in GLAMOUR's 2012 Glammy Awards article. I wanted to put my two sense in, so below are some of our favorites at The Other 128 Hours. You can find a newfound confidence when trying new beauty products, so I hope this post helps you feel fabulous!

CoverGirl's Lash Blast Luxe Mascara gives you that soft, natural look. I don't have long eyelashes, but this mascara helps separate easily and makes them look much fuller. For the price, it's a go-to product. Trish McEvoy's Lash Curling Mascara does a great job of lengthening lashes without any clumps. The best part... how it's removed. This mascara easily washes away with no smudging, or running. It will keep your towel spotless and white - AMEN!

Conveniently placed on drugstore and specialty store shelves, is my shampoo and conditioner bargain gem - Organix. Their hydrating treatree mint shampoo and conditioner is made from Australian Teatree oils [if that doesn't sound exotic enough!], which hydrates and strengthens your hair. They have an extensive line, and you can't go wrong with any of them.

I swear by my one and only hair styling product, Moroccanoil.  Their curl control mouse is the answer to every curly haired girl's prayers. Foam mousses in drugstores always left my curls crunchy and caused me to break-out along my hair line. Those are the least of my worries now! Moroccanoil Treatment is great for straight hair, and leaves you with an unstoppable shine. You can't purchase from their site, but most hair salons carry the brand, so you don't have to go out of the way to find it!  

Clean & Clear's Morning Glow Moisturizer is oil-free, and leaves your skin looking naturally brighter. While most facial sunscreens contain poor clogging ingredients, EltaMD's formula is made for sensitive skin and won't cause breakouts.

GLAMOUR hit the jackpot with this one. Another product I swear by is NARS Powder Blush in their most popular shade, Orgasm. I don't know what I would do without it, but it truly is the most complimenting shade out there for all skin tones. I find my NARS products at Sephora.    

Revlon's Super Lustrous Lipstick comes in a variety of bright and bold colors with a hint of shimmer in each stick. It's the perfect addition to your bag without spending a fortune. Don't let the tongue twister name scare you away from Pur Couture Vernis a Levres Glossy Stain by Yves Saint Laurent Rouge. This lipstick combines the texture and shine of a gloss with the long-lasting wear of a stain. You won't be disappointed!

Cyber Monday + Holiday Training

Happy Cyber Monday! A new workout outfit always gets me motivated, but there aren't many deals out there for the fitness gal this year. It's just another day at the office over at my favs - Lululemon and Patagonia. I did find Athleta has 20% off everything, so check that out.

Since I can't find inspiration in a new outfit, maybe this photo from Lululemon will help!
And as promised, here is my training schedule for the Hot Chocolate 15K on January 13. I get bored easily running day after day, so I developed the plan below with three goals in mind, incorporating the sports I love while improving my running speed and endurance.

1. Maintain triathlon sports. I am not working on form or drills, just maintaining my endurance
2. Develop muscle tone through weight lifting. During tri season this area will be cut back
3. Stay healthy through the holidays as sweets and sugary drinks are plentiful

Disclaimer: I am not a certified personal trainer or a doctor. My training plan was developed from experience alone and may not work for everyone.

Like us on facebook to join in on group runs and workouts!

Black Friday Shopping Survival Guide

By now, you know I’m the first to dive into a bargain, but the Black Friday mayhem becomes less appealing when the news headlines are of people getting trampled. Personally, I’m a Cyber Monday kind of chick. The deals are just as good, no long checkout lines, and you can shop from the comfort of your own home [or office]… It’s a win, win!

If you do decide to conquer the Black Friday crowds, keep your smart phone handy and take a minute to download the TGI Black Friday app. The app is free, and you can easily browse the store ads, find all the deals, and create a wish list. It’s a must-have for getting the best deals, and will be extremely helpful during your shopping journey.

Stray away from the mainstream and department stores like Best Buy, Toys R Us, and Macy's [to name a few]. Head to some stores many won’t think of, and you'll still be able to partake in Cyber Monday for any purchases you missed as your plan-b!

Francesca's has become one of my favorite boutiques, and new locations are popping up everywhere. Shop in stores to take advantage of their BOGO 50% off sale, or online for 25% your entire purchase. A little treat for yourself never hurt!
REI is having a huge sale where you can save up to 30% off. It's worth checking out if you're looking for a great gift for your handsome outdoorsman. I strongly encourage you to shop online first to check out their REI Oulet section online, which has savings up to 70% off. You have nothing to loose with free shipping and returns!
I know you have a Pintrest board of DIY projects you want to do, so take this weekend to stock up on all the supplies you need. This is perfect if you are planning on making some Christmas gifts, or you want some new holiday décor. Head over to Michael's where they have coupons for Thursday, Friday, AND Saturday. If you are in need of a Christmas tree, be there on Thursday to get their 50% off door buster deal… no need to wait for the post-holiday markdown!

Perfectly Prepped Pine Cones

I love decorating my home with items from mother nature herself. Her colors and designs come unmatched to anything you will find in the store. For this holiday season, I am using pine cones from my very own front yard.

I began gathering bags of pine cones and spreading them across newspaper for a misting of pearl paint. When I came outside to check the paint, I noticed little bugs crawling everywhere...eeek! With a little research I was able to prep my pine cones for use inside the home.

How to prep pine cones for crafting:
There are two ways to prep pine cones, soaking and baking. I don't have the patience for soaking and drying, so I went with baking.
1. cover baking sheet in tin foil
2. preheat oven to 200 degrees
3. collect pine cones in a bag
4. lay pine cones in a single layer on the baking sheet
5. bake for 30 minutes watching the pine cones closely
6. remove and set outside to cool
7. lightly mist with spray paint for extra shine. I used Rust-Oleum Metallic Pearl.
Not only does this take care of the bug problem, it dries the sap so you aren't left with a sticky mess.

Now your pine cones are ready for use. Fill glass jars or liven up a tired wreath (remember ugly bow wreath from my yard sale misfits?) I love her simple new look with the added pine cones.

Happy crafting this holiday season!

The First Friendsgiving

This year, a good friend made the executive decision that our group of friends should have a FRIENDSGIVING – brilliant! 

If you’re planning on doing something special with your friends, and want to present everyone with an invitation, I created a basic template for you to use for your party. Just download, and fill it in with your event info.

Tips for a successful Friendsgiving:
  1. Grab some post-Halloween sale décor for the tables
  2. Start an email chain so guests don’t bring multiple dishes
  3. Use paper plates -- A MUST!
Things to remember for next year’s Friendsgiving:
  1. Defrost turkey the day before
  2. Have someone bring gravy
  3. Be cautious of oven space
I slightly modified Alton Brown’s chipotle smashed sweet potato recipe for my side dish. It’s got a little kick and only five ingredients, which is why I love it so much.

  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 T of butter
  • 2 chipotle peppers, plus 1 T adobe sauce (canned)
  • salt & pepper to taste
Step 1: Peel and cube sweet potatoes, and place in boiling water. Season water first with salt.
Step 2: Finely chop garlic cloves and chipotle peppers. I recommend taking the seeds out of your peppers because that's where the heat lives.
Step 3: Once potatoes are fork tender, mash them, and add in you butter.
Step 4: Incorporate all ingredients, and add the extra adobe sauce from the can.

America's Sweetest Race

Here at The Other 128 Hours, we love weekend races. Races are good motivation for early morning workouts and most always raise money for a worthy cause.

We are already planning our 2013 race schedule and have just signed up for our first race - The Hot Chocolate 15k/5k in Atlanta on Jan 13. The Other 128 Hours would love to have you join us. I will be posting my training plan soon and planning a few group workouts.

The race is also held in many other cites across the U.S., raising money for the Ronald McDonald House. So whether you run or walk, or go for the 15k or 5k, you will be doing good for both yourself and others.

Looking forward to a sweet finish! What are your 2013 run or walk goals?

Taking a YOU day

You don't have to go out of town to ask for those days off you have saved up. We all work hard, and deserve a little time to ourselves. Get recharged with a day dedicated to you - strongly encouraged!

Sometimes I get caught up in life and forget that I love to paint. It's been over a year since I've picked up a paintbrush [so sad!], so I took a couple of days off to exercise a talent I always forget I have.

Obviously it's best to paint from real life, but I worked from a photo that I took while on my Italy trip. I fell in love with the small, quaint town of San Gimignano, and this photo just makes me want to drive straight to the airport! Excuse the crappy photo, but maybe I'll take a new one when I have a nice place to hang it: