Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thankful Banner

We're just two days away from our Thanksgiving holiday and I'm thinking so much about y'all.  As I was getting a jump start on my grocery shopping yesterday (and the store was already getting crazy- on Monday!), I was wondering about you getting your shopping done and feeling like we are probably experiencing so many of the same things right now.  Planning menus, making lists, grocery shopping, trying to get the house in order, trying not to feel overwhelmed with too much to do in too little time.  I remember working full-time and just looking forward to the time off!  Many of you are doing that right now too, I'm sure.  

This time of year tends to get me all sentimental and reflective, so I wanted to tell you how much your support of this blog and your readership over the last several years has meant to me.  If it weren't for you, writing this blog wouldn't be half as fun.  Seriously.   Many of you have read since the beginning and it feels like we've grown up together.  It's been great to connect with you and bounce ideas off of and I just appreciate you so much.  It can be scary to open up and share so much of your life over the web, but you have made me feel welcomed and supported.  So here's a big ole' thank you and hug from me in Houston to you, wherever you may be reading this. 

This Thankful banner couldn't be easier to make.  Instead of printing or drawing my THANKFUL letters, I used a pretty floral fabric washi tape. I've gotten tape from cutetape.com or wishywashi.com, so I can't recall where this one was from.  The most difficult part of this project was peeling the fabric tape apart from the backing, but it wasn't really that hard. 

The squares are 6x6 colored cardstock, so I didn't even have to cut them.  I just affixed them together with safety pins and twine.  Then, I tied the twine around two tall, heavy candlesticks.  

I thought it would also be cute to affix the letters vertically, so you could just tape it longways to a narrow wall or cabinet- as opposed to hanging it banner style.  

So thankful for you! I hope you have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Calling All Coffee Lovers - Nespresso Review & Sale

If you are a coffee lover, or know someone who is, you'll probably appreciate this post.  It's a review of the Nespresso VertuoLine and Aeroccino+ Milk Frother that I've been trying out for the past week or so, and I give it two thumbs up.  Those who know me know that I'm a huge coffee drinker.  I'm the type of person who, at night before bed, is already looking forward to that first cup of coffee in the morning.  It's bad I know, but it's truly a delight for me.  

I've tried lots of different kinds of coffee and coffee makers, so when I was asked to review the  Nespresso VertuoLine and Aeroccino+ Milk Frother, I was pretty excited, but I've become somewhat of a coffee snob, so I was prepared to give my honest feedback. A great cup of coffee is a thing to enjoy and savor, but a bad cup of coffee is so disappointing.  I've heard of Nespresso and have friends who love theirs - they rave about the pods and the convenience of the machine, but I'd never tried it for myself.  I didn't even really understand what the pods were or how they worked.  After trying out the Nespresso for myself, I can honestly say I love it! 

First of all, it's small and compact, fitting perfectly on our kitchen countertop, leaving lots of room for other things.  As a person for whom organization and kitchen decor is important, this little Nespresso machine fits our home perfectly.  It's actually a cute and sleek coffee maker.  

The Nespresso is a single-serve coffee and espresso maker that prepares the perfect serving at the touch of a button. The coffee and espresso comes in capsules (pods) and are color-coded to distinguish between the different flavors and caffeinated vs. decaf.  This machine uses Nespresso VertuoLine pods only- not the Nespresso OriginalLine pods.  I keep mine in a large bowl right next to the machine. 

So far, I like the blue pods the best (Odacio), but all of the flavors I've sampled are awesome.  Here's the variety they have to choose from: 

Nespresso offers 12 capsule varieties including 8 large cup coffees (8 oz.):
- Stormio – Rich and Strong
- Odacio – Bold and Lively 
- Melozio – Smooth and Balanced
- Elvazio – Delicate and Fruity
- Hazelino – Hazelnut Flavor
- Vanizio – Vanilla Flavor
- Decaffeinato – Round and Malty
- Half Caffeinato – Sweet and Velvety

And 4 espresso varieties (1.35 oz):
- Diavolito – Highly Intense
- Altissio – Full Bodied and Creamy
- Voltesso – Sweet and Light
- Decaffeinato Intenso – Dense Flavor

To purchase more pods, you can: 1) go to Nespresso.com; 2) go to the retail finder page using your zip code; or 3) call the Nespresso Club customer service line at 800-562-1465. 

With this machine, it's nice that you can see exactly how much water you have in the unit before you make your coffee.  

And it couldn't be easier to use.  You just choose your coffee or espresso flavor, insert the pod, close the top and turn the lever to the left, then press start.  

When you open the lid, the pod will automatically eject into the capsule container. 

And the coffee tastes delicious!  Seriously!  Oh boy, come to mama!

Curling up with a magazine and cup of coffee on the weekends is blissful.

In the winter months especially, I also love to make a hot cocoa in the evenings.  You can use the Aeroccino+ Milk Frother not just for cappuccino and lattes, but for hot cocoa as well.  

You just pour the milk into the frother to the fill line inside, close the lid, and push the start button.  

For hot milk, it takes about two minutes to heat and froth.  But, you can also choose cold froth by holding the start button for two seconds.  I like the Private Selection brand cocoa powder for hot cocoa. 

When the Aeroccino+ Milk Frother is finished frothing the milk, I use a spoon to hold back the froth and pour the hot milk into the cup.  Then, mix in the cocoa powder and stir until it's all dissolved. 

Finally, top with the warm froth.  And you have a delicious, frothy hot cocoa. 

Just in time for the holidays!  I'm excited to have friends and family over because I love to offer coffee, but sometimes people decline if they feel like you'll be making an entire pot just for them.  This way, the pods make it so simple to brew someone a fresh cup of coffee or espresso with zero effort.  And you know it will be perfect every time.  


Nespresso machines are 25% off today (November 24).  Go here to take advantage of those savings. If you know someone who's been really, really good this year, maybe tell Santa to put one of these under their tree.  

From November 28, 2014 - January 31, 2015, you will earn $100 credit when you purchase a machine valued at $199 or more.  Go here to learn more. 

Thank you to Nespresso for sponsoring today's post and for delightfully enabling my coffee addition. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Weekend Steals & Deals + Fall/Winter Outfits

A few girlfriends and I got together last night and were chatting about how some of us are Today Show girls, while others prefer Good Morning America.  Do you fall into one of those categories?  I'm a Today Show girl and have been watching it as long as I can remember.  I put it on each morning and listen to it while I'm getting ready.  I always pay close attention to Al's weather report and think about y'all as he shows how the U.S. is doing in terms of temperature.  It seems like most parts of the U.S. are feeling the cold lately.  Houston went from "I hope it gets cold soon" to "holy sh*t, it's cold!" in about two days.  Of course, we enjoy getting to bust out some of our cold weather clothes.  

This perfect v-neck tee comes in a ton of colors and ranges from only $5.50 - $9.  My 1969 GAP legging jean is a go-to I wear all the time.  Because I like them so much (they are stretchy and super comfy), I have them in two sizes (24 and 25) depending on if I've been eating too much ice-cream.  You know you like your jeans when you buy them in two sizes. ;)  These tall black boots are old from DSW (Audrey Brooke), but I think this pair is the most similar at the same price. 

Since I tend to wear plain tops, I like the pop of pattern this plaid scarf adds.  More plaid scarf options here and here and here.  The striped gloves are a steal from Old Navy at under $7, and help keep your hands warm.  I'm wearing the Kate Spade watch I was telling you last week finally went on sale (20% off!).  And the Renegade bracelet is holding up really well, even though I wear it all the time.  

My French Connection soft packable jacket isn't a steal at $165, but I wanted to show you what I wore to keep warm because it was so cold that day.  This jacket is a favorite of mine because it's slim, so you don't get the bulk that comes with many puffy jackets.  We're heading to NY next month and it will be great for packing, since it folds up to nothing.  

I feel like a lot of days I'm reaching for my leggings, but I need more long tunic-type tops to pair with them (that cover the rear), so I scouted a few on sale.   

Karen Kane Sweater Knit Top ($40,80, $68) comes in other colors. 

Lush Perfect Tunic Henley ($28.90, $44) comes in other colors.  

Trouve Drape Neck Sweater ($39.90, $68) other colors | Caslon Knit Tunic ($39.90, $68) regular and petite, other colors 

And for casual, on-the-go athletic style tops/jackets, here are some great deals in cheerful colors.

half-zip top ($38.40, $64

Zella Haute Jacket ($64.80, $108) | Zella Prism Too Jacket ($58.80, $98)

Finally, these reindeer sweaters aren't on sale, but they're only $39, and too adorable not to share.  The glasses are green sequins people!  I wanted to show you now because they are already down to medium and large only. 

ANN TAYLOR:  40% off full-price sweaters, dresses, skirts, shoes, and accessories. Use code PARTY40  FREE shipping on $175 or more & $8.95 flat rate shipping. Ends 11/22.

ANTHROPOLOGIE: Tops under $40.  Free shipping on orders over $150 with code FS150.

GAP:  40% off regular price styles.  Use code SHOP + card members get 50% off with code BFRIDAY  Ends 11/14.  Free shipping on orders over $50, free returns.  Ends 11/23.

J. CREW:  30% off winter wear + extra 30% off fall sale styles.  Use code SHOPNOW $5 flat rate shipping and FREE shipping on orders over $150.  Ends 11/23.

LOFT:  Earn two $25 Loft Cash Cards for every $50 you spend.  Redeem from 12/2 - 12/12.

NORDSTROM:  Always FREE shipping & FREE returns.

OLD NAVY:  Save 20% off your purchase, online only with code ONSAVENOW + up to 40% off all pants, sweaters, and shirts.  

SOLE SOCIETY:  Invite friends and earn $25.  Fast and free shipping.  

ZAPPOS:  Order before 1PM PST for FREE next business day shipping on all Clothing. 

*And for you coffee lovers out there (myself included), NESPRESSO machines are 25% off with FREE shipping!  


You can see my Holiday Gift Guide- Stocking Stuffers for Her Under $50 here.

have a great weekend!

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Ashley Brooks Photography 
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