|Brian Ach/Getty Images|
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
These days, I'm the designated baker in our little family. But not so long ago, I was banned from the kitchen for starting not one, not two, but three kitchen fires. (RIP, apple cobbler.) Thanksgiving can be stressful, you guys!
I'm enamored with lovely centerpieces and place settings, but I totally advocate cutting corners to get dinner on the table ASAP. (After all, when you've got hungry guests who have been loitering around smelling turkey all day, you've got to watch out for uprisings.)
Case in point: my famous pumpkin pie, which contains no actual pumpkin. Why bother, when butternut squash is super creamy, and easier to chop, roast, and puree, to boot?
What are your holiday seasons confessions? Share your shortcuts and shenanigans on my Gatherings blog, or tweet 'em to me @jessicahester. Your answers could end up on countryliving.com.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
As I near my late twenties, I feel an odd urge to start behaving like a real grownup (ie, cleaning underneath the toilet seat, as opposed to just spritzing Tilex in the general direction of the bowl). One of the most egregious examples of my lazy early-20's half-assedness? My collection of coasters, which mostly consists of the floppy cardboard ones I've toted home from bars.
Luckily, it's ridiculously easy to make your own coasters that look 1000% nicer than the cardboard freebies (bonus: they're almost as cheap).
- a glue stick
- a ruler
- a pencil
- Mod Podge
- a foam brush
- a ceramic tile (approximately 4"x 4", about $0.50 at Home Depot)
- cool paper/postcards/photos/other items to affix to the tile
1.) Measure your item and cut to fit the size of the tile. (I used paper from vintage kids' books. Don't want to slice and dice a tome? That's fair. But you can always photocopy pretty pages at the library!)
2.) Cover the surface of the tile with some glue from your glue stick.
3.) Position your paper on the tile.
4.) Apply one even coat of Mod Podge using your foam brush. Allow to dry, about 15 minutes.
5.) Apply another coat to seal.
FYI, these also look great with pressed leaves!
Monday, October 21, 2013
I'm thrilled to be blogging for Countryliving.com twice a week. My blog, Gatherings, will focus on entertaining ideas--so if you're looking for an easy centerpiece or killer cocktail, please stop by!
Friday, October 11, 2013
Shameless plug for my day job: Country Living has tons of easy, no-carve pumpkin crafts (including my foliage-covered creations, below).
Country Living, October 2013
(Photo by Alison Gootee/Studio D; Styling by Sarah Smart)
Follow the mag on Pinterest for lots of other spookily fun ideas!
Thursday, October 10, 2013
We've been home for two weeks, but I'm still really pining for Iceland. It's not homesickness, exactly, because Iceland was never my home. But somewhere among the craggy waterfalls, jagged lava flows, and plush moss fields, I felt a sense of calm and belonging (and not just because the gas stations all sell pretty delicious donuts). It's humbling to be nestled among so much majestic land, and so cool to be able to traipse around and explore it!
Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul...I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
And that, folks, is how I feel about Iceland. The lush green spaces and warm bowls of noodle soup are akin to pressing a "reset" button. No matter how exhausted or worn down you are, you'll feel like yourself again by the time you slurp up the last spoonful.
We didn't haul a lot of souvenirs home, but I wanted something to remind me of the feeling of waterfall spray misting my face; of huddling over a latte and oatmeal cookie in a cozy cafe; of biking along the mist-blanketed seashore.
This quick and easy craft was a great solution: it took about 3 seconds to assemble, and made use of the change clanging around in the bottom of my tote.
Ring base (Etsy has an amazing supply for pennies apiece)
Epoxy glue (I used this kind; $6.68; dickblick.com)
1.) Dab a bit of epoxy glue on the ring back.
2.) Place the coin atop the ring back, apply pressure, and allow to dry overnight.
Donezo! Try this with any change you've got leftover from your travels, and enjoy wearing a reminder of your jetsetting adventures.
Monday, October 7, 2013
I'll let you in on a little secret: wedding flowers don't have to be insanely expensive. I almost threw up when I learned that many NYC florists charge upwards of $200 per centerpiece for each dinner table. Sure, there are some awesome florists who cater to budget-minded brides, but you can also definitely swing it yourself. It sounds like a big undertaking, but it wasn't so bad. I didn't stab anyone with pinking shears. (I promise.) Don't worry, fellow penny-pinchers: you can create a whimsical tablescape for way, way less. Let's do this!
The task: Centerpieces for seven 72" round tables
The budget: $400
- 7 102" white linen tablecloths (approx. $8 each to rent; azpartyrentals.biz)
- 6 6" wooden embroidery hoops ($1.19 each; hobbylobby.com)
- Fabric (buy a pre-cut bundle from Jo Ann or other craft shop, or splurge on the gorgeous Liberty prints, $55 at purlsoho.com)
- Fabric paint (FolkArt paint, $1.37 for 2 oz.; joann.com)
- Foam brush (approx. $0.50 at hardware stores)
- Painter's tape ($5.49 for 60 yards; staples.com)
- Number stencils ($4.79; createforless.com)
- Jute ($11 for 10 yards; save-on-crafts.com)
- Milk glass vases ($28 for 7; etsy.com)
- Ribbon ($0.98/yard; mjtrim.com)
- Fabric glue (4.78; amazon.com)
- Flowers ($160 for flowers picked from the farm and Whole Foods, including my bouquet and flowers to line the aisle and window sills in the reception room)
Total: $335 (yep, under budget!)
Make the table numbers:
- Use painters' tape to adhere fabric to a piece of cardboard or other sturdy surface. Pull it taut.
- Center stencil on the fabric and affix with painters' tape.
- Using the foam brush, apply fabric paint with gentle dabs.
- Allow to dry fully, then remove stencil and tape.
- Place fabric in the embroidery hoop.
- Trim edges.
- Use what you've got. Do you have the world's largest collection of teacups? Great! Stick some flowers in 'em. If, like me, you're a bit of a flea market hoarder, you should only need to fill out your collection of vessels, not go wild stocking up. Our spread included vintage milk glass scores from Etsy, plus our own collection of spray-painted hobnail jars, salt shakers, and egg cups, and one plain flower vase wrapped in polka-dot scalloped ribbon from M&J Trimming.
- Buy what's in season. It's cheaper, and more likely to be locally-grown, cutting down on the carbon footprint and timeline from ground to vase. You might have your heart set on peonies, but if you're having an autumn wedding, dahlias and sunflowers will be cheaper blooms.
- Pay attention to scale. Basic physics: a large sunflower will topple over in a small vase. (Also, dainty flowers will get lost in bulky jars.) To maximize visual interest, aim for a mix of tall, squat, opaque, and colorful vessels and blooms.
- Mix it up. Don't bother sticking to a single type of flower, or even a color scheme. We vetoed anything super high on drama or flourescent colors (sorry, coxcombs). Other than that, we scouted for stems that felt airy and wild--ultimately, a mix of sunflowers, baby's breath, marigolds, daisies, asters, dahlias, dusty miller, and others.
The finished product was cheerful, bright, and had a just-plucked, wild quality--because many of the stems were freshly harvested that morning! And one of my favorite memories of the day? Sprawling out on the floor assembling vases with my bridesmaids, with a donut in one hand and a dahlia in the other. Those moments of connection and creativity are the ones I want to remember.