Same blog...New spot!!

Hello my dears!  Big news: Living the Swell Life has MOVED!! Although it's been an amazing six-year run (6 years!? How is this possible!!??) here at blogspot, I've finally decided to take the leap to a lovely new wordpress site.   I am feeling so excited and inspired by the new space already and I do hope that you'll update your links and continue to follow my writings and craftings over at livingtheswelllife.com!! Hooray--hop on over!


crafting away!

This weekend, I am getting set to sell a few of my crafts at two handmade holiday boutiques.  This is a HUGE first for me, although both shows are small and in homes. I am feeling so inspired by the deadline and feel like I've spent more time crafting in the past two weeks than I did in all of 2012!!  Hooray for chilly early winter days and for cozy time in my craft room.  It is relaxing and therapeutic to me. (: Here is just a peek of some of the things up for grabs: 

 Lined zipper pouches, perfect for school supplies, makeup, or my personal fave--storing extra batteries and memory cards/film in your camera bag!
Wreaths wrapped with yarn and made pretty with felt
Annnd, lovely camera strap covers!  These are approximately 27" long and perfectly hide the black + bright branding of most SLRs.  I get so many nice compliments when I wear these at shoots! (:

If you are lucky enough to live in the Twin Cities area, please stop by Finch's Boutique, and support the handmade movement as well as the American Cancer Society.  A few of my goodies will be there amid more amazing talent, with Be Crafty tags on it! (:

Happy Weekend Friends!


andes mint chocolate cookies

I can hardly even believe that the holiday season is in full swing! Last week we cut down our modest little Spruce tree, and having it light up our living room day and night is bringing so much joy and making things feel so official!  I just love having so many sweet + sentimental things filling our home again!  This afternoon I am off to a Christmas cookie swap party and am bringing along these Andes Mint cookies.  They are seriously my new favorite flavor of the season!!  Chocolate + Mint...There is nothing better!  

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter
2 Tablespoons water
2 eggs
12 oz. chocolate chips
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3 packages Andes mints

Cream sugar & butter.  Add water & eggs.  Melt chocolate chips adnd add to creamed mixture. Add dry ingredients.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour until dough is stiff.  Roll into 1" balls. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. After baking, immediately top each cookie with a mint. Allow to melt, then spread like frosting. (:

Then for the most difficult step:  Allow the candy layer to harden and cool completely before enjoying.  It tastes 10x better that way!

Packaging: Manilla tags, Martha Stewart acrylic stamp, cellophane treat bags, and green striped twist ties from PaperAndPresent.


grateful for this day.

I took this shot super quickly on my phone this morning, because we spent the day doing far more important things...
We are so extravagantly blessed. House. Home. Family. Food. Health. And so very much more.
Hoping your Thanksgiving was a beautiful reminder of the muchness in your life. Xo.


upcycled canister, washi tape style!

Life is so full. So, so full. I always wish I could fill this blog with more everyday loveliness, but you know, it always gets pushed to the bottom of the endless list. (: 

Today I am excited to finally share a super quick little project that was inspired by my extremely inspiring friend, Amanda.  After last weekend's wonderful Be Crafty workshop, we had a little bit of pretty washi tape left over from our awesome sponsor Sewing Post...Sooo, we divvied it up and I brought mine home to create an awesome little storage container for what else--my vast collection of washi tape!

First I rescued an empty Swiss Miss container from the trash.  I spray painted the outside white, so that the mountains and marshmallows would not show through the thin papery tapes.  Then I simply went nuts wrapping the outside, ring by ring, with lovely colors and patterns.  I set them all out on the table and let G help me decide on the design! I am loving it and want to empty out all of the other canisters in my house so that I can make more...


little boy frog costume

 This year, I had high hopes of dressing Graham as a pirate (easy!) or a firefighter (reuse last year's) costume for Halloween.  When he announced that he wanted to be a frog, hop from house to house while trick-or-treating, and eat flies, I knew there was no way I could talk him out of such an imaginative plan. (The result of reading this little book too much!) So, I'll be honest, I stressed out. I procrastinated.  I looked on etsy, and found things that were 100x cuter than I could DIY and 10x more than I wanted to spend.  So I stressed and procrastinated some more. Finally, last night I knew I needed to get down to business.

I locked myself in my craft room, armed with a hot glue gun, surrounded by felt scraps and a moss-green queen sized sheet I had picked up at the thrift store a couple years ago.  I sort of went to town and prayed that he would say "ribbit" enough while in public to make up for all his costume lacked...
I grabbed a stained old green t-shirt and cut it into 2 half-circles and sewed them together to make the hat.  Next I glued on googly felt eyes, mouth, and tongue.  (The tongue is integral in making this frog legit.)  G also just so happened to have a green sweater and green mittens lying around from last winter.  Score!  The thing about designing Halloween costumes in Minnesota, is that they need to be WARM, because it is freezing here already! 

I did a really botched sewing job (sans pattern!) on the smock & pants.  I wanted to be quick and I knew if I messed up too catastrophically, I could always cut more of the green sheet up! G really, really wanted to help, so I let him strategically place his spots before I glued them down.  (Ok, I helped a little.)
Perhaps my favorite feature of the costume, are his webbed felt feet!!  I added a bit of elastic to the bottoms to strap under his shoes, so they would stay in place.
All in all, this costume cost us ZERO dollars.  Crazy, I know.  I loved the challenge of using things from around our house and it always feels good to finally find purposes for the supplies that I hoard.  Graham LOVED waking up to see the finished pieces this morning and getting to wear it to our neighborhood Halloween festival.  We got so many compliments and it made my heart happy to hear people say "cute froggy!" Plus all the money we saved on his costume means more to spend on the important stuff...Candy!! Can't wait for Wednesday. xo.


30 acts of kindness

I can scarcely believe that just 2 years ago, I met Amanda through this little blog of mine--because I feel like I've known her forever and ever already.  A loving, real-life crafty friend is hard to find, and when you do, you find 1,000 excuses to get together to share your love for glitter, ribbon, and hot glue guns.  Amanda is an endless source of inspiration and an enormous blessing in my life.  She is so full of joy and has an amazing heart.  Such a generous heart, that when she turned the BIG 3-0 last week, all she wanted for her birthday was to bless 30 perfect strangers, sprinkling random acts of kindness across the state of Minnesota.  I know, right!?

And so she paper crafted these 30 adorable tags, made a list of people, places, and things to hit, and when her birthday rolled around, she hopped in my car and we set out on a *30 Acts of Kindness* road trip, along with our dear friend Bethany, who sweetly reserved a whole day just for us on her quick visit home from Kuwait. 

We were literally.giddy with nervous excitement!  (And everyone around us probably thought we were a little bit nuts.)  I can't even imagine a more fun way to show love to the world and have your own cup filled in return.  We spent just $30 on mini gift cards and goodies, left handwritten notes for perfect strangers, and brightened one little corner of the world along the way. Here are just a few of her ideas:

* A note of encouragement to a driver's ed instructor (on a student driver car)!
* Coffee shop drive-through, paying for the drink of the person behind us
* Tape a bag of popcorn and $ to a Redbox rental machine
* Leave quarters in a soda machine
* A note of encouragement on a police car or fire truck (thanks for keeping us safe)!
* Tape a coffee gift card and a note saying "You're a great mom!" to a baby changing station
* Tube a surprise note to the drive-through bank teller
* Hide sweet treats in the pumpkin patch
* Candy bars under windshield wipers at the grocery store (it was a cool day so they did not melt)!
* Tape an unscratched lottery ticket to the gas station pump
* A note of gratitude along with $ in the tip jar at our dinner spot
* Bring fresh flowers to a nursing home
* Bring toys or blankets to a children's hospital

These are my instagrams of the trip, but you must visit Amanda & Bethany to see their perspectives!! Truth be told, we ended up not doing every idea on the list, but still passed out all 30 by doubling up on a bunch of them, because Bethany and I had a big surprise of our own up our sleeves...

At the end of our journey, we wound up at A-Z Farm in Stokholm, WI.  Even though it was a Tuesday night in October in the middle of nowhere, the place was hopping.  We pulled into a gravel driveway parked full of cars and a looong line of hungry bellies, waiting for a box of their famous wood-fired pizzas, featuring fresh, local ingredients.  Bethany & I sent Amanda away to brave the long line, and while she was gone, we sprang into action...We had stealthily packed my trunk full with a little wooden table, chairs, china, tea cups, vintage wine glasses, and all kinds of loveliness...Including a perfect, pastel pink ruffle cake from the ever-delicious Cocoa & Fig!!  I think Amanda almost died and went to heaven when she walked back to our picnic spot, pizza in hand, and discovered this magical scene! 

Just as the sun was setting, we cozied up in blankets, laughed until we cried, sipped wine, divulged sweet secrets, and ate cake until our bellies ached.  I think I speak for all 3 of us when I say that this day was so good for our hearts!  It is way, way better to give than to receive. I can't believe the whole thing came off without a hitch and I cannot even imagine a more perfect way to celebrate our beautiful friend!  I used to dread turning 30, but now I can't even wait. It's the new sweet 16. (;
 Friends, you must do this (or something like this) soon. I wish every day could be this amazing!


Give Crafty Workshop!

There's a chill in the air, friends. Yesterday morning I put on socks for the first time since late March.  Socks!  Ok, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but I truly only wear socks if I absolutely must. It makes me think that we have officially entered fall, which means there will be cozier days ahead.  Cozier days ahead mean that it's time to sit inside and craft.  And it is never too soon to make a list of handmade projects you'll want to have on hand for the holiday giving season!  Exactly for this reason, my friend Amanda & I are hosting another handmade gift workshop on 11/17 called GIVE CRAFTY, and registration is opening this week!  If you are in the Midwest, or need an excuse to visit the Midwest, you should most definitely come.  You can register here beginning FRIDAY at 8am CST!


i've finally learned to spell "zucchini". zucchini.

 lately i have been delighting in the early-fall bounty and perhaps over-indulging at the farmer's market every week. (is it even possible to over-indulge on produce? surely not.) it is zucchini season. big time. so over the weekend i baked my ultimate fave pineapple zucchini bread.  the recipe for which i posted so very long ago...and took some terrible photos to go along with it. don't judge. just saying. the bread itself however is fantastic. we ate it up in a jiffy.


stone barn pizza farm

This is how we wrapped up summer:  A long afternoon's drive to Nelson, Wisconsin. (A place I passed through 1,000 on my way to and from college but never imagined the magical, al fresco dining experience tucked away on a nearby country road.) Hungry bellies followed signs to the Stone Barn Pizza Farm. As the sunlight shrank across endless fields of green grass, we sauntered into the open-air remains of a barn that now held the most heartwarming gathering space.  Gazing at my husband, I sipped a glass of one of my favorite wines, awaiting a giant wood-fired pizza while a little boy bulldozed the gravel beneath our table. I adored that we were out of the city, breathing country breeze, running free.  We chased a little boy around the property, pet friendly horses, hunted for treasures in a cottage filled with antiques, and saved ample room for a delicious ice cream dessert.  This mini getaway was so good for my heart. Exactly the sort of rejuvenation I needed last weekend.  This place has won my heart and we will most definitely be back. Annually.