Monday, August 24, 2015

5 Tips for Working from Home More Efficiently


Hi, friends -  hope you had a fantastic weekend and that your work week is off to a great start!  Over the past few months, I have transitioned from cubicle life to working remotely 100% of the time - Yay for no more Atlanta commutes!  While working remotely has been quite the adjustment, I've figured out a few things over the last few months and wanted to share my top 5 tips for maximizing productivity when working from home.
  1. Develop a morning routine - While working from home provides the perfect opportunity to roll out of bed 5 minutes before your day begins, having a set morning routine will help prepare you for a day of success.  I recently learned about the Miracle Morning, a book (and lifestyle) outlining steps to take every morning in order improve your mindset and productivity.   I absolutely love starting my day with meditation, exercise and chatting with my husband over coffee while discussing our goals.  Waking up before you have to wake up is key and helps set the tone for your day. 
  2. Get ready - no slippers! Since you aren't going into an office, it may sound nice to rock PJs and slippers all day long.  Trust me, trying to work in last night's pajamas can tank your productivity.  Putting on real clothes (and shoes!) helps you look and feel more put together - which is reflected in your work.
  3. Have a designated workspace – Although opening your laptop from bed or on the couch may sound like a great idea, having a designated work space is essential for working from home.  Physically being in a room or space that you can designate for work helps separate your personal life from your work life.  Having this separation can help keep you sane! 
  4. Organize your day and cut down on distractions – Working from home provides a much more autonomous environment, but can also provide a ton of distractions. While having the option to throw some laundry in the washer mid-day is great,  I’ve found it’s important to lay out personal and professional to-dos at the beginning of each day.  This certainly helps with staying on task and maximizing your productivity.  With no one monitoring your Pinterest and Instagram activity, it's important to actively keep yourself on task.  You don't have to stay away from your favorite social media sites all day, but I do recommend scheduling social media breaks.  Treat your social media check-ins as a reward and schedule time for them after a few hours of solid work.
  5. Organize and decorate your work space - A cluttered space can lead to a cluttered mind, so it's important to keep your designated workspace neat.  Thankfully cute office supplies are pretty easy to find nowadays - check out these options from Target.  Why not make your office space organized and inspiring?! I love decorating our office with motivational quotes, like the one pictured below.  Check out this recent post for some serious home office inspiration!

Do you have any tips for staying productive at home?  It's been an adjustment, but spending zero time in traffic is definitely a game changer.

Have a great week!

Love,
Aly

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mini S'more Pies



Hi friends! Hope your week is off to a fantastic start.  I kicked off my week by celebrating National S'mores Day on Monday and definitely don't regret it.  You can't really go wrong with graham crackers, chocolate and toasted marshmallows.  While this dessert is the epitome of the American summer, I decided to put my own little twist on the classic campfire favorite.  These mini s'more pies are delicious and adorable too!  Definitely the perfect treat to whip up for an end of summer get-together or backyard barbecue.  The recipe is super simple and they keep in the fridge quite well!


Mini S'more Pies:
  • 1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • Your favorite chocolate, melted
  • Mini marshmallows
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and thoroughly mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a small bowl.  Once the ingredients are well incorporated, firmly press mixture into lightly greased (and unlined) muffin tins.  This recipe yields about 6 mini pies, although I did make my crust rather thick.  Pop in the oven for 6 - 7 minutes, checking to make sure your crusts don't burn.  Once crust is barely turning brown, remove muffin tin from oven and let cool on a rack.  Don't be alarmed if the crust looks rather soft - it will firm up while the pan is cooling!



Turn oven down to 350 degrees, and once crusts have hardened and cooled a bit, remove them from the muffin tin and place on a baking sheet.  I found the crust came out rather easily after running a knife around the perimeter of each crust.  In a small bowl, melt your chocolate of choice in the microwave for about 1 min.  I opted for dark chocolate with sea salt - my favorite thing! Spoon melted chocolate into mini pie crusts and top with mini marshmallows.  Pop baking sheet in the oven for about 2 minutes - checking to ensure your marshmallows don't get charred or overflow!  If you want some extra toasty deliciousness, and aren't afraid of fire, you can bust out a small torch and have a little fun... I let Taylor handle this aspect :)


These mini s'more pies are delicious and I will absolutely be making them again.  Please let me know if you give them a try!  What's your favorite way to put a twist on the classic s'more recipe?  

Love,
Aly


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Interior Inspiration: Home Office



Chic farmhouse office - Love Grows Wild

Hi, friends!  Long time no talk - life has been crazy lately and I've totally been slacking over here in my little corner of the internet.  One of the things that has kept me rather busy is transitioning to working from my home full-time, rather than commuting to an office everyday.  For nearly three years I have worked in advertising, and in just 2 short weeks (eek!) I will begin freelancing from my own home office.  I'm very excited for this transition - Atlanta traffic is seriously no joke.

Since I will be spending more time in our home office, I'm looking forward to transforming the space into an organized, creative and inspiring area.  I've been pulling dreamy images from around the internet and wanted to share a few of my favorite home office designs.


Chic farmhouse office - Love Grows Wild

I absolutely love this farmhouse style office by Love Grows Wild - it's perfect in my opinion!  While I love interesting rustic touches, I tend to gravitate towards simple home office designs.  This space strikes the perfect balance for me.


Simple modern office - Style Me Pretty

White office furniture can really lighten up a space and make a small room feel much larger.  We currently have a black desk and bookcase in our home office, which really weigh down such a small area.  I'm certainly looking forward to applying a fresh coat of white paint to our current pieces.



Inspiration wall - Chic Sprinkles

I'm a very visual person and love surrounding a work space with inspiration images - whether that be quotes or pictures that just make you smile. 


Simple, yet inspiring space - Style Me Pretty

What are your must-haves for an inspiring work space?  I'm very excited to make over our home office and would love to hear any tips to help make working from home a more productive process.  It is quite the transition, but I think it will be great :).

Thanks for stopping by!

Love,
Aly

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Simple Red, White and Blue Ice Cream Sandwiches



Happy Thursday, friends!  I cannot believe it is already July!  That means we are half way done with 2015 and I am just a handful of days away from turning 26 - sometimes I still can't believe that I'm a full-blown married adult!  I still feel like a kid at heart, which is probably why I loved these easy ice cream sandwiches so much.  The recipe is simple as can be (literally cookie mix + ice cream!) and the red, white and blue sprinkles are perfect for 4th of July celebrations!  


This fun treat is so easy to whip up!  You'll just need your favorite cookie mix (I used white chocolate macadamia nut), your preferred ice cream and red, white and blue sprinkles.  Simply bake cookies according to package instructions and let cool completely.  I popped mine in the fridge for a bit to help keep the ice cream from melting too quickly.  Top cookies with your favorite ice cream and sprinkles for a festive touch!

This was my first time photographing ice cream and it was so fun (probably because I ate it afterwards!).  I started out trying to work as fast as I could to get my shots before the ice cream began to melt, but that's actually when the magic happened.  I love the way the melting ice cream makes the shots come to life - it looks sticky, cold and good enough to eat!


What are you looking forward to making this weekend?  Do you have any 4th of July food or drink traditions?  Last year, I opted for a healthier treat with fun star-shaped watermelon slices.  I'm ready to indulge a bit this year and hoping the rain holds off for my in-laws' annual pool party on Saturday!

Happy Fourth!

Love,
Aly






Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Simple Tomatillo Salsa


Hi, friends!  I hope you had a lovely weekend celebrating Father's Day and the first official day of summer! To kick of the new season,  I wanted to share an easy tomatillo salsa recipe that goes perfectly with cold margaritas or a Dos XX on the patio.  Taylor and I are both huge Chipotle fans, and have tried multiple recipes in an attempt to recreate their famous medium tomatillo salsa.  After some trial and error, we found a simple recipe that may not be an exact dupe, but it definitely hits the spot!  


Simple Tomatillo Salsa:
  • 8 tomatillos
  • 1/2 green tomato, quartered
  • 1/2 red tomato, quartered
  • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapeños
  • 1 1/2 tsp chipotle pepper sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
Instructions:
This recipe could not be easier - simply toss all ingredients in your food processor and pulse until your desired consistency is reached.  I live for spicy food, so if you want a little less heat, I recommend adding the jalapeños, red pepper flakes and chipotle pepper sauce in little by little until you get your desire level of fire.  Speaking of heat, stay tuned for a jalapeño margarita recipe - coming soon!

 

How are you kicking off the official start of summer?  Taylor and I don't have any big plans yet, but are dreaming of swimming with the pigs in the Bahamas!  If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out their official Instagram (@theswimmingpigs) - it will make your day!

Thanks for stopping by!

Love,
Aly

Friday, June 19, 2015

Exterior Inspiration: Outdoor Entertaining



A beautiful tablescape with cozy seating - Eye Swoon

Happy Friday, friends!  With the first day of summer just around the corner, I wanted to share a few of my favorite ways to make your backyard a more inviting space for this season's outdoor get-togethers.  Sadly, Taylor and I do not have much of a backyard right now - literally just a concrete slab with no privacy from the street - so, in the meantime, I will just have to live vicariously through these beautiful images.  I love how Athena from Eye Swoon created a romantic and cozy space for a dinner party in the above image.  It may sound silly, but throwing a beautiful outdoor party in my own backyard is definitely on my bucket list!


Romantic lights wrapped around trees - Ruffled Blog


A string of pretty lights woven into greenery - Sugar & Charm


A rug, pillows and a blanket helps bring the feeling of home outdoors - Emily Henderson


A bar car with wheels is ideal when restocking drinks  - Glitter Guide

I cannot wait until we have a larger backyard, but am hoping to make our small space work until that day comes.  Taylor and I are looking to put up a small wall for a bit of privacy, but if you have any recommendations on how to decorate a tiny backyard - I'd love to hear them!

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Love, 
Aly

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Crumbled Strawberry Shortcake with Fresh Raspberry Whipped Cream



Happy Thursday, friends!  I hope y'all enjoyed time with loved ones over the long weekend.  Taylor and I spent the majority of our time doing some serious and oh-so-needed yard work.  We made a lot of progress, but still have our work cut out for us.  The house we are currently renting was unoccupied for three years before we moved in and the yard definitely shows it.  After all of our hard work in the hot Georgia sun, I figured we were about due for a treat and wanted to whip up one of Taylor's favorite desserts.  This crumbled strawberry shortcake is ideal for the warmer summer temperatures and the fresh raspberry whipped cream is the perfect finishing touch!


For this sweet treat, I opted for a box of store bought angel food cake mix...sometimes it is OK to take the easy route!  Especially when you're exhausted from weeding your mess of a yard :).  Plus, when paired with fresh raspberry whipped cream, no one would ever know the entire dessert isn't made from scratch!

Fresh raspberry whipped cream:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 5-7 crushed raspberries
Strawberry shortcake:
  • Angel food cake, boxed (if you have a favorite angel food cake recipe, I'd love to hear it!)
  • Sliced strawberries
Instructions:
Prepare angel food cake according to instructions and set aside to cool.  Set medium-sized bowl and handheld whisk attachments in refrigerator for 10 - 15 minutes to chill.  Once chilled, whip powdered sugar and heavy whipping cream on medium speed until soft peaks form.  Add in crushed raspberries and continue whipping for a few more seconds (just until berries are incorporated).  To assemble, crumble cooled angel food cake and place in bottom of bowl.  Layer on sliced strawberries and top with fresh raspberry whipped cream.


I love how light, yet satisfying this treat is on a hot summer day.  What's your must-have dessert for summertime?  And seriously, if you have an easy, fast angel food cake recipe, send it my way!

Love,
Aly


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Refreshing Mint Lemonade



Happy Thursday, friends!  It seems like just yesterday I was bundled up and dreadfully awaiting a second snowpocalypse in Atlanta (I totally got stuck in the one made fun of on SNL - thank goodness for nice strangers!), but now it is mid-May!  Although the summer has not officially begun, it is already in the high 80s here.  When temperatures rise, I always look forward to spending time outdoors with loved ones, and this recipe for a refreshing mint lemonade is perfect for the upcoming hot summer days.


Mint Lemonade:
  • 1 1/2 cups lemon juice
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup chopped mint leaves
Instructions:
Begin by making a mint simple syrup - mix sugar and 1 cup water in a small pot and bring to a boil, stirring regularly.  Once at boil (and sugar is dissolved), remove from heat.  Place chopped mint leaves in a separate heat resistant bowl.  Pour water and sugar mixture over mint leaves and cover.  Let steep until syrup is room temperature and then refrigerate to chill.
I opted for fresh squeezed lemon juice, removing the seeds but leaving the pulp.  If you don't have the time (or patience) for squeezing 8 lemons to death, I think using 1 cup of store bought lemon juice and 1/2 cup fresh squeezed would still make a delicious lemonade!   
To finish, simply mix lemon juice, mint simple syrup and remaining 7 cups of water in a larger pitcher.  Stir and garnish with a lemon slice and mint leaf!  This recipe yields 60 ounces of refreshing lemonade. 


Thanks for stopping by!  What's your favorite way to put a twist on a summertime classic?

Love, 
Aly

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Quinoa Banana Breakfast Bowl




Happy Thursday, friends!  Today, I am sharing a recipe for a yummy quinoa breakfast bowl, topped with banana, honey and cinnamon.  I used to think quinoa could only be eaten for lunch or dinner, but when Taylor and I were in Highlands last month, I tried a quinoa breakfast bowl at a local cafe and loved it!  If you're a quinoa fan and haven't tried it sweetened - I highly recommend it!



Quinoa Banana Breakfast Bowl:
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups sweetened almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions:
Rinse quinoa under water, using a fine strainer to drain.  In a medium pot, heat almond milk over medium heat until warm.  Add quinoa, cover pot and simmer over low-medium heat until the majority (but, not all!) of the almond milk has been absorbed (25 - 30 min).  After most almond milk has been absorbed, remove from heat and stir in honey, cinnamon and about half of your banana slices.  Gently mix together and you're good to go!  I topped my bowl with a few extra banana slices, more cinnamon and a drizzle of honey. 


This recipe yields 4 small servings, so I am definitely looking forward to making it ahead of time for an easy breakfast option during the week.  


Thanks for stopping by!  What are your favorite ways to have quinoa for breakfast?

Love,
Aly 


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Interior Inspiration: Rustic Touches


Reclaimed counter top on island - HGTV Fixer Upper

Although we've been married for over two years now, Taylor and I are still in the process of figuring out our home decor style and buying all the necessary pieces to make our house a home.  I mean, we are still using the couch Taylor had when he was 18 years old - definitely time to upgrade!  Thankfully, we have pretty similar tastes when it comes to interior design and home decor... which is a love for basically anything Joanna Gaines touches.  Fixer Upper is seriously our favorite show!  I love Joanna's farmhouse style and today, I am sharing a few ways to bring an unexpected rustic touch indoors with some lovely inspiration from around the internet. 


Rustic wood ceiling and farm table -  Inspired by This



Exposed wood beams and shelves - Liz Marie Blog


Elegant wooden chandelier - HGTV Fixer Upper


Open-shelving in the kitchen - Style Me Pretty


Joanna Gaines' kitchen with open shelving and exposed beams - Magnolia Homes

I'm in love with the Gaines family kitchen - subway tile, open shelving and shiplap definitely speak to my heart!  Taylor and I actually recently made our own version of the Super Market sign to hang near our kitchen - I will have to share some pictures of it soon :)

What are your favorite ways to incorporate rustic touches into your home? Thanks for stopping by!

Love,
Aly

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Modern Mint Julep with Strawberry Sugared Rim


With the Kentucky Derby just around the corner, I thought I'd try my hand at a simple mint julep recipe in preparation for this weekend.  My sweet grandmother throws a Kentucky Derby party each year, and while I can't be there in Dallas to celebrate with her this time, I'll be watching along all the way from Georgia and sipping on this yummy cocktail.  To add a Southern touch, I picked up a few vintage floral handkerchiefs to use as cocktail napkins and a beautiful silver pitcher to hold a vibrant bouquet of pink carnations.  I omitted the traditional shaved ice for this recipe and also added a strawberry sugared rim, making this modern mint julep the perfect drink for a feminine Kentucky Derby viewing party. 






Modern Mint Julep with Strawberry Sugared Rim (makes 4 small servings):
  • 2 ounces mint simple syrup, chilled (see below)
  • 4 ounces bourbon, chilled
  • mint sprigs for garnish
  • 5 strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • granulated sugar for rim

Instructions:
Combine chilled mint simple syrup and bourbon together in a small pitcher - stir well until mixed.  For the strawberry sugared rim, I pureed 5 strawberries with about a teaspoon of agave nectar for added sweetness.  Prior to filling the glasses, dip the rims in strawberry puree and then into a shallow bowl of granulated sugar.  Pour your modern mint julep and garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.

Mint simple syrup:
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup chopped mint leaves

Instructions:
Mix water and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil, stirring regularly.  Once at boil (and sugar is dissolved), remove from heat.  Place chopped mint leaves in a separate heat resistant bowl.  Pour water and sugar mixture over mint leaves and cover.  Let steep until syrup is room temperature and then refrigerate to chill.


Hope you enjoy! What are your must-haves for Kentucky Derby weekend?

Love,
Aly

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Travel Diary: North Carolina



Hi, friends!  Over the recent Easter weekend, my husband and I took a spontaneous trip to North Carolina to celebrate our second wedding anniversary.  We knew we wanted to get away, but didn't decide on our final destination until the night before!  Thankfully, we live less than three hours away from the idyllic town of Highlands, NC.  It was so beautiful there and we had such a wonderful time - I wanted to share a few of my favorite things from our trip!


Where to Stay: Taylor and I stayed at The Park on Main in Highlands, NC and I cannot say enough good things about this place.  It's an adorable pet-friendly boutique hotel and we absolutely loved it! The decor was so fun - even the hand soap was shaped like a Scottish Terrier.


The lobby featured a beautiful chandelier and many doggy portraits to highlight the hotel's love for four-legged friends.  The whole town of Highlands was very pet friendly - there were dogs everywhere we went!


A look at our cozy bedroom - featuring Mr. Pickles, the hotel's mascot, on a throw pillow. We stayed in a Queen Suite - the perfect accommodations for a weekend getaway for two.



What to Do: The views in North Carolina are incredible - this photo was taken driving up the mountain on our way to Highlands.  The sky is beautiful at night too, as Highlands does not emit much light pollution, which makes it an ideal place to gaze up at stars.


In addition to its gorgeous views, Highlands is home to some stunning waterfalls.  On our last day in town, Taylor and I hiked down to Glen Falls - it was well worth it!


On Saturday, we made the hour and a half drive to Asheville, NC.  Since moving to Georgia two years ago, I have heard much about the Biltmore estate and could not wait to see it!  I mean, a gorgeous mansion built in 1895 with 65 fireplaces and gorgeous gardens?  What woman wouldn't want to visit?


A beautiful portion of the gardens at Biltmore.  I think I could live there.


Many of the flowers were not yet in bloom, but the tulips were gorgeous. 


I loved walking through the gardens with my favorite boy.  Although the house itself was quite busy, the garden was rather empty and peaceful.


We really enjoyed our time in North Carolina and would love to go back since it's not too far from home.  I'd love to hear if you have any recommendations for favorite restaurants or activities!

Where to Stay: 
The Park on Main - Highlands, NC.
Where to Eat: 
The Ugly Dog Pub - Highlands, NC.  The fried mac & cheese balls were delicious! So bad, but so so good.
Mountain Fresh Grocery - Highlands, NC.  We stopped in for breakfast here and loved it.
Buck's Coffee Cafe - Highlands, NC.  A great spot for coffee and breakfast sandwiches. 
Wicked Weed - Asheville, NC.  Before heading to Biltmore, we popped in for some appetizers and beer.  Wicked Weed is a restaurant and brewery - the Shoeless Joe Porter was amazing!
What to Do:
Glen Falls - Highlands, NC.
Biltmore - Asheville, NC.

Thanks for stopping by!

Love,
Aly