Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Use What You Have: Crafting a Simple Centerpiece

I love having people over for dinner, lunch, holidays, movies - I like being in a group with people I love.  I think my favorite part is eating and laughing with my friends.  It is also fun to plan the menu and set a table that is interesting or pretty.  Creating a centerpiece for different occasions without breaking the bank can be a challenge.  I am fortunate to live in an area that is plentiful with sticks, foliage, and woodsy elements.  Running outside and trimming a tree here and there and gathering a few pine cones saves time and money.  For my wedding, I incorporated the outdoors into our rustic elegance theme and it worked beautifully and the cost savings was HUGE.  Using what I had available was the best way to go.

Simple Centerpiece
The effect I wanted was a theme of rustic elegance with elements from the outdoors incorporated with many, many candles.  I started by cutting branches and twigs from trees in the yard.  The wedding was in April so I was fortunate that the leaves had not yet begun to grow on the trees where I live.  I cut them a few weeks ahead of time so they would dry out and not be as heavy.  If you use a solid vase, the weight shouldn't be a big issue.  The vases came from IKEA, they are 27 inches or so tall.  I loved the effect and the arrangements allowed everyone to speak across the table with ease.

I also collected pine cones from outside to fill the vase and cover the cut edges of the cut twigs.  The florist came along and added gorgeous greenery and ivory flowers to the top of the vase.  Janna is amazing, her talents is utterly stunning.  Thanks Callista Designs!  Purchasing the vase and adding the (free) woodsy elements saved so much money and made the centerpieces extremely affordable - especially for being almost five feet tall!  Whether or not you add flowers or greenery is up to you.  

Rustic & Elegant
My table top obsession is candlelight.  I love candles and wanted many candles in different shapes and sizes.  I found an online wholesaler that charged pennies for tea light candles and the pillar candles were more than reasonably priced.  

The candlelight was elegant and gave the room a warm glow.  We didn't use light other than the candles.  I think candlelight gives everyone a warmth to their skin and makes us all look beautiful.

Warm Glow
By using what I had available for no cost, the look I wanted was achieved at a discounted price.  The centerpieces were sublime and added the perfect touch to the table settings - and they were easy!  Creating something gorgeous and elegant does not have to cost a fortune or take hours of your time.  

The dining room before the reception

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Easy as Pie Thanksgiving Pumpkins

It's Thanksgiving Y'all!  Thanksgiving the best day of the year to be thankful while eating yourself silly.  While you're waiting on the turkey to bake, the kids can get antsy.  Give them a project that is fun and useful - homemade pumpkins!  Pumpkins are great for many reasons both culinary and decorative.  These pumpkins make beautiful Thanksgiving decorations for the table and are a way to involve the entire family in Thanksgiving preparations.  Recently, in an upscale boutique, I admired beautiful rustic pumpkins but the price tag was far more than I was willing to spend.  So I decided to make my own similar version of those classy pumpkins.  My "pumpkins" cost about $1.50 and take 20 minutes or so and are pretty spectacular.  It really is easy!      

Happy Fall!
You will need one roll of toilet tissue and one roll of jute twine.  I bought two because I am making several pumpkins.  The rolls of twine that I purchased make roughly two pumpkins per roll.  The rolls of twine are just under $2 and the tissue paper is 50 cents per roll. So the cost is about $1.50 per pumpkin.  Colored yard is also a nice touch.  It allows for custom colors like orange, brown, rust, or yellows that blend with fall decorations (or whatever color scheme is on your Thanksgiving table).  You will also need a small dab of Elmer's or other craft glue at the end.

Begin by threading the end of the twine through the roll and tying a tight knot.   After you tie the knot, shimmy the knot into the middle of the roll so it is hidden.

Tie the twine into a knot
Pull plenty of twine from the roll.  Make a mental note to pull only the amount that you can force through the center of the paper roll.  You should pull only half of what you need at first.  It is easy to tie another knot as you go along for more twine.  Cut the end of the pulled twine from the roll.

Pull twine from roll
Begin by wrapping the twine four or five times around one section of the roll.  Then turn the roll 1/4 around and repeat.  This process will repeat until the entire roll is covered in twine.  By doing it in quarter turns, the twine inside the roll stays firmly against the side so as you push and pull the excess in and out of the roll it doesn't tangle the extra twine.  It also keeps the paper evenly mashed down so that one side doesn't bulge to the point you can't evenly cover it.  No misshapen pumpkins here!

Wrap the twine around the roll
You may run out of twine from the wrapping process.  Don't worry.  Repeat the first step.  Tie the end of the old twine to the new and conceal the knot inside the roll.  Pull extra twine from the roll at this point and clip the end from the roll when you have plenty.  Continue wrapping the roll in twine in quarter turns until it is fully covered.

Tie a new knot if you run out of twine
Once the roll is completely covered, take the end of the twine and tuck it under a strand that is already on the roll.  Dab a bit of glue over the entire edge of the twine and allow to dry.  This will seal the end to keep the twine from unraveling.

Seal the end with glue
Go outside and look for a small stick that is roughly the width of the hole in the top of the roll.  You are making the pumpkin "stem".

Find a stick to use
 Gently push the stick into the hole on the top of the "pumpkin" to finish the project.

And the pumpkin is complete!

The entire project takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.  I let my glue dry overnight before I place the stick in the top.  It is great to use different rolls of toilet tissue also because the thicknesses vary and the "pumpkins" will be varied in shapes.  For taller "pumpkins" use a cut paper towel roll.  You can cut the roll in half or 3/4 of the way up the roll for giant "pumpkins."  

The finished product
Have fun and Happy Thanksgiving!

Decorative Pumpkins for Less!

#happyfall #fallyall #diy #crafts #pumpkins #fall #autumn #Thanksgiving

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fun and Effortless Thanksgiving Treats

With Thanksgiving JUST around the corner, tummies around America are preparing to gorge themselves as on no other day of the year. Here are some fun and easy Thanksgiving themed snacks to put your crew in a festive mood!

Turkey Cheese Ball

Turkey Cheese Ball

What you'll need: Cheese ball, pretzel sticks, candy corn, red fruit roll-up (or icing), beef jerky stick, candy eyes or black and white icing, crackers.
After making (or purchasing) your favorite cheese ball recipe, insert several rows of pretzel sticks on one side in a fan pattern to create the turkey's feathers. On the opposite side, insert beef jerky stick to create the turkey's neck. Use a dab of icing on a piece of candy corn to make it stick to the jerky for the beak. Do the same with candy eyes or create your own with icing. Lastly, tear a thin, pointed strip of fruit roll-up and drape it over the candy corn for the turkey's waddle. Serve on a plate or platter with crackers.

Pilgrim Hat Cookies

Pilgrim Hat Cookies

What you'll need: Fudge stripe coookies, mini-Reese's cups, and yellow icing.
Use icing to attach the Reese's cups (upside down) to the (solid) bottom of cookie. Use icing to create hat band and buckle. How easy is that?!?!

Chocolate Pretzel Turkeys

Chocolate Pretzel Turkeys

What you'll need: Chocolate covered mini-pretzels, Chocolate-Covered Oreos, candy corn, icing, and candy eyes (or white and black icing).
Use icing to attach three chocolate covered mini-pretzels to the bottom of a Chocolate-Covered Oreo. Do the same to attach the candy corn nose and candy eyes, or create eyes using white and black icing. Ta-da!! Turkeys!

Fruit Cornucopias

Fruit Cornucopias

What you'll need: Fresh fruit (and cheese cubes if you wish), waffle ice-cream cones, and napkins.
Line the inside of each waffle cone with a napkin to absorb fruit juices and prevent cones from becoming soggy. Fill with fresh fruit (or candy, cheese, Chex Mix, chopped veggies, whatever you want!) and voila!

Chocolate Acorns

Chocolate Acorns

What you'll need: Hershey's Kisses, peanut butter, toothpick, and bite-sized Nilla Wafers (or Nutter Butter Bites).
Using peanut butter, attach a wafer to the bottom of a Hershey's Kiss. Using a toothpick, create a "stem" on top of the wafer. Done!

Pumpkin Eggs

Pumpkin Eggs

What you'll need: Deviled eggs, paprika, fresh chives, toothpick or fork prong, and melon baller.
After making deviled eggs, use melon baller to shape mixture into a ball. Place ball on egg half and use a toothpick or fork prong to create pumpkin grooves. Sprinkle with paprika, being sure to keep spice off of egg white (wipe off with finger if necessary). Cut chives into 1/4" pieces and insert into top of egg mixture to create the stem. Dunzo!

Caramel Apple Slices
Caramel Apple Slices

What you'll need: Whole apples, caramel, melon baller, and muffin tins (optional, but makes it MUCH easier).
Cut apples in half. Using melon baller, scoop out the middle of each apple half. Place apple halves skin-down in muffin tins. Fill with caramel and refrigerate for at least one hour. Slice and serve!

You Want One Of These Right Now, Don't You?

For an added twist, drizzle chocolate (and chopped nuts?!?) and refrigerate again until solid. YUMMM.

Sweet Roll Turkeys

For breakfast, feed your crowd these fun, delicious sweet roll turkeys!

What you'll need: Refrigerated sweet rolls, bacon, pretzels, candy corn, and candy eyes (or white and black icing).

After baking sweet rolls and making bacon, cut bacon strips in half and insert into back of sweet roll to create turkey feathers. Stick pretzel sticks into bottom of sweet roll to create turkey legs, and add candy corn nose and candy eyes (or make with white and black icing) and you have the sweetest turkey you've ever tasted!
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Effortless Hosting: How to Deal with The Messy Holiday Guest

Tis the season for house guests.  Many of us will have a house full of friends and relatives for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any of the days in between.  The minute I realize guests are on the way, my stomach does a little churn.  I get a sense of slight panic as my eyes dart around the house looking for dusty spots and blankets that need folding.  Where to start for quick preparation for your company?  Don't panic, just concentrate... Start a few days before on your preparation and the visit will be golden.   I love having guests over, but some guests are easier to host than others.  I decided to compile a list of effortless tips to help with the mishaps that can be inevitable when company comes calling.

Hosting How-Tos
For Melted Candle Wax on Tablecloths or Surfaces: For a tablecloth, place on ironing board with a paper towel over the wax stain.  Rub the iron a few times over the stain to melt the wax.  The paper towel should absorb the melted wax.  Change the paper towels as necessary until the wax is fully absorbed. 

For Red Juice or Wine Spilled on Carpet: Blot the stain.  Do not rub.  Dab a bit of club soda on the stain until it fades.  If the stain continues, put baking soda on it and allow to sit and then re-dab with club soda.  If the fabric is safe for hot water, run the water through the stain until it comes out.  If you are using hot water, you may also use a dab of gentle soap to speed the process.

For Lipstick on Cloth Napkins:  There are several ways to remove lipstick.  First try dabbing (not rubbing) OTC rubbing alcohol on the stain until it comes off.  Second, spray hairspray on the stain.  Allow it to dry and sit for about 10 minutes.  Clean with a hot, wet cloth until the stain comes out.  Last, a dish detergent such as Dawn is good to use.  Dish detergents contain degreasers and lipstick is often made of oils.  Dab a moist cloth with a bit of detergent on the stain for easy removal.  

Wood Rings on Furniture:  There are several ways to "get rid" of the rings.  Depending on your type of furniture, it may work and it may make the furniture much worse.  You sometimes never know.  Sorry.  Place coasters everywhere and hope for the best.  Googling your specific wood and stain type is the best way to go to try and fix the stain.  This has gone both ways for me so my best suggestion is using the coasters.  

The best tip for hosting house guests is to relax, let the mishaps roll off your back, and enjoy your time with relatives.  The holidays pass quickly and the last thing you want to do is spend your time stressing out over stains or messes!

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Friday, November 21, 2014

@Effortlessgirl - Do You Follow Effortless Girl on Twitter?

Happy Friday Effortless Girl Tweeps!  Do you follow @effortlessgirl on Twitter?  If not you're gonna miss out...During the month of December we will be announcing flash giveaways and discount codes via Twitter first!  If you aren't a Twitter follower you may miss out or get left waayyy behind!  So click the Twitter icon on the upper right side of the blog under "Follow Me" and follow @effortlessgirl.  Have an fabulous weekend and get ready.....exciting contest news is just around the corner!


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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Spend Thanksgiving Morning With Effortless Girl on Charlotte's News Rising!

We have exciting news Effortless Girl readers!  Effortless Girl's Julie was invited to appear on the Thanksgiving Day Morning Show on Charlotte's WCCB News Rising!  Julie will bring effortless tips for your Thanksgiving Day table decorations that are simple and fun for the whole family!  WCCB airs on Channel 18 on Direct TV or Channel 7 on Charter Communications in the North Carolina area; otherwise check your local listings for WCCB.   WCCB News Rising also streams live on the web - Click HERE to watch the streaming broadcast.  The Effortless Girl segment will be in the 8:00 am hour around 8:30 so check it out as you put the turkey in the oven! 
WCCB News Rising

Make this Thanksgiving Day extra Effortless and check out Effortless Girl on WCCB!  Have a Gobble, Gobble, Great Thanksgiving!  Don't forget to watch or set the DVR!

You may find WCCB News Rising on Twitter and on Facebook!

@WCCBCharlotte @WCCBNewsRising @effortlessgirl #thanksgiving #turkey #crafts #kids
 #diy  #homemade

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How, What, Wine?

Now that the holiday season is upon us, there will be numerous occasions for which you will need to bring a gift.  For dinner parties and the proverbial foodies in our lives, the gift of a bottle of wine is the most obvious choice.  My problem is that I don't drink.  I know nothing about wine.  I stand confused and intimidated in front of the bottles in the supermarket or the fromagerie scratching my head at what to choose.  Pinot, Cabernet, Riesling, Merlot - what do those words on the bottle mean?  What is the difference between the many black bottles?  For the answers, I sought out my friend Linda Wiseman.  Her family owns the award winning Linville Falls Winery and she is the go-to girl for all things wine.

The Linville Falls Winery is a family owned 40 acre farm.  They grow several different varieties of grapes as well as blueberries, raspberries, and apples that can be found in their wines and ciders.  It is the perfect destination for a rustic mountain wedding and a great place to relax and enjoy a great bottle of wine.

Linda Wiseman

I had so many questions that I wasn't sure where to start.  First I asked about the difference in the names of the wine - what is in the name?  Linda explained that the different names of the bottles come from the different varieties (or species for those of us less wine savvy) of grapes that the wine is made from.  Ah, I thought, now that makes more sense.  So, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, etc. are different varieties of grapes.  Each variety has a distinctive taste and certain varieties grow better in particular climates or regions.  Soils can make a difference but the Terra is important.   There are thousands of grape varieties; too many to cover in this article.  So I narrowed down my questions.   I asked about the taste differences in three commonly recognized white grapes and three red grapes that most people will find somewhat familiar. 

Linda explained first about white grapes.  Chardonnay is probably the most recognized white wine.  It often has a dry oak flavor because of the way it is aged.  Chardonnay is often used in Champagne as a sparkling wine.  Sauvignon Blanc is citrusy, fruity light body wine.  Riesling grapes are aromatic and fruity in taste.  Typically a bottle of Riesling is sweeter than other white varieties.  White wines pair well with light dishes like seafood, pasta, and salads.  

Moving on to the red varieties...Merlot is a popular, light to medium body wine that can be sweet or acidic depending on its blend.  Cabernet Sauvignon is a thicker skinned grape with a bold flavor that can be medium to heavy.  Syrah is a dark skinned grape with a medium to full body flavor with a heavy fruit influence.  Red Wines pair well with heavier dishes like red meats, spicy foods, and earthy flavored cheese dishes.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Adding one more wine that is a popular combination of both white and red grapes is the Rose'.  Roseis a white wine that uses some of the color from the red skins to form a light red wine.  It is a fruity and light wine.  Also, some of the names on the bottles at Linville Falls Winery are fun names created for the "blend" of the varieties. For example, a blend of three varieties at Linville Falls is labeled Trillium. 

Award Winning Rose
Next I asked about taste and taste preferences.  Linda told me taste is entirely subjective.  Just because a bottle of wine is expensive, doesn't mean it will appeal to the consumer.   It's all in the palate.  And an experienced palate, unlike mine, knows a good wine when he or she brings it to their nose. The "nose" on a wine gives you the best insight to how it will taste.  Wine is can be more expensive if the crop of grapes in that particular vintage (year) is smaller than in another year.  Remember there are good wines in all different price points - don't think splashing out extra cash on a bottle of wine necessarily means you will purchase the best - the taste is entire subjective to the connoisseur.  

Award Winning Wines

So this brings me back to my original quandary - which bottle should I select at the market?  It depends on the guest list at your event.  Novice wine drinkers often should start with a sweet, fruity bottle to acclimate their palate to wine.  Rose, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or Riesling are light fruity choices that most new wine drinkers enjoy.  Stereotypically women like lighter more fruity wines and men like darker, fuller bodied wines.  This is only a generalization that may or may not apply to you.  Don't hesitate to ask a sommelier or a wine professional in your local shop about which bottle may best suit you.  There is so much to learn to really grasp a working knowledge of wine and I barely scratched the surface.  I hope I did provide a basic lesson in wine for those of you, like me, that are wine newbies.  

Linville Falls signature Blueberry Wine

For more information and a terrific place to spend the day, check out the Linville Falls Winery.  Say hi to Linda while you're there!


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