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Along Abbey Road | A Lifestyle And Family Blog : January 2016


A Little Home Refresh And $100 Kohl's Gift Card Giveaway

$100 Kohl's Gift Card Giveaway
Last week I shared tips for picking art and our new gallery wall as part of our little home refresh for the New Year, and this week I want to share a couple of new items we received, which make all the difference! (Especially as a renter with little control over home updates and changes.)

Drum roll, please...

New cookware and bedding! Yes, it's that simple, but it makes a world of difference in feeling more updated.

Let's start with the cookware. We used our non-stick Cuisinart cookware we received for a wedding gift up until the beginning of this month. In May we will be celebrating our 7th anniversary, if that puts it into perspective for you. The stuff was scratched, and peeling, and anytime I made a light colored sauce you could see black flakes in it. Yuck!

$100 Kohl's Gift Card Giveaway

Ever since starting my food blog and deciding it was time to start cooking like an adult, I wanted stainless steel cookware. I was stoked when I found this BergHOFF 10-piece copper clad set from Kohl's. The reviews were sparkling, and I got it on mega super sale! Think $169 mega super sale for something that is worth over $300. I've been using them for a month now, and they cook like a DREAM. Truly, a dream! Smooth, evenly distributed heat. If you are thinking about getting new cookware, just do it already. I have said to Matt, "Why didn't we get these sooner?!" over 10 times. Easily.

$100 Kohl's Gift Card Giveaway

Next up is bedding! The home blogs finally convinced me I need all white bedding. Mostly in the name of bleach, because we have two little boys and dirt smudges are inevitable. Guess what?! They are right! We bought this quilt set, these sheets, and this bed skirt (also on mega sale from Kohl's). I've already bleached those suckers—twice!—and they wash up nicely, still look brand new, and are extra soft. I also love how calm and clean they make our bedroom feel. We still don't have a lot of furniture in the space, so it helps it look more pulled together.

Now it's your turn to go shopping to do your own little home refresh! I am giving away $100 gift card from Kohl's. They are having a huge home sale right now, plus you can stack multiple coupons on top of the sale price! Use the promo code HOME10 for $10 off $50 home purchase on January 29-February 3, and 20% off using promo code FORYOU20 on January 29-30.

Enter the giveaway in the Rafflecopter widget below. I will select the winner on January 30, and email the gift card code that day so you can get the deals mentioned above. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post was sponsored by Kohl's. Thanks for reading!

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10 Valentine's Day Treats To Make With Your Kids

I'm 90% sure my favorite holiday after Christmas and Thanksgiving is Valentine's Day. And not for the commercial aspect where it is another lame excuse to spend money and buy cheesy gifts like those horribly awesome stuffed bears that sing Elvis Presley songs. And I definitely don't think we need a specific day to tell others we love them—we should do that every day!

BUT. I do love it for the colors, and fun activities for little kids. Pink and red is a color combination that makes me happy. And who doesn't like to splatter hearts on every surface? Okay, a lot of people, but this lady lives for it.

You know what else is awesome about Valentine's Day? The treats! Now, if you don't agree that it is the best holiday for baked goods, you are definitely off your rocker. Nothing is cuter than heart-shaped cookies. NOTHING.

Naturally, I wrote a blog post roundup of 10 Valentine's Day treats you can actually make with your kids. No overly complicated recipes and instructions in sight. And they are all guaranteed to be delicious. Check out the post here!

Also, add my food blog, The Butter Half, to your reading list for more Valentine's Day goodies ideas this month. I have a heart pie I am posting later today. It's adorable and I think you all should make one.

Bon appétit, mes amours!

Image from my Swig sugar cookie recipe on the Butter Half

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How To Pick Art And Tips For Creating A Gallery Wall

How To Pick Art And Tips For Creating A Gallery Wall

The new year urges me to refresh our home and only bring in items I really love. My top priority these last few months has been starting a legit art collection that is conscious and personal, along with giving our walls some color. We rent our house, so there is not much I can do in the way of making it feel like my style. Those orangey-beige walls are tricky to work against, but this gallery wall on our staircase turned out beautifully (and someday it will look even better against a bright white or drastic dark grey wall).

I received a few art prints from Minted, which connects independent artists from all over the world, to get my collection started and I am thrilled with how stunning and high quality they are. The large focal one is called Untitled 4 by Jaime Derringer. I choose this piece because I was drawn to her intense brushstrokes, which are inspired by Japanese art, and her choice of bold, yet calming color. Her approach to art is one I identify with as well. "Everything is unplanned and completely intuitive—each mark is a response to its predecessor. The repetition of shapes and lines is an exercise used to escape from everything else around me. I'm a believer in embracing happy accidents and approaching each piece as an experiment." Even her explanation of her method is artistic! I love it!

The dark framed piece is titled Point of View by Renee Stevens. The simplicity and contrast of black and white pulled me in, but the message behind the work was the sinker. "Inspired by the contrasting views of two different people. You can see one face at a time or the opposing faces looking away from one another, yet still together. Inspired by the metaphor of a relationship and how working together and offering separate view points make it all work." This description and art print held me in silent contemplation. I strongly believe in the importance of different view points and respecting and honoring them, even if I don't agree. That's what makes us human.

Now, after multiple holes in the wrong place and hours agonizing over frame placement, I give you my tips for creating a gallery wall!

1. Choose an odd number of frames and art pieces. In my case, I went with five. Initially I had seven, and it looked chaotic for the wall on our staircase. Sometimes less is more, and since I have two large focal pieces, it just made sense to go with fewer frames.

2. Color scheme is everything. This is the hardest part for me when buying art. I want it to hold meaning, but I also want to make sure the colors aren't overwhelming and can incorporate nicely with the other pieces. It's important to select three main colors, plus a shade. In this instance, it is blue, red, yellow and black. Typical. I can't get away from the primary colors! I also tried to give it some variety by pulling in a mint and pink color as well. They don't veer too far from the main reds and blues, and you can see them in Untitled 4 and my abstract canvas. The combination of the two brings it together along with black. Black is classic. Black is chic. When in doubt, go with black to make everything cohesive. Also, do not go with more than three colors for the frames. This also gives it a connected look.

3. Make it personal. Add in photographs of family. Create your own artwork. Put up posters of places you've traveled. Choose art that has a deeper meaning to you. This is what our wall is made of and I couldn't love it more if I tried. Luke and Wes are the heartbeat of our family, so it was essential to include them in the gallery. You can also make engineer print portraits for your wall, which are AMAZING. We have them on the opposing wall by the couch, and you can get my tutorial here. The poster is from our trip to Spain for our first anniversary. Matt lived there for two years serving a church mission, so it is a beloved place for him, and now me. The abstract art is catharsis on canvas, where I unleashed my feelings about life. It's like I took all of my feelings and transferred them to the canvas, freeing myself from their weight. Now I can look at them from a third-person perspective and receive closure. It reminds me of a quote I saw which says, "When it comes to art, it's important not to hide the madness." There you have it.

4. Use parchment paper to arrange and hang the frames. Before taking the old nail and hammer to your precious drywall, make the arrangement on the ground! I prefer to space mine no more than two inches apart, and like to stagger them. Tinker with it until you find the right arrangement and the colors flow nicely. Next, trace the size of your frames onto parchment paper and make a mark where the hanging hook sits. Tape the parchment paper onto the wall in the exact arrangement on the floor and adjust until everything is even and centered. Hammer in the nail on the marked spot on the parchment paper, then hang! It's like handy magic.

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What I'm Reading

What I'm Reading | January

The "notes" section in my iPhone holds an impossibly long list of book titles I want to read. Will I ever get around to ALL of them? Probably not. Unless my mom visits me on my 30th birthday and tells me the women in our family have the ability to time travel. In that case I could read every book in the world à la Bill Nighy—twice!

Since I don't have access to wormholes or a magical world at the back of an abandoned closet in an empty room in the attic, I suppose I will have to limit my book reading to five per month. (And even then I will be lucky if I complete two, because I am working on sleeping at least eight hours per night this year.)

So, here is my list for January!

(Also, I am going to start compiling monthly lists of what I'm reading, wearing, listening to—both podcasts and music—and what I am watching, which is already a regular installment because NETFLIX IS LIFE. I feel like I have interests scattered in too many open tabs in my brain, so perhaps compartmentalizing them in a public list will be helpful? I'm a big believer in compartmentalization. It is what gives me sanity. Somewhat.)


1. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I feel like a pretentious jerk coming in here and listing that one right off the bat. BUT! Here is my reasoning: we went to the play A Christmas Carol over the holiday break, and the small bio in the program about Charles Dickens sucked me in. (Forget "Who is John Galt?" Who is Charles Dickens?! Also, Ayn Rand to come in February. Maybe.) One week later I found myself deep in two biographies about him and a nonfiction book about life in Dickens' Victorian London. Whoa. Naturally, I had to read at least one of his books now that I know all of the intricate details of his life. And why not the one with autobiographical elements? Wish me luck. It's over 700 pages. This might be one I read simultaneously with the others... for the next six months. Ha! (Raise your hand if you read, like, three books at a time. I can't focus on just one. It's a weird habit I should probably break.)

2. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I must start this book immediately because I never say yes. I am the queen of N-O. It's a horrible truth to admit, but it's accurate. I am deeply afraid of large social functions, and a lot of things in general that would absolutely benefit my life. I have a feeling this is a real-life, doable version of Jim Carrey's Yes Man, so I am all about it. Plus, my word this year is self-love, and that includes believing in myself and not self-criticizing every move I make, which is where social anxiety stems from. YES, YES, YES!

3. First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson. This book researches and shares how our eating habits are learned and formed, which is impacted by many psychological and physiological factors: memory, family, culture, gender, hunger and love. I love this junk. This will no doubt take me less than 72 hours to read. And hopefully, it will help me gain awareness of how I eat and how to change my habits for the better.

4. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I added this novel to my list because of this review my friend Megan posted on her Instagram: "I laughed out loud, I cried, I laughed some more, then cried some more. Ove is my favorite person." AND she gave it a sparkling emoji five star rating. If that isn't the most convincing book review on this luscious green earth, I don't know what is.

5. The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson. Memoirs are like intellectual Girl Scout Thin Mints; I devour them in one sitting as soon I get my eager hands on them. Last year I read Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, Bossypants by Tina Fey, Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham (also known as the reading trifecta for basic bitches), and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Clearly, I prefer books heavy on the humor, so this one will be like a buffet of Tagalongs, Samoas, and Thin Mints.

Image credit: Kyle Glenn

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