poor, neglected blog

Dear Blog,

I am sorry for neglecting you… isn’t it ironic that sometimes we get too busy living life to write about it? Well… hopefully I’ll still have time to blog about all of the fun holiday projects I’ve been working on!

In the mean time… I made a turkey:

Doesn’t it look delish? Well… it wasn’t cooked inside. But that’s ok, because we had turkey for dessert. Our first Friendsgiving was still a success.

At least the table looked cute!


I also took some more engagement pictures of Nate and Erin! Here are a few of my faves…

Well that’s it for now… hope all is well!

the wizarding world of harry potter

Well, as promised, I am today sharing about my experience at Harry Potter land.

Since I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone somewhere in early middle school, I entered a world of magic, mystery, heartache and heroes. In Harry Potter, good triumphs evil, even when evil seems unstoppable. In Harry Potter, friendship and love trump everything else. People can do the impossible and there magic surrounds it all. Harry Potter’s world is a world in which a seemingly ordinary boy can be extraordinary. It is also I will always dream of living in. (And also there are owls everywhere… which is awesome!)

I finally had the opportunity to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. This is something I’ve dreamed of for some time. Every Harry Potter fan fanatic I know has had rave reviews. So, during our vacation to Sarasota, I knew that we had to make the trek over to Orland to see it.

It was worth it. It was so.worth.it. I felt like magic was happening right before my eyes. They really do an amazing job there of creating the experience.

So here are a few pictures we took along the way:

Hogsmeade village was really incredible. It was really more of a mix between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, with all of the shops. We decided to enter to long line for Ollivander’s wand shop, which was totally worth it! The presentation they do inside was very cool, but I was obviously very jealous of the kid who got to do it… Anyway, the amount of detail around the village was really incredible, including cool stuff like the screaming poster of Sirius Black and bludgers that tried to escape their chains in the quidditch supplies box.

This is my first butterbeer experience. It was delicious! Creamy, frothy and smooth. Kevin tried the Hogshead brew of real beer instead. Butterbeer tastes like ultra-rich cream soda with a hint of butterscotch. I wish there was a recipe somewhere…

The ride inside of Hogwarts castle was definitely the most amazing part of the experience. Through the use of a 4D that spins and turns, they created an atmosphere that I was truly lost in. With floating dementors and spitting spiders, we wove our way on broomstick behind Harry. We were nearly knocked off our “brooms” by the Whomping Willow! Through screens, hollograms and 3D props and characters, that ride was really very awesome. Even the walk to the ride was cool although we got bumped to the front of the line for some reason, so we didn’t really get to soak it all in.

Anyway, that was my experience at Harry Potter world. I highly recommend it for any other enthusiasts (read obsessed nerds) out there as it truly brings some of the magic to life.

e & n

Well after a long vacation to sunny FL in which I went to Harry Potter World for the first time  (more on that later) I am back in the saddle of life and blogging. I’ve been a bit absent lately, finding that it has been extra challenging to balance 3 jobs, my class and the rest of life at once, but a refreshing vacay was just what I needed.

When I arrived back, I was able to do a mini e-session with my friends Nate and Erin. First of all- daylight savings is the worst. Seriously- what is the point of this antiquated tradition except to mess everything up? Sure, it’s nice for the one night that you get an extra hour but after that, it just starts screwing with everything.

Long story short, I had hardly any soon when we started as I did not account for the time change. So this the first session, with a second to come on Saturday.

Here they are on their way to meet me. See how excited they are? Woo!

Nate and Erin are a great balance of obviously in love but not disgustingly so. They are funny and flirty and it makes for some great pictures. So without further ado…

So there you have it. In the photography world, I learned my lesson about daylight savings and the perfect sun hours. I was able to shoot a bit with my 50mm prime lens, which has been sadly underused due to my lack of confidence.

Some of the other poses were cute but the shadows were everywhere, so I’ll have to try them again with better light.

Anyway, I guess I should walk to the pool house and elect some leaders. Rock the vote?

rainy weeekend

Well this weekend was pretty soggy, but I think we still made the most of it. Friday, we celebrated a birthday with an old friend and caught up with a new one.

Saturday, I was supposed to take engagement pictures for friends Nate and Erin, but the weather had other plans. So instead, I purchased some new craft supplies, went to the puppy store to play with puppies (yes, I’m in love) and worked on a puzzle! I love puzzles. An embarassing amount.

On Sunday, we had our annual outing with Emily and Victor to Kuiper’s Family Farm although our departure was delayed a bit since the tornado sirens were going off. It ended up raining on and off quite a bit, so we spent most of our time perusing the huge barn store.  Then we went for our annual dinner at Acquaviva Winery.

All in all, despite the constant dripping to torrential downpour, we had a pretty good time! I love having Mondays off to recuperate from busy weekends…

a few snaps from the weekend

e & v

This past weekend was wedding of my sister-in-law Emily to Victor. It was beautiful, earthy and natural. As soon as the official pictures are finished with editing, I’ll be sure to post more. In the mean time, here is one by the photographers (and Kev and Emily’s cousin) Rebecca Ingland:

And here are a few more glimpses of some casual pics taken by me, Kev and the MOH Ashley:

ceremony backdrop

ferns, chalkboards and milk glass details!

Victor's homemade mustard favors

oh there's us

And one stormy tree from the long/rainy drive home:

Seriously can’t wait to share more from this wedding because it was so.freakin.awesome.

For real.


burlap table runner

I made a new table runner! I wanted a burlap table runner that I could dress up or down and use for holiday decorations. I especially like the way that burlap looks with fancy glass (especially mercury glass). So I wanted to make a table runner.

Enter the problem. If you’ve ever worked with burlap, you know that it shreds all over. Which means that it looks great for a one-time event (aka wedding, dinner party) but will not stay together long enough for any other use. I needed a way to hem it. Obviously, traditional hemming would be ok, but I wanted something a little dressier. But I get ahead of myself.

First- buy some burlap the length of your table plus 6-12in on either side to hang off the table. I went with about 6in but if you like a longer tablecloth, make it longer. Then decide what width you want. Mine is about 14inches wide. It’s really just a matter of taste.

Here is the trick with burlap… it can kind of get out of whack rather easily and if you just cut, your table runner will end up looking super uneven. So, starting at one short end, decide where you want to make the cut. Then, pull that single string that runs parallel with the runner. Make sense?

Find the string. Pull.

Keep pulling as it gets scrunched up until the entire thread is pulled out.

This creates a perfect guide. Just cut in the space and then you’ll have a totally straight cut.

Ok so, instead of hemming, I decided I wanted to use trim. I picked out double-fold seam binding in a matching color. If you wanted to, you could use a decorative ribbon or even a contrasting seam binding, but I wanted it to be used for anything.

I folded the seam binding over the edge of the runner and hot glued it securely. (That’s the no-sew bit… if you really wanted to, you could sew the seam binding on. It might be faster… but you’d have to get your machine out…)

So I found it easiest to just glue on the back side, stick the burlap down and then glue the other side down. It helped to keep the lines straight. The corners I folded like the ends of gift wrap so they weren’t too lumpy.

All in all, the project was really simple AND really cheap- (two of my favorite things!) I like how it turned out and I especially like it with my autumnal pumpkin display.

carp hunters… or why my brother is cooler than yours

Well… in this modern day and age… a lot of people find themselves in the spotlight for a brief moment: their 15 minutes of fame. Well my brother’s 15 minutes is probably way cooler than most others.

All of our lives, we have been water sports enthusiasts in my family. Tubing, kneeboarding, wakeboarding and water-skiing were popular Hoffman family pastimes. Carp hunting was created by my brother and his friend Nate, when the Asian Carp, which is an invasive species of fish, starting filling up the Illinois River. It wasn’t safe to do watersports anymore without getting nailed by these huge, ugly, jumping fish. So, they started wearing armor. Then using weapons. And the whole thing evolved into this madness.

Their youtube videos (which you can watch here and here) capapulted them into semi-fame in the cyber world, which led to phone calls and offers. Last night, it came to a culmination when they were featured on this show:

Zac has always been pretty extreme/crazy/ridiculous. And now he’s finally getting a small payoff for an extreme lack of fear.

Zac suiting up for battle

This was on my favorite scenes from the episode:

All in all, this has been a hilarious experience for my family. To us, this is just Zac being Zac. He’s always made up ridiculous games and lived a generally dangerous lifestyle. It’s fun to watch others get to see this crazy side and of course, it was fun to watch my dad hoot and holler so loudly that no one else could hear the tv.

I don’t know how long they keep the episodes up for, but as of now, you can watch the full episode here. (The part with the carp hunters doesn’t start until about 10 minutes in…)

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did…

faux finish

I have been meaning to share a cheap DIY makeover with all of you, but haven’t had the chance yet! Today is the day.

I needed a piece of furniture to go against the wall near the entry to the apartment. I wanted it to be unobtrusive, but large enough to store my china… sort of like a mini-buffet. But, I didn’t really want to spend money on it.

Which brings me to a surprise garage sale at which I stumbled upon this gem:

2-shelf interior

The handles were kind of a nasty greenish color that matched the inside. Gross. I bought these old-fashioned looking blue glass handles for the cabinet door and small drawer.

Initially, I wanted to refinish it. (Surprise, surprise.) But alas, it was made of cheap particle board with laminate finish. But for $10, how could I pass it up? I decided to figure out a different finish. I decided on crackle paint.

Crackle paint gives a distressed look to any finish. I prefer real wood that has become distressed, but we can’t just have everything made out of historic, repurposed barnwood. Sigh.

I like the look of contrasting crackle paint. So my first step was to pick a bottom color. I chose a very dark, chocolate brown.

I painted the entire piece brown (minus the butcher block top… why would you mess with butcher block?) You have to let bottom coats dry for quite some time if you want to use crackle. This is the crackle medium I chose, by Folk Art:

Crackle medium is sort of a learn-as-you-go type of product. However, I can offer a few useful tips from my trial and error (mostly error).

Crackle tips:
* If you wait too long to paint the top coat, the crackle will just dry and offer hairline fractures only
*If you paint top coat too soon, the whole crackle/top layer will sort of melt downwards
*If you paint a thin layer of top coat, the cracks will be much smaller and appear in the direction of your brush stroke
*If you paint a thick layer of top coat, the cracks will be bigger and appear both vertically and horizontally (which is the look I prefer)
*You cannot paint another coat on top of the top coat or it all falls apart

So in summary- to achieve the best look:
*Paint the top coat when the crackle layer has become tacky (aka if you touch it, it should feel a little sticky, but you shouldn’t have the crackle medium on your finger)
*Paint the top coat with plenty of paint on the brush
*Brush in only one direction

I was pretty pleased with the result. As far as furniture goes… it’s not really that well-built, but it definitely works for our current needs and space. I imagine this being a piece that we have until we move out of our apartment, but I couldn’t keep it in such an ugly state for a few years! Especially when the whole thing cost about $15 (including the new knobs!)

Happy Thursday!



ode to my sugar bowl

To my sugar bowl:

Dainty, sweet, dimpled little sugar bowl
Gentle jay with downy feathers rests atop
Tiny, provence spoon brings sweet
Spreads a smile through my heart

Ok. In all seriousness. I LOVE my sugar bowl. It’s a tiny grapefruit! With a bird on top! And a cute little spoon to match!

While the sugar bowl was $18, which is more than I would normally wish to pay for this sort of thing, I had a gift card. And given the choice, I would buy it all over again. Because it makes me happy. In fact, it makes me happy in the morning, when I am rarely happy!

Someday, when I have a beautiful kitchen with plenty of light, open shelving and an apron-front sink (swoon) like this one:

I shall display my little sugar bowl front and center. (And hopefully find a way to hide the big, ugly keurig next to it. Love your coffee. Hate your look.)

And I shall love my little sugar bowl. Just like I love my bird tea-towel that was too expensive. And just like whatever I shall spend the rest of my gift card on (it takes me a reaallllly long time to spend gift cards).

Happy Wednesday!

weekend getaway

Kev and I took a little trip this weekend for our anniversary. Really… it was like a 24 hour getaway. But it was so, so great.

A while back, I won a gift certificate on the radio by telling a self-depricating story about an awkward time in life. So, we’ve been saving it for a mini-vacation, and we finally went! We left Friday after work to drive up to Lake Geneva, which is absolutely beautiful this time of year!

Friday night we went to dinner at this swanky little place called Bistro 220. I had three different kinds of cheese. 🙂

a little blurry... but you get the point!

The next day, we ate a delicious breakfast, and went for a bike ride around the harbor. On the way to town, I spotted a produce place so I had to stop for some cinderella pumpkins.

Then we went downtown Lake Geneva for the Taste of Lake Geneva festival. It wasn’t really a large festival, but more an assortment of booths outdoors with food. The best news was, there were free samples EVERYWHERE!

Then we stopped at a place grilling fresh corn.

Which we ate.

All in all, it was very relaxing and wonderful to get away with no obligations or agenda or even people we know! We had the chance to celebrate two years together totally stress free.

Oh. And Kev got me a surprise present…

Gorgeous, knot necklace. How did he know I would love it? Good guessing I suspect…

love that guy

In other news, I feel refreshed and happy and ready for fall fun! I also have a few new crafties to share with you all in the near future so keep an eye out…