Anxious for Autumn

Sister StyleTry as I may to stay focused on summertime, I am anxious for autumn. It happens every year. I'm sorry. Don't hate me. I... just... can't... help it. 

Today I saw my first fallen orange leaves in Sarah's yard, and it was my moment of zen. 

Here's a checklist of all the autumn traditions I have planned (from my journal): Host a Halloween party (this will be our first one!), make apple cider at home, visit the pumpkin patch with Penelope, celebrate PSL day with Jeremy, create an autumn cocktail, run the Turkey Trot 5k with Emma, hang our ghost decorations, make autumn floral arrangements and drink wine (don't ask! This is a long-running tradition), make homemade trail mix, and celebrate Friendsgiving. 

Who's with me?  

Sister Style Sister Style Sister Style Sister Style Sister Style      Sister Style      Sister Style       Sister Style       We teamed up with our (amazing) friends at Ruche for this Sister Style, who are running a 30% off Labor Day sale right now!

Emma's wearing: Dress, Necklace, Shoes
Elsie's wearing: Top, Shorts, Shoes, Clutch, Jacket

Oh, and one more thing on autumn. Let's not forget the cheesy (ahem—"classic") Halloween movie marathon that needs to happen. Hocus Pocus, anyone? xo. Elsie 

Credits // Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with Roz, Charlotte, and Ava B&W from the Lightroom Mini Collection. 

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A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home is here!

Happy Handmade HomeHi, friends! After more than two years of anticipation (on our part, haha!), our new book, A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home, is in stores. 

You can find our book here: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Urban Outfitters/IndieBound/Book Depository (<-- BD offers free international shipping!)*

*Leave us a comment if you know other places that are carrying the book! 

Happy Handmade Home   Happy Handmade HomeHappy Handmade HomeWe spent the better part of last year tearing apart our homes, working weekends, and trying (and retrying) projects for the book. I still have scrapbook paper plastered to one of my bathroom walls from an experiment we were doing in making your own wallpaper (it really works—haha!). It was a crazy experience, and I treasure the funny memories we made during the process. Did you know we had to reshoot our cover image three times? Emma and I were even more bonded (like old married people) by the end of this project. Books will do that to you. Nothing like knocking through a 300 item checklist together to teach you to value and appreciate the other person (or in our case, team!). It's intense, but at the end of it all... so, so gratifying. 

This book was a passion project. A dream to create. It was a collaboration and a team effort. Today I just wanted to say thank you to each of your who is celebrating along with us. 

Extra thank yous to those of you who have been loyal readers for years and years, those of you who have seen us try, fail, move forward, mess up, rework, and keep going. 

Thank you so much for encouraging and supporting us as we live our dream, one milestone at a time. We hope you enjoy our new book. The most fulfilling part of the entire experience is seeing those Instagram photos come in of you guys trying our DIYs at home. If you share a photo of our book or of a project you make from the book, please tag us (@ABeautifulMessOfficial) or use #HappyHandmadeHome so we can see your photos! 

Happy Book Day!Cheers to YOU! Thank you so much for reading. -Elsie 

Credits // Photos by Sarah Rhodes and Janae Hardy. 

Zesty Blueberry Pie

Zesty Blueberry Pie (click through for recipe) Summer feels like it's winding down here in southern Missouri. I could not let summer go by without making at least one more pie. You can never bake enough pies. Or at least that's my motto. 

This blueberry pie is enhanced with the subtle zest from lemons. There's lemon in the crust and filling, and it pairs so well with blueberries. 

Zesty Blueberry Pie (click through for recipe)  My only regret is I didn't top my piece with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. I know! What was I thinking?! I had even bought vanilla ice cream and had it ready in my freezer. Big fail. Don't be like me; serve this one à la mode. Nothing could be more summer. 

Blueberry pie filling recipeZesty Blueberry Pie, makes one standard-size pie.

For the crust:
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup + 1 tablespoon cold butter, cubed
zest from 1 lemon (about 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons)
4-5 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:
3 pints fresh (or frozen and thawed) blueberries
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 cup sugar

In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, cold butter, and lemon zest. Pulse. Add 3 tablespoons of cold water to begin with, pulse, and add another tablespoon or two until a dough ball begins to form. Press the dough together, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour (up to three days).

Lattice blueberry pieIn a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and corn starch. Stir in the sugar and lemon zest. Pour this mixture over the blueberries.

Divide the dough in half and roll out the first half to fit your pie pan. Lightly butter your pie pan (or you can use nonstick cooking spray) and sprinkle on just a little flour. Lay the crust in the pie pan, then fill with the blueberry filling. Roll out the second dough for the top. You can cover the entire top or create a design. I did a (lazy) lattice design.

Zesty blueberry piePlace the pie pan on a baking sheet; this will help to catch any excess juice as the pie bakes. Bake at 375°F for one hour. The top crust should look golden brown and flaky. Allow to cool some before serving. This pie is juicy! The blueberries release some of their moisture as they bake. 

Zesty Blueberry Pie (click through for recipe)Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Enjoy! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions

Build your Own Pergola (Part One - Planning)

Build a pergola - before (click through for more info)             If you have a space of yard that needs shade and a bit of color provided by flowers, a pergola is a great solution. If you have a BBQ area and want a space to sit under with herbs growing conveniently close by and candles glowing, a pergola is a great solution! If you have a garden and want to break up the space, maybe with a reading nook, yep, a pergola. 

Sarah and I just moved into a new house a couple of months ago (new to us; it was actually built in 1866!). There was a slab of concrete out one side that I thought would be perfect for a pergola. I wanted a cozy space where we could sit and enjoy a meal, as well as a space to grow some herbs, veggies, and other plant life. We have tons of mosquitoes, so I planned on planting herbs that are known to repel those pesky little jerks. This was no small project; the pergola took a couple days to build. Then planting and getting it to the way we wanted it to look has taken a couple weeks. I also did some research on plants that repel insects, building permits, and planting in treated wood. This post is focused solely on the planning stage. There will be a building post coming up, as well as a styling/planting one. It may read like a book report; there is a lot of info, but I promise the next post will have more images!

I understand that this project may seem daunting to most of you. I hope that even if you don't plan on building a whole pergola in your yard,  maybe some of the info will apply to smaller projects you might be planning.

Build a pergola - planning stage Here we go, a synopsis of my process:

Pergolas have been around for centuries, and designs range from complex to minimal. The one I built leans more on the minimal/classic side, which is basically four posts and slats running across the top. Well, it seems basic, but even if I had stopped there, it would have taken some engineering. I added a twist to the design. I wanted to add three half walls with a trough running along the top of them to plant herbs and flowers in. That was the initial idea I had in my head; here are the steps I took leading up to actually building.

The pergola was the biggest thing I'd built to date. I'd heard of people getting permits for building attachments to their homes, but I had no further knowledge of the subject. I wasn't sure if I needed to get a residential permit for the pergola.  It wasn't hard to figure out! I called our local city permit office and asked if I needed one to build a pergola. The nice lady informed me that anything smaller than 100 square feet doesn't need a building permit. Sweet! That made my decision for the size a super easy one. Ten feet by ten feet is plenty big.

To find your local building permit codes, a simple phone call will get you on the right track. Of course, a quick Google search will help you find the number to your local permit office. I would start by Googling your hometown's residential building permits' regulations. This step sounds like a big hassle, but if you end up building something that is regulated, you could get fined big time, and that is an even bigger hassle.

I really lucked out with my build site. I have a 16' x 16' foot slab with the pergola's name on it. So I knew that the structure was going to be 10' x 10' feet, and I also knew that I was going to keep the wood raw, so it had to be treated in order to withstand elements. I was planning on planting herbs in the trough also made from raw wood, so I wanted to make sure treated lumber was okay to use. After some research I was fairly convinced that the plants would be okay. Even the the American Wood Protection Association (AWPA) states:

It is our understanding that the wood preservatives used in treated wood available to consumers have been registered by EPA for general use, which means that EPA has determined it is relatively safe for most, if not all, consumer applications. Different people perceive safety in different ways.  If you're concerned, you could always apply some type of coating or sealer to reduce the amount of soil contact with the preservative treated wood, or perhaps even put a sheet of plastic between the treated wood and the soil if you want to minimize or eliminate contact between wood and soil. (awpa.com)

Simply put, it's up to us as individuals to make up our own minds, taking into account the info provided. I've read about people using treated wood for decades without problems. People even used to use railroad ties that are laden with arsenic (I wouldn't use them), and they didn't have issues.

Treated wood it was!

The next major step was figuring out which herbs I could plant that would keep away the good-for-nothing blood suckers that invaded our yard in swarms. Surprisingly, a lot of herbs that I love were the very ones I needed. Here's the list of plants I found to be great at insect repelling:

  • basil/lime basil 
  • mint
  • chives
  • dill
  • lemon balm/horsemint
  • rosemary (not only works on mosquitoes, but repels cats as well)
  • thyme (is said to work better than DEET!)

These also work, but I didn't use them:

  • pennyroyal (I didn't use this because it's not consumable)
  • tansy (repels mice, but is toxic, so I didn't use that one either)

I got so excited when I found out herbs like basil and rosemary work. I love using them when I cook (mostly breakfast).

I had the location, size, material, and herb situation on lockdown; all that was left was designing the thing. I started with a couple rough sketches so I could get the overall design down. Then I moved to SketchUp, which is a free 3D program anybody can download. If you are interested in building at all, it would be a great thing to download and learn to use. It's reasonably easy to learn and helps a lot. The main reason I wanted to get the pergola drawn up in 3D is so that I could get what was in my head as close to materialized as possible (before actually building it). That way I could see that the size worked well in the space allotted and that the dimensions and proportions were good to go. Once I had it all drawn up, I could get a very good estimate of material needed.

Speaking of material, this project's cost was about $700. The pressure-treated lumber, screws, nuts and bolts, anchor bolts, and  lag bolts start to add up quick. A good way to save on hardware is to buy online. I bought 25 lag bolts online for roughly the same price as about half that many, at my local hardware store. If you have the time and resources,  you can usually save some dough if you do your homework. I chose to use pressure-treated materials because the pergola wasn't going to be painted, and it needed to be able to withstand the elements. I may choose to paint or stain it in the future.

If you've made it this far in this post, thanks for reading it all! We'll be posting the second post in the next couple o' days, so keep a look out for that. 

I am not a contractor or professional builder, so you may want to refer to one if you're planning on taking on the task of building your own pergola.  Don't let that deter you, though! Most contractors or builders that I've known would love to give a pointer or two; it doesn't hurt to ask (although they just might try to talk you into hiring them to do it).  :) - Josh

Credits // Author: Joshua Rhodes. Photography: Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with Willis from the Folk Collection and Piper from The Signature Collection.

Toasted Coconut Onion Rings

Toasted coconut onion rings (click through for recipe)Oh, onion rings. They rank high on my favorite-summer-fast-foods-as-a-kid list. Oh yes, that's a list. I'm a lister. And an order of onion rings with a vanilla milkshake still ranks high on my list of favorite fast food orders. 

Okay, maybe I have too many lists.

Toasted coconut onion rings (click through for recipe)  These are a jazzed up version of onion rings. They are heavy on the onion, low on the breading, with toasted coconut coating the outsides. Even though coconut is the main breading ingredient, the flavor isn't in your face. It goes well with the onion; they sort of balance each other out. 

How to make onion rings  Toasted Coconut Onion Rings, serves 6-8 as an appetizer (you can easily cut this in half if needed).

3-4 large onions
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3 cups finely chopped coconut flakes (I used unsweetened)
enough oil to fry (or you can bake, instructions below)

Begin by slicing the onions into rings. Do you cry when you cut up onions? I do. 

How to make onion ringsIn a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Chop up the coconut flakes (by hand or with a food processor) and place this on a large plate.

Dip the onion rings in the flour mixture, then in the egg mixture. Let them dry for a minute or two on a cooling rack. Then dip them into the coconut, coating all sides.

How to make onion rings Heat enough oil so the rings will have room to float to around 350°F. Fry the onion rings for about 30 seconds on each side, using kitchen tongs to turn and remove them from the oil once done. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess grease.

Baked coconut onion ringsIf you want to bake the onion rings, place them on one layer on a baking sheet lined with a baking mat or parchment paper. Bake at 400°F for about 20 minutes, turning once in the middle of the bake time. These actaully tasted more strongly of coconut than the fried version. I think these would make an awesome addition to a salad. :)

Toasted coconut onion rings (click through for recipe) I served these with some store-bought sweet and sour sauce. But I also think they'd be good with ketchup. But I really like ketchup. :) These are best when they are still warm just after frying. Enjoy! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited using A Beautiful Mess actions. 

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