Super filling Sweet Potato Tacos (via abeautifulmess.com)  Before we dive into what will inevitably become a reverie about how AMAZING TACOS ARE, can I just talk to you about something kitchen-y first? I've been cooking for awhile; it's been a 7+ year love affair at this point with no signs of slowing. And in that time, I've come to two super obvious realizations:

1. Good tools are a home cook's best friend.

2. Fresh ingredients matter SO much.

Super filling Sweet Potato Tacos (via abeautifulmess.com) Again, these are kind of obvious, right? Not exactly the biggest kitchen secrets in the world. But as I was making these tacos, I was reminded again about the first of those realizations, that good tools matter. I recently got a few new knives (gift to myself for finishing the cookbook manuscript, even though we are far from done with all the work for that project). I also sharpened my existing knives at the same time, so they'd all be on the same "schedule". I also recently got a new, better garlic press. 

OMG, guys, sharp knives and a good garlic press seriously make a WORLD of difference in my life. These are two items I use almost daily (yes, we love garlic). 

This is also, actually my #1 bit of advice to friends who want to eat at home but don't love cooking as much as me: good tools, man, they make everything easier. They also make great gifts... Just throwing that out there to the universe. :)

OK, enough about tools. Let's talk tacos. Let's... tac-o about it. (Sorry, I had to!) These sweet potato tacos get a protein boost with a little TVP in the mix. They are sweet, they are spicy, they are super flavorful, and they make for an excellent, healthy dinner. I highly recommend you give these a try at your next taco Tuesday. 

Taco ingredientsSuper Filling Sweet Potato Tacos, makes 6-8 tacos (enough for 3 people or maybe 4 with a side)

1 sweet potato, mine was 335 g once peeled
2 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup TVP
2 tablespoons hot sauce, I love Cholula as evidenced by my nearly empty bottle
1/4 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil (or other cooking oil you prefer)
1/3 red onion, sliced
1/2 large bell pepper, sliced and center removed
6-8 corn tortillas
2-3 limes
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Peel and then shred the sweet potato. You can do this with a box grater or in a food processor. If you want to leave the skin on, you can, just be sure to rinse well before shredding. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sweet potato, TVP, garlic (mince well or press through a garlic press), hot sauce, cumin, and a generous sprinkle of both salt and pepper. Give that a big stir so everything gets combined well. The TVP may seem too crunchy at this stage, but it will absorb some liquid from the sweet potato while it sits in the bowl, and then soften even more when cooked, so don't worry. 

Vegetarian taco recipesIn a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Sauté the onion and bell pepper for about 2 minutes over medium heat, until they begin to soften. Add in the sweet potato mix and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. At the 8 minute mark, just give it a taste to see if they seem cooked through to you. If you notice the mixture sticking to the pan too much, add a little more oil, but a few burnt bits are OK for me. :)

Meanwhile, cook each corn tortilla in a hot pan with a little oil. When we make corn tortillas at family events, my grandma or mother with usually cook them in oil to allow them to float, but I prefer just a little oil and heating them until I see some spots darken on each side and the tortilla is quite soft and bendable. 

Super filling Sweet Potato Tacos (via abeautifulmess.com)Fill the shells with the sweet potato mix and top with cilantro. Squeeze a little lime juice on just before eating. If you want to add some cheese or sour cream, go for it, but these are so flavorful I really think they are great all on their own. Yay for delicious plant-based meals – happy tacos to you! xx. Emma

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

Scrapbook Sunday-April Messy Box. See how well this month's scrapbook kit mixes and matches with itself!This month's Messy Box kit is one of my favorites from this year thanks to it's fun color story and Parisian vibes! I had a few photos from the last few weeks that were perfect for these cards and papers. It had two sets of stickers and a ton of cards so it was really easy to use the kit almost exclusively for these two pages. I even have plenty of phrase stickers and black alpha leftover to use in a few more layouts. Give me all the pink and red!

3%22 x 3%22I wanted to find a few ways to alter the design of some my papers in this month's kit to see if I could make my layout look a little more complete. I don't think I'll ever be a minimalist when it comes to scrapbooking and art journaling so it is REALLY hard for me to just slap some cute cards and photos in and call it a day. If I was under a deadline and I just needed to get it done, maybe, but usually I like to add another layer or two of something interesting.

Positive Vibes CardsThe first way I did that was by taking two of the cards with solid backgrounds and cutting out a shape to cover the text. Then I just drew lines over the edges so that it left a clean negative image. I love how this adds just a little more pattern to these cards. Just be sure you have a steady hand before you get to work if you are really attached to your card!

Close Up 3%22 x 3%22 pageScrapbook Sunday-Messy Box AprilTaylor's PageA second way was just layering up a few papers and adding in alpha stickers where I usually don't. I cut one of the weekend trip 4" x 6" cards in half so that the word 'trip' was still readable and then added 'road' alpha stickers above it. I then decided to cut into one of the smaller cards and added the fun 'YES' text to the bottom of that same card along with another alpha word on top. With a strip of washi tape down the side, it has a totally different look. Just pretend correct punctuation when scrapbooking isn't always important, okay? Sometimes a girl doesn't have any question marks on her alpha sheet!

Close upTaylor's This month's kit is super fun and really versatile. Perfect for documenting spring break, a weekend road trip, or just plans for road trips that you made over burgers when your friends came back to town! Nashville or bust! -Rachel

Credits//Author and Photography: Rachel Denbow. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

A quick wallpaper updateYOU GUYS. Sorry for shouting, but I'm REALLY EXCITED to share my entryway progress with you! The other day we had our wallpaper installed, and I am just SO pleased with how it's coming along. 

You remember the before

6a00d8358081ff69e201b7c7e4d272970b-piWe've come a long way since that photo! We did keep the existing marble tile (and had the grout refreshed), but the walls have changed A LOT. 

A quick wallpaper update  I spent the most time choosing this wallpaper. The reason I was so indecisive was since we did the the turquoise floor in the room right beside the entry, I didn't want anything super loud or colorful because the floor is already SO bold. But I also didn't want it to be boring. So it look a LONG TIME to find the perfect paper. I'm so glad I let it stay unfinished for six months because eventually we did find the perfect one.  

What we ended up choosing is from Juju Papers. It's handmade in Portland and really beautiful in person. It's gold foiled, but not super shiny. I can't wait for you to see the finished photos because these photos are only from my phone and don't even do the space justice. 

A quick wallpaper update I posted this photo midway through the process because I was excited about the former wallpaper being covered and our new pink door, but I think I accidentally misled some people because it LOOKS like we were painting over wallpaper. I would actually never recommend painting over wallpaper unless it's so old that it might be a safety concern. 

In this photo they were patching over a few holes and the wall where the chair rails used to be, and then it was primed so that the old pattern would not show through the wallpaper. This is normal. In each room they basically diagnose whether you can prime and cover the paper or if it needs to be removed. It just depends on the condition of your old paper. 

I have gotten a lot of questions about DIYing wallpaper, and I honestly think it's one of the things that you should not DIY. The paper is typically more expensive than the install. So DIYing the install is so risky. If you mess up, you could potentially ruin a lot of good paper and waste even more money. And after watching three rooms in our home be wallpapered, I can see how incredibly technical the whole process is. Very tedious! 

Oh! And if you live in the Nashville area and need a wallpaper install recommendation, you can email me! elsie AT abeautifulmess DOT com. I am happy to share my source with you. (I love them!!) 

A quick wallpaper update   Here's a photo from install day. 

A quick wallpaper update     Happy doesn't even begin to describe it! Since this is the first room you see when you walk in the house, it REALLY changed the space. Jeremy was so happy as well. It feels so much closer to complete now... it's just crazy! 

A quick wallpaper update(Sorry to repeat the same pic again.)

I didn't really talk about the pink door and that just doesn't seem right! We've only painted the inside of it so far. I'm really glad we decided on pink. It really fits the space and makes it feel so personalized. I have this super cool door hardware in the closet. It was actually one of the first things I bought before we moved (I was WAY over eager, you guys), and I can't wait to finally put it to good use. 

Next up – hang our mirror, put down a rug, do a little styling and CALL IT DONE. It's so close. 

Sources: Paper/Sisters Of The Sun by Juju Papers, Table/Modern Buffet by West Elm (should I swap out the hardware or leave it?), Bench/Transit Bench by Gus Modern, Plant/Ponytail Palm (I don't know what the other two are called), Pink Paint/Baby Blush by Valspar. 

Can't wait to share more soon!!! xx- Elsie 

How I finally stopped biting my nails (via abeautifulmess.com)I recently mentioned in this post about coffee creamer that I had successfully stopped biting my nails all through March, and now into April too. Wahoo! I've even posted about it a couple times on IG in a "series" I'm calling nail updates. 

It's not really a series. I just posted about it twice. But I like the idea of making it a series. And I'm also quite shocked that I've been feeling OK enough to share about it online. Over the years I've usually tried to hide my nails in photos because I know I will inevitably have someone comment about how I should stop biting them or how bad they look. And for me, Internet-meanness only really hurts when I sort of agree with the comment. So I've felt really ashamed about this bad habit for a long, long time now and often try to hide it. 

Anyway, I've had lots of people connect with me over nail biting from these posts. Apparently I'm not the only one who has struggled with this bad habit for years and years. And there are so many different suggestions and solutions out there to try, so I thought I'd share what has worked best for me. 

How I finally stopped biting my nailsSo for any of you that don't know me, I'm Emma, I'm 30 years old, and I've been biting my nails for as long as I can remember. I have had a few times when I stopped for a month or more. The most successful I've ever been at not biting my nails was the six weeks before my wedding. I knew my hands would be in lots of photos that day (holding flowers, with my rings on, holding Trey's hand, etc.), and I just didn't want to have any of those important photos ruined for me because I hated how my fingernails looked in them. That motivated me enough to stop biting them long enough to grow them out at least some (enough that they weren't completely terrible). But after the wedding, it did not stick at all. 

I've tried lots of things over the years. I've been trying on and off to quit biting my nails since high school. I've tried fake nails, nail wraps, polish that tastes bad, getting a manicure, acrylics, wearing gloves a lot (I know, weird), and a few other random methods I either heard from friends or read online. I was sort of considering hypnosis but just didn't trust it to work (apologies if anyone is really into that, I just didn't think it would work for me). So... yeah... it felt like I tried almost everything. 

Then a couple months ago, I was listening to a random episode of Gretchen Rubin's podcast. Part of the episode touched on how we form habits and what makes us stick to habits. And the whole time I was listening, I kept thinking that maybe this could help me understand why I have this bad habit and what I can do to stop it. She has a new book out, Better Than Before, which I haven't checked out yet, but it's for sure on my list.

Anyway, the main thing I took away from it was this: I have a hard time following rules that I think are arbitrary (I'm a little bit of a rebel like that). I do well when I understand the goal. Like if my goal is to get an A in class, I can follow the rules or make a plan to get there (unless it's math, then I'll settle for a B). Even if it's something I don't really want to do, if I understand the big picture of why it's important, I can generally make plans, goals, and habits that can get me where I want to go. The big exception for me is with things I deem arbitrary or unimportant. And I realized that I guess I put nail biting in that category. It doesn't totally matter how your nails look, you will make it through life even with short, bitten off nails. I know this because I've done it for the past 15+ years. And when I'd hear someone say, in real life or on the Internet, something to the effect of, "You really should stop biting your nails," or "Your nails look so terrible like that," etc. there was a little voice inside me that kind of wanted to say, "So what? They're my nails not yours, and I'll do what I want." 

I told you. Total rebel. :)

So then I thought I could just do some research and figure out why nail biting is so bad for you (health-wise, or otherwise) and maybe that would unlock the key. It wouldn't be so arbitrary anymore; I'd have a real reason to quit. I read a number of articles online and everything pretty much said the same thing. Nail biting is bad because it's putting your germy hands in your mouth. Gross (or possibly makes your immune system stronger? I read one article that said that). Also it's possible that long term nail biting may cause your nail beds to shrink or your nails to stop growing, become weaker, etc. There were some health concerns with nail biting, but not really enough to deter me if I am being honest. I was hoping for something like, "Studies show that nail biters live an average of 10 years shorter than non-nail biters." But I just didn't find anything that seemed to suggest that. 

And it was at this point that I decided I should just give up on trying to trick the rebel in me that nail biting was going to kill me. It probably wasn't. So instead, I tried to changed my mindset towards the whole thing. I tried to make it less about following an arbitrary rule and more of a daily decision that I could choose or not choose to follow. Because the truth is, I do in fact like biting my nails. But I also like having longer nails. And these two things can't coexist. So everyday I allow myself to decide which it's going to be for that day only.

Everyday, especially when I want to bite my nails, I tell myself, "If you want to bite your nails tomorrow, you can. Just don't bite them today." And I really mean it. I figure that if a day comes when I really want to bite my nails but I don't let myself and the next day I regret it, I wish I HAD went ahead and allowed myself to bite my nails, then I can bite them. Why not? It's arbitrary anyway. But so far everyday that I don't bite them, I'm glad I didn't. So I keep going. But everyday it's something I think about and struggle with a little. Especially if I'm stressed out or in a highly social setting, as those tend to really trigger this bad habit for me.

How to stop biting your nailsAnd that's it. It's pretty simple. I just decide everyday what I'm going to do, and I only stick to it for that day. Then it starts over the next day. 

Will this work forever? I don't know. My crystal ball rarely works. 

Are my nails the most beautiful, longest nails in the world? No. I don't think I have a future in hand modeling as a career. :)

Do I miss biting my nails? Yes. Often.

Am I happy, or at least happier that for now I've kicked this bad habit? YESSSSS. I feel SO proud, you guys!

I know it's totally silly, arbitrary, probably temporary, and maybe even a little ridiculous that I'm even still struggling with this at 30, but – I feel so good that I've been able to stop this bad habit this past (almost) two months. I am really enjoying painting my long-to-me nails. I decided that if I go until the end of April without biting them, I'm going to treat myself to some new nail polishes. I've been wanting to invest in some natural polishes but haven't wanted to spend the $$$ if I was just going to keep biting my nails and not really use the polish. We'll see if I make it. 

There you go, over 1300 words on nail biting. This has kind of been my nightmare post because I seriously hate talking about my nails. Ha! 

Here's to trying to kick old, bad habits! It's hard. It's embarrassing. But there you are. :) xx. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman

Ikea Restyle! Make your tv stand more midcentury (click through for more)     If you ask me, technology is probably one of the hardest things to integrate into a thoughtful design. Things like TVs, speakers, DVD players... all that stuff that is necessary if you want to enjoy all that movies and Netflix have to offer, but they can easily cramp your design style and become a bit of an eyesore if you let them. Since we have been trying to keep our 60s ranch in the midcentury vein, I wanted to get a TV stand that would be sleek and modern but also have a bit of that classic vintage flair. Since I couldn't find exactly what I wanted,I decided to take a simple Ikea TV stand (the BESTÅ) and add a few tweaks to elevate the look and make it fit in more with our theme.

Ikea Restyle! Make your tv stand more midcentury (click through for more)                   You can see that it's a great simple shape, but it just needed a bit more personality for it to fit in with our quirky/fun theme. Vintage-inspired gold accents perhaps?!?

Ikea Restyle! Make your tv stand more midcentury (click through for more)
All I needed for this restyle was a drill, painter's tape, a ruler, some gold spray paint, these adorable brass starburst plates, and some beautiful brass knobs for the actual pulls.

Ikea Restyle! Make your tv stand more midcentury (click through for more) To find the middle of the drawers, I made a cross out of painter's tape on what looked like the middle, and then used the ruler and marker to mark where the middle actually was.

Ikea Restyle! Make your tv stand more midcentury (click through for more)  I then used the drill to drill a hole the size of the knob hardware screw into the drawer. I usually like to start with a smaller hole and then use bigger and bigger bits until I reach the desired size. Oh, and make sure to take anything out of the drawers first so you don't drill a hole into your Big Lebowski DVD. Very important.

Ikea Restyle! Make your tv stand more midcentury (click through for more)   Once I had the hole drilled, I put the hardware screw through the back of the hole, attached the starburst plate onto the front, and then screwed the knob on to secure the plate. You could also glue the plate onto the drawer, but if your hardware is tightened well enough, you don't really have to.

Ikea Restyle! Make your tv stand more midcentury (click through for more)       You can see that I also gave the legs a coat of gold spray paint before assembling the TV stand (much easier to do it before than after it's all put together!). Pretty easy, but it's a nice detail on the finished product.

Ikea Restyle! Make your tv stand more midcentury (click through for more)              Ikea Restyle! Make your tv stand more midcentury (click through for more)              Ikea Restyle! Make your tv stand more midcentury (click through for more)              Even though they were small and quick changes, I think the added hardware and gold legs give the stand a more unique look that blends in much better with the rest of the decor. The starburst is a classic midcentury shape and the brass coating makes it pop on the clean shiny white surface. Sometimes all you need is a small change to add that something special! xo. Laura

Credits//Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions

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