Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Reading Picks!

A few weeks ago, we did a What We're Loving series for summer.  Hilary's picks all revolved around her two favorite summer activities: running and reading (Jessica shared her picks a week later including awesome 90s music and gorgeous nail polish colors)!  We got such good feedback from people who were searching for a good summer read that we decided to share some more of our summer reading picks!

I've been reading a crazy eclectic mix of books but a few have really stood out over the last few weeks!

I read The Bees: A Novel through my library and was hooked.  I can't even begin to describe how interesting it is.  Every time I try to describe its awesomeness to my friends, they stare blankly at me.  "A book about bees...that are like people...but not?  Hmmm...."  But it is seriously interesting.  I literally could not put it down.  Read the first few pages, I promise you'll be intrigued!

One of our local thrift stores put all of their Jane Austen-related novels on sale, so my mom grabbed me several.  I didn't love some of them, but I liked Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict a lot!  It was quirky and cute and reminded me of one of my favorites movies (Lost in Austen)!

I randomly picked A Virgin River Christmas (A Virgin River Novel) from my library's e-book collection and discovered it was book 4 of a 18-book series (so far!) by Robyn Carr.  Titled the Virgin River series, its about a made-up town in northern California (where I'm from!) and each book focuses on the lives and romances of each resident.  These are cute, quick reads and I've read at least 10 so far!

My book choices haven't been as eclectic as Hilary's lately. I've been sticking fairly close to my favorite fiction and fantasy (also, I am aware they get lumped together in book stores, but they are wildly different genres, people! Don't get me started ranting.)

 I finished all three books in Ted Dekker's Circle Series 4-in-1 (The Circle Series), Red, Black and White. The plot is a little confusing...about a man who dreams of an alternate reality in Earth's future, while in the present he is the only person who can save the earth from a lethal virus in the hands of a megalomaniac. As strange as it sounds, it was fairly addictive, I blew through all three books in only a few days.

 Because I recently got into an epic 101 comment thread on Facebook with my friends about the butcher job Peter Jackson has been doing on The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again through his movies, I though I'd better read it again. And since I can read the Hobbit in about 45 minutes at this point, I read it in between chapters of the book below, which I'm currently reading. This is probably my favorite book, ever! It's like a fuzzy blanket and always makes me feel better to even just hold it. Seeing it on the shelf makes me smile.

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle) was recommended by a friend of mine. It is the first book in a trilogy, and at first I was skeptical because he also informed me the trilogy was unfinished. UNFINISHED. I have a strict policy against starting unfinished series, because it makes me crazy! Like, climb-the-walls crazy.
But despite all that, I picked it up and haven't put it down. But I am dreading finishing the next book and then being left hanging, because by all accounts it's even better then the first one.

There you all have it! That's what we've been spending our time reading this summer (well, a small portion of it anyways). Any other good recommendations from you all? We're always looking for new books!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

the easiest skirt ever

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted the perfect floral skirt. She had been obsessing all spring and summer long over skirts like these three from her Jessica Wears Clothes board on Pinterest:


The problem: Mid-calf length skirts look terrible on me. Pencil skirts are not the most flattering either. And we won't even get started on how much maxi skirts that don't reach the floor offend my sense of proportion. (Why dear God, WHY?!?) I do adore that "Celfie" shirt above though, I may need to DIY my own version like I did with my "in memory of" shirt.

What does look good on me? Semi-fitted A-line or fuller skirts that hit just above the knee, or higher if I'm feeling frisky. But I hate shopping for just the perfect item like that, especially since I know exactly what I'm looking for and can never find it in stores. And I mean ever, I'm really picky when I know what I want.

This is why I love sewing! I made my own, and I loved it so much that I had to share it with you all and show you how to make it yourself. This is another project nearly as simple as my Anthropologie Oblique Skirt knock off; it takes three seams and about 45 minutes and you too can have one of these:

This tutorial is so simple I can combine all four steps into a single graphic! Much easier for you all to Pin, yeah?  Here it is in all it's glory! (Please excuse my drawing skillz, I'm not used to drawing with a mouse)

I loved it so much I of course had to make two more. The blue floral skirt on the left is a super lightweight polyester, and the skirt on the right (clearly I was feeling a bit friskier as you can guess by the length) is from a giant vintage shirt.

And yes, the graphic tee on the left is a sonic screwdriver inside a caduceus (the medical symbol). You can't see it, but my shirt also says "trust me, I'm The Doctor," because who wouldn't trust a mad man in a big blue box? That's right, I'm a nerd. One who has no shame and doesn't care if certain people think my shirt is ugly (you know who you are!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Food fail: The spaetzle noodles of doom.

Spaetzle noodles: 1, Jessica: 0.

The recipe was supposed to be so foolproof. Eggs + flour + milk. Sounds simple right? Then you find something with holes in it, press your dough through the holes into boiling water and presto! German noodles. pretty! Yeah, those are not my noodles.

What the recipe doesn't tell you is that when you combine eggs, flour and milk they form one of the stickiest substances known to man. A substance which refuses to be pressed through anything, much less something as small as the holes on a colander or cheese grater. There is no way. It took me five minutes just to scrub it off my hands using soap and hot water!

My second attempt at saving the noodles was to pinch off tiny balls of dough and delicately mold them into a noodle shape. This produced gross-looking wormlike noodles that were thick and chewy. Nope. No go.

So I give up! Does anyone know where you can buy a spaetzle maker? For serious people. Because unless there is some secret I am not getting, this is clearly your only option when making spaetzle.

Defeated by German food.

And if you want to laugh some more, you can check out how I was also defeated by macaroni'n'cheese! And if you're looking for our recipes that know...worked, you can find those here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Stylish Tips to Keep Your Family Safe from the Sun

Hey all!  We are at the height of summer here in Idaho!  We live in a high desert area and that Idaho sun can be super intense.  It is easy to burn here without proper protection.  We decided to share some of our favorite ways we protect ourselves (and our families!) from sun damage.  This isn't a sponsored post, just a roundup of a few of our favorite summer products!

1. Protect your skin!  This might be the most important tip we have.  As we get older, we've definitely been more aware of how sun can impact our faces.  We both have family histories of melanoma, but we also don't want wrinkles and sunspots making us look older!  Hilary has a bunch of moles on her face, so she uses skincare products with SPF in them to make sure those moles do not become cancerous, and Jessica rocks the gorgeous porcelain skin that is susceptible to sun damage.

We both use a variety of products to protect us, but some of our favorites include e.l.f's tinted moisturizer with SPF 20 in it.  Hilary likes to use this in place of foundation because it covers her dark circles and moisturizes her skin, but doesn't cause acne.
(disclosure: this is a Amazon affiliate link so we get a little kickback if you purchase through Amazon!)

Jessica uses Garnier's BB cream, which is magical stuff. It makes me look airbrushed, which she seriously appreciates since she's in pictures so often! It also moisturizes and has SPF 15. And she uses a base moisturizer with a minimum of SPF 20 every. Single. Day. Even in the winter!

Skincare can be complicated and depending on your skin type, it can be difficult to know which products to buy.  Plus, a lot of them only have SPF 15 or 20 in them.  Some companies like Lancome make tinted moisturizers with higher SPF for ladies with really sensitive skin.  We like the HSN (Home Shopping Network) Skin Care page because it has products for all skin types, including several that have higher SPF ratings and help with wrinkle repair + moisturizing!  

2. Stylish Coverups. Swimsuit coverups have come a long way since the ugly polyester muumuus people wore in the 1980s (no offense, mom!)! There are some gorgeous, brightly colored coverups that are a stylish way to protect your skin when you are hanging out at the beach or pool. Hilary is going to a beach resort in a few weeks and she's excited about the number of affordable, trendy coverups there are at stores like Target and Forever 21. Here's some of our favorite (cheap!) coverups right now:

Stylish Summerwear
Stylish Summerwear by domesticblisssquared featuring a crochet cover-up

3. Kimono Cardigan.  Feeling crafty and want to make your own coverup?  Jessica created a great kimono cardigan tutorial and we love how light and airy it is.  It is a great way to protect your shoulders and back from the sun and looks just as cute over a bathing suit as it does over a tank top and jeans!

4. UPF Protection is amazing!  Two of our little ones have really sensitive skin and burn super easily (even with strong sunscreen).  We love that there are a lot of swimsuits for kids that either a) have SPF (or UPF as its called in fabric) protection built into the suit or b) rashguards (the kind with sleeves) for good upper body protection.  Here are some super cute kids' suits:
Kids swimwear

Kids swimwear by domesticblisssquared on Polyvore

Here is one of our little ones in his rashguard suit (he hasn't figured out the whole "pose-for-mommy's-blog thing"):

5. Hats! Hats hats and also, hats. We both love hats for their ability to protect your delicate facial skin from the sun's damage. Plus, they look really cute! Especially on little kids, if you can get them to keep a hat on their head! Jessica has been known to rock a good hat even in the middle of winter. Hey, it's still sunny in the winter time! This is Idaho after all.

6. Scarves. In the summer, its so easy to get skin damage on your cleavage!  Low cut tank tops, halter tops and bathing suits leave the thinner skin on your chest open to sunburns.  One easy way to combat this is scarves!  Not thick, crocheted scarves, but light, airy, loosely woven ones like Hilary's scarf (we love the light gray combo with her mint shirt!):

She purchased this one new from one of her favorite stores (Runway Fashion Exchange), but we also saw some yesterday at Old Navy!  Hilary's mom is a redhead (meaning she burns a lot), so she wears light scarves almost year-round to protect her neck and chest.

These are just some of our favorite ways to protect ourselves from the bright Idaho sun.  What about you?  What products do you love?  How many of you use makeup with SPF protection?
Friday, July 18, 2014

Kitchen Hack: The easiest way to peel a sweet potato

I (Hilary) love sweet potatoes.  Last year, I shared my favorite way to make mashed sweet potatoes, and over the last year, we've eaten a ton of them as part of our Paleo diet.  There only two things I dislike about sweet potatoes: peeling them and that they take FOREVER to bake.

On a whim, I decided to do things differently and instead of peeling, then baking our sweet potatoes, I boiled them, skin and all!  It worked so well, I figured I'd share it with you guys!

how to peel and boil a sweet potato

Here are the steps:

I washed the sweet potatoes, poked them a few times with a fork, dropped them in a pot of boiling water with the skin on and boiled them for about 45 minutes.

how to peel and boil a sweet potato

At the end of 45 minutes of boiling, I pulled  this out of the pot.  Apparently, the skins literally float off of the potatoes (unprompted!) as they boil:

how to peel and boil a sweet potato

The great thing is 1) I didn't have to peel it at all and 2) the skin stayed on for most of the cooking so the potato retained its shape (instead of falling apart into mush).  The potato itself was slightly firm, but still easily mashable and amazing with a little brown sugar and butter.

I don't think I'll ever peel a sweet potato again.  Seriously.  What about you guys?  When you cook sweet potatoes, skin on or skin off?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I love you like a love song, baby

So this post feels a bit like a cop-out, in that I just posted on Monday about a tank top I made. But dude, it's summer. This is what you make in the summer! Especially when it's 105 degrees outside. At 8pm.

So today I'm showing you another variation on our basic tank sewing tutorial. If you haven't tried it yet, you should! It's my single most used self-drafted pattern, and now has five versions of it I've blogged about, including this one. It's been on constant repeat! 1 // 2 // 3 // 4, and....

...five! I actually think this one might be my favorite. No really! I know I say that every time, but this time I really really mean it! See, I've got a secret, and that secret is that even though I try and avoid it for the blog, I wear a lot of black. Or grey. A lot. And so this version of the basic tank makes me super happy down deep in my black soul.

I used two different kinds of fabric for this one, a jersey knit for the back and a really lightweight cotton print for the front (cut on the bias for those of you who are're not? Pretend you are for me!)

Here's a simple recap of how I made Basic Tank v. 5.0:

1. Choose fabric! Either two contrasting fabrics or two of the same color, with jersey for the back piece. Next time I'll use color, I promise. Cut out your pattern pieces.
2. Finish the front piece with bias tape, I show you how to do that in detail here.
3. Fold over the edges of the back piece of jersey and pin really well. Jersey resists being pinned and will roll.
4. Sew it down! Then you'll sew your back and front pieces together at the shoulders and sides. You're done!

There you have it! Thanks for checking out my slightly repetitive tank top post, and hopefully this inspires you to do some summer sewing of your own. And if you're looking for a place to start you can check out our sewing page!

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