Thursday, December 31

my december in instagram with #5FFPhoto

I love Instagram - more than anything, it's the fastest way to document day-to-day life as it's happening - perfect for days that are too busy for journaling or blogging and adventures so spontaneous they don't get written on a calendar. This fall, I'd slacked off a little on my Instagramming, so I decided I needed a photo-a-day challenge to get me back on track. December photo-a-days are my favorite anyway (I'd participated in Fat Mum Slim's in the past), so when I saw that The Nerdie Girlie and Super Space Chick had created a #5FandomFriday photo challenge, #5FFPhoto, with a combination of festive and geeky prompts, I was all in. Since I started on December 15th, my photos were originally posted out of order, and I took two or three a day to get caught up. Here are Days 1-29 in order of the challenge prompts!

I hope you all had a warm, cozy, and joyful holiday 
season. Best wishes to you for a Happy 2016!

Wednesday, December 30

literary junkies - december

Pink Heels Pink Truck

Here are this month's questions:

1. What are you reading right now? Tell us about it. 

I just finished reading Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, after reading so many good things about it from book bloggers, and it did not disappoint. The main character, Celaena Sardothien, formerly the most notorious assassin in the kingdom of Ardalan, has been granted a reprieve from  imprisonment in a salt mine when handsome playboy prince Dorian Havilliard selects her as his entry in a competition his father, the king who has conquered and outlawed magic, is holding to select a Champion to do the kingdom's dirty work - in exchange for freedom. Coached by the Captain of the Guard, young and often judgmental Chaol Westfall, Celaena enters the competition, and the stakes become higher as her fellow competitors (all men, of course) begin to meet untimely and mysterious deaths. In beautiful gowns that hide the scars on her back, Celaena is introduced to the king's court as Dorian's friend Lady Lillien and becomes the envy of every woman at court - except a foreign princess who seems to know more than she lets on. Calaena leans that while magic may be illegal, it definitely hasn't been eliminated, and she has to stay one step ahead of whatever dark force is at work in order to protect herself and her new friends. Celaena Sardothien is fierce, stubborn, intelligent, and one of my new favorite YA heroines ever.

2. What were your favorite reads of 2015?

My absolute favorite was The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey - it was the one book that really moved me to tears this year, I was so connected to the main characters, Melanie and Miss Justineau. I'd wanted to read it ever since I saw it reviewed on io9. After reading, I thought M.R. Carey's use of third person point of view was skillful and perfect - at first it was a little bit unnerving, because I'd gotten so attached to Melanie, but being able to see the story's events from multiple characters' perspectives gave it more of a cinematic quality for me. The realization of what Melanie really was, and why she was being treated with such care and caution, was a punch to the gut, and the journey the characters must go on was tense, terrifying, and utterly believable. The two books that made me think the most were The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi - I couldn't have imagined how well they would complement each other before reading both, and I think both should be required reading for college students. I had the most fun reading Winter by Marissa Meyer - it was so fun and action packed, and I loved that each of the Rampion crew members (especially my faves, Cress and Thorne) got their happy ending.

3. What was your book-read total for 2015? Did you make your goal for the year?

I read 40 books, which was my goal for the year. I set a lower goal this year than I did in 2014 because I knew I'd be reading some longer books and I didn't want to feel the pressure to read random short books at the end of December just to meet a goal! I wish Goodreads would allow users to set a page number goal rather than a goal based on the number of books read.

4. How many books would you like to read in 2016?

I think I will stick with 40, and if I read more, that's great! I'd love to be able to read a book every week and set 52 as my goal, but I don't want reading to ever start to feel like a chore.

5. What is the number one book sitting on your Must Read list right now?

I got Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me? for Christmas, and I'm finally next in line for my library's e-book copy of Felicia Day's Everyone's Weird on the Internet, so I'll be starting 2016 with some funny ladies! I also want to read Diana Gabaldon's The Drums of Autumn, the next book in the Outlander series for me, and finish the Throne of Glass series and Graceling realm. There are also several new-ish books I haven't read yet by authors I love, like Ally Condie's Atlantia and Marie Lu's The Young Elites, that I want to get to in 2016.

What have you been reading lately? Come link up with us at 

Tuesday, December 29

Style: A Cozy New Year's Eve

With the exception of one fun trip to Washington, D.C., my favorite New Year's Eves have been the ones where we've stayed in or spent the nights with a few friends. My perfect New Year's Eve would be cozy, warm, and full of friendship - just like I want the rest of 2016 to be! I'm loving Pantone's new Colors of the Year, Rose Quartz and Serenity, and I love the idea of using them in simple party decor. I think I'll add a little sparkle to my favorite cozy outfit, light a few candles, and try a new cocktail recipe.  Disclaimer: ModCloth links contain an affiliate code - thank you for supporting Beyond the Aisle.

Style: A Cozy New Year's Eve
1. CB2 copper corkscrew (similar from ModCloth)  2. ModCloth cluster earrings  
3. J. Crew cable knit sweater (similar from L.L. Bean)  4. Winter Cocktails book from ModCloth  5. Tom Dixon "London" copper candle from Nordstrom (similar by Jonathan Adler)  6. Seychelles flats from ModCloth

Monday, December 28

clicks of note: we threw our arms 'round this humdrum world...

get your week off to a colorful start...
  • Here on the cusp of the new year, I like a good "carpe diem" song, and Josh Rouse's "A Lot Like Magic" is the perfect fit. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday with your families, and I can't wait to see the wonderful things we'll accomplish in 2016.



"We can choose to take on fewer things to fill our lives, and do them with total commitment and complete kindness. We could choose a handful of life-priorities and follow those with all of our hearts. We could take guidance from quiet and guidance from less."


Thursday, December 24

Christmas Eve Mini Holiday Home Tour!

As I've mentioned in my posts about our Christmas wreath and DIY ornaments, I let the dream of "peace on Earth" guide my holiday decorating this year. I especially loved how our Christmas tree turned out. When we got out our old tree, which was a hand-me-down from Mr. Q's grandparents, the lights on the top two sections wouldn't function, so it was off to the city on the day after Thanksgiving in search of a new tree.

I've always been really impressed by the awesome things KMart comes up with at Christmas time, so we headed there first and picked out a tree from the Jaclyn Smith collection. It's a 7 foot "Clearwater Slim Cashmere Tree." While the slim shape stands out in the store, it's a perfect fit in our townhouse where space is at a premium. The tree is a little taller than our old one, and a lot more realistic-looking - it has a mix of branch shapes and sizes.

Eliminating red from my Christmas color scheme was the first step toward streamlining my design, and while focusing on "peace on Earth," I was drawn to earth tones, white, and sparkling metallics. The gold tree skirt (also from KMart) really helped to ground the theme (get it?).

I do have my own method for decorating a Christmas tree: I start with ribbon, then add large bulb ornaments toward the center of the tree (along with a few Scentsicles). I used burlap, gold, and silver embroidered ribbon in layers. Next, I add what I think of as "anchor" ornaments - in this year's tree, these were my grandmother's crochet snowflake ornaments and my Smith and Hawken mercury glass pinecones. 

I add more bulbs to the outer branches in a spiral pattern - this year, I used matte gold and champagne, shiny silver, and clear bulbs with a snowflake design. Then, I add special, one-of-a-kind ornaments, like our wedding cake ornament, lighthouses from North Carolina, and our brass and pewter travel ornaments. 

This year, we bought some new mini glitter ornaments in a range of earth tones, as well as gold glittered pine cone ornaments, while we were at KMart, then headed to JoAnn Fabrics and Michaels, where we picked up clip-on dove ornaments, sparkling gold floral picks, and an adorable little church ornament with a bottle brush tree. My last steps when decorating are to add 3-D elements like poinsettias and floral picks - I just stick them into the branches - and, of course, candy canes (this year I used the Hershey ones with a chocolate stripe!). I'm really pleased with the way our tree turned out - to me, it's the perfect mix of rustic and elegant, peaceful and beautiful.

Merry Christmas! Past tours: 2014, 2013, 2012.

Linking Up:
Weekend Snapshots at Her Heartland Soul

Wednesday, December 23

Holiday Craft: DIY World Map Ornaments

Having been raised on a steady stream of my mama's back issues of Better Homes and Gardens and Southern Living, I love decorating for the holidays, and of course the Christmas tree is the main event. This year, as I put away my fall decorations and washed the Thanksgiving dishes, I found myself dreaming of a much different Christmas decorating direction than I usually take. My mind was on the Paris attacks and our troubled world. My heart was praying for peace. So that's what I decided to turn my Christmas tree into - a prayer for peace on Earth. While putting together a little inspiration board on Pinterest, I came across the perfect ornament from JoAnn Fabrics:

Unfortunately, that perfect vintage map ornament was sold out online and nowhere to be found at my local store. But, hey, I was in a craft store. I could make my own map ornament happen. I found these cardboard ornaments and vintage-style map scrapbook paper (these are actually from Michael's).

The first challenge was figuring out how to get flat paper onto a 3-D surface. I've done a lot of decoupage projects, but never onto an almost round object! I created a stencil by using colored chalk on the edges of one "wedge" of the ornament and running it over the back of my scapbook paper. I cut out 6 leaf-shaped pieces of map paper for each ornament, making them a little bigger than the actual sides of the ornament.

The next step was breaking out my favorite craft supply: Mod Podge! I used the little sponge applicator because it was handy and because I was working with a small surface area.

Still a little worried about the physics of flat paper on a curved surface, I decided to wet the "leaves" before sticking them to the ornament - kind of a papier mache technique.

Through a little trial and error, I learned that the best way to cover the ornaments was to place one edge of the map paper "leaf" flush with the edge of the ornament, with excess paper hanging over the other edge.

I used the sponge tool and Modge Podge to press down the excess paper. Going width-wise rather than down the length of the paper seemed to work the best.

Using this method ensured that the whole ornament got covered with paper. Here's what the finished product looked like:

But of course, I wasn't done yet. After letting the ornaments dry for about an hour, they got a coat of spray adhesive and Martha Stewart crystal GLITTER!

Each time I spot one of these ornaments amidst the branches of our Christmas tree, I'm reminded to pray for peace for our troubled world. I love the way these ornaments turned out and what a versatile idea this is - any kind of paper or fabric could be used to match any theme, and the cardboard ornaments are available in several different shapes. Please let me know if you try this idea - I'd love to see how many different takes on this project we can come up with!

Linking Up:

Flaunt It Friday at Chic on a Shoestring
Tutorials and Tips at Home Stories A to Z
The Party Bunch at Whipperberry