Almost There: April 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Interview: Blimey Cow's Josh talks Kickstarter

Fun fact: I love me some Blimey Cow. Another fun fact: I've actually met and worked with Josh (though only for one day) a few years ago. I like and respect him and his wife and his family! They are all creative, hard workers and you should definitely check out Blimey Cow!

Recently, Blimey Cow launched their own Kickstarter campaign. What is Kickstarter? It's is a new way to fund creative projects! For more info. go to their About.

Here's an interview from Josh (pictured above) of Blimey Cow about their latest Kickstarter campaign!

First, for those readers who aren’t familiar with Blimey Cow, can you give us a brief summary on what it is and who you all are?
Blimey Cow is a YouTube channel that my brother, Jordan, and I started seven years ago. We have made videos on and off since then, but really only got serious about it in the fall of 2011 when we began our show “Messy Mondays.” It’s a comedy series hosted by Jordan that deals with a different random topic every Monday. In the year and a half or so that we have been doing it, we have gained about one hundred thousand subscribers and twenty million video views. Blimey Cow primarily consists of Jordan, my wife Kelli, my sister Amy, and myself.

Why did you decide to use Kickstarter and how did you even find out about it?
I don’t actually remember which was the first Kickstarter project I came across, but I am certainly glad I did. To me, the crowdfunding model is the best example of a voluntaryist, free-market system in action.
It is also a great way to gauge the enthusiasm and interest of the public concerning a specific service or product. This is why we went the Kickstarter route when we decided to get into audio production. It is a risky and time consuming venture, and we only wanted to do it if there would be people interested enough to listen. It turns out, there are!

Should people be intimidated by Kickstarter?
You shouldn’t be intimidated by Kickstarter, but you should have a healthy respect for its intricacies. It takes a lot of research and work to make a campaign successful.

Can you give us a brief step by step of how to create and run a Kickstarter campaign?
In terms of an actual “How-to” guide to launching a Kickstarter project, the Kickstarter website does a fantastic job of walking you through the process. Basically, you just sign up for a free account, and then walk through the step-by-step guide that they provide. It saves your progress, so you can always walk away from the computer and come back later to keep working. Our Kickstarter campaign was in development for weeks before we made it live.
Once you are ready to publish, you submit your project to Kickstarter. The staff looks over your campaign page to ensure that it meets their guidelines, and they get back with you in 2-3 days.

Going in, what were your feelings about your campaign and its outcome?
I was nervous about it. I had no point of reference to know 1) Whether people would be willing to give us money, and 2) If anyone would even be interested in audio productions.

What was your Kickstarter goal and what amount did you actually end with?
Our goal was $1,700 and we ended up raising almost $17,000. So, ten times our initial goal!

Were you surprised by the amount of support you received from your fans?
I was very, very surprised. Again, I had no point of reference, but never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate that level of support we received. It was very humbling and very encouraging.

Because of the support you received on Kickstarter, what will Blimey Cow be able to achieve this year?
We launched our Kickstarter in order to fund a “podcast” but because we received so much funding, we are instead launching an entire audio network called “BCAN- The Blimey Cow Audio Network.” We are hoping to launch in late June!

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being hardest, how difficult was it to start a Kickstarter campaign?
If 10 means it was the hardest thing ever, I would rank it at about a 5. It definitely took a ton of research and many, many days spent planning to ensure that we had thought of every potential hiccup that might occur, but once the campaign started, all of that work paid off when we hit our goal just 40 minutes after goaling live!

Would you ever use Kickstarter again to further Blimey Cow goals?
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were another Kickstarter project in our future! No official plans yet, though.

What advice would you give to those who want to start their own campaign?
1. Research, research, research.
Read as many articles as you can find written by people who have launched successful campaigns. Find some campaigns on Kickstarter that are going well and observe some of the stuff they are doing that is making their campaign compelling. Also, find some campaigns that aren’t doing well and observe what things they are or aren’t doing that is contributing to their less-than-ideal situation.

2. Set a Reasonable Goal
Figure out what is the cheapest way to do what you want to do with the money raise, and make that your goal (After factoring in Kickstarter’s cut, and any money you will spend to purchase rewards for backers, of course!) I have read and observed that most Kickstarter projects either fail miserably or far exceed their goal.

3. The First Day Needs to Be Huge
If you don’t have a good first day of pledging, it could spell doom for your campaign. Make sure you have a group of people that have promised to pledge on day one. Talk to your family, friends, and co-workers and get as many people on board and excited about your project as you can. The first day is critical.

4. Make Your Video Compelling
Your Kickstarter video should be short and relatable. Tell potential-backers the story of your project and why you need their help to make it a reality. Tug at their heart-strings.

5. Show Your Campaign to as Many People as Possible (Before it’s live!)
Get as many different opinions about your campaign page as you can. Edit and adjust the look, feel, and wording of your page in accordance with the opinions of those you trust to give you good advice.

6. Thank Each Backer Personally
Every time your project receives a new backer, message them through Kickstarter and write a personal thank you. I have backed quite a few Kickstarter projects, and only one has ever written me a personal thank you- and you know what? I’m going to back the next project that guy does, too, because he seems like a genuinely nice guy. Little touches like that set your campaign apart from the myriad of other campaigns out there.

We love Blimey Cow! Can you give us some info. on what’s coming up and maybe some links?
Summer of Blimey Cow starts here in the next month or two, though we haven’t made any official announcements yet, and BCAN will hopefully be launching in late June!
You can keep up with us at!

Thanks again, Josh and Blimey Cow! Almost There definitely supports and loves what you do! Keep it up!

-Tyler Anne (aka Chick Tyler)

Laundromat Fiction: What's with Friendship?

This weekend I did my laundry (finally), so naturally I have another Laundromat Fiction to share. If you didn't see my first post, laundromat fiction is the result of this strange urge I have to write fiction while I do my laundry (usually in a laundromat). This time was actually in a neighbors home, so that was a nice break!

Anyway, here's my unpolished, off-the-cuff story I wrote while laundry happened this week! As always, I'd love feedback and all that good stuff.

—Holli Anne

The girl wouldn't quit texting me, but hey, I didn't mind. I mean, I sort of minded, but the rest of me just enjoyed the attention.
At first anyway.
This godforsaken camp is the worst possible place I could be right now, so having a friend to distract me is pretty nice.
In a room full of peers wearing short shorts and baggy t-shirts—a trend I will never understand—this girl definitely stood out the most.
She wore these bright pink pants with strange yellow tassels that hung at the end. Describing it sounds hideous, but she actually pulled them off well. That was what I noticed more than anything, not that she had pink and yellow pants but that she was actually able to pull them off.
She wore them with a plain white shirt that was fitted. I decided to approach her because, the expression on her face looked about as excited as I felt to be here at this all girls camp my parents dragged me to.
"This should be fun. I'm Stephanie," she said as I approached her. It was sort of a backwards introduction and spoken with the utmost sarcasm. I knew I liked her.
We started talking from there and decided to exchange numbers. I went to drop my things off in a room I was sharing with a really perky individual. Oh God.
My head was aching from the sound of her voice, almost before she even started really talking. And talking. And talking.
I was relieved when I saw a text from Stephanie. A distraction. An excuse.
I told my roommate I really had to take the call, even though it wasn't actually a phone call. I stepped outside and opened her message.
"My roommates killing my brain cells."
Ha, that was about right. "Same here."
"Wanna meet up by that lake outside?"
"Yeah. On the way."
We found one of those big mossy southern trees to sit in. We talked about just random things and it seemed we had a lot in common. Both our parents sent us here to get us to make more girl friends. Both of us were better at talking to guys. We hated sports. Loved books and art and other introverted things. Got by with average grades in school, less out of not knowing the subjects and more for just sheer defiance and boredom.
Nothing we said was really too deep. I didn't take this as one of those friendships that would last but it would do for the weekend. I wonder if this is what my parents had in mind when they wanted me to make more friends.
"Hey, we should tell our parents about each other so they are appeased we made a friend," I laughed. She, however, did not.
Her eyes sort of lit up in an oddly happy way and she nodded her head. At first a little slowly, but then she started picking up speed.
"I was pretty sure we could be real friends from here. Like best friends," her voice enthusiastic. It was off putting at best.
"I mean, yeah, that's what I meant. I mean, maybe not best friends yet. I don't really know you that well," I fumbled and tried to crack a smile. Is making friends really this hard for me?
She eventually told me she was joking, but there was a part of me that didn't really believe her. Once camp came to an end, my suspicions were confirmed.
Like I said, she wouldn't quit texting me. At first I was bored and so it was kind of nice and I responded. But then, geez, I had things to do, and I mean, every now and then it was fine, but she wanted to talk everyday.
I responded less and less, but she kept her speed going. She asked me to hangout with her one day, but since I wasn't really into the idea too much, I put her off another two weeks and then agreed to it.
I didn't have a half bad time either. Maybe I could be the friend making type after all. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Announcement: Social Networking & You Ecourse

We may have mentioned before that both us Annes are social media nerds, though we prefer to say things like experts or gurus. (Self-Confidence building!)

Not only do we love spending our time social networking, but we actually are both social media managers and consultants for different small businesses. After college, the Annes bonded over this fact and decided to start putting our skills together and thus, we have this blog as it is!

We also have been working "behind the scenes," on an ecourse about using social networking for your blog (or business). 

Today, we are SO excited to announce that our Social Networking & You Ecourse is finally ready!
In this ecourse, we take the tools that we use to promote our blog (and the blogs of our freelance clients) to teach ways that you can make social media work for you.

This is a very thorough, step by step kind of program that you can use at your own pace. It is designed for both the well versed and completely clueless social media user, so you can skip around and take what you need from it.

Here's more explanation on what exactly this ecourse entails:
  • -Step by Step instructions on setting up Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest
  • -Tips and tricks for using the big four to get people to your blog or site
  • -An overview of smaller social networking sites
  • -Tools for choosing which social sites to invest your time in and exactly how to use them for best results
  • -Guide for pulling all the information together into a personalized social media plan
  • -A PDF you can reference anytime and use at your own pace/experience level to fit your needs
  • -Real life examples of social media in action

In addition, we are making ourselves available for questions that may arise along the way while taking this ecourse. 

Interested in finding out more? Click here.

Let's get social!

—The Annes

Friday, April 26, 2013

Writer Talk: So you want to write a book

Holli Anne made a good point yesterday. When you tell someone you're writing a book they either respond with a.) what's it about? and b.) I want to write a book someday too.

I've run into both reactions before and couldn't help but wonder how many of my friends are actually trying to write and finish a book. So, I made the whole "Like this status if you're writing a book" and was surprised at how many people Liked it and messaged me about it.

See, Holli and I have been making Writer Talk plans and were going to wait to unleash later next month but I don't see why we can't do it earlier!

What we did
We created an open group on Facebook called Writer Talk. Go here to see it.

Its purpose is to first and foremost create a sense of camaraderie among aspiring writers. Anyone can be a writer and that makes for an interesting variety of talents. Writer Talk is a place on the internet where you can talk with The Annes and others about what inspires you, what problems you're having, your success stories, and so much more!

What we will do
We will start daily discussions within the group. We will ask questions that are writing-related and offer writing resources on the web.

Another big part of this group will be our prompts! Every now and again we will give you a writing prompt for you to address within the group. We will then pick our personal favorite response (or all of them, depending) and post it as a Writer Talk post on this site! (That is if you are okay with it. We will not post anything by you without your permission!)

What we hope to accomplish
Basically, we love to network and we love to write. This group is mashing those two things together! Writers face very normal and very weird problems from time to time. This group will allow us (and you!) to talk it out with fellow writers who are just trying to realize a very awesome dream--writing a book!

We hope you'll join our group! Remember, go here to join!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Running: A Couch to 5K Mid-Review

(Photo from

Hey, I'm running again! 

If you aren't one of my close friends that sentence probably means nothing to you, so I'll try again. 

I used to run 3 miles a day. Everyday. It was the best part about many of my days, in fact, and somewhere along the line I got out of the habit.

I started cutting back on my hobby during my first full-time job, where I worked far from ordinary hours, then cutting WAY back during grad school to pretty much no running at all. 

It's not that I've been completely lazy the last number of years since college (I don't wanna talk about how long it's been, OK?!). I mean, I've actually started back running SEVERAL times. This is how that venture always goes:
I run. It's hard. I keep running and a few days later I love it again. I'm hooked. I run everyday. BAM. Injury. (I actually have a stupid IT band issue that I have to be leery of). 

This time, I want it to count. I want to be running like I used to (and better!), but I want to ease into it. So I decided to give the ole Couch to 5K Running Plan a go, and yesterday was my half-way mark.

It's not a huge venture, but it's pretty awesome considering I tried to do this before my wedding and ended up doing week 1 four times (Hey, it was like the month before!). 

Anyway, since Almost There is all about chasing your dreams, I thought it'd be a nice time to talk about the latest aspiration I'm literally chasing. In case any of you have similar hitting the pavement goals, I thought I'd give my mid-Couch to 5K Review.

Time Consumption: A+ 

The program is basically a lot of walking mixed in with some jogging for the first few weeks. It takes 20 to 30 minutes a day, three days a week. Not really a time consuming experience. Week 1 starts off with 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for 20 minute intervals and week 4 includes a lot more running for 2 miles. 

Difficulty: A

I'm not sure if A is the right letter, but honestly, the program is a wonderful pace, I think. It's designed for the non-runner, so getting into it hasn't been such a challenge for me. They even encourage you to repeat weeks if it turns out you need more time before moving on. 

Enjoyability: A+

Of course, I might be biased since I love running, but the workouts vary every week, keeping things really fresh and interesting. 

Overall: Can you guess? A's all around!

I just love it so much. I've even started getting that "I crave running" sense back again. Ahh…young love!

Any other runners or aspiring runners reading our blog? 

—Holli Anne

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Books Galore: Questionnaire!

Part of running a good blog is making sure you read other good blogs. If only for the inspiration they bring. One of my favorite blogs to stalk read is She Learns as She Goes. Today her post  inspired me to also fill out this little reading questionnaire. (If you do one too we'd love for you to comment with a link to it!)

I'm always yapping about how I am obsessed with reading so some of my answers may be a bit intense!

Do you snack while you read?

Normally, I never eat while reading. I'm too zoned in to realize I need food. However, there have been a few times where I refused to put a book down and had to eat supper around it. Usually though, I'm too focused to break it for something as silly as food.

What is your favorite drink while reading?
Just like eating, I rarely drink while reading. I have been known from time to time to drink some caffeine to help keep me awake and reading, though!

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I went through a phase where I would underline or use brackets to section off a sentence that I thought was particularly inspiring or just plain awesome sauce. I had to stop this habit while reading Airborn by Kenneth Oppel...I liked all of the Matt and Kate scenes too much and was basically underlining entire pages.
Then I went through a studious phase in school where I'd annotate in my school books. It's a good practice when dealing with Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad),  Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), and...dare I say it...Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. (For my thoughts on THAT subject read this post.)
I had to buy another copy of Hamlet because the first was so annotated I could barely read it!
Now, though, I keep a pen and pad near me when I read just in case I NEED to remember something. I try to keep away from writing in books anymore.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? 
I may be weird about my eating and drinking habits while reading, but I'm just plain lazy when it comes to book marks. Usually I just use the receipt it came with or just a random bit of paper. Whatever it is though (and here comes the weird part) I keep with that book forever. Once I'm done reading I slip it under the front cover. So...yeah, all of my books have the original book mark in them. That's normal, right?
Are you the type of person who tends to read to the end of the chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
I used to go until the end of a chapter then put it down. Now, I have a really hard time doing that because at the end of a chapter there is usually a cliffhanger or motivation for me to turn the page. So I'll read to the end of a chapter then HAVE to read the next page and then I tell myself I'll stop at the next chapter. This goes on and on until, finally, I just put the book down during a lull in the middle.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or onto the floor if the author irritates you?
I only throw a book if there's a spider. Even then I do it with care. If I threw a book every time I had an irritating author then at least 25 percent of my book collection would be damaged. I make it a point to read really awesome books...and really terrible ones. I've had authors do away with wonderful characters and completely crush great plots before. I've had authors tell me how I feel and spit in the face of plot opportunity. 
I game rage in my head, though!

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you look it up right away?
Normally I can use the context clues and keep going. When I read on my Nook I can just click the word and BAM there's my definition. If I can't grasp a word and the book is kicking ass, I'll write it down and come back later. If not knowing the word is altering my reading experience, I'll go look it up.

What are you currently reading?
I'm kind of bad about reading multiple books at once. If you are connected to me on my GoodReads account (here) then you probably have seen some of my recent ones.
Right now I'm reading: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline; Redshirts by John Scalzi; Fun & Games by Duane Swierczynski; The Collector by Victoria Scott; Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton; High Five by Janet Evanvich; Better Read Than Dead by Victoria Laurie.
You're probably thinking that I'm a big bag of lies on this one, but I promise I'm reading all of those. Minus the first two, I'm about 75 to 85 percent finished reading them. When it comes to books, my memory is spot on. I can pick them back up and finish without rereading.
I told you I was addicted.

What is the last book you bought?
Elegantly Wasted by C. Elizabeth Vescio
Fun & Games by Duane Swierczynski
The Collector by Victoria Scott
Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton

Do you have a favorite time/place to read?
I'll read anywhere at anytime. However, I like reading in a place where I can lean back and prop up my book so I usually find myself in bed with a punch of pillows behind me. For time, well I usually love reading late at night and early in the morning...when everyone else is asleep so I won't be bothered!

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE series books. If it's a really good one I don't want it to stop. Sometimes I won't pick up a book unless I know it will have a sequel. However, some of my favorite books have been standalones so I can't exactly shy away from them all.

Is there a specific book you find yourself recommending over and over?
Recently I've been shouting Elegantly Wasted by C. Elizabeth Vescio off of roof tops. (See my post about that here.) It's a wild ride and I can't wait until the second one comes out.
There's only really be one other book that I recommend to everyone and their mothers and that's The Rook by Daniel O'Malley. 
Both are fantastic reads and I have read them both more than once.

How do you organize your books?
I want to say I have a library like the one in Beauty and the Beast but the sad fact is that I recently moved so all of my lovely books are in boxes. I will be building a huge bookcase soon so I can seem all of them daily! However, right now I do have three or four on my night stand and about a handful on my couch in my office. Plus, my Nook is always near me!

That concludes the reading questionnaire. I really like anything book-related because I'm so passionate about reading! Remember, if you do your own we'd love to have you link us to it in the comments!

Hope you enjoyed!

-Tyler Anne (aka Chick Tyler)

Top image found here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Holli Wants: Summer Ruche Swimwear

Summer Ruche Love

Summer Ruche Love (Click there to see each of these items separately)

The weather in the south is being awesome this week. It's that perfect not-too-hot, not-too-cold temperature.

I find myself daydreaming of laying out on the beach and soaking up the sun (with loads of sunscreen because I am VERY pale), and luckily for me, my husband's band plays a lot of shows at the beach this time of year.

All these things, plus Ruche's awesome swimsuit collection popping up in my Facebook newsfeed, have me doing a little window shopping.

I'm a pretty shy person when it comes to my swimwear. I want to be in the ocean. I do not want to be half-naked in the ocean. That's just me!

I am drawn to these swimsuits by Ruche because they are oh, so classy! They take the classic swim wear and put an awesome modern twist.

So, these are my favorites, and while I'm super indecisive on swim suit selections, hopefully one of these bad boys will make their way into my closet this season.

What about you? Have you found any nice swim suits for this summer?

—Holli Anne

Writer Talk: Over-sharing & Under-sharing

Over-sharing, under-sharing and letting you know about the apple on the table 

Hello, my name is Tyler and I’m an over-sharer. Don’t want to know what I had for lunch, how it made me feel, and what I thought about while I ate it? Then don’t talk to me after lunch. I am a bottomless pit of talk and I’m not afraid to let my words fly.

I’m not ashamed of this particular personality trait, however, when it comes to writing it can be a bit of a problem.

I have read hundreds of books that walk the line of over-sharing and under-sharing details and books that have fallen in between. I know that giving too much information can be as bad as not giving enough. I want to know what the main character is thinking as he sees the city for the first time but I don’t need to know every single detail in the building to his left or the storm drain next to his feet. On the flip side, you can’t tell me that this is his first time to the city and then let him just walk down the street and into a nondescript house without a new thought in his head.

Getting the details just right is a balancing act in any story you write. At times, it’s a struggle for me to pull in my description reigns because I want need the reader to not only understand my story and characters but to see them as well. As the author I will always know 110 percent more than the reader about my story. I know why she bounces her leg whenever it storms. I know that the police station has a leaky basement causing the captain to have a series of hellish allergies. I know that, after the book ends, Mary is going to have a daughter and name her after her estranged sister.

Some of these details enhance the story; others just distract from it and enable over-sharing tendencies. Unless a detail furthers the readers’ understanding of a plot or character, really think about if it should be in there at all.

I’m going to use a very obscure book as an example of over-sharing.

Jude the Obscure (by Thomas Hardy) made me want to become a character in that book just so I could punch Jude and tell him to stop thinking about nonsense all of the time. You don’t have to know about the plot to know that dear ole Jude couldn’t walk a damned step without analyzing everything around him, how it all made him feel, and at least two flashbacks into his past. If I hadn’t been forced to read it for school I would have put it down within the first chapter (and I normally ALWAYS read past the first chapter).

Sure, some thoughts were relevant to the story. He questioned the love of his life, the way the city made him feel, and a bunch of other important who-am-I issues. However, he also described a ton of things that wasn’t worth a damn to him, me, or the story. Now, I know for a fact that some people insanely love this book (awkward moment: trashing this book to your professor before realizing she did her dissertation on it) and that’s good and all but they can’t deny it is, at best, long-winded.

You don’t need to write out everything that your character feels and sees and smells and touches because you love your story. You automatically know more than anyone about your story and you should keep it just like that. Your story, no matter the plot, is an extension of you and you need your secrets. Sometimes I tell you more than you need to know about my main, sometimes I don’t tell you enough to put together who-done-it, and sometimes I just want you to know there’s an apple sitting on the table.

At the end of the day it’s still your story. You can over- and under-share all you want, just remember that there are people who will put down your book in a heartbeat if you abuse either option. Don’t make them compare your story to Jude the Obscure.

-Tyler Anne (aka Chick Tyler)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Recipe: Homemade Coffee Syrups

I may have mentioned a time or two that I LOVE coffee. If you don't know this about me, I'll go ahead and let you know I have a pretty healthy obsession. 

A few months ago, I made a Facebook status jokingly that said something like this: Maybe I should buy an expresso machine so I'm not tempted to go spend $4 at the coffee shop for the drinks I want. 

Well, an old friend from college was kind enough to just offer me her expresso machine…um yes!

So, I've been having a lot of fun experimenting with some fancy coffee drinks (when I perfect the proportions I'll blog about those, too). 

These homemade coffee syrups were the first step in taking me to my awesome mocha drinks, so I thought I'd share the recipes with you. Plus, they make pretty adorable gifts and Mother's Day is right around the corner.

Vanilla Coffee Syrup:
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Peppermint Coffee Syrup:
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-2 tsp. peppermint extract (depending on your taste preference)

To prepare:
Heat water and sugar on stove top until sugar dissolves. Make sure you stir constantly. Add in extract. Pour into a 1 pint mason jar (or dispenser). 

If you are giving this as a gift, I definitely recommend cutting out a little fabric to put on the lid of the jar! I definitely want to try some more flavors next, but I don't want my home to be too inundated with coffee syrup at once. Anyone have any other flavors they love? Perhaps I'll try them next!

—Holli Anne

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I Dream of Home Improvement

This is mine and my husband's work station today. It's in the middle of our tiny living room on top of an inconveniently big card table. It's in the living room, not the office or bedroom, because this and the kitchen are two rooms we only have semi-finished putting together.

We've been married and "nesting" now for the last month or so, and yes, the house has seen great improvements but boy, there is SO MUCH to go!

I have this habit of wanting everything to be perfect, and I don't want anyone to see until it is. That's why I haven't blogged any of our progress so far.

You know what, though. I decided today I would go ahead and procrastinate my taxes a little longer, to show you some of the things I WANT to do to our home and they are oh, so far from done.

See this bookshelf without any books on it and that wall where the edges aren't painted? The books are just sitting there in boxes because we haven't finished painting the wall, and we figure, it sure would be easier to move that bookshelf without books on it. This is happening this weekend.

These materials are a future banner for our red and yellow kitchen. I think it will be quite adorable!

By far the most embarrassing thing I have to offer: Our future office! It's covered in...well, everything that we can't move until we finish painting.

Curtains. I want to make them for ALL of our windows!

I actually like these throw pillows, but I've had them since I got my first apartment. I think it's time for a change.

These silly little popcorn Christmas tins and coffee canisters are the home of my future container vegetable garden. Of course, I'm going to repaint them, etc., first.

So here it is. I'm showing off my mess! Phew, embarassing. At least it will make it that much more exciting when I show you some pretty things.

Happy Saturday!

—Holli Anne

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Recipe: Blonde Brownies (in the cast iron!)

I've been finding myself in the kitchen more and more these days. Probably because it's the only room in my house that is fully functioning, not annoying to look at and easy to find my "supplies." Gotta get that creativity out somehow, right?!

This recipe for blonde brownies comes straight from my grandma's kitchen, minus baking them in the cast iron. (I'm really confident grandma would not disapprove of my adjustment). 

So, if you are in the mood for some chocolate chip cookies that are sort of like brownies, this just might be your thing.


  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 10 tbsp. margarine or Criso
  • 2 c. light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 pkg. chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt margarine or shortening and add in sugar and 2 tbsp. of hot water. Let cool for a few minutes.

2. Mix in egg and vanilla, then all dry ingredients.

3. Pour into lightly greased cast iron skillet or a 9x13 pan. (You can also half the recipe and cook in a 9x9x2 pan. Sprinkle (COVER!) with chocolate chips!

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Hope you enjoy!

—Holli Anne

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

DIY: Old Box into Writing Utensil Holder

Hello, my name is Tyler and I'm a pack rat.

I don't throw away many things. I can, at times, be the Queen of Clutter--a pack rat to a tee. It's a problem, I know. However, this post isn't about me overcoming my keep-everything-because-you-never-know-when-you-might-need-it tendencies. Instead it's about using my problem to help me with my problem.


I love pens and pencils. Out of everything in my life these are the two items I very rarely will ever throw away. Even if they are broken or out of ink. Maybe it's because I love to write? I don't know, but  I was tired of the three plus cups that housed these writing utensils on the top of my desk.

So I decided to up cycle some cardboard from a box I used (that I didn't throw away...surprise, surprise) for moving to make a writing utensil holder!

At first I was just going to make a cube (minus the top) and be done with it. My mind changed immediately when I saw Herman Marie's Strange Plant. It is weird and charming and not perfect and I absolutely love it. Since I was working with cardboard and knew it wouldn't be a refine finished piece, I decided I wanted to make two panels into my own version of Marie's Strange Plant!

What you need
Scissors/box cutter/ Xacto knife
Hot glue gun/glue stick
Your own template

What I did

1. I wanted to make the two decorative panels first so I took one of my cups and measured how tall and wide it was. I decided that each of the panels should be 4 inches wide and 3.5 inches tall. That would be my square that I wanted to look like a pot for my plant. Then I drew out the pot and went ahead and drew what the "plant" part would look like. I love cacti but I wanted it to look sturdier (and BE sturdier since it was cardboard) so I made it blocky instead of rounded. When I was done I had my template.

2. I took my template and placed it on top of the cardboard. Using a pencil I traced out two panels.

3. I used scissors to cut each panel and then placed them next to each other to see how they measured up.

4. The bottom square came next. It was the same size as the planter's pot.

5. I went ahead and painted my design on to the face of each decorative panel and let it off to the side to dry. I did a few coats on the pot part. Now, it isn't going to look as smooth as painting on canvas, but I got it to where I was happy.

6. Using the hot glue gun I went ahead and glued both decorative panels onto each side of the base. That way you can't see the cardboard ridges from the front or back.

7. I measured and cut two more cardboard pieces that I could slide in to act as the sides. Before putting those in I put hot glue on the sides and bottom so they would stay.

8. Since I made this holder a bit bigger, I took small cardboard pieces and glue them to the inside on the bottom to make separators.

Then, if you like what you see, then you're done! I know it isn't the most beautiful desk decor but you can personalize it, make it any size, and it's basically free to do if you already have the supplies. I totally dig mine because it holds all of my writing utensils plus my clay roller (that big purple thing)! Plus, I can't help but smile when I look at it! No matter which way I have it facing!

I hope you enjoyed this pack rat's way to handle your desk clutter by using some old box!

-Tyler Anne (aka Chick Tyler)

Inspiration: Battling Distraction

Lately life has been a little bit…distracting. 

Two rooms in our house are still only half-way painted, my future office is storing all the things we haven't unpacked and I  haven't written on my book in weeks.

This, plus balancing the wonderful distraction that is newlywed life and work…well, it's just plain hard to focus.

Last Friday, this kind of all came to a head for me in the form of a really fun wave of anxiety. 

My strategy when things are just too burdensome? Walk away. 

Not forever, of course, just for the afternoon. Since my lack of office and crazy house were a big point of stress for me, I decided to paint something for my future office. (That, and I know where the paint is located in my home!)

This little painting was particularly fitting for me during my dry spell of writing: Write Something. 

Since almost all of my work involves writing, I wanted this little reminder above me while I work, so I can close the Pinterest browser more often and just focus on writing. 

I've also really been researching for my book I'm writing, which is great, except that I haven't been writing at all on it. 
Just taking the time to paint this while indulging in some shameless crime show watching was the perfect stress relief. 

Hopefully, it will soon find it's new home in my proper office, but for now, this little space will have to do.

Anyone have any fun things they use to keep focused? I'd love to hear!

—Holli Anne

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cajun Red Beans & Rice

Since my new last name and husband are Cajun (Melancon), I've decided it is pretty imperative I learn to make some Cajun dishes. Plus, they are super delicious and among my favorite things to eat. 

The thought of making roux (the thickening agent used in most authentic dishes) was really the only nerve racking thing about getting my hands into Cajun cooking, but red beans and rice seemed like a good place to start.

I've made this recipe about three or four times now, and it gets better everytime, so I think it's share-worthy! (Though, I'm sorry the pictures don't look that good..I'm no food stylist, but I'm not sure there's a way to make red beans and rice look pretty).

Anyway, here's this super easy, delicious recipe. It's not fancy, but it makes people happy!


  • 1/2 bag red kidney beans
  • 1 lb Conecuh sausage
  • Rice
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 3-5 sticks of celery
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning
  • Louisiana hot sauce 
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. In a large bowl, soak beans overnight (or using a quick soak method). Drain water and rinse, then place in a crockpot with fresh water (covering a few inches over the beans) and let cook all day.

2. Cook sausage on stovetop until blackened. Chop into pieces and throw in crockpot. 

3. Finely chop garlic, onion, bell pepper and celery. Place garlic in crockpot with beans, and sauté onion, bell pepper and celery on stovetop until vegetables are very soft and cooked. Celery, onion and bell pepper and the "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking. 

4. Now the fun part: roux. To make your roux use a nice sturdy pan (preferably a cast iron). I used a 1:1 ratio of flour and oil, my ratio being a 1/2 cup, which worked well for this sized dish. First, on very low heat, melt the oil. Then add in the flour and stir constantly and slowly until the mixture is a copper color like a penny. You HAVE to be patient while making this, and you shouldn't turn up the heat. If any part of it blackens or burns, you have to start the whole thing over. The darker the roux gets, the thinner it gets. It's really up to you how dark you end up making it.

5. Once that is done, turn the heat off and stir in your "holy trinity" mixture to the roux. Then, pour it all into the crockpot, stir and watch as the magic happens and your mixture thickens. If it becomes too thick, feel free to add water, depending on how soupy you like it. 

The final step is to add your seasonings, which are honestly just "to taste." Since most of them are spicy, you should add according to what you (and your dinner guests) prefer. We even set out Tony's and hot sauce on the table when we eat this dish. The longer is simmers in the crockpot, the better, though you can technically eat right away.

Serve over rice and with a side of cornbread! 

—Holli Anne

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Highlights of Life

Life sure seems to go by quickly these days, especially since I got married. (It's almost been a month already...say what?!)

Anyway, I got to thinking the other day how I wished I was doing a Project Life so I could be documenting all these things regularly, and hopefully I'll still get around to that one of these days. Tyler Anne and I have been pretty busy behind the scenes working on several projects here, which is great, though slightly keeping me from leaping into my scrapbooking aspirations.

Still, I broke down today and decided I at least needed to start keeping track of all these highlights. Thus was born this new section of my journal: the Highlights of Life.

The premise is real simple. Everyday, I'm going to write what was the highlight (or highlights) of the day. It could be as simple as an amazing meal or as awesome as getting married! I went back to my wedding day and started there and wrote as many of the days as I could remember up until yesterday. I'm hoping this will help me appreciate how wonderful even the mundane days can be and help me keep track (beside my trusty Instagram, of course!)

What about you guys? Anyone doing Project Life or documenting their lives in some other way?

—Holli Anne

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Homemade Art

Recently, I've done posts about infusing YOU into your space and how creatively de-stressing can be wonderful. THIS post is all about combing the two plus adding the note that homemade is fantastic.
I'm a big DIY fan (search our DIY posts here) so, in turn, that means I'm a big homemade fan. Right now, I've been trying to put more ME into my newest home space while also staying stern with my budget. Luckily, I've found that painting small, wooden squares (though you could definitely use canvas) can make my eyes happy while keeping my money in my bank account.

It all started with my herringbone art. I loved the outcome so much that I made a second panel in shades of gray (not 50, though). I also decided that I liked the color in the first one so much that I made two ombre style pieces. 

I started with a little bit of black in my base color to make it dark. I made that my bottom layer. For the rest of the layers I added a little white in each coat to make it lighter!

Lastly, I really wanted a yellow-something. I didn't want to do any more ombre so I painted the whole square yellow (three layers) and added one layer of gold on the top. It looks brilliant in the light.

These five 4x4 wood squares will be a part of some new wall decor for my office! This a very inexpensive and fun project that can help make you love your own space! 

I wholeheartedly suggest finding or coming up with an art project for your home space! If you do find something you would like to share, leave it in the comments!

-Tyler Anne (aka Chick Tyler)


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