Tuesday, December 31

Midnight In Paris NYE Tablescape & a Blogoversary Giveaway

This year we have decided to have a very low-key New Year's Eve dinner at home.  The crafter in me couldn't resist getting creative with a tablescape for the holiday, though!  I'd already decided to turn my chalkboard chargers into "clocks" for the occasion and tried my hand at writing my numerals like those seen on French market signage.

Then I had the idea to use my 2" scalloped circle punch to create some giant confetti... kind of like champagne bubbles  I used some leftover gift wrap, gift bags, and glitter tissue paper from Christmas.  My brain started working overtime... French numerals... sparkly gold and silver bubbles...

Midnight in Paris!  I remembered the Eiffel Tower I received from my Cupid Swap partner, which has been holding bracelets throughout the fall... and gave it pride of place in the center of the table, accompanied by a couple of faux mercury glass candleholders and a bottle of bubbly.

Just because we'll be watching Ryan Seacrest in our P.J.'s doesn't mean we can't have a fancy table setting, right?

I just love all the sparkle!

Happy 2014, friends!

Linking Up With:

My dear bloggy friend Shoshanah of From L.A. to LA is hosting a 5 year blogoversary giveaway and one of the prizes is ad space here on Beyond the Aisle.  You can enter right here!

$35 Starbucks Gift Card
courtesy of 
From L.A. to LA
Finding My Virginity
Not in Jersey

60 Days of Ad space
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2 Months of Ad space
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6 Months of Ad space
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30 Days of Ad space
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Monday, December 30

clicks of note: who you love...

get your week off to a colorful start...


  • John Mayer and Katy Perry are pretty much the cutest couple in entertainment right now, and their video for their duet "Who You Love" is almost too sweet.  Katy's little giggle at the end makes me happy.  Can these crazy kids make it?  I guess we'll see.

Laura Leslie via Magnolia Rouge



Sunday, December 29

sunday simplicity: sparkle!

year in review: my favorite posts of 2013

#10: Ideas for a Jane Austen Inspired Garden Wedding - Recently there's been a trend of "Pinterest Wedding Do-Over" posts from ladies who planned weddings in the days of binders and ripped up magazines.  I planned mine with lots of folders on my computer full of pictures I'd saved from the Internet.  I suppose if I had a "do-over," this dream wedding would be it.

#9: Gold Rush Pay Dirt Cupcakes - I love when Mr. Q and I decide to do something fun and quirky on the spur of the moment, like last year's Titanic Dinner Party and this year's Gold Rush Party.  I actually think we need to institute a rule to have at least one weird party every year.  I also think that these cupcakes, made with a boxed mix and canned frosting, epitomize my approach to entertaining.

#8: Decoupage Easter Egg Wreath - I was glad this baby was a hit on Pinterest because I was so excited when I got the idea and it was a very time-consuming project.  The best part about this wreath was a real live bird coming to perch on it and steal some of the silk dogwood garland.

#7: Casual Neutrals for Fall - I didn't look anywhere near this cool at my high school reunion tailgate, but coming up with some "dream outfits" for the occasion was fun.  I still love Polyvore!

#6: Sunday Social:  All About the 4's! - My favorite Sunday Social questions are the ones that make me think deeply, and I like that this post ended up being a little tribute to my best friend, Breeze.

#5: Susan G. Komen 5K Race for the Cure - participating in 5K walks makes me feel healthy and strong, and joining a team with Breeze's mom, who is a breast cancer survivor, made this day in the 'Noke so meaningful.

#4: Love and Marriage Series: Challenges - again, I like to write about the deep stuff and participating in this series was inspiring.

#3: Vacation Recap: Tennessee... and the Titanic? - My heart will go on, y'all.  My SIL and I were able to convince Mr. Q that this was a must-see stop on our vacation, and it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip for me (the other was the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville).  I love interactive museums, and a museum/attraction with a whole room dedicated to my favorite film of the 90's is an A+ in my book.

#2: What Happens at the Color Run? - I loved how out of my comfort zone the Color Run was, and look forward to doing it again in 2014!

#1: A to Z Book Survey - Reading will always be one of my favorite things in the world, and this survey really got me thinking about the books, authors, and characters that mean the most to me.

Saturday, December 28

year in review: most popular topics of 2013

Since I'm a weird data nerd, I actually have fun looking at my blog's stats in Blogger and Google Analytics. 

Here's a peek at my stats from 2013:
Visitors - 15,204
Unique Visitors - 12, 584
Pageviews - 21,965

Visitors from these countries visited Beyond the Aisle in 2013:
1. United States
2. Canada
3. United Kingdom
4. Australia
5. Germany
6. France
7. Philippines
8. Mexico
9. Netherlands
10. Brazil

These cities are home to Beyond the Aisle readers:
1. Charlottesville
2. New York
3. Greenville
4. Hialeah
5. Beverly
6. London
7. Chicago
8. Los Angeles
9. Houston
10. San Francisco

One of my favorite features in Google Analytics is being able to see which of my posts have been most popular. Here are my readers' favorite topics from this year:

10. My November Favorites (Favorite Things Link-Up) - I'm loving the monthly Favorite Things Link-Up hosted by Emily and Kylie.  I really love fall, so putting together a list of things I love in November, and making a Polyvore board to go with it, was really fun for me.  I'm kind of struggling to come up with my January list right now, though... hmm...

9. Are You a Daisy or a Jordan? (Great Gatsby Halloween Costume Ideas) - I got Gatsby fever this year with the release of Baz Luhrman's movie, and as soon as this idea popped into my head while watching the DVD and paying more attention to the costumes than the plot, I knew it would be a fun post.

8. Halloween Costume Ideas for Couples and Groups - Holidays push me out of my wedding-inspiration comfort zone in a good way.  This post came from a very practical place - trying to come up with a couples costume for Mr. Q and I to wear to my friend's Halloween party.  I love funny Halloween costumes and costumes based on pop culture.

7. Inspiration for a Garnet Red Amaryllis Wedding - I was surprised that this "dream wedding" was the most popular inspiration post from 2013 - it was very traditional, classic, and elegant, not like my usual rustic/vintage style.

6. My Fave Top (We Love Target Link-Up) - My little foray into the world of fashion blogging was pretty tame compared to the outfits actual fashion bloggers assemble.  I'm going to try to share more REAL outfit ideas in 2014!

5. All About Pinterest (Sunday Social) - Life before Pinterest for me involved binders, page protectors, and ripping up magazines.  I'm so glad this new social media platform is here to stay - it's such a game-changer for bloggers especially!

4. Our Story (Love and Marriage Series) - I like getting to post about the real work of marriage and relationships, so I enjoyed participating in this series.  I want this blog to be more about marriage and less about weddings as the years go by.

3. Inspiration for a 1920's-style Wedding - I'm going to chalk this one up as more Gatsby mania!  2013 was THE YEAR for an art deco celebration.

2. Craft:  UVa/VT House United Rag Wreath - My rag wreath became really popular on Pinterest, which made me feel good because it was my own idea.

1. Series: Bridal Shower Games and Gifts, Bridal Shower Food and DrinksBridal Shower Invites and Decor, and Recap: Rustic Burlap and Mason Jars Fall Wedding - Breeze's wedding and the celebrations leading up to it were really my labor of love this year.  My best friend's wedding was very different from my own, but so perfect for her, and I loved helping her bring her vision to life.

Happy Almost 2014!  Linking Up With:

Friday, December 27

Holiday Home Tour: Merry Christmas from the Country Townhouse!

Continuing with my "better late than never" approach from yesterday, I finally got my act together and got my house ready for a holiday blog tour.  I love poinsettias so they are always on my front door wreath.  This year, I added silver ribbon that was left over from trimming our Christmas tree.  You can see last year's Dickens-inspired version here and the original, simple wreath from 2011 here.  With a sturdy wreath form, silk florals, and craft picks, the possibilities are endless, and I really like the elegance the ribbon adds.

When I ran out of space on our kitchen bulletin board to display cards, I used polka dot and striped washi tape to stick them directly to the walls!  I got the idea from this post at Design Improvised.

My counters are stacked with holiday treats for family members and drop-in guests!  This year I made The Dwelling Tree's funfetti sugar cookies and Hershey's crinkle cookies.  Both turned out GREAT - I was finally organized enough to make all of the dough on the 23rd, chill it overnight in the fridge, and do the actual baking on Christmas Eve morning.  I found the square snowflake and cellophane wrapping kits at Big Lots and A.C. Moore.

You can see how I made my chalkboard chargers and matching Christmas tree ornaments in yesterday's post.

These crochet snowflakes are a family heirloom.


The penguin ornament was a gift from my mom this year - she said it was calling my name - and the clear snowflake ornaments and white frosted ornaments are new additions from Michael's.  I tried to keep an overall simple, sparkly, snowy theme in mind and I used very little red and no green or gold on the tree this year.

I was really excited to find Hershey's chocolate mint flavored candy canes!  It's the little things, y'all.

My little snow jars were one of my first holiday crafts this year and probably the easiest - I added Epsom salts, mini pinecones left over from Breeze's wedding, and colorful tiny jingle bells and called it done.  The square Mason jar was a gift from Breeze.  I'm not really a big candy dish person (they make me feel like an old lady) but apparently they are a popular teacher gift, so I went with it.

I used PicMonkey to edit the photos in this post.  
For a limited time, my readers can get a FREE DAY of PicMonkey Royale!

Happy Holidays!  Linking Up With:

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Thursday, December 26

Happy Holidays! Chalkboard Christmas Ornaments + Chalkboard Chargers

This year, my Christmas decorating was inspired by the movie It's a Wonderful Life - and when I think about that movie, I think simple, lots of snow, and black and white.  What else is black and white that I adore?  Chalkboards, of course!  This train of thought led to what I'm pretty sure are my favorite crafts I've done in 2013: Chalk Art Christmas Ornaments and Chargers!

When I saw these plastic ornaments at A.C. Moore, I knew I wanted to turn them into Chalk Art Christmas ornaments.  These kinds of ornaments are wonderful because they are fillable, paintable, sticker-able - you could really turn them into anything to fit your decorating theme.  I especially like that they aren't fragile like glass ornaments, and that they can usually be found for $1 or less each.  I also picked up 4 shiny gold chargers from the Dollar Tree with visions of chalkboard paint dancing in my head.

I invested in Rust-Oleum Chalk Board spray paint, also available at A.C. Moore.  This is really similar to the Krylon paint I used for all of the chalkboard crafts for our wedding, but I think I like Rust-Oleum's formula better.

This is the really fancy apparatus I set up for spray-painting the ornaments - kitchen skewers and planters.  I like to use what I have to get projects done quickly.  I just plopped the chargers right down on top of the leaves.  I sprayed one coat, waited an hour, sprayed a second coat, then waited 24 hours for everything to dry completely.  Thin coats of spray paint are key on the ornaments; otherwise drips are very evident when they are dry.

When the paint was completely dry, I "seasoned" the chargers and ornaments by rubbing all over with the flat side of a piece of chalk and then a dry paper towel.  If you skip this step, your chalkboard projects won't be erasable.  Doing this also leaves a chalky residue that keeps your projects more "rustic chalkboard Christmas" and less "goth Christmas with Alice Cooper."

I had way more fun than I probably should have playing with my new chargers and ornaments.  I think the ornaments would make great "placecards" for Christmas dinner (that guests could take home and add to their trees!).

Monograms also look really great in chalkboard form... but I had bigger plans for these babies...

Mr. Q and I picked some of our favorite Christmas-inspired words and I used my best teacher cursive to chalk them onto the ornaments.

Then, to make the ornaments permanent, I went over my chalk with a white paint pen.  See how much crisper the paint looks?  For a slightly less permanent version, you could use a chalk marker, which would be removable with a wet paper towel.

I decided to go with regular chalk on the chargers because I have a lot more plans for them over next year's holidays!  I went with an easy little snowflake design.  I love how they look on our table paired with Mason jars, Goodwill milk glass, knockoff mercury glass, and Dollar Tree plates.

Happy Holidays Everyone!  Linking Up With:

Monday, December 23

Dear Santa... [#12DC]

Open a new blog post. Close your eyes. Pretend you still talk to Santa. Open your eyes. Start writing. What would you say? What would you tell him? What would you ask for?

This year, my students wrote letters to Santa as part of the Macy's "Believe" campaign for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.  We discussed what Make-a-Wish does for children and I asked my students to do what I'm doing today: share their wishes with Santa.  I'm sharing a few of their letters today, along with my own wishes for 2014.

This week in my yoga class, my teacher shared this joke with us: "Each of our lives has four parts, if we are lucky.  In the first part, we believe in Santa.  In the second part, we don't believe in Santa.  In the third part, we are Santa.  In the fourth part, we look like Santa."

Dear Santa, I don't have many wishes for myself this Christmas.  I have a warm home, a loving and supportive family, and healthy meals every day.  That's not the case for all of my students, so I have some wishes for them that I wanted to send your way.  I know my kids think they are too old and too cool to come sit on your lap, so I'll let you know what they really need as they travel through the second part of their lives.

Santa, I wish that none of my students had to come to class without eating breakfast or go home to no dinner at night.  I wish that McDonald's was a treat to them instead of a staple.  I wish that their parents had time to spend with them around the table, and took the time to have conversations with them about their school days, their social lives, and their hopes for the future.

Santa, I wish that my students wouldn't feel so pressured to map out their lives in the eighth grade.  I wish they could understand that there is still plenty of time to find themselves and that becoming a doctor, lawyer, or scientist isn't the only way to make their parents and teachers proud - that many of the careers they will pursue haven't been invented yet and that we will always need writers, artists, and dancers as well.  We'll need auto mechanics, and lumberjacks, and game wardens.  We'll need soldiers, policemen, and firemen.

I wish that my students could come to school unburdened by worries about sick relatives, whether Dad will be able to keep his job at the window factory, and whether Mom and Dad (or Mom and Stepdad, or Stepmom and Dad) are going to stay together.  I wish for them to never know what a meth lab smells like or how to hide from the DEA while Dad makes moonshine.

I wish my students didn't feel like they have to grow up so fast, Santa.  I wish they didn't even need to think about relationship violence, homophobia, racism, teen pregnancy, or STDs.  I wish them snowball fights, hugs, art projects, and innocent first movie dates.  I wish that holding hands was still exhilarating for a 13-year-old girl and that a peck on the cheek was still enough to mean love.

I wish that my students didn't have to come to school in shorts in November, or without a coat in January, or in shoes that fit in August but not anymore.  I wish that they could go home and see books on shelves and have a quiet space to do their homework or draw a picture.

Santa, more than anything else, I wish that everyone knew what wonderful people sit in my classroom every day.  That "kids these days" still dream of fixing this world's problems. That they can rise above selfishness, closed-mindedness, and fear, and that they will be our leaders before we know it.  Soon enough, they will be Santa.  I wish that their hearts will stay full of the love they need to get there.

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