Overnight French Coast Casserole – The Recipe

For Easter brunch this year I made a new dish, that I’ve had at my aunts but this was new to my immediate family and for me! So it was a perfect time to make it for them.  Plus, it’s an overnight casserole, so all your prep is the night before and all you have to do morning of is pop it in the oven – SO EASY! Not to mention, this is SOOOO good, especially if you love some breakfast sweets.
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Prep Time: 20-minutes
Cook Time:
45-minutes

What You’ll Need:
– 10-12 slices of white bread (I used 10)
– 5-6 eggs (I used 6)
– 1/2 cup of margarine aka 1-stick
– 1.5 cups of brown sugar
– 1-teaspoon of cinnamon
– 1.5 cups of milk (I used almond milk)
– 9×13 baking pan
– Maple Syrup for serving
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Step-by-Step:
1. Items to prep ahead: (a) Melt your stick butter (b) Beat your 6-eggs into a bowl, add your milk and stir well (c) Mix your brown sugar and cinnamon into a smaller bowl.
2. Now that you have all the main fixings prepped, take your 9×13 baking pan and pour your melted butter across the bottom – from there fill the pan with your first layer of bread.  Only 4-full pieces fit in my pan, so I cut one in half to fill in the little spot left.
3. Sprinkle about half of your cinnamon and brown sugar mix overtop the first layer.
4. Add your second layer of bread, I adjusted where my smaller pieces were from the bottom, just because!
5. Pour your egg and milk mixture over all of the bread.
6. Sprinkle the rest of your cinnamon and brown sugar mixture overtop.
7. Cover and refrigerate over night!
8. Good morning! Pre-heat your oven to 350 and bake covered for 30-minutes.
9. After 30-minutes, uncover and bake for 15-minutes or until set and toppings are browned.
10. Serve with maple syrup & enjoy! French Toast (6) - the bee life
The next time I make this dish, I have a few other ideas on how to step this up to the next level, adding in apples in between the layers for an apple french toast, or even having a strawberry drizzle to put on top before serving and eating. Doesn’t that sound even more delish?!  But seriously, if you love a good sweet in the morning – this is so easy and so delicious!

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Weekend Recap – Easter Things

Easter fell super late this year, so it’s crazy that April is nearly over – eeek! But the Easter weekend flew by just like the rest of this month has been. Not to mention the weather was gross and rainy (but those May flowers are coming!!) it made you just want to lay around and not do much besides watch some playoff basketball – which we did!

All of last week, I was prepping to host my first Easter brunch, even though it wasn’t going to be for the masses – I wanted to make sure I had a nice well-rounded meal planned.  I knew I wanted to make this Overnight French Coast Casserole recipe, so that was a definite (recipe coming later this week!), bacon is always a brunch staple in our household, and then I made a batch of scrambled eggs and had blueberries and raspberries too! The guys made up bloodies, while mom and I stuck with coffee. It was so all so delicious and so filling, yum!
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We wrapped up our Easter weekend with B’s family with a tasty ham, mashed potatoes, baked carrots and salad – we definitely ate well this weekend, that is for sure.  We even helped our nieces with an Easter egg hunt! They were so cute and excited to open their plastic eggs filled with coins and candy and find their Easter baskets – it was super fun to see them so excited about the holiday fun!

Beyond all the Easter festivities, we enjoyed some local eats at some of our favorite spots and even a few new ones – we had a lot of good catching up and laughs, not to mention a house full of pups that kept us busy! How was your weekend?

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How to Create an Off-Centered Gallery Wall

Everyone has seen a bunch of how-to’s and pro-tips on how to hang your standard proportional gallery wall with matching frames – don’t get me wrong, I love a perfect gallery wall, we have one as our main focal point in our living room. But I was recently inspired in one of our guest rooms – formerly our master – to do a fun little off-centered gallery wall around another photo we had hanging.
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What inspired this was a few things: B and I went to a Paint Your Pup canvas painting class so we took home two awesome portraits of our sweet Moz – but didn’t have a great place to hang them, I mean I try and keep the dog portraits throughout the house to a minimum. *smiles* But this was just sitting on the wayside, so I had the idea of expanding and making a little Moz-dog themed gallery wall based on other art prints we had around the house and some more original artwork! Once you have your art pieces picked out and framed it’s time to start hanging them!

What You’ll Need:
At least 6-framed pieces of art, I kept all my frames white for a uniformed looked
– Hammer
– Nails and picture hanger hooks

Step-by-Step:

  1. Determine your focal point – Once you have your focal point established, you’ll want to build off from here and building parallel working to the left and going up and down.
  2. Pick your lowest point – From the focal point, it’s time to work down to determine the lowest point – be sure to play around with placement before committing even as you work through these steps – see how they work before fully committing.
  3. Start working to the left, to the left – Working in that parallel pattern I next wanted to work up and to the left from my focal point and I chose the canvas so I could build around it with other frames and mix up the types of art.
  4. Work down! Since I had four larger 11×14 // 8×10 prints and frames creating a  diamond shape rectangle
  5. Build your final row. Repeat the process with your final row – my last two pieces were smaller squares which was a nice way to finish off  and work from large pieces to smaller.
  6. Last piece to the puzzle.  I put the canvas on the lower part of the third row so that the canvas’ were away from each other – playing around with them next to each other didn’t work out, but I love having two of those to mix in, they work since they’re different shapes.

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How to pick your art? Choosing a theme or topic can be a good starting point for you to stay focused – even if it’s vintage photos, places you’ve been on vacation, or a mix of photography and inspiration words. I had almost all of our art pieces around the house: one is an old drawing B’s made from grade school (of a dog!) the other is a fun Puggle print I got off Etsy.  The second square canvas was a DIY print that Moz made with her paw prints and then the other square print is a fun dog collage illustration from Society6. Which, btw, Society6 has a great variety of prints if you’re looking for so unique pieces.  When picking the art, I wanted a variety of styles – photograph, painted, drawn, while also having a variety of shapes with these – this helps with the off centered part. #notsponsored
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I had a lot of fun pulling this together and using pieces that are special to us and also center around pups and our Moz!  This space worked perfectly since I like to switch up this room, this wall either houses the bed (currently) – so the pictures won’t get in the way of sleep OR the new dressers I just recently made over butt up against this wall, which would also work around the height.  Ultimately it’s all about creating a statement in your home that feels good and special to you!

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Easter Brunch – Tablescape & Prep

Easter is less than a week away and I’m excited to be hosting brunch for my immediate family!  So I’ll be taking you along the ride as I first – prep the dining table and plan the menu, and then I’ll share the actual spread and a recap of how everything went (compared to how I thought it would go!) and finally I’ll share a few of the recipes from the brunch! Easter Dining - the bee life (1)
Setting the Table: I always love planning and setting up my dining room table with holiday and seasonal decor and this year was no different – it’s even better when I actually have an excuse and am able to host! I opted to go with more neutral themed colors with pops of color – using my blue and teal paisley table runner and teal-ish placemats that match the table runner perfect!

For the centerpiece, I wanted to keep it simple while still making a statement, I uncovered three large jugs tucked away in the basement I wanted to incorporate these into the focal point.  Paired with Easter basket grass and my bright eggs with pops of gold this added the right amount of color to the simple base of blues and greens. I had fun mixing and matching plates, chargers, silverware and champaign glasses so we can all enjoy some bubbles with our yummy eats!  Easter Dining - the bee life (3)
For the name tags I found these adorable mini 2×3″ frames at Target on the clearance shelf – with blues and a nice pop of pink these were the exact color pallet I was already working with, so I grab a few to use as the place settings with the idea of adding the names in place of a picture!  Since these don’t scream Easter – I’ll be able to re-use for the future.  I wasn’t able to find my exact frames on Target.com but these stone 2×3″ frame and this modern acrylic 2×3″ frame were two other options I also saw on the clearance rack that would be fun for name tags at the table.

Meal Prep: Planning the meal was fairly easy, I knew that I wanted to have a good spread of options, but keep the prep and cook-time to a minimum since it’ll be a shorter morning with Easter church.  So I went to my go-to guide of overnight breakfast casseroles and then cook in the morning, and then filled in the rest of the food groups with other easy yet filling options! Beyond thinking about food it’s important to think through beverage options as well and having coffee, decaf coffee, tea options, juices and then the staples like a bloody mary bar and the fixing and toppings for mimosas! I will be trying a different casserole than ones I’ve shared before and you’re going to die at how easy it is and how delicious it is – stay tuned!
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In addition to hosting brunch, we’ll also be hosting the family at the house – so not only will I’ll be getting all the groceries purchased throughout the week and prepping the house. It’ll be a busy week getting ready but it’ll be so fun having everyone together!

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Fitness Friday 04.19

Guess what! It’s still cold season – but when is it not? With cold season and daylight savings (have you recovered yet?) in full force it’s important that we take care of our bodies and our immune health, here are a few ways I make sure to combat this every year, especially when I start feeling like something might be creeping in – plus it’s just good to be our best, healthy selves.
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Good Sleep. In order to get good sleep, I like a natural herb Valerian Root at night – this helps my thoughts and stress shut off and get a bit of a deeper sleep than I normally would.  I seriously get some of the best sleep when I take this, although please read labels and consult with a doctor before taking! (because I’m definitely not a doctor!)

Drink Lots of Water. Getting into a good routine and pattern of drinking water is crucial, you mind find yourself using the restroom more, but staying hydrated keeps your skin healthy – helps muscles and joints work better – and helps keep the toxins out!  I’ve always heard drinking water helps suppress your appetite, but I have yet to have that happen to me. *smiles*

Remember to Laugh. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few good catch-ups with good friends, and one in particular was filled with belly laughs, literally the entire night. My face hurt, my stomach hurt, but it felt SO good, and I realized I hadn’t had a good laugh in a long time, and I needed it – it’s just good for the soul.  We need to nurture our souls just as much as our bodies because our mental health affects our physical health.

Exercise. It wouldn’t be a Fitness Friday if I didn’t mention exercise! Sweating out those toxins is another great way to combat cold and flu season – just be smart and clean if you’re in a group workout facility and hand sanitize as needed!

How do you combat cold season to be your best self?

 

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Basement Makeover – Check-In

Over the summer I shared our Basement Makeover Game Plan – which I admittedly had some ulterior motives to have some extra space ready for B’s surprise party back before the holidays (but he didn’t know that *smiles*)! We were able to knock through a lot of the to-do’s and really transformed this space. Here are a few of the first items we knocked through with some photo updates too!

P.S. Before you keep reading – be sure to check out our Basement Makeover Game Plan to see the hideous before pictures, and to truly appreciate the afters!

Created a Dedicated Space: We had to move all of our storage shelves, while also buying new plastic black shelves and containers to get things organized and contained – we moved all of this either under the steps where we have a decent amount of storage and then also created a “storage room.” Also to help make this storage room and create our “living space” – we had a plan to put up a faux wall with a painters drop cloth as a large curtain, curtain clips and a gas pipe for it to hang from. Basement Makeover - Checkin - the bee life (4)Painting & Waterproofing: This was super fun, not! *tongue out face* … in order to properly prep the space we had to do a lot of scrapping, sanding and getting the exterior walls ready for the waterproofing paint.  This was dusty, tiring and time intensive – but we wanted to make sure we were doing this right! Once the wall was prepped – we started painting with the thick waterproofing paint – I think we ended up doing at least 2-coats, and then painted with normal paint overtop the waterproofing paint.  We even painted the floor! So we had a completely white space – the paint alone made our basement look 10x bigger!

Accent Wall: We ended up creating an accent wall with shiplap wall – you can see our full DIY and How-to here for $60.  I’m so glad we did this – it helped pull in the industrial feel I was going for with the whole finished-unfinished look.  Not to mention, this was pretty effortless compared to drywall or something else and cost effective!
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As we continued working through these and saw how the space was really coming together – which was a bit beyond what we both expected, our plans for furniture and a few other finishes started to change.  I was initially just planning on using our patio furniture down here in the off season, butttt that changed and we ended up finding some awesome furniture that we pulled the trigger on.  Even finding the perfect rugs to layer started pulling the whole vision together while using string patio lights from the ceiling to help light the space! Basement Makeover - Checkin - the bee life (3)Basement Makeover - Checkin - the bee life (2)I can’t wait to show the finished space with you soon – with custom art and other DIYs like the old vintage trunk I upcycled for $50, it’s been really great to have a secondary living space as an option, hangout and the perfect spot to watch movies at during the weekends!

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How to Upgrade an Old Dresser

Almost four years ago, I updated our bedroom dressers to better fit the aesthetic of our bedroom.  The dressers were originally B’s – and they were a glossy black with old gold handles – they were just dated and super dark!  So in order to do a quick update we had sanded and spray painted the dressers and the knobs, in order to save some money by NOT replacing the knobs.  It was an easy half a day project with a huge upgrade, you can see the original before and after here.

…. Well it was time for another easy upgrade – this time a color upgrade AND hardware upgrade.  I found a 25-pack of knobs for $32 on Amazon – when you’re updating knobs, be sure to check how many holes your current knobs use (one or two), if there are two holes you’ll want to measure the space between and find knobs appropriately! Of course you can fill holes and drill new ones – but that is a whole other ball game. 🙂
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As I mentioned above, when I first made over these dressers, I went with the spray paint route – which I do love the magic of spray paint. But this time around I wanted to use paint for ease of application and clean-up!

Upgrade Step-by-Step:
(1) Buy your supplies: paint, sand paper, roller, brush, new knobs, paint tray, hand-held screwdriver
(2) Remove your old knobs
(3) Sand all the surfaces you’re planning on painting – just a light sand to rough up the surfaces works.  Knowing I had dark black under my light grey – I didn’t want to have to do 50-coats of white by revealing too much of the original color.
(4) Be sure to wipe down your surfaces after sanding to get rid of any access dust before you paint!
(5) Start painting!! You’ll want to do at least 2-3 coats depending on the original color you’re covering up – make sure your surfaces are dry between coats and use a brush to get are the roll places for every covered.
Pro-tip: You might want to add an additional coat onto the top of your dresser surface since this will be getting a bit more wear and tear. 
(6) Once you’ve painted and everything is dry and covered it’s time to get our dresser back into place and had your hardware with a handheld screwdriver!
(7) Stuff with clothes & decorate!
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For the color, white was a no brainer and the gold knobs were an easy way to modernize the dresser with an elevated touch.  I was able to get these dressers updated within a few hours – the weather helped being so nice that the layers of paint dried pretty quick, so I was able to keep it going with little breaks in between!

Since these aren’t in our bedroom anymore, this was just another way to update one of our spare rooms – and these are the dressers B uses everyday so they definitely get used and needed more sprucing. I’m pretty happy with how this turned out although I do wish the knobs were a little more centered on the drawer, but I was using the existing holes so I’m ok with it! Dresser Makeover - the bee life (4)
After it was all said and done, this dresser upgrade only cost $32 and some change between the new hardware and a paint tray – I used white paint I already had around! The upgrade with the white helps brighten the room and the knobs get rid of that dated feel and make these dressers feel new and modern!

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Latest Obsessions 03.19 – March Roundup

To close out one of my favorite month’s of the year – my latest obsessions are honestly a bit of a roundup of some of this past month’s adventures, happenings and behind the scenes planning. Ironically we’re closing out the month with a fresh coat of snow after having a lovely day in the 50’s just yesterday. #Spring

Our Chicago Trip:  Our weekend getaway to Chicago was just what the doctor ordered and was a much needed escape from reality – not the mention B and I got to explore another city together and do as much city touristy things as possible while also trying to eat as much Chicago food as we could! This little trip as spurred our other 2019 trips into booking mode instead of just planning mode!

Bathroom Finishes & Accessories: With our bathroom remodel project well underway, we’re finally getting to a point where finishes are right around the corner and we have a defined space! … Although this just means my wheels have been spinning a bit more than usual with all the possibilities.  I still have yet to find some towel holders, soap tray, bath towels and other bath accessories that I love (well that aren’t $100 each) … so I think I’ll actually have to shop in a store vs. browsing online.
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Getting Back Into My Fitness Routine: I’ve been working to make this more intentional into my day to day and trying to prioritize around all of the other things that are such as life. It hasn’t been easy, I’ve had good streaks and I’ve had bad streaks but the most important part is that it’s a priority and change is slowly happening – which is better than none at all!

Inspirational Books: I’ve been reading a lot lately which unfortunately isn’t usual for me! I’m more of a vacation/travel reader – but I’ve found some books lately that have been what I’ve needed, they’re educational, inspirational and motivational. I’m looking forward to sharing a few with you as I finish them up!

March was a bit of a rollercoaster of fun, emotions, change and everything in between so I’m happy to see it go and looking ahead to warm months with lots of possibilities, more obsessions and a whole lot more fun!

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Travel: #emnbtoCHI

In case you missed our Chicago Eats check them out here! Beyond wanting to eat as much yummy food as possible, we also wanted to be just plain tourists and checkout the best spots, while also getting a taste of the life of locals – which I think we did a nice balance of! So without further ado, here is the rest of our CHI-town round-up!

Skydeck at Willis Tower: With views from the 103 floor, you get 360 views of the city, Lake Michigan and every skyscraper in between!  The going rate to get up to the top floor is $25 per person (which is much cheaper than the Empire State Building). It was really fun to soak in all of the city views, plus we had perfect blue skies.

Pro-tip #1: Buy your tickets ahead of time to skip the line!
Pro-tip #2: You get 60-seconds on the glass ledge, so plan your angles ahead of time!
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Cloud Gate aka the Bean at Millennium Park: I mean, we had to check it out right? Everyone that goes to Chicago gets an iconic picture in front of the bean! Our bean pics were anything but iconic – I’m not sure why everyone is so obsessed with it because it just stretches out your face. If the weather was a little nicer, we would’ve explored the rest of the park a bit more!
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Run Through Lincoln Park & the Lakefront Trail: This was honestly my favorite part of our trip – our little 4 mile run through Lincoln Park and then popping over to the Lakefront Trail for stellar views of the Chicago skyline was an absolutely perfect start to our Friday.  Our hotel was about 2 blocks from entering Lincoln Park, so we ventured down the brownstone lined streets through the quiet of the morning before all the hustle and bustle. Lincoln Park was filled with doggy play dates, other runners and we even got to see some Zebra’s from the zoo!
CHI Recap - the bee life (3)The Chicago River: We were able to enjoy the stunning views of the Chicago river as we ventured to Willis Tower and the back to our hotel and down the Magnificent Mile back to the Gold Coast where we stayed. Again, because it was super chilly unless you were in direct sunlight, we weren’t able to take the 1.25 mile Riverwalk, but next time we go in the summer it will be a must!

Fun fact: The River was NOT still green after St. Patrick’s Day.
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A few other fun sightings we were able to soak in was the Chicago Tribune (Never Been Kissed) – our hotel even had a valet that didn’t allow you to self-park, so immediately our trip was starting out like a Ferris Bueller movie. We can’t wait to get back to CHI when the weather is a little nicer so we can explore on feet a little more; even though we still racked up 10.3 miles between our run and walking adventures!

What’re you favorite Chicago landmarks?

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