easy + homemade sweet potato chips.

easy + homemade sweet potato chips.

Last Sunday, I posted a photo of a tasty tray of homemade sweet potato chips on Instagram. We are currently in our third week of the 21 Day Fix -- and I was in desperate need of some "snacky" foods. We referenced our handy Fixate cookbook and decided to try our hand at homemade sweet potato chips.

21 day fix approved sweet potato chips.

I am not a Beachbody coach, but I am trying hard to follow the 21 Day Fix Eating Plan. As a notoriously picky eater, this has proven to be a difficult task. However, seeing the results (only 2/3s of the way through the program) are encouraging me to keep going. When I say I needed a snack, it wasn't because of hunger. It was simply because I missed some crunchy afternoon goodness. (You're talking to a reformed carb addict.)

21 day fix approved sweet potato chips.

We adjusted the Fixate recipe ever so slightly by adding a few shakes of cinnamon on the finished product. On a different tray, we tried cayenne pepper. I preferred the cinnamon, but it was nice to have a little something spicy too. The possibilities are truly endless for this 21 Day Fix-approved recipe! I plan to make these long after the program is over -- not just because they don't break my calorie bank. The delicious snackability makes them the ideal treat for upcoming Sundays spent watching football with friends and family.


SWEET POTATO CHIPS*
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (we used only one large + it filled two full trays!)
  • 2 teaspoons of extra-virgin organic coconut oil or olive oil, melted (truth: we added a touch more than 2 teaspoons-- which deviates a bit from the 21 Day Fix official recipe)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • desired spices (we used cinnamon + cayenne -- separately!)
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F.  Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a mandolin to slice sweet potatoes very thinly. Place the sweet potatoes on lined baking sheets in a single layer. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 2-3 hours, depending on desired crispiness. Remove from oven and shake a bit of your desired spices on top of the finished sweet potato chips.

If you follow the recipe strictly, it is equivalent to half of a yellow container and half of a teaspoon on the 21 Day Fix program. A serving equates to roughly 75 calories. This recipe serves 4, requiring 10 minutes of prep and up to 3 hours of patience for the baking chips.


I have to admit I'm entirely obsessed -- and cannot wait to make these chips again! If you make them too, be sure to tag me on Instagram. Have you tried the 21 Day Fix? I'd love to hear your experiences! xoxo {av} 

*Recipe adapted from Fixate

how to build better pinterest boards (and why you should).

how to build better pinterest boards (and why you should!)

I remember my first introduction to Pinterest in early 2011. A new blogging friend told me about it over lunch and she offered to invite me. I joined and immediately fell in love. The concept was novel: one place to keep all your inspiration online. In the ensuing years, Pinterest has grown to be so much more than just a place to pine over pretty homes or get hungry from scrolling through recipes. It is a serious traffic generator for blogs, brands, and businesses. If you're a blogger, you know how important it is to have a strong presence on Pinterest, both with the content you create and the content you're sharing.

While I don't have a million followers, I have invested a great deal of time and energy in curating my Pinterest boards over the years. However, it wasn't until recently that I decided to put thought behind my board descriptions. Why? I always thought my board names did enough. However, I realized that the method behind my madness may not always be as apparent for others as it is for me. 

I did some research to support this effort. Board descriptions can be captured by search engines, which means you could be attracting a wider audience with a few simple keywords. With the more advanced search features now available on Pinterest, they tell us that solid board descriptions will also help when someone searches within the site. If you're into SEO (aka search engine optimization), your SEO efforts shouldn't end on your blog -- they should extend to your pins and board descriptions as well.

Should you want to make your profile more search engine friendly, click on the gear in the upper right hand corner of your Pinterest profile. You'll see the option to Edit Settings. Click through there and you should see the Search Privacy option. You will want to make sure your settings are open to search engines. If you want your profile to be open, it should look like the image below.
I invested a good hour in crafting descriptions for my 44 (current) boards on Pinterest. I focused on giving a light-hearted but informative description for someone who may be newly discovering my account. I kept with the style of writing I use throughout all of my pins. My hope is that these descriptions will illustrate the thought and effort I put into my boards.

Last but certainly not least, I made it my mission to make sure all of my pins are properly sourced. I wanted to ensure that my followers know they can pin from my boards with confidence. I included the simple line: (all images linked to original source) It may not seem like much, but I can hopefully continue to spread the message that proper sourcing is absolutely essential within a social media machine like Pinterest.

While Pinterest analytics tell us a great deal, they may not tell us what searches bring us to our profiles. Even still, I think it is worth the effort to invest the time in your Pinterest profile. In doing so, you will build better boards -- and will hopefully attract more followers as a result. I know I appreciate other pinners who are intentional about their boards, so I imagine others do too. Thanks for indulging me in this geeky post -- and I hope it inspires you to spend a random hour (while watching mindless TV, perhaps?) updating your boards to make them the best on the block! I'd be happy to answer any questions in the comments section :) xoxo {av}

If you want more posts on Pinterest by yours truly, here are a few favorites:


kid-friendly living rooms.


kid-friendly living rooms.
left column:  top - middle - bottom   |   right column:  top - top middle - bottom middle - bottom

When we moved in our last apartment, {cv} agreed to adding an amazing glass coffee table to the mix. My naive (and non-parent) self didn't think about the potential long-term hazards of such a heavy and rigid piece; I was just blinded by all its clear and simple beauty ;) Now that {jv} is crawling (!!!), I know it is time to finally address the elephant -- er, the glass coffee table -- in the room.

The living space in our new house is definitely open concept, so I'm running into a number of design challenges. We have a large sectional (with two equal sized arms), which I positively love. However, it raises the question about whether to find a square table or maintain the current rectangular shape. There is also a small part of me which loves the idea of a round tufted coffee table. As you can tell, my indecisiveness is out in full force. Unfortunately, I can't delay the process much longer. The little one crawling around our main level needs to stay far, far away from the rock solid edges of our current coffee table. The sooner I make a decision, the better.

After some extensive hemming and hawing, I am leaning more toward a square or round option with a little cushion. I pulled a few of my favorites here. Whenever I do these product round-ups, I do them so you can avoid the lengthy research. My pros + cons lists were to elicit your help in choosing one for our space ;)

10+ kid-friendly ottoman + coffee table options for your living room.
Dorel Living Hastings Tufted Ottoman via Wayfair: $228.99 + free shipping; 38.75" square (Pros: leather, nailhead detail // Cons: lack of options, questionable leather quality for the price)
Skyline Furniture Linen Tufted Cocktail Ottoman via Wayfair: $311.99 + free shipping; 35" square (Pros: well-reviewed, linen is a plus // Cons: feet are more detailed // Note: this is strikingly similar to the Elliot Ottoman offered by One Kings Lane in a few different colors at a slightly higher price tag of $409)
Restoration Hardware Cooper Upholstered Square Ottoman: $335 to $845 + $199 shipping; 36" square (Pros: extra simple design, available in a number of colors and fabrics // Cons: lack of storage, potentially too simple in design, high shipping cost)
Home Decorators Collection Mila Ottoman: $359 + $60 shipping; 42" in diameter (Pros: wicker look will go with any decor // Cons: cats and wicker don't always mix)
Home Decorators Collection Farrow Round Tufted Ottoman: $359 + $55 shipping; 36" in diameter (Pros: leather adds a little masculinity to the decor // Cons: smaller size, not all that elegant looking)
Seagrass Coffee Table via Wisteria: $379.99 + $125 shipping/handling; 42" square (Pros: uncomplicated and versatile // Cons: cats love seagrass...)
Ballard Designs Hayes Round Tufted Ottoman: $399 to $759 (shipping cost unclear); 36" in diameter (Pros: extensive color options, hidden storage, well-reviewed // Cons: smaller than I hoped)
Home Decorators Collection Custom Abingdon Upholstered Ottoman: $519 + $15 shipping; 36" square (Pros: lots of color and fabric options // Cons: assembly required, not in love with the multi-ball feet)
Home Decorators Collection Riemman Ottoman: $519 + $60 shipping; 39" in diameter (Pros: uncomplicated shape, simple ball feet // Cons: few color options, many of which are microsuede -- not my favorite)
Cara Round Ottoman via One Kings Lane: $579 (shipping cost unclear); 39" in diameter (Pros: available in a number of colors (via search by product name) // Cons: too many "buttons", a bit short at 16")
Ballard Designs Carmel Cocktail Ottoman: $589 to $904 (shipping cost unclear); 45.5" square  (Pros: hidden feet, plenty of colors and fabrics // Cons: may just feel too big)
Serena & Lily Chelsea Ottoman: $895 + $150 handling; 43" square (Pros: endless color options for both the fabric and feet // Cons: high handling cost, no storage)
Blu Dot Paramount Ottoman via Wayfair: $899 + variable shipping cost; 40" square (Pros: simple, streamlined design // Cons: limited color options, may be too modern for our space, silver feet may not match our decor)
Pottery Barn Caden Leather Square Ottoman: $1099 + $40 delivery surcharge; 42" square (Pros: lower storage, nailhead trim // Cons: maybe too rustic or masculine for our space)

The number of option seems daunting, but gathering them in one place makes it feel less frightening. I would love your input on the matter, along with any other tips you have for making your living room kid-friendly. I am all ears! xoxo {av}

my return to small town life.


Eight months ago, we moved into our new home -- thirty minutes from the conveniences of a city. {cv} and I made the conscious choice to remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle. Though we grew up in small towns roughly a thousand miles apart, our early years were spent in the confines of a town which has less inhabitants than some New York City apartment complexes. I miss some of the conveniences of the city (like good sushi and my favorite dry cleaner), but I relish the quiet of our small town life. 

To frame up this discussion, it is important to give a little background. All my life, I have been an extreme extrovert. I introduce myself to strangers in elevators. I chose to go to a school where I didn't know a single soul. However, in the last year, I noticed that I don't need that social interaction in the way I did ten years ago. To be honest, I am having a hard time deciphering whether our move, motherhood, or age has made me more of an introvert. 

Stranger still, I don't hate this conversion of sorts. My husband is an introvert, through and through. It is highly possible he is rubbing off on me. While I still love my short stints in cities -- be it for travel or work, there is something deeply peaceful about pulling into our driveway and leaving the craziness behind. Living in this deeply "social" world, however, you are never really that far from the constant firestorm of reminders that my world is much different than many of the people I follow on Instagram or elsewhere. 

The hardest part of this shift just might be the fact that, as petty as it sounds, my life seems less "Instagram-worthy" than those who live in more happening places. I fear that my followers will find my quiet life boring and feel compelled to press that unfollow button. As an extrovert, this is based in my desire to be accepted -- something which I have struggled with my whole life. (Everyone wants to be part of the cool crowd, right?) I realized recently that the sooner I accept that not everyone will like that small town life, the better off I will be. I love the life I've been given. My new introverted side reminds me that my family and my friends matter most. More importantly, I know I cannot determine my self-worth based on the approval of random strangers on the internet. 

In the midst of this self-reflection, I wondered (honestly) why anyone reads here. In the beginning, I shared a great deal about surviving our long-distance relationship. I posted collages about outfits I wanted to wear. I had a never-ending fount of creative energy. In the last few months, I have recoiled a bit to determine what it is I want to do with my blog and how I can bring some sort of good from it. I have always said that I won't waste your time with worthless posts, so my goal is to continue blogging with intention. Small town life may make my Instagrams a little less exciting, but I still have things to share -- which I hope will help you, inspire you, and encourage you in your own life. Bear with me as I get that footing, but I promise: I'm not going anywhere.

Somewhere, deep inside, I always knew I was best suited for small town life. I grew up in the small town John Mellencamp so famously sang about in 1985. When I left that small town in 2003, I would have never guessed you would find me back in the boondocks. I loved my formative years in southern Indiana, but I was ready to escape -- as most 18-year-olds are. Finding myself back in a small town 12 years later, I am more than content to share this 'slower' world with our son. We still have plenty to discover in our new small town, but we will get there. For now, I will remind myself that good things take time. I will always have a place in my heart for the years I spent in DC and Providence, but this coastal small town life is fine by me. As I learn to navigate life with this new (yet somehow familiar) perspective, I am so grateful to have you along for the ride. xoxo {av}