Christmasey minibreak! The Heathman Hotel for the holidays


We kicked off the holiday season strong last weekend with a minibreak staycation and Christmas shopping in downtown Portland, cutting down our tree, husband's work holiday party, a trip to the mountain to play in the snow, and a low-key party with friends! Phew!

We love taking little local trips to unwind a little and this one at The Heathman really started our busy weekend (and holiday season) off right! Not only is it all decked out for the holidays with lots of Christmas trees and festive decor, it's blocks from Pioneer Courthouse Square and all the hustle and bustle of downtown in December. 

Also, their restaurant Headwaters just opened up and it is gorgeous. We loved the atmosphere and decor. Lush but not pretentious, totally Pacific Northwest but really elegant. And the food was great. Chef Vitaly Paley, a James Beard Best Chef Northwest winner, runs it and it features a lot of local ingredients and flavors.

The dining room...

The foyer...

The bar...

Oh, and we had a suite room which was so fabulous because Saturday morning while husband slept in I was able to close the big sliding doors and do my relaxed weekend morning pinning and Instagramming.

I love the local touches they put in their rooms, like Portland Monthly Magazine. You don't see those kinds of details at every nice hotel.

And it's so fun to walk around downtown Portland early on a Saturday morning! You see a way different crowd than we do driving through downtown on the way home from work. It's really fun to be a tourist in your own city! And way less stressful than when you have to worry about traveling to your destination.

What a fabulous, relaxing getaway!!

Thanks to The Heathman for covering our hotel stay!

DIY gifts that are actually useful (DIY gift guide!)


Search "DIY holiday gifts" and you'll likely find a lot of options for hot chocolate in a jar, possibly even with pipe cleaner reindeer antlers and a red pompom nose. Another common DIY gift tutorial is the personalized coffee mug using Sharpie or other semi-permanent tool, but trust me, those do not hold up to many washings!!

I'm a pretty practical person, even around the holidays, and I don't love making, giving, or receiving cutesy gifts that aren't useful and I don't have a place to store or use. So over the years I've made a few really wonderful things that I like for myself and gift recipients, and that I think are useful to have as well as fun to receive!! My all-time favorites are my heat-up rice bag and flannel cases, which I've made for my mom, mother-in-law, and others, and my delicates travel bag sorter with cute labels for "wash" and "wear." 

But, I rounded up 10 DIY holiday gift ideas from around the blogosphere including a few others of mine and some I'd like to try!! (See all my DIY gift projects and tutorials here.) DIY gifts are more personal and special than storebought, and you can make them with friends on a cozy afternoon in December. Much less stressful than shopping at the mall.

10 DIY gifts that are actually useful

1. Pie potholder (or any custom shape you want! I love the idea of personal potholders this year.)

2. Pretty DIY serving tray from a cutting board. Brilliant!

3. Flavored infused olive oil  (& labels). Use a high quality olive oil and some pretty bottles, and print these free labels!

4. Pretty pearl string knot necklace. I am so proud of this one!

5. Essential oil epsom bath salts for sore muscles. Smells sooooo good and is great for an active person! I made some for my dad last year when he was doing a lot of construction on their rental unit.

6. Heat-up rice bag and flannel case. The classic. I have two for myself of different rice densities and they are so great for sore neck, low back, whatever or just for warming up!

7. Shibori tie-dye napkins. Looks a little tricky but so pretty and trendy, and would be so much more meaningful homemade!

8. Essential oil holiday room spray (& labels). These sound so delicious-smelling and are so cute!

9. Spiced soap for men. I would loooove to make soap, and it's hard to think of DIY gifts for men! Check and check!

10. Wash/wear delicates travel bag. I made this for one of my oldest friends for her bachelorette party and she brought it on her honeymoon. I made one for myself, too, and it's so handy traveling! The sewing part is easy and I made the cute labels and text with my Silhouette Cameo machine.

And a bonus--what better way to introduce your DIY gift than with these adorable free printable homemade gift tags!!

What are you favorite DIY gifts to receive, and go-tos that you like to make??

#Stanley90sreno week 8: A little burnout, plus holiday distractions (and Christmas tree hunting)


Well... we've lost some steam. I wish I could say our energy and spirits were as high as ever as we get close to the holidays and our days get busier... and if left alone, I might still be working on the house in the evenings and every spare moment on weekends. But I would probably get really burned out and stressed and not really notice it. Husband has reached his limit before I have, and has forced us to slow down a little and we had a very quiet week at home sticking to a pre-fixer upper routine on the weeknights and then enjoying a staycation in downtown Portland on Friday night.

But, we didn't get nothing done on the house this past week...

It's hard to make decor decisions without our floors in, but I have been doing some research, online window shopping, and thrifting for the house. We've never had a buffet/sideboard in a dining room before but with this house's tiny kitchen, we realized we really needed one for extra dish storage, and that's what they're made for! I've been checking Craigslist and looking at some new ones online, but I found this mid-century one at the Restore for $75 and came back a few days later to buy it. It's not perfect (I don't love the honey color, and it's a little scratched on one corner on the top) but it definitely has more character than anything new. I also am not sure which corner of the dining room it should go in since on one wall it bumps into the curtain and it kinda impedes the path on the other wall... so I'm still about 5% considering returning it.

I'm also not sure how to style a buffet! Suggestions welcome.

We also made some long-overdue progress in installing our faux wood beam. (It's from AZ Faux Beams.) This thing arrived on moving day and was 16' long so has been a bit of an obstacle in our living room for almost two months now. We plan to install it in the vault of the living room ceiling but have been prioritizing other projects, and now we finally are ready to except we realized we don't have a tall enough ladder to reach up there to do it! But, we did finally do the step of measuring the width of the room and cutting the beam to the right size. Now we've leaned it against the wall rather than tripping over it on the floor.

We also got our Christmas tree!

Despite the chaos and mess of the house right now, we never considered not getting a tree since it's such a tradition for us. It is definitely different this year, though... we have so many things to do on the house that decorating a tree, mantel, and anything else seems a little pointless at times. I wish we had a finished living room to deck out with holiday decor, but if we can just get the flooring in there and tree decorated before Christmas I will call it a success!

Now to another week of holiday festivities and maybe doing some things around the house. Any tips for us fighting burnout and celebrating a different kind of Christmas this year??

Health(IER) holiday treat: molasses ginger cookies, a grain-free version of an old tradition! And free groceries from Whole Foods!


Flash back to the holiday season, 2006. I was on the treadmill at the University of Oregon gym reading a Cooking Light magazine. (2006 Suzannah thought a low fat vegetarian diet and lots of steady-state cardio were healthy, and that she could eat all the sugar she wanted, just not too much butter.) I found a molasses cookie recipe with crackled sugar on top that sounded yummy, and tore the page out for my recipe binder! (Pre-Pinterest.) I made that recipe every holiday season for several years!

A lot has changed since then! 2016 Suzannah is physically and emotionally healthier and knows so much more about herself and her body, and doesn't crave sugar or overdo it on treats. BUT, turns out I still love the taste of these holiday ginger-ey cookies!! So, for this recipe today I literally flipped back through that old recipe binder and pulled out that ancient magazine page, and modified this recipe to use grain-free, gluten-free flours and natural sweeteners!

Plus, I teamed with Whole Foods Market on this post and you can enter for a chance to win free groceries for a year with them, the #MyHolidayTradish sweepstakes! These cookies were a tradition for me for several years, so I'm excited to be able to make them again (and husband remembers them from those days, too!). Yay, holidays.

These cookies are still no health food, and are very sweet, but they are gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, and Paleo-friendly, so I can eat them without feeling like crap afterwards! A much better choice than a lot of the holiday treats I'm surrounded by this time of year.

The original recipe used white sugar for the tops, but I used raw, organic, non-GMO sugar on these so it looks like sprinkles!

Molasses was a staple in my mom's pantry, and I had it even in my pared-down college student kitchen. Now, I know the importance of using non-GMO ingredients, and I found this organic, non-GMO one at Whole Foods. These delectable cookies have a strong molasses flavor plus the yummy spices of a ginger snap.

Grain-free Molasses Ginger Cookies


  • 3/4 c. coconut palm sugar 
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil or unsalted grassfed butter 
  • 1/2 c. molasses 
  • 1 egg 
  • 2 c. finely ground almond flour 
  • 1/4 c. arrowroot powder 
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves 
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger 
  • Sprinkle salt 
  • (Separate) 1/4 c. raw sugar


    1. Combine sugar and eggs in a bowl or electric mixer bowl. Beat with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg; beat well.

    2. In another bowl, combine all dry ingredients except raw sugar. Mix well.

    3. Combine flour mixture with liquid mixture. Freeze for 1 hour.

    4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    5. Put raw sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into small balls and dip one side into the sugar. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper,

    6. Bake for 7-8 minutes; allow to cool.

    These guys are SO good!! They're not crispy like a ginger snap, but are soft and chewy, and almost spicy with the holiday spices!

    Making these brought back memories of college and my early holidays living on my own. The strong, sweet smell of the dough, the way my hands get sticky rolling the balls, the fun texture of the crispy sugar on top... Husband and I are both really excited to have this tradition to enjoy again!

    Don't forget to enter here for a chance to win groceries for a year in the #MyHolidayTradish sweeps from Whole Foods!

    Thanks to Whole Foods Market for providing me with the ingredients for these cookies!

    #Stanley90sreno week 7: Almost to the detail stage, plus lighting and cabinets! Fireplace advice?


    We are getting to the bottom of our constant to-do list for Phase 1 of our reno! (Not including installing the floors, kitchen counters, or kitchen tile and shelving, which we don't have yet.) I had some extra time this week and weekend with the Thanksgiving holiday, and while I wanted to get lots of work done around here, I almost ran out of little tasks I could do by myself!

    Starting to look almost homey in here...

    Our to-do list this past week and weekend included (finished items crossed off):
    • Rake leaves in back yard
    • Install kitchen sink
    • Install dishwasher
    • Install bamboo blinds (they are from Steve's Blinds and Wallpaper and custom from our windows. They look awesome! We don't have the kitchen one up yet.)
    • Measure rug and curtain sizes
    • Set up office
    • Install beam
    • Finish painting trim (almost!)
    • Finish hanging doors & installing handles (almost!)
    • Finish painting cabinets
    • Paint inside of sink cabinet
    • Install cabinet doors
    • Fix washing machine connections
    • Hook up fridge water/ice maker
    • Build & install ceiling fan
    • Install outlet covers
    • Tidy garage for gym
    • Fix dishwasher leak

    My biggest goal last week was to finish painting the cabinets and re-install the doors and drawer fronts. I was totally intimidated, though, and worried about getting them on straight and centered!! It turns out there isn't really a trick to this, just a matter of measuring, leveling, holding, and marking very carefully.

    My very handy brother-in-law helped.


    I hope to get to installing the hardware this week!

    While really not critical, I was really excited to install this ceiling fan we just got. I was surprised to find a simple, stylish fan for under $100!! I got overwhelmed about installing it at first and put the blades on before we mounted it to the ceiling, which you're not supposed to do, but other than that it was easy. Well, and we broke the mounting box in the ceiling and had to install a new one. But that we couldn't have anticipated!

    It's still a construction zone in here (2x4s on the floor in the corner, and paint in the other corner that you can't see, and of course no flooring or vent covers) but it's coming together!

    Hey, and that fireplace... I would love to paint it white like the trendy all-white living rooms I pin, but husband wants to go for a more "cozy" look in here and keep it natural. I am thinking of removing the brassy cover, though. I don't need to replace it with anything, do I? Maybe I should spray paint it black with high heat paint? Will it be too drafty without it? Does your fireplace have a cover? Have you seen any pretty rooms with natural, not-painted brick fireplaces?

    Moving on... this week we hope to get our countertops and maybe even install them! Oh, and the cabinet hardware! Plus little touch-ups here and there. Stay tuned on my Instagram stories for live updates, and I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

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