About CatrinaAtHome

I'm Catrina Vargas-Cormell, old home renovator, designer and home decor enthusiast. I can geek out on restoration tools and vintage fabrics with the best of them. I live for the weekends when I can go pickin' with my husband of 24 years.

Quick & Easy Christmas Cobbler

Christmas Cobbler- CatrinaAtHome.comI’ll be honest.. this recipe is really called DumpCake. I’ve used it for nearly 25 years and it’s a family favorite. But there’s just something about that name that turns folks off.. so I exercised some creative license.. and changed the name. Lol

This dessert is so easy to make, you may feel a little guilty for all the compliments you’re going to get from your people, just for making it. It’s that good. And it’s dang easy.

Ingredients List

1 box of yellow cake mix

1 can of cherry pie filling (20oz)

1 can of crushed pineapple (20oz)

2 sticks of butter (1/2 pound)

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°

Dump the cans of cherry pie filling and crushed pineapple into an ungreased 9×13 pan, mix together well and spread fruit over entire bottom of pan.

Dump entire bag/box of yellow cake mix unto the cherry/pineapple mixture, spread it out evenly.

Cut the two sticks of butter into slices and place on top of cake mix.

(Optional) Chop 1 cup of nuts and spread evenly over the butter slices.

Bake at 350° for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until top is golden brown. (The ideal time for me and my oven seems to be 55 minutes.)

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream (Or just by itself!)

-Store leftovers in fridge (You MAY need an accountability group if you have leftovers, because it will take the strength of Sampson to resist EATING IT ALL. Lol No lie. So… fair warning.)

Enjoy!

Catrina

 

 

 

 

3 Tips For a Brighter Christmas Tree

Have you ever noticed that some Christmas trees seem so much brighter than others? Well, if you’re wanting to know how to brighten your  tree, you’re in luck. I have three simple ways to brighten your Christmas tree.

1. Add more lights

This one may seem obvious, but have you tried it?

Even if you have a pre-lit tree, running a string of lights up the center of the tree will add dimension and back light your ornaments for a brighter tree. But unless you’re interested in removing all your ornaments and running another strings of lights on your tree, this tip would be best used as you’re setting your tree up. Have no fear, though, these next two tips can still save the day.

2. Remove light blockers

Too many solid ornaments, pinecones or thick ribbon on a tree will block the light and cause your tree to look dark. Either greatly minimize the solid ornaments etc. or play with the lights a little bit to intentionally bring light in front of these light blockers.      Take a look at your tree? If it’s too dark, is your tree heavy on the light blockers?

CatrinaAtHome Christmas tree3

3. Add reflectors

Adding reflectors is a great way to maximize the light you already have on your tree. I find my old fashioned tin reflectors at estate sales, garage sales and thrift stores. They fit right over the lights and instantly brighten the tree.  They can also be found on eBay.

A great cheat for this is to use plenty of light colored, shiny, reflective ornaments. If you’re not up for a potentially brassy look that can sometimes come with reflective ornaments, just intersperse them with your preferred ornaments, variety adds dimension and dimension creates interest. If you want solid, non-reflective ornaments on your tree, make sure to add in light colored solids to help keep the tree bright.

IMG_0925.JPG

 

Remember- Dark absorbs, light reflects.                                                                                   Dark objects absorb the light on your tree and light objects reflect the light. If your tree is too dark, add some more lights, remove the light blocking objects and add in reflectors or light ornaments.

Bonus tip: layer your ornaments one, two and three deep on your tree (depending on the size, of course). Put those inner branches to work for you. This is a great way to use up extra ornaments while giving your tree depth and dimension. 

CatrinaAtHome Christmas tree1

I hope these tips were helpful to you, let me know how your tree brightening efforts pan out!

Merry Christmas,

Catrina

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Gorgeous Folded Dinner Napkins

The cloth dinner napkin has become not only a necessity on a finely dressed table but a serious contender for top billing as the most eye catching feature. And with its rise in popularity comes the quest for the hostess to find an interesting folding technique.

Only problem is, most folds are overly complicated and more importantly, take up a ton of your precious time. Here are three quick and easy folds for your Christmas/holiday dinner taught in simple, easy-to-follow steps.

 

If you’re looking to add in a little more creativity to your place setting, here’s some inspiration for the “pocket square” fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold picks

Create your own picks for the pocket square fold.

Pocket fold napkin by CatrinaAtHome

Ruscus branches for the pocket square fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold

Ribbon background for the pocket square fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold

Velvet and frosted berries for the pocket square fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold

Simple eucalyptus leaves for the pocket square fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold

Red velvet leaf and greenery for the pocket square fold.

CatrinaAtHome Pocket square fold

Gingham check and frosted berry pick for the pocket square fold.

Of course, these folded napkins can be made with any napkin you choose! Just coordinate your napkins with your dinner ware and have fun!

If you use one of these folded napkin designs, I would love it if you sent me a photo of your place setting.

Merry Christmas!

Catrina

 

Three Quick and Easy Napkin Folds. CatrinaAtHome.com

 

Intentional Christmas

in·ten·tion·al

inˈten(t)SH(ə)n(ə)l/
adjective
          done on purpose; deliberate. Conscious, premeditated, preplanned.

Christmas living room ©CatrinaAtHome

If you’re like me, the Christmas season is a time you look forward to all year long! I mean, what’s not to love? Most people are in a better mood, everything is made prettier with lights and greenery… and most importantly, cookies.  Priorities, people. We rightly want to squeeze every little moment out of December that we can.
If you’re also like me, some years you wake up on December 26th a little bummed out that “it’s” over and you didn’t do all that you wanted to and you know it’s going to be 11 months before you can start celebrating again. (sniff, sniff) Stuff happens and life just gets in the way, sometimes.
The idea of an Intentional Christmas is simply this:
Decide in advance what you want the Christmas season to look like for you (and your family). 
Do you want a relaxed/laid back Christmas season or one packed with fun and adventure?
What will work best for you and your family?
What are the top five things (in order of importance) that you want to do or experience during the Christmas season?
What new traditions do you want to start for your family?
Here are a few things you might want to add to your list of intentions:
1. Have a Christmas movies ‘n’ jammies night (once or as often as you want).
2. Go see Christmas lights together.
 Outdoor christmas lights 1
3. Read the Christmas Story in Luke, together.
4. Make cookies and/or treats together.
IMG_9603
5. Do an Advent calendar.
6. Have mandatory rest nights, 1-2 nights a week.
7. Decorate a gingerbread house together to eat Christmas morning.
8. Attend a Christmas Eve service at a nearby church.
9. Make simple Christmas cards and send them to family and close friends.
Christmas cards ©CatrinaAtHome
10. Have one night where you eat snacks and make paper snowflakes and paper chain decorations as a family.
11. Go ice skating!
12. Get all Christmas shopping done before December 20th.
13. Decorate the Christmas tree together.
14. Sleep in and watch cartoons on Saturday morning.
15. Make a homemade Nativity.
Christmas Nativity ©CatrinaAtHome
Most of us don’t have trouble thinking of new things to do in the Christmas season but saying NO can be a little difficult. Sometimes it’s those last minute invites that cause the most stress, am I right? They don’t mean to, of course, but figuring out what you’re going to wear, finding a babysitter, picking up a hostess gift etc. etc… can stress a girl out!  The good thing is, if you have written intentions for your season ahead of time, you can just say- thanks for the invite but our family has plans to relax/make dinner together/watch It’s a Wonderful Life that night. (whew!)
Four Tips:
  • Try working on your Christmas Season Intentions together as a family and post it on your refrigerator when you’re finished.
  • Pull out the school calendar and the family calendar and decide what you’re going to add in and what you’re going to skip this season.
  • Don’t forget to plan one or two rest nights a week to help everyone rest, recover and bond.
  • If you have the energy for it, add in a Surprise Night where you do something unexpected and fun with the family. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun.
Most of all, I encourage you to be gracious to yourself and your family during this season. Sometimes stuff happens that is beyond your control. The ability to roll with those punches will help lower your stress and have a more peaceful season.
So tell me, what are a few of your Christmas intentions for this season? I would love to read about them in the comments.
And please, have a very merry intentional Christmas season!
-Catrina
Setting intentions for an awesome Christmas. CatrinaAtHome.com

My blue bedroom

So… I’m thinking of going BOLD for my bedroom reno project. Like– really bold. eeek!

Our Craftsman bungalow was built in 1908 and she came into our hands seven years ago, in 2010. We’ve been working on her off and on (in-between renovating other turn-of-the-century homes) ever since. Every square inch of her needed renovation. And I mean every. square. inch. We’re alllllmost done with the dining room and the back bathroom and I’m not sure if I’m going to start on the kitchen (again) or the master bath.

So basically our bedroom is still in the dream stage, lol because it’s likely going to be a while before I can work on her. But dreaming is fun!

So I want to go deep midnight blue, floor to ceiling, for the bedroom.

navy-blue-walls-and-ceiling-1.png

No photo credit available :(

I haven’t told my husband yet, he might want to kill me. lol I wanted to do this in the dining room but I chickened out. Granted, there were a lot more issues to deal with there, being the pass-through room sandwiched between the (whitish) living room and the (whitish) kitchen, but still, I bailed on it. And it would’ve looked awesome too because of the conferred ceiling in there. sigh…

Here’s another great pic of a blue room.

Primitive Classic Navy Blue Room

designsponge.com – home of Melissa and Keye Lee

Stunning, right?

The photos above were a little difficult to find! Most navy/dark blue rooms have white ceilings and trim, like this photo..

Blue Living Room With White Ceiling

Contemporary Living Room by Toronto Photographers Lisa Petrole Photography

The is a lovely room but I don’t want that, the contrast is too high and the space becomes very defined with your eye drawn to the lines. Meh.. I want the baseboards, walls, window and ceiling to be the same blue. White trim screams “traditional” and my style is more eclectic.

Check out this Caribbean blue library found on Housebeautiful. It’s a different shade, but Wow!

Caribbean Blue Library

There’s just something about blue. So inviting and strong.

And while we’re talking about blue… that is what we’re talking about, right? What do you think about this GORGEOUS sideboard/dresser?

Solid blue sideboard:dresser

No photo credit again. What’s up with people “pinning” photos with no link? grrr :(

I just want to SAS (sit and stare). Don’t mind me, I’ll be right here for the next 30 minutes. Lol Beautiful design, beautiful color.

Anyhow, back to my blue room. :-)

Holy smokes. our ceilings are only 9.5′ tall but I would love this detail in our room! Now my husband is really going to kill me. LOL Can I at least die in my blue room?

Navy Blue walls:ceiling:trim

photo credit: tollens.com

The deeper the blue, the better, floor to ceiling for a killer, classic look.

My bedroom reno may be a year or so away but you better believe I’m going to begin the search for the perfect navy blue ASAP.  :-)

What color is your bedroom? Are you happy with it? Do you plan to change it? What’s your dream color scheme? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Blessings on your home,

Catrina

 

 

 

Dang good healthy treats

Just recently, my husband and I got away and escaped life for a few days in the mountains. It doesn’t happen very often (time off) so we were stoked. :-)
Getting ready for our three nights away I started to gather a few healthy recipes that I wanted to try, this would be my first ‘vacation’ since going strict with- no grain or dairy in February of 2011. Even though I have been low-carb for 5 years, I always ate whatever I wanted ‘in the mountains.’ Not so anymore. Bye-bye splitting pizzas for dinner, eating waffles for breakfast, grilled cheese sandwiches and chips for lunch and ice cream for late night snack. I knew it was going to be tough because I had come to identify ‘time-off’ with these foods. So I made sure I had plenty of nuts & dates (my favs), some coconut milk ice cream and a couple of healthy treat recipes. (Along with proteins, veggies and fruit, of course.)
So what recipes did I try? Two.. Sweet potato brownies and Caramel pecan bars.
Both from a new (to me) website called Paleomg.com that you MUST check out. There are a ton of awesome recipe sites for healthy eaters that I’m discovering and some oldies but goodies that I go to regularly as well. (I’ll post the links in a bit)
So back to my baking. Oh wow. I LOVED these recipes!

First up- Sweet potato brownies
If you’re wondering if you can taste the sweet potato, the answer is no. And baking the sweetpo vs. boiling or microwaving worked best for me with just the right moisture level. I used a medium sized potato but I wouldn’t stress about the size too much. :-)
I also added half a cup of pecans to mine, because, well, I love nuts.. in everything.

These were also great heated up with some coconut milk ice cream on top and of course some more nuts. lol

Next up: Caramel Pecan Bars
Ok, these were sinful. straight up. I ate a lot of them and didn’t apologize for it. It’s probably because I love dates and nuts so much.. nah, forget that, my husband even loved these beauties! Juli recommends cooking them in a loaf pan, the only thing I would change would be to cook them in a 8×8 glass cooking dish, it will make them a little thinner but they will go a little farther, lol.

I didn’t have a food processor for the ‘caramel’ topping, just an Ultimate Chopper, remember those? Yeah, I’m old school. Well, that’s why you see chunks of dates in my caramel vs. Juli’s. And for some reason my bars came out darker, but I wasn’t complaining, they were dang delicious.
So, give these two recipes a go if you’re in the mood for a healthy treat! The Sweet potato brownies freeze very well, for you know, portion control, lol and the Caramel pecan bars, I have no idea, there were non left over to freeze. gulp. :-)

Here’s a few of my favorite recipe sites, check them out!
Paleomg.com
The Urban Poser
Your Lighter Side
Civilized Caveman Cooking
Fast Paleo
I’m sure I forgot someone.. grr.
What are your favorite healthy cooking websites or recipes?

Here’s me.. in the mountains. Catrina+mountains= Happy. :-)

The most effective form of exercise is…

I’ll never forget the question.
The crowd that day was eager to hear from Exercise Physiologist and trainer to the stars, Jimmy Pena (who also happens to be an old friend of mine) when it came out of nowhere:
“What is the most effective exercise you can do for physical fitness?”
hmmm..
Decked out in their track suits and tennis shoes, people were throwing out answers left and right- “Running!” “Spinning!” “Rowing!” “Crossfit?”
I admit, I was thinking up a few of my own, and once everyone quieted down he said, “After writing countless articles on health and fitness since 1998 (he’s being modest, he’s one of the nation’s most published fitness experts) and even after co-authoring or contributing to 6 health and fitness best sellers, I can say with certainty that the most effective form of exercise is (wait for it…) whatever you’ll do.”
huh.
That’s.. yeah.
wow.

(The truth is always simple.)

We all know that we can have the most sophisticated equipment, the best workout plan, etc., etc.. but if we have no desire whatsoever to even do the work, it does us no good, because we won’t do it. Right? (Raise your hand if you have now or have ever had a piece of exercise equipment that sadly became an extra closet or bookshelf in your bedroom. Hmmm? Anyone?)
I never had that problem. I love to work out. It’s ok, you can hate me. Lifting weights is enjoyable for me.
Well, that is, until about 3 months ago.. when my world turned upside down.
I was going through a big life change (which I’ll write about soon) and I started experiencing a drop in my energy level, and then out of no where, I completely lost my desire to lift weights.
(Moment of silence, please)
Utter sadness.
So I did what most fitness fanatics do. I pushed myself to stay after it anyways, going through the motions until one day I just couldn’t do it anymore. And I stopped.
What happened? Where’s the love? I mean, seriously, this wasn’t supposed to happen to ‘people like me’, I encourage others to work out and live healthy, I’m supposed to be the good example, dangit!

I felt bad and even guilty for not working out, don’t ask me why, I just did. Habit.
But the motivation had absolutely left me. And it was no where to be found.
It was about a week later, when I decided I wanted to finally start a garden in my back yard (after years of wishing), aaaaand I thought it would be cool to lay a brick walkway around the two beds (because I like to come up with new ways to torture myself).
Our home is 104 years old and every square inch of her bad self needs renovating, including the large mess behind the house most people refer to as a “back yard.” So, completely uncharacteristic of me, I started spending two hours outside every morning working on my back yard. Hauling around buckets of dirt, shoveling sand, carrying bricks of all shapes and sizes, digging compost trenches,

knocking the mortar off the old bricks with a small axe, etc..

And guess what? I loved it! (Whoa, stop the presses.)
I was out of breath and sweating up a storm (it was hotter than Hades out there), but I really loved it! The two hours flew by and I couldn’t wait to get back out there the next day. I felt like I did when I first started with weights. I felt at home.. and relaxed, it came naturally.
(Here’s my yard in progress..poor thing. If you blink you might miss my cucumbers coming in.)
So, somewhere in the middle of all that I stopped feeling guilty about not doing ‘regular exercise’ and started to see the work in my garden/backyard for what it was- a dang good workout. And wouldn’t you know it, just this week (some 3 months later), my love for lifting weights, returned. Aaaaand they’re back to kicking my butt. :-)
So, am I starting over in some ways? Have I lost a little ground in the weight room? Yes. There’s no other way around it. But what I gained was a refresher that exercise can be anything that’s physically demanding (and progressive), even hauling bricks and shoveling sand.. and it should be enjoyable. Because, bottom line, it doesn’t matter how “effective” a particular exercise is for the masses, what works best for me is… whatever I’ll do.

What is your favorite form of non-traditional exercise? Do you enjoy lifting weights? Do you have a garden? (Please say yes to that last question so you can help this little brown thumb out.) :-)