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Sweet Summers of Strawberry Shortcake

strawberry shortcake

When I think of summer in Arizona, I think HOT! And what is better than a strawberry shortcake to cool you down?!

This dessert brings me back to my summers in Kansas. I spent many of my childhood summers at my Grandma’s house and she made dessert for us every night.  Strawberries and cool whip were involved in many of those delightful treats.

In no way would I say I am a cook, but I do like to think I have a learned a thing or two about baking. I look at baking as another creative outlet.  Many people don’t know that I love to bake and I especially love anything involving cool whip and fruit.

I combine angel food cake, fresh strawberries, and a whole bunch of cool whip to make my strawberry shortcake. It really is a simple dessert.

Cool whip and angel food cake are lighter than using whipped cream and a biscuit like cake. If I want to get really adventurous I scoop on some vanilla ice cream! Yum!!

What summer sweet do you love to eat?! Does strawberry shortcake make the list?

Keep Creating,




How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget [Finale]

How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget - Finale

Bonjour, mes amis! It’s Amanda again from The Color Coded Life, and today is the grande finale of my tips on how you can afford an epic vacation on a less than epic budget.

This last tip requites you to think outside of the traditional destination spot. Of course, there are reasons that some places are DESTINATIONS – such as Paris, London, and Rio. But stepping outside of these traditional locales allows you both a unique experience, as well as the potential to cut some costs!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget - Finale - Part 1

Specifically, Buenos Aires, which as been “[d]ubbed the ‘Paris of South America,’ . . . [and] has a cosmopolitan feel and is heavy on museums, historical sites, and nightlife. Go this year: Hotel rates are 8 percent lower than they were in 2013.” [via]

How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget - Finale - Part 6

Stunning beaches and amazing all-inclusives (many of which are ranked extremely high on Trip Advisor)

Growing more popular by the day, the DR is a go-to . . . beach destination if you’ve been priced out of vacation spots like Cabo or aren’t up for sharing sand with the fashion crowd in Tulum . . .  For a more rustic trip, up-and-coming Las Terrenas, a little-known former fishing village in the Samaná province, is easy on the purse strings and heavy on pristine beaches.” [via]

Also visit the Samana Peninsula, where “secluded beaches, small hotels, friendly locals, and plenty of natural wonders – including great whale-watching from January through March – await in an area that has not (yet) experienced massive development” [via]

How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget - Finale - Part 7

Specifically, Riga, “where theater thrives and Art Nouveau buildings are abundant.” The EU just recently dubbed Riga the European Capital of Culture. And you can work on your tan while you’re there too! “[S]pend time on the white quartz sand beaches—Riga is right on the coast of the Baltic Sea.” [via]

How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget - Finale - Part  3

Hotel stays cost a full 20 percent less this year [and v]isiting the capital of Poland is like taking the best European history lesson you’ve ever had. [For example, t]he verdant Lazienki Park, a.k.a. Royal Baths Park, is home to both architecture and gardens. Perhaps its most famous resident, the Palace on the Island, was built in the 1600s for a Polish noble, but eventually became the home of Poland’s last king in the 18th century.” [via]

How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget - Finale - Part  2

This country boasts one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, and one of it’s major cities, Kosice, was the EU European Capital of Culture for 2013. [via]

How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget - Finale - Part  4

According to Lonely Planet, this country in Europe can boast being “as picture-perfect as Switzerland or other Alpine areas to the north, but much smaller and easier on the wallet.” [via]

How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget - Finale - Part  5

News reports may be filled with stories about the country’s financial woes, but travelers are finding that the situation is a boon to vacation plans. Falling costs connected to hotels, attractions and shopping are making Spain an affordable, must-see vacation target for North Americans.” [via]

Let me know in the comments if you know of any other little-known locales that are equally as stunning!

Until next time, my loves!


5 Stress-Free Tips for Working From Home

The creative industry is all about working from home… and about anywhere else wifi reaches my poor, overworked laptop! It’s pretty amazing to be able to send emails from our phones and do a bunch of work tasks on-the-go or from the comfort of our very own couch (pajamas on, obviously.) With the perks of roaming our house without having to actually brush our hair comes the con of trying to navigate a work day without distractions.  Cat needs cuddling? On it. Plants need to be watered? Sure! Need to run errands? WHY NOT.

The absolute truth is, working form home is really hard, especially if you are a creative person. Our brains latch onto new ideas every seconds and things get CRAZY. So here are 5 tips for working from home, stress-free.



Create A Routine– Stick with it!
If you know you’re working from home, make a game plan and have a routine. Common sense right? But really, it makes all the difference.  Start off your day as if you’re actually leaving for work. (Heck, even get dressed if that helps– getting out of PJ’s give you a huge boost of productivity!) Eat a balanced breakfast that is far away from your laptop and get your morning duties done without any work interfering in. THEN, start work. Establish a transition that clearly states you’re in working mode and no longer in home mode. It’s great to make a quick list of tasks you know you must get done and list secondary tasks below to enhance your productivity.

Take Breaks
Just because you’re working from home and trying to be good about it doesn’t mean you should stay glued to your laptop screen the entire time. You should take 1-2 breaks and a lunch break. Use the modes method and totally detach yourself from your technology and workspace to walk outside, grab a snack, and take a couple minutes to refresh. It helps! Your brain will personally thank you. Really.

Establish Work Hours
Set a start time, lunch time, and end time– stick to them! If your friends ask you when you work, tell them those are your hours. Don’t bend the rules (even though we would totally rather go shopping with the girls than work) but it’s the only way to enforce your schedule and keep the separation of work versus home.

Designate a Workspace
Think again before you establish your dining room table as your desk. It’s extra important to have a designated workspace that you sit at specifically during work hours. If you’re not sitting there, you’re not working. Plus, this is totally the best part of working at home. No boring cubicle and you can decorate it however you want!

End Your Work Day, For Reals
Oh, it’s 5:00pm? Peace out laptop! Unfortunately, the internet and our fancy schmancy technology allow work to be accessible anywhere, anytime and sometimes that means after 5:00pm. Don’t do it, don’t answer it, just don’t. If it can wait, it should be done the next morning as you start your next work day. I have the most problems with this one. I suck at putting things down– it must get done! Trust me, it feels really good to enjoy some leisure time– without your cell phone! YOU CAN DO IT.

It’s rough, but you totally got this. It’s taken awhile for me to separate work and fun and put things into balance. It’s a funky ride for everyone, but super important that we limit ourselves and set boundaries to prevent fast burnout. You’re ready to run your business at home, #girlboss!

Best Day Ever Styled Shoot // Scottsdale, AZ

We absolutely love when some of our favorite industry peeps ask us to be involved in their dreamy projects. When the ever-so-talented Amy and Jordan Photography told us about their photography education workshop, I jumped at the chance to get ultra-creative. Even better, the lovely ladies at Outstanding Occasions had a vision for the “Best Day Ever.” And best-day-ever it was.

BDE wall

First of all, we had the most stunning models (and real life married couple), which made everything that was already gorgeous, even prettier.

bde couple

BDE bouquet

Being “on set” for this styled shoot allowed me to install the wall decals including these awesome hexagon shaped escort card display. Each card was set in the hexagons with enough showing that guests could see their names popping out.

BDE hexagons

Part of the reception detail included more hexagons on a plexiglass floral display thanks to the always breathtaking Flower Studio. I’m starting to think hexagons are my new favorite obsession….

BDE glass

I just love this pastel ceremony paired with the vibrant hues of the reception set-up. The details were so on point and I love being able to contribute a stationery set totally different from anything I’ve created.

bde ceremony

BDE suite

Best Day Ever AJ Workshop Feb 16 17 Styled Shoot-Submission-0016

BDE cake

Get more details on each of these DIY Wedding Stationery hexagonal pieces and check out a full recap from A & J here.

One of the best parts of my job are the people I get to work with. I’m especially thankful for the team that made this shoot the Best Day Ever: Amy & Jordan Photography, Outstanding Occasions, Petal Pusher, Ruze Cake House, Wildflower Linen and Cre8ive Event Rental.


Art Inspiration // How My Favorite Artists Inspire Me

artists inspired by


Art inspiration plays a big role in my work. As a creative, I am always inspired by other artists and I love finding the commonalities among my work and theirs, whether intentional or subconsciously. Today I want to share with you some of my all time favorite artists and how they inspired some of my past work.

1. Willem De Kooning is one of my favorite abstract expressionist painters. I am especially inspired by his Woman series. Pictured (top left) is his Woman I painting. It was made with oil paint, charcoal and enamel. I made my own rendition with oil paint and charcoal. I call her Dita. Many people thought that his Woman series was his negative perception towards women but really it was his way of embracing his love for women.

2. Kees Van Dongen was a fauvist painter. I love how his portraiture was almost cartoon like but with so much expression. Pictured is one my favorites (bottom), The Corn Poppy. It was painted with oil on canvas in 1919. My jimigem portrait style (top) is very much inspired by his work.

3. Gustav Klimt captures my heart with his paintings during  The Golden Era. Pictured is his famous piece Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I. He was an Austrian artist, part of the Vienna Secession Era. I am so drawn to his use of shapes. My whole senior show in college was inspired by his work. The top piece is one of my favorites from my exhibition. I used oil paint and gold leaf on canvas.

4. Claude Monet is probably the most famous artist on this list. Many people recognize him for his water lily murals. One of my favorite pieces he made is Woman with a Parasol (top). In my rendition (bottom) I made it as a self portrait. This was my first 4x6ft painting. Throughout many of my paintings I am inspired by his impressionistic style.

5. Wayne Thiebaud gets the award for the tastiest looking paintings! He is part of the modern movement and born in Arizona. The thickness of his paintings make me drool. He applies the paint in layers and in person the texture is amazing. I love painting sweets and he really pushes me to capture that edible quality he exhibits in his work. His parfait piece (bottom) inspired me to create a layered cake with oil paints (top). This cake is actually the same cake I get every year for my birthday!

Think about how other artists inspire you in your work. Can you point out the resemblances?

Keep Creating,


How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget [Part Trois]


Welcome back, ya’ll! It’s Amanda from The Color Coded Life and I’m continuing feeding my wanderlust by sharing some the best ways that you can take a truly amazing vacation, even on a budget.

Feel free to check out parts une and deux (I’m feeling so French today), but today’s tips are somewhat out of the box, and only work for specific situations. However, both of them can save you large amounts of money, if you can get them to work for you!


Step 8 - How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget

This first tip only works if you are going for two weeks or more, but if you can afford to take that much time off (or you work remotely), then you absolutely need to look into this.

According to Budget Travel, websites such as House Sitters America, The Caretaker Gazette, and Mind My House, will allow you to list your services as a house sitter for a small fee (between $20-60). A couple who are pros at this told Budget Travel that the best strategy is to have listings on multiple websites, which will up your chance of being selected.

You may be thinking – why would someone let you do this?! Well, having someone watch your space while you travel or are gone for work is a comfort to those home and apartment owners that would rather someone is there. And the benefit to you is that you can stay somewhere for FREE! Plus, you get to have a fridge, microwave, etc. which saves money on snacks and breakfasts (or all of your meals really – but you should get out and try the local cuisine).

Since there is a contract involved (what – you didn’t think these people were completely crazy to just up and leave you in charge of your home, did you?) – you MUST plan ahead and BE SURE to check out the Visa requirements in the country you are visiting, so you don’t overstay your welcome.


Step 7 - How To Afford An Epic Vacation On A Less Than Epic Budget

This may sound counterintuitive when you are on a budget, but hear me out! The hubby and I found out how much better for our finances it can be if we pay in advance when we were booking our honeymoon. The deal is even sweeter if you stay at an all-inclusive.

We used the website and we were able to score a 6 night, 7 day, all-inclusive penthouse suite in Jamaica WITH AIRFARE INCLUDED for $2700 TOTAL. This resort would normally cost upwards of $3600 for just the stay (no airfare included).

The best part of Book It was the fact that we could pay in installments. It can be hard to drop almost three grand in one go – so this allowed us to break up the payments so we could pay it over time.

Once at the resort, it was so great to have everything already taken care of! No worries about how much we budgeted for breakfast or dinner or for drinks. We got to order room service whenever we wanted, sample all of the entrees at the restaurants if we wanted, drink as much as we wanted, and it added NOTHING to our bill! The only charge when we checked out was for the couples massage we enjoyed and my trip to the gift shop (I couldn’t help myself!).

PRO TIP #1: I would suggest bringing cash to all-inclusives to tip the staff. Even though our resort stated tips were included, we still tipped well the first few days, which meant we were treated like royalty the entire trip 😉

PRO TIP#2: I am sure everyone has heard horror stories from people who have had horrible experiences at all inclusive resorts. The best way to avoid that is to research the resort both on Trip Advisor and to look at the its scores on Book It. No place is going to be perfect, but the higher the ratings are on both sites, the more likely you are to have an amazing trip.

In addition to BookIt (which I can vouch for) there are also websites like Fodors, Budget Travel and Rick Steves that have a “Deals” section for trips, as well as LivingSocial and Groupon, who both offer travel sections.

Have you tried any of those other travel deal methods? Let me know in the comments! Happy travel planning!


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