Hello there, friends- I hope your Christmas was peaceful and lovely! As we turn our minds towards the new year, it's always fun for me to look back through the previous year and see what posts you guys found useful and spoke to you in some way. I like having this information to help plan for the coming year and highlighting it again in a "top 10" post is a way to share it again for new readers, as well as my long-time supporters who may have missed them (who I want to thank SO much for being a part of this community!!).
I know this time of year is filled with "best of" types of articles, but I hope you find this interesting to scroll through and see what kind of things you'll find here, what might be fun for you to do, or help you with any new goals for the coming year. I'm also adding some behind-the-scenes information, just to keep it a bit fresh for you and let you know any updates, fun facts, or just what I thought or found surprising.
I'm going to be sharing just two of these types of posts with you this week - one for DIY projects that includes gardening and one for our top recipes - before moving on to my annual goals update and looking towards the new year. It's a great time for reflection and planning and I hope you join me and leave any comments about what you've enjoyed and/or would like to see in the coming year.
Behind the Scenes: The story of this desk is all Brian: he needed a desk and had specific requirements (height, clean lines, few or no drawers) so we were coming up empty-handed at thrift and used furniture stores. On an annual pilgrimage to Ikea, we found these metal legs and thought how rustic-industrial they'd look as a desk with some leftover salvaged oak wood flooring from our stash. He put it together and I finished it (our usual tag-team approach) and like most of our DIY projects it's not perfect - the top isn't completely smooth - but works for us and looks a million times better in Brian's office than anything we saw second-hand (oh, and for a LOT more than 20 bucks!).
Behind the Scenes: A project that came about from my overriding desire to not waste (I'd like to say this is environmental or something, but it pretty much boils down to frugality...): what to do with a perfectly good outdoor umbrella that is just completely faded? I experimented with painting it (no, regular paint + a sponge applicator does NOT work) and when I realized that spray painting it worked miracles, I would've been happy with a season's use. We used this umbrella four more years - without a touch-up! It developed holes and 2015 was its last season, but still! Amazing, right?
Behind the Scenes: This is the one new post written in 2015 that made this list and I'm so glad you found it helpful - I've been waiting years to share these tips I use for cleaning our bathrooms with you! I love that I don't have to spend money (or even time making homemade products) that I don't need. A microfiber cloth + water works on so many things!
Behind the Scenes: This paint sprayer review (not sponsored, btw!) has been one of our top DIY posts since I published it and it makes me happy to know others DIY paint projects are easier because of my little, honest review! I don't dread painting things like chairs and louvered doors anymore - and it goes fast. Still love this!
6. 5 Reasons to Grow Cucumbers on a Trellis (and taking up less room isn't one of them...)
Behind the Scenes: Published years ago, this post on how I grow cucumbers on a trellis is another one that makes me happy is reaching a lot of other gardeners because I will never grow cucumbers any other way. It's simply the best.
There's irony here, though - one of my top posts is for a vegetable I can't stand to eat fresh, ha! I don't even like the smell of cucumbers and a salad is ruined for me if they're included - all that juice coats everything, uck! I grow pickling cucumbers and pick them small for my easy refrigerator pickles. Brian and our son eat the rest that grow too big and the compost pile sees the rest.
Behind the Scenes: I had wanted a dresser-vanity for years and planned to include one in our master bathroom remodel from the beginning. I recently updated the post with fresh photos and clearer how-to steps. We've now used it for years and I still love it. I wouldn't hesitate to convert furniture in any other house we may have - it's an inexpensive way to get a unique look.
Behind the Scenes: I've told the background of this bench many times because it cracks me up that one of our most popular posts (it's even been featured in a magazine!) was completely Brian's idea. He started this project one Saturday on a whim (and this in itself is weird - almost ALL of our projects start from my whims that I have to bring him around to!!) and I think I may have shook my head at his idea. We didn't even take step-by-step photos.
Oh me of little faith. This thing turned out fantastic and I love, love, love it! I think it's waaaay cuter than other chairs-turned-bench DIY's I've seen and it proves that Brian and I are really a team around here. 🙂
Behind the Scenes: I think this is the article I'm most surprised to see this high on the list - I wasn't sure how many other people would love the French-style mattress cushions as much as I do, but I'd always wanted a clear, easy, step-by-step tutorial and in the end I had to make it myself to get it. I'm so glad it will help others get this fun look.
Oh, yeah - the cushion was always planned for Brian's bench...it just took years for me to finally get around to it! The wheels of DIY in the Boy's household often move sloooow.
2. The Best Flaxseed Warming Pillows- How to Make & Why Flaxseed
Behind the Scenes: This is one of the oldest and continually most popular posts on AOC. I used to make and sell them pre-blog days (and we're coming up on 7 years blogging, so that's been awhile) and I almost always sold out. I'm on a mission to share about using flax filler instead of grains - they are SO much better on so many levels - these are super easy and make the best gifts (especially with the free gift tags), so yeah, I'm pretty happy that you all like them, too!
And AOC's #1 Post of 2015 is...
Behind the Scenes: Two years in the making (to be sure it really worked and wasn't a fluke), this post has gone semi-viral for me each of the past two summers since publishing it. Every gardener knows the heartbreak of working so hard on growing your food and then having bugs swoop in a decimate your plants. This works and you can feel good about using it. PLUS, it's cheap and easy to make. Win, win, win.
There's even more information in the companion video we made that shows a few more vegetables I used it on (it helped keep most of the spotted cucumber beetles away from our pole beans, yeah!). And this last year it seemed to keep the Japanese Beetles away from the roses - but one more experiment is needed before I commit to that for sure.