Alyssa Sparacino

"Put a bow on anything, and I'm happy."

Alyssa is the Online Editor for HGTV Magazine. She lives in a cozy brownstone apartment in Hoboken with (she likes to think) tons of charm. The older building provides character in a growing town just across the Hudson from New York City. A mirrored vanity and a gallery wall are next up in her bedroom re-do.

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POSTS BY Alyssa Sparacino

  • Tell Your Friends

No matter how you plan to spend Valentine’s Day (or with whom), it’s probably fair to assume there will be chocolate involved. Make it dark chocolate for a healthier sweet treat you’ll L-O-V-E.

Dark chocolate and cocoa are packed with antioxidants, a powerful agent against free radicals, which have been linked to serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease. So indulge in these dark chocolate recipes with your beau or a friend, and they could help protect your heart, even if it gets broken.

Smoldering Heart Dark Chocolate Cookies

heart shaped chocolate cookies

Image courtesy of The View From Great Island

These heart-shaped cookies stand out among the rest. Ditch the pink icing or red sprinkles, and opt for a more “smoldering” dark chocolate look. Cayenne powder in the shortbread cookie adds just the right amount of heat, and smoked paprika on the icing spices things up even more.

Get the full recipe at The View From Great Island

Dark Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie Bars

oatmeal chocolate bars

Image courtesy of Half Baked Harvest

This treat may be having an identity crisis: Is it a bar? A cookie? A brownie? But, who cares! They are healthy thanks to filling fiber in the oats, those antioxidants in the dark chocolate, and the recipe calls for coconut oil (jury still out on the potential benefits, there). Plus, they’re done in just 30 minutes flat!

Get the full recipe at Half Baked Harvest

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake

chocolate cake

Image courtesy of Heather Christo

Looking at this decadent dark chocolate cake with chocolate-espresso icing you’d NEVER be able to guess its secret ingredient. Zucchini helps keep the cake super moist, and it’s a sneaky way to meet your veggie quota.

Get the full recipe from Heather Christo

Chocolate Dipped Fruit

chocolate dipped fruit

Image Courtesy of Marla Meridith

It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without a chocolate covered strawberry or five, but don’t discriminate against other fruit that taste equally delish dipped in the good stuff. Create a different kind of bouquet by dipping various berries in melted dark chocolate—blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries were all used here. Stick them on the end of a skewer, and place in a vase for easy access to healthy snacking.

Get the full recipe at Family Fresh Cooking

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites

chocolate covered banana and peanut butter

Image Courtesy of Smile Sandwich

I personally love a recipe that calls for items you likely have in the cupboard already. Enter these bite-sized treats that have just four ingredients. Potassium from the bananas, protein from the nut butter, and antioxidants from the dark chocolate come together for a unique homemade sweet to share with whomever you choose.

Get the full recipe at Smile Sandwich

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Your favorite HGTV Magazine stories are better than ever in the latest issue on sale tomorrow. Curb Appeal heads to sunny Florida, Flea Market Flips is still turning tossed goods into look-at-me-now furniture, and let’s just say the house tours…those will leave you with more ideas than you know what to do with.

March cover

Pick up the latest March issue of HGTV Mag!

There’s lots more to explore, and you can be among the first to dig in to new content by subscribing here. For now, let’s take a look at some of what you’ll find when you head to the newsstand.

We started with the basics: a white dresser. Then added no-fail accessories that show off your personal style: a lamp, a vase, and a pretty object.

dresser

Mint green dresser, Chevron wall, and pretty flowers—we love.

We created four dresser looks, but it’s only online where can you find the instructions for painting two of the more intricate designs. Visit hgtv.com/dresser-formula to see how.

A brand new column in this issue included a recipe from a familiar HGTV star. One who is known for his colorful personality, but who can apparently also whip up a batch of gooey delicious Chocolate Chip Sea-Salt Cookies. Who do you think this mystery man is? Take a guess, then test the recipe for yourself.

cookies

Guess which star baked these bakery-size cookies?

Get more exciting HGTV Magazine news on Twitter by following us @HGTVMag.

  • Tell Your Friends

For this edition of HGTV Magazine‘s High/Low Challenge, we asked you to correctly identify the low and higher-priced product from a pair of stunning blue chests. Was this an easy one, or were you officially stumped? Those of you who correctly answered Left: low, Right: high, must have a knack for spotting a great deal. The lucky winner of an HGTV Magazine prize package will be notified by email.

high low answer

Were you right this time?

Both of these beauties have a similar curved design, but the slightly darker blue version on the left has less ornate hardware, helping to bring down the cost. The more intricate design on the right has a surprise inside! The drawers are lined with wallpaper—no DIYing required. Find shopping information for these and many other pairs in the The New High/Low List.

  • Tell Your Friends

It’s a new year, and a new chance to win! The first High/Low Challenge of the 2015 comes just in time for the release of the March issue of HGTV Magazine (on sale Tuesday), and shows off two blue chests worth a closer look.

From an entryway to a guest bedroom, these two pieces make just the right kind of statement. The shades of blue are saturated without being too bold, making it a truly versatile addition to your home. While it may be difficult to choose a favorite among the pair, let’s see if it’s easier to spot the difference in cost. One of these chests is nearly half the cost of the other, but which one is it?

Enter for a chance to win a prize package that includes a copy of the March issue, an HGTV Magazine iPhone 5 case and an HGTV Magazine tote bag. All you have to do is leave your guess in the comments below (i.e. Right: high, Left: low or vice versa). You must answer correctly to win. The answer will be revealed on the blog tomorrow, so come back to check if you’ve got a keen design eye.

high low blue chests

Which is more wallet-friendly?

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., age 21 or older. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Sweepstakes ends at 2:00 p.m. ET on February 6, 2015. Full official rules are available here. Sponsored by Scripps Networks, LLC dba Home & Garden Television, 9721 Sherrill Boulevard, Knoxville, Tennessee 37932.

  • Tell Your Friends

From Boston to Seattle and everywhere in between, Super Bowl Sunday will have parties filled with fans, football, and oh yeah, food. Many of the traditional game-day dips are high in calories, high in fat, and highly likely to put you in a food coma.

That’s why we rounded up some simple swaps that are still delicious but better for you. There’s no need to “cheat” on any diet to enjoy these dips. Let’s leave that kind of controversy to the NFL.

Skip: Spinach Artichoke Dip
Get: Creamy Avocado, Artichoke and Kale Dip

artichoke dip

Image courtesy of Blissful Basil

Gooey cheese, though delicious, is one of the easiest ways to add saturated fat and calories to a recipe, and it’s the star of most spinach and artichoke dips. When superfood spinach and antioxidant-rich artichokes are mere sidekicks, though, the health benefits get overshadowed. Not the case in this recipe for Creamy Avocado, Artichoke and Kale Dip. The veggies take the spotlight, and not a cheese is in sight. It’s the avocados, loaded with good-for-you fats, that create the creamy texture we love so much. We bet you’ll never be able to look at the classic version the same way again.

Get the full recipe over at Blissful Basil

4 More Skinny Dips

  • Tell Your Friends

UPDATE: This poll is now closed. Thank you to the more then 2,500 of you who participated. Look for the results in an upcoming issue of HGTV Magazine.

Of course there’s THIS fantasy home: HGTV Dream Home 2015. [Enter for your chance to win here.] But there’s also the home of your dreams that exists, well, only in your dreams. HGTV Magazine wants to know exactly what it looks like. If money were no object, if you could choose every feature, design every room, how would your ultimate luxury home turn out?

HGTV Dream Home 2015

HGTV Dream Home 2015 on Martha’s Vineyard

Take the survey below by choosing ONE for each of the following pairs. For example, would your perfect home include a home theater or a home gym? Your answers will help us with an upcoming story.

  • Tell Your Friends

Jan Feb 2015 cover

Make this the year that you finally redecorate the living room, remodel the kitchen, or just spruce things up a bit. The January/February issue of HGTV Magazine can help you get started—it hits newsstands this Tuesday, January 6. Here’s a look at some of what you’ll find.

Four savvy design bloggers share how they style a space while still staying on budget. Plus we share online-only how-tos for DIY projects from each of their rooms.

purple room

Update idea: Remake a hand-me-down piece of furniture or snag an item from a local yard sale. Our clever editors took a used china cabinet and turn it into a display piece you’ll be excited to show off. We see many dinner parties coming your way in 2015!

china cabinet

To be among the first to know of new HGTV Magazine content, follow us on Twitter @HGTVMag, or become a subscriber and receive every new issue right to your door.

  • Tell Your Friends

The last year was a big one for HGTV Magazine! We ran special departments like the all-paint-everything section in June. We got to look inside the homes of more and more HGTV stars—Alison Victoria’s kitchen, Genevieve Gorder’s HUGE NYC remodel, not to mention Jonathan and Drew Scott’s family home in Las Vegas. We also debuted the first ever duel cover with the May issue, teaming up with sister publication Food Network Magazine. Whew—what a year!

HGTV Magazine 2014 Issues

A year with HGTV Magazine

We thought it would be fun to round up some of the most memorable content from each issue for a look back on a year of DIYs, house tours, star encounters, and brand new ways to make HGTV Magazine a part of your home.

As they all do, the year began with a brand-new calendar. In this case, the Jan/Feb issue shared a year’s worth of DIY wreaths, with a new project for every month.

The March issue held one of our most popular stories of the year by far: 7 Ways to Fill Up Your Walls. With ideas for the kitchen, living room, and office, no wall should be left bare.

By April, our jaws had hit the floor with a show-stopping house tour out of sunny Florida. Every room held something to awe, but we’re particularly fond of the giant chalkboard calendar. (Make one yourself with the online-exclusive instructions.)

hgtv magazine images

Wall art from March and XL chalkboard calendar from April

Spring cleaning kicked into high gear with the May issue. We found some items in the attic that deserved a second life.

Everyone fell in love with this beach house with new bones and old charm. The on-the-water back “yard” with three tiers of patios doesn’t hurt either.

In the July/August issue we visited another beach house. This time Vern Yip invited us to beat the summer heat at his Florida home, and we’re still dreaming about the rooftop pool.

beach house and Vern Yip

Two amazing beaches houses from the summer issues

Our creative editors came up with genius DIY art ideas for the kitchen to share in the September issue. The pineapple plate and teacups on canvas were big hits.

October delivered Genevieve’s big overhaul we mentioned above, but also the know-how to create a stylish space of your own. We narrowed down the list of the BEST online shopping sites for home goods. Happy decorating!

We spent some serious time flipping (flea market finds), updating (discarded paintings), and creating (projects with cloth napkins) in November, so it’s fair to say it was a major DIY issue.

Finally, how better to wrap up a fabulous 2014 than with a decked out holiday issue! One of our favorites stories takes you inside the Fixer Upper house loaded with charming seasonal touches. You can still pick up a copy on newsstands now (Jan/Feb 2015 is available 1/6), and in it you’ll find our ultimate gift guides to buy, make, or bake the perfect present this year. We also share helpful tips for holiday lights, ways to deck the halls all around the house, and a home that was born holiday-ready.

December issue content

A Fixer Upper holiday kitchen and a log-stacked fireplace in a winter-ready home

  • Tell Your Friends

These bright pendants are the stars of the show! (And of this month’s High/Low Challenge.)  In the end though, there can only be one winner in the spotlight. It could be you if you answered  “Left: high, Right: low”. The winner of this month’s HGTV Magazine prize package will be notified by email.

high-low-answer

Could you tell the difference?

Topping Sabrina Soto’s High/Low List in our December issue—on stands Tuesday!—these pendants are the perfect way to add sparkle to your home around the holidays. Hung above the table, the pendant on the left will be the show-stopper of your dining room. The fixture to the right, which is slightly smaller, would shine bright in a hallway. Click through to find shopping information for these pendants and other great finds in our High/Low Buys for Any Budget.

  • Tell Your Friends

Time flies when you’re busy crafting, DIYing, decorating, and shopping! The holiday issue of HGTV Magazine is hitting newsstands Tuesday, and it’s full of great gift ideas, seasonal decorating inspiration, and of course, lots of handmade projects to keep the elves busy.

Take a look inside this month’s issue at these stories that come with a little bonus. In each piece below you’ll be directed to web-exclusive content that can ONLY be found at hgtv.com. Consider it a little gift from us @HGTVMag.

December 2014 cover

What do you get for the person on your list who has everything? A DIY gift that’s one-of-a-kind. We share six easy ideas to choose from.

picture frames

Embroidery hoop picture frames

To say metallics are on trend would be an understatement. And we can happily say they aren’t going anywhere soon. We gilded everything from pillows to pencils in these projects using gold paint. Online readers receive two extra ideas that didn’t make it in the issue.

ampersand pillow

Gold glitter paint was used on this ampersand pillow

When it’s time to decorate the mantel for Christmas, try one of these HGTV star-designed stockings. Each made from two online-only templates, the DIY designs let you make the holidays more creative.

christmas stockings

Made-from-scratch stockings

  • Tell Your Friends

What I love about these star pendants is that they are festive for the holidays and yet subtle and stylish enough to keep up all year. Hang in the dining room, hallway, or even a pair above the kitchen island for a look that is sure to be noticed.

Though both are great buys, one is actually less than half the price of the other. The High/Low Challenge question: Can you tell the difference? Answer correctly and one lucky winner will receive an HGTV Magazine prize package that includes the latest December issue, and HGTV Magazine mouse pad (great for browsing the new hgtv.com) and an HGTV Magazine thermos. leave your answer in the comments below (i.e. Left: low, Right: high or vice versa). You must answer correctly to win. Check back tomorrow to see if you were right!

high-low-star-pendants

Star light, star bright

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., age 21 or older. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Sweepstakes ends at 2:00 p.m. ET on November 14, 2014. Full official rules are available here. Sponsored by Scripps Networks, LLC dba Home & Garden Television, 9721 Sherrill Boulevard, Knoxville, Tennessee 37932.

  • Tell Your Friends

Head to the closest newsstand, drugstore, or supermarket tomorrow to find the latest November issue of HGTV Magazine. There’s lots to love inside: fall design trends, house tours that inspire, and as usual, advice from some HGTV stars.

November 2014 cover

That’s Sophie the golden retriever

Did you know there are also some valuable extras that you can only find online? Be sure to notice the URLs inside nearly every issue that lead to some hidden how-tos, extra projects, and useful info we couldn’t show you in the magazine. Below you’ll find a few stories that include exclusives to help bring the November issue to life.

The leaf pillow on the bench above is perfect for fall, and we show you step by step how to recreate this piece on our cover. Head to hgtv.com/cover-star-pillow for the leaf template you’ll need to finish the job.

leaf pillow

Download the leaf template at hgtv.com/cover-star-pillow

We love saving pieces that would otherwise hit the curb, which is where this “smile” painting was before we got our hands on it. Find out how we updated this discarded painting, and then visit hgtv.com/sticker-letters to create your own personalized art.

smile painting

Create your own art with letters at hgtv.com/sticker letters

It wouldn’t be HGTV Mag without some great flea market flips, and this issue included a cool rope-wrapped chandelier. Creating the monkey fist knots at the bottom of the lights proves a little tricky, so we showed you how — with pictures — at hgtv.com/monkey-fist-knot.

rope-wrapped chandelier

Photos guide your way at hgtv.com/monkey-fist-knot

Never miss out on exclusive content again. Follow us on Twitter at @HGTVMag to get updates sent straight to your feed.

  • Tell Your Friends

We changed things up a bit for this month’s High/Low Challenge by asking you to spot the lower priced item in not one, but four pairs of products. Why the bigger challenge? To keep up with Sabrina Soto’s SUPER big High/Low List in November’s HGTV Magazine!, of course! One lucky winner will receive the bigger-than-ever prize package filled with magazine goodies. Check your answers below to see if you were right!

blue sofa answer

The tight seat, sides, and back of the “low” sofa have a chic tailored look. Deep tufting and a pair of bolster pillows make the “high” sofa swanky.

black flatware answer

A matte finish gives the “high” flatware a modern vibe. This glossy “low” enameled version is dishwasher-safe.

purple ottomans

That’s purple leather covering the “high” ottoman on the left. The “low” choice offers a top that comes off for storage space.

sconces

Tinted glass shades give the allure of bronze, minus the cost on the “low” option above. Each light can be switched on separately for custom brightness in the “high” sconce.

Get the buying info for these items and lots more High/Low buys here and in the November issue of HGTV Magazine, on sale tomorrow. Don’t forget to keep up with us on Twitter @HGTVMag, Pinterest, and Facebook!
  • Tell Your Friends

Last year Sabrina Soto came together with our HGTV Magazine editors to curate a bigger than ever High Low Blowout, and you guys loved the extra shop-til-you-drop ideas. Well, we’ve teamed up again for the SUPER High Low List inside the November issue. We’ve got more than 30 pairs so similar you can barely tell them apart. With a list this big, it’s only natural that this month’s High Low Challenge (and prize package!) should be bigger, too, right? Right! Correctly identify the LOWER-priced item in ALL four pairs below, and you could win the double-sized HGTV Magazine prize package.

One winner will receive an HGTV Magazine tote bag, an HGTV Magazine iPhone 5 case, an HGTV Magazine notebook, and an HGTV Magazine mousepad, plus a copy of the November issue. All you have to do is leave your answer in the comments below for which item is priced LOWER. (i.e. Sofa: Bottom, Flatware: Left, and so on). Remember, you must correctly answer ALL four pairs for a chance to win. Come back Monday at 2 p.m. to see if you were right!

blue sofas

Living Room Sofas

black flatware

Black Flatware for the Kitchen

purple ottomans

Bedroom Ottomans in Shades of Purple

bathroom lighting

Bathroom Sconces

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., age 21 or older. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Sweepstakes ends at 2:00 p.m. ET on October 11, 2014. Full official rules are available here. Sponsored by Scripps Networks, LLC dba Home & Garden Television, 9721 Sherrill Boulevard, Knoxville, Tennessee 37932.

  • Tell Your Friends

We challenged you to spot the price difference between two gorgeous green campaign dressers. Did you guess correctly? You won our vote for “Best Eye for Design” if you answered Left: low, Right: high. One lucky winner will be chosen and notified by email.

As usual, Sabrina Soto’s High/Low List is packed with great items at every price range, but these two really grabbed our attention. The unmistakable campaign-style hardware on the MDF and poplar chest on the left makes it a cost-conscious choice. And eight layers of lacquer means the higher-priced piece at right has some serious shine.

green campaign chests with text

We want them both!

Get the buying info for these two items and lots more High/Low buys in the October issue of HGTV Magazine, on sale Tuesday. Tired of waiting for new-issue goodness? Subscribe here and follow us on Twitter here.

  • Tell Your Friends

It may feel like the middle of summer outside, but the HGTV Magazine editors are living like it’s already fall. Putting the October issue together meant filling the office with fluffy pillows, warm colors, and comfy chairs. See every cozy idea from the new issue when October hits stands this Tuesday, September 9. And you lucky subscribers? Just head to the mailbox.

As usual, we’re giving online readers an early look inside the pages. Take a look at what’s to come.

October 2014 cover

On newsstands Tuesday, Sept. 9

From the looks of this home, you’d never guess it was once the victim of a disastrous fire. The homeowners stuck together and rebuilt their family’s home room by room. Take a look inside the gorgeous new space.

dining nook

Last year we asked a few HGTV stars to leave their mark on no-carve pumpkins, but this time we’re downsizing. It’s all about the mini pumpkin for Halloween 2014! We’re sharing six fun ideas inside the issue, plus 2 bonus designs and helpful templates exclusively for online readers at hgtv.com/mini-pumpkins.

mini pumpkin with bat wings

That’s one batty little pumpkin

For more from the magazine, follow us on Twitter @HGTVMag.

  • Tell Your Friends

Campaign furniture was originally used for — you guessed it — campaigns. Military units appreciated it for its portability, as chairs and chests were made to be easily broken down and reassembled — perfect for a troop on the move. These days, the stylish brass corners and unique drawer pulls make campaign dressers sophisticated focal points of any room.

There may be history behind the style, but you don’t have to pay antique-level prices to sport this trend in your home. In HGTV Magazine’s newest High/Low Challenge, we ask if you can name the price difference between these two chests. One winner will receive a prize package that includes a copy of the October issue, an HGTV Magazine iPhone 5 case, and an HGTV Magazine ice cream scoop. All you have to do is leave your answer in the comments below (i.e. Right: high, Left: low or vice versa). You must answer correctly for a chance to win. Come back tomorrow at 2 p.m. to see if you were right!

green lacquer campaign chests

We’d campaign for either of these gorgeous green pieces.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., age 21 or older. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Sweepstakes ends at 2:00 p.m. ET on September 5, 2014. Full official rules are available here. Sponsored by Scripps Networks, LLC dba Home & Garden Television, 9721 Sherrill Boulevard, Knoxville, Tennessee 37932.

  • Tell Your Friends

We’re sharing a little of what you’re going to love in the latest September issue of HGTV Magazine, before it hits newsstands on Tuesday, August 5. Kitchens take the stage this month with stories on DIY art projects (more on that below), and a tour of Alison Victoria’s (host of Kitchen Crashers) personal cooking space.

September 2014 cover

Pick up your copy next week!

Take your pick from seven fun DIYs, all with a foodie-theme in mind, that will look charming on any kitchen wall. Plus, we’ve got exclusive downloads that can help you bring a few to life, only at hgtv.com/diy-kitchen-art.

DIY art projects

Ombré Cork Heart and Painted Wooden Spoons

This black, white, and red kitchen looks retro, but also so right-now. If you like the color palette, then you’ll enjoy the rest of the house, too. Take the tour.

black white and red kitchen

Seize the day

Catch up with everything @HGTVMag on Twitter.

  • Tell Your Friends

Take a seat and see if you were right. We asked you to look at two similar stools to see if you could correctly tell which one was priced higher than the other. If you answered Left: high, Right: low, then you are correct and would clearly make a good shopping buddy. One lucky winner of the HGTV Magazine prize package will be notified by email.

These stools caught the eye of both our market director and Sabrina Soto to make it on September’s The High/Low List. The maple barstool on the left is upholstered in easy-to-clean indoor-outdoor fabric, so you never have to worry about stains. The right polyester pick has such a friendly price tag, you might as well buy a whole set. See what else made the cut by subscribing or picking up a copy when it hits stands Tuesday.

high and low proced bar stools

Could you be the winner?

Find all the shopping info for these products and lots more in the September issue and online here. And follow us on Twitter @HGTVMag to get daily budget-friendly ideas, design inspiration, and exclusive access inside amazing homes.

 

  • Tell Your Friends

It’s a stool standoff for September’s sweepstakes! Excuse the alliteration, as I introduce the latest High/Low Challenge from the new issue of HGTV Magazine. September hits newsstands August 5th, but this will give you a taste of what’s to come.

These tufted stools may look similar, but the price tags are where they differ. Which is priced lower than the other? Enter for a chance to win a prize package that includes a copy of the September issue, an HGTV Magazine iPhone 5 case, and an HGTV Magazine umbrella. All you have to do is leave your best guess in the comments below (i.e. Right: low, Left: high or vice versa). You must answer correctly to win. The answer will be revealed on the blog tomorrow.

teal bar stools

Two great buys! Two different budgets.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., age 21 or older. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Sweepstakes ends at 2:00 p.m. ET on August 2, 2014. Full official rules are available here. Sponsored by Scripps Networks, LLC dba Home & Garden Television, 9721 Sherrill Boulevard, Knoxville, Tennessee 37932.

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