Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year's Eve Everyone! I hope 2010 holds wonderful things for all of you.

Take a minute to think about all the good things you experienced, learned, etc. in 2009 and set some fun goals for 2010. Then sit back and pop open the bubbly!

Here's a few things I'm hoping to do in 2010...

1) Watch at least 10 Best Picture Oscar winning films
2) Complete all of my reading challenges
3) Travel to a new state
4) Start my first garden
5) Learn how to knit
6) Learn how to cook at least one good recipe to go
with each meat (chicken, pork, beef, salmon, etc.)

I may add to that as the year progresses,
but that's a few fun ones I'm going to try to accomplish.
Good luck to all of you in your endeavors!

Photo by moi.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reading Rainbow

As the year winds to an end I'm picking a few reading challenges to tackle in 2010.

I recently found a fun one here at Lost in Books that I’m going to attempt. It’s called the Color Challenge. You pick 9 books with different colors in the title. I'll keep you all updated on my progress. Let me know if you're doing this challenge too!

Here’s what I’m hoping to read for this challenge…

Color Challenge: 9 books with 9 different colors in the title

"The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga

"Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster

"Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi

"The Green Hat" by Michael Arlen

"The Color Purple" by Alice Walker

"Briar Rose" by Jane Yolen

"My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru" by Tim Guest

"Blue Highways: A Journey into America" by William Least Heat-Moon

"The Scarlet Thread" by Francine Rivers

Photo of the beautiful cloth bound Penguin classics found here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Library Before and After

So I might have a bit of an obsession with books.

From what I understand the two things women are supposed to fantasize about are weddings and babies. I never thought too much about either. But the one thing I frequently dreamed about was the day I could have my own library. I couldn't wait to have my hot little hands on all of my books at one time.

Over the years my books have survived in cardboard boxes in family member's attics and mini barns while I skirted between apartments, countries and jobs, all the while acquiring more books. Now that I have my own home, Flannel Man (aka the husband) agreed to let me turn our second living room into a giant homage to the love of my life - (second to him of course) -books!

So here's the before and after of my library. This room couldn't possibly make my any happier (unless maybe it had room for one more bookcase.) We painted the walls (below) and then promptly covered them with all of my bookcases. In the corner you can see my book tables and there are big comfy chairs for reading.

Photos by moi.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Clues

Christmas with toddlers is totally different from Christmas with other ages. They rip into one present, just to rush into the next. There is no savoring each thoughtful gift. So, I am trying this year to prolong the 15 minute celebration by creating "clues". These clues took me just a few minutes to dream up and will hopefully create a little bit of "I worked to get this" attitude. My four year old son can read and this will be something he will enjoy helping his one year old sister complete together. The last clue will lead them to a Nativity Playmobil set.....Pointing them to the real reason for the holiday season! Merry Christmas! :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

DIY: Christmas Ornaments

I decided to make Christmas ornaments for a few good friends. I used a different family's photo for each ornament, a simple wood circle (a pack of 4 was around $2 at Michaels), an adhesive roller, a few jingle bells and red ribbon. Flannel Man drilled a small hole at the top of each of the wood discs. I cut the photos to the size I wanted and then cut a circle out of card stock to layer beneath the photo.

I used a rolling adhesive and centered the card stock circles on the wooden circles. Then I used the adhesive to glue the photo on top of the card stock. I covered the entire front of the ornament with a thin layer of Modge Podge. After letting that dry (it took about an hour) I threaded the ribbon through the bells and then threaded it through the hole in the wood. A few quick knots and they were done!

On the back of each I wrote "The Smith Family 2009" (using their names). I tied the ornaments to the outside of each family's wrapped Christmas presents with ribbon.

They were easy to make and the wood and modge podge make a sturdy combination, so they should last a long time.

Photos by moi.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Frosty, the Cheese Ball?

Wonder no more what you will take to the next family gathering! This is a cheese ball made from this recipe. So, with a few carefully placed raisins, pretzels, and a carrot nose you will have the perfect winter appetizer!

Monday, December 21, 2009

DIY: Doily Luminaries

I originally got the idea to make these Doily Luminary bags from Martha Stewart. My best friend and I made them for my wedding, but it ended up being too light outside to see them well. So I saved them and now, a few months later, they were perfect for lining the path to our house for a holiday house warming party.

We started with simple white luminary bags and paper doilies. You can get those at any craft store. Then we tried to use a hot glue gun, but that wasn't working so well, so we ended up using double-sided tape.

By the time we had made about 10 bags we were getting a little creative. We cut the doilies in half or fourths and used just the edges to line the bags. We also tried cutting patterns and initials into the doilies before taping them in.

When finished the bags create a lacy effect that looks great. You can use regular tea lights or the flameless kind, though the real ones have a better glow.

Fill the bottom of the bags with about 2 cups of sand or kitty litter. I used kitty litter so when I was done with it I could pour it into two containers which Flannel Man and I can put in our trunks. Kitty litter is perfect for emergency car kits because it can be used to create traction if you are stuck in an icy rut.

Photos by moi.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Recipe for Organizing Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen organization is tested the most during the holiday season. That is why this time of year is a perfect time to reevaluate your cooking needs and organizational systems!

To start I took a "before" shot of the pots, pans, and Corningware cabinet. Pots and pans are up top, lids are contained up front by a rack, in the back is a pressure cooker, and stacked in the middle are Corningware/glass containers. This is only one side of the cabinet and on the other side is more of the same. A new system had to be "cooked" up so that I was not stopping mid-cooking to find a lid that matched a pan, picking up the Corningware that had fallen, and overall a better use of the space up top.......

I now have a general knowledge of everything that is in this space . Clearing out the cabinet then grouping like with like will help me assess how much of each I truly have.....

Next, comes the fun part, purging! On the bottom shelf was a pressure cooker that never got used. My husband is the only one who cooks with it, and needless to say it hadn't been used in a couple years! It now has a loving home with its original owner. Look at that sparkle! Can't you tell how excited Mr. Pressure is to be going home?

Also, lids that were doubled, pans that were similar in size, and one's that were only getting used once a year got put away in a box. The box is sealed in the garage and labeled "Extra Kitchenware- Donate if not opened by 5-25-2010". That way if I don't open the box in six months, I know for sure that there is nothing important that I will have given away.
The after picture shows all pots and pans WITH their lids, skillets grouped together, and Corningware stacked the full height of the cabinet! The rack that held all the lids has a new function! Placing pots on top of it makes for easy access to things in the back of the cabinet.

This project only took half an hour to complete, but will leave me breathing easy for months to come..... Ahhh, now if only cooking with those pots and pans were as much fun as organizing them! :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

The gift (bags) that keeps on giving

Christmas is only a week away, which is crazy. Am I the only one who thinks this year has just flown by? Flannel Man and I have put up our tree and the floor beneath it is covered with presents for our family and friends.

The name tags on the gifts were created from left over pieces of scrapbook paper and Christmas cards we've received. The gift bags, tissue paper, ribbon and bows are all reused from gifts we've received.

Our tree is covered with the ornaments we grew up with, ones we've bought on various vacations, etc. It was so much fun to put up our first "married" tree and to combine our eclectic decorations.

My niece and nephew are getting some of my old toys, from when I was a tot, as gifts this year. Their mom, my sister, suggested it and I think it's a great idea. The toys are still in great shape and now a new generation will get a chance to enjoy them.

Photos by moi.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Reusable" Resolutions for 2010

1.) Hang clothes to air dry. Use dryer only on "no heat" for 10 minutes.
2.) Use cloth towels instead of disposable. No paper plates.
3.) More plants in house.
4.) Must remember cloth bags at grocery and ALL stores!
5.) Make own deodrant with baking soda.
6.) Buy natural toothpaste.
7.) Kids and I only using "natural" shampoo.
8.) Recycle paper/glass/plastic.
9.) Garden 2009, Garden in 2010 - want more herbs! Try canning or freezing.
10.) Use cloth pads.
11.) Buy used before new - think more before buying (even second hand), ask others if they have extra first, maybe could barter or trade?
12.) Try and buy more gifts on Etsy or make gifts.
13.) Build up presents for kids and adults at low prices throughout the year at garage sales/stores.
14.) Make natural cleaning supplies.
15.) Buy laundry detergent online.
16.) Compost
17.) Use Mineral "Organic" makeup, as old runs out.
18.) Use essential oils to make my own perfume.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DIY: Cork Tags

I hosted my very first Christmas party last weekend. For the appetizers we were serving I made little tags to explain what each one was.

I used wine corks and pennies to create them. I cut half way down the cork (lengthwise) and then hot glued the cork to a penny.

Then I made tags using old Christmas gift tags and pieces of scrapbook paper. It was cheap (I didn’t have to buy anything) and easy.

Photos by moi.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gifts for Christmas and Beyond!

I LOVE giving gifts. I LOVE giving frugal, practical, and creative gifts! So, here are some ideas for others for the upcoming Christmas season.....

1.) Passions.

Cleaning? (Yes, for some cleaning is a passion! ) A recipe for a homemade cleaning solution. Cost: Bottle and Ribbon @ Target $1.oo bins.

2.) Recent Developments surrounding that persons life.
Did they recently lose a job? Gift cards might be a fun splurge on things that they can no longer afford. Gain a job? A new eco-friendly lunchbox and water bottle might be useful.

(A Starbucks gift card sits in a smaller sized version of Martha's Tissue Paper Decorations to look like flowers. The stems are made out of green pipe cleaners. The butterfly is holding on with a white pipe cleaner taped to the body. I made this for a birthday. Could easily be adapted to Christmas! Cost: $2.00 for tissue paper and then card amount)

3.) Every Thingamagig.
Go the sentimental route.

(This was made from the site Wordle. Just put in all your adjectives describing a person, print, and frame. If giving one to your husband....First, you need to google "How to spell Nurture" and then if you accidentally spell it wrong on your gift, google "How to lie to your husband and tell him that the word nuture is French for "looks good naked". Cost: $4.00 for frame or spray paint old one)

4.) Elderly.
Mini teapots? Nah. Socks? Nah. Personalized car mats? Maybe. But a more practical gift would be a basket of snacks.

(Popcorn never tasted so good with a toddlers poem on the front of a wrapped popcorn box! Cost: $2.00 for popcorn)

5.) Children.
This is the easiest of them all! You just need to step out of the box, or maybe just back in it. Because boy are boxes cool! Seriously, kids don't need much, just a little creativity from adults.

(Brooms got at a local store with additions of stickers and their names written with puffy paint! "Helping" never looked so fun! Cost: Brooms $4.00)

(This is a gift that children of all ages can enjoy. Ask for or take a picture of all of your friends/family members. So, that they can become "dolls" on your fridge! I did it at a recent party taking pictures of grandparents and friends alike. This picture must be full length, head to toes. They will say you are weird. You will say what's weird about sticking you on the fridge for my children to play with? They will be confused by this, and you must hurry and take the picture at this moment. )

-cut out the person from your photo.
-go to have it laminated or do it yourself.
-take a strip of magnet paper (I got from Michael's) and stick on the little photo person
-snip around them. Tadaaa!

-stick them on your fridge and behold the adventures they will have!
Cost: $6.00 with coupon for magnets, laminate $3.00 @ Teacher store, photos printed Free with new membership to online photo website- makes multiple gifts!)

**What is your most creative, fun, weird, wacky gift to give?**

Monday, December 14, 2009

Literary Alphabet Soup

As the year comes to a close I try to not to start any new books and instead I wrap up the ones I'm already in the middle of. This year held some great reads.

My top books for 2009:

The Brothers K, The Hunger Games, Anna Karenina, Peace Like a River, Here is New York, The History of Love, Atlas Shrugged, The Portable Dorothy Parker, The Things They Carried and 84, Charing Cross Road

I tend to take on reading challenges to get me to pick up books I might not have and the best example of this was "The Good Women of China." I needed an author whose name began with an X for my alphabet author challenge and so I picked this nonfiction book up and it was really good. It's extremely sad, but it gave me a much better idea of what Chinese women have had to go through over the last few decades.

Anyway, I just finished 3 challenges for 2009. The first: 999 Challenge, where I picked 9 categories and read 9 books in each category in 2009. The second: 100 book challenge, which is self-explanatory. And finally: Alphabet Challenge, where you read one author for each letter of the alphabet. Here's my alphabet...

* A: Margaret Atwood - The Penelopiad

* B: Bill Bryson Shakespeare: The World As A Stage

* C: David Czuchlewski - The Muse Asylum

* D: David James Duncan - The Brothers K

* E: Barbara Ehrenreich - Nickel and Dimed

* F: F. Scott Fitzgerald - Babylon Revisited

* G: John Green - Looking for Alaska

* H: Nick Hornby - Fever Pitch

* I: Ian McEwan - Black Dogs

* J: Julia Child - My Life in France

* K: Nicole Krauss - The History of Love

* L: Jeff Lindsay - Darkly Dreaming Dexter

* M: Frank McCourt - Teacher Man

* N: Neil Gaiman - The Graveyard Book

* O: Tim O'Brien - The Things They Carried

* P: Dorothy Parker - The Portable Dorothy Parker

* Q: Anna Quindlen - Blessings

* R: Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged

* S: David Sedaris - When You Are Engulfed in Flames

* T: Leo Tolstoy - Anna Karenina

* U: Umberto Eco - The Name of the Rose

* V: Sarah Vowell - Partly Cloudy Patriot

* W: E.B. White - Here is New York

* X: Xinran - The Good Women of China

* Y: Richard Yates -Revolutionary Road

* Z: Zadie Smith - On Beauty

Photo by moi.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wall of Frames

I turned one wall in the guest room into a huge collage of frames.
I've blurred the pics in the frames for the sake of my family and friends.

It was yellow before we painted it, so it looks completely different now. I love having all the frames, even the ones that don't match, mixed together on one wall.

I started with one frame centered in the middle of the wall and just worked my way out from there. I knew I wanted a diamond shape and just kept moving the different sized frames around until it worked. You can pick up a set of frames that match in a variety of sizes for around $20 from Target or Kohls.

I also repainted a few old plastic frames I had (with the same brown paint as the bedside table) and just hung those near the top and it worked great.

Photos by moi.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

House vs. Home

I've lived the better part of the last decade in a long string of dorm rooms and apartments. So as a brand new homeowner the idea of hosting a Christmas party is both exciting and daunting.

Flannel Man (as my husband will henceforth be known on this blog) and I decided we were big kids now and we'd host a holiday open house (or rather I decided and he grudgingly agreed). Thus began my frantic scramble to get my new house in order.

I do well with deadlines and so the house, which we have only lived in for two months now, quickly became a home. After our October wedding we buckled down and finished painting and moved in the major furniture. Then we hung stuff on the walls and found out that we needed a million little things we hadn't thought of, (I use the term "need" very loosely here).

So here's a quick before and after of our guest bedroom. If you can't tell, the original colors in the room were powder blue and yellow. Now it's a bright turquoise, a color that people see and say, "Oh, well that's blue," in an effort to say something nice even though they don't like it.

We used a cheap duvet to cover our old comforter. I painted an ugly nightstand brown to make it less offensive. Flannel man managed to make a lampshade that I like work on a lamp that had a hideous country chic shade with some serious soldering magic. I put a tree decal on the wall to add a decoration that people don't have to worry about knocking down if they are sleeping in the bed. I'm loving the result.

More pics to come, but for now I'm off to get all Martha-Stewarty on some holiday party decorations.

Photos by moi.