Friday, February 26, 2010

DIY: Record Bowls

(A finished bowl, shown from above)

I love finding ways to make old things useful in a new way (which is one of the reasons I love Real Simple so much). One of my favorite examples of this is record bowls. You can find cheap records at Goodwill and after that all you need is an oven and a bowl.

You can find a step-by-step tutorial here.

(A finished bowl filled with corks)

When making the bowls I often shape them multiple times. If I don't like the first shape I come up with I just put it back in the oven and try again. It cools into a solid shape quickly, so you have to work fast.

These bowls make great gifts for music lovers. In the past I've searched high and low to find records by people's favorite artists in order to make the gift more personal.

Photos by moi.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Homemade Thank You Card

Here's a fun and different way to say or spell out Thank You to your friends and family!
  • The first step is to make sure that you have an editing program or two, on your computer. I use Picasa through Google and Photoscape. They are both free and user friendly.
  • Then, grab your subjects. My participants were more than willing to stay perfectly still for the shoot, which included quite a few "do overs". We had fun with it. I would let them see each letter after they finished and oooh and ahhhh over it. ( This could have also been used as a wonderful teaching tool. Making your body into the different letters of the alphabet, printing and having them spell different words. )Don't worry about it being perfect just have them contort and get creative with the lettering! Spell your word out one letter at a time. I did this by having them lay on the floor while I was standing on our bed looking down.
  • Upload your "people letters" onto the computer and then open up Picasa. They have an option on the toolbar that says "Create" and then go down to "Picture Collage".
  • Take each individual "letter" photo and put it into the program's collage. Play with the spacing and other options till you get it how you like it and then SAVE.
  • Once it is saved. I exported the now "Thank You" grouped lettering out of Picasa, and into Photoscape. Once in Photoscape, click on Editing. Find your saved picture that you exported out of Picasa, then start editing. I made this one black and white so you couldn't see how all over the carpet they were, and how the lighting was always different. Made a black border around the photo. And added individual letters to each of the "people letter" panels. Viola! It was done! Almost....
  • Finding a deal on and getting shipping free. I made them into Photocards and wrote "Thank You" at the bottom.

A classic project that will involve the kids in the thanking process and make for a fun afternoon! :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's Cooking: Nothing

Our oven has been broken for a while now (we're waiting on a part Flannel Man ordered online) and so I've been trying to be creative with meals. I've found that you can only do so much with a slow cooker. But there's an upside, having a busted oven has helped me rediscover one of my favorite dinners: Hors d'œuvre.

When I was growing up my family would have Saturday night picnics in our living room, picnic blanket and all, and I loved that! We would have cheese, crackers, carrot sticks, etc. Sometimes they were fancier than others, but the best part was sitting on the blanket feeling like we were having a party.

Having a meal made up of hors d'œuvres also reminds me of treks around Europe. To save money we would usually make at least one meal out of a day a trip to the grocery store and a picnic in the park. A baguette, piece of fruit and cheese (sometimes a bottle of wine or a beer) and you're set!

I still love Hors d'œuvre nights at home. There's no cooking involved and it involves all my favorite foods; cheeses, fresh fruit and veggies, etc. Last nights highlights included sliced avocado, pine nuts and a delicious Port Salut cheese. So get out a blanket and make your own picnic with your roommate/husband/kids for a dinner experience that's a bit different.

Photo by moi.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Gift of Song

The best FREE gift that you can give to your kids, grand kids, nephews/nieces today?

Learn a new song.

Teach it to a child.


It is a fun activity that can be taken anywhere, anytime, and anyplace. That is guaranteed to put a smile on their face.

Today, we spent time together, learning about birds with feathers.

Then drove around and pretended to be a fireman, saving the land.

And learned about Father Abraham. (Hey, if they have time to sing a silly song. So do you! )

Days of the week.

Months of the Year.

Turned the lights off and tried to go to Dreamland. But if they take the road less traveled, and get lost, maybe even detoured. Help them find their way back again with your voice.

What is your favorite lullaby or kids song?

Thrift Finds

On Valentine's Day I wasn't making lovey faces at my husband. I was down at my local library making googly eyes at the Book Sale checkout ladies.
We bonded over $1.00 for a sack of books.
I finally found Harold and the Purple Crayon and Pipi book. I was holding out to find them at a sale of some sort. Along with a perfect copy of the Little Prince and American Girl's book (not pictured). All the books were in excellent condition and they had a wide selection of early reader books.

Complete with workbooks.

My son's favorite and mine too, is the Hershey's Kisses Addition Book.

He also LOVES the Dinosaur's dot to dot. And I can see a vast improvement in his recognizing numbers and how he holds his pen, since completing the book.

I'm so thankful that with a little effort on my part that I am able to find things that otherwise I wouldn't have gotten to share with my kids. I am a firm believer that through garage sales, the internet, discount stores, and sales in general that most families can thrive through thrift.

Magazine Holders

Plastic magazine holders are easy to find and are usually cheap. I picked up a couple for 50 cents each at Goodwill the other day. They were ugly, black plastic pieces, but I'd read a good tip of how to spruce them up.

Buy some wrapping paper you like and wrap them! Above is the finished product. They aren't perfect, but they look a lot better on my shelves than they did before.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Paint your own pottery

(After painting, before being fired)

I always thought the concept of going to a little shop and painting pottery that someone else made seemed silly. I finally went and did it with a friend one time and it was a lot of fun. It's not really about the piece you're painting, it's more about trying something different and spending time with a friend.

You pick a piece of green ware (perfectly white pottery that's already been fired in a kiln) and paint with whatever glaze you choose. Then you leave the piece, they fire it in the kiln again and voila! This is the little milk bottle I painted. It's nothing crazy, but it makes a good little vase and it reminds me of a fun afternoon with a friend.

(At home, after being fired)

p.s. I've heard of people holding a bachelorette party or bridal shower at a pottery-painting place. All the women paint one tile and then the bride gets to keep them at the end. Wouldn't it be fun to have a dozen diverse tiles as the backsplash in your kitchen that remind you of your closet friends. I love that idea.

Photos by moi.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tip of the Day

My tip of the day is to not throw out your whole disposable tape dispenser when it is empty. Save the white plastic circle and use it in your bathrooms! (I read this in a huge tip book a long time ago)

Can you guess where this is going?

Place your bar of soap on top of it, to keep the soap from getting stuck to the shower tiles.

No need to ever buy a soap dish!

If you ever have a random object in your home that you are getting ready to throw away. Check this website first or google it, and see if it still has another hidden life left in it!

Also, there is Real Simple's New Uses For Old Things feature. Which has made for plenty of "Ah Ha!" moments. And Dollar Store Crafts website is a wonderful resource to find ideas for transforming common items found for almost nothing at Dollar stores around the Country! Check out their speckled eggs, made out of plastic eggs for kids! Wow.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What's Cooking: Mushrooms and Steak

(Steaks on the grill)

I finally feel like I'm getting to the point with cooking where I can improvise a little bit. I do mean a LITTLE bit, because I'm definitely not confident enough to toss whatever into a pan and hope it works, but I can substitute one or two ingredient.

(Mushroom sauce)

The other night Flannel Man and I had two steaks and not much else. So after a quick look in the fridge we decided to work with what we had. He grilled the steaks on our grill (outside in 20 degree weather) and I made a sauce in the kitchen. It consisted of mushrooms, butter, garlic and a few other things. It tasted great! It's much too rich for a weekly meal, but for a special occasion (though this wasn't one) it would be perfect.

(The final product with some instant mashed potatoes)

I made instant mashed potatoes to go with the steak. Baby steps people, I can barely make the sauce right. Maybe one day I'll be whipping up mashed potatoes from scratch, but for now I'm happy with instant.

Photos by moi.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Links to Liv-ING.


Simply Modern Mom- DIY Date Nights: Valentines Day Every Week!


FIMBY- Diving into Homeschooling.


Living with Lindsey- How to Silhouettes.


A High and Noble Calling- Free Online Bible Studies


Planting Dollar$- The Importance of Asking WHY.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm not a big fan of the color pink or cheesy greeting cards or many other things associated with Valentine's Day (though I do like chocolate), but I am a fan of showing the people I love that I appreciate them.

So in an effort to do just that I got out the pink construction paper and a very outdated New York travel guide and started cutting. Using a little bit of ribbon, a glue stick and a few paper hearts, I made cards for a few close friends.

So Happy Valentine's Day to all of you (or in the words of Liz Lemon, "Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day!") Use this overly commercialized day to show people you love them instead of expecting someone else to bring you red roses.

Photos by moi.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Making Natural Deodorant

I have entered into the land of homemade deodorant. There's no milk & honey here. But the contents did come straight out of the kitchen. Just plain 'ol coconut oil (health store/I've been told Walmart carries this), baking soda, and cornstarch. (So, you know you could eat it if you wanted to.)
Truly, I'm not a huge fan of trying new things. Going to the store. Cruising the deodorant aisle. Dropping one into my cart will always sound very appealing.
But, seriously there are like 50 to choose from! How do I know which one is better for my body? Also, 'Organic' ones cost more than I would like to pay something to stop my stink. And even then they will still contain questionable ingredients.
This one has three, four if you use essential oils. Costs are minimal and will last a long time.
I figured it was worth a shot.
Man, what a messy shot it was! :)
I'm sure that I went about this in the hardest way possible. But I had to mix it all together with my hands, because my coconut oil was still very much in solid form. Which I must say made for quite the clean up!
The process however is a simple one to follow. I used the recipe found here.
1/4 Cup Baking Soda ( I use this to stop my diaper pail from smelling. I think it's qualified for armpits. )
1/4 Cup Cornstarch (thickening agent to hold it all together)
8 Tbs of Coconut Oil (very good for skin- lotion too)
Tea Tree Essential Oil-opt. ( a natural anti-bacterial agent)
I used an empty bottle and went to town. Packing it all the way into the bottom and then smoothing over the top. Because I had touched the ingredients so much at this point it needed to solidify again.
I put it into the fridge and have been letting it cool.

I even had some leftovers. (On top of my delivery of mangoes?!?)

My main concerns are:

  • Will I always have to keep it in my fridge? Is my bathroom too warm and it will melt?
  • It might not work.
  • It could get on my clothes and make stains.

Whether this works or not I'm glad I took the time to ask "why".

Have more questions? Check out this article.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When Your Life as a Mom Needs to Reboot.

  • Stop. Have a quiet time with God. Tell Him how you feel. Print off devotions that focus on the areas you feel stressed. Write down Scripture that lets you see the bigger picture.

  • Make lists. Lots of lists. Dump your brain onto paper. Clutter can be just as hazardous in your head, as in your house.

  • Buy in bulk. Less trips to the store. More time with family.
  • Meal Plan. Helps you to be fully there with your family, instead of fretting about dinner time.

  • Get kids to help with chores. They are following you around all day anyways, might as well put them to work. Make chore charts.

  • Quit for a season. Recycling. Playdates. Blogging. Volunteering. Cooking from Scratch. Anything that takes away your focus from getting back on track.

  • Be a mom to yourself. Nag. Sometimes it's the only way you'll listen to you. "Go to bed early! Or I will ground you from LOST!"

  • Exercise. Hello, Yoga.

  • Have an accountability partner. Dear ____, Today during nap time I did devotions, drank 4 sexy glasses of water, and did yoga. You would have been extra proud of my warrior stance. It was extra warriorry. Love, _____

  • Accept help. Super hard. But worth it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Squirrel Feeder

Meet Henry, our fat little squirrel. We couldn't figure out why our bird feeder was emptying out so quickly when we never saw any birds eating from it.

Then we saw this little gymnast. He hangs upside down and eats to his heart's content. I kinda love him. We've also had some cardinals and little finches, but I’ve decided it’s really a squirrel feeder, not a bird feeder.

Photo by moi.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Organics and Traditional Foods. Are they worth it?

The delivery bin that arrives on our porch every Friday.

All of the sacks, insulated bags, egg cartons, and milk/yogurt glasses are reused. So, when I am finished with a container I will put it back into the bin. It will be picked up next Friday, and my new delivery will be dropped off.

"Industrial food is the opposite of real food. Real food is old and traditional, while industrial food is recent and synthetic. The impersonation of real food by industrial food, by the way, is neither accidental or hidden. Industrial food like margarine is intended to be a replica of a traditional food-butter. Real food is fundamentally conservative; it doesn't change, while industrial food, by contrast, is under great pressure to be novel. The food industry is highly competitive and relentlessly innovative, producing thousands of new food products every year. " - real food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck

The reasons that I have choosen to eat organic and traditionally.
1.) We are eating our vitamins/medicine. Our bodies directly respond to what we put in them. If you want to feel energized and help your body preform its best, eat and drink foods that will fill your fuel tank naturally. These foods are also filled with "preventative medicines". For example, broccoli is thought to help lung function, and mushrooms boost the bodies immunity.

2.) They are watching. My two and four year old don't eat as many vegetables as they should, but I know they are spying on how I snack. Always having an apple or carrot in my hand, and serving healthy options at meals will be a model for them in the future. A building block also for their meal choices as an adult, and what they put on the menu for their own families.

3.) Supporting people who are organically supporting the earth. The picture below is taken at the local creamery where our milk and yogurt come from. Our family took a day to explore the farm. We got to see the chickens, cows, and pastures up close and personal. And personal is what it becomes when you are familiar with who you buy your food from.

4.) I feel happy to serve dinners. Cooking is a chore for me. It always has been and is something I will never be passionate about. However, I love making and serving natural foods. Making something from scratch. Dicing organic carrots, that's what puts the joy back in food for me.

5.) These delivery's are taking me out of my eating comfort zone. What will be in store for me next week? I never really know what I am getting till I open the box. Sure I might read that I am getting oranges- red blood. But it never even occurred to me that there might be oranges that are RED inside?!? Blew my mind people. Turnips? Rainbow Carrots? Ginger? All things that would never hop into my grocery cart at the store. But am I glad to have them in my fridge? Absolutely!

This whole process of eating is a lot more complicated then I ever imagined. There are three, really four, books right now that are serving as compasses for my journey.

-Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck - She gives real life information on how she started her journey with food and how it has changed over time. For me easier to read because it's in a "story" format.

-In the Defense of Food by Michael Pollan-Pollen and Planck are basically saying the same message, only taking different paths of getting there. The message being "If your grandma wouldn't recognize it, don't eat it." Pollen seems more into veggies, and the lack thereof in society.

-Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to be 100 by Dr. Maoshing Ni - This is written by a Chinese doctor who has studied seniors and Eastern and Western practices. He gives 100 helpful tips about food, herbs, remedies, lifestyle, environment, and relationships. For me it was all summed up in this book. Everything we need to live a happy and healthy life is given to you by God through nature, or natural practices.

-Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder- I'm reading this one to my son (skipping some non-appropriate parts for his age). Their food all comes from their own hands and hard work. Each meal is a story in and of itself. The meal is a family event to be savoured and enjoyed. It is easy to forget how thing used to be. I am glad for the glimpse into the past. Also, to engage a younger generation in the process of remembering.

So, in a simple answer. In this season of my life. Yes, organic and traditional foods are worth the cost and effort.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Spice up your life

Spices are surprisingly expensive. As I've started cooking I've quickly realized that it becomes a lot less expensive to make a dish once you accumulate a few basic spices.

I've found myself finding a recipe online at work, printing it off to make for dinner and picking up the necessary ingredients on my way home. But every time I tried that I could never remember whether or not I already had the needed spices.

So I decided to make a list of every spice that I currently have and keep it in the note section on my iPhone. This way I always know what I need to buy without duplicating any of the spices I already have.

I also looked up a few suggestions of the 10 spices everyone should keep in their pantry (other than your basic salt and pepper). These were the most common 10 I found.



Garlic powder








Photos by moi.

Hot Pink Organization

Once upon a time, my husband and I were watching TV approx two years ago, flipping through the channels and came to HSN. They were advertising organizational products and I made him stay, and watch what soon-to-be product I could not live without. I'm pretty sure that he had been in the dog house for something, and was trying to make up for it. So, he stayed and watched. If not for those turn of events I would not be the proud owner of this.....

What you don't have one?

I was further sold by the fact that I had stayed overnight, in college at an American Eagle, helping them redo their store layout. Many, many shirts had to be folded quickly, uniformly, and efficiently and a similar product was used.
BUT, lets please not mention the fact that my organizing style is to hang up clothes on hangers rather than fold items. I don't like to fold things-not tshirts or jeans. My whole closet only has a couple of things that are on shelves. So, this product only gets to come out for special occasions.

Here are some sweaters that desperately needed some order when I was reorganizing my closet. And with the help of my hot pink folding tool. They were done before I could say, "I'm off to see the organizing wizard."

If you don't want to pay for this little slice of folders heaven. No worries, the internet has come up with a cardboard solution for you.
In the last year I have pared down my belongings to a huge degree. But, this material item reminds me of everyday love and forgiveness (my husband was totally forgiven after buying this for me), my true passion (even though silly to most), and surrounding myself with only the things that TRULY make me smile.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Relaxing Valentine's Gift

This is a simple anytime gift found here. I am giving it as a "Thank you"/Valentine's gift to the adults that are coming to my daughter's birthday party in February.
The bottles are from Michael's for $1.00 or free from the pantry! I already had the lavendar essential oil, found at any health food store. The sea salt I bought at Walmart for $2.08. And the print outs are free from the website.
Happy Relaxing Valentine's Day to All!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wedding Album

(The handmade paper wrapping)

The other day we received our wedding album from our photographers. It's gorgeous! It's a heavy leather book filled with thick pages. I'm kind of in love.

(The beautiful leather album)

The name of the leather color I picked is Dulce De Leche, how wonderful. Flannel Man and I had so much fun going over the pictures and remember how much fun we had that day.

(One of the spreads in the album of our wedding details)

P.S. Our photographers, John and Jess with Burkett Photography, were absolutely amazing. They made the sometimes stiff process of having your picture taken, fun and relaxed.

(Photos by moi. Wedding photography by Burkett Photography)

Home in a Binder

this is my brain.
this is my brain, on binders.

These two? They are my go-to-gals. Harmony the Household binder and Clutch Cooking binder, are what they are known as around here. I know you are thinking that binders are so third grade, but hang with me here. Even though there are no 8o's unicorns or neon radio-active cats adorning these, each hold a wealth of vital information. Information that is in one place, travel friendly, and organized!

Cooking binders are self-explanatory. You can make your sections as specific or broad as you would like. The tabs that are hidden are on mine are "Slow Cooker" and "To Try". Any recipe that I find online/magazine/or written immediately goes into a plastic sleeve and will either become a permanent fixture among those most used or tossed. The tabs used are from Post It . These work the best for me, because they are easy to write on, durable, and easily removed and moved again. The Household binder is a little more complicated and will take a few tries to get all the sections specific to your own families needs. Mine goes as follows~

Spiral Notebook:
- Specific area to keep on going lists/notes, in one place

-Emergency, Doctors, Utilities, Neighbors, Family, Community, Frequently Used Numbers
-Print out on how to do CPR and give first aid

-Checklists, Cleaning Charts, Grocery Checklists
-Google Maps printed/frequently used
-Birthday and Anniversary List (along with cards waiting to be sent that month-stamped & addressed)

-Photos to file
-Information on vacations to be taken

-Shot Records
-Insurance Information

- Coupons
-Receipts waiting to be filed

-Craft Ideas
- Brochures for things to do

-Handouts from kids classroom

-Devotions printed from Proverbs31

-Scraps of paper that I can't seem to part with yet.

My other binders are on topics that I find interesting - Seasonal Crafts, Party Planning, Home Organization.

Mine are no where near where I would like to them to be- pretty and uniform. Yet, they work for me at this season of my life.

These also would make practical gifts for a new bride, mom, or cook. I have also heard of mothers who are having their daughters make household binders while still at home. So, in the future when they are the home managers their "books" will already be established.

Here are some links to checklists and additional information on homemade "binder books".