Monday, December 24, 2012

And to all a good night.

Merry Christmas to all...
 
 

 I'll be spending my Christmas with these sweet guys...who've already opened their Christmas jammies, and are now watching The Polar Express. Its the perfect Christmas Eve over here, with snow gently falling and excitement in the air.  It was all the husband and I could do to get them to sit still for our traditional reading of the Christmas Story in Luke 2!

Wishing you and your family a good night and very Merry Christmas tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gifts on a Budget

Each Christmas season it seems like there are a million things on my to do list. Some of the things that have caused me a lot of last minute stress are neighbor gifts and teacher gifts.  In years past, I've tried to make holiday candies, put them on plates, and take them around to my neighbors.   Last year, after looking at how much I had spent on supplies to make goodies, I realized that there had to be a more cost effective and less stressful way to approach neighborhood gift giving. 
 
Last July we had a "night at the movies" birthday party for my oldest son.  I bought these cute little popcorn containers at Target for party favors.  After making my initial purchase, I realized that I could use them as neighbor gifts too.  So I went back to Target and bought them out of their popcorn containers.  I then came up with the saying, and waited for the Christmas Season to roll around.  Last week I bought bags of Almond Joy candy bars, crinkle paper from the dollar store, and assembled the gifts. I quickly made up a tag on PicMonkey, mounted it on scrapbook paper, and had my family take the gifts around.  It was a lot nicer than stressing last minute and trying to make candies with three kids under four running around my house.
 

When my oldest started Preschool a few years ago, I started giving out Scentsy as teacher gifts. Since I, my mother, and two of my sister in laws sell Scentsy, I always have extra on hand! This year we gave out scent circles and fragrance foams. The boys were so excited (especially my four year old) to hand their gifts to their teachers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to Bind a Quilt (Double Fold, Mitered)

Quilting is one of my great loves.  I started making quilts in junior high/high school and from there its become an obsession. In fact, I was so used to quilting that I really struggled taking clothing construction classes in college because I wasn't familiar with sewing things that had shape. Over the years I've bound quilts in a few different ways.  For a long time I used a single fold log cabin method, and its still a good way to bind if you are in a hurry. Today I'm going to show you one of my favorites: a double fold, mitered binding.
  • Step 1: To start out, you will need to use a rotary cutter to cut the strips of binding material.  Normally I cut my strips at 2 1/2" x WOF (width of fabric). I have also used 2" strips before and they work well too.  To determine the number of strips to cut, measure the length and width of your quilt and times by two. Take that number and divide by 42 (normal fabric is 42" wide). The number you get will be the number of strips to cut.  Always round this number up.  For my lap sized quilt I used 7 strips. If doing math isn't for you, you can always approximate by cutting a strip and laying it out by your quilt and rough measuring how many it will take.
  • Step 2: After you have cut all of your strips, sew them RST (right sides together), end to end to make one long strip. Press all of the seams open.  Then press the strip in half, WST (wrong sides together).
  • Step 3: Starting in the middle of one of the sides of the quilt, pin the binding to the front side, lining up raw edges.  Starting from the beginning of your binding, measure 6 inches down and begin sewing.  We are leaving a tail that will be used later when we merge the binding strip together.
  • Step 4: When you come to the first corner, stop approximately 1/2" from the edge.  Fold the binding up to make a 45 degree angle (see picture below).
  • Step 5: Keeping the 45 degree fold in place, fold the binding back down along the next edge of the quilt.  Start sewing from the top of the fold.  Repeat steps 4 & 5 on remaining corners.

  • Step 6: When you get back around to where you started, stop stitching roughly 6 inches before the beginning of your binding.  This is the beginning of the binding tail that we left, not the beginning of your stitching. Take the remaining binding and bring it up to where the beginning of the binding is.  Fold it back and measure the width of your binding, starting at the fold.  I measured back 2 1/2" and then cut.
Step 7: This is the step that I think is the trickiest.  In fact, when I first learned to bind this way, it took me several tries to get it right. Take your two binding tails and pin them RST as shown below. They are pinned to each other at a 90 degree angle.  So the end of the binding tail on the left is pinned to the side of the binding tail on the right, and underneath, the end of the binding tail on the right is pinned to the side of the binding tail on the left.  Whew, I hope that made sense! Then mark a diagonal line from corner to corner.
Step 8: Sew along your marked line, then trim a 1/4" seam allowance.  Turn right side out and finish sewing binding to quilt.

    This is what your binding will look like once turned right side out.
Step 9: Fold binding over to back side and hand stitch in place.  You could also sew the binding in place with your machine, but I prefer to hand stitch it. Enjoy your newly bound quilt!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

DIY Framed Mirror



Today, I am excited to show you our framed mirror project.  This is something that I have been wanting to do for quite awhile. It ended up being a very cost effective way to dress up our plain builder's grade mirror.

To start off, we used a piece of trim and a quarter round shoe.  The trim is actually some that came as baseboard in our home.  About a year ago, we refinished our nursery and pulled off the baseboards in the room and put in thicker ones, so this has just been sitting in my garage ever since.  The shoe was purchased at Home Depot. After measuring the mirror, my husband cut four pieces out of each piece of wood, on 45 degree angles.


Then we glued the shoe to the outer edge of the baseboard trim.  We used molding and trim wood glue and clamped it for a half hour while it dried.


When all four sides were ready, it was time to assemble the frame.  My husband used a board to make sure the frame was on exact 90 degree angles.  We clamped the frame to the board and let it dry.


Then it was time to sand and paint.  And sand and paint. And sand and paint, until we had the finish we liked.  I used Glidden White on White in semi-gloss.


Next, we attached the frame to the mirror using Liquid Nails heavy duty.


We taped the mirror on one side and blocked it up on the other side, then let it dry overnight.


I love the result! It made the mirror look so much better.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Coming Soon

 So that mirror tutorial I promised you is on the way. I promise.  The mirror is framed and I'm just editing pictures and getting a post ready.  We ran into a few bumps along the way.  First off, three of my four boys came down with strep throat, followed by a nasty cold that hung around for two weeks. Projects tend to get put on hold when I've got a house full of sickies! When things settled down, and we pulled everything back out to work on it, my four year old accidentally knocked paint off of a table and it spilled all over our carpet.  I spent three hours cleaning it with my Bissell Green Machine. The good news is that by the time I was done, my carpet actually looked cleaner in that spot than before the paint spill!

I've also been busy over here working on a few other projects.  Over the next month, I hope to share with you some of the items I am making for Christmas.  We are going for more of a homemade Christmas this year.  Over the years, I have noticed that the things the kids keep the longest, are the items that are homemade. Toys come and go, and our basement is overflowing with them. By the time May rolls around half of them are buried in the toy box and forgotten. I am hoping that by making some of our presents, I can cut down on wasteful spending, and give my children a gift that means something to them.

Speaking of Christmas, we had family pictures taken for our Christmas cards over Thanksgiving.  It was a quick 15 minute photo shoot in 30 degree weather.  One of my good friends from high school was sweet enough to take them for us. I'm having a hard time deciding which one to use.  All of them have some little quirk about them...

Husband is smirking.





Boy 3 looks super grouchy. That's because he was.

.
Baby isn't looking at the camera.

I suppose I should get those Christmas cards ordered sometime soon.  After all, the tree is already up and our Elf of the Shelf has come to make mischief for the next few weeks. He's already made a mess of our ornament box and eaten all of our frosting.







Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Give Thanks By Giving Back

I've been pondering a lot this Thanksgiving season on what I can do to show my thanks. This morning it seems like I have found some clarity in purpose, so I hope you, my readers, can bear with me while a share a story with you about our life.

A few years ago, after the birth of our third son, I went through a really low point in my life.  Looking back, I can see that it was a reaction to, what was for me, a highly stressful few years.  I had just come off finishing my Student Teaching and trying to juggle all of the demands of preparing lessons, after school activities, being pregnant, and chasing a toddler around. Then we had our second son.

Shortly after he was born, we experienced a month of unemployment, followed by a job transfer to a different state.  I soon found myself 300 miles from home with a new baby, a toddler, and not many friends. About six months after our move, we decided that we were going to build a house.  Within weeks of signing our papers to build, I found out that I was very unexpectedly pregnant again.

 We soon moved into our new house and a few months later our third son arrived (two weeks early!).


We were very happy to meet our new little guy and had a wonderful Christmas season, enjoying our precious baby.  Then January came, and so did all of the medical bills.  Normally it would have been something we could have handled and paid down quickly, but we were still paying on our second son's birth and our savings had been depleted from unemployment and moving twice within a year. Also, I began feeling the stress of having two babies so close together.  I started having panic attacks when my husband would leave for work.  I began crying all of the time. I was far from home and felt like I had nobody.  No one called to see if I was okay.  No one came to visit and help out.  I felt absolutely alone.  Only my husband and mother knew how badly I was struggling.  I remember getting up one morning, on a payday, and doing our budget.  After paying all of our bills we had nothing left over.  No money for food, diapers, or gas. I felt totally wiped out.  Then a few weeks later, our 9 week old baby caught RSV.  After three days of driving him to the hospital every 3 hours for a Bronchiolitis clinic, we were rushed to a local children's hospital, where my son stopped breathing in the ER.

We spent four grueling days in the hospital. One night my husband came to stay at the hospital with me and looked especially frazzled.  He soon informed me our truck had been hit in the parking garage.  We laid together on the little fold out bed in our son's room, held each other, and just cried. We were very blessed and had family and friends rally around us. For the first time in quite awhile, I started to realize that others did care about what was going on in our lives. I'd love to tell you that things soon got easier, but it took a full year before I started to actually feel normal again.

In sharing this story, I hope to let you know that one of the most important things you can do is to seek out someone who may need your help.  I know it would have meant so much to me, to have had an extra person to share my feelings with or who would have volunteered to help me out.  But, I also think its just as important to ask for help.  I know for some of us it is really hard to break down those walls of pride and ask someone to help. I am sure if I would have humbled myself and said something, I could have had more help. So this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, I challenge you (and myself) to seek out somebody who may need encouragement or help in any way. Rekindle an old friendship, forgive those who've hurt you, spend time with your family...in short, just give of yourself. I feel that one of the greatest ways to show your gratitude, is to pass a kind deed onto others, and in the end everyone benefits from it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Boys' Bathroom Redo

We built our little starter home about three years ago.  When we were at the design center picking out our interior, we opted to keep our walls white. For the price they wanted to paint my whole house one color, I knew I could buy my own paint and customize it how I wanted to for a whole lot cheaper.

 When I first painted the boys' bathroom, I used the left over paint from an accent wall that I had done in my kitchen...a lighter brown color that was trending at the time.  It was one of those, "Hey I have some extra paint so I'm gonna stay up late one night and paint the bathroom" kind of things. I do things like that and thank heavens I have a patient husband who puts up with it! Once the paint was on the walls of my bathroom, I knew it was a mistake.  It made the room look dark and small.  I hated going in there.  I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before I repainted it. The brown paint lasted about 18 months until I finally found an excuse a few months ago to get rid of it.

 It all started when the night light burned out in my older boys' room. Carson (my oldest) woke up terrified of the dark, and did what any resourceful little boy would do: went into the bathroom, grabbed the Scentsy plug-in warmer (which was turned on and full of hot wax) and took it to his room and plugged it in. I had no idea what he'd done until the next morning when Jonas (my second oldest) came running out of the bathroom yelling, "Mom! Carson got blood all over the bathroom!" Terrified, I ran in to see red wax all over (and was very thankful that it wasn't really blood!). The wax came off of everything easily, except for the paint. It just kept peeling up no matter what I did. Even running a blow dryer on the wax to re-melt it didn't work.

I didn't have any brown paint left over to touch it up. I know that a little bit of peeling paint probably wouldn't bug some of you, but I couldn't let it rest. And to be honest, it was time for the brown paint to go. So, because I am a "ready, shoot, aim" kind of person (as my husband so kindly tells me) I went down stairs, grabbed some aqua paint samples (that I had left over from doing the nursery), and painted streaks all over the bathroom.


Then I went to Home Depot (with all four kids in tow) and broke one of my own painting rules: I grabbed a paint sample card and went with it. I didn't like any of the shades of aqua I had tried and just wanted to get the painting done (because, you know, it had already been three days and I have the patience of a two year old when it comes to projects like this). I got lucky and picked a color that I love, love, love (Almost Aqua by Glidden)! These pictures do NOT do it justice. It is gorgeous.


As you can tell, new paint meant a new shower curtain and a new shelf for the towels. And new towels. At the time, my husband was home from work for a week because he'd had a hernia repair. I convinced him to make me a board that I could hang the bath towels on so I could get rid of the builder's grade towel bar that had come with the house.  Once he had the board made, I decided that I wanted a shelf put on top of it...and then trim on the bottom to balance it out.  So my patient husband humored me and kept adding to the original piece of wood until he created this masterpiece. 
 

It was made mostly out of wood we already had. We were able to paint it with left over trim paint our builder had left in our basement. It ended up being a pretty cheap alternative to the towel bar that was there before.


A few years ago, I read in a parenting magazine about assigning each child a certain color of bath towel. That way you would always know who had left a towel out and who was in charge of putting it away. I'd been wanting to do this ever since, so we assigned each of the boys their own color.  It's been great to have this system because now the boys aren't giving me the, "But it's his towel, he should have to pick it up" excuse.

I'll be back in a few days with a tutorial on how to frame out a bathroom mirror.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Candy Dilemma

I can hardly believe its been over a week since my last post!  First of all, we celebrated Halloween.

I got to take these handsome guys around the neighborhood, while the husband stayed home and handed out treats. An hour and a half was about all I (and the baby!) could handle and we headed home around 7:30.

The kids love Trick or Treating, but every year when we come home,  I am left with the dilemma of what to do with all of that candy.  This year I let them pick out two treats when we got home, then the rest of it was dumped into their very own gallon sized Ziploc bag to be rationed out over the next few weeks.  Where my boys are still so little, I don't just let them stash it in their rooms.  I'm sure it would be gone in a day and I would have some very sick kids! I was recently at a meeting, where a lady said that she would let her kids pick out their favorite candies, and then the rest of it would go in a big bag that was set out on the porch.  The next morning there was a small toy for each of her kids in place of the bag.  I thought it was a great way to get the candy (and temptation!) out of the house.  My family wasn't on board with the idea. What do you do with all of that Trick or Treat candy?

In addition to Halloween festivities, the husband and I have been working on a DIY project in our kids' bathroom.  I'll be back tomorrow with the first part of the redo that we completed a few months ago. Then we'll be posting a tutorial on framing out a builder's grade mirror and installing a new door stop.  See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Italian Pasta Salad

This is my go-to salad for family barbecues and church functions.  Its simple, easy, and always a crowd pleaser.




























Ingredients:
1  16 oz box of Garden Style Rotini
1  16 oz bottle of Low Fat Italian Dressing
1  2.25 oz can of sliced olives
3/4 pound strawberries, diced
1 cup red onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Boil pasta until al dente.  While pasta is boiling, slice strawberries, tomato, and red onion.  When rotini is cooked, drain and run under cold water.  Place drained rotini in large salad bowl.  Add strawberries, tomato, red onion, and olives.  Toss.  Add 1/2-3/4 of the bottle of Italian Dressing. Add parmesan. Toss again.  Top lightly with parmesan cheese.  Serves 10.

Weight Watchers PPV 6.

Monday, October 29, 2012

DIY Cake Plate

For quite some time I have been looking for the perfect cake plate.  The ones I've found have been too pricey or not quite what I'm looking for. I don't really want a cake plate to put a cake on, but for decoration. This is why I couldn't justify $30-$50. I was excited when I happened upon some candle stick holders and plates at our dollar store. I knew with a little bit of epoxy and spray paint that I could have the cake plate I've been wanting at a price I could justify.  This project cost me $5.00. (And I still have spray paint left over for more projects!)

First, mark the center on the back of the plate.  That way when you attach the candle stick holder it is in the right position.


Next, fill the candle stick holder with epoxy.  I used some epoxy that my husband had picked up at work, but I would suggest that you use Loctite five minute set epoxy that is available at Home Depot or Walmart.
 Attach candle stick holder to the bottom of the plate.  Let epoxy set. 
After epoxy is set, spray paint cake plate desired color.  Or if you chose a plate and candle stick holder that are already the color you would like, enjoy your new cake plate!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Benefits of Outdoor Play

As the days are starting to get colder, my boys are mourning the loss of their outdoor play time. My boys love to be outside. In fact, some days its all I can do to keep them inside long enough to do their chores. During the warmer months my boys will usually spend about an hour outside before lunch, and then another 1-2 hours outside in the afternoon. Then in the evening, we are usually outside as a family for another hour or so. I am the kind of a mom that goes outside with my kids.  We play together, or they play while I do yard work. 
 
I recently read an article about the importance of outdoor play.(I would link the article up, but I cannot remember the source since I read it while in a hospital waiting room!)  The article suggested that there was new research linking the amount of time a child spends outside to higher IQ.  This piqued my interest and I began doing a little research on the benefits of outdoor play.
 
 
Benefits
  • Being outdoors stimulates the synthesis of Vitamin D (just remember to put on sunscreen after the first five minutes outdoors!)
  • Outdoor play has been linked to improved attention spans and self-control
  • Vigorous activity outside has been linked to lower stress levels
  • Children who spend time outside are said to have greater creativity
  • According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, outdoor play in childhood helps decrease risks for Type II Diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease
  • Kids have the opportunity to socialize with other kids outdoors.  I know this is true for my boys because almost every time we step outside, we soon have neighbor kids playing in our yard.
  • Encourages development of gross motor skills.  When kids are running, jumping, digging, and riding bikes, they have an opportunity to develop and refine these skills. It also helps them develop coordination.
  • Helps children develop perceptual abilities
  • Helps them learn about the world around them through real life experiences. 
Most nights my kids come inside full of sand and giggles.  Although it can be frustrating to clean up after them, I am thankful that they've had the experience of being outside and enjoying life. I am thankful that they aren't spending their time in front of the television, computer, or gaming device.

So if you are able, get outside and enjoy some time with your little ones! Its so important for their development, and you may even find yourself enjoying it as well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Confetti Couscous

This has to be one of my most favorite recipes. I wasn't introduced to couscous until college, when I had a roommate that was crazy about it. She convinced me to try it and since then I've been hooked. This recipe came about after I sampled a side dish made with couscous in one of my cooking classes.  I changed it up to add vegetables I liked, and I added in chicken as a protein to make it a complete meal.  I hope you enjoy it as much as our family does!
 
 

Ingredients:
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 box couscous (I used Near East Original Plain Couscous)
2 tsp olive oil, divided
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 chicken breasts cut in 1-inch cubes

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add cubed chicken and cook until chicken is well done, about 7-10 minutes.  While chicken is cooking, follow package directions to cook couscous, adding in 1tsp olive oil (package calls for 1 Tbsp, but I prefer 1 tsp) and chicken bouillon cube. When chicken is done, add 1 tsp olive oil to pan and the green pepper, red pepper, onion, carrot, and garlic.  Cook 3-4 minutes until vegetables start to soften. Fold in couscous until well blended.  Add in garlic powder, onion powder, ground red pepper and salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 6. Weight Watchers PPV 9.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Banner Tutorial



Banners are a quick, easy, and fairly inexpensive way to dress up any space.  I'm the type of person who doesn't like to have too much clutter. Each year I like to decorate for autumn and for Halloween, but I don't like having to change out boxes of decorations.  This year, to simplify, I got rid of a lot of my old decorations, and opted to go with something more simple.  For Halloween, I chose to do a banner and spider decoration on the door.  That way, when Halloween is over, I can easily pack away the banner and spider and bring out the Harvest style wreath for Thanksgiving. These banners are so easy to make that I may even try doing another one for Thanksgiving.

For this project you will need:
  • rotary cutter, mat, and ruler or scissors
  • 3 different fabrics.  I used two fat quarters and some burlap
  • two yards of ribbon or bias tape for the top of the banner
  • assorted embellishments of your choice



First off, I took my burlap and cut it into a strip that was 11 inches by the WOF (width of fabric).  Next, I took my two fat quarters, folded them in half and cut them into 11 inch strips.


From the 11 inch strips you will cut your triangles.  The tops of my triangles measured 7 inches.  To start with, I measured over 3 1/2 inches on the bottom of my fabric and marked it.  From here all you have to do is take your ruler and and angle it back to the edge of your fabric and cut.  Now take your ruler, measure over 7 inches on the top, angle it back to your 3 1/2 inch mark and cut.  Your fabric should now look like this.


From now on, all you will have to do is measure over 7 inches and angle your ruler from your last cutting point.  You can see how the ruler is angled in the above picture.

You will need to cut four triangles from one fabric, and three triangles from the other two fabrics.


Now lay out your triangles in alternating order.  You will take your two yards of ribbon or bias tape and pin it to the top of your triangles. I left about one to two inches of ribbon overage on each side.  This is so I had something to hang it by.


Sew the ribbon to the triangles.  I used a 3.0 stitch length.  Now you are ready to add any embellishments you want.  I chose to sew some ribbons onto the burlap to dress it up a bit.  I also tied extra ribbons on the banner in between triangles.



Now hang and enjoy!

Tip:

  • Your fabric will fray, especially the burlap.  If you don't want a frayed look, you can help prevent this by using pinking shears to cut the triangles (on cotton fabric). For the burlap you can use a spray adhesive or lightly modge podge the edges. Let it dry before sewing!