Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DIY: Peel-&-Stick Heart Wall Decor

I realize this project may deem me worthy of a special psychological disorder all my own. And, (dare I admit it?), this idea has been stuck in my head for a while.

Is this project easy? You betcha.
Is it a wee bit time consuming? Yes.
Should you plan to sit & watch a marathon of movies all afternoon & evening while completing this easy, yet time consuming, project? Most definitely. 

Your supplies are few:
contact paper (I'm giddy for the woodgrain.)

I drew a heart template on cardstock. If you're not confident making your own, browse the internet & print one in the size you'd like. Or create a shape using an appropriate computer program of your choosing.

Then, it's as simple as... 

Approximately 125 hearts + an aching thumb later, I was done. I didn't measure where the hearts would go— I just eyeballed it. And, it's not perfect. But I love it anyway! You could get out a ruler or tape measure & get all precise if you'd like. 
I love how the repetitive pattern makes it look like wallpaper. I even cut out portions of the heart, as necessary, where the wall ended, or to go around the thermostat/light fixture.
Even though I have fairly uneven/bumpy walls, I haven't had any problems with the hearts falling off.
There are so many patterns & colors of contact paper to choose from, too.
Hearts not your thing? What about a giant chevron pattern? Or polka dots? Or moustaches? Or stars? 
You get the idea.

Happy peeling & sticking!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The 4 AM Blues...

At 11:30 PM I was having conversations with my 10-year old about elephant seals, because she couldn't go to sleep. (She & her sister have a temporary bed-situation happening on the floor right beside me & the Mr. You see, we are having a slumber party of sorts. The air conditioning had gone out earlier in the evening. It is a steamy 87 degrees up in here. And since it will be morning before the air gets fixed, the least hottest place in the house is the grown-ups' room. Needless to say, it will be an unromantic evening.) For a few minutes Pazely & I passed the time by describing the features of this large-nosed, oceangoing, earless seal. And then she was quiet. Maybe because the Mr. hushed us. (He has to get up early in the morning.) But what he doesn't understand, you see, is that my littlest little & I are of The Order of the Night Owl. We are charter members. I have the paperwork & everything to prove it. (Hashtag not really.) You can't do this to us. We have rights. And responsibilities to uphold. And yet, she abandoned me. Just like that...

It's now 3:12. Everyone is asleep. Except me.
I'm hot. Too hot to sleep.
I am literally reclining in a warm oven.
The Mr. just touched me. DON'T. TOUCH. ME. Ain't gonna happen.
No matter how tired I am, I just can't get to sleep. Worst feeling ever. Like, I've had insomnia before, but this is insomnia inferno. So not only am I cranky about the fact that I can't sleep, but I am grumpy AND perspiring. Ew. Gross.

In my wait to slumber, there is lots of random stuff happening in my brain. Apparently.

  • I contemplate posting this Facebook status: "Hello? Has anyone seen my ZZZzzzz's? They seem to have gotten lost." But I don't. Because I'm lazy. And hot. And when you combine lazy + hot, nothing will happen. EVER.
  • I also wonder why my homegrown cucumbers are soft. They are slightly squishy to the touch after I harvest them. Note to self: Google that.
  • I repent for my sins.
  • I douse water all over my body & feel the cooling effects of this, combined with the breeze of the dueling oscillating fans. That's right: We gots two of 'em. Boo-yah. And for some reason they are both on the same shelf oscillating in the same direction. But whatevs. ♫Extra air powerrrr!!!♫ *Sung in a metal/rock style.*
  • I decide I need a really good book to read, but not too good, or else I'll get nothing done. Not now, but some other time when I'm glistening less & when the library is open.
  • I have a moment of feeling sorry for myself as I watch the black plastic garbage bag, tacked partially over the window, flapping in the breeze of the powerful synchronized oscillators. Aren't I supposed to be crafty? I've had a garbage bag curtain for a year now. So chic. 
  • I pray for friends with cancer, & family who are grieving, & healing in the bodies of some I know.
  • I acknowledge God as The Big & The Great. And then there's me...undeserving of His love. That He should want me makes me feel at a loss for words.
  • I weep for my grandmother. I miss her. And I feel like my tears are selfish. Every single one.
  • I bookmark piano sheet music on my smartphone. 
  • I feel rumblings in my insides & just KNOW the veggie burger & Satisfries I ate at the wonderfully air-conditioned Burger King for dinner were speaking to me now. And the pie. I had pie too. (The Mr. still thinks it's wrong that I had a veggie patty at BURGER king.)
So. Much. Randomness. All over the place.
I wish it all were as simple as seals with large noses...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Making Pretzels

Before summer break began, I started putting together a bucket list of summer fun activities. Pretzel-making was at the top of the list. It's one of those things I've wanted to try for a while, & something I thought the girls would enjoy too. And since our outing to watch a bird banding demonstration this morning fell through, (we looked & looked at the park, but couldn't find the event), we made a detour for the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for plan B. Plus, the weather sort of turned gloomy & it just felt like the perfect activity for such a time. 
The recipe we used to make the pretzels can be found HERE

We practiced our pretzel-twisting skillz with some wet yarn & playdough.
There are tons of videos on how to shape a pretzel on YouTube. We found THIS link to be helpful. (And it was short: 16 seconds. I don't need a 9 minute video to tell me how to shape a pretzel! Seriously.)
And then the edible fun began...

My first attempt at placing a twisted pretzel in boiling baking soda water was HORRIBLE. I tried to repurpose the soggy dough into pretzel bites. Thus, the little bits that look like bloated + mangled fried fingers.
Pazely made a mini pretzel from her dough & it turned out really well! I'm thinking when we make these again, to divide the dough into more than 8 pieces, so we have more of a snack-size pretzel.

I also made 3 different dipping sauces. The first was just some leftover whipped chocolate ganache frosting, (If I didn't have the frosting on-hand, I would have made a powdered sugar glaze.), the second was simply honey mixed with a squirt of mustard, & the third involved following THIS recipe for the Saucy Sister's Oktoberfest Pretzel Dipping Sauce. It's like a cheesy mustard sauce. Next time I make it, I think I would use less mustard + more cheese. 

The girls loved the pretzels. In fact, it was our lunch. Pazely & her friend loved the chocolate sauce best, while Zoey preferred the honey mustard. The Mr. slightly coughed when he sampled the mustard/cheese sauce. Too much mustard?
These were easy to make, & fun to involve the kids.
Yay for baking adventures!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Week in Review: June 9-15

Today is the 6th day of summer break. And we are having a blast! I am having so much fun getting to hang out with my girls. I love being with them. They are such neat little people. 

Here's what we've been up to...

Two days before school was out, I hung out at school all afternoon with the girls for the annual Field Day. I embarrassed them by applying sunscreen whenever I could, & taking "selfies" with them. Zoey's 5th grade friends giggled to hear a mom say the word "selfie". Seriously? I must be uber hip & not even realize it. I love seeing my kids interact with their friends at school. And when my 11 year old comes over to give me the occasional hug, (not caring who sees her), I'm prouder than proud. 

I made treats for the-almost-birthday-girl Pazely to share with her classmates on the last day of school. Pazely's teacher & another student eat gluten-free, so it was my first time baking anything like that. I was gonna go all handmade-from-scratch, but when I saw the list of ingredients I'd need to buy, I decided to try a box mix instead. I found a Betty Crocker gluten-free devil's food cake mix. It uses rice flour. Topped with a homemade whipped chocolate ganache, the cupcakes were SUPER delicious! Pazely requested m&m's + I had leftover pinwheel cupcake toppers from my first days on Etsy. I love serving  cupcakes in those short, stubby, clear, plastic cups with a spoon. No mess in the classroom! The students sat around in a circle & ate their cupcakes while each shared one big accomplishment they've made this year. It was really sweet to hear what they had to say & also listen to the teacher encourage them & give them positive words of affirmation.  I'm really so grateful my girls had amazing teachers. Mrs. Batdorf & Mr. Ryder, you're the best!   

To celebrate the last day of school, a friend of mine planned a late-night hike. The girls & I grabbed our water bottles +  flashlights & headed out to the Badger Canyon Trail at 9pm. It was pretty windy, but so much fun. I've hiked this trail several times, but it was the girls' first time. We all wore glow stick accessories & enjoyed a splendid view of the city at the top. 

To celebrate the first day of summer, the Mr. prepared the firepit in the backyard---& the girls burned their homework! The girls have been stock-piling their papers/assignments/old tests/reports/etc. JUST for this occasion. We also had s'mores. I think this is a tradition we will continue.

The girls & I are currently giddy about finger-knitting. I taught the girls this super easy technique about 4 years ago. ago. But we recently attended a library event, where finger-knitting was being taught. We learned a slightly new way of doing it, which was fun. The girls & one of their friends are currently producing yards & yards & yards of this stuff. Zoey even knitted the finger-knitting into regular knitting with my size 50 knitting needles & made a scarflette, complete with vintage button. She & a friend (who is also named Zoey) are thinking of making these to sell. You may see them in my Etsy shop, come fall. For a tutorial on how to finger-knit, check out these video tutorials,  HERE and HERE which show two different ways.

I also learned how to arm-knit! Oh my gosh. So cool. 

The girls chalked it up at the Sidewalk Chalk Festival. Always so much fun. I sat & watched & knitted. It was Worldwide-Knit-in-Public Day after all. Later in the evening, we walked around & looked at all the artwork that had been drawn throughout the day. While eating treats from the bakery. 

I also...
...learned to do the fishtail braid. (The girls & I made a hair train.)
...ate foil dinners from the bbq.
...hung out at Barnes & Noble with the fam, surrounding myself with crafty books & yummy drinks.
...took Zoey to her first private cello lesson.
...watched my big girl get her 5th grade diploma. Middle school, here we come!
...filled the calendar with fun things to do.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

School's out. Let's burn stuff.

 First day of summer break. We decided to steal an idea from a friend to commemorate the end of another school season & celebrate the beginning of summer vacation: burn things. Specifically, homework. This may very well be a tradition in the making. The girls had a friend over & she was happy to help the girls toss old school papers in the flames. We added some s'mores to the mix & it immediately became the perfect evening. Funny how chocolate can do that.

I really hope to get into this blogging thing more. Maybe the happy chaos of these summer days will inspire that. When planning for this summer, I thought I might like to get a tight schedule established.  But then I realized I can't do that. I'm not running a boot camp here. There is spontaneity running through these veins of mine & "breakfast at 8:30/outing at 10/lunch at noon/activity at 2" every day might be too intense for me. So I'm attempting a much more loose rhythm. It goes something like this:
Please, children, if you wake up & mommy is sleeping, do NOT wake her. Let her sleep. This is her reward. We will be eating three meals every day. Let's just try to space them apart in semi-equal time slots throughout the day. Play, play, play!! And I will play with you.
Pretty simple.
And, honestly, the girls do have things that need need done: reading, math & music practice every day + chores on Friday. When it gets done, they are free to go do whatever it is their summer-lovin' little hearts want to do.

We are a one-car family, & daddy's current job has him working farther away than we're used to. So, the girls & I will be walking a lot. If the girls decide they want to swim, we'll walk there. If something fun is happening at the library, we'll walk there. If we're craving a cold summer treat at the ice cream shop, we'll walk there. And if I'm not skinny by fall, I'll be super mad. (If we were in a pinch though, I do have access to my parent's vehicle a few blocks away.)

It's my goal to NOT be the Entertainment Director this summer, but rather the Fun Advisor. I've gathered a list of free & almost free things to do with kids, from resources around town, of potentially exciting things to do (i.e. arm knitting), & some maybe not-so-exciting-but-we'll-try-them-anyway type of activities (i.e. a bird banding demonstration). Our calendar is filling up with possibility. 
Adventure awaits.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Week in Review: April 28-May 4

Last week...
...I baked cinnamon & apple scones. Yummy.
...I took Pazely on her monthly date. We made wishes, walked by the river, went thrifting, sipped drinks, & browsed books.
...I watched THIS really cool video about what happened when a photographer came face-to-face with a deadly leopard seal. Have you seen it? It's pretty cool.
...I continued to watch the tomato seedlings sprouting. So exciting! I even planted carrot seeds in random containers outside.
...I played drawing games with my 4th grade STAR Club crew. 
...I passed on the birthday month torch to my sister. So for May, mom & I are gifting her with little things every day to help her celebrate her month.
...I (sadly) started visiting grandmother in the hospital. She fell last week (& broke her hip), after having a stroke---& it's a long road ahead. It's very sad to think that my grandmother will never be the same again. Though she is now paralyzed on her left side, is using minimal percentage of her heart, & can't see very well anymore, she is still a spunky one. I love that lady & have shed so many tears these last 2 weeks.

Click HERE for a photo play-by-play.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Week in Review: April 21-27

Last week...
...the girls & I planted tomato seeds in eggshells. I've always wanted to try it out. (Today---8 days later---the first sprouts appeared!)

...I found an idea from a friend on facebook on how to deal with my allowance & the ever-evolving attitudes I see creeping up in my children. I wish I could link the original source, but haven't found it yet. The girls decorated jars, which I filled with marbles. The marbles represent their weekly allowance of $5. (Each marble = 25cents.) Every time the girls argue or complain, they have to remove a marble & write the scripture Philippians 2:14 on a piece of paper: "Do everything without complaining or arguing." At the end of the week, they get what money is left. I am seeing immediate results & I LOVE the jars! The girls? Not so much. 

...I made some seriously delicious & notable recipes. Firstly, THIS Italian Chicken Crockpot recipe is so super yummy & easy to make. (I served mine over spaghetti noodles.) And then I used up my seriously brown bananas (why do I always have a constant supply of these?) & baked up a batch of THESE Oatmeal Breakfast Cupcakes. They're not REALLY cupcakes. But that's what the recipe is called. Though the girls have been enjoying them for breakfast, mostly we've been munching on them for snacks. (I added mini chocolate chips AND Reese's chips to mine.) 

...I actually got to sit down for some knitting. I haven't gotten to do that in a while. It sure felt nice. 

...the girls & I took a trip to the library, one of our favorite places. We were extremely happy campers.
...I watched the Mr. teach the girls how to skip stones.

...I made indoor s'mores. I had a craving. And chocolate. 

...I taught my 4th grade STAR Club crew how to make 3-D cloud mobiles. Remember? Like the ones I made HERE for Zoey's birthday party decor last year. The kids LOVED making them. And of course they put their creative spin on the project: one kid made a 3-D sun, another added lightning bolts to his clouds. I love their imaginations.

...I had the biggest, ginormous hassle trying to renew my domain name. It's all settled now. For the most part. I've had it for 2 years now. Did you know that this blog is officially It'll still re-route you if you use the address though. I guess that makes me more fancy or something.

...I found out that my community is going to be adorning trees by the river with "sweaters" this fall. As in: yarn-bombing, knitting graffiti. I am so stoked & totally need to figure out how to get involved.  The poster explains it this way: "A public project to create colorful art pieces along the rivershore to increase conversation, community pride, & walkability in Richland." Yay, Richland!!

...Pazely & I found $20 while walking to school one morning. Cha-ching! The rest of the way to school, Pazely kept saying, "Finders! Keepers! Finders! Keepers!" in this real hysterical, maniacal way. Weirdo! I am absolutely positive that I found the bill first. But she insists that she spotted it at the same time. Whatevs. We split it 50/50 & called it good. But only because she wasn't going for 70/30.
I predicted her money would be quickly spent on Littlest Pet Shops figurines. She is going through a resurgence of LPS adoration. She has LPS villages set up all over her bedroom floor. I find the animals in little vignettes scattered all about the house. She does LPS tradesies with friends. She carries a Littlest Pet Shop stash with her wherever she goes. She's nutso for those things.
My new-found dough, with every good intention, was gonna be saved for something special for myself. But I know how that routine goes. Every time. I spend it on someone else.  And, in fact, that's how it went: I gave my half to Zoey, & both girls spent their cash at the school book fair. (Where they even bought a book each for a teacher's classroom "Wish List". SO SWEET!)

...I stumbled across THIS version of the popular song "Let It Go". It's thoroughly entertaining---the whole way through. mother CONTINUES to spoil me with gifts every day for my birthday month! I've been taking pictures of them every day. See HERE for the set of pictures.

For a photo play-by-play, click HERE.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Week in Review: April 14-20

Last week...
...I had a spa day at Lazuli Blue! The parentals gifted me with a certificate (months ago) that I finally redeemed. I enjoyed an infrared sauna, a Swedish massage (I was certain there would be bruises afterwards), & a hydrafacial. A LOVELY way to spend an afternoon. I don't get those kinds of experiences very often, so it was an absolute treat. It was hard to say goodbye to the fuzzy robe  & slippers.

...the fam & I (except daddy, 'cause he had to work *sad face*) attended Zoey's first school strings performance. She was so excited! Without any pressure from me, I really hope she decides to continue on with the cello. I can totally picture attending her high school orchestra concerts. And I'm bonding on the musical level with that girl of mine as much as I can. But our 2-man band, Chuke finds it hard to practice very often: (What? You wanna play outside? What? You wanna chill out & play games? What? You wanna invite friends over? What? You've got homework to do?)

...Zoey & I decided to do some container gardening during her monthly date. I spent some of my birthday money on dirt. Haha! But sad news: our cucumbers aren't looking so hot. I think they are diseased. Great. I can do lots of creative things, but I have never been one to grow things. We are planting carrot & tomato seeds this week. I'll prolly kill those too. Just give it time. I really, really, really, want this to be successful for Zoey. She loves plants & flowers & outdoor things like that. In fact, she currently loves weeding. She just recently told me that if she could have any wish, she would wish to have a yard filled with weeds, just so she could pick them all. Seriously, we'll be passing by a random field or yard, & she'll see weeds, & it just KILLS her inside that she can't go pull them. Yesterday the Mr. took the girls to the park. While he & Pazely were tossing a ball, Zoey was sitting near a patch of weeds, weeding to her hearts content. 

...the girls & I contributed some artwork for a local park project. A friend's son is hoping to have a sign put up at McMurray Park in Richland, using artwork from locals, which will be turned into tiles. The project has yet to be approved, but I'm certain it will get a bunch of "Yay's"! Sitting under a gazebo in a park with the girls, & coloring with pencils, was a super fun way to spend an hour on a Saturday morning.

...I finally finished making 52 mini buntings for donating to the BirthMom Buds Retreat. I think this is my 4th year donating items to their annual retreat, as part of the goodie bags the ladies will take home. (Last year I made vintage button rings for all of them!) Have fun in Charlotte, North Carolina, ladies!!

...the girls & I decided to mix things up for Easter's annual egg decorating scene this year. I found THIS idea on Pinterest which makes tie-dyed eggs using shaving cream & food coloring. Ours turned out rather light, so next time I think we should go crazy with the food color. We ended up applying rub-on tattoos to decorate the eggs as well. And then our refrigerator died. So we had to bring our things down the street to grandmother's house for safe & cool keeping.
We kept things simple this year for Easter, because we had to. I kind of felt bad about not being to get the girls new dresses & shoes & tights. (Thank you, Jesus for hand-me-downs!) We made do. And there weren't the big baskets filled with lots of  fun prizes & treats. Just tiny things that I found around the house. That fit in an egg carton. For reals. But the girls had fun & we made memories just the same.

...I made scones/griddle cakes. I'll share the recipe later this week. They were so yummy, & cooked right up on my griddle! I need to restock mother's lemon curd though. Can't get enough of that stuff on the cranberry griddle cakes!

...I had the largest group of kids for 4th grade STAR Club last week: 13! (It's normally a maximum of 8, but I made an exception this week.) For the first time there were trouble-makers in the mix too. Which makes everybody act more obnoxious than usual. (Boo. Hiss.) I secretly wished that several of them had chosen to attend the bunny craft in the next classroom over. 
I hear all sorts of topics of conversation with those kids every week. First, the kids were quoting lines from a new movie out in theaters. (I am very surprised at the movies that parents of 10 year olds let their kids go to! GAH.) And then someone mentioned the word "puberty". I think they thought it was a bad word. (I'm one to talk. I'm married + 39 + have 2 kids, & the word "sex" still makes me feel uncomfortable. haha! I blushed when I typed that.) But I explained (in 7 seconds) that puberty is simply your body changing as you get older. General. Basic. No weirdness. Yet they still made grossed out/that's disgusting faces. Then, one girl asked me, "How are babies made?" I replied: "This isn't that kind of crafting class, honey." (Are there even those types of crafting classes?)

Have a happy Monday!

For a photo play-by-play, click HERE.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Week in Review: April 7-13

Last week was birthday! My mom picked me up in the morning & surprised me with breakfast out with my sister & grandmother, & eventually my dad. In the evening a bunch of us went to Fujiyama for dinner--you know, that place where they cook the food in front of you on the Hibachi grill tables. I'd never been to one before. Though our chef didn't do a lot of crazy tricks (& kept dropping things), it was fun anyway. I don't know if he was sad or drunk or shy, but he didn't wow us like the other chefs around us. The food was REALLY delicious! The Mr. & I shared the steak & shrimp. We finished the night off with some cupcakes (of course!) & a game of Farkel. 

Last week I also...
...prepared a make-yer-own pizza night for dinner.
...made 4 dozen waffles. (I was in the kitchen until almost noon.)
...made Cheerio birdfeeders with the 4th graders for STAR Club.
...baked up some turkey pot pies. (First time making pot pies. A complete success!)
...led worship at a church while the Mr. preached. 
...sipped chai with my mother.
...continued to have little surprises given to me each day by my mother to celebrate my birthday month. (One was given by my dad: he sharpened all my knives!!)
...listened to Zoey & her friend Zoey play the cello & violin together, in preparation for their school concert tomorrow evening. Here's a GIF I made of them. (The "sound" is one of the songs I recorded while they played.)
...started walking the munchkins to school more, now that the weather is getting nice.
...enjoyed some park-time with the fam. We watched a giant paddlewheel boat launch.
...started gathering supplies for impromptu picnics that might pop up. Have you read THIS article by Jerusalem Greer? It's what inspired me to purchase THESE melamine dishes that look like cheapie disposable white plates & bowls. *Squee!*
...donated a trio of my vintage handmade button rings to the Choose Joy Auction on Instagram. The auction supports a family seeking to adopt. Check it out on Instagram April 16-17 with the hashtag #choosejoyauction2014 There will be loads of other handmade goodies up for bid as well!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Week in Review: March 31-April 6

Last week was all about spring break. And, though I was a tiny bit sad that we couldn't go on a fun trip...say, to the coast or something...we relished in the lovely days at home. The days were quiet & simple & extremely lazy. We slept in when we could, hit the park almost every day, had bbq's aplenty, & even lit the firepit for the first time this season, cooking dinner over the flames. Oh, while we're on the subject of firepits & roasting things & such: I need THIS sweatshirt. Campfire smell is my fave. I will not shower or wash my hair after a night by the fire. It's just too good a scent to waste. My family thinks I'm nuts. And sometimes smelly.


On the very first day of spring break, the girls got to take part in the tea + brekkie that my grandmother, mother, sister & I plan once-a-month. I made an egg casserole & also threw together some delicious yogurt parfaits in cute little jelly jars. (The 'Mom on Time Out' blog suggests having some already made in the fridge for kids to grab as a quick breakfast in the morning. Fab idea!)


When April rolls around, I always joke about having a birthday MONTH, instead of just a birthDAY. (One day is not enough, right?) 
But, really, I'm not joking. 
My sweet mother is making this concept a reality for me this month. Every day she has been doing sweet things for me, or gifting me with little presents. It has been fun getting surprises! My girls are even starting to ask, "Has Mimi come by yet?" They are just as anxious as I am to see what the next treat will be. Click HERE to see the lovely prizes I've gotten so far. 
I am super spoiled. 


The fam & I got away for an afternoon lunch date to Between the Buns. My Julie friend has been telling me about this place. Crazy gourmet hotdogs. Zoey & I had the MacDaddy Dawg: an all-beef hotdog, wrapped in bacon, & slopped with homemade mac-n-cheese + more bacon on top. DE. LISH. US. Holy moly was it good! Pazely munched on the Waddi Dog: a polish sausage, wrapped in bacon, then smothered with peanut butter & bacon bits, with syrup for dipping on the side. I don't know what Scott had. He ate it so fast. And then he mumbled something about wanting to eat "all the hotdogs".
The staff are super friendly. You can even create your own gourmet hotdog from the toppings + dogs listed. It's just a fun experience & I'm so glad we made a visit. If you're in town, they're on Clearwater Avenue in Kennewick, WA. One of my favorite things is the store hours listed on their door: (They end in "ish".) Check out their facebook page HERE.


Pazely & I had her date day last week. I surprised the munchkin with a new sketchbook. (It makes my heart happy that a 60-page spiral-bound pad of blank paper can satisfy her in such an intense way.) And then we packed our drawing supplies + hot drinks + triple double Oreos (oh my gosh, they're like the Big Mac of the Oreo world) & headed to a swing bench by the river where we proceeded to sketch & people watch. Taking a couple hours every month to do something special with each of our girls is the best decision the Mr. & I ever made.


I'll be donating THIS trio of handmade vintage button rings to the Choose Joy Auction, which is happening from April 16-17 on Instagram. Check out the hashtag: #choosejoyauction2014. There are lots of other lovely handmade items going up for bid as well, all to support a Choose Joy attendee in building their family. 


•With all the spring happy hues popping up, I am desperate to go on a photo color walk. I gotta make that happen this week. 
•I am currently obsessesd with learning "Zombie" by The Cranberries on my ukulele.
•I read a couple fairy tales, from the Brothers Grimm, aloud to the girls. Is it bad that they giggled during the gruesome parts?
•Chubby squirrels are the cutest ever.
•My new favorite tea is the STASH brand Jasmine Blossom. Although, Earl & I will forever be pals.
•P.S. Today is my birthday. *GIANT GRIN*

Click HERE for a photo play-by-play.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Banana Boats

This treat was a new one to me at Camp Wooten just recently. It was so yummy, I had to share!
I know you can make these over the campfire or even on the grill, but we baked these in an oven set at 350 degrees F.
These are so simple to make! The kids will enjoy helping out too.

The ingredients we used at camp were:
mini marshmallows
mini chocolate chips
Reese's Peanut Butter sauce
BUT, I have no idea where to get that heavenly peanut butter sauce. Like, it was a big ol' tub of magic awesomeness. So, I opted for the Reese's peanut butter chips instead. 

First, slice the top & bottom off of your bananas.
Then, slice it lengthwise, through most of the banana, but not slicing through the peel on the other side.
At camp we placed our bananas inside paper food trays, but at home I just crumpled up some foil to hold the banana in place.

Line your banana boats on a cookie sheet.
Next, cram them full of mini marshmallows & mini chocolate chips. (And the peanut butter chips.) We even purposefully let some fall all around the sides too.

Lastly, drizzle with peanut butter. (If you have it. If not, no biggie.)

Bake until the toppings get all ooey gooey & the skin of the banana is black. It took about 15 minutes. But just keep peeking at it until you notice it's done.
The banana gets all soft & delicious. Just use a spoon to scoop-&-eat!

There are tons of toppings you could add or substitute: drizzle with caramel, sprinkle with butterscotch or white chocolate chips, toss on some nuts. You get the idea.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Week in Review: March 24-30 (CAMP WOOTEN!)

Last week was all about Camp Wooten. And all the pictures (except one) in the photo collage are from Camp Wooten. The feetsies pictured by the river is after camp. My poor, poor, aching feet. They needed that bit of rest right there.

Camp was a complete & absolute BLAST!!! What was I so nervous for? I really was nervous. But I found out that all the moms I was working in the kitchen with were nervous too: "What if I get stuck with a bunch of lame ladies?", etc. Before I go on & on about how amazing it was, I must say this: That was one of the hardest weeks I've ever had in my life. For reals. I think it rates in the top 10 for sure of the most difficult things I have ever done. No joke ma-goats.

But it was worth it.

Not only because I was able to contribute to the 5th graders experience during their Outdoor Education Week (oh my gosh: all the teachers were AMAZING with the kids), but because I also made new friends & had laughs aplenty! Isn't that what camp is for? Oh my golly, did I laugh. I love my new mommy friends/kitchen buddies. We bonded like none other. 

We rose when it was still dark out &, after working all day, we headed back to our cabins in a different dark part of the day. And, boy, did we work our booties off. I honestly think no one works harder at camp than the cooks. We had to clean at the end of the day too. So, not only was I scrambling 270 eggs, helping to assemble 900 pieces of bacon, & assisting in the making of over 200 grilled cheese sandwiches {for instance}, I was also wiping down urinals. Yummy.

The days seriously never ended. We'd prep for breakfast, cook breakfast, serve breakfast, clean up after breakfast, then prep for lunch, cook lunch, serve lunch, clean up after lunch, then prep for afternoon snack, make afternoon snack, serve afternoon snack, clean up after afternoon snack, then prep for dinner, cook dinner, serve dinner, clean up after dinner, spend at least 2 hours cleaning the mess hall & bathrooms, clean ourselves up, get to bed at {at least} 10:30, & get up at 5:30 to do it all again. 
All. Week. Long.
For 150 people.
It was beyond exhausting. My feet hurt something fierce. My back was not especially happy either. The days did blur together & it felt like we'd been there much longer than we actually were. Once, when referencing something that happened that same morning, we were like, "Wait. That was this morning? Are you sure that wasn't yesterdy?" Long, never-ending days... (My bed was my favorite thing to see every night. Oh, & did you see how cute my corner of the cabin was? I dolled it up all creative-like.)
There were a few moments to escape & peek at our children attending their classes or having fun during their recreation periods. Every night around campfire were songs & skits & silliness too. It rained a few days. It hailed once. I never had to wear the long underwear or wool socks I brought though. (Woohoo!)

Our kitchen crew each came up with nicknames of sorts for each other. And they all might hate me for this, but here goes...
Elizabeth... laughs a lot & is {apparently} really good with knives: She actually sliced one of the chef's fingers. This specific chef is lovingly called Mr. Manners by the kids at camp. So, we called Elizabeth "Killer". She's really nice, though. Really.
Melissa... hates lots of things. Like Jello & cartoons & bananas & anything cherry flavored & parks & Cheerios & when people walk through her beautiful snow. "I HATE that..." just stuck with her. 
NaDell... was totally teacher's pet, only in the kitchen instead of a classroom. Chef's pet, if you will. This is nothing that the kitchen crew hasn't already discussed with NaDell, so it's not like I'm talking behind her back. We all tried to compete & be like NaDell, but we never achieved her lofty status. The chef's loved her. And she really took charge. Like, all the time. So she became "Boss Jr.". 
Angie... is quiet as a mouse. And sweet. And soft. And all things petite. Even her feet are tiny & cute. We wanted to call her "Mouse", but Elizabeth didn't like that. And, who are we to mess with a lady who just knifed Mr. Manners? So, Elizabeth named her "Sweetie Bell". We didn't argue.
Michelle...was kind of like the mom of our group. We saw her take charge with the kids & set them straight several times. She's definitely the brains of the bunch too. The kitchen crew played "Are you Smarter than a Camp Wooten 5th grader?" Like, in front of all the 5th graders & staff. Let's just say...we were all humiliated. Except for Michelle. She is lovingly referred to as "Mama Bear".
And then there's me. For whatever reason, everyone had trouble coming up with my nickname. I really didn't think I was that difficult to get a reading on. I became "Tender Heart" (like the Care Bear). Elizabeth said I had a tender ora about me. It didn't make sense to me, it's not the nickname I would have chosen, & I seriously wanted to sway their thoughts on this. But again, when knife lady speaks, you listen.
We all snuck over to the Rec Hall & made ourselves pinback buttons with our new nicknames on them.
(Crafty time at camp! YAY!)
Later at camp, we had to say goodbye to Killer & Boss Jr. as they had only volunteered for the first part of the week. (Saddest day ever.) Three newbies joined the kitchen crew to finish out the rest of the week.
I should mention Jeff, Jon & Debbie, the chefs that really did most of the work all week. They are old pros at this, with many years of volunteering at Camp Wooten. They ordered the food, planned the menus, organized the whole thing. And they were so great to work with! And I'm pretty sure I can say that we were part help/part entertainment for those three all week.

The highlight for me at camp was just being with my new friends, laughing & laughing. (Neighboring cabins weren't so keen on our laughter & late-night giggling. One of the Camp Directors politely asked us to quiet down. Oops.) None of us "moms" knew each other before camp. We all agreed it's a shame that it took this long to get so closely acquainted. Elizabeth said the school should send kindergartners to Camp Wooten. (So we'd get to meet each other sooner.) But then she decided that 7 kindergartners in a camp cabin is like 90 cats.
Ain't nobody got time for that. So, nevermind. 
Better a late friendship than no friendship at all, I suppose.

I brought all sorts of things to do in case I was stuck with a bunch of ladies that were no fun. I didn't even read or knit once while at camp. That's how much I love them. I later found out that they all, too, brought things to do for the same reason. haha!
No interent or wifi for the week was a breeze. I was too busy to care about all that. Didn't miss it once. Didn't yearn to make a status Facebook update. Didn't pine for Instagram. Didn't pout without Vine or Twitter. I lived to tell about it. 
I am a survivor. 

I even got mail at camp! My sweet mom sent me mail. As did the Mr. + Pazely. Happy mail at camp? Best ever. Zoey got oodles of mail too. Thanks to those who mailed stuff to her! Zoey said the highlight at camp for her was the fishing. And she thinks if I wasn't there that she might have been homesick. (It was awful fun getting to hug & kiss on her every morning & evening, & see her smiles, & watch her interact with friends.)

Camp Randomness...
•Next time I need to remember to bring some chapstick. (Who knew long hours in the kitchen causes lip chaffing?) 
•Did I just say "Next time..."??? Well, Pazely will be in 5th grade next year. She might get upset if mom doesn't do the same for her. I wonder if I can talk the Mr. into taking my place...
•I realized that to cook for a large group of people you need to use large things.
•Laughing helps your feet hurt less.
•The food at camp is DELICIOUS. (No one goes hungry.) 
•The hot cocoa at camp is amazing. (I've got the secret. And I might tell.)
•I didn't get eaten by a wild animal, but I did step in deer poo. 
•Zoey showered at camp more than I did. (And she only showered twice.)
•I learned that cream of tartar helps make fluffy scrambled eggs. (1 tsp per 1 dozen eggs)
•After peeling & chopping garlic for dinner one evening, I learned this tip: Scrub your hands with coarse salt. (I did. And it took the smell completely away!)
•I already miss Eva, the industrial dishwasher.
•A chipmunk stole a cookie from the kitchen one afternoon. (I saw him do it. Cutest tiny thief EVER.)
•I shooed away a tick, crawling on my face. (EEP!)
I got to ring the dinner bell one day. Sounds silly, but it was something I was particularly looking forward to. (Hey, it's the little things, people.)
Melissa & I got a lesson in human salad spinning. Take a peek at my GIF of chef Jon, HERE. (I only lost a few lettuce leaves when it was my turn.)
•Slicing with the meat cutter = buff right arm.
•Melissa also hates milkshakes & smoothies.

I am so happy to be home. It took me 3 full days to recover. It didn't help that I was starting to get sickly the last 2 days there. Sore throat + stuffy face cruds. Blah. When we returned home, I heard all about Pazely's week with the Mr. 
Pazely declared it "The Best Week Ever!!!". (WHAT?! haha!) I feel super loved & needed right now.

I made many happy camp memories, gained new friends & now I have another adventure under my belt.
 That's a good week, I'd say.

Click HERE for a photo play-by-play.
Click HERE for all the Camp Wooten photos.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Week in Review: March 17-23

Last week I...

...made yarn-wrapped vases with the 4th graders at STAR Club. So much fun! Yet, I'm really glad to be rid of all those cans cluttering my kitchen counter.

...celebrated my mom's birthday early. I made 2 tarts for the occasion. The berry tart was DELICIOUS. Recipe: HERE. I have made it once before & I must share again what I discovered: do NOT spend $12 on a jar of crystallized ginger. Just don't. I got the same amount of ginger as sold in that $12 jar as I did in the bulk spices section---& it only cost me 48cents!! No joke. Bulk spices rock.
The chocolate tart I made had the same base as the berry tart. It was the first time I made chocolate ganache. (SO GOOD. So good.) But next time I would omit the ginger (from the cream cheese base) in the chocolate one. I didn't like the clash of flavors. Recipe for the chocolate ganache: HERE.
Also for mother's birthday I brought over a giant whiteboard. We had her sit in a chair in front of the board, & then we all wrote sweet words about who she is or what she means to us. She got to turn around & read it when we were all done.
And then Chuke performed a new song. (That'd be Zoey + me on our cello + ukulele.)
We ate ribs & bbq'd chicken & brisket & cornbread & coleslaw & baked beans &... it was so yummy! together with some old friends from MOPS. (Mothers of PreSchoolers). It's been many years since I've been to MOPS. In fact, some of our preschoolers back then are in 5th grade now. It's so good to laugh & visit. I welcome any opportunity to do that.

...went to a steak dinner & revival service at church with grandmother & family. 


...helped introduce my dad to the game of Farkel. Our family is currently addicted. I carry dice around in my purse wherever I go.

...ate the biggest burrito on the planet for dinner on Sunday night. Another addiction: the taco truck 3 minutes down the road.

...saw THIS & laughed & laughed & laughed.

...saw THIS & was completely inspired. 

...spent most of the week prepping for Camp Wooten. I'll be going as a cook on the 5th grade Outdoor Education Camp Wooten trip. We leave today (Monday) & return Friday. I have to report to duty every morning at 6 AM in the kitchen. And it'll be a lot of work! I'm hoping to have plenty of opportunities to snap photos & even escape to visit Zoey & see what she is up to every so often. I'm hoping to make friends with the other cooks & I'm hoping my body doesn't fall apart during the trip. You know, with my bum foot, my back problems & my IBS. (Too much info?) Sorry. It's just reals, folks. 
Anyway, I won't have any access to the internet all week. Yikes! But that's as it should be. What with nature & camping & all. I actually look forward to the forced "unplugged" factor. I hope to have an awesome experience & be accepting of whatever adventures come my way. 
At the staff meeting I heard one of the leaders say, "Bring things from home that make you comfortable." So I packed a vintage quilt, homemade bunting, a cat rug, Earl Grey tea + hand warmers.
I will post all about camp after I return home, next weekend. 
See you then!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

DIY: Yarn-wrapped vase

Yes, there are lots of yarn-wrapped vases out there in DIY world. But this tutorial includes a few tips & tricks that will help you complete the job in a jiffy. You can use these to hold flowers, desk accessories, knitting needles (oooh! I just thought of that one), or whatevs.

a tin can
some yarn (the multicolored yarns create really fun stripes)
pen or pencil
tacky glue
carpet tape

Ok, first off: carpet tape??? I know. I learned about this awesome trick on a TV show I was watching one morning. The Chew, to be exact. One of the hosts, Clinton Kelly (Love him! You might remember him as one-half of the reality show "What Not to Wear"), was making yarn-wrapped vases (What?! I was going to make some too!) & then he pulled out some carpet tape. A week earlier, I was seriously trying to figure out the best, least messy way to make these with my 4th grade STAR Club crew. Glue is so messy, but it seemed my only option. Until Clinton arrived on the scene. This tape is amazing. It's double-sided & SUPER sticky & strong. 
Brilliant. Genius. Fabness to the maximus. The end.
Seriously, this stuff makes the project so easy. I bought a heavy duty cloth roll measuring 1.41" x 42' for $7.50 at Ace Hardware. I have made about 13 vases so far & have lots still left!

Back to the DIY-ing...
I found that I liked the vase best when a strip of the can was showing on the top & the bottom. On most cans there is a natural "lip", as you can see in the photo above. 

Make the first loop around your can with the tape. As you overlap, you can see through the tape to the spot where you began. (See the arrow in the photo below.)

Mark that spot with a pen or pencil.

Cut the tape at the spot you marked.

 First row: done. It doesn't matter if there's a tiny gap between the tape. It'll get covered with yarn real quick here. (And, sure, you could measure the can & cut the appropriate sized strips. But sometimes I like to do things the lazy, er, I mean...the hard way.)

Continue along the can, adding tape right next to the last piece you attached. On some veggie cans, the tape comes out perfecto. But this large can ends up with some overlap on the last piece. And that's just not gonna work. (See arrow above.)

So here's what I did. Before adding the last strip of tape, remove the paper backing from the previous strip. 

Now, line the last strip up, right above the bottom "lip". You'll be overlapping the strip above, but that's ok. That's what you want to do.

Once you've finished, then peel off the paper backing from the last strip. Half of the can is now super sticky exposed tape.

Which is perfect, because it's time for some yarn wrapping!
My little trick here is to NOT lay your yarn in a straight line. Angle it down a bit & then start wrapping from the bottom up. (Or from the top down, depending on which end you started at.)

Now, when you continue wrapping the yarn, you'll catch the end & give it a nice, secure hold. No slipping. No unraveling. No little fuzzy flapping piece of wool to worry about.
As I wrapped my yarn, I slightly pushed the yarn up & together as I went along---to prevent seeing through the yarn to the tape.
As needed, peel off the next strip of tape & continue working.

The can is halfway done in this photo! Yay! I don't have a photo of the finished product though, because after I crafted with the kids at STAR Club, I gave the vase to one of the teachers.

Here is the same style of yarn, but in a different color. This yarn is also heavy in weight & thickness, which makes the project go more quickly. (Something to keep in mind.)

The kids really got into making these. They used several different colors of yarn, changing their own hues along the way.