Thursday, November 12, 2015

DIY: Reindeer Pipe Cleaner Gift Card Holder + GIVEAWAY!

 I am a HUGE believer in giving gift cards for Christmas. And so is my local mall, Columbia Center Mall, a Simon Mall Shopping Center. You see, they're kind enough to share the love & are letting me give away a $100 VISA gift card to one of my readers. Woohoo! Get your shopping shoes on my friends!

Gift cards are my fave. When you choose to give a gift card as a gift, there's never the usual questions floating about concerning the fit, the color, the size. I promise you: it fits, it matches, & it looks good on me. Or you. Or whoever.

But, first!
I thought it would be fun to share a little gift card wrapping D.I.Y. idea. I wrapped this nifty Simon Malls Gift Card all naked-like. But you could certainly cover the gift card in brown paper (to match the body of the deer) or other gift wrap, to keep the contents more of a mystery to the recipient.
(Read on for the tutorial, or scroll to the bottom if you want to enter the giveaway!)

Now...I get to give away a $100 Simon Mall VISA gift card! 
(Gift card is good wherever VISA debit cards are accepted.)
Enter to win by leaving a comment on this blog post, answering this question:
Who is the most difficult person on your Christmas list to shop for?
(I'll give you my short answer: The Mr.! Gah. Difficult with a capital "D". I think I'll just give him a gift card.)

>>Please leave your email addy too, so I can contact you if you win!<<

Winner will be chosen Monday, November 16th!
For a list of Simon Malls, click HERE.
*Contest for U.S. residents only.*

Enjoy this little stop motion video I made with our little reindeer gift card friend...

Deer Gift Card Stop Motion

For local peeps, check out some of the short-term retailers that are new to Columbia Center Mall:
Country Wreath: Shoppers seeking homemade holiday d├ęcor from large festive signs to decorated wreaths will love the selection at Country Wreath.
·       Fuego: At the mall through January, Fuego is a Pacific Northwest based company selling an eclectic mix of jewelry, accessories, novelty items and apparel great for distinctive gifts.
·       Glass Gallery: The Glass Gallery product line features crystal collectables ranging from hand made miniatures figurines from Santa and nativity scenes to exotic animals. 
·        Go! Calendars Games & Toys: Shoppers can visit Go! Calendars Games & Toys to stock up on calendars, games, toys, puzzles, and gifts for both children and adults on their shopping list.
·       Hickory Farms: A staple in many holiday traditions, visit Hickory Farms to pick-up delicious meats, wine, cheeses and sweets. Whether customers are looking for a great gift or picking up some goodies for their own holiday get-together, their first stop should be at Hickory Farms. 
·       Inka's Peruvian Fashion: This shop offers unique cultural clothing inspired by the Inca Empire that once ruled in Peru with rich textiles such as Alpaca wool.  
·       PolarX Ornaments: Shoppers will enjoy the festive products at PolarX Ornaments like stockings, picture frames, tree ornaments and decorative table toppers to help make the most of the season. 
·       Sportula: This is a fabulous shopping destination for the sports fans on your holiday list with cooking and grilling gear emblazoned with the logos of their favorite sports teams. 
·       See's Candies: For quality candy and chocolates, visit See’s Candies, which features holiday gift packs perfect for host gifts and stocking stuffers. 
·       Toyland: This is a one-stop shop for children’s gifts or for the kid in all of us, including toys for building and learning, hobbies and crafts, games, sports and action toys or dolls and stuffed animals.

Congrats to Mary (mami2jcn)! You're the winner of the gift card, as chosen by The Random Number Generator.

I wrote this post as part of a paid promotion with Columbia Center Mall. 
The opinions in this post are my own.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Annual Refresher Course

Yesterday I returned from a weekend away at Bozarth Mansion in Spokane. I was lucky enough to be part of a Women's Retreat with the ladies of Grace United Reformed Church. My friend Julie invited me for the second year in a row. Such an amazing group of women. I looked back at comments I made on my first venture there last October:

"I would descend the grand staircase every morning, hot drink in hand, ready for a relaxing day of teaching & worship & the chit-chatter of friendly new faces. I lived a few days of freedom... I got lots of tasty nuggets for my soul. And worshiping in a setting like that with all of our soft pretty voices was a special sound...It was hard to leave the mansion. And the atmosphere of not needing to be needed all the time, of duty & responsibility. Escaping reality for a brief moment is a good thing. A necessary thing. Sometimes you don't realize you need something until you receive it. This weekend was just that for me."

All those words remain true even this year. 
Worshiping with other believers, in their way, in their circle, is something I want to practice all the time. At one point this weekend I almost said, "It feels like I'm with family." But then I stopped. Because I WAS with family. And that made my heart so happy. Show me, sisters, how you choose to display your sacred praise to our God. And I will join you. 

Some other highlights from my weekend:
bathing in a mansion
spying a family of five deer feeding in the lawn
white bean chicken chili in the crockpot + homemade pumpkin pudding
seeing familiar faces
road trip silliness, which included researching mythical creatures (did you know there is a mythical being that is shaped like an umbrella, & another that will lure you into its cave & tickle you to death?)translating words into Japanese (I now know how to say "chocolate mushroom" & "squirrel")
shopping at Cost Plus World Market
spontaneous leaf selfies
giggles with friends
welcome home hugs from the littles

This trip was SO last minute. Like, I found out I was going only 4 hours before Julie picked me up. I almost declined the invitation. (The sniffles & sneezies have been attacking me.) But then I thought, "I love spontaneity. I always want to be a part of it, to force myself out of my little introverted comfort zone." 
And I'm so glad I did. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

DIY: 2 Monster Fur Crafts

Earlier this year I saw the most adorable gift bags at Target. (See photo below.) They are American Greetings products & I absolutely died when I saw them. MUST HAVE. But I wasn't willing to spend the $10-$14 that they cost. EEK. So I decided to make my own. For about 2 DOLLARS.
Not only is this a super fun bag for packaging a gift, but it also makes a unique Halloween bag for holding all that candy as you go Trick-or-Treating!

•faux fur
•gift bag (Doesn't everyone have piles of used gift bags stored in plastic tubs under their bed too?)
•felt (I only used black. But add whatever details/colors you want.)
•spray glue
•hot glue gun
•googly eyes (These are 1.5", but I even saw 6" googly eyes!!)

I had all the supplies on hand--except the faux fur & the GIANT googly eyes. I was disappointed to not have a great colorful selection of fur at my local fabric shops. Such a crafty bummer. But it still looks cute all the same. (TIP: Be sure to use coupons when buying fabric! Check online, too. I was able to save 50%!) 

 After measuring your gift bag & marking the measurements on the backside of the fur, it's time to cut. Cut a tiny bit extra on both edges. One tip I learned from the lady at the fabric store: use a vacuum to clean up the loose fur. Otherwise, you'll have a major fuzzy mess. Just vacuum all the cut edges of fabric.

Take your fabric piece outside, along with your spray glue. I love this stuff. Works amazingly. My bag was about 9" tall. A medium-ish size. This step would be helpful with an assistant. After you spray the backside of the fabric with the glue, you'll want to CAREFULLY lay the bag on top of  fur, lining the bottom of the bag with one edge of the fabric & CAREFULLY wrap the piece around the bag. It was an awkward process doing it on my own. 
You'll have some excess on the top of your bag, but that's ok. Wrap it over the top edge of the bag.

Before gluing on the eyes with the hot glue gun, I cut out a black felt circle a little bit larger than the googly eyes. I didn't want to glue it down to a flat area of fur, so I roughed it up a bit with my fingers & nestled the circle into the fur. Glue the googly eyes on top of the felt circle. Add other felt details, if desired: teeth, moustache, eyebrows, etc. 

And that's it!

Here's another quick craft using monster fur, & almost the exact same supplies. 
Simply substitute the gift bag with empty cans!

These would be great as party favors, filled with candy & prizes. My daughter even swiped one & is using it as a desk accessory to hold pens & pencils. 

The steps are the same as the monster bag craft: 
Measure can. 
Cut fabric. 
Spray glue fabric. 
Wrap fabric around can. 

Remember to add a bit to your measurement so you can overlap the excess around the rim of the can.

Your blank furry can canvas is ready for monster details!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

DIY: Martha Stewart Crafts: Tiny Aluminum Dish

I was recently sent some Martha Stewart crafty supplies, & when I opened the box my heart went *pitter-patter* at the sight of her Metalworking Alphabet Stamp Set. I immediately went into brainstorm mode. I LOVE brainstorm mode: Notepads filled with scribbles & cups of, candles + music to help expel the crafty joo joo. And so I came up with these sweet little lightweight dishes, celebrating & welcoming my favorite season. But this craft can totally be customized & personalized for anyone, any day of the year.

This supply list might look cray-cray. I'll explain...
• Martha Stewart Metalworking Alphabet Stamp Set
• Aluminum (I purchased a 12" x 30" roll that is .005 thick/36 guage. As an option, you could recycle a pop can. There are loads of tutorials on YouTube to show you how to properly cut a can.)
• Embossing pad (A cutting mat would work too. Just not a hard surface. Something with "give".)
• Small round shape to trace (My cup is 2 3/4" in diameter. Because of the lightweight nature of the dish you'll be making, I would keep the maximum measurement of the item you trace at 2 3/4".)
• Small round bowl for shaping (My bowl of choice is that metal egg poacher. But any heavy duty metal/plastic/wood/glass bowl would work, as long as the base is shallow & will shape your aluminum into a nice shallow dish/bowl shape.)
• Scissors
• Shaping tool (I used the round knobby end of that knitting needle. You want something that is small with rounded edges. I even experimented by using the back handle of those green scissors & it did the trick too.)
• Small hole punch. (1/8" is best!)
• Embroidery thread in your color(s) of choice
• Needle (small enough to go through holes you punch into the metal)
• Permanent marker
• Paintbrush
• Black paint
• Small paper towel or cloth/rag

Ok, now that all your weird supplies are gathered, let's DO this.
Trace your round shape onto the metal using the permanent black marker. Cut out this shape. As an option, you could wear gloves in this step, because the aluminum COULD cut you. I lived dangerously & didn't wear gloves.

These next steps involve the shaping of your flat piece of aluminum.
1. Center your aluminum circle shape above your shaping bowl.
2. With both hands, carefully + evenly push this shape into the bowl. It will buckle & fold all over. That's normal. Don't worry.
3. Again, with both hands, flatten those buckles & folds against the sides of the bowl with your fingers as much as you can.
4. Use your rounded shaping tool to smooth out the buckles & folds. Do this by holding the bowl with one hand on one side, & use the other hand with your shaping tool on the other side. Push & slide the tool all over. I found it easiest to start in the middle & rub the tool to the outside. I went side to side, up & down, in circles, just all over. The longer your work, the more smooth it will become.

Now you can punch holes evenly around the edge of your bowl. My small hole punch (pictured) actually broke. Not because of the aluminum. It was just headed in that direction. So I went out & bought a smaller punch---the 1/8" size. And I LOVE it!! So much better.

We can now personalize our bowl. Think of a word or a letter or something very short (this is a small dish afterall) that you want to stamp on your metal. It is so easy to slide letters onto the Metalworking Alphabet Stamp Set. The little notches make sure you're lining things up perfectly. Just remember: slide your letters in backwards so that they appear in the proper direction when you stamp them.
I actually had trouble using the stamp set at first. I couldn't get it to stamp a full word onto my metal. I even tried using lighter/softer metals, but it still didn't work. After playing a while, I DID have success stamping one letter at a time. Maybe it's just me. I don't know. I saw other crafty bloggers using the tool with no problem. It's me, isn't it? *sigh*

When you're stamping, use your embossing pad. Apply a lot of pressure, with a slight rocking motion. 

At this point, your dish will be a crunchy mess.

All you have to do to remedy that is to insert it BACK into your shaping bowl. Use your shaping tool to smooth out the edge you just punched & any other place on the dish that needs flattening. JUST BE CAREFUL NOT TO SMOOTH OVER YOUR WORDS. Go around the letters you just stamped. 

There. It's all smooth & awesome now.

Ready for the details?
Cut 3–3.5 feet of embroidery floss. (The amount you'll use depends on the number of holes you punched & how big or small your bowl is.) I used the full amount of threads in the floss. Double up your floss, bringing the ends together, so you're left with a loop at one end. This is how I secure my first stitch (as seen in 1). I used the blanket stitch all around the edge of my dish, as seen in the photos.

When you've stitched all around the dish, knot the end, Slide it under a nearby stitch & cut the floss.

You could also stitch it this way. It's more simple: just in one hole, around & through the other, etc.

I wanted the words on my bowl to stand out a bit more, so I smeared black paint all over the letters. 
(You could use any color of paint. Ooh, you could even coordinate with your floss color, too!)

With a flat paper towel, carefully wipe away the paint. The paint on the flat surface will disappear, but the paint that got into all the grooves & dents & crevices of your letters will remain.
On some dishes, I had to do this a couple times because I either wiped away too much paint, or my initial stamping didn't get deep enough into the aluminum. 

This stamping set is super awesome & I love it. It's made of sturdy plastic & comes with multiple letters, numbers & symbols.

Here's a sideview to give you a different perspective.

Use your nifty little dishes on a dresser or side-table to hold spare change, special treasures, or rings & things.

Hello Cozy Fall! I have missed you.
Welcome back! We're gonna have a splendid time together...

This post was written as part of a campaign with Martha Stewarts Crafts & their new fall & Halloween crafts + products. I was compensated with free crafty supplies. The opinions expressed in this post are my own. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Rock Balancing & Things

The girls & I enjoyed a few hours at the river on Friday, in celebration of the last weekend before school starts. The Mr. dropped us at the Farmer's Market where, before venturing to the sandy shores near our shady tree, we spied the fruits & vegetables of the season all pretty on display. We also saw many species of doggy, too, which meant Pazely was in heaven! And Zoey got a giant watermelon-flavored sno-cone, which meant she was in heaven. And there was live music & samples, so I was, you know. Heaven. 

We ventured down to the river & made a comfortable mess of things, setting up a temporary chill-out zone near our tree. We call a particular tree at the park "our" tree. Or sometimes I refer to it as "my" tree. It's actually two trees, side by side. But we always sit to the left side, near our tree, not the other one. It's funny because sometimes we'll arrive at the park, making the usual beeline for our tree, & there will often be people sitting under our tree. I'm like, "Why are they sitting at our tree?" You know, like no one else is allowed to park themselves at these particular coordinates except us.
While we were at the park this weekend, Zoey took me directly under our tree & told me to look up. So I did. There were spiderwebs, no, spiderblankets & spidervillages all up inside it. Like, everywhere. Just thick, thick, all over.
I thought, "Ew. My tree is gross." So now I sit BESIDE it.

We were lucky enough to be the only ones at the river on this overcast day. Pazely wondered why we were the only ones. I told her it's because nobody else was crazy enough to step foot in that cold water. Pazely thought it was neat how her legs & knees felt numb.


Have you seen stacked rocks before? I just think they're so cool. I tried to explain to the girls that stacking rocks is actually "a thing."
"It is?" they asked.
If you're unfamiliar with it all, you should look up images of stacked rocks or rock balancing sometime. There are even such things as rock balancing artists, & a Rock Stacking World Championship held annually in Texas. Who knew?
I'm definitely not on my way to the championship, but stacking rocks sure is fun to do. Pazely had a hard time getting her wobbly stones to stay put. So she made some mortar to aid in the wigglyness. That's pretty much against the official rules.
She's fired.

Here's a video I took of our afternoon at the river. I love the Cameo app for my iphone, by the way. But, golly, I need to pay more attention to the horizon. Crooked city! Haha! *sigh* If I had more time in my days, I'd devote them to learning about film-making. It's a secret/not-so-secret passion of mine.

HAPPY PLACE from Nikki/WhiMSy love on Vimeo.

Pazely started school today. The 6th graders got the whole school to themselves a day early. I love that. So now Pazely gets to join her sister in the middle school ranks this year. Just wait until the halls get crowded tomorrow though. God be with you, little one.

The girls have had their first-day-of-school outfits picked out (& laid carefully out) for 2 weeks now. They even had a practice run trying on their outfits. Is that normal? They've never done that before. But they are both SO excited to go back to school.
My big 7th grader (who is taller than me, & I'm 5'8") gets to wear makeup for the first time. I remember my mom taking me to the store & picking out makeup before I entered 7th grade. It's a rite of passage, so to speak. I can clearly picture the Cover Girl palette of eye shadow my mom & I picked out, in shades of grey & pink & blue.

Pazely's ensemble included a mix of this & that. But she loved it. A Peanuts cartoon shirt AND Peanuts cartoon pants AND lion earrings AND flip-flops AND rainbow colored sunglasses. And she rocked it all with a messy bun on top of her cute freckled head.

Just so you know, Pazely's first day at school was pretty much a success. She only got lost once &, unfortunately, dealt with a crabby teacher who couldn't seem to give slack to a newbie middle schooler. Shame on that woman.
Pazely has already picked out her two favorite teachers, she met a new girl (which was her goal this year, & the new girl happens to be her locker partner), she squeals nonstop when she thinks about going to school, & she has declared school lunches to be officially disgusting.

ME: Who did you sit with at lunch, Pazely?
PAZELY: I couldn't find my friends at lunch, so I just rolled down the hill.
*she pauses to pull a piece of grass out of her hair*
ME: Is that from rolling down the hill?
PAZELY: No. It's probably from when I was making grass angels.

I love that girl.
It feels good, once again, to get back to routine. In fact, I'm looking forward to putting the house back in order this first week the girls are at school. This summer I have become an expert pile-maker. There are piles everywhere, strategically balanced like those rocks. Nothing artsy about it. Just a big ol' tall mess. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Pazely's 11th Birthday

Twenty kids recently joined us for a party by the river. Miss Pazely turned eleven years old. It was a simple affair, nothing fancy, but lots of fun! 

The invitations were simply a boxed set of blank cards. The colors seemed bright & summery & perfect. We printed all the party info on the inside of the cards from our computer.

The decor consisted of a few bunches of balloons & brightly colored, disposable plastic tablecloths. I picked up several beach pails + shovels + sand toys at the dollar store, too, & scattered those around. The kids used those later in the party to play at the river.

Drink & food = a giant jug of ice water + fruit kabobs. (I love fruit kabobs. And all the kids did, too!)

We played a few wet games as the party began. The Sponge Relay, Water Balloon Toss, Water Balloon Fight, & The Frozen T-Shirt Game.

The dessert was absolutely easy to make & it satisfied the birthday girl's peanut-butter-lovin' heart.
Find the recipe for Peanut Butter Lasagna HERE.
The kids LOVED the dessert. One girl even offered to lick the pan. But, um, I thought that sounded gross. I didn't want little girl stranger saliva on my baking dish. So I politely declined her suggestion.

Most of the party was spent letting the kids play at the river, splashing, squealing & having a super time in the sunshine. It was a great day & I loved watching my sweet birthday girl have a splendid day!

Party favors, as you may know, are my most favorite thing. Usually I purchase oodles of prizes & stuff them into festive party-themed pouches for everyone. But this time 'round I found these inexpensive beach balls for each party guest to take home.
Boom. Done.

My girls' birthdays the past couple years have been much different than they used to be. I felt slightly disappointed that I wasn't able to pull off all the cute details & give immense attention to every one of those details this year. A skinny wallet + a busy schedule + this mama inflicted with bronchitis didn't really equal the party of dreams, but we pulled it off anyway.
At the end of the day I heard the birthday girl proclaim, "Mom, this was the BEST PARTY EVER!"
Even though she says that EVERY year, it was still a relief to hear her say it.
I'm just glad she felt the love.