Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cursing Martha Stewart

I found an awesome Gingerbread Man Wreath on Pinterest last week and I was determined to try it myself.
It was created by Martha Stewart.  I've always loved Martha, up until now.
Imani and I prepared the recipe and put it in the refrigerator, as instructed.
But the consistency of the dough didn't seem right. I was expecting it to be like the gingerbread wreath ornaments we've made in the past . . . but this felt like real cookies.

Upon a closer look at Martha's recipe, I discovered that her recipe actually used real gingerbread cookie dough, which would mean the wreath wouldn't be that sturdy.
I was devastated.  Her recipe stated at the end that the wreath would last for approximately TWO weeks.
What?  I wanted my wreath to last year after year, just like the gingerbread ornaments Imani and I made several years ago that go up on our tree every year.
Who would make a wreath with real gingerbread cookie dough?  I should have read the recipe more closely before I started making the dough.
I decided to give it a go anyway, since the dough was all made and in the fridge.
We rolled out the dough and began cutting our gingerbread men.

Martha's recipe called for placing the gingerbread men on a piece of parchment paper that you've cut into a circle but since I didn't have parchment paper, I put a bowl in the center of the pan and lined up the feet of all of my gingerbread men.

Do anyone else's pans look all burnt like mine?  Keepin' it real.
I sort of pinched the feet and hands where the gingerbread men overlapped. 
At this point, I just didn't trust Martha or her team. 
I did make one wreath EXACTLY as Martha instructed and it broke apart when I tried to hang it.
I figured as much.  I figured that Martha probably just made her wreath for the photo and it broke within minutes after.
I wanted to strengthen my wreath, so I gave it a layer of Modge Podge.
The wreath now looked very shiny.  I liked the more natural look, but I didn't want my wreath to break.  I could see some of the feet and hands were starting to lift apart so I got out the old hot glue gun and secured them.
 When you apply the Modge Podge, it looks white, but it will dry clear (you can see the white in some areas in the picture below).

Finally, I strung a ribbon through my wreath and hung it, praying it would not break.
So far so good.
My advice to you would be that if you want to make a gingerbread man wreath, use a recipe for gingerbread or cinnamon ornaments.  It will be much sturdier and I don't think you'd need to hot glue it or add Modge Podge.
We'll see how long this wreath lasts.
I have a feeling these little guys might not be one big family by the time Christmas rolls around.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Secrets to Thrifting - 5 Items to Snag

 I mentioned yesterday that I LOVE to go shopping for second hand items to decorate my home.
I look forward to it like some people look forward to going to the mall.
I guess what I love most about it is the thrill of finding something unique -- something that everybody else won't have.  I mean, anyone can march into Ikea, Pottery Barn or Target and slap their credit card down to buy a new serving bowl or a piece of art to hang on their wall.
But when I find a cool architectural piece that someone thinks is junk and sells it at their garage sale for $2 I feel giddy inside.  When I hang it on my wall and people who come over ask where they can buy it, I feel like I've just gotten the very last pair of size 7 1/2 killer stilettos.
Not only do I love that I have something unique, but I also love that I have something with a history.  I love wondering where the object -- no matter how small -- came from. 

Who were its owners? 

What is its story?
I feel the same way about my clothes.  Yeah, I still shop at "traditional" stores like Gap and Banana Republic, but I treasure the clothes I find at vintage boutiques and the Salvation Army. 
It can be overwhelming the first time you walk into a store, like The Salvation Army -- a rainbow of clothes sorted by color -- a half off color of the day and walls filled with seemingly useless junk.
One thing that helps is if you KNOW what you're looking for. Sometimes you're on a mission -- like the time I was searching specifically for wool sweaters in creams to make my felted wreath.
But other times, you might just want to browse. 
Either way, there are certain items I always look for when I'm thrifting.
Here are my top five home-relate items to buy second-hand:
1. Apothecary Jars

                                                                                               Source: via Ginnie on Pinterest

These are great for decorating - you can add fun elements for holidays, seasons etc.  You can also use them for storage in your office, bathroom or bedroom.

2. Mason Jars

Source: via Amy on Pinterest

Mason jars are one of the most useful items I have in my house. I don't think I could ever have enough of them.

Not only do old mason jars make fabulous vases, but they can also be used to hold silverware for a casual dinner or barbecue.  They can be used to store dry goods, like pasta or beans.  They can also be used as votive for candles. 

3. Christmas Lights

                                                                                                   Source: via Kati on Pinterest

As I mentioned on yesterday's video, it's inevitable every year . . . no matter how careful we are in storing our Christmas lights . . . at least one strand won't work when we go to decorate our tree.  I have repeatedly found Christmas lights in their original packaging for $1-$2.   I've never, ever, regretted buying them.

4.  White platters
I don't mind if the platters are a little chipped - it gives them character.  I mainly look to see that the platter is a nice shape with a fairly smooth surface.
I like to find platters because I like to monogram them using my Silhouette (for myself or for gifts).  I also like to put vinyl messages on them for the holidays.  Oh, and they are also great for actually serving food!  I'm not much of a colored-dish kind of girl - most of my dishes are white. I like to see the colors of the food stand out on the platter.

5. Interesting Picture Frames


As you can see, I don't  even care if they have the glass. I look past the color too; this one was an ugly gold color when I found it but we spray painted it black at one point and then white.  
I love unique picture frames.  We have been collecting frames and painting them white to create a little gallery of black and white photos up our stair case.  Maybe some day we will finish it.

Those are the top five items home-related I look for when I'm thrifting.  Of course I find other things too but these are the five things that I'm sure NOT to pass up if I find them. 

What would you add to the list?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thrift Store Haul

This weekend I was able to spend some time thrifting for stuff to decorate our house for Christmas.  Watch the video to see what I found!
Have you found anything to decorate for the holidays at thrift stores?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gangnam Style Delays Christmas Decorating

Yesterday, I was reading Facebook and I came across a friend who wrote,
"All Christmas presents bought, wrapped, bagged and tagged.  Now it's time to get the tree."
I almost puked.
I am wondering if she still has any Facebook friends left.
Okay, maybe I'm a little jealous.
I mean, I can still feel the belly ache from that "just a taste" of pumpkin pie.
My Thanksgiving mantel is still up, we haven't gotten our tree yet and our Christmas lights do not twinkle when I pull in the driveway at night.
Don't get me wrong: I LOVE the Christmas season and am just as eager as the next person to get my decorating up and my shopping done.
But there's something nice about taking it slowly ... enjoying each ritual.
I was feeling really good because I put together this little door decoration:

I found the ice skates at the Salvation Army over the summer and knew they would find their place in my Christmas decorating this year.
I wanted to decorate the door with something other than a wreath this year.  We are a little nervous that when winter weather really hits, those ice skates might bang against the glass and break it.
But our door is in serious need of being replaced anyway, so we decided to go ahead and take our chances.  If the glass gets broken, we'll just need a new door a bit sooner than we anticipated.
Maybe you think that's irresponsible. 
At first Jason did.
But when I came home after a day of thrifting, those skates were merrily hung on my door.
And Jason had a happy wife. 
I definitely hope the skates don't break the glass. I don't feel like buying a new door, but I sure am happy to see that little decoration when I pull in the driveway.
I'll be sure to keep you posted.

The only other Christmas festivities that have taken place in our house is that this little guy arrived with two gifts: one for Imani and Noah.

Good old Quinn returned from the North Pole with ornaments for Imani and Noah to hang on this year's tree.
Yes, we are THOSE people who have an Elf on the Shelf.  And YES, Imani "knows" but she's a girl who will always believe, which is one of the qualities I love most about her.  
So no, my presents aren't purchased or wrapped (I haven't even started yet),
my mantel is still set for Thanksgiving
And we don't have our tree(s).
I like to think it's because we like to gradually move into the Christmas season, but really it's probably because I sat around all weekend and watched Noah do his favorite dance to his favorite song, "Gangnam Style."
I love how he stops when the music stops.  He nails it every time.

What about you? Is your decorating done? Are your gifts wrapped?

The Girl Creative

Friday, November 23, 2012

Teaching the Value of Hard Work

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I enjoyed seeing my family and I am definitely enjoying a couple of days off from work!  It's been pretty intense over the last month, so I am enjoying time to read, knit, craft and just relax with my family!
A while back I mentioned that we have a new system of how to pay allowance to Imani so I wanted to take the time to share it with all of you.  It has been working out well so far and we've been doing it for a few months.
As I mentioned before, we used to just give Imani $20 every month.  She was only expected to help out as needed, make her bed and sweep the stairs.  We came to realize that this method wasn't really working out so well.  Half of the time, her bed wasn't made and the stairs were rarely swept.  Nonetheless, she had her little hand extended every 1st day of the month in expectation of her $20. 
So we decided we would start to pay her weekly, rather than monthly, and we would give her a list of a bunch of things around the house that need to be done regularly. 
We keep a big bottle of marbles and each marble is worth 25 cents.  Each time Imani does something off of the list, she gets a marble (or two, depending on the chore).
Sometimes, Imani thinks of other things she would like to do (like vacuum my car or brush Maggie or clean Noah's room) and she will ask if she can get a marble for it.

She keeps all of her marbles for the week in a different jar.  On Sunday, we count up how much we owe her and we pay her for her work.  She is expected to save 10 percent and donate 10 percent (anywhere she'd like - sometimes it goes to Church, sometimes to the library, sometimes to the SPCA . . . wherever she feels like giving).

When we first rolled this out, Imani was on a mission:  She cleaned the whole house and practically filled her jar with marbles.  Jason and I got nervous that we'd be handing over half of our bank account to Imani.
But over time her enthusiasm has leveled out. During the week, when homework, basketball and practicing her violin take up a lot of her time, she doesn't do as much to earn marbles.
We've noticed that on the weekends, she will often pick up a broom instead of the iPad.  It's been great.
Another cool thing about this is that if we ask Imani to help us with something and she doesn't, or if she misbehaves, talks back etc, we will tell her she needs to take a marble out of her jar.  Yes, we "charge" her in a way. 
We expect that she will still contribute in a meaningful and positive way in the house: that she doesn't ONLY help for marbles -- so if we ask for help or tell her to do something (like pick up her room), she is expected to do it without complaint and without earning a marble.
There is one chore that is expected every day and she doesn't get a marble for it.  She must make her bed.  If she doesn't make her bed, she has to take a marble out of her jar. The exception is if OUR bed isn't made . . . then we can't charge her.  She loves to see if our bed is made so it sort of keeps us all accountable.
There have also been times when I see her do something incredibly generous or kind and I want her to know I recognized it -- so I'll tell her later, "I really liked how you were generous with your friend when she came over today.  I'd like to give you an extra marble in your jar."
She loves when that happens.
Don't get me wrong; on more than one occasion Imani has grumbled, "Can we go back to the old way for allowance?! I hate this way."  She hates it because she actually has to DO something to get the money. 
But she loves getting paid weekly. 
She loves seeing the marbles accumulate in the jar,
and she loves being in control of being paid more.
She's been really motivated because she is saving up for a Macbook.  She also told me last week that this year, she wants to buy me and Jason a present for Christmas with her own money, so she's been setting some of her money aside for that. 
I'm really proud of her.
Some of the things she can do to make money are:
Sweep the stairs - 25cents
Empty the bathroom garbage cans - 25 cents
Vacuum the house - 50 cents
Pick up Maggie's dog doo doo in the yard - 50 cents (we know we're making out on this one . . . but she must know it too because she never does it!!)
Dust - 25cents
Put in a load of laundry - 25 cents
Load the dishwasher - 25 cents
 That's just a snapshot of a few of the chores.  She can always ask if there is something else she'd like to do.
We believe it's important for Imani to have money of her own so she understands how to save, how to make smart purchases and the value of hard work.
So far, this system has worked well for us!
I'd love to hear how all of you pay allowance (or why you don't pay allowance) to your children.
Have a great weekend.  "See" you Monday (I promise :-)


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Home-Related Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!!  
First off, thank you to all of my dedicated readers who continue to read my home endeavors, despite the fact that I am inconsistent. 
I appreciate each and every one of you.
I hope you all have a warm, relaxing holiday filled with delicious food and loving family and friends.
I made a little video for you!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Christmas Forest

Over the weekend, Imani and I decided to start creating some Christmas decorations.
I have a whole list on Pinterest of things I want to make this year
to give as gifts
to eat
to decorate. . .
We started with a simple project of making little Chistmas trees.
These were super easy.  We found thin cardboard boxes like cereal boxes, stove top stuffing boxes (love that stuff) and other pieces of cardboard that would bend easily.
Next, we made them into cones in various heights.
I almost forgot to take a picture of them! Excuse the poor quality - some of these were taken at night with only an iPhone!
We gathered up a variety of objects to decorate our trees such as ribbon, feathers, yarn, buttons and even lentils!
Next, we pulled out Imani's favorite tool:  the hot glue gun.
We began gluing the ribbon and feathers onto the cones.

Imani carefully wrapped hers with gold ribbon.
We worked late into the night and finished seven trees to create a little forest.
They turned out super cute.
Here is one with all white buttons.
Here is one wrapped in gold ribbon with a piece of shimmery ribbon wrapped over that.
Here is one with with pieces of shimmery wrapping paper cut and curled.  It's a bit sloppy because it was one of the last trees we made and I was utterly exhausted.
Here is a one wrapped in fuzzy yarn.
And another one wrapped in thick, cream colored yard with some glam wrapped around it.
Here is the tree we rolled in lentils and then spray painted gold.
And here is the crazy feather tree . . . with a crazy dog in the mix.
Maggie wasn't the only crazy one.  Imani was so tired, she was getting silly and kept pretending the trees were fangs.
And we both decided they could double up as new-year's hats!
Seriously, we had a great time making these. I'm not sure where I'll put them yet, but you can bet you'll find them mixed in this year's holiday decor.  The best part was, they were free!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful to Have a Thanksgiving Mantel

I knew what my Thanksgiving mantel would look like months ago.  I am a Pinterest addict, as I mentioned before.   I was inspired when I came across this photo on Pinterest and I knew I was going to hijack this idea with the old brown beer bottles.

                                                                                          Source: via Shanon on Pinterest
I just thought it was the most adorable Fall mantel.  
One Sunday afternoon in the middle of a rain storm, Jason and I decided it would be a good idea to schlep around an OUTSIDE flea market.  We were only there for less than ten minutes because we quickly realized how foolish it was to drag our one year old around in a downpour.
But in those ten minutes, I found exactly what I was looking for:  a big box of old brown beer bottles.  I only needed six bottles to pull off the look I found on Pinterest.  The woman who was selling them was just trying to unload her stuff so she cut me a deal:  an enormous box of a variety of bottles for $5. 
So this weekend, I pulled out those old bottles, cleaned them off and printed out the word "Thankful" on my Silhouette. 
After I put the letters on the bottles, I put a wheat stalk in each bottle.
I filled a basket with pinecones and placed it on some world atlas books that were left in our house when we bought it.
On the other side of the mantel, I used the pumpkin Jason made me for Halloween and put some gourds up there with it to hide the plate we placed beneath it in case it begins to rot
(As lovers of all things Fall, we keep pumpkins as long as we possibly can in our house.  Once, when I first met Jason, he bought me an enormous pumpkin and placed it in my living room.  This thing was gigantic - I don't think I could have even moved it if I tried.  I developed a sort of attachment to it because I loved that he bought me a pumpkin! A lot of guys buy their girlfriends flowers or jewelry but this guy bought me a PUMPKIN and I loved every bit of it. 
Needless to say, the pumpkin became a permanent decoration in my house . . . well into Spring, until one day Jason picked it up to discover a thick goo leaking out of it!  Ew. That's gross . . . so now we keep plates underneath just in case we keep the pumpkin longer than we should!)
You wonder why I'm not consistent with blogging?  Maybe because I tell a million stories and my posts always ramble on . .. I just can't help it.
Anyway, so I placed a pumpkin and some gourds on the left hand side of the mantel. 
You might remember, this pumpkin that Jason painted for me for Halloween this year.  I just turned that "31" around to the back so no one would see it. You can also see the plate that is underneath it in case it decides to leak goo.
I put an old window behind everything for a backdrop and there you have it, my Thanksgiving mantel.
Do you think it's HGTV worthy?  Am I famous yet?

Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup Yummo

I got a little talkin' to from my sister last week on how she thinks I should blog more.
I don't know if I've ever shared how much I look up to my sister with you before but if I haven't, I should have.
Here's the most recent photo I have of Dee, me and Noah.  I'll have to get some pictures of me and Dee when she's up for Thanksgiving in just a few short days (I can't wait).  For the record, we're not always all fancied up when we see each other.
We're usually all scummed out in our sweatpants lounging around, which is why we never let anyone take our pictures.
In this picture, we were going to a wedding.
My sister Dee (some say Deej but no one who knows her well calls her by her birth-given name, Diane) is four years older than me; she is my only sibling.
My whole life she's been right about just about everything.
From the boys I used to date whom she said were dorks (they were)
 to the black lacquer furniture I used to decorate my first apartment that she told me had to go
to how my fashion follows hers five years later . . .
So when Dee tells me to do something, I listen.
So last week she said I should blog more - even if it's about something small, like a recipe.
I could get into all of the excuses on why I don't blog more frequently
like how I have two kids who suck up a lot of my time
or how I have a stay at home husband who needs a break from all of the home-related stuff
or how my company went through a round of job cuts last week and I was stressed out (I kept my job)
or how my computer is ancient and makes blogging a giant pain in the tush.
But the truth is, I LOVE to write
I love to blog
and I love to share my life with all of you
(and I hate when my sister proves me wrong).
Oh and this little blog was just featured on HGTV's website! 
Yup, you read that right.  My winter mantel was featured last week.  If you head over to HGTV (But don't leave this web page until you see what I've got for you)  and click on their winter mantels, my mantel was on slide 16. 
Imani wants to know if that means I'm famous . . .
Anyway, I decided to ease back into this blog thing by giving you a little recipe for Thanksgiving.
But first, I need to let you know we didn't dress up this year for Halloween!!  Can you believe it?  It's the first year we haven't dressed up in a long time.
Imani choose to be Darth Vader this year simply so that she could dress her little brother as Yoda. I think it was the first time EVER that I purchased costumes and didn't make them myself.
Although I was a little sad about these costumes, I gotta say, those moms who drive to Tarjay and swipe their credit cards to get their kid's costumes are onto something good.  This was the easiest Halloween 'evah! 
Imani had fun as Darth Vader and Noah did make a cute little Yoda.
And now onto that recipe.  This weekend, I made one of my favorite things to make, SOUP.
I love soup so much - I could live on it.  My family . . . not so much.  They all like to have more of a "main course" so I usually end up serving it before dinner.
I love soup so much that my sister Dee bought me and Jason a Cuisinart Soup maker for Christmas last year.
I'm not really into kitchen gadgets but that soup cooker is one of the best things going.
It heats up so you can sautee in it before adding other ingredients. Once all of the ingredients are added, you can turn on the blender portion of the machine and blend everything together to make soup.  Then you just set the timer for how long you want it to cook.
It's a little piece of amazing.
Here it is if you want to get it for some soup lover like me for Christmas. 
It's a bit pricey though - listed as $270 online. I found one on Amazon for $122.36 if you are interested click here.
(I am not receiving anything for this post - this is truly just a gadget I love!)
I only wish it were bigger because I like to make BIG pots of soup.
Anyway - on to the recipe.
Since it's Fall, I've been trying to eat as much squash as possible. I love it and both of my children hate it.  While most moms might be upset that their kids don't like a vegetable, I'm secretly happy because that means more squash for me.
shhh. . . don't tell them because I'm forever ACTING like I want them to eat it.
Naturally, since I love squash and I love soup, I figured I'd experiment with a butternut squash soup recipe.
This one's a keeper. 
First off, it's super healthy because there isn't any cream in this soup.
It has a rich Fall flavor of butternut squash with a hint of pumpkin.
Butternut Squash Pumpkin Yummo
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into one inch cubes (I started with a 2-3 pound squash)
2 tablespoons of butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic - chopped
4 cups of chicken stock
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat butter in a large pot
2.  Sautee onions until translucent
3. Add the chopped garlic and sautee for a minute more
4. Add the squash cubes and chicken stock
5. Bring to a boil
6. When squash becomes soft, dump into a blender
7. Add pumpkin puree, nutmeg and salt and pepper
8. Puree soup
9. Serve with a large salad and warm bread (the bread in the picture is homemade . . . I am OBSESSED with this recipe for homemade bread. It's super EASY and delicious.   I discovered it a few weeks ago.  No need to knead this bread - you make the dough on the weekends, throw it in the fridge and make fresh bread in less than five minutes whenever you want it over the course of the next TWO weeks. )
I told you it was easy.
Apparently, there are additional books out on different versions of this bread.  You can bet those books are going on my Christmas list.
If you try the soup, let me know what you think.  I was thinking it might be good to put applesauce in it too!

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