Wednesday, November 30, 2011

To Each Their Own: Anthropologie Trinket & Treasure Candlesticks

Hey there, Vamps!

I just received my Anthropologie catalog and as I'm flipping through I'm thinking "Man, I dig pretty much everything.  Not that I would wear or use it, but I definitely dig it."

Especially these vases.

And these pillows.

Until I got to the Trinket & Treasure Candlesticks.  I'm sorry Candlestick, but I'm just not into you. At all. And with a $398 price tag I don't know how anyone else could be either?

Hmm...I'd like to hear from anyone who would even contemplate purchasing these. But I will admit, I do appreciate their trash to treasure-ness.

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Handmade Holidays: Gift Tags

Hey there, Vamps!

Here's a quick & easy guide to making some handmade gift tags.  Enjoy!

Let's start with the supplies:
  • Pre-cut paper tags ($2.99 for 25 tags in various sizes)
  • Sharpie
  • Paint (or markers)
  • Gift wrap

Step 1:  Draw onto the blank tags (even if you think you're not very artistic.  Hello, penguin below.)

Step 2:  Paint or color in between the lines.

Step 3:  Cut out gift wrap (use tag as template) and glue to back of tag.

Step 4:  Attach to gift.

And there you have it!

Until next time,

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Handmade Holidays: Hot Pepper Jelly

Hey there, Vamps!

Everybody's doing it.  Except me.  That was, until this past week when I crossed over into the popular crowd and became a home canner.  And with that I've hit full-fledged domesticity and I'm loving it. 

Hot Pepper Jelly is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures.  I love to plop down on the couch, watch some trashy reality tv and munch out on wheat thins, cream cheese and Apple Valley Country Store hot pepper jelly.  The best in all the land!  It's sweet, perfectly spicy and pretty darn beautiful with its champagne-colored jelly and red bell peppers.  I've been wanting to try my hand at making my own, so that I can avoid a mad (3-hour) dash to Hood River to pick up some more whenever I get the craving and so I can share my love with those around me.  So, with Christmas lurking around the corner, I finally pushed up my sleeves and got to business.

I made two versions of the hot pepper jelly, one with natural pectin from apples & cranberries (the recipe is found here) and another that uses manufactured pectin (recipe found here). Both turned out awesome.  Seriously, it was EASY!  The only things I had trouble with were the cooking time (I had to cook mine about a 1/2 hour longer than the recipe called for) and knowing what to do after I put the lids on.  Would they seal themselves?  Did I need to process them?   I waited and saw that most had sealed themselves, but there were still two that hadn't.  I scoured the recipes for any hint of what to do and they both ended with something along the lines of, "pour contents into glass jars, put on lid, secure tightly."  Okay....then what?  THEN WHAT?!

After my little meltdown, I did the best thing I could think of.  I called my Mom.  Luckily, my Mom was with her Mom so I had a double dose of educated canners to help me out.  It turns out that once you put the hot contents in and seal the lids you can turn them upside down for a few minutes and then back right side up.  The hot liquid works to sanitize the lid and also seals it.  Well, it was too late for that so I decided to put them in boiling water for a few minutes, which worked out perfectly.

As for the cost?  The homemade pepper jelly factors out to be roughly $1.25/jar (if using new jars.) We lucked out and had a bunch of used jars, so we only needed to purchase lids which brought the price down to about $.35/jar.  Pretty damn good, if you ask me.

Now that I'm pretty much a professional canner, I can't wait to really get my can-on.   On the horizon, canned Halibut (the hubs is an Alaskan fisherman in addition to being an amazing teacher), ketchup, veggies, salsa...oh the possibilities.  But first!  I am dying to get my hands on Pie and Beer's Liana Krissoff's newest book:

"Not Your Grandma's Canning Guide"

So what about you?  Are you still hesitant to dive into the life of a home canner or are you already a professional?  Any tips for this newbie?

Until next time,

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful Turkey Cards

Gobble, Gobble!  (or in non-turkey tongue, Hey there, Vamps!)

Check out our little "What I'm Thankful for..." cards that I quickly put together for our impromptu Thanksgiving meal.  We wrote down what we were thankful for on the inside and shared them at our dinner.  So easy and a great addition to our table decorations. I love handprint crafts.  (Stay tuned for a special Christmas handprint craft in the coming weeks.)

Break out a blank card (I folded up copy paper) and the paint.  I used Tempera in red to stamp the handprint and then used some crayola art paint from the kiddo's stash to add some brown, yellow, and orange. Like I said, quick and easy.

Any Thanksgiving-inspired crafts that you included in your table decorations?

Until next time (and Happy Thanksgiving!)

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Impromptu Thanksgiving

Hey there, Vamps!

I hope to find you well and thankful on my all-time favorite of holidays.  Christmas is cool and all, but how can you beat a day where you can eat your weight in mashed potatoes and gravy, unzip your fly mid-meal and get a high five for it?

Our typical Thanksgiving holiday involves traveling to either of our family's homes which are both three hours away in opposite directions.  A couple years, when we lived closer to one side, we managed to cram both houses into the long weekend.  Crazy, I know.  But for two eaters and lovers of family like us, we just couldn't bear to miss it.

This year is a whole 'nother story.  We're moving in a week to our new house and with so much to do before the big move we just couldn't make it up to the hub's grandparent's house.  So, for the first time ever, we are on our own for Thanksgiving.  And with only a day to plan!

Since it is just going to be us two (and a half), cooking a whole turkey and all the sides was crazy-talk.  We  bounced around ideas for our dinner like the classic backup chinese dinner, but I just couldn't go without my candied yams & buckets of gravy.  And then it hit me!  A lazy man's carb-loaded thanksgiving dinner with combination homemade and storebought items to keep it simple and keep us traditionalists happy.  On the menu? Pre-cooked oven roasted turkey breast from Costco, yummy & preservative-full Stove Top stuffing, homemade mashed potatoes with jarred turkey gravy, homemade candied yams, peas, dinner rolls, homemade cranberry sauce, storebought pumpkin pie and the hub's family tradition, frog eye salad.  A perfect compromise. I can't wait to dive in!

And as for the table decorations?  All things I had on-hand aside from the flowers and pumpkin.  Thankfully, (ha) I LOVE orange, so there were plenty of items to choose from.

So, who's at your table?  Any special food traditions?

Until next time,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

DIY: Family Photos

Hey there, Vamps!

We just completed our family photo session and just in time for Christmas cards!  While in the past we've had our awesome and talented friend, Tina Patenio Photography, behind the lens,  this time we decided to try it out ourselves.

A few Christmases ago I got the hubs (or myself?) the GorillaPod by Joby.  I think we've used him once before.  Sadly, he's usually hiding in our junk drawer.  At the last minute before we left the house, I had the foresight to bring him along thinking he might just come in handy.  And boy, was I right!  This little gadget can attach to everything!  I'm so in love with him that he's gone from inanimate object to part of the family.

I don't know what we would have done without him.  Probably the ol' "extend the arm out as far as you can facebook profile pic" method.  Something like this...

But, because of our handy little GorrillaPod, we were able to get some great "professional-looking" shots all on our own.  Thanks, GorillaPod.  (Cue Thumbs-Up pose.  Cut.  Print.) 

No longer will our trusty sidekick be lost in our junk drawer, but this little fella has now earned himself a spot in the camera bag.  (Where he should have been all along!)

So, what about you guys?  Are you pinching your pennies and shooting your own family shots or are you still leaving it to the professionals?  What other gadgets do you find yourself claiming as must-haves?

Until next time,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tutorial: Fabric Coffee Sleeves

Hey there, Vamps!

Stop using those wasteful cardboard coffee sleeves, break out that sewing machine and make your own reusable and stylish fabric coffee sleeves in just six easy steps.

My fabric sleeves came out to under $.25.  I used fabric remnants bought from a quilting shop.  A large ziploc bag cost $1, plus I got to pick and choose the pieces.  I also found a bag of binding at Goodwill ~ 10 unused packs for $1.99.  ALWAYS check their craft isle.  The only item that I purchased for full price was the 1/4 yard of ironing board fabric which ran $5.99/yard.

  • Binding
  • Fabric remnants
  • Ironing board fabric for center heat barrier layer
  • Starbucks cardboard sleeve (used as template)

Step 1

Lay the template out flat and trace onto the backside of the front, middle and back fabric layers.

Step 2

Gather all three layers, with front side out and pin together.

Step 3

Straight stitch around the perimeter, as close to the edge as possible.

Step 4

Pin binding to top and sew on.  Repeat on bottom.

Step 5

Pin ends together, overlapping the two ends.

Step 6

Sew ends together with a straight stitch.

And, voilĂ , you're finished~

Now wasn't that easy?

Until next time,

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Challenge: Random Acts of Kindness Week

Hey there, Vamps!

November, and specifically Thanksgiving, has most of us thinking about what we're thankful for.  At the top of my list is my family.   When Nikki from Everything Under the Moon invited me to participate in her Random Acts of Kindness Week this past Nov 13-19th, I was overjoyed and I knew exactly what I could do.

I am lucky.  I am blessed with a very handsome, hardworking and scarily smart husband and a carbon copy 1 year old son, with a sense of humor that rivals my beloved Chevy Chase.  The hubs will wash dishes, wash laundry, cook, and give me nightly back rubs all without a single complaint.  And, while he does, and is, a lot of things, organized he is not!  (Just take a peek at his classroom.)  He's so busy with graduate school (Go Aggies!) and teaching that he can't find the time to clean up.

So, I put my organization skills to use.  It's the least I could do to show him just how thankful I am.

His biggest issue, as you can see, are the stacks and stacks of papers.

 So, I thought these would help.

Scholastic File Organizer for handouts & File box for homework
And though I'd like to show some "After" photos and report back on all the hard work we put in getting his classroom organized the past week, life got in the way and I wasn't quite able to complete the random act of kindness.  Good thing he has the entire next week off, so I can get down and dirty with some math papers. 

So what about you guys?  What does November have you feeling thankful for?

Until next time,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Copycat Food Edition: Starbucks Banana Bread

It's a food post!  I know I'm swaying a bit away from "homegoods", but this is home related right?  Plus, I just had to share this recipe.

With an abundance of overripe bananas, I set out to find a banana bread recipe using bread flour (what I had on-hand).  And in my search, I found the best banana bread recipe EVER!  It's dense, yet moist, with a slight crunch to the crust.  I. Can't. Stop. Eating. It.

The original recipe came from Copykat Recipes and I made just a few adjustments (butter instead of margarine & added vanilla. I also left out the walnuts.)

Copycat:  Starbucks Banana Walnut Bread

1 3/4 cup flour (bread flour is best)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup Sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
2 tbsp. milk
2 eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts (divided into 2 (1/2 cup) portions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium size bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt), stir together to combine.  In another medium size bowl, combine butter and sugar, with a mixer cream together until light and fluffy.  Add in vanilla, mashed bananas, eggs, and milk.  Mix well.  Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mix until the flour is just mixed in then add the remaining flour and 1/2 cup walnuts, blend together until everything is mixed together.  Do not overstir.

Pour batter into a greased 8x4 inch loaf pan.  Top the batter with the remaining chopped walnuts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack and Enjoy!

Seriously, I've eaten two-thirds of this already.  It is THAT good!

So, what's your go-to recipe?

Until next time,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Copycat: Pottery Barn Birch Bark Candle Holders

We just returned from a weekend of celebration.  Our good friends said "I Do" and the hubs was lucky enough to be a groomsman in the wedding.  Aside from sharing in their nuptial bliss and watching some of the best dancing this side of Beaumont, I was lucky enough to score a log candle holder, made by the bride's father for the table decorations. So sweet and personal, plus they were the perfect touch to their updated barn reception venue.  Far better than the expensive pottery barn version.

Pottery Barn version.

My apologies.  I was so busy partying it up that I failed to take a photo of the copycat version.  I can't wait to make some of my own (or get a few more from the bride/groom. hint, hint.)

So, what about you?  Have you been swooning over these bark candle holders or have you made your own?

Until next time,

Workshop: Martha Stewart Living Holiday Projects

Hey there, Vamps!

Did you know that Home Depot offers FREE Do-It-Yourself workshops?  Or that they offer FREE Do-It-Herself workshops geared towards women?  Neither did I!  I recently learned about this incredible resource from my local MOM's Club and I am stoked.  I can't wait to attend EVERY SINGLE ONE of these.  I'm going to be there so often they're going to get tired of me.

The November Do-It-Herself was Martha Stewart-ified.   We learned about her new collection of paint, faux finishes and glazes, plus ways to use them to create easy holiday projects.

First Up?  Tile Coasters.  I first attempted to use the Gold Glitter glaze, but the glaze kept seeping under the stencil and looked far too messy for this semi-perfectionist.  So, I went with the Oatmeal Crackle finish and it seemed to work a little bit better.  Still a bit of seepage.  Hot tip:  You HAVE to apply a coat of MS primer/finish prior to using the crackle finish which reacts with the finish to create the crackle effect.

Final Touch:  Poly Finish

The next project involved jazzing up some basic photo frames.  I skipped the dang stencils and just covered the whole frame with a terra cotta finish.

From This...

To This.
Up Close & Personal with the Terra Cotta

All in all, these were easy & quick projects.  Full disclosure:  Not my style, but it was a great opportunity to do some brainstorming and get out of the house while my husband was brewing beer.  

Next up?  Installing a tile backsplash on Sunday, November 20th and a Kid's Workshop where they'll make Snowman napkin holders.

So, what about you?  Have you attended any of the workshops Home Depot offers?  What have you learned?

Until next time,

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