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Friday, December 30, 2011

A Year in Review

What a fun year 2011 has been!  I hope it's been a good year for you too.  If not, here's to a better 2012!

**If you want to see my most popular posts of the year, check my sidebar**

I thought I'd share a few posts from each month, starting in February since that's when this blog began.  Maybe some you've seen and some you haven't.












Also for fun, here are the top referring sites from this year.  
Our Best Bites
Make the Cut Forum
A Bowl Full of Lemons
Thrifty Decor Chick
House of Hepworths

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy New Year!
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas and My Gift to You

Hope everyone enjoys the holiday this weekend.  Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect to be fun!

For a little present, I thought I'd leave you all with a quick piano number I "jazzed up."

I'll be back to blogging after the holidays.  Thanks so much for reading and Happy New Year!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tissue Paper Silhouettes

This is a great, easy project that can keep your kids busy for a little while.  And they're even display worthy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Glitter Nativity Ornaments

If you haven't ever made glitter ornaments yet, run to the store for some supplies right now!  They are so easy, fun, and pretty!  This isn't really a "how to" post so much as just a "look what I made" post.  There are several good instructions and even videos online for how to make these.  

Still, here is a picture of the supplies I used, in addition to clear glass bulbs.

 A couple of tips I really did like are to swirl the wax slowly around in the ornament so that it doesn't create bubbles.  Another was to pour the excess wax  from the ornaments into a separate cup (instead of back into the original container)  It's easier so it saves time.  Empty it back into the bottle when you're all done.

I also noticed that if I poured wax from a cup (my Pyrex above) instead of squirting it from the bottle it made fewer bubbles.  If there are bubbles, you run the risk of not having the glitter cover the glass entirely. 

And lastly, tack cloths are a great way to clean up any stray glitter. Any kind will work, you don't need the fancy "craft" one.

The colors I used are Martha Stewart Turquoise, Tourmaline and Hematite.  I was able to make 13-14 ornaments from one jar of glitter.   

I cut a small vinyl nativity and placed it on each ornament.  As you know, it's quite tricky getting a flat item to lay down nicely on a sphere (world maps anyone?)  So I purposefully chose an image with thin lines and lots of breaks so I could tweak it when needed as I pressed it down on the ornament. 

These will all be gifts--hope the recipients like them!

Get your supplies:
clear glass ornaments
floor wax

post contains affiliate links

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Candy Cane Brownie Pops

I signed up to help with treats for the teachers today, as well as for Meagan's dance class this afternoon.  I've wanted to try this holiday version of my Andes mint brownie pops I made and this was the perfect reason.  I actually prefer them to cake pops, though my rainbow cake pops were super fun.

I'll give you the rundown of how I made these--they're easy, but do take a little while.

You'll need:
  • Baked brownies (I line my pan with foil and very lightly grease before I pour the batter in)  Regular recipe (not cake-like) and don't over bake!  If in doubt, slightly under bake.  They have to be sticky.

  • White almond bark or candy melts (almond bark does NOT contain nuts :)
  • Crushed candy canes (I used 5 to make about 30 pops)
  • Lollipop sticks (make sure you have enough left over from last time or you'll be running to Michael's at 8:30 at night to buy more...just sayin')
  • Plastic bags (find them near the lollipop sticks)
  • Twine, ribbon, or just use the twist ties that come with the baggies
  • Optional, but really useful...a piece of foam to stand pops up in while they finish setting.  Pre-poke some holes with a toothpick, at least 2 inches apart so the pops won't touch.  (check your garage for foam packaging in boxes...unless you're garage is cleaned out more often than mine you'll probably find something)
Smoosh small amounts of brownie into a ball (they won't get perfectly round, at least when I do them!)  I made mine smaller than golf balls.  Don't use the edges.  Eat them instead.  

Set them out on a cookie sheet and melt some white candy.  Dip the end of each stick and insert them into the brownies.  Push them almost all the way through.

When the candy hardens, melt more of the almond bark (I used my 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave at half power at 30 second intervals til it was smooth)  Cover each pop completely.  I've found it works best to use a spoon to drop the coating over the pop, then rotate it so the excess drips off.  

When it's not dripping anymore, dip the top into a bowl of crushed candy cane and set it in the foam.

Continue til you're done.  After several minutes, the almond bark will be solid again and you can remove them from the foam piece and lay them on a plate, making room for the next round to stand up in the foam.  Don't worry if they look a little bumpy...when they're all packaged up, they're so cute you can't even tell.  See?

Now, this next part is really important.  Even though it's 11 o'clock at night, and you're tired, put them all away--hidden in a cupboard or pantry, or when you get up at 6 the next morning you'll discover that your 3 year old wandered out of bed at 5:30 and ate 3 of them.  Again, just sayin'. 

This is how I packed them up for the school:  Covered a shoe box with scrapbook paper, put foam in the bottom, stuck some tissue paper out the sides, put in the pops.  If I'd really been thinking, I would have just laid the pops down in the box until I got to the school, for easier transport, then put them in the stand.  But they survived in the car like this too.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Word of the Year

I know we're not even past Christmas yet, but I'm already starting to look ahead a little to the new year.  Not making any plans, not scheduling anything in my calendar, just thinking.

Last year I did something a little different than writing out a bunch of resolutions or goals.  I picked a single word.  Have you done that before, or seen other people do it?  It's like choosing a one-word-motto to reflect and focus on during the year.  I got the idea from Ali Edwards (click to see comments with tons of ideas)

The word I picked for 2011 was Do.  Not really with the purpose of trying to add more to my to-do list, but to act on ideas rather than just file them away, to complete projects, to not procrastinate (so much), etc.  I wasn't always great with it, but I think it did help me get more done during the whole year than I may have otherwise.

Wordle: Reclaim

And now we're nearly to 2012 and I'd like to try the word idea again.  The word I picked this time is Reclaim.   My first inspiration was in the trend of using recycled and reclaimed items in home decor and craft projects (like my Christmas wood sign)  Making something pretty from something that other people gave up on is kind of exciting.  Then I realized it could apply to so much more.  Reclaiming life--routines, relationships, spirituality, my inner child :)  All things that could help me grow, and help me be a better wife, mother, friend, don't you think?  

re·claimed, re·claim·ing, re·claims
1. To bring into or return to a suitable condition for use, as cultivation or habitation: reclaim marshlands; reclaim strip-mined land.
2. To procure (usable substances) from refuse or waste products.
3. To bring back, as from error, to a right or proper course; reform. 
4. To tame (a falcon, for example).

So for the next couple of weeks I'll let the word stew in the back of my head and see what other inspiration I get from it.

What about you...what word would you pick for your new year?

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The Lettered Cottage

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Win a Ticket to Snap!

Remember back in May when I entered a contest for a blog-conference ticket...and then won?!  Well, the fantastic ladies running the Snap conference are at it again and will be giving away 12 tickets to the event over the next several days.  You don't want to miss this.

Visit the Snap blog for the full list of chances to win, and hopefully I'll be able to meet some of you there!  Good luck!!

Commenting here won't improve your chances of winning, (sorry:) but I'd love to hear if any of you go enter, or are already planning on attending the conference. 

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Photos Vanishing from my Blog

Quick question for everybody out there who also uses Blogger.

Do you ever have pictures mysteriously disappear from your blog posts?  Then reappear too?  

This has happened to me a couple of times.  I tried adding the picture back in from my computer and it still didn't show up.  But then the next day I came back to the post and the same picture was there twice!

Any idea what's going on?  Is there a solution other than switching platforms?  (So not ready to do that right now!)


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Monday, December 5, 2011

Merry and Bright

I think that after my Poinsettia Pillow, this is my favorite Christmas project I've done this year.  This one took much less time that the pillow and was totally free!

Originally I'd envisioned a large piece of wood art, from pallets maybe.  I couldn't think of a good place in our house to put it 
though, and decided a smaller scale project would cause me less stress.  Sometimes that's totally the way to go.

I have a few pieces of cedar out in the garage that I got for free (must have been leftovers from someone's fencing project)  They're each about 5.5 inches by 12 inches.  I used just one for this project.

First I sanded it all over.  I didn't mind if it looked a little rough and rustic of course, but not hazardous.  Then I watered down some brown craft paint and wiped it all on with a foam brush.  I did the same thing with some watered down black paint.  If there were any places that looked like they picked up too much paint I rubbed the wet brush over them and that helped tone the color down.  I was going for more of a stained look than a painted look.

Lastly I cut out a stencil (the font is Lobster) and painted it white.  Now it's sitting on my front table, which serves as my main decorating space.    What do you think?  Do you ever do quicker, smaller versions of a big project you originally had in mind?

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The Stuff of Success

Friday, December 2, 2011

Branch Advent

Didn't ever get around to starting an advent, and now you're bummed it's already Dec 5th?  Don't worry!  What about doing just a 10 or 12 day countdown?  Or do 12 days of Christmas (which really go from Dec 25 to Jan 6)  You may need something fun going on in those days before kids go back to school!

My twist on branches in a glass bottle.

I saw it as an advent calendar sometime last year, and thought about making it.
Here is the picture I found that I fell in love with

and here's the link to actual post about it (for some reason the above picture isn't in that post anymore)
Branch Cone Advent

Anyway, I made cones last year but wasn't sure what to do about branches, and to buy them from the store can get expensive (they're colored, and have lights on them, and they're huge!)  So I hung them up on some twine like a garland, but I had to tape each one to the wall because they kept trying to twist.  So annoying.

This year I had a stroke of genius and looked in our backyard full of trees :)  I found some branches, trimmed off the tiny twigs and tried spraying them white.  But it wasn't working.  The paint was cheap, the branches were still a bit damp, and any place with moss was soaking the paint right up and making it disappear.

So I grabbed Oil Rubbed Bronze instead and when it dried I blasted it with my spray glitter.  It was clearanced hairspray stuff from 2 Halloweens ago, so I sealed the branches with spray acrylic sealer to make sure the glitter actually stayed.

Then, since I can't leave well enough alone, (and because the branches were too wimpy to hold up a couple dozen paper cones, especially if I put treats in them) I made new hanging numbers.  I had a piece of scrapbook paper with all the numbers in circles already so I just cut them out.  Then I made little pockets to put on the back to slip in a paper with the day's activity.

This is the first year we've tried an activity advent; it's always been little candies before.  We'll get enough treats through the season without that though.  The girls even helped me come up with some of the ideas.

Notice the two cardboard trees next to it too.  One is spray painted white and covered in epsom salt.  The other is wrapped in twine with jingle bells glued to it.  Super easy! 

Here's to a wonderful Christmas season! 

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Festival Preview

The last 3 days have been consumed by decorating for the Festival of Nativities.  Now that it's all set up, I get a bit of a breather.  We'll visit as a family this weekend and walk through all the rooms.  Then I'll live there again Monday taking it all down.

It was definitely a fun experience even though it was a lot of work. And I was grateful to have more than one piece of gray fabric seem to appear out of nowhere right when it was needed. 

I will share a couple of pictures I took, though hopefully if you're close you'll be able to see it in person.

Are you starting an advent calendar today?  I'll be showing you mine tomorrow. 

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