Halloween movies and costumes should be the stuff of nightmares, not your candy shopping bill. This year I decided to skip the bags of chocolate (half of which seems to be consumed before the actual main event…) and opt instead for making homemade Halloween Candy Corn Rice Krispies Treats. This is a viable option for me this year because we are known to our neighbors, as we live on post and literally have our name on the door; if anyone has health or safety concerns, they can ask us and be rest assured that the goodies were baked in a clean kitchen with the best of intentions. Continue reading
Homemade Rice Krispies Treats are easy and quick to make, and they are a fun and affordable alternative to go-to desserts like brownies and cookies. You may be tempted to just dive right in and make the recipe per the instructions on the back of the Rice Krispies cereal box; they are the experts right? That’s fine, but there are a few crucial steps that you really need to be aware of before you get started. Take my advice and first read about these common mistakes to avoid when making rice krispies treats and tips to cooking gooey, scrumptious desserts. Continue reading
My daughter is nearly two and over the last few months at daycare she has begun finger-painting, sponge-painting and coloring with crayons. I am not yet brave enough to venture into the realm of toddler-painting at my home, but crayons do not seem nearly as daunting. The regular crayons at the PX here at JBLM are too small and fragile for her sweet, chubby little hands to grasp and use effectively. I saw some chunky toddler crayons online for a pretty penny. So, I spent an afternoon creating some star-shaped homemade toddler crayons. These crayons are great for regular, home-use but they also make fantastic party favors. Continue reading
Now that Fall has begun here in the NorthWestern United States, it is time to break out the winter boots! The UGG trend in the U.S. began during my high school days, though I refrained from ever purchasing a pair, and especially from wearing them with a jean skirt in the middle of a Texas summer (seriously?). However, now that I find myself in a damp, cold Washington climate, and after observing the native Webbed-feet inhabitants in all their UGG-glory, I figure there must be something about these over-priced boots that I’ve been missing out on. Continue reading
Happy Cinco de Mayo! I like to celebrate this holiday with family and friends, and that means potluck! This weekend I prepared a delicious Chorizo Queso Dip for our neighborhood block party; it had just the right amount of spicy kick and the oozy, cheesy goodness was a hit!
Tonight, just for my family, I am preparing this delicious whole wheat chicken enchilada recipe. You can go all out with traditional ingredients, or opt for a slightly healthier route by substituting fat-free whole wheat tortillas and reduced sodium and low-fat sauce. These are super easy to make and delicious served with black beans and rice or guacamole. Yum! Continue reading
Happy Cinco de Mayo! I live on a military post in a fabulous, tight-knit community. Every month or so, we come together in a neighborhood block party. There are usually anywhere from 30-50 people there, and everyone signs up in advance for a potluck item. This past weekend, our theme was Cinco de Mayo in honor of today. I made this Chorizo Queso Dip recipe in my slow cooker which nicely complimented my neighbors’ dishes of enchiladas, tacos, and bean salad.
The slow cooker sure makes things simpler and less stressful in the time leading up to a party; just plug it in and let it do its thing while you run errands and get ready! This recipe requires a little cooking, since you have to pre-cook the chorizo in a skillet first. But that can be done well in advance of your party time and added to the slow cooker later. Continue reading
Last Friday I was all ready to travel to Guam on a Space-A flight, but unavoidable hotel and car rental issues stopped the impromptu trip in its tracks. Instead, I went home and stopped procrastinating on a long-overdue project: Recovering my Dining Room Chair Cushions!
I ‘salvaged’ these chairs from my grandfather’s steaming-hot attic in Houston, TX several years ago when we were cleaning out the house to put it up for sale. They belonged to my great-great-grandmother. The cushions are pretty uncomfortable, not to mention stained and utterly unattractive. But I loved the structure and lines of the chairs, and surprisingly they are still very sturdy, if a little on the small size in terms of scale.
To update these beauties, I unscrewed the chair seats and stripped off a few layers of old fabric, removed all the deteriorating batting, and pried off hundreds of upholstery nails (do NOT attempt without a Tetanus Shot!). You may need an assortment of tools for this step; I used fabric scissors, a rotary blade, a flathead screwdriver, pliers, and a hammer to remove the assorted upholstery nails. TIP: If the idea of inhaling decades of skin cells and dirt grosses you out – like it does me – wear a professional grade face mask… protective eyewear is not a bad idea either!
The wood seat forms were still in good shape (despite all the upholstery nail holes), and although I would prefer to start this project with a fresh seat form, paying for custom woodwork in Hawaii is cost-prohibitive on this project, and I do not own a router to DIY.
I used the existing seat form as a template to cut out my new fabric. For solid fabrics, trace your form on the backside of the fabric in an upholstery pen or pencil; for printed fabrics, like the one I chose, I opted to free-style my cuts on the front of the fabric so that I could more easily line up and center the fabric design. Cut the fabric a good three inches wider than the seat form on each side. To facilitate cutting, I used a rotary fabric blade and a cutting mat. TIP: For vintage pieces (read “handmade and not mass-produced”, I recommend using each seat form individually to cut out the fabric, batting and foam cushion; handmade items will vary ever-so-slightly in dimension.
Layout the batting on your work surface and cut it three inches wider on each side of the seat form as well. Used standard quilting batting that you can purchase at your local fabric store or Wal-Mart. Next, lay the seat form on top of the foam. I used 1″ foam. Trim the foam so that it is at least ¼” wider than the seat form on all sides. This makes for a more comfortable seat edge on your legs and thighs. To begin securing all the layers of the seat together, you can either dry stack each layer, or use a little spray adhesive between the layers. I did not use spray adhesive for this project. The batting is the bottom layer, then the foam cushion, and then the wood seat form. Pull the edge of the batting up and over the side of the cushion and seat form and using a staple gun, staple the batting onto the seat form starting from the middle of one side and working out to the edges. Staple one side of the seat at a time, and then do its opposite side next. Lastly, fold the batting into the edges for taught corners and staple down the excess. TIP: Use staples with pointed tips, not blunt tips; this makes it easier to get the staples all the way into the wood without resulting to hammering each staple down later.
Once all sides of the batting are stapled to the under side of the wood seat form, place the fabric face down on your work surface and then place the seat cushion on top with the stapled side up. Line up the fabric edges and/or pattern and follow the same process as with the batting, stapling from the middle of one side, working out to the edges, and then stapling the opposite side next. Fold in the corners for the desired look you want on your edges and staple down the excess fabric. For this project, I used oilcloth (aka laminated cotton), so my fabric did not easily bunch at the corners; I opted for making “hospital bed” corners to get a crisp, clean fold. Trim the fabric edges to within an inch of the staples to get a straight line, and then trim away the excess batting sticking out beyond the edge of the fabric cover.
Flip over your chair cushion and admire your work! This easy, DIY Chair Cushion Recovering project can be completed in an afternoon and is one of the first projects since my daughter’s birth that I have started and finished within 24 hours! Recovering simple chairs like these yourself really helps save money; leave the complicated re-upholstery jobs to the professionals and save your money for then!
The total costs for this project to recover four chair cushions were:
Oilcloth Fabric in Purple French Lace: purchased on ebay.com, 2 yards for $22.15 (inc. shipping)
Chair Cushion Foam: purchased at Wal-Mart, 2 packs of 2 for $7.94 each
Quilt Batting: purchased at Wal-Mart, 1 roll of 81″x96″ for $6.81
Tools: already owned all necessary tools
Total money spent: $45
If you want to keep up with special events in the military, you really have to plan ahead. Easter may be a month away, but if your soldier is deployed then you need to HOP TO and get your Happy Easter Themed Care Package packed and shipped as soon as possible so that it will arrive at his/her APO in time for the Holiday.
There are so many ways to pack a Military Care Package. You can buy a bunch of junk food and pack it all up, send some much-needed personal care items or other hard-to-find sundries, you can be romantic or kid-friendly-fun. In some ways, a theme – like Easter – makes it so much easier to find goodies and pack a flat rate box to the gills. There are some months when bags of chips, gum, and chapstick are all that is called for. But, for a family-oriented Holiday like Easter, it is especially hard for deployed soldiers to miss out on family time and traditions, so I like to make Holiday Care Packages as special and personalized as possible.
For Easter, there are so many fun ideas you can imagineer yourself or HUNT for on the internet.
The first step is to get your package. For APO deliveries, you may want to ‘shop around’ for shipping prices at USPS. In general, shipping within the USA is cheapest for bulky/heavy packages if you use flat rate boxes. But oftentimes, when shipping to an APO, you will save money by using your own box and shipping ground with USPS; the box charge is for the distance to the nearest military postal distribution center. Keep in mind that you will have to fill out a customs form for any APO package. My care packages typically fit into the Medium or Large flat rate boxes. This really allows you to pack in a lot of goodies. Ensure that you double-check your APO address is correct and still in effect during the timeline you plan to ship your care package.
Next, choose your theme. I chose a fun, Spring and Easter Rabbit inspired theme for my box. I purchased some blue and green tissue paper and adhered it to the insides of my box with some Spray Adhesive (this is MUCH easier than tape or glue! Just make sure you are in a ventilated space and that you cover your counters to protect from over-spray). The blue paper I adhered to the box flaps for my spring blue sky, and the green tissue paper I adhered to the box bottom and sides, just slightly overlapping the box flaps. Next, I cut slivers into the overlapping green tissue paper for the ‘grass’. This makes the box a little less boring and more Easter-themed.
I decided to send an Easter themed box this month so most of the candy and goodies I purchased are Easter things. However, my deployed spouse has a few favorite things that I included that are not Easter-y, so I ‘hid’ those in the bottom of the box beneath Easter grass so as not to ruin the box aesthetic when it is first opened. I included trail mix, multi-vitamins, chapped hand lotion and gummy oranges.
Nestled in the ‘grass’ are plastic eggs filled with Maltball easter eggs and chapstick, Cadbury creme eggs, and a chocolate bunny. The box did not seem quite full enough so on top, I packed in a couple boxes of Peeps and a bag of mixed chocolates.
To finish off the box, I hand painted a fun phrase on the inside box flaps. I chose “We Can’t Wait to Spring into Your Arms.” Some other ideas include “Have a Hoppy Easter!” and “Some Bunny Loves You!” For inside the Easter card, I painted my toddler’s hand (after covering her head to toe in a smock) with white and gold paint and placed her hand print on one side, and then I traced its outline with a sharpie to give it bunny characteristics, eyes, whiskers, etc.
If you have kiddos, it’s always a good idea to include artwork, cards, and/or photos of them in every care package. When I’m feeling particularly well-organized, I include iMovies too. Deployed soldiers miss out on so much at home; try to do every little thing you can to bring everyone closer, especially during the holidays.
What do you include in YOUR Easter Care Packages? I’d love to hear from you!
Newly wed and PCS’ing often the last few years resulted in several of our prized possessions living permanently in storage. Included among the towering boxes are all of my treasured Easter decorations that I have saved from my childhood. Baskets, figurines, music boxes, snow globes and a huge porcelain Easter Rabbit with basket. Because I already own these decorations, I am always hesitant to buy anything to fill in the gaps around my home during the Easter holidays.
However, it is very difficult to pass up a good Pottery Barn sale (with free shipping which makes a HUGE difference when you currently reside in Hawaii!). Last spring, post-Easter, I purchased various sizes of shimmering, pastel, Easter eggs of papier-mâché. They perfectly fill my three-tiered server. I’d love to have more throughout the house, but the sticker-shock is prohibitive!
I purchased on Amazon some papier-mâché craft eggs last spring, but I found myself preoccupied with making outfits and memories with my newborn. So, the eggs have sat unattended in my art drawer for the past year. Rather than paint elaborate decorations on the eggs, as was my intention, I decided to use the Pottery Barn shimmering Easter eggs as inspiration for decorating my plain craft eggs.
For this project, you will need the following supplies:
1) papier-mâché craft eggs
2) Paint brushes
3) Wax Paper
4) Empty egg cartons (preferably plastic)
6) Sewing needle
7) Acrylic paints: white, and assorted colors, and interference gold (fine)
8) Optional: glass jars with lids (Gerber work well)
The steps are very simple. First, prep your work space. Put wax paper down on your work surface; this protects your counters and prevents the painted eggs from sticking to the counter. Poke holes in the high points of your egg cartons. Using the sewing needle, poke a single hole in the bottom (or other site of your choosing) of each papier-mâché egg. Insert a toothpick into the hole at the bottom of each egg, and holding the toothpick end, paint each egg with a single coat of white acrylic. This acts as the primer. I opted to do a second coat of white paint after the first coat dried, about thirty minutes later. Set each painted egg into a hole in the egg carton; be sure to space the eggs out so that their sides do not touch and damage the paint job. TIP: plan on drying 6 eggs per 12-egg-carton; this gives you adequate spacing. Also, plastic cartons are preferable to the paper kind because the paper can stick to the painted eggs.
Allow each coat of primer or paint to dry completely. Check the label on your paint for the dry time, but usually it should take about 30 minutes between coats. You will do two color coats. Use prepared colors or mix your own! If you do mix and customize your own colors, keep in mind that you have dry time between coats; mix customized paints in bulk and store in air-tight containers (Gerber glass jars work very well!). Paint each coat and dry the eggs on the cartons.
Once the last coat of colored paint has dried on the egg, it is time to apply the interference gold (fine) coat(s). Apply each coat very thinly, being sure to spread out the gold paint evenly across the egg. If you want more of a shimmer effect, apply a second, thin coat of gold. TIP: If you apply gold to white colored eggs, 3-4 coats of gold paint has a nice effect. Allow the eggs to dry and then store in a carton or set them about in your home decor and enjoy!
There are several options for displaying the eggs. You can arrange them in bowls or glass vases as filler, or place them around candle bases, plates, and cake stands. Glue them to picture frames, set atop candlesticks, or glue magnets on them to hold prized photos and artwork on your refrigerator. You can string them up on fishing line or clear crafting wire and use as garland or upon a wreath. TIP: if you plan on preserving these for years to come, especially if they will be used on a wreath outdoors, seal them with a non-yellowing poly or shellac coat(s).
How do you use Easter eggs to decorate your home?
This post contains amazon affiliate links; click here to read my disclosure. You can purchase craft eggs from several Amazon sellers:
My peer group has reached the family-starting, baby-making stage of it all, and it seems there is a never-ending arrival of adorable Baby Shower invitations in my mailbox. Some are pink, others blue, and a growing number are yellow, green and rainbow – the gender neutral party…
Sometimes it seems a daunting task to shop for a gender neutral baby shower gift. So many items are geared towards the pink wearing princess or the blue wearing sports fan. However, if you steer away from gender specific items, it is actually very easy to fill a sure to please baby shower gift bag.
A few tips to get you started:
1) Purchase everything from the same store – this not only makes shopping easier on you, but it makes it very convenient for the mom-to-be to return any unwanted (*crazy concept*) or duplicate items.
2) Always leave the tags on and include a gift receipt – unless your item is from a boutique store out of town, or is monogrammed, assume the items may be returned. It could be a duplicate, defective, or the wrong size.
3) Purchase several, lower-cost items – baby showers are all about the oohing and awing, so prolong the fun with several, lower-cost items instead of going for one or two high-priced gifts (of course, if the mom-to-be is a dear friend or family member this may not be practical!)
4) Shop for items that your own children have enjoyed – new moms typically crave advice, at least I did! So, purchase items that your children have used and that held up to the rigors of babyhood and that wash well. Let the mom-to-be know any secrets about caring for the items.
5) Steer clear of clothing items and baby blankets – it seems these items are the most frequent gifts at showers. Who can resist shopping for adorable baby clothes?!? But, clothes and blankets are very personal items that parents may prefer to pick out for themselves, and it’s more fun to have a diversity of gifts at a shower.
6) Include items for parents and baby – although it is mostly all about baby, remember mom and dad too.
7) Consider a hostess and sibling gift – do not forget to thank the party host(ess) with a small token of appreciation like a candle or a small gift basket of baby shampoo, lotion, etc. if the hosts are the grandparents-to-be. Also, older siblings may feel left out in all the fuss surrounding the new baby, so a little coloring book or pack of stickers can go a long way to ease some of that party tension.
Even when the baby’s gender is known in advance, I still opt for items like the following because they are tried-and-true, durable, and useful. I typically include a bottle of my current-favorite baby shampoo or body lotion because that baby smell is just glorious. I like to mix in some practical items along with mommy items and toys. For the practical side, the Baby on Board sign makes me feel a bit more comfortable that other drivers may be more considerate near my vehicle (and be forewarned that there is a protective mommy driving precious cargo – don’t mess with me!). Some dishwasher safe spoons and bowls are a must-have for introducing baby’s first foods and The Mommy Hook for the stroller comes in so handy when your stroller sling is full of a diaper bag, dirty diapers, your purse, etc. It really makes keeping up with grocery and shopping bags a great deal easier. The children in our family have all loved the Bug-a-Loop teether; all the shapes, colors and textures keep babies enthralled for a lot longer I’ve found than a simpler water version. Strollers and car rides can be a little boring for babies so a fun, engaging toy like the turtle mirror pal is a great distraction with the different fabric textures, crinkly sounds and the mirror component so baby can smile at herself. I would have been lost, along with several toys, without the plastic links; this one doubles as a toy and teether itself.
In general, I recommend sticking to a $40-$70 budget, depending on your relationship with the expectant mother. The following gift bag idea should cost around $65 dollars (bag, tissue, card and tax included) and was put together for an office party shower.
This post contains amazon affiliate links; click here to read my disclosure.
Many of these gifts are available on Amazon, links to purchase are included here: