Aug 31, 2012

This Week {illustrated}: Kid Style

We've been super busy with our special little people this week, and besides reveling in all of our bodily functions, here are some of the things we've done.

They are so cute.  I could just eat them up!
The strawberry snake and cheese mouse were a huge success .
{snake} {mouse}
They were thrilled to get fun shaped pancakes!
I've seen this on Pinterest and was eager to try it out.  One liked it, and the other one freaked out that noodles were coming out of his hot dog.  On the whole I'd say this idea is a flop unless you keep your noodles really short.  They get tangled up and are a big mess to serve.  It was worth a try, though.
{wormy pasta dogs}
They LOVED the crab apple.
{Crab Apple}
I laminated pictures of the kids so they could draw on them with dry-erase markers.  They have been a big hit!
{laminated faces}

I turned these old boxes into...
...Flo and Lightning McQueen!
The kids are excited about family night tonight, and we're doing a drive-in movie theater with their cars.  If  the weather is nice, we'll do it outside with the laptop.  We went shopping yesterday and picked out movie night snacks.  So fun!

Aug 30, 2012

Dresser Redo and a Hidden Surprise

Do you remember when I showed you my next painting project?  Well, it never happened.  I never liked that shelf to begin with.  Even though everything was neatly stacked, it still seemed so cluttered and exposed.  I wanted something with drawers and a larger space for the printer.  So, the hunt for a dresser began.

It didn't take too long before this beauty showed up on Craigslist for $45. 

FORTY FIVE DOLLARS!  I think the previous owner thought he was really getting a lot more than it was worth, but the "after" pictures prove that the real bargain was ours!

The dresser is real wood (dovetailed!) but covered in veneer.  Since the veneer was in good shape, we decided to just leave it on and paint over it.  We started with our favorite Cover Stain primer from Zinsser (no sanding necessary) and then painted the dresser white.  We were able to keep the original hardware, and I love how the pulls really pop against the white.

The pulls match the hardware on the mirror.

I'm also a big fan of keyholes, and all four of them were in great shape!

I'd just like to point out that everything on the dresser came from a thrift or junk shop except for the lampshade (Target) and the yellow flowers, which I made.  I love that.

This dresser is the new home of my fabric, felt, and batting stash.  The gray dresser that was in this spot is now in our "office" and holds our printer paper, extra cords, etc.  I think this may be my new favorite...

But WAIT!  There's more!

I found these inside one of the dresser drawers while I was painting, and I think they're pretty cool.

This is a receipt from Vern's Variety in Storm Lake, IA dated April 25, 1974.  I suppose if you were alive then, it doesn't seem so cool.

I believe this is a check that was written to Vern's Market.  The date on it is September 15, 1956.  You can see in the bottom picture where it was stamped for deposit.

I'm really curious to know where this dresser came from and how it ended up here, but I'll probably never know.  It's kind of fun to think about who the previous owners were (and how shocked and dismayed they'd be if they could see that I painted their dresser...).

Oh, the joys of used furniture!

Aug 29, 2012

All Caught Up!

Marshall finished another bench last week, and it turned out marvelously!  It was ordered along with this bench, and while they are different styles, the color is the same.

Now that we've caught up on all our orders, it's time to make one for ourselves!

Aug 28, 2012

Confessions of an Aunt

Today begins our kiddo craziness, and I'm SO excited for our nephew and niece to arrive!  We love them so incredibly much and love having them over.  You might think I'm making this up so that my brother and sister-in-law will read this and be impressed, but I'm being completely genuine here.  I had the opportunity of living next door to them for a year and a half, and it was so much fun to be a part of their daily lives.  They only live a couple hours away now, but it seems like the kids change so much from one time I see them to the next.

As much as I love having them here, it is a lot of work to host a five year old and a two year old for a whole week.  And here is my big confession:

The last time he was here, my nephew (5) told me that his house was way more fun than mine.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: If you could go anywhere in the whole world, where would it be?
Him: Home.
Me: Why would you want to go home?
Him: Because it's the funnest place I've ever been to.  It's more fun than your house.

Ouch.  It really stung, even if he is just a little boy.  The reason it hurt so much is because it was true.

We usually have quite a few projects going on, and it's so hard to set those aside, especially when you've got motivation and momentum to get them done.

The last time my nephew came, it was more of a spur of the moment deal.  I've had a lot more time to plan this visit than I did last time, so I'm hoping to make this one a lot more fun for him, his little sister, and for me.  My plan?  I'm going on vacation with them.

Instead of dusting the furniture, I will get down on the floor and play cars with them.  Instead of making "nice" meals that they don't eat, we may eat a lot of hot dogs and PBJs.  I'll even cut their PBJs with cool cookie cutters instead of worrying about wasting food.  Instead of trying to keep them quiet inside, we will spend as much time outside as possible where they can run and yell as much as their little hearts desire.  My plan is basically to not have a plan or big expectations.

I'm excited about them coming and am excited to let you know how it goes!

For those of you who have been asked to watch over little ones and are intimidated by the thought, here are some ways that I maintain my sanity:

1.  Keep chemicals and sharp objects up high.
2.  Put tissues, paper towels, and napkins out of reach.  I don't know why, but medium-sized pieces of paper are REALLY fascinating to toddlers.  If they are in reach, they will be everywhere.
3.  I only put a little bit of inexpensive soap in the dispenser in the bathroom.  They tend to use way more soap than they need (and I don't discourage them from using it!), but I don't want them to empty out my Bath & Body Works soap when they decide to wash their hair in the bathroom sink.

4.  Take the batteries out of noisy toys.  If they never knew the toy made noise, they'll never miss it.
5.  Buy toys.  You don't need a whole bunch, just a few.  Better yet, ask friends with kids if you can take any off their hands.  They probably have more than they want in their house and will be weeding them out eventually anyway.
6.  Don't load kids up on sugar.  It seems obvious, but it's really tempting to spoil kids with sugary stuff.  We will be having "cookies" for breakfast one day, but what the kids don't know is that they are all natural and don't have sugar or sugar substitutes.  I guarantee you, they will still think they are getting a treat.

Photo of Elle Fanning from Daddy Day Care (2003) with Hailey Johnson, Khamani Griffin, Max Burkholder

7.  Be clear on what your rules are.  I starting going over the bedtime rules with my nephew when he was two, and it didn't take long before he could recite them by himself.  Every night that he spends here, I ask him what the rules are, and he repeats them.  We rarely have problems at bedtime, and when we do, he knows that he has broken the rules, because he knows what the rules are.
8.  Be consistent.  Most kids have some kind of set schedule, and you might be able to mix it up for a day, but two days might be out of the question.  It depends a lot on the child and his/her age.  My two year old niece can maybe skip the afternoon nap if she goes to bed early that evening, but my three year old niece couldn't care one bit.  Everyone will be happier if you can avoid toddler meltdowns.

9.  Ditch the diaper bag.  If you need to go out for a couple hours, don't worry about packing up the whole house.  Just toss a diaper, a bottle, and a toy in your purse.  Don't stress yourself out!
10.  Have fun!  I'm obviously still working on this, but here are some of our favorite things to do: make a tent in the living room and have a pizza party in it, drive downtown to watch the train come through, watch boats and barges go through the locks, picnics in the butterfly garden, bonfires and s'mores, anything with stickers, swim, etc.

These are just a few of the things I've learned through the years, and I'm sure I'll learn a lot more as I go.  What about you?  Do you have any tips on keeping kids busy?

Aug 27, 2012

Cake Batter Popcorn

Does anyone not like cake batter?

I've tried out several recipes lately (bark, pancakes, fudge, etc.) that call for boxed cake mix by the 1/4 or 1/2 cup. They left me with about a cup of unused cake mix in the bottom of the box, and I decided it was about time to use it up.  Poor us, having to finish off the last of the cake mix...

I thought I'd try it out in some popcorn, and it was pretty good!

It's incredibly easy:
1 bag popped popcorn
2 oz. white almond bark, melted
1/4 C dry white or yellow cake mix
2 T sprinkles

Whisk the cake mix into the melted almond bark.
Drizzle it over the popcorn and toss until coated.
Stir in the sprinkles before the almond bark hardens.

Aug 24, 2012

This Week {illustrated} and Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Summer is quickly coming to a close, and I, for one, am eager for autumn.  It just feels so... cozy.  And it smells good.  And tastes good...

Which me brings to me pumpkin spice lattes.  I see that Starbucks is currently having some sort of contest over Facebook.  Apparently, cities can compete to be the first to have pumpkin spice lattes available at their Starbucks location.

There is simply no reason to play a game on Facebook and wait for your Starbucks to bring back the glorious treat when you can find the recipe right here and save yourself $5.  Am I right?

Pumpkin Spice Lattes (makes 2)

2 C milk
2 T canned pumpkin
2 T sugar
2 T vanilla
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 C brewed coffee (I put 1 T instant coffee in 1/2 C measuring cup and fill it up the rest of the way with water)

Mix together the milk, pumpkin, and sugar.  Cook in a medium saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly until steamy.  Do NOT boil.

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and pumpkin pie spice.

Whisk until foamy.

Pour into mugs and add coffee.
Top with whipped cream, pumpkin pie spice, and/or cinnamon, if desired.

Not sure what to do with all that leftover pumpkin?  I froze mine in an ice cube tray in 2T amounts so that we can make pumpkin spice lattes all season long.

And for the rest of the week:

Our tomato plants are taller than I am (and I'm not short)!  I'm so proud of our little garden and thrilled with all the produce we've been able to bring in from it.  We were completely inexperienced going into it, so we had pretty low expectations.  I'd say it turned out well!

That's all we've got for the week.  It's been a very busy one!  We've finished another bench, knocked out some sewing projects, and made some incredible, thrifty purchases.  Stay tuned for pictures!

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