Tuesday, January 31, 2012

one down, 11 to go

We are one twelfth (I don't think I've ever spelt that word before in my life...I really struggled to get it out right...way besides my point---moving on) of the way through the year. I know that's kind of a silly way to look at it, but because I've set 12 resolutions for the year, it kind of seems like time is already flying. 

I posted my 12 in 2012 at the beginning of the month.

My January resolution was to 


So, just how did I do?!

The long and short of it- not too bad!
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Before this month, I could literally (and unhealthily) go through an entire day without so much as a sip of water. I actually began to think that I didn't like the taste of it. I drank more diet coke than anything else. Not the worst choice, but not the best either. Although, somehow this month, there were about 5 Yahoo news articles about how horrible soda even diet, is for you. nice.

I still chose to not completely deny myself soda because I don't drink coffee or juice and I knew that would just be unrealistic and, quite frankly, just plain unfair. The overall goal was to make sure that I was consuming more water than anything else on a daily basis.

I knew I was onto something the first weekend of the month when we traveled out of town to celebrate Christmas with family. They have well water and an endless supply of soda. I brought bottled water with me and stole tiny sips of soda from my sister all weekend. It was kind of a big victory for me. An, "I can do this" moment. 

As for the rest of the month, I continued to do well. I tried to start my day with a bottle of water before anything else. I used Crystal Light sometimes. I slipped up one or two days, drinking more soda than water. But, I got right back on track. 

I will definitely continue this habit. It's not like, all of a sudden, tomorrow I'm going to go buy a Big Gulp! (Not that I ever did before.) But, you know what I mean. I've started a good habit and I fully intend on getting even better and sticking to it.

So far, so good.

For February:
no fast food. no exceptions.


Monday, January 30, 2012

goodwill hunting

I had the day off from work today. While there are many projects already on my list, I decided that I needed to start the day with a trip to Goodwill. I gave myself a budget of $10. I came in way below, spending under $4. I got two things that I'm really excited to repurpose. In fact, everything on my list has taken a backseat while I upcylce these treasures.  

I think this bulletin board is just precious. It would even fit into my tacky-chic (as I call it) sunporch decor.

 As lovely as it is, it won't be staying this ways for long. It did inspire me to try'n paint burlap sometime though. 

 I loved the price and the fact that those little tabs mean it won't be too hard to disassemble and repurpose.

I'm still kind of surprised that I found this shirt. It was in a bin full of super random clothes. But when my eyes spotted it, my heart skipped a tiny beat. Ok, that's kind of dramatic. But I'm kind of falling in love with the deer motifs that are showing up again in home decor. 

I can hardly stand it! So perfect. It won't be a t-shirt for much longer. 

And for that price! I'm one lucky girl. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

cookie cutter valentine's art

I'm pretty excited to be writing my first craft tutorial. It's new to me. The project, on the other and, is an old favorite. 

I made these back in my high school art class. I had seen it done on TV at the time. I was unsuccessful in finding the original source. But I think it was done by Nate Berkus when he was first starting out on Oprah. I do remember they used a goat shape. I used a fish for these.

I didn't decorate for Valentine's day last year. I don't even own any decorations for the holiday. I wanted to try'n make something classy but playful. So, I used an old trick to create some great new artwork to decorate the wall in my living room that had nothing on it. 

Here's what you'll need:

2 canvases (you can get a pack for under $5 at hobby lobby)
heart shaped cookie cutter
acrylic paint. I used Americana Indian Turquoise and True Red.
paper template. I printed a heart image from Google on cardstock. I don't know the exact weight of the paper, but it should be thicker than regular paper. Scrapboook cardstock would work. 
adhesive I used and Ad Tech glue runner. The key is that it sticks to the canvas but leaves nothing behind when removed.
paint trays
paint and sponge brushes

Paint the canvases using the sponge brush. Let them dry completely.

While the paint is drying, you can cut your template out and apply the adhesive. As I said, the glue you use should stick well to the template and canvas, but should remove easily from the canvas later. This was an accidental discovery. But now I use it all the time. I would think double sided tape or glue dots could work too. 

Position the template on the canvas and rub it to secure that paint doesn't get under.

Dip the cookie cutter in paint making sure to cover the bottom completely. I learned that the deeper the paint, the thicker the outline would turn out. You can really play around with technique at this point and decide what you like best. (Use a scrap piece of paper to test.)

Start stamping the canvas. 
Apply adequate pressure and slightly move/wiggle the cutter to assure the paint its transferring.

Keep going.
You can really be as systematic or half hazard as you'd like. You can reapply paint to the cutter after every transfer, or used it 2 or 3 times each time getting a thinner transfer as you go. 

I debated how I wanted to finish the sides. I thought I could paint them solid our cover them in ribbon. I ultimately decided to use the cutter. I rolled it over the edge so that it created a bridge between the front and side. But there was never really any rhyme or reason to my technique.

 Gently remove the template. 
I didn't wait for the paint to dry because I was to eager to see the outcome. I originally thought the heart would appear a little bit bolder than it did. So, I decided to paint it in. (and not take a picture)

So, before you remove the template, you can actually trace lightly around the edge with paint and then fill it in. 

I always use 3m hooks (turned sideways) to hang seasonal artwork. That way I can change my mind and layout on a whim. 

That's it! I'm thrilled with the way they turned out. Although next time I will probably measure the placement of the heart because it is a bit higher in the lower painting and they looked odd hanging side by side because of this. (But that's okay because I used 3m hooks!)
But otherwise, they are perfect.
My mind was flooded the entire time with the endless possibilities. You could do any basic shape for any occasion. 

If you have any questions, please ask. And if you make a version of your own, please share. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

one of those weeks

My week wasn't very productive- hence the lack of activity here on a scoop. 
Not too many noteworthy things happened. But here are a few things worth mentioning. 

Happy moment:
Miss Wisconsin, Laura Keappeler, became Miss America! Laura graduated two years after me from St. Joe's. Kenosha was abuzz with the news. We are all so proud of her.

Sad moment:
The Packers biffed it big time. I can hardly believe the season is over. Better luck next year.

Happy moment:
I found a new dentist. Rave reviews for Dental Associates, seriously. They give their new patients an Oral-B spinbrush! I've never had anything but a plain ol' toothbrush. I'm pretty excited about it. I'm also excited about their supplemental insurance. I paid $40 and it will be covering the majority of what my insurance won't. I'm amazed. 

Sad news:
I have to get a root canal. I don't get anxiety about this kind of stuff. I have a very do-what-you-gotta-do attitude. I had one back in the 3rd grade- dental work is nothing new. I'll just be glad when I'm not in constant pain.

Good news:
Monday I had a really great tutoring session with my 5th grade cousin, Jeff. I was so hopeful for the week ahead of him.

Sad news:
Wednesday we had the worst session ever. It came to a close with him trying to walk home from my house in a fit of anger. When I started to go after him, I totally didn't pay attention to the ice on the ground and biffed it big time! I ended the day with a bruised heart and butt. 

I guess that's kind of it for the week. I really didn't do anything crafty. I'm telling you- it just wasn't my best week. 

But, I'm hopeful for tomorrow. I have some plans for tutorials and other projects to share here this week. After a week away, I'm learning how much this simple little blog really does make me feel productive. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

spring cleaning

Rumor has it that we're supposed to get some snow tonight. I won't believe it until I see it. At the moment, the sun is shining and it's 50 degrees out- a perfect spring day.
I'm using the current weather as an excuse to get some cleaning done. I think the impending weather is motivating me just as much.
My garage is cleaned out and so is my car. But those were 10 minute tasks. My basement, on the other hand, is a full day (or more) project. I have an unfinished basement that I use for all my creative projects. It's wonderful. I'm spoiled, and I know it.
Unfortunately, I haven't yet recovered my beloved space from all the Christmas mayhem that happened down there! So, today is the day. There is rearranging of shelving, reorganizing of storage units, discovering of supplies I forgot I had. It really is fun. It's fun enough to motivate me to push forward and finish.

I just have to keep myself from dropping everything to start a new project. I keep reminding myself that it will be more fun, and way easier, to accomplish new projects once the space is reorganized.
Another highly effective form of motivation: 
mixed CDs I made in high school. They're priceless.
While I was cleaning out the garage, I snapped a few pictures of some treasure I brought back from my trip to our family's farm this past weekend. 
My family is starting to embrace my creativity too- looking out for things I might be able to use. My aunt kept these for me and my cousin Kim. Kim and I have been the crafty ones in our family for forever. We were obsessed with Lisa Frank and all things crafty as kids and we never really grew out of it. Thankfully! I'm bummed that we live 5 hours apart.

These windows are from a farm building that was torn down. I don't have exact plans for them yet. But I'm excited to just have them (in all their bird poopy, cobwebby grossness) in my possession.

And these little guys: in love! They need some TLC. I have some ideas for them. They make me excited for real spring weather. I can't wait to put them out among the tulips! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

as we speak

Emily and Nolan, my dear friends, are flying to Thailand to serve for 2 whole years with the Peace Corps. I've known this day was coming since July and somehow it still doesn't feel quite real;

It will eventually, I know. When they start sharing pictures and stories of their adventures. I'm excited.

Emily and I met our freshman year of college in the dorms and were roommates off campus for 2 years. She is, without question, one of the greatest blessing in my life.  In 2006 when she studied abroad in Australia (and met & fell in love with Nolan!) and I spent the adjacent summer traveling, we were apart for about 9 months. By the way, this was pre-skype. We went from seeing each other daily to never- and it was tough. But when we returned, we were truly better people. 

2006 changed our lives.
We both took great risks and made sacrifices, but the payback was invaluable.
I'm certain that this will be true for Emily and Nolan's Thailand adventure.

I found this gem-of-a picture of the 3 of us back in the college days.

I'm so proud of them and thankful that they are willing to be bold.

I'm joining all of their friends and family in prayer for them while they're gone. And somewhere in this stack of note cards, I'll be praying with them one Sunday while they're away.

A few months ago, Emily's sweat, wonderful, beautiful, thoughtful, mother sent out a letter to people in Em and Nolan's lives asking us to fill out a note card with a prayer, verse, or whatever we wanted. 
No matter where they are and no matter what their church situation is, they'll be able to join in community with the ones they love each Sunday. There is one card for every week they're gone. 
I'm not sure I love how thick that stack is!

I teared up as I read Jacki's request- by the end I was full on crying. What a beautiful gesture. I was so honored to be a part of it.

The people of Thailand don't yet know how lucky they are to have Emily and Nolan.  

They are blogging while they're gone. You can follow them here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

(super) simple lemon cake

I have to share this easy recipe I adapted from this pin on Pinterest. I've made them several times, they take maybe 10 minutes to throw together, and they now have the official stamp of approval from Emil, my 94 year old neighbor. 
He liked that I didn't put paper liners on them and he could just enjoy them without the struggle. So cute. 

I love them because they are 
cheap under $5
easy can be thrown together in <10 minutes
relatively healthy about 20 Weight Watchers points per recipe &
delicious they just are.

  Because we still have one more Christmas to celebrate this weekend, I made a batch into bite size muffins to try'n divert my attention away from the amazing Oreo truffles my aunt always makes. We'll see how that goes.
They aren't quite that amazing. 

Here's what you'll need:

1 box of super moist lemon cake mix
12oz (a can) of diet Sierra Mist or 7-up
about 1 cup (unchopped) fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon poppy seed
*not pictured- nonfat cool whip topping

First, chop up the cranberries & set them aside. 
I got a little carried away with my new food chopper. I've always done this step by hand- but this was WAY more fun!

Next, you'll want to combine your soda and cake mix.
It's a really light mix. It should take under a minute to thoroughly blend the 2 ingredients. 

Mix in your cranberries and poppy seeds

Spray the pan, 
You can use a cake pan, bread loaf, large muffin tins- whatever form you prefer. I recommend not using cupcake liners- the cake doesn't separate nicely.
and then fill almost to the top. 
They won't rise a whole lot. I filled them to the brim, I probably should have left just a little more room. But they still turned out just fine. 

for mini muffins:
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes 
or until a toothpick comes out clean. 
Simply adapt the time if you use a different mold. I think a 9x13 pan takes about 45 minutes. I did some large muffins and left them in for about 18 minutes. Just keep an eye on them. 

Let cool. 
Top with a small amount of fat-free cool whip and half a cranberry. 
Honestly, I usually opt out the last step if I'm not serving them immediately. They are just as delicious and without topping they can be stored in a Ziploc on the counter. I even froze a bunch to take out and put in my lunch overtime. 

Don't take my word for it. And, as sweet as he his, don't take Emil's word either. 
Try them for yourselves. 
If you do, leave a comment. I'd love to know what you think.
Let me know if you have any questions.


I heart

the library

I went to the library the other day. I got a little overambitious. 


The librarian even made remarks about how busy I'm going to be in the new year. 

But the truth is

and, besides-


I simply can't help myself once I walk through the doors. 

I wander up and down the isles in awe of all the possibilities.
I load my arms until I can't stand it anymore. 
I discover thing I didn't even know I had a desire to learn. 
I borrow more books than I could ever read,
and hope I remember their due date. 
It's wonderful. 

I've always been like this. I can thank my parents. I vividly remember participating in story hour when I was in preschool. I loved to be there. When I got older (but was still very young), they would drop me off and give me enough money to use the pay phone when I was ready to come home. By middle school I could ride my bike the 5 blocks myself. I can even remember getting scolded a few times for losing track of time.

That still happens- well, the losing track of time part.

This sums it up:

Reading The Sewing Bible takes me to a place where I'm a world class sewer (seamstress. whatever.) and can accomplish anything. In actuality, I'm still sitting at my sewing table incapable of sewing anything besides a straight line. 

I love the endless possibilities and joy that time spent in the library provides.

Monday, January 2, 2012

the new year - a new way

It's that time of year. 
I've made many-a resolutions in my lifetime. 
 As far as keeping them- haIn fact, when I turned 27 in September, I made a 27 before 27 list. I was inspired by Allison's list. I think it's a great idea, but has not proven to be an effective way for me to organize and accomplish my goals. I don't think I've done a single thing on my list in 3 months.  

 The other day as I was thinking about where I want to end up at the end of 2012, I realized that I would have to approach the year and my 27 list in a whole different way.

That's where 12 in '12 comes in. I'm mapping out my year in 12 individual goals. They (whoever 'they' are) say that it takes 21 days to form a habit. So, my theory is that each month I can focus on one goal and it will become a healthy habit or fun experience that I can carry with me. 

I took great care to put together my list. I wish everything could happen in January. I'm almost sad that I'm not this person yet. But a year flies by pretty fast. If in a year from now I've had success with my 12 resolutions, I'll have plenty of reason to feel happy. 
That's also why I tried to keep them within reason. 
I'm not trying to set myself up for failure here!

drink more water. 
Up until now, I drank more diet coke than water...by far. With the new water bottle I got for Christmas and an occasional packet of Crystal Light, I think I've got this one. 
If you're wondering, I've haven't had a soda in over 48 hours.
I'm still alive. 

No fast food. No exceptions.  
Exception to the 'no exceptions' clause: Subway is okay in unavoidable situations. 
I have to be realistic.

Focus on Blog
Learn how to make the vision in my head match the actual layout and atmosphere here. Make a schedule. Post tutorials. Maybe do a giveaway. Look into Etsy further too. 
Basically learn how to do all the things that I wish I new right now. 

Implement an exercise routine
4x per week minimum.
schedule a plan at the beginning of each week. 
In theory, I won't be drinking soda or eating any fast food at this point either. 

Focus on a Budget 

reevaluate income. make changes if necessary. map out income and expenses. make a plan for financial peace. 

Go on one adventure a week
experience something new.
roadtrip to see a friend. explore tourist spots in Milwaukee or Chicago. plan a day touring antique malls and flea markets. take a tour of something.
Do it on the cheap.

Learn my camera
take a class. read blogs. practice. practice. practice.

Listen to Valleybrook's Sunday message
I've wanted to make this a habit since I left 3 years ago!
I'm totally missing out. 

Volunteer once a week
at the same place or 4 different places. 

Participate in a craft fair
probably at the end of the month. spend the beginning getting super organized for it. 

Finish all Christmas related projects
home decore, gifts, blog tutorials and posts. 
The goal is to fully enjoy the month of December.

focus on my favorite
I certainly won't have mastered the previous 11 goals. 
This month I can enjoy my holiday bliss (because November went so well) I could do other craft fair or volunteer more for the holidays or maybe I'll be working so hard towards my budget goals that I can devote more time to my income. 
Whatever makes me happiest this month. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 photo favorites

I've had my Nikon D3000 for a couple years now. I'm sad to say I haven't learned any fancy settings. I try occasionally, but I just haven't truly put in the time or effort to really grasp it. 

 I (gasp) usually shoot in auto

See, I'm embarrassed to even say it. 

But you know what- I'm not embarrassed by some of the pictures I took this past year. While they may not live up to the standards of the photography world, they live up to the standards in my world. 

The majority of the pictures involve my sister and her adorable family. I spent a lot of time with them this past year and my nieces are too adorable to resist.