Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Pumpkin Day!

We took our annual trip to the pumpkin patch in nearby Marble Falls recently. I love getting pictures of the beautiful pumpkins on display. We fell in love with the "funky pumpkins" this time around.

I love the texture of these and the green gray color. I can't imagine trying to cut one of these up for a meal!

 The traditional pumpkins... so boring!

We bought two of these- one for home and one for Abby's pre-school teacher. I love how it looks like two gourds merged together.

God went all kinds of crazy with these gnarly ones!

Have a great pumpkin day!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Yummy Cheese Ball

Our Sunday school class recently had a chili dinner and pumpkin painting party. It is one of my favorite things about the fall season. I brought a cheese ball recipe that I found on Pinterest not expecting much from it, just an easy appetizer until all of the chili arrived. But, it was SO good! I pushed everyone away from it and grabbed a quick iPhone picture. 

Ideally, you would have seen a pretty round ball covered in crushed Doritos chips and a green bell pepper stem on top. Ha! We improvised with a cucumber and snapped the picture mid-meal. Use your imagination on this one!

Find the recipe at Family Fresh Meals 

I also brought my favorite cornbread found here

Friday, October 26, 2012

Anniversary Gift Ideas

My friend Katy recently celebrated her first wedding anniversary and she asked me to make her some paper-themed gifts she had found on Pinterest.

She is updating her style to a more shabby chic look, so I send her this picture from Hobby Lobby as a possible frame for her wedding vows. She replied back "it is gorg" and I snatched two of them up for her.

Here are their vows to each other framed and ready for their nightstands. She was a little more verbose than he! ha! I printed these using Susie's Hand font in brown on ivory cardstock.

The next thing she wanted was a glass dry erase board for them to leave love notes to each other. Using her neutral color pallette, I sent her these colors and with her approval went to work on the board.

This one was also super simple, you print "I love you because..." on the scrapbook paper and frame it. Then, I made rosettes to hot glue onto the frame using scrap fabric and this tutorial.

Finally, Katy and her husband met in Austin, married last year in Cabo and now live in California. She found this map project and thought it would be perfect for their nomad beginnings.

This is made with a 10x20 canvas and frame. The maps are made using the snip it tool on my computer and mapquest. I think used my digital scrapbooking software to edit the square map into a heart. The maps along with the labels below were then applied using mod podge.

I love all three of these projects- what a cool use of paper for a first anniversary!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bread and Butter Pickles- Canning Fail

Don't these pickles look delish? My husband loves bread and butter pickles, so when I found a recipe that says they are ready in 24 hours, I had to give it a try. 

Just like they said, I followed every step. So, after 24 hours I proudly gave one to my husband and he spit it out .2 seconds after it entered his mouth. It tasted like cucumbers in vinegar. No pickling occurred.

They sat in my fridge for 2 weeks. I didn't want to can them until I was certain they were good. So, after about 5 days, my husband tried them again and proclaimed them to be better, said with hesitation. It took a full 2 weeks for them to be good and he still hasn't eaten them up.

I proclaim this recipe my first canning fail!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beach Readings

My husband and I just got back from a 9 day trip to Hawaii! It was beautiful, relaxing, fun, and all around wonderful! We didn't have a whole lot on our schedule, so I did a lot of reading and thought I would share my books with you.

I read 5 books in 9 days. It was so nice to be poolside and not watching a 3.5 year old. I read for hours on end. I cried, I laughed, and I forgot where I was which is hard considering the view!

St. Regis Princeville Resort and Spa
 We stayed at two different resorts while in Kaua'i and had access to another. I loved propping my feet up in the sun or shade, sipping a cold drink and reading away.

Grand Hyatt Kaua'i Resort and Spa
I used my e-reader for most of the books, but brought along a paperback in case I had technical problems. I find reading on my Kindle goes so much faster! I also learned nobody knows what you are reading when e-reading and you don't end up talking to strangers!

Westin Princeville Ocean Villas Resort
 Here are my five reads while in Hawaii and a few thoughts on each:

Same Kind of Different as Me: This book made me think and it made my ugly cry. It will absolutely give you a heart for the homeless and make you want to be fearless in pursuing your passion or Christ's call in your life.

Disengaged: I read this one next- I needed light and funny and got it. It covers a young girl who is engaged and having second thoughts that she can't decide to blame on wedding jitters or serious relationship doubts. You'll love her, be frustrated by her and sympathize with her. It also has a hilarious and embarrassing surprise near the end.

The Dinner Party: This one merged with Disengaged for me. I should not have read them back to back! It follows two best friends who are grown and dealing with dating, marriage, adultery, miscarriages, divorce, and more. I love books centered around women and relationships so I liked this one a lot.

Glass Castle: This book is based on the true life of the author, Jeannette Wells. It details her life growing up in extreme poverty with poor influences and non-traditional education. It really made me think about what is neglect and how good intentions can still lead to bad results, how selfish parents can destroy families, and how difficult it can be to "outgrow" your parents.

A Walk Across the Sun: I finished this book at about 3 AM on the plane ride home and didn't want it to end. The story weaves the lives of 2 girls from India kidnapped for sex trafficking with a DC-based attorney on a sabbatical. It is fiction but based upon real life circumstances and broke my heart. I will never forget Sita and will look at missing posters of young women differently because of it.

I loved each of these books and was so grateful to have good reads on our trip! If you can only read one- I recommend A Walk Across the Sun above all others.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Kid Gifts During Parent's Vacation

My husband and I recently returned from a 10 day trip to Hawaii. My husband won his company's incentive trip and I was his guest! No kids allowed! Since we were already over there, we extended a few extra days to enjoy the quiet of an island resort.

We have traveled numerous times since my daughter was born, but as she gets older I know she is more aware of our absence and misses us more. In addition to installing Skype so that we could talk this trip I asked Your Little Birdie's facebook readers what I should do to help her while we are away. Great ideas included a camera for her to capture their time, gifts with the same number as the days until we return, Hawaiian items to share more about where we are, pre-recorded videos, a new lovie for when she misses us, and even scrapbook supplies to document her time with Grandma. I love these ideas and know we will use some of them when she is older.

I ended up buying her 10 gifts- many of them have the number of parts to match the days until we return. Using shipping labels, I printed notes to her that Nana read to her each morning.

The notes talk about what we are doing, but also her schedule that day and include a countdown. One of her love language is definetely words of affirmation so I wanted to love on her with my words each day.

The gifts are simple inexpensive items that will help fill her days- playdoh, race cars, finger puppets, a new video, books, a new Barbie. All the fun stuff she loves!

I know she misses us when we are gone and I know these gifts made it easier for her! She would tell us "I have 4 presents left so you'll be home in 4 days". It was a fun way to countdown for her!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Four Fall Breads and a Pumpkin

My husband is in sales and a couple of times per year he likes to take treats to his suppliers, clients, and the reps he works with. I love baking and can't eat it all myself, so I happily bake for his job!

A few weeks ago, I volunteered to bake loaves of fall bread for him and I ended up baking 18 loaves of bread over 2 days! Thank goodness I could bake more than one loaf at a time since each loaf baked for an hour.
My breakfast nook bench was my makeshift pantry of baking needs. I used almost 3 bags of flour alone!

Here is a picture of the yummy breads and the recipes...

Strawberry Pecan bread, this is one of my favorites because it is really moist

Pumpkin bread found online... it wasn't great so I'm not going to share that one :)

Banana Walnut Bread, my Nana's recipe

Caramel Glazed Apple Bread, a new find via Pinterest

I baked them in throw away silver foil containers and after wrapping them in Saran Wrap, I added a little orange tulle and a pre-printed shipping label from my ever handy digital scrapbooking software!

Finally, in the fall spirit I found these cute little burlap and velvet pumpkins at Hobby Lobby! They had various sizes and at 40% off, this one was $6. I love finding things at Hobby Lobby that look so much more boutiquey.

Happy Fall Ya'll!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Five Fredericksburg Wineries- A Review

My husband and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary at the end of July. We took a little 2-day trip to nearby Fredericksburg to celebrate with our friend James and Andrea who celebrated 14 years, the following day. We had tons of fun, lots of laughs, and ate way too much!

We stayed in this old house. It was quaint, cold and nights and perfect for our short little stay. We had decided to go to Fredericksburg for wine tasting. Both Marcus and Andrea like red wine and James and I are not big drinkers. We knew it would be fun for them to drink and he and I would be well entertained. ;)

Here are some pictures and notes from Marcus on the wineries we toured...

Nice grounds, very good staff.  The Praire Rotie was one of the favorite Reds. The Raven was the wine to set the bar for all other wines for the trip.  In an attempt to expand our palette, we tried a Port.  This was not well received. 

 While they were friendly enough, and the inside area had things to do beyond wine (pool, checkers, dress up props), it was quite the drive out there.  Of the first 4 wines we tried, nothing really stood out as great or good...then we finished with the Port again....we remembered why we weren't Port drinkers.

A combination of three vineyards, this place was it.  Great outdoor and indoor area (if not right off the highway).  Staff was very nice. We got 7 wines for our $10 here, and we were hard pressed to find one we didn't like.  We had dethroned the Raven as a favorite with the La Herencia (although I would pick their McPherson Cellars Cab up without hesitation). They had no Port to try.  We knew we had our favorite place. 

Another nice layout of the grounds, but wasn't quite as attended inside.  We tried 6 different samples again, none really grabbing our attention.  The Merlot was of all of them.  To keep the newly started tradition, we finished with a Port.  A different taste, but equally ill received.

This was a good one to catch at the end of the day.  They had a good staff, if not an ordinary layout for a winery.  After a Brut, the two Cabs were tried were very good...If and when I see this in the store, either the Reserve or the Paulo Cab are a real deal.  Finished with a Port again...not as sad about it, but not thrilled.

Any other area vineyards we should try next time?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Simple Succulents

I love the colors and trend of succulents all over Pinterest right now. I have almost bought them at Walmart a number of times and am glad I didn't because Hobby Lobby has plastic succulents now! I don't have to worry about replanting them (always in the ugly plastic containers) or over watering them and watching them shrivel up and turn brown!

I let my daughter pick up two that she liked and I picked a third. We went for different sizes and colors. I didn't want to mess with gravel, so I used some white beans from my vase fillers bag of colored beans and filled an old tin container that was holding my daughter's markers.

Super simple and pretty authentic looking!

These look great on my new red Annie Sloan table in the living room!

Monday, October 8, 2012

New Handmade Kitchen Towels

When I was at Home Goods a few weeks ago, I bought a 5 pack of black and white kitchen towels. These are light towels, much like a tea towel. I paid $7.99 for the set knowing that I wanted to play with Steam-a-Seam on them. Adding appliques to inexpensive towels make a fun addition to your kitchen or an easy gift with a home cooked meal or jar of homemade jam!

While at Hobby Lobby I grabbed 5 different fabrics I liked with the black and purchased 1/4 a yard of each. I have lots of fabric left over for future applique projects!

Applique is much simpler these days with my small craft iron (purchased at Michael's) and my small ironing pad made by my Mom. It allows me to iron something small without pulling out the big ironing board. She used this fabric on one side, batting in the middle and a cute polka dot on the other side. Here is a tutorial for an ironing mat from a fellow blogger.

Beyond the apple above, I made a Texas with a heart in my region of the grand ol' state! 

This Christmas towel was the simplest since the fabric was all gingerbread men. Super easy!

 I bought the yellow fabric because I loved the pop of color, but then couldn't think of anything fun for it. The rooster was perfect- good morning rise and shine!

 Finally, because I love birdies, I added some love birds. This would be cute as a hostess gift for a couple with a bottle of wine.

Since I can't sew, my Mom will finish these off with a zig zag stitch next time she is in town. You don't have to add the stitch, but I like the finished look it gives and it keeps the patterns on longer.

I don't know if I'll keep these towels or put them in my gift drawer. They are almost too cute to share!

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Best Thing Art Project

My friend Katy emailed me this pictures and told me she was obsessed with this art, couldn't find it anywhere, and would I please make it for her?

I'll be honest- I wasn't sure I could do it, but she was so confident in me and after looking at it closely, I decided to give it a try. Since she lives in LA and I live in Texas, we initially debated me trying to make it digitally and send to her to print and frame. But, she really wanted this shabby chic look and I knew it needed to be the real deal- paint!

So, I purchased 2 18"x24" barn wood frames half price at Hobby Lobby. They frames with glass and backing were on sale, so I went with those and ditched the glass and backing. I then took the frames to Home Depot and asked for a really light and super thin piece of wood. They sold something called luan wood- it is a light tropical hardwood used in many craft projects. It was 4'x8' for $9. They cut it to size for free and we made sure it fit into my frames.

The next step was painting the wood black- I went with chalkboard paint (under $20 from Lowe's or similiar stores) because it is thick and has a really matte finish. I rolled it on with a small roller from Hobby Lobby- it took 2 good coats. I then sanded the whole board to rough it up and make the coverage uneven.

Now, it was stencil time. Using the original art as my guide, I lined up my letters measuring more than once and taped them on. I bought 2" basic stencil letters from Hobby Lobby for this project. I used a stencil brush and cream Annie Sloan chalk paint.

You can see I had a whole mess of letters, paint, brushes, rollers and sanding tools! Oh, and the best trick to date I learned from Pinterest... when playing music, place your iphone in a glass and it will project all over the house! Do you see my phone in a mason jar?

Here is an idea of the letters after I stenciled. I then went back with a small brush and the black paint to clean them up. The first line is clean and the second and third are bumpy. I didn't want it to be as rough as it was on the first go round of stenciling.

In the original art, the black background has lighter spots. It looks like chalk, but that doesn't last, so I needed an alternative. I played on a sample board and found that sanded cream paint with dark wax gave the age spots I wanted. So, they was the next step.

Katy and I texted back and forth and we decided to age the letters. They just looked too new in the cream color. I used Annie Sloan dark wax and just ran it unevenly across the art until I had the color range I wanted.

I am so glad we did, the aged look fits the shabby chic-ness of the piece and works well with the barnwood frames.

My final step was to give them another coat of clear wax. It sealed it all in and then I placed them back into the frames. I took them back to Hobby Lobby and they professionally backed them for me for next to nothing. They now have the craft paper backing, wire hanger, and small clear stoppers to help them hang straight.

I love the way they turned out! Katy is placing them side by side on the large wall behind her couch. It is going to make quite a statement!

I think I want to make another one for my mantle for Christmas using song lyrics or scripture.