a birthday tribute to one creative lady

some may have seen through my facebook today that today is a special day in our family. it's my sister's birthday. and i thought one great way to honor the day would be to write a little tribute to my sister...one of the most creative and crafty ladies i know.

my sister and i have a pretty decent age span between us - seven years. we've seen some bumpy times (can anyone say seventeen-year-old teenager vs. ten-year-old? i will never let her live down that i had to approve her outfits everyday before school!), but i can proudly say that we got over those bumpy patches a number of years ago. she's now one of my best friends. and one of the first people i go to when i need to talk about anything. and, she's one of my creative partners-in-crime.

my sis has this amazing eye when it comes to interior design...kind of this great blend between the modern and vintage all with this great personalization and taste for diy that is woven into everything she does. i love going to her condo because i always see these great new ideas for home decor and it always inspires me to go home and figure out how i can move things around in my house in a different way or figure out another new project for the house. she just has a great eye and is an inspiration.

so, on my sis's birthday, i just wanted to share with everyone how much she means and what an inspiration she is to me. like i said this morning on my facebook page, she has made my world a bigger, brighter and much better place. happy birthday lys!


two old, sad wreaths...

so, what do you do when you are going through your christmas decorations, and find out that you have the two saddest looking artificial wreaths you have ever seen? me - i went to hobby lobby, bought up some fun stuff and figured i'd try giving these pathetic looking wreaths a shot. (note: a little background....when we first moved into our house four years ago, i was so excited to decorate the outside of our house. i bought up a bunch of the artifical wreaths from hobby lobby, along with some bright red bows, and had big plans to hang them outside around our outside lights. we soon figured out that wreaths + big red bows + 40 mph winds on a regular basis don't really work. hence, the wreaths that looked pathetic.)

when it comes to decking the halls at our house, we have a landing/bannister on the second floor that looks down to the foyer. it's a great place to hang wreaths from (and they add some great addition to noah's tree on the upstairs landing).

i started with the sad wreaths. first thing, they needed shaped.

the two incredibly sad wreaths


next, i got out some of the fun stuff i got at hobby lobby. red, green and white glass ball ornaments. some green glittery picks. and two red shiny and glittery ornaments. (all 50% off with their ongoing christmas holiday sale.) i also grabbed a couple of picks from previous wreaths that had red berries on them. oh, and i can't forget to mention my hot glue gun.

the fun stuff from hobby lobby

working through the first wreath

the finishing touch was to take some of the 2-1/4" wide red velvet ribbon from hobby lobby and make some loops to use for hanging these on the railing.

no more sad wreaths (yay!) and these give a little bit of a new look to our holiday decor this year. enjoy!


our version of the gallery wall

ever since i can remember, i have always loved having my favorite pics framed and setting out all over the house. i've always just felt it's a great way to surround yourself with awesome memories. my room as a teenager was filled with framed photos, and this lovely trend continued when i moved into my own place after college. (let's just say my husband had to get used to this. he's harassed me for years about putting holes in the walls, but he's finally gotten to a place where if he sees me with a hammer, nails, a pencil and a level, he just lets me go. we have an unspoken agreement that i will be the one to patch up the holes in the walls. that's love.)

in our current house, i've transitioned most of my photos to black and whites, in black frames with white mats. (think of the pottery barn gallery frame collection) what i like about this look is it puts the focus on the image. keeps it simple and understated.

we have this large wall in our great room where we've put a shorter loveseat...leaving a wide open wall space just begging for pics. so, i started my gallery frame wall.

the start to the gallery wall

it's still a work in progress with a couple more frames to add, but i love what it's becoming. all family and special memories.

the progress

most of the time it's pretty easy to find frames that will work for the wall...but i recently had two photos - 4" x 6" of noah and a 5" x 7" of my sister and her boy - and i just wasn't finding the frames that would fit. so i decided to break the mold a little and go with small shadow boxes and craft a look that would give some dimension to our little gallery wall.

i started with 8" x 10" black shadow boxes from hobby lobby. (note: these are super reasonable when they have a 50% off sale!)

then, i simply cut two pieces of white scrapbook paper to 8" x 10" size (using my super-helpful fiskars paper cutter) and adhered it to the backer of the shadow box using my scrapbook adhesives e-z runner tape. (note: i never am without this tape. it's so much easier than glue or glue sticks and holds just as well!)

next step was actually placing the photo on the white paper...and make sure it's centered and i wanted to give it a little more dimension. the answer was using my scrapbook adhesives mounting squares. (note: these are an amazing little crafting tool to always have on hand...they work great when making cards or anything where you want to give it a little dimension.)

setting the photo on the paper

positioning the photo with the mounting squares

finally, it was as simple and putting the backing (with my white paper and pic) on the shadow box and it was finished! well, except for putting another hole in the wall....which i did almost immediately. mike was elated. :)

good news is i just have a few more spots to put holes in the wall before i feel like my wall is complete. :)

handmade holiday: one of my favorite things

i love, love, love knitting. whenever it comes to this time of year, i'm rarely seen without some sort of knitting project i have underway....and i am well on my way to making some sort of knitting project history this year (well, for me anyway).

about a year ago, my sister came across this amazingly great pattern for a cowl neck scarf that was inspired by one that was made and sold by a certain brand from england that's known for its plaid pattern and amazing trenchcoats (which i am very, very fond of). (i'm trying to be super careful with not mentioning branding here....out of respect for the creator of the pattern, i'm trying to maintain some distance, while still sharing a bit). so, let's just say that the scarf being sold by this english brand was running over $700 and couldn't be found anywhere, hence why this brilliant blogger and knitter, developed a similar pattern to share. you can find the free pattern here from the garter girl.

between the pattern and the pics below, hope you all get a good idea of the cowl neck scarf....i can say, that it's super easy to make, but at the same time allowed me to learn some new stitch techniques (slipping stitches, using a cable needle....)

the full knitted cowl before stitching...includes four repeats of the pattern

stitching together the two ends to make the cowl

the finished cowl neck

second look of the finished cowl neck

i will say that i did use some different yarn from what was recommended in the pattern (simply because i couldn't track down the suggested cascade yarns venezia merino silk anywhere locally). i've used a couple of different yarns for the three cowl neck scarves i've done and all i picked up at hobby lobby. i went with the bamboo spun in sea blue and the yarn bee alpaca in fog. both are beautiful yarns and have a great texture (and you can get a great deal when you use a hobby lobby 40% off coupon!)

i've loved doing these and a couple of very special people are going to see there in their christmas treats this year...enjoy!

we love lightning mcqueen

it's been almost a month since my last post. i have zero idea where time goes. but the good news is that i haven't let time get too far by without doing some fun stuff.

i absolutely love this time of the year. christmas is my favorite, favorite time of the year. and it's no surprise that i find it way more exciting since the little man has come along. with each year, he just becomes more and more engaged and has that adorable, wanna-eat-it-up childhood innocence that happens around the holidays. love.

like with most little ones, we're in a "this-is-my-favorite-character" phase right now. and the winner is "cars 2" and lightning mcqueen. (note: most of you might know that my son has been flat-out obsessed with mickey mouse for the last year and a half. oh, that obsession still continues.) of course, i had to figure out some way to do something with the "cars" theme with a little handmade-ness for my little guy for christmas. the winner was one of those super-simple no-sew fleece blankets.

i had only made one other of these before making the lightning mcqueen christmas present. (that one was for a sweet little girl who turned three this past fall.) as for instructions, instructions can be found anywhere online (through everyone's best friend, google). i actually got my instructions from my hobby lobby store...it was simple enough to just ask and they had a stack of instructions printed out already. (awesome. loved this.) but to make it easy, here are the materials and super-easy instructions i followed....

no-sew blanket

total time: about an hour to make (note: i did wash my fleece fabric to account for any shrinking before getting started on the blanket)


1-1/2 to 2 yards of fleece fabric (depends on how large you want the blanket to be)...and note here you'll need two different fleeces. for mine, i did a "cars" theme on one side and a solid royal blue on the other. so you need the 1-1/2 to 2 yards for each fleece you choose.

scissors (either straight-edge or pinking shears)

ruler/measuring tape

seam ripper

to start, like i mentioned, i'd highly recommend washing both cuts of fleece that you get. this makes sure you are getting rid of any shrinking that might happen. then, find a floor space that's big enough for you to lay out the fleece on. put the two pieces of fleece together, right-sides out (for anyone who doesn't know, right-sides are the ones that have the printing on them)

with both pieces of fleece with right-sides out, you need to even out the edges (one thing i saw with the printed fleeces is that the selvege ends have printing on them)

the easiest way to even out the edges is to match up all four sides. then, i cut through both pieces of fleece to trim off the printed selvege end and do the same on the top side of the fleece to even out the top end of the fabric.

once the ends are even, at each corner, cut out a 4" x 4" square of fabric. once these squares are cut, you'll begin cutting the "fringe" pieces all around the perimeter of the fleece. these can be anywhere between 1/2" to 1" wide (i went with 1" wide...when looking at how thin 1/2" would be, i was worried the fringe edge could tear later).

now's the fun part. taking your seam ripper, and one of your top pieces of fringe (in my case, the "cars" fleece), push the seam ripper through the fabric near the top of the piece of fringe and make a slit about 1/4" long. then, take the bottom piece of matching fringe (in my case the royal blue fleece) and pull it through the back of the slit you just made. that'll give you the layered look on the top of your blanket, and by doing it all the way around your blanket, it'll keep the two pieces together.

it's a super simple blanket which makes a great gift for a little one.

additional materials shopping tip: i went to both hobby lobby and jo-ann's to scope out their fleece options. both stores have quite a bit of both printed fleece and solid color fleece. jo-ann's does carry a full no-sew blanket kit, but when i did a little comparison shopping, i was actually able to do my blanket for a little less than the cost of the kit they were selling. and, i'm always a huge fan of using the hobby lobby or jo-ann's coupons and these came in handy when getting the fabric too.

i can't wait to give my little guy this blanket at christmas. if nothing else, it'll be something else that'll help keep him nice and warm this cold winter. enjoy!


wintertime whoo! whoo!

unfortunately, it's almost that time of the year. snow time. which means i've been on the hunt for an adorable winter hat for my little guy. and i found the most adorable knitted owl hat on pinterest...and i was able to track down the pattern to diy-it.

i've been knitting for years now...it all started with a single six week class at jo-anns that i took where we made a knitted purse. and i was hooked. i've made scarves, ipod cases, ponchos and even a sweater that is currently in pieces and parts. so i logged on, paid by $1.99 and got my owl hat pattern.

this was going to require me to tackle some new types of stitches...knitting in the round, using double-pointed needles...i will say that the outcome turned out a little bigger than i anticipated (as in, it doesn't cover noah's eyes, but it's kinda too wide).

all i can share is the final piece...unfortunately, i can't share the pattern here since i had to buy it (but i can give you the link...here). and i can share progress photos of the hat....

the knitted hat. and using my cricut to cut a scalloped pattern for the eyes.

materials: white, orange and blue felt. the scalloped eye pattern cut out of paper.

the all important orange beak.

layered eyes with blue and white felt.

the final owl hat. a little big. but cute.


twirly skirt part ii

after i posted part i of "twirly skirt" i don't think i realized that i would have a part ii. but there's a part ii. and it's all about making and adding some super adorable and super easy fabric flowers to the skirts.

without sounding like a broken record, i found a great tutorial on making fabric flowers/rosettes through pinterest. this led me to a great blog - cherry street cottage - and her rosette tutorial, found here. such a great video tutorial to get me started on the finishing touch for my twirly skirts!

to start, i needed some of the leftover fabric strips from the twirly skirt and a hot glue gun (one of the best crafty tools ever). each strip was about 2" in width, about 22" long, and i needed two of them for a single flower.

the fabric strips

i started by folding the fabric in half (lengthwise), then folding it in half again. starting at one end, i started rolling the fabric tightly, rolling it up about 6-7 times before putting a drop of hot glue on the rosette to attach the fabric to. after the first drop of hot glue, i took the fabric and twisted it then continued to roll it around to make the rosette....typically, i was twisting the fabric twice each time around the flower. when i got to the end of the first strip of fabric, i simply glued the end to the flower, then glued the end of the second strip of fabric on top. to finish it off, i just kept twisting and wrapping the fabric (tightly), using a drop of hot glue every inch or so. at the end, simply hot glue the end down.

hot glue. best crafting tool ever.

to finish it off (safely for little hands), i glued an alligator clip to the back...which fit nicely on the elastic band of the skirt.

pretty little rosette. big thanks to cherry street cottage for the amazing tutorial!

i cannot wait to give these adorable skirts to our little girly girl friends. and, i have a feeling i'm going to make a lot more rosettes...they are just way too much fun!

the finished twirly skirts!


twirly skirt

i've been bitten by the bug...again. the pinterest bug. i know, i talk about it all the time, but i swear, i love it. there are just some amazing ideas for home, kiddos, wardrobe, crafts...you name it, there are ideas to be found. and i have been a-findin' the ideas.

my kiddos board on pinterest collects ideas for little guys and little gals because, well, i love girly stuff and if i can make something for a little girly girl, i am happy to get to do it. and october just happens to bring the birthdays of two little girls that we love...and i happened to have just the perfect gift idea in my pinterest pile.

so saturday it was me + trips to hobby lobby + jo-anns. all to gather supplies for the cutest little twirly skirt that will allow two special little girls to play dress up and imagine.

i found this adorable twirly skirt idea here on pinterest. looking at it, i knew it had to be super easy. a little elastic, some strips of brightly colored fabric, a little velcro and some ribbon, and you have a super adorable, girly-girl twirly skirt (which would look adorable over a pair of leggings). (note: i'm still going to add a little flower something as an extra added touch too!)

i started with two yards of 3/4" wide white elastic...something that would be thick enough to hold wide fabric and ribbon strips. (note: if you are going to try and make this, ask what size the little one is wearing. you can google waist sizes for any size of clothing, which is exactly what i did. the little one this is for is a 4t-5t...meaning the elastic needed to be about 22" long.) to finish off the elastic, i decided to sew on a 1" piece of velcro on the ends...to allow for easy on-off during play time and to allow for a little bit of flexibilty in size. (another helpful note: i always tend toward velcro for kiddos stuff...rather than snaps or hook-and-eyes. just adds a little extra safety.)

for the fabric, i picked out four different patterned fabrics, all with complementary colors, and about a 1/2 yard of each. i went for the bright colors....magentas, purples, lime greens...in all different patterns...gingham, floral, polka dots. i just absolutely loved the brightness and fun in the combo of the patterns. and i paired this with two different grosgrain ribbons - a floral and a bright yellow to add some texture and color.

next step: i decided to cut the fabric into 2" strips, using pinking shears (to keep the edges from fraying). with the 44" bolt length of the fabric, i was able to get 18 strips from each piece of fabric, cutting each one 22" long.

final step (get ready for the super simple part): tying one strip at a time onto the elastic (knotting to make sure the fabric/ribbons don't come undone).

and the finished product....a super cute, super fun twirly skirt that's fun for dress up for any little girl!


cooking up a storm

generally, i like to cook. i do. i'm not a gourmet by any stretch, but i like to try new recipes and i like to look for new ways to cook healthy recipes for my little family. my sources come from lots of places...weight watchers, cooking light magazine, allrecipes.com. and with noah, i've found new places for recipes specially designed for little ones...because as any mama knows, feeding a toddler can be one of life's great mysteries and challenges.

last weekend's perfect combo of fall weather and feeling like i needed to get my stuff together in the kitchen was just the kick in the you-know-what i needed to get cooking again. (because let's face it, i've been slacking in the cooking realm. like big time.) so one trip to the grocery store later and i was dragging out every kitchen toy i have...the crock pot, the large stock pot, the food processor, the list goes on...

it started with homemade pasta sauce. i'll admit it, we've been a ragu family for as long as i can remember. but i was given this recipe (and a sample) of a sauce that my neighbor makes. let's say i was intrigued and felt this sense of guilt...like why wasn't i making pasta sauce, instead of buying it? (i know, it's a weird guilt.) but the sauce was so good that i just had to make it. out came the crock pot and the super simple ingredients...and about three hours later, we had a triple batch of homemade pasta sauce! (sharing the easy recipe below)

super simple pasta sauce

from: one of my awesome neighbors (you know who you are!)

*note: below will make a single batch...i tripled to make a bunch and freeze!

1 - 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 T. olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 t. red pepper flakes (can leave out)

1/2 t. dried basil

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. sugar

this is the super simple part. mix all ingredients together in crock pot, and turn on low. for the triple batch, i let it simmer on low for about three hours. once finished, i portioned out the sauce in freezer bags to keep a stash on hand. super, super simple and really, really good!

then came the homemade hummus. it's a staple in our house and in noah's diet. i had been buying hummus and when i figured out that we were going through a container of it in about a day, and i could make more of it for less than buying it, i went for it. again, super, super simple, and it takes about five minutes to get it all together.

homemade hummus

from: another great neighbor (aka noah's "jenny")

1-15-1/2 ounce can of chick peas (drain liquid and save)

1/4 c. tahini

1 clove garlic (i use minced garlic and it works great)

1/2 t. salt

1/4 c. lemon juice (or to taste)

combine all ingredients in food processor, adding only enough of the saved liquid to your thinness/thickness preference. blend for 2-3 minutes to a smooth paste. if you serve right away, you can add some olive oil, or if you are like me, i keep enough on hand for noah...he loves it with carrot sticks.

the cooking continued, but i'll save those recipes for another time. these are just a few of my new favorites that are really super easy and are big time staples for us. if you get to try them and they work for you, i'd love to hear from you!


watermelon cuteness

two words you don't normally hear together. until now.

i have a co-worker that is expecting her first little one any day, and during her baby shower at work, i learned that she loves watermelon. so much so the entire shower was watermelon-themed, down to an amazing cake that was homemade by another co-worker (we're talking the entire top of the cake had a fondant watermelon on top. a-mazing.)

i picked up a little something for this very special mama-to-be, and wanted to bring the watermelon theme into her baby card and wrap.

i have to admit, i first turned to pinterest for a little bit of reference. after all, this would be my first time making anything watermelon-esque. luckily, i came across this great photo which helped a ton.

i started with the gift bag. one of my absolute favorite things to have on hand are plain kraft paper gift bags...they're wonderful to have so you can personalize them in any way for the special someone receiving a gift. i managed to pick up a pack of 13 at michaels ($5.99 for 13)...and with a 40% off coupon, these were dirt cheap!

next step was to make the watermelon...i decided i wanted to put just one larger one on the kraft paper bag, but then i also needed a smaller one for the card. i started off with a 12"x 12" sheet of scrapbook paper - in kelly green. basically to make a watermelon, i needed to start with a large circle...i pulled out my plantin schoolbook cricut cartridge and cut a 7" diameter circle (and for my smaller watermelon for the card, i cut a 5" diameter circle too). once i had these, they needed to be cut in half to give me the start of my watermelon slice. one of my other must-have tools is a fiskars 12-inch bypass guillotine paper trimmer which came in handy to cut my slices (sounds super creepy and dangerous, i know. what i can say is this: this thing is always stored 8' off the ground at all times. and is never used around little ones with curious hands.)

once we had the green slice, i did the same steps with white scrapbook paper...this time cutting a 6" and a 4-1/2" circle, and cutting in half the same way. same for the bright pink, cutting a 5-1/2" and a 4" circle out of the pink to give us our watermelon.

of course, watermelon isn't complete without some seeds, and it just so happened that i was able to cut out some black leafs from my cricut give a hoot cartridge, that with a little trimming, gave perfect watermelon seeds.

the final gift bag with matching happy baby card

i so loved this little project...i think it's the combo of the green and pink which is just a favorite of mine. combined with, i think it was just a unique and totally different type of graphic for a new baby arrival. like i said, watermelon cuteness. :)

p.s. i just realized i didn't share what the gift was...another one of my favorite gifts to give to parents-to-be. the itzbeen timer. it's this incredible little timer that have four different timers that you can set for diaper changes, feedings, naps, whatever you need to time for a little one. this was a total must-have for me, especially in those early days after the baby comes home and you don't know which way is up, much less what time it is, or what three hours or thirty minutes feels like. a highly, highly recommended gift for anyone!


a very happy birthday

so last weekend was a very special birthday in our family. my bonus mama's birthday. and when it comes to present shopping, i'm just gonna be honest...she's a tough one to buy for. (i love you, bonus mama! ) so i did what i do in that situation...i thought and thought...and then, i made her something. thinking it could be a little something to brighten up her office, i dived into figuring out what she might like that might bring a little sunshine to her office.

i turned to my small blank canvas...11" x 14". then, gave some serious thought to color. my bonus mama is super cool...she likes pretty simple stuff and leans towards a modern yet traditional touch to things.

i went with a robins egg blue. subtle, yet a little touch of modern. two coats later and we were ready to adorn the canvas with something.

i turned to my cricut (of course...i'm sure you're all figuring out the theme here.) to actually find something in my bank of cartridges that i could add to the canvas was a little more of a challenge. i have tons of flourishes, but i needed something that wasn't overly flowery...i wanted to go more simple, and again with that modern feel. i found it on my cindy loo cartridge.

what i loved about this little touch was that it's dimensional, using multiple paper colors and a layered effect. i wanted to obviously complement the robins egg blue, and decided to go for white, grey, a little touch of yellow and a lighter pink.

hint: i really, really relied on my x-acto knife and my glue pen on this one. the glue pen was great for getting just a touch of glue on the smaller pieces of the flourish. as for the x-acto knife, it was my best friend. with the layers on the flourish, there are naturally some small (and i mean miniscule) areas that needed to be trimmed up once the layers were being put together.

and to finish it off, i wanted to personalize it a bit for her...adding an "a" as another layer over the flourish.

pretty simple. hopefully she'll enjoy having it somewhere that reminds her of us. finished it off with a simple ribbon and a "happy birthday" tag.

all wrapped up and ready for its trek to florida!

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