Craft 2: Oh, (Paper) Christmas Tree

I love paper. Love. I have stacks and stacks of patterned paper in my craft room, and it's the first place I go anytime I'm at a craft store. For the longest time I would buy paper, but not use it. I guess I didn't like the idea of not having it anymore? I'm over that now. :)

When I saw this cute little canvas on Pinterest, I had to make it. It's a paper Christmas tree. And it uses lots of different pretty papers.

I can't find it on the blog it was originally pinned from (it says the page has been deleted), but it was easy enough to figure out. Make rolls of papers of your choice in incrementally smaller lengths. Glue onto a canvas in a tree shape, and embellish with brads or buttons or whatever. That's another collection I'm learning to use and not just hoard.

So here's my tree. Ignore the horrible 1am quality of the picture. I bought the canvas for $2, a few sheets of paper and a pack of brads for $3. So for about $6 and 30 minutes, I have a sweet new piece of Christmas art!

I love how it looks with my collection of As on the family room mantle.

Love my As!! The glare from the flash on my camera, not so much.

Happy crafting! I'd love to see what you've created!


Craft #1: The Glitter House

As I mentioned, Avery and I decided to start the tradition of making cereal box houses each year after seeing these. So I've been saving cereal boxes and looking online everywhere for info on how to make them. I did find some tutorials and patterns, but in the end we just kind of winged it.

I started by sketching the house out and then transferring that idea to a sketch of the pattern pieces. I used the size of the box along with where it was already scored to determine some of my measurements.

I'm an English teacher. I don't really do math. So for the angles I just made tick marks at certain points and used a ruler to connect the dots. I cut separate pieces for the windows and layered vellum behind them for the panes. Then we painted, glued, glittered, and....

Ta Da!!! Our first cereal box house.

Love it! The doorknob is a crystal brad I had in my findings stash; the wreath is made from the mini garland I got to make wreaths for Avery's dollhouse. We wallpapered the inside before assembly so you wouldn't see cereal info through the door, but--did you notice? I forgot to make a door cut out on the main house portion. Oops. Oh well, easy enough to fix. That will also allow me to slip an LED candle inside and illuminate those pretty windows!

A few other things I'll remember for next year:

  1. make sure the pattern is aligned so that the inside of the box is the outside of the house. I really thought I had accounted for that, but the back piece was the printed part of the box, and hard to cover with paint. 
  2. draw/cut both side walls as attachments to the front. I did mine as complete mirrors, so they fit together like "L"s, but that meant a visible seam on the front right.
  3. I'm still undecided as to whether it's best to paint before or after assembly. We painted first, which made for much less mess, especially with Avery helping, but the paint did cause the cardboard to shrink and warp a bit, so it didn't fit as tightly when I went to put it together.
At any rate, Craft #1 of 12 is complete! We plan to add some bottle brush trees and a blanket of snow, but those have proved harder to find than I expected.


12 Crafts of Christmas

Okay, so here's my plan to keep up my crafty mojo through the holidays: The "12 Crafts of Christmas" project.

Here's how it works. Choose 12 crafts to make between now and Christmas. They can be gifts, decor items, activities with the kids--whatever. Simple, involved--again, whatever.

Once you've created, there are a few ways to share.

  1. Join the 12 Crafts Facebook page. Share your ideas for what you want to make, get ideas from others, and post pictures or links to your projects.
  2. Create a Pinterest board titled "12 Crafts of Christmas." Upload pictures of your finished projects, or pin from your blog if you have one. Follow me, I'll follow you back, and hopefully we'll create a whole network of great pins. The one I have created here includes pins that I plan to make this month.
  3. Finally...link up with your projects. Be sure you label them with the number craft it is!
I'm just about done with my first craft. Avery and I are making a glitter house out of cereal boxes. We found these last year and decided to make one every year, building a little cardboard village over time. 
Aren't they precious? The one we're making isn't quite as perfect, but I'm trying to let Avery help as much as possible. We just have a few more details to add before I share pictures of this year's house.

The linky is below. Please only link up to projects you have created for this holiday season, and be sure to link to the specific post, not your main blog page.

Happy Crafting!!


Where I've Been

Is anyone still out there? Honestly, I'll be shocked if there is. It has, after all, been almost one year since I last posted. I've had good intentions, really, and I've done lots of blog-worthy projects, but by the time I take pictures and upload them, I've usually moved on to the next thing. But I love being busy, so I'm not complaining (though having something on the calendar every weekend for the last 11 weeks is a little much...and the next two weeks are booked,too).

Here are a few of the activities filling our calendar over the last several months...

A shower with lots of DIY details for my friend Lindsay. We have been friends our entire lives, she was one of my bridesmaids, and she asked Avery to be her flower girl. We also went to four other parties in preparation for this wedding!
Disneyworld!!  We went to Orlando over Fall break and had a fantastic time.  Between the flight and the crowds, I really didn't expect my husband to like it, but he can't wait to go back! I made Avery's outfit in the above picture (she wanted something special for the plane ride--her first) and an autograph book she used when meeting the characters. I'll post about that later.
And...the wedding. I know I'm biased, but i think she is about the most beautiful thing ever. She did a great job, and didn't flinch during her walk down the aisle in front of over 300 guests, even when she ran out of flowers mid-way down.

I've also had Writing Project events, and was just in Chicago for the annual meeting. And then there's teaching (just google "Tennessee teacher evaluation" to see how that's going this year. It's never good for little ole TN to make the NY Times...), and maintaining the new house and cooking and being a wife and a mommy. Whew!

I really am going to try to blog more. In fact, I have a fun project kicking off this week that I hope lots of people from around the blogosphere will join me in! More soon on that, but here's a hint....it involves pinterest!!


A Chili Story (and a recipe)

We had our first snow of the year last week. Now, it doesn't take much snow to get Tennesseans all jumpy and to clear the grocery store of every item someone might possibly need for the duration, but this was a real snow. We actually made it to church that day, then heard reports of what it was doing up our way and turned around and went back home. We had to postpone our plans for hibachi and Tangled, and my school was out the next day, but canceled for the next before noon. And since I had everything on hand and had the time to prep it this morning, I decided to make a pot of chili for supper. But like any good recipe, there's a story that goes with it...

Each year I bring a pot of chili to Avery's daycare's chili supper fundraiser. Each year I lose. I really don't bring the chili to try to win, but because it's the easiest way for me to volunteer (much of the set up is done during my school day). I made chili for a cookout with Kyle's coworkers. It received raves. I made it the next weekend when another coworker and his wife came over for dinner. (I found out an hour before they were to arrive that the wife was allergic to beef--and I'd made chili!! Thank goodness for my 3 ingredient potato soup.) Kyle said it was the best chili he'd ever had, and he's brutally honest about my cooking, so if he says it's good, he means it. My parents came by to drop Avery off and I offered them a bowl. My dad was still talking about it at church the next day. The next week was the chili supper, and, as usual, I was afraid it wouldn't work. See, I have to drop it off at 7am when I take Avery, so I can't tweak it like I do at home, and I'm at someone else's mercy to turn the crock pot on. I learned after the second year to assemble it the night before but not cook it til I dropped it off. Yuck! So I'm making the chili when I realized I'd gotten the tomatoes with garlic instead of the plain ones. And I'd already put extra garlic in the meat when I cooked it.

That afternoon I'm on the phone with Kyle coordinating our plans for the afternoon when he starts reading an email that just came into his inbox from my mom (she works for the same company he does):

"Heather's chili one 1st place in the contest. I wasn't judging, but was up there when they were. It was a unanimous decision. I haven't told Heather yet, though. I figured she'd want to be surprised."

That's when Kyle said "Oops." Hehehe!

 So in my last year of eligibility (Avery will be in kindergarten next year. sigh.), I was finally victorious. My prize? My name next to the trophy with a big spoon of beans on it. The trophy (thankfully) stays at daycare to be reused each year. This recipe really is yummy, and the crock pot makes it great for busy evenings. It started out life as a Weight Watchers recipe, but I have made many changes to it over the years. It is packed full of veggies and has double the beans of the original recipe, so it's very hearty and healthy!

(Ignore the horrible picture taken with my iPod after a very long day of teaching. I just needed proof that I actually won!!)

Fire Roasted Vegetable Chili
1 medium onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped small*
1 lb ground beef (I use lean, but use whatever)
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans Fire Roasted tomatoes*
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp brown sugar*
1/2 cup orange juice (I actually used V8 Splash Peach Mango, as I had it on hand)*
salt, to taste

Set crock pot to cook on low (mine is 6 hours). Combine onion, green pepper and carrots in crock pot, add a bit of salt. Meanwhile, cook ground beef and garlic in nonstick pan over medium heat until cooked through; salt to taste. Drain meat and return to pan. Add chili powder, cumin and coriander and stir to coat. Add meat to crock pot. Add beans, tomatoes, paste and brown sugar. Stir until everything is well combined. Add juice and stir once more. Allow to cook on low for 5-6 hours.

I put a star next to what I consider my secret ingredients. The fire roasted tomatoes really add that special something. It's really easy, even if the ingredient list looks a little long, and  I usually already have these things on hand. Something about this blend really highlights the different flavors, and each one hits you separately. Love it. I'll probably make it again over my 16 day Christmas break which starts in 2 hours and 36 minutes. Not that I'm counting.


My Little Cupcake

I have made all of Avery's Halloween costumes. Well, my grandmother did most of the work on the first two, but they were my designs, and I sewed every stitch of the last three. Except the Tinkerbell one that had no sewing involved...but, whatever. We're really not that into Halloween. I put out a few pumpkins, but that's more fall than Halloween. We don't have trick or treaters out here in the woods, so the last couple of years we've taken Avery to a local park where area businesses hand out candy, but that's it. Despite my whatever attitude toward the day itself, I love love love coming up with costumes for Avery and making them. Maybe it's my competitive spirit knowing all the other daycare parents will see it at the costume parade at her school. You can see my past efforts here, except for last year's Tinkerbell, which I just realized I never blogged about. Sheesh. Add that to my to do list. The flower was probably the hardest, considering I had to dye leggings green and do some real sewing. It was also the most expensive because of those teeny tiny purple ballet flats that called my name from Gymboree. Evil, that place is. :)

This year Avery decided she wanted to be a cupcake after seeing one in the Pottery Barn Kids catalog (yep. she's her mother's child!). Weel, I was not about to spend $60+ on a costume that would be worn for a couple of hours. But I figured I could make it easily enough.

Here's my recipe for a PBK Knockoff:
1/2 yard pink fleece
1/2 yard brown felt
4 pieces of .20 felt in whatever colors
1 yard brown ribbon
1 pink turtle neck
1 super cute kid (I found mine in my living room, but you can use whatever you have on hand)

Cut, sew and glue and.....


Avery Olivia, 4 1/2 years old

I am really excited about how this turned out. Truthfully, I like it even more that the PBK one. I made the frosting by cutting two doughnut-like circles and then scalloping them. I glued felt "sprinkles" on, and then added a little more glue to keep the two layers together. I didn't bother with the white ruffle part, as we prefer all icing and no whipped cream on our cupcakes. This just slipped on over her shirt--no buttons, no ties.
For the wrapper, I cut strips of felt about 18" long by 6" wide. I then sewed the strips wrong sides together until I had a tube the right width. This made the pleated effect of the wrapper. Two pieces of ribbon made the straps, and it, too, just slipped over her head.

Her headband was just 3 small scalloped circles bunched and stitched and then glued on a headband we already had.

Total time spent? A few hours altogether, but that was mostly because my craft room is still in boxes.
Total cost? $10 including the turtleneck!

And you know you've creatd a successful costume when everyone asks where you bought it and someone else jumps in and says it came from PB and you have to convince them all you made it. Craft bliss, that is.

I'm really happy with this one, and already thinking ahead to my next sewing project. Hhmmmm....
What are you sewing these days? Leave me a comment; I'd love to hear about your projects!


Finally Fall

After weeks in the 90s, I woke up last Sunday to sweater weather! Finally! The mornings are cool, the afternoons perfect. And just in time for fall break, which, so far I am enjoying immensely, even if it has been very busy.
I really had high hopes for being a better blogger (I say this a lot, don't I?), but life happened, as it tends to do. But, for the most part, life happening this time has been fantastic! Here's a run down of the good, the bad and the ugly:

  1. started back to school August 6th
  2. closed on house August 13th
  3. moved into new house August 20th!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  4. Weekend writing retreat August 26th and 27th
  5. Finally got phone transferred September 2nd
  6. School Homecoming September 10th (I have several responsibilities this week; it wears me out)
  7. presentend at a writing conference September 21st
  8. FINALLY got internet September 21st (yes, one month after moving...it's a long story that involved threats of cancelling service at the end)
  9. presentend at a writing conference September 25th
  10. laptop died September 26th
  11. VERY successful yard sale October 2nd (as in, $900 in one day)
Most of it was great, but busy. The laptop part? I'm still in denial that it's dead and hope to revive it somehow. Fortunately, all of my pictures are backed up online, and my really important documents are also on a flash drive. I have some photoshop projects that I don't have elsewhere, and I don't have photoshop on this machine to work with them even. Not the end of the world, but frustrating.

The new house is amazing, and we are loving every minute of living here. Avery is a changed child--from day one she was picking up her toys, getting up and dressed on her own, making her bed. It really is incredible. I made my first cake here the other night. Let me just say that having a level oven, counterspace to work and a dishwasher make cake decorating a much more fun experience! There are no spiders, and our first electric bilkl with us living here was the same as the one at the old house with no one living there, and it's 4000 square feet smaller. It just shows us how inefficient that house is, something we'll be even more aware of this winter when we're not constantly freezing. This house has truly been a blessing. We are slowly getting furniture, and then I can really start decorating. I cannot wait! In the meantime, though, here's a little fall inspiration via Kirklands.

We lost our nearest Kirklands in the 2010 Flood, so now the closest one to me is an hour away. Fortunately, it's in a town I visit regularly for Writing Project stuff. Check out these vignettes from an email they sent me:

There are many reasons I love this mantle: the varying heights, textures, the fact that it is clustered in the center instead of all spread out, and mostly, that it could be recreated for any season or style. I see something similar in my future!

We have built-ins like this in three rooms, and each go up 10 feet. They look great, but are intimidating to decorate. I mean, how do you fill that space? This vignette gives me great ideas. Wreaths are a great way to visually take up space without having a bunch of little things eerywhere. And I always forget about placing wall art on the wall behind the shelf! Tabletop frames, yes, but art? Love it. I don't have outlets in my shelves, (they are in the cabinets below) but I think a non-functioning lamp would still be cool. And the layering...so many possibilities.

Right now my great room bookshelves are decorated ala Kyle, which means there are some random ORB pieces spread throughout the space. Not the look I'm going for, but it's more than I have done!! Part of the problem is that we don't have furniture in there (or anywhere except Avery's room and the Dining Room, really), so I don't have colors to work with. My displays will likely be seasonal for now, as those colors are not really determined by furniture. The library shelves are filled with...books! And that is pretty much Kyle's room, so I'm leaving the arrangement of that to him. The family room shelves are completely empty, but have a very cool design to them, so I am anxious to start filling them.

Okay, so this one is not really me. What I do love, however, is the grouping of several large items instead of tons of tiny things. That is something I'm going to try to focus on in decorating this house--high-impact accessories instead of lots of knick-knacks. This is an especially good lesson after seeing the TONS of tiny things I got rid of in the yard sale!

So what are your fall decorating plans? Where do you put your money and effort--bookcases? Mantles? Porch? As for me...I'll let you know after I go shopping!!


A Character Party without Visiting the Disney Aisle

When it comes to kids' TV and movie characters, I have issues. To me they belong on underwear and (maybe) sippy cups. I have never purchased character clothes for Avery, and those other people buy her (ahem, grandparents) she only gets to wear around the house. And this loathing of super commercial characteriness spills over to birthday parties.

But, alas, Avery loves princesses. And now that she's four, she has more opinions for her birthday parties, as I want her to. So how do you mix a little girl's interest with mommy's desire for pretty? Go for colors, ideas, not the character itself. For Avery's Princess and the Frog party, that meant soft blues and greens, princesses and frogs, storybook fonts....but no Tiana or Naveem.

We planned and planned...I crafted and crafted...and I'm really happy with how things turned out! This was her first friend party, and that part went well. The pictures....well, not so much. It rained all morning the day of the party, and though it cleared up and was beautiful by the time the guests arrived, we were scrambling to get things out. And then is was WINDY. Combine those, and you get windblown pictures and details that didn't get photographed. I think you'll get the idea though.

Birthday girl ready for the big day. In theme appropriate outfit, of course!

Banner whipping in the wind...it says "Avery is 4" and has dimensional frogs and crowns.

Loved the place settings! I made these plate by cutting eyes from extra plates and paper and adding a food-safe smile. The silver napkin was folded into a crown.

Paper flower centerpieces. I also found some vase gems with light purple flowers that I ran down the table.

Princess crown straw toppers. The cups had green labels and flower embellishment...with room for guests to write their name and claim their cup.

Again with the wind! The center of the tent had a paper flower chandy I made. 

Lavender foam monogrammed flags mark the entrance to the party.

I found this great frog standee at Oriental Trading. I made a blindfold and pink glitter lips to play "Plant the Kiss on the Frog." It was not as exciting as the bounce house, however.

a simple lily pad for the bird bath...

all of the food had storybook names. These MnMs were called "Happily Ever Afters."

"Magic Fruit Wands," "Cheesy Dragon Tails (Cheetos)" "From the Royal Garden (veggie tray)"

I made frog hats for the boys (LOVE)...

and personalized crowns for the girls.

Avery was crowned with her special crown by Tiana, played by one of my sweet students. She called me that morning to ask that I not let Avery see her crown until the party. She came up with a whole script including taking the Princess Pledge and the official coronation. She stayed for the whole party, even through gift opening after the kids had left. It was so magical for Avery to have the "real" Tiana at her party!!

The cake!!  It came out really well, despite the wet week.

I have done some figure molding with fondant before, but never have they turned out so well! I was really happy with it!! The crown was colored with silver luster dust. All of the flowers had pearl dust on them as well. I tried to save the frog, but it came back headless. Avery took it off to eat!

Favor bags had  frog and crown suckers, bubbles, chocolate lips candy, frog toy for boys, lip gloss for girls.

And a partied out four year old. She fell asleep watching...what else? Princess and the Frog!

Hope you loved your party, Peanut! I'm excited to start planning #5!


Quick Cricut Goodness

Mom got Avery this little yellow plastic tote to take to the beach. Knowing Mom, I figured my  nephew would have one, too, so I decided to personalize Avery's to avoid confusion and ensuing arguments. (As it turns out, she did get Cameron one, but forgot to give it to him. So, it was just cute for cute sake, which suits me fine.)

I cut the sandcastle (Doodlecharms cart) from green vinyl and the wording (ZooBalloo) from the pink. Center. Layer. Done.

It took all of 8 minutes, and when Avery got home the day before we left, she found it neatly stocked with her beach toys. She squealed and told me I was the "best maker she ever had". My sweet girl loves to give compliments, and they always make my day.

And real quick before I head to my classroom to work for hours, making up for all the time I wasn't there this summer, here are some pictures from the vacation that inspired this little project.

 Sweet Avery

Little Fish
(PS-she's not using her vest at all anymore)

"Helping" by putting sunscreen on all by herself

Heading down one of six waterslides at the condo

Love this sassy pic, though she's really just waving to Pop Pop

My sweet niece, Brenna. I'm really proud of how great this picture came out!!


Avery's New Room-Part 3

Eventually I will make something that's not for Avery's room, but as I've said, I'm trying to have at least that one room done when we move in, and it's the room for which I have the clearest vision of what I want it to look like.

And by room, I also mean her bathroom, so....

I took these super cheap, completely not my style canvasses...

....and painted over them to create these:

I love them so. Especially the one with the quote. It's a Chinese proverb that I might have altered the wording of a bit. I can't remember. Both are mixed media, which is my favorite type of art to create. The snail was inspired (like a whole lot) by GalerieAnais. I. l.o.v.e her designs. For the quote I cut each letter out with my trusty Cricut. The flower was inspired by Lindsey's posies, but made of paper and using a fun brad for the center. Actually, the only painting on that one is the branch and the stripes on the edges.

I'm thinking the snail will look cute over the toilet, the quote/branch one over the towel bar.

The long canvas was on clearance at Target--$2.99. The square one was $4 at Hobby Lobby. I would never find plain canvases that inexpensive, and since I'm painting the whole thing anyway... I used the same trick with this trio for Avery's playhouse. I really love those. So much that I thought about recreating them in different colors to match her room. But then I decided that that's not all that creative.

I'm fixing to start in on two canvasses for over Avery's dresser, also in mixed media. It has taken me forever to come up with a design I like for those, and I'm a little nervous to start in on them. I think better in threes, apparently, as those designs are a snap for me to think up. 

Where do your art inspirations come from? Share, please!


Check This Out

If you have never visited Copy Cat Chic, you need to. Reichel finds the best looks for less. And even though I have never used any of the items she has featured, it really has helped me keep my eyes open for less expensive versions of things I like.

So when I found the Anderson Bed on PBKids, talked myself out of it because of the price, and then found the JC Penney's version for pretty much nothing, I had to tell her.

So, take a sneak peek at the bed Avery is getting (courtesy of PaPa & JuJu and Grandmommy & Pop Pop) and then spend some time at Reichel's place learning how to shop with an eye toward savings.

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