My Holiday in Review

Wow! It’s been a while. I’ve had a nice little vacation with both of my boys having two weeks off and getting the chance to visit with lots of friends and family. I’m going to share the highlights with you photo journal (insta) style and starting tomorrow it will be back to bloginess as usual (that doesn’t exactly have the impact I hoped…how about buis-og?)

Anyway, a few of the things I have to share with you in the coming days are related to some of these pics…can you guess which ones??

Ft. Worth Sunset as we head south to Austin

Ft. Worth Sunset as we head south to Austin

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Visiting my grandparents’ ranch west of San Antonio we were able to get some baby love from the newest addition to their family of Barbados sheep and fed their bodyguard the Bethlehem donkey.

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We hiked to the top of the “mountain” on their property where we encountered serious lack of a trail but at least J had a machete to clear the way. Isn’t it beautiful? Ok, maybe you have to be a Texas girl to appreciate the beauty in this terrain riddled with rocks and cacti…it makes me happy.

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Mountain Conquered

Mountain Conquered

Back in Austin we drove by the Capitol building so the kids could see how massive it is. It's pretty impressive.

Back in Austin we drove by the Capitol building so the kids could see how massive it is. It’s pretty impressive.

6th street during the day is quite charming.

6th street during the day is quite charming.

Goodbye Austin!

Goodbye Austin!

Back home on Christmas Eve making apple butter for tomorrow's breakfast

Back home on Christmas Eve making apple butter for tomorrow’s breakfast

The kids and I got up early to get breakfast, coffee and a fire made before waking up dad.

The kids and I got up early to get breakfast, coffee and a fire made before waking up dad.

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LOOK WHAT MY WONDERFUL HUSBAND GOT ME!!!

LOOK WHAT MY WONDERFUL HUSBAND GOT ME!!!

After opening gifts heading to see more family. We were all pretty tired.

After opening gifts heading to see more family. We were all pretty tired.

We've been promised snow and we're patiently waiting.

We’ve been promised snow and we’re patiently waiting.

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What can I say? This was a great snow for these parts!

What can I say? This was a great snow for these parts!

Broccoli thief

Broccoli thief

Cute cousins :)

Cute cousins :)

helping with dinner <3

helping with dinner <3

New glasses. Like?

New glasses. Like?

Found the most ridiculous shirt on the clearance rack at Old Navy while clothes shopping for J. After all of my mockery of this "sandwich" I couldn't pass it up!

Found the most ridiculous shirt on the clearance rack at Old Navy while clothes shopping for J. After all of my mockery of this “sandwich” I couldn’t pass it up!

 

Hope you all enjoyed your holiday time as much as we did!

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The Best Hot Cocoa

I shared my best meatball recipe last week and I figured, at this time of year it would make sense to share my hot cocoa recipe. This is a pretty basic recipe you could use as a jumping off point if you wanted to have something more elaborate. I came up with this because I have always loved the frothy yumminess that you get when your marshmallows melt in the hot cocoa so one day when I was making a batch I threw in a handful of them and it was delicious!

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Makes two servings.

2 cups milk

4 Tbsp. cocoa powder

1 cup mini marshmallows (plus extra for garnish)

1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

2 candy canes for garnish (optional)

In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan heat the milk on medium-low heat until warm (stirring constantly so the bottom doesn’t scorch). Once the milk is warm, whisk in the cocoa powder until fully integrated then at the marshmallows. Whisk the mixture lightly until the marshmallows are melted then add the sweetened condensed milk and stir to combine.

Divide among two mugs and garnish with mini marshmallows and a candy cane. When you stir the cocoa with your candy cane you will have mint chocolate! I recommend you cozy up by a fire for this one. Christmas music optional but also recommended.

I have some shopping to finish up…do you think the mall will be busy? Yes, I’m afraid. :( It’s what I get for procrastinating.

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My very best Meatball

Show of hands; Who likes tender juicy meatballs??

Yea, me too.

This recipe kind of happened by accident. Well, maybe less an accident and perhaps more divine intervention. Who cares about the why or the how, though, these chubby little guys turned out delicious!

I must warn you though, every time I make meatballs my boys tell me that they’re the best ones I’ve ever made. So, if we meet back here next month (the next time I make them again) and I have a new recipe for my very best meatballs…don’t blame me!

The accident part is that they involve ground turkey. Which, I think any self-respecting meatball lover/maker would agree that lean (i.e. flavorless) meats are not usually invited to the meatball party. I pretty much never buy ground turkey either but when I left the market with my groceries this time there was a pound of it in with all my other goodies. I’m not one to complain about free food so I decided to use it and hope for the best.

And, surprisingly, that’s what I got.

I’m just sharing my meatball recipe here but if you want my recipe for red sauce I can share that sometime soon. (?)

Ingredients:

1 lb 90/10 ground beef

1/2 lb ground turkey

3 Tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1 large egg

1/4 cup good red wine

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (oregano, thyme and rosemary)

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

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Put everything into a bowl and mix together gently. Don’t leave weird clumps of tomato paste and unmixed egg but you don’t want to over mix it either. The heat from your hands will begin to melt the fat and that’s no bueno.

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Make golf ball-ish sized balls and line them up on the baking sheet. I got 21 meatballs out of this. Bake them until they look nicely browned. I’m ashamed to admit that I have no idea how long this takes. I don’t do timers or watch clocks so I don’t even have a guess. :-/

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Once they are done (you can check by breaking one open) I nestle my little handsomes in a pot of red sauce (set to low) and then grate parm over them, lid the pot and let them sit there for a few minutes while I set the table and/or drink a glass of wine.

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Very. Best. Meatballs.

FYI: Just went to the bathroom and came back to find this…

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She claims she’s working but I bet she’s online shopping. ;)

 

Enjoy your weekend!

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Crazy Easy (and cheap!) Curtains

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I told you this would amaze you. This seems to be the thing I get compliments on the most in my newly updated dining room. Perhaps it’s because it seems so unique. The first question people seem to ask after they comment “I love the curtains!” is “How did you do that?!?” which is inevitably followed by something like, “Wow, that’s so cool!”

I’ve never been one for curtains. I like simple décor and curtains always seem fussy to me but I knew that if I wanted a complete make-over I had to do some kind of window covering. Plus, if I had to see the hideous top of the blinds anymore I may have gone postal.

My criteria for window covering was 1. no “curtain rod” (I just don’t like them) 2. nothing too heavy/still allow light in 3. cheap 4. easy

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So I picked up 12 yards (but I only used 6) of a lightweight white cotton jersey knit on clearance at a discount fabric store for $2.30 per yard and an 8 foot 1 x 4 at my home improvement store for $6.

I stained the wood with the same stain I used for the dining table and chairs then did a coat of spray polyurethane. Once dry, I predrilled a hole in each end of the wood piece about an inch in from the ends and centered from top to bottom.

I cut 2 panels of 3 yards each of the fabric which, since it’s jersey, doesn’t need to be hemmed (yay for no sewing!) and stapled each one to the back of the wood flat (with no gathers and overlapping in the middle).

I screwed the wood directly into the wall and then used screw in hooks and cotton twill tape as tie backs.

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So, for less than $20 I have curtains. Unique ones. I like that.

In hindsight, I would have made the board and therefore the curtains stretch much further past the edge of the window. It was actually an error either in my measurement of the window or perhaps I was flustered during one of my 25 trips to Lowe’s in a 30 day period (most likely). I thought that the piece of wood that I bought was going to be 1′ longer than the window opening on each side. What I ended up with was 2″ on each side -_- not happy about that. Oh well. Hopefully, if you try this out you’ll learn from my mistakes!

I believe this concludes my dining room make-over project. For now, anyway. I still want a rug and a new light fixture…sometime in the future I will get that done. For now, I’m going to get a roast started for dinner and then finish my Christmas shopping.

I’m thinking tomorrow I’ll share my very best meatball recipe with you. I made them last week and took a couple of pics so get ready!

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Holiday Decorating

I’m gradually phasing out some of my holiday decorations. I have had the same stuff since I got my own apartment when I was 18…so 10 years. I have been given some things here and there but most of it doesn’t really match. My original stuff is bright colors like purple, turquoise, fuchsia, red and lime green. The majority of Christmas or holiday themed decorations don’t necessarily match those colors so there’s no style or cohesive theme. I have wanted to switch it up for a few years now but wasn’t sure how to start over without breaking the bank (the thought of shopping after Christmas sales gives me the willies).

Going forward I want something a bit more modern but since I do love glitter I’m keeping an element of glam just toned down a bit with neutral colors and elements of nature. I dare say I’ve come up with a new style I like to call Modern Rustic Glam (too much?).

This is just the beginning and I hope to complete some other projects before we go out of town next Friday.

I didn’t take step by step pictures (what’s new?) of the projects I did but I’ll explain for you after the pics. By the way, I did these “instastyle” with my phone because taking pictures with the good camera requires editing which takes too long (for today anyway). I know it’s lazy but I just don’t have time to do it right!

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The glittered votive holders are one of the simple and inexpensive projects I completed yesterday. I bought plain glass votive holders from Wal-Mart for 50 cents each and then with ModPodge and glitter I already had on hand I glitzed up the bottom 2/3 of them. VERY easy.

Another super simple project was the pine cones. I bought a $3 bag of plain pine cones from Wal-Mart and with the same glitter and modpodge I brushed the glue onto the tips of a few of them and sprinkled them with glitter.

The last project is the glittery reindeer on canvas. I painted a canvas black and then with a cut out reindeer silhouette (I snagged from google images) I modpodged the reindeer onto the canvas (after the paint was dry). I did a coat of mod podge over the whole canvas and let it dry then did just the reindeer and sprinkled on the glitter. Once that is dry you can use a spray sealer to keep your glitter from shedding.

I recommend doing all three of these projects in an airtight disposable room in order to avoid picking glitter off of EVERYTHING IN YOUR HOUSE for the next three years like I’ll be doing…

Tomorrow I’ll show you how I did the curtains in my dining room. Be prepared for amazement at the complexity and high price tag (jk, it’s super easy and cheap as usual!)

Happy Hump day! (sorry, I had to)

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DIY Buffet from Coffee Table

I kind of got lucky with this one. I scored this coffee table for FREE from someone on Craigslist!

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That bottom portion is some kind of metal and is not attached to the top wood portion which is painted black.

When I picked it up I really wasn’t sure what I would do with it since I don’t need a coffee table but how could I pass up a perfectly good piece of free furniture?? I couldn’t.

Even though it wasn’t ideal I decided to see if I could make a buffet for my dining room out of it.

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Soooo, I talked my husband into building a new base for the wood part of the table with some scrap plywood I snagged from a trash pile a while back. We didn’t have enough to add shelves like I wanted but we will definitely add to it later (perhaps sometime after Christmas when our bank account stops hemorrhaging).

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We painted it white and gave the draw pulls a coat of silver spray paint. I would have preferred to change them out with something a bit more modern but the budget didn’t allow for that…for now anyway.

You may have noticed a few Christmas decorations. I’ve finally got the whole house littered with little touches of holiday cheer :)

Tomorrow, I’ll share with you a few ways that I’ve added a bit of sparkle to some ordinary objects to make them look festive. I don’t know about you, but I get tired of the same decorations I pull out of my attic every year. I don’t really want to go spend hundreds of dollars (and I easily could) on new stuff every year…soooo, I found some inexpensive ways to update and modernize what I already have. I think you’re going to like it!

Have a fantastic Tuesday evening!

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My “New” Dining Table

I have to confess that this post was meant for last Thursday. In fact, I had it all ready to go and I saved it as a draft rather than publishing it…which I just discovered because this is the first time I have touched my computer since Thursday afternoon…whoops!

Oh well, here it is :)

Let’s talk about tables.

We purchased a brand new table about 4 years ago and it is still in great condition so we definitely didn’t need a new table. Problem is, ours is counter-height…which is shorter than bar height but taller than standard table height. With the layout of our kitchen/dining area those extra few inches just didn’t work. We have a peninsula separating the kitchen and dining which makes it nice and open but with the upper cabinets above it, you couldn’t see someone’s face that was standing in the kitchen if you were sitting at the dining table. That doesn’t work for me.

This spring I found an old table base by someone’s curb

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…and this old wood at someone else’s

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At the time I desperately needed a craft table (and I had none of the saws I now have) so I drove up to my grandparents’ house and my grandfather helped me build a rustic little table.

Then I spent weeks (yes, weeks) resurfacing and refinishing the top. The wood was old and very weather damaged. I knew I wanted it rustic but I at least wanted the surface to be even and somewhat smooth-ish.

Once I had it stained (I used Rustoleum Kona)and sealed I fell in love. This table was the one thing that I knew for sure would be used in our dining room make-over. Though, it needed a bit of expansion to truly work as a dining table. So with $30 worth of lumber and steel brackets my husband and I framed it out making it bigger by 6 inches on each side.

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With four mismatched recovered and refinished mid-century era chairs (non of them dining chairs, I’ll admit, but the chairs cost us about $30 total) we now have a new to us dining set that we spent a whopping $60 on…and I love it! It’s not perfect but that’s the beauty. Worrying about using a coaster or the little one banging toys on it just doesn’t suit me.

 

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the buffet!

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DIY Leather Jewelry

I enjoy making jewelry. I love that I can have exactly what I want pretty much whenever I want it (impatient much?). As long as I can find the materials and the tools to manipulate them I’ll make it happen!

These are very simple and there are almost endless variations by changing materials, shapes, colors, finishes etc. I think that’s fantastic!

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Materials needed:

Scrap leather (or pleather if you choose)

closure (I used a lobster clasp)

metal chain

medium jump rings

leather punch (or, like me, a large embroidery needle, self healing mat and small hammer)

needle nose pliers and wire cutters (or jewelry pliers with the cutting thing)

earring hook things (don’t know what those things are called)

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I didn’t take step by step photos because this is pretty simple stuff.

Cut the leather in the shape(s) that you want. I did free-hand because I like the irregularities of handmade things but you could make a pattern by printing out some shapes from your computer.

Make small holes in the leather and insert jump rings where you need them.

For the necklace: just measure out the length you want and cut the chain into two pieces that put your leather piece where you want it. I did mine off center. Attach your clasp with jump rings.

For the earrings: I added a bit of chain and attached it along with the leather to the earring things.

See? Simple.

Just in case you are someone who doesn’t enjoy jewelry making like I do… visit my etsy shop where these items and more are available for purchase. During the month of December, for every $5 in purchases I am donating one item as a gift to women/girls that are victims of human trafficking. To learn more about the organization that handles the donations and the women that receive the gifts please email me!

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Dining Room Make-over Reveal!

This is definitely long overdue.

I had a nice little break with family in from out of town and getting back into the swing of things after the Thanksgiving holiday proved to be more challenging than I had hoped.

Mostly, I have just been putting off taking pictures of everything because, well, it’s not the thing I’m best at and the lighting in my dining room is less than stellar (too many trees) so I knew I would have lots of editing to do. Not the easiest thing to do with a toddler, I’ll admit.

I was sort of waiting until my Christmas gift from my hubby arrived; a shiny new laptop. This way I can edit photos and blog from outside while the little one plays without drowning his laptop in endless photos and software he doesn’t use. I will also be able to blog in the evenings now that I can do so from the comfort of the couch rather than vanquishing myself to the office where it’s cold and lonely :)

Windows 8 is going to take some getting used to and, I’m just going to throw this out there, it doesn’t seem to make much sense without a touch screen. Perhaps, I just need more practice…

So ANYWAY here it is!

Well, first, let me remind you how this room looked BEFORE

Maroon Wall

Maroon Wall

Weird Yellow Wainscoting

Weird Yellow Wainscoting

AFTER

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Well, there it is folks! This doesn’t even resemble my original vision but, I think it turned out great. I was able to finish all but two items on my list; a rug and replacement for the chandelier. I’m ok with that! In the next week or so I’ll share with you each of the individual projects that make up the room and hopefully inspire you to tackle some DIY projects of your own.

I’m happy to be typing this on my laptop and I foresee more regular posts from me in our future because of it :)

I also have some DIY jewelry that I can’t wait to share!

Until tomorrow!

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Regretfully Yours,

Dear Friends,

It pains me to inform you that there has been more than a couple of snafus with the building of my dining table; a project that should have been ready for oohs and ahhs precisely yesterday. Unfortunately, several miscalculations (and wrong cuts) on my part have lead to a lack of completion and a (current) total of three trips to Lowe’s with at least one more in the foreseeable future. The final deadline for this project is midnight Friday….cross your fingers for me! For now, I’m going to meet up with my sis to shop for fabric. I hate to leave you like this… As a consolation for my dropping the ball, please enjoy the recipe below for the laundry soap I’ve been using for almost a year now. It’s cheap cheap cheap (about $10 for a 3 month supply), smells good and works great!

Regretfully Yours,

Sarah

Homemade Laundry Soap

1 bar of dr. Bronner’s castile soap (grated; I think rose smells best)

2 cups each baking soda, borax and super washing soda

Just mix it all together and use 1-2 Tbsp per load.