Friday, December 17, 2010

stocking stuffers, etc.

I love stockings! I am usually the first one up every Christmas. Even to this day I wake up before my kids and can't wait for them to wake up. When I was younger I would always wake up another one of my sisters and we would proceed to sneak out into the living room, take out everything in our stocking, then try to put it all back ever so carefully so there was no sign of mischief. My mom was a good stocking stuffer too. She put such special and fun things in them and I have always looked forward to opening my stocking as much as I did any present. So, I have tried to follow in her tradition of putting similar things in my kids stockings. Hopefully they will like the ones I make for them as much as I always liked mine.

These, to me, are some things that a good stocking might entail:

I love me a good new toothbrush. Mints. Gum. CANDY (must include one candy cane for traditions sake). An orange- it's tradition! For me the holy grail of oranges is a nice satsuma orange. Books (personalized ones are especially fun for Christmas so you can tell your kids Santa made it especially for them). Dvds. Jewelry. Socks. Hair Stuff. Fun art supplies. Magazines. And Gift Cards.

You could tailor the stuff on the above list for any gender and for any age. The important thing with stocking stuffers is to have fun and keep the person you are buying for in mind. I generally like to leave buying stocking stuffers for last as kind of a last minute shopping detail to look forward to, but some things are fun to buy in advance, especially if you need to special order it.

Here are a couple more ideas:

And I absolutely loved the stocking stuffer ideas from Restoration Hardware this year!!

What do you like in your stockings?

Also, does your family pile up in the car to see Christmas lights every year like mine does? How about sprucing that tradition up a little? A friend emailed me this week with this adorable idea from this blog. I am going to have to do something like that this year to jazz up our annual "Christmas Lights Drive." Will be purchasing these for next year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

teacher gift

I realize I promised I would share stocking stuffer ideas next, but I just finished a teacher gift craft so I thought I would share. I made it with stuff I had around the house and it was pretty fast and easy.

Here is the finished product:

To make it I used these that I bought at a craft store a couple of years ago.
I bought them because they were so cheap and I could think of a ton of ways to use them.

Then I whipped up some quick and cute teacher designs for them to make them into a jewelry set using this digital scrapbooking kit (I made the card using the kit too).
Then I had my husband drill some tiny holes into the top of them.

Next I glued the little designs I had printed and cut out on using diamond glaze and put a glaze finish on them. You could probably also just modge podge them.

After that it was just a matter of putting some jump rings in them and putting them on a necklace and earring set I had in my stash of beading stuff. Easy fast and cute!! My kind of project:)

I also included this for fun:
Hope my little guy's teacher likes them, and I hope you find these ideas useful:)

Friday, December 10, 2010

holiday cheer

Two more weeks until Christmas! I planned on doing lots more gift guides, but am feeling a little uninspired in that department. I do have a few other things for you though- here are some things to (hopefully) inspire you for these last couple of weeks leading up to the big day!!

CJane's Chup shared some great ideas on gift ideas for your man today!

Here are lots of gift ideas I posted last year: Catch all gift guide 2009.

West Elm has the best free downloads for gift tags, dinner parties and the likes here.

Want another idea for a fun neighbor/friend gift? Copy some of your favorite recipes onto these cute and free recipe cards from Shabby princess.

Click here and here for my favorite holiday treat recipes. No holidays are complete without them for me!!

Hope these ideas help!

*Next up: Favorite stocking stuffer ideas.

Friday, December 3, 2010

what a girl wants

So this is more of a "what I want" list than a gift guide. What can I say, a girls gotta dream, and I may be a little on the selfish side.

1. Frye boots 2. Lucky bag 3. Trapper hat 4. Final Cut Express 5. Cowl neck scarf 6. Bamboo Craft Pen Tablet 7. Geek Glasses
*More holiday and gift ideas on the way.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

cool toys I want... um, for my kids

Shopping for toys is so much fun. Sometimes I think I am worse than my kids when it comes to having a case of the 'gimmes.' I fall in love with so many toys I want them to have. I am done Christmas shopping for my little guys, but because I love shopping (and more importantly love toy shopping) I couldn't help myself from looking a little more. SO, I thought I would share some of the great things I found that I wish I had looked into before my Christmas budget had been spent:)


I may be obsessed. It seems these days I cannot get enough of pumpkin baked goods. The funny thing is that I am not a big fan of the ever-so-popular (especially this time of year) pumpkin pie. I don't really dislike pumpkin pie, I just would prefer a lot of other pies over pumpkin.

So when I came across pumpkin chocolate chip bread a few years ago I was a little surprised with just how much I loved it. I craved it. Last year my love for pumpkin became official when I had a pumpkin chocolate chip bar with cream cheese frosting. I knew I had to find me some good pumpkin recipes to try to replicate these delectable treats in my own home.

As my thanksgiving treat to you, I am sharing my favorite pumpkin recipes. I hesitated to at first because I didn't want to look like a copycat of one of my hero's Dana, as she has had a great line-up of pumpkin recipes to share recently. But she hasn't shared two of my favorite yet, so without further ado... enjoy!!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

2 C. sugar
2 C. canned pumpkin (A regular sized can of pumpkin is just under 2C. and works just fine)
1/2 C. canola oil
1/2 C. vanilla pudding
4 eggs
3 C. all purpose flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 C. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

*Recipe adapted from here.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon*
1/2 teaspoon ginger*
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves*
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg*
1 1/2 - 2 C. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl. Using a wire whisk, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices; add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Fold chocolate chips in. Pour into greased and floured jelly roll pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.

* May substitute all these ingredients with 1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups powdered sugar

Beat together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract, gradually add powdered sugar. Frost cooled cake. Cut into bars.

*Recipe adapted from here.
*Image borrowed from here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

halloween dinner

We had a halloween dinner last Saturday. The plan was to carve pumpkins after dinner, but the kids were having so much playing on their own and all the adults were too tired to assist in much pumpkin carving, so we made it a two night event- Saturday and Monday.

Saturday we had chili, smoked pork roast, roasted hot dogs, pasta salad, green salad, apples dipped in caramel, doughnuts, sugar cookies and homemade root beer. Mmm, mmm. Monday we had left overs. It was great fall fun! Here are some pictures:

The invite:

Homemade root beer made from dry ice is so perfect for Halloween:)
The decor (gotta love the Dollar Store):
After all of the festivities I had to toast all of those pumpkin seeds of course. I tried the following yummy recipe and have been enjoying snacking on these a little too much!

1. Heat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Place washed seeds on cookie sheets and cook for up to an hour until all seeds are dry.
3. Coat in the following mixture:

For every 2 cups of seeds melt 2 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

4. Bake for another 10 or so minutes.

Click here to see more of the picturesque scenery and weather I was able to enjoy in the last week. I think fall is becoming my favorite season for sure.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

halloween: my plans

I think my love of Halloween stems from my love of candy. I also love to dream up costume ideas, decor ideas, and party ideas.

This is what I am planning for this year:


My eldest will be Pinnochio. He has recently developed a fascination with the character and his story and I am taking full advantage as I love Pinnochio! My baby boy will be Cleo the fish (I know Cleo is a girl, but oh well). And I will be figaro the cat (because being a cat is officially the easiest adult costume out there and I was lucky it fit our 'theme'). I told my husband he could be Geppetto or the Blue Fairy and he opted for neither as he does every year.

I am pretty stoked about how the costumes are turning out. This is what I have so far.

Cleo, the fish:

I am so proud of this little costume. It certainly is not perfect, but I love it anyway. I came up with it after researching all the little fish costumes I could find online. My favorite was this one from Martha, but I didn't trust myself to be able to sew those scales so perfectly and I knew my baby was now too mobile to put up with the bunting type costume anymore so I dreamt this little number up:) The best part is it cost me about $5!!!


This costume was fairly simple as well. I was lucky to get a yellow polo on clearance, then headed off to my local Joannes to pick up the felt for the hat, the feather, the buttons, and cheap fabric for the shorts and bow. This probably cost me between $10-15. I used a pajama bottom pattern I had for the shorts and just put the elastic in the back. I love making costumes (when they turn out). They are usually cheaper, look better and of better quality than costumes from the store!!

For my Figaro costume I am just going to wear all black and put on some ears, a tail, and a little nose and whiskers via a little face paint.

I will be getting my Halloween decorations out this weekend. I meant to last weekend, but such is life. I am hoping to make this craft with my four year old to add to our decorations this year.

And next week we are planning to have a small party here too. Basically just a yummy dinner and pumpkin carving with a few other families and some decorations. I will share those details on here soon:)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Photoshop Tips

Photoshop Tips

Disclaimer: In no way am I a photoshop pro. I am just in love with the program and don't know what I would do without it. Once you realize the power that lies within photoshop you will never want to live without it and wish you had time to photoshop all of your photos. Having said that- this is what I do know about this amazing program (which remember, isn't much comparatively with all that photoshop can do, but that is good news for you because it means it will be easy for you to learn :) )

Personally, I like color photos (although I do love sepia tone and black and white too) the best. I like my photos to look close to what the natural eyes sees but better. And I like the colors to *pop*. These are the tools I generally use to try to achieve that. I will try and demonstrate these techniques with this picture.


First I check my levels.


It's probably hard to tell much of a difference in this picture, but this simple step has saved many pictures I have taken in the past. What you want to do with the levels feature is move the right hand arrow left until it hits the black part of the histogram, the left arrow right, and depending on the photo mess with the middle arrow and see if you want to move it to the left or right. I could go into more detail about what this feature is and what it does exactly, but I am going to keep this tutorial as simple as possible. You can click on this link to learn more.

Then I see what curves can do. I generally use it to make my brights a bit brighter and my darks a bit darker.
Again, click here to get more in depth info.

Then, depending on the photo and where I want to go with it I play with selective color, or color balance, or photo filters, or hue/saturation, or brightness/contrast. I usually only use one of these tools- it just usually depends on the photo. I used selective color in this photo and probably use it most of all of the previously mentioned photos.

In this photo I just thought all of the darks needed to be darker so I selected black and moved the black slider as far up as it could go and liked the effect.



A lot of pictures I take indoors that have a yellow hue to them I will use a cooling photo filter or the color balance feature to try to fix it. As far as hue/saturation goes, I usually only pop the saturation a few notches when I think the colors just need a little pop and don't want to take the time to go into the selective color and manually pop certain colors. Same with the brightness contrast feature- I just see if I can up the contrast a little without compromising the quality of the photo too much if the curves feature hasn't given me enough contrast.

Now for the fine tuning:

For the eyes you can use the burn and dodge tool to brighten them up.
In the above photo I lightened the eyes a little bit to make them pop. Then I decided that I wanted to get rid of some of the skin blemishes on my oldest sons chin and make the darks a little darker using the selective color again and this time moving the slider up on the black in the neutrals palette.


For blemishes or skin discoloration you can also use the stamp tool, the healing brush tool, or you can try to airbrush some color on top of the skin playing with the transparency to keep the photo looking real. There are tons of other great tutorials out there on perfecting skin in photoshop. I use a couple of other methods- but these are the main and basic things I do. Here is the final before and after so you can see how far we've come with these simple steps.



The key with photoshop is to play, play, play and research when you get stuck. There are TONS of great tutorials online (most of them are better than this one too) for anything you are looking to do. This is just my attempt at a tutorial... because I said I would:) Hope it helps!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I know it isn't officially fall yet, but it is sure starting to feel like it around here. The frigid air in the morning, the toasty temps in the afternoon, and all the pitter pattering of the little feet on their way to school every day. My little one officially started preschool this year and is loving it already!

I am looking forward to the leaves changing colors, wearing warm sweaters, going on walks and hearing the leaves crunch underneath my feet, and fall comfort food... mmm mmm. The older I get, the more I like fall. Summer has always had my heart in the past. This summer both crawled and flew by. I started the summer with so many fun plans and ideas. A lot of them got swallowed up by tending to regular household mommy duties unfortunately. Summer went out with a bang for me though with my trip to Oregon to see my family. We partied and partied some more.

I love a good party. I love thinking them up and carrying them out. And I always learn a lot. Here is what I learned from the last two parties I threw.

Horse Birthday Party:
Photobucket1. Never expect things to go exactly as planned. The cake didn't turn out at all how I had envisioned it in my head, but at least it tasted good. And the balloons I insisted on having there flew away after knocking over a few cupcakes and root beers over:( Ah well.
Photobucket2. Plan age appropriate games and keep things loose and fun. We had about 15 kids ranging in ages from 18 months to 9 years old. I decided to go with three simple games: barrel racing, pin the tail on the horse, and a big water fight. It felt like just the right amount of games and everyone had fun I think. The little ones didn't like the water fight so much, but they enjoyed watching the older ones get a little crazy with it.
3. Party favors are so worth the little money they cost. Make sure to plan far enough in advance to be able to order fun things online that go with your theme. There are so many options online. In my bags I included miniature horses, candy, bandanas, fake mustaches, and bandana printed snap bracelets and pencils. The horses were a hit with the little ones and the mustaches, bandanas, and snap bracelets were a hit with everyone.

Baby Shower:
1. Always invite a friend to throw it with you. It is just more fun to have another person to dream up ideas with, carry them out, and review how it went. Plus it is just more pressure and not as fun to do it all on your own. I did the invitations, decorations and dessert. And my buddy did the amazing food.
Photobucket2. Make sure to plan the shower for the mom. Sounds obvious, but I think it is really important to get her involved a little and figure out what she really wants. We had this shower after her baby arrived because she was on bed-rest the last couple of months before she had the baby, we planned it when she had family coming into town, and we didn't have games because she doesn't like them. It was a fun relaxing evening and we are always looking for excuses to have fun girl get togethers:)

Friday, July 30, 2010

cupcake topper tutorial

Whew! This summer is flying by. I have been busy with weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, visitors, regular summer fun, still settling into our house and we just had a new sprinkler system installed for our yard- yay!

Amidst settling into our house I have been crafting, which I plan to share in several tutorials. I know I promised a photoshop tutorial and it is on the way, but I am still figuring out how best to share those tips with you.

First craft tutorial: Cupcake Toppers.

I did the above cupcake toppers for the aforementioned wedding reception.

I also made some for my son's birthday party and plan to do more soon for a baby shower I am throwing.

This is how I did mine:

I had some left over circle labels from when I ordered them for my etsy jewelry shop. Through their website you can download a template of any of their labels that you order in any format you need. I downloaded it in pdf form, then imported it to illustrator where I designed my labels.

After you have designed them, just print them out. The tricky part here is getting the stickers to print out so that the designs are directly in the middle of the sticker. I actually gave up after a few prints and settled with good enough so that I didn't waste ink. Guess I'm not as much of a perfectionist as a realist. Ah well:) *You can also print these out on regular paper or 8.5x11 sticker paper, get a circle craft cutter to fit around your designs and cut and paste them in the next step.

Here is a pdf of the ones I used for my sons party:
Happy Trails

I found a scalloped circle paper cutter at my local Hobby Lobby that was just big enough to show a little when placed in between my stickers. Got it home and started punching away on the paper I had chosen to accent my sticker designs.

Then just assemble them. Place a sticker on each side of the scallop-cut circle paper and insert toothpic. Voila! Easy, versatile, and oh-so-cute!!