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DIY Valentine’s Day

February is here, and not only is it the shortest month of the year, but it is also the month we celebrate all things LOVE!  It is the season of cards, chocolate in heart shaped boxes, giant teddy bears, roses, champagne, diamonds, and romantic dinners for two. Although we both enjoy celebrating this special day of cupid, we tend to keep the evening with our significant others a little more low key. May loves to bake, and June loves to craft, and together, we are embracing a Valentine’s Day that not only comes from our hearts, but also our hands!

May took a simple peanut butter cookie recipe that she uses at Christmas, and swapped out the chocolate Hershey’s Kiss (which you can still use since it is a “kiss”, after all) for a Dove chocolate heart. She found a large bag of Dove mixed chocolate hearts at Target. You can make the dough a day or two ahead of time and refrigerate it until you are ready to bake. Put them in a pretty tin with red tissue, and you have a sweet, festive treat that your valentine will love.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Hearts

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

Sugar (to coat)

Dove chocolate hearts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixer bowl, beat butter and peanut butter with electric mixer on medium speed about 30 seconds. Add the 1/2 cup sugar and brown sugar, beaut until fluffy.

Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat well.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, beating well. If necessary, cover and chill about 1 hour for easier handling.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in additional sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on an un-greased cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges are firm. Immediately press a chocolate heart atop each cookie. With a spatula, lift cookies onto cooking rack and allow to cool until chocolate hearts are firm.  Makes about 60 cookies.

June created a simple Valentine’s Day table centerpiece.  You probably have a lot of the items at home to create this centerpiece, but if not they can easily be found at Target.

All you need are the following:

Clear candle holders

Pillar candles

Candy conversation hearts (2 bags)

A green plant

A table runner or placemat in Valentine’s Day colors (you could even reuse a red one you have from Christmas)

I simply put the pillar candles in the holders and poured the conversation hearts around the gap between the candle and the holder.

I treated myself to the maidenhair fern.  I was craving some more green in the house and as long as I keep it alive, it can continue to be decorative.

To give my centerpiece a bit of height, I put the fern on a small cake stand I had in the house.  I also added the paper arrow straws that I found in the dollar section at Target.

The centerpiece probably took me fifteen minutes to pull together.  And it gives my dining room table a nice pink cheer on these often grey days.

Have a good weekend. –May and June

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. Charles M. Schulz

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Christmas Table Centerpieces

Are you hosting the holidays this year? One way to make your Christmas dinner parties a little more festive, is to decorate your dining table with a centerpiece.  Your table is an easy surface to dress up with holiday cheer and it gives your guests something pretty to look at.  If you do not have a centerpiece yet (and Christmas Eve is only 4 days away), you can easily make one with items you probably already have at home.

I always change up my centerpiece from year to year.  I wouldn’t want my guests to get bored looking at the same thing every Christmas.  Because I like to change it up, I do not spend much money on a centerpiece and usually make one myself.  Also, because my dining room table is fairly small and when we have more than 6 for dinner we have to add a leaf, the centerpiece needs to be uncomplicated and moveable.  I also like to put a small centerpiece on my counter height table in the kitchen.  But, once again it needs to be moveable since the table often gets converted to a work space.

This year, I made two centerpieces with items I had around the house and in my boxes of Christmas decorations.  After the holidays, they can be quickly disassembled and used for another purpose next year.

For my dining room, I used a long wood bowl I had bought from Target last fall.  To the bowl I added glittered and frosted pinecones which I found at Joann’s.  Finally, I added some bottlebrush forest animal ornaments and bottlebrush trees to create a wintry magical forest scene.

For my kitchen, I used an old tarnished silver shrimp platter that I received as an “antique” from some family member.  On the larger part of the platter I placed a wreath that has paper feathers with a little bit of glitter.  Because there was a gap between the inner part of the wreath and the platter I placed some of those frosted pinecones in the center ring.  I then added a candle votive in the smaller attached bowl above the platter.

Together these centerpieces probably took me half an hour to make.  Plus, I spent no money because I had all of the supplies in my house.   After they were put together I thought they were a little weird and funky, but I like weird and funky.  What makes them unique is they are one of a kind and only temporary, so if I decide they are a little too strange, we never have to see them again.  So, if you are looking for a centerpiece, search around your house.  In the past I have used containers filled with ornaments, battery operated fairy lights, old christmas cards, my collection of miniature Christmas trees, candy canes, fresh greenery, lots of candles and various table runners.   Have fun! If you need inspiration you can check out Pinterest but don’t get too caught up in perfection.   It’s a wonderful opportunity to be creative and any imperfections make it unique and special.

I hope all of your Christmas preparations are almost done and that you get to relax and enjoy your decorations and the spirit of the holidays. And, if you are looking for more things to decorate, you can always decorate your dog.  -June

Christmas is too sparkly.  Said no one ever.

 

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Easy DIY Christmas Decoration

This past weekend I put together some easy Christmas decorations using items I had around the house.  I have plenty of Christmas decorations but I was just having fun to see what I could create.  I had some big glass jars that were part of a centerpiece from our wedding and which I use sometimes as candle holders now, some Mason jars, pine cones, bottle brush trees, cheap Target Christmas ornaments, buffalo snowflakes and the most important thing, battery operated twinkle lights.

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I just put the items in different jars to see how they would look.  I generally like how they turned out and they add a little festive glow where I set them.  The best part is after the holidays, I can simply disassemble them and reuse the parts in other ways or put the parts away for another creation next Christmas.

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My attitude with decorating is just try it.  It just takes a little time. So it may be a little weird or it may not turn out, but sometimes you create something that you like.  And with all of the serious things going on in the world this is fun.  I often agonize over what color nail polish to pick when I have a manicure and pedicure, but this is the thing, it is just nail polish.  Decorating is the same way, it can always be changed.  Hope all of your Christmas shopping and decorating is completed. –June

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Embracing Your Inner Artist

As a child, I loved to draw, paint, and color. I had a whole box filled with coloring books, Crayola Crayons (I had the big box with 64 colors and the sharpener), markers, colored pencils, and remember paint by number sets? Yup, I had those too. Every Sunday, our newspaper had an advertisement for a drawing contest. (Those of you who are of a certain age will remember this.) They showed a drawing of a pirate and a turtle which you had to sketch free hand, and if you won you were invited to attend their “prestigious” art school.  I did send in my picture…..   Remember these?

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My mom is a talented artist and I used to love watching her draw and paint, and sometimes she even let me help. She painted cute pictures for our bedrooms, sketched our portraits, and did beautiful landscapes using oil paints. Even as an adult, I always enjoyed coloring with my kids and took a few art classes at our local community college. Recently, I was looking at some fall inspired prints for my mantle but nothing really interested me, and everything was a little too pricey to be displayed for such a short period of time. I saw that Michael’s was having a huge sale on their art supplies and was inspired to create something on my own. These days, it’s easy to bring out your inner artist. Craft stores such as Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and JoAnn’s have reasonably priced art and craft supplies that are also regularly on sale. I found a canvas and replenished a few other things that I needed. (A canvas is nice because you don’t need to frame it.) Anyone can make a great work of art with just a few simple instructions which you can easily obtain on the internet. My mom and I collaborated on this particular painting on a beautiful fall day a few weeks ago. We chose to paint with water color.  Once you decide on what kind of art you want to create, it’s always a good idea to have a basic picture that you can use as a guide.  Something with simple lines is best if you’re a novice. I found a picture of a basic pumpkin online. It was large and not too detailed which allowed me to add some personal touches to make it my own.

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Begin by lightly sketching your picture onto your canvas with a pencil. The sketch is a great guide for your paintbrush, plus you can erase if you make a mistake.

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Next, you want to paint the larger areas, working your way down to the more detailed parts of your painting.

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Make sure to mix colors and add water to give your painting more depth and texture. We used paintbrushes for our pumpkin, but you can also use sponges which will give your artwork a completely different look.  We lightly sprayed our canvas with water to give the painting a little more fluidity.

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We used water colors for this painting, but you can also use acrylics, oils, pastels, chalk, charcoal, and even oil based crayons.  It’s fun to play and experiment with different mediums. We had a fun afternoon together which I’m reminded of every time I walk past my painting, and I look forward to creating my next “masterpiece”. Art is such a wonderful way to express oneself. You’re not bound by rules or perfection and it’s a wonderful way to stimulate your creativity. We’re all so consumed by routine and the mundane that we forget to let our inner child out to play. Art is not limited to the confines that are imposed upon us by the structure of our day to day lives. Art is meant to be an uninhibited expression of the self. When we allow ourselves to disconnect from the mind and express from the heart, we find healing and true contentment. It’s not about perfection, it’s about authenticity. How will you embrace your inner artist?

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~May

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Little Yarn Flowers

I have been decorating my house for fall.  Truthfully, I don’t really like decorating for fall.  I know there will be a lot of haters out there, but fall is not my favorite season.  The days are getting darker and even though I am supposed to be enjoying the present moment, I know what is coming down the pipeline… winter.  But unfortunately, summer must end.  My summer decor starts to feel out of place in the fall and I have the need to cozy things up a bit.

As part of my decorating this past weekend, I decided to take on a little craft project and make some of these pom pom flowers in a fall color that I have seen around the internet.

What you’ll need:

  • Yarn (I used Red Heart, any inexpensive yarn will work)
  • Glue Gun (my favorite crafty tool lately)
  • Some small sticks from a bush in your yard
  • Scissors

You first need to make the pom poms.  I found the easiest way to do this is to simply wrap the yarn around two of your fingers.  I wrapped anywhere from 50 to 70 times depending on how full I wanted the pom poms to be.  Don’t wrap too tight, otherwise you won’t be able to get it off your fingers and your fingers will turn blue!

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After wrapping the yarn, slip the yarn off of your fingers.  Cut a single piece of yarn about 6 – 8 inches long and tie it tight around the center of your looped yarn.

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Cut through the loops of the yarn so they are now straight pieces.

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(Sorry the picture is blurry here)

Then give your pom pom a haircut so the pieces are even.

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(Remnants from the pom poms haircuts)

Finally, take a pom pom and glue it to a stick with your glue gun.

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There you have some simple pom pom flowers.  They remind me of the flower allium (although those are usually purple) or maybe even mums.  In any event, I think they are fun, it was a quick craft project and they brighten my fall spirits.  –June

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Fun Candy Bouquet

In my family we have a lot of birthdays occurring within the span of one week in September.  My sister-in-law’s is on the 6th, a close aunt’s is on the 7th, my mom’s is on the 8th, and my older younger brother’s is on the 12th.  That is a lot of birthday fun so we usually all get together and have one big birthday celebration.

For my siblings and I, we decided a few years ago not to get each other birthday presents (the only exception being if it is a milestone birthday or if you happen to be at Target on “Force Friday” and they have a Potato Head named Luke Frywalker and your brother loves Star Wars and Potato Heads, but we can talk about that another time).  However, we still like to get each other a little something to mark the occasion, whether it be flowers, a bottle of a favorite adult beverage or a sweet treat.

This year I thought I would give my sister-in-law and my aunt some of their favorite candy (my brother was getting Luke Frywalker as noted above), but I didn’t want to give them a bag with some random candy thrown in it so off to Pinterest I went.  There I found the idea to make a candy bouquet.  Super simple and I think they turned out cute.

Items Needed (makes one candy bouquet):

Mason Jar (I used the narrow mouth ones but if you want to fit more candy you could use the wide mouth jars)

1.5 bags of miniature candy (I used mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, Hershey’s miniature candy bars)

4-5 full size candy bars

Paper Straws (I found  these in the party supply aisle at Target.  They held up just fine and they were cute).

Tissue Paper

Baker’s Twine

Glue gun (I did not have one so I bought one. I was so excited because I’ve always wanted one which I know is a little weird).

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Using your glue gun, glue the paper straws to the back side of the candy bars.  Let the glue cool.

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In the meantime fill the mason three-fourths of the way up with the miniature candy.

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I decided to make a paper flower to decorate the outside of the jar.  Take one sheet of colored tissue paper and cut it into eight equal pieces.  Then laying each sheet on top of each other fold it like a  fan.

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Cut a piece of baker’s twine long enough to wrap around the jar with some extra.  Take the folded tissue paper and tie the baker’s twine super tight in the middle.  You’ll have a narrow spot in the middle but the ends will flare out.

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Then separate each layer and fluff up and apart so you flower is nice and fluffy.

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Take your now cooled glued full size candy bars and stick randomly in the mason jar.  Once they were placed, I put a few more pieces of the miniature candy strategically in the jar to help the straws stay in place.

Then take the long ends of the baker’s twine attached to the paper flower and tie around the mason jar.  I just tied the ends in a bow at the back (making sure it was tight) and trimmed the edges.

And now you have a completed candy bouquet.  —June

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Trying to Get Organized

I will admit that I am not the most organized person in the world.  My stuff tends to be in a state of organized chaos. I am not one of those people that is always losing things, but I do spend a lot of time looking for a specific item. However, there is something about the change of seasons to Fall that makes me want to clean up and get organized.  I think Fall does this to me because I know how much time I am going to spend in my house in a few months.

I decided to start with a small project this weekend, organizing some of my jewelry.  I have a lot of jewelry.  Now before anyone decides to rob my house let me preface it by saying almost all of it is costume jewelry or in fancy terms (and as it is called in the Sundance catalog) “Artisan Jewelry.”

I find that with my jewelry if I can’t see it, I don’t wear it (I’m too tired in the morning to have much of a memory for my stuff).  So I keep a lot of my jewelry out on my dresser, but it is a mess.  To get this mess under control I have a couple of projects in mind, but this one is a super easy way to organize earrings.  I will admit that I am sure I stole this idea from Real Simple magazine.

IMG_0775This is my usual mess of earrings.  Hard to find the matching pair.

IMG_0773This is after I clean for the cleaning ladies so they can dust.  I am bringing out all of the skeletons in my closet here.

I purchased a ceramic egg holder from Cost Plus World Market.

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 Plain ceramic egg holder.

Truthfully, I wanted a different color but they only had white.  Afterwords I was glad I ended up with white because it makes it easier to see the colors in my earrings.  I sorted out my earrings into the different compartments.  I did put more than one pair in a egg holder, but no more than three.

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 Finished project.

 And now my favorite pairs are organized so that I can easily find them.  This organization project took me probably 10 minutes.  Now if only my closet could be organized so quickly.  -June

 

 

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Summer Flower Bouquets

I love summer flowers, especially the free-flowing wildness of perennials. Coneflowers, hydrangeas, phlox and black-eyed susans are all blooming in my yard right now.

I like to bring that same look into my house with loose floral arrangements full of perennials this time of year.  I dream of having a flower cutting garden in my backyard with rows and rows of flowers where I can go cut them to bring them inside.  My grandma had this type of garden and there is something so wonderful about having a garden grown purely for beauty, rather than for practicality.

I have not yet started that garden in my yard (probably due to my comment above about being a lazy gardener) so I like to treat myself occasionally to fresh flowers at the grocery store.  It is such a simple treat and really not that expensive.  This past week I was thrilled when I saw my grocery store had bouquets of  what they called “Farmers Market” flowers.  They had some arrangements already made up in Mason jars, but were also just selling unarranged bouquets.  Because I have a million Mason jars at home (my mom moved a few years ago and she had accumulated Mason jars from canning) I bought the unarranged bouquet and decided to make my own arrangements.

You can buy Mason jars anywhere now.  I have seen them at Target, the grocery store and JoAnn’s.  The wide mouth ones work best for flower arranging.  Also, you should buy the metal rings to go over the top to give the jar more of a finished look.

I am not an expert flower arranger so I simply trimmed the ends and pulled off some of the extraneous leaves.  You definitely do not want the leaves in the water because it makes the water slimey and after a few days incredibly smelly.

Out of the bouquet I bought at the store I got two arrangements, a big one and a smaller one.  On the arrangements at the store they had put raffia ribbon around the metal ring to give it a little extra polish.  I did not have any raffia ribbon but I did have some other miscellaneous ribbons and string (I have a lot of craft supplies just because).

For the big jar, I had a piece of yarn with pom poms on the ends that I had saved, that had held together a packet of dishtowels I bought at Anthropologie.  I wrapped it around the top of the jar a couple of times and then loosely tied it.

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For the smaller jar I used some baker’s twine.  I cut six strands to a length of roughly 24 inches (if I don’t know how much length I am going to need I try and cut it too long because I can always trim).  I wrapped the strands around the top of the jar and then knotted it.  I trimmed the ends to roughly the same length and then let them hang.

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And out of that one bouquet at the grocery store I made two arrangements that I can enjoy in my house.  When I plant my cutting garden I hope to have arrangements all summer for me to enjoy and to share with my friends.

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I hope you are finding ways to bring summer into your house.  -June

 

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Easy Artwork

This is such an easy project to create simple artwork that I am almost embarrassed to post it.  However, I am sure that I saw this idea somewhere else so I thought I would share.

I needed some artwork for my guest room and frankly did not want to spend any money on it.  The room does not get used that often.  Also, I tend to buy art and other decorative items for the home organically.  I cannot go out with the mission of finding artwork for a specific space.  If I see something I may buy it and then figure out where to put it.  So knowing those factors, I decided to make my own artwork for the guest room.  I was at Paper Source  (this is a Chicago-based company with retail locations many places now and online as well) and I found this lovely single sheet wrapping paper.

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I love hydrangeas.  They were on my wedding invitations, in my bouquet and centerpieces and we have several of them in our backyard so this was an easy choice.  I bought two sheets of the paper for $3.50 a piece.  I then picked up some inexpensive frames (these are the Ribba from IKEA and the opening is 11×14).

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Then I got out my scissors and cut the paper to fit in the frame.  The paper should be cut a little wider than the mat opening so that you don’t have any gaps.  And voila some inexpensive artwork created in around 15 minutes or less.

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I often get compliments on my artwork and when I tell people it is simply wrapping paper they do not believe me.  I think the trick is to use a heavier paper with a beautiful design.  Have fun picking out some new artwork for your home.  -June

 

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