"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5

Holidays

I LOVE Fall Leaves!

One of the things I miss most about WA, (besides friends and family, of course) are fall leaves. There really is nothing quite like a sunny and crisp fall day, filled with bright orange, red, and yellow leaves everywhere you look. Fall makes me want to drink hot apple cider, bake cookies, and put on a nice warm scarf. You just don’t get that living in Southern California. I’m not complaining though. It’s pretty neat having 80 degree weather in October.

I decided that this year I was going to find a way to bring fall into our home. I’ve found several versions of this craft floating around the internet. The best part about it—it was easy and FREE! James and I took a walk and gathered up some sticks on a stifling 90 degree afternoon earlier this month, and then I arranged them in a vase that used to hold silk flowers.

Next I took leaves off of an existing leaf garland I had (they just popped right off) and I popped them onto the ends of the sticks. I thought I’d have to hot glue them onto the sticks but the branches were small enough that they fit perfectly over the ends. This is great because if we can’t find a place for them in storage, I can discard the sticks and keep the leaves to use again next year!

If you like the wooden ‘fall’ pumpkins, you can find out how I made them HERE. They were also a nearly free craft!

I took the leftover garland and draped it over the piano.

Now I can enjoy our warm weather and a little piece of fall at the same time. 🙂

What do you enjoy most about fall?

This post was featured on Skip to My Lou, Watcha Work Up Wednesday, Flaunt it Friday, The Frugal Girls, Tip Junkie, and A Bowl Full of Lemons.

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Wood Block Fall Pumpkins

There are two things I can’t resist—flip-flops and home decor. Especially, holiday decor. I could really get myself in trouble, especially around the holidays so I’ve been trying to make things, rather than buy. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it always helps to feed my need to be creative.

And some projects take longer than others, lol. I have a lot of great ideas, but there just isn’t enough time in the day! We (yes, my awesome husband helped too!) started this one last year after I saw this neat tutorial. James cut some wood blocks and sanded them, used a dremmel tool to curve the edges, and then banged them up to give them a lovely weathered and worn feel. I took some orange and brown paints (I’m sorry, I can’t remember which colors I used) and mixed them until I found the color I was looking for, and painted the blocks. It took a few coats because the paint kept soaking into the wood. Then I took  sandpaper and lightly sanded the color off the edges. It was almost Thanksgiving by the time we got this part done so the Christmas decor came out and the blocks were tucked into the cupboard until just a few weeks ago.

I’m a terrible painter, so I had secretly been dreading painting the letters on, but James came up with an awesome idea. I printed out the letters in a font that I wanted to use as a template (The one I used is called “A Yummy Apology” and can be downloaded here.) and then he suggested that I put the letters on the wood and trace them with a pen. The wood was soft so it would create an indented outline for me to use when painting. GENIUS! I wasn’t strong enough to get a good indent so he ended up doing that part for me, but it worked wonderfully. I used some white paint I had leftover from another project and easily painted the letters on. Next we found a big stick to use for the stems and James cut them down to size. I hot glued them on the wood and added ribbons, raffia, and silk leaves for embellishment. We’ll spray on a couple coats of sealer before we store them away for next year.

What do you think?  I have four more wood blocks left. What should I use them for?

This post was featured on Tip Me Tuesday, Skip to My Lou, Watcha Work-up WednesdayThe Frugal GirlsThe Vintage Farmhouse, Flaunt it Friday, Show and Tell Saturdays, and A Bowl Full of Lemons


A Rock Em, Sock Em Valentine’s Day!

Um, hi Toni, did you know that it’s almost April?

Well, yes.  We’ve just had a lot of “life” going on around here the last few months and I started this post and never finished it. C’est la vie and so I write about Valentine’s Day a month and a half late. I thought about deleting it but James really wanted me to share his cake with you. Plus, I think you’re going to want to make the peanut butter cups below.

We actually celebrated on two days. We had been dealing with some stressful things and without knowing it, James and I both decided to get each other presents a little early.The really crazy thing is that we did it on the same day! James came home with this beautiful bouquet of flowers:

And then when he turned the corner he found this sitting on the kitchen counter:

He thinks I’m the coolest wife ever for putting toys on a cake 🙂

By the way, the cake was chocolate with orange flavored frosting. It’s the first cake I’ve ever made entirely from scratch. You can get the recipe for Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake HERE. But, I made it with Nestle cocoa. Shhhh . . . don’t tell anyone. I also used the same frosting recipe I always use, but added a little vanilla and orange extract for flavoring. It was yummy!

We celebrated on the actual day too.  I made these for James: (I think we are just now getting all these calories worked off!)

The cherries were super easy – I just dipped maraschino cherries in warm melted chocolate chips mixed with about a spoonful of shortening and let them dry on wax paper until the chocolate hardened.  Then I put them all in a sealed plastic container and stored them in the fridge. You can get the recipe for the peanut butter cups HERE.

I don’t have pictures yet, but James also made some new planter boxes for me.  He did a great job – they are really beautiful! I will be sure to take pictures when we get our plants planted in them this spring.


My Sugar Cookie Adventure: From Monstrosity to Perfection

I learned something really important from my mom the other day.  There is no way to make sugar cookies “healthy.”  Duh, right?  Ok, let me clarify.  I knew that you can’t make them healthy.  I wanted to use less butter for both lactose intolerance sake and for healthiness sake.  So, I used this recipe (be sure to look at how cute their cookies are!) and substituted 1/2 the butter for apple sauce and half the flour for whole wheat flour.   And then I got this monstrosity:

Are those not the ugliest, most deformed sugar cookies you have ever seen?!  You can click on the photo to get a clearer view, giant air bubbles and all, if you dare.  Apparently, you can’t use applesauce in sugar cookies because it bakes them into a strange bread-like texture.  In addition to that, it creates a sticky mess that makes it almost impossible to roll out or cut. Trust me on this, you don’t EVER want to put applesauce in your sugar cookies!  I spent a ridiculous amount of time on these, only to get the above sad result. 

I asked mom for her recipe and tried again.  (Side note- I bet the recipe above works just fine too . . . if you follow the directions.)

Viola!  I don’t mean to brag, but these cookies came out perfect.  Here is her recipe if you would like to try it yourself:

Ethel’s Sugar Cookies (with mom’s revisions)

3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon flavoring. I have used strawberry, orange peppermint, vanilla anything works.
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (in date, newer the better)

Mix butter, sugar, eggs and flavoring thoroughly.

Add flour and baking powder slowly. Chill at least 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400. Roll dough to 1/4 ( it calls for 1/8 but I roll mine thicker) on lightly floured board. Cut out cookies, place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 6-8 minutes It says until they are a light golden color, sometimes they are over baked then. Just try one to see. That’s it!

This time I followed the directions exactly except that I used 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup shortening (soy free).  Our oven cooks at the speed of light so I only left them in there for 5-6 minutes.  And then I made homemade soy free vanilla frosting.  I’d give you a link to the recipe, but I didn’t follow it.  Basically I just put in a chunk of shortening and then started adding vanilla extract, salt, warm water, and powdered sugar until the taste and consistency was to my liking. After frosting the cookies, I dusted them with some sprinkles, of course. And here is the final product, just like mom used to make them: 

We enjoyed these cookies Christmas evening with some hot cocoa after a brisk, but lovely stroll down Christmas Card Lane. And boy were they yummy.  Hope you all had a merry and blessed Christmas too! 🙂

 


Candy Cane Candle Holder

A few weeks ago I found this Candy Cane Vase tutorial.  I thought it was such a cute idea but our cats will eat anything that resembles a plant or flower.  And yes, I do mean anything. That means real, plastic, and cloth plants too.  So, I didn’t see the point in making it since we could never use it.  A few nights ago I was cleaning up after dinner and was about to throw an olive can into the recycling when I realized that it was the perfect size for the miniature candy canes and decided to make a candle holder!

Isn’t this cute?  I had originally planned to use tealights or votives but James pointed out that the jar candle would look nice.  We just happened to have two jar candles and two olive cans so all I needed to purchase were the candy canes.  I hot glued the candy canes to the cans and then James sprayed them with sealant so they wouldn’t get sticky.  They were quick and easy to make and the best part is that I only spent a little over $1 each on them!

This post was linked to Tip Me Tuesday.


Christmas Traditions

At small group a couple of weeks ago we talked about our family’s Christmas traditions and I thought that I would share them here too. My two most favorite traditions were started by each of my grandmothers. 

As soon as Kevin and I were old enough, Grandma Jones would pick out an age appropriate craft for each of us.  Kev spent Sat afternoons with her and I would spend Sun afternoons with her.  We would make the craft for each member in our family.  It gave us some great quality time with grandma and it allowed us, as children, to give gifts that we made (mostly) on our own.  I remember feeling so grown up when I put the gifts we made under the tree.  Now, I cherish the memories and the time that we spent together making them.

Every year since we were born, Grandma Brown has given each of us grandkids a Christmas ornament.  She started that tradition so that when we grew up and moved out on our own we would already have ornaments for our tree.  Now every year when I decorate the tree, each ornament has a memory or year tied to it that I remember as we decorate.  It’s so special to me and I hope that if James and I have children someday, that our parents will do the same!

Here are the ornaments grandma gave us this year:

James says: "I guess I'm the one with the goatee?" 🙂

 

What are some of your Christmas traditions?