Category Archives: Try-it Tuesday

Try-it Tuesday: Bright Baby Boy Shower

Many moons ago (okay, so more like 2 1/2 months, but still), some friends of mine and I hosted a shower for Mandy’s then not-yet-born baby boy, Zane.

You know you’re behind on a post when you finally get around to blogging about a baby shower, and the baby in question has already been born, is a month old (Today! Happy 1st Month Birthday, Zane!), and is wearing 3T clothes (just a little joke; he was 10 lbs. when he was born, and he’s fast gaining on the twins). 

If you saw Mandy’s adorable nursery reveal last Friday, then you know that the inspiration for Zane’s nursery is an Alexander Henry fabric with lots of bright happy colors like red, yellow, blue, orange, and chocolate brown.

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(That Z is covered in the fabric I’m talking about, and I’m laughing so hard right now realizing we set it up backwards; face palm).

We took our cue from her nursery colors and incorporated lots of the same hues for the decorations. The party was at my house in “the big room” (yup, that’s actually what we call it) upstairs, where we also hosted Simon’s and Della’s Pirates and Princesses birthday party last year, and I was thrilled with how well the colors in the room lent themselves to the shower “theme” (there really wasn’t one; just general bright baby boy happiness).

bright baby boy shower

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Here’s a shot of the spread on the main table.

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The chalkboard is actually a fun barn sale find from several years back that I painted (both the yellow and the chalkboard).  Then, our crazy-talented artist friend, Lindsay, did the chalk art. Free hand. Seriously. Isn’t she amazing?

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Speaking of artistic talents, Lindsay comes by them naturally. Her mom, Alison, does the most gorgeous floral arrangements, and she made two of these pretty bouquets at cost for us (she has such a generous heart).

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I stole the turquoise garland from the twins’ room and discovered the yellow one hiding away in a cabinet on the day of the party, which was such a fun little happenstance since it really added to the vivid color scheme.

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The food consisted of a mix of sweet and savory. I made carrot cake cupcakes from this sinfully delicious recipe. I also made a very ugly but very yummy version of this chicken cranberry croissant ring, and it was a huge hit!

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(that cute chalkboard name art is from Lindsay as well; I know, right?)

Mandy’s sister-in-law, Cayse, who is one of the sweetest souls I have ever had the privilege to know and who just moved away to Arkansas (booooo!), was able to be there for the party, and she made this adorable diaper cake.

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Of course, what’s a baby shower without games? And since I do gross way better than I do cutesy, we played the “What’s in the Diaper?” game, which produced many giggles and expressions like this one.

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(if that’s not the most realistic-looking fake “newborn poop” ever, I don’t know what is)

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Another lovely specimen.

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BRAVE WOMAN!

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Meanwhile, the twins happily played on the crumb-strewn floor and produced very real, very fragrant diaper contents for their mother to guess at later on.    

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Almost all the ladies, minus Sheila (and one other), who kindly snapped the pic.

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Oh, and one of me and the lady of honor (I don’t know how kosher it is to post pics of pregnant women after they’re no longer pregnant, but when you look this darn cute and tiny pregnant, I say it’s okay).

Whew! Glad I finally got all that off my chest. Plus, it was fun to look back at the pictures and reminisce about the fact that I have friends that are brave enough to taste-test the contents of a diaper that at the very least looks like it was recently attached to a real baby bottom. Everybody needs a few friends like that.

So, what about you guys? Do you stick to themes for parties or are coordinating colors good enough? OR are you just happy if the cheesy hamburger dip gets melted? (No judgment here; I once had guests helping me make the cupcakes for my own daughter’s first birthday party).

I’ve still got 18 days left to finalize plans for the twins’ party, so hopefully, there won’t be a cupcake (or lack thereof) catastrophe repeat, but I’m not gonna lie. I need to get moving.

Have a terrific Tuesday, y’all!

P.S. Anybody want to take a guess at what was in those two diapers in the pics?

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Try-it Tuesday: EASY Ribbon Bow Headband

First up, thanks so much for all your suggestions on yesterday’s Twin Birthday Inspiration post. Y’all had some awesome ideas!

Speaking of the twins…

I was about to claim that I love getting my girls dressed up in froofy outfits as much as the next mama. But it’s just not true. While I do enjoy dressing my little princesses up every now and then, all I have to do is look right and left at the grocery store to see that I’m way behind the curve in the baby accessorizing department.

So much so that Liz, a sweet nursery worker at our gym, bought the twins hair bows because they always show up bowless and shoeless.

liztwins

{But they match! Surely that counts for something}

I’ve already talked about my aversion to the head-swallowing bow trend so prevalent here in Texas. I think it’s cute enough on other people’s kiddos (although, I’m not gonna lie—when it’s a newborn who looks like she’s about to buckle under the mountain of tulle and ribbon on her head, I’m definitely not a fan). But I prefer smaller embellishments for my own girls.

Which is why I really love today’s headband. I’m calling it the…

 headbandswatermarked

Here’s what you’ll need to make some of your own:

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    • Hot glue gun/glue
    • Scissors
    • Ribbon (two coordinating colors/patterns in smaller/larger size)
    • 1/8” elastic

{See? Easy!}

::STEP 1::

Cut a length of the thicker ribbon, keeping in mind that you will be folding it in half. I didn’t measure, but I started with somewhere around 3-4”.

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::STEP 2::

Fold the ends of the ribbon back until they just barely overlap and the underside of the ribbon is completely hidden. Then secure the folded over ends with a dab of hot glue.

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::STEP 3::

Take your thinner ribbon and secure it in the center of your folded over ribbon with another bead of hot glue.

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Wrap it all the way around the center, tightening a little to create a slightly “cinched in” look for the center. Then, glue it in place and trim the end with your scissors.

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At this point, you’ll have this:

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::STEP 4::

Measure your little cutie’s head and cut a length of 1/8” elastic to size. Then—yup, you guessed it—attach it to your bow with yet another dab of hot glue.

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::STEP 5::

Slap the world’s easiest-to-make bow headband on a baby (or two, if you’ve got another one handy).

happy twins happy twins2 

Marvel at their happy adorableness for the .02 seconds it lasts.

After which time, you’ll have this:

unhappy twins collage

(I made these originally for the twins to wear at Shae’s wedding, and they did happily. But they’ve only worn them once since, and apparently, when you rarely put headband on your babies, they don’t care for it much when you do it for photo shoots).

I think the best thing about these headbands is that, yes, they’re super-simple, but you have endless options to fancy them up a bit.  You could add a bit of sparkle with glitter or rhinestones (as long as your baby is not of the headband-gnawing persuasion), layer different patterns of ribbon in thinner sizes, or even glue little flowers or butterflies to the top (again, careful with any add-ons that your baby could choke on). Also, they work well with practically any kind of ribbon. I used grosgrain and a silky ruffled ribbon mostly, but I could see these working great with satin or even velvet.

Now, if only I could remember to put them on the twins before we leave the house…

Ah well. Can’t win them all.

But, considering that these headbands take all of 5 minutes to make, I’m going to call it a win, even if they only end up on a baby-noggin once a month.

What about you guys? Are you good at accessorizing your munchkins? Or are you good to go if they have a fresh recently changed diaper and semi-unstained clothes on? (Totally guilty of this one, most days).

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Try-it Tuesday: How I Style My {Short} Curly Hair

A couple of weeks ago, I reposted my “How I style my {long} curly hair” regimen. And, although my routine is still pretty similar, there are a few tweaks that I’ve made since the big chop.

I start with the same products as before:

hair regime

I have no objections to using other products, but these seem to work as well or better than most for my hair. Plus, they’re reasonably priced, and I can find them anywhere, so I just keep buying them.

Note: I only wash my hair about twice a week. I’ve heard lots of things about shampoo being drying/damaging for curly hair, and I know that those who use the Curly Girl method rarely ever use shampoo, but I’ve never noticed any drying issues with mine. That said, I don’t wash it very often, and because of its fairly coarse texture, it takes a looooong time to get greasy.

STEP 1:

Shampoo/rinse hair in shower

STEP 2:

Wrap hair gently in a towel. I do zero rubbing, but I do gently squeeze the ends to remove excess moisture.

STEP 3:

Remove towel and flip head over, at which point I have this:

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{oh-so-attractive, no?}

I don’t comb anything, even with my fingers at this point, and after I squeeze the tips of my hair, I leave the rest of it very damp. (Honestly, the wetter it is when I put the product in, the better). The only thing I do is a tiny bit of arranging (for example, my hair naturally parts to the right, so I sweep my long bangs that direction so they’ll lie right when I start drying).

STEP 4:

Flip my head back over and gently finger-comb the following through my hair:

hair regime1

{Quarter-sized dollop of conditioner; I don’t rinse this out}

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{handful of mousse, making sure to get from root to tip}

OPTIONAL

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{If it’s an especially humid day, I’ll smooth a bit of gel over the top of my hair before drying, but I’ve found that, with my shorter hair and how thinned out it is, the gel tends to make it too crunchy, so I usually skip it}

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Here I am with all my product in. Clearly, I could stand to do a little more arranging before I start drying.

STEP 5::

One big difference between my long and short hair routine is that I almost always blow dry my hair now, whereas I almost always air-dried before. I just like the volume and piece-yness that blow drying produces.

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{Stick ‘em up! Della looks worried}

I start out blow drying with my head flipped over (which I couldn’t get a picture of, not that you needed it), but that tends to make the hair at the crown of my head rather flat, so I only dry that way for a little while before I flip it back over and continue drying the sides and back with my head tilted to allow the teeth of the diffuser to get up inside the hair.

Note: I know some curly girls that blow dry without a diffuser, but all that does for me is produce colossal frizz, so I always go the diffuser route.

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Even with short, drastically thinned out hair, it still takes a good 15 minutes of drying before my hair is mostly dry.

At which point is looks like this:

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My hair tends to “settle” over time, and the curls loosen up a bit, so that, a couple of hours after this whole process, we have the final result, which looks something like this:

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For days 2 and 3, I just re-dampen my hair, smooth a tiny bit of conditioner over the frizzies and do a bit of fluffing, then let it air dry.

Hope this helps you short-hair curly girls. If you have hair like mine (curly/wavy/crazy thick/combination coarse and fine), feel free to toss some suggestions my direction for ways to improve my results!

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Try-it Tuesday: How I Style My Curly Hair {Repost}

In honor of my recent hair-chop (that I teased you with a hint of yesterday), I thought I’d do a repost of one of my most popular and most asked-for blogs ever. I had planned to update it with a “how I style my {short} curly hair” post. I even took all the pictures and everything, but the whole post is just not happening today (be on the lookout next week), so I thought I’d remind you of how I used to style my hair when it was long (sniff, sniff…just kidding…I’m really digging the shorter cut).

Below is a pretty typical result:

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It kind of cracks me up to have people ask me how I “style” my hair because, most of the time (as you might gather from the rather wild look in the above pic), I really don’t. It has a bit of a mind of its own, and I often let it have its way.

Still…here are the basics (by the way, if any of my straight-haired friends out there are about to slam your laptops shut in disgust at my ignoring you, DON’T! Please. I have a few tips for you too).

My hair: it’s incredibly thick, people—the kind of thick that gets comments like, “Whoa! You scalped her!” every.single.time people see how much hair is on the floor after one of my haircuts. Then, of course, they look up, see how much hair is still on my head, and do a double take.  The only way to avoid a super-attractive “hair pyramid” is lots and lots of layers and thinning shears. My stylist typically attacks it with a razor until half of it is gone (and I still had a normal person’s head of hair left).

My hair also defies conventional curl wisdom. I only get the defined, ringlet-ish curls when my hair is long and all basically one length (which hasn’t happened since I was 15, I think). And even that only happens on part of my head. The majority of my hair is more wavy/swirly than curly. Also, it’s very uneven in terms of texture. Some parts are kinky/coarse, and others are fine and straight(ish).

In other words, my hair could probably use a straitjacket. Barring that, though, here’s the next best fix I’ve found:

    • A variety of products.  To achieve anything more than a mass of frizz, I can’t use just one thing. I use a cocktail (shaken, not stirred) of these:garnier

Okay, so not that big of a cocktail, but, after many years of experimentation, I have landed on the Garnier Fructis line for curly hair as my go-to brand. It’s not like a “special” hair relationship or anything. I don’t feel guilty when I try something else, and even these products are far from foolproof, but I’ve tried more expensive brands and never found anything noticeably better.

Specifically, I use the shampoo/conditioner for curly hair or dry hair (whichever I can find at the time), the Curl Construct Mousse, and the Curl Scrunch Gel (extra strong).

1.

I shampoo my hair in the shower, and sometimes I condition it too. But usually I just shampoo, rinse, then wrap my hair in a towel and get dressed/put my makeup on. NO rubbing or tousling.

2.

Next, I unwrap my hair, and finger-comb about a quarter-sized glob of conditioner through my hair. I don’t rinse this out. It may not technically be made to stay in your hair, but it sure won’t hurt it, and I’ve found that this step acts as a very effective frizz-fighter.

3.

 Then, I distribute two decent-sized handfuls of mousse through my hair, again with my fingers

4.

I squirt a quarter-sized amount of gel in my hand and gently smooth it over my hair (this step sort of seals everything else, so I try not to separate the curls)

5.

Finally, I grab the towel my hair was wrapped in and carefully squeeze/scrunch sections of my hair to remove any excess moisture

Notice that I didn’t mention a comb at any point during this process. As my hair gets longer, I’ll have to add a wide-toothed comb to my routine, but right now, all a comb does is promote frizz.

I’ll do a bit of arranging of strands if it looks particularly wonky once I flip my head back over. But I almost always let my hair air-dry, only drying it with a hairdryer when I’m in a hurry to get somewhere and don’t want a wet head or when I want more defined curls.

In the case of the defined curls option, I always use a diffuser. Diffusers are a curly-girl’s best friend. If I ever use the diffuser-less dryer option, the results aren’t too pretty.

After all that, this is (more or less) what I end up with this:

{I just threw that shot of the twins in there as a bonus}

Certainly nothing fancy, but it works for me.

And now for the part where I stop ignoring my straight-haired readers.

If you’ve ever wanted curls but despaired of ever getting so much as a wave, try this:

    • Wash your hair like usual
    • Towel it dry and rub a handful of mousse from root to tip (make sure every bit of your hair gets at least a little bit of product)
    • Flip your hair over and blow-dry it with a diffuser (when you dry your hair with a diffuser, you choose sections, stick the “fingers” of the diffuser into that section and then hold it still until that section is dry; no rough-housing!)
    • Stand up and try not to scream when you get a glimpse of your newly volumized hairdo (I hear it’s a bit traumatic to go from smooth and sleek to the wildness that curly-girls experience on a regular basis).
    • Give your hair a gentle shake to see where it falls. Tame any flyaways with just a dab of conditioner or hair-wax, and then spritz the whole thing with hairspray.

Will you have ringlets? Probably not (okay, no, if your hair truly is straight). But I’ve tried this on several friends’ hair who didn’t think they would get so much as a bend in a single strand, and they ended up with really pretty beachy waves and lots of volume (I remember one friend’s stylist saying, “How did you know her hair could do that? I had no idea!”). It depends on the person/hair, but it’s at least worth a shot, right?

And this concludes my dissertation on styling curly hair. Thank you for your attention.

So, what about you? Curly or straight…what works best for your hair? I’d love to hear your thoughts (especially on getting curly hair to straighten well; I’m usually too lazy, but I do enjoy going straight every once in a while).

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Try-it Tuesday: Chicken Cranberry Croissant Wreath {Recipe}

Most of the recipes I share with you are ones I’ve made a lot or that I grew up eating. Take my chicken pot pie for example. That’s a bi-monthly staple around here. But every so often, I stumble across something so scrumptious that it immediately becomes a part of my culinary arsenal, and I can’t wait to share it with you guys.

Something scrumptious like this Chicken Cranberry Croissant Ring.

Chicken Wreath

I first had it at one of my new sis-in-law’s bridal showers, and I immediately asked for the recipe.

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{Here we are, showering it up! Is it just me, or is my head literally twice as large as hers???}

Apparently, the hostess was so confident in the awesomeness of this dish that she had anticipated such requests and taken it upon herself to print out some copies. When I told a friend this, she laughed and said, “But it wouldn’t it have been awkward if she’d been all, ‘Ladies, I have copies of that wonderful recipe if you want it,’ and they were all like: crickets?”

Awkward, indeed. Fortunately, this little yummy is too good to pass up, and when I served it at Mandy’s shower  (which I still plan to show you pictures of…someday), I would have done well to have followed in the (much-more-prepared) hostess’s footsteps and had a few printed copies of my own. Because I, too, got requests for the recipe. Good thing I have a blog, which means that, instead of hard copies that I may or may not remember to print and hand out, I can send a link to this post…and share it with all of you wonderful people too! WIN!

So, assuming that I’ve hyped this sucker enough, let’s move on to how you actually make it.

You’ll need:

2 (8 ounce) packages refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
2 cups chopped cooked chicken (or turkey)
1 1/4 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
3 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
1 egg white, lightly beaten

::STEP 1::

Preheat oven to 375°F

::STEP 2::

Mix together the chicken, 1 cup of the cheese, celery, cranberries, parsley, walnuts (if you want them), mayonnaise, mustard and black pepper.

::STEP 3::

Unroll the 2 packages of crescent rolls and pull them apart into 16 triangles, then place 8 of them in a circle on a large pizza pan or stone. The wide ends are toward the center of the stone/pan, and the points are towards the outside. The points will extend off the edge of the pan (depending on size). Arrange the remaining triangles in the center of the pan, matching wide ends with triangles already in placed. The edges of the wide ends will overlap in center.

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Confession: I’ve made this twice since that first shower where I had it, and I’ve flubbed the actual wreath-wrapping process BOTH TIMES because the recipe instructions were more than a little muddled. And the pictures I’m showing you are of my latest flubbed version because a) we like to keep it real around here, and b) although I really felt like something must be off, I didn’t find a good tutorial that explained the confusing parts of the written recipe until after I had already taken my pictures for you guys.

So!If you would like to know how to properly wrap your wreath, you can check out this tutorial, which is considerably clearer than the written instructions I had and which is what I plan to do the next time I make this.

::STEP 4::

Using a rolling pin or drinking glass, roll the edges of your overlapped croissants together.

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{had I done this correctly, there would be more croissants in the center, with their points heading toward the center of the pan; eh, it still worked}

::STEP 5::

Place scoops of the chicken salad mixture around the ring on the widest portions of the croissants.

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::STEP 6::

Wrap your croissants pieces around the chicken salad, using the method that other lady did because I totally did this part wrong. ;)

::STEP 7::

Brush the outside of the rolls with the egg white and sprinkle with your remaining 1/4 cup of cheese

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::STEP 8::

Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. (This only took about 23 minutes in my oven, so you might want to start your bake time lower and then check it periodically toward the end).

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I made the wreath for my husband’s homecoming lunch, and I decided to try my hand at cream cheese flan (because I promised myself I would). I used this recipe, and it came out fantastic (although, I will definitely spring for a flan pan next time).

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(I use my Mother’s day PIP china every chance I get)

The next time you need something to look fancy and taste amazing, with minimal effort and almost no cooking (or recipe-following, apparently) skills required, try this deliciousness. It’s gorgeous (even when you don’t do it right), and with ingredients like celery and dried cranberries (we’ll just ignore the mayonnaise and buttery croissants), it even sounds a little bit healthy! Win again!

So…

Do you have any looks-fancy-but-is-actually-easy recipes you love?

Ever been completely stumped by the instructions (cooking or otherwise?) you were trying to follow (I even recruited help the first time, and we were both confused)?

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Try-it Tuesday: Trolling the Hobby Lobby Clearance Aisles

Y’all already know I love me some Goodwill (and yes, I started a post with almost that exact same sentence recently; it’s a dead horse I like to beat).

Without it, there’s no way I would have worn a J. Crew top and a pair of Anthropologie-brand jeans when I hosted Mandy’s baby shower (pics and details coming soon!). And for less than $10!!

Goodwill really can’t be beat for home decor either. Yes, garage sale prices are much cheaper, but the amount of time and gas spent, not to mention the prospect of hauling 5 kids around to house after house (and hearing, “Are they all yours? Bless your heart, honey” ad nauseum) is enough to keep me loyal to good ol’ GW.

However.

When I shop for house treasures at Goodwill, I pretty much know two things:

1) Almost everything I find will need at least a little TLC (sometimes a lot)

and

2) The chances of finding something current are just about nil

And that’s fine. I love the uniqueness of thrift store finds,  I don’t really follow trends, and I’m pretty handy with a can of spray paint.

Every now and then, though, it’s fun to bring something home that doesn’t need as much work and won’t have to have every single last knob replaced before it stops screaming, “I’m a 1970’s hippie cast-off!”

Enter Hobby Lobby. Or more specifically, Hobby Lobby’s clearance aisles.

Warning: If you don’t have a Hobby Lobby near you, you may want to stop reading now because what I’m going to tell you next may just make you sad.

Did you know that Hobby Lobby regularly has several aisles devoted to their clearance merchandise—usually at 80-90% off the original price?

I have found some of my favorite mirrors, art, and furniture there are super-steep discounts (not to mention decorative knobs).

Pieces like this bench, which I scored for about $70.

bench

and this wood frame (I added the fabric), which was originally something crazy like $120, but I only paid around $10.

frame

It had been a good long while since I’d stopped by (the tiny shopping carts and multitude of breakable objects keep me away when I have all five kids with me, which is pretty much all the time), but one Friday night when Shaun was out of town, I found myself with a couple of “free” hours and only the twins with me.

So to Hobby Lobby we went (that’s what everybody does with their Friday nights, right?).

I pretty much hit the mother lode while I was there, and I thought I’d show you 4 of my finds.

I’ve got a bare piece of wall that’s been stumping me. So when I saw this guy, I snapped him up for $10 (after an 80% reduction). Yes, it’s still a bit steep for a piece of painted wood (with a crack down the middle; it doesn’t bother me) with some knobs stuck in it. And I would have NEEEEEEEVER paid anywhere close to the ridiculously overpriced $50 original price tag. But when you consider that each of those knobs could easily ring up at $2-3 each, and I don’t have to do a single thing to it, it was worth it to me.

hobbylobby1

Next up was this sunburst mirror. Obviously, it needs some love (and a coat of gold spray paint, I do believe), but with a handy husband at home who could replace the missing shims, I was (barely) willing to pay $8. Why? Because I know I will never find a sunburst mirror at Goodwill (until they have been out of style for 30 years, anyway), and the thought of creating my own from paint stirrers is less than appealing at the moment. Do I think this mirror is worth it’s original $80 price tag (choke)? Not in a million. But less than $10 plus a little elbow grease? Definitely.

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And then there was this awesome chunky basket, which I bought two of. I have a hard time spending $15 on a little piece of woven straw, but $6 for something truly unique? That I can handle.

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And last, we have the piece de resistance—this gorgeous mirrored nightstand for only $75. hobbylobby4

I looooooove mirrored furniture. But it’s so expensive that I gasp every time I check the price tag on a piece I like, even at discount places like Ross.

I bought the two they had left to use in our bedroom makeover, and I plan to paint them (because I want my husband to be able to keep his man card), but a coat of paint seems totally worth it to have finally found something I’ve been searching for for under $100.

Bonus points if you can spot me in the mirror.

Clearly, I’m a fan of Hobby Lobby as long as I can subtract at least 80% of their original prices. Shhhh…don’t tell Goodwill.

Do you have a Hobby Lobby near you? What’s your favorite section? I can’t really decide since I buy everything from furniture to home decor to fabric to craft supplies and more. It’s a pretty magical place. But I do visit the knob aisle every single time I go there. It’s fantastic!

Where do you find your best deals on things for your home?

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Try-it Tuesday: Red, White, and Blue (Cherry and Blueberry) Mini Cheesecakes

I like sweets. A lot.

I’d probably be five pounds lighter and worry a lot less about the dentist fussing at me if I weren’t such a fan. Even so, I prefer to eat versions of my favorite treats that are a little healthier than usual while still satisfying my (frequent) cravings for sweet things.

And my favoritest of all favorite treats is definitely cheesecake. Which is why I was pretty jazzed when I stumbled across a recipe for Red, White, and Blue Mini Cheesecakes years ago. They’re delicious, bite-sized (if you can unhinge your jaw like a seven-year-old boy, anyway), and, best of all, sweetened with honey and loaded with fruit.

Oh, and super easy. Did I mention that yet?

And with the 4th of July just around the corner here in the States, they make an awfully cute and patriotic addition to any Independence Day spread.

Here’s all you need to make some yourself.

minicheesecake 

 

    • Vanilla wafers (either 16 or 32)
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 2 tsp real vanilla extract
    • 2 8 oz packages of cream cheese
    • A can of cherry pie filling
    • Blueberries (enough to garnish each mini cheesecake)
    • Cupcake liners

To make them:

Preheat oven to 325 °F. Beat softened cream cheese until smooth and creamy, then add eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla extract and honey until well blended.

Place one (or two…I went with two) vanilla wafers in the bottom of each cupcake liner, then cover with cheesecake batter until the liner is 2/3 full (it will puff up a little while cooking). Cook for 22-24 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cheesecakes are slightly jiggly but not runny.

Let cool for 10 minutes, then top with a spoonful of cherry filling and as many blueberries as you’d like.

I wanted to add a bit of a festive flair, so I chose silver cupcake liners for a little sparkle and then made tiny banners from frilled toothpicks and white labels.

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I cut each label in half, lengthwise, then folded it, sticky sides together, around each toothpick and wrote an appropriately patriotic phrase on each one.minicheesecake3

 

Yes, I did get that one all unwrapped and ready for me to eat right after I took the pictures.

I love the hint of honey flavor in the creamy filling and the contrast of the gooey cherry topping with the crisp, tart blueberries.

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Dessert that tastes and looks good? Yes, please!

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Of course, there may be a bit of irony in a little flag that says, “Freedom,” stuck inside such an addictive little treat. Each one comes in at a little under 200 calories, but that’s only a good thing if you just eat one.

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“Just one” was my plan last night when I made these. But then Della didn’t want hers…and I couldn’t let it go to waste, right? Of course, right. (Don’t ask what my excuse was when I ate three more for breakfast this morning because I’m sure I don’t know)

Good thing I taught a double at the gym last night!

What about you guys? Do you have a dessert that makes you weak in the knees every time?

Any fun plans for the 4th?

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Trying to believe it Tuesday: The Twins are 9-Months-Old!!

Somehow, some way, although I cannot begin to fathom exactly how it came to pass, it’s been 9 whole months since I gave birth to—in my humble and completely unbiased opinion—the world’s most adorable, cheek-squeezingly winsome identical twin girls. EVER.

9 months.

Three-quarters of a year.

75% of the time it takes for the earth to completely orbit the sun.

My mind is blown.

I’m not particularly sentimental. In fact, one of the ways that this blog helps me is by reminding me to document important (or sometimes trivial) moments in my children’s lives that would otherwise be lost forever by my tendency to let them slip by unnoticed and unrecorded.

But as I was carrying the twins down the stairs this morning, an abrupt wave of sadness washed over me at the thought that they won’t be babies much longer and that I will likely never again have the privilege of watching two little halves of one person grow and develop like I’m doing now. And, yes, I know that sounds like a challenge to God (Twins: Part II, coming right up, Abbie), and it’s not a sensation I often experience.

But the girls are at such a fun stage—learning, growing, interacting—with such a genuine love for people—especially their family—that it’s hard not to mourn the fast-approaching day when their eyes will no longer dance and sparkle simply at the the sight of their mama coming through their nursery door in the morning. It makes my stomach clench a little to think of the day when they won’t clamp my sides with their little feet when I hold them, even curling their toes a bit to get a better grip.

Not that I have any business worrying about tomorrow. Or that it does any good. Which is why I decided to take another round of pictures and dwell a little on all of the delightful things the twins are doing today. Things like:

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I shot these pictures earlier this morning when it was the kind of humid that makes each inhalation feel like you’re drinking your air rather than breathing it, and I didn’t realize that my lens had fogged over until I’d already done a whole round of shots…which is a real bummer since this little gem of Evy came out a little hazy.

But I still love her expression here. This is quintessential Evangeline. Pixie-ish and a wee bit shy, but always with a glint of fun behind her eyes.

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And then there’s Nola. Or Big Nola as we call her on the days when we don’t worry too much about how many quarters we should be adding to our Future Therapy Bills Piggy Bank.

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Nola is an open-mouthed, whole-bodied smiler and is currently the more Mama-obsessed of the two. It’s really sweet. And kind of a pain. All you mamas with children who have fixations on you know what I mean, I’m guessing.twins1

They’re starting to interact more and more (especially if by interact, I mean, “Oh, look at that toy she’s holding; I think I’ll take it. And maybe pull her hair while I’m at it”).

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I live in the South: AKA the land of head-swallowing little girl hair ornaments, but I never really got into the whole bow-bigger-than-your-noggin trend. Which is probably why I get asked a lot if the girls are, in fact, boys. As they bat their long, girly lashes. While riding in their pink, floral car seats. And wearing dresses.

Face palm. 

Maybe I should have them wear their ginormous flowers more often.

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{Not a bagboy in the land who would mistake them for boys in that getup}

The twins don’t have particularly big feet, and I’m definitely thinking they missed out on their Mama’s (and Softa’s) sasquatch genes. But those adorable metallic bow sandals? They’re an Old Navy size 0-3 month, y’all. Yes, you read that right. 0-3 months. That’s messed up.

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Oh, and as a further illustration of their personalities, this is what happened when I told them we were about ready to wrap up taking pictures.

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Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go squeeze some cheeks.

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Try-it Tuesday: Summer Bucket List

I have been known to discuss my mixed feelings about lists here on the blog. It’s definitely a classic love-hate minefield fraught with possibilities for both elation (if I take that list to school!) or self-loathing (if I get schooled by the list).

But a list of fun, purely optional things that will make memories and earn major brownie points with my kiddos? Well, I’m all over that! Which is why it’s weird that it’s taken me this long to make a Summer Bucket List.

Summer Bucket List, (noun): a list of fun, frivolous, and otherwise awesome activities you hope to accomplish before the beginning of the new school year that never get accomplished during the ongoing school year due to their taking a back seat to homework, projects, sack lunches, and—oh yeah—sleep.

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It took me a while to jump on the chalkboard mania bandwagon, but now that I’m on it, I can’t seem to stop! (You might remember the twins’ 4 and 6 month photo shoots, my dollar store chalkboard basket makeovers, and my Father’s Day basket sign).

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I’m no artist, but “chalkboard art” is just my speed, what with all the doodling and the possibility for my handwriting to look a little less like a 3rd-grade boy’s than usual.

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I’m sure I could have added all kinds of fantastically imaginative options to my list, but I tried to stick with things we were most likely to check off (like movie nights on our DIY “big screen” in our playroom upstairs…I’ll have to show it to you guys soon). Clearly, we need to get busy, so we can add some more check marks.

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That’s a sno-cone there in the bottom right corner, in case you were wondering (I told you I’m no artist).

P.S. Perhaps you noticed that “blog more” was not on that list. I hope you guys will understand as I scale back a bit this summer and adopt a more relaxed blogging schedule so I can focus on my little sweeties and my husband.

Do tell: is making a summer bucket list a habit of yours (or is it still on your summer bucket list)?:

What is the number one thing you’d put on it if you (have) made one?

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Try-it Tuesday: Cherry Almond Pie {Recipe}

Hi there, folks!

So sorry about the sporadic posting and the lack of a linky party last week. Last Friday was Ezra’s birthday, and it pretty much came down to: finish my linky party post and be late getting out the door for his birthday breakfast or skip the post and go celebrate (I guess you know which won).

I’m still trying to figure out how he got from this tiny thing:

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to this handsome big kid:

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It’s all going by waaaaay too quickly. But that’s another post all its own, and I don’t have time to break down blubbering right now, so I’m moving on to the topic du jour, which is:

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Growing up, I always said that my favorite fruit was “black cherries.” I really did like them, but mostly, it just sounded cool. Different. Exotic.

Now, 20 years later, I’m pretty sure I’ve never even eaten a black cherry, since what I was such a big fan of as a kid was undoubtedly Bing cherries (they looked black to me!).

But I still have a thing for that sweet + tangy burst of juice on my tongue, which is why I foolishly bought a huge bag on a whim when they were “on sale” (code: still not cheap) at the local grocery store.

Unfortunately, most of them were duds on their own. But I wasn’t about to chuck a $14 bag of cherries, so I decided to try my hand at my first ever classic cherry pie.

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{They look so deceptively pretty, but they were sadly lacking in flavor}

I started with about 4 cups of pitted cherries (my nails looked like I had been doing some serious gardening by the time I got done with that process) and then made a honey-based filling with just a splash of something different to give it a special kick.

Here’s what you’ll need for the filling:

    • 4 cups of pitted cherries
    • 1 1/2 cups water (give or take, depending on how juicy your cherries are)
    • 1 cup honey
    • 4-5 tbsp cornstarch + 4-5 tbsp water (to dissolve it in before adding it to the hot cherry mixture)
    • 1/2 tsp almond extract
    • Crust of your choice (I had grandiose plans of making my own, but it just didn’t happen)

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{I couldn’t resist playing around taking pictures with my gorgeous new cake plate}

::STEP 1::

Place pitted cherries + 1 cup of water (you can always add the rest later if your sauce is too thick) in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, and making sure to smoosh your cherries in order to release their juices until the mixture is heated through and the water is red.

::STEP 2::

Add 3/4 cup of honey + 1/2 tsp of almond extract. Raise heat and continue stirring/smooshing occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 3-5 minutes, then lower heat to medium/low.

::STEP 3::

Mix 4 tbsp cornstarch with 4 tbsp cool water and then add slowly to hot cherry filling, stirring constantly to keep the cornstarch from clumping.  Continue stirring until mixture thickens (it should be the consistency of thin pudding).

At this point, you’ll want to taste test everything to see if you need the remaining honey, water, or cornstarch.

Note: because I had never broken whole cherries down into a filling before, I was surprised at how long this whole process took. But I think If I had brought everything to a boil sooner, the cherries would have softened more quickly (the instructions that I’ve given here reflect that learned lesson, but I didn’t include times since I don’t know exactly how long it will take on your stove).

pie crust

As I mentioned earlier, I chose to go super-easy with the crust because there were little people waiting on Mama’s much-anticipated Chewwy Pie, and they weren’t going to be the least bit impressed with a homemade crust.

::STEP 4::

If you’re using the boxed variety, which comes with two, press one crust into the bottom of your pie plate and prick generously with a fork. Then, roll the second crust out a bit thinner than the bottom crust and cut it into strips for the “lattice” top. (Or you can just plop it on top, cut some slits, and throw it in the oven; that works too).

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As you can see, I didn’t bother to measure the slats of my lattice. I just eyeballed them and then slapped them on there. I still had some leftover dough, so I decided to get a little fancy with a design on the surface. I made the dough cherries by pressing a juice bottle lid into the dough for circles and then free-handing the stem + leaves.

I still had dough left, so I pressed all of the excess into the edges and pinched it down with my fingers to create a pretty, wavy lip all around the pie’s edge.

::STEP 5::

Cook your pie at 450 °F for approximately 20 minutes (I set my timer for 15 minutes and then kept an eye on it until the edges were golden brown).

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Make sure you let everything cool a little before digging in (that filling is like molten lava when you first pull it out of the oven!).

And then serve it up on the fanciest china you’ve got!

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{Just make sure the fork you grab out of the drawer for pictures is actually clean; insert sheepish chuckle} 

Oh, and I was totally kidding about that fancy china bit. If I hadn’t been so busy stuffing my face and trying to keep the kids from burning their tongues or accidentally dumping their plastic-bowls-of-pie on the ground, I would have taken a picture to prove to you that all this pretty nonsense is just that: nonsense. It was fun to spend a little of my Memorial Day making a fancier pie than I normally would, but in the end, it got the same treatment that all the food in our house gets—which consists of glopping it on something coated in primary colors and shoveling it in with gusto.

A couple of quick notes:

This pie was yummy, and I like that it was sweetened entirely with honey, but you can definitely substitute white sugar if you want.

Also, although we didn’t have any, this pie would have been divine with vanilla ice cream (preferably Blue Bell’s homemade vanilla if you can get your hands on it).

Also, homemade crust. Definitely. The store-bought kind was fine but definitely lacking in “character.”

So, tell me: are you a pie-eater? What’s your favorite?

Also, if you have a killer from-scratch crust recipe I WANT IT! (I’ve never found one that was awesome enough for me to call it my “go-to” recipe).

Oh! And what was your favorite fruit as a child? Has it changed as you’ve gotten older? (I still love me some cherries—although the Rainier variety has since eclipsed Bings—but in terms of what I eat most, really good watermelon now tops my list).

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