Friday, July 30, 2010

Quick Kid Project

                                While we are on vacation, I'm going to rerun a few old posts. 
The Sewing Calendar giveaway will be open all week.

Saturday, Skippy was looking through a past issue of Boys’ Life magazine, and found a project he wanted to try. It used a two-liter bottle to make a self-watering planter. I don’t work well spur-of-the-moment, and started to put him off, as usual (“we don’t have an empty bottle, we’ll have to wait….”). Which usually means they keep asking me for three weeks, until I finally pull it together.

This time, however, Skippy was ready. He had a 16 oz water bottle, which he was sure would work just fine. I started to question whether or not we had any plants or seeds…until Craig said he had some grass seed. Which reminded me that I still had some wheat berries from back in the spring when I grew wheatgrass.
It was so quick and satisfying then, that I knew it would be perfect for a kid.


1. Cut the top off the bottle.

2. Have an adult drill a hole in the cap, and thread a string through it.

3. Fill the top with potting soil around the string.

4. Put water in the bottom half, and invert the top to sit inside of it, with the string in the water, working as a wick.

5. Cover the soil with wheat berries. At this point, I misted the top of the soil with water, but we haven't watered it since, except to refill the bottom once.

Sunday morning it had sprouted. That’s overnight, people! Yesterday we noticed that it was growing so fast that we decided to put in a little measuring stick.


Skippy took a craft stick and marked it with lines and numbers (not actual units of measurement). When we inserted the stick yesterday afternoon, the tallest blade was at 4. Last night it was at 7. This morning, it was at 9. Also, the white stringy things in the dirt are the roots; it’s kind of cool that you can see them.
This was easy to put together, and it grows so fast your child won’t have time to get impatient. Educational summer fun !

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Make Your Own Vinyl Decals

                              While we are on vacation, I'm going to rerun a few old posts. 
The Sewing Calendar giveaway will be open all week.
(Mar. 2009)

I love this so much that Craig should be jealous! Ever since I saw this on Rate My Space back in November, I have wanted to do it on my front door.

I was a little too afraid to paint it, just in case I made a mistake or ever decided to remove it. Then houses around the neighborhood started popping up with “Welcome” on the doors in vinyl lettering, so I looked into buying the numbers online. It wasn’t too expensive, but I never got around to ordering.

Then last night I stumbled on this. Brilliant! Contact paper! Today I printed out my numbers, using Times New Roman. I resized the ‘No.’ to 200 and the numbers to 375.

I then taped the printed paper to the front of white contact paper, which I already had. Using a Xacto knife, I carefully cut around the printouts. Technically, I used a box cutter because I couldn’t find my Xacto, so it was a little more difficult than it needed to be.


Then I positioned them on the door. It might have been helpful to measure and mark the spacing, but I didn’t. Fortunately, they were easily repositionable.


Now I need to check the HOA rules to see if I can remove the original numbers from the post, which the builder put on crooked anyway. (7/10--still haven't done that)


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Destination Beach

 While we are on vacation, I'm going to rerun a few old posts.  This one will show you where we're going.
The Sewing Calendar giveaway will be open all week.

(Feb. 2009)
I'm getting a little weary of winter. It's just gray and drab and cold. So I thought I'd highlight our favorite summer vacation...the beach at Lake Michigan! We love to go to southwestern Michigan to the beautiful beaches. They're clean, clear, fresh water, no seaweed, no jellyfish or sharks. Chicago is only 90 minutes away, and we usually add that into the mix (and IKEA, of course!). Last year we actually went to the beach in downtown Chicago!

New Buffalo, Michigan, 2004.

Oh, my heart hurts! Why do they have to grow up so fast?

Chicago beach, 2008. It was really windy and wavy that day.

Chicago, 2008.

And here, just to whet your appetite, is a house that is for sale. It sits on the bluff above the beach in New Buffalo. It has kind of a Tuscan villa feel, and can be yours for only $5.4 million.

The inside is nice enough, and you can see some of it if you click on the link above. But what's really spectacular is what's outside. Look at these views! And beachfront!

Now that's my dream. A beachfront cottage. This one is actually a little high-falutin' for me. I would be happy with an actual traditional cottage. But you've got to admit, this one's a beaut!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Design Star Debacle

Have you been watching HGTV's Design Star this season?  I'm beginning to wonder how they pick some of the contestants.....

On Sunday's episode the designers were split into two teams, and each team had to design a condo in the Trump Tower in Jersey City as though it was a model to be shown to prospective condo buyers. 

The winning (blue) team's living room:

The losing (red) team's living room:

The blue team's bedroom:

Red team's bedroom (not shown in this photo are the dropcloth drapes!  Wonder where she got that idea?):

Can I just say that while I agree that the blue team should have won, it was only because they were less bad (poor grammar intentional) .  Yes, the area rug in the blue living room is better scale-wise than the red team's, and I like the blue's coffee table better.  And though the blue team used both a mattress and box spring (as opposed to the red team, which left off the box spring), neither team did a very good job of making the bed.  Not only is the bedding somewhat boring and decidedly non-luxurious, but my 8-year-old can do a better job of smoothing the covers and fluffing the pillows.

Have you also noticed that the last two DS winners don't seem to get any airtime?  Jennifer from two years ago had a baby shortly after winning, and so was delayed; I did happen to stumble upon her show in the middle of the afternoon several months ago, but I haven't seen it since.  Antonio, last year's winner, had a couple of episodes (not that I watched), but since then I haven't heard anything.  And neither one of them is ever advertised.

But it's still fun to watch, and I guess that's what the producers are counting on.  What do you think of this season of Design Star?

Monday, July 26, 2010


I had an unexpected package arrive on my doorstep on Friday.  That's always fun, but I was even more excited when I opened it.  Inside was the 2011 Sewing Calendar by Accord Publishing and Megan Smith.

The box flips open and holds over 100 simple sewing projects.  There are so many cute and fun things to try!

But here's the one that caught my eye first.  Yep, it's my thrift-store-sweater-turned-Christmas-stocking from last year's Thrifty Gifty series!

Megan contacted me and asked if I'd like my stocking to be included, and of course I said that I would.  So now I've officially made it big-time!  Well, me and 100 other bloggers, and it's not so big, but it's still pretty cool!

They sent me two copies, so that means I get to share with you!  I'd been thinking that it's been a while since I had a give-away, so this was perfect timing.  And you will get in it plenty of time to get some ideas and make a few Christmas gifts!

Here's the thing:  we are leaving for the beach on Wednesday and won't be back until next Tuesday, so I'm going to leave the give-away open until Tues. Aug. 3 at 11:59 pm.  Leave a comment on this post for one entry. Since I'm going to be laying on the beach, if you'd like to help me promote the give-away by mentioning it on your blog or tweeting it, I will give you a second entry if you leave an additional comment telling me that you did one of those two things.

Good luck!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pizza Night!

We have been having pizza/movie night on Fridays for the last 7 or 8 years.  The kids are highly offended if we miss one or alter the plan in any way, like, say, suggesting that we go to the dollar movie theater instead.  They're cool with the dollar theater, just not on Friday night, please.

For most of that time, I made homemade pizza.  I haven't been doing it quite as much lately (we've got $5 Little Caesar's close by, though that get old after a couple weeks in a row).  After a lot of trial and error, I've figured out how to make a pretty good pizza for our tastes.

For years I used this recipe for the crust, which I adapted from this one.  The amounts seem weird because I scaled it from 10 up to 15 servings to make two thinner crusts.  If I wanted (two) thicker crusts, I just doubled the original recipe.
  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 3-1/3 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons bread machine yeast (or packet of fast rise)
  1. Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select Dough cycle; press Start.
  2. Remove dough from pan after rise cycle and use for your favorite pizza recipe.
I recently discovered this thin crust recipe from Robbie's Recipes, which is faster because it doesn't have to rise.
  • .25 oz. pkt. active dry yeast
  • 1/4 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup 110 degree water
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
Her directions have you do the mixing and kneading by hand, but I just put it in my bread machine and let it do the work, and take it out before the rise begins.

Whichever recipe I use, I almost always use at least part whole wheat flour.  I like the whole white wheat because it has a lighter texture and flavor than the more common variety, which is made from red wheat.

I also have learned that for the crust to be done and not doughy in the middle, I need to parbake the crust, even if the recipe doesn't call for it.  I roll out the dough on the pizza stones, prick it with a fork, and bake it for about 5 minutes at about 450*.  Then I add the sauce and toppings and bake it about 8-10 minutes longer, until the cheese is browning around the edges.  Sometimes I brush olive oil around the edge of the crust after the first bake and use a sea salt mill to sprinkle a light dusting of coarse salt around the makes those edges that sometimes get left on the plate extra yummy.

Now for the sauce.  I originally started with this one, but tweaked it to our tastes until it became this (enough for two pizzas):
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey, or even a little less
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste

Do you have a family pizza night tradition?  Order out, or homemade?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Buried in Books

Craig and I both love books.  I read a lot; he seems to not read them so much as collect them.  I read every night before I turn out the light, a least a few pages (or this summer for a couple of hours).  Whenever he does look at a book, it's often also before bed.

Which means our bedroom looks like this:

his books on the floor by the bed

my books and magazines on the floor by the bed

We need book storage in our bedroom.  I should amend that to say "functional and attractive" book storage.  I do have one little bookshelf in the corner that, while kind of sentimental (my dad made it when he was a teenager), is too small and the shelves are too shallow for my purposes.  It's crammed with books, but it doesn't look attractive.

The problem is, I'm not sure how to do it well.  You don't see bookshelves in master bedrooms too much in the design world.

I saved this picture years ago from, I believe, the Pottery Barn Bedrooms book. Some form of this might work under the window in our room, but it wouldn't stretch this far from side to side.

I found this one on Houzz...pretty, but I don't have built-ins or a fireplace.  Also, I would not cover all my books in white paper because it would be too impractical for me, so it wouldn't look this uniform.

Guest Bedroom traditional bedroom

Is your bedroom being taken over with stacks of books?  Have you figured out an attractive way to handle it?  Do tell.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Becoming an Intentional Encourager

Mary Joy of Snapshots from my Heart & Home has begun a six-week series to inspire women to become "intentional encouragers".  I'm a little late in starting, but I'm going to take the challenge this week.

Being encouraging does not come naturally for me.  I tend to have a "glass half empty" outlook, and have perfectionistic leanings that make me hard on myself.  In the daily grind of home life, I have gotten into a rut, a habit, of focusing on the negative instead of looking for the positive.

My focus this week is going to be my children.  It is so much easier for me to see and point out the what they've done wrong instead of what they did right. Perhaps he emptied the trash, but didn't put in a new trash bag; I see the chore as unfinished.  Maybe she did a nice job making her bed, but there are dirty clothes all over the floor; while I might praise her bed-making, I'm sure to let her know I'm exasperated about the clothes.

This week I'm going to ask God to help me purposefully be on the lookout for reasons to praise and encourage my children.  I need to be like those Tour de France fans, clapping and yelling on the sidelines, or even giving a push occasionally (Craig's been watching the Tour all month).

Won't you consider joining the challenge at least one of these weeks?  Please visit Mary Joy.  You will certainly come away encouraged yourself, and hopefully you'll want to pass it on.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Free Frappe Fridays at McDonalds

 Update:  Oh no!  I went through the drive-thru this afternoon, and they weren't doing the free samples anymore!  I went ahead and purchased one, but I'm sorry to have mislead you!

If you're out and about today, be sure to stop by McDonalds. They are giving away free samples of their frozen coffee drinks on Fridays from 7a-7p.  Yum!

In fact, if you are going to be driving by more than one McDonalds, you could do it a couple times.  Not, ahem, that I would ever do such a thing.  Just, you know, that theoretically it's possible.

The samples are in a little cup, about 4 oz, complete with whipped cream and a caramel or chocolate drizzle.  But last Friday I went through the drive-thru, and when I pulled up to the window, the girl handed me a full-size frappe.  I protested that I had only ordered the free sample, and she said that was the sample.  I imagine that was a fluke, like they were out of the little cups or something, but it made my Friday (okay, I lead a boring life).

They're both good, but I like the caramel best.  And I'm not even going to bother to check the nutritional data.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

IKEA Party

I'm going to get started early on this party, as it was not well thought out or promoted.  You can link up with anything IKEA, but I'm particularly looking for your favorite IKEA items so I can look for them when I'm there in a couple weeks.

Probably our most well-used item is our Expedit bookshelf, which we've had for six years and four houses.  In the beginning it was used for books and some decor in our living room, but the bottom two levels held toys.

Now it is being used in the playroom as an ever-evolving critter condo/mall.  You can see labels on many of the cubicles; right now they are "stores".  The one on the bottom left is called Old But Thrifty--Classy 'n Sassy Thrift Store (where in the world did they get that idea?).

As for usefulness, these bag clips are very handy (Bevara, 30 for $2.99)

I've had these Svepa drinking glasses since my very first trip to IKEA; I always got a new set every time we went to replace the broken ones.  I like how they stack.  Unfortunately, they don't make them anymore, and I'm down to my last 12 oz.  I tried a different kind last time (Pokal, .59/ea) and although it's heavy and sturdy for the price, I don't like them as well.  I'm going to look for another stacking kind this time (maybe Vanlig).

No pictures, but I can't forget my down pillows and comforter, which I totally love.  We have lots more, but I'll quit here.

As I said, anything IKEA is fair game, but I'd love to know about your favorites.  Please link back to this post.  Open until midnight Thursday.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Summer Reading List

My friend Amanda is having a Dishing It! party to get bloggers talking, and this time the topic is (loosely) reading.


I've always been a reader, and I have fond memories of summers when I was about junior-high age...I would lay in bed reading until long into the night, and then sleep late in the morning.  In Michigan it was usually cool enough at night to have the windows open, and somehow that's part of the memory package:  cool night breezes blowing across my bed while I was deeply engrossed in a novel.

Now that I'm an adult with responsibilities, I don't always make the time for reading.  Well, I always have books going, but often it's some kind of self-help or parenting book that I can read a chapter here and there and have no problem putting the book down.  This summer I made a conscious decision to read for fun.

And I've been reading a lot.  It's "light" reading, mostly Christian fiction.  Our library marks the spine of the books with a sticker indicating the genre.  I've been going up and down the aisles looking for the blue cross.  I've found some new-to-me authors that way.

I always like to read a little bit before I turn out the light at night, but this summer I've returned to my youth and have been reading late into the night.  Craig is the one who has to get up and go to work in the morning, but he doesn't seem to mind having the light on while I read in bed beside him, plus my new lamps have two bulb sockets, and I put a 25 watt in one side just for my nighttime reading, so it's nice and dim and cozy.

Here's some of what I've been reading:

Karen Kingsbury:  I tore through all five of the Redemption series one right after another.  This series focuses on the Baxter family and their ups and downs.  I enjoyed it very much, but in hind sight I would have spaced them out a little bit.  By the last couple of books it was starting to feel  a little deja vu.

Melody Carlson:  a new-to-me author.  I read the 86 Bloomburg Place series (4 books--again, should've spaced them out), A Mile in My Flip-Flops, and These Boots Weren't Made for Walking.  Fun, light reading; romantic/relationship overtones, but clean (Christian), and not too heavy on the romance.

Robin Jones Gunn:  I have in the past read the Sisterchicks series (favorite:  Sisterchicks in Gondolas) and the Katie Weldon series (fun flashback to college).  Last week I read Gardenias for Breakfast, and I really liked it...the southern grandmother reminded me of my grandma.

Judy Baer:  I just finished Norah's Ark.  It was pretty good (maybe 3 out of 5 stars), and I appreciated the way Norah made seeking God's guidance through the Bible a daily thing.  Several months ago I read Recipes and Wooden Spoons, one of the Tales from Grace Chapel Inn series.  That series is huge and has several different authors (Melody Carlson is also one);  I'll read more of them at some point.

Now to answer Amanda's questions:
Genre: fiction (historical, Christian, chick lit, etc)
Favorite mags:  Better Homes and Gardens and Southern Living
Island companion: Robinson Crusoe, maybe, because he knew how to survive
Make time:  at night
Fave book place:  public library
Next up: Limelight by Melody Carlson

Can't wait to see what everyone else recommends!