Monday, January 31, 2011

$10 Collage Ledges

I love marking a project off my list! I finished my ledges and I am so happy with how they turned out. Ever since we moved into our house 5 1/2 years ago, I have hated this long empty wall. It's been hard figuring out how to decorate it with out it looking too cluttered. And it's ONLY taken me this long to settle upon an idea!

You can check out the plans for
these ledges here. The lumber only cost about $9 for one. I made mine six feet instead of eight feet because the size suited my needs better. I already had a ton of frames on hand (I tend to collect them) and I had the paint as well. I like the red, black, and white together, although you can't tell some of them are red in this lighting. The other night I uploaded about 50 pictures to put inside them, all in black and white (still need tp pick them up). I think this collection is going to look great.

I painted them with Behr paint that I already had on hand. The color is "off white". After they had two coats of paint, I sanded them again to distress the edges all around. Then I glazed them with Ralph Lauren's faux glaze in "manchester brown" to give them a rustic look. I love how the wood looks really old. Just what I was going for!

A word of caution- when you go to purchase your 1x4s, make absolutely sure that your wood is not bent or warped. I was careless about it and I bought a couple pieces that should have been more straight. If you look closely, you can see that one ledge is slightly warped on one side. But it just adds to the antiquish look...right?? RIGHT??

Also, the plans say to use 2" finishing nails in the front. That is way too long and only makes it more likely that they will split the wood. Since you are only nailing them into a very thin piece which is less than 1" in thickness, chances are you will nail it in slightly off center and 2" nails almost ensures it will not be a good thing. So go with thin nails at about 1" in length.

Have fun building!

Friday, January 28, 2011

New Projects On the Horizon

As much as I love each individual season, I think I am ready for the weather to warm up again. Utah in January can be brutal. The main reason I need it to be warmer outside is so I can be comfortable in my garage. I have been trying to finish my framed peg boards but I am at a standstill. The next step is to paint them BEFORE I can install the frames {which are cut and ready to be drilled in}. But I can't paint because it needs to be about 20 degrees warmer in the garage for the paint to perform like it should. Ugh!

Good thing our basement is still unfinished {and this is the only good thing about it} because it is my temporary workspace. Who cares if I get sawdust and paint everywhere, right? Today I almost finished my 6 foot ledges that will go along the long wall in our upstairs family room. Tomorrow I will distress them and add the topcoat of glaze, let them dry, and then hopefully be ready to install/hang them on Sunday afternoon while Hubby is here to help me do it. It's for sure a two person job! And yes {GASP} I am going to do it on a Sunday! I can't wait for it to be all done so I can take pictures. Aaaaaah, accomplishment.

I have all the supplies ready to build these chairs. Remember the tea party table? Well I sanded it like crazy this week and it's ready to prime and paint. I am painting it "heirloom white" by Rustoleum with a "manchester brown" glaze from Ralph Lauren. It's going to be adorable! All day long while I was finishing the ledges, my daughter kept coming in to see if I was done with her table yet. Sorry Sweetie! A few more days, I promise.

The chairs are going to look similar to what is shown above, except the seat slats are going to be lavender. It ties in their already lavender bedroom, plus my five year old is overly obsessed with purple and insists on a splash of purple on everything. These chairs will hopefully be done by the end of next weekend!

And next on the list {and this is a biggie} is our new dining table and benches. Our table is going to look very similar to the above one but with a different stain. The benches will be these exact ones but will be distressed/antiqued black. My goal in the next year is to acquire the perfect antiquish captains chairs for the ends of the tables, which I will also refinish to match the benches. Yes, I say a year, because I am realistic and I want to find the perfect chairs. I am in no rush!

And then there is this adorable bench. Do I have a need for it? Not really. But it's so cute and I'm racking my brain trying to think of a good place for it in our house. I might try to modify it a bit so it can go by the front door on the porch. It would be great to put potted plants on {and around} during the spring and summer. I'm thinking a very rustic barn like red...think "Old Glory".
Ever since we bought our house, I have wanted a table and chair set for the backyard. We grill a lot in the summer and there is nothing better than gathering around an outdoor table and eating corn on the cob and watermelon. But like always, bringing myself to spend $400 on a table set is crazy. Plus, most sets only come with six chairs and that usually isn't enough. This is why I am a huge fan of benches for a larger family.

This table and bench set is a for sure thing this summer. I am already excited thinking about it being an awesome shade of aqua, and maybe I'll find the perfect red umbrella to go with it. Oh yeah, I will make a hole in the center of the table to accomodate a large umbrella. Gotta have some shade back there!

And the last thing on my long list are a couple of these guys. There is something about adirondack chairs that shouts tranquility to me. I think of a breeze on the shores of Cape Cod, even though I have never ventured out that way. But I found these plans and although they are tricky, I want to make two of them for the back porch. And I would coordinate them in with my aqua and red table/bench set, and maybe make some perfect throw pillows to rest on the seats. It's going to be a great summer!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Entry Way Bookshelf

Would you ever have thought to use wainscoating as the backing to a bookshelf?? Me neither!

We have this space next to our front door that is empty. But it shouldn't be empty. It should be a place for a cute shelf or table with a funky lamp and a vase of something and maybe a favorite family photo, and maybe even a cool dish to throw car keys into. I have been wanting to fill that space with something like this, but there are two problems I keep running into.

#1, the space is only about 30 inches wide.

#2, there is a floor vent right there and nothing can cover it up. Dang those floor vents. They seem to rule our house.

I came across this plan for a bookshelf and I fell in love. The dimensions are almost perfect, but that's the great thing about building something yourself- you can modify as you need to. The great thing about this plan is that the shelf sits up on legs! Therefore, it can sit over a floor vent because air can flow out from underneath it.

I know what most of the lumber will cost and a rough estimate will be well under $30. Where else can you find something like this for an amount like that? This project is number four on my "project priority list". Can't wait to get started!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Refinished Piano Chairs

Several months ago, right in the middle of piano lessons, my bench broke. It's an antique piano and matching bench and the joints in the bench finally gave out beyond repair. Finding an independent bench is nearly impossible, and trust me, I'd looked. I'd gone to several piano stores, antique stores, and thrift stores. My searches always left me benchless.

So I started thinking about the possiblity of NOT using a bench, but rather a chair. Given that it was the correct height, it would probably work! But a chair at a piano? I wasn't sure if it would look right. PLUS, when I start teaching again, I'd need two chairs and I thought I'd be lucky enough just to find one that I liked.

This is the type of chair I envisioned in my mind (not crazy about the wicker seat, but I really loved the shape and style). Pottery Barn, I have a deep love hate relationship with you. Why must your beautiful chairs cost $200 a piece?

One afternoon in late October I was taking a load to DI (our local thrift store) and I had a feeling that I should go inside and just look around. I was not looking for a chair, but I'm always on the lookout for a good piece of wood that I can refinish. I rounded a corner, and I found two matching chairs and my heart stopped. The shape and style was perfect. The horrible bright blue and brown paint on them, hideous. I looked the chairs over with a fine tooth comb and I was flabergasted to find what incredible shape they were in. They were solid wood and the joints were in pristine condition. The rungs were sturdy as well as the cross bars on the legs. My guess is that someone else had redone them and after they looked at the horrible shade of blue and brown, decided they had made a huge mistake but were too lazy to re-do them. Ha ha ha, their mistake was my fortune!

Oh, and here's the fantastic part. The chairs were only $5 a piece. I wanted to scream from sheer excitment!! I grabbed them, paid, stuffed them in the car, made a quick stop at the hardware store for the perfect shade of paint, and headed home.

For two days I did nothing but work on these chairs. The blue paint was chipping off everywhere and I had a ton of sanding to do. I sanded and sanded and primed and primed. Then I gave them each two coats of Rustoleum spray paint in colonial red. I am thrilled with how turned out. Looking at them, even closely, you would never guess they came from anywhere but a place like PB. DEFINITELY not a thrift store! The best thing is that I now have two chairs to use for piano lessons. I keep one at the piano right now, and the other stays hidden down in the basement for safe keeping. I am in love!

Kids Coat Rack

Are you tired of your kids leaving their stuff all over the floor? Our house is set up in a way (we have a multi level house) that doesn't allow for a really good rack system on the main living floor. So we constantly have dance bags, coats, and backpacks all over the place. I had been looking at racks at places like Home Depot, but they are all so expensive for ones that are big enough. But more than that, I hate that they each have pre-drilled brackets on the back. Meaning, if your studs don't line up just right, you can't hang it into your studs so it negates the whole purpose, right? Our house builder did not frame our studs in the standard way that most stuff is pre-drilled for. It drives me crazy.

So one day I found an old 1x4 that I had lying around. I figured the perfect place for a rack was right by the garage door so the kids can hang stuff up as soon as we walk in. I bought some nice but inexpensive hooks for about $3 a piece, and I already had everything else on hand.

First I cut the wood to the correct size that I wanted. Then I primed and painted it with what I had on hand (I really like black because it's classic, doesn't show finger prints as easily, and it goes with everything.) I found my studs in the wall, marked them, then figured where I wanted to line up my wood on the wall.

Hanging the piece of wood was the tricky part because you really need more than two hands. Enlist the help of another person and it will be pretty easy. Drill the holes and put in your screws directly into the front of the wood (or nails will work just fine too because you are putting them into studs and you can cover up the nail heads or screw heads with more paint). You will need to use a countersink drill bit if you are using screws, to make them flush with the surface of the wood.

After it is hanging and is completely level, you are ready to install your hooks. Again, very simple. Measure twice, drill the holes, and screw them in! Easy as pie. The rack is far more sturdy than anything that has brackets on the back. The fact that the screws go directly in through the front of the wood and into the studs makes all the difference. And the hooks hanging independently AWAY from sheetrock only adds to the stability. Kids can practically hang from the hooks and it won't move a bit!

Layered Enchilada Bake

I wish I had a picture of this one, but I didn't take any yesterday because I was thinking this would NOT be a good recipe. But oh my word, I just ate a huge portion of leftovers for lunch! This was a good one and very easy. Cody and I decided this was kind of like a Mexican lasagna. And it's great because it mainly uses staples that you probably have one hand all the time.

For a 9x13 pan you will need-

1 lb ground beef
1/2 a medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups chunky salsa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp Italian salad dressing
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
6-7 flour tortillas
1 C sour cream
1 1/2 C shredded cheese (I use colby jack)
lettuce and tomato for garnish

-Brown meat and onions in a large skillet. Drain off fat.

-To the meat, add salsa, beans, dressing, and taco mix. Simmer 10 minutes.

-In a greased baking pan, put a single layer of tortillas. Layer that with half the meat mixture. Evenly spread half the sour cream over that, and then half the cheese over that. Repeat layers, ending with cheese on top.

-Bake uncovered for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Take out of the oven and garnish the top with chopped lettuce and tomato. Bake an additional 5-10 minutes.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

I should change the title to "THE BEST CHEWY OATMEAL COOKIES EVER!!" These cookies really are supberb. I made these on Sunday with the intent of taking them to a family in our ward, but we ended up eating the whole batch ourselves. I guess I'll have to take them something else instead!

I absolutely hate rasins and I think they desecrate anything they are put in, especially when baking. Hubby on the other hand loves rasins and said these cookies would be better with rasins. Yuck. Go ahead and add some if you like, but I think they are awesome without.

For about 36 decent sized cookies you will need-

1 C softened butter
1 C white sugar
1 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 C minute oats
1 C rasins (optional of course!)

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees

-Cream together butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until nicely blended.

-In a seperate bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon.

-Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture using the dip pour method.

-Once the two mixtures are combined, gradually add in the oats. This will be VERY thick and you will likely have to do the last cup by hand unless your mixer has a "steroid" setting.

-Drop by the tablespoonfull onto a greased cookie sheet. I use a standard size cookie scooper which looks like a small icecream scooper.

-Because you want the cookies to lay somewhat flat, take a glass or a cup and gently press down on the center of each cookie to make it lay down. Don't squish them, just press a little bit.

-Bake appx. 8-10 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Since each oven varies, you may have to experiement with the first batch. I baked mine for exactly 9 1/2 minute and they were PERFECT. Try not to over bake because they won't be as chewy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping

Meal planning is a chore. Just ask my husband, I avoid it like the plague. And it's not the deciding upon what to have for dinner that is the chore, is calculating it, scheduling it, thinking ahead to what will sound good when, evening the score between beef nights, chicken nights, pork nights, leftover nights, etc. But it goes with having a largish family or even a smallish family for that matter. I never was an avid meal planner until our family started growing and we started running out of money before the end of the month. Then I realized that my grocery habbits needed to change and thus, a religious meal planner was born.

We all know that shopping without a list is foolish and you end up buying things you don't need and might never use. Along the same line, I feel that shopping without a detailed meal plan is just as foolish. Simply stocking your pantry and cupboards with staples is never enough.

Twice a month my husband and I sit down together and go through recipes, food magazines, store ads, and even (and maybe especially) our family calendar. The first thing I do is get out my trusty planner.

I look ahead to the next two weeks and see what is on the calendar. What will be quick meal nights because of activities? When is Dad out of town or working late? When will we be going out or eating in for a special ocassion? Looking over the planner is CRUCIAL.

Then I grab my spiral notebook and write out dates and days for the next two weeks, allowing about two lines per day. Then the real fun begins as Cody and I go through and pick out what sounds good to us. At first we just make an unorganized brainstorm list in no particular order. If it sounds good, we write it down. The first thing I pull out is my recipe box.

Several years ago I signed up to the get the Kraft Food and Family magazine that came out quarterly. At the time it was free, but recently they have started to charge a small fee of about $7 a year. Still, totally worth it.
The magazine if chalked full of family friendly recipes that go with what's in season. It gives you ideas for what to do with leftovers, slow cookers, desserts, different kinds of meats, and they have chefs who write articles and give tutorials about food techniques. I started saving these magazines back in 2006 (I wish I'd thought to save them earlier on, but they always ending up in the recycling bin) and now we have a good collection to choose from. We use these every month to plan menus from. I simply write down the issue and page number next to the food choice in my spiral so I can refer back to it when making the actual menu and list.

Another book I refer to is this beauty, which my best friend Brandi gave to me a while back. I have no clue where she got it, but it has come in handy time and time again.
It is about 50 weeks worth of meal plans from main dishes, to sides, to salads, to desserts. Hopefully she will read this post and comment where she found this lifesaver!! I don't use the actual meal plans, but I refernce it all the time for ideas on individual dishes. It's got some great stuff in it.

I must pause her for a minute and acknowledge people who may read this and chastize me fro NOT couponing and shopping ads. I have done it in the past, and honestly, I don't like it. I find that it's way more of a headache than it's worth, and I have never found a way around feeling bad about myself for buying a bunch of stuff "on sale" that I didn't really need or like. And most of the time a lot of my food purchases are the generic or store brand anyway, and coupons are usually for the name brand. And after I've done the math, I never come out ahead even when the name brand products ARE on sale.

And making meal plans from ads does not work for us. What I do is make a menu and then shop around through ads to see if something in particular is on sale and a great place somewhere. But I will get to that later. I'm sure there is some trick to hard core couponing, but for now my way works great for our family.

Okay, back to what I was saying.

After I have searched the calendar, listed out dates and days, and we've brainstormed what sounds good and will maybe work with our schedule, I pencil in a rough draft of dinner plans. Like I said before, I keep it even between different kinds of meats, as not to have four nights of chicken in a row! The rough draft will look something like this-

Like I said, it's a VERY rough draft. It just gives me an idea of what our dinners could look like over the next two weeks. Oh, and you'll see that I included Family Home Evening treats for Monday nights. Can't forget that!

After I've gone through and finalized the main dishes for each night, the real headache begins. What to make for sides? Salads? What ingredients do we have, what will I need? This is where the real money saving happens. You will be amazed at how much extra money you spend on things like tomato paste or cream of chicken soup each time you are at the store. Staples like these, which we often times forget we already have in abundance, add up like crazy with each grocery trip. So I plan out to a tee what ingredients the recipe calls for and what I already have. You will be surprised to find that often times, you already have a lot of the stuff lurking in your pantry!

Once the plan is finalized, I find out if certain things are on sale somewhere. Pulled pork BBQ sandwiches are on the menu, given that pork shoulder is not ourtageously expensive everywhere. There is a good website called Deals To Meals but as far as I know it is only local to my region. Check it out to see if it's available in your area. For $5 a month you can view the grocery ads for most markets in your city. Plus, she also gives meal plans based on what's on sale. (The reason I don't use this part is because I don't want to be tied down to HER meal plans. I like to use more of what we already have in our freezer and pantry, plus there are many weeks where our family schedule doesn't match up to what she has planned for her I use her ideas only as light suggestions.)

If you are into price matching, using ads comes in handy. But again, big fat stinking headache and I have never ended up saving that much money doing this because I just shop differently. If it works for your family, more power to you!

I go through my whole pantry and take inventory of what we have and what we need. It is VITAL to inventory staples, as I said earlier.

When my meal plans are finalized, I make a rough grocery list that looks something like this (only showing the front side of the paper here)-
I should mention that obviously not everything can be purchased for a 2 week time frame. There are perishables which will have to be purchased at the beginning of week two like french bread or produce. So I make an additional list and call it "Second Week Perishables". I do hit the store again but as always, I STICK TO THE LIST for that week.

Through out the week, I keep a list on the fridge of what we are running low on and what we are out of. It could be grocery or non-grocery...just anything that we need from the store. I always refer to that when making my shopping list and is avoids all the "Uh oh, I meant to get this so I'll run back to the store and grab it." Then that $5 trip ends up being a $20 trip because you end up buying stuff you didn't really need.

I normally do most of my shopping at the same store, and I am very familiar with it's layout. Knowing the layout of a store is extremely helpful in making categories. For example, I know they they sell tortillas on the bread aisle and not in the ethnic aisle like some stores do. And yogurt is sold on two aisles over from milk. Crazy, I know! So the more finalized list looks something like this on one of the sides-
I also have a category for more household type items since the store I mainly shop at carries a lot of that stuff.

When I am at the store, I STICK TO THE LIST. Planning is the key part of grocery shopping. Once I'm at the store (or stoes in some cases) I race through at lightening speed. It's the preparation that takes the long part and causes the headache. My last bi-monthly grocery trip was on MLK day when Cody had the day off and was able to sit home with the kids. I got a TON of groceries that totalled $253 and I did it all in 57 minutes and I did not forget a single thing. (I have to add though, $250 is NOT our bi-monthly food budget. This trip included quite a few out of the ordinary purchases. My daughter's birthday was a few days later so a lot of this stuff was party related. LOL, I wish we had $500 a month for groceries! Normally is is about $300.)

Now the trick is going home, hauling it into the house from the van, finding a place to put everything, and relaxing for a few minutes. On our fridge is a calendar of what we are having for meals on what day. Each night I have a habbit of looking at it to see what I need to thaw for the next day. So before bed, I check the calendar and open up the freezer. Tomorrow is spaghetti and meatballs and meat is currently thawing in the sink. You'll be surprised what peace of mind feels like when your meals are planned out two weeks in advance. Aaaaaaah, it's a great freeling!

(Edited to add- there are some nights when things come up and we end up switching around meals on certain days, or flat out do not have time for anything more than grilled cheese. So we are flexible, but end up sticking to the plan on most nights.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sacrament Book Pictures

I have had several people request copies of the jpgs for the Sacrament picture books I made for my kids' church bags. Since there are 37 of them and emailing them will take me a while, I will only send out one massive email and then you are SOL (unless maybe you plead and beg!). If you would like to be included in that email, leave me a comment with your address and I will send it your way. The books were very easy to make. The jpgs translate nicely into a 4x6 print. Just upload them to whatever photo service you use (I usually use and that's it! Easy as pie. Have fun making your own child's book!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I absolutely love making homemade bread when I have the time. I'm not crazy about the messy hands that result from mixing and kneading flour and water together, but I love to watch it rise, I love how it makes the house smell as it's rising, and I LOVE to eat it straight out of the oven. I found this recipe recently and couldn't wait to have time to make it. I made it yesterday and it did not disappoint at all! In fact, I will be making two more loaves tomorrow morning before church so it can rise while we are gone.

What you will need for one loaf-

1 1/2 C milk, heated to about 110 degrees
4 Tbsp butter (3 of them melted)
3 large egg yolks
4 1/2 to 5 C flour
2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 pkg)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 C white sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
5 tsp cinnamon

-In a small bowl combine the filling ingredients, reserving 1/4 C. Set the rest aside.

-In a different small bowl, whisk together the warm milk, melted butter, and egg yolks. Then in a large bowl, combine reserved 1/4 C filling mixture, 1 Tbsp sugar, 3 C flour, yeast, and salt.

-With an electric mixer, beat together the dry mixture and the milk mixture. It will be thick. Then stir in by hand as much of the remaining flour as you can. When it is thick enough, turn it out on a floured surface and knead in as much of the remaining flour as you can. The dough should be slightly wet and elastic.

-Form the dough into a ball and coat it in a very small amount of vegetable oil so it doesn't dry out and form a crust while rising. Place it in a plastic bowl and cover loosely with a towel or plastic wrap.

-Place the bowl in a cozy place and leave it for at least two hours. This dough may take a while to rise, so don't beat yourself up if it still has NOT doubled in size in two hours. I actually let mine rise for four hours and it was beautiful!!! It is better to let it over rise than under rise in this step.

-Punch the dough down in the bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes to rest. Then roll it out onto a floured surface into a rectangle appx. 20x8 inches. Give the dough a light spritz of water from a spray bottle. Evenly sprinkle all but 2 Tbsp of the filling mixture onto it. Spread it around and spritz it again with the water. Roll up the dough.

-Generously grease a 9x5 bread pan. The bottom needs to be very well greased and floured because the bread will be gooey on the bottom and will want to stick otherwise. Place the rolled up dough into pan and cover loosely with a towel. Let it rise until at least doubled and it nice and high above the rim of the pan (appx 1 1/2 hours).

-Before sticking it in the over, brush the top of the dough with the reamining 1 Tbsp of butter and sprinkle with the remaining filling. Bake in a 350 degree oven for appx 40 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Take the bread out of the pan as soon as you can safely handle it to keep it from cooling and sticking to the bottom. Enjoy a warm slice smeared with butter!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Valentine Mailboxes

Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Target dollar spot? Each time I am at the store I can't help but browse through all of the fun stuff piled up in those bins. The other day I found these mailboxes and had to buy a few. You can't tell, but they are pink and red. Red for the boys, pink for us girls. And don't worry, I even have an extra red one stashed away for our new baby boy's first Valentine's next year!

Starting February 1st I am going to surprise everyone each morning with a little love note and a special V-Day treat. Something small most days, but maybe a few bigger things other days. And I'm going to encourage everyone (this includes you, Cody) to write little love notes to stick in eachother's mailboxes for those two weeks. I love that the boxes even have flags. Can't wait to see the excitment on the kids' faces when they see the flags raised, signifying that something is waiting for them inside!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kids Church Bags

Sundays are crazy. And it's gotten to where all the "stuff" we take to church is no longer fitting in the diaper bag. I decided it was time that the older kids were responsible for their own things to take to church, so I made them their own church bags. I found the perfect size canvas bags at Walmart for $3 a piece. They were very stiff so I first washed and dried them a couple of times. Then I cut out each kids' initial with fabric scraps and sewed them on to each side. I intentionally left a raw edge around the fabric because I like the look. After they were sewn on, I washed them three more times to REALLY fray the fabric.

Each kid also has their own pencil bag full of pencils and crayons. No more fighting over colors! And everyone is responsible for keeping track of their own drawing utensils. Each bag also contains their scriptures, a new coloring/activity book, a spiral notebook, a special picture photo book, a snack, and a spilproof cup of water. At the end of the meeting the kids were excellent about cleaning up their own stuff and taking it with them to Primary. It worked like a charm this week and they were really excited about their new bags; now let's see if they will keep it up! To make things more interesting, I plan on surprising them with something new in their bags each week. Don't know what yet, but I hope to come up with some cute activities to change it up a bit. When church was over, I got a kick out of seeing them walking down the hall with their bags draped over their shoulders. Also, they were able to put their Primary stuff from the day in their bags, rather than bombarding me with everything to hold in my already full hands.

The picture books were the really fun part for me. We have had a serious reverence issue in Sacrament Meeting for a long time, so I wanted to make something that would remind them to be more reverent, especially while they are passing the sacrament. I found these photo albums for $1 a piece. Each holds 38 photos, which was just right. I went to the church's website and found the gospel art kit (you can find it here). I went through and picked out my favorite pictures of Christ, the Book of Mormon, and my favorite Bible stories. I also found pictures of temples, prophets, even the Articles of Faith. I saved each picture as a JPEG to my computer, then with a little Photo Shop, I added titles and descriptions to each picture. Then I uploaded them online and had them printed off as normal prints. Simple! The very first picture in the album is a picture of our own family. Today during Sacrament Meeting they LOVED flipping through their new photo albums, and it really kept the spirit!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On Writing It Down

One of my favorite things about the new year picking out a new day planner. Yes, I am of the old school generation that still loves to have things written out ON PAPER. I have a very fancy phone and it has an electronic planner within it, but I hate using it. Not that I don't understand how to, but I hate having my day in an electronic form. I could go on for days about how I feel like I was born 100 years later than I should have been because I don't like most of the technology that surrounds me today.

I write in my planner several times a day. I make lists. I get the kind of planner that has an entire page for each day because I love having lots of room to make these lists. I love making to-do lists because I LOVE marking things off when they are completed. It gives me a rush! Sometimes I write things down that I have already done, just so I can mark them off. I have a few pages in the back that I use for frequently used phone numbers and I do my best to actually dial out a number when I call someone, rather than depending on the programmed numbers within my phone. I would be up a creek if something were to ever happen to my archived numbers if I didn't have them written down somewhere else!

Each night before bed I open my planner and look at the next day. I write out everything that I need to do that day. Phone calls to make, what room to clean, what closet to sort through, what project to work on, kid drop offs/pick ups, things I need to buy at the store, meetings, what to make for dinner, etc. It's all spelled out for me the night before and it makes the next day go much smoother.

I love the way my planner looks and feels after months of use. The corners are worn and the pages are wrinkled. It's like a mini-jounral of my life. It keeps track of everything that my family is up to, and these days it's getting busier and busier. I love when I am making an appointment, that I can whip out my planner and look at dates, right there in front of me. It thrills me to have things to write down. I am NEVER at a loss for something to schedule or record, and it thrills me just the same each time I do it! Yesterday I got the girls' ballet recital season schedule (pictures, rehearsals, performances, etc) and I was very exxited to write it down!! Am I a freak that it makes me so happy? There is nothing better than sitting down every week and look toward the upcoming weeks to see what's in store for us. I schedule EV-ERY-THING. When I was a kid I often times carried around a clipboard with some sort of organizational something-or-ther on it. Probably not normal for a kid to do that, but it was me. It's for sure carried over into adulthood!

Monday, January 10, 2011

WANTED: Bunk Bed Inspiration

My girls have been in dire need of bunk beds since a while ago. Our bedrooms are small and getting side by side twin beds are out of the question. I decided with the new year, Ethan's bedroom in the basement being finished soon, and a new baby coming in less than three months- it was high time to get serious about re-doing their room.

The set I would REALLY like costs about $700, so that is out of the question. We need new beds now and don't have time to save up. After much shopping around and doing a lot of research, I found these beds at IKEA. Like all things from IKEA, they are inexpensive. But often times you get what you pay for, so I was sceptical.

Today while Ethan was at school, the younger three and I made the thirty minute jaunt out to Draper to the only IKEA store in the state. I wanted to "test them out" and see first hand how they were constructed and how well they were made. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they are solid wood, no laminate finishing anywhere. The wood is pine and although it's the cheapest real wood that furniture is made out of, the beds were very solid and every piece felt very safe and secure. I sat there for a long time while the girls climbed all over the floor model, which mind you, has likely been climbed on by hundreds (or even thousands) of other kids. I tested and re-tested to see what would happen if they shook this way or that. Durability is one of my main criteria, and these suckers seemed to pass the test.

My biggest qualm is how they look. They have a very thin natural finish on them and they are easily paintable given the propper sanding, primer, and paint. In my head I imagine this very feminie and pretty antique white all over all the furniture in their room (they currently have a beautiful dresser that I've been putting off refinishing until we had beds to match). But the style is well....boring to say the least. No accent, no character, no dimension; just a bunch of simple 1x3 pieces of lumber bolted and screwed together.

My delima is how to transform them into something special. Right now I am thinking it would be cool to hang the entire bottom of the top bed with a drape that I can tie back at the corners, and let loose when they want to be enclosed into the bottom bed. When I was little, my sister and I used to always hang blankets from the top bunk, over the bottom bunk, as to make a fort. I could do something REALLY pretty with some sort of chiffon fabric. And the underside of the top bunk has the perfect area to attach something like that. I can see it in my mind and I love it.

But what else? I can always fancy them up with lots of fluffy throw pillows and linens. But I want to do something else. Maybe attach some strips of molding somewhere before they are painted? I am really at a loss. My goal is to make them look very different than they currently do.

By the way, if you have ever purchased these exact beds, let me know what you think of them. Two years ago we bought some IKEA silver metal bunk beds for my son's room and they have held up beautifully. Not once has a screw, nut, or bolt ever had to be tightened. They might be standing even after the house is destroyed in an earthquake!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Stackable Saw Horses

With twelve 2x4s, a box of three inch screws, a drill, and a chop saw, I now have four beautifully sturdy and stackable saw horses. I have been needing a couple of saw horses for quite some time, but the ones that are worth a darn at the hardware store are about $25 a piece. Hard to bring myself to pay that anytime I am there.

My dad has been busy building these babies in the garage today. He drew up the plans in his CAD program, and they are actually very simple to make. The best part is that they stack perfectly which is great since we are limited on space. The lumber they are made of is super light and even a big pregnant lady can stack and unstack the highest one. I will try to get him to send me the plans in a format that will let me post it on here.

Tea Party Table

We have been cleaning out our basement and crawl space, and today I took TWO WHOLE VAN LOADS of stuff to our local thrift store. After I dropped everything off, I decided to run inside and make a very quick lap to see if anything caught my eye. I am always on the look out for a piece of furniture that I can refinish, and while in the store I found this little table. My heart almost leapt from my chest! We will soon be fixing up our girls' room and I have been thinking that a little table set would look great in there when the room is done. But small tea party table sets are of course expensive, at least the ones I like.

This table is old, but incredibly sturdy and very well made. The best part was only $5. The joints are solid and all it needs is a new finishing job. I nabbed it and when I got home, after detailed inspection my dad (who is visiting) even told me what a great table it is. It's the perfect size for two little girls! I have plans to make it a distressed antique white. Now all I need to do is find the perfect small chairs or stools to go with it. Should I make some? I love this kind of treasure hunt!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Toy...Are You Jealous?

Today my dad and I took a leisurely stroll through Home Depot while Hailey and Ethan were at school. He is in town for the week and has been all kinds of help to my on projects I've been working on. He has an extensive knowledge of all things mechanical and construction and his help is invaluable. I know a lot about tools and building small projects, but I lack a lot of knowledge about what tool is best for what and stuff of that nature. So today he gave me a condensed tutorial about construction and especially power tools. I had no idea that there was such a difference between brands, types, sizes, amps, etc.

While at the store he decided that "he" wanted a new miter saw. He has an entire workshop of every tool imaginable at home in Texas. And obviously he can't fit such a thing on the airplane when he goes home on Monday. She he bought "himself" this new toy but will keep it at our house. That is his way of buying me something without imasculating my husband or spoiling me.

So now sitting in my garage, is a 10 inch, 14 amp, Ryobi compound miter saw with laser beam. We have a few things to work on before he heads back to Texas (like building me four saw horses!!) I am so happy that this will be sitting in my garage and that he is gracious enough to let me use "his" saw whenever I want to.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Go check out this bread recipe from Amy over at The Idea Room. I am also a huge lover of Great Harvest cinnaburst bread, but it's pricey. This reacipe looks like a good knock off. I am currently out of brown sugar, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be making this as soon as I've gone grocery shopping!