Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Little House Books and The Long Winter



Throughout the last couple weeks, The Girl and I have been reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We started at the beginning of the Little House book series in July and every Monday through Thursday nights (and sometimes over the weekend), we'll read a couple chapters.

I have loved the Little House books since I received them from my grandparents one Christmas when I was a young girl. The books were old and well worn from reading (some of them even had my name scrawled across the inside cover...in crayon) so I replaced the old blue set with one exactly like it that I found on eBay several years back. My set was not going to be passed on to The Girl (because I STILL read them so much) so I had to get her a set of her very own. Between several trips to the thrift store, I scored a practically new full matching set - for about $4.


The Long Winter isn't my favorite book from the series, but it is probably the one I remember and appreciate the most - especially on cold, cold winter days. It is the one book that makes me come back to my senses when I long to be living out west over one hundred years ago. When the weather was good, times were tough enough. When the weather was bad...seven months of blizzards, little to no food, and no trains bringing supplies...you were lucky to survive.

Though The Girl kept up a positive attitude...
The Girl: "But mommy, homemade brown bread everyday would be yummy!"Me: "Wouldn't you get tired of it if that was ALL you had to eat every day for months and months?"
The Girl: "Oh. (long pause) Yes."
...she did begin to understand the severity of cabin fever when after only three days of being snowed in (with a full pantry) she was bored and wanted desperately to go out - even though we already spent several hours at the sledding hill.

And knowing the book series continued after The Long Winter kept her from worrying too much about Laura's fate because after all, Laura must have survived to write all those other books, right?



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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Family Tree - Simplified

Back in November ('cause that's how long ideas can sit around here before they're tackled) I came across a Hand-Lettered Family Tree on MarthaStewart.com and thought it was a very simple, attractive and easy-to-create family tree. It also makes a very inexpensive, thoughtful and personal gift. I planned to make one for my new nephew that is due in the Spring.

Hand-Lettered Family Tree on MarthaStewart.com 
After several layout sketches and a couple of botched attempts at the hand lettered family tree, I put the project aside for awhile. I was going through WAY too much paper for this "simple" tree. It was very hard spacing names that had to be written on the left-hand side of the tree. The letters had to be written in backwards order to get them spaced correctly. And then they just looked bad.


Then I found another family tree made in MS Office using WordArt. I made a few changes, still trying to keep to the original plan (simple tree) as much as possible.


I hated the resulting tree. Too simple. Too plain. Too UGLY! Not to mention the paper warped when I glued it.  So once again, the project was put aside.

Then I ran across a new blog, A Little Hut. While skimming through her posts and multiple crafts, I came across a tutorial for an Autumn Tree Gift Tag. I watched the video and knew I had my family tree. I took the gift tag idea and enlarged it creating a 12" x 12" family tree.


The tree is cut from card stock and the backing is also card stock. The colored paper scraps are just that - scraps of paper I had in my stash.


When drawing out the tree, I made sure I had enough branches for people's names and couple's wedding dates and wrote them all in with a fine point sharpie.


The whole thing slid easily into an inexpensive 12" x 12" frame. I found this one at Michael's for $6.99.

The result...perfect. Not what I originally had in mind, but I think I might like this one better. And to think it was inspired by a gift tag...which I also made to go with the gift.



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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Pin"spiration - Valentine's Chocolate Coated Pretzels

My "Pin"spirations are things I have found on or through Pinterest that inspired me to try something new, whether it's a new craft, a new project or a new recipe.

I've always made chocolate covered pretzel rods for Christmas and have thought about branching out into other holidays or special occasions but just haven't gotten around to it. When I came across the Valentine themed pretzels from Love From The Oven, I knew I had to make them. Unlike my usual pretzel rods, these pretzel knots have a heart shape perfect for Valentine's Day.


Since the pretzels have to be made one at a time, they weren't fast, but they were definitely easy.


I used the Snyder's One Pounder bag of standard 3" pretzels for the large sprinkled treats (after sorting through the bag and pulling out all the broken ones, I wound up with about 22 intact pretzels from the whole bag). I also made up about 150 chocolate coated mini pretzels (without sprinkles) to bag up for Mr. LH's co-workers.



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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Cookies


I thought nothing of it when I signed up to bring cookies to The Girl's school Valentine's Party. After all, they're just cookies. But if Mr. LH had known ahead of time what I was doing, he would have requested I sign up for something like napkins.


I couldn't settle for buying cookies and taking them in. I had to make them. Then I couldn't just use a tried and true recipe for cookies. I had to make decorated sugar cookies...with royal icing. Royal icing is something I have tried to avoid for years and years and years and years...


You can learn just about anything on the internet so I set out to find a quick tutorial on royal icing. I was rewarded with The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle and her royal icing recipe.


Though even the small icing batch was much more than I needed (and I was making about 3 dozen cookies), the instructions led me through to a pretty batch of presentable Valentine's Cookies. There are some things I'd do differently next time, but I was very happy with the results.


We wound up with plenty of cookies for the class party and even had some cookies left for Tia's neighborhood friends.




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Friday, February 10, 2012

"Pin"spiration - Monster High Shrinky Dink Jewelry

My "Pin"spirations are things I have found on or through Pinterest that inspired me to try something new, whether it's a new craft, a new project or a new recipe.


A couple months before Christmas, The Girl started talking about nothing but Monster High. She and the neighborhood girls seemed to suddenly discover Monster High and wanted the Monster High dolls. They even "assigned" each other Monster High characters that they would act out when they played.

Well, with Christmas right around the corner and the sudden surge of young girls going gaga for Monster high, you can imagine that anything Monster High related was very difficult to find. In fact, Santa must have taken care of The Girl's Christmas gift early (Monster High Gloom Beach doll set) because stores were sold out of them soon after Thanksgiving. Good thing she sent that Santa letter early...

Even now, with Christmas behind us, the selection of Monster high "stuff" available seems to be limited. At the time I just thought, "Oh well..."



It's funny sometimes how you wind up finding things. The links on the internet are kind of like the thought process people have when they start at one idea and end up at a completely different idea. I found a link on Pinterest to a tutorial on how to make buttons made with Shrinky Dinks. I have never before worked with Shrinky Dinks. I always thought it was neat but I also always associated it with Christmas ornaments. So out of curiosity more than anything else, I followed the link to the button tutorial. It was a great tutorial and the buttons were cute, but I don't need buttons. I didn't even begin to dream up the possibilities of Shrinky Dinks.

Then I found a link to a freezer paper stencil tutorial. I thought I could make a Monster High stencil using freezer paper and stencil a t-shirt or something. Searching online through Monster High images (trying to find a good one to make a stencil from), I came across a Monster High necklace and earring set...made from Shrinky Dinks! Oh, now I can see the possibilities!

Since The Girl's favorite Monster High character is Clawdeen (a werewolf - with Spectra and her pet ferret coming in a close second), I decided to try the Shrinky Dink process by making her a pair of simple earrings in the shape of Clawdeen's "skullette". The Girl had saved the box her Monster High dolls came in and had been tracing the images from it for her little art projects. I planned to use those same images for this project.

I traced the skullette onto the Shrinky Dink plastic (I used the frosted sheets), then cut the image out (I made two of them) then punched a 1/8" hole at the top. Into the oven they went.

Before baking (they were about 1 1/2" wide and high)
I stuck around the oven for a bit to see if I could see them shrink, but after about 30 seconds I walked off. Two minutes later, I came back to find the images shrunk down so tiny! And they looked GREAT!

After baking
I became hooked! The project possibilities are filling my head now. I have a feeling The Girl and I will be making all kinds of Shrinky Dink charms this weekend!

Update: We wound up making lots of Monster High earrings (dangles and clip-ons) for The Girl's friends using each of their favorite character's skullettes - and even a larger Lagoona necklace for the one friend that couldn't wear earrings. Here is one we had left over (Frankiestein) that is a bit too "grown up" for 8 year old girls.


Update 04/01/2014: Check out this Monster High Shrinky Dinks Chandelier project I found at Toys R Us. It's AWESOME!



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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Visit to the State Capitol

On Wednesday, February 8th 2012, Mr. LH was up bright and early driving toward the Colorado State Capitol building to join other filmmakers, media professionals, content creators, and local businesses in support of the Colorado Film Incentives proposal.


He didn't particularly want to get up so early and face downtown traffic but the cause was a good one. If Colorado raised their incentives for film production, more films would come to Colorado producing countless jobs and increasing local revenue.

Not only was he able to go to show his support, but he also had a chance to see our new state capitol building up close. I have never been there and neither have the "Pickles". I believe I only visited the NC capitol building once...for a 7th grade field trip. But 2 1/2hours was a long way to drive to visit a capitol building. Now we only live about 20 minutes from it.

From the photos he took, I think we're going to make time this summer to visit. It is definitely an impressive place!












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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Looking Towards Spring

Whenever I start to wish winter would take all the snow and cold and just go away, I remind myself how incredibly hot it was here last summer. Then I sit back, relax and watch the snow gracefully fall to the ground.


Still, in those afternoons with hot chocolate and a warm blanket around me, I grab my latest flower catalog and think about Spring and dirt and planting. Spring seemed practically non-existent last year. I've pinned it down to a couple weeks somewhere in May or June. One week it was snowing and the next week we were wearing shorts and getting sunburned. So I guess I really just start thinking about dirt and planting more than I think about Spring.

Most of my thoughts this year have been geared toward saving the plants I already have rather than what new ones will be planted. Last October, I pulled in my container plants. I don't have many - some Columbine, a Clematis and the Hydrangea that Mr. LH got me for Valentine's Day last year.  I didn't know if they would survive in the garage all winter (no sunshine) and I didn't have much space to keep them inside especially when they were dormant and just looked like dead plants. But I really didn't think container plants would survive below zero temperatures outside. I was definitely worried about them. Especially my hydrangea. I love hydrangeas! I didn't water them much but I would take some snow to them once in awhile to slowly melt into the soil.

Fast forward several months. I got so sick of worrying about it that I brought my hydrangea inside and placed it on the floor by a sunny window. The only thing I had previously done was to prune the spent flowers from the limbs. It really looks like a plant in mid-winter...sad, dried up and waiting for better times.


After only a week in it's new spot, and with regular watering, the hydrangea sprang to life. First one, then two and now a cluster of new leaves are all shooting up from the base of the plant. BIG sigh of relief!


There is great excitement in watching plants grow...and even more excitement in watching a sleeping plant awaken.



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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Pin"spiration - Boot Socks

My "Pin"spirations are things I have found on or through Pinterest that inspired me to try something new, whether it's a new craft, a new project or a new recipe.

I've seen all kinds of posts and videos that teach you how to turn old sweaters in hand warmers, beanie hats and leg warmers. Since I have a bin full of old sweaters, I was intrigued by the possibilities but I never did anything about it. So when I came across a whole list of things on Pinterest that made me want to pull out the sewing machine, I went back to the sweater re-purposing idea...specifically, socks and legwarmers (because I have the coldest feet in my family and I love a good snuggly pair of socks).

I found a picture from Star Tribune showing models wearing great boots with a hint of sock peeking out over the tops. That was all it took for me to pull out a sweater I had been saving for just this purpose. It was hopelessly too small for me and still much too large for Tia and it had really long, skinny sleeves.

I sucked in my breath and cut off the sleeves. Then I stitched the sleeve closed at the shoulder. Done!

Yes, I am laying on the couch with my feet up in the air to take this picture...
The socks come up just below my knees - on The Girl, they're more like thigh-high socks. She loves them. We'll have to share. They're a wonderfully fuzzy second layer to wear beneath my boots or to just run around the house in.

Now we're trying to decide what we want to do with the rest of the sweater.



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Monday, February 6, 2012

"Pin"spiration - Denim Recycling

My "Pin"spirations are things I have found on or through Pinterest that inspired me to try something new, whether it's a new craft, a new project or a new recipe.

The Boy has a way of growing out of jeans faster than I can replace them. He has already sprouted a good 3 or four inches in the last year and now wears a size 16 slim (go out and see how difficult it is to find size 16 slim jeans). His older brother didn't wear size 16 pants until he was...well...16 years old!  I found myself with a huge pile of outgrown jeans ready for donating or crafting. I chose the second, though I really had no idea what I would do with them at the time. In enters Pinterest...

I found a cute tutorial for a girl's denim skirt made from an old pair of jeans from TeaRoseHome.

I had been on the lookout for a denim skirt for The Girl but never could find one I liked. Everything I found was either a miniskirt or a long pencil skirt. This one had possibilities. Since the skirt in the tutorial was for a girl considerably smaller than The Girl, I needed to tweek it a bit. I also chose to add a ruffled underskirt for additional length and frill.

I then turned one of the old jean pockets (and a few other scraps) into a little zippered bag for The Girl to use.


I plan to make a stencil from freezer paper and make a bleach print on the pocket of the bag.

Then I saw a photo of a denim patchwork pillow from GreenBearCub.com. That's all it was - a photo...no instructions. I decided to create my own using more of the leftover denim. I had a 12" pillow that needed a cover so I only did a 9-patch front. I also made an envelope back so I could easily remove the cover for washing. I'm hoping that with time, the fraying will increase. I've discovered that some jeans fray better than others. I think if I were to make another one, I would leave a smaller seam allowance between the patches, too.


I was doing great turning those jeans into new things! I wound up with several additional pockets. I thought they would be neat on a large quilt, but there were a LOT of pockets. A couple pockets on a quilt would be cool. Pockets everywhere would be overkill. Then I saw this:

Great ideas for a backyard barbecue from Lady Behind The Curtain
Ideas for a backyard barbecue from Lady Behind The Curtain. There were not only great decorating ideas, but recipes for your backyard barbecue as well! Fabulous! And as for the denim pockets? Problem solved. I trimmed down the pockets and placed them with the rest of my outdoor dining pieces.

I do have one other "pinspired" denim project I'm working on, but it is pretty labor intensive so that one will have to wait for another time...



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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekend Break

We had a long weekend. The snow started Thursday night and continued into Saturday leaving 13 inches of snow all around us (though nearby Denver got a record breaking 16 inches and other areas got 3 feet or more). I-70 was closed east of the city and at one point, I-25 was closed in places so icicles could be removed from overpasses. It's the little things like icicle on bridges that I would never have thought about before moving here.

The snow was enough to pack the grocery stores on Thursday, close the schools on Friday and crowd all the sledding hills on Saturday.

13 inches - that makes 53" so far this snow season
The Girl is helping to clean off the van
The Boy shoveling a path to the driver's side door (not that I'll be going anywhere in the van anytime soon...)
Next to the mound of snow from the driveway. At some point, you run out of places to toss the snow.
Playing in the mound of snow tossed from the sidewalks
The VERY crowded sledding hill


The walk home
And on Sunday, well, that was spent watching the Super Bowl.



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Friday, February 3, 2012

My First "Pin"spiration - Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken

My "Pin"spirations are things I have found on or through Pinterest that inspired me to try something new, whether it's a new craft, a new project or a new recipe.

All it took was one night...one night spent with Pinterest to get me hooked. I downsized my outrageously long browser bookmarks list and placed them all neatly categorized on Pinterest. (it's much easier to scan the photos for what I want than to search through a list of obscure links). I re-pinned the fabulous ideas other people had found (saved me the work of finding them). I was so inspired by all the crafts, projects and foods I saw that by day two (yeah...day TWO) I told Mr. LH I'd do better if instead of being on Pinterest searching for projects I was actually DOING those projects instead. So I started.

The first thing I tackled was a Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken recipe from SixSistersStuff.com. Doesn't it look just YUMMY?

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken recipe from SixSistersStuff.com

I LOVE sesame chicken. If I go to a Chinese buffet, I'm all over the sesame chicken and crab rangoons! I knew I had to give this recipe a try. I had to go to the grocery store anyway because a huge snowstorm was forecasted that would keep us indoors all weekend. I took that opportunity to make sure I had everything needed to make the Sesame Chicken.

I had the chicken in the crock pot by 1pm and it was ready by dinnertime. All I had to do extra was make some rice in the rice cooker and steam some broccoli. It was one of the easiest recipes I've made! The chicken was very tender and the "Pickles" cleaned their plates. I did lessen the amount of honey in the recipe to 3/4 cups instead of the 1 cup called for.




On to the next "pin"spired project!



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