Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Easy Dinner Recipe

This isn't really a recipe, but more an idea.  One of our favorite easy dinners is a Mexican French Bread Pizza.
Just take a loaf of French bread (homemade or store bought, up to you).

Slice it open lengthwise.

Spread with refried beans and top with grated cheese.
Broil or bake until the cheese is melted.

Cut into pieces, we usually go with about 3 inch pieces.

Top with your favorite toppings!  Here is mine topped with salsa, avocado, tomato, sour cream, and hot sauce.  SOoooOOO good!  Fast and easy to boot!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Super Easy Decoupage Frame

I am trying to add some cute things into my kitchen.  When I was going through my monster file box, I came across a $1 wooden frame Shauna and I picked up at Michael's a while back.  It got buried and forgotten.  Well, as soon as I found it I grabbed a piece of scrapbook paper and went to town!
Here it is before, with my supplies: 

I painted the frame's back and sides with acrylic craft paint.  I mixed some blue and green to get the color I wanted.  When that was dry, I laid the frame upside down on the scrapbook paper and traced around it.  Then I cut out the paper and used Mod Podge to adhere it to the frame.  I then took a sanding block and sanded the edges so none of the paper was hanging over the edges of the frame.  To give it a little more "oomph", I took a blue ink pad and inked the edges of the frame.  I love distressing, whether it is with ink, paint, sanding, etc.
Here it is, all ready for a cute picture:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shower Curtain Love

I know I keep saying this, but this is one of my FAVORITE projects EVER!  :)  Here is a picture of my kids bathroom before with just a dollar store shower curtain liner:


Enough already with the blah-blah bathroom!!

This. has. to. end.  I looked to the internet for some ideas and was inspired by these:
From Make it and Love it and Show & Tell (two of my favorite blog reads)

A trip to a fabric store or two produced this inspiration:

I started by measuring the shower curtain liner (a new, sturdier one).  I cut my main fabric (the yellow and white) into 2 panels the length of the new curtain, plus a few inches for seam allowance.  Then sewed the 2 panels together.  It was wider than I needed, so I cut the sides to be the width of the liner plus a couple inches for seam allowance.  I then hemmed the curtain on the bottom and sides.
Next, the ruffles.  Love me some ruffles!  I wanted the black and white fabric to be the longest ruffle.  I laid it out to determine how long I wanted it.

I made the width of the ruffle almost twice as wide as the curtain so I could gather it.  I made sure the ruffle was a little longer than I wanted (for the seam allowance), and hemmed it.  Then, I did the same for the top ruffle.

Here is how I gathered the ruffles.  Now, I have the cheapest machine out there.  I am borrowing my sister in law's machine, which is the most basic machine from Wally World.  All it can do is straight and zig zag stitches.  But, I am so grateful to have it!  First, set the stitch length to the longest length.

Sew two lines of stitching about 1/8" apart along the top of the fabric to be gathered.  Then, pull both bottom threads and slide the fabric along the threads creating a gather.  That's all there is to it!  I always do two rows of stitching to gather, because I have tried doing only one and had the thread break on me.  More than once.  I was NOT a happy camper when that happened.

After I gathered each ruffle, I pinned it along the top of the curtain and sewed it on.  And here is where I am wishing I took more pictures.  Sorry!!  OK, I will try to explain as best I can.  To cover up the top of the curtain and create a place for the hanging rings to go through, I made a strip of the yellow and white fabric.  I made it the width of the curtain, and about 5 inches long.  I wanted it to be 2 inches on the front and fold over to be 2 inches on the back, plus seam allowance gave me 5 inches.  I sewed it on like a quilt binding.  For the front, I put the right sides together and sewed it on.  I folded it over to the back, folded up the bottom and hand sewed it.
Clear as mud?  Well...almost done!!
I decided that making button holes would be the best way to hang the curtain from the rings.  This machine doesn't have a button hole stitch, so I just made them myself.  Begin by doing the widest, closest zig zag at the top of where you want the buttonhole.  Then, on the left side, switch to a much smaller zig zag and zig zag down to where you want the bottom of the buttonhole to be.  When you get to the bottom, switch back to the widest zig zag and sew several stitches. To make the right side, switch back to the smaller stitch, and zig zag back up to the top of the buttonhole by holding the reverse button.
Sometimes, I did a good job:

 Sometimes, it didn't come out as good:

It will still work, and not be seen so I was ok with it. :)
I used my seam ripper to slit the center of the buttonhole open.  Insert rings and hang.
Voila!!  Done!   And that is how the cutest shower curtain I've ever had was born.

Sweet ruffles, how I love you!

 The whole bathroom looks new now!

And we all lived happily ever after.  :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cereal box to In-box

In my kitchen "office" corner re-vamp, I realized an in-box was necessary.  Since our files are now kept in the garage I knew that I wasn't going to walk out to the garage to file every little paper as it came in.  Without an in-box of sorts, there would be papers all over the place or lost, etc. 
Weeeeellll...  I didn't have an in-box.  What to do, what to do?  I was inspired by the blog Choose to Thrive, in which the theme is "rock what ya got" and not spend anything.  I LOVE it!!  So I took a look around to see what I had.  I came up with a cereal box and a placemat. 

Not the most attractive thing.  It definitely needed to be covered with something.  I decided on a placemat from the Dollar Tree.  I only found one of these placemats at the time, and knew I could do something with it.  (forgive my lack of pictures and lacking tutorial.  I will get better at this, I promise!)
First, I cut one end and the back off of the box.  I also shortened the box a bit to just larger than 11", so it would hold standard paper size but not be too big. 

Then I cut a piece of the box end and taped it back on to create a lip to hold the papers in.

Then I set to work covering that box.  I cut the placemat apart, because it was two layers of this ADORABLE fabric.  Turned out to be just the right amount of fabric.  I just kind of wrapped it like a present, cutting where I needed to so it would fit and not be too bulky.  I hot glued it on as I went. 
Here she is, all covered and pretty:

You can see where it is pieced together in some places.

The back view:

The bottom didn't get covered, cuz who's going to look at the bottom?  Not even me, so it's fine. 

Perfect!  and FREE, which is awesome!!  Turns out it is fun to "rock what ya got".  What fabulous projects do you have that you didn't have to spend much on?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Watermelon Pops

Oh the joys of summer! The HEAT, the swimming, the HEAT, the vacations, the HEAT, the games & family time, and finally the HEAT. Can you tell we live in the desert? As fabulous as the summer is, the most prevalent thing about April - October in our area is that it is HOT, HOTTER, & HOTTEST!  Cool treats are so important in helping get through these blazing months.  Have you seen how much they are charging these days for the frozen, artificially colored sugar water in the freezer section of your local grocery store? If you are looking for healthier options that include a recognizable ingredient (like fruit, for example) the cost multiplies! In the past, we have used a lot of "Otter Pops" to help endure the inferno, but this year we started looking for better choices. Our first endeavor? Watermelon Pops. AMAZING!
Thanks to a friend, fellow blogger, and chef we decided to try out these gems and they will remain a staple in our freezers all summer.
Aside from being tasty & refreshing (& they ARE!) they are 1. very healthy, 2. very inexpensive, and 3. our families approve (ok, so admittedly it's the kids you were wondering about - testimonials to follow).

Supplies needed: seedless watermelon, popsicle or craft sticks (we got ours at Walmart in the craft section - the bigger size like you see at the Dr's office work great), a big knife, a cutting board, a cookie sheet, plastic wrap (optional) 

Step 1: Cut a small disk off the top and bottom
of the watermelon, creating a flat surface. 
This helps stabilize the watermelon while you cut off the rind.

Step 2: Slice off the rind in long strips

Isn't it pretty? Kind of reminds me of a big lovely gemstone.

Step 3: Cut the melon into slabs as thick as you want your popsicles

Step 4: Cut slabs into popsicle sizes and slide the sticks into place

Place your finished pops on a cookie sheet lined with plastic wrap and
pop into the freezer. After they are frozen place them in a big ziploc bag & enjoy!

"We approve this message"

Feedback from the 4 yr old when told to stay in the kitchen to enjoy the pop:
"I don't need to! These don't drip all over or fall off the stick!"
Feedback from the youngest was based on his actions

Cost breakdown: Watermelon - 4 melons at $1 each (Sprout's special)= $4, popsicle sticks= $2.29
Because we only had 75 sticks, we only made 75 pops and ate the leftover melon. The cost ended up at 8.4 cents a popsicle. So, if you compare that to a twelve count store bought version, the cost per box would be $1.01 - Pretty amazing, huh?  Even if you don't find watermelon on special, the cost is still fabulous, then add that to the healthiness (is that a word?) and you've got a winner!

Suggestion: try other melons like honeydew, cantaloupe, or crenshaw. The kids will still have color choices! :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Miscellaneous Box

OK.  Don't judge me for what I am about to show you.  Can anyone relate to the following scene?
This is a little corner in my kitchen which also serves as a little "home office" type area.  Well, I don't know if you can tell, but it wasn't working how I had imagined.  The file system was not working for us, junk piling up, etc.  Ya know.  Well, it's time this area had a makeover!  
It all began with a filing cabinet that a friend gave us.  We were able to put it in the garage, set up files in it, and file away everything that was in the pile and file box.  With that huge black file box gone, I could get to work making this corner cute!!
At our last house, we had a dedicated "junk" drawer (ok, maybe two) in the kitchen to hold pens, pencils, tape, scissors, paper clips, etc.  
Sadly, I don't have any extra drawer space at our current house.  But I still have all the little things floating around that need a home.
Enter: the green box.  I found this baby at Goodwill for around $2.  It is plastic, and an ugly green color, but I knew that could easily be fixed.  I was attracted to the cute lines and the flower detail on the front.

 My current home is very neutral colored.  I love neutrals, but have been feeling like adding more color lately with accessories.  So, I decided on a nice happy yellow for this project.  I had some spray paint left from another project that was perfect!  The Rustoleum 2X coverage is my favorite spray paint!  In order to emphasize the flower and wood grain on the box, I also pulled out some brown glaze.  I like the color "Tobacco" by Ralph Lauren.  I got it at Home Depot a few years ago.  When I bought a whole gallon of this stuff, I didn't realize how such a little bit of it goes a long way.  I will be using this gallon my whole life before I run out!  

Here is how I paint small projects:

I have some free carpet sample squares that I use to protect the ground.  They are great because they don't take up much room to store, and I can use as many or as few as I need.  
Here is the little green box gone yellow!  Lookin' good.

Even better after the glaze is applied.  I love how it brings out the details and gives it dimension.

Now the flower really stands out!!

I will be back to show this little baby in action after a couple other projects are completed.  Let the makeover begin!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strawberry Freezer Jam

We had our jam session!  Shauna came over and we jammed our little hearts out.  The easiest, tastiest kind--strawberry freezer jam!  I love freezer jam because of the fresh taste.  Since it isn't cooked, it has the best just-picked taste, and is such a gorgeous bright red color.  Yum!  We made about 8 pints, and I am going to go buy some more berries and make more.  In quarts this time.  :)
Strawberries were only four pounds for a dollar at the Ranch Market by me, and they were good ones!!  Too bad they went back up in price.  Anyway, here is the recipe we followed:  (from Chef Tess)

4 cups crushed berries (used food processor)
1 1/2 cups honey
1 pkg freezer pectin

We used a gel kind of pectin and the powder kind.  The powder kind set up better.  We were going to add some Clear Jel to the runnier jam, but we are just using it on pancakes instead.

How do we like our jam?  Well, if it were proper we would eat it with a spoon out of the jar.  But, to be a good example to the children we will try to use it on other foods such as toast, biscuits, pancakes, in yogurt (makes beautiful parfaits-just layer plain yogurt and strawberry jam), on ice cream, you name it!  Mmm-mm good!

*note:  I made another batch and used Clear Jell instead of pectin and it worked like a charm!  You can use any amount of sweetener you want with Clear Jell, so I only used 1 cup of honey to 4 cups pureed berries, and then added the Clear Jell.  It set up beautifully, and not too sweet!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Table Re-do

Oh, boy!  I am SO excited to unveil one of my latest projects!  I am just so excited that it is DONE and that it came out so nicely.
Here is my old kitchen table.  In all its orange oak-ey glory:

Yes, it's a mess.  This picture was taken in the past to show how messy the table gets when the kids do art projects, and I forgot to take a more recent picture of it cleared off.  Anyway, you can still clearly get the idea of what it looked like.  It was not only ugly in color, but it was showing definite wear and had paint and permanent marker on the top (which you CAN'T see in this picture, but it's there.)
  Here is a chair that shows what some of the wear was like:

(yes, it's taken after I started painting and with my phone so it's not a very good shot, but you get the idea.)

I saw this tutorial on one of my favorite blogs, Clover Lane.  She did a similar transformation on her dining furniture, so I gave it a go.  I pretty much did exactly what she said to on her awesome tut, but I will give a summary of what I did here.  I got all my supplies from Home Depot.  
Supplies:  very good paint brush (CRUCIAL!), tack cloth, mineral spirits, sanding block and sandpaper in varying grits, satin Minwax fast-drying polyurethane, and black satin oil enamel - YES, oil.  DON'T let the guy at Home Depot try to talk you into latex instead.  It was very easy to use and I think it will be more durable to boot.  It is very smelly, but I did my painting outside so it was fine.  

Tips:  get a solid sanding block, NOT a sanding sponge.  When you are distressing the edges at the end, a sponge will scratch up the paint around the edges. A quart was all I needed of paint and a pint of poly.  I have some leftover, and I painted a big table and 6 chairs.  I did two coats of paint on the table top, and one on everywhere else.  I did two coats of poly on the table top, and one coat on the chair seats and backs.  No poly anywhere else.  I am very interested to see how all this holds up...  My table and chairs get HEAVY use. 

I sanded the table top lightly, but not anything else because it was already so worn.  I also did not use primer, because I wanted to distress the edges and wanted the wood color to peek through (not white primer).  Use the tack cloth to wipe the table after sanding.  I also gave it a cleaning with some TSP, but don't know if this was necessary.  Then, I painted everything with one coat.  (those chairs were a PAIN to paint!  but SOOOO worth it)  Let that dry, then touched up wherever I missed and did another coat on table top.  Let that dry and then distressed the edges.  Use the tack cloth to clean the dust off before using the polyurethane.  After the two coats of poly were dry, I let it sit outside for a couple days to really set before using it.  Brought it in, and I love it!  We all do.  It is so beautiful now!  

I had a hard time getting a good picture, but hopefully you get the idea.  A new dining set for about 50 bucks!!!  Lovely.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cake Ball Stand

My 12 year old daughter wanted to serve cake balls for her birthday party.  I thought we could use something cute to present them on, so I made a merry little trip to the Dollar Tree.  (there is one right by our new house.  the lady that works there knows me now!  LOL)  Anyway, I've seen these little stands all over the web and have been waiting for a good excuse to make one.
What I bought:  a candlestick, a pack of 2 small candlesticks, and 2 plates.

And a feather duster.  That's not part of the necessary materials, but my son found it and we couldn't leave it there.  Look at it:

I digress.  I just hot glued the bigger solid pink plate onto the tall candlestick.  Then hot glued the small candlesticks together.  Then glue them onto the solid pink plate, and topped it off with the polka dotted plate.  I used hot glue because that's all I had for a super quick thing like this, but it will probably come apart eventually.  I would suggest E-5000 or something like that.

Note: after the party, everything came apart.  The hot glue was not a good long term solution.  I am going to re-glue with the E-5000.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Message Board

We are in the process of decorating the big girl's room.  (we are always in the process of decorating something, right?)  With the bright purple, we thought black and white would be a good accent.  There are touches of other bright colors in there as well, in the pillows and some accessories.  With wall space to fill and pictures and other paper "things" to be displayed, naturally a message board was necessary.  With our budget of very little, we got creative!
This is what I dug up to transform:

A map picture that has seen better days.  It was the perfect size, nice and big.  And the map was glued onto foam core, also perfect.  First things first, I took the map out of the frame and spray painted the frame black.  (already had the paint)  Then I cut a square of some mid-weight batting and cut it a little smaller than the board so that it wouldn't be in the way when I put it back into the frame.  I sprayed some adhesive on the board and stuck the batting onto it so it wouldn't be moving around.  Then I took some cute graphic black and white fabric (already had) and cut it bigger than my map board. I spread the fabric out on the floor and centered the board on it, batting side down.  I then wrapped the fabric onto the board, using duct tape to adhere.

 I took some ribbon (I had to buy the ribbon) and criss-crossed it onto the board, also adhering on the back with duct tape.  Almost done!  The board was ready to go back into the frame.  I took some cute buttons (also had to buy, so went with cheap-yet-cute ones) and sewed them onto the board where the ribbons crossed each other.  I just sewed through the foam core-it was easy!  The needle went right through.  Someone clipped their flower hair clip on and it was cute, so I left it.  Voila!  Awesome message board, for very little money!  Perfect.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kid's Room Artwork

have a small stash of things I pick up at Goodwill here and there.  Mostly chunky picture frames, and a few other home decor items to rotate around.  When I made this project, my three little kids shared a room and their walls needed some artwork.
It started with this picture $2 from Goodwill:

I removed the back (it had a dust cover so I ripped it off), and took out the picture.  I decided to use the back of the picture to glue my project onto because it was a nice sturdy cardboard. 

I got out a nicely sized set of alphabet stamps, a couple pieces of scrapbook paper (I LOVE stripes), some white paper and some ink pads that went well with the stripes.

After taping off the glass, I took my free paint from Glidden that I got a while back (True Turquoise) and painted the frame.  No sanding or any prep, just painted it with two coats.

Then I got the stamps out.  In a very calculated mathematical way, I began stamping. 

hahaha  OK, what I actually did was just stamped as many letters as I could across the paper.  I got 10 letters across, so figured if I did 10 more across the bottom that would leave 6 for the middle.  So that's what I did!  For the striped paper, I had to piece two papers together to get the size I needed.  That's one reason I chose the stripes, because you can't see the piecing. I also matted the white paper onto a dark teal cardstock.  (also pieced together)  I distressed the frame a bit and voila!

Here it is all finished!  I think it came out so cute, and you can't beat 2 bucks!!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Before and After: Message Board

I found this picture at Goodwill a while ago and fell in LOVE with the metal scroll work on top. The whole thing is metal and lovely:

Although I liked the color of the metal, it felt a little dark for my house and didn't really fit in with the "light and airy" scheme I'm trying to create. So a little paint and glaze later...

I painted the center with chalkboard paint. I hung this near the kitchen and write the weekly dinner menu on it.

Here's something I've learned with spray paint projects. I have always bought the cheap 97 cent Walmart spray paint for my painting needs. Well, I heard great reviews about Rustoleum's Heirloom White (used on some candlesticks) so I got some to try. Was there any difference in the spray paint? HECK. YES. I don't think I'll ever use the Walmart kind again. Serious. The Rustoleum covers way better, sprays way better, has a more comfortable button, and can spray when held in any direction. Totally worth the extra cost because one can goes much farther anyway. And yes, the Heirloom White is a gorgeous creamy white color.

Fun, fun fun!!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Before and After: barstools

had some barstools at my counter that I got at Walmart for cheap. They were the really cheap round top, no back type. Well, I felt they were ok for adults but with all the little people around here, the last thing I wanted was someone falling off a stool and busting their head open. I kept my eyes open on Craigslist because my budget was...well, as low as possible. I found this set of four stools for $25--TOTAL! Yes, I know they are all southwestern-y looking, and they were too tall, but they were very sturdy and I knew they would do well with a face lift. And-how could I pass up 25 bucks for 4 STOOLS?? They were actually stools from Sears when they had a cosmetic counter. I love stuff that has a story.

Stools before:

Stools after:

I just cut the legs off at the bottom to the right height, spray painted the wood, and put some plastic thingys on the bottom so they don't scratch the floor. I have plans for the vinyl seats, but now that the wood is black the color doesn't bother me so much anymore. That can wait. I have more projects to work on...