Friday, November 30, 2012

Easy upgrade to basic stockings

Our Christmas decorations are mostly from the year we graduated from college and moved in together - we bought an apartment-full of decorations as cheaply as we could. Then we ran out of storage space and I asked my parents to hang on to our decorations - then somehow, every year, we're never able to get them in time for the holidays!  I ended up buying a smaller replacement set of decorations, again as cheaply as possible. So now we've got two sets of the most basic stockings you can get, and twice I've ended up making similar upgrades so they weren't quite so plain!

With our first set of stockings, I found some iron-on letters with our initials. This (grainy) pic is from the year I first made them - 2005! Ahh where does the time go?!

That also happened to be the Christmas that Bryan surprised me with this adorable little fur-baby - Aria was only about 8 weeks old when she became a part of our family on this Christmas!

Fast forward a few years - Once I got the replacement stockings I kept them plain in the beginning. Then this past weekend I finally gave them a little extra sumthin-sumthin. I got a 3-pack of felt star ornaments from Michaels for $1, then glued them to our stockings. Take a look - it's not bad for a $0.33 upgrade, eh?

Maybe one of these days we'll actually get something other than the cheap, furry stockings, but for now I'm happy with these. Whether you use iron-on decals or glue, this is a simple way to make basic stockings look a little more unique!

What kind of stockings do you hang in your house?? During most of my childhood, I had a cartoony looking reindeer that would light up and sing a song when you pressed it. My taste was impeccable. ;)

County inspector meetings {Like jumping out of a plane?}

Phew, we had an interesting past couple of days with the house stuff. The kind of days that feel the way that Bryan looks in this photo (I was trying to find something that would work for emotional roller coaster, but hey, this works too...)

What have I gotten myself into?!?
On Wednesday we had the pre-construction meeting at our lot with the county inspector and our site work guy. Totally expected it to be a 'yep, you're good' kind of meeting - short & sweet, and one step closer.

But that's not how it went down. It started out with them not being able to find the property limit on one side, so the inspector couldn't be sure the tree clearing limits were flagged properly. Then the driveway turned into a huge issue. The land is higher than the road on that side, and they didn't think the incline would work. We thought we'd have to either a) regrade across the whole front of the lawn to make it slope down gradually and repave the public trail, or b) completely flip our driveway, garage, and house around and get everything re-approved. Flipping the house actually sounded like the preferable option, even though there were a number of reasons we weren't happy about it. The only good thing about the meeting was that everyone seemed like they genuinely wanted to help and would do everything they could to fast track any changes - but overall, it was a major bummer.
Oh nooooo!!!

We scheduled a second meeting today so we could discuss the options with our engineer there too. This time we had mentally prepared ourselves for a messy and disappointing meeting. And this time it went great. Our engineer helped to clear everything up, and everyone agreed our original plans were just fine. Hooray!!

Ok now this is awesome!!

Now we are basically good to go as soon as we get our building permit (which should be any day now). At least I think we are. I'm kind of afraid to jinx us since I am definitely learning that nothing is ever final in this process until it's actually done. I hope that once the house is built we end up feeling like we did in the photo below - feeling unbelievably exhilarated, knowing that we came out unscathed and that all our anxiety was unnecessary but totally worth it in the end.

And you know what? (So far at least) I'm secretly sort of enjoying all the build-up beforehand. All the waiting, all the hassles, even all the worry - it adds to the excitement and anticipation. You've got to take some risks in life, right?? ;)

Sidenote: If you're ever in Queenstown, Nzone skydiving is amazing.
Confession: I was way more freaked out about skydiving than Bryan beforehand. He actually didn't seem anxious at all.

What's the scariest thing you've ever done?? The house is ours, hands down!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dog {and cat?} paw print ornaments

I saw a dog paw print Christmas ornament on Pinterest a couple of months ago and thought it was such a great idea. But since then I've been seeing them all over the place - there are kits you can buy and everything... so I guess I was a little slow to notice this idea (but I still like it!).

It's a pretty basic process - get/make some clay (I just used a block of Sculpey), press a paw in it, make a hole, bake it, and hang it on a string. I did learn a few tips though...

I found the Sculpey clay to be kind of hard and it was tough to get a deep print. I warmed it up in the microwave for about 20 seconds, and it worked much better. Smokey also like it much better (warm & smushy > room temp & stiff). Even after trying the microwave trick, it took me two tries - you can see the one on the left isn't very well defined.

Other than the clay, my tools included a drinking glass used upside-down to get a nice circle, a kabob stick to write Smokey's name & the date, a butter knife to make a slot, and of course the ribbon.

I planned to make a kitty version too. It could just be me, but from my experience, kitty prints do not work. Aria's print just looked like a tiny, undefined blob. Not exactly tree material. I still wanted an ornament for her though, so I tried out my sculpting skills - elementary school art class style. I may not have a career as a professional sculptor in store, but it turned out better than I expected (plus it was fun to play with the clay!).

And lastly, you can't really tell from the pics, but this is silver clay with tiny sparkles in it. It looks great with the Christmas tree lights. When given the option, always go for sparkles.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Free Christmas Poster Printables

Have you decorated for the holidays yet? I like having Thanksgiving so early in the month - I feel like I'm much more ahead of schedule than usual!

One new thing I did this year was to add some Christmas printables to this series of three frames I already had on the wall behind our kitchen table. These 'chalkboard' printables are from Nest of Posies - I love them!

Here are links to a number of Christmas printables if you'd like to add some to your frames! Check out each of the links - sometimes there are more options than shown here.

Nest of Posies - Chalkboard Printables

The Blue Eyed Owl - Joy to the World
A Night Owl  & Just Us Three Designs - Joy to the World
Sweet Rose Studio - Reindeer & Jingle
Tattered and Inked - Reindeer Names
Design Dazzle - Chevron Merry Christmas
Less Cake More Frosting - Believing
Printable Decor - Cheer & Trees
Over the Big Moon - Cold Outside
Antsi-Pants - Christmas subway art
The Jacobs Clan - Variety of Christmas printables
Polkadots on Parade: Tree & Ho Ho Ho
Agape Love - Merry Christmas
Two Twenty One - Chevron
Tattered and Inked - Most Wonderful
Creationz - Ho Ho Ho
Simple as That - Christmas Word Tree
Capital B - O Holy Night 
Sugar Tot Designs - 12 Days
aka Design - Joy & Adore
The 36th Avenue - Advent Tree
Today's Creative Blog - Holiday Cheer
Lemon Squeezy - Tree
Aren't they great?! Do you know of any others I should add??

Home Stories A2Z

Foreign Coin Magnets

What do you do with your foreign coins? We never really figured out what to do with them - they just sort of turn up randomly around the house, although whenever I see them, it makes me happy. When I saw a pin on this post from Tattered Style, I knew I finally had a foreign coin solution!

These were the coins I was able to find after a quick search, since like I said, we don't really have a spot where we keep them. I used round magnets and a hot glue gun. My magnets didn't seem very powerful and some of the coins were fairly heavy, so I was afraid they might not stick well, but they work perfectly fine. This project literally just takes a few minutes, looks great (they're classy looking magnets, aren't they??), and brings back happy memories whenever I go to the fridge. I love them!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cranberry {Orange, Pineapple, Walnut} Sauce

Happy Thanksgiving!! How were your holidays? We had a nice relaxing day with my family at my aunt & uncle's house, where the only thing I was asked to bring was 'my' cranberry sauce.

This has become 'my' cranberry sauce because I've made it for the past several holiday meals, but (shh, don't tell!) I just use this recipe. And I follow it exactly. Check the link for the full recipe, but here are some thoughts from my experience...

  • If you've never had homemade cranberry sauce and always use the cans (which was me until a few years ago) - there's seriously no comparison. I don't have any desire to eat the canned stuff again!
  • I have even less desire to eat the canned kind since this is so easy - chopping the orange is by far the worst & slowest part (although I am admittedly a terrible chopper). It's very quick and very simple (and also fun - I love when the cranberries start popping!)
  • The combination of flavors in this recipe is really nice - the orange and pineapple give it a different spin, and I love the crunch of the walnuts.
  • I'm not a big fan of it plain, as it's a little on the bitter side, but I think it's absolutely perfect paired with turkey so I haven't adjusted the recipe. If you'd prefer to cut down the bitterness, you could reduce the orange.
  • The recipe yields a massive amount. We usually have a gang of 12 or so, and there is always some leftover. If you have a smaller bunch, you may want to reduce the recipe.  Orrrr... you can use the leftovers in other tasty ways. I had some mixed in with my oatmeal for breakfast this morning, and I want to try these cranberry sauce muffins.
If you don't already make homemade cranberry sauce, or if you'd like to try something a little different, I highly recommend this one!

After dinner, we spent a little time in the backyard. Yes, this is my aunt & uncle's backyard - isn't it amazing?!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rub a dub dub: Enjoying your tub

I've always been a big fan of baths in all their hot, steamy, relaxing, wonderfulness. But lately, I haven't been able to take one - we've had a clog. A BAD one that turned our tub into utter grossness. I don't know about you, but I can't seem to avoid this issue. In my renting days, this was easily the most common problem we needed to get fixed. Once we bought out own place, it took us a while to figure out how to handle it. We tried the chemical stuff over and over with little to no success. We called a plumber once who totally gouged us. Finally, we discovered the zip-it. I'm convinced this is the best possible way to unclog a drain. This puny little piece of plastic doesn't look very convincing but it seriously works wonders. Although it's not exactly an enticing topic, I just thought I'd share in case anyone else out there with similar issues hasn't discovered it yet!

Since we got the new ones we ordered in today, I'm looking forward to a nice, hot bath tonight - even if our tub doesn't look quite as nice as these. Oh, beautiful bathtubs! Maybe one day I'll have one on par with these - for now, I'll enjoy my clean, well-draining tub tonight!