Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Favorite Blogs of 2011

This is my first year of blogging and the best part of the experience is finding the whole world of wonderful blogs written by creative, witty and talented women.  I have been inspired by many of them and this is a list of the best of the best.  I follow all of these blogs on Bloglovin.  They are in no particular order because I had a hard enough time picking just 10:

Songs Kate Sang - I'm proud to say Kate is a personal friend and the person who got me started.  She can inspire with the fewest number of words and the best photographs.

Simply Simon & Company - These ladies are the most creative and talented clothes designers I have seen.  There clothes are extraordinary and their web design is sleek and calming.

Simple Simon & Co

The Girl Creative - Another great creative blog.  Diana designed my blog - thank you again - and she does so many creative endeavors, it's hard to know where to start.
The Girl Creative

Ruffles & Stuff - All I can say about Disney can be summed up in the immortal words of Wayne and Garth:  "We're not worthy!!"  I honestly don't know where she gets the time and energy to make so many beautiful things.

Quilted Euphoria - This was the first quilting blog (and only so far) that I have found and Amber creates gorgeous quilts!  Because I'm trying to learn to quilt, I know I will be visiting this blog more in 2012.

An Irish-Italian Blessing - Katherine writes a witty, hysterical blog that I just recently discovered.  (She's the Italian one.)  I can't wait to see more of her family in 2012.

Craft-O-Maniac - The name says it all.  How Jen can make all the beautiful crafty items she does with four kids is nothing short of amazing.

It's a Crafty Life - Kim has lots of cute projects and "Ten on Tuesday" a super linky party.  She's got some big changes coming in her blog design and resolutions I'm happy to join.

Aesthetic Nest - This is another AWESOME sewing/crochet/crafting blog.  The designs and photographs are stunning and I can't wait to see the next project (and try to look at the patterns from this past year in hopes of making one or two)

The Shabby Nest - This is the only decorating blog I follow, mostly because I don't have as good of an eye and sense of style as Wendy.  Her style is so classy and subdued, it just makes you want to invite her over and save your home.  This is also the blog that drove the most traffic to my humble blog from her linky party.

The Shabby Nest

These are all blogs I will be following in 2012.  They make the internet so much more interesting and are a constant source of ideas and inspiration.  Thanks for sharing.


Friday, December 30, 2011

My Personal Best of 2011

Unlike many people, I am ending 2011 feeling rather satisfied with the year.  2011 was the year in which I regained (or found) my emotional stability.  It was also the year I embraced the fact that I am getting older (although I'm not sure these two things were related).  I also had three jobs this year, each one better than the last.  I started writing this blog in June of 2011 and I'm really enjoying it.  Thanks to my friend Katie (SongsKateSang) for suggesting it.  While I don't have a full year to choose from, here are several posts I am proud to say I wrote.  I've divided them into three categories: 

1.  Craft projects:  I personally like the "No Sew Bed Canopy" I made earlier this year because I thought of most of it myself.  Mackenzie still loves it, which is a sure sign of a successful project for a kid.  The most popular craft project in terms of hits is definitely my first Rag Quilt.  I made it before I started writing this blog and I thought there must be a lot of rag quilts out there, but evidently not.  I'm also fond of the "Scrap Fall Wreath" which can also be adapted for any time of year.

2.  Reflective/inspirational/philosophical/religious posts:  I'm very proud of "Musings of an Older Mom".  Of all the things I have written, I would recommend it to women in their 20's and 30's raising preschool children; not so much for your kids, but for you.  Some of my other favorites are  "Chats with God", and "A Woman of Value."

3.  Photography:  I'm not a photographer, but there are a couple of posts I surprised myself.  I'm thinking of "Lilies in Indiana" and "Winter Solstice".

Even though the year ended with a bit of a whimper in this area, I am very happy with my 30+ pounds of weight loss.  It was (and is) the most personal stuff I have written on this blog, but based on the number of hits, it is popular.

It was a pretty good 2011.  I'm looking forward to 2012.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Adventures - Part 5 Stabilization

The last time I posted about my weight loss journey, it was right after Thanksgiving as I began the "stabilization" phase.  During the 6 week stabilization phase, you are asked to stay within 2 pounds of your current weight.  The first week went really well, but then the holidays kicked in and kicked my butt.

It's the sweets that kill me.  Wow, we had sweets.  It seemed as if Kentster received A LOT of chocolate tributes this year.  Let's just say that my "stabilization" wasn't very stable.  I've gained a total of 6 pounds, 4 pounds over my allowed weight :(  Not much more to say about it.  I did finally dispose of all the remaining chocolate, banishing it from our house.

I'm going to take the last couple weeks of stabilization to get rid of some of the weight and then get started in earnest again.  I'm trying to stay positive because that's been one of my biggest problems in the past - the "all or nothing" attitude that makes me a complete success or a total failure.  No failures this time, just setbacks and hopefully small ones.

Here's to staying positive in the New Year!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Crochet - Chunky Cowl

I'm in a crochet mood.  I have a yarn stash that doesn't get used nearly enough.  I found this beautiful yarn I bought a while back and looked for a free crochet pattern for one of those cool cowls that are so popular this winter.  This pattern was so easy and I'm thrilled with the result:

I followed this pattern from JJCrochet's Blog.  It uses a double herringbone stitch which is easy and creates a ribbed effect.  I changed two things from the pattern.  First, I decided how long to make the cowl by "eyeing it" where I wanted it around my neck.  The other thing I changed from the pattern was to whip stitch the ends after twisting the cowl once to create the cowl look.  This pattern was a lot easier than crocheting in the round.  I'm getting many compliments:


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It Was a Wonderful Christmas

I think this was the best Christmas ever.  Our kids aren't little anymore, but they still believe.  They enjoyed giving and receiving, even to each other!  We also started a new family tradition.  On the 23rd, we decided to watch a movie as a family. We chose my husband's favorite movie of all time:

"Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings."
I fully expected that one or both of them would become bored in the first 10 minutes.  After all, it's in black and white, no computer simulations, special effects or laugh track.  But there was a Christmas miracle - they really liked it!

"What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down."

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
They even understood the story (although we did assist on the plot when George was seeing life without him in it).  They had little bells so they could ring them every time Clarence was mentioned.  By the end of the movie, they were enjoying it as much as we were.  Of course, they really enjoyed watching Mom cry at the end of the movie.

"You see George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?"
"A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town."

Yeah, this tradition is a keeper.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Share the Gift

Santa was good this year.  No matter what your religious persuasion, during this holiday season it is likely that you gave or received a gift from someone who cares about you.  Last night my wonderful sister-in-law and I thought of a novel idea - what if every person who received a gift this season gave 1 penny ($0.01) to a children's charity?  It's a simple idea - but imagine how powerful it could be!

We're calling this "Share the Gift" and I would love my readers and Facebook friends to get in on the "ground floor".  Go to your family, church, school or community and start a small "Share the Gift" drive.  Collect a penny from anyone (adult or child) who received a gift.  When you finish your drive, pick a children's charity (Ronald McDonald House, UNICEF, Heifer International, Boy's and Girl's Clubs, etc) and DONATE.  Better yet, PASS ON THE WORD!  Tell your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, church members and anyone else who will listen about Share the Gift.  Tweet!  Post!  Blog!  Let's put social media to work.  I would like to see this year how well this idea is received and if it is, perhaps make it even bigger for next year.

Please note - I AM NOT ASKING YOU TO SEND ME MONEY.  I would prefer you put together your own little collection.  What I am asking is that you SHARE YOUR RESULTS!  Send me a comment here or post on the Facebook page "Share the Gift".  Tell us how you raised the money, what you raised and what charity received it.  If you don't want to organize a full blown campaign, you can contact me and I will give you information where you can send your donation (no matter how small).  Remember, it's just a penny.  "LIKE" the Facebook page so you can see the updates.

Let's see if we can Share the Gift.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice

That pink glow is a snowstorm about 70 miles away.

I'm so blest.  I get to see this view every day on my way home.  Today I just had to stop near the Pima reservation to snap these.

I know this isn't a traditional winter scene, but I wouldn't trade this for all the snow in the world.  (Plus, we can drive up to that pink area for snow if we want some).


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Joys of Online Shopping

This has been a banner year for online shopping and I have certainly done my part.  But now it's December 21 and my shopping (online and offline) is DONE!!  Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the rest of my family.

This is Brodie:

He was caught in the act of online shopping, probably shopping for a new bone.  His big sister Shellie couldn't keep her nose out of unwrapped Christmas gifts.  Now the bones are gone and this sad tale has taken an unexpected twist.

Time is running short for last minute shopping.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Scrapbook Sunday

I'm enjoying this look back at holidays in my scrapbooks.  This layout was from 2002.  By this time I was creating some of the best pages I think I have created.

I did a lot of layering and patterned paper.  I also cut out all those letters and the waves of construction paper behind them.

The best part of this layout was the poem I created based on "The Night Before Christmas".  Hopefully, you can read it below.  It was pretty clever if I say so myself :)

By the way, Christian did get his Chicken Dance Elmo.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Pinterest Christmas Eye Candy

I'm just about crafted, cookied, decorated, planned and shopped out.  I'm just ready to sit back and enjoy some eye candy of the season, courtesy of Pinterest.  If you aren't crafted, cookied, decorated, planned or shopped out, feel free to click on any of the pictures and it will ultimately take you back to where you can get more information about the item in the picture.  Here we go!

Let's start with a little fa la la la la.

Are you getting the gist yet?

The real reason for the season.


Last Minute Gifts - Cranberry/Orange Snack Mix

It's getting down to the wire when I've got to think about all the "little" gifts I need - for teachers, babysitters, mailmen, other last minute recipients.  These are my favorite gifts because although I like to make them interesting, I don't necessarily have to give a lot of personal thought to them.  I also like to combine my love for the deal.  Specifically, I like to buy Christmas things right after Christmas for a song and wait and use them the following year.  When I unwrap my Christmas decorations, I enjoy finding something new - like Christmas comes early.  Last year I found these glass Santa containers on sale for $1.00 each (originally $4.99) at Target.  I thought I would make cookie mix, but because of the small size, I needed to think of something else.  Cranberry/Orange Snack Mix

The ingredients are pretty simple:

2 c. Corn Chex
2 c. Oat squares
2 c. Mini Pretzels
1 c. whole almonds
1/4 c. butter
1/3 c. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
3 Tbl packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
2/3 c. dried cranberries (Craisins)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees and coat a 13X9 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Mix the first four ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  In a smaller bowl melt butter and add orange juice concentrate, brown sugar and spices.  Mix well and pour over the dry ingredients, stirring them to coat. 

 Spread the resulting mix on the baking pan and bake for 50 minutes.  You will need to stir the mix every 10 minutes.  

Once it's done, you add the Craisins and lay the mix out on a flat surface until it's dry.  You can store it in any airtight container.  As an extra bonus, your kitchen will have a wonderful smell of spiced orange and cranberry.  

This is better than any old cookie mix :)


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Just A Little Something I Whipped Up

I don't get a chance to crochet much, so this week I took the bus to work twice and worked a little at the office and voila - scarf!

I made it for my daughter so she might wear it - not with a coat, but with her clothes.  It's long and thin. 

Truth is, I made it for me; not to wear, but as therapy.  It was so relaxing to work on it.  It was very easy, just single crochet only ten stitches wide.  It was so simple and I loved making it.  I know that's why I love creating.


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Craft Diva Strikes Again

It's been a very creative season this year.  My little craft diva is really enjoying all the creativity.  We've been working on some projects together and she's done a couple herself.  Mostly we've been working on candle projects, inspired by some of the candles on my Holiday Candles post.

My Craft Diva found the metal wreath thingies at Goodwill.  Believe it or not, they are aluminum pop tops weaved together with ribbons - very cool!  The candles were made from ordinary white candles covered with red acrylic paint and modpodge rolled in Epsom salts.  The balls were repurposed styrofoam from old thread covered ornaments.

I tried out the ribbon covered candles - easy concept - strips of ribbon glued to the sides of a glass candle.  It was very time consuming, though, and I'm a little nervous about the ends of the ribbons catching on fire or the heat from the candle melting the glue.  It is pretty, so maybe I just won't ever burn the candle.

The Craft Diva has tried out her own projects too.  We bought some pink and purple crepe paper (because you know Advent is pink and purple) and did some mache on a glass candle holder using a watered down glue.  They turned out really pretty and were so easy!

Finally, I came home tonight to a little project she did with glue on construction paper and salt:

She specifically asked for this one to be featured on Mom's blog.  Here's to you Craft Diva!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Scrapbook Sunday

After spending time recently at the Phoenix Scrapbook Cottage, I realized how much I missed scrapbooking.  I tried to chronicle my kids, but am only up to the summer of 2003 (my daughter was born in 2003).  I have a lot to do.  I thought I would start Scrapbook Sundays as a way to inspire myself by looking at one layout I've done in the past.

For this first Scrapbook Sunday, I went back to 2001 right when I started scrapbooking.  My sister got me started with Making Memories materials.  I have always worked in 12x12, but in those days I worked directly on the white page.

Back then I liked to cut pictures in circles and ovals.  I like the side borders and use of a stencil to create an area to journal.  The little tiny marks on the page were put there by me.  I don't remember knowing about patterned paper then.

The stickers were big for me then too.

This is from my son's baby scrapbook and the idea was to show him what our life was like when he arrived.  Although I wouldn't want to show all the pages, I'm still pretty happy with some pages, both for content and appearance.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

O Picture Tree

Sometimes the most treasured Christmas decorations are the accidental ones.  Several years ago I found this gold gilded tree at the Great Outdoors after Christmas.  It was one of those things you would never pay full price for, but can't pass up with the deep discount because the deal is so good.  I bought the tree without any idea what I would do with it.  The same year I found some great little frames at Michael's that they were practically giving away. 

Because I could get so many little frames, I started putting pictures of my kids into them.  Every year we take these adorable Christmas pictures but never seem to have a good place for them.  I started putting a picture of each child (or together) each year, marking the year on the back of the frame.

Michaels sells these frames every year so it isn't hard to keep the tradition going.  The tree sits on the foyer table, so when you enter our home you can see our best gifts on the tree.  It's also the gift that gives every year because when I decorate I get to relive each Christmas with my kids.