Category Archives: How To

A Fishing-Themed Baby Shower!

This past weekend, my mother-in-law and I threw a baby shower for my sister- and brother-in-law, who are expecting their first baby, a little boy, in about two weeks. They are outdoorsy types, and my brother-in-law loves to go fishing, so we thought a fishing-themed baby shower would be really cute.

It was pretty easy to find decorations and such with fish, ducks, etc. The one part that was a little bit difficult was coming up with the invitations. Surprisingly, there aren’t very many fishing baby shower invites on the usual invitation web sites. I found an adorable one on A Breath of Fresh Erin, which was designed by Pink Door Design. My talented designer friend and coworker, Steph, offered to help me recreate the design for our shower, and I think it turned out really cute!

The blue “goldfish pond” was french onion dip with food coloring, and my mother-in-law found the blue punch recipe here. The cupcakes were chocolate and vanilla with crushed Oreo “dirt,” topped with chocolate and graham cracker goldfish cookies. In retrospect, I probably should have done blue frosting since fish normally don’t jump out of dirt, but at least they were delicious!


DIY Decoupage Ornament

My friend and coworker, Stephanie, is just so creative and crafty! She saw this picture of a Christmas ornament on Pinterest from the blog Flea Market Style and decided to make each of us at work a decoupage ornament for Christmas. Katie and I (the editors) got book print (Pride and Prejudice to be exact!), Brandi and Ariana (our web ladies) got fun origami paper, and Stacy (our resident insane Duke fan) got a Duke ornament. How cute are these?! It’s hard to tell in our lovely fluorescent office lighting, but they’re each covered in glitter and twinkle in the lights!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since the original inspiration image was just a picture of an ornament from a store, Stephanie has very graciously shared with me her DIY tutorial, which I now happily share with you. You can use any type of paper (books, scrapbook paper, etc.), so if you decide to do this project with or for your kids, the possibilities are endless!

DIY Decoupage Ornament
(By Stephanie Patterson) 

  • Any size clear glass or plastic ornament (I used 3-inch plastic ornaments)
  • Mod Podge® or any decoupage medium
  • Paint brush (I used a small sponge brush)
  • New/old/recycled book pages or scrapbook paper
  • Crystal glitter
  • Yarn or string (I used Martha Stewart Eyelash yarn)
  • Glitter card stock for the letter or you could really use anything that you want to use as tag-like adornment
  1. Tear book pages into 1- to 2-inch pieces.
  2. Remove the silver cap on the top of the ornament.
  3. Using the Mod Podge as glue, paint some onto the ornament and then place the paper down on top.
  4. Apply more Mod Podge over the paper to moisten it and flatten over the rounded surface.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 with overlapping pieces of paper until the ornament is completely covered.
  6. Let dry for approximately one hour.
  7. Apply another coat of Mod Podge over the whole ornament and pour glitter over it, turning the ornament to coat the entire thing. Shake it to remove any excess glitter.
  8. Let dry overnight.
  9. Wrap the neck of ornament with yarn and add any adornments (to create the letter tag, I used my Cricut® Cutting Machine with glitter card stock and punched a small hole to thread the yarn through).
  10. Replace the silver cap on the top of the ornament.
  11. Use another bit of yarn to create a loop for hanging the ornament.

 


The 20 Minute, $12 Christmas Wreath

This post is a little late, considering Christmas is in just a few days, but better late than never! I decided to make my own Christmas wreath this year for the front door because I’m too cheap to pay for one (those things are EXPENSIVE!). So I went to Michael’s and bought two tubes of large ball ornaments (14 total), three tubes of small ball ornaments (21 total) and a wreath form. Because everything was on sale, it only cost me $12! Using a hot glue gun, I glued the ornaments onto the wreath form, making sure to alternate the colors and patterns. It might not be perfect, but I think it turned out pretty good! And it’s totally doable for a busy mom, or it could be a good project to do with your little one. The only change I would make is that I recommend getting four tubes of small ornaments rather than just three to help fill in any holes.

 

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Teach Compassion This Holiday Season

For as far back as I can remember, my family has made giving back part of our holiday tradition, even if all we could afford to give some years was our time. My parents didn’t just tell me that it was important to give to those less fortunate, they showed me. My entire family volunteered to ring the bell for the Salvation Army each Christmas; we painted our elderly neighbor’s house; I helped deliver Meals on Wheels with my grandma; I served meals at the soup kitchen downtown and visited the nursing home to sing (yes, sing, this probably wasn’t so charitable) Christmas carols to the residents.

Having a daughter of my own now, I  want to provide for her in every way that I can so that she never wants for anything. But I also want her to learn compassion for others and the importance of giving back. I want her to understand just how fortunate she is and fully appreciate everything that she has. The holidays are a perfect time to teach our children about empathy and charity. Here are some great organizations that can help you get started:

Toys for Tots  The Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation has been collecting and delivering toys to needy children since 1947. Take your little one shopping so he can pick out a toy for another child who isn’t as fortunate, and take the opportunity to explain why it’s important and what that toy might mean to that other little boy or girl. Visit www.toysfortots.org to find a drop-off location near you.

Share Our Strength®  Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is working to end childhood hunger in America. Each dollar you donate provides up to 10 meals for a hungry child, and your donation will be matched dollar for dollar through December 31st! Visit www.shareourstrength.org to learn how you can double your gift.

SHARE (Self-Help and Resource Exchange)  The SHARE Food Network helps families make the most of their food budget by putting together nutritious groceries at an affordable price. You can get involved by donating your time as a volunteer or purchasing healthy food for a family in need. My neighborhood actually has a SHARE program where we can purchase a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal for a family in need in our area. It’s great to know that our donation is going to help another Burke Centre family. If you’re in the Washington, D.C. area, visit www.sharedc.org for details. Otherwise, you can Google SHARE in your area to find a network near you.

Photo courtesy The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army  Donating to The Salvation Army can be as simple as dropping your change into one of the thousands of red kettles nationwide, volunteering your time as a bell ringer, or selecting a child in need from the Angel Giving Tree. I always loved selecting angels from the tree, shopping for the things on their wish list, and imagining the looks on their faces when they opened their gifts! Allowing your child to select an angel their same age and gender can help them learn empathy, since they can more closely relate to their angel. Visit www.salvationarmyusa.org for more information.

If you’re still looking for some other way to give back, try www.volunteermatch.org. This web site provides resources to help match volunteers with civic opportunities in their area.


Nightstand Redux

In this economy, people are getting creative when it comes to big ticket kid items and toys. Kitchen and workbench play sets from makers like Fisher-Price and Little Tikes will run you about $75 a piece. But with a little time, elbow grease, and  an old nightstand or side table you have around the house (or pick up from a local thrift store), you can make one yourself for your budding chef or architect for around $30. You can even choose colors and patterns to match your little one’s bedroom or playroom- and chances are, your handiwork will turn out MUCH cuter than anything you can find at the store! Just check out these examples from some very creative bloggers:

Photo via dwellingsbydevore.com

Photo via thefrugalgranny.blogspot.com

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How to Manage Weeknight Meals

We all want our kids to eat healthy, homemade meals during the week. But with long commutes and early bedtimes, it can be tough to get any meal on the table amid the normal evening and bedtime routine, much less a gourmet Julia Child-like creation. Here are a few tips to help you make it happen:

1. Plan Plan Plan! If you wait until you are standing in your kitchen in your work clothes, already hungry, with a baby hanging off your leg and your husband asking “What’s for dinner?,” you will end up grabbing the fastest thing you can find in the freezer or ordering carryout. Spend some time on Sunday looking at what you have on hand and planning at least 4 meals for the week. Make sure you have all of the ingredients so you don’t have to stop on your way home and you don’t have an excuse for not making something (e.g. “Shoot, I was totally going to make this risotto for dinner but I don’t have any broth. Oh well, guess we’re ordering pizza!”- I’m not saying I’ve said this exact line. . . but it’s probably been pretty close).

Photo via Whipperberry.com

2. Advertise Make sure your spouse and kids (if they’re old enough) know what the options are for dinner that week. That way, you’re less likely to have to deal with requests for things you don’t have and weren’t planning to make, which means (hopefully) less whining. I actually painted a chalkboard on our kitchen wall using chalkboard paint where I write the menu for the week. You can also use chalkboard contact paper instead- no painting, but it works just as well! Here’s a tutorial on how to make your own chalkboard menu. Advertising your menu for the week will not only take care of the “What’s for dinner?” questions, but it will make it easier for your spouse to get started on the meal if you are the one that gets home last. My husband is always willing to help out in the kitchen (he’s my soux chef!), but he’s sometimes afraid to start making dinner without knowing what I have in mind because he knows I’ve usually planned meals out. Which leads me to. . .

3. Enlist Help As long as he knows what’s on the docket for that night, my husband is more than happy to start chopping veggies or put some water on to boil, whatever needs to be done to get dinner started. I seriously don’t think I could do it without his help. If I stayed at home and could get an earlier start, that would be one thing, but getting home no earlier than 5:30 and only having 2 hours to walk the dog, make dinner, get everyone fed, spend some time with my daughter, give her a bath and go through the bedtime routine. . . it’s exhausting. But if my husband walks the dog while I start dinner and then comes in to help me finish it up, it’s a lot more doable. If you can’t get help in the kitchen, see if your spouse can help out with some of the other things you need to get done, like giving the kids a bath.

4. Keep a Catalog of Easy Recipes You do not need to get all “Food Network” every night for dinner. You’ll be burnt out in less than a week. The key to keeping up with cooking is to have a library of familiar, easy recipes you can pull from. That doesn’t mean you can’t try new things, but save the overly complicated, involved recipes for the weekend when you have more time to prep. I post quick weeknight meal ideas here on the blog, and you can also trade recipes with friends.

5. Give Yourself a Break!! You don’t have to be Supermom everyday. Nobody is going to call the police if you are just so exhausted that the only thing you can manage is picking up the phone to call Papa Johns. We all do it, and you’re not a bad mom if you do too. And if you work outside of the home, try not to compare yourself with your stay-at-home-mom friends. I know it’s hard, trust me, but they are able to start prepping for dinner a lot earlier. Working or not, it’s no picnic trying to make dinner with little ones running around, but it does tend to be a lot harder when you only have a limited amount of time to get it all done.

Happy cooking!


Bubble Wrap Art

This is such a cute rainy/snowy day activity idea if you have little ones. I came across this on Pinterest earlier and immediately wanted to try it with my daughter (when she’s old enough to actually do this sort of thing). The original idea comes from The Honorable Mention Preschool Blog, hosted by Intello Kids®.

Just tape a sheet of bubble wrap down and let your kid loose with some washable paints. When their “artwork” is complete, press the painted side of the bubble wrap down onto a clean sheet of white paper or card stock, leaving a colorful imprint that is, at the very least, frig worthy!


Happy Anniversary!

. . . to me (and my husband)! In honor of our anniversary today, I thought I would post about some cute anniversary art I found recently. I absolutely love this anniversary date print by blessedannouncements on Etsy. It’s so simple and understated, not to mention affordable at only $7!

I also love the idea of making my own anniversary art to mark the occasion using some wooden letters, a canvas and some spray paint. This is such a versatile idea because you can do everything from a quote to a child’s name in a variety of colors. I actually picked up all the supplies at Michael’s today and plan to make something similar to this for our front hallway.

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Acorn Doughnuts

As I enjoyed a Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks on my walk this morning and felt the crisp air on my face, it hit me— it’s fall! I love fall. Aside from my birthday, my daughter’s birthday and my anniversary all taking place in the fall, I love the fall holidays, the smells, the sharp blue sky, the football. So when I came across this idea on Pinterest the other day, I jumped on it. What better way to kick off my favorite season than with these cute little acorn doughnuts?! The original recipe is from Disney’s FamilyFun Magazine and was recreated by graciousrain.com, and I think made better (hello, Nutella? on a doughnut?! DONE.).

Just take some doughnut holes and dip them a third of the way into Nutella before sprinkling with chocolate sprinkles or crushed toffee bits. Stick a pretzel stick in the top and, voilá, the cutest little acorn doughnuts you’ve ever seen!


How to Make a Pennant Garland

Personalized pennant garlands are popping up at stylish parties everywhere. They can serve as the perfect backdrop to your spread, decorate a mantle or pin on a clothesline for your outdoor fête. And the best part? They are super easy to make yourself! I recently made one for my daughter’s upcoming birthday party, and I am not the craftiest of people, so I can attest to how simple it really is.

What you’ll need:

Cardstock   (Check the scrapbooking area in your local craft store for fun prints, glitter finishes, textures, etc. You’ll need 1 12×12 square piece for every 2 pennants, as well as several sheets for the letter circles.)

Adhesive letters   (Also sold in the scrapbooking area at the craft store)

Satin Ribbon

3-Hole Punch

Glue Stick

Scissors

 

1. Decide on your message and figure out how many letters you will need. Remember, you will use one 12×12 square piece of cardstock for 2 pennants/letters.

2. Using a ruler, trace two triangles on each sheet in opposite directions. The triangles should be 9.5 in x 9.5 in x 7.5 in each. Cut them out and set them aside.

3. To cut out the circles for the letters, you can use a circle template, a circle cutter (definitely the easiest option) or a can. You want each circle to be 4 inches in diameter. If you are using a can to trace your circles, a small Similac can is the perfect size, just for reference.

4. Once you have all of your triangles and circles cut out, glue each circle onto a triangle (the top of the triangle is the short side). Remove the adhesive backing on the letters you are using and stick each one in the center of a circle.

5. Using your 3-hole punch, put two holes at the top of each triangle- you will thread the ribbon through these holes.

6. Lay out all of your pennants in order (make sure to check your spelling!) and, starting on one end, thread the ribbon from the back of the pennant and across/through the other hole.  Leave a little bit of space in between each pennant and on either end for tying it up.