My 3 Monsters: November 2012

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This Year's New Ornaments

Our Christmas Tree is an eternal work-in-progress.  Almost everything on it is handmade and I have added a new set of ornaments every year for the sixteen years we have been married.  I don't use every set every year so it's always a little bit different.  This year I was stumped.  What could I add that would fit with the rustic, homey feel of everything else we have?  I mean I've already done snowflakes, glittery snowballs, snowmen, stars {in several forms}, angels, gingerbread men, Santas, book page ornaments, candles, and jingle bells -- sixteen years worth of ornament ideas is a lot!  Then I came across this FABULOUS idea at Clean & Scentsible the other day.  Chalkboard Art Ornaments.  Of course!  I've been a little bit obsessed with chalk art all year.  It's got a cool vintage style to it that would blend perfectly with my other ornaments.  Plus, I can make them kind of big and chunky.  Our tree is pretty big {we use the top 9 feet of a 12-footer} so anything too small just looks cluttery and gets lost.

Aren't they super fun?

Let me tell you what NOT to do: 
Painstakingly perfect each design with regular old chalk until you absolutely love it and then spray them with clear acrylic sealer.  Your chalk designs will more-or-less disappear.  Then you will want to cry as you redraw the designs, which will not turn out as well because the clear acrylic sealer left the wood surface kind of . . . bumpy . . . and weird.  Not that I know.  I'm just guessing here . . .

Now let me tell you what TO do:  
1.Pick up these cute shaped wood pieces for 97 cents each at Walmart.  I'm sure they have them at other craft stores, but you can also pick up something for dinner if you go to Walmart and your family will like that. 

2. Paint them black with any old flat black paint you have.  It does not have to be chalkboard paint.  Matte black craft paint will work beautifully. 

3. Free-hand your designs on the ornaments in chalk.  If you're not as cheap as me, a chalk marker would be your best bet.  If you are cheap like me, regular old chalk works fine.  Keep a wet rag and q-tips on hand to fix your mistakes as you go.  {Because it's harder to center the word HALLS in an oval than you would think.}  If you use the chalk marker, you're done right here. 

4.If you use regular chalk, you need to spray your designs with hairspray to set the chalk.  With the hairspray it looks like your design disappears, but it comes back as the spray dries so don't panic.

5. Hot glue bows to the tops to hang them with and you have some fancy-pants new ornaments for your tree!

I LOVE them so much!  I really want to do a black and white tree this year and only hang up our other white ornaments with these ones, but my kids FREAKED OUT when I said that this morning because it would mean them not putting their personal ornaments up.  {We give them each a new ornament every year so they'll have a collection to take with them when they move out and have their own trees.} Sis told me to "put a pin in that idea" until she moves out.  Boo.  How did I get such sentimental kids?  Where is their artistic vision?!  Just kidding . . .I really like our tree when it's all decked out with everything on it. 

I'm so excited to start crafting for Christmas and making gifts.  I'll be sharing some easy fun home made gift ideas in the days to come.  Have a great weekend, friends!



Life gets so busy this time of year that the little things {like blogging for pleasure or feeding my family} sometimes slip through the cracks.  I have a million projects that I want to do and gifts that I'd like to make, but I've been swamped with Christmas card making and event planning responsibilities and haven't done anything crafty, just for fun, in a long time.  Too long. 

But I did get to spend Thanksgiving with my family and attend my baby sister's wedding last weekend.  Isn't she pretty {even in this fuzzy camera phone pic}?

They had pie at their reception instead of cake since it was right after Thanksgiving and Leslie made hot chocolate on a stick.  She's so cute and clever.

I also managed to get my Christmas tree put up and lit today.  All by myself.  Yep, I'm pretty cool like that.

I designed invitations for our ward Christmas party:

And took one day off to watch the Twilight marathon with my daughter and friend -- yep, all five movies in one day, which kinda' felt like work . . . until the end.

I've also slipcovered two couches, made a cute little quilt for my sister's wedding gift and designed an Andy Warhol-inspired Wheat Thins pop art print for my hilarious brother who tweeted Wheat Thins hundreds of times this summer.

I guess I can't say I haven't done anything creative.  I just haven't had time to write about it.  Like, at all.

We have Young Women in Excellence, a special evening at church celebrating my girls' accomplishments this year, tomorrow night.  I'm a little stressed that the t-shirts we designed and ordered haven't arrived yet and one of my musical numbers fell through ...  It will be fine.  Whatever.  After that it's the church Christmas party and THEN I'm taking some time to do what I WANT.  You best believe I'll blog all about it!

Thanks for letting me whine a little bit tonight.  You all are the very best bloggy friends in the world!  I've missed you.


Indulging {#SexiestManAlive}

GRRRRRRR!!!  I bent over Sunday morning to pick a q-tip up off of the floor and threw my back out.  Had I known that that one little action was about to make my whole week a lot harder, I probably would have just left that q-tip there next to the garbage can.  My family has been most accommodating -- I've laid on the couch with a heating pad on my back for most of the last three days.  It totally stinks to be sidelined when there is so much to be done this week, but I gotta' say there couldn't have been a more perfect time for PEOPLE Magazine's Annual Sexiest Man Alive Issue to hit the stores.  I found mine at Walgreens while I was buying more pain relievers.

We talked about this last week and we all tried to guess who would be on the cover.  My daughter totally called it.  Channing Tatum.  I guess he's all right . . . if you like that handsome, muscular look.  Whatever.  He was outvoted {by a long shot} in my little blog poll, though.  Denzel Washington, Hugh Jackman, and George Clooney seem to be much more popular among our crowd.  You'll be happy to know that your preferences have been recognized, too.

What is Ashton Kutcher doing in there?  And where, pray tell, is Ryan Reynolds?  It's not a perfect issue, but they did pretty good.  There are a couple of fun features, like this 50 Shades of Gray, showing the various salt-and-peppery men all the way from Hugh Grant to Anderson Cooper:

Cute, right?  My husband {and favorite man alive} falls in between Colin Firth and Daniel Day-Lewis on the spectrum.  He and I laughed out loud at James Van der Beek's Sexy/Not Sexy rundown.

 Of course, I appreciated the retro-looking graphics -- I'm a sucker for that.

Just a little harmless, mindless fun for while my back gets better. We're heading to Vegas this evening for Thanksgiving and my little sister's wedding. I'm sure this magazine will join us for the ride -- Sis hasn't read it yet and I know she wants to. It will keep her occupied for most of the drive.  Have a very happy Thanksgiving wherever you are celebrating, my friends!

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™, but all my opinions are my own


Another One of My *Guilty* Pleasures
{And a Giveaway!!}

I've bared my soul -- bared? Is that right? It doesn't sound right, but we're going with it -- to you folks several times here on my blog.  Like when I confessed my love of convenience store nachos and Toddlers in Tiaras.  Or how I very often stay in my pajamas until just before my kids come home from school.  Or how I have to consciously wait until after 9:00 a.m. to go get my daily Coke fix at Circle K.  Because civilized people CAN wait until a "decent hour" to begin drinking cola for the day.  I repeat that to myself over and over again as I sit watching the clock, waiting for 9:00 just so I can finally go. 

Well, hold onto your hats!!  I have another shocking confession for you today.  I love hot, juicy . . . . . . . . CELEBRITY GOSSIP!!!  I do.  I love to see who is falling in love with their co-star and which Real Housewife's life is a train wreck.  I love to know what movies are coming out and what's the coolest show on TV.  I love to see what the celebrities are wearing, even though usually I think it's hideous.  And don't even get me started on the babies . . . I love it when a celebrity has a baby.

Perhaps my guiltiest pleasure of all is PEOPLE Magazine's Annual Sexiest Man Alive issue.  I assure you I'm a happily married lady who only has eyes for her husband, but it's kinda' fun to flip through all the pictures of man-candy with my teenage daughter and see if we agree or disagree with their selections.  Or with each other.  It's very revealing, actually.  See, I'm doing it for a good cause -- to stay connected.  It's my duty as a mother, right? The bottom line is -- life can be stressful.  We all need something mindless to do for a few minutes every once in a while so that we can unwind.  It makes us better moms when we are "on the job"!

So!  Who can remember who was PEOPLE Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive last year?

Bradley Cooper!  What do you think?  Yeah/Nay?  It's a meh for me.  I could take or leave him.  Who do you think will grace the cover this year?  Or who would you pick if it were your magazine?  Mine would be Ryan Reynolds.  Brent says Jason Bourne.  Yes, he knows Jason Bourne is a fictional character and no, he doesn't mean Matt Damon.  It's not the same.  He's had a little man-crush on Jason Bourne for years.  Whatever. 

PEOPLE Magazine's Annual Sexiest Man Alive issue comes out this week on November 15th and to encourage you to go out and pick up a copy, I have a $20 Walgreens gift card to give away!!  To enter, just leave a comment telling all of us us who has been your favorite Sexiest Man Alive in prior years? A winner will be chosen using at 9:00 a.m Monday, November 19th {right before I go get my Coke!} so get your entries in.  Please leave your email address so I can notify you if you win. 
*Giveaway is closed*

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media
Group™, but all my opinions are my own


Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes {featuring Country Crock Spread}

I love this time of year!!  The weather is starting to cool off and Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  I couldn't be happier.  This is about the time that I start anticipating all the delicious Thanksgiving food that I'm going to make for my family.  I still make many of my mom's recipes that I grew up eating, and I only make them this one time a year so Thanksgiving dinner is really something special.  I was super excited to be given the challenge to make a couple of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes, substituting Country Crock for butter, and share the results here on my blog.  How fun is that?!  {As a bonus, I'll share my recipes with you, too!}

The first thing I knew I wanted to try was my mom's sage stuffing.  I've eaten LOTS of different stuffings in my day, but none of them hold a candle to my mom's simple, delicious recipe.  Since I wasn't ready to roast a whole stuffed turkey, I used the sage stuffing to make a crock pot chicken and stuffing casserole -- all the delicious flavor without all the work!

 Mom's Sage Stuffing
1 loaf of bread, cubed
2 medium onions, diced 
1 stick butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. salt
2 -1/2 tsp. sage

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add onions and saute until soft.  Put cubed bread in a large bowl.  Pour butter and onions on top.  Add seasonings and eggs.  Stir gently until bread is moistened.   If the mixture seems too dry, add warm water 1 Tbsp. at a time until moistened.  Stuff inside turkey cavity and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes per pound of turkey.

Crock Pot Chicken and Stuffing Casserole
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 bowl of Mom's Sage Stuffing {uncooked}  

Boil  chicken breasts about 10 minutes, until cooked through.  Shred chicken breasts and set aside. {You could also use a rotisserie chicken, shredded.} Mix up your sage stuffing. 

Line your crock pot with a plastic liner. {This makes clean up sooooooo much easier!!} Layer in your ingredients as follows:
  1. 1/2 can of cream of chicken soup
  2. 1/3 of sage stuffing
  3. 1/2 of shredded chicken
  4. 1/3 of sage stuffing
  5. remaining chicken
  6. remaining stuffing
  7. remaining cream of chicken soup
Cover and cook on low 3-4 hours.   

It tasted every bit as delicious as it usually does using Country Crock in place of the butter!!  I served it to my family with hot rolls and my kids preferred the Country Crock on their rolls, so that's saying a lot.

After such a delicious, Thanksgiving-inspired dinner we needed a little dessert to go with it.  Maybe some double layer pumpkin pie?  With a graham cracker crust?  Ummm . . . yes, please!

Double Layer Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie
 5 Tbsp. butter, melted
1-1/4 C. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 C. sugar

1pkg.  (8 oz.)cream cheese, softened
1 cup  plus 1 Tbsp. milk, divided
1 Tbsp.  sugar
1 tub  (8 oz.) COOL WHIP , thawed, divided
1 can  (15 oz.) pumpkin
2 pkg.  (3.4 oz. each) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 tsp.  ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp.  ground ginger
1/4 tsp.  ground cloves
To make pie crust, melt butter and stir in graham cracker crumbs and sugar.  Press evenly into 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.

Make first layer of pie filling by beating cream cheese, 1 Tbsp. milk, and 1 Tbsp. sugar with a whisk until it is well blended.  Stir in half of the tub of Cool Whip and spread the cream cheese mixture in the bottom of the cooled crust.

Make the second layer of the pie by whisking remaining milk, pumpkin, dry pudding mixes and spices together until smooth. (Mixture will be thick.) Spread over cream cheese layer.  Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.  Top with remaining Cool Whip before serving.

{Please forgive my poor food photography skills -- the pie is delicious in real life!}  I substituted Country Crock for the butter in the graham cracker crust and it was perfect.  There were only rave reviews all around.

I liked using the Country Crock in these recipes because it melts really quickly and tastes fantastic. It also has fewer fat and calories than regular butter.  Win, win!!  I hope you'll give it a shot, too!  

 Thank you to Good to Know & Unilever Spreads for being a sponsor. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.


Want a Custom Lock Screen for your iPhone? {Free download!}

I got a new iPhone for my birthday which has opened up a whole new world of sprucing up and designing fun for me.  I wanted to have a cute custom lock screen so I sat down yesterday and whipped this little beauty up.

Just a fun little project for a Tuesday afternoon.  Feel free to use it yourself if you'd like.  Have a great day!


{31 Days to a Brand New Room}
Days 27 & 28: Chair and Ottoman Makeover

If you're joining us for the first time today, welcome!  This brings us through day 28 of a 31-day series about how to give a room in your home a brand new look, from top to bottom, completely DIY.  

So . . . I didn't realize how far behind I had fallen in my day-to-day life and my day or two of break from decorating turned into a week, but I am finally back with the next installment of our room makeover series.  Today we're going to talk a little bit about slipcovering furniture.  I knew I wanted to put a nice, comfortable chair in this room for Sydney to read in or hang out with her friends.  Here's the chair I would have loved to have gotten for her:

The Cute-as-a-Button Erin Chair from World Market.  I love those little decorative buttons, but the price was just too high for my cheap-o room redo.  I found a wingback chair on Craig's list for $20 that I knew would be great with a little love and a whole lotta' white canvas so that's what we went with.  You've seen it lurking in some of the other pictures of the room so far:

We found that ottoman at Goodwill for $5.  It's way too big for the scale of the chair, but Sydney loved it because it is comfortable to sit on {which is probably how it will be used most often by her and her friends} so we got it.  The important thing is that the room works for her, right?

My original plan was to bleach an old canvas painter's drop cloth we had used for curtains in our boys' room and use that to slipcover the chair and ottoman, but the color just wasn't right.  When you bleach a painter's drop cloth {which is a long process, I learned} it doesn't get white . . . it's more of a creamy grayish whitish tan color, which is great for lots of things.  I had my heart set on a crisp white slipcover for this room so I had to come up with a plan B. 
Luckily, I found a great store here in my area called Home Fabrics where they carry a multitude of gorgeous home decor fabrics for less than $10 per yard -- most of them significantly less, like $3-$5 per yard.    I found some perfect, really heavy white canvas there for $5/yard {hallelujah!} and bought 7 yards to slipcover my chair and ottoman.  I ended up using EVERY SINGLE SCRAP of that seven yards -- how's that for cutting it close?  Apartment therapy has this handy guide to help you estimate how much fabric you will need to recover various types of furniture.  It's very similar to the one I was given in my interior design classes in college and it is EXTREMELY helpful.  I don't know why I was thinking 5 yards for my chair and 2 yards for my ottoman.  If I had consulted the guide I wouldn't have been stressing so much about running out of fabric towards the end of my project.  It all ended well, anyway.

I'm not going to try and talk you through sewing a slipcover step-by-step, only because I found this AMAZING video series from Miss Mustard Seed that shows you exactly how to do it, from start to finish.  Remember how I told you Miss Mustard Seed was one of my decorating idols?  Well, yep.  She doesn't disappoint on this topic either.  I have sewn slipcovers before, but I just kind-of taught myself how to do it.  I learned so much from watching her expert process and getting her little tips and tricks along the way.  I highly recommend her {completely FREE!} video series if you're thinking about slipcovering anything.

Now, keeping in mind that I am me and not Miss Mustard Seed, I am thrilled with the way these slipcovers turned out.  {The pictures of the slipcovers not so much -- it's really hard to photograph a navy blue room with one tiny north-facing window.}

My drab old chair is fresh and clean and bright looking now that it's finished.  I debated about what to do with the legs of the chair -- leave them the dark wood tone they were originally or paint them white.  In a stroke of genius I decided to spray paint them bright pink to match the side table in the room.  I LOVE that little funky pop of color on what would have just been a plain old chair. 

All the piping detail around the edges is a pain in the booty to do, but it gives the finished slipcover a really professional, expensive looking touch.  Expensive-looking, but cheap-costing is my favorite style of anything.

The gigantic ottoman was done exactly the same way as the chair -- by cutting the pieces to an approximate size and pin fitting them for a snug, custom look.  It looks so much more massive now that it's white . . . 

Sydney loves it.  I just have to keep reminding myself, Sydney loves it.  It's fine that it dwarfs the wing back chair.  It's fine. 
Here's one more {very bad} picture {taken with a flash} just to show you how the chair fits in the context of the room:

I really am so pleased with the way it came together and how beautifully it works in the space.  Just one more big project -- the DIY framed floor mirror -- and this room will be done!  Thanks for checking in again.  Have a great day!!


A Thanksgiving Chalkboard Design {with Free Printable!}

Halloween has passed and it is time to switch out the chalkboard in my kitchen again.  I wanted to do something about gratitude or Thankfulness in honor of the season.  I found this old proverb that I thought was perfect:

It's so true, right?  We have to learn to be grateful if we want to be truly happy.   I love this simple, cheerful reminder.  As usual, I designed it on my computer and then free-handed it onto the wall, using my design as a reference.

You can download and print out this pattern to use yourself, if you'd like.  If you have a projector you could project the design onto the wall and trace it . . .

. . . OR you could draw out a grid on your wall in chalk to help keep your spacing right as you draw it by hand.  This is how I work to get a general layout, then I go back in and erase all the grid lines and detail everything out.  Things will still get a little off-kilter this way {unless you're a perfectionist}, but at least you have a general idea of where things need to be in relation to one another.  It's a great jumping-off point. Here's the gridded copy:

OR . . . if you don't want to bother with a chalkboard at all, here is a free printable you can frame and hang up somewhere:

I'm so excited that the holiday season is here again!  Have a great weekend, everyone.

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