More Fun For Kids

She's at it again! Jenny over at Allsorts has created this ADORABLE (and addictive) gingerbread house activity for kids of all ages (this includes moms).
These little activities are SO great to help the little, little ones learn how to use the mouse, too. And, as a mom, can I add that sometimes when you just need a minute or two like, say, shower, use the bathroom, have an important phone conversation, these activities ROCK.

Tree Bows

Your old Christmas tree is tired. I KNOW these things. She's been there year after year, patiently standing still as you dress her up in her Christmas best. Inside, though, she's secretly wishing to be FABULOUS - so give her what she wants this year.

Below are some simple instructions for pretty bows that will give that tree a big splash of color. Now remember that these bows are going on a pretty, gilittery tree that's already busy enough - these don't have to be perfect. Nobody will notice anything other than how great your tree looks!

Plan on making about 15-20 bows, depending on how big your tree is. You don't want to do so many that it's overpowering and you don't want to do so few that it looks silly.

One spool of thick ribbon should do the whole tree if you use it carefully.

You'll need: wired ribbon, needle nose wire cutters, wire, scissors

It's SO handy if you pre-cut your wires. Make them long enough so you can twist them around your bow and then later your tree branch.

I'm right-handed so I usually start my bow like this with the tail facing my left.
(nevermind the unsightly scab on my left thumb - that's what I get for doing house work.)

Because this ribbon is one-sided (pattern is only on one side), we're going to have to twist it, making sure that the pattern is always exposed.

Give yourself enough ribbon leave a tail, and then twist so the pattern is underneath.

Fold a loop over that twist, holding the twist firmly with your left hand.

Here's what that first twisty loop looks like from the back. You're going to WORK those beautiful fingers!

Then give the ribbon another twist, turning the pattern underneath.

Fold that over the top and you're almost done!

Now scrunch it together, making a bow.

Without letting go, slip your wire over the front and around to the back, twist together to hold the ribbon tight.
Here is where the needle nose pliers come in handy - sometimes you need that extra help in getting the wire to pull tight enough and make that first twist. BE CAREFUL, however, because if your wire isn't very sturdy, the force will break the wire. Just use the pliers to pull it tight and then gently make the first twist. Then you can do a couple more with your fingers.

And because you left enough wire in the back, you can easily put these on your branches.
These bows are quick and easy, not meant to look perfect and professional. They do the trick, they look good, and they're SO much nicer than those nasty pre-tied bows at Wal-Mart!

Now we're going to make another quick and easy bow - the same concept as the Super Simple Hair Bow that I posted earlier.
Start with your ribbon, leaving enough for a tail.

Since this ribbon is sort of double-sided, I don't have to twist it. Just loop it over, making the loop the size you want the bow to be.

Keep making loops on either side until you have it as full as you want it. I did two loops on either side, making the last two loops a little shorter than the first two so there's a little dimension in the bow.

Then scrunch it together like before, making a center point for your wire.

Now I used a white twist tie on this one because I've got about a million of them and I'm going to cover it up anyway.

Now you're going to make a center knot for your bow. Tie your ribbon like this, put one end of your ribbon through the center, and pull. You don't have to pull it tight, just enough to where you have a pretty knot.

Then place the knot on the center of the bow, and tie it around back.

Before your back knot is tied tight, put your tree branch wire on the bow and then pull the back knot tight to secure everything in place.

Fluff up your bow and you've got something pretty for your tired old tree!


Hustle and Bustle

Whew! We got Thanksgiving taken care of and all of us had such a great time being together! You can't see the two other tables set up in my living room, but we had 12 adults and 15 children - and everybody fit niceley and got PLENTY to eat!!!

This is the adult table I had all set up. I'm not a big pillar candle fan, but there's something cool about eating a nice dinner with the glow of firelight and this was all I had - so that's what we used. This table cloth was a piece of remnant upholstery fabric at JoAnn's that I hemmed quickly the night before (it barely fit!). I LOVED how it was velvety soft yet very thick and heavy-like. And because it's a rusty red color, which perfectly matches my home decor, I can use it for many other occasions like Valentine's Day, Christmas, or even a nice dinner with friends - so my $12 piece of fabric has turned into a seasonal LIFE-SAVER!

So now it's time to move forward with the Christmas decorating and projects I've got lined up for myself. I decided this year that I want a "Peppermint" tree, so I'm beginning to find all kinds of ways to incorporate all things red, white, silver, glittery, and minty.

This picture is just a sneak peek - I'm a LONG way off in getting the tree all done. I'm envisioning some red and white ribbon candies (made with actual ribbon) with the glitter spray in my craft box, and real peppermint disks in the wrappers glued to something somehow - not quite sure what I'll do but I'm thinking!

I'll keep you posted on my progress!

Just one more thing - you DON'T have to go out and spend a bunch of money on making your tree beautiful. Everything I'm doing has been very inexpensive - it doesn't get any cheaper than a 65-cent box of candy canes!

And don't understimate the power of great ribbon!!! You can make a room pop with a splashes of big, glittery bows on your tree, on your ornaments, on your garlands, on your picture frames, you name it!

Another bright idea I had was a simple Christmas countdown activity. I REALLY want to make one of those adorable hanging advent calendars with little pockets to hide candy and treasures, but I ran out of time and this was my next best idea. I found these packages of jewelry boxes at Wal-Mart and I got five 5-packs. I'm going to fill each one with a little scripture or a service project and a candy for each of my three kids. They get to open one box every night for 25 nights. GREAT, eh?! No sewing or glueing required! And they don't loose sight of why we celebrate Christmas.

Well HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all of you! Have fun with your festiveness - don't forget the mistletoe!

Stay tuned because I'm going to be posting my fleece winter hat and scarf soon!


Music To Your Ears

Since I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year, I've done nothing but prepare for that so I apologize for the lack of creativity lately. HOWEVER! I treated myself to the new Emmy Rossum album on iTunes and I've been working my heart out to her beautiful, soothing music.
I first saw Emmy Rossum in the most recent Phantom of the Opera movie and I LOVED her performance and vocals. I was glad to stumble on this album and I wasn't sure of it at first but it grew on me real quick! It's slow, kind of like Enya, but very different and equally beautiful. In an interview about the album, Emmy explains that her album is not layered with hundreds of other voices - all of the vocals you hear are her own voice, layered to harmonize with herself. It's REALLY cool.


INGENIOUS, I know...

(Okay, so my back hallway has NO lighting...I did the best I could with Photoshop!)

Since I grew up in Southern Arizona, the need for winter gear, as well as storing and organizing it has been a long, slow process for me!!! After tripping over, tossing around, and losing the little pieces of warm clothing that are absolutely necessary, I decided to get a hanging canvas shoe storage unit for my back closet for the kids to put their hats and gloves in. It works BEAUTIFULLY! And when I remember to put them away, I can ALWAYS find my favorite gloves that I love and can't live without!

(Notice that I made myself a scarf out of that yummy yarn I posted a while back! I love it!)


Have You Tried These?

I LOVE THESE! I'm a mint-maniac and I'm ecstatic that the fine people at Mars have created this delectable treat. So if you're going to have something sweet, these are only 150 calories, as opposed to:

Snickers Bar - 273 calories
1 c. Skittles - 830 calories
1 c. Breyers Light Mint Chocolate Chip Ice cream - 266 calories
1 c. peanut M&M's - 877 calories (I could eat many handfuls in one sitting...)
Twix - 284 calories
Fudge - 472 calories
2.13 oz 3-Musketeers Bar - 260 calories

The one exception: Milky Way Bars at 97 calories

Now are you hungry for something chocolatey? You can thank me later when you're biting into something yummy...who wants to LIVE if you can't have these small pleasures every now and then?!


Single Crochet - Playful Scarf Set

Okay, so TWO things happened here: It was my dear friend Jen's birthday... AND I fell in love with this yarn at our local shop. (How GREAT, huh?!) It honestly didn't take very much time and before evening was over, I had a great gift for Jen! The specialty yarn was kind of pricey, but well worth it!!! I can't tell you how much fun it was watching the beautiful colors change and the scarf take form!!!

(For you Arizona girls, people out here love to get cute scarves this time of year because it won't be long until our eyelids freeze shut and nasal moisture crystallizes.)

I used three 49-yard balls of thick, double-twisted yarn (Muench Yarns - "Big Baby") and a "K" hook. Depending on how wide you want your scarf to be, you might only need two balls of yarn.

The flowers were made by using my previously posted "Loopy Flower" technique - but with a lot less stitching because this yarn is so thick. Then I hand-stitched them onto the gloves. They looked SO cute on Jen!

So here's how to get started:
Make a chain about as wide as you want your scarf to be. I chained 10 times on this one - but the one I'm doing now I only did 8.

Place your hook in the THIRD chain from your hook.

Yarn over, (grab yarn with hook) and pull through first loop.

Yarn over again and pull through next two loops.

End like this.

Start over in the next space until you've gone all the way across.

Chain one...

...flip over and start again, placing your hook in the SECOND loop from your hook (not counting the loop you have on your hook). With this pattern, always use the SECOND loop from your hook when you start a new row.

So there should be a loop on your hook, a single chain (the one you made before you turned), a space between the outermost loop, and the 2nd space over is the one you'll use every time.

When you get to the end of your row, be sure to pay attention to that little corner loop you've got to stitch in. It's easy to miss because it doesn't have as visible an "opening" like the other chains have but you have to get this chain, as well, or your work will look funny.

Can you see where I need to make my stitch?

Do your single crochet in that loop, chain one, and turn. Do this over and over again. If you don't like how your work is turning out, take it out and start over. No big deal!

Here I am again at the end of a row. There is the end row loop I need to pick up and do my last single crochet before I chain one and turn.

This yarn is awesome because the end loops are so much more visible than the bumpy yarns.

So there I am, making that last stitch before I turn. SC (single crochet), ch (chain) 1, turn.

Keep going and going and before you know it, you've got a long piece of something!


Cooking 101- Abby's Rich Homemade Cocoa

It's a cold, sort of snowy day, and nothing sounds better to me than a rich cup of cocoa! So I made some. (So let's see...that's another 4 laps on the treadmill for me today...)
This cocoa has a little KICK in it, so if you're woman enough, you should definitely try this - and maybe share with a friend!

1 1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. half and half
2 oz. (half of a 4 oz. bar) bittersweet chocolate
2 oz. milk chocolate
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 T. sugar (optional)
A pinch or two of cayenne pepper (NOT optional)
Whipped cream (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat milk and half and half to almost a simmer. Remove from heat, add chocolate, stirring until melted. Whisk in all other ingredients. Gently reheat, serve immediately.

Garnish with whipped cream, and cinnamon sticks or vanilla beans.

Recipe Conversion Charts!

Whatta FIND!!! Well, maybe I'm a little slow in discovering something like this, but I had to share it anyway...

If you're mentally challenged like I am, it's too much work to calculate doubling or tripling a recipe - so here's a GREAT site that does it for you!!! You just enter in the regular amounts, specify if you want the recipe cut in half, doubled, tripled, etc. and it calculates it for you!! (the exclamation marks means that I'm really excited...exclaiming...)


And now here is a site that has all kinds of measuring charts that can come in real handy - like how much is 8 Tablespoons? I'm an idiot and would probably measure 8 Tablespoons the hard way but the chart would tell you that it's simply 1/2 cup. WOW. What would it be like to be able to do this stuff in my head? Well, who cares...I've got this site!


Girly Color Block Scarf

Here is my latest creation - BECAUSE I HAVE NOTHING BUT TIME on my hands to sit and crochet all day!... (not really.)

My cute little girl saw the charcoal scarf I made a few days ago and begged me for one of her own. I swear - all that girl has to do is look at me and I'm weakened. So I spent yesterday making this skinny scarf in her requested colors and she LOVED it. She wore it to school this morning!

I photographed some simple instructions on how to change colors easily and they were too dark and HORRIBLE. So maybe when the sun peeks out, I'll try it again.