Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 10 Posts of 2012

It is time to look back on the top 10 posts of 2012. I was surprised how prevalent the felt flower posts were in the top 10. I think I am going to have to come up with some new felt flowers for 2013. 
10. The Capriel Felt Flower. This twisty fun flower is perfect for those printed felts. 
9. Spaghetti Storage from a Pringles Can. We still use this in our pantry. 
8. The World's Best Homemade Play-doh. My little girl LOVES play-doh, so we make this all the time. 
7. The Camri Flower. This is another one of my favorite felt flowers. 
 6. Chalkboard Photos Shoots. This is something we do every year now. 
5. How to Make Glitter Shoes. I STILL love these shoes. 
4. A Bridal Shower Advice book with a free printable. 
3. Stuffed Baked Apples. These are delicious and one of my most "pinned" posts ever. 
2. The Amy Felt Flower. This flower was a process of trial and error and it is one of my favorites. 
1. A Children's Real Doctor Kit. This project came to be when my daughter thought the plastic doctor kits were too babyish. 

I can't believe that 2012 is coming to a close already. It was a wonderful year. I had some big changes this year and I am looking forward to a smooth 2013. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

That's How You Know He Loves You

Today is the last day to enter the apron giveaway! 
Six years ago today, I married my husband. There was snow on the ground. Just what I wanted. It was beautiful. Today I have been reflecting on the six years we have been married. They have been hard at times and just generally wonderful. 

The best way to describe my husband is a closed book. He doesn't tell very many people his true feelings and usually lets other people do the talking in any given situation. Even when he does talk, he hardly gives information about himself. The other day at his parents house, his mom offered him some caramel popcorn. I was surprised because I know how much he hates caramel popcorn. He has spent the last almost 30 years eating caramel popcorn because he thought it was rude to tell people he didn't like it. It is just the way he is. 

Shortly after we were married, I was talking about the fact that my husband is pretty closed off with a coworker. I was frustrated that I didn't know how he felt about something that seemed important at the time. By the time I was finished talking I was so furious that I marched right home and yelled at my new flabbergasted husband. At the end of my angry speech I said something to the fact that I wished he would just tell me how he felt about me. His response was simple. "Don't you pay attention? I show you everyday."

I have thought a lot about it since that night and now I can see his love for me everywhere. It's in the fact that our third bedroom is my craft room instead of an office. It is in the way he will make dinner when some nights I just don't want to. It's in our library, a beautiful reading room in what should be a dinning room. It's in the fact that he moved 16 boxes of books across the country for me, without complaining because he knows how important they are to me. He did complain about the boxes of fabric. He draws the line at fabric. ;)

 His love is in my blog and it's design. He spends all day coding and designing web pages at work and then will come home and still do it for me. It is in the way he read Jane Eyre, just because it is my favorite book. It is in the way he watches Jane Austen adaptations, Doctor Who and Jane Eyre with me, even though they make him want to beat his head against the wall. 

My last semester of collage, I was pregnant, taking 21 credit hours and working full time. Every time someone learns how crazy my last semester of collage was, they ask how I did it. The answer is easy. My wonderful husband. I don't think I cooked a meal or washed a dish that entire time. He even took three of my classes with me, so he could go and take notes for me if I needed to rest. He was nothing short of miraculous.

A little less the two years ago, I came away from the most devastating doctor's appointment of my life. I was told to expect to be bedridden for the rest of my life. That eventually dressing myself would be an accomplishment. I felt like I had ruined my husband's life. Doomed him to taking care of me. Luckily the doctor was wrong, but I will still never forget what my husband said in those dark days. "It doesn't matter to me if you are healthy or sick. I love you forever. Don't worry we'll figure it out." 

I am so lucky. Lucky to have a husband that spends hours building elaborate Lego houses with our four-year-old. Lucky that he knows how to cook like a gourmet chef.  Lucky that he is a talented musician and often plays just to play, filling our house with music. Lucky that he can write beautiful music and has written me my own song to cheer me up when life is hard. 

In words, he is still pretty much a closed book, but over the years I have learned to stay still and watch. In watching his sweet, caring ways with me and our little girl, I have learned more about him than words could ever have expressed. I have learned just how amazing he is. I have seen the quiet acts of kindness for people who never know who helped them. I have seen him stay late to help a coworker finish a  project. I have seen him bless the lives of everybody around him. 

When we were married 6 years ago, I knew I was marrying a good man. I didn't realize at the time I was marrying a great one. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Foam Gingerbread Man Decorating Kit

 I can't believe that Christmas has already come and gone. We had an amazing Christmas. My four-year-old had her fill of Squinkies, Play-doh and doll clothes. It was magical and so much fun. I wish I could have a child this age every Christmas.

I completely reorganized and decorated my house these last couple of months and I am excited to show you everything starting next year, but today I am sharing one last gift/craft idea. This is the perfect craft or activity for a family with kids 3-10ish. Who doesn't love to decorate a gingerbread man?

For this kit, you will need gingerbread man foam, you can buy these pre-cut or cut them yourselves. Add extra sheets of foam, some pom-poms, googly eyes, markers and glue. Put all of it in a pencil box and tie with a ribbon. A simple fun gift that is a great activity for a family and less messy than real gingerbread men.
What fun things do you have planned between now and New Years?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tips for Photographing a Christmas Tree

Have you entered the giveaway for the designer apron yet?
There is something so magical about Christmas trees that I can't resist. I love photographing them and all of their lighted glory. A beautiful, in focus tree can be a hard thing to capture. Here are my tips for capturing beautiful photos of your lit tree.

The first thing you need is a tripod or a flat stable surface from which to photograph your tree. In order to get a beautiful picture of your tree without flash, you are going to need to use a really slow shutter speed, which means you will be able to see hand shake if you try taking these pictures with your camera in your hands. Ideally, you should use a tripod and the timer on the camera, so you aren't shaking the camera when you release the shutter. 

Set your aperture kind of high. I know this seems counter intuitive, but unless you set your aperture kind of high, like f/11 or a little higher, you are never going to get the entire tree in focus. We will compensate for the aperture with a slow shutter speed. 

I usually set my ISO between 320 and 500. Higher than I shoot portraits, but not high enough to see a distinct amount of noise. Set your shutter speed to anywhere between 1/25 to 2.5 seconds. 

Focus the camera before you hit the shutter and then take your picture. Christmas trees are one of the few places where a blurry picture can be just the ticket. Try focusing your camera on something closer to you and then moving it back to your tree to take the photo.

These pictures will require quite a bit of trial and error. That is the wonderful thing about digital, you can see what you need to fix. If your pictures are too dark, drop your shutter speed more. Keeping moving your shutter speed around until you get just the picture you are looking for. 

Christmas Tree photos are a bit of set up, but they are so worth it. We often use pictures of our Christmas tree that I took the year before for the background of our Christmas cards. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Holiday Photo Booth

I love pictures. It always seems to me that no party is complete without a photo booth. We usually do photo booths with silly hats and costumes, but with my four-year-old's birthday being so close to Christmas, this year we decided to do a Christmas themed one.
 With Christmas and the four-tiered birthday cake my little begged me to make, I wanted the photo booth to be as simple as possible. I went to the dollar store and a variety of Christmas hats, they had a great selection of Santa hats and some reindeer antlers. The cute elf hats were one I had on hand in my prop box, but I think they were purchased at a place like Wal-mart.
 Instead of setting up all of my drapes (I love my drape stand that my husband made me but it is huge!) I tacked a regular bed sheet to the wall as a back drop. I included some strands of garland for the kids to wrap themselves in if they wanted.
It wasn't the most elaborate photo booth I have ever done, but with the craziness of the holidays it was just the right amount of stress. 
After a party with a photo booth, I take the pictures off my camera and upload them all to a Shutterfly Share Site, so that guests can see all the pictures and download them. I also usually print one 4x6 of each guest so my daughter can write her thank you notes on the back of them.

Photo booths are such a fun way to remember a party, whether it be a birthday, Christmas or family party. They are some of our favorite pictures to looks back on.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WotW: Socl - the New Kid on the Block with Lots to Offer

Dust off your old Hotmail account, there's a new use for it. While you're trying to remember what terrible username you used to use when you set it up way back when (and what your password was – probably 123456), let me tell you why you'll need it.

Microsoft recently released their own social network called Socl. In typical Microsoft fashion, it's a product coming way too late in the game. However, unlike most Microsoft endeavors, Microsoft seemed to nail this product on their first try.

Socl is a cross between Pinterest and Tumblr. It allows you to create a post around a topic and flush this post out with pictures, videos, links and a written description by you. Sounds like a lot of work, right? Wrong. It couldn't be easier.

To get started, sign in to Socl using either your old Hotmail or MSN account, or you can sign in using your Facebook account.

Once logged in, you will notice you are on an eternally scrolling home page filled with posts. It kind of looks like Pinterest, but with a lot of squares. These are the various posts people have created. These are fun to look through, but let's first learn about how to create a post.

Getting started is simple. Look at the top of the page and find the green bar with a plus sign. Click on that plus sign.

You have now started your first Socl post. Of course, it's empty to start with. You have to come up with a post topic. Since it's Christmas time, I decided to create a post about one of my favorite Christmas movies: A Christmas Story.
The green search bar you originally clicked on has followed you to this new page. Type the search term you want in the green bar. In my case, I typed "a christmas story."
Socl then uses Bing's powerful search engine capabilities to pull up images, videos and links related to what you searched for. It displays these on the right side of the screen in little squares and rectangles. These are what you use to compose your post.

Simply click on any image, video or link square and it is automatically added to your post. Of course, you can rearrange and delete anything you add to your post, because it's not officially posted until you say it is.

At first, you only see a few images and videos appear. There are plenty more though. Simply click the "more images" or "more videos" link and you'll have plenty of options.

You'll notice in my example below, I have added a bunch of pictures, one video clip and three links.

There is also space at the bottom of your post for you to write any comments you might have. Below that, there is a "tag to interest" section. Socl utilizes tags, similar to tags on Tumblr or any blog service. These can help people find your content, which in turn helps you gain followers.

Once your post is complete, press Post. Your post now appears on your profile page and becomes part of the massive, forever-scrolling Socl posts feed.

As you look through other Socl posts, you have typical social media interaction options. The smiley face icon is similar to the Like button on Facebook. You can leave comments for the original poster. You can also share the post on Facebook, Twitter or Email. The tag option on someone else's post allows you to add or create new categories, or interests as they're called in Socl. This is kind of like a board in Pinterest.

When you click to comment on a post, another sharing option appears called "riff on this post." Clicking on this allows you to create a similar post based on what the original post contains. For instance, let's say I find a cool post about iPhones. I can riff that to find new iPhone images, videos and links that I can customize to my liking and share with my friends.

Adding more to the Pinterest similarities, Socl has a bookmarklet that allows you to create (or at least start) posts with one click.

Now, it's not quite as fast as the Pinterest bookmarklet, because once pushed, you are taken to the post creation page. The bookmarklet simply sifts through that page and finds any images, videos and links and displays these for you. You can then add them to a new post.

One cool thing about Socl is the ability to do multiple searches in one post. For instance, let's say I start a post about guitars. I select a bunch of images and videos. Then I remember I want to add a specific guitar brand. I don't have to start over. I simply erase the current search term and type in a new one in the green bar. All the items I have already added to my post stay, but I get new images, videos and links to sift through.

Three other cool things about Socl. The first is the Interests page. Based on the tags people create, Socl displays a number of popular interests. Viewing and/or following any of these helps you narrow down your viewing to just those things you care about.

Next, Socl has a messaging feature similar to Twitter's Direct Messaging, only it's called Conversations in Socl. While Socl is new and the proper social etiquette is still being defined, try to follow the same standard as Twitter and limit these conversations.

Finally, Socl has a feature called Parties. No, you don't hook up with random friends for digital raves. Instead, Parties allows you to host a video viewing party. This is similar to a Google+ Hangout, though not as advanced. On the Parties page, you can scroll through a number of existing video parties or start your own. Others may join and you can have a chat conversation about the video while you watch.

I know there are a lot of social networks out there and you might be thinking, "Seriously, another one? I barely have time to keep up with Facebook." While there's nothing saying you need to jump on this bandwagon, I highly recommend it. Pinterest is popular and successful as a social network not so much because it is social, but because it's a great escape website. You can waste countless hours scrolling through new content. It's addicting. And as addicting as Pinterest is, Socl can be even more addicting.

Another advantage Socl has is how open and friendly the users are. It's a community of people sharing ideas, interests and fun images, videos and links. There is so little of quick status updates here. This is about sharing content and I can pretty much guarantee you'll find something that interests you. One thing I was surprised at was how compelled I was to comment and/or like posts. I'm usually rather reserved on other social networks, but when I see a post dedicated to something I love, I feel this desire to let the author of the post know I appreciate it.

At the very least, you owe it to yourself to try it out. I find Socl easy to use, fun to discover new things and it's very clean and simple. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Grinch Christmas Ornament

 My mom will tell anybody she asks that she is allergic to crafting. My grandma could make something from nothing and my mom doesn't think she has any of that in her blood. I always laugh a little when she would say that, because it is always crafts she made me in my childhood that I am trying to recreate. This little Grinch stuck in a chimney has been on my mom's tree ever since I was very little. He is darling and I wanted to make a few for friends this year. This is a very simple craft, one that can be made in minutes.
 You will need:
a film canister
medium size green pom-pom
green pipe cleaner
a piece of ribbon
a cotton ball
hot glue
paint or white marker
 First tie your ribbon into a loop.
 Hot glue it inside the canister. Take your cotton ball and spread it out, put it in the canister and then add the pom-pom. I always add the hot glue after I put the both in so I can rearrange the cotton ball to make to more even. Make sure your loop is outside of the film canister. Cut two small lengths of pipe cleaner and hot glue them onto the Grinch's head. Draw bricks on the side on the canister with your maker.
This fun little guy is easiest enough for kids to make and still fun to make has an adult. A great edition to any tree!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

Our Favorite Elf on the Shelf Ideas

We, like a lot of you, have a little elf that visits our house during the month of December. Our little Elf, Pixiedoodle, likes to do silly things during the night. She doesn't get into too much mischief, just enough to make our little girl giggle in the morning. Here are some of our favorite situations our little elf has found herself in. 

1. All tangled up in thread in mom's sewing machine.
2. Taking a marshmallow bath in a mug. This one made my little girl laugh so hard our elf wants to do this again on a grander scale.
3. Dyeing the milk in the fridge. A friend suggested making sure the milk was almost gone before doing this and I am glad she did. Nobody would drink the blue milk.
4. Making sugar angels on the table.
5. Drawing funny little faces on our family pictures.
6. Coloring pages in one of our favorite coloring books.
7. Going for a roller coaster ride down the stairs in a roll of toilet paper.
8. Getting into the band-aids in the Boo Boo box.

Our little elf sure makes my daughter laugh and since she knows the elf is reporting to Santa, her room has never been so clean.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stocking Hangers Made From Frames

In our house, we have always had the problem of where to hang our stockings. We have never had a fireplace or a mantel to speak of and using those cute stocking hangers you find at the store has always seemed a hazard with a little one about the house. I have always wanted something I could hang up, as a decoration for the holiday but out of the way of grabbing hands, when I saw these cute frames I knew they were the solution.
These cute frames come from Poppyseed Projects, a fabulous store located in Sandy, UT. You can buy them at the store or order items from them online. You can use any sort of frame for these hangers as long as the frame is not super thin.

You will need:

  • frames
  • Christmas pictures
  • a drill
  • paint
  • hooks

First, drill a hole in the bottom center of each frame. The hole should be slightly smaller than the the hook you want to put in them. Then paint the frames any color you like. I chose red and green in true Christmas fashion. After the paint is dry, add pictures to the frames. I have found the best place to find Christmas pictures is the cover of Christmas cards. I just taped my pictures in the frames. Santa for my husband, Mrs. Claus for me and a little elf for my daughter.
After the pictures are in the frames, screw the hooks into the bottom of the frames. Add a picture hanger to the back of each frame.
After you have added hangers, you can hang the stockings right on the wall, out of the way of little reaching hands.