Saturday, March 30, 2013

5 Creative Ways to Decorate an Easter Egg and Creative Linkup

This year I promised my 4-year-old some awesome dyed eggs, but in the wake of my 4-year-old's recent illness, I almost completely forgot about Easter. To make up for me not being on top of my game, I told her we could try out lots of different ways to decorate eggs. These are the ones we want to try. 
 Chalkboard Eggs from Mom.Me. Seriously what kid wouldn't love these?
 Glittered Eggs from Martha Stewart. Hello glitter!
 Rubber Cement Dyed Eggs from Crap I've Made. These are the eggs my 4-year-old is most excited about. They look awesome.
 DIY Marbleized Eggs from Camille Styles. I think these eggs are gorgeous!
Sparkly Dot Easter Eggs from Domestifluff. Simple and fun!

How are you decorating your eggs this year?

Now to this week's Creative Showcase...

Housewife Eclectic Creative Showcase

Some guidelines for linking: 
Become or be a Follower of Housewife Eclectic 
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Link back to Housewife Eclectic with a button or a link. 
Link your favorite posts 

What have you been creating?

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Abby- A Story of Life After Death

It never seems like the right moment for a mother to leave her small children, and the case of Abby is no different. One stormy Saturday morning, Abby hops into her car to head to a photo shoot, something she does as a side job, only to crash and lose her life. Although this is where most stories end, this is where Abby, by W. Anne Johnson, begins. Abby, newly deceased and caught somewhere between life and heaven, needs to learn how to reach her family and help them move on after her death.

Abby was one of those books I stared at for a long time before starting. I am never sure how I am going to feel reading a "sad" book, a book I know isn't going to have a happy ending. When I started reading, I was almost instantly sucked into Abby's world. On the very first page, Abby states she is "dead to begin with," just as Marley is in A Christmas Carol. In a series of flashbacks, Abby shows the reader the last few days of her life and the situation surrounding her death. I was captivated by her very "normal" seeming life. Abby seemed like she could easily be someone I know, which brought this book close to home.

I think every mother has the fear of leaving their children while they are still needed. I know I have. Abby addressed those fears in a very real, but comforting way. Even though it was tragic that a mother was taken from her family when they very much still needed her, this book explored the beauty of the afterlife and the idea that loved ones are not far from us even when we can't see them anymore. I expected to feel sad when I finished this book and while I did feel some of that sense of loss that always comes from the close of a story, I felt at peace. Despite Abby's initially sad premise, this book is full of healing and hope – the hope of having loved ones who have passed on close to us and the hope of one day getting to see them again.

While the premise of Abby is based on the concepts of heaven and hell, I would say it is not overtly religious. Abby and her family do not align themselves with one religion or another and it is interesting to watch Abby reconcile her faith with her new knowledge that the afterlife exists. One of my favorite parts of the book dealt with Abby realizing that even though she may be in the afterlife, it doesn't mean everybody has good intentions; that we are the same kind of people in the next life as we are here.

Abby is a pretty quick and uplifting read. I would recommend it to anybody who wants a thoughtful book, and I think it would be especially pertinent in the case of somebody who has just lost a loved one.

Abby is available directly from Tate Publishing or for pre-order from Barnes and Noble.

(I was given a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.) 
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

WotW: Demystifying the overused and poorly understood hashtag

When we were in school, we endured hours of grammar and punctuation lessons, which most of us promptly forgot and never used, opting instead to remember the lyrics to Michael Jackson songs. Still, most of us can function and write a semi-coherent sentence.

Then social media came along and changed the rules to everything. Each social media platform has its own rules - some spoken and some unspoken. Yet, there's no schooling on this. We are expected to learn the rules as we go along. That's part of the fun and organic nature of social media. However there are some social media conventions that have been around long enough that everyone should know. And at the top of that list is the almighty hashtag.

For those of you still confused about what this mysterious hashtag actually is, it is the # sign followed by any combination of letters, usually forming a word. Example: #healthy.

Hashtags are used as a tool to group together related conversations on social networks. For instance, let's say you post a Tweet about a healthy recipe you found. To help other people on Twitter know this is a healthy recipe, you would tag #healthy anywhere in the Tweet. Your Tweet is now part of a large, world-wide conversation about other things people have added the hashtag #healthy to.

Ultimately, the hashtag is a way for the social media platform to easily and quickly group similar conversations together. It simplifies the search results process by assuming similar hashtags are related. So, what you think of as a trendy feature is really little more than a way to speed up and simplify the social network's internal processes. Sorry to be such a killjoy.

Hashtags became popular early on with Twitter, though it wasn't the first to use them. And hashtags make perfect sense on Twitter, where the point is for users to share interesting content from around the web and from opinion leaders. Since then, many other social networks have latched on to the concept, including Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and soon Facebook. 

Despite how prolific hashtags have become, appropriate use of hashtags is still little understood. To help clarify, here are seven tips for using hashtags.

1. Hashtags are public and searchable. This means you should think about what you're posting and what you're tagging before you do it. If your post is meant just for friends, a hashtag really defeats that purpose because now everyone can see it. Maybe you do want the whole world to see your post so you can increase your exposure, especially if you're posting from your blog social media accounts. The point is, think before you tag.

2. Anything can be a hashtag. There's no giant registry of hashtags. Anything following a # can be a hashtag. But, just because anything can be a hashtag, doesn't mean it should. When writing a hashtag, think if other people would tag similarly or would even be interested in it. A good way to check is to go to Twitter and type your hashtag into the search bar. This will pull up all relevant results. Then you can see the type of conversations you'll be getting into. Maybe it's exactly right, or maybe you should choose a better hashtag.

3. Keep hashtags short. The best hashtags are short, specific and memorable: #probiotics. #funny. One world hashtags are the best. Because hashtags cannot contain spaces, many people are tempted to lump nearly a full sentence together. This is difficult to remember, share and process. Whenever I see long hashtags, it takes my brain a few seconds to decode what it's even talking about.

4. Limit the number of hashtags in a post. Twitter tends to limit this by its short nature, but even here this is frequently violated. Typically, it's in poor form to post more than two or three hashtags per post. Remember, the point of a hashtag is to add to a conversation, not to spam a bunch of conversations.

5. Add hashtags in the logical flow of a sentence. Let's go back to my healthy recipe idea earlier. My post could say, "Check out this delicious #healthy pasta dish I found. Only 240 calories." By putting the hashtag in  place of a word, I kill two birds with one stone and make it easier to read. Lumping a bunch of hashtags at the end of a post is confusing and looks a lot more like spam than a creative and relevant post.

6. Hashtags should NOT be used to be cutesy or make a point. This is probably the number one most violated rule of hashtags and I see it all the time, especially on Instagram. People will post things like #ohmygoshcutestbabyever. First of all, it took me five minutes to figure out what that actually said. Secondly, what are the odds other people are going to search for that? And even if they did, are you actually contributing something useful to that conversation? However, it may be appropriate to put something like #fail or #win in a post to make a point, as long as you feel your post can contribute to those conversations.

7. Not every post necessarily needs a hashtag. Many people feel unless they have hashtags in every post, they aren't doing social media correctly. If there's not a logical place for a hashtag, don't try to force one. How do you know if there's a logical place for it? A good test is to get into the habit of adding hashtags as you type the sentence. If nothing comes to mind as you type, chances are your post may not need one after all. And that's OK.

As social media evolves, so will the hashtag, but these are good tips to follow that will make your content more interesting and relevant. There are also other great uses for hashtags in social media campaigns, but that's a topic for another post. Until then, #seeya.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Easter Centerpiece in 5 minutes or Less

 Whenever Easter comes in March, I get behind. I can't quite seem to stay caught up on my holidays when Easter comes this early. This year, I decided to keep the Easter decorations simple and affordable, so I found myself wandering around the dollar store looking for something cute to pull together for our Easter table, that wouldn't take me all month. I found most of the supplies at the dollar store and was able to make Homemade Easter Grass myself.
 You will need:
A small Easter basket
glitter eggs on sticks from the dollar store(You could also make these yourself)
homemade Easter grass
floral Styrofoam that will fit in your bucket
Add the Styrofoam to the bottom of your bucket and the fill the entire bucket with the grass. Stick the eggs through the grass and into the foam and there you have it, in less than five minutes a cute centerpiece for your dinner table this coming Sunday!
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Movie Ticket Shadow Box

I don't think I have ever thrown away a movie ticket. I have stubs from all of the Harry Potter movies, Lord of The Rings and even some silly chick flicks. These stubs are all in a envelope in my dresser and every time we move my husband begs me to do something with them. Even though what he means is to throw them away, I decided a little shadow box holding all of those movie memories was just the ticket. Pun intended. ;) For this craft, I was lucky enough to get to test out the new Dear Lizzy 5th and Frolic line from American Crafts. 

Shadow box or Toy Box from wooden toy package
Dear Lizzy 5th & Frolic Fabric & Epoxy Brads
Dear Lizzy 5th & Frolic 12x12 Double-Sided Cardstock
Dear Lizzy 5th & Frolic Glitter Foam Thickers
Mod Podge
hot glue
 You can make this project with a shadow box, but since I have such a hard time throwing out the wooden packaging of certain toys, I thought I would make my husband happy and start dwindling my craft stash a little bit.
 The first thing you will need to do is get you box ready to paint. For me, that involved breaking the piece of wood in the middle of the box with a hammer and sanding the edges.
 Once everything is sanded, paint the project in the color you want. Allow to dry completely. Make sure even the crevices of your project are dry before continuing.
 Brush the bottom of your shadow box with Mod Podge and apply the scrapbook paper. I used Dear Lizzy 5th & Frolic cardstock, with tickets printed on the paper. I love this paper. It was actually the inspiration for the whole project. Add a top coat of Mod Podge to the paper and allow to dry. 
 When your project is dry, add stickers that spell out the word tickets. I used Dear Lizzy 5th & Frolic Glitter Foam Thickers. They added the perfect amount of sparkle. 
 For embellishments on the corners, I hot glued Dear Lizzy 5th & Frolic Fabric & Epoxy Brads to the shadow box. Since I wasn't using the brads as brads, I used a pair of pliers to bend back the brads so they could be easily hot glued. 
I really love the finished product and even my husband made a comment about how much he liked the result. I guess I am not in trouble for keeping all those ticket stubs for so many years now. 

Did you love the Dear Lizzy 5th & Frolic Line products I used, especially that cute ticket paper? You can see more of it online or at your local Jo-Ann's. If you are looking for more inspiration to use these cute products with visit American Crafts on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest

(I was given a sample of the products in exchange for my post. All opinions are my own.) 
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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Creative Showcase Linky Party

This has been a crazy week for us. It started out with lots of projects and new recipes and ended with our 4-year-old in the hospital. She is still very sick, but finally home. She is napping right now so I thought I would sit down and look at all my favorite's from last week's link-up. 
Want to be featured on Creative Showcase? Link up your projects, reviews, recipes and any other creative post in the linky below.Here are some of my favorites from last week's linkup.
 I love fudge. Doesn't this No Bake Malted Milk Fudge from Lemon Tree Dwelling look amazing? You can never go wrong with No-Bake.
 I am kind of obsessed with this Kid Inspired Rainbow Dress from Rae Gun Ramblings. She seriously created this dress from a drawing her niece made. Best auntie ever!
 Need egg decorating ideas? Look no further than this awesome round-up of 15 Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs by Artsy- Fartsy Mama.
I love handmade luxuries and soap from Cranberry Morning is just that luxurious  Check out her new Lilac and Lavender soap.
 Key Lime anything will always take me straight back to my childhood. These Key Lime Cupcakes from Rate The Plate are on the to-make list this week!
I can't believe how close Easter is. These Resurrection Rolls from A Mouse in My Kitchen look perfect for the holiday!

Now to this week's Creative Showcase...

Housewife Eclectic Creative Showcase

Some guidelines for linking: 
Become or be a Follower of Housewife Eclectic 
Visit other links
Link back to Housewife Eclectic with a button or a link. 
Link your favorite posts 

What have you been creating?

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

How to make Homemade Easter Grass

I liked holiday traditions as a kid. I LOVE them as an adult. There is something about recreating the magic my mom created when I was a kid that makes me practically giddy. We used to jump out of bed the Saturday before Easter and start searching for the Easter baskets we knew our dad had hidden. I usually found mine in a few minutes, but it always took my oldest brother a good part of an hour. He and my dad had a sort of hiding competition going on. My dad would hide his in some CRAZY places. I think the attic may have been involved one year. 

Every year after we had found our simple baskets, my mom would groan when we dumped them Easter grass and all on her carpet. We would then spend the next few days picking up stray pieces of plastic Easter grass. Since commercial Easter Grass might be the most annoying product on the planet, I set out to make simple homemade alternative. 

You will need:
a few sheets of colored paper
a paper shredder
 The first think you need to do is accordion fold the paper with the short side of the paper. As in the picture below. Think, folding a paper fan when you were a kid.
Thread the paper through the paper shredder with the fold lines running parallel to the shredder. 
After you have piles of crinkled paper, grab the paper a squish it in your fist. This will make the paper a little softer and easier to work with. 
Add the paper to your Easter Baskets or anywhere else you need Easter Grass and then breath a little easier that your house is not covered in the plastic stuff. ;)
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WotW: Build Your Own (Digital) Mix Tape with Songdrop

Anybody else remember spending hours listening to the radio with your finger on the record button of your tape deck, waiting for your favorite song to air so you could record it and make the ultimate mix tape? I sadly admit to making many of these mix tapes. Today, we have a number of devices and software that take care of this for us.

My next big find is yet another digital mix tape concept, but done remarkably well and with the web in mind. It's called Songdrop.

The concept is simple. Whenever you're on the web, listening to a favorite song on a popular music/video site, like YouTube, you hit the Songdrop Chrome extension or bookmarklet and save that song to a mix. Each song you add is called a drop. You can add as many drops to a mix as you want and make as many mixes as you desire.
Over time, you will build a robust mix that has all your favorites. Then you just login to your Songdrop account and play through all the songs in your mix.

Songdrop does the work of grabbing these songs from their original source (ex: YouTube) so you don't have to. You just enjoy the music. Pretty slick.

One of my favorite things about each drop is how Songdrop searches through the video source to make "CD" cover art for each drop. This art spins like a CD as the song plays.

Besides your own mixes, you can discover drops by other users. There is a recent feed that shows new drops by other users that you can re-drop into one of your mixes. This is a great way to discover new music. I can't promise it will be good, but you'll find something new.

Adding a song is a piece of cake. Let's say you're on YouTube watching the music video to a favorite song. If you have the Chrome extension or bookmarklet installed, simply click on that and a pop-up window appears.

It scans the page and finds all the songs it can. If it's YouTube, it will only find one – the song you're listening to. You get a chance to edit the Song Title and Artist Name. Songdrop does its best to analyze this for you based on the page information, but it's nice to be able to edit if you want. Once everything is just right, select which mix you want to add the drop to (or make a new one) and drop it. The song is now part of your music collection.

Songdrop is an investment of time at first, but well worth it once you've built your playlists. I find myself listening to music on YouTube a lot and just by remembering to hit the extension while I listen makes my listening experience easier in the future with all my favorites in one location. Give it a try. It's a fun, clean and easy to use web app that is one my favorite new sites.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Copycat Chili's Queso Dip

We have an obsession with Chili's Queso in this house. When I say obsession, I mean it. We talk each other into ordering queso from Chili's probably about once a week, and while we usually just pick it up curbside to go, we needed something we could make at home to satisfy our frequent cravings. This recipe is super easy to throw together and makes a great dip for a party. We served it at our Superbowl party and were scraping the bowl clean.

You will need:

  • 1 can of chili, If you want a more authentic Chili's taste, buy the "No Bean" kind. We decided we didn't mind the beans.
  • 1 15 oz jar of Tostitos Medium Salsa Con Queso

Mix the two together in a crockpot and cook on low for 4-5 hours. When we first tried this, my husband tasted the mixture an hour or so into cooking and he was convinced we had made a terrible mistake, but somewhere between the first hour and a few hours later, something magical happened. The flavors melded together into something awesome. Now if we have a choice we always hit up Chili's, because Hello Awesome, but we rest assured knowing we can keep queso a part of our weekly lives even if we can't make it all the way to the restaurant.
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