Saturday, December 29, 2012

To Die For Vanilla Cake

I LOVE eating cake for breakfast. I don't have it regularly, but thanks to the holiday season, there is CAKE in the HOUSE! The cake I baked this week is called "To Die For Vanilla Cake", but it probably should be called, "You Will Die if You Eat This Vanilla Cake"!

Sour Cream
Vanilla Pudding
White Cake Mix
Butter (lots of it)
White Chocolate Chips

See what I mean?  Not the kind of cake you should bake often. I can't take credit for the recipe, I found it a couple of years ago on Razzle Dazzle Recipes. I love her Quick and Easy Recipes the most, but the Cake Mix Recipes is where I found this one.

Here's a link to the full recipe:  To Die For Vanilla Cake

It is really easy to bake, but here are a couple of tips:

  • Don't overcook it. It shouldn't get too brown. Just bake it long enough for the center to be done. (It may look too moist)
  • I flour my Bundt pan after greasing. It will stick to the pan if you don't.
  • Let it cool completely before tasting it. This one doesn't taste very well when it is warm.
It is so moist, so yummy, you will think you have died, and gone to heaven!

I've shared this post on:

The Answer is Chocolate BFF Open House #85
Artsy Corner Link Party # 13
Shine On Fridays (One Artsy Mama)
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Encouragement Journal

The project is finished. The Encouragement Art Journal has been delivered.
And I am at a loss for words.

If you are new to my blog and you would like to know more the art journal project, you can read about it here:  Encouragement

When I first thought about collaborating with others to create this journal, I imagined it would be fun and encouraging for us all. And it was. But, it was also so much more. I am not sure what I expected from the final result or who I expected would receive it. Looking back, I may have pictured it to be light, and cute, and be delivered to someone who needed a "pick-me-up".

I was so, so off. 

I mailed each artist 2 sheets of mixed media paper and another smaller sheet of paper. Their instructions were simply to create an art journal page (2-pages, facing) that would be encouraging to another woman. They were to do whatever they felt led to do after thought and prayer. On the smaller sheets, I asked them to write a little about themselves or their pages.

We began discussing possible "nominees". Several women who were facing hard circumstances were suggested. I was overwhelmed. How would we decide?  We kept working, praying, and waiting. None of us discussed our theme or page ideas. We kept in touch through our facebook group and just as in the Between Friends Project, a special bond began to be formed between us.

I had pretty much decided that when all the pages were returned and I had them bound into one book, I would draw a name out of a hat. I had no idea how else to decide who we should give it to. And then I got the pages back. And then, another nominee emerged. And then, I bound the book. And then it was confirmed. I knew who it was for, and the others agreed.

I planned to post a video of  the journal pages, post photos, maybe even do a tutorial on the book binding. All of that changed when the journal was finished and delivered. This was no ordinary art journal, and the young woman who received it is no ordinary girl. The journal is BEAUTIFUL. It is full of love and hope, and all of the messages are so much more than encouraging. I cried so often while binding the journal. Tears of thankfulness,  tears of awe, tears of HOPE. The tears first came when I looked at the pages for the first time, and they continued until the final embellishment was in place on the cover.

I have decided that the journal is too personal to share. I may do a post on the binding later, but I am not sure about that yet. There are two reasons why I am doing this follow up. One, because I promised a follow up and some of you were expecting to see the finished book. Two, because I want to encourage anyone who enjoys art journaling, or any type of mixed media art to consider participating in an art collaboration project. I  have been involved in two of them, and both of them have impacted my life richly. Both were fun; I was stretched artistically, and I the relationships developed are irreplaceable.

The Encouragement Journal was given to a beautiful young woman who was recently diagnosed with cancer.  She is also a very dear friend of our family. All who worked in the journal felt privileged to be a part of it. It was an honor to confirm to her that she has....HOPE.

The Encouragement Journal

I've shared this post on
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Last Minute Charm

Here it is the day after Christmas and now we can all share the secrets and surprises we came up with for gifts, or the blessings we received. I LOVE surprises! I love planning and scheming and hinting. And I love trying to come up with something special when I give or make a gift.

Since my middle daughter was very young, she loved to say that she wanted a tattoo. Needless to say, we said NO. I always told my daughters that any body piercing or tattoos could be done when they were 18, and not sooner. My thinking was that they would grow out of the "fad" by that time. She didn't. When the day arrived, her long awaited tattoo became a reality. I wasn't crazy about it, but it was pretty, and tasteful, and the meaning behind what she chose was very special. Once I got over the shock, I refrained myself from strangling her and got used to it.

This year for Christmas I wanted to get her a necklace. Nothing expensive, but something special. On Pinterest one day, I saw some beautiful dictionary word necklaces. One of them was the word TATTOO. Immediately  I knew that was what I would order. But, a couple of unexpected things happened and before I knew it, two weeks went by and I forgot to order it. By the time I remembered, it would not be here in time for Christmas.

So I went to Target. I found a simple necklace, the kind you can add charms to, and I chose a charm. It wasn't really special, but it was pretty. Not too pretty, however. She isn't very fru-fru when it comes to jewelry.

When I got ready to wrap it a couple of days later (on Christmas Eve), I remembered what I wanted to get instead and BAM! I got an idea. What if I made her a tattoo charm as an extra charm for the necklace I bought? I dabbled in making jewelry a few years ago, before bifocals. I wondered if I had anything I could adapt. I didn't find anything in my jewelry stash. But what I did find, were these Tim Holtz Charms left over from my Between Friends Art Journal.

The charms were small. My "for cutting up" dictionary did not have the right sized words. I didn't want to abandon the idea. I was about to start cutting up the GOOD dictionary, when our old tattered, torn, and worn SPANISH-English dictionary caught my eye. I had already removed some of the pages for another project.

I was afraid the word was just a little too big for the charm. I didn't have a circle punch the same size as the charm. I didn't want to waste the word with a bad cut. I sat there pondering what to do. I finally figured out that all I had to do was place one of the clear epoxy stickers, that came with the charms, directly OVER the word. Then, I cut around it. Once it was trimmed, I glued it into the charm.

I added a small heart charm and attached some simple beads above the charm because it was so small. 

Here it is:

It was just my way of letting her know that I love and accept her for who she is, even if I don't exactly like tattoos. 

I still love the word necklaces that Out of the Blue sells, and will probably order from them in the future. But the charm I made for my daughter had more meaning for me than if I had ordered one. I'm glad it worked out the way it did.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies

While I was peeling and chopping potatoes for Potato Soup and it was raining outside, my crazy teenage daughter and her friend were playing in the rain. Her other friend had the good sense to stay inside were it was warm and dry. He is a smart young man. He said he could bake some cookies if I had just 3 ingredients,:I cup of peanut butter, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 egg. I doubted seriously if he could do it; didn't he need flour? He assured me he could do it...go ahead, knock yourself out.

So, he mixed it all up, made little balls, pressed a fork onto them, and put them in the oven.
I was impressed.

After they baked, I was even MORE impressed! Maybe you already knew about the easy peanut butter recipe. I had never heard of it. It is so easy, you don't even have to write it down. Just bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

So easy PB Cookies: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup peanut butter, 1 egg

I've shared this post on:
Family Home and Life: Grandparent's Say it Saturday
The Answer is Chocolate BFF Open House #85
Freedom Friday #34 (My Turn for us)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rich and Creamy Potato Soup

Yesterday was a rainy, dreary day. I hate getting wet, the only thing worse is getting wet and being cold. This is me on a rainy day. It never fails.

A page from one of my art journals

Being wet and cold at night is almost unbearable.  By the time I got home yesterday evening and was ready to cook dinner, all of the above applied. Add two extra teenagers hanging out at our house and I knew exactly what I'd cook for dinner. Potato Soup and biscuits. Easy and hot, feeds a crowd without a lot of work. I got this recipe many (many) years ago from a friend in our church fellowship group. It was a big hit and I've made it too many times to count over the last few years.

Rich and Creamy Potato Soup


1/2 stick of butter
1-2 onions, chopped
8-10 potatoes, peeled and cut up into large chunks
6-8 bullion cubes, chicken (or six cups chicken broth)
1 small whipping cream, or can of evaporated milk 

Melt butter in the pot and add lots of chopped onion.Saute, and add potatoes. Add enough water to cover the potatoes, a little more than covering them. Add bullion cubes. (Note, you can skip water and cubes if you are adding broth. Add enough broth to more than cover potatoes.) Boil slowly. When potatoes are soft, mash slightly. Add whipping cream or evap. milk and TURN HEAT OFF.

Rich and Creamy Potato Soup

Add some homemade biscuits and you have a delicious, easy no-meat meal. Now, I have to admit, I have not looked at this recipe for a long time. I usually make it from memory. You must know, that I FORGOT it had onions in it! I don't think I've added onions to it for....I don't know, 6-7 years! It is still good. Sometimes, when I am in a hurry and I don't have cream, I use regular milk. It isn't as rich, but we still like it.
Hope you enjoy!

I've shared this post on:

The Answer is Chocolate BFF Open House Link Party #84
Freedom Fridays #33 (My Turn-For Us)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A New Year's Tradition With Children

A few years ago, a zillion it seems, I came across an idea for celebrating the New Year with children that became a really special time for us. I don't remember where I read about it, but knowing me, it was Family Fun Magazine. Living away from family we did not have large family gatherings, dinners, or big celebrations. I made it a point to begin our own traditions, to do things that would be memorable and meaningful.

Christmas and Thanksgiving traditions were easy, New Year's Eve and Day - I was stuck. I grew up in the New Orleans's area. My memories of New Year's Eve as a child and teenager are filled with late night parties, including children, and lots of FIREWORKS at midnight. Everyone had their own fireworks display right in their yards, or in the street in front of their homes. I wonder now, looking back, if it was even legal. If it wasn't, no one seemed to care. We didn't have to drive a few miles away, at midnight, and fight crowds and traffic to see the sky all lit up and hear the noise. It was all around us. As an adult living in North Carolina, staying up until midnight and watching the Times Square Ball Drop on T.V. just didn't compare.

With young children, staying up until midnight wasn't an option. Even if I allowed it, they often fell asleep. So, how could I make one of my favorite holidays memorable? A New Year's Tree! Here's the idea.....

The day after Christmas, all the ornaments come off of the tree, and get packed away. (Double bonus, half the work is done early). Leave the lights on, and if you'd like, some of the ornaments, but NOTHING GREEN OR RED. Then, redecorate the tree in any other color and include lots of sparkly stuff.

You don't have to spend a lot of money, in fact you don't have to spend any money at all. That's the beauty of it. After the busyness of Christmas, sometimes the "crash" seems like a little bit of a let down. All the fanfare, and then.... nothing. The kids are out of school and all the crafts and neat projects are gone. Unless, you have them make the ornaments! We used to make ornaments out of construction paper, or sometimes we took a Christmas ornament idea and simply changed the colors. One year, we made paper snowflakes.

Once the theme or color was decided and the tree was redecorated, we drew names. Everyone had one week to make or think of a gift for the sibling or parent they got. But, no money could be spent AND the gift had to signify a wish for the the receiver's coming year. We gave something that already belonged to us, or made something. The gift can be silly, like a homemade book of jokes to wish lots of laughter. One year, my husband gave my oldest daughter a compass he had, and said it was so she could always find the right direction. The gifts were exchanged on New Year's Eve.

You could do as much as you want with the tradition. Keep it simple, or go all out. The important part is the week between Christmas and New Year's takes on a whole new meaning. You can top it off with a special party including games and activities for New Year's Eve. You can lots of ideas for a party here, Parent's Magazine.

I always took the idea one step further. I came up with a specific theme, really a word. The Word for the Year. The first year we did it, I prayed about it. I wanted the word to symbolize a theme for the year. It became a very special time for me during the holiday season. Every year since then, somewhere around November, a word sort of drops into my heart, and I know it is the word for the coming year. I am sentimental like that. One year, it was LOVE. We decorated with pink hearts. It looked more like a Valentine's tree! Another year, grace, another year, peace. We only did a New Year's Tree for about four years, but the word of the year is still a tradition I keep, all by myself. I already know what the next year's word is: HOPE.

The Year 2000: paper streamers, curling ribbon, construction paper ornaments, and LOTS of glitter

I've shared this post on:

Wednesday Whatsits #39
Wow Us Wednesday
Tout it Tuesday #37
Fun in Functional Linky Party #30
Inspiration Spotlight #20
Family Home and Life: Grandparents Say it Saturday

Monday, December 10, 2012

Guest Room Office - It's Done!

It only took me almost 5 months, but it is done!

"Office" Side

Guest Room Side

When my oldest daughter moved out, this is what the room looked like:

I knew what I wanted to use the new "spare" room for, but I had no idea how to pull it together. This is what I had to work with in addition to the photo above:

A yellow chair, an old file cabinet, a pink table, plus a fold-down table and a twin bed with a trundle

The floor lamp and the fabric headboard were my inspiration. I wanted to go with black and ivory.  Plus, I somehow started finding french-inspired items. 

French Theme: side table, wall hanging, faux book box
This room had pull down shades. They were ugly, and WHITE. They didn't match the other colors. I was too lazy to recover them, too cheap to buy anything new. So I got creative. I used a large piece of lace as a stencil, and spray painted ivory over the white. I used Aileen's Tack it Over on the lace to be sure that it would stay in place once I started painting. I've had a bottle of it for 20 years! And I STILL have some left!

Now, they match!
The guest room side was easy. The twin bed has a trundle, so even though the room is small, we can make it work for guests when needed. The majority of the time, I will be using the room to organize our "Life Files" and photographs. That's where the table and file cabinet come in.

Vintage family photos, old letters, newspaper clippings
I wanted a work space that would be portable and lightweight. I painted the top of the fold-down table and decoupaged it with old family photos and copies of letters and newspaper clippings.

I bought a mirror to hang on the back of the door. I didn't notice it when I bought it, and even then not until AFTER we put it up. It was so cheap, it looked more like a fun house mirror when you looked into it! I didn't want to throw it away, but it was useless. Until I revamped it, anyway.

Mirror revamped into a shelf!
We cut 4 pieces of 2 x 4 and glued them to the bottom of the mirror. I covered the glass with scrapbook paper. This gave me room above and below the shelf to store photos and to work. The best part is that I didn't adhere the shelf unit to the table. I can remove it easily if I need more room for ....sewing. (YUCK!)

I don't like to sew, but I needed a sewing corner. This corner may never be finished. Imagine it with long shutters in the corner and a small stool..... (cute, huh?) But not a high priority.

Rarely Used Sewing Corner
In a previous post, I gave a tutorial on how I made the No-Sew Sewing Machine Cover.

My favorite part of the room is my file cabinet.
I rescued an old file cabinet from the garage. I sanded it and painted it ivory. But it was still ugly. I used the same lace technique as the window shades, and painted the drawers. Then, I distressed it a little.

Close-up of the lace pattern

A-Z and One, Two, Three
I plan to use the top drawer for general household filing. The bottom drawers are each assigned to my girls: One, Two, and Three. From the beginning of their lives until the present, I want to file all important papers, school records, memories, etc. Each of them will have access to their life records, in chronological order. BIG task! It will take me all year or more. That's why I needed an "office". I want to be able to shut the door if I make a mess and can't get back to it for a few days.

Here's what I have to work with:

21 years of photos, homeschool records, and files

And that's not all of it. I'll be here for awhile. At least I'll be working in a pretty space!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Snowman Appetizer

A few days ago, I saw a cheese ball shaped into a snowman on Betty Crocker. I was looking for an appetizer idea for a Christmas party. When I saw it, I knew immediately that I would make it except I wanted to make mine using a recipe I have for a Chicken Roll.

I was a little concerned when I first started making him.  He was a little short and stumpy. My daughters got in on the act and helped me out.

He needs decorations.

We're getting there...

He is cute! But is is missing something.

TaDa! He is all ready now!

If you'd like to make your own cheese ball snowman, or see how they decorated their's, click here.

Instead of cheese balls, I always use my Chicken Roll recipe for an easy cracker spread. It is different, and quite tasty. Here's the recipe:

Chicken Roll

1 can chunky chicken (I never use canned, I use 1 cup cooked, chopped chicken)
1 small cream cheese, softened (3 ounces)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, browned

Mix ingredients together except sesame seeds. Roll to form a log or ball. Brown sesame seeds in oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Roll chicken in sesame seeds, chill. serve with crackers.

For the snowman, I doubled the recipe and omitted the sesame seeds. After mixing and shaping, I put him in the refrigerator for about an hour. Then I used whipped cream cheese (as per Betty Crocker's recipe) as the outer layer of the snowman. I did one ball at a time, instead of trying to do them together.

We used black olives, a radish, a piece of carrot, celery, chives, and lettuce for his decorations.

Hope you try your own Snowman Appetizer!

Heirloom Recipe Collection Party

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Monogram Door Hanging and Christmas Projects Links

Here's another project I did last week, using what I had around the house:

Monogram Door Hanging

I had to hang our wreath next to the front door on the brick because it was so big. I really liked the wreath there, but I wanted something on the door also. I had seen ideas for monogram door hangings all over pinterest. I wasn't about to break my Christmas Challenge and go buy a papier-mâché  or wooden "W", so I set out to make my own.

I used:

A Large Cardboard Box
An Exacto knife
Spray Paint
Spray Adhesive
Epsom Salt (I love that stuff!)

I drew out a large "W" on an old used poster left over from a homeschool co-op class. I traced it onto a large piece of cardboard I had cut out from the side of a box. I actually cut two of them, with an Exacto knife. I glued both pieces together, so they would be thick. Then, I used some white yarn and wrapped it all around the cardboard.

I didn't like how bare it looked, so I used ivory spray paint to soften it up a bit. It still needed something. In keeping with my winter theme, I decided it needed snow. AKA Epsom salt at my house this year. I used spray adhesive and sprinkled on the salt. I only did the front side. Then, I added pine cones, shredded fluff (the kind you can use in gift baskets) and a ribbon.  

Here some close-ups and another view so you can see the texture:

And there you have it, my monogram door hanging. We are hosting two Christmas parties this year. Very unusual for us. I am so glad I decided to go all out and put some winter/festive Christmas cheer around the house. Now, it feels like Christmas.

Over the last few days, I posted a few photos here and on facebook that included some of the Christmas paper crafts I did last year. I didn't post any specifics about how I made them, but some people have asked. So here's a quick photo and the links for the tutorials I followed:

Paper Star Tree Topper:  Pretty and Cozy
Music Sheet Paper Trees:  boutiqueit
Paper Roses Wreath: I'm a Yarner

Be sure to stop by a visit their blogs if you'd like to make your own!

I've shared this post on:

White Lights on Wednesday  Whatsits-37
Artsy-Fartsy Mama Link Party #10
Claiming Our Space

Be sure to visit them and see a lot of other great posts!

Winter Wonders & Holiday Happenings

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Gift of Paper Stars

This year, I wanted to send some love every day in December to my sisters who live far away. It is hard not live closer to them, and the older we get, the harder it becomes. So for Christmas this year, I thought of a little special gift that would give us one minute a day together. Sort of like me being there, with them...annoying them they way a little sister can do, or just encouraging them, loving on them or telling one of my corny jokes.

This gift took a little time and energy, but mostly it was fun!
I sent them each a little gift of paper stars.

Jars of Paper Stars

Inside these paper stars, I put little messages. I never thought I'd be one to come up short on words, but after awhile, I started running out of things to say. I needed 93 phrases! But I did it, and then I folded them all up and put them into little jars.

I tied ribbon and string around the top of them, and filled them with the stars and "fluff". Added a tag, and a stamp..and fell in love. They are so CUTE!

Here is a close up:

I gave them instructions to open one a day, each day for the month of December

Not only was this a gift from my heart, it worked well with my Christmas Challenge. I wanted so badly to go out and buy some cute little jars with fancy lids. But I used what I had, and I'm glad I did.

If you would like to know how to make some, Regina Lord has great links and a video on her blog.Go to: Little Guiding Stars

In case you are wondering, I made all 93 of them in one afternoon/evening. Well, that was the cutting and folding. It took me three days to come up with enough things to say. Imagine that!

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Manic Monday 12/3
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Saturday, December 1, 2012

How To Make a Snowman in Florida

It snowed in Tallahassee last night!
Yes, it did.
At my house anyway.


How to Make a Snowman (Out of Boxes) in Florida

If you want snow, sometimes you just have to make it.

Epsom Salt

If you want a snowman, add:

Cardboard boxes
White wrapping paper
A hat out of scrapbook paper and black glitter

I just so happened to have all of the above, at home so I've still been able to stick to my Christmas Challenge. This has been my favorite Christmas paper craft YET! I feel like he is my SON! I haven't named him yet. Take a look at some photos from the day he was born...
Welcome Home, Son!

Yes Dear, We Will Let it Snow
I just so happened to have all of the above, at home so I've still been able to stick to my Christmas Challenge. This has been my favorite Christmas paper craft YET! I feel like he is my SON! I haven't named him yet. Take a look at some photos from the day he was born...
A Face Only a Mother Could Love!

What should I name him?

UPDATE: I've named him "SALTY"!

This post won a special feature!

I've also linked this post to:

Happy Hour Projects Christmas Cheer Link Party
4 You With Love Homemade Holiday Party
Blissful Bucket List
The Answer is Chocolate BFF Open House Link Party #81
Accidentally Wonderful Inspiration Spotlight
Chicken Chick's Blog Hop #11
Claiming Our Space Winter Wonders and Holiday Happenings Link Party

Check out all the other great  links on their blogs!

Winter Wonders & Holiday Happenings