Saturday, July 26, 2008 0 comments

Cousin Camp: Treasure Stones

Here's what my Treasure Stones look like:

If you think they look realistic in the picture, you ought to see them in real life! The only thing that "gives them away" is that they have a tiny little bit of "give" when you press on them.

It seems no one ever answers the question: How many does it make? So I'll try to answer it.

Here's my profound answer: It depends on what you're hiding inside. (As I said, it's profound.)

I hid plastic army men (police, really, but you're probably more familiar with the size of army men) and 1" decorative erasers in mine. I made a double batch of the recipe and ended up with 21 stones. If your items are larger, you won't get as many. If they're smaller, you'll get more. (I know, another profound statement.)

As for my experience with them, I had to add almost a whole cup of flour extra to get it to the right consistency. I could have avoided that by adding the water a little slower, but I didn't. Also keep in mind I made a double batch.

I baked mine in a 150-degree oven (the "Warm" setting on mine) for 20 minutes to harden them since I didn't have 2-3 days to let them harden otherwise. This worked just fine, but it wouldn't work if you were putting (wrapped) chocolate candies inside - it would melt the candies.

My verdict? They're relatively easy to make a have a huge "WOW" factor. You could hide pennies in these and still get a "WOW" response from kids. :)
Friday, July 25, 2008 0 comments

Frugal gift sets

Did I ever mention that I'm a packrat? :) I instinctively collect things, especially things that I see have gift potential.

When I recently decided it was high time to organize our storage closets (the only storage in our house), I found a hodge podge of little things I had collected for gifts ... little things that, in themselves, wouldn't quite be enough. So I laid everything out on my guest room bed and challenged myself to come up with gift sets. I was a little surprised to find a few recurring themes, things that actually fit nicely together. So here they are ...

First off is my prayer journal gift set that includes a never-used prayer journal from Janette Oke's daughter ($0.25 at Salvation Army), a Glade scented candle (W-G freebie), and a jar of new-in-package bath salts originally from Target $1 Spot ($0.10 at Goodwill): Total paid: $0.35 (This will make a nice door prize for a church ladies' meeting.)

Next up is a package for my friend who loves anything by Karen Kingsbury. It includes Maggie's Miracle by Karen Kingsbury in brand-new condition ($0.05 at Salvation Army), a jar of new-in-package bath salts originally from Target $1 Spot ($0.10 at Goodwill), and a scented tin candle from Michael's ($0.30 on clearance):

Total paid: $0.45 (This will make a great "thinking of you" gift!)

Next up is the general ladies' gift that includes a floral photo album (received at a baby shower and never used), Helen Steiner Rice inspirational flip calendar in like-new condition ($0.05 at Salvation Army), and a jar of new-in-package bath salts originally from Target $1 Spot ($0.10 at Goodwill):

Total paid: $0.15 (This will make another excellent door prize at ladies' meetings.)

And lastly (at least for now), is the "atmosphere of home" gift set which includes: Dwelling: Living Fully from the Space You Call Home by Mary Beth Lagerborg (a great book I bought for myself, read, then decided I didn't have space to store long-term - $3.00 at Ollie's), a combination photo frame/pillar candle holder in brand-new condition ($0.25 at local thrift store), and a pillar candle (I've had for years and never used ... essentially FREE):

Total paid: $3.25

This doesn't include the butterfly set I just put together for my Secret Sister which included a butterfly-printed basket ($0.50), butterfly inspirational photo frame with store tags still attached ($0.50), kitchen towel (a freebie from a bridal shower) and matching candle (W-G freebie). Total cost to me: $1.00.

It also doesn't include the two Thomas Kinkade gift sets that I put together with coffee mug sets ($2.44 on clearance) and devotional books ($0.05 at Salvation Army). I already have them in a gift bag that isn't clear. Total cost each: $2.45.

So what will I use these for? Well, I've noted some ideas with several of them, but I've also thought about putting them aside for last-minute gifts or hostess gifts. Since I already packaged them, they're ready to give.
Thursday, July 24, 2008 3 comments

Organizing my pan collection

I took a cake decorating class about two years ago, and I've been decorating cakes ever since. I have been picking up shaped pans as I find them at yard sales and thrift stores for $1 or less.

I don't buy every one that I see, just the ones I know I'll have a use for. Still, I have quite the collection.

Up to this point, they were shoved in two large plastic totes. It was all we could think of at the time. But I got to looking at them and noticed that almost all the shaped pans have a hanging hook on them. Since we store them in the storage closets (which have nothing on the walls), it made sense to try to go vertical with them. I originally thought of a pegboard, but my husband insisted no one would mind if we just put nails into the walls of the closet to hang them. After I thought about it for a few moments, I had to agree. Who is going to see all those nails if we would happen to move at some point? Who is going to care?

So here's what one wall of my storage closet now looks like:

I like it! I still have some pans (that didn't have hanging hooks) and accessories in a large plastic tote, but I'm down to just one tote. Another bonus is that I can just look at the wall and see what I have.

I think this is one of my favorite organizing projects in a long time!
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 2 comments

Organizing my gift center

I've mentioned before that I pick up gifts year-round on clearance and at thrift stores for about 5-10% of their original price. While I enjoy the savings and getting people things they have asked for, I don't enjoy a mess and losing that perfect gift until the gift-giving occasion is past. So I had to do something to organize my gift center. This is what I came up with, and I like it quite a bit:

These are the newly-emptied bankers boxes that used to hold baby clothes. (There are more of them, but I'm using the rest elsewhere.)

I designated one box for each of my siblings' families, one for my parents, one for my husband's family (we only exchange Christmas gifts) and two each for my own children. There's also a box for baby shower gifts and a few wedding gifts are sitting on top of that since they're not very conducive to being boxed up (and I rarely have occasion to use wedding or baby shower gifts).

One of my favorite improvements is that I can actually walk into the closet now and stand right in front of these boxes. That makes selecting and putting things away so much easier. I'm no longer trying to reach the heavy box at the bottom of the stack.

If you could see what this space looked like before, you would not believe your eyes. And no, I will not be posting "before" pictures because you couldn't pay me enough money to show you just how bad it looked. I was embarrassed to show it to my own mother when she was here!

Now I'm sure I have your curiosity aroused. Let's just say that I could never get to the big box I put all the gifts in (it was on the bottom of an intimidating stack), so they were pretty much stacked in this space. And as the stacks got taller and taller, they started to fall over. And then it was really a mess because it blended in with the boxes of crafts, holiday decorations, home decor, and games that were in this same closet.

This is a huge improvement, and I feel great about it already!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008 0 comments

Revised Cousin Camp plans

In case you're following the saga of Cousin Camp, I thought I'd update you that plans have changed. We can't do it at my house this year. I have no way to get my brother's kids here. So I'm planning on that for next year.

That means that we're having it at my sister's farm, and that also means I had to majorly overhaul my plans. We even had to shorten it to a Tuesday through Friday event since we had to squeeze it in between our church's conference and camp.

So here are my detailed plans for the week (sorry it's a little hard to read - I haven't figured out yet how to tab on Blogger) ...

4:30 – Everyone arrives.
To Do:
□ Set up cup-decorating center with cups, paint pens and stencils.
□ Distribute t-shirts.
□ Get sleeping bags and spots set up.
□ Pose for group picture.
5:00 – Prepare supper:
hamburgers on the grill
French fries
6:30 – Backyard Treasure Hunt (Hide treasures right before the hunt when they’re all inside. My sister has prepared clues.)
8:30 – Snacktime:
homemade soft pretzels
9:00 – Get ready for bed.
□ Once kids are in bed, prepare 12 "hoagies" for tomorrow with hot dog buns, Miracle
Whip, lunchmeat, sliced cheese, shredded lettuce, salt and pepper. Wrap in waxed paper and tape shut.
□ Make Chocolate Yummies for tomorrow’s evening snack.
□ Make catapult for Colorful Catapult.

9:00 – Breakfast:
cold cereal
To Do:
□ Pack cooler with lunchmeat sandwiches, bottled water and bananas.
□ Brown 4 pounds burger (?), add sloppy joe sauce and place in slow cooker for supper.
□ Get out personality boxes, glue, old magazines, scissors for Personality Box craft in evening.
9:30 – Get dressed for the day (camp t-shirt, if they want).
10:00 –Montour Preserve
1:00 – Picnic lunch (at Montour Preserve):
hoagies (made w/hot dog buns), tortilla chips, bananas, bottled water
2:00 – Montour Preserve
5:00 – Supper:
sloppy joes (sloppy joe meat, hamburger buns), chips, soda
6:30 – Leave for church.
8:30 – Snacktime:
Chocolate Yummies
9:00 – Get ready for bed.
After the kids are in bed,
□ Cut money slots in can lids for Wishes Can Come True (decorated money banks from tin cans) craft.
□ Cut a cardboard paper towel tube for Roll Out the Marble activity.

9:00 – Breakfast:
waffles (frozen)
To Do:
□ Brown 2 pounds burger, add taco seasoning and place in slow cooker for supper.
10:00 – Get dressed for the day (camp t-shirt, if they want).
10:30 – Craft: Personality Boxes (decorate photo storage boxes with magazine cutouts that express their personality)
12:00 – Lunch:
hot dogs, macaroni and cheese
1:30 – Indoor Games:
The 15-Cent Write, Rip, Lace & Zip Championship
Colorful Catapult
Roll Out the Marble
5:00 – Supper:
taco salad (bagged tortilla chips, slow-cooked meat, shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, tomato, sour cream, taco sauce)
6:30 – Hide Treasure Stones in the backyard and let them find a certain number per person. Crack them open to reveal the contents (plastic Army-man-style policemen for the boys and pretty erasers for the girls).
Egg Relay Race – Separate players into two or more teams and divide a bunch of plastic Easter eggs equally between them. Have the teams line up with the first kid in each group holding her team’s eggs in her arms … At go, the egg holders must navigate a course (straight line or otherwise), then return to start and pass their eggs to the next player in line. If a runner drops any eggs along the way, she must stop and pick them up. The first team whose runners have all completed the course wins. (source: Family Fun)
9:00 – Snacktime:
homemade funnel cakes
9:30 – Get ready for bed.

9:00 – Breakfast:
pancakes (frozen)
10:00 – Get dressed for the day (camp t-shirt, if they want).
Assemble Obstacle Course while they get dressed!
10:30 – Cousin Camp Celebration (prizes when completing each activity)
Bowling with empty 2-liter bottles
Water balloon toss
Ring toss
Obstacle course ("medals" for everyone)
An adult needs to run to nearest 1-hour film place to develop photos for scrapbooks. (Plan on 6 pictures each.)
12:00 – Lunch:
grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup
1:30 – Crafts:
Wishes Can Come True – money banks from lidded cans (decorate construction paper labels, then attach labels with Xyron machine)
Assemble scrapbooks.
6:00 – Supper:
pizza (4), chips, soda
Monday, July 21, 2008 0 comments

Update on Cousin Camp t-shirts

Well ... there's good news and bad news.

First, the good news: I'm getting a replacement package of iron-on transfers in the mail.

The bad news: They're not replacing the t-shirts.

Oh well. I've decided to make the best of it and hand out the t-shirts as they are. After all, what good will it do me to throw them away? Most of them have either the front or the back mostly intact. And let's face it - several of them had stained their t-shirts the first day they wore them last year anyway.

I was going to buy new t-shirts and do them over. But my husband's logic won out: What if the next batch fails, too? Good point. And not only that, but Wal-Mart has either sold out of their supply of t-shirt transfers or they pulled them off the shelves after my call to the company this morning. (Hey, anything is possible! They asked me for the code on the packaging, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit.)

This is not the end of the world. And I'm not going to let it ruin Cousin Camp.
Saturday, July 19, 2008 1 comments

The best-laid plans ...

I am so disappointed right now, I could cry. Do you remember those Cousin Camp t-shirts I just made? Well, I had to replace my printer cartridge and get one more t-shirt (for my daughter) before I could finish the last three. I finally found the last t-shirt last night, spent the morning finishing the last three, and then washed them exactly like the instructions said to.

You know where this is going, don't you? When I pulled them out of the wash, every one of them except the one for my youngest nephew was completely ruined. The transfers are peeling off like they were stretched too far (which they weren't).

Cousin Camp starts next Tuesday, and I can't possibly replace the two long-sleeved white t-shirts for my own kids in that amount of time. I spent three weeks looking for them in the first place! Not only that, but this whole project costed me around $18.

Yes, I'm going to contact the company. They're out of the office for the weekend, but I e-mailed them and plan to call them first thing Monday morning. They guarantee a replacement if I'm not happy, and I'm going to see if that "replacement" extends to all those t-shirts their transfers just ruined, too. It might not, but I'm hoping it will.

At first I thought maybe it was from ironing images onto both the front and back, since it says not to iron "directly" onto the transfer once it has been completed. BUT the older packaging specifically states that you should put the transfer paper back over it if you would happen to need to iron it (which I did). Not only that, but both sides of the t-shirts are peeling - not just the one that would have been ironed over a second time.

I might be able to buy more t-shirts, transfer paper and do all the ironing again on Monday, provided they replace the money for the t-shirts, too. If that's the case, I think I'll have to go to "Plan B" with my kids' t-shirts and use short-sleeved shirts (which I don't prefer) ... Maybe I could layer the shirts or cut up an old one to extend the sleeves a bit.

I'm trying to be as charitable toward the company as possible, so I'm guessing I must have gotten a bad batch of transfers.
Thursday, July 17, 2008 2 comments

I'm exhausted!

Today was busy, busy, busy. While my husband manicured the lawn (all day), I watched two cranky kids and did the following:
  • ran to the store for sugar, flour and oil (How did that sneak up on me?!)
  • made 2 loaves homemade bread
  • made 2 batches homemade soft pretzels for Cousin Camp (to freeze)
  • made 4 homemade pizza crusts for Cousin Camp (to freeze)
  • made 2 batches of pancakes for Cousin Camp (to freeze)
  • made 1 batch chocolate chip cookies
  • made a casserole for supper
  • washed and hung out 2 loads of laundry (then folded them and put them away)
  • washed dishes five times by hand
  • cleaned several rooms of the house twice (so we wouldn't fall over toys and kill ourselves)
  • and entertained a lady from church.

No wonder my back and feet hurt! I'm ready for a few hours of grocery shopping by myself tomorrow. I wonder if my husband will mind keeping the kids for two hours so I can keep my sanity. :)

The funny thing about today is that I kept thinking about women on the prairie who used to do all that I did today, except they didn't have any modern conveniences. And most of it they did every single day. How did they do it??

Garden bounty: carrots

Yesterday I made reference to carrots from my garden. Well, here are the pictures! Check out what one seed packet (and one garden row) yielded:

I'll admit that I was totally and completely shocked. I was expecting maybe ten puny little carrots, certainly not this bounty! I'm chalking it up to beginner's luck because one of the most experienced gardeners from our church told me he didn't get one carrot out of all that he planted this year.

So, of course, I had some canning to do. I canned six pints before I ran out of jars.

A friend from church sent me a bunch of her mother's canning jars tonight, so I'm planning to finish canning the rest tomorrow. I think I have about four more pints to go.

I should mention that the carrot seeds were Burpee seeds - that were two years past their prime date! No, I didn't buy them out of date. I actually bought them two years ago when I did my first garden - and then decided not to do carrots that year. So I planted them this year. What did I have to lose? Obviously, nothing!

Day 6: Scrapbook page

Here's my layout for today, and I'm mighty proud of it. I've slaved over it for hours, mostly because I couldn't find any sketch with two full-sized vertical pictures and one full-sized horizontal picture. It's not that I'm that reliant on sketches. It's more that I was trying to find a pleasing arrangement for these particular pictures that would be interesting at the same time. You know, more than the "line them up like the sticky-back albums" page.

Just in case you can't tell, the patterned paper at the top is sheet music (but archival safe). I figured it was doubly appropriate considering this was a musical-themed birthday, as well as the fact that you always sing at a birthday party.

Did you notice how I tried to mimic the fingerboard and frets of the guitar to the left? (Hint: I drew it on the brown cardstock with my white gel pen.) I was pretty pleased with myself for thinking of that, since I always struggle with interesting, yet archival, embellishments for my pages.

Do you like the cake? Believe it or not, it was pretty easy. If you can make stars and straight lines with decorator tips, you can make this cake reasonably well. It's a Wilton shaped pan, which takes a lot of the work out of it. My son loved it!

Supplies: cardstock (The Paper Company, Making Memories); patterned paper (Creative Imaginations?); sticker letters (Creative Memories).
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 0 comments

Day 5: Scrapbook page

Okay, so this is actually the result of Days 5 and 6, but it would be too hard to keep track of that way. So we'll just continue like this. :)

I don't know why this layout was so hard for me to do, but it was. Maybe it's because I'm used to having a story behind the photos, and that helps me with the design and layout (and journaling). These photos were taken as photography practice, and they turned out so well that I had to include them in our albums.

I stepped out of my comfort zone a bit on this layout by using the flourish stamps I love but can never figure out how to use. (See them on the righthand page?) I hope they're not too girly. I love flourishes!
Supplies: cardstock (The Paper Company); patterned paper (Unknown striped, Miss Elizabeth swirled, Canson gold metallic); vellum sentiment (Creative Memories); flourish stamps (Studio G).

Oh, and I should mention that I lined the photo background with white paper so you could tell there is a dark blue mat around the entire layout. Since the patterned paper was a bit flimsy, I trimmed it slightly and mounted it onto dark blue cardstock to make a dark blue border around the whole layout.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 1 comments

I got my daughter's 2-1/2-year pictures done, too!

I took these at our local free zoo and play park (the same place as my son's) yesterday, so I thought I'd share them, too. This is one of my favorite play outfits of hers. I picked it up at Goodwill for $3. It's some of the best $3 I've ever spent ... That smile reminds me so much of my husband's sister's girl!

Of course, there were plenty of outtakes with this little livewire, but I thought this one was especially cute. It really showcases her personality.
Oh, did you notice the pink shoes with the red outfit? That's just her. She wouldn't wear anything else. Believe me, I tried! I guess it'll make something good to journal about when I do the scrapbook page! :)
Monday, July 14, 2008 5 comments

I finally took my son's 4-1/2-year pictures.

We took our family day at the local free zoo and play park today, and I finally got my chance to get those 2-month-overdue pictures.

I need a little help choosing, though. Would you choose the first, second or third one? I think they all mirror his personality quite well, so I'm finding it hard to choose.

Of course, he's 4-1/2, so I'm bound to get a few outtakes like this ...

Or this ...
Yep, he's a typical boy! :) But at least he posed for me!
Sunday, July 13, 2008 2 comments

Gardening: Summer is officially here!

One of the things I vividly remember about summer as a child is eating tomato sandwiches. My dad had a huge garden, and we ate fresh tomato sandwiches a lot, or at least it seemed like it.

That's not a bad thing, though, because I love a fresh tomato sandwich. When I was pregnant with my son and couldn't keep much of anything else down, I was able to eat tomato sandwiches (most days). Two slices of fresh bread, some Miracle Whip, a tomato slice (or two) and some salt, and I have instant summer memories.

So you can guess how thrilled I was to see this beautiful red tomato waiting for me in the garden this morning, with the promise of many more within the next week or so. I looked forward to that tomato sandwich all morning! To top it all off, I ate it with a fresh-from-the-oven roll. It doesn't get any better than that. :)
And would you believe that I, the person who knows next to nothing about growing roses, managed to pick a $3 rose bush that's actually blooming within 2 months of planting? I love roses, and this was a most welcome sight, too! I only tried one rose bush this year. If all goes well, I might add more than one next year.

Today I also canned two pints of banana pepper rings. I know, most people don't can only two pints at a time, but I wasn't going to let that one-pound of banana peppers rot in my refrigerator until I could get enough to make five or six pints.
Saturday, July 12, 2008 0 comments

Cousin Camp 2008: T-shirts

If you've read my blog mini-series about Cousin Camp, you might be interested to hear that it will be taking place in about a week and a half. So I might do a few posts leading up to it, and I'll definitely post pictures and reactions afterward.

Today I decided to share this year's t-shirts. I used Avery iron-on transfer paper to create and print these on the computer, then iron them onto the t-shirts. Last year I only did a small design on the front of the shirts. This year, I'm getting a little more adventurous and doing a larger design on both sides.

What do you think? It was my husband's idea to use the big "08" on the back with their names, like football jerseys. I liked the effect. (Did I ever mention what a genius he is?)

If you ever want to do iron-on transfers on both sides of a t-shirt, please be aware that you're not supposed to iron on top of a transfer once you've applied it. The way I got around it was to iron the design onto the front, let it cool, iron the design onto the back, let it cool and then peel the backing papers off. It worked great!

Day 4: Scrapbook page

Here's another scrapbook page! Yippee! I'm working on catching up in my son's album since I just got that new blue paper from Big Lots (I didn't use any on this layout, though). New paper always inspires me, whether I end up using it on a layout or not. :)

This layout is based on a sketch by Becky Fleck at Page Maps. I find her sketches very inspiring, and best of all, they're offered free at the linked site.

I put white paper behind the layout so you could get the effect of the dark blue border. I drew the dandelion puffs by hand (easy to do).

Supplies: cardstock and vellum (The Paper Company), patterned paper (Target Dollar Spot), letter stickers (Creative Memories), free computer font (Garamond).

I'm not sure if I'll get a 5th layout done for this week. We visited a parishioner tonight who lives an hour away, and I got my predictable migraine. (Why, oh why, don't I remember to carry the medicine with me at all times?) It's finally gone, a few hours later, but I always feel pretty lethargic after a migraine. I'm not sure if I'm up to another layout tonight. We'll see!
Thursday, July 10, 2008 1 comments

Day 3: Scrapbook page

I got another page done!! I did this one last night after everyone else was in bed. I'm not sure if I'm going to get one done tonight or not. It's been an exhausting day, and I don't feel creative at all. I just feel like "vegging out" tonight.

This is for my son's album:
The patterned paper is from Dollar Tree, cardstock and vellum from The Paper Company, and the vellum saying from Creative Memories. I journaled about him copying the crew that replaced the shingles on our church roof last year.

Isn't he a doll? I know, I know, he's mine; of course I'm going to think he's a doll. But really - doesn't he have gorgeous eyes? He got them from his daddy. :)

I did it!

Remember I mentioned I'd like to have a yard sale last Saturday and get rid of the baby clothes that are clogging my storage closet? After I thought it over for awhile, I knew it wasn't going to happen. Saturdays are one of the busiest days in the parsonage, and that's the only day people have yard sales around here.

So I didn't have the yard sale. But I determined that wasn't going to stop me from doing what I needed to do. I bagged up all of the clothes and donated them to various causes. Most went to our church's missionary society who will forward them to missions in New Mexico and Texas. I sent the boys' suits to a fellow minister whose boy is a few sizes younger than mine. And a few things went to Harvest Ministries, my favorite local thrift store.

I did list my Blue Jean Teddy nursery set on Craigslist simply because I have tons and tons of stuff. I couldn't see just getting rid of it without trying to sell it first, so that's the one thing that's still sitting here at my house ... But it's listed, so that counts for something!!

Would you believe I emptied eight bankers boxes? There were five 13-gallon trash bags full of clothing that went to our church, two to Harvest Ministries and one to the fellow minister's family.

My storage closet is now half-empty. It's a good feeling! Now I can better organize what's in there so that I can get to it when I need it. I used to have to pull out fifteen boxes to get to the one item I needed. Not anymore!

I thought I might get depressed when I got rid of the baby things, but it was actually a freeing feeling. I don't feel so pressured to hang onto every scrap of clothing just in case we have another baby.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008 4 comments

ArtsCow photo processing

I thought I'd share a quick opinion about ArtsCow photo processing.

As you might have heard, they are running a promotion to get 400 free prints when you sign up right now. It breaks down into 200 4x6s and 200 5x7s, redeemable in groups of 50 each per month (50 4x6s and 50 5x7s the first month, second month, third month and fourth month). You only pay shipping, which averages out to $0.10/print when you order 50 4x6s and 50 5x7s in the same order. (They are shipped from Hong Kong, which explains some of the awkward English on the website.)

For $0.10 a print, especially for 5x7s, I figured I'd give it a try. What did I have to lose? I like to have my portfolio prints done in 5x7s, and that's dirt cheap for a 5x7.

I read a review (sorry, I can't remember where now) that said it was decent processing but she wouldn't use it for anything but pictures to send to the grandparents. She specifically stated that she wouldn't use it for "good" pictures (like my portfolio prints). Implied in this review was that the processing was only average.

I have to disagree. Read on for my review ...

I ordered my prints on 6/30 and received them on 7/8. Taking into account the postal holiday on the 4th, I was surprised to get them so soon. After all, as I mentioned earlier, these are coming from Hong Kong, not simply from another state.

Then I was pleasantly surprised with the print quality.
  • They print on Fuji Crystal Archive paper, which is my personal preference. It's one of the best.
  • The color and lighting was fantastic on all but two of the pictures, which were a tad dark.
  • My portfolio pictures turned out as professional-looking as my favorite online processor, Clark. (And in case you didn't know how good a job they do, I have been extremely impressed with them, too. The same people that do Snapfish handle Clark's processing, but it's a lot less expensive. If you want a referral for some free prints, leave me a comment with your e-mail and I'd be happy to send you one.)

For $0.10 a print (for the free ones), I consider this a can't-miss deal, especially if you have a backlog of photos to be printed. At regular prices, I probably wouldn't develop my 4x6 prints with them, simply because I can get prints for $0.06-0.08 each once or twice a year from Clark (including shipping). However, the price of 5x7s ($0.12) and 8x10s ($0.49) is still a great deal, in my opinion, even adding in shipping prices.

If you haven't taken advantage of the offer yet but would like to, I'd appreciate it if you would sign up through this link since I would get credit for referring you. (That's not why I wrote the post, though. I want to pass along what I consider to be a great deal.)


Day 2: Scrapbook page

I got another page done last night! I'm going to see if I can get at least one page done each weekday for as long as possible. It would go a long way toward getting me caught up!

This layout is for my son's album. It's from June of last year, so you can see I'm quite behind. (My family album is even further behind!)

The "sketch" was inspired by a layout in Scrapbooks, Etc. magazine (May/June 2008, p.94). The layout in the magazine wasn't my style at all, but I did like the "sketch" of it.

The patterned paper is Making Memories (the new pack I just got at Big Lots), the cardstock is The Paper Company, and the vellum sentiment and stickers (squares and rectangle) are Creative Memories.

I chose the sentiment, "I get by with a little help from my friends" because I journaled about how this girl helped him learn to jump on the trampoline - something that would usually terrify him.

I'm sure you can't tell, but I didn't use a whole sheet of dark brown paper behind the decorative paper. I didn't have a 12x12" sheet of dark brown, and I didn't have a lot left of the 8.5x11", either. So I cut 1/2 x 11" strips from the smaller paper, then pieced and adhered them around the edges to create the same effect.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008 2 comments

Finally - a scrapbook page!

Last night I finally sat down with this picture and papers that I've had lying out on my scrapbook desk for months now (I'm not kidding!), and I came up with a layout that I really like.

I find it difficult to work with bordered paper, but this was too perfect to pass up. So I had to mull it over for awhile and come up with something I liked.
All paper is Making Memories. The vellum sentiment and stickers are Creative Memories. The computer font is CAC Shishoni Brush (a free font). I also used my Martha Stewart lace punch on the bottom of the photo mat. I liked the effect!

In the journaling, I talk about her looking like this the majority of days - tousled hair, binky, and impish smile. The CM sentiment was perfect - "Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments."

Hopefully this will be the first of many pages to come in the next few days. I have a lot of catching up to do, and I have another photo order coming soon!
Monday, July 7, 2008 0 comments

One more deal that I forgot!

How could I forget this one? I promised my mom I'd post pictures since some of it is for her. :)

We stopped by Big Lots since we were in the area (we don't get down that way a lot), and here's what I found:

2 bras for my mom - $7.00 each (marked at $20 and $14 regular price)
1 3-pack panties for my mom - $3.00
4 pkgs scrapbook paper (Making Memories brand - 25/pk) - $3.00 each

I was thrilled to find the underwear for my mom since she wears a hard-to-find size! And sorry if the blurring bothers you, but I didn't really want to post underwear box pictures on my site. I think we all know what they look like! ;)


Do my kids have a direct line to heaven?

You know, I don't mean that to be trite. I think I've said it before, but it seems like all my kids have to do is get their hearts set on a specific toy, and we find it at thrift stores in no time. My husband and I are convinced it's because we have given control of our finances to God and give sacrificially (i.e. above what we could usually afford) when prompted.

Whatever the reason, we're certain to tell the kids each time that God has provided this toy for them.

So, what was it this time? I'm sure you're familiar with the Fur Real animals. Somehow my son had seen one in the store and got his heart set on one. For $40 for the large one and $15 for the baby, I think they're way over-priced. So we told him we'd keep our eyes out at thrift stores. And since then, while I usually ignore the bins of stuffed animals, I've been rooting through the stuffed animals at thrift stores. Today we found not one, but two Fur Real cats - a kitten and a small cat. Do you want to know how much they were? $0.48 - for both of them. Yes, God is better to us than we deserve!

So here's what else we got at the thrift store (when we dropped off several bags of donations): Harvest Ministries (my favorite local one)

  • Osh Kosh jumper for my daughter - $0.50

  • Fur Real cat (furthest left) - $0.38

  • other animated cat (on the right - I forget the brand name, but it's similar) - $0.38

  • canning funnel - $0.38

  • Pfaltzgraff Tea Rose hand soap dispenser - $0.38 (My kitchen is decorated in Tea Rose.)

Salvation Army (my second favorite local thrift store)

  • 3 books - $0.05 each

  • Fur Real kitten - $0.10

  • Little Tykes police helmet - $0.30

  • bike helmet - $1.00

  • basket (to hold a gift) - $0.15

  • and this winter decoration that is as high as my chest:
It was $0.75.

It was a good day!
Saturday, July 5, 2008 2 comments

A sketch challenge card and the gift that goes with it

I haven't gotten to do anything creative in my craft room for weeks, at the very least. I was itching to use my new $1 acrylic sets from Michael's, so I took some time last night, used a sketch challenge (so half the work was already done) and made a card to go with a gift for my next set of week-long guests. The sketch challenge is Taylor VanBruggen's Cupcake Challenge #23. You can see the sketch by clicking on the link. (I wasn't sure if I was supposed to post it here or not.)

I had to change the sketch a little bit to suit my needs. First of all, I turned it on its side. And then I omitted the middle band since I didn't have any coordinating ribbon. All in all, I was very happy with how it turned out.
If you know me, you know I don't use fancy supplies. I'd love to, but I can't bring myself to pay the prices. So I just used decorative paper from Dollar Tree, my $1 Studio G acrylic stamps, dollar store gold glitter glue, watercolor pencils and regular colored pencils. It's not going into anyone's scrapbook, so I'm not worried about archival quality.

I debated whether I should put the gold glitter glue on the sand, and now I'm glad I did. It shimmers just like the sand on our beaches and gives it a textured look at the same time.

Now, for the gift that it goes with ... When I made the card, I obviously chose colors that would coordinate with this:

Target $1-spot Creme Brulee bath salts (I picked them up at Goodwill, still sealed, for $0.10 each), a beach-themed sign and matching spiral-bound journal from Michael's $1 section. In case you can't read it, the sign says, "Heaven is a little closer in a cottage by the sea." (The notebook is hidden behind the sign, but I faced it backwards so it could be seen when you turn the packaging around.)

And here it is, side by side. I didn't attach the card yet because I want to write a note to my guests on the back, and it's a little easier to only attach it once. :) I'll be punching a hole in the top lefthand corner of the card and threading it through the ribbon.
And in case you're wondering why I chose this theme, we live close to the ocean.

As American as apple pie!

Happy 4th of July! I hope somebody got to see fireworks today because all we got was thunder and lightning. Oh well! There's always the possibility we can make the rain date. :)

Fortunately, we were able to do everything else we had planned today. Admittedly, it wasn't much, but at least things went as planned.

Since we have no immediate or extended family nearby, and our parishioners were all with their families today, it was just us. In some ways it feels like a non-event when you're so used to big gatherings, but in other ways it can be refreshing if we look at it the right way.

We grilled Italian marinated chicken breast and hot dogs and ate our meal outside (in the shade) for the first time as a family. Usually the bugs are too bothersome or it's too boiling hot, but my husband was able to put the table in the shade of our shed and it was bearable. The kids have been asking for a "picnic" for a long time, and they really enjoyed it.

I made this Upside-Down Caramel Apple Pie from Pampered Chef's Stoneware Inspirations cookbook for dessert, which we ended up eating later in the day.

At first glance, it looks like any other apple pie. But the instructions say to invert it onto a serving plate, and then you can see how it's different - it has caramel and pecans on the bottom, which ends up being the top!

It's quite good, although I guess I was expecting more gooey caramel. It's more like a candy apple without a lot of caramel. You get the candy apple taste without pull-out-your-fillings stickiness.

It was hot here today! I hung out three loads of clothes, and most of them dried within a half hour. (This is the first time I've hung clothes in the three years we've been here, but I'm trying to save the church some money on the electric bill.)

When I inflated our kids' jumping "castle," I was so hot I couldn't keep my glasses on my face. Even my husband commented on how hot I looked. He didn't know the half of it - I was drenched from head to toe, and I hadn't even exerted any effort.

Thankfully, it cooled off near the end of the day and we were able to do some active things outside with the kids. I even got my half-hour walk in, although the last five minutes or so were spent walking in the rain. I wouldn't usually stay out in the rain, but it felt quite good after such a hot day. And besides, I needed my exercise!

Friday, July 4, 2008 1 comments

Migraines ...

I never got migraines until the last few years. Now it seems I get them every time I travel somewhere for more than an hour. (Yep, we went to camp meeting again tonight.) It's annoying and pretty inconvenient, but I've discovered that Excedrin Migraine coupled with a Pepsi (or Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper or other highly caffeinated soda) will usually take care of mine after awhile.

I find it odd that my sisters-in-law (and my own sister) have all mentioned they started getting migraines around 30 years old. A few of my sisters-in-law are post-menopausal and tell me that the migraines went away with menopause. Hmmm ... I wonder if there really is a connection.

Of course, it might be hereditary with my sister and me. My mother suffers with week-long migraines if she doesn't take her migraine prescription medicine, and she's 58. But I'm really, really hoping I'll "outgrow" it! :)

Two migraines in one week is not good. It makes me want to avoid our camp meeting, which is 1-1/2 hours drive away!
Thursday, July 3, 2008 3 comments

Inspiration from my reading

I picked up a copy of Messies 2 by Sandra Felton at a thrift shop for $0.25 the other day. I'm trying to tackle some books in my "new-to-me books" pile. This happened to be the one that caught my eye yesterday.

Are you familiar with the Messies books? I have one or two of them and will collect the rest as I find them at secondhand shops. A fellow pastor's wife encouraged me to keep resource books like these on hand for the occasional new convert who has never been taught how to keep home. But I've discovered they're also good for those of us who run across an occasional bump in the road to organizing our houses.

I'll have to admit that I have one or two "Messie" tendencies that I am forever battling against. The biggest one is that I'm a sentimental packrat.

My kids are two and four, and I have every outfit they ever wore (complete with shoes), unless they somehow stained it or ripped it. They have only just started staining and ripping, so you can well imagine I have lots and lots of baby clothes to store.

You know, baby clothes for that third baby that we probably won't ever have ... The third baby that, if it ever comes along, will be so far into the future that all these adorable clothes will be completely out of style ... These adorable clothes that are taking up all my precious storage space in a house with no basement and no attic.

And did I mention that most of these clothes were either given to us or purchased for less than $1 each at yard sales or thrift stores?

So why do I have such a hard time agreeing to get rid of them? It's because I'm a sentimental packrat, that's why! :)

One of the things I read that helped me a lot went something like this ... Why hang onto things you don't use that simply give you stress [because you can't store things that you will use]? Are you willing to get rid of something that you just might need within the next 10 years?

Okay, so that's not word for word. But I'm pretty good at getting the gist of things, and that's exactly how it spoke to me.

My husband has been trying to convince me to let go of these clothes for over a year now, and I just haven't been able to bring myself to do it.

"Do you know how hard it is to find little boys' suits?" I ask him. "And what about modest dresses for little girls?"

Of course he does! So how about we share the wealth with someone else before they're so badly out of style that no one will wear them?

So I'm tentatively thinking about a yard sale for Saturday to sell those beautiful clothes my kids have outgrown ... and possibly some other baby accessories I've been hanging onto for too long. One thing I'm not budging on, though: I'm keeping their "coming home from the hospital" outfits.

Oh, and if that third baby ever does happen to come along (don't hold your breath), I'll have an excuse to shop for more adorable baby clothes at the thrift stores.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008 0 comments

Link Roundup!

It's been ages since I did a round-up of some (mostly blog) links that have caught my eye since the last round-up. So I figured I better post them so I can share the wealth of information I've discovered! :)

Here they are ...

First of all, a few birthday-related ideas from Lauren, one of my favorite "creative" bloggers:

  • Here is a sleepover survival kit that is absolutely the cutest! Where does this lady get her talent??
  • Check out this ice cream cone party invitation! Obviously, this would only work for hand-delivered invitations (unless I’m missing something), but it’s super-cute!
  • Scroll down here for the "wrap" that goes around a travel mug – what a cute gift idea!
And then a few ideas from Megan for those of us with kids:

  • I love this felt board idea, and I think I’ll end up making one for each of my kids. I always loved to play with felt boards when I was younger!
  • Am I the last person in the world to figure out what these tubtime foamies are made of? I just got some craft foam in a big package of kids’ craft supplies at Goodwill for $0.50!
And lastly, two miscellaneous creative links:

  • Here is a tutorial for those adorable stamped onesies I linked to a few weeks back. This is even easier than I thought!
  • Here is a new-to-me blog with some of the most gorgeous cards! I couldn’t pick just one as a favorite to link to, so I’ll just send you over to see what I mean. I think I’ll be checking in with her blog regularly!