Saturday, January 28, 2012
I began by wrapping the wreath with inexpensive boas that were on "cardboard paddles" from Michael's. I just started out by tying the boas onto the wreath and wrapping them all the way around it. Then I filled in the blank spaces with two fluffier, prettier boas. Just wrap and wrap and wrap!
In addition, I added red wire with hearts attached after the boas were wrapped. (These are a little hard to see from this picture, but it adds some shine and sparkle!) To complete the project, I added a bow to the top! Easy, fast project that took about 10-15 minutes and the total cost was less than $20.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Yesterday, I got inspired. I have been slowly re-decorating one of my guest rooms. We painted it chocolate brown last year. I added white bedding to the twin beds and then painted an old chest white to serve as a nightstand between the two beds. A friend painted a brown and white zebra pattern onto some old cornice boards for me. Yes....she painted right on the fabric! So my room is slowly coming together.
I got out my little frames and decided to make a "guest room" door hanger. I had some lime green scrapbook paper and some adhesive letters that look like old typewriter keys.
I cut the paper to fit the frame and laid out the words Guest Room....
Then, I re-framed it all in the little frame!
I have moved it all around the room (as I tend to do with everything). It looks cute on the closet door, the door of the little chest (you can see it on the chest in the picture above) and on the door entering the guest room, where I think it will live.
Now I am thinking of other ways to utilize these frames! Of course, putting pictures in them would be great. For Christmas, I think red paper with "Joy" or "Be Merry" could be cute. A little (or big) girl would love a monogram door hanger in the colors of her room. For a party, you can add "Come On In" and hang on front door. The combinations are endless. I think this is pretty cute for a $5 item! The whole project took ten minutes and would be an easy craft project for a young child as well.
I would love to hear other ideas you might have for this same craft idea! Happy Hump Day!
Monday, January 16, 2012
I buy ALL of my cleaning supplies at the dollar store. Let’s face it… all cleaners are made from some version of ammonia, soap and water with a scent. Why pay $4.99 a bottle for a cleaning product when you can get it for a buck? I also get shampoo and liquid hand soap there as well as many other household items like batteries or aluminum foil. It is so satisfying to walk out with BAGS of items for $20.
One of my favorite dollar store buys is candy. I stock up on “movie theater” size boxes to take to the movies when we go. They carry all your favorites like Junior Mints, Starbursts, Raisinets and Twizzlers. I like to give these large boxes of candy along with a gift card or cash for children’s gifts. It is always a hit at any age! Wrap a ten-dollar bill (or whatever denomination you choose) around a box or two of candy with a pretty ribbon. For younger kids, a$10 bill wrapped around a tootsie roll bank is a favorite…so cute! Much more original and thoughtful than a card with money! And who doesn't like candy?
The stores in my area even carry popcorn boxes and bowls that are cute. You can fill one with movie candy, microwave popcorn and a movie store gift card or a DVD for a gift “bundle.” I have even given my mailman a candy “stack” for Christmas and he loved it - and I spent $5! But I digress with my candy fascination…
An easy dollar store decorating idea is to buy "fillers" for glass containers there. At the holidays, you can purchase specialty items that can be jazzed up. For example, I have a large open glass container that always sits in the middle of my dining room table. I like to buy 10-inch candles in glass cylinder containers from the dollar store and use them in the center of my larger glass container with different fillers. The wax stays in the glass candle container and doesn’t melt all over your filler. I like to change up the filler with the season. For Valentine’s Day, try old-fashioned ”message candy hearts.” Other fillers you can find include moss for spring, jelly beans for Easter and small pine cones look pretty for fall and winter. The possibilities are endless!
The dollar store glass candles are also versatile on their own. I used them on my mantle this year at Christmas with greenery from my yard. I have placed them down the length of my sidewalk for a night-time party. They look pretty tied with raffia and running the length of a table. Pretty, simple and inexpensive. $10 worth of candles can transform your home for a party.
As you can tell, I am obsessed with figuring out creative ways to use dollar store treasures. Some of my other favorite finds include: cookie sheets of all sizes, aluminum casserole "dishes" with lids to freeze casseroles (or to use for when taking a dish to a sick friend), brown paper lunch bags, plastic cups that can be personalized with a paint pen for a party, unbreakable Christmas ornaments, gift bags and tissue paper.
Share your favorite finds with me! Happy hunting!
P.S. Great new website find for glass apothecary jars and other goodies:
Friday, January 13, 2012
Keep the staples for this recipe in your pantry and you literally open cans and packages - pour ingredients into your large soup pot and simmer. Easy, easy, easy! Bonus: Leave out the beef for a veggie-only version.
One large can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz or 32 oz OK)
One large can of tomato puree (28 oz or 32 oz OK)
Two (15-16 oz) cans of red kidney beans (drain and rinse)
One 10 oz. can of Ro-Tel (diced tomatoes and green chiles) - add entire can, liquid and all
One 8-10 oz. can of corn (drain liquid)
One packet of taco seasoning
One packet of Hidden Valley dry ranch dressing mix
Optional: One pound of cooked and drained ground beef or ground turkey - whatever your family likes
Combine all ingredients into large soup pot and simmer on low-to-medium heat for 30-40 minutes. Stir and adjust temp to make sure you don't burn ingredients on bottom of pot. This is a great make-ahead soup and is even better on days 2 and 3.
Tip: I buy store-brand canned goods except for the Ro-tel and the Hidden Valley ranch mix.
Once you are ready to serve, garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream, crushed taco chips and anything else your heart desires!
Makes about 8 generous portions.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Now that I am not working full-time OUTSIDE of the house, I have worked harder than ever to save money and stay on budget. When I worked, I did some of the same things I do now, but I have kicked things up a notch. On Wednesdays (Hump Day), I hope to share some tips on things that have helped me simplify my life, stay organized and on budget. I’d love to hear from you about your successes.
I highly recommend shopping online for groceries. Some people look at me like I have three heads when I tell them I do this. I have shopped online for YEARS for groceries. It all started when I worked like a maniac and did not have the energy to go to the store after work, nor did I want to spend my weekends trudging to the grocery store. When my grocery store (Lowe’s Foods) started their online service, I had a young son who usually went to the store with me and it was a pain! My son always wanted things he didn’t need and I was more likely to impulse buy as well. Plus, online shopping is available 24 hours a day, so I could do it when it was convenient for me. I could even order from work in a pinch. So I decided to give this new service a shot.
Believe it or not, the fee to shop online is minimal…about $5. I would spend the $5 fee or more if I walked into the store because of impulse buying! To get started, I sat down and spent an afternoon setting up a master list (via the grocery store’s website) of the things we buy most often. From there, I added things as I went along each week. It took a few tries to get things right, but it is second nature to get groceries this way now. It takes about ten minutes to place an order and the best part…I drive to the store, push a buzzer and they roll the groceries out to my car and load them! Rain or shine! And then I just drive away!
I usually submit my order on Tuesdays when the store is fully stocked from the weekend so they are more likely to have all of my items. If you forget something, you can call them and they will add it. IT IS SO EASY! I even use the service when I go to the beach and use the delivery option my store offers so I can walk into my beach vacation house and unpack (or have a cocktail) while I wait for our groceries to arrive!
I keep a list all week of the things we need on my kitchen island and have taught my guys to add to it. I menu plan (more on this topic later) before I start the order and take my laptop into the kitchen when I am ready to work on it. (This way I can look through the fridge and the pantry to make sure I am not duplicating something or to see if I am out of something.)
Another benefit of ordering online is that you can see your total cost in your virtual cart. I know my budget number and will literally remove things I think we can do without from the cart until I hit the magic number. I do not go over budget. The store calls me if they are out of something, they see if I want a substitution and they confirm when the order is ready.
For the coupon clipping folks, I think you could "rock the savings" even more. Just another opportunity to visually check what you are purchasing with your coupons. I have not taken up this cause because I am a "paper hater."
Give online grocery shopping a try. It is really worth the effort! I'd love to hear from you if you have questions about the process or if you already do this and have additional tips to share!
Preview of next week's Hump Day Tip: Weekly Dinner Menu Planning
Monday, January 9, 2012
My childhood girlfriends and I go on at least one trip together each year. I have known most of these women since middle school. These are my "lifetime" friends. Each one is a treasure and offers their own personality to the group. For me, lifetime friends are the ones who have known you before you acquired all of your titles...mom, wife, co-worker, etc. These women know DANA. They can call me out on things and understand where I am coming from in an instant. These are also the friends I can pick off where I left off with immediately upon seeing them (some live in my town but we don't get together as often as people would think and some live farther away so mileage prohibits frequent visits).
I write about this topic because I think it is important to figure out "what juices you." For me, seeing these "lifer" friends who understand and know me makes me feel understood and validated. I can talk about my problems and trust they will give their honest opinions and know they care about me. We just have fun together too and can give each other a word or a look that can transport us back to 1983 in a second.
I do have great friends outside of this group and I have made it my mission to reach out to other neat women I have known and enjoyed being around this past year. It was the best resolution I made in 2011. I have re-connected with a college friend for lunch and a woman I knew from my work life who has kids similar in age to mine and has "freedom." I have had lunch and dinner with my son's former babysitter who is back in town earning another college degree. I have invited ladies in my neighborhood to a holiday wine and cheese with my other great "neighborhood" girlfriends. I walk with a great girlfriend almost daily and I am going to my first book club meeting this week!
Now that I am "at home," I find that having plans on the horizon keep me moving forward and give me something to look ahead to. Surrounding people who feed your soul is so important. Being happy with yourself is too....more on that to come!
Friday, January 6, 2012
I LOVED my career....but didn't like the prospects of where the business was going. Fortunately, I was completely supported by my husband in leaving my job. While he had started a new business and it was doing well....my up and leaving work was a big risk and family income sacrifice. So....back in January 2009 when I wrote my first entry, I was contemplating my entire life....stressing about my job and trying to find direction.
Every time I came home frustrated through spring and summer of 2010, my husband's response was "quit." I didn't really believe him, and in the fall, I said "I may really do it one day, so are you serious?" And he was. I think he was sick of watching me come home SICK and fed up with my work life and the negative energy was spilling over into everything. I talked with one of my childhood girlfriends about the situation and her advice was "leap and the net will appear." I really thought about those words and decided to jump! It is the best advice I have ever received.
So...I left my job in November 2010. Since I was headed in to the holiday crunch, I was preoccupied for two months with all of the hoopla. My divorced parents also both had health issues and had I not left my job, I would not have been able to assist them as much as I did in the winter and spring of 2011. In the last year, I have found ways to fill my days that fulfill me and work for my family. (More on that to come!)
My "working" friends always ask me....what do you do all day? Obviously, I had the same view of others myself since I was "superwoman and the supreme juggler of work and home and family" for 20 years. I never knew how much stress I carried around until I left work. My son is 18, so I am not potty training a toddler, or driving carpool, but I feel like he needs me around more than ever and I am grateful I have had quality time to spend with him before he leaves the nest for his own life.
SO...somewhere in the midst of it all....I realized I needed to start thinking about ME and where this new life was leading. I wanted to find DANA again (as referenced in my first entry). I am not just someone's wife, someone's mother or worker. I now understand what makes me happy and fulfilled. What I discovered is that my passion is being creative. It always has been. Creativity can take shape in many forms. I hope to share some of the things that inspire me, a woman in Chapter Two of Life....which I now think is the best part of the whole book!