Last week we hung out with our friends again.  This time Eliot brought his girlfriend, who was out from California for Eliot's ball.  To give our new guest a warm welcome, I made a stout stew and bread bowls, which turned out more like baby bread loaves.  To wish the boys a happy birthday, I made them a cake.  It was chocolate with raspberry filling and chocolate buttercream icing.  

Earlier this week, we got snow.  Clayton woke me up early in the morning, as he was getting ready for work, just to show me.  We woke Merlin up and brought him outside to see the snow, too.  He didn't seem to know what to make of it.  Later I let Merlin out into the backyard, where he frolicked on the hard ground, occasionally pausing to sniff and lick the snow.

In other news, Clayton and I really began digging into our spare room.  Since we moved in, it has served as a storage space.  We don't have so much more junk than most people, we just have hardly any closets and no garage this time around.  I'll post pictures when we get the spare room done, but for now, here are pictures of how that train wreck of a room looked before we got started.
Here it is!  This is the menu I'll be putting on the table for Easter.  I designed these as quarter-page fliers in Microsoft Publisher, on two pages, and printed double sided.  The bunny and lamb graphics are from The Graphics Fairy, and I simply tinted them a soft gray and layered them behind the font.  If you like this menu and would like to use the template yourself, you can download it from the link underneath the pictures.  Bear in mind, you'll need MS Publisher to open or edit the file.
File Size: 708 kb
File Type: pub
Download File

Now that we've got the living room more or less arranged the way we want it, I've started adding a few seasonal touches.  As some of you may remember, our wedding took place on the same day as St. John's church bazaar last year.  What this means is that I already have a couple small fall decorations, since we received some as wedding gifts.  Since the living room is such a big space, though, I decided another craft was in order to bring some more fall enchantments to the house.  So I made a colorful leaf garland out of felt and yarn.  
Clayton and I are fortunate to have nice, big families that love us, and whom we love.  As any of you who are in a similar situation can attest, an interesting byproduct of having loved ones is a plethora of "wallet sized" pictures.  We, like most people, put these on our fridge, the better to proudly show off the gorgeous people to whom we can claim a relationship.  As you can see in the "Before" picture above, though, keeping the pictures on the fridge is a surprisingly difficult task!  If you use a magnet that's too small or too weak, the pictures fall off the fridge and get trampled or dirty.  If you use a magnet strong or big enough to keep the picture up, large chunks of the picture are covered or obscured.  

Finally, I got tired of struggling with the pictures every day.  So I bought a frame and some tiny clothes pins and found a new way to display those little wallet pictures.  This project was so easy, and I think the pictures look way better like this, and I know they'll stay nicer a lot longer there than on our freezer door.  Of course, another added benefit was a less cluttered fridge space.  When I do this project again, I'll post step-by-step pictures and instructions, and turn it into a tutorial.  In the meanwhile, what do you think of my first attempt?  Do you think you might try something like this?

This past COMIC BOOK DAY! I stopped in at a fabric store we always drive by.  I sure am glad that I did, too!  They had everything, including indoor/outdoor fabric, upholstery fabric, seasonal prints (even those currently out of season), fringe and other trim, floor rugs, and so many other things that made my little crafter eyes nearly pop out of my face.  I took pictures of some of my favorites, and I was hoping we could just deal with how cool this set is for a moment.
These charming bolts were in a bin labeled "Super Hero Prints."  I want these in my bedroom really, really bad!  No, I don't know in what form, and no, I do not own a sewing machine.  Honestly, I'm not really into sewing enough to warrant getting my own machine, but I am wondering if there are any quilt shops around here with machines I could borrow (in store, of course) for an hour or two.  What do you think?  Do you think these are super cool (like I do), or do you distinctly remember seeing a picture of your dad/husband/brother wearing these prints in the form of pajamas 40 years ago?
OK, I get it.  My readers are not big on leaving comments, especially when I ask for them.  That's fine, because they are very loyal anyway, even when I get pushy.  Thanks for coming back and reading, all the same.  Today I have something fun for you, and I'll even post pictures!  

As you know, I love using Pinterest!  I've tried some recipes from it, and it's a great place to get craft or decorating ideas.  It was on Pinterest that I found these instructions for making your own chalkboard paint- in any color you want.  It's easy- all you need is unsanded grout and acrylic paint in your color of choice.  For the cost of the ingredients, it's a LOT cheaper than the jars or cans of pre-made chalkboard paint, and of course, you don't have to settle for one of the colors or shades on the shelf.  I chose a pretty, bright green paint (I knew my chalkboard was going in my kitchen, where I use a lot of red and green) for my chalkboard, and I recycled one of the many metal trays that were used as centerpieces at our wedding (which you can get at the Dollar Tree in a range of sizes and shapes). 
The surface on my board is a little rough, probably because of the brush I used.  If you do this project, I recommend using one of those spongy brushes, such as the one pictured in the original tutorial link above.  Sorry about the quality of the pictures, the lighting was not very good in the house that day (much like today).  Someday I'll sit down and learn about aperture, exposure and other photography vocabulary words that elude me right now. 

P.S.  Bonus points if you know the name of the shade of blue I'm using as my new font color!
In a grand attempt to organize our lives and house, I have started working on a family binder.  Using Microsoft Publisher (my favorite design tool), I made several sections and even some forms.  Several of the checklists and forms came from other websites, which I found on Tip Junkie.  The photo checklists for various holidays and seasons are from Simple As That, an awesome design/photography/scrapbooking/family blog.  If you like the photo checklists, please go to Simple As That and follow her blog.  The birthstone birds chart is from Trillistrations, another charming design site.  All of the other forms and lists I made myself.  So here it is!  Click on the picture below to download the binder sections and the forms I mentioned above.
The sections in this binder are:
  • Title Page- To be used as a cover page or insert
  • Emergency Info- Includes a blank page for family emergency plans (which everyone from the CDC to FEMA, and the Red Cross to Sesame Street insist all families need to have), as well as two pages for important phone numbers.
  • Sitting Instructions- In this section, insert any written instructions for house sitters, pet sitters, and baby sitters.  This way, you won't have to wrack your brain every time you brief the fill-in-the-blank sitter.
  • Maintenance- You can put your favorite cleaning checklists in this section, as well as your appliance manuals, car maintenance records, and anything else maintenance related.  
  • Annual Goals- This is a place for lists of any goals for your family or home.  I plan on keeping the lists of goals from one year to the next, to see what we've accomplished.
  • Important Dates & Holidays-  I've included a lot of goodies here!   Trillistrations' birthstone-coded list and Simple As That's photo-op checklists (of which I cannot get enough).
  • Wish Lists-  I've included some wish list forms.  One for the house (tools, curtains, matching plates, etc.) and one for individual family members, which you can print multiple times to match the size of your family.
  • Menus- For your favorite meals, so that making regular menus might be a little easier.  The menu pages are from Ollibird.
  • Restaurants-  I plan on using a combination of pockets and business card pages to hold the menus and numbers of our favorite restaurants.
So that's it!  I have no idea if this will be effective in keeping me organized long term, but I'm hoping it'll help.  Feel free to give it a try and let me know what you think.  I haven't tried embedding documents on here yet, so let me know if it doesn't work.  It was big enough that I had to go through a third party document hosting service.  Once again, please let me know if it's hard to use or generally obnoxious to you, and I'll try to find some other way to do this.
P.S.  I'm showing this off at Tip Junkie's Tip Me Tuesday.   Click the button to the right to see what other people are sharing.
Tip Junkie handmade projects
Here it is!  As promised, I have a new project to share with you all!  I, Brianna, have made NAPKINS!  Just in time, too, since we're finally on the last pack of left over dinner and beverage napkins from our wedding last October.  All in all, I'm quite proud of myself, since I don't know where the nearest fabric store is, and the only sewing machine I have is the size of a large stapler, and only has one stitch.  Luckily, I didn't need a fabric store or a sewing machine.  
Several times now, I've read blog posts and articles extolling the virtues of flour sack cloth.  Apparently, it's a real workhorse in the kitchen, is easy to sew into other things, and washes well.  People also enjoy its simultaneously classy and rustic texture.  So when I found this flour sack towel at the Dollar Tree(!), I decided to give it a try.  I'm not sure why I was surprised at how big it was.  After all, the measurements (28"x29") are right on the tag!  Anyway, I thought it would be big enough to make into some napkins.  Four napkins, to be more specific, putting the cost at about 25¢ a napkin.

Once cut into quarters, I finished the two rough edges.  To do this, I folded over the edges, ironed and pinned them into place, and then did a simple straight stitch.

Here's the finished project, tucked inside one of my napkin rings.  I'm going to send them through the wash, to make sure they'll hold up through more than one use.  We still haven't decided if we should do anything more with them, though.  I'd like to iron some charming graphic onto one corner of each napkin.  Clayton thinks we should dye them some color other than white, so stains won't be as obvious.  I reminded him that the beauty of white napkins is in the ability to bleach them.  However, if we plan on bleaching them, I guess I shouldn't iron anything onto them.  Thoughts?  Comments are always welcome!

At last!  I have done a project I found on Pinterest!  Clayton was very encouraging, and even helped me by doing the paint.  If you go here, you'll see what inspired my project.  The blogger used a frame and some lace to make a very nice-looking jewelry holder.  I already have a holder for my earrings, so I loaded this up with my necklaces.  As for the frame, I already had one from a mirror I found at Volunteers of America ages ago.  Unfortunately, when my lovely husband insisted on using Command Strips to hang absolutely everything in our house, the mirror was a little too heavy, fell, and broke.  The frame, though, was salvageable.  

To make this, we:
  • Removed the broken glass
  • Painted the back board black
  • Wrapped pieces of ribbon around it.  
  • Put the board back in the frame, and hung it in our room. 

Check out the pictures below to see how it turned out!  (And as always, comments are welcome!)