Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Day Success!

Have you ever been so excited and happy you get little hiccups in your stomach?  That's the kind of excitement I had last night at the end of my productive snow day.  Yesterday morning, I felt really motivated to get some things done today.  To feel like I had a plan, I made a list  yesterday morning.

Remember this ruckus?

Well...I started doing a few things around the apartment, then decided to try to take a chunk out of the monster that was cleaning out that closet.  With my personality, it is nearly impossible to start something without finishing it.  I started by sorting a bunch of papers and filing them in my filing cabinet.  Before I knew it, everything that was in that closet was out, and my living/dining room were a wreck.  Since I had the opportunity, and had already started, I decided to just go with it!  I knew I would need some better storage options.  The closet is very deep, so it would be nice to have some shelves to take advantage of all that room.  So, I changed out of my snow day PJs, showered, and headed to Target.  They had three-tier shelving units on sale for just $15, so I grabbed one of those and stocked up on stacking storage bins as well.  After browsing at a bookstore and Marshalls, then stopping to get a few groceries, I came home around 6:30.  I was starving, but couldn't contain my excitement.  I opened the box and...

Great, another assembly project.  At this point, I took a break to cook dinner and eat, putting together the shelves at the same time.  It really wasn't hard at all...just snapping together some pieces.  Then came the tricky part.  Figuring out how to organize.  I'm sure it will be a continual process as I live with it, but for now I think I have things pretty well under control.  Here's my closet after:

YAHOO!  It's so clean and pretty.  As I was bringing in my green and blue boxes, I realized I probably subconsciously was trying to channel some Crate and Barrel.  They have an online sale right now on closet storage, but I KNOW I was able to do mine for cheaper than if I bought from them.  Anyway, here's the breakdown of how things are stored: 

I have had that blue box since Freshman year of college, and it is now my "gift-wrapping box".  It holds all my gift bags, tags, boxes, tissue paper, and ribbons.  I bought that oval trash bin for $2 at Target to stick my rolls of wrapping paper in.  On the left, I have a metal two-tier tray table that I actually got at Goodwill a few years back.  it wobbles a little bit, but perfectly holds bubble wrap and shipping stuff on the bottom shelf and fabric scraps on the top.  My sewing basket fits right underneath it, too!

Check this out!  As I walked through the dollar spot at Target, grabbing a Valentine's Tee for my pup (yep, I'm one of those people), I found these little cuties.  Each magazine file is cardboard, so they won't last forever, but they were each a dollar.  So, I snatched the last six they had, which amazingly fit perfectly across the top shelf to hold my magazines.  Before, my mags were stacked one on top of the other on my top shelf in my coat closet.  Now, they're easy to grab for reference.  The second shelf holds my camera accessories, cards and stationary, crafting supplies, and two matching pencil cups to hold more crafting necessities.  The bottom shelf holds more crafting stuff and my toolbox bin (which, miraculously matched my new boxes).  

These were already hanging in my messy closet, but I wanted to show ya'll for some ideas.  I got these sticker whiteboards for Christmas.  It's great to have somewhere to keep track of projects I want to complete and things I'd like to purchase.  It's a good motivator!  Also, the calendar to the left is a fun project I did over the summer.  I bought the template and used scrapbooking supplies to decorate and embellish each month.  It's an infinite calendar to remind me of holidays and birthdays.  I'm sure you could easily make your own!

 Finally, I was able to put up all my awards and plaques from being an RA in college.  They were just sitting in a box, so getting them on the wall frees up more room and gives me a reminder of those days when I open my closet!

So here is all that's left from my messy closet.  Some things I need to bring to school in that white trash can, empty baskets and bins, and a table of decorations I either need to put up, stash, or trash.  

It feels SOOO good to get that done!  I've probably opened the door and admired it at least half a dozen times since I finished.  I just love how everything is accessible, looks nice, and there is room for my exercise ball to sit on the floor without knocking things over!  

What organization projects have you done that have given you a major sense of accomplishment?  Do you have something in mind that you want to get organized?  I encourage you to do it!  It sure feels GOOOOOD!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow Day To-Do List

Down here in Tennessee, we are having our 7th snow day of the year!  I really didn't think it would happen when I looked out the window this morning and the sidewalk was just wet, with a couple inches of snow on the grass.  But here I am, sitting in my PJs, drinking coffee on my couch!  On our previous snow days, this is pretty much what I did.  But, getting up and looking around my apartment this morning, having the opportunity to do whatever I want today, I've decided to make a list of things I need to get done and try to conquer most of them (maybe all?) today.  If anything, it's getting me organized so I have a list to go to when I have some free time at home.

1.  Clean out my "junk closet".  I have this awesome deep closet that is great for storage, but have been so busy with holidays, school, and visitors since I moved in that it has become a "toss whatever I don't know what to do with yet" closet.  Eventually, I want it to be neatly organized with shelves and baskets to hold craft, scrapbooking and gift wrapping stuff.  I'm sure it will be a long process.

2.  Watch Serendipity, my favorite all-time movie.  I've been wanting to watch it for a long time, but keep forgetting to.  I also need to catch up on facebook messages and have a bunch saved on my DVR.  

3.  Cuddle and play with this precious girl.  She usually lays in her kennel all day with a couple of toys while I'm at work.  So I try to give her extra love and fun on the days I get off with her.  

4.  Get together my grocery list and gather coupons.  It's time to stock up again, and I'm really trying to get into couponing again.  You save UNBELIEVABLE amounts of money if you just try. 

5.  Go through these boxes of pictures to get frame replacements.  I have some picture frames with pictures still from high school, others with pictures of picture frame people that came with the frame!  Time to update!

6.  On the same lines as the couponing, I'm ready to get back to everything I learned in FPU.  Time to make a February budget and get my envelopes ready for payday.  I have a lot of expenses coming up this year, so I need to be ready for them!

 7.  Start posting things on Ebay.  This stuff is just taking up room.  Time to pass it on to someone who could use it!

Well...I think it's ambitious to think I can get it all done today, but I'm hoping to at least make a dent.  What do you usually do on your snow days?  Are you productive or do you prefer to lay on the couch and watch movies?  Hope everyone has a great day, whatever you're doing!  Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Felt Heart Wreath

So back in December, I moved into my new apartment and had my first party.  I'm hoping it will become an annual crafting event that gets bigger every year!  This year, we traded our favorite holiday recipes then snacked on them while we each made our own holiday wreath.  I got my idea from Food Network Magazine, and ended up making this Andes Mint Wreath:

So, now that the holidays are over and it's time to take down the winter wreath, I felt like my door needed SOMETHING to fill its place.  I've become blog obsessed, so I began looking around at different blogs for ideas of Valentines wreaths to make.  I came across a felt heart wreath from The Idea Room and fell in love.  So simple, cheap, and cute.  Want to make your own?  EASY!

You will need:
  • 1 foam heart wreath form (found easily in the wreath making aisle at your local craft store.  I got mine at JoAnn's for $3.99...and used my teacher discount card which gets you 15% off your entire purchase every time.)
  • 1 yard of felt off the bolt 
  • Straight pins
  • Scissors
  • Round template for tracing circles
  • Ball-point pen
  • A little bit of Ribbon
All of those supplies (I bought on my way to craft day at a friend's house) cost me about $18.  However, I bought scissors and ribbon I had at home, but not with me.  If you are just buying the wreath form, pins and fabric it would probably only cost you about $10.  Here's the steps:

Trace circles on your felt.  I just traced circles on the entire yard.  Some tutorials will tell you to use a 3" template to trace circles.  I just used the ribbon spool.  A ball-point pen works best for this because you can see it easily when cutting out the circles, but it's not so dark that you'll see any traced lines after you cut them out.  

When you finish tracing, cut out so you have a BUNCH of felt circles like this.  No, I didn't count how many it made.

Fold a circle in half...

...then in half again.

Use a straight pin, and push through the corner fold.

Then, stick into the foam wreath form.  
 After a few attempts, I found out that you need to spread the pins out far enough where they don't push each other out.  I had some falling out because they were too crowded together.  I also didn't like the look of it because it was too smooshed together and just looked like rows of felt.  You might like that, but I wanted a more spontaneous fold look.  You just need to make sure they are close enough together so you can't see the foam in between the pieces and the pin tips are colored.  When you finally put in all your felt circles, you'll need to attach a hanger on the back.  I used ribbon and pins for mine.

I got this Valentine's ribbon when I was at JoAnn's, but you can really use any ribbon because you won't see it when the wreath is hanging.  
To make sure it doesn't fall out, I added a little dot of hot glue across the center top part of the heart form on the back.  

Fold your ribbon over to make a hook and press into the glue (careful not to burn your fingers)

I actually doubled up and put two ribbons, one on top of the other.  Then I stuck one straight pin into each end of the ribbons to triple secure it!

Here's the back of the wreath.  I didn't bring the felt all the way around because 1) I was running out of felt and 2) I wanted to make sure it laid flat on my door and didn't stick out or pull too hard on the ribbon hanger.  

Here it is hanging on my door!

I think this is definitely a winner.  It looks so much more expensive than it is and it's really easy!  I imagine I'll be fluffing and adjusting the folds, but I love it!  Hope someone gets inspired to make one!  I think it probably took me about 3 hours start to finish, but I pulled out the circles and started over about halfway through because they were too close together.  Have you made any Valentine's wreaths?  Actually...any wreaths?  I can only keep this one up until the beginning of March then will need a new idea!

Striped Cake Trial

One of the things I've grown to love is cake decorating.  I love to cook...mostly bake...and last fall, my mom and I took a Wilton cake decorating class at JoAnn's.  It was tons of fun, and got me hooked.  I make a cake any chance I get now, making them for birthdays, holidays, parties, and just for fun.  I'm still an amateur and learning (mostly by trial and error).  My half-sister and niece were in town this past week and since Kelly's birthday was at the beginning of January, we had the chance to celebrate with her.  I immediately took the chance to make a cake!  I used my go-to recipe for cakes when I don't have to do a specific flavor.  I always use jelly as a filling and make two layers.  This time, I used Smuckers "Simply Orchard" Strawberry and it was delicious!  It tasted like homemade strawberry jam.  I have to say, even though it was still good, I was disappointed with the way it came out this time.  I don't know what it was yet...still trying to figure out what affected it.  Anyway...I was doing this cake as a surprise, so had no guidelines for decorating like I normally do when I make a cake.  I remembered seeing a cake on Food Network similar to this striped one a while back and thought it looked fun to try.

Well, I tried.  I think it's something that takes a lot of energy, stamina, and practice.  Here are some tips and steps to attempt this cake.  I think I'll be trying again when it hasn't been a long, exhausting day at work and it's earlier than 11:30 at night.  :o)

When you put icing into a decorating bag (or ziploc with the corner snipped off), fold the bag over itself about halfway. This helps you have room to get the icing all the way to the tip of the bag and also keeps your hand clean.  

I use a cake spatula to put the icing into the bag (you could also use a butterknife).   With the bag folded over like this, you can use your fingers to pinch the spatula at the top to slide the icing off and into the bag.  

Use a serated knife to cut off the "hump" left from baking.  It will make your cake level when stacked and also gives you something to snack on while you decorate.

It doesn't matter if they're the same height, as long as both cakes are relatively even.  choose the cake that has the smoother "bottom" surface to serve as the top of your stacked caked.  

Place the less smooth bottom on the cake stand or whatever you are serving your cake on with the cut side facing up.  Using your icing bag, pipe about a 1/2 inch tall "dam" around the edge of your cake.  This will keep the filling from oozing out the side and into your decorating icing.  

Here is that delicious jelly I was telling you about!  I use just enough to cover the surface and spread it just up to the edge of the icing dam.  You could add more or use less according to taste.  I also sometimes just pipe a spiral of icing in the center as opposed to jelly.  

Place the other cake crumb side down on top of your filling.  

When you ice a cake, start at the top with a HUGE glob, ice from the center out to the sides and push it over the edge.  

Once you have the cake covered with a thin layer, let it set for about 20-30 minutes.  Once it is hard, you can do another thin coat.  The first coat is called the "crumb coat" because you usually pull crumbs into your icing when you do it the first time.  If you let it set, you can add another layer of icing without pulling out crumbs so that you will not have crumbs in your final coat.  

While the second coat is setting, mix your colors.  I used store-bought liquid food coloring this time and HATED it.  You have to use a ton, you end up over-mixing the icing which makes it super stiff, and you don't get the colors you want.  I recommend getting the gel food coloring.  MUCH easier to work with.  

I used a small round bowl I had to indent a circle in the center of my cake so that I could make sure my stripes were evenly sized.

Now that I have a guide line, I can begin decorating.  The indentation will be covered with icing later.  

Using my stiff icing, I tried to make even stripes around.  I tried to do all one color, but soon realized it's easier to just switch bags while decorating, start on one side, and work your way around.  Now I know for next time.  

I wanted to do more stripes than this, but since I put orange on first, didn't have room.  Also, it was about 12:30 and I was tired.  :o)

I added a shell border to the bottom and piped stars on the top of the stripes to cover my uneven and messy ends.  

Using a small tip, I piped the lettering in the middle of the circle I left on top.  

This was definitely a learning cake.  I would definitely use this design again, but with some adjustments.  I won't use liquid food coloring again.  I will just start on one side and work my way around.  I also need to adjust my cake and icing recipes, because they both turned out less than desirable for me this time.  Hopefully I'll be able to post again soon with a better attempt!


I can't imagine a greater reason to celebrate than love.  As I've mentioned before, my sister is having the ultimate celebration of love this summer, so we're in the midst of wedding planning!  I'm so honored to be her maid of honor and am LOVING it!  I even asked my mom (jokingly) if there was such thing as being a professional maid of honor, because I would totally do it.  Since the beginning of January, our family has been neck deep in looking for venues, caterers, photographers, planning favors and centerpieces, etc.  Any of you married folk out there know already how much is involved in planning a wedding.  I thought I knew, but geez!  It sure does consume you!  She has a budget of $10,000 to plan this wedding.  That's a pretty decent wedding budget, but also a challenge because wedding costs are high.  So, we're trying to be creative and finding ways to give her most of what she wants while keeping conscious of the cost.  We already booked the venues!  She'll be getting married at a beautiful church called West End Church of Christ.  She fell in love with it for the long aisle, the colors of the walls, the elegant arches and white columns.  


We'll then head about 5 miles up the road and have the reception at The Commodore Ballroom in Vanderbilt's Student Life Center.  It's a neutral, classy, large space that she can pretty much do what she wants with.  

Then, last weekend we went to the Nashville Bridal Show to get some ideas.  I told my sister we have to start taking pictures of planning.  We'll want to remember all the fun we're having and have pictures to remind us of that!

My mom who must have been blinking (hehe) and two sisters.
This place was serving really yummy lavendar lemonade
 in tiny little martini glasses.  It was yummy!

This looks like an easy DIY way to do menus.
You could customize it to your wedding with
scrapbook paper, ribbons, rubber stamp designs, and a computer

A beautiful table we saw.  She's trying to pin down
what exactly she wants and an all white, silver,
and glass table is an option she's considering.  

She is using this color blue as an accent color, but I mainly took the picture
because of the unique way they braided the fabric in the back of the chair.  

After the show, Kim and I went to Barnes & Noble for lunch/coffee and also looked at wedding books.  This picture is out of the book Handmade Weddings.  They had some great ideas, but this was a cute invitation Kim liked.
Well, that's all for now.  I'll keep posting our adventures in wedding planning, and would also love to hear about ideas you have.  Have any of you had a wedding on a tight budget?  What ways did you save money but still incorporate what you wanted?  


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