Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday

The calendar changed to December on the 1st and it was like somebody flipped the switch on the snow machine in the sky.  We got snow... ground-sticking, fluffy-white, sweet-etheral, beautiful snow.  It certainly isn't unheard of, or even unexpected, for snow to fall in December here in Michigan.  Because we had an unusually warm fall it seemed somehow, odd to have snow blanket our world.  I think that, for me at least, the time from Halloween to the first day of December, flew by in a nanosecond and I am sure that the shock I felt at seeing the first snowflake was, at least in part, related to this.  Of course, as often happens, we then had rain, which melted all of the snow in time to be hit with our first "lake-effect" snowfall of the season.

Ahhhh, lake-effect snow!  Living in southwestern Michigan, we are subject to the crazy weather systems created and fed by our very own "ocean" which we locals call "Lake Michigan".  When we were planning to move here, I told Rick that Portage, like my beloved Ann Arbor, is in SOUTHERN Michigan and thus we would not have to deal with much snow.  You see, it doesn't really snow in A2 as much as it "slushes".  I reasoned that Portage therefore, would be slushy and wet and we wouldn't have to deal with shovels let alone snowblowers.  Haha but the jokes is on me!!!!  Because of beautiful Lake Michigan and it's "lake effect snow" we receive significant accumulation.  Seventy inches of snow or more on average.  While that may not seem like much to those of you who live in snowy locals- like the U.P., or on a mountain, or at the North Pole- you have to remember that it IS a significant amount of snow for SOUTHwest Michigan.  

Ok, so we get snow.  Who cares right?  I love snow... it's pretty, I love skiing, and sledding is fun if go to Oakland Park, so where is the problem?  The problem is Rick isn't so keen on the white stuff that falls from the sky and somehow he manages to be at work- usually in Hawaii, Paris, Puerto Rico- when the big storms hit.  How does he do that?  

It is hard to believe, but it is Christmas time and Hanukkah is but a memory.  That means lots of decorating and crafts, cookies and carols, shopping and Christmas/Hanukkah cards, wrapping and shipping.  I had good intentions that this year it would be all that and fun and relaxing and inspiring as well.  I started earlier this year!  In fact, I think I started right after I peeled the jewels off Lady Gaga's cheek and washed the lightening bolt scar of Harry Potter's forehead.  I mean really, I was off to a great start and as an added bonus for playing the game, Ryann isn't having a big Birthday Extravaganza this year.  I didn't have to plan and execute a themed-out event consisting of some cool, interesting, and exciting, yet theme-appropriate craft projects that the kids never were able to do  without a lot of adult "guidance" (somehow, I never figured out how to match the guests talent and age appropriateness with my need for the craft to fit the theme),  2-3 games, and a swag bag of cool crap that also was completely themed-up, and let's not forget to mention the feast I always put on, again think "Theme" including cake, cookies, and candies, oh my.  This theme-centric event was always fun to plan and fun to host and I would have anticipated it as a highlight event of my year, if it was in July or September or March, but December... it pushed me over the edge, it really did.  So, while I did love it, I must admit that not having it, is one huge stress off my back.  

But I digress, I was talking about what I DID do this year....I made some beautiful Christmas ornaments, glittered everything in sight, and fired up the Cricut to cut gorgeous snowflakes.  I made my grandmother a gorgeous wreath for her door at the assisted living facility (more on that in a moment) and put together several banners with holiday messages like "joy" and "Merry Christmas" and added more glitter.  I whipped up some cards, painted some chipboard, and added more glitter.  This is fun but oh so messy.  The kitchen table became but a memory as it was overtaken with paper, paint, glitter, and glue, tools, and cardstock, glitter, and buttons.  I can no longer reach the cabinet that houses my candles or anything more than a foot back from my chair.  Maybe I need to clean up a little?  Who has time?  I'm busy with the glitter. 

Let's take a moment to see how I am doing with my holiday goals for 2010:   
*Decorating: well I waited a loooong time to put away Halloween but once I did get the decorations up- they look beautiful.  so...Decorating: Check (Pictures to come in another post)
*Crafting: I just old you I did a bunch of stuff- Check
*Cookies:  Oh, ummmm, well, here is my first snag, you see- my pancreas-which as been acting-up on the job for years, at times even threatening to "unionize" and to go on strike (like while I was pregnant).   I have been able to head off most talk of collective bargaining until recently.  Being a nurse practitioner, I love numbers- here's a secret: all medical personnel love numbers.  That is why we run so many tests; we need numbers, numbers, numbers, numbers.  With this in mind then you won't be surprised to know that I have been checking my blood sugar every so often and I've noticed the fasting blood sugar numbers creeping into the "pre-diabetic" territory.  Yikes, I say.  So now I have to watch what I eat (or more realistically-what I don't eat).  Now days the voice in my head sounds like "No cookies for you!".  Ryann is gluten free so "No cookies for you" (or at least none that taste anything like a cookie- she is allowed to eat the gluten-free powdery shit that is supposed to resemble a cookie but crumbles in your mouth in a way I can't even describe making it more like a sugar/butter flavored Pixie Stick and not in a good way).  Rick is essentially gone for the entire month of December leaving Chase to eat the cookies.  We could just bake and give them away but what fun is that? I don't have that kind of willpower.  
So Cookies:  Not check.....
*Carols: Have you heard us sing?  Not check.
*Shopping: Check, but really last minute on this one.
*Cards:  Seriously?  I haven't had holiday cards ready in December for years (see birthday extravaganza above).  I am going for "New Years" or "Valentine's Day" this year because let's face it- it is much more realistic.

Now, don't forget my 29th birthday and Ryann's 12th birthday also come in December.   So in summery:  Another year went to hell.  Maybe next year, right?  By the way, I spent my birthday holding Chase's hair while he puked.  The entire day.  And night.  And next day.   Ryann's birthday turned out better because she went low-key (see above) choosing to ski all day with her friend and then the two of them had a quiet sleep-over.  We really wanted to take her out for a nice dinner but she didn't want to go.  Not letting that stop us- my mom, Chase and I went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants while Ryann and her friend stayed home.  Seemed sort of stupid but I did't want to cook! 

So for some crafting:  I've decided to show some of my wreaths in this post.  I am planning on making a wreath tutorial in the near future so you can learn how easy it is to make your own wreaths.  Wreath making is really simple, requires only a few tools, minimal skills, and is soooo much cheaper than purchasing a pre-made wreath.  I promise your handmade wreath will look better than anything you can get at Michael's, Hobby Lobby, Target, or AC Moore and cost half as much!

My quest to keep my 94-year-old grandmother's door decorated with something each month continued this month.  I started in October with this "BOO" banner.  I made her a beautiful autumn wreath which I neglected to photograph.  Hopefully I can get a pictures and post it in the future.

For her holiday wreath I wanted to go a little glam with lots of glitter.  At first I thought old school red/green and maybe gold but then I saw these absolutely gorgeous purple-velvet hydrangeas. I am crazy about hydrangeas anyway and I love the texture of the velvet and the color variations which give the flower so much more character.  So I flipped my plan and went new school with purple and white-gold.
I always start a Christmas or winter-month wreathwith a base of faux pine rather than grapevine.  For this wreath, I found a faux-pine wreath at Michael's that was already decorated with 2 varieties of pine cones and a mixed variety of faux-pine needles.  I have never seen this type of wreath at the craft store before and when I went back for more, they were all sold out.  Usually the faux-wreaths available at the craft stores are meant to be embellished and are made of only one type of faux-pine needle.  

I wish I had taken the time to glitter the edges of the pine cones that came on the wreath.  They would have been spectacular tipped in white-gold.  But, as always, I was in too big of a hurry and once I had the flowers on the wreath it was just too big of a mess to even attempt so I left them plain.  Before I go any farther I must say that the wreath is much more beautiful in person than in the pictures.    Maybe it is all the glitter that just doesn't show up on camera?

I did hot glue all the embellishments into place on this wreath.  Sometimes, if I think I will want to change the wreath up, I will just stick the stems into the wreath, keeping them in place just by how I weave the flower stem into the base.  Obviously, you don't want to do this if you are in a high wind area or if it bothers you to have to pick flowers up off your front porch and stick them back into the wreath on a regular basis.  You could use wire to attach the embellishments onto the form; this is a happy medium between hot glue and my wing-and-a-prayer technique.  With the wire technique you just wind the wire around the stem and either the wreath form or the branches, then when you want to change the wreath you clip the wires and go on your merry way.

So what exactly did I use on this wreath?  3 stems of the purple hydrangea, several stems of the glittered eucalyptus, 5 glittered Christmas ball ornaments, and the little purple acorn and bead picks I found at Michaels.  The hydrangeas came with huge heads, one per stem, that I cut apart into little clusters of 5 or 6 blooms a piece.  The acorn picks are an example of one of my wreath secrets which I will cover in the upcoming tutorial.  I bought ribbon for a bow but decided against using it because it just added confusion to the wreath.  So, this is it- a gorgeous wreath for not a lot of money.  

I also bought some beautiful pale coral poinsettias that I just couldn't pass up because they were so pretty.  When I got home I decided to make a wreath for my mom out of the coral poinsettias and some faux "snow" covered greens, similar acorn picks-but green this time, and a glittered bow.  They only had 2 of the poinsettias and they had huge leaves, must too big for this small wreath, so I cut off the top leaves using this as a single bloom and then used the large leaves individually.  It is amazing how different the two wreaths look as I made them at the same time.  

Here are some other wreaths in my house that I made in years past:

Gorgeous White Gold Poinsettia Wreath
Christmas Ball Wreath
This wreath was made quickly by hot gluing a variety of sizes and colors of glass Christmas balls onto a faux-pine form.  It matches the colors in my bathroom exactly.   I am planning on giving this number a little make-over which I am planning on showing in the tutorial.  

This is probably one of my all-time favorite wreath and was made using a pre-made "stem" of flowers and greens that I took apart.  

I am posting this tonight, the evening of my daughter's 12 birthday and my grandmother's 94th.  Happy Birthday to both beloved women in my life. 

I will try to get the tutorial up soon but I do have another prolotherapy treatment tomorrow and that just poops me out so we will see.   I am excited about the prospect of starting tutorials and hope that you enjoy them.  If you have nice things to say please leave a comment.  For now, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and 
Laters Baby....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Hi, long time no see? Right?  Sorry, I have been busy creating lots of Christmas decorations.  I even managed to put some up on Etsy.  Why, you ask, do you not have your Etsy shop 10 pages long, full of all sorts of fabulous and glittered, sparkly, blinged out items for sale?

Well,  I have an answer for that question.  You see I have run into 3 problems with getting a good amount of inventory up on Etsy:
1.  Those damn Stromlings, Pirate Stromlings, and Ronins.  You see, Lego Universe has invaded my life.  Defeating those Stromlings and collecting Imaginations while at the same time getting enough infected bricks Paradox coins is EXHAUSTING.  Why can't I ever remember that Chase can't read?  Even if he can read some words he certainly can't read words like "Stromlings, Ronins, Paradox, and Avent Gardens" therefore needs help playing multiplayer on-line games?  I signed him up and initially I was thrilled when it finally went live.  "Happy days are here!!!!".  But after exactly 10 seconds of playtime, I had to help him.  Ok, so change of plan, we got started and all goes well for about 30 minutes and then frustation set in.  That is me being frustrated.  Stupid me- I didn't use strategy at all; just ran around breaking things and dying all over the place.  Excpet with you are a Lego you "smash" rather than "die" and you have to "rebuild" yourself every time you get "smashed".  So it wasn't too long before Chase, joined me on the frustration train to crazytown.  I HATE THIS GAME!  Let me call somebody... what no phone number anywhere.  Guess they knew parents like me would be calling for advice.  Ok, I know what to do, lets Google the walkthrough, surely somebody has completed the game already and provided a detailed account of where to go and how to get there.  This strategy works for Wii games- I head to Gamefaqs where teenagers with more time than brains provides a step-by-step accounts of how to play games.  Bad news... Gamefaqs was noncommittal on Lego Universe so I decided to go for a general scream for help and Google "help lego universe".  I get a few pathetic hits on Lego's own site but at least I figure out you need STRATEGY to play this game and the game goes on and on forever.  Strategy?  Hmm that's an idea I hadn't thought of.  Alright, so I needed to have a plan.  Something like break everything in site to get points, actually complete the missions I was collecting but ignoring, and those silly heart and shield numbers on the top left, yeah they mean something.  Something important.  Hearts are how long you have to live before you end up a pile of Lego dust and the shields, act as your armor.   We realized you can change the number of shields and/or imaginations (used as a way to pay for your actions) you can carry by changing you clothes and weapons you carry.  By using the best combination of clothes we went from 2 shields to 10 or even 12 if needed.  Ok, so now we aren't dying every 20 seconds. we are on to something....   Today I can say with pride we are well on our way to beating the nasty Maelstrom.  Rick and Ryann, being little whimps who are scared to fight the Ronin, refuse to help Chase, each claiming that they "don't know how to play" as if I was born with inait Maelstrom fighting knowledge.  They don't know how much fun they are missing- Shhhh!

2. I never make the same thing twice.  This is a huge problem as you can imagine, it significantly slows down production.  It takes me awhile to time to make ONE item and instead of making another I get excited about something else, move on, never look back and grab a new item to work on.  This is NOT a great manufacturing strategy.

3.  Glitter...Glue...Paint brush.  I have discovered that with a little glue, a tiny paintbrush and some spectacular glitter I can go to town and bling out anything and everything.  Oh, so much fun to put a little glitter on scrapbook paper to bring out the design.  The problem is I never know when to stop, I glitter everything, and I get glitter everywhere.  I even started to mix colors which then leads to an issue of find someplace to store those new colors. Oh but it is oh so much fun.
This piece of paper had NO glitter when I started.

I will continue to plug along, flinging glitter everywhere.   I hope to get my Christmas stuff up before Christmas and I promise to post lots of pictures.  Until then enjoy the pictures of my latest work.
I am taking a class called "Color or Colour?"   The green piece is above.
This is for the color Orange 


This beautiful banner I had to cut into two piece it was so big.

The ornaments all started as a kit but I added all the glitter, rhinestones, and beads.
I have lots of other ornaments but I have to make the files smaller before I can post them. 

I love the way this turned out.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Who Cut the Cheese?

Years ago I remember wanting to make homemade marshmallows from a story and recipe in Martha Stewart Living.  I got so much flack for that and even though I never made them, I heard comments for months.  Nobody could believe that I would go to the trouble of making something that was so easily purchased at any store in America.  I'm pretty sure you can buy marshmallows at Walgreens and Texaco.  So why did I want to go to the trouble to make something- by hand- that was so easily purchased in a bag from the gas station?   I don't know, maybe because the processed version SUCK.  Really, unless you are putting them in hot cocoa, topping sweet potato casserole, or making a S'more- those chewy little monster's don't have much flavor and compared to the homemade version their texture is pretty gross.  But I'm getting ahead of myself because, at that point, I had never actually tasted a homemade marshmallow; I just thought they looked like they would taste amazing.  Even today, I have never made a marshmallow.  BUT, I have eaten many a homemade marshmallow made by my absolute FAVORITE foodie place in the America... Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor.  They make marshmallows in two flavors-vanilla bean or rolled in cocoa (my favorite).  They come packaged in a cellophane bag tied with raffia making them seem so wholesome!  While I think they are super-dooper good right out of the bag, Zingerman's Bakery also makes the most amazing graham cracker.  Take a marshmallow, a graham cracker, and a small piece of Vosges chocolate and life doesn't get much better.

Ironic isn't it?  Just a few years ago we were mindlessly living the high-life, innocently eating highly-processed, highly-commercialized, highly-packaged foods.  We thought as long as we chose low-fat foods -we could gorge ourselves on whatever those little elves passed off as "food" and we knew we were eating H.E.A.L.T.H.Y.  All the packaged food got mom out of the kitchen and into life right?  We didn't have to spend all day making spaghetti sauce-we just had to pop open a jar of Ragu, throw a foil-wrapped loaf of garlic bread- straight from the frozen-food aisle- into the oven, quick-wash a head of iceberg lettuce and we were off- on to more exciting things.  The problem is, as we moved away from eating recipes imagined by Great American chefs like our grandmother or great-grandmother, using foods she grew in her garden or bought from a local farmer, we got all caught up in the hype.  Now, don' t get me wrong, some things have changed for the better.  I've heard you shouldn't eat anything your grandmother would not recognize as food but that would mean Kiwi Fruit Pomegranates, and Greek Yogurt would be off limits to this Michigan girl.  Never-the-less we need to stop eating foods from Chefs like Betty Crocker (bless her heart) and Duncan Hines and eat more from Jamie Oliver and Alice Waters.

Slow Food, local foods, local sourcing, clean food, clean eating, fair food- all names for the movement away from the processed and packaged and back to what we used to know as "food".  Michael Pollan has written extensively about the way food in America is processed and this knowledge is not for the faint of heart.  The documentary Food Inc, scared me to death.  Not only do we refine the crap out of everything, we ship foods to hell and back because it is cheaper than processing them locally.  Cheaper not smarter.  The small farmer is barely hanging on because the "factory" farm is taking over.  But with these humongous farms come huge waste lagoons that not only smell so bad you can't get within miles of one, but the lagoons are spilling into our rivers and streams, poisoning us all in an effort to provide the huge amount of cheap food necessary to feed the world as our population continues to grow.  But remember that cheaper isn't always better and you get what you pay for.

 The good news is that people are getting more in touch with knowing where their food comes from.  This means staying local, using local farmer's markets or joining a Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA), and finding local-sourcing butchers and restaurants.  There is a a big movement happening in many cities that calls for ordinances that allow the homeowner to keep a few chickens in her back yard, something Martha Stewart has done for years (and yes I know she has a chicken sitter to care for her coop).  One of my local grocery stores prominently display "Made in Michigan" tags on products.  The Kalamazoo People's Food Co-op is planning a huge new store and Food Dance restaurant offers "farm to table" dining experiences- the chef meets the dinners at the farm, shows everybody the fields and discusses the meal and everybody meets later for the dinner.  These are all steps in the right direction but the food industry is so complex and far too many Americas are apathetic to the problem.
Grapes and Sugar
I am no where near getting a chicken for my backyard (partially because the 7 deer who visit each evening would probably scare the chicken) but I am trying to do my part.  I read labels, make my family eat bread with at least 3 gms fiber per slice and we drink organic milk.  We joined an Organic CSA 5 years ago and while I still hate beets and radishes, Farmer Dale produces the must amazing orange and yellow watermelons.  They are so tasty and so juicy- you can't even imagine until you eat one.  Even his common carrots and potatoes taste so much better than anything you find in the grocery store. You can find a CSA in your area by checking the list kept with by the USDA and don't assume there isn't one near you, you will probably find more than one.
A Lug of Grapes

Waiting for their bath
Several years ago I started making grape juice because I love the taste of the homemade juice that I drank as a child.  It isn't very difficult to make: you need only grapes, sugar, water, jars and a water bath.  That's it.  This year I bought a lug of Concord grapes for about $20.  I had 2 more boxes of jars so I went back and bought several smaller baskets but since they cost almost as much as a lug next year I will probably do two lugs.  I now have 70 quarts of grape juice gestating in the cupboard (it rests for 6 weeks).
The color of the juice as soon as it is taken out of the water bath is already beautiful.  If you have ever canned something you know that the lid must give a little "pop" as the juice cools and the seal forms.  I love hearing that little "pop".
Beautiful Color
Now on to something I can eat right away.   Cheese.  Nothing too complex- just ricotta.  I bought a kit from Whole Foods that came with critic acid, rennet tablets, cheese salt, dairy thermometer, butter cloth, and recipes to make fresh mozzarella and ricotta.  I have been a huge fan of fresh ricotta since I was in college. It tastes nothing like the plastic junk they sell at the grocery store.  Zingerman's makes a fabulous fresh ricotta but since they are two hours away and it doesn't keep long, it is a rare treat.   I also love fresh mozzarella.  I loved the buffalo version until I found out it is made with ACTUAL buffalo milk.  Remember when Jessica Simpson thought buffalo wings came from an actual buffalo?  I thought buffalo mozzarella, like buffalo wings, was just a silly name.  I still eat it but my ignorant carefree days are long gone.  

My kit makes both types of cheese but mozzarella is a tad more labor intensive- what with milking the buffalo and all- so I made ricotta.

All done.  Now the wait….

Just 1/2 gallon of whole milk (my favorite) and 10 minutes and you have fresh cheese.  Heat the milk, critic acid and salt over medium heat, stirring frequently and you will see the curd start to separate.  The cheese is done when it reaches the right temperature.
When the right temp is reached, strain the cheese through the butter cloth and enjoy.  Whether you make juice, cheese, or jus start buying local produce in the summer, I hope you start thinking about what you are eating. 


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Halloween Decorations

I managed to get my Halloween decorations up even though, I must be honest, the house is not clean.  Not even close. It's a big ol' mess.  The problem areas are:

1st area: My craft supplies...Again.  They are creeping away from the kitchen table as they make their way across the dining room toward the kitchen and even spreading toward the living room.  Its just that I have so many ideas and so little storage space.  Somehow my basement "studio" became a "playroom" at the same time that my ideas exploded.  Apparently: exuberant IDEAS+a fetish for SUPPLIES=one hell of a MESS.  Remember that.  Oh and Lego Universe was released and I thought it would be a terrific game for Chase to play and it is but I forgot he can't read.  That means I spend a lot of time reading the game to him.

2nd area:  What started as an obsession with making cards and pretending to enjoy scrapbooking has grown to all sorts of fun projects using the traditional supplies of scrapbooking and rubber stamping.  Add in my love Halloween.  Because my affair with black, orange, purple and acid green is so intense, I now have far too many decorations.  I did go through my stuff this year and gave 2 bags of decorations to my neighbor to enjoy.  There was nothing wrong with any of the items, I was just tired of some things and needed a change and finally I let go.

3rd area: Ryann decided she needed to upgrade her bedroom to fit her new school (Portage Central Middle), her new hair (Brazilian blow-out) and appliances (iPod Touch and a brand spankin' new cell phone).  Unfortunately, her idea of "cleaning" involved dumping a huge number of books on her floor as well as all her American Girl Dolls and all of their ephemera.  While the dolls have managed to make it to the basement (more later) the books are still in place on her floor.  I need to go through them and decide which books I want to pass on to Chase, which books I want to box up and save as heirlooms, and which I books I want to donate to the Lake Center Elementary Library.  While I know that sorting the books would take only a few hours at most, I can't seem to remember to do it until I am putting clothes away and I stub my toe.

4th area: See Ryann (above): Ryann dumped all of the dolls in the middle of the hallway in the basement.  No point in moving them to the wall or getting them boxed appropriately for storage.  That would be too easy.

5th area:  While Chase's room always remains fairly clean, I also need to get his room edited and get rid of the baby toys.  I must be honest- a classmate came over last week for the first time and he announced in a loud voice "your room is a baby room, Chase".  I was sitting on the computer paying bills and just about fell off my chair, I whipped around so fast feeling so completely offended.  What do you mean its a baby room? HUH?  WHAT. DO. YOU. MEAN?  BABY???????  Really what I said was more like "what is babyish" to which he replied "You have an Elmo chair".  Oh, yeah, that is in his room because he doesn't play with it anymore.  Maybe I should get it out of the house rather than just move it from room to room.  Come to think about it, I end up tripping over it every few months making it belt out the Elmo laugh-regardless of who is sleeping.  So.... I think it is time to pass it on to a little one who can enjoy it and while I am at it I can get rid of the baby puzzles, baby blocks, baby cars......Maybe I am on to the real reason my house is so cluttered.


That is my biggest problem.  Of course I can sell on Ebay or Craig's List (and we have) or a local consignment shop.  I can donate to any number of charities. I can give to a friend.  I know this, but it all takes work and maybe I do have a little problem letting go of baby toys because letting go means I am done with babies in my life and my little ones are growing up AND that is all hard to deal with on so many levels.  Of course the truth is, no matter what I hang on to, my kids are growing up and their likes and dislikes are changing and I can't stand the clutter.

Ok, whew, time to lighten up.  On to my decorations:
In years past. I did a spectacular mantel in orange and black and put something on top of our office armoire- usually in orange.  Above the kitchen cabinets I always did something a little more on the cute side and the kitchen hutch is hit or miss.  This year I changed it all up and added a beautiful arrangement of objects on the top shelf of our bookcase in the living room.

We begin our tour in the living room with my mantel:

I had the entire mantel done with the candle plate and the balls but did not have a candle for it.  I was looking for the perfect candle to when my mom handed me a bag from Pottery Barn containing this candle.  Perfect.
Now we move to the computer armoire:
The top of the computer armoire is somewhere probably only I ever see but I love to decorate it and I love the way this turned out.

 I fell in love with the Mercury Glass Pumpkins at Pottery Barn but they were sold out before they ever hit the stores.  My Martha-Stewart -wannabe kicked into gear and I decided to finally attempt to make my own version of mercury glass.  I had seen the technique on an episode of Trading Spaces and had purchased the "Looking Glass" paint on clearance ages ago.  I even found very basic instructions on Martha's website, but I was always too scared to actually try it, until now.
I started by trying to find plain glass pumpkins, without any type of coloring, and they had to be hollow.  I looked everywhere in Kalamazoo and couldn't find anything.  My mom was on a mission and she finally found them at Kmart which is ironic because we no longer have a Kmart in the area.  I did take pictures of the process but it was too dark outside and they are unusable.  Basically I sprayed water inside the pumpkins and then sprayed the "Looking Glass" paint.  That's it.  I love the way they turned out and even made a Halloween Mirror by using the same technique on a piece of new 11x14 inch glass and a basic black frame I bought at Michaels.
Moving to the other wall:

This is the vignette
I made on top of the bookcase
in the living room.

Let's move on to the kitchen:
This wonderful group of witches dance across the top of my kitchen cabinets.  I have a string of orange LED lights across the entire length and at night the lights produce a terrific effect- making the witches look like they are dancing and celebrating the night.

Turning around we see the hutch:

I have used small Halloween pails in black and orange and candles, witches hats, and pumpkins to finish the story.  Several of the pails I got from the $1.00 bin at Target.
The hutch in the dining room is often overlooked but when my mom gave me these beautiful green mercury glass pails I knew they had to be in a place all their own.  I added a silver mercury glass vase, black glittery candles, green swag like the purple swag on the office armoire, and a apothecary jar filled with black candy sticks.

That concludes our formal tour, but there are a couple more things I want to point out:

 I filled this huge wall basket with orange and black Christmas balls and I adore the way it looks.
Finally, my wreath.  This is a twig wreath I sprayed with flat black paint.  I then added bright orange flowers and 5 fantastic shiny orange pumpkins.  I know it is hard to see on the door since the reflection from the door is in the way.   I love this wreath and it is the first wreath I have made that is says HALLOWEEN with not hint of FALL.  Hmmm.... that means I have to make another wreath next month.  Until then...Happy Halloween,

Later's Baby

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bird Crazy

I have finally put some things in my Etsy shop Never Enough Glitter.  I am trying to get some holiday stuff done but in the mean time I have a flock of little birds that I love.  Each little creature has been made into special piece of wall art.   Like all my artwork, my birds love a little sparkle. 




They can be viewed and purchase at my Etsy shop Never Enough Glitter.  

Laters Baby....

Friday, October 1, 2010

I'm Back......and Playing Legos

I disappeared after only a few blog posts and I'm sorry for that.  I really let myself down because my goal, once I got this blog up and going,  was to be consistent and keep the posts to no less than once a week.  Time just seems to be slipping through my fingers at a pace I never imagined.  Maybe this is because, for the first time since my pregnancy with Chase, I feel pretty decent most days, knock on wood, glass, plastic, formica, fabric...  I won't say my pain is gone but I seem to have gotten rid of the overwhelming fatigue that was keeping me on the couch for days on end as I watched life go by.  Now that I feel more normal I have been working on my art and trying to get stuff up on my Etsy shop.  So while I really have planned all lots of clever and witty blog posts,  somehow they never get past the planning stages.  I take do the projects or take the pictures but the posts get stuck somewhere between my brain and my finger tips.  Maybe I am suffering from some sort of finger constipation?

So what in the hell have I been doing if I haven't been blogging?  Do I need to remind you that "Project Runway" Season 639 is running AND "Top Chef" Season 435 just ended, and just when I thought I could get away from my obsession with Top Chef for another season they threw in "Top Chef Just Desserts".  I must have been a pastry chef in another life because I love baking.  The more complex, the more levels, the more ingredients- especially chocolate, cream, and alcohol- the better.  Remember I made my own wedding cake after only making ZERO wedding cakes before that.  Yes- it was my first wedding and my first wedding cake.  Martha Stewart's recipe, Wilton's pans, Ghiradelli's chocolate, and my mom's raspberries on top- Fabulous!

What was my point?  Oh, yeah, TV...In reality, I don't watch much TV these days.  One reason is  Martha moved to Hallmark Channel and unfortunately (for oh so many reasons), we have AT&T U-verse.  AT&T warned us all summer that they were in a pissing match with several channels, including Hallmark.  It seems to me they are once again being the big-bully on the block just like they were in the 80's and early 90's and they tried to get these channels to give AT&T their lunch money.  Apparently Hallmark wasn't willing to give up their lunch money so AT&T dropped them.  I keep hearing them say "No Martha for you!!!!"

The second reason I no longer watch much TV is because of my family.  For every 30 minutes of TV viewing, I have to listen to 29 minutes of whining about my show choice.  And if the kids are around the whining just gets worse, in stereo.  This baffles me because I am clearly the only member of this Kaplan family who watches anything interesting; if I am not watching Project Runway, Top Chef Just Desserts, or Parenthood (another favorite of mine) than I am stuck with their choices- either The Weather Channel, a documentary about war or even worse, any episode of  Ryann's favorite show"The Suite Life of iHannah the Wizard with a Chance in LA" or Chase's choice "Phineas Backyardigan Rides the Dinosaur Train to the Jungle Junction with Caillou."   

Time has just been flying by.  I can't believe it is already fall, Ryann has her first cell phone and Chase can not only build his Lego kits as well as I can but he can finally fly the Lego X-Wing through the Battle of Corsucant without any help.  It is time once again to get the pink daisy wreath down and replace it with the Halloween wreath.  This year I am completely making a new wreath with a decidedly Halloween theme.  Some years I put up a fall wreath with a few Halloween items that I can pull out Nov. 1st, but this year I am committing to Halloween and then replacing the wreath entirely Nov. 1st.  It is also time to pull all the ratty flowers and plants and clean the flower beds.  I get so tired of watering flowers that I usually give up about Sept 1st.  I just did a quick check around to see what needed to be done and the Lantana that I put in late this year it flourishing and GORGEOUS.  I think I need to put in a few more of the plants next year, early enough that they can sit front and center.  I just love the yellow and pink flowers- they remind me of lemonade.

Speaking of Legos.....Were we speaking of Legos?  Oh yes... Chase and the Legos.  Chase is a Legoholic, Legomaniac, Legobsessed, Legoboy.  He has amassed a large collection of red, blue, black, and grey bricks with a variety of pegs, studs, and connector pieces.  Storage has become a huge issue.

I probably wouldn't care so much but until recently- I was the Chief  Contractor responsible for procurement of materials and Chief Lego Builder.  Even if Chase builds the vehicle, I have to pull all the pieces for him.  ****Hint:  The back two pages of the Lego instruction booklets list by picture all of the pieces needed for that set.  I photocopy those two pages and use a pen to cross off the pieces as I find them.  ****Hint: if you lose the instruction booklets you can access them from the Lego website Customer Service click building instructions.  Originally I bought a quaint little 2 gallon container for the Lego pieces.  So cute and tiny... it lasted a few months before that container became home only his mini-figure collection.

After the original system became obsolete,  I bought a big shallow Rubbermaid container and sat down with a box of Ziploc bags and a black Sharpie and separated the Lego's by color.  This color-sorting solution worked until I decided to build all Chase's Indiana Jones sets to use as decoration/play things for his 4th birthday party.  I quickly realized that finding specific bricks out of a sea of all black pieces is at best very difficult and most likely nearly impossible.  It took forever to build the sets and I was just about nuts by the time I completed the project.  I know that some children, ok- most children, can make General Grievious' ship or Indiana Jones' boat using any color brick that fits.  Sadly,  I can't stand it if the bricks don't match the directions.  This is just something I cannot tolerate and yes I realize it is completely ridiculous that i live a messy life, I get it that my kitchen table is unusable because my craft supplies are all over it and the floor and the walls and spilling over onto the rabbit cage.   I may live a messy live but I draw the line at messy Lego projects.  My pathetic OCD meant I had to devise a better storage solution or I had to only let Chase build new sets, and that just seemed a little to close to the thinking of most of the people I see on AE's "Hoarders".

A solution did not come quickly and I spent a few months trying to 
come up with the perfect storage system.  I found a few made-for-Lego containers but each system only hold a few Lego sets and most don't have enough smaller compartments for the variety of small bricks and pieces that come with any Lego set.  I found the "Box4Blocks" system which separates the blocks by size, sifting them through 4 different grids with large pieces staying on the top yellow container and the tiny pieces ending up in the bottom green container.  This would be great if you had a few sets but no way would this be enough and at $39 for one set of Box4Blocks, it is somewhat expensive.

Iris Lego Project Case
Amazon sells the Iris Lego Project Case Chest for $54.99.  It is cetainly cute and Lego-y colored but again doesn't really allow for me to really sort the pieces.  I want to be able to grab the pieces I need without a lot of hunting.  

The  Cadillac of storage systems was also widely available and is a Lego product, Lego Storage Tray Unit available on Amazon.  This little beauty can be yours for the low low price of.... Are you sitting down?  $399.  Yes I double checked it... $399.   Seriously, that is three hundred and ninety nine dollars.  

Protect N Store 12x12
So obviously, I was not finding anything that was up to snuff or priced low enough that I didn't need a second mortgage to pay for it.  I need to figure something out.  
Protect N Store Inserts 12x12

I stumbled upon the answer while shopping at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft in Portage one day last winter.  On the end cap they had a stack of clear plastic boxes with hinged lids called Protect-N-Store.  

The 12x12 boxes were on sale for 50% off at $4.50 each.  At the time I wasn't thinking Lego so I figured I would use them for paper or fabric supplies and grabbed a few.  After I got them hope I realized this might be my answer but I didn't have enough.  I found some on clearance on a website that unfortunately no longer exists (hence the "clearance").  I also bought a few of the 8.5x11 size boxes.  I began the to put some of the Legos into the 12x12 boxes.  This job was not as hard as it could have been because I had already separated the bricks and pieces into Ziploc bags several months prior but not having enough boxes and not having the inserts to further separate the smaller pieces still made it a time consuming project.  In May, I went to the annual scrapbooking convention known as the Mega Meet, in Novi.  Here I stumbled on a booth selling hundreds of the 12x12 boxes and 12x12 inserts that provided 10 smaller compartments.  Que the crescendo!  I had the answer.  I bought several more 12x12 boxes and 6 inserts and ran home gleefully awaiting the great Lego Organization Project.  It wasn't as much fun as I hoped it would be- it still required a lot of work but at least I had a place to just toss the smaller pieces.  I soon realized that I needed more inserts and now I have all the pieces loose in either a 12x12 with an insert or a single type of brick alone in an 8.5x11 box.  

When I needed to buy a few more inserts I decided to just order them online and I found that Create for Less sells the 12x12 inserts for the lowest price I could find $2.89 each but you have to purchase in multiples of 3.  They have the 8.5x11 boxes $4.39 each and the 12x12 for $4.59.  
These are the cheapest I was able to find the boxes but other places that sell them include: First Choice Packaging and Jo-Ann.com has them on sale at $2.99 each but I don't think they have the inserts.  

Happy sorting.

Laters Baby,