DIY Christmas Tree preservative

Sunday, November 30, 2008
Every year we try to get a real Christmas tree. Nothing brings holiday warmth like the scent of a fresh Christmas tree. But how do you keep it looking fresh and beautiful? Well most places that sell Christmas Trees will also sell commercially packaged Christmas tree food. If you are like me, you will always forget to pick some up!

I decided that there must be a way to make your own at home. After a quick search on the internet I came across dozens of recipes. I was weary of trying out some recipes that call for mixing vinegar, lemon, and bleach - can you say toxic fumes?

Cut trees need a couple of basics:
  • Water
  • A food source
  • An acidifier - reduces the pH of the water
  • A disinfectant - prevents the growth of algae and bacteria

So after reading a couple of different recipes I decided on my own mix:

  • 1 quart (4 cups) warm water
  • 1/2 - 1 cup light corn syrup - acts as food
  • 1 tsp bleach - acts as disinfectant
  • 1 penny - acts as acidifier
Mix all ingredients in a container that will not be used for human consumption (empty milk gallon) and label it: Tree Food - Do Not Eat. Leave the penny in the bottle and reuse it when you need to make more.

Use this recipe to refill your tree as needed. It helps to water the tree with warm water/preservative.

Etsy Kids 12 Days of Give-aways!

Thursday, November 27, 2008
November 28th – December 10th, join EtsyKids for 12 days of fabulous, festive fun and dreamy holiday prizes.

Here’s how to play:

Each day the EtsyKids blog will contain a post showing an image that’s hidden in an item listing on a few different EtsyKids team members’ shops, along with a clue on how to find it. When a contestant finds just one of the hidden images, they send an Etsy conversation to the day’s entry collector with a link to the listing where they found it. Once their conversation is received, they’ll be entered into a drawing for an amazing EtsyKids prize. Those who find images for all 12 days are entered into the grand prize drawing!

Participants may use one of two methods to find the images:

1. Begin by looking at each of the 7,000+ EtsyKids listings, or
2. Decipher the clue to the keyword to narrow down the listings to under 100.

The clues are word association to the keyword. After you think you have the keyword, enter that word and "etsykids team" into Etsy's search, and start looking!

Example: Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus = nativity
Thus, you would enter "nativity etsykids team" to narrow down the listings to hunt through. The clues start out easy, and they get harder!

Please do not post the answers anywhere - all answers will be revealed at the end of the game.

If you don't jump into the game until after it's started, no problem! You can still enter that day's drawing, as well as the remaining days, then go back and find the previous days to enter the grand prize drawing.

The Etsykids blog will also let contestants know who to contact to enter, as well as the prize(s) that will be awarded that day. The number of prizes will increase each day and the winners will be selected at random.

***Contestants can enter once each day.

Within 24 hours of winning, the lucky winners will be contacted via Etsy Conversation, and MUST contact (via Etsy Conversation) the prize donor with their mailing address within 2 days of being contacted. If they fail to contact the prize donor within the given time, a new winner will be selected.

Easy gifts for Christmas

Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I've been searching for ideas for inexpensive yet nice gifts for all of those "miscellaneous" people in our lives. Not that they are any less important but they are not family and thus not at the top of our gift giving list. These people include neighbors, co-workers, family friends, and church friends. basically anyone we feel we should give a gift to this year.

For us that list includes:
3 of my husband's co-workers
3 church families
2 neighbors
The mailman - what a trooper!
4 business owners that sponsored me this year for my Special Kids triathlon and half marathon

Those are just the ones off the top of my head! So that's 12 so far, even with cheap little $5 gifts that would add up to $60! And I'm sure I could add to the list!

While I was visiting One Pretty Thing the other day, I came across a "gift in a bag" by LollyChops for Chocolate Cobbler
She even made up some cute printable packaging to go with it! All you have to do is package your ingredients, assemble the packaging, and you've got a tasty homemade gift.

We made this last night to try it out and it was awesome. We served it hot with vanilla ice cream and it was perfect. I don't like overly sweet desserts so if you are like me you will definitely want some ice cream to tone down the sweetness of the chocolate. It was so tasty, warm and fudgy... my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Easy Gift: Profile Silhouette

Monday, November 17, 2008
I came up with super simple, inexpensive, and elegant gift idea for Christmas this year. I always struggle with ideas for "grandparent" gifts (gifts for my parents and my husband's parents.) I wanted to do something different than the usual picture of the kids. That's where my web surfing came in handy, I don't remember where or when I saw a wall with hanging profiles. Apparently that image was stored away in my brain somewhere because it recently came back to me while I was trying to decide on Christmas gifts.

These are classy and chic, not to mention timeless! A whole wall dedicated to black and white will look stunning and fit in with any decor. You can change the overall "feel" simply by the frames you choose. I know the grandparents will love them. I'll just have to go and make a set for myself now!

*These would look really cool cut out form patterned scrapbook paper too!*

- side profile photographs
- photo editing software (I'm using Photoshop)
- premium printer paper (or scrapbook paper/cardstock)
- scissors
- fine tip sharpie
- picture frame

1. Take some side profile pictures in front of a wall. You will get a nicer profile if you actually take the time to "do" your subject's hair. You will get a crisper photograph if you choose an area with indirect light.
2. Crop your picture to be just the head and hair... don't forget some neck too!
3. Convert your picture to black and white (grayscale)
4. Play with the levels (photo shop) or the brightness contrast until you get some good crisp lines around the edges of your subject. Don't worry if the cheeks or ears start to fade away. What you want is a crisp outline.
5. Resize your picture to print out as large as possible on a regular sheet of paper.
6. Print your image using the least amount of ink, and black ink only. Trust me you don't want to waste a bunch of ink on this step.
7. Take the sharpie and outline your subject's profile. Go around the details you want. Sometimes you have to improvise sections, like hair, or even simplify them. Don't forget to add the eyelash.
8. Now flip your paper over and look at your outline. Fix any trouble spots on the right side of your picture. Once you are satisfied, trace over your outline with your sharpie, on the back side of your picture, to sharpen your outline. This is where you add the little "swoop" at the cut off point at the bottom of the image.
9. Scan your outline back into your computer (the back side of your picture)
10. Your scanner will pick up some of your photograph through the paper. Play with the brightness/contrast to make the picture crisp.

Here is where you can choose to either continue digitally or you can actually cut out your silhouette form some black scrapbooking paper/cardstock.

11. Resize your image to fit withing your frame.
12. Print out your profile and use it as a template for cutting your cardstock

11. Make sure your image is a "layer" and not a "background"
12. Use your magic wand and click outside of the profile
13. Now select inverse (shift+ctrl+I)
14. Select your paint bucket tool, set the fill color to black and click inside the profile
15. Before you de-select, take your paintbrush tool(the larger the better) and paint over the edges of the profile to get everything filled in.
16. Resize your image to fit within your frame.
17. Add the name (usually first and middle) in a nice font.
18. Print out your profile (I used hp premium presentation paper) using your "best" setting.
19. You are done! Cut your profile to fit in your frame and frame it!

Of course if you don't want to do this yourself, don't have the time, or don't have the programs, I will gladly do this for you. You can purchase my services through my Etsy shop. For $10 you will get 2 high res digital images (one left and one right facing) in a 5x7 format which you can then print at home or send out to your local photo lab.

* Just another thought! you can print these up small and put them in those ornament frames for your Christmas tree.
* or use the profile to create tile coasters
* make an iron on - for a quilt or pillow
* make a stencil
* make profiles of your pets
* make full body profiles
* use them on personalized greeting cards and stationery

Little boy pants

Sunday, November 16, 2008
I fell in love with these pants the minute I saw them:
Ottobre 6/08
#11 "Goofy Tweed Pants"
Size: 62 waist, 80 length
Material: Polyester Suiting

I decided to make a pair for a little boy I know. Too bad my 4 year old is to big for this particular pattern. I think they are adorable. I really wanted to make them in a brown just like in the picture. I think brown lends this pair of pants a vintage flair.

Unfortunately I've only got one decent fabric store nearby, and their wool section is rather small. They had wool advertised at 50% off when I went looking for fabric for these pants, but even at 50% it would have still been $9 per yard!

So I was browsing around and I found this pretty heather gray suiting fabric for only $3.97 per yard. I only ended up needing 3/4 yard so the total cost would have been $3. Unfortunately there was an incident. I was so excited to get started so I came home traced out my pattern, and cut out all my pattern pieces. I did all of this on my living room coffee table, then I went off to my sewing room for some notion and left all my stuff out. Next thing I know I hear my son saying, "Mom E... got your scissors!" I yelled "NOOO!!! E...! NOOO!!!" as I come stumbling out of my sewing room (I keep a baby gate across the door to keep the kids and dogs out.) In a short time my daughter had made 3 cuts into the fabric!

So I had to go back to the fabric store for another $3 worth of fabric!

OK here are the pics:


I still need to add buttons to the leg cuffs, but I'm afraid of ruining them! I might just chicken out and do black snaps instead. My sewing machine is not reliable when it comes to buttonholes. I will do a practice run and everything will be great. When I go to do it on the garment, I can usually only make 1 or 2 buttonholes before my machine starts going crazy and will shorten one side of the button hole!

Another Capelet

Saturday, November 15, 2008
I made this capelet for a trade with NuxieMade. Her only requirements where that it have pink and a cat applique. This is what I came up with:

My favorite part is the pink gingham ribbon. My daughter (2)saw it and said "oh is that my pink cat one?" I had to break it to her that it was not for her!

This is:
Ottobre 06/08
#22A "Little Rosy Cape"
Size 116/122 (about a 5-7)
Material: fleece with cat applique

NuxieMade has got the most adorable hats I have ever seen! She makes them in the most awesome color combinations! This is the hat she is making for my daughter and I can't wait to get it! Support another Stay at Home Mom and shop at Nuxiemade for your Christmas gifts! She can even custom make hats in adult sizes!

Oh and those awesome photographs were taken by

Swallow Capelet

Here is my first capelet:

Ottobre 06/08
#22A "Little Rosy Cape"
Size 116/122 (about a 2-4)
Material: fleece with flannel applique

I love how quickly this pattern came together. It is basically 3 pieces, 2 for the hood and 1 for the cape. I did not add seam allowances to this particular pattern and sewed it together using a 1/4" seam. Since fleece does not fray, you do not need to finish the seams. These are generously sized and should fit for at least 2 years.

Ottobre magazine

I have been a subscriber to Ottobre magazine for the last 2 years. It always amazes me how many people have never heard of Ottobre. My kids always get tons of compliments on their "Ottobre" clothes.

The magazine is great and every issue is chock full of eye-candy. But before you plop down your hard earned money here are a few things you should know.

1) Price: It may seem like an expensive magazine at approximately $50 (depending on the exchange rate) for 4 children's issues, however there are a handful of reasons why it is worth it.

2) The $50 includes shipping.

3) The magazine is printed 4 times a year (spring, summer, fall, winter

4) Each full color magazine includes approximately 40 different patterns. That's little more than $1 per pattern. I did that wrong! It's actually little more than $0.30 per pattern. (40 patterns x 4 issues = 160 patterns, $50/160 patterns = .3125)

5) Patterns range in size from newborn to teen. So even if you have a range of children in your home you'll have something for everyone.

6) Patterns are fun, stylish, comfortable, and modern.

7) There is at least 1 color photograph of each item if not more)

8) Patterns range in difficulty from beginner to experienced sewer.

9) Instructions are clearly written and explained, they are not illustrated.

10) Patterns are printed on 4-6 large sheets which you will have to trace out.

11) Patterns do not include seam allowances - you will have to add those when you trace your patterns.

12) The subscription is a standing subscription, which means that if you do not cancel 6 weeks before your subscription expires, your subscription is automatically renewed. This does NOT mean that they automatically charge your credit card. What they do is send you a renewal notice and then you send them payment for your renewal.

In my opinion the magazine is worth every penny, if you use it. At first it may seem a little daunting to see so many patterns but once you get the hang of tracing out your patterns it really is easy. There is plenty in each magazine to last you until your next issue! many of the patterns are timeless, so years from now when your newborn is a "big kid" you will find that the patterns are still stylish.

The instructions are clearly explained and even a beginner can make many of the patterns. In fact I find their instructions short, simple and clear as opposed to most commercial patterns! Plus if you need help with anything, there is an established yahoo group with lots of helpful ladies!

Finished Jesse Costume

Thursday, November 6, 2008
I blogged about making my daughter's Jesse costume here. Well I finished the costume on Halloween morning. Here is the final product.

Isn't she adorable?

One Pretty Thing

One Pretty Thing is an awesome website bringing you a daily dose of crafting goodness. Rachel rounds up the best crafting tutorials and inspiration from across the web and posts them all in one place. She showcases lots of different projects such as: sewing, organizing, knitting, jewelry, home decor and so much more! My "to do" list has grown to over 50 projects!

So head on over to One Pretty Thing for your next project.

Easy Pumpkin Muffins

Not only is this recipe easy it is also pretty healthy. I have even made it by substituting the oil with more apple sauce. You can even cut back on the sugar and they are still tasty!

1 1/2c sugar
1/2 c oil
1/2 c applesauce
3 eggs
1 can15oz pumpkin (try sweet potatoes too!)
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or substitute ginger and cloves)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Beat all of the ingredients together well (5 min) Pour into cupcake pans (fill more than 1/2 full) Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes.

My kids love these and they are so good! Enjoy
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