Thursday, December 4, 2014

. . . More Elf on the Shelf Antics . . .

Our little elf visits us from the North Pole every December and I think the only reason he comes is to create havoc at our house.  He is always up to no good it seems like.  Bringing sugary sweets and getting in my way and making lots of messes I have to clean up...but I LOVE IT!  We have so much fun this time of year because we spend lots of time laughing at what Roy is up to. 

I hope you will come back often this month to see what our little elf is up to.

 Roy brought our son the LARGEST box of Mike and Ike's I have ever seen!  It's over a pound of those little fruit chews.  I can see I'm going to have to really ration these out.  I love that Roy is holding one in his hand and has his own little stash on top of the box.  Sorry, for the cell phone photo instead of a camera photo but my mom was having surgery on this day and I was rushing out the door and forgot to take a real picture.

 Oh Roy!  You cute little elf.  He must know I love these soft frosted cookies...oh wait, he didn't bring them for me did he?  He also stole some egg nog our of the fridge to wash his cookies down with.

 He really was making a piglet of himself with these cookies (I don't blame him since they are hard to stop at just one).  I'm not sure any of the frosting made it in his mouth because most of it's on his face!

 Messy little Roy!

 Today is my favorite thing Roy has done in a long time.  Our son is at the age where he suddenly knows more than we do and he lets us know how stupid we are on a regular basis.  I guess Roy got tired of listening to him being smart with us because he brought his tools to "Repair" Marcus's attitude.  I love it!
Seeing the look on my son's face after reading this note was really quite priceless.  He thought the tools were there to help install a microwave we had purchased so when he read the note his mouth dropped open and he just stared at me in awe.  It was great.  I hope that having Roy "watching" him he will straighten up a little bit.

Don't forget to click on the Elf on the Shelf image at the top right of the blog to see more elf silliness.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

. . . Elf on the Shelf is back to visit . . .

It's that time of year again...Roy is here to visit us.  All year long we look forward to Roy coming.  This little elf has given us so many wonderful memories and hopefully will continue to do so for many more years.  His silliness is something we laugh about regularly and I'm so glad I've documented most of his antics here on my blog.  When our son is older it will be a great way to relive the memories.

The first day that Roy came to see us he climbed in through our window on Christmas tinsel wearing a hat and scarf because it was so cold outside.  He left a nice note about how much he loves to visit and why he was here.  Elf on the Shelf is the best thing to happen to parents because he is a constant reminder to the kiddos that they have to behave.  The minute I say Roy is watching you Marcus straightens right up and behaves.  Even though he is almost 12 he isn't willing to take any chances with his behavior just in case.

Apparently Roy has been very busy with his paintbrush!  He left this cute canvas for Marcus.  A great way to remember how special Roy is.  

 Notice this adorable Christmas sweater Roy is sporting.  Too cute!

 Roy is a busy little guy while we sleep!

 He left a very sweet note too!

Stay tuned for updates on what Roy is doing around our house and for even more Elf fun click on the Elf on the Shelf link at the top right of the blog.

I hope you will come back often this month to see what our little elf is up to!  Leave a comment about what your Elf on the Shelf is up to as well.  I love hearing about them.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

. . . DIY 4x4 Christmas Candlesticks . . .

A couple months ago my mom and I decided to have a painting party and have everyone bring a container of chalk paint of their choice and we provided the project.  We had so much fun doing this that we decided to do it again but make a Christmas Craft this time.  It is hard to come up with a project that everyone will love and that can be made in a couple hours from start to finish but this was perfect.  We made 4x4 Christmas Candlesticks and the fun part is that everyone's ended up looking a little bit different.
Again we used Americana Decor Chalky Finish Paint from Decoart and it worked beautifully for our 4x4s.  The 2 colors we used were Everlasting and Romance (the perfect red).  I also came up with the idea of using wide mouth jar lids painted and glued onto the top of the 4x4 and that is used to hold a pillar candle.  We also drilled a hole in the top of each block so you could use a votive or tea light.  To do the tea light hole you need a 1.5 inch spade drill bit.  Some of the girls chose to take the wide mouth jar lids but not glue them on so they could use both options depending on which candle they had handy.  I chose to skip drilling mine altogether because I knew I'd probably always want the pillar candles.  My mom did a set where she glued the lids and has the holes drilled so she can do either one.

These are three sets that my mom and I did before the party to use as examples and each set has a slightly different look.  Adding a little something extra with ribbon or wraphia made a big impact and then a sprig of berries and pine really makes the candlesticks pop.  I also found really cute vinyl Christmas labels at Michael's that I added to mine.  They are removable too so if I get tired of them it's an easy fix.
 So pretty and it's always rewarding when you can make something you can use.

 This set is distressed a bit more than the others and was done when it was completed so the red runs into the white and gives it a more rustic look.

Our party theme was turquoise and red so we set up this set using a sprig of turquoise beads and then red and turquoise ribbon so it's a little more modern and colorful.

This is the set I made for our house.  I added vinyl stickers and a sprig of berries with red burlap ribbon.  I picked up some pretty red candles and the candlesticks are ready to go.

 I tried to use all turquoise and red for the party set up.  I stacked paper plates in alternating colors and did the same with the cups and napkins and then picked up paper straws in the same colors.  To add some candlelight to everything I just used blue Ball jars and filled the bottom with Epsom salt and added a red and white gingham ribbon and dropped a tea light into the bottom.  

There was a table set up of all the things the girls would need to make this project including lots of Chalky Finish Paint. 
 Because we knew time would be limited to get this project done my mom and I sanded all the blocks and put one coat of primer on them and then applied one coat of Everlasting Chalky Finish Paint.  The girls got right to work when they got there and started painting another coat of the white and then while that dried they got busy eating and visiting.  It worked out well to do that because by the time they were done eating all the yummy food they could get started on the sanding and then painting the red accents.
 Once everyone had their blocks painted white we had them sand the entire block and distress it the way they wanted.  We then started having each person tape off the design they wanted.  Some did chevron, some did stripes, some did polka dots and one even did a monogram.  It was so fun to see what each person wanted.
 Lots of fun sanding, taping and painting.  Then of course finishing them with the Americana Decor Clear Wax. 
 We found that since we were trying to get the project done in a couple hours that a hair dryer just dried that paint up like nobody's business.  I am going to have to keep one handy every time I want to get a project done quickly. 

Don't you love the chevron and vertical stripes too?  They turned out so cute.
 I am in love with the top set that is really distressed.  It turned out so nice and looks so rustic.  Then the monogram looked awesome as well.  The stickers add a great something extra too.  I just love all the sets and couldn't pick a favorite.
 I think everyone left very happy with how their blocks turned out and I hope they will all use them in their holiday decorating.

Everyone had a great time I think and the projects all looked so good as they were heading out the door at the end of the night!

Use untreated 4x4s cut to the desired size.  We did a set of two for the night of the party but then did sets of 3 for a few other sets.  Ours were cut to be:

Sand your blocks until smooth.  **If you are going to drill with the spade bit then you will want to go ahead and do that now.  Apply one coat of primer.  I used spray primer on my set but we used brush on primer for the sets the girls painted.  I think the blocks that had brush on primer did much better than my set with spray primer.  

Once the primer dries apply your white paint until the wood is covered to your liking.  Sand the entire block getting the block distressed as much as you'd like.

Use round sponge brushes to achieve the polka dot look or use painter's tape to tape off the blocks in horizontal stripes or diagonal stripes or even vertical stripes.  Whatever your heart desires!  Use different widths of tape to get a different look to your stripes as well.  Once the tape is applied you will paint the white areas red or whatever color you are using on your blocks.  Let the red dry and then paint another coat.  I found that I liked mine with 3 coats but most of the girls at the party were happy with 2 coats.  It is completely up to you.  

Once the red has dried you can sand a little more to distress the blocks or you can leave them as they are.  For my 2 blocks that have stripes I left the tape covering the white so no red would bleed into the white and sanded the red back down to make it a little distressed on the edges.  I then removed the tape so I could touch up any bleeds and then I was ready for wax.  I didn't sand my polka dot block until after I waxed.

Apply your choice of wax.  I use Minwax or the Americana Decor Clear Wax and love both.  I think the Minwax is a little thicker but both protect well and leave a great feel to the finished project.  Once you've applied your wax and buffed it off you can lightly sand with a very smooth sandpaper to get a really nice finish. 

If you are using the wide mouth jar lids to hold pillar candles then you can paint those to the desired color and use E6000 glue to apply them to the top of your blocks.  Let them dry and then you can add your candles.  Add any extra embellishments that you would like and then display them.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

. . . Crock Pot Mississippi Roast . . .

The first time I made this roast it was a chilly, rainy fall day.  It was the kind of day that was just screaming for a dinner made up of comfort food and this totally fit the bill.  It made the house smell so amazing!   I am making it again today as I write this blog post and man, I just want to crawl in that crock pot and never leave because it smells so darn yummy!  

I really don't know why it's called Mississippi Roast but that is what I keep coming up with when I google it and see it on Pinterest so we are going to stick with that name.  It is very fast to make because it's just a couple ingredients and it's all done in the crock pot.  I find that anyone that tries it is hooked so I hope it is a keeper for you and your family too.
Mississippi Pot Roast
1 Chuck Roast (I get a 2 to 3 pound roast)
1 envelope of Ranch Dressing mix
1 envelopes of Au Jus mix
1 stick of butter
5 to 6 pepperoncini peppers
1/4 cup water

Place roast in crock pot and sprinkle the Au Jus Mix and Ranch Dressing Mix over top of it.  Place your stick of butter on top and sprinkle with the 1/4 Cup water.  Place 5 to 6 peppers around the top and cover and let cook all day.  You can serve immediately in chunks or you can remove it and shred it and pour the juices over it.  I shredded some and left some in chunks.  I sometimes prepare a gravy as you see in the photos but it's perfect without it too.

 Gather your ingredients

 Add everything to your crock pot. 
 I always use crock pot liners which are the best invention ever since they makes clean up a breeze.

Don't be afraid of adding the peppers because they aren't really a hot pepper. If you cut them open the roast will be much spicier but if you leave them whole they just provide a very nice flavor.  The heat gets released from the pepper when they are cut so I just leave mine whole since I'm not a big fan of real spicy food.

 I cooked mine in the crock pot for about 8 hours and it was perfect because it fell apart so nicely and was so tender.

 I shredded most of my meat but my husband likes it in chunks so I left some of it like that as well.  This makes amazing sandwiches as well.

 Serve with some of the juices drizzled over it or make a gravy with the juices and put that over your meat and potatoes.  

I know this meal is a little scary because you use a whole stick of butter but it really is worth the splurge.  You can also use some beef broth in place of a little of the butter to help save a few calories.  

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we do!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

. . . One Pot Cheeseburger Pasta . . .

I just love a one pot meal!  It makes clean up a cinch and usually they are very tasty. The best part is they are FAST and with our lives being so busy that is something all of us are looking for.

It seems like every night we are rushing around with homework and after school activities and making dinner is something I stress about because of the lack of time in the evenings.  I hate feeding my family fast food or take out so I try to come up with fast meals or crock pot meals during the week.  This is going to be in our recipe rotation for sure because it was a hit with all of us which is a difficult thing to achieve. 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, do not drain
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1/4 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 pound rotini pasta
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tomato, diced (optional)
2 green onions, chopped (optional)
Dill pickles, chopped (optional)
Crumbled bacon (optional)
Shredded lettuce (optional) 
Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add ground beef and onion and cook until beef has browned and onions are translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Make sure you crumble the beef as it cooks; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Drain excess fat and return to burner.

Stir in diced tomatoes with the liquid, tomato sauce, chicken broth, ketchup, mustard, pasta and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and then cover, reduce heat to medium/low and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 15 minutes. 

Remove from heat and top with cheese. Cover until cheese has melted, about 2 minutes. Plate the pasta and garnish with tomatos, green onions, pickles, shredded lettuce and crumbled bacon, or just serve it with your choice of toppings. 
Recipe adapted from Damn Delicious and No. 2 Pencil

Once your beef and onions are cooked through drain fat and stir in diced tomatoes with the liquid, tomato sauce, chicken broth, ketchup, dijon mustard, pasta and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and then cover, reduce heat to medium/low and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Once the pasta is cooked through then add your cheddar cheese and recover for a couple minutes until it is melted.
Top with green onions if you like them and if not then just have your optional toppings ready for each person to use when they plate their pasta up.  Yummy!
Serve to your family and listen to them oooh and ahhh over how yummy this One Pot Pasta is!
The perfect weeknight dinner!  To the table in minutes and very few dishes to clean up!


Friday, October 17, 2014

. . . DIY 2x4 Wooden Pumpkin Patch . . .

If you are a follower of Pinterest then I am sure you have seen a variation of these wooden pumpkins floating around!  I know every time I click on Pinterest I see at least a couple Wooden Pumpkin Pins.  One day my mom said she really wanted to make a set of Wooden Pumpkins and I thought it was so funny because for at least a month I had been thinking about it since I keep seeing them on Pinterest.  I would say within minutes of that conversation there was a Home Depot run.  We did 5 pumpkins for our sets but sometimes you will see just 3 or 4 and even just 2 of them.  The best part about a project like this is that each person is going to end up with a bit different look and will probably display them a little differently.  I have seen them with stripes, polka dots, chevron stripes, monograms, etc.  So many ways to do them.  

We both are very happy with how easy this project was and how cute they are!  I can't wait to make something else using wood blocks!  So fun!
You will need:
2x4 cut in sizes of your choice.  We made our pumpkins 4,6,9,12 and 15 inches tall.  The wood came from Home Depot and they cut it there.
3/4 inch Dowel Rod cut down to size for your stems.  The stems used were just random so I don't have exact measurements of what are shown here.  Just give it a good estimate  
Orange Paint, we used American Decor Chalky Finish paint from Decoart.  It's by far my favorite chalk paint.
Brown Paint for your stems-we used a color my mom had from Valspar.
Silk Leaves
Floral Wire or some flexible wire to make the stems
Sand Paper/Power Sander
Minwax or a wax of your choice (This step is optional but makes a beautiful finish to your pumpkins)
Chalkboard for your sign.  We used little chalkboard place cards from Michael's.  
Chalk and/or chalk pen
E6000 Glue

 You will want to sand your board pieces really smooth so that you have a nice finish.  A power sander is always nice for this kind of job but if you don't have one just use a sanding block or a piece of medium grit sandpaper to get it all smooth.

Use your orange paint to cover all sides of your boards.  I did 2 coats of the American Decor Chalky Finish paint and it worked really well.  It was a little bright at first but with all the distressing I did and then waxing the blocks it ended up a nice rich orange so don't panic if yours looks a little bright.

Once your paint has dried on all sides really well you can distress the boards.  I used my power sander with a fine grit sandpaper and went over the whole block lightly and then went back over the edges to actually take some paint off.  After the sanding it really lightened up the orange but no worries.
 I wanted mine to have more dimension so I used a Stain Pain to darken the blocks.  I dabbed the stain pain on a piece of white t shirt and then lightly rubbed it into the block.  If you use a pen like I did you won't want to put the pen directly to the wood because you end up looking like you just have lines.  You just keep adding the stain where you want it and blending it in with the t shirt fabric.  Once I stained mine I very lightly went back over it with the sander.  

Now on to the wax.  I used Minwax and applied it to all the blocks with a wax brush.  I personally love a wax brush but some people like to just rub the wax on with a piece of cotton fabric.  Either way works.  Once the wax dried up a bit I went over it and buffed it out with a white t shirt and really brought up the shine.  Then I used a 400 grit piece of sandpaper and went over all the blocks on all sides to make a really smooth finish and then rebuffed them with the t shirt fabric.  They feel like silk now.  That is my favorite about finishing with wax because it makes the piece so smooth. 
  As you can see in the first photo above, once the wax is done and you've sanded all the pieces again you end up really getting some dimension and it brings up some dark spots.  You may not like this look so if you don't just skip over it.  

I skipped photos of doing the stems and curling the wire for the top of the pumpkins so I will just tell you what I did...You will paint your stem pieces a dark brown and you can distress and wax these as well but you wouldn't need to use your stain on these since they are already dark brown.  You will then decide which is the top of your pumpkin and use E6000 glue to apply the stems.  Let these dry really well or the stems will slide all over the place.

For the little curly wire we used 2 colors of floral wire.  We wrapped 2 pieces together to get a heavier look and then twisted them around each stem and curled them around a pencil and then stretched them out to our liking.  Then I glued a few green leaves to the top of each pumpkin.  Some got 2 leaves and others got one--just do them to your liking.

We got little chalkboard clothespin place cards from Michael's and then removed the clothes pin from the back and painted the back so it looked finished using the same technique as the pumpkin blocks.  I distressed the back of my sign quite a bit so it looks really "beat up" but that was the look I was going for.  I then went out in my yard to gather a few sticks and sanded them a little so they were nice and smooth.  I then used the E6000 glue to attach the sticks to the back of the chalkboard to make a little standing sign.  Tied a piece of wraphia ribbon around the stick and it was done.  
Have you ever heard of Tacky Wax?  If not it's something you should own if you like to decorate.  We collect Department 56 Snow Villages and this stuff always saves us when we set them up and the little pieces won't stand up etc. but I have been amazed at how often I use it when decorating around the house.  It will hold candles in place like nobody's business!  I rolled a little ball of it and placed it on the bottom of each of my pumpkins to hold them in place sine they were going to be sitting on a tray and might be wobbly.  Worked like a charm! 
 I put my finished pumpkins in a basket/tray combination and then filled the base with dried green peas.  I then stuck my sign in and added a tiny dab of Tacky Wax to the back of the sign and leaned it against the pumpkin to make it look like it's standing on it's own.  Worked out perfectly.

This was a very simple project but plan on a day to get it all done since the paint and glue has to dry thoroughly before moving on to the next step.  I promise it will be worth it though!
I am sure this sounds funny but I think the sign is probably my favorite part of this whole project.  I seasoned the chalkboard by rubbing chalk all over it and then lightly wiping it away so it didn't remain so "new" looking.  I then did the writing with a Chalk Pen--best thing ever.  I finished it up by running a piece of chalk all around the edges to make it "pop" a little more.
 • • •
My Mom's Pumpkin Patch
 Here are a few photos of my mom's pumpkin display too.  She did hers a bit differently because she painted a wood plaque to use as her base.  I love it!
 She used brown paper shreds as her base filler just to add a little dimension to the display.

 Another little chalkboard sign done the same way as above.  So cute!

 Her base is a wood plaque from the craft store and she used 2 colors of paint to achieve this look.  She first painted it dark brown and then added a light brown on top and then did lots of sanding to get most the light brown off and bring out the deeper brown.  She then waxed it and it feels like glass it is so smooth.  It turned out so well!

I love how they are the same but slightly different.  At first glance I think they look exactly the same but then when you really look there are little things here and there that we chose to do a bit differently and I love that.
• • •
 Such a fun Fall Project!  Something that would really make a great gift as well.
 Happy Fall!
 A cute little pumpkin patch!
  If you end up making these I'd love to hear from you.  I think you will just love them when they are all finished!


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