Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gold Spray Painted Placemats



Wow, what a week. My 19 year old cat is sick, so its been a rough week. I am hoping for some positive news from the vet but trying to be realistic at the same time.



I wanted to post a little (and I mean little) project I did before New Years. Sorry my pics are only partially done settings, I was tearing down Christmas when I did this.


I bought these place mats at Ikea and then forgot about them for months! I found them and decided to try out my gold spray paint on them. When I bought them they reminded me of the gold nest runner and placemats at ZGallerie. The 4 pack of placemats at ZGallerie is $19.80 plus tax and shipping. I paid $2.99 per placemat at Ikea plus tax.


I only sprayed one side, I could do the other side but I thought having the natural side down was fine. I need a white or light colored tablecloth to make the gold pop (or a new table, hint hint).



The difference is subtle from the natural color, but really in person the gold is lovely. I think I may buy some more and spray them in silver for a choice and depending on which colors I choose to decorate with.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ikea - Shoe Storage Cabinets

Stock Photo: www.ikea.com

Storage, why do I feel like I never have enough storage? Because I don’t! What is it with my house? The blue print was designed to take advantage of every square inch of space, but the problem with my house is that the architect of this blueprint forgot that people need storage for all their junk! What I would give to have extra storage like a large laundry room, a butler’s pantry, big coat closets, and a large master bedroom closet.

One thing that makes me nutso in my house is there is nowhere to take off your shoes when you walk in. So 2 things occur, people just don’t take off their shoes and track dirt and snow all over my floors or they do kick off the shoes and throw them in a heap on my family room floor.

#1. The wearing of shoes in the house and not taking them off issue, is a major gripe. Growing up in a family where wearing shoes in the house is a crime, to having my house tracked up all the time because folks don’t remove their shoes is not working for me anymore. I am guilty of this too, but I typically take off my shoes when I come home just maybe not right at the door. Others who shall remain nameless walk around in the shoes all day and night. Nothing can be worse than walking on the floor in my warm cozy socks to step in a freezing cold water spot left from someone’s shoes! Or finding dirt clumps or black skid marks left from the rubber soles of boots! I totally get why my mom and my aunts always made people remove the shoes before coming into their homes.

#2. Finding heaps of shoes laying on the family room floor. Oh how this makes me totally cray-cray! I added a basket under the end table for shoes, I am the only one who uses it. I added a gold basket behind the end table and this one gets used but the amount of shoes is too much for this one basket (remember the basket under the end table? Neither do my kids!) Did I mention all these shoes are my kid’s? Plus they dump backpacks and their coats back here on the floor too. Lovely! Honestly I just try to not look at that spot.


I went to Ikea a few weeks ago and was looking at the shoe cabinets. These are very cool! I bought the plastic apple green set for my garage. I want the other 2 cabinets as well for different areas of my house. While at Ikea I took pictures of the cabinet, checked out the cabinets, and noted the measurements.


This totally durable and totally plastic 3-tier shoe cabinet is one I bought for my garage walls. I think I need more than 1 set. But these come apart so you can hang then horizontal, vertical or you can vary them with a different color to make a pattern. And they are $39.99 for a 3-tier set. Right now this is sitting in my family room next to the 2 baskets I use for shoes, but like the baskets, this is also empty. Haha! I wanted these to store gloves, hats and scarves. I think keeping these in the garage attached to the wall  is the best place versus being stuffed into a laundry basket which is laying on its side in my tiny coat closet. The closet is so tiny that the basket has to be turned on its side to fit thru the doorway of this closet, lol.


Next is this really cool and tall cabinet. This one has 2 shoe drawers and one shallow top drawer for keys or other quick access items.  I like this one for my family room to replace all the baskets. In white! Maybe with a mirror over it and some different hardware.

Finally this one I really really like! It is only 8-5/8” deep, that is nothing! I want at least 2 of these 4 compartment cabinets for my upstairs hallway to store things like small stadium throw blankets, magazines, shoes, etc… I think I also like this one in white. The stock photo I attached from Ikea is the look I would love to have on the hall wall.


All good things in time though! I am still paying off Christmas so these little beauties will have to wait until spring!
Friday, January 24, 2014

Recipe: PB Banana Bombs

Another recipe! I have been on a recipe roll this month. I try to think about things I like and things that I like to make and can share, guess my brain is functioning again, WOO-HOO! It's no secret to anyone that knows me that I have a hugely massive sweet tooth. I would eat nothing but sweets if I could.

Because I like sweets as much as I do, it is important to find treats that are better for me than Snickers and Twinkies, not that I sit around eating Snickers and Twinkies but you get my point ;-)  I do like to eat frozen fruit bars, but many of these are full of sugar so I don't pig out on these but eat them occasionally. I need to make some homemade fruit bars to control the sugar, I will let you know how this turns out.

A treat I do like is PB Banana Bombs, they are like little bon-bons. I take a banana slice it up, and make little peanut butter banana sandwiches. You can cut the banana as thick as you like. Top with a little bit of PB and then place another banana slice on top. Freeze this on a wax paper lined baking sheet until frozen then coat with chocolate.

You don't have to use 2 banana slices, you can do one banana slice with PB and freeze and dip. You can also top with any kind of peanut butter, nut butter, or nutella. You can coat them in any kind of chocolate, its really a preference thing.

I used Earth Balance regular Peanut Butter (I also have used Earth Balance Coconut PB), and semisweet chocolate chips. Next time I might do a natural peanut butter or almond butter and dip in dark chocolate. I have not tried nutella yet, lord help me if I do...

I do put a little shortening in the melted chocolate chips, but you don't have to. Once you coat the frozen banana sandwich the chocolate almost immediately hardens.

I store these in a baggie or a freezer safe bowl. These little treats are great for sugar cravings, I usually eat one and am satisfied.

Great creative with these and Enjoy!
Thursday, January 23, 2014

Recipe: Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Crockpot Chicken


What! A chicken recipe? Yes, I am following a vegetarian diet but I am the only one in my house, so the troops gotta be fed.

I cannot tell you where this recipe came from. A friend pulled it off of Facebook from someone's Skinny Fiber page and then she gave me a copy of it.

Sweet Baby Ray's Crockpot Chicken 

4-6 chicken breast 
1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray's sauce (I used original)
1/4 c vinegar 
1 tsp red pepper flakes 
1/4 c brown sugar (I used light brown)
1 tsp garlic powder 

Mix everything but chicken.  Place chicken in crockpot (frozen is ok) Pour sauce mixture over chicken. Cook on low 4-6 hours 

The sauce is pretty tasty, but gets thin as it cooks. My husband liked it and put the sauce over brown rice.

Enjoy!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Recipe: Lentil Soup

Hi Friends!

What a weekend in Ohio. Saturday late afternoon the snow came down and pounded on us! We took the kids out for dinner, locally and getting there was not fun! We slid everywhere! The drive home was slow and slippery!

Sunday the sun came out and we had 39 degrees as a high temp and all that snow melted away. It was warm enough that I got all my Christmas decorations taken down, packed and lifted into the attic and I was wearing running pants and a t-shirt! 

First thing this morning! Snowing strong! Can't believe all snow melted yesterday!
This fine Tuesday morning we woke up to complete covering of snow again! About 1 inch per hour and lots of wind and when you live in the country like I do wind means 1 thing, snow drifts. My kids school was closed so I will work from home today to keep an eye on them.

So, lentil soup....

I love it personally. I think the look of the lentils might put off some folks, but lentils come in different colors with different purposes for cooking. I like to use the green or brown lentils for soup, the basic lentil sold in the grocery. Lentils are so good and full of fiber. I like to make this soup and take for lunch for about a week. Besides lentil soup being low in fat and high in fiber, it is cheap to make.


Ingredients are pretty basic and you can add or take out whatever you want. I use herbs like basil and oregano or rosemary and thyme, it depends on what I am in the mood for. This last batch I used basil but was out of oregano so it was not a big deal. That's what I like about this soup you can customize it.


I bought carrots chips and diced them instead of cutting up a whole carrot, this reduced my prep time a lot. I diced the onion, sliced the celery, and quartered the mushrooms. You can use chicken broth, but I use vegetable broth. You can use 1/2 broth ad 1/2 water or you can use all broth, it's really a personal choice.


Ingredients:
1/4c olive oil (I never use this much oil)
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1-2 cups mushrooms, quartered or sliced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dry oregano  (or thyme)
1 tsp dry basil (or rosemary)
1 bay leaf
14.5oz can petite diced tomatoes
2 c. lentils
4 c. water
4 c. chicken or vegetable broth, plus 1-2 c. extra broth
salt and pepper to taste


Directions:
Sautee carrots and onion in olive oil over medium heat. Add celery and mushrooms once onion and carrots have started to soften. Add garlic and dry herbs once onion is tender.


Stir in diced tomatoes with juice, lentils, water, and broth. Boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 1 hour or until lentils are tender. 

The soup will cook down and the lentils will expand reducing the amount of broth left in the soup. If you want more broth add an extra 1-2 cups of broth (based on your preference for broth). Let simmer an additional 5-10 minutes.

Optional - Some people like to add fresh spinach or kale to their lentil soup. When soup is ready to serve you can add in about 1/4 -1/2 cup of thinly sliced spinach or kale, let it cook until it wilts, add a little vinegar about 1-2tbsp. I don't do this because I don't want the spinach or kale and vinegar in the pot, but I may try it some time in a bowl of the soup.

Enjoy!




Friday, January 17, 2014

Home Depot - Do-It Herself Workshop - Storage Trunk #DIHWORKSHOP (on Instagram)

I was looking at Instagram Wednesday afternoon and saw a Home Depot post advertising the Thursday, Jan 16 Do-It Herself workshop that was offered to make a storage trunk. I was intrigued, I knew that both Lowe's and Home Depot offered workshops but many times they were for projects that didn't appeal to me like installing a toilet.

Jan 16 - Building a storage trunk
Feb 20 - Making a mosaic mirror
Mar 20 - installing tile backsplash

Workshops are held every third Thursday from 6:30 - 8:00pm at your local Home Depot and are FREE! Go online at www.workshops.homedepot.com or thd.co/dihworkshop to register for classes.

My Experience at the Workshop
My first impression when I pulled into the Home Depot parking was I am the only one here. I went to the small out of the way Home Depot near my house, it is never busy but literally I was the only car in the parking lot. I went inside 3 employees were at the service desk talking and I asked where the workshop was and they told me where to go and yelled at the lady running it that I was walking over.

I get to the "workshop" and nothing was set up and the lady running it told me she was not ready because she didn't think anyone would show up. So I waited about 10 mins while she set up the materials she used on a table. So at 6:40pm she started the workshop which was showing me the trunk they pre-built.

She showed me the materials and made several references to "the reason we're not building this in this workshop is because we have over $100.00 in materials in this trunk". And I am not being rude but after looking at the box on wheels they had built no way that thing cost over $100! The plywood was $35 and that is high but everything else used was only a few dollars, so let's cut the cost estimate back to $50.

I wrote down the measurements and the materials used and took a picture of the "trunk". I would build this for toys in my garage to be stored in but since I didn't see anything actually being built I admit I will be figuring this out on my own. But its a box so it cannot be that hard, plus HD will cut the wood for me.

The lady did take me into the lumber dept and showed me which plywood she used versus what was called for on the Ana-White plans and the 2x2 and 1x2 and the trim and corner pieces she used versus what they could have used.

That was it. I talked to the lady for another 5 mins about paint and then tile and left.



My impression of the Workshop:

  1. They were not prepared at all
  2. They didn't build anything, just showed me the materials and finished product
  3. The lady running the class kept referencing the man who cut the wood for her 
  4. I kept hearing "when he built this"  (shouldn't the person teaching the workshop have the knowledge on how the item was built??)
  5. I did not learn a darned thing!
  6. I would think since its a workshop on how to build a storage trunk a storage trunk could have been built in that 1.5hour time slot. But the lady kept telling me they could not built it in that timeframe???
  7. The person teaching the workshop works in flooring was not from lumber or a carpenter, so who was this expert mentioned in the advertisement?
  8. Oh my favorite part was when the corner trim partially detached and the comment was "oh we used cheap wood glue!" Seriously!!!! Pop a finish nail near the end! LOL


Will I go back to other workshops?
I am going to go to the next 2, just to see what they are about. I was told in the February workshop I will get to make a mosaic mirror and in March will learn how to do a tile backsplash. I think this first workshop experience was extremely disappointing but I am not going to let it sour me from others. If the next workshop disappoints I may switch to a different and bigger Home Depot.

I was asking them about the new chalky paint I saw on Instagram, HiSugarplum and on the HD blog and told them it would look good on that storage trunk and their paint expert was standing there and she kept telling me it was chalkboard paint and I kept telling her no its not and described it to her, the packaging, what is was, etc... They had to go on the HD website and look it up and read about it. They didn't carry it at their store nor did they have any knowledge of this new product. Me the customer educated them on their own product and from there I heard the paint expert going around to other employees telling them about this paint I just told them about. I thought that was interesting that HD have not even educated their paint experts about a product being advertised on social media.

My Time Invested in the Workshop
I drove 20 minutes to HD and 20 minutes home = 40 minutes in driving
I waited 10 minutes for the workshop to be set up = 10 minutes waiting
Talked to employees for about 5 mins about tile = 5 minutes talking after workshop
Workshop 15 minutes including telling them about chalky paint = 15 minutes for actual work shop

I left home at 6:05 got to HD at 6:25 at 6:30 workshop not ready waited for set up. 6:40 workshop started, 6:55 workshop finished, talked to employee about tile for 5 minutes. Left store at 7:00, drove home got home at 7:23.

Total = spent more time driving than at HD.





Thursday, January 16, 2014

52-Week Money Saving Challenge


Hi all!

I was reading Honey Were Home Monday night and the post got my attention. It was about finances and budgeting. The point is how can you reduce your debt, how you can save money, and how you can save money to buy something you really want.

I like to have things, who doesn't. Small things I will buy but bigger things can be problematic if you have debt. We planned to re-do our first floor flooring and remodel our kitchen in 2013, but some significant medical bills really need to be paid off so our remodel was postponed. I hate my kitchen and the flooring is literally falling apart but remodeling is not worth the extra debt right now.

So, let's get to the point of this post. Reading Megan's post she found a 52 week money savings challenge on Helicopter Mom's blog. When I think of the debt I do have and the fact that I want new flooring, furniture, fixtures, vacation, and Christmas money this challenge is a great motivator.

Save money equaling the week of the year for 52 weeks. Week1...save $1; week 25...save $25; etc. Over the course of the year you will save $1,378. You can also break this down to $115 per month to equal $1,380 over 52 weeks.

My family is in each of us will drop $115 into an acct each month to save for Christmas and vacation. This will be just over $5,500 in a year! This teaches my kids about saving money and the reward you get at the end. Very exciting.

Many thanks to Helicopter Mom aka Mickey for posting this challenge and for creating the 52 week challenge printable pdf. Also many thanks for her fabulous blog, I plan to read it from start to present this weekend!

Look for other sources to explain how you can reduce debt. Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey are experts that can lead you in the right direction. Megan points out that you can plan for what you want and once your finances are in a good place you can make your purchase (if you even still want that item). Megan's post also lists things you can do while not spending much or any money. Having fun or having nice things doesn't always have to cost a lot of money.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Recipe: Laundry Sauce


Is it really sauce? Not really, but it is like a thick lotion or body cream. I found the recipe for Mom's Super Laundry Sauce on Budget 101. I was looking for a stain remover and this caught my attention. I had recently made homemade laundry detergent and this is a thicker and more concentrated version of the laundry detergent.

3 main ingredients
I used this to clean my carpet. One of my kids had dropped something dark and mysterious on the carpet and it left an icky greyish oval. Lucky for me my coffee table covered it nicely but I still knew that spot was there taunting me.

Jars ready to be filled
After I made this "sauce" I thought about the quick tip from Sabrina Soto regarding cleaning carpet spots with Borax. So I put a tablespoon on the spot and worked it in with my fingers with a little water. I let it sit for a few minutes and then used my carpet cleaner with hot water to suck the soap and the stain out of my carpet. Like magic the stain was gone. I am sure you can guess what happened next....yep I hit every spot in my carpets....and they all came out too :)

Just getting good and melted
Follow the recipe to the letter, don't try and go commando on this one. Don't put your stove on anything more than medium heat!

1 bar Fels Naptha (grated)
1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (found in the laundry aisle, this is not baking soda)
4 cups of hot water 


I grated the Fels Naptha and stirred gently with water until it melted completely. Then I added the powdered soaps and removed from heat and continued stirring until the mixture was smooth and all grit was gone.

Powdered Ingredients
Once the mixture cooled and separated in the jar, I poured in my blender and whipped it up and then jarred, mine made 3qt jars. My blender did not attach to the bottom of the jars so I had to pour this in my blender carafe and whip it that way. For great pictures and better directions than mine visit Budget 101.

All ingredients added, stir gently
I have not used it alone in the washer, but the author of the recipe does. I have a front loader so I take a tablespoon and mix it with some water to break it up and throw in with loads that need a boost. Great stuff, love it.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Recipe: Fudge


Fudge is possibly my favorite thing to make. I can stand at my stove and no one bothers me. It is just known at my house when the fudge pan comes out no one can bother me.

How do I make my fudge? Marshmallow or no marshmallow? I am marshmallow all the way because I think the fudge is softer and creamier than its non-marshmallow counterparts. Soft creamy fudge is important to me, lol.


Every time I make fudge I think about my Aunt Geri. Growing up I was always at her house, I loved going to her house it was my second home, I still do love going there though I don’t get over there as much as I should. When I was a teenager, I remember one year at Christmas my Aunt Geri was determined that we were going to make us some fudge both chocolate and peanut butter.

First 3 ingredients just added, awaiting boil

We went to Kroger and got all the ingredients and we were ready to get started. She pulled out her old green pot and we dumped the ingredients in. We scorched batch after batch after batch. And we made additional trips to Kroger to get more ingredients. I think we only got one semi-scorched batch made and set up. It was fun and my Aunt Geri wasted a lot of money that day on fudge ingredients but I learned a lot about making fudge that weekend. After that weekend I was determined that I would learn and master fudge, no way was I going to let it get the better of me.

1.       You have to have a heavy pot, flimsy thin pots won’t do
2.       You have to watch the heat
3.       You have to stir, stir, stir. Scrape that spoon across the bottom to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot!
4.       You need to set the remaining ingredients out to have them measured and ready to add in.
5.       You have to have the pan buttered and ready to receive the hot fudge mixture
6.       Most important you have to have plenty of time to make it and you must be patient!
7.       The 5 minute estimate to hit soft ball stage is wrong, Mine takes about 20 minutes over medium heat. Not sure what kind of stove was used when they wrote this recipe.


I use an old corningware pot, I call it my fudge pan because that is what it is used for (sometimes I make hard tack candy in this too, but nothing else). They don’t make these anymore and I will shamefully admit that I swiped it from my mom once I learned it was the perfect pan to make fudge in. Sorry mom, but that pan is staying at my house forever!


The recipe I follow is Kroger’s Easy DO Fudge, and I swear by the Kroger brand marshmallow creme, it’s the only one that works for me.


You can use a candy thermometer to watch your temperatures, but to be honest I have only used the thermometer one time and I thought my fudge was dry. I use a clear bowl of cool water and test the mixture until it hits soft ball stage.


I have made peanut butter, chocolate, hot chocolate, mint chocolate, and cinnamon roll fudge using this same basic recipe. Yeah I know you want my cinnamon roll recipe :-) Some other time.


Ingredients:
¾ cup butter (1-1/2 sticks)
2/3 cup evaporated milk
3 cups white sugar
1 pkg (or 12oz) semi sweet chocolate chips  (I use the entire bag ) or 1 jar peanut butter
1-1/2 cups marshmallow crème
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:
Over medium heat in heavy pan melt butter, add evaporated milk and sugar. Stir continuously until soft ball stage or 235-245° F degrees.


Remove from heat and quickly add in the chocolate or peanut butter stir until melted, add in marshmallow crème stir vigorously until melted, add in vanilla and nuts stir until incorporated. Pour into a buttered pan, allow to cool completely.

The directions say to use a 13x9 pan. That is probably what I use, I use a pyrex rectangular baking pan.


Softball stage: as my recipe is cooking and starts to get thick I take a spoon and dip into the mixture, let the extra run off. Hold spoon over bowl of cool water and let mixture drip into the water, if the mixture falls apart (scatters like sand, its hard to describe) it is not ready. If the mixture falls in the water and stays together making a little drop or ribbons, you are at softball stage. Once I get here I cook my mixture an extra 5 minutes before finishing the fudge. 
Monday, January 13, 2014

Recipe: Homemade Kahlua


Howdy!

I am hopefully back in the saddle here. I am still taking down Christmas decorations, but seeing it has been below freezing here in Ohio, climbing into my attic which is over the garage to put decorations away has not been too appealing.  I have my big tree still up, and all the remaining décor is laying on my home office floor (the entire floor!!) and my small tree is laying in pieces in a loveseat. This week though Christmas is going bye-bye!

One thing I made on my December vacation was homemade Kahlua. My co-worker was telling me how she makes it as gifts every year. My eyes and ears perked up. I followed the same recipe as she did on cooks.com (Best Homemade Kahlua) but I read every one of the 103 reviews and adapted my recipe.

Picture from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EverclearHiRes.jpg)
This was not hard at all! The drive to Kentucky to get Everclear was the hardest part of making the Kahlua (1hr 30mins round trip driving). The recipe isn’t exact on cooking time. I cooked/boiled the sugar coffee mixture until the liquid was similar to cough syrup. I will be honest and tell ya I bought a bottle of Kahlua to compare. I believe I cooked the mixture between 1-2 hours to get that syrupy consistency.


Let the mixture cool COMPLETELY before adding the vanilla or the Everclear/vodka. If not you will just burn the alcohol out and you wasted time and moolah. I did an ice water bath in my sink and set the pot in that cold water and stirred to cool it down faster. Once it is cooled and you add the alcohol and vanilla you can store in bottles with good lids, store in a cool place. I bought my jars at the container store for $3.99 each (ouch). Next time I make Kahlua I will pre-plan and buy 12 oz bottles online for much less (See the bottle with a white lid - I had an old syrup bottle I was able to use, this is the perfect size and shape).


If you taste this right away the Everclear will be strong, you have to let this mellow out.  Usually with Everclear in a day or 2 it is much less noticeable. Everything I read said after 2 weeks the Kahlua would be mellowed and ready to drink but you can drink this immediately. I was going to give out as gifts but didn’t because I made it close to Christmas and didn’t have time to make cute labels and I only wanted to give out 12 oz bottles.  I may wait until Valentine’s Day to give to our friends so I can rebottle in 12 oz bottles and make cute labels.


Did I compare mine to the store bought? You know it! The store bought had a very sweet and chemical coffee flavor, the coffee flavor was mild due to the sweetness. Mine had a stronger real coffee flavor and a nice sweetness. Mine won hands down, I have always liked Kahlua and never noticed the chemical taste until I made mine.


See recipe below, my adaptions are in red.


BEST HOMEMADE KAHLUA
from COOKS.COM
Submitted by: Valerie Williams

Ingredients:
1 12-cup pot very strong coffee (chocolate flavored is best)  (I used the entire bag of coffee and made 26 cups coffee)
2 lbs. light brown sugar
4-6 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 bottle 190 proof Clear Springs or Everclear  --
750ml or 3 cups Everclear (you can use Vodka if you cannot get Everclear)

Directions:
Bring coffee to a boil in dutch oven or large pot. Gradually add 2 lbs. light brown sugar and return to boil stirring constantly. Let cool until room temperature. (I place pot in sink of cold water).
When completely cool, add the vanilla and 190 (I prefer the Clear Springs). It is ready to serve.

Add Vodka for Black or White Russians. Millstone Chocolate Velvet Coffee is what I like to make my Kahlua with, usually, but I have also made really good flavors with Hazelnut, French Vanilla and Chocolate Macadamia Nut. Sometimes, I like to add a little almond extract to give it an Amaretto flavor.
Monday, January 6, 2014

Christmas Wrap Up



I was planning to post my house pictures in December, but I was busy getting everything ready for Christmas and trying to enjoy my time off work, so I fell behind here.

I took a lot of pictures as I was pulling things together but in some cases didn't snap the final picture or had a project I didn't get to write about. I did post my trees and a couple other pre-Christmas projects.

I like to add new decorations every year, but for the most part I reuse the same decorations every year. I don't want to overspend on decorations that only come out for 30-45 days. I do like to hit up the Dollar Tree near my home every year to see what they have on hand that can be added to my decorations and on the cheap.

I love nutcrackers, as do both my kids. Because I do not have a fireplace mantel we set them up by the fireplace. My daughter set up the nutcrackers this year based on size and her favorites.

The gold vase was a Target clearance buy in early December. The bowl is from Homegoods. The tree came from Dollar Tree in 2012, and the ornaments are Dollar Tree. The ornaments came in a pack for $1, I bought 3 or 4 packs. These ornaments are plastic and really pretty, a great cheap buy!

Advent calendar, I saw this project on Honey We're Home in 2012. I made this in 2012 and reused this year.

Gingerbread house is a tradition I have done with my kids every year. They are getting more independent and need my help less each year. I buy the Wilton gingerbread house kit and this year bought the pre-assembled house so it was all about decorating it and enjoying the results. Both kids do 1/2 of the house.

My Disney countdown calendar was bought in Disneyland in 2002. The Gingerbread men
hanging on each side of the door were found locally in stores. The door knob jinglers were bought this year at the Dollar Tree for $1 each.

I have been given some decorations as gifts like the cloth snowmen and the small lighted snowman. The tall wooden snowman on the right was bought at Michaels about 10-12 years ago, I painted it. I add a faux pine garland to my stair railing and added strands of lights. I placed 3 light up lanterns on my stairs, I bought these on clearance at CVS for $4 each during summer closeout. 

My front porch has a doormat bought at Walmart for less than $5. I added a Santa sign from Hobby Lobby bought in 2012 at 50% off. The small cloth Santa sign came from the Dollar Tree. The wreaths are real pine and bought from the Boyscouts. The gold topiary are a Pinterest project. I took tomato cages and covered the outside with paper bags to fill in the gaps, then wrapped gold garland around the cages, then wrapped strands of red and green lights around the cages. I added red metallic bows at the top. The garland and bows were bought at the Dollar Tree. These were made in 2012, I did add some new garland this year on the right. The left side topiary will need additional garland in 2014 to cover faded strands. Finally the wooden snowman was a gift from my mom, but I am certain this can be built easily. 

Homemade snowflakes, a task on our advent calendar. These are fun, cooky, and cost nothing.

Wall present, I took a picture frame and wrapped it and attached to the wall using Command picture hanging strips. Be careful pulling these strips down, when I took this picture down and removed the strip, it actually pulled the paint and the top layer of the drywall off with it, not very happy with 3M over the damage to my wall!

Simple chargers under my china. I bought the red at Target for $2.50 each, Walmart was selling them for $0.98 but they were not in great condition. After Christmas at Walmart they had unopened boxes of these on clearance for $0.49 each. I got more red and green.

On my stairs I made family name ornaments using a mixing bowl and construction paper. I made a circle on the construction paper and made a little square ornament topper using a deck of cards. I used glue and glitter to create each person an ornament that was unique from the others. This project was cheap since I had all supplies on hand. I poked a hole in each ornament and hung using curling ribbon. I have used these about 4-5years and plan to continue using these until they fade too much or fall apart. 

As you can see in my pictures, I use traditional Christmas colors and decorations. I try to put out fun decorations, and in my living room and dining room try to use more grown up looking decorations, but still something my kids enjoy. I don't feel the need to spend a lot of money and often find decorations at Dollar Tree, or get them on sale or clearance. I prefer to find creative projects to make at home that look pretty, can be used multiple times, and cost little to nothing.