Sunday, December 7, 2014

DIY Holiday Lantern

Instead of doing the traditional mall mob Black Friday type of shopping, my family and I found ourselves enjoying a leisurely ladies day strolling through a locally-owned, family run craft store in Omaha called Mangelsen's. It's is as big or larger of our Hobby Lobby or Michael's in Des Moines, but a little bit different. Instead of just having craft supplies on shelves, they have wonderful displays and exampled of DIY projects and things to build with the supplies for sale. 

I wandered past an end of an aisle display and immediately fell in love with this lantern. 

 It was on sale for an After Thanksgiving special, only $9.99! (A steal from the retail price of $34.99). It came in silver and the antiqued looking black color.  I was drawn to the black one to match my rustic decor in my family room. I thought I'd put a candle in it and keep it up year round. After my mom and aunt both purchased a lantern too, we decided it be cute to fill them with holiday items. 

The next day I stopped by the dreaded Wal-Mart and restrained myself to only going into the holiday section. I picked up a few items that cost less than $15 total. 

Fake Snow : $3.98
Tiny Strand of attery Operated Lights : $3.98
Mini Snow Covered Tree : $0.98
Sprig of Greenery $0.98
Ribbon: $1.98
Mini Red Balls : $2.98

I filled the bottom with fake snow. Wrapped the lights around the tree and sat it in the middle.  Placed red ball ornaments around it. Tied a burlap bow and wired the bow and greenery to the top. 

Here's the finished product! The little tree is so cute because the lights flash and it looks like a full size decorated tree :) It's currently sitting on a table in my entryway/living room, but would also look adorable on the front porch, hanging on a shepherd's hook or to give as a gift! 

Shoot Em Santa Shotgun Shell Christmas Tree

My mom has been working hard on her new creation for this holiday season, the Shoot Em Santa Shotgun Shell Christmas Tree.  We went down to the federal public hunting ground near my parents house and collected a variety of different size empty shotgun shells. Not only were we picking up litter, we were collecting important craft supplies.  Mom put them to good use decorating an entire natural looking fake Christmas tree as a Shoot Em Up Santa Tree. She took a strand of Christmas lights she had sitting around and covered each bulb with a shotgun shell. She took red shotgun shells and painted little santa beards and faces on them. The remainder of the shotgun shells we covered in glitter. The finished tree looks adorable. Perfect for any hunter or gun lover in your life! More pictures of the DIY process to come!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas Cookie Exchange

The ladies in my family and I always have an annual holiday baking day. We dedicate an entire day to gathering in one kitchen, usually around 10 of women, over 25 recipes and unlimited laughter and memories. Sometimes it gets hard to make all those different recipies in one kitchen at one time, so this year we decided to try something different. We had a cookie exchange and decorating day. We all brought already finished cookies and candies. Everyone had their specialties they make year and after year along with new ideas we wanted to try.

That day we just rolled and cut sugar cookie dough and had a decorating party. I think the snowflake cookies turned out elegant looking with the simple blue and white frosting.

We compiled these along with all the goodies everyone brought and had a Christmas treat buffet. Everyone brings their own containers, platters and boxes and go up and down the line to fill make goodie trays for coworkers, neighbors, etc. Even though we've all tried most of the goodies by the time the day is done, we of course make a tray to take home and enjoy too.

Keep watching the blog for an update on what we do for our annual baking day this holiday season! Start a tradition with your family, such an amazing day to enjoy the holiday with everyone for years to come!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Amana Colonies : Holiday Shopping

I've always loved little day trips around Iowa, especially when I get to enjoy them with family. Each year my mother, grandmother, aunt, cousins and I take a day trip between Thanksgiving and Christmas to do some holiday shopping. A great destination is the Amana Colonies, full of history and lots of sightseeing opportunities.

It's just a short walk up and down the street to hit all the quaint shops, woolen mill, delicious restaurants, meatshop & smokehouse, winery, and brewery.

The gift shops and antique shops are loaded up with adorable Christmas decor during the holiday season. So many great ornament finds!

Even though we usually had way too much to eat for Thanksgiving shortly before we go, we always stop for family style German Food at the Ronneburg Restaurant. This year I had Wiener Schnitzel and Chicken spaetzle.

 We love to stop in at Millsteam Brewing Co. I love local craft beer, this year I got a six pack of windmill wheat. Grandma always gets their cream soda :)

Sunset at the end of a beautiful day in the Amana Colonies.

A New Month, A New Routine

Around Thanksgiving and Christmas, I always think back to what I was doing during the holidays last year. This time last year I was working my butt off at the gym a few days a week. The last few months I've been slacking. I am active outside quite a bit, but haven't renewed my gym membership in several months. I kept making excuses not to. Finally, since it was the first of the month, I decided it was the perfect time to start my new routine again. I marched myself into the gym and renewed my membership. My first workout back I had the gym totally to myself. It was so peacefule to be the only one there, to be back on my favorite elliptical and jamming out to my favorite workout station on Pandora. I only finished two miles, a few situps and some stretching, but I felt incredibly accomplished. I also felt fortunate that I'm physically healthy and capable of doing these things. Can't wait to get on a regular exercise routine again and start taking better care of my body for the rest of 2014 year and the future!

...It's the little things :)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

DIY Scrapbook Paper Christmas Cards

I came across some adorable scrapbook paper I purchased several years ago and never used. Folding a couple thicker, plain colored pieces, I cut them into the shape and size of a standard greeting card. I cut the paper patterned with pine trees into pine tree shaped pieces and glued them on front. Decorated the rest with gel ink stamps and scrapbooking stickers.  Altogether, it cost less than $5 in leftover supplies to make 14 greeting cards.  They may not be quite as quality as a $1.00+ greeting card from the store, but they have a personal touch.  Also, lots of blank room to write whatever loving, holiday message I want to fill the card with :) 

Glass Block Holiday Decor

I had never honestly seen or done any glass block crafts before, but was on a DIY spree the day we found these glass blocks for $4.99 as an after Thanksgiving Special at Mangelsen's Craft Store in Omaha. I bought three that day. The next day it only took a couple hours and a few supplies from Walmart to bring life to the glass blocks. I used the remainder of a bag of fake snow I had purchased for another project and sprinkled it along the bottom of the glass block interior. Next, I piled on a couple tiny Christmas ornaments, just small enough to fit in the opening of the glass block. These ornaments were $1 for a package of 10 at Dollar General. After that, I wrapped a $1.98 strand of Christmas lights in some tulle and filled the remainder of the glass block. Between the tulle and the front wall of the glass block, I slid in a thin, red, glittery snowflake shaped Christmas tree ornament ($2.98 for a package of 12 at Walmart). Using shiny sticker from the scrapbooking aisle, I spelled out some cute holiday sayings on the front of the glass block. To complete the look and hide the light cord on top, we wrapped a ribbon around the block like a present and made a bow on top. 

I stuck with a red and silver theme to keep the variety of materials limited and the cost lower, but these would be adorable with blue and silver, or red and green decor also.

Here are my 3 finished products! 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Early Winter Sunset

Today was the last day I get to spend in the woods in my tree stand enjoying early bow season. Although I didn't get to harvest a deer this year, I saw a lot of awesome things while exploring and sitting still in the woods this fall.  Every year around this time, I notice how amazing the sunsets can be.  I think tonight's was the most brilliant of all. The pictures don't even do it justice. Love county life.. it's the little things :)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey Cheese Ball

It's definitely time to start thinking about Thanksgiving dishes and what you will take to serve your family and friends next week.  When it comes to holiday dishes/appetizers, I don't just like to make mine, I like to make them festive.  Thoguht I woud share the festive turkey cheeseball I made for Thanksgiving last year. To make this cute little critter, I started with a basic pecan cheeseball recipe:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons grated onion
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • finely chopped pecans
I formed it, cooled it, and rolled it in the chopped pecans. Next, I sliced red, orange and yellow peppers to make the colorful turkey tail. They stuck right into the back of the cream cheese ball.  I used orange pepper pieces for his beak and feer, and a red pepper piece for his gobbler. For his head, I used a TownHouse FlipSides cracker pretzel. Little balls of cream cheese with peppercorns stuck in the middle formed his eyeballs. WARNING: never bite into the peppercorns :)

To dip in the turkey cheeseball, I sliced sweet potatoes, salted and baked them to make sweet potato chips. I also served with regular pretzels and crackers. Who couldn't smile about this cute and delicious little critter? Enjoy! 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Plain Kitchen to Aqua Kitchen - A Full Remodel

Since my home was a foreclosure, it had sat vacant for nearly two years before the purchase. The pipes had been winterized, but not in time, so I had burst pipes behind one of the kitchen walls. I knew I wanted to do something different with the large kitchen area, but all I had in mind was turning the middle island around so it was more functional and replacing the floors. Past that, all I'd started envisioning was decorating it with tones of my favorite aqua color.  My dad had a bigger picture in mind, and decided to go all out since we had to replace one of the existing wall's drywall instead. We were able to keep the same cupboards, but modernize them with new handles. New floors, countertops, backsplash, and a new sink all transformed the look of the cabinets and entire room. I couldn't be happier with the finished product. It's such a bright, open, inviting and productive feeling space. Here are some before and after pictures. I will blog more in the future about the remodel process :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chalkboard Cupboard Doors

During my kitchen remodel we moved around and replaced a couple of my cupboard sections.  Not only did it make my kitchen bigger, it left behind some unneeded cupboard doors. We hate getting rid of anything that still has a use, so we used my mom's great idea to upcycle them instead. We taped off the edges and painted the middle with chalkboard paint. Painted around the edges with the turquoise color to match my decor. Add some chalk and a cute saying and you've got a cute wall decor or gift to give.

Here is one I ended up hanging in my kitchen:

Here is one I gave as a wedding gift to my friend Jessica:

Easy and inexpensive DIY project :)

Monday, June 30, 2014

American Flag Cheesecake Bites

If I didn't love Christmas so much, I would say the 4th of July is my favorite holiday.  I love everything about summer and during 4th of July I'm always out boating, jet skiing, sunning and floating in the water. Oh and we can't forget the fireworks! 4th of July is already full of delicious summertime grilled food, but here's a fun idea for a refreshing, fruity and festive desert!

  • 1 (12 ounce) package vanilla wafers
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Preheat oven to 350 F (175 degrees C). Line miniature muffin tine with miniature paper liners
  • Crush the vanilla wafers and place 1/2 teaspoon of the crushed vanilla wafers into each paper cup.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. Fill each miniature muffin liner with this mixture, almost to the top.
  • Bake for 15 minutes. Cool.
  • I substituted the vanilla wafers for graham crackers. Love an original graham cracker crust. I arranged my mini cheesecake delights onto this festive flag platter, and arranged the fruit to make the tops of the cheesecakes look like a flag as well. I use blueberries and raspberries (think they were on sale that week!) but this could be done with blackberries or strawberries as well. Enjoy! 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Aqua and Owls- My New Bathroom

My bathroom gutting and remodel is finally done and I could not be happier with the finished product. Huge thanks to my dad for all his hard work! We took out an unused linen closet to make the existing bathroom larger. The shower was cracked when I purchased the house so we replaced it. Put in new floors and an conservation minded toilet. Since I love owls, I purchased this owl shower curtain in my favorite color from Shopko for only $17.99!  We wanted to utilize the space under the sink really well, so bought this large vanity with tons of storage to make up for the linen closet we took out. The vanity came from Home Depot. It makes me feel super organized getting ready in the morning. My mom put a bath and body works soap dispenser top into a mason jar for my countertop soap jar. I stashed Qtips and other bath supplies in aqua mason jars to fill the little nook in the wall. Wall decor above the toilet came from Gordman's.  The space is so much more functional than before, I absolutely love it!