Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jewelry Appraisal

Just a little tidbit of information I wanted to share.  I recently had to get my diamond ring and earrings appraised because we switched insurance providers when we moved.  In order to insure them, the new company required an appraisal done within the last 3 years.

The last appraisal on my ring was done 10 years ago when Steve bought it.  The results were that the value of my ring went up- a lot!  My suggestion would be to get your ring appraised if you haven’t done so in a while.  The place in which the ring was purchased will probably even do this for free.  They will clean it and make it look all shiny and new too!

how-to-draw-a-diamond-ring-tutorial-drawing[1]image via dragoart.com

I had no idea the value would go up like this, so I am happy I was prompted to get this done.  If you insure your ring, you might as well make sure it is insured for what it is actually worth!  I know this is not something you think about every day, so thought I would share this little bit of info!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book Review: The Money Saving Mom’s Budget

A few months ago I submitted my name to read and review Money Saving Mom’s new book, The Money Saving Mom’s Budget.  I was one of many chosen (excitedly) and a few days later a pre-release copy was at my doorstep!  With the out-of-state move and the holidays behind me, I was finally able to sneak a few quiet hours to read, take notes, and highlight my way through this book. 

I must preface this review by saying that I have been an avid (daily) follower of Money Saving Mom's (Crystal Paine) blog for over 2 years.  The deals, coupons, recipes, craft ideas, DIY, tips, freebies she posts about all appeal to me as a stay at home mom of two toddlers.  I use coupons, I love a good deal, and I will always do everything in my power to pass good financial management on to our children.  Money Saving Mom’s genuine and positive attitude regarding life, managing your finances, setting goals, and giving will speak to you too.  Go get yourself a copy!

“The best way to jump-start yourself toward financial success is to commit to buy only what you can afford.” ~Crystal Paine

The-Money-Saving-Moms-Budget[1] 

I decided to break this down into a few categories.  You can get all the real goodness and small details when you read the book! 

*When I refer to MSM, I am referring to Money Saving Mom and author, Crystal Paine.*

1.  Easy Read:  This book has good information, without it being too wordy or full of fancy financial jargon.  MSM provides strategies, real-life stories, easy tips, and resources in a very relatable way.  I think financial planning or strategy books can steer people away if they come across to serious and overwhelming.  This book is positive with an easy to understand message for everyday people needing a little boost with their finances.  I would suggest reading front to back, and then going back through each chapter with a fine tooth comb and highlighting ideas and strategies that speak to you.

2.  Relatable Examples:  This book provides several real-life examples of how implementing different financial strategies and making small changes helped MSM’s blog readers.  The book credits different resources including websites, books, stores, etc.  I think it is easier to get motivated and to set yourself up for financial success if you can relate to real people and real examples.  MSM also provides her own real-life experience going from beans and rice meals to paying 100% down on their first home.  It can be done!

3.  You Don’t Have to Do Everything, Just Try Something:  You will find all over this book that MSM stresses not to try everything all at the same time.  You might feel really motivated after reading this book, but if you try to do too many things all at once, you will get burned out.  I think it is wise of her to suggest that you must start slow to get where you want to be.  Once you start doing a little something to move your finances in the right direction, you will feel good about it, and do a little something more to build on this success.  If you try something you learned from this book, you will start to see small results that will be rewarding! 

4.  There is Something for Everyone:  My husband and I were both blessed to grow up in homes where we were taught the value of a dollar and how to manage our money.  It is a top priority of ours to continue to have good money management skills and to pass this along to our children.  That being said, I do not think that this book is only for people who need to turn around their finances.  Of course, this book is for people who need step by step instruction and assistance with how to get back and track, but this is also for those of us who want to learn how to get the best deals when grocery shopping, how to coupon without it taking up a lot of your time, how to give more, how to keep a decluttered home, and how to be grateful for what you have.  Everyone (even if you have a lot) has to deal with money in an uncertain economy , so this book is essentially for everyone!

5.  Get Talking:  I think this is the perfect book for all family members who are involved in the family finances to read together.  It is an easy read and there are small things that can be done immediately.  I think it is a good way to jumpstart a money conversation in a family where finances are not discussed.  Why not be on the same page, help each other out, and pass along good habits to your kids?!

This book provides information on:  not spending what you don’t have, tips for saving money, goal setting, what to do about those credit cards, budgeting, using cash, couponing, how to shop for deals, giving, and much more.  This book is motivational and realistic about how to get things done.  MSM is a mom, wife, business woman, and real person just like everyone who will be reading her book, which makes it so refreshing!

Click the link below to pre-order your copy!  The book will be released on January 10th, 2012. 

All proceeds from the sales of this book are being donated to Compassion.  How amazing is that??!! 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1451646208/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=monsavmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399373&creativeASIN=1451646208#_

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, and all opinions are my own.

Double Date

We headed to my sister’s for the holiday weekend and she was able to find us a sitter for a night.  It is rare that the four of us get to go out together, so this was a special treat!

This picture was taken at Fong’s Pizza.  If you order a specific shot you get to wear these fun helmets while you take them.  Super festive and we were certainly having fun with it!  We also tried their famous Crab Rangoon Pizza.  Yes, it was delicious!

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We also had a few drinks and appetizers at a fun place called Zombie Burger.  Can’t wait to do more of this now that we live closer!  And the best part was, all of the kids were sleeping and the babysitter was still smiling when we got home!

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We love our kids, but we also love a good night out!  Cheers!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a safe, happy, and joyous holiday! From our house to yours, Merry Christmas!

Here is our 2011 Christmas Card, and a few outtakes from my attempt at a photo shoot!







Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Texas Shaped Sugar Cookies

One last project to share from before we moved…

I wanted to make a little something for the each of the kids to give their preschool classmates on their last day.  I came across a TX cookie cutter in my stash and thought it would be cute to make TX shaped sugar cookies!

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I used this recipe to make the dough (credit to my Mom):
2 sticks butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar

*blend on medium speed

add:

1 egg
1/4 t baking powder
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt

*stir in:

2 1/3 c. flour

Divide the dough in half.  Roll in ball and wrap in wax paper.  Refrigerate until cold.  Roll out of floured surface.  Bake 350 for 6 - 9 min.

I used a little help from store bought icing (my mom is gasping right now!) and added a little heart over San Antonio with red icing.

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While those were baking, I made up some little notes to add to the cookie bag.

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A cute little memory from our adventures in Texas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Twelve Months of Giving Back

I have decided to start a little series on the blog called “Twelve Months of Giving Back”.  I am stealing this idea from my friend Allison, who lives in the KC area, and blogs about giving back each month.  She inspired me to start this, and I hope this will inspire one or more of you to do the same!

More and more I am feeling a want to give back.  These ideas won’t be grand, but hopefully it is a small start to get back to doing what I love, which is helping people and teaching my kids about the kindness of giving.

I have decided to start this month.  Two weeks ago, the kids and I went grocery shopping to donate goods to the local food bank.  Last week, while visiting my sister, we adopted two kids from the Angel Tree through the Salvation Army in Des Moines.  Drew chose an 18 month old boy and Mia chose a baby girl. 

We got everything on each of their wish-lists, which included simple things like a “ball” and “socks”.  I am most happy about getting our little boy a winter coat, shoes, and books.

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And here is a random picture of my sister’s tree this year.  We don’t have any Christmas decorations in the hotel room, so we are living vicariously through them.  It is wild and full and decked out and I love it!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thank You!

I wanted to give a big shout out to three great blogs who featured a project of mine recently…

YARN LETTERS
House of Hepworths:  http://www.houseofhepworths.com/
Blissful and Domestic:  http://blissfulanddomestic.blogspot.com/

PERSONALIZED CHALKBOARD DOORS
Six Sister’s Stuff:  http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/

I recently had a reader send me a picture of two holiday yarn letters she made to give to her coworkers.  I am so happy she was inspired to try them! 

Hope you are having a great weekend!  Only 8 more days until Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Progress

Our new home is getting there!  They are working day and night to get this baby done!  We took some updated pictures, and again, it is dark in the house, so these pictures are not that great…

I chose to do a drum shade fixture over the eating area next to the kitchen.  I am kind of over chandeliers in every room, so I decided to mix it up a bit.  Classic and simple, just how I like things.

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Two over-island pendant lights will look like this…

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I know ceiling fans aren’t the most appealing part of a room, but we upgraded to a little bit sleeker version.  I know it will get used.

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I also chose a drum shade for the entry way.  We do not have tall ceilings (9ft), so didn’t want anything to fussy and in the way.  This is the same version of the drum shade over the eating area, just hung tight to the ceiling and without the extender.

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This is the standard lighting in the dining room.  We don’t have a dining room table and chairs (yet), so I don’t know what direction we are going with this room.  This light will do for now.

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The beginnings of the master bath.  Two vanities on opposite sides and TONS of storage!  That little space at the top of the cabinetry is for a small TV-Steve thinks it would be very nice to watch Sports Center while he gets ready in the morning!  I am not a bath person, but maybe I could be convinced.  A walk-in shower with two shower heads is to the right!  We might not ever leave this bathroom!

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Our first snowfall (or what’s left of it).  Since we are building in winter, some of the landscaping and sod will be put off until spring.

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The floors were being sanded and prepped when we left, so we might see our finished hardwoods next time we go back.  I know we will be stalking this weekend :)!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oreo Pops

Steve had to make a final visit to Texas, so the kids and I packed it up and went to my sister’s for a few days.  We had high hopes of wrapping, baking, and donating and all of it got accomplished!

This Oreo Pop recipe couldn’t be easier.  I think the real name for them is “Oreo Balls”, but “Oreo Pops” sounds so much cuter!  Three ingredients people and NO BAKE! 

While we were making these…

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all four of our kids (ages 4 and under) were doing this…look familiar?

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Oreo Pops:  You will need 1 package Oreos, 1 package white almond bark, and 1 (8 oz.) brick of cream cheese. 

*I never said these were healthy!*

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First, you crush the Oreos.  We did not have a food processor, so we crushed them with a wooden spoon.  It works fine, it just takes a few minutes.

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Add a softened brick of cream cheese to the Oreos and mix with hand mixer until combined. 

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Roll into balls and place on cookie sheet.  Chill for at least one hour.

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Once the Oreo balls have chilled, melt the almond bark in the microwave.  Have your lollipop sticks (purchase these at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby) ready so you can start dipping.  Place on wax paper to harden.  Tip:  Do not try to reshape the balls with your hands as your will start to heat them up again.  COLD is best!

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My sister then packaged the pops in these cute containers and delivered to her neighbors. 

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The rest will go in the freezer until Christmas!  Happy no-baking!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Parmesan Knots

I pinned these parmesan knots a while back and tried them before we moved.  They were easy, cheap, and delicious.  You must try these next time you make pasta!

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Made with refrigerated buttermilk biscuits and topped with ingredients we all have on hand, these knots were easy to whip up.  Roll out the biscuit and tie in a knot.  Bake, and brush the warm knots with your mixture. 

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You can find the original pin and recipe at http://realmomkitchen.com/609/easy-parmesan-knots/.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Yarn Letters

I made Kate’s teachers personalized chalkboard doors as a gift before we moved, and I decided to make Drew’s teachers personalized yarn letters – a holiday version.  These are my favorite yarn letters to date!  Festive, without being too over the top.  The possibilities are endless on what you could embellish these letters with!

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I purchased everything at Hobby Lobby – yarn, felt, white sticks, and letters.  I choose heather grey yarn as it looks like a cozy sweater.  I used every last inch of this yarn to complete the K & F (teacher’s last names).

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One of these days I will get around to making a tutorial on how to wrap the letters.  I have not tried every letter, and some letters are certainly harder than others.  If your last name starts with an “O”, this shouldn’t take you very long!  If you have an “M” or “H”, it will take you a bit longer.  I first tried one about a year ago and basically taught myself.  You will get better and better with practice.  Just go for it!  If you mess it up, just unravel and start again!

It really does not take that long once you get started.  I do not cut the yarn until I am finished with the letter.  Just continue to wrap and wrap and wrap until all edges look the same and put a dab of hot glue to finish it off at the end.

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Once the letter was wrapped, I made a few felt flowers.  Cut a circle in the felt, cut a spiral shape, wrap the spiral back together, and secure with hot glue.

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I then cut the stems off the white embellishments and hot glued them to the letter, placed the flowers on top, again securing with hot glue.  I felt that it still needed a little something so I cut a few green leaves that I slid underneath the flowers. 

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Here is how the “F” turned out…

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What a great homemade gift for someone who likes to decorate for the holidays.  I made both letters for under $10!

Linking up with:

http://betweennapsontheporch.blogspot.com/

http://www.makingtheworldcuter.blogspot.com/

http://runwithglitter.blogspot.com/

http://somedaycrafts.blogspot.com/

http://www.theshabbychiccottage.net/

http://www.atthepicketfence.com/

http://frenchcountrycottage.blogspot.com/

http://tatertotsandjello.blogspot.com

http://savvysouthernstyle.blogspot.com

http://www.houseofhepworths.com/

http://www.tipjunkie.com/

http://www.notjustahousewife.net/

http://shabbynest.blogspot.com/

http://sixsistersstuff.blogspot.com/

http://lollyjaneboutique.blogspot.com

http://www.iheartnaptime.net/

http://lilluna.com/

http://www.somewhatsimple.com/

http://thediyshowoff.blogspot.com/

Monday, December 5, 2011

All In A Day…

My kids and I accomplished so much today!  KC is starting to feel like home!

Dropped off Samson at Doggie Daycare, donuts and coffee for breakfast :), fielded about 20 logistical phone calls and emails regarding the move, post office, got a new library card and checked out books, ate lunch, registered the kids at the rec center, picked up Samson, went to our builder’s office, met the landscaper at the new house, and finally met Steve for dinner. 

Needless to say, this is what I found about half way through our day…

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And, all in a day, more has been accomplished at the house!  We met with the landscaper to go over our plans and we snuck inside to get a few more pictures.  Apologies for the dark pictures…no lighting, cloudy day.

A view from the street…

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A view from just inside the front door…dining to the right, great room straight ahead, coat closet and stairs to the left.

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Dining room niche.  Paint color is a custom color from builder, a blue/grey.  My favorite. 

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Great Room with built-in bookcases.  Fireplace to remain white, and bookcases are already stained (TV will be going above fireplace).  Not my first choice for TV placement because I love to decorate a mantle, but no other options with the built-ins I so desperately wanted!

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Eating area in kitchen.  Door heads to back covered patio, view to the backyard from the large windows.

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Built-in buffet piece on opposite side of eating area in kitchen.  This has already been stained.  Loving the storage!

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A view from the Great Room into the kitchen.  Cabinets have been painted (sort of a bone color), island has been stained for contrast, granite is in!  Dark hardware will be going on the cabinets and stainless steel appliances will be installed.  The entire first floor will have medium/dark stained rustic maple hardwoods.

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Large island with storage and hideaway trash.  Will put tall stools at the end for the kids. 

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It is hard to tell in the pictures, but the color throughout is “Big Chill” by Sherwin Williams.  I wanted to keep the paint light with the dark hardwoods.  I wanted the space to feel very clean and neutral.  The Big Chill is grey, with a touch of blue.  It is just enough of a color to allow the great moldings and built-ins to pop.

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This is the landing in the stairwell.  There will be a huge mirror inside the molding.  I think the light that will bounce around in the stairwell will be so great since there is not a window at the landing. 

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Double doors open to the master bedroom.  It is the same paint color as the dining room.  Master bath to the left, and a little seating nook to the right.  Trim, moldings, doors, and ceiling color are all the same (a custom color from the builder).

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It is coming along.  I will continue take you along this journey with us so you can see it all come together.  In a few weeks I will be able to start with the fun stuff-decorating and making some new purchases!  Missing being in a home, especially this time of year, but we have a lot to look forward to in the new year!

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