Life Love Larson: August 2012


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

I volunteered to take treats up to D & K’s preschool this week.  The teachers are prepping for the kids to come back next week, and I thought I would try something new to take to them.
I recently "pinned” these granola bars and they were easy to make and turned out really tasty!  Peanut butter, m&m’s, oatmeal, brown sugar…hard to go wrong, really. :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mini Golf Birthday Party

Drew decided on an indoor mini golf party this year.  Every year of his life we have had a sports themed party…baseball, bowling, soccer, swimming, mini golf.  I think you can see a theme here, but that is what he loves!

Because the party was at a venue, there really wasn’t a lot for me to do, but I like to do a few homemade things for every party…

These were super simple to make.  I bought the invitations at Hobby Lobby ($3 after using 40% off coupon). I thought they looked sort of golf-ish.  I printed out the party details on cardstock, cut them with shears, and stuck them to the invitation with a glue stick (I was having printer issues with just printing them on the original invite). 

I then found some golf ball stickers (also at Hobby Lobby for 50% off), and purchased a pack of golf tees at Target for a few bucks.  I simply taped the golf tee to the invitation and put the sticker above.  I liked that it was 3-D! (there were no issues with fitting them in the envelopes and mailing them).




I usually always make my own cupcakes.  The cupcakes were made from a box and frosting was homemade (thank you to my sister for helping me make these).  My sister always makes her cupcakes large (to make them look more gourmet) and they really do look so much better.

Drew chose chocolate cupcakes because he thought the chocolate would look like dirt.  He knew I was going to make green frosting and make it look like grass.  I also decided to add some flags to the cupcakes to make them festive and go with the theme.  Hole “5”, of course, for the 5th birthday!  These are made out of scrapbook paper and a cake pop stick.  Super simple.  We frosted the cupcake and used a fork to “poke up” the frosting to look like grass. 



I decided to give each of the kids a cupcake to take home (not super fun, but super practical).  I used a Pinterest tip and placed the cupcake inside a 9 oz. plastic cup for easy transport.  Instead of the golf flag, I added a plastic golf ball on top of the “grass”, wrapped the whole thing up in a cellophane bag, tied the top with green gingham ribbon, and included two golf tees.




This all made for one very happy little big 5 year old!


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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

DIY Knob Necklace Holder

I saw a knob necklace holder on Pinterest a long time ago, and made one when we moved into this house.  I had everything I needed on hand, so this project cost me $0! 

We have a very large closet in the new house.  There is a separate closet with floor to ceiling built-in shoe racks (a girl’s dream, right?) that leads into the main part of the closet. I knew I wanted to put my jewelry in this little space.  I found out last year when I made my DIY Window Jewelry Holder, that when your stuff is out and on display, you will wear it more.  Period.  It’s a fact.

I had an old shelf laying around that I picked up at Goodwill.  These are a dime a dozen at thrift stores.  In fact, I just donated two shelves the other day (clearing the clutter)!  I used one of my many paint samples to give the shelf a few coats of paint with sanding in between and a little distressing the edges. 
I have a stash of knobs that I buy when I see them on sale.  I think most of these were under $1 and purchased from Hobby Lobby.  I wanted an eclectic feel, nothing to “planned”. 
Simply drill a hold the size of the screw and attach the knob.  We eyeballed the spacing between the knobs, and it really took no time at all.  Now, my necklaces are hanging next to my earrings.  You can read about this DIY project here (one of my most viewed projects).
A simple and inexpensive way to store all those necklaces that keep getting tangled up in your jewelry box and drawers!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Yellow Front Door

My sister and I both recently painted our front doors.  I will post pictures of mine later in the week, but here is what my sister did with hers.  The original door, when she moved in 5 years ago, was painted a dark mushroom color (same as the house).  She then painted it a reddish color several years ago, and recently decided she needed a change.  I suggested yellow, or more of a mustard color, and she jumped on board.  She looked at several paint chips, made a pretty quick decision, and went for it!  I absolutely love the color and looks so great with the exterior of the house!
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This is such an easy way to update the exterior of your house.  It really takes no time at all, and the results are so dramatic!

Yellow is such a hard color because it can start to look McDonald’s(ish) very easily.  This color has just enough brown in it to make it elegant and muted, but it still packs a punch.
Color is “Golden Leaf” by Behr (Home Depot).  Sheen is semi-gloss.
Thursday, August 16, 2012

Organizing the Garage

We moved into our house in January 2012.  This is the first house we have ever had a 3-car garage, which is just the best thing when you have small kids and lots of outdoor stuff. These are pictures of what our garage looked like upon move in.  Scary, right??
We are adamant about parking both cars in the garage, so the unpacking and box clean up happen quickly.  We brought a few storage units with us from our old house and added a tracking system for larger items like rakes, the leaf blower, etc.  After a few months, the garage started to get messy again!  Recently, we added another shelving unit, got rid of a few more things, and continued to organize. 
Here is what the garage looks like now, and there is a place for everything.  The kids (and mom and dad) are doing a good job of returning everything to its rightful place!!!
I also quickly stained and sealed the stairs leading up to the door that leads into our mudroom (see before picture above).  I had stain and sealer left over from the back stoop project, so it was a no brainer for me. 
The blue piece was a random piece of MDF that I decided not to stain.  Cue some leftover paint from a sample can, and there is a fun little shot of color.  Why not love your house from every angle??!!
*********Another quick side note when staining.  I have never been a “glove” person when doing projects…gardening, dishes, painting, staining.  I always use bare hands.  No worries!  Rub a little vegetable oil over your stains and they will come off!  Best trick ever!*************
Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chocolate and Yogurt Stuffed Strawberries

We hosted someone for dinner last night, and I wanted to make an quick and easy dessert that I could prepare ahead of time.  I decided to take an idea I saw on Pinterest (the stuffed strawberry part) and combine it with something I tasted this weekend (the chocolate and yogurt part).
I went to the lake with a friend this past weekend, and one morning, my friend’s mother whipped up a little chocolate raspberry and Greek yogurt topping to put on our pancakes.  It was easy and delicious (thanks Barb)!  I used what I had on hand to create a filling, which was vanilla yogurt, Nutella, and strawberries.
I added a little Nutella and a little yogurt until I got the consistency and flavor I wanted.  I then cut off the bottom of the strawberry to make it flat, hollowed out the top, and filled with the chocolate and yogurt mixture.
A cute and elegant little dessert that you can eat with your hands!

Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Plant a Tree for Beginners

We had a cottonwood tree randomly growing in our backyard that kept getting larger and larger by the week.  I was told by a neighbor that cottonwood trees can be messy and get very large and are a lot of maintenance over time.  We decided to go ahead and pull up the cottonwood tree, even though trees are a hot commodity out here in the suburbs! 

We only have one other maple tree planted in the right side of the backyard, and felt we needed to replace the cottonwood with another tree.  After doing some shopping around to different tree nurseries and hardware stores, we decided to wait until one particular nursery (close to our house) had their trees half off.  We were told in late July all trees would be going on sale.  We waited, and it paid off!  We ended up getting a decent sized King Crimson Maple for $80!  We also wanted to make sure it was okay to plant a tree in 100 degree weather in the middle of the summer.  We were assured that trees are planted all summer long, but they require a little extra TLC with the watering. 
In order to save even more money on this project, we opted to plant the tree ourselves, which we have never done before (it costs about another $100 per tree to have the nursery plant) .  They guys at the nursery were very helpful in giving us good information about planting and maintenance, and because the hole was already existing from the cottonwood tree, we decided to go for it.  I am happy to report that the tree is still surviving and doing well amongst the drought we are experiencing! 

If you are going to try and plant a tree yourself, make sure you are aware of the warranty policy of the place you purchase your tree.  Some nurseries will only warranty the tree for a year if they plant it.  This particular nursery places a warranty on the tree for a year regardless of who plants it.  This was the extra reassurance we needed to go ahead and try it ourselves!

In choosing a tree, we did a little research online to see what does well in our area and talked to the experts at the tree nursery.  We ended up going with the purple colored maple.  We were told they are an 8 out of 10 as far as hardiness, and ease to maintain.  Some of the other maple trees were 10 out of 10, but we liked the break up of color with the purple. 

Because we opted to plant the tree ourselves, this also meant we had to get the tree home ourselves.  Because of this, we could not get anything too large, or we wouldn’t have been able to get it home!  The tree did end up fitting in my Element with the help of the guys at the nursery.  Thankfully, we were about 2 miles away from our house, so the drive was not bad.  I love my Element.  And no, my kids were not in the car with me!
Before starting to plant the tree, we were advised to do a drainage test in our dirt.  We were told to dig a hole where the tree would be planted, fill it up with a lot of water, and see how long it took for the water to drain out.  If the water drains quickly, you can water your tree every day, because you have good drainage.  If the water sits for a while and takes hours to drain from the hole, you should not water as often, or the tree will get too much water.
We did the test and the water drained out in minutes.  We knew we were good to water the tree every day, especially in this heat.
We were told to pull the root ball to the edge of the car and roll it into our wheelbarrow, which is what we did, and it worked well.
Steve (and Drew) started digging out the hole.  The hole you dig should be twice as wide as the root ball, but not super deep.  The hole should only be as deep the root ball. 
Do not discard this dirt you dig up! You will need this to go back over the root ball once it is in place. Save it in your wheelbarrow.
In prepping the tree to go into the hole, leave the metal cage that the tree comes in.  You should cut off all of the twine and string, and pull the burlap back off the trunk 6 inches.  When placing the tree in the hole, make sure it is level in the hole and the trunk is straight.  It is better for the tree to sit up too high as opposed to too low into the ground.  I think this is the one thing we really learned about planting…don’t set your stuff in too deep!
We then combined the dirt from the wheelbarrow with compost and soil (from Lowe’s).   We then layered this combination over the root ball. 
Make sure the soil gets pressed down, gently but firmly ( a good job for a 40 lb. child)!
Next, comes the mulch.  Be sure to leave a few inches between the mulch and the trunk, so the trunk doesn’t rot.
Here is a shot after the tree was planted and mulched.
We decided not to take any chances with a new tree and Kansas winds, so we borrowed some stakes that a neighbor had in his garage, and staked the tree in place.  All of these supplies can be purchased cheaply at any hardware store.
Because we have adequate drainage, the kids and I water the tree every day.  We were told the tree will grow quite a bit by the third year.
It was fun to try something new, learn a few things, and save money!  Thinking of planting a tree?  GO FOR IT! :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Doubling Up a Front Door Mat

We have been busy sprucing up the front porch and back stoop.  Included in this mini makeover was a need for a new front door mat.  We have a large covered front porch and a lot of room around the front door.  A standard size mat (18” x 30”) just looked way to small.  After talking it over with my sister, I knew I wanted a decorative rubber mat for three reasons…

1.  durability
2.  neutral and will withstand different seasons
3.  wanted a black mat

I searched high and low for a large rubber mat and came up short.  I finally came across a 18” x 30” mat at Target and loved the pattern (a lot of decorative rubber mats are too ornate for my taste).  Price tag - $12.99.  I decided to buy two and turn them on their side.


We now have one large rubber mat and loving it.  Sometimes you have to think outside the box to get what you want!


We also have a newly painted door and new house numbers!  More to come on this! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Quick Stair Staining Project

We have a small wood landing and step leading to our back patio from our back door. Between the dog and the kids and all the foot traffic, the wood on the stairs was getting very dirty.


I decided to wash, stain, and seal the wood, and it has made such a difference.  First up, I scrubbed the wood with bleach water and a bristle brush.  Here it is all cleaned up.


I used a dark walnut stain, two coats.  I applied the stain with a soft cloth.  I used painters tape to prevent the stain from penetrating the concrete patio.


Even though we have a covered patio, I used an outdoor wood sealer to protect from the elements and dog drool (yes, that is a reality at my house!).


The exterior of our house is light, so the dark stain really adds some richness to the space.  The stairs are easy to clean with a quick spray of the hose.  A simple, inexpensive way to spruce up the patio!

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Appetizers

This is about as easy as it comes, yet it looks elegant and put together for entertaining.  I took this to a friend’s house for GNO, and then made some more to snack on before dinner the following night!


I’ve seen people put these on long skewers, but I chose to do mini ones on toothpicks.  I halved some cherry tomatoes, folded over some basil leaves, and added pearl mozzarella balls.


Just drizzle a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the top before serving, and you have a fresh and delicious little appetizer! 


Hope you have a fantastic week ahead!