Thursday, February 25, 2010

DIY cards

I'm a bit behind here, but finally get around to posting the Valentine's Day cards that I made for my primary class. They were really easy and turned out so cute!

Here's what you need:
- 12x12 textured, colored cardstock
- Embossing thread
- Lightweight fabric scraps
- a large, blunt sewing needle
- scissors

Cut each of the pieces of cardstock in half. Fold each piece in half to make the card.
Cut yourself a heart-shaped template that you like. Trace it onto the card and then carefully cut it out.
Cut a piece of fabric that will cover the back of the hole.
I found it was easiest to punch all the holes ahead of time (using the needle) and then merely thread through the holes. When I tried to sew the fabric onto the card, the card tended to get bent and wrinkled.
Trim off an excess fabric, write a cute message, and viola!

I think you could adapt this for birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, you name it.

Idea borrowed from the Purl Bee.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Easy to please.

I'm just going to go ahead and say it: I have the best husband ever.

The other day he was running errands and thought I might like flowers. Aren't they beautiful? I have been looking at them and smiling all week.

He's so wonderful and thoughtful. I think I'll keep him.

Grocery shopping analysis

Recently, Hans and I have been trying to come up with a feasible, effective family budget. Yes, yes it makes us feel like old grown-ups, too.

We're trying to cook more and only have one meal out per week. It's not that we were spending tons of money eating out, but we were picking up Subway or Chipotle a couple of times a week each and that adds up fast over the course of a month! So we've been trying to take lunch more often and cook dinners at home more often, too.

I noticed that our grocery bill has gone up, substantially. But for the sake of my sanity, I figured I'd break it down and see just where all our grocery dollars go. Then maybe I can figure out where we can cut coupons or buy cheaper alternatives. And I'm doing it right here, so you all can give me tips!

This week, I bought lunch stuff, breakfast stuff, snack stuff, and ingredients for two meals (one of which is large enough to eat two nights in a row - yay left overs!)

Meal #1 - Penne ricotta pasta with spicy Italian sausage
This feed us Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
That's $2.27 per person, per meal.
I'm happy with this.

Meal #2 - Rosemary prosciutto corn cakes with chicken sausage and peppers
For Thursday night, and probably Hans' lunch on Friday
$11.34, or $3.78 per person, per meal.
And one of my favorites, at that.

Lunches - Turkey sandwiches (served with snacky things like fruit, yogurt, and wheat thins)
Monday through Friday, five each.
$14.49, or $1.45 per sandwich

Breakfast - Fueled by Hans' ridiculous cereal habit
Just $4.50 this week thanks to a "buy three, get a dollar off each" coupon I found. Whew.

Snacks - fruit, veggies, yogurt, apple sauce
Actually, a lot better than I thought it'd be. And it keeps Hans from buying stuff on campus when he's hungry, which is a feat.

Staples - milk, eggs, sugar, etc.
And the bulk of that is orange juice - $5 for two cartons. Maybe we could get the frozen concentrate ones?

After breaking it down, it seems like we're actually doing a lot better than I thought. Our meals are pretty inexpensive. Our biggest expenses are from snack foods and staples. I've always gone to HEB, but are there places to get these cheaper? Coupons at Randalls? Walmart? What are your secrets?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Remember me?

Wow, I've been lame about posting lately.

Been so busy!

For those of you who missed it, Saturday was Hans' birthday. He's 24! To celebrate this birthday weekend, we went to see Cirque du Soleil's Alegria at the Cedar Park Center on Friday. We had a wonderful time!

First off, we were a little late because I wanted to surprise him. I'd been out shopping with Miss Molly all day and got stuck in an hour's worth of traffic on the way home. Yuck. Since I surprised him, he hadn't showered or anything. So we didn't leave the house until 6:45 for a 7:30 show.

And holy cow, the Cedar Park Center is faaarrrrrrrr from Slaughter Lane. We made it on time, but parking was awful, so we missed the first half of the first act. Boo. It was this double trapeze artist thing and the part we saw was very good.

I only bought the tickets last Tuesday and they were the last two available through ticketmaster, so I fully expected them to suck. But they were great! We were all the way at the top, but very centered so we still had a great view.

The first half was great, but slightly underwhelming. After the trapeze artist there was something called the "power track" which was a basically a floor routine on a trampoline. After that there was a hand balancing dude and then the ribbon girl. They were all really neat, but it was basically normal, every day stuff dressed up fancy. Nothing too unique.

The second half totally wowed us. I think my favorite was the last act. I don't even know how to describe it. It was a bunch of guys - 7 or 8 - who had a giant swing and literally jumped on and off it and threw each other around. Very cool.

Saturday, we celebrated by heading for an endowment session in San Antonio with the Schadalees. It was fun to spend time with them and imagine my surprise when I walked into the room and saw my old friend Sister Jan Chappell there! It was great fun to go through with her and her husband Rob. I've known them since I was six or so and Bro. Chappell was our family's bishop for a long time. They were enjoying a weekend away together in San Antonio. How cute.

Saturday night we went to Hans' favorite restaurant - Chuy's - and then celebrated with another favorite, a giant TCBY ice cream cake. It's still in our freezer if you want some.

A quiet birthday, but lots of fun. Be sure to wish him a Happy Belated Birthday if you haven't already! Happy Birthday sweetie, I love you.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What does your favorite color say about you?

One of the blogs I follow, Young House Love, had an interesting post today the Color Career Counselor on CareerPath's website. You answer questions about what colors you like and then it tells you about your personality traits and what careers best match that. Here are my results:

I think that sounds about right... I'm definitely an organizer, and I do pretty fair amounts of research before doing just about anything. What do your color choices say about you?

Sunday, February 14, 2010


So I know I've been a bit AWOL lately. I'm usually not someone you likes to start something unless I can finish it at the same time. I'm a bit obsessive and am not good at stopping things once I get started.

However, in the past few weeks I've started several projects and NONE of them are done! It's crazy. I finally finished two yesterday, so I'll be able to post them this week. They were fun and easy and you should try them!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day. Be loved.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Navigating Swagbucks

I've been following the My Litter of Six blog for a couple months now and noticed that every once in a while she mentions something called Swagbucks. Truthfully, I kind of skimmed past these posts.

But last week, one really caught my eye. Tiffany was talking about how her vacuum died so she ordered a new one (one of those nice $300 Dysons) off and didn't pay anything by using her Swagbucks.

Well played, You have my attention. How do you use Swagbucks to get a vacuum for free?

I signed up for an account, but am still figuring out how this works. I know you can earn points randomly while doing web searches. You can also earn points by typing in Swagcodes that you find on facebook, twitter, blogs, etc. Then there are tasks. Some are easy - watch a video, click through some ads! But some are, in my opinion, not worth the effort. One took me an hour and I only got two points for it.

You can then redeem your swagbucks for cool prices (like Tiffany's vacuum). There are gift cards to most places that you can imagine. I'm a bit skeptical, still, because after almost a week I have a grand total of 28 Swagbucks. By my count, Tiffany must have had 2,700 Swagbucks to get that Dyson. I'm a long way a way.

Anyone have any experience with Swagbucks? Any tips to help me earn more, faster? I know that if any of you, my friends, sign up on my referral, I'll get points for your joining. If you're interested, please use my little widget here to sign up.

Off to do more searching...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Need some feedback

Andrew and I are considering a re-design and re-branding of Blink Twice Photography. We need some unbiased feedback - which of these two website designs do you like better, and why? Leave me a comment and let me know. Thanks!

(Click the image to explore the site)


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Happy happy happy!!!!

If you can't tell from the four exclamation points, I am SUPER excited.....

.... My little brother, Aaron, proposed to his beautiful girlfriend Karina a few hours ago!!!!

I am so excited I can hardly contain myself. Congratulations to you both! You're both very lucky. I can't wait to get to know Karina better. And I can't wait for July 31!!!

Mea culpa

Another character trait of mine: Quick to anger, quick to make rash actions when angry.

I'm working on it.

Earlier, I posted a blog post while I was very upset. Almost immediately after I hit "post" I realized:

a). By posting, I was guilty of doing exactly what the person who angered me had done. Yuck. Hypocrisy is not pretty one anyone, least of all me. I'm sorry.

and b). I really need to work on not getting angry, offended, or defensive as much as I do. I've struggled with it a long time and I need to learn to hold my tongue so I don't say things I regret. Or make a big deal out of things that shouldn't be a big deal. Working on this character flaw will help me lead a happier, healthier life.

Just as quickly as I realized these things, a story I heard in church once flew into my mind:

While living in Far West, Missouri, Sister Marsh and Sister Harris decided to exchange milk so they could each make a larger cheese than they otherwise could. They agreed to send each other both the milk and the cream from their cows. But Sister Marsh saved a pint of cream from each cow and sent Sister Harris the milk without the cream.

A quarrel arose, and the matter was referred to the bishop. When he determined that Sister Marsh had violated her agreement, she and her husband were upset and appealed the matter to the high council and then to the First Presidency. Each council approved the original decision that Sister Marsh had been in error.

Thomas B. Marsh declared that he would sustain the character of his wife. Soon afterward, he turned against the Church and went before a government official to declare that the Latter-day Saints were hostile toward the state of Missouri. (See George A. Smith, in Journal of Discourses, 3:283–84.)
President Gordon B. Hinckley said of this incident: “What a very small and trivial thing—a little cream over which two women quarreled. But it led to, or at least was a factor in, Governor Boggs’ cruel exterminating order which drove the Saints from the state of Missouri, with all of the terrible suffering and consequent death that followed. The man who should have settled this little quarrel, but who, rather, pursued it, … lost his standing in the Church. He lost his testimony of the gospel” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1984, 111; or Ensign, May 1984, 83).

It's really easy to get offended. Little things get under our skin and wear away at us, festering, growing dark and ugly and taking us places we don't want to go. That's not a person I want to be. I'm sorry for the ugliness I showed in my last post.

Unfortunately, blogspot is not the most sophisticated of web publishing tools. I have deleted the rash post, but it's still showing up in my blogfeed. Apparently, there's no way to get it down. So my nastiness is out there for the world to see. Lesson learned, however embarrassing.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Knock-Off Wood - Attempt #1

A few weeks ago I mentioned wanting to attempt some of the designs on found on the fabulous Knock-Off Wood website. We followed her design for Pottery Barn's Hyde Park easy console table.

Fortunately for us, our good buddy Parker works at Home Depot in the lumber department. We headed over there for him to help us pick out and cut down our wood.

Unfortunately, we couldn't find some of the sizes listed on Ana's plan, so we had to improvise a bit. We thought we did fine, but ultimately it didn't work. We couldn't find 1x3s, so we swapped them out for 1x4s. We chose to go with the cheapest pine, this being our first time and the likelihood that we'd mess up. I was expecting it to be pretty cheap, but with the brushes and varnish and stuff it came out to a total of $70 (about what we paid for our beautiful Crate and Barrel bookcase on the same day!)

We set up shop on our porch and set to work. It didn't take very long - maybe three hours.

We put one coat of stain on Saturday (when we built it), one on Sunday evening, and I put on a third on Monday while Hans was at work.

The finished product looks pretty well as long as you don't look too close. We couldn't get the putty to stick to hide the nails, so you can see them. We also had a problem with wood glue oozing out between boards. We thought this would be fine because it dried pretty clear, but the problem came when the wood stain wouldn't stick to it. The whole stain job looks pretty splotchy. I imagine it'd look a lot better if we'd painted it a solid black or white. But our room is all this dark wood color, so that's what we had to go with.

Like I mentioned earlier, we didn't have the right size wood for some pieces and that ended up causing our top piece to be smaller than the rest of the table. We opted to make all boards flush on the front, the part you'd see, and the back has all the mess ups.

It works for now. I was really disappointed because I thought it'd be a lot easier and look a lot nicer. But for our first attempt, maybe not bad. I'd be willing to try another design now that we've got on under our belt. And this console table looks infinitely better than the ancient, ugly piece we had before!

Recipe: Blackberry Jamble Shortbread Bars

I'll bet you can hear us groaning from where ever you are. We just ate so much! It was a Sunday feast. We topped it off with this delicious recipe from a cookbook my brothers got me for Christmas, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey.

It was a pretty easy recipe to make, though it did take quite a while. But it was deliciously sweet and had a nice mixture of chewy and crunchy. Liz kept eating long after she was full (well, we all did) and now we all have tummy aches. But so worth it. Definitely try this one out if you have the time.

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I used dark and it seemed fine)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup almond flour or very finely ground almonds*
1 1/2 cups blackberry preserves
1/2 cup chopped almonds

*I couldn't find almond flour at our HEB so I bought a package of Hill Country almond slivers and threw them in our food processor. In less than a minute it ground them into a perfect powder - I love having a food processor.

Preheat oven to 325.
1. Combine butter and sugars in a large bowl. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until creamy. Add vanilla and salt; beat til combined.

2. Add in flours and beat on a low speed until smooth.
3. In a greased 9x13 pan, press 1/3 of the dough evenly to form a crust. Wrap the other 2/3 of the dough in plastic wrap (tightly) and put in fridge for 30 minutes or until cold and firm.

4. Bake the crust until it begins to brown on the edges, about 20 min.
5. Remove from oven and spread blackberry jam evenly across crust. Take the remaining dough from the fridge and crumble it over the jam. It should be a  pebbly, crumbled topping. Sprinkle with chopped almonds.

6. Bake for 30 minutes or until a lightly golden color.