Gingerbread Houses

We made a gingerbread house the other night with our friends Cory & McKenzie!

We bought a kit, but they opted for the homemade graham cracker house.  They both turned out cute!

I investigated online to find an easy and entirely homemade version of a gingerbread house and came to the conclusion--too much work!  In order to be successful you bake one day and allow to cool, cement everything together the next day and let it set-up, and decorate the following day.  I am not a good enough gingerbread house maker to commit to three days worth of work.

It was really fun, and Brett is creative when it comes to the decorating,
I just copied the ideas on the box, ha! 
Hopefully this is a tradition we carry on throughout the years.

What We've Been Up To: The Brett Edition

My husband is so fun and such a great help to me.  Here's what we've been up to lately through pictures of Brett...

Our house isn't very well insulated, so we have been bundled up pretty good around here,
especially after the cold front came through.
This is how he looked before he broke down and turned the heater on!

I have been knitting, and had mentioned to him that some of my yarn had gotten really tangled.  So he literally spent hours untangling it while we watched re-runs on Hulu.  Then he came home from work the next day and immediately finished.  I was laughing so hard, the yarn isn't worth much, but he just couldn't stop once he had started.  He's a helpful guy!

Grilling our yummy dinner outside in his PJs (I think he's a little bugged that I'm following him around with my camera giggling at him)

The other night, Brett walked in to the house and said "Lay your eyes on this!".  It was the first egg that we've gotten from our chickens.  Here are the first three.  They are a very light green, and we are so excited!

Isn't my husband the best?  He makes me laugh all the time and always helps me! 
I just love him!

Traditions: Two This Week

So to continue on with some traditions I love,
here are two simple ones that I took part in this week. 
And they both happen to be traditions that my grandmas have started! 

The first one, is something my Grandma Clark does every Christmas. 
She has a basket of popcorn balls near her tree. 
Every time we visit, we get a yummy treat too! 
So I whipped some up the other night for our house. 

And it was my birthday this week, and as a tradition, my Grandma Brown
always calls (and leaves a message if we can't answer) of her playing her
beautiful rendition of "Happy Birthday" on the piano as she sings along. 
It always is fun to pick up the phone and hear that on the other end!

They are simple traditions but I love them, they still make special moments. 

Here's the popcorn ball recipe I use, in case you want to whip up a batch or two for yourself.

Popcorn Balls
Place 1/2 cup of unpopped kernels in a popcorn air-popper.
Sift out unpopped kernels out of the bottom when finished popping.

1 cube butter
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup light/white corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
(salt to taste)

Bring to a boil.
Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 45 seconds-1 minute (stirring constantly).
Pour over popped popcorn and stir to coat evenly.
Let sit for a few minutes, for carmel to thicken on the popcorn.
Shape into balls, place on wax paper to set.
Put in small plastic bags and tie with ribbon/yarn.

That's it!  I made smaller sized balls, and I made two batches so my basket would be full.
Make sure to add a little salt, it makes a huge difference!

Tradition, TRADITION!

When the holidays roll around, our lives become embedded with traditions.  Traditions make me so giddy!  They give me a sense of belonging, a sense of camaraderie, a sense of unity and joy.  Every year our neighbors host a "peach-fest" during the Fall.  They go up to Utah and buy huge boxes of peaches and return home to host us neighbors.  They invited us over for all peach desserts--peach pie, peach cheesecake, peach homemade ice-cream, and the list goes on (does that not sound divine?!).  Even though we are new neighbors, they invited us this year, and it made us so happy!  It reminded me of my fondness for traditions, and got me thinking on some of my own.

So I thought that I would do a small series on some of my family traditions and traditions that Brett and I are starting for our own family.  If you are interested, I'd love a guest blogger or two, to share one of their own unique traditions.

I thought I'd share the first tradition that Brett and I have started for our own family.  It even coincides well with the holiday season.  I got this idea from my Aunt Ruth Ann and Uncle Dan and their family, hopefully they don't care that I stole their idea!

Ever wonder what souvenir to get when you travel on vacation?  Everywhere you go, there are so many things that are options!  And pricey options at that!  Our first tradition solves this problem (especially once we have little kiddos begging us for everything in the store).

Everywhere we travel, we buy an ornament as a souvenir.  Then, at Christmas time, we can set up a small "travel tree".  As of now, we only have 3 ornaments (but seeing how we've only been married 6 months, I don't think that's too shabby!).  Our travel tree will be small for the next several years, but it is so fun to pick out an ornament together and watch our collection slowly grow.  We try to find an ornament that reflects the place we were visiting (and usually try to get something that states the place).  I know years down the road it will be a blast to look through our collection and remember the memories we created as a family.

Here's a glimpse at our small collection now:

Sort of creates an eclectic combo, but it brings back floods of memories with just a glance.  What are your favorite traditions?

Decorations on the Cheap--What Works for Me

I love how decorations make a house feel more like a home.  A place you love coming back to, a place that feels cozy and comfortable.  But it can be pricey!   

And since it is Christmas time, I thought I'd pass along a few tips I've learned for decorating on the cheap.

Since it's Christmas, I thought I'd share on wreaths, tree skirts, and ornaments.

Have you looked at how much wreaths cost?  Even the cheapy-looking wreaths at Wal-Mart can be $20.

Or tree-skirts can be crazy expensive! 

Ornaments can eat up your whole budget!

And if you are like me, trends can capture my heart for a season, but when the next year rolls around, I might not be in love with it anymore.  It's easier to justify spending a little and having a few options, than spending a lot and being stuck with it for years. 

My biggest tip for decorating on the cheap is knowing what things cost.  If you like a certain style/size of wreath, how much does a plain one cost at Michael's, JoAnn's, and Hobby Lobby?  How much are wreath picks worth?  I've found some great picks at the dollar store before, in the floral section.  Don't forget that most of the craft stores have decent coupons too! 

Then, go to thrift stores.  Go to Goodwill, D.I., Lutheran Thrift, and any others you know of.  You may have to go a few times and don't be too particular.  If you find something that you think might work, look at the quality and the price.  Remember back to the prices of the new things you researched.  Is it worth buying this?  If it is super inexpensive, but not exactly what you want, can you spray paint?  Or add something?  Sometimes I find that I'd rather spend $2 more to get something new, than to buy it at Goodwill in mediocre quality. 

Don't be too daunted by the "ugly" little things on the wreaths you find.  If you are going to add things to it, usually you can pull the old ugly stuff off and no one would ever know. 

Here's a wreath I found at Goodwill to use for my indoor shutters in my kitchen.

This is mild compared to some of the ugly wreaths I've boughten.  But it worked great!  I didn't want to put much on this wreath, so it was nice that there wasn't any dried old glue.  I liked the quality and color of pine, and it was $ I got it. 

I bought 2 big bags of great quality cranberry picks at Goodwill for $1.50 each and have used those to spice up my decor.  That's all I used on the wreath, and I didn't even glue them in, so I'm not even committed to keeping this the same next year!

Here's the end result:
The perfect spot to keep all of our Christmas cards!

One other thing I've done this year, that I think is worth sharing, is my tree skirt. 
I used two sheets from the thrift store for the bulk of my fabric, and then added a few yards of lace to give it a polished look.  But it still would have looked great with just the sheets. 
I used two tutorials I found on pinterest--here and here

The pile of sheets I started out with:

The finished product! 
It ended up being slightly square-ish, but you can't tell when it's draped around the tree.  I used a fitted sheet for my "base" to glue the ruffles on and a regular sheet to cut up and ruffle.  If you want the ruffles to go all the way up to the center, get two large sheets instead of one. 

And now to ornaments.  I love those metal-looking stars, so I went to Hobby Lobby's paper mache section and bought a few (they were also 50% off, so score!).

I used an exact-o knife to cut them in half, because I only needed one side--doubled my ornaments, which was great, too.  Spray painted them gold.  I used a little ink to do the pointed edges, so it looked more three-dimensional.  Added a little twine and/or lace to make a hook to hang it on the tree!

Now they are happily hanging on my tree!

Hope that helped someone, it is so fun to have a little festivity in the home during the holidays.

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas...Around Here

Well we have been decking our halls,
and loving it!

Our first Christmas together as a married couple,
so we've scrimped and pulled together a pretty nice bit of Christmas cheer in our home.

My aunt's parents moved this summer and generously gave us some of their beautiful Christmas garlands, centerpieces, and even a gorgeous pre-lit tree.  We have put everything to use (except for the tree--but we are hanging onto it.  It's 10 feet tall, our ceilings are 8.  We were pretty disappointed when we figured that out).

A few trips to Goodwill, a couple glue-gunned burnt fingers, and a great purchase on Craigslist ($15 for a pre-lit Christmas tree!), and things are finally looking festive.

Here are a few glimpses until I get all the last touches finished and take pictures of everything together...

Brett put the Christmas lights up and did a great job!  (He was loving the fact that there were several nails already there to hang the lights on!).

 These are the cute Christmas vintage tins I found for CHEAP at Goodwill

The sweet Nativity I scored at Goodwill also.  I was so disappointed that we wouldn't have one, but when I saw this, I knew it would be perfect for us now.  I'm thinking I might have my in-laws find one for me when they are down in Chile.

We don't have stockings, so I whipped a couple together for me and Brett.  I think they cost me about $1, plus they are "customized" which I like.  Here is mine...

Come back soon,
because I have a few tips on using thrifted items for fantastic Christmas decor!

Flower Power {8 Ways to Wear Them as an Accessory}

Lately, my favorite accessory has been an oversized flower pin.
It is so versatile and really adds an extra "umph" to my outfits.
I was inspired by Elaine on her modest fashion blog, clothed much (check it out!).

So, I went to Hobby Lobby and picked up a stemmed flower (if it isn't on sale, take a coupon or wait a week--they go on sale FREQUENTLY!)

I chopped off the stem, flush to the flower base.
I kept the flower and all it's layers intact, and gently gobbed hot glue between
as many layers as I could.
Then, I hot glued a "pin back" on the backside.

The Perfect Accessory!

You have no idea how many compliments I have gotten on the flower from complete strangers.

My favorite ways to wear it include: 

On a regular, t-shirt. 
It really dresses up a casual outfit without any extra effort and a lot of statement.

On my plain purse. 
I got this purse for $10 because I liked the price, size, and color.  It is super plain, so I tied a thrifted scarf on one of the handles, and then pin the flower right on.  This is easy to do and isn't permanent, so you can change it up when the seasons or your mood changes!

On a plain cardigan.
I have a ton of simple cardigans, but I still get weak in the knees when I see an adorable embellished one at the store.  But with this flower, it dolls up even a plain sweater.  It takes a simple, understated outfit, to a whole new look--much more "pulled together" in my opinion. 

On a simple scarf.
I just love this look.  So easy, so simple, so chic. 

On my waistband.
Instantly makes this outfit glamourous!  Elaine also wears her flower this way, which I love.

Other Ideas:
Pinned to a belt (just on top of the buckle--gives it a feminine flair)
Pinned to an earwarmer
Pinned to a necklace (think one or two strands of long pearls, pinned on the side)

I even have a few other flowers, but you can see the versatility with just one neutral color!

And there you have it!  A few ways to glam up your get-up!
Gotta love {flower power}

(and after compiling this post, I am seriously sick of looking at my face!)

What's Cookin' in Your Kitchen?

As a newlywed, cooking can be a bit daunting.  Usually I love to do it, but sometimes, I'm just over it!  It's always one of my favorite things to chat with my friends...what do they make for dinner?  It seems everyone has some tips and tricks that work for them. 

So I thought I would occasionally post a few of the things I have learned since being married about
"cooking for two".

First off though, Brett and I both eat quite a bit.  Usually we have a bit of leftovers, which Brett takes to work the next day.  It's a system that has been working great for us and saves us a ton of money!

My first secret (or not-so secret): rotisserie chicken.
I love the rotisserie chicken because it is moist, already cooked, and slightly seasoned.

I love Costco's, but I've gotten them at other grocery stores. 
Costco just has the biggest for the best price ($5).
My tips for picking a chicken out is to find one that is touching or close to touching
the top of the case (it will be bigger and have more meat).

When you get home, take all the meat off of the bones and then divide it into quart size freezer bags.
Make sure to label and date them!  Then stick them in the freezer.
(You can use the leftover skin and bones and simmer them in water with onion, carrots, and celery to make your own chicken stock--this also freezes very well!).

They are ready for you to thaw out the day you have a recipe that calls for chicken! 

Here are my top three choices for using this chicken:

(this is a really hearty and healthy dinner)

(a really yummy twist on traditional enchiladas)

Chicken Noodle Soup
(use the "homemade" frozen noodles to kick chicken noodle soup up a notch!)

Knitting Needles

My Grandma Clark has been teaching me how to knit.  I know only two stitches so far...
but I've been practicing them like crazy. 

I take my carpet knitting bag almost everywhere I go...
Including to watch Brett play softball Tuesday evenings.
Someone came up to me and asked how married life was, I said, "It's great!"
And then he looked at me knitting and said, "Ha, yeah right!  Looks like a drag to me!"

Well, I think knitting is awesome!  I love having something to keep my fingers busy and these projects I can whip out pretty fast--and I love projects that come together quickly.

Here's my first project:  a camel colored scarf.  I really like it!

Don't look too closely though, or you will see a lot of imperfections. 
But when it's on, you don't notice...
I just say it's experience.

I am also working on a making a scarf for each of my little primary kids for Christmas. 
Let's hope I can finish in time. 

I have also whipped up a few of these ear-warmers (too bad it's still in the 70's here)!

I can't decide whether to keep my bangs tucked in or falling out.

I've considered selling a few of the ear-warmers, but I don't know if anyone would be interested.
If you are, leave a comment--I would keep them under $10, so they would be affordable.
And am I the only one, or is taking pictures of yourself super awkward?
Or asking your husband to take a picture of you kinda weird?

Maybe it's just me...

Brett's Birthday Weekend in Sedona

Remember this post?  Brett and I had a blast staying in a cabin-for-two in Sedona.  Seriously, we would recommend this adorable bed-and-breakfast to anyone!  They are called the Canyon Wren Cabins, check them out!  And if you don't believe us, look at TripAdvisor, they have phenomenal reviews!

We drove up early Friday evening (we stayed in the Honeysuckle Cabin) and grilled our own steaks, had baked potatoes, steamed veggies, and Brett's favorite Strawberry-Lime Jones Soda.  Topped off dinner with Sprinkles cupcakes (lit with candles of course!).  We watched a movie on Brett's laptop, and just chatted and relaxed in front of the fireplace. 

Saturday morning we woke up and had a delicious breakfast.  Then we were headed off onto a beautiful hike (of course I forgot my camera!  But we took a few on Brett's phone).  The hike was gorgeous.

That afternoon we napped, relaxed, and watched a movie. 

We hit a cozy Italian Restaurant that is frequented by the locals.  Complete with some live music and candles, it was a delicious recommendation by our hosts.  After dinner we walked through Uptown Sedona, and bought a souvenir.  Then we went back to the cabin, started up a fire in the fireplace, drank hot chocolate, made s'mores, and played speed scrabble. 

This is the life!


What a goofball!  Haha!

We had a wonderful time together, and it is amazing how much fun you can have when the TV and the internet aren't even an option!

Autumn Decor

I love Fall!  I love the colors and the weather, especially!
Since we will only have our Autumn decor out for another week or so,
I thought I'd better hurry and share.
Here is our front door and porch decked out.

The wreath I made with a thrift store grapevine wreath, a leaf garland on clearance, and some picks from the dollar store. 

The scarecrow and the "Welcome Fall" sign were both given to me, I collected the pumpkins a few times on grocery store trips, the flowers are from D.I. ($3), and the bale of hay/straw I bought at the Mesa Feed Barn--just around the corner from us.  It was so much cheaper to buy the real straw than to buy the decorative bales at Wal Mart or Hobby Lobby (plus, Brett even took the center out of our bale--and it still is huge!). 

And here is the top of the piano,
almost the same as the Halloween stuff, but a different banner and a
"give thanks" plaque I made at Enrichment.


For a date night last week, we rode our bikes down to Pete's Fish & Chips.
It is such a fun, old-school Mesa hot spot.  Everything is deep-fried, and it is cash-only. 
We recommend the chicken strips and deep fried burritos with chips.

We love utilizing our "I {heart} you because:" board in our bedroom to leave little love notes. 
It is so easy to make!  Just take an old frame, and place the phrase behind the glass. 
Use a dry-erase board marker to write the messages.
It's such a fun little thing to make it easier to remember to show love and appreciation!

I remember making these little "ghosties" when I was little. 
So for Family Night the Monday before Halloween, we made them
for our nieces and nephews and sent them in little Halloween care packages.
All it is, is a Tootsie pop with a tissue tied on it and a ghost face made with a Sharpie!

Brett's sister turned the big 4-0 last week,
so the whole family got their gifts together
and I made up the basket to drop off on her actual birthday.
The gifts ranged from adorable accessories all the way to wrinkle cream and more.
Brett & I did the "40 sucks" with the lollipop bouquet!
(She'd probably kill me for posting this, but I don't think she even knows I have a blog!)