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!