Friday, November 5, 2010

50 Days...

...until Christmas.


When I saw that on another blog today, I nearly peed my pants or had a nervous breakdown or something like that. So much to little time. Every year, I vow that "This year will be different" or "I'm going to make more time for really enjoying the holiday season" and it seems that every year is pretty much enjoyable with a touch of insanity. I have to admit that we, as women, tend to bring a lot of the insanity on ourselves by trying to create the picture perfect Christmas we see in magazines and on tv. The reality is that it's insane.

And so, as we enter into this most insane time of the year, I highly recommend some great encouraging friends, a nice hot cup of coffee, a warm fire and this.

When I posted about my Christmas Planning Binder last JANUARY, I know you all thought I was a bit off my rocker. But, I'm tellin' ya that it saves me every single time the countdown begins!

The address book is updated. The Christmas card labels are printed. The gift list is filling up. And I feel my blood pressure every so slowly returning to normal...if there is such a thing during November and December! Ha!

So, we want to know what keeps you somewhat sane during the Christmas season. Do you keep a handy binder like this? Do you wing it? What's your sanity keeping secret? We'd love to hear about it!

"What can I say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery."
Ellen Griswold (Christmas Vacation)


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Too Cute TuTu

My darling niece turned a big whopping year old on Saturday! I could go crazy with "where has the time gone?" and "she's growing up so fast", but I'll spare you the auntie insanity :) Instead, I'll choose to focus on how absolutely adorable she was at her little party!

My sister-in-law asked me a while back to work on an outfit for her to wear. After she chose a pink and brown theme for the party, I went to work creating a onesie and matching tutu for her big day. I'd been wanting to try my hand at a no-sew tutu for a while, after having tried the sew-able versions before. No-sew has to be easier, right? Well, you better believe it was easier! I wish I could say that I came up with this concept on my own, because it's so darn simple, but I must give the credit to the millions of hits on when doing a search for "no sew tutu tuorial". I used this video as a tutorial, but there are tons more available. No, it's not my original idea, but I CAN offer this piece of advice. In the video, the lady suggests that you buy your tulle off the bolt. Well, Wal-Mart (and a variety of other stores) sell tulle by the spool in the wedding section. All you have to do is unroll a portion of the spool at a time and cut little strips. It's SOOO much easier than having to wrangle bolts of tulle.

This is a perfect craft for the upcoming Christmas season or for your birthday girl. And if you're going for a themed party, they're easy enough to make as favors for all the little guests. Your little sweethearts will love them...but don't take my word for it. Let the birthday girl speak for herself :)

(Shameless plug: These onesies are now available over at the improved Whatta Cute Baby! site. Mention Three Simple Girls when you order (through December 31, 2010) and you'll get free shipping on this item!)


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Traveling Tips

Last year we made treat bags for our nephews and niece. Remember? If you're anything like us, you rotate your travels. That means this season we'll be on the road some... with three kids, three and under and several hours stretched out ahead of us... well, let's just say, we have ourselves some plans.

Usually we like to leave before the crack of dawn to ensure maximum amount of sleepy time. Kids still in their pjs, little traffic on the road, plenty of coffee for us grown-ups. Our latest travel didn't allow for such, though, since our oldest had preschool on the day of travel. That's when the plans come in handy.

First up, the Easy Lunch Boxes. I can't help it... I love them!
The peas and strawberries are frozen, but by the time we wanted to eat they were defrosted and ready to go... plus, you can get organic produce SO much cheaper by buying it frozen! If you want to keep your yogurt cold, add some of that frozen fruit to it... someone taught me that great tip and it works like a charm. And don't let the pinch of powdered sugar fool you even though it makes my kids feel like they're getting something quite special. That is one packed muffin... I experimented with spelt flour, applesauce, sweet potato puree, and raisins. Mmm... recipe to come!

The other thing we sometimes do is "Treat Hour." I take along a little dry erase strip or small chalkboard. At the beginning of each hour the kids get three stars or smiley faces or whatever we want to draw. At the end of the hour if they have at least one "thing" left, then they get a treat out of the bag. Here are some examples from our latest travel:

The trip is normally between six and seven hours, but I keep the entire box of lollipops in there just in case it takes longer. Between, I don't know, poops or spit ups or feeding or potty stops or... you get the picture of why we might need a back up to the back up plan. :) The other things include dollar store items like mini eye-spy books, activity pads in their favorite character, snack bags, candy rings, and a coupon for a smoothie stop. I try to pick out of the ordinary things that can keep them occupied for a good chunk of the hour ahead. The less kids are bored, the better!

We also like to keep a ready supply of other entertainment... music, Bible stories and other books on tape or CD (hitting up the library before hand is great for new titles), etc. Water bottles, favorite blankets and stuffed animals, and a few books per child are other things we make the most of (preferably titles they haven't read in a while or a couple of new books from the library).

Any successful traveling tips you use? We'd love to hear about them!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How a Birthday Party is Born

So this is yet another reason why I like to come up with birthday party themes far in advance. On my way into the grocery store this morning I noticed a 90% off sale on some summer items.

After digging through the pile I came away with this:
$100 worth of goodies for... $10*!!

I had already decided that my summer babe would have some sort of ice-cream shin dig this coming year because I found the cutest banner and napkins at Michael's on clearance. Add these fun things above... 2 slip and slides, 5 beach balls, 2 kiddy pools, ice-cream shaped sidewalk chalk, beach toys, bubble blowing accessories, etc... and we've got ourselves a "Fun in the Sun" party. Come July we'll make a big tub of homemade ice-cream with toppings, and I think we'll come in at $25 or less! Not to mention, some of the items in that pile are stocking stuffers and Easter basket items.

I do so love myself a good deal.

* At the "Dollar General" for those of you who might also have access to the savings!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Treat or Treat

My new favorite pumpkin cupcake recipe. The household favorite, I should say, seeing as how I finally had to hide the batter and the finished products from our soon-to-be whiskered trio of girls.

2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup Sugar in the Raw or regular sugar
2 sticks butter- softened
4 eggs
1 can of pumpkin- 15 oz.
Optional: handful (or two or three) of chocolate chips

Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients except pumpkin. Mix dry and wet together, then fold in the pumpkin and chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 min. Makes about two dozen.

And you do know this trick, don't you? Fill a plastic baggy with icing, snip off a tiny bit at the end... your very own piping bag! You know, so you can top those cupcakes with cream cheese or chocolate frosting.
Of course, you need something to wash it down with. Something pumpkiny at that. Here's another treat you can share with the kiddos because, despite its name, it has no caffeine or coffee in it.

Pumpkin Latte:
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. (or more) pure maple syrup
1 1/2 cups ice
Optional: 1-2 tbsp. natural sugar if the above isn't sweet enough for you

Blend together and serve... with a dollop of whipped cream should you want pumpkin pie in a cup!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin Pizza

I am a fan of all things pumpkiny in taste... but perhaps pizza is taking it a little too far?? :)

Still if we can't put pumpkin in it, surely we make it into a pumpkin. Our girls thought it was a fun idea for a Friday family night.

Collect a few simple ingredients... pre-made or homemade pizza dough (we used the whole wheat kind from Trader Joes), sauce, pepperoni cut into semi-circles and triangles, and sliced olives.
Oh and, mercy, cheese is missing from this picture. The horror! Of course, you need cheese. Melted until bubbly, delicious cheese.

Sprinkle a little flour on your surface and roll out the dough. Use a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter to make your jack-o-lantern outlines. Top with sauce and cheese... then pepperoni eyes and mouths.
Bake for about 15 minutes until dough is firm and cheese melted. Dressing up and peering through the oven door optional.


While on the subject of eating, my eldest daughter started pre-school this year. We searched around for a fun and practical lunch system, and I was so glad to stumble upon Easy Lunch Boxes! I love the compartments, the cut down on waste, the fact that it comes with four boxes making it great for family picnics, the BPA freeness, the dishwasher safeness... AWESOME! Makes packing a lunch pretty fun, I must admit. Even end of the month, gotta get to the store leftovers!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No More Streaking!!!

While I'm a firm supporter of clothing at all appropriate times, take heart...this post has nothing to do with THAT kind of streaking :)

With the cool weather coming in rather quickly this year, it's time to start spending parts of the mornings and afternoons with the windows and doors open. There's really nothing like cool, crisp fall air filling your home! This time of year is a reminder to me to clean the windows. (I would be the one to associate a cleaning task to this time of year!) Is there anyone who actually enjoys cleaning windows? Probably not, not even me. However, there is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from standing back and looking at a spotless pane...even if it's a pain to get it done. And while clean glass is certainly satisfying, hard work and elbow grease that only produces nasty streaks is less than awesome. Then, you have to figure out which side is streaking and wash it again, which usually results in washing both sides again and total exhaustion before you're finished with the first window. Anybody feelin' me here?

First, let me say that I don't have a favorite cleaner or mixture to use that yields a streak-free window. Some people swear by foams or homemade mixtures or a good solid name brand. I, however, have found that any cleaner, even water, paired with a really good microfiber cloth works wonders. I use 2 for washing and one for drying.

Cleaner talk aside, this oh-so-simple tip has saved me many times in this window washing woe. Wipe the window in one direction on the outside and in another direction on the inside. For example, I generally wipe top to bottom/bottom to top on the outside windows and left to right/right to left on the inside. If you do this, and the window streaks, you'll be able to tell which side the streaks are on in a flash! No need for washing and rewashing until you get it right. One more tip for making a not so fun task a little easier. Now, open those windows and let the sunshine in!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Subway Art

Happy Fall, Y'all! While it's still getting pretty warm during the day here in Western North Carolina, the early mornings and late nights are cool enough to get me good and excited about some fall!
I've seen Subway art popping up all over blogland these days. Most of it seems to be created with some fancy Cricut or Silhouette machines and while I don't own one of those, I do have a computer, a printer and Microsoft Publisher. I love what a big statement some simple words can make.

Want to make your own Subway art? Simply use your favorite publishing program to combine words that remind you of a central seasons, holidays, or even relationships. Then, print it out, stick it in a frame and you've got some super easy, super cheap Subway art!

Need some other ideas to get you in the mood for Fall? Try these.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Home Office: Details, Details

For all three of you who might still be the least bit interested in reading about my office project, I thought I'd finish up this little series of posts with details on all the, well, details. From containers to organization to personal touches, this post has it all!

Simple glass canisters and printed tags store pre-cut ribbons and keep them easily accessible.

I've had this old bookcase for at least 15 years, but it keeps hanging on...and it provides the perfect amount of storage for my sewing and business products. To the left of the bookcase, I have all my ribbons and fabric stored in a fashion that I am FINALLY happy with. Check out this post for details on the ribbon storage.

I wanted my fabric to be stored so that it was accessible and easy to sort through. Here's how I did it: I painted a couple of old VHS tape organizers black to match the ribbon storage. I folded a bazillion pieces of card stock (well, not really a bazillion, but several hundred!) in half and cut off about half an inch from the long side. I folded the fabric, long ways, over the card stock and secured it with a little pin. It was oh, so easy and now, when need something for a project, I feel like I'm shopping in my own little fabric store! (I got the idea for this project here.)

This little magnet strip actually won't be used for magnets at all. Instead, I'll use it as a place to organize any upcoming orders. The little "keep calm and sew stuff" art was created on my computer, thank you Microsoft Publisher.

This wire basket came from IKEA a long time ago and it's the perfect size for file folders. The problem with it is that the bar it's supposed to hang on requires some crazy anchors and bolts when you hang it on the wall. In order to make it accessible from my sewing table, I opened the table (the top unfolds) laid a piece of ribbon across the crack, closed the table, tied the ribbon to the basket and VOILA!

Magnetic picture frames filled with homemade labels (thank you again, Publisher!) adorn the front of the filing cabinet.

I REALLY wish I had a before picture of this closet. There was an INSANE amount of crap in there. I finally decided that the craft projects I'd been holding on to since college were probably not going to get done and that it was ok to throw them out. I like that everything is neat and tidy and has it's own little space.

I can't possibly end without showing off some more homemade artwork. Before, the stuff on the walls of my office was totally random and most of it didn't even reflect who we are or what we wanted from the space. Now, everything is cohesive and unified and it's all stuff I really really like. In addition to a cheap-o clock from Wal-Mart, some framed pictures of some of my favorite people and a Mod Podged "G" (for our last name), there are 3 pictures from my favorite musical of all time, Wicked. I cut up an old Wicked calendar to get pictures from 3 of my favorite scenes in the entire show. Wicked is such an amazing tale of friendship and loving people because of what's on the inside. These pictures remind me of that wonderful message every day.

I hope you've enjoyed exploring my home office project! I'm loving every minute to crafting and working and playing in this new space!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Home Office: The Skinny Latte Scoop

When deciding on a paint color for the office, I went back and forth between a beige and a grey for a while. Then, I had to choose a specific shade of beige. Do you even know how many shades of beige there are?? I had to narrow it down to something neutral, something classy, something classic, something that would go perfectly with all my black and white accents.

And then it hit me: paint your walls the same color as your coffee. Let me just say that, in the words of my husband, I like "creamer, sugar and a little bit of coffee". When I found the color called "Skinny Latte", I knew it was the perfect match!

Here are some progress shots, from beginning to end, for several views in the office.
The first picture is the true before...before anything had been moved or transformed.
The second picture is the room once everything was off the walls and the smaller furniture was removed.
The third picture was taken after I had puttied all the holes. No, the room does not have the chicken pox. No, I did not have a clue as to what I was doing when I moved posters and pictures and clocks and more posters a million times in the past 5 years. Yes, it took a long time to putty and sand all those holes. Yes, there were at least 160 holes in the wall. Yes, one hundred sixty.
The fourth picture is the after shot. Between the putty holes and the after picture, there was a coat of primer and 2 coats of paint. But that's boring and you're not missing out by not seeing a picture of it, promise.
(You can click on the pictures to enlarge them).

Here are some other things that got a paint facelift.

These shutters went from UGLY brown to glossy back thanks to 4 cans of 96 cent spray paint from Wal-Mart and 1 can of glossy top coat spray paint.

Here's a before and after of my sewing table. You can read more about that process here.

I forgot to take a picture of this table before I started. It used to be a craft table, so the top was formerly glue, paint and scratch covered. I sanded and sanded and varnished and varnished and am so pleased with my shiny new table top. The bottom of the table was originally white. Then, I painted it light blue (to match the old office colors) and wrote inspirational words around the top with a silver sharpie marker. Not exactly sure what I was thinking there, but it was nothing a little sanding and black paint couldn't cover up.

For those of you who are not quite sick of reading about my office project just yet, stay tuned for all the organizational solutions I put to work in here. See you next time!


Monday, September 6, 2010

Home Office: Budget Breakdown

If you read this post, you know that the budget for our office project wasn't all that hefty. After all, we weren't planning to do any major renovations, but needed to take it from college days catch all room to classy home office. I had planned to spend around $100, but I'm here to tell you that we came in FOURTEEN DOLLARS UNDER BUDGET! And just in case you're not all that awesome at math, that means it only cost $86 to take it from this...

to this...

One of my favorite shows on HGTV is "Design Remix". It's an older show and only the reruns are airing now, but I still love it. The concept is that they can redo any room for $50 and some paint. They "shop" in the clients home and use as much of their own stuff as they can to complete the space. I definitely used that concept in our office. As a matter of fact, there are very few brand new things in here now. Several things got face lifts and lots of things were brought in from other rooms of the house. I'll be posting about some of those projects and things soon.

So, here's the breakdown of how we spent the moo-lah along with some pictures of 2 of my favorite projects...

I got the shutters from the Habitat for Humanity Home Store. They were UGLY brown, but I had a vision :) They weren't marked with a price, so I asked a worker there what they would cost. He tilted his head to the side and said "How about $2?" I said "SOLD!"...and then I got home and could have kicked myself for not getting the other 12 ugly brown shutters.

The curtain rod came from Wal-Mart for a big $8. I used a black flat sheet ($3), again from Wal-Mart, to make the panel for the curtain. I topped it off with a $3 spool of ribbon for my new favorite window in the whole house :)

I just LOVE this little lamp! I found the base at a local boutique for $3 and the shade at Roses for $3. The boring white shade needed a little "umph" so after trying a few different ideas, I resorted to tying some knots out of ribbon I already had on hand and immediately loved it!

I spent about $18 on other decorative things (trash can, frames for the wall, file holders, etc).

I thought the paint was going to crush our budget. The old walls were a dark blue and I was afraid that between primer and multiple coats of paint, we'd be in trouble. Well, I was able to find primer a bucket of primer on clearance which was a huge help! Between the primer, paint, spray paint and a few brushes and supplies that we didn't already have on hand, I only spent about $46!!

That brings the grand total for $86. That's a price I can live with :)

Details on all the little details coming soon! See you then!


Monday, August 30, 2010

My Home Office Reveal...Finally

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I've been promising a big office reveal for MONTHS now, but I promise this is the real deal! It's finally done!

I probably spend more time in my home office than any other room in the house. It's the space where I create for my business, take care of home business, blog and keep track of my daily schedule. I figured that a room that acted as the command center for our home and family needed to reflect our personalities and foster a sense of calmness and order. Until this redo started, the office had NONE of those traits.

Before I welcome you to my new home office, let's take a look at the chaotic mess it used to be...

Yep, there she is in all her glory. We painted those stripes on the wall when we moved in 5 years ago in an effort to cover up the hideous Carolina Blue that covered the walls. Sure it was fun and neat, but ENOUGH ALREADY. Like I said, I'm in this room all the time. The stripes were about to cause me to go crazy.

And now, without further ado, welcome to my new home office!!
When I walk in this room now, I can seriously breathe a sigh of relief. Everything has a home. There is a reasonable amount of furniture occupying the space. Each wall and surface is filled with things that are inspiring and encouraging and things I love. This room is no longer a dumping ground for junk or extra crap. And I LOVE IT!!

Here are some other before and after shots to help you get the full picture of my office awesomeness.



Sometimes I still can't believe the transformation! Our budget was pretty small, so nearly everything used had to be something we already had. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting a breakdown of projects, organizational tips and how we spent our measly little budget. So check back often for tips on how to transform a space with little to no money!


This post is linked at the following:


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer Memories

It's been a great summer.

Sure, it's had its challenges but it's also been full of sweetness and times we don't want to forget. Sometimes I am struck by the notion that my three, three and under likely won't remember all the little things we did in these days. But somehow I just know that one experience builds upon another and another. In the end, they all add up to what I hope they will remember as a rich and loving and warm and even imperfectly beautiful childhood.

To help in their reflection, the last two summers we have memorialized some times in small ways. Last summer we took an unused small scrapbook and glued in pictures, ticket stubs, brochures, and the like. Then we wrote simple captions at the bottom of each page so we could "read" the summer's adventures together.

This summer we bought us some dollar frames from Michaels and the girls sponge painted them. I wrote the words "favorite memory" on the frames and then let my kids peruse a bunch of pics on our computer. They picked one of their favorites, we printed the photos out, and then we glued them on some remnant scrapbook paper to put inside the frames.

The girls love looking at the frames in their rooms. Next summer or even next season we can replace the pictures with what each girl is currently loving.

Another way, I hope, for them to remember how much I love making their childhood special.

Happy memory making!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Better After

Remember these chairs?

They were just featured in a "Chair Superpost" over at Better After!! Head on over here for all kinds of chair redo inspiration!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Playing with Our Food

Want to make for a fun lunchtime surprise or mid morning/after school snack time? Search your fridge and your pantry to see what you can come up with!

We recently made "sandwiches" the night before we went on vacation. Open faced PB on whole wheat bread... strawberry raisin eyes, banana noses, string cheese mouths. We were a little bit giddy... ya think? :)

Often I will pull out random ingredients and play around. This day I helped them make cute, little mice to get started.

Then I armed them with extra supplies for more mouse making... graham crackers and PB, mandarin oranges, bananas, raisins, and pretzel sticks.
This evolved into a pretty creative Mama and Baby Elephant from my three year-old and a ladybug from my two year-old.

I still can't figure out where the two year-old got her inspiration??
Best of all is hearing them giggle while shouting, "I ate his nose! His eyes are gone! There went his mouth!"

Yes, there is a new rule in town... DO play with your food, after all!
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