Friday, January 29, 2010

Banana Muffins on a Snow-less Snow Day

I'm from Tennessee, y'all. I've lived here most of my life. One reason I love it is because we get to enjoy four true seasons of the year here. It gets hot in the summer & cold in the winter. And every once in a while it snows. This is not a big deal to those of you who live north of the Mason-Dixon Line, but let me explain what happens here when a weatherman mentions there could be snow.
The local TV stations begin the frenzy by dropping the words "accumulations" and "wintery conditions" days in advance of the possible snow sighting. As a result, Grandmas stayed glued to their TV's, calling every family member in the viewing area to make sure they have seen the news. This word-of-mouth weather alert system soon carries over to complete strangers cautioning one another beside you at the gas pump or behind you in line at the grocery store, which of course is having a record sales day because everyone in town is stocking up on everything from milk & bread to Cheese Whiz in case they are stuck inside for a week. If you think I'm exaggerating, I assure you, I'm not. Then, there are the teachers & students who bring back prayer in the public schools and resort to superstitions like wearing pajamas inside out & doing a snow dance around the toilet. (Don't ask.)
These are the circumstances brought about by a single word uttered by a meteorologist on an otherwise ordinary winter day. And one more big factor in this mix is the decision by the school superintendent that always keeps everyone on the edge of their sofa. Will there be a snow day? And, yes, it's true that more than a few times in recent history, the school superintendent cancelled school before a flake was spotted &, you guessed it, it never actually snowed.
And that is where we are today. We have a snow day on a so-far-snowless-day. The big snow is predicted to start this afternoon, so we'll have to wait & see, but meanwhile, we got to have a lazy morning without the usual rush, so I had time to make a special treat for the kids for breakfast.
These are quick & easy & absolutely yummy! Perfect for a Saturday or Snow Day (with or without actual snow).


3 lg. bananas
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. melted butter

Mash bananas. Add sugar and slightly beaten egg. Add the melted butter. Combine the dry ingredients, add to the banana mixture and mix lightly. Spoon into well-greased muffin tins. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until done. Makes 12 muffins.

My notes: I used self-rising flour & omitted the baking soda & salt, just like my mother taught me. Plus, I found that this actually made 15 muffins rather than 12. And these were delicious as is, but I also think these would be divine with chocolate chips.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

She Dreamed of Paris...

Once upon a time there was a little table. Sitting all alone at TJMaxx. She was a happy little table with lots of little table friends. But she was different than the others. Even though she was very cute the way she was, she had a dream of becoming more. She had known from the beginning that she was born to stand out in the crowd. Sure, she had character. She had nice scallop detail, a cute little drawer, & legs that other tables would split for. But she knew in heart she could be so much more. She was only a small-town table, but, in her heart, she had dreams of Paris. She wanted to fit in with French decor. She knew she had potential if only the right person could find her.

And that's where I came in. I had been searching for something French that would feel at home in my house. And as soon as I saw her, I knew she was what I'd been searching for. I knew right away that she was born to wear stripes. I was going to be the one to help her realize her dream.

So, with a couple 99-cent makeovers-in-a bottle (a.k.a. craft paint), I went to work.
Here's what she looked like when I found her:

Here are the tools I needed for the make-over:

I took a tape measure & measured the space that I wanted to stripe. Then, I used a little math & figured out how many stripes I needed & how wide each stripe should be to make sure that the stripes would start & end with the green so the color would be balanced. Then I measured off the stripes & drew a line for each one, using a small level to keep the lines straight.

Once all the lines were drawn, I taped the stripes off with painter's tape.

Then , I just painted the green stripes, painted the back scallop & the little knob black, and she was done! In just a couple of hours, she became what she was meant to be.

Today she's living happily ever after in her new home in my upstairs hallway. Now she just wants me to make her a little tassel to hang on her knob. A French one, of course.

Visit Somewhat Simple & The Shabby Chic Cottage to see some other fun projects!

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Do Love a Fun Party!

I'm like a lot of you out there in that I'm a BIG fan of parties! Especially themed parties. And it's really convenient for someone like me to be married to a digital- graphics guru who owns a company with a lot of high-tech equipment to help me support my habit. Just give me an excuse to have a party, & I'm off & running to look for a theme. And the best excuse I've had lately was my son turning 13! (Yikes! Even when I read the words in front if me, I still can't believe it!)

I always love it when I find great entertaining ideas from other bloggers out there. So, if you're planning a party & searching for just the right theme, you might want to try what we did Saturday for my son's big day.

It was a race. And it turned out amazing. Hence, it was appropriate that we called it The Amazing Race. And there happens to be a TV show with the same title that we have a slight addiction to, so that may have influenced us a bit.

But, here's how it went:

For a couple weeks before the party, my husband & I did a lot of brainstorming, thinking about locations & challenges that would be appropriate for the age of the guests & the length of time, then we sorted out the clues & challenges in the best order. Then we made the arrangements with certain businesses & people who would help give out clues. We also hid some clue envelopes in the locations the teams would be led to search. We allowed 2-1/2 hours for the actual race, and had approximately 12 clues for them to follow.

We had chosen a few landmarks in our city that we knew they could find with simple clues. Some of the challenges included getting the signature of a fireman, searching for a certain tombstone in a large cemetery, going to an observation deck at the top of a landmark & searching for the answer to a clue, then going to that location to receive the next clue. The teams also had to visit a store that sold candy by the pound & buy an exact weight given on the clue sheet. Each clue had to be followed exactly, or a 5-minute penalty would be added to the team's time at the Finish Line, back at our house. We also provided a hint envelope for one location, but if it was opened, the team would have a 5-minute penalty. Part of each challenge was to have the teams take pictures with a digital camera at most of the stops. This is a great way to get your pictures for the scrapbook later!

We ended up having 3 teams of 4 kids each, with parent drivers in each of the 3 vehicles. We equipped each team with maps of the city, some money for one of the challenges & parking meters, & the necessary envelopes for the first set of clues. Here's where my husband dazzled me with stickers he printed with an adapted "Amazing Race" logo.

The last clue may have been my favorite. We went to a local Asian restaurant while we were planning the race & asked for some fortune cookies & if they'd like to be part of the race. I took the fortune cookies & carefully pulled out the original fortunes without breaking the cookie. I then replaced it with our own message, carefully tucking the small paper inside. Then I re-packaged them & we returned them to the restaurant where the teams would later go to find them.

The race ended at our house & was a very close finish between the first two teams. We kept the food very simple, just serving hot dogs, chips, soft drinks, & cupcakes with a racing theme.

At the end, we announced the winners & presented them with trophies (also made by my husband) which doubled as the party favor.

I think it was a pretty big success among the kids. And now all the adults want to plan one for ourselves!

Hope this gives you some inspiration & a place to start if you're looking for ideas for a party of your own. Be sure to come back & post a comment about it if you do an Amazing Race. And if you have other unique party ideas, I want to hear about those, too!


Monday, January 11, 2010

It's Time to Go Green

We have now entered that awkward little stage when the Christmas decor is safely tucked away in the red & green plastic tubs and yet we're too far away from Valentine's Day to break out the cupids & hearts. Personally, I can live with my plain holiday-less decor for a few weeks inside my house, but my issue is with the front door. You see, my philosophy on a front door is quite different from my philosophy on furniture & curtains. Let the rooms be empty for months & let the world see what they will through the naked windows, but I cannot tolerate a wreath-less front door. That is where I draw the line. I think, in my mind, a front door with no wreath is like going out in public with no lipstick. It's just one of those things that you should never be caught without.

A wreath is a little sign of hospitality on a front door. It says "welcome" without having to spell it right out. It gives a little hint of the personality of the people who live there. Does it mean that because I have a wreath on my door that I'll buy whatever you're selling? No, but it says I'll smile as I say, "No, thank you."

So, with that being established, the question is what kind of wreath to hang at this time of year. This is the time of year you need a "Go-To Wreath"--one that doesn't announce the next holiday or tell everyone that you can't get past the last one. My favorite Go-To Wreath is green. I made one of these a few years ago for my previous house, & always loved it, so I decided to do it again for my new house. It's one of the simplest wreaths you can make & with the money you'll save from making one yourself, you can take a friend to Starbucks.

Here are the simple steps:

1. Start with a large grapevine wreath (these are around $5 at Hobby Lobby) & 3 or 4 "bushes" of greenery (these are on sale this week at Hobby Lobby for 50% off!). And yes, I wish I had a dollar for every time I mention Hobby Lobby.

I chose this little blueberry bush greenery because it just spoke to me, but you choose whatever speaks to you.

2. Take some handy wire cutters & cut each stem at the base of the bush to give you several long pieces of greenery.

3. Next, just start sticking the stems in your wreath in a counter-clockwise direction, overlapping the stems to cover the wreath. Make sure the stems go in far enough so that they won't fall out, but not so far that they stick out the back.

4. When you've stuck them all in, stand back & see if you need to rearrange any of the stems to make the wreath fairly uniform all the way around.

That's it, y'all. The beauty of this is that you can remove all your stems & re-decorate your grapevine wreath a thousand other ways later!

This project won't take you long to finish & before you know it, you'll have a new wreath on the door & enough girl scout cookies to feed an army if you're not careful. Now go out there & get your wreaths!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Just Something I Need to Say

The following is a post I wrote several days ago...It is definitely deeper than my usual rants on crafting & decorating, but sometimes that's how life is...

For those of you who know me only from the words you've read on this blog, and for those who know my name and see me every few days as we pass each other on life's path, and for those who read me now, but haven't really known me for quite a while, I'd like to introduce myself. Again.

I'm the people you see in the picture above. I'm made up of a part of my sister (to the far left of me in the picture), and my brother (right beside me on the left), my husband (right beside me on the right), and even my brother-in-law (in the far left). And even all these kids are making me who I am. (My son is the cute 12-year-old boy & my 3 girls are the ones in red. My nieces are in black.) I'm also made up of my husband's side of my family and my precious grandparents who aren't pictured here. But, mostly, I think I'm a product of my parents (pictured at the top), who've given me so much more than physical life.

I've written a lot about my parents in the past in other places besides here. And today, I'm compelled, again, to express what they mean to me. And, if by writing, I can remind myself of the rarity they are, and possibly influence myself or others to be like them, then I've truly accomplished something.

Today, the enemy visited me. Of course I never heard him, or saw him, but he came. He's studied me so well, that he knew the precise time to come that would perturb me most. When I was fully engulfed in something I love, he came to ruin it. His attack was really difficult to take at the time, and for a few moments by myself, I couldn't think to do anything but just cry. I'm sure he enjoyed that. Seeing me begin to feel the pain of defeat. But, we really weren't the only ones there.

God saw the whole thing, too. And while I began to get sucked into the cycle of sadness, then anger, then defeat, then vengeance, he whispered in my heart the words to help me stop the cycle. "Ask Dad. He knows."

And so I did. I dialed through my tears, then explained to my mom the scenario that had transpired just a few moments before. She simply said, "I'll talk to Dad and we'll call you back."

And when he called, I poured out my heart just like I was 10 years old again. He listened to every word and comforted me like only my dad can. And then he delivered in his calm, wise words, the message that God wanted me to hear. And every part made perfect sense, leaving me to wonder again why I couldn't realize it all on my own. He challenged me to let God take care of it all. Not to make the choice to barge in and force it all to go my way. Not to say the things to certain people that were dying to be said. Because doing those things would only give the victory to the enemy. Which is why he came to visit in the first place.

I've never heard God's voice. But I know what He sounds like. I've not yet seen His face, but my mom & dad have shown me time after time what He looks like. And because I don't know how long we'll be on this earth without really seeing Him, I have to learn right now how to show other people what He looks like as well. I have to help my kids hear His voice when tragedy strikes. Will my husband and I be able to do that like my parents have for me? We have to. There's nothing else to pass down. If we were the wealthiest of people, there would still be nothing else to pass down. It's the greatest inheritance my parents could give us. They've been giving it all my life.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Things I Can't Let Go Of

I have a hard time parting with certain things. Okay, I have a hard time parting with a lot of different things. I have clothes I haven't worn in...a lot of years, but somehow, I can't let them go. That's why my closet is the size that it is. And if you wrote me a letter when I was 10, chances are, I could find it somewhere in my house. Research papers from college? Yeah, I've got 'em.

I'm the same way when it comes to friends. When I find a good one, I keep them. I may not get to talk with them everyday or even every year. But I keep in my mind the great memories of them & love to catch up with them whenever we can. Maybe that's why I love Facebook. There's just nothing like being in touch with almost everyone you know simultaneously.

But, I have one friend who's been around for as long as I can remember (literally). I met her at age 3, and our paths have been intertwined for most of our lives since. Those of you who know me well, already know Denise, too. I could write another blog devoted entirely to our adventures and misadventures, but that will have to wait.

Here we are in the photo below (she's on the left, I'm on the right). She may kill me for posting a picture of her without her permission, but now I have readers to be witnesses, so I'm probably safe.

There are a million reasons why we're friends (the main one being that she knows too much about me for me to let her go now), but it's also because we love the same things, laugh at the same time, admire the same people, dream of the same places, and just that we've shared so much of each other's lives that we wouldn't be ourselves without each other. And here's another little reason she gave me just today.

Don't you love it? Some of you recognize this from blogs like the Nester or others may know it from Edie (whom Denise & I actually know personally from years ago!). It's a tassel! Custom-created for me by Denise & inspired by my "Ballooning Over Paris" bathroom--which she helped me paint for 3 late nights, I might add. Recently, the Nester wrote an e-book about how to make these tassels, and Edie posted instructions as well. (Click on them for more info).

Here it is in action...

Here it is, helping me get one step closer to a fully-decorated bathroom.
And here's a picture of my cloud ceiling, just because you need to get the whole effect.

I love, love, love my tassel & nothing else has ever made my toilet paper more attractive. But more than that, I love it because I know how much thought & planning Denise put into it just for me.

She's the best. And she's my friend. For life.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Birthday

Hang on, you don't have to run out & buy me a gift just yet. I'm actually not turning 29 again until May. This post is about my latest creation/obsession from the weekend.

It started out Saturday when I was out alone on an errand & decided to stop into a shop that I could only go in when I had no kids with me. Yeah, one of those kinds of shops. I browsed around, drooling over the lavishness until I found the one thing I knew was meant for my house. But because this beautiful treasure happened to cost as much as our first car, I had no intention of buying it, but every intention of reproducing it before you could say the word "copycat" three times fast.

So, of course I made a bee-line to Hobby Lobby & knew it was positively Providential that the tube paints were all on sale. {I'll just interject here that along with being OCD, I have the more specific variety called OCCD -Obsessive Compulsive Creativity Disorder, which just means of course, that when I get inspired, I simply must create & now. And, yes, if Hobby Lobby were open 24 hours, I'd be there.}

Okay, where was I? So I sped home, barely saying hello to my husband & kids as I ran to my craft room. My husband was not alarmed. He's seen this before.

And so I created My Project, pausing to eat & sleep only because the paint had to dry. It's entitled "My Birthday" and it was inspired by artist Carey Haynes, whom you can admire here.

The words on the painting are a little verse I wrote just for the Lord, and my husband, and each of my four children. They say:
"It was my birthday the day you came. Then suddenly, everything was sweet.
Now I know how to sing, and laugh, and create, and live, and love...
because you're here.
And a hundred years' worth of birthday wishes-come-true could not compare to the day you came."
And now my little project is exactly where it belongs. On the wall by our kitchen table where we can see it everyday. And for now I'm free ...until I see the next beautiful thing that inspires me.