November 29, 2013

Day After Thanksgiving - Decorations Going Up

I'm one of those bloggers who just can't seem to bring myself to decorate for Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving.  So today as all of our Fall decorations are being packed away, we are pulling out everything Christmas.  I hadn't realized that we have a week less to enjoy our Christmas decorations this year until just a few days ago. This year Thanksgiving was a week later than normal.  But that is okay, I've always started decorating the day after Thanksgiving and that is what I chose to do again this year.  

Tonight we are going to see a live production of Scrooge so we won't be anywhere near finished today.  But over the weekend, hopefully we will get all of our Christmas decorating done.

I'll be sharing this years decorations with you in a few days.  In the meantime, here is a fun decoration that I crafted last year.  Below the photo is a link to more photos and the tutorial on how to make them.













Antique Postcards Made into Christmas Trees - Tutorial HERE



November 22, 2013

Christmas JOY - Easy Mirror DIY Project

This is one of my first DIY Christmas craft projects that I shared when I first started this blog... It was super easy and inexpensive.  I had three mirrors that I had found on clearance for $5 each that I had yet to use. I went to my local craft store and purchased plywood letters for a couple of dollars each that spelled "JOY"... I painted them using a sponge brush with both silver Metallic craft paint and glitter paint to give them a bit of blingy sparkle.  I figure you can never have enough sparkle during the holidays!


I like using a paper plate to hold my paint and a sponge or foam brush for painting because they are both inexpensive and disposable (making clean up super fast and easy).  I put a bath towel (that I used regularly just for crafts) on the dining table to protect it from my paint mess.


I used medium Command Picture-Hanging Strips on the back of each letter and on the center of each mirror to mount the letters to the mirrors.

The command strips remove easily when the holidays are over so I can still use the mirrors year round.  Or another idea would be to attach other letters or symbols for other times of the year.  My husbands name is Jim and my name is Diana so I was thinking "J&D" might be cute on the mirrors after the holidays.




When I first made these I displayed the JOY mirrors in our entryway.  This year I will be hanging these mirrors (after Thanksgiving).  I will be sure to get updated pictures once I do.

Blessings,

Diana

November 21, 2013

Cranberry Pears - Thanksgiving Holiday Goodness

Our family has always loved cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.  We used to just open a can, slice it and that was it.  However, about 10 years ago my mom made cranberry pears.  We have not had regular cranberry sauce ever since.  

There are two ways to make cranberry pears and I will share both of them with you. One version takes about 5 minutes of preparation (this is the way I used to make them) and the other (healthy version) takes 15 or 20 minutes to prep (depending on how fast you can peel pears).  Either way, most of the work is done by a slow cooker (Crock-Pot).


A few weeks ago I started eating Paleo which in short means no more processed or refined foods of any kind.  So for us I will make the a healthy, sugar free (but still sweet) version of cranberry pears.  Note: canned cranberry sauces main ingredient (depending on brand) is sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  So, no canned for our family... Fresh it is!

The recipe is simple using only three ingredients:  Fresh cranberries, 100% pure maple syrup (from a tree), and pears (I used fresh organic).  

Directions: (Healthy version)

Turn the crock pot on Low then add the following:

12 ounces of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup of pure maple syrup
4 ripe pears (peeled, cored and cut into slices)

Stir and let simmer on low for three to four hours (sample taste at about two hours to see if more sweetener is needed).  Keep in mind that fresh cranberries can be quite tart depending on their ripeness, so you can add extra maple syrup if needed.  

As the cranberries cook they will open spreading their flavor throughout the pears. Depending on how many people you are feeding you can adjust the recipe size.  We like to serve them warm but they can also be made in advance and served chilled.  They taste excellent either way.  You can substitute the maple syrup with agave, honey and/or a combination of the three. Whichever sweetener you prefer will work.  


Now for the super simple five minute version (3 minutes if you are fast with a can opener)...  

Directions:  (quick and easy)

Turn crock pot on low:

Open a can or two of pear halves (or slices), quickly drain them and pour them into crock pot,

Open a can of whole berry cranberry and pour/spoon it into crock pot...

Simmer on low for three hours.  

Yep, that's it.  Serve warm or chilled.  




It doesn't get any easier than that folks!  We made it the simple way for years... The pears absorb the cranberry flavor and taste amazing :)

Whichever way you choose, cranberry pears will be a hit with your family!

Blessings to you and yours,

Diana

I love my new Crock-Pot Hook Up system!


More Crock Pot Thanksgiving Ideas

November 19, 2013

Crock Pot Thanksgiving - Holiday Made Simple

I host Thanksgiving at my house each year.  Usually we spend pretty much the entire day in the kitchen preparing all of the food.  This year I've decided I want to make the preparations that go into our Thanksgiving dinner simple.  I want to actually enjoy the holiday visiting with the family while they are here rather than working in the kitchen the whole time.   

I recently got this Crock-Pot Hook Up System.  I absolutely love this thing!  Each unit is purchased separately and you can plug in as many as six units into just one outlet.  The units push together side by side and connect each other.  They come in different sizes, different colors and make for easy entertaining!   


I got the double one quart unit (shown on the left),  2 of the two quart units (center) and one three quart unit (on the right) .  I've been cooking in them nightly.  You only have to turn on the units that you want to use (as each one has it's own on/off knob and adjustable heat settings).  You can cook your entire meal right in these crocks and then turn them to the warm setting until you are ready to serve.  These each come with their own serving spoon and a spoon slot in the crock (so your lids can sit on them) even while the spoon is in them.  

I have an old huge crock pot, but it is so large and heavy that I rarely used it because I didn't like cleaning the heavy beast.  These being smaller are so much easier to clean.  The units also stack for easy storage.  I haven't bothered to put them away.  I've been using them every single day.  I'm surprised how many meals I've been able to make in them.  I've suddenly turned into a crock pot chef :)

I've been playing with different recipe ideas this past week and have come up with a few that are a total successes.  We also recently started eating Paleo... so I've come up with several Paleo versions of some of our Thanksgiving favorites.  I'd never really eaten sweet potatoes before, and this past week I've tried them a few different ways.  Sweet potato mash (via the crock pot) is amazing!!!  It is definitely my new favorite!


I have made both seasoned turkey breasts and a full size chicken in the large crock.  I made sweet potato bites and also a sweet potato mash (which is my new favorite)!  I'd never even tried sweet potatoes prior to getting these Crock-Pots and now I love sweet potatoes!  I also made cranberry pears which is something our family has done for several years (will share this recipe tomorrow).

For a healthy dessert I cut apple slices with my Apple Corer Peeler Slicer (that also Peels potatoes) and put them into a crock pot with cinnamon, honey and chopped pecans.  
After a few hours the apples were tender, flavorful and oh so yummy!  I've had my apple slicer for about 14 years and still use it all the time.  They have made improvements on it (like adding a suction cup), but it is still the same amazing tool.  It works great for peeling potatoes and for when I  make homemade apple pie.  

I'm not sure I will be able to do Thanksgiving 100% in the crock pots.  I'm still planning to do a whole turkey in the oven so we have lots of leftovers.  But most of our meal will slow cook in my new Crock-Pots while I get to enjoy visiting with family and friends.  I'm getting excited for this holiday to see everyone, to share great food and show off my new kitchen toys.

Blessings,

Diana



November 12, 2013

Thrifted Chair Makeover - Before and After

Here she is... My thift store chair that was previously screaming for a makeover... She is finally finished.  Isn't she pretty!


I found this chair at my local Goodwill Thrift Store for $30. I snapped this first picture of it in the store while I was debating on buying it.  When I first saw it, I knew it had a ton of potential, but I was a little unsure if I could handle making it over!  I sat in the chair for at least 20 minutes thinking about what I could do to it.  It was surprisingly very comfortable... and I needed a chair in our master bedroom.  I knew for sure that I didn't want to do tufting of any kind on my as this was my first real upholstery project.  And I wasn't sure exactly how I would accomplish fixing her up, but I decided it (she) was worth a try!

My first step was to remove the cushions from the chair. The bottom cushion removed easily as only two screws were holding it on. However, the rear cushion was stapled onto the chairs frame with hundreds of staples.  I painstakingly removed each and every staple by pulling them out with my needle nose pliers.  I had several blisters and a staple hole in my thumb to show for my hard work.

I already had white paint, dark wax and batting in my craft room left over from previous projects...  So the only things I had to purchase for this makeover were fabric and Nailhead Trim.  I estimate my supply costs to be $10 because I used less than 1/3 of the nail head trim and my fabric remnant was only a few dollars on sale at Joann's Superstore.  I can't help but shop in the bargain section!   

I had previously given a sneak peak of my chairs progress via my Instagram feed (My Instagram name: AnyoneCanDecorate).  That was before I decided how I was going to trim around the back cushion.  The staple gun staples were still exposed in this next Instagram picture. 


After giving the sneak peak on Instagram, I had a few people ask me for a tutorial on this piece... but honestly being that this was my first time doing upholstery I don't think that I'm the one to give a tutorial on how to upholster.  I purchased a book that showed me Step-by-Step Upholstery.  The book is how I figured out what I was doing.  It was definitely worth the few dollars it cost!

The back of the chair involved quite a bit more than just wrapping fabric around it like a present and stapling it.  I admit it was a little bit difficult but the book showed me enough to figure it out.  Going with a stripe fabric also presented a challenge.  A solid definitely would have required less effort.  

I'm not going to give you step by step tutorial here... I will give you the photo version of my progress as it happened and I will also tell you how I achieved the antiqued paint finish.  

After removing all of the old fabric, cushions and staples, I lightly sanded the frame just so my paint would adhere well to the surface.  I used inexpensive acrylic latex craft paint for the off white base color.  You know the kind of paint you buy at the craft store in the tiny bottle for about 99 cents (made by Plaid).  I used a simple drybrush technique and the paint worked great for this process.   
 
A drybrush technique is where you use a dry paint brush and dab just the tips of the brush into the paint (I put the paint on a paper plate for easy tip dipping).  Then you brush the item lightly all over and only dab more paint onto the brush each time the brush gets dry.  There is no need for full coverage paint when you are doing a drybrush antique look. The paint itself is not that impressive until a Dark Wax is used over it.  There are many brands of dark wax but I've only used this brand.  I used a cotton cloth to apply the dark wax (which also doubles as a finishing polish).  I used the same dry brush finish on the cane sides of the chair.  Followed by just a little wiping of dark wax over some of the cane. I wanted the cane to feel lighting than the wood areas. The final look is a nice vintage time worn feel. 

Here is a photo play by play of the makeover as it progressed.  Sorry I didn't take more pictures of the paint finishing as it was in process.


Although I completely removed the fabric from the rear cushion on the chair, I upholstered directly over the velvet cushion fabric on the seat.  I put clumps of batting into each of the old tufted holes.  Then I covered the top of the cushion with several layers of batting which completely hid any signs of the old tufting.  I used the same batting method on the rear cushion of the chair.

The burlap furniture strap in the back of the chair was used it to give strength to the back of the chair, so when a person leans into the chair the fabric can not rip.  I stapled it into place and used a few furniture tacks to hold it tight in place.  Notice I used a different fabric for the rear side of the chair.  I wanted to give it a totally custom look and feel.  



I am loving my final finished chair.  It was a bit more work than I had planned. However, completely worth it!  I love having one of a kind furniture pieces that have a history.   


Until next time...
Happy decorating!

Diana


November 11, 2013

Simple Elegance - DIY Thanksgiving Centerpiece

This is a simple Thanksgiving Centerpiece that I put together on Thanksgiving morning a couple of years ago.  It took less than 10 minutes to throw it together. Below is a list of the items I used. Most of these items you likely already have in your home.


Mason Jars - (I used a variety of graduating sizes) 

Epsom Salts - Can be found at any Pharmacy for a couple of dollars or ONLINE

Fresh Cranberries (grocery store)


Pine-cones 

Fall Leaves (my Fall leaves were Silk Maple Leaves bought online.  Since I live in California it's hard to find real ones here!)


Directions:

Fill each jar with approximately two inches of Epsom Salts (the salt holds the candles up in place and the salts glisten like snow)

Place candle in center of jar (you may want to cut candle bottom off to desired height) 
I did this using scissors to score the candle wax where I wanted to shorten it.  After scoring the wax, the bottom will break off easily, then cut the center wick)

Add cranberries after the candle is in the center

I had previously purchased a huge roll of 4" wide burlap online (300 foot roll for only $9.99) for other projects I was working on.  I put two strips of that burlap down the center of the table as my table runner.

I placed the mason jars in the center and then sprinkled more cranberries and fall leaves around the base of the candles.  Keep in mind that cranberries can stain (that is why I put inexpensive burlap under them).

I loved this simple centerpiece and everyone enjoyed the ambiance and warmth of eating by candlelight.



Below are links to a couple of other DIY crafts that I did with my $10 roll of burlap:

Burlap Merry Christmas Tree Garland

Fall Mantle Decor with Burlap Ribbon



Below is a link to another DIY project I did with the Silk Maple Leaves:

Easy Peasy Fall Candles

November 8, 2013

Going Paleo - Eating for Better Health

A few weeks ago I was very inspired by a story of a woman who had healed her health issues with proper eating.  Since then I have read through her amazing story and purchased her latest cookbook: Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great



We have decided to start eating Paleo.  What is Paleo?  Simply put, think hunter, gatherer.  The way God designed us to eat before man started modifying everything!  Going Paleo consists of eating mostly meats, fruits and vegetables.  Initially I thought about going Gluten free, but Paleo is much more!  It is totally grain free, dairy free and pretty much sugar free.  Sounds scary doesn't it!!!?

Since I love food, this it is a bit scary... but since I have had health issues for over 12 years now, I am committed to trying it.  My biggest issue with my health is with Fibromyalgia and the chronic (all over the body) pain that comes with it.  I am hoping that with this healthier way of eating I can minimize or heal many of my health problems.

The book that inspired me, Against All Grain, has many recipes for desserts and breads that you can actually make without grains.  I was shocked to find out that there is coconut flour and almond flour that you can substitute for the wheat/flour in recipes.  This will make getting rid of gluten an grains so much easier!  Also, the book has healthy versions of several comfort foods.  Her recipes are highly rated and I can't wait to try several of them.  Foods that I've always loved but now they are healthy for me, yum!!!  

Last night we made our first recipe from the book, banana bread... It is completely grain free and uses no sugar.  My husband and I both love it!  I can't share the actual recipe since it is not my own. However, I will be coming up with some of my own recipes for our family.  I will share any that are a success!

As a bonus, eating this way I should be able to drop a few (or more than a few) excess pounds.  Getting rid of all the empty carbohydrates (potatoes, bread, white rice and more) I sure hope I lose some weight!  I will let you know as it happens...  

Note: I will admit now that I will be allowing myself a few mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving.  It will be interesting to see how I feel on Thanksgiving compared to other days.

Have any of you tried eating Paleo.  How do you like it?

Until next time...

Note:  I did not get paid for sharing/promoting this recipe book.  It is my excitement over this new way of eating that has inspired me to share it with my readers.  However, if you purchase the cookbook via the Amazon link (which is discounted off of retail) I do receive a small percentage of the sale. Amazon links and ads on my page help me to pay for my projects and share them with you. Thank you for your support!  

Blessings,

Diana

November 5, 2013

Favorite Childhood Memories - A Piece of Me

This past week as many were celebrating Halloween I was reminded of one of my absolute favorite childhood memories.  When I was five years old I was trick or treating and I remember being so excited getting a rock, just like Charlie Brown did on "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" the cartoon.  I even recall what my costume was that first time I received a rock instead of candy. I was dressed up as a bride, with a white veil and all.  

When I was given the rock it was wrapped in foil (so I couldn't tell what it was).  That was back in the days when people made homemade treats, like popcorn balls, cookies or brownies and passed them out to all of the neighborhood kids... So, getting something wrapped in foil was not suspicious at all.    

When I got home and dumped out my pillow case.  Opening the foil treats was like opening Christmas presents.  When I opened my first rock I had an outburst of excitement and by this reaction you'd have thought it was made of GOLD!  I thought it was the coolest thing ever and I was as cool as Charlie Brown :)

I received a rock on Halloween for the next couple of years, until we eventually moved.  For several years I did not know where those rocks came from... I remember being a little bummed that I no longer got a rock in my pillow case once we had moved.  A few years later I found out that it was our old next door neighbor, who also babysat me, that gave me the rock each year.  Apparently my mom had told her how much I loved the cartoon and had given her the idea.

That memory is now over 40 year old and I still remember how excited I was receiving that first rock.  I remember what it looked like.  It was my favorite rock ever and was very unique.  It was full of holes which is not something normally seen on a rock.  I kept that rock for about 20 years and I don't think I've ever seen another rock of that same type.  Unfortunately during one of our moves to a new home I accidentally left it out in the garden.  It was not too large of a rock, otherwise I would not have been able to carry it around in my pillow case while out trick or treating... That silly rock was so special to me!  

The neighbor who gave it to me lives in Colorado now (we are in California) and I haven't seen her in about 25 years.. My parents still get together with her and her husband annually.  I think it's time that I to write her a handwritten note and let her know how special that gesture was (and still is) to me.  It's a memory I will always treasure!

The cartoon "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" originally aired on CBS in October of 1966, the year I was born (I can't believe I'm admitting that)...  CBS continued to air it each year through the year 2000.  In 2001 ABC picked up the rights to the cartoon and has aired it every year since. 

I continued the giving of the rock tradition with my daughters and also with a friends twin boys when they were younger.  I'm not sure they ever got quite as excited as I did when I received that first rock... But it is a memory that will last us all a lifetime!

What childhood memories or holiday traditions do you treasure?  I would love to hear your stories!

Until next time,
Blessings...

Diana