Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I can't believe Andy is old enough to be in college.

The first time you saw an ad for Toy Story 3, I'm guessing many of you said the same thing I did.  "Andy's old enough to go to college?!!!"  I did the math - he IS that old, and now a whole new generation of kids will fall in love with Buzz, Woody and gang - and the marketing that goes along with them.

On Saturday, my daughter is going to a birthday party for a boy who is turning 5.  This gave me an opportunity to do two things I really enjoy...  1. Coordinating a gift.  2. Shopping for a good deal.

I am ALL about making sure things coordinate well together, and paying attention to the small details.  Even if it's something as routine as putting a gift together for a child's birthday.  I do everything I can to make sure each piece goes together - gift, wrapping, bow and card.  I love doing that, with the child in mind, thinking about how much they will enjoy seeing their favorite character or theme selected just for them.

Here is what the birthday boy will be getting on Saturday.  I hope he will have a lot of fun with his Toy Story Alien Fishing Game, and Parachuting Army Men.  The wrapping paper matches perfectly and has the whole gang on it.  I did run into a bit of a situation with the card...  The store I was shopping in did not have a single Toy Story card!  I had the store manager looking for one, and when she said they didn't have one, I said, "That's OK, I'll just make one." (Which I would have - to avoid going to another store and to make sure the card matched.) However, the manager was able to find the Toy Story bow/gift tag, so I'm all set!

Here's where the good deal comes in...
My daughter is also a huge Toy Story fan, and Buzz and Woody sit, proudly, on her bedroom dresser.  Lately she has been talking a lot about Jessie, so I've been thinking about getting her a Jessie doll to add to her collection. (Woody will probably appreciate that too.)

The store I was in is having a promotion where if you buy a certain dollar amount in Toy Story merchandise, you get a free ticket to the new movie.  The Jessie doll was on sale and added to my gift purchase brought me to just one dollar over the amount I needed for the free ticket.

So - the NEXT thing to coordinate is a special "Toy Story Day" for my little princess.  A special day, with just me and her daddy.  I'll dress her up in a Jessie t-shirt and cowgirl hat (If anyone sees them on sale anywhere, let me know).  We'll take her out for pizza (I have to find somewhere in town I can convince her is "Pizza Planet"), give her the Jessie doll and then take her to see the new movie.  If anyone has any suggestions of other things to do with the theme - please tell me!

I really hope the time between now and when my daughter leaves for college goes a LOT slower than what it has for Andy!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chocolate Anyone?

This week's project is planning for the Dove Chocolate Discoveries party that will be at my home on Friday evening. (Disclaimer - all photos in this post are not mine, I swiped them off the DCD website.)

 I don't host a lot of these types of in home sales parties, mostly because I am a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant, so I really like to focus on only that.  However, with this one, I just couldn't resist!  A family friend is the Dove Chocolatier and when she told me about it, I jumped right on board!

My sister already had a party at her house.  It was there that I fell deeply in love with the DCD Chocolate Mousse.  I already have a good supply of it, and will be buying lots more!

When it comes to home parties, a lot of hostesses count on the person doing the party to do all the planning.  I'm positive that my friend will do a wonderful job, but I know that it is up to me to make sure that my guests have a great experience.  I feel that if my friends are willing to give up their Friday night to come to my house, then I need to do everything I can to make sure they leave feeling comfortable, pampered and well fed!

So - that's the plan.  Since chocolate is such an indulgence, my goal is to create an atmosphere that goes along with that.  However, I think I can accomplish the look I want with a small budget.
 For now, I'm going to leave the details as a surprise for another day, because I want the people who are coming to be the first to see everything.  I will give you a little taste of my grocery list though...  marshmallows, strawberries, graham crackers, vodka.... (Yes, there will be chocolate martinis.)

I'm really excited to see some of you on Friday at 7 p.m.!  Reminder, if you still have not RSVPd yet, please do so A.S.A.P.!

Hmm... a Friday evening with my friends and lots of chocolate... Doesn't get much better than that!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Charming Charm Bracelets

A great gift for a new mom, or a grandma!

When it was time for me to return to work after the birth of my daughter, I made myself this bracelet so that I could have photos of her with me wherever I was.

I used a "Martha Stewart Crafts" kit that I found at Michaels. I don't think that kit is currently available, but there are many other kits for photo jewelry online. Or, you can just check out the jewelry making section at Michaels, where I'm sure all of the necessary pieces are available. (That's probably a better option because you could add as many charms as you want.)

For this kit - all I had to do was print and cut out the 6 pictures I wanted to use.  Then I attached the photos to the silver charms with a double-sided tape. The kit came with clear, dome shaped stickers that went over top of each photo.

It took about a half hour to make two identical bracelets. (One for me, one for my sister.)  Supplies were two kits and 12 pictures.

Reminder:  If you shop at Michaels, make sure that when you check out you use both the weekly Michaels 40% off coupon, along with a second 40% coupon from a competitor. (Unless the items are on sale - coupons are usually only good on full price items.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Teriyaki Bacon Cheeseburgers with Pineapple

My nephew is currently at Air Force basic training in Texas. His wife told me that he is requesting that she make him my cheeseburgers when he gets home.  So, here's the recipe for my wonderful new niece in-law, and for anyone else who is looking to make a KILLER burger.

Here's my basic recipe - we'll get to the "teriyaki / pineapple" part in a minute...

For 4 or 5 burgers:
1 lb. lean ground beef
5 strips of Oscar Meyer Bacon - the pre-cooked kind in the yellow box
1/2 cup of finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and garlic powder - to taste

Chop the bacon strips into small pieces.  Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and form into burgers.  Place on a pre-heated grill and close the cover.  After 4 minutes, flip them over, close the cover and cook for 4 more minutes.

Until last summer, I had never even considered putting a slice of grilled pineapple on a burger.  A friend convinced me to try it, and I was instantly hooked.  I thought this was a totally new idea, but apparently I was just late to the party.  The next week, I wanted to make these for my family and I had a conversation with my brother that went like this...

Me:  "Have you ever tried a slice of grilled pineapple on a burger?"

Brother:  "What is this, amateur hour?"

Me:  "What if INSTEAD of worcestershire sauce, I used TERIYAKI sauce?"

Brother:  "Now you're on to something..."

Thus concluded the evolution of my burger recipe.  I have not changed it in the past year, but do switch back and forth between my original recipe and the teriyaki/pineapple version.

A tip, and a warning...
When I mix everything together and form the burgers, I wear rubber food prep gloves so I don't have to touch any of it.  It's a great idea - however, my golden retriever walked past the garbage can, and couldn't resist swiping one of the meat/cheese/bacon/teriyaki flavored rubber gloves.  It cost a grand total of $2,000.00 to have it surgically removed from him.

My nephew is also requesting my blueberry muffins.  Here's that recipe:  Duncan Hines, from a box.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Star Spangled Silverware

When planning a party, I'm all about functional decorating.  Instead of treating the essentials and decorations as two separate components, I try to do whatever I can to use the essentials AS decorations. 

An informal party, especially one taking place outdoors, is an opportunity to do something fun with your paper products.  For example: instead of having your cutlery in a basket or cups, you can make it into a cute decoration that can be either placed on tables where guests will be dining, or creatively displayed on a buffet table.

Here is an idea for a July 4th party.  Not only does it add a decorative element to your get-together, it will keep you from having to chase napkins around your yard if the wind is blowing.  (Once your guests untie them, they can chase their own napkins.)

Supplies used to make 16:
Pack of 48 assorted cutlery, red (from the dollar store)
Pack of blue napkins (from the dollar store)
Blue curling ribbon (from a spool I've been using for at least 6 years)
Construction paper (stolen from my daughter's arts and crafts box)
Glue stick (borrowed - and returned, to my daughter's arts and crafts box)
Scissors (they were actually mine)

1.  Fold a napkin in half.
2.  Place a fork, knife and spoon, crossing over each other, in the middle of the napkin.
3.  Cut a piece of ribbon and slip it behind the napkin and then tie it into a bow, gathering the napkin to the cutlery.
4.  Cut stars out of construction paper and use a glue stick if you want to use multiple layers.
5.  Slip the paper star in between the cutlery, any way you want.

16 total sets
Time spent:  One episode of Glee (minus commercials)
Out of pocket cost:  $2.16 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Let's get one thing straight...

In order to avoid giving you the wrong impression of me, it's important you know, I make almost nothing from scratch. (Unless you ask my daughter, who will tell you I made HER from scratch.)  If I DO make something from scratch, I will tell you.  Otherwise, feel confident that my ingredients came out of whatever store mix I purchased using my extreme couponing techniques. (Which means, if there is cake mix or icing involved - it's a safe bet I got it for 50 cents or less.)

I love cupcakes.  Again - I don't love BAKING cupcakes.  I love that there are an unlimited number of ways you can decorate cupcakes.  Furthermore, considering I have a three year old in the house, cupcakes are pretty popular around here.

During the warm months, especially for a July 4th party, I like to add fruit, usually berries. These were made for a barbecue I attended last year.

I have a really hard time making icing look nice when I apply it to cupcakes with a knife or spatula.  So, most of the time I use the Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator.  I think it looks best when applied in a swirl.

To make the cupcakes in the photo, I first made one circle of icing on the outer edge of the top of the cupcake.  Then I placed sliced strawberries and blueberries on top. I tried to arrange them in a pattern that would give it a "star" look. On top of that was a last swirl of icing. The cupcakes were completed with a sprinkle of red white and blue decorating candy.

It was important, especially considering the hot weather, to keep the berries and icing cool, so the finished cupcakes were stored in the refrigerator until it was time to eat them. (Which I usually don't do with cupcakes.)  In doing so, they were able to be a cool treat on a hot day!

Love in Action

I always need a project.  An outlet for creativity.

Until recently, I believed that my creative endeavors were merely hobbies - things I did for the enjoyment of the process.  I loved sharing the completed project with others, yet never made the connection that the people in my life were actually the driving force and inspiration for each task.

Two months ago, I sat in a workshop taught by a dear friend.  The topic was "Love in Action".  This friend explained how we can use our creative talents to make things for others, with the goal of expressing our love for them in a tangible way.

As I listened to her share this concept (which I will talk about more in future posts), I quickly realized that I SPEAK THIS LANGUAGE!  Sure, there is often talk about "love languages" in respect to how we respond to love when it is given to us. (I'm a time-spent person.)  But, I have not heard much discussion on what love language we use when GIVING it to others.  I found my REVERSE love language!

This new way of thinking made me realize that my projects are a way for me to give a piece of myself to my family and friends in return for the joy of having them in my life.  For example, I wasn't baking cupcakes because I enjoy baking.  I was doing it, while continuously thinking about the toddlers, who would be so excited to eat them the next day, in my daughter's daycare class.

So.... why the blog?
Easy answer... A friend told me to do it.
Actually, I've had several people encourage me to take my insanity projects to the next level. I thought a blog would be a good place to share things I've done or am working on so that others can get new ideas and in turn share their ideas with me.

Currently, the plan is to keep it somewhat seasonal in topic.  I'll be posting ideas for entertaining, event planning, trip planning, decorating, holidays, and whatever else my crazy brain comes up with. Of course, I'd love it if readers will share their own ideas on the topics as well! 

Welcome to my NEW PROJECT!