Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The End of the 101 Things in 2013 Project: Part 2

Well, yesterday I shared my last few completed projects (see the whole board here), but today, I thought I'd take a minute (or 12) to reflect on what I didn't finish this year - and why.  Get ready for a whole lot of pins.  And excuses. :)



2. Lose 10 pounds.  Wow, this is a great place to start.  Um, this is a long story.  I might share someday, but not today.  It just didn't happen, okay?



5. Living Room Curtains.  At the beginning of the year, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do for living room curtains.  Now I know what I want, and believe me, they'll look nothing like this.  I have the fabric purchased already, so once these are sewn up, I'll be done.



18. Paint living room, hall, and entryway.  When we moved into our house, I hated the beige that's in the living room, hall, and office.  (The entryway is white.)  There are so many people who are afraid of bold colors and stick to neutrals to be safe, but I was determined to be the opposite.  I had a beautiful green picked out; it was just a matter of time and budget.  Over the course of the year, however, the beige grew on me (figuratively). I still would like it patched up, but it matches everything, and in a living room, that's a good thing.  :)  (I do have some special plans for the entryway, though.)



27. Learn to pipe frosting.  Okay, so I sort of did this one.  I was given a piping kit for my birthday, and I did use it when I made Homemade Oreos, but the original intent of the pin was to make cupcakes or a cake or something where the piping job is actually seen.  :)  And I'm waiting for a month when we don't feel so sugared out. :)



29. Clean my Dyson.  Haha.  This just never happened.



33. Homemade Onion Soup Mix.  Ooh, ooh!  I have a good excuse!  We use onion soup mix for an easy chicken recipe, and so I bought a lot of it before I saw this pin.  So I was waiting to use it up.  And I still am, because I really did buy a lot.  :)



37. Curtains in office.  This one was just low on the priority list.



40. Oil-cleansing face wash.  I have had the stuff for this all freaking year.  I am just scared that this will cause more problems than it fixes.  But I'll never know if I don't try it.  (Oh my gosh, I am my mother.) (That's okay; I like her.)



43. Find another container for the perpetual calendars.  I couldn't find anything good!



50. Test this Ice-Proofing Method.  Well, I never tried it near the beginning of the year, and then we started parking in the garage over the summer (after the garage got fixed), so now that it's winter again, it's a non-issue.



53. Water Marbling.  We never got around to this, but did enjoy using her nail stamping kit a lot!



54. Wax Paper/Crayon Chandelier.  So I'm scared of wrecking another ironing board cover, okay?



58. Roman Shades in the master bedroom.  Since we put up vinyl blinds when we moved in, this project doesn't have a very high priority.  And it's expensive - and I'm not sure making them myself is going to be any cheaper!



59. Organize master closet.  I'm hoping we'll do this one on the 1st of the year - seems like a good day for it!



60. Kitchen backsplash.  Time + Budget.



61. Tile above shower.  Time + Budget.  :)



62. Paint Breezeway floor.  Time + Budget.  Sensing a theme?  (I did clean the floor, though!)



63. Breezeway curtains.  Eh, low priority.



64. Write a song.  Hmm, let's see, I haven't written a song in over 2.5 years.  I'd say that's more than a slump. :-/



65. Upcycle old guitar.  SO MANY PLANS.  SO SCARED OF RUINING A GUITAR!  :)



66. Paint office.  Again, this is that beige, and I don't hate it now. :)



67. Batik with Chloe.  Okay, so we're almost done - we just need to iron the wax out of the fabric and then set the dye.



68. Soy Wax Candles.  This will happen.  Our next step is to find containers for them.



69. Clean the van.  Well, I cleaned my car anyway.



70. Couples Massage.  Okay, so it turns out that we never did this because Caleb is scared.  Not of getting a massage - he's scared of liking it.  Because then he'll want them all the time.  :)



71. Paint/Re-Paint Trim.  Time + Budget.



72. Read The Screwtape Letters.  I could have done this, but didn't.



74. Read Orthodoxy.  See #72.



76. Rainbow Jell-O.  Okay, so I officially have everything I need - except for a situation where I need a lot of Jell-O and people will actually appreciate all the hours I spent making a treat that will be eaten in 35 seconds.



84. Confetti wall.  This looked like so much fun, but I realized it's not really our style.



85. Clean the grout in the bathroom.  Okay, here's the deal: our grout appears to be light in color in certain places and then dark in others, but if I clean it all, and it turns out it's actually light, then I have to keep it clean!  And who cares if our grout is clean or not?  The dark color looks nice, too.  :)



98. Soda Can Lanterns.  Houston, we have a problem.  We don't really drink soda.  And where would I put these, anyway?

I hope I didn't completely bore you!  If you made it all the way to the end, or scrolled down to the bottom to see if it got better, please leave a comment letting me know if you think I should undertake the 101 Things Project again in 2014.

Love and Mozzarella Sticks,
Leah Joy

Monday, December 30, 2013

The End of the 101 Things in 2013 Project: Part 1

Well, friends, this is it - the end of the 101 Things in 2013 Project - in case you couldn't read my extremely long and very specific title.  I left 32 things unfinished (see tomorrow's post) - though some of them have been started.  Still, it was overall a good project.  I tried new recipes and crafts, learned to sew curtains, read some good books, and cleaned my house a lot.  I learned some things that work, some that don't, and some that I just don't like.  I thought I'd start the end by showing off the last few things I accomplished.

13. Corn Bags

I will share a slightly more in-depth post with more photos early in January, but here is a quick sneak peek of what my sister and I made:


20. Real Truffles.

The Original:


Here are the ones I made.  I coated some in cocoa/powdered sugar, but I also dipped some in melted chocolate.


I also made some White-Chocolate Lemon ones using this recipe that were also very delicious.


82. A wreath.

I never thought I'd finish this project!  I bought a straw wreath at Hobby Lobby for about $2.50 (50% off, of course) and some grey yarn and wrapped the whole thing well.  I wanted to make something with removable decorations that I could change out for every season, but after wrapping the wreath, I just never got around to making any decorations.  

Finally, as I was cleaning up my living room after decorating for Christmas, I had two things leftover: a 9-ft silver tinsel garland from the Dollar Tree and a red glitter bow that came on a gift box we got last year.  I ended up twist-tying them on to the wreath, then attached them to the Dollar Tree wreath hanger with some Bed, Bath & Beyond ribbon (yes, still leftover from our wedding gifts - it never goes away!).  Are you getting how little I spent on this project?  Probably about $5. 

Now I just have to decide if this is too Christmassy to leave up all winter or not.  :)  What do you think?


And my final question for you is this: Should I undertake another 101 Things Project for 2014?  Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Love and An-Almost-New-Year,
Leah Joy

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Jewelry Organizer Board

It's that time of year again - the homemade Christmas present review.  Except it might be rather short this year.  You've already seen the monkeys, which were 6 of my gifts!  After this, I only have a couple more to show you.  

Every time that my Mom sees one of those jewelry organizer boards made with drawer knobs and pulls, she gets all excited.  So I thought I'd make one for her.  I've been planning on it for a while, but I finally got to it for Christmas.  I kind of jumped headfirst into this project without a lot of help other than my basic knowledge of Mod Podge and drilling holes, and this picture:


I'm not a fan of burlap (maybe a rant sometime?), so I thought about choosing a different fabric, but then I didn't know if the drill would tear that up.  My next idea was paint, but I didn't want to choose a color that clashed with my parents' bedroom walls.  Then it hit me (ouch!) - decoupage! 

But first, I needed a board.  I used a piece of one of our old cabinet doors that had been torn out.  I asked my Dad to cut it for me - it's just under 12" x 12".  After stripping 7 layers of paint from the back and liberally sanding all the sides and edges, I decoupaged this paper (from Hobby Lobby, I bought 3 pieces of paper and used parts of all of them) onto the front and sides:


I'm glad the board was just under 12" x 12" so that the top paper could bend over the edges just a bit.  I used Mod Podge underneath and also over the paper.  When it dried, I also sprayed it with an acrylic sealer.

I purchased the knobs, pulls, and hooks from Menard's and Hobby Lobby.  (If you purchase from Hobby Lobby, make sure they have all their hardware.  Some items from Hobby Lobby come without screws, which is very annoying and will make you seem like a very silly girl to the Lowe's employee when you have to ask him what size screws you need.)

After choosing a layout I liked, I marked drill holes with a pen, and then got to it.  I haven't really ever drilled anything other than guitar picks, pop tabs, and the occasional bassoon reed.  I already knew that I needed to pre-drill the holes and I did a little research on which drill bit size to use for my screws, which were, of course, many different sizes. Everything went in easily except the cup-pull in the very top corner.  The screws that came with this one were not long enough for my board.  I ended up taking screws from our stash of extras from our old cupboard doors.  These were just long enough, but required turning with a wrench because I ended up stripping the screws (they weren't a perfect fit for the cup pull).  

The two knobs from Hobby Lobby (the one that looks like a water spigot handle and the delft one) had very long bolts, so I cut off the ends of those with a hacksaw, then smoothed down the ends by hitting them with a hammer (very scientific, I know).  A few of the screws for other pieces were just long enough to have a little poky end pointing through, so I also hammered those ends down.  

My last step was to nail in two self-leveling picture hangers and then put some tape over the screw ends that had been sticking up just in case I didn't get them quite smooth enough. (My mother has cut herself on a feather pillow; I don't want to think what a sharp screw would do to her.)

Here's what it looks like on the back:


Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful day!

Love and Hardware,
Leah Joy

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I Think We'll Have a White Christmas

Some years, we have a fairly tame winter in Michigan.  This year, it's shaping up to be a real winter.  We have about 10 inches of snow on the ground right now, and a couple months to go.  Here's the view of our backyard from yesterday afternoon:


I have not always enjoyed snow.  As a kid, I had to wait outside for the bus in it and shovel it. As a college student and then a newly-married, I had to brush it off my car and shovel it.  But now, we have a garage.  No more brushing off snow. And so this year, I was almost enjoying it for a few weeks.  As in, it was actually beautiful to look at and I didn't hate it.

And then I got a flat tire.  I didn't know it was a flat at first.  I was on my way home from church on Sunday, and about a half mile from home, I could tell something was wrong.  But rather than pull over on the very limited shoulder in 8 inches of snow, I figured I could make it home.  Technically I was right.  If halfway in my driveway and halfway in the road counts as 'home'.

Thankfully, Caleb was on his way home, too (we drive separately to church most of the time because he works there and has to be there super early).  He put on his full body snow suit and went to fix my car.  My tire had completely come off the wheel.  There was a 35-degree difference from the direction the tire was facing to the direction the wheel was facing.  He got the whole thing off and managed to straighten it out, then put my spare on so I could get in the garage.  

Monday night, we had to have the car towed to the repair shop and we got to pick it up yesterday evening.  Let's just say that snow and I are back to our old relationship.

All this to say that I had a really cute project to show you, but it was in my car so I couldn't take pictures of it.  I'll try and get one today, and when you see it, you'll understand why it was in my car.  

Ooh, intrigue!

Love and Tinsel,
Leah Joy

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ornaments 2013

I know that last Christmas, I figured I'd be making those miniature mitten ornaments this year.  And I did make one, but I also made one of these paper ornaments from How About Orange.


When I showed the two options to Caleb, he chose the paper spaceship.  So that's what I made this year.  After making a dozen or so green-and-white ones, I realized that with 18 strips of paper, I could do 9 stripes each of 2 colors, or I could do 3 stripes each of 6 colors. (Huzzah for math!)  You know what that means: rainbows!


I made just over 30 of these ornaments.  Most of them are either rainbow or green-and-white, but there are a couple blue-and-white ones and pink-and-white ones, plus one super-special pink-and-blue one (I had leftover paper strips).  They are so easy to make and I could work on them while I watched a show or movie.  

I read some of the comments on the project, so I chose to string an inch of drinking straw inside to help it keep its shape.


It wouldn't be Christmas with Leah without rainbows, right? :)


They really do look like spaceships, though.

Love and Rainbow Spaceships,
Leah Joy

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Cleaning

Wow, I seem to have a lot of posts about cleaning lately.  'Tis the season?

Karen from The Art of Doing Stuff issued her annual Christmas Pledge again this year.  The idea is to basically have everything for Christmas (with the exception of most of the baking) done by the first of December.  This way, you can spend the month of December relaxing instead of panicking and freaking out.  It's a fantastic idea, and I sort of tried to this year, but I couldn't completely get behind it.  Here's why:

Thanksgiving was so late in November this year, and we don't get our tree until after Thanksgiving.  Wrapping presents isn't going to happen until the tree is up, either.  I'm also not going to decorate my house for Christmas before Thanksgiving, although since we live in Michigan it does make sense to hang outside lights early, even if we don't turn them on until December.  Plus, I was making so many decorations for the first time this year.  So, that basically left me with cramming all my decorating into 2 days, one of which was spent hanging out with family.

So, while I think it was a great idea, this year, I didn't really take Karen's Christmas Pledge.  I did take the one that I've taken for many years now, though, and that is the unspoken one I have with myself.

For as long as I can remember, I've started my Christmas list in September.  This is not the "What I Want For Christmas" list that so many kids call their Christmas list.  My Christmas list is what I'm getting (or more likely, making) for other people.  If there are things I'm making, I like to start in fall, in case it takes me longer than expected (i.e. if I have a lot of knitting or crocheting projects).  And even before that, as early as January, I keep my eyes open for gifts for those hard-to-buy-for people.

Why do I do this?  Because stressing out isn't part of my Christmas tradition and I don't want it to be.  I like to enjoy Christmas.  Part of this enjoyment is decorating, crafting, making gifts, wrapping gifts, and baking.  But another part of it is being able to sit back and relax in the light of our Christmas tree.

So yesterday, after I handed out most of our Cookie List baskets and realized that almost all our presents are wrapped, I realized that I'm pretty much done.  One more batch of bread to bake, truffles to concoct for Christmas parties, and a few presents to wrap - but that's all.  And I wondered what I was going to do with myself this week.

And now we get to the point about cleaning.  We're certainly going to have relatives over - we have a few coming into town who haven't seen our house yet.  But my mother-in-law also suggested that maybe the whole family might come over to our house one day next week after the Christmas parties die down.  And hospitable me loves that idea, but self-conscious me remembers that I haven't dusted in literally months (I hate dusting!) and that - if I'm being perfectly honest - my bathroom hasn't been cleaned with something other than a Clorox wipe for about 3 weeks.  Not that Clorox wipes aren't fantastic, but it's time to deep clean.

I think normally this type of cleaning is called Spring Cleaning, but I'm going to call it Christmas Cleaning.  It is a little bit different from Spring Cleaning in that I don't actually need to deep clean, so long as it looks deep-cleaned.  :)  In some situations (i.e. the toilet, the floors, etc.), looking clean and being clean will be the same thing.  But in other situations (i.e. drawers that we can close, etc.), these will be very different.

I divided my house into Zones and ranked them in order of importance of getting Christmas Cleaned.  (Because I'm a nerd like that.)  I'll start with the most important and hopefully get all the way to the end.

And so, I leave you now to start on Zone 1: my bathroom.

Love and A Toilet Brush,
Leah Joy

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cute Mini Loaf Pans

I found these cute pans at Michael's on their Saturday after Thanksgiving sale.  They were 3 for the price of 1, so I got all 3 for $2.  Aren't they cute?


I baked some cinnamon bread in them yesterday.  While they were rising, I thought they might look really weird, but they actually turned out pretty cute.


Mmmm!  I also got to test out my mini muffin pan - it's so much fun!

Love and Muffins,
Leah Joy

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Ornament Mystery

So, two weeks ago, we got our Christmas tree and put some lights on it.  We didn't put my ornaments on because we were waiting for Caleb's family to sort his ornaments out from theirs.  Well, I finally heard yesterday that they don't have Caleb's ornaments - they sorted them out last year and remember giving them to us.  So Caleb and I searched our entire house: no ornaments.  I'm thinking that they sorted them out last year and offered them to us and we asked them to hang on to them until this year because we were in the midst of moving at the time.  So... I'm sure we'll find them eventually, but I decided it was just time to put some ornaments on the tree.  It certainly increases the sparkle!


This is one of my favorite ornaments - a clear glass angel:


We have a couple of new additions to our collection this year.  I used the rest of the black ornaments to make two more ninjas and two more Chain Chomps.  We kept one of each.





I LOVE CHRISTMAS!

Today I get to wrap presents and bake copious amounts of goodies.

Love and Glitter,
Leah Joy

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Monkeys!

Here's a fun project I found this year.  This is a free pattern at Red Heart, so I made a bunch of them for gifts!  The smaller ones are the size of the pattern, but I made the bigger one by doubling the pattern.  Aren't they cute?


I'm working on another big one right now and I also made a rainbow striped one for my sister.

Love and Fuzzy Hats,
Leah Joy

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Decorating

I'm sure you've figured out by now that I love Christmas!  I love Christmas trees, Christmas presents, Christmas wrapping paper, and this year, I've been so excited to decorate my house for Christmas for the first time.  I decided to start with my mantel and decorate it with a bunch of trees.  I also added a silver tinsel garland, a few miscellaneous Christmassy things we've been given (a moose, for example), some vases that I had up before, and some candles.


Some of them are store-bought or gifts, some I made, and one is a combination.

For all the ones I made, I created cone shapes out of old cereal boxes and decorated from there.


For this glitter tree, I painted the cone white first, then applied a layer of tacky glue and spread glitter over that.  Once that dried, I applied another layer of tacky glue and glitter on top of that, and then sprayed glitter spray paint over that.  I finished with an acrylic sealer to keep the glitter from falling everywhere.  My sister had the little wooden star that I glued to the top.


I bought this tree at the Dollar Tree and the lights at JoAnn's.  I'm still not sure I like it, but it helps balance out the greens on the mantel.


I used playing cards from the Dollar Tree for this one.  I had a deck leftover from a previous project, so this cost me nothing.


This one was very simple - just a yarn wrap with glue all the way underneath.  I wrapped twice to hide all of the cone underneath.


For this book tree, I used pages that I had cut out of Little Women when I was making a book box for my sister.


This tree was probably the most fun to make (after the glitter tree).  I first drew swirls with white crayon on white paper, then painted green and blue watercolors over the top:


When it dried, I punched out 1" circles, which I then glued all over the tree.

All in all, this display cost me under $5, since I had most of the supplies on hand.  I purchased the silver tinsel, the green tinsel tree, and the green glitter tree at the Dollar Tree, and the light bulb beads at JoAnn's, but that's it.  I think it looks pretty good!

Merry Christmas!

Love and Light Bulbs,
Leah Joy

Monday, December 9, 2013

Homemade Angel Tree Topper

I am so excited to share today's project with you.  I know it's a Monday, but this project made me too happy to rant!

Growing up, we always had an angel tree topper that my mom made.  She took one of those classes where they supply the parts and teach you to make it.  I don't have a picture for you, but it's mostly made of this crinkly, moldable paper stuff.  Just take my word for it - it's beautiful.  My mom said that when she made it, she wasn't planning on it being the tree topper our family used for the next 20 years, but that's what it became.

So this year, with our first tree, I wanted to do something similar.  I didn't want to settle for one of those dollar store glitter stars. I looked on Pinterest for ideas.  There weren't many good ones, but I did find this:


Really beautiful, right?  I like that it's simple, but elegant.  And it has no face.  I can't do faces.  :) 

The only problem was that the girl who made this just uploaded the picture to Pinterest and so there's no tutorial other than the parts she listed in the description.

So, I'm here today to give a tutorial of how I made this.  I did not create this project, so I take no credit for it.  I am, however, really proud of how mine turned out:


Supplies:
- 9-inch Styrofoam cone ($4 at Hobby Lobby)
- 2.5 inch Smooth-foam ball ($3.27 for a bag of 6 at Hobby Lobby)
- toothpick
- white fabric for the dress (I used leftovers from my wedding dress fabric)
- white feathers ($2 for a package at Hobby Lobby)
- gold pipe cleaner or tinsel
- acrylic paints
- sewing machine or a needle and thread
- knife (optional)
- scissors
- a flower or something for the angel to hold

Alright, I'm not so great at tutorials, but I'm going to try.

First, prepare your styrofoam pieces.  

You'll need to hollow out the bottom of the cone so that it can sit on top of your tree. I used a knife and scissors to do this.

The styrofoam ball had a hole in one side, so I thought about making that the bottom of the head, but there was also a ridge that would have run across the middle of the face that way.  I tried to smooth down the ridge, but it was still noticeable, so I put the hole in the back of the head.  I cut a little flat surface on the 'bottom' of the ball to make it easier to secure to the neck.  


I poked one side of the toothpick into some glue, and then into the bottom of the head.  I mixed acrylic paints to get a peachy color (you could also just purchase one) then painted the head.  By holding onto the toothpick, you can get everywhere in one coat.  Then rest it in a cup or something to dry.

Then you can start on the dress.  I cut a piece of fabric a couple inches longer than the cone, then hemmed one side in this pretty stitch:


I know that you'll never be able to see it, but it's so cute!  I then wrapped the hemmed side around the "neck" of the cone and used a few pins to hold it in place.  I pinned up the bottom in a way that I thought looked nice, and then hemmed up that part, too.  It ended up being curved.  I also made it a little longer than the cone so that the styrofoam won't show.

Once I had both sides hemmed, I hand stitched the dress together in the back.  I did not stitch or even glue it to the cone.  It's held on because it's tight at the top.

For the arms, I cut out another rectangle of fabric - wide enough to make two arms, and long enough to be the arm length I wanted plus a seam allowance.  I hemmed that side of the fabric.  I then cut it into two smaller rectangles along the width so that each piece had the hem at the bottom.  Each rectangle I folded in half (right sides together), then sewed sort of diagonally.  I started from the original hem and got closer to the fold at the other side.  I did not trim off any extra fabric here.  When I turned them inside out, all the extra fabric at the opposite end from my original hem kept it from being turned all the way inside out (making a nice shoulder), and made a sort of elbow when I went to bend it.  After I made two of these arms, I hand stitched them to the side of the dress.

At this point, the paint on the head was dry, so I dipped the other end of the toothpick in glue and stuck it into the top of the styrofoam cone. I had to add some more glue along the seam to get it to look nice.

For the wings, I hot glued a lot of feathers together to make two wing shapes, then glued them to the back of the dress.  I also burned my fingers a lot.  Woohoo!

For the halo, I made a circle out of one gold pipe cleaner and then hot glued it on in the back:


For the cheeks, I mixed pink and white acrylic paints to get a paler pink, then painted little circles low on the face with it.  I blotted those with a napkin so they weren't as bold.


Finally, I hand stitched the sleeves together and tucked the flower in the opening.  You could also stitch the flower in if that's important to you, but I thought I might want to change it out someday, so I left it loose.


I am so proud of this project because I wasn't really sure what I was doing going into it. I was making it up as I went along, and it worked!  AND we have a beautiful tree topper that cost under $10 and will last us many years (I hope).

What do you have on top of your tree?

Love and Halos,
Leah Joy

Friday, December 6, 2013

Not Really A Post

I promise you that I had a fantastic post today involving pictures of something I made yesterday involving styrofoam, leftover wedding dress fabric, feathers, and a toothpick.  I was even going to include a quasi-tutorial with no process photos.  I had lots of clever quips planned.  I had everything, in fact, but the pictures, and then my husband needed the camera today, so no dice.  Or pictures.  Or pictures of dice.

See you next week then, I guess!

Love and Hot Glue,
Leah Joy

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cleaning Cleaning Cleaning

I've spent this week in a (good) flurry of activity. Making and decorating mini trees (my floor is strewn with glitter, which my husband would hate if he noticed), wrapping presents (huzzah for oatmeal containers!), and working on other presents.

And cleaning.  It seems that no matter how hard I work on cleaning my house, I'm still days behind the mess. So yesterday, I decided to try something new - and it worked!  I set a timer for 15 minutes and started in the bedroom.  My rules were this:
1. I had to stay in the bedroom for 15 minutes cleaning and straightening.
2. I could only leave to put things away if they belonged in other rooms.

I got so much done and it looked so much better!  I then reset the timer and went to work on the living room, which was much messier, so it's still not perfect now, but much better.  And then again for the kitchen, where there was even more of a mess, so it's only barely passable right now, but that's not the point, since it looked like the aftermath of a war before (a war with a juicer, actually).

I realized that I can do just about anything for 15 minutes - and staying in one room forced me to focus on what really needed to be done, especially in the bedroom.  Normally, when I clean in there, I make the bed and call it good, but having 15 minutes forced me to clean out my nightstand, dig lost clothes out from under the bed, and even start cleaning my book shelves before the timer rang.

I think I still like my cleaning schedule, but for weeks/months when I'm really busy, this also works.  Do you have any cleaning methods like this?

I am off to my parents' house for the day to work on crafts.  I made a list of the crafts I need to finish there (they have the sewing machine, the acrylic paints, the Mod Podge [this is actually my sister's], and the table saw) and errands to run in their area (they have stores other than an overpriced 'food center').  It's a very long list.  Very very long.

Love and Tape Measures,
Leah Joy

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

It's December!

So, I'm sitting here trying to write a Monday Rant, but it's rather difficult when I'm sitting next to this:


It's our first Christmas tree!  And it's rather devoid of ornaments right now, but we'll get those up sometime this week hopefully.  In my family, everyone had their own ornament container and we were each responsible for putting our own ornaments on the tree (Jacob likes to put all his in one spot right on the front - minimal effort.).  That made it pretty easy to just grab my tin of ornaments this year.  In his family, I guess they keep them all together.  Anyway, they'll be decorating their tree hopefully sometime this week, and then we'll have Caleb's ornaments and we can put all our ornaments on the tree and EEEEEE!!!! CHRISTMAS!!!!

Oh yes, did I mention that once it's December I kind of let loose all the pent-up Christmas Spirit that has been bubbling up inside of me since, well, September?  It's December now, so Christmas is everywhere, and people are less likely to get annoyed by my figuratively-constant jumping up and down.

So, instead of a rant, here's an update on life.

101 Things Project: haven't touched it since I last wrote about it.  Well, we got a tree, and that was on the list.  I've got about 35 things left on the list, and while at least one of them is a Christmas present for someone so it will get done, there are many that just won't get done.  Which is totally okay.  Strange as it may seem, I learned a lot about myself from this project.  Example: I wanted to make curtains for about every room in our house.  I only finished the second bedroom and the kitchen (and I turned the pillowcase in the bathroom into a real half curtain - which wasn't on my list).  I have fabric purchased for curtains for our doors with windows in them, and part of the fabric for our living room curtains (getting really tired of people at church asking me what movie I was watching).  But I've learned that I need time to figure out exactly what I want.  For the kitchen, it went more quickly and was easier (blue and white short curtains, duh).  For the second bedroom, it was a little harder (Print or solid? What color? Lined or unlined?).  For the living room, it was really difficult.  What color? Print or solid? Roller shades or curtains? Hung outside the window or inside? How many panels? How long?  And I thought I had it figured out, and then I'd change my mind again.  I've settled on a sage green broadcloth (which I have purchased) and I'm going to use a thermal lining (not yet purchased) and there will be two panels on the regular sized window and four on the big window.  They'll hang just below the bottom of the trim of the window and be mounted on curtain rods just above the window.  Like this:


Wow, long paragraph.  Anyway, I'm not going to feel too guilty about what I do or don't get to yet.  I'm already thinking about doing this again next year, and I like the idea.  I think if I keep doing this, eventually I might actually come up with a good list that I'll actually do!  (Another thing I learned is that I can only do so many house projects in a year - especially ones involving paint, as the fumes make my husband ill.)

Thanksgiving: This is a fun story.  We've decided to spend one year with my family, the next with his (and then Friday with whichever family didn't get us for Thursday that year).  This year was with my family, and my mom was hosting for 12: an aunt and uncle, my grandma and great-aunt, some cousins, a dear family friend, and us.  On Wednesday, I got an email from my sister that Mom was sick and not sure she'd be able to host the next day.  Would we be willing?  Well, yes, but it'd be interesting fitting 12 people into our house for a meal like that.  Caleb got off work early (because it was the day before Thanksgiving), and he started cleaning the house (and even got two tables from church to set up in the living room so everyone could eat together).  After I got home from work, we both worked on hanging pictures (you know, the ones that sit around for a while before they get hung up?  No?  Just us?) and more organizing.  My sister had offered to come help clean the next morning if my mom was still sick.

Well, Thursday rolled around, and I got up early to work on cleaning my stove so that would be all ready for copious amounts of cooking, and then I got the call from my sister that Mom was mostly better and could host unless we really wanted to.  NOPE.  So, we had a lovely Thanksgiving with my parents and family - AND my house got cleaned! :)

We also got to spend Friday with his family (after picking out our tree) which was really nice.  Cinnamon rolls!

Christmas Decorating: Okay, so I've helped my Mom put up her decorations before, and at the apartment I hung string lights from the drop ceiling, but this is the first year I've gotten to decorate an entire house however I want (with deference to my husband's opinion, but he mostly approves of my taste).  Right now we have icicle lights outside and the Christmas tree inside, but I'm just getting started.  I've decided to make a whole row of mini Christmas trees (in various heights, from 6" to a foot and a half ish, and with various materials) to decorate our mantel.  My mom passed some of her collection down to me, and I picked up one of those shiny tinsel trees at the Dollar Tree (can't find them cheaper), but I'm planning on making most of them.  I have one already made from dollar store playing cards, and another one wrapped in red yarn.  I'll post pictures when I have more done!  

Well, I have so much to do today, so I'd best be off! 

Love and CHRISTMAS!,
Leah Joy

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Another Day

So, I may be straying from normal crafting, photo-filled posts for this week at least, while I get back on my feet.  Yesterday, I washed Round 2 of the Mountain of Dishes (one more to go, I think), cleaned up my living room, vacuumed, tidied my kitchen (it still needs more), and made a fruit-fly trap.

I also hung Christmas lights outside, which is something I've never done before.  That was kind of fun, and mostly a reminder that we need to clean our gutters.  And by 'we', I mean Caleb.

Something else I've been doing this school year is learning Dutch with Rosetta Stone.  My sister is learning it for her foreign language for high school, and I wanted to learn, too.  I unintentionally took a week and a half off from that (I use my husband's computer and he had to take his microphone into work), so I did my first lesson back yesterday.  Because it had been so long, I had three review lessons before I could even start back up with the new stuff.  But I learned a lot of new words - like toilet, bathroom, kitchen, sink, and house, to name a few.

I also started working on Christmas ornaments.  You may recall from years past that I make one ornament in mass to attach with all my Cookie List gifts (and also give to family members).  Well, I'm not sure this year's ornament is as quick as previous years', but it sure is cute.  I've made four so far, and I've almost perfected the technique, so I'm sure I'll get quicker as I go along.  The good news is that it doesn't require tons of focus, so I can watch a movie or something while I'm working.

Well, I have more life to live today.  I'll write again later.

Love and Silver Thread,
Leah Joy

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We Do Too Much

You might be wondering where I've been for the past three weeks.  If you didn't notice, don't worry about it.  You've probably just been busy.  That's where I've been, too.  Caleb and I had two weeks straight where we had something going on every day (I held up until Tuesday of the first week, then gave up blogging).  The third week, we had a major event at the end of the week for which I prepped most of the week (I also was trying to recover from the previous two weeks).  And then yesterday, I cleaned my kitchen.  Yes, it took nearly all day, because I hadn't cleaned it in two weeks.  Slight exaggeration?  Hardly.  I washed dishes once in two weeks.  I know.  So much shame.  I wouldn't even let my mother in the house because I was so ashamed.  And I know some people have very judgmental mothers, but I do not. I figure my mom raised me and has seen my worst (stressful times in high school and college - my room would slowly leak out until it covered half the living room).  But this was awful, and not how I wanted my mom to remember me.

So today, my kitchen is slightly cleaner (I have Round 2 of the Mountain of Dishes to wash and there are fruit flies hovering around my sink, but still, it's cleaner than it was) and I tidied a bit around my living room, and I can think again.

And it's not okay to do that to myself ever again.  I know that sometimes life happens, but it's not okay for that to happen for three weeks.  Everything to which I committed myself was a good thing.  But good things for three weeks straight is too many things.  If I don't have the energy to even wipe down my toilet seat with a Clorox wipe, something is wrong.  Very wrong.

I think a lot of us do this.  Someone asks us to do something, and we're technically free that day, so we say yes.  We need to learn to say no sometimes.  We're really good at saying no when we already have something scheduled that day, because, really, that's our only option.  But when the day is free, but we were actually planning on relaxing that day?  We need to learn to say no.

I guess that's the good thing that came out of this last month.  I never want to go through this again.

So, I don't know when I'll be back. I want to write more and post about Christmas stuff and work on my 101 Things project (which, yes, I have hardly touched in the last month), but I'm also going to be practical.  This week is far less busy than the last three, so we'll see.

Love and A Clear Schedule,
Leah Joy

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In the Style of Lemony Snicket

Have you ever read the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket?  If not, I strongly encourage you to do so.  While all the events are, well, unfortunate, the way in which the books are written is clever, unexpected, and very amusing.

My sister and I recently started reading a series called The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood.  These books are in a similar style, though different enough to not read like copycat work.  There are three books out currently, with the fourth due out in December.







Enjoy!

Love and Ostriches,
Leah Joy

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Monday Rant: Let Me 'Splain

Sometimes on the Internet, I get really stupid comments.  As in, not thought through, purposefully spiteful (yet uninformed), or just plain stupid.  My first reaction is to argue back against their stupidity, but then I realize that this does no good.  It makes me mad, raises my blood pressure, doesn't solve anything, and only fuels discord.  So I take the path of simply deleting the comment.  But that doesn't mean it's not still in my head.  (Good heavens, I still have one stuck in my head from two years ago!)  So today, I'm going to argue back against one I received recently.

I read this book a couple of months ago (along with the other books in the series) and pinned it to my 'Books Read in 2013' board.  (Which, for the record, is simply a way for me to keep track of what I read.  My siblings keep an Excel spreadsheet, and I've never really had a system but wished I did, so this is what I use now.)



The comment was something along the lines of, "Childish?  Maybe you should read it again.  I love Wendy Mass and her books are so great.  If you can't appreciate books for younger audiences, maybe you should stop reading." 

Okay, can you just go for a second to my board?  Now, do you see any books for younger audiences?  Just about all of them, right?  Do they all have negative reviews?  Now let me tell you something.  If I read a book in a genre/style/lexile that I really don't enjoy, I may try one more book in that group, but if I don't enjoy that, I'm going to stop reading that group of books, not read 80 more. (Not an exaggeration.  I counted.)  I appreciate books for younger audiences.

What I meant by the word 'childish' is this: the book was written as if the children for which it is intended do not have a very large vocabulary, do not enjoy a book that challenges their reading ability, and need things explained very clearly because they can't understand the first time.

Of the 105 books I have read so far this year, 80 of them came from the Juvenile Fiction section.  Of these 80, many of them were truly well-written.  The writing style did not hamper the story.  It may not have challenged me (as an older reader), but it did not drag along either.  Do you get what I'm saying?  There are childish books that are well-written and then there are childish books that are childishly written.

For example, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer was nearly torture to read.  Why?  Because it reads like a 5th grader wrote it.  Almost everything is explained twice, any slightly difficult word was explained in the text (instead of sending readers to a dictionary), and the story drags.  Now, I still read it because I found the story interesting, but it was far less enjoyable than The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker.  This book has a similar idea: a character journeying through the fairy tale world and meeting all sorts of different characters.  But instead of deeply explaining everything ad nauseam, Baker assumes that her readers have a basic grasp of the English language and how to use a dictionary.

I would like to end by saying that I actually did enjoy Finally by Wendy Mass (and the rest of the Willow Falls series).  It just wasn't as good as other books that I have read.

Love and Mugs,
Leah Joy

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dollar Tree "Washi Tape"

So, I know I'm a little late on the washi tape train.  I bought my first roll a couple of months ago when there was a crazy sale + coupon deal at Meijer and I got the roll for under a dollar.  (For some reason, I lost that roll last week very randomly.  Seriously, I had it one minute, and then I set it somewhere and went to look for it for 10 minutes and couldn't find it.  It is still missing!)  Anyway, that one was Scotch Expressions brand and it was a turquoise with just a bit of a feather pattern in the background.  I picked it out for labeling.  Then, for my birthday last month, my aunt sent me a really cool roll of music note washi tape.  

And then at the Dollar Tree this week, I discovered 'washi tape'!  Of course, they call it Decorative Adhesive Paper Tape.  And there is a difference in quality and feel.  While the other tapes feel very flexible (like tape), this one feels more like sticky paper (much more stiff).  But it does still pick up easily and stick back down, which is helpful.  And it's $1!  (Duh.)

I bought 7 rolls, but gave 3 of them away as gifts.  Here are the ones I kept:


You can see all the styles available here.

And now they're posing with my music note washi tape:


So far I've used them for labeling, decorating cards, wrapping presents, and as masking tape for the chain chomp ornament.

Have you gotten on the washi tape bandwagon?  What do you do with yours?

Love and Paisleys,
Leah Joy

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Nothing Says Christmas Like Ninjas

In my 101 Things Update yesterday, I shared this fun ornament I made:


Since I had to purchase a 6-pack of black ornaments anyway, I thought I'd try this other ornament I saw on Pinterest:


I followed the tutorial on the original website (although I don't have beige paint - only red and white - so I just used white) and made this little guy:


Now I can't decide if I want to make the other 4 ornaments into Chain Chomps or Ninjas!  What do you think?

Love and Acrylic Paint,
Leah Joy

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

101 Things Update - October 23

So, I did some thinking, and some math (both dangerous pastimes), and I realized that of all the 101 Things left to do that will actually happen, two a week is a good rate.  Here are the two I finished this week:

10. Apple Pie Cookies

The Original:


I don't have any fancy bit-into-cookie pictures, but I have a couple before-baking pictures:



We then packed them up and took them to a party, so I had to quick snap some pictures with Caleb's cell phone for the after-baking pictures.  My apologies for the quality:



So, they're cute.  They taste good.  But so much work!  And I didn't have the size cookie cutters the recipe recommended, so I used cups.  They were bigger, but gave me the right ratio.  But that also meant this recipe only made 12 cookies.  (Although, I also heard that mine were a good size and any smaller would have been silly.)  So, yeah.  Probably will just make pie next time.

22. Chain Chomp Ornament

The Original:


Mine is not technically done yet because I have to add the chain, but the painting is the hardest part:




Some of the edges are a bit inexact, but I bought a 6-pack of black ornaments, so I might make a few more to try to get a perfect one anyway.

Love and Mario,
Leah Joy

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Review: Fairy Tale Retelling

If you follow my Pinterest board 'Books Read in 2013', you may notice a theme: I'm really obsessed with retellings of fairy tales.  REALLY obsessed.  Just this year I've read 11 retellings, and have several more planned.  Just in case you're as obsessed with fairy tales as I am, here are some of my favorites:



The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler

Diane Zahler has some other retellings that were good, too; I just didn't feel the need to pin all 11 of the books I read in this category. :)



Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

This one is fantastic, and also has two books that follow it: Princess of Glass and Princess of the Silver Woods.  They're sequels, so read them in order.  All three books are based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but the second is also based on Cinderella, and the third on Little Red Riding Hood.



Curse of the Thirteenth Fey by Jane Yolen

This book was not at all what I was expecting, but it was really good!



Fairest by Gail Carlson Levine

This one takes place in the same world as Ella Enchanted, and it's a very very cool story.



The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker

You can read my blurb in the pin there, but seriously, this book is so fantastic.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  And I won't say that every fairy tale character is in here, but there are so many (whether the main characters or just a brief mention): Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, The Princess and the Pea, and Rapunzel, to name a few.

So there you have it: some great retellings of fairy tales.  I hope you enjoy!

Love and Glitter,
Leah Joy

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Rant: Or Sort Of

I'm not sure if this is really a rant or not, but it may or may not be interesting.



This weekend, I met a student from a local university who is Dutch, as in, actually from the Netherlands.  When I mentioned that my family was also Dutch, he ended up on his own rant about how everyone around here says, "Oh yeah, I'm Dutch, too!" when really only their great-grandfather or whoever came over from the Netherlands.  He says, "No, I'm actually Dutch - as I was born there." And he has a legitimate point.  But I have a counter point.

The USA, in comparison to other countries, is a relatively young country.  While there are people here who have been here since 'the beginning' and far before that, many people from our country immigrated here in the last two centuries.  And I can imagine that, for example, when my grandfather came to the United States from the Netherlands, most people identified with other groups of their nationalities, because they spoke the same language, had a similar heritage, etc.  So, "I'm Dutch" or "I'm Irish", meant something like what this student meant: I was actually born there.

And now, years later, when all their kids and grandkids speak English and have good American names like Robert and Sally, we still keep up that tradition of "I'm half Dutch, a quarter French, and a quarter Irish".

And I can imagine that somewhere down the line, when we all intermarry and have kids who are 15% this and 5% that plus a dozen other percentages, and then they have kids and they have kids and the percentages get smaller and smaller, that we'll stop identifying with our mother countries, because there's just too many.

So, I would like to say to this student: let us be.  We think it's unspeakably cool that you're from the Netherlands.  (Personally, I'm a little lot jealous.)  And we just want to identify with that.  If you don't like it, come back in 200 years and talk to our kids.

Love and Delft,
Leah Joy

P.S. For the record, this student was not being unpleasant about the whole thing.  I think it's just something he gets a lot and didn't really understand.