Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Ever Recipe

I've learned that tried and true recipes are like a good hairdresser - worth their weight in gold. My sister in law gave me this recipe and it has been a hit ever since. I have had a lot of requests from friends for this recipe! Best thing is, its super easy!

I did not like mac n cheese growing up, the powdery cheese mixed with noodles...blech. I even tried some homemade ones over the years and I still didn't care for them. Until now. This one is awesome! In fact, one of my sons ordered some mac n cheese off the kids menu at a restaurant and after tasting it told us it was gross (I warned him beforehand) - after you've tried this you'll understand what I mean, there is no going back! In fact, my middle son Derek turned 8 today and this is what he requested tonight for his birthday dinner!

Macaroni and Cheese

2 cans evaporated milk (the lowfat cans works great too, done it multiple times)
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground mustard
4 Tbsp cornstarch
4-5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
16 oz pasta noodles

Cook pasta according to package directions. Put the first 5 ingredients in a saucepan and whisk together BEFORE turning on the heat. (This is a crucial step as the cornstarch will clump if it is not cold or room temperature) Stir almost constantly over medium high heat until boiling/thickens. Add shredded cheese. When melted, pour over noodles in a 9x13 casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

We also add smoked ham when we have it from the BBQ Pit in San Diego - its the shredded meat that falls off the bones. It is awesome!

Monday, December 27, 2010


I just figured out how to make a custom blog header as you can see, thanks to Sarah at Clover Lane! If you've been wondering how to, here is the link, it is very self explanatory and once you have done it, its so much easier the next time!

Sarah also has a great tutorial on how she caught up on her scrapbooks using Picasa as well. It's a long post, but its full of great information and step-by-step help! It's one of my all time favorite blog posts.

I absolutely love Picasa. I have Photoshop Elements and I have yet to fully figure it out - and I have spent hours on it. I do all my photo enhancements for my blog through Picasa, and I use a point and shoot camera as well. I'd love to invest in a digital SLR in the future! Any recommendations?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Contact Hooks, Ribbon, and Clothespins

In the past we've taped the Christmas cards we have received to the back of the front door with scotch tape. I've seen some great ideas in magazines using fir garland all the way to copper tubing. Nothing that would exactly work though in our home. So I decided to try out contact hooks since I did not want to put nail holes in the wall just for the Christmas season. And of course.... festive ribbon!
I took two spools of WIRED ribbon that I have used previously. Cranberry and gold are my signature colors for decorating for Christmas. I just tucked the ribbon into each side of the contact hook and let the rest of the ribbon drape down.

I took clothespins and pinned each card or photo on the cranberry ribbon, and let the gold ribbon curl around on the sides for accents.

And here it is as of today. Much better than the old scotch-tape-to-the-door! And the contact hooks have done great! (Where were you contact hooks when we were newly married and renting??) I am so glad I don't have to put nail holes in the wall for things I just want to temporarily put up for display!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yarn Balls

Photo: Better Homes and Gardens

When I received my December issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine in the mail, this photo instantly caught my eye. I love the look of yarn balls and I have made a few in the past before, but wrapped together on a wreath - it looked stunning to me!

So I made my own too. In the magazine it said to use a foam ball, then stick a pin in the first strand of yard attached to the ball. I am not a fan of anything potentially poking me, so I used a small piece of packaging tape. I was able to get a package of 8 foam balls at the dollar store.

And here is more of a detailed shot. I strung them over my bed since I finished them around 1am and I didn't want my boys waking up and playing with them. :) I actually like them there, so they're going to stay for now!

Table Centerpiece

I made this centerpiece for my table earlier this week. I made some more shimmer candles that I wanted to display so I "shopped my house" for some decor to pull a centerpiece together.
I had this black wooden tray in my master bathroom that had some rocks in it as filler as well as 2 candles. I got the tray at a garage sale for $1. So I emptied out the rocks and put them in a ziploc bag to use later. I went through my gift wrapping and found this shimmer stringy stuff that's almost like tinsel that I used a few years ago for some clear gift bags.
I laid the shimmery "tinsel" on the tray, then I placed my shimmer candles on them. I grabbed some of my mini ornaments from the dollar bins at Target that I was using in my glass hurricane and sprinkled them around the candles. I figure after Christmas I can remove the red and green ornaments and put in some more silver and gold ornaments and it will easily last through New Year's.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Entertainment Unit Evolves

After posting earlier today about my entertainment unit, I got inspired and wanted to show you the before and afters. This is how it looked when we bought the house in 2007. It was faux painted to look like wood and the rattan/whatever you want to call it panels were falling off too. Definitely not my style. And the color of those vertical blinds? Ugh. Even those had a faux color effect to them! I am so over vertical blinds.

Right after we moved in we had the house painted top to bottom, the exterior, the interior walls, ceiling, doors, and trim. Everything. I ripped off those rattan type panels and painted the entertainment unit black, which made a huge difference! Then my husband and I were watching HGTV one night and on one of the shows the designer painted the entertainment unit ALL one color, including the wall to make it look like one large unit. My hubby was all about that idea! So we got out the black paint again and did it!

And here is what it looks like now. I didn't like so much black at first but I really do think it pulled the whole entertainment unit together. And now that I have the lamps there it really adds some color contrast, which I love. Overall, I'd definitely do it again!

Two New Lamps

When I was at Lowe's the other day I spotted this 2-pack of lamps on clearance. Price? $12.97 for BOTH! I've been wanting to put matching lamps on the ends of the entertainment unit but have never found any that were a great deal...until now! Even the lampshades were the right color! Love, love, love them!

The green topiary I got at a garage sale for $1 (I added a sprig of berries for the season), and the advent calendar I got for free from a good friend that was moving across the country and was downsizing her stuff. Live/Laugh/Love sign was from Kohl's for 10 dollars, and the red hat box is from Williams-Sonoma and has brand new mugs in them - I scored that at a yard sale for 5 bucks!! I love the vintage snowman print on the top. So there's some more thrifty decor for ya!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Personalizing Stockings on the Cheap

2 years ago I scored an awesome deal at the Pottery Barn Outlet after the holidays. They had the whole store at 50% off, and I was able to get Christmas stockings for 1.99 E.A.C.H. Score!!! Since they were a plain cranberry color, I wanted to add an initial to each stocking of the first name of each person in our family.

My sister in law was able to find some at Target for 1 dollar each, but they were plain silver. Exactly what I wanted, but of course they were all sold out when I went to check. All they had were these pictured above with the crystal bling. Considering I have 3 bling please. And they are expensive! They were 9 dollars each at Target! Amazon has them currently for 12.99 each here. Okay, I paid under 2 bucks each for these think I'm going to shell out 5 times the amount of money for an initial??? Sorry, wrong number.

So I racked my brain, and started browsing the internet. I came across - I could make my own personalized buttons! And for 1.45 each, that was my kind of price! I got the small 1 1/4 inch buttons and I was able to choose the font, color, text size, and the way I wanted the text positioned! The text color is cranberry as well, I tried to match it to the color of the stocking as best I could. You can try out making your own buttons here on zazzle's website. The link is for the standard 2 inch button, but just click the box that makes it 1 1/4 inch. If you want the standard size button they are 2.45.
They even have them in a square shape if you don't want a circle. My concern was that if the buttons were that cheap, they must charge a nice price for shipping. Boy was I surprised! If you choose economy shipping ordering 5 buttons is only 1.99!! (Standard shipping is 6.99, but I don't mind waiting a few extra days to save some $$).

And here they all are! ( I apologize you can't see all the names but I couldn't get all the stockings in the photo without some distance)
The larger red bead garland is from Michael's for 2.99. The smaller red bead garland is from Target for 3.00.
And you know what? In the end, I think I like my buttons better than the silver pins since I had to get creative!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Using Decorative Sprigs

Decorate sprigs are another fun, easy, and frugal way to add some more festive decor. (And don't take up much storage space!) I had this basic topiary and I just poked in a sprig of berries. Easy peasy! You can get these decorate sprigs at Michael's or other craft stores. They cost 99 cents, or use a coupon for even more savings. If you don't want berries, there are a lot of other options to choose from as well.

Using Nature for Christmas Decor

I love bringing in nature and organic things whenever I can. I went on my usual run on the bike path and stumbled across these and brought them home. Pine sprigs.

I saw a Pottery Barn photo that was similar that wrapped twine or whatever it was around the hurricane. I loved the look, so I tried it with the pine sprigs. I just separated them from the branch and then laid them around the hurricane in a circular pattern.

Here's more of a close up. The little red ornament balls are from the dollar bins at Target. I think I used a total of 5 or 6 packages. You can also leave the pine sprigs out and just use the ornament balls, as I was doing before I found the pine - (see the first picture). I got the idea about the ornaments from another Pottery Barn photo (can you tell I like PB designs?) to use small ornaments as vase filler. The dollar bins at Target are a lot easier on the wallet though for just the same look!

Festive Ribbons

Ribbons are another frugal and festive way to add to your Christmas decor. Plus they don't take up a lot of storage space during the off season! :) I put this gold (wired) ribbon on my topiaries.

I know its hard to see the topiaries and the ribbons on them, but this gives you a better picture of how they look grouped together. My topiaries are a staple in my year round decor so it was fun to add a little bling to them for the holidays.

Lamps are an easy target for ribbon too :)

I like attaching a large gold bow to my hutch and the garland. Red and gold - my favorite Christmas colors.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Making Christmas Decor with what you have

One way to keep the costs of Christmas down is to decorate with things you already have. For example, I bought this hurricane vase at Deseret Industries in Calimesa for $1.50. To make it festive for the Christmas season I added split peas to the base (I had a bag or two on hand), then I put a candle on top and added a sprig of faux berries. Super easy, super versatile for when the seasons change, and super cheap!

Here are some links to some other inspiring ideas on frugal Christmas decor here and here from the Thrifty Home blog.

Do it Yourself: Shimmer Candles

This is the shimmer candle I just made tonight. I found this great idea through Emily at Remodeling this Life. You can find the post here. I love shimmery/sparkly things at Christmastime.

5 things, that's it. Takes less than 5 minutes to do! A candle, paper plate, cheap foam brush, some mod podge, and epsom salt.

First, spread mod podge around the candle until it is coated.

Then roll it in epsom salt (I know its hard to see the salt on the plate). Roll it around a few times.

And there ya go! Super easy and you could even do this with your kids!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bookcase Progress

Progress is being made!
Check me out! :) I'm having fun learning a new skill. I got the free plans for this bookcase from Her website is absolutely amazing. I admire this girl so much! This is adapted from the nightstands, I decided to lengthen it to 60 inches. Had to go back to the store to get one more 1x2x8 since I was one short somehow (grrr). A little more modifications (add some support to the center) and then I can get it prepped and ready to paint!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Photos and some Link Love

I was excited to write this post and share some photos of some Christmas decor using things you already have and/or that cost around $5. I imported my photos, but it didn't say which folder they went into. And now I cannot find them. And they automatically erased after importing. So instead of trying to go through 23 thousand photos on my computer to find the needle in the haystack...I will wait until morning when the natural light is best to take more photos.

In the meantime, here are some great Christmas links from some fabulous bloggers!

Plan Your Peaceful Christmas: Give Back from Simple Mom

5 Minutes to Festive: Frame a Gift Bag! from the Red Chair Blog

Making a Christmas Question Jar Gift from Keeping Life Creative

How to Make a Jingle Bell Jar and other Mason Jar Crafts from the Inspired Room


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saturday night

Another reason I love my hubby! I've been wanting this wall painted for a few months so that it matches the kitchen (I promise I will post pics soon, Brian and I just need to finish some touch up paint and drill some more hardware). We love the new color - this is originally the color that I wanted the living areas of the home painted when we moved in but when the contractor started painting it looked like peach, so it took a while to finally find a color that was not too peachy or too pink. I never realized how hard picking out Beige could be. Tip: Go with one that has a gray undertone. This color is Grant Beige by Sherwin Williams, color matched in Behr's Premium Paint plus Primer.

Having a hard time picking out paint colors for your home? I love House Beautiful's Color for your Homes: 300 Designer favorites. This is where I found the Grant Beige. It's a book of tried and true favorites over the years of notable designers, and they even have a fantastic reference guide for each color and its undertone shade. You can buy it here on Amazon or you can rent it from the library as well. I rented it first and loved it so much I bought a copy for myself. 10 dollars well spent!

My few weeks off

I'm back! November was one busy month, we were gone for about 14 days total on vacation! We went to Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah! We were able to see the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Sedona, Zion's National Park, Bryce Canyon, and spend a few wonderful days with my side of the family at a cabin in Duck Creek Village, UT for Thanksgiving! We had lots of snow - the first night I went to grab something out of the car and the thermometer read that it was -22 degrees! (Yes, 22 degrees BELOW zero) Anyways, we had a great time - and now I'm back to my regular routine and looking forward to doing blog posts about Christmas decor!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Link Love

November is a crazy busy month for us with traveling and the holidays. Just got back from Sacramento. Going to decorate for Christmas tonight. Here are some favorite links to some great blog articles.

What Simplicity and Minimalism Isn't About

8 Tips to Make Your Photography Better for Under $6

DIY Thanksgiving Display Board great crafty idea!

Alternative to Vinyl Lettering for around 25 cents (scroll down the article to show how she makes the vinyl lettering look on her computer and takes it to the copy shop)

Autumn Vignette showcases her cheap alternative to vinyl lettering from the copy shop - love it!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Going Nuts for Acorns

I tried uploading this post several days ago to no avail - apparently my computer is rejecting my photos that I have touched up in Picasa and they are coming up as invalid images. Blogger won't recognize them as well. Still trying to figure it out.

So...I apologize for not more photos but this is one of my latest fall creations - when I was up in Oak Glen for apple season I took my boys to a nearby park and there were literally boatloads of acorns. They were gorgeous - a reddish brown too! I decided to fill up my hurricane vase with these lovely acorns. I then took a few fabric leaves that I had laying around from a small box of decorative pumpkins that I got at Walmart for only $6. I'm not always the biggest fan of Walmart but I must admit they had a great selection of fall decor this year! I really do enjoy their Better Homes and Gardens and Canopy line of products. I punched some small holes in those leaves and then wrapped some jute twine around the vase. (The twine can be found in the housewares?? section by the lightbulbs and tape measures, ect)

Now if you have a queasy stomach....please stop reading. Since acorns are a natural product of nature......lets just say it would be a good idea to boil them in water when you bring acorns the ones that I brought home....a week or two later....we found maggots aka baby worms not turned into flies yet at the bottom. We couldn't figure out why we had a few flies around the house. Ummmm....yeah. (Ew ew ewwwww!!!!) So we boiled the acorns. A rolling boil. They lost some of that beautiful reddish color.....but now we're maggot free. And I'll take the latter.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


There are some fabulous girls who have been doing a "31 days" series for the month of October. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading their thoughts. I wanted to share a few of my favorite things they have said and you can click on the links to go to their blogs.

Emily runs a blog called Remodeling this Life. Her focus for the 31 days series is on living simply. This upcoming quote has really stuck with me.

"Whenever I think I have to have something or that I've found a deal I can't pass up, I remind myself that there will always be something else. Something newer and shinier. The newest best things today are tomorrow's Goodwill donations. Target will always have a clearance rack, Goodwill will always have $5 jeans, yard sales will always have household stuff for $1, and there will always be catalogs with nice things in them making what I have now look like old news." -Emily, Remodeling this Life.

She has some excellent thoughts on gift giving and simplifying Christmas as well. You can read the whole post here. One thing that really stuck out to me is how they do Christmas presents for their children. Their kids receive 4 gifts from them. They receive something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

We are doing that this year for our 3 boys. Brian and I had them write out their wish lists for the 4 categories, and as I have thought of things as well for them I have added to the lists they gave me. This will be so much more meaningful gift giving, and I want my kids to remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas - the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. Not just all about Santa and the over-commercialism that Christmas has become. I could write a whole post just about that. My goal is to be completely done with getting gifts by mid November so that I can ENJOY the whole month of December!

I could write so much more that Emily has said. You should really check out her blog, its fantastic. I think I'll wrap up this post and talk some more about some of the other bloggers in another post.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spray Painted End Table

Before photo: I bought this table along with a lamp for 20 bucks at a garage sale. I bought it when we first moved into our current house because it was a good deal, not because I loved it. But it was nice. The silver/pewter frame wasn't really my thing....and eventually I decided I would spray paint it to something I liked better.

Hello....Rustoleum's Oil Rubbed Bronze! Since the frame is metal it was a breeze, didn't need much spraying at all, not even 1/2 of the can was used. I didn't prime it either. Easy peasy.

I'm liking the darker color, although you can't see it, the color matches the 2 ceiling fans in the room. The new color is much warmer than the previous silver. Less than 1 hour for a new end table!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Autumn Bliss

As I find photos that I love I right click "save picture as" into "my pictures" file. Wish I wrote down the link to where I got it so I can give proper credit. Next week the weather here is supposed to be in the 70's...looking forward to some "real" autumn weather down the road...hopefully soon! Love Emily Bronte's quotes! And the jute wrapped candles pictured ... hoping to do some of those soon!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Free Autumn Decor from Nature

On Wednesday I went on my rained on....and on the way back found lots of branches strewn across the path. I figured I already looked crazy running in the rain, so why not just carry a bunch of branches too?
These are all the branches and some small ornamental pinecones that I found along the way. I had a glass vase to put them in, but when I went to check my pantry I had no lentils to fill the jar with. Bummer. So I dug around and then I thought of the wheat berries.
Wheat berries: FREE
Branches: FREE
Vase from kitchen: FREE!
Super simple, easy, quick....and did I mention free?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

DIY Mossy Wreath

I am loving all sorts of earthy and organic things lately, and I found a great tutorial on Miss Mustard Seed's blog on how to make a DIY Mossy Wreath for about 5 dollars. You can read her step by step tutorial here. She also covers making mossy topiaries in the same post.

All you need is a hot glue gun, a foam wreath from the dollar store, and 2-3 packages of floral (sheet) moss from Walmart (2 bucks each). I ended up only needing 2 packages.

You might want to put some newspaper down as its a pretty messy project- be prepared with a broom and dustpan for afterwards! Totally worth it though! Love Love Love....although I used a navy blue ribbon I had in my stash, I want to change it to a chocolate brown ribbon when I get a chance - but I did not want to delay putting it up on my wall!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Purging Mode

Sarah from the amazing blog Clover Lane wrote a great article on purging her home's contents here and here. This girl is amazing. She's a hard core family loving woman who is not afraid to tell you how she feels.

Today I dropped off 4 trash bags of clothing, housewares, and other miscellaneous items to my local Goodwill. It's so nice to free up some space in our spare room! The thing that I love most about what Sarah does to purge is to use BLACK trash bags. That way, your kids (and husband)won't see what you are bagging up (aka toys, 40 gazillion shirts that your hubby doesn't wear anyways), and when its in the bag, its in. You can't see it's contents so its much less tempting to pull things back out of it!

Now, I am all about asking my husband permission to get rid of things that are his out of respect. My hubby had SO many t-shirts they took up one whole rack in our closet! Seriously, over 40. Maybe more. (Need I start in on the hat collection?) One thing that I came up with to prove he didn't wear or need EVERY. SINGLE. SHIRT. was to turn all the hangers backwards on his t-shirts. When he wore one of his shirts, after I laundered it I put it back on the hanger the way it regularly goes. After a few months it was pretty obvious which shirts he loved and which ones he really didn't need to hang onto.

He was a good sport and ending up purging a lot of ones that he really didn't need. He also let me donate half of his hat collection - which meant that I got to donate 20 hats (and gain back a nice chunk of overhead closet space over MY clothes).

Could I get rid of 40 trash bags in 8 weeks? For me, probably not because I am a habitual purger. Seriously. My husband gets worried sometimes that I get rid of TOO much stuff. I am consistently taking a few trash bags full of clothing and household items to my local Goodwill or Deseret Industries frequently as I don't like things to build up. I really don't like clutter. At all. And I am a believer of only keeping items that are useful or that I find beautiful AND love.

Going into the holiday season its a great time to clear some space in your kids rooms and throughout your house as well! Do you think you could find 40 trash bags to take out of your home? This also includes paper trash and other garbage to throw away. Imagine how much more open and airy your home would feel - I bet you'll feel like you had a weight taken off your shoulders!

Monday, September 27, 2010

From Seriously Outdated to Awesome

I found this "beauty" at a local garage sale a few months back for $3. I think my husband thought I was absolutely crazy when I came home with it. I saw potential. He has since learned to trust my vision :)

First things first - get rid of that awful shade! I wondered if I could repurpose it somehow into something else....but sorry I'm just not THAT creative. I promptly put it where it belonged....the trash. (I did keep the knob at the top of the shade to use for the new shade that I put in its place). So why did I buy this brass beauty? The lamp base! No, I'm not a brass lover, but believe it or not you can actually spray paint it! I've seen it on other blogs, so I decided if other girls could, then I could. I sprayed a light coat of primer on first, followed by 2 coats of Rustoleum's Heirloom White (LOVE!).

Much better, eh? I picked up the lamp shade months ago at another garage sale for $1.50. I knew I could use it one day. I have a rack on my garage shelving just for things like this. So for under 5 bucks (not including the spray paint which I already had) I have a lamp that BOTH my husband and I LOVE. Hubby suggested I put it in my office, which I thought was a great idea!

It's a touch lamp too - my 4 year old loves that part!