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!