Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hurry Up, Summer!

Is anyone else tired of Winter? (Yes, I see all the raised hands; mine is raised high!) During these cold, snowy, gray days, it's sometimes difficult to be motivated to create. Lately I just want to curl up in front of the fireplace and read, or nap, or even watch endless loops of International House Hunters on HGTV. Oh, and occasionally get up to grab a cookie or a cup of cocoa.

Well, instead of viewing this month of February as Winter, I prefer to think of it as the time period in which I get my house (craft room included!) all ready for Spring fun! I have to focus on Spring and Summer get-togethers and pool parties; having friends over for dinner, lingering with a glass of wine on the deck, or simply day-dreaming about laying out by the pool this summer with a book in hand, great music blaring across the turquoise water and the sun providing that golden warmth we crave right about now. There is nothing wrong with dreaming about Summer. If that's what it takes to get through these next six weeks, then by all means indulge!

I did have a little "I'm thinking Summer" evening recently. I was stuck inside listening to the television, hearing all about the latest approaching Winter Storm, oddly named Pax. As the dread of more snow and cold grew, I happened to stop on QVC at precisely the right moment! They were having their Spring Accessories show. (How fortuitous!) In a short hour, I ordered an adorable Spring Green cardigan, a Clinique lipstick called "Pink Goddess," and an amazing white mother of pearl wristwatch! Can you tell I'm REALLY thinking Spring? And you know what? When that Spring Green sweater arrives, some day soon in the month of February, I'm going to wear it, and ROCK it! I'm not waiting for March! :)

Now, to help you focus on warm thoughts (and places!) and to get your mind off the crazy cold weather, I'm sharing some fabulous photos from our favorite Summer vacation ever! These photos were all taken on the 30A part of the Gulf of Mexico. If you haven't been to the Seaside/Rosemary Beach area, I highly encourage you to visit! It's an amazing place! Hope you enjoy!

Tracy

P.S. - I also booked our Summer vacation this week to the same beach! I dream of those warm days by the turquoise water...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Delicious Chicken Potato Soup!

Today I received my brand new Vitamix in the mail! I toyed with the idea of getting one for some time, but was on the fence, due to the price. Well, I finally caved when QVC had them on sale last weekend. I ordered the lovely turquoise color, and couldn't be happier!

After checking out a lot of Vitamix recipes, both online and in the Vitamix cookbook that came with the unit, I finally figured out a way to make a dairy-free, wheat-free, soy-free YUMMY soup for my son! It was easy to make, and perfect for this chilly Fall evening! You would never know this soup doesn't have dairy in it, as it's so rich and creamy! My son absolutely loved it! AND YES, you really can make hot soup in the Vitamix!

Chicken Potato Soup

1 cup chicken broth

1- 1/2 cups of coconut milk

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

4 medium organic baking potatoes, baked (skin comes off easily after baked)

small handful of fresh spinach leaves, chopped with kitchen shears

3 chicken thighs (or one large chicken breast) - cooked and chopped

salt, pepper to taste

In a skillet, heat olive oil and add chopped onion. Cook on medium low until onions are caramelized. Add chopped spinach and minced garlic. Saute until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from stove.

Combine chicken broth, coconut milk, and two potatoes into the Vitamix in the order listed. Place lid on Vitamix. Select Variable speed 1. Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to 10, then to High. Blend for approximately 4 - 4 1/2 minutes.

Reduce speed to Variable 3 and remove the center plug section of Vitamix lid. Add the onion/spinach mixture, the two remaining cooked potatoes, and the chopped cooked chicken. Blend for an additional 30 seconds.

Carefully open Vitamix (soup will be hot.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy!

Makes approximately 4 servings.

*Note: Please check your own ingredients and food products as labels/ingredients change constantly on food products. The photos above are the brands that I used, but may not be appropriate for YOUR allergies.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Back-To-School Survival Kit

Now that school has started, who needs a "pick me up?" We're dragging here: early mornings, late practices, and homework to the wee hours... Ah, makes me miss Summer! However, I've come up with a great little treat for your teachers, your friends, even a spare stashed away in your car to get you through a rough week! They're super easy to make, and were really well received by my friends.

Just one little trip to the drugstore or Target is needed. I bought little first aid kits that are in the travel section, tiny hand sanitizer bottles, again in the travel section, a bag of Dove chocolates, travel-pack kleenex, sticky note pads, and some Starbucks coffee singles.




Add some self-adhesive labels and a black sharpie from the office section, and you're ready to go! Label each item depending on the "need" of the day. (My personal favorite is the chocolate and Starbucks instant coffee in the little ziplock entitled "The Long Days!)





I added all the ingredients to small gift bags, and made little monogram name tags with one of my scrapbooking punches and some stickers. Add a little ribbon, and voila: an instant inexpensive gift, that means a lot on one of difficult days!


*Wish me luck tomorrow: I have my first teacher conference at the Middle School -- hope it's not a "weepy day!" ;)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sometimes It Snows in April...

No, not really! Or at least in these parts. However, all it took was a cozy rainy Sunday and a Downton Abbey marathon on PBS all day to get me in the mood to scrapbook my photos that I took over Christmas. Now I know there are some over-achievers out there that did that back in, oh, December - but that's so not me! I do much better taking the photos during the holidays (or event, or vacation) and then working on the project once I have all supplies on my desk and printed photos in hand. It just seems to work better that way for me.

I've tried every size album imaginable over the last few years for my Christmas scrapbook. The first year I did my Christmas album in 12 x 12 format and worked on it FOREVER! Then another year I did a little 6x6 and I felt like it was way too small; I had to leave out many favorite photos. So this year, just like Goldilocks, I found the one that was just right: the lovely little binder from Simple Stories {Red Binder Found Here} It's the perfect size! They also come in numerous colors and would be perfect for so many different occasions. Not only is the size ideal, but you can do as many scrapbook layouts as you want, or you can simply add your photos straight to the included two-up page protectors and call your album done. Very versatile indeed.

First I gathered all of my lovely scrappy supplies from my Christmas stash:

Then I went through all my photos from December. I organized them chronologically, and then by occasion. It was great fun looking through these photos, and it made me realize how much has already happened this year. It let me know I was doing the right thing getting these photos in a scrapbook now, before the memories fade with all the chaos of daily life.

I started off with the title page, featuring our Christmas tree from this year. Then I went along and made more layouts with some of most favorite photos from the holiday.

**If you're new here, please note that you can click on the photos to make them larger, to see the detail. I had so many photos for this post, I tried to combine several layouts per photo.**

It was nice to have the option to do the photos in a traditional scrapbooking format (photos on a larger page) OR to just slide them into the "two-up" page protector that came with the album. This helped me keep this album simple and much less time consuming.

In an afternoon and most of an evening (while watching Peter Pan with my youngest son) I was able to complete our 2012 Christmas album. Here are just a couple more pages and some close-ups of techniques that may inspire you in your own scrapbook.

Remember that this is your album, that you can add whatever you'd like (note my Starbuck's drink sleeve that I received the first day of the Season that my favorite Creme Brulee Latte returned!) Keep your album simple, or if you're feeling really artsy one day, don't be afraid to mix things up. Most of all, START. As you can see, all of my layouts are very simple, but you know what? I love them, and feel that being able to look at this completed album with my children is the best gift ever -- even here in April.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

And the Winner Is...

Thanks so much to all of you who have stopped by recently! It's great to have some new faces here at The Scrappy Girl Next Door, and I hope you were inspired to make your very own cool canvas! Now, onto the winner of our Weekend Give Away: The winner of the Amy Tan Signature Series book is Caroljean Strawn! Congratulations, Caroljean! I will get this fabulous book out to you this week!

Thanks again to everyone who entered!

Tracy

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hello Again... and Weekend Giveaway!

Wow, it's been a long time since I've blogged! We've been crazy busy at our house: lots of hard work, lots of excitement, and some exasperating days thrown into the mix. However, life is really good now. Just to update you and explain my cyber-absence, here is what all I've done since my last blog entry: sold my house, packed my house & all belongings, moved my family into a rental (and 3 storage units), and started building our dream home! It may sound common and pretty straightforward, but My-Oh-My, there have been some stressful days! Although I'm an experienced "mover," it's kind of like childbirth -- you forget how miserable it is, and later you thank God that it has an amnesic quality afterwards.

All is going great with the house. I won't lie, it's not as easy as I thought it would be. It's kind of like the books my kids read when they were little: "If you give a Mouse A Cookie." One decision leads to the next decision, then to the next room, then the next floor, and so on, and so on... It's enough to make your head explode some days. However, when it all starts falling into place and you can see your creation taking shape, it's very fulfilling and very exciting! The basement is poured and they did the weather-proofing this week. I can't wait to see more progress! (And I feel sure I will eventually have to share a few photos of our build!)

Well, since we're talking about creations taking shape, I want to share a few pieces that I've made over the last few months. Although I've not blogged, I have done quite a few mixed media canvases. It was kind of my "therapy" immediately after the move. I couldn't find all my scrapbooking supplies, but I just felt this huge need to MAKE SOMETHING! Fortunately I was able to put my hands on a box that contained canvases, acrylic paints and paint brushes. Oh, and don't forget Mod Podge! I was getting to sit down and create and "recover" from the stress of the move. It's amazing what just one little art project does for the soul.

Here is a little tutorial showing you how to make these fun canvases!

First, gather your canvases and various patterned papers. Canvases come in all sorts of sizes these days, so the sky is the limit on what you can make! As far as patterned papers, I think the thinner the better. The thick pieces of patterned cardstock are more difficult to adhere to the canvas. Then cut your patterned paper into strips, shapes -- whatever you want! Then take Mod Podge and glue down each strip of paper until you have completely covered the canvas. Once it's all covered, make sure you then brush another layer of Mod Podge over the canvas. It will look like this:

Now find some leftover letter stickers. They can be scrapbooking stickers, or stickers from the hardware store that go on signs and mailboxes. You can mix up different fonts to make it fun and whimsical. Place your letters into the position you want, and press them down gently, making sure all edges are down. *Make sure your Mod Podge has dried before adding letter stickers! (Don't ask me how I know this... a lesson learned!)

Now for the fun part: take some acrylic paint and squeeze it directly onto your canvas and brush an even layer of paint over the entire canvas. (See "Home" canvas below for another photo of this step.)

Let your canvas dry a little. Not totally dry, but just let the paint set for around 5 minutes or so. Gently peel the letter stickers off. I then let the canvas dry completely, then I outlined the letters with a white sharpie pen so they would pop. I also added some washi tape and a few veneer chicks from Studio Calico. Fly Girl!

Here is one more sample, using the same process. I made this when I should've been packing (or unpacking? I forget...) This also shows the paint step in more detail:

The possibilities are endless! Gather all your scrap paper and leftover stickers, and get busy! These would be adorable with a Valentine's design! They are SO much fun to make! (Especially peeling off the stickers! I can't wait to get to that step... I'm like an impatient child when it comes to removing them!)

**NOW, on to the really fun part, for YOU, my reader! In an effort to get back to the blogging world and to increase my followers, I have my first ever GIVEAWAY!** I recently ordered the new Amy Tan Signature Series *Autographed Copy* book from Studio Calico. (And if you don't know about Studio Calico, check out all the scrappy goodness at www.studiocalico.com) I love the book so much that I ordered a second one to give away to one of you lucky readers!

All you have to do is become a follower of my blog by this Monday, February 10, AND leave a comment here on this post. Easy, peasy! 1) Follow me! and 2) Leave a comment.(To become a Follower of my blog, go to the right hand column, close to the top, where it says "Followers", then hit the blue button that says "Join this Site." Follow the steps there.) That's it! I will randomly pick one winner at 9pm on Monday night. I will announce the winner here shortly after 9 o'clock, so check back to see if you're the winner! (United States addresses only, please.) So, go ahead, follow my blog, and maybe you'll be the winner of this fabulous Amy Tan book! Thanks so much for reading and for visiting The Scrappy Girl Next Door!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Before & After : Fresh New Study

When we moved into our home, almost every wall was painted builder's beige. That is SO not me! I think color adds so much to any home, regardless of style, and best of all, paint is cheap! I've been struggling with my study for a while now. In addition to the beige wall paint, the built-in cabinetry was brown wood. My chairs were also brown. Just a blah, brown room altogether.

So, I decided that a room makeover was in order! First order of business was brightening up the room. I painted the cabinetry a nice off-white (an oil-based paint for good coverage), and the walls Wedgewood Grey by Benjamin Moore. As you can see, it took several attempts to find the right blue:

My best tip when it comes to paint color is to simply buy lots of little samples and paint straight onto the wall! The lighting in the paint store is not your lighting. Therefore, be brave, and paint little sample boxes directly on your wall. And then, most importantly, live with it for a few days! It's amazing how some colors really change with the time of day, or just grow on you after a while.

Now here's the most dramatic change -- the white cabinetry:

I wish I had a before photo of these cabinets before they were painted. The transformation is amazing! I absolutely adore it being white -- it adds a fresh, beachy feel to the room!

I love the soothing color of the room. However, my traditional brown chairs looked out of place in my new, more casual home. Thus, the room sat empty for several months with just the two chairs and our piano. A very uninspired space, if I do say so myself.

Then, a few weeks ago, with the impending start of the school year, inspiration hit! I decided we really must have a usable space! This room was sitting empty, yet would be the perfect "command central" for school work, office work, and home organization. So without spending much money at all, I transformed the study in one weekend. I visited World Market, Home Goods and TJ Maxx, with my boys complaining every step of the way. My husband and I started going through our attic, and moved things all around. (Keep in mind that the piano has to stay -- my son loves it!) We moved in an Ikea desk that had been upstairs unused, and moved out the brown armchairs that have seen better days. We brought in these fun new chevron side chairs and the room came to life! We are thoroughly enjoying this fun -- and functional -- space! Now I just need a rug... :)