One week... and crafting

We are down to one week before we leave on our family vacation! Don't worry, while I'm gone I'll have some posts scheduled to tide you over. :) But in the meantime, I've got a crafting list:

A bucket hat for my little man:
tutorial by Sew Much Ado, via Ucreate

Converting my thrift store shorts to maternity shorts... call it an experiment :)

Making maternity shirts that don't require layering, like some of these:
homemade by jill - craft gossip - i make stuff

And the biggest undertaking... making myself a new wallet! I want a wallet with at least 4 accordion-type compartments for keeping track of the expenses on our different cards while we're on vacation. If the wallet goes well I just might have to make a matching purse, too... any tutorial suggestions (either wallet or purse)?

Plus all the packing and other getting-ready trip stuff... so glad I put off my crafting until now... :) Wish me luck! What are you crafting to start your summer?

Housewife MacGyver: Better to Best - Easy Substitutions

Happy Memorial Day! Keira is here again today to share some simple ways to make your menu just a little bit healthier, taking food from the good options you use now and giving you ideas for some better options and the best (health-wise) options:

Hello again! It’s Keira, a frequent guest-writer at just Lu, you can find some samples here. I’m honored that Lu has thought enough of my food skills to have me post here about food substitutions. I know that you are all busy women (and men) and want to eat better, but do not want to be dragged into making some granola-meal-that-takes-five-hours-to-bake. I understand. :)

So, under the structure of the “Good, Better, Best” idea, let’s get started. The “Good” title is what you all are doing now—you are doing what is good for yourself and your children/families, plus you are reading this article to improve! That’s pretty good in MY book! :)

Let's get started!


Good (in other words, what you do now): Using mayo (or miracle whip) as a dressing for sandwiches. We all need fat in our diet (especially children for their growing brains), and when we add a bit of turkey, a very low-fat meat, to that sandwich, mayo is all the fat we’ve got!

Better: Using oil as a dressing. Some people love olive oil, some swear by coconut oil. Whatever you choose, you will still get the fats you need, but they will be unsaturated. If that’s a little too technical for you, use this rule of thumb: fats that are liquid at room temperature are unsaturated, and therefore better (overall) for you. Fats that are solid at room temperature (such as Crisco, butter, mayo) are saturated fats, and can raise cholesterol levels.

Best: A very low-fat alternative (not recommend for young children) is using hummus as your dressing. I know it seems real technical and/or hippie-esque, but it’s very easy to make a batch or even buy some at the store! Hummus usually has an olive base, which is a great source of fat, but is made up of blended beans. This gives you a little fat and lots of fiber and protein! Plus, you can season hummus anyway you like to give an extra zing to your sandwiches. Here is my Black Bean Hummus recipe.


Good (current choice): You are bored of trail mix, but you eat it.

Better: Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain? I had no idea until I took my nutrition class. Could have fooled me! It uses the entire kernel, so you actually get some fiber in your diet, without needing to eat more thick-dry bread or higher-fat nuts.

Best: Mix up your trail mix and add something other than your boring peanuts:
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Dried fruit (such as banana chips, mango, apple chips/crisps, raisins (or chocolate-covered raisins if you hate them like I do!), Crasins
  • Try some new nuts! Especially if they are raw. New nuts can include: cashews, honey-roasted peanuts, almonds (either salted OR sugar-coated), walnuts (which are easy to eat raw), hazelnuts, macademia nuts
  • Add a different sweet: white chocolate chips, peanut butter M & M’s, Reese’s pieces, caramel bits, coated nuts

Hide Your Veggies

Good: You convinced your child to eat their spaghetti dinner. :)

Better: When making your sauce, sneak a jar or two of baby food carrots into your spaghetti sauce. They’ll never know it was there, and the sauce will taste sweeter anyway!

Best: Besides using some pureed carrots, try to grate other vegetables in the sauce, since the redness of the tomato hides so many colors. I grate yellow squash, carrots, zucchini, onions, red peppers, butternut squash, and any seasonings I can sneak in as well (such as fresh bay leaves or oregano). Any vegetable you can sneak in is a victory!

The Skinny on the Butter and Margarine Battle

Good (or at least okay): Using margarine RARELY--the kinds that have NO trans-fat.
Better: Using butter RARELY.
Best: Using oil or applesauce to replace butter.

Let’s face it. We now all know that margarine is worse for us than butter, considering the trans fats and the fact that Margarine is one molecule short of being plastic. But that does not mean you should be running back to butter, either. Although they are naturally-occurring, butter has trans-fat as well. It is also high in saturated fat and cholesterol. We have to use it with care. Quite a bit of foods are good for us in small amounts, and butter is one of them. Butter is a lipid, and will bring out flavors in food better than any other substance, that’s why we crave fats on our meals. Butter is saturated and holds our baking together well when cooked at high heat. Butter keeps things moist or lubricated. But we all know we could use a little less.

Oils are always a good replacement. Make it a restaurant style meal and dip your bread in oil and vinegar instead of butter. Usually recipes can hold up to substituting butter for oil. For the ones that can’t, try halving the butter and adding oil, or better yet, using applesauce, which is a great way to get the moisture that you need in your baking. I have heard from some of my favorite chefs that baking or cooking in coconut oil is actually BETTER than butter—especially in things like cookies, bringing a flavor and sweetness to the confection.

Other Substitutions

Instead of a regular potato, make it a sweet potato. They take about the same amount of time to cook and are packed with better vitamins than a traditional potato—most prominently, iron. Add a little bit of butter and cinnamon, or applesauce in place of the butter.

Blend yogurt with carrot juice, bananas, honey (not for children under one, and optional anyway), and another fruit like strawberries or raspberries for breakfast. Don’t worry—this has less sugar than a frosted cereal, and is much more fulfilling.

Instead of adding salt, add lemon or lime juice, vinegar, or dill.

I hope these substitutions were helpful and informative. I hope you all will still enjoy your meals while taking care of your bodies. Food is such a large part of our lives, we should definitely take the time to make it well and enjoy it right. :)

Thanks for hosting me, Lu!

Thanks, Keira! Doesn't she have some impressive dietary know-how? You can get more over at her blog, like in her recent post about iron deficiency and her seriously yummy crepes.  Plus, she'll be back next month as we MacGyver our kitchen skills. Unless she's sick of me by then ;)

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

Friday Forum: Family Proximity

We used to live away from our families (about 2 hours). Now we live back in the town that both my husband and I grew up in -- and in very close proximity to our families. I have loved both experiences, but today I wanted to share my reasons for loving living close, and hear from you the things you love about your proximity to family.

Note: Let's keep this a positive forum. Think of this as a Thankful Thursday in disguise -- there are always positives to every situation, even if the most prominent aspects are less than positive. So, think happy thoughts about your location and the benefits of your family being in that location right now -- happy thoughts about you and your in-laws and the whole family shebang. :)

Here are the top 3 things I love about being close to family:

Always having a babysitter. Yup, this is definitely number one... is that so terrible? :) Between having both grandmas (and grandpas) and two single aunts, plus another aunt and cousins, in town, my son has never had a non-family babysitter. I'm not opposed to taking it outside the family... but family is free and awesome and there's always someone available! I'm so spoiled :)

Developing relationships. See, I'm not completely terrible and selfish when it comes to family. :) We spent the first 2.5 years of our marriage at college about 2 hours away from our hometown, which was so very good for our fledgling marriage and developing our husband-wife relationship, but the distance didn't do much for other extended family relationships. Being close makes it so much easier to further relationships because you can get in both more time together and have more personal experiences together -- a nice meeting of both quantity and quality.

In the 2 years since we've lived close, my relationship with both my family and my in-laws has grown leaps and bounds... and I love it! Plus, my son (and impending daughter) have a great natural environment for developing close relationships with grandparents and cousins because...

Everyone comes to visit the parents! And we benefit because that means we get to see them too, without having to make a long drive. Especially in my large family (8 kids), we tend to congregate at my parents' house several times a year. We used to have to make shorter trips and sometimes miss the get-togethers, but now that we live close, we are in on all the family action!

Oh, and one runner-up: the can I borrow that? benefit. We have been doing yardwork and car maintenance and between our dads, they've got everything we need. :) Our moms are also great for my crafty borrowing -- thread and patterns and all that.

So, now you tell me... what do you love most about your current family proximity situation? (and is that the most awkward way to word that question or what? :)

Summer is a-comin' and so is the FUN!

Hi friends! I'm over at Housewife Eclectic today sharing some fun ideas for summer. Actually, I'm just sharing summer fun series that are running on other blogs... so hop on over to Housewife Eclectic and then you can hop to *those* blogs to see all the fun things they share. :)

obligatory picture... because baby toes in sand are about as summery as it gets :)

Happy summer and thanks for reading!

Sorcery & Cecelia {book review} and my summer reading

It's been a bit, so I think it's time for a good ol' book review. :) I'm making my summer reading list, and I need suggestions. I've added a few from Amy's list at The Idea Room -- what's on your summer reading list? Details of my list after the review...
image via Amazon

Sorcery & Cecelia 
*or* The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country
by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

The girls might think it all a magical nightmare . . . if only they weren't having so much fun.

Sorcery & Cecelia is the story of two cousins and best friends, Kate and Cecelia, and, as the subtitle suggests, their adventures one summer with magic. One is in London and the other is in the country, and the story unfolds through their letters to each other. My friend who recommended the book described it as Jane Austen meets Harry Potter, and I completely agree -- the society of Austen meets the everyday magic of wizards that we (or at least I) loved in Harry Potter.

And, a fun fact: the letters in the book were originally letters between authors Wrede and Stevermer, written as a creative writing exercise. They make a great book!

Final word: A. This was the most enjoyable book I have read in a long time. The correspondence is easy to follow, and the book is just plain FUN. I stayed up late one night to finish it and the next morning my husband said, "So it's one of those books, huh? You just HAVE to finish it, have to know how it ends?" to which I responded, "Nope, I was just enjoying reading it so much that I didn't WANT to go to sleep!"

And now, my summer reading list:
  • The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis (which I started well over a year ago...)
  • Love in a Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marqez (started and never finished)
  • The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright (because I bought it 2 years ago and haven't read it yet)
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman (love the movie...)
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (because of Jocelyn)
You might notice that these are all grown-up books... as in, they use biggish words and are over 160 pages. That is definitely not typical of my reading (see the reviews here and everything I've read on goodreads), but I've been in a funk when it comes to my traditional fare, so please recommend some great kids books (or other books)!

What are you reading this summer?

Take a (screen)shot

Happy Wednesday! I'm over at Housewife Eclectic today sharing a little something that is a puzzlement to many bloggers: the screenshot. I'll show you how to take a screenshot like this to share what you're looking at:
so come on over!

Thanks for reading!

Baby Cyclist Romper: The Finishing Touch

Remember the baby cyclist romper (originally posted here)?

I really wanted to print sponsor info on it, just like real cyclists. But... I ran into a few problems. Mostly me being indecisive. I couldn't decide what sponsors to put or how to do it to make it look legit without just being silly (and, yes, I know it's for an infant who couldn't care less... but I care!).

So, instead of painting on my piece of hard work and potentially RUINING it, I went with a much safer and less permanent cycling solution: a personalized racing bib!

Yes, not a bib-bib like to catch food and drool. The piece of paper competitors wear in events to distinguish them by number is also called a bib.

Although now that I think about it, a bib-bib-bib (meaning, a real drool-catching bib that looks like a racing bib) would be awesome. I'll get right on it, because now that my little nephew has made his grand (and healthy) debut, he'll be needing his own personalized bib :)

The bib is just a 6x4.5 inch piece of paper. The top black bar is about 1 inch tall and the bottom bar is about 1.5 inches. Text is written in Bebas font (here on dafont). Easy-peasy!

(And just in case you are worried, Tondo was his nickname. Not his real name. He has a much better name now that he's here. :)

Housewife MacGyver: CPR Refresher with Kitschy Suburbia

Happy Monday! Today we have Megan from Kitschy Suburbia here with a CPR refresher course. She's a mom and a medical assistant, plus she posts great recipes and the most *amazing* manicures. She makes me wish I had pretty hands and the patience to do my own nails more than once a year. :) Here's Megan:

Hello, readers!  This is Megan from Kitschy Suburbia.  For those of you who don't know me, I am the sole contributor to a blog which suffers from multiple personalities.  I write about nail polish, food, family and whatever else that catches my fancy at the time.

Anyway...I'm joining Just Lu today for Housewife MacGuyver.  This month's topic is CPR and basic first aid, something that EVERYBODY should know.  When I'm not busy running around chasing my two boys, I'm a medical assistant, so I know a thing or two about CPR and basic first aid.  Since these are rather in-depth topics, we decided to split it up in to two posts.  We're tackling CPR first.  Ready?

CPR.  We've all heard of it, but what is it, really?  Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is a first-aid technique used to help keep air and blood circulating through a person until emergency services arrive.

If you find a person laying unconscious on the floor, first try to get a response from them by gently shaking them and asking them (kind of loudly) if they're OK.  If it's a baby, do not shake them (NEVER shake a baby), slap the soles of their feet.  Don't get a response?   Do not leave that person.  Find somebody nearby and tell them to call 9-1-1.  Nobody around?  Either yell for help or call 9-1-1 yourself.

If you ever have to perform CPR, there are three simple things you need to remember: A B C.

Airway.  What good is trying to put air in to the lungs if something is blocking the airway.  Look, listen and feel for breathing. Look to see if the chest is rising and falling.  Put your ear near the person's mouth - you can usually hear and/or feel if they're breathing.  If they are not breathing, open the mouth by bringing up the neck slightly and pulling down on the chin to perform a visual check of the mouth.  If you can see something in there, sweep it out using your finger.  image source   

So, your patient is unconscious and there's nothing blocking their airway.  Now what?   B is for breathing.  Give two slow, full breaths using mouth to mouth.  If it's a child, cover their nose and their mouth with your mouth, giving them two slow breaths.  I know, gross, right?  Well, you could be saving somebody's life.  I think about that above all else when I've had to give CPR (and, yes, I've had to perform CPR).  Be sure to make sure the person's chest rises and falls with each breath. image source

C.  It's not just for cookies!  This time it's for circulation.  So, you've got some air moving in the lungs.  Now you've got to get some blood circulating.  This is when we start compressions - pressing on the chest with the heels of your hand just between the nipples.  You have to press pretty hard to get that heart pumping!  Do 15 compressions, then stop, feel for a pulse, look and listen for signs of breathing.  For chest compressions for an infant, use your index and middle finger between the nipples, compressing 5 times.  image

Still not breathing or have a pulse?  Give two more breaths and then continue chest compressions.  Remember 15:2 for adults.  15 compressions to 2 breaths, stopping each time between cycles to check for a pulse and breathing.  For infants, remember 5:1.  5 compressions to 1 breath, stopping each time between cycles to check signs of circulation.  Continue both chest compressions and rescue breaths until emergency personnel arrive.

But what if there's a pulse but they're not breathing?  You've got to breathe for them.  Continue giving rescue breathes, two at a cycle for adults, one for an infant/baby, checking for pulse and signs of breathing between cycles.  Continue this until emergency personnel come.

Wait!  They're breathing and they have a pulse.  Now what?  Try to keep the person calm.  Try to explain to them that they were unconscious and keep them as immobile is possible (it's best to keep them laying down).  Once emergency personnel arrive they will take over and whisk your "patient" away.

Are you ready to save a life?  For more information, check out the American Heart Association and for very informative videos, check out Pulse Check CPR.

Thanks, Megan! Great refresher! If you're interested in taking a hands-on CPR course, find a class near you using the class finder from the American Heart Association and searching for the Family and Friends CPR course.

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

Friday Forum: Flying and restrictions and what??

Hooray! Blogger is back! And hopefully the two posts that were taken down in its absence will also be returning shortly...

Thank you so much for your responses last Friday for our first Friday Forum. This is fun and I will definitely keep using your expertise! (If you have a question you'd like to ask the forum, drop me a line via comment or email.)

Eventually my questions won't be about traveling (promise), but our impending trip is kind of starting to stress me out because I never fly, and the last time I flew, I could take pretty much anything short of an actual weapon. Now... I don't know what I can and can't take, and what papers I need to make sure I have. Help!?!

Liquids on the plane? In a carry-on vs. checked baggage? Birth certificates? Social Security cards? What do I need? What CAN I take? (We're flying domestically, just from Salt Lake to San Antonio.)

Thanks in advance for all your sage wisdom :)

A Thankful Thursday

A friend of mine once declared every Thursday to be Thankful Thursday -- a day to spend thinking of the things that you're thankful for instead of everything else that you normally think of. My husband and I have tried to make this a tradition in our family, too... most Thursdays we forget :) But today I'm taking a minute to focus on and share what I'm thankful for:

I am thankful for my boys:
One for making my life easier
and the other for making my life harder
and for switching roles depending on the day :)

I am thankful that I am fortunate enough to truly love the toddler age my son is at.... for about 15 minutes out of every 20 in a day. The remaining 5 minutes make me rip my hair out and occasionally cry because did I really just lose my temper over THAT? But then we sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider and he knows all the actions and claps when we finish. And life is good again.

I am thankful that I married a school teacher who gets to have ALL summer off. In reality the "all summer" translates into about 6 weeks of the summer when you figure in trainings and summer school, but that's just right for us. :) We have lots of things planned, fun family trips and outings, getting ready for the new baby... it's going to be fun!

I am SO thankful to have been blessed with the most unremarkable and completely average pregnancy E-V-E-R. Both pregnancies, so far. With so many things that can go wrong or get complicated or just be uncomfortable, our little girl and I are both pretty blissfully healthy and comfortable and oh-so-average. Like baby measuring correctly to the day in our ultrasounds average. I even still have ankles at this point, which makes me fantastically happy every morning. :)

I am thankful for the warm-borderline-hot weather so that we can pull out our little pool and play with friends:
and for a great point-and-shoot camera that I am finally learning how to use well so that I can get good pictures in the bright sunlight. The subject's willingness to look at the camera is still a work in progress, however.

I am thankful to live close to family. So much family! Some days I long for the days that we lived 2 hours away and did everything on our own, but most days I am too busy being grateful for babysitters and relationships and borrowing things and always having someone to depend on to even think about that!

And I am thankful to all of you for reading! Otherwise I'd just be shouting my ramblings into the ethernet and that's not nearly as much fun as making friends and getting to know you.

What are you thankful for today?

Related posts and entirely unrelated physical goals :)

It's Wednesday, so I'm over at Housewife Eclectic for Wednesdays on the Web. Today's topic is the related posts widget that you've probably seen around on blogs (such as the one you are currently reading and Housewife Eclectic :). Come on over!

And the unrelated physical goals... how are you all doing with Housewife MacGyver this month? I have actually been SO proud of myself. Until today.

It's been rainy here so I missed my 30 minutes of exercise today, and as I type this I munch on a handful of Mother's Chocolate Chip Cookies (I caved... they were on sale!).

But until today, I had been doing great, eating apples and celery and cucumbers and healthy-ish crackers instead of potato chips and chocolatey goodness when I got the craving. And thinking of each of you and needing to report back :) So, starting today, I'm hopping back on the wagon... off the wagon? back on the horse?  Whatever the phrase is for trying again at a goal, I'm doing that. :)

How about you?

The Mommy Necklace {baby shower gift}

I promise, someday I'll be done talking about baby gifts. Maybe. Actually, I take that back -- I make no promises! :)

Anyway, this necklace was a fast and easy yet thoughtful pull-the-heartstrings gift. I put this together for a sad occasion -- a neighbor who lost her little boy -- but the same gift would be so fun for a new mom, too, because who said that mother's jewelry should only be for Mother's Day??

Just run to the craft store and grab a necklace chain (or make your own by buying the chain and clasps separately -- less expensive in the long run and then you can customize the length, too) and a couple of charms -- I grabbed a monogram for the baby's name, plus a birthstone charm and a heart. Easy peasy!

I picked up my supplies at Hobby Lobby when everything was on sale, so the whole ensemble cost around $7. I did have a hard time finding the correct birthstone color, though, so you may have to shop around some or order online. I'd suggest waiting until the baby is born before you buy the stone though, especially if the due date is around the beginning or the end of a month... Babies are unpredictable that way!

If the mommy in question isn't a necklace wearer, or you'd like to make a full set, you could also grab some matching gems/charms/beads and put together a simple pair of earrings or a bracelet. Now that I'll be a mommy to two, I have every intention of making myself some mommy jewelry to wear proudly every day... and probably repair weekly since little hands love sparkly :)

You could also get your craft on with some birthstone color guitar picks and stamped washers made into a pair of rock and roll earrings for mommy, or, even simpler, grab a bunch of buttons and make some button jewelry.

And, if you're not a crafter, check out two of my favorite mommy jewelry shops:

Chunky Bling specializes in interchangeable watch bands and faces, but they also have a beautiful line of necklaces and bracelets, including this gorgeous birthstone necklace ($15) and bracelet ($20):

and their Swarovski pearl or crystal rings are GORGEOUS and so affordable ($13 each!) that you can buy one in every birthstone color :)

Belleza Mia is my other favorite shop. Everything in the shop is just stunning and so unique. Kendra, the shop owner, also blogs over at On My Side of the Room when she has a break from the jewelry genius. :) She's on a shop-cation (as in... taking some time away from the shop), so you'll have to wait until next week sometime to drool over everything. To tide you over, some birthstone eye candy:
left: sterling silver and lotus birthstone necklace
right: mother's leaf and branch birthstone necklace
 And, if you're like me and just growing your family, Kendra is happy to add new birthstones as you add to your family, too. :)

This post is not sponsored in any way... I just love these shops! I do know both owners, but my jewelry-love is leaps and bounds beyond the friend-promo :)

Friday Forum: Traveling... pregnant and with a toddler

You all are very smart. You know stuff that I don't... and probably LOTS that I don't. So, I've decided to take advantage of your smartness and start asking questions. One of my favorite blogs, Bloom, does a regular Friday Forum -- a place to talk about how you do this or that in life and get tips from other people who are smarter and more experienced than you. I love it and so I'm, er, borrowing, the idea... name and all :) If you have any questions you'd love to ask of others about anything life-related... leave it in the comments or shoot me an email. :)

Today's question is actually a couple of questions... wrapped in a scenario.

image source

Scenario: We have a family trip planned to go see our friends in Texas. We are very excited and also a little nervous about the flight and trip -- I will be 30 weeks pregnant at the time and we'll be traveling with our 21-month-old little boy. The flight is only about 3 hours, and we'll be there for 8 days. 

So the question: What tips or tricks do you have for vacationing and flying with a toddler? Pregnant?

My little Pudge is pretty resilient and mellow, so I'm not super worried about the vacationing part. So long as he gets his sleep with his special blanket and plenty of milk to drink, life is good. :)

What worries me is the flight. We fly out at around 10 AM, so we're flying into naptime and hoping that, with the help of a blanket and pacifier, he'll sleep or at least rest and be calm. (Yes, my almost-2-year old still uses his pacifier for naps and I have no intention of taking it away soon!) We're hoping for the same on our evening flight back. He's flying as an unticketed toddler, so he'll be on our laps.

In case the napping doesn't happen, we do have some backups:
  • 20 episodes of kids shows on the iPod
  • books, books, books!
  • plenty of snacks... for him AND me :)
  • and a quiet book I will make before then
So... what else do I need to know about traveling and vacationing with a toddler and while pregnant? My husband is traveling with us, so we'll have two of us to keep the little one entertained and (hopefully) happy. But we are both clueless, having not been on a plane in 5+ years (new travel restrictions? what can I carry on? what do I have to check? we're flying Delta...) and never having flown with a kid...

Personalized Picnic Blanket {party or shower activity}

Like I mentioned last week, I'm not a huge fan of shower games -- baby shower, wedding shower, any shower that doesn't actually involve water and cleansing. I know, heresy... but I'm kind of a stick-in-the-mud game-hater anyway. I'm over it :)

To me, a perfect shower activity (call it a game if you must) is one that is casual -- not too structured -- and gives you a reason to talk to the person next to you, who is likely to be a complete stranger or a very distant acquaintance.

Tying a quilt is perfect, but baby quilts are small, meaning that only three or four guests can be involved at the same time, leaving the rest of us twiddling our thumbs.

So, when I was put in charge of the activity portion of my SIL's baby shower last month, I combined the community aspect of tying a quilt with the creative aspect of the everyone-decorate-a-onesie idea... and thus was born the Personalized Picnic Blanket.
{Okay, so this isn't quite the finished version. I finished late one night and forgot to take a picture of the fully finished blanket before giving it to my SIL... sometimes I'm a doofus like that.  This is just missing the snipping-washing-fuzzing part. Sorry.}

It's both a fun activity and a fun keepsake... for any type of shower or party! Just a traditional rag-style denim blanket... personalized. And personalizing it was SO. MUCH. FUN.

Seriously. 12 adults, fully entertained, for over an hour.

So what do you do?

1. Cut out squares of denim (I used 8" squares) from old jeans or denim yardage. You could do cotton or flannel or any other woven fabric as well, but the denim is a fun touch and a nice weight for a picnic quilt. The number of squares you'll want/need will depend on the size and plan of the party -- for our small shower where this was the main activity, each guest did at least 2 squares, and some did 4 or 5.

2. Buy bunches of fabric paint at the craft store. Tip: Use a coupon and buy the big 20-pack. Every color variation known to (wo)man, including florescent and sparkly, for around $10. 20 tubes of paint was more than enough paint for the 40 squares that our guests decorated -- probably enough for at least 40 more.

3. At the shower, turn the guests loose with the fabric paint, decorating the denim squares with pictures, phrases, designs, etc -- or make the quilt a usable signing book and have the guests sign their names and write a little message. Be sure that guests leave the outside 1/2 inch along all the edges blank because fabric paint is a bugger to sew through.

4. Allow the fabric paint to dry. Thoroughly.

5. Sew the denim squares together rag-quilt style, so one side (the back) is flat and the other side (the front) has all the seam allowances showing. (If you need step-by-step instructions, here's a good tutorial. Skip the sewing the X part since your squares are decorated and just place the squares back to back.)

I interspersed my denim squares with fun cotton prints in appropriately boyish colors, but depending on the number of denim squares you have and the size you want the quilt to be, your denim-to-other ratio may be different.

6. Grab your sharp and well-oiled scissors and snip the exposed seam allowances every 1/4 to 1/2 inch and toss the blanket in the washer to properly fluff and fray the edges. Be sure you double-check that you got each and every one!

7. Gift it!

A few notes to help the activity/quilt/party be successful:

Personalizing the squares is easiest when you actually *know* the person that the shower is for, so this is an activity that will be best for a better-acquainted shower group -- think mostly close friends and family, not only coworkers, mere acquaintances, or the extended in-laws.

Because there are bound to be a few guests who either a) don't have that close familiarity with the guest of honor to be able to think of a fun design or b) don't have the creative mojo going that day, provide a few inspiration sheets: a few pages of printed generic clipart designs or related phrases -- "sugar and spice...", gender stereotypical toys like trucks or dolls, fun pattern ideas like zig zags or polka dots, etc. These can help get the creative gears a-grindin' for everyone, not just the people who are feeling stuck.

Provide pencils and paper for sketching designs, as well as some scrap fabric pieces for guests to experiment on, since the fabric paint is permanent and a little intimidating at first.

The fabric paint generally needs at least an hour to dry to the touch -- more if the paint is applied thickly (check the bottle for specific instructions). So, keep that in mind in terms of your venue -- will you have enough space and time for the paint to dry adequately before transporting? This shower was at my sister's neighborhood clubhouse, and so we ended up filling cookie sheets with still-wet fabric squares and walking them the block and a half to her house... where they took over EVERY free inch of horizontal space. Just something to think about as you plan. :)

Searching, a winner, and free pearls!

Sorry to cram a bunch into one post... but I've got three short items of business for you today:

First on the agenda: I'm over at Housewife Eclectic today talking about the Blogger search options. Come on over for a visit!

Next up: the winner of the Dino Applique Giveaway from Helping Little Hands is...

Congratulations! And please email me at with your mailing address. :)

And finally, the big thing that all you Utah readers will want to know... FREE PEARLS! (talk about burying the lead, eh? :) Goldsmith Jewelers is again doing their free strand of pearls for Mother's Day. And it really is free. And I'm not compensated in any way for telling you about this -- I got mine last year and I love them so I just want to share the goodness!

Just go to Goldsmith Jewelers' site, print the coupon, and take it into the store in downtown Provo for your free strand of pearls. The coupon is valid May 2-7, 2011, while supplies last (and I think they stock quite a few strands for this big promotion), one per household. 

Thanks for reading!

Mother's Day Etched Vase Tutorial

Keira is here today with a fantastic and inexpensive way to personalize a gift for Mother's Day... or a birthday, or any day really!

One quick note: I used my Silhouette to cut the words for her out of contact paper, but if you don't have access to a fantastic machine like that (my condolences!), you can print the letters/shapes from your computer and then trace and cut them with an x-acto knife on the contact paper, or you can also pick up some stickers at the craft store (or dollar store) and etch around the letters/shapes instead of the letters themselves, like this.

Trying to find a personalized Mother's Day gift? One that hasn't been done before? Or is simply cheap? Look no further, my fellow crafters! I bring you the etched vase--personalized with adjectives and/or nouns that describe your lady, or just a beautiful, simple design to spice up your dollar-store vase. :) Enjoy!

Before I begin with this tutorial, I beg you to use gloves as you work with the etching cream! If you don't believe that the cream can be dangerous, I ask you to glance over this article on it.

What you'll need:

A pair of gloves that can get wet (I use just standard clear plastic food prep gloves)
A pair of scissors
An exact-o knife or something sharp and pokey to pull out the words and/or pictures
Glass etching cream
Plenty of Q-tips
Glass cleaner and paper towels
A vase (duh!), I bought mine at the Dollar store. I saw the same one at Hobby Lobby for $5.99!
Your letters or pictures cut out of vinyl or contact paper
A towel, drop-cloth or plastic bag to cover your work area

What you'll do:

Make sure your words or pictures are correct. Is the spelling of all your words correct? Once you etch them, they're there forever.

Cut out each word or shape from contact paper and place on the vase. I etched the positive space (the words themselves) so I removed that part of the cut design. If you'd rather etch the negative space (the background or non-word part), remove that part of the design. The etching cream will etch whatever is NOT covered by the contact paper.

Clean the vase well with glass cleaner so there are no smudges or fingerprints.

Place the words carefully and make sure there are no bubbles or wrinkles.

Now (using gloves!), cake your cut-outs in etching cream with the Q-tips.

Let stand for as long as you wish--from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. The longer the cream stays on, the deeper and more visible the etch. I left mine on for about 10 or 15 minutes, and I wish I would have left it on longer.

Then scrape the cream off and dump back into the bottle (did you know you can use it over and over??), and rinse in the sink with gloves!

Now remove your vinyl or contact paper and wipe clean and voila! Your own personalized vase! Just deliver with flowers on Mother's Day and you're the talk of the town! :)

What I would do differently:

As I said before, I would leave the cream on longer for a deeper etch. You can see with this vase, the lettering is hard to read!

Secondly, I'd pay more attention to how I painted on my etching cream. I accidentally went "outside the lines" and etched a blotch on the vase. Once you do it, you can't undo it, so be careful and deliberate!

For other ideas:

Don't be limited to vases. Here's a frame I etched with a spiritual quote and a picture of Christ, appropriate for a baptism, wedding, christening or blessing, or an Easter gift. Insert a picture of your family in place of Christ with a quote or song unique to your clan. :) Anything that is glass is up for grabs! Happy Mother's Day crafting to you all!

Becoming the Housewife MacGyver PHYSICALLY

Welcome to May!

This month our Housewife MacGyver efforts are focused on becoming more MacGyver physically. Because we all want a little bit more of this... ;)

image via
This was the closest I could find to a shirtless photo. To be honest, I didn't want to take too many chances searching for pictures of shirtless 80's men online because that could lead to all sorts of unwanted images seared into my brain May the men of the 80's rest in peace.
Okay, I will never have pecs like MacGyver... and, since I'm a woman and not a man, that's something I can definitely live with. That's not the goal this month, either (unless you really want it to be).

Becoming self-reliant physically, to me, means having my body and muscles ready to do whatever I need them to do, when I need them to do it -- and feeling and looking good should be part of that package, too, right?

We have some great guests this month who will be talking about different aspects of physical self-reliance, so now is the time to start making your goals and getting motivated! Just a baby step in the right direction is all it takes to get started! You could...
  • remember to take your multi-vitamin
  • sign up to take a CPR course
  • learn how to cook a healthy food that's always scared you... like kale or spaghetti squash or even whole wheat bread
  • have your blood pressure and cholesterol measured... perhaps as part of an annual physical? :)
  • start using those home exercise videos you've stockpiled but never opened
  • re-stock your medicine cabinet with the summer-essential bandaids and first aid ointment... and probably some after-burn lotion for all the sun you'll love soaking up! or, better yet.. sunscreen!
  • drink more water
  • or really ANYTHING that will help you (and/or your family) become more self-reliant physically

I have two goals this month:

Be physically active *on purpose* for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. I walk for 30 minutes with  my mom 2 days a week, and now that the weather is finally warming up here (and the snow from the weekend has melted :), this is a doable goal for me right now -- just a small 3-days-worth step in the healthier direction. I emphasize on purpose because chasing after my toddler in 2 minute bursts really does add up... but I don't know that counts for the same health-benefits for me as real, concentrated exercise. ;)

When I was planning Housewife MacGyver back in October and November, I thought this would be a good kick in the pants to get me running again since I am TERRIBLE at running when the weather is dreary and/or cold. But, since this little bundle of joy I'm carrying doesn't always respond well to physical exertion and feeling light-headed and nauseous for two days after a good workout is NOT part of a healthy exercise regimen, I'll be sticking mostly to walking, and walking a local 5K at the beginning of June.

Cut out the junky snacks and replace them with healthier snacks. We are a family of snackers. And we love our sugars and fats... and not always in moderation. Especially since I've been pregnant, I want something to crunch at all times. So, instead of going for potato chips and Whopper eggs left over from Easter, I'm making an effort to have healthy crunches around and readily available, too -- apples and celery are our favorites, plus the rest of the veggie tray regulars and crackers. A cracker with peanut butter is almost like a nutty bar... :)

So, what baby step(s) are you going to take this month to become a Housewife MacGyver physically?

Dino Applique Giveaway Extended

Hi all! Happy Monday! What a weekend it's been, eh?

In honor of the fact that hey, we have IRL lives over the weekend (sometimes I forget... do you? :) I've decided to extend the Dino Applique Giveaway from Helping Little Hands until tomorrow (Tuesday) night. So head on over to enter (just one comment is all!) because this applique will be adorable for a little guy or little lady in your life (or for you, too ;)

 And I'll be back later today to unveil our Housewife MacGyver theme for the month... woohoo!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Blogging tips