Monday, December 31, 2012

Running to Boston

All right, all you "new year resolution"-ers out there, this post has, literally, been 3 years in the making.  This time of year brings a strong desire to look back on the past year and take stock of what we have accomplished and look forward to what we would like to do in the coming months.  Too frequently our look back makes us want to crawl back into bed with a whipping stick to make ourselves pay in silence for all that we promised ourselves we would do, but didn't.  And the look forward fuels a nation wide workout frenzy born straight from guilt and self loathing.  BOO TO ALL OF THAT!  All a new year means is a fresh start.  No guilt, no shame.  The post you are about to read is not meant to do anything except MOTIVATE YOU!  It doesn't have to motivate you to run or bike or even work out.  It is meant to motivate you to step out of your comfort zone, experience something new and difficult and when its done, look at yourself in the mirror and know that YOU will not hold YOU back.

In that spirit I am pleased to introduce our next guest blogger, my twin (yes identical), Sharma Phillips (she's beautiful, isn't she).  She graciously agreed to share her experience of accomplishing a long time goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  I want to give a special thanks to her for taking the time to share her story with us.  She is one amazing lady, and I know you will be inspired by her story just like I was.  Click here to read her story or click on "Guest Blogger" at the top of the blog.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas is Coming...
Amy A, Amy M, and I are so excited for Christmas!  So, we vow to get as many Christmas posts on the blog as we can.  I’ve already got a start for us with the 12 Days of Christmas Advent Candles (under Crafting), now we need some FOOD!  I’m going to start us off with a little something we lovingly refer to as Bugle Brittle.  It’s basically Bugle chips covered in a sugary, buttery coating, and I’ve never met a person who didn’t LOVE it.  Special thanks to my sis-in-law, Julie, who got me addicted to this junk and was willing to share the recipe with all of you.

Bugle Brittle

What you need:
  • One 17 oz bag of bugles
  • 2 Sticks or 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light Karo syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • candy thermometer (optional)
*This recipe is easily doubled or tripled, just make sure you use a bigger or your biggest pot.

The Method:

Empty your chips into a large bowl and lay out foil for letting the chips cool on when it’s done. You want to have all of this ready to go because you’re basically making a candy coating and every second counts when you are dealing with the temperature of sugar.

In a large pot melt the butter.  Once butter is melted add all the rest of the ingredients and bring to a roaring boil. Stick your thermometer in and bring the temperature up to firm ball stage (244-248 degrees), stirring frequently.  It takes about 10 minutes to reach the right temp.   

So, you don’t have a candy thermometer?  I have made this recipe without one.  The trick is to check the mixture’s texture every once in a while by using the cold water test.  Keep a clean small glass of cool water by you.  Take a drop of mixture and drop it into the glass.  While it's in the water use your fingers to form it into a ball.  Pull the ball out, it should be like caramel, holds its shape but is soft and pliable.  It takes around 10 minutes to get it to the right temp, so set a timer for 5 minutes and start checking every minute after that.

As soon as you’ve reached hard ball stage pour the mixture over the bugles and stir to coat.  Dump the coated bugles onto the foil and use your spoon to separate it out.  You don't want it to cool in big clumps of bugles, it's hard to eat and hard to break apart.

The next step is the most important...take the Bugle Brittle, put it in your mouth, and enjoy!

<3, Sharla

Friday, November 23, 2012

Christmas Advent Candles
 Advent Calendar

I am so excited about this post.  This is a project I came up with at the tail end of the Christmas season last year and I have been waiting all of this time to give it a try.  My kids love to count down the days until Christmas (really, I am just as bad) so the more ways to count down, the better.  I learned the technique for this project from a friend who was a Close To my Heart consultant (hi, Doree) and I have always wanted to do it more because, seriously, it is so cool!  

What you need is:
  • 1 tapered candle (mine are 10”)
  • 1 piece of white tissue paper cut into an 8 1/2” x 11” rectangle
  • a heat tool or hair dryer

That’s it!  That’s all you need!

How to do it:
First you need to prepare the numbers for the candle.  Cut your tissue paper down to the same size a regular piece of paper.  On a computer create a line of numbers with 1 at the top and 12 at the bottom going down the page, like this...
Print your line of numbers on the tissue paper.  This can be tricky, what I ended up doing was taping my tissue paper to a piece of card stock and then printing it because my printer kept eating the tissue paper even if it was taped to a regular paper.  After it’s printed cut it down as close to the numbers as you can get.

Now grab your candle and place the number strip going down it the way you like and hold it in place with your thumb.  Grab you hair dryer or heat tool and, starting at number 1, hold the heat a few inches away from the candle and blow it back and forth over the the tissue paper.  What is going to happen is the wax behind the paper is going to melt and little and when it does it will fuse with the tissue paper and the paper will become translucent (see in the picture how right around the 6 it's not melted).  Once it’s translucent you’ve got it on so you can move down the candle until the whole piece of paper is secured.  Be careful not to heat one place too much, you don't want the wax to drip.  Remember, less is more, so don't go holding the heat right up against the candle right when you start.  You only need to melt it a little for this to work.

Now that you’ve got your candle, its fun to do a little some thing every night you light it.  We put together three list ideas for the 12 days and printed them on cute card stock to keep with the candle.  Yes, my neighbors will all be getting one of these...

The True Meaning of the 12 Days of Christmas
1 The Partridge in a Pear Tree=Jesus Christ, the Son of God
2 Turtle Doves=The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens=Faith, Hope, and Charity
4 Calling Birds=The Four Gospels and/or  the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings=The First Five Books of the Old Testament which gives the history of man’s fall from grace.
6 Geese A-Laying=The Six Days of Creation
7 Swans A-Swimming=The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
8  Maids A-Milking=The Eight Beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing=The Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-Leaping=The Ten Commandments
11 Pipers Piping=The Eleven Faithful Apostles
12 Drummers Drumming=The Twelve Points of Doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed
*In the song “true love” refers to God, the “me” who receives the presents refers to every baptized person.

12 Days of
the Spirit of Christmas
1. Say “Merry Christmas” to every single person you meet.
2. Leave rolled up dollars with a note in the $1 section of a store.
3. Go to a busy place and hold the door open for 15 minutes for people.
4.Buy 3 helium balloons and hand them out to kids in a store.
5. Write a message of gratitude to someone who has touched your life.
6.Go threw a drive threw and pay for the car behind you.
7. Take treats to your local fire department or police station.
8. Leave kid made book marks at the local library.
9.Tape candy canes to ATMs around town.
10. Leave change taped to a vending machine.
11.Be an EXTRA polite driver/friend/family member/employee.
12. Decorate a neighbor’s door with paper snow flakes and side walk with chalk.

12 Days of Christmas
  1. Psalm 27:1How is the Lord my light?
  2. John 13:34-35Do I keep all of the commandments?
  3. Isaiah 41:10From whom do I get my strength?
  4. Matthew 5:16How can I let my light shine today?
  5. Isaiah 1:18Do I understand what Christ did for me?
  6. John 14:16-17, 26How can the Holy Spirit help me become more like Christ?
  7. John 15:13-14Do I have a true understanding of the sacrifice my Savior made for me?
  8. Luke 22:42, 23:46Wherein lies the power of Christ?
  9. Timothy 4:12Do I cleave unto the truth & do I teach those around me to stand for righteousness?
  10. John 14:27Do I search of inner peace and happiness?
  11. Matthew 6:19-21What are my values, my core beliefs and priorities?
  12. Luke 2:1-20What can I do to remember Christ every day?

There you have it, all the hard work done for you.  Now all you have to do is sit on the couch and eat bonbons until Christmas comes (yeah, right).  

Don't have the time to make your own candle?  Click here to visit our Etsy store and order one!

<3, Sharla

Friday, November 9, 2012

Burlap Thanksgiving

Have you noticed how everywhere you look in the home decor world burlap is draped on, sewn into, or glued over one thing or another?  And why not?!  It’s cheap, cute and a great blank canvas for some serious creativity.  Well, friend of the blog, Cassie, had a great idea of covering pillar candles with burlap as a Thanksgiving table decoration and Amy M and I decided to take the challenge.  Um, yes, this is happening, and here’s how to do it...

A fat pillar candle (I found mine in a 2 pack at Hobby Lobby for $5.99)
1/4 yard of burlap (Walmart has the cheapest burlap I could find including different colors)
Hair dryer or heat embossing tool
Hot glue and gun
Ribbon, twine, and other embellishments


First thing you need to do is get your burlap ready.  Amy and I  just laid our candle right on the burlap and eyeballed how much to cut in order to cover the candle.  You’re basically cutting a wide strip that is tall enough to go to the top of the candle and long enough to roll up around the candle.  Don’t worry about being too precise, after the burlap is on, it’s easy to trim off extra.

Now, roll the burlap around the candle and use rubber bands or sting or twine to wrap around it so you don’t have to hold it on while you heat the candle.  Remember how I said you need a hair dryer for this craft?  Here’s where it comes in handy.  Use your heat tool (which every it may be) and carefully heat the candle with the burlap on it.  As you heat small portions press the burlap into the candle and hold it there for a few seconds to allow the wax to cool and grab the burlap.  Be careful not to hold the heat in one place too long, it will melt the wax too much and burn your finger when you press it (ouch!).  It’s better to use long strokes to heat the wax.  Go all around the candle heating and pressing until you have attached most of the burlap.  It’s not going to be a perfect snug fit (unless you are a perfectionist, in which case you have my sincere condolences) but it should hold the burlap well enough that you don’t need the rubber band to keep it on.  

Use the hot glue gun to run a line of glue down the inside of the overlapped burlap and then trim off the extra.

Trim off the excess at the top of the candle and you are ready for the fun part...

Decorate it!  Amy M and I love to do fall crafts so we pool our resources and share silk leaves, berries and ribbon and got creative.  I’ve also seen the candles where you stop at the burlap, if you’re more of a minimalist.  

They turned out great, right?  See, fun, easy, and affordable!  Keep an eye out for more burlap crafts, it’s our gobble theme!

<3, Amy M and Sharla

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ode to Apples

It is the season when cool weather, warm drinks and crisp apples are all I want to think about!  I love this time of year.  Apples are at their ripest and cheapest, so let’s take advantage!  We wanted to give apples the credit they deserve, so this post includes how to can apples to have on hand all year long and a collection of our very most favorite apple recipes.

Canning Apples

Canning apples is the easiest thing to can and, in my opinion, tastes the best.  It is simple but time consuming, which is why you should can with a friend!  Amy M and I have spent many hilarious hours canning crap.  Trust me, can with a friend, it's way more fun.  Aside from having a blast with a friend there are many reasons to can apples.  They are so healthy and you can adjust the simple syrup recipe to be low calorie, and the end result is like candy, but healthier.  I purchased my apples from a local farmer that sets up a tent in the grocery store parking lot.  Amy M bought hers from a farmer's market.  We both bought half a bushel and it was less than $20.00 each. We both used Golden Delicious, but any variety would be great, get what you like.

What you will need:
1/2 a bushel of apples
12-16 quart size mason jars and lids
8 1/2 cups sugar or sugar substitute (ie: Splenda)
1 Container Fresh Fruit Anti-Browning Powder
Water bath canner
Whole cinnamon sticks (optional)

The Method:
First things first, get your water on the stove.  Water bath canners are pretty affordable, usually around $30.00 at almost any store.  Fill it up to within 6 inches from the top, put the lid on and crank the heat to high.  It takes a long time to get the water boiling in a pot that big.

In another very large stock pot mix your simple syrup and turn the heat up to high on it as well.

Recipe for Simple Syrup:
2 1/4 cups sugar or sugar substitute
5 1/4 cups water
*Be prepared to quadruple this recipe for canning half a bushel of apples.  You can mix it all at once or do half and half.

While everything is heating up prep your apples.  You have to peel them and halve them or slice them.  Amy M and I have a great little device that peels/cores/slices apples all in one step.  I bough mine from The Pampered Chef and I've had it for 12 years and it is as good today as the day I got it.  

Amy's slicer is a little different because instead of having a clamp to attach it to the side of the counter hers has a suction cup.  It works just as great and came from any kitchen supply store.  Look at all those apple peels, I'm not saying the process isn't messy, I'm just saying it's worth it.

The apple spring is what you end up with after you've run it threw the apple peeler/corer/slicer.  My kids love these, although they are very skilled at not actually getting any apple in their mouths when they play with them.  Cut your springs in half and, viola! Beautiful apple crescents ready for the jar.

Once your apples are peeled and cut take the extra few minutes to keep them from browning by filling a large bowl with water and adding about 3 tablespoons of Fresh Fruit anti browning powder.  You can find it in the canning isle of any grocery store.  Just put a handful of apple slices in the treated water, let it sit for a few seconds, remove and put directly into your simple syrup, which should be boiling by now.

Let your apple slices simmer in the simple syrup for about 3-5 minutes or until heated threw, turn off the heat and then using a slotted spoon pack as many apple slices into the jars as you can get.  
*You can absolutely can apples without cooking them in the simple syrup first, and that's what Amy M and I did.  Just prep your apples and put them in the bath to stop browning and then put them directly into the jars.  You still need to heat the simple syrup for the purpose of completely dissolving the sugar, but if you're using a sugar substitute that dissolves easily you don't even have to heat it.  However, you can fit more apples in the jars if you cook them in the simple syrup first.

Once all of your jars are full use a ladle and ladle the syrup into each jar to within 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.  If you like to flavor the apples with a little cinnamon, simply stick 1-2 whole cinnamon sticks into the jar after it is full of apples and juice.  Remove the bubbles by running a butter knife along the inside of the jar, and adjust head space again if necessary.  Wipe the rim of the jar and screw on your lids finger tight.  

By now your canning water should be rolling pretty furiously.  Place your filled jars into the canning basket and carefully place the whole thing into the water in the canning pot making sure the jars are completely submerged but the water is not over flowing.  Put the lid on and process (fancy word for let it boil) for 20 minutes for both pint and quart jars.  After the time is up, remove the canning lid and wait 5 minutes and then remove the jars and allow to cool.  Amy M and I forgot the 'wait 5 minute step' and ended up with jars that oozed syrup a little.  After they are cool the lid should be concave.  If it is not, it did not seal properly and you should eat those suckers immediately.

The last step is cleaning up the massive amounts of apple juice and guts that are now, undoubtedly, covering every inch of your kitchen.  Did I mention this is a messy process?  Messy but worth it.  

Check out the creepiest and most hilarious thing, Amy M accidentally canned a bug in her apples.  We didn't notice until we pulled the jar out of the canner to cool.  At least it was on the edge so we could see it.  We don't recommend canning bugs with your apples...silly Amy...

Eat your canned apples all by themselves, put them over oatmeal (there is a link to a great recipe for oatmeal on this very post!), or use them in any of the excellent recipes we have collected for your enjoyment....

<3, Sharla and Amy M

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Guest Blogger
Cassie Walker
Throws a Party!

So, we have some pretty cool friends around here, and they do some pretty amazing things.  Cassie Walker is one of those amazing people.  She’s a good friend to us ladies on the blog, and a great supporter.  Well, she’s also crazy talented, so we bullied her into doing a guest blog spot for us (I’m sure this won’t be the only one).  Click here to check out her collage of birthday cakes and party ideas, or click the Guest Blogger button at the top of the blog.

Friday, October 5, 2012

 Jail Front Tutorial

So, do you like the jail front in the pic above?  I have included a turorial on how to make it (yay!).  Now, I made this several years ago so I don’t have any pics on the actual assembly, but it’s pretty straight forward.  Put this puppy in just the right place with something creepy being trapped behind makes for a scary night.  It’s also a great background for photo ops.  It’s easy, light weight, and cheap!

2 Peices of 2x4 boards cut 3 1/2 feel long
7 Pieces 3/4” PVC pipe cut 7 1/2 feet long
4 Large black wall brackets
28 2” long screws
2 Cans black spray paint
Drill for attaching screws
Measuring tape
*These are the measurements for the jail front I created, but you can adjust your measurements to make your jail taller, shorter or longer.  However, if you make it longer, I would add additional wall brackets on the bottom to increase balance.
**When you buy your materials, most home improvement stores will cut your wood and PVC pipe for you at no additional charge.

First, mark your two pieces of 2x4.  One will be at the top and one at the bottom.  Start on one end of the board and mark every 6” on both boards.  You should end up with 7 marks (a mark for each pipe, see what I did there?).

Next lay them out and grab your PVC pipe and drill.  Use one screw  at the top of the board and one at the bottom per pipe.  To allow maximum stability, I lined the PVC up with to top of the board.  After you’ve attached each pipe to the top board finish up by screwing the bottom of the pipes to the bottom board with two screws.

Now you need to make it stand up, right?  Grab your wall brackets and screw two onto the front of the jail on each side of the boards.  Stand it up and screw the other two to the back of the boards.

The last, easiest and funnest part is to spray the whole thing black.  

I attached an extra screw at the top so that I could hang my goull from it.  Easy, pleasey, zombies weazey.  :)

Now, go scare up some fun!
<3, Sharla

Spooky Halloween

Now, I’m not saying that Amy A, Amy M, and I are the best there are when it comes to Halloween decor, but we do love to decorate for this holiday.  I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I have more decorations for Halloween than for any other holiday (sick, I know).  So, we thought it might be fun to just do a post with pics of our decorations, and if you find inspiration in what we’ve done, then be our guest to recreate it.  We also thought it might be fun if our followers would be interested in adding your own pics in the comment section of this post.  We LOVE new ideas, and would love to see yours.

 Here is my front porch.  Isn't the enormous weed growing out of the right pot in front of the stairs  amazing?  Yeah, I planned that (no, I didn't, I just really hate weeding).

 Check out the fireplace.  All Halloween decor you see was $20 or less, collected over years.  The Medusa pic was super cheap at a Halloween shop.  The large spider webs were on sale at K-Mart last season for $2.99 each.  The gargoyle was a Target purchase, as well as the owls and jug of floating eyeballs.  The spiders are my most favorite purchase.  They are big, durable and cling to the stone on the fireplace.  Unfortunately, I bought them several years ago and the store that carried them never got them back.

Smiley plush spider hanging from the light, I like him.

Amy, Amy and I made these last year.  Easy Pinterest project.  Three candle sticks, three jars, black spray paint, and super heavy duty glue.  The bats are rubber decals I stuck on for the holiday.  All of these craft supplies came from Hobby Lobby.

Anyone recognize the spell book on the table?  Don't worry, it's just the most amazing DIY project you can find on this very blog!  The spiderweb table cloth was from a party magazine, the other nick knacks are from Target.  Notice the creepy spider web on the light?  Everyone is selling what they call "spooky material".  Just go to Home Depot and buy a packet of cheese cloth for $4 and rough it up a little.  It's all the "spooky" you'll need. 

 This is a collection of some of my favorite decorations.  The coffin fogger is a Target purchase and that's my kid's favorite, but not mine.  The pic on the left of the storm trooper holding Yoda and Minnie Mouse hugging his leg is from a Halloween several years ago.  It's my family decked out for Halloween night.  I just had it made into an 8x10 and put it in a frame.  The original idea was to replace the pic each year, but I never got that far.  But it is one of my favorite things to put out.  I think my next project will be printing and framing smaller pics of different Halloweens.  So fun.  Also, the witch at on the lamp was a dollar store purchase.  Cheap touch that adds a lot.

Here's another pic of the same stuff, I just wanted to show off the glittered pumpkins from the $1 bin at target beneath the table. 

This is a fun corner.  The skull fogger is from Target, the other skulls are just cheap Styrofoam from various Halloween stores and the snake is a prop from the year my husband was Voldemort.  I am a firm believer in using old costumes to decorate with. 

I cannot remember where this chain came from, my best guess is Target, but I have two and I like to hang them above entryways like spooky garland.

 These red lanterns live in my entryway, so I just dress them up with black candles.  The snake is sitting in a plastic cauldron I bought on clearance from Michael's.

This jail front is one of my favorites.  I didn't make it for Halloween, I made it as a backdrop for taking fake mug shots in front of.  But when I was done taking the pics I thought, "hey, that's kinda spooky...." and this is where it ended up.  I have included a tutorial on how to make your own.  Just keep reading...

Now, send us your pics of your decor and we'll include them on the blog.  Can't wait to hear from you!
<3, Sharla

Monday, September 24, 2012

Spell Book

Home-Made Harry potter spell book prop

There is a great spell book prop floating around pinterest that I fell in love with.  So, during our last girl’s night I thought, 
“oh yes, this is happening”
   But when I went to the website that has the book, there was no instruction.  It had a description of the book, a couple of pictures and the websites that the creator found the digital art to create the pages for the book in photo shop.  So, i did the best I could, but my creation was a far cry from the beautiful picture that I was trying to copy.


  i was frustrated, I wanted to find a full tutorial along with a print out that i could just click on and print.  i didn’t want to spend the day trying to put together pages in photo shop.  anyway, I'm lucky enough to have an incredibly artistic husband who took pity on me and agreed to help me create my pages, from scratch, hand drawn!  With his help, this is what i ended up with...


So, for those of you that love the way this turned out and that don't want to spend hours hunting and searching on the computer and putting together something in photo shop, you've come to the right place.  

You will need:
  • a hard cover book you don't mind ruining.  Mine was about 6 inches wide and 9 inches long and those are the dimensions for the jpeg files you can print from the bottom of this post.
  • two sheets of scrap book paper.  my hubby chose out the decorative kind with cool scrolls for effect and i loved it.  be creative, do what you like, but make sure you choose something that has a tan or sepia toned background.
  • Black spray paint
  • sand paper or scissors.  anything you can use to rough up the edges of your book and give it that "been-around-since-dumbledore-was-born" look.
  • acrylic and/or water color paint.  the acrylic colors my man used to paint the edges of the pages was burnt sienna.  we also used russet and Bambi brown for added effect, including the cup ring at the top right corner of the right page.
  • spray adhesive or your choice of adhesive to attach the finished pages to the book.  i had some spray adhesive around which is quick and easy to use, but you could also use scrap book adhesive or tape.  I would avoid any wet glue like rubber cement or Elmer's, it will wrinkle your pages.
  • 12 inch black ribbon
  • hot glue and gun
Start by preparing the book.  Remember, this is a prop, it's not meant to be picked up and handled and flipped threw.  so open the book to the middle and just know, that's where it's going to stay for the rest of it's book life. :)  Spray paint the outside cover and inside cover black (ironically, the book i used was actually called paint it black).  

Next distress the edges of the book's pages using scissors, sandpaper, or what ever you want.  you can use water colors, it gets the book good and wet and makes it easy to distress but then you have to wait for it to dry.  after it dried i used a pencil to roll the corners.  Then i ended up using the acrylic paint to finish it off.  I felt like the acrylic gave a fuller color and looked prettier than the water colors.

admit it, this is way easy and fun so far, right?

Now, let's get the pages ready.  we saved you the trouble of re-inventing the wheel.  my totally muscly and artistic husband generously allowed me to create a pdf file that you can purchase in our etsy store for only $5.00!  Click here to purchase the 9"x6" drawings and here to purchase the 12"x9" drawings.  they are an instant download that you can then print out on the paper of your choice.  I recommend using something that has color to help with the aged appearance.  turbo easy!

Now, grab out your burnt sienna paint again and use paint brushes and brush the edges to look distressed.  i don't recommend actually distressing these pages or painting over them, be gentle.  they are too pretty to hurt!  this is how ours looked when they were done.

You have to admit, that looks way, way better than my first try.  I bet yours looks just as great.

K, the rest is simple.  Spray the back of the pages with the spray adhesive and place them directly onto the pages in the book.  do a bit more curing of the corners.  use hot glue to glue the end of the ribbon onto the back spine of the book for the book mark.  stick it in a cool table easel or lay flat with creepy junk around it and you, my friend, have created an amazing addition to your Halloween decor that is a true original.

Don't have the time to make a book of your own?  Click here to visit our shop on Etsy and place your order for your very own spell book!

happy haunting!
<3, Sharla

How cool is this?  We had a follower send us her completed spell book, and it turned out awesome! Love the ribbon, what a good idea.  Send us a pic of yours, we'd love to add it to the collection!  Thanks, Michele!