Paint Sampler Valentine Garland

Finally, I am doing a Valentine’s Day related post! In the next two weeks I am planning on doing some more Valentine ideas, but here’s the first one I have to show you:

An easy heart garland made from something free–paint sampler strips. (If you want to check out another paint sample Valentine that I posted last year, click here.)

This was pretty quick and easy to make, plus I think it turned out fairly cute. I mounted it on our chalk wall, which has yet to be framed.

You can probably figure it out on your own, but here’s a quick tutorial on how I pulled this together:

Gather up a few paint sample strips. I wanted to do a purple and pink theme, so I just pulled out those colors. Make a heart template and trace it onto your strips, aligning the middle of your heart over the line between two colors. Cut out each heart.

Punch a hole in both upper sides of each heart. Use a ribbon, twine, or thin lace to thread through each heart, stringing them all together.

That’s pretty much all there is to it! Hang up where all your loves can see it.

XOXO,

Rachel

Homemade Butterscotch Pudding

This creamy confection is unlike the kind you make from a box. A little bit more work? Yes, but so worth it.  I have to admit that I sort of like the boxed version, but am completely turned off by the color. Does that fake butterscotch pudding color gross anyone else out? Well, this version does not have the fake coloring and has a great flavor. I copied the recipe from the latest Taste of Home magazine and made it for my family the other night.

Butterscotch Pudding

  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C packed brown sugar
  • 3 TB cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3 C 2% milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 TB butter, cubed
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, combine the first 5 ingredients. Stir in the milk until nice and smooth. Cook & stir over med-high heat until thick and bubbly. Reduce to low heat and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir a little bit of the hot mixture into egg yolks, then return everything to the pan. Next, bring everything to a low boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 2 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. At this point, remove from heat.

Stir in the cubed butter and vanilla. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes, occasionally stirring it. Spoon pudding into dessert dishes (makes 6), cover them, and refrigerate until chilled. Add whipped cream to the top if desired.

Dig in!

Keeping it Real

I’m not perfect–and neither are you. Don’t you love finding out things about other people that make them seem more “real” to you? Hopefully you do NOT have this impression of me: that I am always smiling and happy, cutely dressed, extremely organized, have a perfect house, kids that are always sweet and well-behaved, never yell at my children, am a super wife, and serve a nutritious, scrumptious meal every night. I know sometimes, especially reading blogs where you’ve never actually met the author, you can get the impression that they have it all together. Well, here’s some news for you folks (just in case you didn’t know it already)–no one really has it all together. Especially not me. Just for fun (ha ha) I thought I’d list a few things or facts about me that I can think of just in the past week that could easily dispel any of these impressions:

1. I love throwing on sweatpants in the morning. They are oh so comfy, and if I know I’ll be home, that’s where they live the rest of the day.

2. One day last week, my little guys had the couch cushions off to build a fort. When putting them back on, I noticed a piece of unwrapped candy cane (amongst lots of other debris) lodged in the crack. I dusted it off and ate it. Hey, at least it was from this past Christmas. The sad part is a couple days later we had the same cushion scenario with our loveseat. My son Andrew, who’s 8, found another piece from a different candy cane (I can’t testify to what Christmas it came from), dusted it off, and ate it.

3. Though I love my Shark steam mop, I love the fact that my kitchen floor hides icky areas quite well. For the last week, I’ve been meaning to steam mop my hard floors and have been putting it off. At the moment there’s a couple spots where your feet actually stick to the floor as you walk.

4. By evening, my kids usually no longer have names. I just usually call them “you people.” For example, “You people are getting on my nerves and better stop it right now, or someone’s getting a beating!”

5. I said #4 one day last week when they all had off school, and then fulfilled my promise to deliver a beating (Excuse me, a spanking) to several of said people.

6. Yet another day last week, Andrew (my fellow dusty candy cane eater) was discussing a piece of Burger King cheeseburger that had been in his cupholder at the back of our van for ??. I said “give it to me,” threw it to our dog, and he said “hey, I was doing a science experiment with that!” Then he and his brother talked about the “fungus garden” experiment they tried to conduct last summer in the same cupholder that I also “ruined.”

7. Foods I served to my kids in the course of one day: Apple Jacks and Pop-Tarts for breakfast, Spaghetti-O’s with cheese curls for lunch, and Tater Tots for supper. My husband was away and they thought this was glorious.

8. One of the kids came up from playing in the basement one afternoon to report that another child was downstairs crying. “Are they bleeding?” I asked.

“Um… no.”

“Well, they’re fine then.”

9. I can be a little sarcastic, especially when I’m grumpy or irritated. My poor husband can testify to this! He was away for 8 days on a rebuilding/missions trip. Though I did miss him, I think he got a dose of this by his second day home.

10. I actually pretended that I had to go do something “important” so I didn’t have to play another round of a kids board game.

Oh, I could go on and on with others. So you see, I’m just a normal person. Lots of imperfections, quirks, weaknesses, and more not-so-pretty stuff. So, if you’ve read this you (a) have had any respect for me lowered (b) like me even better (c) are praying I never invite you over for dinner or offer to babysit your children, or(d) are thinking, “thank God I’m normal.”

Sip a Snowman Smile

Do your kids ever get on a “kick” with something, where they want that specific thing nearly every day? I know mine do. We’ve had our yogurt kick, our Spaghetti-O’s kick, our Ramen noodle kick, and many others over the years. Right now they are on a hot chocolate kick, where they want hot chocolate as a bedtime snack or if they are coming in from playing outside in the cold. Well, I decided to give our hot chocolate a cute little boost when I saw a similar idea in Family Fun magazine this week.

A fun snowman smile to top it off!

It was super easy to do.

Take a basic cup of hot chocolate…

Swirl some whipped cream around to cover the top (I used Reddi Whip)…

Use an orange M & M for the nose and chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth.  You now have a snowman smiling back at ya.

Sip and enjoy!

Hope you’re keeping warm,

Rachel

How to Knit, Part 4:Casting Off

Today I’ll continue my little knitting series that I started several weeks ago. I still consider myself a beginner and have lots more to learn, but feel like I at least have the basics now. Hopefully if you’ve been following along, you haven’t felt like it’s the blind leading the blind! So far we’ve covered casting on, the knit stitch, the purl stitch, and today I’ll show you how to bind off, or cast off, the last row.

I did just a couple of rows as an example–you’re probably sick of seeing my teal blue yarn! So, if you have a piece you’re ready to finish, here’s how to go about it:

Knit two stitches onto your right needle. If you’ve been purling, the method is pretty much the same, just purl the stitches instead.

Slide the tip of the left needle under the bottom stitch on the right one, lifting it over the top stitch and off the needle.

You will now have one stitch on the right needle. Knit another stitch onto the right needle. Again, as before, slip the bottom stitch up and over the top one, sliding it off the right needle completely. Repeat over and over until you reach the end.

As (hopefully) you can see in my picture, this produces a nice finished edge to your piece.

Happy Knitting!

Rachel

Show & Tell: My Coupon Binder

I decided not to make any New Years’ Resolutions this year. Not that I don’t have any goals or things I want to become better at–I just didn’t want to make a crazy commitment that I know I would probably break within a matter of weeks (or days). However, I know lots of people who would like to get a better hold of their spending habits in 2012. This is an area I still need to get better at, but would say that I’ve improved greatly in over the past year or so.

Managing a household of 7 people, the grocery bill can be a major monthly expense. One of the main ways I’ve cut spending in our household is by using coupons on a very regular, intentional basis. I know I’ve mentioned my use of coupons before, but for today I thought I’d do a little show and tell, explaining how I use my coupon binder. There are tons of couponing websites and blogs out there, and each person who is really into it has their own system for organizing and utilizing their coupons. If you are interested in starting to use coupons, the best system for you is the one that you, personally, will actually use. I have to admit that I started out doing it differently and have since modified my system, tailoring it to my preferences. So, how do I organize mine? For starters, I purchased a 3-ring binder with pockets on the inside.

I filled it with baseball card holder pages. The first page, which I printed out from thekrazycouponlady.com, lists the pages of items according to the layout of most stores. This way you can flip through your binder as you go through a typical store and all your similar items will be on the same page. For example, all of the freezer items are on the one page, bread items on another, etc. This is the main reason why I like to use a binder–I can see all of my coupons in one category at the same time.

Certain items which I seem to have lots of coupons for (and not enough spots to hold them), I will insert an extra page in my binder for. As I shop and find the items that match up with the coupons I want to use, I simply pull them out and hold on to them until I get to the cash register.

Where do I get most of my coupons? I print a few out online, but the majority of mine come from the Sunday newspaper. I get one subscription, which I usually go through either Sunday or Monday. Here’s my typical routine:

*Go through my binder and pull out any expired coupons.

*Take time to go through the coupon circulars and cut out all coupons I may actually use.

*Lay all cut coupons in piles of similar items. For example, all paper products in one pile, soups in another, etc. These will be according to how they are categorized in your binder.

*Flip through each page in the binder, inserting new coupons by category as you go.

After I do all this, I usually go to couponmom.com and write out or print out the deals of the week. I love this site because it matches up all sale deals of the week with all of the available coupons out there, breaking down the final price and the percentage saved. Though my local grocery store that I frequent is not on there, all other national chain stores are listed. We do have a Rite Aid in our town, so I usually look up their deals. Or, for instance, if I know I may go to Wal Mart that week, I’ll print out all the really good deals from there.

Is couponing worth it? To me it is, or else I wouldn’t do it! Once I committed to really trying and using them, it did take a little while for me to work out my personal system. Once I found what really worked for me, the little routine I just described takes a minimal amount of time. If you keep up with it, it is very worth it. Just as an example, I did go to Wal Mart for groceries and a variety of other items this past week. I saved about $30 in one trip. To me, that was worth the little bit of time I took to clip and organize my coupons. Even the cashier, who at first balked at my pile of coupons, commented that it must be worth it once she saw how much I saved.

Also, here’s a funny little story before I sign off. The very first time I took my pink coupon binder to the grocery store, I was feeling a little self-conscious. Partway through the store, there was a cute little old  man who had been sort of watching me flip through it as I shopped. (Little old men seem to like me for some reason!) He finally drove his cart up beside mine, stopped me, and said he just had to tell me how impressed he was by my binder. It made me smile the rest of the way through the store!

Yarn-Wrapped Hoop Earrings

This is for all you hoop-earring wearers out there! You ladies know how easy it is to accessorize with a great pair of hoops. I love wearing fun earrings and decided to update a plain pair of silver hoops using a simple piece of colorful yarn.

You may not love the purple, but it’s what I had lying around. There’s loads of fun yarn colors out there, but you could also use embroidery floss as well. Want to see how I made these? They were easy-peasy:

Take a pair of Plain Jane hoops. This was a cheapo pair from Wal Mart.

Take a long piece of yarn and knot it once on the top side of a hoop. You may want to put on a dab of hot glue to hold it in place.

Criss-cross the two ends of yarn in the back, bring around to the front, and tie another knot. Repeat, going around the entire hoop in this manner, Make sure you do this tightly enough so none of the metal shines through. When you get to the other end, do a couple of extra small knots and dab another dot of glue to adhere. Trim the ends of your yarn.

That’s it! Easy, right?

So go ahead and color up your world.

Happy Thursday everyone!

Rachel

How to Knit, Part 3:The Purl Stitch

Hello everyone! If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that I started a “How to Knit” series a short while back. If not, take a peek at the previous posts and you can catch up in no time. Remember, I’m just learning this stuff too, so don’t be intimidated! On that note, if you don’t like my methods or my directions aren’t clear enough, take a look around online and on YouTube, there’s plenty of resources out there. I won’t be offended at all, honest 🙂

So far we’ve covered how to cast on and how to do the knit stitch. Today we’ll take a look at the purl stitch, one of the other fundamental stitches in learning to knit. If you learn these three things, you are well on your way to being a knitter.

Start with your two knitting needles facing one another. Notice I’m starting from a row of just cast-on stitches.

Poke your empty right needle up and through the front of the first stitch on the left needle. Your needles should now be criss-crossed with the right one in front of the left.

Wrap the yarn up and around that front needle, going in a counter-clockwise direction.

With that new loop of yarn in place, slide the tip of your right needle down, to the right, and slip the first stitch off of the left needle.

You’re now ready to purl another stitch. You may notice that this is very similar to the knit stitch, you’re just working at everything from the front instead of the back.

Oh, and now that you’ve learned to knit and purl, you can combine them do the stockinette stitch. The stockinette is very popular and is formed by knitting one row and purling one row, keeping up that pattern.

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for another part of the series, coming soon!

The Tale of Joseph & Joshua

Five years ago on this very day, I received some pretty significant, life-changing news. On this day in 2007, I got the completely unexpected news that I was having not one baby, but two babies. If there was ever a time in my life that I can say I was a complete basket case, that was it. It has since strengthened my faith in lots of ways. You see, I was the type of person who secretly pitied parents of multiples. I had even told friends and family that I was so glad I had only had one baby at a time and had no idea how those people did it. I’m sure the good Lord had many chuckles at my expense on that one!

If you’re not familiar with my family, here’s what it looked like at the time: I had a 5 year old boy, a 3 year old boy, and a 1 1/2 year old daughter who had just started to walk. When she was a little over a year old, I was feeling ready to have a 4th (and last!) child, wanting to keep everyone semi-close in age. Actually, since I had so much fun with my little girl, and she was such an easy baby, I was dying to have another little girl. How cute would it be to have two little boys and two little girls, right? I got pregnant right away and was having a pretty normal pregnancy for awhile. At 20 weeks, our church’s preschool/kindergarten class was going on a field trip to a local crisis pregnancy center. They wanted to show the kids what an ultrasound machine looked like and, better yet, how cool would it be to show them a real baby on the ultrasound? Since I hadn’t had an ultrasound yet and I was the perfect gestational age to be the “model,” I was willing to have the kids see my baby on the screen. So, off I went, willing to bare my belly for a roomful of little people. We divided the kids into two groups, bringing one group in at a time. For the first group, the volunteer tech plopped the wand down on my belly, and there we saw a baby right away. Notice I wrote “a” baby–that’s because we only saw one. She pointed out the different body parts, not really needing to move the wand around much. Then the second group of kids came in, and again she plopped the wand on my belly and we saw one baby on the screen. Great, I thought, I finally got to see my baby once before my 26 week ultrasound. Well, soon after that I noticed some major changes in my pregnancy. For one thing, I suddenly got HUGE–much bigger than I was with the other 3 kids. Also, I had about zero energy for being in my second trimester, when normally I would have all kinds of energy at that point. Oh, and did I also mention that this baby was way more active than the other ones? What in the world was going on? People tried to tell me that since it was my 4th pregnancy, I was bound to be bigger and more tired.

Well, the day of my real ultrasound rolled around, and I was honestly a little nervous, thinking that maybe they would find something wrong. My husband stayed home with our other kids, as we didn’t want to drag them all along. Besides, I’ve had lots of these before, it’ll be no sweat. The tech this time, as she led me back to the room, asked me all kinds of background questions. How many other pregnancies have I had? How far along was I? How old are the other children? Do I have any medical problems? and so on. The room dimmed, warm gel was squirted onto my now watermelon of a belly, and she started with the wand down at the bottom.

Right away we saw a baby head, so she said “oh, there’s the head,” then the wand was slid up a little to look at the baby’s abdomen.

“There’s your baby’s belly.” As the baby’s abdomen came into view, something else came into view as well.

“Oooohhh…” was the response. Then a pause.

“And there’s another head. And another belly.”

“You’re kidding me, right?” I said as I knew she most definitely was NOT kidding.

“No, there’s two babies there.”

I burst into tears. This could not be happening to me.

My life was over. Lord, how in the world could you do this to me? I can’t handle twins! Good grief, and did you have to make it the 4th time around? And why oh why did I not find out until I was 6 months along?

Then I laughed. And cried. And laughed. And cried some more. The poor woman probably thought I was nuts!

The rest of the ultrasound went by in a blur of measurements for both babies. I took the two pictures printed out for me and, trying not to look like a complete mess, went out to my vehicle. I drove home in a stupor, many thoughts swirling through my mind. I do have to mention that I stopped on the way home for a milkshake–a very large one at that! Darn it, if I was growing two babies, I needed that milkshake!! I arrived home having no idea how I was going to break the news to my dear husband. He was upstairs on the computer, the other kids playing on the floor.

“Well, how’d it go?”

“Yeah Mommy, did you see the baby?”

“Um, well, it’s a good thing you’re sitting down.” I held out my two pictures, my hands shaking.

“Not one baby. There’s two babies.” The tears came on again.

I’ll never forget the look on that poor man’s face. Bless his sweet heart for reacting the way he did, because I needed him to be a rock, not a mess like me. He stood up, smiled, wrapped me in a hug, kissed me, and said, “Well, Mommy, it’s going to be alright.”

For the next day or two, I really was a basket case. Lots of tears and having a big old pity party for myself. There were glimmers of joy but lots of “why me’s?” as well. How was I going to take care of all these little ones? Would I ever have any kind of life? How would we afford them all? What about my other kids, weren’t they going to feel completely neglected? Fortunately I had lots of people praying for me, once they heard the big news. Lots of calls, cards, and overall encouragement. I was reminded that God didn’t expect me to do this alone, which was very comforting to me. I soon got over my pity party, realized how blessed I was, and put my faith in God to help me through the upcoming challenging times.

Now, looking back, I can tell you without a doubt that those two little boys were one of the best things to ever happen to me. I didn’t get the little girl I had hoped for, but God knows what we need and what’s best for us way better than we do. Joey and Josh are my little sidekicks, my littlest loves. I can’t ever imagine having one without the other. They will turn 5 at the end of March and I can’t believe they are not babies anymore. In fact, I’ll probably do another post in honor of their big birthday and some more posts about raising twins too.

Oh, and before I sign off, I thought I’d mention another interesting fact in this tale. When I was lying on that ultrasound table, crying and contemplating my news, I noticed something that didn’t hit me until much later. You know how ultrasound techs and other medical personnel usually have their certifications, etc. framed on the wall? You want to know what the name of that tech was?

It was Faith.