Sunday, April 26, 2015

Book Review: Tiffany Girl

Hi! It's a rainy spring day here. The perfect kind of day for curling up with a good book. I just finished reading a sweet novel by Deeanne Gist, called Tiffany Girl. Here's a teaser for you:

"The heir to Tiffany's jewelry empire is left without a staff when glassworkers go on strike just months before the opening of the much-anticipated Chicago World's Fair and the hyped mosaic Tiffany Chapel. Desperate and without another option, Tiffany turns to a group of female art students to finish the job. Flossie Jayne answers the call, moving to a New York City boardinghouse with high hopes of making a name for herself as an artist and defying those who say that the work can't be completed in time--least of all by a set of young, inexperienced women."

You guys, I really liked this book! I'm learning that I'm a sucker for historical fiction. Gist's attention to detail and sincere effort to bring as many true elements to the story as possible really transported me back to 1893. The main character, Flossie, is making the difficult transition from compliant daughter to independent woman, without the help of a husband--something that just wasn't done before the turn of the century.  

What I love about this story is that it's not all happily ever after. Flossie learns to work hard, pursue her dreams, and enjoy success, but not without hardship, and sometimes utter failure. Real life is like that. The characters living at the boardinghouse with Flossie give this tale color, depth, and a love story. I really enjoyed reading the author's note at the end where she sorts out all the real details from the fabricated ones. This was such an interesting time in the history of America, for women, for commerce,  and for art. 

When I got my copy of this book in the mail, the first thing I noticed was how thick it was. I was worried it would take me forever to read. It's 500 pages and I am a slow reader. Once I started reading it though I didn't want to stop. I finished it in 4 days, my fastest read this year. So yeah, you're going to like it. : )

Tiffany Girl will be release on May 5, 2015, you can read more about it and pre-order it here. 

**Just so you know**
I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for my honest review. All the opinions here are my own, of course.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Earth Day 2015

Happy Earth Day! I feel like every day is Earth Day around our house, so I like to always take this day to just share a few things we are doing to be green, save some green, and grow some green. We have a backyard compost (which I have talked about here), we recycle way more than we throw away, but my favorite part of the famous earth-friendly trio, is reuse. When we can reuse items to plant gorgeous veggie plants, I feel like we're going green x2. Perhaps the best thing about reusing items is that it always means saving money--my favorite thing to do! 

If you haven't started some seeds inside for your garden this year, Earth Day is the perfect time to get them planted. Set them in a sunny window for the next few weeks, until it's safe to plant outside and you'll enjoy a jump start on the season. Tons of items that you would normally recycle can be reused first as excellent planters. Here's a few we've been using:

Next time you stop by Starbucks (or anywhere with a plastic to-go cup), wash and save the cup, lid and straw, all three can be used to make an awesome mini greenhouse!

Anytime you use a water tight container, you need to make sure to cut a hole for water drainage, otherwise you run the risk of root-rot. Just use a craft knife to cut an "X" in the bottom, or cut a tee-pee shape and press in, to make a triangular opening.

Fill a little more than half-way with potting soil, and plant your seeds. 

Water gently, and snap the top on. Press a finger through the straw opening to loosen it up and make sure some air/heat can escape. Now you have a little greenhouse that will keep the soil temperature extra warm and moist, which helps your seeds sprout faster!

Place your greenhouse cup in the sun and watch it steam up. If you do several cups with different seeds, you can use sticker labels or write directly on the cup so you'll always know what's what. To keep from over watering, just spray your soil every other day with a spray bottle. This  light watering also means you shouldn't have any water dripping out the bottom yet. See how the sides are steamed up?

In a week or less, you should see a little sprout and you are on your way! You can remove the lid once seeds sprout, or keep the lid on until you get the second set of leaves, the ones that look like tiny tomato plant leaves. : ) 

When you remove the top, grab some packing or duct tape and cover over the straw opening on the top of the lid. Then turn it upside down and you have a saucer for your plant to catch the water that will run out the bottom (where you cut your drainage hole). Now you can start watering normally with a watering can or whatever you  like to use. Once your plant is a few inches tall, insert a toothpick halfway in the soil next to it, and slip the straw over the toothpick. This will serve as a little support steak for the plant to keep it from falling over. Pretty cool huh? A whole green house kit, that you would have just thrown out (well, recycled of course).

I am a strong believer that everyone should have a garden. If you have so much as a tiny balcony you can have a one pot mini veggie garden. If you want to save a few dollars, it's so easy to start plants from seeds inside. Whether you are in a small space, or just don't have a lot of sunny windows for starting seeds inside, you can make a small window box using recycled containers. I like to use these salad boxes as a window box tray to put all the plants in and catch the water that drains out. Plus you can easily carry all your plants outside in one container for a little extra sun on warm days. 

If I was planting just one or two pots on a small balcony or porch, I would have the window box below:
1 tomato (get a plant labeled "determinate" for best results in a pot)
2 peppers,
1 4-pack of marigolds to attract pollinators and deter pests
2  small basil plants

These easily fit in one salad box.

You really only need to look as far as your fridge to get all the supplies you need to start your garden indoors. Yogurt containers make great pots, as the lids are perfect saucers, and the size gives your plant lots of room to grow. The Chobani containers would also work great as the greenhouse starters, with the clear lids they have. 

If you really want to start early, you can plant your seeds in early March, but know that they will need a good size container to make it until at least Mother's day when it's safe (here in Colorado anyway) to transplant them outside. Gallon milk jugs work great, just cut off the top and use the bottom as a planter. Don't throw away the top half either; cut the top half into strips and it makes perfect water-proof plant markers!

Here's our peppers all with the milk jug plant markers, keeping everything organized, for free!

I hope you are finding ways to reduce, reuse and if all else fails, recycle. And even more than that filling your space with happy plants. I think the best way to go green is to grow green! 
Have a happy week!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Frosted Lemonade

We recently had an ice cream break at Chick-fil-a. We tried their new frosted lemonade ice cream. At Chick-fil-a they combine their homemade lemonade with vanilla soft serve. It was delicious, and seemed so simple to make we decided to try our own version. It's easy to make, you probably already have all the ingredients and you don't need an ice cream maker. Best of all, we felt it turned out super close to the original, so it was really yummy! If you've ever made ice cream in a bag, this is a no-brainer. If haven't, you're missing out! Give homemade soft serve a try, see our recipe and method below!

In the summer we will often whip up a batch of homemade ice cream in a bag and top with sprinkles, because that's just happy. : )

Here's the basic recipe for vanilla ice cream:
Stir together
1 1/2 Cups milk, or half and half
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp sugar 

For the Frosted Lemonade version:

Stir together
1 1/2 Cups milk
2-3 Tbsp country time lemonade mix
1 Tbsp sugar

Pour milk mixture into a sandwich size zip top bag, press out all the air and seal.
Fill a gallon size bag 2/3 of the way with ice cubes. Nestle the milk bag in to the ice, and sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of salt over the ice. Press the air out of the gallon bag and seal. Squish the ice around in the bag for about 5 minutes. (Or if you've ever made Friendship Bread...mush the bag).

You might want to wrap the gallon bag in a towel, slip on some gloves,  or take turns with your kids, it gets pretty cold. : ) You'll know it's ready when it starts to kind of hold it's shape when you squeeze it, instead of sloshing like a liquid.

Once it's frozen, just cut off a corner of the bag and squeeze into bowls or glasses.

 Delicious, creamy, frosted lemonade! I would have never thought to combine lemonade and ice cream, but it's really good.

Try the Chick-fil-a version and compare. What do you think?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Guys and Dolls

Hi friends! How are you? It's been spring break week here, and we've been stuck inside, because Thing One is allergic to air now (well, tree pollen). I'm looking into ordering a bubble for him to live in next you guys. He's been a trooper though, and hasn't complained about not getting to go outside, even though it's been so nice. We've been chillin' inside with Mary Poppins, the Incredibles, a lot of speed scrabble and some art and craft time. Oh and some cooking fun, which I want to share next week! 

It's been a while since I was excited about a crafty thing, but I was catching up on reading The Crafty Crow blog, which showcases fun kid craft ideas, and stumbled on Margret Bloom's books of peg dolls (check them out here). I know I'm like two years behind the peg doll craze, but I have boys and I just was never looking to make dolls. However, these little guys are so fast and easy to make and there were so many possibilities, I thought we'd give some boy dolls a try. Things One and Two booth liked painting them. We made a pirate with washi tape hat and baker's twine belt,

Luke Skywalker to go with the Tie fighter we already had,

and Elsa, because Thing Two just still loves her. The boys buit an ice castle out of cups and have been playing a game of bowl over Elsa and the ice castle with balls...because that's how boys play with dolls. : )

Then, somehow when I started looking for peg doll inspiration I accidentally found the tutorial for these flower fairies (right here) and I made one right away.

And then I may have made four of them that same day, and may or may not have made two trips to the craft store for more supplies since then. I am totally not obsessed with how adorable these are. (ok, fine. I am. I'msorryIcan'tstopmakingthem!) Look how cute they are!?

They are just so easy to make. The perfect movie craft (as in make while you watch a movie), or girls night craft.

The materials are cheap, especially if you get them on sale.

And you can even make little accessories for them.

I think I want to make a felt house. I put some ideas on my Stuff to Make for Kids board, in case you catch this fairy fever.


I think these fairies and peg dolls would be perfect in Operation Christmas Child boxes, or maybe to donate to a Children's hospital or cancer ward? A fun craft that can make someone's day a little happier? Crafts for the win!

I hope you are having a happy day! You are loved!

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