Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Organized Home Challenge: Week 7 - Coupons (Or how I really save money on food...)

This week the Organized Home Challenge is all about coupons.  There are tons of couponing sites out there, and shows like Extreme Couponing, etc.  At times, I've really been fascinated by the idea of couponing.  And then I realized something.  We don't have a Kroegers.  Or an Albertsons.  Or really any of the big grocery chains that the couponing sites are always talking about.  We have smaller chain grocery stores.  Now I'm not complaining!  I'm a huge fan of both HyVee and Fareway.  They offer a lot of great products and have good prices.  But the coupon matching sites just don't cover them.

I tried subscribing to the weekend paper for the coupon inserts, but I wasn't getting enough coupons out of it to make up for the price of the paper.  Part of that is my fault - we don't buy a lot of processed foods, and coupons for fresh meat and produce really don't happen very often.  So, couponing, while it sounds good in theory, just doesn't work well for me.

I do have a couple of ways I save money on groceries, though, so I'll just share those with you.

First - I do a lot of my shopping for regular weekly groceries at Target.  Why Target?  Well, I can get coupons for things I use at Target.com.  So, that helps with some things.  Plus, I have a Target debit card that gets me a 5% discount (plus 1% donation to my son's elementary school).  I've done some price comparisons, and after the 5% discount, shopping at Target for a lot of my specialty stuff (organic cane juice, turbanado sugar, whole wheat flour, arrowroot, Clif bars, etc.) is cheaper than shopping at HyVee, and Fareway just doesn't carry a lot of that stuff.  So, that helps.

The biggest way I save money though, is my cooking co-op.  I LOVE my co-op.  First of all, it's a really fun group of ladies.  But it saves money, too.  Most months I come home from co-op with 12-15 meals for my family, at a cost of (usually) around $10/meal.  Since starting co-op, I have bought so much less meat! That cuts the grocery bill by a LOT.  Plus, I'm not having to buy a bottle of something for a recipe, only to use 2 Tbsp and never use it again.  Suppers for about 1/2 the month are covered by the co-op meals.  The rest of the time we have quick meals, or something we have on our stand-by list.

Now, how does this co-op thing work?  It's really a fairly simple concept.  We do it at our local HyVee store.  Our group started out as the original (way back before I got involved), but they now have over 50 groups!!!  They all work a little differently, but here's what we do.  There are 18 of us.  15 of us each pick a meal to make each month.  For example, next month I am making Cincinnatti Skyline Chili.  Then we pick how many meals of each of the 15 we want to buy - from 0-2 of each.  So you could end up taking home 30 meals if you really wanted to!  HyVee does all of our shopping, cooks all of the meat that needs to be pre-cooked, cuts all of our meat, does our dishes, and runs down to the store to get things we run out of/return items we have too much of, etc.  A prep team of 5 shows up 1 hour before everyone else to do all of the chopping, cooking, or any other prep work that needs to be done.  Then when you show up at 7:00, you just make however many of your meal were ordered - for example, I think I'm making 13 bags of the chili.  When everyone's done, we divide it up, have a short meeting and dessert, and go home.  Usually takes about 3 hours, and you go home with a bunch of freezer meals.  Last month, I brought home Lasagna Style Baked Ziti, Stuffed Pork Chops, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Tacos, Slow Cooker Char Siu Por Roast, Enchilada Pie, Crock Pot Italian Beef, Salsa Mac N' Cheese, Marinated Grilled Flank Steak, Mexican Two-Bean Chili Chicken, and Crockpot Shredded Chicken and Noodles.  All good, healthy food (we are pretty health conscious in our group - using less sodium and mostly whole wheat pastas, etc.).  It's been great for our family!

So, I may not do the "traditional" coupon method of saving money on groceries, but I do have my little ways.  What other ways do you save money on grocery shopping?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pantry Update!

I promised after photos of my finished pantry.... so here it is!

I bought all new matching canisters and put pretty much all of my staples in them.   We also added two pull out shelves for snacks - one for me, and one for my husband.  The kids' snacks are still in a basket, but that's easier for them to get into.  It is so easy to find everything!!

Organized Home Challenge - Weeks 5 & 6: Recipes and Recycling

These two weeks of the Organized Home Challenge are really easy for me.

Week #5 is recipes.  I do have some cookbooks, but most of my recipes are on the computer already.  I use a program called Sous Chef from Acacia Tree Software.  It's a really nice, easy to use program.  One of the things I really love about it is that they now have an app for the iPod/iPhone/iPad so that you can do your cooking without having to print out a paper copy of the recipe.  I have most of my recipes in there already.  So, I am currently going through my stack of cookbooks in the basement, marking which recipes I may actually make someday, and entering them in Sous Chef.  It's not a fast process, since going through each book takes a while, but when I'm done, I can just get rid of the cookbooks.  They just take up space anyway!  I will keep a few that I can't really put in the computer - cake decorating books, canning guides, etc.  But most will go away.

Week #6 is recycling.  Every locale seems to do recycling differently.  We have a pretty good, easy system where I live.  We can recycle papers, newsprint, cardboard, glass, plastics 1,2,&5, and aluminum through our garbage collection service.  We do have to separate the paper and cardboard from the rest, but all the plastic, glass, and metal can go together.  It's curbside recycling, every 3 weeks, so it's easy to do.  We have a rolling kitchen cart that has 3 baskets in it, that we use to collect recycling.  When it gets full, we take the items to the big recycling bin in the garage.  Pretty easy.

So, this week allowed me to catch up to where Taylor and the rest already are!  Yeah!  Next week is coupons.  I haven't been too good about couponing historically, but would love to learn how, so I'm hoping to get some great tips!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Organized Home Challenge - Week 4: Refrigerator and Freezer(s)

On to week #4 of the Organized Home Challenge, and our kitchen is finally complete!  This one took me a while, not because it was hard or time-consuming, but because I just didn't want to do it.  I hate cleaning out the refrigerator.  Ugh.  Seriously, it's one of my least favorite chores.  But, right now, it's SO clean, I may never want to have it get disorganized again! :)

The steps for this one, once again were pretty simple: empty, throw out anything you don't use or that's expired, clean, organize, put back.  Pretty easy, and really not that long a process.  You can check out the steps on the website linked above.

The first part was organizing the outside of the refrigerator.  Mine looked like this to start with:

Yes, I have small children!  This was actually the hardest part for me, but it made the biggest impact as well.  I threw out a bunch of the magnets that had been collected from dentists, pharmacies, etc.  I also donated the two big musical magnets (they drove me insane!).  We never use the marker board anymore, and all the kids papers have been moved to the message centers I made. If you missed that one, check it out here.  They have made a huge difference!!!

Then I moved onto the inside of the fridge.  Oops!  I forgot to take before pictures!  (Seriously, I forgot.  I'm not just trying to hide my mess...)  There were some leftovers that needed pitched, and some expired salad dressings, but really the biggest part was grouping things together.  Condiments are all in the door, which freed up a LOT of space, and then I grouped: drinks (milk, juice, etc), dairy products, lunchmeats/cheese, leftovers, fruits, vegetables.  It's so easy to find things now!

Then I moved on to the freezer part of the fridge.  I don't keep a lot up here, mostly lunch stuff (frozen soup, chicken nuggets) and some frozen vegetables.  The meat that I bought at the store to use this week is up here, too.  Here's where it started:

And here is where it ended up:

Finally, it was on to the basement and the upright freezer.  Now, we just bought this upright in December to replace to half-size freezers.  So, it hadn't had a lot of time to "collect" things.

I do keep a LOT of stuff in my deep freeze.  As you can see, I had a really productive garden, so I have a bunch of squash, zucchini, green beans, and rhubarb.  My father-in-law also gave me a lot of corn, so that is all in there as well.  Then at Christmas, my father-in-law always bakes cinnamon bread and sends us home with 4-5 loaves.  This year my mother-in-law decided to follow along, and made several loaves of quick breads, which of course had to go in the freezer as well.  Then there is my co-op.  I bring home 12-18 meals every month.  I've got a bit of a back log of those that need to be used up (and the next co-op meeting is on Monday!).  Plus there are some pies I've made that you can't even see in these before pictures!  So, I culled out some things that had been in there a questionable length of time, and reorganized, making better use of the drawers in the freezer.  And viola!

So, the kitchen is done!  Whew!  The next few weeks are covering associated areas, but nothing really huge for me: recipes, recycling, coupons, menu planning.  I'll still be doing the challenges, but don't expect stunning before and after pictures! :)

P.S.  The pantry is getting closer to being done.  I've gotten about 2/3 of my canisters now, so hopefully in the next few weeks it will be finished, and I'll post some real after pictures!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

If you like Pina Coladas...

First, let me say I don't like breakfast.  I never have.  My mother used to buy my frozen White Castle cheeseburgers to heat up in junior high just so I would eat SOMETHING before I left for school.  (Did I really just admit that?  Now let me crawl out from under my desk...)  In recent years, I just haven't eaten anything for breakfast.  But then I started a new diet...no not a diet, a new eating lifestyle, and breakfast is a big deal.  In fact, eating in general is a big deal.  If I don't eat every 2-3 hours I'm STARVING! (And I have lost over 5 pounds, and 4 inches off my waist so far in just 2 months, so it's a good change)

Anyway, I have been on the search for the perfect protein shake.  I've tried several and have learned a few things.  First, I hate bananas.  Bananas in shakes or smoothies make me gag.  So, no recipes with bananas, please!!!  Second, I also despise yogurt.  My kids eat it every morning for breakfast.  My husband eats the Greek kind as a snack everyday.  But I cannot choke it down.  So, yogurt is out, too.  As you can guess, if you've ever done shakes and smoothies, there are not a lot of recipes out there that don't have one of those two ingredients in them.

But then, I discovered a recipe for a Nada Colada Shake.  It is really yummy!!!!  It came from 101 Protein Shake Recipes.

In a blender combine:
2 scoops protein powder (I use vanilla whey powder)
4 ounces skim milk (you can use water - I like the milk)
1/2 cup orange-pineapple juice
2 Tbsp shredded coconut
4 ice cubes

So, do you have more protein shake recipes to share?  Without banana or yogurt?  I would love to give them a try!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finally! I can find their homework!

The routine has been the same since the beginning  of the school year.  Home from school, empty the backpacks, look at the papers, pile papers on the wet bar.  What was that?  You were supposed to turn in a form today?  YIKES!!  Where did that go?  Followed by frantic shuffling of papers and, more often than not, a last minute filling out of said form.

Not anymore!

I have a new solution!  I found this idea on Pinterest, and I LOVED the look of it!  Message boards for the kids!

To make these, I first did my layout on the computer, then bought supplies and cut the paper.

These are in a 16x20 black poster frame.

For the back ground, I used a 12x12 piece of colored cardstock that I cut into strips and glued onto the backing that came in the frame.  Next time, I will use poster board, but this was due to a shopping goof on my part, and I didn't want to go back to the store.

In the upper left corner is a 4.5"x6.5" piece of colored cardstock in a a darker shade than the background. This is topped with a 4"x6" black and white photograph.

The upper right corner is a 4.5"x8.5" piece of colored cardstock in the same color as the upper left.  On top of that is a 4"x8" black and white patterned piece, topped with a 3.5"x7.5" patterned piece in the same color as the background.  On top of that is the kid's name.  (By the way, I did all my cutting on the Cricut.)

The left side has a 6.5"x8" box with the days of the week.  Under that is a 6.5"x6.5" calendar, with the days labeled but no numbers and no month.

The right side has an 8.5"x11" page that I patterned on a diagonal.  Directly under that is a 8.5"x4" piece, also patterned on the diagonal.  Over the seam, I added an 8.5"x1" black strip and a 2.5" disc, just for decoration.

I glued all of these pieces onto the backing included with the frame, and framed it up.  Then I purchased some silver magnetic clips to put on the outside.  The magnet wasn't necessary, but I couldn't find anything I liked that wasn't magnetic.  I used hot glue to attach the clips over the top center of the 8.5"x11" piece.  Then I attached a circle cut to fit in the indent in the clip out of the black and white pattern and topped that with the kids' initials.

Using a wet erase marker, I can write on the frame! The day of the week section is for keeping track of playgroups this week, t-shirt day at preschool, homework that needs turned in, etc.  The monthly calendar has the schedule for the month.  The clip I can use to hold forms, homework, calendars from school.  In my youngest's case, his potty sticker chart.  At the bottom under the form area, I can write any notes that I need to keep track of.

So far, I feel SO much more organized!  Hopefully that is the end of the mad dash for filling out papers!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Organized Home Challenge - Week 3: Food Storage Areas

Oh, the pantry.  I have a love/hate relationship with my pantry.  I love it because it means I don't have to take up cabinet space in my kitchen with food.  However, it is a small pantry, and for someone who cans/preserves her own food, that's a problem.  It's also a deep pantry, which means it's very easy for things to get lost at the back of the shelves.  This week in the Organized Home Challenge, we are tackling this particular "problem area".  For me, it's really two areas: the pantry in the kitchen, and the area in the basement where  I store the food I've canned.  I wish there was a way to have it all together, but it's just not practical.

So, here are the before pictures of my pantry and canned-goods storage:

Yeah.  You can probably imagine why I can never find things in here.  It's become a routine of: bring home the groceries, shove them in the pantry as fast as you can, and move on to something else.  Well, I've ended up with duplicates of several things, expired cans, and a big mess.  So, it's time for a change!

Taylor gives lots of great advice on her site, and has several steps laid out.  It's really a terrific site, and I encourage you to pop over there and get started organizing your own home!  This week, though, I'm not going to lay out all of her steps.  It's not that I didn't do them, I just did it slightly differently.

The first thing I did was to draw out a layout plan for my pantry.  Then I began to sort.  My process was simple.  Take everything out of the pantry and put it in one of three piles:
1.  Trash - expired, stale, or opened but really not going to be used again items
2.  Put away - anything that needed to go back into the pantry
3.  Give away - anything that probably wasn't actually going to get used, or duplicates.  This will go to the food pantry.

Everything in the put away pile was then divided into categories:
1. cereal
2. grains (flour, oats, etc.)
3. cooking liquids (oils, vinegars, sauces)
4. drink mixes
5. staples (baking soda, sweeteners, arrowroot, cocoa powder, etc.)
6. crackers, popcorn, etc.
7. small baking supplies (baking chips, sprinkles, coconut)
8. spice mix packets
9. canned foods
10. snacks

Once everything was sorted, I began to put it away.  I had already planned where everything was going to go, so this was the easy part.
Top Shelf (1): Cereal and Grains.  Most of this is already in canisters that I've had around for a while.  However the canisters are different sizes and brands, so I do plan to eventually replace them with matching ones, just to look nicer.  (I also put protein powder on this shelf, since it didn't really fit in with any other group.)

Shelf 2: Cooking Liquids and Drink Mixes.  I took all of the bottles of oil, vinegar, worcestershire sauce, etc. and put them all on a metal cookie sheet.  This will help control drips, and also makes it easier to slide the tray out, look for what I need, and put it back.  Next to the tray, I'm putting miscellaneous things that don't seem to fit, but I need for a particular meal - spaghetti sauce, peanut butter,  taco shells.  Then I have all the drink mix type things - lemonade mix, koolaid for the kids, and my water flavoring packets.

Shelf 3: Staples.  This shelf still needs help.  Everything is in boxes, bags, or miscellaneous containers.  I plan to get new canisters to match and then label them, but so far I haven't found exactly what I'm looking for (that doesn't cost an arm and a leg).  So, instead of "after pictures" for this area, we'll call them "for now pictures".  I'll show you what it looks like when I get it all done, OK?

Shelf 4: Crackers, Popcorn, Baking Supplies, Spice Mixes.  I used baskets to group things together on this shelf.  We always have a lot of crackers on hand, and with a cub scout in the house we have several bags of popcorn.  There are grouped in a large basket.  I used a smaller basket for baking supplies, and an even smaller one for spice mixes.

Shelf 5: Canned Foods and Snacks.  Canned foods (meaning foods from the store that are in cans, not items I have canned myself) are not something I have a lot of.  Some people I know have shelves full of canned fruits and tomatoes and soups, but I don't like to use a lot of preservatives, so I do my own canning.  So this is a relatively small area, mostly containing cans that came home from my co-op and a few strange things like coconut milk and baby corn.  I do plan to get a little shelf to raise up the back row so I can see things more easily.  Next to the cans are snack baskets (or boxes).  The kids' snacks are all portioned out into snack bags (raisins, dried fruit, bunny grahams, etc.) and put in a basket.  They love being able to go to the pantry and get their own snacks!  My snacks (sugar free pudding, 100 calorie packs, nuts) are also portioned out and in a box.  My husband's Clif bars and a couple of bags of nuts are in a separate box.  I'm looking for some sliding drawers that go under the shelves to put the adult snacks in.

Floor: This is where I have the boxes for diet soda.  I'm also keeping my crock pot and blender in here.  Most of the appliances have moved to cabinets in the wet bar down in the den (small kitchen - wait until I can remodel!), but I use these two a lot.  So, I chose to give them some real estate in the pantry.

My canning shelves in the basement were already pretty well organized after this summer.  So, I didn't do a whole lot there, just a little straightening and putting away empty mason jars.

So, here are the "for now pictures".  Once I get my new canisters and slide out snack drawers, I'll give you the "final product"!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Organized Home Challenge - Week 2: Kitchen Cabinets

I'd like to report that my kitchen counters (and sink) have stayed clean and clear since the last challenge!  Woo hoo!  This is a major accomplishment!  I don't know if it's that things have a place now or if I just have it in my mind that I have to keep it organized since I did it, but it's working.  So, on to week #2 of the Organized Home Challenge!

This week we are organizing our kitchen cabinets and drawers.  This one really wasn't that hard for me, for two reasons.  First, I don't have a lot of cabinet space in my small kitchen, which means I haven't got a lot of space to collect unused items.  Second, I just sorted through stuff in the kitchen before Christmas, so there wasn't a whole lot to go through.

Step 1: Recall the Function of your Kitchen from Last Week
So last week, I decided my kitchen is for food prep/cooking only.  This means that the only things that should take up residence in my kitchen cabinets are items relating to this function.

Step 2: Declutter Your Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers
This was a two-part step.  Easiest was to declutter things that didn't belong in the kitchen and should be put away where they belong.  There was a screwdriver that needed to find it's way back to the garage, and (I hate to admit it) some "snakes" from the 4th of July that had gotten put in the cabinet above the sink with the paper plates.  Otherwise, things were pretty much good.

The other part of this step was to get rid of (trash or donate) things that were broken, duplicates, excess, or unused.  I did this when I cleaned out the cabinets back in December, but I was still able to find a few things that I really didn't need sitting around.  Several vases that I never used, a salt/pepper grinder set (how many do we need?), a BUNCH of water bottles.  I also found several mugs that were "sentimental".  We never drink out of them, and they were taking up valuable real estate, so they have moved to the basement to be dealt with when the time comes to address storage.

Step 3: Sort what is left according to how often you use it.
OK.  This was actually easy for me.  I'm short.  So, if I ever want to reach anything above the second shelf in my cabinets, I have to haul out the stool.  If I use it very often, it's already on a shelf I can reach.  So my cabinets were pretty well sorted already.  I guess being short does have some advantages!

Step 4: Strategically place everything in your kitchen cabinets and drawers according to their zones.
This was where my major cleanup came in.  I do most of my prep work on the counter next to the window.  The cabinets here held my good dishes and fancy serving pieces.  The mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, bakeware, etc. were all in the cabinets next to the stove.  So I did a big switcheroo and reversed them.  It makes a lot of sense, actually.  Especially since I have one of those annoying kitchen cabinets that goes back into a corner and you can't reach anything in it unless you empty the entire cabinet.  (In fact, as I was emptying the cabinet, on the top shelf way in the corner, I found a Betty Crocker hand mixer that must have been left here by the previous owners - at least 7 years ago.)  Now that is where my seldom used cut glass serving pieces are.  And I discovered I have way more cut glass serving dishes than I knew!

Step 5: Consider kitchen storage solutions for your drawers and cabinets to maximize use of your available space.
I have one drawer I'm thinking I may have to do something about.  It's that infamous "utensil drawer"?  The one with the measuring cups, rolling pins, whisks, ladles, etc.  Still going to think about how to handle that one!

So here are my before/after pictures.  Not as dramatic as last week, but the pantry is up next, and I guarantee there need to be some changes there! :)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Organized Home Challenge - Week 1: Kitchen Countertops

Are you an organized person?  For the most part I am: I make a lot of lists, I have a lot of binders, I plan plan plan!  I am great at making agendas, itineraries, meal plans, etc.  BUT my house has issues.  I have trouble finding things.  There are toys EVERYWHERE!  Forms that need to be turned in have no real home.  Mail...ugh.  Don't get me started there!

Last night, once again, I was browsing Pinterest.  Yes.  I know.  It's an obsession.  I can't help myself.  Is there a support group for this? :)  Anyway, I stumbled across this link for the Organized Home Challenge.    It looks like something easy to follow and really great!  So, I'm jumping in.  The challenge actually began with week 1 being January 1 (gee...go figure), so I'm a week behind.  But I think I'll catch up at some point.  If not, oh well.  At least I'll hopefully be more organized, right?!

So, week 1 is about kitchen countertops and the kitchen sink.  Yowzers.  This is an area we struggle.  I'll be honest - I loathe doing dishes.  So if something needs handwashed...yeah.  I'll eventually get around to it, but only when I have to.  And we have a lot of miscellaneous "stuff" on the counters, too: mason jars that have been emptied and washed but not put away, a plant (really?), papers, a hairbow of my daughter's, the toaster which was used at breakfast and left sitting there, a couple of milk jugs that I need to send to school with my daughter next week for a project they are doing...I could go on. In fact, here are the "before" pictures of the current state of my kitchen... (Disclaimer:  my kitchen is u.g.l.y.  It's original to the 1964 house and the decor shows it.  My 5 year plan includes a complete gut and remodel, but I haven't gotten there yet.  So, I'm stuck in the '60's.)

On to the organization:

Step 1: Think About the Function of Your Kitchen
Taylor over at Home Storage Solutions (whose blog this all comes from), lists a bunch of different functions a kitchen can sometimes have.  She then says "the key to kitchen organization is making each function of your space intentional".  Great point!  My kitchen is of course, where we prepare and cook food.  But it's become a dumping ground for papers, a jar storage area, and collection place for miscellaneous other stuff.  It's not the kind of kitchen where people congregate - too closed off and as I said before, ugly.  So, as far as function is concerned, this is (for now) going to be a one function room - cooking/prep of food.  Jars have a home - in the basement.  I just need to take them there.  Papers, etc. don't really have a good solution just yet, but for now they will join the clutter on the wet bar in the den until we get to those solutions (which looks like we'll start in week 10).

Step 2: Create Usable Counter Space and Clear Your Kitchen Table (Mostly)
This step requires you to clear your counters of both things that don't fit the function of the kitchen (papers, jars, hairbows, etc) AND things that do fit the function of the kitchen.  She says anything you don't use at least weekly should not be on your counter top.  Wow!  Good point!!!  A few things I have to find a new home for: canisters that at one point held flour and sugar.  Ummm...yeah.  I really never refill them.  I have other canisters in the pantry to hold that sort of stuff.  Why do I need these?  Because they matched the dishes?  The ones we got rid of several years ago?  Hmmm...And I have a really large bread box on the counter.  I also have a drawer where I actually keep the bread items.  There is always stuff piled in front of the bread box and I can't get to it anyway.  I do have a basket of spices that I use a lot.  I need a better spice solution, but it's what I have for now.  The knife block and utensil jar will stay, as will the spoon rest and the measuring cup set I use for measuring snacks.  The only other things remaining are a couple of cookbooks that I use all the time, and the collection containers for box tops/labels for school and poptabs for the Ronald McDonald House.  Which reminds me, I need to make a cute container for those box tops...

Step 3: Consider These Storage Solutions to Help Clear Counter Space
She has some good ideas here.  Nothing I really need at this point other than the spice solution.  My basket looks good, but just isn't big enough.  I'm thinking about asking my husband to help me put up a shelf under the cabinet that's the right height for my jars.  I only use jars from Penzey's anyway, so height isn't an issue.

Step 4: Create the Habit of Keeping Your Sink Clear of Dishes At Least Two Times Per Day
Ick.  This is where I fail.  Alright, alright.  I'll give it a chance.  At least most things can go in the dish washer! :)

So, how did I do?  Here is the "finished product".

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Puppy Hat

So, those of you that know my youngest, Jesse, know that he wears a lot of hats.  He's always rocking some sort of cute topper.  Unfortunately a lot of his warm winter stocking caps are getting a little too small.  After doing some searching on Pinterest and other websites, I found a bunch of really cute kids caps.  I decided to start with this one since I had leftover yarn from a sweater I made and I have all the right colors.

The pattern for the hat can be found here.  It was really easy to whip up, and only took a few days (with my limited free time).  I ended up making a teen size instead of the child since Jesse has a large head.  His head measures at 21", and the child size would have been too small.  After making the hat, I'd say the measurements given in the pattern are right on.  Mine is tan instead of yellow, and for some reason the ears look longer on mine.  But it is still really cute, and he's gotten a lot of complements on it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thank You, Cricut!

Have I mentioned before how much I love playing with my Cricut?

One of the new crafts I wanted to try this year was card making.  I'll be honest, it's a little harder than I thought it might be.  I'm still working out my technique, but each one I do gets better.  As a Christmas gift, I received the "Create a Critter" cartridge for my Cricut.  I love all the cute little animals and "accessories" to go with them!  This will be a great cartridge when I eventually get around to scrapbooking for my 3 kids!  Especially for trips to the zoo, circus, baby pictures, etc.  But, it has also made some really cute thank you cards that I am mailing out from Christmas.  A little late, I know - it took me some time to get them all made!

I did learn a few things:
1 - bigger is better!!  First, it's much easier to glue on the big pieces than the little pieces.  Sticky, sticky, sticky!!  Second, the little pieces don't always cut as cleanly as the big pieces.  Third, even when I planned it out on the computer and thought it looked too big, the actual cards came out a little smaller than I thought they would.

2 - Decorating the inside is just as important as the outside!  The first two I made, ("Merci" and "So Dear of You" below) just aren't as decorative.  Sure, they took less paper and less time, but the last two I did are just a lot more fun!!

I would love to hear from some card making pros... what sort of adhesives do you like to use?  Particularly for little teeny pieces?  If you have a fave, comment below, and I'll give it a try!

Here are the cards I have made.  Hope you like them!!