freebie: kind valentines

It’s the week of Valentine’s and today, I’m bringing you a fun free printable for some kind valentines. I know, I know, I’m way past the school age where handing out valentine’s is expected but I just can’t help myself.

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So, I made these simple and fun valentine’s in photoshop. They don’t have any names and they aren’t necessarily mushy. They’re just nice.

I thought it would be fun to hand them out kind of randomly. On a table at Starbucks, under someone’s windshield wiper, maybe a mailbox or two? This February 14th, I just want to make someone’s day.

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And, here’s a printable for you. You can just cut them out and hand them out to anyone who could use some extra love this week.

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Download the free printable here!!

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? J and I usually like to avoid the rush and hang out at home together, and for two home-body dorks, that’s mighty fine!

{I linked up at Home Stories A to Z!}

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easy decor switch to welcome in the new year!

Here we are on the very last day of 2012. It’s the time for reflection and resolutions, but I want to talk about what’s really important… decorations! (Just kidding, all the mushy goals stuff is scheduled for Wednesday!!) But honestly, I feel like New Year’s Eve gets the shaft as far as decorating goes. It’s right after Christmas and people are tired and just trying to get their holiday decor packed up, so I wanted to share a quick switch that celebrates the coming of the new year, but doesn’t really require a whole lot of effort: a resolution tree!

NYE Resolution Tree (6) copyI took down all of our special Christmas ornaments and replaced them with as many gold bulb ornaments as our tree could handle! I bought these shatter-proof gold and silver ornaments from an after Christmas sale in 2009 and they are perfect for achieving that glitzy New Years feeling! I also added some crazy glittery garland that I snagged from Hobby Lobby in my traditional “day after Christmas” shopping trip for $3.00.

NYE Resolution Tree (2) copyNext, I just got some squares of black paper and used a silver metallic sharpie to jot down some of our goals for the year!

NYE Resolution Tree (3) copyIt’s a super simple, cheap switch that is still festive and inspiring! With the lights on, everything glitters and it’s really motivating to look over and see my goals for the year staring me in the face.

NYE Resolution Tree (4) copyThe tree will come down soon, but I don’t like to pass up an opportunity to decorate! And since our New Year’s Eve plans mostly consist of staying home, cracking a bottle of champagne, and heading to bead around 10:00pm, I wanted to make sure we gave 2013 some recognition as it rolls in!

Do you decorate for New Years? What are your plans for tonight? Going out? Staying in? Let’s hear it!

an ornament storybook for your special decorations!

Well, it’s finally the Friday before Christmas and I’m just in time to share the final project on our Christmas To Do list: creating a story book for our special ornaments.

Ornament Book Promo

We try to add at least one ornament to our collection every year that has a significant meaning or connection to our little family. Sure, sometimes I buy little random ones like an owl and these cute metal drink glasses from Crate & Barrel to fill out our tree, but my favorites are the ones that have a story behind them.

So, I fired up photoshop and created a template for each page going inside the book. Even though I really loved the idea of having an actual book made for this, I wanted to make sure it could be easily updated with new ornaments, so I chose a red mini binder from staples and also picked up some page protectors to keep my pages looking pristine from year to year.

Ornament Book - Solemateys

I chose deep jewel tones for the pages to keep it on the traditional side but still a little unique. I grabbed a cute free font from dafont.com (this one is Learning Curve) and typed up a little explanation of the ornament and the year we got it for each one.

Ornament Book - Golden Snitch(Yes, I’m an adult and I love Harry Potter. We both do actually! It’s amazing and awesome and I’m not afraid to admit it!)

I still need to create a nice cover page, but I am so in love with how it turned out and I can’t wait to keep adding to it every year. It will be really neat to share with our future kiddos and maybe even pass down.

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Do you have a way to remember your special ornaments and decorations? I’d love to hear about them!

easy, cute, & free salt dough gift tags (+ present wrapping tips!)

Christmas presents have become somewhat of a sport to me. I love the challenge of finding the perfect gift for someone (especially if they are notoriously hard to by for like my dad, dad-in-law, and husband. And now that I’m a grown up and have a real job, I took the opportunity to really have fun with gifts this year. I won’t reveal anything yet to keep prying family eyes in the dark, but I’m pretty proud.

One of the things on my super fun Christmas To Do List was to spruce up our presents with some easy and cheap (my all-time favorite combo) salt dough gift tags (like these!). This project is simple, easy to customize, and saves you all that printer ink! Because even though all those printable gift tags are adorable, my printer’s poor little cartridge just can’t handle it.

For this project you’ll need 1 cup flour (plus extra), ½ cup salt, ½ cup water, a rolling pin, cookie cutters, and a tray lined with wax paper.

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Mix the flour, salt, and water in a large mixing bowl until a smooth dough forms. I kept adding flour until it wasn’t sticky any more.

Flour your work space and use your rolling pin to spread the dough. I would estimate that I stopped at around ¼ inch thickness. You’ll want to make sure they’re thick enough to be sturdy after drying; not thin and brittle.

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Then, use your cookie cutters to cut out shapes and place them on your lined tray.

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Since it was my first time with this project, I just kept it simple with circles and used a tiny heart stamp to make an imprint.

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Use a straw to cut holes into the shapes so they can easily be tied to presents.

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Now, you wait. I let my tags sit for about 3 days, turning them over about twice per day to make sure they were drying all the way through.

When they’re completely done drying you can decorate them more with craft paint, stamps, or sharpies! I chose the latter and add names with a gold metallic marker.

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And, here’s the finished product. For my presents, I stuck with brown kraft paper and made bows using different shades of green fabric. There’s something really charming about fabric bows and how they fray a little around the edges after tying them. Plus, if you stick with broadcloth or discount fabrics, you can get away with spending much less than if you went with fancier ribbons!

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I also always put presents in boxes if I can help it. Not that there’s anything wrong with gift bags, but I personally loving boxes and I think it adds a little more excitement to the unwrapping process.

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And there you go. A super easy, practically free project to make unique and personal gift tags! What do you’re presents look like this year? Do you stick with a theme? Change it up from year to year? Or stick with the basics like kraft or newspaper? Share below!

glitter is the new red nose

Rudolph is getting a glamorous make over! We’re back today with another super easy holiday project! This glitter reindeer silhouette has been all over Pinterest and I just had to have it for this Christmas! I love glitter and, honestly, I just need more of it in my life!

And, what’s more, this is another super simple project! For this all you need is a small-ish canvas (mine is 12×12), glitter, modpodge, small paint brushes, a deer silhouette (I pulled mine off of google), and a pencil.

Glitter Reindeer Canvas 1 (1)

First off, trace the outline of your silhouette onto your canvas.

Glitter Reindeer Canvas 1 (3) Next, add a thin layer of mod podge inside the silhouette. I worked in small sections to make sure that the mod podge didn’t dry too quickly. I also used a chunkier glitter because I had it on hand, but I think that a finer glitter might work a little better for smoother coverage.

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Keep working, until the whole silhouette is filled. For extra staying power, I used a clear spray sealant to cover the whole canvas to keep the glitter in place.

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And to finish, I added a deep Christmas red border around the canvas to spruce it up. Done!

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Another, super easy project done and some extra Christmas cheer added to our home!

We’re now nine days away from Christmas so it’s time to start pulling out the stops! I’ve got the holiday cards in the mail, present shopping is done, and we’re almost done with our fun Christmas to-do list! Which of your holiday tasks remain?!

nutella hot cocoa with candy cane marshmallows

Well, the cold finally kicked in down here in Texas. Not that it will actually stay chilly for long, but it’s nice to have actual winter weather at all. Anywho, the dropping temperatures made this past weekend the perfect time to make some homemade hot cocoa!

Homemade Hot Chocolate Promo copy

Now, I grew up on the powdered stuff, with the tiny cardboard-textured marshmallows, so I was pretty certain I would like the homemade version. Oh my goodness, was I right. Seriously, this recipe is so rich and filling; it’s amazing. And combined with the homemade peppermint marshmallows I whipped up, you might as well just call it a day! And I’m going to give you the recipe for both!

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Now, the recipe just for you!

Homemade Nutella Hot Chocolate: (Adapted from Honey & Fitz)
Ingredients:
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
– 1 10 oz bag dark chocolate chips
– 5 cups milk
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 big tablespoons nutella

Directions:
1. Heat all ingredients over the stove on medium-high, stirring frequently. And, DONE!

Candy Cane Marshmallows:
Ingredients:
– 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
– 3 cups sugar
– 1 1/4 cup light corn syrup
– 1 1/2 c. water (divided in half)
– 1/4 tsp. salt
– 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
– 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
– Powdered sugar

Directions:
1.Spray a 9×13 pan liberally with non-stick spray, line with parchment paper, then spray again. Don’t skimp on the spray!
2. Pour 3/4 cup water into mixing bowl and sprinkle in gelatin. Let sit for at least 5 minutes.
Combine sugar, syrup, salt, and the remaining 3/4 cup water into a medium sized pot. Boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Without stirring any further, heat to 238F (use candy thermometer). When it’s ready, it will start to look bubbly and foamy on top.
3. Pour done syrup slowly into mixing bowl. Work up to a high mixing speed and continue to beat for about 12 minutes until stiff, fluffy, and white.. I usually like to put a towel over my mixer to contain the steam and any potential splatter while I’m increasing speed.
4. Spread into prepared pan and let sit for 3 hours uncovered. If you want to add the red swirls, add a few drops of red food coloring (I usually use the gel kind so as not to water down the marshmallows) and swirl with a toothpick.
5. When done setting, spread top with powdered sugar and then release onto a clean surface covered in more powdered sugar. Cut into squares with a sharp knife and dip all sides into powdered sugar and enjoy!

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The awesome thing about serving up from scratch hot chocolate and marshmallows is that they aren’t really that hard to make but they’re things that most people buy pre-made, so the homemade version always feels like a super special treat.

And if you want to grow this treat up a little, you can add some candy cane vodka! We used this recipe (which was on our Christmas to-do list) and it certainly warms you up!

What are your favorite holiday treats? Do you have recipes because I’d love to try them out!!

christmas is for the birds

Christmas is inching closer and closer, which means it’s time to get cracking on our fun Christmas to-do list! One of the items we listed was making some cute bird seed ornaments for the tiny trees outside of our apartment. We are lucky enough to have our patio look out into an actual nature seen (as opposed to a well-frequented doggy business area like at our last place!), so I thought we’d take the opportunity to enjoy it and maybe tempt some pretty birds to hang out with us!

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I found this super easy tutorial over at saltwater-kids and it worked out wonderfully! It was a simple project that took less than an hour (not including drying time) and I’m so pleased with the finished product. I made sure to really spray my cookie cutters with a non-stick cooking spray to ensure they would come out intact and I also let them dry over night, just to be safe.

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I chose fun shapes from my plethora of cookie cutters to make them more interesting. I’ve got hearts, leaves, acorns, and stars. Maybe the birds have a shape preference, who knows? But at least we’re prepared!

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I ended up with a few to many to pile onto our tree, so I set of with some ribbon and a few birdy ornaments in hand and put them on some other trees around the complex as well. Hopefully, other families nearby will enjoy some flying friends!Bird Seed Ornaments (13) copySo, we added a little Christmas cheer to our small outdoor area and got another fun item crossed of our to-do list! I also ordered my last Christmas present today and will be mailing our Christmas cards out tomorrow! I am on a roll!!

How are you doing this holiday season? Are you getting things done ahead of time or do you end up partaking in the last minute rush? And what kind of outdoor decorating do you do for the holidays? I’m curious! (especially if you live in an apartment!!)

christmas crafts: easy diy painted wood ornaments

I usually try to do at least one DIY ornament every year to add to our collection of special ornaments. This year I jumped on the crafty train early and I made two types of DIY ornaments. On my Christmas to do list, I shared this photo as inspiration for a cool, customizable DIY ornament made from small wood discs.

Ya’ll, this project is super easy and they look adorable on our tree! And the whole thing was so inexpensive that you could make change up your color scheme from year to year.

A tutorial is almost unnecessary, but here it is anyways.

You’ll need small wooden discs (I picked mine up from Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon!), craft paint in whatever colors you desire, paint brushes, and tape. Depending on how you plan to hang them, you also might need to have a drill handy.

Disc Ornament 1

The first thing I did was use different size tape pieces to create fun patterns on the discs.

Disc Ornament 3

Next, add your paint. I did about two coats on each disc just to make sure everything was covered.
Disc Ornament 4

Peel of the tape and you’re almost home!

As an extra measure, you could also add a thin layer of Mod Podge over both sides of the dried ornament just to give it a little bit more of a sheen.

I used our drill to make a small hole towards to the top of the ornament so we could add hooks. One tip here; take your time drilling the holes. The discs are pretty thin to begin with and you don’t want to split the wood, so move at a slower pace with consistent medium pressure.

Now just hang and enjoy!

Wood Disc Ornament Combo copy

I also whipped up a few more discs in fun bright colors and added magnets to the back for some fun, year-round fridge decorations! A few live in our kitchen and I gave a few to John and Sherry of Young House Love at the Dallas book signing as a little “welcome to Texas and also we should be friends” gift.

Do you partake in DIY ornaments? What are your favorite ones? Share below!

I’m also sharing over at Hi Sugarplum for the Christmas Craft party! Join in!!

Holiday

let’s get merry & bright!

It’s time to share our Christmas decor! Truth be told, I’ve had the apartment decorated for almost two weeks now, but I try to keep up my whole sanity front, so I’ve waited to debut our decorations until today.

This year, we went simple and with a more non-traditional color scheme (which I’m loving!). Christmas Decor  (1) copy

We kept our cute little Christmas tree and also the DIY ruffled tree skirt I made last year. One tip I have for making a tree look great is to really pile on the ornaments, so that’s what we did. Ours is pre-lit so we don’t have to worry about lights, but if you lighting your tree it’s best to start with those first.

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Next, move on to garlands and greenery to fill in any empty looking spots. I found these great green poinsettias at Michael’s to add some extra interest to our tree.

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And lastly, bling out your tree with as many ornaments as you can fit. Another good tip is to have ornaments of different sizes. Our tree has a full range of ornament sizes and shapes like traditional balls, icicles, and our special ornaments that make it fun and interesting to look it.

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I picked up two new stockings from Target. I’ve been love the chunky knit trend that’s been coming up a lot lately and the colors on these were perfect. They tie in fantastically with our current décor which makes everything look festive but still cohesive.

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I also whipped up a tiny Christmas vignette complete with a glittery reindeer. Because, what’s the holidays without some glitter, right? A small vase of candles and a dapper red and white bow make it undeniably Christmas. And make sure you stick around because I’ll have a tutorial on the cute glittery reindeer canvas art coming to TLC soon!

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In the dining room, I added some tear drop shaped ornaments to our falling leaves installation. I thought about taking all of the leaves down and doing all ornaments. But the leaves are still have that great holiday color and they make the whole thing super light which takes the stress off of the fishing line we used to hang the branch.

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And, of course, we also have our card display frame and a jolly Christmas print which I showed a sneak peek of in this post about not having a mantle. Seriously the card display frame was super easy too. Just ribbon taped around the frame (tightly!) and mini clothes pins to hang cards. Free and cute!2012 Holiday Decor

2012 Holiday Decor (2)

So we kept it cheap and simple, but we still got a lot of bang for our holiday buck with this year’s decorations.

How is your house shaping up for the holidays? Do you stick with the same decorations each year or mix it up?