DIY

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for Advent!

We’ve all been doing it.  Pouring over Pinterest hour after hour prepping ourselves for this very month(ish) of holiday wonderment.

We’re all putting our Elves on our Shelves next to glazed donut cheerios.
We’ve all seen three million different ways to decorate cone forms as tabletop christmas trees.
Everybody and their mother’s got the family initial in an evergreen wreath on their front door.

But move over, burlap stocking DIY.  There’s one showstopper we’ve ALL got on our list.  That my friend, is the glorious DIY Advent Calendar!  Remember when those things were just fancy packages for candy and trinkets?  Oh Pinterest!  You laugh at such an antiquated notion!  Now instead of treats, each pocket is supposed to be filled with holiday themed activities.  24 of them for each December day before Christmas.

If you’re like me, at first you lit up at the idea of packing every magical December day with a fresh new memory for the spouse and children you love so dearly!  Hot cocoa and popcorn and Charlie Brown Christmas one night.  Tickets to “The Nutcracker” the next!  Holiday light viewing another night!!  A Christmas tree slumber party the next?!!!

Then reality sets in.  You don’t even know how you’re going to get your Christmas shopping in, let alone make time for the graham cracker snowman craft you’ve had pinned on your “Kiddos” board for the last three months.  Not to mention, like, the boring normal life stuff.  Work, laundry, exercise…  Oddly, the stuff that makes you busy and behind schedule in September is still there in December, no matter how much holiday magic you’d rather cram in instead.

So, call me a realist.  I know I can’t actually do everything I pin.  But at the same time, I now have this amazing Advent Calendar ready to hang, and nothing to put inside it!  (Giving my kids chocolate for breakfast every morning just doesn’t thrill me.  What can I say?)

Today, however, I had an epiphany.  My house isn’t ready to decorate yet.  I forgot to get out my Elf on a Shelf yesterday.  We’ve yet to officially ENTER the holiday season at this house, and frankly, the to-do list, albeit most enjoyable, can be a bit overwhelming when I think about my other responsibilities.  Exactly what all is even on my holiday to-do list?

Hm…  Well, for sure I’ll want to

  1. Put up the tree
  2. Light the tree
  3. Decorate the tree
  4. Take pictures of the kids next to the tree
  5. Hang the stockings
  6. Put out our nativity
  7. Read Elf on a shelf
  8. Make something pretty for my dining table.
  9. Decorate our windows.
  10. Wrap gifts
  11. Buy or make cards
  12. Sign and send cards
  13. Christmas baking

    AND THEN there’s the scheduled Christmas activities through various groups we’re involved in…

  14. Christmas Kids (and Parents) Night Out
  15. Christmas Groove Concert
  16. Pre-K Christmas Program
  17. Church Christmas Pageant
  18. Oh!  And Church Christmas Pageant Dress Rehearsal!
  19. School Christmas Party
  20. Work Christmas Party (Which for us, happens to be kid friendly!  Yay!)
  21. Christmas Eve Church services

    Hm… Well, those are interesting numbers.  At some point, we’d probably also like to

  22. Go for a drive to look at lights.
  23. Watch a Christmas movie with the kids
  24. Read a Christmas story book
  25. Make a craft or present with the kids
  26. Play in the snow
  27. Volunteer or donate to a worthy cause
  28. OR stay in our pajamas all day…

What do you know! There’s nothing on this list that my three year old (or even 1 year old) can’t participate in on some level!  And that’s way more than 24 items… all of which we’re intending to do ANYWAY!  Advent activity countdown, or no!

So, get smart people!  You CAN have it all… okay maybe not it all, but if you approach the classical Pinteresty advent activity thing as an organizational tool, rather than just another way to overextend yourself this holiday, it can actually REMOVE holiday stress from your month rather than compound it!

Sure, it’s a simple notion, just write everything on slips of paper and stick it in your advent countdown device thingy of choice.  Sync it with your calendar, and keep a few simple substitutes on hand in case you need to switch out a big plan for a simpler plan one day  (Heck!  Maybe that’s where the candy comes in!).  But then your Christmas to-do list is organized, broken down day by day, and done in a slow and steady way that involves your kids!  What could be better?

Did I miss anything on my list?  What are some of your absolute HAVE-TOs during the holidays?

 

Categories: Activities, children, Christmas, DIY | 1 Comment

Yummy Chicken Curry

Bectoria here. I love eating a variety of different foods from all over the world. At the same time, unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of eating out. When I do, the quality of the food I eat is literally put in the hands of others. To remedy this conundrum, I often try to replicate flavors at home. Doing so often provides its own unique set of problems. One being that I sometimes can’t find good recipes, often making the effort to replicate a flavor very time consuming. Also, and equally as frustrating, the final product is often inconsistent. When discussing this with a dear cousin, she suggested creating my own recipes by measuring out everything I put into a dish. (Oh! You mean, like, what real cooks do? Why didn’t I think of that!) To prevent this task from becoming too tedious she offered to come over and help. Naturally I jumped at the chance and last night we took on chicken curry.

Here’s what we came up with…

Chicken Curry (yeild: 4 servings)

Ingredients:

2 Chicken Breasts

8 oz. broth

1 – 13.5 oz can Coconut Milk

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Garlic Powder

½ tsp Cumin

½ tsp Saffron

½ tsp Salt

1 Tbsp Curry Powder

2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Vegetables of Choice

Method:

Brown Chicken Breasts in a large saucepan on both sides, removing while still a bit pink in the middle

Set chicken aside to rest

Add broth to the saucepan

When broth is heated through whisk in other ingredients

Add vegetables of choice

Slice chicken and add back to the sauce

The recipe is complete when the chicken is completely cooked through

Add the curry to saffron rice or couscous and enjoy!

Categories: DIY, Food | Tags: | Leave a comment

8 Simple Dresses

By Bectoria Crandall

“Sigh. What on earth am I going to wear today?” Cue 15-20 minutes of frustrating outfit trial and error.

Layering it up for a movie I was in. Wardrobe loved it!
(The Glasses were a Joke!)

If the above scenario haunts you each morning, trust me. You’re not alone. I’ve mentioned in other posts that once upon a time ago I was a very busy lady. At one time in my life I was attending grad school, working for CPS full-time (a million plus workweek-trust me!) all the while filling the rest of my time raising foster children. It was during this very busy part of my life that I developed a new strategy for dressing myself. I guess I just finally got tired enough of the nagging question mentioned above and decided one day to do something about it. Since then I’ve found that sticking with this strategy has allowed me to save big whilst dressing to the nines.

What’s my secret? The number eight. Okay, so NOW I’m starting to sound as quirky as my other posts! Let me explain…

Many ladies spend gobs upon oodles of money on various wardrobe items without giving too much thought to just how useful that item actually is.

Okay, so confession time… Those within my closest circles know I tend to splurge on little treasures dreamed up by my girl, Kate Spade. This is a fault that I’ve grown to live with over the years.

Setting my own little vice aside, allow this hypocrite to tell YOU how to be more frugal. Instead of wasting time and money on the insanity of fashion randomness why not plan out some bangin’ go-to outfits that you will love living in? How many you ask? Aha! That’s where my magic number comes into play!

Put simply, there are seven days in a week. If I only see you on Tuesdays and have just eight outfits in my wardrobe, then you won’t see me in the same outfit for quite some time. If you do see me on a daily basis, you’re not going to catch onto my trick because I’m still changing my stylish look every day and not falling back on the same, boring “old reliables”. Catch my angle? Here’s how I do it…

Let’s say I’m building my summer wardrobe. First I’m going to choose my base garments. I love summer dresses. And YES! I do keep a simple black summer dress in regular circulation throughout the season. (Nana-nana-boo-boo’s on you, Mac!). I also have some fun and flirty summer blouse & skirt/shorts combos that I like to wear. From here, I lay out the eight base garments or combos on my bed.

Building a seasonal warbrobe from what you have is very frugal but doesn’t mean you can’t go shopping and add to your wardrobe. I’m merely suggesting that you add some strategy and dare I say “savvy” to your shopping. When I’m at the stage of selecting my base garments, I check what’s missing. Maybe I have an awesome skirt but no proper blouse. I make a note of the item and then jot some ideas as to what could go with it.

Don’t tell Stephanie, but I’ve recently become more phone savvy and now store this info in my phone so that I can have it readily at-hand when I hit a great sale. This trick allows me to stay frugal while keeping myself fashion-forward.

Newly put-together outfits can replace or be added to your eight at any time. The point is that focusing on a minimal amount of “outfits” will allow you to look amazing without breaking the bank!

Quick Tip: Each season has its own unique wardrobe challenges. Weather, proper color and proper fabric cut and weight come to mind. I use these considerations at the beginning of each season to build a wardrobe that will work for me. (Hot Tip: Some items can cross-over into different seasons. Bonus

Note: Different outfits can have different looks with the right layers to compliment. For example, tossing a cute jacket over a simple summer dress can make it double as the perfect outfit for a girl’s night out. Take that same dress and layer it up with some nice jewelry and you’re ready for a more formal setting. I love picking out and taking note of all of my options. (Hint: Doing this will help train you to shop for more versatile pieces in the future).

Once I have my base garments selected, I move on to building each outfit in layers. First, I match outfits with shoes and purses. I then move on to more accessory-ish type of stuff. Jewelry, scarves, hats, belts, you name it can really add that finishing touch to whatever you’re wearing.

From here, I make sure that I have ideas in mind for if the weather suddenly changes. I match up jackets, long pants, you get the idea.

FYI: I recently added an exercise regimen to my daily grind. Here’s a shocker… Being a SAHM with little ones, my “morning” exercise routine can, at times, get delayed. Rather than scrubbing it in baggy sweatpants for half my day, I opted to pick some cute exercise clothes that look half-way presentable in the event I have to venture into public before I become fully human and am still in my “workout” clothes. I use the same strategy of “8” for my workout wardrobe.

Okay, so if you’re reading my workout paragraph and you’re good at math, you’ve found out my secret. Sometimes the laundry doesn’t get done on the same day each week! Don’t judge me!!!

Once I have my outfits matched up, I organize everything by taking photos of each look. These photos are then posted on the inside of my closet door. Sounds a little obsessive, I know, but man is this quick reference helpful at 7AM! I then hang my clothes in an order that works best for me and voila! I’ve got a hot wardrobe all set to go!

I realize that my methods often look like a hot mess of madness, but I gotta tell ya, I am constantly being complimented on my outfits. So, give it a try! I only hope that incorporating my strategies will bring you the same luck.

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Stuff the Soap & Sanitizer! A Genius & Germ Free Solution!

By Bectoria Crandall

Keeping kids clean is always a fun challenge. As we head into the summer months, I have no doubt that plans are rapidly being made for all types of summertime activities. Whether it be a day at the zoo, a play date at the park or even some fun in the sun in your own backyard all moms will soon face the all too familiar challenge of keeping kids hands clean and germ free.

While at a birthday party this past weekend, Stephanie and I saw the most ingenious idea for meeting the challenge of keeping kid’s germ free. We were at Bricks4Kids in Westlake, Ohio. The kids were about to take a much-needed pizza break (vegan free, I know!) when we saw it. The hand sanitizer all of the kids were using was made kid-friendly in the easiest of ways. The owners had placed little Lego pieces inside the bottle of hand sanitizer, making it cute, fun and irresistible. Genius!! Stephanie and I got all sorts of excited and immediately began taking pics of this creative solution. Totally pin-able!

This got me thinking. You know all that little plastic stuff your kids are drawn to and insist on hoarding? Instead of breaking your foot on them a thousand times, why not make them useful? These little “treasures” can be made into a fun, kid-friendly bathroom accessory. Just place them inside of a bottle of clear soap and whamo! You’ve just created a soap dispenser your kids will love-and use!

As most moms know, keeping a large bottle of hand sanitizer in your car is a summertime must! Why not cutie it up with some random & fun summer junk? With my mind racing I took the next available minute I had and began cramming my soap and hand sanitizer dispensers full of little plastic odds and ends my kids would be drawn to. The result? The hand sanitizer in my car now has little toy cars inside. The one in my garage is full of jacks and little rubber balls. The soap dispensers in our house are full of erasers (that never work anyway!), silly bandz and small plastic animals. My kids love what I created and made me promise to let them help the next time I feel the urge to fancy up some soap.

I urge all smartypants to try this creative solution. I’d love to hear what everyone comes up with!

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Make Your Own Blanket Binding

By Bectoria Crandall

Ask any costume designer and we’ll all tell you that there is nothing that can stifle the creative process quite like a budget. Ugh! Budget! The B-word! Much of a show’s costume budget can go to the little nitpicky things that make costumes work. Buttons, frog clips, you name it. The second issue costume designers have to consider is usability (oh yeah. It’s a word!). When designing many of my costumes I have to keep in mind that the actors wearing them will often need to change quickly. It’s not uncommon for actors to change to different costumes during a show.

Example: When she was in Wizard of Oz, my own daughter had to be quickly changed backstage in no time flat in order to make it out in time for curtain call. Her other costume was completely different from head to toe, so she had to move fast! I’m talkin’ seconds here, people. Sometimes I’m glad I’m not a backstage child wrangler!

One thing that makes quick changes easy are elastic waistbands. When I’m spending time on a beautiful costume, however, I’m not going to want some ugly elastic waistband to detract from the overall look. The solution? Blanket binding!

Blanket binding is like a fat ribbon that has a crease right down the middle. It’s used to hide the edge when sewing blankets but can also be used as a casing for elastic when making garments. I recommended using a blanket binding in my post “Getting the Most Out of Your Daughter’s Dress You Spent $1 Million On”. (Catchy name, I know). Well, blanket bindings are one of those little nitpicky things that can eat up a budget. My suggestion? Hike up those smartypants and make your own! I made my own blanket bindings to hide the elastic waistbands for a batch of fairy dancer costumes I recently made. Here’s how I did it…

Materials…

Fabric

Measuring Tape

Scissors

Iron

Needle and thread or sewing machine

Straight Pins (Optional)

Method…

Cut Fabric into long strips. The strips should be long enough to fit waist size (usually at least 25-30″) and wide enough to work as a casing (usually at least 2 1/2″)

Strip of Satin

Fold and iron edges of fabric over 2X to create a 5/8″ seam around all edges of strips

Pin seams in place with straight pins (optional)

Fold strips in half and iron to create a crease

Hand or machine stitch seams of binding (optional)

-and you’re done! You now have a blanket binding to complete whatever project your heart desires!

Categories: Crafts, DIY | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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