November 29, 2010

Several months ago CSN Stores contacted me asking me to do a review on my blog. I was hesitant. I didn't want my blog to become grand central station for advertising - which has happened to many blogs I like. But I confess, I did like the idea of getting something courtesy of CSN.

I went online and checked out their products. They have millions of products in their 100's of stores. I found a few products that I was interested in and felt worked for my blog. I narrowed that list down to one really awesome product I wanted to try out.

After receiving my code to place my order I noticed that the product was out of stock. I was disappointed, but I decided to wait. Nearly a month went by and the re-stock date was pushed back twice. Finally, I decided to spend more time searching on the site for something else. But I really wanted the original product. So I waited another month, and saw the date pushed back a few more times. Finally, I purchased something else. The Golla Lynne Camera Bag. I really needed a good camera bag and this one seemed like it would be the right size.

The package arrived and I was so excited!

Camera Bag - In the Box

Camera Bag - Arrived

The reason I liked this bag online was for the colors and the pretty design. Seeing it in person did not disappoint. It is so cute.

Camera Bag - Outside

The bag closes with a magnetic clasp. While I did like this, my husband the tech geek did mention that magnets are not good for the memory cards that most cameras need now, so I will be careful not to store my cards in the front near the magnets.

Camera Bag - Magnetic Clasp

There is a side strap to hold the flap down. It's nice when I'm walking and shifting the bag a lot.

Camera Bag - Side Strap

The front pocket is good to store cleaning supplies, UV filters, and I have my battery charger in there.

Camera Bag - Front Pocket

The inside has two padded adjustable inner walls to store and protect extra lenses, the flash, or whatever else you might want. Honestly, once I get my flash, and extra lens in there and the camera it's already starting to get tight. I am going to play with the arrangement. But when I'm doing shoots I usually only need two lenses, so it's a great size.

The inner fabric is really soft and smooth!

Camera Bag - Inside

I used the bag on my last shoot and just wore it over my shoulder the whole time. The strap is non-slip so as I moved around the bag didn't shift or get in my way. It was really nice.

I love the bag and would purchase it again given the choice. It works really well for my style and was really comfortable, not to mention it is one that actually looks good.

As for CSN I liked several things about the site:
  1. They have a lot of help for searching their stores. You can narrow the search down to the specific price you're willing to pay, choose your favorite brands, size, or colors - even shipping time! It depends on what you are looking at what search options you have.
  2. They have hundreds of products and stores to search through.
Now here's where I get completely honest - despite the fact that they sponsored this review. There were some things that really did not impress me about CSN:
  1. Their stores. For me, it made the entire site more confusing. For example: AllModern.com is just another CSN Store. Their stores are like trumped up departments in my mind. But once you get into a store there's not an easy way to search all of the stores. You have to go back to the main site, or go to a different store. I think for me it just complicates things more. I understand the division but some way of unifying it all makes more sense to me.
  2. I was disappointed that the product I wanted took over two months to be back in stock. (On a side note, they did send me a 10% off my next purchase as an apology just because I was on the email list for it.)
  3. For me, the companies biggest downfall is their prices. I'm a bargain shopper and always search for the best deal. I liked a lot of their products, but even with a credit to purchase from their store, I still couldn't justify a product that I could get $20 cheaper on another site. (I'm talking the exact same thing too, not some cheaper version.) The Golla Camera Bag was the first product that I found after hours of searching that was not cheaper somewhere else.
So while I love my new Camera Bag and am grateful to CSN Stores for their generosity, I confess I was not overly impressed with CSN. It was too overwhelming and too costly for me. I'll be sticking with Amazon.com.
My son is in love with trains. As is evidenced by the constant jungle of tracks running across his bedroom floor. Maybe someday we'll get a train table. For now I can often be found building contraptions like this:

Thomas Train Layout

Yes, he has a ton of track, and no it was not all purchased new. Thank Heaven for Craigslist! What cost us $150 would have been nearly $1,000 if purchased new.

A while back I wanted to make my train lover a special blanket to snuggle up with - when reading books, watching TV, or for naps. I had been making a lot of projects for other people and he asked me to make him something. (More like begged, hoping each new project was something for him.)

While at Walmart one day I found this pre-quilted panel. It's about the size of a baby quilt, but it was trains so I bought it and some extra fabric that matched perfectly.

I love that it was pre-quilted and I had very little work to do!

Pre-Quilted Train Quilt

I originally had plans to make it much larger, doing several rows of squares around the edge, but I decided to keep it simple. I did a 3 inch border of the back fabric on the front and a bright green minkee on the back. Then I just finished that with some bias tape. My one regret is not using a blue thread for the top-stitching. I think it would have looked better.

It was so easy and I think it looks so cute. Most importantly - my son loves it and loves that I made something especially for him.

The Front:

Train Quilt Front

Train Quilt Front Border

The Back:

Train Quilt Back

Train Quilt Back Border

November 27, 2010

It's not even December yet, and I am so excited to announce that I have 3 gifts left to purchase and a few more stocking stuffers. I have a few simple things left to make, but most gifts are finished. I hope to be finished by the end of next week! How did I do it? I have to admit, while I can take credit for the shopping I can not take full credit for being so organized. You see, I have a super organized husband. Every year after Christmas he creates a new spreadsheet for Christmas next year. Here's what it looks like (of course, this is not the complete list and it's edited to ):

Our Christmas List
Family Individual Giver      Gifts/Ideas Cost Purchase/Make Received/Finished Wrapped Delivered
Reno Monkey1 Mom and Dad PJ's $5 P R X
Monkey1 Santa Mac Truck Race Track $20 P
Monkey2 Mom and Dad Warm Buddy $25 P R X
Monkey2 Monkey1 Zhu Zhu Pet $4 P R
Reno Grandma All of us Yeah Right N/A M R X

I hope that makes sense for all of you.

Now, it's not just that he creates this list to help us stay organized, but he has it stored in Google Docs and shared with me. It's an awesome way for us to keep it truly up-to-date and on hand at all times. He can even access it from his phone when we're out shopping! ( No forgetting we already got something.)

Anyhow, I love that with 100's of days left until Christmas (well, more like 364) we already are writing down ideas for next year. That and when we think of something - we pull up the doc and enter it. Now, some of those ideas are scratched when we find great deals on something awesome, or when the idea just doesn't seem right anymore, but it's awesome to see the list slowly come together, things get ordered, purchased, and projects finished.

Another bonus is when I can look over the list while wrapping and shipping and make sure everything that needs to be in the package is there! If you haven't already sat down and made yourself a list - do it.

The fact that I can look over my list, see all of the things I have to make, and start getting ready early is awesome. (I am a procrastinator at heart, but I refuse to let that habit ruin our Christmas.) That means two things:
  1. I usually have way too much to make and get stressed. Of course looking at the list I can tell when it's too much so I eliminate some of those things by watching for deals.This year our PJ's were purchased. The boys were $5 each and ours to coordinate were about $14.
  2. There were some things I just really wanted to make so I started watching early for good deals. I can't wait to show you some of the gifts I have made.
Honestly though, the best part of all is how much money I save this way. I always watch for sales on specific items and when I'm reading my coupon blogs, check back to my list when an item catches my eye that is amazing. This year I got four gifts for free and only paid for shipping. These would have cost over $200, and while there's no way I would have got that gift at it's regular price I still saved about $20 per gift when I consider the other item I would have got them.

November 25, 2010

We just had a wonderful Thanksgiving at home. This was our first time with just us and the kids and I loved it. I am so thankful for my wonderful family. My husband, who never ceases to be wonderful, helped so much with much needed organizing today. We finally cleared away junk from our bedroom. Our boys were so much fun. They played, danced, sang, and laughed most of the day away. They love having their Dad home. Although the food was fantastic, delicious, and perfect, it was not my favorite part of the day.

I hope you all had a special day with ones you love. Now to finish my last few Christmas gifts. I have very little left to do, and it feels great! Good luck with your black Friday Shopping. I will probably be staying in the comforts of my own home shopping on Amazon.com. So much easier!


November 22, 2010

I love shopping to craft stores and fabric stores for inspiration. But when it comes to my card designs there are few stores to shop at for inspiration. Hence, it is common for me to be caught browsing through designs of several print media sites. One of my favorite go-to sites is Shutterfly.com. It's jam-pack full of eye candy for the designer to get inspiration. I often go there first before heading to some digital scrapbook store to look for fun papers or kits. Have you seen their beautiful cards yet? Well then, I must share a few:



Aren't they beautiful?

This Holiday Season, as I prepare for a simple Thanksgiving, and our first Christmas at home with the kids I'm trying to keep as many things easy as possible. That's why, for the first time, I'm going to use a Holiday Card that someone else designed!

I love that Shutterfly has Christmas Photo Cards of so many varying styles. Of course, it can make choosing one specific one hard. There are young and playful, modern, chic, elegant and classy. I have to admit though, this year I'm really finding myself attracted to some very simplistic styles.

I really like the cards that are mostly photo with a simple, yet striking, embellishment. Like these ones:





Of course, I like ones where the message and photo are more separated too:




I also really like the idea of having a group of photos on the card, like this one:


Which ones do you like?

I'm so excited with all the options I have to choose from. Of course, now that I've chosen my favorites, I have  to see how it will look with our recent family photos. It's so much fun to browse the pages and get ideas.


Disclosure Statement:

This post is a review for Shutterfly as part of their Holiday Card Promotion. For participating I will be compensated with 50 free cards from their Holiday Collection. If you have any size blog or website and would like to participate you can go here to sign up.

November 18, 2010

Several years ago I had to have some of those cute storage cube ottoman. Not only were they functional, but they were great footstools and great entertainment for my son (and of course, us in return as we watched him tip in and his little feet kick). But of course, they got worn with time and grime. They were still functional, but no matter how I washed them, I still didn't want to touch them.

See?

IMG_5028

IMG_5026

I replaced them with storage benches - one of which tore across the top, and then we did something really smart and purchased a huge ottoman when we got our new couches.

Of course, I new the cubes could still come in handy so I decided to make them a simple slip cover. I got extra fabric to match the fabric I have to make new pillows for my sofa.

I considered making a tutorial for you, briefly, but I checked if there was one out there first, no point in doing extra work. Brett Bara has a fantastic tutorial on Design Sponge. It's so close to how I made my slip covers you would think I used the tutorial. I'll show you what I did differently though.

IMPORTANT FOR GEOMETRIC PATTTERNS: Take the time and effort to line up the pattern on all sides of the ottoman. It might mean you waste a little more fabric, but the results are way more fantastic that way. I made sure to line up both covers to the same pattern and you can see in the pictures below how much better it looks because they line up so nicely!

I measured and cut out the fabric:

IMG_4794

I sewed the sides and checked the fit. Then adjusted and then sewed on the top. I hemmed it the same way.

The main difference is that after pressing the fabric and putting the cover on, I didn't like the look of the seams pressed in towards the top.

Seam pressed toward top:

IMG_5021

IMG_5022

For some reason it just didn't look right to me. I set it next to my couch and thought about it. I tried pressing it the other way and it still didn't look right. Oh boy can I be picky sometimes. So it sat beside my couch again for a few more days. Then one day it hit me. It needed a seam. So, with the seam pressed towards the sides, I did a quick top-stitching seam around the edge. I'm not sure my husband really noticed/cared about the difference. But in my mind it was exactly what the cover needed.

Seam top-stitched:

IMG_5023

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So there you have it. They look so much better and way more fun. They're going to sit by my couch and entry-way, but also be used at the little kids table when extra chairs are needed.

Before & After:

IMG_5030

Their new home (and a sneak peak at my new couches):

IMG_5033

* This fabric is Tiles - Celery  from Joel Dewberry's Ginseng in the Jasmine palette.

I'm linking this up to The CSI Project's Slipcover Challenge:

Visit thecsiproject.com

UPDATE: Much thanks to Kristi of Pink and Polkadot for featuring these slip covers among other fantasic covers for her Friday's Featured Slipcovers!

November 15, 2010

Last week I needed something easy to make for dinner. I just didn't have a ton of energy. So I whipped out my recipe for Impossibly Easy Taco Pie. It's a spiced up variation of Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie.

Unfortunately, when I opened the cupboard to grab the Bisquick I realized I didn't have any. But I had Krusteaz. Of course, after a quick search on the internet: "Substitute Krusteaz for Biquick" I came up with the answer "No. Not the same thing at all." Of course not. 1 calls for milk and eggs and the other just water. But that got me to thinking and I re-read the ingredients. It already has milk and eggs in the package. So I decided, on a whim, to give it a try.

Can I say - it was better than ever?! Krusteaz gave it that breaded taste, but the egg flavor was a lot more subtle! Wahoo!

Impossibly Easy Taco Pie

Impossibly Easy Taco Pie (With Krusteaz Buttermilk Pancake Mix)

pound Ground Turkey (or Lean Ground Beef)
1 medium Onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 package Taco Seasoning (1/4 cup)
1 4.5 ounce can chopped Green Chiles, drained
1 1/3 cup Krusteaz Buttermilk Pancake Mix
About 3/4 cup water - I mix it to a slightly runny pancake consistency
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese
Salsa
Sour Cream (if desired)


1. Heat oven to 400°F. Grease 9-inch pie plate. Cook ground turkey and onion in 10-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until turkey is brown; drain. Stir in taco seasoning mix (dry). Spoon into pie plate; top with chilies to taste.
2. Stir Krusteaz mix and water until blended. I mix this to a slightly runny pancake consistency so add more water if needed. Pour into pie plate.
3. Bake about 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 8 to 10 minutes longer. Cool 5 minutes. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

November 10, 2010

I've been working for way too long on editing some photos from a photo shoot. There were two families and hundreds of photos to sort through and then edit.

The results? So many favorites I don't know which ones to pick to show you. But I'm going to really hold myself back for your sake.

Red Bridge

Tender Father Daughter Moment

Flying High

Rock Bridge

Sisters

Stretched

Cousins

Family Walking

Mother Daughter Moment

In The Trees

Beautiful Family

November 7, 2010

I've already shown you the Invitations and the Bow-ties from the party. Let me show you a few more of the details.


I was inspired by Cheri's Little Man Tea Party. I loved her bow-ties, little mustache cakes, and mustache details.  But I also saw this Little Man Birthday on Create My Event. I loved the tie cookies and the mustaches on a stick. Adorable!


So after finding my inspiration, I began gathering the goods. Of course, like a good mother, I was still finishing things up as guests arrived. But it turned out fun and the kids all looked cute. I think the best part was how completely different it was for the little boys who got to dress up, wear bow-ties, and have fun.


The Food


Mustache Sandwiches, Chips and Vegetables and Dip. My awesome husband made the sandwiches using our newly acquired Mustache Lips Cookie Cutter.

Mustache Sandwiches

The Fun

The kids mostly just played with toys around the house, but they got to put on their new bow ties and apply the mustaches. We used these Finger Stache Temporay Tatoos and applied them directly above the lips as mustaches. They were so cute!


The Faux Stache

We decorated necktie cookies. I used these Necktie Cookie Cutters to make basic sugar cookies. We frosted them before letting the kids decorate. (Way less messy!)


Tie Cookies

We also had planned to play "Stick the Mustache on the Man" using this self adhesive Mustache Costume Set. Of course, with everything else going on we didn't play it until after all the guests were gone. The fake hair on them had my son laughing about them for a while. My husband found this picture to use for the game -it was perfect!



The Cake

I decided to make a large cake instead of the pettifors. It was his first birthday after all! I found a site with exactly the cake I wanted. Kristy Drake of Paisley Jade has some directions. Of course, mine did not look half as good as hers. 

I cut my circle and then paisley shapes out a the 9x13" pan. I didn't have a round pan.


Prepping the Mustache Cake

Then I placed it on my cake plate. It didn't fit properly so I ended up turning it on an angle. I frosted the middle and added a second layer. I came back a few minutes later to see it all collapsed and one top side broken. I fixed it the best I could and frosted it the best I could. I need to take a class on cake making/decorating.


Prepping the Mustache Cake

Here's the final look. I confess I edited the photo so it didn't look quite so bad.


Mustache Cake

The Goodies

For the kids to take home I made Chocolate Mustaches using this Mustache Lolly Candy Mold. They were so adorable and unfortunately I didn't get a picture of them. Next time. We also had little candies and some Crazy Loop Straws from the dollar store.