Archive for the ‘ Reviews & Recommendations ’ Category

Small things…big impacts

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 4 months since tornadoes took several rural Alabama towns literally to the ground. For those of us who don’t see the recovery taking place everyday it’s easy to think that things are cleaned up and rebuilding is well underway…but in some areas it literally still looks like the storms came through days ago. It’s shocking how far so many still have to go. Thankfully there are still people working, people donating, and people making a difference. In light of that, I’ve decided to post several small ways that we could all make a small difference. Small differences add-up!

For the cost of a stamp you can: Collect Box Tops & Soup Labels

Box Tops are found on various General Mills products that you already buy, like Avery, Scott, Cottonelle, Pillsbury, and other product packaging. For example we by Cascadian Farms granola bars, and they have Box Tops on them. We cut them off the packaging before it goes into the trash or recycle bin, collect them in a ziplock bag in our kitchen and mail them in once a month or so.  Same goes for Campbell’s soup labels…especially with cooler temperatures just around the corner (hopefully).

Box Tops 4 Hackleburg
This is a grass roots endeavor on Facebook, put together by a Birmingham mom and attorney to collect Box Tops for Hackleburg, Alabama schools. Hackleburg schools were destroyed which means they are starting over.She plans to deliver everything collected mid-September so you still have time to mail them a few!   
Click here for more information & Shipping Information

Box Tops for Schools Damaged by Tornadoes
This is another Facebook group started by a mom in North Alabama.  She is working to collect General Mills Box Tops as well as Campbell’s Labels for Education.  Whereas the group above is focusing on Hackleburg, Alabama schools, this group is working to distribute their collections amoung several schools effected by the April tornadoes.  They have already shipped collections to several schools in multiple states and are working with the coordinators of other effected schools to keep the effort going.  Click here for more information & shipping information

For the cost of shipping you can: Share pre-loved baby items

Boots on the Ground 365
This is a group of moms also near the Birmingham, Alabama area who have set out to help expectant moms who lost everything on April 27th gather the things they need to bring their new babies.  They are looking for new or pre-loved but in great shape baby items to help these families focus on the new blessing in their life, and even throw full baby showers for these moms-to-be.  One of the families they are helping is from my hometown…they lost so much more that most of us could even fathom, and these ladies are making a huge difference.   Click here for more information & Shipping Information

For less than $10 you can: Donate school supplies for devastated areas

Magnolia Disaster Relief

This is a group from the Atlanta, Georgia area.  They came together after the Tuscaloosa tornado, as volunteers from various organizations came together to help get relief items to the more rural areas that were effected by the storms.  Their mission is to aid our neighbors who have been affected by disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, etc.). We especially focus on areas that have been overlooked by national media and national organizations such as the Red Cross or United Way.   They work directly with rescue squads in these areas to make sure that only the needed items are brought in, and that they are taken to places where they can be distributed to those in need.  Now post-tornado they are working to make “hit kits” with all the essentials (water, food, toiletries, tarps, etc) for a small community affected by a disaster (tornado, hurricane, flood, fire, etc). The kits will be stored throughout the Southeast and be delivered to communities directly after a disaster strikes. Then, they will work directly with rescue squads in these areas to match requests for help with resources to meet those requests.

One of the projects they are working on right now is gathering school supplies for the children in these rural areas who are still recovering post-storm.  Click here for a list of items needed & shipping instructions  and click on their logo above to learn a bit more about them and the ways you might be able to help them out!

Review: Dutch Monkey Doughnuts

Buttermilk Cake Doughnut from Dutch Monkey

Buttermilk Cake Doughnut

Those of you who follow me on twitter have already heard of my love of these doughnuts, so today I’m sharing that love with the blogosphere.  Dutch Monkey Doughnuts is a small, local doughnut shop in the northern suburbs of Atlanta that believes in making things from scratch and as locally obtained as possible.  I had to smile when they posted the following tweet last week:

“So, a salesman from a doughnut shop supply company just dropped by, looking to add us as customers. The look on his face when I told him that we make all of our fillings, doughs and batters from scratch was priceless! “You make your blackberry jelly from real blackberries?” “Yup.””

These aren’t your standard glazed variety doughnut, with flavors like red velvet cake, carrot cake, jalapeno-cheddar w/bacon,  pineapple coconut lime fritters, and the infamous dutch monkey they take it to the next level.   I’m not a breakfast person but I love their cake doughnuts, they are like having permission to eat dessert for breakfast! 🙂  The standards are available daily (closed on Monday) but the real treat is the daily specials!

Standard Menu Includes: Raised Glazed, Chocolate Iced, Strawberry Iced, Cinnamon Sugar Rings, Buttermilk Cake, Creamsticks, Maple Bars, Apple Fritters, Cinnamon Twists, Buttered Maple Bacon, Lemon Meringue, Boston Creams, Cinnamon Rolls and The Dutch Monkey

Did I mention they also have the cutest little shop ever complete with porthole windows and step stools to allow the curious a glance at them hard at work in the kitchen?  If you are up GA 400 north direction take a detour off Exit 13 and pick up a yummy doughnut…I’m 100% certain you’ll thank me!

Dutch Monkey Doughnuts
3075 Ronald Reagan Blvd
Cumming, GA  30041

Tuesday through Friday – 5:30am – 4pm
Drive-thru open 5:30am – 9:30am  (weekdays only)

Saturday and Sunday – 7am – 1pm

Closed Monday

 

DIY Link: Yo-Yo Christmas Trees & Product Review

I’ve mentioned my love of Swap-Bot before, and today I’ll show off one of my latest projects that was shipped off several weeks ago to one of my swap partners.  The Yo-Yo Christmas Tree:

DPP-YoYoTree4

Isn’t it cute?  I love to make yo-yo’s, making them is quite soothing to me for some reason.   Typically I have a pile of them laying around with no clue how to use them and after seeing a yo-yo pumpkin this fall thought I should attempt to make a tree.  Then I saw this fun tutorial from Kiwi at Heart and she had made exactly what I was dreaming up in my head.  She does a great job explaining the process…I only did one thing differently.

Where she uses templates to cut her circles, I decided to try out this fun little gadget I picked up 50% off at Joann’s a while back.

Olfa Circle CutterThe verdict?  I LOVE it!

PROS:
I was able to just adjust the setting to match her dimensions and cut the circles out with no templates.  It works much like using a string & pencil to draw a circle…only this bad boy has a sharp pin to hold it in place and a super shape rotary blade.  Such a time saver…especially when you love to make yo-yo’s as much as I do! I have a quilt I want to make this year that involves circles and I am thinking this little guy might be a life saver when I get to that point.  So if you cut out circles-o-plenty of like I do…it might be the best $15 you spend.

CONS:
It uses a really sharp rotary blade, so you absolutely must use a cutting mat underneath it.  It can also be a bit odd to hold and turn at first, but once you get the hang of it that isn’t really a problem.

Any other recommendations out there for yo-yo construction or quilting gadgets I might also find indispensable?  Please, share!!

DPP-YoYoTree1

Make sure you check out the yo-yo tree tutorial:  Yo-Yo Christmas Tree Tutorial from Kiwi at Heart

You might also check out Mummy Crafts to see her take on the same tutorial, which also includes a template for cutting the circles.

Fine Print:  I have not been compensated in any way by either Joann’s or Olfa for my review of this product.  It is simply my opinion based on usage of the product I purchased.

Semi-DIY: Creating Coasters – Part 2

So yesterday you saw our first re-purposed item coaster attempt, today I”ll show you the latest additions and how they came about.

Back in June, the boy and I celebrated one glorious year of marriage with a fun little trip to Asheville, NC.  We took a couple days off from work, and the hubs planned out the where/when/how and kept it as a surprise destination until the morning we left.  He chose Asheville because 1)I had never been 2) it offered plenty of outdoor activities (which we both enjoy) 3) it offered nice lodging & dining options and 4) being at a high elevation that Atlanta it would be a nice relief from the oppressive heat that has plagued the Atlanta area this summer.

All I can say about reason #4 is HA!   Mother Nature definitely didn’t get that memo, and instead it was a sweltering mess of high temperatures mixed with humidity from the depths of places known for fiery torture.  Any of your familiar with Weddingbee might remember that Mrs. Snow was getting married in Asheville in June…yes, it was the same weekend and she blogged about the crazy weather swing as well.  So, we rearranged several of the things the boy had in his plans so we didn’t melt away in the oppressive heat…and in the midst of wandering around we realized that weekend was also the River District Artists Studio Stroll.

So we drove over and wandered around through several of the studio’s, not really looking for anything in particular.  Then right before turning around to make our way back to the car (and out of the heat) we walked into Michael Hofman’s Studio.  Michael makes beautiful pieces of porcelain pottery using antique lace to make impressions into his pieces.  Some of the lace he uses is centuries old, from things like christening gowns & wedding dresses.  It was quite interesting to meet him, and see part of his process in action.  He was even telling us about someone who brought in their grandmothers wedding dress to use to create their wedding china (incidentally the dress was not harmed in the process).  So we looked around thinking we might pick up a serving platter, but then the boy picked up these small square plates and said “hum? think they could be coasters?”

So, we picked up two of the square tapas plates.  Once home, we again brought out some felt pads from the local dollar store (the thinner of the selection this time) and added one to each corner of the plate.

Instant coasters, that once again provide a useful reminder of our anniversary trip!  Look at the lace details up close…aren’t they stunning?  Those lace details also provide a place for beverage sweat to pool, gotta love it when something is both beautiful and useful. 🙂

Can you tell we tend to purchase only mementos that have an actual use around our house?  We tend to buy art or handmade pieces to commemorate special trips or events…that and I buy magnets (which I still need to figure out what to do with since I’ve picked up magnets from my travels my entire life).  What do you pick up as mementos of special occasions or trips?

Semi-DIY: Creating Coasters – Part 1

We don’t like coasters.   There…I’ve said it out loud.  That’s not to say that we prefer to place our sweating beverage glasses or bottles directly onto surfaces, I’m just saying  we haven’t found any that we BOTH found aesthetically pleasing.  Then something happened…we stopped shopping for them and instead focused on things we could make into them.  This is the story about how we used these little guys from the local dollar store to solve our coaster dilemmas.

dollar store felt floor protectors

Last year while on a bit of a family vacation with the boy’s family we noticed this fun piece of flattened pottery on a deck side table in the house we were staying in.  It was the perfect size for a couple of glasses and still appealed to both our senses of design.  Interestingly enough we already owned a bowl in a similar pattern from the same pottery studio that the boy uses on his bedside table to store the contents of his pockets each night.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Yep, we looked around the shops that weekend in search of a plate to use as a coaster on our living room end table. We ended up choosing the small triangular plate from The Good Earth Pottery, their stuff is great in not only is it appealing to the eye, it is also dishwasher and oven safe as well.

Then to keep our fun new find from scratching up our tables we just added one of the little felt pads to each corner.


Instant extra large coaster!  What’s really nice is when I am lazy and fill up a Nalgene bottle with water…it fits on the coaster with no worries as well.  As do ice cream bowls, large coffee mugs…you get the picture. You can see in the next photo how the colors in the plate match our rug, but sadly what you can’t tell is how nice it looks on our end table.

Overall, I’m really pleased with how our initial attempts to use something not originally intended as a coaster worked out.  The benefit we never considered when we initially picked this piece was how any sweat from glasses placed on top would pool in the small groves of the pattern , this means the bottom of the glass stays drier than if the piece were a completely flat surface.  Plus, the coaster also serves as a very useful reminder of our trip to Highlands, NC. 

Come back tomorrow and I’ll show you round 2 of our coaster experiment! 🙂

How have you re-purposed items to create the “thing” that seemed to elude you otherwise?  Was it a success?

Review: If you craft, you should swap!

Do you Swap-Bot?  No, that isn’t some sort of robot comic…it’s a super-fun swap site that brings together crafters (and non-crafters) from all over to participate in item swaps through the good old fashioned mail.  This description from the site sums it up pretty well:

What is Swap-bot?

Do you like sending and receiving snail mail? Do you like writing letters, making crafts, or putting together fun packages? You should try swapping! Swap-bot is a online service that organizes group swaps and a community of creative individuals. Swap-bot takes the hassle out of participating in group swaps by organizing all of the participant information and doing all of the partner assignments. On Swap-bot, you can host swaps, join swaps, and chat with other swappers from all over the world. Give it a try!
Click here to read more about the Swap-Bot

I originally happened upon Swap-Bot during the Weddingbee Valentine Swap in February (click here to see my post on that swap).   Once I had completed the Valentine exchange and saw how easily  I was intrigued about this swapping community and how it worked.  My problem is I enjoy making things but often don’t have a reason to do so…and swapping might give me an outlet to experiment with new techniques and methods!   After a couple more simple swaps (postcards and handmade envelopes) I was hooked.

Through Swap-Bot I’ve been able to swap different things with people all over the US, and a few other countries as well.  While I’m sure every group has it’s problem children, I have yet to encounter a less than wonderful person on Swap-Bot.  I’ve found a group of people that love crafting as much as I do, and go out of their way to cheer a fellow swapper when they are down.  The other fun thing for me is the great variety and range of crafters involved.  In one swap I might receive an item from someone who is just learning to sew and my next swap might be an old pro.  Each swap is hosted by another member and comes with a set of rules/suggestions to follow for that particular swap.  One example might be to only use recycled materials, or only spend $1…all things that make it a bit of a challenge to master!  I’ve swapped aprons, thrift store finds, postcards, craft stash items, stickers, handmade envelopes, embellished tote bags, and all sorts of other things.  Sometimes I might not necessarily be able to use what I receive (and it’s ok to re-gift later) and other times I LOVE them…and that’s all part of the fun.

Check out a few of the fun items I’ve either sent or received through Swap-Bot:

These are a few photos of a book of photos put together as part of a photography scavenger hunt I received from a wonderful new blog friend in France!
Would you have guessed the cover collage was a single shot of glass beads?  Pretty fun huh?

And here are a few shots of handmade envelopes I’ve sent to people in Florida and England:

Cons:  Can be addictive & if you aren’t careful with the swaps you choose could add up to more $$ than you think

Pros:  Too many to list!! 🙂

I love swapping and I think you might as well!  Do you Swap?  If so share the sites you use and what you think?  And if you don’t check out Swap-Bot and see if it’s for you.

Hope to swap ya soon!

**Note** I do not work for nor do I receive any support or benefit from my recommendation of any products, websites, or corporations.  These are purely my options based on my experiences with these products, websites, and corporations.

Using Envelope templates…of doom!

I love paper and I love office supplies.  There, I admitted it, so when I found a fun piece of paper in my envelope of doom I figured what better than to turn it into paper office supplies.  If you’ve followed my blog for a while you already know I love both lining envelopes and making my own envelopes, and some of my favorite tools are the templates you can purchase from Paper-Source.  I’ve more than gotten my money’s worth out of the ones I own, so when I was in the store a few weeks back taking a little class and saw the new baby sized envelope template I had to try it out.

This is the template kit I choose, the other option had pink paper selection but looking around here should explain how much I love blue and green so naturally I selected the “pool” color selection.

And this is the paper I found folded up in my envelope of doom!

Using their envelope templates is super-simple.

  1. Trace around the template on the reverse side of the paper.
  2. Cut out along the lines
  3. Score where the inner opening of the template are (I use a scoring board from Martha & love it)
  4. Glue the edges
  5. Put those babies to use, these just happen to be the perfect size for a business card!

So basically I used contents from my “Envelope of Doom” to create “Baby Envelopes of Doom” 😉  In keeping with the rules of the game, the items were to be gifted to someone else…and these just so happened to be included in a swap package I was sending out!  I love it when things work out like that!

** I have been in no way compensated for my options or the products referenced above.  These are purely my unsolicited options of crafty products I use and adore! **

New Product – Devine Twine is HERE!

If you aren’t already familiar with Whitney at Whisker Graphics you are already missing out…but as of today she is my hero because she brought new colors of bakers twine to the masses.  I’m seeing the apple green working well with many things in my future!!

(source: Devine Twine)

Click the photo above to check it out and order yours!

**Note: I am in no way affiliated with or receive nothing in return for this post.  It is based purely on my own opinions!”

Registry Review: All-Clad Nonstick Fry Pan

If I’m totally honest here the hubs received the 14 inch All-Clad Nonstick Fry Pan for Christmas a year before our wedding.  At first I was a sceptic, after all I had a really nice brand name nonstick skillet that worked quite well, so why would I want to use this over-priced piece of equipment.  I was afraid I’d “hurt” it in some way and he’d be upset.  Plus, it was heavier than mine, and bigger, and took up the space of two stove eyes on our oddly spaced stove top. 

All-Clad Nonstick fry pan

 (Source: Williams-Sonoma)

Then a friend handed me a recipe for picadillo that would be a bit much for my trusty skillet, so I timidly took out the “big pan” as I call it.  And guess what?  It rocked!!  No oil or no cooking spray necessary…because nothing sticks!  The other really “cool” feature is that the stainless handle doesn’t heat up.  So I can grab the handle after finishing sauteing onions and dump them straight into a mixing bowl for the next stage of prep.  Now I just have to remember that our pots aren’t the same way or I’ll end up with a burned hand!

What about cleanup you ask?  Well, that too was a breeze (even though it isn’t dishwasher friendly) because nothing sticks it easily washes clean.  I have NEVER needed to use any sort of “elbow grease” to get anything out of it.  Needless to say I was sold, enough that I gave my parents my 2 brand name skillets (they were still using some enamel-ware from the 70’s) and embraced the All-Clad Nonstick Fry Pan in all it’s “big pan” goodness.  I embraced it so much that we registered for an 8 inch “little pan” that we love for smaller jobs (plus it fits on our weird stove eyes a little better).

Total Score:  5 Mushrooms

**Note** I do not work for nor do I receive any support or benefit from my recommendation of any products or corporations.  These are purely my options based on my experiences with these products and corporations.

Registry Review – Ona Pitcher

Several people have asked me recently what my favorite things from our wedding registry are.  It’s one of those things where I can’t just pick one…so between crafty fun I’m going to recap a few of our faves and why.

Today we made the trip to our local Crate and Barrel to exchange some extra glasses… but since the bath mat we had our hearts set on wasn’t in stock we left with a gift card instead.  Now, I’ve decided I’ll be using it on a couple of these Ona Pitchers.  They come in two sizes and are quite stylish too!

onapitcher(photo source: Crate and Barrel)

So, I know you’re thinking but how can you review something you’ve never used.  In April some of my best friends and their moms honored me with a bridal coffee and the local hostess-with-the-most  had 4 of these pitchers she used for water and OJ.  I fell in love with them then and there.  They are the perfect size, and I love how they can be both simple and elegant.  These beauties can make store bought lemonade look homemade 🙂

3654932454_03de020704(photo source:  personal photo)