When my sister and I were kids, we spent countless hours playing cards with our grandmother, affectionately called "Gaga" (long before the pop-star made the name fashionable!). Our favorite game, bar none, was "Old Maid," and oh how we cackled when our worthy opponent drew the unenviable card! This week, my sis turned 40, and I wanted to give her something special -- a nostalgic present that meant something to just the two of us. What better gift than a set of those vintage 1970s Whitman playing cards from our past, in all their whimsical (albeit, now non-PC!) Old Maid glory. When I first saw a set for sale on eBay, I was ecstatic. The colorful playing card "characters," including Diver Dan, Fifi Fluff, and Postman Pete, jumped right off the screen and instantly summoned all my preschool memories of careless days, passing time on my grandmother's screened-in porch. What a bargain for only $6.00, plus shipping & handling! But rather than simply give my sister the deck in its original plastic case, I wanted to display the individual cards as wall art. After considering a multi-baseball trading card frame (trading cards are the exact size as playing cards), I chose a collage frame which was originally intended for 3x5 photos. Naturally, I made the Old Maid card the centerpiece. While good ol' Gaga passed away many years ago, her memory lives on with us in numerous ways -- and now, through this loving keepsake. Maybe this idea has inspired you to take some other retro playing cards and frame them for a child's room, a family game room, or a gift for a childhood friend. Regardless, it's a great way to celebrate a meaningful, perhaps-waning, American pastime in a simple, creative manner. P.S. Sis -- I promise the Old Maid theme was not a jab at your single status on this milestone birthday! Hope you had a great one! 🙂
There it was before me -- my undeniable mess of "stuff" shoved in my kitchen cabinets, seemingly taunting me for my inadequacies: Chipped bowls which didn't match; a few nice glasses amidst cheap, neon plastic ones of the "Big Gulp" variety; and miscellaneous cake mixes and baking ingredients which mysteriously migrated from their proper place in the pantry to go slumming with my disorderly dishes. Ah, but there was one saving grace: Cabinet doors, which I could close at any time -- lovely Doors of Denial, safeguarding my peace of mind and fooling my house guests into thinking I had it altogether. Bwah ha ha! But, of course, there was a problem. There's always a problem. I have a small kitchen and a very open mind. My cabinet doors began to make me feel more boxed in than my free spirit demanded. I found myself in my kitchen, late at night, wanting to tear the doors off their hinges and shout, "Be free my dishes! Be proud of who you are (you Big Hot Mess!) and let the world embrace your uniqueness and diversity!" Well, maybe that's a bit too strong, but you get the picture. I was compelled to find a way to make the Open Cabinet concept work for me, come hell or high water. Much to my surprise, this was not an unsurpassable challenge. For me, the first realization was that I needed a compromise. I may still need to keep the cabinet doors on some of my shelving, but I could open up a few -- the select, chosen ones. The second realization was that I needed to do a bit of triage: Get rid of the worst of the worst; keep the workable; and buy some new pieces to pull it altogether. Additionally, as I surfed the Internet for inspiration and validation, one rule-of-thumb seemed to prevail: Color coordination. Whether you opt for a neutral color scheme or one with color, you need some sort of consistency and pattern so that it looks like there's at least a method to your madness. I opted for a neutral palette of white and clear dishes, intermixed with some browns and stainless steel. Woven baskets are always a great way to collect a few things that may be too hard to display openly (e.g., I used mine to contain my small baking ingredients, which I can now pull down easily in one fell-swoop). Most of my new items were purchased very inexpensively at Big Lots and The Dollar Tree. I'm aways amazed at the decent pieces of stoneware and glassware at rock-bottom prices at these discount or closeout stores. I love the idea of using a contrasting paint color or material on the backside of the cabinets to really make the dishes and other contents pop. Here, chalkboard paint was used, which complements the black granite countertop below. A few personal items such as plaques and photos add interest. If you opt for using colorful pieces, you can find plenty of ways to make them look lovely without sacrificing functionality. Glass-front cabinet doors can add a little more formality to the look but still allow your dishes to peer through. Bonus: a bit more protection against dust. While you don't have to use all one color, make sure the colors you choose work in harmony, as opposed to a chaotic assortment which will only make your shelves appear... well, disheveled. 🙂 Start with a small section of your kitchen (or bathroom, for that matter). Clear your cabinets and your mind. Add items one piece at a time, subtracting away when it begins to look too cluttered. Add a small plant... a clock... or anything else which might add some variety without transgressing to the Land of Knickknacks. Your kitchen will look brighter, lighter, and more open. Your cabinets will be functional pieces of art, with little to no maintenance. And you will feel like a Dish Display Diva, ready to grace the pages of Architectural Digest. C'mon, you can do it! Take those cabinet doors and let 'er rip! --------------------------------------- Photo credits: Black cabinets - Inspiration For Decoration. White and clear dishes - Pretty Easy Living. Chalkboard-backed open cabinets - Creatively Living Blog. Yellow dishes display - Pinterest post.
I have always loved pineapple upside-down cakes, ever since I was a little girl and my grandmother made them. But this recipe below adds a great twist -- making individual mini-cakes in a muffin pan! What a great solution for parties when guests can simply grab a mini-cake and go, without all the cake-slicing and mess that often deters people from even making the effort. This recipe will make a batch of 6 jumbo size or 8 muffin size cakes. Cake Ingredients:
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 C white sugar
- 4 Tbsp pineapple juice
- 2/3 C all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick or 4 Tbsp)
- 2/3 C brown sugar
- 1 can pineapple rings
- 6 maraschino cherries
Bake jumbo cakes for 25 minutes. Bake regular cakes for 20 minutes. If you choose to make a large cake, bake for 22-25 minutes in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. The cake is done with a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.Remove from the oven. Let cool in pan for 3 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each cake to help loosen in case it sticks a little. Place a wire cooling rack on top, and quickly flip over on top of sheet tray to catch extra drippings. Place wire rack of cakes on sheet tray to cool. Enjoy! ------------------------------------------------ Credits: This recipe comes from Rhondi at Big Mama's Home Kitchen.
When I was a child, I was a notoriously picky eater. I routinely hid food in Kleenexes under the dinner table, later flushing the little "care packages" down the toilet. I became a mastermind at distracting my kid sister while simultaneously transporting food from my plate to hers when she wasn't looking. And my relatives, to this day, talk about the time when they visited and found sausage links behind our living room couch that I'd apparently ditched from my morning breakfast. I had no appetite, and I had no shame. My parents worried about me constantly. What were they going to do with this skinny, little child who didn't want to eat? They tried everything -- bribes, rewards, pleads... the starving children pitch. Nothing seemed to work. Nothing, until my grandmother happened upon a miracle food that you'd never guess if I didn't tell you: A&W chili hot dogs. I know what you're thinking. How in the world did anyone convince me to take that first bite? After all, a chili hot dog is not exactly bland and hardly what you would think a finicky eater would agree to try without serious duress. To understand this, you have to know something about my grandmother and her special charm with children. This was the woman who kicked my grandfather out of their king-size bed so I could sleep with her and get special attention when I spent the night. This was also the woman who taught me how to play poker at the age of 5 and insisted that I was grown-up enough to sit with the adults at family dinners instead of being relegated to the "kiddie table." I was the apple of her eye, and I knew it. So when she asked me to accompany her to A&W to try a chili dog and root beer, I felt it was the least I could do. When she came to pick me up for lunch, I was dressed in a pretty, frilly pink dress, white tights, and patent leather shoes (like most grandmothers of little girls, she also spoiled me with clothes). When we arrived at the restaurant, I immediately opened the car door and began to hop out. "Where do you think you're going, young lady?" she asked me. "Inside the restaurant," I flippantly responded, thinking she'd lost her mind. She then proceeded to tell me that, at A&W, you could order from your car, via an intercom, and a bell-hop would bring your order. This was the coolest thing I'd ever heard -- not having to leave your car! I remember her letting me flip the intercom switch on the speaker box to let them know we were ready. I couldn't imagine why other restaurants hadn't picked up on this ingenious method of food service. I was feeling pretty good as we awaited the chili hot dog delivery -- until my grandmother pulled out the heavy artillery. You see, another thing you have to know about my grandmother is that she always came prepared. Knowing a chili hot dog, a 5-year-old, and a pink dress were a hazardous combination, she'd packed a bib, cloth napkin, baby wipes, and a towel for me to sit on. I began to have serious doubts if I was going to enjoy the experience. But shortly, the chili hot dogs arrived, and history was about to be made. For the first time in my life, I took a bite out of something without poking it, prodding it, sniffing it, or picking it to death. I just picked it up and started eating it! My grandmother was so shocked and mesmerized at the sight of me eating that she spilled chili sauce down the front of her HER blouse. She got a kick when I matter-of-factly asked her if she'd like to borrow my bib. This became the first of many trips to A&W with my grandmother over the years. I eventually graduated from a regular to a foot-long chili dog and from a baby root beer mug to a standard size. I also began giving hitherto vetoed foods a chance. My grandmother was happy; my parents were ecstatic; and I had a new appetite and wonderful memories of special days with my grandmother that I will never forget.
My son, Jack, is 11. He is sociable, sweet, and silly. I enjoy his company every day, and he enjoys mine. He has not hit puberty. I know it's coming. Soon I fear. The day when he wants me to disappear into the background... or off the face of the earth. The day when his bedroom door, and his heart, will be more closed than open. The day when he prefers his friends to family and, in the famous words of Kurt Cobain, makes my house smell more like "Teen Spirit" than Tutti-Frutti. But today is not that day. Not yet.
One thing I've learned about myself over the past several years is that I like a lot of variety. In fact, I've been accused of changing the paint colors on my walls more often than I change the oil in my car. 🙂 But one thing I've never painted is the interior of bookcases. We've all seen the style -- particularly white bookcases with a contrasting interior paint color; but all that cutting in and out with a paintbrush, particularly with fixed shelving, wears me out just thinking about it! There is a solution, however -- one that is easy AND will appeal to those of us who like to "change things up" from time to time without having to spend a fortune. Rather than paint, use wallpaper:
- Cut cardboard to fit the dimensions of the interior back of your bookcase(s);
- Paste, mod-podge, or use spray-adhesive to adhere a great solid or designed wallpaper or contact paper to your cardboard;
- Push the cardboard into place; and
- Reinsert your shelves (if they are adjustable).
Ah, the birds are starting to chirp again, signaling Spring will soon be here. And although many of us are still wearing our warm, wintry scarves amidst cool weather, it's time to think about a lighter version of neckwear -- scarves which are more along the lines of head and neck adornments rather than warm outerwear. What I love about scarves is the fact that they can be an inexpensive ($10-$15 range) and easy way to change or enhance your entire look. And your outfit can go from funky to sleek in seconds. Their versatility in WHERE (neck, waist, hair) and HOW you wear them gives you yet another reason to invest in this wardrobe essential. Right now, Target has some great lightweight spring/summer scarves on sale. Here are a few of my faves -- the first one a black-and-white geometric design and the second a light blue skull pattern (who says skulls have to be goth?). 🙂 Old Navy also has a slew of scarves which you may want to check out, some of which are gauzy, while others are cotton jersey or linen. See below. World Market never fails to please with a variety of unique scarves -- whether you are drawn to a more rich paisley print with fringe or a romantic vintage floral, as shown below. For some additional inspiration on the many ways to wear a scarf, visit The Knot Library. And try wearing them as a headband or belt! -------------------------------------------- Photo credits: Target B&W geometric scarf. Target light blue skull scarf. Old Navy pink and orange scarf. Old Navy blue and yellow infinity scarf. World Market orange and turquoise paisley scarf. World Market ivory, pink and green floral scarf.
There is something to be said for organizing your "stuff" in hidden-away drawers, cabinets, and bins. Especially the ugly stuff -- and we all have some of that. But equally so, it is great when you have beautiful things that, while requiring some type of organization, can be displayed openly in a beautiful way. Enter -- jewelry. I will admit, I have an ugly oak 80s-style jewelry cabinet. I wish I could say it is retro-cool, stylishly primitive, or shabby-chic. But alas, it's just plain ugly! Plus, every time I need something out of it, I fight with tangled items in rickety drawers. Its one saving grace is that it is in my bedroom closet so no one but me need be subjected to its inadequacies. Still, it is getting on my nerves, and I have been inspired by some very practical yet lovely ways to organize jewelry and display it in a highly accessible way. This framed jewelry screen is the creative product of my friend, Lori, who reports that this was a simple project which cost next to nothing. She purchased the decorative aluminum sheet at a local craft store for about $6 and used scissors to cut it to size and fit a frame (after she removed the glass). Kudos, Lori! Even if you decide not to use a sheet such as this, you can use burlap or other material to create a "backing" to complete the look. Then, hang or post your earrings. To the right is a similar approach, with the addition of a coat rack, using the knobs to hang necklaces and the shelf for bracelets, brooches, or boxes. The below idea uses a cutlery organizer, with hooks to hang long pieces in vertical fashion and horizontal compartments for bracelets and other items needing to "sit" on a shelf. Use multiple cutlery dividers to accommodate more pieces and to create a wall-art look. If you still like the idea of putting jewelry in drawers, here are two interesting ways of organizing your pieces in a novel way -- using an antique or decorative baking tin or using small teacups. The latter of which can hold bracelets and necklaces in the cup portion, with hook earrings draped over the edge. If you have a lot of bracelets, I love the idea of ringing them 'round a paper towel holder, as shown below. You can't get much easier than that! So have I shamed you into a jewelry project... or inspired you? Either way, I hope it worked. 🙂 Any other ideas you've come across on Pinterest which spark your interest? I, too, have plenty to do to transform my bedroom closet and better organize my jewelry. I see a follow-up article around the corner, as well as an oak cabinet Goodwill drop-off in my near future. 🙂 ------------------------------------------ Photo credits: Aluminum screen frame for earrings - Lori English. Earring frame with necklace coat rack and jewelry in cutlery tray - Curbly. Baking tin and teacup jewelry organizers - Paige Smith Designs. Paper towel/bracelet holder - The Adventures of VAMH.
plastic tablecloths on your ceiling to add festive color to your room? Here they are, Mardi Gras style, in green, purple, and gold. One of the first things you saw as you came through the door, it certainly said, "Let's get this party started!" Victoria also created a fabulous "mask and bead" board to display Mardi Gras accessories for guests to wear upon arrival. After draping fabric across an inexpensive paneling board bought at Home Depot (you can hot glue-gun or staple the material in the back), she then used double-sided tape and hooks to hold the masks and beads. Functional (albeit temporary) art -- my favorite! I can see similar approaches for other celebrations, with different color schemes and party favors (e.g., New Year's party hats/horns, Santa hats/reindeer antlers, Hawaiian leis, Halloween masks). I could share many photos to make all of you "wish you were here," but I will limit it to just a few more so that you can get the flavor of this party and steal some ideas to replicate or alter when left to your own devices. What did you do for Mardi Gras or Valentine's Day this year? Party photos, crafts, or great recipes? Victoria shared her secret(s). Now you share yours!Last weekend, my friend Victoria threw quite a Mardi Gras bash with her then-boyfriend/now-fiance, Steve -- "title change" the result of a lovely Valentine's Day marriage proposal yesterday. "Party bling followed by an engagement ring" is how this last week will go down in history. And that's a tough act to follow, people! :-)Victoria is a woman who has got it all together. Or if she doesn't, you'd never know because she sure does seem to pull off parties with ease and finesse. And I have the pictures to prove it. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I shared the idea of draping
This pre-Valentine's Day post is dedicated to my sweet son, Jack, who suffers from severe food allergies. If any of you suffer from food allergies or know someone who does, finding good SAFE recipes can be a nightmare. And the more ingredient exclusions you have, the harder it gets. Appropriate baked goods can be particularly difficult to find or make due to the fact that they frequently contain the most-common food allergens -- milk, wheat, eggs, and nuts. My son suffers from two life-threatening allergies -- eggs and nuts. Luckily, he is a great sport and has been my willing guinea pig over the years in trying "alternative" recipes with many deviations or substitutions. One super-simple cake recipe we use is good enough for anyone, regardless of whether you have food allergies, and may be especially appreciated by busy parents like me.
Take a store-bought cake mix* and add 12 ounces of soft drink (e.g., a can or small bottle). No other ingredients required. Bake according to the directions on the box.That's it! No eggs, no milk, no oil. The result is a very moist, delicious cake (or cupcakes), whipped up in a jiffy! You can use any type of cake mix* and any type of soda, even diet -- with no diet after-taste. 🙂 While it may not win awards for "most decadent cake of the year"... or be praised for its all-natural ingredients or old-fashioned homeade preparation, it sure works well for me and my family, as well as many friends who have followed suit. Happy easy baking -- without an Easy-Bake Oven -- especially as we head into Valentine's Week! 🙂 --------------------------------------- *For those suffering from or cooking for those with food allergies, please read the cake box ingredients to ensure that the cake mix itself does not contain the offending allergen ingredients.