Travel Carry-on Essentials

The idea for this blog really started with a gift for my mother-in-law. Mother’s day is coming up and on top of that, we’re going Hawaii with the in-laws in June. To marry the two, I decided to put together an air travel carry-on essentials kit for the MIL. She doesn’t travel often and is a nervous flier. On top of that, the trip is pretty long from where we live and we’ll be making it with two of my nephews who are both under 3. This seemed like a fun idea for a gift to make the whole ordeal better her. And since I’m a pretty well-traveled individual (lots of work travel globally), I figured I had the expertise to make it perfect.

I started by thinking about must-have items and came up with the following list:

  • Chapstick (the air is so dry!) – since our destination is Hawaii, I opted for some that could pull double duty of hydration and sun protection
  • Lotion (see note above) – be sure you get a bottle that is 3 oz or less to comply with carry-on rules
  • Power pack – especially for long flights when you plan to watch movies on your phone or tablet, this is critical to keep your tech juiced up; I opted for a solar chargeable one (you can plug it in too)
  • Tylenol – Babies on a plane – ’nuff said
  • Zzquil – see above (for the adults not caring for them, of course); this is an essential for me on all overnight flights. I generally sleep well on planes (especially in business), but sometimes I just need a little help getting there
  • Hand sanitizer – planes are perfect for finger food (nuts, chips, sandwiches, etc.) so this is a necessity to keep you well while encountering countless people and their germs
  • Tissues – ever cried or sneezed on a plane and DIDN’T have some? Yuck.
  • Water bottle with carabiner – while perhaps not everyone would agree with me, I feel that traveling without a reusable water bottle is crazy. Most airports now have water bottle fill stations, so rather than paying $4/bottle, I opt for my water to cost $0. It’s also great and super convenient to have in whatever destination you’re heading to. Also, let’s try to save the planet a little, okay?
  • Gum (or mints) – sometimes you just need a quick breath refresh and if you have problems with pressure changes, gum is great to get your ears to pop

Then, I thought about what other things would make the trip easier / create convenience for her / keep her sane. Here’s that list:

  • Ear plugs – I’m not a personal user of ear plugs, but they can definitely help drown background noise when needed
  • Sleep mask – most long or overnight flights give you a little care package; however, I noticed our flight offers ‘meals for purchase’ on the 7 hour leg, so I’m not holding my breath that they’ll give us anything extra
  • Nail file – there is nothing more annoying than breaking a nail and not being able to take care of it (I’m exaggerating, I realize, but you know it would drive you nuts for the entire flight)
  • Wet wipes – if you can snag a resealable package for cheap, these are nice for wiping down arm rests and table trays; I got this pack at the Dollar Tree
  • Organizer – I found this one on Amazon and managed to fit everything on this list in it (except the water bottle and nuts)
  • Healthy snacks – I picked up a box of almond and walnut 100 calorie pack blends from the grocery store and added a small bag of pistachios to add some variety
  • Aromatherapy roller ball “Travel” blend – as a recently converted user to essential oils, I saw this and thought it’d be a fun addition; I got this one here on Amazon; the brand has other blends, like Sweet Dreams and Energy
  • Curvy Man – headphone organization was never easier and he even has a baby carabiner
  • Flossers – double duty between the travel and your destination, these are light and easy to toss in your carry-on

 

Seasonal Wreaths

This post will be updated in May 2018, so please check back (as I finish my final wreath).

Update March 2018: I hate overly long blog posts where there is endless scrolling, pictures and ads. So, I’ll be brief. If you haven’t read the below, I’m a (relatively) new homeowner and have decided I want to be a ‘door wreath person.’ To minimize the number of wreaths I need to store year round, I’ve identified 4 types of wreaths that will get me through all the seasons and holidays in a somewhat neutral way.

You can see my Fall and Winter wreaths below. Today Spring has sprung and I’m excited to share my March/April/early May Spring/Easter wreath. To start, I selected an oval shaped grapevine wreath. I was tickled to find this at Joann Fabrics as I thought it would lend well to the season and holiday.

I knew I wanted to go with pastels for the color scheme. I found the cat tails and green balls at the Dollar Tree, which is what ultimately led to me choosing a yellow base flower and white accents and finishing it off with a pale blue ribbon. Don’t be afraid to mix and match types and styles. Let’s be serious – if someone walks up to your door and thinks ‘This wreath is a real mashup of flowers from different terrains and seasons.” you probably shouldn’t worry too much about what they think. Clearly they don’t understand creative liberty.

Anyhow, here is the wreath. With all of my projects, I start by laying out my materials and staging the craft. I then like to take a photo of the final product before I pull it apart to build it. The left is my staging (sans ribbon) and the right is the wreath in action!

Original Post: I was never a fan of door wreaths – I think it’s because my mom never had them on our front door growing up, so I just always thought they were unnecessary (similarly to yard flags). Anyhow, now that I’m a homeowner, I decided to make 4 wreaths to hang year round:

  1. Fall (mid-September through end of November) – see below for my Fall wreath
  2. Winter / Christmas (December through mid-March) – see below for my Winter wreath, along with two other examples, one of which is more ‘Christmas’ than ‘Winter’ if you like a wreath for every holiday
  3. Spring (mid-March through mid-May) – to be created; I’m envisioning something that feels like Spring / Easter with pastels and some light-hearted decorations
  4. Summer / USA (mid-May through mid- September) – to be created; this wreath will be red, white and blue to honor the summer holidays of Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day

When creating any type of wreath, I would highly encourage to follow the below steps:

  • Figure out the ‘top’ of the wreath – place the bare wreath on your hanger (try Command Strips Wreath Hanger) and see how it naturally lays. Mark the top of the wreath so you know where to place your decorations in line with the way the wreath falls.
  • Lay your wreath on a flat surface and start the design process. Don’t get frustrated and try things in different places. I also find it helps to look at other wreaths on Pinterest to get an idea of how to lay it out. Make sure it feels balanced on both sides / top and bottom.
  • Start at the base of your decor and built up. It’s always easier to glue something on top than to try to dig down layers and glue something underneath something else. I would recommend hot glue for wreaths – it does a nice job of sticking to anything and is good at dripping in between the twigs of the wreath to create a strong bond.
  • Don’t overthink it! Sometimes, when I spend too much time staring at a project, I have to walk away because I start to obsess over the most ridiculous things. Take the time to make it right, but don’t go overboard. Otherwise, you could end up screwing up a really good thing!

For my Fall wreath, I started with a 12″ grapevine wreath. I used a big flower from Joann Fabrics (the cream), along with some little glittery pumpkins and spirals and fall colored ribbon I picked up on their Halloween clearance (which, oddly enough, was available BEFORE Halloween). I also snagged a bag of pine cones, which pulled double duty between my Fall and Winter wreaths. Finally, I purchased a wooden S (for my last name….I’ll never tell!), also from Joann Fabrics, and then used some glittery leaves I had left over from another project (these were from the Dollar Tree, my main spot).

FallWreath

For my Winter / Christmas wreath (far left), I again started with a 12″ grapevine wreath and used some fluffy ball decorations and a hanging snowflake ornament from Dollar Tree. The rest flowers and silver balls are also Dollar Tree scores. The pine cones were leftover from my Fall wreath and the green leaves / brush came alongside the flowers I purchased. All in all, this wreath probably cost $10 tops. The middle and far right wreaths are products of my niece, who seems to have been bitten by the same creative bug as me. You’ll see more of her work popping up across the site soon. For the middle wreath, she kept it more simplistic and classic with a grapevine wreath base pre-built with tree brush and pine cones. She added a pretty, plaid ribbon, some small red berry picks, red flowers and a hand-painted white ‘K’ to round it out. The far left wreath, much more ‘Christmas’ than ‘Winter’ was a gift she made for her grandmother and is made entirely out of ribbons and various red and green picks. She used a foam circular base to build the fun ribbon creation.

ChristmasWreaths

Check back soon for more wreaths as I continue to build out my year-round wreath collection.

Q4 Craftiness

Credit where credit is due – I saw a version of this on pinterest and have since created both a copy cat and bastardized version. This is a fun project to make for your own home, or for those of your loved ones. It’s a relatively simple project with just a few required materials (all of which are pretty cheap). And BONUS, it is a decoration for both fall AND winter. Gotta love a good 2-for-the-price-of-1.

Materials:

  • Wood pieces (for the Happy Fall / Let It Snow set, I used 2×4 boards cut into two 6″ sections, two 4″ sections and one 5″ section; for the Happy Autumn / Believe set, I used 2×2 boards cut into two 5″ sections, one 6″ section and five 4″ sections)
  • Sand paper
  • Paint (in whatever colors you want to use – I used primary colors only and mixed all the rest, like brown, orange, etc.)
  • Paint brushes & pallette or equivalent
  • Paint markers (optional) – I used a few paint markers throughout this project to make some of the letters easier; Specifically, I used paint markers for all of the Autumn / Believe letters and the black and silver on Snow

First, figure our your design. If you want to go with a different message, get creative with how to split the letters, how many blocks to use, and how to arrange the pieces. Then, cut all your boards and make sure they fit nicely together and are smoothly sanded. Since you’re creating a double sided decoration, you really need to make sure they’re evenly sanded on all sides.

After you’ve prepped the wood, cover all the blocks in white paint all the way around. This will give you a nice even base to start with and will ensure you have clean lines at the top, bottom and sides (especially if your wood has rounded corners). Once the white has dried, you can mix up your colors and paint the blocks accordingly. *TIP, try to pick something that goes with your house decor while still keeping in line with the holiday color scheme.

Finally, once you’re SURE that the paint has COMPLETELY dried (at least 24hrs), go back through and start to add the letters. If you’re using paint and a brush, I would recommend using a white colored pencil to sketch out your letters. This can also be a good idea even if you’re using paint markers. Then, let that dry and voila, a beautiful new, custom decoration for your house that will last you through ~6 months of the year, depending on where you live!

HappyFallLetItSnow

BelieveHappyAutumn

How to Host a Murder: 1960’s Hippie Trip

As you may know from my other How to Host a Murder posts, I like to purchase a boxed set on Amazon as the basis for the party. I’ve written murder mystery parties before, but I always feel a little sad that I can’t participate since I decided who the killer would be. That’s why these boxed sets are awesome – the murderer doesn’t actually even know he/she committed the murder, so all players can have an equal shot at winning the game! This party was Mystery #13: The Tragical Mystery Tour. I chose this theme because the time period (late 1969) fascinates me and I wanted to have a chill night with great music and some fun. As with my other posts in this series, here’s the low down for making a successful party:

  • Choose your guest list. For this party, we went with the usual suspects – 2 friend couples and a single sibling and friend. Every one had previously met one another at my Circus Party, so the stage was set for a fun night.
  •  Plan your food. I decided that I wanted a super low key dinner and dessert- essentially, I wanted a meal where everything could be pre-made so I wouldn’t be rushing around cooking at the last minute. So, I went with a pot roast in a crockpot, which was actually typical of the late 1960’s (well, at least the pot roast part). I paired that with salad, which I tossed ahead of time, and cake and candied pecans, all ready ahead of the party. This made the night of much easier and lower stress. Since this was a hippie party, I wanted to feel mellow from the start. Also, it happened to fall near one of our guests’ birthdays, so the cake was decorated for him. 20141108_171549

  • Set the mood. Because these games require a seating area big enough for 8, I decided I needed to add some furniture to my small college house living room. I used some pallets and a memory foam pad to make a low sitting couch which I covered in a variety of blankets and pillows. I also pulled in a papasan chair from another room and found an awesome (and cheap!) hammock online which the hubs built a stand for. I used card tables in my dining room to create a long dinner table which I topped with some lace scraps and a funky vase. The playlist for the night consisted of all the greats (Zeppelin, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Rush, etc.) and was mostly historically accurate. You can find the playlist on Spotify under n.neiger – it’s called Hippie Party.HippyDecorAll

  • Prep for the game. As per usual, I found a good spot to set out the map, booklets, clues, and little notebook/pen sets for my guests to capture clues and facts. The tape (yes, cassette tape) for this game is actually pretty funny to listen to, so try to dig out an old tape deck. Check in your attic. I also went way overboard and created a time period specific “newspaper” to help my guests understand the current political, scientific and economic climates of the time. I don’t think it helped the game at all and my guests might have thought I was a little crazy.20141108_183208

  • Get costumes. I was a Rastafarian chick and my hubs was an activist from “U.C. Burpley.” Actually, as you can see below, all of our guest decided to go for it, costume-wise.HippyCostumes

As always, these parties are a great time. I would highly recommend hosting one – they are pretty easy to plan and set up for and once you get started, the game will flow. Have fun!

Home Command Center

This is a simple craft that has really helped me stay organized in a few different ways. It has allowed me to keep track monthly events, weekly meal plans, daily to do lists and even upcoming items or other important information to have handy. It’s very easy to create – you just have to start with the right base of materials. I used a 21″ x 15″ marker board that has a cork board edging. It came with a couple of magnets, some magnet clips, and four magnetic dry erase markers with erasers on the ends. To supplement the base board, I’ve added two magnetic notepads – one has rows for each day of the week (I use this to plan my meals) and one is a combo notepad with perforation in the middle – the left side is rows with the days of the week (where I write my weekly to dos by day) and the right side is a shopping list (where I write my grocery list once I make my meal plan). Below are the instructions for how I went about setting up the board.

  1. Decide your main division of space. I knew I wanted to have part calendar, part free space for my notepads and the markers to hang. I decided to do a little over half the width as the calendar – my exact split was 13″ calendar, 8″ free space. I marked the dividing line at the top and bottom and then used a permanent black marker to draw the line. *Tip, you can use whatever color marker you want – I used black because the dry erase markers I have are various colors. When you erase dry erase marker, your permanent market lines will (mostly) stay. (After a few months, you may need to redo your permanent lines because applying dry erase marker over permanent marker and then erasing (on a dry erase surface) removes the permanent marker too – good thing to know if you ever accidentally use a permanent marker!)
  2. Plan your calendar spacing. I wanted to divide the height into 7 spaces – one larger for the month, one slimmer for the days of the week, and 5 equal height for the weeks. For the width, I wanted to do the same thing, but with 7 equal columns for the days of the week. Since I had a total of 13 by 15 to work with, I divided the width (13″) into seven 1.85″ spaces and the height (15″) into one 2.5″ space (for the month), one 1.25″ space (for the days of the week) and five 2.25″ spaces (for the weeks in the month). *Tip, I didn’t carry my columns to the very top so I’d have a nice open space in which to write the month and year. I marked all my lines at the top and bottom – be sure to mark using a ruler the SAME WAY at the top of the board as at the bottom, otherwise you will end up with crazy crooked lines! After marking everything, I began drawing the lines working from one side to the other.
  3. Add the days of the week in the appropriate boxes using permanent marker.
  4. Finally, you’re ready to add the final details. This includes the Month and year and the individual dates. Be sure to use dry erase for this so you can easily change each month. Then, add any of your accessories to the open side and any additional important information around the edges. In the below picture, you can see I don’t have my magnetic notepads up yet, but instead I have some random notes in my open space.

How to Host a Murder: 1880’s Western

I am glad to report the success of another great How to Host a Murder party with friends. The theme for this murder was the 1880s in a western town called Roadkill. You can purchase this boxed set on Amazon. My hubs chose the theme – I guess he had long dormant dreams of being a cowboy. Anyhow, I have to say that once I started to get into the theme, I really enjoyed getting creative and planning some fun ideas. As with my other How to Host a Murder posts, there are 6 key components to making these parties a success. In this instance, I’ve combined 1 and 2.

  • Choose your guest list and pick your game. Since I already knew we were going to have a Western theme, I chose my guest list based on who I thought would be interested in the theme (or who in general loves parties and would be down for whatever). For this party, we invited three male/female couples and it worked out nicely.
  • Plan your food. For this theme, I wanted to keep the food relatively simple. Since the murder is set in the 1880s, I figured I should try to at least honor the period. For this party, I went with fried chicken (which I ordered from a local supermarket – this is a great low-stress option for your main), baked beans which I warmed in the oven, steamer broccoli (which I presented in a crock over a flame) and cast-iron skillet cornbread (which lent a nice touch to the theme). For dessert, I had a combination of mini pies (I only made the apple and pecan) and maple-candied pecans. Everything actually turned out pretty amazingly and we enjoyed a delicious meal.
  • Set the mood. I sort of had a lot going on decoration-wise for this party. Maybe that’s because my house doesn’t really look like an old west town, or maybe I just found more quick, easy ideas and spent the time to get them all done. Either way, this was a CHEAP party to put together. Okay, here we go. For the beginning of the night, I direct guests down to the Saloon (which was in my basement). At the doorway downstairs, I put up cardboard Saloon doors. To make the doors, I bought a tri-fold board from the Dollar Tree and cut the center section into two saloon doors. I then taped off the sides that I would attach to my doorjamb and spray painted the white side of the door part with brown spray paint (images below with another craft).  I put them up with extra command strips I had laying around – I never seem to use all the strips they give you in a pack so I save them up in my junk drawer. I actually ended up using probably 10 command strips for this party, so thank goodness for junk drawers. Saloondoors For the main saloon area, I made a sign out of foam board and brown permanent marker. I ended up drawing and coloring this by hand and while it took FOREVER and the marker kept drying up, I found the activity to be quite soothing. When I finished drawing and coloring, I then used some black tea to stain the white background and give it a worn feel. I also hung this up with command strips behind a hand-me-down bar that has come in handy for several parties now! For appetizers, I decided to get some whole shell peanuts. To keep things tidy, I made a cardboard ‘barrel’ table with a trash bag inside. The table was a real pain in the butt to make round, but I think it ended up okay after some finessing. To assemble the table, I taped together a few old Amazon boxes and then used hot glue to attach the foam board circle top which I had spray painted brown. I cut a hole in the middle and attached a trash bag before putting onto the cardboard base. I then added tape around the middle, top and bottom to attempt a barrel look. I put the peanuts on top in little silver barrels.SaloonpicsFor the main floor of my house, where the majority of the game was played, I kept lighting super low and used a TON of candles to create the ‘no electricity’ atmosphere. My table setting consisted of tin pie plates, red and blue bandannas, mason jars as glasses and tin can candles. I also made a longhorn skull out of foam board, marker, and burlap ribbon. First, I drew (in pencil) and cut out the basic skull shape. Then I added details with the marker and loosely wrapped the horns in burlap ribbon from the Dollar Tree. I put this up with a command strip as well. Above the table, I put up some borrowed lanterns to cast light over the whole table. The tin cans in the middle were saved from previous dinners I’d made. I pounded holes into them with a mallet and pokey tool thing that the hubs gave me. You could just as easily use a nail.  TablesettingwesternMy final major decoration in the main space was a directional sign. I used cardboard from what I cut off the tri-fold, cut it into equal size rectangular sections and then taped out different old west places in block letters. After taping out with blue painter’s tape, I spray painted them brown (you can see the saloon doors here too). Once I removed the tape, I had clean block letters in white text. I wanted to put this up at a corner by my breakfast bar. Thankfully, the hubs had a corner cardboard piece that I spray painted brown and attached the mini signs to. Before putting them up, I used an exacto to shape one end of each as a point. Then, I staggered them and made them point different directions by using hot glue to affix different parts of the sign to the corner piece. I put this up with (you guessed it!) command strips and I was pretty darn happy with how it came out. Directionalsign
  • Prepare for the game. On one of my counters, I set out the game materials (name tags, clues, booklets, crime scene map) along with notebooks and pens and some decorative elements. The TNT was made by using old toilet paper roles, cut in half and rolled together and taped up with red duct tape from the Dollar Tree. I then used some white string to act as the fuse. A little black marker and black tape to hold them together and I was done! The other thing I recommend when preparing for the game is to get a few small prizes for the winner(s). A go-to I love for adult parties is a bottle of alcohol with a mixer. For this party (sorry, no pictures), I paired coke with whiskey, vodka and Sprite, lemonade, and orange sparkling water, and Baileys with coffee. Gamesetup
  • Get your costumes. My character was a saloon girl, so I went with a corset, black dress, stockings and a garter. The hubs was a cowboy and wore fitted black jeans, a flannel shirt, cowboy hat and boots. He wanted a big belt buckle, so I took some scrap foam board and drew a longhorn skull in black marker and filled around in gold. I attached some plastic to the back that his belt could run through and voila!WesternCostumes

Even if you don’t want to go all out for parties like I do, I still highly encourage you to try out a How to Host a Murder game set. They are such a great time!

Punch-A-Present

This is a throwback post. I’m probably going to have a few of these over the next week or so because I’ve recently gone back through old photos and found a lot of crafts I’ve done or parties I’ve thrown. Also, I have a few ‘irons in the fire,’ so to speak, with different ongoings in my daily life, so until those are post-ready, I’m bringing out some old goodies.

Punch-A-Present was something I decided to create for my husband’s birthday one year. I can’t really remember why, but well, it’s me and I like to do weird stuff for fun. So, the concept of Punch-A-Present is this – you punch into a hole that has slip of paper inside that leads to a prize. Whatever you find behind the hole is what you get. If you’ve ever seen The Price is Right, this should sound familiar to you, like the game called Punch-A-Bunch. Unlike in that game, you only punch one hole at a time. You could use this craft in a few ways. As I said, I used it with my husband by purchasing 6 individual gifts (you could do whatever $$ or type of gift you wanted – even like individual packs of his favorite snacks, etc.), numbering them, and then putting a number (1-6) behind each hole on the board. He then got to punch one hole a day to claim whatever gift matched the number behind the hole. You could also use this to award prizes randomly (bridal/baby shower, in a classroom, at a children’s party) or as part of a game night to pick clues for things (same concept as on Jimmy Fallon when they play Pictionary).

Materials:

  • Tri-fold board (I usually pick mine up from my local Dollar Tree – it’s my jam, if you haven’t noticed)
  • Fun colors of tissue paper (or not, ya know, whatever you want to do)
  • Sticky notes
  • Marker
  • Scissors or Exacto knife + cutting mat
  • Cup or bowl with the circle size you want for your holes
  • Pencil
  • Tape (ideally something stronger than scotch, but not as strong as duct – masking, maybe?)

Layout your board. This step includes a few sub-steps:

  • Add your title – I kept it simple with ‘Punch-A-Present’ but you can write whatever you want….or…nothing at all! I recommend starting with this step for two reasons. 1. I find it easier to write on a smooth flat surface and 2. I like to base the spacing of the rest of my board on how much room is left after my title, rather than trying to fit my title in after the fact.
  • Trace & cut your holes – The trick for getting good, evenly sized circles is to trace. Find a cup or bowl that has the right size mouth and trace (in pencil). Once all your circles are laid out, you can go back through and use your scissors or Exacto knife to cut them out. Make sure to move your cutting mat as needed to avoid ruining your work surface!

Add the tissue paper. I used 6 different colors, but you could absolutely use all the same color or more of a theme. Fold your tissue paper into squares that just cover the circles with a little overlap around the perimeter. You will want to make sure you have a few layers of paper for each circle so you can’t see through, but not too many layers that it’s hard to punch through! Then, tape around the edges of the square. Be sure to tape it securely, otherwise the excitement of the punch will be lost when the fist doesn’t bust through, but instead pulls the whole thing off.

Prepare your presents. Once you’ve got your prizes or gifts ready and wrapped, use sticky notes to number them 1-6. Then, on the inside of the tri-fold side flaps, label the spaces next to the holes with sticky notes with numbers 1-6. (In my version, I made things a bit more complicated by adding little shelves on the back of the board under each row of holes. This is where I placed my numbered sticky notes so they could easily be found through the hole. This approach also gave the setup more stability, so you could go this route if you wanted. I used some foam board pieces from a sheet I bought at the Dollar Tree. I cut it into slices the same width as the main portion of the tri-fold and about the same depth as the flaps. I then used a bunch of tape to put them into place. Basically, I taped the edges of each shelf to the outer wings and taped the back of the shelf to the back of the section with the holes.) Once you’ve got your numbers in place, you’re ready to play!

I have to say, even this may seem corny or juvenile, it’s a super easy way to make someone special feel just a little bit more special / have just a little bit more silly enjoyment in life. Just go for it!