Category: DIY & Projects

The Coolest Thing I Have Ever Done

That title might be a bit of an exaggeration, especially since I’ve rappelled down a waterfall in Costa Rica and just this past week swapped my face with Mike Tyson’s (thanks, Snapchat), but we’re going to go with it because this is still quite high on the cool scale.

Google is quickly becoming my OCD best friend. There is really nothing in my life that I haven’t converted to a Google Doc or Keep list, and now I’ve figured out how to use it to map out my vacations as well.

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First thing you have to do, after you gather the necessary snacks (I’m looking at YOU, salted caramel popcorn), is log into your Google account and go to your Drive. I’m using this as a starting point because I feel like we’re all familiar with Google by now, but if I’ve already lost you, feel free to send me your questions!

Next, click on the “new” button, then “more”, and you should see “Google My Maps”

Google Drive

This will open an a brand new, untitled, fresh, clean map for us to make a mess out of.

Untitled Map

You can name your map by clicking where it says “Untitled map” and typing in the name of your destination. Or you could be much more clever than I was and type in a fun code word for your trip, which really opens up a lot of doors if you’re traveling to somewhere like Middelfart, Denmark or Dick’s Knob, GA. Seriously. These places (and worse) exist.

There are a whole lot of other options here (for example, you can change the look of the base map), but in the interest of keeping this quick and simple, I’m going to let you guys play around with some of that stuff on your own. Again, feel free to send questions if you have ’em!

I used this feature most recently for a weekend in Portland, Maine, so I’m going to share with you some of things I added to my own map and how I organized it. The first thing I did was to add a pin for the location of our hotel. To do this, just type the name of it (or its address) into the search bar at the top of your map, just as if you were searching Google Maps. A little box will pop up with the details and, if this is correct, click the plus sign to add a pin to your map.

Add to Map

Now that you have placed a pin, you can add and edit some of the details. I changed the name of the layer to “Hotel” by clicking where it says “Untitled layer” on the left and overwriting it. This is helpful if you want to be able to turn on/off some of the pins on your map should you only want to see “Restaurants”, or “Beaches”, or “Every Ice Cream Place Within a 5-mile Radius”. You know, the necessities.

I also changed the pin color to black by clicking the paint can icon. I used a different color pin for each of my layers so it was easy to distinguish what category of pins I was looking at.

Hotel

By using the icons next to the paint can, you can also add an image, directions, or notes for this pin. I used the notes area a bit in my next layer. You can add a new layer by clicking “Add layer” on the left (because what else would they call it, silly?). I made a separate layer for all of the restaurants, breweries, and “other things” we planned to visit that weekend. In the screenshot below, I have already added pins to each layer by following my instructions above.

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As I probably mentioned, we are alcoholics-in-training and so we planned to visit several breweries that weekend. I wanted to keep track of the different hours and offerings at each one, so here is where the notes field comes in handy. Click on the pin you want to add information to and click the pencil icon. You will be able to add text here as well as change the name of the pin (if you wanted to).

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Keep adding layers, pins, and details until you’re satisfied that your map looks like a good time and then you’re done! Speaking of good time, you can also do a few other cool things with the icons under the search bar, like draw a line from one place to the other, or just because. You can add a pin of your own using the “add marker” function, or calculate the distance between points using the ruler. So if I were planning to walk back to the hotel from dinner in order to burn off some (delicious) calories, it looks like I have about 5 miles to train for, plus a quick swim.

Ruler

That’s it!! The map will appear in your Google Drive now and you can view your notes or click on pins for directions from wherever you are, plus you now have a little digital keepsake to help remember your trip. How cool is the internet??

p.s. If you’re interested in any of these places in Portland (and a few others!), stay tuned because I’m going to post a recap of that trip next week! With WAY too many photos.

Sweet Swap Story!

This past weekend I hosted a sweet swap at my place. I’ve always wanted to take part in a cookie swap, but I couldn’t discriminate against all other forms of sugar (hi, have you met me?), so I decided to turn it into a sweet swap, which just sounds nicer anyway, don’t you think?

Sweet Swap Invitation

I created an invite (address blacked out above) and emailed it to a few of my girlfriends. The rules were simple: bring food and take food home! Prizes were given out for the best tasting and most creative treats.

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Before the swap, I bought a tin for each guest to use to take their sweets home in. Since I couldn’t find pink tins, I decided these Valentine’s Day ones were perfectly girly and appropriate.

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I simply lined them with tissue paper and stacked them on the counter for guests to help themselves.

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I made some simple favors using baking-themed items and a few crafty supplies.

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A little “Thank you” written using a white Sharpie paint pen on black paper kept my chalkboard theme going.

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Add some sparkly stickers and a little bit of ribbon and you have yourself a favor!

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Display cards were created using the same black paper, white Sharpie, and stickers. I wanted these to let everyone know what they were eating and, more importantly, who created the treats they were enjoying!

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The dollar store has some great trays to use for displaying your desserts, and the best part is that instead of washing them, you can choose to toss them afterwards and not feel guilty!

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What goes best with diabetic-coma-inducing levels of sugar? Why, hot chocolate of course! Serving this in a slow-cooker is an easy way to keep things warm while allowing guests to serve themselves and add their own individual toppings.

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Don’t forget the important ones.

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Plan to have lots of water for your guests as well – it even got 1 vote as the “best tasting” item of the day!

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Check out some of the delicious things my clever friends made:

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Those wedding cookies? Adorable! Such a great idea considering recent events. It was also a good idea to have someone bring “real” food so that when things got too sweet (is that really a thing?), we could snack on cheese and crackers instead.

Have you ever been to a sweet/cookie swap? What are some of your favorite recipes? Could you mail them to me for a taste-test? 😉

DIY Deco Mesh Christmas Tree

It’s become somewhat of a tradition for me to do a holiday-themed craft each year. You might remember seeing my ornament wreath as part of last year’s Holiday Bucket List?

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I still really love how that came out and it’s hanging proudly from a shelf in my living room. This year, I decided to DIY myself a Christmas Tree since my cats have forbidden us from bringing a climbable one inside the house. We currently have this little guy on the balcony that I light up and stare at through a closed door each night.

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I felt like I needed something for inside though. Something I could hang up (WAY up) high and enjoy every night without a pane of glass in between us. I found this pin on Pinterest, but it’s a dead link (big pet peeve!) and if you Google all combinations of “DIY” and “tree” and “wreath”, it’s as if the internet doesn’t want you to figure out how to make one. There are plenty of full-sized shapes, but I needed something that would lay flat against a wall.

And thus began my mission.

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Here’s what you will need if you want to make a tree of your own:

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  • A triangular-shaped frame ( I used an easel, but you can also look for a work wall cone – be sure it says “wall cone” as this will ensure it has one flat side to lay against a wall)
  • pipe cleaners (if you purchase a work cone, you won’t need these, as it will already have something similar attached)
  • deco mesh
  • ribbon
  • ornaments
  • scissors
  • hot glue gun

By watching YouTube tutorials on how to make a deco mesh wreath, I was able to get a good idea of the steps I would need to take to make my tree. If your frame doesn’t already have ties on it, you will need to start by wrapping a pipe cleaner 1-2 times around a section of wire at the top of your frame.

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You can cover the whole frame with these before adding the mesh, but I chose to do them as I needed them.

Next, secure the end of your mesh to the frame by wrapping the pipe cleaner around it and the metal. This step will be repeated over and over again to form your wreath. You want to gather small sections of mesh and tie them to the frame using pipe cleaners. You can use each pipe cleaner more than once, just be sure you wrap both ends completely around each gathering of mesh.

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I found it easiest to do a couple in one spot and then move left to right (and then back right to left) across the entire frame. You can make as many or as few gathers as you like and you can vary the size and shape of each one very easily.

When you finish doing this, you should have something that now resembles a tree. Yay!

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Now it’s time to decorate!

I lucked out with my ornaments because they have ties on the back of them that made it very easy to secure them to my frame.

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If you can’t find similar ornaments (mine were from a craft store in the floral section), you will need to use your glue gun. I had to attach my word ornaments this way since they had no backing or ties to them.

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I applied the “lights” the same way – by applying a drop of hot glue to the back of 2-3 per strand and sticking it to a relatively flat piece of mesh. I did NOT glue each bulb down as I wanted the lights to have a more realistic, dangling effect.

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Finally, I watched this video to find out how to make a bow and applied the finished product to the tree (with hot glue) as my star.

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I debated covering the bottom of my frame with cutouts of presents, or finding wire cutters strong enough to take them off. You won’t have this problem if you use a work wall cone, but since I used an easel, I had a lot of extra space at the bottom. In the end, I decided to leave them as is because it worked well to prop the tree up on the top of a tall bookcase behind a photo album and some holiday decor.

_DSC0092editWhat do you think? Cat-proof? Is this something you would attempt for your own home? If you do, I would love to see photos of how it turned out!

 

Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt

December 7th? What? WHAT?!?

It feels like just yesterday that I posted my Winter Bucket List, but I’m now in a mad rush to get things crossed off before Christmas. Including things that are not even on my bucket list, like decorating, sending a holiday card, buying gifts, wrapping those gifts, and trying not to lose my sanity (too late?) when I see that there is only slightly more than two weeks left until the big day.

While some things on my list can be done any time this season (splurge on ice wine, try a new winter sport), there are a few that have time limits on them due to the nature of the task, and a Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt is one of those things.

Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt

If you search for these on Pinterest, you will find tons of printable lists ready to be taken along on a night time drive. Since I can’t make anything easy on myself, I decided to create my own. I picked several of my favorites from the existing lists and made the one you see above. I plan to take it with us one night this week as we drive around the neighborhood admiring the displays.

Feel free to print out my list and conduct a scavenger hunt of your own! Maybe you want to have a contest to see who can be the quickest, or maybe you want to split up and see who can find and photograph the most things in one hour. Maybe you just want to make paper airplanes with it. There are no rules, anything goes!

Actually, that’s not entirely true. There is ONE rule:

You absolutely MUST bring a cup of hot chocolate with you on your hunt. Bonus points for whipped cream.

Happy hunting!

Word Vomit

I’ve been having a serious problem with motivation lately and I think I know why.

While this blog has always been a creative outlet for me and lets me indulge in photography, social media, writing, crafting, and a few other passions of mine, recently it feels like it’s not enough and I worry I might explode from all of the ideas floating around in my head! I wonder what that would look like actually. I would probably be sitting at work one afternoon and just the mere thought of a Pinterest craft would have me DIY-ing all over the floor.

What I’m trying to say is, I find it hard to keep up lately with all of the photography skills I want to learn, design projects I invent for myself, posts I want to create for this blog, and things I want to accomplish that have nothing to do with my 9-5 job. Which is actually an 8:30-5 job, so, yeah, worse.

I have lists upon lists of things to redecorate in my apartment, pins for days with seasonal crafts to recreate, and billions of articles I want to read that focus on things of interest to me. I want to try EVERY CREATIVE THING! The problem? That 8:30-5 job and the tedious responsibilities of being an adult. So when I find myself doing something mundane, I get overwhelmed with all of the thoughts of things I’d rather be doing and literally (but not literally) paralyzed with frustration about not having the time or resources to do them! And there goes my motivation right out the window. It’s like I don’t want to be doing anything if I’m not passionate about it.

Sigh.

In an attempt to indulge my creative side, I’ve been playing around with some quote designs and photo-editing software. I’m basically self-teaching myself (with a little help from Dan) how to create things in a product similar to Photoshop (because I’m still just a little too scared of the ACTUAL Photoshop) and I’ve started using it for inspiration boards, my seasonal bucket lists, and the like. Recently I fell in love with some printable quotes on Etsy, but before I whipped out my wallet, I wanted to try my hand at creating some of my own.

It was pretty easy to decide which quote I should start with. I really need to print this one out and frame it at home, on my desk at work, in my car, and maybe turn it into the wallpaper on my phone.

Don't sweat the small stuff

Since I really do plan on printing some of these, I thought it would be nice to have a few seasonal designs that I can switch out of a cute, inexpensive frame. While I’m not quite ready for winter, and I may never be, this one at least gets me excited for the holiday music that I can’t wait to put on repeat. Lucky for me, Dan enjoys Christmas music much more than he enjoys my recent country obsession.

Dashing through the snow

Finally, I wanted a simple, cute quote that I could hang in our apartment or on our fridge.

The best part of me is you

When I first showed this one to Dan expecting an “awwww” or something similar, I got a slightly different response: “Did you write that for Kitty?” Is that a sign of a true cat lady?

Also, can we ignore the fact that I just babbled on about wanting to be more creative and yet my cat’s name is Kitty?

You’re (sort of) Invited!

I’m having a party!

But don’t get too excited – the party is in my head. Sometimes it really does feel as if there’s a party in my head and people are very, very drunk, but that’s neither here nor there.

This party is a product of Halloween envy and nostalgia. A few years ago, Dan and I threw a pretty fun Halloween bash in our apartment and, due to timing and just, well…LIFE, we haven’t been able to have another one since. Our decorations are up, our costumes are somewhat planned, I’ve eaten just about every pumpkin creation ever made, and I’m dying over all the cute decorations I see, but still no party this year.

So I threw this one for you! Here’s your invitation:

Halloween Party Invite

I hope you can make it! There will be plenty of decorations, like this adorable banner from Paper Source:
Banner

The best thing about that banner is that it would be so easy to make your own if you wanted to. Some burlap, stamps, craft paint, and you’re good to go! Just punch holes in each side, string some twine through each letter, and hang it for your guests to admire.

Side note: This is a non-scary party. It has to be that way because I’ve gotten rather old and well, neurotic? so I can’t handle scary things anymore. Last night, we went to a haunted corn maze that we had paid a decent amount of money for, and I got past the first creepy-looking thing that jumped out and shouted at me before I decided that this was NOT going to happen, NO way, NOPE. I used to live for Halloween and all its haunted houses and scary movies, and in fact I had done this SAME haunted maze just last year, but this time I was just not having it, so we turned around and headed right back out of that maze and sold our tickets to someone in line. I’m still annoyed at myself.

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What this party WILL have are some cute, non-threatening, mummy pumpkins.

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This party may be fake, but in real life, I will be attempting to create one of those pumpkins tomorrow. I recently crafted a couple of paper pumpkins, found in this tutorial, but there is only this one left standing on my bookshelf because CATS. It’s not just the black ones that are evil.

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Another quick and easy decoration idea is to blow up a black balloon, stick it to your wall or ceiling, and add crepe paper “legs” as seen here. Or stick some googly eyes (found at any craft store) onto your plastic drinking glasses. The possibilities are endless and I could easily get lost in decorating for my fake party.

At our last party, we had a few games for our guests to enjoy, including guessing the amount of M&Ms in a jar, or naming the movie that a selected iconic image was from. For the party in my head, I think it would be fun to have a “photo booth” set up where guests can use different masks or props (stock up at the local dollar store, or make your own with printables like the ones below) and then take photos against a backdrop with a cell phone or Polaroid. You could also create a specific hashtag for your guests to use when uploading their pics to social media, such as #myfakeparty2014.

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If kids are invited, you could put together an inexpensive craft table complete with foam paper, stickers, ribbon, glitter, markers, and glue so that they can create their own masks to wear.

You can bet there will be plenty of themed food, just like we had last time.

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Finally, you could easily DIY some treat bags for guests to take home candy or other items. Just use any small paper bag and go crazy with black and orange designs, lots of BOO!s and EEK!s, or maybe some fake blood.

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I hope you have a great time at my party! The best thing about parties that aren’t real? No hangovers or sugar crashes when you get home!

My Dream Wedding with Lover.ly

I was so excited when Carolyn from lover.ly contacted me to participate in a project for the website, which she describes as “the wedding planning binder in the cloud”! I was asked to choose from three different destination wedding locations and then select all my accessories and extras in order to style it however I wanted.

You can imagine my excitement when one of my three choices was my ACTUAL dream wedding destination:

Italy

ITALY!!

Since I’ve already spent a lot of time planning this out in my head, I already had an idea of exactly what I wanted my look to be like. I went right to lover.ly and searched for a vintage-inspired lace dress. With all of Italy’s deep historical roots and rustic views, I think the vintage look fits right in.

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You can filter your search by designer, style, price, length, even neckline or sleeve. The range of dresses to choose from was phenomenal, with everything from David’s Bridal to Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta. In fact, the dress I almost chose was an affordable gown from David’s Bridal, but since this is my dream wedding, I decided to go all out with that gorgeous Monique Lhuillier piece that you see above. Isn’t it just so pretty?

From there, I decided to search for shoes and accessories. I wanted something simple because I feel like the rich colors of your venue in Italy (think Tuscan wine country or Venice canals) should be allowed to stand out, and I didn’t want anything to take away from that amazing dress. I went with rose gold to compliment the vintage look, but I think bronze would have worked just as well. The rose gold adds a little bit of a modern flair in my opinion.

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It was easy to search for accessories based on the ideas I had in mind of how the completed look should be. I even found the perfect cake and table setting!

Lover.ly wedding dress collage

Dress|Shoes|Earrings|Hairpins|Cake|Table Setting|Flower|Necklace

The necklace and the earrings were chosen from etsy, which is another great resource for choosing your wedding accessories. The earrings are my “statement” piece and tie in to the rose gold color of the cute Kate Spade sandals (look at that bow!). The necklace was chosen to be simple in order to let the neckline of the dress have it’s own moment. I love the “love” wording (yeah, I did that.) but similar designs that would also work for a wedding are an ampersand (&), the word “mrs”, or a monogram of your new initials!

As I said, my pops of color were left to the decor, and what better color palette to use in Italy than a wine-themed one! The burlap of the table number keeps it rustic, while the design of the cake uses similar colors in a modern shape.

I just love how everything looks together! It makes me wish I could fly off to Italy right now and tie the knot in that dress! Fittingly enough, I am off to a wedding in a few hours and I can’t wait to see how the bride incorporated all the elements of her fall theme. What is your dream wedding like?

[[While this post was created in partnership with lover.ly, I did not receive any compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.]]

Strawberry Lemonade Popsicles & Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Fudgesicles

Look! I made you dinner!

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You could have it as a snack if you wanted to, but the best summer days are the ones where ice cream, popsicles, and other cold treats are perfectly acceptable as meals. You know the days I mean, right? It’s like the summer version of having breakfast for dinner.

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These are ridiculously easy to make, and you know that if I’m saying that, kindergarten classes everywhere could handle it.

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The strawberry lemonade popsicles have two ingredients. Two! There are more letters in that word than there are ingredients! Simply cut the stems off of a few strawberries, throw them in your blender or food processor with a few squirts of lemon juice, and you’re almost done!

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I chopped up a few extra pieces to throw in and make my popsicles chunky, but you’re free to skip this step if that weirds you out a little. You could also add a little bit of honey or sugar if you wanted to, but these are most likely sweet enough on their own depending on the taste of your strawberries.

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For a really sweet snack, I suggest the fudgesicles.

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I poured a cup of milk (I used coconut) into a mason jar, added a packet of hot chocolate, a scoop of PB2, some chia seeds, and a reasonable (to no one) amount of chocolate chips. Shake it all up and pour it into your popsicle mold.

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Don’t be alarmed if you see some chunks – the chia seeds will swell a little and help make these more of a fudgesicle consistency instead of just some frozen milk.

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Stick them in your freezer for a few hours and then stick them in your mouth!

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You can make just one, or you can make them both! And if you don’t approve of popsicle dinners, try one for dessert. Totally laid back. Just like summer. 🙂

Booze Basket

I’m a sucker for a little DIY project.

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My baby sister is getting married later this summer, so when she asked me to put together a basket to raffle off at her upcoming Jack & Jill, I couldn’t resist the chance to put together a little something different.

Here’s what you need to make your own:

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  • a cute basket
  • styrofoam or similar to fill it (I used “wet foam” from the floral section of my local craft store)
  • dowels or skewers
  • assorted nips
  • lottery tickets (preferably winning ones!)
  • curling ribbon
  • scissors
  • tape

I tried to keep a bright, summery color scheme in mind when I was buying the basket and the filler items.

First you want to fit your styrofoam into your basket. Make sure you’re using something soft enough to stick your dowels into, but sturdy enough to keep its shape.

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Next, tape the bottom of a nip to the top of one of the dowels. If you wanted, you could use colorful washi tape here, but I chose clear tape to keep it simple.

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In order to make sure the nip stays on (and to add a pop of color!), I tied a piece of ribbon to the top of each one, securing it to the dowel. I recommend doing this step without cats around, as that did not work out well for me. Or them.

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If you want to get fancy (who doesn’t?), use your scissors to curl the ends.

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Stick the dowel into the foam and push down until it’s at the height you want. Continue taping and tying nips to the dowels and arranging them in your basket, alternating colors and heights until it looks the way you want it to.

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Don’t worry about the foam showing through, you can cover that later with decorative rocks, candy, confetti, etc.

Tape the back of a lottery ticket to a dowel and add these into your basket.

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You’re done! Now you have a party you can take to a party!

Quick Little Updates

With my 30 Day Fun Fitness Challenge coming to a close, I thought I would just cram the results and a whole bunch of other updates into one post. I’m all about saving the internet environment.

30 Day Fun Fitness Challenge

So this was fun. At first. But like with all things, I started to get bored towards the end and just kind of…gave up. I’m the kind of person who likes to see results. It even makes me happy to clean my bathroom and be able to see how great everything looks after, even if it’s only for five minutes. But we all know that workouts don’t yield immediate results. And I do not have patience.

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I did pretty well up until the end, only skipping two days and eventually making them up on a different day. I’ve noticed that I really do NOT like going to the apartment complex (or any) gym and would much rather work out in my living room. I also noticed that I most enjoyed the workouts that included a mix of activities, like the ones in pink. Admittedly, some of these were fairly easy and I would probably make them more challenging if I ever did this again, but I liked having a set number of things to accomplish and pushing through them before I had a chance to get bored.

In the end, I didn’t lose any weight (in fact I’m up to 134!), nor do I really feel any differently, but maybe I just needed to give it more than 30 days (ok, fine, 25)? Or stop eating cookies? I’m not sure which is the better (or worse?) option.

Spring Bucket List

This one isn’t over yet, and let’s be serious, it really has just begun. I think we’ve had maybe four actual spring-like days so far, so I’m going to be cramming a lot of these in within the last five weeks left of the season.

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You may notice that coloring Easter eggs is not crossed off. Is it acceptable to do this long after the Easter Bunny has packed up and begun his 364-day vacation from delivering baskets? I just wasn’t in the mood to make a mess of my kitchen, and then I couldn’t find a half-dozen white eggs at my grocery store, and then we decided that no one would even EAT hard-boiled eggs, yadda yadda yadda.

I’m working on my Summer Bucket List right now, but I’m not sure how practical it is to have 100+ things to do in a 93-day period (I counted.), so I’m trying to narrow that one down a little. It’s soooooo HARD. I add seven for every one I cut. Typical.

Weekly Photo Challenge

This is definitely my favorite challenge. We’re only three weeks in, but we gained a friend, so now there are three of us taking and sharing photos every week based on a changing theme. The first week’s theme was Spring:

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Followed by Architecture:

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And here’s a sneak peek at the current week, Transportation:

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That’s what’s up around here! Have any updates of your own? Leave them in the comments below along with your picks for what absolutely MUST be on a Summer Bucket List!