Thrifty AND Clever!

That’s how I was feeling today.  Since we moved in, the curtains in each of the boys’ rooms have been making me crazy.  I want the windows covered at night, so the hooligans go to sleep even though the sun’s still up, but on days the weather is cool, I’d rather have the windows open to let the breezes blow.  If any rooms need fresh air, it’s those!

Also, when the curtains are closed, they cover the heat and a/c vents because no one bothered to hem them shorter when we moved in a year ago. Ahem.  Yes, that would be me, the non-hemmer. Whenever I think about hemming and darning things, I think of about a hundred other FUN things I could sew. I don’t, but I could, so I don’t hem or darn until it’s an emergency.

Curtain tiebacks would solve all my problems, or at least my curtain problems. I saw some in a magazine a couple of years ago and stored it in my brain (can you believe it…I didn’t see them on Pinterest, but on actual paper?).

DSC_0008I just needed some rope clasps and rope. I bought the clasps about 6 months ago at the Fleet and Farm store (yes, it’s a real place), but kept forgetting rope.

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While I was killing time at Costco waiting for my 715 photos to be printed (that’s a blog post for another time!) this week, I strolled over to the office supply aisle.  I was shocked and amazed to find this box of assorted ribbons, including the exact rope I needed but had forgotten about, for less than $5. Each spool has 10 yards on it, so for you non-math geeks, that’s works out to about a nickel a yard. I know, right? You can’t beat that with a stick!

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If you need these, here’s how. It took all of five minutes to make them for four windows. Cut a piece of rope about a yard long, loop it through the non-opening side of the clasp, then tie the ends.  Hide those in the back (unless you’re really proud of your knot-tying skills and want them in the front).  Bring the other loop around the curtain and catch it in the clasp.

Now I have to go try to think of a use for all those other red, white, and black ribbons. Enjoy your day!

Linking up at The Taylor House
and The Frugal Girls

Pause and Be Happy

Before I start on today’s post, here’s an urgent reminder that Stampin’ Up!’s Retirement List ends tomorrow, 31May.  Those stamps and accessories will be GONE FOREVER, people!  So if there are any you love, get them now…you can shop on my website (See it? Up there in the right sidebar?  Yep, that’s where you go.  But come back!).

I was at Target a couple of weeks ago and found a set of printed paper tapes in great summer colors…lemon, lime, strawberry, blueberry, and watermelon.  They were with the kids’ summer craft supplies, but I felt they could be used by me, as well. I’ve been wanting some washi tape, but haven’t found it locally and keep forgetting to order it. The kids’ stuff was considerably less expensive, so I thought I’d give it a try.

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I’m still busy trying to decide what project is worthy of my new tape, but my fingers were itching to use it, so I made this notecard. I just cut some of the tape to cover the front, wrapped a little bakers’ twine around it, and stamped a sentiment using the Pursuit of Happiness set from Stampin’ Up. Oh, and attached a little library clip, also from SU!,

With such a happy card, I decided to include some photos of the hooligans playing the sprinkler over the weekend.

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It’s amazing the joy a regular old lawn sprinkler can bring!
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We offered to go to the beach or the splash pad, but they wanted to stay home,
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He was the only one smart enough to keep flip flops on while playing.
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Those eyelashes slay me…he drew a family picture the other day and put big ginormous eyelashes on me, but no one else. He said that now my eyes are like his.
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She really was having fun.
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It’s gonna be a long, hot summer…I’m so glad they’re happy with the simple pleasures for now.
And do you see why the card sentiment made me think of sharing these photos? I hope you all have time to pause and just be happy today…or sometime soon!

Too Hot to Cook a Pizza? Never!

When it’s just too hot to turn on the oven, even with air conditioning, we still crave pizza.  Of course. What to do?  We throw it on the grill.  The kids think it’s a blast, and it keeps the kitchen cool and the cleanup quick.

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First, assemble all your ingredients.  My favorite pizza dough recipe is from King Arthur Flour (find it here), but be aware that it rests in the frig overnight, so you have to plan ahead. Thus, I usually use this recipe instead, also from King Arthur. And don’t feel guilty if you buy pizza dough…there’s no shame in that!  Those dough makers gotta support their families, too.

Easiest Pizza Crust

  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast or instant yeast; or 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, optional
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all purpose flour, enough to make a soft, smooth dough
  • 2 tablespoons Pizza Dough Flavor, optional

Directions

1) Dissolve the sugar, yeast, and salt in the lukewarm water (and olive oil, if you’re using it).
2) Add the flour, starting with 5 1/2 cups and adding more as necessary to make a soft, smooth dough.
3) Knead the dough (with your hands, a mixer, or your bread machine set on the dough cycle) until it’s smooth and elastic, about 7 to 10 minutes.
4) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container, cover it, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, whatever fits your schedule.
5) Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into six or eight pieces, depending on how hungry your people are. We do eight, then a few of us eat more than one pizza.I’m not naming names.

Once your dough is ready, gather everyone around…the process goes really quickly.  Brush the grill with olive oil, and heat to around 500 degrees.

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Stretch each piece of dough to a rough (very rough in our case) circle, as thin as you can without tearing it. Toss a couple on the grill and cook, lid open, for about 4-5 minutes, until they release from the grill.

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As soon as you flip the crust, quickly add the toppings.  Don’t use any raw toppings, like onions, since you’re just heating, not really cooking them.  If you like raw onions, feel free to use them, of course.

Close the lid and let it cook until the cheese melts, another 4-6 minutes. This one has roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, feta, and some mozzarella. Yum.  Prosciutto is great on this, too, but we ran out. Midnight snacking, probably.

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The hooligans are pepperoni, sauce, and cheese purists, for the most part. Although the middle one does like my pear and Gorgonzola and usually shares it with me.

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Who wouldn’t like this?  Pesto, pears, Gorgonzola, and a little mozzarella for melting, inspired by my favorite flatbread at Brewery City in Washington.

So the next time the mercury’s rising and your family wants pizza, forget the takeout and take it out to the grill.  It’s great family time and (could be) much more healthy…and everyone gets just what they want on their pie, for much less than even a frozen pizza!

Linking up to The Frugal Girls

Drop Me a Line

Recently, I needed to write an actual, handwritten letter, on actual stationery, not a card. So I looked high and low for some stationery I liked, to no avail. I found some, but it was in sets and quite pricey.  I only needed a couple of sheets!

I remember when I was young, I always had plenty of cute stationery pads and sets I had received as gifts.  I wrote a lot of letters then, too.  No, not just to Shaun Cassidy and Andy Gibb.  I actually wrote out-of-town friends and relatives.  Of course, that was before computers were even invented (because the dinosaurs kept stepping on the inventors), but still.  I never thought finding some nice paper would be so hard!

By the way, Stampin’ Up! has stationery sheets in their new catalog, available 1 June. Perhaps they had the same problem as I did. In any event, I came home, found some paper I used for resumes and cover letters back when I actually left my home to work, and started thinking. I cut the sheets in half to make 8-1/2” x 5-1/2” sheets, then stamped some images in the bottom right and upper left corners.  Nothing too elaborate, of course. And I was happy with my results and wrote my letter.

Then I started thinking about a graduation gift I wanted to give (to the daughter of the friend I’d written the letter to), and I decided a stationery folio would be just the ticket.

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This is the cover, with a nice ribbon to tie it closed.
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Inside I put 8 sheets stamped with a design and initial, 8 sheets without the initial, and 8 stamped envelopes.
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See, isn’t that pretty?  This particular grad is an extremely talented artist, and I’m quite certain she could make something much more “her,” but she might not have time!

The folio was very easy to create.  How, you ask?  Using a 12×12 piece of cardstock (not DSP, it’s not heavy enough), score it at 6” one way, turn it 90 degrees, and score it at 3”.  The 6” score is the center, the 3” folds up to make the pocket.  I cut about 1/4” down on either side of the center, on the 3” portion, then rounded the corners.  You can see that more easily in the second photo.

I used Sticky Strip to adhere the outside edges of the 3” pocket. I also rounded the top corner of the folio, then embellished as I wished. I probably should stamp a little something inside the folio.  Now that I see it, it looks a little plain.

I think this makes a nice little gift for any occasion, such as graduation, birthdays, or hostess gifts. Doesn’t that make you want to invite me over for dinner?  I’m inspired to write more letters, but that doesn’t mean I will.  I’ll try, though!

I’m linking this up at Frugal Girls’ Chic and Crafty Party

Gearing Up for Memorial Day

As with pretty much every day, I enjoy food that fits a theme. For example, I like to have red, white, and blue things for Memorial Day (and it really can fit almost any day in our Army home!). Here’s a couple of quick treats that fit the bill.

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Don’t these look patriotic?  When I was a caterer, I made these by the boatload, and they’re super quick.  Even if you’re making 200 of them.  But you won’t be. Probably. If you don’t have blue sugar, you could just tint some of the candy coating blue and dip the lower third again after the white hardens, or you could just drizzle blue onto the white.

Wash and DRY (that’s key here) your berries. Put some blue sugar crystals in a small ramekin, about 3/4” deep (the sugar, not the bowl). Melt some white chocolate or candy melts, dip the berries, and allow the excess to drip off.  The dip the lower third of the berry in the sugar. Chill until ready to serve. Bask in the compliments.

yogurt-stars

These frozen yogurt stars were inspired by Pinterest, where I saw that you could drop yogurt onto wax paper and freeze the drops for a yummy snack. When I saw these star ice cube trays at the dollar store, I had to get them, and I thought they’d be perfect for yogurt. And I was right.
I used raspberry, blueberry, and vanilla yogurt to get a red, white, and blue effect.  It didn’t work perfectly, but if you really wanted to overachieve, you could add food coloring to make it more intensely red and blue.
I keep a ziploc of these in the freezer now, for when the kids (or yes, I) want a quick bite of something sweet.  They’re just the thing, especially when it’s going to be close to 90 here tomorrow. Ugh.
Keep cool, and enjoy the tastiness of red, white, and blue!

Linking up to the Taylor House Thursday Party and Frugal Girls Chic and Crafty

Round and Round It Goes

I found myself needing a vase for the allium buds the hooligans keep bringing inside, and I wanted something a bit rustic and outdoors-y.  So I saw a beer bottle next to the sink, waiting to be recycled, and thought, “Aha!”
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One of my friends (with impeccable taste, because that’s the only kind of friend I have!) recently sent me a box filled with wondrous things, among them this twine dispenser.  Now I feel the need to use twine even more frequently, just to justify having it out on the counter.  What better to use for my vase?

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I put E6000 adhesive randomly on the neck of the bottle, and started wrapping.  As I wrapped, I added more adhesive as needed until I reached the bottom, where I tucked the end in neatly. It only took a few minutes to wrap the bottle, and I think a whole row would look very cool on a picnic table or mantel.

Those pistachios on the table next to the vase are like crack for the hooligans (and who am I kidding, they have the same effect for my GI Joe and me).  They’re Salt and Pepper Everybody’s Nuts from Costco…yes, we have to buy them by the boatload.  Try them, you’ll like them!

So before you put ALL your bottles in the recycle bin, maybe you, too, need a vase or three. As a bonus, it makes you look less like a lush to your recycle guy and neighbors if you use the bottles for something else!

Linking up to The Taylor House Thursday Party

Berry Cheesecake…in a Jar

I had a hankering for a cheesecake involving goat cheese, but since the temperature has been warmish, didn’t want to heat the house by using the oven for that long. So I came up with this, instead.

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It’s yumminess in a jar.  Why?  So I could, in theory, take it on a picnic.  Or for lunch.  Or upstairs to my big reading chair on a hot afternoon, along with a large frosty glass of iced tea.

I wanted a no-bake filling, so I started out with the “no-bake cheesecake” my grandma made.  Then I added some goat cheese for tanginess, fat-free Cool Whip to lighten it up, and fresh berries on top rather than a cooked cherry topping.

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I did turn the oven on for a bit to bake the graham cracker crusts.  I wanted them to be a bit crunchy.

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I let them cool while I mixed the filling, then spooned it in and smoothed it into all the corners and such by tapping the jars on the counter.

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After all that work (it took less than thirty minutes and only got one bowl dirty), I screwed the lids on and popped them in to chill until dessert time.

When ready to serve, I topped them with fresh strawberries and blueberries and garnished with a sprig of mint from the garden (I love writing that!).  If you wanted to take them on a picnic, I would freeze them without the berries, then top just before leaving for your picnic.  They’ll be perfectly thawed yet still chilled when you need them!

Berry Cheesecakes

(makes 6 jars but you could also just make one 9” pie instead…but that’s not as fun!)
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 Tbsp melted butter
3 Tbsp brown sugar
4 oz goat cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz) fat free sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
4 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cups (about half a small tub) fat free Cool Whip
fresh berries for topping
6- 8 oz mason jars

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. To make crusts: Combine graham crumbs, melted butter, and brown sugar in large bowl. When well mixed, spoon about 4 Tbsp of the mixture into each jar., then press firmly with the back of the spoon to form your crust. Place the jars on a cookie sheet for baking, just to make it easier to put them in and take them out of the oven.

3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes, until slightly darker. Remove from oven and let cool while you make your filling.

4. To make filling: Cream together goat cheese and sweetened condensed milk, then stir in lemon juice. Fold whipped topping in, then spoon into jars, dividing evenly and leaving room for berries.

5. Replace lids and chill until ready to serve. Top with fresh berries
 
 Click here to print the recipe

Linking up to The Taylor House Thursday Party   
and Frugal Girls Chic and Crafty

Here, There, and Everywhere

I admit it…I was a blog slacker for a couple of days last week.  So, as a reward for your patience, here’s a look at the daily life that was keeping me busy over the past week and a half or so. Tomorrow, I’ll be back with something crafty!

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My kindergartener invited me tea to at his class for Mother’s Day.  It was lovely, with bonnets and corsages made by the hooligan and refreshments made by his teachers.  They sang a few adorable songs and then read to us.  He read “The Grouchy Ladybug,” which is one of our favorites…”Want to fight?”  comes up often in conversation at our home.

I was thrilled to see that my job is to “craft stuff” according to him.  Most of the moms’ jobs involved cleaning. I was just happy it didn’t say “Laying on the couch eating bonbons and watching TV.”

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On Mothers’ Day, everyone pitched in to get the garden ready to plant. It’s only about 10 feet on each side, so it’s not like they had to cultivate 40 acres by hand. They found lots of long, fat, wriggly worms, so I think our vegetables will have some excellent soil this year…no excuses for puniness!

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After Princess Thundercloud had a timeout for flinging dirt with her shovel, they all lost interest and played Ring Around the Rosy. Oh, well.
                   

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Last Friday was Field Day at the hooligans’ school, so Thundercloud and I had a fabulous time watching the boys compete in running, jumping, and throwing.

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The kindergartener had apparently been working on his technique with his fourth grade buddy…his form certainly looks a lot better than he would have learned from me.  Oh, wait, I don’t run unless someone is chasing me.

As soon as Field Day was over, we packed up our gear and headed to the Wisconsin Dells for an Army Strong Bonds Family Wellness Retreat. What a great program the Army has.  We had classes for a few hours each day, then lots of free time to spend as a family.

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We stayed at the Great Wolf Lodge, so spent large blocks of time in the waterpark.  The boys are fearless on the slides, and Thundercloud loved body-surfing in the wave pool.  I was just thrilled to get to wear a swimsuit. Not really. As the kids get older, though, I have to admit it’s much more fun to go to the waterpark with them.
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We also went on a boat tour of the Upper Dells, largely to see this amazing feat.  These trained dogs leap from point to point.  My mother-in-law told us not to miss this.  As a little girl in Chicago, she came to the Dells and saw the same thing.  Not the same dog, of course.

Even more amazing was the backstory.  Way back when, someone in the Dells invented the first camera that could capture motion in a still shot.  That’s pretty cool, but the amazing part was that to demonstrate it, he made his thirteen-year-old son leap back and forth SEVENTEEN times to capture the perfect shot. 

Can you imagine what the kid’s mom said when she heard and saw the photograph?  I wonder if she then offered to take a perfect shot of her husband making that leap seventeen times?  And was she going to use a camera or firearm?

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As a last stop before starting home, we had lunch at our favorite barbeque joint, Famous Dave’s.  We’ve been to this chain all over the country, and, to be honest, most of the were mediocre at best, so we were disillusioned. When we lived in Kansas, the one at the Texas Speedway was outstanding and we were thrilled to find the one in the Dells just the same.

This hooligan’s nickname is Porkchop, and he loves ribs…so he was one happy camper yesterday!  Even if he was to exhausted from the weekend that his eyelids were closing.

So there’s a glimpse at our busy life…hopefully this week will be a little slower, because next week field trips then end-of-school activities really kick in. It’s been a great couple of weeks, though, with lots of family togetherness and counting our blessings…I hope you’ve had the same!

What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’?

The moms’ group I belong to asked me to give a little talk on whatever I wanted to, so of course I chose cooking. A few years ago, I did a presentation at the Fort Lewis Women’s Conference on quick cooking, so I used those recipes, plus a few more freezer meals.

That presentation was the start of this blog, technically.  I needed a way to distribute all the recipes, so I jumped into the blogosphere and made my first post on “Chaos Served Daily.”  Then I didn’t blog for two and half years, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Here’s this week’s version of my talk, in brief.

My Ten Favorite Quick Recipe Meals (not those meals you can put together without a recipe, in your sleep…if you ever got any sleep)

  • Salisbury Steak with Mashed Potatoes and Country Green Beans
  • Mozzarella Chicken with Linguine and Chopped Salad
  • Chicken Pot Pie with Fruit Salad
  • Chicken Enchiladas with Black Bean and Corn Salad
  • Pierogies with Bacon and Green Peas
  • Chicken Penne Caesar Salad with Dinner Rolls
  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Pork Chops with Cider Gravy, Sauteed Apples and Onions
  • Chicken Yakisoba with Cucumber Salad
  • Lazy Day Lasagna with Green Salad
  • Sweet Potato-Sausage Hash with Waldorf Salad 
  • These recipes can be found on my blog post from 2009 or you can print them here.

    Ten Amazing Crockpot Meals (you’ll just need to add a freshly made side)

  • Taco Soup with Corn Pudding
  • Shredded Beef Sandwiches with Coleslaw and Alessi Frozen Fries
  • Pork with Sauerkraut and Apples with Steamed Broccoli
  • Jambalaya with Sourdough Rolls and Fruit Salad
  • Old-Fashioned Beef Stew Serve over couscous
  • Cola Pot Roast and Vegetables with Biscuits
  • BBQ Shortribs with Roasted Vegetables and Cornbread or Quick Grits
  • Black Bean Chili with Cornbread & Raw Veggies
  • Vegetable Curry Serve over rice or with flatbread
  • Roast Chicken Mashed Potatoes and Asparagus with Browned Butter Sauce 
  • These recipes can also be found on that same blog post, or you can print them right here.

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  • For the moms’ group, I added a menu of ten freezer meals, with a grocery list, game plan detailing how to make the ten meals in four hours or less, and recipes.  Here’s the menu:

    Meals to Make for the Freezer

    • Pepper Steak with freshly made rice
    • Lime Cilantro Chicken to use in wraps, over salad, or with Mexican Rice
    • Huevos Rancheros with fresh fruit salad
    • Sausage and Peppers to use for sandwiches or with pasta and a salad
    • Vegetable Beef Soup
    • Cider Braised Pork Loin with Apples and Potatoes
    • Big Greek Pasta
    • Lasagna Ruffles
    • Butter Chicken with freshly made rice and cucumber strips with rice wine vinegar
    • Cottage Pie with fresh Waldorf Salad (apples, celery, craisins, almonds, and vanilla yogurt)

  • Here’s where to print them:

    Menu, Tips, and Schedule
    Grocery List
    Freezer Meal Recipes

    Once you do a round of freezer meal prep, I think you’ll love how easy it makes the daily “What’s for dinner?” answer.  I try to cook for the freezer about every six weeks, and making ten meals is perfect for us.
    I don’t use freezer meals every night, but they sure are nice on busy weeknights. In our home, we eat two or three freezer meals a week, I cook fresh a couple of nights, and we eat out once or twice a week.  We always have at least one night a week that’s leftovers, either reinvented or everyone can “order” off the leftovers menu.
    When I cook a fresh meal, I try to double it, so I can freeze a meal for later.  It really doesn’t take more than a few extra minutes to make a double recipe, yet saves me an hour in the future when I can use a freezer meal!

  • When the Cat’s Away….

    …the mouse will glitter!  Last week, GI Joe was off doing Army stuff in the wilds of Western Wisconsin for a few days.  The morning he left, Princess Thundercloud hardly let him get down the driveway before asking to paint her letters.  We had picked them up at Hobby Lobby a full three days earlier, and I guess she’d been biding her time to get me alone. She knows I’m a soft touch for blinging.

    Guess what color she wanted to paint them?  Pink and purple.  What a surprise, right?  She actually did a great job painting them, even waiting between coats for the paint to dry.

    DSC_0004When they were really dry, I brushed on a coat of Mod Podge and then sprinkled pink and purple glitter over them.  Heavily. She’s thrilled, and it took almost the whole morning to do, since we had to wait to do the steps. She was remarkably patient. It was also quite inexpensive.  The letters were on sale for $1.50 each, the paint was 53 cents a bottle, and I already had glitter and ribbon.

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    Using shimmery white ribbon, we hung them from the rod that holds the quilt from her crib set. No, I never used the quilt as actual bedding…that’s not safe and I’m an excellent mother. Really.  It made a better wall hanging over her headboard.

    Anyway, back to the star of our post…she thinks she’s the Queen of the World. I write that as if she didn’t already.