Thursday, November 22, 2018

I Am Thankful



First off, Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you all have a wonderful celebration filled with delicious food, family and friends.

This year has had a lot of good and some bad mixed in. I suppose that's like most years, right?  I find that focusing on what I am thankful for puts things into perspective and gives me a better outlook.  

That said, here are some things I am thankful for.


  • My husband, I truly am blessed to have him.
  • My kids.  This year has shown so much growth and even through challenging times we have overcome so much adversity. 
  • This blog.  I am ambivalent toward technology but I'm thankful for the technology that has allowed me to write this blog.  It's been one of the things I've done that I'm most proud of.
  • A nice quite and peaceful town in which to live.
  • Being surrounded by nature daily.
  • Delicious food.

What are you thankful for?  I'd love to see in the comments below!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Loom Knit Hats



I tried this project after, more than a year ago, my mom showed my kids how to do it.  Guys, this is easy enough for kids to do!  When I picked up the loom I figured it would be easy enough. And I was right. Just remembering what my mom taught my kids to do I was able to pick it up without much thought or additional instruction. I know my experience in knitting and crochet helped, but I'd say this is a great beginner project.



Look at that stitch.  It looks just like the knitting that takes me days to complete.  This project can be done in just a few hours!  And the variegated yarn I used made such a nice stripe. Better yet, because this worked up so fast, you can get a handmade holiday gift done in in no time.  Trust me.




I read somewhere that this type of knitting is actually older than the needle knitting.  I hesitate to call it original, but who knows?  I know looms date back pretty far so it sounds totally possible to me.



To make hats on a loom you need a thicker yarn.  I used chunky weight yarn in this coral colored hat and in the one shown at the top of the page.  The multi-colored one shown in the third picture is made using two strands of worsted weight yarn held together as one.  The darker blue hat below is made using one strand of a slightly less chunky yarn, but it still worked up nicely.


The light blue hat above reminds me of a frosty winter night.  It is made using a chunky weight yarn.  After completing several of these hats I would have to say my best results came from the chunky weight yarn.  The two strands of worsted weight worked fine, but I like the look and feel of the chunky yarn better.

I don't have my own instructions for you in this post, but Here's a tutorial so you can make some great gifts for your friends and family!  It's not hard at all and even young children can do it.  Give it a try and let me know what you think below.

Have you ever tried making a loom knit hat?

You might also like:
Simple Crochet Beanie
Granny Stitch Slouch Hats

Friday, November 9, 2018

Tea Tree Oil - An Antimicrobial Powerhouse?




I came across tea tree oil many years ago in a mall.  It was in a Body Shoppe and I thought that it was weird that this oil was supposed to help with acne.  At the time my skin care regimen was oil free due to sensitivity.  I dismissed the tea tree oil, thinking any oil would make my pimples worse, and didn't think about it for years.

Years later I had a bureau that became musty.  I would clean it and it would look fine for a while, but then the mold would reappear.  It was frustrating and I thought I would have to get rid of the piece.  I finally went online and looked up how to get rid of mold on furniture.  It was then that I found out about tea tree oil.  I purchased some online and diluted it to the proper portions and began to clean the piece of furniture.  The mold, as it had before, came off.  This time, though, it did not return.  Tea tree oil to the rescue.  This really was a great find.  See below for the recipe!

Already having it on hand, I found that it had many other uses.  I remembered what I had learned about its use for acne and started using it on any blemishes that appeared.  It worked wonderfully.  I still use it.  I just wet a cotton swab with tap water and drip a drop of tea tree oil on the end of it.  Then I dab the swab on any blemishes.



I found that it is also a great remedy for ear aches.  I have read some warnings online that have cautioned not putting it directly in the ear canal, so I rub it around the outside of the ear canal even behind the ear.  I believe it penetrates the skin and attacks the infection.  It's worked great for our family.  One thing I should note is that tea tree oil should never be ingested.  It is not meant to be consumed.

As far as scientific research, the data is sparse.  I did come across some research that, while it did not find conclusive results that tea tree oil was effective, said the results that were found warranted more research. As for me, I'll be using it despite the lack of evidence, because, for me, it's proven helpful.  

And remember lack of evidence doesn't mean something doesn't work, it means it hasn't been effectively tested.  The use of things that have been conclusively shown to be false should be carefully considered.  But when there is lack of data and you find something that works well for you, go on and use it as long as it makes you happy!  

Tea tree oil with its distinct medicine smell is probably my favorite essential oil.  What are some of your favorites? 


-----------------

Tea Tree Oil Mold Killer

Ingredients:

1 cup water
1 teaspoon tea tree oil
1 spray bottle

Mix ingredients and add to spray bottle.  Shake vigorously before spraying.  Spray some on surface and wipe off until clean.  Then spray a thin layer over clean surface and let dry.



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Homemade Laundry Soap
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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Scrapbook Fall and Winter 2017





After a successful endeavor with my summer scrapbook I think I caught the bug!  I really enjoyed making this one and I feel like I'm picking up a style.  I have to say that I love framing almost every photo with paper.  I've stuck some in there without a paper frame and I like how they look in certain places.  For the most part, though, I really like the look of a border around the pictures.





One thing I was disappointed in, though, was the quality of my photos.  I thought these ones were a little lower quality than my summer pictures.  I'm not sure why.  And I've got about 500 extra!  We can thank Walmart for that one (insert eye roll).

After I finished up my Summer 2017 *LINK* scrapbook, I went to the Walmart photo site to order my next set of prints.  I debated between just fall or fall and winter combined, but settled on getting both.  If it turned out to be too many then I could just save them for the next album.





Anyway, I ordered the pictures and waited for the message that they had arrived.  Well, two weeks went by and I never got the message.  I had signed up to receive a text but the text never came.  The next time I was at Walmart shopping I stopped by the photo department and asked about my photos.  As fate would have it, the pictures had arrived on inventory day.  So the system recorded them as arriving at the store but not arriving in the photo department.





The woman who helped me was kind and courteous and she called the main Walmart photo center.  They cancelled my credit card payment and asked me to re-order online.  Easy, right?  Well, no.  When I reordered I wasn't sure how many pictures were in the original order.  I assumed the site would save my exact order so I simply clicked "reorder".  

For some strange reason the order had been saved with doubles of every picture.  It also included the pictures that I had originally discarded.  I'm not sure what happened.  My husband said I should have asked for a refund.  But I was the one who ordered them.  I should have reviewed it more thoroughly.  So I paid double for pictures I didn't want that didn't come on time.  Go figure.





In addition to that all the pictures arrived out of order!

After organizing my stash, I started in on a project that I grew to love.  All-in-all it took me a few months to complete, working on it sporadically.  It gave my hands and shoulder-blade-crochet-knot a break for a bit.

I'm going to order prints for Spring and Summer 2018 once fall rolls around.  In the meantime I may scrapbook some old photos I found or start in on my new yarn stash.  We shall see!






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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Summer 2017 Scrapbook Done!



I was so happy when I finished this scrapbook that soon after I finished it I ordered prints for my next scrapbook.  You can read about that one soon!  I started this one back in October and though it took me a long time to complete, I had a blast doing it!





I'm sure you will see from the pictures that I'm not a professional scrapbooker.  I keep things rather simple as my inventory is slim.  I don't really have the desire to increase my stash of scrapbook supplies because I enjoy the simplicity of the craft.  I basically stuck to patterned paper, washi tape and rubber stamps.  A true scrapbooker might laugh at that!






I recently saw a professionally done scrapbook of someone's Disney trip.  It was amazing!  There are actual professional scrapbookers.  Can you believe that?  I'm not talking people who sell scrapbook materials and offer classes to help you scrapbook.  I'm talking people who will scrapbook your vacation for you.





Anyway, those people clearly put me to shame, but I have still found a bit of fun in my new little hobby.  And besides, it's a great way to chronicle our family adventures and have something to look at and reminisce about without the the use of technology.  And I think we can all agree that sometimes we need to take what we call in my house, a tech break.





Summer 2017 was a great year with many fun summer trips.  2018 was a good one too, and I'm sure I'll still have fun scrapbooking it...once I get to it!





You might also like:

A Summer Tribute
Paper Crafting Fun

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Watermelon Candy Crochet Beanie


This hat took me far longer than it ought to have taken.  But I am still pleased with the results.  And sadly, I have put my crochet hook down for a bit because every time I crochet I seem to aggravate the knot behind my left shoulder.  I've tried my tips and tricks.  And you can find them here!  But for some reason that knot is relentless.  My hands, while they do get fatigued after long use, were fine.  This time it was just the dumb knot.

If you have any tips or tricks please leave them in the comment section below.  Do you use ergonomic crochet hooks?  Let me know what ones and if you think they help.  There's also a posture corrector that I keep seeing online and I'm curious if that could help.  It looks like the thing my son wore when he broke his collar bone.  Has anyone used one of those to correct posture while crocheting?



Anyway, here are some pictures of the hat on my head (with extremely poor lighting!).  It is a simple beanie and should work up quickly if you don't take a thousand breaks.  Do you like the little pompom I put on top?  I hesitated about that, but in the end decided to go with it.  How about the flower?  In the future I'll have to include instructions how to make that simple creation.  It's super easy and very fast.


Here is a post with a link to directions on how to make this simple crochet beanie.  For this hat I used a J-hook, but I'm sure you can work with many other sizes depending on the thickness of your yarn.

You might also like:
Watermelon Candy Granny Strip Afghan
Bright and Fun Granny Square Bag

Friday, October 19, 2018

My Vegetable Garden 2018


What's more homemade than home grown vegetables?

This year I decided to try again at growing vegetables.  I hadn't grown any since we lived in our old house.  And my success there was minimal.  I think we had some soil issues, too much shade and a proliferation of pill bugs.  After a couple years there I stopped trying.  

But with our new yard and more sun, we had a mildly successful year.  I will definitely do it again next year.  For the fist year I decided to keep it simple.  I planted one hill of summer squash, two hills of zucchini, six tomato plants and two hills of cucumbers.  I threw in a few green beans but the bunnies demolished those before my husband got the fence up.

I dug my garden the old fashioned way.  And perhaps the stupid way.  The day before I put my garden in I helped my friend with hers.  Pitchforking two gardens two days in a row resulted in a very sore arm and hand.  In the future I will keep this in mind and perhaps invest in some sort of tilling tool.



One of the best things I think I did for my garden was to cover the fresh dirt in cardboard and newspaper.  To ensure it didn't just fly away, I covered it with brown cedar mulch.  Due to that I had barely any weeds.  I'm talking just a few tufts of grass poking out from in between the seams.  I will definitely do this technique again.  My mom does this and I saw it on Pinterest. If your garden is not immense, you should give it a try for sure.

My yellow squash didn't produce a whole lot of great fruit.  That could be for many reasons, but I did see squash bugs in the flowers.  One zucchini plant did quite well, but the other only produced a few zucchini.  The tomatoes produced well, but I was hoping for a bit more.  I had six plants and probably 7 or 8 tomatoes from each plant.



Next year I want to fertilize better.  I went with some Pinterest tips and used coffee grounds and eggshells.  And while my garden did ok, I am sure with more nutrients it could have done even better.  I think this worked well for the cucumbers and tomatoes, but my squash did not have high yields as I mentioned

Just the other day I took in the last of my green tomatoes and put them on the windowsill.  Frost has arrived and frozen green tomatoes aren't that great.



I'm sad I have so few pictures.  I'm not sure what I was thinking!  Next year I'll be sure to take more.

You might also like:
Summer Squash Casserole
Zucchini Sticks
Herb Roasted Green Beans

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Strawberries!



Strawberry season has come and gone but we made it out this year in June to enjoy the delicious fruit.  By the time we arrived one of the fields was already picked out.  Fortunately for us, the farm opened a second field.  We picked the small but very sweet Jewel variety.  While I liked these candy-sweet berries, I will admit disappointment at not being able to harvest some bigger fruit with a little more tang.  



My husband and kids holding the fruits of our labor


It was a seasonably hot day and I made sure to cover the kids and myself in sunscreen.  These past few years I've also been wearing a hat.  I used to be very self-conscious about it, but I soon realized no one really cares and I hated my head burning.  My hair is not super thick and even 15 minutes in the sun can result in a painful burn.  I found my hat at The Green Dragon, an open air flea market I had heard about in some of the Amish fiction that I read.  That was a fun find.



Here I am with my kids.


It was a fun day all around with sweet, fresh strawberries, strawberry doughnuts and strawberry cheesecake ice cream.  We will be back again next year I'm sure!



This strawberry cheesecake ice cream was so good!  The stripe of jam running through it was absolutely amazing!


Using some of the strawberries we picked, I made a small batch jam.  You can find it here.



These strawberry donuts were just too hard to resist.

Click here to see where we picked strawberries this year.  We go other places some years but this place is by far the most entertaining.  


You might also like:
Low Sugar Small Batch Strawberry Jam
The Pumpkin Patch
Brookfield Orchards


Monday, August 13, 2018

Lower Sugar Small Batch Strawberry Jam




The day we went to the strawberry patch I knew I wanted to make some jam.  But I also knew I didn't want to make a whole lot of it.  In the past I've made far too much and we just don't eat it very often so I feel like it goes to waste.  But I still wanted some jam.  Just the right amount of jam.  One jarful of jam.  And I googled the word jarful.  It's a thing.


If your jam gets foamy you can scrape it off before you dump it in the jar.

I needed to find a small batch recipe.  So where did I turn?  If you have read my blog for even a little while you might have already guessed.  I turned to Pinterest of course.  There were several small batch recipes and they were all very similar.  I opted to use the basic bones of the recipes I saw, but halve the sugar and replace the rest with granulated Splenda.

The result?  A wonderfully sweet jam with half the sugar of many recipes.  We all enjoyed it very much.

-------------------

Lower Sugar Small Batch Strawberry Jam

Ingredients:

1 pound or 3 3/4 cups fresh strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup granulated Splenda 
2 tablespoons lemon juice

First wash and drain your berries.  Then remove the stems.  Next, slice the strawberries and add them to a medium sized pot.  

Stir in sugar and Splenda.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring continually, then add lemon juice.

Boil (and keep stirring!) until jam reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.  If you don't have one, it takes about 15-20 minutes of boiling.  If you don't quite get to quite 220 the jam will be fine, just not as thick.    

Shortly before your jam is ready take a clean jar and fill it with hot tap water.  A heated jar is less likely to crack when filled with hot jam.  Dump the water out just before you add your jam.  Once your jam is at 220, add it into the warm jar using a wide mouth funnel.  Put a lid on it and let it cool on the counter.

Once the jar is cool put it in the refrigerator and enjoy it within 2 months.  

---------------------------

The recipe came out great and I loved that I could easily sub in the Splenda.  The recipes I saw did not recommend Splenda but I wanted a lower sugar recipe.  I knew that I could not use all Splenda if I wanted the same sort of consistency so that's why I opted only to sub in half.

TIP!  You can try using granulated stevia if you want to avoid artificial sweeteners. 

TIP!  Use thawed frozen berries instead of fresh.  Just measure them before you thaw them.

Let me know if you like jam or if you try this recipe in the comment section below.  


You might also like:
Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Strawberry Pie







Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Mysterious Creatures Birthday Cake




What do you get when you combine an alien, Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster?  A mysterious creature cake, of course!  

I asked my son what he wanted to do this year for his birthday.  My husband and I offered a variety of ideas and what he really wanted was an at-home family and family friend party.  Nothing fancy.  We could do that!

For weeks I asked him what he wanted his cake to be.  He had some very lofty ideas that I wasn't sure I could pull off.  His number one suggestion was the Himalayan mountains.  Seriously?  I told him to think of something else.  A bit defeated, I think, he asked for repeat cakes, like a nature cake or perhaps a Minecraft cake again.  I told him we could do the nature cake if he really wanted to, but I knew he wasn't very excited.

So, the morning before his party I got up early, as I always do, and after a coffee and some quiet time adjusting to the new day, I got on Pinterest.  I had to find something he really liked.  Not finding any great ideas initially, I stopped, closed my eyes and listed in my mind all the things he really likes. Mysterious creatures!  That was it!  Now I had an idea. 

I wasn't sure if I would find any actual cakes but I typed a few different things in the search bar, hopeful.  Lo and behold there was something.  One thing to be exact.  And I knew he would like it!

Usually I leave my son alone in the morning to wake up slowly, but this morning I asked him right away if he would come and see the new cake idea.  He was excited and this is the result!

You can find the original design here.  I made it close to the original with a few adjustments.  And I am not sure who the original designer was because there is only a link to a picture.




I used two boxes of cake mix to make this cake.  The bottom layer I made in a spring form pan using one whole chocolate cake mix.  This time I used Betty Crocker, but any cake mix or homemade cake will do.  The top two layers are Betty Crocker yellow cake.

After cooling the cakes on the rack and trimming off any uneven bits, I put down the chocolate layer and covered it in green frosting.  I got this color with a mix of leaf green and moss green gel food coloring by Wilton.  I then outlined the eyes and nose of the alien with a toothpick and filled them in with black frosting.  Usually I make my own black frosting but this time I bought pre-made black in a squeeze tube because Walmart was out of black gel food coloring.  The tube was so easy and the color was great.  I may do this again in the future.

The recipe I use for all of the frosting except the black, you can find here.  It's the best one for decorating.  It is a very rich recipe and one I use only for special occasions, but it works so well!




As I said, the top two layers are yellow cake.  They were made in pans of two sizes, I think a 10-inch and an 8-inch, but I'm not exactly sure on that.  Either way, one is bigger than the other, but neither is as big as the spring form pan that I used for the bottom layer.

After I frosted the bottom layer and piped in some dots for an outline, I placed the larger yellow cake on top.  Next, I mixed up some of my vanilla buttercream with cocoa powder and brown gel food coloring.  The mix of food coloring and cocoa made just the right color.  I spread it over the entire second layer.

I did not want to put the fur on my Sasquatch yet because I knew it would interfere with frosting the top layer.  So I placed the next layer on top and frosted it with a layer of light blue frosting.  I used Wilton Sky Blue.

I didn't like it because it had no texture and didn't really look like water.  Referring back to the original I saw they piped on waves.  I tried that and hated it.  So I opted to dye some frosting a shade darker and sweep it on to look like waves.




Once the waves were done, I was ready to give the Sasquatch some fur.  I used a grass tip for this and piped it on starting at the base of the blue cake, making long strands down to the alien.  




Next I piped some eyes, a nose and a mouth onto my Sasquatch and piped a border layer at the base of my loch.  I let it sit that way overnight before I added on Nessie.  I didn't want to have the Loch Ness Monster topple over and ruin the whole thing.  

To make the Loch Ness Monster I simply used pre-made fondant from Wilton.  The night before I put it on, I shaped the fondant like play doh and tried my best!  I put some toothpicks in the bottom of the fondant and draped it over a cylinder and hoped it dried properly.  It did.  I think it looks like more of a snake, but it works!  They eyes I made by creating indents and piping on some white and black frosting.  Right before the party I stuck Nessie on using the toothpicks I had inserted into the fondant the night before.




So there you have it.  If you don't know what to make for your 13-year-old who likes mysterious creatures, here you go!  It's really not too hard!

Comment below if you like to make creative cakes for your kids!  Or maybe you have a question.  Leave it below and I'd love to help!


You might also like:
Minecraft Birthday Party
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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Chunky Stripe Double Crochet Blanket




It took me around six months to finish this one, but even with the relentless knot behind my shoulder blade, I was determined to press on.  And I finished it!  What do you think?  I was a little hesitant about adding the gray in with the nice, bright pink and teal, but I think it looks good.  This time I decided to go with big chunky stripes, each making up a quarter of the blanket.

Overall this blanket took 8 regular sized skeins of yarn.   And besides the months long breaks I took, it really does work up quickly.  Click here and you can see the great yarn deal I got at Michaels.  This blanket cost me less than $15 to make!  I was itching to use this bright and cheery yarn for a project last fall and just before this summer rolled around I finished it up.  I think that's pretty good yarn turnover time!  Just ask a friend who knits or crochets.






I do have a question to ask of any fellow crochet bloggers.  How do you photograph your blankets?  I've tried several different ways and I just don't love any of them.  I found it difficult to take pictures of a blanket with stripes this big.  None of my pictures really portray how warm and cuddly it really is.  If you have any suggestions, leave them down below.

Here is a link to the pattern I used.  It's a pattern that doubles up on the yarn holding two strands and using them as one strand.  This time I used Craft Smart yarn in turquoise, white, fuchsia and gray.  Instead of switching out for the stripes on that pattern, just work two whole skeins (holding a strand from each and crocheting as one) of yarn then switch to the next color.  If you browse my page I'm sure you can see this is one of my favorite patterns!






Now I'm off to make a hat and figure out what I'm going to enter in the fair this year!


You might also like:

Fall Haul
My Favorite Granny Afghan So Far!
Watermelon Candy Strip Afghan

Monday, April 9, 2018

Orange and Honey Melt and Pour Soap



I made this soap a little while back and wanted to share it with you. It's a simple project that only takes 10 minutes to make once you've gathered your supplies.  This is my second melt and pour soap recipe and I don't think it will be my last!  

I found the recipe in one of my many cookbooks, Holiday Gifts From a Jar.  It was a weird place to find a recipe for soap, but I'm glad I found it while I was flipping through.



As is usual, I made some adjustments to the original recipe.  While I'm sure the recipe would have come out great, I wanted to work with what I had.  I knew this soap wouldn't fail with the small adjustments I made, so I wasn't concerned with the outcome.

In the end, it came out great!  It was one of the smoothest and sweetest smelling soaps I've made so far.  You can scroll down to see my recipe.

This is a DIY product that I use daily.  Some of my recipes and attempts at homemade items fall by the wayside, but not this one!  Orange oil is said to be harsh on sensitive skin but I've found this product to be perfect for everyday use.


Orange and Honey Melt and Pour Soap

Ingredients:

12 ounces clear glycerin soap base
1 Tablespoon honey
15 drops sweet orange essential oil
Soap mold (found at most craft stores)

Slice soap base into chunks and place in a microwaves safe bowl.  Microwave on high 1 minute.  Stir.  Repeat, heating at 30-second intervals until soap is liquid.  Do not overheat but be sure soap is completely melted.

Quickly pour melted soap into soap molds.  Set aside and let firm up about one hour.  Remove from molds by running a knife gently around the edges of the bar. 


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This recipe made four bars using this soap mold from Michaels.  In my first soap making attempt I was not a huge fan, but this time I had better luck.  Practice makes perfect, they say!




You might also enjoy Nice and Spicy Melt and Pour Soap.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Paper Crafting Fun

My husband loves the color blue and woodworking.  This card captures both!

Ok.  I know this post is not timely at all.  And that's basically internet sin.  But just because I'm behind the eight ball doesn't mean I shouldn't share this fun craft!  Save it for next Valentine's Day or use the idea and modify it for Easter or any special occasion.  It's totally customizable!

My friend recently became a demonstrator for a popular stamping company.  Admittedly I've never really gotten into the paper crafting scene.  I've made a few cards here and there and even tried my hand at scrapbooking very briefly, but I've never invested in the necessary supplies or gadgets to keep it going.


This is a front view of my daughter's Valentine.
The heart and sentiment are stamped onto card stock.
This is a side view showing the paper sleeve that
I slid over the box.




















My friend always had so much fun making cards, though. Thinking it would be a good time, I told her I'd host a party and we'd have a fun night of making cards and having coffee and snacks with the ladies.  Good plan, right?

On the day of the party she brought enough supplies for everyone to make three cards and a box.  I actually ended up making two boxes (to which I added Dove Chocolates) and one card.  She had extras!  They turned out very cute and I think my kids and husband agree! The boxes held four or five Dove chocolate hearts.  

These are not your traditional red and pink valentines, but projects tailored toward the recipients.  My daughter's favorite color is green and my son loves gold.  My husband loves blue and woodworking.  As you can see I tried to incorporate a little of what they like in each Valentine.



My son's Valentine

At the party I purchased some supplies and so far I've made a few cute cards.  Stamping is more fun than I thought it would be.  If it turns out to be something I enjoy regularly, I'll post my creations here on the blog.  For now, you can enjoy my three little Valentines.



Leave a comment below with any tips and tricks if you are a paper crafter.