DIY Hand Painted Wind Chimes – 7th Grade Class Auction Project

***This post contains affiliate links.  If you click one and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no charge to you!***                            Ever volunteer for something and then realize, with some amount of terror, that you have no idea what exactly you are doing?  A few months back, an email went out from my daughter’s school asking for a volunteer to coordinate the Class Auction project.  “Calling all crafty parents!”, I believe is what it said.  Impulsively, I said, YES!  That’s me, all the way.  I can do this!  And after my offer had been accepted, the reality set in that I would have to figure out what to make, how to teach the kids to make it and then pull it all together into something that parents would actually want to purchase at auction.  What was I thinking???

After convincing myself, Stuart Smalley style (I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and dog gone it, PEOPLE LIKE ME, repeated into a mirror), I started researching what to make.  I teased the basis of the project in this post about How to Paint with Sharpies and Alcohol.  The theme of the event that the auction is being held at is the Kentucky Derby, so I did want to pick something outdoorsy.  After a LOT of debate, I decide on making wind chimes.  After days of researching types of wind chimes, where to buy materials and how on earth to string these things together so that they are somewhat symmetrical, I finally decided on a large scale wind chime/wall hanging that is hung from a birch branch with the chimes in a triangular shape.  

After I mastered the Sharpie/Alcohol painting technique, I brought the chimes, sharpies and rubbing alcohol into art class and taught the kids how to paint their chimes. Every chime is unique and each child signed the back of theirs, making this a truly one of a kind piece.

Once the chimes were painted, I had to VERY CAREFULLY transport them back home so that I could seal them and then assemble them onto the birch branch. I will tell you, that was not the most fun part of the process.  It was a lot of trial and error on how to get them assembled symmetrically.  It took the better part of an afternoon and in total, the project was quite time consuming from start to finish, but the outcome is worth it!

***If you plan on making these, please note that this is not an afternoon project.  You will need a couple of hours to paint the chimes, allow them to dry and then seal them.  After you seal them, you really should let them cure for at least a couple of days before handling them.  If you want to paint (or, in my case sign, the back of the chimes), you will need to add another couple of days for them to cure after you seal the back side.  Then set aside a calm afternoon for stringing them onto the birch branch.  It’s basically a two weekend project.***

DIY Hand Painted Wind Chimes – 7th Grade Class Auction Project


Birch Branch (I purchased mine from Crate & Barrel, but you could forage one!)

21 Ceramic Ornaments (I purchased mine here, but I also found these on Etsy that are less expensive)

Fishing Line – (I found some in my parent’s basement, but you can purchase it through Amazon)

11 Small eye hooks (I found mine at Home Depot)

2 Large Eye hooks (Also from Home Depot)

Sharpies – various colors

Rubbing Alcohol – 91%!

Krylon UV Resistant Clear Acrylic Coating

Q Tips or small paint brush

Thick Twine (Once again, Home Depot)

  1.  Paint your ornaments.  These will become your chimes.  The instructions for painting with Sharpies and Alcohol can be found in this post.
  2. After allowing your chimes to dry, seal them.  If you are planning to paint the backside of the chimes, do so after the first side has dried, has been sealed and has cured for at least a couple of days.  For my project, I had the students sign the back of the chimes on the same day that they painted them and when I sealed the painted side, some of the signatures on the back got a little smudged just from being laid down on newspaper before they were sealed, so I had to touch up the names and then I sealed the side with the signatures after the painted side had dried and cured.  Instructions for how to seal the painted chimes can be found in this post.
  3. Determine the lay out of your chimes.  I knew I wanted a triangular/V shaped wind chime, so I took some time to plan out where I would need to attach them to the birch branch and how far spaced out I wanted them to be.  When you are figuring this out, leave enough room so that none of the chimes are actually touching, but close enough that if there is a light breeze they will move into each other to create the tinkling chime sound.  My birch branch was about 24 inches wide and I placed the hooks for hanging the chimes, about 2.5 inches apart.  Honestly, I mostly eye balled this part and it took a little bit of trial and error to get it the way I wanted.  For my 21 wind chimes, I needed 11 hooks to attach the chimes to:I marked off with pencil where I wanted the hooks to go on the log and then screwed them into the branch by hand.  Not the most fun part of the project. Maybe use some pliers to help twist the hooks into the log!
  4. Attach the chimes to the fishing line.  You will start with the top left chime.  Determine how long you want the first row to hang, then cut a piece of fishing about double that size.  Fold the fishing line in half and feed the closed end of the line through the hole in the chime.  Bring the open ends of the fishing line through the closed end creating a “larks head knot”.  Here is a visual of that for you (and you can click the picture for additional instructions if you still need help):Lark's head knot pendant for Adjustable Sliding Knot Necklace - tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

5.  Attach the first chime to the first hook at the far left of the branch.  To do this, I tied off the open end of the fishing line that is attached to the chime, and then repeated the same knot from above to attach the chime to the hook.

6.  Continue with the rest of the first row checking to make sure your chimes are hanging approximately evenly.

7.  To get the triangular/V effect, you are going to attach some of the chimes to the chime above it:

For instance, the First hook is going to hold one chime which is the first chime of the first row.  The Second hook is going to hold one chime which is the first chime of the second row.  The Third hook is going to hold two chimes which are the second chime of the first row and the first chime of the third row.  The second chime will be attached to the chime above it using the same process we used attaching the chime to the hook. I know that sounds super confusing, but it will make more sense when you have it laid out in front of you.

8.  Attach two large eye hooks to the top side of the branch and tie the thick twine to create a hanger for your wind chime.

And that’s it!  It was by far the most difficult thing I have ever made.  It was time consuming, but also a lot fun and definitely challenged my crafting my abilities.  It also challenged my writing abilities, because it’s definitely an involved tutorial.  Please feel free to let me know if you have questions or if something I wrote makes zero sense!

Homemade Quick Pickles

My genius brother had the best idea ever last week.  He’s a frequent recipe tester and I was chatting with him about what to make next and he came up with Pickles!  Genius!  I love pickles and it sounded really fun to try.  Game on.  Of course, I’m not the most patient person on earth, so we went for Quick Pickles. And, yes, I roped him into helping me make the pickles.  Don’t worry, he loved every minute of it.

The options for pickling are actually nearly limitless.  You can pretty much pickle any veggie and you can even pickle watermelon rind.  We decided to start out with some less exotic options and made pickled onions, pickled mushrooms and pickled cucumbers – aka dill pickles.

Homemade Quick Pickles

We started out with nice fresh veggies.

We sliced the the onions and most of the cucumbers.  I did cut one of the cucumbers into spears.  For the mushrooms, we quartered them.

I did have to buy the fun Mason jars, but they were less expensive than I thought.  And who doesn’t want extra Mason jars around the house, right?

I followed a few recipes that I found online for the first few batches, but then I just started winging it.  According to, the ratio for pickling is:  equal parts vinegar and water and four times the sugar to salt.  Once you have the ratio down, you can add flavors you love like garlic, dill or chili peppers.  I did add a few twists from my peppercorn grinder and at least one piece of garlic to every jar as well.  Each one ended up coming out slightly different, which I think is fun.  My favorite is the pickled mushrooms.  They are delicious.  The red onions are going to accompany our burgers tomorrow night. And the pickles are good as pickles, but my genius brother chopped them up and put them in pasta salad.  Brilliant, that one.  I’m going to add them to some tuna tomorrow.

Now that I’ve conquered cucumbers, onions and mushrooms, I think I’m ready to pickle some watermelon rind!  My brother wants to pickle eggs, but I’m not sure I’m on board with that.  What would you pickle?  Let me know in the comments!  Maybe I’ll try it!

The Best Nail Polish for Busy Moms

***This post contains affiliate links.  If you click one and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you!***                                 I love having painted nails, but, honestly, I don’t make time, nor do I really want to make time, to go to a salon for a manicure.  I prefer to paint my nails myself and save the time and expense of a trip to the salon.  If I’m painting my nails myself, it has to be quick and easy and it better dry fast.  And it better last at least five days, minimum.  Am I asking too much of a humble drug store nail polish?  Let’s find out!  This week I experimented with five different polishes that I found at Target to see which would be the best polish for busy moms.

The criteria for the polishes that I picked were:

  1.  One step process – I’m not about to be putting on a base, a polish and a top coat.  Not going to happen.  Ever.
  2. Good coverage – I really want a polish that covers in one coat.  I’ll do two, but it better dry quick.
  3. Quick Dry – Here’s how it usually goes when I paint my nails – Paint my nails.  Ten minutes later – 15 things happen that require me to use my hands and the paint is ruined.  The quick dry is essential.
  4. Long lasting – It is very unlikely that I will have the opportunity to paint my nails more than once in a week, so I really want a polish that will last at least 5 days without me looking like a hot mess with chips everywhere.
  5. Inexpensive – I really don’t want to spend more than $8 on a bottle of nail polish.

The Best Polish for Busy Moms?

Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Extreme Wear – $2.99

1 – One Step Process – 4.5 out of 5  – I did not add any top coats, base coats, or any other type of coats to this polish.   I did have to add one more thin coat after I finished the first, but the initial coverage would have done in a pinch.

2.  Good Coverage – 4.5 out of 5 – Again, I could have gotten away with one coat of this polish, but the second coat definitely made a difference.

3.  Quick Dry – 3 out of 5 – This polish took about ten minutes to dry.  That is generally as much time as I will give a polish to dry.

4.  Long Lasting – 5 out of 5 – This one made it all five days without even a mark!

5. Inexpensive – 5 out of 5 – $2.99!  Can’t beat that, right?

Defy & Inspire – $7.49

  1.  One Step Process – I’m giving this a 3 out of 5.  It definitely needed a second coat and it would probably look better with a top coat to give it some shine.  Unless this matte look is a thing, in which case, I’m not on board.
  2. Good Coverage – 2 out of 5 – I had to do two coats because the first one was basically see through.  It probably could have used a third coat, in fact.
  3. Quick Dry – 3 out of 5 – This was dry in about ten minutes.  Acceptable, but not ideal.
  4. Long Lasting –  3 out 5 – By day three this one had the beginnings of chips.  Enough that it bugged me.
  5. Inexpensive – 1 out of 5 – at $7.49, this was the most expensive polish I bought.  If it had scored a bunch of 5’s, I would pay that all day, but it just doesn’t have the attributes I’m looking for in a polish.

Wet n Wild One Step Wonder Gel – $4.99

  1.  One Step Process – 5 out of 5 – Truth in advertising here. This is a gel polish, but unlike others, it didn’t need a primer or top coat.
  2. Good Coverage – 5 out 5 – This took one simple coat of polish.  I did choose a dark color, so that may have helped. Nice shiny color and easy to apply.
  3. Quick Dry – 4 out of 5 – This was dry in about 5 minutes.  That works for me.
  4. Long Lasting – 3.5 out of 5 – This did start to chip just at the top of my nail somewhere during day three.  Otherwise, this is a great polish.
  5. Inexpensive – 4 out of 5 – Yes, $4.99 is doable!

Sensationail Express Gel – $5.99

  1.  One Step Process – 4.5 out 5 – Like the Wet n Wild polish, this is another gel polish that is all in one.  I’m not giving it the full out 5 out of 5 because there is another step for drying that literally takes a minute, but it does require that you have one of those LED lights.  Which I happen to have.
  2. Good Coverage – 5 out of 5 – You do need to mix the nail polish well before you apply it, but this gives really good coverage with one coat.
  3. Quick Dry – 5 out of 5 – Literally completely dry in one minute with the LED Light.  No issues with smudging or anything like that.  After the light, the nails are dry and hard.
  4. Long Lasting – 0 out of 5 – Hours after applying, this polish came off in one big piece.  It definitely didn’t adhere to the nail properly.  It may have been user error, but the same thing happened to the nail I used this on on the other hand after a day.
  5. Inexpensive – 3 out of 5 – $5.99 for the polish is fine, but you will need to make a one time purchase of the LED light  for $10.  I couldn’t find just the light at Target, but it is available through Amazon.

Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure – $6.59

  1.  One Step Process – 4 out 5 – There are no additional products required here, however, two coats are best.
  2. Good Coverage – 4 out of 5 – You get a nice sort of pearl finish after a second coat.  This goes on easily and is nice and shiny.
  3. Quick Dry – 3 out of 5 – This polish was definitely the longest to dry.  After ten minutes it was still slightly tacky.
  4. Long Lasting –  4 out of 5 – On day four, this polish had a small scratch in it and by day five it was much worse.
  5. Inexpensive – 3 out of 5 – At $6.59, this one came in at the second most inexpensive price. If it scored a little higher on the drying factor, maybe I wouldn’t mind paying so much.

And the Winner IS:

The Sally Hansen Extreme Wear Polish was the clear winner for me. It had no cracks or chips whatsoever after the five days and the color and shine looked like they did on day one.  My only regret is that I wish I had chosen something other than the green shade I chose.  It’s cute, but not something I would wear often.  I’m actually thinking about splurging on this package from Amazon:

That’s ten random colors for $16.90 (you don’t necessarily get all metallics), which makes them about $1.69 each!  I still can’t believe the best of all five was also the least expensive. This was a really fun challenge!  What should I test next??

And, in case you are wondering, I’m currently researching craft projects for the polishes that didn’t fair so well.  Especially the gorgeous blue color from Defy & Inspire.  I can’t just let it go to waste, can I??


3 Easy Fireplace Makeovers

My fireplace looks like an angry, gaping hole in the middle of my otherwise bright and colorful family room.  It’s been on my to do list, for oh, let’s call it 9 years.  I have found a few options that look fairly painless, so I’m going to make a choice and get it done.  I need a good house project to jump start Spring, so help me pick which option, ok?  Here are 3 Easy Fireplace Makeovers that even I could do.

  1.  Whitewash the Brick

    Up first is whitewashing the brick.  I love this after picture from Cleverly Inspired.  If I were to whitewash my brick fireplace, I would want it to come out exactly like this one.  It’s the right amount of whitewash while still being able to tell what color the brick used to be.  This project seems to be the easiest and definitely the least expensive.  I already have white paint and water comes right out of my kitchen sink!  Hop over to Cleverly Inspired for the full tutorial.

  2. The German Shmeargerman smear 5

    You’ve seen it on Fixer Upper!  This is actually my favorite aesthetically of the three options.  I’m a little worried, however, that because there isn’t a true technique to it that there is the danger that it will come out really bad.  All of the tutorials I have read so far involve, well, shmearing mortar on and then taking it off again.  Wherever you feel like it needs it.  That can go amazingly well, or it can end in disaster.  I do think that this is the one my husband would most approve of.  He’s actually a fan of the red brick and this technique would leave some of the red for him to enjoy.  I’m not sure why he enjoys it, but to each his own.  There is a good tutorial on Recaptured Charm and also one from Jenna Sue Design Blog.  This should also be an inexpensive option.  It’s only $10 for the bag of Mortar that you use.

  3. AirstoneAirstone Fireplace Makeover | Faux Stone | The Lettered Cottage

    This one is my favorite in terms of dramatic difference.  It looks beautiful and is quite a change from red brick.  However…  It is far more expensive ($60 for 8 sq ft and you have to buy the Airstone mortar as well.  Not entirely sure whether that would cover one fireplace or not.  Because Math.) and it only comes in two colors.  Why, oh why, Airstone would you only make gray and beige?  How awesome would a white-ish faux stone be?  I mean, I like the gray/blue but it would definitely completely change the look and feel of the entire room.  The fireplace is, after all, a focal point of the room and I know that if I install this, I will then want to re-paint, buy new furniture and stain the floors.  And if I paint and stain in here, well, how then am I supposed to leave the paint in the kitchen?  And so on and so on.  If there were more of a white stone, this would be my first pick.  Hands down.  I’d totally shell out the $60+. The Gray stone above is from A Lettered Cottage, but there’s a great tutorial available from In My Own Style, picture below, and she used the beige stones.  Which the more I look at, the more I’m convincing myself they could be considered white-ish.  Someone remind me that I’m wrong.  Maybe I need to see these in person.DIY Stone Fireplace MakeoverAlright, everyone, I’m leaving this in your hands.  What is the right choice?  Help me, please.  I beg you.


3 Delicious Grab and Go Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

A lot happens between about 7:00AM and 8:30AM.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve lived an entire day before it even reaches 9:00AM.  One thing I do not make time for in those early hours of the day is making a hot breakfast.  My kids get Eggos (which technically ARE hot) or those mini muffins that you have to eat like 3 bags of in order to feel full.  I’m starting to feel a smidge guilty about that.  Not guilty enough to get up earlier to make hot breakfasts for them, but guilty enough to figure out an easy alternative.

I’ve decided to do some breakfast prepping.  And I’ve collected three delicious and hearty options for a home cooked breakfast for the kiddos.  

Up first are my favorite, the Sausage Stuffed Pancake. This is by no means a gourmet recipe, however it is a step above popping a waffle in the toaster.  More importantly, they are totally delicious.  The sweetness of the pancake and drizzle of syrup go so perfectly with the mildly spicy sausage.  I want to eat more of these right now.

1.  Sausage Stuffed Pancake

Aunt Jemima Complete Pancake Mix (the one you only have to add water to.  What?  I’m a busy woman)

Banquet Brown & Serve Sausages

Pancake Syrup

Butter for greasing your muffin tin

  1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Grease a mini muffin tin with butter
  3. Mix the pancake batter according to the instructions on the box
  4. Cook the sausages according to the instructions on the box and slice in half when done cooking
  5. Add the pancake batter to the mini muffin pan
  6. Add a half of a sausage to the pancake batter.  I put mine in standing up in the middle so that just a little bit of sausage is poking out of the top
  7. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the pancake is cooked through.  The pancake is done when it feels firm to the touch.

You and your kids and anyone else you want to feed these to, are going LOVE these.  You can totally freeze these and pop them in the microwave in the morning to defrost, then eat them while you’re waiting in the carpool line.

2.  Ham & Sweet Potato Breakfast Egg Muffins

This recipe is an oldy but goody that I’ve been making for some time.  Click through to the old post for the full recipe.  I love these Egg Muffins because they are portable (you might want to use a cupcake liner if you are eating in the car.  I usually go with a sturdy napkin) and they are very hearty.  There’s plenty of protein to get your day started and the sweet potato is a nice veggie to add to your morning.  I’m not much of a fruit eater and there aren’t many veggies that I would think about eating as part of breakfast, so I’m happy to sneak the sweet potato into this meal.  It’s a winner!

3.  Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

One word of warning on these.  They are delicious and very sweet.  They are a healthier version of the drive through muffin you get at the coffee shop because they have bananas in them AND they are actually wheat free. I found the recipe at Well Plated and I highly recommend spending an hour or two over there!  The recipes are delicious, healthy and easy!  It’s the trifecta!

I’ll prep one, two or all three of these during the weekend, or whenever I have some spare time and keep them on hand for the whole week.  Those Sausage Stuffed Pancakes go quick, though, so be prepared.  That it is the simplest recipe of the three by far, so it’s not too much effort make a new batch.

Alright, so what have we learned today, friends?  We’ve learned that if you smoosh just about anything into a muffin tin, you can make it a portable meal!  Hurray for that.  What things do you stuff in a muffin tin?  Tell me about it in the comments!

How to Create Your Own Printables for Seasonal Decor with Picmonkey

I am here today to admit freely to you that I get overwhelmed by seasonal decorating.  Especially right now, this sort of pre-spring with a million little holidays to think about.  A great way to add some St. Patrick’s Day/Easter/Spring decor to your home without spending a ton of money (or any, really if you don’t count the cost of ink and paper. And I don’t.) is to use free printables.

I created two that I love and will be popping in some frames for the season and I would love it if you loved them as much as I do and printed copies yourself to use in your home.

But, I also understand that my taste leans toward quirky at times and perhaps my free printable is not your cup of tea.  No hard feelings, I promise.  If you’re not into ee cummings, do not lament.  I’m going to teach you how to make your own free printable with Picmonkey.

How to Create Your Own Printables for Seasonal Decor

  1.  My first step in creating a printable is to find a photo I like to use as a backdrop.  Sometimes I use a picture I have taken myself (like this one I did in the fall).  But, often, I don’t have a picture that fits with my theme to use as a backdrop.  So, I head to my favorite spot for finding free stock photos, Free Digital Photos.  There are thousands (maybe millions? I don’t know.. but it’s a lot) of free photos to look through.  There are also premium photos available that cost money, so if you want to stick with the free ones, make sure you are looking in the sections that are not labeled “Premium”.  To find your dream photo, search for what you are looking for.  In my case, I searched “spring”.  There are filters available, so if you know you want a photo and not an illustration, you can narrow down by that.  I also narrowed my search down by Portrait as opposed to Landscape because, to me, Portrait works a lot better for a printable.  One thing to look for as you are searching through your results, is a photo that offers some negative space so that you can add your text without taking away from the beauty of the picture.  For instance, the picture of the water lily that I used above, had just the right amount of negative space below and to the left of the lily.  I knew that would be a great place to enter my text.  Once you’ve found your picture, you can download it and in a couple of simple steps (entering your email, proving you’re not a robot and agreeing to terms) your image will be emailed to you for downloading.
  2. Next I figure out what I want to use as text for my printable.  Let’s assume that we are all using these printables only in our home and not for something that we plan to sell.  This leaves a world of quotes to pick from without being sued by anyone!  My favorite place to find quotes is Brainy Quotes.  It’s another searchable website where you can pop in a search term and come up with an almost endless amount of quotes related to your topic.  You are going to get A LOT of results.  It can be slightly overwhelming, but they are a lot of fun to look through. My secret to skimming quotes is that if it’s longer than a couple of sentences, it’s probably not going to fit well on my printable, so I skim for short-ish quotes until I find one that works.
  3. Now that you have your quote and your picture, it’s time to start designing.  For this I use Picmonkey.  It is free (with a Royale version available for $33/year that offers more options if you are really into making printables or doing really cool photo edits) and it’s fairly user friendly.   When you arrive at Picmonkey’s site, you will have four choices available to you at the top of the page.  For our purposes, we are going to choose Edit. When you hit edit, you will be prompted to find the picture you want to edit.  I choose to search from “My Computer” and the downloaded image is, you guessed it, in my Downloads folder.  Nifty.  Double click on the picture and it will open in the Editing screen of Picmonkey.
  4. On the left side of your screen are a bunch of different editing options.  Each and every one is great and can be super helpful, but for our purposes of making a pretty printable, we are going to focus on just two, Basic Edits and Text, which are indicated with the two blue arrows.  Yes, I used Picmonkey to add the arrows.
  5. The first thing I like to do to my printable is Resize it.  This function is available under Basic Edits.  For a finished product that will be a 5×7 printable, I use 850 x 1288.  Picmonkey suggests much bigger than that, but, for me, it doesn’t print properly at their suggested size of 1500 x 2100.  Hit Apply to apply your resize (if you forget to hit Apply, don’t worry, Picmonkey will remind you).  
  6. Now on to the Text.  Click the “Tt” and you will be presented with a plethora of options for fonts.  Many of the fonts are only available to Royale users, but there are plenty of good ones available for free.  Royale fonts are denoted with a crown to show that they are not a free option.  Pick a font you think you might like and click Add Text. A text box will pop up on your photo where you can type in your quote.  The box titled “Text” allows you to play around with different fonts, alignment, text size and the color of  your text.  I almost always go with white text on my Printables, but it’s just personal preference.  The options are almost endless.  I think I generally have the most fun playing with different fonts.  I tend to like bolder fonts, but there are a lot of fun cursive options, too.  The font choice is definitely where I spend the majority of my time, but it’s time well spent!
  7. Once I’ve entered my text, I take a few moments to look at the overall effect. Is the text in the spot I want it to be in?  Do I LOVE the font?  What would happen if I picked a different font color?  What if I make the font a little bigger/smaller?  I play around for a few minutes until I’m totally happy with my choices.
  8. Once satisfied with the final product, I click Save and give the printable an appropriate name so that I can easily find it again.  
    1. You can then open the picture from the file you saved it in and print it.  I usually print mine to 5×7, so make sure to make that selection for photo size before you hit Print.

Phew, 9 steps feels like a lot, but it’s a lot of bang for very little buck.  I love how personalized Printables are and once you pop them in a pretty frame, everyone will be impressed when they ask where you got it and you tell them, “Oh, I made that myself”.  Cause you got SKILLZ!

So, what Quotes come to mind for your seasonal Printable??  I’d love to see what you come up with!

Nana’s Irish Bread -Authentic Irish Raisin Bread

I cracked the code, guys.  My Nana (who came here from Ireland when she was 16, a story I wrote about here that you should totally read because my Nana was pretty amazing) always baked Irish Bread for special occasions and most definitely for St. Patrick’s Day.  It’s something I grew up with and besides being delicious, it holds a lot of memories.  When Nana had a stroke and couldn’t knead the dough anymore, my mother took over making the Irish Bread.  We are a large Irish family and we all love the bread, so it’s not like we could stop making the bread.  The tradition had to carry on.  But, there was always something that was just a little different about the bread.  Not better or worse, just not Nana’s bread.

This year, I decided it was my time to bake the bread.  There was only one problem.  I asked my mother for the recipe and all I got was a list of things that go in the bread: Flour, salt, raisins, caraway seeds, yeast, butter and water.  And that was it.  No measurements, no instructions, nothing.  I needled my mom into helping with a batch to guide me.  I also roped in my daughter to help.  Three generations baking bread that is many, many generations old.

Before we get to the recipe, I have to tell you, I’ve not felt my grandmother so present in my life since she passed away, as I did yesterday.  We talked about her all throughout the day (Yes, the bread takes all day.  It’s worth it.) and marveled at what a good cook she was. We laughed about how my mother remembered how easy- going Nana was, except on Irish Bread day.  When Irish Bread was being baked, you had better not make any loud noises or let in any drafts, or else.  We talked about how she lived with a Jewish family when she first arrived here as a Nanny/Cook/Housekeeper and how she loved working for that family and they loved having her.  I don’t think I need to point out the symbolism of that and how it relates to our world today.

Authentic Irish Bread

5 1/2 c of All Purpose Flour

2 Packets of Yeast – not fast acting

About 2 Cups of water

3 Cups of Raisins

2 T Caraway Seeds

1 T Salt

4 T Butter

1 t Apple Cider Vinegar

  1.  Put your Raisins in a large bowl and fill it with water.  This will plump up your raisins.  Nana probably did this overnight, however, I let them sit in the water for about an hour and found them plumper than not sitting them in water at all.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together two packets of yeast with a 1/2 cup of warm water until the yeast is dissolved.  You do not want HOT water.  You also do not want COLD water.  It has to be warm.
  3. Into the yeast mixture, add salt, butter, apple cider vinegar and caraway seeds.
  4.  Start adding in your flour, 1 cup at a time.  I did this with my hands.  That’s how Nana did it.  Nana didn’t have a stand mixer and neither do I.  So, hands it is.
  5. Keep alternating adding flour and the remaining water until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Ok, this is the part where it takes a little bit of artistry.  You don’t want to add too little flour or your dough will be gloopy and wet.  Too much dough and it will be super dry and hard to work with.  The dough should be heading toward the dry side, but still sticky enough to stick to your hands and slightly firm to the touch.
  6. Add your raisins into the dough.  Again, I used my hands and just sort of folded/kneaded them in.  You’re going to think there are way too many raisins.  I did, too and the first batch I made with only 1.5 c of raisins was basically white bread with one or two raisins per slice. No bueno.  Remember that the dough is going to rise which will mean more room for the raisins to be distributed through.
  7. Allow your dough to rise for one hour in a warm spot.  It actually should be about 85 degrees.  What?  Where are you going to find an 85 degree spot in your house in March?  Well, the first batch we made at my mom’s house was set to rise in front of her wood burning stove.  The dough rose perfectly. The second batch I made at my own house and I don’t have a wood stove.  However, I found a great tip in an old cookbook.  Take a shallow baking pan and fill it with hot water and place it on the bottom rack of your oven.  Put your dough in the oven to rise (DON’T TURN THE OVEN ON) on the rack above the water.  The oven will get nice and warm and your dough will rise!
  8. After about an hour, your dough should have about doubled in size.  Now the fun part.  Kneading!  You’re going to knead your dough for about 5-10 minutes.  I kneaded my dough right on the granite countertop (just clean the counter, it’s fine).  Throw some flour down on the counter and coat your hands in flour.  Plop the dough on top of the counter and start kneading.  How do you knead?  Well, you basically push the dough away from you with your palms, sort of flattening it out, then fold it in half, turn it a quarter turn and go at it with your palms again.  Sprinkle the dough with flour if it gets too sticky.  Repeat for 5-10 minutes.  Good arm work out.
  9. Grease your baking pans.  I use butter to grease my pans.  I used two regular size baking pans and three mini pans.
  10. After kneading, you are going to separate your dough into the greased baking pans. To do this, you will sort of twist off a ball of dough that is a little smaller than a baseball and place it in your baking pan. The regular size baking pans will take two of these size balls, side by side and touching.  As they cook, they will just join together as one loaf. Ahh, Harmony.  If you are using mini loaf pans like I did, just make the balls a little smaller.  You want your pans to be about halfway to the top with dough.
  11. Time to rise again.  Pop these back in your warm spot (refill your hot water if you are using the oven method above).  Let the dough rise for another hour until the dough has again doubled in size.
  12. After the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. AGAIN!  DO NOT TURN THE OVEN ON IF YOU ARE LETTING YOUR DOUGH RISE IN THE OVEN! Add the bread to the oven once it has reached baking temperature.
  13. Let the bread bake for about 20 – 35 minutes. I know that is a crazy time difference, but our first batch cooked for 35 minutes and was no where near being over cooked while the second batch cooked for more like 25 minutes and if it had cooked a minute more I would have said it was over cooked.  The second batch started to look browned on top at about the 20 minute mark and your smaller loaves may be totally done at the 20 minute mark.   To check for done-ness, insert a wood skewer into the center of one of the loaves. If it comes out clean, you are good to go!

Yesterday, after the first batch of bread came out lacking majorly in raisins, I was disappointed.  I really wanted to nail this bread.  I was so happy when I brought the second batch, still warm, to my mom’s house this afternoon and got her seal of approval.  Certified “Just Like Nana’s”.  The code has been cracked. The texture is right, the crust is right, the raisin ratio is right. It’s like a little bit of Nana in a loaf pan.  I told my mom it was like eating a memory.  Which is totally weird, but also completely accurate.  Am I the only one who gets that?  What family recipes do you have that bring your loved one’s right back to you?  And don’t forget to read the story of Nana and Grandpa from Ireland.  You can click the pic below.  There’s also a recipe for corned beef.  Which apparently is NOT something Irish people actually eat, according to Nana, an actual Irish person.

7 Pretty Pieces to Add to Your Closet for Spring

***This post contains affiliate links.  If you click one and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no cost to you!***        March isn’t too early to talk about Spring.  That’s a fact.  All you people on Pinterest and Instagram that were talking about Spring in February need to slow your roll.  Now that it is appropriately early spring, I’m itching to add some Spring pieces to my wardrobe.  I scoured Amazon today for these 7 Pretty Pieces to Add to Your Closet for Spring.

Doesn’t it just make you want to go for a walk in a meadow?  Just make sure you wear those adorable bow sneakers, not the pumps.  Pumps are not for meadow walking.

Jessica Simpson Women's Belted Dolman Wrap Dress (M, Capr...

Jessica Simpson Women’s Belted Dolman Wrap Dress – We all need a good, easy to wear dress for Spring.  There’s Easter, Mother’s Day, Baby/Bridal Showers and I’m sure countless more festivities to attend once the weather starts to warm up.  This dress has a pretty print and is a very forgiving silhouette, which is also important after hibernating for the winter.

Memorose Women Off Shoulder Short Sleeve Splice Stripe Lo...

Memorose Women Off Shoulder Short Sleeve Splice Stripe Loose T Shirt – One of the best things you can buy for any season is a T Shirt that has been elevated just a tiny bit in some way.  This one has cut outs on the shoulders and the cute color blocking to bring it just past boring T.  It’s also cut a little long with a smidge of ruching on the sides, which means it will be flattering and it will look adorable with your skinny jeans.  There’s nothing easier than throwing on a T Shirt and jeans and if that T Shirt has some style elements, you’ll look totally pulled together.

Nine West Women's Onosha Denim Fashion Sneaker, Blue, 7.5...

Nine West Women’s Onosha Denim Fashion Sneaker – This sneaker is my life.  Or, as my daughter would say, this sneaker is my son.  Everything she loves is her son.  Not sun, son.  Weird?  Or is it a thing?  I want these sneakers on my feet.  Right now.  How freakin’ cute can you be??  I spend a LOT of time at softball fields (and soon to be lacrosse fields with the boy child, too) all through the spring and I would so love to have a cute AND comfortable sneaker to wear.

Aifer Women Sweater Long Sleeve Irregular Stripe Shawl Ca...

Aifer Women Sweater  – As much as I would like to say that every day of Spring is 65 degrees and perfect, the reality is that a lot of Spring is freezing cold in the Northeast.  Layers are key.  But, if you have to wear layers, you can at least make them Spring-y layers.  I love the colors in this cardigan and the drapey front.  Would be so cute with those sneakers, too!

XOXO Floral Skinny Pants 9-10 XOXO

XOXO Floral Skinny Pants – I read somewhere that adding a patterned pant to your wardrobe is a great way to expand your clothing choices.  These pants can be dressed up or down depending on where you’re going.  A plain white tee on the weekend OR pop on a black blazer for work OR a pretty blouse for a weekend brunch or bridal shower.  I love patterned pants with a denim jacket, too.  So many options!

Allegra K Women Long Sleeve Stand Collar Zip Up Floral Bo...

Allegra K Women’s Long Sleeve Bomber Jacket – Anyone else ready to jump on the bomber jacket trend?  I love the abstract pattern on this one.  If you just wear a pair of joggers, t shirt and sneaks with this jacket, you are instantly stylish.  So easy to achieve.  If you live in a climate where it’s chilly enough to need a jacket in spring, you might as well have a super adorable one to wear!

Chase and Chloe Vintage Inspired Mod Scalloped Edge Bow P...

Chase and Chloe Vintage Inspired Pump – Sometimes my fashion choices are unique, I know this.  I might be in the minority when it comes to loving these vintage style pumps, but I’m okay with that. To me, it’s the quirky little accessories that really bring your personality into your wardrobe.  I’d love to hear a thumbs up or thumbs down from you on these pumps, so let me know in the comments!  Am I alone in the vintage-y shoe obsession??



Simple and Delicious Chili

I made chili this weekend and I had to share it with you.  I’ve made chili a million times, but this one came out especially delicious.  I may have to pause in the writing of this post to go heat some up.  Hang on.  Look at this Simple and Delicious Chili while I go get a bowl:

Most people think Chili is hard to make.  It’s really very easy.  And there are so many different ways of preparing it.  You can sort of add or take away almost anything you like.  This iteration that I made this weekend is slightly different than any chili I’ve ever made in the past.  Which is so fun, because when you try to sit down and write down how you made the chili, it can be a little challenging.  Did I put cinnamon in this time?  How many tablespoons of chili powder are in there?  How long did I let it cook on the stove for?  1 hour?  2? 10?

I’ll do my best to give you all the details on this chili and then you can make it your own!

Simple & Delicious Chili

1 lb Ground Beef

1/2 Medium Onion, chopped

1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped

1 15.5oz Can Goya Black Beans

1 15.5 Can Goya Red Beans

1 28 oz Can Hunts Crushed Tomatoes

1 6 oz. Can Tomato Paste

2-4 T Chili Powder (to taste)

1 T Garlic  Powder

1 T Onion Powder

1 t Ground Cumin

1 t Salt

1 t Black Pepper

  1.  Brown the ground beef  in a pot.  (I use my pasta pot and then I just keep adding the ingredients to that pot).
  2. Add the chopped onions and red bell peppers and cook until softened.
  3. Add the spices.
  4. Add the beans, and tomatoes and tomato paste.
  5. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to low and allow to cook for anywhere from 1-3 hours.
  6. Keep tasting the chili while it is cooking and add more of any of the spices as your taste buds see fit!  Easy on the cumin, though.  Little bits at a time.

And that’s it.  Garnish it with some cheese and sour cream, or don’t.  It really doesn’t need anymore competing flavors.  I want to note on this recipe, I don’t usually put the brands of the ingredients (Hunt’s and Goya, in this case), but I do feel like the Hunt’s products made a difference this time.  So, give those a try and let me know what you think!  Enjoy your chili!


4 Free or Cheap Ways to Liven Up a Bare Wall

*** This post contains affiliate links.  If you click one and make a purchase, I may receive a commission, at no cost to you!***        While I was reviewing pictures from my updated House Tour, I realized that the most boring wall in my entire house is the wall above my desk.  My desk that I sit at for hours (does 2-3 hours qualify as hours?  I mean, I know, technically, it does, but I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m spending, like, 10 hours a day here.  Glad I got that off my chest) pouring my heart into this blog.  There was not a picture on the wall.  Nothing.  No color.  Even the wall color in this room is totally boring (it’s on the to do list.  Wait, no it isn’t, but it should be).  And if you’ve looked at the House Tour, you know that I am not a blah-wall kind of woman.  I wanted an update and I wanted it fast and cheap.  I am a woman on a budget, after all.  A really LOW budget.  So I needed some cheap ways to liven up a bare wall.  Luckily, I have a few tricks up my sleeve.  

4 Free or Cheap Ways to Liven Up a Bare Wall

Cheap Ways to Liven Up a Boring Wall

Shop Your House

Cheap Ways to Liven Up a Boring Wall

My first place to look for free stuff is my own house.  I always have a stash of stuff, like vases, picture frames or past DIY’s that never found a permanent home in a closet or cupboard.  I knew I wanted some type of wall storage for this desk area and I’ve been holding on to that rattan paper holder for ever.  Perfect spot to put all of my important papers in, right?  They are off the desk and in plain view, so I will hopefully not forget about them.

Make Something!

Cheap Ways to Liven Up a Boring Wall

Depending on what type of a craft hoarder you are, you may or may not already have all of the things you need to make some really pretty DIY art.  The three water colors below are on inexpensive small canvasses (12 of them for $11.96 from Amazon) I have a tutorial for those here.  The abstract floral art below is also a DIY on another inexpensive (2 for $9.98), slightly larger canvas and done with tissue paper and  hexagon shape cutter.  Tutorial is right here.  Pro tip, I’ve primed over old canvases with white primer and repainted or tissue papered over them as would be the case here.  (PS, the tissue paper and hexagon shape cutter are not what I would consider cheap, but I only used a small amount of the tissue paper and the hexagon cutter is something I will have forever in my craft stash and will use many times).

Thrift Store Shopping

Cheap Ways to Liven Up a Boring Wall

Thrift stores are the best for finding frames.  I found a bunch of these pretty gold frames for about $2 each at my local Savers.  I’m into this gold, thin frame look right now, but, if, or when, my tastes change, I won’t mind swapping out the inexpensive frame.

Free Printables!

Cheap Ways to Liven Up a Boring Wall

So what do you fill your cheap thrift store frame with?  Free printables, of course!  I love scouring my favorite blogs for printables.  Or, you can very easily make your own.  Pick your favorite quote and play around in Picmonkey.  I made the calendar you see there and you can access it here if you are in need of a cute and bright calendar.  The Choose Happy print is actually an Etsy find.  It still falls under cheap in my mind at $7.20, but you could DIY something similar, too!

Alright, no excuses, go liven up your boring walls!