My fellow procrastinators, we are officially down to the wire. Christmas is a mere 2 days away, which means if you haven’t started shopping yet, forget about the mall for gifts—your local gas station’s Quickie Mart is your best bet. But don’t fret; there are plenty of useful items at the Quickie Mart. For example, what 12-year-old can resist the lure of a quart of 10W 40 motor oil? Or what about a delightful basket of road snacks “with a fresh pine scent”? And nothing screams “holiday cheer” like a stocking full of Slim Jims.
That said, if you really want to impress people and have only 48 hours to do it, it’s time to head to the kitchen. There are plenty of cheerful, well-loved things you can whip up that are sure to deliver happiness. Three quick ideas:
It’s been a long, hilarious, educational, self-endearing run, and unsurprisingly, last night Stephen Colbert sent himself off in style. Rather than killing off his beloved character, Colbert obtained immortality and held a sing-along with dozens of celebrity guests. Watch.
Right now Facebook is abuzz with one of the most stunning, feel-good videos I’ve seen in a long time — even better than the “Techno Chickens” (you’re welcome for that earworm, btw). This video is also about techno — well, technology, to be precise. Derby the dog was born with malformed front legs and would have never had the experience of free mobility if not for the foster parent that took him in. Watch the vid and prepare to be amazed.
I just might be the most suggestible person on the planet. If I see something or read about something, it will stick in my thinking to the point of obsession. Knowing this, I specifically avoid stores that cram all those nifty gadgets (that nobody needs) right up against the checkout counter because I am exactly the person that buys those items. (That said, I do not regret buying that microwavable egg poacher. Much.)
Case in point: In the latest series I’m reading — set in the 1770′s — the main character drinks a lot of tea. I have never been much of a tea drinker but guess who drinks tea regularly now?
But what really got me was when the character made her own moisturizing lotion. How neat is that? Then, not a day later, I’m on Pinterest and I see some 14-year-old girl touting the benefits and ease of homemade lip balm. How neat is that?
So when I ran out of body spray and found a recipe on the Internet, I was done for. My critical-thinking brain (the same one that decided that I would look good with pink hair that one time) was filled with dozens of thoughts, each spinning and landing like cherries a slot machine : if some time-traveling character in a piece of historical fiction can make moisturizing lotion (clunk!) and an overly-giddy adolescent from the Internet could make lip balm (clunk!) and this recipe for body spray is so simple (clunk!) — by golly! –I could MAKE THESE THINGS, TOO! (Ding-ding-ding-ding- Jackpot.)
The truth of the matter is that, surprisingly, my critical-thinking brain was right this time. Homemade lotion, lip balm and body spray are all very easy projects and use natural ingredients. In fact, I actually had many of the items in my kitchen already. Better? These items would make great gifts.
Just about every female in my family uses body spray — a habit that, with prices ranging from $7 to $20 per bottle, has become a tad expensive. Giving my daughters their own scents was fun, but the discovery that making body spray is really simple AND inexpensive? That was a gift to myself.
What you’ll need:
- 8 oz distilled water (MUST be distilled) - 1 Tbsp witch hazel - 1/8 tsp citric acid (all natural, granular substance used as a preservative) - 30-40 drops essential oil (choose your favorite fragrance) - empty travel-sized spray container
Boil the water and add the citric acid, stirring occasionally until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in witch hazel and essential oil. Put in sterilized spray container. Voila! You have body spray. Shake before each use.
It may come as a surprise that lip balm is an incredibly simple item to make, and depending on the desired consistency of your product, can be as simple as just coconut oil and essential oil. As coconut oil has a naturally long shelf life, there’s no need to add Vitamin E. I did anyway, because of its natural benefits.
In a double boiler, melt the coconut oil and beeswax, stirring occasionally. Add the Vitamin E oil. Remove from heat. Stir in essential oil. Pour into sterilized containers and refrigerate until hardened.
VARIATION: If you want to add color to your balm, simply replace the beeswax with pieces of a Crayola Crayon in the melting phase. No joke. Crayola Crayons add wonderful color, and are non-toxic. My colored lip balm ended up more like a tinted gloss.
This lotion recipe is perfect for the winter months, when skin is overly dry and easily chaffed. It’s a creamy, heavier lotion, but would likely be a bit lighter if a different oil (such as grape seed oil) is used. The almond oil gives the lotion a lovely, toasty scent, and when adding a little vanilla scent, smells like baked cookies.
What you’ll need:
- 1/2 c. almond oil (or grape seed oil) - 2 Tbsp. beeswax - 1/2 tsp. Vitamin E oil - 1 Tbsp. distilled water - 20 – 30 drops essential oil - small squeeze bottle
In a double boiler, combine the almond oil and beeswax, stirring until melted. Stir in Vitamin E oil. Remove from heat. Whisk in distilled water and essential oil until blended. Store in a sterilized squeeze bottle or small container.
As an avowed DIYer, the holidays have always been a time to celebrate with my inner crafter—to either the joy or chagrin of the recipient. I’ve often felt that the personal nature of a homemade gift adds a touch of charm and displays an element of appreciation toward its receiver, which I hope outweighs the possibility of hokiness.
Frankly, I love getting homemade gifts. In fact, I recall a few self-created gifts that I would’ve loved to receive (because I’m humble like that), like the time I filled empty glass Coca-Cola bottles with Jelly Belly jelly beans and gave one each to my siblings. I was 10, would have killed or died to get a cleverly capped bottle filled with my favorite candies and was delighted when my oldest sister (who made a sufficiently big deal over her present), inevitably gave it back to me. Her generosity overshadowed any squeamishness she exhibited over the fact that I had neglected to wash the bottle first.
Over the years, my family has continued to be unwitting recipients of my quirky gifts from hands and heart. Luckily, my creativity eventually blossomed beyond macaroni necklaces and pet rocks, and ventured into the areas of stitched aprons, stained glass picture frames, handsewn quilts and homemade jams. And while life often intervenes, getting in the way of my crafting intentions and forcing me to hunt retail outlets for gifts I’d like to give, I still like to have a hand in the creativity of the gift somehow.
Breaking news from the Obvious Department: If you’re going to participate in gift-giving this season, you only have a few weeks to get your act together. To wit: Hanukkah begins in 22 days; Yule is 26 days away; Christmas is exactly one month from today; and Kwanzaa begins in 31 days.
Annually speaking, this is about the time when I start to freak out. I believe I’ve mentioned (about 100 times) that I have 7 kids. A golden rule in parenting 2 or more children (especially if these children have been taught to read and count and recognize the world around them) is that equality in all things rules the day. This is particularly true for my family at Christmas.
When our kids were younger, my husband and I focused on equality in numbers. And like items. If one kid got a book, everyone would get a book. If one kid got a sweater, everyone would get a sweater. Everyone would get underpants, socks and the exact same gifts in their stockings (because at this point, all creativity had died). From an organizer’s perspective, it was just easier to keep track of who got what and who was getting shorted.
The arrival of November caught me by surprise. I’m not certain how an entire month, which arrives promptly every year at exactly the same time, was able to sneak up on me with the stealth of a ninja – but it happened, nonetheless.
I’d been perusing Pinterest for fall decor ideas, and found a few I wanted to try that involved miniature white pumpkins. I’d seen them at several grocery stores this season and thought they were pretty and elegant and appeared fairly inexpensive and nevermind any of that because foolish me! It was already Nov. 2. Grocery stores were well aware of the month’s arrival and in preparation of that other holiday, all the pumpkin displays I’d admired the previous month had disappeared. And while vigorous searching these last 2 weeks has not revealed a single white, miniature pumpkin, my sleuthing did uncover plenty of red and green decor items: cinnamon-scented pine cones; stuffed, fat Santas; leaping paper mache reindeer; and any number of items with poinsettias and holly emblazoned on them. Nary a gourd in sight. In fact, not a single item relating to Thanksgiving remained anywhere.
Wait —that’s not exactly true. Each grocery store had erected a fairly robust display of boxed stuffing, canned pumpkin pack, marshmallows, foil roasting pans, fried onions and canned yams (preserved in syrup) available for use.
I began to chastise myself. Honestly, how silly of me to want to celebrate in a timely and expected fashion, Thanksgiving, the holiday that —and I checked on this— comes BEFORE Christmas. As we’re hosting the feast at our home this year, I’d wanted to have a few autumnal items about. I’m sure I could have made a nice display above my hearth with the boxed stuffing and the canned yams, but that really wasn’t the look I was hoping for.
Last week’s viral video, “10 Hours of Walking in New York as a Woman,” captured undercover, depicted the street harassment a young woman endured while walking the streets of New York City while moderately dressed in black jeans and a crew neck T-shirt.
Today’s comedic answer is “10 Hours of Princess Leia Walking in NYC,” whereupon a young woman dressed in “a simple white dress with her hair in space buns” is summarily harassed by… well, watch the vid.
Sometimes the Trending Topics on Twitter suck me in to GOOD THINGS. Things that have nothing to do with East Coast sports teams, One Direction releases nor political phraseology. Case in point: TOO MANY COOKS. This video will find a place in the hearts of lovers of 80s TV. Carve out 11 minutes of your life and give it a gander.
Creating a beautiful holiday tablescape has never been in my wheelhouse. In fact, at the first extended-family Thanksgiving my husband and I ever hosted, I didn’t even know that decorating the tables was a “thing.” I thought I was done when the tables were set…until my husband asked if we had any flowers to “add color the tables.” I looked at the white plates upon the white table cloths with white napkins perched atop, and I saw his point. But with only minutes before the guests were to arrive, I wasn’t sure what we could do. It being fall, we sent our enterprising 12-year-old boys to the park to gather as many nice, colorful fallen leaves and acorns they could find. Those, along with some dark brown, polished river rock and pillar candles I already had, did the job.
That said, I am from a family of clever, decor-minded women, and each holiday brings on ever more table-setting ideas. My sister Denise has been known to take burlap, plastic fruit and a bed sheet and create a table fit for royalty. And my sister-in-law Karen’s table decor leaves you feeling as though you’re feasting in a space created by a professional set designer. Even peanut butter & jelly amid such fanciness tastes Michelin-star quality.
Over time I’ve learned to step up my game. One very simple way of glamming up table decor is to add place cards for your guests, each in its own special place card holder.
If you are, however, like me and dread putting a lot of time and energy into something that will get used just once (place cards necessarily change with the guest list), have no fear: I have a solution.
Check out these simple place cards that can be used — and reused — every holiday. The trick? Chalkboard tape and a chalk pen. Tutorial after the jump.
Halloween is not just a kids’ holiday anymore — it has become one of the most celebrated days of the year for people of all ages. If you’re planning on getting spirited with a shindig of your own, check out these four simple ideas, each covering one of the essential cornerstones of any good Halloween festivity: decor, costumery, food and drink. Each of these projects need only a few items for completion and use things you likely already have.
Decor: flying paper bats. Enlist the assistance of smaller helpers and infest your home with flying paper bats. Using only black construction paper and our downloadable template, you’ll have a cloud of bats flapping across your walls in no time.
Costumery: sugar skull makeup: Get your costume in order with a step-by-step tutorial to create one of the hottest costume trends of the season: Day of the Dead sugar skull makeup. This classic, festive look may come together using makeup you already own.
Food: spiced pumpkin cupcakes. These cupcakes require two ingredients and when topped with cream cheese frosting, provide a quick solution to sate a monstrous hunger.
Drink: Brain Hemorrhage: Finally, need a creepy concoction for an adult-oriented festivity? Try making the ever popular Brain Hemorrhage. More challenging to look at than to consume, this sweet, visually-chilling treat will warm the cockles of your guests’ hearts.
Ornamental, intricate and bold, one of this season’s most popular costume ideas is the Day of the Dead sugar skull. Costume stores have intricate facial tattoos that can be purchased to take the place of hand drawn filials, but the avid crafter — usually out of an obsessive need to prove it can be done without resorting to purchasing some machine-created item – draws her/his own.
And it’s not difficult; it’s really just about balance, or symmetry — but it doesn’t have to be. I enlisted my 11-year-old daughter for the project, and I wanted each side to match as well as I could get it. But I’ve seen many an online photo of sugar skull makeup where the artist chose to be asymmetrical. Up to you.
As mentioned previously, I’m personally not a fan of Halloween makeup. Apart from not providing an even finish, it’s too greasy and wipes off the second it’s touched. As an alternative, I sought out the (old, no longer used) makeup in my own collection. Here’s how I did it:
What you’ll need:
- eye shadows in various shades (I used white, black and a compact that had turquoise, pink, orange and yellow) - black eye liner (I had a great old water-proof pencil that worked well)
Autumn is synonymous with apple season. Halloween is synonymous with spookiness. Ergo, what better items to grace your Halloween party table than some spooky apples? And the spookiest, of course, is the infamous poisoned apple — a slick, irresistibly shiny red “treat.”
Many a kitchen witch has recreated a confectionery version in candy apples, traditionally red and cinnamon flavored. But with the plethora of gel food colors available, why not kick your apple color up a notch and go for full-on creepy? Made with small, crisp Granny Smith apples, these treats will have your little princesses (and princes) clamoring for a bite.
THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED. The winners have been notified via e-mail. Thank you to all who entered and be sure to check out some of our other Big Fresno Fair giveaways.
Jazz lovers, no need to fly to the moon – we’ve got something a little closer to home that you’re sure to enjoy. The Beehive is giving away tickets for two (2) lucky winners to see crooner Tony Bennett live at the Big Fresno Fair.
TO ENTER: In the comments below, tell us the name of your favorite Tony Bennett song. The randomly selected winner will receive two (2) general admission passes to the Big Fresno Fair as well as two (2) tickets to see Tony Bennett in concert on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.
Contest ends on Oct. 8 at NOON.
Stay tuned: we’ve got plenty of concert ticket giveaways coming this fair season.
Fresno, feeling ugly after being dumped by the San Francisco Giants for our more attractive sister, Sacramento? Here’s a little salt for our wounded ego: Fresno made Forbes top 10 list of least educated cities in America.
Golly, thank goodness they came up with a metric for that. According to an article posted on Forbes.com Tuesday,
[F]inancial site WalletHub took a look at the 150 largest metros in the U.S. and ranked them according to nine weighted metrics, including percentage of adult residents with a high school diploma, associate’s degree, graduate or professional degree, or above; number of doctors per capita; percentage of workers with jobs in “computer, engineering, and sciences fields;” quality of public schools and universities; and the number of students enrolled in the top 200 universities in the U.S., per capita.
Fresno landed at number 10. The upside? Misery loves company. Three of our Central Valley sister cities — Modesto, Visalia and Bakersfield — were all ahead of us on the list (ranked 5, 6 and 7, respectively).
You might call it browsing: visiting a store and blatantly, unapologetically ogling the merchandise. I’ve called it toodling ever since the Internet took over “browsing.” For me, toodling is a whole process. First, I linger over a display, visually absorbing how items works with other items. Next I manhandle said items, appreciating the craftsmanship (or lack thereof); and ultimately, I replace said items back on the shelf after determining “I could make them for less.”
Best of all, I find that toodling brings balance to my world: my creative DIY side ignites with hopeful possibility, and my cheap side relaxes in the expense of someone else’s air conditioning.
The discount home stores are by far my favorite places to toodle. And right now, my best-loved decor store is aglow with mercury-glass items — vases, pumpkins, candle holders and hanging bottles with jute wrapped necks — all sparkling with that signature reflective, slightly-mottled finish.
Mercury glass is stylish and enhances just about any decor, which makes it perfect for the coming autumn and holiday seasons. And while mercury glass can be pricey, DIYers should rejoice. With a little bit of thrifting and a can of mirror-style spray paint, these mercury-glass treasures can be created at a fraction of the cost.
When my husband and I bought our home, we came upon a (happy) surprise: our old (unattractive) kitchen table was too big for our new home’s kitchen. As goddess of the hearth, the task landed upon me to pick out a replacement. I took the job seriously and after much searching, I naturally fell in love with a gorgeous, pedestal-style kitchen table that could be procured from an upper-end store for a mere $900 (chairs not included).
I adored that table and its high-quality craftsmanship, and imagined all the meals, the card games and the deep philosophical, wine-laden discussions that would take place at it. My life improved just looking the thing. And its chairs were exquisite; sure, they were $250 each, but with care and Scotchguard, I’d never have to recover them.
Fast forward five years to last Saturday afternoon, as I stood staring at the modest knock-off table I actually ended up buying on clearance for $150, and the four chairs it came with. Exquisite is not a word that has ever been applied to these chairs. Current words included stained, worn, unattractive… and several others best left unsaid.
But what did I expect with seven kids, a dog and light fabric? There was no way I was going to plunk down half a semester’s college tuition for that other gorgeous table (and the better life it promised), when those stunning, perfect chairs would clearly have met the same grisly end as my knock-offs had.
And yet I knew, regardless of the ugly I was staring at, my simpler chairs were not at an end. In fact, with the help of an inexpensive trendy table cloth, a pair of scissors and a staple gun, my well-used chairs quickly and easily got a stylish makeover.