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brown paper packages: June 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

{summer beauty favorites}

 I am loving a few summer beauty items right now, and I thought I would share!

1.   Ion Repair Solutions--Effective Care Treatment 

 Summertime means lots of sun and chlorine, and it's easy for hair to become really dry and damaged.  I have also been bleaching highlighting my hair for a long time, and it also adds to the overall dryness.  This repair solution is fabulous!!!  Each packet is only $1.79, and can be found at Sally Beauty Supply--both b&m and online.  I use it once a week, and it really does make a huge difference in how my hair looks and feels.

2.  Loreal Extra-Intense Liquid Pencil Eyeliner 

I cannot tell you how long I've looked for the perfect eyeliner. F.O.R.E.V.E.R. I've tried expensive stuff and the cheap stuff, and for some reason, I couldn't find one that didn't smear or run within a couple of hours, and I just don't have time to be touching up my makeup during the day.  I can actually put this on the morning, be gone all day (even through hot and humid weather) and have it still be there in the evening.  It goes on so smoothly, doesn't pull at the eyes at all, and comes in great colors.  I seriously {love} it.

3.  Secret Clinical Strength Waterproof Deodorant
  So, I sweat.  A lot.  I have used Secret Clinical Strength deodorant for a long time, and love it.  When I saw that they had waterproof, I just had to try it. How perfect for summertime...all the pool days, trips to the beach, running, and all those hot and sticky days.  {LOVE} it.
4.  Jergens Natural Glow

I am probably the fairest person you've ever not met.  LOL.  I just do not tan, regardless of how much time I spend in the sun. Of course, that was in my younger years, before I realized the benefits and importance of sunscreen. So, not only do I not tan, but I'm usually slathered in 30-50 spf.  That's why I love this lotion.  You apply it as a regular lotion, and gradually a tan will appear.  You can keep applying to until it's where you want and need it to be--for me, that's one application.  :) 


Today is the last day for the Silhouette promo... 

25% off ALL products! (excluding gift cards and download codes) Now is the time to stock up!
You can also get a Silhouette SD machine and 2 packages temporary tattoo paper for only $199! That's a saving of over $120!
Just use the code BPP to take advantage of these fantastic offers.

{ruffle flag pillow}

Combine two of my favorite things...ruffles and flags...and what do you get? 

Head on over to My Little Project to see how she did it.  {LOVE} it.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

{weekend recipe edition} fruit & vegetable dips

I'm a dipper. I love dipping anything and everything, so yummy dips are important.  :)

In the summer, it's all about the fruits and vegetables, and adding a fun dip can dress them up and your table for family, friends, parties, and BBQ's.  

 Here are a few of my favorites...

Scallion Dip

4 c. sour cream
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1 lime, juiced
6 chopped green onions
 Salt, and freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, mix ingredients together.  Top with green onions, sprinkle with chili powder and serve with tortilla chips or vegetables.  **I use A LOT more cumin and chili powder than 2 tsp.  I suggest starting there, then add more to taste if you like a stronger flavor.


Dill Dip
(I {LOVE} this one!)

1-8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1-8 oz. carton sour cream
2 T. finely chopped green onion
2-4 T. freshly snipped dill, or 3-4 tsp. dried dillweed (or to taste...I like a lot!)
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
Milk (optional, if necessary)

In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sour cream, dill, green onions, and seasoned salt with an electric mixer on low speend until fluffy. Cover and chill 1-24hours. If dip thickens after chilling, you can stir in 1-2 T. milk if you'd like. Serve with vegetables, crackers, or chips. It's yummy with asparagus. :)


Faux Guacamole Dip

1 carton sour cream
1-1 1/2 packets McCormick Guacamole Seasoning Mix

I discovered this recipe completely by accident.  I was planning to make just an easy dip for lunch using sour cream and a ranch packet, or even an onion soup packet, but somehow I was out of both--which is unusual.  Everyone had their heart set on dip, so I improvised by adding the only seasoning packet I had--one for guacamole.  It was AMAZING!!  I loved the flavor of it, and it quickly became a favorite.  I like more seasonings, so I use more than 1 packet, but I would start with one.  It's yummy with any vegetable, and crackers too!


Fruit Dip

1 package cream cheese
1 can sweetened condensed milk
16 oz. strawberry flavored Cool Whip

Whip condensed milk and softened cream cheese together until smooth, then fold in Cool Whip. Serve with fresh fruit. (I like using regular cool whip too, and adding a little vanilla.)


Friday, June 24, 2011

{what I learned from a magazine}

When I was in the hospital with my son over the weekend, I read a lot of magazines.  I carried around a small stack with me to read when he was sleeping, or waiting while he was going through testing.

 Some of the things I learned about and saw intrigued me so much that I pulled out my scratch paper and pen and wrote them down so I wouldn't forget them. So many great ideas and recipes...I just had to share!

(the following ideas and recipe come from Woman's Day, January 2011 issue)

1.  Get a Deal!

Head on over to to check out this site's 5 daily items at bargain basement prices.  Today it includes a Magellan RoadMate GPS Navigator for only $59.99 (an 81% savings), and a 9mm white pearl jewelry set for only $9.99 (a 95% savings--list price $179!).

2.  No Mess Stirring Spoons

LOVE the idea of not needing a side plate, or messing up the counter while cooking!  At less than $25 for a 5 piece set (and great ratings at that), I think this is brilliant!

3.  Remove Salt Stains

I'm definitely remembering this when winter time comes around again.  We get a lot of snow here, and with snow comes salt.  Salt stains on leather and suede shoes is fairly common, so I appreciated this idea on how to easily remove them without harming the material.

Simply soak a cotton ball in a mixture of 1 c. water and 1 T. white vinegar.  The acetic acid dissolves the salt without damaging leather.

4.  Paint Drip-Free

Need to touch-up around the house?  Try this fantastic tip to avoid paint drips on your floor and carpet!  Cut a small slit in the bottom of a coffee filter and poke the paint handle through. Make the slit just large enough to slide over the paint handle, but small enough so the brush head won't slide through.  It will catch those drips before they fall on the floor!

5. Revive a Shrinking Sweater

As someone who has cried over my favorite wool sweater that could now fit my girl's doll, I am fascinated about this process.  

Soak the sweater in a sink of cool water and 1/4 c. hair conditioner for 30 minutes. An ingredient found in most conditioners, stearamydopropyl dimethylamine, will relax and soften the wool or cashmere fibers, returning the sweater to its original size. Hopefully.  :)

6.  Avoid Painful Blisters

I can't wait to try this one!

Spray your bare feet before putting on high heels with an aerosol antiperspirant.  "The spray creates an invisible barrier between your skin and insides of your shoes, which decreases the friction that will ultimately lead to blisters."

And I saved the best for last...

Chocolate Cake with Coconut Cream

(Woman's Day January 2011 issue, click HERE for the recipe!)


Thursday, June 23, 2011

{s'mores galore}

Summertime at our house is all about the s'mores.  We have a campfire in our backyard at least once a week, but it's usually more. Sitting around a fire, roasting marshmallows, enjoying the dark of the night and light of the fire, all while chatting with family and's perfection.

We've tried them many different ways, and each of us have a favorite.  For some, it's the tried and true traditional s'more--graham crackers layered with a toasted marshmallow and yummy chocolate squares.  My husband loves using Reeses PB cups instead of the chocolate squares, and it is FABULOUS.  If you haven't tried it yet, you simply must. Rolos are yummy too, and so are Snickers. :)

We also like making Poor Man S'mores, which are perfect for traveling, camping, and feeding a crowd.

A fun alternative is S'mores on a Stick.

These are SO easy!  Just dip in chocolate, and roll in graham cracker crumbs.  Refrigerate until set. You can actually do it one of two ways--ahead of time, using marshmallows right out of the bag, OR you can toast them outside, and have the bowl of chocolate ready to dip into.  YUMMY either way!

And finally, for those of you are like me, and don't like the graham but love the chocolate with marshmallow...

Just toast a marshmallow and put it between two chocolate peanut butter cookies!
(and yes, I'm too impatient to toast the marshmallows, mine are always burned!)

Now I'm hungry.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

{photography with lei} shutter & ISO speed

Hi friends! How is everyone?  How many of you played around with the aperture settings on your cameras the last 2 weeks?  I'd love to hear about your discoveries and questions, if you have them.:)  You know where to find me!

So this week we are going to discuss shutter speed and ISO.  While aperture controls the AMOUNT of light coming through your lens, shutter speed controls HOW LONG the light coming through the lens gets to hit the sensor (or film) inside the camera.  The amount of time is annotated like a fraction... fractions of a second as a matter of fact.  If you're out shooting a ball game you're going to be shooting with higher shutter speeds than, say, your child taking his first steps.  Because you want to freeze fast action, and in order to do that the shutter has to capture the image quickly.  Most cameras have a pretty broad range of shutter speeds - from as long as a minute to 1/8000 of a second.  Here are a couple of examples of the range of shutter speeds:

{Here my shutter was open for 30 seconds. Because it was open for so long, I was able to actually record the trail of light from the center of the fireworks, and even those that were being fired off from the ground below.}

{Check out this little cutie!  Not the baby, the fly zooming past her right ear!  Lol.  Shutter speed for this was 1/1250.  I didn't NEED for it to be that high... I mean this baby wasn't going anywhere, she was sitting just as still and cute as could be...}

{and a more sensible example... an image that definitely required a higher shutter speed}

So aperture + shutter speed = exposure, right?  Basically.  But we have one more key element to discuss, and that is ISO.  ISO is the light sensitivity of the sensor (or film) inside your camera.  Generally, you're going to set a lower ISO when you have more abundant lighting conditions.  And the lower the ISO, the less sensitive your sensor will be to the amount of light you let in.   Likewise, you would set a higher ISO in less than ideal lighting circumstances.  The higher the ISO,  the more sensitive your sensor will be to the amount of light you let in.  That sensitivity can be seen in the amount of grain you see in the printed picture.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

{silhouette craziness + a fabulous promo}

My kids and husband love to ask me two things:  "Are you going to blog about this?", and "Are you going put vinyl on that?".  Usually, the answer is yes.  :)

I just love adding monograms/names to just about anything--it might be classified as an obsession, lol. Not only do I think it makes just about anything cuter, but with five kids and two sets of twins, it makes it so much easier to determine what belongs to whom!

I also use words to decorate my home--it adds the little touches that I just love. Surrounding myself with my favorite quotes from books, authors, and religious works really makes our house a home.

So...I've been going a little crazy lately with my Silhouette.  Here are a few things I did this week...



We moved into our home in 2008, and I thought it would be fun to mark that on our mantel.  I love it!


Front Door

I resisted putting anything on our front door for a long time, but I finally decided to try it. 

Camp Chairs

We're going camping this week to one of our favorite places ever, and the whole family is excited.  This will be the first time my little boys (age 1) will be going, and I bought them their own camp chairs to take.  Since I usually have two of everything, I like setting them apart with either their initials or name.  I used white flocked heat transfer (font = smiley monster) to add their names to the camp chairs..isn't it darling???  {LOVE} it!  (and then of course I had to do the girls' chairs too...)


I also have a GREAT promo for you from Silhouette, that runs from June 21st through the 29th.

ALL of their products (excluding gift cards and download codes) are 25% now is the time to stock up on heat transfer, vinyl, rhinestones, fabric interfacing, and more!

They also have a fabulous Silhouette bundle on sale for $199 that includes...

1 Silhouette SD and
2 Packages Temporary Tattoo Paper
--That saves you over $120 dollars!--

Just use the code BPP, and you'll be set!!


Friday, June 17, 2011

{custom family blocks}

My poor friend Angie. I don't think she's ever going to have a present from me that she hasn't seen online first, lol! Her birthday was this week, and I wanted to make her something fun.

I {love} these blocks!


They are really simple to make, and can be customized for any family.  How fun would these be for a Super Saturday project?

I thought about using a picture on one of the blocks, but I was trying to be sneaky, and I couldn't find one of her family to use ahead of time. I think it would be really cute though--either on one of the blocks in the front, or even on the backs of the blocks, so they are reversible!

Custom Family Blocks

  • 4x4 post, cut into 4 perfect square blocks
  • spray paint
  • stain
  • vinyl
  • ribbon
1.  Make sure your posts are cut into perfect squares.  Measure the height of the post first, to see how tall it it--it will vary from post to post.  When you know how tall it is, then you cut it into blocks.  Home Depot will also do this for you, if you ask.

2.  Spray paint the blocks, then let completely dry.  Sand, sand, sand!  I use a power sander and go over all the edges, plus the all the sides.

3. If your blocks are cream or white, you really want to be careful with how much stain you apply.  Take a lint- free rag, dip it into the stain, then blot it quite a few times--until all the excess is gone.  Carefully apply it to each block.

4. Once the stain is dry, you're ready to add the vinyl!  I used my Silhouette to cut the vinyl, (FONTS=Century Gothic and Tingle Institute) but if you are looking for a place to order from, try Writings on the Wall--I've used them forever, and they're great! Tie a ribbon around either all of the blocks, or just one, like I did.

Ta-da!  Adorable family blocks!



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

{makeover time! looking for ideas...}

We moved into our home three years ago when it was brand new, and it's remained basically the same since then.  Well, I'm ready for a change.  Not a huge one, but there is one room in particular that needs a little bit of a makeover.

The music room is a beautiful red color, and I love it.  I have loved red for years--far before it was trendy--and I will love it long after it's not.  I will probably always decorate with red in some way--it's my color. However, it's feeling a little dark in there, and it's spilling over into the kitchen, dining area, and even into the family room.'s time for a makeover! 

I know I want to do faux wainscotting, as wonderfully demonstrated by Amy over at The Idea Room:

I plan to take the wainscotting up higher on the wall, probably only leaving 3 feet or so at the top. 
Here is my music room when we first moved in:

So the question is...what color should I paint the top part of the wall?  I really would love to hear  your suggestions!  Some of my thoughts include a light cream, and making the room totally neutral, with spots of color.  I also thought about a really good blue--like a slate, with hints of gray.  There's also a piano on the other wall that you can't see (which is a whole other problem in and of itself--I'm trying to get brave enough to paint it).

I'm planning to start this project in a couple of weeks, when we get back from our big camping trip, and I need to decide on a color and get all the supplies ready soon. I would LOVE to hear your ideas, and any fabulous paint colors you have to share!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

{happy flag day}

To celebrate Flag Day, I want to share with you some past favorites...

I {love} this one by Stacie, over at The Creative Crate!  


I LOVE flag decor, and I'm actually working on another one right now, and I might even have it done tonight!


Saturday, June 11, 2011

{weekend recipe} salsa and black bean tacos

One of my family's favorite meals is Salsa and Black Bean Pasta.  It is so yummy, and super easy, so we have it pretty often.  This week though, we had already had a lot of pasta, and the kids were wanting something a little different.  I already had this planned for the menu, so I switched it up and turned it into a taco.  The kids loved it, and it's perfect for summer! With only 4 ingredients, it's super easy and takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish. 

Fresh Salsa and Black Bean Tacos

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. fresh salsa 
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
corn tortillas OR taco shells

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, then drain if necessary.  Add the fresh salsa ( get mine at our local grocery store deli) and black beans; heat through. I like making my own taco shells out of corn tortillas.  They really are quick and easy, and I love the taste of them.  Just heat a little oil in the bottom of a large skillet, then place the tortillas in the oil until they are lightly browned.  Remove from oil with tongs, and drain on paper towels.  You can either eat them like a tostada (make them a little crisper), or fold them in half like a taco.  You could certainly use taco shells though!  Fill your taco shell with the meat mixture, then top with your favorite toppings.  We like cheese, tomatoes, cilantro, green onion, lettuce and avocado.  YUM!



Friday, June 10, 2011

{a place for everything} 2011 summer schedule

There are always so many things going on in our community during the summer that we love to participate in. Here are just a few examples...

Library: summer reading program, weekly craft day, free movies, evening shows, story times, and more!

City Gardens: weekly craft day, storytimes, gardening class and water days

Nature Center: story times, nature walks

Center for the Arts: classes, exhibits, plays

Barnes & Noble:  weekly storytime

Add in park days, baseball games, festivals, and fairs, trips to the beach and the pool, and our trips, and there is just a lot of information to try and keep track of.  I don't like keeping it on my regular calendar, because we're not going to attend every single thing that's going on.  However, if it's not written down somewhere, I'll forget about the things that I really wanted to do.

So...I created a summer schedule spreadsheet, where I've listed all of the summer activities.  I post it next to my actual calendar, then I can sync the two together to figure out what we want to do for the week. I've done this for several years now, and I love it.  The kids love it too, because they can see at a glance what's going on that week, and like to put their requests in.  It's nice to use as a motivator, lol!

I tried and tried how to figure out how to share the actual excel file with you, so you could edit it and type in your own activities, but I couldn't figure it out.  If someone knows how, please let me know!

I uploaded it HERE, so you could at least download the pdf file.  You could either write things in by hand, or use it to create your own. I would also be happy to send you the file-- just e-mail me at!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

{rose cake tutorial}

At a little birthday gathering last night, my friend showed up with THE most beautiful cake. It was covered with stunning pink roses, and I fell in love with it.

I love to make layer cakes, and do quite often. I usually just do the swirly-type-frosting look, because  I don't really know what else to do, lol. My friend was kind enough to share the tutorial link with me, and I went to check it out right away.

I am Baker shares this fabulously easy rose cake tutorial, and I can't wait to try it. Seriously {love}.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

{photography with lei} getting out of auto mode!

So here we are taking the big plunge into switching that dial from auto mode to manual.  Are you excited?!!!!!  I can hear you squealing!!!

We've talked about lighting.  That's the first step in understanding exposure.  The mechanism in your camera that measures light is called aperture, and the process that occurs as light hits your lens your lens is that it passes through the shutter, arriving at a sensor (or film if you're old school!).  The camera's lens and shutter control the amount of light that hits that sensor, and that is why we set an aperture and a shutter speed.

Aperture is referred to in f/stops.  A large opening signifies more light, while a small opening signifies less.  The confusion usually lies in the fact, however, that a large opening is represented by a smaller number than a small opening.  This has to do with an equation between the length of your lens and the diameter of the aperture... but that's certainly not something I'm about to try and explain.  You're all relieved, I'm sure.  I stink at math.

 {in case you are a visual person}

Basically if we want more light (i.e., with indoor pictures) we're going to set a larger aperture, such as adjusting from f/8 to f/2.8.  A short lens can have a maximum f/stop of f/1.4, and stop down to an f/stop somewhere between f/22 and f/32.  What's happening when you "stop down" (i.e., going from f/1.4 to f/2.8) is that half as much light is entering the lens.... 1.4 is half of 2.8.  See I can do *some* math. ;)

One cool aspect about aperture that has everyone in blogland talking is "bokeh".  Bokeh refers to the effect of having your primary subject crisply in focus while the background fades away.  "Ooooh, Aaaah" is the response that usually gets.  Want to see an example? 


The aperture setting for this image was f/1.8.  Now you may have looked at the lens that came with your camera by now and wondered why you couldn't get it to open beyond f/4.  Lenses that open up as high as 1.4, 1.2 even are an investment.  The lens that came with your camera?  The "kit" lens?  Crap.  Sorry to tell you.  You can't get bokeh on that thing.  Luckily a 50mm f/1.8 lens is reasonably priced at around $135.  I highly suggest you get one.  It's a lovely thing to have and play with.  Lenses that go up to 1.4 or 1.2 are much more expensive, but 1.8 is good enough in my opinion.

Now, aperture is not all we have to worry about in setting a proper exposure.  There are 2 other key elements to consider, and they are shutter speed and ISO.  But I think we'll discuss those next time.  For now, if you want to play around with your aperture, you are in luck... you don't need to understand shutter speed and ISO right away.  If you are shooting on a Nikon, set your dial to "A", or aperture mode.  If you're shooting on a Canon, set your dial to "AV", also aperture mode.  This will allow YOU to become familiar with aperture all on its own.  Your camera will set the shutter and ISO for you accordingly.  Pretty cool, huh?

If you want to get a head start on everyone and learn more before our next discussion, I highly recommend the book "Understanding Exposure", by Bryan Peterson.

Until next time!!!  Don't forget to stop by and see what I've been up to on my photography blog and facebook page!  I'd love it if you said "hi"!!!