November 16, 2014

Meal Planning | Preparation

Life is always busy. If it's not homework and laundry, that time fills with other things.

Pulling back the curtain a bit here, we seem full up to the brim with things happening around here, and when push comes to shove, a home-cooked meal is the thing that goes out the window.

Recently I've been trying to have things that we can easily make at home, where some of the ingredients are already made. Which was working sometimes, but we were still hitting the drive-thru more often than I'd like to admit.

In an effort to save money and our waistlines, I spent an hour yesterday searching my Pinterest boards for meal ideas and recipes. I spent another hour at the grocery store, shopping for the items that we needed for this week.

On the menu for this week:

Balsamic Roast Beef

Baked Potato Soup with Ham

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Kabobs with Chicken, Red Peppers and Onions

Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli

Homemade Pizza

Today, I spent another hour washing, cutting, cooking and dividing up items for our meals this week. On Sunday Afternoons I usually enjoy an uninterrupted 3 hour nap, that recharges me for the whole week. Today, I shortened the nap to 1.5 hours to make sure that our prep for the week was done.

I have high hopes for this new process. I'll let you know how it goes. With all my preparation today, I should only be spending less than 10 minutes a day on dinner, which is a huge incentive for me. Gone are the days of "What should we have for dinner?" at 5:00pm, at least that's what I'm hoping for.

Is dinnertime a struggle at your house? Do you meal plan? I would love any and all advice or resource suggestions.

Holly & Co.

November 12, 2014

Learning Calligraphy | A Darby Smart Kit

Does anyone else have lettering envy? I'm so guilty. I could look at hand lettered canvases and invitations for hours.

I've tried using calligraphy pens before and I've never had great result. I've tried faux calligraphy which works ok, but takes a long time.

I saw this kit available on the Darby Smart website, and with a $10 coupon, I treated myself to the kit. I've got plans to use it for an upcoming holiday project as well.

Darby Smart is a DIY kit company, they have kits for all kinds of DIY projects. It's like Kiwi Crate for grown ups. I like that they have a variety of kits and it is not a subscription. 

Purchase Here. Use coupon code "howdydarby" for $10 off.

This is my first purchase from Darby Smart. The kit included free 2 day shipping, but it took 5 days to ship, which was a disappointment. I think I've been spoiled living in a big city for the last few months. Things in the mail, even UPS arrive much faster. 

I was excited when it came. The Tiffany blue box was a nice surprise on a weekday afternoon! Upon opening the kit, I found all the pieces included as described and got right to practicing.

The booklet has great instructions for how to make all kinds of letters. The most helpful page in the whole booklet, was page 3 which shows you how to hold the pen. My lines became much more consistent after I followed the guidelines.

It comes with black India ink. A word to the wise, have a rag or paper towels nearby. Also, I wouldn't recommend practicing anywhere near white fabric. #justsayin'

After several sheets of practice letters, I found my groove. It took awhile to learn how much ink to use, how many letters I could get between dips and how to hold the pen. Eventually, I was even starting to writing in cursive. I've only used two of the nibs so far, the smaller two. I'm not quite sure what to use the bigger ones for, as the lettering I'm planning on doing, is going to be rather small.... (more on that to come soon!)

Overall, this was a fun addition to my crafting. What I really liked about this kit and the Darby Smart idea, is that I only needed one box. 

When I'm working on scrapbook pages or sewing projects, I have to get out lots of boxes and materials. I like that this is still crafty and fun, but requires less of a stuff and space commitment.

If you are interested in purchasing this kit (or any others) you can go here, and use the code "howdydarby" for $10 off!

Holly & Co.

Please note affiliate links are used in this post, but my thoughts and opinions are my own, I was not compensated for this post.

November 10, 2014


We didn't get to do a special Halloween photo shoot like we have in years past. But I snapped a couple quick photos at our church party on the 30th. 
This was our Halloween celebration. 

Zoe had a blast running around with her friends and trunk or treating.

I won first prize in the chili cook-off, using this amazing recipe. They called the chili by a different name than what I had entered it under while announcing the winners, so originally I didn't realize I had won. After all the awards had been handed out, I had to approach the judges after and say, " I think mine was the winner." We verified that it was mine and I collected the award without fan fare. #awkwardmoment.

When actual Halloween came the next day, Zoe wore a super-hero costume over her uniform.

Rather than trick or treating, we opted for mummy dogs dinner and The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown movie. It was the perfect way to spend the holiday. 

We failed to participate in a lot of the traditional Halloween festivities but we still managed to dress up and eat too much candy, so for this year, we are calling it good.

Holly & Co.

November 1, 2014

10 ways to Scrapbook on a Budget

Scrapbooking on a student budget seems near impossible sometimes, especially with new products coming out every couple of months. But I'm here to tell you it's not. My budget isn't big enough to handle my desire for all the latest and greatest products - So I've come up with 10 ways I am able to stay on trend without having to break the bank.

1. Shop sales and coupons - Obvious right? Besides the tradition holiday sales times (Christmas, Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc) scrapbooking stores have big sales right around CHA time (December-January and June-July) They are clearing out last CHA's product to make way for the new stuff. Also, look for  promotions during National Scrapbooking Day (May)

Don't forget to watch for photo printing deals, Snapfish and Shutterfly offer lots of great promotions throughout the year.
*Beware of buying just because it's on sale. You can blow through your craft budget with products you're not really in love with*

2. DIY - Some products are easier than other to re-create, but many are easy to replicate with a little time and a trip to the office supply store/printer. The best part about DIY embellishments is that you have more freedom with colors, themes, and amounts.

Here are some tutorials I've made replicating popular scrapbooking products.
DIY Transparency Alphabets
DIY Foldover Tabs
DIY Stitched pockets

Page using the DIY transparency alphas

3. Check big box stores - Joann's and Michael's only carry certain name brands, but with their weekly coupons, you can get some great products and tools for cheap! I tend to use those for staple products, cardstock, ink pads, colored cardstock, paper cutter blades, etc.
* Don't forget your coupons!*

4. Warehouse Sales - If you have a favorite brand, check out their blogs or Facebook pages to see if they do a yearly box sale. Most of the companies offer a great discount and a partial list of what may be included. Some also have brick and mortar places set up, where you can pick and choose which products you want.  * My favorite warehouse sale is the American Crafts. It's located in Utah every years and is open from Thanksgiving to New Year's. If you have an opportunity to go, I would highly recommend it. Not just because of the great prices but because they have four different brands located there (Crate Paper, American Crafts, Studio Calico, Pebbles) We shall see what 2014 brings with their recent acquisition of Pink Paislee and Imaginesce*

5. Be Picky - When a new line rolls out that I am in love with, I have a tendency to want every.single.piece of it, especially the papers (my weakness) Logistically, that is impossible to afford and store in my less than 1000 sq. feet apartment. I tend to window shop the line. Review each piece over and over online and narrow down my selections. I usually end up with 3-5 papers and 1-3 embellishments. This cost is at most $20, which is much for affordable then the $75+ of the entire line. Also, Before making an embellishment purchase (meaning anything other than patterned paper), I ask myself, "How long with this last me?" For example, I can spend $4 on a roll of washi or a pack of decorative brads. Depending on the colors, themes etc, one will probably last me way more than the other.
*Try to buy products that can be used for more than one event/category/holiday.*

6. Tools - In the short run, tools cost more, sometimes a lot. Over the course of a year or more, they can save you lots of $$$. Specifically, an electronic diecutting machine (Cricut, Silhouette, etc) can allow you to make alphabets, stencils, even your own patterned papers, which reduces your need to buy. Color mists and inks can also help you create unique backgrounds, change embellishments and enhance products your already have.
* Tools are great for DIY embellishments.*

7. Sell/Share - There are Facebook groups and message boards where you can sell your unused products and boost your craft budget by a little. You can also try to sell locally on Craigslist or at your local scrapbook store. Also, you can sign up for swaps or share a pack of embellishments with a friend.

8. Buy with a project in mind - Mindlessly buying can lead to unused products and wasted money. I used to do this. It's cute, I'll buy it. I'm much more conscious of what products I'll be using for which projects. This stops me from buying just because it's cute or trendy.

9. Know Thyself - Go back through your scrapbooks and look at what products your gravitate towards. Think about what you're always running out of, or your favorite things to add to a page. Stick to those things. If there are certain products that you love, but rarely end up using on a page, keep those purchases to a minimum or not at all. For example, I have a hard time using ribbon. I love it, it's pretty, but it rarely makes it onto a page. Once I realized this, I stopped buying ribbon. 
*If you are new to scrapbooking and aren't sure what products to use or which ones you like the best, I would recommend purchasing from a kit club which will allow you to try a sampling of products without a huge financial commitment. *

10. Splurge - Every once in awhile, a product comes along that I am just dying to use. It doesn't follow my 9 previous rules, but for whatever reason, I just can't talk myself out of it.  Save up your craft budget and spend it on that thing you've been dying to have. The reason I say this is actually a mental thing. Budgeting can be hard. Giving up freely spending isn't fun. And rather than try to supplement with products and DIY's that aren't going to satisfy you, it's ok to splurge every once in a while.

How do you stay on budget, while still enjoying your hobbies? If you have any tips, please share below, I'd love to do a follow up post.

Holly &Co.