Today I am a crazy person getting ready for my little guy's communion party tomorrow, but I wanted to tell all of my wonderful friends, in real life and in blogland, how grateful I am to you for visiting my little spot over here at Shine Your Light!  I started using StatCounter, a tool for keeping track of how many times a blog is viewed, about a month into blogging (April 10) and...

yesterday I reached 1,000 page views!! 

This is nothing compared to some major bloggers out there, some of whom easily have 1,000 or more hits a day, but for me 1,000 page views in 3 weeks is enormous, and I am so thankful for your support and encouragement! 
I really hope to bring some great DIY home inspirations to you when we land in our next home. 
In the meantime I hope to amuse you with fun crafts, gardening ideas and recipes that you'll enjoy. 

Many thanks for being a part of this journey with me!
Have a wonderful weekend!
xo Lisa


One More Paper Craft And Then I'll Stop The Madness

Am I taking the whole paper pom pom thing just a little too far? 

Possibly, but my little girl and I are on a kick since we learned how to make coffee filter pom poms at Easter, and then went a little wild creating tissue paper pom poms yesterday! 

The kids and I are banner-making maniacs - "Welcome Home Daddy!", "Happy St. Patrick's Day!", "Happy Anything!" - ahh, we've made them all to amuse ourselves on many a rainy or snowy afternoon in New England.

I happened to have a banner we made for a birthday celebration (strangely outfitted with the words "Happy Birthday" - imagine!)  Having recently discovered Martha's clipart (see the labels we put on our Homemade Vanilla Extract) I was inspired to use her cute Festive Garland letters for Sean's First Communion.  The Happy Birthday banner had just enough spots to change the wording.  Now I vascillate between thinking this is cute or kinda sorta cheesy.  I'm still undecided but the little coffee filter pom poms that Hannah and I added today are swaying me. 

There is NOTHING like making a few good coffee filter pom poms while ignoring the enormous pile of dirty laundry waiting patiently for some attention! 

All for the sake of my baby....
but really, isn't this font yummy?

Martha knows how to throw a good party doesn't she?

Have a wonderful day!


Tissue Paper Pom Pom Party!

My littlest is receiving his First Holy Communion on Saturday.  While I don't feel the need to go crazy with decorations for a First Communion party, I do want to create a sense of celebration to make the day special and festive for my Seanie.  I thought I'd try my hand at making white tissue paper pom poms to hang around the house.  Not only were these the easiest things to make, they were inexpensive, quick and so pretty!   Also, they can be flattened after use for storage, and reused again.  They were simply addictive for me and my lovely crafting assistant, Hannah!    Imagine these for a baby or bridal shower, or even at a wedding - wouldn't a ton of them everywhere be spectacular?  Oh the possibilities!

Trust me, even if you are not very crafty, you can make these sophisticated and whimsical decorations for your next party!

First, decide on a size.  For a large pom-pom, stack 8 sheets of tissue paper.  For smaller pom-poms, stack 6 sheets and cut them in half. 

Next, working from the short side, fold up the stack accordian-style, creasing as you go, creating pleats that are about 1-2".

Wrap florist's wire around the center of the flattened stack (scotch tape would probably work here too). 
Tie or tape a piece of ribbon, fishing wire, or even dental floss to the center for hanging later.

Trim both ends of the stack to make them rounded or pointed.

Fan open one half of the stack.

Pull the layers of tissue paper toward you, taking care not to rip them. 

Keep pulling each layer apart on both sides and then tweak until you have a uniform roundness to your pom pom.  The whole process takes about 3 minutes per pom pom.

This photo below shows both pointed and rounded pom poms.  The one on the left only has 6 sheets of tissue paper and really isn't full enough for a big one, but when grouped with others it's less apparent. 
I taped the ribbon right to the ceiling with a couple of pieces of scotch tape.
I love how several pom-poms in varying sizes look grouped together. 
They would also be cute hanging all over the ceiling!

I don't know about you but I always horde the tissue paper when my kids open gifts,
and then fold it up to reuse.  Isn't this a great way to reuse tissue paper from a gift?
Reduce, reuse, recycle, baby!
I see lots of colorful pom poms made from recycled tissue paper at my family's future birthday celebrations!

Give this a try - it's fun, easy and cheap!

I've linked this post to these fun parties - check them out!
Its a Hodgepodge Life
The Finer Things In Life
The Inspired Room
Fingerprints on The Fridge
Somewhat Simple


Hey Good Lookin, What's Cookin?

I'm loving printable labels!

Hey y'all!  I finally packaged up our homemade vanilla extract for Mother's Day gifts and wanted to share with you the final result - kinda cute isn't it?

Thanks to the one and only Martha, I dressed up the bottles with these pretty labels.  In case, like me, you live under a rock and didn't realize the abundance of downloadable goodies over there, check out marthastewart.com to find lots of fabulous (and free!) labels and clipart for favor bags and boxes.

I had laminating sheets already, so I printed the labels on regular paper, cut out the circles, and stuck them onto the laminating sheet, then cut a square around the circle and placed this on the bottles of vanilla extract.  Easy peasy.  (You can also buy paper for your printer that has an adhesive backing.)

I put a little note on the back, also printed on a medallion clipart of Marty's, but you could also list the ingredients, or how to replenish the homemade vanilla.  (Nana, act surprised when your grandchildren give this to you!)

I handwrote the directions on a gift tag and attached it to the outside of the bottle.

I think we'll bake something delish, and deliver it in a basket with the homemade vanilla and some flowers.
I heart homemade!

Check out these other labels from Marty for all your entertaining needs!
Lace Tag that you can customize!
Thank You, Enjoy and a customizable one!
Single Letter Monogram
Thanks Martha!

Today I'm linking up to these fun parties!  Visit them for fun inspiration!
DIY Day @ A Soft Place To Land
Tuesday Tutorial @ Hope Studios
Tip Me Tuesday @ Tip Junkie
Nifty Thrifty Tuesdays @ Coastal Charm


This Little Light Of Mine, I'm Gonna Let It Shine

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most.
We ask ourselves,
'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?'
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us.
And when we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
-Maryanne Williamson


Pretty Mudrooms

I mentioned the other day that my darling friend Sue has an entryway to decorate.  One half of the little room functions as a mudroom for a family of 4 - Sue, her husband and their two little boys. 

This side already has a bench and closet built into the wall.  Check out this little pumpkin who agreed to model for me.  He's edible!  *smooches to T & M*  The best part of working on this project - I get to see Sue's boys!

The other side has space to enjoy a nice cup of coffee or glass of vino. 
Isn't this space so cute?

Now we just need to make it more functional and inviting as a place to relax.
The mudroom side of the room needs to be attractive given that it will be exposed to the seating area, and is the first thing a guest sees when entereing this lovely home. 

Look at these gorgeous mudrooms!
Photo:  liluinteriors
Photo:  Renovation Design Group
Photo:  Debbie Travis
Photo:  woodworkers.org

Enjoy this beautiful day and I'll see you soon with ideas for this space!


Screened-In Porches

One of my best friends asked me to help her pull together her breezeway, which is a little screened-in porch that also serves as a mudroom and encases the front door.  Ohhh - project!

While I'm pulling together some inspiration for her, I thought I'd share some delicious photos of porches with those of you who are getting your outdoor living spaces together for spring and summer!  Coming soon I'll show you some great mud rooms and then figure out how to pull those two spaces together!

Photo:  Better Homes & Gardens
Photo:  myhomeideas.com
Photo:  House Beautiful
Photo:  Lucas Allen, Country Home

Photo:  Maura McEvoy, Country Home

Photo:  myhomeideas.com
Photo:  House Beautiful
Photo:  Country Home

Have a wonderful day!


Homemade Vanilla Extract

I do a lot of baking with my kids and was fired up to come across Ina Garten's steps for making homemade vanilla extract in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. 
I had to give it a whirl!

The recipe calls for letting vanilla beans ferment in vodka.  The Contessa uses a dozen vanilla beans in a tall bottle, but alas, this girl could only afford 2 little old vanilla beans in which to conduct my experiment (if you want the details about whether this is cost-efficient or not, see the breakdown below!) 

You will need:
1/2 c (4 oz.) vodka
2 vanilla beans
Airtight jar or bottle
  • Using a Sharpie, write the date on the bottom of your bottle so you know when it will be done.
  • Split the vanilla beans before placing in the alcohol.
  • Shake the bottle vigorously every day for 30 days (and always shake before using).  After 1 month, your brew should be an adequate strength for use in recipes that call for vanilla extract.
  • When half the liquid is used, add more vodka to existing beans.  The beans need to be replaced when the vodka does not turn amber after a few days.  Bakers report that the same beans can be used for up to three years. The Contessa says "This "brew" can continue for years by just adding more vanilla beans and more vodka.  I've had mine stored on a shelf in the pantry for almost twenty years!"
  • After the extract is properly fermented, you can keep the beans in the extract or remove them and squeeze the seeds out for use in making vanilla sugar, vanilla ice cream or pretty much any dessert recipe by Martha Stewart!  (she always calls for scraping vanilla beans!)
The ingredients....
The Contessa does not specify what kind of vanilla beans or vodka she uses.  I did some research and discovered there are four kinds of beans used for vanilla extract as well as different kinds of alcohol.  As the taste of a cocktail is greatly influenced by the grade of alcohol you use, your extract will also taste better if you use quality alcohol.  You may want to experiment with different combinations of beans and alcohols to see what you like the best. 

Madagascar (you might see this kind of extract labeled as "Madagascar Bourbon") 
The majority of vanilla extracts on the market are made from this kind of bean.

The higher-proof the alchol, the stronger the extract will be.  These different alcohols will vastly differ the taste of your end-product!

Is it worth it to make your own vanilla extract?

I bought Nielsen-Massey beans, 2 beans for $7.49, at our favorite local grocery store (of course that's Roche Bros. for my MA friends!). You can find these same beans at Sur la Table. Other brands can be purchased on Amazon.com, about $7.24 for 5. Also, check out http://www.beanilla.com/ for their beans.

I used Absolut vodka, which we have in our liquor cabinet but don't use for cocktails (we're a Ketel One or Grey Goose crowd). Absolut is considered a mid-grade vodka (vs. premium) and has a decent flavor. Absolut is approximately $20/750 ml which equates to $6.40 per cup. This means for my experiment using 1/2 cup vodka and 2 vanilla beans, the total cost was $10.69 for a half cup (4 oz.)

Now, $10.69 seems like a lot for 4 ounces of vanilla extract - however - good quality pure vanilla extract is expensive to purchase! A premium vanilla extract that is sold at Sur la Table and other high-end baker-supply stores, Nielsen-Massey, costs $34.95/8oz ($17.48/4oz). Based on reviews I've read this extract has an excellent taste.

The pure vanilla extract that I have used for years is the McCormick brand: $10.70/4 oz. After doing a little taste test with the McCormick extract vs. my homemade extract - WOW! I couldn't believe the difference in taste. The McCormick was actually VILE to taste on the tip of my finger, whereas the homemade stuff is so delicious you might consider pouring it into a martini glass right then and there. 
(My co-conspirator-friend B and I nearly did this very thing but restrained ourselves for the sake of the experiment.  )

In addition to the homemade version tasting better than a comparably-priced vanilla extract, I can re-use the beans for up to 3 years and therefore just incur the expense of replacing the vodka so
it is, in fact, less expensive to make your own AND it tastes better!

And....one more fun and tasty idea!

If you'd like to pop open your fermenting bottle of vanilla-infused vodka after two weeks and make a cocktail, by all means do so! You can always replace the vodka and let the fermentation continue for your vanilla extract. I'm not even a martini fan, but throughout the fermentation process I did taste tests with the tip of my finger and I'd have to say it was QUITE delicious after only a week or two. I haven't tried this recipe for Vanilla Martinis from foodnetwork.com but it looks yummy, especially if you use your homemade vanilla vodka!
I might have to make a batch of these for a girl's night out!

Later this week I'll show you how I made bottles of vanilla extract with my kids and wrapped them up as Mother's Day gifts for my mother and mother-in-law
(shhh, don't tell them)!


Vintage Prints

A large portion of wall decor in our house is family photos.  To me, photos make a house personal, homey and cozy.  I want my kids to look around their home and know how loved and cherished they are.  When I was in the framing business I naturally framed gazillions of my photos.  However, seeing as our house is on the market we have made an earnest effort to de-personalize, starting with removing photos.  The dilemma is that I am left with lots of blank wall space. 

Stage right, The Vintage Moth.  Stage left, The Graphics Fairy.  Have you heard of these truly awesome  sites?  You can download beautiful vintage images for free
I perused their lovely images and fell in love with alphabets and letters. 
(Yes - I am bizarrely obsessed with fonts!) 
Aren't these so cool?

I thought a few of these might be interesting to hang in my otherwise-colorful family room, in the place of three photos of my kids.  The wall above my computer desk looked like this (there was a photo in the middle of my boys but I forgot to take the "before" photo until I excitedly started framing my alphabets!)
I love this series of photos of my kiddos, and they will definitely be displayed in our next house.
As they get older, I love this one below even more....this was probably 3 years ago and they've already changed so much! 

But I digress.....
I saved the images and printed them out on heavy, flecked paper I had from back in the days of sending out resumes. 
I opened up the frames, and used blue painter's tape to attach my "prints" right over the photo. 
The blue tape has a low tack and is easy to remove without ripping the paper. 
I tried this grouping:
I adore this "S" for our last name.  It's a pen flourishing, not computer-generated like fonts today. 

This alphabet was divided into two prints.

Those are cool, but then....
the botanical graphics caught my eye and I couldn't resist printing these out too!

The final grouping.....

I still like the enlarged "S" and am thinking of doing an eclectic wall of them in different fonts, frames and colors. 

In the meantime, I'm loving my new botanicals - what do you think? 
Not bad for a free, quick and easy makeover!

I'm linking to these great blogs today!  Check them out for fabulous ideas and inspiration!
Tuesday Tutorial @ Hope Studios
Tackle It Tuesday @ 5 Minutes For Mom
Tip Me Tuesday @ Tip Junkie
DIY Day @ A Soft Place To Land