Pottery Barn Knock Off Budget DIY

I adore winter! It’s one of my four favorite seasons!

I am however, ready to think ahead to spring. Looking for some table decor which would make the transition from winter to spring, I came across this delightful hydrangea arrangement.

$49.50!?! Yes. You read that right. Immediately my evil little mind went to work, trying to think how I could steal this idea from Pottery Barn for much less.

Turning to the Dollar Tree, I bought a small glass jar and several hydrangea sprigs.

Total: $7

Supplies needed:

Hydrangea branches

Little sticks

Small round short vase


Wire cutters


Hot glue

Pottery barn dollar tree DIY craft table scape centerpiece table decor spring to winter centerpiece

I traced the top of my vase on this applesauce box, and then cut it a little smaller than that diameter so it would fit tightly a few centimeters inside the glass container.

Pottery barn dollar tree DIY craft table scape centerpiece table decor spring to winter centerpiece

I sent the kids out to get a branch from the yard and broke off tiny sticks from it.

Pottery barn dollar tree DIY craft table scape centerpiece table decor spring to winter centerpiece

Then I cut them all to the same lengths and glued them together once I made a roundish bundle.

I cut off most of the stems of the hydrangeas and bent what was left at almost 90° angles. I glued these to the cardboard, bending them as needed until they looked good enough.

Pottery barn dollar tree DIY craft table scape centerpiece table decor spring to winter centerpiece

Making sure the stick bundle would fit, I glued it to the opposite side of the cardboard circle as the hydrangeas.

Pottery barn dollar tree DIY craft table scape centerpiece table decor spring to winter floral centerpiece

There you have it! A Pottery Barn DIY at 1/7th of the price!

Where would you put a cute flower arrangement in your house?


Things To Do When You Can’t Leave the House

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Baby, the weather outside is frightening. Not even exaggerating. The wind chill is dropping to dangerously low temperatures- life threatening, the weather man tells me. Banks and businesses are closing to keep their workers safe.

Speaking of keeping workers safe, farmers still have to go outside to take care of their animals.

Today was cold, but not deathly cold, so the kids still went outside to play. The next couple of days though, nature will be off limits.  What are some things to do when it’s too cold to leave the house?

  1. Bake something. Nothing warms a home like the oven wafting the scent of freshly baked bread or apple crisp. Here is a simple recipe to make alphabet pretzels. 
  2. Snuggle. We have one Lazy-Boy chair we call the Comfy Chair. It’s usually where I sit to read aloud to the kids. Despite the four youngest being 10, 8 6, and 3, we all somehow manage to fit! With a Schnauzer to boot!
  3. Blanket forts. Here’s a super simple idea my then six year old came up with.
  4. Piles of books.
  5. Car ramps. Lean a board or table leaf against the couch and test different kind of rolling vehicles and things that aren’t, like milk lids, balls of different sizes.
  6. Fashion show.
  7. Write letters. Cookbooks- let the kids write their own recipes.  News letters. Comics.
  8. Make newspaper hats.
  9. Do a puzzle together. My son’s favorite puzzles are Ravensburger.
  10. Board games. An easy one we all can play is Tenzis. (plus it strengthens math skills, but SHhhh…keep that on the down low.
  11. Light “Candles”. These are the exact ones we have, and they have worked forever! The flames look real and truly help to bring about that feeling of cozy. Turn off the lights and have a massage circle.
  12. Face paint.  We started with this Klutz Kit because it has great step by step directions and ideas. Then we switched to Snazaroo when the Klutz paint ran out. We still use the book though every time we do it.
  13. Bracelets and necklaces from cereal.
  14. Hot cocoa from a recipe, not a mix. Iowa Girl Eats has an excellent recipe for you to try if you don’t have one of your own.
  15. Watch YouTube videos of “the most dangerous bridges” ,”Most dangerous insects” , “Snake vs some other animal”; many great learning videos out there and the kids don’t even realize they’re doing science, physics, and geography.
  16. Indoor golf with a ball of aluminum  foil and solo cup holes. Pool noodle clubs.
  17. Pool noodle sword fight, (which, at my house the indoor golf invariably becomes).
  18. Have a picnic by just eating the food on the floor. Spread a quilt if you want to, but I guarantee you’ll end up having to wash it.
  19. Turn on the fireplace. If yours isn’t real like mine, you can find a youtube video of crackling fires to add to the ambiance.
  20. Print off one of those time capsule sheets for kids and fill it out. Hide it in a box in your closet. Put in your phone to open it in however many years- and remind yourself where you hid it. I like this printable.
  21. Painting. Or drawing. We love the book series Draw, Write, Now because it makes us feel successful at drawing what we mean to draw.
       We also love the youtube channel “Art  for Kids Hub” 
  22. Practice lettering.
  23. A craft idea from Who Arted?a local mama with lots of great ideas for you to get your crafty on, with and without your kids.
  24. Have everyone put their choice of movie into a bowl and draw one out. Watch it.
  25. Charades. Here is an excellent set of options to print your own set of idea cards.
  26. Table Talk prompts. You can buy a set of cards called “Table Topics”
    or you can find lists of great conversation starters on line. Here’s an excellent place to start.
  27. Do an exercise youtube video together.
  28. Look up trivia questions for kids and give stickers for prizes when someone knows the answer. This set is for the younger kids.
  29. Zentangles.
  30. Watch Joseph’s Machines on YouTube and try to make one tiny part of one of his contraptions.
  31. Raid the recycle bin and see if you can make a marble run. Here’s one we made a few years ago.
  32. Give the kids straws and tape. See what happens. I wouldn’t give them scissors though. I made that mistake.
  33. Make a hammock out of a sheet buy tying it around your dining room table. Knot on top.
  34. Make a puppet show stage by taping a sheet to a doorway (or use a spring release curtain rod) Draw on the kids’s hands, make sock puppets, paper bag puppets, print off puppets from Pinterest and glue them to straws or Popsicle sticks. Have the kids tell a favorite fairy tale. Here’s a great clearing house of patterns. 
  35. Give them marshmallows and toothpicks. Make some pyramids, towers, bridges. Challenge them to a contest.
  36. Let them climb the walls.

When it’s finally bedtime, cuddle up under your favorite blanket, with a heating pad and beverage of your choice. Binge watch something if you want creepy, try You. If you prefer comedy, I just started watching Parks and Rec. If you want some excellent acting, a poignant plot, and some feel good tears, check out Dumplin‘ on Netflix! SO FANTASTIC.

You’ll have to put together your own list if the kids are out of school another day. That’s all I got.  😉

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A Different Kind of October Bucket List

I know you’ve seen the October Bucket Lists floating around Pinterest, rife with bonfires and bobbing for apples, corn mazes and hayrides. Of course you want to do those traditional fall activities!

This post isn’t about that though.

We have an amazing calendar for celebrating every ordinary day that we have had so much fun with this year, and I just had to share it with you! Our one is similar to these.

I thought it would be interesting, but I didn’t realize the kids would just be obsessed with knowing what “day” it is all the time. It’s been a huge hit!

For this year, here are some ideas you can do in October to throw some easy celebratory fun into your life:

October 3-Butterfly and Hummingbird Day.    If you’re local to the Quad Cities, both the Family Museum and the Quad City Botanical Gardens have butterfly areas you can check out on the third.

October 4- Taco Day.   Seriously. Do you need directions for this one?

October 5-World Smile Day. Besides just smiling at all the people you meet today, and pretending you’re happy, you could take it one step further and take balloons to a retirement center, or a puppy to a playground, or buy some gift cards at the grocery store and then hand them to the people in line behind you.

October 8- World Octopus Day.  If you can’t get your hands on a live octopus, you could go to a Chinese buffet and admire the tiny edible ones. Watch some incredible sea videos. Did you know that octopus suction cups on their tentacles can stick to everything except octopus skin? Isn’t God incredible to have thought of even not letting the octopus get tangled up and stuck on itself?istock photo octopus Autumn bucket list fun days october

October 12–Old Farmer’s Day. I have been getting a lot of mileage out of this one by telling my Handsome Husband this day is all for him.

October 13–International Skeptics Day. I know you don’t believe me, but it really is.

October 15–I Love Lucy Day. Great day for binge watching one of the most intelligent ground breakers in television.

October 17–Wear Something Gaudy Day. Make it mandatory for the entire office. They’ll love you.

michael scott the office gaudy turban fall bucket list autumn fun days

October 18–Chocolate Cupcake Day

This is my absolute favorite chocolate cake recipe. It’s from Taste of Home. I’ve been loyal to this recipe since before I had kids. Also. It has coffee.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs (we sell farm fresh eggs , Hint Hint)
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1-1/3 cups sour cream


  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 6 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with coffee and sour cream, beating well after each addition.
  • Pour into greased and floured lined cupcake tins. Bake 15-20ish minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Beat in the chocolate, coffee and vanilla until blended. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar. Cut each cupcake in half horizontally. Spread between layers and over top  of fairy  cakes. Cover and refrigerate until serving

If you’re not up for making your own chocolate cupcakes from scratch, make your child do it. Failing that, buy a mix- I recommend Ghiradelli.

Still lacking time for that endeavor? Go to a cupcake store. Here a few of my local favorites: Oh So Sweet  in Davenport, Eastern Iowa Baking Company, in Eldridge and Old Towne Bakery. in Moline.

(Also, America? Can we please start calling these fairy cakes?) 

October 20 —International Sloth Day--I have a trip to pet sloths in Costa Rica on my lifetime bucket list, but I know I won’t be able to go this month, unfortunately. I vote we not adult that day and be sloths instead. It’s mandatory.

October 24–Bologna Day–How easy will it be to have fun with this? Make a bologna sandwich. Learn the Oscar Meyer song. Use bologna to demonstrate the parts of a cell.

October 26–Howl at the Moon Day–the full moon is the 24th, so it will still be nice and gorgeous by then.

October 29 —National Cat Day— I have some sweet kitties you can pet, but the kittens and cats at the Humane Societies and pet stores always need some love. Make it a priority to go and snuggle a cat today!

Which idea are you actually going to write in your planner and make happen?


The Throwin’ of a Pirate Party

I LOVE to throw parties. I have a philosophy: Go Big or Go Home. Kevin, my everlovin’ introvert, can’t understand it, but he assists me in all the ways he can. He gets into it too!

I like to have a theme for our birthday party. We just have one a year to celebrate all of us, all born in July and August. This year’s theme was pirates.

To set the scene, send out invitations. Of course, you could always do a facebook invitation, or text it, but people love to get something in the mail. I typed out pirate speak on the computer, tore them, dyed them with tea, wrote translations on the back as an afterthought, just in case. 
We built some pirate ships using hay wagons. I made the bunting from felt. 

A friend sent me the link to Catch My Party and these free pirate printables. I don’t really think “treat bags” are a necessity, but they needed something to put their treasure in after the treasure hunt, so…perfect! They got a couple of mini candy bars and treasure. (jewels and gold coins I purchased from Amazon.)

First we frolicked and face painted until enough people arrived to start the festivities.

 We started with Pin the Patch on the Pirate.

I had a talented friend draw a pirate.


On to the treasure hunt!
putting the map back together
For the treasure hunt, I drew a large map on a folded out paper shopping bag, labeling various areas around our yard, such as the Petrifying Playhouse, Tire Swing o’ Terror and the Willow the Wisp. I asked Brielle to tear the map into 15-20 pieces. She got carried away and tore it into 42. We hid those pieces around the yard and the wee pirates had to search for them like an Easter egg hunt. Then we had to put the puzzle back together. I’m not sure if we didn’t have all the pieces back or if it was because there were so many of them, because it was a challenge! I was impressed with their tenaciousness. We had wrapped a cardboard box in yellow paper and hidden it in a hollow tree. Then we marched back to the front yard and I threw all the treasure up in the air and they stuffed their bags. The big kids helped the littles get their share. 
 Then it was time for A Battle!
We had the dads be Captain Scallywag and Captain Salty Dog. We numbered off by twos and got the kids loaded up with water balloon bombs, water bomb splash bombs and water cannons.

 Once the ammo was mostly gone, it was time to walk the plank.
 Kevin rigged up the teeter-totter into an admirable plank.

me best matey and meself
 Then it was time for cake and ice cream!
 Brielle and Kevin had been working (sporadically) on this model ship since December. It was the perfect addition to our pirate cake.
All our soggy pirates.
 I made a three layer poke cake. 
It was delicious, but as it turns out, none of us like grape jello. I was trying to go for the colors of black, red and white. Next time I’ll just stick with red.
One of the wee little pirates.
 After playing on the hay bales a while, we loaded everyone up for a 
 pirate ship hay ride.
Elivette and her little friend Andrew

After this we had homemade sloppy joe sandwiches and the delicious sides that everyone brought to share. All in all, I would say it was a jolly good time


Summer Fun

Things we have been doing:
Cloud watching.

Making giant bubbles.

Gardening. (I have an unhealthy fear of tomato hornworms; I make my four year old smash them)

Being sad we lost the pictures from Elivette’s 8th ,9th, and 10th month.
Going to the spray park.

Trying not to yell.
Starting over.
Not using the oven.
Keeping up with housekeeping. Mostly.


Going out for ice cream.

Playing in the pool. (Meet Kota)

Making memories.


Gratefulness 12

I am thankful we were able to go up to Chicago for an overnight stay. The three hour drive up was not too bad even though Elivette is decidedly not fond of the car. We hung out at my brother and SIL’s until bedtime. My sister and one of her children were able to fly in from Colorado so we were blessed to see four family members we don’t usually get to spend time with. We talked and caught up a bit. Of course the children and Uncle Corydon had to go out into the yard for a game of chase and “take-down roughhouse wrassling”. We also tested ourselves on the state capitals and did miserably. Mrs. Hagedorn, my sixth grade teacher would be so disappointed in me. Corydon made a super yummy glazed ham and green beans and potatoes and Katie made divine pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I’m not ashamed to say I took a couple home with me and ate them alone in my room.

We stayed the night in a hotel which is always a big thrill and as an added bonus, I was thankful the boys didn’t even get up at the crack of dawn. We had a nice (albeit carb filled) breakfast and headed back over to  Corydon and Katie’s. After much discussion and interwebbing, we had decided on the Adler Planetarium.  Elivette shrieked miserably the entire drive there, but I am thankful Leah and I had a wonderful discussion. It was a long and chilly walk there from where we parked by Soldier Field.  It was swell once we got there!

 Cadrian and Corydon simulate a rocket launch. Cadrian is totally all  about rockets right now, so he may have had the grandest time of all, even though everyone enjoyed themselves immensely. Even Katie, who got stuck holding the coats–she said she preferred that over “Denton-wrangling”.
 Denton would have been content to repair rockets the whole time. At one point he had all the tools and was walking around with them clutched to his chest. “Mine” 
Trying to build enough PSI to launch an air rocket. I’m proud to say my launch went the highest. After his rocket did not go as high as mine did, Kevin said there must have been a seal leak …Hmmm.
 Elivette was unimpressed with the view.
(out the window, not my dad. :-))
 Leah and me and the Chicago skyline
The walk back to the cars was about three times as long and twenty times as cold and windy. We made it though with no complaining…(well, little complaining). We had to veg out to some Curious George after we got back. (The extra blonde on the end is my nephew, Titus)

We ended the evening with some Old Town Chicago-style deep dish pizza.
I’m thankful for these girls right here.

The drive home was indubitably more torturous and everyone was cranky tired today, but it overall wasn’t really that bad and I am so thankful we were able to do it!


In Arkansas…

Vacation. 13 + hours in the car to get there, 5 of it on Lombard Street rivaling mountain passes. An excruciating car ride which exacerbated some pregnancy related, previously only minor problems for this starting the third trimester mama to the point of tear inducing pain. Not exactly the ideal way to start vacation.

My midwife called in a scrip for me and I tried some other remedies to boot and was feeling a bit better by the end of the week. Until I got some serious chigger bites in unmentionable places. Which are still problematic. Not exactly the ideal way to end vacation.

 My mom said to wait a couple weeks and then decide if it was worth it.

 The kiddlets had a grand time though. Aviana’s favorite part was the four mile hike.

  Brielle really liked playing at the beach.

 As did Cadrian and his cousins.

 And they didn’t all sleep in one bed, although they did all sleep in one room.

Denton pretty much enjoyed it all. 

 I favored having some long visits with my sister.


Time to go

After an incredibly busy and fun filled week (well, for the most part), now it’s time to go on vacation. My parents are taking the girls and their dog in our van and I am driving the boys in their car. Kevin unfortunately has to stay home but he’s done planting! (Pray for rain in our neck of the woods. It’s almost a dire situation at this juncture)

We are driving to my aunt’s house in Springfield MO tomorrow, they are staying with her; the boys and I are staying at my cousin’s house. Then we are all going to Hot Springs Village, AR to meet up with our cousins/nieces/nephews  and Tia (my sister) and Uncle Tony who live in CO.

I’ve got the girls pretty much ready to go and a good start on the boys. I need to pack myself and all the miscellany besides clothes we need to take. We rented a couple of vacation homes (at only $85/night, it’s a pretty sweet deal) but we have to take our own coffee making supplies, paper products, cleaning products and what not.

I was thinking that I would continue to cloth diaper while there since we have our own washer in the house, but now I’m feeling too tired.

I cleaned out the van and vacuumed the whole thing. I am thanking God for Kevin who took the children to the library, park, to watch boats on the Mississippi and out for lunch. I was NOT making any progress while they were “helping”. I think, in fact, I was going backward.

I still have to get snacks and what not made and packed, entertainment (the girls are SO much easier as they will listen to books on CD the whole trip (and knock out their library summer reading program in one fell swoop)) and finish picking up the house.

It’s a lot of work to have fun!


Playing in the sand

Dada made a sandbox.
He plans to make a digger like these too.
See that tiny reddish blob right in the middle? That’s Denton–He crawled all the way from me, to the sandbox. It has quite the appeal.
Of course, it means I have to give baths more frequently now 🙂 and comb sand out of hair quite a little bit. But the delight we see is worth it.

Oh and the industriousness!
And there was enough sand left over that Dada made another one out the back door.

Family Drawing Afternoon

The people Brielle loves

Aviana’s beautiful princess and prince

Brielle’s beautiful princess

My castle–I was going to add a dragon and some more details, but somehow ended up being pulled in about six different directions. (I know, I only have four children, but still somehow the directions are six. At least)

Grandma Joyce’s Owl
Aviana’s gingerbread boy

Brielle’s no cats for Jessica sign (because I’m allergic)