Archive for February, 2012

Amy’s Notebook 02.29.12

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Welcome to my little notebook of ideas to help improve your life. This is a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. I hope you will enjoy this weekly does of loveliness with beautiful links that are individually handpicked just for you!

Recovering bar stools with oilcloth is such a smart idea for families with small children (@ made)

I absolutely love this DIY craft table (@ Thrifty Decor Chick)

I can’t wait to print out this free travel-sized Paper City Paris printable for my daughter (@ made by joel)

These leather cuff bracelets made from old belts are such a fun accessory (@ V and Co)

The coolest mom award would go to this mama who made these adorable lunch napkin love notes for her kids (@ Just Something I Made)

I want a few of these nautical rope bracelets to accessorize for Spring (@ Rent the Runway)

I want to make these adorable mini moon pies (@ Random Thoughts of a Supermom)

These printable jam labels are a beautiful way to dress up a jar of jam (@ packagery)

These pom pom trim headbands are absolutely adorable (@ Trey and Lucy)

This reclaimed plywood ceiling is jaw-droppingly awesome (@ Burlap & Denim)

These s’mores granola bars sound like a delicious snack (@ Gluesticks)

I am in love with this circle knit shirt (@ Honest to Nod)

I love this tutorial for how to make a photo collage using Picasa (@ Skip to My Lou)

I love this big stitch knit rug (@ The Purl Bee)

This seed bead necklace is absolutely gorgeous (@ Design Mom)

This Little Red Riding Hood party is the cutest party idea ever (@ Lark & Lola)

Food Photography 101

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Food Photography 101

I have been getting a lot of emails and comments lately requesting that I share a little bit about my experience with food photography. In full discretion, I am not a food stylist or food photographer at all. In fact, I know nothing about photography except what I have learned through my own trial and error and the tips from friends and books that I have read.

Let’s start with what my food photography looked like when I started blogging.

First, I started my blog with no photography.

Or paragraphs.

Or spacing between sentences.

Basically, it was one giant wall of text about food that we ate.

Then I decided to venture into taking photos of the food we ate. Let me tell you, if you made my recipes when my food looked like this, then you must have had a lot of faith in what that recipe would actually yield.

Food Photography 101

These examples really showcase where my first pictures of food started from. I had no clue about how to set the white balance on my camera, I thought all photos should be staged on top of my oven, and there was little thought to plating or creating a mood with my photography. Unless that mood was orange. Which, mind you, I fully succeeded at.

At the same time, I also know I am a very busy mom with very hungry children to feed. I spend my days running errands, activities, and volunteering. The idea of staging an entire photo session in my kitchen in the middle of the day still seems pretty impossible to me at this stage in our lives. My approach towards food photography is that it has to fit with my lifestyle and our family.  The tips I am offering are hopefully approachable and can help you in whatever stage of photography you are in.


Set Your White Balance


No matter what type of camera that you own, setting your white balance is something that can help you achieve better pictures from the start. You can set your white balance with the preset balance options in your Camera Menu or you can customize the white balance on your camera by simply taking a picture of a white sheet of paper.

The Auto White Balance (AWB) option isn’t always the best option for your food photography. If the day is cloudy or if you have lights on where you taking your photography, you will need to take in account what types of bulbs or lighting situations you are dealing with. For a more in-depth look at setting the White Balance, be sure to read this post on Figuring Out Your White Balance.

Use Natural Light When Possible


Food Photography 101

Natural light is always the best option for beautiful food photography. Turn off all of the lights in your house and take pictures in a well-lit room for the best naturally lit photos.

I noticed a huge difference when I simply turned off the lights in my kitchen since the light bulbs really added a lot of orange and yellow hues into my photography, making my food less appetizing.

If you find that there are shadows in your pictures, it can help to use a foam board to bounce the light from your kitchen windows to create even natural lighting.

Whatever you do, keep the flash off on your camera. This may require a bit of reading in your camera manual, but your pictures will be a thousand times better if you can turn the flash on your camera off.  Flash photography in food photos will, guaranteed, not create the beauty and the look that you are going for with your photography.

Practice taking pictures in different areas of your home to find the one spot in your house where the lighting is the best. I have found that I have great lighting in my kitchen during the daytime, but my front room also provides beautiful lighting when I move my console table out of the direct sunlight.

Stock Up on Thrifty Props


Food Photography 101

Creating beautiful scenes with food does not have to be an expensive endeavor at all. I love to visit thrift stores for unique tableware, glassware, and for fabric to use for my food photos. The best part about food props is that you can often take advantage of clearance items or patterns you might not use in your everyday life.

When I first started out I just used white plates for my food photos. These are simple, classic, and truly let the food take center stage. They also show every little spill and splatter so messier food can be trickier to photograph on them.

I started visiting the clearance section of the housewares and realized that I could inexpensively create unique displays for my food without a huge expense. My favorite plates so far are inexpensive salad and appetizer plates that look like real plates,but are just plastic tableware. My trick is always to look for small plates and bowls for my food photos. Using these smaller plates helps the plates look fuller than what they are.


Food Photography 101This bowl of Roasted Brussels Sprouts, for example,  looks like a normal size bowl of Brussels Sprouts. This is actually one of our little applesauce bowls set on top of a plastic appetizer plate I found on clearance at Target.

The big joke around our house is that these tiny plates are how I stay so thin. These pretty plates are usually how I eat my dinner after I photograph them while the rest of my family eats on regular plates. My daughter is always irritated that my food is prettier than her food. I am sure this will lead to weird sessions in a counselor’s office one day.

Get a Weathered Table…Or Not.

Food Photography 101

The other question I always had when I looked at other people’s photos is where they got all these beautiful ancient weathered tables?  Most bloggers actually don’t have a bunch of varieties of weathered tables in their home. I know…that kind of shocked me too.

I discovered you could buy weathered wood wallpaper fairly inexpensively on eBay. I also found this weathered wood paper, pictured above, that is just paper from a teacher’s supplies store that has worked really well for creating the wood look.

Food Photography 101

Don’t think of your faux wooden backdrops as being only used in one way, like a tabletop.  Here is an example of how if you have a large enough backdrop, you can actually use it to cover both the back of the photo as well as covering the tabletop. I found some wipeable  backdrops that were for sale on a deal-for-a-day site and bought several different varieties. Just to prove that you don’t have to have a fancy set-up, this is actually taped with electrical tape to my kitchen pantry door and is actually on the floor in the corner of my kitchen, right next to the window.

Rethink Your Backgrounds

Wooden cutting boards provide richness to food photos, place mats and fabric napkins can add more color and dimension to your food photography, and even the rusty bottoms of cookie sheets, inverted,  can create uniqueness to your food photos (as learned through a fabulous BlogHer Food session).

Food Photography 101

Food Photography 101

I have found tile can be an inexpensive purchase at our local Habitat for Humanity, at just fifty cents per tile at our store. This is four pieces of tile (two upright and two flat) to create this surface for my Quinoa Berry Bowls.  Did I mention I also found swoon-worthy antique spoons at that store? I love when I happen upon a place like that for the unexpected prop!

Food Photography 101

An inexpensive way to shoot a photo and still capture the beauty of your dishes is simply using foam board from your local hardware store. In this shot of my Snickerdoodle Cupcakes, the background and the base of this shot are two pieces of foam board. You can’t get any more inexpensive than that and this simple background lends itself well to creating a pretty title to your photos.

Create Your Own Mini Photo Studio


Indiana winters are a struggle for me because I have a limited window of truly great natural light in my kitchen. After battling with bad lighting for many years, I finally decided to create my own mini photo studio to help. While this lighting isn’t as lovely as the natural lighting in the morning in my home, it has provided consistent results for creating the types of pictures that I want when I am dealing with low-light situations.

I purchased this Lowell EGO Light set with backdrops and bounce board (currently priced at $214.99 total) for my food photography. These lights are set up on a small cabinet in my office in our sub-basement. There are no other lights on when I take my food photos and these two lights provide optimal light for my food photography.

The lights come with Daylight bulbs in them. I simply switch my White Balance to shoot in the Daylight setting (the setting with the Sun icon) to begin shooting.

Here is the shot that I took in my basement with all of the lights off and using my two Lowell EGO lights. It still shocks me that this was taken at 8PM, in the dead of winter, and in my sub-basement of my home. I do think that the lighting is a little flatter than the natural light, but it is so much better than I could achieve with those scenarios going on any other time. (Picture of my Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo Pasta)

homemade_tomato_soup Here is the very first shot that I took with my Lowell EGO lights. I angled one of those lights so it appeared that this Homemade Tomato Soup was being shined upon by sunlight. Little does anyone know that this was all after we ate our dinner and shot in the dark depths of my basement. Since this is the first shot I took, you can see that even though I had no real clue what I was doing that I was able to achieve wonderful results with very little effort.

food_photography_101_7 Here is another shot of my set-up. I have my tripod in front of my little mini-studio. Below the lights are my plates, back drops, cups, fabric, napkins, etc.. in the two lower shelves so I can grab what I need and switch out colors and accessories as I need to.

Were the lights a big expense? Yes! Have they been worth it? Worth absolutely every penny for this busy mom and novice food photographer.

Get Familiar With Your Camera


I am definitely no expert when it comes to shooting in Manual mode, although I do shoot in this mode sometimes, but I love shooting in Aperture Priority (Av) for most of my food photography. Aperture Priority means that you set the camera’s Aperture and then the camera automatically figures out the shutter speed that you need to achieve the best photos. You can consult your camera manual to find out how to switch your own camera to Aperture Priority.

I had my lens cap on when I took this photo (thus the ISO displayed), but I wanted to show you that even while shooting in Aperture Priority, you can still adjust the settings for your situation.

Food Photography 101

Exposure and Aperture are usually the two settings that I play with most on my camera for my food photography. I really like light-filled photos and tend to go for a brighter photo than what it automatically chooses for me. The box that is highlighted above determines your Exposure of your photos. Basically, the exposure simply determines if the picture is too bright or too dark. Usually when it’s set to 0, or right in the middle of that green box shown above, it is just the right setting for exposure. In Aperture Priority mode, it will always stay at 0 unless you specifically tell it to move. If you decide that you want more light in your photos, like me, you can bump this to the right. If you want your photos to be darker, you can bump your Exposure composition the left, to create a food with less light. Sometimes I will bump it lower especially when I am dealing with dark plates (like red, black, or blue)  since it tends to overexpose the rest of the shot.

(Pictured Above: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad)

Food Photography 101

Getting that blurred background is probably the coolest thing about getting your first DSLR. Of course, you want to be sure that you are telling the whole story about your food photos and aren’t always shooting with this large of an Aperture. I usually like my Aperture around F5.6 unless I am really trying to blur something out behind the food, like the spoon in the picture above.

If you are looking for more information on understanding Exposure and Aperture, I really love this down-to-basics guide to understanding Aperture on i heart nap time.  For understanding Exposure and Exposure Compensation, I really, really loved this series, “31 Days to a Better Photo,” on my 3 boybarians. You can also visit my Pinterest Photography Fun Board for lots of other links to great tutorials on the blogs.

Edit, But Edit Wisely


Food Photography 101

If you take really great food photos, you will not need to make a lot of edits to them. My editing is usually just saturating my color (just a touch), sometimes adjusting the exposure, and cropping my photos.

I had been using PicMonkey to edit my food photos although my goal this year is to switch my editing process over to LightRoom. I just recommend concentrating your efforts on taking a great photo and use a program to help add a little saturation or adjust your exposure. Just remember that sometimes one can get carried away with the editing and you have pictures with all sorts of crazy fluorescent food. It is disappointing for your readers when they are unable to achieve what you have photographed at home. I always try to keep things as natural as possible so my readers know that the dishes can be created just as they have seen on the blog.

(Pictured Above: Homemade Whole Wheat Toasted Tarts)

Sometimes It Just Ain’t Pretty


Food Photography 101

Food Photography 101

No matter how you look at it, sometimes it can be impossible getting a pretty picture of food. Chicken and Dumplings are absolutely delicious, but they don’t yield gorgeous and rich food photos without a lot of work. A green smoothie might be a great energy-booster, but the pictures of it weren’t among my favorites.

I find that in situations like this that I try to rely on richer content in these cases and hope that the readers will look past the unappetizing photos and read about how delicious the food is.

Here are the most FAQ questions that people have asked me about taking food photography…

Food Photography 101

What equipment do you recommend and what do you have?

A:  I am not an expert on buying camera equipment, but I can tell you what I do know about it. I have always heard that it is much wiser to spend your money on your lens than the body of your camera. That is not to say to totally skimp on the body, but the body of cameras is constantly changing and being improved upon. I started out with the Canon Rebel T1i and, if you can believe it,  they already have many more versions of my camera since I got this and they cost quite a bit more than my already antique and outdated camera! The truth is, I will never stay current with the body of my camera because within a few months, a new one will already be replacing my ancient equipment.

If you are on a budget and are looking for a great point-and-shoot camera that has the same functionality as the DSLR, but you don’t have to buy lenses and make a huge investment, I loved my Canon PowerShot (the link takes you to the current model). I am a Canon girl and was really happy with this point-and-shoot camera. It is the camera that I recommend to my friends and I have always heard how happy my girlfriends are with their Canon PowerShots. Agonizing amounts of research were done before I selected that camera and I was very happy with it!

If you are still on a budget, but want to make a long-term investment in your food photography, I can share with you the lens and camera that I have. As an aside, we found our lens on eBay from a photographer who was upgrading his equipment, but I am linking through Amazon for convenience sake. I now own the Canon 7D and we bought the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm lens.  They have kit lenses that are around $100 or more each and I have seen people take great pictures with these, but we made the investment in one really good lens that would do just about everything for me for the rest of my life and until I die amen. This lens is all I really need in most situations.

Food Photography 101

What Other Photography Equipment Is Useful For Food Photography?

Other very useful tools for food photography include a good beginner tripod, a tabletop tripod,  and a remote for your camera so you don’t have to lug around your camera while taking shots while in food preparation mode. A reflector can also be a smart inexpensive investment to help bring more even lighting into your photos or create moodiness in your pictures.

If you are low on funds, I recommend asking for these great gadgets and more food props for holiday & birthday gifts. I have been accumulating my collection over the last three years since I really started getting excited about food photography.

The most important thing to buy though is a lens filter to protect your lens. If for some reason you scratch your lens or something happens to the outside of it, this $10-$20 filter will protect the lens and be what breaks instead of your $100-$1,000 investment. Trust me, you will thank me later if you have this!

Food Photography 101

Do you have any good books or websites to visit that can help me learn more about photography?

My absolute favorite book on food photography is, “From Plate to Pixel.” It is the one resource I would really recommend investing in to help with your food photos.

I am also a HUGE fan of Scott Kelby and his Digital Photography Books 1, 2, & 3. See if your library has these and check them out for smartly written, witty, and down-to-earth tutorials on how to use your camera. I love that he says, “If you want a good portrait, turn you dial to this,” instead of high-brow photography terms that, as a mom,  I just don’t understand.  I just want someone to tell me what to do, not make me feel stupid!

For websites, every single day I am inspired by food bloggers and their photography. Some of my favorite sites to visit for inspiration are GoodLife Eats, Picky Palate, Two Peas & Their Pod, Steamy Kitchen, Dine & Dish,  and Food Gawker.

(Pictured Above: Baked Strawberry Doughnuts)

Food Photography 101
I hope that these tips will help inspire you and your own food photography. I am really proud of the progress I have made over the last few years to achieve food photos that I hope inspire you to create new dishes in your kitchen.

If I could have given myself advice when I first started out, I would have told myself all these tips that I have shared with you. I also would have told you that adding more color into your food photos is always a great idea, to strive to incorporate bits of the preparation into your food photos,  to use natural ingredients for props, and to not be afraid to experiment with my camera more. We all have to start somewhere and I hope this encourages you, from one novice to another! (Pictured above: Red, White, & Blueberry Trifle)


Do you have any tips that have helped you with your food photography? If you take food photos what is the one tip you wish someone told you when you first started out? Let’s chat it up!!



Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate your camera equipment and tools easily. Feel free to order through our site, but we always encourage shopping around for the best bang for your buck! Happy picture-taking!


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An Apron Full of Giveaways 02.28.12

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Lover Dovers, $38

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren’t giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

Homemade Mint Truffle Coffee Creamer

Monday, February 27th, 2012

I can admit that I am a coffee addict. Coffee without good coffee creamer though makes me a little sad. My refrigerator is usually fully stocked for lots of coffee sipping, but I also love knowing that I can whip up a batch of homemade coffee creamer in my blender if I run out. Homemade coffee creamer is one of those recipes that you will find yourself relying upon when you have impromptu guests or when your grocery day is nowhere in sight.

The big joke in our house is that everyone is always praying that I run out of coffee creamer so that I will go to the grocery store. Frankly, we could run out of all of our food and as long as I still can have a good cup of coffee in the morning, then I am pretty much set for the entire day. I will just make do with what we have until the creamer runs out. About seven years ago, I ran across this recipe for making coffee creamer out of pantry ingredients. This was probably a very sad day in our house for the rest of the family because now I never have to go the grocery store.

Before I figured out how to make my Homemade Peppermint Mocha Drinks, I relied upon this delicious coffee creamer to satisfy my Peppermint Mocha cravings at home. This Homemade Mint Truffle Coffee Creamer has all of those elements that I love- chocolate, mint, and a rich creaminess. Of course, the creamer recipe can be modified for those of us that like to add half a cup of coffee creamer to every cup of their coffee to make the recipe more calorie conscious. Simply replace your regular sweetened condensed milk with the fat-free version and use skim milk instead of a fuller fat version of milk.

The recipe includes adding Peppermint Coffee Syrup to your creamer, but that is something that is easy to create with pantry ingredients and the recipe is available on the site. You certainly don’t have to create the peppermint syrup yourself, although it is really easy to do and made from pantry ingredients.  Simply call ahead to your favorite Starbucks joint and ask if they have a spare bottle of Peppermint Syrup that you can buy or if they can order it for you. Split a bottle with a friend if you don’t picture yourself using the whole bottle or save it for this summer to make my favorite DIY Peppermint Mocha Frappes that I make with frozen coffee ice cubes in the summer months.

Below I have provided a few other variations on this coffee creamer recipe to help you create other delicious coffee creations in your kitchen.

Homemade Mint Truffle Coffee Creamer
Recipe Type: Drink
Prep time: 5 mins
Total time: 5 mins
Serves: 12
Skip the store the next time you run out of your favorite coffee creamer and whip up this easy homemade creamer made from pantry ingredients.
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups nonfat milk (or you can use prepared powdered milk)
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 Tablespoons peppermint coffee syrup (see above for a link to our homemade version)
  1. Blend all ingredients together in your blender.
  2. Pour into a mason jar or your old coffee creamer dispenser. This creamer will keep up to two weeks in your fridge.
  3. Variations:
  4. French Vanilla Creamer- omit cocoa and peppermint syrup & add 1 tablespoon vanilla.
  5. Chocolate Almond Creamer-omit peppermint syrup and add 1 teaspoon almond extract.
  6. Amaretto Creamer- omit cocoa & peppermint & add ½ teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon almond extract.)

I am participating in Mouthwatering Mondays at A Southern Fairytale.

Are you a coffee creamer addict too? What does your favorite cup of coffee look like?

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Amy’s Notebook 02.21.12

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

I love this idea for how to build a LEGO table for big kids (@ Quirky Mama)

I want to paint our side table green with these side table painting tips (@ 36th Avenue)

I love these ideas for decorating paper lanterns for a party (@ Martha Stewart)

I am always looking for the perfect white paint (@ The Inspired Room)

These old trophies transformed into cake stands are too cute (@ Just Something I Made)

I am in love with this Instagram photo wall (@ Keven Hail Photography)

I love this eye chart wall art (From Gardeners 2 Bergers)

This smoked paprika roasted chicken looks like a weeknight meal winner (@ Simply  Recipes)

Adding sequin words to a shirt is a super sweet and easy way to customize a top (@ Happy Together)

I want to try this cure for itchy legs in the winter (@ The Pioneer Woman)

I love these tips for organizing LEGO booklets (@ My 4 Boys)

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An Apron Full of Giveaways 02.21.12

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
Cafe Gnome, $13

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren’t giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Side dishes can get pretty boring around our house so I am always on the lookout for a fun new spin on a simple side dish. Orzo pasta tends to be one of our favorite go-to side dish pastas and I love to find easy ways to liven up our traditional side dish fare. This Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo definitely illustrates how the simplest of ingredients can pack just as much of a punch as a more complex dish.

If you haven’t tried orzo pasta, it really is one of my favorite short pastas that is an ingredient in some of my favorite dishes. It stands well alone in Spinach & Tomato Orzo Pasta Salad, offers a delicious accompaniment to my favorite saucy Slow Cooker Pot Roast Italiano, and is a fantastic accompaniment as a Cheesy Orzo with Parmesan Sage Pork Chops for one of my favorite Italian weekend dishes.

This Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo though is sweetly simple with few ingredients and loads of flavor. The sun-dried tomatoes add chewy sweet flavor, the basil and lemon zest add a bright freshness, and the Parmesan cheese adds creaminess to this dish.

Definitely add this fun new dish to your tired side dish rotation and I promise you won’t be disappointed with this easy and simple side.

Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo
Recipe Type: Side
Author: Adapted from
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 8 mins
Total time: 23 mins
Serves: 6
Simple ingredients yield a tasty side dish that will spice up your usual side dish routines.
  • 2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lemon (zest & juice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  2. Add orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente.
  3. Drain and set aside.
  4. Place basil leaves and sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor.
  5. Pulse 4 or 5 times until blended.
  6. In a large bowl, toss together the orzo, basil-tomato mixture, olive oil, the zest of one lemon, the juice of one lemon, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
  7. Serve warm or chilled.

I am participating in Mouthwatering Mondays at A Southern Fairytale.

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How to Make T-Shirt Flowers

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Today’s project is a simple t-shirt flower pin made from a t-shirt in your favorite shade with a clip-on earring center to add a unique flair.

Inspiration came from a bag of clip on earrings that I found when browsing through the jewelry section of my favorite thrift store and the sea of endless t-shirts in every variety of color that you can find on their racks.

Visit my step-by-step tutorial on how to make these sweet little pins for someone in your life!



For this project you will need:
T-shirt (any size)
Spray paint in a contrasting color
Piece of card stock to make your template
One piece of felt



  • To begin, you will need to cut out eleven circles out of your old t-shirt. I used a large circle punch and created my template out of scrap card stock. You could also just trace a lid to a canning jar, if you don’t have a circle punch handy.


  • Grab your piece of felt and cut a heart out for the base of your flower or you can cut a simple felt circle.


  • Let’s make some flower petals. Fold your circle in half as shown.


  • Fold up one side of the circle that has been folded in half.


  • Fold up the other half of the halved circle and have it meet with the other side to form a petal.


  • Now hot glue the seam just a tiny bit together where the petal is gathered and then hot glue the end of the petal to the felt heart.


  • Repeat this with all four ends of the heart.


  • In the spaces left, fill in with three or four more petals.


  • Spray paint your clip on earrings in your favorite color. Allow this to dry.


  • Remove the back of the earring with a pair of pliers. Hot glue the earring to the center


  • On the back of your fabric flower, you can attach a simple jewelry pin that you can find in the jewelry section of your favorite craft store.


  • Wear your thrift store pin proudly!



Happy crafting, sweet friends!


This post contains affiliate links.


Don’t miss these crafty ideas on


10 Unique Ideas for T-shirts



How to Make a Pom Pom Flower Bouquet



DIY Table Runner for All Seasons



DIY No-Sew Reversible Cloth Napkins



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Amy’s Notebook 02.15.12

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

These dollar store hurricanes would be an inexpensive decorating addition to our house (@ decor chick)

I think my heart stopped beating when I saw this Mary Poppins birthday party (@ sweet designs)

These DIY literary quote mugs would make such a sweet gift (@ sarah fritzler)

These tips for cooking the perfect filet mignon with red wine sauce are fabulous (@ Simply Recipes)

These chocolate chip banana pancakes look like they would make a fun Sunday brunch (skinny taste)

I am going to have to memorize these twelve recipes to know by heart (@ the kitchn)

I love this elegant wreath made from a coat hanger (@ Gluesticks)

This lasagna bolognese looks absolutely divine (@ smitten kitchen)

I am bookmarking these fabulous tips for removing veneer (@ Turnstyle Vogue)

I love these tips for optimal food storage in your refrigerator (@ The V Spot)

This Oreo Pudding Poke Cake looks like a little bit of dessert heaven (@ Lil’ Luna)

These raised doughnuts look absolutely delicious (@ joy the baker)

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Great Reads for Moms: February ’12 Edition

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

I hope everyone has been enjoying a lot of great reads this month.  The book reviews section of our site has become one of my favorite elements of our site and I just love sharing new books that I read with all of you. If you missed my top ten of 2011 post, be sure to head right over and get the scoop on a few of my personal favorites from last year.

I was determined to start 2012 with some incredible books and I tried to be a little ambitious this year and start with a few of those, “You really should read this…” books. You know, those books that people keep dropping in conversations, but you never make the time to read them. This is the year for that for me.

If you are looking for a little inspiration this new year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!

Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of the month here. If you want to read more, please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

The Other Life by Ellen Miester

I love books that explore the, “what if’s,” in life and Ellen Miester’s novel explores what I am sure each of us wonders at times, “What if I had chosen another path for my life?” This book tells the story of Quinn Braverman who is living a happy and idyllic life with her husband and son. Quinn’s life is anything but ordinary though because she has discovered a portal in her basement that can take her into a parallel life where she has chosen to live her life with her boyfriend instead of the one that she is living with her husband & son.  She knows that the portal is there, but stays away from it until a routine ultrasound shows that there is something wrong with the child she is expecting. Suddenly she is drawn into the portal to escape the sadness of her own reality.

The best part about the portal for Quinn is being with her mom in this parallel universe because her mom is no longer with her after taking her own life. Quinn has the mother she has been missing in this life, but her husband and child reside in the other life.  Quinn must decide which life she wants to lead as the portal begins to shrink and she must choose which world she wants to live in.

This book is thought-provoking, beautiful, and delivers honest writing about mother-daughter relationships as well as how differently our lives could have worked out if we had chosen a different path. This would make a fabulous book club discussion!

If you liked this you might like Time of My Life, The Time Traveler’s Wife, or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

(MomAdvice Rating- 4 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

On a stormy night an unlikely couple knocks on an unlikely stranger’s door, when they come to seek shelter from the storm. Lynnie, a woman with an intellectual disability and Homan, a deaf man, have run away from a brutal institution where they have been placed because of their disabilities.

A friendly schoolteacher answers her door and finds that she has opened the door to a journey she never could have anticipated. Because the couple have ran away from the institution, the police begin to bang on the door looking for them and Lynnie hands to her a brand new baby and utters just two words to the teacher, “Hide her.”

Lynnie is returned to the school, Homan runs away and is thought to have been dead, and Martha is left in charge of a child when she has never had a child of her own. The story chronicles forty years following each of these characters as their lives take an unlikely path.

The premise of the story is captivating and the love story between Lynnie & Homan is beautifully told. The challenges faced by each of these characters with disabilities is told with sensitivity and offers unique insight into what it would be like to be deaf or intellectually handicapped. I found myself tearing up in parts and rooting for each of these characters.

Although the book is slow in parts, the story is worth pushing through and would also lend itself well to book club discussions since it is the kind of book you just want to talk about when you are finished with it.  Definitely add this one to your to-be-read piles!

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I am trying to tackle a few of those books that people say to me, “I can’t believe you haven’t read that yet.” Outlander has been recommended to me time and time again so I decided I would start this year out with a few of the books that I have been intending to read.  At over 600 pages, I can see why I have not attempted to tackle this before, but after reading it I can honestly say that it was an amazing story and I can’t wait to read more in this series. A book of this size has never been devoured so quickly and I don’t think my family saw me for three weeks while I worked on this one.

This story follows Claire Randall, a young combat nurse in WWII who recently moved to Scotland with her husband. While they are out hiking one day, Claire accidentally passes through the stones of an ancient stone circle and awakens to find herself in 16th century Scotland. Confused as to what has happened to her Claire’s path crosses with a Highland warrior named James Fraser that forever alters Claire’s path and begins a love story that rivals any other that you may have read.

This book is definitely not for the faint of heart it is violent and sexually charged throughout. At times I felt like I was reading a Harlequin romance novel as some of the love scenes were a little fluffy for my usual taste, but the good in this book definitely outweighs the bad.

This is historical fiction at some of its finest and I felt like I was transported while I read this. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series and be transported once again.

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Nothing about, “The Pillars of the Earth,” sounded interesting to me and, to be honest, the sheer size of this book scared me to death. Our book club selected this book though and as others in our book club read it, they shared how amazing it was. I just knew I had to take the plunge despite my misgivings that it was going to be a boring read. I am so, so glad that I did. It is a book filled with amazingly developed characters, fabulous plot twists, and historical fiction at its finest. I could not put it down, I had to know how it would all work out, and I was captivated from the opening paragraph until the very last page.

Tom Builder has lost commission on a home that he was to build and begins to roam England seeking work.  As he is turned away from each job they find, their family begins to starve and his pregnant wife dies during childbirth in the woods.  Without food to give the baby, they abandon the child in the woods and Tom immediately comes into a relationship with a resourceful woman named Ellen and their son Jack who become a part of their family and help them navigate the forest life.

When Tom seeks shelter at a church his life never becomes the same again as he finds work through an unlikely fire that damages the church and then finds that his life is interwoven with the church in more ways than he could ever imagine. The building of a new church brings together unlikely characters and a determined character who threatens to destroy it all.

A story of good and evil that riveted me and one that will truly captivate you from start to finish, this book moved me and will probably reside firmly in my top ten books I have ever read.

Editor’s Note: This contains sexually graphic scenes. 

(MomAdvice Rating- 5 Stars out of 5 Stars)

As an aside, I read, “The Pillars of the Earth,” on my Kindle. After lugging, “Outlander,” around town and the sheer girth of that book, I thought it might be easier to just read it on my Kindle so I could pop the book in my purse. I have the original old school Kindle though so I only had the progression bar to go on to figure out how far I was. Those dots never moved more slowly and every week I thought I was done, I realized I was nowhere near done. Perhaps, this can be my campaign to upgrade my reader at some point. For now, I was happy to see the dots finally coming to a close so I knew that I had actually completed it.

After reading two books of this magnitude back-to-back though, I feel like I should receive some type of badge or at the very least a personal pan pizza just like I did when I was a kid in the Book-It program.

I guess I will just have to settle with the smugness I now possess and getting to finally say, “Oh, you haven’t read that yet! You really must!”


Not enough great reads for you? Check out our Books section of our site for monthly recommendations and ideas for making reading a priority again in your busy mom life!


Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead.  Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!

What has been in your book stack this month? Feel free to share your book recommendations or feedback on any of the books that have been mentioned above! I love getting new suggestions for my book pile!





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