Brewing up good Halloween Decorations

The Huz and I have been watching a fair amount of DIY’s on the TV lately in order to get some great decorating ideas. We really enjoy going just a bit over board on Halloween and Christmas. We like Halloween because its the one time in an entire year you get to be somebody or something else. The other 364 days of the year its just responsible, boring old me, the workaholic.

We found three really great ideas that we are going to add to our yearly Halloween decor. This first one is the Cauldron.

For the fire underneath we got a board and stapled down some outdoor orange lights. Then covered it mostly with “Great Stuff” foam. We hit it up with some red and black spray paint. While the foam was wet we put a few sticks to make it look even more realistic.

In the light – looks a bit odd.

With the lights out, looks a lot more like a lil fire.

Next we worked on the cauldron. We put on a primer so that paint will adhere to the plastic.

We then put a coat of black matte paint over the primer, we chose the matte paint to take the shininess off of the plastic. After this we added bronzing in spots around the outside to give it the look of age. We also added green paints to the top edge to give the look of boiling over witches brew.

Next is the optical illusion of the bubbling brew. We intend to hang the caldron so we can not fill it entirely with water. We found a perfect little Styrofoam cooler that fits in the cauldron in order to fill the space and is a perfect little table for a small dish that we built to hold the water and mister which will create the look of boiling brew.

The mister we found online. Its a small LED submersible electrical device that works with water and gives the illusion of a witches brew.

Next we got some bamboo and cut it to the length. We then spray painted it black for a darker creepier look. We used twine to tie the three pieces together at the top creating a tripod in which to hang the caldron.

We purchased some decorative chain link at Home Depot. We purchased 10 feet just in case and we used about 8 feet. We also got a green light bulb and a very basic work light with a clamp in order to really illuminate the decor in the yard at night.

Of course the tomb stone is knocked over in the photo.
Not much to look at in the day time.

Since starting to work on the cauldron blog post we have added window decoration where it looks like the house is on fire. The key to that illusion is a lot of fan action on a very reflective material in the window. Also there will be a neighborhood hayride for the kids this year and the neighbor asked as the grand finale that he drives the tractor into our yard to get closer to the creepiness for the kids. Also found out this evening that our neighbors kids calls our house “Halloween Town”.

Here is the YouTube channel you should subscribe to also for more cool stuff where we have recently been getting our inspiration: Wicked Makers

RickabaughReviews approves of Halloween fun and is totally in love with Wicked Makers!

Bonus 3D print!! We made a night light for the little neighbor girls.

Gardening in June of 2020

It is very hard to work full time, part time and try to homestead as well.  We have made many orchard type additions this year to our little patch of land.  We have a total of 6 blueberry bushes in one of the flower beds, now known as the blueberry patch.  I have 4 different varieties.  I have four very small twigs- which are very affordable.  $10.00 a piece, but you have to be in it for the long haul.  The will probably not produce for at least another two years.  Then I splurged one day and got 2 full grown- already with a ton of blueberries loaded onto the bush.  At $27.00 a piece and with how well they are doing it was a great investment.  Unfortunately the two full grown blackberry bushes that also had berries and flowers on them and were purchased at the same time for the same price are completely dead.  With the whole virus lock down I am not sure if the nursery I got them at will accept them back.  I need just an hour to do a little research.

We visited my brother and his wife and switched flowers for starts and seeds.  I gave her lillies and cone flowers and spider wort and bee balm.  And she gave me loofah seeds, thyme, raspberry starts and sour dough starter along with much more.  Only one of the raspberry starts survived.  So the new berry patch is not doing the greatest, but there are other plants that are doing great this year.  such as my lavender.  It is going crazy!!!  I cut and dry at least once a week if not twice a week  and we are not talking one little tray.  For example, yesterday I nipped off one tenth of the flowers and it was 4 trays of just lavender tops drying.  Great for in soaps and sachets.  I have been giving some to the neighbors and they love it.

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Two years ago we moved to our current house and it had 4 fruit trees already semi-established.  What I mean by semi established, is that they were several years old when they were first planted , and have been in their current spot for several years now.  Our first summer we got zero fruit from any of the trees.  My husband said if they don’t produce net year they all get chopped down.  Thank goodness for the pear tree on the end.  Last year it gave us five pears.  I did a bunch of trimming, several times the last two years, the four trees were very large and not trimmed.  Since I really wanted more fruit trees I took the time to get some education. This included watching a few videos of how to prune to increase possibility of fruit.  What we didn’t know was that my random tree trimming actually gave them all a chance.  There is a trick to trimming fruit trees so that they produce more the next year.  It is not an instantaneous type of project.  You have to be able to have and enjoy the long game.  This spring the husband and I worked hard on trimming according to what we had learned.  When you find a sucker (a branch that shoots straight up) go to the bunch of leaves and count three leaves up and then trim.  We have a total of 13 pears on the one tree.

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None have been found on the other pear tree this year but I am hopeful for next year because there was three bunches of flowers on it this past flowering season.  I did some research on the two apple trees – of course they will not produce with each other, they are the same type of apple tree and this particular type of apple tree needs a third party pollinator.  So I have been trimming them accordingly and we purchased three fruit tree babies this year.  A golden delicious apple which is a self pollinator as well as a well know third party pollinator.  The baby trees that we purchased are about three to four feet tall right now and are doing great.  We are being very realistic and knowing that it might not be next year that we will get flowers on the baby apple to cross pollinate with the two other well established apple trees, it might be the year after.  All we can do it keep everybody in good shape and hope for the best.

With our three new fruit tree babies we are doing an apple, a bing cherry and a dwarf peach.  It was also suggested that we try the Espalier style of growth and care.  We love the concept and have already have all three on wires.  We have read that this style of growth and trimming is very time consuming.  From what we were dreading it would be hours every day.  It is not!  Yes I spend thirty minutes watering every single new fruit that we planted this year twice a day if it does not rain, but I expected that going in.  We have spent maybe three hours every other Saturday specifically on the fruit trees.

Today I spent a total of an hour trimming down a good bit of the four established trees, the only reason it took so long is because they are not Espalier style where I can reach them all well.  I have to pull one branch down at a time basically fighting it while I trim with the other hand and then step back see which branch I trimmed and then get a game plan for the net branch go in grab it and try to pull it down with out snapping it.  But within that hour I got two full armloads of suckers cut off.  Hopefully next year we will get some fruit on those little fruit shoots I just prepped.

The beets this year have not done that well, nor the bell peppers or lettuce, but the aphids have not been too awful and now that the sugar snap peas are producing I have been able to pick a few every morning.

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We have been getting one or two blueberries as well as a few strawberries.  The sage and oregano have tripled in size this year.  The spearmint and peppermint have gone gang busters jumping out of their small enclosure.  I have been able to dry so much mint this year that I ran out of room in the quart jar I use, its now in a paper bag, and I should probably cut some down tomorrow.

The Elephant Ears as well as the Hostas are perfect for concrete casting right now but with all craft shows canceled for the time being I am slightly hesitant to spend money and time on casting leaves right now, I will have to see how busy our weekends get as places start to open up.

Spending time on Gardening, RickabaughReviews approves.  I really have been taking advantage of the Covid slow down and have been enjoying putting my gardening goals into action.

Island of Berk Birthday cake!

Need an idea for a little kids birthday cake- dragons can be a simple win and unique as well. Step by step instructions on how to wow the party kids and parents!

My good friends son was turning 6 years old and I wanted to get him a few small toys. He recently saw the new How to Train your Dragon-The Hidden World movie in the theater,  and he loved it! Target has pocket sized dragons at a very reasonable price. One type has a baby dragon you can see and then a mystery baby dragon in a box next to it. I got three, one of each type of dragon they had available.

Birthday boy was not having a party, just a friend and family and us two went to the Laser dome for the day. I asked if it was okay if I make a cake. Permission granted, just no nuts due to allergies.

We got a chocolate cake mix and two medium vanilla icing containers.

Edible decor such as Swedish fish are always a great cake topper when working with an ocean theme.

The only tools I used to decorate this cake were a fork and knife.

I always lay down two pieces of wax paper onto my finished plate before I place the cake to decorate. The wax paper should just slightly overlap in the middle. This will allow me to have a clean plate for presentation by gently tugging the wax paper out after completed.

Two cake pans at the dollar store are perfect for a small stacked cake. Be sure to let the two cakes completely cool before decorating. Otherwise you will have a big sliding melted mess on your hands.

In order to have the layers stack nicely I needed to slice just a bit off the top of one in order to make it flat. Don’t throw this piece out, I will be using it later for the island.

I have to take this cake to a party so the end location of the cake is the cake carrier.  Notice how I placed two sheets of wax paper to gently tug out later.  Right now it is my crumb catcher. A bit of green icing for in between the layers.  I will be using more blue icing on the outside, so green goes into the middle.

Top layer on, flat in the middle, round on top.

Remember that spare piece of cake top from the bottom layer.  Here it will be used as the Island, giving the cake dimension.

Here you can see that I am using the green icing on top of the addition.  I will smooth on the icing first and then add the texture to make it look like grass.

I liked using the extra piece of the cake because it gave me a clean and clear picture of the area in which will be the island. Also waste not want not! You can see in this photo that I am using just the tip of the fork to create the grass look. I am pressing down very gently into the green icing and pulling straight up.  Not deep enough into the icing in which I will reach the cake, which might pull up chocolate cake bits or pull the icing up off of the cake.

Here the Island’s grass is complete.

Now comes the harder part, the blue ocean.  I am starting off with a lighter blue because I will need to darken up the color as I add to the cake.  We start with lightest blue next to the island.  When at the beach the water is lighter closest to the beach. The water is shallow and you can see the bottom, which is usually a light tan, sand color which makes the water look a lighter blue/green color.  As you move away from the island the icing should be tinted darker to give the illusion that the water is getting deeper- thus darker.

A nice light blue ring of icing around the island.  The icing doesn’t have to look perfect yet. you will be blending and creating waves after it is all on all over the cake.

Add a few more drops of blue food coloring to the rest of the container of blue icing. Then mix in to give a slow and gradual darkening of the ocean.

Slowly the blue icing is going on. I added blue food coloring to darken the icing about 4 times. It looks like slight waves in the blue already.  I am practicing with the knife with adding the icing to the cake in order to have the technique of wave making with a flip of the wrist and knife for the end result. A light slow flip of the knife, no one needs icing all over the kitchen.

Here you can see how the knife strokes ended up blending one shade of blue into the next very gently. Also it shows the close up of what your waves might look like. Remember it does not need to be perfect, it just needs to be edible.

Here is the cake on the carrier. Notice how I slowly slid out the wax paper. The back piece has not been taken out yet and you can see were the carrier bottom would have been a disaster.

Fish, dragons and candles are last and right before the kids arrive.  You are sure to get all the oohh’s and wow’s you need to over come the anxiety from the night before when decorating is a challenge. I know I sure did, and the employees of the pizza shop came to check it out too. Delicious and fun! RickabaughReviews Approves!

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse

I remember these words that public school worked very hard to instill in us. Throughout my adult life I have been very concerned with recycling when and wherever I can.  With my crafting projects I find ways in which I can use left overs from one project for another two or three projects.  I have more recently in the last few years have been working very hard on donating items in order to live a little bit less cluttered life. But this most recent craft project I am getting reuse some things I have thought about donating and recycling.

We light around one or two candles a day.  We only buy candles when they are on sale. It really helps take the slight chill out of the rooms in the winter. I have been trying to use less plug in night lights around the house, so in the evenings the candles give a nice cozy glow. I clean a lot but dogs will always smell, scented candles help that smell. This is the end result of a burned candle

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I have been making back up candles with the little wax that is left over. I melt the remaining on a jar warmer. Below is a picture of mine, it plugs in. When we have guests over I put this on the kitchen counter to give a nice scent with the fire hazard.

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I am a bit of a cheater when it comes to the wicks when making new candles.  I purchased a box of Hanukkah candles many years ago because I thought they were so pretty and never burned them.  They sure have come in handy.  I put one or two into the empty jar and as I melt wax from other candles I pour it into the jar with the old thin candles.  I have a partially started new candle in the candle cabinet at all times.  The new candles I am making with left over wax are not the most pretty candles in the world but they work and have saved us money.

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Now what to do with all the old empty jars? Well for a while I was recycling them, Then I saw an adorable post on Pinterest and thought they might be cute for my crafts.

First step is getting all the residual wax out of the jars.  My sister in law cleans out her jars with very hot water. I tried it.  I am too impatient for this process to work for me.  I happen to be cooking the one evening and set the empty waxy candle on the stove top next to the burner.  Not touching of course, nobody needs exploding glass.  What do you know it heated up the wax super easy, I just wiped it out with a paper towel. Jar nearly clean.  I hit it with some Windex.

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Perfectly clean now! ( cleaning tip-Windex is amazing on getting sticky, dusty grease off of the fan blades and light fixtures and stove hoods in the kitchen.)

I used to watch little kids in my home and I had a small indoor sandbox for the kids to play with when it was rainy outside.  I had beads, rocks, small sea shells and of course my favorite, small plastic dinosaurs to play with.  I also had a small set of plastic farm animals.  I have been thinking for the last year or so what to do with this and I haven’t had the heart to donate these toys.

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The dinosaurs and farm animals are perfect cute toppers for my jars. So we have clean jars and washed off my sandy dinosaurs.  Got the craft glue and put a little on their feet and sometimes tails. Let them sit a bit on the lids to dry.

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They are totally adorable.  I thought about spray painting the whole lids and dinosaurs all one color such as black but the husband said it will take away too much from their design and fun.  So this is how they will stay.

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Filled with odds and ends will help organize my craft shelves and make it unique to my taste as well as reducing waste and reusing what I have.

RickabaughReviews greatly approves of this super fun crafty, craft organizing project!

 

 

Bookcase Makeover

I have recently been trying all sorts of projects that I find here there and everywhere.  If I see it, I can pick it apart and figure out how to make it, sometimes cheaper and sometimes better.  My friends and family have been loving my projects.  My friend called me up and asked if I could help out with a bookcase she picked up super cheap at a store closing.  And she gave me complete make over design freedom, having faith it would turn out awesome.

Of course I couldn’t say no! So here is the bookcase make over!!!

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First I sanded off the words and a light sanding all over.  I took off one broken trim piece and we measured and cut a replacement trim piece.  I added a few screws and nails in order to make the whole bookcase more stable, it was a bit wobbly.

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Before we applied the spray paint I wiped down the whole bookcase with a damp cloth to make sure all the sanding dust was removed. Remember to always spray paint in a well ventilated area. You get a headache fast if you don’t. One can of blue, one can of pink, one can of purple, and one can of gold glitter spray paint does the trick! Our colored spray paint was left over from previous projects. The gold glitter was new.

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The spray painting was done over several days because it is December here in Pennsylvania and it only just stopped raining every day, but it is very cold out and spray paint doesn’t work perfect in very cold temperatures. We ended up doing two coats of each color. We suggest using cardboard to protect your lawn. We didn’t want pink grass for the next 4 months.  Also have a smaller piece of cardboard about 11X17 size so that you can protect the blue section, holding the cardboard with one hand gently in front of the blue but not touching so as not to smudge wet paint, when applying the second coat of pink. We also used the cardboard piece to protect the purple and the pink. We wanted three different sections of color just slightly blended, not an all over Tye-dye look.

Spray paint dries quickly so we were able to let it sit outside for a few hours before bringing it in the garage for the night. Two full coats later, looking bold!

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Then we took it back outside for the finishing gold glitter layer, which also helped to hide any light spots that we missed with the pink, blue and purple.  Be sure when spray painting you are not wearing any clothing you don’t want accidentally ruined.

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After the gold glitter was good and dry in the garage for two days she came in the house for the final touches. The girls’ names on either side.  My husband being the artist sketched their names on with pencil very lightly and I got out the gold paint and filled in the names, with a paint brush.  We let it dry inside for two days and now she is ready for Christmas morning!

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I was very surprised at how well it turned out and I know this project gets more than just a RickabaughReviews Approves- I bet it will get a few little girl approvals as well.

 

Scrap Blanket

When you are handed down yarn and have leftovers from projects, you make unique blankets wrapped in charm.

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Complimentary colors to start out.  Then rows of alternating colors until they are completely gone.

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When the blanket is square a border can but put on. A plain double crochet can finish it off nicely. I have added this as well as a shell border.

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Complete.

 

 

Halloween Apothecary Decorations

I have been so busy working on my costume and crafts I am just now getting to post my work. Start to finish on the projects instead of a few steps at a time.

I found some super cute D. I. Y. Apothecary bottles on Pinterest, I tried making them myself and I think I did ok. Below are how I made them with photos.

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This is the photo that I found and were my inspiration bottles. I knew if they turned out half as good as these they would look great in the kitchen.

First step was collecting bottles, this I did for about 6 months in advance of actually doing the project. Another quick way is to hit up your friends for two to three weeks prior to project day.

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Step Two- The removal of labels. This part is the least fun. I tried several different methods filling the sink with hot soapy water and letting the labels get soggy worked well. I then took a fingernail scrub brush I use after I gardening and scrubbed the softened labels.

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The bottles were still sticky where the labels were, but I was hoping it would help my hot glue words stick and stay in place as I was placing them on the bottles.

I have worked with hot glue before when I made some snow flakes for a costume and I used the same technique with this project. Hot glue is messy and is stringy. So I used wax paper and put my design on the wax paper, let it dry and then cut it out with small sharp scissors.  This way its not stringy and if there is a bit to much in one spot or another I trim it to how I want it.

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Next they go on the bottles. I used the hot glue gun to put tiny dabs of glue on the back of the cut out words to permanently adhere them to the bottles.

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I also purchased a small bag of 12 plastic eyeballs for a dollar and hot glued them to the top of the lids. I had wanted to find some small plastic animals for on the lids but I did not find any that I liked enough, or for a reasonable price.

You can see they are really starting to come together, the last and I think the most fun is painting. Just a quick tip, you might want to plan a few other tasks for in between drying times. For a well mottled look it takes 3-4 coats of different colored paint. Each layer of paint needs to dry before the next layer is placed on top of the last.

I have found that when layering colors going from darkest to lightest or lightest to darkest works the best. I went from dark to light because I wanted to make sure all of the white parts of the bottles were covered.

Charcoal and green mixed for the base coat, the whole bottle and lid.

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When the base coat is complete on all of the bottles ( dark green) you just add paint to your base color. This saves paint and time and you know that the colors will work well together because your next color created is a variation  the current base color (dark green).

I added a small amount of metallic gold to my dark green, to produce a slightly lighter and shimmering green.  This coat was not a complete covering coat like the dark green was. I splotched it on.

The next layer of paint I added even more metallic gold paint.

This makes three layers of color. I then used the gold paint with just a very little bit of my mixed lightest color for a slightly bronze or dirty gold look to paint on just the words to help them stand out.  Also on our blood bottle we used red paint to make it look like blood.

Finished products were not too shabby.

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We have gotten a great deal of positive feedback from our friends and family. I think this project was fun. I think it would be a great October or late September art project for kids home schooled or not. It teaches color mixing skills as well as patience and dexterity. Cutting out the hot glue words and painting the gold on the words helps with fine motor skills and the development of them and learning how to control the tools used in this project.

RickabaughReviews Approves!

 

 

 

D.I.Y. Halloween Decor

Halloween is a fun and silly time of year.  I especially love decorating.  But Halloween decorating can really add up! Every year I try to add just a few things to my stock pile of decor for each season, and I really try to keep a good tab on how much I am spending.  We moved into a new house this summer and the decorating spaces went from three rooms and a small porch to 6 rooms and a porch and front yard 5 times as large.  Lucky us when we purchased the home from relatives they left some items, Halloween and Christmas because they were downsizing.  I try to only purchase decor for special season’s after the holiday is over, when prices are slashed.  If we do purchase something before the season it either must be super cheep on clearance or there must be a coupon that is 20% or higher off the item.  I know this may sound really silly but I put a Halloween decor list on the fridge this year.  It lists a few items that I would not mind purchasing after the season which I think we could add to our home.  As an example we have more windows as well as more artwork on the walls as this new house so I think we can stand to add a few more sections of creepy cloth.  Also maybe some more spiders.  I would like to add more reusable, craft pumpkins that you can carve like a real pumpkin but they don’t ever rot.

D.I.Y. Decor is probably some of my favorite kind because most times its free, I have the items on hand. The “WOW” factor from friends and family also is really nice.  Are my D.I.Y. projects always perfect. Nope. But sometimes I find some good ones to try out.

I have seen in the store lots of fun ideas-I snap pictures of them and then go home and reproduce them. One such product was small black bats that you can tape to the inside of your lamp shades and they look like little flying bats at night.

Love the concept!

I headed off to work the other morning asking my husband, the artist, if he would draw me a few bats on an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of white paper for when I get home.  When I got home he had 5 of the most adorable bats ever! He was not sure what I was going to use them for so he made different sizes for me.  Best Husband ever!

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I got out two sheets of black card stock paper. This type is my favorite, it is heavy duty and holds up well over the years with all sorts of projects including scrap booking.

I used a light colored pencil in order to trace the bats on.  I placed them all down, rearranging to get the most out of one sheet and have as little waste as possible. Then the tracing began, and what followed was a whole lot of cutting.

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Then I used double sided tape and popped the bats here and there on windows and in lamp shades.  I kept my patterns in a small baggy. With the amount of windows we have facing the street in the new house I think that I can make the whole pack of black paper of bats and have just enough.  But instead of focusing on just one craft this year I am doing a few.  So I am saving the patterns and can make one or two sheets of black paper of bats a year.

The end results you can see in the following photos are stellar!!!  I love them and the husband loves them, so that means Rickabaughreviews approves!

Fun easy and cheap!

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Does a reward system work?

People probably think that I am an incredibly disciplined person.  I am a little bit. I have so much trouble creating a new discipline or good habit that I want in my life. Biggest best example that almost everyone struggles with is exercise. When I was in high school and college and was active in sports it was so easy. The coach told you when and where and what. And I followed the rules or direction of the Coach. I showed up and I exercised.

I am 37 and not a full time athlete, I work a couple of jobs. Finding time to exercise in my busy schedule is not my highest priority.  I did find it a priority to get Halloween candy early, just in case. Candy is delicious, and we rarely have candy in the house, because I will eat it.

The weather has not been great-mostly rain. So I have been inside doing crafts in a sedentary life style, instead of lots of yard work, sweating out my extra calories.  In addition I recently added 2/3 pieces of candy every day. Its not a lot of candy, they are the miniatures.

But I have not been able to sit in the car or at work without unbuttoning my blue jeans. Not cool!

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I want to sit and crochet all evening on my comfy couch, but I also want to button my pants. So I have to get in some indoor exercise. I am not using candy as my reward for exercising. Also I am not going to the gym for hours. Start out slow with small goals and small rewards for those goals.

So I grabbed my crocheting and set my goal for 50. Every 50 stitches I set down the blanket and  went up the steps, at the top of the steps I did 10 push ups. Walked back down the steps and laid down on the floor next to my crocheting and did 25 crunches. Max time 5 minuets.

Crocheted another 50 and hopped up, walked across the house, up the steps for my push ups at the top. My small exercise routine is low impact, slow stress, small goals that are attainable. Attainable goals are the key. I told myself if I did small bits of exercise In between I could pick up my crocheting again.  A free evening is a rate event, but I was able to do this for three and a half hours today.

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So my blanket grew 8 rows and I was able to get in over 25 flights of steps, 150 push ups and just over 400 crunches. I also got in streching time. That is a big work out. I got in upper, lower and torso.

Small rewards for small goals, works amazing!

RickabaughReviews approves!

Tomorrow will not be as difficult. Hopefully soon my pants won’t be so difficult as well.

Low Stress Remnant Blanket update

I got a good bit done on the remnant blanket today.

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I was able to get four complete rows from the medium pink. I then added one row of light pink and one row of light purple that will be the border color.

I have started the dark pink three rows and then I will be doing three of the purple that I had done before. After I will be putting in a single row of cream as a subtle pattern that will be between each color where I will use all that I have of the small skeins.

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The blanket about doubled in size today.