Monday, December 17, 2012

Heavy Hearts

My heart feels so heavy, it could almost sink right into the floor. I feel paralyzed with sadness, grief, anger, and fear. I couldn't post a facebook status because words just wouldn't come to me, only tears.

And yet, what ever I am feeling, I know that it is nothing compared to what the families and community in Connecticut are going through.

The faces of those sweet children and heroic teachers consume my thoughts and prayers.

All weekend I was dreading this morning. This morning where I would have to send my oldest off to school. Something that before Friday has been routine to us. I didn't want to. Last night after they fell asleep I sat outside their rooms crying.

How can I protect them?

Parents have so much to fear, sending our children off to school should not be one of them.

How are we, as a society, failing our children so miserably?

What can we do to stop these horrific tragedies?

Why are these events so frequent now?

Things like this didn't happen 30 - 40 years ago, what has changed?

Assault weapons? Why are they on the street?

Violent video games and movies? Our children and society are so DESENSITIZED to violence it makes me physically ill.

I have so many questions, and I have zero answers.

I can't stop hugging and kissing my girls. Things that used to annoy me, now seem so small, so insignificant. I know I'm not alone. All parents everywhere must be feeling similar.

I wish I had something inspiration to say to you all. I'm sorry to say that I don't. I don't know where we go from here. My heart hurts for those families.

I can only offer up a prayer.

                Dear Lord,
                           Please guide us. Help us to raise compassionate, loving children. Help us to help each other. Help us to love each other.  Please be with the community of Newtown, Connecticut, especially those who lost dearly loved ones. Please wrap them in the light of your love and find a path to peace and comfort. I pray that these massacres will stop. Please keep our children safe. Please help us, heavenly Father.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Sears Kit Homes 101

If you know me in real life or are Facebook friends with me, you have probably heard me rattle on about Sears Houses. If you ask me a simple question about them, I will talk your ear off and give you way more information that you thought you wanted. I am a bit obsessed with these houses. Ok, a LOT obsessed. I drive around my town looking for them. When I see one I yelp with joy and take pictures.

 Allow to me to share with you some of the Sears homes I have found and to give you some insight on these amazing pieces of American history...

The invention of the Model T in the early 1900s caused many people to pack up and head out of the crowed city and into the peaceful suburbs. Soldiers were returning home from World War I and many immigrants had come to live out the American Dream. At the time, many young families did not have a home of their own. They either lived with their elders or in boarding houses.

Houses were in short supply and HIGH demand.

In 1908 Sears Roebuck Company decided to add houses to their very popular mail-order catalog.  Houses in the form of a "kit" that you built YOURSELF. (Now they were not the first company to think of this idea. Others like Aladdin and Montgomery Ward were also in the Kit Home business, however most people only remember Sears). By buying a kit home, you would create immediate equity - around 30%. That was a very affordable and smart choice for many.

                                                 The Crescent

Image source:
House-Plans/1928-Sears/Crescent.htm                                              Whitehall, Pennsylvania

From 1908-1940 there were about 370 different house plans. Prices ranges from $450 to $9,000 with the average being about $2,000. There was something for everyone; bungalows, foursquares, tudor revival cottages, and even trailing edge victorians.

Buyers simply picked out the design of their liking, then Sears sent (by railroad) one or two boxcars filled with the materials to build their dream house (excluding masonry and plumbing materials due to weight). The boxcars contained about 30,000 pieces and a 75 page instruction book written so that "a man of average ability could build the house in 90 days"-that was Sears' promise. Everything was labeled and each piece of lumber was pre-cut and stamped to make the assembly go as easily as possible.

This was a golden idea. Sears was essentially creating more customers for themselves. After all, all these newly built homes would need ovens, lamps and furniture. In the 1920s Sears hired an interior designer to draw in the ideal furniture placement in all their house plans. It was pretty helpful.

                                                      The Osborn


Catasauqua, Pennsylvania
Coopersburg, Pennsylvania
 Catasauqua, Pennsylvania

In 1911 Sears even started giving out mortgages. There was ONE financial question, "What is your occupation?"   If you answered it, you got a mortgage!  Horay!

In the 1920s sales of Sears Kit homes were booming!

                                                                           The Verona
                                                                              Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
The Maplewood
Image source:
homes/images/1927-1932/1932_3302.jpg                         Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Unfortunately in 1931 sales plummeted after the Great Depression. Sears was forced to foreclose many of their mortgages. Rosemary Thornton said it best "Think of that public relations nightmare!!  Sears was foreclosing their BEST customers on the houses they built with their own HANDS." 


In 1940 Sears closed their Modern Homes department and destroyed all their records.

That means that there is no way of knowing where these kit homes are.

Architectural  Historians, like Thornton, have gathered information mainly from old Sears Modern Home catalogs purchased off of places like ebay.

In total there were about 370 different houses. Thornton says that she tends to find the same 65 houses. (See her book below)  It is very possible that some house designs were never purchased.

                                                                              The Dover

                 Image Source:

                                                                                           Allentown, Pennsylvania

It is sometimes difficult to identify a Sears house. Think of all the remodeling that may have been done over the last 100 years or so. Plus Sears allowed buyers to customize their houses, adding a few feet to the depth or possibly changing a wall or a window here or there.

You will find most of them are within 2 miles of a railroad (think of what a pain it was to haul the material from the train station to your building lot).

Many of them are on the main streets of towns, (think the areas that were heavily built up in the 1920s).

                                                                          The Belmont

                                                                Allentown, Pennsylvania

Sears allowed you to reverse the floor plan if you wanted.
Now an important fact to remember is that just because a house looks like a Sears House design, doesn't always mean it is one. The architects Sears used purposely modeled their homes after popular styles of the day. That is why when you look at pictures of Sears houses, they mostly seem like the houses you see everyday! The only way to 100% know if it is a Sears kit home is to see stamped lumber, shipping paperwork on the back of mouldings or trim, or to see the shipping label or mortgage paperwork.

                   Stamped lumber helped the home builder assemble the pieces of the kit house

                                             The Fullerton


                                                                                                          Whitehall, Pennsylvania

                                                                            The Lewiston

 Image source:                                                
                                                                                               Whitehall, Pennsylvania
Sears sold around 75,000 kit homes from 1908-1940.

Think you've seen one?  Are you maybe living in one?!   Please write to me!

*** 98% of what I know about Sears Kit Houses is from Rosemary Thornton. Her blog  and her books "The Houses that Sears Built" and "Finding the Houses that Sears Built" are a WEALTH of knowledge, information, and pictures. She has dedicated her life to finding Sears homes and educating people on them. Most of the people living in kit homes have no idea they are in one!***

I'd love to hear everyones' thoughts on these beautiful houses. Any questions? This post is just skimming the surface on the topic. Have anything to add?  I'm always looking to learn more. If I get enough questions, I'll probably do a follow up post with Q and A's  ... how exciting for a house nerd like me!

Thank you for letting me share one of my passions with you  :-)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Little Christmas Touches

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

So that means I am decking my halls every chance I get. Little green here, little red here, sprinkle in some silver and gold. Glitter? Do you even have to ask?

I wanted to share a few quick Christmas tweaks I've made to projects you've already seen.

First, I made a Christmas ribbon wreath, just like my fall one. For the easy as pie directions go here. It seriously only took me 30 minutes to make. I had stocked up on Christmas ribbon at The Christmas Tree Shoppes a few months ago.

Thanks again for sharing all of the pictures of the ribbon wreaths you have made. I LOVE seeing  how you have customized them and made them your own. Please keep sharing :-)


Second, I switched out the fall scrapbook paper in my rotating holiday kitchen frames.  Now there are festive silver reindeer frolicking in the snow.

I kept the fall paper directly behind the winter one in the frame. That way I will never misplace one and know it will stay nice and flat.

Now that it's colder out and getting dark at 4pm, does anyone else never want to leave their house. I just want to snuggle up with a blanket and coffee and watch Christmas movies.

And that's what I'm about to go do.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Applesauce Spice Christmas Ornaments

I saw the idea for these ornaments on Pinterest and right away thought it would be a great project for the girls to do this Christmas. The other day we got the very first snowfall of the season and so it was the PERFECT morning to make our house smell glorious making these adorable, cinnamon decorations.

    All you will need are:
  • 1 cup of applesauce
  • 1  1/4 cup of cinnamon 
  • 2 tbsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tbsp. ground nutmeg
  • cookie cutters
  • plastic straw
  • yarn

Pour all ingredients into a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. You may need to take off your rings and knead with your hands. Just like sugar cookies, if the dough feels sticky, add more cinnamon, if it feels too dry add some more applesauce.

Sprinkle some cinnamon on a clean surface.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Press cookie cutters firmly into the dough.

Place shapes onto a cookie pan with either a sil mat or parchment paper. Using a plastic straw, poke holes into the top center of each shape.

Bake at 225 degrees for 2 hours or until rock hard. Then let them completely cool.

We were able to make about 40 ornaments! If you don't want to make so many, then simply half the recipe above.

We tied red and green yarn through the hole to hang them on the tree. On some we even added tiny jingle bells.

Easy peasy, right?! My girls and I had a blast making them as the snow was falling outside.  We hung some on the tree and have the rest hanging by the front door. Any visitor to our house gets to take one home as a keepsake.


What a great way to kick off the most wonderful time of the year.

**Just a note to remind you that these are NOT edible. So as much as you may want to, do NOT eat these. Go find yourself another snack.**

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Make It Work

Oh how I love to quote the fabulous Tim Gun.

I've been eying up my utensil crock for at least a year now. You see, ever since we painted our kitchen cabinets white last year, I've been slowly trying to make my old accessories work in the space. Sometimes that meant yard saleing the old and getting something different. However, when I can, I like to re-imagine a piece and still use it.

The problem was that it was just too bright and to, well, yellow. It was the first thing my eye was drawn to when I stepped into the kitchen. It didn't fit.

So out came my good, old friend, spray paint.

I gave it 2 thin coats of primer and about 3 thin coats of "Heirloom White" paint.

I let it dry overnight in the garage, while I not so patiently waited.

So much better!

Now it feels like it belongs, yet still has a bit of an eclectic touch since it doesn't exactly match the white on the cabinets.

And yes, those are dog bones  :-)

Now comes the age old question.......... what ELSE in my house can I spray paint?........

Have a great day!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chocolate Chip Rice Pudding

This recipe was my Everest. It took YEARS to get it just right.


Let me start at the beginning....

Once upon a time I lived in New York City during a summer college internship. My roommate, Becky and I shared a teeny, tiny room in the beautiful, historic New Yorker hotel. It was so small our beds practically touched.

The hotel reserves one entire floor of rooms year-round for college interns. What a great idea! We were able to meet other college students of various career fields to spend our summer with, when we weren't working, that is. We became friends with Danielle and Samantha, two wonderful girls from Arizona.

It was on one fateful day in June that Danielle asked us if we had ever eaten dessert at Rice to Riches.

"What is that?"

Danielle explained to us that it was a little place on Spring St. right above Little Italy at Mulberry St. It was basically like an ice cream shop, except that instead of ice cream they served up a huge variety of unique rice pudding flavors.

I was hesitant, I didn't even eat regular rice pudding that often, what was I going to think of this place?

Well, one bite of their "Chocolate Chip Flirt" (all their flavors have super cute names) and I was hooked. I mean, head over heals in LOVE. It was creamy, cold, and delicious.

Oh look, here we are!

                               Becky, me, and Danielle in a booth at Rice to Riches

As far as I know this is the ONLY location. So until a franchise is available for me to put in my hometown ..... I had to try and re-create my own.

I tried, and I tried, and I googled and tried longer, over the course of 6-7 years. I can finally now say that it is done. I did it!

Creamy, cold, delicious!

The secret is that you have to use Arborio rice (Italian risotto rice). It's a high-starch, short-grain rice that becomes super creamy when it absorbs the milk.

  • 4 cups of whole milk
  • 1.5 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 1tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Italian Risotto rice
  • 1 extra large bar of dark chocolate  (coarsely chopped)

Place the milk, cream, vanilla, brown sugar, and rice in a large pot and bring to a simmer.

Once it's simmering, lower the heat to medium-high, and continue to simmer until the rice is cooked and the mixture is thickened (about 30 minutes).  Be sure to stir it frequently.

This is how it should look.

Turn off the heat and transfer the pudding to a casserole dish.

Leave the pudding out on your counter for about 30 minutes to cool down. Stir it every so often.

Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

Coarsly chop your chocolate bar. Then fold into the pudding.

Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.

I usually make this the day before I need it, that way it can chill all night.


This makes about 4- 6 servings. If you make it for a party, double it, because it will be gone before you know it! People will be licking their bowls clean, I know I shamelessly do.

"Oh, what's that on my face? It's probably chocolate chip rice pudding."

*****If you are ever in New York and want to try one of their awesome flavors, check out Rice to Riches. It seems they are redesigning their web site right now, but be sure to check back in the future. 

If you don't think you'll be in the city any time soon, they will mail you some!*****



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Hi! Thanks for stopping by. I'm a 28-year-old mommy who loves to bake,cook, decorate,sew,and DIY everything I can get my hands on. Grab yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy my adventures!
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