Monthly Archives: July 2012

July Mystery Kit Creation

July is over, and I have a surprise for you!  I have decided to share MY creation with the July 2012 Mystery Craft Contest Kit.  I haven’t had many takers YET on the mystery kit and I understand.  It is hard to purchase something when you really have no idea what may be in the kit, or what you could create.  Well, now you get an idea of just what may be possible.  This is what came in my surprise box (okay, it wasn’t a surprise to me):

Included is a pack of 12×12 double-sided scrapbooking paper, a spool of blue jute and yellow memory floss, a package of Tim Holtz Fragments and a set of alcohol inks.  Now if you remember, the rules say I have to incorporate EVERY product in the kit into my final project.  I was able to use other supplies in my crafting stash, and that I did.

I have a great love for chipboard.  This easy to work heavy duty paper product makes a perfect base for all sorts of boxes and home decor projects.  If you haven’t yet, check out another of my chipboard creations here.
So I got to cutting, measuring and cutting (I have a hard time with the measure twice, cut once philosophy…), gluing, layering and cutting some more.  Then I punched a few holes, layered corkboard together with chipboard and something you may find unique – Barbecue Skewers!  Yes, I did raid my barbecue supplies for part of this project.  I used the alcohol inks on the acrylic fragments, added embellishments with the floss and jute, added a few more holes, layered a little more paper and finally got out my thread and needle to sew my colored fragments to the lid of my box.  After all was said and done I filled my new creation and sat back to enjoy my handiwork.

Can you tell what it is yet?

I made a charging station for all of my electronic devices.  (Okay, don’t tell my dad but I am not going to be keeping this-at least I don’t plant to now- it will be a Christmas gift for the gadget guru.)  It features a separate charging bay for a USB ‘a’ connector, a USB ‘b’ connector and a Mini USB connector. A compartment is hidden by a small cork board lid allowing you to attach notes, pictures, even inspiring quotes easily and in full sight.  The rim of the box is lined with the yellow memory floss knotted in the corners adding interest and strength to the box.  The front of the box features a cute plaque set off with a frame made from the blue jute. I used the jute to stitch the little fragment labels to the box, allowing quick recognition of just what type of connector you are reaching for.

After completing the project I still have PLENTY of supplies left for an identical charging station, or an entirely different project. In addition to the contents of the mystery kit I used 8″x10″ chipboard sheets (I think 4 sheets?), part of a 12″x12″ cork board sheet, barbecue skewers, 4 diamond brads, rub-on accents and craft glue.

What could you create with this not-so Mystery Craft Kit?  Order the August Mystery Craft Kit from Home and Garden Welcome, create something amazing and maybe YOU could WIN the August contest!

Happy Crafting




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Saving for a Sunny Day

As I sit here after watching the rain come down in sheets after weeks of drought I think of how useful this rain could be in just a few days.  Collecting rainwater is nothing new, but it can be a challenge if you have never installed a rain barrel before.

Rainwizard 50 OakRainbarrel With Planter 50Gal

Here I’ll help you find a good place to locate your rain barrel, prepare a sturdy base and connect it to your downspouts to collect all that rain water that would otherwise flood your garden.

First, if you are going to collect all the rainwater you can you must determine how many rain barrels you need.  Many people will opt for only 1 to water their container plants and foundation plantings.  If you are determined to collect all the rainwater that falls on your roof here use this formula to determine how many gallons of rain runoff you can expect from a storm.

1 inch of rainfall x 1000 square foot section of roof = 623 gallons of rain.  My roof is 2,500 square feet so in a storm that produces 1″ of rain about 1,500 gallons of rain will fall on my roof.  (2,500 sqft x 623 gallons ÷ 1000 sqft = 1557.5 gallons)  That, of course if if every drop of rain that fell on my roof would be collected.  There will be a bit of rain that falls on your roof that does not make it in to your rain barrel.  A fair estimate is that you are able to collect only about 70% of that rain that falls on your roof.  That would mean for my roof I would need to be able to collect 1,100 gallons of rain.  (1557.5 gallons x 70% = 1090.25 gallons)  Most rain barrels commercially available can hold 50 – 75 gallons of rainwater.  In order to collect all the rain that falls on my roof I’d need 14 rain barrels.  I really don’t have space for 14 rain barrels, but I do have 5 (2 on the downspouts of each of the larger sections of my roof and 1 on the smaller).  This keeps me in enough water to keep my full sun, sandy soil plants from getting parched.

Once you decide how many rain barrels you are going to be installing (it really is easy to start with just one) you need to determine where you are going to place your rain barrel.  It should be somewhere close to your downspout, but with flexible tubing you have some ability to move it a few feet away.  Wherever you are placing your rain barrel you need to make a firm foundation.  1 gallon of water weighs a little over 8 pounds so your rain barrel when full can weigh more than 500 pounds!  The average size for a rain barrel foundation is 16″, yours could be larger or smaller depending on the style of your barrel.  The best foundation for a rain barrel is a concrete pad.  If you can not place a concrete pad where you are going to place your rain barrel you could dig down 2-3 inches into the soil, creating a perfectly level base.  You can then add 2″ of crushed gravel to help maintain a firm base.  You could place your rain barrel directly on the gravel, or because rain barrels work on a gravity feed, you could raise your barrel up a little. Concrete blocks and deck piers make good, stable platforms to raise the height of your rain barrel.  Just be careful not to raise the rain barrel up too high or you could find it unstable.

Quattro downspout filter diverter functional diagram

After you have created a firm foundation for your rain barrel it is time to mark your downspout.  Put your rain barrel in its forever home then mark the placement of your diverter on your downspout.  Cut the downspout with a hacksaw and install according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  A downspout diverter with a filter will help prevent clogs in your line from leaves and other debris.

Connect the hose from the downspout diverter to the intake port of your water barrel.  If you have more than one barrel make sure you connect them together according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Finally, hook your hose and watering nozzle up to your rain barrel and after the next rain you are ready to keep your plants watered during the dry days that are sure to come.
Rain barrels are a great addition to your garden, and come in so many styles you are sure to find one that will fit seamlessly into your garden decor.  Visit Home and Garden Welcome for your rain barrel today.


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Rainy Day Inspiration

So, it was a rainy day in Northern Michigan and I was feeling like creating something.  I just didn’t know what.  After I got out some supplies and started thinking about things I’d like to have but don’t want to buy an idea came to me.  I have nowhere in our travel trailer to keep our coffees, teas and hot cocoa mix that is cute and easily accessible.  Cool! Now I know what I want to make, but what is it going to look like?  Reaching for what sparks imagination like nothing else (the bottle of wine in the pantry) I spied this and knew what I’d make.

No, I am not going to make a loaf of bread.  I am going to make a decorative box along the lines of a bread box to match the interior of our trailer.










Istarted with chipboard.  I knew this was going to have to be pretty sturdy so I planned on doubling up the chipboard for the sides and the top.  I rough sketched an arc on one sheet of chip board and cut it out with a craft knife.  Using the first side piece as a pattern I cut out the second side.  Next I cut  a strip about 1/8″-1/4″ out to create the base of the groove the lid will move in. Then I glued the pieces I cut out onto another sheet of chipboard.  I cut 1/8″ off the  back and bottom of my side pieces so they would fit together better later in the process. Finally I cut a flat edge off the top of each arc so the top to my box would fit nicely.  The last image is not correctly oriented – it shows the top of one side and the bottom of the other.  Make sure when you are gluing your pieces together you have 2 mirror images, NOT exact copies!!!









I set the sides aside (see what I did there?  Pretty funny, eh?) to dry and began working on the door of my box.







I began with 2 sheets of chipboard, cutting them into 1/2″ strips.  Once the strips were cut I aligned them as perfectly as possible and glued a piece of flexible fabric to the back side.  This held the strips together as I was working on the front of my box.









As this sheet is drying I began to work on the front of my box.  I wanted a toile-ish look to the front of my box but did not have any paper that had what I was looking for so I decided to make it myself.  Starting with a sheet of white cardstock I stamped images on the paper in red and brown ink and embossed them using different shades of red embossing powder.  Next I used an inkssentials blending tool to add Tim Holtz distress inks in scattered straw and brushed corduroy to the background.  I was very pleased with the result.










After my paper was finished I glued it to the cover of my breadbox (opposite of the side my fabric was glued on) and added stitching detail with dark brown memory floss.  I was very happy with the way things were coming together at this point in time. I had a glass cabinet pull just waiting to be used in a project like this.  I punched a hole in one of the slats and used a small bolt to tighten the cabinet pull in place. (It doesn’t show up in these pictures, look for it later.  It is PRETTY, I promise!)


Once my sides and covers were dry I began fitting the pieces together trying to see how the box was going to work.  Noticing that I needed a deeper groove for my door to fit in I cut 1/8″ strips of chipboard from my scraps and glued them along the inside and outside edge of the track I had created earlier.  Then I glued one side of my box to the base and the back.  Once the glue dried I painted the inside of the box with Tim Holtz Distress Crackle paint in Brushed Corduroy.  After all, the inside of the box has to be as pretty as the outside!

















The next part was a test in patience.  Aligning the cover in one groove and setting it in the opposite groove while keeping everything square and straight.  I’d advise buying any children in the vicinity some ear plugs so they are not exposed to the outbursts that may occur during this step.

Now that the back and sides are glued securely and the front is nicely seated in its track I made a small shelf/top to add some strength to the box and a little extra storage area.  It also hides the ‘rolling’ features of the door.  I did this by doubling up a few pieces of chipboard and wrapping the shelf in a coordinating paper.







Finally I added some paper to the outside of my box to finish it off.  I also added a leather strap along the middle of the arc.  I did this for a few reasons.  First off, it gave me a place to hang things like coffee scoops or tea balls inside the box.  It also added some strength to the sides of the box, the movement of the lid wanted to push the sides out allowing the lid to pop off its track.




After a few coats of a sealant here is the final project in place.  Perfect, don’t you think!






All the materials I used in this project, or at least very similar materials, are available from Home and Garden Welcome.  Stop by and find what inspires you. I’d LOVE to see what you can create!

Happy Crafting,


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Congratulations Me!

A little pat on my own back, if you will.  I have begun writing informational articles for Helium and an article I recently wrote is featured on the MAIN PAGE!!!  Check out my article Scrapbooking tips: Heat embossing techniques on

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Introducing the August Mystery Kit

It’s the dog days of summer. The sun is shining, the mercury is rising and small town celebrations are happening all over. Create something with this August Mystery Kit and enter it to win! Visit the Mystery Kit Contest page for full contest details. Happy Crafting!

Recommended tools:
Stamp sets and inks
Heat tool

There is still time to enter the July Mystery craft contest, and get a start on your August project, too!  Save on shipping if you order both kits together.

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Getting Ready for Company

I received a call late last week that a friend that I haven’t seen in a very long time will be visiting.  She will be staying in our camper guest house and we are getting ready to create a warm Northern Michigan welcome for her.


Although it does not get dark until after 10pm when the sun finally goes down it gets DARK!  To ensure save travels between the house and the ‘guest house’ we created a lighted path.  These light posts with the guides are perfect for filtering traffic along a specified path, ensuring that traffic late at night would avoid any washouts from recent rains or land-mines left courtesy of the dog.


Of course there is more to welcoming a visitor than just a well lit path.  Creating a welcoming place to visit, dine and enjoy great conversation.  A beautiful patio space with a relaxing fountain and a place to sit back is a must.  A fire pit is the perfect place to roast marshmallows, share some drinks and reminisce.

My friend is coming to town to participate in Horse Shows By the Bay a HUGE equestrian festival in Northern Michigan.  As a result, an equestrian themed patio is a nice touch.

Dining is a must.  What visit is not made better with tasty food?  I’ll break out the trusty smoker and try a recipe courtesy of

Prepare your smoker according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Butterflying your chicken will help infuse the smoky flavor deep into the meat and shorten the cooking time.


  • 1 medium chicken
  • 2 red chillis seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 50g or 2 oz butter (softened)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Prepare your smoker according to the owner’s manual.  I suggest an apple wood for this chicken because of the mild flavor.  Mesquite would mix nicely with the chilli/cumin combination as well.

Take the garlic and chilis and mix with the softened butter.

Butterfly your chicken by cutting close along both sides of the spine.  (Don’t throw that spine away – use it to create a rich broth you can use to flavor soups and stews!)

Gently put your hand in the neck end of the chicken and pry the skin away from the flesh taking care not to puncture the skin – patience is a virtue at this point!

Take the chili garlic butter mix and smear it on the flesh under the skin, sprinkle the skin lightly with cumin, salt and pepper and then you’re ready for the barbecue smoker.


Smoke the chicken based on the guidelines included in your smoker’s manual.  Ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 180° F in the thigh.  Allow to rest for 20-30 minutes prior to carving.

Perfect with a cold beer or a crisp glass of white wine.  Definitely a meal to remember.


Speaking of memories, once you snap your pictures, enjoy your laugh it is time to share the story!

Beyond The Page MDF Barn Album-10"X10"Inkadinkado Clear Stamps 4"X8" Sheet-Horses

Using albums, accents, stamps, inks and more from Home and Garden Welcome I can create an album to remember the sights and stories of this visit with a special friend.


This is how I do it – create precious memories then keep them to share forever!


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Beautiful Berries, Caring Craft

I am fortunate enough to live in Northern Michigan where Mother Nature is generous enough to  provide us with several options for berry picking.  In my yard we have both wild blackberry and raspberry patches that provide abundant harvests year after year.  These plants seem to thrive on neglect and produce enough berries to make jams, pies and other yummy treats.

Know what you Have

It is important to know what kind of berry patch you are picking in.  If you try to pick blackberries thinking you are in a raspberry patch you will be in for one very sour surprise.

Blackberries are a much larger, more stout plant.  The stems are much larger, more woody with large thorns.  The leaves are large with thorns as well.  The berries are much larger and have very distinct ‘fruits’ that are joined together to make one larger fruit.  These fruits are the size of a thimble once mature and are a dark, rich black color.  The smaller red fruits look like ripe raspberries, but if you try and eat one you will quickly realize your mistake.  Blackberries also have a much larger seed in the berries when compared to wild raspberries.

Blackberry Bush

Blackberries beginning to ripen









Wild raspberries, on the other hand, are a much friendlier plant.  While they do have thorny branches they are not as painful as the blackberries.  The stems are less woody and the thorns lean closer to small thread.  The leaves feel more hairy than thorny and are smaller than the blackberries.  The fruits are smaller, too.  They appear more smooth rather than having the distinct ‘bulbs’ that the blackberry is made of.  The seeds are smaller and less prominent.  Wild raspberries also ripen about 1-2 weeks earlier than their thornier cousin.

Wild Raspberry Bush

Wild Raspberries









Once you have picked your berries (I suggest bribing the neighborhood kids – give them a bucket to fill for you to use, then give them each a smaller bucket that they can eat) you have so many options.  I make jam with the berries.  Sometimes pies, and I even make some preserves to put in a very popular gift basket for my friends around the holidays.

Once you have prepared your preserves, tie a nice card on with the recipe.  Add the dry ingredients into a basket (or even a mason jar), add a ribbon and you have a wonderful handmade gift that is sure to put a smile on someone’s face.

Raspberry Bars Gift Jar


Here is the recipe I use for my Raspberry bars.

4c fresh raspberries (or blackberries)
4c White Sugar
1c Water
Bring to a rolling boil over high heat.  Boil, stirring constantly until well thickened.  The mixture should evenly coat the back of a metal spoon without breaking.  Set aside to cool.
1pkg yellow (or white) cake mix
3/4c butter, melted
2 eggs
1c rolled oats
3/4 c brown sugar
1t cinnamon
1t vanilla
Mix all ingredients together until well combined.  Set aside 1 1/2 c of crust mixture.  Spread remaining in the bottom of a 9×13″ pan, packing down evenly.  Spread the cooled raspberry mixture evenly over the bottom crust.  Crumble small pieces of the remaining crust mixture evenly over the raspberry mixture.  Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350° F or until golden brown.  Cool completely before slicing.

Visit Home and Garden Welcome for papers, ribbons, stickers and other items to add your handmade recipe card to your delicious gift!

Happy gardening and creating!



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A Water Garden For All

I love to listen to the gentle sound of falling water as I relax on my patio.  While I would love to have (and do plan on building at some point in time) a garden pond complete with a waterfall, fish and blooming plants that will have to wait.

Imagine relaxing with your morning coffee or an evening glass of wine…….

In the meantime, I am content to have my patio fountain.  You can bring the same to your backyard as well.  My fountain attracts bees (no one has been stung in 4 years!), butterflies and birds looking for a sip.  It has attracted kids and dogs looking for drinks, but that practice has been highly discouraged….

A relaxing fountain

You can create a relaxing water feature on your patio quickly and easily with the help of Home and Garden Welcome.

The simplest way to add a water feature is to purchase one of our complete water fountains.  As the saying goes, just add water!  For a little extra ‘rustic’ appeal allow moss to grow along the edges of your fountain.

Your Fountain is Here!

Add moss for a rustic look.

Looking for something more substantial?  You can create a container pond in just a single afternoon!

Start with an urn or planter that fits your decor.  You want to make sure this vessel is deep enough to allow you to completely submerge your pump.  At this point you have a few options :

  • You can add another utilitarian bucket to your pond to act as support for a wire mesh, feed your fountain head through the mesh and place your pump in the inner bucket, lay rocks on the mesh to allow water to flow through and back down into your custom made reservoir.

Images from  Thank You!

  • If instead you would like to have a more lush look with plants in your fountain the process will be similar, but you will want a larger bowl.  You want it deep enough to submerge your planting baskets and wide enough to hold the baskets your plants are growing in.  The result can be very striking!

Urns with a deep bowl shape like this are perfectly suited to holding a patio fountain with plants.

Finally, you can take things a step further if you wish and create a self-containing pond right on your deck or patio!  Using pavers, cobblestone, brick, even rocks you find in your yard you can build a retaining structure, line it using a high quality membrane, add a pump, filter, plants, even FISH!  All without digging.

All the supplies you need to create your own custom backyard water feature are available at Home and Garden Welcome.  Whether you are looking to create a free standing patio fountain, or build a free standing pond complete with plants and fish we have what you need.


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Getting Ready to Celebrate

July 3rd, the day to get all the prep for your Independence Day celebration.  Growing up in Fife Lake, Michigan I love a small town holiday!  The parade, the craft fairs, the fireworks….There is an energy in town that you don’t experience any other day of the year.

Living right on the parade route and having prime seating to view the fireworks of course there was ALWAYS a barbecue at our house and people coming and going from sun up until sun down.  Lately the only difference is I no longer live on the parade route, my parents do.  As a result I am responsible for providing side dishes for our annual food-fest.

This year I broke out my smoker to get ready for a new potato salad recipe I am going to try.  I made smoked chili-lime pork chops for dinner over the weekend and smoked some potatoes along side.

Chili Lime Smoked Porkchops

  • The juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic
  • 1TBSP Kosher Salt
  • 1TBSP Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive Oil
  • Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Pour over pork chops and let soak 2-3 hours.

Remember this guy?  Prepare according to manufacture’s instructions.  I used apple wood to provide the smoke.  I didn’t want anything as heavy as a mesquite flavor.  The potatoes I tossed in a mix of olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley flakes than placed directly on the grate.  Smoke for 1 – 2 hours depending on the thickness of your chops.  (Shorter smoking times mean you will have to finish your spuds off in the oven/microwave or stove top.)

Prepare your smoker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

My potatoes didn’t quite finish in the hour I smoked my pork chops so I finished them on the stove top.  This did reduce the smokey flavor a little but some in my family prefer a little less smokiness.

Smoked Chili Lime Pork Chops with Smoked Red Potatoes

Baked Potato Salad

  • I boiled the potatoes (about 3 lbs of red potatoes) for about 5 minutes until they were nice and tender.  After draining them I set them aside in the fridge to chill.
  • Meanwhile, fry up 1/2 pound of thick cut bacon until crispy.  Drain, cool and crumble. 
  • Cut 1 bunch of green onions into small pieces.  Mix your potatoes, bacon, green onions and
  • 2 cups shredded cheese with
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise and
  • 1/2 cup sour cream. 
  • Serve well chilled and with a BIG spoon!



The other side dish I am making is a family favorite refreshing summer salad passed down through my family for years.

Cucumber Onion Salad

  • 4 large cucumbers sliced thin
  • 1 large WHITE onion sliced thin
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced thin (my addition)
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (the original recipe calls for white vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Add water to bring liquid up enough to cover all the veggies.  Cool in the fridge for a few hours, overnight if possible.

This cool, crisp salad is a refreshing treat on a hot afternoon.


Finally, what is a 4th of July celebration without decorations?  Adding flags and buntings to your tables brings an easy festive air to your table scape.  Or get your kids involved in making center pieces!

However you decide to celebrate, have a safe and happy holiday!

-Nikki, Home and Garden Welcome




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