Archive for 2011

Guest Post at Sumo's Sweet Stuff

Hello, friends! 

You can find me at Sumo's Sweet Stuff today 
guesting while Summer takes a little bloggy maternity leave.

I have a fun New Year's printable for you!
Perfect for a last minute decoration. ;)
See you there!

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Luxury goods and recession

According to extensive journalistic research i have done on the internet, many reputable websites report that despite the economic recession, luxury selling stores post increased profits.  The most common explanation is the rich are not affected by the recession as much as the poor.  I have a different theory.

The 26th of December is the famous boxing day in North America.  I went to buy a pair of quality leather gloves in Holt Renfrew.  When i approached the store i was speechless to see the number of people who lined up waiting for the store to open.  Holt Renfrew is one of the most expensive chains in Canada selling brands such as Chanel, Dior, Prada and more.  They were offering up to 60% off on most of their merchandise, however even after the discount the prices at Holts are nowhere near affordable.  I also looked around to see who was lining up and most of the people did not look wealthy to me.  Wealthy people don't need to stand hours in line to get a discount.  Who were those people and why the luxurious Holts attracted their attention more than Future Shop or Best Buy?

Anyone who has ever studied psychology remembers the Maslow pyramid of human needs. It start at the bottom with physical comfort being the first and self actualisation being the last. The need for luxurious goods would be the combination of the second need from the bottom (aka safety) and esteem which is second from the top.  Luxurious goods are better quality than cheaper goods, therefore they serve longer and protect better.  Luxurious goods are also a part of the elite group, owing them is a major boost to personal self esteem, a pleasure and an expression of someones creativity.  Luxurious goods tend to have out of the ordinary design and more appealing style, therefore they express someones creativity.

My second argument why ordinary average income people covet luxury goods is mere pleasure. Everyone have been deprived by recession in some way and it does not have to be by a loss of income. At the very least more and more people go out less or cut on their grocery bills.  During recession businesses cut on working stuff and therefore people work harder, longer hours.  It takes more for human being's survival than food and shelter, for many as i have seen during the Boxing Day the retail therapy works like a charm.

During recession people have the tendency to stay at home more and therefore home decor surroundings begin to matter more than ever.  What can easily and inexpensively add tremendous style and luxe to your home?

Have you discovered the power of AVL wallpaper? Pictures are worth a thousand words.  Lets compare a few before and after photos using our state of the art visualizer.

                                                  Here is a dining room BEFORE

                                                     Here is the same dining room AFTER

                           I have seen somewhat similar wall decor in Palais de Versaille in Paris, France

Lets have a look at a more modern luxurious dining room decor

Here is traditionally luxurious dining room wall decor


As you could see sometimes a little decorative touch is all that matters.  Whether it is a new lamp, a new carpet or a new wallpaper.  It can instantly add glamour to your home at a fraction of the cost.  Think my Holts leather gloves to make my whole outfit look expensive :-).  Your house might be looking for the same little touch of luxury.

As it is getting colder outside and we tend to stay at home more and more why not make your surroundings more pleasant?

For more decorating ideas visit

Chin chin to the New Year with more luxury in our lives.

Recap of 2011

Its that time of year again! 
A time to remember some of my favorite projects on the blog over the past year. 

I've picked my top 25. 
Yes, I narrowed it down to a whopping 25. I hate picking and choosing!! :) 

15. Eclectic Braided Bracelet 16. Framed Book Page Pumpkins 17. Thomas the Train Birthday Ticket Invitations 18. Meal Plan {Part 3 - Putting It All Together} 19. DIY Letterpress Stamp

Update on #18: The meal plan is ROCKING.MY.WORLD!! It is absolutely fabulous and still working strong. We wouldn't be eating well without it! 

20. Footprint Turkey Shirts 21. Framed Advent Calendar 22. A Book of Mental Hugs 23. Christmas Bingo 24. Candy Cane Trifle 25. Santa's Belt Hurricane Glass

These 25 projects are definitely some of my faves of 2011, but there are many more I didn't share! I would love for you to peruse around and see what you can find. :)

And, of course, my absolute favorite project of 2011
I cannot believe this little guy is 9 months old TODAY!!
A huge thank you to all of my guest bloggers in April and May who helped me take some much needed time away from the blog to spend with the newest addition of our little family.

One last thing...

I want to share my most popular blog post of 2011 ever!
This picture frame hanging tip taken off across the interwebs. If you've somehow missed it, click here. It will change your life, I promise!

Thank you so much for spending 2011 with me, and I look forward to what 2012 brings!

I'm linking up to the Top Projects party at Southern Hospitality!

Who's watching Santa Claus?

This weekend, one of the world's biggest spies with one of the globe's sophisticated surveillance systems will be visiting Minnesota.  He is a huge "intelligence" gatherer of data on people.  He keeps lists.  I wonder if he has an enemies list or intelligence system?. He does "black bag" operations through chimneys.

But at the same time, many people invite him into their homes for milk, cookies, and a possibly a bit of peppermint schnapps to keep him warm.  Watch out he may be collecting data on you.

He is able to fly unimpeded through the air.  He is equipped with the latest GPS tracking equipment to observe people who may be "naughty or good".  There are also reports he may be getting a very sophisticated camera through the help of the Pentagon.  Somewhere up north, he has a very large computer detailing our moves and aspects of our lives, and labeling us as associates, persons of interest, and suspects.  Remember, he knows "where you are sleeping".  OH! OH! and HO! HO!

With the ability to monitor our actions and movements, he revels in having this ability.  Supposedly, he only uses it for good.

As I looked more into this character and his activities I could not find any GAO or Legislative Auditor reports. No reports on his activities or how he uses his surveillance system.  I could not find any legislative or Congressional hearing as part of the oversight process.

He has many informers and different ways which makes it easy for people to get on a "list".  I wonder what the threshold is for a person to get on the list.  I wonder how you got off the list.

I have learned a lot about this gentleman, and recently saw a "news report" by Ray Stevens, which is entitled, "Santa Claus is Watching You"

I encourage Santa Claus to be guided by the Fair Information principles:
  1. There must be a way for a person to find out what information about the person is in a record and how it is used.
  2. There must be a way for a person to prevent information about the person that was obtained for one purpose from being used or made available for other purposes without the person's consent.
  3. There must be a way for a person to correct or amend a record of identifiable information about the person.
  4. Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of identifiable personal data must assure the reliability of the data for their intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuses of the data.
  5. Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of identifiable personal data must assure the reliability of the data for their intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuses of the data.
These principles are good for a start, but Santa and his operations need more accountability, transparency, and openness.  Santa has a different view than a great number of other people how you achieve that.  There needs to be a checks and balances to his activities.

My privacy rights negated by "blackmail"

As I churn through my "early" autumn years of life, I am more apt to visit the doctor.  I did that today.  As I got to the check in desk I was given a single piece of paper and asked to sign.  I locked on to the words, "Notice of Privacy Practices"  I thought it was a form to sign to acknowledge understanding of the notice..  I felt there was no need to sign such a form.  And I stated that.

A few minutes later after some quick discussion by the clerk and someone else it was told to me, no signature, no service.  I said you cannot refuse service, and asked to speak with a supervisor.  Katie, her name was.  Right off the bat, she stated no service will be refused, but I would be treated as a self pay.  In other words, I would have to pay an upfront $150.  She then went to explain that the form was more than a notice, but an overall consent to share my medical information with others.

I then took a closer look of the "document".  It was a broad consent form to share my data with a broad range of parties for research, quality care reviews, and for other purposes outside for payment of my insurance and treatment.

I thought to myself ok.  I went through my "summer" years working on Minnesota medical privacy laws at the Legislature so I have an understanding of our law and what I think our rights are.

So I said to Katie, I will consent to the parts of the form that I think are appropriate, such as giving my information to third party administrators that help process the claims, to my health plans, and one or two others.  Her response, "You cannot do that."  It is either sign whole, or pay the $150 up front. Not having a major credit card nor $150 on me, my wheels started to roll.  I said you are "blackmailing" me in giving up my choice who I want my medical records to go and my rights which I am entitled by law to do.  To the best of my knowledge, I have always modified the consent forms in the past.

Direct and frank discussion continued.  I gave her rationale why this form is inappropriate.  She said in so many words:  Bottom line, no signature for the whole consent, or $150 for self pay, no $$$, no service.  I caved.  I needed to see the doctor.

So what happened.  My privacy rights which allows me to control where my medical records go was completely blocked.  I could not do a consent specifically only to this visit and transaction.  I had to sign a broad release form for possible visits in the future other than the one I did today and also to allow to have my data go to many places which is outside of my treatment and payment processes.

I told Katie I was interested to speak with their legal person on these matters or their privacy person.

Several hours later, I spoke to a person.  He is the head of the integrity and compliance of the medical/health service company.  Restated some of the points, but also hammering on the view that our state law allows choice to where are medical records go, but that we can also modify our consent forms to the single purpose of the visit.  

As someone in that position the gentleman wishes to listen to the patient, but he was also aware of my privacy advocacy background, independently, of me even saying anything.  It seemed he wanted to learn what was wrong in my view.  He brought up several times, this is a standard form.  Again I shot back, basically stating, it does not mean I give up my control over my medical data and give up my rights under Minnesota law.  He stated he was going to speak with their legal counsel and appropriate people and get back to me.  Stay tuned.

Link to the Minnesota Health Records Act

144.291Minnesota Health Records Act
144.292Patient Rights
144.293Release or Disclosure of Health Records
144.294Records Relating to Mental Health
144.295Disclosure of Health Records for External Research
144.296Copies of Videotapes
144.297Independent Medical Examination

Updated on December 24, 2011

London Inspired Christmas Table {DIY}

I received a message from a very dear friend living in London…It read along the lines of “Sam please help me with some Christmas table Inspiration {or rather Instructions}”.

With the theme "London" in mind {having never been there} however It seams like a town rich in history and literature mixed with an eclectic modern vibe I "shopped the home" for a few items to help me create two London looks:

Basic table setup
Linen tablecloth (Ikea)
Table Runner (Ikea)
Plate chargers (I used black)
White dinner plates
Wine glasses

Modern British Table – Option 1
Paper doily (Dollar store) used as coasters
White Christmas tree (dollar store)
White pot (Ikea) to put dollar store Christmas tree into
Mirror ball Tree ornament - These make great take home gifts for your guests (A memory of the occasion)
Black and white twine to tie around napkin (like a gift)

Vintage London Table – Option 2
1 x vintage book
vintage napkins (I got a set of 8 vintage napkins from the thrift store 50c each)
Various vintage candle holders, brass, glass, white
Clay tag Tree ornaments - These make great take home gifts for your guests (A memory of the occasion)
Scrap of paper for place cards

Vintage books are hilarious and rather inexpensive, I bought this one for $1 from an antique shop

The December 2011 Issue of Real living Magazine also has some great table setting inspiration

I am seriously lusting over that gold cutlery set....

Have a gorgeous London Christmas Al!


2011 Teacher Treats

The past couple of years I have shared the sweet treats I have made at Christmas for the wonderful teachers at my sons' daycare to show my gratitude towards the care they provide in my absence. 

Half the fun of sending off my teacher treats is the packaging! 
I had the absolute most fun this year decorating these small square Ball jars! 

The best/worst part: I didn't have a clue starting out how I was going to decorate the jars. I had an idea in mind, but when I went to my fabric stash I didn't have any fun Christmas-y fabric! Gah! 

But I did find this fabulous polka dot fabric that would be cute for mod-ish Christmas decorating. And I had recently picked up some mini ornaments of similar colors in the dollar spot at Target. Digging through some more of my craft stash, I found this fun turquoise and silver cording as well as a massive pile of silver pipe cleaners. 

I could make this work!

I cut the fabric into circles about an inch wider than the lid, set it on the jar, and tightened the lid.

I wrapped the cording around the lid and tied it into a knot.

I pushed one of the pipe cleaners between the cording and the lid then threaded an ornament through each end. I wrapped the pipe cleaner around itself a couple of times (like you would a twist tie) then manipulated it around to look like a bow.

Done. Easy. Adorable!

Incidentally, two of the jars are filled with mint Hershey Kisses and the other two are filled with a sugar-free hot cocoa mix. One of our teachers this year is a diabetic and, while I know she'll sneak some of the candy treats, I wanted to have something for her to indulge in, too! The cocoa mix seemed like the perfect thing. I could tell when I gave it to her this morning that she was both surprised and delighted that I remembered her condition. Its the little things! :)

Also included in the treats was this tasty mint fudge that is the easiest fudge you will ever make! 
When Vanessa shared this concoction at V and Co. last weekend, I knew I was going to try it! I mean, with a name like 3 Minute 3 Ingredient Fudge how can you go wrong?? You can't!

I'm definitely making this again, and will try different flavor combinations, too.
Its my new go to recipe!

The line up of tasty treats:
Mint Hershey Kisses (not shown)
Funfetti Brownie Bites

For the brownies, I bought the Funfetti mix from Pillsbury 
and made the brownies in a mini muffin tin.
Easy peasy!

The brownies, bark, and fudge were bagged individually...

Then everything was placed into these fun gift boxes that I found 
for $1 each at a craft show last month. 

Its always fun to drop them off with the teachers! 
And to see what, if anything, is left by the end of the day.
These ladies need to keep their energy up to keep up with all those little ones!


And that, my friends, is my final post before Christmas!
I'm taking some time to spend with family, wrap gifts, finish making gifts... :)

I'll be back next week with a 2011 "best of" post and back to regular blogging in January.

Until then...

Shaped Peppermint Bark

I've been wanting to try my hand at peppermint bark for a while so I decided to give it a go this year as part of the Christmas treats I send to daycare to thank all of the teachers for taking such great care of my boys. 

And because I like to make things hard try different things, I decided to make some of my bark inside mini Christmas cookie cutters I had purchased on sale at Hobby Lobby. 

And thus Shaped Peppermint Bark was born! 

I covered a large baking sheet (that isn't warped and lays perfectly flat) with wax paper then spread out my mini cookie cutters on one side of the sheet. 

I melted one 12 oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate morsels in the microwave (cook for 1 minute, stir, cook for 30 more seconds). Using a spoon and toothpick, I drizzled the chocolate into the cookie cutters and made sure to push it into all the nooks and crannies. This is were its really important to have a nice flat baking sheet! You don't want chocolate oozing out from under your cookie cutters. 

I aimed to have my layer of chocolate ~1/4 inch thick.

Spread the remaining chocolate in a thin layer on the other half of the baking sheet.

I was able to do all of this before the chocolate started to harden, but if it starts to get too thick, nuke it in the microwave for another 30 seconds.

Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for ~20-30 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

Melt a 12 oz bag of white chocolate morsels following the same steps you did with the semi-sweets. Again, use a spoon and toothpick to spread the chocolate into the cookie cutters. And again, aim for ~1/4 inch thickness of chocolate.

Spread the leftover white chocolate on top of the layer of semi-sweets off to the side of the dish.

While your semi-sweet chocolate is hardening in the fridge, chop up some candy canes. I put mine in a Ziploc bag and took a hammer to them.

Before putting your white chocolate into the refrigerator to harden, sprinkle it with the crushed candy canes.

Now you can put the baking sheet back into the fridge!

My husband posed the question of how to get the chocolate out of the cookie cutters...
With sheer willpower.

I actually had thought of this ahead of time, but wasn't sure exactly what to do.

Notice I did not tell you to grease the cookie cutters... 
I didn't want that to effect the taste of the chocolate.

Here's what I did:
After the white chocolate had hardened (~20-30 minutes in the refrigerator), I pulled it out and set it on the kitchen counter for 20 minutes. After that, the chocolate had softened just enough for me to push it through the bottom of the cookie cutters. Perfecto!

Break the large piece of chocolate bark into smaller pieces.

The chocolate did great at keeping the shape of the cookie cutters! 
And I love the layers of the different chocolates.

They are almost too cute to eat!


I'll be back soon to share the rest of the treats I made our teacher's this year. :)

The Chihuahua who attempted to steal Christmas {Giftwrap}

Somebody was way to exited and couldn’t wait for Christmas day, Bella attempted to open her Christmas present early however she was sprung in the act by the Mr. Snaps to me as gift was wrapped with extra care and a whole lot of twine.

Tree with the lights on.

Some of you might remember my DIY paper doily lights from last year.

Does anybody like gift wrapping more than me? here is this years Christmas all wrapped up, I used a mixture of white and brown paper I embellished this with cute little Christmas reindeer stamps in silver, presents were tied with silver or black and white twine, paper doily's and mini pegs, Instead of name tags I cut out letters {either initials or full names} free hand using glitter fabric.   

A big warm welcome if you are a new follower of Black Velvet Chair please feel free to leave me a comment, I love meeting new people and would love to say hello.