Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Tops of 2013

Here are the top 13 posts from The Owl's Skull this past year. We are so glad you come to visit us and cannot wait to see what the new year brings:)!!! A/J
Top Post #13: Our thoughts on the evolution of Little Red Riding Hood
Top Post #12: "Baba Yaga (Grandmas, Babushkas, and Chicken Legs)"
Top Post #11: Our post about Peter Pan, "To Die Will Be an Awfully Big Adventure"
Top Post #10: Our Visit to Flannery O'Connor's Childhood Home 
Top Post #9: Rocking Old Wallpaper (Saving that which should be saved. Because it is awesome).
Top Post #8: The Dance Mom's Experience (which was beyond the realm of what I expected)
Top Post #7: Cleaning the Playroom (Otherwise Known as Entering the Seventh Layer of Hell) ... Yeah, that about sums it up. 
Top Post #6: Our Little Minty Kitchen Stool (Isn't she cute? And, as Sophie says, "My kitchen stool can do anything";))
Top Post #5: Farmer's Market Summer Spaghetti (Apparently, we cook a lot better in the summer). 
Top Post #4: Our Unfussy Strawberry Rhubarb Galette (Summer will come back sometime... right?)
Top Post #3: The Bad Bathrooms. They were in time-out for a really, really long time. And then we finally decided to address their bad behavior. 
Our second most-read post, our favorite maps in children's books
I'm very proud to say that this was our most popular post this year. I still hate these little jerks. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Unboxing the Jolly VoxBox

I love those little packages that come in the mail that are filled with fun new things to try. Two of my favorites are the boxes I get from BirchBox (monthly) and Influenster (periodically). They always include stuff I've been meaning to try, but for one reason or another haven't purchased yet. On that note, let's take a peak inside this month's Jolly VoxBox.

Unboxing the Jolly VoxBox
First off, these Skinny Cow Peanut Butter Creme chocolates lasted about ten minutes. I was at least  able to snag one of them. They were indeed divine. Huge thumbs up from all of us at the Nest.

Skinny Cow Peanut Butter Creme chocolates ($3.99/box)
Next, I tried the NYC New York Color HD Color Trio Eye Shadow. This set of shades is very similar to my everyday eye-shadow palette, so I was excited to give them a shot. The shadows blend well with a brush (the one thing I did not like was the applicator; it was impossible to handle, which really wasn't a huge deal because I tend to use a brush anyway).

NYC New York Color Trio Eye Shadow ($2.99/trio)
While I was on the makeup kick, I tried the Rimmel London NEW Show Off Lip Lacquer. The product does provide both the color of lipstick and the sheen of a lacquer.

Rimmel London NEW Show Off Lip Lacquer ($5.49-$5.99)
I did find that it feathered some as it wore, and the shade is indeed a show-offy one, a lot brighter than what I would normally wear (it does come in 14 different shades, so I think I'll check out some of the others). Overall, however, it did make me feel very Marilyn Monroeish (it also wasn't drying, and it lasted a good while, even after some coffee and water). Here's my finished, glammish face;).

I'm also wearing the Pond's Luminous Finish BB+ Creme that I received in an earlier VoxBox. I just love the stuff!
I also received a cute little pack of Puffs Plus tissues (which I always seem to need and never have in my purse - now I will!) and a Ducklings Mini Roll, which they say is "excellent for repair, crafting, and imaginative projects." I have no idea what I might use it for just yet, but I will figure something out!

Puff Soft & Strong to Go Tissue Pack ($0.49/pack) and Ducklings Mini Rolls ($2-$3, in various prints and styles)
If you are interested in becoming an Influenster yourself (testing out and sharing new products), check out their website (www.influenster.com). Tomorrow is going to be an epic crafting/DIY day in our house! I can't wait to share the projects with you later this week:)!! Also, stop by tomorrow for our favorite posts of 2013. Much love, A/J

*** I received these products complimentary for testing purposes from Influenster.

DIY Poetry Plates (The Perfect Gift for Your Mom)...

(PS I couldn't share this before Christmas, because, well, ... I guess it's obvious:)). I was really stumped for a meaningful gift to give my mother this year. This sounds rather cliche, but my mom is my rock (usually the one standing between me and the hard place). And this year, funds have been rather tight, what with my husband starting his business and all of the other BS that comes with being a solidly middle-class professional who can no longer afford anything. I couldn't afford to buy her all of the amazing things I wanted to and that she deserves, so I had to improvise. First of all, I made her a photobook filled with all of the adventures she had with me and my daughters this year. And then I also made her these.

Each plate features the lyrics of one of the songs or poems I remember her singing or reciting to me when I was a child, teenager, and then adult.

This was actually the plate on the bottom of the pile, because I know how much these lines mean to her ... and to me. They are from the Cat Stevens song "Oh Very Young," and they read thus: Oh very young, what will you leave us this time? You're only dancing on this earth for a short while. And though your dreams may toss and turn you now ... They will vanish away like your daddy's best jeans, denim blue fading up to the sky. And though you want him to last forever, you know he never will.. (you know he never will).. And the patches make the goodbye harder still.  
This one is from "I see the moon." Read my post about this poem and my mom here.  It reads: I see the moon and the moon sees me. Under the leaves of the old oak tree. Please let the light that shines on me, shine on the ones I love. Over the mountain, over the sea, back where my heart is longing to be. Please let the light that shines on me, shine on the ones I love.
This one, a little blurry, is from "There's a Light on in the Attic" by Shel Silverstein. Read my post about this poem here. There were more. These are the few I remembered to take pictures of:(.
She cried. And I felt a little less terrible about not being in a better place in my life where I could afford to show her how much I really do care. In case you are so inclined, here's how you can make your own:

1. Purchase plain white plates (I found some at Ikea, but you could also try your local dollar or craft store).
2. Clean the plate with Windex and a paper towel (and then avoid touching the surface of the plate. Any oil on the plate's surface will make the ink pull).
3. Using a black oil-based Sharpie, write the lyrics on the plate (I chose a circle pattern, but you could use whatever layout you want).
4. Decorate with your own flourishes using a gold oil-based Sharpie (available in packs at Michael's, Jo-Ann's, etc.).
5. Let the plates dry completely and then bake at 350 degrees. If the writing has pulled together at all, go over the writing again.

Oh, and I also made these one-liners for my mother-in-law. I think I just might make myself a set next:).

Have fun! A/J
Sharpie oil-based pens. Like, the coolest things I have discovered since I was, like, 13. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The 2014 Tip Jar

A quick post tonight. Because I can't sleep again. Shocker.

One thing I loved when I was in my twenties and bartending my life and intelligence away was the tip jar. Counting up the tips at the end of the night was hugely satisfactory. I have to say, I would have been a bartender for life if I wasn't absolutely certain my looks would go (I didn't want to end up an elderly barmaid like some of the women I knew ... short shorts and cropped tops past the age of forty, even thirty-five, is just unfortunate).

So, when my husband shared this idea on Facebook tonight, I thought, this is kind of like the tip jar, only better. How much joy might one get out of counting up a whole year's worth of good returns? A/J

Via It's a Lovely Life 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Rap Sheet: The Gift/New Year's Eve Edition

We're all recovering from the holidays here at the Nest (my husband and I just completed a rather stellar rendition of "I like big guts and I cannot lie" mixed with "He's got big guts... She's got big guts ... but we've got the biggest ... guts of them all," which basically explains how we feel about our physical condition at the moment). Here's this week's Rap Sheet, filled with our favorite gifts and fun ideas for New Year's Eve. Enjoy! A/J
These candles from Manly Indulgence, which, if I am being perfectly honest, I bought for myself. They smell delicious and come in scents like "5 o'clock Shadow," "Leather Boots," "Fresh Shave," "Humidor," and "Woodshop." You can find them on ebay, but I found mine at the local T.J. Maxx for $7.99 (much less than what's available online, where they go for between $25-$30). 
These specially designed bracelets, gifts from my mom. Get your own "We're all mad here" Alice in Wonderland bracelet from Foxwise: Hand-Stamped Jewelry for Cool People
I now have my very own "From the Library of" stamp, courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law. Get your own from MJs Art Stamps. Oh, and the book Witches of Pennsylvania too. Score! 
This traditional schnerenschnitte cutting of the Mad Hatter's table from Pittsburgh artist Kathryn Carr. Check out her website to order your own cutting or print
I seriously want to live in my local Anthropologie store (minus the over-coiffed rich bitches who clearly have way too much money to appreciate the cleverness of the displays). This book arch from Anthropologie is divine. I have no idea how to construct it. But I want it. Like yesterday. 
While we're on Anthropologie, you should buy this journal for the new year, Q&A a Day: 365 Questions, 5 Years, 1,825 Answers, which I found there last year. I have actually filled out each entry in this book for the past year. And I am an absolutely terrible journaler. You can find it here
To close up shop, some fun ideas for New Year's Eve. We stay in and revel in our family. Here's a few things that will make the revelry all the more festive. Hand-crafted flutes from Pop Sugar
Sparkle and Shine drink stirrers from Pizzazzerie
Gold-"leafed" balloons to decorate the living room (from Balloontime)
And, last but not least, these chalkboard party hats from My Sister's Suitcase. These have 2013 written all over them:). 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Brother, the Blogger

I never, ever, in a million years thought I would hear myself saying those words. But here he is:)! My brother has started the blog Tattooed Trout Bum. Give him a read. Much love, A/J

My brother, the blogger.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Owl's Skull!! (Our Favorite Presents 2013)

Merry Christmas from all of us at The Owl's Skull!! We're cuckoo over Christmas:). 
What a day! I'm now enjoying what might be my favorite part of the entire Christmas event - enjoying a glass (or two) of wine in my chair while watching my oldest daughter arrange all her gifts and my youngest give her dad explicit directions about how to put together her Doc McStuffins Get Better Check-Up Center while he cusses out the makers of said toy. It's my version of that scene at the end of A Christmas Story when the mom and dad sit gazing out the window at the snow past the brilliantly lit-up Christmas tree.

This, friends, is the life. On that note, here were our favorite gifts this year.

Santa spoiled Miss Maggie with the American Girl doll Saige. She has been playing with it all day. 
Yes, this is electric sex gleaming in our front window. And also my husband's favorite gift. 
Sophia is over the moon about her Doc McStuffins table. (This is also proof of the organizational session currently going on in my living room). 
She also really liked her kitchen. "Yes!" Now she can "make" with me when I cook dinner. 
I also have a hard time picking. I got a really awesome down army-green jacket from my husband (not pictured here:(. Too lazy LOL). I also got this new piece for my Alice china collection. I really love the quotation on this particular piece. It reminds you not to wallow in your sorrows, because it doesn't do you any good.
My new bracelets from my mom. They say "We're all mad here" and "You are my sunshine." My mom is the bomb:). 
One more thing, this is my brother's Christmas card. It might be his favorite gift this year, as it's a bobblehead groom that his new wife had made in his likeness (from pictures sent to the company) to put on his groom's cake. It really looks like him, which is fairly hilarious:). 
So, happy, happy holidays from all of us to all of you. I hope today was merry and bright:)!! A/J

This picture right here =s satisfaction:). 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Last-Minute DIY Gifts: Cookie Plates for Santa

I was inspired this week, after reading this post about her Cookies for Santa plate from Jenn at Rook No. 17 (seriously, follow her blog - such cute ideas!!), to try to make one for myself. I made a plate exactly like Jenn's for my kids (hers looks like this, which is great because Santa signs the plate on Christmas Eve). And then I wanted to make more of them! I especially wanted to do one for my niece and nephew, but I didn't want my sisters-in-law to have to worry about signing the plate on Christmas Eve if they didn't want to, and I wanted to give the kids something that could be their own special heirloom. So, long story short, I changed up Jenn's design a bit (adding black to the gold theme and changing the signature). Such a fun, quick gift to make, but one that can last a very long time.

DIY Cookies for Santa Plate
Check out Rook No. 17 for easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions. One note, when I baked our plates the black paint pulled together. I had to go over the black several times in order to make sure that the writing was solid. Also the gold ink tended to pull together in certain spots (make sure you clean the plates really well before starting and try to touch them as little as possible). Good luck! Have fun getting in that last-minute crafting;). A/J

Oh, and here's our stairway to Christmas heaven. I almost forgot!!

Decorated stairway for Christmas. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Rap Sheet

Well, I've had a pretty f'ed up day (Thursday... it's now Thursday night). Here's hoping tomorrow is better. On that note, here's the Rap Sheet. Putting it together was the one happy spot in my day (besides my daughter saying, "I'm so glad I can roll my tongue into a hot-dog bun"). TGIF!! A/J

First up, this commanding book bag from Joy St. Claire. I really need a new tote for my class books, and this one seems perfect. 
What could be more delicious than an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed pocket watch? Yes, please. 
If you missed my I-Hate-the-Elf-on-the-Shelf post, you won't understand why I love this photo so much. If you read it, yeah, you get it. 
This gentleman on the subway, whose poem was included in the 365 Day Subway: Poems by New Yorkers project, is an old friend of mine. I remember many sodden, but thoughtful and thought-provoking conversations with him in our dinner club (more on this another time). This poem suits him to a T. You should read it, because it's very good.  
This dress. I want an excuse to wear it.
This toboggan. I'm obsessed with it. Does anyone else call them toboggans? #sledonyourhead
So, I felt like this old bitch in the shoe throughout much of the day today. There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. / She had so many children she didn't know what to do. / She gave them so broth without any bread, / and then she whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed. Just miserable. #nowhippingthough #dontbelieveinit #butclose ... I should have had this t-shirt
I really like the idea of the Kindness Elves. I just might do this next year (God knows I could be kinder myself). Read more about them at The Imagination Tree
If you are a reader, you absolutely must take this test. I'm a mix between Little House and the Babysitters' Club. 
This song about sums it up today. This used to be my ring tone. Come to think of it, I think it's going to be my ring tone again.