Sunday Funny

What Jeff Foxworthy has to say about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

If your Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you live in Pittsburgh.

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there, you live in Pittsburgh

If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you live in Pittsburgh

If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you live in Pittsburgh

If an old chair left in a cleared parking spot on a snowy street looks to you like a declaration of the sovereignty over that spot, you live in Pittsburgh

If 'Jumbo' doesn't refer to a fictional elephant but means a kind of luncheon meat, you live in Pittsburgh

If you can both 'go up street' or 'dawntawn', you live in Pittsburgh

If Versailles is pronounced as if it is spelled 'versales', you live in Pittsburgh

If 'Vacation' means going anywhere south of the Mason Dixon line for the weekend, you live in Pittsburgh

If you measure distance in hours, you live in Pittsburgh

If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day and back again, you live in Pittsburgh

If someone offers you an 'ahrn' and you know to drink it, you live in Pittsburgh

If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you live in Pittsburgh

If you carry jumper cables in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you live in Pittsburgh

If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you live in Pittsburgh

If the speed limit on the highway is 55 mph - you're going 80 and everybody is passing you, you live in Pittsburgh

If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you live in Pittsburgh

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you live in Pittsburgh

If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you live in Pittsburgh

If you find 10 degrees 'a little chilly', you live in Pittsburgh

If you actually understand these jokes...you live in Pittsburgh!



I Heart Faces - Saturday Wrap Up

I'm trying to work ahead here and be organized for the I Heart Faces Challenge this week. So, here is my entry for "Places I Love" - The violinist at the foot of the Sacre Coeur atop Montmartre overlooking the city of Paris:

paris, originally uploaded by hopestudios1.

I was having a wonderful time climbing the 100+ steps and touring the cathedral, but when I pulled out my camera to photograph the violinist, he posed in a most french way and I knew I'd finally arrived in my dream destination...Paris, France. Everything came together in this moment and it was picture perfect@

Saturday Wrap Up

Hope Studios This Week

Well, we're movin' and shakin' over here at Hope Studios The Shop. Here are the custom orders I've completed for this week.

My Munchkin got 2 staples in his head in the ER on Wednesday after tumbling from his chair in big, bad 1st grade. Chalk up one more injury for the baby books...

And Slim Goodbody showed up at our school for an assembly. Yep, Slim. Goodbody.

The Slim Goodbody I remember looked like this (from Captain Kangaroo Days):

And the one that visited our school looked like this (rumor is that it's a son of the first Slim):

Let's just say that the years haven't lessened the shock of viewing a grown man in a full body suit, Richard Simmons 'fro or not.



Home Alone - Feedback Friday

Leaving your children unattended is a topic that has been springing up all over the internet and television recently. Dr. Phil addressed it by sharing this story of a mother arrested for leaving her child in the car while she stood outside.

Anna Kournikova's 5 year old brother fell out a window when his mother recently left him unattended for almost an hour to run errands, and Her Bad Mother confessed doing it in her recent post Home Alone.

After researching online for state by state guidelines, I learned that most states have not addressed an specific age, but those that have list ages ranging from 8-14 - a pretty big range!

Now, each of these examples shows a difference in degree and intent. Is leaving a 5 year old home alone for an hour while you run errands the same as leaving a sick child inside the house while you run next door to pick up your preschooler? Is leaving a child alone in the parking lot of Walmart while you shop the same as jumping out for a quick second to put money in the Salvation Army bucket 2 car lengths away?

Should there be a zero tolerance policy regarding this practice? Does age play a factor, the distance away? Are you within eyesight or have you driven away in your car? Should the personality of the child be considered?

I began leaving my oldest son home alone for about 15-20 minutes at a time when he was 10. Now, at the age of 11 he can stay alone for about 1 1/2 hours during the daytime and he views this as a reward for good behavior. He loves to stay home alone and now even watches his brothers for a short period of time. They feel so independent and work hard to earn this reward. Is this neglect?

What about gardening when your infant is fast asleep inside? Running to the mailbox on the corner? Waiting at the bus stop for your older children? Leaving your kids in a locked car when you ran in to pay for gas? I've done all of these things when my children were very small. Am I neglectful?

When I read Her Bad Mother's "confession" about running across the street to pick up her preschooler I started to wonder. Does degree and intent count for anything in this matter or is it an open and shut case?

Come on, it's time for feedback!



My Goodwill Antique Settee Drama Revealed

Remember this post about the antique settee I found at Goodwill? Remember how excited I was? Remember all the pictures I showed you and advice I asked you?

Here it is in the store where I found it. A stranger put her two kids on it to save it while I paid - she was that excited for me!

Here it is posing in my driveway; neighbors came from near and far to behold her beauty. (Okay, it was more like neighbors stopped by on their way to the bus stop to ask what in the world I was up to this time.)

Well, this dang thing has been a thorn in my side since July and I finally have something to show you! But, let me share the whole sad story first.

First, I tried to strip off all the fabric and padding (which stunk like musty old lady house). BUT in order to do that I had to disassemble it...the whole damn thing...

It had all kinds of crazy screws and a million holes under the upholstery that let me know it had been recovered many, many times before.

The wood was almost black and was SUPER heavy. After some discussion with my mom, we determined it appeared to be handmade and must be made from walnut.

I continued to remove all the pieces since it seemed to have been upholstered with the pieces apart first, and then assembled. I'm not going to lie, there was lots of sweating and swearing. The Big Guy threatened to burn the thing several times and I defended her countless times.

It sat in the driveway for awhile, then in my garage, then in my basement for months. I'd work on it some then get frustrated and forget about it for awhile.

Finally, I sanded down all the woodwork and repainted it with everyone's favorite "Heirloom White".

I pleaded for help with fabric colors and Kimba helped me choose something from Fabric.com. Love that place!

I measured and cut and cried and stapled and recut and screamed and gave up about 25 times.

I finally felt like I was getting someplace and realized I couldn't remember how to reassemble it! Try as I might, I couldn't get the darn back reattached! All was lost, I supposed. $50 worth of fabric down the drain...

It sat in my basement for another 3 months...

Finally, last week, it occurred to me that I might have to just open my eyes to different possibilities. How could I work around this problem? It, literally, came to me in a dream...

Behold my Antique Settee Bench (with no back)!

Here I am with messy bed head trying her out for the first time in the morning sunlight...





Valentine Cut Out Cookies!

Are you in charge of your kids' Valentine Party at school this year? Do you just want to make a special treat for the ones you love? Here is your chance! This is a great cookie recipe. It is chewy and strong enough to decorate without breaking.

Rolled Butter Cookies

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
parchment paper

Either by hand or with electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes with mixer set at medium speed. Add yolk, beat well, then add whole egg and vanilla; continue beating until well incorporated. Add flour; beat at low speed until flour is just mixed in. Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (Can be refrigerated up to 2 days or double wrapped and frozen 1 month)

Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375°. Remove one disk of dough from refrigerator and cut in half. Return unused portion of dough to refrigerator.

Lightly flour work surface; roll dough to 1/8 inch thick, using thin metal spatula to loosen dough. Sprinkle surface and rolling pin lightly with flour as needed to keep dough from sticking.

Cut or form dough into desired shape. Place dough shapes 1/2 inch apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake, reversing cookie sheets (from top to bottom and back to front) halfway through baking time, until evenly golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

Use thin-bladed spatula to immediately transfer cookies to cooling rack. Cool to room temperature. Repeat rolling, cutting and baking remaining dough. Decorate cooled cookies with royal icing, if desired and transfer to an airtight container. (Cook's Illustrated)


As always, begin with room temperature ingredients

When mixing the dough, mix until just combined with the flour. Over mixing will result in tough cookie. There are scientific "gluten" reasons I can't recall right now, just trust me.

If you think the dough is too sticky, never add additional flour , just throw it in the fridge to stiffen up before rolling.

The best way to avoid "blobby" cookies that don't retain their shape, is to cut out the shapes, then pop them into the freezer for about 10 minutes before baking. You could add additional flour to achieve the same result, but you will be sacrificing flavor and texture.

Time to decorate, my favorite part!

I like to mix up my confectioner's sugar icing (you know, sugar, vanilla, and milk) to a thick consistency and put a few spoonfuls into a Ziploc baggie. You can then pipe an outline of the shape onto the cookie to correct any "blobbiness" that occurred during baking. It also provides a guide when you add the colored icing.

Using the remainder of the icing, thin it a bit and add coloring. Use this to fill in your outline. You can use a toothpick to help fill in the edges. Sometimes, I fill another baggie with colored icing and pipe it inside. The kids really like this part.

Thin down the remaining icing in the baggie, and pipe a squiggle or a rough shape. Here we were decorating hearts, so I piped a loose heart on top to finish the cookie. If you do this when the icing is not yet set, they two will melt into each other for a cool effect.


How to Clean Your Bling! Tutorial Tuesday

My sister-in-law taught me this trick years ago (thanks Lisa!), and I've cleaned my wedding rings this way ever since. Why spend the money on the kits they sell at the jeweler when you can get professional looking results at home? For reals!

Let's Clean Your Bling, Baby!


One cup of water
1/2 Tbsp. powdered laundry detergent (don't use anything with bleach, I use plain ol' Arm & Hammer )
Small sauce pan

**(Disclaimer: I have only used this method with my own rings that are gold and diamond with platinum settings. I don't know how this process would work with a silver, white gold, or platinum ring or other stones.)

Combine the water, detergent, and your rings in the pan.


Place over the burner...It's so scary! I know! Let it come to a boil.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...

Let bubble on low for about 5 minutes.

Rinse and pat dry:

and walk around gesturing wildly with your sparkly bling!



I Heart Faces

I was mentioned on I Heart Faces last week! Here is my entry for the theme "Family":

And here is my entry for this week, "Texture":

texture, originally uploaded by hopestudios1.

Remember my post about the grease floating in the pan?

My Hope Studios Etsy Shop is Back up and Running!

New at Hope Studios, originally uploaded by hopestudios1.

Oh, was that holiday break I took from Thanksgiving to New Year's relaxing! I got a lot done around this place, I spent some quality time with my family, and just chilled. But, all good things must come to an end...and I have to admit, I was getting the creative itch to get myself up and running again. I missed my Etsy Shop!

I promised some new designs upon my return, and I can introduce them now! Drum roll please.....

For your "fur babies" I've designed a line of pet frames with paw prints worked into the background. This design is available in my 20x20 inch and 16x16 inch frames, as well as my 12x12 inch plaques.

As with all my frames and plaques, color, font, and quote are custom. Click here to take a look, or email me at jsneill@zoominternet.net.

I've heard from several professional photographers over the years, and their main request is for a frame to accommodate a larger photo. So, for all of you with professional or group photos, I introduce my Custom Memory Frame for an 8x8 inch photo. This size is easily cropped from an ordinary 8x10. You likey?

I have introduced a smaller Family Tree for those of you who want something for your immediate families. It's just right with a smaller 16x16 inch size and room for 2 - 8 leaves!

And finally, back after popular demand, the Affirmation Mirrors you might remember from the benefit I hosted in October. I try to choose uplifting, confidence boosting quotes for you to read while looking at yourself. Love yourself, girl!

I have several for sale right now over at Hope Studios The Shop, so click here to take a look.

And to give you a little background if you're not familiar with my shop, I keep it small because I believe in quality vs. quantity. I could pump out a crap load of cheap frames, but I spend time communicating with each customer to find just the right combo of colors, fonts, and quotes and then sit down and hand paint each and every one by hand on a solid wood frame.

I don't use stickers or vinyl cricut letters and I don't use stencils. For this reason, I have a huge returning customer base and boy, do I love those folks! I'm thankful to be a part of their happy family moments - marriages, new babies, anniversaries. I get to hear the stories and learn about their lives, and in many cases, we've become friends who communicate regularly.

So, in one respect I want to use this time to let you know I'm here and open for business, but I also want to thank my customers from the past year (I know some of them read here). Thank you for including me in your lives and happy memories. Thank you for updating me on the new arrivals and family stages. Thank you most for trusting me to help capture your precious memories.



Sunday Funny

This email I received from my mom sums it all up. I'm going to use it as the body of an open letter to all those who regularly send me emails:

Dear Friends,

I just want to thank all of you for your educational e-mails over the past year. I am totally screwed up now and have little chance of recovery.

I no longer open a public bathroom door without using a paper towel.

I no longer have lemon slices in my ice water at a restaurant without worrying about the bacteria on the lemon peel.

I can't use the remote in a hotel room because I don't know what the last person was doing while flipping through the adult movie channels.

I can't sit down on the hotel bedspread because I can only imagine what has happened on it since it was last washed.

I have trouble shaking hands with someone who has been driving because the number one pastime while driving alone is picking one's nose (although cell phone usage may be overtaking the number one spot).

Eating a little snack sends me on a guilt trip because I can only imagine how many gallons of trans fats I have consumed over the years.

I can't touch any woman's purse for fear she has placed it on a public bathroom floor.

SPECIAL THANKS to whoever sent me the one about poop in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet sponge with every envelope that needs sealing.

ALSO, I have to scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.

I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl Penny Brown who is about to die in the hospital for the 1,387,258th time.

I no longer have any money at all, but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Bill Gates/Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their e-mail program.

I no longer worry about my soul because I have 363,214 angels looking out for me..

I no longer eat KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers.

I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.

THANKS TO ALL OF YOU I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an e-mail to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.

I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains.

I no longer can buy gasoline without taking someone along to watch the car so a serial killer won't crawl in my back seat when I'm pumping gas.

I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr. Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put 'Under God' on their cans.

I no longer use Saran Wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer.

THANKS FOR LETTING ME KNOW I can't boil a cup of water in the microwave anymore because it will blow up in my face... disfiguring me for life.

I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with a needle infected with AIDS.

I no longer go to shopping malls because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.

I no longer receive packages from UPS or Fed Ex since they are actually Al Qaeda in disguise.

I no longer shop at Target since they are French and don't support our American troops or the Salvation Army.

I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica, Uganda , Singapore , and Uzbekistan ..

I no longer buy expensive cookies from Neiman Marcus since I now have their recipe.

THANKS TO YOU I can't use anyone's toilet but mine because a big brown African spider is lurking under the seat to cause me instant death when it bites my butt.

AND THANKS TO YOUR GREAT ADVICE I can't ever pick up $5.00 dropped in the parking lot because it probably was placed there by a sex molester waiting underneath my car to grab my leg.

I can no longer drive my car because I can't buy gas from certain gas companies!

I can't do any gardening because I'm afraid I'll get bitten by the brown recluse spider and my hand will fall off.

If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people

in the next 70 minutes, a large dove with diarrhea will land

on your head at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon and the fleas

from 12 camels will infest your backside, causing you to grow

a hairy hump. I know this will occur because it actually

happened to a friend of my next door neighbor's ex-mother-

in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician ......

Oh, by the way....A scientist from Argentina, after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain activity read their e-mail with their hand on the mouse.
Don't bother taking it off now, it's too late.


Disney Countdown Jar, Old School Rollerskating, and The World's Strongest Clown

I have a few odds and ends that couldn't make up whole posts by themselves, but I still wanted to share. Let's think of them as tidbits to round out the week, shall we?

My 7 year old has been packing his suitcase and practices pulling it through the house every day after school, so he's "ready to pull it through the airport" when we go to Disney. Um, we don't go until MARCH! March, people!

So, when crossing off days on the calendar seemed to leave him unfulfilled and unclear as to how to direct this overflowing excitement, I decided to take a page from The Treat Girl's gift of 365 Days of Happiness and make him his own jar of Disney Love!

I filled it with little slips of paper printed with all we love about Disney and some activities (eg: "Design a Disney ride and build or draw it!", "Walking down Main Street with the castle in front of us.", "Whizzing through the darkness inside Space Mountain!"). He can choose one each day. I hope it doesn't cause his head to blow off his shoulders with anticipation!

We went rollerskating this week on a rainy weekend day when we couldn't ski. It. Was. High-larious.

And finally, I exercised with the World's Strongest Clown. For real. You think I jest? Behold...

Rumor has it he's a clown/adult entertainer, and that makes me shudder for all the wrong reasons.

Have a great weekend!



2010 - Feedback Friday

There is a rising controversy brewing...um, on Twitter (hey, don't judge). It seems that there are two factions pitted against each other. I haven't exactly made up my mind which way I'm going yet on this particular hard hitting issue. Soooo, for Feedback Friday, I have to know:

Are you a
"two thousand ten" kind of person or a "twenty ten" girl?

What?!? You thought this was something about life in space, world peace, or vaccines or something? Come on, I thought you knew me better!


A Room with a View - Recycle an Old Window

So, I'm at my girlfriend's house (Joy Beadworks) and on my way through the garage I see an old window propped up to the side.

I'm all "Hey, what's with the window?"

She's all "Oh, I got it from a friend and have run over it several times with my car. Want it?"

I'm all "Hell to the yeah!"

And...it was mine. Just like that. The Big Guy failed to see it's beauty:

My bloggy pal Holly Rocks mentioned on one of my kitchen window decor posts that she has no window over her kitchen sink. No window! Gasp!

She just got married, and we never sent a gift...so let's teach her how to make one, shall we?

Find a cool old window your friend has run over with her car, or check out your local Reuse Center, here is mine called Construction Junction. You can find one near you HERE.

Now just look around your own neighborhood for a beautiful scene. One you would want to look out upon every day. Like one of these I took skiing last week:

I chose my photo, and enlarged it to 16x20 at Ritz, removed the broken glass, and attached it to the back of the window. Ta da!

See my room with a view?

If you haven't entered my Blogiversary Giveaway yet Click Here to enter.

Your Skin Fix, December Edition