Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Inspiration

This photo from an old issue of Cottage Living inspires me. It's a similar color palate to my house and I love the natural, earthy look to the Christmas decor. I'll post some pictures of my decorations soon and see if I get anywhere close to this look.  

I hope you're having fun digging out the decorations and finding ways to keep things "simple." I think simplicity might just be the biggest challenge this time of year.  Just remember this season of God's gift to the world passes so quickly. Isn't it the one we should savor the most?  Let's try to hold on to each moment and enjoy, rather than rushing through just to get it all done. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Jesse Tree

Good Monday morning friends!  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!  We had a very low-key holiday which was so much of what I needed. One of my favorite parts of our long weekend was getting my Christmas decorations up. I looooooove the sights, smells and sounds of Christmas. I'll be sharing a lot about all things Christmas over the next couple of weeks, but I want to start with my favorite Christmas tradition.  

Starting December 1, we will do a family devotional each night called "The Advent Jesse Tree." The book provides devotions for December 1 - December 25, when God's purpose was finally revealed through the coming of the savior, Jesus Christ. Each devotion traces the heritage of Christ through the stories and prophesies of the Old Testament. The daily devotions are written in two versions - one for children and one for adults.  It is such wonderful way to keep the focus on Christ each day of this busy Christmas season. 

The above picture shows what you'll need - the book, some sort of tree and ornaments that coincide with each day's devotion. The ornaments are based on a symbol given each day. I just googled each symbol, printed the picture off and made the ornaments myself. My girls get to take turns hanging the ornament on the tree after each night's devotion. I will confess that last year I gave my girl's an M&M every time they got one of the questions from the devotion correct. Now, I am by no means an advocate of bribing children, but I will say when it comes to learning the truth of God's Word, I don't think a sweet incentive can cause too much harm. 

If this interests you, now is the time to start printing/drawing/making your ornaments. Can you believe December 1 is only two days away?

Friday, November 26, 2010


Happy day after Thanksgiving folks. I hope your bellies are recovering, but your hearts are still full. Here is a picture of our "I'm thankful tree." It's such a sweet snapshot of the many, many things we have to be thankful for. 

I'll be back next week with some Christmas decor ideas. Have a great weekend. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gift Tutorial #12: Chalkboard Blooms

So this is my grande finale....chalkboard blooms. I love, love, love this idea! As much as I cringe not to show you one I actually made (for the sake of demonstrating how easy it really is), life hasn't afforded me much extra time this week (who am I kidding; does life ever give me extra time?). But, I couldn't give up sharing the idea just because I had not made one myself.

Here is a link to this adorable chalkboard pot. This one holds paper white bulbs, but any plant, flower or herb would be precious in this little guy.  Notice the tray in the background. It's definitely got me thinking about what things around my house could be repurposed as cute chalkboards. I bought some paint for a large chalk board I made a while back. I think I need to dust off the can and get busy.

So, this wraps up the 12 Day of Gift Tutorials. I hope you've found something(s) that will make your gift giving easy, affordable and personal this year and in years to come.

I'm probably going to take a blogging hiatus this week since my girls are out of school....we are focusing on jammie mornings, board games, Thanksgiving crafts and all things fun. I'm sure I'll have to throw laundry, groceries and cleaning my house in the mix too, but maybe I'll take a hiatus from those things also (wishful thinking).

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving week and get to spend sweet, meaningful time with family and/or friends.

One more thing...I truly am thankful for you all.  I don't know who all of you are, but you are definitely a source of encouragement to me. Your comments, emails and FB messages about the blog always bless me and spur me on to continue sharing. Thank you!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gift Tutorial #11: Christmas Blessing Mix

Good morning friends!  I hope everyone had a delightful weekend. We celebrated Thanksgiving early since my parents were in town. I'm still full. Little Jack (that's what we've decided to name our little guy) doesn't leave much room for big meals. But, he does leave room for lots of snack and that is what this gift idea is - a quite yummy little snack packed full of meaning.  

Introducing Christmas Blessing Mix.  I got the idea from this post, but thought I'd adjust it for Christmas. I've include the "recipe" and the list of what each ingredient symbolizes below.

Here's a close up of the finished product - a little cheesy, I admit. I'm going to package others in cellophane bags with raffia for a simpler look. 

Here is a profile shot, so you can better see the goodies in the mix. 

Here is the list of meanings that I'll be giving along with mine.  I've included them below, so you can actually read them. 

Here is what is in the mix. I did not use any particular measurements.....

Red and Green M&Ms
Sunflower Seeds
Dried Cranberries

Here's what each ingredient symbolizes:

This is something really fun to let your kids help with. Isn't it sweet how proud they are when they help you put something together? Plus, it's just another opportunity to share Biblical Truth with them; that's a gift in itself. 

Eleven down, one to go.....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jumping the Gun

So I kind of jumped the gun on the Thanksgiving wishes. We're celebrating this weekend while my parents are in town, so I've been in getting in "the mode" a bit early.  Like I said, I'll finish up the 12 Gift Tutorials next week and then I'll wish you Happy Thanksgiving in a more timely manner.  I guess if I think about it, every day should be Thanksgiving.  Is there ever a day we should not thank God for the gifts He's so lavishly bestowed on us? Have a great weekend!

Turkey Day Countdown Crafts

Need some fun crafts to keep the kiddos entertained while they're off for Thanksgiving break? Here are some cute options, many of which will help you set the table or decorate for your Turkey Day feast.  Just click on the link below each picture to get to the directions.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. In the midst of the madness be sure to stop, look around and give thanks to the God from whom all good things come (James 1:17). 

I'll finish up the 12 Days of Gift Tutorials next week.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gift Tutorial #10: S'more Kits

Confession: I threw this together in about three seconds flat, which was just slightly faster than the amount of time it took me to eat the s'more I made after I snapped the picture.  As a result, it isn't the packaging wow that I would usually attempt. But, I do think the concept is cute, especially if you spice it up a bit. If I had more time this week, I would have presented you with something like this:

Pretty darn cute, huh?  The website shows far more pictures and gives detailed instructions on assembling the kit. If you really wanted to step it up a notch, you could replace the store bought with homemade marshmallows. I made some for little one's birthday party one year and they are not too difficult and mighty tasty. How good does a s'more sound on a cold day like today????

Ten down, two to go.....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gift Tutorial #9: Practical Paper Napkins

I laughed to myself when I typed the title of this post, as if it should even be classified as a tutorial. All you need to know for this one is how to go to the store and how to tie a bow.  But, I have given this gift to teachers in the past and they really to seem to like it. I think it's because it's something they can most certainly use.....Christmas Napkins.

The year I gave this, I had shopped the previous year's after Christmas sales and stocked up on Christmas Napkins at half-off or more.  So it truly was a very budget friendly gift. Even without the sales, you can find darling napkins for very little money.  Tuesday Morning, Target, Marshalls, TJ Maxx and even Big Lots have cute options. Teachers, friends and neighbors will all have a reason to use napkins - be it a Christmas party, a brunch, afternoon tea, or even just a festive dinner (this also makes a great hostess gift).

Don't forget that you can print off a darling reindeer gift tag here and tie it on to the ribbon with a note. Nine down, three to go......

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Progressive Learning

I want to take a quick minute to tell you about something we did this afternoon. As I've shared before, my oldest can get bored, discouraged and turned off by my "traditional" ways of teaching her. As a result, I have to come up with some fun ways to review what she's learning at school and introduce new things. Today was a day of review.  I did it "progressive" style and here is what it looked like.

1. We started in the kitchen with a pile of letter flash cards on the floor. The girls' job was to put them in the order of the alphabet.

2. Next we moved to reading room (it's really just our formal living room, but "reading room" sounds so much more functional) and reviewed all our phonograms.

(I couldn't get an action shot, since I hold up the phonograms)

3. Next we moved to the family room and the girls had to put our number flash cards in order from 1-100.

(She was so proud. We lost little sister to a balloon).

4. Then to the dining room table to work on some patterns with the manipulatives I shared with you a few months ago.

5. Finally to the play room where they received their prize for hard work - candy window clings from the Target dollar spot. It's funny how candy anything seems like such a treat.

(Sorry this is so dark, but the pose was irresistible.)

(notice oldest's bike in the background with a car seat on the back. And yes, that is a carpool sign in the front. I swear she is going to force me to retire from my "mom" job early.)

You'll notice that I didn't do anything fancy with the way we reviewed things today.  Just moving around the house and anticipating what was next made it more fun.  So, if you need something to spice homework/schooling/reviewing up a bit, you might give "progressive learning" a try.

Gift Tutorial #8: Personalized Stationery

This might be cheating a bit since I'm basically just copying a post from a while back.  If you recall, these letters and many more are available for free download. You have to do some scrolling, but there are some darling/beautiful/fun fonts to chose from - one of which I'm sure fits the letter and personality of someone on your gift list.  Letter writing is sadly becoming a lost art, so I like to encourage it as much as possible. Personalized stationery always makes sending notes more fun. 

So, find the letter of your choice, add a little border and print it on some simple white fold-over cards.  If you're interested in doing this and need more in-depth directions, leave a comment and I'll follow-up.

Eight down, four to go......

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gift Tutorial #7: Peppermint Hot Cocoa

I hope you all had a wonderful Fall weekend. We enjoyed ourselves and are settling back into the Monday groove. With the cooler weather, we've been enjoying lots of hot chocolate. This is a yummy twist on something that is yummy to start with.  Let's start with some repurposed bottles and the recipe.  


3 soft peppermint sticks (I used the small soft peppermint candies and crushed them giving me a about 1/2 c.)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup instant nonfat dry milk. 
3/4 cup powdered non-dairy coffee creamer
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Mix it all together and you're done.  Stir about 3 Tbs. of mix into one cup of warm milk, sip and enjoy!

Now go back a few posts to the link to the reindeer gift cards. Print one and write the directions on the back. Tie it to your bottle, folk, and you have darling gift. I'm giving mine with a pack of the gift tags.

Can't get much easier than that, can you?  Seven down, five to go.....

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gift Tutorial #6: Sugar and Spice

So this isn't that original, but it's good, easy and something I think people really like....spiced pecans. I must warn you before I give you the recipe. I probably ate half of the pan you see below before I packaged any as gifts.  This baby boy likes spiced pecans, that's for sure (along with french fries and potato chips - yikes!).  

Let's start with the recipe:

2 C. pecans (I think). I just bought a pack at Walmart and used the whole thing. 
3 Tb. Brown Sugar
1 Tb. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
pinch of Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
3/4 tsp. Salt, plus more for after baking
3/4 tsp. Dried Chili Flakes
1 large Egg White. 
Generous pinches of each of the spices to sprinkle over the top before baking. 

Place rack in center of oven and preheat at 350. Grease a cookie sheet and set aside. Mix together sugar and spices and set aside. Whip egg white until frothy, add nuts and toss. Add spices and mix as thoroughly as possible. Spread nuts on baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with more seasonings (I just eye-balled it). Bake for 7 minutes, remove from oven and stir.  Bake another 5 minutes and stir again. Bake 3 more minutes. Add salt to taste if needed. 

Here is what they look like while they are baking. They should be nicely browned, but be careful not to overcook. 

I packaged mine in canning jars, but cellophane bags would be cute too. They just need to be stored in an airtight container to stay fresh.

Next I made a label and tied a simple bow. I have to admit, the packaging underwhelms me. But at this point I'd eaten so many that I was desperate to get them all sealed up and ready for someone else.

Beyond giving these as gifts, they'd be great to set out before Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner. They have just the right amount of sugar and spice.  Six down, six to go!!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gift Tutorial #5: Preservative Free Popcorn

I gotta tell ya, I love this one. Why? Because it's cute, cheap, yummy and preservative free.  We love us some good fresh popcorn, but I don't love all the additives that come in microwave bags.  When I saw a way to use paper bags in a magazine, I knew it would make a great gift.  

1. Target has these cuties in the dollar spot right now: 2 for $1.00. Perfect. 

2. Here we have a folded up paper bag and a bag of raw popcorn kernels.  For the kernels, I used a bag that I had left over from some chocolate covered pretzel sticks that I never got around to making.

3. Now here is the good stuff: m&ms, craisins and marshmallows. I put these in left-over lollipop bags that I actually did make for the 4th of July.

4. Put it all together and here's what you get - a movie night waiting to happen. To step it up a notch, you could add a Blockbuster card or movie theater gift card.  I wrote the popping directions on my brown paper bag.  They are included below.

Popping Directions:  Put 1/4 cup of kernels in a brown paper bag. Fold down the top a few times and microwave for 2-3 minutes, or until popping slows.  Add the mix-ins of choice and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gift Tutorial #4: Something Sparkly

Okay, so this isn't sparkly in the glitter or jewel sense, but it's fun none-the-less and oh-so-easy.  I put this one together for a hostess gift, but the colors could easily be adjusted for Christmas cheer.

So many grocery stores have such fun beverages these days. This one was at Whole Foods for 3 for $4.00.  It's lemongrass mint vanilla sparkling water.  It's interesting. All I did was tie a bow on the bottle and hot glued an acorn on it.  For Christmas, I would have used red and green ribbon and glued a tiny ornament, pine cone or piece of candy.  I've also made one for my oldest's teacher and included a tag that says, "we think you sparkle."  This is a great option for super budget friendly gift.

Four down, eight to go.....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Finally, I have my new and improved office space in the laundry room.  Last I mentioned it, we were going to do the magnetic paint, which I still think is a very cool option. But, when we read the can carefully there were repeated warnings about the toxic fumes.  Being with child and all, this was not a good option for me.  My sweet hubby offered to do all the painting, but when he opened the can the fumes were so overwhelming that he didn't even want me breathing it from any distance. So, back to plan A.

Friends, it is with great pleasure and pride in my hubby/handyman, that I introduce you to my new space.....

Check out the function of this magnet wall (technically, it is 16 gage galvanized steel that was cut to fit).

Ahhhhh......order, I love it!!!!

There is so much room left to hang invitations, appt. reminders, etc. I smile. 

I insisted that my husband stand in the room and share a moment with me this morning. He loves doing the work, I love the outcome. What a great "team" we are!!  So finally, we can check this on off his our list.

Gift Tutorial #3: Gift Tags

This has got to be one of the easiest gifts of all. All you have to do is print and cut.  How cute would a cellophane bag filled with these be? Plus, it would help your teacher, friend or neighbor be one step closer to Christmas gift wrap success.  

Just follow the links below the picture to get the printable .pdf.  These are compliments of eatdrinkchic.com.

Three down, nine to go.......

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"I'm Thankful" Tree

I'm interrupting the 12 Days of Gift Tutorials to share something we're doing at our house to get ready for Thanksgiving. I love using the entire month of November (even though I'm starting a wee bit late) to get in the mind-set of thankfulness. It's so easy for me to get caught up in what I don't have and lose sight of how extreeeeeemely blessed I really am.  A daily reminder of what we are thankful for is good medicine in a "want more" society. And, I desperately want my girls to have attitudes of gratitude. Below is how I put together our "I'm thankful" tree. 

1. I started with this Acorn clipart. I dumped it into a program, sized it and fit nine to a page for easy printing. If you'd like me to send you that .pdf, I'm happy to, just leave a comment with your email address.

2. I let my girls color all the acorns (I did some too) and then my oldest and I cut them all out. Here is what we ended up with.

2. Next I punched holes in the top of the acorns and make twine loops, so I can hang them on our "tree."

3. Then I found a dead tree in our alley and broke off several branches. 

 4. I stuck them in my container, using a styrofoam ball to hold them in place.

5. Once I had all my twigs in place, I filled my container with old book pages (I didn't have many options laying around, but the pages worked just fine). 


6. Then I stuffed all the acorns around the base. I think they look cute and I needed a place to store them. 

7. Now our "I'm thankful" tree sits on our kitchen island. Each night at dinner I bring an acorn to the table and write on it one thing we are each thankful for. From there I hang the acorn on our tree. By Thanksgiving, we'll have a tree full of reminders of the many things God has blessed us with. 

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.                            1 Chronicles 29:13