Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Motivation: Gift Solutions

Now that you've made your lists and gotten your Christmas cards together it's time to work on the gifts. If you're like me you've squirreled a few gifts away during the year. Maybe some of you have even completed your shopping. If so, good for you! I'm not that organized yet. I actually like to do some shopping around the holidays. There's just something about the hustle and bustle of shopping that puts me in the holiday spirit. But. . . I can only take a little bit of that hustle and bustle.


So, here are a few ideas to help you tie this task up with a shiny, festive bow:

1. Refer to your list of people you intend to give presents to. Don't forget those extra gifts for office or school gift exchanges.

2. Order as many gifts as you can on line. Right now many stores are having sales and some even offer free shipping.

3. If you'll be making some of your gifts, be sure you have all of your craft supplies on hand.

4. If you'll be shipping gifts, make sure to have the proper sized mailing boxes or envelopes.

5. Set up a wrapping station in your home. I use a corner of my office/craft room. Don't forget tape, scissors, tags, and paper.

6. Check off your wrapped gifts on your gift list. If you will be hiding them after wrapping them, be sure to write down where you hide them! We've hidden gifts at our neighbors house when our children were in the "sleuthing" stage.

7. While you're out shopping it's a good idea to pick up gifts ahead of time for future gifts. I've purchased non-holiday picture frames, candles, and stationary to have on hand for people.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Advent Calendar: The next generation

Well, I finally finished the new advent calendar for my grandsons. I modeled it after the one I made for my own children 22 years ago. I used the basic pattern but changed a few of the details.
I made Christmas ball ornaments instead of hearts. I also added number tags and old buttons from Great Oma's button box.

The packages at the bottom of the calendar sport larger buttons and enough room for gifts or extra special love letters.
If you're interested in making one of these, I've made a tutorial to share with you. Just give me a shout. Also, in the new year, I'll be opening an Etsy shop and these will be one of the items I'll be offering for sale.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Calendar wreath for Christmas


This past week I was invited to a friend's house for a "wreath party". This isn't just any wreath. It's an advent wreath that is focused on Christ. My friend, Amy, set up her dining room table with all of the items we needed to make this wreath. The only thing I had to bring was a pair of scissors, a quarter, and a wreath. I picked up my wreath at Michaels for $2.99.
We sat around card tables she set up around her home. As we arrived she handed us a piece of paper with a list of each day, what the token for that day was, and a Bible verse that explained the token. Each token was to be wrapped in tissue paper, dated, and tied onto the wreath with yarn.
I sat across the table from Amy's 8 year old daughter. She was making a wreath for a family at her church who's mother is undergoing cancer treatments. She made her wreath in 1/2 hour. It took me an hour. What can I say, but I'm a little slow.
If you'd like to make one, I've listed the Key below:
December 1 Mark 12:41-44
A quarter! That equals 25 cents. But 25 also stands for the number of days 'til Christmas, when God gave us His best present. Jesus told about one woman's gift and the way she gave it.
December 2 John 2:1-10
Grape gum! Grapes make jelly and juices, raisins and wine. But Jesus didn't need grapes to perform His first miracle.
December 3 Matthew 5:1-12
Smile sticker! A smile usually expresses happiness. Jesus gave us many instructions to keep us happy.
December 4 Luke 5:4-7
Gold Fish Cracker! Well, if you were surprised to find these fish, wait until you read the story today. Others were surprised to find fish, too.
December 5 Matthew 5:14-16
Birthday Candle! As you know, we are getting ready to celebrate Jesus' birthday. However, Jesus talked about something else that is related to this candle. Light!
December 6 Mark 7:31-37
Party Horn! You could make some noise with this, but it would not have bothered a certain man - until he met Jesus.
December 7 Matthew 14:13-21
Gold Fish Crackers! These would not go far if you were really hungry, but Jesus could make much out of little. Surely He knew how to multiply!
December 8 Matthew 8:23-27
Cotton Balls! These cotton balls would be helpful in a thunderstorm, wouldn't they? We could use them to muffle the loud noises that thunder makes. But we know someone who doesn't need cotton. Jesus can control the weather.
December 9 John 14:1-6
Piece of a map! People needing to use the other parts of this map are in trouble. Don't you get lost today!
December 10 John 9:1-7
Soap! Do you like to wash? Your hands and face? Behind your ears? Washing turned out to be a happy time for a man who met Jesus.
December 11 Matthew 22:37-40
Hearts! Wordlessly, they speak of love, don't they? Jesus spoke some commands about love.
December 12 Philippians 2:1-11
Cross! We use the cross as a symbol, representing Jesus. do you know why?
December 13 Matthew 5:13, Colossians 4:6
Salt! Yes, Jesus related salt to us and our behavior. He also gave us some advice. (notice He doesn't mention pepper!)
December 14 Matthew 7:24-29
Sand! Don't try to eat this. It reminds us that Jesus knows something about architecture,, about buildings, and building lives.
December 15 Matthew 6:28-34
Flowers! Flowers are pretty, aren't they? Jesus used flowers to teach us a reassuring lesson.
December 16 John 15:1-5
Raisins! Many children are given raisins instead of candy for a snack. That's because they are health-promoting and delicious fruit. Jesus told us how we can produce good fruit.
December 17 Matthew 13:3-8,18-23
Seeds! Jesus told a story about seeds that a man planted. then He explained it, revealing its deep meaning.
December 18 Psalm 100
Music notes! Christmas is just about a week away. And here is an appropriate song. Sing it loudly!
December 19 Matthew 4:1-4
A rock! Can you change this stone into a piece of bread? Do you think Jesus could? Jesus was asked to do that. Do you know how he handled it?
December 20 1 Corinthians 15:12
Aluminum Foil! Try to smooth out this piece of aluminum foil and use it as a mirror. It's hard to see your reflection plainly, isn't it? Many circumstances are hard to understand, but someday everything will be clear.
December 21 Matthew 17:20
Mustard Seed! The mustard seed is the smallest there is. When it sprouts, it grows into one of the largest plants. See what Jesus said.
December 22 Matthew 3:13-17
Dove! We've learned what the cross represents Christ, but do you know what the dove stands for?
December 23 John 10:7-18
Thread! the threads that compose this fabric came from the wool of a sheep. Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. Do you know who His sheep are?
December 24 John 3:16
A blue marble! Do you know what is sometimes called the "Big Blue Marble"? The world. god made the world for us. What does God continue doing to the world? And WHO is in the world?
December 25 Luke 21:20
A baby! Aren't babies cute? When a baby is born, he or she makes a whole family happy. Jesus was born a baby, too. He came to make the whole world happy.
It's the end of our Advent season but it isn't the end of learning about Jesus and His Word. Continue to learn about Jesus - and love Him forever! That's the best Christmas gift you could ever give to Him.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Motivation: Christmas cards

As we head into the week of Thanksgiving I can't help but think about what lies beyond. Thanksgiving comes a little later in November this year so it cuts into the time we "feel" like we have to get ready for Christmas. That said, we've got to get a jump on something that many people feel overwhelmed by - Christmas cards. Yup, those sweet little bits of card stock that relay Holiday wishes can totally undo a girl's goal to have a peaceful Christmas. I can remember in years past I would have panic attacks because I didn't have all of my 100 holiday cards addressed and mailed before December 23rd.

Over the years I've gotten a little perspective on this custom:

1. I reduced my list. Just because I sent my 2nd cousin a card in the past doesn't mean I have to send them one now. If I'm not close to them, then I don't send them one. If I see someone frequently throughout the year, I don't send them a card.

2. I simplified the card. I use to write a handwritten note (like my Grandma always did). Now I type a SIMPLE family letter and sign our names. Some people purchase pre-signed cards or photo cards and call it a day.

3. I shop early for my cards or I make them ahead of time. Not only do you get a better selection, but you don't have the hassle of overcrowded stores and panicked shoppers.

4. I buy Christmas stamps on-line and save myself the hassle of standing in the line at the post office.

5. If you haven't already taken your family photo, do it this weekend.

6. When you get your card list, cards, stamps, photos, and family letter together then you are ready to get down to business. Divide your total number of cards to send by 5 or 6. That number will give you the amount of cards you need to address each day for 5 or 6 days to get them done. (example: 50 cards divided by 5 nights equals 10 cards per night) I used to drag this process out and only do 2-3 cards a night. Let me just say that it takes a long time to get them done that way.

7. You don't have to sit at the dining room table to work on your cards. Carry them with you to your kids soccer practice, work on them while watching T.V., or finish them off while on hold waiting for the cable company to finally talk to you about your bill.

8. If this whole concept totally overwhelms you, just remember one thing - people are more important than things. No one will hate you if you don't send them a Christmas card.

Friday, November 20, 2009

TrailerSpy - Escaping the Vampire Kimberly Powers Book Trailer

My sweet friend, Kimberly Powers has written a book just for teen girls. It's just now available for sale. Kimberly has a ministry that continues to minister to teen girls every year. My two daughters were very blessed to have been a part of that ministry during their teen years. Check out the trailer for her new book below. Also, I've listed her book in my "favorites" section. It would make the perfect gift for a young lady.





TrailerSpy - Escaping the Vampire Kimberly Powers Book Trailer: "
"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Advent Calendar

I know, I know, it's not even Thanksgiving yet and here I am pulling out the advent calendar. Well, I had to pull it out of the closet because I needed to use it for a pattern to make an updated version for my grandsons.

This is the countdown calendar I made 22 years ago when my daughters were 2 and 6 years old. I didn't know how to sew very well. I just made it up as I went along. My girls (and 6 years later, my son) loved this special calendar. Every morning in December they would rush to find what note was in the heart for that particular day.




Each heart held a note about what special event was to take place that day. Sometimes it was a clue to find new hair bows or a piece of candy. Mostly it was a note stating what "Christmasy" activity we would partake in. Sometimes it was to read a Christmas story, or drink out of the Christmas mugs at dinner time. Sometimes we would bake cookies to take to a neighbor or take food to the food pantry collection center. Other times we would take a drive around the neighborhood and look at Christmas lights. The focus was on doing something together.
The last two pockets were in the "presents" under the felt tree.

Next week I'll show you my updated version for my grandsons. I almost have it finished. I've switched out the hearts for a different shape and added some antique family treasures too. Can't wait to show you.

I'm joining Jane at Finding Fabulous for her Frugalicious Friday. Check out her blog for great ideas. Also, I'm linking up with http://shabbynest.blogspot.com/2009/11/frugal-friday-linky-party.html.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wrensday: Fall Wreath update

I've been puttering again. I've had my fall wreath up for a few months now and I'm a little tired of looking at it.

Here it is in it's original state.


And here it is with a few additions. I added 5 little pumpkin picks evenly around the wreath. I think it adds a festive Thanksgiving touch. I bought these picks after Thanksgiving last year and they were only 33 cents apiece.





Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Here I go again. Hide the spraypaint.

Because I was stuck inside for 5 days straight I did a lot of "nesting". Because I did a lot of nesting, I got a little bit too obsessive about the finishes on some of my housewares. Because I became too obsessive about the finishes, I grabbed the spray paint. Who needs bright shiny lamps in a rustic house? Not me!


Here's the proof of what I did on the first sunny day after a wicked Nor'easter. Of course I used my Bronze spray paint. I have 4 cans of it stockpiled in my garage. What? You don't have a stockpile? Well, what are you waiting for?





Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Motivation: Clean Your Fridge and Freezer

Do you dread seeing my Monday Motivation every Monday morning? Do I bug you with my "to-do" list each week? Well, you're really going to hate me today. I'm going where no one wants to go. I'm going to the fridge and freezer.

Before you stock up on holiday foods for Thanksgiving and Christmas it would be to your benefit to clean out these two appliances.

Let's start with the fridge.

1. Drag your garbage can over to the fridge. Fill the sink up with warm, sudsy water.

2. Start on the door. Remove all of the bottles and containers. Wipe down every shelf with a dish cloth or sponge rinsed out in the warm water. Check over every container. Toss out anything that is expired, empty (it happens), or that your family will never eat. Replace remaining containers according to type (pickles with relish, jams with jellies, ketsup with mustard and mayo etc.)

3. Repeat step 2 with the fridge shelves. Be sure to pull out the crisper drawers and wipe underneath them. You won't believe the crud that hides down there.

4. Speaking of crisper drawers, you can line them with a cotton tea towel or paper towel and it will help to absorb any condensation that collects. The next time you clean, simply wash the towel or throw away the paper towel.

5. This is the hardest step. Pull your fridge away from the wall and vacuum behind it. Also, vacuum the front and back of the fridge. It will help your appliance run more efficiently. If you don't do this step you could have a day like my bloggy friend, Bonita, had. You can read about her "day gone wrong" here.


Ok, are you tired yet? I cleaned my fridge and both freezers on Saturday and it took me less than an hour. That also included the inventory list I made of my freezer contents.

Freezer cleaning:

1. Take everything off of the door and wipe it down. Just like cleaning the fridge, throw away anything that is expired, has freezer burn, or can't be identified. Trust me, you're never going to eat it.

2. Repeat step 1 with the shelves in the freezer. Replace items together by type. I keep all of my bagged items together in square/rectangular baskets. They act like drawers on the freezer shelves. I have one for veggies, fruits, and cheeses.

3. If you've got enough energy left, pull out your extra freezer (hubs might have to help with this) and clean under it. Also, vacuum the vent area. It probably has cob webs around it.

Now, your fridge and freezer are ready for the holiday season. Don't you feel better?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Frightful Weather

Well, we've really had some rain lately due to a Nor'easter that blew in this week. It dumped many, many inches of rain (some say more than a foot) in our area which is already very close to sea level. All of the schools and many businesses were closed due to flooding and high winds. I'm here to confess that this whole storm is my fault. You see, I told The Lord that I would love to have a "snow day" so that I wouldn't have to go anywhere and I could just "nest" in my cozy home. Well, we rarely have snow so I guess the Nor'easter was good enough to do the trick. Thank you, Lord! I stayed inside and cooked, sewed, crafted, and read. What a day!



Here's the fashionable footwear for the week.







Besides a small leak in our roof, here was our only casualty from the storm.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kids say the cutest things!

This past Thursday night the preschool where I teach had an Open House for parents. I was eager to show a video I had taken of "a day in the life of preschool" for the parents of my 10 students. I have a sweet little class of 3 year olds who keep me on my toes.

As we watched the segment of the video that showed us saying grace before eating our snack, Joey's mom chuckled. It turns out little Joey told his parents that every day when we say grace "Miss Kelly" gets mad. His parents probably wondered what my problem was. It wasn't till they heard us saying "Thank you Jesus for our food, Amen" that they understood the misunderstanding. Joey was hearing me say "I'm mad" instead of my southern version of Amen which is "Ah-man".

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wrensday: I love my clothesline

I love the smell of freshly dried linens on the line. Every Spring and Fall, I strip every blanket and quilt off of my beds and wash them and hang them on the line. Because I have allergies I also tumble them in my dryer with dryer balls. I got my dryer balls at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.




Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Crock Pot Apple Butter

I always thought making apple butter would take days to make. Then my Aunt shared a recipe with me that I've been making almost every year. This crock pot version for apple butter is super easy. I use my largest crock pot and it makes 8-10 pints of apple butter.
First, you start with about 6 pounds of apples. I use a combination of baking apples (like granny smith) and softer apples like golden delicious. Quarter the apples, peel them, and then slice them. Fill the crock pot with the apples. Don't add any liquid.

Cook on low 18 hours. Don't lift the lid. To leave room on my kitchen counter, I plug it in next to my fireplace. (I don't have small children or pets, so it's safe)

Add 5 cups of sugar, 2 Tbl. cinnamon, 2 tsp. ground cloves, and 1 tsp. allspice. Stir well. Cook 4 more hours. If very juicy, remove lid for the last 1-1 1/2 hours to thicken.
You can fill plastic containers and freeze the apple butter, or you can do a water bath canning.
Here's how to use a water bath. Make sure your jars are clean. Fill a large canning pot (I use a large stock pot) with water and bring to a simmer. Heat your jars, lids, and bands. Place your jars, lids, and bands onto a towel to dry. Ladle the hot apple butter into the hot jars. Make sure that you wipe any drips off of the jar with a clean cloth. I use a canning funnel because it has a wide mouth and keeps everything a little cleaner.


Bring water in pan to a boil. Top the jars with the lids and lightly screw on the bands. Place the jars in the boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove from water and place on a towel to cool. I highly recommend using a canning jar lifter.They sell them at Walmart but I use an antique one. The lovely "pinging" sound you will hear is the sign of the jars sealing. If you press your finger into the center of the lid you can help it along a little. If it never "pings" or stays down when you press it then you can just keep the jar in the fridge and use it right away.


Here's the satisfaction of a bit of work. These jars make great gifts, especially when given with a loaf of homemade bread. One added benefit of making apple butter is that your house will smell divine!




I've shared this with "A Soft Place to Land". Check out her blog for some very creative ideas.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Motivation: Preparing for Christmas






I know, I know, we haven't even celebrated Thanksgiving yet and here I am pulling out the Christmas tree. I've learned over the years that in order to keep your sanity during the Christmas Season you need to have a few things:
1. Time
2. Money
3. Patience
4. Time
5. Joy
6. Time
7. Cooperation
8. Time
9. Creativity
10. Time

Since Time seems to be in high demand I thought it would be prudent to start early. I'm sure some of you have already given the season some thought but for most of us Christmas seems to sneak up on us each year. Over the next few weeks I'd like to prompt you to get started early on preparing for this busy Christmas season so that you can stop and enjoy your family and reflect on the meaning of the season.

This week's Monday Motivation is to make lists of what you need for the holiday. These are the lists you might want to make.

1. Cards: Make a list of who you will send cards to. You will want to know how many cards and stamps to buy. Also, you will want to know how many photos or family letters you will need to have printed.

2. Gifts: Make a list of those you will give gifts to and what you would like to give to them. If you've already done a little shopping during the year, list what items you've already purchased. You might have to go hunting around your home to find where you've stashed the goodies.

3. Food: Make a list of those delicious goodies you want to make so you can shop ahead for the ingredients.

4. Supplies: Make a list of any craft supplies, decorations (lights, ornament hooks, replacement garland etc.), wrapping supplies, and needed clothing. These kinds of items tend to run low the closer it gets to Christmas. Shop early for the best selection!


I keep a binder (because I'm a filer). In it I keep a list of who I send Christmas cards to each year, what gifts we give and to whom, and what activities we participate in. Each new year, I glance back at the previous year to get motivated. The gift list also helps me avoid the embarrassing act of giving the same gift two years in a row (it really happened). Now, 28 years later, it is funny to read what we did so many years ago.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Running From The Flu

It has been an interesting week at our house. My husband came home from work on Tuesday evening saying he wasn't feeling too well. As the evening progressed, I found him in our bed shivering with chills and barking a nasty cough. I decided it would be prudent to sleep on the couch that night, so I gathered my pillows and a few quilts and bunked down in the family room.

Wednesday evening, when I arrived home from work, I found my 18 y.0. son laying on the couch bundled up in quilts, shivering with chills, and moaning. Being the sensitive and caring mom that I am, I immediately noticed he was wrapped in MY quilts and laying his feverish head on MY pillows. Instead of saying "Oh, son, I'm so sorry you're not feeling well", I commented "Well, where am I going to sleep tonight?".

Being the sensitive and caring mom that I am, I slept in a sleeping bag, on an air mattress, in my bedroom.

Latest health report: both my guys are feeling better and back to school/work. So far, I'm not showing any symptoms and I made sure to get my flu shot.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wacky Cake: So good you'd have to be wacky not to love it.

Well, my chickens aren't laying eggs this week. They're in a funk and we've only gotten 2 eggs so far. Instead of going to the grocery store, I pulled out my favorite cake recipe that doesn't use eggs. It's called Wacky Cake because it uses unusual ingredients.



My family loves it and it's easy-peasy to make. Here's the recipe.


Wacky Cake serves 8-10

Sift together:
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar (I use 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt


Add:
2 cups water
3/4 cup oil
2 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla

Stir with a whisk. Pour into 9x13 ungreased pan. Bake 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

**Sifting gives the cake a better consistency. I don't have a sifter so I use a mesh strainer over the bowl. Also, I use a glass 9x13 pan. Before serving, I dust each piece with powdered sugar. This cake makes a great snack cake. It's divine served with vanilla ice-cream and homemade fudge sauce. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wrensday: Sunrise in the country


When I saw this photo my husband had taken of the farmland down the road from us I thought of this verse in Psalm
Psalm 5:3
In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice;
In the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pantry Chalkboard

You all have seen my pantry before. My pantry is the life-line in my home because my kitchen is cramped, old, and a little too rustic. (Plus, I have WAY too many sets of dishes and gadgets) But, because I can't leave well enough alone, I decided to add a chalkboard to the inside of both doors.
It was really pretty easy and didn't take much time at all. I didn't even tape off the area because the door already had grooves surrounding the area I wanted to paint.


I used the Krylon brand of chalkboard paint and just followed the directions on the back of the can. I have a ton of paint left in the small can I bought so if any of you live near me and want to paint something, just come by and borrow the can!! Krylon also makes a chalkboard spray paint and I may use that for my next project.
In addition, to my friends who think my pantry is a little too neat to be real, I promise that I didn't "stage" the pantry before I took these shots. It's my little piece of perfect neatness and I enjoy keeping it that way. Now, the utility room is a different story!!!

I'm joining up with Kimba at A Soft Place To Land and also with the Before and After party at Thrifty Decor Chick to share DIY projects. Please check out their sites!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday Motivation: New Kitchen Linens

Before I start the holiday cooking frenzy I like to replace my worn out kitchen towels, dish rags, and pot holders.



There's nothing cheerier than new towels in the kitchen. Here are some of my favorites.


The towels pictured above are from United Industries. Jacklyn Smith's collection at K-mart is really cute. You can't get much simpler than these bar towels at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.