Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Summer School: Week 1

Have your printed out your Summer Fun Schedule yet?
Here's a peek at what our first week looked like:

A couple years ago a friend gave me a Thankful Journal, along with the book entitled "One Thousand Gifts" by Anne Voskamp. That book really was a life-changer. And I've been wanting to help grow my kids with hearts of gratitude & joy. So they each decorated their own Thankful Journal. I picked up inexpensive composition books & then pulled out all my stickers & crafty doo-dads & tid-bits while they made a happy crazy mess decorating the covers & adding things on scattered pages inside. Finding thankfulness in everything makes the heart extremely happy.

Tuesdays are almost like a free day for me. Nothing to plan or organize. It's our "Go to the library" day.  The library is less than a mile walk from our house. So we've added some physical exercise by walking there every Tuesday. I think I'm really gonna like our Tuesday walks. We bring backpacks & library cards-- & we are set!

I am SUPER excited about Wednesdays. I love to cook & bake. And I'm thrilled that the girls will be learning (without realize they're learning) basic stuff that will help them as they get older. We made a breakfast casserole. They are so easy to put together. And they sit in the fridge overnight so you can pop them in the oven for breakfast the next morning. We actually had ours for dinner the next day. And how proud they were that THEY made it! I swapped dish duty with them on that night. The recipe we used is HERE &, though we went basic with just turkey sausage & cheese, you can add things like feta cheese & artichoke hearts. YUM!

I have a sheet of paper with a giant question mark in the center hanging in the girls' bedroom. Whatever they have been or are curious about, I ask that they jot it down on that paper. This helps me come up with themes for Thursday. I took the reins this first week though & chose the topic of "Composting". We have a compost heap in the backyard, which we share with my parents. We read about composting & I found some fun infographics on Pinterest to show them. We also made a countertop compost bin out of a coffee can. Making two of them cost me $5.00. It beats our sad little bowl filled with scraps staring at us all day. (Why must my children argue about who drilled more holes in the top of the coffee lid?!) I also found a 25-minute video called "Perfect Compost" via http://hoopladigital.com I'm not gonna lie. Zoey & I couldn't stop laughing about how the Master Gardener in the video uses animal parts to prepare certain biodynamic processes of compost---which made us think of animal sacrifice, which made us think of demonic rituals, which had us not paying attention. I know, we are horrible.

The girls LOVE going to Farmer's Market. We made an early afternoon visit of it, each choosing a treat. Zoey chose a half-dozen freshly made mini powdered sugar donuts, Pazely (who was being very selfie-self-conscious in the photo) picked a giant chocolate chip cookie, & I purchased a miniature bundle of sweet peas to put in a vase at home. We even brought home a gyro to share for lunch. We hardly ever come home from Farmer's Market with actual produce. Haha!

So that's our first week all wrapped up! Zoey said her favorite thing was walking to the library. Pazely loved decorating the journals best. I especially liked the compost bin craft. 

Summer Fun Schedule

The girls & I have begun our second week of summer break. And, if you've been keeping up with our goings-on over on Instagram & Facebook, you'll know that I have gotten super organized this year. The last two years were a doozy of disappointment. I had no energy to coral the littles (who, I know, are not technically little at almost 12 + nearly 14) away from their electronics. I was tired of being their maid. And the girls looked back & felt like they had wasted a potentially fun summer. Which they did. We all did. 
So this summer, things are a-changin'. I browsed Pinterest for inspiration, & I found several weekly schedules with catchy themes for each day. I loved that idea, so I printed out my own version. (Using Picmonkey & importing it into Word.)

Every weekend I plan the next week's activities. And on Monday morning, I display my organized work of art next to the fridge. The girls have requested that I hide each day's theme, so they'll be surprised when they take turns revealing our project or venture of the day. There's an anticipation & excitement. So far, one week + one day in, the girls LOVE it! This might be too organized for some--it's not for everyone. But I needed guidance. And this plan gives me just enough of a general theme to run with it & personalize it. And, really, some of the day's items only take minutes. Others can linger for however long we wish to hang out with them.

The girls also have a small checklist of items they HAVE to do every day. It's so I can combat bedhead & fuzzy teeth all week long. You understand. But it also includes reading, several minutes of writing + math, morning devotions with Jesus, & a minor chore or two. It hasn't killed them to have responsibility. In fact, my youngest wakes up before anyone else in the morning & gets her checklist done lickety-split. And then she naps after lunch because she's so tired from waking up so early. Haha!

Zoey noted that it appears we are homeschooling. It definitely does look that way. Which is why I jokingly call it "Summer School". But remember what I said earlier? The girls LOVE it! And I'm having so much fun planning our weeks. And here is what each week looks like (some of them are self explanatory):
MONDAY = Make Something Monday 
TUESDAY = Time to Read Tuesday (this simply means "go to the library")
WEDNESDAY = What's Cookin' Wednesday 
THURSDAY = Thinking Thursday (whatever we are curious about, we will research that, or do a S.T.E.M. themed project: Science Technology Engineering Math)
FRIDAY = Somewhere Fun Friday (as many free &/or cheap local places I can come up with!)

Ok, so this schedule I created is as plain & boring as can be. But I thought I'd make it available to print your own anyway. (Click the "pop-out" icon in the top right corner for an option to print.) You can jazz it up with markers & whatnot. 

I'll be posting a weekly recap of our Summer Fun Schedule shenanigans, so stay tuned! Hopefully it will inspire you. (Maybe it'll also help me get back into this blogging game.) 

I'm adding our Summer School 2016 photos to an album, so you can always pop over HERE to take a peeksie at all our Monday through Friday Summer School adventures.

Happy summer, friends!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Week in Review: May 2-8

I don't know what got into me last week, but I had a major cleaning bug one day. Just one. And it centered around the kitchen. Just the kitchen. I cleared out the shelves & cupboards, did some major wiping down & scrubbing, & even donated lots of items. The Mr. saw me & said, "You'll be out for the next 2 weeks now." He's right. He knows I hate cleaning. And he knows how much it poops me out. Like, sure, my feet hurt. But, emotionally I just can't handle it. Haha!

Once a year-ish I do like to go through the house & declutter. It feels good to lighten the load. I still have the dream that was planted in my mind after seeing THIS photo 5 years ago. I want to live in a tiny home. I figure that will be after the girls are grown & moved out of the house. So I've got some time to shed all this house weight. And to convince the Mr. of this idea. He's a tall human, so I'm not sure how he'll feel about all the tinyness. But, really, it's not about the size per se. For me, it's about the lack of burden. I look forward to that. Just the simple necessities. And a few items I adore. And the Mr.
It really is hard to give up stuff. I've talked about this before. I'm a sentimental sap, with a touch of packrat. Blah. I'll get through this. One box to charity at a time.

* * * * * * * * *

Oh, man. Spring is so much fun! Every day (on several occasions) I make a trek around the yard to see what seedlings have sprouted, spy what veggies are growing, peek at the wildflower patch, pick some weeds, smell some roses. The 11-year old & I even found half of a bird's egg in the grass while collecting mushrooms in the yard one afternoon. And then we brought out some acrylic paint & dobbed polka dots on the mushrooms. Just because.

* * * * * * * * *

I am totally getting into this weaving thing. It is so much fun! I've only made two mini tapestries so far, but am already taking orders...from my daughters. Ha! I am seriously thinking of putting some in the shop when I reopen one of these days. It's a bit of texture, a bit of happy, a bit of handmade. I love color mixing & am pretty sure I'm in trouble, more than ever, when it comes to this yarn collecting thing: I see it. I want it. I can't help it. 

* * * * * * * * *

In addition to the weaving, I've been filling my days with completing my goal of making something every day for 2016: writing & sketching mostly. This year feels so different to me. I don't know if I can explain it. I'm definitely on a journey of discovery. My morning times with Jesus have opened all kinds of senses in me. I am creating for the joy of creating, & sharing my efforts, no matter how great or small I think they are, no matter how much of a novice I may be in the things I pursue.
I'm also in a season of waiting. I'm trying to be OK with not knowing, I'm trying to enjoy the mystery of what's next.

Click HERE for a photo play-by-play.

Friday, May 6, 2016

DIY: Rock Flower Border

My mother & I had a giant dirt pile in one corner of our shared backyard, leftover from a recent construction project. As we wondered & pondered what to do with it, I came up with the idea to just level out the dirt & plant wildflower seeds. Hours & hours of de-rocking later (two BIG bucket-fulls we couldn't even lift!), we finally had a decent plot. We sprinkled viola seeds + poppy AND double poppy seeds (oh my! I LOVE poppies!), plus a packet of wildflower seeds my dad had picked up—claiming 15 varieties of different flowers, yet not listing which ones. (We are excited to document & count each one. Ooh, think of the lovely collection of flowers I can sketch!)

I decided we needed some sort of cute flowerbed border, so I went to "The Pinterest". I immediately spied THIS pin, but it only led to a photo. No link. So I have no idea who to give the original credit to. But isn't it SO AWESOME?! I pared down the design to fit my space & came up with a simple row of flowers to create a border.

First, the girls & I gathered rocks from around the yard. We have a stockpile to choose from in all the flower beds around the house. Is it river rock? I don't know. They are smooth stones in varying sizes. We picked the roundest shapes we could find for the center of the flowers, & oblong stones for the petals. 

Next, we created the flowers, matching similar sized petals with centers. Our flowers ranged in size from about 6"- 11" across, with each flower holding between 7-9 petals. The larger the stones you have (within reason) the better. The bigger the size, the more weight they will have to sit firm in the dirt.

After you mark the shape of your border (we lined bricks along the edge at first) all that's left to do is place your flowers onto the dirt, one at a time. After arranging it, press the flower firmly into the dirt with your hands. Then carefully use your foot to sink the stones a bit more into the soil. 
This photo shows the border only half done. I think we had about 20 flowers total. We will need to do continued maintenance, especially as the grass begins to grow around the outside edge. And, after a while, if the stones begin to sink too deeply, just add more dirt underneath & re-position them.
I'm so anxious for that corner of the yard to be full of a crazy mess of color. I've already spotted several seedlings that have sprouted. Can't wait to take photos of it in full bloom!

Hope you enjoyed this simple DIY, which is SUPER easy, TOTALLY kid-friendly, & EXTREMELY charming as well!
Happy rock collecting!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Week in Review: April 11-17

What a bright beautiful morning I woke up to today. Warm & happy enough to soothe some of my "I hate Monday" glumness. Poor Monday. So many of us have a distaste for her. It's true. I have the same pep-talk with my girls every Sunday night as I tuck them into bed: "After a weekend filled with fun & relaxation, Mondays are hard. It WILL be difficult to wake up tomorrow morning. But we can DO this! We GOT this! Goodnight, girls..." 

After almost a week of feeling sickly, I finally feel the cloud in my head starting to lift. That foggy feeling in your brain is the worst when you're ill. Maybe all of my constant going-going-going the last two weekends was too much. Maybe my body had enough & is now forcing me to rest.

 Two weeks ago I visited the Skagit Valley tulips with my mom for a joint birthday road trip. We took along my dad & my oldest daughter too. We visited RoozenGaarde + Tulip Town. I have been wanting to do this for many years, but kept putting it off. Not this year! I actually wrote it down as a goal for 2016. So I was determined to make it happen.  As we drove around, scouting out where the fields were, I spied a massive blur of red in the distance. And as we approached all that intense color, my breath left me. It is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Tulips for days. This is where rainbows are made. (I'm pretty sure.) On our road trip, I also had a chance to take the ferry to Guemes Island to visit grandmother's grave for the first time since her memorial service there, almost two years ago. We cleaned up her gravestone, left some potted tulips in her favorite color (purple), & even had a brief moment in the breezy, breezy, chilly day for some beach time, where I hunted for agates & listened to the waves on the rocky shore. My happy tank was refilled. 

The very next weekend I helped drive & chaperone 13 middle school & high school youth to Fine Arts in Bothell, where they performed skits, song, & dance for adjudicators, along with oodles of other church kids across the northwest. It was so much fun getting to be a part of all these youth sharing their gifts & talents. (One of our own even qualified to go to Nationals. So proud!) Spending an entire day surrounded by all that music & art definitely awakened something in me. Bonus: we stayed at Camp Sambica. I love Camp Sambica! A bonfire at the lake shore at sunset was my favorite. Sharing a cabin with crazy girls was another favorite. Oh, & attending church service at Mt. Calvary Christian Center in Seattle was a third favorite. I visited once before &, oh, how I was giddy to go again! You know worship is good when your thighs are on fire.

So, yeah, I'm on the mend after a blurry time away from home. I have been pacifying myself with things like ginger + lemon tea with honey, a heating pad on my achy bones, cozy covers, & lots of doodling & writing in the sketchbook.
I felt well enough yesterday to putter around the house more. I made a fresh double batch of hummus, folded a tiny mound of laundry, & even helped the teenager with vocals for a local production of Annie Get Your Gun. Apparently I'm her voice coach now. I love that she is chasing her dreams. She doesn't care that she's not the best or the greatest. She has found something that makes her heart hum. And that is always my prayer for my girls: whatever it is that makes their heart full of joy, that they would pursue that. She is so much more of a go-getter than I ever was or ever will be. Watching her makes me wish I could re-do my own childhood.

Speaking of childhood, I'm reading Peter Pan aloud to Pazely. I have never read this book. Mr. Darling is more intense in the book than in the Disney movie. And Tinkerbell is more of a foul-mouthed imp than I realized! Sheesh. The girls & I also took a break from the 3rd book in the Wrinkle In Time quintet so I could read aloud "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children". And, actually, we finished that last night & have started the 2nd book, "Hollow City". Really good books! But there ARE naughty words throughout & some inappropriate phrases. So I get to change things around as I read. 

Well, it's time for me to reheat my cup of tea. (It's my thing.) 
Hope your week is filled with lovely things! 
If you'd like, follow me on Instagram to keep up with my daily doings.

Friday, March 18, 2016

First thing.

That first sip of hot tea in the morning.
It is ceremony.
It is sacrament.
It is where I, with bedhead & foul breath, settle back in expectancy.
It is the commencement of a daily ritual, where my restless disposition encounters Your holy stillness.
I take another sip, drink slowly.

Our dialogue is the same:
Me: Oh, holy God, only You can satisfy.
You: Take me, take all of me.
Always You extend your hand.
Always You manifest yourself as tender.

In ragged hoodie & worn-out socks, I am filled.
Me: Oh, powerful & compassionate God, only You can carry this heavy load.
You: Let me take it, all of it.
I am saturated, awash with choice gifts.
I am disencumbered, free of grievous constraints.
Your generosity swirls about me as I sip...& sip...& sip...

-Nikki Mans


 I once dreaded "having" to pray—my list of needs was becoming so long, I was boring myself. 
Blah, blah, blah... Is anyone even listening to this?
I once groaned at the thought of "having" to read the Bible—it was too difficult to understand. I didn't have time for all that confusion. 
But I knew that spending quality time with God every day was something I should value. I was disappointed that my heart wasn't in it. I was definitely missing something. 
So I went on an exploration.
Isn't that what you do when you've lost something— you search until you find it?

To give it to you simply, do you know what I found?
I found that I was doing it wrong.
Dreading & groaning was okay as long as I just showed up.
But I continued to dread & groan, even as I continued the morning routine. 
So here came my next step: Do it differently, girlfriend.

I began keeping a Thankful Journal. (After reading Anne Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts".) This journal is life-changing for me. It forces me to acknowledge the things that make my heart happy, which are, ultimately, gifts from God. And, in case you didn't know it, being thankful on a regular basis makes for a joyful heart. True story. My list grows daily. I started 5 1/2 months ago & am at #388. When I get to #1000 I will keep going. How can one stop being thankful??
#244: My 2 dads meeting for the first time
#380: Breakfast cereal that tastes like birthday cake
#108: Street artists who make balloon animals
#112: The snooze button
#176: God's love–especially on those days when I feel tiny & unimportant in this world
#227: Chilling at a coffee shop
#47: Taking a bath in a mansion

I started writing. I found an AMAZING book entitled "Writing to God: 40 Days of Praying With My Pen" by Rachel G. Hackenberg. The daily prayer prompts in the book have launched my morning quiet time into a different dimension. The book combines a brief daily scripture with praying to God in a way I never thought of: using my written words, prayer writing.
(P.S. She has a version for kids, too!)

I started reading inspirational books. One chapter every morning. Every month I choose a new book. My journal is filled with quotes I want to keep. And the words I read often spur new ideas in my heart, which is exciting.

The Mr. initiated us reading one chapter of scripture every day, & then discussing it together. I like the wisdom he has when I have questions. He likes my random thoughts & perspectives. 

I realized that this morning routine didn't have to be a chore. It SHOULDN'T be a chore.  I could integrate the things I love, the things I enjoy doing, into my daily worship time with Him. 
How fun & cool is that????

And if I ever feel so inclined, I will leave my usual cozy spot on the couch & spend my quiet time in new surroundings: In the backyard under the vine-covered gazebo, at the river by my trees, in my cool, dark basement bedroom. 
Getting a new perspective every once in a while is really a breath of healthy, much-needed, life-giving air. (One morning, I sat at the piano for an hour & just sang. That was my quiet time that day. That was it. Another time I just sat in silence. *That was so hard to do!* But it was so fulfilling. My heart let it all out. He heard, I know He did. And I waited & listened & it was perfect.)

 I now anticipate this morning ritual every day. It has become a spiritual adventure. One day I may sketch while listening to worship music, another day I might pull out my ukulele & present a song in adoration to Him. 
Combine scripture & prayer in a way that fuses with the things you're passionate about in your daily quiet time with God.
And I promise you won't dread it anymore.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

4 Months Later...

Pardon me while I wipe the dust off this ol' thing...

To say that I have been absent is true.
But don't let the cobwebs in the corner fool you. It has actually been a creatively fantastic 2016 thus far. I'm having an amazing journey & I decided to not sit in it in silence anymore. I mean, I needed to be silent with it for a while.
But now I'm ready to be social. 

During the very first week of January this year, the Mr. & I stepped down from our roles as pastor & worship leader at the little church we were ministering at. It was bittersweet to say goodbye. I have never been gifted with such a blank canvas as that. And I poured my everything into it. Art & music, which are such a big part of who I am, were at the core of what I did there.
So, so, so grateful for the past year there.

I sang every week. I played the piano every week. I constantly learned new music. I created digital graphics. I designed & dreamed & planned & painted. I saw my sketches on paper literally come to life before me. It was awesome.

All my energies were directed toward that one institution. And when that connection between me & that thing no longer existed, I felt lost for a moment.
What do I do now?
Well, if you're me, you make a list.
In giant letters, at the top of the lined pages of my journal I wrote:
"2016 GOALS"
And though this list includes things like:
•finish reading Moby Dick
•get my camera repaired & cleaned

...it also includes stuff like:
•draw more
•write more
•maintain a daily "quiet time"
•learn to make pasta
•and macaroons

I also made a goal to create something every single day. Be it a sketch, or a painting, or a craft, or a song, or a video, or a new memory with my family. And I've been sticking to it.
(Follow me on Instagram to see my daily MAKE STUFF updates.)

Oh my goodness, my favorite thing is waking up & getting my usual quiet time with Jesus. And I've kicked it up a notch. I've started writing more. But I'll just have to save that for another blog post. Because I could go on & on about it...
And I didn't know how much I loved to draw! Every day I try to practice, to get better. I've met some cool artistic peeps online, simply through our shared love of pen-to-paper + a #MakeWithMe sketch challenge I joined for the month of January.
I got a guitar for Christmas & am ever-so-slowly trying to teach myself to play. I've always wanted to play guitar. I'm not sure I can do it. But I'm gonna try!
And this year I can't wait to learn to make pasta & macaroons.
And guide Pazely along in completing her first sewing project.
And help Zoey learn to film & edit videos for her YouTube channel.
I'm also continuing a challenge I completed last year of reading one spiritual/inspiring book a month. 

Right now I get to create for me. For myself. It feels really cool. My creative efforts have been slightly refocused. I feel like I get to wander more. Peek around new corners. My handiwork involves using different parts of my imagination. It seems to be that way in every major event that has happened in my life: Minor variations on my creative adventures.
And I'm ok with that. I used to not be ok with it though. I used to fight the fact that things changed. No matter how much I tried to keep things the same, I couldn't hold it all in place, I couldn't combat it.
Now I almost don't even notice the transitions. I definitely don't protest anymore.

I'm not gonna lie: Losing my grandmother changed me forever. (It'll be 2 years in June.) I'm afraid to admit that I think I'm struggling to accept the change that made in me. It's the hardest I've ever been hit in life. This last year, especially, has really been a lot of bumbling around, putting on a happy face, finding where I fit now.

All that aside, my heart feels big, & I wake up each day, glad.
Ready to share what's in my heart.
Ready to be more vulnerable.
Ready to share pictures of a macaroon-making mess in the kitchen.
And songs sung off-key.
And poetry made from a morning of prayer-writing.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

DIY: Reindeer Pipe Cleaner Gift Card Holder + GIVEAWAY!

 I am a HUGE believer in giving gift cards for Christmas. And so is my local mall, Columbia Center Mall, a Simon Mall Shopping Center. You see, they're kind enough to share the love & are letting me give away a $100 VISA gift card to one of my readers. Woohoo! Get your shopping shoes on my friends!

Gift cards are my fave. When you choose to give a gift card as a gift, there's never the usual questions floating about concerning the fit, the color, the size. I promise you: it fits, it matches, & it looks good on me. Or you. Or whoever.

But, first!
I thought it would be fun to share a little gift card wrapping D.I.Y. idea. I wrapped this nifty Simon Malls Gift Card all naked-like. But you could certainly cover the gift card in brown paper (to match the body of the deer) or other gift wrap, to keep the contents more of a mystery to the recipient.
(Read on for the tutorial, or scroll to the bottom if you want to enter the giveaway!)

Now...I get to give away a $100 Simon Mall VISA gift card! 
(Gift card is good wherever VISA debit cards are accepted.)
Enter to win by leaving a comment on this blog post, answering this question:
Who is the most difficult person on your Christmas list to shop for?
(I'll give you my short answer: The Mr.! Gah. Difficult with a capital "D". I think I'll just give him a gift card.)

>>Please leave your email addy too, so I can contact you if you win!<<

Winner will be chosen Monday, November 16th!
For a list of Simon Malls, click HERE.
*Contest for U.S. residents only.*

Enjoy this little stop motion video I made with our little reindeer gift card friend...

Deer Gift Card Stop Motion

For local peeps, check out some of the short-term retailers that are new to Columbia Center Mall:
Country Wreath: Shoppers seeking homemade holiday d├ęcor from large festive signs to decorated wreaths will love the selection at Country Wreath.
·       Fuego: At the mall through January, Fuego is a Pacific Northwest based company selling an eclectic mix of jewelry, accessories, novelty items and apparel great for distinctive gifts.
·       Glass Gallery: The Glass Gallery product line features crystal collectables ranging from hand made miniatures figurines from Santa and nativity scenes to exotic animals. 
·        Go! Calendars Games & Toys: Shoppers can visit Go! Calendars Games & Toys to stock up on calendars, games, toys, puzzles, and gifts for both children and adults on their shopping list.
·       Hickory Farms: A staple in many holiday traditions, visit Hickory Farms to pick-up delicious meats, wine, cheeses and sweets. Whether customers are looking for a great gift or picking up some goodies for their own holiday get-together, their first stop should be at Hickory Farms. 
·       Inka's Peruvian Fashion: This shop offers unique cultural clothing inspired by the Inca Empire that once ruled in Peru with rich textiles such as Alpaca wool.  
·       PolarX Ornaments: Shoppers will enjoy the festive products at PolarX Ornaments like stockings, picture frames, tree ornaments and decorative table toppers to help make the most of the season. 
·       Sportula: This is a fabulous shopping destination for the sports fans on your holiday list with cooking and grilling gear emblazoned with the logos of their favorite sports teams. 
·       See's Candies: For quality candy and chocolates, visit See’s Candies, which features holiday gift packs perfect for host gifts and stocking stuffers. 
·       Toyland: This is a one-stop shop for children’s gifts or for the kid in all of us, including toys for building and learning, hobbies and crafts, games, sports and action toys or dolls and stuffed animals.

Congrats to Mary (mami2jcn)! You're the winner of the gift card, as chosen by The Random Number Generator.

I wrote this post as part of a paid promotion with Columbia Center Mall. 
The opinions in this post are my own.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Annual Refresher Course

Yesterday I returned from a weekend away at Bozarth Mansion in Spokane. I was lucky enough to be part of a Women's Retreat with the ladies of Grace United Reformed Church. My friend Julie invited me for the second year in a row. Such an amazing group of women. I looked back at comments I made on my first venture there last October:

"I would descend the grand staircase every morning, hot drink in hand, ready for a relaxing day of teaching & worship & the chit-chatter of friendly new faces. I lived a few days of freedom... I got lots of tasty nuggets for my soul. And worshiping in a setting like that with all of our soft pretty voices was a special sound...It was hard to leave the mansion. And the atmosphere of not needing to be needed all the time, of duty & responsibility. Escaping reality for a brief moment is a good thing. A necessary thing. Sometimes you don't realize you need something until you receive it. This weekend was just that for me."

All those words remain true even this year. 
Worshiping with other believers, in their way, in their circle, is something I want to practice all the time. At one point this weekend I almost said, "It feels like I'm with family." But then I stopped. Because I WAS with family. And that made my heart so happy. Show me, sisters, how you choose to display your sacred praise to our God. And I will join you. 

Some other highlights from my weekend:
bathing in a mansion
spying a family of five deer feeding in the lawn
white bean chicken chili in the crockpot + homemade pumpkin pudding
seeing familiar faces
road trip silliness, which included researching mythical creatures (did you know there is a mythical being that is shaped like an umbrella, & another that will lure you into its cave & tickle you to death?)translating words into Japanese (I now know how to say "chocolate mushroom" & "squirrel")
shopping at Cost Plus World Market
spontaneous leaf selfies
giggles with friends
welcome home hugs from the littles

This trip was SO last minute. Like, I found out I was going only 4 hours before Julie picked me up. I almost declined the invitation. (The sniffles & sneezies have been attacking me.) But then I thought, "I love spontaneity. I always want to be a part of it, to force myself out of my little introverted comfort zone." 
And I'm so glad I did. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

DIY: 2 Monster Fur Crafts

Earlier this year I saw the most adorable gift bags at Target. (See photo below.) They are American Greetings products & I absolutely died when I saw them. MUST HAVE. But I wasn't willing to spend the $10-$14 that they cost. EEK. So I decided to make my own. For about 2 DOLLARS.
Not only is this a super fun bag for packaging a gift, but it also makes a unique Halloween bag for holding all that candy as you go Trick-or-Treating!

•faux fur
•gift bag (Doesn't everyone have piles of used gift bags stored in plastic tubs under their bed too?)
•felt (I only used black. But add whatever details/colors you want.)
•spray glue
•hot glue gun
•googly eyes (These are 1.5", but I even saw 6" googly eyes!!)

I had all the supplies on hand--except the faux fur & the GIANT googly eyes. I was disappointed to not have a great colorful selection of fur at my local fabric shops. Such a crafty bummer. But it still looks cute all the same. (TIP: Be sure to use coupons when buying fabric! Check online, too. I was able to save 50%!) 

 After measuring your gift bag & marking the measurements on the backside of the fur, it's time to cut. Cut a tiny bit extra on both edges. One tip I learned from the lady at the fabric store: use a vacuum to clean up the loose fur. Otherwise, you'll have a major fuzzy mess. Just vacuum all the cut edges of fabric.

Take your fabric piece outside, along with your spray glue. I love this stuff. Works amazingly. My bag was about 9" tall. A medium-ish size. This step would be helpful with an assistant. After you spray the backside of the fabric with the glue, you'll want to CAREFULLY lay the bag on top of  fur, lining the bottom of the bag with one edge of the fabric & CAREFULLY wrap the piece around the bag. It was an awkward process doing it on my own. 
You'll have some excess on the top of your bag, but that's ok. Wrap it over the top edge of the bag.

Before gluing on the eyes with the hot glue gun, I cut out a black felt circle a little bit larger than the googly eyes. I didn't want to glue it down to a flat area of fur, so I roughed it up a bit with my fingers & nestled the circle into the fur. Glue the googly eyes on top of the felt circle. Add other felt details, if desired: teeth, moustache, eyebrows, etc. 

And that's it!

Here's another quick craft using monster fur, & almost the exact same supplies. 
Simply substitute the gift bag with empty cans!

These would be great as party favors, filled with candy & prizes. My daughter even swiped one & is using it as a desk accessory to hold pens & pencils. 

The steps are the same as the monster bag craft: 
Measure can. 
Cut fabric. 
Spray glue fabric. 
Wrap fabric around can. 

Remember to add a bit to your measurement so you can overlap the excess around the rim of the can.

Your blank furry can canvas is ready for monster details!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

DIY: Martha Stewart Crafts: Tiny Aluminum Dish

I was recently sent some Martha Stewart crafty supplies, & when I opened the box my heart went *pitter-patter* at the sight of her Metalworking Alphabet Stamp Set. I immediately went into brainstorm mode. I LOVE brainstorm mode: Notepads filled with scribbles & doodles....hot cups of tea...plus, candles + music to help expel the crafty joo joo. And so I came up with these sweet little lightweight dishes, celebrating & welcoming my favorite season. But this craft can totally be customized & personalized for anyone, any day of the year.

This supply list might look cray-cray. I'll explain...
• Martha Stewart Metalworking Alphabet Stamp Set
• Aluminum (I purchased a 12" x 30" roll that is .005 thick/36 guage. As an option, you could recycle a pop can. There are loads of tutorials on YouTube to show you how to properly cut a can.)
• Embossing pad (A cutting mat would work too. Just not a hard surface. Something with "give".)
• Small round shape to trace (My cup is 2 3/4" in diameter. Because of the lightweight nature of the dish you'll be making, I would keep the maximum measurement of the item you trace at 2 3/4".)
• Small round bowl for shaping (My bowl of choice is that metal egg poacher. But any heavy duty metal/plastic/wood/glass bowl would work, as long as the base is shallow & will shape your aluminum into a nice shallow dish/bowl shape.)
• Scissors
• Shaping tool (I used the round knobby end of that knitting needle. You want something that is small with rounded edges. I even experimented by using the back handle of those green scissors & it did the trick too.)
• Small hole punch. (1/8" is best!)
• Embroidery thread in your color(s) of choice
• Needle (small enough to go through holes you punch into the metal)
• Permanent marker
• Paintbrush
• Black paint
• Small paper towel or cloth/rag

Ok, now that all your weird supplies are gathered, let's DO this.
Trace your round shape onto the metal using the permanent black marker. Cut out this shape. As an option, you could wear gloves in this step, because the aluminum COULD cut you. I lived dangerously & didn't wear gloves.

These next steps involve the shaping of your flat piece of aluminum.
1. Center your aluminum circle shape above your shaping bowl.
2. With both hands, carefully + evenly push this shape into the bowl. It will buckle & fold all over. That's normal. Don't worry.
3. Again, with both hands, flatten those buckles & folds against the sides of the bowl with your fingers as much as you can.
4. Use your rounded shaping tool to smooth out the buckles & folds. Do this by holding the bowl with one hand on one side, & use the other hand with your shaping tool on the other side. Push & slide the tool all over. I found it easiest to start in the middle & rub the tool to the outside. I went side to side, up & down, in circles, just all over. The longer your work, the more smooth it will become.

Now you can punch holes evenly around the edge of your bowl. My small hole punch (pictured) actually broke. Not because of the aluminum. It was just headed in that direction. So I went out & bought a smaller punch---the 1/8" size. And I LOVE it!! So much better.

We can now personalize our bowl. Think of a word or a letter or something very short (this is a small dish afterall) that you want to stamp on your metal. It is so easy to slide letters onto the Metalworking Alphabet Stamp Set. The little notches make sure you're lining things up perfectly. Just remember: slide your letters in backwards so that they appear in the proper direction when you stamp them.
I actually had trouble using the stamp set at first. I couldn't get it to stamp a full word onto my metal. I even tried using lighter/softer metals, but it still didn't work. After playing a while, I DID have success stamping one letter at a time. Maybe it's just me. I don't know. I saw other crafty bloggers using the tool with no problem. It's me, isn't it? *sigh*

When you're stamping, use your embossing pad. Apply a lot of pressure, with a slight rocking motion. 

At this point, your dish will be a crunchy mess.

All you have to do to remedy that is to insert it BACK into your shaping bowl. Use your shaping tool to smooth out the edge you just punched & any other place on the dish that needs flattening. JUST BE CAREFUL NOT TO SMOOTH OVER YOUR WORDS. Go around the letters you just stamped. 

There. It's all smooth & awesome now.

Ready for the details?
Cut 3–3.5 feet of embroidery floss. (The amount you'll use depends on the number of holes you punched & how big or small your bowl is.) I used the full amount of threads in the floss. Double up your floss, bringing the ends together, so you're left with a loop at one end. This is how I secure my first stitch (as seen in 1). I used the blanket stitch all around the edge of my dish, as seen in the photos.

When you've stitched all around the dish, knot the end, Slide it under a nearby stitch & cut the floss.

You could also stitch it this way. It's more simple: just in one hole, around & through the other, etc.

I wanted the words on my bowl to stand out a bit more, so I smeared black paint all over the letters. 
(You could use any color of paint. Ooh, you could even coordinate with your floss color, too!)

With a flat paper towel, carefully wipe away the paint. The paint on the flat surface will disappear, but the paint that got into all the grooves & dents & crevices of your letters will remain.
On some dishes, I had to do this a couple times because I either wiped away too much paint, or my initial stamping didn't get deep enough into the aluminum. 

This stamping set is super awesome & I love it. It's made of sturdy plastic & comes with multiple letters, numbers & symbols.

Here's a sideview to give you a different perspective.

Use your nifty little dishes on a dresser or side-table to hold spare change, special treasures, or rings & things.

Hello Cozy Fall! I have missed you.
Welcome back! We're gonna have a splendid time together...

This post was written as part of a campaign with Martha Stewarts Crafts & their new fall & Halloween crafts + products. I was compensated with free crafty supplies. The opinions expressed in this post are my own.