Thursday, November 29, 2012

Our Advent Door

For his 60th birthday, I collected cards and letters from people who love Brad and I tucked each one in an envelope, one for each of the 24 days of April leading up to and including his birthday.  He truly rushed downstairs each morning to open each day's gift, and the folks who sent them would check, "Has he opened mine yet?"

It made his special season wonderful and personal.

I wrote in my last post about our Advent wreath tradition, and this year I've incorporated a card a day into Advent too.  Using 25 days of Bible verses I located  here after a google search, I've made an Advent calendar door.  During a quick trip to Michael's I found these gold envelopes and little gift stickers.
Sorry for the blur, school nights don't allow for pictures perfect.
I cut card stock of red and green alternating for each envelope, and on each card I wrote the subject on one side and the corresponding verses on the other side.

As much as I wanted to pre-read some of the verses, I did not.   Day one, Saturday, holds a card that reads "Sharing" on the front and John 3:1-21 on the other.  You can go ahead and read that if you'd like, just don't tell me what it says.  Yet.

Really, they're gold.

It's kind of bland now but as cards are read, the red and green will peek.

From a design standpoint, I was thrilled with the gold envelopes when I came across them, but I may spend 2013 looking for something with more oomph.  Regardless, I am excited at the prospect of sharing time in the Word with Brad each evening, and for that the wrapper matters not.

It will make this special time of year wonderful and personal.

May you usher in Advent well.

P.S.  Brad decided we should turn all the cards to make the door more colorful, so after our first reading tonight (Christmas is for Sharing, John 3:1-31), we did just that.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Preparing for Him


It's almost here.  I have some ideas.  One I'll share now, one closer to the end of the week.

Two or three years ago, Brad and I started sharing the tradition of an Advent wreath.  It brought us closer to God, quieted us down, and we had some great talking prayer times after we did each week's reading.  Its value impossible to calculate.

This past week, I decided to start an open facebook group to encourage others to share in this practice and/or to share their own Advent wreath traditions.

If you haven't seen it, or if you've seen it but haven't yet joined, please click on over and say you're with us.  The idea of many family and friends, and even a stranger who found this group via Pinterest, sharing readings each Sunday evening simply causes us to feel united and closer to God.

Be there with us?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shopping for Chicks On Line

For many reasons, I ask my students to work on service projects with me or on their own at the holidays in lieu of giving me gifts.  Parents seem to like this idea, the kids get into it, but still, some present me with presents.  Last year I received some truly meaningful gifts--most notably two donations to local food pantries, and a gift of ducks through World Vision.

From my Nick and his family came this gift that helped others and warmed my heart.  What a memory that gift made.  I like to think it continues to make an impact on those who received the ducks--eggs for food, ducklings for more eggs, eggs shared with neighbors, families growing stronger and seeing God at work in their lives all because of a thoughtful gesture.

This year, Brad and I received the World Vision gift catalog, and we decided he would "give" his grandkids chicks for Christmas.  Living so far away from them, it's hard to know what they're into, and like most kids, they are generously gifted at Christmas from all sides.

I don't know that his giving chicks to his grandkids will be something they value this year, but I'm hoping it makes an imprint on their hearts.  Seasons from now, I hope they'll remember and maybe one day willingly pay it forward, just as Nicholas' gift caused me to.

Check out the catalog. Perhaps a goat, cow, duck or chick is in your loved one's future?  There is such a great variety of things to choose from:  food for family, soccer balls for school, a bike for a girl to get to school, school supplies for American children, meals...

A note though, the website can be finicky.  Be patient with it!

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Own Mike Holmes--part two

All day Wednesday, with breaks for client calls and follow-ups on an active contract, my dusty husband continued to work in the garage.  He's out there as I post this.  The reinsulation project continues.  He is loving it.  He's exhausted but having fun!

Just like when I watch Holmes on Homes, it really bugs me to know that the other homes in our neighborhood are built the same.  Grrrr! (As well as Brrr!)  As I walk into other rooms this cold morning, I now get why they're chilly--wafer thin insulation.  Sigh.

The project has taken on a life of it's own, and Brad is willing to be thorough.  In the meantime we live with our bedroom furniture pushed all together.  We're a while off from the mudding and taping.
Silver columns in our living room (not moved for yesterday's company, my family dealt with them just fine.)
I can be patient, because besides being warmer in a room I love the most, there are other plans in the works.

This light will be going, a donation to Habitat's ReStore.  Can you say builder cheap?
He plans to use this new "toy" for the crown moulding in the bedroom AND to frame out our builder grade sheet mirrors in all three baths:

In time, perhaps he'll create a built-in for the living room using that saw to trim it out, This photo is from the model, ours will not have the wall above, at least that's the thought at the moment...
After that, new paint in many rooms.  I will finally have to decide how to decorate our bedroom. 

I remember an old Brady Bunch episode in which Mike reworks their bedroom, and Carol says, "Well, now it looks so good, we have to do the hall, the living room..."  I know what she means.   The domino effect of decorating.

As one of my facebook friends said, "You are lucky to have a handy husband!"  I disagree, I am blessed and thankful.  He is at peace in this hobby that's making messes in our home, but soon enough things will settle and all will continue to be well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Own Mike Holmes--part one

We've lived in our townhouse for about 5 1/2 years, and we love so much about it.  But one thing that's always been a concern is the temperature in the master bedroom.  First steps in, it seems cooler than the hall, but more steps in would lead you to a wall of cold, a discernible difference.

I've been wanting Brad to paint the room for a while, but before doing that he wanted to address the issue of the cold.   He wanted to, as a particular HGTV star says, "Make it Right."

This month it came time, he removed sheet rock in the alcove, the wall between the alcove and window, and the window wall.  He found scant insulation, so he foamed it, replaced the existing insulation, and wrapped it in silver material that reminds me of a padded cell.  Then he and a friend replaced the sheet rock.

Our boudoir, as a work in progress over the last few weeks (he's also been working with clients and such--you know, his real job):
Containing the dust, that's our bed under the black plastic tarp
Original insulation over foam

Silver over foam
Sheet rock
Wrapped window
Obviously, there is mudding and taping to do.  Still, the chill exists.

Part two, come in from the downstairs.  Brad has moved to the garage, where after tearing down the ceiling, so far just on one side, he has determined there is NO insulation around our bedroom window.  So he is repeating all steps from below.
Cutting up the sheet rock he removed from the garage ceiling (photo snapped minutes ago)
Ceiling through a haze of dust
Looking up under the outer wall that houses our master bedroom window, in person, you can see there is no insulation surrounding it.

More to come...other changes in the works that would make this post too long!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving, It's Not My Favorite

     I could write a lengthy blog post about why I've never been a fan of Thanksgiving.  But, to keep your from clicking away due to too much text, I will bullet point it.
  • Parades on TV are boring. When I was a kid, we only had a few channels, so Macy's was it
  • Growing up with all brothers, any TV past 11 a.m. was all about football
  • Went to gramma's where there were no other girls
  • My mom didn't like to cook, so I was not encouraged to come help in the little galley kitchen
  • Dressed like a girlie girl, my tights always were pretty, but also always slid down uncomfortably
  • As a young woman my mom died on Thanksgiving
  • I feel like we have no established traditions from before then or after--though I suppose if I buy the canned cranberry thing and serve it, all will be well.
  • Waa waa waa, right?
     So when Brad and I hosted our first Thanksgiving in 2007, I looked to him to be expert, only to find out (that morning) he had never made a turkey either.  All things turned out well that year nonetheless.  A true reason to be thankful.  Last year, my friend Jenn and brother Jim came over and helped with things.  To save the day they decided to make a rue for the gravy.  I thought rue was French for street, I still have no idea of what it has to do with cooking.
     This year there will only be five of us here for turkey, so cooking should be easy, right?  My brother is bringing stuffing and pie, so as always I have less to do than most hostesses.  Mac wants cheese filled crescents, so he's being assigned that gourmet rolling.  But still I angst.  This will be the first time I've mashed potatoes for Pete's sake.  I'm 52 and I've never mashed a tater!  I'm more of a graze on appetizers all party hostess, so the idea of having a meal ready all at once is overwhelming me.
  The best thing about Thanksgiving is I have a week off of school.  I am going to go grocery shopping today, something else that makes me anxious,  so I opted to write a blog post instead in effort to avoid it.  Martha Stewart I am not.  Meijer is open and here I sit.
     I am a mess.
     Here are my feeble attempts at decorating so far:
You've seen my tree of thanks, but I've added some festive twine to the vase.
Inspired, no?
     Bad blogger that I am, I found this printable on line, but can't recall the source.
The owl was Mom's, so it is a little tribute to her.
The "THANKFUL" banner was also a free on line find.  
I used, twine, grocery bags, and clothespins to hang it.
Note the twine on the candles.
It's a theme people!
This will be added to the buffet that day.
Be sure it will hold cookies (not a banana, turkey, garlic, or bread) AND be festooned with twine.
Impressed yet?
Until then I grabbed a textured platter to balance things out.
I don't think it's working.

     Shucks.  I'm done.  I have to shower and shop.  I have to buy a turkey.  I have to select potatoes.  I have to exchange a least I hope to.  Wish me well.  
     Seriously, complaining aside, we have an incredible amount of blessings to be thankful for--and as I age, that awareness is precious to me.  Also, I plan on wearing a dress with tights that day, so I have no doubt it will REALLY feel like Thanksgiving no matter how the meal turns out.
     If you have gotten to this point, I am thankful for you.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Glue Gun Girls

Starting off with a disclaimer is never a good thing, but here I go.

 I have seen many versions on the web of this design.  I could give credit, but chances are the sites I was inspired by were inspired by others, and I don't want to follow that train of dominoes.  So, this was not my idea.  But I took it and ran with it.

How's that for a couple of jumbled idioms?

Last night, three of my friends came over with alphabet letters, faux berries, glue guns, and snacks in hand for our Christmas craft party.  Many more were invited but could not come, but may I just say, four women with heated devices around one table was just the right fit?

We got to gluing and talking and laughing, and so no photos were taken during the process, but the after allows for some.

I made this:
A few photo details:

A wood letter from Hobby Lobby, $2.49 and made in the USA.
(A rare find in H.L.)
This photo shows the back side.

I bought red berries on stems from Michael's.  
Each stem was $1.99, but they were 50% of,
and I think I used my teacher discount of 15% off that. 
I used only four stems.

The how-to-do-its (as if it's not self-explanatory, hello, it's a craft I did...):
  • Paint front side of letter with red acrylic paint (we did this the night before)
  • Let paint dry
  • Snip berries from stems
  • Hot glue to letter
Interesting observations:
     Erin used a letter that could stand on its own, and she applied bigger shiny red berries.  Katie used a variety of pearlized berries of gold and white along with two shades of red.  Ashley, never having used a glue gun before was quite precise, and her berries were very orderly. (I regret not getting photos, and I will beg them each to post to facebook so I may steal them and augment this post.*)
     In my effort to be random, my hot gluing resulted in a hot mess of glue shnoobly and cobwebs, one of which landed in my margarita. I'm thinking about adding more berries to hide some of the glue blobs. (I was teased that my S may be six layers of berries deep when I am finally done. But I like the lumpiness of it.) This S definitely looks better from a distance!

I may add a ribbon and hang it...

I may prop it up against something and just let it be:
     The most important thing is we had fun and good conversations.  We started a little after seven, and at one point one of us said, "It's almost 11!"  Stunned, we were aware of what a sweet way this was to pass the time.  I love my girls.


Katie's  :)

Erin's Friday night A, and then another

P.S.  Mine, after  more finessing and booger removing.  I love it!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tree of Thanks

Our glass topped dining room table is one of my favorite pieces of furniture in our home, but it often just looks plain.  For fall and leading us into Thanksgiving, I wanted to do something to fill it, so I made a gratitude tree.
Using a vase I had on hand, branches from a bush (the trees nearest to us hold too young to harvest branches), a paper grocery bag, one pieces of white construction paper, and some twine (my only purchase, $1.79 at Menard's), I got to work.
 Brad has added to it without my prompting.

I don't think I need to share a tutorial.  I cut the hearts using a template I made myself, no fancy paper cutting device here, and I left the extras in a bowl for added "leaves of thanks" for our guests and us to add to the tree.  I do think individual branches might be more artsy looking, so next year I'll be on the lookout for some.
Simple yes, but Brad loves it and I think, always my worst critic, I do too.  (Although I couldn't get a good photo of it!)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thanksgiving Mix Recipe

     Earlier today, I commented on Kay's blog that I'm not a big fan of Thanksgiving.  After I made that  statement, I felt like the biggest Thanksgiving Scrooge.  I went back to her blog later in the day, and lo and behold, I found her wondering why.  The whys don't really bear repeating, but I did make note that I DO do things that cause me to enjoy the holiday a lot more than I used to.
     One Thanksgiving tradition is my Thanksgiving Mix making with my class.  The kids bring in the ingredients, we clean the room well, we wash our hands, set up an assembly line (which aligns with our 4th grade social studies curriculum), and we get to mixing.  The last step in the line is to attach a label with the explanation for each item.  The kids love the experience and bringing home a treat to share.  (Side note, this year I have a student who is Jehovah's Witness, so we're making it a "fall mix" so he can participate.  However most of the bag labels will read similar to the ingredient list below.)
     We have a week off for the holiday, and with all that time to do so, a few of my students wind up making the mix to take to their family parties.  I love that.  Oh, and we also make enough bags to give one to each staff member, so my peers look forward to this too!

Here's what's in it and why:

Shaped like a cornucopia, a symbol of our nation's abundance

Arms folded in prayer, a freedom sought by those who celebrated the first Thanksgiving

Candy Corn
Food was so scarce that Pilgrims survived on just a few kernels of corn a day during their first winter

Promise of future harvests to be reaped only if seeds are planted and tended with diligence

Dried fruits
Harvest gifts from our bountiful land

M & M's
Memories of those who came before us and memories of those whom we miss on this and every day

The love of family and friends that sweetens our lives, a symbol of giving to those we know and to those who are strangers except for knowing of our kindnesses

     Some added helps: the pretzels are mini twist in variety, for seeds I use sunflower kernels, raisins are the dried fruit, and I make sure I get the candy corn now (I'm shopping for this today), so it's easier to find (and on clearance).  Oh and of course, we always talk about putting Bugles on our fingers like witches' nails. That's part of the tradition too!
     Since this is such a hit, I am sharing it early in hopes someone will come along the recipe and think it's as sweetly touching as I do!

Happy November!

Photo source

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fragging for the First Time?

I started this "new" blog a while back because though I loved my old one, I had posted some things there that reflected a not so pretty side of me (aka the petty side of me.)
Downside to trying to soften, many followers haven't made the move with me.

Okay dozens haven't.

Dozens?  Now that's some hefty readership.

So I'm visiting an old haunt, Friday Fragments, because my life is best sampled in bits and pieces.

  • My class this year is made up of really wonderful kids.  I'm enjoying each day with them.
  • Parent-teacher conferences were this week, and my mind was blown when one dad donated $100 to our class service project (Operation Christmas Child).  He wants to remain anonymous, so posting this here assures him of that!
  • I had a fun birthday, and though Brad and I don't exchange gifts, he told me to order a Kindle and we went shoe shopping.  Yep, my husband likes to go shoe shopping.  (And after that little shopping excursion, I am imposing a ban on shopping for myself for months!  EEK!)
  • He also bought a bottle of Jose Cuervo Margaritas for me.  This is funny because he doesn't drink, so picturing him in the local "beverage depot," even with my son's help, cracks me up.
  • I've come up with a neato concept for a new advent tradition, and I can't wait to share it.  Unfortunately, my vision doesn't always align with my reality...
  • I have a student who is a Jehovah's Witness, so to support him, I didn't dress up this Halloween.  Well, I guess I did, I went as the Halloween Scrooge!  Party.  Pooper.
  •  I wonder, are you ever torn about how to spend money?  Lately I've been struggling with taking trips versus investing in new furniture.  The good thing is, this dilemma keeps my from spending on either.
  • I'm a A-line skirt wearer in a pencil skirt world.  It's quite sad.
  • Brad attends a Thursday night men's group at church where guys are rewarded for participation and question answering with a chocolate bar.  The man has a Dr.'s degree in ministry, I was counting on him bringing home something sweet each week, but he will not play that way.  Sigh!
  • Last Saturday, my student B. and I went to a trunk-or-treat event at our church.  The candy collectors were children and adults with special needs, and B. was so into sharing our loot with them.  I picked the right helper! 
  • Last year, B. helped a non-verbal, wheelchair ridden boy in a grade two above hers with his daily vocabulary lessons.  When I told her we'd be giving candy to people with special needs, she asked what that meant.  I explained it would be people like "J."  She said, "J. had special needs?"  She just saw him as him, and that's beautiful.

  •  Happy gain an hour weekend!