Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas In Focus

Our Christmas game plan is slowing starting to come into focus.

My kitchen looks like Christmas exploded in it...quite a mess.

But I am hoping to get my act together soon.

I found this life-sized blow-up Nativity display at Lowe's yesterday.

I am pretty sure that I should not have gotten it, but even Mommies get the "gimmies" sometimes.  Also, I just fell in love with the representation of the Savior of the world being wrapped in a blanket by these lowly, lovely creatures.

It was just too sweet to leave on the shelf...and it was the last one!

When I assembled it at home, the kids were so sweet to watch.

They immediately began fawning over baby Jesus, petting and thanking the animals, kissing the baby and making sure he was comfortable.  Autumn took her beloved blankie and wrapped baby Jesus up in it, then she nestled her mousie next to him.  It was very sweet.  Worth the money, I hope, to see my kids having a nice experience with the manger scene (a la Mr. Krueger's Christmas!).

I am hoping and praying that what we spend our time and money on this season will continue to help my children have a personal experience with our Savior.

We received our December Ensign yesterday, and I read some of it last night before falling into bed.  It is quite a gem.  One of my favorite lines came from the "We Talk of Christ" section in an article called "The Gift".  The author says, 

"Heavenly Father gave this gift to all of us, young or old, rich or poor.  We did not have to search the shops for it.  It did not cost us a single penny.  It did not come wrapped in shiny wrapping paper.  The most treasured gift of all was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  It was sent to all of us with love from our Heavenly Father."

I hope to remember that this Christmas, that we don't need things to come unto Christ, we need to continue to seek after His spirit and His gifts and then share them with others.

Please come back tomorrow when I announce the winners of the long-awaited Santa's Helper Giveaway and the Nativity Set Giveaway!

Continue reading... »

Monday, November 29, 2010

Silhouette Ornaments

We were lucky to have my parents join us for Thanksgiving this year, and after our feast, we continued our long-standing tradition of ornament-making after Thanksgiving dinner.

We made some silhouette ornaments as a throwback to our special experience studying the family proclamation together in 2010.

Can you guess who is who?

I think they all turned out pretty cute, especially the one below of my Mom's dog!

To make some of your own silhouette ornament:  
Take a picture of the person from the side to get a nice outline of their profile.  Shrink it to the desired size on your computer and print.  Cut out.  Trace onto black paper.  Cut out again.  Drill one small hole into the top of wooden discs to make your ornament hang.  Decoupage scrapbook paper onto a wooden plaque.  Then decoupage your silhouette on that and finish off with another layer of glue, covering the entire image, front, and edges.  Poke a hole through the paper and insert an ornament hook.  Finish it off by gluing a matching bow/ribbon at the top.

One more tradition that was new to us this year:  Every day in November, we each wrote down what we were thankful for and saved the slips of paper in a Thanksgiving Advent calendar.  As Thanksgiving dinner was winding down, we put all of the slips of paper into a bowl and passed the bowl around reading aloud what each had said they were thankful for.  Some of the things listed were:  snuggling, care cub, church, mommy, preschool, grapes, hugs, grandparents, blankie, a nice day with the family, our fireplace, good friends, flowers, computers, and socks.

I hope you all had an excellent Thanksgiving!

Reminder:  I will announce the winner of the Santa's Helper Giveaway and the Nativity Set giveaway on December 1st.  There is still time to enter!
Continue reading... »

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Quilt That Almost Wasn't

I finally finished this Christmas quilt that I started five years ago!

(I think I hear angels singing back-up for me on this one!)

I chose the colors and designed it myself, and I am very proud of that.

But mostly I'm just proud that I didn't give up on it, because, although it gave me trouble at nearly every step of the way, I am so happy with how beautiful it turned out in the end.  And I very nearly did throw out the fabric just a few weeks ago, but I decided to give it one last big effort...and voila!

This is now my favorite quilt of all the quilts that I have made.
(I'm giving it to someone for Christmas, so I had to take lots of pictures to remember it by!)

This quilt is also kind of symbolic of the way that 2010 has been for me.

I have struggled and wrestled with things.
I have had to re-cut, remeasure, and reaffirm my beliefs.
I have had to find the strength to try again, to stand on not just my own merits, but also on His merits.  I have had to search inside for the strength to stand by my own testimony of Christ and His divine design for families, even when others have not supported or have misunderstood my efforts.

Now that this year is nearly behind me, I can stand back and look at what I have accomplished with the Lord's help.  I can see how the choices that my husband and I have made have brought a lot of peace and happiness into the lives of our children.

We have worked hard together.  We have learned to serve others more as a way of life.
I have poured my heart and my soul into each and every day of 2010, even when it was a very big struggle to do so...to give 110% of myself, but I did.

And the result is turning out to be ever so beautiful.

I am thankful for that.

Continue reading... »

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pretty Pilgrim Bonnet

Remember back in August when I was prepping to send my oldest off to Preschool?

Well, he went without a problem...and so did my second oldest!
(That's a story for another day...)

Anyway, they LOVE it!  (No surprise there.)

I went to their first preschool program yesterday, and it was such a joy to watch them perform their Thanksgiving songs for us.

Guy surprised me by singing louder than anyone else...and by being the only kid to do a full-- and very gracious--bow for the audience after each and every song!  (He's definitely my son!)

Scarlett lead her class in and out and smiled brightly as she demonstrated that she knew every word and every hand-motion by heart.  (That's my girl!)

I could not have been more proud!

Autumn also joined in from the audience--calling out "Guy!" every once in a while to get him to wave.  And the kids did an encore performance for my husband during FHE, so the whole family had a chance to partake.

You'll notice Scarlett is wearing this cuter-than-cute paper pilgrim hat.

If you'd like to make one, I found the pattern here.

(I'm assuming that her teacher made the boy hats from this pattern.)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Be Safe.

Be Happy.

Be Blessed.

Continue reading... »

Monday, November 22, 2010

Please Pass the Chocolate Turkey

My husband Steve came home with this 3 pound chocolate turkey on Friday.

Now that I've taken it out of its wrapping...what chance do you think this thing has of making it to Thursday?
Continue reading... »

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thankful for The Headless Pilgrim

I have this man and woman pilgrim set in my bathroom, and my kids like to go in there and play with them and have this whole dialog going on with these Thanksgiving characters.

I thought about moving them the other day, because I knew they'd be broken if I didn't, but they were enjoying them so much that I left them there for them to play with without outside interference.

Of course last night, as I was cooking dinner, I suddenly heard my little Guy wailing at the top of his lungs.  When I opened the bathroom door, I found him--his eyes full of tears--holding the pieces of this pilgrim in his arms.  Clearly, he was very upset.  I asked why he was crying so hard, and he said that he thought I would be mad because he broke my pilgrim.

I said, "Guy, things are just things.  I love you more than any "thing".  You are way more important to me.  Yes, we need to be careful with our possessions and take care of them, but nothing you could do would ever make me stop loving you.  I love you, no matter what."

He was so surprised at my response, and his eyes just lit up.  He was so happy that he tackled me in a hug in typical Guy-style.

I am thankful for this poor little pilgrim who lost his head, because it gave me a chance to show my love for my son---by not losing mine!
Continue reading... »

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Dream Came True...

Some people want to see their name in lights...

However, I've always wanted to see my name on the back of a Pyrex dish...

and now I do, thanks to the local Relief Societies who put on a fun Super Saturday!

And don't you think this is great?

Wouldn't it be cool to just have a few of these in each ward 
that get passed around as we bake for those among us who need a meal?  


Continue reading... »

Friday, November 19, 2010

Radio Silence

I've haven't been talking much this week.

That's because I've been listening instead.

I've been praying and pondering and searching.

I am very concerned about what I am going to teach my children during the Christmas holiday this year.  The things that I teach my children and the activities that we do together are very important to me.  In fact, nothing is more important.  We had the best Christmas ever last year with our book reading and crafting that we did each day in December.

This year I want to facilitate a celebration for my family that is just as magical, that incorporates visiting the lonely, giving of ourselves to those in need, and above all else, cultivating the spirit of Jesus Christ.

I have put so much thought into how best to do this...but I have not yet arrived at a decision.

At times, it seems that the voice of the Spirit is plain and clear in my head and easily leads me along.  Other days, there is simply too much noise to hear that still, small voice clearly.

It reminds me of the static that one hears when tuning a radio.  I am tuning my ear to hear the station...the voice...that I want to listen to, but turn too much in one direction and I get static.  Turn the dial in the other direction and the station comes in clearly for a moment, then I lose it again.

So, I am staying silent for a while, tuning, tuning, and listening.

I am confident that the Lord will lead me to just the right activities to help us as a family come to Him this Christmas.

Continue reading... »

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nativity Set GIVEAWAY

3-dimensional Metal Nativity set on Wood Plaque

I have really enjoyed reading and sparking up a friendship this year with Elizabeth of Twelve Crafts 'Till Christmas.  Starting today, Elizabeth is spotlighting some very cool CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS.  For the next few weeks, she'll host 15 guest bloggers who will share their family's most treasured Christmas traditions, with "how-to's" so you can easily add their favorite activities to your family's Christmas celebrations this year.

And...(wait for it)...

 I get to kick the whole thing off as her first guest blogger today!

I am posting about my favorite activities from my Christmas Book Crafting Advent that my kids and I did last Christmas.  It's an awesome tradition...You'll love it...I promise!

So head on over there and join in the fun....go now! 
(And then come back to enter this giveaway!)

If you are visiting from Twelve Crafts Till Christmas...


Feel free to have a look around and make yourself at home!  I love meeting new friends, so please drop me a line!  I am currently working on the special daily Christmas activities that I will do with my kids this year...I am hoping to talk about one of Christ's teachings with my kids every day in December...so stay tuned!


I am still running my Santa's Helper Giveaway 

On December 1st someone will win $130 to spend on a family in need this holiday season!  Follow the link above to find out how to enter.

Now here's the update: I have received so many inspirational entries that I have added a few more prizes to the giveaway to help you play "Santa's Helper" for someone this year!

(I know...Awesome, right?)

3-dimensional Metal Nativity set on Wood Plaque

If you have already entered the giveaway for $130 to CSN, you will also be automatically entered to win this 5-piece metal nativity set
(by Huckleberry Lady) 

It is gorgeous and would bring a nice spirit into any home's Christmas display.  
Special thanks to Huckleberry Lady on Etsy for providing this generous giveaway:


1. Become a follower.

3. Tell me one of your favorite holiday traditions...or tell me how you keep your family focused on the real reason for the season.

5.  Comment on my guest post over at Twelve Crafts.

How easy is that? 

*Please leave a comment on this post for each entry.

I will announce the winner on December 1st.

Continue reading... »

Skull & Bones Baby Blanket

Good friends of ours are having a baby in a matter of weeks, so I whipped up this baby blanket with matching burp cloths for them.  Before you throw a sideways glance at this skull & crossbones-themed baby gift (I'll admit that I struggled envisioning it while at the fabric store), you should know that the Daddy is a big fan of this motif, and since they are expecting their first girl, I figured this would be a fun way for him to ease in to the whole pink scene!

I am so pleased with how it turned out.  The black print side is actually sparkly and the pale pink side is beyond soft.  I "quilted" it using a spiral pattern that starts in the middle of the quilt and spins its way out to the sides.  It looks really cool!

I really love personalized gifts, don't you?  It's so fun to think seriously about another person, their likes, dislikes, their dreams, and desires...and then to try to create something with your own hands or from your own imagination that would truly bring them joy.

I think it would be so neat if people everywhere returned to making gifts for each other.  I know that many of you blogger-mommies do this regularly, but outside of those circles, it can be kind of a rare tradition.

My friend Elizabeth at Twelve Crafts Till Christmas is making all of her gifts this year...and I am guest posting for her today.  The post won't be up until about 6 pm Eastern time...and at that time I will announce a pretty great GIVEAWAY here on my site...so check back in with me later (like after FHE or before dinner) to  find out how to enter!  Until then, have a great day!

Continue reading... »

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Day I Became A Mother

Five years ago today, I became a mother...
and everything in my life changed for the better!  
...For the BEST!

Happy Birthday to my baby boy, Guy--
a wonderful son, the life of the party,
and the best brother that any little girls could hope for!  
We love you forever!

Continue reading... »

Friday, November 12, 2010

Handprint Turkeys & Giveaway Winner

This is what I did with the kids this morning, instead of doing the mound of dishes (etc., etc., etc.,) that I have waiting for me.  We're going to send them to some loved ones who we can't be with this Thanksgiving.  If you'd like to do this too, you can find the poem that we used here.  (Oops, I just noticed that I forgot to add the beak and legs, so I just went back and added that!)

Now to announce the winner of the Thanksgiving party poster.   

Thanksgiving Party on a Poster-POP

I received a lot of really great entries and it was cool reading what you are all thankful for.
It was very uplifting for me to read.
Thank you!

Now the winner is...

Holly of Rope 'em In

My Photo
who said:

"I am thankful for ten years in the beginning of eternity with my Ben."

Congratulations Holly...(and Ben!)

Holly, you get your choice of either the Party on a Poster or the Tree of Gratitude.
Please email me with your preference and contact info!

Thanks to everyone who entered!
And thank you to Activity Banners for providing this giveaway!
Go check out her stuff...she also has a Christmas Party on a Poster in her shop!

Speaking of Christmas...
My Santa's Helper Giveaway is still going on.  I will continue to accept entries until the last day of November, and I will announce the winner of the $130 to spend on a family in need on December 1st.  Good luck!

Have a great weekend!

Continue reading... »

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Too Beautiful to Bake

A very good friend and co-worker of mine once told me that I was too beautiful to stay home when I became a mother...(I'll give you a minute to stop laughing.)...Anyway, this dear friend of mine thought that it would be a waste to stay "locked away" from the world as a stay-at-home mom when I could be enjoying a career in front of the camera.  I think that her comment was meant to flatter me, but I also think she seriously thought that her words would sway me in her direction.

See these pumpkins?  They are called "Cinderella" pumpkins, and I think that they are beautiful.  I want to enjoy looking at them some more, but my children have been begging me to cut them up and bake them into pumpkin pie.  They seem to value what's inside this pumpkin and what it can become more than what it looks like on the outside at the moment.  Something inside me thinks that they might just be too beautiful to bake, but bake them, we will, and enjoy them we will--even more.

I received these pumpkins from my Mennonite friends.  I think that these friends of mine are absolutely beautiful.  I think that their whole way of life is beautiful as well.  They allowed me to take pictures of their family once a few years back, and I love looking at their smiling faces in those photos.  They shine from the inside out.  I wish I could show you the pictures that I took of them, because they would surely bring a smile to your face, but I promised that I wouldn't broadcast them across the internet.  Some of the most beautiful faces you will ever encounter in life will not be seen by the world.  They will remain private, but just as lovely...lovelier than...any face that appears in fashion magazines or on the big screen.

Would I be more beautiful today, if I had stayed in the workplace, chasing my dreams of a career in Television?  Certainly not.  For I would have missed out on the chance to be turned from something that sparkled on the outside, into something warm, sweet, and nourishing to the body and soul on the inside (obviously, I'm a work in progress...).  I also would have missed out on the faces and expressions of my children day in and day out whose smiles, countenances and true beauty are known only to me and to the Lord.  

I also would not be baking pumpkin pie right now, soaking in the beautiful revitalizing November sunshine, or enjoying the fruits of my "labors" so fully.

Thank goodness for Motherhood!

(On the other hand, I'd be much more aware of what day of the week it is.  I though it was Thursday all day yesterday...so the winner of our giveaway will be announced tomorrow...which is Friday....not today!)
Continue reading... »

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Children Welcome Here.

In our home, Children are definitely welcome.  And recently, I've been trying to make sure that the functionality of our home reflects that.  So, in that vein, I added an extra rod in our front hall closet for the children to hang up their own coats.  I think this will really help keep us sane this winter and help the kids feel some ownership over their things.  I used the Mainstays Closet Space Expander from Walmart for $12.  

I'll be back tomorrow with the winner of the Thanksgiving poster!

Continue reading... »

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Santa Is Doing Right About Now...

I took this video while shopping at Big Lots yesterday with my kids.  I just thought it was too funny to not share it with you!  (Not sure what the right adjective is to describe it really, strange? amazing? completely awesome?...you be the judge.) 

Anyway...Are you feeling like the Santa in this video?  Do you hear the Rocky theme music every time to pull out your Christmas to-do list...or are you ready to throw in the towel on all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays?

A lot of Moms that I talk to are already stressing out about Christmas...and I must admit that I've got a long and growing To-do list as well.  Well, it's never too late (or early) to take President Uchtdorf's advice to SIMPLIFY and focus on the Things That Matter Most!  

If you are feeling stressed about all of the work that lies ahead of you this Christmas, this month, or even this week, why not take a few minutes to read and reflect on President Uchtdorf's words from the last General Conference--and consider how they might apply to your situation--before diving back in to your holiday preparations?  

Here's a great quote to start with from his talk:  "If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most."

Speaking of General Conference, if you've received your November 2010 Ensign already, make sure you check out the photos in it...They are AWESOME!  They're done in a totally different style than in the past, very personal, joyful, and vibrant.  I think being in color really helps with that too.  Here are two of my favorites:

To see the rest, you're just going to have to read your Ensign!

And remember to make sure you enter the giveaways that I have going on right now for the Thanksgiving Party on a Poster (ending this Friday) 
and the Santa's Helper Giveaway (ending Dec. 1).

PS - I've enjoyed reading all of your comments about what you are most thankful for this year...really inspiring, great stuff.  Thanks for helping me to focus on and be thankful for what is truly important!

Continue reading... »

Monday, November 8, 2010

Win a Thanksgiving Party (on a Poster)

Thanksgiving Party on a Poster-POP

I hope that you had an awesome weekend, because I sure did!
I went to the temple, met up with some friends for lunch in DC, ate really good food, had fun chatting during the drive, and ended it with a great day at church today.
(I have absolutely no pictures for proof.  You'll just have to trust that that all happened!)

Today, I have a giveaway for all of my true & faithful readers!

Kimberly over at Activity Banners is offering one of these Thanksgiving activity posters to the winner of this giveaway.

If you win, you will receive your choice of either
a personalized Tree of Gratitude 
or the 
Thanksgiving Party on a Poster 
by Activity Banners
to use this Thanksgiving season.

Here's how to enter:

1.  Leave me a comment telling me the ONE THING that you are most thankful for THIS YEAR.  (Dig deep, here!  Think about it before you answer.)

2. Follow my blog

3.  Visit the Activity Banner shop & link to them on Facebook

4.  BONUS:  Ask me any question or tell me what you're interested in seeing/reading more of on my blog in the future.

I'll choose the winner on Friday...and hopefully I'll be back tomorrow with a working camera.

Continue reading... »

Friday, November 5, 2010

Where Is Heaven?

For me, Heaven has always been where my family is gathered together.  

I have such happy memories of countless family dinners, family home evenings, and special traditions shared at birthdays and holidays.

For a long time, I thought that my family--I mean the family in which I grew up--was perfect.  We had such a strong bond that I thought that nothing could ever pull us apart.  There was nothing that we couldn't laugh off, bake off, or run off together.

But as we grow older, I find that life and family relations are much more complicated than I ever thought they'd be in my youth. 

Through it all, Family is still where I find my Heaven, my happy, safe place.  I look forward to getting back to that place very soon.

My friend Wendy, who is hosting "30 Days of Pie" on her blog is also sharing some really sweet family traditions that can strengthen family bonds.  You really should hop on over there and leave her a comment.  She's new to blogging, and could use some blog love!  It's worth it...I promise.  I mean, seriously, would you really want to miss this?....

Today Wendy shared this WONDERFUL poem that her grandparents used to recite at every family gathering.  It speaks of the joy of being together as a family, the eternal bond of families, and the fact that even death cannot break the bonds of family.

Here is the poem sprinkled with a few pictures from Thanksgiving Day two years ago.

"We Are All Here"
Charles Sprague, author

We are all here,
Father, mother,
Sister, brother, 
All who hold each other dear. 
Each chair is filledwe 're all at home!
To-night let no cold stranger come.
It is not often thus around 
Our old familiar hearth we 're found.
Bless, then, the meeting and the spot;
For once be every care forgot;
Let gentle peace assert her power,
And kind affection rule the hour.
We 're all — all here. 

We 're not all here
Some are away, 
—the dead ones dear,
Who thronged with us this ancient hearth, 
And gave the hour to guileless mirth. 
Fate, with a stem, relentless hand, 
Looked in, and thinned our little band; 
Some like a night-flash passed away, 
And some sank lingering day by day; 
The quiet graveyard,— some lie there,— 
And cruel ocean has his share.
We 're not all here. 

We are all here
Even they, —the dead,—though dead, so dear, — 
Fond memory, to her duty true, 
Brings back their faded forms to view.
How life-like, through the mist of years, 
Each well-remembered face appears! 
We see them, as in times long past; 
From each to each kind looks are cast; 
We hear their words, their smiles behold; 
They 're round us, as they were of old. 
We are all here.

We are all here,
Father, mother,
Sister, brother, 
You that I love with love so dear. 
This may not long of us be said; 
Soon must we join the gathered dead, 
And by the hearth we now sit round 
Some other circle will be found. 
O, then, that wisdom may we know, 
Which yields a life of peace below; 
So, in the world to follow this, 
May each repeat in words of bliss,
We 're allall here!

Continue reading... »