Dec 20, 2011

Day Twenty: Make a Birthday Cake for Jesus

Today's advent adventure was a BIG hit with The Girl. We are way into treats, and way into birthdays, so a birthday cake for Jesus was VERY exciting!

I decided to keep it real and go with the box mix in my pantry. No time to get all Martha Stewart...
 I did thoroughly enjoy premeasuring all of the ingredients and letting The Girl put it together as if she was on some sort of cooking show....

 Okay... so there were a few times I had to step in and assist. Lets get serious... she's still shy of 3.5!

I have a beautiful recipe/direction for a very heart-felt, Biblical birthday cake for Jesus "experience" but I didn't adequately prep, nor did I have the funds to go buy the necessary supplies. So, we kept it very simple:

1) Round cake pan: It has no end. Gods love for us is never-ending. He sent his only Son!
2) Yellow cake #1: God is light (yellow). He created a perfect, sin-free world.
3) Dark chocolate middle layer of icing: We are sinners. We messed up God's perfect, sin-free world. Our sin is icky, dirty, dark...
4) Yellow cake #2: Jesus is light (yellow). He and God are the same person. He came to earth and covered our sins! By his blood we are free!

Then, I was explicitly clear that the fun story ended... and I put the top layer of chocolate icing on ;)

We'll go deeper next year...

What a difference a year makes...

The best gift we gave last year, and maybe the best gift we'll ever give to our parents, was this video. (This is one segment of the entire 5 minute piece.) This is the first time I've watched it in almost a year, and I'm struck with so many different thoughts...

-She is not even 2 1/2 years old!
-That was a long passage.
-We MADE time to practice this... every night... starting in October...
-Our house looks very different now!
-That sweet little voice has changed so much in a year.
-Did you know Jesus was wrapped up in "clops"?

Thank you, Lord, for your Word... for Truth... for young children who show us that, with discipline, hiding your Word in our hearts can be done. I know how this makes me feel... you, her Heavenly Father, must be smiling from ear to ear.

Dec 14, 2011

Teacher gifts

Have I mentioned my love affair with Pinterest? The ideas are never-ending... which could overwhelm me, but I choose to let it inspire me instead! And, on my new budget, I need all the inspiration I can get!

I am SO thankful for The Girl's preschool teachers. If I could give them each a whopping gift card, or a shopping spree, or a case of wine, I would. However, I cannot. I can't afford the cute thermal lunch totes that last years teachers got.

But I can craft. And craft I did.

Start with some frames, some crayons and a print out with the teacher's name and first letter of last name (the 8.5 x 11 was printed in font size 500!).

Employ the help of your spouse, who is probably sitting there asking you what on earth you're doing. Peel the wrappers off the crayons (or not, but I did because I was using a variety of "misfits.") Cut the crayons in 1/3 or 1/4, depending on the size of letter you're working with!

Grab your hot glue gun and start sticking the crayons down. I used no methodology here.

Finally, put the paper in first, then back it with the glass, and then the back of the frame.

Quick, simple, almost free. Pinterest saves the day again!

Day Fourteen- Gingerbread House

Dec 13, 2011

Rest in Thee

The lessons have been plentiful: abundance, contentment, staying ready. God is using so many loaded words to refine me, change me. I'm experiencing a paradigm shift of gargantuan proportions. And I love it. It hurts, but it hurts so good.

"He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during those 40 years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you." -Duet. 8: 3-5

Am I humble? No, but I'm getting there. Am I hungry? Yes, but for something deeper, more fulfilling. I want Scripture. I want Truth. (Okay, I'll be completely honest. I also want one of those delicious December-only treats, too.)

Making the transition from two incomes to one has been eye-opening... How wasteful we have been with the resources God has blessed us with... How little we can really live on, and still live so extravagantly. (Honestly-- our kids don't even notice!)

And, here we are in the midst of the Christmas gift-giving season, with nothing much to give... or do we? T-shirts that are overflowing from our drawers have become scarves. Paint and crafting supplies that has been carted to four addresses in six years is finally being used! A plethora of picture frames are being swapped out with Scripture word art, and passed on.

"... you brought us to a place of abundance." -Ps. 66:12

The fact is,  I've always had everything I ever needed, or wanted to give, or thought I should craft ... I was just too distracted to see it.

Thank you, Jesus! You're saving me from myself!

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty." -Phil. 4:11-12

I'm learning what it is to have waaaaaaay too much. And do I ever!

So now, what?

This advent carol has been playing over and over again in my head...

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set they people free.
From our fears and sin release us
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Where are you finding rest? Who or what  is feeding your soul? What fears and sins do you need to be released from?

Mine is gross. It's filthy. It's full of judgement, entitlement, self-righteousness. Gross. Gross. Gross. I could go on and on...

By thine own sufficient merit,
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

Thank you, Jesus, for meeting me where I am, in my filthy sin, and carrying me right back to the foot of your throne! Come, Jesus, come!

Dec 6, 2011

Day Six- Marshmallow Snowman

This was a fun craft to put together with friends! I had to spend $0.89 on a bag of marshvallows, but had everything else on hand. Perfect!
The artists...

The peanut gallery...

Mama's drew snowmen with Elmer's glue, and the artists placed the marshmallows.
They ate as many as they placed...

The artists then dipped one marshmallow in white paint and used it to make falling snow...

And, there you have it. 

A craft done with friends... that was partially edible... and attempted in the first 10 minutes of our playdate... made for success! Thank you, Pinterest, for yet another SCORE!

Dec 1, 2011

Christmas Countdown

We are doing all sorts of Christmas countdowns, but I think this is The Girl's favorite.

Last year, my neighbor, Kim, told me that she wrapped 25 books for her daughter and let her open one every night before bed. Brilliant! Unfortunately, I learned about this cute little tradition on about December 21, 2010... just a smidge too late. However, I made a mental note, and as I packed up all of our Christmas decor last year, I also packed away as many Christmas books I could find in our collection. I think there were about eleven.

As we pulled out the boxes of Christmas decorations, the original eleven were there. I had The Hubby comb our bookshelves one more time, and he dug up another eleven that we must have inherited this past year. Perfect! Twenty- two books! After a quick stop at Dollar Tree for the last two, our 24 books were wrapped and tucked into a shoebox.

Our little bookworm could barely stand the anticipation.

I think the key to this is packing away all the books with the rest of the Christmas decor. Not only does that make it super easy to find them and get them all wrapped by December 1st, but it also gives the child(ren) 12 months to forget about them!

Day One- Salt Dough Ornaments

Today began The Girl's first ever month of advent. I'm sure she doesn't totally "get it" yet, but she's a quick a learner. I see twenty-four inhaled breakfasts ahead... (She pulls the card for that day once she's done eating.)

Anyway, today she pulled "Craft: Ornament." The options are endless! Photos? Buttons? Handprints? How is a mother to make such a big decision for the day ahead?

It came down to this: materials needed must already be in our home. I scanned my Pinterest "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" board, and found a few recipes for 'salt dough ornaments.' Here's what happened...

First, I honed my inner Alpha Chi Omega. I'm pretty sure I hadn't touch most of these materials since I made my last paddle... almost 10 years ago! I'll be forever grateful that our founders chose Scarlet Red and Olive Green as our colors-- they came in all too handy for our Christmas crafting today!

Next, I made the dough. I tried two recipies, and this one was by far the better option:
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour

Mix it together. Knead it for 5-7 minutes. Roll it out to about 1/4 of an inch thickness. (I rolled ours too thin. Keep in mind they will shrink when they bake!)

Employ your helper to cut out ornaments. (You should get 15-20 per batch, depending on how big your cookie cutters are.)

Be sure to poke a hole in the top for the string or ribbon. Do this BEFORE you bake them! We used a straw, and The Girl thought it was really fun to blow out the little piece of dough that got stuck in the straw.

Bake them at 200 degrees for two hours, then flip them and bake two more hours.

We baked ours allllllllll afternoon, so it was fun to get The Hubby in on the action when he got home from work.

Finally, coat them with an acrylic sealer of some sort, and add ribbon or string!

Note: Though I blindly placed all of our Advent activities in the calender (I enjoy the suspense, too!), I'd probably try and get this one later in the month. Mainly because we JUST made Christmas cookies, and The Girl was very confused as to why we couldn't also eat these. She also wanted to lick the paint off her fingers-- as just days ago she was able to lick the colored icing off her fingers! Oops!

Baked Oatmeal

I made this for our MOPS brunch this morning. It's a family favorite for many reasons:
1) Prepping it dirties one, single dish.
2) I almost always have all of the ingredients on hand.
3) It's quick. Prepare it while the oven is heating, and it bakes in 30 min!
4) It's super filling. This is especially helpful when anticipating a late lunch ;)

You need:
2 1/2 C oatmeal
1/2 C oat bran
1/4 C white sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 C applesauce
1/4 C oil
1 egg
1 C skim milk

Mix together and bake in 9x9 or 8x8 pan for 30 min. at 350.

We enjoy it warm out of the oven with raisons, brown sugar and some milk!

Amy's Chicken Pot Pie

Do you have a recipe from a friend that you just love? I mean, not only does it taste good, but it just reminds you of them? This recipe came from one of my very best girlfriends, and college roommate, Amy. Not only is it so good and so straightforward (just like Aim), but it's freezable! (Amy is not a fan of being frozen, but she has taken up snowboarding... I see no connection there, but just go with it...)

You Need:
4 C cubed cooked chicken
3 C veggies of your choice (you can use canned or frozen, I prefer a bag of frozen mixed veggies)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of potato soup
1/2 C milk
1 refrigerated pie crust

Boil or brown the chicken until cooked through. Combine cooked chicken with vegetables, soup, and milk in a large mixing bowl. Divide the mixture between two 9” pie plates. Unroll pie crusts on top of mixture and trim, seal, and flute the edges. Cut four slits into the top of the crusts. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until crust is golden. You may have to cover the edges with foil during the last 10 min or so to prevent from burning.

You can serve both, or cover and freeze one for up to 3 months. To reheat the frozen pie, let thaw 24 hours in the fridge. Bake at 400 for the first 10 minutes, then bake at 350 for around 35 minutes or until golden.

Meal idea:
Serve with mashed potatoes and warm bread. Yum yum!

Crock Pot Beef Stew

I LOVE my crockpot! I mean, seriously, I use it for 2-4 meals a week.. and I'm not at all ashamed ;) It's my best friend in the kitchen, and a major assistant in the time management department. Here's the first of many crockpot ideas.

PS- I saw them for $16 at our Sam's Club. Now THAT'S the gift that keeps on giving!

You Need:
2 lbs beef stew meat, cubed
1/4 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1.5 C water
1 envelope onion soup mix (dried)
1 onion, chopped
4-6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 bag baby carrots

1. Place meat in crock pot.
2. Combine flour, salt and pepper and pour over meat. Toss meat to coat.
3. Combine the next four ingredients and pour over meat.
4. Top with onions, potatoes and carrots.
5. Cook on high 4-6 hours.

Meal idea-
Serve with 1 can refrigerated biscuits.

Nov 28, 2011

A soapbox of sorts...

Being on "this side" of the home selling process is, in a word, brutal. I much prefer the comfy, cushy, driver's seat as Your Friend in Real Estate, Stacy.

The Hubby and I have sold two houses in the last 6 years. Both sold within 3 days of listing. Neither required more than two showings. Tonight, we're five weeks into the process and on the eve of showing #6.

And, though I'm SO thankful to have showings-- especially this time of year-- doing all of this with two kids in tow is totally and utterly exhausting.

That said, here's my formerly professional opinion of how to prepare for a showing.

1. Mow or shovel- or employ someone to do it for you. Approaching a house with knee-high grass, or having to shovel your way to the front door is unacceptable. (And, yes, I have had that experience!) While you're at it, sweep off your front porch.

2. Do your laundry. I know, I know, you have 100 million other things to do. Well, throw some wash in while you do the other chores. Piles of clothes all over is unattractive, and covering the piles with a sheet or towel is just downright goofy.

3. Empty your trash. It's that simple.

4. Clean out/organize your closets. Yes, they get opened. It's horrifying when a pile of junk falls out, and the buyer has to cram it back in.

5. Clean your oven, microwave and refrigerator INSIDE and OUT... this is especially crucial when the appliances are being sold with the house. Lets get serious, if you can't take care of the thing that holds your food, that you look at daily... why would I think you're taking care of the thing that's hidden underground holding the food that has left your house... ifyouknowwhatimean.

6. Spritz a little Windex on your front and back storm doors. Hasta la vista, finger prints!

7. Want to know how serious the buyer was as they walked through your home? Vacuum. Footprints in your carpeting can give a pretty good indication as to how in-depth the buyer looked at your home ;) A little stalker-esque? Perhaps, but they're the ones walking through your home!

8. For the love of all that's holy, please DO NOT LEAVE CANDLES BURNING! Do you ever leave your home with candles burning? Why would you do it now? It was, and still is, a fire hazard! It's also a major distraction to the agent showing your home... who is now more concerned with blowing out candles than they are selling their buyer on the features and benefits of your home!

9. Wipe down your kitchen sink. A little Comet goes a long way. If you have a garbage disposal, run it and stick a quarter of a citrus fruit (think lemon, orange, grapefruit) down it to let out a fresh scent.

10. Lights on! Any and every light you have should be on. Switches! Lamps! Pull strings! The agent will do their best to turn most- if not all- of them off, but it's not their top priority. You want your buyer to see everything they can... closets (see #4), basement storage areas and crawl spaces, attic, etc.

11. If you're able, get all vehicles out of your garage. It makes it look bigger. Go park the extra car at Walmart, or in your neighbors driveway-- but help that garage look as big as possible!

12. Scrub your toilets, and then leave the cleaner in without flushing. Makes for a nice, fresh smelling bathroom.

And, while I'm at it, here are the things I would say NOT to worry about:

1. Putting away allllllll of your family photos. It's still your house. Let it have some personality.
2. Setting your table. It looks nice for photos, but it's unnecessary for showings.

So there. I've said it. I feel much better. Six years of pent up steam ;)

T-shirt Scarf

*Editors Note: Sisters and female cousins that are like a sister, you will likely see this under the tree with your name on it. Sorry to spoil the fun, but I had to share the love for any others looking for some inexpensive gifting options!

So here's the deal: The Christmas fund never got funded. Boo. For. Me.

That being said, I have found some super fun, FREE, Christmas gifts to craft! (Thank you, Pinterest, and my crafty/thrifty friends!) This one I love for many reasons, not the least of which is: 1) It's FREE (Did I mention that already?); 2) It's easy; and 3) It gets rid of some of the "abundance" in our home.

In an effort to put my "wordiness" at bay, I took as many photos as I could while I was whippin' up this little fella.

Side note: Why I put this together on my stove, I have no idea. There are about 1,462 other place in my home that would have worked just as well, but this is where I ended up. So, when you see the stove top coils in the background of photos, think nothing of it. Heat is not a crucial element of this project ;)

You ready?

Here we go!

You need:
a t-shirt you're ready to part with (that might be the hardest part of this craft)
a pair of scissors

1. Flatten out the t-shirt

2. Cut the bottom hem off, and throw it away.

3. Cut the t-shirt in to strip/loops about a 1/2 inch. Variety in width is good. Spice it up!

4. Cut all the way up to the old 'pits. Then stop.

5. Gather three or four strip/loops in your hand.

6. Stretch those babies out! I mean, STREEEEEEEEETCH! Work your triceps. Give the toes a little point-n-flex action. STREEEEEEEETCH.

7. They will naturally coil themselves up and look like this. You might have to pull them apart from one another.

8. Gather all of the strip/loops that have been stretched.

9. Cut off a sleeve.

10. Cut a strip/loop from the sleeve section. Then, cut it open (so it's no longer a "loop.)

 11. Stretch the sleeve strip like you did all the others (see step 6). It will now become the piece that ties all of the strip/loops together. You can do this anyway you choose, but the next several photos show how I did it.




12. And there you have it! Depending on the size of t-shirt you used, it may loop once, twice or even three times. 

There are lots of cute variations you can do too.
-Do a few different colored t-shirts at a time and have a multi-colored scarf.
-Braid some of the "loops" and mix in some braids.
-Add some beads.

The varietes are endless.

Oh, and when it's time to wash it, I'd reccommend a lingerie bag. Otherwise, you've just created your newest mophead.