Saturday, December 31, 2011

A 2011 Rewind and a Thank You!

I've probably been craftier in the past year than I have been in a long time.  I've been so inspired by great bloggers, and all of the wonderful ideas that they share.  Obviously, Pinterest has also been a HUGE part of my inspiration as well.  I don't really consider myself a "major crafter," so it makes me smile to think that my craft posts have been some of the most-visited on my blog!  Here's a look at some of the big ones from the past year.  (Click on the link below each photo to see more.)

(It's not too late for this one!  If you're worried about it looking too Christmasy,
just change out the scarf for a different color!)

Were you crafty in 2011?
What was your biggest source of inspiration?


Recipes were also big around here -- especially as the holidays approached.
Three of my most recent recipe posts bypassed all of the others to date.  They were:


I so appreciate my top referring sites for 2011.
Thanks for sending new friends my way!!
[I'm tipping my hat to google and twitter as well!]


Here's to a great 2012!

God bless us, every one!


friday favorite things | finding joy

Friday, December 30, 2011

Random Year-End Tidbits

Winter makes me want to crawl into bed and not come out again until sometime in March.
It has nothing to do with depression,
and everything to do with the fact that I am always cold.
I hate being cold, don't you?
When I'm cold, I drink hot tea, and drink some more, and drink some more
until I feel like I'm floating... and cold again.

Pinterest is an interesting thing.
I've loved finding ideas and creating things
that I never would've thought of on my own.
It's also a great place to dream, and yet...
the truth is that I find I don't dream very big.
I'm a real skeptic about where all the funding for these dreams will come from.

I never make New Year's resolutions.
I'm more of a random, all-through-the-year,
kind of girl.

Last year, my one-little-word was JOY.
I'm still undecided for 2012.
I might go with TRUST.
The older our kids get, the more I need to do this.
I need to totally set aside the notion that I
can get through the "tough stuff" in my own strength.

After just over a year of blogging,
my "most read post of all time"
is my 2010 "December Daily Foundation Pages" post.
Of course, it naturally follows that
my biggest traffic source of all time is Ali Edwards (thank you, Ali).
While I am not one to keep track of blogging numbers per se,
checking out the statistics is always fascinating to me.
It's always so interesting to see how people
find their way to my blog.
And, let me say, I am thankful for each one
who has found their way here!
Thanks for humoring me in my efforts!  *wink*

And last, but not least... Six.  A RANDOM act of kindness.

On election day, while my son had a day off school, I made the kids semi-annual dentist appointments.  Before we left, the doctor asked to speak with me.  Turns out my son (who had previously had some work done on his teeth) needed an upgrade to a CROWN on one tooth.  Since the original procedure didn't really "hold," the doctor said he would only charge us the difference between the original procedure and the new one when we came for the crown in December.

Lovely. And fair, I thought.

Well, today was "crown day."  At the end, I was called to the counter for payment, and the office manager reiterated the deal that the doctor had spoken on our last visit.  As she checked our account on her computer screen, she looked up and said, "Oh, you're good to go!  Merry Christmas!"

I was... dumbfounded.  And grateful.  Merry Christmas indeed!

What's the greatest random act of kindness
that you've had bestowed on you?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Project Pinterest: Christmas Stars!

Okay, I am totally taking this one on the road, folks!  I LOVE making these beautiful stars. Of course, it's useless to make them in large quantities unless you've really got a place for them, or people lined up to get one or something.  I have neither.  Nevertheless, I made two.

The key is a SQUARE sheet of paper.  I decided to use up some of my Christmas 12 x 12 scrapbook paper that has been around too long.  I had a few coordinating sheets, and thought I'd give it a go.

Here's my first attempt:

You know what I LOVE about this craft?  It looks so tricky, but it is SO EASY!  Trust me on this.  Can you cut paper?  Can you tape and staple?  You're good to go!!

The original pin is HERE.  And please oh please, go to the website (where I found it) to learn all of the easy instructions!  Angela of Button Bird Designs does such a great job of spelling things out.  I even made mine with "my best girl" -- same as Angela.  We actually made them side by side, as my best girl wanted to make a pure white one.  She got away with it before I could get a picture!

The above star is about 32" from top to bottom when it hangs.  I used regular scrapbook paper -- not a heavy type.  I'm sure if you used a heavy paper or cardstock it would hang differently.

I mentioned that I made TWO, right?  Here's the other one:

In this case, I used 6" squares, and ended up with a star that measures about 16" when hanging.  This one was only slightly trickier.  The smaller your star, the smaller the space in which you have to fit the stapler -- which you'll understand when you read Angela's instructions.

Hey, I think I just thought of another place to hang one.

Oh wait.  Is that a line forming outside my door?  Hmmm, I might have to go make another one or two (or so) ...just in case.

Happy Pinning!!!

Here are the rules:
1. Decide which pin on Pinterest you’d like to recreate.
2. Create it!
3. Flop or success, create a blog post about your re-do and include the original pin’s url.
4. Add the Project Pinterest button to your post so others can join in too!
5. Link up and check out other bloggers’ posts!

I'm also linking up with:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12/27/11 Daybook #5

~ For Today ~

Outside my window...
everything is cold, wet, and dead, except the grass, which is still bright green.

I am thinking...
how good our gatherings with family have been.
Christmas Eve with my husband's family.
Christmas day with my family.
And last night with my hubby's sister and her family,
who are visiting from out of state.
{Those four sweet nieces that I love so!}

Do you love the sense of humor in my family?

I am thankful for...
ways that I prioritized before Christmas
(like how many decorations to get out)
that have made the holidays simpler for our family.

From the kitchen...
I am finally looking at clean countertops again.
Usually Christmas-time brings lots of extra goodies,
and counterspace is really at a premium
(which is true on a good day around here anyways!)

I am creating...
absolutely nothing.  I created before Christmas.
Today is a day of rest.

I am wearing...
jeans, a favorite "Old Navy" t-shirt,
and THESE SLIPPERS (a gift from my hubby).

I am going...
out for dinner to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday.
<She is 50.  sssh.  Don't tell her I told you.>
We'll all be wearing Christmas clothes because...
everything else is in the laundry.
Don't judge - I've been living in the moment!

I am (was) reading...
Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman,
but sort of got stalled out with during the bustle of the holiday season.

On my mind...
I haven't ventured out anywhere (but to family homes) since Friday,
and tomorrow is the day.  A dentist appointment for my son, and
my daughter is dreaming of spending Christmas money
at Five Below.  Back to reality.
wow, there was so much to write about during the Christmas season,
and now... the well seems dry.

Around the house...
everything is tidied up.  Gifts are either put away, or still under the tree.
Today, everyone is doing their own thing
-- grateful for the break in routine,
and no demands on our time.

One of my favorite things...
  this necklace (a FAVORITE Christmas gift from my guy),
and made by my blogging friend, BEKI
and her crew.

A reminder to me:
~~ In Christ alone, my hope is found! ~~

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reflections on Christmas

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough."
[quote found on Pinterest]
[photo inspired by Denise]

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Peace to You!

Created using a Shabby Blogs background.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Perfect Gift!

The perfect Gift.
The babe in the manger.
Jesus Christ.

This gift cannot be returned,
but no worries!
One size fits all.

"...the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world."
I John 4:14

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Decorations

I am probably most sentimental
about these two Christmas characters:

The Sheep, from 1999 - when our son was five.
The Camel, from 2003 - when our daughter was five.
Both were made in their Sunday School classes at church.

Their place of honor is in our nativity scene.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Cloche

Last year for Christmas, my sister, Jill, gave me this cute cloche.  Included with the gift were some small ornaments, a candle, iridescent snow sprinkles and larger snowflakes, a glittery eucalyptus branch, a little ceramic bird, and a moss mat.  She dared me to be creative.

Since then, I have set up several little scenes using the gifted items, and some of my own trinkets.  In fact, one scene became the object of a little joke.  One day, my hubby walked by and put "a little something extra" inside the cloche, making it part of the scene.  You know, just a tiny knick-knack that was close by.  He wanted to see how long it would take for me to notice.  [Come live at my house.  There's never a dull moment!]  Anyway, I'm pretty sure that was during the summer (when I was working every day), and I'm sad to say that by the time I noticed, he had long forgotten his prank!

Well, the cloche is finally getting it's due.

Thanks for the wonderful gift, Jill!

I love how it sparks my creativity... seasonally!

Linking up for "I'm Lovin' It" @

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

O Come, All Ye Faithful!

There is a gentleman that comes to our worship service on Sunday mornings.  He experiences mild mental retardation, and has child-like qualities.  He loves to sing. Loudly. He is off key... in a MAJOR way. He is often a few beats behind (or ahead of) the rest of the congregation.

People who regularly attend the service are used to hearing him sing in his exuberant fashion. Newcomers, not so much.  Sometimes I see them smile... in wonder, and they look around to see if anyone else has noticed the distraction.  Those who are there weekly are not so distracted.

Every time I hear him sing, I am struck anew...

I don't think God hears my voice raised in worship because I am the loudest.  Or because I am on key.  Or because I can keep up with the beat.

I think it has more to do with the condition of my heart in worship.

And so, when I hear this dear man sing, my pride falls away, and I know that he is being heard first and foremost... Not because he is LOUDEST, or ON KEY, or KEEPING UP with the beat.  But because his heart is in tune with Christ, and the true worship of the moment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lighten Up! (Simplify!)

This year, I've done my Christmas decorating a little differently.

Instead of pulling out every box, I went searching for things that I knew I wanted to decorate with. I knew I wanted our nativity set out -- so, I pulled out that box.  There were a couple of other Christmas boxes under it -- but, I left those on the shelf.

My approach this year has been more about making little vignettes around the house rather than thinking I have to decorate every corner, every flat surface, every wall, and every door with every single Christmas decoration that we own.

I knew I wanted only a few mugs out, and we have a rather large collection.  Typically, I take all of our everyday mugs out of the cupboard, and replace them with the Christmas mugs.  This means several trips up and down the steps to store the everyday mugs for the Christmas season.  Instead, only six mugs now grace a rectangular serving dish on the kitchen counter.  (The everyday mugs are still in the cupboard.)

Check it out:  a Christmas hot-beverage station!

On the wall, a favorite painted-chalkboard piece made by my sister.
A rectangular serving piece holds up to six mugs.

Add a pretty snow-scene jar filled with peppermint candies and teabags, and a homemade tag (made from the teabag box).

A sugar-bowl:

And an empty candle jar filled with a small string of lights and some larger red Christmas bulbs:

I'm pretty happy with the results!

What's YOUR key to Christmas decorating?

What have you done to make Christmas simpler, allowing you to be MORE in the moment this year?

A Funny Story About My Christmas Mugs:
Several years ago, my sweet hubby bought me the first four in the series of "12 days of Christmas" mugs to match my Christmas serving pieces.  The following year, he bought me the next four in the series.  The next year?  The previous sets were discontinued, and the third set in the series was never even produced.  No twelve days of Christmas for me!  Now, I can laugh.  At the time, I was incredulous that they could do such a thing!
These days, I have the EIGHT days of Christmas
MINUS TWO due to breakage.
Somehow those last four don't seem quite as important any more.

Monday, December 19, 2011

An Answered Christmas Prayer ??

The other day, I asked my son if he wanted to hang his ornament collection on the tree.  He said I could hang mine first, and he would fill in the "holes."  So, I hung mine.

Today, my daughter noticed that her brother had not hung his ornaments.  When I told her about my conversation with him, she said, "I think that was just his way of NOT hanging his ornaments."

I said, "That's okay.  It's not important enough to make a big deal about, or to argue about. I'm all about that this year!"

"All about what?" she asked.  I told her that I don't want to become frustrated about the things that don't really matter.  And (NO guilt intended) if my son doesn't care so much about hanging his ornaments, that's okay.

"I'm really trying to be better about that this year," I said.

"You ARE?" was her reply.  (Said in such a way as to indicate disbelief.)

Okay, I was the tiniest bit offended by her reaction.

Until my daughter explained to me that she didn't intend for it to come out "like THAT!"

"It's just that... it's like an answer to prayer," she said.

Took me long enough to "get it," huh?

Don't be like me.
Don't be SO CAUGHT UP in keeping
what you think are "Christmas traditions"
that you miss deep enjoyment with the people
that you're supposed to be making those traditions with.

Only took me 19 years of married life
and 17 years of motherhood.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Really Random

I am a huge Mary Engelbreit fan.  I especially was a fan of her magazine "Home Companion!"  Well, Mary just released an on-line Christmas mini magazine for all of her fans.  It's eleven pages of her current home decorated for Christmas.  That's enough to make a ME fan swoon!  Check it out HERE.  Plus, if you want a heapin' helpin' of Mary's amazing style, check out THIS BOOK -- which is a beautiful pictorial visit to Mary's former "Cotswold" style home in St. Louis.

Truth or dare?  TRUTH?  Okay, here it is.
Sometimes I type something out for a post (like...maybe a strong opinion),
and then when I read it I think,
"Wow, that sounds totally negative"
and I delete it.
True story.
I don't ever want to come across as Negative Nellie.
Who wants to read anything she's written?

Do you ever do that?  C'mon... TRUTH!

Gingerbread Muffins!
Even more awesome as pop-in-your-mouth mini-muffins.
Not that I would do that.
Just sayin'.

I totally just recommended a pop-up kids' tent
to a friend for her 4 year old son for Christmas.
Because, I remember that age at our house.
It went something like this:

I'm pretty sure this is the only shot we have of the kids on Christmas Morning.
They spent the rest of the morning inside "The Share Club."
(awwww, totally forgot they named it that
until I looked it up in the scrapbook!)

Christmas memories are the best!
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tradition: Peppermint Patty Brownies

Let me start by saying... these brownies could probably kill you.  That said, I should also tell you that I've tried to adjust things (i.e. using egg replacements and etc.) and um.... NADA.  Not happening.  No.  Don't bother.

Here's the rule at our house.  We only make them at Christmas time.  Serious.  And at Christmas time (and Christmas time only) we eat them like they're going out of style (or as much as you can with one pan-full).

{UPDATE: The Peppermint Patty Brownie recipe can now be found in Gooseberry Patch's Best-Ever Cookies cookbook!  See page 136.}

York Sensational Brownies
{The recipe was found in a magazine years ago -- in a York Peppermint Patty ad.} 

3 sticks margarine (1.5 cups)
3 c. sugar
1 T. vanilla extract
5 eggs
2 c. flour
1 c. Hershey's unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
24 small York peppermint patties

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 x 13 pan.  Stir together margarine, sugar, and vanilla. Add eggs, and blend well.  Stir in flour, cocoa, baking powder, & salt.  Blend well.  Reserve 2 cups batter, setting aside.  Spread remaining batter in pan.  Arrange peppermint patties in single layer over batter.  (I usually do a 4 x 6 arrangement of patties in the pan - so that there's a little bit of patty in every brownie.)  Spread reserved batter carefully over patties. Bake 50-55 min. or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan.

Cool completely before cutting.  About 36 bars.

Tip:  One year, I thought I would be fancy and use the special peppermint patties that were PINK for breast cancer awareness.  I thought the brownies would look so festive when you cut into them & saw pink.  It didn't work.  Not only did they NOT show up as pink, but they melted differently than the traditional patties.

Sorry, no photos.  These disappear pretty quickly around here.

p.s.  You know how all-crazy I am for anything peppermint?  My daughter and I got to talking the other day about how peppermint (anything) makes us feel.  If you like peppermint too, you might be interested in THIS PAGE from the University of Maryland Medical Center.  It has some really interesting information about the medicinal characteristics of peppermint!  You'll be amazed.

The Classic Wink Smiley

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Project Pinterest: Ornament with Vintage Hymnal Pages


We've had a craftier year around here than usual.  Pinterest has given us the craft-bug (my daughter and I).  We found a few low-pressure, easy-to-make things to add to our Christmas decor.  For example, as soon as I saw THIS ORNAMENT IDEA, I knew I had to try it.  You may have heard me talk about my vintage hymnal.  It ended up with me when my grandparents passed away.  There aren't any strong memories associated with the hymnal, but I loved the look of it, and it ended up at our home.  For several years, it sat on my piano, and then, it seemed like another thing collecting dust (don't hate me - I go through "stages" with stuff...)  At any rate, I've gotten some ideas about how to use the pages -- like this Paper Chain and this Decoupaged Plate.

More and more goodies have shown up on Pinterest using vintage pages from both books and sheet music.  My hymnal just happened to be a combination of both.  Of course, with Christmas coming, the Pinterest ornament idea caught my eye.  These fillable ornaments are really popular at the craft stores.  I got mine at Michael's.  You can find them in plastic or glass.

Here are the supplies I used to make mine:
~vintage hymnal pages cut into narrow strips~
~plastic or glass fillable ornaments ~
~scissors, pencil~
~Buffalo Snow Flakes (iridescent sprinkles)~
~mini jingle bells~
~cord or ribbon for hanging~

1.  Cut hymnal pages vertically into narrow strips.
2.  Curl tightly around a pencil.

3.  While still holding curl tight, push through top of ornament (paper will uncurl slightly).

4.  Fill ornament with curled music strips.

5.  Add glittery iridescent snow.  (I used about a teaspoon or so.)

6.  Place 2 mini jingle bells inside ornament.

7.  Remove wire from ornament cap, and string on 1 jingle bell.

8.  Replace wire, and return ornament cap to it's position.
9.  Add metallic elastic cord for hanging.

This was a fun craft!  It wasn't anything too difficult -- it just took some time to curl the paper strips.  It was a great thing to do in the evening while we wound down in front of our favorite Christmas movies.  My daughter even got in on the act.  When we were all done, we started talking about all of the possible options for this craft.  You could:

* use colorful cardstock cut in strips (Christmas colors, or the color of your decor!)
* use double sided scrapbooking papers in fun Christmas prints

The possibilities are really endless.

Just so you know... No.  You can't really see the jingle bells IN the ornament.  That's why I included one on top.  You can hear them, when the ornament moves around, though.

Also, the snow tends to settle (just like a snow globe).  I like to roll the ornaments in my hands to move the snow around.  If I had it to do again, I might add a swipe from a glue stick to every other paper strip or so, and shake on the snow.  That way it would be more visable.

But -- all-in-all, SUCCESS.  Loved this craft!  (Now to find spots on the Christmas tree!)

Here are the rules:
1. Decide which pin on Pinterest you’d like to recreate.
2. Create it!
3. Flop or success, create a blog post about your re-do and include the original pin’s url
4. Add the Project Pinterest button to your post so others can join in too!
5. Link up and check out other bloggers’ posts!

I'm also linking up over at The Shady Porch, and A Bowl Full of Lemons, and with Jennifer Rizzo for Fabulously Creative Friday.

WhipperberryIn The Old RoadHouse on the Way

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