Friday, December 31, 2010

My Big Fat 100 of 2011 list

Heather over at Sprittibee has posted her Big Fat Annual List of items that she'd like to accomplish. Since I've already been making my own sort of lists I decided that I'd play along. Plus, I function best under guilt and guilt is what I'll have if I don't cross items off of my list if it is public! I'm picking 100 so that I can have 10 goals in 10 areas. It's easy, and I'm lazy. (Look at the posts below... I've already completed a few areas so I'm almost cheating.) These are listed in no particular order. I may add some things and take away as we go. Goals are meant to be changed and updated. Unfortunately I can't peg what my year will be like (oh if I could!) so it might change, grow, and mutate. I'm labeling some items complete after three months of completion. Why? Because after three months (90 days) it should be a habit and part of my regular routine. I'll check them off as I complete them! I'm borrowing Heather's key, so look for that below.

So, grab a keyboard and type out your own. Link it over on the Big Fat Annual List post and you just might win a goodie that Heather is giving away!

Steph's Big Fat Annual List (even though this the first. Pretend it's annual.)

Key: BOLD Italics = current focus that month ; Strikeout =  completed

1. Make a budget. Jan '11
2. Stick to a budget for at least three months.
3. Learn to coupon and do it! Jan '11 BLOGGED
4. Work through the Declutter Calendar for at least three months.
5. Use the Motivated Moms chore calendar to stay ahead of the mess!
6. Organize our closet. Completely.
7. Organize the craft area. Completely.
8. Create extra income
9. Meal plan every week for three months
10. Create a weekly baking plan and complete it each week for three months

1. Read through the Bible in 2011
2. Participate in one pastor-led Bible study
3. Develop a quiet time routine
4. Study and keep the Biblical holidays
5. Begin Bible study with my husband
6. Start - again - and complete the Power of a Praying Wife study
7. Complete the Power of a Praying Parent study
8. Read through my shelves (books on topics such as Holy Days, Hebrew roots of the faith, etc)
9. Begin keeping the Sabbath again
10. Read and utilize my Bible study books (How to Study the Bible for Yourself, and Discover the Bible for Yourself)

1. Cook a meal for the local Ronald McDonald House
2. Work money into the budget in order to regularly donate to our church's food pantry
3. Clean out closets and donate unused clothing to our church's clothing ministry
4. Choose one ministry to become involved in regularly at church
5. Mail already completed hats to my uncle's cancer treatment center
6. Create at least 36 hats for the cancer center (3 per month minimum)
7. Serve at least one meal at the local homeless shelter
8. Participate in Toys for Tots next Christmas
9. Renew my interest and support of our favorite missionary family!
10. Choose one ministry or organization to volunteer with regularly with the kid (her choice)

1. Organize all of my materials (master list)
2. Create my record keeping system for transcripts
3. Plan three field trips for older students.
4. Write our goals for our daughter's education.
5. Continue our focus on the arts (links to my art goals)
6. Visit three college campuses
7. Create a better schedule so that we have more free time in our day Jan '11
8. Create our long term course of study for the high school years. Jan '11 BLOGGED
9. Prepare and utilize all of the information available at convention wisely
10. Journal, record, and photograph our homeschool life each month. (Completed after three months)

1. Learn to use my camera. Fully.
2. Learn to paint using watercolors.
3. Complete my "11 in '11" list on Ravelry
4. Sew a quilt
5. Visit the local art museum at least twice per month.
6. Attend one musical.
7. Attend one ballet.
8. Attend one play.
9. Truly study the life and work of one artist.
10. Work on at least two hand-stitching type of projects.

1. Begin the Family Herbalist course. Again. (done when three units have been completed) Jan '11
2. Form a habit of exercising at least three times a week.
3. Establish a regular bedtime routine/schedule.
4. Track food in WW's online tracker daily Jan '11
5. Be a better motivator and supporter to my mom and sister in our journey toward health Jan '11
6. Lose 10 pounds (total)
7. Lose 20 pounds (total)
8. Lost 40 pounds (total)
9. Maintain weight loss for three months
10. Buy one new (or new to me!) clothing item EACH MONTH

1. Read one non-fiction title.
2. Read one fiction title out of my norm (scifi?)
3. Post two book reviews in January Reviews blogged HERE and HERE
4. Read one book on crafts as a business
5. Read one book on blogging
6. Read one homeschool book
7. Read one book about Christian marriage principles
8. Read one book about Christian homeschool principles
9. Join a book club
10. Read one book about health (that isn't required in the FH course)

1. Make time each day to talk with just my daughter
2. Make time each day to talk with just my husband
3. Call my sisters once a week. Each.
4. Choose one new person to write to each week. A real letter. On paper.
5. Have coffee once a month with my mom
6. Have a weekly date with my husband
7. Begin genealogy work again with mom and uncle
8. Start a card/game night
9. Paint the kid's room.
10. Don't let winter weather stop me! See my dad/stepmom at least two times over the winter.

1. Create a blog calendar for three months.
2. Blog according to my schedule - as scheduled - for three weeks
3. Redesign the blog so it isn't so slow to load!
4. Have a banner, buttons, and logo created.
5. Become a regular reader on my favorite blogs
6. Understand and utilize statistics, etc
7. Blog the good, the bad, and the ugly.
8. Post a minimum of two book reviews per month
9. Document progress on all of my goal lists once per month: Jan '11
10. Learn how to blog WELL

WildCrickets Shop:
1. Redesign the shop banner
2. Understand and utilize social media
3. List ten new items in January Epic FAIL!
4. List ten new items in February
5. List ten new items in March
6. Clarify my goals for the shop
7. Create a plan for items, styles, designs (lines to be listed at certain seasons, etc)
8. Become a better team member
9. Attend one or more Etsy Virtual Labs per week
10. Understand and utilize Google analytics

Some artsy goals for '11

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.  ~ Thomas Merton

I've had a renewed focus on art in our homeschool and in my life during the last part of 2010. I'm feeling the need to make it even more a part of my life in 2011. I think it's a way to connect with who I was earlier in my life now that my daughter isn't in the "watch me 24 hours" stage any longer. It is probably a way to connect with loved ones no longer close to me. (My uncle that passed this year was very talented in nearly any art he tried, and my best "sister-friend" back home is a extremely talented artist... and she gets paid for it! ;)  Art brings me joy, and it brings me to a place of worship and praise for our Heavenly Father. I might not be good at it, but I enjoy it. I'm also focusing on JOY in 2011... and...


In 2011, I plan on...

Renewing my love of photography.
I took several classes in high school and again in college, and I absolutely lost my heart to photography. I haven't had the opportunity to spend much time on it over the years, and I miss it desperately. I've joined the masses of the quick instant photo to document my child's life. My black and white enlarger collected dust to the point that we sold it on Craig's List. My much loved Minolta needs a major overhaul. But, inside lurks a photo or two that would love to come out and play in the light. I'm starting fresh with a new digital that my mother bought me for Christmas (no fancy DSLR yet - but hopefully the budget will support it one day!), and I'm going to pretend that I've never taken photo one. I'm going to relearn the basics, practice with photo editing (I have nearly zero experience beyond the basics) and learn to love digital. I fought it for years, and now I will curtsy politely and make nice. 

Learn to paint with watercolors.
Again with the memories of bygone days, but once upon a time I did take a painting class. Because I was drawn to photography more than painting I only took two very basic classes that gave me a taste of acrylic, oil, and watercolor painting. My college classes focused more on drawing than painting. I never gave it a lot of focus, but now I would love to learn. My grandmother is a very talented artist who painted in watercolors, so again it's a way to connect with her. I'm armed with some basic materials and now challenged with finding some time to practice and play!

Knit and crochet for me (not just gifts or the shop.)
I love to create things with fiber, but I have a tendency to gift it away. I am going to set up my "11 for '11" list of projects over at Ravelry if anyone is interested in joining me! (Leave your Rav name in the comments and we'll connect!) I'd love to learn some new skills to kick it up a notch. Oh, and I need to finish a few projects. But I think that is another post...

Begin sewing again.
I love to sew, and my wonderful husband gave me a new sewing machine a few years ago. A move, family illness and random life bits have kept me from giving my machine the one-on-one time it needs. (I know I keep mentioning it but when you have two losses in one year with one involving cancer and treatments it seems to really be a focus - or stumbling block - that recurs month after month.) I have stacks of fabric and patterns galore. I'm going to sew. :) I want to complete another quilt. Yes, I machine quilt. Don't judge me. <insert giggle> Again, I have made one... and promptly gifted it. Apparently 2011 will be the year of creating selfishly because I would love to complete a quilt for us to keep here. Wall quilt, lap quilt, bed quilt. I'm not picky. Just a quilt, thanks.

Rejoin the local art museum and visit. Regularly.
We used to visit our museum so frequently that the docents knew my daughter's name. They would keep stickers behind the desk to give her after she showed them what she had sketched in the galleries or in the sculpture garden. In 2011, I want to return enough that a docent knows our names. 

See at least three shows this year.
We've only made it to one show a year over the last few. In 2010, it was Cats for my daughter. She loved it! This year, I would love to see one musical, one ballet, and one play. Here's hoping that I can make that goal. We used to attend our local high school's productions... more fun. My daughter loves it, and I want to instill in her that art is important. A large difference between our society and the society of the past is that the arts weren't just appreciated they were assumed. Art and music were a given part of life, even in families who weren't financially blessed. (Family music around the piano, anyone?) I dream of changing even just our family... if it is important to me then it will hopefully be important to our daughter, and her daughter, and her daughter. Our impact is great, and we can use this to share our faith, our knowledge, and our passion. Art = passion if you haven't guessed yet!

What are you going to work on in 2011? Find a passion. Art or not. Just don't tell me if it isn't art. (Just kidding!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

11 Homeschooling Resolutions for '11

Happy New Year! Well... Almost. :) I feel like we're not only starting a new calendar year but a new school year as well. We have a few new materials that we'll begin next week. A few were saved until after the holidays because the fall was just too crazy with family illness. Math was recently changed to a new program that would work better for our daughter. It also seems that after years of year-round homeschooling we've gradually switched to a January to December school year.

In keeping with these "New Year" themes I started thinking about goals for our homeschool in 2011. Specifically, I've been thinking of goals that I wanted to set that might be non-traditional. Yes, I want my daughter to learn. Yes, I want her to enjoy learning. Yes, I want us to be successful and have her grow in her faith. I'm not downplaying them by leaving them off the list. They are what we consider "given" goals. My list is for all of the extra things that I've been thinking about lately. It's not all encompassing, and it isn't in any particular order.

1. Get organized! 
I don't know why I have this desire to get so organized lately, but I do! My main focus this year will be to get my things organized... books, videos, curricula, supplements, etc. We moved during the 2009/10 school year and unfortunately downsized the amount of space that we had for things such as school materials. Some of our materials are stored in a storage unit, some are stored in the basement, some are boxed in our closet, and some are on our school shelf. Confused? Me, too! My goal is to have a master list of materials. I just know that we have materials that our older girls used that our youngest daughter could use as well. It kills me to find something after I needed it. (And yes, I've even purchased a double of something in storage!) Organization is a must.

2. Get my system together!
Lee Binz is my homeschool transcript hero. She's also a pretty cool lady. ;) If you read through her blog and HomeScholar website you'll see that she classifies record keeping in a variety of ways. By her system I was a Binder Queen in a former homeschool life. Now that we're nearing the time to have transcripts and records for the kid I think it's about time that I dust off that binder and get to keeping those records! Transcripts are easy (as long as you have a system!)

3. Be more spontaneous!
I used to love the freedom that came with homeschooling. We'd take a day off for a great field trip or take a day trip to a festival that peaked an interest. Just because the kid is growing up it is no excuse to give up being spontaneous! We are blessed to have a fantastic Metro Park system in our area. They offer wonderful nature programs, and their winter programs are no exception. Many days I've looked out and thought that it was a wonderful day to take some photos. The next time I think that we are going to head to a Metro Park and be photographers for an hour. Math and Science can still be done even with a little side trip!

4. Plan a few field trips!
Years ago I was a field trip planning maniac. Then I did what every good homeschool mom does... I got burned out. This year I want to put together a few field trips for the older kids in town. It seems that once they approach high school the field trips start to drop off of the radar. It doesn't have to happen. Now, to just figure out where and when...

5. Do what we feel led to do, not what others do!
You'd think that after as many years as I've homeschooled I wouldn't have to remind myself to do this, but I do. I think we all do. It is way too easy to fall into the checklist trap. Whether it is a local homeschool group's helpful website that includes a typical course of study, your best friend's idea of their next four years, or the top selling homeschool approach title recently added to your library's shelves it is far too easy to find yourself creating your year around someone else's goal. I do a good job at fighting this though I have conversation after conversation with my husband before I realize what I'm doing. This year I'm going to write our goals, pray about our goals, revise our goals, and then ignore everyone else's goals. ;)

6. Continued focus on arts!
This is pretty clear if you know me, self explanatory if you don't. I love art. I live art. I dream art. And, luckily enough, my kid does, too. This year I want her to see me push past my own interests and failures, and I want to continue to support her in her desire to express herself which includes her classes, art projects, an art museum membership, etc. The world is a much more colorful place with art!

7. College visits!
Here's where you say, "Huh?!" I'll let you in on a secret. My child has been planning her college career since she was in kindergarten. Of course back then she was going to be a ballerina-paleontologist-archaeologist, but she was still telling us what college she was going to attend. She's signed herself up for mailings from local Christian colleges. She's asked me to help her locate information. Many of my friends think we're nuts! After all, she's only 13! This year I'm going to stop listening to people who tell me to let her be a kid, and I'm going to drive that motivated kid to at least three college campuses so she can see what it is like. (We are blessed to have a lot - and I mean A LOT - of colleges within an hour's drive so this is why I can peg that many for the year!) After my grandfather passed we were able to take a quick detour to drive through her number one choice campus, and it thrilled her to no end. My sister works at another college and took her on a quick evening tour of the grounds when we were visiting this summer. Again, pure bliss. We most likely won't tour officially, though maybe we will with some of the colleges that have high school programs and summer camps. Either way I will support her in this goal even if it is non-traditional according to charts, graphs, and friends.

8. More free time!
Enough said! There's a time for everything... including free time!

9. Revise our plan and write it in cement!
Ok, maybe not cement. Maybe on a post it note stuck to our binder (see #2) with rubber cement. I've always been a chart girl. I've planned our middle and high school years every fall based on decisions made. They have been "previews" so to speak. I expected them to change. The kid is actually earning high school credits so this spring I need to get a real plan that, though open to tweaking, will remain generally unchanged in intent. This will have to come after the goals. And the free time. A girl needs free time to recover from writing goals. ;)

10. Use the spring convention season wisely!
I almost hesitate to put this in writing, but I attended my very first homeschool convention last spring. Correction... my very first live, in person homeschooling convention. (I've attended a few online.) Yes, it only took me ten years of homeschooling to actually go to one! I loved it. Every minute! This year I want to be a little more prepared. I had looked at a good number of vendors online before the convention, but this year I want to go further, have my goals in hand before arriving in Cincinnati, and budget accordingly so that I can take better advantage of sales!

11. Journal, record, photograph!
I was such a great record keeper in my early days! I'm talking about the fun records... thoughts, favorite times, photographs. For years I would create a scrapbook at the end of the year to record all of my daughter's fun times for that grade/age. This year I hope to do the same! I want to record more of the things that make my kid HER at this age. I'm already looking forward to it!

So there are my 11 Homeschooling Resolutions for '11. If you are a homeschooler have you been thinking about revising your year? What areas will receive additional focus? I'd love to hear about your goals for 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review: Seeds of Turmoil by Bryant Wright

Title: Seeds of Turmoil: The Biblical Roots of the Inevitable Crisis in the Middle East
Author: Bryant Wright
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 9780849948152

Summary from Publisher's Website: 

"A clear, in-depth biblical explanation of the origin, history, and significance of the Middle East conflict.
The current conflict in the Middle East began long before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. It originated when Abraham sinned, distorting God's promise that he and his heirs would make a great nation and inherit the land now called The Holy Land.

A historical and political account, Seeds of Turmoil clearly explains the biblical story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar and the ensuing sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau, whose choices formed the world's three most influential religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

This fascinating insight into the beginnings of the conflict also explains what about the land is so important today. In addition, Wright sheds light on the conflicting Jewish, Christian, and Islamic perspectives and answers the question, Does God play favorites?"

My Review:

Seeds of Turmoil is a wonderful introduction to the Biblical causes behind the conflict in the Middle East. As relatively quick read, this book will fill in the gaps where the modern news media leaves off. Bryant Wright has a lovely writing style. His knowledge of the subject as well as his understanding of scriptures is clearly seen, and he does this without making the book feel like a classroom lecture or sermon. With great ease he outlines the reasons - Biblical, emotional, and otherwise - that have brought us to the current state of things between Jewish, Christian, and Islamic believers in the region. Though occasionally repetitive I soon found that I could appreciate the repeated information as a reminder as facts and scriptures were flying through the chapters. (Note that at first this got very, well, irritating. It does pass!)

On the plus side... maps! The maps are a fantastic addition. I need to "see" the geography in order to comprehend the movement in wars, within people groups, as land is transferred, etc. It is a great help for those visual learners among us.

Rating: 5 Stars! I really enjoyed this book! It educated me, widened my understanding of people and situations, and deepened my connection to scripture. It will be recommended, but not shared. I'm keeping this one for my bookshelf!

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through Booksneeze in exchange for my honest review.

New Ideas for the New Year

What are your New Year's resolutions? Do you make them?

Every December I think the same thing... "I should make some resolutions." Not this year. This year I said something different. I told myself that I was going to make some changes. Changes can be permanent. Resolutions, for me at least, never are. It think that we have been trained as a society to think that we need to get it in gear, make our list, check it twice (wait - wrong holiday), and get to resolving come January 1.

This year I'm targeting some very specific goals. I'll share the specifics once I have it all figured out, but here are my big areas:

Faith... putting God first in my life, my day, my home, my actions (volunteering will be a focus as well)

Food... eating as I know I should, preparing as I know I can, and planning as I know I ought

Finances... building a budget, sticking with it, and putting an additional focus on saving

Family... we can all tighten up this area with more time, more togetherness, more calls and letters to those far away
Organization... home, time, education (both my own and our child's!)

Creativity... make time for the crafts and arts that I enjoy, have a renewed focus on the WC shop

Evidently I had an "F" theme going there for a while which makes me giggle for a bit considering I'm a Stephanie F. (Or it could be that I've overloaded on the sugar this season. See above category for "food.") I'm intentionally leaving out the health/exercise category. Though I let it falter after life got crazy with family illness and the holidays this will be an area of focus. However, I'm not setting it aside as an area of change. It's more like an area of "get back to what you were doing" so that I can conquer my previously set goals.

I'm very excited that I'll be getting back to my own self education in 2011. I've let it slip over the years. Being mom sometimes means that you don't carve out the time that you need to just for your own improvement. I've been a student of the Family Herbalist program with Vintage Remedies for.... um... a while!  I've made a commitment to finish the course in 2011! I'm so excited! I've decided to start fresh since it's been quite a while since I've completed the first few units. To start the ball rolling I've been organizing, reading, and getting all of my emails and log in information squared away. Monday won't just be the day we start homeschooling again. ;) My goal is to first complete the Family Herbalist course with a definite eye toward possibly completing one of the advanced/professional courses after that. That decision will come later in the year. For now it is one step at a time. One goal at a time!

The year 2010 was a hard year in my family. We saw illness and death. Loss and tragedy. But we also saw sunshine and friendship. Successes to balance the failures. I'm looking forward to 2011 with great expectations. It may be a man-made concept that is treasured and preserved in our society, but the idea of starting fresh and new this time of year is welcomed by me with a cup of tea and a cookie. :)

“For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.” T.S. Eliot

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review: Judgment Day by Wanda L. Dyson

Title: Judgment Day
Author: Wanda L. Dyson
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
ISBN: 9781400074754

Summary from Publisher's Website:
The weekly cable news show Judgment Day with Suzanne Kidwell promises to expose businessmen, religious leaders, and politicians for the lies they tell. Suzanne positions herself as a champion of ethics and morality with a backbone of steel—until a revelation of her shoddy investigation tactics and creative fact embellishing put her in hot water with her employers, putting her credibility in question and threatening her professional ambitions..
Bitter and angry, Suzanne returns home one day to find an entrepreneur she is investigating, John Edward Sterling, unconscious on her living room floor. Before the night is over, Sterling is dead, she has his blood on her hands, and the police are arresting her for murder. She needs help to prove her innocence, but her only hope, private investigator Marcus Crisp, is also her ex-fiancé–the man she betrayed in college.
Marcus and his partner Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne reluctantly agree to take the case, but they won’t cut Suzanne any slack. Exposing her lack of ethics and the lives she’s destroyed in her fight for ratings does little to make them think Suzanne is innocent. But as Marcus digs into the mire of secrets surrounding her enemies, he unveils an alliance well-worth killing for. Now all he has to do is keep Suzanne and Alex alive long enough to prove it.

My Review:

First, let me start by saying that the summary from the publisher's site as well as that printed on the rear book jacket aren't exactly accurate. The storyline, yes, but the character found in Suzanne's living room isn't Sterling, entrepreneur. (Sterling is a character, but he's a senator instead.) A different character crosses into the mix, and I quite like the difference! Still, this is a little bit annoying and will hopefully be rectified on subsequent printings.

Now that I have that out of the way...

This story is a fantastic read! From the very beginning the author throws you straight into the action. The method of character development also helps give the reader very strong opinions of the characters from the get go. You'll dislike arrogant Suzanne. You'll fall for root for lovable Marcus. And Alex... she's just the kind of girl we all want to be. Strong, smart, and capable yet vulnerable. Character and action: these two pieces add up to a great read that sucks you in, turns you about, and keeps you coming back until you finish. (I finished in 2.5 days... and I'm a mom with limited reading time. A car trip and late night did help, but I just couldn't stand it until I finished!)

This book is most definitely a thriller, but I appreciated the tact used by the author when delivering difficult details or when turning up the action a notch. It was moving and thrilling, yet I would feel comfortable with my teen reading this book. You'll quickly have your suspicions about the characters involved but keep reading, but it doesn't deter your interest. The story goes deeper. There is enough mystery to get you thinking, but the focus is on the action and the details of decisions, moves, counter moves, and discoveries.

Despite all of the glowing I can say that I would have liked a few more characters, such as Razz, to have a little more development. Maybe I was just drawn to him because my husband is a techie guy. Still, all in all, great read!

Rating: 4 Stars! I really enjoyed this book, and I will be passing it on to one (or two) family members. I didn't rate it as a 5 star read simply because I won't read it again after discovering the ending. But, I am planning to read more of Ms. Dyson's books though... :)

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my review. (Check out the Blogging for Books link to join me!)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: December 15

FOR TODAY, December 15, 2010

Outside my window... The snow is beautiful! After 11 years of living in a snowy winter state I'm finally coming around to enjoying it. Scary.

I am thinking... about what my holidays were like at my house before the move. It does give me a twinge of sadness because I miss them, but I'm focusing today on the new. Hopefully I'll even photograph some for my failed Holiday Bliss meme participation!

I am thankful for... my family and friends. Some I get to see often, some not as much as I'd like. But I know that they love me just as much as I love them.

From the learning rooms... Winter break is almost here! The kid is finishing her literature unit on The Hobbit today in preparation for starting our new English curriculum in January: Literary Lessons from Lord of the Rings. Can't wait! We're also thoroughly enjoying our new Life of Fred math curriculum. Science experiments that weren't done will be finished this week. Then it's break time! WOO HOO!

From the kitchen... I failed to get my soup on last night to meet my crock pot lunch goal. No worries. It will go on late this morning (or we'll have left overs. Either works!)

I am wearing... my jammies. :)  This seems to be a consistent answer when I blog in the morning!

I am creating... Because I was making gifts for others to give (and loving it!) I haven't spent much time on making items just for fun. I'm prepped with my bag o' yarn and my Interweave Crochet: Accessories Edition magazine for some afternoon crochet with tea. I can't wait! That's truly "me" time. I think that I might be giving myself a new scarf for Christmas. ;)

I am going...clean and organize my bedroom. Scary thought. Scary process. My desk will (hopefully) be moved into my bedroom. I love organizing to a point. This project is a year behind schedule. Did I mention that I'm scared?

I am reading... Seeds of Turmoil: The Biblical Roots of the Inevitable Crisis in the Middle East by Bryant Wright. I love his writing style, and I'm really enjoying the topic. Hopefully I'll be finished for a review on Friday.

I am hoping... that I'll get my tasks done today. I have a list of things that I'd like to accomplish so that our holidays run smoothly and my New Year starts on a good pace. I'd love to have consistent time for the shop, for blogging, and for me. (Now that's either a fantastic goal or a shot in the dark. lol)

I am hearing... the roar of the heater. It's music to my ears on this cold and snowy day.

Around the house... are lights and wreaths! Because we can't have a full Christmas tree out due to Sophie the Blind Pug's much needed landmarks we have decorated in a very different way this year. We've added lights to the tops of the cabinets in the kitchen after reading that a facebook friend did the same thing. We've added two wreaths to doors inside the house... one will even host the much loved ornaments that won't fit on the much smaller table-top tree. Greenery and lights are now along the television "sofa table" stand. Lights and a nativity on the mantle. (I say "a" and not "the" because we usually have three up!) It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

One of my favorite things... The sound of Sophie the Blind (and very sick) Pug eating is music to my ears. Too many days she doesn't want much but the last few days she's been hungry! It's fantastic!

A few plans for the rest of the week... Organizing, cleaning, washing, decorating, shopping for groceries, wrapping presents... typical things along with babysitting and hopefully some Christmas crafts and down time!

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

Unfortunately I'm moving things from old laptop to new laptop and don't have any photos to share yet! Picture this... a cute dog with a cute kid under a Christmas tree. :)

If you'd like to read more hop over to The Simple Woman's Daybook to read about the days of others. Why not take a minute and write your own?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: December 12

Busy, busy, hectic, hectic. That's what my month has turned out to be! We've eaten way too much take out and frozen food (which isn't healthy for the budget any more than it is for the body and waistline!)  So, I'm challenging myself to use the crock pot a lot this week so that I can avoid that. Here goes nothing.

I'm using various recipes, but the main source is going to be the Year of Slow Cooking blog archives. Love me some blog posts from that site. Yup. Yummy. As usual I'll be either using vegetarian recipes or vege-tizing them. I'm also going to plan on starting a crock of soup as I head to bed each night. This will serve three purposes: 1. We will eat something warm and nutritious for lunch rather than cold sandwiches or fast items. 2. By making a double batch I will be able to pop some meals in the freezer for what will be a very busy few weeks with the holidays. 3. The soup will be finished in the morning so that my nurse mother will be able to fill a thermos full before heading to work therefore giving her a warm and nutritious lunch as well. (It also means that I don't have to make a lunch on art class day for the kid because it will be ready in the morning. Can I get a big WOO HOO for being lazy prepared!) We have multiple crock pots so we'll see how running two at a time will work!

I should mention that I'm much more likely to actually stick to this plan because.... wait for it... we got a new dishwasher! YES! No more dish pan hands. No more fatigue at constantly seeing dirty dishes in the sink because you just can't keep up in a house where three to four people are home all day. (Not only do we homeschooling, but the husband works from home as well. We really like being together evidently!) With the handy-dandy dish washing technology strapped under the counter I'll be cooking and loving it once again. Still, I'm going to stick to the crock pot each day so that I can be sure that the schedule won't get in the way.

Not that it really goes on the meal plan, but I'm drooling over tonight's dinner: Baked Bean Soup with cornbread!

B: Bagels and fruit
L: Split pea soup (no bacon) - Did I mention that I don't like pea soup? This is the "mom earns points" meal for the week.
D: CP Cincinnati Style Chili over Spaghetti, salad (for my honey)

B: Apple Blueberry Oatmeal
L: White Chili (add Quorn Chikin Tenders during the last hour or so - but white chili never seems like chili to me so it's white soup in my world ;)
D: Honey and Orange Tofu with broccoli

B: Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Couscous (this keeps showing up because I have yet to make it. sigh)
L: Corn Chowder
D: Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers (with Quorn Crumbles added in)

B: Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (we need a grab and go since the kid has class in the am.)
L: Moroccan Lentil Soup
D: Baked Spinach and Cheese Noodles and salad

B: Apple Dumpling Delight (Got this from a friend: Wrap sliced/peeled apples in crescent rolls, mix and pour over: 1c OJ, 1c melted butter, 1/2c sugar. Bake. Easy.)
L: Mac and Cheese, apples, and broccoli (babysitting day, and I promised them!)
D: Black bean soup and nachos

Saturday: Family Christmas celebration with one side, so we're eating with family!

B: OYO - On Your Own
L: Albondiga Soup (though I don't know if the mint will freak out the child and husband in which case I will use the parsley noted in the blog comments)
D: Leftovers

Check out more Menu Plan Monday entries at .

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: Coming Back Stronger by Drew Brees

Title: Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity
Author: Drew Brees with Chris Fabry
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
ISBN: 9781414339436
Retail Price: $26.99

Check out this link to read Chapter One for FREE!

Summary from the Publisher's website:
When a potentially career-ending shoulder injury left quarterback Drew Brees without a team—and facing the daunting task of having to learn to throw a football all over again—coaches around the NFL wondered, Will he ever come back? After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, leaving more than 80 percent of the city underwater, many wondered, Will the city ever come back? And with their stadium transformed into a makeshift refugee camp, forcing the Saints to play their entire 2005 season on the road, people questioned, Will the Saints ever come back? It takes a special person to turn adversity into success and despair into hope—yet that is exactly what Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees has done—and with the weight of an entire city on his shoulders. Coming Back Stronger is the ultimate comeback story, not only of one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, but also of a city and a team that many had all but given up on. Brees’s inspiring message of hope and encouragement proves that with enough faith, determination, and heart, you can overcome any obstacle life throws your way and not only come back, but come back stronger.


Yes! Finally a professional athlete that we can point our children to as a modern day role model. (Many look at sports figures as one, but this time it's ok!)  Coming Back Stronger shares a walk through life experiences well handled, and brings your heart back to New Orleans.

To be honest, I like football but I don't capital letter LIKE football. I probably would not have chosen a book about football under normal circumstances. However, the story of the Saints and the city of New Orleans has just gripped my heart over the last few years so I was interested in reading this book. I was also curious to see how Mr. Brees would express his faith. I have to say that I was shocked at how much I just loved this book! I looked forward to spending time in it each evening. The conversational tone of the writing made it very enjoyable and pleasant, and the explanation of the processes behind the giant that is Professional Football turned out to be fascinating! Best, though, was how the theme of walking on faith through diversity stayed a continuous thread. Don't skip this book if you are not a Christian - you'll pick up a lot from the book as well through his consistent drive and determination. But, it's a great testimony to how a life can be lived when you stick to your principals and faith. It truly contains lessons that we can all related to... athlete or no athlete. The character traits modeled by Drew Brees (and his wife through inclusion in the story) should be present in all our lives. Reading Coming Back Stronger is like hearing from an old friend how he managed to accomplish all he did when so many would have stopped short. It's truly a motivating read. (Plus I found myself giggling at his humor and all around "good guy" comments throughout the book!)

It's settled! I'll be a #9 fan from here on out!

Rating: 4 Stars! I would love to give this book five stars, and nearly did, but I honestly won't read it again simply because I don't tend to read biographies twice. However, I am going to recommend that my uncle, Saints fan and frequent traveler, pack this in his bag during his next flight!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers for this review.

I Review For The Tyndale Blog Network

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Bliss, December 3: Crafts!

I adore holiday crafts! They are just plain fun!

Fridays are babysitting days around my house. I get to spend some time with the daughters of a fellow homeschooler, and we have a good time. Today my mother decided that it was a great day for crafts and made a run to Michael's. (I really should work there part time because I spend way too much time money there!) They came back with the cutest little crafts. We're not talking museum quality art here, but a "good time had by all" kind of foam and plastic bead crafts. Stretch necklaces were flowing and foam snowmen refused to melt. I might have even gotten a little glitter glue crazy, but don't tell the kids. They think we ran out. (It's all mine!!!)

It's the little things in life, and today that meant craft time.

Today's favorite Christmas carol is Three Ships Sailing. There are so many great versions of this song (Sting and Nat King Cole both come to mind) but I have to say that my favorite version is a Celtic one. :) This comes from Orla Fallon's Celtic Christmas. Enjoy!

Fall Into Reading Challenge update #1

Ah, reading... another love of mine. I promised an update to keep me honest and then I went and fell off of the update wagon! Whoops!

You can check out my Fall Into Reading Challenge 2010 page HERE.

Update on goals:

"1. Read a minimum of 30 minutes per day."
Well... Not really. I have been reading every day but I haven't had made the time to read every single day like I wanted. I'm getting better. I am reading, just not list items. News and blogs count, right? ;)

"2. Read my craft books."
Ahh... something that I HAVE done! :) I love reading my craft books. I did lose a few from my library reserve list when I was out of town and failed to pick them up. Here's hoping that I will be able to get them again!

"3. Review as many books as I can."
So far I have two reviews posted, HERE and HERE, and another is coming!

"4. Give a recap on Fridays to keep me honest!"
Again... well... Does this week count? :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday Homeschooling...

I've been struggling with this section of my bloggy to-do calendar. There are so many versions and views on homeschooling. Do I share reviews? Do I share what our version of a "day in the life of a homeschooler? Do I wax on (wax off?) about my educational views or choices? My goal is to share ME in my blog... homeschooling, crafty, Etsy-selling, book-reading little ol' me. So, we'll see where it takes us.

Today, we'll go with a "Day in the Life" sharing our Thursday routine.

Thursday is ART DAY! I love Thursday, but not for the reasons that most would assume. Thursday our daughter spends the entire day in art classes at our local community center. No, I don't love it because I get a day at home alone. (It is fun, but honestly at this age it doesn't mean the same to me as it would have when she was a toddler or preschooler.) I love it because she spends 5.5 hours with a talented artist who cares about passing her knowledge and talent on to others. As much as I love art, this talented woman is able to give our daughter something that I can't. She teaches her with passion about drawing and painting as well as ceramics, hand-building and pottery using a potter's wheel. I love that she comes home covered in left over colors and clay. I love that she has the opportunity to expand and grow in her art. I get so excited just walking in the building because I know that I'll get to see not only what my daughter created but what other women in her class - young and old - created as well. Her classes are multi-generational rather than defined by age or ability. I love that art can do that! Art has this magical way of breaking down age and economic barriers. Everyone should have an exposure to art. It doesn't have to be dry and dull. It can be colorful and messy. In fact, most of my art through my life has been colorful and messy in one way or another!

Homeschooling doesn't have to occur at home (and some years it feels like most occurs outside the home between field trips and homeschool groups!) We aren't all crazy people who lock our children in cages as it happens on Law & Order, and we don't all use workbooks with timers like you would think - though we have done that when the need was there! Homeschooling is like life.... there are different versions for different people. Homeschoolers are a dedicated lot. We find the opportunities that our children need and use them in ways that fit our live. And on Thursdays, our learning happens in a Community Center.

Here is just a peek at a few pieces my kid, age 13, completed in her very first session of ceramics this school year. I'm quite please with them, and best yet is the fact that she is pleased with herself! (I'd add more but I'm a slacker mom who doesn't have more photos yet to share! Ah... honesty...)

Holiday Bliss: December 2

Brenda at Garden of Learning is at it again! She's hosting a fantastic holiday-themed meme over at her blog. Click through to read some fantastic ideas to bring joy to your holiday through tradition or activity, or join in and share your own!

Our house is still in full on craziness! We most likely won't be putting up a tree this year because of our little blind pug girl, Sophie. She has enough troubles navigating the house in her new-found blindness, so we decided as a family that we aren't going to move furniture and confuse her more. So, I'll be reading through the meme in earnest looking for other ways to bring the holiday into our home without a tree.

Today... MUSIC! I love music, and the holidays are no different. I adore Christmas carols. One of our older girls gave me the best Christmas present many years ago. She bought me a cd set of the Celtic Ladies singing Christmas carols. I love it! I pop in the three cds and just let it play over and over. Our local Christian radio station begins playing fabulous Christmas music - both contemporary and classics - right after Thanksgiving, so we've been enjoying that as well. Music tells so many stories, and it brings a joy to our family when things may otherwise feel overwhelming or even just plain tiring. It's a simple way that we lighten the mood, bring worship into our ordinary moments, and have a little fun while we're at it!

Here's a link to two of my most favorite Christmas carols. A few friends have been posting their favorite carols on Facebook. I'm adding two, one for yesterday and one for today. I might just choose to add a new one each day. Sidebar or in a post? That is yet to be determined. Either way, I'm going to have fun and enjoy the MUSIC! :)

Merry CHRISTmas my dear friends!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook: December 1st!

FOR TODAY, December 1, 2010

Outside my window... We had our first snow today! Well, not really SNOW, but flurries. :)

I am thinking... about the items that I need to start making for Christmas gifts, things on my to do list, and my grand need for a new laptop if I am going to continue to work online! (Restarting for the fourth time in an hour....)

I am thankful for... warm clothes! It's chilly today, and there are so many that have need. I am very thankful for my coat and sweaters this time of year.

From the learning rooms... We've gotten a bit behind with the holiday and my grandfather's passing so we're playing catch up this week! Hopefully we'll still be able to adjust our schedule to allow for a good winter break in December.

From the kitchen... Today is the first night of Hanukkah! I'll be making latkes! Yum!

I am wearing... my jammies. :)

I am creating... I'm almost finished with an angel ornament that I've been working on for a friend. It's my first custom order! I'm really excited about how it's turning out. This afternoon I'll start sewing for family gifts.

I am going... to run errands today and prep for the lighting of Hanukkah candles! We'll also start our advent readings. I dropped the ball so instead of kicking myself for missing Sunday's reading I'm going to run it Dec 1 to 25 and connect it to our Hanukkah celebration this week.

I am reading... I'm still reading Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity by Drew Brees. Still love it! I'm nearly done and hope to review it on Friday.

I am hoping... that I'll be able to make a good schedule and stick to it. I have a lot that I want to accomplish this month, and I'd love to have some down time while still getting my list checked off.

I am hearing... my dogs whining. When there is snow on the ground they want to go out constantly to play! Even a little bit of flurries excites them!

Around the house... is a mess! It's not that bad, but I have projects and school books scattered everywhere. Organization is in dire need.

One of my favorite things... Blueberry pomegranate tea. Yum!

A few plans for the rest of the week... I need to finish and add additional items to the WildCrickets shop. I need to work on organization (but I already mentioned that!) Holiday decorating needs to be tackled as well as gift construction! Books to be reviewed, blog posts to be written, and school planning top the list.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

If you'd like to read more hop over to The Simple Woman's Daybook to read about the days of others. Why not take a minute and write your own?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: November 29, 2010

After a few weeks of chaos (out of town, funeral, holiday) I just do not feel like cooking. Do. Not. Feel. It. But, it has to be done. Actually, it did me a world of good to spend a few hours cooking for the holiday, so I might just get some kitchen therapy in this week as well. However, with the chaos I'm just not feeling the recipe mojo flying. That means that I decided to pilfer the menu plans of others! WOO HOO! It's almost like eating out, but not. ;)

I'm adding in a few things from the last menu plan that never got made, tossing in a helping of orders from other blogs, and serving it up with a side of some easy old standards. For spice I'll add in a few recipes in celebration of Hanukkah this week! (Hubby is Jewish so we celebrate from a Messianic perspective. So much fun and so wonderful!) With a little bit of luck everything will get made...

*All meals are vegetarian or vegan, so meat references are Quorn Crumbles or the like.

B: Cereal. Stereotypical breakfast fare. Does it help that it was organic?
L: Veggie soup (from a can - see above comment) and tofurkey sandwiches
D: Taco Night - it's easy, in my fridge, and the kid's favorite. I'll make a taco bowl since I'm still trying to figure out the new Weight Watchers plan that debuted today (less shells that way.)

B: Waffles and fruit
L: Lunch out with a friend
D: Cheesy Potato and Veggie Soup, salad (This is actually dairy-free and vegan!)

Wednesday: First night of Hanukkah!
B: Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Couscous
L: Polenta with a red sauce or a "cheesy" sauce, broccoli
D: Potato Latkes, Tuna Salad (for hubby) and "Egg" Salad (for kid/me) with bagels, fruit

B: Tempeh Breakfast Hash
L: left over sandwiches, fruit, salad
D: CP Cincinnati Style Chili over Spaghetti, salad

B: Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
L: Homemade pizza (veggies and the like)
D: Vegetarian Irish Stew with biscuits

Saturday: The kid is dancing at a local holiday event and has rehearsal in the morning, so we'll probably eat out, on the go, and anytime that we can grab something! I should probably make some healthy snacks to take with us...

B: On Your Own (we have different schedules for church mornings)
L: leftovers
D: Vegetarian Stuffed Shells, garlic bread, salad (I'm going to attempt a few substitutions to make these dairy-free. Crossing fingers...)

Wow, doesn't look very balanced. But, it works! :)

Check out more menus at!

Review: Everything Christmas is everything you want!

Yes, the posting schedule says that today is Monday (aka Food Day) not Friday (aka Book Day.) However, I had to jump on this review! December 1 is just around the corner, and you're definitely going to want to rush out to your closest bookstore to pick up this book!

Title: Everything Christmas
Author: David Borden & Tom Winters
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
ISBN: 9780307729293
Retail Price: $14.99

Summary from Publisher's Website:
"Everything Christmas brings all the best ideas for the holiday season together in one volume. In this book, you’ll find your favorite classic Christmas stories and a few new ones destined to join them. You’ll discover the most delectable holiday recipes, enjoy the words to treasured hymns and carols, be encouraged by inspirational Christmas poems, and find renewed joy in the Nativity story. From decoration ideas to Christmas trivia and humor – it’s all here!"


I have to whole heartedly agree! "It's all here" is the perfect description for Everything Christmas. Starting on December 1 you will have readings, recipes, crafts, and more to entertain and enlighten your family from grandparents down to grandchildren. But don't worry - it will be perfect even if you start on December 5! The book itself is gorgeous! The subtle colors on the heavy weight pages make this book feel much more decadent than the price suggests. It is a beautiful gift book ready for a place in your holiday traditions. I thoroughly enjoy the mix of information: traditions explained, trivia and historical facts, carols and quotations shared for daily enjoyment, stories to expand on the meaning of the season, recipes to fill your belly, and more. You'll come across the significant and the entertaining as you read through the chapters daily. My mind is running wild with ideas on how this book will play a role in the coming month. (The crafty side of me wants to use several quotes on Christmas cards and in holiday letters!) Though quoted scripture doesn't appear in each chapter it does appear heavily, and it is very clear that as the saying goes, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." I appreciate this in today's society of materialism. For example, December 9 does not include a scripture reading but it does highlight a writing from Martin Luther, information on Advent traditions, Silent Night, and more. Everything Christmas is a treasure!

Be sure to check out the samples and goodies at the publisher's linked website above!

Rating: 5 Stars! Not only will this book be highly recommended to friends and family, it will also be used year after year in our family Advent tradition. I'll probably pick up a copy or two for a gift as well!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Friday, November 26, 2010

WildCrickets is having a Black Friday to Cyber Monday SALE!

Black Friday... Cyber Monday... Let the holiday shopping season begin! Here are a few coupon codes to say thank you to all who have supported me in starting WildCrickets this fall! Watch for new items to be added to the shop this weekend!

Now through Monday, November 29, 2010 you can create your own sale!!

Buy one item and save 10% off of your entire order! Coupon Code: TAKEONE

Buy two items and save 20% off of your entire order! Coupon Code: TAKETWO

Buy three items and 30% off of your entire order! Coupon Code: TAKETHREE

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I'm counting my blessings and enjoying a belated Thanksgiving dinner with my family and friends today. May your weekend be wonderful and full of memories!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gratitude Challenge Day 24: Food!

I love food. I think I've said it a time or two in various posts. But, just in case you've missed it....




Today I'm thankful for a God that provides. Not only does He provide for our family daily, but the creativity in which He does it just amazes me. We've been blessed by others when they never suspected that we needed it, and in turn we have tried to bless others when we were able. The creativity in God's creations amazes me as well! It may be because of my love of art, but my fascination with color is stoked when I think of the wide variety of food available to us. Ruby red strawberries... Deep orange pumpkins... Bright yellow lemons... The list can go on and on.

I'm thankful not only for the food that He has put on my table, but the food that groups and churches put on the table for others. God bless the workers in soup kitchens and food banks this holiday season.

My wish tonight is that you will each enjoy your Thanksgiving meals this week! We'll be celebrating a day later than most so that my mother can join us. Instead of having turkey on Thursday I'll be watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in my jammies while I rest and crochet. Oh, who am I kidding... I'll be cooking several dishes ahead (and sneaking tastes of all of the wonderful flavors as I go!)

The Simple Woman's Daybook: November 24th

This is my first Simple Woman's Daybook entry! I've read them many times over the years and always thought that it would be fun. A glimpse into my world... 

FOR TODAY, November 24, 2010

Outside my window... it's gray and looks like snow. I think we'll have to settle for a little bit of rain and hail.

I am thinking... about Thanksgiving plans and what I can cook ahead!

I am thankful for... my family, especially this week.

From the learning rooms... We're taking the entire week off for a fall break. Yippee!

From the kitchen... Today is a leftovers kind of day. We're getting our Thanksgiving meal put together.

I am wearing... jeans and one of my favorite blue cotton shirts. I love the tiny bit of beading that pops up around the neckline. Simple, but enough sparkle that you might not notice it yet it adds a bit of sparkle.

I am creating... my first original designs for my WildCrickets etsy shop! I'm still tweaking them, but hopefully I'll add some crocheted cotton bracelets to the shop this week.

I am going... to take a long hot bath tonight. :)

I am reading... Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity by Drew Brees. I love it! In a society that holds our athletes up as heroes it's nice to have a godly man in the group!

I am hoping... that the ice won't come in tonight like they think it will. We don't have to travel, but so many of our friends do!

I am hearing... my husband watch Romancing the Stone. Flashback movie of the week!

Around the house... you'll smell cinnamon. My mom found the best cinnamon broom at the store. Now the house smells like the holidays!

One of my favorite things... would have to be my snuggly blanket. It's chilly today so I'm that much happier about climbing into bed tonight.

A few plans for the rest of the week... I'm going to finish and photograph a few items for the WildCrickets shop, and then I'm going to start on holiday presents for the family. I'm really hoping to be able to sew tomorrow! We'll have our big Thanksgiving celebration with our immediate family and two ladies from church on Friday. (My mom is a nurse and is working tomorrow so we're being flexible!) I'm determined to stay in as much as I can this weekend and enjoy the calm before the rush of Christmas. Each year it seems to get busier and more hectic.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

This was taken in June, 2009. We were celebrating my grandfather's birthday by going to the zoo. This week I'm missing my uncle and my grandfather. But, I have memories like this to hold dear!

If you would like to read more please hop over to The Simple Woman's Daybook and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gratitude Challenge Day 22: The US Navy

Today is technically Day 23, but I've only missed Day 22 by about 20 minutes so I'm calling it good. :)

Tonight's entry is short, but filled with a lot of emotion. We buried my grandfather today. A lot can be said about a subject like that! But, tonight I am thankful for the U.S. Navy.

My grandfather proudly served during World War II. He once said that he had mixed feelings when the war ended... he was excited and relieved but saddened because he was out of a job. It broke his heart to be discharged. He talked proudly of his experience in the service all of his life.

Today he was buried with military honors. Three of the Navy's finest came to pay tribute to my grandfather. To see them salute the casket as he was taken by gave me such pause. To hear Taps played brought me to tears. They will never know the comfort that their words brought. Not completely. They will never know how truly grateful we are for their service. We will proudly display the flag presented to my mother. For some reason I feel the desire to grab a Navy sweatshirt for the winter. :)

I thank all service men and women past, present, and future. I thank all of the spouses, parents, and children who hang on in the home front while they serve. They sacrifice more than we will ever comprehend.

I'm thankful for the U.S. Navy because not only does it protect and serve our country, but it gave my grandfather such memories and pride.

Saying a prayer for our service men and women tonight...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gratitude Challenge Day 20: Time with my grandfather

Welcome back, Gratitude Challenge. How I've missed you.

Things have been a little crazy around here. I'm trying slowly and meagerly to keep a bit of normalcy in the routine, but it's proving to be a bit of a challenge. As you know, we were out of town this week while my grandfather was in the hospital. He was actually in the hospital for five weeks but due to illness with my daughter and myself I wasn't able to make the two-hour drive until this week when we were told that we may be losing him. After a very short stay in hospice we did in fact do just that yesterday.

I'm still processing the entire situation so this post will be brief. But after starting and stopping I knew what I needed to do. I needed to be thankful for the time that we had together. The eyes that followed in conversation. The smile that tried to peek around the corners of his mouth at my daughter. The time that we had as a family sitting quietly in the room or laughing a little bit too loud for others down the hall. It's funny where good memories will sneak in.

Today I'm thankful for the time that we had together. And, I'm thankful for the time that we'll have once again in the future for I know where he is. God is good, all the time!

Rest in peace, Papa.

Lee Roy F.
Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather.
WWII Veteran, US Navy
June, 1925 - November, 2010

In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. John 14:2 (NIV)

Saturday Tutorials... Originals that I love!

Happy Saturday!

I've been a bit behind in what I had hoped would be my first week of posting according to my schedule. And what happens when we have hopes that things will go a certain way? Say it with me.... you never know what you'll get instead! :) After a week of illness and the subsequent death of my grandfather the posting was a little off schedule. I could use some normalcy today, so on with the posting!

Saturdays will hopefully be a great day for a few projects. My plan is to share with you a project that I've been working on, a tutorial or two that inspire me, or even a tutorial of my own design. I had a great little last-minute Thanksgiving project in mind for you but with the week as it was I decided to edit and turn it into a Christmas item. Look for it in a few weeks!

Instead you'll find a list of some cute (and quirky!) tutorials perfect for someone on your list. OK, maybe not YOUR list, but they are definitely perfect for someone! Each one has a distinct personality of its own! I love these items and long for the day that I'll have the perfect person with which to share them. Until then I'll be hiding them away in my massive link collection.

Kicking off today's tutorial list is.... The Duct Tape Bullwhip! This tutorial has been around for a few years and it just rings originality to me! I'm waiting for a nephew or two to grow past the age of hurting themselves - or others - so that I can make this. (Or, maybe one of the grown kids will get it as a gag gift one of these days!) Doesn't every good adventurer need a bullwhip?

These CD Photo Cubes are just too cute. I love the idea of reusing all of the empty CD cases that live in my basement. I hesitated to include this because a certain sister and brother-in-law may just be getting a set for their mantel this Christmas. (I don't think she reads my blog so I may be safe!)

Every new mom gets the standard fare... diapers, bibs, clothes, pacifiers. I've always wanted to make a tooth fairy pocket doll for my friends! It never seems to be a gift that I time correctly. Kids are either too small or too big. But, what about tucking one away in a package to a new mom? It will be on hand when the kids are bigger, and I bet she definitely won't get duplicates of this gift! Try on a Robot or a Matyroshka on for size, or what about a matching Boy + Girl for twins!

Chocolate + Science = Scientific S'mores. This might be better posted on my homeschool days, but I think this is fantastic! The actual experiment is linked within the original post so you'll have to visit two, but it's worth it. How much fun would it be to open up a chocolate science experiment kit during the holiday season! Learn something AND munch some goodies! It's definitely another one of those original gifts!

So everyone has a bag of Altoid tins in their craft area just waiting for a project, right? It couldn't just be me. (Don't tell me if it is just me.) I've been looking for some great projects because I just knew that I'd need them one day. This is perfect!  I've also seen some fantastic examples of tins used for personal-sized sewing or first aid kits, storage of those little crafty bits like paper scraps and sewing needles, and everything in between. Go alter some tins and tell me how you used it!

#6 - 106
OK, so if bullwhips and tooth fairy pillows aren't your cup of tea see if you can find something over in this grab bag of the Top 100 Tutorials of 2009. I love this list. Organized by category it is a breeze to visit while you are planning those gift lists. Hopefully you'll find a few things to stir your creative side!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gratitude Challege Day 16: Kindness

Today I'm sitting in a hospital room with my mom and daughter. My grandfather has been here for 24 days. Unfortunately his labs and what not are improving, but he isn't. The infection he's been fighting is finally gone. Only he isn't doing better. He's just tired. So, we wait. We think we know what we are waiting for, but only God truly knows. It's in His hands and His timing alone.

This isn't an eloquent post. It isn't fancy or edited pretty. I honestly don't have time to look for many quotes like I would like. But, my heart tells me that I need to sing praises today.

My gratitude goes to those helping care for him. My mom is a nurse (as well as previously being a first grade teacher), so I've grown up understanding the sacrifice and diligence that goes with this sometimes thankless job. When you are in a doctor's office or hospital take the time to say thank you to the nurse! Say thank you to the techs. Say thank you to the people who clean or those in security. Their jobs are often thankless, and they see grieving more than most.

My gratitude goes to the other families who take the time to nod or smile, say a kind hello, or hold an elevator door. They are most likely having a stressful time as well. Take the time to say thank you.

My gratitude goes to the Lord, for I know that no matter what is in store my faith - and my grandfather's faith - is in Him. With Him all things are possible. With Him our future is secure. With Him we have no wants or needs. Sing praises. :)

Go hug someone. :)

For God so loved the ME AND YOU that He gave His one and only Son for US so that when WE believe in HIM we have everlasting life. John 3:16 (Stephanie version!)

Crafty Book Review: Doodle-Stitching by Aimee Ray

Doodle-Stitching: Fresh & Fun Embroidery Designs for Beginners by Aimee Ray

2007, Lark Books; 128 pages

Summary from

"Asian-inspired lampshades embellished with flying fish. Canvas sneakers decorated with pink and white swirls. A pretty pillow adorned with a sleeping bunny, sweetly curled up. All it takes to create these appealing projects—or add charming embroidered touches in no time at all—are a few simple stitches, some easy techniques, and the nearly 30 projects in this book. Begin by learning several styles for outlining, filling, decorating, and appliqué. Find out about floss, fancy threads, fabrics, and needles. Get the scoop on hoops, and the lowdown on transferring your very own designs onto every type of fabric. The fresh ideas, witty patterns, and clever color illustrations take stitchers from novice to accomplished in a blink of the eye!"

My turn...

I picked this book up on a whim when I was in one of my "I need inspiration" moods. I'm so glad that I did. I LOVE this book. Did you catch that?

Love. This. Book.

Do you doodle while you are on the phone? You can do this. Like to draw on a scrap napkin? Yep. You too. Copy, alter, or start from scratch with your own original design with a doodle. It's completely approachable after you've read this book!

I don't have much experience with embroidery. I've done a bit here and there, but my hand-stitching is typically limited to finishing work and the occasional cross stitch project. I've tried my hand at embroidery a few times but honestly there are some basic stitches that my mind just wouldn't allow me to see. Aimee Ray does a fantastic job explaining the how along with the why in each basic and decorative stitch. She also tells you how a stitch might morph into another, or how two may be paired together. The photographs along with her description create some kind of magic because I GOT it! I can actually see how these elements come together to create patterns! This is earth shattering people. Seriously. It is.

Another great bit in this book comes by way of explanation of fabric and method. Each is explained (again with photos), and best yet even the patterns tell you step by step which method of transfer should be used, to hoop or not to hoop (not a question after you read her description) and how to make changes to make the piece YOURS. I tend to be a "buck the system" kind of gal. I always make changes. If a craft requires me to copy a work in full I tend to work through half and never finish. I honestly think that I will finish any project that I choose from this book. Best yet, because there are photos of motifs created in slightly different ways or with slightly different materials to illustrate the flexibility in design my mind's eye has already started coming up with designs.

Practically speaking this is a great book to grab if you are new to sewing and would like to embellish a purchased item to give it that hand-made touch, and yet it is also a good book for the shelf of a seasoned crafter. Pick it up and enjoy.

Now, go stitch something!