Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Valentine Advent Calendar and a Valentine Placemat

      That was a wordy title, but I wanted to make sure you knew what you were getting into.  This morning, I did a "Snippet" for the mom's Bible study that I attend.  They asked if I could come up with a Valentine craft to do with our kids (or for our kids) that would help them learn more about God's love.  (At least, that it what I think the question was.  I accidentally deleted the email, so I hope that this works!)
      As I was thinking about what could be fun, I decided to steal from another holiday's tradition and create an "advent" calendar of sorts.  But with this one, every day would have a different aspect of God's love to learn about.  Here is what I made.


And, you can make one too!  Here is what you need - though, the good news is, this project is highly adaptable to whatever you have on hand or whatever you want it to be.  I used a plaque that came from the Hobby Lobby Valentine section that already had a ribbon hanger on it.  It was $4.99 before the discount.
      I decided to paint "God is LOVE" on mine.  First, I went and located a new cute font and installed it on my computer.  It is "Roskrift Clean" (who names fonts?), and I downloaded it from Fonts 101 and printed out the text on an regular piece of paper.


Then, I used the same transfer method that I showed off when making the Dot Painted Plates.  Color over the back of your printed page using a heavy graphite pencil.  (A regular pencil might work as well - I haven't tried it.)


Then, tape the page in place over the plaque.


Trace over the edges of the lettering using a ball point pen.


Once you are finished, take off the paper, and your outline will be left on the plaque.


Then, use a small paint brush and paint inside the lines.  A different, blockier font would definitely be easier to paint, but I did like the way this one came out.


Then, it was time for me to find 14 descriptions of love.  I focused mainly on 1 Corinthians 13, but sprinkled some in from other passages as well.  Here's the list that I came up with.

-  Love is Patient
1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is Kind
1 Corinthians 13:4
Love rejoices with the Truth
1 Corinthians 13:6
-   Love never fails
1 Corinthians 13:8
-   Love casts out fear
1 John 4:18
-   Love sent Jesus
John 3:16
-   Love edifies
1 Corinthians 8:1
-   Love always hopes
1 Corinthians 13:7
-   Love is fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22
-   Love serves others
Galatians 5:13
-   Love forgives
1 Corinthians 13:5
-   Love bears burdens
1 Corinthians 13:7
-   Love endures all things
1 Corinthians 13:7
-   Love is not proud or rude
1 Corinthians 13:4-5

I formatted those into two separate columns and printed them out.  If you want me to email it to you, I would be glad to - just leave a comment with your email if you want a copy.


I cut them into little rectangles using my handy paper cutter.


Since I wanted them hanging in a heart shape, I laid them out on the floor.  You could do fewer attributes and/or let them hang randomly as well.


I tied a second piece of small string onto the bottom of the Baker's Twine that I was using to make a V-shape that would help stabilize the rectangles as they dangle from the sign.


Then, tape the Baker's Twine to the card, and measure it up to the place that you want it to hang from.  I tried to stagger them a bit, but since I was aiming for a heart, there were not a ton of placement options.


Then, I used a handy dandy Command Hook to be able to hang all of the attributes on.  There is one for every day in February leading up to the 14th.


My goal is to take one down each day and talk with Lily (and Bella, sort of) about the description of love to be learned about that day.

The other idea I shared was actually one from my childhood.  My mom (with my dad's help!) made placemats for each of us.  They had verses, our names and clippings of stuff that they felt represented us. Here is mine.


What I learned about myself as an almost 10 year old girl is that I loved cats, piano lessons, cheese dip and cookies, but most importantly, that my parents loved and valued me so much.  We used these at a Valentine's dinner, and I have had it for years.
      So, that is what I shared this morning at Bible Study.  If you have any questions - please let me know!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mom's Chicken Noodle Soup: Tastes Like My Childhood

      Last week, despite this being just about the balmiest January I can imagine, I made Chicken Noodle Soup for dinner.  None of us were sick, and it wasn't really cold, but it is still January, so soup sounded nice.  I called my mom to get her recipe.  Then, as I was making it, I managed to do things all wrong, though it still turned out just fine.  So, instead of step by step pictures, I am going to share the recipe and the end result.  That keeps it simple for me and less confusing for you.

Mom's Chicken Noodle Soup


Here's what you need.


5-6 chicken breasts (not pictured)
1 TBsp Lowry's Seasoned Salt
3 Chicken Bouillon cubes
1 TBsp Cavender's Seasoning
1 TBsp Poultry Seasoning
1/2 tsp Minced Garlic (also not pictured)  (clearly, I was not very with it this evening- I never even put it in)
4 shakes of Garlic Powder
3 shakes of Onion Powder
1 16 oz bag Large Egg Noodles
Carrots - sliced, as much as you want (I was lazy and bought canned)
Frozen Peas, as much as you want

Cover your chicken with water and add enough to have a good base of broth.  I added about 5 cups after I had covered my chicken.  Add seasonings and bring to a boil.  Boil about 45 minutes, until chicken is done.  Remove chicken, and cut it up.  OR - stick it into your Kitchen Aid and get perfectly shredded chicken for a lot less work!  Thank you, Simply Healthy Fam blog, found via Pinterest, for this brilliant, time-saving tip!


Put the noodles and the carrots into the water that you just finished boiling the chicken in.  Bring it to a boil, and cook the noodles until they are done, usually about 10 minutes.  Add peas and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes.  Add your chopped up chicken back in, and your soup is finished!


What I do love about this recipe is that it is very flavorful and very healthy.  And, though it takes a while to get it all cooked, it takes very little hands-on time.  I doubled the recipe - sometimes I don't think about how much it will make when I actually double something.  I completely filled this pot.


But, that means I have lots to freeze for later, which works out well for us.  So - go make this Chicken Noodle Soup - it really is delicious!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

More Playtime and Photo Practice

      I am continuing to practice for the photography class I am taking (Ashley Ann's SnapShop).  Fortunately, I have two little models around all the time, though their willingness is usually questionable.  I feel like I am learning how to get more natural shots of them, which I love.  I am also learning that taking good, high-quality pictures is something that takes a lot of practice, a willingness to try new things and sometimes, a bit of staging.  It also takes a lot of extra thinking about the background that I hope I get better at.  So, after a day inside and at home, we were ready to go outside, plus, I knew the lighting would be better outside than inside, which meant it would make for good practice.
      What you must understand about this particular day is that this is the day that I realized Bella is a hitter. When something is taken from her, she does not respond graciously.  As you might imagine, this does not go over well with big sis, who moans about being hit, though amazingly doesn't hit back.  This is also the day that Lily was coming downstairs to go outside, and Bella, standing at the top of the stairs, threw the doll stroller down the stairs.   I didn't see this go down, but I could hear the stroller banging its way down only to run into a little girl about 3/4 of the way down.  Bummer.  The screaming lasted for quite a while.   So, all of that happened right before these pictures.  I never want anyone to get the wrong idea while reading this blog that things are always picturesque around here, though once you see the first picture, there won't be any doubts about that anyway.

Lily was still recovering from the stair incident, and when Bella got into the car, it put her back over the edge.  Glad to have this moment captured forever.


Bella did quite enjoy her time in the Cozy Coupe.


I realized once we got down there that we all had on our sparkly Toms.  Here are mine and Lily's.


Sweet face.


Lily spent some time in recovery on the swing, and I convinced her to take a picture with me before she got back to the business of playing.



Here's to more practice!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Let's Go See a Movie

      Yesterday afternoon, we went and saw Beauty and the Beast in 3D.  This was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up, and when I seriously considered going to try out to be a Disney Princess at DisneyWorld, I was going to aim for Belle.  I figured I could wear brown contacts.  So, I jumped at the opportunity to take the girlies to see it in the theatre.  The fact that it was in 3D I was split on - I like 3D movies, but I thought it might be hard to get the girls to wear the glasses.  Bella wore them the whole movie, with no fuss whatsoever.  She also did great, with appropriate outbursts of enthusiasm.  And, looking over, seeing her in those glasses absolutely made my week.  Lily was another story (she usually is), but after half of the movie, I was able to convince her that it would be better if she did wear the glasses.  So, she did, though she never looked at the camera or deemed it worthy of a smile from her.




And, for good measure, I present to you, Phantom Bella.


Family experiences make my heart all warm and fuzzy, especially when they go well.

This morning, I did a 4 mile run at the river in the foggy mist.  I saw no less than 20 deer (and I was thankful to run PAST them and not OVER them), who must have thought I was crazy, since I was "putting my hand up" while bouncing my head along to Beyonce singing All the Single Ladies.  Sometimes, a few of Beyonce's greatest hits can take you a long way.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Here's to You.

Here's to You, Bloom group.  You ladies make my Tuesday mornings so special.  To get beyond the pretense and have real, raw discussion on stuff that matters is a blessing that most women long for and we get to experience.  Thanks for keeping it real, working for it, loving me and loving the Lord.  I have learned so much from each of you.  (Why I felt the need to continue wearing my name tag at lunch is still a mystery.)


Here's to You, Community Group.  I don't have a picture to share from our time together last night, because I know you all would make fun of me even more about the blog if I took pictures every time we met.  Thank you for being so outrageous that we girls had to spend some of our time locked in the laundry room away from the guys.  That was really hilarious.  Thanks for sharing what God is teaching each of you and for being willing to read a sort of crazy book to see where it takes us.

Here's to You, Jen Hatmaker, who I don't know in real life but wish I did.  Your book, Seven, is rocking my world in the best way possible, though I am a little nervous about the next several chapters.  Thank you for doing something extreme to see what God had to say about the way you live and inspiring me to do the same.  I am excited to see what God has to show me.  And if I do end up eating only chicken for a month, the good news is, we own a chicken restaurant.

Here's to You, John, best husband ever.  You took today off from work, and instead of packing it full of stuff we needed to do, you said you just wanted to hang out and have a "date day."  This makes me feel so loved and valued.  Eating breakfast, sans kiddos and sitting there talking for an extra hour was pretty amazing.  It made me realize all over again how lovely it is to be married to you and be almost 7 years deep.  I am looking forward to seeing Beauty and the Beast in 3D this afternoon with our two little compadres.

Here's to You, Lily and Bella.  Lily, thanks for making me laugh when asking about John's glasses.  You asked why he would need to clean them, and I said, "Sometimes they get dirty."  And you said, "Why does Daddy poop on his glasses?"  I laughed out loud.  Bella - thanks for being such a great sleeper so much of the time.  Last night, when your babysitter forgot to give you your paci to sleep with, you didn't wake up til 5:30 a.m.  I got to cuddle you for a bit, and then, after a while, you went back to sleep.  Here's to You both - being your mom is one of the best gifts God has ever given me.

Here's to You, anyone who reads this blog.  I really appreciate your encouragement, thoughtfulness and kind words.  Thanks for making blogging a fun adventure for me!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January Spring

      So, yesterday, Lily and I made our first real go at potty training.  I hesitate to even talk about it on this here blog, because quite frankly, I don't want to have a million opinions and suggestions thrown my way.  But, that is my problem and issue and pride and not a good reflection of what is going on our lives.  Let's just say, it is hard and I am sort of at a loss for what to do.  If you think of it, please pray that we have wisdom and patience.  God sure knew what I needed when he gave me a darling daughter made of nails.  And, as I must continually remind myself when potty training comes up, Lily will not go to college in diapers.  Maybe kindergarten, but not college.  So, sometime between now and then, this will all click with her, and there will be no fear, and she will use the potty.
      After a day in the house working at our toilet skills, we needed an outing.  We headed to the park in our neighborhood since we are experiencing such mild January weather.  I am currently enrolled in Ashley Ann's SnapShop and learning how to use my camera in fully manual mode, which I haven't done since high school.  I LOVE the course - it is super practical and easy to understand.  Since I know I love her style of shooting, it is fun to have her insights on photography, especially since she has four children that she is capturing.  I used yesterday to really start practicing, and I am loving the results.  I feel like I still have so much to learn, and even more than that, I just need more practice.
      Here is our time at the park after a rather frustrating day at home.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend time outside with the girls, and they certainly loved it.  Thanks, January, for being so warm.  It sure beats being trapped inside.

Picnik collage
Picnik collage
Picnik collage

Beautiful things to treasure forever from this particular afternoon:  Us all three holding hands and walking to the playground from the car.  Bella really loving to walk.  Lily saying, "Look!  Bella is walking" with such joy and enthusiasm.  Bella climbing and exploring everything with great interest and snot dripping down her nose forever.  Lily throwing rock after rock into the creek and loving it.  I am thankful for these treasures - and for learning how to capture some of them better!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lily's Panda Party: Part Two, Behind the Scenes

      So, here are a few of the behind the scenes details that went into Lily's party, that I posted about yesterday.  I sent out these invitations.


In these envelopes.


I designed them and printed them myself.  I searched on Etsy for downloadable clip art and found a little Chinese girl pack, which you can see by clicking here.  I created them in Microsoft Word and printed them on card stock paper, and I scalloped the edges using a punch and then glued it onto black card stock.  I ran the envelopes through the printer.  I found the font called "Bonzai," which I downloaded free from Urbanfonts.  I also got a font called "Bamboo" there as well.

I must say that this party was made much easier by my Silhouette - a machine that cuts things beautifully and easily.  I made the food labels and the bunting using it, as well as the panda tattoos that the girls wore and that were included in the favor boxes.  I made circle stickers to put on the cups and favor boxes using the panda clip art and Avery stickers that I bought at Office Depot.


Most of the decor - lanterns, pinata and favor boxes, were all ordered from Party City online.  I looked around, and it had the best prices for what I wanted, especially once I got free shipping.


When it came time for figuring out a cake, I searched for cute panda cupcakes online and found Charm and Whimsy's take on them.  She also made a few cupcakes using Pirouette Rolled Wafers as bamboo, which gave me the idea to wrap an entire cake with them.  I saw these super cute Panda cupcakes on Bakerella and knew I wanted to make at least one - but not more than that, because they looked a little time intensive.  So, those were the inspirations for the cake and cupcakes.



For the favor boxes, I included the following items.


     - Adorable Panda Finger Puppets from Imogene's Tea Garden's Shop on Etsy.  I sort of wanted to buy all the animals - they are so cute.
     - Panda Tattoos made with the Silhouette
     - Chinese Yo-Yos from Party City
     - Glitter Bottles that I made (I did a tutorial on them back in August) using "Panda Gems" I ordered from Glass Gems by Christine's Etsy Shop, green pom poms, green glitter, and green leaf sequins.


and personalized Fortune Cookies ordered from Baked Just For You.


I asked people not to bring gifts, but if they wanted, to instead bring cash to give to World Vision.  Honestly, after last year's party (which you can read about here) where Lily didn't care to open her presents, I decided that it was really overkill for her to receive more gifts.  We have plenty, and she has more than enough to play with, so I would rather give to others, including a girl that we sponsor through World Vision that shares Lily's exact birthday.
      Well, that about sums everything up.  I am glad that I am only doing birthday parties like this about twice a year right now, but it sure is fun!