Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jeans to Skirt

I have searched Kohl’s, Target and Walmart for a plain denim skirt for Katie to wear. I can’t find one anywhere! I remember seeing tutorials on how to turn a pair of jeans into a skirt (sometimes called a “skant”), so I decided to try my hand at this. I mostly referred to Hazelruthes’ tutorial, with a little more gleaned from Threadbanger’s tips here.

We started with a pair of jeans that are almost on the too-tight side of things, plus they had a hole in one knee. I figured I’d rather learn on a pair that would be okay to mess up instead of a  nicer pair that *might* get ruined on the first try.IMGP7717

Katie helped me rip seams (which she loved), then I pieced and pinned and sewed to get this:IMGP7720

I think it turned out pretty well, especially for my first try! And it didn’t take too long – I did it all during Jackson’s nap. I was going to sew a ribbon hem around the bottom (like I did with these jeans turned into shorts), but Katie wanted to leave it bare. However, she wanted to jazz it up a bit so I let her be creative with the Sharpies.IMGP7724

Here is the final version, which she is so excited about. I asked her to put the skirt on so I could take a photo, and she refuses to take it off and put her other clothes back on.IMGP7726a

Here’s the backside:IMGP7728

I can’t wait to try it again with some other jeans!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Tree Photos

My friend Scrappy Sue posted a link to this tutorial, which I will have to try before we take down our Christmas tree.

It reminded me of  this photo I took on Christmas Day of my brother-in-law’s tree. I set my camera on the “bulb” setting and just held the shutter open while I wiggled the camera for about 4 seconds. I think this turned out pretty cool!IMGP7672

I tried it again, with just a smaller wiggle motion.IMGP7680

I also tried it last week when we went to a nearby indoor train display.IMGP7418

Here’s what it looked like when I was trying to hold steady (yes, I know it’s blurry anyway):IMGP7416 

I also want to try some of these suggestions from Photojojo, especially the idea of light painting with Christmas lights. So cool!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

On Marriage

After reading this post and this post on the (in)courage website, I felt obliged to give my two cents’ worth on the topic of love.

Reading those posts reminds me how incredibly difficult it can be to develop a good marriage. Years ago, my own mother even told me, “Don’t mess it up with Dan.” She went on to joke about how she’d keep Dan instead of me. That cut me to the core, even if there was a small grain of truth to it. I knew I could easily self-destruct and ruin the relationship with this boyfriend. It had happened before, and it was usually my fault. I was too petty or too demanding or too lovey or not enough. Whatever the reason, Mom did have a reason to say what she said. But sometimes you don’t to say everything you think.

I digress. That was all years ago. However, I still have friends – even to this day – who say I’m lucky to have a husband who will go along with anything. There was a time when they’d be right. And, yes, they are still “right.” But the truth is I bristle when I hear something like that. Dan is only half the equation. We have succeeded in our marriage because both of us put a LOT of effort into it.

I don’t allow Dan to treat me disrespectfully. I fight for what I deserve: conversation, passion, pleasure, attention, kindness, and respect. In return, I treat him like the man he wants to be: my hero. Look, he isn’t perfect (neither am I). I first realized this a little ways in to our marriage, but thought there was still hope for improvement. About five years in, it finally hit me that he is his own person and I wasn’t going to change that. I considered splitting up. I blamed so much on him, and then I took a look in the mirror and realized I held as much responsibility for it as he did. I realized that whatever the relationship problems may be, I would still have those problems regardless of who my husband was. The problem wasn’t him, and he wasn’t something I needed to fix. Somewhere between the fifth and seventh year, I looked within and did a lot of work to piece myself into someone who was emotionally healthy. (Well, maybe not fully healthy, but healthiER.) I put a lot of value in the vows we spoke to each other in 1995.

There are so many factors that have gone into our marriage and brought us to where we are today. We have weathered a lot of storms. The death of my brother almost devastated me and, in turn, our marriage. Estrangement from my mom, Dad’s cancer, both of their deaths, the birth of our children, and my own disease have truly changed me and, again, our marriage. Instead of pushing away the imperfect that I saw in my husband, I have learned to embrace it because he has been the one true constant since I turned 19 years old.

Eighteen years with him has changed me, as it would change anyone. It has mellowed me. (I know some of you are snorting out loud to think that I might actually be mellow now. It’s all relative, compared to what I used to be like!) The eighteen years have loosened me up to where I don’t fly off the handle when Dan leaves piles of pennies or empty water bottles around the house for me to clean up. I’ve become more accepting of those things that used to drive me crazy. Man, I feel like an old lady now – saying how I’ve just come to accept the quirkiness of my elderly husband. But, seriously. I have learned to let a lot more roll off my back. I’ve become comfortable with who Dan is instead of trying to make him become someone God never intended. (Doesn’t mean I’m not a control freak – I’m just learning what I can no longer control!)

Dan and I have talked about how the last 7 years of our marriage have been better than the first 8. One main reason for that is because having kids forced me to let go of all the things over which I worked myself into a tizzy. Another reason is that having kids brought me more peace about my body. I respect its ability to take care of itself (and grow life) a lot more now. In being more comfortable with my body, I’m more comfortable with my hubba-hubba husband. I will not go into more detail on that. I’ve also learned that giving him respect and treating him like a hero makes him feel like one, which means he’s more willing to go above and beyond the call of duty in our marriage. It isn’t that I’m stroking his ego to try and manipulate his behavior. Maybe it’s more along the lines of the Golden Rule and treating him the way I’d want to be treated. People have a way of rising to the occasion when you make them feel like they can.

So now I’m rambling. But let me get back to my point: marriage is freaking hard work. I am blessed (NOT lucky, blessed!) to have a partner who understands that and is willing to put in the time and effort to make us work. And here’s what I’d like to say to my mom now, if I could get another chance. I’d agree that, yes, Dan is a wonderful husband. But then I’d tell her that I’m a wonderful wife. And our marriage works because WE work at it. Together. United. Willing to carry each other and forgive and ask for help.

We are each other’s best friends.

Dan: You are the vowel to my consonant. Like a vanity license plate, I can sort of make sense without the vowels. But the consonants add depth and meaning to my life, just like you. I love you! Happy 15th anniversary.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Glorious Gifts

We still have three days to Christmas, but I have already received some amazing gifts. I want to toot the givers’ horns, although I won’t mention their names because I’d hate for my readers (all four of you) to get jealous and all. Ha!

My church is fully vested in the Advent Conspiracy message, and our pastor has compelled us to give gifts that celebrate relationships instead of material possessions. Three of my close friends who also attend the same church gave me early gifts this year. I thought I’d share them with you, in hopes of inspiring you too.

One friend gave me a big white envelope. Inside was a bunch of stuff: a CD of her favorite Christmas songs (songs that are more holy than commercialized). There was a brochure about the prophesies Jesus fulfilled, plus a strip of cloth to tie on my tree. (This cloth was the same cloth my church gave out at Easter to remind us of the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins. What a beautiful connection to make: tying an Easter reminder to my Christmas tree.) My friend also wrote me a beautiful letter about not missing the meaning of Christmas this year, and seeing it with fresh eyes. Then she included a packet of about 40 papers, printed with Scripture, writings by Max Lucado and other authors, tips on ways to celebrate the holiness of the season, and even a Hebrew printing of the name “Immanuel.” I can’t tell you how this gift has fed my soul this month!

The second amazing gift I received this month came in a smaller envelope. It was a card with a simple piece of paper inside. The piece of paper was a coupon from a friend, offering me time to myself while she gets to spend time with my son. What a gift, to know that my friend wants to give me peace and solitude AND she wants to spend time with my boy. That’s a gift you can’t put a price on.

Lastly, this is a photo of a gift I received from a friend who works in the printing business.IMGP7398

She – and a group of others – has been receiving special texts from me throughout the month of December. I decided to take the list of 24 Names of Jesus that I put on my Advent gum pack and text those names and Scripture verses to friends each day to help them keep their focus on Christ. My friend took those 24 Names and added some graphic art and lyrics and presented me (and a few others) with this little booklet. I have been using it during my prayer time, and love it!

Did you notice a common theme in all of these gifts? They cost very little, but they sure make me feel loved.

Snowflake Window Clings

During Jackson’s nap on Monday, Katie walked up to me and said, “I want to make a craft.” Bingo! Music to my ears.

We decided to make snowflake window clings, like these from FamilyFun. They are seriously easy to make. Just get some fabric paint and waxed paper. You can freehand the flakes or draw designs on paper and use them as templates under the waxed paper.IMGP7367

Wait a day for the paint to dry, then peel them off the waxed paper (the hardest part of this craft). Then stick them to a slick surface, like a window or mirror. And you’re done!IMGP7390

One tip to pass along: it seems the thicker the paint, the better the results. I thought Katie’s clumpy snowflakes wouldn’t work well, but they were easiest to peel from the waxed paper – especially without ripping. And the glittery paint worked better than any of the slicker puffy paints.

Christmas Cards

One of my top five favorite Christmas traditions – and maybe even #1 on the list – is receiving Christmas cards. First off, I love (I mean I REALLY love) checking the mail box every day of the year anyway. Our mailman’s truck makes a specific noise and I can hear him coming down the street, and I get all excited to go check the mail. Some days, I even hear these lyrics in my head: “Oh-ho the Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin’ down the street, oh please let it be for me!”

And then, there’s Christmas and the greetings from so many people in my current and past life. (I get cards from former high school teachers, my brother’s ex-girlfriends, and my parents’ long-lost relatives.)  Mix that in with my joy at receiving mail on just a regular day, and December is joyous all around!

I can’t stand glittery cards (Ugh! It spreads like wildfire!), and I think sending a generic store-bought card with just your name signed inside is kind of boring. I like newsletters, but what I really LOVE is photo cards. What’s not to love? It’s the one time a year a family dresses up nice, puts their best face forward (or funniest face!), and sends smiles in the mail. I *love* photos and I *love* mail, so mix the two together and it’s euphoria for me. Hot diggity!

Years ago, I covered a piece of foam core board with fabric and tacked ribbons across it to hold photos. (Sorry for the poor lighting.)IMGP7341

This year, it’s annoying me because it has started to lose its tautness and won’t hold the cards very well. I started searching the Internet for ideas on how to display cards.  I like this one from Martha Stewart.Xmas Cards

I also like this one from Country Living.country_living_cards-door-de_rect540

This one from Thirty Handmade Days is really a favorite too.thirty handmade days 

But I went with the easiest option and dug out a roll of gold ribbon in the basement and hung it on the wall, using clothespins to clip the cards to the ribbon.IMGP7338

Then I wrapped ribbons around my cabinet doors.IMGP7333

I love how these turned out. After Christmas is over, I am going to borrow this idea on Apartment Therapy and put the photos inside the cabinets so I can enjoy them all year long.mosskitchenchristmas_cards_rect540

Lastly, I wanted to link to a great book I got at the library. It is called Merry Christmas From…: 150 Christmas Cards You Wish You’d Received and it’s compiled by Karen Robert. The book features Christmas cards that were sent by real families. I love some of the ideas in the book and would love to try them for future Christmas cards for our family… ideas like messages on t-shirts, a copy of our kids’ letters to Santa, painted feet, or Photoshop techniques I’ve yet to perfect.

Happy mailbox checking, y’all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Make Me a Muppet

Oh, this is too much fun and I had to share. Have you heard of the Muppet Whatnot Workshop at FAO Schwarz? You can make your own *real* Muppet. Sweet! What do you think of the Muppet I made resembling my hunky husband?image

The price is $100, so I don’t think we’ll be ordering any Muppets for our house. But it’s a fun website to play around with!

Photo Props

I loved these ideas and asked Katie to make a paper Santa beard too. So cute!IMGP7325


Crocheted Clothes Hangers

I just finished a gift for my stepmother and thought I’d post it to see what you think. Personally, *I*  like them. But I’m not sure they are fit for mass consumption. They are just regular wire clothes hangers that I single crocheted around, then I added a pom pom decoration at the top. I made a set of these to send to her.IMGP7312

Here’s why I made them for my stepmother. She is one of those ladies who likes fluffy kinds of things. Years ago, I remember Dad telling me how much she liked padded clothes hangers. I filed that away in the back of my mind until this year as I was trying to decide how to make Christmas more personal and to follow the Advent Conspiracy philosophy of giving gifts infused with a relationship. I thought of my stepmom. I thought about how she is the one who taught  me to crochet long ago, sitting on the back porch of the house she shared with my father. And I thought about how she likes padded clothes hangers.

I decided to give her a gift that would – hopefully – reflect those things. I know crocheted clothes hangers aren’t the must-have gift of the season. And, yes, they look like something your daft grandmother might make. But I hope my stepmom appreciates the sentiment and my odd way of saying thank you for teaching me a craft that I still enjoy today!

Indoor Winter Fun

Yesterday, icy roads cancelled our plans for a Christmas party with my mom’s group. We were stuck in the house with hours to kill, so I whipped out these puppies:IMGP7316

Oh, thank you, Crayola! You are a lifesaver!IMGP7286

The kids spent at least two hours (an hour before Jackson’s nap and an hour after Jackson’s nap) coloring their masterpieces. (And, yes, those are antennae on Katie’s head. She decided to make some out of pipe cleaners and attach them to her headband.)IMGP7297

It takes a lot of concentration to color on windows!IMGP7301

The finished product is pretty cool. Katie’s snowflakes are beautiful! I think we’ll leave these decorations up through Christmas. I don’t think the windows will be too hard to clean. When Jackson wanted something erased yesterday while he was drawing, I just swiped it off with a baby wipe. Let’s hope it’s that easy to remove when January rolls around!IMGP7319

The fun ended abruptly when Jackson was caught coloring on the kitchen floor. I warned the kids that coloring on anything besides the patio door would cause them to lose their crayons. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Jesus’ birth. Duh… I know, it’s Christmas and that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. No, what I mean is that I’ve been thinking a lot about everything surrounding it, even pondering back to Adam and Eve. (That’s a whole separate post!) I have so many questions! They’re not the questions that are deep, soul-shattering questions that would change my character values. They are more like “wonderings.” I thought I’d share them with you to see if anyone else ever thought these things.

When Jesus was born, did He have a special awareness that other babies don’t have? When He first opened His eyes, did He think, “Yeah, that’s it! Look at this place! What a wonder this world is!” Did He ever congratulate Himself on what a good job He did creating this world, or did His feelings center more on despair because His creation was corrupted? (I’d like to think Hope is the answer to that question.)

What were Jesus’ first words as a child? Most babies’ first words are “mama,” and maybe that was His. When did He take His first steps? Did He sleep through the night from the start? Was He more advanced than other kids His age? When He cut Himself or skinned His knee, did He heal quicker than a regular human being? Did He have nightmares? Did He throw temper tantrums? Did he tattle? Did He annoy the living daylights out of His sister, or was He extra nice to people? Could He read others’ thoughts?

When Jesus and his cousin John (the Baptist) had play dates, did they have a special bond with each other? Maybe they laughed more when they were around each other than when they were around other kids. Maybe John taught Jesus how to skip rocks or how to spy on their siblings. Did they ever swim together and dunk each other?

Who did Mary tell when she found out she was pregnant with the Messiah? Did she tell her mom? And did her mom think she was a lunatic? Imagine Jesus’ grandmother hearing her daughter say she was going to give birth to our Savior. Do you think Grandma was proud or shocked or wary of her daughter? What would it be like if my daughter told me she was going to give birth to God? And – honestly – what if that truly did happen? Could you imagine the enormity of raising a child today who might birth a Savior? What if we all raised our kids like they were the humble instrument of God’s redemption? Wow. THAT thought totally changes my parenting goals!

What did it feel like when the Holy Spirit conceived with Mary? What did Jesus’ kicks in her womb do to her? What did she say when people asked her if she wanted a boy or a girl? Did she have to pretend she didn’t know yet? At the market, did strangers ask to touch her belly – and did it feel just a tiny bit different than another pregnant woman’s belly? When her ankles were swollen and she couldn’t sleep at night, did she just beg God to let her finally give birth? Did she wonder what the baby would look like – would it look like God or like a regular baby? Did she worry herself endlessly over that?

What did His cry sound like when He was born? And what was it like the first time baby Jesus opened His eyes and looked at Mary? Did she just sit for hours on end and gaze into His eyes and know eternity was in there? How did she discipline Eternity? Did she make Him sit in time out? Did she wash His mouth out with soap if He said a bad word? (Did He even say bad words?!) What was His favorite food, or did He like them all? Did He raise His arms above His head and play “So Big!” with Mary and Joseph?

Where did the shepherds go? After they came and found the baby lying in a manger, did they just leave and go back to their regular lives? Did they tell anyone what they saw? Did they feel compelled to drop what they were doing and follow this baby for the rest of their lives? Did any of them ever see Him preach years later, and realize that was the same baby the angels spoke about?

Did angels ever spend time just watching this little boy Jesus enjoy life? Did they invisibly drop in on Him and live vicariously through Him? Did they envy His ability to feel and taste and touch and hug others? Did they sing Him lullabyes at bedtime?

Did Joseph ever resent having to raise the Son of God? Did He balk at the responsibility and envy his friends’ “regular” kids? Did Joseph ever wonder how he was supposed to provide for the Messiah? Did he teach Jesus how to use a hammer, or did Jesus already innately know? Did he give Jesus tips on how to woo a woman, or did everyone know that Jesus just wasn’t in to that? Did Joseph save the very first woodcarving Jesus created, like how we save the first drawings our kids give us? Was Jesus a rebellious teenager? Did He ever say the words every parent dreads hearing? (“I hate you! You are so mean because you won’t let me ______!”) Did Jesus ever get in trouble for breaking curfew? Or was He always obedient and responsible?

When Jesus died and then reappeared three days later, did Mary swear never to let Him out of her sight again? Did she ask Him where He’d been for three days?

…Oh, I could go on and on about this. There are so many What Ifs and wonderings floating through my head. Do any of you have these same thoughts, or am I the only one?

Monday, December 13, 2010

JC’s Loft Contributor

I had a great brainstorm last week, and created all kinds of new stuff to share. Check it out at my friend Paula’s blog, JC’s Loft. She’s invited me to a be a contributor on her blog, the second Monday of every month. Want a glimpse of my idea? Here’s all you get, until you go visit.IMGP6903
And while you’re there, make yourself comfortable and read some of her great ideas for DIY crafts and decorating. It’s amazing what she can do with just a roll of brocade gift wrap!
{Update: The JC's Loft blog was closed and the link no longer works. If you would like instructions, leave a comment and your email address and I'll be in contact. I'm sorry for any confusion!}

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Tree House

Dan and Katie put lights on our tree house. I love seeing it at night, when the backyard is dark and all is quiet.IMGP6893

Advent by Candlelight

On Tuesday night, I went somewhere that my friend Paula would consider Heaven on Earth. My friend Carrie invited me to an Advent by Candlelight event. Her sister’s church sponsors the event, and women sign up to be table hostesses. They invite seven other women to sit at their tables and they provide dessert for the table. Author Kristen Myers spoke on “Lessons from the Shepherds,” and a group of church ladies performed a skit explaining the meanings of the Advent wreath.

So. That is not the Heaven on Earth part, although it was good fellowship time. The most awesome part? Each table hostess decorates her table with some special theme. My hostess, Angie, created a white and silver table with lots and lots of glitter. She used beautiful white plates decorated with simple silver edges. The water goblets had silver snowflakes on them. The table centerpiece was flowers and glittery Christmas trees. Here’s a photo of my table: (PLEASE excuse the photo quality. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get detailed photos in candlelight?)IMGP6858

My friend Carrie told me she helped create the napkin rings for a bridal shower, and she and Angie decided to reuse them for this event. The bridal shower napkin rings were a simple satin ribbon, held together by a pearl tie tack. For the Advent by Candlelight event, they just flipped the napkin rings over and put a silver rhinestone on them. So simple and pretty!IMGP6859

There were 31 tables at this event. Before the festivities began, the guests were encouraged to walk around and look at the other tables and see how they were decorated. Here’s a table with one of those wooden Christmas pyramids:IMGP6861

This table had a different kind of pyramid on it, made of creampuffs! You can’t tell from the photo, but the color scheme was a royal purple, and the hostess used gorgeous crystal goblets.IMGP6862

This table had a huge glass vase in the middle, filled with sparkly ornaments and LED star lights. I used the flash on my camera for this one.IMGP6864

I love the radiant red of this table, along with the angels dressed in red.IMGP6866

This table had a beautiful centerpiece. There were two stained glass crosses that sparkled with candlelight underneath them.IMGP6868

Here’s a close-up of another table with these gorgeous angel goblets. I also like the gumdrop place card holders.IMGP6870

This table’s theme was Christmas Around the World. Those red and blue lights were ornaments that had lights inside them that changed color.IMGP6872

This table had a tree as its centerpiece, with different cross ornaments hanging from it.IMGP6877

I loved the large crystal nativity figurines on this table, mixed with crystal letters that spell JOY. I also noticed the place card holders and thought of Paula’s cute DIY ones.IMGP6880

Apparently each hostess gives her guests a favor to take home. Carrie and Angie made cute little boxes with a snowflake ornament inside. This photo doesn’t do it justice. It is really cute!IMGP6900

I felt so honored to be invited to this event, especially since Angie and I had never met before. It gave me time to still my busy mind and reflect on the holy part of this season. It also spoke to my creative side as I looked at such feminine decorations. I started brainstorming how I might decorate a table if I hosted one. I thought of an Easter theme (because Christmas and Easter are so tightly intertwined), or a theme celebrating each guest at my table (like making each woman a “You are Special Today” plate to take home). I’d also love to go against the grain and have a very primitive, non-glittery table to reflect the humble nature of Jesus; decorating the table with burlap and muslin and stones and hand-thrown pottery goblets.

How would you decorate your table? Would you break out your wedding china finally? Ha!


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