Monday, November 28, 2011

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

I have always been a big fan of Random Acts of Kindness. When I used to take the toll road to work, a couple times a week I would pay for the person's toll behind me. I love doing little things like that. Then when I stumbled across this blog, I knew we had to do this. It's 25 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. Each day in December through Christmas Day, we will purposefully set out to complete one Random Act of Kindness. She has a bunch of ideas, but if you ponder you can come up with so many more. This is something I can do with Michael and Isabella and it will help to keep up us grounded in the midst of the materialistic environment Christmas has become. I am so very excited to do this! I will try to post each day what we did for the day. Stay tuned!! :-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gingerbread boy & girl wreath

This wreath was ridiculously easy and can easily be used as a template for an innumerable amount of themes. I choose the gingerbread theme because I wanted something to hang in my kitchen. I am a bit of a cookie making machine when it comes to the holidays, and my kitchen takes on a gingerbread theme in decorations. Let your creative juices flow and this wreath could be tailored to fit any room in the house. And it only takes about half and hour!!
1. Get your supplies! From the previous post, you will see that this can be the best part of this. Walking through a craft store can fill you with all sorts of ideas! Basically though, for this wreath you need a wire wreath frame (I used a 12 inch), ribbon of your choice (just be sure not to get anything too "loud" so as to distract from the embellishments) and your embellishments. This was made easy for me as I found gingerbread boy and girl Christmas ornaments. I simply cut off the string put there for hanging. Soooo simple!
2. Wrap your wreath frame in ribbon. Simply loop the beginning of the ribbon around the first wire on the frame hot glue (yes, I am still learning/burning myself/making a mess) it to itself. Then start wrapping. Keep the ribbon taunt so that it doesn't slip. When you run out of ribbon on one spool, start a new and glue the end of one ribbon to the beginning of the new. Wrap around that section a couple times to add stability.
3. Once the frame is wrapped, plan out how you want to arrange your embellishments and start gluing.
4. Fabulous! You are done. If you want to loop a ribbon around the top on which to hang the wreath, go ahead. I just left my simple and will hang the wreath directly on the hanger. Ta-Da!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Christmas Wreaths

I made my first wreath a couple of months ago when I made a yarn ball wreath with Autumn colors. I fell in love! I knew right then and there that I would repeat at least the yarn ball wreath, but maybe venture into something new as well. Well, here is my Christmas themed yarn ball wreath for the living room and my gingerbread boy and girl wreath for the kitchen(pics will be coming soon!). I took pictures of the steps this time so it would be easy to duplicate.

Yarn Ball Wreath
1. Get your supplies! This is the fun (and dangerous) part! Head to the craft store and let the creative juices flow! I like the look of yarn ball wreaths, but I prefer to add more texture and "pop" to mine, so I look around for little embellishments. For the Christmas wreath, it was easy. I found little ornaments that would coordinate and some little pom pom things. Pick up a wire wreath frame as well (I used an 18 inch). Try not to get too distracted and to NOT buy the entire store!
2. Make the tin foil balls. So easy. They don't have to be perfect balls, just don't make them too tight (it helps to have a little give in the balls when putting the wreath together). Make them a variety of sizes from grapefruit size to a small plum size.
3. Start wrapping away. I grabbed my kiddos (ages 10 and 6) and we popped in Polar Express and wrapped while we watched. It made the time go faster (it does take a couple hours to wrap all the balls) and the kids were able to be involved in the craft. It was great!
4. Once they are all wrapped, take the larger ones and simply place them on the wire frame. This will give you an idea of how you want everything placed. There will be gaps, but they will be filled in later with the smaller balls and embellishments.
5. Start hot gluing! This seems so simple for some people, but for a novice crafter, this takes some doing. I burn my fingers, end up with glue all over things and have those annoying little stringy, spider-webby things everywhere. Seriously, is there a class on how to use this thing?! Anyway, I pour on the glue so I'm sure everything will stay put. As you glue, gently yet firmly push the the yarn balls into the frame and together. This is where it is beneficial to have a little give in your balls.
6. Lift the wreath up to eye level (or higher depending on where you want to hang it) and start evaluating where gaps need to be filled. This is when you get to put in the little ones and the embellishments. As you do this, it is very helpful to periodically hold the wreath up to look at it. It is a very different perspective.
7. Once you are happy with the placement of everything and it is all sufficiently glued, you can choose to add a ribbon by which to hang your beautiful creation. It could also do without the ribbon and simply hang on wreath hanger.
8. Step back and marvel at your craftiness! Sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee (or hot cocoa) and be amazed at what a talented little crafter you have become!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lesson Plans

This is my first year homeschooling my children. When I first started, I had all these grand ideas of how things were going to go. We set up a special homeschool room. I put the alphabet in cursive on the wall. I had a white board and maps on the wall. I did my lesson plans for the entire year. I worked out a daily schedule. It was great! I felt so efficient! Then we came across a little bump in the road. Then another. Then my husband was injured and was flat on his back for 3 days (months later he is still not full recuperated). I got behind in my precious lesson plans. I tried doubling up on lessons. That just frustrated the kids and got me WAY too stressed. We just got further behind. I was convinced that I was failing. I was devastated. I pictured my kids failing their tests at the end of the year and having to put them back in public school. It became hard to even get through one day's lesson. I fought back tears on almost a daily basis. I tried to revamp all my lesson plans (thankfully I did them all in pencil on the advice of a veteran HS mom). I put an immense amount of pressure on myself. My children were miserable. They no longer enjoyed school and it showed in their work.
Then, for whatever reason, I just stopped. I took "time off" from school. About a week. Really, I did. The kids relaxed. I relaxed. I was able to get things done around the house again. I felt my sanity returning. At the end of that time, I looked over my lesson plan book. I began to get overwhelmed again. I stepped back, took a breath and put the book down. I decided to let it go. If my children were going to learn, they would have to be free to do so. The pressure I put on myself trickled, no, poured, down to them. I decided that I would use my lesson plans as a general guide. I wasn't going to get stressed if I didn't get every item checked off each day. We would take our time each day. If the kids struggled with a concept, I felt free to spend all the time needed for them to get it. Without my blood pressure rising due to our schedule not being followed. If they were fidgety, I let them go run it out for a while and then return. Guess what happened?! We all started enjoying school again!! Plus, I felt free to do more unstructured teaching. We were out running errands and the kids wanted to stop at the local reservoir. They had never been then when it was warm (we go sledding on the big hill there every winter). We did it! That led into questions about reservoirs and bodies of water. We researched and they learned things. Naturally. Because they were curious. It was great!
You know what else I found out? That we really weren't behind at all! I recently printed off the state standards for my children's grades. The stuff they would be tested on at the end of the year. I carefully looked over them, somewhat fearful of what I would find. Lo and behold, they had already conquered more than 2/3 of the information and we were only 1/3 of the way into the school year. Wowza! I was pumped!
So what did I learn through all this? In all my stress and trying to do it all on my own, I neglected the most important thing. Because I was so concerned about getting through our academics, I had stopped doing our Bible lessons and prayer each day. I had stopped truly seeking God's direction. Sure, I sent up desperate quick prayers pleading for Him to fix my mess, but I never bother to quiet my heart to listen for His response. I was trying to do it all on my own. I had grown prideful, and man, did that come before a fall! I still struggle day by day to keep my priorities straight and to lean on Him. I have to keep reminding myself that these two little ones that I adore are first and foremost His precious children. He is simply lending them to me and entrusting me to guide them in the right way. He is their Heavenly Father. He knows them even better than I do AND He never lacks for wisdom. He is the ultimate Educator and He is still teaching me my daily lessons. I pray that I am following His lesson plans for my life.

the heart (and gut) of the matter

Over the past 10 years or so I have struggled with my weight. Through high school and college I was one of those "naturally" thin girls. I was usually about a size 2 (before there was the size 0 epidemic) barely breaking 100 lbs. During college I had a roommate that became my exercise buddy. She was determined to lose weight, and I figured, "Why, not?". I had never done any serious exercise before, but I thought it might be good. We began running. Seriously running. Running 6-7 miles a day in the Adirondack Mountains. I loved it. I completely fell in love with running. It became an escape, a release. After college I joined a local gym where I worked out 7 days a week 2-3 hours a day. I gained weight, but it was from muscle. I was tone and the healthiest I had ever been in my life. I also worked as an aerobic instructor (yes, I was one of those perky annoying ones, too!). There were days that I would teach 5-6 1 hour classes a day. I loved it. I tell you all this so that it is understood that I have never been afraid to work hard and to sweat. Yet, here I am, so overweight that I don't think I could run even a mile. I won't go into all the details as to how I put on all the weight, but each year it was a little more. Last years clothes didn't fit anymore, so I just bought new ones.
Now I find myself staring at the scale and I am afraid, discouraged, disgusted and overwhelmed. This year alone I have gained more weight than I ever have in a year. I am at my highest ever. Even higher than when I was pregnant with my children. Yup, it's not good. I have no desire to be a size 2 again (I don't want to look like some desperate almost middle-aged mom trying to regain her "glory days"), but I do want to be healthy. I used to work for a home health care company and I quickly saw the difference extra body weight can make on the elderly and even just seniors. I don't want to do that to myself or my family. I want to be able to run and play with my children without getting winded.
Now, don't get me wrong, I want to look good, too! That is also a big motivation. I know that I could look so much better than I do now. I want to enjoy getting dressed in the morning again. I don't want to hate having to buy a pair of jeans because nothing covers the extra weight. Nothing. I don't care how it is cut or where they stick "slimming panels".
I am proud to say that I have started exercising again. I'm taking baby steps, as that is all I can handle. I found a "beginner's" plan on Pinterest (you can follow me here: and have been very faithful at doing it every morning for just over a month. It's been great. It's getting me in the habit of morning exercise, without overwhelming me, and it is building me up to more "serious" exercises. It's been great! However, I have actually gained a couple of pounds since starting. I don't get why. Maybe it's a psychological thing that if I'm exercising I deserve that little extra goodie. I don't know.
I am will continue to write about this from time to time and we will see where it leads. Hopefully, in another month or two, I will have positive results to report. We shall see. Stay tuned!
~~I have included the first step in the exercise plan I am doing for any interested.~~

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Creativity on Crack

That is what I call Pinterest. I recently discovered Pinterest and I am completely addicted. I have gotten some wonderful ideas from there! And yes . . . I have actually used what I have discovered. About once a week I am using a recipe I found there and the organizational tips are a life saver!! Plus I have made a few crafty-type things! I am not a crafty person either, but there are such simple crafts that I can even do on there. (Case in point: see pics). I love it!


Cooking for others = LOVE