Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What are you thankful for?

Last week was truly crazy around here.  A week off school (yay!), family heading south to celebrate with us (yay!) and a quick trip east planned for the weekend.  I had lots of fun crafts for the kids planned as well, but it looked like all of that was heading down the toilet instead - Sunday and Monday were spent saying goodbye to our beloved Otto and Tuesday Snacks woke up with a fever and croupy cough - no fun!!  Needless to say, the Thanksgiving decorating ideas went by the wayside until the very last minute.  Luckily, I do some of my BEST work at the very last minute, and for that I am VERY thankful!  (Incidentally,  I am also very thankful for my God, my family, my friends, my country, my health, my Aggies AND my wine)

So even though the Christmas season has officially begun, here is an idea for your next Thanksgiving get together.  It's simple, cheap and best of all, it keeps the little hands in your house occupied while you're prepping for the feast!

Footprint Turkey Napkin Rings

Toilet paper rolls, cut in half
Brown, red and yellow or orange construction paper
1 small, clean foot
Googly eyes
Good ole Elmer's glue

You probably have most, if not all, of these items around your house already!  So get everything together and do a lil' cipherin' to figure out how many napkin rings you're gonna need.  Then add one more because you're going to want to make sure you have one to keep for yourself - those little feet grow fast!!

If you don't save toilet paper rolls like we do, well then you are MISSING OUT!  There are just tons of things you can do with those things and you know you're not remembering to put them in your recycle bin anyway - ha!!  Around here, we have much more trouble finding a small CLEAN foot than an empty toilet paper roll.  In fact, it seems like there's an empty roll on the holder whenever I sit down.  I don't know how it is in your house, but I am apparently the only one who knows how to change the toilet paper . . . but I digress!!  If a clean foot's not possible, I recommend chasing down a dirty one with a wipey and proceeding!

Step 1:
Trace around your small, clean foot on brown construction paper to create a template for your turkeys (Let's face it, that foot's not gonna stick around to do a dozen, so just trace once and then set Snacks, I mean the foot, free.)  Use template to create the number of turkeys you need for dinner.

Step 2:

Glue your feet to your toilet paper rolls, using the heel of the foot as the head and the toes as the body of your turkeys.  Glue The rolls closer to the toes than the head, especially if you want your turkeys to stand up on your place settings.  Let dry.

Step 3:
Cut out small diamonds in yellow construction paper and small wavy red shapes for waddles.  Embellish your feet.  Remember to use the heel of the foot as the head and the toes at the body.  They sort of look like feathers now don't they?!  Fold diamonds in half to make beaks and glue over or next to your waddles - your call.  Add your eyes as well and let it all dry.  Sheep is 6 and did a great job with this while I played 'Oh my Gosh, He Has the Scissors/Sharpie/Glue' with Snacks.  This game is played in rounds!!!

Aren't they looking cute?!?!!

Step 4:
Take your napkins and lay them flat.  Fold your napkins into pleasts, back and forth accordian-style.  Once it has been pleated, fold in half lengthwise, the same way you used to to make paper fans when you were a kid!  Sorry I didn't take a picture of this step, but  hopefully you get the idea.  Sheep got pretty good at this too, but I'm not sure anyone younger (she's almost 7) would be able to do this part.  You also have to decide how much 'imperfection' you're willing to have at your Turkey Day Feast, so I will leave that up to you.  I will tell you that sometimes, after she's moved on, I have been known to redo straighten things a bit, but I would NEVER tell her that!!!

Step 5:
Stuff that turkey!!  In this case, with your pleated napkin, folded side down so that the napkin fans out behind the turkey foot- voila!!

I was having trouble getting my pleats to stay together at the top, because I did not iron (much less starch) my napkins beforehand, but I would recommend adding that step if you like the look of them standing up.  Sheep seemed to think they looked better laying down so - problem solved!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

One Good Dog

He was smart, free-spirited and loving - not unlike his owner.  And I was lucky enough to become his mama when Speed and I tied the knot.  He and my dog Augusta looked so much alike that we knew it was meant to be.  A year later Sheep arrived - and he took on a new role as 'Nana' to our little 'Wendy' - an unexpected role he never tired of.  I read somewhere that it's good to raise children with pets, because they will teach them about death among other things.  But Otto was here to remind everyone about how to LIVE!!
  1. Find something you LOVE to do and pursue it passionately. 
  2. Whatever you do, do it with joy and carefree abandon.
  3. Be loyal.
  4. Some rules (and gates, and fences) were meant to be broken.
  5. SEEK opportunity.
  6. Love deeply.
  7. Take time each day to sit in the sun.
  8. Seek shelter from storms with family.
  9. Protect those you love.
  10. Keep your roots, but use your wings.

So fly away my furry friend.  You will always be loved.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mouse in my House!

We live in a very small neighborhood (just 63 homes) that backs up to creek and this year we had an extremely DRY summer.  And it hasn't been much better this fall.  So needless to say, the critters that normally work and play near the creek have been venturing 'into town' so to speak, and frankly it's becoming a problem!!!

By problem, I'm talking about possums and RATS on the fence at night, neighbors cats disappearing and coyotes being seen on the street.  Owls have even nabbed small dogs from yards in the neighborhood like something out of a Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds (yum) movie!!  But today takes the CAKE!!!  Our sweet-but-not-real-bright lab mix followed - not chased, but FOLLOWED - a mouse into my house!!!  Very non-chalantly too I might add!!  I was sitting right here, staring at working on the computer, when it happened.  So I wasn't looking directly at her, but I caught a glimpse of her sniffing at something (a TAIL!!) as she walked through the back door!!  EEEEK!!  I jumped up to see, because I was thinking, "There's NO WAY a mouse just walked into my house with my dog following it."  But my scream must have gotten it moving a little faster, because I could not find it anywhere!!

Uuugh!!  All I could think about was that scene from Lady and the Tramp, where the mean, red-eyed rat comes in through the window and tries to attack "tha Bay-Bee!!"  And Snacks really was upstairs napping at the time.  So I'm more than a little FREAKED OUT!  Especially since Lady DOES NOT live at our house.  We've apparently got that bloodhound with a bad sniffer What's-His-Name instead - GEEZ!!

I called Speed and explained the situation.  Speed laughs (humph!).  I conduct a thorough search of the house.  No mouse.  This whole situation has gotten me so unnerved that I even get out the broom and sweep the whole downstairs!!  There's just something about a mouse (in your house!!) that makes you want to clean!!  With no sign of the mouse after that ordeal,  I had just about convinced myself that I was imagining the whole thing, but . . . .

said mouse made an appearance not long after naptime - AAACK!  In the living room!!  Walking around like he owned the place.  At least it seemed that way at first.  So I shooed Snacks back upstairs and ran to the laundry room for something to trap him in. Unfortunately, best I could find were two styrofoam trays from the meat we buy that I routinely wash and save for crafts.  Not exactly proper mouse hunting paraphenalia.

Now back to the living room . . . .

He just sat there, watching me, and let me walk right up to him.  I hadn't heard of anyone missing a pet mouse around here but this seemed strange.  I took a closer look.  He looked like he was in pretty bad shape.  His fur was wet and matted looking (perhaps he had already been mistaken for a dog toy?) and he seemed awfully worn out.  First I tried to scoop him up using both trays like baseball gloves, but he managed to scurry away.  Try number two was more successful - I slammed a single tray down over him, trapping him undernerath.  He didn't protest.  In fact, he didn't even move.  I'm telling you, this guy wasn't well.  All the more reason to get him OUT of my house!!  Not sure what my next move was, I decided to put something heavy (Yes, this lion bop bag will work fine!) on top of the meat tray and call Speed.

More laughter at the update.  But I've got questions!!  Is he really going to just sit there? (Maybe.)  Is he dying on my carpet as we speak??? (Likely.)  Is he going to poop or pee on my carpet before he dies because I CANNOT handle that!!  All of this seems to be amusing Speed.  I am starting to get huffy!!

About this time, Strings (my 20 year old stepson) emerges from his den wakes up, comes downstairs and volunteers to take action!!   Now that's more like it!!!  He uses a magazine to slide under said mouse and carries the meat tray, magazine AND mouse out to the storm drain.


I was saving that tray!  And that's littering!!  I know what you're thinking - either 'She's loopy'  'Beggars can't be choosers' or BOTH!  And you're right!  But now 'Mr. Whiskers' is probably sailing down the creek in a styrofoam boat . . . and he's probably as relieved as I am.  Well, good luck Mr. Whiskers.  It was nothing personal.  And I do believe that God loves 'all creatures great and small,' so we should too.  But some I prefer to love from a distance!!  Just sayin' . . .

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What matters most . . .

If you were to ask me that question I would answer, "My relationships with Jesus, family and friends," in that order.  But if you were to watch me, you might come to a different conclusion.  Because despite my best efforts each holiday season, I still find myself getting caught up and STRESSED OUT about worldly things, like appearances and material things.  For example, this year I decided to totally change my Christmas colors and decorations and do it up big 'for the kids!'  After all, having spent most of my adult Christmases so far both single and childless, I have amassed a collection of decorations that are beautiful, elegant - and for the most part BREAKABLE!!!!

At least you could divert and correct the toddler Sheep, but not so for Snacks!  Snacks is focused, determined and not to be denied when it comes to destroying exploring things in his path!  Needless to say, nightmares visions of broken glass have been swirling around in my head for months!  So, 4 shopping sprees and a week of Christmas chaos later, Christmas has officially arrived!!  But not without a few tense moments, multiple stern looks, more than his share of time outs and wine (lots of wine - ha)! 

Which got me thinking, was I really do this for them??  If so, then why so much frustration (already?!)and so little celebration of the season ahead?   Am I too busy preparing my house for Christmas instead of preparing my heart for Christ??  And if so, what am I teaching those little souls I have been to raise by my actions??

The answer came to me, as it so often does, in the voice of my daughter.  Yesterday, as we were frantically driving to our next destination (I am chronically late, so we are always frantically going somewhere unfortunately), she was asking me about the ornaments on the tree.  I had explained to her that the blown glass ornaments were 'collectibles' and were very special to mommy.  That's why I had put a few of them high up on the tree and most of them back in the ornament box this year.  She thought for a minute and then responded by saying that she didn't think she collected anything.  I reminded her that she did have 'collectibles' because I had been collecting Russian nesting dolls for her since her first Christmas.  To which she innocently replied, "No mom, you collect those.  The only thing I collect is friends."


Her Christ-like spirit blows me away!!.  I am so proud (and humbled) by the person she is becoming.  And soooo grateful for the GIFT God has given me in both Sheep and Snacks - even if he is a tiny tornado!  So I'm tucking that little reminder somewhere close to my heart, and will make more of an effort to keep Jesus, family and friends at the top of my "To Do List" this season, and always.

What will you do to keep the Christ in Christmas this year?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chandelier Wreath Tutorial

I know what you're thinking.

'I haven't even gotten my burlap wreath made yet and you're giving me ANOTHER wreath project to do?!' 

Well hurry up already, because everyone knows that the Christmas season officially begins in 11 days!!  For some of us, it has already started - YIPPEE!!  You may have already noticed, but in case you just stopped by, I LOVE wreaths!!!  Because they can pack a BIG punch for just a little time and dinero . . . . and they are generally SO EASY to do!!  And how fun to find a wreath in an unexpected place - like your chandelier!!  Genius!!  (Not mine, but Martha's - ha!)  You can check out my 'inspiration' before we get started . . .

Don't worry, I'll wait . . .

And now for mine!  Can you say fabulous!!  Honestly, it's even better in person!  Trust me.

To make this awesomeness, you will need:

1.  A pre-made greenery wreath OR a wire wreath form that can be wrapped with your old garland that's shedding like Charlie brown's tree but you can't bring yourself to throw out 'just in case.'  You can probably figure out which one I used.  Any-hoo . . .
2.  A roll of 21" deco mesh in your favorite Christmas color(s) - my theme this year is 'Peppermint Kissmas,' so I chose red, but all of the deco mesh colors are STUNNING!!
3.  A smaller, patterned, wire ribbon.  The ribbon I used was 2.5" wide.
4.  Coordinating shatterproof ornaments in various sizes.
5.  A spray or two of berries or other 'filler.'
6.  Hot glue OR wire, depending on how permanent you want your wreath to be.
7.  An extra set of hands to help with the hanging is nice, but not absolutely necessary.

Step 1: 
Measure the diameter (from side to side at the base) of your chandelier and purchase/make a greenery wreath that is large enough to slip OVER the lowest portion of your chandelier, coming from BELOW.

Step 2:
Lay your wreath on a flat surface and use the individual sprigs of the wreath to gather and wrap around the deco mesh, creating fluffy poofs.  At this point, you are basically working on your wreath as if it's going to be hung on a door, with only one side showing.  IF you are using a pre-made wreath, make sure that you are decorating on the front side of the wreath.  You will slip it over the chandelier from below later on, so you will want your fluffy side pointing down toward the table so your guests see only the pretty side when they glance up (and are awestruck)!  I always alternate my poofs from the inside edge to the outside edge, so that essentially three sides of the wreath's surface are covered by the poof.  Since this will eventually be hung facing downward, I tried to go very deep form side-to-side so that some of the poofs would be on the back surface as well.

Step 3:
Once you have done your initial poofs, follow up with your coordinating ribbon or ribbons using the same techniques, but gathering and twisting stems underneath the mesh poof.  Once you have completed this step, your smaller ribbon will have completely covered the gathered portions of the mesh below.  A third, thinner ribbon would have been great to add as well, but I'm on a budget!

Step 4:
Before you go any further, you will need to hang up your wreath.  I decided to cut my deco mesh in half, and use that for my suspension, but you could add another ribbon here as well, so don't be afraid to get your creative on!!  Tie the end of your ribbon to one of the wires on the back of the wreath, then thread your wreath onto your chandelier from below with the mesh and ribbon side facing downward to figure out approximately how long you need to cut your ribbon.  Remember to leave plenty of room for tying at the top - you can always trim the tails later!  Cut your ribbon at your mark AND cut two more ribbons the same length.

Step 5:
Tie your three cut ribbons to the back side of your wreath, evenly spacing them around the wreath.

Step 6:
OK - this part's a little bit tricky - not gonna lie!  Pull your wreath back up over the base of your chandelier and hold in place at the desired height.  I decided to cover my chandelier far enough up that the candles would look like they were coming straight out of the wreath.  You've probably figured out that the extra set of hands comes in handy right, about - NOW!!   Have your designated extra hands hold the wreath at the desired height while you thread the three support ribbons up through the eyebolt at the top of your fixture.  Alternatively, you can simply tie the ribbons around the cable, but I was worried that it might not be as sturdy that way, so I crammed them all through the eyebolt on the medallion.  You can use additional ribbon here to cover your knots with a cute bow if you wish!

Step 7:
Add your ornaments, clustering them at intervals around the wreath and securing them with wire or hot glue.  Since I wasn't sure about the permanence of this wreath, I actually took thin wire and wired my ornaments to toothpicks and then stuck the toothpicks into the wreath to secure them.  Make sure you are working all sides of the wreath since all 4 sides will be showing to some extent.

Step 8:
Add your sprays of filler.  I cut up one spray of berries and used it around the wreath.  It was something I had on hand, but I'm on a budget, remember?!  Besides, it was enough!

Step 9:
Step back and prepare yourself for ooohs and aaaahs this season!!  Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Perfect Attendance

Last Friday Sheep came home with a certificate!  An award for PERFECT attendance and let me just tell you I couldn't be prouder!  Crazy, right?  I just beamed and gushed over this thing until she finally started looking at me funny and asked me if I had been drinking one of "mommy's drinks" - ha!  Little does she know . . . .

When I was about her age, I was diagnosed with allergies and not infrequently, what they used to call 'asthmatic bronchitis.'  Nowadays, it's simply called asthma, and I've got it!  Regardless of what it was called, I missed plenty-o-school and more than a few girl scout trips, sleepovers, birthday parties - you name it.  Can you remember where you were when the space shuttle Challenger exploded?  That was back in the space program heyday (for those of you just tuning in, yes, the U.S. used to have a space program!  But I digress . . . ) when you used to get to watch space shuttle launches during class, no matter what else had been planned that day!  Needless to say, this was a day you did NOT want to miss!  But miss I did, and witnessed the whole, terrible, awful thing from my couch at home, coughing, wheezing and all alone!  I will NEVER forget it!!

Fast forward to 2005, and my tiny, little sheep has been coughing for THREE WEEKS, with no relief, despite all sorts of home remedies and over-the-counter cures.  After three trips to the doctor, her pediatrician looks at me and simply asks if there's a family history of asthma.  "Yes," I replied with tears in my eyes.  Bingo!!!  Ding, ding, ding!!!  Listen to all she has won!!  Medications!  Breathing treatments!  And frequent trips to the doctor!  But wait!  There's more!  Plenty of SICK DAYS and occasional trips to the ER!!!

My father had asthma.  I have asthma.  I also have a master's degree in human genetics!  It's not like I didn't know this was a possibility - but hearing it was just devastating!  So I did what all crazy moms rational people do when faced with an inescapable truth - I said thank you, grabbed the goods (I know better than to turn down a free sample of anything) and ran outta there, cursing her doctor and questioning where she had ordered her medical degree!  Like they say "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt!"

But experience has also taught me that asthma will not be ignored!!  Soon afterward, Speed had business out-of-town and we decided to combine it with a visit to family during Mardi Gras!  While Speed was away (an HOUR away) and Sheep and I were alone in our hotel, with no transportation, Sheep had her first, full blown asthma attack, and within a matter of hours she went from running up and down the halls to barely breathing at all - and I knew I could deny it no more!!

Poor little thing!  And the Mardi Gras ball just hours away!!  There she was crying and her momma just bawlin' right along with her!  Because after all, this was how it always seemed to happen for me growing up!  I ALWAYS got sick before some big, important event that I couldn't possibly miss, no how, no way!  And all I could think was, please God not her too!  My asthma's much more controlled as an adult, but watching her so small and helpless and miserable brought back a flood of memories I was unprepared for.

Luckily,  I was better prepared medically speaking because I had brought her nebulizer and some medicine 'just in case.'  And, thanks to her doctor (a miracle-worker I tell you!) and more than a few prayers, she rallied, recovered and a good time was had by all that weekend!  Oh, she still takes medicine in the fall and winter months.  And we keep the breathing treatments handy.  But if you've ever wondered whether God answers prayers, I've got the certificate to prove it!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Burlap Wreath Tutorial

I am LOVIN' the look of burlap and I am seeing it literally everywhere these days!  I have been using burlap for years in my fall decorating, primarily on my Thanksgiving table, because it's a cheap alternative to a tablecloth and an easy way to cover multiple tables together without even having to hem anything!  Nowadays though, it's popping up in all kinds of new and fun ways.  Just type burlap in the search field on Pinterest and see for yourself!  And if you haven't been to Pinterest yet, all I can say, is "GIIIRL!!  What are you waiting for?!?!  It is AMAZING!"  Which reminds me, I made an amazing Halloween wreath last month, and was feeling inspired (even though I am dying to get going on Christmas decorations already), so I combined a few of my Pinterest ideas and voila!!  My very own burlap door wreath that's pretty darn awesome if I do say so myself.  So easy - it took less than an hour to put it together - and so beautiful!!  Now that's my kind of craft!


1.  2 wire pants hangers
2.  Approximately 1 and 1/2 yards of burlap
(depends on how full you like your wreaths)
3.  Cutting utensil (I used a rotary cutter)
4.  Ruler

Remove the cardboard from your hanger and unbend.  You will need two to make a large door wreath and you can simply hook them together using the bent ends that insert into the cardboard.  For a smaller wreath, you can simply unbend and hook ends together to form a small circle, as below.

Lay your burlap out on cutting surface.  Use ruler to determine the width of your strips for your wreath.  I used 6 inches (the width of my ruler) for simplicity and because I like big loops.  I'm a more is more kinda girl!

Cut strips of burlap, from side to side across the width of your fabric.  I probably used about 12 strips.  I can't remember if burlap is sold in 45" or 60" widths, but you get the idea.  You will use more or less depending on your fullness preferences, so you decide!

Starting at one end of the strip, pinch the burlap together like you are pleating it for a bow.  You DO NOT have to finish the ends or seams at all.  This is such an easy project!

Unbend one of the hooked ends of the hanger that was holding the cardboard (You may need pliers for this, or you can use scissors, or teeth - I'm not telling you OR my mother which I used) and 'sew' it through your pinched pleats.  You will be sewing perpendicular to the length of your strip.

Push it down onto your wire loop and repeat.  You can see from this picture that I pinched and 'sewed' about every 10 inches.  Don't worry, you don't have to be exact.  Once it's all scrunched on the loop, you won't be able to tell.

If you have hooked two wires together for a larger wreath, then you will probably need to do this from both ends, meeting in the middle, where they are hooked together.  Keep sewing and scrunching!

Remember that the more strips you use, the heavier it becomes, which may become an issue when you hang it.  Mine turned out pretty heavy, but again, I'm a more is more kinda girl!  Just something to keep in mind.  OK, carry on!

Here is one strip pleated and 'sewn' onto the wire.  I have gone back and forth, or side to side, as you can see in the picture, but you don't have to because you can twist your loops on the wire once they are on there.  Again, this is a very forgiving project.  We like that!

This is the same strip now scrunched.  From her on out, just keep adding strips until you get it to the desired fullness.  Once you have 'sewn' all the burlap onto your loop, rebend the wires at the ends and hook together to complete the circle for your wreath.  Adjust burlap loops to hide any wire.  Add decorations and your done!

I liked the look of my burlap wreath so much that I decided not to put any permanent decorations on it, and because it's fabric - it will be SO EASY to use over and over again!  Rather than hot gluing my flowers and feathers to the burlap, I simply hot glued pins to the flowers and pinned them to the fabric instead.  The leaves and feathers came on wire picks, so I jabbed them into burlap (it's such a loosely woven fabric) along with the twigs.  This wreath would look great dressed up for almost any holiday - cheers!

Welcome, or should I say, Welcome back?!

What can I say, it's been a LOOONG time since I've even thought about blogging, but for a while, this crazy life of mine seemed to take over, and it's been all I could do just to keep up! Not long after my last post (in 2009!!), I found out the (1) I was expecting (yippee!!!!) and (2) that my job of 10 years was ending (Oh dear!), all in the same month!! Both of these discoveries turned out to be amazing blessings, but there's a reason God gives you nine months to get ready! Just sayin'. Anyway, I said goodbye (sniff) to my island-hospital 'home away from home' in December 2009, delivered a bouncing baby boy in March 2010 and dived into a new career as a full-time SAHM. For those of you who were here before, Sheep is now in 1st grade and Snacks is keeping us ALL on our toes! I am now a girl scout leader, CCE teacher and in my 'free time' I craft! In other words, my life is just as crazy, busy and WONDERFUL as ever!
I hope you will find some inspiration, affirmation and if nothing else, a few good laughs along the way!