Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Christmas Party Favor!

The first weekend in December I hosted a dinner party for a few of my close friends and their spouses.  We had a fantastic appetizer dinner, a white elephant gift-exchange, loads of great conversation, and these cutesy little party favors I whipped up the day before:

Party favors aren't just for kids' birthdays anymore.  Everyone loves a little gift that says, "Thanks for attending; I'm glad you came."  For the men, I taped a Kit-Kat candy bar to a bottle of Coke, tied it up with some darling, Christmas ribbon and voila!  Mens' party favors were born.  They were a hit.  One of the guys said, "I'm going to consume both of them on the drive home."
The ladies' favors were equally as easy, although a bit more time consuming.  I found Christmas pictures on the internet, printed them out, and Mod-Podged them to small match boxes.  I taped the boxes to a red candle and again, tied it all up with festive Christmas ribbon.  Most of the ladies were pleased as punch, although one of my friends asked if she could have one of the guys' favors.  Of course!

Simple, quick and easy!  But mostly, they let my guests know I thought of them beforehand and wanted to show my appreciation for them.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


This weekend I was looking through Pinterest (of course I was) and I found these!
They're adorable Christmas gift tags that require NO downloading.  Simply open the document, load your printer with the card stock of your choice, and click print.  That's it, and it's totally FREE!!!  I LOOOOOOVE it when things are simple.  I've tried multiple times to print cute tags and other printables, only to realize I've installed a nasty virus, or 80.  Ugh!  These are truly as easy as I described.

So I printed a set.  I chose a light brown card stock, and a creamy one.  After printing and cutting them out, I knew my sister would see them and want a set for herself.  So I made her some too.  Behold:

Lisa and I have tags that are opposite.  Her "big" tags are on the darker card stock and her small ones are on the creamy card stock.  Mine are vice versa. 

The tags were printed to shape and in the colors shown above.  The only thing I added was the ribbon.  I selected a variety of Christmas patterns and cut them in thin strips so they would not only be small, but they would 'fray' a bit, enhancing their primitive look.  Oh, and the tags pictured here are mine. I removed the 'ho ho ho' tag from my sister's set since Lisa doesn't celebrate Santa :)

This a close up of a few of the tags.  I love the muted colors because it adds to the vintage appeal.

Cute tags couldn't just be handed over.  I decided they needed a bit of 'packaging' to corral them and make them even cuter.  Without wanting to go shopping for just the right bags, I cut Ziplocs down to size, folded the tops over and clipped them with a tiny clothespin (Yep, I happened to have those on hand).  I added the thin, red, checked ribbon and a heart-shaped music paper cut-out just for effect.

Obviously these could be wrapped up and bedecked a million different ways to make them cute.  Originally I sought jingle bells to tie around the top, but I couldn't find any small enough, so I gave up.

I can imagine a bowl full of these, displayed at a Christmas craft fair, wrapped in a variety of ways, and costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 to $6 a bag.  I wouldn't pay that, but I would admire them and think, "I'm going to go home and make some of those."

Yes, it was a lot more work than buying them, but it's a simple 'happy', made with love, going to a recipient who will enjoy owning them as much as I enjoyed making them!

Happy Christmas Gift Wrapping!! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Struck Down, but Not Destroyed!

It's a drizzly, cold, Sunday afternoon and my heart is heavy.  I'm sad, frustrated, angry, and a million other adjectives I don't want to take the time to type.  Being a christian isn't hard.  Being a christian who wants to impact the Kingdom, is though.  It's one of the toughest things I've ever undergone.

The Lord doesn't promise us it will be easy.  He promises us we will be blessed if we endure.
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the victor's crown, the life God has promised to those who love him."  James 1:12

It's not the non-believers who frustrate me.  That's like getting angry with a democrat for not being a Republican.  They simply don't know any better :) (I couldn't resist the political metaphor).

The believers are the one's who test my patience, try my soul, and push me to the edge of a veritable insanity.  Why?  In a nutshell, lack of commitment.  Commitment to God and His Body of believers anyway. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I was taught that your word was a sign of your integrity.  If you said you were going to do something, you did it.  Yet I'm perpetually surrounded by people who apparently did not grow up with this same teaching.  Sure they tell me with their mouths that they'll be responsible and dedicated, yet their actions say differently.

The natural man in me wants to grab them around the throat and scream, "You made a commitment.  WHY is it so difficult for you to follow through?  If you didn't honestly want to take on the job, why did you tell me you would?"  But the Still Small Voice encourages me to simply reply, "It's all right if you can't be there.  We will be glad to have you on the days you are available."

And then I walk away, and I'm bitter, and I lash out......or write a blog post :)

So to my believing friends and family who read my blog (all 3 of you), please be in prayer for me.  I feel like I'm fighting an uphill battle and I know it's a spiritual battle.  The harder I try to guide my children in the Lord, homeschool because of Godly convictions, and serve in leadership capacities within the church, the more I feel beat down by the devil.  I know I should take heart though.......

.....we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Snap Shots 2013!

Patiently waiting for me to finish getting ready for church so we can leave.

Conned into posing for a few photos before church.  I love the black and white!

My pretty girls!

Love them!

As usual, Autumn had a hard time being serious.
A day at the lake......late summer 2013!

.....because my friend Mary insisted I be IN one of the photos instead of on the other side of the lens.

My favorite person!

Did I mention how much I love these two?!
Chuck doesn't care where we're going, as long as he gets to come too :)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Not Forsaking the Assembling...

I began attending church when I was about two weeks old.  Yes, you read that correctly, two weeks.  My parents faithfully took me to church each week on Sunday and Wednesday, and pretty much any other time there was anything else going on.  I went to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, GA's (Girls in Action), Acteens (for teen girls), Centrifuge, youth choir, youth play practice, church training (from the time it was called training union), Sunday evening services, Wednesday Prayer meeting, Revival meetings (even once when I was deathly ill with bronchitis - the speaker was THAT captivating), Sunday morning worship service, children's church, visitation, and the list goes on.

I went when I was well and I went when I was mildly sick.  I went in good weather, bad weather, and was even in church on May 18, 1980 when mysterious ash started raining down on us during worship service.  (We would later learn that Mt. St. Helens had erupted on the other side of the state.)  I went when family came to town to visit, I went on holidays, I went on pretty much any day the doors were open.  And they were open a LOT.

I was never allowed to attend Brownies, or Girl Scouts, or play sports because all of those things involved practices, meetings, and games on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Does this make me a better person?  Absolutely NOT.  But it does make me someone who had parents who knew the value of the church and our amazing God, and did not for one second, want me to miss anything that might edify my knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I know my mom firmly believed that I could fill my time with things of the world, or I could fill my time with things of the Lord, and in her wisdom, she directed me toward the things of the Lord.  And while I didn't understand it so much as a child, I definitely understand it as a mom.  As a mom, I want nothing more for my children than for them to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  I want them to hide God's Word in their hearts, and I want them to know that if they died tonight, Christ is not going to be concerned with how many equations they can solve, how well they can kick a ball, or how proficient they were on the debate team.  He's going to be concerned with their heart.  ".....Man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart" 1 Samuel 16:7.

Nearly 70% of evangelicals walk away from the church after high school and only half return roughly a decade later.  That statistic came from a website I read, however, I have formulated my own ideas as to why it happens:

To put it bluntly, we (Christians) are not making God important.  Ouch!  We're not making him an integral part of our daily lives.  Instead, we're making Him a Sunday or Wednesday thing, if that.  We're making Him convenient when it suits our schedule for school, sports, extra curricular activities, and when Christmas doesn't fall on a Sunday.  Instead of making God our life, we're making Him a part of it, and only a small part at that.  Deuteronomy 6:6-9 instructs us, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."  The Word is telling us to teach our children to know and love God daily, not just when it works for us.

Looking back, I'm so thankful my mom didn't let me miss out on church.  I'm thankful she didn't let me miss out on knowing God.  Just as she didn't let me choose whether or not to go to school, she didn't let me choose whether or not to go to church.  She made church, and having a relationship with Christ, fundamental and integral as part of my upbringing.  What seemed at times as something I HAD to do, became something I long to do.  I want to be in the company of others who believe similarly.  I want to be surrounded by those who will encourage, support, and pray for me, and I want to follow the Word when it says, "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhort one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching" Hebrews 10:25.

Will my children always remain in the church?  I don't know.  Will they always long for a relationship with Christ?  I cannot say.  Free will is a powerful choice God equipped us with, and just as we're not His puppets, my children are not my puppets.  I will do everything in my power to instill in them a love for the Lord, and I will continually pray for God to handle the details and draw them to Him.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Little Fall Cleaning!

I frequently wish I weren't so thin-skinned and easily offended.  Alas, it's how God made me and instead of hating it, I probably should embrace it.  After all, those same emotions that create hurt feelings, are the ones that make me empathetic and compassionate.

Once again, this is a post about Facebook.  I know I know, if it bothers me so much, why don't I give it up?  Because as much as I hate it, I also love it.  I love all the fun updates, birthday reminders, and news I receive.  However I don't love the attitudes of the pseudo-friends.  Let me get right down to it.  If you can't be bothered to click 'like' or comment on my posts once in a while, why are we friends?  Not acknowledging my Facebook status is the same to me as walking past me without saying, 'Hello', and it's just positively rude.  My mom taught me valuable lessons on reciprocity, and I have to admit, they stuck.  She assured me that to have friends, you have to practice the art of reciprocity.  If your friend always invites you over, brings you things, or makes time for you, you must in turn, do the same.  It's a pretty elementary lesson, but apparently some people think it only applies to face-to-face contact and not the virtual world of Facebook.  And some people don't even think it applies to face-to-face contact, but that's another post for another day.

I have to include the disclaimer that I'm not referring to people who seldom log into Facebook (like my sister-in-law), or people who largely lurk (mom!).  I'm talking about the people who have all the time in the world to REGULARLY post about their lives, comment to other friends, and 'like' statuses.  It's seems very one-sided that I make the time and effort to comment on, or like their status updates, yet they can't reciprocate.  Why does this bother me so much?  Because they're not reciprocating.  I found the following quote to be more than adequate to describe my current mind-set:

"Grownups know that little things matter … and that relationships are based on respect and reciprocity." —Margaret Carlson, Time, 4 June 2001

Cleaning out my Facebook friend list is akin to cleaning out a closet.  You get rid of things.  You downsize, clean up, make room.  While some people feel it's a source of pride to have as many friends as possible on Facebook, I find it overwhelming.  So I've learned to simplify.  I've learned to only keep what I truly need, deeply love, and thoroughly appreciate.  And while it may seem terribly insensitive that I'm talking about PEOPLE this way, we all know that people come into and leave our lives regularly.  We're not all still best friends with our third grade classmates.  We grow and change and sometimes in virtual life, just as in real life, we have to reassess, and clean up when life gets too cluttered.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Perfect Caramel Popcorn!

I've had this recipe in my file for quite some time, and finally last night I decided to try it.  If you love caramel popcorn you will love this.  It's sticky sweet and absolutely melts in your mouth.  If you let it cool completely you can easily form popcorn balls.  Enjoy!

Caramel Popcorn Recipe

1 C. Brown Sugar
1/2 C. Butter
1 C. Karo Syrup
1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk

Heat over medium-low until boiling.  Boil for 2 minutes, stirring continually.  Pour over popcorn until desired consistency is reached.

*I only used 1 bag of microwave popcorn, but this recipe would easily cover 3+ bags or more.  Since I only used it on one bag, I stored the rest in the fridge.  I have a very full pint-sized mason jar remaining.

**Great caramel to dip apples in, pour over ice cream, or spread atop brownies.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Montana 2013!

Another Montana family vacation has come and gone and once again, it didn't disappoint.  Well, actually it did when my in-laws had to go home because my father in law pulled his back :(

We whiled away the hours splashing in the lake, eating delicious foods, and taking walks.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll keep my words to a minimum while trying to provide a brief description.  Enjoy......

Here's where it all begins: Camp Tuffit on Lake Mary Ronan in beautiful Montana.  The rest of the family has been going for decades while I've only gone for the past 3 years.  I think I'm just the first one to blog about it!
My Autumn after a brisk swim in the lake.
Autumn playing on the clothesline.  When technology isn't an option, kids get inventive.

Autumn in B&W.

Every year I have a new favorite activity.  Last year it was catching crawdads after dark, this year it was feeding this family of little ducks.

We caught a frog.....and let it go!

Our home away from home, Sunset!  The outdoor fridge is sooooo ghetto, but it prevents taking up space in the cabin, so we like it :)

Cayla is growing up way too fast.  I can't believe she's going to be in the youth group this fall.  Where did my 5 lb. newborn go?

Autumn with her grumpy face on!
My honey, relaxing!

Virginia and Caitlin adding braids and flowers to their hair.

Gorgeous girls!

This is Cayla's "people of Wal-Mart" look.  Swim top, pajama pants, flip-flops and a hoodie.  I accept no responsibility for her fashion sense.....or lack thereof :)

The Crawdad Cafe serves the best pancakes, cheeseburgers, and milkshakes.  Located in the center of the camp, it's a fantastic treat when you don't want to have to do your own cooking!

Steve catching up with grandma.

Lazy dog.  He loves it up there.  He's with his family 24/7, he gets to take long walks, enjoy incredible wild life, and catch any number of things that 20+ people drop on the ground :)

Sydney and Cayla taking it easy before the heat of the day kicks in and they rush to the lake.

Super Chuck!
Another view of Super Chuck.  Cape is courtesy of Arizona's pajamas :)

I'm usually on the other side of the camera, but someone suggested I change places.  So I did.....for ONE shot :)

If you look closely, you'll catch a glimpse of one of the many deer we saw throughout the week.  A few wandered into camp, but more on that later.

Tech alley.  This is one of the few spots where wi-fi is available.  Surprisingly, the kids did NOT spend all their time here!

My mother in law hanging out in tech alley, being annoyed that I 'demanded' a picture!  ha ha

Grandma has been going to the camp since approximately 1955.  The actual date is still up for debate.  The world may never know!

Sydney, Autumn, and Virginia being silly with mustache stickers and faux glasses.

Joe, with his glass eye!
Grandma and Tanner.

Andrea, Kevin, and Tanner.

Tanner's birthday celebration.  We have to get inventive with gift-wrap :)

He received a few gifts that were identical!

Auntie Barb giving him birthday spankings :)

Tanner, opening Barb and Jim's gift.  Balloons filled with cash.  It was a huge hit!

Autumn and Uncle Kevin.
Chuck, smelling breakfast!

Yes!  We hold the bowl for him.  He's part great dane and they have to have their food elevated because they're so tall - it digests easier!  At home he has a custom stand......we don't bring it with us :)

Yeah.....he eats a lot!
Distant shot of a deer galloping past our cabin.
A close up of the shot above.  She was beautiful.....and fast!

This furry little critter was making his way to the side of the road during one of our many walks.

Cory, outside our cabin.
Our clothesline.  It's pretty redneck, but it gets the job done.  There's nothing fancy about this vacation, so if you're looking for the Taj Mahal.........this ain't it!

Argus, hanging out at camp.  He was mesmerized by the bees and even enjoyed tasting a few.  Getting stung didn't seem to deter him!

Chuck and Argus relaxing on our porch.  Don't we look like the Clampetts out on our porch with the fridge, and the dogs?!  lol

The old piano, where we were both entertained and tortured.  Everyone is welcome to play, regardless of talent.

Phalon, Ben, and Caitlin eating snacks from the camp store, and trying to beat the heat under the shade.
The wall of my in-laws cabin has some amusing paintings on the exterior.

The dock!

Autumn and Sydney.

Signs like this hang all over the camp.  Some are funny, some are informative, but all are amusing and part of the camp's history.

The big fish over the public pool table.

Cory and Cayla, deflating the rafts before packing up to go home.  Always bittersweet when it's time to leave, but ooooooh the memories we make!

Another shot of lazy dog Chuck.  I love that boy!


The camp's mailbox.  Very appropriate!

One of the many signs hanging around the camp.

Yep - another one.  I've intended to get pictures of all of them each year, and this year I finally succeeded. 

This is an oar.....what's left of one :)

I don't know who makes them, but they sure are fun.

So, that's it!  A fun week, filled with dozens of outings, and plenty of time to visit with family.  I look forward to it every year, and I'm already making plans for 2014.