Winter Decorating

I took all my Christmas decorations down.  My house looks so empty!  I loved it for about 5 minutes, and then I thought…January is a long month,  I’m not a lover of winter, and Valentine’s Day is a long ways away.  I decided instead of  “getting through” this long month, I will embrace this winter season and all it’s beautiful, freezing cold, white, glistening, snowy glory.
I went to Target and bought some wintery, clearance Christmas decorations and made a garland for my kitchen windows.  Snowflakes, ice skates and mittens, snowmen…bright colors.  083 088 089 109 112 144 Abbey and I created a winter scene with glittery snow and trees (clearance again!) and little forest animals (tree decorations I didn’t put away).062 063 064 077 I found a beautiful white blooming hydrangea plant for my dining room table and set it in a glass salad bowl.060 108 I love the mitten garland above my chalkboard, but it’s a little too Christmasy for me.  I’m going to attempt to make a new one with felt and ribbon and rickrack, using some different colors.104 105 And all these winter touches worked like magic…I feel cozy and warm in my sweet little house.
I forgot all about:
Putting boots and mittens and hats and scarves on thousands of times.
Stepping in slush left all over my kitchen floor.
Having chapped hands.
Freezing my bum off going sledding.
Shivering in the car.


Merry Christmas!


How To Make Really Cute Christmas Photo Ornaments

 I have sent a photo Christmas card every year I’ve been married.  I always displayed these photos in frames…but last year I decided that it looked ridiculous…too many frames (16!) and where to set them all?  
At the same time, I was also desperate to find something original AND durable (picture boys sliding down full blast) to decorate my stairway bannister.
Somehow those two little thoughts collided in my tired brain and I came up with this:068 069
046 047 048 064 066Every year’s photo is on one side of this little plaque, and the other side has the year in order (1-17)  and the date (1993-2009).
They are VERY inexpensive and easy to make.
What you need:
1. Scrapbook paper (NOT the really thick kind) and plain card stock in co-ordinating colors.
031  2. These little thin wooden boards that you can find at Michaels or Hobby Lobby....99 cents!033 3. Decoupage stuff and a wide sponge brush. I like the matte kind..(not gloss like the photo shows)...matte or satin finish hides imperfections better.0344. A whole puncher and some kind of stencil and cutting tool to cut circles. (an Exacto knife works too if you have a steady hand!) I bought this kit at Michaels.0325.  Ribbon to hang your ornament with. 067Step by Step Instructions:
1. Make copies or use your printer to print out whatever photos you have chosen.  If you know how, print them out at the exact size as the wooden plaques, 5 x 6.  I just printed mine out as 5x7’s and then cropped the 7” to a 6” because I’m not that computer literate.  I also just used plain old printer paper...nothing fancy!  I printed them all as black and whites to make them more uniform looking.  
2. While you are on the computer, you can make the numbers…I used white card stock and Bookman Old Style font at the 72 size for the middle number and 18 for the outer date.  You will cut these numbers into circles later so leave plenty of room between them on the paper.053 2. Take a drill and drill a hole in each wooden plaque so you can insert the ribbon.  Remember that some of your photos may be the long way (vertical) or the short way (horizontal)…so put that hole on the long side or the short side of the plaque!051 3. Next cut a piece of scrapbook paper for the wooden plaque and make sure it’s about 1” bigger on all sides.  Trace where the hole you drilled is on the paper and use a hole puncher to punch that paper.054 4.  Get out your Modge Podge and your brush.  If you’ve never decoupaged before, don’t worry…it’s so easy!  (I hadn’t either before I did this, believe it or not!)  Take your sponge brush and brush that piece of scrapbook paper on the plain white side all over with the Modge Podge.
5. Place the plaque carefully and centered on that sticky paper and then wrap it on the other side like a present.  Smooth out the wrinkles.058 6. Now take your photo (that is either the exact size of the plaque or a little smaller), and mark with a pencil where the hole should go…punch that out with the hole puncher.  Now use your sponge to coat the wrong side of that photo with the Modge Podge, and stick it on.
059 7.  I made a few bigger circles to place behind it to add some color.  Use Modge Podge on the back of those circles…get them all stuck together and then stick them on the back of your wooden plaque.060 8.  Now you are going to coat each side (wait till one side dries till you do the other) with the Modge Podge and your sponge brush.  This gives a very sealed, shiny, protective coat.  061 9.  Look we didn’t even get to # 10 and we’re done!  Insert a ribbon through that hole and WALLAH!
040 These would be so cute on a tree or on a garland by the fireplace too.
And just so you know:  Mine are FAR from perfect.  Some look a little (or a lot!)  messy because I had to finish them in the 5 minutes I had before all heck broke loose.   They still look cute though and hanging all together no one notices (or tells me they notice!) the imperfections.  Mine are also VERY simple…I know you scrapbooking goddesss’s out there can kick my butt on this one as far as design goes!  
Have fun!


Here's a list of our favorite, most-played with, carefully selected, delivered-to-your-doorstep, Mom-approved toys.

And here are our favorite games.
Here are some great teen gift ideas.
By age and interest here.


Sacrifice In A Different Generation

I was looking at two pictures from when I was a baby.  Pictures of my mom. (with her sister Peggy above and with my sister and I below.)
It brought back memories of how much she and my dad sacrificied for us.
And how her sacrifices were so different from what most of us consider sacrificies today.
Which also made me think of two neighboring moms I grew up knowing.
Mrs. R and Mrs. P.
They each had 3 children.
I'm one of 5.
And ALL these three moms made just about the same sacrifices.

My mom and dad bought an unheated "summer home" to live in for their first home.  They saw the potential and the beauty of the land surrounding it.  And plus, it was what they could afford.  My mom remembers sometimes waking up with frost on the quilt in her bedroom...they gave my sister and I the warmer room.

Mrs. R and Mrs. P lived in what would now be considered very small houses. They all bought well below their means, and saved to expand, as they could afford it.  (And they all 3 live in these same houses too!)
I know the other 2 moms counted on my mom at one time for emergency car borrowing because for a little while they were 'one car' families...and their husbands drove to work with the one car everyday.

Now, don't say "back then they didn't have choices."  Because they sure the heck did.  These are very smart, educated women.  Who chose to stay home and pinch pennies and do without a heck of a lot of stuff.

'Do without' meaning:
-The one car thing.
-I don't remember my mother having new clothes for years. 
-I also remember that we all had VERY simple wardrobes.  Less laundry my mom would say.  And don't little kids like to wear the same thing everyday anyways?  A couple things...I remember the neatly stacked little piles.  One pair of pj's.  Two pairs of shoes.
-I don't remember my parents going out to eat.  I had McDonald's ONCE when I was little, take out pizza a couple times a year.  (It was SO good...that food was different back then, wasn't it?  Didn't have as many chemicals maybe?)
-I don't remember getting any little surprises and presents just for the heck of it.  We got Easter baskets with a small toy, and a few chocolates and jelly beans.
-Birthdays...maybe 5 or so gifts.
-Christmas's...maybe 7 or so with a stocking.
-A pack of gum was a huge treat for us kids..
-They couldn't afford expensive cameras and electronic gadgets, the kind we expect now.
-I know my Dad and one of the other husbands (who was a teacher), worked 2 jobs.  Picked up some extra money here or there...delivering papers, coaching, helping out at a farm.  They were hard workers who were proud to support their families by themselves, and didn't expect their wives to help financially.  And their wives worked with the money their husbands provided no matter what it was.
-I remember these three mothers all organized a little pre-school.  Instead of paying for one, they switched houses once a week for a small activity and social opportunities. (That's where I met my BFF...we knew each other since we were toddlers!)
-We had simple straight forward meals without many snacks.  There weren't a million and one choices. 
-We went on one vacation a year rarely and sporadically and not till we were older.  And then we ate PB and J's and spaghetti...no going out on the town or to theme parks or anywhere that costs money.  After all, we were lucky enough to GO on vacation right?

We expect MORE these days, don't we?  
Times are different but it's mostly because of US I believe. 
It's our expectations of what we are entitled to- what we believe we must have compared to what it seems everyone else has. 

Our idea of sacrificing seems so much different than what their idea of sacrificing was generations ago. 


Happy St. Nick's Day!


Write Me A Note Or I'll Forget


Climbing Out Of A Rut Or How To Cure A Funk

A Rut or Funk: A feeling of general uneasiness, lack of vitality; an unwillingness to do what you know is best for yourself, (ie. not eating chocolate for breakfast); a tendency to be easily annoyed at the stupidest things like husbands breathing loud or kids making a mess; a persistent stubbornness and resistance to change from a grouch into someone who has an optimistic, cheerful mood; a tendency to dream about trips to the tropical beaches and/or large additions to your residence.

Brought upon by a number of things...bad weather (winter!), hormonal changes, unhealthy eating, an illness, lack of exercise, schedule disruptions, not following the"rules" of life.

I have come up with many ways to combat these funky periods of life. Sometimes I must let them ride their course. If I push too hard, all remedies will fail. 

Here's my notes to myself on some cures:

-A good movie...preferably something cute, romantic, or just something that will change my attitude. 

-As many hours alone as I can manage in my house. Even if I just straighten up, the joy I experience of the straightening up STAYING that way for more than a few minutes might just be enough.

-Put on loud music and go on a cleaning spree. Just start chucking things left and right. Scrub the floor like Cinderella. Lysol smell wafting in the air.

-A trip to the bookstore by myself.   Find a good book-preferably about a pioneer during the Dust Bowl, or an immigrant who arrived with 10 little children and pennies in her pocket.  Nothing changes a rut like some good old boot strap pulling.

-If I can manage it...I can make myself workout.  Walk, walk, walk...outside in the fresh air. Walk like I need to get to the opposite coast by midnight.

-Go on a kitchen cupboard clean out. Pitch the nasty Doritos and stashed candy. Eat a large healthy salad for lunch. Drink gallons of water. Buy tons of good fruit.  Detox.

-A purposeful change of schedule.  Draw one up-bedtimes, mealtimes, naptimes-just having one will feel refreshing.  

Sometimes one or two or all will work wonders. Sometimes I have to experiment with different combinations...like magic ingredients, it all comes together.


Halloween: The Before’s, The Durings, The Afters

Grandma’s Halloween Party:
022Abbey is a flapper…we found that dress for 4 dollars and she altered it herself to make it fit better. 0233 best friend girl cousins…all born the same year. 024026Jeff is "Country Club Man".  He stayed in character the whole night.  No, not annoying at all.  030 031 032 033 034 035 036 037 038 039 040 041Grandma vacuuming up the aftermath of the donut game.  She has parties like this…20 grandkids plus adults…all the time.  And I’ve NEVER her seen her stressed.  EVER.  She has never raised her voice to a child or spoke impatiently to any of them.  She has never had that “mean party look” that says “get out of my way I have a lot to do”.  She has never batted an eye when a kid spills all over carpet, furniture, floors.  I have never seen her tired.  Seriously.  She made (not bought!) chili, vegetable soup and tortilla soup and set up the house so cute.  And laughed and enjoyed the party the entire time.
What the secret?
Don’t ask me.  I am NOT the person to ask.  I’ll ask her sometime….there’s my next Celebrity Interview.  If she’ll agree.  Don’t you want her to?  042Crazy Uncle Tom.  He dresses like that at every party.  Weird. 043 044 045Aunt Tiffany was voted “best candy hander-outer”…really long sticks of gum…used for sword fights of course.  Here you can see her reprimanding a thiefing nephew for taking two instead of one. (Isaac.) Also, she’s pregnant with her 6th child.  And she was the one who made that spider cake you saw above. And her nails are done.  And she has a super cute outfit on.  Let’s hit her with really long gum sticks!046  
Halloween Night: 
004Isaac is missing because he went to his cousin’s house.  He is 15 after all.  Sniff sniff.007Abbey and friend Maddie…dressed warm.016 019 020We leave our candy out on the porch…so we both can go out with the kids.  When we come back home it is only 1/2 way gone.  I love our neighborhood.  LOVE.    024 025 026 028 029 032 034A chicken stuck in a pile of leaves.  035  I love when adults take Halloween seriously.  I plan to my whole life.039 040Isn’t it weird that Patrick has only said Mama and Dada his whole entire life, but suddenly on Halloween night he can say Trick or Treat and Thank You loud and clear because he knows he’ll get candy?  I feel sort of betrayed.041 042See that house in the background?  That is one of my favorite houses in my neighborhood.  It is PERFECTION.  I met the owner and she laughed when I told her that and said, “Well the outside looks better than the inside.”  But I doubt that.  (I kind of snuck a few nosy peeks before she came to the door.  It is divine.)
Later That Night
045 Abbey and her friend Maddie assessing the situation.050Matt comes home with the goods. 052055 Andrew invents the "Trick or Treat” feedbag.  056057 058 059 The End.
(You don’t want me to take pictures of the Day After do you? Argghhh.)