Monday, December 22, 2008

Going on vacation....

I'm working on getting the last minute preparations done before my husband and I fly out to San Francisco tonight.  We're really excited to spend some time with family over the holidays.  I may not be able to blog while we're away, so I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Remember, Jesus is the Reason for the Season.  Hope your Christmas is filled with blessings and reflections on what Jesus Christ has done for us.  Until 2009....

Christmas Brunch Recipes

For the past few years, my family has had the tradition to have a Christmas Day Brunch.  My husband and I are leaving later on today to fly to San Francisco to spend the holidays with my side of the family.  My sister said to bring my brunch recipes again this year.  She and my mom also put something together, but I'll just include the two recipes that I usually make.

Egg Sausage Bake  

Use an 8x8 pan.  Serves 6.

6 slices of bread
1/2-3/4 lb. sausage
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
5 eggs
1 1/4-2/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (optional)

Cook and drain sausage.  If not ground, chop it up.  While sausage is cooking, cube bread and place in greased pan.  Beat eggs, stir in milk and mustard, and set aside.  Sprinkle cooked sausage over bread.  Sprinkle cheese over sausage.  Pour egg mixture over cheese.  Cover pan and refrigerate overnight.  Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cinnamon Apple Brunch Bake

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 can apple pie filling (21 oz.)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (12 oz.)
1/2 cup chopped nuts

In saucepan, melt butter, stir in brown sugar, pie filling, cinnamon and vanilla.  Spread half of apple mixture in 2-quart shallow baking dish.  Separate biscuits; cut each into quarters.  Arrange pieces, points up, over apple mixture.  Spoon remaining apple mixture over biscuits; sprinkle with nuts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Serve warm.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Scrapbook of Memories

I received a fun ready-made scrapbook called, Christmas Scrapbook of Memories.  It is published by Integrity Publishers (Tommy Nelson, Inc.).  You can go here if you'd like to purchase it. Unfortunately, they don't have a picture of it at this time.

What I love about this book is that the layouts are already done for you.  There are places for you to write down certain memories and put your favorite pictures.  There's even a spot to put your own Christmas letter!  I like having the pages at the end that have pockets to put extra pictures and your favorite Christmas cards in.  The book has five sections--one section for each year of Christmas memories.  This will be our third Christmas together as a married couple, so it's filling up fast.  Every year I pull it out to look at the previous years' comments and pictures.  It is so much fun and refreshing to reflect on good times.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Some flowers and some cookies

My jr. high and sr. high choirs did a fabulous job at Thursday night's concert.  I was so pleased with the way everything turned out.  The band also played a few numbers.  The title of our concert was, "The Best Loved Songs of Christmas."  I had narrators talk about the background of each song that was sung.  At the end, I had both choirs sing together, "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  I had a lot of fun, but boy, was I tired when it was all finished!

At the end of the concert, the students presented the band teacher and I with a gift.  He got a new coffee mug that he desperately needed, and I received a bouquet of roses and a gift card to the Olive Garden (yum!).

I like to bake a little something for the students in my choir after a concert, so on Friday I brought Candy Cane Twists.  What I love about this recipe is that part of the cookie has real peppermint bits in it.  They are soooo good!  Here's the recipe:

Candy Cane Twists

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup finely crushed candy canes or peppermint candy
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring

Beat powdered sugar, butter, egg, peppermint extract, and vanilla together at medium speed until creamy.  Reduce speed and add flour and salt.  Divide dough in half.  Stir candy into one half of the dough and beat food coloring into the other half.  For each cookie, roll 1 teaspoon of each dough into a 4-inch long rope.  Place ropes beside each other and twist them together. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and curve one end of cookie to make the shape of a candy cane.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

I had some left over crushed peppermint, so I used them to make another batch of snowball cookies. (You can find that recipe on my blog, too.) Instead of putting pecans or other nuts in, I mixed in the peppermint.  They tasted really good!  I really loved the look and taste of these candy cane twists.  Hope you enjoy them as much as we did.:)

A Very Special Christmas Caroling

Last night, we had our annual Christmas caroling with the teens in our church.  We had a great group come along for this wonderful time.

We went to five different houses in our town--all the individuals were older people in our church, some of them widows.  At each stop, we sang several Christmas carols, including a couple of their favorites.  We also gave them a poinsettia as a special gift.

The teens did a wonderful job of singing and encouraging these people.  Hugs were given and kind words were shared.  One lady we visited said, "It's so beautiful--I think I'm going to cry."  And just a couple minutes later, tears were coming down her cheeks.  She was deeply moved.  In our eyes, it wasn't a huge thing to go around singing Christmas carols, but for these older men and women, it was such a special thing that they look forward to and remember for a long time.  It was a reminder to me that we can touch people's lives in so many ways, no matter how big or small.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Handel's Messiah

I love Handel's Messiah.  I've only heard bits and parts of it on a recording this year, so I have yet to listen to it in its entirety.  Last night I read a chapter on it in the book, Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins.  The story behind the writing of the Messiah is phenomenal.  

Did you know that Handel was almost completely blind when he wrote it, and was also suffering from other physical ailments?

Did you know that it only took him three weeks to write the entire Messiah?

Did you know that Handel flunked out of college?

And....did you know that although the message of the Messiah is appropriate for both Easter and Christmas, choirs began singing it during the Easter season?  It was decided to move the performances of it to the Christmas season for marketing purposes.  The holiday season is longer than that of Easter, which lasts only three days.

I've been working on one of the songs from the Messiah called, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion."  I'll be singing it this coming Sunday morning in our church service.  I'm really excited to sing it, but hope that the message comes out clearly.  I want others to get a hold of Christ's coming to earth and the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

I love how music historian, Robert Manson Myers talked about the Messiah.  He said, "For the first time in musical history the mighty drama of human redemption was treated as an epic poem."  Another music historian, R. A. Streatfield, said that the Messiah was "the first instance in the history of music of an attempt to view the mighty drama of human redemption from an artistic viewpoint."  Pretty powerful stuff, eh?

If you don't already include the Messiah as part of your Christmas celebration, why not start this year?  Get a recording or see it performed at a concert hall.  Your spirits will be lifted as praise is given to our Lord.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stories behind the best-loved songs of Christmas

Tomorrow night my choirs will be singing several Christmas songs as part of the annual Christmas program at the school.  I'm really excited about the theme that we'll be doing.  I have narrators that will give the background of each of the songs.  They are all quite fascinating!  I got the idea to do this from Ace Collins' books.  He has written several books on Christmas, two of them focusing on the stories behind our traditional Christmas songs.

Some of his titles are the following:

Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas
More Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas
Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas
Stories Behind the Hymns That Inspire America
Turn Your Radio On:  The Stories Behind Gospel Music's All-Time Greatest Songs

His books can be found at for a great price!  In fact, I just checked the website and the top three books listed are available in a boxed set for only $3.99!  Awesome.:)

I think these books would be a great addition to anyone's library.  They are appropriate for the entire family.  You can learn so many valuable things about the songs and traditions of Christmas.  I've read only parts of these books and have heard Ace Collins on radio speaking on some of the things he writes in his books.  It is wonderful--hope you can get a hold of these and make them a part of your Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Whiter than Snow

It snowed again this past Sunday morning.  It was absolutely beautiful, but it was also bitter cold. It was the morning of our Christmas cantata, so we were hoping that many would still come out for it.  We had a great turn out and the program was a blessing.  Looking at the snow has made me think of different things, so I wanted to share those with you.  

The first thing I think of is the fact that Jesus washes away our sin "whiter than snow."  

Psalm 51:7 says, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:  wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

To me, it is so comforting to know that when we ask God to forgive us, he does.  (I John 1:9)  He keeps His promises and removes our sin.  The concept that I cannot completely fathom is, "what is whiter than snow?"  Snow is so clean, pure, and white that I can't think what is even cleaner and brighter than what we already see.  Amazing, isn't it?  

The other thing I think of when I see the snow is all the fun times I've had over the years outside in the snow.  Growing up in California, I did not experience real winters and all that goes with the snow.  When I was in elementary school, my parents took my sisters and I to Lake Tahoe to experience snow for the first time.  We went sledding, had snowball fights and saw huge icicles forming on the cabin we stayed in.  When I went away to school in Wisconsin, I actually lived through snowy winters for four years.  I made my first snow angel, learned how to ice skate, and had a blast with college friends playing in the snow.  After graduating from college, I moved to Colorado and have enjoyed 12 wintery seasons here.  I love how the snow cascades on the Rocky Mountains.  It makes me think about the One who has made all things beautiful for us to enjoy.

What kinds of things does the snow make you think of?  Is it the thought of the Lord removing our sin and fun memories of playing in the snow like I've shared?

Reflect on these thoughts and have some fun outside!  Make a snow "family", an igloo, snow angel...or just have a snow ball fight!  Just get out there with your loved ones and build great memories.  (And don't forget to have some hot chocolate ready to enjoy when you come back inside.) :)

A cute outfit for little girls

This last spring, I made a t-shirt/capri outfit for a little girl in our church.  I saw an idea in a t-shirt crafting book for an empire-waist tee and thought I would try it.  All you have to do is cut slits all around the shirt and weave fabric in and out, then tie it in the back.  The idea on the sleeves was mine and thought that it turned out well.  I used Simplicity pattern #3743 for the capri pants.  I loved how it all turned out and so did the girl who I made it for.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A birthday card for our nephew

One of our nephews just had a birthday, so I made him this card.  We put a collector's coin inside that we had bought at Mesa Verde National Park this past summer.  I used a star stamp as well as scrapbook paper to create this card.  The rest of it was hand-written.  This simple card might give you an idea on what to do for an upcoming birthday.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Simple Christmas story character costumes

I have been busy working on making Christmas gifts for family. (I'll show those pictures after the new year, so that they remain a surprise!)  In the midst of all of that, I was asked to make a few costumes for the upcoming Sunday School Christmas program.  I've never done anything like this before, but I was supplied with a sample, picture and measurements to go by.  This picture shows one of the outfits I made--an overcoat with an undercoat (tunic).  Instead of making separate sleeves, all I did was cut out two pieces and stitch them together.  In the back, a notch was made to make it easier for the child to slip his head through.  I hemmed the neckline, sleeves, and bottom of each tunic.

It's been a crazy week, but God's enabled me to make all that was needed for this Wednesday night's program.  In total, I stitched up 3 headpieces, 2 overcoats and 5 undercoats (tunics).  It was quite the experience, but I was glad I could do this despite my beginner sewer abilities.  I was able to see the costumes on the kids tonight at the rehearsal, but also can't wait to see the actual program itself.  It's neat to be a part of something that will touch the hearts and lives of all who attend that night.  

Snowflake Christmas card holder

A couple years ago, my husband and I received silver snowflake ornaments at a Christmas dinner.  They seemed too large for our "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree, so I decided to use them to hold our Christmas cards.  All I did was attach blue ribbon and paper clips to the snowflakes.  I also used push-pins to hold them up.  As the cards come in, I just paper clip them to the holder and we have a simple and elegant decoration in our living room.  Currently, these hang right above an end table where the snowmen reside this holiday season.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The White Elephant and Eggnog

Last night we had a couple fun activities for the teens in our Wednesday night service.  Everyone had to bring a gift (no more than $5) for a gift exchange.  They could also bring something from home, a "white elephant" gift, that they no longer need anymore.  All the teens sat in a big circle as one of our leaders read a story.  Each person had a gift in their hands and as the words "right" and "left" were mentioned in the story, the gift had to move in that direction. When the story was completed, whatever gift they had was the gift they were stuck with.  Some were pretty happy with what they received; others, well, not so very happy with the little useless trinket.

At the end of the night, we had our annual "Eggnog Chug."  My husband chose a few guys to stand in a line and chug down a whole quart of full-fat egg nog.  It was a race to see who would be the Eggnog King!  An adult, who was the mystery chugger, also competed, and actually beat out the guys.  I personally love eggnog, but more of the light variety.  Watching those guys go at it just made some of us churn inside!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Paper plate ice skates

I just got back from a ladies Bible study and had to share this quick and fun idea for kids. While the ladies meet in groups, the children also have a class they can go to.  A friend from church picks me up each Wednesday and brings her two small kids to it.  The kids learn the same lesson that we do, but also get to do some hands-on things as well.

When we picked up her four-year-old daughter after the class, she held two white paper plates and said that they were ice skates.  Interesting, I thought, until she slipped them under her shoes and began to "skate" down the hallway.  Much to my surprise, a few other kids put on their "ice skates" and began skating as well.  It was too cute!  I'm sure these kids will have lots of fun doing this at home.

So, grab a couple paper plates for you and a child in your life and have fun!  When you can't go outside to do it, bring the fun inside and go ice skating!:)

Homemade Gatorade

A church friend of mine talked to me the other day about something she uses to help her feel better on bad days.  She has fibromyalgia and says that the a mix of homemade gatorade really helps her a lot.  I thought I would give it a try since sometimes I've got days where I get really tired, especially now with my health issue.  Supposedly, this is what Lance Armstrong uses on his bike, why not give it a try, eh?  Here's the recipe:

Use a water bottle (she gave me a mix using an Arrowhead water bottle that is 1 pt., 0.9 fluid oz.) to mix the following combination of ingredients:  1 tsp. salt, 20% juice, 80% water.  Make sure that you use 100% fruit juice.  You can also start off with a smaller amount of salt when you're first beginning to use it.

Give it a try and let me know how you feel.:)  It's wonderful!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What God's been teaching me....

It's been two weeks since I saw the specialist to discuss what needs to be done concerning a health issue I've been having.  It looks like the only thing that can be done is surgery.  Last year I had an appendectomy and had to return to the hospital because of an infection.  Over time, scar tissue has built inside of me, causing pain, discomfort and (temporary) infertility.  I'll most likely have the surgery done within the next few months.  Over time, the pain can worsen and we want it to be taken care of as soon as possible.

It was right before Thanksgiving when my husband and I went to see the doctor, and all I could think was, "What can I be grateful for during this time?"  Here are some things that God's been showing me lately, that I hope is an encouragement to you as well:

1.  God has a perfect plan for my life.  (Romans 8:28)  Whether or not this includes motherhood, I need to keep giving glory to God with my life.
2.  God loves me and takes care of me daily.
3.  I am learning that God needs to be my complete satisfaction and joy.
4.  Our trials "worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17)  
5.  Finally, I am so thankful for the people God has put in my path as I go through this.  I've appreciated the many prayers and kind words of family and friends.

If I can be of help to any of you who may be going through a trial right now, let me know.  I'd love to pray with you and encourage you any way I can.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Absolutely the best planner out there....

As the end of the year approaches, I've been thinking about what sorts of things I'd like to do in the start of the new year....reorganize closets and cupboards, give clothes to Goodwill, etc.  Then I remembered my planner!  I need to order a new one as soon as possible so that I can jot down all these ideas and goals.

For the past two years, I've been using the Busy body book.  I really like it a lot.  I love how it has a lot of space to write down every thing, including shopping lists, to do lists, important dates, and special notes.  The column/grid style is wonderful because I can see all that I have to do, as well as all that my husband has to do for each date.  You can check it out more in detail by clicking here.

I hope this gives you a great idea to help you get organized for 2009.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cute summer shirt

This past spring, I worked long and hard on making myself a shirt I could wear during the summer.  Since it was my first try, I bought cheaper fabric just in case it didn't turn out.  There are several mistakes if you look real close, but I thought it turned out well.  I used an "It's so easy, it's Simplicity" pattern #3732.  There are a couple variations to this shirt, so I think it's something I can definitely make again.

Simple baby dress

I had so much fun making this first baby outfit several months ago.  I gave it to one of my friends who had her fourth little girl.  I used Simplicity pattern #4243.
I bought material at Walmart and did snaps in the back since I'm a beginner sewer and have yet to master the technique of doing button holes and zippers.  I have a new babylock machine and am excited to keep learning the many techniques of sewing.  With three babies on the way in our family, this pattern may come in handy in a few months. There's also a pattern to do boy outfits as well, so I'd better get practicing just in case!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Filling our minds with the right things

It's always encouraging to be reminded of good things every day, isn't it?  Not too long ago, I found some window clings at the dollar store.  There were several in the package, and each one had lines on it so that you could write your own message on it with a dry erase marker.  My husband was on a retreat that weekend, so I thought I would surprise him by putting these up on our bathroom mirror.  I wrote encouraging and sweet notes to him and he loved it!  It's been fun, too, because he's surprised me back by writing things to me on them.  I've lately written Bible verses or phrases to hymns on them.  It's been an awesome thing to look at them while we're getting ready in the morning.  I love Philippians 4:8 which says,

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;  if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." 

God wants us to think on right and pure things.  The Bible also says, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."  So, if we're planting Scripture in our hearts and minds, it's going to come out in our actions and words.  But, if we're planting things that are not right, those things will eventually come out, too.

What other ways can we encourage others and be encouraged in the Lord? I thought of a few other things that will get you excited:

1.  Place Scripture verses anywhere and everywhere in your house.  You can buy some in frames already, or you can print some out and frame them yourself.
2.  Write encouraging notes to your spouse and children on their mirrors in their bedrooms/bathrooms, on a little piece of paper for their lunch, or even a special card and treat hidden under their pillow.
3.  Use the time while you're getting ready in the morning and cooking to memorize and meditate on Scripture.  Write down verses on 3 x 5 cards so that they can be easily posted.
4.  Use audio cd's and Christian radio programs to listen to godly music, Scripture and sermons.  Your entire family can take part of this during a quiet time of the day.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Baby Moses, the Red Sea and Manna

We absolutely love our jr. church kids.  For the past few months, Q and I have taken on the responsibility of running the 4 and 5 year-old jr. church, along with two other adults.  We've been going through lessons from the life of Moses.  We usually have them do a coloring sheet after the lesson, but every once in a while, we try to think of things that are different that they can do to help them remember what they've learned. 

For the first lesson, "baby Moses", we made clay babies wrapped in a basket and placed on a little blue sheet of paper that represented water.  Each child got one color of clay for the basket and another color for the baby.  They really loved these and they all turned out so cute!  

When they learned about the crossing of the Red Sea, my husband had the kids act out the story.  One group of kids were the Israelites, another were the Egyptians, and the last group was the Red Sea.  When Moses and the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, the children who were the sea, moved aside to let them go through. But, when the Egyptians started crossing, the sea "captured" them and wouldn't let them go.

We like to give the kids a snack during the last part of jr. church, so on the day that they learned about manna, they actually got to eat some. wasn't exactly manna, but we thought it was pretty close!  They got to enjoy frosted corn flakes as a special treat that morning.

As we continue to work our way through the life of Moses, we may have more ideas on how to make the lessons come alive.  I'll keep you posted on more things as time goes along.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A special little something for our missionaries

Our church has recently been "flooded" with thank-you notes from our missionaries.  Not too long ago, we sent each missionary family a small package. Inside was a DVD that had church members talking to them, telling them how they pray for them.  A sermon and special music was also a part of the DVD.  Some ladies in our church also got together to make jewelry for the missionary wives, so those were also included in the package.  I'm sure it was a great surprise for them to receive this right before Christmas. It may have been small to us, but it was a big blessing to the families who received it.

Has your church ever done anything like this?  If not, this is a neat idea to get you started on letting your missionaries know how much you care and pray for them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

First snow cookies

When I was newly married, a friend of mine told me of a tradition that she and her family did every year, and I thought it was a great one to share with all of you.  She said that on the first snow of the season that she made "snow cookies" to enjoy with her husband and kids.  They enjoyed eating these right out of the oven with a cup of hot cocoa.  

I thought of it earlier this year, and today it actually snowed!  (We had a little wet snow for a little bit the other day, so I didn't count that as a real first snow).  It's been coming down pretty much all day and it looks so beautiful outside.  You can make any kind of cookie, but I decided to make traditional snow ball cookies.  I'll be enjoying them with my husband and a couple teens we're having dinner with tonight.  Here's the recipe I used:

Snowball Cookies

1 cup soft butter
6 Tbsp. powdered sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. water
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans

Mix ingredients together then shape into balls.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.  After they have cooled, roll them in powdered sugar.  This recipe makes approximately 2 dozen snowball cookies.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Turkey Enchiladas

Are ya still eating Thanksgiving dinner leftovers like we are?  I found a new recipe out of Healthy Cooking magazine from Taste of Home.  I was able to use most of our left over turkey meat tonight with this recipe.  It came out really well.  Q loved it!  Here it is...

Turkey Enchiladas

1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
2 tsps. canola oil
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsps. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup (8 oz.) fat-free sour cream
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese, divided
3 cups cubed cooked turkey breast
3/4 cup salsa
8 flour tortillas (6 inches), warmed

1.  In a large nonstick saucepan coated with cooking spray, cook and stir onion and green pepper in oil until tender.  Sprinkle with flour, coriander and pepper; stir until blended.  Gradually stir in broth.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in sour cream and 3/4 cup cheese.
2.  In a large bowl, combine the turkey, salsa, and 1 cup cheese mixture.  Spoon 1/3 cup turkey mixture down the center of each tortilla.  Roll up and place seam side down in a 13-in. x 9-inn.2-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Pour remaining cheese mixture over the top.
3.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake, uncovered, 5-10 minutes longer or until heated through and cheese is melted.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Making it special

This past summer, I had a unique visit with one of my friends from church.  While my husband was away on a missions trip, my friend, Coco, and her daughter invited me to go swimming with them at their apartment complex.  On that day, it down poured with rain, so we decided just for me to come over for dinner.  I offered to bring some chocolate cake that I made the day before. She thought it was a great idea since it was her daughter's birthday and they had been so busy that week and didn't have the cake planned.  We had pizza, then her husband came home from work and joined us for a good time.  Next thing you know, Coco is taking apart my "almost complete" cake and transforming it into a wonderful creation.  She took the biggest piece and placed that on the bottom of the plate, then placed the smaller piece on top.  Then, she poured caramel sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles on top.  I was amazed!  Since that time, I've thought about the things I do for Q and wondered to myself, "Am I making it special?  Am I adding that special little touch?"

Some of us may think that we're not as creative as my friend, Coco, but we can always be thinking on how to honor a family member or a friend with something they like.  Even if it is just sprinkles, we can sure make them smile.:)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Fall Festival "Cake Walk" cakes

For the past two years, I've been able to make cakes for our school's annual Fall Festival.  It helps raise money for the senior class.  Cake walks are a lot of fun to participate in.  Everyone walks around on numbered squares taped to the floor while music is playing.  When the music stops, the moderator picks a number out of the hat and whoever has landed on that number gets to choose a cake off the table.

The cake on top says "happy harvest", spelled out with Necco wafers.  I used alphabet stamps and gel food coloring to stamp out the words.  As I let that dry, I placed more wafers all around the sides of the cake.  The second cake was made by first placing candied nuts all around the sides of the cake, then placing fake flowers on the top.  I bought disposable cake carriers at my local grocery store for about a dollar.  Hope this gives you a couple simple cake decorating ideas for you to use at the next cake walk, birthday party or get-together.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A book for the book enthusiast

My husband LOVES books!  He can spend hours at a time reading.  Because of his busy schedule he doesn't do that so much anymore, but he still finds time every day to read.  For last year's birthday, I thought I'd make a book for him to record all the books he's read.  He has a few loose sheets that he can't always find, so making this book journal was the best thing for him.  All I did was buy a blank book and used scrap booking paper to decorate it.  I did this on the front as well as the back cover.  I found paper that had the words, "dream", "imagine" and "explore" and cut those out to place on the front cover.  I titled the book, "books!"  I used rub-on transfers to spell out those words onto a tag that had a metal border around it.  I also used metal brads for a decorative touch.  There you have it--a journal for the book lover!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

On Giving Thanks

There is so much to be thankful for....but how many of us wait until Thanksgiving Day to give thanks?  We can read many chapters in Psalms and understand that giving praise and thanks needs to be a continual thing in our lives.  I love Psalm 118:1, "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever."  I am learning that even in hard times, I need to give thanks.  With my physical condition, I can be thankful that it isn't more serious.  I think the hardest time to give thanks is when we're going through hard times.  But--we can know that God works all for our good.  Everything He does in our lives is part of His perfect plan.  We can rest in that promise.

This last Sunday in our bulletin, my pastor shared with us the first Thanksgiving Day proclamation for December 18, 1777.  This is what it says:

That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor;  and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor;  and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance;  That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole.

Isn't that awesome?  The praise is to our God, not on the material blessings of God.  It is a great perspective to have when giving thanks.

This morning, my husband and I are finishing the last few things before heading out to be with friends today.  We are really excited to have this day to reflect on the goodness of God and be with fellow believers.  For Thanksgiving, I like to read a unique story that talks about the goodness of God and providence of God.  When I taught Kindergarten, I read the book, Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas.  His life is very similar to that of Joseph in the Bible, and it's neat to see how God took him through some hard things but at the end it was all for good.  If you can't find it at your local library, look at to purchase it.  Your family will really enjoy this wonderful story.

Have a happy Thanksgiving! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Objects of Praise

Tonight our church had its annual praise service which is always held the night before Thanksgiving Day.  Each year our pastor comes up with a different way for us to share our testimonies of praise.  This year we were asked to bring an object that we could use to illustrate something we were thankful for.  Many people participated and they were all so good! Children said things like, "I brought my stuffed bear to show that God is strong like a bear is strong."  A couple of my favorites were the following:  a concealer to show that we can't hide sin and that God forgives us;  a flashlight to show that God's Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path;  a band-aid to show that God cares for us.

I brought in a CD to share that God is the Creator of music and that just by looking at nature we are moved in our hearts to sing praise to God.  Music is also orderly, just as God is orderly and orchestrates every thing in our lives.

We ended our time together by singing the Doxology.  Do you know how it goes? 

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow;  Praise Him, all creatures here below;  Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!  Amen.

Let's remember to always praise the Provider rather than the provision.  God is good all the time and I hope that you can give thanks today for all that He has done for you.  

My Praise Book

When I was in college, I began a journal called "the praise book."  It was just a little fat notebook that I jotted down answers to prayer.  It was so encouraging to see how God was working in every little detail of my life. These last few years, I've not kept up with the journal, but I have gone through it from time to time.  Seeing all that He has done in the past encourages me that He will continue to help in the future.  With this Thanksgiving season I've been realizing that I need to keep writing down those praises, no matter how little or big they are to me.  We are to praise God continually with our mouths, and the Bible also tells us to be thankful in all things.  When we share the praises with others, it will also encourages them to make God a part of their every day life.  It helps us all to see that without Christ, we can't do anything.  So, what are we waiting for? Let's get out that little notebook and begin writing down prayers of thanksgiving to our wonderful Creator.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Home made books on CD

For the two youngest nephews in the family we decided to make our own books on CD.  With our MacBook, we can record anything we want to, so my husband and I got busy in producing a CD that the boys would love. We found a Winnie-the-Pooh book at Wal-mart.  Then, we read the book a few times and figured out which characters we would be.  I think we were each 2-3 characters, so we had to practice a few different character voices.  My husband thought it would be neat to use a pot to clang on as the page turn signal.  We practiced reading the book out loud a couple times before we recorded it.  This is a special gift because we don't see our nephews very often and they can learn the sound of our voices by listening to this CD.  They'll eventually learn to follow along in the book, too, as they get older and learn how to read.  This is definitely an idea that any adult can do, but older kids can do these as well.  Their cousins and friends would enjoy receiving something like this.  When I did this project another time, I sang a couple kid songs that went along with the theme of the book.  A book on CD is another great gift you can give to any child that is part of your life.  

Science and Art in a box!

Two nephews and niece were with us (with their parents) last year for Christmas.  We all stayed in our small 2-bedroom condo.  It was cozy that's for sure!  For the two older kids we thought we'd make things that they could do while they were with us.  If they couldn't complete their projects, it was something they could definitely do when they went back home.  For the nephew, we made a "science in a box."  I covered a shoe box with brown kraft paper and placed bug stickers all over it.  Inside were a few science projects described on cards as well as the supplies that went with them.  I got ideas from the book, 365 Simple Science Experiments with everyday materials (by a few authors produced by Sterling Publishing Company).  For the niece, I bought a cute handbag at a dollar store and put in a few art projects.  One thing she really enjoyed was painting a piggy bank.  They really loved these gifts.  This may give you some ideas to do for the small relatives in your life.  Put together a box of things that they really like.  Get creative; they will absolutely love it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

For little boys with special hobbies

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     I decorated these boxes for two nephews last Christmas. The box on the left was for the coin collector.  I lined the bottom with felt, then hand-painted his initials on the lid to personalize it.  For a special surprise, I put some coins in the box from different countries.  The box on the right was for the car enthusiast in the family.  I painted wooden letters that spelled "CARS", then hand-painted the rest of it to say, "Isaiah's cars."  A painted road went completely around the outside of the box.  This box was also lined on the bottom with felt.  My husband and I found some toy cars that he would like, including his favorite at the time, a Dodge Charger.  Perhaps you are thinking of the kids in your life that may be into these things, or perhaps into something completely different.  You can make boxes to hold all sorts of things:  art supplies, marbles, or bugs and nature items.  At craft stores, you can find boxes with handles made out of card board, wood or tin.  Let your imagination soar, and post pictures of your latest creations.  I would love to see what you come up with.

Sweet little girl boxes

I decorated these boxes for my nieces to use to store their doll clothes.  I first used some fine grain sand paper to smooth out the wood.  Then I stained the boxes a medium wood color. 
When that finished drying, I used 
a flower stamp and dipped it into pink craft paint and stamped all over the box. The leaves were a different stamp, so I dipped that into green craft paint and placed the leaves on the flowers.  I used a paint brush to paint a dark pink dot in the middle of the flowers.  I also used the paint brush to write the girls' names on the top of the boxes.  The inside of the boxes were also stained, but I also did one more thing to give it that final touch.  I bought sparkly pink felt and lined the bottom with it.  After placing the doll outfit I made for each of them inside, there was still plenty of room to put several more outfits and accessories for their dolls.  I know that the girls have a special place where they keep these boxes.  They really love having a personalized box to keep all their doll stuff in.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My very first doll outfit

Last year for Christmas, I decided to make gifts for our 8 nieces and nephews. It took a lot of time, but so well worth it.  I loved doing it, and they loved what we gave them.  In these next few posts, I'll be showcasing some of those gifts. It may give you ideas as you work on your Christmas list.  This American girl doll outfit was a bit challenging for me, a beginner sewer, but I think it turned out well at the end.  Simplicity produces several 18" doll patterns.  I was able to get some at Hobby Lobby when they had a 99 cent sale.  They usually run between 12 and 15 dollars, so I think I got a great deal on these!:)  This pattern is #3895.  There are other options to make other than what you see here.  You can make gauchos, capris, t-shirts and vest.  I love the flip-flops--they were made using craft foam, felt and ribbon.  And--no outfit is complete without a handbag, again made from felt and ribbon.  I gave this outfit to two of my nieces and they absolutely loved it.  Each set came in its own personalized wooden box (which I'll showcase at another time.)  This was a lot of fun to do and can't wait to make some more clothes for their dolls.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Music Festival

Yesterday I accompanied my sr. high choir to an all-day event called Festival.  Several schools from our association of Christian schools get together each year and put on a musical concert.  They bring in guest conductors, one for choir and the other for band.  Before the day, choir directors introduced the songs to the students so that they would be somewhat familiar with them.  All day they had rehearsals to get ready for the evening's concert.  They were so exhausted, but the concert went really well.  Parents and visitors who attended were blessed indeed.   It is such an amazing sound to hear a few hundred teens singing praise to God!  

If your child's school doesn't already do something like this, it may be worth the effort to talk to the school administrator or teacher to see if one can be started.  If the school you're involved with isn't already part of an association, perhaps area schools could be contacted and a representative from each school could meet to organize this annual event.  One of the schools would have to host the event, and things like fees would have to be discussed.  College professors make great conductor choices.  They are the ones who help choose the song selections.  Then, all the schools purchase their own copies for the students to use. 

The students are definitely stretched with their musical knowledge and performance skills.  It is such a fun and educational day for them.  As a new director, I'm learning a lot from the guest conductors as well.  

Let me know if you're interested in something like this.  I'd be glad to give you more tips on how to start a Music Festival in your area.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Know Sweat!"

Recently, we had a teen ministry activity called, "know sweat." Sounds a little different, eh? This is something we do each year to help the senior saints in our church.  We head out to each home and rake and bag leaves. It is a hard job gathering up leaves so that these sweet people can see their lawns and backyards again.  This time around we had about a dozen guys and girls helping to get the jobs done.  The kids had fun jumping in the leaves from time to time and getting to know the widows in our church.  It was such a blessing to do this!  Prior to the activity, my husband shared the Scripture passage which says, 

"Honour widows that are widows indeed."  I Timothy 5:3

Perhaps this is an activity that the teens, singles, or any group in your church could do.  I know it's a blessing for those who are helped, but it's also a way for us to learn to reach out and serve one another.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Here's what I did with my pumpkin....

One night I came home and saw a pumpkin sitting on our dining room table.  It was a surprise from my husband.  He said that he wanted me to do something with it.  I did some research and found a website that shows how to clean, cook and puree pumpkin meat.  You can find help here to do the same:  It's suggested that you use a small pie pumpkin, but I went ahead and used the large pumpkin we had.  From my pumpkin, I got 8 cups of pureed pumpkin meat.  I decided to put 2 cups in each bag and freeze them so that they would be ready to go when I was ready to use them.  I left one bag out and decided to make praline pumpkin pie.  It turned out so delicious!  Here's the recipe:

Praline Pumpkin Pie
(8-9" pie pan)

prepared graham cracker crust

For the praline:

1/2 c. chopped pecans/nuts
6 Tbsp. margarine
1/3 c. brown sugar

For the filling:

1 c. milk
1 large box instant vanilla pudding
1 lb. canned pumpkin or 2 c. homemade pureed pumpkin, drained
1 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
8 oz. whipped topping (divided)

Boil praline ingredients for 30 seconds and spread on crust.  Blend milk with pudding mix for a minute.  Stir in pumpkin and spice until blended.  Gently stir in just over 1/2 of the whipped topping.  Spread over praline.  Refrigerate until set.  Garnish with remaining topping and nuts or spice.

My husband and I enjoyed a slice of pie with a cup of hot cocoa--delicious!  Here are some other ways to enjoy the process of making this pie and using the rest of your pumpkin.

1.  Include kids in the process of cooking the pumpkin meat.  Some are not ready to handle knives, but they can definitely peel off the skin and press the start button on the blender.
2.  Have the kids try the pumpkin puree before and after it is sweetened.  Ask them which way they like it better.  (most likely the sweetened version:)
3.  Have family members clean and cook the pumpkin seeds.  You can add garlic salt for a salty version or use a cinnamon-sugar mixture to satisfy that sweet tooth.
4.  Consider saving some seeds to plant so you can grow your own pumpkins.
5.  Pumpkin puree can be used for other things besides pie:  breads, cakes, cookies and even in main dishes.  It's healthy for you, so think creatively into how you can incorporate pumpkin into your diet.  I used pumpkin in a chili this fall and it was sooo good!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Peace of God

"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:7

For the past few months, I've been dealing with a personal health issue that at times has been discouraging.  One of the biggest challenges for me is to try to keep on going despite not always feeling one hundred percent.  God's Word tells me that I can do all through Him, and right now going through this, I don't want Satan to get a hold of it to the point where I don't do anything at all.  There may be a time in the future that I'll share my condition because I think it may be a help to some to know that they are not alone.  I believe it is a blessing from God when you can be encouraged by others who have gone through the same thing.  Thankfully, there is treatment for what I'm going through.  It may be surgery, but I won't know until I see another doctor next week.  I've really had to grab onto the thought of having peace in God, rather than in doctors.  I am thankful that God has given us doctors, but ultimately, I need to let the peace of God rule in my heart. Without it, I'd be a mess.  I was feeling very nervous at first, but God is continuing to give me peace and assurance that everything will be all right.  Being at peace means being at rest.  I can be thankful to know that God is in control and knows what is best in my life right now.

So, what about you?  Are you going through a hard time with something this very minute? 
Let God's peace rule in your heart and mind continually.

Here's a creative plan of action:  

1.  Sing to God in praise to get your outlook on Him, rather than on your circumstances.  Listen to music that will get your thinking in the right perspective.
2.  Meditate on verses about the goodness and peace of God.
3.  Post Scripture verses anywhere you will be constantly reminded that God is good--on your fridge, bathroom mirror, etc.  This is something I've done recently and it's been a huge help.

I hope this encourages you to have God's peace no matter what you're going through.  Remember that God is good--all the time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Real-life Pacman

I loved the video game, "Pacman" when I was a young girl, and honestly, it is still the only video game I can really play!  So when my husband told me what he and a sibling used to do, I laughed and thought it was a neat idea to share with all of you.  They came up with a way to play "real-life pacman."  He said that they used to put food (like cereal) around the house.  The house became a maze-like field for pacman action!  For the big points, they would set up little piles of food amongst the other bits of food.  They would go around the house and gobble it up right off the floor!  

I thought this was such a cute idea, but some of you might be afraid of the germs lurking on your floors!  You can use napkins or little dixie cups to hold the food.  Instead of cereal, you can use crackers or gummy fruit snacks.  You could even use wrapped chocolate candies as the "super" food; parents can be the ones chasing the little pacmans, but if they have the "super" food they can't get caught!  Those special candies can even be saved until the end of the game and be used as points.  The pacman with the most points wins!  The possibilities are endless for this game.  Get creative and have fun!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"One Day Sunday"

We had an awesome morning service today at our church.  For several weeks our church members have been inviting people for this service. We were given invitations to use as we invited neighbors, co-workers, and family members. "One Day Sunday" is designed for people who say, "One day I'll come visit your church" and/or who don't know Christ personally as Savior. What a great idea this was!  I'm not sure what the total count was on visitors, but I did see and meet some this morning during the fellowship time.  After some time of getting to know folks and eating doughnuts, we had our main service.  We had lots of music as well as an evangelistic preaching time.  If your church has never done this, this is a wonderful opportunity to encourage those who are looking for a church as well as for those who need Christ.  Our communities are full of folks like this.  We can be the ones to reach out to them.  Hope this encourages you all and perhaps gives you an idea to pass on to your pastor.  I'm glad we did this and can't wait to see the good things that come out of this in the future. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Yahoo! I saved money today!

Do any of you get reward cards from department stores?  I recently received one from Kohl's (one of my favorite places to shop!) and today was the last day to use it. I have found great clearance deals in there before, so I thought I'd check it out again to use this $10 reward card.  I came home with three items that originally totaled $64.00 for only $2.56!!! I enjoy going in with a list in mind, whether it's for a family member, birthday gift, or just something for fun.  I love using these cards when I get them, but honestly am not sure how I get on their list.  I asked a friend of mine from church if she also received things like this in the mail and she said that she does.  There may be a mystery as to how we get these great gift cards, but all in all it is such a blessing from God.  He knows our needs before we even ask Him, and it's wonderful to see how He supplies things for us.

Welcome to my blog!

Hi everyone!  I'm so glad you've come to check out my blog.  I love being creative, saving money and thinking "outside the box"!  I have come to enjoy reading others' creative blogs and thought that I could do this too, so here I am.  I am a born-again Christian, stay-at-home wife to a wonderful husband and an avid baker and creative crafter.  I hope I can inspire many to live their lives to the fullest in pleasing the Lord, their families and communities.  I'll share insights on what God is teaching me, tips on lots of fun stuff, and will post pictures of my latest crafts.  Enjoy!