So last night the church treasurer called and asked for my input on an idea she had for Mother's Day gifts for our church ladies. Usually we do the potted flower thing, but she wanted to do something different this year. She's not a mother, so she has no vested interest in this. Anyway, she wondered what I thought about $10 gift cards for Wal-Mart. I thought that was a fabulous idea! Not every church could do that, but we only have about 16 ladies to buy for.
The only thing she was concerned about was how to present them so they seemed as substantial as they really were. After all, a gift card is rather small, even if the value on it would get you three potted flowers, if you so desired.
So I mentioned to her that I had just enough tins (thanks to our evangelist friend) and I could make decorated tins to put the gift cards into. She thought that was a great idea, so I went ahead and made them up last night and this morning - all 16 of them! I was so excited and pleased with the finished product:
There are three different designs, mostly because I was working with paper and lace scraps. I think my favorite is the middle one (pink and black), but I really, really like them all. Can you tell my personality leans toward the Victorian era? I hope the ladies love them as much as I do!
I started out by printing Proverbs 31:30 onto a piece of vellum (free font: CAC Champagne), then cutting them into strips.
Then I traced the top of the lid onto the back of my decorative paper and cut that out.
Next I stamped the image at the bottom (one of my newest Studio G $1 stamps), adhered a strip of lace with Glue Dots (folding the raw edges around the back of the paper), attached the vellum Scripture quote with Xyron vellum adhesive and stamped the corner curliques (another of my newest Studio G $1 stamps). Since I was stamping partly on vellum, I decided to use StazOn ink so it wouldn't be so prone to smear.
After the ink dried, I used Glue Dots to adhere the paper top to the top of the tin.
Then I traced the bottom of the tin onto coordinating decorative paper, cut it out and adhered it with Glue Dots. This was necessary to cover the Nutrition Facts on the bottom of the tins. (You could also use a mixture of half-glue, half-water to adhere them. Just lightly coat both surfaces before slapping them together.)
And in case you're wondering, all the paper is from Anna Griffin. I love her paper line!
Just Thursday I was in Rite Aid picking up the weekly freebies and thought about leaving the TheraGesic pain relief rub since I have several tubes of similar product already. (I have to use it for frequent leg aches, but I have enough to last me quite awhile.) I almost left it, but then I thought, "Hey, somebody might need this when they visit. I might as well pick it up!"
Since we pastor and live in the parsonage, we have a lot of visiting missionaries and other speakers that stay overnight. Most of these people are on extremely limited incomes, so I like to send something helpful along with them when I can.
Okay, fast forward to today. After lunch, I overheard a lady recommend pain relief rub to a man who suffers from terrible leg cramps. She was telling him where to find it in any drug store section. I ran to the closet where I keep my stash of products to give away. Sure enough, that's exactly what she was talking about. So I was able to help him out (and hopefully get him some relief so he can sleep at night).
That got me to thinking about how God provides for us.
You remember the Scotch tape runner I mentioned in my shopping post this week? Well, I was just in Michaels the day before bemoaning the fact that they quit carrying my favorite tape runner so I couldn't use my 40%-off coupon on it anymore. Was it coincidence that I "happened" to find the tape runner on clearance at Staples the very next day - with a savings of 90% off what I paid for the other tape runner? I don't think so!
And here's another one for you ... Just today my husband mentioned that we really should get a grill sometime since we have people over so much. Sometimes it would be nice to just grill out, and when you're feeding 23 people, a medium-sized George Foreman grill takes awhile. We've talked about this before and decided to wait until they go on clearance at the end of the season, but last year wasn't a good time for us to buy, due to other financial commitments when they were clearanced. And we haven't gotten even close to "clearance season" on them yet this year.
Get this ... As one of our workers was preparing to leave today, his wife called on his cell phone and asked him to stop by Sears to help her pick out their new grill. He mentioned it to my husband after he got off the phone. Well, we have seen their old grill and thought it was pretty nice. So my husband asked what was wrong with the old one, mostly to make conversation. It turns out it's a relatively minor problem, but they were wanting to "upgrade" anyway. (You know where this is going don't you?) He offered to just give us their old gas grill!
Why am I writing this? It's certainly not to imply that we are God's pets and He is our glorified "fairy godmother," as some people think of God. No, I'd serve Him if I never received any free gas grill! I'm writing this to tell you that God provides for our needs - and many of our wants - when our money is surrendered to Him.
You see, when my husband and I made out our budget, there was no question that 10% of the gross income goes directly to tithe. And since we live in the parsonage, we don't have rent or a house payment. We have decided to tithe the value of our housing, as well. (It is a benefit of my husband's employment, one that we would otherwise have to pay ourselves.) Added to that, my husband has felt led to add a percentage on top as extra offering.
As a result, our weekly tithe and offering check is actually 20% of our take-home pay. You better believe that it's not always easy to write that check every week, knowing the other financial commitments we have. But we have always taken it out first. There is never any question about whether we're going to tithe this week or not.
But I also want you to know that we have never, ever gone without. My family eats the best of any family I know, all on $120 a month. My family is as well-dressed as the most wealthy person in our congregation, all on thrift store and yard sale finds. My children have the nicest and widest selection of toys of any child I know of, thanks to incredible thrift stores. (Remember the art desk for $0.80? And I don't think I've ever mentioned the $0.80 full-featured Baby Alive doll!)
Why is this? Is it because I'm such a great shopper? No, it's because God has provided for our needs - and many of our wants. Not only that, but He is always on time. Remember our Easter outfits? How about the bread machine?
So I want you to know that no matter how bleak your outlook is, realize that you can trust God! I am not a trusting person by nature, but you can well imagine that by now I have no problem trusting God for anything. He has proven Himself over and over and over again in our 5-1/2 years of marriage!
[Whew! That was long - good thing I'm not the preacher in this family!]
As you can see, I mostly copied her great design. The only things I changed:
- I eliminated the ribbon.
- I used different stamps. (These are from my $1 Studio G clear acrylic collection.)
- I used glitter glue from Dollar Tree in place of the more expensive "pretties" that I didn't have on hand.
I got this idea from this post. If you get the chance, check out her entire blog. She's my kind of crafter, and she is good!!
I didn't have any Strawberry Shortcake paper, but I was able to cut around the cardboard that these items came in to make the decoration for the top of the Altoid tin. I adhered them with Glue Dots. Since they're heavy cardboard, it has the advantage of giving them a dimensional effect. The sentiment is from my collection of $1 clear stamps (Studio G - from Michaels). I stamped it with StazOn since it has a glossy finish.
Inside I placed a set of 4 Strawberry Shortcake mini gel pens that fit perfectly in the bottom of this tin (they're not in the picture). Then I cut a matching piece of cardstock and put in the top layer - one package of barrettes (the 2 sets on the left) and two packages of snap-type barrettes (the 3 sets on the right).
I have a $5 budget for each niece and nephew's birthday (we have LOTS of nieces and nephews, thanks to my husband's large family). I thought this was a cute way to stretch $4, especially since I thought of her as soon as I saw the products.
I made this for a girl in my Sunday school class who is turning 17 next week. She loves horses, owns several of them and races them in competitions. Unfortunately I couldn't find any paper with girls riding the horses, but I know she'll like this just as well!
The tin came from the Target $1 spot, paper from Michaels (K&Co brand?), Glade candle a freebie from Walgreens, notecards from Michaels clearance ($0.20/pack) and the altered journal was also on clearance at Michaels for $0.50. Total cost for this gift was $1.70.
To alter the journal, I simply decoupaged different paper to the front and back, paying careful attention to what designs were ending up in the center of the journal.
I'm doing a similar set for another of my Sunday school "girls" who turned 16 last week. The only changes I'm making are to personalize the theme.
At this price, you can't beat it!
These are pictures I took at various overlooks and stops along Skyline Drive in VA. Of course I took more than just these, but these are probably my favorites. The mountains are so beautiful!
The deer are almost tame. We passed several groups of them, and you can see that some were quite close to the road. I'm used to deer running when they see and hear vehicles, but several of them kept eating (or resting) as though they were completely used to traffic. We still slowed down every time we saw some deer, though, just in case.
I came up with this one all by myself. It was no easy task, either! Color schemes and layout design aren't always my strong points, so I was very pleased that I actually liked the finished product.
Do you like my title stamps? I do! I've just started using them, although I got them last year sometime. They are about 2" foam stamps (I can't remember the brand name, although you'd probably recognize it) that I got at Big Lots for $2 for the whole alphabet. Since they are foam, I wasn't sure if I could use regular stamping ink with them. But I'm glad I started to experiment, because it actually works. For this particular title, I stamped in orange and then outlined in green. I wouldn't have to except it was the best way to tie it in to the color scheme on the page.
And now I'm off to see what else I might be able to accomplish tonight!
Since there were two pictures in this "set," I browsed my latest issue of Scrapbooks Etc. and found a layout I liked that used two pictures. I found one and set out to make it my own. I followed the basics of the layout. The major changes I made were to make it less busy. And wouldn't you know, I even got to use one of my new clear stamps!
This second page came together rather quickly. I'm quite pleased that I didn't have to search for a page layout to copy, so it took less time.
I did have a little problem with this layout, though. I only had a 6x12" scrap of the perfect shade of blue. I solved that problem by mounting it all onto a 12x12" white sheet. As a result, I was able to punch the stars out of the blue paper and let the white background shine through, instead of having to adhere all those little stars for the border.
It's simple, but I like it.
I just remembered I had a link roundup to share on my blog before we ever went away on vacation. So I apologize that some of these links are almost 2 weeks old (but still good!).
Some links for parents:
Some links for crafters:
- More Than a Card - a great gift idea! The recorder is $15 for 30 seconds of recording time, but you can get one here for $5 with 10 seconds of recording time.
- a purchased Wilton cupcake box jazzed up for a cute gift
- a homemade cupcake box to fit one cupcake (this would be cute for a friend's birthday, or even a child!)
- a gardening gift set for those of us who like to stamp (Can you tell I love this lady's blog?)
- a homemade box for homemade cards, especially for a gift set
- make-your-own Prima flowers
So here are a few pictures I took of the ponies, since I haven't been back to Assateague since I got a good zoom lens ...
This friendly horse would have come right into the van, if we had let her! I saw her coming and quickly shut the side door to the van, where we were eating our homemade subs. Sure enough, she managed to poke her nose through the window we hadn't been able to get up in time! She stayed at our van window for several minutes. Fortunately for us, she didn't try any of her biting tricks. And we got some fun pictures for our friends to take with them! (A note of caution: We never feed or touch the horses and never encourage them to come close to us. They are wild animals and capable of hurting people.)
Sorry about having to "white out" the faces in this photo. I don't have any software (that I know of) that has the blurring feature for faces. But I really wanted to share this photo I took for them on the beach. I wanted to make it like a personalized postcard.
1 lb ground sausage (I use low-fat turkey)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 lb potato nuggets, thawed
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1. Brown sausage. Drain, crumble and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 10x15" baking pan (the recipe calls for 9x13", but it's awfully full).
3. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, soup and milk. Stir in sausage and mushrooms; pour into prepared pan. Add potato nuggets evenly to pan.
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle on cheese; bake 10 more minutes.
Yield: 12 servings
Roast Beef & Gravy
1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 lbs)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup beef broth
1 envelope onion soup mix
Cut roast in half (if necessary); place in a slow cooker. In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; pour over roast. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or until meat is tender.
Yield: 8-10 servings
Cherry Swirl Cheesecake
2 pkgs (8 ozs each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 graham cracker crust (9")
1 can cherry pie filling, divided
In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs, beating just until combined. Pour into crust. Drop 1/2 cup of pie filling by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the cream cheese mixture; cut through with a knife to swirl the pie filling.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack. Chill for 2 hours. Top with remaining pie filling.
Yield: 8 servings
Cheesy Crockpot Chicken
6 chicken breast halves
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 can cheddar cheese soup
Rinse chicken and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix undiluted soups and pour over chicken in a crockpot. Cook on Low all day (about 8 hours). Serve over rice or noodles.
Yield: 6 generous servings
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice, divided
1 tsp powdered mustard
2 lbs ground beef (I use ground turkey)
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 slices bread, broken up into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp beef bouillon granules
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and mustard.
3. In a large bowl, combine the beef, onion, bread, egg, bouillon, remaining lemon juice and 1/3 of the ketchup mixture from the small bowl. Mix well and place in a lightly greased 5x7" loaf pan.
4. Bake for 1 hour, drain any excess fat, coat with remaining ketchup mixture and bake 10 more minutes.
Yield: 6 servings
I'm still reading it in little bites (as I get time and as the kids let me), but I can tell you it's worth its weight in gold. The author discusses how many times romance dies after children come along because we don't take time to be together - alone. We are guilty as charged.
Don't get me wrong - our marriage is not on the rocks and I would never leave my husband. I'm just as confident that he would never leave me. But I can tell you that, up to this point, we haven't spent even a fraction of the 15 hours of alone time (per week) that he suggests as a minimum. Just this week, we've started making time to be alone together, even if it is just to talk. Even if we can't get out of the house. Even if we don't spend any money at a restaurant ... And even if it's not 15 hours yet. (You get the idea, don't you?)
If you aren't spending a minimum of 15 hours alone with your spouse in a week's time, I challenge you to try it for a week! (Aim for 1-2 hours together each day rather than one marathon Saturday date; the author claims it's more effective that way.)
Another good point he made is that our favorite activities sometimes pull us in different directions after marriage. I took a good look at what common favorite activities my husband and I share, and the list was pitifully short. We need to work on developing a longer list!
The author encourages us to let go of many of the "just me" favorite activities in order to make time for the "both of us" favorite activities. While I won't be giving up my crafting anytime soon (my husband is quite proud of my skills in that area), I can certainly curb the time I do spend on those activities and consciously choose to spend more of that time with him.
That's as far as I've gotten in the book, but if the rest of it is this good, I'll be recommending it to every set of new (and not-so-new) parents I know.
First is my son's page. I didn't want it too girly, so I capitalized on the bright colors he was wearing. The fun polka-dot background paper was perfect for this!
And here is my daughter's page. I went with the feminine look for this page, emphasizing the word "adore" in the background paper since I wanted to convey how much she adores her brother.
If I can find the enlarged image on CD, I'll have to post it sometime. I didn't stage this one. They were just standing on chairs looking out the back door to watch turkey buzzards when suddenly my daughter put her arm around my son - and left it there. I was fortunate enough to grab the camera while the moment lasted!
For one thing, my sanity is worth paying something to preserve. I don't think I want to try the piecemeal approach to selecting curriculum my first year of homeschooling, even if it would save some money. I certainly don't want to have to coordinate two or three difference curriculums because I like how one presents math, another one language, and so on. I've never taught kindergarten before and I'm scared to death to teach my son how to read. I was never taught phonics. What if I mess up? He'll be scarred for life! (Just kidding, but I do worry about this.)
Secondly, the systematic, organized part of me simply must have a plan before I go trotting off to the homeschool convention to buy curriculum. I am not good at "thinking on my feet" when it comes to such high-priced items as curriculum.
So I think I've come to this decision: I'll try A-Beka (K5) for kindergarten. I'll purchase the non-consumables (or as many of them as I can find) used at homeschool convention. Then I'll purchase the consumables new when A-Beka comes to my area to show their books (and thus get free shipping).
By the way, for those of you who might not know, I taught in a private school for four years before I was married. Two of those years were in the high school department teaching just about every subject there is to teach (math, English, science ... ). The other two years were in 3rd and 4th grades (combined class). So I feel comfortable with teaching and planning and whatnot. I even know that I like the A-Beka curriculum, even though Bob Jones seems a bit more advanced (in a good way).
It's this idea of teaching a child to read that makes me so nervous!
Do any of you seasoned homeschool moms have any thoughts on my plans? Do you think they're realistic? A good idea? I'd love any feedback you could give me!
I don't see beets coming up right now, but I'm not sure I'd recognize them if I saw them anyway. I've never grown beets before and I've never seen them in anyone else's garden, either. I'm growing them to pickle so I can make pickled eggs and beets whenever my little heart desires (which could be quite often).
The carrots aren't up yet, either, but I'm not very concerned.
It's so much fun to go out every morning and check on my little seedlings! It's amazing to see little green sprouts where there were none the night before. Who knew I could get this much excitement from a few cheap seed packets?
This is what I love about gardening - it's so exciting to watch things grow!
I think I've been trying to do too much. I hate to admit that because I love to be busy. Nothing grates on me more than having to sit for an entire hour with nothing to do and nothing to occupy my mind. I had this revelation as I was trying to put both of my kids to bed last night - for two solid hours.
I'm sure no one enjoys having nothing to do, but it was a wake-up call for me. What is more important to me - my family or running this house? Are my children clingy at night because I've not really "been there" with them during the day? I always have something to occupy my mind, whether it's a pet project, a book, whatever ... Maybe I've been "checking out" intellectually. I never thought of it that way, but you know how kids have a way of picking up on things like that.
Now, this is not to excuse the two hours I spent getting them to sleep. I think my next "pet project" will be to sleep train both of them!
However, I've always been told that a mother sets the tone for the household. If my children are whining, clinging and crying a lot, I need to step back and see what I might be doing (albeit unconsciously) to affect them this way.
So I started a list of things that I absolutely must do in this season of my life. So far I've come up with
- shopping for groceries and household essentials,
- spending quality time with my husband,
- and loving and training my children.
Some of my current activities that might need to be curbed greatly include
- general crafting,
- and a lot of my online activity.
I also have several responsibilities at church which include
- teaching youth Sunday school,
- organizing and hosting monthly ladies' meetings,
- and being the church pianist.
I've been trying to think of things I could change to help me focus more on my family.
For starters, I could switch back to once-a-month menu planning and grocery shopping. I know I wouldn't be able to get as much with my grocery money, but I could still feed us for a month on $120 with the monthly menu I designed in my pre-couponing days. I'm not saying I'll go back to that, but it is an option.
My husband has been volunteering to keep the kids while I do the weekly shopping on Fridays, but I can tell it's beginning to wear on him. He isn't able to get much done during that time, and there is so much that a pastor needs to do! I think it might be time for me to start training my son to help me shop and training my daughter to simply behave in the store. Crystal has some good ideas here.
I also need to find a trusted baby-sitter (preferably from our church) to watch the kids at least once a month - maybe more often - so my husband and I can have some time alone. At the beginning of the year, we decided to try to do this. The trouble is that baby-sitters are hard to come by in a congregation of people who are either elderly (and in poor health) or have dogs (which my children are both scared to death of). So we haven't had our monthly "date" since February. Maybe it's time to call on my friend (the one I talked to today)!
As for the kids, I need to focus more on them during the daytime. I think it was Home Grown Kids that mentioned how parents used to raise kids without all the toys we have available in our generation. If I'm thinking of the right book, they recommend involving your children in work around the house. I'm guilty of being too efficient! I need to slow down and take the time to teach my children how to do things around the house.
We're in the process of re-instituting naptime for my son (he's four). My daughter (two years old) requests naps, but we have to force my son to take them. For about a year, we haven't been making him nap. But it's been during that time period that we've noticed poor nighttime sleep habits developing. After reading Home Grown Kids, I really do think he's overtired and that's a big part of the problem.
Once I get them onto a nap schedule, I can start doing some of my "mom" things while they nap. It would give me a little breather in the day, yet still allow me to devote most of my attention to them while they're awake.
As far as my church responsibilities, I'm afraid I'm stuck with being the church pianist. I'm not an accomplished pianist by any means, but I am the only one who can play!
I'm also "stuck" with teaching the youth Sunday school class. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy our teens! The problem is that preparation takes so much time.
I think I am going to delegate a lot of my responsibilities for the ladies' meetings, though. Several ladies have expressed interest in helping me out, and I'm ready to accept.
This all sounds like a lot of change. I'll probably implement it in increments so I don't completely upset the apple cart. I guess the important thing is to simply change. I don't know about you, but I don't want to have my children raised and on their own and then wish I had spent more time with them while they were little. I want to be able to feel good about how I raised them, knowing that I gave them my all. After all, my parents did the same for me.
This post was mainly for me to sort out my thoughts, but I decided to post it because it might help someone else who is struggling with similar issues.
Here are the Shamburgers, which are really sugar cookie "buns" with peppermint pattie "burgers," colored shredded coconut "lettuce," and colored icing "ketchup" and "mustard":
And here is the Fauxberry Pie (really a meatloaf baked in a crust), first without the "icing":
and then with the "icing" (mashed potatoes with pureed beets):
And here's what they looked like on the table. My husband knew something was up, but he didn't figure it all out. That Fauxberry Pie is awfully convincing-looking!
I told the kids since it was April Fool's Day, we were going to eat the pie first and the hamburgers last (you know, dessert first!). They looked at me like I had lost my marbles, but there were no protests.
Since they're only 4 and 2, I actually had to explain to the kids that it really wasn't a sweet pie. (They looked a little confused after they tasted it.) But my husband knew as soon as he got a closer smell of the "pie". All in all, it was a lot of fun! I think we'll be doing something similar again next year.
I just took a closeup of one of the blooms and applied the following enhancements from Picasa: saturation, crop, soft focus, focal B&W.
Did you take any Easter pictures you're proud of? I'd love to see them (leave a link in the comments)!