Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fall Nature Hunts...for Winter

This weekend was all to gorgeous not to take advantage of the weather. We spent many hours outside on Friday afternoon in and around our yard. First I emptied out all the contents of my car (so we could trade it in towards a new mini-van...psyche!!!) while the girls rode bikes in the driveway. Baby joined us in her car seat on the lawn. The fresh air did her good and knocked her out the entire time we were outside.

Next, we emptied our front stoop of all the fall decor from our first fall treasure hunt. My oldest has trouble getting rid of things and adjusting to change so she was not happy about tossing the pumpkins in the woods. After a reminder of how we have no room for them in the house, an explanation about how pumpkins eventually rot and a few "suck it up and deal with it" pep talks, we finally moved on to our outdoor treasure hunt for holiday & winter decorating. My goal was to clip at least enough greenery to fill the galvanized tin container I keep on the front steps. So I gathered together my trusty little clippers and the new big ones I got at the last yard sale I stopped at:

First I clipped two types of greenery from our yard - one unknown variety and a boxwood. Then we moved along to the local park for some pine and juniper.

Reaching for new heights this year. :)
The kids honestly had no interest in helping me clip branches...

My two year old insisted, "I can do it myself!!!!" and pushed the stroller with the baby and our loot half way home after I was done clipping.

After I was done collecting, I spread out my piles of treasure by my front walkway to see what I had. I like to clip a variety of greenery to get different colors and textures. 

Then comes the fun part of putting together the arrangement.

Front View

Top View
Berry collecting is also usually included in my annual end-of-fall treasure hunt for winter decorating elements. I usually stick with wild rose hips and winter berries because they last all winter. I had already collected enough wild rose hips last month and then I sort of stumbled across winter berries last week. By late November, once all the trees are bare, my eyes just gravitate toward red berries in the woods and on the side of the road. Winter berries can be a challenge to harvest for a few reasons though. One, they often grow in places I just can't get to. I may see them as I'm driving by but after pulling over and getting out of the car, I discover they are growing out of a swamp at the bottom of a 15 foot embankment. Or, they are on private property. I've pulled some crazy and dangerous stunts trying to reach and clip winter berry branches in the past but I won't clip anything that is clearly on private property. Other times, like last year, I visited a few locations where I had struck gold in the past, but someone else had beat me to them - I could tell they had been freshly clipped and there was nothing good left. Big bummer. As a last resort, last year I bit the bullet and just bought a few sprays from a local florist but I vowed not to do that this year...or ever again! 

So, as I was driving home from the grocery store last week I couldn't help but notice a decent sized winter berry bush right on the side of the road with easy access. Be still my beating heart! I turned around and pulled over. I didn't have my clippers with me so I just got busy breaking off lots of branches by hand (as I prayed no one I knew drove by me looking like a crazy woman) until my front passenger side floor was full of crispy bright red berries. I drove home all giddy as if I'd found gold bullion on the side of the road! I left the mother load on a chair on my porch until I was ready to use them.

After I'd filled up my bucket with greenery on Friday afternoon, I was ready to pepper in the berries. Here's my final product (though I still may add a red and white checked bow to the front):

And while I was at it, decorating the front entrance for winter, I decided to take my old sled and skates out of the shed and put those on the other side of the stairs. Not that I want to think about snow.

Our not-so-grande front entrance
Apparently this little cutie didn't mind thinking about snow because this was the shirt she pulled out of her drawer to wear on Friday:

And now we move on to indoor decorating. Not yet sure if this will call for another hunt and gather or not...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bare Walls, Oh My!

Hello, my name is Hailey and I have bare-wall-phobia. I can't look at blank wall space without thinking of how I can "fix the problem" by hanging something there. It's a disease.  I'm especially haunted by my fear of bare walls when I'm out treasure hunting. I find myself mentally scanning my house for blank wall space and looking for the perfect things to cover them up or fill them in.

On the flip side, I try not to take home any new treasures that I do not have a specific use or place in mind for before I purchase them. So the walls of my home are pretty well covered but there have been a few naked spots waiting patiently for quite a while for their turn to display treasures. 

I haven't had much of a desire or ability to go treasure hunting over the past couple of months...been kinda preoccupied with having a baby. :) My fear of walls that are empty was temporarily replaced by my fear of corners that were not! Thanks to a severe nesting instinct during the last few weeks leading up to my scheduled c-section, my mind and time were pretty much focused on preparing the house for the baby to come home. My goal was to eliminate all the corners of clutter that had been accumulating over the summer.

Tucked between piles of last season's clothing (that actually got put away before I snagged a picture of the embarrasing disaster)...

...stacks of paperwork...

...boxes and bags of books, workbooks, and schooling supplies...

...corners of vases...

...and mountains of toys and games...

...I slowly uncovered various treasures that I had collected over the summer but had not yet displayed or put to use. Motivated more by my extreme urge to nest than my bare-wall-phobia, I got busy swinging the hammer and finally covered up some of my patiently waiting blank wall space.

First I contemplated where to hang this:

 I framed this bird's nest greeting card (found in Maine) in a simple skinny black frame from my box of yard-sale and/or previously used frames I keep stashed in my basement.

I originally thought I'd somehow display it near this yard sale bird art in my family room:

See the scary bare wall space to the right of that picture? It's been haunting me for almost 2 years.
Then I considered where to hang this silhouette, mentioned in a previous post:

 I originally thought I'd set this aside for about a year until baby #3 is old enough to have her first silhouette done so I could arrange it with those of my first two girls. But I just couldn't wait that long to put it out on display.

So I considered putting both the bird's nest and children silhouette together somewhere instead, at least for now. On the living room wall adjacent to the bird print was still an option, but I really prefer to keep with mostly brown frames in that room instead of bringing in more black.

As I looked around the house for other options, I realized I had 3 nails on a blank wall in my bedroom. Many months ago I'd taken down a set of prints I didn't like anymore but never put anything else up. That frighteningly blank wall is across the room from our doorway so its what you see when you glance in. I walked over with both frames and figured I'd throw them up on the outer-two nails just for the heck of it to see how they looked. Although they are not the same width, they do happen to be the same height, so it could work but they needed something else between them. Then I remembered another treasure I had that just might do the trick - a little vintage black and cream purse I had picked up at a yard-sale or Sally's years ago. I've used it a few times as my "little black dress accessory", but I've always wanted to display it somehow when its not in use because I think its so pretty. So I hung the little purse on the middle nail and found myself loving the final ensemble:

Hmmm...I just might be on to something...My bedroom has been long overdue for a facelift so maybe I should head in the direction of a new black & white/cream color scheme??? Which brings me to the next black and white additions to my bedroom...these three hooks:

I originally purchased these at Marshalls about a year and a half ago with the intent to hang them behind my front door as coat hooks once I eventually repainted. And that's exactly what I did. The first two went up fairly easy but after three or four attempts to hang the 3rd one level and equally spaced with the other two, I had to give up. For some reason "measure twice, drill once" didn't work so well for me. I'd screwed so many holes in the wall that there was no way it would work unless I moved them all slightly higher or lower, and that wasn't going to happen! So for months I intended to take the other two down and replace them with another plaque full of hooks I had in order to hide all those holes. Meanwhile the third hook that wasn't in use got hidden in a clutter pile.

Uncovering that third hook during my nesting rampage reminded me that I need to make that switcharoo. (And when you're nesting, these things suddenly become urgent priorities!) I still wanted to use the three hooks somewhere because I really liked them so I figured I'd make use of them in our bedroom. Our "master bedroom" is the size of a postage stamp so we don't have the luxury of a chair or valet stand to throw clothes on. We just will never be the kind of people that immediately put worn but clean clothes back in the closet or drawers. It's so stupid - what does it take, 30 seconds to put something away? No, we'd rather just toss the clothes somewhere (usually on top of my basket of clothes that need ironing) so that 2 weeks later when I can't stand the insane pile anymore, I spend what feels like an entire evening finally putting them all away, annoyed with the wrinkles. Are we the only ones with this nasty habit??

So this time I measured about five times before hanging all three hooks to the left side of another large scary bare wall in our bedroom...immediately adjacent to the closet door. :)

Its illogical, I know. If I can drape a pair of pants over a hook right next to the closet door, I might as well open the closet and hang them on a hanger, right? No, no, that would make too much sense be too hard. Hey, maybe when I raise my arms to hang something on the hooks right next to the closet door I'll decide to go the extra two feet and 15 seconds to hang it inside the closet instead. And the hooks are so pretty, I won't want to completely cover them up...Yeah, we'll see. :)

Here are the hooks I replaced the black ones with behind the front door:

I've had these hooks for a long time. I got them for free as merchandise I "earned" from hosting an At Home America party many years ago. The plaque was originally black & I'd painted it a green to match my kitchen at the time where it hung before we moved. That shade of green doesn't exactly match where they are hanging eventual re-paint project.

Is there such a thing as too many jean jackets? Not when they all came from the Salvation Army...J. Crew, Gap, etc.

Another little treasure I uncovered as I eliminated piles was a little vintage piece of feathered bird art I got during my Maine getaway with hubby. I didn't exactly cover up scary bare wall space with it, but I hung her above her "sister" in this corner:

So on to another little stack of treasures I unburied from below a large pile of paperwork - a set of flowering herb plates found at a yard sale, as previously posted here. I bought them with the intent to hang them in my dining room, and that's what I did. There were two sections of bare wall in my dining room on either side of our built-ins, but they were small enough not to be scary. They certainly didn't need to be covered, they were just an opportunity for the right these plates. :)

I opted to display only 3 of the 4, leaving the purple chives out. Here they are on the wall to the left of the built-ins:

I also added a few treasures to the wall above my chest and mirror in the front un-named room. When I originally blogged about this furniture against that wall I predicted that it was just a matter of time before I put something above and/or around the mirror. A couple months ago I found this "Home Sweet Home" piece at my all-time-favorite Bernat Mill Antiques:

I love how it combines embroidery, cross stitch and French knots it such subtle neutral tones on a linen background. I ended up placing it above the mirror:

Eeek! The mitten-scarf-hat-sweatshirt basket is overflowing!

I also fiddled around with where to hang the type-set letters I also snagged on our Maine getaway. I ended up resting them on top of the mirror:

Lastly, I uncovered this tacky earing holder I'd gotten at a yard sale to eliminate some of my jewelry clutter. I just cleaned it up and filled it up with earings. I tried to pry off the gold cat with no luck. Oh well. For 10 cents, function overrules beauty on this one:

(To be in full disclosure, no I don't have time to put together long posts like this these days. I completed 90% of this post before baby was born. Just trying to publish before they are too old.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thank you WHO?

Growing up, my family was never really big on holiday traditions. Not that holidays were not special, we just didn't have anything that we did every year that had to be a certain way...with one exception - our Thanksgiving posterboard. This was my dad's doing. He'd go to the store every year and buy the big piece of fresh white posterboard. We'd break out the markers (I'm not sure why we always used scented ones...funny how the sense of smell lingers in the memory) and we'd all write out and/or draw pictures of all the things we were thankful for that year. We've been doing this for as long as I can remember and I think my dad has them all saved still.

On the poster, my parents always put each other, each of us kids, the Bible and Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. As we got older, my sister and I included the names of our boyfriends. My brother Steve began to add politically controversial remarks just to get a rise out of us. Now the grandkids scrawl on the poster as well.

It is fun and funny to go back and look at previous years' posterboards. Last year I hosted Thanksgiving so I kept the posterboard. I just took it out and can't help but smile at my brother Dave's attempt to draw a skin graft, thankful for his new job where he grows them in a lab. And sure enough, Steve was thankful that Spain proved Anarchy works. My oldest daughter placed smiley faces with stick arms and legs all over the poster, presumably our family members. My mom drew a pretty little sketch of the yard and pond behind their house. I was thankful for my blue-eyed beauties.

We were very skimpy with our poster content last year.
 This year, I decided it was time to establish a similar tradition for my own little family but with a twist, inspired by this idea I saw in Better Homes & Gardens Magazine:

I decided we would make a Thanksgiving Tree and each day we'd each write something we are thankful to God for on a leaf and attach it to the tree. I looked no further than the middle of our yard after a really windy day to pick up the perfect branch that had fallen out of the trees. Then I looked around the house for a place to prop it up and distplay it. I happened to have a fishing basket sitting on a rocking chair in our front entry room (because I haven't found a better place to display or use for it yet) and I stuck the branch inside of it, leaning it against the back of the chair. It works:

The BH&G website does provide a downloadable maple leaf template to copy and cut (warning, you need to be a member to access it). However, the girls and I had been collecting leaves lately for a leaf identification project for school... I just traced the shapes of a Maple, Burr Oak and Elm leaf on construction paper and cut them out. That took me at least a few days to cut out enough of these (I haven't attempted nursing and cutting projects at the same time yet!):

Then I used a star-shaped scrapbooking hole-puncher on each leaf and dug out my twine, intending to tie them onto the branches. It turns out all the little branches were perfect to just hang the leaves on, with no need to continue using twine yet. If we run out of new little branches to hang them on, then we'll use twine to attach them to the middle of branches.

The girls have to find the perfect branch for each leaf.

Our Thanksgiving Tree after a few days.

Every day my kids look forward to putting what they are thankful for on a leaf and hanging it up. When friends and family are over, we ask if they'd like to put a leaf on the tree. Every day my oldest daughter tells me how great the tree looks and how much she loves to do this activity. It just got me thinking how it is so easy to think of things we are thankful for but it can be just as easy to get wrapped up in what we are thankful for, or our traditions, and not stop to think more about WHO we are thankful TO.  Due to Facebook culture, we are so quick to communicate when we "Like" something. But this is not to be our "I like..." tree and this holiday is not "Likesgiving." The point is not to think of or list all the things we like. It's to focus on who provides the things we like. Who makes everything we like possible? It is impossible to truly celebrate Thanksgiving or to be thankful for anything at all if there is no recipient of our thanks. WHO is the object of your thanksgiving this year?

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." - Psalm 118:1  This is a verse my oldest recently memorized as part of her AWANA program at church.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." - James 1:17  I often bring up this verse in conversation with my kids or as I pray out loud with them so they are constantly reminded of where every single thing they like and are thankful for comes from.

It looks like this will be the first year in a long time that my whole family will not be doing our traditional Thanksgiving posterboard. It just happens to work out that three of us four siblings have lunch plans with the in-laws or significant other's family. I'm not sure if my dad will bother with the poster for just my mom, him and my "little" brother. I'm sure they will add some leaves to our tree though when the three of them come over for muffins and coffee Thanksgiving morning.

I plan on making the most AMAZING pumpkin muffin recipe. Imagine the most moist pumpkin muffins ever, surprisingly filled with a sweet cream cheese mixture that bakes up like cheesecake and then covered in crunchy cinnamon crumb topping. They are heaven. I clipped this recipe so long ago that I have no idea what magazine it came from so I cannot give credit where it is due. But I've held on to it in my clipped recipe binder and thanks to my handy dandy scanner, I am still able to share the picture and recipe:

Is that pumpkin splatter on the recipe??  :)
I am thankful to God for pumpkin muffins...and lots of other things. HE is the object of my Thanksgiving this year, and every year. He created, sustains, and is in control of everything. All that I have comes from Him. All that I am is because of Him.

"O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker." Psalm 95:1-6

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Problem with Grace

I recently experienced a mother load of grace. Without getting into too much detail, basically I messed up and the result was a big charge. I took full responsibility for my mistake and planned to beg the debtor to reduce or eliminate those charges, even though I was willing to pay them in full if I had to. How I would do that is a mystery considering my income these days is pretty much a joke. And this charge was not one I was not comfortable asking my hubby to blow his hard-earned money on. In fact, I was afraid to even tell him about the entire incident at first for fear of what he would say. Even though "his" money is really our money and he agreed "we" were responsibility to settle this debt, I was already busy brainstorming what I could personally do to earn enough money to pay for my mistake. He was so gracious to me about the whole thing. Never once did he reprimand me for negligence. He was ready to have words with the debtor on my behalf. But I was too proud and was determined I would find a way to pay this myself.

Then another party who knew about my mistake told me they would take care of it for me even if the debtor demanded payment in full.  Oh, I felt sick to my stomach. Especially if the debtor did not drop any charges, I could in no way accept this gift of grace. No way was an innocent party going to take a fall for my mistake. Not a chance. I'd think of something crafty and maybe open an Etsy shop? Attempt to monetize my blog? Expand my Melaleuca empire? I wasn't sure.

It turns out that my begging for mercy from the debtor resulted in them dropping the charges by more than 75%. This made me so happy. I had been praying for this and God answered my prayer. So shouldn't I be thrilled that I have an offer to "take care of" the remaining 25%? What is my problem with this offer of grace? Simple: my pride.  I'm too proud to take this help that I don't deserve. But it got me thinking...Why hasn't my pride gotten in the way of accepting God's grace? I have been so, so, so, blessed to have been taught about and accepted God's forgiveness of (payment for) my sin debt from a very young age. It's a free gift of grace to me and I have had no problem taking it. I don't recall ever feeling like I've had to earn or work to earn God's love or forgiveness. Jesus paid it all so I don't have to. But if my sin debt is eternally greater than this financial debt, why do I have an easier time accepting Jesus' payment for my sin than this money? Something is seriously wrong with this picture. Do I take God's grace for granted? Or do I take my sin debt too lightly? Apparently its been a lot of both.

I'm still wrestling with whether God wants me to swallow my pride and accept the financial gift of grace (which is easier than figuring out how to pay it myself but requires humility far beyond my comfort level) or if He is teaching me a hard lesson in personal responsibility. But after thinking and praying about all of this for a few weeks, two things I am sure of: I have deeper understanding of just how big and awful my sin debt is and I have a greater appreciation for my sinless Savior who paid lovingly paid my debt for me. I'm reminded again of my Easter post.  

God's grace really is a beautiful treasure. And Jesus makes it available to all, including you.  Do you know Him? Do you accept His grace by faith? Or does your pride get in the way too?

He Paid A Debt He Did Not Owe
He paid a debt He did not owe;
I owed a debt I could not pay;
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
And, now, I sing a brand new song,
“Amazing Grace.”
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

He paid that debt at Calvary.
He cleansed my soul and set me free.
I'm glad that Jesus did all my sins erase.
I, now, can sing a brand new song,
“Amazing Grace.”
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

One day He's coming back for me
To live with Him eternally.
Won't it be glory to see Him on that day!
I, then, will sing a brand new song,
“Amazing Grace.”
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.
Yes, Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

Ellis J. Crum

Monday, November 14, 2011

Coincidence or Godincidence?

I had almost forgotten how much time in a day (and night) goes to feeding and changing a newborn! So these days I'm really trying harder than ever to multi-task. What that really means is, I'm learning all sorts of new things I can do while nursing.  WARNING...TMI ahead. :) I've discovered I can nurse a baby in one arm while with the other arm/hand...
  • ...wipe a toddler's bum...and then even wash that hand while still nursing. (Yes, C.S.M., me too!)
  • a kid ride a scooter.
  • ...unload the dishwasher.
  • ...Facebook, of course!
  • ...research the internet for lesson planning.
Now if only I could nurse a baby and type at the same time, then maybe I could finish a few of my many half started (pre-baby) blog posts!

I've also been very intentional about using that time I should be sitting still to read my Bible and Bible study notes. Then there are those nights when Little Missy decides its a good time to stay awake for 45 minutes - or 2 hours - at a time. So especially during those quiet middle-of-the-night awake "opportunities," my new goal is to spend that time in prayer. And to help me not fall asleep I decided to read some of my prayers by using the book "Praying the Scriptures for your Children" by Jodie Berndt.

The book is divided into sections based on categories such as your child's Faith, Character, Safety, Relationships, and Future. Each chapter discusses a more specific prayer topic such as Salvation, to Love God's Word, for a Servant's Heart, for Wisdom & Discernment, etc.  At the end of each chapter there are a number of prayers based directly on verses relating to that chapter's specific topic. Any pronouns in the verses are exchanged for a blank line and the intention is to read the prayer-verses and insert your child's name in the blanks as a prayer for them. I have used the book at various times with my first two children but have never finished the book.

Well this evening was the first time I opened the book in quite a long while. Rather than go back to the beginning I decided to just pick up where I left off previously and start adding in my third child, reading each prayer-verse three times - once for each girl.

I could not believe what I opened up to!!! Look at what happens to be my bookmark. Then look at the paragraph heading for the first paragraph at the top of the page. Unbeknownst to me, my third child's name has been there right there in the middle of that book where I last left off, just waiting to be inserted into the blank lines in the verses at the end of these chapters. If nothing else confirms the name we chose for for girl #3, this does!

Sorry, this is really the best my camera can focus that close up...grrr...Thank you God that I have a camera. Grrr...  :)
Coincidence? I think not! God is in the details of our lives. He uses interesting methods to get our attention and let us know he cares about the little things as much as the big things.  So the end of the chapter I read this evening brought me to these verses (among others) that I prayed for her:

Heavenly Father...

Show Avery Joy that she is fearfully and wonderfully made, and that your works are wonderful. Teach her that she is precious in your sight, and that you love her. Psalm 139:14; Isaiah 43:4

Let the light of your face shine upon Avery Joy. Fill her heart with joy, and let her lie down and sleep in peace. Psalm 4:6-8

Amen to that! Please God!! Please!! Let her lie down and sleep in peace for at least 5 straight hours, although 8 would really be nice!

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