And Fall Begins….

Fall has always been my favorite time of year.  It represents the excitement of school starting, the anticipation of the holiday season {which we almost always host}, the entrance of cooler weather {finally!} and the general feeling of starting anew.

Not to mention the pumpkin carving, hay rides, Halloween parties, family gatherings, pumpkin flavored everythings….etc.

And the past few years, Fall has also been my downfall.

For some reason, Fall judges me.  She wonders why I haven’t put curtains up on all of my windows yet {hey, at least the kitchen has some now!!}.  Fall persuades us year after year to throw a crazy-scary Halloween party.  She screams at me to try every recipe in my Southern Living Magazine, and to transform myself into Martha Stewart in order to host the perfect Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house.  Fall taunts me with her Pinterest Boards: flaunting beautiful seasonal mantles, whimsical door wreathes and cozy sewing tutorials.  Fall pressures me into starting projects that I can’t possibly hope to finish before She ends, and continues to stress me out throughout her entirety.

And for whatever reason, I love Fall for doing this to me.  Maybe it’s because I work well under pressure….she pressures me to finish everything before the end of the year.  She is always on top of me…pushing me to learn new things, try new recipes, get out of my comfort zone. I love that she brings out my nesting tendencies, and when its ALL finally finished {just in the nick of time!}…she whispers to me that I need deserve that Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.

And for all of this….Fall is my favorite time of year.

Easter Bunny Bowling

Well, aren’t I the crafty one lately!!  I told you I have been working on lots of things….  I think it must be my daily schedule.  I seem to be more on track lately and better able to manage my time (which gives me more ME TIME!). You know that we have put ourselves on a budget, but did you know we are also on a diet?  I’ll have to post more about that another time (just know we have lost almost 10 pounds each within the last month!!).  Because of these two factors, I have been searching for some creative, cheap Easter basket stuffers.  I didn’t want to fill the girls’ baskets with tons of candy and junk, and didn’t want to spend a ton on little Easter-themed junk either.  So what did I do?  I turned to Pinterest, of course!

I found a free pattern for these cute little guys on etsy….free! courtesy of The Long Thread .  Hers were solid colors with patterned ear-insides.  But I had some beautiful spring scraps that I decided to use instead.

And I had the hardest time finding a hard wooden ball to serve as the bowling ball.  I finally found one at A.C. Moore….but it’s actually a doll head, and a little flat on one side.  So I plan on sanding it down a little more so it rolls better, and then painting it brown and modge podging something cute on….TBD.  I just have to find a naptime when both girls are down to break out the paint and glue!

I chose six fabrics, but made sure that they were grouped in pairs that matched, because I wanted the ears to coordinate with the bodies.

If you try this project, here are a couple of hints: Although I loved the darker, busier patterns (my reds!)….it’s much harder to see the embroidered faces because of this.  However, the lighter fabrics made the dark embroidery floss show through….so make sure to trim if you use lighter fabric.  I had planned to add a little something for a tail, but I forgot…so let me know if you try this and add one-I’d love to see your ideas!  Also, I did use a 1/2 cup of rice like the directions stated, but I filled the bunnies up with a little more stuffing than she prescribed….to about an inch from the bottom.  And finally, I don’t really like my ears.  I was worried about them being too short, so I was stingy on the seams….when actually the opposite happened and I think they are a little long (they have a hard time standing up!).  So feel free to extend their seam allowance a little (maybe to 1/2″)…and maybe your bunnies’ ears will be perkier!

Here’s the direct link to the pattern

I’m linkin’ up this week…and I have some new linky parties so be sure to check them out for other Spring inspiration!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Top of the…uh….evenin’ to ya!  I had every intention of writing this post this morning, and then life happened!  We aren’t really celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this year, but if I had like three extra hands and about 6 more hours to each day….we totally would have!!

But alas, Pinterest has made me jealous yet again of those out there who apparently do have a longer day than I do!  Check out what could have been….

Had I made cake pops…

Ambrosia

 Had I decorated my door…

Tatertots and Jello 

Had I dressed the baby…

The Adventures of the Stepanoffs

Had I not broken my sewing machine this morning….

 Inhabitots

Had I been a crafty mama with my kids…

B. Inspired Mama 

Had I used a little more toilet paper….

 Moments of Mommyhood

Had I gone to the gym….

Holy Taco (FYI: I don’t condone this site…I was just trying to be funny while still giving them photo credit)

So, I admit I wasn’t super mom this year.  However, I did have a little leprechan magic happen in our kitchen when Jayna’s milk and eggs magically turned green!  She was so suprised!

Have a great St. Patty’s Day!

A Little Bit of Love

Usually, Valentine’s Day isn’t so big of a deal in our house.  I’d like to think that we are pretty good at showing our love on a daily basis….so usually Dave and I just go out to dinner…maybe a glass of wine.  This year, though, thanks to Pinterest and a big sale at Michael’s, I had lots of inspiration!!

 Found this idea here…took a toilet paper roll and used it to stamp hearts on butcher paper to serve as wrapping paper.

Found this idea on pinterest, and did it myself….but her idea was a little more sophisticated!

I’m a firm believer in telling my family I love them multiple times a day, but heart-shaped peppermint patties also are an excellent way to spread some Valentine’s Day cheer!

Inspiration and recipe found from here …however I modified it a little and took my own pics!

Here’s how I made them:

P.S.- You’ll also need a couple of unsweetened baking squares of chocolate.

Combine 3oz of cream cheese, 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract and 1/2 tsp of red food coloring until creamy.  Slowly add between 2 and 2 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar….I added it 1/2 cup at a time to prevent the powder from going everywhere!  Add the sugar until the consistency of the mixture is slightly crumbly.

Scoop out the crumbles and form them all into a ball…they will stick together once you start working it with your hands…..then flatten it into about 1/2 inch thick disk.  Use a cookie cutter to cut out your patties.

Place your patties (separated by parchment paper to prevent sticking) in an airtight container and stick them in the fridge for about 1/2 hour to firm up.  Jayna and I used this time to clean up a little!

Then, cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  I originally used cookie racks and foil-both of which FAILED (so disregard that aspect of the following pictures!).  Just use a cookie sheet (or other flat surface that will fit in your fridge) and parchment paper for easy removal.

Dump half a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and a couple of unsweetened chocolate baking squares into a deep, microwaveable container.  I used a big coffee mug.

Microwave the chocolate for about 30 seconds and stir to mix until all the chocolate is melted.  If it’s too thick….add a little vegetable oil.  It should drip off of a spoon pretty easily.

Here comes the messy part….

Use a spoon and tongs to completely cover each patty, gently tapping the tongs against the side of the mug to get any excess chocolate off of the patty.  Carefully place the patty onto the parchment papered cookie sheet.  Use a toothpick to spread chocolate over any exposed parts of the peppermint patty.  If you’d like, use a shaker and sprinkles to decorate your peppermint patties.

When your cookie sheet is filled, stick it in the fridge to help the chocolate solidify.  Then store your patties in an airtight container with parchment paper in between each layer.  Keep them in the fridge (although, if your house is like mine….they won’t last too long!!)

If you know of a better way to get the chocolate to coat them, PLEASE leave me a comment.  These were super easy to make, but I’ll admit the chocolate coating was messy and a bit annoying.  But then I tasted them, and it made it all worth the trouble!!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Linkin’ up here this week!

Happy 3rd Birthday Jayna!

Dear Jayna,

It is hard to believe that you are three years old today!  I remember when you were born…you were such an easy baby!  You smiled as soon as you were born, and Oh! Your hair!  What beautiful hair you have always had!

You were so good to us newbie parents, sleeping through the night and eating well!  I had people stop me all the time out in public to compliment you.  You were the friendliest, most beautiful baby they had ever seen! (See? It wasn’t just me who thought so!)

And you have always been such a little ham!  You remind me of Loo Loo when she was little.  You love making faces, being silly and looking at yourself in the mirror!

Jayna, you already have such a kind soul.  You make friends very easily, and have always been good at sharing your toys.  You can be very sensitive though….you sometime will get upset just because someone else is crying!  We still have to monitor what you see on TV very closely, because if a character is upset-you start crying too!  And what a little tattle-tale you can be!  You come home from school with stories of the “bad boys.”  I know exactly who sat in time out, who didn’t share, and who had accidents in school each day!

I am so proud of your short little life already!  You never cease to amaze me with your smart-alec comments that most would only think could come out of a 12 year old’s mouth!  You are so smart, and are so independent….insisting on doing everything yourself.  I can’t believe that not only do you know all of your letters, sounds and numbers…you can also copy almost all of the letters of the alphabet and write your name!  And aren’t you a child of the times…you can work my smartphone better than I can!!  And although we certainly have our “toddler” moments, you are truly a joy to be around (most of the time!).

I love how kind you are to your little sister….you always have her needs in mind and are quick to babysit her or help feed her.  You are so gentle (most of the time) and so affectionate with her!  I hope you two are always best friends and continue to help and love each other unconditionally.

Jayna, your love for God makes my soul so glad….although you may not know what it means completely, your heart is so pure!  I love and admire how you crave knowledge about God and how appreciative you are already for all He has given you!  I’m always so touched when I catch you praying with Elly, or when I see you helping a friend or showing your gratitude.

Long story short, I can’t believe you are already three years old….and I can’t believe you are only three years old!  It has been such fun watching you grow so far, and I can’t wait to continue watching you turn into a kind, smart, beautiful little girl!  Happy Birthday Buggy!  I love you!

Love, Mommy

Christmas Wrap Up

Merry Christmas!  I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday weekend.  Our celebrations continue this weekend as we ring in the new year at not one, not two, but three New Year’s Eve Parties!

But first, I wanted to check in with you and tell you a little about our Christmas.  The weekend began on Thursday afternoon, when Mom Mom and GP arrived from up north.  After Amelia’s 4 month check-up, we met them in town and had a quick lunch before heading back to the house for naps.  On Friday, Dave and GP did a little fishing on our pond, while us girls started on the baking.  First up, Christmas cookies!

Obviously, Jayna did the majority of spoon licking and decorating.  Eat at your own risk, Santa!!  Next up was a gingerbread house.  But not only do we not like gingerbread, we also shutter at the thought of conformity! =)  We opted to try a rice krispy treat house instead.  Adorned with mint M&M’s, sixlets and Mike & Ike’s stuck on the roof with melted chocolate, we discovered that rice krispies work just as well!  The only disappointment was that our graham cracker roof just wouldn’t stay pitched…..so we opted for The Flintstone’s model instead!

After the girls went to bed that night, Loo Loo, Mom Mom and I stayed up late tidying up and finishing last-minute Christmas decor.

That’s right…you see more recycled pumpkins, and the two Christmas trees were handmade by yours truly, but I got the ideas here and here.  Like I’ve said before, I’m not a very creative person, but I’m an excellent copycat!!

Saturday morning, 9am.  Our doorbell rings with our first of many guests for our first annual Christmas Eve Brunch.  Growing up, my family went to a friend’s annual brunch to gather with friends, do crafts, and put in last-minute requests with Santa.  It’s one of my favorite Christmas memories, so we decided to duplicate it and start it as our own tradition this year.  We invited friends and family from our Sunday School class, as well as our neighborhood.  Although we anticipated mixed results being that it was Christmas Eve, we ended up with about 30 people coming for breakfast!  The kids decorated foam gingerbread children and decorated our felt Christmas tree, while the adults mingled around coffee and breakfast casseroles.  Around 10, the doorbell rang yet again, and Santa made a quick appearance for the children.  After he head back to the North Pole, families headed out to spend the days together and participate in their own Christmas traditions.

 Later that night, Sue Sue and Papaw joined us to fry a turkey for dinner and then we went to the early, kid-friendly church service. Our tradition on Christmas Eve is that the girls get to open one gift (from Ralph, our elf), a new pair of pajamas.

This year, Loo Loo must have thought the adults were going to feel left out, because she found us some new pajamas as well!

I won’t mention any names, but some of us were more comfortable in our footie pajamas than others!

Then, we all knocked off early…After all, everyone knows Santa can’t come until everyone is in bed!  The next morning, Jayna was up at the crack of dawn (to be expected), but was more interested in watching Little Einsteins than checking out what Santa had brought.  So we all took our time getting dressed and finally made it downstairs.  Jayna’s first reaction to the bean bag chair she had wanted soooo badly?  “It’s not purple!!”  We’ll be talking about being grateful next week!!  Nevertheless, the unwanted green color didn’t faze her…

And after opening an elephant shaped pillow and blanket (that matched Loo Loo’s), she was all set…no other presents necessary!

Jayna didn’t quite get the “open all of the presents” expectations.  She would open one, take it to her playroom, and we wouldn’t see her for a good ten minutes…..its like she wanted to enjoy just that gift for a little while before opening the next! We had to beg her  to finish opening so we could clean up and get started on fixing supper!

Even the panda slippers she received from Santa got a good ten minutes from Jayna (but she had to take off her footie pajamas in order to fully enjoy the pandas!).

It was a wonderful, laid back day…and the guys made Lowcountry Boil while the ladies drank coffee and nibbled on the ginormous fruit and cheese spread we had put out…not to mention the Overnight Coffee Crumble Cake I made (this recipe is a KEEPER!!!) Yum! Hope you enjoyed my quick synopsis of our weekend festivities….and thank you to our family afar for all of the lovely gifts!  Here’s a little sneak peek of something you will be getting in the next week or so!  Happy New Year!

Paper Mache NOEL

So you may have noticed the NOEL on my mantel.  I was feeling like my mantle needed a little something, and then I saw this on Pinterest.  Perfect!

Too bad I had  no time to actually follow those oh-so crafty directions.  But….I do have a crafty sister.  And I do have newspaper.  And flour.  Hmmm….paper mache anyone?  Here’s what Loo did:

First (I forgot to take a picture, sorry!) she mixed together approximately 1 cup of flour and 2 cups of water.  Tear your newspaper into one inch strips, about three inches long.

Dip each strip into the flour mixture and slide it over the side of the bowl to get off any excess liquid.  Wrap it tightly around each letter, overlapping each strip of paper a little bit.

Feel free to kind of paint the flour mixture over the finished letters, especially around the corners.

Someday, when we have some more time and inspiration (and hopefully before next Christmas!), we’ll end up putting some sort of color or texture on them.

Stay tuned for an updated picture once we finish it!

Christmas Yarn Ball Wreath

It’s been a hand-made Christmas this year for me….well, decoration-wise anyway.  With a new house comes a craving for new decor.  So, inspired by Pinterest and my fellow bloggers (and a little bit of Martha Stewart!), I set out to create.  One project was a new wreath for our porch door.  I made a burlap fall wreath, but obviously it was time to replace that.  I found this cute little number on Pinterest, and decided to try to replicate it.

Here’s how I did it:

I bought red and white yarn, and a spool of jute (twine), and a wreath form.  You’ll also need thick ribbon, scissors and hot glue.  I cut each page of the newspaper into quarters, and then crumpled them into balls.

I decided that the base of my wreath was going to be red, so I tied a knot around the wreath form at the seam and slowly wound the yarn around it, being careful not to overlap and to keep the yarn tight.

When I reached the end, I just tucked the yarn under….not very sturdy, but I’d be glueing on my ribbon holder on top, so it’s ok.

I secured one end of my ribbon where I had tucked the end of the yarn, using hot glue.  Do not secure the other end of the ribbon yet.

Then, with a second piece of ribbon, I formed a loop and hot glued it on top of the yarn and the already glued down part of the ribbon.

Then I took the first ribbon and wrapped it over the second loop and secured with hot glue.

Moving on to the yarn balls.  Just wrap them tightly around the newspaper balls.  You want the newspaper to be completely covered, and its ok that the balls are slightly different sizes.  I made about 22 of the red and white, and 8 of the twine.  Even though technically I am finished with my wreath, I still may go back and add some more balls to the sides and top to give it some more depth and bulk.  You can always add more, so I’d start with just 20 or so.  Find something good on TV because these take awhile!

Jayna decided she wanted to help wrap some balls too…..I’m thinking her fine motor skills aren’t quite there yet, what do you think?

But she was ok, she settled for naming her new baby “Yarnie” and toting it aroudn with Pink Baby.

Ready to glue on!

Start slowly, and layer as you go.  Remember that there is newspaper in the middle, so the balls can kind of be squished to fit where you need them.

Tada!  Great, bright addition to our living room!  And because I only used red, white and natural colors…I feel like I can leave it up through the winter…not so Christmas-y!

See on the left hand side where you can still see some of the red yarned wreath form?  That’s where I will probably end up adding a few more….you know, in my spare time!

I’m linking up here this week!

Letters to Santa

You know the Christmas Season is officially here when Santa makes appearances all over town.  He has been spotted downtown, riding around neighborhoods on a fire truck, and at various school and church breakfasts each week.  Last weekend, he spent the morning at our church, eating with Jayna’s friends and schoolmates.  It was a lovely little potluck spread, complete with little foam, sticker and coloring activities for the kids, balloon figures, and of course, Mr. Claus himself.

“Dear Santa, I have been a very good girl this year.  Please bring me a bean bag chair!  Thank you! Love, Jayna”

When it was finally their turn to talk to Santa, they could not contain their excitement!  Amelia was a bit overwhelmed with the crowds, and Jayna could not stand still to save her life!

But overall, we ended up getting some great quality time with Santa.  Jayna sat and talked with him for a few minutes, and then Amelia joined her on his lap and we managed to get a pretty good picture!

The Living Christmas Story

Every year our church begins the holiday season by giving a gift to our whole community.  They close the perimeter of the church for three nights, and transform the parking lot there into a living Bethlehem….what it would have looked like the night of Jesus’ birth.  The cast members walk around and engage with each other, completely in character….ignoring the thousands of cars that slowly pass through over the three nights.  Our town is practically shut down as traffic is re-routed to accomodate the 2 hour long line of cars waiting to drive through and catch a glimpse of the newborn king. Each year we participate….usually as villagers or shephards wandering through the marketplace or keeping watch over the live sheep.  But this year was special.  We happened to be one of the few families in the church who had an infant….so we were honored to play Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in the Nativity Scene.

Don’t worry, Jayna wasn’t left out…she still got to be a villager with Sue Sue!  For those of you who couldn’t see it in person, here’s some shoddy pictures I was able to grab while riding through during a break.  Sorry they aren’t better!

Jayna sees the bright North Star (aka a ginormous spotlight), calling all of the Lowcountry to come see the story of Baby Jesus’ birth.

 The census-takers count all who enter the town of Bethlehem.

Roman Guards stand at the gates to Bethlehem.

Gabriel tells young Mary that she will be expecting a baby, and to name him Jesus.

King Herrod hearing the rumor about the Savior being born.

Joseph and pregnant Mary rest on the side of the road.

An angel tells the Good News to shephards watching their flock.

The blacksmith and his apprentices in Bethlehem.

Women at the well gossip about a tiny king that was reportedly born in a stable nearby.

Families mend the nets and attempt to sell fish.

Calling villagers into the temple.

Women and children barter for rugs, fruit, bread and baskets in the marketplace….while trying to avoid the Roman Guards.

The Innkeeper and his wife turn villagers away from their inn…there is no room.

Mary and Joseph admire Baby Jesus, as the three kings offer gifts as the shephards and livestock look on.

The excited chatter of the village fades away as the cars drive past the Nativity and into the darkness.  To the left is a silent, lit cross.

And to the right…an empty tomb….reminding us that Christ’s birth was just the beginning of the story.

Merry CHRISTmas!