Thursday, December 19, 2013

Craft Room To The Rescue!

My craft room looks like a winter storm has blown through it. Rolls of wrapping paper, piles of presents waiting to be wrapped, rolls of ribbon everywhere. You would think that a room this messy must be producing some great cards this month, right?

Er, ah, well, as to that...nope!

But the craft room is getting a lot of use in other ways.

When I began decorating the family room with a "modern rustic" design in mind (don't you just love those made-up designer terms?), I turned to my craft room for a little assistance.

That mantle needed a little something extra. I know! More glitter pinecones!

Scotch brand quick dry adhesive and SU Dazzling Diamonds to the rescue!

And when my little man, a.k.a. "The Great Procrastinator", needed help with the diorama for his book report, he knew right where to go to find the best card stock and adhesives for his project!

Mom's craft room to the rescue!

The craft room will help me once again as I put the finishing touches on the pipe cleaner penguin project for the classroom party tomorrow. I'm thinking diecut snowflakes, baker's twine, and glitter may be just the thing the project needs. Good thing I have a fully stocked craft room to help me!

Tell your craft room getting a lot of action this month?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Something Old, Something New For The Holidays

Holiday decorating in a new home takes a little finesse.

What worked in one house might not necessarily work in the next house.

I found that to be the case when I began decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving. It went something like this:

1. Pull out plastic toters filled with holiday decorations.

2. Remove decorations and try to find a place where they will look like they belong in the house.

3. Quickly realize that half of it does not belong here.

4. Pack it back in toters and think of a new plan.

Here is the new plan:

I convinced my husband that his grandmother's antique mirror really did belong over the fireplace mantle. So he got out his tools and special drills and hangers and voila! We now have a beautiful vintage mirror hanging in its rightful place. I really love how the age of the mirror reflects the age of the home.

But the shiny pretty mirror looked sad on its own. It needed shiny pretty things on the mantle to go with it.

A trip to Target was definitely on the agenda. I found some lovely "vintage-looking" mercury glass candle holders for cheap. I've priced these in other stores and boutiques, and couldn't believe the great price! In the dark of winter, I need candles and white and sparkly things to brighten up the long dark nights.

I pulled out some greenery, but it needed something extra.

That's when I got my craft on.

I had been collecting pretty pinecones from our yard that week, letting them dry on top of the dryer in the laundry room. But what to do with them?

And then my mind wandered to those tried and true girl scout crafts from girlhood days.

Yes! Simple glue and glitter!

I spent a good hour carefully brushing glue on the tips, coating with glitter, shaking off glitter, and pretty much getting glue and glitter all over myself and the kitchen. But the results are definitely worth it!

I told my mom about my craft project, and do you know what she said?

"You know, another thing to try is putting the pinecones in a big cardboard box, spraying them with adhesive, shaking glitter into the box, and lightly coating them. That way, you don't get glue and glitter everywhere."


Well, I guess you could do that....if you wanted the job to be easy and mess free. :)

Moms really do know best.

After the mantle was finished, I knew that I wanted a skinny tree to go next to the fireplace...something that would bring light to the dark corner, but not take up too much space. I found a cheap tree at Walmart, added the burlap and hydrangeas from my stash, and kept it simple.

Something old and something new for the new old house.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Crafts for Kids

December has been a crazy, hectic month with my little man. Choir concerts, piano lessons, Sunday School pageants, oral book reports. And oh, I forgot that I volunteered to be the travelling art gallery presenter for all fourth grade classrooms. And oh, I forgot that I volunteered for the field trip to the art museum this week. And oh, I forgot that I volunteered to help with the holiday classroom party on Friday.

When I volunteered for all of these activities back in September, it felt like December was, gosh, months away! Well, ding dong! December is here!

Holiday parties are not too difficult. The school handles the snack, and the room moms provide the games, prizes, and crafts. I am on craft duty.

After spending too long on Pinterest (guilty!), I think I found a fun craft that will appeal to the girls and boys of a pre-adolescent fourth grade classroom.

First of all, it's a penguin. What girls do not like cute cuddly penguins?

Second, the Pittsburgh hockey team is the Penguins, and this is a big hockey town. What boy will not like a sporty mascot?

I found this amazing tutorial on how to make a pipe cleaner penguin on youtube. Thank you, MinivanMom, whoever you are! Aren't crafters just the most wonderful people? They are so generous with their cleverness. Bless you, crafty people!

Here's a link:

And here's the finished product:

Awww! He's so cute! Unlike some crafts that are just stressful and un-fun, this one was fairly easy and fun to do. Considering that he's less than two inches tall, I think I'll give the kids the choice to either leave him alone or turn him into an ornament.

I've seen a few cute ideas that turn clear plastic cups into "snowglobes". This may work. Or I may just diecut some snowflakes onto cardstock, string with a ribbon, attach penguin and turn into an ornament. Any other ideas out there?

I've been working on a few more crafty projects this month, so stop back to the cafe for another crafty cup soon!

Blessings on your Christmas season, cafe friends!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Warm Thoughts

Snow on the ground. A chill in the air. Yep! Winter is here!

Our first winter in our new/old house taught us one thing...we will need new windows one day! One day when we are not paying college tuition, that is. In the meantime, we're finding ways to stay warm and cozy on those cold nights when the winter winds whip through the air.

Warm socks to keep our toes-zen from getting frozen! Target is selling a brand called Alaska Knits made of Merino wool blends, and they are great! I reach for them every morning, and sometimes before bed, too!

Warm beds! I've never been a big fan of flannel sheets. Over time they will pill, and they restrict movement when you are rolling over in bed. My husband found the perfect solution. Microfleece sheets from Martha Stewart at Macy's! It's like a warm fleece blanket and sheet in one. They are soft and stretchy and oh so warm and cozy. Warning: these sheets will make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning!

When I have to leave my warm cozy bed and venture out into the stores for the dreaded shopping, I always reward myself with a peppermint mocha latte. When I am indoors and trying to stay warm, I drink Spiced Chai tea from Bigelow.

A cup of tea, a fire in the fireplace, and a great smelling candle like this new holiday scent from NEST.

Thinking warm thoughts of all of you, my cafe friends! Blessings!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bah Humbug

So, it appears that November 24th gave way to December 6th, with a lot of uneventful days in between.

Days when I was not crafting.

Days without a computer to blog or post or share.

Days yelling at the television screen during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Days making tasteless, dry turkey.

Days bickering with my husband.

Days disappointing friends and family left and right.

Days doing all kinds of stuff I do not want to do because I cannot do the things I do want to do.

Bah humbug.

I walked around the other day with a song stuck in my head. Does that ever happen to you? It was "Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing." Not even a Christmas carol! Nope. Just a hymn with this line of conviction that brings me to tears every time I sing it:

"Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Lord, let your goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to thee."

Strange song to be singing during the start of the advent season.

And then I went to bible study that night, and guess what song we sang at our opening?

Yeah, God wanted me to hear that one.

During this "blessed" season of high stress in our family (did I mention my husband works in the corporate offices of a major retailer?), when my husband is working twelve and  fourteen and sometimes even twenty-four hour days six days a week, I find myself becoming "prone to wander".

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love."

My mind starts making lists of all the things that need to be done. Purchase birthday presents. Purchase Christmas presents. Pull out the Christmas decorations. Put away the autumn decorations. Find a tree. Decorate a tree. School field trip. School party. Book a flight. Piano lessons. School practice. School concert. Sunday School practice. Sunday School pageant.

Prone to wander.

Can I just go to sleep, Lord, and wake up on January 6th?

"Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it.
Seal it for your courts above."

And still, I feel it in my heart. The whisper that says "Your King is coming!"

Come, Lord Jesus!

And Jesus does come, breaking through my daily clutter, giving me the grace I need.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Packages and Parcels

It was one of those mornings where we were loaded with packages and parcels to take to church.

First, there were the shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child that were due today!

The church youth group was also having a bake sale today, and I had offered to bring cookies.

It's a good thing I had all of my sons attending service this morning. I needed all of the extra hands I could get!

I made a batch of Peppermint Mocha cookies with candy cane sprinkles. Yum! I made a tag to match the holiday paper plates using some stamps and dies from Lawn Fawn (Tag You're It).

I also made a batch of Pumpkin Spice cookies (cream cheese frosting makes these extra special!).

I think these tags and ribbons (amuse) make a cute presentation, don't you?

I've been using this tag set from Lawn Fawn a lot lately. I'm so glad I got it! It will definitely come in handy during the festive days ahead.

Blessings, cafe friends!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What I've Been Reading This Month

I've been doing a lot of reading this month. In my reading, a theme began to emerge in every book I picked up.

Conviction. Namely, the conviction of the Holy Spirit. This topic presented itself often in the study by Priscilla Shirer.

Priscilla had us digging into our very human tendency to look for idols, those things that seem innocent on the surface but can quickly take the place of God.

And then I was reading this biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who was convicted by the Holy Spirit to confront the evil that was unfolding in his home country.

Bonhoeffer coined the term "cheap grace" to describe those individuals who want "forgiveness without repentance, absolution without confession, grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ."

I've had a crush on this dead theologian for the past year. I've been wondering "Where are the Bonhoeffer's of our day to speak this kind of truth?"

And then I read this book.

I think I found a modern day Bonhoeffer. Truly, the best book I read this year. Idleman explores the topic of being a fan of Jesus versus being a follower of Jesus.

To be honest, I think I was a fan of Jesus for most of my adult life. It wasn't until about ten years ago that I started really becoming a follower. I started making bible study a real priority in my life, and let me tell you, there is nothing like God's Word to help accomplish the work of the Holy Spirit to clean house. I started becoming really and truly convicted by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis.

In my fan days I read what I wanted, watched what I wanted, listened to what I wanted, ate what I wanted. I was in charge. Blissful ignorance! And then the Holy Spirit started convicting me. I was no longer the same.

I have a love/hate relationship with conviction. I cringe at those painful moments of conviction, but I'm also thankful that they point me to the cross. I'm trying to be more mindful of the things I do and don't do, the things I say and don't say. Not trying to be perfect, but trying to follow hard and fast after Jesus, to be "covered in the dust of the Rabbi".

 I have a long way to go.

I need something to read over the holiday season. Any recommendations?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mad About Plaid

Years ago, my husband and I purchased a home that was more than double the size of our tiny cottage. Needless to say, we had a lot of rooms to fill. Over the course of several months, we purchased furniture to fill our new living room, family room, and dining room. When the furniture was finally delivered, we looked around at our house and scratched our heads in wonder.

We had purchased a plaid sofa, plaid love seat, and plaid chair and ottoman for the living room. We had also purchased a plaid sofa, plaid love seat, and plaid chair and ottoman for the family room. Even the dining room chairs were covered in (you guessed it!) plaid.

I guess we went a little mad for plaid.

The truth is I still love plaid!

I picked up this amazing publication last month and have been enjoying it immensely. It is a British Country Living magazine filled with page after page of inspiration.

They had a feature on wool plaids, and I swear, I loved every room. Not surprising!

We're having new furniture delivered for our family room this Friday. I'm so excited! This time around, we are mixing solids, patterns and plaids together for a look that isn't so matchy-matchy. We're getting a big square ottoman in wool plaid that will serve as our footstool and coffee table combined.

I'm anxious to see how it will all look in the wood paneled family room.

In the meantime, I made a card with a plaid base.

{Today's Brew: Stamps an dies from WPlus9 design, card stock and inks from SU, plaid paper from October Afternoon, felt from PTI, scallop edge die from MFT, amuse heart twinkles, burlap}

Coffee mugs and warm houses filled with plaid.

Comfort and Joy!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Punch Needle November Project

I must confess, I collect needle art projects the same way I collect papers. And stamps. And dies.

Too often, I "collect" items for crafting, and then forget about actually doing the "crafting" part.

I've had this Brenda Gervais pattern for longer than I care to admit. I decided to pull it out and get started on it. No time like the present!

Punch needle is fun, and it is fast. Using a hollow needle and three strands of floss, the punch needle process makes short loops in the fabric, similar to the process of rug hooking. But because you are using a three-strand thickness and making loops, it uses a LOT of floss. I substituted Weeks Dye Works flosses for the Valdani flosses that the pattern called for, and had to pull together three different shades of navy just to fill in the night sky with the floss I had on hand.

I spent a Saturday punching this pattern while watching the Hallmark channel holiday movies. I've seen them all before, so I can listen and punch at the same time! (I'm still trying to decide which Debbie Macomber is my favorite. I think it's Trading Christmas, but I also love the Mrs. Miracle shows!)

I still need to "age" this pattern with some Distress spray. And then I'll need to make the angel head...and the wings...and the stand...and then put it all together.

Should we make a wager now to see if this one gets done before Christmas? ha ha ha!

The days are short and the nights are long. It is a great time to curl up on the couch with a needle art project and a holiday movie.

Tell me, are you making anything special for the holidays?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Card For November!

It has been two weeks now, and I am still without my computer. Weighing the pros and cons of a.) the cost of repair, b.) the cost of replacement, and c.) spending money on big ticket items before the holidays.

In the meantime, I am getting my emails and webtime from my Nook. Not the most convenient method, but better than nothing!

My oldest son has graciously allowed me to use his laptop. The problem? He does not have my camera's software on his computer.

Hmmm. How to upload photos?

That's when I came up with my Plan B.

I'll take photos with my cell phone, send them to my email address, retrieve them from my son's laptop, and save them to his desktop.

Whew. That's a lot of work!

And when I say "cell phone", I'm sure you are picturing some iphone or smart phone that takes amazing photos and can send them to facebook or instagram and such. Nope! We're talking a five year old flip phone with no keyboard, using the old hunt and peck method. It is laborious!

Anyhoo, now that you know my computer woes, I'm sure you'll forgive my infrequent blog posts, right?

On to today's creation!

I'm really loving this card for a few reasons.
1. A color palette outside of my comfort zone!
2. Awesome die cuts!
3. Interesting textures!

Here's a closer look:

I used some red Stickles and Liquid Pearls to add a little interest to the "branches".

What do you think?
{Today's Brew: Fresh Cut Florals stamp set (wplus9 design), modern wood mats stamp (PTI), happy die cut (PTI), sentiment (PTI), all other die cuts from wplus9 design, inks and card stock from SU, card stock base and button twine (PTI), Stickles, Liquid Pearls}

There are some ah-MAZ-ing creations at the wplus9 design blog right now using the new products from their Holiday Collection. You should check it out!

It's Peppermint Mocha Latte season, cafe friends! Comfort and Joy!

Monday, November 11, 2013

How Did November Happen?

I cannot believe that November is here already. I think the switch to daylight savings time kicked my butt this year! Waking up an hour earlier, feeling tired all day long, looking out the window before dinner and seeing nothing but pitch black. I've been cocooning indoors, wearing sweaters and cuddling under blankets...that sounds like a surefire recipe for nap time! zzzzz

Today, I got out the serious stuff and made a full pot of potent coffee! One scoop of Folgers mixed with one scoop of Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Spice.  Mmmm! Maybe now I can find some energy to get the laundry done!

But first, a little music to inspire me! I picked up this little unit last week at Target, and I really love it! A CD player with an AM/FM radio, alarm clock, and ipod compatible! It's super small and thin, and it barely takes up any room in my kitchen. Now I can listen to my collection of Christmas CDs while I do the laundry, or...

...maybe I'll just turn on the Hallmark channel and watch a Christmas movie. Just for a few minutes. I'll grab my cup of coffee, snuggle under a blanket, and...


Thursday, October 31, 2013

31 days: laptops and labradors

Thirty one days of blogging has been quite an undertaking! Apparently it was too much excitement for my laptop. The screen is sending out a blinking morse code distress signal. Sigh.

I have enjoyed sharing our home relocation experiences with you this month. I have loved your comments and insight and encouragement. Thank you!

It dawned on us not too long ago that our dog, maggie, has been with our family in all five of the houses we have lived in.

Here is what maggie has taught us along the way.

*A dog considers home to be wherever the pack that it loves lives.

*A comfy bed is essential.

*Do not mess with meal times and eat snacks whenever they are offered.

*Eat snacks when they are not offered, too...if you can get away with it.

*Age gracefully.

*Surround yourself with the people that love you, and they will forgive you for those times when you are not aging gracefully.

*Sit in the sunshine, listen to the birds, and enjoy the fresh air.

*Have a little fun every day.

*Squirrels are always the enemy.

*Arthritis stinks.

*Naps are always a good idea.

*Give a little love all day, and it will come back to you.

*Surprise people with your sassiness.

Thanks for visiting the café!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

31 days: neighborhoods vs. subdivisions

We used to live in a subdivision, but now we live in a neighborhood.
I am sure you are wondering...what is the difference?
For starters, let us look at the names. A neighborhood has at its root the word "neighbor". A subdivision? Sub divided.
We were a collection of houses that were divided. We talk to those people, but not those people. We socialize with them, but not with them. Those kids talk to us, those kids do not.
We drove cars into garages and sat on decks and never interacted with each other except in superficial ways.
It was maddening.
On our first scouting trip to the new city, my husband's boss and his wife drove us through the subdivisions near their end of town.
"How are your neighbors?"I asked.
"Well, we don't talk to them, so we don't really know them."
Later that night, I told my husband , "Honey, i cannot live like that again."
He understood.
We now live in a neighborhood, where people are neighborly. Everyone is invited, everyone is welcome, everyone talks to each other.
The way it should be.
Let's face it, we have too many things in this modern age that divide us. Politics. Denomination. Cell phones. Texting. Computers. Even the new designs of our homes can separate us from our neighbors, and even from the people living under our roof.
It is time to be intentional with our relationships now more than ever.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer felt it before the war that would make him a martyr.
"A new kind of monasticism," he called it.
A restoration.
We need to claim victory over subdivision and love our neighbors in real and tangible ways.
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Won't you be my neighbor?

Family life today on Moody radio had  a wonderful program on this topic this morning! You can visit the website and look for more  info on neighborhood cafes and this exciting ministry from Amy Lively!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

31 Days: When The Move Is Not A Happy One

I remember that night so clearly. It was about a year after our move to Indiana, and I was completely broken. I was sick (again) from chronic Lyme Disease, and I was more than a little depressed about where God had planted me.

I was sitting in the basement, sobbing to my husband, while he held me in his arms and I told him how much I hated it there.

I had big hopes and dreams for that move. I had done my research. I'd picked a charming little small town with quaint shops and good schools and a big library. If it was so perfect, then why didn't I fit there?

One year later, and I was still friendless. Oh sure, some neighbors would wave, but I wasn't included in their social circle. The church was big, but a year later and we had connected with no one there in a meaningful way.

The boys were doing fine. They were going to school and making friends. In time, my husband and I were becoming more and more reclusive. We were going through the motions on a daily basis.

My sweet husband offered to let me move back home to live with my mom. He would start looking for a different job, anything to make me happy, to make us happy.

It was so tempting.

I really wanted to throw in the towel, abandon ship and shout out from my deck into the neighborhood and surrounding town "YOU WIN! I SURRENDER!"

But I didn't.

I knew that the timing was not right, and that my plan was not coinciding with God's plan for my life.

What do you do when the move is not what you expected?

Here are a few things we did to make small changes for the better:

* I got a part-time job working in retail. Getting out of the house and socializing with other people at this particular women's clothing store was really important for me. I found fellowship there, in the work place, when I had found it no where else.

*We changed churches. We had been going to a large church that was a twenty to thirty minute drive from our house, and it left us feeling flat. We tried Sunday school, Bible studies, choir, book club, and none of it clicked for us. It wasn't until we discovered a small church plant down the road from us that we finally felt some connection. And even that did not come easy. We worked at it for three years before it felt like home.

*God gave us a new ministry focus by allowing us to open our home to our sons' friends on a regular basis. Our house became the spot for late night video games and cookouts and movie nights, and we really came to love all of the young men and women that our sons brought through the door.

*We began attending mid-week family nights at our church, and it was something we looked forward to every week. Ed served on the church council and I took part in women's ministry.

*I visited home and family whenever I could. It's important to get back to the people who know you and love you anyway. :)

*I continued to do the things I loved, whether it was alone or with one or more of my sons. Sometimes, I could even get my boys to go junk shopping with me if I bribed them with lunch. I went on a lot of girl's days out when I was the only girl in attendance. A Starbucks coffee, a trip to Barnes and Noble, a drive to the needle art shop in town. I would take a class, go on a home tour, visit a local festival. I became pretty accustomed to flying solo.

*I walked...a lot. On those mornings when it felt like I would lose it if I couldn't talk to someone who just completely "got" me, I would lace up my Avias and hit the trail for a few miles, spending time with God.

I will not lie. It was a tough five years. Sometimes, home relocation just does not gel for all parties included. Military families have a system in place for their transient way of life. But corporate relocations do not come with support systems. You live and you learn and you grow with every move. What works for one move may not work for another. Some towns and neighborhoods are just friendlier and more welcoming than others.

Today, we feel welcomed, included, and settled. We are counting our blessings in the good times and the bad, thankful for the journey.

Monday, October 28, 2013

31 Days: The Unmodeled Kitchen Part Two

If you happen to be looking for an older home with character (like we were), then you better be prepared for finding the quirky character in unexpected places.  Our kitchen is a big room full of quirky curiosities.

Hidden cutting boards...

Hidden pastry boards...

And more hidden cutting boards...

Need a rolling pin to go with all of those cutting boards? There's a vintage one, but it's screwed into the beams at the ceiling...

I do love my lazy Susan...

It's near the stove, where there is the best drawer for utensils...

...and pull out drawers for the pots and pans.

Did I mention that I have a Modern Maid?

Sadly, she doesn't do any of the cooking or cleaning! I do love cooking with gas, though, and I am making the best eggs of my adult life thanks to this old gas range!

Near the stove, there is a built-in trivet.

Yes, I like chickens. You got a problem with that? Take it up with the rooster!

My "modern" stove would not be complete without my "modern" double wall ovens...

They have a great feature...a hood vent!

My husband is waiting for the day when he comes home from work to find me in a skirt, blouse, heels, and apron, cooking him veal and checking the internal cooking temperature with this handy feature...

Sorry, honey! Don't hold your breath waiting for that one to happen!

My old appliances work great. Seriously, why would I replace them? The kitchen does have a new refrigerator and dishwasher, and they work great, too!

Next to the fridge is this handy home office area...

It is clutter central, all the time...a great place to put your purse and your keys when you are bringing in the groceries. I will get it day.

Will we make changes in the future? Probably. My husband would like to remove this built-in china cabinet to improve the sight line in the kitchen.

I would love to get some dark soapstone counter tops one day. Maybe a tiled backsplash would be nice. I also think I'd like to remove the black hole of the microwave over the stove and install a pretty hood vent instead.

Small changes, not a gut job. Because if I took the guts out of this kitchen, I would lose the quirky things that I've come to love, too. No thanks. I'm keeping this kitchen's quirky guts and its quirky heart, too.

Thanks for visiting the cafe today!