Last Minute Gift Guide

Dear Reader,

In running errands this morning, it is entirely clear to me that Christmas is almost here!  I hope that your preparations are coming along well.  I want to offer a few last minute gift ideas that have come in handy for me this year.

1. An amaryllis.  My husband picked up one for me this year, and I love watching it bloom.  I would highly recommend an amaryllis over paperwhites (paperwhites are too fragrant for me.)
2. A small box of chocolates.  If possible, purchasing chocolates from a local candy shop seems even more special.  (Source: Kilwins)
3. Comfort and Joy Tea.  Any Republic of Tea blends are a treat.  (Source: Republic of Teas)
4. Christmas blocks.  Let's be honest, blocks are always a good idea!  (Source: Uncle Goose)
5. Thermos mug.  This is my husband's favorite (a gift received from my sister-in-law), and a great option for commuters!  (Source: Target)
6. The Piano Guys: A Family Christmas.  (Source: Target)

Happy Shopping!

Simple Gift Wrap Plan

Dear Reader,

With the timing of Thanksgiving, I think Christmas may sneak up on me this year.  I enjoy buying gifts and wrapping them, and so I have started on both - perhaps a bit on the early side.  This year I decided on a simple plan: craft polka dot gift wrap (which I found at Target for $1 per roll), red and white baker's twine (a dollar bin find also at Target) and hand-stamped names directly on the wrapping paper.

Here's how this plan came together:

Fun, right?!  I am hoping that these next weeks will be a time for joy and wonder and a time to enjoy Christmastime moments with our family and friends.  And may that be true for you as well, friends!

Thanksgiving Tree

Dear Reader,

It has been too long!  I hope you all have enjoyed the season of falling leaves, football games, and warm cider.  We are gearing up for Thanksgiving and looking forward to the opportunity to celebrate with my parents and my husband's parents.

Last year my husband and I put together a Thanksgiving tree with my son.  Nothing fancy about this project, but worth mentioning as a great activity to enjoy together.  I took a small branch from our yard and placed it in a vase.  We cut out colored construction paper leaves, punched them and added a piece of yarn to tie the leaves to the branch.  On the leaves we wrote about people for whom we are grateful and other gifts in our lives.

This could also be an enjoyable activity to complete with Thanksgiving guests.  I am grateful for you, dear readers and friends, and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Shim Sunburst Mirror

Dear Reader,

I was late to the party in spending much time on Pinterest.  Reason: I knew that I would be very tempted to attempt many (maybe too many!) DIYs.  This past spring I came across a shim mirror tutorial (one of many great sunburst tutorials) which looked feasible, and I showed it to my husband.  He thought that he would enjoy creating a mirror like this.  We gathered the supplies together: shims, plywood circle, wood glue, clear varnish, mirror, liquid nails, and picture hanging wire and hooks.  My husband took it from there.

Drum roll, please...

LOVE the mirror, and thankful to my husband for taking on this DIY.

Have a great weekend, friends!

DIY Burlap Fall Wreath

Dear Reader,

Happy Friday!  I am glad to report that our first grader is having a great first week of school after our family enjoyed a really refreshing Labor Day weekend.  Fun!  I took a few minutes this week to craft a fall wreath for our front door.  This is a quick project for a classic fall look.

Here is what I used: a straw wreath, burlap ribbon, orange raffia, and white pumpkin decorations. My hot glue gun got plenty of use with this project!

Step 1: Wrap the wreath with the burlap ribbon, securing it to the straw wreath with hot glue.

Step 2: Tie or glue raffia to a section of the wreath.

Step 3: Glue pumpkins to the raffia section.

Easy, right?!  I really like the simplicity of this wreath though.  And now to add some mums by the front door, and we'll be set to welcome fall!

I am linking up with Tatertots and Jello and the Link Party Palooza and hoping that you all have a wonderful weekend!

Hello final week of summer!

Dear Reader,

At our house we are entering our last week of summer vacation.  School starts next week for our first grader; a new project begins construction for my husband, and so the good routines of our life return.  I am excited to start a new pace, to get organized, and to work on some new projects.  I am also sad to see the summer come to a close.  I savored and enjoyed this time far more than I even anticipated.

This week I am saying hello to some of the highlights from our final stretch of summer...

Hello Super Why! at the baseball game!

Hello giraffes (and getting to feed them!)

Hello water park fun!

Hello children's museum visit!

Hello final week of summer!  We hope to fit in some more great moments in the week ahead.  Looking forward to being more present here in September.

Happy Monday!  Linking up with Lisa Leonard today!

Hello August!

Dear Reader,

August has arrived after filling the month of July with some exceptional memories and highlights.  I started summer wondering if we had planned enough activities to keep life interesting and fun.  We did.  We are now trying to squeeze in the remaining "hope to do this summer" things before school resumes.

Here are a few enjoyable moments from our July:

Hello six year old!  My dear son just keeps growing, 
and we loved celebrating him a few times over!

Hello family reunion!  A tradition for many, many years and a delight to gather!

Hello zoo class!  My son recently went to a water wonders day camp at our local zoo.  
The sting rays are one of his favorites.

Hello bike riding outside!

I hope this summer is turning out so well for you!  What has been the highlight so far?

Have a great week, friends!  Linking up with Lisa Leonard today.

Hello June!

Dear Reader,

We are into summer and all of the fullness and fun that comes with this season. I am savoring this time with my children; they are at such enjoyable ages. My husband is quite busy at work these days, so we especially appreciate our time as a family when we are able to relax together. Here are a few snapshots from the last few weeks.

Hello baby birds in our backyard!

Hello getaway to the beach!

Hello Michigan strawberries for jam and pie!

Hello brother and sister Lego time!

I hope that your week includes some of the refreshing and relaxing moments that summer seems to provide! I am linking up with Lisa Leonard today.

Treasury: Aqua

After completing the coral treasury, I decided to work on an aqua treasury as these two colors seem so well paired!  Enjoy!

Baby Shower in a Bag

Dear Reader,

Happy Friday!  The days seem very full at our house right now - a combination of end of the year school activities, a busy work schedule for my dear husband, and a little girl who delights in spending every possible minute outside!   I found a bit of time this week to be creative with a purpose in mind.

I prepared a baby shower in a bag for an upcoming silent auction at our church.  I picked out a large baby gift bag and filled it with items to host a baby shower.  Since I have hosted a number of showers over the years, I have some "formula" items for each shower.  Here's what I included in the bag: invitations, luncheon plates, cake plates, napkins, plastic silverware, cups, and decorations (banner, tissue poms, etc.)

I made the decorations, but otherwise I just attempted to coordinate items that I found at a few stores.  I really enjoy prepping for parties, and hopefully this bag will be put to good use by someone who could use the extra spare minutes of having some of the planning already completed.  To me, it's a win-win.

I hope you enjoy the long weekend ahead!  I'm linking up with Tatertots and Jello!


Treasury: Coral

Happy (how is it already?) Friday!  Time seems to go so quickly these days.  Earlier this week I put together a coral treasury on Etsy, and I like how it came together.

Have a lovely weekend, friends!

DIY Frame Clipboard

Dear Reader,

This time of year seems filled with opportunities to give gifts - teacher appreciation, graduations, Mother's Day, Father's Day, wedding showers, etc.  I always like coming up with something handmade that I could include as a present.  This is my latest idea - a frame/clipboard for photos, stationary, art prints, notepads, etc.

This is an easy DIY.  Here's what I did:

1. Gather materials: a wooden board (I used an 8" x 8" board previously painted - an extra from another project), scrapbook paper, sealer (in this project I used Mod Podge Hard Coat), foam brush, bulldog clip, nail/screw and hammer/screwdriver.

2. Paint edges of the board.  Sand if desired.  (Again, my board was already painted.)

3. Apply a thin coat of craft glue or Mod Podge to the board, and then glue on trimmed scrapbook paper.  I used a scrapbook page with a weathered wood appearance, which has a fun effect!  Make certain to smooth out the surface for any bubbles.

4. Apply two coats of Mod Podge or another sealer to the surface of the attached scrapbook paper.

5. Attach a bulldog clip using desired hardware.  This board could be hung for displaying photos, but would also look great leaning against a wall or on an easel.

The possibilities to customize this project are endless.  I find it so enjoyable to come up with projects like these that are practical and hopefully a bit unique - probably because those are my go-to qualities for giving gifts!  Please let me know if I left out any details that would be helpful if you want to try this out!  Enjoy!

I am linking up with Sugar and Dots today!

Free Teacher Appreciation Printable

Dear Reader,

I have a boy in kindergarten this year, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for his teacher.  She manages a class of 26 kids with energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and caring. Teacher Appreciation Week begins Monday, May 6, and I am hoping to find a few ways to express my gratitude for all that she does for my son and for all of his classmates.

I have prepared this free printable from a wonderful Albert Einstein quote.  I am hoping to include this within a small gift for my son's teacher.  This printable would also be a great option to include in/as a card at the end of a school year.  Enjoy!

Treasury: Lemon Yellow

Spring has arrived, and the sunshine prompted me to put together this bright treasury with lovely yellows.  Enjoy!

less perfection, more grace

Dear Reader,

I have noticed an interesting and refreshing trend in posts from a number of my favorite blog writers lately.  These writers have taken up the topic of perfectionism and blogging/using other social media and the tendency to compare one's self to others.  These writers have shared quite honestly their own limitations and what trade-offs they have made to accomplish their work.  I am thrilled for these posts and their candor for a few reasons.

Stopping comparisons.  Reading about others' experiences is refreshing, intriguing, and inspiring.  I sometimes find it difficult though not to think on my experiences relative to the others, and that step is problematic.  When I begin comparing myself or situations in my life to someone else, no one wins.  Instead I hope that by reading, I celebrate a success or support someone who is challenged and leave behind the reflection on how our experiences stack up.

Vulnerability.  I have loved these posts for the honesty behind them.  Keeping it real is humbling.  Being authentic about my own limitations makes me vulnerable.  I hope that what I write is real and true.  And I hope that what I read from others reflects their experiences as they truly are occurring.  I struggle with balancing how much to share through social media, and it is helpful to know that others question this as well.

Grace. I need reminders to give grace and receive it for myself.  Rather than being judgmental, I want to choose acceptance.  Rather than choosing cynicism, I want to choose positive thoughts and hopes.  Rather than choosing to be discouraged, I want to choose to be inspired.

In writing blog posts (and reading plenty) for the past few years, I have been so encouraged by some of the common threads from my experience to theirs.  I also have found some significant - sometimes challenging, sometimes comforting - words shared through this media.  And so these recent posts have once again sparked my interest in blogging and reassured me that this art, this work, this enjoyment of sharing online has purpose and has authenticity.

Treasury: Come sail away...

I started this treasury by searching items with the color navy, which seems to be my go-to color this spring.  And I found out that there are many exceptional nautical themed items on Etsy.  This treasury features a few of them. Enjoy!

Catching up: spring break + a week

Dear Reader,

I hope you are enjoying the signs of spring by you.  The sun peeked out yesterday, and I so appreciated it, especially after spotting some snow flurries earlier in the day!  Somehow snowflakes in April are just not welcome!

My son had spring break during the week following Easter, and we spent much of that week in the suburbs of Chicago staying with my parents.  We made sure to cover some of my boy's favorites - Legoland, Rainforest Cafe, Morton Arboretum - and managed a few other fun spots as well. My husband drove down for the weekend, and we loved having him join in!

Checking out the Star Wars Legos - perfect special display for this boy!

And this little girl loved the elephant!
This past week I caught up on life around here.  Legoland reignited my son's love of building with Legos, and so our tables often have a few spare parts!  Storing Legos is a constant work in progress.  My sweet girl and I had the chance meet up with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece over cider and donuts (yum!)  And I even delivered a few sets of blocks to Minty Keen.  Always fun to stop in there!

So, here starts a new week.  Happy Monday, friends!  Thanks for reading!  I am linking up with Life Lately.

Bread and Wine

Dear Reader,

I recently finished reading Shauna Niequist's new book Bread and Wine.  If one word would sum up my experience reading (and re-reading) Shauna's first two books and now Bread and Wine as well, the word would be resonate.  I found myself identifying with her experiences in a way that left me with some thought-provoking questions and comfort in sensing some shared thoughts.

Bread and Wine provides a unique structure in coupling Shauna's personal experiences with tried and true recipes for her readers (and perhaps fellow foodies!) to enjoy.  I appreciated the stories and then loved the conclusion of each chapter, which tempted me to pick up the book and head to the kitchen.  I have prepared a few of the recipes, including Annette's enchiladas and the breakfast cookies - both wonderfully successful on first trial.

Even more, I found myself challenged to be more willing to reach out and be more hospitable in our home.  With small children I am often wondering how to balance the goal of reaching out to our guests while caring for our kids' needs.  I think Shauna's book was an important reminder of the purpose of hosting, "But it isn't about perfection, and it isn't about performance.  You'll miss the richest moments in life - the sacred moments when we feel God's grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love - if you're too scared or too ashamed to open the door."  Indeed.

I rarely post quotes or share about books that I am reading, but this blog is meant to share my sources of inspiration, and Shauna Niequist continues to provide a rich source of inspiration for me.  And the recipes are fabulous (and often very healthy as well.)

The timing of this book and this post seemed very appropriate as we are in this Holy Week where we reflect on Christ's body and blood and the gift of His sacrifice for us.  The last two chapters of the book were my favorites, and I will end this post by quoting Shauna's words, "Every time we eat, every time we gather, every time the table is filled: He's here. He's here, and he is good."

Please note:  I received an advanced copy of the book, but received no compensation for this review.  The words and thoughts above are my own.  I look forward to sharing this book with friends and family and using these recipes in the months to come.

Treasury: Think Spring

On this very snowy March day in Michigan, I need some hope that spring will arrive.  Here are some lovely finds on Etsy that improve my mood and encourage my spring fever.  Happy Tuesday, friends!

On the Menu: Orange Jicama Salad

Dear Reader,

I hope your week is going well.  The sunshine is out by us today, and I could not be more grateful to see it!  I reach a point in winter where comfort food begins to lose any appeal, and I can't wait for the season of salads and fresh fruits and vegetables from the market. 

This recipe is from my dear aunt, and she adapted it from a recipe in one of Jane Brody's cookbooks.  If you have never tried jicama before, I would encourage you to sample it!  I think it pairs nicely with the citrus and offers a fresh option for this time of year.  Enjoy!

Button Hair Clips

Dear Reader,

All has been silent on the blog for more than a week as our family recovered from the stomach flu.  Each of us took our turn, and we are so grateful to be on the other side of that.  No fun.

I have had in mind a little project for a few weeks.  I read Jami Nato's blog and have wanted to try out her fabulous idea for button hair clips.  I finally put some together this week and couldn't be happier with the result.  Cute.  Colorful.  Inexpensive.  What is not to like?!!

supplies: buttons, hair clips, and super glue

glue.  drying.

done.  pillow box for a few sets.  ribbon + a clip for decoration.

These will certainly come in handy for Easter baskets, birthday gift extra somethings, and big sister gifts when friends have new babies.  And, of course, I have a little girl whose hair would benefit from a hair clip now and then.

I'm linking up with Tatertots and Jello.  Hope your weekend is a great one (and germ free) - that's what I'm hoping for also!

DIY Spring Moss Wreath

Dear Reader,

This is the longest part of winter in my opinion.  Once we reach mid-February, I become quite done with the weather and begin the transition to spring decor in our home even if the snow and bare trees and chilly temps suggest that spring is nowhere near!

An evergreen wreath still hung on our front door a week ago, and so I decided it was time to work on a new one.  I thought a moss wreath would provide an earthy and fresh spring look, and so I picked up supplies to craft one:

I used a grapevine wreath and hot glued bright green Spanish moss onto the wreath, leaving some exposed vine pieces.  Warning: Attaching the moss is a messy process! Then I used some spring embellishments (a nest and paper mâché bird) to provide the finishing touches.  Here is how it turned out:

This is an easy and inexpensive wreath that would be a fun addition to a front door (in my case) or to a mantel, entryway, etc. also.

I am linking up with Tatertots and Jello and Or so she says... and Osie Moats, and I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Or so she says

Treasury: Lime

After a long break, here is my latest treasury on Etsy.  Lime seemed a nice choice with the freshness and brightness of this color (and perhaps my anxiousness that spring will arrive soon!)  Enjoy!

Free Printable for Valentine's Day

Dear Reader,

I am becoming more of a fan of Valentine's Day.  For a while I considered it too much of a greeting card holiday, but I have come to the opinion that any holiday that encourages us to reach out in love to one another should be embraced.

I have put together my first printable (sized for an 8X10 frame) for you to download.  I find myself returning to this verse often in thinking about how I spend my day and how I live out life with others (not perfectly by any means, but with the intention of love.)

I hope you have a wonderful February 14!

Winter ONEderland Party

Dear Reader,

As I mentioned in my last post, our daughter turned one a few days after Christmas.  We celebrated her birthday over the weekend between Christmas and New Years.  We are going to keep tweaking the best timing for her birthday party because it seemed quite busy (maybe a little too full!) to go right from Christmas to birthday party prep!

Given the timing of her first birthday, I decided to use a winter ONEderland theme for the party.  Here are a few of my favorite details:

coffee filter wreath using this tutorial

paper snowflakes

streamers on a hoop (which my dear husband put together)

bucket of funny glasses for a little photo booth

In the end, the best part of the celebration was watching our sweet girl take it all in!  Somehow she really seemed to grasp that it was all about her, and she loved every minute of it!