Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Scrappy Banner for Christmas

Quite literally, scrappy. Made from a felted sweater, fabric scraps, and a piece of quilt binding just long enough for three letters.

Cozy...isn't it?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tips for Hosting a Gingerbread House Decorating Party

For the past few years we've gathered up a handful of friends for a party that's become a very anticipated event. We love our annual gingerbread house decorating party! I thought I'd share some tips for you so you might be inspired to have a little sweet fun for your family and friends.
We keep the guest list small so that we can have the party right here in our home, nice and cozy! Sunday afternoons work really well for us, after everyone's nap.

The Houses
The first year, I had no idea what I was doing, but I was really excited and had big plans. My husband made a template out of cardstock for me, two house shaped pieces, two roof pieces, and two wall pieces. I made six houses from homemade dough. They were beautiful, and the whole house smelled amazing. Would I do this again? Only if I had to make one or two. I can't even tell you how much dough I made. I think I started with a triple recipe and when that didn't make enough houses, I just kept making triple recipes until I got enough houses. It was crazy; I'm talking whole bottles of molasses and jars of cinnamon.
The following year, I just bought the kits. The next couple of years, I found them for two dollars a pop after Christmas. This year, we are making graham cracker houses. The kits are nothing to write home about; they don't taste great (especially if you get them cheap and wait a year to use them, gross), and sometimes they have sort of a cheesy design. So I figured we might as well go the cheaper route. Everyone's bringing a box of graham crackers, and we're planning to get a few of us together early to put them together so they can dry in time to decorate.
Cut squares of cardboard and cover with foil to build the houses on. If you're using a kit, they usually include icing.

The Food
Anyone that knows me knows that parties include food. Every year I've made a couple pots of chili, some bread or salad, and it's self serve. One year I did white chicken chili, and this year I might add a veggie version. Someone usually brings some cheese or tortilla chips, and it's a hit with everyone. For dessert it's always cookies, set out with some adorable napkins. No need for plates or forks!

The Decorating
Every one brings a bag of candy to share. Our favorites are gumdrops and big red gum (for shutters). I make a bunch of icing to stick candy on with. You can buy plastic decorating bags (sometimes the kits include them), or you can just use little ziploc baggies and snip the ends. Put a decorator bag out for each child. I try to have the table ready before guests arrive with bowls for candy. A plastic tablecloth makes clean-up easy, and I usually put a runner of brown paper down the center, because it looks pretty. For the candy, I try to use lots of different sizes of bowls. I love the look of vintage stuff for this; muffin tins work well too. The mini ones are good for tiny candy, like red hots. A box of wet wipes are good to have at the ready. Snacking on candy is encouraged!

This has become a very dear tradition for us. Since we've started this little event, we've added to our families and now have even more little ones to join in on the fun!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Evils of Comparison

As mothers and homemakers, we are very familiar with juggling the balls and wearing the many hats we wear. Sometimes though, something can interrupt that delicate balance. I've had some days like that lately. The interruption for me came when one child was particularly disobedient and the whole day was a turmoil. Then, the following day was a turmoil. I should also add, that this came on the tail end of feeling guilty for things. Things like putting the baby in the play pen to try to get things done, letting my two year old watch Dora for the tenth time, serving another frozen meal. I was just feeling like a bad parent. Sound like a pity party? Yes, but I'm just being honest. Can I just say how incredibly hard it is to school your children with a two year old and a baby in the house? It is so hard. The thing is, I am good at doing the "suck it up and move on" when it comes to the hard things. That works for me. What was so different about this past week, was I spent the whole two terrible days comparing myself to everyone else. And then I realized; the interruption was not my children, it was my attitude.
I am certain that this comparison thing happens all the time with mothers because I've had these conversations before. I started thinking that it was time I got to the bottom of this problem I so often hear talked about. Why do I do this? Is it my pride? Is it selfishness? Discontentment? Is it, possibly, that I want more credit for what I do here?
I don't really know for sure. I do, however know the evils that ensue when I set out to compare myself to everyone else. When I have this attitude, it seems I have less grace for an unruly child. I seem to also be comparing him to Jimmy over there who never argues with his mother. Then again, his mother would never yell! See what I mean? Not a stitch of grace to be found. Comparing myself also completely distracts me from all the beauty there is to be found, even in the imperfect. I also believe that perhaps the most crippling result of this attitude is that it hurts relationships. Specifically, it alienates me from other women. I begin to think that Suzie over there is better than me, so I think I'll avoid her. This is not at all God's design for me, I know.
The reality is that we are all different. This also applies to our children. In a group of very well-behaved children, some are going to be a little more spunky; maybe a little more strong-willed. I have so often stacked my children up to other children; shame on me. The thing is, they are mine and I love them- flawed as they are. Again, my God has shown mercy and grace to me. How can I not show it to my family, myself, and others?
One thing I know, is that I will be trying harder to hold my tongue. I don't need to boast about how productive I am, or how brilliant my children are. My speech should be encouraging, healing, full of grace and truth. That is my goal.
So at the close of quite possibly the longest post ever, if you're still reading, I will say that I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter. It would be a good thing to see this monster coming and have a plan of attack.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hanging On to the Last Bit of Fall

After Halloween, I get so tempted to start playing all my favorite Christmas tunes. I love Christmas! But around here we're really trying to enjoy the last bit of fall before winter sets in.
My front porch is still saying "fall is here" thanks to this tutorial. I used fleece remnants for mine.

I'm thinking a white one would be beautiful for winter.

This favorite has made it's way back to our table. If you need more cooking inspiration, try my other all-time favorites.

Even though we haven't started decking the halls here, I've been thinking about the upcoming holiday for awhile. So, just for fun, I'll give you a peek into a few of the Christmas gifts I'll be working on soon. I've started on this for Jack. I'll be relying on my very talented hubby for these. Maggie will be getting one of these. I made a barn for my oldest last year, and it turned out so cute.

Hope you are enjoying fall in your home!