Saturday, December 31, 2011

My favorite books of 2011

I'm not much of a reader....but I really want to be.

I love a good story.

And I love getting completely lost in it. Sadly, other distractions like tv and the computer eat up most of my down time and that's something I'm trying to shift. Especially as I realize how much they drain me.

Anyway, this isn't a long list, but I did want to share with you some of my favorites from this past year. In no particular order...

~~at this point, you've probably read it, seen the movie or at least heard about it. It was wonderful. I couldn't put it down. Saw the movie twice and blubbered through it each time.

~~I would have never read this if Josh hadn't talked it up so much. His students at school were reading it and he got sucked in. In fact, knowing the premise wouldn't have made me want to read it either...doesn't sound like it's really up my ally but believe me when I tell you.... could. not. putitdown. I was riveted the entire time, on the edge of my seat, unable to go to sleep until I knew what happened next. Oh, and there's a love story that will leave you hanging on until the end. The movie comes out in a few months and was filmed here! I've become a little obsessed, but seriously, if you're looking for something you can't put down...this is your trilogy.

~~Ooh. This one is hard to describe. It seems that people either love or hate her writing style. I think it's absolutely delicious. She can pierce your heart with the most beautiful little wisps of a sentence...kinda like an intricate, ornate little dagger that can cut to the very core of you. I could have camped out and spent weeks contemplating each chapter, but the overall message was really simple....each day, each moment is laden with gifts from our Father to us. An outpouring of love, even in the most painful moments... and learning to see them (and count them) is key to seeing and relishing His heart for us. Does that do it justice, friends that have already read it? I will read this one again.

~~I read this in a women's bible study at church and got so much out of it. We also watched the videos of him preaching. I have loved Piper's books and sermons for a long time so his writing style was already familiar and also seemed like one of his easier reads. The questions were great and I walked away feeling like I had truly savored more of Jesus through the study. It has definitely helped me love Him more. :)

~~Honestly, I can't remember if I read this in 2010 or 2011, but either way, it's worth mentioning. This is officially the BEST series I have ever read. I mean it. Francine Rivers is a capturing author so I already loved her, but this! The main character genuinely made me want to love Jesus more, but in a subtle way I didn't notice at first because I was so caught up in this artfully crafted story. It almost felt like a fairy tale...but a real one. There are painful moments, overjoyed moments, angry moments, soft moments...she takes your heart on a wonderful roller coaster. This might be the perfect winter reading and I'm really tempted to read them again. Josh complained that he never got to spend any time with me because I was so caught up in these books. So maybe set some limits for yourself if you decide to read them, ok?

I am currently reading....

~~I'm so captivated by her, her life, her daughters, her heart...and mostly how God is working through her. I have already cried the ugly cry several times, smiled more than that and think about it constantly when I'm not reading it. She's a great writer, but the story He is writing is even more evident. Her blog is wonderful as well.

Organized Simplicity

~~Another book birthed from a fantastic blog. Tsh from Simple Mom has been one of my favorites for awhile so when I kept hearing about this book, it went on my Christmas list. Simplicity is something I crave, but I didn't expect it to go so deeply as I've found reading her book. I thought a lot about decluttering, living with less, etc but I hadn't thought about how it all ties in to what I believe is my life purpose and the purpose for our family. Lots of thinking in this ol' noggin.

So, what were your favorites this past year?

{Want to see more great book lists? Head over to The Nester.}

A Decidely Lovely Christmas (in pictures)

Welp. We did it. We made it through.

My brother got married.

{my sister, Doria, and me. best picture I had. SO sorry, Doria!}

We had a wonderful time with all of our family.

And then we did something we haven't done right after Christmas before. We left town.

My mom had rented a roomy 3 bedroom log cabin at a gorgeous resort in Virginia and invited us to go along. Because my siblings were working and my dad was hunting, it would just be us, my mom and my niece. We agreed to come for a couple of days and almost canceled several times out of sheer exhaustion, but it ended up being the best idea ever.

The last 30 mins of our drive we quickly realized that we were in horse farming country. Miles and miles of white fences surrounded the land and stunning houses on the farms.

The cabin was beautiful (looked to be brand new) and was nestled in the woods against a lake and surrounded by green horse pastures, stables, a general store, tons of amenities and rolling hills set against the mountains.


And though our surroundings were gorgeous, we mostly stayed in the cabin and enjoyed the wood burning fireplace (my absolute favorite part!), reading, movies, games, and just resting.

{2 books from my wish list that I've been really loving.}

Josh had a blast using his brand new pour over coffee stuff.

(Although there were more than a few Breaking Bad jokes about what he was actually going to use it for. No worries. We like to keep things around here legal.)

I won't go into it all, but basically, pour over coffee is a way of combining the exact right amount of coffee with the exact right amount of water at the exact right temperature and then poured over the grounds using the exact right speed and technique to extract the absolute best flavor from the coffee.

Yeah, it's science.
{I've accepted that he needs a nerd outlet.}

{See? Happy nerd.}

{Ok, maybe a happy wife too.}

Before we left, we took the kids to see the horses at the resort stables.

They loved it. And it made me go instantly back to my 9 yr old self who wanted to own a horse more than anything in all the world.

There were also a lot of chickens, hens, roosters, turkeys and a peacock to keep us on our toes.

{See the darker spot at the bottom of the wall?
Manny may have left his mark on the barn.}

What made it even more beautiful was that they had the stables all decorated for Christmas. I wish I had taken a picture of it at night. So, so pretty.

{The horses were extremely tame and gentle so we all had a great time feeding them straw and grass out of our hands.
And then used lots and lots of hand sanitizer.}

{This captures a little bit of the scenery. Be still, my heart.}

We came back rested and happy with talks of making it a tradition every year. There's something about being away and not feeling the need to constantly organize, clean and declutter. We did a lot of that before we left so when we got home, it wasn't in terrible shape.

I have a lot of new thoughts about simpler living, but I won't go into now. For now, I'll just keep breathing deeply.

Do you do anything that helps you recover from the Christmas craziness?

Well, I sure hope you are finding some time to rest here and there. Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Smile kids, we're giving away your toys!

Well, we got a good start. At first, I sat in the middle of the floor and just kinda stared at everything. I hadn't really thought through how I would do this. So I started where I pretty much always start....we threw everything in the middle of the floor.

I began sorting the toys into bins based on category. Toy Story toys, monster trucks/cars, duplex blocks, outdoor toys, dress up stuff, farm toys, tools/construction toys, toys too big for a bin, stuff we didn't know what to do with, etc... Oh, and I had a big trash bag handy that I managed to completely fill without the boys ever really seeing what I was doing. Thankfully, they never asked about it either.

Once everything was categorized we went into the living room and unloaded the big truck that was also filled with toys. THEN, we finally went through each category and I would tell the boys how many they could keep and the rest went into our giveaway bin.

I was really, really proud of the boys. We didn't have one fight about it. Once we got started, no one cried and they actually were really cheerful about giving their toys away to kids that may not have any. {I should throw in at this point that they have had a huge collection of GeoTrax in storage for awhile so this purge was, for them, mainly motivated by wanting to bring the GeoTrax back down.}

This is our first bin....

I will also say that it was somewhat hard for me to see all those toys go in the bin. I'm SO excited to see less in our house and to give to other families. I'm also passionate about teaching our kids to think for others and to have generous, giving hearts.....and that toys and possessions are not what satisfy us.

But... after seeing so many brand new toys (many that Josh and I bought them for our Disney trip this past summer) get tossed in the bin, I had to remind myself a few times why we were doing this.

This is where we ended up after several hours of work. Don't let the angle fool you...the basket and bin both hold a lot of stuff and the trash bag is full of stuffed animals. Whew!

We still have a little more to go and then we start on mine and Josh's room!

Now we just need to get these toys out of that spot by the door and into the hands of some folks who could use them. I'd call that a purging success. :)

If you've donated to families in need, I'd love to hear where! I'm looking for some good places to take this stuff so please... do tell!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas to you!

We wish you a merry Christmas and a year ahead of joy, delight and hope in the Jesus we celebrate all year long.

Merry Merry Christmas
Heartfelt: Christmas photo cards and holiday cards at Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My cheap and easy Christmas decor

Ok, I just wanted to share a few really simple ways I've decorated for Christmas this year. How my home feels really effects me. I have to pull in the reins on myself all the time because I LOVE home decor projects and if I were to ever open another etsy shop, it would definitely be full of fun decor items that I repurposed, brought back to life, etc.

Having said that, you know my goal this year is simple and to spend less so here is what I came up with.

1. Epson salt "snow"...

I got this idea from one of my favorite bloggers, Melissa, from The Inspired Room. My pictures don't pick it up well, but I love how the salts shimmer in the candle light like real snow. It adds such warmth and soft glow to our living room. And I love anything in a mason jar! :)

{Epson salt was ~$2.50 for a 1/2 gal carton at Target and filled at least 10 jars. I already had the candles and jars.}

2. Work with what you have...

We put up maybe a third of our ornaments this year so I found these cuties in a box and stuck them on top of candle holders I already had. I love how they glimmer in the candle light.


3. Plant in galvanized tub...

I will be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest poinsettia fan. I think they're overdone and I get really turned off by the shiny green and red paper their pots come wrapped in. But... I had picked up this little silver planter at Ikea for about $2 for an amaryllis bulb that I was growing. When that thing bloomed it was gorgeous and after the blooms died I just had to have some kind of colorful plant in it's place.

{Poinsettia plant - $3.47 at Walmart; metal planter - $2 at Ikea}

4. 3 tiered pie tin stand with leftover ornaments...

I made the stand with dollar store pie plates and glass candle holders to use as a craft fair display for my shop so I just pulled that out of the closet and filled it with silver, red and tiny green ornaments. I felt like the top needed something so I just plopped in a pillar candle I already had on hand.

{free since I already had everything, but the entire thing would have cost me less than $10.}

5. Old Christmas card collage...

I have saved Christmas cards for several years waiting for a project to come along. Finally, last night I just couldn't wait anymore so I took some of the cards and taped them together in a collage. (I think even if you didn't have Christmas cards on hand you could just use cute wrapping paper.) Then I printed off the words "comfort" and "joy" in a font and size I liked, cut them out and glued them on the collages. I stuck them in the floating glass frames we already have above our couch. I chose a harder font to cut out so that part was time consuming but I like how they turned out and I spent NOTHING. :)


6. Wreath...

I started with a vine wreath form from Hob Lob and some bulbs I already had.

I found this wooden letter "H" (also at Hobby Lobby) and painted it silver.

Using floral wire, I secured the "H" to one side of the wreath...

and I hot glued the bulbs to the other side...

I only lost one bulb in the process and definitely would have preferred shatter proof bulbs but this is what I had on hand. (I did pick up the little green bulbs in the $1 section at Target. They were out of silver or red so I settled for green.)

Finished product...

Please excuse the pictures as I was taking them after dark.

(It looks like someone wanted to say hi....)

{wreath - $3 with a 40% coupon from HL, wooden letter - $1.50 at HL, floral wire - $3 at HL, little green ornaments - $1 at Target}

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Home Stories A2Z

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Simpler Christmas update

I thought I'd just pop in real quick and give you an update on how my plan to have a simpler Christmas is going. (You can catch up on the full plan here.)

So far we have...

--started our Jesse Tree....

I can tend to want to over-do projects and make them more elaborate than I have the energy/resources for, but I stuck to my plan here and went as simple as I knew how. I just printed out the ornaments, cut them out and had the boys help me glue them to red, green and blue construction paper. After punching holes and tying raffia through them they were done!

I plan to use these in years to come, so I was content with how easy that was. For our tree we are just re-using the branches and vase from our Thankful Tree.

Now here the update on how it's actually going.... we have stayed a good 4 days (or more) behind consistently. Manny can barely sit through the short devotion much less understand it. We ad-lib and change words a lot so Isaiah can understand it. It's a struggle and we miss a lot of days.

On the plus side, Isaiah has really enjoyed it and it has done all of us a lot of good to just sit and hear the Word together as a family. I love how it's stringing together the stories of the old testament with each one pointing to Jesus. I really do feel that my heart is engaged more this year than in years past, and that's what I've prayed for.

--Put up our Christmas tree and a few decorations...

I really wanted a table top tree this year, but didn't have the energy to go to a store and didn't want to spend any money on it. My parents gave us their tree, but after assembling every. single. freaking. branch. we stepped back and realized how huge it was. It completely overwhelmed our small space and so back in the box it went. In exhaustion, we settled for our normal tree (the one where you can see the pole through the branches at just about every level), Josh strung 4 completely different kinds of lights on it, we put up only our very favorite ornaments and called it a day. It is a sight. Bless it.

{I did decorate with a few new and really inexpensive items that I've enjoyed. I'll post about those later.}

-- I have almost completely caught up on all my etsy orders....

and honestly, this has demanded most of my time. I forgot to mention in my original post that my shop turns into more than a full time job during the holidays, which is a blessing, but is all-consuming for awhile.

Our house is a everywhere, crumbs dug into the carpet and all over the kitchen floor, laundry clean but unfolded and piling up, dishes done sometimes and sometimes not, dirty toilets, I've found crayon drawings on permanent furniture, there's yogurt that's been stuck on the table for days, I've found the fridge door standing wide open for who knows how get the idea. It's real life around here, y'all.

(this is semi-picked up and un-staged)

--Christmas cards are done!

--Shopping almost done...except for the gifts I'm making this year... (Amazon has been one of my very best friends this year. I heart you, Amazon.).

--My brother's wedding is this weekend and most preparations are in place....

Sigh. There's still plenty to be done and then there are the actual holidays, but there has been a shift in my mentality this year. Maybe part of it is being pregnant, but I have just given myself an out from the pressure and expectations that I normally put on myself. (Maybe you do it too and they're ridiculous, right?!)

It's ok if my house isn't gorgeous. It's ok if my gifts aren't high end or beautifully wrapped. It's ok if we don't get to our Jesse tree devotions every night. It's ok if the food I bring to the party came from a box. It's ok if my own family eats a lot of pizza, soup from a can and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner right now. It's ok if we're not spending our nights by the fireplace (that we don't have), sipping hot cocoa and singing carols, but instead are passed out on the couch by 8:30pm. It's ok that we have to turn down some things because we are desperately trying to preserve sanity. It's ok that I can't do the "super easy" diy projects I've pinned on pinterest. It's ok that I can't enter a fancy blogger's Christmas Tour of Homes.

But, you know? I don't think any of us feel like we're missing out in the least. I'm actually really enjoying this season with my family. I'm enjoying the freedom of not doing it all.

This..... isn't reality for me....

...and isn't this kinda how it was for Him?

{A photo of a manger from the period of time of Jesus' birth.}

I think it was pretty simple for Him too.... and then He went and saved the whole wide world.

So, deep breaths. It's ok.