Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hi, friends, both near & far, IRL and net only!

My friends have been in the process of adopting 2 little boys from Uganda and finally have their court date.  They need to raise money for the flight so our mutual friend, Jennifer at Family Musings, is hosting a virtual "shower" to raise the funds for these last minute needs.
Please check it out and give if you can.
Everyone can pray so please do that as well that the court dates stick and it is a smooth process.  Please also pray for thier 2 homegrown littles as they wait here in the States for their parents & new siblings to come back!
Such a precious family and story! Please read the story here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gutzy Gear ~ What Your BackPack Has Been Waiting For

I was excited to be chosen as a party hostess for Gutzy Gear recently.  
 I always enjoy sharing new products with my friends!   

I was sent Gutzy Gear straps and Gutzies (patches) and my friends enjoyed picking through the variety of styles.  

The straps are made of awesome quality Hook-and-loop material that should stay well on the back pack straps.  Then the patches are also all hook-and-loop on the back so they appear to stay securely, too.
My only hope is that they have more sweet looking characters, too.  The gnarly looking patches are probably meant for the older elementary student but most of us have preschoolers.  I am sure as this product line grows, a larger variety of "Gutzies" will become available.
You can check out all they have to offer at their website:
Jesse was pretty excited at his cool straps so thanks to MomSelect, Mommy Parties, & Gutzy Gear for sharing this fun product with us!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Abigale's 2nd Birthday~ Japanese Theme

{Dress by Grandma}
I was an exchange student to Japan in 1993, the summer before my senior year of high school. It was an amazing experience. Since I never throw anything away, I had lots of mementos from my time there, of course.  
While walking around EPCOT last year and strolling through the large store in "Japan" there, it came to me what theme I wanted to do for Abigale's 2nd birthday.  I already had the decorations, the theme easily leads to yummy food, & some of the authentic favors could be obtained in the shop there in EPCOT.  So rather than Elmo or the obvious "Abby Cadabby", I opted to go Japanese while I was still in control of her birthday themes.  Hah!  {Note: Minnie Mouse is the 3rd birthday theme, so I was right in claiming control while I still could. ;) }
Invitation created using My Digital Studio from Stampin' UP
{Compilation shot of some of the ideas}
For the food, I made most of it with sauces I got from the Asian section.  We served a veggie tray, featuring Edemame, Rice Krispy "Sushi", "Tokyo snack Mix" I picked up in EPCOT's Japan, Potstickers {one of my favorite foods when I lived there}, Yakisoba noodles {similar to Lo Mein}, and Yakitori {grilled chicken on a stick}.  For dessert, I made 3 different cupcakes: Strawberry Limeade, Chocolate Cupcakes topped with Chocolate Ganache and Japanese cookies {from EPCOT}, and Coconut Cupcakes.  Some of the food missed the photo shoot but you get the idea. ;)

I made the banner & other little signs using My Digital Studio and punched the shapes using my Big Shot all from Stampin Up {of course}.
I found the fonts "Last Ninja" & "GoJuOn" on one of the free font sites and downloaded them to use with all the signs.
For the decoration areas, I got a few books from the library and most of the rest were items from my time there as an exchange student.  I was able to borrow a few Asian items from a friend that had hosted a Chinese exchange student, too.  

I used take out boxes for the boys favor boxes. I bought them from our local Asian take out for a steal!  The little Asian purses were actually scored 6+ months in advance from the Dollar Tree, if you can believe that!  They were filled with candy from Japan/EPCOT and little toys with an Asian theme I ordered from Oriental Trading under their Chinese New Year Theme. 
I made tags for each kid with their name in Japanese and a little Japanese character.  Arigato means Thank you.
We asked friends to dress up in Asian style clothes if they happened to have them and our friends happen to have coats from their Chinese exchange student that worked perfect!

Time to blow out the candle, little lady!

Mommy, Daddy, & little Abigale

Hope you enjoyed looking at our pictures as we remembered the fun we had with family & friends celebrating Abigale's 2nd birthday.  Our world {and her personality} changed one month later with the addition of her little brother, Johnathan, but that is an entry for another time.
Thanks for looking!
{Japanese for goodbye!}
All crafty supplies used to make the various signs are available at my website,

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

My Experiment of Homemade Yogurt

Ever thought about making your own yogurt?  Frankly, I wasn't really sure it was possible.  I would like to make my own cheese or press my own olive oil, too, but both of those seemed about as unrealistic for a "normal" person to attempt as yogurt.
But I found myself with some extra milk and a twinkle of inspiration.
I follow Money Saving Mom {and you should, too} and recalled she had a guest post about making your own yogurt and other ways to use up milk.
Within the post, she linked to someone using their crockpot.  I would prefer my slow cooker do all the work so I don't have to dig out the {lost} thermometer and went with her idea.

I altered my recipe from hers a little so this is what I did to achieve my results:
  1. 1/2 gallon of 1% milk {She recommended full fat but that is not what I had.}
  2. 6 oz plain Greek yogurt {as the "starter"} Again, she suggested full fat but I only found 0% Greek at Aldi's & Target so that's what I went with instead.
That's it!  Two Ingredients!  Can you believe it?
Pour the milk in the Crock Pot/Slow Cooker on low and "cook" for 2 1/2 hours.  
Turn it off and let it set with the lid on for 3 hours.
Stir in the yogurt, put the lid back on, cover the whole thing with a towel {on your counter} and let it set for another 8 hours.  
Yep, on your counter.  
 Kind of grosses you out, huh.  Yep, that's how bacteria does me, too.
This is what it is going to look like, thin & runny.  Think drinkable yogurt.  And you have to stir every time since there are no pesky chemicals keeping it coagulated. 
Now it is plain, aka no flavor just tangy, so to eat it like yogurt, you might want to mix in honey, fruit or granola.
I thought this was a fun idea to utilize it, too. Another guest post on Money Saving Mom, for making your own frozen Go Gurts or Frozen Yogurt Pops, really.
What I did with the majority of it was make "Yogurt Smoothies" for my 4 & 2 year olds.  At least that is what I called it to them. I put in about 1/3 of the stirred-up yogurt, a good glug of honey and filled the rest with milk.  Shake it up and, voila, a Yogurt Smoothie.  I bought jars of fruit puree, aka baby food, to stir for Banana or Apple/Carrot Smoothies tomorrow.  They are going to love them. Really, they are.
I also used it to make my own real smoothies via a blender, frozen berries, a banana, & a good helping of the tangy yogurt.  Worked great.
Over the weekend, I made Turkey Tetrazzini  and added in about a half cup to give it a little zing.  It would be a great trade {as is} for sour cream in numerous recipes, such as Mexican dishes or Beef Stroganoff.

If the thin consistency doesn't work for you or you love the Greek yogurt texture, like I do, you can strain it like the picture below.  
I used a small mesh strainer and a coffee filter over a bowl.  It was in the fridge for almost a day to get the thick texture I was after.  I was amazed at how much liquid, or whey, that came out of the small amount I put in the container.  
I will have to come up with a larger way to strain more at one time but this will be good for my breakfast mixed with some fresh fruit and a little honey.  
I hope you give this a try!  For the experimentation alone, it was worth it.  But the savings and health benefits are great bonuses, too! 
Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Letters not sent..

Am I the only one that creates Christmas cards, addresses them & all that, and never quite sends them out?  
I have some from last year, lots from this year, and not too long ago, I found a batch of Christmas cards not sent from 1998.   
I do not mean to be negligent in my greetings.  I have every intention of sending them out.  Can I tell you how many thank you notes I have found written and not sent.  So if you have not received the Thank You note for a gift for Jesse {mind you from 2007}, please do not judge me.  I wrote them, then lost them, then found again much too late to send, I assume.  Yet, I still continue to create them & write them and, yes, I am still working on the current babies & birthdays... 
This year I even handmade little photo books for various relatives.  You guessed it, only a couple were given out.  And, of course, now the photos of us are missing someone, so they are kind of out of date....ugh.
Maybe, one day, I will send a large envelope out to my friends that will include all the correspondence I *meant* to send.  So don't be surprised one day if you receive 3 or 4 Christmas cards, a few Thank you Notes, printed pictures from now & years back, and let's not forget those baby announcements I work so hard on designing, then print and never send. 
So until that package arrives, enjoy this *possible* announcement for our #3.  See it hasn't been perfected & printed quite yet...maybe this time they really will get sent.

I am just including this print I *might* get made of the beautiful shot that my friend & fantastic photographer took, K.Barber Photography
If you know who the quote is from, let me know, too.  I got it from a baby border on MyDigitalStudio.
Thanks for reading!
Photo by K.Barber Photography

Monday, February 06, 2012

Gigi's Hands

I was in line at Wendy's waiting for a refill when I saw her.  
She was an older lady, slumped a bit from weariness I recognized, her arms slightly folded with her head of thinning hair looking down.. and then I saw them.  
Her hands. 
The veins and bones protruding from years of hard work, too many blood tests, and the attack of time.
Just like hers.

I fought back tears and tried to get control as best I could before my turn came to get our drinks. 
I was starting to lose it when I went back to the table to get mom & the kids. 
"Let's just go" is all I could leak out to her questions of what was wrong.
I could no longer hold back the sorrowful sobs coming from my core as we stepped outside.
It is so strange how little things will hit you out of nowhere like that.  
Grandma, or "Gigi" as my kids called her, has been gone for almost 1 1/2 years and yet looking at those hands brought flooding memories of her that no damn could contain.  
Gigi, Jesse at 1 month, Grandma~my mom, 12/08.
 It was so deep in me, the ache of missing her presence, out of nowhere, so suddenly, so inconsolable.
I am sure being 38 weeks along doesn't help my emotional state. 
And the thought of how excited she would be about Johnathan's pending arrival, how she should be here, how much she has missed out on with Abigale & Jesse, how different things would be if she were still with us...  She was there for Abigale's birth and I am sure those memories of that time are coming to the surface, too.
4 Generations with Jesse, December 2008
I know she is literally at the feet of Jesus, praising him, in a much better place, healthy & happy...maybe with flawless hands raised high. 

But that doesn't stop those left behind to miss the gaping presence missing within our family...still.

Last photo with Gigi & Abigale. July 2010
"Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, Let me stand
I'm tired, I am weak I am worn
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home"

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Valentine's Day Cards & Craft Ideas

What do you do for Valentine's Day?  As "Gifts" is defintely in the top 2 of my "Love Languages", I always hope for a good Valentine's Day.  John & I usually switch off who plans Vday each year.  This year is his year.  It is about 1 week before I am due with our 3rd child.  I am looking forward to seeing what he has in store!
By the way, for some great ideas for keeping a marriage spicy *all year*, I really recommend you follow Married Spice on Twitter!  They also have a Facebook & blog but tweet the most frequent.
How do you make Vday special for your kids?  The past couple of years, I have made little vday cards and passed them out in the diaper bags of Jesse's friends at church and Abigale's teachers.  We are not old enough for preschool so there is nothing formal as far as Valentine Exchanges.  For some reason, I can't wait for the days that does happen. 
This year, they are both more aware of the "holiday" so we will see how that changes things.  Abigale is also obsessed with bears and the giant bears with velvet hearts are very tempting to buy at the bargain price of $20 this time of year... Does she need it? No. Am I still greatly tempted?  Absolutely.  Jesse has already expressed that he wants to buy one for her.  Love that.  :)
I know I teach classes and create cards for a living but I do love the picture Vday cards and there are so many out there to choose from with specials galore!
Here are a few I found on Tiny Prints
This one would be super cute for Abigale and I love that color/design combo:
 I love this design and I know Jesse would since he is my Train-Crazy little boy!
The other option wold be to get a more generic design and use these for giveaway cards for our upcoming birth announcement of the new baby...  Hmm..
Check out all their Valentine's Greeting Cards!
 For lots of great cards for all occasions, follow Tiny Prints on Twitter and follow Tiny Prints on Facebook They often have specials to take advantage of!

What creative crafts do you have planned for this Happy Heart Day?
Here are a few ideas I am currently working on for Vday:
In MOPS, 2 weeks ago we made our version of these Martha Stewart Felt Fortune Cookies

The idea was to leave a note back & forth with their hubbies {naughty or nice} through the month of February.  You could also use them to leave little notes for your kids in their lunch box if you have that age range.  What we did as a quickie tutorial is coming soon.

In 2 weeks, we are making Massage Oil in MOPS.  A friend's husband works at Cracker Barrell and he was nice enough to collect 90+/- of their little {empty} maple syrup bottles for us to fill as our 2/14 Creative Activity.  I hope it goes over well and isn't too messy.  I am creating labels with My Digital Studio that the church print shop will print to make them a little pretty, too.
I also hope they actually use it with their spouse!  

For Abigale's birthday, I made these poms from Martha Stewart.  

It was a lot of time to just throw them away.  I was pleasantly surprised that in February's MS magazine, someone used the poms to make a large heart over their mantle for a party, then left it up all year.  I am not sure I will leave it up much past February, but I was glad to get an idea of how to use those poms a second time.  Pictures of the heart on my entryway to come.

As for kids crafts, I definitely hope I can make these foot & hand prints, either as a card for the grandparents or a wall piece. 

I also hope to make a keepsake item for myself and possibly my mom for Vday or before the new baby comes at least.  Still trying to decide if it would be better to frame them with recent pictures, instead of jewelry.  In my experience, polymer clay is not that sturdy *and* with 3 kiddos, not too sure how that would hang. Maybe 3 tiered?  Hmm..

Isn't this the greatest little idea and seems easy enough...although all those ideas on Pinterest often do.  hah.
Check out my friend Jennifer's fab little t-shirts she just made for her 2 little girls over at Family Musings!  Perhaps, Abigale might just need one before the month gets started..
As if I have nothing else to do, I am sure I will be gathering other ideas that I may {or may not} actually get accomplished for this little guy arrives on or about Februray 23rd!
Here are some of the other things I have gathered & pinned for Valentine's Day...more to come, I am sure.
Follow all my boards, if you like. I love the idea sharing!
Follow Tiny Prints boards on, too, while you are there.
 I look forward to seeing & hearing about your ideas, too! 
Thanks for stopping by and love someone good this month!
~For writing part of this blog, I should receive 50 Classroom Valentine’s Day Cards for kids as Tiny Prints way of saying thanks~

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Argh Matey Jesse's Pirate Birthday Party

Jesse turned 4 on November 8th, 2011.  I love themes.  They inspire me!  I got inspired for this party when Stampin' Up clearanced the Pirate Party kit from a couple of years ago down to $2.99 last spring.  At the original price of $16, it was a bargain, and now they were practically giving it away!  
Little did I realize the Pirate theme was going to be so popular this year.  So much for being original.  
But here are my little spins on the theme and what we did for his 4th birthday party.

His Invite {created on My Digital Studio from Stampin' Up then just printed as a 4 X 6 picture at Sam's!}. 
Picture of Jesse was taken by Nate Mundell Photography at another Pirate {& Princess} party we attended a month prior.
First, our tradition is to go to Walt Disney World on our birthdays since we have passes.  Had to take a few "pirate shots" while we were there!

 I did a "Candy Barge" on a taller dresser and had bags for the parents to fill for the kids. I tried to get candy that was either wrapped in gold or jewel tones or sea related. 
The sign that read "Beware Thar Be Pirates" was made by my husband from a pallet broken apart and rough looking on purpose.
The banner hanging is 2 kits put together and then I embellished with chunky glitter to add a little something to half of the flags.  I also hung another of this banner over our sliding glass door that lead to the bounce house. Sorry, it's no longer available for purchase.
My mom made the costumes for my 2 littles.
 The "Pirate booty" came from random metal items mom or I had laying around, along with the wooden boxes and gauzy material. When draped together with the beads and such, it reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at the Magic Kingdom, which is the look I was hoping for in this area.

 The girls had headband bandannas with red polka dots and the boys bandannas had a pirate print.
The treasure boxes also came in that kit from Stampin Up.  Since I had so many kids coming, I put out tags for the parents to tape to the treasure boxes.  This didn't happen.  
And the boxes kept {mysteriously} opening to be pillaged.  
So I wouldn't recommend having the boxes within children's reach or untagged.  
If you want the name on it, put it on.  {What was  I thinking?}
I like to name the food served with the theme because I am that cheesy.  So we had "Submarine Sandwiches" {and yes, I know that subs are more current than the typical time period when we think of "Pirates" but go with me..};  Deviled Ships {Deviled Eggs that kind of resemble a boat thanks to the flag from the kit}; Pirate Booty ~of course; and Shipwrecked Salad made with Sea Shell Pasta. 

Pictured here is also the Salted Caramel Cupcakes {Salty Sea..get it?}.  I loosely followed the inspiration of this recipe.  But I used a normal yellow cake mix with a pinch of salt and used a jar of caramel ice cream topping for the filling.  I did use her recipe for the frosting.  Great stuff!
The Treasure Chest Chocolate Cake turned out pretty good despite me waiting to the last minute.
 I didn't really do games other than the "Search for Buried Treasure" using an under the bed type storage box filled with a bag of sand, beads, rings, & other small trinkets.
We asked the kids to wear pirate gear if they had it and some of the girls wore princess outfits, too.  We provided the bandannas & eye patches in case they didn't already have something. Dress up always makes it more fun and I love to incorporate that for the guests and {of course} the party honoree!

Friends let us borrow their home bounce house which gave the kids another outlet to play.  Highly recommend!
Jesse had a great time and I think the kids did, too.
Click Here for my Pinterest Board I used to collect my inspiration.
Let me know if you have any questions and thanks for looking!