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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Homemade Christmas

Every year I love to make homemade gifts. Whether its food, toys, art, clothes, blankets; the list could go on and on. I'm always looking for a new craft to catch my attention.

Last year I did a post about our Homemade Christmas, and it was very popular all year long. I'm always amazed at the blog posts that continually get clicked on. The ones I love a lot are usually forgotten or only clicked on 2 or 3 times. And the ones I think won't amount to much, are viewed time and again, month after month. My Christmas post was one I thought might be popular at Christmas time, but not necessarily in the middle of July and August. All year long it was chosen from the linking list.

I decided I must make it a tradition. I'm going to walk you through our homemade Christmas again. We are always up to something, so I might as well document it. Sit back, relax, maybe grab yourself a cup of tea and spend the next 20 minutes reading, linking, listening, because this post is a big one.

My first Christmas craft began at the beginning of the month. Every first Wednesday, I spend the morning hanging out with my friends crafting. It's wonderful! We have snacks, drink tea, and make beautiful things.

Christmas wreath fabric circles
This month we made these fabric wreaths. It was very time consuming to cut out all the circles, around 110 to 140 of them, depending on the size. I do think it was worth it though. The tutorial I found it on used brads to hold the circles in place. Those are very expensive when you're buying the quantity we needed. Instead I found buttons worked just as well. It gives it a country look. The wreath I made with my friends I hot glued the circles together and the buttons on. The ones I worked on with my kids I used my sewing machine to sew the buttons on which held the circles together. You may not think it, but my sewing machine was much faster than my glue gun. The wreath also didn't have as many of those tacky glue strings.

Christmas wreath fabric circles
Gabriel has had two teachers these past several months, as his assigned teacher's father was dying. She spent quite a bit of time taking care of her dad, so Gabriel has had a substitute for at least half of the time since he started school. We thought he needed to give a gift to both ladies as they are both very special to Gabe.

The wreath above was for his substitute teacher, Ms. Jessica. We found out her favorite color is red, and she was okay with us adding a little pink in too.

The wreath below was for his regular teacher. We didn't get to find out her favorite color since she was gone so much. We took a wild guess with pink and green. Wouldn't you know it, we were exactly right! I love how God works! His teacher was impressed that Gabe cut out all the circles himself. It made the wreath all the more special.

Christmas wreath fabric circles
Ariel chose to make her wreath a very traditional Christmas wreath full of reds and greens. I know for a fact her teacher was overjoyed with her wreath too. They all couldn't believe the kids made them.

Christmas wreath fabric circles
Once a month we have a Friendship Group from church that meets in our home for a spiritual discussion. Aside from our normal monthly meeting, we also have a mid-month, a fun get together. For our mid-month in December we chose to do a Christmas drawing for the kids. They each needed to make their "friend" something.

I love how the drawing turned out for my kids. Ariel got a little girl who is friends with Zech. She made her an adorable owl that we found the pattern here.

Gabe and Zech both got one of their best friends. How neat is that?!? Everyone knows my boys are huge fans of Mario and Luigi, so they made Mario and Luigi hats for their friends. The sewing was pretty basic and it was an opportunity for me to teach each of them how to sew.

Mario Luigi Hats
One of my big sewing projects this Christmas was these bags. I made them for all my friends and tucked fun surprises inside. They were very easy to make. The first bag took me around an hour, but after that I got quicker and quicker. I think my last bag I clocked at twenty minutes!

I bought 1/4 yard of each color fabric, three fabrics total for one bag, and found that I could make two bags out of my fabric. These two blue and green bags were my favorite, but I couldn't quite place who to give them to. They didn't seem like the type for any of my friends, so now I have two beautiful bags to use for myself.

cloth sewn gift bags
I don't know if I've said this before, but I am a huge bag lover! You will always find me purchasing the pretty recyclable bags in grocery stores and clothing stores. I honestly don't have enough stuff to fill my bags, but I love to collect them and switch them out. If you have somewhere to go and need a bag, why grab a Wal-Mart sack when you've got this beautiful bag to carry your things in? I was so excited at Christmas because one of my friends made me a bag with my blog on it, "My Cup Overflows with blessings". I love it, and I'm looking around for the perfect thing to carry in it.

The brown and blue bag was another one of my favorites. I found someone very special to give it to.

cloth sewn gift bags blue brown
After careful examination, I think it's hard to pick a favorite. I loved them all.

It was a simple enough sewing project that Ariel also used them for her friend's gifts. She very diligently sewed a couple bags of her own. I wish I would have remembered to take their picture before they were given away.

cloth sewn gift bags purple
cloth sewn gift bags pink
cloth sewn gift bags green
This purse was a sacrificial act of love. I will never make another one, but I am glad I made this one for my friend. She's a fancy girl, so she needed a fancy purse. It took me almost 8 hours to sew it!! It seemed so simple on the tutorial that I had to try it. It was my first time working with interfacing; so that was kind of fun. I also loved the magnetic snaps that clip in so easily.

floral purse pattern
Every year we make cinnamon ornaments. It's a tradition. The kids love to have that extra something to attach to their gifts they give out, and they smell wonderful! If you've never made them, you should! You simply use equal amounts of cinnamon and applesauce. You roll them out, use cinnamon in place of flour if the dough is sticky, and then cut different shapes. Make sure you leave a hole at the top so you can string your ornament later. I use a toothpick or a straw to do this. We bought new cookie cutters for our ornaments this year. We had snowflakes, ice skates, mittens, Christmas bulbs, angels, Christmas trees, gingerbread men & women, candy canes, bells, snowmen... lots to choose from. The one thing I would recommend that I forget every year, put wax paper down on your cookie trays when you're letting them sit to dry. When you place them directly on the tray, the backs always turn black no matter how new the tray is. We let ours dry for 3 or 4 days, each night turning them over. If you make them early in the season, your house will smell strongly of cinnamon for a couple weeks!

cinnamon ornaments
This is the first time we've strung popcorn and cranberries. It's not as easy as it looks on the movies. I think to make a strand that would circle a Christmas tree from top to bottom would take hours! We spent over 1 hour, with three people stringing, and still didn't accomplish very many feet. The popcorn breaks too easily! It was fun to try though. We fortunately didn't need a lot as we weren't trying to make it for our own tree. We were following the idea in our ADVENTure of Christmas book. We decorated a bush in our backyard to feed the animals and birds with.

Another fun idea from the ADVENTure of Christmas, we made a tree cake, and lit up the lights. You simple put a little drop of peppermint extract onto each sugar cube and light it up. They glow blue for a few seconds. The more peppermint you put, the longer the sugar cube will burn.

Ariel made several crafts at her gifted class this year. She was so excited to give me and Titus this blue snowflake. It's made out of borax! I asked her how she made it, and she couldn't remember the exact measurements. I Googled it and found a nice tutorial for you.

snowflake made from borax
Everyone loves SLIME! Another great borax recipe! Ariel made this red slime at Gifted for her little brother, Zech.

homemade slime
My next girl craft day in January I will be making more of these fun picture tiles. I made this one for my brother. It's so simple to make, and very inexpensive. You probably have most of the supplies lying around your home. I got my 6x6inch tile from Home Depot for less than $1. You just need some scrapbook paper and stickers, your favorite photos and some Mod Podge glue. I used a foam brush to apply the glue as it doesn't give as many brush strokes as a normal paint brush. Once you have everything glued in place, you give it a final coat of Mod Podge to seal all the edges. I found the stand at Hobby Lobby for $2.99, but with a 40% off coupon, it's only $1.80.

photo tile
All my ideas and crafts are found somewhere else, or done by someone else. A friend of mine gave our family some "Conversation Stones" for a Christmas gift this year. I loved them so much, I had to make some for my mom. They are perfect for family dinners! We've used our set many times already. I used my Mod Podge glue again, and simply glued the papers to the back of clear stones. I couldn't find the large size like my friend used, but the small size will actually work just as well. You can print a tiny font, were talking size 7, and the stone actually magnifies it. I came up with a list of 60 questions so the game will randomize a little between each time you play.

conversation stone game
Here are the rules:
Start by having the first player draw a stone.

Depending on which stone is drawn, the player must do the following:
Question. Answer the question on the stone.
Name. Name something you like about the person named on the stone. (I’ve included a “guest” stone for when you have company join the game.)
Blank. The person who drew the stone must come up with a question that each person in the group answers.

Continue around the group until all stones are gone, or until everyone has had equal turns.

conversation stones game with pebbles
I wanted to come up with something extra special for my husband this year. I love my gifts to come from the heart, and for him I needed it to be spectacular, over the top great. The personal, homemade, I can see how much work you put into it, are the best kind of presents. I live for these things. It's how I get and give my love.

I found the perfect thing. My husband listens to music and books on tape while he works. I had just finished a book I thought was phenomenal. It's called Rooms by James L. Rubart. I really wanted my husband to read the book. It was one of those stories that has the potential to change you and change the way you think. So, my gift of love, I read the book to him. I read for hours and hours (somewhere between 9 & 10). For days during nap-time I would read to him, most of the time without breathing. You never realize how much noise breathing makes until you're trying to speak into a microphone.

My reading certainly wasn't perfect, but I think that's why he likes it so much. There were times I couldn't help but cry as I read, times I would stumble over a word, times I made up my own pronunciation of a word, and times I couldn't help but laugh at myself.

This video is a short part of my introduction and part of the first chapter. If you're looking for a good read, I highly recommend this book!

I was especially pleased to find on Christmas morning that my husband had put the same effort forth on a gift for me. He wrote me a couple songs and recorded himself playing and singing them. I had to twist his arm to let me post one of his songs here. He's pretty bashful when it comes to his music and other people listening to it. I'm very proud of him, and I love that he would put himself out there for me. I find it very romantic...

I would have liked to make more gifts for my boys, but boys are hard to sew for. There isn't much you can make them either. They like plastic, metal, and wooden toys. I don't know how to work with any of those things. For my daughter, I went overboard and sewed for days straight.

She has two American girl dolls, Kit and Annette. First, I made them each a leotard with my own pattern (wow that was hard), and then three tutu's. I didn't picture the purple and pink tutu.

American girl doll tutu and leotard
I thought each of the girls needed some nice warm winter jammies. Ariel has a pair of purple penguin pajamas so I felt like the girls needed some to match her. The first set is always hard to make, but the ones after go so much more quickly. These two were pretty easy. I had made a pair of orange and green pajamas from Molly's clothes patterns several months ago. That first pair was beyond difficult, but now that I knew the pattern it was a cinch.

american girl doll pajama pattern free
During the summer months I had made lots of dresses and warm weather clothes for Ariel's dolls, so this Christmas I really wanted to focus on winter! The girls each needed a winter coat. I love the snowflake buttons I was able to find. I think they complete the jacket. These coats were also patterned from Molly's clothes.

I didn't picture this because it felt a little inappropriate, even if it's a doll; I made tons of underwear! I made a pair to match every outfit I've ever made, plus a few white panties. This pattern I also came up with myself because Molly's underwear pattern was way too small for our dolls.

American girl doll raincoat pattern free
Christmas has finally arrived! It's amazing, thrilling, and very tiring all the work that goes into one day. It certainly is a day to remember!

Our church normally has a Christmas Eve service every year, but as Christmas fell on a Sunday this year, it was decided that we would forgo the Eve service and just focus on the Christmas day one. Our family was pretty sadden by this fact, and decided we would take matters into our own hands.

We had our own candlelit Christmas Eve. It was a beautifully peaceful evening. We found several YouTube videos of our favorite Christmas songs, like Born is the King, and sandwiched them around some other things. Gabriel read us the story of Christmas from Luke chapter 2. We watched a moving video of Mary's prayer for baby Jesus. We closed our special service with a tradition from my childhood. We listened to "Come on Ring those Bells!" Ariel was our bell ringer; Gabe was our Christmas tree lighter. It was a very special night.

Everything about Christmas was memorable. We read from our Jesus stocking and presented our gifts to Him. It started our day off perfectly and centered our focus on the right thing. It was only after all His presents were read to Him, and all His birthday cake was eaten, that we all opened our party favors! Boy, did the kids love it. I heard "This is the best Christmas ever!" mentioned on more than one occasion.

In the spirit of keeping things homemade here, I wanted to share with you my family's Secret Santa gift exchange. This was our second year of doing this, and it was just as fun as the year before. I think it was my favorite part of Christmas gifts all day... seeing the homemade gifts and the thought that went into each of them.

I'll go in order of the day, how we opened the gifts:
My sister had my husband. She baked him a pecan pie, his favorite!! In four days it was gone from the fridge with no help from anyone at all!

Gabe couldn't wait to give his gift to Stefanie!

He made her some "conversation stones" and put in the jar all the names of her host family in Colorado for her to play the game with.

conversation stones
He also made her an ornament for her tree. Gabe always tries to make everything blue and brown because he knows she likes those colors.

perler bead ornament

Ariel had her brother, Gabe!

She made him a custom designed light switch cover. This fall he played soccer and loved it. I see many more soccer seasons in our future.

soccer light switch cover
Zechariah had Papa! I was most excited for him to give his gift as I spent several hours perfecting it.

Psalm 91 is a very special chapter to my dad. I helped Zech say the entire chapter. I would say a word, and then he would say a word. We did this for 16 verses! Then I edited out my own voice. Zechariah was most impressed when he listened to it for the first time. He couldn't believe it was just him sayin' it!

Alex is a friend of our family's from church. He joined us for our very special Christmas. Since he's always around, he was able to participate in our drawing too. He had my brother, and baked him a brownie cake!

Mikaela had my mom!

She knitted her a scarf! I'm so impressed because that's something I've always wanted to learn, but haven't had the time.

I believe Titus was the only one this happened to. He drew Zechariah's name two years in a row! He does an awesome job coming up with cool toys for him.

I thought it was very clever how he fashioned this game after a Christmas tree.

peg board game Christmas tree
My mom drew my name.

I LOVE the wreath that she made me. If you notice it has a representation of each family member. The guitar at the top is my husband. My daughter loves birds, hence the owl. Gabe is constantly drawing in notebooks and has a HUGE pile of them in his room. Zechariah has always had an interest in cars. And lastly, I sew. The wreath also has daisies all over it which are my absolute favorite flower. They are such a happy flower. I LOVE IT!

wreath with favorite things
My dad was given Mikaela's name. He started her a blog. How cool is that!

I made something for Alex.

Guys are hard to figure stuff out for, especially when you're not related to him. I came up with a no sew blanket. Titus helped me choose the colors. I was going to go for something a little brighter, like blue and green, but he informed me that was too girly. Grey and black were his suggestions. In the end, I think he was right. It's a very manly blanket.

grey black fleece blanket

And last, but certainly not least, my brother had Ariel's name.

We all were very impressed. He took this photo! And the really cool part, he took the picture of her gift. She actually gets to keep the peacock statue from the picture. On the front it says, "Charm is deceptive and beauty disappears but a woman who honors the Lord should be praised." He also put some really interesting facts about the peacock on the back that made it even awesomer!

It was a wonderful Christmas we will all remember for a long time. I hope you enjoyed being included in the experience.

I know this isn't homemade, but I had to include it just for laughs. Have you ever seen a straw so intricate and cool?

Merry Christmas! And a Happy New Year to you!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Favor of Jesus

Sometimes when you're walking with Jesus it will cost you more. More time, more effort, more pain, more money... In this case, I'm talking about more money.

Yesterday was Titus' 30th birthday. We had dinner out with friends and family at the restaurant HuHot. It was Titus' choice. If you've ever eaten there you know the food is delicious, but kind of pricey for dinner.

huHot Mongolian grill
When it came time to place our order, and figure up who was on whose bill, the waiter asked me how old Zech is. If you're under 4 you get to eat for free. I had the dilemma; do I tell him the truth? Of course I do, even when it hurts. Zechariah is such a little guy and hardly packs away any food that Titus and I normally would just share off of our plate. HuHot is buffet style, so that would be frowned upon.

I decided to be absolutely honest with our waiter. "Yes, he is 4, but he eats like a two year old. He's a really small guy." I wasn't asking for a favor; I was stating a fact to him.

When the bill was set in front of us, Zech's meal wasn't on it. The waiter gave it to us for free. That is the favor of the Lord. It always pays to tell the truth. Sometimes your reward may not be in a monetary way. It may just come as the satisfaction of doing what's right. But I still believe it's always the best choice to be honest. I've tried to live my life in that way, even when it's hard.

After the dinner at HuHot, we all came back to our home for some dessert, presents, and a comedy show! Since this was Titus' 30th birthday, I thought it would be fun if all his gifts were in multiples of 30. Everyone was very clever in their ideas!

He received 30 coffee beans. (Plus the rest in a separate bag)
He received 30 Sugar Babies candies
He received 30 CD-R's
He received 30 ounces total of various candy bags
He received 30 Oatmeal cream pies (One of his favorites)
He received 30 pieces of paper, numbered 1-30 (Can you guess who gave that one?)
He received 1 Chipmunk, and one dirty napkin birthday card...

30th birthday napkin
And lastly, from me:

30th birthday gag gifts money holders30 Empty Money Holders

30th birthday gag gifts precursor to prunes Runts30 ziplocs of Runts (His favorite candy)

30th birthday gag gifts you're a whoppin 30 whoppers30 Whopper Candies (another favorite)

30th birthday gag gifts toy guitars6 small guitar necklaces, with a 5 written on back... (You know, 6x5=30) these were the party favors for his friends.

and lastly 30 birthday candles! "Enough to light a city, you're so old!"

Have a very Happy 30th Birthday, Titus!
I love you!

A quick birthday story... "I'm four," said Zech to his daddy.
"Yeah. I'm thirty."
A puzzled response, "I not heard of that one before."
He started to count, "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, sixteen, nineteen, twenty... I not know it."


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