Monday, December 24, 2007

Belated Birthday Bag

A belated birthday totebag for my sister-in-law. I love the combination of fabrics, and I loved using my mom's turbo sewing machine with special decorative stitches. So fun!

totebag

Gingerbread Fun


village
Originally uploaded by thingspondered
Brian, my mom, and I helped my nephews build these cute (and cheap!) gingerbread houses from Dollar General. At $2 each, the kits were a great deal. I added a can of frosting, some marshmallow characters, some graham crackers, and some ice cream cones. We all had a great time. My dad judged the entries and here are the results:


3rd Place - Most Destructive! And that's not a volcano...it's a laser! 3rd Most Creative Destruction!

2nd Place - Complete with garlands and a stream!
2nd Place 2nd

1st Place - the Champ! Obviously, this is a winter estate!
Champ 1st

It sure was fun, guys!

Groovy Christmas Lights


lightstrings
Originally uploaded by thingspondered
Last Wednesday night, Brian & I went to a parade of lights at a local college campus. I tried to photograph them using the special night setting on my point & shoot, and this is what I got. Guess I needed a tripod! Nevertheless, this made an interesting picture!

Pondered in my Heart

I have been thinking upon the dramatic and amazing events that surrounded the humble birth of Christ. God reached down, in unbelievable fashion, and placed His one and only Son into our world. I marvel at the faithfulness of Joseph, who handled the shocking news that his betrothed was carrying the child of God with such dignity. I wonder at Mary, who, in the throes of teenage hormones, did not become overcome with histrionics at the unsettling changes thrust upon her. Rather, she eloquently praised the Lord, then quietly pondered His sovereign plan. What strikes me most about these two is their openness to God's work in their lives. In this season, when tradition almost eclipses what is really important, I find I need to pause and ponder. To quietly accept and embrace what the sovereign hand of God is offering to me. This hymn moved me today. I tremble before Almighty God, who loved me so much that He sent His one and only Son to be my Savior and King.

Have a blessed Christmas!

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.


King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wing├Ęd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Words: Li­tur­gy of St. James, 4th Cen­tu­ry; trans­lat­ed from Greek to Eng­lish by Gerard Moultrie, 1864. Music: Pi­car­dy, French car­ol mel­o­dy; har­mo­ny from The Eng­lish Hymn­al, 1906, num­ber 318

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This jewelry is amazing!

This jewelry is amazing! As in magical. As in elves and fairy dust. Michael Michaud's creations are the most delicate and breathtakingly realistic botanical jewelry designs I have ever seen. You can almost smell them! Please go take a look at the whole line. I love the mistletoe, juniper, firethorn, oak/acorn, leaves....oh heck, I love it all!

h/t to Michelle at Scribbit

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Delicious No Calorie Cookies!

Yeah, right! I baked and baked last night, because I was going to participate in a cookie exchange today. I liked all 3 of the new recipes I tried, though one was a clear favorite. I thought I'd share the recipes with you...no calories included! All 3 of these recipes came from Better Homes & Gardens' 100 Days of Holidays email series. Incidentally, if you haven't already signed up for this email series, you should. They put it out every year and it includes tips for Halloween - New Years. They have recipes, decorations, gifts, etc. Really a great resource.

First up are Cran Crackle Bars (click for .pdf recipe) - sort of a trail mix in a bar. They're yummy, but not for denture-wearers (sorry, Dad!). They're also a little crumbly, so don't eat them in bed!

Cran Crackle Bars


Next up are Cappuccino Love Bites. They're called Love Bites because they have Hershey's kisses, or hugs, on top. They're called Cappuccino Love Bites because they have instant coffee crystals in them. These are yummy, but if you don't like coffee, you won't like these. They have a fairly strong coffee taste...and they might keep you up all night!

Cappuccino Love Bites


And I've saved the best for last. These little beauties are White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread. The dough is absolutely DELICIOUS (and no raw eggs, so safe to eat!). It took all my will-power not to eat the whole bowl of dough! I will say that these were the most labor-intensive of the 3 recipes, but they're so yummy, it was worth it! They were a big hit at the cookie exchange, too. Try 'em, you'll like 'em!

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You Won't Mind, Will You?

If I give you just a little more tour? I finally recharged my batteries and took a few more pictures of some of my favorite Christmas treasures!

Here are the Christmas bed linens I didn't have a picture of yesterday. Actually, we use that comforter all fall and winter, switching to a lightweight quilt the rest of the year. I just added Christmas pillows!
Christmas bed

These are our Christmas dishes (the salad plates) on top of our wedding china. The Christmas dishes feature 4 different types of Christmas greenery.
pine plate mistletoe plate

A crystal trifle dish filled with vintage ornaments adds some sparkle to the coffee table. Most of these ornaments were picked up at yard sales for pennies. Some came from my husband's grandma.
vintage ornaments

A couple of carolers my mom painted for me, for my first apartment:
carolers

Mixed greenery and berries collected from roadsides and friends' yards deck our mantle and other spots about the house. Don't you love the radio antenna wire accent?
mantle lantern

Here's a framed vintage Christmas card. I used pastels to color a background on art paper and applied fixative, then wrote the lyrics to "I'll Be Home for Christmas" with silver pen. Mounted the Christmas card on my "matte", then framed. Isn't that a sweet little cabin?
Greetings

Finally, here a few cookie recipes waiting in my kitchen for my baking marathon tonight...we are having a cookie exchange tomorrow! We just finished remodeling our kitchen a few months ago, and I was so tickled last night to discover that I could use magnets on the backsplash to hold up my recipes as I mix them!
baking

Thanks for coming back for more (you glutton, you!). Speaking of gluttons, I'll post my cookie exchange recipes after I've tested them. Stay tuned!

Wooly Cuteness

sweaters

From a $3 wool sweater I picked up at Goodwill I made 15 ornaments for office coworkers. I brought the sweater home and felted it by washing it in hot water and drying it on high heat.
heart

Cut out simple shapes (hats, mittens, hearts, stockings, & trees)and stitched them together, then added a few vintage buttons and some hanging ribbon and voila! I'm keeping the heart and the tree. They make me feel all snuggly inside!
tree

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays

Crackle....ssszzzz....pop.....The internet's a-buzzing today, thanks to Boomama's Christmas Tour of Homes. Everybody's doing it!

Christmas Tour of Homes
Here's where you're saying, "And if everybody were jumping in a lake, would you?" In a word, yes. WARNING: epic-length post to follow!

So, let's jump in the lake, shall we? Here are some highlights of our Christmas home (click on any photo for a larger picture):

In the post below, I shared our manger in the front yard, as well as a picture of the front of the house. We love the traditional look of the simple garlands and red bows. We also have a sled and a pair of skis (purchased at Canton), which hint at snowy Christmas traditions (something we rarely have here in Texas, though it did snow in my hometown on Christmas 2004 - for the first time in recorded history!).

Closer to the front door, you're welcomed by Tera the pig, in her holiday finery:
Christmas pig


Then you're greeted with the scent of fresh pine at the door.
wreath

Come in, come in! Don't mind the dog bouncing at your knee! To your left is our dining room. The table has been set with our Christmas dishes (on top of our wedding china), and we'd love for you to pull up a chair! (I don't normally keep the table set, but I did it on a whim this year!) Brian's grandma's vintage cardboard village is featured atop the china cabinet. The reindeer on the table boasts vintage ornaments on his antlers.
dining room

Not hungry right now? That's ok...save your appetite for the Oreo Truffles I'll share at the end of this post! Shall I continue to show you around? Straight ahead is the living room.

Our Christmas tree is a giant this year. We normally buy a Fraser Fir (similar to a Noble, but less expensive), but this year, opted for the cheaper and more fragrant Douglas Fir. It is a gorgeous, lush, very aromatic tree, but it has wimpy branches! We've been collecting heavy mercury glass ornaments since we got married, and this tree just isn't "man" enough to hold them up! I guess we'll go back to the Fraser next year. Anyway, since our ornaments weren't showing up very well, I resorted to a lot of lightweight filler. Fresh holly clippings and gaudy jeweled berry picks, velvet ribbon pieces & bows. You'll notice the colored lights. That was a big issue the first year we were married. Brian grew up with colored lights, while my family chose white lights. Our first year, I decorated the tree with white lights, and Brian was very disappointed. Wanting to please my new husband, and knowing that this issue would return every year unless we reached a compromise, I stayed up half the night undecorating and redecorating our tree! The end result was something we were both pleased with. Our compromise involves wrapping white lights around the trunk...they add depth (though, again, you can't tell as well on the Douglas Fir), then wrapping colored lights around the branches. And honestly? I'm kinda glad to buck the white light trend. True, white lights are classy and timeless (we still use them outside), but colored lights are kind of magical. I think that's why kids love them so. Anywho, here's our living room tree:

living room

See the red velvet stockings on the mantle? There's a matching tree skirt hiding under the tree. I sewed rhinestone initial ornaments to our stockings. We bought the stockings and tree skirt with a gift card after our wedding. We were married in November, so we received a lot of wedding-themed ornaments. They're a special part of our decorations on this formal tree. The stockings and tree skirt, as well as the romantic ornaments, influenced the red highlights on our tree. Speaking of romantic, that's (artificial) mistletoe hanging from the ceiling fan cord. Grab your hubby and lay one on him! Ahem....I think we'd better continue our tour!

Incidentally, while you're standing in my living room, take a look up at the nativity scene (in my header). I'm sure many of you are familiar with the Willow Tree by Demdaco nativity scene. We used to sell Willow Tree in our store. I love the simplicity of it. The "star" is one of several Moravian Star lanterns we used at our wedding reception. We just stuck white lights into it, as they last longer than a tea light!

Now, as we head back to the bedroom, take a look at our yummy fresh pine swag over the front door, and breathe deeply (unless you're allergic!).
tree/wreath/garland

OK...now, just down this hall...here's our bedroom. We have always had a "lodge tree" in our bedroom. It's a skinny artificial tree, and we light it with white and amber lights. We have made this more rustic, and it showcases ornaments from our honeymoon and other trips. It features pinecones, cabins, skis, snowflakes, and even a hiking boot! I've also tucked in vintage Christmas postcards with cabins. The bows on this tree are made from ribbon used in our wedding. This tree holds so many special memories!

Bedroom - Lodge tree bedroom tree

Over our bed is a fresh pine swag (made with free clippings from Lowe's). The pine cones are from our store. We have a nearly identical set on our lodge tree that we bought on our honeymoon. I just this weekend added a sprig of fresh mistletoe, but I took the picture last week, so you'll just have to imagine it!

swag in bedroom

I normally put a few more Christmas touches up in our room, but I didn't get that far this year! Our bed is decked in Christmas finery, but the day I was taking pictures, it wasn't made up, and I didn't want to stop to make it pretty! Oh well! I also usually put up small trees in our guest room and craft room, but that didn't happen this year either. So....

Let's move on to the kitchen, shall we? Remember I said something about Oreo Truffles? Back through the Dining Room...forgot to show you Brian's Grandma's Christmas plates (Johnson Bros., and a hand-painted plate that I made for her several years ago). And the aluminum plate on the plate rail sits next to our first Christmas card of the season. I display all of our Christmas cards on the plate rail...love seeing them up there. Oh, and here's another peek at the vintage village!

plates first card
old village

In the kitchen, I've added several things since taking these pictures (and cleaned up a bit, I might add), but I'll show you what was there last week. I've tucked little Christmas treasures into my pie safe, and I've hung the stockings made for us by Brian's grandma. I love having a little kitchen tree...Oops! I forgot to turn on the lights! The kitchen tree has antique and modern cookie cutters and ceramic cookies. It puts me in the mood to do a little Christmas baking.

kitchen hutch kitchen tree

Well! You must be exhausted from this tour of my home...and my incessant chattering! Why don't you sit down now for some coffee and Oreo Truffles. This deliciously easy recipe was shared by a church friend, who for some inexplicable reason, calls them Pelican Balls. I prefer the more elegant title of Oreo Truffles! You must try these for yourself. But I warn you, you may only make them at Christmas. Oh, and maybe Valentine's. And your birthday. But that's all. If you make them any other time, you'll hate yourself for it. Because you will eat.the.whole.batch!

oreo truffles

Oreo Truffles

1 pkg of regular Oreo cookies
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 pkg chocolate melting bark - I use Ghirardelli when I can find it.

Set out the cream cheese to soften. Crush the Oreo cookies to coffee ground consistency ( I usually crush them in the food processor, several at a time). Place the crushed Oreos in a bowl and add cream cheese. Use your hands to mix the Oreos and cream cheese until it is one large ball. Then shape into smaller balls of desired size (about 1"). Place them in the refrigerator until ready to coat with chocolate. Melt the chocolate bark as pkg directions suggest. Dip the Oreo balls into melted chocolate until coated then set on wax paper until hardened. Refrigerate.


Yummmmmmy. Hope you enjoy them.

Thanks for visiting our Christmas home. It's been a pleasure having you! Merry Christmas! And remember, Jesus is the reason for the season!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Manger Throne

(edited 12/17/07 with better photographs)

manger

Manger Throne
Listen to "Manger Throne"
(you'll want to pause the red playlist in the sidebar)

What kind of King would leave His throne
In Heaven to make this earth His home?
While men seek fame and great renown
In lowliness our King comes down

Jesus, Jesus, precious One
How we thank You that You've come
Jesus, Jesus, precious One
A manger throne for God’s own Son

You left the sound of angels' praise
To come for men with unkind ways
And by this Baby's helplessness
The power of nations is laid to rest

What kind of King would come so small
From glory to a humble stall?
That dirty manger is my heart, too
I'll make it a royal throne for You

My heart is a throne
My heart is a throne for God's own Son

This sweet little manger just came to be a special part of our Christmas decorations. We've used one just like this in our church programs for several years, and Brian & I were looking for something that would declare what Christmas is really about. Brian would have made one, but we didn't have any branches left to trim at home, so I asked our church custodian, who made the one at church, to make one for us. We brought it home last night and filled it with wild grasses found on the side of the road (in lieu of hay). The grapevine wreath is intended to be a crown of thorns. Brian put a spot light on it, and we're really happy with it.

Here's a picture of it in front of our house (click to make it larger):
front yard

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Holly and the Ivy


Deck the Mailbox
Originally uploaded by thingspondered

Inspired by Meredith, I decided to decorate our mailbox (shared with our neighbor) with clippings from our yard.

We don't have native pine here, and I didn't want to mess with cedar, so I used the holly that Brian had just clipped, some English ivy that grows in our backyard, some sage, and some boxwood to create this little swag. I would have liked to have used more boxwood, but we trimmed them recently, and I couldn't clip too much more off without it being noticeable! I intended to go on a berry hunt just down the road, but then I found these little berry picks in a Christmas storage tub and decided they would work. The swag is weighted in back with a limestone rock to keep it from blowing away. I think it lends a natural and festive touch to our mailbox, and makes receiving Christmas cards that much more fun! And, the combination of the holly & ivy reminds me of this song:

The Holly and the Ivy - author unknown
The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown
O the rising of the sun And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ, Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a blossom as white as lily flower
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to be our sweet Saviour
refrain

The holly bears a berry as red as any blood
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good
refrain

The holly bears a prickle as sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in the morn.
refrain

The holly bears a bark as bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ for to redeem us all.
refrain

The holly and the ivy, now both are full well grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.
refrain


I also carried several holly clippings inside to add to the decorations in there. I'll have to remember to ask Brian to trim the holly next Christmas, too! Why don't you take a nature walk and see what God may have planted in your path to remind you of Him?


Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Card Update

Hmmm....learned something new this weekend. Lumpy Christmas cards have to be hand-cancelled...knew that...but they also cost more to send! Had to add a 17 cent stamp to each card! Also learned to turn the lumpy part away from the stamp area...makes it easier to cancel.

Good to know.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas Cards - Check!

My Christmas cards are ready to be mailed! I wanted to do something special this year, so I did my own spin on a vintage postcard, added glitter & wire & ribbons, & voila! I have to take them to the post office to be hand cancelled, because the envelopes are very lumpy. There are 2 colors, cream & white. Here are samples:
2007 Christmas Cards

And on the back, a verse of "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen".
2007 Christmas Cards back

Christmas greetings to you, dear readers!

Christmas Roses


Christmas Roses
Originally uploaded by thingspondered

Melissa at The Inspired Room hosted Creative Inspiration Week this week. She had so many wonderful guest hosts who shared the wonderful creative ideas.

After absorbing the creativity oozing from the ladies at McMaster & Storm, I was inspired to see what I might be able to do with tissue paper. This gift is for my sweet husband. I won't tell you what's hiding beneath the roses, in case he peaks at my blog! I had a lot of space to fill in this package, so the gift wouldn't rattle around ,so I decided to squeeze in a dozen roses. The roses are made with pleated & rolled up red tissue paper. The leaves are just torn scraps of green tissue paper, tucked in between the roses. One rose (middle of second row from top) is red paper with Christmas trees...just for fun.

I wrapped the package the traditional way, but I think my husband will be surprised at the special interior of the gift!

Thanks for sharing, Kara & Darcy!

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10


I am making progress on getting the house clean. I'm down to bathrooms, vacuuming & mopping, cleaning the craft room, and decorating the tree in our bedroom (yes, we have a tree in our bedroom...more on that in another post). My spirit has been set right, and I'm enjoying preparing my heart (and home) for the celebration of the coming of the Messiah!


Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Words: Charles Wes­ley, Hymns for the Na­tiv­i­ty of Our Lord
(Lon­don: Will­iam Stra­han, 1745), num­ber 10.
Music: Hy­fry­dol,
Row­land H. Pri­chard, 1830

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

I had the best of intentions to write a Thanksgiving post a few weeks ago. My life is full of blessings from the Lord, and I have much to be thankful for. But I got busy packing to travel home and then I was busy cooking and then I was working on Christmas cards and then.....well, the post didn't happen. But let me say, for the record (though in less flowery language than I might have chosen for an "official" Thanksgiving post), that I am grateful. For God, for Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation, for my precious husband and our life together, for my dear family, for my home and job and friends and yes, even for the struggles and sorrows. God is good, all the time, and I am thankful.

That said, I got sick the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but pressed through it to get our Christmas tree up (thanks, Brian!) and decorated. Then we had our Christmas music program at church, with the requisite rehearsals. So I've been busy! I'm not complaining...we're all busy, right?

This brings me to today...when I would really like to post about Advent and Christmas preparations and ideas and decorations and inspirations. I took some pictures of the decorating I've done thus far, fully intending to share, but I hate to show them, because just outside of the frame of every shot, are scenes like this:
Real
Just keeping it real (in the spirit of The Pioneer Woman).

So I'm heading home to see what I can do about the behind-the-scenes mess. And maybe by the weekend I can manage inspirations and ideas and deep thoughts and pretty pictures!

But really, isn't this part of preparing for the advent of the Savior? John the Baptist was sent to declare to us: "...Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him." Mark 1:3b. So as I make straight the paths in my home, I am going to be preparing the way in my heart. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing....

nativity
Won't you join me?