Friday, December 17, 2010

Last Minute Decorating Ideas

My friend, Erica, told me I could share her wonderful (and virtually free) tree decorating tip with you that she used this year.  I thought her ideas were brilliant, tasteful, cute, and even kinda hip (she's always hip). I love, love, love her Christmas tree this year!  So simple: Lots of draped yarn and some cute fabric tied into bows on the branches.  A few twinkly lights and a few colorful balls and voila! Awesome Christmas decor.  You rock, Erica.

Here's another simple idea we did a few years back when I was a little more in control of how to decorate the tree (this year, the kids took over with colored lights and crazy ornaments... but I'm happy for them.) Its another very simple and virtually free way to decorate your Christmas tree: nostalgic photographs attached with clothespins and hanging gingerbread men and women.  We also threw in a few of our sentimental ornaments and some simple lights:Homey.  Check out the full post from Christmas '08 here.


Elliott's wish list... with graphics.  Would you like to see some of his gift giving ideas next?

I'm sorry, but I think my kid is awesome.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Hunt

We came, we hunted, we conquered.

As you may know, I love to chop down our Christmas tree every year, rather than buying it from a lot (see Christmas '08 for more on that), and this year was no exception.  We gathered together a small gaggle of people and took them all with us to get the tree out on Frosty Mountain...  It was really jolly to have some friends along.

{I hope you watched that progression of photos.  One minute everything is fine; the next, the world has fallen apart.}

We were so excited to take Caiden to get our Christmas tree this year since it is the first year that she actually realizes what is going on...  But she ended up just being crabby the whole time!  Meanwhile, Elliott was as chipper as can be and so excited to help Daddy cut down the tree. Caiden just kept being a punk and didn't really want to join in the fun--she wouldn't help us chop it down, she wouldn't let us take her picture...  Once the tree was felled, everybody cheered... except for Caiden.  She broke out in the most pitiful wail of what I can only assume was self pity.  Classic.  Once that happened, Elliott got concerned and he started crying.  Doubly classic. (I just want to take a moment to thank the industry of film/television for making this child/parent anomaly of parents trying to make something fun and kids not having much fun so timeless and hence, making it funny when it happens.  Thank you.)

We brought the tree home, whipped up some madeline cookies and some nice hot coffee (it had been raining all day and we were cold, wet, and muddy), strung some lights, and then our whole gaggle helped to decorate the tree.  We then proceeded to make ornaments from hollow eggshells and then later had breakfast for dinner with all of the egg innards.  I think we made some memories.  Only time will tell, eh?

Oh, and in case Elliott and Caiden read this in years to come... I love you guys, nothing can ever make me stop.  No amount of tantrums, or whining, or anything.  Not only that, but I want you to know, we had a great time!  Christmas tree hunting with you is the best!  It wouldn't be as much fun without you. Lots of love from your Mama. <3

Thursday, December 2, 2010

25 Days of Christmas

Elliott started reminding me about our advent calendar a few days ago at which time I began to ponder what to fill the little boxes with this year.  I'm not too keen on the idea of giving them a piece of candy every single day for 25 days...  So I started to try to think of some activities or something we could do instead.

I prayed about what I should do and then put it out of my mind, then I would pray again the next time I thought about it.  Lo and behold, December first rolled around on Wednesday of this week, as these things do, and I surprised the kids by presenting the advent calender, with all of its colorful boxes, to them over breakfast along with our Veggie Tales nativity set (which I love because it is plastic and unbreakable and fun for them to play with).  They were very excited and kept asking if we were going to open a box that day.

This is a prime example of one of those moments I talked about previously where the Holy Spirit provides inspiration, because... I had nothing; and then suddenly, I did! 

Our advent calendar this year is as follows:

1. Each morning, the kids open the corresponding drawer number and find a slip of paper inside.  (Day one said something like this, "Read Genesis 3:15 and Galatians 4:4 to find out more about baby Jesus.")

2. We open up the Bible and, starting at the first prophecy concerning Jesus, the Messiah, we read 1st the prophecy in the Old Testament and then its New Testament follow up. (Day one prophecy was that the Messiah would be the offspring of Eve; Galatians following up that He had come and redeemed us.)

3. I present the children with a coloring page that I quickly sketch out to help bring home the ideas we talked about and plus be fun for them, of course relating it back to Christmas and Jesus' birth that we are celebrating. Day one was a picture of the tree of knowledge from the garden of Eden with the serpent coiled around it to show the fall and our need for a Savior; then an arrow pointing to a little manager with the Messiah, baby Jesus in it; also a crown to show His triumph over the serpent.) I'm an extremely amateur illustrator (I'm pretty terrible, actuallly).  I'm just keeping it simple but inspired and they don't know! They love it.

Surprisingly for me, they really enjoy this process and activity.  They haven't even been disappointed at not finding any candy waiting for them in the little drawers.

It has been really fun seeing Caiden (3) take interest and be full of question over baby Jesus in the manger and all.  This is the first year that she is actually taking these things in, so its all new for her and exciting for us!  Elliott (5) loves explaining all about Christmas to his little sister.

Enjoy the season, my friends, and meditate on God's goodness, grace, and foresight to plan and execute the greatest rescue mission of all time!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Impressive Apple Pie

This is an elegantly yummy dessert that makes quite the presentation with its apples piled high in a big mound covered with beautiful, buttery, flaky crust.  An old fashioned sort of dessert that is the perfect thing for a chilly fall evening with close friends. 

The market near my house had pie apples for something crazy like 46 cents a pound, last month, so I immediately thought of apple pie and Elliott (5) hastily agreed and climbed on board with my devious plan.  We made it on a regular weekday evening and ate it after dinner with a few friends; it was quite the homey treat.

My (borrowed) killer apple pie recipe can be found at Simply Recipes along with all of their other family tried and true recipes that have yet to disappoint. (The secret ingredient to the flaky crust is almond flour...sshhh...)  I would make any recipe from their blog.  Have your pie and eat it too! <3

Recipe Links:
Old Fashioned Apple Pie
All Butter Crust with Almonds

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lucky Number 7

November 1st marked seven years since we first said, "I do." We are both so thankful that the Lord created us for each other and brought us together.  To celebrate, we took a trip to... the city!  Surprised?  Well, actually, the whole point was not really where we were or what we were doing, except to just be together. 

(I will admit something to you, reader, because I think it is helpful to sometimes share a bit of the behind the scenes drama; that way we know we are not alone in our imperfections.  My admission is this: I was a little disappointed, at one point in our day, that we were not doing something "amazing" or "special" or "extraordinary."  At one point, I voiced these feelings, saying, "Couldn't we have just done this any day?  What makes this so special? I don't really feel like we're celebrating."  So we had a little talk about what it meant to him to be able to spend time with just me--no kids, no deadlines, no responsibilities. It really made sense.  My husband is such a great dad that when the kids are there, his mind is always churning with all the things one thinks about when one is in charge.  But, today, he declared, he was all mine, he could be with me in body, spirit, and mind--without distraction. And, he told me, that is all he wanted to do, to just be with me, spend time with me, it didn't matter what we "did." I think that made the whole day worth it right there.  I love this man, so.  And he loves me.)

So anyway, we left our kids with friends for the entire day--from 8AM to 11PM.  It was nuts.  We started our day together right, with coffee and our Bibles to get our hearts in tune with our Lord; and then we headed to the city, man!  We got more coffee, we walked, we even got to HOLD HANDS!  More coffee, food, we had some great lattes.

We ate some noodles from a crazy ramen joint.  Dave went traditional, and I of course went over the top. (Dave is on the left with his regular ramen bowl, whereas, my bowl on the right is like the crazy house special madness bowl. But I think that's why he loves me. I can never do regular, I always try the extraordinary.)

And then the craziest thing happened...  The Giants won the World Series!!  On our anniversary--in our honor--must have been. Dave decided I need a sports team so we drove around the city yelling about how my team just won!

San Francisco went wild, city hall was lit up orange in honor of the win, and people were yelling and dancing and honking and high five-ing each other every where we went.  Whole streets were taken over by mobs of people celebrating.

Even the buses got taken over by Giants fans.

This bus was across the street from us while we had some coffee and dessert.

While every one outside went nuts, we were just chillin'.  Cuz that's how we roll, gangsta.

Poor city bus.  The end.

Oh, and can I just say, that for seven years, this man's love has truly covered me, and has enabled me to grow and learn so much, it has given me security and protection and nurturing like nothing else in my life.  I am forever in his debt. The end, for real this time.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This One Time in San Francisco

{Golden Gate Bridge from the city side}

{Golden Gate from the other side}

{Ferry Building}
A couple of my friends from Orange County sent me a quick note on Facebook to let me know they would be in the Bay Area and "would I be able to meet them in San Francisco for a day?"

How nice to be thought of!  So, that Sunday, after church, the kids and I drove the 40-ish minutes to the city and fulfilled my friends' three requests.  They wanted to 1. go to Chinatown 2. go over the Golden Gate Bridge 3. ride a trolley.  Luckily, they had already hit up Chinatown before my arrival, so all that was left was the bridge and the trolley.

First, I took them to Fort Point to see the bridge up close and personal, on the city side of the bridge, and then we drove over the bridge and saw it from the other side! 

Next stop: coffee break at Ritual Roasters on Valencia(awesome!), then some dinner at the Ferry Building (Gott's has the best garlic fries!), and finally we rode a trolley from the pier up to Market for a little shopping.

We had a little excitement with some crazies at the bus stop and also having our car locked in for the night, but it all worked out in the end and we drove home exhausted.  God had His hand upon us for sure!

Its so nice to visit the city with appreciative audiences.  Thanks for visiting, girls! <3

Oh! I almost forgot: I got to tweeting some of our adventures that day and accidentally happened to prick the interest of the Muni Diaries blog.  Caiden became famous and got her picture and caption blogged on their site.  Go check out the tiniest pro muni rider featured on munidiaries...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cryn Tip: How to Get Rid of Soap Scum

Remember, forever ago, I talked about cleaning the tub?  Well, since then, life has taught me a few things.  One of which has been a much easier solution for getting rid of that stubborn soap scum that inevitably rings fiberglass/plastic tub liners.  Easier and gentler, because what I didn't know in the past is that if you use a very abrasive cleaning product on that type of tub, it will wear away the top layer and make it more and more difficult to clean.  I've tried so many things and been discouraged until trying this latest method.  It has been extremely effective, working so well that the scum easily wipes away without much real scrubbing and without the abrasive action of something like Comet. 

Here's what you need:

1. Vinegar
2. Baking Soda
3. Sponge or cloth


1. Put vinegar in a spray bottle and spray all around tub.
2. Sprinkle baking soda on a sponge and scrub, reapplying the soda once it dissolves.

Voila! You should now have a sparkling clean tub!  Well done!

Here are a couple of sources for other uses for vinegar and soda as well as some homemade/natural cleaning products:
1. Organized Home
2. Vinegar and Baking Soda Cleaning Recipes

Friday, November 26, 2010


Amidst the rushing, and the buckling, and the hustling to get somewhere the other day, I was fortunate enough to stop and be awed by this sunset.  The clouds over here have been stunning, lately, and the sunrises and sunsets have been packing a punch.  Reminds me of God's power and soviergnty over all things.  Check out this verse I read on Thanksgiving day.  I keep mulling it over in my mind.
A psalm of David
"The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood,
And the Lord sits as King forever.
The Lord will give strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace."
Psalm 29:10,11
To think of the power and complete collection of the Lord, to be sitting, enthroned, during the Flood.  There He sits in majesty, while executing disastrous judgment.  While all the world is in turmoil and literal upheaval, He sits enthroned.  That is our God.  The one who also completely humbled Himself and submitted unto death, in order to reconcile us to Him.  He is Awesome.

I keep pondering the heart and understanding of David.  How he understood so much about the Lord and about His character.  I've been thinking about how completely he put his trust in the Lord.  My prayer has been to know, to understand, and to trust the Lord like this.  To really know Him.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mug Love

You know I always keep you updated on my latest coffee mug, right?  Off the top of my head, I can think of three past posts that had to do with my past favorites.  I didn't want to disappoint you by not continuing that trend, so here is my latest favorite mug.  Its new.  It set me back 50 cents.  It spoke to me.  I don't know what it said exactly, but my heart knew.  Have a favorite mug?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Little Bit of Trash Goes a Long Way

I thought these worthless jar lids might be useful someday and I could never bear to throw them out--just in case...  You know how it goes.  Annoying little boogers, floating around amongst my tupperware lids and somehow always mysteriously managing to end up on the floor somewhere or something. 

We were flipping through an old issue of "Good Things For Kids" from the editors of Martha Stewart Living (all of which you can find online with that link) and there was project after project that we just didn't have the trash for.  I kept having to deny Elliott's longings for rockets made out of tubes, cars made out of milk jugs, etc.  But, there was one trashy project that we did have supplies for.  So, we made some tin-top tap shoes for the kids.  Just goes to show you how useful it is to keep a little bit of garbage around sometimes... but just a little.  Everything in moderation, folks.

{Less than a dollar craft}

Just one question, though...  Do you think that when we do random stuff, like this, it makes up just a little bit for all the projects I don't do with Elliott during the course of our homeschooling during the day?  Here's to hoping for more brownie points on my teaching skills chart... <3 Cheers!

P.S. I decided not to bore you with all the possible explanations for my children's wardrobe choices.  You can thank me later.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Miss Sis

Speaking of Swiss Miss, I miss my sis!  I really do. 

Isn't she a beaut? She's younger than me and I've always had this theory that although all of my parents 6 children have good looks, the beauty increases with each younger sibling.  Heather outshines me in beauty, personality, and spirit and I love her for it. (Although, I know she probably feels the opposite.) This little sister of mine has always fueled me.  Always spirited and exciting, she lured me out hum-drumness (new word!) and taught me to be silly.  Always a pal, she camouflaged my insecurities and enabled me to meet people (like my husband!).  An encourager, she always helped me carry on when I felt too weak or insecure to do so.  Confident, she has helped me to be too and has given me courage to do things I wouldn't have (like acting and singing). Selfless, she has always, always given to me, putting my interests ahead of her own. Protective, she's slept on the floor outside my bedroom door to make sure I was okay during the worst of my sickness in high school.  A fighter, she'd fight for me always.  A friend, the best kind.

Its so... very, very special to have a sister.  And I am blessed with 5 (2 from parents, 3 by marriage)! I love my Heather...

P.S. She's not gone, she just lives a 10 hour drive away.  But sometimes it feels like a lifetime.  Youth is a fleeting, isn't it?  Enjoy the season you are in.  It doesn't last forever.  <3

Friday, October 29, 2010

Musings on Inequalities

The small things in life really take the cake, don't they?  Like a hot beverage on a cold, rainy day.  Cuddling up with a warm blanket and a book or the one you love as long as the lights have a warm glow and the house is still.

A new resurgent pleasure for me has been hot chocolate.  I have spurned hot chocolate for many, many years and I think I have finally discovered what has put me off from it.  It is simple.  *Not all hot chocolate is created equal.*  This is a very important fact to understand.  Then, and only then, can healing happen between you and a lackadaisical feeling toward the drink.  Turns out, that I very much enjoy a small mug of Swiss Miss hot chocolate every now and again.  Why?  Because it is rich and creamy and full--Not watery and chalky chocolatey. My friend, Britton, told me Swiss Miss has milk already in it to make it more rich. Unlike a random brand I bought for the kids a while back.  Just because its organic, doesn't mean they know how to make hot chocolate delicious...right?

Anyway, I thought it important to encourage any childhood hot chocolate fans who have been disillusioned to join back in the game this rainy season. Maybe you only think you don't like hot chocolate when really you have just been jaded by a cheap version of the good stuff.  Try something new... The water is grand!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Buried Alive

...beneath this mountain of books.

You probably haven't seen me much around these parts. I've been swamped. Did I tell you that we are homeschooling Elliott this year? I can't remember.  Well, we are.  He started Kindergarten this year, which to most people doesn't seem daunting.  After all, Kindergarten is not even a required grade (did you know that?)!  But I didn't know where to begin.  Hence, a very late start to the school year--we're probably about 3 to 4 weeks behind.  Between finally receiving our books (yay!) to visiting family in Orange County, we've barely squeaked in 2 weeks of school.  But I think we're getting the hang of it.

My days have consisted of: waking up, reading our Bibles, getting breakfast for all, starting school, making lunch, running to the store, back for naps (for Caiden) while finishing up school with Elliott, working out (while Caiden naps), taking a shower, making dinner, family time, brushing teeth, putting kids in bed, cleaning up, dropping into bed. Not much spare time.

We are so excited about our "curriculum" which is actually just a fantastic library of amazing literature.  That pile of books is only about half of the books that came in our two massive boxes from Sonlight.  We love it so far. 

Surprisingly (for me), Elliott's favorite subjects have been history and science which have been mostly gleaned from a children's encyclopedia.  He loves to just sit and absorb.  I'm more of a "doer" which I think is why I was surprised at how much enthusiasm he as for the more hands-off stuff.

So, its been fun. However, pray for me! I'm still trying to figure out how to manage our time well.