Monday, November 25, 2013

Christmas Pillow Fun

I have a fun and simple project to share with you today!!  Making those first pillow covers was so easy and so much fun, that I couldn't wait to make more.  I really wanted some specifically for Christmas so over the weekend this is what I did.

I started with this, and added some white twill fabric from my stash and some gold embroidery thread.  :)

First things first, the lettering.  I simply used my computer, found a font I liked, and typed out the words I wanted.  (I didn't really need to waste my ink by printing the letters all filled in so I just used the outline.)

Then, I traced the letters onto a piece of felt.  I traced them on backwards so that my pen marks wouldn't show afterwards.  Cut them out and moved on to the next step.  I knew I was going to stitch them down, but I needed something to hold them in place while I stitched.  

I had some iron on hem tape from a previous project and decided this would be a perfect solution.  I simply cut pieces to fit each letter and then, after positioning the letters where I wanted them, ironed them on. (forgive the yellow pictures, there was absolutely no light this weekend due to gloomy gray sleety skies)

Next came the fun part.  The stitching.  I tried out several different decorative stitches on a scrap piece of fabric, but finally settled on a zig-zag stitch.  I simply stitched around the edges of all the letters.  I didn't really want the stitching to be the center of attention, just an accent.  And what an accent!!

I decided this time to not put zippers in but just make an envelope style pillow cover.  Simply cut two back pieces that overlap, hem the edges, pin together, and attach to the front.  

(Yes, I used green thread - I ran out of white - and I didn't want to go to the store - remember icky weather.)  I did the exact same with the tartan flannel to make those pillow covers.  No embellishments on those just a fabulous pattern and a fabulously soft feel.

Last, but not least, the jingle bells!!  

I was inspired by this from Pottery Barn.  


But, my family likes to lay on all of our pillows, so jingle bells on the front are not practical.  So, they went in the corners.  And, since I am loving me some gold this season, I decided to go with traditional gold bells. Simply poke your needle in the corner, thread the bell through your needle and then poke the needle back through the corner. 

I did this a couple of times to ensure the bell was stuck before tying off the thread.  Happy days and happy pillows!!  

Our weather this weekend has finally made it seem like Christmas should be near.  Ready to get my decorating on, but my daughter won't let me do anything until AFTER Thanksgiving.  I have taught her well!!  :)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Family Friday {Keeping Kids Grateful}

So most of us have probably spent the month of November talking to our kids about being thankful. But, how do we then enter into a holiday season that hovers so dangerously close to greed and entitlement??

Sometimes kids so wrapped up in the "what I want for Christmas" lists that they just can't help but become the demanding, whiny, monsters we can't stand.  But, circle back to the beginning - who started it??  Yep that's right - we did, by asking them what they wanted in the first place.  :)  So, let's look at ways we can keep giving and getting in perspective, and stretch out that attitude of gratitude that we worked so hard to foster during November.

The first advice I would offer is minimize the gift list. I have seen list ideas like this one floating around Pinterest the last couple of years and I think it's great.

We starting limiting the number of gifts are kids received from us years ago when we were absolutely embarrassed by the amount of things that we were trying to find space for the day after Christmas. Granted we may not be able to control the amount of stuff coming from grandparents, aunts, and uncles, but at least we can keep what comes from us down to a reasonable amount. 

While we are talking about where to put all the stuff that they receive, let me share this thought with you - now is a great time to clean out their rooms.  Donate anything they no longer play with.  Get them involved in the process.  Explain that you are donating toys to kids that don't have as much.  These conversations alone will breed a heart of gratitude and giving in your child.  Now, mom and dad, this is where it gets hard sometimes.  Some kids don't want to let go of anything. If this is your child - set some limits - tell them they must choose 3 things to donate to charity. Maybe more if they have way too much.  I know it's tempting to do it when they are gone, but really, getting them involved in the process will help them begin to understand that they can let some things go.  Some kids have bleeding hearts and they get caught up in the giving away, and they want to get rid of a lot.  It's okay. Just think how much easier it will be to clean their room.  Also keep in mind the insane amount of new stuff coming in a few weeks. If you think it is something they will really miss.  Put it in a box in the attic and bring it back out in a few months when they are bored with the new stuff.  It will be like new again!!

Another way to help foster the attitude of gratitude is to find a way to keep the focus on giving rather than getting.  Our church offers many opportunities to help provide for those in need at Christmas - food pantry donations, Angel Tree, Operation Shoe Box, used coat drives, and more.  If you don't have access to these, look around.  Often times you will find angel trees set up at the local mall, toys for tots is always taking donations somewhere, check with your local food bank, or check out these resources for giving to needy children all over the world.  I actually requested the paper catalog this year, and my kids have loved looking through them, reading the stories, and choosing what they want to give!!

All these things could easily be done, and not add too much work to your already busy calendar :). Remember Christmas is a gift.  A gift to us in the form of a Savior, Jesus Christ, sent to earth in the form of a baby.  We celebrate this gift that God gave to us on this day by giving to others.  

Blessings friends!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thankful for Grace Pillows

Welcome back friends!!  Thank you so much for all the sweet comments on my pillows last week.  I promised I would be back with more details on the word pillows.

For the front of the pillow I used drop cloth fabric I had leftover from my desk chair re-do.  After cutting my 19"x19" squares, I used my iron to find and mark the center of the square.

Next, I went to my computer and printed out the words I wanted for the pillows in a font I liked - I made them as big as I could and still fit on the pillow :).  Since I don't have a light box, I used the next best thing - a window and the sun!!  I used painter's tape to adhere the paper to the back of the fabric and to adhere the fabric to the window.  Then, I simply used a pencil to trace the word onto the fabric.  Easy peasy!!

I wanted to lettering to be nice and thick and casual - the reason I was not using my embroider machine - so, I searched my yarn stash and found this fabulous warm orange.  I love orange.  I decided I wanted the stitching to look continuous so I went with a simple back stitch.  If you aren't sure what that is, check out the pictures below.  Going around a curve can be a little tricky.  The tip is to keep the string on the outside of the curve while you are stitching.

After about 45 minutes both pillow fronts were stitched and ready to be added to their backs!!

I just love the look and the texture of the yarn!!  It really was one of those projects that came out just like I saw it in my head!!  (That doesn't always happen right??)

The possibilities are endless with this!!  With a bazillion words you could choose, and lots of yarn choices!!  My brain is going crazy with ideas - I hope yours is too!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reading Fun With Kids at Christmas

I was really hoping to get my stitched pillow post finished and ready to go for you today, but we spent the weekend doing this

college visit to MIT
and this

early birthday dinner at Olive Garden
and yesterday was his 18th birthday.

So I decided to bring you a simple and fun idea to share with your littles this Christmas season.

Over the years of my kids being small I was a collector of books.  I wanted a variety, but mostly I wanted the most bang for my buck.  My hubby and I spent thousands of hours sitting with our littles and reading. Best.time.spent.ever.  If you have littles, take a minute and sit down and read a book. I digress.  Me = collector of children's books.  I was fortunate that the preschool where I worked, participated with the scholastic book order program.  I was always able to find a good amount of books for $1-$3.  A great value when you are growing your own library.

Among my book collection, a collection of Christmas books emerged.  

Somewhere in the midst of that, while visiting the home of an older-mom friend, I noticed her basket of Christmas books sitting in the corner and I loved it. And so began another Christmas tradition.  When the Christmas decorations come out, so do the Christmas books.  Some years they are gathered in a basket.

Some years they have been wrapped in pretty wrapping paper.   A super fun thing to do with littles - they love the surprise of opening presents, and how fun is opening one book every night and reading a Christmas story??!!??

Some times, it's both - wrapped in the basket :)

In all the hustle and bustle of the days leading up to Christmas it is nice to take a moment with your kiddos curl up in a warm blanket and read a story!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Family Friday {take heart}

I've had some encouragement lately from some sweet friends to share some more insights or ideas, views on marriage and family.  I have felt the nudge from the Lord that this is from Him, and that it is good.  So, I am treading carefully and prayerfully starting my first weekly series Family Friday.  Here I will share encouragement for moms and dads, husbands and wives.  Based on our own family experience, insights from the scripture, and wisdom others have shared with us over the years.  I also hope to learn how to podcast so I can use that resource as well for those young mommies that might not have the time to sit down and read as much as they would like.  

Today all I would like to share is take heart.  Parenting is the hardest job ever, anyone who has done it will most likely agree.  But, it is also the most rewarding.  In like manner, marriage is hard work.  I would challenge you to find a couple that has been married 40, 50, 60+ years that would say otherwise.  If we are going to do these (parenting and marriage), we should do them well.  

One of the most important things to me over the past 18 years as a mom and the past 19 years as a wife has been community.  Other moms and wives that I respect that shared with me their own trials and tribulations and how they got through to the other side.  Other moms and wives that are right there in the thick of it too.  The ones that walk along side you nodding their heads in agreement saying "ya, me too".  It's just so good to know you are not alone.

This is what I want this series to be about - community. I want to walk along side you and nod my head and say "ya, me too", or "I've been there".  And, I want you to be able to do that with each other.  

So today I say take heart!!  Stay the course!!  Fight the fight!!  You are doing a great job, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!!

Blessings friends!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pillows, Pillows, Pillows

So about a year ago, my sweet friend Jennifer was on her way to Dallas.  We had just been talking about feather pillow inserts like I had heard her and The Nester both talk about, and how awesome they were. She said she knew a place that you could get them fairly cheap, and did I want her to pick me up some....YES!! She brought me back 4 20"x20" feather inserts for around $35 dollars (actually from ikea since the original place no longer carried them - not sponsored by ikea just thought you might want to know)!!  They have been sitting in my closet for a year people!! You know why - because I am too chicken to commit to a fabric!! How lame is that?? I finally told myself that is was just a cover and if I didn't like it in a couple of months I could change it, and off to the fabric store I went.  Here is how my brown couch looks now with its accessories :).

Pillow covers are pretty simple to make.  All straight lines.  The trickiest part (and really not that tricky) is the zipper.  If you are brave and want to try putting in an invisible zipper I found this great video tutorial on youtube that made it super easy.

I took a tip from my friend Jennifer and did not concern myself with color matching the zipper to the project. Instead I just raided my mom's stash and found four that were the right size.  If you follow me on instagram you may have seen this sneak peek, in which you can see the fabric on the back of the 'thankful' and 'grace' pillows and the pink zipper :).

Once you get the zipper in, you will need to stitch up the other three sides.  Please make sure you unzip your zipper before you start sewing or you will not be able to turn the pillow inside out - yes I did that...

Once you have it all stitched up, you will want to clip the corners off at an angle.  This leaves less fabric in the corner and makes for a cleaner point when you turn it inside out.  

I mentioned that the pillows had been sitting in my closet for a year compacted in a bag so when I took them out they were a little on the flat side.  I just threw them in my dryer on a low heat setting for about 10 minutes and they fluffed right up.  You can see the difference in this pic. 

The other tip Jennifer gave me was to make the pillow covers a little smaller than the pillow inserts to ensure that they would be nice and full and fluffy.  So, for my 20"x20" inserts I made 18"x18" (finished measurement) covers.  It took a little bit of wrangling to get the pillow in but not too much :).

I am so loving the way it looks.  I really can't believe that I have been without pillows on this couch for so long!!  Thanks Jennifer for all the great tips, and for picking up the pillows for me!!  :)

I will post next week on the details of the 'thankful' and 'grace' pillows.  It was a really fun and relatively quick project I have been wanting to try for a while.  Why does that seem to be a theme??  It's seems to take me forever to get around to doing things I want to do - life happens, that's why!!  :)

Starting a new series on Friday!!  Very excited about it!! Make sure you stop in and check it out!!

Blessings friends!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bookshelf Styling {and something I should have done a long time ago}

Another thing I finally got around to during the month of October was restyling my built-ins.  I had really neglected them for a while and it was starting to bug me.  It was bugging me so much I didn't even take a second to shoot a before pic.  I cropped these shots from another pic (forgive the quality).

I'm including it so you can see - not a lot going on but books in some places, too much going on in other places, books and such just stuffed in here and there. 

Everything came out, everything got a good cleaning, things got deleted, things got added, and this is the finished product.

I tried to fill the shelves with things that were special to my family.  Things that would bring sweet memories to mind.  Pictures, and souvenirs.  Treasures the kids have made over the years.  Books have to have a spot on the bookshelves of course, but they look so much better spread out.  I start with books, spread them out and vary how and where they sit.  Then I add photos. Last comes the various accessories - the souvenirs and other decorative fillers.  This is one of my least favorite things to do, and probably the reason why I put it off forever.  But, the results are worth it in the end.

Another thing that I put off forever I finally got done this week.  You can probably see a peek of the brown paneling above the built-ins in some of the pics.  From the day we moved in I disliked it.  But, it's paneling, and the ceilings are really high and all we own in a 6ft ladder.  You see the list of excuses I made for myself. But, this week I took the leap.  I already had the paint, so I just needed the guts.  Here's a before and after.

I want you to know that I took that after pic so.many.times.  with so.many.settings.  I just couldn't seem to get the lighting the same, and then I realized, they was no way it was going to be the same. That's just how much more the light bounces off that light color up there instead of the ugly dark paneling!!  Why in the world did I wait so long??  (Also, it's not that yellow in real life, the wall color is more tan than that - still trying to figure out this camera thing.)  I have always loved the vaulted ceilings in our living room and the size, but there is only two windows (if you include the window in the back door), and sometimes it's dark - meaning I have to turn on the lights in the middle of a sunny day. I have noticed the past couple of days, that I don't have to do that!!  Light and bright spaces make me happy!!  

Now off to mountains of laundry and dishes - how about you??

Blessings friends!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

BBQ Chicken Pizza {The Easy Peasy Way}

Since I have been working from home, I have been trying to spice up our menu a little bit.  Not only does the family get tired of eating the same things, but I get tired of cooking the same things. About a month ago, on a Sunday night after church I decided to try homemade pizzas.  Everyone got their own little blob of dough and were able to create their own with a variety of toppings. Wow, was it a hit!!  The kids LOVED being involved in the process!!  The only complaint was the dough - too bready - well of course because I used Bisquick.  So, I told them we would definitely do it again, but I would find a better dough recipe.

Last night I decided to try a different spin on the pizza by doing BBQ chicken pizza.  We had several bottles of BBQ sauce in the fridge with just a drizzle left in them, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to use that up.

For the dough recipe, I went to one of my first sources for recipes online - The Pioneer Woman - and found this one.  Since it had yeast in it I figured it would definitely be better.  I made three batches ahead of time and stored them in the fridge.  I took them out about an hour or two before dinner.

I split each batch in two and gave the kids a pan.  They went to work spreading out their dough. It's fun to watch their personalities at work.  One wants it to be a perfect circle, one doesn't care, one doesn't want it too big, and one wants it to stretch to fit the whole pan. They chose their sauce from the leftovers, and spread a little on the dough. (please don't pay any attention to the awful condition of my pan :-/)

I took the even easier route on this one and bought a rotisserie chicken - already cooked, and just shredded the meat by hand.  They scattered the chicken on and then topped with mozzarella cheese.  Bake them in a 500 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on how thick your crust is and how crunchy you want it.  

The kids love cheese so their finished products all looked something like this (can't even see the chicken).  

My hubby and I like veggies so ours came out looking like this :).  You could add whatever toppings you like to yours, that's the beauty of everyone making their own pizza.  

It was yummy!!  Next time I will probably put more BBQ on mine.  I didn't want the sauce to be overwhelming so I took it easy, but I could barely taste it.  It's so much fun to have everyone in the kitchen that I believe this type of dinner will become a regular thing around here!!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thankful Tree 2013

I have missed sharing projects with you, and I have been busy while I took a break from the usual with my 31days series on budgeting and money.  I'm excited to share with you what I've been up. Get ready for a long post, with lots of pictures :).

Last year I shared with you how I made our thankful tree.  And, how much I loved it.  So, I knew I wanted to do it again this year.  (This is actually year 3 - but I wasn't blogging the first year). This year I decided to change it up a bit, in the form of color.  I had seen white branches floating around the blogosphere and I really liked the look.  So, I chose my branches (that I didn't even have to cut down this year, thanks to some strong winds), spread them out in my garage on a drop cloth and went to work spraying them.  

I found some cheap (.97) white paint at walmart.  This was a great money saver since I used 3 cans of paint - ack!!  Well worth the $3!!  Love how they look.  

And then, as I strolling the isles at Hobby Lobby, I spotted something that caught my eye.

This is the first time I actually bought glitter just for me!!  I didn't want it to be all gold and glittery, just a hint.  Just enough to be a surprise for the eyes when the light hit it just right.  And I'm glad that's all I wanted, because to cover them would have taken  But the sprinkling was perfect. 

Again, as before, I simply cut the leaves from scrapbook paper in my stash, punched holes in the top, and tied string to them to hang.  I got whoever was home that afternoon in on the act :).

The branches were arranged in an empty coffee can and surrounded by rocks from my yard to hold them in.  I then placed the can in a basket and covered the evidence with some pine cones. The sign I made the first year - printed from the computer.

The leaves and markers got their own basket.  

And we are off and running and pausing to count our blessings.  Makes my heart happy :).

How about you??  Do you have a special way to give thanks with your family??  I think in the culture we live in our country, it's good for our kids to see us being thankful for what we have been given.  

This is my favorite so far

We did plenty of that this weekend for our little boys. They had a soccer tournament all weekend and we sneaked in a piano contest too.

So, so, so thankful for these two, and that they have each other.  Such a blessing!!

Blessings to you my friends!!