Friday, December 28, 2012

Time to Start Earning

It has been some time since I have mentioned Swagbucks, but be assured, I have not forgotten this awesome earning program.  Swagbucks has paid for a great deal of my gift-giving this year – birthdays, Father’s Day, the occasional purchase, and of course, Christmas! 

To give you an idea of how much I have earned this year I will give you a breakdown of my prize redemptions.

1.  $350 in Amazon gift cards

2.  $35 in Cabelas gift cards

3.  $20 in Bass Pro gift cards

4.  $10 in CVS gift cards

That makes a grand total of $415 in gift cards earned!  All it takes is a little bit of time using Swagbucks each day to earn these rewards and even more!  There are restaurant gift cards, department store gift cards, PayPal gift cards,  Amazon.com gift cards (my personal favorite), and other great prizes!  You can earn by searching with the Swagbucks toolbar, games, shopping online, referrals, coupons, surveys and more!  You determine the amount of rewards you want to earn.

Now that the year is drawing to a close, you should sign up and start earning for next Christmas.  I challenge you to save money by using Swagbucks in 2013!  I know it has been such a help to our finances, especially in this rather depressed economy.  So, if you haven’t already signed up for Swagbucks, do it today and start earning those great rewards!  Sign up by clicking on this link and have a great year of saving!

                                                                    swagbucks.com

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Greatest Gift

As the Christmas holiday arrives, there is usually a flurry of activity – cooking, cleaning, baking, wrapping, and that last-minute shopping.  Sometimes we can get so caught up in the trappings and wrappings of Christmas that we lose sight of the real meaning of the day.  It is the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the greatest Gift earth has ever received.  In recent days, my thought have been dwelling on the great rejoicing that accompanied His birth. 

The angels, who from the beginning of time had worshiped the King of Heaven, were sent as special messengers to relay the “good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.”  I cannot help but imagine their delight as they saw the plan of eternal ages finally begin unfolding on earth.  A tiny baby born, not in a palace, but in a humble stall – the One who would bring salvation to all who believe.  What joy they must have had, praising God for that small package of life, knowing that He was the One for which all creation had been waiting!

As you celebrate His birth, take some time to  reflect on the miracle of that night.  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. What a plan!  What a gift!  What an amazing, undeserved love!

Those of you who have accepted His wonderful gift of salvation, rejoice with me as we celebrate His birth, which in essence was the beginning of not only His life on earth, but also the beginning of our eternal life.  If you have not accepted The gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, may this be the day that you trust Him as your Saviour, and receive the greatest gift in all the world, eternal salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Merry Christmas to all of you, and may the joy of His life fill your holiday with light!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It’s Curtains for Me!

My laundry/scrap/sewing/crafting room has been at the bottom of the totem pole since we moved into our house this summer.  Not that I didn’t care what it looked like, but it was not the most important area on which I needed to focus.  (It hurts to say that scrapbooking is not a top priority.)  The laundry part of that room was the only one getting much action.  Way too much action, if you ask me! :)  Once the remodeling aspect of the room was finished, it just sat for a while, with all my junk sitting on every available surface.

Here is a picture of it when we first walked through the house.  Nice shelves, but the eye-crossing wallpaper and the fruity border just weren’t quite my style…  I especially liked the cat door under the desk.  Very convenient – the cat can go out, come back in, and be rubbing around your ankles as you sit at your desk.

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This is the laundry closet – behind the little folding doors.  I like it.

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Here is a picture of the room two weeks after we bought the house.  Dreadful.  The wallpaper had been put on unprimed drywall – a serious construction no-no.  When we pulled the wallpaper down, it took part of the sheetrock with it.  This meant that we had to mud the whole room lightly to fill in holes before we could prime and paint the room. 

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You can see by the shreds of wallpaper on the floor, that it was coming off in less than acceptable-sized pieces.  If I recall correctly, there were only two layers of wallpaper in this room, so we were very happy about that, “happy” being a somewhat relative term.

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I thought the painted pink plywood floor was a nice feminine touch, too.  :)

This is what it looked like after we finished repairing the walls and had the flooring installed.  Much better.  522521

Then I filled it up with all my scrapbook, sewing, stamping, crafting items. It no longer looked very nice.

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As you can see, the shelves came in handy to store my books and scrapbook albums.  The countertop table was made by my step-father.  It has a cracked (and therefore free) piece of Corian on the top.  The table is actually on castors, so if I choose, I can roll it to another part of the room.  How neat!  It is high, so I can stand or sit on a tall stool to work, and it is a great place to scrapbook, sew, or cut out sewing projects. 

Since returning from our last round of meetings, I have made a concerted effort to get this last room in some semblance of order.  That meant sorting through all my scrapbook paraphanalia, sewing supplies, books, and the like.  I really wasn’t looking forward to that part of the job.  Ugh.  So much stuff! 

It now looks much better, since almost everything is in its place.  One notable exception being that the folding doors are still leaning up against the wall. (*Ahem)  I am sure that they will be re-installed soon, though.  Since it was looking so nice and clean, the windows, still ensconced in their protective plastic paint shields, stuck out like a sore thumb. 

I had seen some adorable reversible curtains at a friend’s house, and promptly asked her where she got them.  She replied that she had made them.  Even better!  When I got the chance, I found the pattern and got it from my local craft store.  I knew those curtains would be perfect for our house – especially for my special room!

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My choice was Butterick pattern B5369, option D (top right).  These curtains were super simple to make!  I chose a rather wild paisley print in blue and green, and the ribbon ties would be green grosgrain with white dots. The reverse side was just a cream-colored muslin, providing  a little neutral area.

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It took about two hours total to make the curtains (not counting the time it took for an extra trip to Wal-mart when I didn’t have enough ribbon) from cutting out to finish! I may put these in every room! Ha!

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While my room is still a work in progress, it feels a lot more civilized now that I have some cute curtains hanging in the windows.  If I had it to do all over again, I would go with a slightly darker fabric for the reverse side, since you can see the seams when the sun shines through the windows in late afternoon.  However, I am very pleased with them overall, and can’t wait to upload pics of the entire room.  As soon as my doors are hung, that is!  :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nine Patch Project

I already mentioned that we have been reading through the Little House on the Prairie books as a family.  I am amazed at how much the children, even four-year-old Daniel, enjoy the stories.  One of the things that is mentioned frequently is Mary working on her nine-patch quilt.  As I pondered this the other day, I guessed her age at the time to be around seven years old.  Quilting already!?  Wow. 

My girls have recently shown a great interest in “stitching,” as Esther calls it.  I had an epiphany.  Why not let the girls work on their own nine patch squares?  I know I have tons of little scraps left over from  sewing projects over the years, and what better purpose could they serve?  I promptly began cutting the scraps into small squares, and told the girls the plan.  They were thrilled!  I had already taught them how to thread a needle and knot the thread at the end(this has been cause for great fun over the last few weeks, as they sew scraps of fabric together in random patterns), so they busily began to thread their needles while I cut material. 

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You can see there was quite a bit of silliness going on, too.

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Cutting a bunch of 3.5” squares – not too big, not too small for little hands and short attention spans!  It also works well with the leftover scrap fabrics that are too small to be used for anything else.

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They each got to choose the fabrics they liked best and put them in the order that they wanted within the block.

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Then the sewing began!  Disclaimer: no one was seriously injured in the making of this blog post.  I did suffer a needle stab at the hands of a very eager seamstress, but I have not suffered from lock-jaw at this point.

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Here is Abigail’s first finished nine-patch square.  She is so pleased with her accomplishment.  Her goal is now to make a whole blanket.  The seams are a bit wobbly in places, but overall, I would say it looks pretty good for a first attempt!

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Esther’s pattern was more symmetrical than Abigail’s was, which makes it easier to tell them apart.  Her seams were  very  wobbly, and this particular square may not stand up to very many washings, but with experience comes skill.

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We had such a fun time together, laughing and sewing and talking.  They both told me as they went to bed that night, that they really enjoyed our crafting time together.  This is what being a mother is all about!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas at Home

After a few weeks in the sunny south, we arrived home two weeks before Christmas.  Having left the day after Thanksgiving, I had not been able to decorate the house for the Christmas holidays (I love decorating for Christmas)!  I decided that as  soon  as we got back home, the bins were getting lugged out of storage, and the tree, lights, garlands, and etc., were coming out and resuming their places.  Thus, last Monday afternoon, we pulled into our driveway, unpacked our belongings from the trailer and headed out to find “the perfect tree.” 

Question:  How many stores did we have to visit before we found anything but a Charlie Brown special?

Answer: Four!  I was amazed!  At each successive store we visited, my hopes grew smaller.  One large retailer had a total of four trees left!  Well, of course, we could have bought a ten foot tree and then hacked off about four feet so it would fit in our living room, but that is not my idea of a good tree, let alone a perfect one!

Thankfully, my longsuffering husband was involved in the quest, and was willing to chauffeur me all around town.  We finally found a great selection at Home Depot, and while Paul went to find a cart of some kind, I held up a prospective tree and asked the kids, “What do you think about this one?”  Josiah, in his pre-adolescent wisdom said, “Um, I don’t know.  They all look about the same to me!”  Out of the mouth of babes…

Meanwhile, the temperature had dropped considerably, and we (I say we, but in all actuality, it was just I, since Paul and the kids wimped out and went inside the store to wait) were shivering in the garden center section of the store, waiting for the one elusive employee that could trim the tree down and net it.  Apparently, that takes a special kind of skill.  I think the ability also entitles you to extra long coffee breaks.  We waited in the howling wind for at least twenty minutes before the employee came sauntering in, wiping the doughnut crumbs from her lips, and eyed the line of people waiting to get their tree trimmed.  Yes – there was a line.  Even at this late date, there was more than one family without a Christmas tree!  Unbelievable! 

After we stuffed the tree into the back of our truck and I packed my two ice blocks, otherwise known as feet, into the truck, we headed for home like a barn-sour horse.  I dragged out the decorations and remembered that half of my lights had died last year.  Crud.  The lights have to go on first, wouldn’t you know.  I decided that fixing dinner was the better part of valor, and that you can bear almost anything on a full stomach.  So the decorating was put on hold temporarily while I nourished our bodies and souls with hot dogs.  Hey, cut me some slack – the fridge was pretty empty after being gone for two weeks!

As soon as I finished my tube steak, I jumped in the truck,  accompanied by Esther, and we headed to that great retailer, the ubiquitous Walmart.  You know, the store that sells everything.  Except white indoor Christmas lights.  Seriously… they had none.  Frantic that my evening of decorating was in peril, I dashed off to my favorite store – CVS.  While I browsed their limited selection, Esther pointed out that the lights were BOGO, saving me a costly error.  So, in the end, we got twice the lights at a store closer to home.  Whatever. :)

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The kids love decorating.  The Christmas music blares while they hang all the ornaments on one side of the tree, clustered thickly like forbidden fruit.  They shriek and dance around the room, causing me to fear for the safety of my precious ornaments. 

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Once the lights were on, decorating began in earnest, and the kids worked extra hard and fast, because at the end of the tree decorating process, they know their favorite part is next – the Fisher Price nativity set.  I bought it years ago when Josiah was a baby, and we only get it out at Christmas.  I guess that is what keeps it special.  Having a toy that you can only play with a few weeks out of the year is pretty memorable. 

It was quite late by the time we finished, because of all the delays, and they were all tired and ready for bed after the long day.  I cleaned up the boxes and bins, and put them back in the closet and returned to the living room to view our handiwork.  Ahhhhh!  Beautiful.  This will also show you what our living room looks like after the renovations we made.

Before: concrete floors covered with paint spray and freshly painted trim

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The stone thing in the corner has been a rather difficult obstacle to overcome in my interior decorating.  It used to house some kind of wood burning stove, but that is ancient history.  It became our tool central for several months, and, I must admit, only the last vestiges were cleared away when we brought out the Christmas decorations (yikes)!

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However, this is what it looks like right now.  Notice my wall collage in the making just behind the tree.  I plan to fill the whole space with pictures of different sizes and shapes.  I’ve got a pretty good start, but I still have several pictures left to mount on the wall.

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The stone corner is now home to the much-beloved nativity set.  I love it!  There is plenty of room for them to re-enact the Christmas story on the ledge – just like a little stage!

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I am looking forward to a very merry Christmas in our lovely new home! 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Staying with Friends

Sometimes on our way through to another meeting, we are able to meet up and/or stay with friends.  These are always wonderful times of laughter and fellowship.  Since we were in South Florida, it was a long way down and back.  We were fortunate enough to have friends along the way with whom we could stay for a few days.
We parked our trailer at the Ogle’s house near Lakeland for a few days last week, and were awed by the beauty of their property.   This was the view from our trailer door.  The Spanish moss draped all over the oak trees has such a picturesque look.
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They also had quite a bit of wildlife around the farm.  Since they have a pond in the back yard, they frequently see alligators! Thankfully, the pond was down quite a bit and the gators had gone elsewhere for the time being. Whew!
IMG_6131IMG_6127We saw some beautiful sandhill cranes that were walking around in the yard.  You could get pretty close to them, and the boys discovered that if you chase them, they will run until they decide you are getting too close, and then they will take flight.  They apparently are quite used to people, and they have a preference for cat food! :)
All in all, we had a wonderful visit, and we had many interesting experiences.  We are so thankful for the friends the Lord has given us.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Good Friends

I always enjoy the company of good friends, both new and old. The long stretches of time between visits, while not particularly desirable, are just a part of my life, and I have more or less adjusted to infrequent fellowship with an occasional phone call or text in between visits to keep current.  You know how it is with good friends – you always pick up right where you left off anyway!
One of the more difficult aspects of our children’s lives is the fact that they also have to make new friends quickly and then just as quickly, leave them behind after a week or so.  They are not all outgoing, so making new friends is not always easy, and strong friendships are not usually forged in a few days.

IMG_6106This past week, though, was an exception.  The kids hit it off immediately with the pastor’s children, who were amazingly close to each of our children in age (most within two weeks or less of each other).  They covenanted together to finish their school work diligently (so that they could spend the afternoons playing together), while their mother and I scrapbooked on a nearby table (the first time in a forever long time for both of us).  Thus the days were not filled with the normal remonstrations of “Do your school work,” and were very pleasant ones.  Here they are hanging out in our trailer together one evening after the service.

IMG_6109Abigail and Annie grew particularly close, working ahead on their school work each evening, so that the next day they had more time for play.  Abigail doesn’t really have any close girl friends, since we seem to have an overabundance of boys in our church, so it was a special treat for her.  Annie, having six brothers, was glad to have a girl her own age as well. 
Abigail shed some tears when it was time for us to move on, but I told her that they could write to one another and keep up the friendship, which was somewhat of a consolation.  I am so glad that she has another good friend.
Do you have a best friend?  How did you meet?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Home-Grown Decorations

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was pleasantly surprised by some spider lilies that were growing in our back yard this summer.  Yay for good surprises!   I had another good surprise this fall when we returned from nearly six weeks of meetings.  There was a giant bush taking over the back yard close to the fence, and I had trimmed it back this summer.  It had sharp, pointed leaves, and I had to be careful about getting too close, but I shaped it a little and had fun playing gardener.
IMG_5998When we came back in the fall, though, it was covered in bright sprays of red berries – it was some type of holly bush!  I was thrilled with how beautiful it was, and decided to bring some of the boughs in to decorate the house!  There’s nothing like growing your own decorations, right?
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The best part was that they last forever – I guess because it is they are a type of evergreen. So a little water in my jar kept things bright and cheery in my kitchen!  I have a new favorite centerpiece!  I also put a few little sprigs in a jar on the window above my kitchen sink – makes me smile while washing the dishes, and that really is a feat.  :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Blessings

For many years, we lived solely in our fifth wheel trailer.  The scaled-down kitchen necessitated a very economical use of space, and therefore, only a select few kitchen appliances were brought along for the ride.  One of these was my handy-dandy Sunbeam hand mixer – a wedding gift 12+ years ago.  When we purchased our first house, we had to tote often-used items back and forth from the trailer to the house.  These items were usually things like a can opener, measuring cups, the mixer, etc.  Eventually we accumulated double sets of the most frequently used items so that the traffic  was reduced greatly. 

I was perfectly satisfied with my hand mixer, but I had my heart set on one day getting that paragon of all kitchen appliances – the Kitchen Aid mixer.  A red one.  Power.  Quality.  Big money.  Totally out of my budget and only on the “wants” list as long as my hand mixer still worked.

IMG_6006Not long ago, I was discussing kitchen stuff with a friend.  She was talking about her blue Kitchen Aid, and if she ever got another one, it would be orange.  I laughed and said I would get a red one someday, and then we were off to another subject.  Two days later she asked if she could talk to me in private while we were at church.  I worried that I had somehow said or done something to offend her, and though I racked my brain, I could think of nothing that would warrant a private conversation.  To make a long story short, I was amazed and greatly relieved that I had not offended her at all.  She simply wanted to tell me that she would be ordering a red Kitchen Aid mixer and having it sent to my house – just in time for my birthday!  I was totally flabbergasted!  I just looked at her and said, “Are you serious?!”  She was, and when I picked myself up off the floor, I had a hard time not dancing around the room (we were in church, after all)!

So when we arrived back home in two weeks, there it was, waiting for me.  Beautiful!  I have been so excited about using it for all my holiday baking, not to mention my everyday uses for it!  I am so blessed to have such a thoughtful friend, and a wonderful Lord who laid it on her heart to bless me in this way.  I am so grateful!