Homemade Christmas cards and other stray thoughts

Today is the first “back to the old routine” day in a while. I love all the holiday activities, and God was kind to grant me some pockets of quietness and rest amid the busyness. Getting out of the normal routine for several weeks was fun and refreshing. Getting back into it feels both good and sad at the same time. We had a wonderful Christmas with all the family home and then a very quiet but enjoyable New Year’s Eve and Day.

I thought I’d show you the Christmas cards I made for the family. I buy boxes of them for extended family and friends – I’d never be able to make as many as I send out – but for our own family I like to make individual ones.

This is Jim’s:

Jim Christmas 17

It doesn’t show up in the photo, but the white words are flocked. If I had been thinking, I would have cut off the bottom pine cone so more of the word Noel showed up.

This is Jeremy’s:

Jer Christmas 17

Sometimes ideas come from others I’ve saved on Pinterest, sometimes from something in the Cricut design space, and sometimes they come as a result of looking over the materials I have. This one started out with the fox sticker, as Jeremy likes foxes, and then the other elements came one by one. This is one of my favorite cards I’ve ever made.

This is Jason’s:

Jason Christmas 17

I had wanted to use blue because he likes blue, and I had also wanted to use the snowflake embossing folder on one, so those came together here.

This is Mittu’s:

Mittu Christmas 17

I love that cozy sweater background paper, and they love coffee, so these seemed like a good pairing. The cups were done with the Cricut.

This is Jesse’s:

Jesse Christmas 17

This started with the word sticker – that just seemed to fit him. Everything on the white part is a sticker.

This is Timothy’s:

Tim Christmas 17

I had seen the cookies on a cookie sheet idea on Pinterest, but the shapes on it were three of the same gingerbread men. As I looked through my scrapbook paper, I found one with these gingerbread figures on them, so I cut them out. Thankfully I had enough of a scrap of the metallic paper for the cookie sheet. 🙂

This is Jim’s mom’s:

GG Christmas 17

And this was for Jim for our anniversary:

anniv 2017

Other stray thoughts this morning:

  • We had turned on the TV New Year’s Eve long enough to see the ball drop, and I commented that I always wondered how they did bathroom issues in Times Square during that event. I envisioned a long row of port-a-potties somewhere. Jeremy looked it up and said there are no port-a-potties – and businesses don’t let the crowds come in to use the restrooms. And some people are there as early as 8 in the morning! They also don’t allow backpacks or large bags, don’t allow people to sit down, and they kick out the food stands to make more room for people. I looked up a couple more articles this morning (here and here). I never had aspirations to go to this anyway, but it’s definitely on my “Nope, I don’t think I’ll ever do this” list – which is guess is the opposite of a bucket list. 🙂
  • I’ve rediscovered cheese and crackers as a snack. My mom used to always send Swiss Colony cheese and sausage packages for Christmas until the kids all got older and it got too expensive to send them. But usually one of us gets a Hickory Farms package at some point during the Christmas season. This year we opened it on Christmas Eve. Then I had mentioned earlier that somehow we got started having the Chicken in a Biskit and Easy Cheese during the holidays, so I have enjoyed munching on them all month. They may not be the healthiest snack, though – especially the Easy Cheese – so I probably need to find a better salty snack.

IMG_0548

  • One of the things I miss most about putting Christmas decorations away is the lights. But not enough to keep any up year-round.
  • I’ve also enjoyed several weeks of Christmas music. I got a new Christmas CD this year, Worship the Newborn King from the Wilds Christian camp. I especially loved the Candlelight Carol. I’ve loved that for years but rarely hear it. Other long time favorites have been their Christmas With Friends album (although that doesn’t seem to be available any more) and Sacred Music Services’ King of Glory. I also like some of Pentatonix – not the more raucous stuff, but I especially like their versions of Silent Night, The First Noel, Carol of the Bells, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Mary Did You Know, and others in that vein.
  • I don’t make resolutions per se, but I do like to make reading plans for the year and map out some projects I want to work on, so I hope to do that this week. I like to incorporate some purposefulness in my reading but with some flexibility in case I come across something new I want to read during the year. I hope to have my reading plans posted in the next day or two.
  • Also this time of year you see a lot of people writing about words for the year. I’m not sure how that got started. A lot of people derive great blessing from it, and that’s great. Personally I have never felt led to do so. Usually God has more than one word to work on in my life at any given time. 🙂 But can I say, if you feel stressed about choosing a word for the year or guilty because you don’t have one, don’t worry about it. Seek God about it, and if you sense His leading toward one area of concentration, then go for it, but if not, just seek Him in His Word and seek His will every day.
  • This is also a good time of year to find a good Bible reading plan if you haven’t already. I wrote on that extensively here. There are all kinds available. Probably the best plan is one you’ll actually use. Reading the Bible through in a year is a good thing for several reasons. A Christian radio station I listen to reads through the Bible throughout the year during daily 15 minute segments, not really too difficult for anyone. The last few years I have continued to read the complete Bible, but not in a year. I am not sure how long it takes me. I aim for a couple of chapters a day, but vary it according the the length, difficulty, or density of the passage I am in and whether I want to stop and slow down in certain passages.

And now I had best get on to some of that daily routine that needs attending to. Thanks for visiting. 🙂

(Sharing with What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer)

Advertisements

Happy New Year!

“Welcome, New Year,” said Captain Jim, bowing low as the last stroke died away. “I wish you all the best year of your lives, mates. I reckon that whatever the New Year brings us will be the best the Great Captain has for us.”
~ From Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery

“What heavens are laid up in Jesus! What rivers of infinite bliss have their source, ay, and every drop of their fullness in Him! Since, O sweet Lord Jesus, Thou art the present portion of Thy people, favor us this year with such a sense of Thy preciousness, that from its first to its last day we may be glad and rejoice in Thee.”
~ Morning and Evening by Spurgeon

crown-the-year-new-year-550x320

“Managing” Christmas

Most of us are in a quandary to some degree during the Christmas season. There’s more to do, a lot of it enjoyable in itself, but it adds to an already packed schedule and can leave us feeling frantic rather than enjoying the season, much less pondering the meaning of it. Though I am not an organizational expert, here are a few tips I’ve found helpful:

Start early. Some people shop all year for Christmas. That doesn’t work for everyone – they might not have the storage space, or desires might change over the year. It’s been a big help to me to buy Christmas cards fairly soon after they first come out, usually in November before Thanksgiving. I can find a good selection at a discount store then, whereas later they’ll be picked-over. The last few years, we’ve asked for everyone’s “wish lists” by Thanksgiving week, and by taking advantage of online sales that week, we’ve gotten the bulk of our Christmas shopping done then.

Evaluate traditions. Composer Gustav Mahler said, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” Traditions are lovely ways to enhance a season and create family memories, but sometimes they become a burden rather than a blessing. I recently read of a family where the mom/grandmother had passed away, and the first Christmas afterward, someone made the special dish that she had always made for Christmas dinner. But then they realized that none of them were that crazy about it, and there were other, better ways to remember their loved ones.

Involve the whole family. We always decorate the house for Christmas together as a family, and, though some years we didn’t get Christmas cookies made, I did that with the kids. My husband and I divide up the shopping. The kids help clean the house.

You don’t have to go to everything. Every group or organization seems to have get-togethers at Christmas, there are school programs and recitals, special things going on in town. Choose the most meaningful things for your family and forget the rest – unless you’re one of those people who likes being out a lot.

Some activities can be scheduled outside of December. I’ve known some people to do their annual Christmas family newsletter around Thanksgiving or just after New Year’s rather than at Christmastime. We had one Sunday School class that scheduled its class party in January rather than December, both to relieve everyone’s December calendars and the church facility usage, and give us something to look forward to in January, when there was typically nothing special going on.

Put off what can be put off. In addition to what was mentioned in the last point, December is not usually the time for massive organizational or home projects. I also try not to schedule doctor’s or dentist’s appointments in December unless it can’t be helped. By the way, you might be thinking of getting appointment or procedures in before the end of the year if you’ve already met your deductible for the year so it will cost less: check with your insurance about when their year starts and ends. We just found out a few months ago that they count our year not from January to December, but from December through the following November, so December expenses count for the new year, not the current one.

Take shortcuts. It’s ok to buy pre-made cookie dough or even bakery or restaurant items rather than making everything from scratch for every activity or gathering. I store my mini Christmas trees (some maybe 10 inches tall, some about 2 feet) with the decorations on in their own containers, so when I put them up, all I have to do is fluff them out a little and put back on any decorations that fell off rather than decorating each from scratch each year (If you have extremely fragile ornaments, that might not work). It makes it easier to put them away as well.

Acknowledge changes in circumstances and seasons. A friend grieved one year because she was in the hospital with a kidney infection Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. She felt she was “ruining” Christmas for her family. While I can understand that, in a sense her lamenting made it worse. Since nothing could be done about the circumstances, it would have been a good time to teach her kids to adapt and to maybe try to turn it into something fun for the kids in some way (maybe Dad bringing doughnuts for Christmas breakfast in the hospital room, opening stockings there and saving the big presents for later, etc.). Another friend’s husband was in prison over several Christmases, another was homeless one Christmas. Some people get stranded in airports or can’t make planned trips due to bad weather. It is sad and frustrating, but since it can’t be helped, it’s best to make the best of it in some way. And it’s funny how those “different” Christmases are the ones that we sometimes remember the most. On the other hand, some Christmases are filled with grief, and it’s ok not to be into the ‘frothy” aspects of the season. Also, as the family grows, or decreases when kids move out, the different things you do as a family might change. We used to get Christmas presents for all the siblings, then their spouses, then as families grew, we just got gifts for all the kids and the grandparents, then as we were too far away to really know what anyone liked and it was getting too expensive, we eventually just got gifts for our own children and parents. Empty nesters might or might not do all the decorating they did when kids and grandkids are no longer coming to their house for the holidays.

Find ways to focus on the meaning of the season. There are Advent Bible reading plans online that incorporate OT passages prophesying the Messiah’s birth as well the familiar NT passages about Christ’s birth and other applicable NT passages. I’ve been blessed by focusing on one Christmas devotional book in December. Some I’ve read are (linked to my reviews):

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas compiled by Nancy Guthrie, containing sermon excerpts or essays from as far back as Augustine and as current as Tim Keller.

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent by Nancy Guthrie is geared for family usage, but I enjoyed reading it by myself as well.

The Women of Christmas: Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna by Liz Curtis Higgs.

From Heaven: A 28-Day Advent Devotional by A. W. Tozer

I’m currently reading a new one, Gospel Meditations for Christmas by Chris Anderson, Joe Tyrpak, and Michael Barrett. I’m only a third of the way into it, but it’s good so far, and I have enjoyed others in the Gospel Meditations series that I’ve read.

Don’t expect perfection. I wrote about our idea of a “perfect Christmas” a few years ago and compared it to the first Christmas, which would be far from our idea of perfection: having to travel 9 months pregnant, not being able to find a place to stay other than a stable, giving birth in that setting, etc. But that’s the Christmas setting of our nostalgic carols, and, more importantly, the Christmas the resulted in the Savior of the world being born. The point of Christmas celebrations is to remember and celebrate that birth, so if every bow isn’t straight or every cookie isn’t baked and decorated just right, it’s not the end of the world.

How about you? What ways have you found to get the extras done at Christmas and still have time for reflection?

“Christmas is so much more than a holiday. So much more than buying and wrapping and cooking and eating and trimming with tinsel and mailing out cards. It’s a season for reflection, for preparation, for renewal.” ~Liz Curtis Higgs, The Women of Christmas 

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Happy Independence Day!

lettered pledge

(Photo is a free printable available here)

A Creed

Lord let me not in service lag.
Let me be worthy of our flag.
Let me remember when I’m tired,
The sons heroic who have died.

In freedom’s name and in my way,
Teach me to be as brave as they.
In all I am, in all I do,
Unto our flag I would be true.

For God and country let me stand,
Unstained of soul, clean of hand.
Teach me to serve and guard and love,
The starry flag that flies above.

~ Edgar Guest

As much as I love my country and am thankful for it and believe it is the best one on the planet, I also believe it is in need of much prayer. How to Pray For America has some good tips along those lines.

And Happy Independence Day (From a Brit?) is a really good article.

Hope you have a happy 4th! The past few years, one set of neighbors has hosted a neighborhood cookout on the 4th, where they grill burgers and ribs and everyone else brings everything else. But the hosts didn’t want to do that this year, so we’re having a family day grilling here. If it doesn’t rain, we’ll get out the wading pool for Timothy. I’m looking forward to a relaxing day!

Save

Memorial Day 2017

Memorial Day

The circling year again brings round
This proud Memorial Day,
With mingled joy and grief profound,
We deck with wreaths the sacred mound,
Where patriot soldiers lay.

Tis meet that we this honor show,
And pledge this day anew,
Our fadeless faith, that all may know
How strong this faith will ever grow,
In loyal hearts and true.

Our land so broad, so grand, so free,
Pays homage to the band,
Who fought and bled, and died that We
An Undivided nation be,
The peer of any land.

Pile granite to the vaulted skies;
Carve words of deathless fame;
Let marble monuments arise
Where’er the soldier-patriot lies,
In honor of his name.

~ Z. F. Riley

.

Save

Honoring the moms in my life

May always makes me think of my mom, because Mother’s Day and her birthday are both this month. She passed away eleven years ago at the age of 68, much sooner than either of us wanted to say good-bye. That first spring I couldn’t go near a card shop because all of the items out for Mother’s Day were just too painful. Now, though the grief of missing her is still there, it is tempered with good memories.

One of the things I most appreciated about my mom was that she could be a friend to us without sacrificing her authority. I could talk to her about anything.

image03.jpg

My mom and I when I was a baby.

My mom and I before my wedding.

In my college years God brought a new family to our church. They noticed that I came to church alone and invited me home with them often. Mrs. C. became like a second mother to me. I’ve often referred to her as my spiritual mom. Her gentle example as a wife, mother, and homemaker taught me much, though I don’t think she was deliberately trying to teach me anything. We’ve corresponded for years, though her notes have become less frequent as she has gotten older and developed several health issues. I’ll always be thankful for her influence on me.

My third mom came into my life when I got married. My mother-in-law and I have had a very amiable relationship with no in-law horror stories. She had several problems in her life that would have made some people angry and bitter, but instead she sought God’s grace to surround the irritants like an oyster making a pearl. It has been sad to see her decline over the last few years, but we’ve been blessed to move her near us and to be able to include her in our family life.

2009

2015

The newest mom in my life is my sweet daughter-in-law, who is a loving wife to my son and mother to the cutest grandson in the world. 🙂

IMG_0044

There have been other women as well who had a word of encouragement for me along the way.

I am thankful for “Aunt Sylvia,” my mom’s best friend, who never married or had children of her own but brought us Christmas presents, was always kind to us, and who bravely battled cancer. She once stepped in to pick me up from camp to explain that my parents were with my sister who had been hurt in an accident while I was away, and I am sure her calmness affected me.

I remember spending many nights with my grandmother when she lived near us and accompanying her on road trips in the summer. She was always crocheting any time she was sitting down and her hands were free.

I remember working on a church bulletin board with a lady whose oldest was a teenager while mine was still a toddler. She encouraged me not to dread either the “terrible twos” or the teen years or any stage in between but to believe that even those stages can be good, and I am happy to report they were.

I am thankful for Aunt Bobbye, my mother’s sister, for her being available to us any time we needed her, for her zany sense of humor, her care and support at my mom’s viewing and funeral, and for her love and care and continued interest throughout my life.

I remember and am thankful for walks and breakfasts and lunches and “play dates” with friends in the same season of life as we encouraged each other in our mothering.

I am thankful for godly pastor’s wives I’ve had and their sweet spirit and godly counsel.

In every season of life there have been a few ladies just ahead of me that I could watch and learn from, though they may not have known they were being observed. Even now, on the cusp of an empty nest, I’m inspired by a couple of older ladies who have been shining and cheerful examples in their “upper middle age” years.

I am thankful for so many women who were examples to me and made me a better woman, wife, and mother. I hope I can encourage others as these ladies did me.

I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day and feel renewed in your roles this morning.

mothers-day-flowers-13

Save

Allelujah!

Happy-Easter-Resized-Blog

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!

The powers of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions hath dispersed;
Let shouts of holy joy outburst: Alleluia!

The three sad days are quickly sped;
He rises glorious from the dead;
All glory to our risen Head! Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
Let hymns of praise His triumphs tell! Alleluia!

Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,
From death’s dread sting Thy servants free,
That we may live, and sing to Thee: Alleluia!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

~ Author of the words is unknown
Author of the music is
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

 

Save

Touches of Spring

Although spring is one of my favorite seasons, I haven’t always decorated for it. Even as I collected some spring decorations over the years, I haven’t always gotten them out. But this year I was inspired by seeing blogging friends’ spring decorating, and I was just so glad for spring to come this year, even though we haven’t really had a harsh winter, that I almost couldn’t help bringing some springiness into the house.

This little table sits just inside the front door, and I was especially pleased with the decorations on top:

IMG_0117

IMG_0118

The little flower arrangement on the left I got from a thrift store years ago, and the arched box on the right was a gift from Jason and Mittu some years back. It’s meant to hold Willow Tree figurines and has shelves inside, but I don’t have any that small, and don’t really want any more than I have. But I just like the box. Sometimes Timothy will tuck things in there, and sometimes I’ll put something in there for him to find. Those two are on the table year round except fall and Christmastime. The ceramic water pitcher I got at a thrift store years ago, and the little flowery bunny was a Hobby Lobby purchase a while back.

IMG_0120

So cute!

The little pedestal is new this year.

IMG_0119

I got the idea from Laura’s lovely spring decorations. I couldn’t find white like she had, but Hobby Lobby had these in pink, blue, yellow, and green, and they had all their spring merchandise 40% off last week. They had a package of ready-made nests with these eggs in them as well. I was originally looking for white or blue eggs, but liked these.

For a long time I avoided eggs and bunnies around Easter, but after a while I felt that they are fitting for spring, and spring is a picture in a way of the resurrection.

This is in the dining area and is a favorite. I forget where I got it.

I had wanted to come up with a new wreath or something for the front door – or actually for beside the front door. Our door has an oval glass insert which doesn’t seem conducive to wreaths or other decorations, and a little hanger was already installed in the brick next to the door, so we use that. In past years I’ve used this:

Roses and Hydrangea door ornament(That’s an older photo on a different door). I liked it, but somehow it looked funereal to me. Plus roses and hydrangeas aren’t blooming yet, so I wanted something a little more springy. I wrestled with whether I wanted it to look like spring in general or Easter in particular. On some of my shopping excursions last week, I looked around to see what was available. I definitely wanted tulips, but there were almost none in the fake flower departments, and what I did find, I didn’t like. I guess I should shop earlier in the year for fake spring flowers! After walking all around a few different stores, I finally found one lone tulip bunch at Hobby Lobby, a few half-off sprays at Joann’s and a small cheapy arrangement at Wal-Mart that I harvested to put together for this:

I don’t remember where I got that green pocket holder years ago, but I love it. It’s nice to just toss things in without having to use hot glue or a form to stick the flowers in. I had been considering the idea of a wreath with tulips and a little nest nestled in, and maybe I’ll try that next year, but for now I like this.

I ended up with some leftover flowers after all of that, so I put them in here:

I had an egg on a pick leftover from a flower arrangement years ago and found a package of them at Hobby Lobby, and tried a few of them in the pocket arrangement above, but it just looked too busy. I think if the flowers had been all one color, it would have worked better. I debated about whether to put any in this little arrangement, but finally settled on just the one.

In addition, these two are out year round, but they do look springy!

This is beside my kitchen sink. I don’t remember where I got the little pitcher: I’ve had it for years. But the flowers were just two picks from Home Interiors. I do change the flowers out for fall and Christmas.

The lighting wasn’t ideal for this photo – the sun was streaming in blindingly, but when I closed the blinds and turned on all the lights, it wasn’t quite enough for a clear shot. But anyway, the cloche with the bird nest in it was from Cracker Barrel (I think I may have hinted at it for a gift for Mother’s Day one year. 🙂 ) And the little birds were on sale at Hobby Lobby a couple of years ago. The little plaque is metal and I think came from a Christian bookstore in SC.

I enjoyed working on this last week, and now I feel sufficiently springy inside. 🙂

Save

Valentine’s Cards

We had a lovely Valentine’s Day. We’ve always made it a family day. We’ve tried once or twice going out for dinner, but the restaurants are so crowded it took a long time and wasn’t enjoyable. A few years ago for Valentine’s Day I used the recipe for Li’l Cheddar Meat Loaves but shaped the loaves into hearts, and that has become a tradition. (Note on the recipe: I use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs, only about 1 1/2 Tbs of brown sugar instead of 1/4 cup, and I omit the mustard because it gave it more of a BBQ flavor).

It’s also become a tradition to make heart-shaped cupcakes…

img_0082

..and peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s heart candies on top.

img_0083I received flowers and candy from my dear husband and cards from him and Timothy.

img_0084Jason and Mittu and Timothy also gave us these cute magnets from Photo Barn.

img_0085

I’ve also been making my own cards the last few years, and I know some of you like to do the same, so I thought I’d show them to you. I collect card ideas on Pinterest – I have one board for cards and one for Valentine’s Day. So when I have occasion to make a card, I’ll scroll through those for ideas plus the Cricut Design Studio. My generous husband gave me a Cricut Explore a few years ago, which can be hooked up to my laptop. They have “make it and take it” designs, which will allow you to cut the needed elements piece by piece and tell you how to layer them (the computer sends the design straight to the Cricut). Or, if you have an idea of your own, you can search for particular things, like “mug,” and it will show you several designs to choose from and then you can cut them out with the Cricut. So I peruse a lot of these ideas beforehand and see which one seems to “fit” the ones I am making a card for. I seldom copy a design exactly. Some times, like last Christmas, I don’t use the Cricut at all; this time I used it for every card. Of course, many things, like a mug, can be cut out without a machine like this. I can wing it with some things, but not so much with others. 🙂

So here’s what I came up with for this year:

For my husband:

img_0077

For my oldest son, who lives out of state:

img_0069

I had planned to put something like “Sending love your way…” on the front, maybe on one of the clouds. But I thought this looked balanced as is, so I put that on the inside.

For Jason, a coffee aficionado:

img_00711

For Mittu (it’s nice to be able to do one girly one. 🙂 ):

img_0074

I was particularly excited about this one for Timothy. He likes anything on wheels right now, and I had seen one design with a dump truck with hearts in it that I was planning on using. But when I saw the design for an excavator, I had to use it. He’s very much into excavators right now (and it is so cute to hear him say it) thanks to this guy, and can even name all the parts.

img_0076

I was thankful to find stick-on letters (for sale half price!) for that one and the next one at Hobby Lobby.

This was Jesse’s. From the time he was very little, he’s always had a bright, happy spirit, so this seemed perfect for him.

img_0075

And this was for Jim’s mom. My machine had some trouble with the small cuttings – I think maybe I need a new blade, but I didn’t have time to run out for one. There were four hearts layered for this one.

img_0072

I enjoy making these as my gifts to my family.

All in all we had a great day. 🙂