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…

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..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.

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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:

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For my oldest son, who lives out of state:

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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I enjoy making these as my gifts to my family.

All in all we had a great day. 🙂

Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge Wrap-up

I participated this Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge for the first time. The basic idea is just to read Christmas-related books between Nov. 21 – Jan. 6, and Michelle listed the following levels:

Main levels:

Candy Cane: read 1 book
Mistletoe: read 2-4 books
Christmas Tree: read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level…LOL!)

Additional levels:
Fa La La La Films: watch a bunch or a few Christmas movies…it’s up to you!
Visions of Sugar Plums: read books with your children this season and share what you read

*the additional levels are optional, you still must complete one of the main reading levels above

I read (each title links to my review of it):

The Christmas Stories of Louisa May Alcott by Louisa May Alcott
The Christmas Violin by Buffy Andrews
Finding Father Christmas/Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn
From Heaven: A 28-Day Advent Devotional by A. W. Tozer
A Sandy’s Seashell Shop Christmas by Lisa Wingate
A Patchwork Christmas Collection by Judith Miller, Nancy Moser, and Stephanie Grace Whitson
The Women of Christmas: Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna by Liz Curtis Higgs

Oddly, we didn’t see any Christmas movies this year, but we did watch a few specials: Rudolph, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The America’s Got Talent Christmas Spectacular. My children aren’t at read-to age (I know, technically you can read to them no matter how old they are), but my son did read a Christmas Nativity story book on Christmas morning for my grandson and all the rest of us.

I think I am a little overdosed on Christmas reading now, ha! But it was fun!

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Book Review: From Heaven

from-heavenI like to read a Christmas devotional during December, so I got From Heaven: A 28-Day Advent Devotional by A. W. Tozer when I saw it on a recent Kindle sale for 99 cents since I have enjoyed what I have read of Tozer in the past.

Compiled by unnamed editors at Moody Publishing from Tozer’s various writings and sermons, it is probably different than a book like this that Tozer would have written himself. There is not really a logical progression from point A to point B or developing and building on truths throughout the book. It’s just a series of isolated bits somewhat on the theme of Christ’s coming to Earth in both His first advent, which we celebrate at Christmas, and His second advent, when He returns. That lack of progression or development plus the entries’ being taken out of context from their original sources are the book’s greatest weaknesses. Introductory remarks convey that profits from the book sales will go to help Moody students, so this may have even been assembled as something of a fund raiser.

But it is Tozer, after all, who is a deep thinker and often has something noteworthy to say, which is the book’s greatest strength.

Some of the chapter titles are What the Advent Established, The Meaning of Christmas, The Logic of the Incarnation, Three Truths Behind Christmas, Light and Life to All He Brings.

Some of the quotes that stood out to me:

Even though you may still be unconverted and going your own way, you have received much out of the ocean of His fullness. You have received the pulsing life that beats in your bosom. You have received the brilliant mind and brain within the protective covering of your skull. You have received a memory that strings the events you cherish and love as a jeweler strings pearls into a necklace and keeps them for you as long as you live and beyond. All that you have is out of His grace. Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us, is the open channel through which God moves to provide.

We must love someone very much to stay awake and long for his coming.

Another reason for the absence of real yearning for Christ’s return is that Christians are so comfortable in this world that they have little desire to leave it.

All of the mercy God is capable of showing, all of the redeeming grace that He could pour from His heart, all of the love and pity that God is capable of feeling–all of these are at least suggested in the message that He came!

All of our hopes and dreams of immortality, our fond visions of a life to come, are summed up in these simple words in the Bible record: He came!

The idea that the Old Testament is a book of law and the New Testament a book of grace is based on a completely false theory. There is certainly as much about grace and mercy and love in the Old Testament as there is in the New. There is more about hell, more about judgment and the fury of God burning with fire upon sinful men in the New Testament than in the Old

The only contrast here is between all that Moses could do and all that Jesus Christ can do. The Law was given by Moses—that was all that Moses could do. Moses was not the channel through which God dispensed His grace. God chose His only begotten Son as the channel for His grace and truth, for John witnesses that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. All that Moses could do was to command righteousness. In contrast, only Jesus Christ produces righteousness. All that Moses could do was to forbid us to sin. In contrast, Jesus Christ came to save us from sin. Moses could not save, but Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior.

The big thing is to be sure we are not lulled to sleep by a false hope, that we do not waste our time dreaming about days that are not to be ours. The main thing is to make today serve us by getting ready for any possible tomorrow. Then whether we live or die, whether we toil on in the shadow or rise to meet the returning Christ, all will be well.

[This one really helped me with the concept of “of His fullness have we all received” in John 1:16]: If you could ask the deer that goes quietly down to the edge of the lake for a refreshing drink, “Have you received of the fullness of the lake?” the answer would be: “Yes and no. I am full from the lake but I have not received from the fullness of the lake. I did not drink the lake. I only drank what I could hold of the lake.”

Christmas as it is celebrated today is badly in need of a radical reformation. What was at first a spontaneous expression of an innocent pleasure has been carried to inordinate excess.

In our mad materialism we have turned beauty into ashes, prostituted every normal emotion, and made merchandise of the holiest gift the world ever knew. Christ came to bring peace and we celebrate His coming by making peace impossible for six weeks of each year. Not peace but tension, fatigue, and irritation rule the Christmas season. He came to free us of debt and many respond by going deep into debt each year to buy enervating luxuries for people who do not appreciate them. He came to help the poor and we heap gifts upon those who do not need them. The simple token given out of love has been displaced by expensive presents given because we have been caught in a squeeze and don’t know how to back out of it.

So, we live between two mighty events—that of His incarnation, death, and resurrection, and that of His ultimate appearing and the glorification of those He died to save. This is the interim time for the saints—but it is not a vacuum. He has given us much to do and He asks for our faithfulness. In the meantime, we are zealous of good works, living soberly, righteously, godly in this present world, looking unto Him and His promise. In the midst of our lives, and between the two great mountain peaks of God’s acts in the world, we look back and remember, and we look forward and hope! As members of His own loving fellowship, we break the bread and drink the wine. We sing His praise and we pray in His Name, remembering and expecting!

Tozer is not one to leave you with warm fuzzy feelings, but he does make you think. And though the chapters seem a little disjointed, there is much good food for thought and conviction here.

Genre: Christian non-fiction
Objectionable elements: None.
My rating: 8 out of 10

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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More Than a Day

As Thanksgiving Day rolls around,
It brings up some facts, quite profound.
We may think that we’re poor,
Feel like bums, insecure,
But in truth, our riches astound.

We have friends and family we love;
We have guidance from heaven above.
We have so much more
Than they sell in a store,
We’re wealthy, when push comes to shove.

So add up your blessings, I say;
Make Thanksgiving last more than a day.
Enjoy what you’ve got;
Realize it’s a lot,
And you’ll make all your cares go away.

By Karl Fuchs

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To give thanks is not the same as “feeling thankful.” To give thanks in the midst of pain and problems is to take a step of faith based on the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:18: God tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (not just those we can handle or feel on top of). For what things can you give thanks, even while you’re hurting? ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

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(This leaf is among free printables at Blooming Homestead. The first and third pictures are from crosscards.com.)

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We have so much to be thankful for!
Hope you have a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving Day!

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Ornaments for Timothy

I mentioned a few weeks that my son and daughter-in-law were going to put a mini Christmas tree in my little grandson’s room and asked if I would make some ornaments for it. I decided to go with felt because it’s obviously not breakable and hopefully will hold up to being handled by a little one. I wanted something he could be free to be “hands-on” with. That was part of the idea behind his own tree.

So I researched Pinterest (love that place) and got several ideas. One included free patterns; some I cut out freehand; for others I googled things like “gingerbread man template,” “candy cane template,” etc., and found basic designs.

I thought I could machine-stitch most of them, which would have made the construction go much faster. But it was a little hard to control, especially for the small ones.  So I looked up how to do a blanket stitch (if I had ever learned it before, I had forgotten it). By the last few I was pleased that my stitches were getting more uniform and even. I think the blanket stitch overall makes them look cuter though it did take a bit longer.

I’m learning in my (ahem) middle age that I have to have good lighting to see to stitch well. My craft room doesn’t have the best lighting except in the afternoons, so I’d go in there for a couple of hours a day and open the blinds, and that worked best. Sometimes I was motivated to do more, but my neatness fell off after a while, so it ended up being a good thing to work on it only a limited time each day. Sometimes my lack of dexterity in my left hand, leftover from transverse myelitis, was a bit of a problem. Even though I’m right-handed, holding the ornament in my left hand just right to be stitched was sometimes problematic, especially when trying to hold those tiny buttons in place. But overall I was pleased that even with “issues,” I could still do something like this.

I used Wonder Under on some of them (like the fox and deer ornaments) to fuse a design on, both to make it more sturdy and to use less stitching. 🙂 I also used it to fuse a basic woven fabric to the back of some of the designs that had a lot of buttons, because the newer felt is kind of thin, and I didn’t want the buttons to be pulled off due to the weakness of the felt.

There is an old-fashioned kind of felt that is thicker but also pliable (I am thinking it might be made of wool, but I’m not sure). Then there is a newer synthetic version that’s very thin and worked well for fusing on top. There is an even newer synthetic version that is very thick and not very pliable. I tried to cut the gingerbread people out in a double layer and nearly gave up because it was hard to get more than a blob: the finer details, cutting around the neck, etc., were hard to do. I came back the next day and cut the layers separately, and that worked much better. I was glad I persevered because they turned out to be some of my favorites.

This first one I did not make: I bought it. I saw it on Pinterest, clicked through, and found it was from an Etsy shop, and, unfortunately, got a notice that the item was sold out. I messaged the seller and told her my little grandson loved Batman, and would there be any possibility she would be making any more. She said she happened to have one left, and she sold it to me. Yay! I had given some thought to trying to make it on my own – but she did such a great job, I was glad she had one left to sell.

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Here are the ones I made:

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Free patterns for the deer and fox ornaments are here.

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They’re Starbucks aficionados, thus the Starbucks-type coffee cup. 🙂 They always ask for a small empty cup for Timothy so he can have “coffee” with them.

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I think the gingerbread family are my favorites. 🙂 They’re supposed to roughly correspond to my son’s family, thus the blue eyes for the Daddy. etc.

I stuffed some of them, others I left flat, just depending on what I thought looked best for each one. The first one I completed was the little house, and got it kind of over-stuffed, but that taught me that they just needed a little. I had thought about using one type of hanger for them all so they’d look more like a set, but it seemed better to vary them with what I thought would look good for each one.

I found a sturdy gift box from W-Mart which had a lid that just lifted off, so Timothy would have a box to keep them in and also so it would be easier for him to open rather than unwrapping something.

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We took the box over to him on Saturday. He enjoyed checking out the ornaments and putting them on his tree.

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Sorry that’s a little blurry – it looked clear on my camera. 😀

I hope they hold up well – I hope he can use them over and over again for years to come. It’s been a long while since I’ve crafted anything besides an occasional card, and I enjoyed doing something creative, especially something to contribute to Timothy’s Christmas. 🙂

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