Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a Dark Chocolate Cheesecake!

Only 25 hours and 47 minutes, people! Do you have any idea how long I have waited for this moment? I do! I have waited 524, 113 minutes! Yup, in only 25 hours and 46 minutes (time is a ticking!) I CAN HAVE CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!! And I am just a wee bit excited! And the first bite of sweets to cross my lips and tickle my tastebuds? I've done a lot of thinking and cheesecake it is. Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake drizzled with Raspberry Coulis and garnished with a hint of whipped cream! Oh, I think I shall die, it will be sooooo good. A little dramatic, yes, but you try going an ENTIRE YEAR without sweets and then see how much you look forward to that first delicious bite! Jay was smart enough to buy my favorite chocolates for my stocking - Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, M&M's, Chunky Kitkat, Ferrero Rocher, other dark chocolate goodness (actually only the Reese's were actually in the stocking, the rest I am supposed to pretend I don't know about but I was right there when he bought it!). Oh, I am drooling with excitement! Gotta go pull out the cream cheese from the freezer so I can make the cheesecake first thing in the morning to give it time to chill before MIDNIGHT! I have never looked forward to January 1 with as much anticipation as I am right now (and I am now down to 24 hours, 38 minutes)! What does January 1 hold for you?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Here's Wishing You a Christmas Filled With Love!

Every year Jason has the privilege of writing our Christmas letter. Here is the 2010 version! I hope you enjoy!

Christmas greetings to you all. As you celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus we hope and pray that you would also all experience the peace, joy and salvation that the grown man Jesus made possible. As I reflect on this past year and wonder about how to share our lives in one short letter I was taken back to last year’s letter and realized that, in spite of the demanding pace of life and the notion that we are all still about the same, much has, in fact, changed. It is very good to stop and think about what has been going on in my life and so this letter is likely far less for you than for me as it becomes an exercise in reflection and to show me how faithful God has been and how grateful I have reason to be. However, we have sent you this because we love you and want to share our lives with you, just as we hope to be able to share in your lives.

Arileigh – Nearly 2 now this whirlwind of a child has lived up to all my fears of being the busiest of the bunch. While I was voraciously anticipating the day that our youngest would be independent enough not to need Chantelle or myself for her every need, now that that has begun to happen I question the cruel irony of my circumstances. What I found as we closed the door of infant dependency was a much more daunting door opening in front of us. The constant infant dependence has been replaced with the constant toddler independence. Even in the time it has taken to write this paragraph I have needed to stop and remove pencil crayons from the one writing on the couch, clean up brown sugar, pancake mix and cheese whiz from the one who had removed it from the cupboard and fridge and was preparing to mix it all in the living, and remove a pen from the hand of the one who was poking another in the face with it. And all of this from the same whirlwind of a child! She has also shown a great aptitude for “talking”, the quantity of which can only be rivaled by her mother! Despite the dizzying challenges we encounter, we cannot imagine life without her and imagine that all this energy will likely benefit her in her newly found TV commercial stardom.

Aliyah – Psalm 56:8 is translated in the New Living Translation as “You (God) have collected all my tears in your bottle”. We believe God actually has a bathtub for Aliyah. She is definitely our most sensitive child crying for reasons from great injustices to just because the sun rose. Besides crying she enjoys babies, books and just sitting around and snuggling. During home school hours Aliyah feels it is just as important that she be doing school as well and can be found deep in thought in her preschool workbook. When the tears do dry for a while and a smile erupts on her face, what a beautiful little 3 year old girl she is, trying so hard to be and do all that her big sister is and does.

RhÉanna – Our fearless leader continues to amaze us in her outgoingness and willingness to try just about anything. Although only 4 she was insistent that it was time for her to start school and is now excelling at kindergarten. She is almost always the first one done her schoolwork and is usually disappointed that there isn’t more for her to do. Although we have tried, somehow she has not received the memo that she is not in charge. We have caught she several times telling her siblings what sort of punishment they will receive for the wrong things she has caught them doing including telling them to go to their room. This doesn’t go over well with the younger siblings, never mind her 2 older brothers who receive this corrective action with about as much enthusiasm as a mosquito bite. No doubt though, the highlight of our year with Rheanna is that this year she made Jesus her forever friend! Just as with the boys, we are thrilled that she has understood His love for her and her need for His help in all she does. We anticipate greatly the things God can do through her.

Adlai – At 6, Adlai has now gotten over the novelty of school and has begun to show his true colors. His comedic and restless character pulls him away from the table any time he can get away with it, and you can find him much more likely building Lego, drawing pictures or just making his brother and sisters laugh. While school may not be the highlight of his day he is certainly showing that he has a great mind for math. Time and time again, this creative boy can be found playing alone creating some great masterpiece out of Lego (then leaving said Lego lying around his room!).

Payton – Our 7 year old gentle giant continues to live up to the firstborn stereotype of being cautious, responsible and a great caregiver. His outstanding ability to read, matched by his remarkable memory leaves him spouting out facts both useful and useless that make me wonder if he was smaller for his age and was in the public school if he would get beat up a lot. As this is not the case, my questions turn inward as I ponder how long it will take him to figure out he is smarter than his dad. His heart is a generous one and often piles of seemingly useless recyclables end up in his bed as he creates treasures out of trash for those he loves. His desire to help in any and all areas has made him quite proficient in the kitchen – he is already making Macaroni and Cheese and Quick Cheese Biscuits with little to no help from mom!

Chantelle – continues to have far more interests than any human can possibly participate in. However, having not yet come to the realization that she is human, she continues to teach, work, and create, in ways that make Martha Stewart appear to be incompetent. I also introduced her to the chainsaw this year (Lord only knows why!), which she handled very well and can now add to her nearly exhaustive list of skills. She continues to home school the kids and does a remarkable job at it although she finds it much more challenging than it may appear to be at the surface. (This may in fact be the thing that breaks her and reveals her humanness) All kidding aside, she certainly feels that the Holy Spirit is using this endeavor to develop a deep character inside of her. Somewhat related to home schooling (so I thought), I heard her say to me that she had successfully gotten through the year without shooting a kid. I told her that was fantastic and I was glad she hadn’t shot a kid either. She gave me that “you’re an idiot look” and repeated what she had actually said “I have successfully gotten through a year without sugar.” Looking back that did make more sense to me and goes along well with the idea that she may not be human after all.

Jason – as for me, it is now been 13 days since I began this family newsletter. I had great hopes of FINALLY getting one of these out before Christmas. Perhaps I should stop setting such ambitions goals. Between work, church, and home, my life is looking more and more like a hamster wheel. That probably explains the shredded up paper lying all over the floor. Now if someone would please come and clean up the turds that we seem to find from time to time that would be great! On a completely different note, after nearly 12 years I am transitioning out of the hog barns and back into the grain farm. It is a slow and ambiguous evolution that leaves me wondering am I really switching directions or will I just be left with 2 full-time jobs. I guess I’m not a real farmer anyway until I am working 80 hours a week. We did, however, manage to get away for a wonderful week with family this summer in Minneapolis. We had such a good time I am already planning our vacation for next decade whether we need it or not.

Kids Say the Funniest Things:

Adlai: “Marshmallows won’t kill you.”

While Payton & Adlai were playing chess, Payton told Chantelle, “I got Adlai’s queen but Adlai got all mad so I gave it back.”

Rhéanna: “When am I going to grow up?”

Payton: “Can someone turn off the angel? It’s making me have bad looks in my eye balls.”

More Memorable Moments:
  • Payton had surgery for T-tubes…again

  • Adlai has a new found need for glasses

  • In classic Rhéanna style she learned to ride her bike much younger than the boys did

  • Arileigh learned to walk way back in March

  • We spent many hours in the country cutting down trees and pushing over buildings and making wiener roasts

  • Payton learned to mow the lawn

If you have ever wondered what Chantelle and I do with ALL our free time here is a statistical snapshot of a few of the major things.

15330 – items of clothing washed in one year

28470 – number of plates, utensils, etc washed in one year

3285 – number of diapers changed in a year (last year’s stat)

22 – the number of children Rhéanna thinks we should have

1/2 - the amount of food that makes it into Arileigh’s mouth

1/2 - the amount of food that ends up on the floor under Arileigh

1095 – the number of times in a year that the dining room floor needs to get swept

3650 – number of toys that get cleaned up in a year

32850 – number of toys or toy pieces that would be cleaned up in a year if they were cleaned up each day

365 – number of days in a year that Jason ponders throwing all the toys away.

600 – number of liters of milk we buy in a year

365ish – number of days in a year we feel incredibly blessed by the life and family the Lord has entrusted to us :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Halter Sundress For 18" Bear

RJ is getting another Build-A-Bear for Christmas (shhhh, don't tell her!). This time it is a bunny! However, rather than buying clothes for the bunny, I wanted to make her a dress. So I did! I had an idea in my mind and it turned out just like I pictured! Don't you love when that happens?! And since I love to give, I am going to give you the pattern and instructions on how to make this simple halter sundress for any 18" bear, Build-A-Bear or not, for free! This is really very simple to make, requiring only straight stitching and very little time. I actually made this entire thing in front of the girls but they had no idea what I was making! :)

Free Sewing Pattern for 18" Build-A-Bear - Halter Sundress

Supplies Needed:
1 - 18"x4" rectangle of fabric
1 - 36"x6" rectangle of fabric
2 - 9"x2" rectangles of fabric
36" piece of lace
1" piece of Velcro
matching thread
sewing machine
pins, scissors, etc.

1. Take your 18"x4" rectangle and fold it in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Press. You now have an 18"x2" rectangle. Open the folds you just made. Take the raw lengthwise edges (the 18" sides) and fold them in 3/4"; press.

On the ends (the 4" ends) fold in 1/2"; press. Fold your rectangle in the middle again (the very first fold you made) and you now have a rectangle about 1 1/4" wide by 17" long; press well. We will refer to this piece as the band. Set it aside.

2. Take your 36"x6" piece and turn under a 1/4" on the bottom 36" edge. Press. Turn under 1/4" again; press. Stitch. You have just made the hem at the bottom of the dress. We will refer to this piece as the skirt. On each of the 6" sides, fold under 1/2"; press. Fold under 1/2" again; press again. Stitch.

On the raw top 36" edge, sew a gathering stitch along the top of the piece, close to the edge. If you don't have a gathering stitch, set your stitch length to long then make two rows of stitching close to the edge. Make sure the rows do not cross over each other. Gently pull up the bobbin thread on these two stitch lines you just made. You will gather this edge of the skirt. Gather until it matches the length of the band you previously made.

3. Once you have the skirt gathered, you will attach it to your band. Place your band with the open long edge at the bottom and the folded long edge at the top. Take your gathered skirt and place it inside the band, a bit more than 1/4" in. Pin in place. Stitch across the band catching the skirt as you go. Once you have finished that first row of stitching, do another row right close to the first row you just made. Then stitch close to the upper edge of the band, across the whole band. You should now have the band and the skirt attached to each other.

You are getting close to being done! Take the 36" piece of lace and attach it to the bottom of the skirt. If you do not want to use lace, I would make the skirt about 1" longer.

4. Take your 2 - 9"x2" rectangles and fold them in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Press. Open up the fold. Fold the long 9" raw edges in until they meet in the middle; press.

Take the short 2" ends and fold in 1/2"; press. Fold the rectangle in the middle again so that your finished size is 8"x1". These are your straps.
5. Take your dress and fold it in half to find the midway point. Place a pin here on the band to show you the middle. Measure 1 1/2" out on both sides from this middle point and mark with a pin again. These second pin marks are where you will place your straps. Sew your straps in place. They will tie in a knot behind the bear's head after you put the dress on the bear.

6. Take your piece of velcro and sew it on the back of the dress, where the ends of the band would meet.

7. Add any embellishments to the dress as desired.

8. YOU ARE DONE! Congratulations! Obviously this can be modified to make a sundress with spaghetti straps instead of halter straps or shorten the dress and omit the straps and you have yourself a skirt. I am sure that little girl will enjoy this dress on her bear just as much as you enjoyed making it. If anything is unclear or needs further clarification, please let me know!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sickness, Sickness, Go Away!

It started last Saturday, a bit more than a week ago. AJ came to sleep on the crib mattress beside my bed. It seemed weird but, hey, whatever, right? 10am when I woke up, I still saw him in bed. I checked his forehead and he was hot. Well, hot is putting it mildly. He was smokin' hot! I checked his temperature - 105°F! I never thought I would see such numbers on a thermometer! So began the more-than-a-week-long journey of sickness in the house! Saturday-Monday AJ was sick, spiking to 105°F on two occasions. Sunday-Tuesday Pepe was sick also spiking to 105°F on two occasions. Now, they just presented with high fevers, nothing more. No coughing. No puking. Just really high fevers. They stayed in bed most, if not all, of the time. Monday-Tuesday I was completely flat in bed with aches from head to waist, fever and coughing. I had to get out of bed on Wednesday but felt hungover (and I have no experience with hangovers so I am just guessing!). I went to the doctor Thursday morning, gave blood and had chest x-rays but still don't know the results. I did get a prescription for antibiotics, which I eagerly filled. This is after 4 weeks of a cold hanging on. So, only on Saturday did I really start to feel better. That said, I still tire easily since I am not completely well yet. Let's see, sometime after that, oh yes, Wednesday Ali started with the fever. I thought she was better by Saturday morning but the fever returned and is finally gone today. RJ and Ari started with the fever Thursday and as of today, they are both still feverish (though I think RJ's might have broke after her very long nap). The girl's temp never hit the numbers the boys did, usually topping out at a high 103°F. Let just say we now need stocks in Children's Advil for the amount we consumed this week. Ari is the only one who ended up vomiting. Not fun when you go to get a girl from bed and she is covered in puke. Or when you hear her screaming in the middle of the night because she puked and you have to bathe her and change all her sheets - at 2am! Babies cannot tell you when they have to throw up, they just do and then they freak out because it scares them. Not fun, I tell you! RJ got a cold along with the fever so she is very congested with watery eyes. Then, around Friday or Saturday, Jay got sick too! Yup, this went and attacked every member of this family which I think is the first time we have all gotten sick from the same thing! Nasty, nasty, nasty! My mom, bless her heart, brought us chicken noodle soup for lunch today! I have orders from the doctor to rest and no teaching until after Christmas! This may be the only time I will agree that less is more (less kids means this would have ended a lot sooner!). So, needless to say, this has been a miserable week and I am so thankful we are finally on the mend!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More Christmas Baking

Over 200 cookies added to the 2010 Christmas Baking stash!

Today's recipes:

(or called Secret Kisses Cookies if you use regular Hershey's Kisses)

(The recipe above doesn't call for cocoa and uses regular Hershey's Kisses. On the back of the package of Mini Hershey's Kisses baking pieces is the recipe I used. Basically, make the recipe like the link says, adding 1/3 cup cocoa to the flour mixture, make the cookies slightly smaller and bake for 6 minutes, adding the mini Hershey Kiss instead of the regular one, as the recipe indicates.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gifts for My Sunday School Kids

Last year I made these delightful little dolls for my sweet Sunday School girls. This year I have 6 little ladies and one little gentleman that I teach (age 2-4) every Sunday morning and I count it a privilege to be a part of their lives in that way. I wanted to make something special for each of them so this is what I made. Obviously these are very girly so the one I am making for the little man is not so frilly and not at all pink. The girl's clipboards are all a variation of pink, black and white with their initial at the bottom in sparkly pink chipboard.

I am also planning to make some notepads with something like "From the Heart of RJ" on the top and putting it on the clipboard for them to have some doodle paper. You could also use these boards as picture holders. They would easily hold a 4"x6" or 5"x7" photo and you could just hang it from the clamp already on the board.

I found these clipboards at a dollar store for $1.29 each and picked up a bunch of coordinating paper and ribbon. The backs of the boards I just painted black. If you need instructions on how to make these, just let me know. I found a couple of suggestions online and then just had at it! I love how they turned out and my girls cannot wait to get theirs (they are 2 of those 6 little ladies)!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Baking 2010 - So Far

Last year I didn't really make much for Christmas baking. Not really sure why - probably still a bit overwhelmed by life with 5, homeschooling, etc. This year, I feel quite on top of things and have 3 recipes done with 3 (or so) more to go. I love to try new recipes each year as opposed to always making the same things. However, we certainly do have some favorites. So far this year I have made (all new recipes so I don't personally know how they taste - the kids all think they are great):

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pinwheels

Fudge Brownie Tartlets

Double Drizzled Chocolate Shortbread

Have you found any great recipes that you love to make? Some holiday baking favorites? Please do share - I do love trying new recipes!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Inspiration Pictures - Kitchen

Yesterday we had our first meeting with our draftsman to start drawing up plans of our next home, our dream home, Project 2012! Do I hear a squeal out there? There is a lot of those happening here. So very exciting! He even told us we will probably have preliminaries in our hand by the weekend! So with all this talk of drawing up plans, the kitchen is front and center in my brain, right where it usually is. There is probably not a day that goes by when I don't think about that part of the home, that kitchen. So much of our time is spent in that place it needs to be well thought out and functioning perfectly. It must be spacious enough for all 7 of us to work and move around without always stepping on someone's toes or squishing each other together. There must be a larger than a 3' piece of unbroken counter. Other priorities are (and I am only mentioning those I don't currently have):

  • full fridge/full freezer
  • 5 burner (minimum) gas range
  • double electric wall oven
  • prep sink
  • island
  • bar counter with seating for 5 (minimum)
  • lots of counter space
  • upper cabinets to the ceiling
  • window in the kitchen
  • no deck/patio door in the kitchen
  • a pot filler by the stove

With that said, here are some inspiring photos I have found through the last number of years and stored on my computer. I don't know where they all came from but will try to give credit where I can.

I like the color of the cabinets above but would probably lean a little lighter yet. I love the glass doors on the very upper cabinets. Photo from Decor Cabinets

I love this range hood!

This photo above is my favorite as the layout is pretty much identical to what we have in mind. I love the square "box" above the island that sets apart the light fixture and makes it stand out! Really want to do that. And I have the light fixture already! See?

(PS: This was a great clearance deal for $69.93 at Canadian Tire in Steinbach. In Winnipeg, they are still selling them at the regular price of $249.99!)

Same kitchen as last photo. I love how the range is centered behind the island. I wouldn't go with all solid doors or this color but I really like the layout of this kitchen because it feels so right.

These cabinets are closer in color to what I want, complete with black island cabinets. I also love the beadboard.

I like the pillars on the island and by the stove. I like the paneled look on the end of the wall ovens. I like the vent hood.

I tend to like the French Country look but know that that ornate is not going to happen. But I like the look anyway!

As you can tell, I am a traditional girl when it comes to my kitchen. How about you? What style of kitchen would fit in your dream home?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Compassion, by definition, means a deep awareness of and sympathy for another's suffering. Some people are more naturally compassionate than others. Some people just really couldn't care less. Can you teach compassion? I would hope that as I demonstrate compassion I am, by default, teaching the kids what compassion looks like and sounds like. This morning we had a little incident and I was overwhelmed by the compassion exhibited by the youngest and oldest of the kids. Recently, Pepe has been giving piggy back rides to all his siblings. He may be only 7 but he is just shy of 75lbs. To put it in context, I was a mere 88lbs in Grade 9. Pepe is in Grade 2. He is a big boy. A very strong boy. His much smaller brother is only 43lbs. So, piggy back rides are easy for Pepe to give to his much lighter siblings. When he is feeling left out, Pepe comes to us for his rides. Anyhow, the girls must have figured that they could give rides to each other. Ali attempted to carry RJ on her shoulders. I was washing dishes and could see them in plain sight. I caught what they were doing out of the corner of my eye and before I could tell them to stop, they both came crashing down. RJ smashed her head on the frame of the couch and actually gashed the back of her head. Ali smashed her elbow on the hard wood floor. So, there I was holding two screaming and crying girls, trying to console them and calm them down. Baby girl Ari comes over and pats, rubs and shushes away, trying to help in the consolation. I don't know if it is her natural instinct or if she is just imitating what she has seen from me but she does it frequently. If someone is crying, she immediately goes up to them and hugs, pats, rubs and shushes. Pepe went above and beyond that, bringing me a cloth to clean up the blood, finding an ice pack, getting RJ a pillow and blanket so she could lie down on the couch, asking her repeatedly if there was anything else he could do for her and just being greatly concerned and very, very compassionate. My heart is so very proud when I see such Christ-like actions coming from two very little people (well, by 'little' I mean young as I already established earlier that Pepe is most certainly not little!). I do a lot of criticizing of myself and my mothering attempts or despairing over my unChrist like actions towards the kids or Jay. When I see moments like what happened this morning, I think it is God's way of showing me that, though I may have moments of wrong, I am on the right path. The kids are watching and imitating and if that is the case then Christ is obviously at work in me just as he is at work in them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Horse Turds

Do you know that wonderful chocolate-peanut butter concoction called 'Puppy Chow'? It is a delectable treat made with Crispix cereal, chocolate chips, peanut butter and icing sugar! I got Jay to pick up two boxes of Crispix cereal the other day so I could make some of this deliciousness. I could see it now - little cellophane bags filled with this yummy treat, tied with a ribbon and shared with friends in the neighbourhood. Sunday was the magical day to make it - a first for me. Really, how hard can it be? You melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter, pour it over the Crispix until they are nicely coated then shake the chocolaty-peanut buttery Crispix with icing sugar until each individual nugget is nicely surrounded with a white powdery coating. Easy enough. Apparently not for me. Somehow mine turned into crushed Crispix that clumped into balls of chocolaty-peanut buttery goodness - they were not evenly remotely white. I was disappointed, to say the least. I am sure it still tastes great but the presentation does have to count for something. I poured the failed treats into a container and left the kitchen. I was not about to open the second box of Crispix and ruin it, too! Maybe somebody will take pity on me and show me how to do it! (Hint, hint!) A little while later the kids came to the kitchen (where Jay happened to be) wondering what I had made. Jay showed them and told them it was horse turds. Horse turds? I didn't think it was that bad! The kids laughed, ate it and left. Today, they continue to refer to it, with all seriousness, as horse turds and I think, in this household, that name will stick! Can you blame them? When you look at it, it looks closer to horse turds than to Puppy Chow!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lapbook on Israel

Shalom! This week we finally finished our lap book on Israel. Earlier I showed you our completed lap book on Turkey. Israel was the next country we were studying in our tour of the Holy Land. We are using Ann Voskamp's text A Child's Geography - Explore the Holy Land and we love it! I think the study of Israel was especially fun for the boys as Jay spent a bit of time in Israel before we met. He has a whole photo album of pictures he took of the exact same places we talked about in our study. So, he could talk about those fascinating locales with more detail than the books and was able to answer the boys' questions. They really love studying these countries as they can now picture where people like Jesus or Abraham or John the Baptist lived and died. What a great way to make the Bible really come to life! I also found a Hebrew printing practice sheet for them to try writing the Hebrew Aleph Bet in block letter style. They really enjoyed that. They also loved seeing their names written in Hebrew and will now sometimes write their names in Hebrew on their assignments! Next week we start our study on Egypt and I am really looking forward to learning more about that country!

If you are using Ann's book while studying Israel and looking for a lap book, send me an email and I will gladly send you the file! Why not save you the hours of work it took me to make it?! :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I am Participating in Operation Christmas Child - Are You?

For the past 5 years (approx.), I have looked forward to packing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, a very worthwhile project run by Samaritan's Purse.  The time and effort it takes to pack a box of goodies is so minimal yet the value to the child, her family and her community is so great, it really is unmeasurable.  My pastor and his wife had the opportunity to help distribute some of these boxes to Mexican children a couple of years ago and they shared some of their experiences with me.  Some of these children walk down the sides of mountains for miles carrying their siblings in a sling just so they can have these precious gifts of shoe boxes.  The message of Jesus Christ is shared with each and every child, a message of hope and a message of love as demonstrated with these boxes and these children are touched and changed forever.  Unlike the children in my world who have far too many toys littering their floors, these kids don't have toys.  They may not own a single one.  They only own three sets of clothes.  They have so little it is no wonder they are thrilled with a simple lined notebook.  A baby doll is as precious as a diamond.  The absolute joy and wonder that fills their face as they open these boxes of treasures is a sight compared to little else.  And they know in that moment that someone cares.  That they are loved with an eternal love.  I cannot help but want to be a part of that.  So, each year we take the kids and go shopping, filling plastic shoe boxes with treasures and praying for the little boys and little girls that will receive our boxes.  I pray that the t-shirts fit their little bodies, that the little cars will be just their thing, that the baby doll will be a treasure.  Most of all, I pray they will know the Saviour of the world, the Saviour of you and I, loves them with an immense and unfathomable love.  Won't you take the time to pack a shoe box for a little boy or a little girl who needs so desperately to hear about the love of Jesus?

It really is so very simple.  Grab a red and green shoebox from a participating Operation Christmas Child depot (it may be a church in your area, maybe a local grocery store) or a small plastic shoebox (of good quality plastic) or you can use a shoebox you already have.  Decide who you are filling the box for. 
Check out this link to see the age categories and to print a tag.  We usually pick the same ages as our kids.  Since they are always short of boxes for boys, we did 2 boy boxes this year (age 5-9) and one girl box (age 2-4).  Fill it with items such as a bar of soap, a washcloth, a toothbrush, toys, dolls, notebooks, pencils and pencil sharpener, crayons or pencil crayons, hard candy, a comb or a brush, pretties for a little girl's hair, play jewelry, games like Jacks, a t-shirt, socks . . .  the options are plenty.  Make sure the items are fun and safe and won't get wrecked if broken or frozen or melted.  For a better idea of what you should and should not pack, check out this helpful link.  Be sure to put the soap, the crayons and the candy into their own resealable bag.  Once your box is full, fill out an "About Me" page that you can print from here if you live in Canada, enclose a $7 donation to help the box get to where it needs to go, close the box and apply the label you printed out.  Put an elastic band around the whole box and drop it off at a collection center this week as the deadline is the 21st..  Can't find a center?  Check this link for locations.  Don't forget to pray for the child!  Finally, thank you for taking the time to change the life of a child!  I hope it fills you with as much joy as it fills me!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Outdoor Holiday Planter with Branches

I had a vision in my mind of a large holiday planter using various branches so on Saturday I went out to the country property and cut various types of branches. These included Golden Willow, Highbush Cranberry, wild Dogwood and spruce. This morning while the kids worked on school, I put these planters together in the entrance. I made two so I could have one to flank each side of the garage door. I love how they turned out!

First off, I took some scrap metal mesh, like a really small sized stucco wire, with about 1/2" squares and cut a square about the size of the top of the urn.. You could use chicken wire as well. I smushed the wire on top of the soil that was already in the planter. The wire is just to help the branches stay in place.

Then I took my branches and pruners and started cutting and placing the branches. I started with really long willow branches in the center and worked out from there. I made sure to stagger their heights and to provide more fullness as I got closer to the pot. I love the color difference in the gold of the willow and red of the dogwood, the berries on the cranberry branches and the green of the spruce. Once all the deciduous branches were in place, I used the spruce branches to cover all the wire. I used larger pieces to spread out across the bottom and then used really small leftovers and stood them up in the very center of the pot, where all the branches came together. Not sure if that makes sense so just look at the pictures. Stand back often to make sure it looks balanced and to ensure that all your pots (if you are doing more than one) look similar enough. I love the large size of the arrangement and can see it lasting well through the winter. And to think it was completely free!

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The DIY Show Off

Friday, November 12, 2010

How to Turn Brass into Oil-Rubbed Bronze

Well, here I sit eating apple slices dipped in peanut butter and listening to Josh's Groban's Christmas CD while the house is completely silent - ah, 'tis a wonderful time of the day! Anyhow, on to the point!

Seeing as the re-wiring of the chandelier is going absolutely nowhere despite my further attempts (my father has said he could help me figure it out so I must take him up on that offer - I believe that if anyone could do it, he could!) I have moved on to the finish for the time being. Remember how I said the chandelier was solid brass? Yeah, well, I really love the shape of the fixture but the brass color is not really my thing. I was pretty certain I could change that with minimal effort (just like I was sure re-wiring it would be easy, too!). This time I was right! I love love LOVE the look of oil-rubbed bronze so my goal was to change the brass to something darker and more beautiful in my mind. I really had no intention of painting it but as I searched the web for ideas on how to do this I came across this forum where a person named Sandy James from Edmund, Oklahoma suggested this technique. I did not come up with this on my own, this is just copying what Sandy said. However, Sandy didn't post any before/after pictures so I wanted to show the results to you. Sandy, thanks so much for the instructions, it worked perfectly! And for you brass purists, this may not be for you so you can just stop reading here. Don't say I didn't warn you!

First off, take your brass fixture and prime it with some spray primer. I used Krylon products since that is what I have on-hand and they are great on metal. I primed it with a gray primer.

Then, spray the entire fixture with a black satin spray paint. Once again, I used Krylon.

You should now have an entirely black fixture. Here comes the fun part, the "wow" part!

Get yourself some Rub 'n Buff in Spanish Copper finish. Never heard of it? It is a wax metallic finish that comes in many color choices that you can use to antique or decorate any surface or material. Apparently Michael's carries it but the only one in our city doesn't. I am sure many other places carry it as well but I had no intention of driving around to find it. I bought mine on Ebay for about $4 total and waited 2 weeks for it to arrive. Take the R'nB and put the tiniest bit on a soft cloth. Gently rub on the raised portions of your fixture and you will begin to see the magic happen. Rub and buff to your heart's content. If you do too much just spray it again and start over. Or I am sure you could spray paint a small artist's brush and touch up that way. Anyhow, once you are done rubbing and buffing apply a clear protective top coat and you are done! VOILA! My brass-turned-oil-rubbed-bronze chandelier (well, actually only one small part of it. I haven't finished the rest yet!). What do you think? I, myself, am entirely pleased. Giddy, really. I imagine the entire chandelier in this dark lusciousness dripping with crystals and I want to hop in the van and drive to my parents right now to get that chandy wired. And it is 11:30 pm! Patience, my lovely, patience!

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