Monday, August 26, 2013

Art Party: Krispy Treat Paintbrushes

I realized recently that I had never posted about a party that is a particular favorite of mine: my sweet niece's 10th "Art Party" birthday! I am going to post a couple of different parts of this party but I thought I would start off with a little tutorial about one of the snacks we served: Rice Krispy Treat "Paintbrushes"!

For the treats you'll need:
-Homemade Rice Krispy Treats (You'll get the best results for this project by following the original recipe. I usually add extra marshmallows to mine, but that will make them a little too soft.)
-"vanilla" flavored almond bark candy coating (find it at Walmart on the baking aisle near the baking chocolate)
-wooden popsicle sticks
-various icing colors

 I used these "AmeriColor" icing tints from Hobby Lobby. They are really inexpensive ($1.49 each) especially if you use a 40% off coupon! They provide amazing colors, and you don't really have to use much at all-only a few drops.

First, cut your treats into the size you want your "brush" part to be. I did mine about 2" x 3".
Then insert a popsicle stick into each treat on the narrow rectangle side, about 2 inches in. These are your handles. Leave these to sit while you melt your candy coating. I did mine on the stove top, but it is microwaveable, too.

Then, divided the untinted coating amongst bowls and tint it the desired colors. My sister had these little glass prep bowls that worked perfectly. You want them to be deep enough that you can dip in about half of each treat. If your coating starts to harden, just pop it back in the microwave for a few seconds to make it liquid again.

After you have dipped each treat place it handle side up on waxed paper to allow the coating to harden. It also gives a kind of "paint pooling" effect that worked great for our theme!

Then, display "artistically" on a plate!;) We got these cute painter's palettes for $1 each at Micheal's. We bought enough that each girl used them as plates and then they got to take them home.
They were a huge hit with the birthday girl! I can't wait to share the rest of this adorable party with you.

Linked up to:
Thrifty Thursday at Living Well, Spending Less 
Homemade by You at Made to be a Momma

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Head Start on Fall Cleaning

I decided that once all of our summer fun was over I was going to tackle some serious cleaning around here. Spring isn't the best time for me to deep clean, with school ending and VBS preparations and a million other things. Fall is a little bit better, but I knew no matter what the calendar said I wanted to get started as soon as my sister left-that officially signaled the end of summer for us! I started the kids back to school on Thursday and I got elbow deep into cleaning!

I think it is really hard to know what works and what doesn't when it comes to cleaning tips and tricks, but I will freely admit that I usually try whatever looks easiest first. Living in a rental causes two problems: first, I feel like I am constantly cleaning after someone(s) else and second, I don't want to kill myself with exertion because we won't be living here forever and the next tenant probably won't care! However, I found a couple of things on Pinterest that worked like a charm.

Cleaning The Stove Vents and Filters
First, I realized that the vents above my stove (the hood is actually connected to my microwave-ugh!) were super greasy. I think whoever lived here before us was running a back-alley KFC or something- the whole kitchen was covered in a sticky orange paste of grease-gross! Baking soda is the best thing I have found to clean that-and a little elbow "grease".  But I knew that wasn't going to work for the vents. So I when I saw this pin by "One Good Thing", I knew I had to try it! She says that she actually got the instructions from a different site, but she basically duplicates it on her's. You take a 1/2 cup of baking soda, add it to boiling water and place your stove vents in the pan. Then, according to the other site, you boil them for five minutes. My vents were kind of long, so I had to turn them upside down to do the other part. And it made a HUGE mess on my stove because I overfilled my pot- I think I need a bigger one! I also had to do it twice, because I have covers for my vents, and filters, and I did both. However, I think you can see from the above pictures-it was well worth it. My vent covers and filters are the cleanest they've ever been-and I was thoroughly disgusted by the goo left in my pot!

Cleaning the Microwave
Next, I tackled my microwave. I keep it pretty clean, normally. One of my best tips is to keep a plastic microwave cover *in* the microwave! Anytime anyone goes to heat anything they have to move it, so it usually helps to remind them to use it-usually. That helps a ton, but since I was gone for  six weeks, Joel is not quite as fastidious about it as I am. I had used the vinegar and water trick before, but in case you need the instructions Jillee came to the rescue again! It literally takes no effort to get your microwave clean by "cooking" a cup of water and a cup of vinegar for 10 minutes, and then you just wipe it out! It makes me happy, and you can see from the photo above it left it pretty darn clean.

What's Next
So I hope to tackle each room in my house individually, but I haven't finished the kitchen just yet. I am planning on:

-Deep cleaning my dishwasher
-Lining the cabinet under my sink to improve it's appearance and keep it cleaner
-Cleaning my oven-ugh!
-Wiping down the insides and outsides of all my cabinets and purging them (by the way, Murphy's Oil Soap works so well for this-it cleans *and* gives a nice shine!)
-Clean the refrigerator and freezer

And on the finished list:
-Clean and reorganize the pantry
-Clean the microwave
-Clean stove hood and vents
-Clean and reorganized 1/4 of the kitchen cabinets

Hopefully it won't take until spring to get it all done... I would love if you have any tips and tricks you would like to pass on as I work on the kitchen and the rest of the house-I'm all about the easy way!;)

Linked up to:
Thrifty Thursday at Living Well, Spending Less 
Show Me What Ya Got at Not Just a Housewife

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back-to-School Blues

We do get to take some pretty fun field trips...

This time of year is always tough for me. I love the school supplies, and the cooler weather, and the return to routine, but it is hard when my Facebook feed is full of back-to-school pictures, so many blogs I follow are posting school lunch recipes, and Pinterest is swarming with pins of ways to make returning to school easier!

Because my kids aren't "going back" to school. We will start school, of course, here at home. I won't get to kiss my kids goodbye and return to my quiet house where I can spend my hours as I please. I will be looking at curriculum and lesson plans, while trying to juggle cooking, cleaning and laundry. And I wish that didn't make me a little less-than-thankful, but it does. I know the grass is always greener on the other side of the schoolyard fence, but sometimes it is just hard to appreciate how hard I've worked to water my own lawn!

I suppose in the same way that public school moms wonder "how we do it", I wonder how they do it. Do they get to enjoy immaculate houses and long, leisurely lunches? Do they read dozens of books and work out at the gym every day? I'm quite certain it is not as wonderful as I imagine it to be. And I could certainly put my kids in public school and find out!

But I'm not going to. I truly believe that God has called us to homeschool for this season in our lives. If that season lasts until Carson graduates I am looking at at least 12 more years. And I don't expect anyone who feels called to send their kids to school to feel guilty-I am not the Holy Spirit! Ask the Lord what He wants you to do, and go confidently with that.

And that's what I have to do when I am jealous over what I imagine must be the wonderful luxury of *not* homeschooling-I am sure that comes with trials and troubles all it's own. Instead I am going to focus on doing what I know I am supposed to do: trusting that the Lord will provide and continuing in confidence, knowing He will support me.

"He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:8-10

So, maybe I will have to stay off the Internet for a little while, but I hope that the Lord will bring to mind all the blessings our family receives by following Him in obedience. Following the Lord's will is never easier, no matter the course, but it is the only thing that will ever lead to true contentment!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Red, Aqua, and Cute All Over (Vintage Picnic Wedding Reception)

I have to say: decorating for a wedding reception trumps any other type of party I have done, for sheer amount of craziness! It was great though-it definitely stretched my talents and the limits of my creativity. The wedding theme, like all party themes, presented both challenges and inspiration. In the end, I was truly thrilled with how it all came together-I just wish I had gotten more photos!

 Some of my favorite details weren't even truly decorative. The bride wanted pie instead of the traditional wedding cake (although we served both) and toyed with the idea of individual pies. However, all the food items (for the most part) were "Northwest" favorites, and I suggested that we serve Cyrus O' Leary's (a pie company native to Spokane, WA, where the wedding took place) and my sister Robyn found these great kraft pie boxes-and they came with wooden forks! It made it easy to serve pie to so many guests, and I indulged in a piece of Marionberry and was very happy.
 Each piece was labeled with the flavor (we served Marionberry-a blackberry specifically grown in Oregon, Cherry and Apple). They were tied with baker's twine, and they formed a circle tower before they were attacked!
 The table settings were a combination of some of the bride and groom's favorite things. The bride had a wonderful friend who put together all the flowers, but I was responsible for everything else. We hunted high and low for metal vases to put the flowers in-we found most of them at Walmart. I handmade all the pinwheels. (When it was all said and done I made over 40-glueing sheets of scrapbook paper together to make them double-sided!)
 Each table had a different quote about love-selections came from the Bible, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Jane Austen, and even Star Wars. I bought the frames at the Dollar Store and spray painted the corners white. We printed the quotes on red card stock. Another little touch was the "vintage" keys-the groom has a fondness for old keys. We purchased them at Michael's, stamped kraft tags with "You hold the key to my heart" (tags and stamps from Hobby Lobby) and tied them with red ribbon and baker's twine. The bride plans to use the one she saved as a Christmas ornament. I was just thrilled that we found a stamp with such a perfect saying!
 Everything was grouped on blue tulle to help give it some definition from the white tablecloths. We had the reception in the church yard, and it was a great place for a wedding that felt like an old-fashioned box social picnic!
 The finishing touch of the table decor was goldfish. That is the bride's pet name for the groom, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to use them. Just in case you were wondering-no goldfish were harmed! Several people were concerned that they might not make it in the heat, but we didn't lose any. We waited until the last possible moment to put them in the jars, and then they found homes with the guests after the reception. We used Mason jars in several places as decoration, and the fish were a perfect fit in two quart jars tied with ribbon (from Hobby Lobby).
 The gnome had a special place in my heart. He was the inspiration for the color blue that the bride wanted and I felt like he deserved a place of honor. He found a spot at the head table with the hand painted initials of the bride and groom. Grouped together, they formed the main decoration for the bridal party.

Photo courtesy of Photography by John Rich
Another touch that was truly inspired-instead of place cards for the attendants, I used photos-each of the bridesmaids with the bride, and each of the groomsmen with the groom. It added color, and made for a nice keepsake for each attendant. I also used white sheets hung on rope (tied around two trees) to make a "backdrop" for the head table. It really helped to define the space and looked so much better in the photos!

I added these wooden crates to each end of the head table and used floral foam covered by tulle to prop more pinwheels in. It helped to ground the table and give it a little extra "something".

The bride and groom hammed it up in the photo booth. Photo courtesy of Photography by John Rich

I also adored the photo booth (it was my favorite area after the candy bar/buffet). I pick up the fun mustache and hat props, made a little tulle bow and stuck it all in some foam on a basket. The surprise hit was these laser cut frames. They were from Michael's and were a *steal* at $1.99 each! My sister spray painted them aqua, red and white, and I think you can see in the above photo that they were well worth it.

Photo courtesy of John Rich
We used a white sheet as a backdrop for the photo booth and added a bunting garland that matched the one used in the sanctuary for the ceremony. I could NOT resist adding this photo of my adorable little brother. Isn't he hilarious?! The photographer (John Rich, a sweet friend of my family, and his wife-who also did the flowers AND took photos, as well as a million other things) did an absolutely fantastic job. He edited this photo to its best potential. And I love it!

I can't believe how many talented people used their gifts and talents to bless my sister and her husband. It was such a sweet outpouring of love, and I know that there were a lot who didn't get near the credit they deserved. I was honored to serve her in this small way, and I hope that the day was full of memories that they will both be able to treasure. I know it was for me!

Don't miss the rest of the wedding series!
Wedding Preparations
"Mustache Bash" Bachelorette Party
The (Wedding) Post You've All Been Waiting For...
Wedding Day "Candy Shop" Sweets Buffet 

Linked up to:
"Thrifty Thursdays" on Living Well, Spending Less

Saturday, August 10, 2013

FIVE Years! Happy Anniversary, Clare's Contemplations!

I had no idea, when my aunt first started her blog, and told me I should start one, that it would still be going. It has been crazy, and I have covered so many things, and so much of my life has been documented for the world to see. My first blog post was only five sentences long and didn't really say much of anything! And now, today, it has been FIVE years!

 In some ways, I feel that the age of my blog is appropriate-I can do so much more now than I did originally (Pinterest! Better photos! Text on photos! Link-within! Link parties!Stats!) but I still have a loooong way to go-anyone know how to put those nifty Pinterest/Facebook/email buttons on the sidebar? I do really feel like a 5 year-old, I can do a lot more than I used to, but I ain't ready for a full-time job just yet!;)

But I have to say, I am really proud of myself. I have fought, and tried, and given up, and tried again with this blog. It has taught me so much about myself, my pride and my fears, my loves and my needs, that I don't regret it. I know that 40,000 pageviews over the lifetime of a 5 year-old blog is literally nothing. But like I said in this post , I have to remind myself over and over that I am just trying my hardest to let God lead. There are always lots of ideas that swirl around that I would love to try-hosting my own link party, giveaways, a weekly blog feature, but it just hasn't been the right time.

However, after a lot of prayer and consideration, Clare's Contemplations has its own Facebook page! I would love, love, love it if you would "like" it on Facebook! You can either click through here www.facebook/clarescontemplations, or use the link at the top of the sidebar. It is really nerve-wracking, because I know there are people out there looking at my blog, but they aren't commenting, and I am hoping Facebook will be a less stressful place for us all to interact. It is hard for me to put myself out there like that, but I just felt like the Lord was saying the timing was right.

If you're curious though, here is my blog by the numbers:

Followers:10. Just being honest here-that is really, really, sad. But whatever.
Most viewed post: Superhero Baby Shower with close to 5,000 pageviews. Thank you, Pinterest!
Most commented on post: The Hand of God with a grand total of 8!

However, I have seen some things I never expected-I know that the Lord is working, and He is doing it in a way that will bring the most glory to Himself. So, I just keep praying about it and trucking along, and I know that He will bless it as He sees fit.

On of my biggest discoveries has been the recent addition of my tagline: "Making the most of every opportunity...". That is taken straight from Ephesians 5:

"...Find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:10-20

I truly can't think of any other passage that sums up my life's goals and purposes more than this one. I want to use this blog as a reflection of my life: one that pleases the Lord, and draws others to Him. I truly want to honor Him. Thanks for being part of my journey-I know there are more of you out there than I can see, and even if the number is small, I hope you know how important you are to me. Here's to as many more years of blogging as the Lord sees fit...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The (Wedding) Post You've All Been Waiting For...

 I received official permission to post wedding photos, but after seeing this posts you will probably all be asking what you were waiting for. I have never claimed to be any kind of decent photographer, and being *in* the wedding party made photos so difficult! It will really take a while before I get over that I missed so many great shots, but I really wanted to be present-not trying to do anything but help my sister have a wonderful day. I think if I had been trying to take all the photos I wanted I would have missed out on so many other special memories! Unfortunately, you can't see those, so I will share what I took with you-no complaints, though, okay?

I took several photos of the bride getting ready, my sister Robyn did Katy's hair and makeup. It was a sweet memory from my own wedding-she did my hair and makeup, too. I wonder if she will be game to do it two more times?;)

 We went to a beautiful park to take photos of the bridal party. It was my first experience with a "first look"- where the bride and groom see each other and take most of their photos before the wedding instead of after. There was lots of down time for the bridal party, since most of the photos were of the bride and groom, naturally. Lisa Dawn, Kelly and I took advantage of that time to goof around and take some of our own photos!

 The props were ones that I had purchased at Walmart for $0.50 and they turned out to be worth their weight in gold! The "real" wedding photographer brought them along for the shoot and we played with them on our own.
 The bridesmaids' dresses were 2 each of three different dresses-all in red. We arranged it so that the sisters each had a different dress.

 It was a lovely place to take photos, I was trying to work quickly with my phone, so the lighting isn't the best!
I had the privilege of driving the bride-in my dad's expensive car! It was doubly nerve-wracking. You can bet there was plenty of praying going on!

 The flower girls didn't get to come to the park shoot, so we snapped a few quick pictures right before the ceremony. They are clutching their "thank-you" gifts from Aunt Katy!
 I really wanted a photo of Katy with Gwendalyn. I have one of me with Gillyan-who was only a little younger at my wedding, and it is one of my favorites. Aren't they just too photogenic?
 Really, the only decent photo I got of myself all day. The adorable pinwheel earrings were a sweet gift from one of the bridesmaids. She handmade matching earrings and bracelets for all six of us!
 Joel took the photos during the ceremony, because of course, I couldn't! Josie walked in with my youngest brother, Mark. She wasn't her usual chipper self-we found out later that she was running a fever!
 Gillyan walked with her brother, Gideyon. Aren't the boys' suspenders and bow ties the cutest?
 The entire bridal party! I cried far more watching my little sister walk down the aisle then I did at my own wedding!
 My aunt whipped up the adorable pennant bunting the night before and it was a perfect touch for the space. The ceremony was sweet-it had a lot of special touches. One of my favorites was that all the attendants walked down to  a beautiful instrumental version of "Pure Imagination" from the original "Willy Wonka". It is one of our family's favorite movies and it was a sweet personal touch.
 My sister and I! We were the Dynamic Duo-and I think we pulled it off pretty well! I did the decorations for the most part, and she did pretty much everything else.;)

 My Carson and his Dad! Joel was amazing as always, and did a ton of little things for me, including making sure both our kids were dressed an at the church on time!
 The bride stopped by the candy table! I was bummed because her favorite, the gummy sharks, were all gone! But she did enjoy a piece of Laffy Taffy!
 My sister, Robyn, pretty much prayed Katy into existence. That is a really special bond, if you ask me. It was great that we all got to celebrate together.
The bride, just chillin'. It was so wonderful that she enjoyed her special day so much. It was nice that all that work made for a memorable day!

 The two "besties"-Lisa Dawn and Katy have been friends forever! They were showing off their amazing fashion sense in their over sized sunglasses, or"facial windshields" as we call them!
 I don't think I have ever seen two happier people! This is a great shot of the cute blue flats Katy wore, too. They were just the cutest couple and it was a great celebration of their love.
Off to the honeymoon-car decor courtesy of Joel, my brother Clark and some of the groomsmen! I have one more post, of the few photos of the reception decor, and then the wedding post extravaganza will end at last!


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