Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Burlap and Felt Fall Wreath

Our moms' group at church has a delightful sharing time we call "Mom Moments" where a different woman shares about something she has a passion or talent for. This last week, one of my friends shared about wreath making. She inspired me to whip up this super speedy fall one!

This is not much of a tutorial, just because this was so easy to make, but if you want to try your hand at it you will need:

Wreath form- I used straw because I had picked one up at Goodwill for $1. I left it plastic wrapped to cut down on the mess!

4 "sheets" of felt in whatever colors you want ($0.20 each at Michael's)

1/4 yd. of burlap, and believe it or not, I did not even use all of that! (Walmart, I think it was $1.50)

Total: Less than $4!

I have never crafted with burlap before, but I definitely will from now on. The woman who cut the burlap for me showed me that if you pull one of the strings from whichever direction you want to cut in, it leaves a nice little path to help keep your cut straight. Also, it gave me that "frayed" look I was going for. I eyeballed the width of my strips, and didn't measure, I just used the inital strip to compare the others to.

Then you just stick a straight pin through the end of your strip, through the wreath and start wrapping! When you get to the end, pull up the starting strip and tuck the end of the last strip under it. It is a little hard to show in the photo, but pretty easy to understand when you are actually doing it.

Then-on to the fun part! Wrapping the wreath took about 15 minutes, the flowers can take as much or as little time as you want. I used this tutorial to make most of them, I just varied the width of the felt, and how deep and far apart I made the cuts, to get the different looks.

I also made a few using this tutorial, and I really should have followed a template. I just free-handed the shapes, and they did not come out the way I wanted them to. You can pick out those, they are the brown one at the end on the left, and then the tan one just to the right of the last yellow flower on the left. But they gave it some nice visual interest, and I really wasn't striving for perfection.

Then I stuck them on with straight pins and moved them around until I got a grouping I liked. Then some of them fell out when I dropped it trying to hang it up, and I got this. I actually moved them today, and am happier. The great part is that these would be so easy to switch out for the seasons and have a totally new wreath!

Scary and Sweet Treats

We were invited to a friend's home the other night for dinner, and I brought dessert. I wanted something a little more interesting than regular old brownies or cupcakes, and I wanted it to feel "fall-y" too! I found this cookie recipe at Land 'O Lakes website, and it seemed really easy-and I also had all the ingredients. A couple of tips: I lined my baking sheets with parchment paper. The cookies slid off like a dream-I am sold on that stuff! Next, I did not make my own frosting, I simple tinted a can of store bought stuff with a couple of drops of red and yellow food coloring. Last, I made my cookies much bigger than the recipe recommended. It saved me from rolling and cutting out 72 cookies! Doing the sandwich cookie with the cut-out top made it look festive without having to go to the trouble of icing shaped cookies. The cookies turned out perfectly, I was very pleased. Besides, no one thinks that I can cook. I can, I just don't usually like to!

This one was just for me- eyeballs! I don't know why, but I think the eyeballs everywhere this time of year are hilarious. I found this recipe for "Edible Eyeballs" and I really wanted to try it!

They also turned out perfectly (for the most part, I will explain later). Even the little kids knew exactly what they were, and it was so funny to hear them ask for an eyeball!

A couple of tips: I did not have an empty egg carton, so I simply stuck all my eggs in a bowl in the fridge so I could use mine. Second, many eggs these days have two tiny holes in the bottom for ventilation, in case a child puts them over his mouth. I found that sort of messed them up. The ones I did in the old eggs (without holes) turned out perfectly, where as the ones that had the holes in them had jelly bean goop on them (the black stuff you can see on some of them in the photo). Someone online said they used a camping egg container instead of the plastic eggs and I bet that would work really well, and you could skip worrying over the holes. I wanted to show you both the "good" eyeballs and the "bad" ones so you could see what I was talking about!

I was thinking these might be fun to make with mini eggs and use regular hard Lifesavers and mini jelly beans! It was super simple to do: you mix pudding, put a black jelly bean in a Lifesaver gummy and put it in the egg half. Then you fill them with pudding and freeze for 3+ hours. Then you pop them out by pushing with the back of a fork.

So cute! Well, for eyeballs... Anyway, I would definitely make these for a party-they are a little tricky to eat, but they look so cool. You could probably use green pudding and make monster eyeballs, too. This would be a great project for an 8-10 year old. They wouldn't even need any help from mom!

-In case you were wondering where I got the cute little pumpkin plates from, they are $0.50 each at Walgreens right now. I couldn't resist, and they are the perfect size for the kids!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Empty as an Unfilled Ice Tray

I have ice trays. What, you might say, does that have to do with anything. Well, you must remember, that often what is NOT said implies volumes more than what actually is spoken. What I am really saying is that I do not have an ice maker, therefore, I have old-school plastic ice trays.

And I don't like them. It is hard to get the ice out of them, you have to remember to fill them, and they fall over in my freezer. My tiny, tiny, freezer that does not have room for ice trays.

And I want to be bitter. You may laugh, or wonder why, all you ice-maker-having people, but it really can make one bitter. I forget on occassion to fill them, and then I don't have ice. I know that strange things can happen to ice makers that limit the production of ice, but it is rare. My forgetfulness, on the other hand, is not so rare.

I know, too, because I have had ice makers. Ice whenever you want it, fresh for the taking. No struggling with popping trays (which, by the way, are not made like they used to be-they keep cracking!) or running them under water in vain attempts to release the cubes. So many more cubes than my three measly trays can hold. And also, ice maker ice is skinny, not fat little lumps that don't fit in my water bottle or my kids' cups.

And knowing what I did have and what I have now, it makes me want to be bitter. And frustrated. And crabby. Feelings that are utterly wasted on my inanimate and completely unfeeling little blue plastic trays.

Feelings that aren't wasted on me. Because I have discovered, bitter thoughts breed company. Misery loves company, but bitterness-it just makes friends for itself. One bitter thought turns into another and another, and pretty soon my mind is swamped with thoughts of, "I don't deserve this" and "It isn't fair" and "This is anyone's fault but mine." And it is difficult to pull out of the tightly winding spiral.

That is why, when I started listening to myself over the three extra minutes it was taking me to pry the tiny pieces of frozen water out of the miserable little contraptions I stopped and thought:

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the
knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

Every thought? Even petty ones, about ice trays? Yes! Because Paul knew (and of course, it was inspired of God!) that even little thoughts can lead you far, far astray. Because complaining about ice (or the lack thereof) leads to discontentedness with ice trays, and then freezers, then fridges, then kitchens and pretty soon, you need a whole new house. Trust me, I know.

I won't pretend. I could try to think of why I am thankful for my ice trays. I have running water, and a freezer that freezes, and drinks that need ice. I don't own this home, so it won't be my permanent problem. And sometimes, that works.

But sometimes, that can cause problems for me, too. I try to figure out how my life is superior to others, and that is pride, not thankfulness. So tonight, I took a different approach. I thought, "This is stupid. I am wasting time and mental energy complaining over something that is really nothing. Moving on to something new."

And it didn't happen instantly, but when I made a conscious decision to redirect my thinking, it worked. Of course, I revisited it for the purpose of this post, but I am not bitter anymore. My ice trays are really not worth my time in the bigger scheme of things. And I am a very little person who needs a longer to-do list if I am going to focus on something so inconsequential.

And I don't want to be inconsequential. I want to focus on what is important in life. I don't ever want to see the tally of the minutes of my life and see more than about 3 seconds devoted to bitterness over ice trays. Because you know what? I was created for more than wasting time stewing over things that won't last.

"Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save
themselves from the power of the flame. Here are no coals to warm anyone; here
is no fire to sit by."

Isaiah 47:14

That is what those kind of things are worth. Any person, or action, or thought, that is not totally devoted to increasing the greatness and glory of Christ is worthless in the bigger scheme of things.

I want to be a fire, no matter how small, through which people can be warmed by the love of Christ. I want to provide light and heat. I don't want to pursue idle thoughts that last for only a moment in terms of worth, but greatly diminish my capacity to pursue my intended purpose: warmth and vision-filled with the One who ignited the Truth in me. Otherwise, I am as empty and pointless as an unfilled ice tray...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Picking Pickers 2011

We went back to our favorite October spot again this year, Diana's Pumpkin Patch. It is a little out of the way, but we love it, so it is worth the drive. We had absolutely perfect weather, too! I loved the photo spot-"How tall this fall?". It will be fun to watch the kids grow from year to year-especially since I don't think our landlord would appreciate us marking heights on the door frame.

The corn maze was amazing this year! I have never seen it so tall and thick. You felt like you were in a hidden forest. Josie gives you a good idea of how big it was.

It is hard to get lost with Joel, though. He has a terrific sense of direction. The game in the maze this year was "Clue" and you were searching for the characters and weapons from the game. However, everything had cute farm twists like the "Dairy Barn" and the "Pig Pen" and the weapons were things like a pitchfork!

Carson led the way most of the time, and I have to say he did a pretty good job. I can only hope he inherits his dad's sense of direction and not mine!

Jocelyn does pretty well, too. She found a scarecrow-they offered helpful hints about the maze. She was so excited!

The Picker "Go Team!". We successfully completed the maze-in record time for us. The kids did great; they weren't giving up.

I thought this would be a funny picture, but it didn't work out quite the way I wanted because *of course* the kids weren't cooperating! Where have the photogenic babies I had gone? But, it is a decent picture of me, which are as scarce as hen's teeth, so I kept it.

Joel got the hint. I showed him the last ridiculous photo I posted of him, so I think he is on a roll now.

I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to go into the actual pumpkin patch. Instead they grew the pumpkins down the road (literally) and then placed them in this field for the customers. They practice crop rotation, and this year the regular field wasn't available. I guess I would rather have superior pumpkins and good farming practices, but it sure is fun to go into the real field.

Carson made a beeline towards his pumpkin as if it had a neon sign over it. He was so happy! He did not want a huge one, this one was just his size. Although he still made me carry it.

Jocelyn was a little more choosy. She wanted a big one and this was the winner. I do not direct pumpkin choices at all. I love to see what interests them.

Jocelyn was put in charge of pumpkin transport. Can you see how happy she was about it?

The hay slide was new. The kids loved it. I thought it was so fun and old fashioned. The pyramid was really tall!

It actually went really fast, especially if you used the sack. (I know, because I tried it, but only once. The landing was really hard!)

Definite hit, and such a nice simple pleasure.

Jocelyn loved the bunnies, and they seemed to be equally fond of her. She still really misses S'mores, her rabbit. Maybe when she is older she can have another bunny, she loves them so much. It was nice to have a little visit.

Carson bypassed the rabbits in favor of plunging into the corn bin. It is always a hit with him, and I like it because it is not nearly as messy as sand! Although, I am pretty sure we brought a kernel or two home...

A final treat is to get rootbeer in a real bottle. I DO NOT like rootbeer, but I have to say, IBC in a bottle is not horrible. Not good, but not horrible, either.

Another not so terrible picture of me. Maybe someday I will remember to take off my sunglasses. It is just so bright out in the sunshine!

The final family photo. One of the sweet women who worked there offered to take this for us. I love that it is a family owned place. They are so nice there! I love that it is our special fall tradition, and I am guessing we will be going back as long as we live here. See you next October!


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