Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lovely Little Gifts

I written several times before about how important I think it is to say, "thank you"-with tangible proof of appreciation. However, if you plan on giving something it is paramount that you don't just give "whatever"! Making something special though, doesn't have to break the bank!:)

I recently was invited to a graduation party for a lovely young girl. I talked to her mom, who said that the daughter would love gift cards. I can appreciate that-they are my favorite, too! But, I figured that would be what the majority of people were giving her, and I wanted my gift to stand out. So, I purchased a Target gift card, but I also put together a little basket of fun things, too.

Try to think about why you are giving the gift. Is it for a graduation? Birthday? Baby Shower? Thank You? What do you know about the person? Sometimes, as in this case, I am much better friends with the mom, but I can remember being a teenager. And some things are universal to being a girl! Almost every woman appreciates things that match, smell good, are pretty and are useful!

I am a big advocate of expensive candles (Yankee, Bath and Body) but sometimes that just isn't in the budget. These Mainstay candles from Walmart are $1! And they smell terrific. This particular candle was the starting point for this gift basket. I used it to set the color palette and chose my other things based on it. Dorm rooms, and college students, can be smelly! I figured a great smelling candle would be appreciated.

But, I didn't stop there. I covered a box of matches with coordinating scrapbook paper. That was so easy, just glue dots and paper (I made sure to leave one of the striking edges uncovered).

Another super easy thing: a piece of framed Scripture. I typed a verse in Microsoft Word, printed it on cute paper (this piece was from a notepad!) and fitted it in this adorable frame from Target's Dollar Spot. You can find fun frames for around $1 all kinds of places. This made this gift much more personal, and the verse was particularly fitting. It says,

"Make it your aim to learn what pleases the Lord." Ephesians 5:10

Choosing unusual verses it something that tells the receiver that you put a lot of thought into your gift. It also challenges me to make sure I am familiar with the Bible, so that I have a fitting Scripture for every occasion!

 The rest of the gift was easy to put together, and I used a mix of things I had on hand and some purchased just for this occasion. I have found that keeping scented hand sanitizers, frames, notepads, and a few other things  (always on clearance!) allows me to put together great gifts without looking cheap. But I always like to purchase a few extra things, so the gift is really thoughtful. I put stickers on the back of everything explaining what it was for, I made them humorous, but forgot to take photos! So here is a more dry explanation.

-framed Scripture, to remember the purpose of learning
-Band-Aids, for the ouchies her mom can't kiss
-matches for the candles, and other "hard to get rid of" smells
-hand sanitizer for dirty doorknobs and other things
-lip balm for the days that there is no time for makeup
-yellow nail polish for days that need a little sunshine
-gum (lemon bar to match the candle!) when there is no time to brush your teeth
-pedicure kit because pretty toes always make you feel good
- notepad for lists of homework, and all those other things you have to keep track of!

I put it all together in a white basket (Target Dollar Spot again!) and added some washi tape to the basket to make it match. I really tried to think about what she might need or want, and using matching items made it so fun and eye-catching. Little details, like only using color coordinating items, and having a reason for everything makes it thoughtful.
Sometimes, though, even $10 is too much. I wanted to give all my Bible study ladies a "Mother's Day" gift, for our last day of study. I had 20 women in the class and I just couldn't swing that, as much as I would have loved to! So, I went hunting for inspiration and found just the thing: poufs at the Dollar Store. I put together "mini spa"baskets and I did it on the cheap!
Here's what I put in:
-pouf 5 for $1 at the Dollar Store $0.20
-bag of handmade bath salts (easy, great recipe here) I bought the glassine bags at Michael's $0.12, and the bath salts were: lemon essential oil, Epsom salts, baking soda and table salts. That was roughly $0.20, so total for the salts was $0.32
-candy (purchased with coupons!) was $0.20, I used Hershey's Simple Pleasures and Lindt Caramel Truffles
-a tealight wrapped with washi tape. I already had these but I priced them and they would be $0.05 each
-the basket $0.25 (4 in a pack from the Dollar Store)

I already had the lemon essential oil, tissue, washi tape, and scrapbook paper. However, you wouldn't *have* to use those so the total cost for these was $1.02!
However, it is the little touches, like the washi tape and scrapbook labels, that are the details that make it memorable. The labels said:

Mini Relaxation Kit (which I misspelled! Ugh! Working late at night on a program without spell check is NOT  a good idea)
Lemon Bath Salts
Exfoliating Pouf
Ambiance Candle
Indulgent Chocolate
Happy Mother's Day!
I taped it to the front of the basket with more washi tape (Target, 4 rolls for $4) and it made for a pretty cute gift! Again, the key to these was thinking about what would make it special. The Lemon Bath Salts were so cheap, but the handmade element made them so thoughtful. Look for something that you can do that is handmade. Maybe everyone else can buy all the stuff in that bucket-but you make it special when you add washi tape to a plain candle, put together bath salts from scratch  and choose coordinating candies!

So to recap:http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=3389073715517542581#editor/target=post;postID=5152741727669457457;onPublishedMenu=overview;onClosedMenu=overview;postNum=0;src=link
-include something handmade/homemade
-add cute details, scrapbook paper, washi tape, ribbon, etc. Don't leave things plain!
-think about the recipient. What would they like or be able to use? If you don't know them very well, think about what you would like!
-match! Coordinating makes things seem more expensive and thoughtful.
-don't be afraid to use clearance or Dollar Store items, especially if you can make them more fancy.
-set a budget and challenge yourself to get the most for your money. Using coupons made it possible to put in twice as much candy without spending more than I wanted. Adding items on hand to things I specifically purchased also spread the amount over a period of time, which made it more affordable.
-BE THOUGHTFUL. No one wants something you pulled out of your dusty "gift closet" that you just need to get rid of. I truly take each person into account, even when making group gifts. You can't substitute anything for really being conscientious when giving gifts.
-Have fun! Don't take it too seriously. Everyone smiles over PacMan Band-Aids, right?;)

Here are a few more "little gifties" that I've put together:
Teacher Hand Soap Thank-You Gifts
Water Bottle/Water Gun Thank You Gifts
Homemade Sugar Scrub Gift Sets
"Cozy" Christmas Gifts

I linked up at;
Thrifty Thursday at Living Well, Spending Less


Saturday, May 18, 2013


Simple words, but worth remembering...

Sometimes, things just seem too heavy. I have a couple of friends who are facing truly devastating situations- stuff for Lifetime movies. And it weighs me down, I spent a lot of time crying and praying on their behalves. And that isn't to even begin dealing with the stuff going on in my own life-stuff that I really feel like can't be shared because I am just too afraid that if everyone saw *everything* they would either commit me, or un-friend me-both on Facebook and in real life.

And it is scary. Because when you are all grown up people really expect you to be able to keep it together, and to have all the answers. To questions, like, "when is your husband going to get a "real" job"? Questions that I can't answer because, like I told someone the other day, "We don't have a 5 year plan. We don't have a 5 *minute* plan!" Because I have never had the luxury of planning. My life is pretty much like the weather in Colorado, stick around for a few minutes and it will change.

And that is all good and fine sometimes. Most of the time even. The smile on my face isn't fake-trust me, I am far too transparent for that. God is good-ALL THE TIME. But these moments, the things that real life bring, they can cloud my vision so thoroughly, steal my joy so quickly, that I don't always know what hit me.

I like to know what to do. I like to know what to say. But this life lately, it is bent on rendering me speechless. And that is a hard, hard thing to do, because I always have something to say. But there is nothing. There is crying, the out loud, open-mouthed kind, that always seems to find me in the car, because what is more embarrassing than having every stranger at the stoplight seeing you red-faced and broken? Pain is hurtling around and through me and I can't fix it, I can't stop it.

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."  Romans 8:26

Over and over, this has been my prayer: "O, Lord. O, Lord! My friend! My friend!" And that desolate prayer, it has been enough. It has been my prayer for myself, too. Just saying over and over, "O, Lord. O, Lord!" Who knows our pain like Jesus does? 

But that verse, as precious as it is to me, gains even more meaning when you take it in context. It is long, but please, please don't skip it. Don't just read the words, truly understand that they are for YOU! 

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express . And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.
 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

NO! In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:18-39 (NIV, although all emphases are mine) 

I don't know, but I don't need to. My present sufferings, they are nothing. My pain-so very real, don't get me wrong, my dear friends and their tragedies, are all completely tear worthy. But I can't get stuck on the heavy. I am called, wooed, into a relationship where the love is so true, so complete that every burden that seems so fixated on shoving me not just into the ground, but completely burying me under it, completely dissipates when compared to the blaze of glory surrounding the face of the One who has captured me so entirely that nothing can ever snatch me from His hand.

Not death, even though the world tells us it is the end.
Not life, even though living it is sometimes it is so hard that a meaningless death seems like a release.
Not angels, those mighty servants of the King.
Not demons, though enticing and fear-inducing.
Not the present, though it seems insurmountable.
Not the future, though it seems a terrifying black void.
Not height, we can't go be too successful or "perfect"
Not depth, we can't be pushed too far through the ground.

Nor anything else:
the economy
the President
our nation
catastrophes-natural and otherwise

Put whatever it is there. Nor any what? What is it that you feel like is separating you from His love? It isn't! No matter how heavy it seems, in Him it is light. And not surprisingly, while I sit here typing this, crying and reveling in the greatness, the song that inspired this post is playing:

"So I praise and adore You
Lay it all down before You
In every way You’re beautiful
From my heart
I praise and adore
You made the world beautiful
I cannot stand and deny
You created life
And some live without it."
 -Wavorly, "Praise and Adore You"

It isn't heavy, if you give it to Him. It's life, and real life, what we have in Him, is worth living. Really living-for Him, through Him, with Him, in Him. Nothing can separate you from that-not even the heavy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Butterfly Baby Shower

This shower theme was chosen by the mom-to-be, really by way of her nursery choice. All Sarah and I had to go on was "purple butterflies" (we were trying to surprise the guest of honor with the theme!) and it ended up working out that we chose the exact colors she was using for the baby's room! That is always fun, because we make lots of things that transition to perfect nursery decor. It was really providential.

Pinterest provided a lot of inspiration as usual. (Also a couple of flops- I tried this butterfly kissing ball-it was *not* easy or cute! I will have to figure out what I did wrong.) The lighting at the church was abysmal, so please excuse my less-than-stellar photos. Oh florescent lights, how you plague me!
I wrapped the vases with two strips of scrapbook paper-and simply used my butterfly punch (Martha Stewart Monarch Butterfly from Michael's) to cut an outline. Sarah decorated branches from her yard with butterfly punch-outs, (she had a smaller plain butterfly design, from Hobby Lobby) and they turned out *so* cute! This was definitely a good time and money investment versus return project. It took the place of much more expensive fresh flowers, but didn't look any less pretty.
Sarah had these moss balls on hand, and she used a white tray (I think it is an olive dish?) and once she put the butterfly punches on the balls, they were adorable! We covered the table with a "runner" of wrapping paper from the dollar store, over a purple tablecloth, also the from the dollar store!
Sarah made this "specimen" art with more punches and used glue dots to stick them on a burlap covered canvas. She tied it off with tulle and used scrapbook stickers to spell out the baby's name.
I made the pennant banner from scrapbook paper and stickers. I embellished it with rhinestones to make it even more girly. We used the wrapping paper as a runner on this table, too.
This was my "piece de resistance" so to speak. I modeled it from an idea I saw on Pinterest. This girl is selling her's for $60- and they are worth it! I worked long and hard on that thing-would you believe there are almost 100 butterflies on there? And transporting it was beastly! I used sewing thread to hang the butterflies (I am guessing the Etsy seller used more "quality" supplies!). But the guest of honor loved it, and that made it all worthwhile. I glued two butterflies back to back on each thread and then folded the wings to make them 3D. I used an embroidery hoop as the base, and painted it then covered the outside with ribbon.
 I bought the nets at the Dollar Store (love that place!) and glued some punches in them to make them more festive. I stuck them in a vase, and was pretty happy with how they added height to this particular area.
I used the baby's name to make an acrostic, and the smaller frame holds the verses from Philippians 4:8. The acrostic is two separate printings that I glued together, I used printed paper for the name, to make it "pop". I used more punches to add some interest. The verses ended up being so perfect.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

I did a devotional at the shower based on it, and it was straight from the Lord. It was a stressful pregnancy for the mom, full of worry, and I just felt like He was telling me to use this verse as a starting point to cover most of that chapter in Philippians, which is chock full of good advice for how to turn our burdens over to the Lord, and receive His peace!
I used a Dollar Store foam wreath and covered it with ribbon and used this free printable template to make the butterflies. I stuck them on with some straight pins-so easy!
I used this tutorial to make the flower on my present-I always wrap my gifts to match the decor. It is so much more fun that way! I also usually use actual wrapping paper. I'm so over bags-it is so much more fun to rip into paper!;)
My friend Christy made the cupcakes. I purchased the frosting dye at Hobby Lobby (so cheap-$0.70 with a coupon) and that stuff is wonderful! It works so much better than regular food coloring.The toppers: my fave trick of punches glued to toothpicks. A sweet friend threw these together while we were putting up the decorations!
Sarah made this framed decoration. It was one of my favorite things. She glued the punches to the front of the glass with worked out really nicely, I think they showed up better that way.

All in all, it was one of the less expensive showers we've done, but I think the creativity and effort we put into it more than made up for that. It was a pleasure to bless the mom, she was so sweet and grateful. She gave me a hostess gift, which made me cry! Very few people do that anymore, and it wasn't the gift so much as the thoughtfulness behind it. As much as I stress over these parties, I absolutely love the opportunity to flex my creative muscles! I think with each one Sarah and I become an even better team. And sometimes the financial limitations lead to better, more creative solutions. Although, I would love to see what we could do with a bigger budget...;)

My Pinterest Inspiration Board: Bump Bashes

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Best Mother's Day Gift Ever

He says, "Mom, I'm awesome!" Yes, Carson, you are!

     I had a VBS meeting this morning. I am usually not out of bed before 8:00 am (ah, the joys of homeschooling!) but I had to leave my house by 8:15 to be there on time. I commented to Joel as I was leaving that it was practically miraculous that I was getting out of the house early-I was sure I was forgetting something. However, I made it out the door by 10 after and was on my way. I should have known that the Lord had plans, since I rarely leave on time!

Anyway, on the way to the church we were enjoying the new VBS CD, singing along-Josie loves to learn the music in advance every year- when Carson broke in with a very strange question. "Mom, can Satan kill God?". He asked it so innocently, and I knew his little brain had been turning the matter over and over. He is very much into super heroes right now, and I know that good vs. evil is something that he has given a lot of thought to, being very partial to the "good guys". So, my mother's instinct told me that this was not a question to be casually dismissed. I answered his question in a fair amount to detail, considering that he is only 5, and that led to a myriad of other inquiries.

Josie, my dear little evangelist, immediately decided that this was an excellent opportunity to expound on the whole story of Satan falling from heaven, which led to even more questions. He wanted to know if you could ask Satan into your heart (a very valid question I think, coming from a person so young) and then he mentioned that God preferred the good guys. We talked about that, yes, God does prefer good, but we aren't capable of being good on our own. Josie clearly laid out the plan of salvation, with a little help from me. And in my heart, I knew that this was a very important moment. I think the Holy Spirit was preparing me. And then he said it. He said, so plainly, "Mom, I want to ask God into my heart, can we pray at the church?"

And my mother heart almost burst. Because it is a little scary when your tiny child, the one who you have prayed for, and cried over, reaches that moment, and it seems so surreal, because really what can a 5 year old know and understand about Jesus? But then you realize that this is what you have taught him from birth, all about Christ's sacrifice and love, and it isn't the slightest bit strange, as a matter of fact, there couldn't be anything more natural.

Because he knew. He knew that even in his short lifetime, that he had done wrong, intentionally, unintentionally, and everything in between. And he so wanted to be good. So he tried and tried but he just couldn't. And he had heard over and over, about Jesus' love, and His death and resurrection, and His power to save. And then finally, today, it all clicked for him. He didn't need to know anything more than that Jesus had died for that very reason, to save him from his sin, and give him the power to be the good guy.

So, I prayed, desperately, in the 5 minutes remaining to the church. And then I took the son the Lord had given me on my lap, and there, in the car, in the church parking lot, my little boy cried and prayed, and asked Jesus into his heart. And I have never felt so amazed by the timing of the Lord in my life.

Because I was headed into the church to talk to a group of VBS workers about how to lead children to Christ, and the Lord gave me the most poignant reminder of all that salvation has nothing at all to do with *my* words, or *my* actions-that it is all about Him. He is always at work around us, and all I have to do is be willing and available. I knew that He had been at work in Carson, and to see it all come to fruition, in such a seemingly bizarre way, I knew it had to be Him.

And I can't be anything but thankful. What a privilege as a mom, to be able to be a small part of that experience! I know there is no greater joy on this side of heaven, than to be an instrument in leading someone to Christ. But your own child! Oh! It was the culmination of everything that any godly mother has ever prayed for. And to see the joy and peace on his face. It was absolutely priceless. And I was so reminded of this verse:

 "Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."
1Corinthians 3:7 

I am so glad that I am not responsible for choosing the manner, or timing, of salvation. I would have never picked in the car on the way to a meeting. But thankfully, I am not God, and He is much better at those things than I. So now, I am rejoicing in His calling of my sweet Carson, and His wisdom and perfect timing. And to know my dear child will be with me in heaven is truly is the best Mother's Day gift any mom could ever ask!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The $25 Birthday Party

My mom established a great tradition for my siblings and me while we were growing up. We were only allowed to have a birthday "party" every other year. Of course, we celebrated every birthday, but inviting friends, and party favors and themes, that was only once every two years. It saved my mom from the trauma of throwing multiple parties *every* year, and it also made it more special when we did have party.

I have tried to follow that with my own kids, for the most part. Carson had a "Glo-Golf" party last year, so this wasn't his year for a party. However, one of my friends asked to do a play date so they could give him a gift, and then Carson asked specifically to invite his one really good guy friend. So, what wasn't supposed to be a party kind of turned into one.

But, we are trying really hard to keep expenses to a minimum. I felt like if his friends were making an effort to bring him presents and be with him, then the least I could do is provide some kind of favor bags and a small treat. So here is what I came up with:

-we would have his get together at the mall play area=free
-I bought cookies from Walmart (he doesn't like cake, they aren't messy and I wouldn't have to buy forks!)=$3
-he wanted an "Avengers" theme, so I splurged on plates=$2
-we filled really fun favor bags, but we did it on the cheap, $3 per kid times 6 =$18
-for decorations, two helium balloons from the Dollar Store=$2

Total for a party for 6 kids=$25!

So if you want the low-down, here's what I did:
I made the favor bags using green lunch sacks from the party section at Walmart. They were 3 for $1. I printed these free Hulk printables from Cute as a Fox. I enlarged them and laid them out horizontally before printing, so they would fit on the bag. I am considering the two sheets of printer paper, ink and rubber cement I used to adhere the faces as "free".:)

I loved the minimalistic effect, and the kids immediately recognized that it was the Hulk! I used my "31" Organizing Utility Tote to haul it all and it was the perfect fit. Carson doesn't like cake, and we had a really busy week, so I bought cookies from Walmart (they were actually really good!). You could make something at home and probably save even more! For some reason, character printed plates are always a huge hit with kids, so I didn't feel bad about spending the $2. Some of the kids even took them home!

 I was most pleased with what we filled the bags with. Since the "Avengers" movie is relatively new, there were plenty of choices! We put in stuff from:

The Dollar Store:
-bouncy balls, the bank breaker at $1 per kid
-popping candy with lollipops, 3 to a pack for $1
-"sour straws", 8 to a package for $1
-flying disks 3 for a $1

The Party Store:
-gumballs, sold individually so we could pick the color, $0.25
-stamps (the Captain America star up there) sold in a 6 pack for $2, so $0.33
-Sixlets, also sold individually, so we could pick the color, Hulk green, of course! 15 for $1, so $0.07

-sticker sheets, sold in a pack of 10 for $1, $0.10 each
-and the find of the day! The Avengers container! It was with the Easter stuff, it was supposed to be an "egg". They were on clearance for $0.30 for a pack of three! We filled them with sour gummy worms, and that probably worked out to about $0.07 per kid, which I forgot to include.:) So add an extra $0.42 to the total.

So, including the bags, it was about $3 per kid for a pretty sweet favor bag.

All that led to is one pretty happy 5 year-old. His friends gave him a Captain America flying shield, do they know him or what? All the moms had agreed to buy lunch for their kids in the food court, so I didn't provide any other food or drinks.

So basically, here is how to throw a party on the cheap:
-chose a cheap, or free, place to have it. Your house isn't necessarily the best choice, because not only will you probably have to clean, you will have to buy more than two balloons to decorate! That gets pricey, trust me, I know!
-look for seasonal clearance. Easter, Christmas, Back to School, Valentine's, even 4th of July, can be great boons for cheap favors! Look for things that aren't printed, just plain colors, if your theme isn't a character. I picked up adorable crayon packs at Target for $0.10 each (after Valentine's) that are simply red and white striped. They don't look seasonal at all!
-use your party store, or Walmart's party department. Buying things individually will cost a little more over buying them in bulk (per piece) but you can choose your colors and not buy more than you need!
-shop your Dollar Store, but look for things sold in packs, rather than individually. I only bought one item that was $1 per child, everything else came in a pack of three or more.
-stick with your theme, that will help narrow your focus and keep you from overspending!
-hand-make what you can, and don't forget to scour Pinterest and the internet for freebies related to your party. You can find cupcake wraps, banners, invites, and all manner of printables for free! All it will cost you is paper and ink.
-choose a time when you don't have to serve anything besides cake (or cookies!), or arrange for everyone to cover the cost of lunch themselves. My friends didn't mind paying. They know we are on a budget and we meet for lunch every week anyway.

Finances needn't be an excuse to deprive your child of a party if you want to have one! I think $25 is pretty reasonable, and I know all the kids had a blast!


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