Monday, November 25, 2013

it's a crafty miracle and road trip update

Stop the presses.
I have an announcement.
I have learned to granny square.

It only took months (off and on) of Jeanetta's patient tutelage, and these online instructions for me to finally get the hook of it.

We are on the road this week for a little family vacation. These granny squares and pom pom making have helped occupy the many hours in the car.
But as relaxing as they are to make, apparently they are not as zen as I thought because I seem to have developed my first case of full body hives.
HIVES. Who gets hive on vacation?
Me. That's who.
This is one of those moments when I really doubt my qualifications to be a mother. It has only taken one half- cross-country road trip with three kids to almost do me in.
But I am not giving in that easily.
Tomorrow we are doing a little whirlwind tour of D.C. and then we will settle into Williamsburg for the rest of the week -(you can keep up with our adventures on Instagram.)
Despite my bodies protest to the contrary, I really am excited about it all - especially D.C.

In other news, check out these amazing GIVEAWAYS on the following blogs (each include a copy of A Homemade Year!)


Stacey at Cottage Industry

and don't forget to enter to win a copy of St. Francis and Brother Duck here on my blog :)

Hope your week is full of blessings!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Making a Family Advent Wreath

 And I know we are not even quite to Thanksgiving yet, but for those of us who celebrate Advent, one has to begin to think of these things early. This year Advent comes quickly on the heels of Thanksgiving, before there is even time to finish all the leftovers, the Sunday after in fact.
Before I will have had the chance to get down my Christmas decorations!  But never fear, even if you haven't had the chance to unpack your twenty bins of decor (wait, you don't have 20 bins? you are a smarter cookie then me!) you can still start Advent a week from Sunday with minimal stress. 

One of my very favorite projects from A Homemade Year is the Advent wreath. When I lived in Juneau, Alaska, I was introduced for the first time to the Advent wreath. Typically the Advent wreath, a tradition that helps Christians observe the four Sundays of Advent as they journey toward Christmas, is made from evergreens. But as with most things in Southeast Alaska, the Advent wreath that our new church family introduced to us was not typical of the sort of wreath you might find in the “lower forty-eight.” Our wreath, made from a thick slice of log, was as unique, beautiful, and unexpected as Alaska itself. Drawing inspiration from those log bases, I have made our family our own woodland Advent wreath.
            Now, this may cause some people to raise their liturgical tradition eyebrows, but I do not use the traditional purple and pink candles for our wreath. Instead, we use candles in colors that I love (I blame my contrary, evangelical genetics for this). Not to be too casual about this very important tradition, each separate color of candle still represents one aspect of our Advent observance, helping provide guidance as we move through the month. Of course if you are a fan of the original colors (three purple or light blue, one rose, one white) you can easily substitute those instead. (In AHY I  note both my color choice and the traditional color choices for each week. )

For our wreath Sweet Man actually sliced a log for me, but look what I found recently! Pre-cut slices, the PERFECT size! I have found these both at Hobby Lobby and Michael's - how great is that??

To get your log base ready for candles, simply Drill one 1-inch hole directly in the middle, going almost the entire way through the log slice.
Drill four more holes the same way, in the positions of north, south, east, and west (see wreath picture for example).
Once this is done, add your four colorful candles to the four outlying holes and one white candle in the middle. 
So now you don't have to get out your chainsaw or pester your husband to get this done, just hop on down to the craft shop with your 50% coupon and pick one up. You could make your advent wreath in less time than it takes your turkey to cook!

Over the past few months I have had the most fun leading Advent Events for several church groups across the state. We have painted rocks with the word HOPE, made felt heart shaped pillows, glittered paper-mache stars, stamped feathers and tied bows to big ole jingle bells in order to make each of the objects that accompany our Advent Wreath.

The objects shown in the pictures from the book are of the objects we use in our family, but for the Advent Events I found the following items at my local craft stores:

Paper Mache Stars (that could be painted or glittered)
River Rocks ( (to be painted with the word Hope)
Red Felt (cut, stitched -using embroidery floss- and stuffed into heart pillows)
White Feathers (stamped with the word Peace)  OR Wooden Bird Shape (painted or glittered)
Large Jungle Bell (can be glittered or embellished with ribbon)

Each week when our family gathers to light the candle, we place one item to represent that week’s theme on the wreath base, next to it's corresponding candle.
 This is a great way to get kids of all ages involved, because even little bitty hands can hold a large jingle bell or heart pillow.
These days my boys are old enough to help light the candles and read the bible verses for each week, but we still love using the objects as extra reminders of what Advent is all about. They are like small breadcrumbs, little clues that point towards all the gifts that come through the birth of Christ on Christmas. 

To order a copy of A Homemade Year, which begins with words and celebrations for Advent and Christmastide,  you can visit Amazon, Paraclete Press, Barnes and Noble, Mardel or most other major bookstores.  

(To find out how to have me come visit your church or group click here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

St. Francis Giveaway!

A few months we received a copy of the greatest little graphic novel,  St. Francis and Brother Duck, from Paraclete Press. I wasn't sure what my boys would think of it, if they would find it too obvious or too young, but they immediately snatched it up and have worn it out from cover to cover ever since.
Which I love.
I cannot express how happy I am when we stumble onto ways for the boys to discover more about their faith roots on their own. When they find a connection to God's story along their own path, and not just the one we lay out for them at home and church, my heart does a little happy dance. This little book has been just that sort of discovery, and I am so thrilled to be able to give a copy away to one lucky reader!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check out the other St. Francis activities for kids from yesterday!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

St. Francis for Thanksgiving

I have a particular soft spot in my heart for St. Francis and his lessons.
When it came time to work on the final manuscript for A Homemade Year, we had to cut a few chapters, including the St. Francis chapter. I meant to post this  the week of St. Francis Feast Day (October 4) but with everything going on with my grandparents it just didn't happen.   But I thought that perhaps the Thanksgiving season might be just as appropriate a time as any reflect on the wisdom of this man of Assisi, and explore his teachings further. Below is an excerpt from this never-published chapter, including part of the narrative and two of the projects from the children's party - both of which could all easily be incorporated into your Thanksgiving celebration..

St. Francis of Assisi is the saint that speaks to me when I think of my birds and children. Reading his words “where there is hatred, sow love” aloud, I realize that he did not say show love, but instead he said sow love.
Which grabs my attention immediately.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, when you sow something, you plant it for the express purpose of growing more of the very thing you have planted. - to sow is to set something in motion for the express purpose of growth
This means then that to sow love is to purposely set into motion love in order to see it grow further. 
This means that I cannot just show love, I must sow love purposely.
I must tend to it. Nurture it, feed it, water it.
I must work to destroy the weeds of bitterness, apathy, and busyness, that threaten to strangle the life out of it - again and again.
I must set love, faith, hope, joy in motion for the purpose of growth– my growth, my family’s growth, my communities growth.
St. Francis continues his conversation with me, “it is no use walking anywhere to preach unless you’re walking is preaching...Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” he says , and I am cut to my core with these words.  
Am I walking my preaching, walking my teaching, my writing? 
As a mother, wife, friend?
Am I walking Christ’s love and mercy and grace, daily and hourly? 
For someone who loves words as much as I do, walking the gospel is much harder than just telling it.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the needs around me. I am easily irritated and short tempered with those closest to me.
I get impatient with the progress of my Life Plan.
I get impatient with myself for being so impatient.
I feel small in my ungratefulness.
I think of St. Francis words, True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice, and silently say a prayer that I will remember to stop and consider the sparrows. That I will stop and see the leaves twirling as they fall from branch to ground. That I will not throw myself off the melodramatic cliff of What I Can Only See Now. That I will remember to give thanks for all the progress that has occurred, all the little seeds that have sprouted, all the dreams reached, all the bounty provided.
And if I manage to get that far, I will also hopefully remember to pick up another handful of seeds or bulbs, and my all too-shiny spade, plop down in the dirt, and begin to sow again.

Down on the Farm Children’s Party
The life of St. Francis is a wonderful one to study when seeking lessons of meekness and servitude. St. Francis saw God’s glory, creativity and worth in all of creation. To honor St. Francis and his attitude of humility, I thought a farm theme seemed appropriate because on a farm everyone must pitch in and help. And caring for all living creatures, no matter their size (as we have learned in our house) is an important and holy undertaking To hold a St. Francis- inspired Farm Party, simply gather a few willing hands, serve some Assisi- inspired treats and help children create crafts that serve and instruct as well as honor the beauty and creativity that God has created in our natural world and in each of us.

Setting the scene:

Create a Down on the Farm atmosphere gather items that have that fresh-off-the-hay-wagon feel. For our party we used a vintage quilt made from calico and feed-sack materials as our table cloth, jelly jars for glasses, a wood stump served as a cupcake stand and small farmers market baskets held our farm animal cookies. Because The Feast of St. Francis occurs in the month of October, you can also use traditional fall items to help decorate: pumpkins, gourds and mums are all easy to find and inexpensive additions to a fall party.

Farm Animal DIY (Decorate It Yourself) Cookies

Cookie decorating has become a staple of almost every kid-centric party I throw. To me this is an everyone wins activity. There is less work for me because I don’t have to decorate each cookie, the kids love to get involved and be creative ( I have never had a kid, no matter how old or how cool refuse to decorate a cookie) and as a bonus they get to eat their creations when they are done. Less work, more fun, what could be better?

To make these cookies I used a simple sugar cookie recipe and these cookie cutters.
I put toppings smalls ramekins (easy to use for small hands) and gave every child a small personal serving of cream cheese icing and a plastic knife for spreading.
Then I let them go to town.


We also made little prayer flip books featuring farm animal cut-outs and St. Francis most famous prayer.  Download and print this Flip-Book How-To and Patterns here: St. Francis Flip Book (there are also scripture references and family reflection questions included) and make these flip books before or on Thanksgiving for kids to color and enjoy.


Think your kids would love learning about St. Francis? Stay tuned - tomorrow I will have a great St. Francis Giveaway!

blessings friends-

Sunday, November 17, 2013

doing my part to inspire big brand stores

What is the world coming too? 

I can't take credit for this wreath quite the way I can for the Ikea light fixture.
All I can take credit for here is buying the vintage yarn wreath, tearing off the ugly ribbon that was on it, and pairing it with a wreath I made from book pages years ago (copied from the Pottery Barn catalog pre-Pinterest thank you very much,) hanging it over my mantle for Christmas 2011, and blogging about it.

That is all I can take credit for.

I still have the wreath, and you better believe I will find a fun way to display it this year. I think last year it was above our bed, but I have no pictures to prove it.
I wish I could remember where I bought it. Most likely an estate sale or a flea market during the shop days. I have been another pom-pom making jaunt again, so maybe I will tie some colorful ones to it in a cluster for variety. I have to think that there are dozens of these handmade wreaths hidden in attics and basements all over the country.  I feel like I even saw instructions for one in a Women's Day or Family Circle issue of my mothers? 

Speaking of my mother, it was she who made the granny-square stockings for us over ten years ago, so if you see those at Urban Outfitters or Land of Nod, you will know who to thank.


PS- Thanks for all the well wishes.  I am feeling much better but the sudden onset of humidity and temps in the 80's are about to drive me nutty. Please pray for my family as they have to live with me during these sticky days.

PPS- The Orthodox Christian church has already begun their Advent Countdown (40 days instead of 25) which I believe gives us all permission to go ahead and enjoy Christmas music. Now I know that it is technically Advent and NOT Christmas (which actually begins on Dec 25 and goes till Jan 6,) but seeing as how Bing Crosby and Amy Grant have not really recorded Advent specific tunes, I think just this once we could enjoy all manner of Christmas music - at least Monday - Friday. We can keep Saturday and Sunday's pure and stick to the correct order of things, no birth till Christmas Eve etc - sound good? Lovely!

PPPS- I am such a nerd.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

stuff yo

hi friends.
well, today I am home a little sickly.
I caught some sort of weird virus/cold thing out of nowhere and have been in bed for two days. 
But I am drinking my liquids and getting lots of rest so that is good. At least today I can sit up straight, take nourishment and blog. Always signs of life around here.

Here are some fun things I wanted to share before I go back to sleep:

There is A Homemade Year giveaway happening over on Hannah's blog - go enter!

2) I am showing my Southern Roots by hosting a Bourban and Boots Christmas Wishlist board over on Pinterest. There I will be curating a list of all things Southern from B&B that I would love to give (and maybe get) for Christmas over the next few weeks.  

3) Before I got sick I got glasses. I tried to go with the crafty-librarian look since they are mostly for reading/computer work/crafting. K calls them my "nerd glasses."  

So there you go. Just a little bit of what is happening around these parts.
Think I will drink some more juice and go back to sleep.
Have a lovely weekend friends!


Monday, November 11, 2013

this time of year

I love this time of year.
I love all the leaves falling everywhere (this is because I don't rake them, I know.)
I love all the thankful and grateful post.
I love watching all the Thanksgiving episodes of Gilmore Girls and West Wing.
(I want Amy Sherman-Palladino and Aaron Sorkin to have a TV baby together. 
And I want to be their set designer. Or coffee fetcher.)
And that in just a few weeks I will be watching all the Christmas episodes.
I love that I can now wear boots and sweaters and scarves.
I love that thanks to my friend Andrea I now know how to plant bulbs for the spring.
I love the pumpkin candles and a fire in our fireplace and all the pots of chili, and soup, and chicken and dumplings on the stove.
I love that the time has come to legitimately start getting excited about pie. And decorations. And holiday parties. And cookie exchanges. And gift making. 

Do you love this time of year as well or is it just me?



Guess what makes a great gift?
A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting and Coming Together
You can purchase copies at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Mardel
and now on Kindle!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Date Night

(aka, our friends Dan and Camille)
Fried Green Tomatos with crab and celery

Catfish with Soy Beans, Hushpuppies, Pork Belly and Hollandaise Sauce

Cookies and Cream (Cookie on the bottom, creams in the middle and top)

All gone.
So, so, good.

Social Media Stuff

My favorite dive bar. The Whitewater Tavern.

Last Wednesday night, smack in the middle of a crazy busy week, Sweet Man and I did the best irresponsible thing we could do.
We went on a date.
Just us.
And it was glorious.
And so needed.

We went to a new local southern eatery where I had the best restaurant meal I have had in months. 
I pretty much melted right there into the table.
Also, I imediately wanted to become the next Eudora Welty. That is how much southern goodness oozed from South on Main's (which is part of the Oxford American family) decor, menu and general ambiance.
We listened to our friends two-man band play some beautiful and creative music, and when we had finally pushed our bellies and our budget to the limit, we went and met a good friend at our very favorite dive bar.
I felt as if the night was the perfect spectrum of what I love about Southern culture - amazing music, food, style, and grit. Creaky old floors and high brow food.  Weathered, bearded men, with well coifed ladies on their arms. Sunday morning church followed by football and beer. 

I love living in the South. I love it so very much and when I am old(er) and gray(er.) I want to move to Louisiana and write fiction about it all.

Until then I will settle for living it.


Sunday, November 03, 2013

All Saints Sunday ... Home is made of all of us

Ephesians 2:19

The Message (MSG)
19-22 That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Halloweenie 2013

Oh they are too big. And I am not even sure what their costumes are. I helped make Miles but I could never pronounce the name. He was a character from a video game he isn't even really allowed to play. But he was happy with the result, so there you go. Special K is perpetually 8 going on 18, so the cheerleader outfit was perfect for her. I tried to convince her that cheerleaders can't wear dangling earrings, but their allure was just too powerful.  I think Wylie was some sort of Special Forces guy. Most everything came from our favorite thrift store and our closets. I miss the days of cute little costumes, but I am just grateful that they still like to dress up go trick-or-treating.

This was by far the smallest Hoopla we have ever had, (which was by design considering today's Memorial Service, and our couch guest, ) but it was still so lovely. All our friends brought yummy food, and it was fun to see all the theme things that showed up on the table. This morning the kids all ate leftover Mummy Dogs for breakfast. 

 I threw up a simple smattering of decorations after work, and took them right back down after the party. It was fun to get them out and see them. A few items are looking a little worn, but I don't really love to decorate for Halloween too early. I am more of a general fall decor kind of gal overall.
Also, I have to admit that am already ready to start thinking about Christmas. I think maybe that is because last year was such a hard holiday season with my broken foot and finish the final book edits etc.  Also I am doing some Advent/Christmas themed workshops this month in conjunction with the book, so I have Christmas on the brain more than usual for this time of year.

Jeanetta and I dressed up as loose interpretations of Lucy and Ethel. I am Ethel to her Lucy every time. It was lots of fun until I took a bad fall off the front stoop and scraped up my entire right leg and sprained the top of my left foot. Today I was walking like a hobbled old lady at the Memorial service. 
But we had fun sitting on the sofa and making funny faces. I think we will give it another go next year and I will even have my hair done in pin curls. Maybe We can get the husbands to go with us as Ricky and Fred. Hehe.

So that is our Halloweenie recap for 2013. 
I hope your last day of October 2013 was a lovely and fun one however you spent it.
Much love-
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