DIY Keepsake Ornaments

DIY ornament

As I spoke about in a previous post, the children are given a new ornament each year.  I try to buy the ornaments while on our summer vacations, but to be honest that is hard to do sometimes.  If I was content with buying a mass produced ornament at a big box store it would be easy- but I am not.  I want ornaments that tie into our trip and experiences in some way.  Then I discovered clear glass ornaments at Hobby Lobby.  Now, I can use all the shells, sand, leaves, twigs, and such to create ornaments.

This years ornaments have a beach theme as our trip was to Galveston Island.

What you will need:

  • Clear glass ornaments from a craft store
  • Ribbon
  • Filling for the balls- sand, shells, drift wood, sea glass, etc.
  • Embellishments of you choice- I used metal letters, glitter and jingle bells
  • Modge Podge

Step 1, pour sand and add large items

Step 1: pour sand in the ornament

Step 2: place the larger items in the ball- I started with the drift wood.  As the pieces we brought home were large, I broke off small pieces that would fit.

Step 2, adding shells in the ornament

Step 3:  add shells & rocks- obviously not a lot of the shells will fit through the hole at the top, but you can collect enough to do the ornaments.  This is a good use for the pieces of sand dollars and mother of pearl that you find.

metal lettersStep 4: Prep the embellishments for the ornaments.  I am using metal letters I bought at a local flea market.

Applying modge podgeModge Podge makes a great medium for applying glitter to the letters.  Of course, shinny paint or any other form of paint would have worked.  I like bling.

Applying the glitterOn goes the glitter. Notice the brown paper covering my work surface- this is contractor paper from Lowe’s super useful stuff and really cheap.

putting ribbon on the glittered lettersStep 5- Add ribbon to glittered letters- once they have dried.

keepsake ornaments put togetherStep 6- put it all together.  I added a jingle bell with fishing line to the ornaments as well.  You can tuck the ribbon and fishing line into the hole of the ornament then press the metal hanger and cap back into place and this will hold it all together.

DIY ornamentThere you are- pretty as a picture and full of memories.  That is the way you make a home.

Ornaments, Tradition, & Tapestries

Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World
Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World

When Cheyenne was about 3, a wonderful lady shared about buying ornaments for her grandchildren to hang on the “cousins tree” in her house.  Each Christmas the cousins would all come over and were given a new ornament to go on the tree and would then decorate the tree with ornaments from years past.  I thought this was great and I changed it a bit to fit the season of life that I was currently in and still am as I do not have any grandchildren yet.

Each year I give the kids a new ornament which is the first ornaments to be hung on the tree.  Their ornaments are stored in a plastic shoe box labeled with their names.  The idea was that when they left home that these would be their ornaments to decorate their own trees.  Last year, the first box left home.  Honestly, this was more traumatic for me than when the child actually left home.  There are precious memories in those boxes.

In the beginning, I wanted a themed tree- you know color coordinated and just so.  So, I purchased ornaments that went with my theme, mainly mercury glass type ornaments in shiny colors.  But then one year when the kids were still very little, I had the idea to purchase the ornaments while on our summer vacation.  I was able to do this without the kids noticing as my husband is great at keeping the kids busy while I hunt ornaments. At Christmas, the vacation would have long been a memory but when the ornaments came out the memories came back. Being stealthy about the ornament buying worked for a few years, but the children being smart and observant started looking for ornaments for me while we would be shopping.  Then this became a new tradition.  Also, it dawned on me the year we went to Chincoteague Island that if I didn’t buy myself an ornament I was going to have a very empty and sad tree when the kids left home.

From the island of Chincoteague- the light house
From the island of Chincoteague- the light house

Now, each year when the boxes are relieved of their contents, we remember each trip and tell the stories one more time.  Some years, there weren’t vacations so the ornaments were chosen based on a significant event in our lives.  Like the year all the kids got into horses, I bought horse ornaments that looked like each kid’s horse.  It has become something we all treasure and enjoy.  My tree is not coordinated, but it is themed.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I often ask the kids about their friends houses at Christmas- I am a bit of a junkie and I like to gather new ideas- so often their response is “The tree is pretty, but not special like ours.”  It seems I set the bar high without even meaning to do so.

Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas

This is what traditions are to me- threads that run through the years tying us together and weaving the tapestry that when we look back, it is the tapestry of our lives.  As the mother, it is my honor to be the keeper and maker of these traditions.

Tony would always sing the rymn "little pig, little pig let me in" to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.
Tony would always sing the rhyme “little pig, little pig let me in” to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.
What says Christmas like a pink flamingo?  Brought back from one of the many tips to the coast.
What says Christmas like a pink flamingo? Brought back from one of the many trips to the coast.
This years ornaments were make by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.
This year’s ornaments were made by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.
Opening the 2013 ornaments
Opening the 2013 ornaments
Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.
Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.

Mary, Did You Know?

During the Christmas season when we focus on celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, I can’t help but think of the Crucifixion as well. They are inseparable, without either one there would be no salvation and redemption.

For many years I pondered on Mary, what it must have been like for her. The joy of bringing the Son of God into this world. The bitter sadness of bringing the Son of God into this world. Being the Jewish girl that she was, she knew the prophecies, she knew what lay ahead, she knew the sacrifices she and Joseph had already made to get this baby here. This was her son, too. She loved him as any mama loves her baby. Given all of that, I always wondered why she didn’t get more credit. She gave her son as well as God.

God gave his Only son, Mary of course had more children, but did that really mean it was no big deal that she gave Jesus? Then it came to me- when all of the events of Jesus’ death began to happen and as she stood there and watched him die on the cross- as a human, she could do nothing. It was out of her control. She certainly sacrificed, felt the grief, and was probably so angry she could have spit nails, but all said and done she had no control. Jesus was a grown man and he made his choice to follow God’s path and set us all free from eternal death and restore us to our Creator.

Now God, on the other hand, He was Almighty God- which means Commander of the Angel Armies. He could have stopped the pain with a thought. He could have said “enough” and Jesus’ and His own suffering would have been over. As God, he was in control and he had the power. But, He did not. He gave his only son. How much He must  love me and you. He could have stopped his child’s suffering, but He saw the big picture- our redemption- and He restrained himself and let Jesus die. What a sacrifice, what hurt. God felt the same pain, grief, and anger as Mary. We are made in His image, we have feelings and emotions -so does He.  But He endured the pain and hurt so that you and I could be restored, forgiven, and set free.

Could it be that the pain of seeing all of us lost to the evil one and separated from our heavenly father was more painful than watching his only son- the perfect one- die on the cross?  He wants a relationship with us that bad…  Mind boggling that the creator of the universe, the Alpha & Omega likes me that much.  I don’t know about you- but that motivates me to live better and love more.

God gave his only son…. So Celebrate this Christmas- Our Redeemer Lives!

Christmas Parade

Divorce & The Holidays

christmas

As the holidays approach, life can really get complicated.  Add in blended families and divorced parents and it can be a real mine field.

So I am going to offer something that, I hope will make your holiday what you hope for.  Sit quietly and think about what memories you would like to make with your children and what you want them to remember when they are grown and look back on the holidays that they shared with you.  Frankly, this applies to any facet of life- what do you want your kids to remember when they look back and make that happen.

In regards to the holidays, don’t let all the voices pulling at you influence your dreams.  Just take a few minutes to dream about what you would like and what would be best for your children.  Now go do that.

I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a friend.  Her children were all little and she was married to her original husband who was the father of all four kids.  The stress she was feeling was that both his and her parents were divorced and remarried- and all wanted them at their respective homes for the holidays.  She was exhausted and didn’t really want to make 5-6 stops in a 48 hour period with four small children in tow.  This was not what she thought was best for her kids or herself.  When asked what I thought I offered this:

“You did not create the problem.  It was not your decision or your husband’s for either of your parent’s to get a divorce.  The adults at the time made that decision.  Now, they have to live with the consequences.  Because they chose divorce, they now have to understand that they will not have all the children and grandchildren at every holiday.  And that is not your fault or your problem to fix.”

Now, will people get mad when you choose to stay home or only visit one or two homes?  Yes.

Will they get their feelings hurt?  Probably.

Will they be harmed? No.

The main thing is that you live and establish YOUR family in the way that is best for you and them.  Your  children are only little once, don’t let it pass by missing out on what you dream of by trying to make everyone else happy.

I hope this helps someone have a less stressful holiday.  The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration- but we have to be purposeful for that to happen.

 

Wall’s Family Farm- A Great Place for Family Fun

Our lovely tree for Christmas 2012
Our lovely tree for Christmas 2012

I am one of those who likes to give Thanksgiving its due.  I don’t take down the pumpkins or the garlands until Thanksgiving has arrived and we are stuffed full of good food.  But once that happens- we roll into Christmas with gusto.  First stop on the Christmas parade is the tree.

Each year it is a bit of a debate as what kind of tree and where it will come from- a pre-cut lot or a you cut it yourself farm.  Last year, due to the drought, I won out and got a Scotch Pine from up North.  We were concerned that a tree cut locally would dry out too quick considering the severe lack of rain and high heat we had during the summer.  I really enjoyed that tree.  Personally, I think the Scotch Pine is one of the prettiest trees for Christmas.

But this year, we all wanted to head out and cut down our own tree.  When we turned on the county road and the trees arched over the road with their golden and red leaves, I was smitten.  The beautiful drive ended at an old red barn with tractors coming and going taking families out to the fields on the hayrides.  The place is Wall’s Family Farm- run by the family.  We met several generations of the family.  We had a wonderful time.

My 4 Greatest Blessings

Riding the hayride back to the barn with our tree.

Not only did we get a lovely pine, but we also gathered pecans in the orchard.  This was a new thing for us and we had a ball.  The little two climbed trees to shake down the pecans- not that they were really effective but that was not the point.  There were smiles and laughter all around.  The weather was a bit warm but at least it wasn’t warm enough to break a sweat.   We have cut down Christmas trees in all kinds of weather even though that each year we get our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving

With the sun shinning and the leaves crunching beneath our feet we made some more memories.  Each memory adds up to what my children will remember of home and what I will remember of their childhoods.  On this day we made many more.  If you haven’t got your tree, this farm is a great place to get a tree and make a memory.

Life is Good!
Life is Good!

Chicken & Dumplins- Now that is comfort food!

Did someone say "Chicken & Dumplings"?
Did someone say “Chicken & Dumplings”?

A favorite food of the whole family is chicken and dumplings.  No matter the size of the pot, the pot will be empty.  As a matter of fact, no holiday meal is complete without this dish and  much to my surprise, not all families feel this way about dumplings.  I was shocked the first holiday that I spent with my new in-laws and found that they did not serve dumplings with the dinner.    Well then, I decided to make them and bring them as my contribution to the holiday dinners.  It’s funny, now there is another family that expects the chicken and dumplings to be at the holiday dinners.  Of course you do not need a holiday to eat good food and this dish is so great on cold winter evenings.

To get the best results, use the homemade biscuit dough recipe below for the dumplings.  There are plenty of short-cut recipes that use canned biscuits or tortillas, all I can say is YUCK!  It may take time but good food is worth the time.  Really, its not just food you are making, but memories as well.  It is worth taking time to do it right.  The recipe is simple and easy no need for shortcuts.  Also, cooking time is really important once you drop the dough in and put the lid on the pot.  The one common thing I hear when people talk to me about making dumplings is that the dumplings cook away.  The problem is simple- you cooked it too long.  That is why you put the lid on for 10 minutes, no longer.  You will be glad you cooked from scratch when you see your family’s happy faces.

From our family to yours- below is a recipe that is our family favorite.
Ingredients:
1 whole chicken
1 tsp Poultry seasoning
2 tsp Fresh Sage (dried is fine if you do not have fresh, reduce to 1 tsp)
Salt and pepper to taste
Biscuit dough (recipe below)

Place chicken in a large stock pot or dutch oven.  Cover with water to about 3 inches above the bird.
Boil until chicken easily pulls of the bone- about 1hr- 1 1/2 hrs.
Remove chicken from pot and let cool.  Pull chicken from bone and discard the skin and bones.
These steps can be done in advance and let cool in the refrigerator or freeze the shredded chicken and broth in freezer until you are ready to cook.

Once the chickens is shredded return to the pot and bring to a rolling boil on high heat.  Once boiling rapidly, drop the biscuit dough in by the spoonfuls, how large of dumplins depends on your family preference.  After adding the dough, dump the contents left in the bowl of dough into the pot.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  Boil for 10 minutes, do not lift the lid and remove from heat after 10 minutes.

Serve once cool enough to handle.

Biscuit Dough:
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp of baking powder
5 tbsp of butter or Crisco
1 cup of buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter until there are small pea-size bits of butter.  Stir in milk.  If you don’t have buttermilk, you can add 1 tsp of vinegar to one cup milk.
The dough will be very wet.  Now for dumplins, sprinkle a liberal amount of flour over the top.  Now pinch off pieces about the size of a large marble.  The extra flour keeps the dough from sticking to your fingers and adds lose flour to the broth that will thicken it.

Gingerbread House 2011

All in the family, a great Gingerbread House!

14 years ago I was a Pampered Chef lady and I sold enough to earn a stoneware mold for a gingerbread house.  Technically is is a schoolhouse, but no one really cares.  That Christmas we made our first gingerbread house, Cheyenne was four and Savannah was two.  We had so much fun.  Cheyenne was intent on putting on the candy and Savannah was intent on eating the candy.  All the while Cheyenne worked Savannah sat back stuffing her little mouth with her chubby fingers saying “It’s bruful mommy, bruful.” She couldn’t speak clearly for all the candy in her mouth and had colored spit running down both of her sides of her chin.

Well, 14 houses later and Savannah still likes to eat candy, but then so does Cheyenne- particularly the hot tamales.  We have added 2 more children, Sierra and Jonathan.  They have grown up making the houses and last year we invited my nieces to build a house with us.  Katie and Rylie came back again this year and added to the fun.

Jonathan is by my side whenever I am in the kitchen.
That makes my heart happy!
Our Masterpiece

Mary, Did You Know?

During the Christmas season when we focus on celebrating the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, I can’t help but think of the crucifiction as well. They are inseparable, without either one there would be no salvation and redemption.

For many years I pondered on Mary, what it must have been like for her. The joy of bringing the Son of God into this world. The bitter saddnes of bringing the Son of God into this world. Being the jewish girl that she was, she knew the prophecies, she knew what lay ahead, she knew the sacrifices she and Joseph had already made to get this baby here. This was her son, too. She loved him as any mama loves her baby. Given all of that, I always wondered why she didn’t get more credit. She gave her son as well as God.

God gave his Only son, Mary of course had more children, but did that really mean it was no big deal that she gave Jesus? Then it came to me- when all of the events of Jesus’ death began to happen and as she stood there and watched him die on the cross- as a human, she could do nothing. It was out of her control. She certainly sacrificed, felt the greif, and was probably so angry she could have spit nails, but all said and done she had no control. Jesus was a grown man and he made his choice to follow God’s path and set us all free from eternal death and restore us to our Creator.

Now God, on the other hand, He was almighty God. He could have stopped the pain with a thought. He could have said “enough” and Jesus’ suffering would have been over. As God, he was in control and he had the power. But, He did not. He gave his only son. How much must He love me and you. He could have stopped his child’s suffering, but He saw the big picture- our redemption- and He restrained himself and let Jesus die. What a sacrifice, what hurt. God felt the same pain, grief, and anger as Mary. We are made in His image, we have feelings and emotions so does He.

God gave his only son…. So Celebrate this Christmas- Our Redeemer Lives!

The Leading Lady

When I think of the Christmas story I am amazed at the strength of character in these simple people. Thinking about Mary- she was only around the age of 14 when God asked her to carry his son. She said “yes”. What would have happened if she had said “no”? Then I ask myself what kind of young lady was she to have said yes so readily and then see the task through to its very end- the cross. Those around her probably would have described her as spunky, maybe strong willed. (So take heart those of you who have strong-willed kids, God has a purpose for it) Think about it- a mousy, compliant person would not have had the gumption to take the leading role in God’s plan for getting Jesus to earth to save our souls. She also had amazing strength to endure the scorn and the scoffers who did not believe her claims of angels and the Holy Spirit. She was something. Then if you look at her interaction with Jesus at the wedding feast you still see spunk. The hosts of the wedding had run out of wine- a social no-no. So she tell Jesus to fix it. He replies to her “Woman, my time has not yet come.” As a child I wondered how he could be so rude with the use of “woman.” Now I understand the love and mischief with which it was said. I am sure there was a twinkle in his eye and a crooked grin on his face. Then what did he do? He turned water into wine. I guess either he couldn’t resist her charm or he knew there was no arguing with her- probably both. She must have been loving and charming as well. Look at how secure Jesus was in his calling- you don’t get that kind of kid without loving and supporting them. One day we will meet the mother of our Saviour and will know what she was really like and I am certain we will see a woman of great strength. The rest of won’t get the role of leading lady in the salvation story- its already taken; however, God does have a role for us to play that no one else can play. When He asks you to take the role I pray you say “yes”. The world needs you and when you fulfill your role history will never be the same.

A new calf

Last night we brought home a new heifer. She was orphaned when her mother died. The kids were very excited- any new addition is cause for celebration. Penelope is her given name and she is snuggling down in the barn. While the kids and Tony got the calf settled in, I got dinner ready. I then headed to the barn to check on progress. As I am nearing the barn I see the flashlights shinning out of the loft and the sound of laughter fills the air. Those are the moments that make me so glad to have a farm. The happiness that is shared by the whole family is priceless. I did wonder why they were in the loft. Once I got in the barn I saw all the Christmas bins stacked in the stall. It seems we can no longer resist the urge to pull out the decorations and lights. I love this time of year. To me it is just one long, fun, run of memory making time. That is why the phrase “Happy Holidays” does not bother me. I use it refering to the time from November 1 until January ?- whenever the tree finally comes down and the house is stripped bare. I unabashedly say “Merry Christmas” but also wish you “Happy Holidays”