Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas: God With Us

"The virgin with conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"
(which means "God with us")
Matthew 1:23

At Christmas we remember that God sent his Son to to be with us, to be our savior, to rescue us from our sin. But the message of Christmas should not be limited to one day. It is a demonstration of God's purpose in creating each of us.

God did not create us to live our lives on our own. He longs to be with us, each and every day. His love for us is so great that He desperately seeks to walk through life with us, to see us through hard times and happy times. Most importantly, He wants us to spend eternity with Him in heaven. At Christmas, I pray that God is with you, that you have accepted the gift of his Son, and that you have put Him in charge of your life. As we enter a new year, take Him with you. He will never leave you and His plans are perfect.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Quick & Easy Sweet Treats

'Tis the season for parties, entertaining, and gift-giving so I thought I'd share a few yummy treats that would be great additions to a party, or make a tasty gift. They're all pretty easy to make and you may even have all the ingredients you need to make them already in your house.

Pretzel Kisses
Use your favorite flavors of Hershey's Kisses or Hugs to change up the flavor of these. Our family likes the Candy Cane Hugs and the Caramel Kisses.

Almond Bark Popcorn
You can customize this popcorn mix by adding pretzels, nuts, or candies. Adding colored sprinkles can give it a festive look for any holiday of your choice.

Toffee Cracker Bark (AKA-Barkin' Crackers)
For a good laugh, check out Helene's Helpful Holiday Hints where she shares the recipe for "Barkin' Crackers."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Around The House

It seems I am behind on everything this Christmas season and even though the perfectionist side of me is cringing a little, I feel pretty OK with it. I'm not letting the stress of the season get to me because most of the things that matter during this season, have nothing to do with the stress that often is associated with it.

In past years, I have my Christmas decorating done the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year, it was into December before it was finished and I'm just now getting it posted. I think this year I tried to simplify some of my decorating and I'm happy with how it turned out.

First, here is our finished tree, all glowy in the evening. That's how I like Christmas trees the best.

I was excited to use my antique cupboard door on my mantel again this season. It makes such a great background. Poor Rosie (our dog) still doesn't have a finished stocking. I will get it done!

I pulled out these tin plates that rarely see the light, even during the holidays. I decided to display them on this shelf, but kept it simple.

On the buffet in my dining room, I filled glass vases with ornaments and beaded garlands. I draped a small banner across the mirror.

In the entry, I placed my favorite Christmas stitchery alongside an evergreen tree. Underneath, I placed a collection of mittens and hats in a basket.

Here is the bookshelf in my living room. Again, I kept it simple.

My favorite Christmas display is on the corner cupboard in my living room. I pulled out different items that I don't always use and added in a few new ones.

The best addition of all is this old photo of my father-in-law with his sisters on a visit with Santa Claus. I was so excited to find this in a box of photos earlier this year.

I'm a little late to the party, but I'm linking up to The Inspired Room's Christmas House Tour. This is an excellent source for inspiration for your holiday decorating.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fabric Letter Wall Hangings

Not long after Lillian was born, I stumbled upon this blog post about a baby shower. I fell in love with the fabric letter wall hangings they had created for the new baby. My mom was already putting the finishing touches on Lillian's quilt, made out of fabric from American Jane's Punctuation collection.

I love all of the 1930s reproduction fabrics that are out there and they are perfect for projects for little children. So, I picked up a selection of fabrics and started to work on spelling Lillian's name out on her wall.

I paired up fabrics and decided on the sizes of the embroidery hoops. I attached the letters to the background fabric using Sewable Heat-n-Bond. Then, I blanket-stitched around the letters. To make them a little more sturdy for hanging, I added a medium-weight fusible interfacing to the back of each piece of fabric before putting them in the embroidery hoops.

They have been up in Lillian's room since earlier this year and I love them each time I walk in. You can use this same method with shapes or silhouettes instead of letters.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Time For a Tree

It's hard to believe that December is already here, and with it, the holiday season. December has started out mild, which makes outdoor holiday activities more pleasant. This Saturday we headed back to Oney's Tree Farm in Woodstock, IL to cut our own Christmas tree.

The last time we were here, two years ago, it was snowy and cold. It made for a beautiful setting and great pictures, but temperatures in the uppers 40s were much better this time.

We went ahead with our plans to get a tree despite the fact that John broke his foot on Friday afternoon.

His parents were along to help and he was determined to tough it out in the name of holiday fun.

Levi loved running in the trees looking for the perfect one.

Lillian enjoyed her ride in the backpack.

We settled on this tree.

John's dad cut it down, with a little help from John.

Oney's has beautiful Percherons pulling the wagons to and from the field.

Next, we stopped in to see Mrs. Claus.

We enjoyed hot chocolate and a few treats before Levi took a ride on the ponies.

The tree is up with lights on, but still needs the ornaments. Life's busy here, but we'll get it done and then I'll share a picture of the finished tree. I've also been working on decorating the rest of the house a little at a time. Hopefully it will be done soon so I can move on to other fun holiday traditions.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Craft Sale

This past month I've spent a lot of time at my sewing machine. I've been busy getting things ready for the Cary Park District's Holiday Craft and Vendor Sale this Saturday. I did this sale last year with my mom as we were just getting going with selling things we've made.

I'm excited about a lot of fun new things I've made for this year's sale. My mom has been doing lots of sewing and crafting at her house, too. We'll have holiday decor, aprons, and tons of great gifts. Here's a peek at just some of the things we'll have there.

Coffee Cozies, Travel Tissue Holders, Business/Gift Card Holders
These are all perfect stocking stuffers or fun teacher gifts.

Mini pennant banners for Christmas, winter, and Valentine's Day

Felt flower pins & little girl hair clips

Wine Gift Bags--great for a hostess gift.

Kids' aprons
We'll also have full and half aprons for women.
I'll still be sewing more before Saturday. Thankfully my little darlings help by entertaining each other while I sneak in my sewing. Grandma Sue and Papa will be entertaining them while my mom and I are at the sale.
Somehow they both ended up with only one sock on.

If you're in the area, I hope you'll stop by and see us. If you're in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area, stay tuned as we are planning a holiday open house at my mom's house.

Holiday Craft & Vendor Sale
Cary Park District Community Center
255 Briargate Rd.
Cary, IL

Saturday, November 10th
9 AM - 3 PM

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

The kids are tucked in bed, their sugar highs wearing off. This year the whole family got in on the dressing up. We were the Super Readers from Super Why, a favorite preschool show on public TV. It was a lot of fun putting together and sewing the costumes. We were able to wear them a few times--once at my moms' group's trunk or treat and, of course, tonight. We had to bundle up a little more tonight--brr!

The Super Readers:
John as Alpha Pig, Me as Wonder Red, Levi as Super Why, and Lillian as Princess Presto

For comparison, here are the REAL Super Readers

Out trick-or-treating

Post trick-or-treating and enjoying some of the candy. They had just about as much fun handing out candy as collecting it for themselves.
Earlier this week, we carved our pumpkins with the help of John's parents.

I hope you had a fun and safe evening. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Family Photos

In September, we had a photo session with Jennifer from Cary Grove Photography. As I expected, it was a little tricky to get Lillian to sit still and look at the camera, let alone to get both her and Levi looking and smiling in the same photo. However, Jennifer was patient and took her time snapping lots of pictures. We ended up with some great shots that capture the kids personality. Here are a few of our favorites:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pumpkin Zucchini Cream Cheese Bread

One of the favorite fall flavors for many people is pumpkin. It seems like you can get pumpkin-flavored anything this time of year-muffins, coffee, cookies, bagels, and even pasta. If you're looking for a different twist on the traditional pumpkin bread, here's a recipe to try. It's also a good use for any zucchini you many have in your freezer.

A few years ago, I made a Pumpkin Layered Loaf. At the time I thought the the cheesecake-style layer would be great addition to many other sweet breads. Then a couple months ago, my friend raved about this Pumpkin Zucchini Bread. I decided to combine the two recipes and it was delicious! It made an already yummy bread into a dessert. For all you pumpkin-lovers--you've got to try it.

Pumpkin Zucchini Cream Cheese Bread
  3 eggs, lightly beaten
  1 C. sugar
  1 C.brown sugar
  1 C.canned pumpkin
  1 C.butter, melted (or 1 C. oil or 1/2 C. oil and 1/2 C. applesauce)
  1 Tbsp. tablespoon vanilla extract
  3 C. all-purpose flour
  1 tsp. baking soda
  1/2 tsp. baking powder
  1/2 tsp. salt
  1 tsp. cinnamon
  1 tsp. nutmeg
  1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  1 to 2 C. shredded zucchini
  1 C. chopped walnuts (optional)--I left these out

Cream Cheese Filling:
  2 (8 oz. ea.) packages cream cheese or neufchatel cheese, softenened
  1/4 C. sugar
  2 egg whites
    Bread: In a bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Add pumpkin, butter (or oil/applesauce) and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients in another bowl; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Stir in zucchini and nuts.

    Filling: In a bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, and egg whites. Beat with a whisk until well blended.

    Prepare two greased and floured two 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Pour 1/4 of batter into each pan. Then top each with half of the cream cheese filling. Distribute the rest of the batter equally over the filling. Bake at 350° for about 1 hr. or until a toothpick inserted into the center come out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack. Store in the refrigerator.

    Another option is to make half of the recipe of filling and make one loaf as usual, and one with the cream cheese filling.

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    If you're looking for some fun fall things to do in Northeast Illinois this weekend, here are a few:

    -Na-Da Farm Barn Sale/Flea Market - Friday 5-8 PM, Saturday 9 AM-2 PM

    -Autumn Drive - Friday-Sunday 9 AM-5 PM

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    Fall Mantel

    Last week I showed some of my fall decorating. This week I wanted to share how I decorated my mantel for fall.

    Recently I had been looking for a larger something for my mantel. I liked the idea of propping up an antique cupboard door or window. I even thought about creating my own piece of artwork. One day, I stopped in to Tattered Tiques and found the perfect old cupboard door. It is white on one side and has a dark stain on the other side. This means it has lots of possibilities throughout the year. So, the door became the backdrop and focal point of my fall mantel.

    I made a quick pennant banner using fabric and twine. I cut the edges with pinking sheers and stitched the triangles in place on the twine. This way they won't slide when they are hung at an angle.

    A fall mantel wouldn't be complete without a pumpkin.

    I'm so happy to add the antique cupboard door to my mantel. I'm already thinking of all the possibilities for Christmas and winter decorating.

    Once again, I'm linking up to The Inspired Room's Fall Nesting Series. This week's theme is "Decorating Fall Mantels and Porches". Stop by check out what others have done.