Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hand-made gift exchange

I recently participated in a Handmade Gift Exchange sponsored by Craftaholics Anonymous.  This is a twice yearly event.  I always enjoy having an excuse to make something fun for someone and I get a fun package in return.  I was paired with Julia "Scrappy Jewels" for the exchange.  This is the first time I haven't been able to peruse a blog to get an idea of personality, so instead I perused a few of her Pinterest boards.  I found a ruffled apron pattern and knew that was my gift to make since she loves pink frilly things.  This is the apron I sent to Julia.  I'm glad she loves it.
I wasn't super thrilled with how the waistband turned out and would probably do it a bit different in the future, but all in all, it was a quick, fun project to make.

I was thrilled with the gift Julia made for me.  I told her that I didn't have much decor for my beautiful mantle.  It is beautiful wood flanked by built-in bookcases on both sides and has wood paneling above.  This is the focal point of my family room, and sadly it is a very overlooked part of my decor.  Mostly it provides storage for whatever we decide to stash there.  I have started hanging some printed banners for different holidays, but that's about the extent of my actual decorating, other than my nativity displays for Christmas.

Now I have no excuses, at least for the month of July.  Julia sent me these beauties:
A stenciled burlap canvas and mini pennant banner.  She says this is the first time she's worked with burlap.  I think she did a great job.  They look great to me!  I love the canvas since I like to think the heart is stamped approximately on my Nebraska home.  Over the past several years, this has truly become "home" to us.  I'm not normally a fan of chevron, but I like it when it's positioned vertically rather than horizontally on the banner.  Who knew?

If you'd like to participate in the next gift exchange, you can sign up here for a reminder email.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Beautiful Bridge

One of my favorite authors is running a "Beautiful Bridges and Special Kisses" promotion to celebrate the release of her newest book.

Since I can't think of many special kisses (although the one during our wedding ceremony and first kisses to each of my babies are great memories), I thought I would join in the fun by sharing a little bit about one of my favorite bridges, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
The bridge was completed shortly after we moved to Omaha and quickly became a highlight.  It is the largest footbridge to connect two states (Nebraska and Iowa).  Instead of just being a way to get from downtown Omaha across the river to Council Bluffs, it is a piece of visual art with sweeping S-curves and a lovely view of the Missouri River as well as the Omaha riverfront.  It's one of few places where you can be standing in two states at one time.  We've visited several times and made the 1/2 mile or so trip from one side to the other.  It's a great way to spend a couple of hours on a beautiful day.
A couple years ago we got a different perspective of the bridge as we sailed underneath on a riverboat cruise.
It doesn't matter if you're looking from above or below, daytime or nighttime (the cables are lit with fiber optics), this is one of the most beautiful bridges I've seen.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies

Christmas time is no fun without cookies.  We have our tried and true family favorites that we make year after year, but it's always fun to try a new recipe.  I participated in the virtual Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap co-hosted by White Lights on Wednesday, {i love} my disorganized life, and Real Housemoms.  For this swap, participants were paired up, then you sent your partner a cookie recipe.  Each person makes the recipe they received and then posts the recipe and photos for everyone to salivate over.

My partner was Elizabeth, who blogs at The Law Student's Cookbook.  She sent me the recipe for these yummy Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies.

(I modified her recipe just a bit since I don't have a food processor and I despise rolling out cookie dough, so I'll share my modified version.)

Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp red food coloring (or if you’re using a gel food coloring, about 1 tsp or whatever looks good)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp coconut oil
1. Preheat your oven to 325. Cream together butter and sugar.  Add flour, cocoa powder and salt.  Mix until dough forms.  Add food coloring and knead to incorporate color throughout. (Disposable gloves will keep your hands from turning pink!)
2. Roll dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Slice each cookie about 1/2 inch thick and place on cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and allow to cool.
4. In a microwave-safe container, melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil for 1 minute on 50% power.  Stir.  Continue to melt in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring after each interval, until mixture is smooth. Dip half of each cookie into the melted chocolate. Let stand on waxed paper until set (about 10 minutes in the freezer).  

Honestly, I preferred the cookies without the chocolate dipping and savoring the rich shortbread flavor, so you may want to leave them undipped. 

Check out all the other cookie swap recipes below.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Walks, walls and four-leaf clovers

I had an epiphany the other day while Bugaboo and I were walking home after dropping Princess off at school.  We're in the midst of a heat wave this last couple of weeks, so we were taking our time walking home.  At one point on our walk, there is a concrete retaining wall that Bugaboo loves to walk on.  As he was carefully taking each step, he was so proud to do it "by myself."  Sure, it took us twice as long to cover the distance, but the joy in his face was worth the extra time in the heat.  I took a little more notice of the trees and grass and absorbed the beauty of God's creations.  After the wall, I was watching the ground and noticed a four-leaf clover in amongst the grass.
image source
I have never found a four-leaf clover before.  I've been right there when others have spotted them, but I've never been the finder.  Even one day when I was visiting a friend with a patch loaded with mutant clover, I couldn't find any of the four-leaf variety.  A few feet down the sidewalk, I spotted another four-leaf.  I knew it must be a divine message to slow down and take more notice of things around me. And that's when my epiphany hit.

You see, I've had this little blog on my mind a lot lately.  Even though I may not be very active with my posting, it still sucks a good chunk of my time thinking about posts and post preparations.  I've felt prompted to take a step back from my life online and spend more time with my family.  I love my little corner of the web, but I feel like God wants me to prioritize better and focus more on uplifting and building relationships with my family.  I may still pop in from time to time, but for now, I need to put my schoolhouse on the backburner.  I've loved getting to know many of you and interacting through your comments.  Thanks for joining me on my adventure.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Road trip 101 - Packing

Packing for a trip is, quite possibly, one of my least favorite things.  It's right up there with mopping and taking out the garbage.  It used to be easy to throw several days worth of clothes into a suitcase, leave space for hubby to add his and off we went.  As kids came along, we expanded to two suitcases and various bags.  Now with a family of eight the amount of stuff we take just for a weekend trip can be daunting, let alone a week or more.

My solution is to let the kids do their own packing, within reason.  They choose their clothes and I approve them so we don't end up with their rattiest jeans, clashing outfits, etc.  We pack four days worth of clothes and do laundry every three or four days.  (Most of our trips are visiting family, so this works well, but a trip to a laundromat can be a fun break from sightseeing and offers a little downtime.)  If you like step-by-step lists with photos, here's one with some great space-saving ideas that we used when The Artist went to France and needed to travel light earlier this summer.

As far as toiletries, I try to condense as much as possible with one shampoo or toothpaste, etc. for the whole family.  Sometimes I'll even just pack sample sizes and purchase more at our destination.

Rather than try to fit everything into one big suitcase, I try to have smaller bags/suitcases for one or two people.  This helps the independence factor of being responsible for their own bag and gives hubby some practice at problem solving when he is figuring out how to pack everything in the back of our van. ;)

Each of the kids also gets to bring a small pillow, a blanket for the car and to sleep with and one stuffed animal.

Stay tuned for the next installment, combating the "Are we there yet" syndrome.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Announcing Road trip 101 - a new series

Have you missed me?  Probably not, but you can gush about my blogging absence if you want.  It will make me feel loved. ;)

Along with the crazy-busy summer schedule that happens with six kids and their activities, we just got back from a two-week trip to visit both sides of our family.  All in all, we put more than 2200 miles on our van and 30+ hours of drive-time to create lasting family memories.  Plus, we did it all without any movies or electronic games.  Sound impossible?  Not really.  I decided to share some of my planning and experience with the blog world in a new series I've titled Road Trip 101.
Watch for installments over the next few weeks with tips and tricks to keep your sanity on the road.  Have questions?  Leave me a comment and I'll try to answer them.