Handmade Holidays

Well, now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays is complete, we can sit back and just relax while we enjoy the remainder of the Christmas season! I am so glad that this season does not just end at 11:59 pm on December 25th.

So while I’m relaxing I thought I’d share some of the handmade gifts my children and I made for our recipients. I joined pinterest earlier this year and began saving ideas of gifts to make and recipes to try for Christmas. Feel free to check out my boards.

The first project Diva and I made included a few varieties of Sugar Scrubs. These are really expensive in the stores, but are oh so easy (and much less expensive) to make at home. Here’s the links to what we tried: Sugar Scrubs, Coffee Scrub, and Foot Soak.

And here’s what we made…

The kitchen smelled so wonderfully when we were done, even though we used a variety of scents. I won’t go into details on the recipes for each of these as you can go directly to each tutorial from its link on pinterest. But I will tell you how we personalized them. After mixing each batch, we put each scrub or soak into a clean canning jar and tied a pretty ribbon around the lid. I cut tags using Papertrey Ink’s Tag Sale #1 Die and wrote some basic instructions on each one. For the labels, I used Papertrey Ink’s Limitless Layers 1 3/4″ Circle Collection (Letter E), wrote the scent on it and ran it through the Xyron Sticker Maker and attached it to the lid. We then added the completed jars to a basket for an at-home spa gift.

We gave this to my cousin who is pregnant with her second child. Her daughter, who was about to turn two a couple of days later, absolutely loved the coffee scrub! She loved its aroma so much that she refused to put it down and open any other presents!

Next Diva wanted to make some gifts of her own for her Godparents. She collaborated with LegoFan to make a set for their Grandmother as well. What did they make? Well, they made their own versions of these Post-it Note Holders and Decorated Clipboards. We forgot to take pictures of the ones for Diva’s Godmother, but here are the ones for her Godfather and their Grandmother…

I think it’s obvious which set is for the Grandmother and which is for the Godmother! It doesn’t show up really well, but we used glitter mod podge on the blue clipboard. On each piece we die cut a label using Papertrey Ink’s Angled Labels Die Collection (scroll about half-way down the page) and attached it with more mod podge.

This last gift I’m going to mention here is my absolute favorite. I made this for my brother and my sister-in-love who have been married for a little over a year. Anyone who has been reading my blog for the past year knows that my marriage has been a rocky one at best. We have had some major issues over the last 11 years because we didn’t make our marriage a priority. We are actively working on changing that – a New Year’s Resolution of sorts.

I recently came across a blog called Dating Divas, which has a wealth of ideas on how to keep the romance alive in your marriage. One post was how one of their readers took their date ideas and turned them into a gift. They provided some printables that made putting this together really easy. The only real work I had to do was decide on the dates and format the instructions. Once that was done, I printed them out and placed everything into a couple of pocket folders. The idea is that each spouse plans a date on the alternating months, so that they get 12 dates during the year. They are not supposed to share the date ideas with each other so that each month is a surprise. They are also not designed to break the bank. They are simple, fun, creative ways to continue to grow in love as a couple. I really hope that they have fun with this gift – it was my favorite gift to make! There are a few other couples in my circle that may see one of these gifts in the future – it’s a simple, homemade gift that has the capacity to last a lifetime!

Well, that covers most of our handmade gifts this year. If you give any of them a try, please let me know how they turn out.

On this New Year’s Eve 2011, I pray that you and your family will celebrate safely and that we will all welcome in a wonderful New Year. May God continue to Bless you all this coming year.

This post is linked up to Pinning it Down at Amongst Lovely Things.

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Feast Days

Growing up we didn’t celebrate a lot of feast days, so I never really thought about it. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when we really started homeschooling, that I thought about celebrating feast days with the children. However, they always seemed to creep up on me and I was never prepared. I would find a great idea here or there, but it would be too late to do, or I wouldn’t have the right supplies/ingredients to make it happen.

But I decided to change that this year. Since Advent is the beginning of the Church year, I thought it was a good time to start and we actually began celebrating some feast days. Keep in mind that we are new at this, so our celebrations are not huge or elaborate in any way. However, I’ve also realized that they don’t have to be – the children enjoy the celebrations and they learn something about someone who loved Jesus. Just stopping the ordinary, changing the routine, is a way to signify that this is something to remember.

So far, we’ve celebrated St. Nicholas (December 6th), The Immaculate Conception (December 8th), St. Juan Diego (December 9th), Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th), and St. Lucy (December 13th). We’ve also made our very first Jesse Tree.

For St. Nicholas (sorry I didn’t take pictures, but it’s pretty explanatory) tradition has it that he helped a poor man with dowries for his three daughters and that perhaps one of those ended up in a hanging stocking. For this reason, the children put their shoes out overnight and received a small amount of chocolate (wrapped, of course). Throughout this feast day, we read several books about the life of this generous, Christ-loving man.

For the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we attended Mass at a local church. Our church is a little farther away, so when we have a Holy Day during the week, we usually attend a more local Mass. We remember at this Mass that Mary had to be without sin in order to carry Jesus as fully God and fully human within her womb.

The feasts of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe are intertwined and tell a beautiful story that resulted in the conversion of Mexico. Mary appears to a humble widower and asks for a chapel to be built. The local bishop asks Juan Diego to ask for a sign. Mary shows Juan Diego where God has allowed roses to bloom in the winter, and he gathers them in his tilma. When Juan Diego shows the roses to the bishop, that’s not the only amazing thing: a beautiful image of Blessed Mary is imprinted on the tilma. That image still exists and scientists have not been able to figure out how it got there. We enjoyed some Mexican tostadas and recalled the story as told on Glory Stories at Holy Heroes. Diva even colored some coloring pages.

For St. Lucy, it is a tradition (Scandinavian, I think) that the youngest daughter wakes the household dressed in white with a wreath of candles on her head (if you have Kirsten’s Surprise by American Girl, this is the image on the cover). She brings with her sweet buns and coffee/cocoa. While this is a great thought, Diva is not quite old enough to accomplish this on her own. Nor do I want lit candles on my daughter’s head! So, we compromised. She woke us up in an almost white dress with a paper wreath on her head. {This is where I know I’m not a professional blogger yet – I didn’t have my camera on my bedside table to get a photo!} Then we made some biscuits, cocoa and coffee and we all had a nice breakfast together.

Lastly, we have begun making our very first Jesse Tree. This tradition follows the lineage of Jesus from Creation through His birth. Each day there are Bible stories and a new ornament to make. We kept it simple this year and are making everything out of paper. I went to get a piece of poster board and the only green they had was neon, so our tree is neon. As we discuss each day’s readings, either LegoFan or Diva draws the day’s symbol and attaches it to the tree. I love how they can look at the ornaments they have made and can tell the Bible stories in order. This auditory, visual, and tactile project has enabled them to internalize Biblical history even more! We are getting our ideas and explanations from the Advent Adventure Series by Holy Heroes. Now, please don’t laugh at my crude tree drawing or the neon color…

I really think these traditions have helped my children to learn more about people who have loved Jesus before them, as well as more about Jesus Himself. They are doing much more this advent then just making lists and succumbing to the commercialism and greed we see so much of nowadays. I pray that with Advent seasons like this, my children will grow up with the true “Reason for the Season” in their hearts.

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Medieval Feast

We recently finished a history unit on the Medieval times, and I think Diva and LegoFan really enjoyed it. We had a lot of fun making things from the period, and finished off with a mock medieval feast. They started out by making their own Coat of Arms. They each selected an image or two that they felt represented their interests. They put their names at the tops, but for privacy reasons, I have cut that part of the photos out.

Diva chose tornadoes as she’s becoming quite the weather buff!

LegoFan was true to his name and chose Lego bricks, as well as some weapons.

Next, they tried their hands at illuminations in the style of the monks who painstakingly preserved so much of the ancient writings. I even joined in the fun with this one! They were allowed to choose any one of their three initials for this project.

Diva loves her flowers and pink!

LegoFan enjoyed the use of bright colors!

And here’s my contribution…

We discussed the castles of the time and the ways they were protected. One of those ways was through a portcullis – an iron gate that could be opened or closed as was needed. So they drew a scene of the castle yard and then added a portcullis on top of the scene. The gate made it a little difficult to see what was taking place within the walls of the castle…

Another form of protection was a thick, heavy wooden door. This door often showcased some elaborate metal work. So here’s their take on some castle doors:

Next, we discussed guilds. They learned that people of the same profession banded together and formed a guild to protect its members, ensure safety and quality, and keep prices reasonable. They would meet together and wear aprons with symbols of their profession. In keeping with their Coats of Arms, Diva and LegoFan formed guilds of Storm Chasers and Lego Builders:

The last project before our feast was our interpretation of brass portraits. The children took cardboard, wrapped in foil, and ‘engraved’ a knight with a toothpick. They added details like shields and swords. Then they used watercolors to paint their knights. LegoFan wanted his to remain mostly silver like the color of armor, so many of his details can’t be seen in the photo. Diva wanted hers to look like St. Joan of Arc.

Now, on to the feast! We made a very simple beef stew in the slow cooker (because we all know they were very popular back then!) that consisted of beef, gravy, veggies, and herbs.

We know they didn’t really use bowls like this, but it just seemed to be a less messy way to eat it! Instead of bowls, the people would use trenchers – bread plates – to hold their food. At the end of the meal, they were either eaten, fed to the dogs, or given to the poor. The children made a simple dough and flattened it out into trenchers for our feast. They were good with a little butter (I know, not authentic) or dipped into the stew.

The rest of the meal consisted of fresh fruit and vanilla pudding. We all ate our meal with goblets, but also added the modern convenience of silverware. We just couldn’t bear to eat stew and pudding with our hands…

All in all it was a fun end to our history unit. I think the kids really learned a lot and had fun doing it! Diva says her favorite part of the unit was that, “knights fought for their ladies and that there was cool jousting!” LegoFan’s favorite part was that “gargoyles spat out water to protect the roof and that the battering ram actually had a ram’s head.”

Yelling

Well, it sure has been a while, hasn’t it?! Shortly after my last post here, I had to send my computer in for repairs (that was in early September!) Two and a half months later, my old computer has been deemed a lemon and I sit here typing from a new one. Yay! You just don’t realize how attached you are to this technology until you don’t have it for a while.

But now I’m back and I’m going to start writing again with a timely review of a great new ebook from Lorrie Flem of Eternal Encouragement. The book is called: Yelling: The Cause, The Casualty, The Cure. You see, I could have done a lot of yelling about this computer situation; and I did in the beginning, but with a bit of prayer and planning I was able to keep a cooler head than usual. It’s the simple strategies presented in Yelling that helped to turn this situation around for me; and allowed me to be a better example for my children…

I was hooked from her first paragraph! Yelling at our kids to get their attention is something all of us mothers deal with at some point in our season of motherhood. At least I know it’s something with which I have struggled… More. Than. Once.

Then she got me again… She admitted to being a yeller herself, and wondered if it was appropriate that she write such a book. I love honesty! I would much rather read a book from someone who’s “been there” than from someone who claims to be an expert, yet has never had to actually deal with the topic at hand. It’s so much more real that way. Don’t you think?

The first step in changing a behavior is realizing that there is something wrong with the behavior in question. Lorrie briefly and gently helps her readers to see that yelling offers no benefits, and then unfolds an eleven step plan to those of us who want to stop yelling. Of course, I can’t go into all of the steps here, because then you wouldn’t have any need to read the book, right? But what this book has to offer is helpful for all parents. I will say that she starts with the most important step of all: prayer. Yelling is not a positive character trait, and we need God’s help to overcome it. The inclusion of Scriptural references validates Lorrie’s points.

Yelling is short and to the point. Lorrie offers us doable steps and practical tips that really make it simple to put her plan into action. This is one book that you can read in an afternoon or evening, then put into practice the very next day. I appreciated that she inserted several excerpts from letters written by moms who also struggle with yelling ~ it helps to know you’re not alone when dealing with a tough issue.

I know I’ve struggled with yelling before. I have felt so guilty after yelling at my children, especially knowing that it really didn’t help the situation. This book, Yelling, gives me hope that with a few simple techniques, I can tame this beast! Heck, the tips included will help make my life, and my children’s, better in more ways than one!

* The Gabby Moms furnished the ebook, Yelling, by Lorrie Flem Eternal Encouragement Magazine in exchange for my honest review.