Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Life Is Beautiful #2




"He has made everything beautiful in its time."
Ecclesiastes 3:11a

Welcome back to "Life Is Beautiful"! I really appreciate all of the positive and kind comments you shared last week. Thank you for taking time to read and comment. I appreciate you!

I hope you have been encouraged to slow down a bit and consider the blessings of life all around you. It's a constant struggle for me to slow down, and I have to remind myself often to refocus my mind. I'm grateful for the opportunity to do that here, and to share it with you.
I hope you have been encouraged to slow down a bit and consider the blessings of life all around you. It's a constant struggle for me to slow down, and I have to remind myself often to refocus my mind.
  A couple of weeks ago, while I was watering plants, I noticed some sticks hanging from the branches of my crepe myrtle tree. When I looked closer, I found a carefully hidden nest cradling three tiny blue eggs. As I stood there still, the water flowing into the barrel, I began to think of how amazing this whole situation was.
I hope you have been encouraged to slow down a bit and consider the blessings of life all around you. It's a constant struggle for me to slow down, and I have to remind myself often to refocus my mind.
With our dogs galloping around the yard, the often-heard sounds of airplanes overhead approaching and leaving the airport just a few miles away, children running and laughing, wind blowing, sun rising and setting - quietly, secretly tucked in a pruned crotch of the tree, a carefully and brilliantly designed nest had been built. And three tiny packages of life had been laid there - waiting.

When I went back to see them again, much had changed. Gone were the smooth, still eggs. Three naked, reaching hatchlings were snuggled close, huddled together in their entire world tucked under a canopy of leaves.
I hope you have been encouraged to slow down a bit and consider the blessings of life all around you. It's a constant struggle for me to slow down, and I have to remind myself often to refocus my mind.
The quiet "click" of capturing their image brought their acute senses awake, and they stretched their frail necks upward, mouths gaping, eager for the life-sustaining morsel they instinctively knew they needed.

I hope you have been encouraged to slow down a bit and consider the blessings of life all around you. It's a constant struggle for me to slow down, and I have to remind myself often to refocus my mind.
And to the world on the other side of the leaves, the world rushing by fast, they were hidden safe.

It reminded me that as I run fast each day, millions of miracles are happening all around me, and if I'll just slow down a bit, and open my eyes, I can watch and consider and be awed.

Wishing you a beautiful day!

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Polka Dot Punch





The first time I made Polka-Dot Punch, we were celebrating Eli's first birthday. Now, he's 20…and we're still enjoying it!

Special drinks are always welcomed with our family, and we have fun trying out new recipes and creating some of our own. This is one of our very favorites though, probably because its been with us for so long, sometimes for special occasions, but mostly made for one of our Friday night "Fun Night" menus.

To make polka dot punch, simple freeze orange, grape, and cranberry juices in ice cube trays until frozen solid. When ready to serve, place alternating cubes into a tall clear glass and add lemon-lime soda or ginger ale.

To make the punch, simply freeze orange, grape, and cranberry juices in ice cube trays until frozen solid. When ready to serve, place alternating cubes into a tall clear glass and add lemon-lime soda or ginger ale.

As the juice cubes melt, they add their sweet, fruity taste to the soda - yumminess!

I like to make the cubes ahead of time and store in separate gallon-sized freezer bags. When I have time to make a lot, we have juice cubes for several occasions.

I love the color contrast these juices give, but any fruit juice that you like will work just fine. Get creative and enjoy a cool, fruity drink while summer is still around!

To make polka dot punch, simple freeze orange, grape, and cranberry juices in ice cube trays until frozen solid. When ready to serve, place alternating cubes into a tall clear glass and add lemon-lime soda or ginger ale.

Do you enjoy making punches and special drinks at your house? What are some of your favorites?

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 2





We have a few more adventures before our summer is over and it will be fun to have the younger ones coordinating when we go out. And, as long as they are willing to dress the same, I'll be doing it again each summer

Welcome back! Today I'm going to show you how I made shirts for the boys to match the dress I made last time for Hannah. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

Although the dress was really easy, the shirts were even easier. First, I had each of the boys choose the prints that they liked best, and we cut them out. It really helped that the fabric was a nice block pattern. Next, they each arranged them in a way that they liked, and their part was finished.

We have a few more adventures before our summer is over and it will be fun to have the younger ones coordinating when we go out. And, as long as they are willing to dress the same, I'll be doing it again each summer

Using iron-on adhesive, I attached each piece to the shirt.

Finally, I sewed around the edges to keep them from fraying, and to give it a more finished look.

We have a few more adventures before our summer is over and it will be fun to have the younger ones coordinating when we go out. And, as long as they are willing to dress the same, I'll be doing it again each summer

The boys really enjoyed designing their shirts, and I was happy that even our youngest teenager wanted to join in this year!

Do you remember the bottom part of the t-shirt that I cut off to make the dress? I used it to make the final part of the ensemble: a hair bow.

Here's how it's done:

We have a few more adventures before our summer is over and it will be fun to have the younger ones coordinating when we go out. And, as long as they are willing to dress the same, I'll be doing it again each summer

You'll need the bottom strip of t-shirt, scissors, some thread, a barrette, and a hot glue gun.

We have a few more adventures before our summer is over and it will be fun to have the younger ones coordinating when we go out. And, as long as they are willing to dress the same, I'll be doing it again each summer

 1. lay the fabric out flat and cut 4 strips 1/2-inch wide.
 2. put the strips together and open up into loops.
 3. cut the loops on each side to make 8 strips.
 4. hold one strip between your hands and pull to stretch; repeat with remaining strips.
 5. you now have 8 stretched strips that are slightly rounded on the sides.
 6. using 5 strips, pinch up a loop and secure with a double piece of thread.
 7. repeat to create a second loop.
 8. lay the remaining 3 strips on the table and center the looped pieces over them.
 9. tie a single knot. This is the front of the bow.
10. turn the bow over to attach the barrette. (I'm not sure why the strips are all down in this picture - sorry)
11. remove the inner part of the barrette to make it easier to work with and put a strip of hot glue on it. Press it down on the center of the back of the bow.
12. put a dot of glue on the inside of the barrette, and fold down the top portion of the knot strips. Hold in place until it is set.
13. reattach the inner part of the barrette.
14. turn the bow back over to the front.
15. trim the bottom of the strips even.

And that's it! We have a few more adventures before our summer is over and it will be fun to have the younger ones coordinating when we go out. And, as long as they are willing to dress the same, I'll be doing it again each summer.

Do you enjoy coordinating your children's clothes?


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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Life Is Beautiful #1




Last week our family had the joy of taking a vacation with some extended family to Pigeon Forge, Tennesee. These images are from our trip to Cades Cove in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

The time away from our normal routines was more of a blessing to me than I had been expecting. It was wonderful to enjoy the time with our extended family, whom we don't usually spend that much concentrated time with because of living several hours apart. And, we simply had a great time playing. 

The scenery was gorgeous and relaxing, and on the day we visited Cades Cove, I spent some time "breathing in" the natural surroundings that are so peaceful and refreshing. I am so thankful we were able to go, and we came home with lots of special memories.

This post has been a while in the works and now that it's finally together, I'm really excited to share it with you.

It's taken a while to pull together because of three separate inspirations that I've worked on merging into one unique post.

Today I'm going to share with you these inspirations and why this idea has been stirring around in my heart for a while.  I plan to continue posting each week, but without so much explanation. I'd love to hear your feedback since this is a bit different from my usual posts.
First, I've recently made friends with a very sweet lady who hosts a link party that I think is quite unique: Everyday Life Photography. Rather than linking up social media or blogs and blog posts, Kathy invites her readers to link up an original photo that they want to share. Each week when I click over to her party and see the photo she chose to share, I'm immediately reminded that I often miss the still and quiet beauty that is all around me because I'm running so fast.

When I realize that I have no idea what phase the moon is currently in, can't remember the last time I watched the clouds or walked slowly through the grass, listened with a still heart to the birds breaking the dawn silence, or stood still beside a bed, and leaning down, watched the sweet, steady breathing of one of my sleeping children, I know I've gotten too busy - yet again.

Kathy's party has made me do some thinking long after I click away, and I'm grateful for the stir to my heart that her work has created.
Secondly, I've become increasingly interested in learning to shoot a good photo. When I saw the post from Boost Your Photography about Katie's photography series, I jumped on over and asked to join the group.

I'm learning so much about the art of beautiful photography and am having fun trying to apply what I learn to the shots I make. There's something amazingly satisfying in capturing a story with a photo, and although I have a very long way to go, I'm enjoying the journey.

I'm so grateful to Katie for generously sharing her amazing talent and expertise as she guides the group through improving our photography.
Finally, my longest-standing inspiration to begin this post series is from a woman who is quite well-known: Ann Voskamp.

I began reading Ann's blog more than three years ago, and soon thereafter read her book, One Thousand Gifts. Her influence has rightly prompted me to look at life with new eyes: eyes of thanksgiving instead of complaining; eyes that look for beauty, even when everything seems ugly; eyes to count the unending graces that God lavishes on me every single day, if I'll just slow down long enough to see them. I'm profoundly grateful for Ann's beautiful writing style that speaks beauty and wisdom to my messy and world-stained heart.

When I downloaded the 1,000 Gifts app last year, my gift-counting took on a new look. Instead of writing down a few ways each day that God showed His love to me, I began typing them out, and often snapping an image that captured more than my words could. I discovered that I loved to count as many graces as I could in photos.
It's because of these three women, and their talents and graces, that I've decided to post a little differently this day each week. My desire is that you are encouraged as well, and that as we work with our hands, creating, building, loving, and living, that we have eyes to see and hearts to grasp the beauty and grace that is right beside us, if we will only take the time to see it. And, that the joy of seeing those images right before our eyes, will make the blessing that much sweeter.

Wishing you a beautiful day!
Please visit these awesome ladies at their blogs:

Kathy at Smile For No Reason

Katie at Boost Your Photography 

Ann at A Holy Experience




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Monday, July 14, 2014

Easy Guacamole




If you have never made homemade guacamole, you are missing out! A packaged product can't even come close to the taste of this fresh, flavorful version.

It hasn't been so many years since I learned to appreciate guacamole. Now, I think I must be trying to make up for lost time. I love this stuff!

If you've never made homemade guacamole, you're missing out! A packaged product can't even come close to the taste of this fresh, flavorful version.

Making it is a snap too. So, it shows up pretty often at our house when we have a Mexican meal - or just for dipping with tortilla chips for an afternoon snack.

If you have never made homemade guacamole, you are missing out! A packaged product can't even come close to the taste of this fresh, flavorful version.

Here's what you need:

6 ripe avocados
3 plum tomatoes
1 small white onion
1 Serrano pepper
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Here's what you do:

Put everything in the food processor and process until blended and smooth.

I told you it was easy. :)


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This post was featured at Mostly Homemade Mom.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1




How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1

 A l-o-n-g time ago, I mentioned that I had an upcoming sewing project that I was really excited about. Well, I was. And I still am. It just took me a while to get around to it.

When my biggest boys were little, I loved to dress them the same. They looked so cute! And, nicely enough, six of our boys came in "pairs" (less than 2 years apart), so I always liked to dress the pairs alike.

Well, they aren't so little anymore, and aren't so fond of dressing the same - except for my youngest set. Three years ago, I made them some coordinating clothes for a Fourth of July party and they loved it!

I've only managed to do it one other year since, but this spring, they asked to do it again. My "littles" aren't really so little anymore, so I thought I had better take the chance while it's here. Any summer now, they are likely to say, "Uh, I don't think I want to do that this year." They grow up way too quickly!

So, we made our trip to the fabric store to choose a fabric that would:

1. appeal to boys and a girl at the same time.
2. have a motif that was easy to cut out and remain whole.
3. easily match a green t-shirt (their color choice this year).
4. was reasonably priced.

And this is what we finally settled on:

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1

I started with the dress. Today I'll show you how I made it.

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1

First, decide on the length you want the t-shirt to be, add 3/4-inch for a seam allowance,  and cut the remaining part off. Save this bottom part for a fun project after the dress is finished. Next, measure from the bottom of the t-shirt to the length you want the finished skirt to be. This works best if the shirt is on.

Since we're making 3 tiers for the skirt portion, divide the total skirt length by 3, and add 1-1/2 inches to each section for the seam allowances. This will be the length of each section. Because I had fabric with a very distinct block pattern, I rounded mine off, realizing that the skirt portion would be a bit longer than I had originally planned. I decided I would rather do that than cut the blocks.

Next, measure around the hips and add 4 - 5 inches. This allows room for the seam allowances on both ends as well as some extra for a loose fit. This is the width for the first tier. Sew the ends together so that you have a loop of fabric. With right sides together, pin the skirt to the bottom of the shirt. You will probably need to gather the shirt in a few places to get it to fit. Just space them evenly as best you can.

I like to center the skirt seam on the back of the shirt. Sew the two pieces together using a 3/4-inch seam allowance.

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1

You can see the little tucks in the t-shirt that had to be added - and that mine are not perfectly spaced!

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1

Next, cut the second tier. Make it 1-1/2 times as long as the first tier, also allowing a 3/4-inch seam allowance on both ends.

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1

Put a basting stitch at the top of the second tier and gently pull the threads until the top of the piece is the same measurement (plus 1-1/2 inches for the seam allowances) as the bottom of the first tier. This will gather the second tier. Sew the ends together as before, lining up the seam with the seam from the first tier. Pin to the bottom of the first tier with right sides together, and sew together.

Once attached, this is what I had:

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1

I had Hannah try it on and I just didn't like it! I thought the top tier was too long and I didn't like the way it looked on her. My rounding plan didn't work out so great after all.

So, I got out my lovely seam ripper and detached the skirt from the shirt. I cut off the first "row" of animals, then reattached it.

I thought this looked much better - and I even got my tucks spaced a little better this time! I knew I would still have enough length since I had rounded up for each tier. The second and third tiers look just fine with 3 rows of blocks.

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1
Finally, cut the fabric for the third tier. This time it should measure 1-1/2 times the width of the second tier. You will probably need to piece this tier together, and maybe even the second tier - depending on how large you are making the dress. Just make sure to add enough on each end for the seam allowances. Either way, piecing it together works just fine.

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1

Repeat the basting stitch, gathering, and sewing together to form a loop. Finally, pin to the bottom of the second tier, right sides together, with back seams matching, and sew together.

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1

Finally, add a hem to the bottom, and you are finished!

How To Make Matching Summer Outfits, Part 1

These t-shirt dresses are really fun to make and are so comfortable. I love to make a few for Hannah each year, and we have lots of fun choosing fabric together. And, as you may have noticed, this "pattern" is very forgiving. The measurements don't necessarily have to be exact for it to work out just fine.

Next week I'll be sharing how I used the rest of the fabric to make coordinating t-shirts for the boys, as well as a fun little project with the bottom of the t-shirt that we cut off. I hope you'll make plans to come back and check it out.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Quick Summer Lunch: Pasta Salad Bar




Create a quick and filling summer lunch with a pasta salad bar.

With school out (finally!) we are all about our summer routine now. I love to create in the kitchen, but sometimes I'd rather be in the garden or doing something fun with the children. Those long, involved dishes just have to wait for another time.

Still, these people seem to always be hungry! So, what do I do? I make one of my fast, go-to lunches so that everyone can get their tummies full and we can get back to doing something fun.

Enter: the Pasta Salad Bar

Create a quick and filling summer lunch with a pasta salad bar.


This is so fast, easy, versatile, delicious…

First I boil up some pasta and set it out. Next, I set out all the topping choices for the day. Finally, I put some plates on the counter and announce that lunch is ready. Easy, right?

Here's what I like to offer for our salads:
sun-dried tomatoes
fresh grape tomatoes
chopped matchstick carrots
diced fresh cucumbers
chopped dill pickles
cubed ham
bacon bits
diced pepperoni (mini pepperoni is great for this)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
cubed cheddar cheese
crumbled feta cheese
black olives
dried cranberries
sunflower seeds
sliced almonds
roasted pecans
ranch dressing
Italian dressing
salt
pepper
the kitchen sink (not really!)

Sometimes they get to choose from a lot of these things. Sometimes they only get to choose from the few I have on hand, or the few I had time to get together. I do try to include at least one favorite ingredient for each child.

And, I love to offer some fresh fruit on the side: frozen grapes are fantastic in the summer, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, or fresh peaches.

I hope you'll give the pasta salad bar a go at your house. Do you have any great ideas for other things to add to pasta salad?

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