Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some Resolutions Take Longer Than a Year

I hate failure.

It's part of my competitive nature.  If I think that there is a slight possibility that I might lose, then it bothers me on a deep level.  For this reason, I'm ashamed to say, I have made some less than stellar New Year's resolutions.  You know, stuff like:

"I hereby resolve to return every piece of Tupperware in my cupboard that doesn't belong to me."


"I resolve to clean out my linen closet, and fold my sheets inside the corresponding pillow cases the way Martha Stewart does."

These types of resolutions are "safe".  There's a very small margin of failure in them.  My chances of success are nearly 99.7%.  That's why I used to make them.

Last year was different, though.  Last year I made one of the toughest resolutions I've ever made in my life. I knew my chances of failure were high, and I knew that I would be raising the stakes on a whole new level of commitment in my life. But I just had to do it anyway.

What did I resolve to do?

I resolved to read my Bible in it's entirety.  Cover to cover.

Here's why.  Each January, my pastor encourages us to read through our Bibles.  But last year, he shocked me with some statistics.  Did you know that less than 10% of professing Christians have ever read the entire Bible?  Some research suggests the numbers are as dismal as 2-3%.

This was one area that I did NOT want to be in the 90th percentile on.

So I made the resolution, but it was extremely difficult for me for the following reasons:

1. A commitment of this nature is serious.  I didn't want to let God down. Talk about pressure!

2. It involved waking up even earlier than I already did, so that I could find quiet time to be in the Word before my three children were begging for breakfast. It's tough to get out of my warm bed on winter mornings.

3. I've tried it before, and failed miserably after getting as far as the book of Deuteronomy.....not once, or twice, but three other occasions.

I've actively read my Bible for most of my life, but NEVER have I just read it from cover to cover.  They say that it takes an average of 15 minutes of reading a day, to complete it in a year.   I wouldn't know.  I'm the queen of the rabbit trail.  I start reading my assigned chapters for the day, and something peaks my interest.  Then, 30 minutes later, I've read 10 other verses about the subject throughout my Bible, read every commentary, and  before I know it, my times up and my children are asking for waffles...2 chapters short of the day's goal.

That is one reason why I must confess that I am still not done.  It appears as though I'm going to finish about 4 months behind schedule.    But I'm not going to quit.  I'm not going to get discouraged.  I'm going to press on until I reach the goal!

Sometimes I oversleep.

Sometimes I forget.

Sometimes it's dry reading material...(think about chapters on Levitical law, and Genealogies).

Sometimes I just have a bad attitude.

But I will remain resolved to see this New Year's goal to fruition.....because...

Usually my devotion time is comforting, refreshing, and uplifting.

It's often thought provoking.

It's sometimes convicting.


 It's ALWAYS just what I needed to hear that day.

How could I quit now? I've come so far. If prayer is how we talk to God, and the Bible is how He talks to us, then I'm missing out on a whole lot of answers and good direction in my life if I don't read my Bible consistently. I don't want to navigate life without the instruction manual. I want to be like the Berean's in Acts chapter 8.  They were wise men who searched the scriptures daily!

So what if I didn't get it done in a year?! Who cares??? This is hard stuff!

There are many resources to help you read through the Bible, and I use one that involves putting 3 bookmarks in my Bible.  Each day I read 2 chapters in the Old Testament, 1 Chapter in Psalms or Proverbs, and 1 chapter of the New Testament.  As I read the chapters, I fill in the circles on the bookmarks.  If you'd like to get one for yourself, you can find them online by clicking here

When I finish my bookmarks, I'm going to do something special with them.  Not because I'm amazing, or because I'm in some sort of elite Bible reader's club, but because, by God's grace, I will have tackled one of the toughest personal goals I've ever set.

Starting off each morning with a dose of the Word of God  is a habit that has done wonders for me this past year, and I pray that it will be a habit formed for life.

Bottom line: Maybe you're the kind of person that never makes New Year's resolutions because you're afraid to fail....like me.... or maybe you make them and break them in the first few months.  I'm here to tell you that's it's alright to set big goals for yourself.  And if you've tried and failed, just pick up right where you left off and keep pressing on! You can do it!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A "Growing" Tradition

Our family had a very blessed Christmas, and we put hundreds of miles on the truck to see both sides of our families.  It was a whirlwind week to say the least! We're exhausted, but had so much fun.

Here's what it looked like up at our place on Christmas Eve morning:

Here's what it looked like after several hours of traveling:

Hmmm....a White Christmas, or 70 degrees and sunny....it's a toss up as to which was better, but we got to experience both weather scenarios in one day!

At my folks house, we had a big Italian dinner with all of the family, and then opened up gifts before attending church that evening.

I thought that my brother's years of wrapping gifts in duct tape and newspaper were going to end now that he's married, but apparently, my sister-in-law has yet to assert her new domestic authority on matters of wrapping paper.  So the newspaper made another appearance. Notice the lovely Budweiser advertisement on my daughter's gift.

As many of you know, my brother and I have a weird and stupid Christmas tradition that involves exchanging an Elmer Fudd Chia Pet back and forth for the last 12 years.  I won't go into the details, except to say that each year we are forced to get more creative in an attempt to disguise the Chia.  About 4 years ago, I also found the PERFECT Chia Pet card to go along with the gift.  Now we put a new layer of paper over the card each year that contains a creative story about returning the Chia Pet to its rightful owner.  Here's the card:

When you open the card, it sings "Cha- Cha- Cha Chia!"

Anyway, this year my brother went all out on his disguise of the Chia.  He bought an old Winnie the Pooh bear from the thrift store, cut it open, took out the stuffing, and put the Chia Pet inside. 

Then, my own mother became an accomplice to the crime as she sewed the bear back together.

It felt  hard inside like an old Teddy Ruxpin bear with the cassette player in it's tummy. 

I'm already plotting next year's revenge. MWAHAHAHAHA!!!! (That's my evil laugh!)

After church that evening, we went to fill the truck up with diesel to make the trip back home, and here's what the sign said:

YIKES! At $31.59 a gallon, it would be over a thousand dollars to fill up the truck. I knew the price of diesel was going up, but I had no idea it was this high! Ha Ha!

We made the long trip up the mountain that night while the kids slept in the back seat.  The moon was so big and beautiful that it reflected off of the snow, and made for a gorgeous midnight drive.

On Christmas evening we had more family coming over the mountain to eat dinner at our house, and I have no pictures of this because I was busy babysitting my prime rib in the oven.  It was the first time I've ever made a prime rib, and I was so nervous!  When you're cooking a high dollar cut of meat, you don't want to blow it!  It's not like cooking a meatloaf.  I could smell the aroma of money cooking in the oven. There's no time to snap photos when you're in the middle of a serious cooking assignment!!

After dinner we had a nice, relaxing evening spent with family.

Needless to say, our Christmas was very special!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Stinky Christmas Tree

The fun thing about cutting our own Christmas tree from the forest is that it's always an adventure.  The thrill of the chase, and the feeling that the "perfect" tree could be just beyond the meadow beckons us to go on our yearly search for the elusive evergreen.

There is a down side to cutting our own tree, of course.  Sometimes there are a few glitches.  A handful of challenges that must be overcome with ingenuity and determination.  There is the universal problem of cutting the tree that looked small in the forest,  but when we get it home, it won't fit through the door, and bends over at the ceiling. There are other, more unique challenges too.

My mother-in-law gets a far-away look in her eye each year as she tells the story of the time they bought a living Christmas tree.  When they brought the tree into the house, an infestation of bugs started hatching from it's limbs, and covered all of the gifts.  She  relays the tale with the face of a veteran tree cutter whose seen many battles on the tree front.

Our family has a ten year tree cutting history now, with our own legendary tree cutting tales to tell.  But nothing beats the year that we got the "smelly tree".

Four years ago, we trudged through deep snow to scout out the most gorgeous Christmas tree we had ever found.  We posed for a picture in front of it, and did the ceremonial cutting.  Then we loaded it up and took it home.  I couldn't wait to put it in our living room.

We got home, stoked up the wood stove to warm the living room, and then started to decorate our gorgeous tree.  From outside, our house looked like a perfect little Thomas Kinkade painting.  A snowy roof with a view inside the window of a tree trimmed in twinkly lights and decorations.  But from inside the house, things weren't so perfect.  As we sat back on the couch to admire our work, we noticed something.

"What's that smell?" my husband asked.

"I don't know.  Did you check your shoes?" I said.

"The tree doesn't smell 'piney' like it usually does." he said.

"It didn't smell in the forest! The warm air in the house must have brought out the smell." I complained.

So I decided to buy a pine scented Glade plug-in to put behind the tree.

It didn't help.

By day two, the offending odor was out of control.

"It smells like elk pee in the living room." my husband said.
"You know, like that elk estrous you buy in a bottle when you're hunting." he quipped.

"Where's it coming from?" I asked.

Then we did the only thing we knew to do.  We started sniffing the tree. After a few minutes, we located the branches that were giving off the stench.  I decided to drench the branches in Lysol spray.

"If anything will kill that smell, Lysol will!" I said, confidently.

Day three... the smell remained.

"My gosh, it stinks in here!" My kids said.

"Well Mommy has used plug-ins and Lysol, and NOTHING IS WORKING!"

I was losing it.  I had spent several hours decorating the tree, and I didn't want to undecorate it and get a new one.  We were in too deep.

Yet, the musky pee smell was overwhelming.  Drastic times called for drastic measures.  I went out to the garage and got the branch cutters.  I stood in front of my beautiful tree and sniffed.  Then I lopped off one smelly branch after another, until all of the offending odor was gone.

After the job was complete, my perfectly shaped, gorgeous Christmas Tree had a gaping hole in it where I had cut out four branches.  It was ugly.  It looked ridiculous, but it FINALLY smelled good again.  For four weeks we had to gently explain to people why a giant chunk of our tree was missing.

It was humbling.  It was humiliating.  It was down right ridiculous.  I mean, we were known for finding good trees.  This could damage our reputation.  I just kept telling myself, this too shall pass.  This too shall pass.

Now that several years have gone by, the pain of the incident has diminished, and we can finally laugh over the whole thing.  And some day, when the kids are grown, I'll get that same far-away look in my eye that mother-in-law gets as I tell the legendary story of the year we got the tree that smelled like elk pee.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

7 Things

I've got complainers out there heckling  me to write a new blog post.  You people really crack the whip, don't you?  Well, I've been busy.  Really busy.  Here's why:

1. We picked up a little side job for a few weeks selling fireworks at our friend's fireworks stand.  Here's what everyone should know about working at a fireworks stand. 

A. All men are pyros.  97.6% of the clientele are male.  The other 2.4% are women who are paying for    fireworks for the men in their lives that don't have any money.

B. My husband and three children are all obsessed with things that go boom.  Obviously, I knew of my husband's obsession with fire...after all, he's been a volunteer fire fighter.  But my kids...well, they would blow ALL of their financial resources at the fireworks stand if they were 16, and if they had more than a buck to their name.

2. I've been busy trying to get the Christmas cards out.  It might take an act of God.  I was going to hand- make them like I usually do every year, but because of the aforementioned side job listed above, I had to go with an alternative.  Just know that it took our family approximately 86 self portrait shots to get just ONE Christmas picture with us all looking normal.  Also note that I was the one that was running back and forth to the camera 86 times to reset the self timer.  So if I look winded in the Christmas card picture, it's because I walked sprinted at least two miles going back and forth.  I hope you appreciate it.

3. I've been busy doing laundry.  Did you know that I currently have a pile of laundry that rivals Mt. Everest?  Let's face it, my family goes through a lot of clothing.  We're mountain people.  We layer our clothes.  We also raise cattle.  We get manure on our clothes.  I have a hard time keeping up with the pile on a normal day, but when I'm working at a fireworks stand.....well, the stuff starts to multiply exponentially.

4. I've been busy Christmas shopping.  I had 3 people left to shop for.  Three impossibly difficult, absolutely and unfathomably challenging people to shop for. So what did I do?  I went to Western Drug, of course!  If you're ever in pinch with no ideas, you must go to Western Drug.  I bought my Grandpa several packs of "Shoot N C" rifle targets.  They explode in color upon impact so you can easily see where you shot when you're sighting in your gun. (I'm fully aware that this means nothing to 99% of the people reading this.) However, if you know my family, you know that NO Christmas is complete without Guns, Ammo, or shooting paraphernalia.  My Dad and my Grandpa go shooting every Friday.  It's like this little ritual they have.  They go shooting near my Uncle Mike's alfalfa fields on Friday mornings, then they drive into town to eat green chili cheese crisps at the local Mexican food restaurant.  So you see, these targets are the PERFECT gift for the man who loves to shoot, and has everything else he needs. Where did I find these? Western Drug.  It's the one stop shop.  If you don't live near Western Drug, then I can't help you with your Christmas drama. Sorry.

5. We've been busy cutting down a Christmas tree for my beloved's parents.  My mother-in-law is recovering from some back surgery, and we thought it would be nice to cut down a tree so that my father-in-law wouldn't have to. After church today, we loaded up the kids, put a Hank the Cowdog audio book on in the truck, and laughed our hiney off while searching for the "perfect" tree.  If you haven't listened to a Hank the Cow Dog book on audio, then your children are being neglected.  The truth is, my husband and I love them as much as our kids.  I have to warn you though, if you aren't familiar with ranch life, then you won't get half the jokes, but if  you know your ranch terminology, you'll love them.  Anyway, I digress.  Where was I?  Oh yes, the tree.  We found the perfect tree on the side of a cliff.  There's always a story behind each of our trees, and sometime this week I'll share a few tree stories with you....but this tree...well it was a real cliff hanger.  My husband risked life and limb to hike to it, and then remembered that he was going to have to somehow get back down the cliff with the 10 foot tree.  Needless to say, the tree ended up tumbling down the cliff and arrived at the bottom in 1.5 seconds.  My husband was there 10 minutes later. 

Side note: No tree limbs were injured in the taking of the tree.  Turns out...fresh cut trees are bouncy.

6. I've been busy finishing my last week of homeschooling my children until after the New Year! WOOT!

7. I've been busy enjoying seasonal holiday treats.  After several hours of Christmas tree hunting, we were famished. We drove into town and pulled into the local Sonic, where I was a victim of pretty Christmas advertising.  I made an impulse purchase of both of their holiday items...A small Sugar Cookie Blast, and a small Spiced Hot Chocolate with whipped cream. (They looked so cute on the sign.)  It was freakin' cold outside, so I thought these two items would go lovely together.  A bite of cold ice cream, a sip of hot chocolate....repeat.  Turns out, this was the dumbest idea I've ever had.  After freezing my teeth with the ice cream, the hot chocolate felt like a blow torch on them.  It was a torturous pain that made me want to go through the roof.  I'm going to avoid all holiday food impulse purchases from now on.

As usual, I will conclude my list at 7 things, because all good Christians make lists with 7 things on them.  It's the number of completion.  Totally Kidding.  Now you have a small glimpse as to why I've been busy!

Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why My Mother Doesn't Trust Me around Christmas Presents

The year was 1995.  It was two weeks before Christmas, and I was a junior in high school.  I came home early from practice on Wednesday night, and my mom and brother were at church.  It was just me and my dad at home for the rest of the evening.

I walked by the Christmas tree, when I spotted it.  THE gift.  The gift that I'd wanted way worse than little Ralphie wanted an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!

By the shape of the box, I knew what I was getting.  I looked around to make sure my dad wasn't looking, and then I gently lifted the box.  Yep.  It was the precise weight and feel.  I felt my heart jump. I could hardly contain myself!  Here's what I knew was inside:
Photo from Amazon.com
It was the George Strait Box Set. Seventy two of the greatest songs George had ever sang.  And it was mine, all mine!  But TWO whole weeks...I couldn't wait that long to open it.

That's when I got a BRILLIANT idea!  I approached my dad who was sitting in his recliner.

"Dad, I've got a BRILLIANT idea!"

"What's that?"

"Under the Christmas tree, I've spotted an amazing gift.  I know for a fact that my George Strait box set is under there."

 "How do you know?"

"Dad, I've dreamed of this box set for months now.  I look it over every time I go to the store.  I'm sure of it! It's the exact shape and size. Anyway, I was thinking...Do you want to listen to it while Mom's gone?  She'll never know!"

"Yeah, that sounds like a good idea!"

And right then and there I began to perform a "gift extraction" with the precise movements of a surgeon.  I held my breath as I, ever so gently, unfastened the tape without ripping the paper.  It was a beautiful job, if I do say so myself.  The box was finally unwrapped.

What took place next, was two hours of the best George Strait music booming from the speakers of my parent's living room.  My dad and I sang along to every tune, previewing all  four discs and all 72 songs while we used two remote controls as makeshift microphones.  For the encore, we reclined our rockers, as we belted out "The Chair".....

♪♫"Well excuse me, but I think you've got my chair... No, that one's not taken...I don't mind if you sit there...I'd be glad to share...♪♫

After the song was over, I had approximately 4 minutes and 25 seconds before my mom and brother would be home.  I carefully put each CD back into the box, slipped the plastic wrap back over it, and slid it back into the wrapping paper.  I reattached the tape, and placed the gift in the exact spot I'd found it in just as I heard the garage door open.

My dad and I tried to wipe the grins off our faces while my mom entered the door.  Mission accomplished.

Fast forward two weeks.

It was Christmas, and my dad was passing out gifts for us to unwrap.  He gave me "the gift".

I gave an Oscar worthy performance of shock and surprise when I opened it.  My mom asked, "Do you like it?"

"Like it? I LOVE it!", I said.

Then it happened.

My dad caved in.  He started cracking up!

I gave him "the look".  You know, the one that says, shut up dad ,or she'll know our little secret.

My mom looked at him and said, "What's so funny?"

"Oh nothing."

"What?  Tell me what's so funny?"

(This is the part where my Dad blew it for the rest of my Christmas life!)

"Your daughter opened the gift and we listened to the whole thing two weeks ago, and then wrapped it back up and put it back under the tree so you wouldn't know."

What happened next was a blur.  Something about trust, and honesty, and blah, blah, blah...

All I could think about was how my own dad ratted me out.  He enjoyed the music, and then snitched on me. Ensuring that, never again in my life would my mother trust me around my Christmas presents.

I may have experienced my mother's wrath, but it WAS worth every second of it! I'd do it again in a heartbeat to hear the sound of my George....Strait out of the box!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Party and Lipstick Update

Thanks to you, my blogging friends, a major crisis was averted the night of my husband's company Christmas Party.  I did, indeed, have a lovely new lipstick to wear, in the form of Maybelline Totally Toffee.  Thanks, Sassy Gal, for your timely advice!  Believe it or not, it's quite similar to my other lipstick.

 I put on my cowhide bling belt, wore my best cowgirl boots without manure on them, and I even..... you're not going to believe this.... I even painted my fingernails.  I know, it's big news.  But even with the polish, my hands weren't ready for their close-up, so I'll spare you an "ugly hand with pretty nails" picture.  Here's a shot of the new lipstick at the end of the party, after nearly 5 hours. It looked even better at the beginning, before I'd had a million glasses of iced tea!  Those waiters know how to keep a glass filled up!  And you all know I'm an iced tea junkie!

Every year, the Christmas party is held at one of the town's oldest, and best steak houses.  It's awesome.  I was going to tell you about two of the famous country singers that frequent the steakhouse during elk season, but my husband said that would be gossip.  That man is always keeping my mouth in check! What would I do without him?   

Needless to say, it's gorgeous inside....if you like trophy animals on the walls....and we do!

Hello, handsome.

They stick us in the "Great Room" at the back of the restaurant.

Do you see that window with the bear on it? It looks into a private dining room for people with big bucks...in other words....I've never eaten in there.  But it's beautiful inside....when you look through the window... trying to find your favorite country singer...just in case he wanted to get my autograph.  Ha Ha! Totally kidding.

Anyway, we won some fabulous prizes!  We walked out with a new DVD player, Burger King gift cards, candy, and a really full belly.  Oh yeah, and one other thing. 

This is a Paula Deen Stoneware bread loaf pan in a lovely shade of speckled Robin's egg blue.  I don't know what the "official" color is, but that's what it should be.

Here's the deal.  My beloved and I both had to bring a wrapped  $10.00 gift to play that gift swap game where you draw a number, pick a gift from the table to unwrap, or steal one from someone else.  This is the gift that I brought.

My number was big, and by the time it got to me, I didn't see anything around the tables that I really wanted, so I stole my own gift back!  It gets worse.  I stole it from a friend! (Sorry Jess!) 

From the time I brought that pan home, I was feeling like it needed to be in my cupboard where it would get used everyday when I make homemade bread.  It needed to join my other Paula Deen loaf pan so it wouldn't be lonely anymore.  I reluctantly wrapped it and brought it anyway.

But there wasn't much to choose from.  There are only so many tools, camouflage backpacks, flashlights, and shotgun shells that a gal can utilize.  I needed that bread pan back.  It was calling my name! So I went back home with it, and I was feeling pretty happy about it.

But now, it's turning out to be a nightmare.  Now, I want the matching deep dish pie plate, casserole dish, and cake pan.  The color is just so cheerful and springish.  I already have another set that I love, and I use regularly. It's a cream color with red flowers along the top.  But I do a lot of baking! And...I just love that pretty shaped edge around the top.  

Paula Deen stoneware is like eating potato chips, you can't stop with just one!

Never satisfied with a single piece of stoneware,


Friday, December 10, 2010

Ballerina Princesses

My girls had a ballet recital today.  I just love to watch them dance because they are so feminine, and poised, and graceful.  They are everything I'm not, and I love to see their delicate side.  When they're at home, they freely dance around the house as if they were floating through the air.  Their minds are somewhere off in an enchanted land or in the arms of some Prince Charming.  They love to dance.
My oldest girl loves to dance when no one is watching, and is serious about the art.  She knows the language of ballet, and the instructor often speaks in French for much of her class.  Even though she's been dancing since she was 2, I'm still amazed that she can perform a number of dance moves that sound completely foreign to me.

My baby's just happy to flit around the gym in her pink tutu.  She's been taking class for 2 years now, and still just enjoys the freedom to dance like a princess.  It's all fun and games for her! 

She trys her best to remember to point, and balance, and smile....and sometimes it takes ALL her concentration.  I know she's trying REALLY, REALLY hard when she sticks out her little tongue to help her focus.  I must have taken 20 pictures of her with that tongue sticking out today!!! Look at the pictures below to see exactly what I mean:
That sweet, sweet baby girl. 

Do you know what's even more wonderful? My girls have the privilege of having a Christian ballet teacher, and their dances are choreographed to beautiful Christian music with powerful words.  When they perform, it's as if they are dancing for the Lord, himself.   I always get a lump in my throat when I see my precious babies out there performing.  They are so special to me! 

Cabinet Door Picture Frame Tutorial

Last night I attended a baby shower for one of my dear friends.  Years ago, I prayed for her to find an amazing husband. God not only answered my prayers, but I've been blessed to attend two baby showers for her.  God just keeps pouring out the blessings!

Because this was her second baby girl, I knew she wouldn't need much in the way of traditional baby shower gifts, so I decided to think outside the box, and created her a personalized picture frame...of sorts.

Here's what it looked like:
Here's how I made it.  I started with an old cabinet door I purchased at a construction salvage store.
I roughed it up with sandpaper, and then sprayed three coats of ivory colored spray paint on it.

Next, I took my sander and sanded the edges and corners to bring out the brown undercoating.

Then, I applied a layer of Ralph Lauren Smoke Glaze around the edges, and wiped most of it off with a clean rag.  It ages it even more!

Then I brought it in the house and cut a piece of floral card stock to fit the inside of the frame. (Her middle name is Rose, so I had to use my little rosebud patterned paper!)  I attached it with spray adhesive.

Next, I cut out a mat for a 4X6 photo in coordinating paper, making the rectangle slightly larger so that it would frame the photo when centered. I inked the edges with a brown ink pad to age it slightly.  Then I used my Cricut Cutter to cut out the lettering, and various sizes of flowers.

I used the "Alphalicious" cartridge for lettering, and the "Plantin SchoolBook" cartridge for the flowers. 
Then I arranged them on the door.

It's tough to see in the picture above, but I have two layers of lettering, with the layer on the top being slightly thinner than the bottom layer, and I used the green paper for the bottom layer.  I affixed the letters with wood glue.  Then I used spray adhesive to affix the photo mat to the board.

For the flowers, I layered several sizes together and  inked each petal with a brown stamp pad  to age the flowers. Then I used a decorative brad for the center.  I hot glued the flowers in place, and curled up the petals with a pencil to give them added dimension.
I used a staple gun to attach coordinating ribbon for a hanger on the back.  Then I used complimentary ribbon colors to make little knotted bows on the sides of the ribbon hanger.
A baby shower gift made with love, and ready for a precious photo to be added.

I had so much fun making this!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Cosmetic Conundrum

Last night, I was walking down the cosmetic aisle of Walmart.  I needed to pick up some lip liner.  I found my usual color selection in the bin next to the lipsticks when I spotted something out of the corner of my eye.  It was a special package deal that had my lip liner, plus the matching lipstick together in one pack for a "special" price.

"What's the big deal?", you're asking.

The package that contained my shade of lip liner had a picture of a gorgeous, dark skinned woman with voluptuous lips.  Herein lies the problem.  I am light skinned.  Does this mean that this shade doesn't suit my skin color?  I was immediately paralyzed with indecision.

If the cosmetic company would have had a picture of the skin color that matches the lipstick ten years ago, then I wouldn't have bought it.  Have I been wearing the wrong lip color for ten whole years? Now I'm questioning my ability to pick out make-up.

I need consultation.

I need guidance.

I need a make over.

What I really need is to drive to the nearest mall and pay a visit to the woman at the beauty counter.  But the mall is 3 1/2 hours away!

THIS IS A COSMETIC CRISIS!!!( Not to be confused with a real crisis.)

I do not have the extra funds to purchase 7 or 8 types of lip liner to decide which one looks amazing on my lips.  I must be able to try a wide assortment, and then purchase ONE.

I must consult a cosmetological expert about this. Clearly, I can't be trusted to choose my own lipstick. Clearly I've been pretending to have luscious dark skinned lips instead of learning to love the lips that God gave me.  Clearly, my lips are having an identity crisis!

It gets worse. I have a company Christmas party to attend on Saturday, and I have no time for a 7 hour round trip to the mall to get this mess straightened out.  If I don't wear lipstick, my lips will feel naked.  But I don't know if I can go on pretending that I have the lips of a dark skinned woman anymore.

I must know if it's OK to wear a lipstick if my skin doesn't coordinate with the one on the package?

Is lipstick like nail polish...anyone can wear it?  Do I need to consult a color wheel?

I need your help, blogging friends.

If you don't respond, I may be resigned to wearing my daughter's Bonnie Bell Lipsmacker to the party.

Your Cosmetically Challenged Compadre,


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Favorite Advent and Nativity Sets

Confession. I have been coveting one of my best friend's advent wall hangings now for several years. I know it's a sin, and I'm so thankful for the blood of Jesus, or I'd be a goner.

Anyway, I asked her to leave it to me in her will.  Isn't that morbid? The fact is...That advent was made for ME.  It matches my house and Christmas decor, and Pottery Barn doesn't make it anymore.  I scoured ALL the Internet sources for one to no avail. I had given up hope.

(Queue the radiant beams from heaven, and "Hallelujah Chorus" music)

Then, one Sunday, out of the blue, I received a gift. A very special gift.  It was my coveted quilt.  My friend gave it to me sacrificially, and ordered a different one.

(Queue Whitney Houston's "That's What Friends are For")

I feel blessed beyond words!

Here's what it looks like:
It has 25 pockets with a number sewn on each one.

Each morning the kids race out to open the next pocket and see what's inside.
The wall hanging has grommets across the top, and I made the board to hang it on.

I took a piece of wood and routered the edges.  Then I spray painted it barn red.

Next, I sanded the edges to give it that "aged look", and put on a coat of Ralph Lauren Smoke glaze to age it even more. (Love that stuff!)

I used my Cricut cutter to cut out the vinyl letters, and applied them to the board.
Finally, I measured the distance between the grommets, and drilled holes in my board.

I bought some inexpensive drawer knobs and attached the quilt with them so that I could easily unscrew the knobs and remove the quilt for storage purposes.

I think it gives the quilt a polished look.  I love it to pieces!

It matches my tree skirt, and....

our Wrangler stockings!

Alright, enough about my new favorite treasure.  Here are some of my beloved Nativity sets.  Remember, I've got a rustic, cowboy country house so nothing elegant would look right.

Here is one that I painted on wooden blocks when my son was still a toddler.  He could play with them to his heart's content and carry them around the house.  They are indestructible!

Next, I gave birth to my girls, and they like playing with stuffed animals, so I sewed them this nativity set.  I found the Nativity material online, and ordered a panel.  Then I cut the pieces out, sewed, stuffed, and voila!  A stuffed nativity set for the kids to enjoy!  Again, this is pretty indestructible. I put this one under our Christmas tree, and the kids love to play with it under the twinkly lights of the tree.

Here is a nativity wall hanging that was given to me.

Here's one that I keep in the guest bathroom.  It lights up, so I use it as a nightlight in there on the counter.
Here's another one given to me as a gift.  I just love its country cuteness!

I'm always on the lookout for new crafty looking Nativity sets!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Good Snackin' Food

Do you ever just need a bowl of something festive to sit out for guests to snack on?

Here's a quick yummy solution that you can make with your kiddos.

They're pretzels with cinnamon sugar and chocolate glazed over the tops.

Here's the "Tasty Kitchen" Link for the recipe...you won't be disappointed!

I also found another keeper at "Tasty Kitchen".  Our little town has the best Cinnamon glazed almonds at our movie theater.  The amazing aroma just about knocks you over with hunger pains when you walk in the door.  I tried this recipe for Burnt Sugar Almonds, and it was the REAL DEAL!  I'd make a double batch if I were you.  Mine were gone so quick, I don't even have a picture of the finished product. The bonus: They are SUPER easy to make.

I think the pretzels and the almonds would both make great Christmas gifts wrapped in cute little baggies.

Try some soon!

Part II: A Christmas Tree Tour

Welcome to your official guided tour of Nell's Christmas Tree!

Alright, as you know, when you get "real" trees, they are not groomed beautifully like trees from a tree lot, but I think their bushiness and asymmetry adds character, and fits in nicely with my homemade country tree look.  Some people have gorgeous, sparkly trees that have class, elegance, and the WOW factor.  You won't find that here.  Nope.  There's nothing shiny on my tree. 

Every ornament on my tree was either hand made, or represents a memory that we wanted to cherish forever.  Hanging the ornaments on my tree is like a walk down memory lane.  I love it!

When friends come over to my house, they linger in front of the tree forever.  There are so many ornaments, that you've just got to sit and take it all in, carefully looking at each one.

(Sorry for the bad picture...I wish I was a better photographer!)

There are strings of pine cones, red wooden beads, wooden spools, and fake barbed wire strung around the tree. There are also strips of homespun and bandanna material tied in knots on the edges of the branches.

Many of my ornaments are made of rusty metal.

These are some of the first ornaments I ever made for my very first Christmas tree.  They are all made of some type of dough...salt dough that we painted, gingerbread dough, and cinnamon dough that smells heavenly on the tree!

 Do you see that gingerbread man ornament up above? I originally made about 20 of them, but only have a handful left because late one night, back in the day when my old cow dog was just a pup, he snuck out to the tree, and ate every freshly made gingerbread ornament he could reach...and then he spit out the metal hooks.  I learned quickly to hang them up high so he wouldn't have the opportunity for midnight snacking!

This is my absolute FAVORITE ornament.  I will cherish it FOREVER.  My husband and I had been dating for less than 3 months when I invited him over to my tiny little kitchen to make Christmas ornaments with me and my mom.  This was his only contribution that day.  Now, 10+ years of marriage, and 3 kids later, it means so much more to me!  It has a special place of honor at the top of the tree, just below the angel.

Of course, our tree wouldn't be complete without LOTS of cow ornaments.  Although we raise beef cattle now, I worked on a large dairy through-out my college years.  I just love my cow ornaments.

Do you see "Shotgun shell Santa"? He's very popular on our tree.  Every redneck needs an ornament made from ammunition.  Also, I love my old spoon ornament.  It's amazing what you can do with old stuff!

Here are some more of my favorites.  My mom made the sheep ornament the one year that we had sheep.  My husband sold them for a handsome profit 8 months after we got married because he said that he was a cattleman, not a sheep farmer.  I loved those sheep, though.  Their lambs were so precious!

Do you see the fake barbed wire next to the bandanna star?  I bought rolls of it at the dollar store in the Halloween section a few years back, and paid $0.50 for it!  I think it adds a little something to my western tree.
Hidden deep in the branches of our tree, is my childrens' favorite ornament.  Do you see why?

I also have three little fake trees in the corner of my kitchen to hang my kitchen themed ornaments on.

I just love my little antique replicas!

I know that most people wouldn't like, or even care about any of my ornaments, but they are priceless to me.  My family will often point to an ornament, and then tell a 10 minute story that goes along with it.  It's like preserving the important events in our lives with little keepsake ornaments.  The entire Christmas season, we reflect back on warm memories of days gone by.