Monday, 16 December 2013

Cute as a Button Shortbread Cookies

Christmas is next week!  I am feeling really excited and not stressed at all this year.  I've been enjoying decorating and baking and going to Christmas concerts and parties.  I don't have a stand by, make every year, Christmas baking recipe yet, but I'm working on it.  My husband loves shortbread.  I don't mind it but it's not irresistible to me.  But that's OK, then I can keep my fingers out of the cookie jar.  I wanted to try something a little more fun for the ones that I would be sharing.  Here's what I came up with...



I used a standard shortbread recipe

2 cups butter
1 cup icing sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Cream together butter and icing sugar
  • Combine flour and cornstarch - add to butter and mix until smooth without over-mixing
  • Add vanilla while mixing
  • Divide dough into 2 equal portions
  • Using Wilton Icing Color, add the desired color to each section and knead in until blended
  • Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and chill for 30 min (can be frozen and used at a later time)
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 300 F and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper
  • Between 2 sheets of parchment, roll out the first color until about 1/4 inch thick (if your dough is over chilled, you might have to let it rest at room temp for a while or you will hurt yourself trying to roll it out)
  • Using a larger circle cutter (mine was about 3") cut out 12 rounds and place on cookie sheet

  • Using a smaller circle cutter (about 2") cut out the middles and place on a separate sheet
 
  • Put the first tray back in the fridge while you roll out your second color and cut out the shapes
  • If your rings crack like mine did you can gently press them back together before baking
  • Put the opposite color center in each ring
 
  • Using a straw, poke out 2 (or 4) holes in each middle
 
  • I kept one sheet in the fridge as I worked so they are chilled when they go in the oven and won't spread out
  • Bake at 300 F for 12 min (Don't over bake)
  • Allow to rest on cookie sheet for a couple minutes before transferring to a cooling rack

 This made 5 dozen with a few to taste.

I think I'll add this to the annual baking list.  They could be done in any color combo and used for any occasion; baby shower perhaps?

With a Bushel and a Peck of Christmas Baking,

Stephanie

Monday, 2 December 2013

No Perfect Pictures

My son is in Grade 1.  I had a bit of a hard time with him going to school every day.  To be honest, it's a little easier when he's gone, just one less variable.  But I do miss him and I feel like my days of being the major influence in his life are dwindling.  If he hasn't learned it yet then when will I have a chance to teach him?  Today is a day off school.  So far it has been chalk full of teachable moments.  Although challenging, I am just bursting with praise to God that I still have the opportunities to speak into my son's young life.  I pray and hope that what has transpired today impacts him in a lasting way.

It started off with him hitting his sister.  Dad stepped in with the discipline and told him he wouldn't get his colouring supplies back until he was being more kind.  He felt remorseful for a time but then made another bad choice.  The older 2 had been reading a kid's story book Bible together and having a great time.  My daughter was saying "Jesus is awesome" and my son saying "reading the Bible is so fun!"  But in no time, the little sister became implicated and my son lashed out.  How quickly they/we stray.  After being sent to his room for a time, he prayed for forgiveness and self control.  This led to an enthusiastic idea to write the fruits of the Spirit down so they don't forget.  He got out the papers and markers (with permission), and included his sisters.  It was all going well; pictures of fruit accompanied by words; until he made a mistake.  He crumpled it up and threw it in the garbage.  At this point it had been a really careful and nice picture and the mistake was minor.

The connection to God just came so seamlessly.  "God doesn't expect you to be perfect, and I don't expect your picture to be perfect.  God loves you the way you are and he never crumples you up and throws you in the garbage".  This was a long process of reitterating the same idea until he finally came around to cutting off the mistake.  It was still crumpled but had potential.  I told him he had to finish it and I would hang it on the wall as planned.  I told him he had to learn perseverence (finishing something without quiting).

When it was finally coloured, I hung it up as promised, and told him I loved the picture just like God loved him.  He said that he thought the mistake was too big and I said that there is no mistake too big for God to forgive.  He was very upset at this time and hard to console, but I took the time to pray with him for peace.  He was very concerned that God lets bad things happen.  Again the teachable moment came: that God doesn't want us to do things perfectly by ourselves, otherwise we wouldn't need Him.  God wants us to rely on him and trust him.  His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

This message came through loud and clear to me today.  Even as a write this, my son is moping about, feeling contrite, but I think it's OK.  I keep telling him that he is in control of his choices, to have a good attitude, to choose to be kind, to choose to trust God.  Even as I say this I know that without the Holy Spirit, our own efforts are futile, but to pray and contemplate the fruits of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, can keep your mind on track.  If I had taken a different approach today, to let him throw out his picture and move on with the day, I might have missed this opportunity to teach him and bond with him.  He's at an age where we can communicate on a deeper level and this is exciting to me. I hope and pray that the times he is home, I can connect with him, to make up for all the time that he is away.

With a Bushel and a Peck of Gladness,

Stephanie

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Birch Wood Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and December 1, which makes it a full 24 days till Christmas.  I am so excited for Advent this year as we are trying to establish family traditions surrounding it; for counting down and contemplating.  Last year was the first year I really made point to not only count down the days with the kids with their Candy Calendar, but read daily devotions and focused on the meaning of the season. 

This year for my 30th birthday my husband gave me a book by Ann Voskamp called "The Greatest Gift".  This was 2 weeks ago, and I had never heard of Ann Voskamp.  Wow, where had I been?  Rural Canadian mom of 6 turns New York Times best seller.  I'm impressed.  Read some of her blog, A Holy Experience, and I'm inspired. 

However, beyond the author is the story of the Jesse Tree, which I had never heard of.  It is another way to mark the days of Advent and see how the entire Bible has been leading to the coming of Christ.  It is made up of daily readings and ornaments and I am excited to begin this journey and share it with my family.  Ann had offered free printable ornaments on her website with a code found in the book (sorry, can't share).  But I thought, if this is something I am going to do every year (because it seemed that cool to me) then I want an ornament I can keep. 

I've been really in to birch wood lately, and I had some from a tree we cut down.  I asked my husband (and he so sweetly obliged), to cut a log in to 25 disks.  I then printed the 2x2" symbols on card stock, and Modge Podged them to the wood.  I also wrote the corresponding Bible verse with each one as an added reminder of the association behind the symbol.  I used red ribbon to make a hanger as the Word is connected by a Scarlet cord. 

Today I read the first devotional with my family, it is so beautifully written. My son in Grade 1 had heard about the Jesse Tree in school (love Christian school!) and he hung the first ornament on the bottom and we will work our way up to Christ. 

Here I have all 25 displayed temporarily.  I decided to use my actual Christmas tree as our Jesse Tree as I think the ornaments are beautiful, meaningful and will fill up the tree nicely.  I'll come back and post a finished picture at the end of the month. 

Continuing with my affinity for birch wood, my husband broke out the tools again by drilling holes into this log to make an advent candle holder.  I hadn't found anything I liked online or in stores, and this was simple enough yet visually impactful to me. 

And finally, nothing to do with Advent, but I used some more birch logs, and some thrift store finds, to make this display for my front step. 


This Advent I am going to try to focus on Peace and Thankfulness and not get caught up in the busy or buying.  I love Ann Voskamp's line, "put space in the pace of the season and find peace."  Remembering to be thankful for what we already have and for what is sure to come; to have high expectations for the coming of Jesus over what comes in wrapping and bows. 

With a Barrel and a Heap of Waiting,

Stephanie



Thursday, 21 November 2013

Crochet Soother Chain

2 posts in one day – Wow, I must really be avoiding cleaning.

Here’s a very simple crochet pattern – it only takes about ½ an hour and voila – your baby has a decorative and functional soother chain, easily washed and can be remade when it gets too ratty.

I haven’t written many patterns so forgive me as I try to explain it as best I can and use a few pictures to help explain.  Hope you can figure it out – it’s pretty versatile and you can make it to your own technique too once you have the concept.

Crochet Soother Chain with Flower

Supplies
Cotton Yarn (doesn’t pill, washes well, kind of a pain to work with)
3.75 mm hook
Button with loop on the back
Suspender clip (found at the sewing store and took it apart so I was left with the clasp)

Chain 50.
Count back from your hook 15 ch and join with single crochet.
Continue sc until you reach the end.
Join your flower colour (leave a long string for sewing).
Work 8 hdc in a circle around the last sc in the chain.
Join to first hdc with slip stitch.
*Work 3 dc in same hdc, sl st to next ch* repeat from * to* finish off.
Attach your button and clasp by sewing through repeatedly until it feels secure.
Weave in ends.









 With a Barrel and a Heap of Crochet fun,

Stephanie


Under the Sea Birthday Party

I haven’t blogged anything in a while.  Life has been full and fun but maybe not anything notable or inspiring to write about.  We did have a busy birthday season last month with my one year old, followed by my Father-in-law’s 65th and then my 3 year old.  It was a busy three weeks filled with decorating, baking and celebrating.  I particularly loved my 3 year old’s birthday.  Considering she is child #3 and was turning 3 on October 3, I thought she should get as special a party as possible (and I shouldn’t slack off just cause I overdid it with the first one’s and now I’m feeling “done” with elaborate birthdays).   

I’ve always thought birthdays are special and a time for each child to be in the spotlight.  Cate was on a Nemo kick for a long time so I had been thinking about an under the sea party for a while.  However, she recently changed allegiance to Little Mermaid, but it was still along the lines I was planning.  I chose to not over do the “Disney” aspect and went with the “Under the Sea” theme.   


My patient and wonderful husband put up the streamers the night before while I finished the cake.  

I tried to keep it simple as the kids are only 3 (some still 2 ½).  I opted to do a drop off party, even though they are still young, I had enough adult helpers and it is easier to focus on the kids if you aren’t trying to entertain the parents as well.  Plus our house would be too full and it was too chilly for an outside party.   

We started with a relatively simple craft, but since they are so young they needed a lot of adult help.  I thought this was so fun, unique and could be done with many different materials.  

Fish bowl art
Supplies:
Sandwich plastic bags
Pre-cut blue card stock
Pre-cut fish shape
Pre-cut fin shapes
Googly eyes
Bendaroos (waxy string) cut in half
Rice
Glue sticks (1 per 2 kids)


 




We handed out the supplies one at a time and let the kids assemble them.  You can see my 6 year old’s is what it was supposed to look like.  The other is my 3 year olds creative flare coming through.  They don’t care if it’s perfect, it’s just something fun to do and take home.






 Next we did cake.  I kept it pretty simple as kids don’t tend to eat a lot of cake and I have thrown out a lot of cake in the past.  The kids each got a cupcake and the small cake was left over for the next day.  


 We played a few simple games:
my teacher husband put his creative juices into "Pin the Tentacle on the Jelly fish".

There was also, pass the tissue paper ball (wrap a candy in a layer of tissue paper and add candy in different coloured paper until you have a big ball with enough candy for each kid.)  You pass it around the circle while the music is playing and whoever is holding it when the music stops gets to rip off one layer and eat a candy.  Pretty simple but still needed guidance at this age to keep it going.
I had a bit of a fishing station set up with dollar store rods and magnetic creatures.  And there was a bean bag toss. 
















For lunch it was fun and kid friendly.  Octopus hot dogs (simply cut half into 6 and boil, they curl up nicely).  

 Grapes on a stick (cause anything on a stick is fun).  Fish in Jello cups (these didn’t look as good as I hoped, the gummy fish got really slimy).  

 
 Rainbow fish crackers.  And juice (coloured blue with food colouring).  Kids don’t tend to eat much at parties so be prepared to throw out leftovers.


We then had a bit of a gift opening.  And then the party moved outside to whack the piñata.  I don’t always get a piñata but my kids have learned to associate parties with piñatas and this was Cate’s first one, she was so excited.  The little kids couldn’t break it and even the big kids didn’t do much damage.  In the end we dumped out the candy and the piñata hangs in her room intact.


This was one of the least stressed I felt about a party and it went off without a hitch.  I’m so glad I could give my little girl the party of her dreams.  

With a Bushell & a Peck of Party Time,

Stephanie






















Tuesday, 1 October 2013

When I am weak...He delights in me

Motherhood, like the Christian journey, is a process of dying to the old and finding joy in the new.  There is a steady tension there but gradually, the things we struggle with will give way to new traits that we didn't think possible when we started out.

I am 6 1/2 years in with 4 children now and the things that were hard with the first aren't as hard with the fourth, but I still struggle with some things over and over.  For example, I am finally getting up before the kids and getting my shower in, which does help our morning routine go smoother.  However, that impatient, angry outburst side of me keeps rearing it's ugly head, even though I think I should be better than that by now.  The key here, I am realizing, is not trying harder to get better or do better, it is in admitting that I am weak and in need of grace.

I have been trying to figure things out for the past few weeks; my role as a Homemaker, how to best utilize my time, how to be on top of things and feel in control.  After all, this gig should be getting easier as the kids grow up and some are at school sometimes right?  But over the past couple of days I have been bashed over the head reminded in reading, in preaching and in prayer that God is my strength.  When I'm feeling weak, out of control, over thinking things and trying to figure it all out, God says I am strong, I am in control, I have a plan and I want you to lay it all down.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I know my calling is to be a Homemaker, it is what I have chosen and it works for our family.  I have always wanted to be there for my kids when they are home and a constant in their life.  I love the idea of volunteering at school and making things that I see on Pinterest, just because it's special (not necessary).  However, reality is either more than I can manage or, I even catch myself thinking I'm not doing enough, how can I be more productive?  I feel lost, overwhelmed, and anxious on bad days and found, confident and peaceful on good days.  I'm not sure this will ever go away, but I do know that God is my constant.

God doesn't want us to find a place of comfort and stay there.  He will always find a way to challenge us and grow us, even if it seems like we're just getting good at something or life is nice right now.  "Anything that I felt capable of doing,  God will both make it seem impossible and simultaneously ask me to do it. And there I am – in the sweetest place you can ever be – relying on Him. Walking in faith. Living in joy."  (Excerpt from Rachel Jankovic at Femina).  He will provide for us "...from strength to strength" Psalm 84:7.  I also know that my strength will be renewed and my day laid out more clearly, if I seek God in prayer and Bible reading.  When neglecting, those 2 things how quickly my attitude, actions and relationships spiral out of control.  Again, it has been made clear to me lately that these things should be a priority in my day and God will bless me through them.  They should not be a duty or a chore, but my life-line and desire.

"With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith." 2 Thessalonians 1:11

This is my prayer, not that I can fill my day with busy tasks, but that God may bless my desire to do my job well and faithfully, always seeking His guidance and will.  I am trying to take every thought captive, make every emotion accountable, make every action obedient, to the God of grace, to Christ who saves.
 
It may seem unnatural to admit weakness and to be submissive, but the Lord loves the poor of spirit and the contrite heart, whose only hope is found in Him. 

"Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches, 
 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord."
                    Jeremiah 9:23 

My only reason, meaning, purpose is to delight in the Lord, because He first delighted in me.  

"He rescued me, because he delighted in me."  Psalm 18:19

With a Bushel and a Peck of Delight,

Stephanie

Linking up with Grace Laced today, with a poignant post about Mom Anger and as always, going back to the Word.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Fall Wreath

It rained the other day, I mean thunder and wind and pouring rain storm.  Up until then it had been hot and dry and I was not at all in the mood for fall.  However, one cool, grey day was all it took for me to get in the fall decorating spirit.  I had pinned a wreath I wanted to make a long time ago so I was excited to finally get to it.  Here is the link so you know that I am truly not that creative.  I always need an inspiration, or starting point for anything crafty to come out of me.  However, I did put my own twist on it and am so thrilled with it.  It is fall without being orange and leafy.  It is serene and lovely if I do say so myself.


I am not going to write a tutorial, as I was so in the zone just making it that I didn't take pictures of the process.  But since I figured it out from a picture, I'm sure anyone could do the same.  I started by looking up how to make burlap flowers.  I followed a few guidelines from the sites below, however mine mostly became their own as I played.  There was a bit of sewing involved but mostly a lot of hot glue.  It only took an hour and a half to make the flowers.

http://craftingmom.com/burlap-flowers/
http://www.withoutahitch.co.uk/blog/?p=105
http://daisymaebelle.com/how-to-make-a-burlap-flower/
http://todaysfabulousfinds.blogspot.ca/2010/11/3-burlap-flower-tutorials.html

I like the detail of having our family initial in the wreath - makes it more personal I think.  I had seen twine wrapped around a letter before so after thinking about it, I found a foamy letter in my kids toys and started wrapping.  It took a while but I could sit and do it while the kids played.




The majority of supplies were from Michaels, including the purple flowers in the scrap-booking section and the pearls in the beading section.  I used a roll of burlap that was on sale for $4.99 and I still have lots left.  I'd say this was easily under $20 and about 4 hours of work.




I am so excited about this, it has consumed my mind for a couple of days but now that it's finished I can rest and enjoy.

I also added a few fall decorations inside.  These were mostly given to my by my mother-in-law, found at the dollar store or using what I had at home.


I must admit, I have burlap fever and have a few more ideas of things to cover with burlap, but we'll see what I get around to (and if I have a place to put anything).  I like decorating for the seasons as long as it doesn't become clutter.  

I also really want to find some black urns and white pumpkins for my door step.  Again, we'll see if this happens within a reasonable budget.  

Thanks for stopping by to check out my page.

Here are a few variations that I made for friends - I didn't have all the same supplies so I got to be creative.  A wreath is a great way to bless someone who has been a blessing to you.





With a Bushel and a Peck of Autumn Blessings,
Stephanie

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Be Still and Know

I have been feeling a little unsettled the past couple of weeks.  My teacher husband and kids are back to school.  The calendar is full, but very little of it is for me.  I have a lot to remember and stay on top of, but nothing really exciting going on.  Now I should also clarify that there is nothing wrong in my life at all, so this isn't meant to be a sob story.

I was so excited for this year; on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I have 3 kids in school and 1 napping - this is a golden schedule.  But I feel a little lost.  I am not pregnant or nursing, so I don't have an excuse to nap anymore, but a whole day at home can be a little blah.  Housework is rather uninspiring and I am not overly motivated.  Maybe it's a transition period and in a bit more time I'll get in the swing of things, but I don't want to leave it at that.  I want to use this as a learning process.  Most of the time I am busy as I tend to take on extra projects and activities throughout the year.  I tend to get anxious and overwhelmed.  I am not anxious or overwhelmed right now.  I think I feel God telling me that it's ok to not be busy.  That I am not useless when my to do list isn't full.  There is a season for everything, and I'm sure this slow season won't last.  In fact if I was smart I would be right on top of my house projects and odd jobs that I won't have time for later.  But, I don't think that's the point.  I need to learn to slow down, to "Be still and know.."

I still have 2 or 3 little ones at home most days.  I just think that they are generally good at playing on their own and my cleaning standards have dropped over the years, so I don't feel like I need to entertain them or be picking up every out of place thing.  I have always struggled to find balance and now I am in a position to enjoy the balance.  I know that I am where I am supposed to be, "my mission field at the kitchen counter" (taken from Grace Laced).  I am not going to rush out and get a job or volunteer for everything that comes my way, cause then I'm back to the anxious, overwhelmed and certainly not balanced.

My kids are young and need me and will continue to need me when they leave and come home from school, to tell someone their successes and failures, to cheer them on and to cry with them.  I want to be that Mom that is home when the kids are.  But I also have the desire to feel useful, and some days when the only thing on my to do list is "do something with a giant zucchini", it's hard to see the significance of that.  But I know that there is only one to whom I am accountable for my time, and that's not my husband (he, by the way, never demands on me or asks for an account of my time).  God is my boss and if my heart is right with Him, then I will see the importance of my task.

Now there is a basket of laundry to fold, kids to be picked up from school and dinner to start - there is still busy, but in my perspective it's a manageable busy.  If I really think about it, there are a number of ways I can fill my time to justify what I do with my day, but I think the key here is to be still, to rest, to wait and to know...God is in control, he has a plan and I have a purpose.

With a Barrel and a Heap of Balance,

Stephanie

Post Script - It is the day after I wrote this; I am glad I sorted through these thoughts and took the time to write them down as I know I will go through this stage again.  Life has a way of repeating itself in "seasons" or "cycles" and it is good to remember, learn and grow.  I have had a good couple of days, I feel at peace in my mind and heart. I've gone for a walk 2 evenings in a row and listened to a sermon, it was so freeing and energizing.  I got the house cleaned today but didn't get too worked up or crazy about it.  Took some time to pray and read the Bible today.  In going through my Bible I found a devotion my Mother-in-law had printed out for me shortly after we were married and it was so timely (love when God works like that).  I just want to quote a couple of lines which relate to me right now...

"The main end of life is not to do, but to become." F.B. Meyer

"Our days are wasted, or so it appears.  We feel as if we are doing nothing of lasting significance.  But God is doing what matters - we are being refined.  He is placing us into a crucible in which we acquire patience, meekness, humility, compassion, and the other "quiet" virtues our souls naturally lack.  So don't be afraid and don't fret."  David Roper



My Family from WiddlyTinks.com

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Rest in the Bedroom

Our bedroom was the absolutely last room to be touched in our house with a decorative touch.  I didn't mind so much, but had on occasion longed for more of a sanctuary.

I knew that it had to start with a bed spread.  You can't pick a colour pallet until you find a duvet cover to match it to.  I don't know much about decorating but that little piece of advice is important.

Our room was very beige before.  Walls and comforter.  (Sorry no before pics).  I wanted a bed spread with a pop of colour, but something timeless.  I found one at Quilt's Etc.  Still a lot of beige but offering a colour pallet to work with.  They also sold the drapes to add colour to the window wall and we used the same blue for a feature wall.

Duvet Cover: "Flame Tree"

And then my wonderful and "learning-to-be-handy-despite-it-not-coming-naturally" husband took on the project of adding the "faux" wainscoting.  He used trim and painted it and voila - it adds a decorative wall and replaces the need for a head board.

The other inspiration I had was to have some rich wood in the room.  I have often seen pallet art that I love and wanted to imitate, but make my own. We picked up some free crate lids from an add on Kijiji - they were in decent shape but very blonde wood.  I used Minwax Red Mohogany Wood Finish - just one coat was the perfect colour.  Then I coated it with Minwax Polycrylic Clear Satin.

Now the tricky part.  The quote.  I wanted the wood to stand out so I didn't want to cover it with words.  I thought about a bedroom and thought of either Love or Rest.  My husband thought love was to cliche so I was just going to put the word Rest on it.  But he thought about it some more and being the "involved-in-the-decorating" type (which I totally appreciate), found the quote; "Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they Rest in thee." Augustine.  I planned it out using my Creative Memories software (so sad they are closing down).

Fonts used
Champagne & Limousines
Gabriola
I was really hesitant about the actual painting of the words.  I didn't want it to look sloppy.  I got a really stiff and fine angled paint brush.  I debated about how to get the words on to the board, either using a projector or an ink transfer which I'd seen on Pinterest and DID NOT WORK.  I ended up printing out the words in the font and size I wanted them and then rubbing the back of the paper with chalk.  Then using the end of the paint brush traced over all the letters on to the board.  This worked so well and the letters looked crisp.  But then my wobbly hand ruined that.  It was so hard.  It ended up pretty wonky and I wasn't really happy with it.  I went over it a few more times, of course it ended up bolder than I had intended, but in the end only I know the imperfections and it is satisfactory for amateur art.


 I am happy now that it is hung.  To do this my husband mounted a board to the back of the pallet and then put heavy duty hooks on it, to which he hung from screws in the studs (still praying it doesn't come crashing down on us at night).  We still have a plan for a frame wall on the other wall, but for now I am at rest in my room and of course comforted by the reminder to Rest in the Lord.



With a Barrel and a Heap of Rest,

Stephanie

Linking up with Grace Laced - a beautiful post about decluttering your home and mind - keeping your focus on the Lord