Tuesday, August 30, 2011

crafting like crazy

The past week I've been sewing up a storm to get ready for my very first craft show in October. I dedicated last week to pairing up fabrics for more women's, teens and girls reversible headbands.
Before we left on vacation, mid-August I excitedly worked on my very first esty custom order - a tablecloth, potholders, napkins, hand towel and napkin rings for a play kitchen. Once I get beyond the craft show, my plan is to create a "Kitchen Play" custom listing in my shop.

I love "painting" with fabrics - combining colors and patterns to create something beautiful and useful and am so thankful the Lord has given me this creative outlet.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

homeschooling and a how to

This week in homeschooling we got back into the swing of things...

After completely stressing about every detail of school last year and burning myself out by the end, this year, I'm leaning on the Lord to help me ease into things and enjoy the teaching moments He brings before us...like having Dave encourage the Brianna and Reese to do book reports and he even put together the book report form. I decided we needed a place to house these reports-to-be, which leads me to the "how to":

Creating Book Report Folders

What you'll need:

What to do:
Choose a picture of your child or an image of their choosing, then go picniking (in case you haven't encountered it before, picnik is a great photo editing site and is free, though it also has a monthly fee if you want premium features). Here are my originals:

Make any edits to your photo as needed (such as cropping or adjusting the light). Then click on the "create" tab. Pick the "effects" button and scroll down until you see the "pencil sketch" feature (it's part of the free package) and select the button. Adjust the radius and strength slide to get the best "like a coloring book" look to your picture - I found moving the radius slide to "5" worked best. Hit the "apply" button.

Next, select the "text" tab and add in your text. If you buy the premium feature, you'll have more fonts to choose from - I used the handwriting-type fonts available in the free version. The text always appears in white at first, so you'll need to adjust the color in the text properties pop-up box. (To create the strikethrough for Reese's picture, I went to the sticker tab, choose the geometric shapes button, selected the rectangle and adjusted it to create a thin black line.)

Save the photo (click the "save and share tab"). Before I printed, I inserted the photos into Publisher (you could use Word, too, or other similar programs) so I could adjust the final print size - if you print directly as a photo, you may be limited in your size selection, but check your photo print options on your computer).

Here are the final products:

I had Brianna and Reese color their pictures, then I pasted them to the front of their folders (I chose to do all the cutting and pasting, but this is something the kids could easily have done).

Since Dave wanted the kids to see where the books are published, I found some maps (world map here, US map here) and printed, cut out and pasted them to the backs of the folders.

We decided we'd like to reward Brie and Reese for the reading and reporting. So I created a book meter with starfish on every nine spaces (there are 36 spaces - one for every week in the typical school year). Each time they get to a starfish space, we will take them to Half-Price Books to buy something for their personal library.

Finally, we used the pockets inside the folder to store blank report forms so they're handy for the kids.

And that's it! My favorite part about this project is that Dave initiated it and got it underway - it's always lovely to be supported  :)

Friday, August 26, 2011


Ben LOVES cars and trucks - any vehicle really. His word for anything bigger than a car is "huh-dah" which, I think he gets from trying to pronounce "fire truck." When we're driving, I often hear from the back seat whenever we pass a large vehicle. "Oooh, big huh-dah!" (To which we all need to respond "big huh-dah Ben" so that he knows we understood him.)

So when my parents and I took Ben for a walk at the cottage one night - he was feeling left out of the "monster" game Dave plays with the kids - a big treat was in store for him...we saw not one but three big farm vehicles reaping wheat, baling the straw and transporting it in the fields which border the gravel road leading to the cottages. I believe this was a special surprise God cooked up for Ben since He knows how hard it is to be a little guy who wants to keep up with the gang but is still a leetle to young. ;)

 bringing in the wheat

 oooh...big huh-dahs!

 what the baler left behind

 stopping to watch the hoppers going by

time to go home

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

wfmw: laundry and lunch (travel edition)

Although most extended vacations are now over with the school year beginning, here are a couple travel-related ideas I used on our recent trip to store away until your next out-of-town getaway.

my double decker laundry baskets :)
In the past, when we've traveled we come back with suitcases brimming with dirty and clean clothes - which means lugging everything upstairs and sorting through it (which usually extended the unpacking process into a week-long event). For our trip to the cottage, I took a slightly different approach...

As I packed, I put the clothes least likely to get worn (cool weather & "town" clothes) at the bottom.When we arrived at our cottage, I took out all the everyday beach ware clothes and placed them in drawers and kept the others clothes in the suitcases. We also tucked away a couple of large bags specifically for dirty clothes.

When it came time to pack up and leave, I transferred all the kids never worn and still clean clothes into one suitcase and piled the rest into the laundry bags. At home, we could simply toss the laundry bags downstairs and bring the bags with the clean clothes upstairs - a strategy which meant I was unpacked by the next day! Although it still took a few days to get through all the laundry. ;)

When we started having and children and then traveling with them, my usual get-there-as-quickly-as-possible strategy was, thankfully, derailed. Although it would be possible to stick to the travel centers and restaurants situated along the highway, it didn't offer much in the way of entertainment for the kids (especially in the times when they needed to wait while I breastfed one of their siblings).

Thankfully, God used our children to show us a much more interesting approach to breaking for lunch.

We discovered that if you take an exit off the highway, you often are rewarded with discoveries that cannot be found on the main thoroughfare and often are not placed on a map or "points of interest." My two favorite discoveries so far are...

a beach with dunes, grasses, playground and picnic tables off of 1-90 in New York

plum trees next to a church's parking lot in North Carolina (we found a couple on the ground and they were sooo good)

If you want to try this approach on your next out-of-town trip, here are some tips:
  • pick an exit with a town or park located within a few miles of the highway, unless you have time to go further afoot
  • packing a lunch (or dinner) is cheaper than buying
  • bring something along to clean up messes: paper/cloth towels and trash bags
  • if you're traveling parallel to a body of water, head toward the water when you exit the highway - you're bound to find a beach or picnic spot 
  • if you go into a town look for school crossing signs or ask the location of the nearest elementary school - it's bound to have a playground for the kids to burn off some energy before getting back on the road
  • churches also may offer playground opportunities

There you have it - laundry bags and lunchtime adventures. They work for me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

seeing through the weeds @ Joyful Mothering

Today, I'm excited to be guest posting at Joyful Mothering. The name of Christin's blog itself was enough to get me interested in reading what she had to write - sometimes it's that fruit of the Spirit which is hard to bring forth in the messes of motherhood. ;)

Here's a smidgen of the post... and for the rest, please hop on over to Joyful Mothering:
With a quiver full of four children eight years old and under, I frequently receive the comments, “Wow! You must be busy,” “You must have your hands full,” and “I don’t know how you do it.” They are comments I have come to expect. They are ones I dread to hear.

I dread them because what I sense in these comments is a notion that parenting more than two children is a burden, not a blessing...

See you there :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

please pray

I just posted this morning about our return from vacation in Goderich, Ontario when an hour later, my sister Canada-side called and told me a tornado ripped through the town yesterday afternoon.

It has taken my breath away to see the destruction caused by the winds and to think we had been there the day before. I think it seems all the more shocking because of the beautiful weather we experienced the week prior - even storm clouds which threatened blew on by. Thankfully, it did not happen mid-day on Saturday ...as we drove through the town on our way home, the town centre was humming with people at the farmer's market.

Here are some pictures I snapped while we visited town last Thursday. If you visit this link, you will see those same streets littered with debris, windows gone, roofs and the sides of some buildings ripped away.

Ben "strolling" to the library - a first for us

a wonderfully vintagey place to buy tasty confections

the town center
pictures of a few Goderich attractions
 Please pray for the town, it's people, the man who lost his life and those dear to him, and those who are injured. Please pray for peace of mind for those who experienced this storm, that they may not dwell on what has passed. Pray for those who will be working to restore the town to its former charm and keeping others safe while the debris is cleared away. Praise God the He is our Rock and Safe Harbor even amidst these storms.

it's so hard to be back

That's what we've been saying for a couple of days now after returning from vacation. The week was a complete gift from God - everything from the weather, to keeping everyone injury free to the sweet time we enjoyed as an ever-growing family.

Perhaps the returning was all the harder because it had been six long years since I'd been to Goderich - it's hard to believe the last time we were there Brie was two and Reese was four months old and we were the only ones with kids-in-tow (though Joel was there, too, but he wasn't to make his appearance for another month).

Now we have four children and my sisters have four between them, with another on the way, and my cousin was there with her two girls and Brie was again able to celebrate her birthday in a place which has become an often-chosen vacation spot and tradition begun by my grandparents almost more than 25 years ago. It is rich with memories, and as Lauren joked at one point, it is "rich with God." ;)

I will share more on this golden week and will tuck in the postings between the many other to-do's that come with returning home.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

the other side of tri (a glimpse)

So I've wanted to write a much longer post than what this will be for a few days now, but a sewing project plus a few other necessary to do's put writing on the back burner.

Dave and I survived the triathlon and I'm glad I made it past the quitting zone - a place I reached days before the race even started! Today we found out the official time results: In a field of 247, I finished 215th with a final time of 2:03:52 (top female did this thing in 1:22:00). Dave finished 192nd with a time of 1:57:05 (top male did it in 1:12:51).

When I catch my breath from the activities of this week, not the race ;), I'll go into greater detail on what it looks like on "the other side of try."

Also, there's still time to donate to our mycharitywater page (see link on the right) to help bring safe, clean water to people in developing countries - the water we swam in smelled horrible and was an interesting color, but I think it was still safer than what most people in this world are forced to drink every day just to survive.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

swim.bike.run. nerves

It's been forever since I did on update on the triathlon. The doozy of a cold I had back in June totally squelched my training plan, desire to do the race and has left me with only a mustard seed of faith that I'll actually make it through. But what God can do with a mustard seed...

Dave and I picked up our packets today. Turns out we're in a different wave (the, ahem, gap in our ages throws us into different categories ;) ). So much for "doing this together," as Dave promised me on the outset. Thankfully, I have a 5 minute lead on him, and guess that he'll catch me up in the bike portion (if was the other way around, I don't think I'd see Dave until the finish line). Unless God decides to move a mountain and have me maintain a 5 min. lead.

So, with great trepidation, and a lot of hope that, indeed, God wants to be the One to bring me though, it looks like I'll be jumping in with both feet into the triathlon. Point-four mile swim, 16 mile bike, 5K run and a good long nap afterwards.

(There's still time to donate to our mycharitywater page if you'd like to support our effort to raise money to bring safe, clean water to people in developing countries. Check out the link on the right column for more details --->)

Friday, August 5, 2011

birthday beach fun (and a beach shade idea)

Four pieces of bamboo + many grains of sand + four rubber bands + one sheet =

one super sunshade (it looks a little lopsided because the wind was blowing and the sticks in back are shorter to create a lean-to-like shade).
For Dave's birthday today, we headed to the beach. The last time I took the kids there, I forgot about the importance of readily available shade (it had been a long time since we'd been there during the heat of the day).

I could have simply gone out and bought a beach umbrella, but since we're trying to save a few pennies, I scouted around the house for shade-making materials. Since not everyone has bamboo growing in their backyard :), curtain rods, broom handles or anything else that is straight and can be stuck in the sand would work. The rubber bands I used were the super thick kind that can be found on grocery-store lettuce.

And when we weren't taking a break in the shade...

Reese was building castles.

 Ben was sticking his head in the sand (now there's a cliche!)...
  ...and crawling in the water post-sand bath...
  ...and riding on daddy's shoulders...
 ...and getting tossed into the water.

 Luke was trying his skills as a fisherman,

 and Brie and I were in and out of the water, enjoying the beautiful day and soaking up this gift of a summer's day.

Thank You, Lord, for today.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

@ a work in progress

I recently found Courtney's blog, A Work in Progress, after reading a post she did for (in)courage. I love her heart for God and her family and I'm excited to be guest posting on her blog today about a funny story involving Reese and Luke and the lessons we learned from it. You can check it out here.

While you're over there, read this guest post Megan did yesterday Courtney's blog - she also is giving away a copy of "A Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp (a book that's on my reading list).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

photojournal: our life in tables

We recently re-added my old kitchen table to our house (my sister and her husband had borrowed it for a couple of years), it dawned on me that we have a. lot. of tables. It made me a little uncomfortable at the excessiveness of our table collection, especially with people in the world with barely a roof over their head.

However, I also realized each has it's own story to tell and decided to capture that here...

We migrated to this table soon after Ben's arrival. This cloth stays permanently on the table, at least, when Ben isn't pulling it off. It may be hard to tell, but I had to masking tape over some rips in the cloth - let's just say it's not a good idea to cut your fabric with a rotary cutter on a surface that could be damaged by said cutter. You know, just in case you overshoot the cutting mat.

Where we dined before we outgrew it. Now it serves as my office desk and a catchall (something I'm persistently trying to tackle).

A birthday gift to Dave. This year it's seen few picnics but ample chalk drawings. It also travels about the yard when Dave needs to cut the grass.

We aren't coffee drinkers and it's not a table, but this trunk works hard in our living room. It houses some homeschooling materials, the portable TV when we let the kids watch movies, often books and our feet. Dave found it in his apartment during his years as an intern in Washington.

Formerly used as our work desk, it now is consistently buried in my sewing and crafting projects. And my sewing machine is buried under that quilt I need to complete. ;)
 This is probably Dave's favorite table because it belonged to his grandparents. It sat in our basement for a couple of years until we brought it up last fall during his mom's surprise birthday party. We liked it in it's current spot so much, we let it stay. Once a kitchen and card table, it now extends my sewing table needs, provides an extra spot for the kids to do their school work and occasionally still has a meal eaten upon it.
And this is the table that began this whole post. My kitchen table from the days before I married Dave. It's now his office desk in "man cave" (as he likes to refer to the basement).

Do you have a table or two in your house with a poignant story? What's your favorite memory from sitting around a table?