Monday, August 25, 2014

Read with Me

I am always on the lookout for holiday themed books that my kids and I can enjoy together. I was excited to receive a board book to review! That meant that my little boy and I could read the story together without my fearing that he was about to rip out the pages. My Happy Pumpkin: God's Love Shining Through Me by Crystal Bowman was an adorable little tale that any kid will enjoy. The story was beautifully illustrated and filled with brightly colored pictures. The rhyming stanzas made it a fun book to read aloud. Many books today emphasize the relationship of the child with Mommy, while this book focused on Daddy. It told of picking, harvesting, cleaning and carving a pumpkin. Halloween was never mentioned, but this book would be perfect to read during the fall activities of the year. It gave a Biblical analogy of how, like the pumpkin, Jesus picks us out, cleans us up and lets His light shine through us. Some pages were a little wordy for my 21 month old's attention span, but I foresee this being a book that we will read again and again in the future.

I received My Happy Pumpkin from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

The Life: Seek, Find, Give is a great resource to have on hand. In the form of a mini magazine, glossy, colorful pages help the reader understand how God's story (Jesus) can intersect with our story. It also shows how it is then our responsibility to share that story (salvation) with others. In less than 100 small pages, the reader is taken through the Gospel of John. The pages are laid out like a well designed magazine/booklet, filled with quotes and explanations. This is the perfect booklet to give to someone with questions about the Christian life. I also love that it is written in the New Living Translation - making it easy for the non-believer to understand. I am praying about who the Lord may have me to pass this booklet on to.

I received The Life from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.

I was so excited to receive and learn from the book Your Family in Pictures by Me Ra Koh. The Parent's Guide to Photographing Holidays, Family Portraits, and Everyday Life. I own a DSLR and I try to capture memories of our family and life through pictures. Each year, I do a big photo book to remember the events. I was starting to feel like all my pictures were looking the same. This book was super helpful. I don't know much about shooting manually, but this book made me experiement with some of the settings on my camera. I now try to shoot in natural light (so I don't have to use a flash). And I have also started trying to take pictures from Hudson's eye level. The perspective of him playing, etc is so much better when I don't just take all the images standing above him. Different family events are laid out in this book along with examples of photos and instructions of how you can capture similar images. I enjoyed the full color, glossy pages. The authors instructions were easy to follow and made me feel that I could learn a few things from her descriptions. If you are a parent like me, hoping to capture the everyday life of your family in photos, this books would be an excellent resource for you! I am hoping to look through other instructional books by this author.
I received Your Family in Pictures from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

 Miracle in a Dry Season Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas was a fun novel to get lost in. These days while nine months pregnant, I am either exhausted or I can't sleep. During my sleepless moments, I was eager to pull out this story and get to know the characters. I had never read anything by this author, but her character descriptions and story development were entertaining. I was confused with the time period - I think I read several chapters before I realized it was set in the 1950's. For some reason, I kept thinking that it took place in the 1800's. Each time a character would get into a car or turn on the radio, I was a little thrown off. The story was refreshing. and an easy read. It wasn't filled with the suspense element that I usually look for in a book, but I still enjoyed it. I also loved that the cover had a real picture on it and was not the typical cartoon drawing of main characters. I like when I am able to come up with my own picture of the characters. Plus, I keep craving peaches during this pregnancy...maybe this book cover contributed to that. ha.

I received Miracle in a Dry Season from Bethany Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Shower of Blessings

Last night, the ladies in our small group from church got together for a Girl's Night/Baby Shower. Lots of babies are born in our small group families - and a baby shower is the perfect excuse for us ladies to get together! Sometimes we meet at a restaurant. Other times we meet in someone's home and we all bring food to share. Regardless of our location, I always leave these nights feeling encouraged by these awesome ladies.

Our time last evening was spent eating yummy food, laughing, sharing and celebrating Nora. Hannah, our host, made the most delicious strawberry cupcakes (I need that recipe!!)

So many other yummy treats were shared...I think we need a "Small Group Recipe Book." I'll head it up if other small group ladies are interested!!

I love that the people in our group may change - some have moved on, some come back to visit, new ones constantly join. However, the spirit of the group remains the same.

We love each other. We encourage each other. We do life together.

We hold each other's babies. We pass along clothes our kids have outgrown. We share advice. We share stories.

We are able to be real with each other. We are able to share our struggles and triumphs. I think it is what makes us stronger.

When we first started attending our church, it seemed huge. And, it is a big church. But the more we got plugged into this small group, the smaller the church seemed. I love that we sit together in the main service. We see each other as we drop off our kids in the nursery. We are all in the same faze of life.

They truly "showered" us with gifts last night.

Jeremiah and I always say we are so glad that the Lord led us to this group! The encouragement and support they provide are invaluable.

Ashlee had made up these little candle jars as a favor for each lady who attended.

Different ladies then took turns praying over different needs in our group, using the Scripture that was placed inside the jar.

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,
the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious,
unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. 
Your roots will grown down into God's love and keep you strong. And may you have the 
power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high,
and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great 
to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and
power that comes from God. 

Ephesians 4:14-19

I can't begin to describe the peace that came over me after hearing those words from Scripture. As a friend prayed over my anxieties with this pregnancy, I felt the presence of God and the assurance that He was in control. 

As I look at this group shot from last night, I think that this is what the body of Christ is supposed to look like. These ladies (and others who weren't able to attend) as well as their families are our "church." We bring meals, we hug, we hold babies, we laugh, we pray, we do life together. 

I love our small group. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Paint + Rope = a Skinny Nightstand

I was in need of a nightstand for beside the guest bed. The space was small, but I still thought guests would appreciate a place to set their phone, keys, a book, etc. Plus, I wanted a place to have a lamp.

You may have noticed an ordinary stool hanging out in the corner beside the bed. I finally got around to finishing the project today. 

After some intense googling for "skinny diy nightstands" I came across this idea. I had the perfect old stool in the basement. 

I'm not even sure where this piece came from. It had various colors of paint splotches, some markered names and even a wad of athletic tape. After some sanding and cleaning, it was ready to be transformed. 

Jeremiah gave the stool a couple coats of the leftover crib paint. After it dried, I got to work on the shelves. 

 Hot glue helped me keep the rope tight and in place as I wrapped it around the rungs. This project was going super smoothly...until...I ran out of rope. 

I had underestimated the amount of rope that this project would take. I thought 50 feet would be enough...but, in fact, I needed closer to 150 feet. 

The completed shelves hold a couple of books or a box of tissues or whatever a guest may want to keep nearby in the night. 

I am completely pleased with the results. Jeremiah was also kind enough to bracket these two old shutters together to add more color in the corner. You can see a metal chip clip hanging off the shutters. My uncle gave me a few of these when I went off to college. I used them to display pictures or other paper mementos. I hope to clip up a few photos of Nora soon. 

I still get giddy over the transformation that comes from a little paint and hot glue. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

DIY Himelli Wreath

I'd been trying to find the perfect idea for wall decor over the guest bed in Nora's room. I wanted something to fill the space, but didn't want to just put up a big picture or a collage of frames. One night, I came across the idea for a Himelli wreath. The "real" versions of these wreaths are usually made from copper tubing and can cost close to $200.

Obviously, that was out of my price range (considering I got the crib for free...).  And I find great satisfaction in making something myself. I found a super easy-to-follow tutorial video here from Vintage Revivals.

When I got married, I had used black straws for our guests to sip their lemonade. At the time, it was cheaper to buy 1,000 of the straws than a couple hundred. And, since I didn't quite have 1,000 people at the wedding....we are still using the black straws to this day. In the video tutorial, she suggests using cocktail straws. My regular drinking straws worked just fine.

I cut them down into four inch pieces, found some leftover wire from another craft, and started following her video. In less than an hour, I had a fun, modern looking wreath. I had enough straws but had to purchase more wire in order to make three of these wreaths. I used 24 gauge wire that can be found in the craft section. The color doesn't really matter - I can't see it in my completed wreaths. I used green wire on one wreath and gold on the last two.

I may end up spray painting the wreaths gold like the original video showed in order to coordinate with the gold "bulbs" on the faux marquee letter, but for now, they are filling the void above the guest bed quite nicely. And over time, I may grow more accustomed to the black.

 I imagine you could use any colored straw for this project. I would, however, steer clear of the paper straws. The wire, at times, threatened to rip through my plastic straws. It seems it would do a lot of damage to a thin paper straw, but I could be wrong.

These would make cute centerpieces for a party, sitting on a mirror with a candle or pot of succulents in the center. They are lightweight and hang on the wall easily with one tiny nail. They might even look really cool hanging from the ceiling. The possibilities are endless.

I'm enjoying working on this half of the room - I've got a few more elements to finish. I used to have a red quilt on this bed - I wanted something that would blend in more. The berries in the curtains are pink and red. The fabric on the crib bedding has pink and red in it...but I wanted the green to be the main color used. My mom passed on this awesome cream colored chenille bedspread. Using some leftover fabric from the crib bedding and the curtains, I was able to sew a few pillows. They add the perfect amount of color to the bed.

I'm no seamstress - I've never claimed to be. I sew "straight" lines and an occasional button. No sleeves. No circles. Nothing too detailed. I've even been known to hot glue fabric to avoid sewing. So, if you happen to visit this room, don't scrutinize my seams. Some of them are loopy and knotted. One piece got sewn on backwards (luckily it was a fabric that wasn't too obvious and it is the back of one of the pillows). But I did it! They look like pillows. And they haven't fallen apart yet.

Hudson is loving the time we spend in this room. It is usually off limits to him. He is enjoying the Bumbo seat and this little school desk. He is always finding a new treasure to explore. I love that little boy's curiosity.

I'm kind of obsessed with the look of these wreaths and they were so fun to make. I may end up putting one in my living room as well. After all, I've got the straws already on hand!