Monday, April 13, 2015

Balance and Planner Love

Our family has just finished up a tremendously busy season.  We went from having an unusually calm fall to a totally CRAZY winter.  My oldest son and husband enjoy participating in community theater.  They weren't able to participate in A Christmas Carol this year because of the timing of our December vacation, but they jumped back in feet first with our city's production of Mary Poppins.  As Mr. Banks and Michael Banks, this was definitely the most time-consuming project either of them has been involved with.  It was an amazing thing to see on the stage.

By the end of March, we were up to our eyeballs in practical preparation for the coming school year, finishing up the current school year, and other bits and pieces of things that had been neglected during the crazy season.

I struggle for balance.  I am a very project oriented person, so continually plugging away for weeks and weeks without seeing much big-picture progress is hard.  I've spent the last several weeks attempting to give some order to the madness.

One of the projects I've taken on in the last several months is designing printables for The Dating Divas.  Their stuff is all over Pinterest and the internet, so you may have seen a post of theirs at some point.  I love their mission to help married couples keep their romance a top priority, and I've really enjoyed collaborating with the Divas to create some fun printable designs.  These Mix CD envelopes, Popcorn Bar Decorations, and cute Our Story prints are among the items I've designed for them in the last several months.

In my quest for balance, I had to make some decisions about the shop.  In the end, I opted to replace my planner designs with undated versions of each one.  The main reason for this is that it takes massive amounts of time to update the dates on multiple planner formats each year.  By offering undated versions, they will be usable for years to come, and I can free up time to work on new designs and projects like these fun new editable Responsibility Charts.

I would love to be able to keep the yearly planners going, but it's just not the best use of my time during this season.  I've also been experimenting with changing up my personal planner system, and I think I've found something that works even better for me than my Arc book.  I love the Arc for a lot of reasons, but it wasn't easy for me to carry around which meant I usually didn't have it with me.  I'll be sharing what's working for me because I'm a little surprised that I've been converted. You might be able to spot where I'm headed if you've browsed through my shop lately or follow me on Instagram.
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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Happy 2015!

It's so hard to believe that another year has come to an end.  My family is desperately looking to get back in the routine of things after our big Disney/Universal vacation that ended just in time for Christmas festivities that seemed to run into new year's festivities and a major kids' room overhaul. But it's back to school this week, so I'm hopeful we might get most of the kinks worked out by the time spring is here.  I've also been working on some projects the last couple of months that I'm excited to be able to share in the coming weeks.

You can still find organizational printables over in my shop, and I wanted to share this printable 12-month calendar just because it's always fun to have a pretty, new calendar to scribble on.  I hope you enjoy it!

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Review: Bitesize Biographies Samuel Rutherford

If you've been reading here very long, you'll know that our family has a bit of a thing for books.  You might call us collectors, but we're always on the lookout for books that will feed us and encourage us. This is why I was excited to get a chance to review Bitesize Biographies Samuel Rutherford.  I knew my husband would especially enjoy getting to know more about this hero of the faith, so I enlisted his help to share more about this book with you all.

Here's his review!

While the name of Samuel Rutherford is not well known by many in our day, those who do know of this choice servant of Christ typically associate him with his wonderful letters or the hymn, “The Sands of Time Are Sinking.”  The letters of Rutherford in particular continue to refresh and strengthen Christians with new glimpses of Christ’s beauty and a contagious passion for His Name.  They are full of longing for Christ, practical wisdom, and humility of spirit.  Rutherford’s letters are perhaps his greatest legacy and gift to Christ’s Church.

Richard Hannula’s “Bitesize Biography” of Samuel Rutherford relates the story of the man behind the letters.  The greatest strength of this clear and concise telling of Rutherford’s life is that Hannula allows his subject to do much of the speaking, drawing quotes from Rutherford’s letters, diaries, sermons, and other works.  This is particularly appropriate for a biography of Rutherford, whose words are so-often saturated with his love for his Savior and Christ’s Church (Kirk), and have such power to inspire and edify.

In Samuel Rutherford, we are given enough of the historical context to appreciate the pivotal role Rutherford played in the Scottish Reformation, without being overburdened with detail.  We learn of Rutherford’s  conversion (“My heart is not my own; [Christ] hath run away to heaven with it.”), his appointment as Professor of Humanities at the University of Edinburgh , and the allegations that removed him from that office.  Hannula helps us to experience the sweetness of Rutherford’s years as pastor in Anwoth, and what it was like to sit under his preaching. (“He was short, slight and preached in a high pitch voice – some describe it as ‘shrill’.  But he vividly set Christ before his congregation…”)  Using short excerpts from Rutherford’s sermons,  we are drawn into the heart of this pastor for the people under his care, and hear his exhortations for the people to know the loveliness of Christ.

Similarly, we learn more of the heart of this man as we hear brief excerpts from his letters during his time of exile in Aberdeen.  We feel his suffering as he longs to return to the people he so dearly loves, and yet also his resolve to bear the cross Christ has for him.  “They are not worthy of Jesus who will not take a blow for their Master’s sake.”  Hannula continues to walk us through Rutherford’s joyful reunion with the church in Anwoth, his appointment to St. Andrews, and his involvement in the Westminster Assembly.  These chapters reveal how influential Rutherford became, and cause us to reflect on how a man who garnered such notoriety and respect could remain as humble before God and men as his writings from these periods show him to have been.

The final chapters of Samuel Rutherford go further to indicate how important this man was in the purposes of Christ for Scotland.  As Rutherford strove and flourished in his work, so did true Christianity in Scotland.  As Rutherford’s health weakened and he neared his life’s end, Scotland’s Christian commitments began to fade as well.  We are encouraged to read of Rutherford’s dying days, however, because of his love and longings for the Lord Jesus.  In the last chapter, Hannula serves us by giving us an assessment of Rutherford’s legacy, and leaves us wanting to read more of Rutherford’s writings.  Most of all, this book helps us to long for the kind of deep love for Christ that characterized this Rutherford’s life.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Harry Potter Party: Potions and Common Room Details

I'm finally getting around to finishing up the Harry Potter Party posts!

When I decided to do the party, I knew there would have to be a potions display.  There are so many fun things that can be done to decorate with potions very inexpensively!  I spent months putting this together a little at a time.  I really enjoyed wandering through thrift stores looking for just the right items for the common room and potions display.  When I think 'Hogwarts' I think old and well-used. What better place than a thrift store to find these kinds of items?

I also spent some time collecting various bottles as we emptied them and maybe even doing a little roadside cleanup here and there.  I did buy a some of the bottles that were just perfect for potions, and I picked up some corks to seal some of them up.  Once I had collected enough bottles, I printed a few labels that I found online, but I designed most of these specifically for our display.  You can find the ones I created in my shop.  I simply printed them onto sticker paper and cut them out to adhere them to the bottles.  Before the party, I let the boys help me decide what color each of the potions should be or what we might put in the bottles to serve as our ingredients.  

You can find the POTIONS banner for free here along with the pages I printed to turn an old library copy of The Help into a spellbook for the display.  The hourglass is from Hobby Lobby as is the chalkboard.  The items I thrifted were the brass lantern, the silver(ish) tray, and the smallest bottles. We used tons of classic and older looking books to decorate this display and the common room because I have to think Hermoine would have kept it that way.

To make the rest of our living room feel more like the Gryffindor common room, I just decorated the surfaces with old-looking things: books, candles, and other itmes you'd find in the Wizarding World. You can find a printable version of the Hogwarts House Bunting in my shop.  I also printed this Marauder's Map, and I'm sharing a download of the "No Unforgivable Charms Please" sign with you all.

I thrifted the candlesticks and a couple of brass containers to hold some of the wizarding school supplies.  I tucked feathers in the containers, and we made quills out of a couple using ball point pens. Oversized (11 x 17) parchment paper was rolled up and tied with plain string to make scrolls.  I printed the Quibbler covers and covered a regular magazine with them for a prop, and I also made the Daily Prophet.  I printed the header sideways onto some large newsprint-type drawing paper.  Then I rolled up a stack of the paper with the printed part on the outside to make it look like a whole newspaper.

Pulling all of the decorations for this party together was so much fun.  I enjoyed thinking about what items and decorations could help to bring the books to life as we were reading together.  In the end, I was very pleased with the results.  I was still instinctively looking for interesting items when I was in the thrift store the other day, and I had to remind myself that I'm not collecting anymore.  Unless we decide to have another Potter party again someday.

Don't forget to check out all of the posts about the details of our party!

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Harry Potter Party: Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, Honeydukes, Herbology, and the Drinks

Today I'm sharing more details about our boys' Harry Potter birthday party, and I have to admit that the food was probably my favorite part.  I looked at photos of Honeydukes in the Wizarding World for ages just hoping I could replicate a little bit of that atmosphere.  My party planning began with a list of treats from the books and brainstorming what muggle-world candies might make good representation of each one.  In the end, I did compromise a bit for the sake of budget knowing that most of the kids coming to the party would be clueless anyway.

The main centerpiece of the whole party was the Honeydukes Sweet Shoppe table.  I had so much fun obsessing collecting ideas for the display.  This whole thing was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing for us, so this was my chance to create a remotely pin-worthy display.  I experimented with a lot of different ideas, and I really found Amy Atlas' displays and all of the similar ones out there now to be very inspiring.  There are tons of ideas for candy buffets on Pinterest, too.  So I had endless ideas to work with.

I loved that Honeydukes allowed me to pull in some fun decorations that I never get to use having only boys around here.  The pink polka dot napkins were my favorite.  We found those at Wal-Mart, of all places.  Most of the candy was readily available at Target or the Dollar Tree, but I did have to hunt down a few items.  Here's what I ended up with.

Jelly Slugs - Trolli night crawlers
Lemon Sherberts - Lemonheads
Tooth-flossing Stringmints - edible easter grass (This ended up being mostly for looks because it tasted nasty.)
Chocolate Frogs - made from Hershey's chocolate bunnies with this mold
Caramel Creams - muggle candy just because we like them and needed something else to fill the table
Licorice Wands - Twizzlers
Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans - a mixture of a giant bag of Jelly Bellies from Target and some actual Bertie Bott's ordered from Amazon (to save on expense and so they wouldn't all be kind of nasty tasting)
Cry Babies - muggle candy just because we like them and needed something else to fill up the table
Drooble's Best Blowing Gum - I used regular gumballs we already had and resisted buying the blue gumballs available in the party aisle at Target
Fizzing Whizbees - Warhead gummy cubes
Lollipops - because I can only assume that even Wizards love a good lollipop 

I really wanted some cute lollipops to decorate the table, but it was hard to find what I wanted in the town where we live.  I did find the two biggest ones at Michael's, but I stopped into Party City when we were in Durham for a doctor's appointment, and they had tons of pretty candy.  All of the smaller lollipops came from there.  The blue ones were "It's a Boy!" ones, but I was able to easily remove the sticker.

The awesome cake was made by my mom!

Most of the dishes were found by rummaging through my cabinets.  A few items were found at thrift stores, and the two on the outside in the back were purchased at the last minute at the Dollar Tree just to fill things in a bit.  I looked forever for items to make a lollipop stand for the smaller ones.  I had the hardest time finding what I wanted.  In the end, I found the exact thing I needed at Hobby Lobby--only it was the display for a bunch of little pinwheels.  So, I became the crazy lady and asked if I could have the display if I bought the last few pinwheels, and it totally worked.  That saved me a couple of hours of work and several bucks!  

The plates were from Target.  The tablecloth is from Hobby Lobby.  The little clear scoops were super cheap from The Container Store, and the small clear tongs were from the Dollar Tree.  I made the candy labels and cut them from card stock, and I found a Honeydukes logo here.  I printed it for the sign and smaller stickers for the tiny paper bags and to hold up the pennant.  The pennant was sooo easy--made from felt triangles and a bit of string.

You can find the printable candy labels in my etsy shop here!

For the drinks, we had Gillywater (Sierra Mist) and Butterbeer made to order.  I found tons of different recipes for Butterbeer, and I went with a mash-up of a couple of different ones.  I wanted something that could be mixed up quickly.  I had an idea that the kids might not loooove the Butterbeer, and I didn't want to waste a lot of stuff by mixing it up ahead of time.  Here's the recipe.

1T butterscotch syrup
cover the bottom of the cup with Reddi Whip
fill to the top with cream soda

I found the Butterbeer sign here, and the plastic frame came from Michael's.

If I had more time and funds I could have gone all out for the ice cream display, but I committed to focus my efforts on the Honeydukes table.  We had a couple of flavors of ice cream, cones or bowls, a few toppings, and some chocolate syrup.  I'm sharing the Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream sign with you!

The Herbology table served to add a couple of nutrients to the food spread.  Plus, I like a little fruit with my ice cream, anyway.  This was the last thing I pulled together, so it was fairly simple.  I may have just been looking for a good excuse to plant some succulents.

You can catch up with all of my previous Harry Potter party posts, and there will be more to come!

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