Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Art Party Invites

We trust you all had a merry Christmas with the hopes of a coming happy and healthy new year!

With the last of the twinkling glows and ridiculous baked goods and family departures, it's time for our family to turn our attention to a certain soon to be three-year-old.

In just a few weeks she plans to ring in her new year of life with a little artistic flair. That led us to whip up some colorful birthday party invitations. The best part is she got to be an active part of the creative process!

Gather your supplies: regular white computer paper, black card stock (sign-up for e-mails from your local craft store; you're likely to get great coupons when you need even the most basic of supplies like this!), fun ribbon, hot glue, scissors, tempera paints in a variety of colors, a shoebox, some rocks, a hole punch, and miscellaneous crayons
Put your copy paper in the bottom of the shoebox, roll the rocks with paints, shut the box lid, and shake to your heart's delight!

Once they're all done let them dry while you type up your invite. Ours went a little something like this:

Life is Art (then I struck through the "Life" and typed the words "Turning Three" above it)
Please join us for an Art Party
The (Family Name) Gallery
(Date and Time)

Our featured artist won't keep you starving by serving mid-afternoon dessert!
You can enlarge the pics to see that part better; just ignore the smudges over personal information.

Then we printed them right on the painted papers, hole punched the tops to secure to the black card stock with ribbon, and added a single crayon to the top of it all.

Relatively simple, perfectly imperfect, and a lot of fun for the artsy girl. More party ideas to come.

But maybe a little New Year's first? :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Collage

Attention all last minute shoppers, Attention all last minute shoppers... :)

I'm back!

My husband received a glorious gift to basically work from home today; this is HUGE in our world! So after the smallest babe was down for her nap, the oldest and I headed out to pick up a few last minute items.

Enter collage cuteness.

I don't know how many of you use this function, but it's a great way to capture bunches o' photos on the cheap. Add a meaningful title and you're good to go! We made one for each set of grandparents this year and for my brother who will be with us for Christmas. His is a personal congratulations, but the other two are like walks down memory lane for 2009.

Upload your photos to most any photo site and find the collage link. Follow the easy steps to arranging them. I prefer Wal-Mart because of the matte finish. Had I been able to plan ahead a bit more, I could have gotten the 5x7 collages for a mere 58 cents a print. I paid a little more and put them in some (hunted and hunted through) Dollar Store frames. With my one hour fee, these gifts come in at just barely three bucks a piece. The possibilities are endless!

As an aside, we used the same collage function for this year's Christmas cards. Four pictures for a total of nine cents per print. Don't forget all the after the holiday sales at your drugstores. Walgreens hooked us up last year with a boatload of cards (blank on the inside to write our annual letter). I think I got something in the ballpark of eighty for three dollars or less! I love to send real mail, but it can get so expensive in bulk; hunting like this can make it affordable. The mailbox is such a happy place this time of year!

Off to wrap some gifts and maybe even make some reindeer food now that the girls are in bed. I think that calls for some hot chocolate. Extra marshmallows, please!

Any last minute gifts you're wrapping up?

Until after Christmas!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Linky {Last Minute} Love

As my family gets ready to head out for some final touches today, I thought I'd share a few of the ways we're doing homemade within our walls. These projects come from the school of no sew, still thoughtful, and mostly not a lot of dough... basically you'll get an A+ in the subject of being last minute!

First up, since we decided to each receive three gifts just as Jesus did, one of them ended up being from sister to sister. Of course, we turned to our old friend the Hobby Lobby who cooperated nicely by having fleece on sale this past week. The girls picked out fabric for each other, I did a lot of cutting, and we sort of tied things all up together. Their favorite part was decorating each other's packages with markers and Christmas stickers. Since they both love blankets, I can't wait to see their faces in a few days! For complete instructions, lots more detailed than I even did, check 'em out here. (While you're at the Hob Lob, pick up a plain long sleeve tee with your 40% off coupon. Make Daddy an article of clothing that's sure to be an, ahem, custom design!)

Next are stocking stuffers for my extended family, but I think they would work just as well for gifts. Thanks to Big Huge Labs you can easily make covers for CD's of fun, inspirational music. I'm thinking personal black and white photos!

Lastly, some good friends of ours got my creative juices flowing when she e-mailed to ask for some help in writing a song for her husband. They have a ten dollar limit on Christmas this year, and I had a ball thinking up ideas. Here are just a few to get you going:

*Dessert of the Month Club (My husband's getting this one: basically each month he gets to choose one of twelve desserts I'll make for him.)
*A jar or bound index card file filled with things you love about a person, quotes, scripture, etc... one for each day, week, or month of the year
*A coupon book with fun things to redeem from the practical (clean a car, paint a room, etc.) to the romantic (back rubs, candlelit dinner, etc.) depending on the person of course
*Homemade bag of fun mix like trail mix with a promise to go on a hike, for example, if that's your thing or tropical chex mix for that person who just needs to "get away"
*All natural bubble bath (I'm totally making this either before or after Christmas for the girls' sensitive skin!) or sugar scrub

Sorry to throw it all into one post here, but my camera is still awaiting a major download and the big day is... yikes... less than a week away!

Have a creative weekend full of all things merry and bright!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Meet Kirsten!

I'm taking a break from Christmas wrapping and baking today to introduce you to one of my very best friends, Kirsten. She and her husband, Carlos, moved to NC a few years ago. We met them through our LifeGroup and she and I became instant soul sisters! We've enjoyed walking with them through a couple of moves (thankfully they're still only a short drive away!), a couple of kids and all kinds of good times! One of my favorite facts about them is that they share our anniversary...not from different years either. We were all married on the exact same day-August, 7th, 2004!! We've got a few more hours experience in the marriage department, but they are constant reminders of what committment to one another looks like!

Kirsten, has joined the blogging world with an awesome blog called Magnificent Mom Moments. She's got great ideas for everyday life with wee ones running around and even has some good ideas for those of us who don't have little ones. So, go on over and check it out! Tell her we sent you!


Scroll down for the Christmas Tour of Homes!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Tour Of Homes

This week, the Kelly's Korner Show Us How You Live series is participating in The Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes!

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

I've always thought it would be so neat to live in a community where everyone went all out in their Christmas decorating and then all the neighbors got to "tour" their homes. This virtual tour is a MUCH better idea, though, because I don't have to clean my house before I show off our Christmas digs :)

You're probably used to getting a little something from all three of us Simple Girls with the posts in this series, but this time, you're stuck with me, like it or not! Between a crazy end of the year time at school for Brooke and traveling and kids and family and pregnancy for Katrina, there's simply no time left in the days! My hubby's hanging out with the guys in his discipleship group tonight, so I'm free to do as I wish for the evening...and I'm spending it with you all! Call me devoted. Call me addicted to blogging. Call me crazy for not curling up by the fire with a book and some coffee. I might just be all of those things! Whether you're calling me names or not, WELCOME to my Christmas-ified house! Let me show you around!

We'll start with our trees. (You can read about all the Simple Girls' trees here.) Yes, we have more than one. Here's our Winter Wonderland tree. It's filled with snowflakes and snowmen and penguins. I've added some pictures of my favorite ornaments.

This is our Memory Tree and it's filled with ornaments from my childhood and those that were passed down to me from my maternal grandmother's Christmas tree. This little corner of our house is dedicated to the memories of Christmas past and even some cute little wooden snowmen (handmade by my mom and step-dad!).

This tree finds its home in our lime green, black and white kitchen. It's adorned primarily with black, white and silver and has a few hits of green (hoping a good after Christmas sale will help me tie in more of the green!). I love those monogram ornaments!

While we're in the kitchen, I should show you our super simple, yet classy table scape.
I love that my everyday black damask dishes are the perfect touch for our Christmas table. Some lime green, napkins are the perfect thing to break up the black and white on the plates. The centerpiece, anchoring a homemade table runner, is just a couple of serving platters topped with a hurricane vase from target. The bottom of the vase is filled with small ball ornaments in silver and green. A simple pewter snowflake tealight holder tops each place setting.

Now, onto the living room...The Willow Tree nativity takes center stage on top of the fireplace. I've added soft, light fabrics, sparkly ribbon and lights to create an ethereal feel in this corner of the room. The stockings are hung, the fire is going, the presents are under the tree...bring on Christmas!!

Here are a few other touches around the house:
A sparkly outdoor wreath welcomes our guests. Garland, lights and snowflakes top our kitchen cabinets for a really nice glow. A cute snowman wall plaque hangs in the hallway. My 10 cent (yes, TEN CENTS...thank you, Target after Christmas sales!) Christmas card holder shows off all the fun photo cards we've gotten so far.

These cute little guys always make me smile! Some of them make noise and do little dances, while others are just for snuggling.
Sparkly ornaments in a silver pail add a nice touch to the bathroom counter. Simple pillar candles and Christmas books are a nice addition on the sofa table. That little metal snowman is one of my favorite Christmas things (He's like a gigantic bobble head doll! His whole upper body bounces and it's so cute!) The penguin salt & pepper shakers are perfect for our kitchen color scheme. And really, no Christmas would be complete without Christmas candy on the coffee table for constant munching :)

Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope you've enjoyed enjoyed your time with this Simple Girl! Now that you've seen how we decorate for the season, head on over to The Nesting Place for the list of links of other participants in the Christmas Tour of Homes!

Many wishes for a truly blessed Christmas season!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Cookies

We sure do hope that you love reading about all of our Christmas-y things as much as we love sharing them! We're participating in the Show Us How You Live series at Kelly's Korner yet again! See what we're sharing below, then head on over here to get more ideas for yummy stuff!

This week's theme hits a sweet spot for me...literally! Just thinking about Christmas as a kid, I can almost smell Mom's Christmas baking! Actually when I consider both of my parents' love for all things sweet, it's no wonder I have a sweet tooth the size of Texas! As I have yet to dive head first into Christmas baking, I don't have any pictures of the treats I'd like to share with you, but I can GUARANTEE that they're sure to tickle your taste buds!

I know the theme is CHRISTMAS cookies. Although the 2 recipes I want to share appear to have nothing to do with the Christmas season, these are the 2 that remind me most of Christmas at home in years past.

My Daddy gave me his love for Chocolate and Peanut Butter...2 of the main ingredients in his favorite cookies. We called them "Boiled Cookies", but I've also heard them a variety of other things like "No Bake Cookies". Call them whatever you want...just know they are SOOOOOOO good!

4 Tbsp. Cocoa
2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Stick Butter
3 Cups Quaker Oatmeal (the real stuff, not the the instant)
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

1-Mix together Cocoa, Sugar and Milk in a sauce pan; bring to boil for 4 minutes.
2-Add butter and let melt while boiling; DO NOT STIR!!!
3-Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients immediately; Mix well.
4-Drop by the spoonful onto a wax paper covered counter.

Mama has made Magic Cookie Bars for as long as I can remember. I'm pretty sure this recipe came from the back of some food packaging or something like that, but for as many times as it's been made in our family, it might as well be an old family recipe!

1 Stick Butter
14 oz. Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
6 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 1/2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs (If you're like me and make your own crumbs, you'll need about 20 graham cracker squares.)
1 1/3 Cups Coconut Flakes

1-Preheat oven to 350 (325 for a glass dish).
2-Put stick of butter in a 9x13 dish and place in oven while it is preheating.
3-Once butter is melted, remove pan from oven.
4-Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over butter and press with the back of a spoon.
5-Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crumbs.
6-Top evenly with remaining ingredients and press lightly with the back of a spoon.
7-Bake 25-30 minutes or until slightly browned.
8-Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

All this talk of chocolate and peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk makes me hungry...Maybe I'll start that Christmas baking a few days early :)



Like Sarai, I fall back to my Mom. Her cookies are seriously legendary. Since she'll be at our house for "BIG Christmas" as my two-year old calls it, I plan to soak up more of her non-measuring and delicious ways. (Though my pregnant self really wants Mr. and Mrs. Claus to tryTHESE, both buttercream and coffee fillings please!)

So instead of cookies, I offer you a few other sweet treats. Baking is such a great way to be able to remember those we care for in a way that we can. I'll break it down to show you the ease and affordability with which you can make these; hopefully if you have similar stores in your area, you will find that to be helpful!

1. Chocolate covered pretzels. Pick up one of those big 'ole plastic containers of pretzel rods and almond bark from Aldis at just a couple of bucks a piece. Get some Christmas sprinkles for a little over a dollar while you're at it. Or, as I did, scrounge around in your cabinets until you find St. Patrick's Day sprinkles which give you a perfectly fine selection of green and white! Lay out wax paper nearby, melt the almond bark in the microwave according to the package directions, and quickly roll your pretzel rods until sufficiently coated. Then cover in sprinkles of your choice and put on the paper to dry. Can I get an "amen" for sweet and salty?

2. Little cakes and breads. Tiny loaves just scream Christmas cuteness, I think. For the white ones, I simply baked a box of mix I got for pennies during a happy trip to the grocery. Then I covered them in cream cheese icing, crunched up candy canes, and grated Hershey chocolate bars. The gingerbread ones were also a simple mix, but I covered the tops of them with a favorite bready concoction: two parts melted butter to one part brown sugar, mixed well, and poured over the top while the bread is still warm.

3. Scones and coffee. No pic here as I'm making them for my hubby's work party, but so many we know just love themselves their coffee. Target has mini-packages for a dollar or less-- just last week I got several for $.35 a piece. Pair that with a few scones, and call it good! For the scones I follow the recipe on Trader Joe's box of pancake/baking mix which simply requires the mix, salted butter, sugar, milk, and dried fruit (optional). The chocolate covered pretzels or a thrift store spoon dipped like the rods (and covered again with mad sprinkles, of course) also make great coffee dippers.

The bags right above and the tin at the top all came from, you guessed it, the Hobby Lobby. Right now they're a dollar for ten bags and $1.20-something for the containers. So many adorable choices to wrap it all up nice and affordably!

Happy baking,


Baking has never really been my forte...eating, yes, but the actual fixing of baked items, not so much. But over the last couple of years, I have challenged myself to really try to create some yummy things in the kitchen! I attended a Pampered Chef party this fall and got one of their cookbooks and in it I found the recipe for this jewel! After Dinner Mint Triangles. It is prefect for a holiday gathering or any gathering! There is no baking involved and it is YUMMY! It might be my new favorite! Don't let the Pampered Chef recipe intimidate you, especially all the tools they say to use. I do not own any of them and my mint triangles turned out perfect!

After Dinner Mint Triangles

2 pkg (10 oz/283 g each) fudge-covered mint cookies
½ cup (125 mL) butter (1 stick)
1¼ cups (300 mL) semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Filling and Topping:
10 oz (300 g) almond bark, broken into squares, or
confectioner’s coating candy melts
1 pkg (8 oz/250 g) cream cheese, softened
1 tsp (5 mL) peppermint extract
6 drops green food coloring
¼ cup (50 mL) semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1. For crust, place half of the cookies in large resealable plastic bag; crush into very fine crumbs using flat end of Meat Tenderizer. Place crumbs into Stainless (4-qt./4-L) Mixing Bowl; repeat with remaining cookies. Place butter and chocolate morsels in Small Batter Bowl; microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 1–1½ minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until smooth using Small Mix ‘N Scraper®. Add chocolate mixture to crumbs; mix until all crumbs are moistened. Spread crumb mixture evenly over Medium Sheet Pan; using hands, firmly pack evenly into pan. Place in freezer at least 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, for filling, place almond bark into Large Micro-Cooker®. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 2–3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds with Classic Scraper until bark is mostly melted. Remove from microwave; stir until smooth. Using Stainless Whisk, whisk cream cheese in Stainless (2-qt./2-L) Mixing Bowl until smooth. Whisk in extract and food coloring until smooth. Add bark; whisk well. Spread filling over crust with Small Spreader; set aside.
3. Place remaining chocolate morsels into (1-cup/250-mL) Prep Bowl; microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 30–45 seconds or until melted, stirring every 15 seconds. Place small resealable plastic bag into Measure-All® Cup. Pour chocolate into corner of bag. Twist top of bag; secure. Cut corner off of bag using Professional Shears. Drizzle chocolate over filling. Let stand until chocolate is firm. Cut dessert into 16 rectangles (four rows of four rectangles each). Cut in half diagonally to make 32 triangles.

When my friend Shannon moved to North Carolina, she introduced me to her Ohio favorite, the Buckeye. Not only do they play some mean football, they are some yummy treats. I recently found this recipe on Kraft Food and Family and knew I had to try it. What could be better than the combination of peanut butter and chocolate!

Buckeye Bars

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
22 NILLA Wafers, crushed
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 of 8-oz. tub COOL WHIP Whipped Topping (Do not thaw.)
3 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate

LINE 8-inch square pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Beat butter and peanut butter with mixer until blended. Mix in wafer crumbs. Gradually add sugar, mixing well after each addition. Press onto bottom of pan.
MICROWAVE COOL WHIP and chocolate in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1 min.; stir. Microwave 15 to 30 sec. or until chocolate is melted; stir until blended. Spread over peanut butter layer.
REFRIGERATE 2 hours. Use foil handles to lift dessert from pan before cutting to serve.

May the treats of the season add a little sweetness to your days!


Monday, December 7, 2009

Plan a Caroling Party

As a follow-up to Brooke's great tip below...

I am thinking many of you join us with your love for Christmas music. Here's a way to start a tradition you can take to the streets. I also love that it has an old world kind of feel to it!

Call or e-mail your neighborhood or other friends who like to make semi-fools of themselves (Unless you actually sound like our dear Sarai; yes, among everything else, that girl can sing! I can still hear her rendition of "Holy Ground" as I got ready to walk down the aisle. Sigh.)

Anyway... :)

Decide on the particulars such as a time, place to meet, songs to sing, and houses to visit. Though we'd love to do our whole neighborhood, for example, it's too much with most of the choir four and under. So we each picked a handful of houses that are meaningful to us or that we thought could really use the cheer. We also chose to do three classic choruses that we can easily teach the wee ones... "Joy to the World," "Jingle Bells," and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

As the organizer you might think about delivering a little packet in sweet nativity bags ($1.00 at the Hobby Lobby for ten if you get there during one of the 50% off Christmas stuff weeks!) Attach the official invite to the front, which I simply printed right off the computer. Inside we also included a simple "songbook" (literally a cover with our songs stapled to it-- nothing too difficult!) and a CD of the chosen songs. For an exhaustive list of lyrics check this out.

In preparation for the big night, think about gathering other necessary supplies: a neighbor with a trailer to haul around little (and big!) bundled up bodies, lots of flashlights and bells, a card table full of portable hot chocolate at the meeting place, and an appetizer contribution (This dip is way easy and sooooo good; we just substitute the cheapest bag of Italian blend cheese and only a 1/2 cup of the mayo and 1/2 cup of the sour cream). Because, of course, afterwards everyone will have worked up an appetite!

May the smallest of our sopranos, altos, and whatever-o's take smashing afternoon naps before the caroling we all go!

ps... Sorry for no pictures, which would have been cute too... I'm waiting on Santa to bring that hard drive...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Songs of the Season

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go! Christmas really does bring out the best in people and is such a joyful time of year. One of the things that really helps to get me in the Christmas spirit is Christmas music. I am a huge fan of all the songs of the season. This year I am even teaching with Christmas songs during my Reading Workshop time in my classroom. So you can imagine how excited I was when I saw this little treat...

Our friends at Amazon are offering a free Christmas music download everyday up until Christmas! That means 25 new Christmas songs to help brighten up your season! Be sure to check back everyday!
So head on over here to get the first two songs they have posted.
Day 1:
Joy to the World by Casting Crowns
Day 2:
Snow Angel by Tori Amos

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree!

Update from Katrina: So sorry I couldn't join in this week to show off the Christmas tree spirit! My husband has been out of town, our Internet has been down, and our computer refuses to hold any more pictures! Whew, anyway... I'll try to do another post here soon with pics of our special story tree and the girls mini bedroom trees. Until then, enjoy Sarai and Brooke's below... makes me want to hurry on over to their houses for a cup of cocoa!

Once again we're participating in the Kelly's Korner "Show Us How You Live" series. This week, we're showing you our Christmas trees! Enjoy!

In our house, one Christmas tree apparently isn't enough! I could go through the story of how we came to have three trees in our house every year, but instead of boring you with that, I'll just show your our pretty trees!

"Winter Wonderland"
(Big Living Room Tree)

Sometimes I think filling this 7.5 foot HUGE tree (the tree at the base is 6 feet!!) is too daunting a task to be worth it...and then I get it all finished and remember why I love it so much! This tree combines my love for snowmen, my husband's love for penguins and our combined love for snow. The main colors in our living room are blue & red, so I've incorporated lots of shiny ball ornaments in those colors to tie it all together. There are tons of snowflakes and penguins and snowmen filling nearly every inch of this tree. The silver snowflake ribbon wrapping the tree gives it softer edges and really makes the tree sparkle. And I really love the 3D snowflake topper.

I have a bit of a confession to make about this tree. All our trees are fake and I don't do pre-lit (which most people think I'm crazy for!). In my opinion, pre-lit trees just don't have enough lights on them. I read somewhere that in order to have an adequately lit tree, you should have 100 lights for every 1.5 feet of tree. Well, we go for a full 600 lights on this tree. And for anyone out there with an non pre-lit tree like me, let me fill you in on my tree lighting secret. Our branches snap into the base (or trunk) of the tree. We assemble a row of branches at a time, starting with the bottom. After we have an entire row snapped in, we string the lights in and out of every branch before moving onto the next row. This keeps us from having to shove our hands in each row once it's all put together and it give us a break from going 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round :)

This tree has no name, but it's all about bling and sparkles and glitter :)
(Small Kitchen Tree)

Not really sure why I think I need a tree in my kitchen, but apparently I do! We have some bling-y monogram ornaments, some sparkly garland and silver, black, white and lime ornaments to match our kitchen decor. A small panel of black & white gingham fabric bunches at the bottom for an instant tree skirt.

"Memory Tree"
(Small Hallway Tree)

This tree takes me down Christmas Memory Lane. Ever part of this tree (except the lights and the actual tee itself) are from my childhood. The tree skirt is one we used every year at Christmas when I was younger. Every year, my brother and I received a special Christmas ornament for Christmas, so all those ornaments are on this tree. Even the little Christmas trolls were used to decorate our house when I was little! There are some handmade ornaments (made by my mom) and some of my favorite ornaments from our childhood tree on there too. The tinsel-y garland, glass ball ornaments and the tree topper all belonged to my maternal grandmother and were given to me when she passed away. When I decorate this tree, I'm reminded of the traditions kept year after year and the many blessings of past Christmas seasons.

So, whether you have no trees or 10 trees, my hope is that your Christmas will be filled with lots of love!


I agree with Sarai, the more Christmas trees the better at my house too! I love the lights and the ornaments and the tree toppers. I love everything about Christmas trees. I am still a real tree kinda gal! The smell of pine filling the house makes it really feel like Christmas in my little part of the world. I have not had the chance to put up my trees this year, but I have some pictures of trees past to give you a little idea of Christmas tree goodness at my house!

I never thought I would go with a theme for a tree, but as I have grown up, my tastes sure have changed. Red and gold ornaments fill this tree with lots of red and gold glitter snowflakes tucked in the branches. I have found lots of great ornaments on sale over the years. My other favorite part of this tree is something you probably can't see, it would be my tree skirt. My mom found some vintage lace fabric with Santa faces on it. I know it sounds kinda random, but it fits so nicely with the cottage style of my house.

Several years ago, I found some amazing Shabby Chic ornaments on sale at Target for around $2.00 a box. I could not pass them up. I found the perfect place to use them on my tree that I put up on my sun porch. The ornaments are pink, blue and clear etched glass and they are accented with lots of white and glittery snowflakes and icicles. I love how it adds that special Christmas touch to my sun porch, which is one of my favorite places to spend some quiet time during the busy days of the holidays. The tree topper was a great find too! I love the vintage style of the star! So fun!

Just posting this makes me excited to get those trees up for this year! May your home be filled with the glow of the Christmas season!


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Advent Adventures

It's such fun to watch the girls start to really get it when it comes to the Christmas season. And so this year we decided to begin the tradition of an Advent Calendar that we hope speaks to their little hearts.

The supplies:

Not pictured: 12 computer printable mailing labels (or numbered stickers), computer paper and your trusty (or in our case lately our not-so-trusty) computer

I had visions of a cute galvanized bucket version of the calendar, but I think I haven't yet mentioned on this blog some exciting news... we're expecting our third bundle in May!! That would explain why I decided to go much more simply and why I consider the following to be another of the project's necessities.

Moving on. :)

So, basically, if you don't happen upon the "Christmas card holder" thingy from the Dollar Tree, you can use string, twine, or an old clothesline along with twelve clothespins. Either way the materials are easy to work with and way affordable. As an aside, you don't need to have the cardboard pieces on the clothespins. For the flip side without cardboard, I actually just modgepodged right on the pins themselves and they're sturdy.

The original little details were cute, but some vintagey paper turned them much cuter. Just cut out 24 little squares and mod podge those babies on the pins. You'll notice that I put twelve on one side and twelve on the other to save space and help it fit easily on our mantle.

Then I printed the numbers one through twenty-four on mailing labels (two per label). Again you could use number stickers or hand write the numbers with marker... whatever is easiest.

Print out/write out your list of adventures, cut with fun scissors, hang the line on your mantle, and clip the papers underneath. Pay no attention that the snowmen still somehow turned themselves upside down. Voila! Twenty-four days of small, sweet projects to have fun and to give to others. I'm giddy!

Choosing the ideas was my favorite part of the project! Here's our list, in no particular order, just in case you need something to get your wheels turning.
*Pick out a gift for a child from the Samaritan’s Purse catalog
*Build a gingerbread house
*Take a bag full of cans to the church food pantry
*Share Christmas coloring books & crayons at the Children’s Hospital (hint: I got these after Christmas last year from the drug store for dirt cheap... like ten cents a book! And the crayons for maybe a quarter a piece during the back to school sales.)
*Make treats for Daddy’s work & neighborhood friends
*Open this year’s special Christmas book & read it (hint: Keep your eye out. I found our copy brand new for $1.00!)
*Act out the Christmas Story
*Make a homemade ornament
*Have a morning filled with Christmas movies & making popcorn/cheerio garland for your mini bedroom trees
*Surprise Daddy with lunch
*Call two people just to say,“We love you!”
*Pick two or more of your toys to give to the Goodwill
*Choose/make something lovely for your sister’s gift
*Choose/make some things lovely for Daddy and Mommy's gifts
*Send your grandparents something special made by you
*Read as many Christmas books as we want by the tree & drink hot cocoa
*Make snowflakes to hang in the window-use the messy glitter!
*Take our homeless friend a box of goodies
*Learn our caroling songs
*Send a pretty picture to and pray for our Compassion Child
*Dress in our pjs and go see the Sugar Plum Fairy at the library
*Go see Santa at the library and take him our letters
*M have a date with Daddy; H have a date with Mommy
*M have a date with Mommy; H have a date with Daddy

Here's to a beautiful season of Advent!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Tradition of Love

***Be sure to check out the post below to see if you're the giveaway winner!!**

Welcome, Kelly's Korner readers! Welcome, everyone!

We hope to participate in the Christmas "Show Us Your Life" series for the next several weeks. And you're in luck because you will get three simple girl styles for the price of one little click.

So as our sidebar says, grab a cup and stay a while. We're so glad you've come by to visit!


Christmas as a whole is a favorite tradition in our family. From the day after Thanksgiving until after the New Year, we're lean, mean, Christmas celebratin' machines! We're all about Christmas movies and music and books, family and friend gatherings, opening gifts, giving to those who are less fortunate, food, food and more food, more Christmas goodies than you can shake a stick at and Christmas decorations galore! I love that every year, no matter what, some things just stay the same. It makes Christmas feel familiar and comfortable and very much like home. Here are a few of those traditions that make Christmas one of my favorite times of the year.

Family Pictures: While this is one is near the top of my favorites list, my husband would have it at the bottom of his :) Every year, for as long as I can remember, my mom's family has always taken family pictures when we gather for Christmas. It's so much fun to look back over the years at each year's pictures. This is one from a few years back of most of the grandchildren and their significant others.

For us, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the Christmas Story...both the reading and actual event. I love that we pause (at nearly every gathering) to read that wonderful account of Jesus coming to live among us and are able to celebrate the blessings He's given us.

This one's a fairly new (about 4 years) tradition of ours, but it always makes my heart happy. This is what I call my "Memory Tree". It's just a small tree that sits by our front door and is filled with all kinds of vintage-y things. Growing up, my brother and I got a Christmas ornament every year in our stocking or under the tree. I know that those often times those ornaments, and the other items that accompanied them, were huge sacrifices on our parents' part to give us a fun Christmas. All those ornaments (as well as some others from our childhood Christmas tree) are scattered on this tree. It's also trimmed with colored glass ball ornaments, silver and gold tinsel and an angel/star combo that belonged to my Nanny (my mom's mom). When I decorate this tree, I'm reminded of Christmas Past...the good, the not-so-good and the love that remains through it all.

So, I guess you could say that my all-time favorite Christmas tradition is just that...LOVE. From the little baby born so long ago, to the love of family and friends, it's what makes Christmas, well, Christmas for me.

I'll never forget sitting in a peaceful, candlelit church when the clock struck midnight. Driving past homes adorned with soft, twinkling lights afterwards. The inevitable lone indoor light on, probably with parents trying to give Santa a hand in putting together a bicycle or train table. The exciting thoughts of getting up so early you were never quite sure you actually ever went to bed.

Sweet traditions. The things we just can't forget. The things that tie us to our pasts and make us feel, as Sarai said, like home.

Since having children, this has taken on even more meaning to me. Now we get to help shape this feeling of home and remembrance for a couple of Christmas angels. Such joy to see it all again through their eyes! These are some of our favorite ways to do just that.

Beginning traditions. Since our girls are so young, there are some tradition we are starting and hope last for years to come. One of those is an advent calendar. I'm in the process of creating that now, so be sure to check back soon. Twenty-four days of having fun and, more importantly, giving to others... maybe squeezing in a visit to someone quite jolly along the way. Another one is a good, old fashioned Christmas carol through our neighborhood. I can't wait!
A specially chosen Christmas book. I had to go and get these out of the attic for you! Though I've been doing this for a while, I still never tire of titles like "The Crippled Lamb" or "Christmas Tapestry." I'm so excited to find and add this year's title to the collection. I hope our children will love pulling out these stories as much as I do.

Significant ornaments. Back when my husband and I started dating we chose an ornament for each other. Once we got married we started choosing one ornament together to represent something significant from that year of our lives. I try to write on a little tag that goes with the ornament so that each year as we unwrap a story is told. I also have a box or ornaments for the girls that I plan to give them when they turn eighteen. As I looked at my eldest's box I had to smile because her last year's ornament was of the nativity, which marked the year she learned of Baby "Jeshush."

An empty manger becomes full. We leave the manger of one nativity empty until Christmas morning. We reread Luke's account once more on Christmas Eve just before unwrapping that one special gift (Christmas jammies!) Then in the morning when we wake to cinnamon rolls, stockings, and surprises we get the best present of all... the baby is born!

But again, as Sarai said, the best tradition of all is love. That's what I hope these gestures speak to our hearts and to the hearts of our children!


When thinking about Christmas traditions, I am immeditaly taken back to my childhood home and think of the sights and smells of this holiday. So many memories flood the mind of time spent with family and friends, baking, wrapping and unwrapping, traveling and so much more. I am anxious to get into the season to experience these special once a year moments with those I love.

As Katrina shared, my family also keeps the manger empty until Christmas morning. It was also such an honor to be chosen to place the greatest gift of all in the scene. Althought I do remember one year, when my little brother took it to the extreme. Realizing that Jesus was one important baby, he thought that it would be necessary to guard the manger scene with his Matchbox police cars and troops and troops of army soldiers. He loved telling people about how Jesus would be safe, I think he might even still get a kick out of telling that story even now.

Each Christmas morning, the house would be filled with the aroma of fresh baked cinnamon rolls. Christmas morning breakfast is a long standing tradition in our family. Even though the menu might look simple to some, the company is sweet and helps us to really start the day off by spending time with one another. Over the last few years, we have been traveling during the holiday season, and we take this tradition with us. Can't wait for those country ham biscuits and cinnamon rolls!

Reading Christmas favorites is a special tradition with my family as well. We always take time out to reflect and share the Christmas story from the Bible. My mom has been givine me a special Christmas book each year. Katrina definetly mentioned some of my favorites, but my all time new favorite is Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo. Maybe you and your family might like to check it out.

One of my three trees has become my butterfly tree. This is a very special tree to me as it symbolizes to me the new life that we are offered in Christ. Even though the tree is small, each ornament is a simple reminder that each day God is transforming us into new creations. Such a promise!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Drum Roll Please....

Thank you all so much for participating in our giveaway. It is always so fun to get to "know" some of our readers by your comments. So without further ado, the winner of the beautiful necklace designed and created by our dear friend Melanie is....

Congratulations to you! If you would please send me your name and address and I will get that amazing necklace sent to you very soon! You can send your info here.

Thanks again to all of you who entered the giveaway, we really do appreciate you taking the time to read our little blog. Keep coming back to visit, especially during the holiday season. We hope to share some simple ideas to make the holidays a special time for you and yours.

Hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving day...don't forget to count your blessings!

Simply blessed...


Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmas Carnival Announcement

Yeah, I know it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but I had to give you guys the heads up on a giveaway extravaganza that will feature my at-home business, Whatta Cute Baby!. Gina, over at The Shabby Chic Cottage is hosting one heck of a party at her blog on Saturday, November 28th. It's her first ever Christmas Carnival and I am thrilled to be teaming up with her!
The Shabby Chic Cottage

Here's the scoop: she's partnering with 24 owners of online shops and hosting a giveaway an hour for a whole day!! Anyone can enter...and you can enter for one giveaway or for them all! You're sure to find some awesome items up for grabs and can maybe even find a few Christmas gifts along the way! Whatta Cute Baby! will kick off the giveaways at midnight, so be sure to stop by to check it out and enter to win this. Even if you don't win, you can find a discount code on her post for a Whatta Cute Baby! purchase.

Hope to see you there! Happy Thanksgiving!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Serving Up Sides & Giveaway Reminder

Whew... things are busy over here, but I promised so here goes... :)

Thankfully a neighbor plans to smoke our turkey all day Wednesday, so that takes a huge (like 20-lb.!) weight off my shoulders. Instead I can focus on the other goooood stuff... side dishes, baby!

Maybe one of these can help fill in a gap on your menu...

1. The kid-in-all-of-us friendly option... mac and cheese. A couple of years back when it was my side of the family's turn for Thanksgiving, I was determined to make a crock pot recipe that got rave reviews. I tried it for the first time on the day and, let's just say, noodle soup wasn't exactly my cup of cheese.

This time my wiser, older self (ha!) tried a new recipe ahead of time. The family loved it! Score... finally a homemade mac and cheese that's a keeper. Our only change was one cup of cottage cheese instead of two.

2. The more adult friendly option... pear and walnut salad. We try out all kinds of salads pretty frequently, but I taste tested this combo for my hubby's recent birthday. I had to use up a bunch of pears given to me, so that was my inspiration. Two for two... more rave reviews!

In a big bowl mix arugula and/or Romaine lettuce, sliced pears, and thinly sliced red onion. Toss with a raspberry dressing (our FAVE from the bottle variety is Trader Joes). Serve each bowl individually and top with walnuts and crumbled bleu or feta cheese.

3. The everybody crowd pleaser... sweet potato custard. A couple of years back I tried Rachael Ray's spin on the old sweet potato classic. The maple syrup on top helps this one to stick around. In fact, if you have that ingredient already, this is a pretty easy addition to any menu.

4. Whoa, almost forgot something... the BREAD! Courtesy of the Pioneer Woman this year. No kneading required, and I already had all the ingredients on hand... tested this recipe yesterday and it made so many I went ahead and froze them for the holiday. If they make it that long! :) Mine didn't turn out quite so pretty with the three cute sections, but still keepers.

Nothing too terribly complicated and all too delicious!

Come quickly, Thursday...

And happy, happy Thanksgiving from the three of us to you and yours!

... don't forget that giveaway below!!! You have until Thanksgiving. The necklace is so beautiful just like its creator! I'd be lying to say I'm not drooling over it myself; instead, I just can't wait to see who wins it!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's Giveaway Time!!!!

The season of giving is upon us, so what better way to get that started than a little Three Simple Girls giveaway! We are excited to partner with a friend and fellow blogger to bring you this giveaway. Our friend, Melanie, over at Something Beautiful Studio, has graciously offered to participate this time by offering one of her amazing, handmade silver pieces.

Don't you just love this?! I know I am in love with many of her designs. Be sure to head over to her blog and also her ETSY site to check out all the other designs that she has created. Melanie is such a creative gal with a true heart for the Lord. This piece that Mel is sharing with us is certainly special as she originally designed it for her mom, but after all her mom's friends saw it, they had to have one too! I can see why they felt that way! Here is a little description:

It is a 1" sterling silver circle that is slightly domed (to lay better when worn) and hand textured with the words: "Children are a gift from God" hand stamped and oxidized. It is polished and embellished with a swarovski crystal and hung on an 18" sterling silver ball chain.

We are aware that some of you simple girls out there might not have children at this point, but don't let that stop you from entering this giveaway. This would certainly make a great gift for someone that you know and love.

I know what the real question is at this do we enter? You have four chances to get an entry in this giveaway...

1. Leave a comment on this post telling us something that you are thankful for.

2. Subscribe to our blog. Leave a separate comment to let us know you took the plunge!

3. Become a follower of our blog! Again, leave us a comment to inform us of your stalking...I mean follower status.

4. Become a follower of Melanie's blog or leave her some comment love. And yes you got it, leave us a comment filling us in!

You have until Thanksgiving night to enter the giveaway and the winner will be announced on Friday, November 27! So you will have to come in from all that Black Friday shopping to see if you are the lucky gal!

Good Luck!!!!!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tablescape Thursday

A special welcome to the Between Naps on the Front Porch readers. Thanks for popping by to check out us simple girls!

It's almost Thanksgiving! This is the first year we've been responsible for mostly the whole shebang, so I've been little-by-little getting things together. Since we don't plan to use our formal dining room until then, the adult's table is pretty well set. Minus the whole ironing stuff thing! (How, oh how, did my grandmother even iron people's underclothes? Saint of a woman!)

So glad you're here to check out this simple and affordable tablescape. As many of our other readers already know, this is a favorite combo of ours to be sure. (Forgive the bad lighting as it's a glarey kind of day outside... so much prettier when those blinds are open wide!)

I went with the traditional fall colors grounded by a lot of black, mostly because this speaks to our house in general. Especially the dining room!
The centerpiece is an old urn I found at a local antique store for under ten dollars. I love it and use it for almost all of the seasons. The inside is stuffed with funky gourds, pumpkins, and such... picked up for a quarter a piece at Wal-Mart. Speaking of store finds, I found those napkins several years back at Garden Ridge also four for a dollar!
During the same trip to Wal-Mart, since it's not a convenient stop for me, I picked up two cheap-o packages of split peas and beans. I layered them in tiny juice glasses found at a yard sale for a quarter a piece and popped tiny tealights right in the middles. Each place setting, along with table's center, gets some candlelight this way. And I'm realizing I'm getting a lot of bang for all those quarters!
Each place setting also gets a simple place card... scrapbook paper, letters, and stickers. All I need to do now is add a little hole punch with gold, black, and silver ribbons to tie everything together. A couple of years ago I did this same kind of idea except with little gift tags tucked into brown paper sleeves... inside each one was a reason we were thankful for the guest. We have another thankful tradition I'd like to begin this year, so I just stuck with the names.From the lighting fixture, I hung candle rings turned mini wreathes with two coordinating colors of ribbon. The picture doesn't really show it, but some of the small jewels really pop against the dimmed bulbs and candlelight.
Great places to get beautifully cheap scrapbooking supplies are dollar stores or Big Lots. Same goes for pillar or tealight candles.
As for an adorable assistant photographer, replete with bed head at three in the afternoon, I can be of no further assistance. Except to say that she's at the top of my thankful list. :)

Hope you have lots of joy around your table this Thanksgiving!

ps... Check back, hopefully this weekend, for some easy side dish recipes. Yum!
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