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!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

At the Kids' Table

I'll squeeze in a peek at the grown-up's table on Thursday. In case you need any last minute details... in the nick of time, of course. I can promise you it's all simple, cheap, and easy. Have you tired yet of that combination when it comes to us?

I can hardly wait until my niece and nephews arrive next week! They have a twelve plus hour drive to get here, and we appreciate the effort made by their family to spend Thanksgiving with us. Though the kids' table isn't officially set up yet, here are some quick ways to give it personality.

**Fun paper products...
Don't have a pic of this one... but check out your dollar stores! I got some sweet little turkey plates and cups with leaf napkins for a whopping three bucks.

**Opportunities to color while they eat...

**Goofily cute centerpiece...

**Sweet place cards that make good of all that leftover candy (gonna put just a simple white card underneath each one)...

When it's time to make the long trek home, I like to send along a little pack of goodies for each kid. Us Simple Girls have a much more elaborate version done up for our annual weekend away in the mountains (B & S, do you have any pics of those to share?). For the kiddos, I keep the travel bags silly and simple but full of stuff I know they'll enjoy.

Contents: Scribble-Bear (I want one!) and a pad of paper (top sheet has a little see-you-later note from us), candy necklace, box of raisins, bag of Skittles, fruit strip, and a baggie of Goldfish.

For less than six bucks total, there's a final reminder of us to them... and hopefully a little extra sanity for their parents! :)


Friday, November 13, 2009

Water for Christmas

After reading this post a few minutes ago, I just have pass it along.

As we think about our own families and guests... let us remember what ten bucks can do. Let us maybe even give this gift in honor of them.

And, let's do it.


... see today's original post below. :)

Be Our Guest!

One of our family's favorite parts of this time of year is the visitors who come to stay! We don't have the privilege of living near many family members and close friends, so the holidays provide a chance for some of our favorite people to come to what we hope is their home away from home.

Here are a few of the little considerations that we hope add up to a great, big welcome...

*Fresh, clean smelling linens and towels on the bed

*Chocolates, a favorite candy, or maybe some homemade candy corn cookies on the pillows along with a homemade note, usually from the girls

*A tray full of extras in the bathroom just in case they forgot something (to the pic above we've now added q-tips, an extra toothbrush, etc.-- sky's the limit!)

*When possible, a small bouquet of fresh flowers on the nightstand... a great smelling candle burning while they're settling in for bed doesn't hurt either!

*A fan and/or extra blankets to help the temperature feel just right

*Magazines and/or great reads nearby to help them unwind

*If we don't already know, a simple call ahead to find out about any food allergies or dislikes. I usually make a rough sketch of meals for while guests are visiting and, when possible, cook as much as I can ahead of time so that I don't spend the whole visit in the kitchen. For example, when Brooke and Sarai are visiting I am sure to have lots and lots of tomatoes on hand... their stomachs probably just turned a little even reading that sentence! :)

*I usually also look at what might be going on in our area while people are visiting and then keep those ideas in the back of my mind. Our goal is for people to feel at ease, so we typically don't try to cram in a bunch. It's always nice to have options, though, just in case.

*Big hugs soon as they arrive and some help getting those bags put away so we can focus on the best part... catching up!

Hope your guests feel extra special this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fancy-fied Box

Here's another project for my (hopefully soon) office re-do! I'm getting rid of this HUGE desk and moving to a table. I'll be using a portable drawer system under the table for sroage, but needed to find something for those big bulky items (3 hole punch, tape dispenser, stapler, label maker, etc.) that were taking up too much space. I had organized my mom's office a few years ago and we stored all of those items in a nice basket on her desktop for easy access. I decided I'd try a similar approach. I've seen some really pretty boxes at the Hobby Lobby that would work perfectly, but since I don't live near a Hobby Lobby and didn't want to spend money on this, I had to improvise. Since I like the idea of having all those things tucked away in a box, I went shopping around the house and I found this...

Now, before you think that I've completely lost my mind (I know I'm pretty close most times!) stick with me for a few more minutes! I AM aware that that's a shoe box. I can also promise you that the theme of my new office will not be "Nike"!! I decided that this box could be exactly what I was looking for!

All it took was some glossy black craft paint, some scrap paper, a pretty image downloaded and printed on regular printer paper, Mod Podge and a fun little velvety "S" from my craft closet to turn that boring box into this...

It was simple and cheap (read: FREE!) and will be perfect for my desktop! And it's the perfect size for all those bulky office supplies. I've got my 3 hole punch, tape, stapler, label maker and some address labels ready for easy access!

This project got me thinking (scary, I know!), and this project could easily be modified for Christmas or Birthday gifts! So, don't throw out those shoe boxes! Paint 'em, Mod Podge 'em or decorate 'em for FREE!! That's a price I can live with!

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Procrastinator's Pumpkin

We had a lot going on the week prior to the 31st. So whether you are procrastinators like us or hyper organized such that you plan a year in advance... welcome! :)

This year at our fall bash, we gave out a little poem that inspired our simple carving efforts. (Be sure to click on the picture to enlarge the sweet message!)

While I scooped out all the fun insides of the big pumpkin, the girls painted in (or all over, rather) the symbols on the ones they picked from the patch.

Then we cut out our roughly sketched design as we read the poem together.
To celebrate a carved pumpkin finally gracing our front porch, we did what any self respecting artist does... started baking!
These itty bitty cookies are colorful, pretty easy, and yummy! Check out the recipe here.

As for these legendary cream cheese pumpkins... I'll have to work on the specifics. Nana and her lovely assistants baked 'em up. And, I'm sorry to say, Nana never measures a thing!

Thanksgiving ideas coming soon...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Little Mod Podge Never Hurt Anyone

For years now, I've know the power of Mod Podge. However, in recent days, I've rediscovered just how magnificent a product this is. In case you're not familiar with this greatness, Mod Podge is a white (that dries clear) glue based liquid. You can use is it to adhere paper and fabric and ribbon and all kinds of other things.

I'll insert a brief pause in my "I Love Mod Podge" rant and give you a little background for this particular post. I'm in the middle of a brainstorm concerning a complete home office overhaul. Currently, the room is so full of mis-matched furniture and accessories and would make any interior decorator vomit. And don't even get me started on the piles of stuff in here. I think I've decided on a black and white theme (if you know me, you know this isn't shocking in the least!) with either soft grey or light coffee colored walls. And I'll probably use lots of lime green accents. So, as I'm slowly shifting my brain from current office to new and much prettier office, I'm constantly thinking of ways to store and organize and paint and sew the things I already have so that they'll coordinate when (hopefully one day soon!) the overhaul takes place.

And back to the Mod Podge...This is one of more simple projects I've done so far. I know that in the grand scheme of the world, or even the room, it doesn't make a big difference. But, it did make for a excitingly creative afternoon that would have been otherwise boring. My mom gave me this little notebook, as she is also cleaning out her office, a few weeks ago. Honestly, my first thought was "I might use that" but then it got put in one of the many office piles and was forgotten about. A few days ago, it caught my eye as I entered the office and I thought "Mod Podge"!!! It started out like this:

Practical: YES Pretty: NO

I covered the whole outside of the book with white card stock. I just folded the corners much like a Christmas present.

Still pretty boring, huh?

Then, I added some coordinating black and white papers and some bright green ribbon and turned it into this:

That's pretty enough to make anyone want to organize their software CDs!!

The moral of the story is this:
Mod Podge is your friend!

Need some more Mod Podge inspiration? Check out this blog which is dedicated entirely to Mod Podge-ing anything and everything!


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