A Bushel and a Peck

Apple addiction

I ran out of apples in mid-February. I cried. They had tasted like of autumn all winter. Yesterday I picked my first bushel of apples for fall. With some help, they’ll all be eaten by the end of the month. I’ll go again, probably twice, to pick more. For the last trip, I will carefully wrap each apple in brown paper and store it in the deepest, darkest, coolest, corner of my basement. I hope they make it till March this coming year because I take the saying seriously, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I chop up an apple in my porridge every day.

Storage troubles

These particular apples are part of the snacks I’m putting out for all the company arriving next week for my youngest daughter’s wedding. After I washed and dried them, I needed something to hold them. My large bowls will all be quite busy with cooking for the wedding. I considered making a brown paper basket with a design from Pinterest, but my time is precious right now. I remembered my old bushel basket which had seen better days after being forgotten in the cellar tool room–or had it?

A nearby shelf held a can of green spray paint from a garage sale. The lightbulb clicked on.

I didn't mind the rustic look, but the spider webs had to go.
I didn’t mind the rustic look, but the spider webs had to go.
3
I keep a shelf in the basement for paint bargains found at yard sales. They always come in handy. My other choice from the shelf was plum. That would have been pretty, too.
4
Never spray paint on a windy day! You will lose more paint than you use.
5
Just the look I wanted. It no longer appeared dirty, but still had a rustic flare.

 

7
I ate one for supper. Can’t you hear the crisp crunch and taste the sweet juice popping as your teeth bite into one?

Nature Centers: Great places to go!

Every state!

As far as I can tell, every state has nature centers. Not all are created equal, but all of them offer great information and activities.

We visited the Howell Nature Center in Michigan which has to rank as one of the best. They asked for a minimal donation. Right now they face a funding crisis at their rehabilitation clinic for wildlife. Big Bro, Little Sis and I were glad to help them out while enjoying a day at their facility.

Our discoveries

Since pictures are worth a thousand words, here’s a book to describe our jam-packed, fun time!

1 (9)
This friendly guy welcomed us to the Nature Center.

 

 

3 (5)
We met this coyote along with porcupines, bobcats, possums, three kinds of owls, turtles, vultures aka turkey buzzards, ground hogs, foxes, deer, hawks and several types of eagles. All had been treated at the wildlife clinic.
2 (5)
Every child needs to look eye to eye with our nation’s symbol of freedom.

 

4 (5)
Bits of whimsy and fun delighted us at every turn. Since Little Sis could almost fly with these butterfly wings, she loved zooming along the fairy trail and found a fairy house in a tree trunk.

 

14 (2)
A little history, too, caught us by surprise.

 

10 (3)
A kid-size giant tree house opened up windows to the world.
11 (2)
Being a nature center, they provided birds to see as well.

 

13 (2)
The children loved climbing the stairs and crossing the rope bridge, but even disabled children can enjoy the tree house by entering on the ramp.
5 (4)
Climbing opportunities and a rope swing hung under the tree house.

 

12 (2)
Signs invited the children to build using branches. A larger pile of tree trunks nearby let the children balance and take daring chances, the kind that three- and four-year-olds and even eleven- and twelve-year-olds love.
6 (4)
Several huge instruments let the children drum and pipe their own music, and a spider caught them in a rope web later in the day.
9 (3)
The children spent hours here. This was their favorite spot. The water would run down a series of drop offs to a shallow pool. Occasionally it turned off for awhile, which was just as fun.

 

8 (4)
I can remember doing this as a child. I’m glad kids who might never get into the mountains or backwoods, have a chance to try it.

If you aren’t sure where to start, check out the list of nature centers Wikipedia offers.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nature_centers_in_the_United_States.

Wedding Shower, Part 3

Food!

A shower isn’t complete without food! I needed to plan a late lunch. As ideas swirled around my head, the nautical theme kept pushing me toward tuna fish. Spreading it over croissants gave it more appeal. With that as a jumping off spot, I planned two other types of sandwiches. The ham and turkey roll ups came from Kroger. The third was a hot open-face artichoke sandwich.  Although all of them received compliments, the artichoke cream cheese sandwiches stole the show.

1 (4)

Sides

A dear friend brought tomato slices fresh from her garden.That can’t be beat! I also picked up three regular size bags of chips: cheddar cheese, vinegar and rippled. Along with the fruit salad and veggie trays, they completed the meal. The veggie trays I shaped into anchor designs using cucumbers as the base.

8 (3)
These are super easy to design! Start with the anchor and then fill in with other veggies. When both trays were half empty, we combined them into one and still had a nice anchor in the middle.

I used a watermelon to hold the fruit salad, scraping out the middle and carving a double anchor as a handle over the top.

6 (3)
After carving a cheshire cat earlier this summer, this watermelon took no time!

 

5 (3)
This is the actual template I made up on a scrap piece of paper. I wanted the cross to show. By folding it in half, the sides were more symmetrical. After tracing it on the watermelon, I changed the points of the anchor and made them square instead of pointed.
7 (2)
My mom couldn’t believe I did this myself.

The Punch

I found a super-simple, packed-with-flavor, pink punch. It called for strawberry Kool Aid and strawberry soda. The light pink color matched Jenna’s wedding colors.

4 (4)
Most stores carry strawberry soda pop.

The Cake

Ashley mixed the cake from scratch. She baked it up as cupcakes and frosted them to match Jenna’s wedding dress. It tasted as good as it looked.

2 (4)
This was too cute!

 

My mom made a gluten free chocolate cake for the wheat intolerant guests. Many people with no gluten problems enjoyed it because it too tasted fantastic.

1 (8)
Gluten free food tastes better than ever before. This chocolate cake was moist and rich.

Everyone went home with full tummies. Jenna went home with a full carload of gifts including many, many pillows–because of a glitch in her registry.  Fortunately she likes pillows!

 

I Love Sunday School

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

–Fanny Crosby

Starting young

1 (3)
My mom carried all of us to Sunday School beginning with my older brother.
2 (3)
If I had to choose between Sunday School and regular school, I’d choose Sunday School.
4 (3)
My mom made my sister and me matching outfits every Resurrection Day and we would wear them all spring and summer to Sunday School.

My godly mother took me to Sunday School before I could walk. There I learned the stories of the Bible that still fascinate me. As I learned to talk, I also learned who God is. And when He called me to become His child, I walked into His arms because I knew He loved me. Sunday School holds a very dear sweet spot in my heart.

Favorites

My favorite Sunday School teacher, Patricia Brown, inspired me to seek God with all my heart and soul and mind and might. She taught the teen class in my home church–not an easy age to teach. I can’t thank her enough for her influence.

I’ve taught every age level of Sunday School class except adults, unless you count the jail ministry to women on Sunday afternoons.  I enjoy teaching wherever God puts me.

3 (3)
One of the first Sunday School classes I ever taught. I was 13. God began to show me the joys of teaching.

The blessings of learning and teaching

The amazing part of Sunday School is how God uses it in my heart. I have to know what I’m teaching before I can teach it. That’s a huge blessing. And God gives it to me every week!

I have incredible students who stretch me with their questions. For the  past several years I have taught 3rd through 5th grade. Last week Kole asked, “Where is God? Is He in another dimension?” And Javier asked, “How did God create the world? How could anyone do that?”

What I’m trying to say is: Go to a Bible-teaching Sunday School. Take your children to Sunday School.  Let God stir your hearts.

 

Gilded Silhouettes

The girl’s room they affectionately call their “new BLLUUE room.” When we’re out visiting family Tiger talks about going back to her “new BLLUUUE room.” I love the color. She loves the color. And, now that we finally have the furniture arrangement figured out, it’s time for some finishing touches. This week I created one of those touches.

A couple weeks ago I haggled at a garage sale where they were selling a Christmas Tree for $15.

This mirror was a bargain at a garage sale, but it really needed something more...
This mirror was a bargain at a garage sale, but it really needed something more…

“Would you throw in the mirror over there too?” I asked, fully expecting a counter offer.

“Sure!” And so, a beautiful gold framed mirror made it’s way into our car along with a Christmas tree. I knew it would be perfect for the girl’s room. I added it next to the closet, and placed their little pink crown chair in front of it. Tiger has already taken to sitting in front of it, and trying out the various hair ties I recently organized.

But, above the mirror seemed too bare. Then I saw a friend’s project on Facebook. She made beautiful silhouettes of her children and framed them for her wall. That would be perfect! I really wanted a gold color that would match the girls’ dresser set, and the gold mirror. But, I checked 4 different stores for gold wrapping paper for the back with no luck. Finally, I chanced to see some gold crepe paper. It would have to do.

These golden silhouette's really add to the ambience of my little girl's room
These golden silhouette’s really add to the ambience of my little girl’s room

Here’s how I created it.

  1. Take picture of the girls
  2. Use daddy’s tablet to backlight a piece of card stock paper, and outline the girls’ silhouettes in light pencil from the picture that I took.
  3. Cut out silhouette using Exacto knife and cutting board.
  4. Cut our square of crepe paper using picture frame glass to guide size.
  5. Replace picture frame glass
  6. Place cardstock silhouette in frame, then place crepe paper directly on top of it being sure to have the colored side out.
  7. Hang picture, and enjoy!
Cut the crepe paper. I used the picture frame glass as a guide.
Cut the crepe paper. I used the picture frame glass as a guide.
Place silhouette cut out in the frame with the pencil outline at the back where it wont be seen.
Place silhouette cut out in the frame with the pencil outline at the back where it wont be seen.
Cut the cardstock to fit the frame. I used the picture frame glass again to make sure I had the correct size.
Cut the cardstock to fit the frame. I used the picture frame glass again to make sure I had the correct size.

Wedding Shower, Part 2

Home Made = Love

1 (2)
I use my computer and printer constantly. I design with Microsoft Publisher. Although it isn’t easy to learn, it lets me do anything!

As soon as the shower invitations left through the back door, decorations took over the kitchen table, passthrough room and parts of the living room. Although I wanted to save money, making them myself let my heart overflow as the wedding draws closer day by day.

Confetti

I started with confetti. While searching for general ideas, I saw an anchor paper punch and the thought clicked that I could match the paisley (a traditional family pattern) on the anchor of the invitation to confetti around the table centerpieces. I used a half-off coupon to buy the punch and then ran off pages of pink and blue paisley background to punch. I also bought a roll of shiny gold wrapping paper and punched some from it. I’ll use the rest of the roll to wrap gifts.

3
I’ll be getting more use out of this for bulletin boards and Sunday School attendance charts at church.
5
This was a really easy DIY project.

Wreaths

I asked Jenna for photos of her fiance, and herself. What would I do without selfies? She sent me a good amount. I had to ask for a few more and since they just got a puppy, the next batch included him. Since I needed even more, I loaded the photos onto my phone which has PhotoStudio. There I was able to do some editing. I turned some shots sepia, others I added bokeh, light flashes and streaks or posterized,  and a few I was able to transfer to a pencil drawn effect.  I used these photos in the center of wreaths I hung from the ceiling to two feet above the middle of each table and also in mason jars below the wreaths.

4
Photos make great decorations at showers. I hung about 50 from balloons at my daughter-in-law’s wedding shower last summer.

I added a few shells inside and outside the jars with the anchor confetti. Alternating pink and blue table cloths added color. After a bit of searching, I found one gold table cloth for the head table which covered all her wedding colors.

The wreath idea came from Pinterest. Fold a coffee filter in half three times, bend the pointed end and hot glue it to a cut-out cardboard circle until the entire circle is covered. I started by dying some of the filters pink. I was surprised that it looked much darker once I assembled it. The rest I left white.

8
At first I used a water sprayer to dye the filters of the pink wreath. Then I discovered I could just dunk the whole thing and get the same effect. They dried very quickly.
6
Bowls make great templates for drawing circles. I needed a larger one for the outer edge and a smaller one for the inner edge.
7
The circle didn’t have to be exact. The filters covered it well.

I bought most of the filters on sale. Each wreath cost under a dollar. For a finishing touch, I used a paint brush to apply gold glitter glue. Once it dried, I hot-glued the wreaths back to back, and inserted photos in the middle opening.

9
The directions on Pinterest said to glue the filters anywhere, but not on top of each other. I found I could arrange them one circular row at a time and get through the hot gluing quickly.

 

10
Jenna loves a little bling. The gold sparkles really hit the spot!
12
I considered using gold paint, but the glitter sparkled brighter.

Bows

My sister had found blue burlap ribbon stamped with anchors at Walmart in South Carolina. She brought them up at Christmas when Jenna still planned an anchor-themed wedding. I was happy to use them as accents on the serving tables, in the windows, and my daughter-in-law Carol tied almost a dozen up in bows and hung them around the hall on the walls.

13
Everything was coming together!

Window Dressings

I had found a few rolls of wide blue striped scrubbie mesh on sale. Carol helped me put them in the windows with wooden anchors I painted gold, blue and pink.

Head Table

At the head table, I didn’t hang a wreath, but added some round gold candles. Then I didn’t think to light them!

 

15
Jenna’s eyes lit up when she walked in.

Final Look

Overall, the decorations did not overwhelm the hall, but added a nice balance of color and feeling. Jenna surprised me by asking to reuse them for the rehearsal dinner. Anchors Aweigh!

14
Ready for the guests!

 

 

Our Murphy Bed

Our last house had just two bedrooms upstairs. That was perfect for a family with just a little girl, until the holidays when family came to visit. I really wanted a convenient place, with a bit of privacy, where visitors could stay. When I happened to see a picture of a murphy bed the lightbulb went on in my brain. Perfect! Space saving, but perfect for space sharing.

Then I saw the prices. A “cheap” version” ran over $1000. That was way out of our price range! Surely there was some way to DIY that would be less expensive. There was! Rockler  offered a great Murphy Bed kit for a little over $300. That was at least a $700 savings. The kit came with the fold out legs, the spring loaded joints to pull the bed up into the wall, and the hardware for the bed. We still had to purchase all the wood we would need, and the stain and finish for the bed.

This little kit held all the hardware we needed for our Murphy bed
This little kit held all the hardware we needed for our Murphy bed

My husband was up for it! We began gathering supplies. Now, for this particular project, my husband is the star. He is the one that cut the pieces on the table saw. He is the one who measured twice and cut once. He’s the one that screwed the pieces together. And, he even stained and finished the bed. I was responsible for gathering materials, picking out stain, and finding a mattress that would fit the bed.

Our building materials took over our Living Room for a while, when we had an unexpected basement flood and had to waterproof the basement before beginning the project full force.
Our building materials took over our Living Room for a while, when we had an unexpected basement flood and had to waterproof the basement before beginning the project full force.

We did collect a few tips for the avid DIY-er who chooses to attempt a murphy bed.

  1. Don’t run a table saw in the dining room. (I was cleaning out sawdust for months afterwards)

    Running a table saw in your dining room= bad idea
    Running a table saw in your dining room= bad idea
  2. Home depot has some nice wood veneer that you can put on the edges of the plywood to give it a better finish.
  3. You will need a large vehicle to cart home the wood supplies. These did not fit in our little Mazda and we had to borrow a different vehicle to get the stuff home.
  4. All the trouble will totally be worth it when you see that finished bed. Don’t get discouraged along the way!
    The finished project folded into the wall gave us nice family room space
    The finished project folded into the wall gave us nice family room space

    Our murphy bed unfolded transformed the family room into a guest room.
    Our murphy bed unfolded transformed the family room into a guest room.

When we made our cross country move we had to leave the murphy bed behind. It had been built for the space, and was too bulky to bring up the stairs. But, my husband has promised to make me another one for our new guest room. I’m hoping for a murphy craft desk too.

Wedding Shower, Part 1

Never ready

Is there any way for a mom to prepare for her baby girl to fly off and build her own nest? No, I don’t really think so. Instead I just have to jump in and do all I can to make the transition work which her wonderful young man is helping to happen as we welcome him into our family.  He certainly knows how to multiply the love and laughter.

After the fun of the engagement, a shower came next. I was happy to be able to help with it and enjoy my sweet girl’s happiness.

Favorite things

Two parts of her shower I truly love, love, loved! First were the favors. Jenna had originally planned an anchor-themed wedding but changed her mind though we had already purchased several anchor items. Sliding them into a bridal shower worked perfectly. As soon as my daughter-in-law’s baby shower was done, I started searching for favors for Jenna’s shower. I found a really cute anchor charm with the word “love” stamped on it that would work as a pendant. The same sight sold miniature organza gift bags in pink (one of the wedding colors) and lace-type cords, all in bulk. The guests could choose a color. Ordering them from the same sight saved shipping. Of all the items, I worried I wouldn’t like the cords, but I was pleasantly surprised when they arrived. I hadn’t realized they had several strands. The colors were very pretty, too.

2 (2)
Ordering them unassembled saved me well over a hundred dollars.
1 (6)
The pendant couldn’t be placed directly on the cord because the size of the upper circle was too small. It also would have turned the pendant sideways and would not have laid right.

 

7 (3)
Jenna loves the anchor imagery and association to Christ. Emerson gave her an anchor necklace when they first became interested in each other.
4 (2)
Ordering these also saved oodles of money.

 

I could tell that I would need a connector between the lace cord and the anchor pendant. My parents often make jewelry and own several tools for the craft. They knew immediately what I needed. They also volunteered to attach the jump rings to the anchors and the cord. Making each one was a gift of love though they say it was no trouble. It didn’t take them long to do 40 of them.

3 (2)
The rings had to be large enough to slip over the clasp in case someone wanted to use the pendant with a different chain.
5 (2)
Ta da! A finished favor ready to go.
6 (2)
We put one at each place setting. I think some ladies changed seats to get the color they wanted!

I knew they were a hit when I saw them being worn the next day to church!

Most favorite

My absolute favorite part of the shower was the devotional brought by a dear treasured friend, Jenna’s former Sunday School teacher. She reminisced about Jenna’s girlhood and then gave verse after verse from the Bible to encourage Jenna in her future marriage. I had to blink back the tears several times. Although she had been hesitant to speak, I am very glad she agreed to do it. We had both prayed about it individually and God gave her the message to say. It was a joy to hear it and a great blessing.

8 (2)
I thank the Lord for the godly influence of Mrs. Harris in Jenna’s life.

To be continued ….

More to come in the blog next Monday!

 

Building Sand Castles

Sun, sand, and sparkling water. What could be a better way to spend a birthday? This year our family took a long weekend to Charleston for my birthday. We spent most of the time at Isle of Palms, and Sullivan’s Island- two of our favorite beaches. And, my daughter discovered a new favorite activity- building sand castles!

Tiger and Wren had never been to the ocean before. Wren loved the water right away. She really took off with independent walking… er splashing! Tiger… not so much.

First few steps on the beach!
First few steps on the beach!

“The waves are so loud mommy!” She preferred splashing in the little tide pools the water had left behind.

When the waves get too loud the tidal pools make great places to splash.
When the waves get too loud the tidal pools make great places to splash.

Thankfully, she did love the sand. She tried making sand angels. She dug in the sand with her shovel. She enjoyed being buried in the sand (and then burying daddy!) and she loved it when we built sand castles together. She ferried buckets of water over to try to fill the moat. She helped us scrape the sand out of the moat to fill her bucket for sand towers. She searched for seashells to decorate with. What fun!

Ocean Fun: burying in the sand.
Ocean Fun: burying in the sand.
Ocean Fun: Burying daddy in the sand
Ocean Fun: Burying daddy in the sand
Toddlers love ocean fun!
Toddlers love ocean fun!
Gathering water for a sand castle moat is the perfect job for a rambunctious toddler
Gathering water for a sand castle moat is the perfect job for a rambunctious toddler

Our second day at the beach I took the time to take pictures of other people’s sand castle creations too. What variety! There are so many different ways to express yourself in sand castles. Here’s a few of our favorites:

Sand Castles at the beachSand Castle creativityEven more sand castles

What you need to build a sand castle:

Essentials

Your hands

Really, that’s all you need. You don’t have to have anything fancy as long as you’re fine with getting a bit sandy.

Moist sand

If the sand is too dry it wont stick together. Building a castle a bit closer to the water works best. But, don’t build too close, or those waves will knock down your work!

Extras

A Bucket

Super helpful for filling moats, and making very straight walls- a bucket is so versatile.

A Shovel

Shovels help you dig faster and deeper as your create the foundation for your castle, or dig up fresh sand to fill the bucket for castle towers.

Seashells/Driftwood

Seashells and driftwood are great for accessorizing your creation. Sometimes we’ve used a bit of seaweed or a leaf wrapped around a stick for a turret flag.Must haves for Sand Castles

What is your favorite sand castle creation?

Spinning a New Dessert

Hang on to your hats

June and July disappeared this year. Suddenly the day for the Sunday School picnic was–eek! TOMORROW! With temperatures hovering in the upper 90s, I didn’t want to turn on my oven to bake a dessert. I started scanning Pinterest for no bake recipes. I had bought a box of cream cheese packages for the upcoming shower sandwiches, and I had too much. The excess would make lovely cheese cake bars. I have a fantastic cheese cake recipe I love that goes together in the blender, but my kitchen already sizzled in the heat.

1 (2)

As I looked through no  bake recipes I found they all had one thing in common–ingredients that would force me to make a second trip to the grocery store. I should have checked out recipes earlier.

1
The mix. I always feel like I’m cheating a little when I don’t make it from scratch.
8
The ingredients. Not only did it cook up faster, it was really quick to throw together, too.

The Antidote

Then I remembered a box mix a friend had given me which I had put in my pantry. It still required baking, though it would take less time. And a bank of storm clouds started to roll in cooling off the atmosphere by ten degrees. As the rain poured, I assembled the ingredients. The mix looked pretty good, but I wanted to tweak it since I had a craving for coffee. I added a white mocha drink mix to the batter before spreading it over the graham crust. To top it off, I sprinkled espresso chips over it  when I pulled it hot out of the oven. They softened just enough to melt in your mouth.

2
The mix came with a graham cracker crumb crust.
6
The first secret ingredient to tweak the flavor.
4
The batter is super thick.
7 (2)
The second secret ingredient. The flavor really popped with this topping!
9
I could have used a knife to smooth them out like icing, but I liked the swirl in each chip.
10
Luscious! I kept it on ice in a cooler until after the meal.

Plan B

Not every creative recipe works out. Sometimes plan B means stopping at the grocery store en route to the get-together for a tray of cookies and later hubby eats plan A saying, “No, really, I love it, honey. It’s delicious.”