Creating a Gorgeous Gallery Wall

One month into our new home, and the blank living room wall called us like a blank artist’s canvas just waiting to be filled. As we packed up our Minneapolis home nearly a month and a half ago, I had combined all our picture frames into one massive bubble wrapped box. Now, the time was right to unwrap those frames, and create a masterpiece.

I started during my girls afternoon quiet time. I laid out the picture frames, starting with two large frames at the center to build around. Then I gradually added the other frames around those two, doing my best to maintain a balance, but not complete symmetry. I didn’t want it to look completely over planned.

My first attempt at the gallery wall. Too many frames, and not much variety.
My first attempt at the gallery wall. Too many frames, and not much variety.

I added some letters spelling HOME to the mix, and liked the effect, but now the collage seemed too square.

Better variety, but now  the gallery wall is too square.
Better variety, but now the gallery wall is too square.

I asked the experts. I’m part of a large momma’s group on facebook, so I posted my attempts at the gallery wall and was given some great tips.

The rule of thumb is to space as far as the frame width.” I adjusted a few pictures and tried again. Finally both I and my husband were satisfied with the result.

Not too square, and just enough variety. Now to put it on the wall.
Not too square, and just enough variety. Now to put it on the wall.

My husband helped me. We used 3M mounting tape that I picked up at Aldis. That helped us escape putting nail holes in our walls!

We hung most of the wall and stood back to check.
We hung most of the wall and stood back to check.

Then, down came all the pictures again. After mounting a frame, you then remove the picture from the wall again to allow the mounting tape time to cure on the wall for an hour.

Using the 3M mounting tape we had to let the strips cure for an hour on the wall before returning the pictures to their new positions.
Using the 3M mounting tape we had to let the strips cure for an hour on the wall before returning the pictures to their new positions.

And there it was! Our masterpiece! Now, I do still have a few updates to make. A few pictures need to be replaced. We need more pictures with our youngest daughter up there. But, overall, I think it’s a huge improvement for the wall, and so painless to do!

Our gorgeous gallery wall. It looks so much better by the grey wall then it did on the floor!
Our gorgeous gallery wall. It looks so much better by the grey wall then it did on the floor!

I’m Getting Grand-twins!

My youngest child is full of surprises. Once when we went exploring in Portland, Oregon, he found the most incredible Holocaust Memorial I have ever seen. I would have blindly walked past it. Another time when he could have used his money to buy a video game or spiffy tennis shoes, he bought a Bible. This time, he called to tell me that he and his wife expect twins. Floored again.

In spite of a hectic summer schedule, my youngest daughter and I pulled off a shower today for my daughter-in-law. I found so many great ideas that I’ve got to spread them over several posts. As the one with the least available time and experience, my daughter’s role was taking phone calls and getting the mom here for the shower. I jumped in to the nitty-gritty.

Theme: Two by Two

I find it easier to run with a theme for showers and parties. The first idea that popped into my head was Noah’s Ark. As I started gathering ideas, “Two by Two” settled into place.

Invitations

Since my youngest daughter–the best friend of the mother-to-be–plans to get married in September, we saw that our window for scheduling a shower had a very tiny opening.  A lot of texts flew back and forth until we had a date, time, location and registration. Then I plugged the data into my publisher file. Most shower invitations go through my Publisher program. I use Publisher every day. I can make it do just about anything. It is so much easier to use than Word once you get to know it and the graphic ability is astounding. It is well worth learning if you need to produce flyers, programs, invitations, newsletters, school projects, mini posters, DVBS items, and on and on. Lots of free fonts and public domain clip art are available for it.

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I like to use postcard invitations. They attach easily to a calendar or refrigerator door with the information clear and readable.

Lists

In between the planning stage and the shower, my husband and I traveled 1,500 miles. As I made my first set of lists, I gathered everything I could into boxes. The solid cardboard boxes used for reams of paper are my favorite. Paul gets them at the copy room where he works. Five days before the shower, I opened up the boxes I started before our travels and set to work.

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This is my actual working list. I put just enough information to remind me of my research or ideas and cross off or add more as I go.

I had five categories: Games, Food, Place Settings, Decorations and Favors. I had written some quick notes on the games, gathered several of the food items, nabbed some of the place settings at a clearance sale, collected over half the decorations, and bought the favors.

The countdown had begun!

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Would I make it to this before 11:00 on Saturday?

 

 

 

 

 

A Quick List of Summer Fun for Toddlers

Having trouble thinking of some summer fun for your little ones? Here’s a few ideas to get you thinking.

Summer is the time to think outside the box... or at least outside of your house for fun!
Summer is the time to think outside the box… or at least outside of your house for fun!

Public Library

The library is one of our favorite places to visit. They’re warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. They have free programs for kids, free books, movies, and music to enjoy. And quite a few libraries have kid play areas with special imagination station type activities.

Favorite Books for Toddlers:

Llama Llama Red Pajama, Skippyjon Jones, If you Give a Mouse a Cookie, Press Here, Moncure’s letter books (They really help with letter recognition), Rebus books (words in the sentences are replaced with pictures, so even non-readers can “read”)

Sticker Books are big fun for little girls! Coloring and reading together is important.
Sticker Books are big fun for little girls! Coloring and reading together is important.

Summer Reading Programs:

In the summer, most public libraries host a summer reading program. Some libraries, like the Minneapolis Hennepin County Library system don’t start reading programs until the little ones have reached first grade. But other public libraries, like our current library, start with an early literacy program so even infants can join the summer reading program.

Water Fun

Find some water fun this summer!
Find some water fun this summer!

Splash Pads

Check your area for nearby splash pads. There are almost always a few free splash pads around. We just enjoyed the Downtown Greenville train themed splash pad on the walk along Reedy River last week!

Public Pools/Beaches

Check for public pools and beaches near your home. Water wears out little ones like no other kind of fun. So pull out those swim suits and towels and go have a splash!

Mostly Outside Fun

Playgrounds

Of course, helping your little ones run off energy makes the playground one of our summer favorites. And now, Wren is getting big enough to enjoy them too!

Playground summer fun uses up that toddler energy!
Playground summer fun uses up that toddler energy!

Vacation Bible School

Many churches offer Daily Vacation Bible School for a week during the summer. Your little one can enjoy fun activities, Bible Stories, crafts, and crazy skits!

Walks

Tiger is learning to walk our rescue puppy with mommy. Lewis loves walks. We purchased a gentle leader collar so he wouldn’t pull as hard on the leash, and this makes him almost calm enough for Tiger to handle him by herself. She just needs to get more focused.

Of course, even if you don’t own a puppy, walks can still be summer fun! We try to be very observant on our walks. We’ve figured out that there are roosters living at two nearby homes! And, Tiger is always watching for the “dying tree” that drops pine cones.

Riding Trikes

A big hit this summer has been Tiger’s trike! She’s finally big enough to pedal, and boy is she tearing things up! She loves zooming around the playroom.

Trikes keep little tikes busy during summer afternoons
Trikes keep little tikes busy during summer afternoons

Mostly Inside Fun

Visiting a Pet Store

Does your little one love furry, scaly, or feathered critters? Your local pet store is the perfect place to watch how hamster, birds, lizards, and gerbils live. Who knows when a little rodent will come spinning around the corner in one of those running balls!

Local Mall Play Areas

Many malls have play areas. How perfect for a summer day that is too hot for outside fun. Check your area for the best ones nearby!

Play Dates

Summer is a great time for play dates! Old toys become new fun with friends over. And, it’s great for your little one to learn to play with others. Your little one’s friend’s parents may enjoy the social interaction too!

 

DVBS Favorites

Teaching Preschoolers to Milk a Cow

DVBS is a big deal to us. We usually start working on it a year ahead. This summer we used a farm theme. Everyone dug out their old overalls, straw hats and lawn sheep.

The children really loved our farmer, Al Falfa. On Wednesday night he promised to bring in a chicken the next day. The live duck he carried in under his arm on Thursday night had us all rolling on the floor.

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I loved the cow spotted tablecloths!

My Job

I directed the preschool department. Nothing beats having my grandchildren in my class! Four- and five-year-olds need lots of movement opportunities. They sat very attentively during the lessons and we had almost 100% memory work completed. My job of coming up with the fun extra activities was sheer joy.

We played hide and seek with farm animals, sheared play dough sheep, and dug through 20 pounds of popcorn to find more farm critters. But the best by far was learning how to milk a cow.

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This little girl is one of my “grandchildren” from the youth group of my church. She sure is a pretty little milkmaid!

Milking a Cow

I bought a couple packages of latex gloves at the dollar store, gathered up some old plastic bakery containers, grabbed a half-used skein of yarn and a sharp tack, and then headed to class. Before the children arrived, I tied about 15 inches of yarn to the back of half a dozen metal folding chairs and left the other end dangling 8 inches above the ground.  The plastic lids under each piece of yarn would catch the milk (I used straight water and didn’t try to color it.) From the kitchen I filled a one gallon pitcher with water. Then I used the tack to prick a hole in each finger of the gloves.

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Some of the children could milk as well as any farmer.

After the lesson, I called the children over to the chairs and explained that they needed to learn to milk cows. They giggled as I filled the first glove with water and tied it to the yarn. A brave little boy tried it out and then I couldn’t keep up with filling the gloves with water and tying them to the yarn. A bunch of children now want to grow up to be farmers instead of firemen!

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When I ran out of water, we just recycled the milk.

An easy activity, minimum mess and fuss and maximum fun! I highly recommend it! Even more, get involved in DVBS. It’s an incredible ministry that will bless you and so many children!

Repairing the Broken

Poor duck

Someone kicked my duck and decapitated him. Today is repair day. I pour a little super glue on both sides of the break and hold them together. Next I wrap an elastic band around it for 24 hours.

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Every home needs some!

Super Glue

I always keep a tube of super glue in my gluebox. I can buy three or four mini tubes in one package at the dollar store. After using a tube a couple times, the lid usually fastens itself to the tube and won’t come off. I stick the tube with a pin and get one last application out. Mini tubes are perfect. The large ones usually waste half the glue because they do the same thing with the lid on a larger scale.

When super glue first hit the market, my dad left a tube open on a workbench. As far as we know, it’s still there, stuck in place. It’s great stuff.  When my youngest son cut his forehead, the doctor used superglue to put him back together. Two of my fingers are stuck together right now. And my little duckling is looking good. He will have a scar the rest of his life, but it isn’t very noticeable and won’t hinder him from doing his job.

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I can fill the crack with plaster to make it even less visible.

I wish super glue could fix all the broken people in my world. I have a lot of hurting friends.

I wish super glue could mend my country. No political candidate, new law, or the million Facebook posts with unlimited rhetoric and opinion can do it.

But there is hope. Jesus Christ came to heal the broken and repair damaged people. He works better than super glue.

Why repair a broken mud catcher?

I could have tossed my duck in the trash and bought a new one. He’s almost 10 years old. Repairing him saved a couple bucks. Now that the children have flown away, he doesn’t get as much use, so he will last a few more years and the grandchildren will enjoy him. Little Sis always greets him when she walks in the door and tells him good-bye when we leave. She will be very happy to see him back to himself.

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Back to work. His biggest job is bringing a smile to Little Sissy’s face.

God repairs the broken

God could toss us away, too, in our brokenness. Instead He offers to put us back together and promises to remove even the scars one day. Just ask Him and then see what He does. You will be astounded.

Late for a Very Important Date: Our Late First Birthday Party

The Dilemma

You may have noticed I (Christy), failed to post last week. The absence was due to our crazy moving week! Yes. You heard that right. We are officially residents of sunny South Carolina. A two day road trip with a dog, and two little girls gave us quite an adventure. Our little Wren’s first birthday came during the transition. Actually, the poor little girly ended up sick on her birthday, her daddy had an early shift, and then had to take the car clear to the other side of the city in the evening, so we didn’t even get to celebrate with cupcakes on her birthday. We did have cupcakes, and let her open one gift the next day, and some of our dear friends came over to say goodbye, so they ate cupcakes with us.

Wren enjoyed a cupcake... the day after her birthday!
Wren enjoyed a cupcake… the day after her birthday!

The Solution

But, a first birthday is a pretty big deal, so I chose to plan a little birthday party for the week after our move. My parents had driven down to help us get settled so they would be able to be there, as would several Aunts and Uncles who live in town.

As soon as I decided to do the party late I knew what our theme would be- A One-derland Birthday. Complete with a Mad Hatter tea party.

What better theme for a "late" birthday party than Wonderland!
What better theme for a “late” birthday party than Wonderland!

Late Decorations

Things fell into place just perfectly. I found some fondant on sale at the store, and decided to try using it. I created a white rabbit with a pocket watch, a little mouse and tea cup, a grin with a tea cup (for the Cheshire Cat), a tea pot, and a caterpillar and mushroom. No hookah pipe though. We don’t want to encourage smoking. Then I cut out little letters to spell “Late.” I made a gluten free cake. And then… I made my fatal error. I used jelly as filling. As you can see, I didn’t thicken it correctly, so it oozed out the sides all over the place. The cake sides were pretty much a disaster. Ah well. There is always next time. And, what is life without a few Pinterest fails.

My pinterest fail cake. The rabbit and mouse were still pretty cute. And it tasted good!
My pinterest fail cake. The rabbit and mouse were still pretty cute. And it tasted good!

On my chalkboard I wrote a quote from Alice in Wonderland. And, I pulled out Tiger’s little tea set, and plush Alice doll.

Wren thought the cake tasted amazing! Even if it didn't look the best!
Wren thought the cake tasted amazing! Even if it didn’t look the best!

The Partygoers

The girls had so much fun with their family. Wren loved the cake so much that she had to have a bath before opening her presents. I just did a quick rinse. She laughed, and giggled, and Tiger wanted so much to play with her new toys! I’m glad to have some special pictures to look back on. And, for a party 5 days after we moved into a new house… I think it turned out pretty well! In this case: Much better late than on time.

Wren loved opening the wrapping paper... and cuddling a new "baby"
Wren loved opening the wrapping paper… and cuddling a new “baby”

 

Independence Day GF Dessert

GF Means Gluten Free

Christy is gluten intolerant or celiac. It runs in our family. Her grandfather, my dad, has the same problem. To surprise him, I made a layered gluten free,  fruit topped, cheese cake Independence Day Pie. He’s going to be so happy!

Where I Started

Whenever I see gluten free mixes on sale or clearance, I buy them. When I helped Christy move, I ran into some GF sugar cookie mixes at Walmart. They make wonderful pie crust.

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Not just for sugar cookies!
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Cheesecake layer, coming up!
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I was hoping for a red, white and blue effect, but the flavor is what matters!

The Layers

After throwing together the cookie dough and shaping it in a large pie tin and the overflow into a cutie pie tin, I rolled both into the oven for 15 minutes. While they baked, I  mixed together the cheese cake in my blender. I left out the vanilla and almond flavorings just in case they might contain gluten.

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I easily pressed the dough by hand into the pie tin. No rolling pin is needed.

As soon as the cookie dough crusts came out, I poured in the cheese cake layer and whipped them back into the oven for 25 minutes.

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Using the blender makes this recipe quick and easy.
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Voila! Ready to pour into the GF cookie dough crust!
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I had the crust baking, the blender blending, and the topping cooking all at the same time.
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Almost done. After adding the fruit sauce, I’ll put it in the frig. Just before we eat it, I’ll add the whipped cream.
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Stirring the cornstarch into a little bit of water first prevents lumps.

On the stove top I had already mixed 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch with cold water and poured it into the frozen strawberries along with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Once I had gently stirred them until they thickened, I put them around the outside edge of the pie and repeated the process with the blueberries which I scooped into the middle.

 

 

 

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You Need to Taste It!

I’ll add whipped cream as the last layer just before we eat it. It’s worth the calories!

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Waiting to taste test it takes a lot of will power.

Independence Day

“What?”

As I picked up my grocery bag the cashier said, “Have a nice day.” I said, “Thank you. Happy Independence Day.”  She said, “What?” She had no idea what Independence Day was.

At Christmas I make a point to say, “Merry Christmas” to people I interact with. A few respond quite happily with a “Merry Christmas to you, too.” We look at each other and know the truth of the holiday. After all, holiday derives from the words Holy Day. It’s all about Christ’s birth.

Lost

The Fourth  of July has fared the same. It’s about vacation time and fireworks instead of the reason for the season. Even as the gift giving materialism of Christmas overshadows the most glorious gift God gave in His only Son, so goes the way of our Independence which we have lost as thousands of unborn babies die violent deaths and lose the freedom of life every day, business owners lose their businesses because they can’t conduct their business practices according to their consciences and we face an election fraught with scheming candidates speaking out of both sides of their mouths who have lost their morality.

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I’m not saying fireworks are wrong! We enjoyed these at our friend’s home down the road tonight. We were glad to catch sight of them as we drove past and join the fun!

True Freedom

As our freedom continues to erode, find where true freedom lies–in Christ. Our country became great because it was founded on biblical principles. As they fade from practice, we lose our way as a nation, but as individuals we can still have the freedom that matters.

Take Back the Holiday

Take back the holiday! Don’t wish people a Happy 4th. Use the words Independence Day.

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God will not Bless America on the course we have taken. But God will bless His people as we stand for true freedom.

 

Fruit Dip Recipe

I eat lots of fruit and I like to make fruit trays for parties, showers, etc. It’s super easy and it’s really pretty and colorful. 🙂 Last time I was asked to make a fruit tray, I wanted to make a fruit dip to go with it. I was a little skeptical about using Greek yogurt and no powdered sugar, but the results were amazing! It’s not so sweet it hurts your teeth. And it’s not nearly as bad for you as a sugary fruit dip!

Ingredients

–8 ounces (1 block) cream cheese
–8 ounces plain Greek yogurt
–1/4 cup packed brown sugar
–1 teaspoon vanilla
–2 tablespoons milk

Try this 5 minute, 5 ingredient fruit dip!

Directions

1. Beat cream cheese until smooth.

2. Add yogurt, sugar, and vanilla. Beat until combined.

3. Add milk (more may be required to reach desired consistency).

4. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

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The Move to Wonderland

Wonderland in the Sun

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Christy now lives in the land of palm trees

Christy and family moved to Wonderland last week. Southern climates are just that wonderful! Paul and I met them at their new house and babysat as they unpacked. They now live as far southeast of us as they used to live northwest, but it’s a far easier drive which makes us happy.

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I love the beautiful drive through the Smokies.
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We found the light at the end of the tunnel–planning a birthday party. We pass through two tunnels on the way down and one on the way home.

During the time they packed up their house, Wren turned one. Realtors, inspectors and assessors do not take birthdays into consideration, and since Wren doesn’t know calendars have been invented, we waited until the chaos subsided to celebrate her birthday. She had originally arrived two weeks late, so she can’t blame us for her party being nearly as late.

Alice in Wonderland theme

Christy chose an Alice in Wonderland theme for the party. During our foray into town to buy groceries and party decor, we picked up a watermelon. The morning of the party I mentioned that we ought to cut it out in some special way to fit the theme. The first hit on Pinterest brought up the Cheshire cat. It looked way beyond my ability level, but I figured if it didn’t come out right, we’d just eat the inside and I’d throw out the rind before anyone could laugh at it.

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I marked out the face with a sharp pencil to begin.

As I set to work, something incredible happened. It actually looked like the Chesire cat.

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Cutting the details took less effort than I thought it would.

We didn’t have a strawberry for the nose or blackberries for the eyes, but fruit snacks stuck on toothpicks worked just as well.

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The tail almost did me in.

Setback by an injury

The only catastrophe occurred when the knife slipped as I moved to carving the tail. We hadn’t been able to find Christy’s veggie peeler, so I’d been using an extremely dull blade. As I worked along the cat’s grinning teeth, I found I could draw the outline, slip the blade under the skin and pop it off. In applying the technique to the tail, the lighter piece of rind slipped out of my hand along with the knife. I stabbed my palm and cut my thumb in two places. Finishing the carving with a bunch of bandaids was a bit trickier.

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We almost forgot to serve the cookies that Christy decorated with the words, “Eat me.”

As Christy said, Wren won’t remember the party except through the pictures which we find “curiouser and curiouser.”