The One with One Gift Idea

Just a week before Christmas I came up with (what I think to be) a brilliant gift idea. Homemade. Personalized. Keepsake. Creative. Unique. All the marks of a great gift.
I set to work on my GIMP editing software and came up with four 8×10 inch prints for four of my favorite kids.  I choose fonts and colors specifically for each child, clicked “save,” and uploaded them to Walmart.com. Within an hour, I received an email that my prints were ready for pickup! I bought frames right then and there and VOILA! Personalized wall hangings for each child’s bedroom. 
162
I was thrilled to hear their exclamations and see their expressions as they each opened their gifts! I wasn’t sure how much a 2, 4, 7, and 9 year old could appreciate such artwork, but they all seemed to love them. :D 
IMG_7320
See Ashlyn’s face?! 
IMG_7321
IMG_7324
IMG_7332
The only snafu in this whole process? Picking up the photos from the photo department. The woman looked through my four prints and then looked up at my suspiciously. She didn’t believe I had created them myself. I wasn’t sure how to convince her, but she eventually had me sign a copywrite release and let me go. *whew* (I guess that’s sort of a compliment–that they looked professional.) 
Merry Christmas, L kids! We LOVE you!
Did YOU do any homemade gifts this year? 
Care to Subscribe?

The One with Cookies & Deliveries

friday favorite things | finding joy 
This week has had its ups and downs, but today I’m finding my {favorite} things about the past few days. Looking for the thanksgiving always brings joy.  
Last weekend I delivered 5 dozen Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing to a friend who had ordered them from me. Yesterday I heard she thought they were the most delicious, most beautiful sugar cookies she’d ever had (or seen.) I’m was thrilled! I do love the uniqueness of the vanilla almond flavor. It takes the simple sugar cookie to the next level. 
166
With a freezer over flowing with cookies, I decided it would be nice to deliver a few sweets to our neighbors. Since we just moved in 4 months ago, we still haven’t met many families on our block (shame on us). But cookies always bring people together, right? And yes, I decided to be all…well…”Melanie” about the packaging and give a little COOKIE CODE inside the boxes. :) I’m certain it will be appreciated. And probably made fun of. Most mostly appreciated. 
IMG_7303
I even made festive labels and tied the boxes with ribbon. SO CUTE. I add both of our business cards so our neighbors wouldn’t have to try to remember our names, and so they would have our contact info if they ever needed to get a hold of us. (And hey, if they decide to come to our church or take piano lessons from me, I wouldn’t be bummed. :D) I hope that was ok.  
IMG_7314

And just because I love ’em, and I thought you might too–
Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

STP62475_2

and their new adventurous counterpart–
Rolo Blossom Cookies.

120

What are your {favorite} things this Friday? 

172
linked up with Rachel @ Finding Joy

The One with a Prayer Commitment

One of my favorite bloggers is a woman of faith, deep conviction. Rachel is real. honest. encouraging. inspiring. Recently she posted about a topic that convicted and stirred my spirit for many days. 31 Days to Pray for Your Spouse. A challenge to pray for my husband every single day through January 2012. 
I'm Joining the 31DBBS Challenge
This 31 Days to Pray challenge is initiated by Ashley Pichea, author of the eBook 31 Days to Build a Better Spouse (on sale for just $2.99). With its witty title, this book starts with the core of marriage–praying for our spouses. I haven’t read the book yet, myself, but I am hoping to get on the bandwagon soon! And I encourage all of you married folk to join in! 
Even if you don’t read the book, there’s nothing stopping you from joining in on this 31 Days to Pray for your Spouse Challenge starting in January 2012. You can sign up and be an “official” participant, being encouraged and accountable to others–or you can just keep this commitment between you and the Lord. 
Either way, it’s more than worth you time. 

I am so excited to be committed to praying for you, Kevin, every single day for an entire month. In fact, I couldn’t wait, so I started a few days ago. And Jesus is already doing things in my heart, stirring me, changing me. I think this whole “change your spouse” thing may actually be more a “change the spouse that I am” thing. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind, right? ;) I want to become more respectful, more supportive, more encouraging. A woman who stands strong beside you, giving you the courage and confidence to be the man God is calling you to be. I love you. And I am praying for you in new ways these next few weeks. 

If any of you decides to join in on this challenge, I would love to hear about it! Drop me a line to let me know you’re participating–we’re in this thing together! 

The One with the Week’s Excitement

Top {TEN} Things I’m *Super* Excited About 
(or, to be grammatically correct–“Top ten things about which I’m super excited.” You’re welcome.) 
1} getting to go running this morning. 5 miles in the brisk winter air with my awesome new  cold gear Under Armour is pretty much awesome. 
2} seeing my face on the home page of TastyKitchen.com! YAHOOOO!!! I am over-the-moon-excited to be the Featured Member! Thank you, Pioneer Woman and TK! I’ve been a member of this amazing recipe collection site since it’s debut in 2009 and being featured has always been a dream of mine. (And this came just a week after my Light and Crispy Waffles were added to the front page of Favorite Recipes. Remember?)
3}having Kevin’s family here for the holiday! (and visiting mine soon after.) 
4} giving my husband his Christmas gifts (though I have to try awfully hard to keep him from shaking every box under the tree. Sheesh.) 
5} all of the lovely gifts we bought from Etsy sellers
6} adding my SEVENTH piano student to my roster! I have been doing my best to expand my studio through various advertising venues–something I’m not naturally good at. But I would love to have my studio continue to grow and the best way to do that is to keep spreading the word. 
7} meeting a mom of one our teens at our Christmas party and having her say –“Oh! You’re the one the S. Family is taking piano lessons from. They talk so highly of you!” and then having her practically ask for a business card. woot!
8}our Christmas Eve service. I love Christmas Eve services! 
9} ooooh! and I am honored to be the one leading the singing at that Candlelight service! how fun! 
10}the moment when the grass is completely covered with inches of snow. I LOVE snow. (and I’m totally bummed we’re not going to have a White Christmas. Come on, people. This is Western New York!!)
What are YOU excited about this week?
linking up with Top Ten Tuesday
Wanna Subscribe? 

The One with the Agelessness of Relationships

I love that God has given me the gift of being relational. A few years back, I took Mark Gungor’s Flag Page inventory that assesses an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, what makes them tick and what ticks them off. At the end of the survey, the system spits out a literal multi-colored flag depicting your talents in the areas of people, tasks, creation, leading, and showman.  
Mine wasn’t multi colored. It wasn’t even bi-colored. It was ALL BLUE. {All “people talents.” “Let’s relate!”} The areas of loving people, being sensitive, thriving on encouragement, being thoughtful, and sincere at heart are some of the ways I feel most motivated, most alive, most happy. 
Then it shouldn’t surprise me to look back at the last week and see who I spent quality time with. 
My husband. (20s)
Sheryl. (30s)
Meg. (17) 
Ashlyn. (9)
Peggy and Chelcie. (60s/70s) 
And Monday, I have a date with a sweet 4 year old. :) 
Pretty cool, huh? 
I noticed this beautiful lifestyle trend on Thursday evening as I was anticipating the arrival of 9 year old Ashlyn for our girls night. We were going to watch a movie, crochet, paint nails, and much more that we wouldn’t have enough hours to accomplish. The two of us had a lovely time together. And all that after my Wednesday night…
Fifteen minutes after piano lessons ended and I was making dinner for Kevin and I, the phone rang. It was Meg. She hadn’t gotten the message that our youth group high school girls night (cookie decorating) had been cancelled. I felt awful. I apologized profusely and she was gracious. But minutes later I sent her another message, inviting her to come over to my house and spend some time just the two of us. A short time later, she sat down on my sofa. We wrapped up in blankets, hot cocoa in hand, and enjoyed some much needed girl talk
I was talking to my mom at the end of my week, and she was encouraged by the time I spent investing in these young girls. She reminded me of the great gift it is to spend quality time mentoring girls, giving them my undivided attention. That is a gift. I hope to continue developing relationships throughout my life, pouring my heart, my experience, my prayers into others’ lives. But right now is especially perfect for this passion of mine. In this season of life, before we have children, I can really designate in focused attention on girls like Ashlyn and Meg. What a privilege. I can give to others what Leslie & Susan gave me to me when I was girl. Time. 
Do you have girls you mentor? Or someone who mentors you? Maybe both? I think these relationships are priceless. Don’t let age divide us. Learn from one another. Love each other. 

The One with the Risky Fashion

Christmas Sweaters. A controversial topic. 

Depending on your age, your environment, and most importantly your fashion sense, you may or may not agree with what I’m about to say. Some of you may be slightly offended. At first. But then, in the same vein as Stacy and Clinton on What Not to Wear, I hope you will find a new exciting actually beautiful sense of holiday style.

But please, friends, for the LOVE OF FASHION don’t wear sweaters or vests or turtlenecks or blouses with any of the follow decor–

Reindeer.
Snowmen.
Santa Clause.
Holiday ornaments.
Christmas trees.
Wreaths.
Blinking lights.

really any blatantly Christmas pictures/objects/designs whatsoever.  (sorry, Mom.)

Like these…

source
source
source
Don’t be that nice lady in Salvation Army who saw the sweater I was selecting for my UGLY Christmas Sweater Party and sweetly commented, “How Pretty!” oh honey.  It was all I could do to keep my composure. And I want to save YOU, my friends, from the embarrassment of ever being seen wearing a sweater/turtleneck/blouse/vest that someone somewhere has chosen to win the UGLY sweater competition.  
—–
Be subtle about your holiday fashion. I believe it can be totally cool to be festive and seasonally appropriate in the way we dress. Choosing a beautiful red blouse, or maybe the quintessential little black dress with a gorgeous necklace would say more than any Reindeer or embroidered Christmas Tree ever could. 
I love these outfits. 
source
source
(I would wear this dress in a heartbeat!)
source

source

source

So think outside the box this Christmas. There is no need for blinking lights necklaces or earrings. Unless you’re trying to win that Ugly Sweater Competition and wanted some “stylish” accessories. Go through your closet and pull out all those unfashionable festive items and donate them to your youth group. or Goodwill. Ugly Sweaters are a popular item now for Christmas parties. Donate away. :) Or wear one yourself–but only if you’re TRYING to be the champion of Ugly Sweaters. 
Do you admit that you sport “ugly” Christmas fashion? Are you willing to change? For the good of all mankind? ;) 

Oh, and ps–I love you all. Even if you do wear an ugly sweaters.  

Subscribe.

The One with the Mixed Up Days

Funny story. I was going to write a “Top Ten Tuesday” post. 
But then I realized it was Wednesday. 
Why am so confused? 
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was sick Sunday and missed church and youth group. That totally throws off my groove, ya know? Although I didn’t go through the typical Sunday routine that I’ve a part of for the past, oh, I don’t know, 26 years of my life, I did still participate in a Sunday morning worship service. Thanks to the wonderful church I attended during my college years, I watched a live feed of Pastor Mark’s advent sermon. It was so cool. And even more cool to know that my family was sitting in the sanctuary at that very minute. 
It might also have something to do with the fact that I’ve been to an elementary school Christmas concert AND a middle school band and chorus Christmas concert in the last week. That is a very unforgettable experience, no matter how many middle school concerts I’ve been to in the past few years. Which is a lot. I’m thinking somewhere in the realm of 8 or 10. shew. I give those directors crazy KUDOS! 
What else is distracting me? Christmas planning. My extremely dry, cracked hands. The blisters and callouses on my feet thanks to terrible running shoes. Wanting to go home to help my mom since she significantly damaged her back when she fell down the stairs. Hoping Kevin’s sickness wouldn’t last long. Hoping Kevin would get his 20 page page done asap. (I think I stress for him.) My stuffy, runny nose. 
Awww, yes, it’s the mostwonderfultimeoftheyear (as Sara) says.
How are YOU holding up this holiday season?

The One with the Loveseat we Love

Welcome to our new living room, complete with our like-new hunter-green loveseat. It fits the former-piano-wall perfectly. Moving the piano into the front room to create a music studio was the best idea we ever had. Now we have a worth-while use for that room (with all of our music and instruments in one place) AND we have an extra couch in our living room for more seating. 
156
Notice the front door area? There used to be a bookshelf there. It was loaded with our music (and our high school year books, but that’s another story.) Now, that bookshelf is in the music room (smart, eh?), and in its place a four-hook wall shelf. It fits the space perfectly (makes me think of my grandma because she gave it to us), and finally gives guests a place to hang their coats. (We have no coat closet.) 
155
And now, for the official up-close-and-personal reveal of our new(to us) loveseat—
154
She’s a beauty! The design of the loveseat, including the short/stout wooden legs match the style of our couch just right. And now we have seating for 6 very comfortably and up to 7 or 8 with a little squeeze. (Four people can sit on the couch without too much squishing, and 3 people could sit on the loveseat. And don’t forget our glider rocker.)

152
It’s in great condition. The couple we bought it from had purchased it new just a year ago and rarely used it–it was in their formal living room. They even delivered it for us! 
We love the new splash of color it adds to our neutral furniture, and it suits our earthy-color choices very well. Kevin even noted that with the green loveseat, the cream couch, and the brown pillows, we have recreated our wedding colors. (What an observant husband I have?!!)

Now that we have room for guests, you should come over for a visit! 


What makes YOU feel comfortable in someone’s home? 

The One with My Love of Etsy

This week I discovered the pure joy that is shopping handmade on Etsy. I have been selling my baked goods (and to-die-for toffee) on Etsy for many months now and I have watched as my friend, Sara’s, photo-greeting-card business took off with outstanding success. But I never made a purchase myself. Not sure why. Maybe it was because most of the items I saw, though I loved them, were just out of my tight-fisted price range.
Something changed this last week, though. And I’m so glad it did. Now, I’m in love with Etsy shopping. I have bought four different gifts for friends or family at various Etsy shops. All unique. All handmade. All affordable. All supporting the small business person.  
For those of you who have no idea what I’m jabbering on about, here’s Etsy in a nutshell
It’s like an online craft show/small town boutique/vintage shop and much much more. 
There’s something for everyone. Greeting CardsGorgeous jewelry for every style. Toys. Pet accessories Sweet Money Clips. Even stuff for the Science Geek in your life. If you don’t believe me, check out this Categories Page and click on anything that catches your eye. You’ll be amazed. 
Oh! And there’s this cool thing called a Treasury. Any Etsy user can create a treasury by gathering their favorite 16 items to fit any topic they choose.

Or “He Broke My Heart. Snif” Treasury. 

Here’s a Fresh Air Treasury.
And this adorable collection of Christmas Gifts for Her: Great Gifts Girls 0-99. 

—-

Some of my favorite shops include:

Maddie Kay Handbags–these bags are just too cute. 
Less Ordinary Designs–I don’t know how I’d ever pick a favorite design by Sara.
Hoops and Hooks–love her unique take on cross stitch
The House of Hemp –Gorgeous Crocheted and Knitted Accessories
RhondasTreasures–I am in love with her vintage style jewelry.
——-

So this Christmas season, I encourage you to support these small business owners in their endeavors. Hunt for the perfect item. It’s out there, I promise. Give the most heartfelt and unique gift under the tree this year. Merry Shopping!
—–

Are you an Etsy shopper or do you want to become one, like I just did? Do you have any favorite shops? 
Do you want to Subscribe