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Dec 30, 2015

Chalkboard Vases and Jars

At co-op last year, we decided to have each family make or buy individual thank you gifts for our board members rather than give an impersonal gift card.  This is the craft I decided on.

I used Valspar Chalkboard spray paint to cover some inexpensive glass vases.  It was a really simple process and I was pleased with the results.  The finished product was nice and smooth.  I wrote a monogram on each vase and covered *just the monogram* with hairspray to seal it.  That left the rest of the vase to be decorated and changed by the recipient however and as often as they wanted.  Just an FYI, if you make this project, when I sprayed the sealant, the monograms became very light until it dried.  I would not expect the monogram to hold up to much washing.  But how much washing does a chalkboard vase need?

I also had these hinged jars.  They're a lot like old mason jars.  Since I had chalkboard paint left over, I removed the metal hardware and sprayed these two jars as well.  I gave one to Trish for her birthday (along with a "I eat glitter for breakfast" Tshirt).

I finished up with three small magnet boards.  I had purchased them at The Christmas Tree Shop ages ago.  I always want to spell that shoppe.  I hot glued magnets to some neat flat, white, glass pebbles I had.  Those were gifted to my mom, step-mom, and mother-in-law.  I was a little disappointed in the texture and am not sure if it was because I painted metal, the weather the day I worked on them, or because it was nearing the end of the can of paint.

Crafts / Handiwork Ideas and Tutorials

Dec 28, 2015

The Everywhere God Review and Giveaway

I've been included in a mini-launch for a sweet new, godly children's book. Cricket's father, Pastor Bob Nelson, wrote a lovely poem for a family member during a tough time.  The poem is warm and endearing.  Coupled with watercolor illustrations by Robin Tillman, it also makes a lovely book.  The Everywhere God is available in paperback or Kindle.

Pastor Nelson's poem is poised to become a children's classic.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading every line.  The tempo worked well.  The illustrated situations, both serious and silly, remind us that God is everywhere and with us always.  It's a great reminder for everyone.  If you're a grown up lucky enough to get to read this book to children, you will find a pleasant few minutes shared in conversation about the Creator who loves you.

My three year old, Merrick, declared this was his favorite book ever.  I often noticed the eight and ten year old also reading the story at random downtime moments over the past week.  With the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas, it was a joy to see them redirecting their focus.

Enter the giveaway below.  Four readers will win.

The Everywhere God Giveaway This giveaway will have 4 winners. The grand prize winner will receive a new Fire 7" Tablet loaded with the Kindle edition of The Everywhere God.  The Fire tablet includes: 
  • Beautiful 7" IPS display (171 ppi / 1024 x 600) and fast 1.3 GHz quad-core processor. Rear and front-facing cameras.
  • All-new Amazon Underground, a one-of-a-kind app store experience where over $10,000 in apps, games and even in-app items are actually free - including extra lives, unlocked levels, unlimited add-on packs and more
  • Enjoy more than 38 million movies, TV shows, songs, books, apps and games
  • 8 GB of internal storage. Free unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content and photos taken with Fire devices. Add a microSD card for up to 128 GB of additional storage.
  • Updated user interface - Fire OS 5 designed for quick access to your apps and content plus personalized recommendations that make it easy to discover new favorites
  • Up to 7 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching videos, and listening to music
  • Stay connected with fast web browsing, email, and calendar support
Three more winners will each win a print copy of The Everywhere God
The Everywhere God is a book about hope for children of all ages. Written for his young granddaughter during a particularly difficult time, the late Pastor Bob Nelson wanted to be sure she knew God was with her no matter what else was happening. Despite people and circumstances, his message is clear, God never leaves or forgets about us and His love never ends. Upon it's completion, he knew it was something special and wanted to make it a children's book. Unfortunately, time passed and things never fell into place for his vision to come to life. He passed away in 2008 before he could see it happen. More than 20 years after it's original writing, Bob Nelson's daughter remembered this treasured poem and like her father, felt it needed to be shared with the world. For many years she kept this special story in the back of her heart and always dreamed of making his vision for a children's book a reality.
To enter the giveaway, please use the Rafflecopter below after reading the terms and conditions.  a Rafflecopter giveaway Terms and Conditions: This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winners will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prizes or another winner will be drawn. Entry into this giveaway will subscribe you to The Everywhere God email list.

Dec 24, 2015

Mac and Cheese with or without a Southwestern Twist

The original recipe from Hillshire Farm:


  • 4 Hillshire Farm® Turkey Pepper Jack Links
  • 1 pkg. (7.25 ounces) macaroni and cheese mix
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • ½ cup prepared salsa
  • 1 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
  • 1 cup corn chips, crushed (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut links into 1-inch pieces; set aside. Cook macaroni in a large pan of boiling water for 7 minutes or until tender; drain well. 2. In medium bowl combine cooked macaroni, contents of cheese sauce packet, milk and butter. Stir until butter is melted. Stir in salsa, corn, links and ½ cup of the cheese. 3. Place mixture in a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack cheese combined with corn chips, if desired. Bake, uncovered, 25-30 minutes or until hot.

This is how I changed it.
We buy a variety of Hillshire smoked sausage pretty regularly, so I just sliced up half of whatever I had on hand.  Rather than a boxed mac and cheese, I just cooked half a pound of rotini (or spiral, or whatever you call it in your area!).  I used a can of Mexican corn instead of frozen corn.  Lastly, I added more cheeses since I didn't make boxed macaroni.  It turned out pretty good, actually.

Now, recipe reviews where people say, "This recipe is amazing.  Here is how I replaced or omitted every single ingredient..." drive me up a tree.  That's why I'm not rating or reviewing the Hillshire recipe.  I'm posting for two reason.  1) I can find it again.  2) To encourage you to try a new recipe even if you don't have what seems like required ingredients.

Dec 21, 2015

Chocolate Cookie Train

This is not a review of this Chocolate Cookie Train Kit, per se, just a bit about our cookie decorating night which included said train.

We had talked to Beepa of the Forest (my mother-in-law) about her redneck gingerbread house when they visited last week.

So on a trip to Walmart, I saw the cookie train and knew my guys would love that.  I also knew Malachi would no-way-no-how-not-in-a-million-years eat those chocolate cookies.  I made a batch of sugar cookie trains for him, as well as some bells, stars, and trees.

Now, this is not my first cookie decorating rodeo with these guys.  I expected frustration, messiness, and grabbiness.  I was not disappointed.  They all came to the party.  *This time,* I was mentally prepared and I really didn't care.  I wasn't prepared for this whole fiasco, though.  I couldn't find food coloring or my sprinkles.  So, the white frosting I made remained white.  The cookie train came with frosting, too.  It was green.  And white...  Gumdrops, candy beads, and fondant were also included.  I scrounged up purple sugar and white decorating sugar and rainbow jimmies.

Also, it turns out, the train is supposed to be glued together the day before you decorate it. HA!  This thing wasn't actually going to sit around uneaten for days!  So, I finally had everything together and the boys started frosting train parts and eating the cookies I had baked.  I gave Merrick a bowl of frosting with a knife, Xav had the white frosting bag and Mal had the green frosting in a bag.  Merrick's frosting (which I had made) didn't stick to the cookie when he tried to spread it on. Xav blew out the decorator tip within seconds of starting, so he was squeezing giant blobs of frosting everywhere.  Mal did really well making nice lines of frosting and putting all the candy balls on his train.  ALL The Candy Balls.  Sigh...  By the time I sat down to decorate some cookies so Daddy would actually have a few frosted cookies, the candy balls and gumdrops were gone.  I may have stolen a few candy beads from Malachi's engine, since we weren't going to eat it anyway.

The boys were curious about the use of the "brick" cookies, as Merrick called them.  I showed them how we could have used them to hold the trains upright.  "Why would you do that?" they asked.  "Well," I said, "people put them together, decorate them, and leave them out to look at."  They were shocked.  Who doesn't eat cookies?

I got it into my head to try a chocolate cookie.  Good grief!  What was I thinking?!  Horrible!  Terrible!  F!  I realize that many people who buy a cookie kit, will display and never eat the cookie train, but seriously!  I can't possibly be the only mom with kids who would rather eat it.

Next time, we'll just do our usual bake, frost, decorate, and eat cookies.  Everyone will be so much happier.  I'll definitely look for more fun candy toppings than just sugar and sprinkles, though.

PS.  The train kit also included detailed instructions and a Wilton Cake Decorating class on Craftsy.

Dec 11, 2015

A Hike and a Drive ~ Field Trip Friday

This was actually a Tuesday field trip.  I'll just post it on a Friday.  'Cause it's my blog, I can do that. 

Over "The Notch".

This is a gorgeous narrow, curvy road that goes over the mountain.  It's seasonal and also is actually closed frequently even in the summer because tractor trailer drivers regularly miss the very large signs telling them not to proceed.  Sigh.  This is actually a pretty small sign.  There are several on each side.  One is *huge*.

We have lovely hiking there, though I have only been about halfway. There are a lot of stone steps in the beginning that are tough on my knees. I figure it's OK, it is a “difficult” level hike, after all. Micah always claims it's a nice *family* hike...

Once I've gone far enough, I head back to the car to read and people watch while the boys move on with dad. The people watching part is also good fun.

Dec 1, 2015

Merrick Loves "School"

I remember, back in the olden days, when a child of mine would go through an "I love school" phase.
It's been a few years since anyone here has loved school.  Including me. *sob*  But Merrick thinks he needs school all day, every day.  If I give him a stack of schoolish papers and projects to do, he would sit and work through it until it was done or time to eat again.

Just yesterday, he grabbed a piece of paper from a stack of math review sheets and asked me, "How many does plus times eight equal?"