Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shoveling Snow for Money, Another Tradition Lost?

It snowed a big snow here, over night. For some people, that's probably not news. You probably get a lot of snow over the course of the winter. Here, on the sunny side of the mountain, we rarely experience this.

As I was out shoveling our sidewalk (I really enjoy doing this! Seriously.), I remembered that as a kid I DREAMED for snow.

Partly because of school being cancelled for one reason, but the other part of it was the tradition that if you woke up early to a snow day, you woke up to the prospect of earning some cash.

My brothers and I used to dress as quickly as possible on these days. We'd grab a shovel (sometimes it would be a huge fight) and out and off we'd go. 

We went all through town, hoping to shovel someones freshly covered sidewalks and drive ways for money.

We wouldn't be the only ones in town doing this-there would be lots of others out there we'd compete with. 

I remember there would always be a few "good" paying houses that everyone in town would vie for. If you weren't up early to get that worm, you were outta luck until the next big snow.

But, each and every time, we shoveled someones sidewalk, we were doing more than just a public service, or the small odd job for money. We were carrying on a tradition. A tradition that we had learned from our parents, who had learned it from their parents and so on.

There were some people we just did for free, because you knew that was the right thing to do.

By about mid-late afternoon, almost all the houses in our small town had been done. We would all take our little money stashes, and head down to the local gas station to splurge our frozen bodies on warmth of the inside and some hot cocoa.

It's these childhood memories, that I treasure. It's these childhood memories that also make me sad. Since I've lived in a LARGELY snowy state, I have NEVER had the pleasure of having a little, overly eager face, knock on my door, and offer to shovel my side walk. Not once, in my eleven years of living here.

Perhaps it's just something that happens in each person's state. Or, perhaps, it's because, it is the death of a tradition, from my generation. I hope and pray it's not the last one.

As I started shoveling snow this morning, I noticed there were several sidewalks that still had yet to be done. I know it's a school day, so most of the kids didn't have that opportunity to do their own.

As I finished my own side walk, I started in on two of the neighbors' side walks. I usually do this, because like I said, I do ENJOY shoveling snow. There's a peacefulness about it. Plus, it's just another simple thing to do, to show others, that you care.

But, again, as I put away my shovel, and looked over my kids, I wonder if they'll ever get to experience the joy, of those cold mornings. Those days when they're out earning that "cold" cash, as we did. I hope so. Even if they're doing it for free, I want them to experience that at least once in their life times.

Did anyone else remember doing this as a kid? Do your kids now carry on this tradition? 

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The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one that seeks him.
Lamentationa 3:25

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Neighbor Gifts: Boxes of Cream Cheese Mints!

Awhile back, I did a post that asked you how well you knew your neighbors. I know a few of mine pretty well. Well in the sense that some of them I hang out with on a regular basis, our kids play together, and things like that. There are a few though (and I'm talking about just on our street) that I have only seen a handful of times and I still don't know their names.

This year, I wanted to go around and give the neighbors a little treat.

I kind of wanted to avoid the traditional cookies and other goodies that get made in bulk, because it seems that everyone is giving those lately. We've received many, delicious items like these already! (Thank you!) But, we didn't want to risk looking like everyone else. We decided to do a little after dinner mint instead.

I found this Cream Cheese Mints recipe online and went to work! The kids thought these were excellent and a lot of fun to make. Toddler approved!

I remember when I was a younger, these were a huge hit at weddings! I LOVED to eat these, probably more than the cake. (Is this a tradition for your weddings?)

After we made them, I purchased these boxes at Hobby Lobby (adorable, right?!) and some tissue paper to put these little delights in. I'm trying for a little nicer presentation than just on a plate with Saran wrap.

We put them in the fridge and kept them cold and chilled over night.

On Sunday, after church, my son and I went door to door and handed them out.

We loved being able to surprise everyone with a little bit of neighbor love. And trust me, a few of them really were SURPRISED! Sometimes, it's nice to know that even in a little bit bigger city, we can still find a little small town love, within our communities.

Have you guys had a lot of luck with having some amazing neighbors? Do you hand out gifts to them? What was the best one you've received or given?

The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

Psalm 145:9

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Tree Air Freshener Craft for Kids

While we were sitting around our house, for yet the latest round of sickness (we can't be the only people who have been sick for the past three months right? I mean, it's bad this year, right? Humor me, ANYONE!), I had an idea.

Probably not the best one, considering I'm a little congested, but I could still smell the end result! In my book, it's a win.

Awhile back, I had done a post about a scavenger hunt using the five senses. One of those, was smell. I also, did a Smell Lab. Everything is very hands on with kids, and they get messy and love it. This incorporates both mess and smell.

The Christmas Tree (or cut out of your choosing) Air Freshener Craft for kids! (You can also alter this to be part of a children's ministry craft for the holidays. I'll get to that in a minute.)

What you need:
A Cut Out
Construction Paper
Double Sided Tape
Markers, Paint, Glitter (Whatever to decorate your items)
Smell (I used Nutmeg and Mint)
Hole Punch

I got my Christmas Tree cut out from Color Me Good's website.

I cut that out, and traced it onto some green construction paper. I made four trees, that way I could double them up and glue them together to seal in the smell items.

After all the tracing, I quickly cut them all out. Each kid, got two trees to decorate however they wanted (whatever we had quickly in reach).

(Anyone notice the shirt?) We had just wrapped a few of daddy's presents yesterday and had some left over wrapping paper, so we used some glue and let them apply some scrap pieces of that as well. Nothing like a little "upcycling."

Once they were decorated, it was time for us to add our smell.

I took a few pieces of double sided tape and applied it to the back of each tree. You can go crazy and put lots or a little. It's up to you.

After the tape, I used nutmeg for one tree and sprinkled it all over the tape for both the trees.

 When I was done with the nutmeg, I used Mint Flavoring for the other trees. Working with this was a little hard, and so I just dabbed it all on with my fingers. I did get off the tape a little bit, but it dries clear, so it isn't an issue. I wasn't entirely sure how much to use (again I'm a little stuffy) so I was a little on the cautious side. I'm also a realist and understand this won't smell forever.

But, I applied anyway. Oh, what fun! (Name that song! If you follow me on Facebook, you know that's a game we've been playing!)
I glued the trees together (mint with mint, and nutmeg with nutmeg). Then using my hole punch, I punched a hole at the top of each tree, and then used my ribbon to make hangers out of them.

The cool thing about these, is that you can do these any time of the year. They actually do smell (however, I'm not sure how long they will). But, they could make a cute car freshener for the grandparents, if they're coming over for the holidays, or even your own car. Or, just add a little extra Christmas scent to your tree, like we did!
You could totally make these for Valentine's Day too, using a heart template, and peppermint, or some perfume, and give it as a valentine. Obviously, the list could go on and on. Have fun with them!

I did mention before that you could totally use this for a Sunday School/Children's Ministry Craft idea. Here is how it would work. You'd do all the same steps as before to make them, but you'd be incorporating the Birth of Jesus Story. Specifically, the bible verse of Matthew 2:11:
"They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

I'm not sure you can find frankincense quickly or easily in the U.S. (I've never looked) but you can substitute for different scents and they can have a craft kind of like the three wise men. You can use gold glitter, and let your mind run with fun ideas for kids.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Felt Gingerbread Ornaments (ok, an Egg Carton Snowman Ornament too!)

So, I'm not overly crafty. I've stated this many times before in my blog. Like here, and here.

But, with the holidays upon us, I felt the need to attempt to make ornaments. I'm trying to do this every year for/with the kids. Last year, we made a snowman ornament, out of pipe cleaners, felt, ribbon and an egg carton.

See, painting the egg carton.
Finished product. Snowman, via felt, pipe cleaners, ribbon.
Just take the egg carton and cut out the three piece for the snowman.

Paint the snowman.

Glue on arms, and nose.

Glue on scarf.

Write date and name of child on the inside, and hang with ribbon.

Viola! You, are a master crafter now!

This year, I thought I'd try to carry on this tradition, but with something a little more, stable. You see, I have two small children. Last year, I had two small children too, but one couldn't get to the tree and the other one didn't seem as fascinated with it, as he has been this year.

This snowman ornament has come off the tree several times this year already, and I'm afraid for it's life. Poor guy. It's like he's a real snowman, and every time one of the kids touches him, it's the equivalent of someone holding a blow dryer to the real Frosty.

The idea I had this year, actually came from a decoration I pulled out-gingerbread men.

They seem easy enough to make right? I thought of making it out of felt, to ensure its longevity. I found a gingerbread template on Kaleidoscope of Color's Blog that looked really simple.

I printed it out on card stock. I cut out my little gingerbread man template, and then traced him onto felt.

They are holding hands. 

Pretty easy huh? I know, I know. We are amazing crafters, huh? People will be amazed at our awesomeness.

After I did four gingerbread men cut outs (I doubled them up, to re-enforce the ornament. Remember, thinking kids and longevity.), I took more felt and started to cut out the facial features.

I used the bottom of the gingerbread man foot to make the smile. And the eye brows.

How can you not want to make one of these?
Wasn't sure about black eyes, or googly eyes.
I am going googly eyes! The kids go crazy over these eyes.

Have some Christmas Twine to hang on the tree! 

After cutting out some pink cheeks and red cheeks (pink for my daughter, and red for my son), I also cut out little circles for the buttons down the front. I let the kids pick out which felt colors they liked. 

I couldn't decide on the eyes. I had some black eyes, which you can see in the photos up above, and then I pulled out my container of googly eyes. 

(If your kids are like mine, you might consider just giving them googly eyes to play with. They ran wild and played non stop with them for about an hour and a half. My son's room looked like a graveyard of googly eyes, because they were ALL OVER THE FLOOR! Apparently, they're fun to hold, shake, stack, throw, put in a bulldozer, garbage truck, hauler, loader, Buzz Light Year's Helmet, and Oh! So much more!)

After careful consideration, I went with googly eyes. I did debate about sewing these, but, I thought since I was going to have to glue the eyes and the twine on, I could just go ahead and do the whole thing. You might be able to see it, but I did have some issues with my hot glue gun. (I have not gotten my master glue gun crafter certification yet, so pardon the big glue goop spots.)

The kids LOVE these. They have made their way off the tree already and have taken rides on the school bus and in the tractor. Who knew gingerbread men were so social?

Enjoy making these! They're pretty cute. How can you not smile back at these awesome little guys?!

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"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:10-11

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Simplify! My Life Lesson with Stuff

If you follow me on Facebook, (and of course you should) you'll see that I was posting about the Simplifying Challenge.

I tried to take part in the week long challenge of getting rid of 8 items, every day, for a week. (I had heard about this from a friend, who heard it from another friend.) Also, after I googled, I found it on this website, The Everyday Minimalist.

I didn't say I didn't succeed, I just said I tried. When I started in my bathroom, I got rid of more than 8 items (you know all those dental flosses and mini tubes of toothpaste you get from the dentist?). That was really easy.

Then that night, as I sat and thought about my next task (my closet) I really felt anxious. I try to go through my closet often, but I find that I get so attached to my clothes. You know, you dig into the back and pull out a sweater from 2001, sigh, and think, "I remember that winter, when I got this sweater, and how awesome it was. The sun was sparkling just right, and I had my first (fill in the blank) and it was just the best winter EVER!"

Then, as that memory is fresh and new with all those feelings, you look at it and say, "Well, you know, I could TOTALLY wear this again. I can dress it up to be in style now." And with that statement, it goes right back into the BACK of the closet, where it will sit again, until we reminisce about it another day. Of course, without ever WEARING it.

But, back to my simplifying. I've been having quite the change of heart lately. I know it's because of several different things, but mostly because of the Lord. 

My husband laughs (not all the time) and calls me a hoarder. I beg to differ, because I'm totally NOT! And really, you should see his garage. Oye!

But, I honestly still have clothes from when I was in 8th grade (just to give you some perspective, I'll be 30 in just a wink of an eye). Pretty sure B.U.M. Equipment long sleeved shirts aren't still trending ANYWHERE! (Please feel free to laugh now.)

But, when I started this little challenge, I thought it would just be good to clean up a little and donate our items. Change is good. But I also realized, that perhaps it was meant as something more.

I tend to get so wrapped up in stuff. Mostly, just trying to make sure I have enough like everyone else. I felt that God was giving me a mission. He was saying, "Get rid of it. There are others out there who need it more, and I will always provide for you."

It was like a breathe of fresh air. Maybe some of you don't know what I'm talking about. But, I honestly felt that's what he was telling me in my heart.

The next morning, after my evening revelation, I set forth to doing it. I knew that if I didn't do it that day, that I would come up with more excuses as to why keeping all this stuff, would be OK. And I didn't want to keep doing that same old thing anymore. I wanted to break that cycle of clinging to the old, unused, unloved stuff.

This was difficult, but I did it. I have virtually an empty closet. I have a few pairs of jeans, work out clothes, and a few dresses and tops. Pretty bare. I even went through my jewelry drawers. Socks-ditto. (I had socks with bows on them. Yep, another phase. Moving on...)

I had a few different piles-homeless shelter, Salvation Army and rags.

When I went to drop everything off, again, I knew it needed to happen that day. I felt a little sadness as I approached the first drop off. But, as I got out of the car, I felt a rush. An "Out with the Old and in with the NEW!" I knew I was doing the right thing.

Someone else could use this stuff. They didn't just have to sit in my closet as old memories, collecting dust.

When I got home and took inventory of what I'd actually done, I was kind of in awe. I missed none of it. What a relief!

This was a new step for me. Laugh if you want to, but I think God was telling me that by getting rid of my "stuff" that I was clinging so hard to, I was showing him that I have faith in him. That the worldly "stuff," will come and go, and that I shouldn't be so attached to it.

And when I can be at ease with not being attached to "stuff," life gets a little easier to deal with at times.

There will still be times where I have wants. (What girl DOESN'T?) I still have a Christmas wish list and a few other little things that I'd like to have while here on this Earth, during this very short time. However, they aren't going to define who I am, and how I live my life. They are, in the end, just things. And as a wise man once said, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."

So, in one sense, I didn't do the whole week. But in another, I got rid of WAY MORE than just the 56 items I was hoping too!

Happy Simplifying to you all! May you enjoy your new space!

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Monday, December 3, 2012

1 Timothy 5:8 and Doing This in Secret

December is officially here. The 25 days to Christmas is in full swing. Movies, music and more, remind us of this awesome time! I honestly don't think I can come up with another season throughout the year that makes me feel the way I do, during this time.

I love walking through our mall watching all the shoppers. Looking at all the decorations and lights. Even the kids seem to be entranced by the lights on our tree. They seem to calm down a little easier at night when we have the lights all aglow, and music playing.

What a wonderful thing is it to have family. The family you give birth too, and the family that you make. I'm not sure there is anything more wonderful than this.

Over the weekend, I was reminded of this scripture:
"But if someone doesn't provide for their own family, and especially for a member of their household, they have denied faith. They are worse than those who have no faith."
                                  1 Timothy 5:8

Last year, a friend of ours was out of work. He had been out of work for quite a few months actually. We'd invite him over for dinners as often as we could, and try to send him home with left overs when ever possible.

As the holidays approached, I felt that we needed to do something more for him. He would never ask, or really say how bad things were getting for him. But, we also knew, that if came down to making his mortgage payment or eating, he'd choose the first.

I went to the grocery store and bought groceries for him (and his pet). Easy things like a lasagna, and Hungry Man Meals. I also bought items for him to make his own easy dinners. I'm not saying that he couldn't cook, but I didn't want to get him stuff to whip up quiches either. Meals like spaghetti, chicken and rice, hamburger helper. Things like that.

I wrapped it all up in the biggest box I could find, and early one morning, before Christmas, I headed over to his house.

I didn't want him to know it had come from us, and so I did a quick drive by, to make sure that either he wasn't home, or if he was home, he wasn't really around.

He was home, but thankfully, he wasn't around. I drove just down past his house, quickly got out with my box of groceries, and dropped on his door step and ran! I mean, I RAN like I STOLE something!!!

I think we tend to feel a little bit proud, about accepting help, at times. Truth is, I didn't want him to know it was from us, because I felt that if he knew, he would be reluctant to accept it. 

Also, it is just so fun to give! There is no better feeling in the world than giving. (I really feel this way.)

A few days later, our friend was by our house and he asked me if I had given him his "gift." I denied it. He asked me again a few other times and each time I'd just smile and say no. 

He did say it was one of the nicest things he'd ever received, and that was just awesome for me to hear!

When we get the chance to really be a blessing to someone else in life, you really get a high, that you'll never be able to compare with anything else in life. It's amazing! It's thrilling! It's something that you can easily get addicted to doing!

This holiday season, look out for all your family. Maybe there is someone, who is closer than you think to you, that could really use a little blessing.

Best wishes-and may you enjoy all the awesomeness that comes along with it!

"But when you give to charity, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, So that your deeds of charity may be in secret; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you openly."
Matthew 6:3-4

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