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Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Well, I've done it again-gone an entire month without a post.  It is not for lack of things to post about. In fact, it is just the opposite.  There has been so much going on that I haven't been able to keep up. As we enter the new year, I want to try to slow down a bit in some areas of my life and focus on things I enjoy the most (like posting on this blog).

As in years before, I would like to continue taking a photo a day---it has been a great way to document my year and to take notice of the little things in my life.  This year, however, I may not post an original Instagram challenge each and every month.  Instead, I may join a few other challenges that are already developed online, such as at The Idea Room or Katrina Kennedy's CY365. I'll keep you informed about what I'm choosing to do so that you can join me as well, but for now, here is a new Instagram challenge for the month of January 2016.

If you haven't already done so, come on over to Instagram and follow me by clicking on the icon to the right or here.  You can participate as often or as little as you like, and feel free to interpret each prompt however you'd like.  Just take a photo a day and post it on Instagram, tagged with the designated hashtag.  From time to time, be sure to click on the hashtag to see what others have posted and follow a new friend, if you like.  For these challenges, I only use my iPhone camera, so the focus is generally on the theme and not technique, but you can use whatever works for you.

Have fun with it and leave me a comment below if you are new to the challenge or have any questions.  (hint: Open this page on your mobile device and click/save the image to your photos so that you always have it handy).

Monday, November 30, 2015

December Instagram Challenge

Wow!  It has been a month since I last posted!   I was on such a roll with the Blogtember challenge, and then life just got so busy.  I'm hoping to do better in the next few weeks, but until I can sit still long enough to edit pictures and compose a post or tow, I'll leave you with another Instagram challenge for December.

Back in July, when Valine and I went to the Rayne crop, one of our main projects was to complete the base pages for our December Daily scrapbooks.  Last year, I completed my pages in the fall, but it was a bit of a stretch this year to think of tinsel and trees when it was 95+ degrees outdoors, but I am so glad that we did it while we had the time.   As busy as this fall has been, I never would have had the time to put it together otherwise.

Rather than following the usual format that Ali Edwards typically uses, this year, we decided to use up our stash of supplies and to center our books around the alphabet:  The ABC's of Christmas.
I wanted to keep it simple, with the ultimate goal of adding one picture per day, plus a bit of journaling.  Here is a peek inside:
 I included some extra pages in the back, as well, as an envelope to collect keepsakes, if I want them.
Therefore, the photo prompts for this month will follow this same theme.   Obviously, there are more than 26 days in December, so there are a few other prompts for those days.  Have fun with it and let's see how many different ways to interpret each letter we can find!  Don't forget to use the hashtag #ABCsOfChristmas2015!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

November Instagram Challenge

Today is the last day of November and it is time to post the next Instagram challenge. Ron and I are on the road today--braving the very nasty weather to enjoy lunch and a little shopping with Dan, down in Cheneyville. November's challenge was created entirely on my phone, during our travel, so here's hoping that it all gets posted correctly on the blog.

For those of you that might be new to my blog and to the challenge, here's how it works. I post a set of prompts for the month and you join in taking a photo a day, inspired by the prompts. If you get busy and skip a day, no problem. If you want to switch things around, no problem. Do whatever works for you. The only rule is to tag it with the given hashtag so that we can all enjoy the pictures and be inspired by your creativity. This month's hashtag is: #ThankfulForThis2015. As you might guess, I am going to use this as an opportunity to remember how very lucky I am and to give thanks for the things that I snap pictures of.

If you need any more information, shoot me an email. Hope that you'll click the Instagram icon to the right to follow along as I record my days.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Operation Halloween Costumes 2015

I have offered to make Halloween costumes for each of the grandchildren for the last couple of years---well, since I've HAD grandchildren.   The kids get to choose whatever they want, and so far, I've been able to come up work up a costume that they have been happy with.  The first year, Adellelyn requested a black cat costume and Michael wanted to be Spiderman.  It would have been a lot easier and definitely cheaper to just buy one, but in the end, they were so pleased with how they turned out.  (I didn't make the Blue Man costume)
Last year, the requests were a bit more difficult.  I probably spent way too much money and time on the costumes to transform  them into Art and Boo from Monsters University, but it was so worth it when I saw how much they loved them.
Plus, there were two new grand babies added to our family.  Archer already had an elephant costume provided by his other grandmother, but I sewed a penguin costume for baby D.
This year, there is another new grand baby so I knew I'd need a little extra time! After several changes in requests, Adellelyn settled on being Mavis, the vampire girl from the movie Transylvania.  Here was my inspiration photo.
I purchased some net sleeves and red/black striped tights and was all prepared to sew together a black dress, when I happened upon one on the clearance rack at Target.  She had seen a headpiece that she really wanted, so I picked that up at Big Lot's and only had to sew a vampire cape.  I forgot to take any pictures during the process, but they sent me this one yesterday, after the package arrived--(her mama will kill me when she realizes I posted with the messy living room showing, but hey, that's life with kids)!
At first, Michael wanted to wear his Art costume again, but a couple of weeks ago he changed his mind.  His request:   a brown dog that covers everything except his face.  Done!

After a visit to New England, Jaylynn requested a Crab Costume for Archer.   I had to think about how exactly to make that one, but in the end, it turned out pretty cute.   The "shell" straps on like a backpack.  
Baby B's parents decided that he would be the perfect "garden gnome", and I couldn't agree more!   The inspiration photo even looks a little like him!  
I can't wait to see him in the costume!
Callie and Jordan requested a Minion costume for Baby D.   I looked all over town for a yellow shirt with no luck at all.   So, yesterday, he and I made a trip to Joann's and bought a yard of fabric to make our own (plus some puppy dog fabric that caught his attention---I mean, how could I not??).  
I drafted a pattern while Baby D worked on a picture of his own.  
The shirt came together quickly and easily and looked pretty good.  I found overalls at Old Navy and only needed a cap.  Here is the inspiration picture for this costume.

I downloaded a pattern and cut out a cap, but could tell after the first few seams that it was not going to fit, so I turned to plan B.   Using a different pattern, I stitched the hat together and added a black band to mimic the goggles band.  
Fortunately, I held off on sewing the lenses to the hat on until I tried it on him this afternoon.   While it might have fit him fine, he HATED it!  (they are just laying on there there in the above photo)  When I attempted to try it on him to check the fit, not only would he not keep it on his head, he wouldn't come near it when it was laying on his couch!  

Enter plan C:   construct a hood instead of a hat and stitch it to the neckline of the shirt.  So far, he has tolerated the hood on his new rain jacket fairly well, so perhaps he would like this better than a hat.  
As I finished up this last costume, it occurred to me that the Baby B and Baby D don't have Trick or Treat bags.  It is too late to get one to baby B (next year!), but I put together a quick one this evening for baby D.
Things have been crazy busy the last week or so, but, I think they are all ready for Halloween now!  I would love to have a photo for them all together in their costumes--maybe next year!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Feeding The Flock

One of the things that I love about my church, is its emphasis on missions.   All ages are involved in serving others in some way---from very young children to senior adults!  Months ago, I was asked to co-lead a brand new event at our church.  Patterned after an event from another church in our area, it was a combination cook-off and Silent Auction.   Large dinners, etc. are NOT my area of expertise, but mission stuff  IS, so I agreed to help.

Ann and I began meeting together, along with one of our associate pastors (and my friend), Mimi in the summer.   We brainstormed ideas and decided that the scripture we would use for inspiration was from Matthew---the story of the Jesus feeding the crowd with 5 loaves and 2 fish.   In the story, Jesus' disciples are overwhelmed by the sheer number of people and ask Jesus what to do.  He replies, "You give them something to eat."  (Matthew 14:16)   Since we feel that we are all called to do the same, it seemed the perfect scripture for this event.  I sent our ideas and theme to Jana and she came up with an AWESOME logo for us.
For the weeks leading up to the event, we worked with our committee to secure "chefs" from the church and getting items donated for the Silent Auction.  At one point, we were worried that there were not enough cooks, that we began soliciting them ourselves.  But, thankfully, our church family came through and we ended up with 30+ people committing to cook a dish and a huge selection of items for our silent auction!

I was also in charge of decorations, and decided to make paper "fish" to put in baskets with bread.  I printed out B/W drawings and then used watercolors to paint them.  Callie helped me . . . and so did Luke.  A little.   After they were painted, I cut them out and stapled them together, stuffing napkins in the middle to give them a little bit of dimension.  While definitely unique, they turned out kind of cool.
We spent a few hours on Saturday setting up the tables, decorating and getting everything ready.
I kept things pretty simple, but the gym was looking pretty good by the time we left.
Admission was $10, and for that price, adults received a plate and free reign to taste all the goodies, bid on the silent auction items and vote (they were each given 10 tickets) on their favorite chefs.
My biggest fear, after we had secured so many cooks and auction items, was that no one would show up.   But, I shouldn't have worried.  The crowd came!
People came and ate and visited and shopped.
There was a kids' area with a place to color and special kid-friendly treats.   And, of course, the kids had their own tickets to vote with!
Our youth even teamed up to prepare three different selections!
Despite difficulties with our sound system, our amazing M.C. persevered, keeping everyone posted on the progress of the auction and then announcing the winning bids.
The winning chef was awarded "The Golden Spoon" award!!  

Well, actually, there was a tie . . . between the Pulled Pork that this Ty (in the white shirt and cap below) prepared. . .
and the Whoopie Pies that these two youth prepared.
Since we only had one actual "spoon", Ty let the girls have it.  They were thrilled!!!
It was great!  I was exhausted, but so happy that things went well and we were able to raise a substantial amount of money for missions!!   I think we consider the evening a success and something we will do again next year---and next year should be a little bit easier since we now have this one behind us.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Happy Birthday!

I learned to sew when I was very young, at the feet of my mother.  She had grown up sewing out of necessity, since her family was quite poor.
I grew up sewing because I loved it.  Sewing gave me the freedom to imagine and then use my hands to create what I had imagined.  By the time I was a teenager, I was quite proficient  and was thrilled that I could hand-craft things that no one else would own.  It didn't really matter to me that crafting wasn't at all cool at the time . . . I loved it  regardless.
In addition to learning to sew clothes, I learned how to embroider, cross-stitch and needlepoint.  As my mother taught me the stitches and encouraged me to practice, I remember her telling me often that "The back of your piece should be as pretty as the front".
At the time, that seemed so absurd.  Who cared if the back of my stitching was messy with threads reaching from side to side and obscuring the design from behind?  After all, it would be hidden beneath a picture frame or a pillow backing.  And, over the years, there have been times when my desire to "get it done" have overshadowed the neatness underneath.  On the outside, things looked great, but underneath it was a jumbled mess of thread and knots.

As is often the case, it wasn't until many years later that I realized my mama's wisdom in many things she taught me.  In this case, I have begun to recognize the parallel between her sewing method and her life in general.  You see, my mama was one of those people that people admired.   Not because she was beautiful and worldly . . . although I think certainly think she was very beautiful.  Not because she owned beautiful things . . . she came from very humble roots and worked hard for everything she had.  Not even because she always had beautiful words for every situation . . . she struggled with shyness and speaking in front of others.

No, I think that one of the most wonderful things about my mama was the fact that her "back side was just as pretty as the front".   Not only was she well-versed in scripture and the "golden rule", but she practiced those things in every aspect of her life.   She taught us to look beyond appearances and to see the person inside and to help others by any means that we were able.  While she taught Bible studies and was gentle and kind to those at church, she put those things into practice at home and in the community. She saw the beauty in nature and encouraged us to notice the spots on a ladybug and the feathers on a bird.

Was she perfect?   Indeed not.   Who is?

But, there were no "hidden skeletons" in a closet somewhere.   She would openly talk about the struggles of raising a son with special needs or growing up poor or living far away from her family, yet remind us of the blessings found in each of those situations.
Today would have been my mama's 86th birthday.  While she passed away thirteen years ago, she faced her battle with ovarian cancer with honesty, grace and strength.
I still miss her very much and sometimes wish to be able to share some secret or news with her.   I wish that she could see me happily married and to meet her great-grandchildren. Mostly, though, I am so very grateful for the life that she lived and for the example she set for me and my brothers and for our children.   Happy Birthday, Mama!!

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