Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Bridal Shower of the Century

On Sunday I had the honor of attending a bridal shower for an old college friend, and it was the most amazing bridal shower I have ever been to.  No cheesy bridal shower games to be found - this was elegant, creative and very unique.

Let's start with The Location:

I'm kicking myself for not getting a photo of the front of the house - amazing.  Anyway, this is the back yard.  It overlooks a canal in Newport Beach, CA.  Ducks and their babies slowly swam by as we mingled in the back yard.

Another view of the backyard.  This is the bride-to-be (on our laps), with a group of our good friends from college.  4 of us in this photo were Resident Assistants together and have remained close throughout the years (I won't say how many years, but let's just say it is over 10 now!)

The Food:
Popcorn in old music notes?!  Genius!

Could this setting be any more gorgeous?

Heather giving Kelly a "tour" of the patio and all of the food (Kelly is the bride-to-be in white):

Let's move over to The Drinks:

Here we have Lemonade, Arnold-Palmer (iced tea/lemonade), assorted fine wines, water with lemon, and two types of homemade Sangria (red wine and white wine).  Now, I'm not a big wine drinker, but the red Sangria tasted amazing!

Now to the Inside:
A chocolatier from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory came and demonstrated chocolate-dipping techniques.  We each got to decorate a "groom" cookie, as well as dip strawberries in chocolate.  Amazing!

We watched a video of the groom telling us what he loves about the bride.  Let me mention here how he proposed... he hired a string-quartet to come and set up on her lawn while they were inside of her house.  He "ran out to the car" and knocked on the door to come back in.  When she answered the door, she was greeted by the sounds of classical music on her lawn.  He then proceeded to play a vinyl LP on a record player of a song he wrote for her, and then got down on one knee and proposed.  This is no ordinary couple!! :)

We moved to the backyard where we were treated to a huge surprise - a concert by musician Molly Jenson, a favorite artist of Kelly's.

She played for about 45 minutes for us, and while she was singing, this helicopter kept circling right above the house.  We kept joking that it was the paparazzi.

Afterwards we took tons of pictures:
(Kelly requested that we all sing opera) :)

Wow, I look quite scary here.

Kelly chatted with Molly:

And then we moved inside for the Gifts:

This is my gift that I just had to share.  I went through a Scrabble Tile necklace phase and have tons of tiles left, so I created a little "present topper" for the couple. It was so easy to do- I just drew a heart on a blank tile, and super-glued them all down.  You can do this for a baby gift too.   I was so happy that she loved it!

I have been referring to this shower as "The Shower of the Century".  It truly was so unique, and special, and amazing.  Four bridesmaids planned the entire thing and worked so hard on it.

Maybe you will get some good ideas from this shower - I know I did!  Maybe you can't afford to hire a chocolatier and a musician to fly in, but you could get people you know to do some of this.  All of those special touches added up to be the most amazing bridal shower ever.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mason Jar Chandelier

Awhile back I was so inspired by Beth from The Stories of A to Z to make a mason jar chandelier, that it was all I could think about for days.

My challenge was to turn this:

Into THIS:

Lo and behold, I stopped by a yard sale one day and found this beauty for only .25 cents.  

Here is how I created my mason jar chandelier:

1) Step 1:  Spray paint the lamp black (total cost: .97 cents)

2) Step 2:  Buy mason jars (total cost of 1 case: $9.99)

3) Step 3:  Create holes in lids of mason jars. This was the hardest part.  The jars are bigger than the lights, so we had to create a way for them to stay on the light fixtures.  We do not have a drill with a hole-cutter (which would have been the easiest option), so my husband tried a few different methods.  He took a screw driver and hammered out a hole-shape (see first example on the left).   That didn't go great, but he got better and better at it.  Then we figured out that we could just take a can opener and punch 4 big holes in the lid, and that would work too.  

Yes, not the cleanest holes around, but they still do the job.

Step 4: Place the lids with the holes around each light fixture, then screw the mason jars into the lids upside-down.  We could have glued them to each light, but the holes are tight and secure, so we didn't do that.

Step 5: Turn on the light!

This light already came with the pretty bulbs, so we didn't have to buy them, but they definitely look better than regular light bulbs.  I just love the way the light reflects off the jars around the kitchen.  It is beautiful at night!!!

Total Cost: $11.25

And if I can do it, you can do it!! 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Winding Down

We have 19 more days until school begins; it seems so far away but it coming so fast! Some of my friends have kids that started school in mid-August, so I'm thankful for these last few weeks that we can all spend time together.

We have accomplished all but two items on our Summer Fun List.  We haven't visited my sister yet (although she has come here a few times), and we never went to see Toy Story 3.  The boys are still scared of the theater, and a few friends told me it was scary for their kids.  BUT, it has been fun crossing everything else off the list!  The 2-week swimming lessons paid off, and the other day we spent 4 1/2 hours in a friend's pool, and they loved it.  I watched Micah take off by himself across the pool, just hanging on to a pool noodle.  I was so proud of him, as he finally overcame his fear of the water.

As we slow down for the beginning of school, I am enjoying my last days of having both boys home with me all day long. This is a monumental year, as I have had both boys with me, almost all day every day, since they were born.  With school starting for Micah, I will need to find new things to do with just Jaden and I, and I'm sure we will have some precious moments.  I will really miss being with Micah all day though.  It is still a shock to me that from 9-2 he will not be with me, under my care.  But let's stop talking about that or I will be a big mess. :)

The past few weeks the boys have officially given up their afternoon naps for good. I thought this moment was happening a few months ago, but the naps came back.  This time, though, they both seem to have outgrown them, and no matter how tired out they are, they will just NOT sleep in the afternoon.  It is hard for me, since that was the time of day that I would rest or get work done.  But I guess it is good they're both doing it now, since Micah will be at school and Jaden needs to be awake at 2pm when we pick Micah up.  Trying to look on the bright side here!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Preparing for School

Martin (my husband) had this great idea to turn our unused garage space into a playroom for the boys.  We never park in there since the garage door is old and doesn't open properly, and it had basically turned into a room where we stored all of our junk.  We cleared out the middle space and put a large carpet remnant there.  Martin even put the boy's names on the garage door (we weren't using the wooden names in their room anymore), and he put a small table and chairs in their for "school."  I was skeptical at first (I wasn't thrilled with the dirty garage being the new play place), but the boys love it and it has just made our house bigger!

Now the boys want to play school every day.  We have started to use it as a way to prepare them both for preschool and kindergarten, which start in 4 more weeks.  To enter the "school," they have to be dressed, have their hair brushed and teeth brushed, and then I go on the other side of the door, pretend to be the teacher, and welcome them inside.  Yesterday they called me "teacher" all day long, up until they went to bed.  They were surprisingly obedient and got really into the role-playing.  They do worksheets at the small table, have "recess" and snack time, and it keeps them occupied for hours.  Why didn't I think of this?!

Micah knocking on the door for "school."  Love that sideways hat action.  In his hand you see a "ticket" (a.k.a. Thomas the Train flashcard) that I gave the boys to "enter the schoolroom" once they were ready.  

Micah was so excited to play school this morning that he even got Jaden dressed, underwear and all!  I was pleasantly shocked!

We also have been trying to keep busy in these last few weeks before school starts, since soccer, swimming lessons and vacations are over now.  I pulled out this Activity Jar that we made at MOPS last year, and put a bunch of new activities in it.  The old activities inside were outdoor things to do; the new activities are indoor things to do.  Here are some of the activities inside the jar:

-Go on a bike ride
-Go to the library
-Go on a Scavenger Hunt (give them a bag and a small list of pictures, and go for a walk outside to find the items)
-Visit a bookstore with a kids' section and let them look around
-Visit the pet store
-Play Candyland
-Read books
-Music time  (give them pretend instruments and have them play along to the music)
-Make cookies together

There are about 30 activities inside the jar, and this morning I had them pick out 1 each.  They picked inside activities today, and I told them when they are done, they can each pick a new one.  It just makes the mundane a little more fun.

Yesterday we painted, too, and I thought I'd pass along this easy little craft idea.  I picked up these small pots at the Dollar Tree (3 for $1).  Before we painted them, I put their snack inside:  raisins (for the "dirt") and almonds in the middle (for the "seeds").  Then we put a few goldfish on top just for fun.  They didn't love the almonds, but at least they tried them and loved their little snack pots.  After they were done eating, we painted them and let them dry.  Now we'll plant a real seed in soil and watch it grow!

How are you preparing for Back to School?

Friday, August 13, 2010

When Fall Comes Early

(My brother took this photo - he rocks.)

Fall is my favorite season of the year.  The sound of leaves rustling in the wind, the smells of pumpkin pie and warm candles, the decorations, the events....everything.  With the Fall comes amazing beauty - vibrant colors of orange, red and yellows that dot the trees.  Yet towards the end of Fall, the leaves die and fall off the trees, leaving them bare and naked.  We rake up the leaves and throw them away, and await the new buds that will spring on the branches.

Fall is not upon us yet, but I have been attending a Bible study written by my good friend Laura called "Seasoned With Grace."  Through the study, we are delving into the different spiritual seasons we go through in life, which have many similarities to the seasons of nature.  So far we have studied Winter, Spring and Fall.  When she asked me last week, "Is there a season you currently find yourself in?"  The answer to me was clear: I am in Fall.

Fall is characterized by uncertainty, disappointment, dryness, a feeling of uselessness, and sometimes loneliness.

God uses this season in our lives to purify us and get rid of the dead and useless stuff in us: sin, bad attitudes, bad habits, etc.   He uses this season to prune us, so that we may then grow even more and be more effective for him.  He refines us, chipping away at those areas of ungodliness and bad thoughts and attitudes.  It hurts sometimes, but it is good.

A few months ago I had my Fall months all planned out - our schedule, the ministries I was going to be involved in, extra-curricular activities, and more.  Yet one by one every.single.door.closed.  I was left wondering "why?" and "did I do something wrong?"  Yet God kept whispering to my heart that He wanted me all to Himself for awhile.  There was some work He needed to do on me.  Bad habits he wanted to get rid of.  My bad habits have included: not taking care of myself, not being disciplined in my time with God, having a bad attitude, etc.  (I won't go on and on here) ;)

The funny thing was, the more I talked to my friends about my life and their lives, we realized that many of us are in the same season right now.  I have 4 very good friends who feel like life suddenly stopped - what they were doing ended, and they are left wondering why, and wonder what God may have in store.  But maybe what God has in store for us this season isn't outward activity.  It is inward activity.  Kindof like Fall, don't you think?

Laura writes in her curriculum, "Maintaining our focus on God during this season is imperative - it is easy to get discouraged and resist the work he is doing in our hearts if we don't."  (i.e. fill our time up with "stuff" because just sitting and being still before God is too hard).

I have made it my personal goal that during this Fall season of life, at least for 1 month, I will get up an hour earlier every morning.  I will use that time wisely to spend with God - maybe not for the entire hour, but I will be open to how He speaks to me.  I will also go to bed earlier (part of dealing with one of my "bad habits").  I am trying to take better care of my body, and exercise.  So far it's working, because I  have lost almost 5 pounds and feel completely different.  But that's not the point.  The point is, God is doing an internal work, and it is our job to be responsive to it.

If you need encouragement in this area, I encourage you to go over and read John 15.

-It is just a season
-God is doing a deeper work
-He is still with you.

(If you'd like to read more on this topic, you can see another post here.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back to School with Purpose

Lately I have been waking up sad, and I wasn't sure why until it hit me like a brick wall this morning.  I am not ready to send my "baby" off to Kindergarten.  School starts in 29 days- still a month away- and I am a mess.  I can't even walk through the school supply section of Target without having a mini-meltdown.  Since it is therapeutic for me to make lists, I thought I would make a list of the top 5 things I am worried about for him (in no particular order):

-Class size (30 seems way too much to handle for any kindergarten teacher)
-Who his teacher will be (Will she love him and care for him?  Will she watch out for him?  Will she protect him?)
-Who his friends will be (Will he find a best friend?  Will other kids make fun of him?  Will he find the good influences and stay away from the bad ones?)
-The schedule (Micah gets tired easily and still takes naps!  Will it be too much for him?  Will it be too academic and will he be exhausted?)
-Who will watch out for him?  (What if he needs help in the bathroom?  What if he falls down and gets hurt?  What if someone is picking on him?  What if he needs help opening his string cheese or his juice box?)

And oh, there are so many more worries I have for him.  Public school was not my first choice for him; in fact, it was my last choice.  Yet at the same time, I cannot escape the circumstances and feelings that he is supposed to be at this school, even though it is the hardest thing for me to come to terms with.

This morning I sat down with my Bible and felt led to this verse:
Matthew 6:26-27- "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"  Verse 34 - "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I know that Micah is God's child, and I need to trust his life into God's hands.  Do I trust God enough, even in this situation?  I am reminded that I should not worry about tomorrow (or 29 days from now), but just focus on the joys of today.

I read this post yesterday from Tsh at, who shared about going "back to school with purpose."  It is actually a topic that Dayspring is having multiple mom-bloggers write about.  As I read the articles and the comments, I was so encouraged.  I realized that despite this not being the option I had hoped for, God can still bring about a great purpose through it.  God can use my 5 year old son to show others the love of Jesus.  He can use us, as parents, to minister to the teachers and be a light in that school.   You can read about other mom's purposes here.  You can even purpose to adopt a classroom in your city and help raise funds for your child's teacher to receive much needed school supplies.

Tsh created a purpose statement for her family, and one for her child's school year.  I would like to do the same thing.  I will be thinking about it, but I know it will have something to do with building relationships with other people to show the love of Jesus to them.

In the next month, I will be praying daily for our boy - for God to prepare him, for protection, for wisdom, etc... And I appreciate your prayers, too, for Martin and I, that God would prepare our hearts and remember that He has called us to this school for a purpose.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Home Decorating

Okay, I admit it.  I've gone a little crazy.  Today I layed out all of my "to do" projects in the back yard; things I'm inspired to do something beautiful to.  Here are my latest finds/projects:

These 2 redwood benches I got from Freecycle about two years ago.  I can't believe I didn't take a before picture of them, because they were a sore sight to see.

(Oh wait - I found a picture)  ;)

They had 3 old coats of paint on them, chipped away, and were just plain ugly.  Today we (Martin) sanded them down and painted them, using "oops" paint from Home Depot that someone gave me.  Did you know that Home Depot sells "oops" paint for only $1 and $5 (depending on the size)?  Just look behind the paint counter and they usually have a rack of these returns available to buy.  This is not the color I really wanted (deep red), but hey, I got it free, so it will have to do!

Next, I found this old ladder on the side of the road being thrown out, and it looked so rustic and awesome that I just had to pick it up.  Today I went to Home Depot and got two small cans of white paint (again, in the "oops" section for only .50 cents each).  Total cost = $1.00.  My plan is to paint it and then put it in the corner of the yard with small flower pots on it.

Today I drove by a yard sale and picked this up for $1.00 for the boys room.  I've been wanting a shelf in their room for awhile, so I'm planning on painting this one either white or navy blue.

But my favorite find of ALL today was at another yard sale, where I picked up this small chandelier.

Beth (from The Stories of A to Z) recently posted about how she turned her kitchen chandelier into a mason jar chandelier and I was so excited about it; I have been wanting to try it ever since I read that.  Check out her pictures and instructions here.  Once I'm finished with this one, it will replace this "beauty" left by our landlords:

The best part about the one I bought?

You just don't find deals like that at Southern California yard sales (at least where I live)!  

I can't wait to show you all the finished products.  That is, if I finish them. ;)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Funnies

It's time again for Friday Funnies, sponsored by Heather at Triple Blessing!

At dinner one night this week, we were talking about fish when Micah asked "Where do goldfish come from, mommy?" I didn't really want to explain it so I just said that they "come from bigger fish." :) He replied, "and then they turn into [goldfish] crackers?"

We drove by an outdoor venue where a band was playing music. Micah said, "Oh no! Someone left their music on in their car and now their car battery is going to die!"

Jaden has a habit of singing a lot.  I overheard Micah say to him, "Jaden, stop singing!! That hurts my ears!"

We were at McDonalds and could not find Jaden in the play structure.  Micah ripped off his shoes and ran past me, saying, "Mommy, I have to go rescue Jaden!"

At that same play structure, Jaden looked out one of the windows at us sitting below him, and proceeded to have an entire conversation with us about something happening in there, but we could not hear one word of what he said.  It was so funny watching his facial expressions and him pointing around, thinking we could hear him, but nope....

In the car, I asked Micah, "What is your middle name, Micah?" He replied, "Nick."  I have no idea why he thinks that is his middle name, but I reminded him that it is actually Nathaniel. :)

We frequently go park at a spot overlooking the beach.  Martin brought his binoculars and let Jaden look through them.  He shouted, "I just saw a shark, mommy!  I just saw a whale!  I just saw a dolphin!  Oops - you missed it."  Then he looked around the park behind us and said, "OH!  I just saw a rumor weed!!"  Yes, Jaden loves that Veggietales episode!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Easy Entertaining

I used to be pretty scared of entertaining people.  Not as in - dancing and singing entertaining, but having people over to my house entertaining.  My house was small.  It was (very) humble.  It wasn't always clean. I didn't have a nice backyard for kids to run around in.  So, I missed out on some good opportunities.  When I did overcome my own inhibitions, I found that others were very gracious and thankful, and they felt right at home.

Since moving I have had a lot more people over.  A little more space does make a difference, and although we haven't increased a ton in square footage, I am closer in proximity to friends now and have no excuse!

I still tend to get a bit overwhelmed when thinking of what to prepare when friends come over.  However, I have come to rely on a few staples that make entertaining very easy and simple.  No matter what time of day you prefer, I hope you find a few helpful tips here!

The Breakfast Hour:
Let's say you want to invite a friend and her kids over at around 10am.  Here are my staples:

-Assorted Teas (Just get water ready to boil)
-Coffee (be sure to have half & half, sugar, or other "fun" creamer available)
-Homemade Banana Bread or a store-bought breakfast bread or pastry item.  (Cut this recipe in half and then cook it in a bundt pan.  Best banana bread recipe I have ever used!)

-Some fruit, but only if I have it on hand.  Cut up apples, grapes, orange slices or bananas sliced in half can look pretty on a nice plate.

That's it!  I find that kids and moms alike seem to enjoy banana bread, and so I put it in the oven one hour before they come over.  The smell of warm banana bread is welcoming and homey.

The Lunch Hour:
If you're having such a great time from your mid-morning affair that you'd like to carry it onto lunch time, OR you want to just invite someone over for lunch, here are a few ideas:

For the kids:
-Mac & Cheese.  Who doesn't love mac & cheese?  You can pick up Annie's Organic Mac & Cheese if you have fancy friends :) (they sell it at Target).

-Applesauce cups
-Sliced carrots
-Juice boxes.  We hardly ever have juice in our house, but I do bring it out when we have company over.  Kids love juice boxes!

For the moms:
It can be difficult knowing what other moms like to eat.  I have had good experience with these:
-Bagged salad mixes: especially the ones with spinach, cranberries, blue cheese and vinaigrette.
-Baguette rolls with turkey breast, swiss cheese, tomato and lettuce.  You can pick up fun sauces at Trader Joe's too, like cranberry sauce, pesto, chipotle mayonnaise, etc.  Even more fun if you toast the bread, turkey and cheese!
-Fruit on the side (again, grapes or cut up apples do fine)
-Iced Tea.  For this, I just boil 6 cups of water, add 4 tea bags and steep, then pour over 8-10 cups of cold water and ice.  Have sugar available for those who like to sweeten it themselves.

The Dinner Hour:

I usually do one of two meal options here:

Option 1 (All American Meal):
-Shredded chicken with BBQ sauce on rolls.
Simply put enough chicken breast in a crockpot with 1/2 jar of BBQ sauce, and simmer on low for 4-6 hours.  Shred chicken before serving and put on rolls.  You can also find amazing recipes for Pulled Pork here, if you prefer that instead.
-Roasted corn.  You can buy pre-roasted corn at Trader Joe's, or just take frozen corn and roast in a skillet.  Roasted corn is SO yummy!
-Salad.  (see bagged salad above).
-Potato or Macaroni Salad, or any other side of your choosing.

Option 2 (Mexican Meal):
- Sour Cream Enchiladas
- Crock Pot Pinto Beans (use this recipe but put them in a crock pot instead for 8-10 hours)
- Spanish Rice
- Salad

- If I'm keeping it simple (which I usually do), I just make brownies and shake powdered sugar on top.  You can make them even more pretty by adding raspberries and mint leaves if you like, or make some fancy brownies by finding a recipe here.

- For something more fancy, I might make a cake.

Okay, now you have no excuses!! :)  I encourage you to have someone over this month.  Have a playdate, or a family over for dinner.  Or just have a friend over for tea.  It will bless and encourage someone so much!

What are your entertaining staples?