Dec 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I wanted to take the time to thank so many of you for following my blog 
this past year. 
What a journey it has been, and it wouldn't be the same without you!
May God bless each of you and your families this Christmas.
I am going to take a brief rest and break from the blogging world 
and focus on my sweet family for a bit, but I will be back!
I will miss you though, and I look forward to a wonderful 2011 full of new designs, 
new licensing opportunities, travel, family happenings and God's goodness in it all.
In the meantime, try this fun DIY (do it yourself) ornament wreath!
Click here to see what I mean!
And you will love the video below...enjoy!

Dec 23, 2010

Ornament Wreath!

You are going to
this craft project!
It's Christmas Eve Eve and my sweet in laws arrived earlier today. 
We are having such fun!
I saved this craft for the girls and I to do with David's mom, (a.k.a Nan).
We had a blast!
I wanted to make one of these beautiful ornament wreaths for the girl's bedroom door.
Michael's had these ornaments for 60% off and as much as I wanted to wait and get them after the holiday when they are likely to be 90% off, I knew there may not be any left. 
Got this awesome DIY(do it yourself) project from the incredible Eddie Ross. 
You may remember Eddie from HERE.
You can click HERE for his directions.
He even had a contest too and his readers submitted some gorgeous wreaths!
It really was easy breezy and fun!
The kids helped too except for the hot glue.
Follow his directions and hot glue every single ornament tip or you may say bad words 
at Christmas time and we wouldn't want that!!

Happy Christmas crafting!

Dec 22, 2010

Christmas deliciousness...

Are you ready 
for some Christmas deliciousness?
I actually made this up with my sister over the phone in the grocery store last week.
I wanted something unique, pretty and delicious.
Picky, right?
It's chocolate mouse in baked wantons, topped with a raspberry
and dusted with what my kids call "sweet snow" (powdered sugar.)
I think they might work better in the small Athens pastry shells
so I will make them that way for our Christmas Eve feast.
If you'd like to try these, here's how I made them:
Spray muffin pan with Pam then place a wonton in each spot.
Bake at 375 degrees for 4-5 min. until light brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
In a medium sized bowl melt 8 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips,
then add 1 egg, 1 T vanilla, and 1 cup heavy cream.
Blend with mixer until fluffy and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Use a melon ball scoop to fill wontons with chocolate mouse.
Add a fresh raspberry to the top of each and dust lightly with powdered sugar.

Have you seen THESE darling snowmen?
Love THIS little idea for oreo cheesecake pretzel bites...
How about THIS Crunchy the Snowman idea?
Tiramisu Dip HERE (no utensils required!)
Do you have any Christmas deliciousness to share?
Come sweet and share with us...

Dec 21, 2010

Are we really ready?

Ok, everywhere I go in the month of December people ask me,
"Are you ready?"
"Are you ready for Christmas?"
I even have caught myself asking other folks too.

All this asking got me thinking...
Are we ready for the world's view of Christmas, the earthly view?
the one with a million items on the "to do list,"
the mad rush to the mall and to Target and Walmart...
the mad rush to and from the grocery store (think I have been 3 times since Saturday...sigh)
the mad rush of preparing teacher gifts  not only for family, friends & neighbors,
but also for the children's teachers, administrators, and bus drivers...
the mad rush to wrap all the gifts and plan holiday meals...
the mad rush to all the parties and celebrations,
the mad rush to bake and tag and clean,
etc, etc, etc
In the mad rush 
do we miss it all?
Do we miss the point?
Possibly, probably...
I guess it depends on how you define the word "ready."
Are we ready for Jesus?
This puts the idea of being ready in a completely different category, doesn't it?
All this asking also makes me think of Mary and Martha.
Luke 10:41
MarthaMartha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,
Luke 10:42
but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her …
Luke 10:40
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “ …
Luke 10:39
She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.

To be completely honest, I really struggle with this!
I yearn to be more like Mary, but I behave more like Martha.
I want to sit at Jesus' feet daily in all that I do and say,
 but often the world and my own sin gets in the way and allows me to feel "too busy" to do so.
Anybody else with me?
I am 99.9% sure I am not alone on this.
I found this very convicting poem and wanted to share it with you:


"Ready for Christmas," she said with a sigh,
As she gave a last touch to the gifts piled high.
Then wearily sat for a moment and read
Till soon, very soon, she was nodding her head.

Then quietly spoke a voice in her dream!
"Ready for Christmas! What do you mean?
When only last week
You wouldn't acknowledge your friend on the street."

"Ready for Christmas, while holding a grudge!
Perhaps you better let God be the judge.
Why how can the Christ child come and abide
In a heart that is selfish and filled with pride?"

"Ready for Christmas, when only today
A beggar lad came and you turned him away
Without even a smile to show that you cared!
So little he asked, he could have been spared."

"Ready for Christmas! You've worked, it is true,
But just doing the things that you wanted to do."
Ready for Christmas, your circle's too small.
Why you are not ready for Christmas at all."

She awake with a start, and a cry of despair,
There's so little time, and I've still to prepare!
"Oh Father forgive me, I see what you mean;
To be ready means more than a house swept clean."

"Yes, more than the giving of gifts and a tree,
It's the heart swept clean that he wants to see,
A heart that is free from bitterness, and sin,
Ready for Christmas means ready for Him!"
--Author Unknown---

Let's get ready for Him this Christmas!
*enjoy the video!

Dec 20, 2010

Your presence, not presents!

My sweet friend and DESIGNING FOR THE SOUL reader, Coleman 
sent this precious nativity idea to me. She makes this with her kids. 
I had to ask her some specifics though and she kindly answered.
Graham Crackers
White Icing
Shredded Wheat (crumbles to resemble hay and one whole one for Jesus' manger)
Animal Crackers for the camels and sheep
Peanut as Baby Jesus
and the gummies are Haribo Gummies (cola gummies)
I found it here but have never seen them before.
Who knew cola gummies would really resemble Mary and Joseph?
Thank you Coleman, for sharing this with us!

Should have shared this earlier with my sister!
You'll have to read her rendition of trying to repeat what I posted about HERE.
For those of you who know my sister, you will love this!
Look at the pictures first... 
my two cute nephews Elliott (7) and Chappell (4)
working on it!
the visiting friend...
notice the hands, oh my!
nice job, Chappell!

This is the hilarious rendition from my sister:

Well, this is gingerbread house making at my house (all boys!)

Step One: Get a switch, a belt or a gun.
Step Two: Pour yourself a glass of wine or champagne (as you can see, I chose the latter in pic #1).
Step Three: Secure a pair of earplugs to block out questions like "What am I supposed to do with this?" "Can you help me spread this yogurt?" "Can we eat ALL of this candy?!!" "Can I have some milk with these crackers?" "Why aren't there any M n M's?"
Step Four: Make the house for your 4 year old because he says "Mommy, I caaayyyyaaanntt(can't)!!"
Step Five: Watch your breakfast room transform into a war zone.
Step Six: Pour more wine or champagne for yourself.
Step Seven: Get out the vacuum (or Shop Vac if results are serious).
Step Eight: Once the boys abruptly haul ___ out of nowhere to play football, abandoning the gingerbread house-making project halfway through (that they didn't even know they had started), then you may begin cleaning the rug, wiping the table repeatedly with little to no results, mopping the floor and putting all the sticky candy with saliva on it back in the bags to put in their stockings in 2 weeks.
Step Nine: Pour another glass of wine get the M n M's you hid from them because you decided once you got home you'd rather them be for you, and sit down and wonder what the hell just happened!!!
Step Ten: Dream of living closer to your sister since she can handle events like this much better!
Love ya!

Whatever you create this year with your kids is great...
no matter the mess or the chaos. 
What they'll remember is that their mom took the time to be with them.
Your gift is your presence!

Dec 17, 2010

photography & coffee

Great gift idea...
for those who love photography & coffee
(that would be me!)
You can order a Cannon or Nikon lens coffee mug HERE!

I have to admit I ordered one for a friend
one for my husband to give me for Christmas!
I know, can you believe I did that?
Little did I know he would surprise me with an early Christmas present today!
Soon I'll be able to sip from a lens and shoot pictures through this lens.
For all you who love photography or know folks who do, this mug is a great gift!
And the camera is of course a fabulous gift too! 
We have captured many treasured memories and it's worth every penny!
Have a glorious weekend!

Dec 16, 2010

Advent Wreath

This year we purchased an oasis ring and made our own advent wreath. 
And thanks to my sweet mother and her garden, we were able to use wonderful fresh greenery. 
my candles are really a burgundy/purplish red believe it or not... (purple was sold out!)

Do you know some of the symbolism behind the advent wreath and the greenery? 

                                                                 The Many Symbols of the Advent Wreath
The symbols of the Advent wreath should be explained to the children
to make the service more meaningful and exciting for them.
It makes certain teachings of our Faith visible, even touchable and is a very effective way to present these to children.
First of all, and most important, is the symbolism of light. The children will have surely noticed that in winter the days become shorter and the nights become longer. It should be pointed out to them that at Christmas this changes, and the days begin to get longer and the nights shorter. The progressive lighting of candles symbolizes the coming of the spiritual light of Christ into the world and anticipates the change in physical light which takes place at Christmas.
The wreath itself is round, a circle. This reminds us of the crowns worn by kings and of crowns made of laurel (bay) leaves presented to those who were victorious in the athletic games of the ancient world. It points out to us that Jesus Christ is our true King and that He is victorious over those things which would hurt us - evil, sin, and death.
The wreath, again, is circular and this is a symbol of the eternity of God, who, like a circle, has no beginning nor an end. The candles placed on the wreath remind us that in Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, He who was eternal, the Son of God, entered into our world of time and change. (Theologians call this the “intersection of time and eternity”.
How amazing that such a profound idea can be made visible by a few branches and candles!)
Point out to the children that the differing lengths of the candles
show us the passing of time as we get nearer to Christmas.
Each candle on the wreath stands for a Sunday (and its following week) of the Advent season. Candles 1, 2, and 4 are purple. In the ancient world purple dye was very expensive and could only by afforded by kings.
The purple candles tell us that the one whose birth we are preparing to celebrate is our true King.
The rose candle (3rd Sunday) tells us that Advent is half over and Christmas is getting nearer and nearer.
Its lighter color is a symbolic anticipation of our joy when we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
The Advent wreath is made of evergreens, which are symbolic of life itself and, since they last through the winter, point to God’s gift of life which comes to us even when the world is dark and threatening. Many kinds of evergreens can be used when we make the wreaths at Church. Others can be added later on at home.
Each has its own symbolic meaning.
Pine , the most common evergreen, points to Everlasting Life.
Laurel (Bay), which was used to crown those who won in the games, signifies victory.
Cedar , because it is long lasting and aromatic, is symbolic of strength and healing.
Juniper , holly, and rosemary By legend these plants provided shelter and help for the Holy Family when they fled from Bethlehem to Egypt. The fragrance of rosemary, it has been said, began when the Virgin Mary laid out the Infant Jesus’ clothes to dry on this plant. The rosemary bush responded by perfuming the Christ Child’s clothing.
Holly . Its prickly leaves remind us of the Crown of Thorns.
Its red berries remind us of the Blood of Jesus shed for us upon the Cross.
Ivy , since it is frequently used as a decoration, has always been a symbol of joy and festivity.

A sweet DESIGNING FOR THE SOUL blog reader named Jennie sent me an e-mail recently 
sharing another blog (Mrs. French) featuring an advent tree her family made.
Love the look and the idea...thanks for sharing Jennie!

Did you all make an advent wreath this year? 
Any other unique ideas/traditions for the advent season?

Dec 15, 2010

Pretty Possibilities!

The UPS fella' has been by here lots lately, but I was especially excited to open this one...
samples of the Possibilities Collection on a variety of product for Wellspring.
These goodies are in their newest catalog 
which just shipped to the retailers who cary Wellspring gift products 
and I will be in Atlanta in January for the official launch in their showroom.
If you are a retail owner and would like to carry these, contact Wellspring 
or if you are headed to market come see them 
in Atlanta: Link 2 Sales Showroom; Building 2, #1600
in New York at the Gift Show, Booth #1740
in Dallas: Next Generation: Booth # 1028
What's your favorite?
the sticky block notes?

the pill boxes?
the pencil pads with a magnet on the back?
the boxed notes?
or the flip notes with pen?
What's your favorite?
Is it "POSSIBLE" for you to leave a comment below?
come on... you can do it!
I would really love some feedback.
P.S. These are just samples I will be using and giving as gifts, but after Christmas I will likely place an order so let me know if you are interested in ordering.
You can also tell your favorite local gift shops to please carry these...
they can contact Wellspring directly.

Dec 14, 2010

Not too late!

Have you ordered from here yet?
They are all on sale
It's not too late!
Fabulous designs and the best customer service in the industry!
P.S. Remember to enter the code HOLIDAYMB for 15% off!

Dec 13, 2010

Sight Word Wall!

We've been trying to make working on sight words fun over here.
Luckily we have the chalkboard wall as you may remember.
I found these fun post it notes a while back at a parent/teacher store 
and didn't really have a plan for how I would use them. 
You can find them HERE at Office Depot or make your own!
But recently it dawned on me it might be fun to use the wall for sentence practice 
rather than just pictures and random words.
They are excited and proud of their effort in creating sentences too!
Who said learning can't be fun?
And did you know the world is "pritty?"
Love it!
Notice her upside down peace symbol in the letter "o"...
We also cut paper and stapled them into small booklets to make sight word books. 
I told them to choose any words from the wall they wanted 
and try to write any sentence they could and illustrate a picture to go with it. 
Love their inventive spelling...
Translation for below... "I see some flowers."
"You invited me over."
They turned out so great and they could not wait to take them to school 
to share with teachers and friends.

Hopefully all you moms out there working on reading and writing with your kids
will enjoy this post and tip. 

Dec 12, 2010

cold outside...warm inside

Hope you all had a great weekend. 
Full weekend here of more birthday celebrating, Christmas parties, golf tournament, 
church nativity
and the Nutcracker performance...
It's cold here too, so I threw together something to make us all warm inside.
This is a chicken white bean soup and as you may remember from here
I don't measure much when cooking so I will give general amounts.
2 cooked rotisserie chickens from the grocery store (cannot get any easier than this!)
2 (32 oz) boxes of chicken broth
3-4 slivered scallions (green onion)
2-3 T. Italian parsley
 2 cloves minced fresh garlic
3-4 cans drained cannellini beans
Saute minced garlic in approx. 2 T. olive oil. Add in scallions on low heat and saute.
Add chicken broth. Pull chicken off bones when warm. Use your hands to make it loose and shredded.
Add the chicken to the broth. Add finely chopped Italian parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
Add 2 cans cannellini beans. Stir then use emulsion blender and puree for a few seconds. 
This is the little hand held blender you stick down into the pot of soup and pulse a few times. 
If you do not have one, I recommend you get one. 
Here is one on Amazon. 
We use it a good bit and it's perfect for thickening soups and making salad dressing.
 Add 1-2 more cans of drained cannellini beans to the soup. 
Heat and serve with a fresh baguette.
Delish and makes you warm on the inside. Enjoy!
PLEASE use the comment box below and share any cold weather soups or recipes! 
Always looking for new ideas, aren't you?

Dec 8, 2010

40 and Fortunate

We''ll it's here....the big 40...December 9th.
I can't believe it and I really feel like my parents should be celebrated on this day rather than me.
I am here largely because of their love.
I am 40 and FORTUNATE because
I have a wonderful family, amazing friends, a warm home, a beautiful community, 
a faith-filled church, and safe & fabulous neighborhood.
I love the Lord and I love life. 
I love my job as a mother and I love my job as an artist. 
I am healthy enough to do loads and loads of laundry even though I often whine about it.
I am healthy and can run and jump and play with my kids.
I am more in love with my husband today than the day we married.
My children make me laugh and cry.
They allow me to notice the details of His goodness when otherwise I would be too busy to see them.
Not lucky, but fortunate.
You have been asking begging for photos from the amazing surprise 40th celebration  
my husband planned and executed back in November. 
Here are a few of my favorites...
Thank you to everyone who helped and for making that such a special night!
It was magical and I will treasure the memories and all the pictures for years to come!
With love and much gratitude,

Dec 7, 2010

Gingerbread House Fun!

We made mini gingerbread houses this weekend and a few friends joined in the fun.

Wanted to share this because it's much easier than buying and making one big kit. We never could get the walls to stay upright and then everyone wanted to pull apart different pieces to eat.
This version is better because everyone gets to create their own just the way they want to and for the visitors, they can take it home easily.

with love from the Simas family
Here’s what you’ll need:
Heavy paper plates (cover them with aluminum foil)
Pint sized cartons (we used buttermilk cartons)
(you could use quart or half gallon)
Plastic knives
Vanilla or cream cheese icing
Graham crackers
Various candies (peppermint circles, mini candy canes,
gumdrops, green & red M&Ms, sprinkles, mini marshmallows, 
coconut and powdered sugar makes great snow, any other candy you’d like. 
We even used some of their Halloween candy!
Break the graham crackers to fit the sections of the carton as best you can. 
If they break, they can fit them together with icing.
Kids, spread the icing onto the sides and rooftop of the carton 
to create your very own mini gingerbread house.
There are no directions…just be creative and have fun!
You can even make patterns with your colored candies!

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

A few extra tips:
We used pint sized buttermilk was the cheapest.
Either pour out the buttermilk or save to make fabulous buttermilk pancakes!
After they are empty, wash them out thoroughly and hot glue the opening together
so the "roof line" stays together and also so it doesn't smell of buttermilk.
We used cream cheese icing...2 kids shared 1 container with 2 plastic knives.

It makes a sweet little community don't you think?
and if you want to see the rest of the photos click here.

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