Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Here's to a New Year

     Tomorrow is New Year's Eve.  Another year has come and gone, and I'm amazed at how fast this one went by.  It seems the older I get the faster the years fly, not to mentioned that ever since Monkey was born they seem to be reaching lightening speed.  As bittersweet as it is, I'm looking forward to this new year.  This year Monkey will be 6 years old.  I will finally graduate from Nursing school in the fall.  I'll take the NCLEX in September, and (hopefully) I'll begin my first nursing job before the year is out.  Just as 2015 will mark the beginning of my Nursing career, it will also bring the close of J's Navy career.  Who knows what new adventures that alone will bring. At any rate, I think it's safe to say that 2015 will be a year of many firsts, and I'm ready to meet them head on.

     As with many of you out there, the beginning of the New Year makes me think about what changes I can make in my life, and although I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, the holidays and all the goodies they entail have me wishing for a bit healthier fare in the near future.  Thankfully, my awesome MIL gave me a Magic Bullet which will come in handy as I get back on the smoothie wagon.  In the meantime, though, I have been indulging a bit too much in food like this:

Easy Crockpot Burritos
Adapted from FoodPusher blog

2 lbs stew meat, ground beef, or chicken
19 oz can mild red enchilada sauce
1 beef bouillon cube
1 can refried beans
7 burrito-sized flour tortillas
1 cup cheddar cheese
Optional Toppings: guacamole, sour cream, diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, shredded lettuce

Place beef, bouillon cube, and enchilada sauce into a crockpot.  Cook on low 7-8 hours or high 3-4 hours, or until meat is tender and flakes easily.

Once beef is tender, heat refried beans in a microwave or on the stovetop according to package directions.

Grease the inside of a 9x13 baking dish or spray with cooking spray.  Set oven to broil on high.

Assemble burritos by placing about 1/2 cup drained meat in the center of a tortilla.  Add a about two scoops of beans to the center.  Fold the sides in and roll up like a burrito.  Place inside the greased baking dish.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas or until all the meat is used up.  Pour leftover sauce from the crockpot over the top of the burritos.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Broil for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with optional toppings.

     I love that this recipe can be adapted for your preferences (and budget).  J prefers ground beef burritos, but I like the stew meat best.  Chicken is always a good compromise, and it's easier on the bank than beef, not to mention it has less fat than beef.  Plus I like any recipe that gives me the choice to mix things up without becoming a whole new recipes I have to memorize.

    Anyway, I hope everyone has a fun-filled New Year's Eve, and a wonderful New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I'm a Procrastinator to the End

     Can you believe Christmas is this week?  That just sounds like crazy talk if you ask me.  I'm looking forward to Christmas, as I do every year, but particularly this year because with it I also get a bit of a break from school.  I'll be heading home to Louisiana for a few short days, but I'm glad I'll get to see family for the Christmas.  Now since I'll be out of town starting Wednesday, perhaps I should finish posting those Advent ornaments I've been working on.

Day 16: The Throne
     This ornament represents the scripture found in Isaiah 9:6-7 "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace, there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."  I explained to Monkey that since the beginning, God had a plan for a Savior, and that He left hints of the coming Savior all over the Old Testament, and I told her that here was another hint.  One day there would be child born who would be the Prince of Peace, and that child would be Jesus Christ.  We talked about how the Bible says He would sit on the throne of David, and I reminded Monkey of Ruth and her descendant Jesse and his son David, and I explained to her that David's family would branch all the way down to Jesus.

    To make this ornament I cut a bit of brown felt to look like a chair.  I added some white felt to look like the back of a chair or throne, I stitch the details on the chair in black thread before sewing the whole chair/throne onto a bit of blue felt for a background.  I added some green cord to hang the ornament with.

Day 17: The Lion

     The lion ornament represents the story of Daniel in the lion's den (found in Daniel 6).  I explained to Monkey that the people of Israel began to turn away from God, and in doing so the lang He promised them was conquered by other people who didn't believe in God.  Some people were captured and brought back to the lands of those conquerors.  One Israelite, Daniel, was brought to live in the courts of King Darius, and he found favor with the king, but this made other men jealous.  These other men decided to get rid of Daniel by tricking him into disobeying the king.  They knew that Daniel followed the commandments and wouldn't bow down and worship to anything or anyone but God, so they decided to use that against him.  They created a law that said the people should only pray to the king for 30 days and no other god or man, but of course, Daniel continued to pray to God. He was caught, and the punishment was to be thrown into a den of hungry lions.  I then explained to Monkey how the king didn't really want to hurt Daniel, but that it was his law, so he had to enforce it, and the king even told Daniel that he hoped Daniel's God would save him.  Daniel was thrown into the lion's den, but God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions so they would not devour him.  The king, who had been worried about Daniel all night, rushed to the den early the next morning to find Daniel unharmed, and had him taken out of the den.  Because the king saw Daniel's great faith in God, King Darius believed in God too and decreed that all people should treat Daniel's God with respect.

     To make the ornament, I started by cutting a bit of brown felt into what would be the lion's head and ears.  Next I cut a bit of orange felt to form the mane, cutting a hole from the middle of the main, so the face could show through.  Next I stitched the lion's face with some dark brown string.  I added the blue cord for hanging, and then I backed it all with a bit of blue felt.

Day 18: The Whale/Big Fish

     This scripture can be found in Jonah 1-3.  I told Monkey the tale of Jonah and the Whale (or big fish as it's referred to in the Bible), and how God told Jonah to go preach to the people of Nineveh to turn away from their sin and back to God.  Jonah, however, thought he could run away from God, so he hopped on a ship that was sailing in the other direction.  Of course, God knew where he was, and sent a great storm to rock the ship.  When the sailor's were scared they may drown in the storm, Jonah told them to throw him overboard, because he had angered God.  At first the sailors refused, but eventually they threw him overboard into the ocean.  The storm stopped, and God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah so he wouldn't drown.  Jonah stayed inside the fish's belly for 3 days and 3 nights, praying to God.  Finally God had the fish spit Jonah out on dry land, and this time Jonah listened when God told him to go preach at Nineveh.  Jonah urged the people to turn away form their sin, and they listened and asked God to forgive them, and because they did God did not destroy their city.

     For this ornament, I cut a whale from a bit of grey felt.  I gave him an eye and a mouth using black thread, and then I sewed him onto some blue felt before adding the green cord for hanging.

Day 19: The Town

     This scripture comes from Micah 5:2, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler of Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting."  I explained to Monkey that this was another of those "hints" God had given His people hundreds and hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, that He would be born in the little town of Bethlehem.

     This ornament was fun to make.  I cut out one solid piece of brown felt in the shape of four houses side-by-side, and I used black felt to define their borders and add windows and doors.  I stitch the whole piece to a black background before adding some blue cord to hang it on the tree.

Day 20: The Tablet
      For this ornament, I told the story of Zacharias who was visited by the angel Gabriel, who informed Zacharias that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son whom they would name John.  The angel said that this child would grow to be a man filled with the Holy Spirit, and that he would make the way ready for Jesus.  Zacharias didn't believe this was possible, so the angel told him he would not be able to speak again until after the baby was born because of his disbelief.  Sure enough, Elizabeth became pregnant with a baby, and a son was born, and while the family members argued about hat the baby should be called, Zacharias wrote on a tablet "His name is John!".  Immediately, Zacharias was able to speak again, and he praised God.  This can be found in Luke 1:1-25, 57-66.

     For this ornament I stitched the words, "His name is John" on a bit of cross-stitch fabric.  I cut that into a U shape and backed it with white felt and then black felt.  I used a some green cord to form the loop with which to hang it on the tree.

Day 21: The Sandal

     I told Monkey that John grew up to be a man filled with the Spirit of God, and that he spent most of his time preaching to people about the coming of Christ and baptizing people in His name, and that one time he told people, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier that I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Matthew 3:11.

For this ornament, I cut two pieces of brown felt to look like the shape of a sandal or flip-flop.  I stitched them together, and then I used dark brown thread to make the strap part of the sandal.  I added a loop of blue cord to hang it.

Day 22: The Angel

     In Luke 1:26-38 we see the story of how the angel Gabriel visited Mary to tell her of how she would become pregnant with the Son of God even though she was still a virgin, not yet married to the man Joseph (who was a descendant of David).  Mary was willing to be of use to God, calling herself his "maidservant" which shows her humility and willingness to be faithful to God and His plan for her life.  I plan on contrasting her reaction to the angel to Zacharias' reaction to his similar news.

     For this ornament, I cut the shape of an angel from white felt and stitched it to blue felt which I also cut into the shape of an angel.  I used a loop of green cord to hang the ornament on the tree.

Day 23: The Hammer
     This ornament represents Joseph and his story which can be found in Matthew 1:18-25.  I used a hammer because Joseph was a carpenter, but that fact is not in this particular scripture, it's mentioned later.  Anyway, this part of scripture talks about Joseph's reaction to the news that his wife-to-be was pregnant, and how he planned to divorce her quietly (he would need a divorce to end the engagement because although they had not come together physically, they had signed the marriage covenant).  But that night as Joseph slept an angel appeared to him, saying that he should not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because the baby inside her was conceived by the Holy Spirit and would be the Son of God.  When Joseph awoke, he decided to listen to God and take Mary as his wife.

     This ornament is made out of light brown felt, which forms the handle of the hammer, and grey felt which forms the head of the hammer.  I stitched it together onto a bit of black felt which outlines the whole the.  Lastly, I added the blue cord for hanging.

Day 24: The Baby in a Manger

     A true procrastinator to the end, I have not made the final ornament, but I will post a picture when it's finished.  For this ornament I plan to read from Luke 2:1-21, which tells of the census that caused Mary and Joseph to make the journey to Bethlehem, even though she was close to term and could have the baby soon.  When they got to the town, all the inns were full, so they had to stay in the barn of one inn, and the baby was born and had to be laid in a manager (or feeding trough).  There were some shepherds tending their flocks that night, and they saw an angel of the Lord appear and announce the news of Jesus' birth, and then there was a host of angels in the sky, singing praises to God and proclaiming the birth of the Savior.  So the shepherds went to see this baby, and went away telling everyone of all they had seen.  Finally, as is the custom, 8 days after his birth, the baby was named "Jesus", which was what the angel told Mary his name should be.

     I hope you have enjoyed our little Advent adventure this year.  I sure have, and I think it will be a good tradition to partake in each year.  I'm certainly looking foray to using it next year, without having to worry about any last-minute sewing.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

All Things Merry and Bright

     Yesterday was a rough day for me.  My sweet fur baby Bruce has recently gotten over a bout of Pancreatitis which put him through the ringer.  The vet gave him a clean bill of health just two weeks ago, but Tuesday I was back in the vet's office with the same symptoms as before.  Apparently Bruce had Chronic Pancreatitis which meant he would continually get these infections that would require treatment until his pancreas finally wore out.  After seeing what he went through last time with this, and knowing that it would be something he was continually fighting, J and I made the decision to let him go.  It was probably the hardest choice I've ever made.  I want to fix everyone and everything, and so to come to the realization that there was nothing I could do to cure him was one of the hardest pills for me to swallow.  So today with a heavy heart I said goodbye to what was the best cat I've ever had.  He truly was my baby, and I will miss him terribly.  Some people don't believe in a place for animals in Heaven.  Others will tell you they don't have souls.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, so here's mine: no one who has ever truly bonded with an animal could tell you that they don't have something similar to a soul.  Maybe not a soul like you and I have, but some shred of a spirit perhaps.  There's more to these animals than flesh and bone.  Or maybe we just make them that in our own heads to fill a void.  I don't know, but either way, I hope I get to see him again someday.  It's a nice thought, and a comforting one.

     Now I know the title of this blog is probably leading some to question if they've been brought here under false pretenses, and to those I apologize.  Usually I keep this blog light and fluffy and don't post too many entries that are morose or "deep".  I feel like the world is full of things that should make up stop and think, and that it needs more light and frolicsome things.  So that's what I try to make this blog, for myself as much as for anyone else.  So forgive me if I seem to take a 180 in a minute, but I am going to focus on all things merry and bright now, because as much as I'd like to wail about the loss of my favorite snuggle-buddy, life does go on.  So, not to be disrespectful or flippant about my recent loss, but what don't we move on to the happy things now?  How about I show you what that little elf of ours has been up to?

     Here we see our sweet Elman enjoying his favorite Christmas story while Monkey was at school.  I am particularly proud of this one because I needed no help from Pinterest to make his custom fitting glasses from a little paperclip I found in the junk drawer.  It would have been a bit better if I could have found my stash of regular wire, because it's more pliable, but Monkey got the idea.  I used a bit of black construction paper and some looseleaf to make his book.  I even went so far as to write out a bit of the actual story in the pages so he wasn't staring at a blank book.  

     This one was pretty fun because it uses one of my favorite kid toys.  I'm not sure if you are familiar with Goldie Blox, but if not you should be.  This is an awesome company that was started by a female engineer who wanted to see more toys on the market that got little girls interested in engineering.  I love all that this company stands for, so of course Monkey has a couple of their building sets.  The one seen pictured here is their original boxed set, and as you can see, Elman is taking his cues from Goldie.  He used her "Noodle Spinner" diagram to create his own "Tinsel Tangler".

     Next Elman sampled a few of cookies, only to spit them out and question my husband's baking skills.  Even he knew cookies that gross couldn't have been my doing ;-)

     Here we see Elman visiting Baby Jesus under the tree.  Monkey thought this one was too cute.

     Next, we what I didn't realize was a warped sight until just now.  J took Monkey hunting one morning, so Elman decided he'd go hunting too.  He improvised when he couldn't find a toy gun in Monkey's room and borrowed Iron Patriot's blaster to hunt down this little piggy.  And it looks like all the members of the manager scene are protecting baby Jesus from the horrible sight.  Elman actually gave up the hunt and retreated to a stocking not long after this picture because Bruce decided to make the hunter the hunted and almost made off with our elf.

     This one was a favorite of mine, simply because I hadn't made a single fake snowflake since I was in school, so it was fun to stay up late cutting these suckers out as J and I played cards.  Of course, Elman needed a fabulous addition to his little elf hat.

     Next, Elman helped himself to a spa day by borrowing Barbie's jacuzzi.  Monkey got in a bit of hot water herself when she decided Elman needed real water to soak in, and decided to fill up his jacuzzi with the real stuff.  The funny thing was, I didn't have cotton balls to fill his spa with, so I improvised by using the stuffing from a pad (I know, J was mortified, but hear me out).  I figured it looked the same, and know one had to know, but I'm glad I did, because when Monkey poured the water in there, none of it even made it to the elf.  It was all absorbed so fast he stayed nice and dry.  Score one for mommy's resourcefulness!

     This is another one I'm proud of because I didn't need Pinterest for it....well not 100% of it anyway.  I've seen several shots of the elf in the Rice Krispies box, but I decided to tailor it to what we had in the pantry.  So there, Pinterest, I see your Rice Krispies Elf, and I raise you a Quaker Oats Elf.  Your move Pinterest...

     Now one more thing before I go.  I'm waaay behind on our Advent Calendar, so I need to share the past few ornaments in order to catch up.  I believe we left off with Day 9.

Day 10: The Trumpet

     The trumpet symbolizes the fall of Jericho, and the story can be found in Joshua 6:1-5.  I reminded Monkey of God's promise to Abraham about his children numbering the stars, and how God had seen that one through.  Then I reminded Monkey of His promise to Jacob of the land He would give him.  This is where God fulfilled that promise, by bringing them into the Promised Land, starting with Jericho.  J and I marched around our house to show how the people of God marched around, and how they could have said, "that's silly, I'm not doing that", but instead they decided to follow God's directions, and when they did they were rewarded with the land that had been promised to them.

To make this ornament, I cut out a trumpet from yellow felt and stitched it onto a bit of blue rectangular felt.  Next I used yellow thread to form the little lines that make it look like the trumpet is blasting.  Then I added a bit of blue cord to hang it on the tree with.

Day 11: The Grain

     Next Monkey and I discussed how there was a famine, meaning no food, in the Promised Land so one man moved with his wife and sons to the neighboring land (I related this to how we moved from Lousisiana to Mississippi not too long ago to make it make sense to her), and how while they were there the two sons married women from that country (Moab).  I explained that these women didn't grow up worshiping God, but that they came to know God through their husbands.  Next we talked about how the sons and the father all died, leaving the three women alone.  The mother-in-law told her daughters-in-law to go back to their own families so they might find new husbands, and how one daughter did.  But Ruth was different, she decided to follow her mother-in-law back to the Promised Land, and I mentioned how she wasn't simply choosing her mother-in-law, but that she was choosing to follow God as well.  Because of her faithfulness, God rewarded her.  While in the Promised Land, she worked for a man picking grain so she could feed herself and her mother-in-law.  The man, Boaz, saw how hard she worked, and heard of her faithfulness, and decided to marry her.  I told Monkey that because she chose God, she became special in His eyes, and He rewarded her by making her the ancestor of Jesus (instead of "ancestor" I said "great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great- grandmother of Jesus, so she'd get it).  (For this one, I read the entire book of Ruth and simply condensed it for Monkey.)

For this ornament I took a circle of grey felt and used yellow and black thread to stitch what (I think) looks like heads of grain on the circle.  I backed it with another grey circle and added some cord to hang it.

Day 12: The Crown

     Before I started this story, I asked J and Monkey to help list a few of God's other names.  Monkey said Heavenly Father, Lord, and Majesty.  J said King of Kings, and that's exactly what I was fishing for.  God is the King of Kings, but I mentioned that once the Israelites got the land God had promised, they began to ask Him for a king.  God told them that He was the King of Kings, and that they didn't need an earthly king, but the people insisted they needed a king like the other nations.  God warned them that a human king would tax them and draft their sons into his service, and use their daughters to serve in his court, and he would take away some of their personal freedoms, but still the people insisted, so God told Samuel (God's prophet) to find a king for His people.  Samuel anointed Saul as the king.  I emphasized that Saul was big and strong and handsome, and that all the people thought he would make a good king.  Which he did, for a little while...  (This comes from 1 Samuel 8:4-22-1 Samuel 9:2 and 1 Samuel 9:17)

To make this ornament, I cut a crown shape form yellow felt, and then backed it on a circle-shaped piece of pink felt.  I made little knots out of purple threads to resemble jewels in the crown, and use black thread to highlight the crown's parts.  Finally I added a bit of blue cord to hand it on the tree with.

Day 13: The Horn of Oil

     I explained to Monkey that for a while Saul was a good king, but then he began to turn away from God and not follow God's instructions, so God told Samuel to go anoint a new king.  So Samuel took a horn of oil (here I had to pause and explain that one too), and went out to the house of Jesse (who was a descendent of Ruth, remember Ruth?) and asked to see his sons.  I told her how the first son came in, and he was tall and handsome and strong, and Samuel was impressed, thinking he'd be the next king, but God said no.  God told Samuel that Samuel was judging by what he saw on the outside, but that God sees a man's heart to judge him.  Then the second son came, and he was was too passed by, and so on and so forth until Samuel had looked at all but the youngest of Jesse's sons.  David was out in the fields with the sheep, and so Samuel sent for him, and when he came in, God said that this is the one He wanted to be king of His people.  So Samuel poured the oil on David's head, anointing him king of Israel.  (1 Samuel 16: 1-13)

For this ornament I cut out two pieces of light brown felt into J-shapes.  I stitched them to get using dark brown felt in a way that highlighted the opening of the horn and the bottom of it.  I used the brown thread to also make a strap for the horn of oil.  Next I used a bit of green cord for hanging.

 Day 14: The Jesse Tree

     This one was a little different, because I wasn't sure of where in the sequence to place it, but after talking about Ruth, Jesse, and David, I decided to go ahead and put this one in.  The scripture is from Isaiah 11: 1-5, and I read this one verbatim from the Bible.  It talks about a sprout growing from the tree of Jesse that was all but cut down, and how this sprout would have the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, and knowledge and fear/respect of the Lord.  Basically this scripture foretells the coming of Christ.  I explained to Monkey that even hundreds of years before he was born, God was telling His people that there would be a savior one day.

This was one of my favorite ornaments to make.  I cut out two of the stump-with-branch shapes you see, and place them back-to-back, with a bit of green felt to resemble a leaf between the top of the branch.  I stitch the leaf in place before using dark brown thread to make the tree rings and little details on the stump.  Lastly, I added the blue cord for hanging.

Day 15: The Scepter
     This story comes from another favorite passage of mine.  I love the book of Esther, and I used a condensed version of the whole thing to explain this one to Monkey.  Basically Esther was a young Jewish girl being brought up by her uncle, and when the king asked for the most beautiful women in the land to be brought to him, Esther was one of them.  She hid the fact that she was one of the Israelites from everyone but her uncle, and she was chosen to be the king's new bride.  She became queen and found favor with the king, so when a plot was hatched to kill all of the Jews in the nation (including her uncle) Esther used her favor with the king to beg him to spare the Jewish, revealing that she was one herself.  The king granted her wish, and so Esther saved her people from being wiped out.  This was yet another example of how God was protecting His people and preserving the bloodline that led to Jesus.

I'm still trying to think of ways to make this one prettier, but I've got nothing.  I simply cut out what I thought was a basic scepter shape from two pieces of yellow felt, and sewed them together back-to-back.  Next I added the little purple starts to look like jewels in the scepter.  Finally I added a bit of green cord for hanging.

To see our Advent adventure from the beginning, click here.
To see what comes next, click here

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Holly Jolly Lunches

     Tomorrow marks the beginning of another week, and as much as I'm looking forward to working with the newborns in the nursery, I'm not ready to let go of the weekend.  There just wasn't enough of it in my opinion.  But in the spirit of the weekday, I thought I'd share a few festive lunches I've been making for Monkey.

Monday:  Olaf Bento

     Monkey loves sushi.  I love making sushi.  Normally, that's a win-win for everyone, but unfortunately, I haven't had time lately to make it.  So when Monkey requested sushi for lunch one day, I decided to compromise.  I made the sushi rice, shaped it into two balls and one egg-shape, and placed it in the bottom of her Bento box.  Next I surrounded the rice with this crab salad I normally stuff in the sushi.  I added a few touches by making Olaf's face, arms, and buttons out of nori.  I topped it all off by giving him a true carrot nose.  A friend of mine asked if I put avocado in my sushi, and I normally do, but I wasn't sure how to keep it nice and green in Monkey's lunchbox, so I decided to leave it out.  If anyone knows a trick, please share.  I finished off the box by packing a few sides like celery, carrots, and tomatoes (not pictured).

Tuesday: Snowman Breakfast Bento

     For this fun-filled breakfast, I used a wooden kabob stick and threaded two boiled eggs onto the stick.  I had two different sized eggs, because my awesome MIL had sent some of her homegrown chicken eggs home with use after we visited for Thanksgiving.  Next I made him a hat out of sliced bits of carrot and stuck those onto the tip of the kabob.  I also stuck a bit of carrot into his face to form the nose.  The face and buttons I made using my favorite food markers.  I added some turkey bacon, pretzels, tomatoes, and strawberry yogurt raisins to the box.

Wednesday: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Sandwich

     For this famous reindeer, I cut circles out of two sliced of bread, filled it with mustard and ham I had also cut into circles, added a mini turkey pepperoni for the nose, half of an olive for the mouth, and bit of the same black olive for the eyes.  I broke up a pretzel to form the antlers.  I serve him up with some extra pretzels, a few cherry tomatoes, and a couple of Halo oranges.

Thursday: Snowmen Sandwiches

     This one was super easy.  I cut four snowmen out of bread using a cookie cutter.  I cut four sliced of ham out with the same cookie cutter.  I assembled the sandwiches using mustard to help them stick.  Next I decorated the snowmen's bodies using my food markers.  I threw some carrots, celery, strawberry yogurt raisins, and a Halo orange into the box too.

Friday:  Santa's Belt Lunchables
This is not my photography (as you can probably tell from their obvious possession of actual photography skills).
     I'll admit that by Friday of last week, I was feeling a bit tired exhausted, so when I realized I had forgotten to buy white cheese, I simply packed Monkey her usual DIY Lunchable.  However, this was such a cute idea, I just had to share.  For the original post, simply click here.

     While we're talking Christmas themed items, I figured it's time I update you on a few more of those lovely ornaments from our Advent calendar.  (If you missed out on the first few ornaments on our calendar, click here.)  We left off on day 5, which was the ram, yes I have since added a photo of the little guy.  Here's the next few:

Day 6: Jacob's Ladder

    For this ornament, I cut out a ladder shape from light brown felt, and I backed it with a bit of white felt to make it less stretchy and floppy.  I added a bit of cord to hang it on the tree and voila!

    This ornament represents the events of Genesis 28:10-22.  I told Monkey about Jacob's dream and how Jacob had a choice of whether or not to follow the God of his father and his father's father or to go his own way.  Jacob chose to follow God, and in turn God promised him the land He had mentioned to Abraham in His promises to Abraham.

Day 7: Joseph's Coat of Many Colors

     For this ornament, I cut the coat-shape from a bit of light brown felt.  I cut a few strips of felt in different colors to make the coat nice and colorful.  Next I added the loop of cord to hang the ornament on the tree.

    This time, Monkey and I talked about Joseph's whole story (she's heard this one many times, and has even watched the movie, so it went pretty quickly).  The main thing we focused on with this story is that God always watches over us and protects us, and how even when it seems we are all alone, God has a plan for us, just as He did for Joseph. See Genesis 37:1-36.

Day 8: The Burning Bush

     For this ornament I cut a squiggly bit of orange felt, topped it with a squiggly bit of yellow felt, and then topped those with a squiggly bit of light brown felt to make a tiny bush that was burning.  Don't forget the cord for hanging.

     Tomorrow when we discuss this one we'll look at Exodus 3:2-22, where God calls Moses to lead His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land He promised Abraham and Jacob.

Day 9: The Ten Commandments

     This was actually the first ornament I made way back when I started this project.  I used 4 bits of grey felt cut into tombstone shapes.  On two of the pieces that would be the front pieces, I stitched 10 tiny Roman Numerals to represent the 10 commandants.  I sewed the four pieces together, back-to-back, and side-by-side as shown before adding the loop of cord with which to hang them.

     For this ornament, we'll be going to Deuteronomy 5:1-22 to explore the Covenant with Yahweh.  We will talk about how God chose the Israelites to be His own people, set apart from the rest of the world, and since they were to be set apart, they were expected to uphold certain standards for themselves to represent God on earth.

To see the Advent adventure from day 1, click here.
To see what days come next, click here

Friday, December 5, 2014

DIY Advent Calendar

     I have a confession to make.  I'm a bit of a procrastinator.  Well, maybe "a bit" is an understatement.  More like I am a habitual, consistent procrastinator.  In fact, I'm such a bad procrastinator, that this project I'm about to share with you has been about 3 years in the making.  And of course, it's only appropriate that I'm sharing this about 5 days after I intended to....

     Growing up we had an Advent calendar that would come out after Thanksgiving, and my older sister and I would take turns moving a tiny little mouse from pocket to pocket as we counted down the days until Christmas.  That was the extent of our Advent calendar.  It was just a way to keep track of how many days were left until Christmas.  It wasn't until a few years ago that I discovered a Jesse Tree Advent calendar.  I had no clue that you could use an Advent calendar to basically tell the story of the Bible in order to show the events that led up to the birth of Christ and illustrated the world's need for a Savior.  I thought it was a brilliant idea, and I was determined to find a pretty one to purchase for my family and to make it a tradition to tell the story each December.  I found a beautiful tree on Etsy, but was flabbergasted at the cost!  $225 for an Advent calendar?! No way buddy, even though I now understand the effort put into making one, there's just no way.  So instead, I decided to make my own.  'Cause I'm resourceful like that ;-)

      I used felt for all of it, starting with dark green measured 2'x3' for the background and then a light green felt for the tree.  Then I used different bright-colored felt squares for the pockets measuring about 2"x2" each, and I sewed numbers onto each square.  I used plain black buttons on the tree to hang the ornaments.  I hung the whole thing onto two dowel rods with wooden balls I found at Michael's at each end of each dowel rod.  I used yarn attached to the dowel rods to hand it on our door.  Then I started making the ornaments, which was the fun part.  

Day 1: The Earth

     The first day of Christmas' ornament is a little earth.  I cut out two blue circles and made continent shapes out of green felt and sewed those onto the blue circles.  Then I sewed the two circles together back-to-back with a bit of cord between them to hang them on.

     When Monkey hung that ornament on the tree we talked about how God created the Heaven and the Earth and how it was good in the beginning. The story can be found in the Bible in Genesis 1.

Day 2: The Apple

     Next I made a two little apple shapes out of red felt with a stem from brown felt and a leaf from green felt.  I sewed it all together by placing the stem and leaf at the top between the two red pieces and adding a bit of cord to hang the ornament from.

    For this ornament Monkey and I talked about Adam and Eve in the Garden, and about how they lived with God until they sinned against God by disobeying His rule and eating the fruit.  I emphasized that this was when sin entered the world and ruined the perfect plan God had created in the beginning when "it was good".  I also introduced the idea that sin is what separates us from God (Adam and Eve sinned, so they couldn't live in the Garden with God anymore) and that we need a way to get close to God again in spite of our sin.  This sets the stage for Jesus' coming.  For scripture references, go to Genesis 3.

Our resident elf, Elman came to check out our Advent calendar.
 Day 3: The Rainbow

     The next ornament I made was the rainbow.  I layered different sized semicircles in different colors one on top of the other, from purple to blue to green then yellow, orange,and finally red.  I sewed a bit of cord to the back to hang it up on the tree with.

    This day Monkey and I talked about Noah and the Ark (Genesis 6-9:17).  I told Monkey about how after Adam and Eve left the garden the world filled up with people, who eventually were so full of sin, they turned away from God and didn't worship Him or pray to Him like they should.  I told her how God was sad that He had ever created man, and the He wanted to get rid of them, but that He decided to save Noah and his family because they still loved God.  We talked about the ark, the animals, and the flood.  Finally we discussed the rainbow, and how it was God's promise that He would never flood the world like that again.  I told Monkey that this was man's second chance to live without sin, and I asked her if she thought man could, and she said yes, so I said we'd wait until next the next ornament to find out...

Day 4: The Stars

     As we all know, Monkey's prediction of man being able to live without sin after the flood was sadly incorrect, so last night we talked about the call of Abraham (Genesis 17).  Abraham (originally called Abram) was called by God to make a covenant with God, in which God promised to make Abram (which means exalted father) into Abraham (which means father of many) and give him a son and descendants that would "outnumber the stars", as it says in some translations (thus the inspiration for this ornament).  Abraham in return would walk before God as an example of faithfulness to God, and his descendants would be God's people.  His descendants through Sarah his wife would be the Israelites, God's chosen people.  And from them a Savior would be born.

     To make this ornament, I cut two squares of blue felt.  On one of the squares I stitched tiny gold stars using gold thread.  I stitched the two squares together, back-to-back with a bit of cord between them to hang it on our tree.

Day 5: The Ram

     Today's ornament is a ram, which symbolizes God's test of Abraham's faith when He asked Abraham to sacrifice the child that God promised to him and Sarah.  This can be found in Genesis 22:1-14.

   For this ornament I cut the shape of a ram's head out of light brown felt.  I then cut horns out of grey felt.  I sewed the horns to the back of the ram's head.  Then I added the white felt for the mouth and nose section of the ram's fave.  Finally I stitched the eyes, nose, and mouth onto the ram using black thread.

For days 6-9, click here.
For days 10-15, click here.
For days 16-24, click here.