"A (wo)man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of (her)his life in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of beautiful God has implanted in the human soul."- Goethe

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Word of the Year

Before the beginning of 2011, I picked a word to emulate throughout the year. It was super easy because I knew I would need to remind myself daily of the goodness of my word. 2011's word was "change," and boy, did we ever need that word! It was an excellent reminder to keep positive about any changes we encountered, no matter how scary they were at the time.

The biggest change for us was preparing to turn the two of us into a family by welcoming a wee one. Yes, "change" is the perfect word to describe how we wanted to approach it: from a practical standpoint about something that would be just a little different than what we were used to. Kirk always reminds me that change is the savor of life, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. That little word added a lot of flavor this year to our family.

However, "change" didn't only apply to our personal lives. Both of us got new jobs this year, made some progress in our education goals, and were reassigned different callings. 2010 was feeling a little stagnant for me, so I wanted to pick something to encourage myself to try new things, not be afraid to risk my comfort, and to bask in all the goodness that can come from doing things just a little bit differently.

Well, this most recent Word of the Year was so successful for me that I decided to pick another one this year. I hope it becomes an annual tradition for me. After weeks of deliberation, the word I finally landed on for 2012 is..."savor."

In 2012, I want to focus on savoring every moment, relishing the blessings we have, and enjoying with all my soul the relationships in my life that are most important.

What do you think? Would you ever pick a word to focus on for the whole year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tables Aren't Just For Eating On

Although tables make for an excellent eating surface, they are useful for many other things: hiding on or under for hide-and-go-seek, collecting papers and laptops, dancing riotously on, and as a barricade or ship in imaginative play. I've recently discovered a new use for our table that I'd like to share with you. Note: not all tables are the same, so not all tables may have this awesome capability.

For Christmas, we were supposed to give one another handmade gifts, and I decided to give my sister a rag rug made from old sheets. The table turned out to be the perfect shape and strength for a rug loom. Observe:

While being without an eating surface for a few days was troublesome once in a while, I couldn't help but be happy each time I saw our incapacitated table because it reminded me of my awesome redneck resourcefulness powers. What awesome powers do you have that you are especially proud of?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Caution: Gingerbread is Not for Eating

I spent long long hours this month working on this beauty:

It might look tasty, but it's not, because it was made with ingredients to keep it sturdy, not delicious. Of course you can eat it, it's gingerbread. However, one bite from this sucker and you'll end up in the dental chair with too many instruments stuffed down your throat, an unpleasant way to spend any holiday vacation time you may have.

I tell you what, though, I sure learned a few things that will make this project much better next time, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season filled with love and all sorts of warm fuzzies.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Gift-Giving: For the Photographer

Here's a fun little present for that photographer in your life:

I made a chalkboard speech bubble, a variety of moustaches and mouths, a big shiny nose, a six-digit date banner with interchangeable numbers, and I spray painted a frame and included some chalk and a heart in the photo prop kit. This would be awesome fun to have at a holiday party, don't you think?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The New Testament

This year I've been reading the New Testament portion of the King James Bible. It's been refreshing to study the words the Savior taught. I much prefer the New Testament God to the Old Testament God.

Things that struck me especially while reading this round are:
  • The personal interest and abiding love Christ has for each individual
  • A higher law that isn't required but can only be auto-enforced by each individual
  • The energy and zeal of the earliest Christian disciples and missionaries
  • Grace, forgiveness, and God's trust that we will do what is right

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Gift-Giving: For Newlyweds

After hearing the engagement and wedding story of some dearly-loved newlyweds, I created this print for them to hang in their home:

It's a memorable phrase from their wedding ceremony, but I typed it out to include the preacher's accent, which I hope makes them start every day with a laugh. I think making a custom print with words of advice unique to the new couple is a lot more personal than that "live, laugh, love" shenanigans that other people have on their walls. I finished off the print by sticking it in an old frame that I spray painted an awesome rusty red color.

Monday, December 12, 2011

On The Wings of Love

Our family motto is "No Caged Birds." One reason being that Kirk and I love to mock (it's a favorite pastime), and we always get a giggle out of husbands who claim to "give their wives their wings." Oh, please. As if a husband owns his wife's wings in the first place. I love it when Kirk allows me to fly, and it turns out that Kirk loves it when I let him have wings, too. We are sure to tell one another "thank you for giving me my wings" on a regular basis.

In all seriousness, though, following dreams has been an important facet of our marriage, which is what inspired me to create this:

It's been in the making for way too long for me to admit to, and I'm excited that it's finally finished! I used layers and layers of wall putty to fashion a giant low-relief wing on our wall. I hope whoever moves in after us doesn't mind wall sculptures...or hard work, because it's going to be a pain in the tookus to scrape off!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Gift-Giving: For the Sketcher

For a secret sister gift, I drew the name of a girl who loves to sketch all the livelong day, so I made this for her:

It's a practice sketchbook, and each page spread has an awesome photo as a drawing reference. So, the left page has an interesting photo, and the right page is blank so that she can draw the photo. Drawing from photos is excellent practice, but sometimes when you're in the mood to draw, you just want to draw, not look for a photo first. I pasted a large variety of pictures and photos in this little book: lots of different faces, amazing dancers for figure drawing practice, classic artworks in order to learn from the masters, photos with unique perspectives, figure statues, and pictures showing off neat lighting. There is a wide variety of emotion, so I feel confident that there will be an appropriate photo reference whenever the sketching bug might strike. One of the best parts is that there are no loose papers falling out because they've all been glued down. I know. It's genious.

All I need now is to make myself something like this! Seriously, I don't know why I haven't done this eariler.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cry, The Beloved Country

Here is a heart wrenching and beautiful story of strong family love, written by Alan Paton.

Themes to address when reading this piece include:
  • Race: the inevitable influence of Africa on people who visit and live there; breaking and rebuilding of tribes, clans, and family members; the native problem, native crime; benefiting vs. exploiting; dominant vs. submissive; customs
  • Division of Christianity: fear and survival vs. love, mercy, and compassion
  • Power: "The only power which can resist the power of fear is the power of love." and "When a man loves, he seeks no power. Then he has power."
  • Tragedy not of things broken in the first place, but of things not ever mended again
  • City vs. country living
  • "We are caught in the toils of our own selfishness."
  • Justice and mercy
  • "The Lord suffered not to prevent us from suffering but to teach us how to bear our suffering."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Weddings, Stamina, and All That Stuff

My friend, Emily, recently got hitched. There is so much work that goes into planning a wedding! There is the dress, the venues, the crazy families, the food, the weather, the decorations, the music, the wedding video, the invitations, the photography...and more, which can be so overwhelming! Em stuck it out, though, because she's got stamina. She was such a trooper! Well, I helped her out a little bit by making nine (count them--nine!) bridesmaid necklaces:

They were fun, collage-y, and all different...which is a direct reflection of Em. This might be a fun project to do for yourself and a couple of friends, but I do not recommend making nine necklaces at once. That is, unless you want to spend your whole life making them. I'm pretty sure I aged three years while I was assembling them in my basement. However, it was a minimal sacrifice to make for good friends.

We're so happy for Em and Chris! Congratulations, you two, and here's to a future full of happiness!

What kinds of things to you do for good friends? Answer their phone calls at four in the morning? Drive hundreds of miles to visit them? Keep in touch on a regular basis? I'd love to know!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Remembrance Day

Do you have Remembrance Days? I have a day in December that I like to remember because it's the anniversary of the day that angel Lily passed away. It's a good time to reflect on the happy memories, feel sorrow that she's still not with us, and hope for another year full of healing and fond recollections.

In memory of Lily, I drew this picture of her:

Do you have Remembrance Days? For me, they aren't always associated with someone's death, but are other significant days I like to reflect on. What days do you like to remember and why?

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I've been slaving in the steamy kitchen for a while, and the following is the fruit (ba-doom ching!) of my labors:

The final tally was:
30 jars of apple juice and counting...(can you just imagine the wassail?)
9 bags of dried apples
2 bags of cinnamon dried apples
3 tubs of apple butter
4 bags of apple brittle (it was supposed to be fruit leather, but I accidentally overcooked it. Worry not, it is still delicious.)
Lots of applesauce too (I didn't make it, but I certainly enjoyed it.)

Thank you, bountiful apple tree, for giving us so much scrumptious fruit to work with this year. We shall lovingly remember you all year long.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Birthday Boy

We recently also had the pleasure of celebrating another birthday in our family:

We had to brave some arctic winds, but you'd never even know how cold it was from the pictures. In our family, my dad is the level-headed patient one, and we are lucky to have him. What can I say? I wouldn't be here without my daddy-o and I love him so!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Month Full of Gratitude

The entire month of November is a time to reflect on the bounteous blessings we receive that we sometimes take for granted. I think one of the best ways to keep upbeat and kind is to cultivate a grateful heart. Here are a few ways we've been reminding ourselves how good life really is for our family:

The Baxters reflect on five things they are grateful for prior to feasting on Thanksgiving, and eat a candy corn kernel each time they think about what they are grateful for. It represents the first winter the pilgrims experienced in America, when there was only enough food for each person to eat five kernels of corn, and reminds us to remain grateful even through hard times.

The Nielsons compile a gratitude list, and bake each line on the list into its own roll. When anyone eats a roll from the Thanksgiving batch, they discover what someone in the family is thankful for. It's a gratitude fortune cookie of sorts, and it lasts long after the feast is through, or at least for a couple of extra days. It serves as a reminder to share your gratitude with others, and not keep it to yourself.

Also, we've started a new tradition with the three of us, wherein each of us writes a grateful bit on our Freedom of Speech Wall, turned Gratitude Wall during the month of November. Since the baby bumpkin can't write yet (or speak, for that matter) we take turns imagining what she must be grateful for. This helps us remember that gratitude isn't restricted to the fourth Thursday in November, but that it should be expressed constantly.

There are so many fun ways to keep a grateful heart all year 'round. What are some ways your family expresses gratitude?

Family Time

Fall time is family time for us. There's nothing as wonderful as spending time with family, laughing our guts out, and making too much delicious food. For the Thanksgiving weekend, we spent a few hours at the Discovery Park, or as we call it, the Castle Park That Looks Like It's Made From Popsicle Sticks. We played our little hearts out, I tell you what.

My family always makes sure to play outside regardless of the weather, and we have many fond memories because of it. What does your family do to create fond memories?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Birthday Happy!

My brother recently celebrated his 17th birthday, so now he's officially a Dancing Queen, or at least ABBA says so. I love that my bro has a zest for life and adventure. He's for sure the cool guy in our family.

We're so lucky to have my brother in our family! Being 17 is one of the best times of life, don't you think?