Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Finds #12: Handbrake!

Today is my LAST Friday Finds! And it is only appropriate that I bring you a last minute freebie! This is a cool and FREE gadget that anyone giving an ipod as a Christmas gift will want to know about. It's called HandBrake. Actually, I'm pretty sure many already know about this, but for those that don't... HandBrake is an "open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded video transcoder, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows."

In my lingo: pop a DVD in, use HandBrake and transform it into an MP4 to upload onto the iPod.
In HandBrake lingo: It will turn any DVD-like source (VIDEO_TS folder, DVD image or real DVD and some .VOB and .TS files) and most any multimedia file it can get libavformat to read and libavcodec to decode and convert it the following outputs:

1. File format: MP4, MKV, AVI or OGM
2. Video: MPEG-4, H.264, or Theora (1 or 2 passes or constant quantizer/rate
3. Audio: AAC, MP3, Vorbis or AC-3 pass-through (supports encoding of several
audio tracks)

My techie friend mentioned this to me -- and it is so cool I almost want to go out and get an iPod. Well, I do, and maybe I will after Christmas. Ya never know! (p.s.-check out my techie friend's post about Santa... pretty good stuff!)

Now -- can anyone explaine what a quantizer? It sorta looks like it is spelled wrong, but I cut and pasted it from their web site! Oh, well...

Oh, yeah -- I finally changed my blog from my FALL look to my WINTER look... 6 days before Christmas. I'm right on top of things!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Finds #11: Zazzle Me!

Well, we're winding down our Friday Finds and we are in the homestretch for Christmas. After today, there is only ONE Friday Find left until Christmas... can you believe it? And it will be a freebie you're bound to love.

As luck would have it, my lap top was replaced with a newer model, YAY FOR ME! But and all my Favorites didn't transfer properly -- including the folder I had bookmarked all my Friday Finds in. Fun times, I tell you.

So, off the top of my head, I thought I'd share with you a website that is awesome, fun, and quite clever when it comes to homemade gifting... because in a sense, it is "homemade-gifting-not-quite-homemade-made-easy-for-the-non-crafty-sort". Tongue twister!

This site is perfect for the hard-to-buy person, the bah-humbug person, the terrible three year old that needs a personalized something-something of their own, the budding teenager that's ever so precious and just full of "personality," the friend that loves to ice fish and you can never find anything appropriate for him or his hobby, the sister-in-law that has a cute self-proclaimed slogan (like, "World peace? Who needs World Peace. Pass the chocolate." or "Holy Cows Don't Work -- Ask God!" or "Oh, my ACHING head" or "Love you to pieces, princess!") -- you know... "THAT" person... Wait. That person is me.


By now, you might be asking... "What's that perfect Christmas gift?" (Or, you might be thinking... "WILL SHE EVER GET TO IT ALREADY?!"

Well then... how about an absolutely unique gift you've created just for them? Zazzle is THE place for you. You can upload a graphic, picture, whatever ... add a clever saying that is "hallmark" to that person, and Boom. Ya got a gift.

Ok, so what kind of stuff can you personalize? Oh, joy -- allow me to share. Yes, there are the normal things you'd expect from a personalizing place... but there are also some FUN things(see caps)!

Shirts, hats, SHOES (keds), mugs, bags/totes, APRONS, TIES, greeting cards, business cards, post cards and note cards, POSTAGE STAMPS, POSTERS, CANVAS PRINTS, calenders, mouse pads, STEINS, bumper stickers, magnets, PHOTO SCULPTURES, keychains, BUTTONS, and are you ready for this??? SKATEBOARDS.

How fun is that? Can you imagine your child waking up Christmas morning to find a COOL SKATEBOARD designed just for him or her waiting under the tree?

I don't know how Zazzle does it... but they do.

Finally, the other really cool thing about this is... you can make money at it, too. Yep -- you can put your designs up for sale to the public. In fact, I did just that. I designed a shirt for my Pastorman's wife with a saying she loves (I was unable to actually find a real shirt with it already printed on it -- and -- if anyone from her family is reading this -- keep it to yourselves).

I haven't received it in the mail yet (this week or beginning of next), and I'm dying to see the end result. I'm hoping the quality is nice, because I went CHEAP, and bought the cheapest enlarged my clip art -- so I hope it isn't all pixely) -- I'll keep you posted.

You can go HERE to see the shirts I created (pictured below -- see what YOU can do???). They're cute, in my humble opinion. Oh, and... feel free to buy one or five hundred of them while you're there!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Finds #10

I've got a cool gift idea for you today, and it will enable you to use your creativity with out really using your creativity... if that makes any sense. Basically -- ANYONE can do this -- all you need is a digital picture and a credit or check card.

Today's Idea: Canvas Press: I love this idea -- take an ordinary photo,and turn it into a work of art that is printed on canvas. For $45.99*, you can have an 8x10, "gallery wrap" (the photo gets wrapped around the sides of the canvas) work of art created... people will call you genius, grandparents will weep... and your walls will boast of a beautiful child, family photo, or your favorite flower. Whatever your mind can think of, Canvas Press can turn it into a work of art. Beautiful. Amazing. Why didn't I think of it?

The sample below shows a huge print on the wall of a hospital, but you can see how they wrapped the picture around the canvas. You'll just have to visit the site to see how beautiful their stuff is!

Have I mentioned how much
I love this idea?
*You can create an account for free, upload a picture and play with it yourself to see what you can get. There are many different options you can choose from -- of course, everything costs something! So go play!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Where oh, where have I been???

Not that many people noticed... but I took a blogging break (with the exception of Friday Finds).


Well, let me share.

First, we put our dog to sleep on Wednesday, November 12. That was a tough thing. We knew she was old. We knew she was sick. We knew it was coming. What I didn't expect was to take her to the vet for a checkup and to see why her belly was swollen, and to be told she was in end-stage liver failure, and to prolong her life any longer than THAT DAY would be unwise and unkind. So I walked in at 11:45 WITH our dog, and left at 1:00 permanently WITHOUT our dog. And dropped $200 in the process. I cried my eyes out. And Hunter didn't miss a beat. "Mommy, good girl at the docors?" (he leaves out the t) or "Mommy, good girl dead."

Sigh. How do you reply to that? Yes, son, she is indeed dead.

Our poor dog. She was a part of our lives for 15 years and three months. She was the sweetest most adorable dog in all the earth. She patiently endured torment from children without a complaint, was faithful to the end, and returned our love each and every day. She knew she was loved. We knew she loved us.

Having said that -- I still won't be getting another dog anytime soon. If ever. Unless maybe my precious son begs me for one, in which case, I will probably slam my hand in the car door first to draw my attention away from the fact that we might be bringing another dog into my home. I'm sure my husband feels the same way.

Anyway -- the very next day, I was slammed with a miserable cold that robbed me completely of my voice for 5 days. I couldn't even whisper.

Then, upon having sufficiently recovered (it took 10 days!), I spent several days preparing items for a craft show. Which was followed by ANOTHER cold. I totally blame the flu shot for this one.

Somewhere in there we celebrated my 41st birthday. It's all a blur... quite possibly brought on by two cycles of antibiotics and enough cough syrup to drown a small animal -- like that blasted rabbit that ate all my veggies in the garden this summer. Thank goodness my doctor prescribed cough syrup with codeine last week. I'm loving that stuff. I mean -- it works really great. You should try it.

Oh, yeah ... I also sank into a 3-week bout of depression. Not sure where that came from, but it hit me pretty hard. I hate it when depression sneaks up on you and takes you for all your worth before you even have a chance to realize that it's taking you, if you know what I mean.

In the midst of all this funk, we attended a cooking class hosted in a woman's kitchen. We had fun. It was good. And I'm still in a depressed funk.

Then, we went to North Carolina for Thanksgiving, and I got sick. Again. This time, sinuses. And I'm firmly convinced that it had EVERYTHING to do with driving up and down in the mountains for 7 hours. Each way.

Now, I'm preparing for Christmas. I'm a wee bit overwhelmed by the quantity of things I've committed myself to MAKE (sew, bead, bake), and may, in fact, decide to purchase gifts and gift cards instead of MAKING gifts after all. It may be the one saving grace for keeping my sanity intact. We'll see after this weekend, as I'm planning on sewing all day Saturday.

And I know Etsy has homemade stuff. I love Etsy stuff -- really, I do -- but I look at it all and think, I can't possibly pay for that when I can MAKE IT and MAKE IT GOOD. Yeah, I'm prolific. Whatever.

As of this writing -- I'm still sick with the tail end of the cold that will be forever known as the Great Cold of 2008. Fortunately, Christmas preparations always make me happy and joyful, and I'm greatly anticipating the celebration of the birth of our Savior. Although somehow, I committed to singing 4 songs this season -- one is a quartet of Let There Be Light, one is a duet called Mirror Mirror (Barlow Girl), one is a solo of What Child Is This, and one that is six people singing Chrismastime -- I'm not sure about the last one, as I don't recall signing up for that one. I was handed a cd and music on the fly last Tuesday night at church, and at this point, I'm not sure what I did with either one.

And sadly, my voice has not been fully returned to me after this last month of colds (hence, the Great Cold of 2008), nor can I hold out a note for any length of time without running out of breath or cracking. And my lungs are still hurting. This should be interesting! Four songs will sap my voice for sure, as I lost my ability to sing strongly when I had my tonsils removed about 5 years ago. I was trained in a classical style, sang some light opera with my voice coach, sang in choral groups through my young adult life (that is the one good thing about public schools -- or rather, USED to be a good thing) and now? My voice pretty much sucks. Can you say that on a Christian-family-friendly blog? Because it does.

Has that happened to anyone else??? Any tips?

I still have to find that one elusive good picture for our Christmas cards. That always gets me each and every year, and I find my Christmas cards get mailed out later and later and later -- oh heck. I may just use a picture from the summer. Who cares that Hunter is in shorts, right?

Speaking of Hunter ... He JUST learned about Santa -- not sure who told him about this man dressed in red, but we have repeatedly said that mommy and daddy bring Christmas gifts for Christmas. Maybe this ho-ho man can fill his stocking. Still undecided about that, as I refuse to cloud the true meaning of Christmas with a fantasy-man that has at some point acquired vast sums of money and can make presents magically appear under our Christmas tree. If only it were true. That would have saved me a ton of money.

Now I'm depressed again. Just kidding!

Does anyone have any tips on teaching a child how to say S's?? For instance, Spank is Pank. And it isn't all the time, just most of the time. It's cute now, but I'm pretty sure Hunter will appreciate being able to say words with S when he's 18 and the captain of the high school football team. I mean... how motivating could it possibly be to hear the team captain say, "Let's give these pansies a good panking!"

So that's what's been going on here. It is 12:34 am, I'm battling insomnia, my brain is jammed with lists and tasks and projects, oh, yeah -- work is busy, and I'm fresh out of blogging ideas, although I'm sure I'll come up with something for the week!

Any thoughts?

Enjoy your week.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Find #9: Cool Gifts for Teens and Tweens

I shutter. Gifts for teens and tweens is probably the hardest category... so to help you out, I've got three cool ideas...

1. Gift idea #1: 2009 Bubble Calendar -- Can you imagine how fun this will be to pop each day? I might need one for myself, because nothing says stress relief like bubble wrap and this might just be a stress preventer... one pop a day!!! Total cost... $30 + S/H

2. Gift idea #2: iPod to iPod Transfer -- Now, THIS is cool. (sorry -- no picture) Ever want to transfer songs from one ipod to another? Now all you need is this handy dandy ipod transfer gizmo. Cool, huh?

Not only can you easily transfer music, but videos and pictures from one iPod to another iPod without the use of a computer. It automatically recognizes when you plug in iPods (either Mac or PC formatting) on either end, and it can transfer a three-minute song in five seconds and a 30-minute video in three minutes. 3/4" H x 2 1/4" W x 3 1/2" D. (2 oz.) $99.95 + S/H

3. Cool shirts that ROCK C28 is the coolest store, HANDS DOWN, for Christian tees and other clothing for the young at heart. Seriously... my sister-in-law introduced me to this site last year, and i have since searched and searched, but haven't found another site nearly as cool. Why, it's practically a one stop shop for teens young adults. They have hoodies, t-shirts, button downs, thermals, pants, shoes, jewelry, music (oh, you know that ear-bleeding music young people listen to? Wish you could find a Christian alternative? They have it!) I'm telling you ... this store is a WINNER. Mark it in your favs.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Finds #8: Cooking Delights

Good morning! Today I have a fun idea for Christmas gift giving ... affordable, practical, original---ish.

Giving cookbooks as Christmas gifts isn't necessarily an original thought. But... You know how you sometimes get a beautiful cookbook for a gift, open it up, and only find one or three recipes that you actually care for? What a waste of a gift... and how disappointing if you're the one that GAVE that gift to someone. Well. This year, try putting together your own cookbook for a Christmas gift!? A book with a collection of your own favorite recipes and tried-and-true recipes from other sources.

There are many sites that can make this dream ... the one of actually seeing your name in a book that you created ... next to a recipe you love ... a reality. They all offer pretty much the same thing, just different sizes and prices: you can use your own customizable recipes, or selected recipes from their site or others; standard, easy page layouts; standard covers to choose from; most places let you choose from hardback cover or softback cover (a more economical choice, which allows you to get duplicates, if you're planning on mass producing these as gifts).

Drawbacks: You will probably have to create an account or become a member (free) which means that unless you're already a member, you'll begin getting emails from them (which you can opt out of, too).

My favorite place is Tastebook. You can grab recipes from tons of different places with a click of your mouse... Cooking Light, Food and Wine, My Recipes, Food Network, Recipe Zaar, All Recipes, Better Homes and Gardens, Better Recipes, Southern Living, Simply Recipes, Epicurious, Bon Apetit Recipes, and more. Also, they print the books with a spine that allows you to add pages even after your book has been printed (very clever)! They print them beautifully and mail them to you and you just add it to your book.

Other places you can visit to decide which one will work out best for you are:

Kraft Foods (very, VERY easy to use)
Create My Cookbook

It's a good find for a Friday! You can spend the weekend playing, and create a Christmas gift all at the same time! Yay!

Have an awesome and warm weekend... and ... 4 more Fridays until Christmas Week!!!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Finds #7: Practical Backup Solutions

Click HERE for my "Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style" recipes!

Good morning!

I have a practical Friday Find for you. This comes from first-hand experience of having my computer crash on me numerous times, as I'm sure has happened to you, as well.

So, in honor of crashing computers, today's Friday Find is practical, and has been around a while, it just deserves repeating and reminding everyone about it... The Portable Hard Drive. Perfect for the Christmas List, the stocking stuffer, or just for yourself.

Gadget: Portable Hard Drive -- The one I purchased was the Simpletech Signature Mini Portable 120GB Hard Drive - USB 2.0 in Espresso. I selected this one because it is only 3" x 5" x 0.625' -- small enough to fit in my purse and take back and forth to work every day. I can store 30 two-hour DVD-quality movies, OR 120 hours of VHS-quality video, OR 82 days of around-the-clock MP3 audio, OR 30,000 vivid digital photos, OR 170 action-packed games!

I'm trying to figure out when I'd ever have 30,000 photos... but right now, this little gadget fits my needs.

One last comment ... don't fully rely on an external hard drive as your one and only safety net to save your precious photos and documents. Please back things up on DVD also... one way you can do this is by uploading your photos for print at Costco (or your place of choice), and having them burn them on a CD/DVD -- it's a nominal cost (like under $3.00!) per CD.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style

Click HERE for Friday Finds!

It's the most wonderful time... of they year!!!

I love Thanksgiving and Christmas... hands down, my favorite holidays of the entire year! I love the happiness, the food, the reasons for the seasons... love it all. And I also love Overwhelmed with Joy's holiday tradition... Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style! So if you have a recipe to share, hop on over and link up, then read up on all the great recipes!

This year, I have two new recipes to share!

The first one is a Cooking Light recipe, a deep soul-warming soup called Golden Winter Soup. It has the delicious combination of leeks and potatoes, with the extra sweet surprise of butternut squash. A great soup for Thanksgiving! (picture taken from My Recipes)

Prep Notes: This recipe instructs that you use a blender to puree the soup. I do not have a blender, so I used my food processor in smaller batches, and it worked just fine. A potato masher, however, will NOT work, because the broth and starchy vegetables really need to be emulsified nicely in order to obtain its creamy texture.


2 tablespoons butter
5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled russet potato (about 12 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced leek (about 2 medium)
4 chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
3 tablespoons chopped chives (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)


1. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add squash, potato, salt, and pepper to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add leek; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally.

2. Place half of potato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture. Return mixture to Dutch oven, and stir in half-and-half. Cover and keep warm.

3. Ladle 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 1 teaspoon chives. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

And now, one of my new favorites... Apple Pie Bars from Taste of Home -- ohmygoodness they are yummy! They have a rich apple taste, and they are the perfect dessert for pot-lucks, church dinners, and dinners to share with neighbors or for shut-ins. The recipe yields a lot, but none will be left!

Prep Notes: The dough is a bit tricky, as it is very crumbly, so if you are a novice baker, might I recommend the pre-made pie dough they sell in rolls? Otherwise, you will want to use the dough recipe provided as it has a nice texture-flavor thing going on! Also, I used a small pizza dough rolling pin to roll it into the pan because I found it to be so crumbly. You might want to try rolling the top crust out in several pieces to make it easier to handle. Finally: this is a forgiving recipe, so if you "forget" (ehem!) certain ingredients (like the crisp rice cereal) it will still work. The rice cereal is a thickening agent, and I don't recommend you skip it on purpose. Only if you're slightly distracted by a three year old that has been screaming in the background for over a half hour.


3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shortening
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2/3 cup milk

1 cup crisp rice cereal
8 cups sliced peeled tart apples (about 9 medium)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon apple pie (or pumpkin pie) spice or all spice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 egg whites, lightly beaten

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt; cut in the shortening until crumbly. Combine egg yolks and milk; gradually add to crumb mixture, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Divide in half. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 15-in. x 10-in. rectangle. Spritz some Pam in a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in baking pan and place one rectangle in the pan; sprinkle with crisp rice cereal (see prep notes above).

Arrange apples over cereal. In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and apple pie spice; sprinkle over apples. Top with remaining pastry; cut slits in top. Brush with egg whites.

Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. In a bowl, combine confectioners' sugar and enough milk to achieve a thick drizzling consistency. Drizzle over bars. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 3-4 dozen.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I'm DONE with it!

Politics... Again. Sorry. Bear with me.

I am SICK TO DEATH of this entire election process. Here are some things that I'm particularly sick of...

I'm sick to death of the childish antics Obama supporters have regressed to when they came ONTO MY PROPERTY to steal my McCain / Palin sign... along with hundreds of other people's signs. My street alone has had a MINIMUM of 6 signs stolen alone.

1. We're not doing it to you...
- and I can say this simply because all the Obama signs in my neighborhood are
still standing.
3. It is rude
4. Offering FREE PIZZA for stolen signs is a cheap shot
- stand up and fight your battles the right way and VOTE.
5. Did I mention... we're not doing it to you???

I'm sick to death of stuff like THIS, where Obama flips McCain the bird in a speech. I know -- it isn't CLEAR that he did, but you decide.

I'm sick to death of Angry People.

I'm sick to death of marxist threats to shut down our power plants by bankrupting them ... why? So government can hold the "solution" and "come to every one's rescue"??

I'm sick to death of Fashion Critics. WHO CARES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What about the issues?!?!?

I'm sick to death of "Stage Men" -- Hispanic Democrats are NOT for Obama... even in his own home town. Actions speak louder than words, and Latinos who supported Hillary will be voting McCain / Palin. The Hispanics have sent a message ... Obama is not applying for American Idol!

And I'm outraged by certain... people in association with the Democratic Candidate ... that the media doesn't care to discuss. Appalled, in fact. It worries me, and in my mind, brings into question Obama's ability to formulate clear judgment calls if our country is ever attacked again... because I just don't understand how someone can sit for 20 years with a Pastor he calls friend, listen to his radical messages from the pulpit (including profanity, which just blows my mind), and NOT think something is wrong with that... or serve on a board with a man that was a part of a radical underground group that bombed federal buildings. A 50 million dollar grant to improve schools was brought to Chicago by Bill Ayers, and they worked together for 7 years on a board that gave funds to external small schools program like Anenberg Challenge and the Woods Fund?? How do you NOT know someone and what they believe after working with them for 7 years?

How many coincidences can this man have while people turn a blind eye and a deaf ear?

Friends.... obviously, I'm a McCain/Palin supporter -- and while I may not fully agree with his (or her) platform, it is by far, the least threatening, least liberal, least Marxist, and least frightening platform out there.

If you're still unsure on how to vote ... Vote the Word of God.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

What is Change... REALLY?

Friends, before you go off to vote, please consider this letter I got from my mom.

My mother used to live in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area and worked for the Secretary General of the oldest Diplomatic International Organization. She sent me an email last week, and I wanted to share parts of it with you.

She is from Peru, and while she worked for the Diplomatic International Organization, she had the opportunity to work, meet, and see hundreds and hundreds of Cubans who fled their country when Castro turned their Island into a Communist regime. They lived for years and years -- to this day-- with the hope that they will return to their beloved land. They put their trust in John Kennedy and his famous invasion of the Bay of Pigs that never happened, and the rest is history. They are still waiting; in the meantime their country has been destroyed by the false promises of equality and the "redistribution of the wealth" (spreading the wealth around). [Sound familiar?] Their Justice system is a sham, thousands are languishing in jails because they dared to speak up against the government. Everybody is poor, except the ruling class. Havana, is a decrepit old city, people are still crying for freedom, the one we still have here. Cubans are so desperate that they still get into rickety boats in the hope of reaching our coasts. Many perish in their efforts. My mom was born in Peru but "made in the USA." This is her country now. She became a US citizen years ago, and proudly works in the judicial system as a translator. She said, "I don't want to see it [my country] destroyed. Let's continue to pray like never before that God will intervene and save our country by allowing the McCain-Palin ticket to win. What happened in Cuba, could happen here."

Are you ready to cast your vote? Do you know what each candidate stands for? Even if you don't agree with any of them, please ... vote for the lesser of two evils! And pray that God will prevail.

She ended the email with three profound words.

Let's be diligent.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Homemade With Love - 2008

Updated to add: I'm not trying to sound vain, but please link back to this post in your own Homemade with Love post! Thank you.

Sorry for the delay -- as usual, I had problems with Blogger! I hope Mister Linky is working. Let me know if you experience any glitches. Also, please forgive some of the poor photos. You win some, you loose some, and I really had to pick my battles!

Once again, I present you with my annual Homemade with Love Gift Idea Exchange! Each year, I try to come up with new ideas to share with you, and again this year, I am so excited to share with you some new homemade gift ideas. I'm also excited to see all the creative ideas YOU have to share! But first, let me just say that while some of you may think I'm ubber creative -- I'm not. I'm somewhat creative, but there are so many crafty chicks out there, I can't stand it!

After surfing a gazillion blogs and craft websites, I was left with so many ideas this year, but because I'm preparing for a craft show that is coming up in two weeks, I can only share a handful of them today. I promise to continue posting pictures and links to tutorials and websites as I complete each project I'm preparing for the craft show. For the projects I feature today, you can go to the links I provide you to other blogs, or to my "Extra Kisses of Sunshine" web site to see details, links and instructions (including cost information).

This year, I've got a mixture of ideas and medium. Some require higher skills than others, while some are simple enough for even the non-crafter to make. Regardless of your crafting skill level, I'm confident that everyone will leave with at least one idea you'll be able to implement and make your Christmas gift giving more homemade. Also, the sweetest form of flattery is that someone copies something you made, and I've taken a few ideas this year from other much more talented women than myself, and I'll link you directly to their tutorials, not only because it is their original idea, but because they say it so well!

If you have a Homemade with Love idea to share, post it (along with instructions or recipes) on your blog today, then come back and add your name and the link to your post on the Mister Linky, along with your gift idea next to your name (i.e.: GiBee: No-Sew Poncho). And don't forget... please link directly to your post, not your home page. Also, please link back to my original Homemade With Love post.

Reminder: You can CLICK HERE for cost, directions and materials needed for each of these crafts (or links to tutorials). I'll provide the link again at the end of this post.

This is the scripture I based my Homemade With Love idea around:

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."
(1 Peter 4:10)
And, really ... that's what a homemade gift is -- not something that is perfectly made and coordinated, but rather, a little bit of God's grace, like a piece of your heart, that you've taken the time to share with another person.

Again ... please remember that not all of these ideas are original, and if you see your idea here and I didn't give you credit (because I just didn't remember where I saw it, but I truly did try to be careful), please email me privately off line and I'll rectify the situation.

Now, without further delay, here we go!

Christmas Gift Idea #1: Hand Decorated Platter -- This gift idea requires a very basic skill level, and can be personalized for the recipient. I got this idea from a gift shop I visited in North Carolina (but can't remember the name). Basically, I took a plain white plate that can be purchased at any dollar store, Target, WalMart, etc. I decorated it with permanent sharpie pens, and baked it for 20 minutes on 350 degrees to set the color. You can decorate any white platter, mug, bowl, serving bowls -- anything that is white. This is also a great idea for children to create for their grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, teachers, etc. CLICK HERE for directions.

Christmas Gift Idea #2: No-sew Girls Fleece Poncho -- Cute, cute, cute! What little girl wouldn't love cuddling up to this adorable poncho? This project requires basic crafting skills -- if you can cut and tie knots, you can make this! If you can hold a needle and thread in your hand, you can embellish the raw neckline. By the way ... it is important to note at this time that I really did come up with this idea all on my lonesome! CLICK HERE for directions.

Christmas Gift Idea #3: Sassy t-shirt -- There's nothing better than a comfy t-shirt... unless, of course, it has a little bling on it!!! Trust me when I say... this project is super easy, and the only tools this project requires is an iron! No crafting skills required. CLICK HERE for directions.

Christmas Gift Idea #4: Grace Violet Chic Stationary Set -- I couldn't let another year pass without creating something with my favorite gunky stuff... Mod Podge!! I love how easy this was, and with such a wide selection of scrapbooking papers, even the ugliest pad of paper can be made to look chic! I got this clever idea from Grace Violet (click directions), and Etsy. Basic crafting skills are needed for this project, but once you get the main principles, you can pretty much run with the ideas! CLICK HERE for directions.

Christmas Gift Idea #5: Gourmet Salt Grinder --Anyone can make this cool gift, and any gourmet foodie will love receiving it. A simple salt grinder with some gourmet salt that you mix together in your own kitchen with items you probably already have in your spice cabinet. No crafting skills are needed for this project. CLICK HERE for directions.

Christmas Gift Idea #6: Cute 2-year Planner -- You can put together a cute planner for very little money, and it would make a cute stocking stuffer, or gift for coworkers. I ordered all the supplies from the internet, used scrapbook paper, and voila... a cute planner. Basic crafting skills are needed for this project. CLICK HERE for directions.

Christmas Gift Idea #7: Adorable Hair Accessories -- Little girls love to fix their hair, and this little project would make an adorable stocking stuffer or gift at a very low cost. No crafting skills are needed for the hair clips, but basic sewing skills are needed for the headbands. You can slip on over to Grace Violet HERE to get instructions on one of the cute hair clips. CLICK HERE for headband directions.

Christmas Gift Idea #8: Skip To My Lou Travel Tissue Holder -- Loooove it! This is an awesome stocking stuffer, gift for a shut-in, or a gift for a co-worker. I made these as thank you gifts for group leaders and coordinators for our women's retreat last weekend, and a couple for door prizes. It was so easy, and I had them made in no time flat! I'll also be giving a few away at work for Christmas. Go to Skip To My Lou for directions or CLICK HERE for directions.

Christmas Gift Idea #9: Fabric Coffee Cup Sleeve -- Everyone has "Going Green" on the mind, and this is a great way to start -- you know all those cardboard coffee cup sleeves we get? The ones that are made of recycled material, but are no longer recyclable? Well, replace them with one of these Fabric Coffee Cup Sleeves!! No more waste, and it is washable. I made them from 100% cotton on one side, and fleece on the other, so they provide a bit of insulation. They are so cute, but sadly, I'm not sure what happened to all pictures I took, so I've borrowed a picture from Etsy, and I'll take some more and re-post them later this week. CLICK HERE for directions.

Christmas Gift Idea #10: Peanut Butter Chocolate Nut Clusters -- OHMYWORD -- sinful. I had these clusters at a women's retreat at the beginning of the month, and begged the poor lady for the recipe... which she recited off the top of her head. This is a cute and simple gift idea for co-workers, neighbors, kids at church, teachers... you get the idea! Simple, cheap, yummy. Love it. CLICK HERE for directions.

Christmas Gift Idea #11: Tulip Bulb Thank You -- Make this simple little package for the teacher your child loves... a Sunday school teacher... a boy scout or girl scout leader, or the special coach in your kids life. It is inexpensive, adorable, and says "Thank You" in a special way. Add a little card that thanks them for planting knowledge and wisdom in your child's heart and mind, or thanks them for encouraging your child to bloom or blossom. CLICK HERE for directions.

Christmas Gift Idea #12:
Personalized Picture Vase -- This is an adorable gift for grandparents. Using an inexpensive square vase, you can personalize it with a picture of your child, seal it with a couple coats of poly, and have a unique gift under the tree for grandma and grandpa. Sorry I didn't have flowers to make a nice arrangement -- just use your imagination! CLICK HERE for directions.

If you didn't get the message, you can CLICK HERE for directions, more pictures, recipes, vendors, complete project cost breakdown, supply lists, etc.

Now it's your turn!! What special Homemade With Love gift do you have to share? It can be easy, or difficult... sewn, or baked... cut and glued... colored or painted. There's no limit to your creativity, so share it all with us! And, please link back to this original post!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Find #6: Sewing Treasures

Good morning, good morning, good morning!!!

This fine Friday morning, I bring you two sewing gadgets. One I have used as late as last night and love it. The other one will be in my cart this weekend (Joann's Fabrics), because it will give me a new dimension to trim and biased tape.

Gadget #1: Wrights SideWinder Portable Bobbin Winder -- DUDE!! I LOVE THIS GADGET. Why? Because I can quickly wind a bobbin without using my sewing machine. Hunter, my wonderful, amazing, energetic 3 year old... well, he broke my sewing machine, and the spool of thread sits precariously on the machine, so winding bobbins in not an option right now... but with this SideWinder Portable Bobbin Winder, I can wind a bobbin at the touch of a button, and the portable Bobbin Winder quickly and easily fills my bobbins without having to use the sewing machine. It runs on two AA batteries or with a power cord, and it is very small and compact, measuring only 3"H x 5"W x 3"D. It has a built-in carrying handle and two spindles for storing extra bobbins (bobbins not included), and works with either "L" size bobbins or "M" size bobbins and has an automatic shutoff when the bobbins are full. Love it, love it, love it. Even if my sewing machine weren't broken, I would still love it. This would make an awesome gift for an avid seamstress, and it sells for $35 at Joann's (it is even on sale now for $26), but you can get it cheaper with your 40% off coupon, or even online at different quilting stores.

Gadget #2: Clover Bias Tape Maker -- This gadget allows you to make your own bias tape for banding, trimming, and so much more. It is so cool, and this is one product I can't wait to get my hands on! It is cheap, cheap, cheap, and would make a great stocking stuffer. I think I'm going to get the 2" one this weekend so I can try my hand at custom matching bands to some Christmas gifts I'm making out of Heather Bailey fabrics -- I'm almost giddy with excitement. If you can picture it, every time I think of my lovely HB fabrics, I raise my fists to the side of my head, and shake them in excitement. I know. It's a sickness that my husband rolls his eyes at. I also want to use this tape maker to try my hand at making a custom quilt. They run anywhere from $4 to $11 at Joann's.

An online tutorial on how to use the Bias Tape Maker can be found HERE.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Holiday Cooking -- Blogger Style

Oh, yay! Oh, yeah! It's the holidays! Get your groove on!

Okay -- please forgive my lame and very non-rhythmic attempt to ... ummm ... do the -- cabbage patch thingie ...


Overwhelmed with Joy's annual "Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style" recipe exchange is right around the corner!

Mark your calendars, ladies and gents, because November 7 is the day to post your special holiday recipe, recipes or reci-recipes -- how ever many you want to post! And I have a new one to share -- nanny, nanny boo boo! [Ehem!!! I'm just SO excited!]

ANYWAY -- to help spread the word, Overwhelmed is hosting a giving away! She will give one set of 20 personalized recipe cards to one lucky winner! She is designing these recipe cards, and they will have your first and last name on each one (possibly Christmas themed). Too fun!!! And if you've seen her other designs, you'll appreciate how cute they will be!

All you have to do is: publish a post about Overwhelmed's upcoming "Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style" recipe exchange on your blog (as IF I needed any extra incentive other than my love to cook!) and then stop back at her blog and leave her a comment with a link directing her to that post. If you do that, she'll toss your name in the drawing for the free personalized recipe cards. How fun is that????

So get posting, get cooking, and get ready for the mega-fun "Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style" recipe exchange!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Finds #5: Not-so-Silly USB-driven Computer Gadgets

Good morning, good morning, good morning!!! This morning, I bring you some funny computer gadgets that totally made me think of my sister-in-law, Sunshine. She is always freezing cold. Her husband claims she has snake blood in her, and while some of these gadgets sound silly, I'm thinking there may be some validity in many of them! I'll let you decide!

Gadget #1: USB Oscillating Desk Fan -- okay, this one was TOTALLY made for me! I constantly have a fan running at work, because the air gets so stagnant and still. I love that it runs from a USB port rather than electrical hook up, because as I type this, I'm looking down at my desk and I see a power strip with 6 things plugged into it, and it looks ugly, and down right un-safe! Anyway, this fan has four levels, it oscillates, and it only costs $15.95!

Gadget #2: USB Heating Blanket -- This is the perfect gift for the blogger, web surfer, or computer hog that is perpetually COLD -- like my SIL, Sunshine. Get it? Perpetually cold? Perpetual Kid sells it? Never mind. Anyway ... this 38" x 18" fuzzy blanket wraps around you, or can be draped over your legs. A heating pad inside the blanket keeps you nice and toasty, and can be removed to wash the blanket. Gotta love it! It even has a button closure to keep it around your shoulders! The blanket doesn't come with a cheap price tag, but it sounds like it might be worth it! It costs: $34.99

Gadget #3: Flexible Silicone Illuminated Keyboard -- BINGO!!! I'm SOOOO totally thinking of getting this for my husband who likes to check his fishing sites at night, in bed. And there are times when I would love to have the light off so I can sleep, and this might really come in handy!!! It is a flexible, full sized keyboard that is silent -- and indestructible (give Hunter 5 minutes with it!). It can be rolled up, it is washable, portable, water-resistant, it comes in several colors, and the EL illumination can be turned on or off. It costs: $26.99.

Gadget #4: USB Heated Gloves -- You didn't think I'd list the USB Heating Blanket, and NOT THE GLOVES, did you??? How silly! Anyway, these gloves would come in handy for me, because I sit right under an air conditioning vent, and in the summers, I go home with BLUE fingers -- honest to goodness! These gloves are great for cold hands that need to type, as well as cold hands that need to play video games! Each glove has a separate USB cord, and have a warming pad inside them. They have open-end design (cut off fingers) with a flap that can be put over the finger tips, and they are made of wool. They have 2 heating levels, and they work with any USB port, PC, Mac, Playstation 2 or Xbox 360. I can think of a lot of people that could use these! Including my snake blood sister in law. It Cost: $24.99.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oops!! It did it again!!

Soooooo -- remember when I posted last year about THIS ??????

Yeah -- well -- guess what we had last night?

Another full moon.

And pandemonium ensued in the kids class last night at church. UUUHH-GEEN.

So does anyone have any advice on how I could possibly, you know -- CONTROL MY CHILD in a classroom setting???? He wasn't doing terrible things -- just throwing crayons, dumping popcorn on the floor, crawling under the table (which is only like 2 feet off the floor), screaming, crying when I corrected him, running around the table, talking over the teacher ... you know ... things a parent wants their wonderful, well behaved angel of a child to NOT DO.

Hunter was spanked twice, put in time out twice, scolded every other minute, and threatened to go to the nursery one thousand times. In fact, he threw an awful temper tantrum when I actually took him into the nursery, and I just couldn't subject the poor woman who was working the nursery to Hunter.

Every child... every single one of them... was spoken to by the teacher or myself. The kids were whining, crying, talking over the teacher (we NEVER did this in class), they wouldn't listen, several didn't want to cooperate at all... needless to say ... we had some serious behavioral issues, and my son was right in the middle of it. AND THREE BOYS WERE OUT SICK LAST NIGHT!!! Oiy Vey! And all of these kids are good kids ... loving kids ... but last night? Craay-zee.

And -- Miss C -- please don't quit teaching! We'll figure it all out!!! You're doing an awesome job with the kids, so please don't carry the burden on your shoulders that you have done something wrong, because you haven't. Persevere and hold on!

Sooooooooooo..... Having said all THAT, I'm thinking there may be some truth to the full-moon-theory.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WFMW: Removable Bumper Stickers

Works for me Wednesday is hosted by Shannon over at Rocks in my Dryer! Head on over for other valuable tips!

Ok -- I must admit that I have this "THING" against putting bumper stickers on my car.

Some might say it is because I like to keep my car a pristine, snow-driven white and don't want to destroy it with bumper stickers pasted all over it... until you get up close enough to see how filthy my car really is, in which case, I would become a liar in your eyes.

Others might say it is because I am a type A personality and am a raving fanatic about cleanliness and orderliness ... until you look inside my car, at which time, my liar status would also be confirmed.

Personally, I just think it is one of those quirky ticks I have -- the NOBUMPERSTICKERSONTHECAR tick...

But because I feel it is my civic duty to REMIND EVERYONE TO VOTE FOR MCCAIN... I wanted to put a McCain/Palin bumper sticker on my car. Our neighbor gave us two, and my husband, without a moment of hesitation, peeled it and slapped it on his truck. Me, on the other hand ... well, I thanked her for it, walked inside the house, set it on the dining room table, all with a nervous twitch in my eye, and my shoulder jerking violently at the thought of my husband being so bumper-sticker-careless.

Instead, I did what I used to do while I was in college a gazillion years ago, and had to have a new parking sticker on my car every year. I got a page of magnetic paper from the craft store, applied the bumper sticker to THAT, cut it out, and THEN I applied it to my car.

I got a "ProMAG" brand (Paint a Mag) magnetic sheet from Michael's for $2.99. They sell it in sheets, rolls, etc. You want a flat sheet that you can apply the whole sticker to (not magnetic strips or circles).

Now, I can remove the sticker whenever I want (like if I ever sell the car overmydeadbody), and not have a sticky, yucky mess to deal with.

So, if your child is on the honor roll at The Best Elementary School, but the next year ... he fails second grade... you can take that bumper sticker right off. Easy peasy!

If you ask me (and my nervous twitchy eye), bumper stickers and magnetic sheets work for me!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sigh -- Another Tear Jerker...


I saw this video at Especially Heather. She paired it perfectly with the scripture below. You're going to need tissues.

Please watch the entire video -- to the end.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

Your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

-Psalm 139:13-16

God is amazing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cardboard Testimonies

Edited to add: We watched this right after the sermon, and the congregation was quiet as each person reflected on their own thoughts... but I just wanted to jump up, pump both fists in the air, and give a Holy Shout-out for so many of the people sharing their testimony ... The Meth Addict, the Woman with MS, the Couple that had 3 stillborn babies ... How about you???
These past few weeks, my Pastor has been teaching on Stewardship. Yesterday, he shared a video with the congregation that left me blubbering like an idiot.

I encourage you to take a moment and watch the video... and be sure you try to read each sign -- I'm sure your own testimony will be shared at some point!

So, what does your cardboard testimony look like??

This is what my cardboard testimony would look like:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Finds #4: Cool iPod Accessories

Good morning to all my 5 loyal readers! Today, I have some really cool iPod gadgets that you may or may not already have or know about, but would be a most excellent item to add to the teenager's Christmas list or stocking! Have I mentioned that these gadgets are WAY cool?

If you DO happen to own one of these gadgets, please jump out of lurkdom and tell me what you REALLY think about it! Thanks!

Item #1: The Portable Turbo Charge for your iPod -- Hate when you're out on the road, and your iPod goes dead? Then the Portable Turbo Charge is for you! It re-charges your battery on one AA battery while you're out and about, and the battery compartment also accepts rechargeable batteries. A cool investment for a teenager (or adult) that can't be without their tunes! It also works on the iPhone. $20 at Brookstone, but can be found cheaper throughout the internet.

Item #2: The HMDX Speaker-on-the-Go -- This is a handy little carrying case for the people who are on the go but want to share their music with everyone around them. The iPod (or other MP3 players) plugs into the microphone jack and then the sounds go to the speakers, which have a high quality sound. It is powered by 2 AA batteries. You can pick one up at Amazon for $9.99, or better yet, shop around for a cheaper one in stores near you! A great stocking stuffer!!

Item #3: The Otter Box Armor for your iPod -- Are you, or someone you know, especially hard on your hand-held electronics? Then you need an Otter Box. It is a clear (or colored) case that goes on your iPod (I have one on my phone) that protects the electronic item from damage in the event of that accidental drop. Not that I have EVER, EVER, EVER dropped my phone. Ever. The Otter Armor offers waterproof, crushproof, sandproof, dustproof and drop-proof protection, and the ipod is fully functional while in the case -- can anyone say... "Oops! My iPod went through the washer!" Click HERE to get more information on sizes, prices, and features. They also sell cases for iPhones, hand held PDAs, Blackberries ... you get the picture!

Item #4: Belkin RockStar Splitter for iPods -- Teens can now easily share their downloaded tunes with their friends with the Belkin RockStar Splitter for iPods. It allows 5 people to plug into your iPod and jam out with you. This is such a cool splitter -- WAY better than the regular ol' 2-way splitter, and even way, WAY better than sharing ear buds (yuck!). Circuit City carries it for $19.99, and you can save an additional 10% when you use this coupon code L4AVVS5AHQ at checkout, OR, you can get it at Amazon for $14.95 (eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25 ). Sweet!!!

Hope you enjoyed these Friday Finds!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What the LDS Church Teaches

I will NEVER claim to be an expert in this area... and I have many friends, coworkers and readers that are LDS Mormons whom I respect a great deal, as they have outstanding morals, values, and work ethics. I know that I don't believe the same way they do, nor do I read the same Bible as they do, but I certainly do respect them.

I have long desired to get a better understanding of their faith: the basis of and the background of it. Surprisingly, I came across this series while visiting a blog (can't remember which one, because I've spent so much time here that I've lost track of how I clicked in), but the author of this blog has begun a series on what the LDS church teaches, what the Bible says, and what her personal opinions and conclusions are.

While I don't know her personally, she is a professed born-again Christian, her writtings support this, and she is followed by many women that I personally know, admire and respect highly with regards to their Christian walk and faith in Jesus Christ. She is someone that I'd like to get to know on a more intimate basis... and I must say that she certainly has bravely dug in with both sleeves rolled up, where few dare to tread! And I'm enjoying her series tremendously. I have walked away from her series with a few "Aha!" moments, a few "Oh!" moments, some questions, and some clarifications, and I look forward to her continued posts.

I'm pointing you to this blog so that you can also read her series and come away with your own conclusions. As with most blogs, you need to start at the bottom and work your way up. I know it is long, but I hope you have a moment to pull it up and dig in!

What the LDS Church Teaches Series by Her Children Arise and Call Her Blessed

And as always, if you leave a comment, please feel free to be open ... but be sure it is family friendly and civil!