Grace and Gratitude

On Sundays, I will be sharing with you "Grace and Gratitude". "Grace" will be a spiritual thought that has been on my mind, and "Gratitude" will be recognition for the blessings that we have had for the week.

Grace and Gratitude Sundays are not my attempt to brag or boast about what we have and what you don't. It is simply my way of taking time to be more grateful to the Lord for all that He has given us. I hope that these series of posts bring you encouragement, and raise our spirits, and encourage all of us to be thankful for what we do have, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves about what we don't. 

Preparing for this series of posts, I have been thinking about the word "gratitude" and what it really means to be grateful for the blessings in my life. There was a quote floating around Pintrest this week that summed it all up for me: 

Reading The Divine Gift of Gratitude, by Thomas S. Monson, I stumbled upon the following story, an example of gratitude that Jesus Christ gives to us:
In the book of Matthew in the Bible, we have another account of gratitude, this time as an expression from the Savior. As He traveled in the wilderness for three days, more than 4,000 people followed and traveled with Him. He took compassion on them, for they may not have eaten during the entire three days. His disciples, however, questioned, “Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” Like many of us, the disciples saw only what was lacking.
“And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And [the disciples] said, Seven, and a few little fishes.
“And [Jesus] commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
“And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.” 
Notice that the Savior gave thanks for what they had—and a miracle followed: “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.” 4

I myself have not had many seasons of life that have required me to "do without", or even "make the best of it". But I have experienced times of trial, just as most of us have, instances where I wish I had more, or something different, or even a different circumstance all together. Here is another great reminder from The Divine Gift of Gratitude:
We have all experienced times when our focus is on what we lack rather than on our blessings. Said the Greek philosopher Epictetus, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”  
My brothers and sisters, do we remember to give thanks for the blessings we receive? Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.
My beloved friend President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism, you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.”  
Let us remember to look around and give thanks for the blessings that our Heavenly Father has given us, through Christ's example, growing an attitude of gratitude.

This week I am grateful for:
  • Two afternoons of sweet summer rain.
  • Great friends. 
  • Our new camera. 
  • Renewed cellular service. Our cell phones mysteriously stopped working a week ago, today. They seemed to work fine everywhere but at our home. We tried everything. We updated them to the latest versions of the software via downloads from the internet. We rebooted them. We turned them off and on and back off and on again. Just as we were getting ready to call the cell provider, they started working again on Wednesday morning, and in came the voice mails, the text messages, and the missed calls. :) We still don't know what was going on, but we are thankful that we are able to use our phones again.
  • Reimbursement for Kyle's Biology class. Kyle recently had to go to Japan to do service with the NAVY. This meant he was required to drop a Biology class that we had already paid for. Because he was required to drop the course due to military service, the college he was attending fully reimbursed us for the cost of the class this week.
I would love to hear how the Lord has blessed your life, and what you are grateful for this week, if you would like to share. 

Much love. 


A Busy Day

Today Kyle and I went on a trip with the youth of our church. We got back this afternoon and crashed out only to wake up at 8:30 this evening from our nap! We must have been worn out.

I was planning on posting our menu plan for August today, but it looks like that will have to wait until Monday. I have a lot of really neat posts planned for next week. I am super excited!

Come back tomorrow for "Grace and Gratitude".

Much love.


Perfect Garden Plot

In our large back yard, we have a grassy area on top of a retaining wall. It would be the perfect place to have a garden. It just needs lots of lovin'.

See what I mean? Look at all of the weeds and vines on the fence. 

Earlier this week, I set out to clean it up as a part of our plan to have a vegetable garden by next summer. I secretly hope to have it ready to plant things before then. I would like to try some year-round gardening techniques that I am reading about in an amazing book that I picked up on Saturday from Barnes and Noble. More on that book later. 

After a few mornings of working on things during the early hours of the day, trying to avoid the beaming Southern sun and record high temperatures we have been having this week, this is the progress that I have made. 

After three days worth of mornings working in the new "garden", I now have a total of six bags of weeds, cut vines, and grass clippings for the garbage man on Monday. 

These lovely guys look like tumble weeds to me. Had to go though. 

Does anybody know what they are? I know that they are going to be a pest because they have left me a million seeds all over the top of the wall. I might not be missing them too much come spring time next year. I have a feeling I will be pulling up more like them before we are finished. 

At one point I had to break out the weed eater to get the job done. I am not a fan of snakes, and I was having to dig around in tall grass a little too much for my tastes. As I was blasting through everything, I came across what appeared to be some very large weeds. Turned out they were trees! 

I was able to use hedge clippers to trim them back quite a ways, but I quickly realized that digging up a stump was a man's job and left that to be done by my husband. I guess I haven't eaten enough spinach lately because my muscles just weren't big enough to haul it out. There is also a mimosa tree that is in the left corner of the new garden plot. My dad dug it up for us last summer, and it grew back this year! It is twice as big as last year, and about four times as big as these little guys. You're right. I didn't even go there. Leaving the mimosa for the men who eat their spinach. 

I found some other interesting varieties of plants while cleaning out all of the brush. 

I found a vine like plant with extremely long, sharp thorns and round, yellow berries. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know it was Nightshade. 

I also chopped down what I think was a dandelion plant that was taller than me. It had several stalks. I'm still not sure if dandelions can grow to be that massive, but I have no other explanation as to what it was. 

And I might have snipped the beginnings of a grape vine that was climbing over onto our fence from our neighbor's yard. I have been kicking myself  for that. Oops.

But I didn't find any snakes. Lots of grasshoppers, ants, roly poly bugs, and creepy crawly spiders, but no snakes. Man, I sure am grateful for that. 

We still have a lot of work to do to get this garden plot ready. Here is what's next on our garden to do list:
  • Add more split face cinder blocks to the wall. 
  • Dig out tree stumps. 
  • Level out the very steep ground with top soil. 
  • Remove rocks from the dirt. 
  • Treat ground for unwanted bugs. 
  • Treat ground for weeds.
  • Have my dad build a small ladder so we can climb the wall to get into the garden. (Mainly for me, because I am so short.)
  • Build a compost pile. 

I am drawing inspiration for this garden from several different sources, but two of them in particular are well worth your time and reading. If you have not been to visit The Prudent Homemaker you really should. I have added a link to her site in the sidebar of my blog. This woman is amazing in so many ways. Check out her garden. It will make your jaw drop.

Also, if you are bran-new to this whole vegetable gardening thing like we are, and are wanting a totally user friendly gardening book that is full of pictures, this book is a great resource for finding lots of info about year-round gardening: Backyard Harvest, A Year-Round Guide to Growing Fruits and Vegetables, written by Jo Whittingham. Here is a link to it on Barnes and Noble. 

Leaving you with something fun, this is where my green beans grew in the first garden that I had at our house. The rusty old bed frame was pulled out of a dilapidated shed on my grandma's farm. Who knows how old it is, but it is such a pretty thing when it has green beans all over it. I can't wait to see it like that again. 

P.S. If you have a vegetable garden or you know someone who does, and you have any advice or pointers that you would like to share with me, I am all ears. 

Much love. 


Dreams of a Garden

This summer, and what seems like every summer, I have grand ideas of having a lush vegetable garden.

And each year, my attempts fail miserably.

Summer 2009 was my first summer in the house that Kyle and I live in now. It was the most successful use of a green thumb that I have ever had. I grew tomatoes, green beans, okra, yellow squash, and a few other things. Because it was just me, and I was bran-new at gardening, I only grew a few of each kind of plant. Even though some of the veggies turned out tough, or were more enjoyed by insects and birds than by me, I still squeezed out a small harvest. I actually got to enjoy a few meals with the things that I had grown with the work of my own hands. It was a very rewarding experience.

In December Kyle and I were married, and my house became our home. As springtime approached, I already found myself dreaming about a vegetable garden for the summer.

But last summer proved to be my busiest season of life yet. In early May, Kyle traveled to Olive Branch, Mississippi with APX (now Vivint), a home security company to sell alarms. I was able to join him on the weekends while I finished out the school year teaching my third graders. Talk about an interesting time to be newly-weds! Just as school let out for summer, the office he was working for moved to Jackson. I had just been able to join him in Olive Branch, when we packed up and made the move. Whew. A few weeks later, I was enrolled in a class at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock trying to wrap up my gifted and talented teaching certification. This required me to teach a two week summer program called SLUFY for gifted and talented students in the Little Rock area. I traveled home to Arkansas for two weeks, what seemed like eternity, to teach my part of the program. Later I was able to return to Jackson to be with Kyle, but all the while I was making middle-of-the-week treks back to Arkansas for required teacher professional development and training. Before I knew it, it was time for school to start again and summer was changing into fall. Needless to say my car was my best friend last summer, and I had zero time to think about much of anything, especially vegetable gardening.

This year, after making the decision for Kyle to take a new job, I knew that we were going to be at home in Arkansas for the summer. Yay! I could have a garden! I did a little bit of research (but not near enough) about container gardening and thought that I could give that a shot. Seemed easy enough, and Kyle was on board. We went to Walmart and got some basic supplies, picked out what we thought were easy to grow plants, and set to work. We filled the containers with tomatoes, bell peppers, and jalapenos in less than an hour. We also planted a blackberry vine and a few blueberry bushes that I had bought from Lowe's earlier in the spring. We were really excited about the potential of container gardening, but this summer has to top the list of worst gardening attempts ever.

Here was our grand harvest for this year. Two red (maybe orange?) bell peppers the size of ping pong balls. Embarrassing.

We honestly don't know what happened. We planted kind of early, hoping to get a jump start on things. Here in the South there is always the risk of a frost in late spring. When the late frost came, we moved the plants inside. We even had bad hail storms and heavy winds during April, and we brought the plants inside then too.

Needless to say we are clueless when it comes to growing a garden, and obviously need to do some more research and honestly probably some harder work.

Here is our container garden now.

The blackberry vine has dried up in the hot sun. Up until this week we had not had a good rain in a very long time. I have a good friend that has a whole trellis of blackberry vine that was such a beauty at the beginning of the summer that is now slowly turning into a brown skeleton. It's so sad, but it's just so hot.

Those tomato plants never even blossomed. At least the bell pepper and jalapenos still have leaves.

I am very thankful for one thing though.... my beautiful blueberry bushes. :) They actually produced about a handful of blueberries this year. They are my favorite. They remind me of my grandma. And they are still looking very hardy and are continually putting on new growth. I pray that they are able hold on so I will be able to have them next year. 

Kyle and I are already working on a new vegetable garden plan for next year. What we want to do is going to take a lot of work, some of which we have already started, but I am convinced that we can make it happen.

I was going to share with you today what we have already started working on, but I think that I will save those details for tomorrow.

Much love.


How to Make Oval Shaped Fabric Yo Yo's

Fabric yo yo's are an old quilting tradition, but here recently (or for the past few years or so) they have been appearing on EVERYTHING as fun, creative embellishments. I have a love for these quick, easy to make, cheerful pretties.

Traditional fabric yo yo's that are used in quilting are circles, but this tutorial puts a spin on them by changing them into ovals... an idea that came to me while brainstorming ways to revamp an old project that I shared with you yesterday.

Pretty nifty, if you ask me.

Here is what I did.

Using white tissue paper, I traced the oval pattern stitched into the blanket so I would know what size the finished yo yo would need to be.

Let me tell ya, that was a little tricky because it turns out that it is pretty difficult to see stitching through something even as transparent as white tissue paper! 

Holding the tissue paper up the the light, I could see though it and was able to fold the oval in half. Just line up the two sides of the circle as you hold it in the light. (Hope that the picture helps me explain this better.)

Leaving it folded it in half, I free hand cut around the oval, but I left an edge around it equal to the radius of the oval. The reason you have to leave the edge is because when you stitch the yo yo and gather it, you are going to loose half of the size of your original shape. 

This is what I came up with when I did my free hand cutting. I know what you're thinking... THAT THING'S HUGE! I promise you that it has to be that big in order to make the yo yo the size that you want. Notice that it is not perfectly rounded on the sides? Did I mention that I am sometimes not perfect at free hand cutting? :) It's going to be more than fine when I use it to trace the real deal on fabric. Yo yo's are not an exact science. That's why I love them. They are super easy, way fun to make, and pretty much fool proof. 

Scrap fabric is always nice to have around when trying out new patterns and things like these oval yo yo's. I never throw away a scrap of fabric that is at least as big as a postage stamp, for this very reason. 

I traced the yo yo pattern on the scrap fabric (rounding out the sides that weren't so round after my free hand cutting) leaving the points at the top and the bottom. You are going to need them to make the oval shape more.... well, oval-y. 

After cutting it out, I flipped the oval over to the reverse side and started stitching. Looking at this picture now I realize how wrinkled this scrap fabric was. When I make the oval yo yo's out of the fabric for the blanket, I will iron it. It just makes it easier to work with. 

This part is easy-peasy. Just use your fingers to fold over the edge of the fabric and gather stitch it as you go using a regular needle and thread. In case you don't know what a gather stitch is, you just use your needle to go over, under, over, under, over, under. You want to make these stitches fairly large. All of your stitches do not have to be the same size. Don't worry about your thread matching your fabric. You aren't going to see it when you are finished stitching and gathering the yo yo closed. 

Continue to go around the entire edge of the oval. 

Once you have gone around the entire edge, you can begin to gently pull on your needle until the fabric starts to gather. You will have to pull and twist the fabric a little bit to get it to make the oval shape as you are pulling to gather it.

This is what it looked like when I was finished! It perfectly fits the oval stitched into the blanket. I couldn't be more pleased! 

Here one last picture to show you the size and shape difference of the oval yo yo compared to the traditional circle one. See the difference?

When you want to finish off your yo yo and stitch it closed, just poke your needle back down through the middle of the yo yo, in the hole that the gathered area makes, and stitch a knot in the back! (Sorry I didn't take a picture of that part. You are most likely on picture over load by now anyway!)

It's that simple! 

Let me know if you try out any oval yo yo's on your own. I would love to know how they turn out and what project you used them on! If you have any questions or if something is confusing, please let me know. Have fun! 

Much love. 


Revamping an Old Project

Today I dug out a project that I started LAST summer.

It's one of those projects that you think is going to be done in a jiffy. You think to yourself, "Oh, I'll have this thing done in a couple of weeks... tops."

Then you quickly realize that it is going to take you a lot longer than you had hoped. MUCH longer.

And so is the case with this project from last summer. I started a yo yo quilt out of a black and gray reversible Target blanket that was already quilted with a grid of ovals. My plan was to basically make a ton of yo yo's and just tack them on the blanket - one in the middle of each of the ovals. Sounds easy enough, right? Somehow, life happened and it just didn't get done. I got burned out, put it away, and honestly forgot about it until recently when I was thinking that I would like to change things up a bit in our guest bedroom.

So I got it out, unfolded it, and this is what I saw......

It was not even close to being complete, and the colors were TERRIBLE. Don't you agree? I couldn't even picture it in the newly revamped guest bedroom. Eew. It was hideous. I have no idea where I was going with those colors.

Immediately I felt the urge to tear it apart and start over. Luckily for me the yo yo's you see in the pictures were just pinned in place. Whew. I wasn't going to have to rip a million seams. That would have taken a while. It might have been NEXT summer when I got finished with that project. HAHA!

What I was left with was the empty quilted blanket from Target, and 2 huge mounds of yo yo's.

I don't know if you have any experience making yo yo's. Let me just tell you, yo yo's are super easy to make but super time consuming. I did not like the colors of the yo yo's against the dark, black fabric of the quilted blanket. I was not looking forward to making all new yo yo's with new fabric, nor was I looking forward to re-purposing all of the ones that I had just pulled off the quilt. I thought all hope was lost.

I went to my fabric shelf and looked at my fabric choices. Nothing really was standing out to me. I really wanted to keep the yellow yo yo's, but didn't seem to have any other fabric, other than more yellow fabric, that even came close to looking like what I had hoped.

After many more minutes of digging in my fabric shelf, I found leftovers of this wonderful fabric that I had made curtains out of for our living room! I thought I would give it a shot.

I realized (remembered) that the Target blanket was gray on the reverse, so I turned it over, spread out the new color palette, sprinkled the old yo yo's around, and stepped back. And I have to say, that it is  growing on me. In fact, I like it a lot. I think that this old project is going to turn out quite nicely, and our guest room is going to be thanking me for it.

For now, I have gobs and gobs of yo yo circles to cut out and many quick stitches to make.

Tomorrow come back by and I will show you how I made an oval yo yo to fit the ovals that are already stitched into the Target blanket. Pretty nifty.

Much love.


Inspiration Notebook

Here goes nothing! My first blog post EVER! This feels so good. I am already in love.

For my first post I want to share with you something that I created to get rid of the stacks and stacks and stacks and STACKS of old magazines that I had lying around our house. I love magazines, especially decorating ones, but I always just end up looking through them and 'dog earring' anything and everything that I see that I like, only to put them in a pile to be left for days and eventually forgotten.

Well the amount of magazines I had was RIDICULOUS.
It looked like a hoarder might have once lived in my craft room.

So I decided to take action. I decided to make an Inspiration Notebook.

(I should warn you that the first few pictures you are about to see were taken with a very old, very free camera that I won as a door prize at a work Christmas party over two years ago. They are bad. Really bad. But there will be good news coming if you hang out for just a bit and finish reading this post.)

Here is what I started with:

1 white left over 3 ring binder
Cute scrapbook paper
Thousands of old, but still good magazines complete with 'dog ears'
1 200 count box of Office Depot sheet protectors

I sorted through the magazines and trashed some of them before I even got started. I then started looking through each magazine I had left and began ripping out all of the pages that had pictures or articles that I loved.

And now for the amazing pictures because..... MY HUSBAND BOUGHT ME A NEW CAMERA!
(Details of the new camera will come in another post.... I KNOW you are so excited for me!)

This is what I came up with.

Isn't it beautiful! Think of it as a hard copy of a Pintrest account. Sometimes hard copy is better, ya know? And I just couldn't part with all of the pretty things in the magazines. And now I don't have to.

I added khaki card stock to create dividers between the following groups:

Home Economics
Our Wish
Home DIY
Health & Fitness
Holiday & Entertaining

Here is a quick flip through my Inspiration Notebook:

Oh, how I love this little notebook. Now when I am finished reading (ok..... who am I kidding).....
Now when I am finished looking at all of the pretty pictures in a magazine, I can add my favorites to this notebook!

Much Love.