Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Eve Tradition: A Visit from the New Year's Elf!

One of my favorite traditions of the holidays is the visit from the New Year's Elf! This is a tradition that my maternal grandfather began years ago, and my mother remembered it as a young child.

To receive a visit from the New Year's Elf, you simply place a pair of shoes under the Christmas tree on New Year's Eve (given that your tree is still standing--we leave ours up until January 1st). When you awake, you'll find that your shoes are filled with goodies: money, small treats, lip gloss, an orange, small boxes of sugary cereal---(you know, the ones that we parents rarely let our kids eat), and other trinkets that will fit inside the shoes. Some years he has brought small flashlights, puzzles, stuffed animals, Littlest Pets, gloves, chocolate oranges, and occasionally, if the shoes are in poor condition, he'll even exchange your old pair of shoes for new ones!

The New Year's Elf is not of the same gift-giving caliber as Jolly Old St. Nick....The Elf's gifts are small and more simplistic in nature. Just little tokens to enjoy as we celebrate the ringing in of a new year!

My husband's family does not share this same tradition. In fact, I know of no one outside of my own siblings that participates in anything like this. But my young children are always amazed at the fact that wherever we go for New Year's Eve, the Elf seems to find us, even if the homeowners are non-believers! One year at my in-law's house, their Christmas tree was already taken down, so we placed our shoes underneath a large plant that was in their front room. Lo and behold, not only were my own little family's shoes filled the next morning, but our grandparents' shoes as well!

No one (to my knowledge) is quite sure how this tradition got started, or why. My best guess is that my English grandfather liked the German custom of leaving shoes out on December 5 for St. Nicholas to fill. Somehow, he fixed the date for his own family to be New Year's Eve, and over time, the New Year's Elf was conceived. A common expression my extended family exchanges during the holidays is, "Don't forget to put your shoes out!"

If any of you share a unique or similar tradition in your family, I'd love to hear it!

Best wishes to all for a safe and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Proof of Santa's Visit on Christmas Eve!

Santa is slated to visit tonight, and I just discovered the perfect way to document his visit! Pop in at to create proof that Santa Claus has visited your house!

Simply take a photo of your tree or fireplace, upload it to the site, and then choose from dozens of posing Santas to superimpose upon your uploaded photo. The current cost is 9.95 per photo, with the second photo free. After that, each photo is just 99 cents. What a fun idea for keeping the magic of Christmas alive...

I'm guessing Santa will leave us a note tonight to take a peek at our computer on Christmas morning. There we may just find that he has uploaded his photo as our new screen saver! Won't that be a hoot?

I hope that all of you have the merriest of Christmases!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Last Minute Gift Idea - Kitchen Gift Basket

You Can Make This has had a gift giving series with some great ideas! If you are in need of some last minute inspiration, along with free downloads for projects, you are in luck! They even have a free download for some darling printable gift tags to coordinate.

Check out their blog for some fun ideas to get your juices flowing (you the last 8 days we have or something!). Here is a sampling of what Kim has been busy doing (and it happens to feature the oven mitt pattern I designed, and it's free!). Enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Advent Candle Activity

Each year at Christmas, I determine that I want to have a more Christ-centered Christmas. As we have all experienced, it is so easy to become consumed with shopping, decorating, crafting, gift-giving and receiving, dreams of Santa and all he might bring....all good things! But sometimes it is easy to get carried away, and we easily forget the true reason that we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

My sweet friend Dana, gave our family an early Christmas present that I'm so excited about! It is just a little something that will help us stay more focused each day on Jesus Christ, and truly ponder upon his life and all the reasons we have to celebrate His birth. We her permission, I share it with each of you. Not only is this a great activity for our families, but it is also an inexpensive, yet meaningful gift for neighbors and friends. Please share it as much as you'd like.

Simply click on the image below to enlarge it, and print it to follow each day for the next twelve days, finishing up on Christmas Day.

At each nightly reading, light a candle as a reminder of the Light that Christ brought into the World. In the image above, I took the tapered candle she gave us, and simply placed it in a dollar store goblet filled with Epsom Salt and tied with a ribbon. We'll place this at the center of our table each night as we read. I think I'm going to serve hot cocoa as well...just to make the activity that much more enticing and special.

I hope as Christmas approaches and throughout the upcoming year, we can each find room in our hearts to let the Savior in to our lives. In the words of Thomas S. Monson, "If we are to have the very best Christmas ever, we must listen for the sound of sandaled feet. We must reach out for the Carpenter's hand. With every step we take in His footsteps, we abandon a doubt and gain a truth."

With love and wishes for a special Christmas,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Decking the Halls (and each other...), Along with a Few Decorating Ideas!

It seems as though I've been MIA lately... As I'm sure you are all experiencing, there is never a dull moment during the holiday season! Here is a peek at what we've been doing at our house for the last few weeks....

Decking the halls.

An eventful visit to the E. R. on a Saturday night.

Yep, you can't beat that for entertainment! In our home, we have a large, open, great room that houses our kitchen and family room altogether with vaulted ceilings. I truly love the openness that it creates, and unfortunately, my kids love it as well, although for different reasons. It makes the perfect football arena, much to my dismay--especially when there's snow on the ground outside. I've talked, and cajoled, and threatened, and taken away privileges, but after so long, it has become a fight I'm tired of fighting--especially when one of the culprits is the biggest kid of all. My hubby! So now, I just try to ignore it for the most part---until they leap over my couch or run in circles around the kitchen table. Then I have to put my foot down!

We've only had a few casualties---broken glass in a picture frame, the tip of a hat off of one of my favorite Jim Shore Santa figurines (I just discovered that today--and the little gremlins thought they could hide that from me, I'm sure!), and of course, now, Blondie's eye.

She and the Little Missy were playing football tag with a small foam football, and avoiding being hit with it when it was thrown at them. Not 15 seconds earlier, the words had come out of my mouth: "Hey, you girls need to take that outside." I continued cleaning the kitchen and soon heard the soft "foomp" of the football as it hit Blondie and I saw her flamboyantly buckle to the floor, holding her face in her hands. Knowing her flair for drama, I said, "Goodness, Blondie, it's just a foam ball!" and continued with my work, pretty much ignoring her there. (This is where my candidacy for Mother of the Year comes in.)

Several seconds later, (Blondie still on the floor), AW came in the house from outside and asked me, "What's with her?" pointing in her direction. Blondie straightened up to look at him, and he quickly followed up with, "Um, mom. She's, um, bleeding." That got my attention, and sure enough, blood had pooled onto the kitchen floor, and was streaming down her face from her eye.

Apparently, while ducking out of the way of the oncoming ball, she had caught her eye on the edge of my kitchen counter, splitting it open near the eye brow. So yes, good times. Three hours later, her eye brow was glued shut (thank goodness for her, no stitches!) and we were able to return home from the E.R. Pretty sure that Mother of the Year award will arrive soon. I'm counting on it.

Taking in the festive lights.

A little decorating.

I love this candle idea from one of my new favorite blogs, Rainy Day Farms. It is delightful! I think she is living the farm life I was supposed to have, and I love looking at her gorgeous photos of her yard and farm.

Anyhoo, she has a tutorial on her blog for how to create these beautiful candles, and it's so easy. You simply need a candle, some Epsom Salt, and a little Modge Podge. I placed my candles on a dollar store plate, and added some wayward greenery that I found in a box, along with some berries off of one of my trees. I love how mine turned out!

A little holiday designing, stitching, and sewing.

That is a given. Always a work in progress going on around this place. As we all know, Christmas is crazy, and somehow a sense of humor helps us manage! Come see my latest design and read the entire quote!

And check out the blog at You Can Make This! They have a DIY gift series going on that is terrific!

I have a Christmas Advent Activity coming up that I think you'll find worth your time... It begins the 12 Days Before Christmas, which is Monday, December 14. All you need is a candle, and I'll take care of the rest for you! Be sure to check back before then for details!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Scentsy Candle Warmer Winner!

Welcome new followers and friends! I'm so appreciative of the enthusiasm you each displayed for the give-away that Debi of Scentsy has sponsored. I am confident that you will be pleased with her products! Now remember, you (that means all of you---even you who are reading this blog for the first time ever!) can each email Debi requesting a catalogue, and she will send you a car candle for free (a $3.00 value). Just remind her that I sent you. She will keep you updated with each month's promotional scent and warmer style. (I just received my flyer for December, which is promoting the Candy Shoppe warmer shown above, with the Cinnamint scent. Yummy!)

So now for our winner of the Scentsy Full-sized Warmer and fragrance bar (may we have a drum roll please)... The winning comment chosen from goes to ...number 30!

"I tweeted about your giveaway!!

BlueRibbonXS: Have you visited @HaystackDesigns blog: ...she is having a great Scentsy Giveaway!!"

Congratulations, BRD girl! I can't wait for you to try out your new warmer! (She chose the Boleyn Warmer, and I think it's just beautiful.) Debi will be in contact with you soon!

Thanks to all for entering, for becoming new followers and friends, and for visiting my blog! I love having you along for the ride! And again, a special thanks to Debi for a fantastic give-away!!!

Tomorrow you'll get a peek at what I've been doing over the last few sure to check back!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Scentsy Candle Warmer Give-Away!

I am so excited about this post! I met Debi through my blog and found out she was a Scentsy Candle Warmer Distributor. I have always loved using warming candles to give my home that yummy, cozy aroma, but mine was very functional and not so cute.

Well, that has since changed, and I now love my new Scentsy warmer! Debi set me up with this darling plug-in warmer that matches my kitchen decor perfectly, along with 3 different holiday scents to try out: Welcome Home, a homey, spicy, delicious flavor; Holly Berry, an out-doorsy, masculine scent; and Winter Wonderland, a holiday-ish peppermint fragrance. While I like them all, I have to say that the Welcome Home is my favorite holiday scent!

Now the good news? Debi is offering a full-sized warmer of your choice (holiday warmers, too!), as well as a scented bar of your choice as a give-away here on my blog! This would be a perfect gift for yourself or someone on your Christmas list, and together is a $35.00 value!

Here is a little info about the Scentsy warmers in the words of Debi:

"Our warmers melt highly scented wax over a 25 watt light bulb. There is no flame, smoke or lead, so they are safe to leave on 24/7. The wax will never get hotter than a paraffin wax treatment so you won't burn yourself. Scentsy carries over 80 scents in several categories and a variety of warmers to match almost any decor.
Each Scentsy bar has 6 cubes and each cube will last anywhere from 6-10 hours depending on the strength of the scent. The bars cost $5 each and last up to 60 hours.

We also have smaller
plug-in warmers that use a 15 watt light bulb, as well as car candles, travel tins and room sprays. The car candle is an air freshener that hangs from your rear view mirror and can be 'refreshed' with a room spray.

I offer free light bulb replacement to my customers (not a Scentsy policy) and I also offer a frequent customer card: after 12 bar purchases, I give you one bar free.

Each month there is a
new scent of the month and a coordinating new warmer. I send a small sample of the scent along with the SOTM flyer so my customers can smell the scent each month.

Over the holidays, Scentsy has come out with
limited-time warmers (there is a link on my website)."

And...Debi has offered to send a car candle to anyone who emails her requesting a catalogue. She has been so generous. I love it.

So here is the give-away 411: (Are you so excited?)

1. To enter, first zip over to Debi's blog, peruse the full-size warmers and the bar fragrances, then come back and leave me a comment letting me know which warmer you would want to win, and which bar of scents you would prefer. Please be sure I have a way to contact you through your blog profile, or leave me your email address in your comment.

To increase your chances of winning for extra entries:

2. Become a follower on my side bar, and leave me another comment, or remind me in your comment that you are already a follower,

3. Grab my button and post it on your blog, leaving me another comment and a link to where I can find it,

4. Blog about this give-away, with yup, another comment and link to your blog,

5. Email Debi requesting a catalogue and let me know that in another comment.

6. Tweet or post info about this give-away on Twitter or Facebook, with a link to my blog, and let me know in a comment!

Wahoo! 6 chances at becoming a winner! You have until midnight on Tuesday, December 8, and I'll choose a winner through and announce it on December 9. Debi will ship this out to you ASAP, and you should definitely have your warmer in plenty of time before Christmas.

I can't wait to hear from you and to see which warmers and scents you are all pining for. Good luck! And a huge thank you to Debi for your generosity in sponsoring this great give-away!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Needle in a Haystack "Black Friday" Deals!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'm starting "Black Friday" a little early with some great Needle in a Haystack deals today, and extending them until Tuesday, December 1!

Machine Embroidery Designs:

Buy 1, get 1 Free! Everything in my "store" at is 50% off through Tuesday, December 1!

Hand-embroidery Patterns:

With each purchase of "Needle in a Haystack" patterns made at or from now until December 1, you can receive this Joyeux Noel gift set pattern for free! Simply shoot me an email (found in my profile on the sidebar) verifying which pattern(s) you purchased and the date of purchase, and I'll send you your free e-pattern via email!

Tune in tomorrow as I have a give-away that will be perfect for your gift-giving needs...for someone else on your list, or maybe for you to keep!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving day today!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

FREE Embroidery Patterns and Gift Ideas

We received our first "real" snow of the season two nights ago in my little neck of the woods, and it has put us all in the mood for Christmas! With Christmas coming so quickly, I wanted to remind you of some fast and easy stitchery and gift projects one more time...and they are each FREE! Each embroidery design would work nicely for a dishtowel, a shelf pillow, as part of a stocking, an ornament, or a festive door hanger. And the additional projects would each make terrific gifts. Let your creativity and ingenuity run wild. Enjoy!

First is "Joy" and the Hanging Holiday Star seen above, available in both machine embroidery as well as hand-embroidery. Complete instructions are provided to make this festive hanging star out of recycled jeans! My kiddos also stitched this "Joy" design on dishtowels for their teachers last year for Christmas. If my 11 year old boy and 8 year old girl can do this, all of you can do this, I promise!

Next is the classic door hanger and the comforting "Home for the Holidays" sentiment. This design and complete instructions for making the hanger you see here are available here. Machine embroidery files are available here.

This "Believe" design is so simple, you'll be making loads.

At a recent sister's weekend, my sisters and I made these, and I also taught several Young Women in my neighborhood how to stitch on dishtowels using this pattern. We are using the dishtowels for an upcoming activity to line baskets of goodies for the widows and shut-ins in our area. I think it will be a lovely gift for them! This one's also available for hand and machine embroidery.

Many of you have already seen the "Ho, Ho, Ho" design that I published in July along with a back-stitching tutorial. Once you get the hang of the back-stitch, all the other stitches come easily! Again, a perfect and quick gift for the season.

For those of you with babies on your gift-giving list, how about a receiving blanket and burpie? Simple, special, and free.

How about a "Welcome Home" Table Runner published by You Can Quilt This for the home of a special friend? The embroidery patterns and directions are found here, and the machine embroidery files are all right here. I think that just one of these blocks turned into a pillow or wall-hanging would make a treasured gift.

If that particular runner seems too daunting, here is a simplified Sweetheart Table Runner that involves sewing only...and whips up quickly with festive or decorative fabric.

Hot pads are always a necessity...I'm planning to make several of these for gifts to give along with a loaf of yummy bread.

For the young gals in your life, this No-Sew Bag would be a hit! It's a great and inexpensive gift for tweens to make for their friends.

In addition to these ideas, did you know that there is a "Free" section found at SWAK Embroidery, You Can Make This, and You Can Quilt This, full of additional fun and simple gift ideas?

How about a head band for your little girl, a chef's hat for dress-up, and printable holiday gift tags? And don't forget a special "Santa" Pillowcase and holiday tradition idea created by my great friend Lorie!

Whew! So much to create, so little time! Be sure to check back soon, as I'll be featuring more Christmas Gift Ideas, AND, I have some BLACK FRIDAY deals and a give-away you won't want to miss!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things...

As promised earlier in the month, I wanted to share a few of my favorite things of the Thanksgiving season before it quickly vanishes ....

The little acorn.

Something so tiny and seemingly insignificant, has potential to become something grand and of great worth, providing shade, a thinking spot, and beauty for all to enjoy. All the little acorn needs is a warm spot, attention and care, plenty of time and patience, and someone to help it establish its roots. Aren't our little children, and all of us like that little acorn? Full of so much potential to become greater than we can ever imagine. I love thinking of that as I pass by this acorn pillow in my entry way. (It's free, by the way, for both machine and hand-embroidery--so you can have your own acorn inspiration).

Susan Branch.

She has some of THE cutest artwork on the planet, I think. Her book, Autumn From the Heart of the Home is simply delightful to peruse and dreamily read in hopes of making all the beautiful and delicious items inside. She offers harvest recipes, gift basket ideas, fall decorating ideas, and treat recipes, as well as some insight into her artwork. I love it. Her shelf scarf on the cover was the inspiration for the table scarf I made using this embroidery design. It's one of those books you pore over on a chilly day in front of the fire.

My little scarecrow friend.

This one has a story that goes back 14 years. Back in the day, my husband was a student, we were living in a one bedroom basement apartment, and I was teaching school full-time. My oldest son was just a year old, and my hubby was his primary care-taker during the day. They were difficult days in so many ways, yet in others, full of happy and warm memories.

We realized about August of that particular year that we needed extra money for Christmas, as we were barely able to pay for our monthly needs from my modest income. (Don't we all have stories of struggle in those first years of marriage?)

So, we got creative, and made these scarecrows that year to sell and earn a little extra income. We invested a little money in fabric and supplies, and used old worn jeans from the second hand store for the scarecrow pants. I taught my hubby how to use the sewing machine, and he would sew the straight lines for the shirt and pants while I was at school (he was so good-natured to go along with my crazy ideas!). At night after teaching, I'd paint the faces, and we'd assemble and hot glue the scarecrow parts together as we laughed and enjoyed being together. I remember my little toddler was so pleasant through the whole process, although our apartment was a ruin of scarecrow parts, straw, and fabric that had been carried from one end to the other!

It's one of those memories that will always stand out as one of my favorites, and that I will always cherish. We were poor, yet my hubby and I worked as a team, building scarecrows and another little level of our relationship. We accomplished more than we anticipated in the beginning. We sold every scarecrow we made, but I hung onto one little scarecrow guy, as I wanted to always remember that fun-filled "scarecrow and relationship-building" year.

And lastly, the concept of Abundance.

In those lean years that we experienced, and still now when times are tight and I get feeling gloomy, I have to stop and think of all I've been blessed with. My kids are healthy and happy (well, you know--for the most part, minus the teenage hormonal moments), we have a warm home, food on the table, a job, vehicles, and most importantly, each other. How truly abundant our lives are. May you each experience that same feeling this Thanksgiving Season.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pink Ribbon Encouragement

Breast cancer affects us all at some level. Everyone seems to have at least one neighbor, co-worker, friend, mother, sister, daughter, or grandmother who has had to battle cancer and its effects. Some have fared well through the chemo and mastectomies, while others have fought valiantly, only to eventually surrender to the disease.

Cancer has reared its ugly head in my own family; my father dying of colon cancer, my mother of breast cancer, and my oldest sister facing a brain tumor twice now. Thankfully, my sister has been blessed both times, and is currently functioning and feeling well (more to come about that later in another post!). Cancer has forced our family to sit up and pay attention.

So, even though Breast Cancer Awareness Month has passed, I wanted to share with you a new design for machine embroidery that was just released yesterday morning, because as we all know, the fight against cancer still lives on. With so many women facing the battle, I wanted to create something of hope and encouragement for those who have had, or are coping with this disease.

My sweet friend, Belinda has done it again. She is amazing. She has taken these embroidery designs and turned them into beautiful pillows. Even the fabric she used coordinates. I absolutely love what she has done! (Isn't that rick-rack the cutest?)

There are two different styles of the pink ribbon machine embroidery one the pink ribbon is "filled", and the other is an "appliqué" to use with the fabric of your choice.

Belinda's green pillow is sewn with wool felt, and the pink ribbon is wool felt as well. Both designs are available at SWAK Embroidery for just $5 each. For those of you who hand-stitch, an e-pattern will be available soon, so stay tuned.

(Remember as well, that for every $20 you spend in my store at SWAK until November 15, you receive three Christmas designs absolutely free!)

So, ladies, back to the subject at sure to take care of yourselves and get those lovely exams regularly. Then strengthen those who are struggling with this malady. We all need each other!

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