Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Keslers...2011

It's all here...a new version of the Crazy (non-)Target Lady, a little romance, some Ninja skills and wrapping paper sword fights, some impressive Broadway moves, lots of ugly Christmas sweaters, loads of ridiculous nonsense, plenty of "Jingling" and it all comes together with a big splash at the end. It's Christmas once again with the Keslers!

Wishing you the Warmest of Holidays!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Gift Exchange Part 4: Treasures that Tell a Story

I interrupted our Christmas Gift Exchange Themes series to address the Thanksgiving Holiday, but today I am back with the fourth theme that I presented over at Studio 5 last month. This theme touches the hearts of all who have received or given one of these types of gifts, as they are gifts with deep sentimental meaning. The theme?

"Treasures that Tell a Story"
In each of our homes, we have treasures or trinkets that are special to us or that have a story behind them. What a beautiful way to present these items to a family member in the form of a meaningful gift.

*Costume Jewelry:

My niece made these stunning displays for her relatives out of their mother's old jewelry when they passed away. She created the outline of the tree or shape on velvet with necklace chains and filled in with the assorted jewelry using glue like E-6000 and framed it. Aren't they gorgeous?

*Shadow Box Displays: Use trinkets and photos to create one-of-a-kind displays that hold fond memories of loved ones. This is a photo of my parents on their wedding day along with some random pieces of silver that I inherited after they passed away. It hangs above my pantry door, and I love seeing it daily in my kitchen.

*Recipes: Is there a family recipe that has been handed down over the years? What about making up a plate of the yumminess and writing up the recipe to be handed down once again? Pictured here is a version of my Grandma's Chop Suey Candy...(recipe to follow in an upcoming post!)

Recipe books also tell great stories of the meals and recipes that are important to a family. One of my favorite gifts was the year my hubby gathered all of my old, worn, misshapen recipe cards and printed them onto uniform cards and organized them into a binder that now sits proudly on the counter. All who enter my kitchen comment on it, and when they find out my husband did it for me, they are impressed all the more!

*Quilts: When my mother passed away, she had bags and boxes full of sorted and organized fabric scraps that she was sure she would use again someday. My siblings and I couldn't bear to throw them out! So instead, we began using them to create quilts.

We have laughed together as we reminisce about the fabrics we remember having dresses, prom gowns, or doll clothes made out of.

To date, we have made four quilts, and they have truly become treasures that tell many stories. Below is the beginning of the latest quilt we worked on a few months ago. It is always amazing to me how a few scraps of seemingly useless fabric can transform into something beautiful.

Of course, t-shirt quilts tell a terrific story as well, and can make a meaningful treasure. Never underestimate what can be done with old t-shirts!

*Photos: I got a little teary this past Mother's Day when I opened one of my gifts from my hubby. He outdid himself again with a simple, yet sophisticated gift that I love.

He gathered photos of my parents, grandparents, and children, and created a pictorial pedigree chart in Photoshop for me and had it framed. I love that my children can regularly see and remember who their ancestors are.

*Random Belongings: My sister inherited some old records from my parents that she and my other siblings listened to regularly in their youth (apparently, I was too young because I didn't remember them at all.)

She sent them to me after I talked her out of throwing them away, and I added painted clock hands and a battery kit. They have become unique clocks that are a reminder of happy days of my siblings' childhood. Almost any trinket can be turned into a treasure with a little imagination.

Whatever theme you choose, it is sure to leave your family with warm and fond feelings as you make some unique memories over the holiday season!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tradition: Simple Ways our Family Embraces The Thanksgiving Holiday

   trəˈdɪʃ ən[truh-dish-uh n] noun:
the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice.

The holiday season is the birthplace of many traditions that connect us as families and friends. Traditions give us something to look forward to, something to call our own, something to bind us to the crazy people we share bathrooms and living space with (and don't always get along with!).

Due to the fact that my husband often works on Thanksgiving, our family cannot frequently travel long distances to be with extended family. We've found that creating special traditions within our home helps make the day special---even if it's just the six of us eating together once again. This year will be no exception...we will miss celebrating with family and friends as my husband will be on call, but we are grateful for our ties that bind us across the miles.

Our traditions are not fancy or elaborate, but they are our own. Here are a few that we hold dear to our hearts:

1. Preparing the Thanksgiving Feast:

I'll admit, some days when we are in a rush for dinner to get to another activity, I dread those words, "Mom, can I help?" ( It goes so much faster if I don't have helping hands on those days...but I have a hard time turning down anyone who is interested in helping out in the kitchen, right?) Can anyone relate? But for me, Thanksgiving is different. When I just plan on spending much of the morning preparing to gather around the table, I love having the kids in the kitchen with me.

We take our time, we laugh, we learn some cooking tid-bits together, and the preparation of the food is as much of a pleasurable activity as eating it.

2. Expressing Thanks:

We began a simple tradition last year that will be a treasure to add to and to look forward to each November. It's simply our Thanksgiving Table Cloth. (You can see the larger version of it in the photo at the beginning of the post.) I purchased a plain cream-colored tablecloth and fabric markers from Wal-Mart, asked for family participation, and the tradition was born.

Before our meal, each person was invited to write his or her thoughts of gratitude right onto the tablecloth. (It was fun for the kids especially, to break the rules and write on something that Mom normally condemns!)

Looking back, I get a kick out of how life was a year ago....the misspelled words and thoughts of a sweet six year old. I adore her chunky letters and the care with which she wrote her feelings.

The simplicity of a 13 year old boy: food, football, girls.

That's probably on the gratitude list for most men, right?

Thankfulness for a day off... (some things haven't changed)

I'm looking forward to pulling this out again this Wednesday evening so everyone can see what he or she wrote, and prepare to add to it again this Thanksgiving Day.

3. Creating a Thanksgiving Craft:

My girls and I had a great time last year creating these little turkey favors. They are so simple: two knit gloves, a bit of ribbon, glue, googly eyes, and scraps of cardstock and rick-rack. Simple instructions for making them are here.

Aren't they goofy and darling all at the same time? The girls also felt it important to give them very original Bob.

This year, these turkeys and acorns are the plan.

4. Memorable Place Settings:

Did you notice the plates in those pictures? My mother collected plates from a variety of places she visited during her lifetime, and I inherited them when she passed away, along with her glass goblets. We pull these out every Thanksgiving, and wrestle over which place we want to eat on this year. We think of Grandma Wray and it makes the meal that much more special. Something as simple as plates has a way of bringing us together.

5. Of course, Delicious Food!

Each family has their own version of favorite foods to indulge in on Thanksgiving. A few of ours happen to be Sweet Potato Rolls (my littlest has been begging for these for weeks now!) and...

Raspberry Pretzel Jello Salad---one that I first remember having with my sister in law, Connie. My sister ML serves this as well, and we now look forward to it each year.

"Family traditions are like spiritual and emotional cement in the foundation of a happy home. They create fond memories, and these memories bond us together as nothing else can."
Ensign March 1986

What are your Thanksgiving Traditions?

May you each have a bounteous and memorable Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Christmas Gift Exchange Themes Part 3: My Favorite Things

We've been talking Christmas Gift exchange themes for the past few weeks, and we are rounding up with the last few themes I recently talked about on Studio 5. Today the theme is "My Favorite Things". I am in love with this particular theme, as it holds such great value for loved ones to share a part of themselves with one another, and it varies enough that families could use it from year to year.

The idea behind this topic is for the givers to give items that are their current favorites. Do you have a new favorite book or CD?

A new hobby? A fabulous recipe you've stumbled upon?

A favorite activity that you'd love to give away tickets to? What a great way to get to know the individuals in the family and to share items and activities that are important to one another!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Christmas Gift Exchange Themes Part 2: As Seen on TV

In part 1 of my visit to Studio 5 we chatted about "A Recycled Christmas." Now we move onto "As Seen on TV." This exchange theme can get a little crazy, but that's what makes it so fun. Haven't we all wondered how well the Shamwow really works, or if a Snuggie is really as cozy as it's made out to be?

Any guy would love the Tool Bandit, right? This theme gives you permission to buy something completely practical, or utterly ridiculous, and everyone will have a great time! Can you imagine Christmas Day, spending it trying out all these crazy products? I think it would be a hoot!

And fortunately, many of these products are sold at Wal-Mart, Target, or Wal-greens, as well as the internet, so finding them should be fairly easy.

What fun!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Christmas Gift Exchange Themes Part 1: A Recycled Christmas

With the Christmas Holiday just ahead, many of you have already begun your Christmas shopping and preparations! When it comes to exchanging gifts, what are your traditions? Do you give to everyone in the family? Do you exchange individual or family names? For those who participate in a family gift exchange, the pressure to find just the right gift can be stressful. Where to begin? What to buy? I find I often resort to one of three gifts when I can't figure out what to buy for my chosen individual: a DVD, a gift card, or a game. Any of those gifts are great, but perhaps lacking in a bit of originality on my part!

Last week I had the great opportunity to visit with Brooke and Darin at Studio 5 about how to add a little punch to your family gift exchange by creating a new tradition of choosing a theme on which to base your gift-giving. Having a theme can provide your family with a jumping-off point when it comes to making gift-giving choices, and can enhance and promote originality and creativity. In addition, the yearly themes create great memories as you reminisce about the funny or meaningful items that were exchanged.

In the next few days, I will share with you the four themes we talked about, along with a few more details than I had time or space to share on the show (along with a few that simply slipped my mind while in front of the camera there!)

1. A Recycled Christmas
The struggling economy has touched all of us to some extent, and of course, it is ever-popular right now to "go green". What a perfect theme in which to be frugal and channel your inner ingenuity!

My sister's family recently used this theme (check out how they get into their Christmas themes...matching t-shirts and all!), and included a little poem as a guideline: "Something bottled, something baked, something old that you remake." In addition, they determined that any of the "re-" words would be acceptable: re-cycle, re-purpose, re-furbish, re-use, re-make, and even re-gift!

My sister sewed pajama pants for each of her grandchildren using recycled t-shirts; and created drawstring bags from old t-shirts as well.

One of her daughters received too many bath towels for her wedding, and re-gifted them to a sibling along with a gift card to Bath and Body Works. Others baked delicious goodies for each other.

Of course, your local thrift store is a gold mine when it comes to finding things to repurpose, as well as And don't forget to look in the "free" section there! The saying is true: "One man's trash is another man's treasure!"
Some additional inspiration for you:

*Display Shelves: using an "L" bracket and some old books, create unique display shelves for special trinkets and treasures. Great gift for someone to place in a den or kids' room!

*Message Board: Paint an old frame and spray-glue fabric or scrapbook paper to a section of cardboard that fits the frame.

Place it under the glass, add hooks and wire to the front if desired for hanging notes or photos. Use a dry erase marker for messaging. Darling gift!

*Serving Trays: It is such fun to serve cupcakes and treats on a darling tray. I found this tray at D.I. and could see that it had potential, but needed a little updating.

I simply painted it black and Mod Podged fabric to the bottom surface and sprayed with polyurethane.

You can also paint an old frame (like the blue tray above), add drawer pulls to the edges for handles, and place a fabric or patterned paper panel under the glass. Easy and so cute for serving up a sweet gift!

The internet is chock-full of unique repurposed items to give you inspiration!
Look how cute this pallet-turned-coat rack is:

And I love these suitcase book shelves! How unique!

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