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 names...like 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 ksl.com. 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!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Welcome Studio 5 Viewers!

I'm excited today to be chatting with Brooke and Darren over at Studio 5 once again! We'll be talking about Christmas Gift Exchange Traditions and Themes.... should be fun, and more info will follow!

For those of you who may be new to my blog, welcome! Here are the links to a few of the stitchery patterns and freebies you may see on today's show:

Wise Men shown at the top will be available at Pine Needles and My Girlfriend's Quilt Shoppe within the next week (if you are local), as well as HERE online and HERE for machine embroidery.

The Rejoice design will also be available at Pine Needles and My Girlfriend's Quilt Shoppe. You can find the hand embroidery pattern online HERE, and the machine embroidery download HERE.

Joyeux Noel Dishtowels: Pine Needles, My Girlfriend's Quilt Shoppe, You Can Make This, SWAK Embroidery.
Where We Love is Home is a free download found here at You Can Make This!

The Grace pattern is here at Pine Needles.

And HO HO HO is a free pattern found right here on my blog:

Thanks so much for joining me here at Needle in a Haystack! Watch for new patterns and project ideas to come in the next weeks and months!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Simplistic Beauty

Time goes so quickly, and I am in shock that it is already November! But if you have read my blog before in past Novembers, you'll remember that it is one of my favorite months. I love the simplicity of Thanksgiving, the relief of having Halloween over, and the anticipation of looking forward to the Christmas Holiday!

As I was sorting through photos today I was reminded of some that I have been wanting to share...My cute little neighbor Chelsea that used to babysit my kiddos got married a few months ago, and I got to help with some of the set-up. She had an outdoor reception, and I loved how perfectly down-to-earth and sweet it was.

Everything had a vintage, antiqued feel, and it was charming in its simpleness. Chelsea made the flowers from tissue paper for the table decor and attached them to twigs to place in vases. The vases were placed inside a painted, empty frame over the top of burlap and surrounded with sand dollars. Adorable.

And I am in love with these kitschy little dessert trays made from plates or platters glued onto a candlestick or other type of base. Each one is so unique with its own personality. They served a variety of cookies along with cartons of milk chilled in aluminum tubs.

One thing that caught my attention as we were setting up for the reception was the fact that Chelsea and her new hubby were right there in the mix helping, fixing this and that, and laughing with others who were there to get things ready. I was so impressed that they were cheerfully preparing and that they were even present...that they hadn't stayed away and just showed up to greet people when all the work was done. What lovely people.

And did you notice Chelsea's wedding dress? I asked her mom about it and she mentioned that the traditional dresses were just not her style. When she spotted this one, she fell in love with it immediately and knew that it was just for her. I love a gal who paves her own path and delights in simplistic beauty....and in a gal who is as darling on the inside as she is on the outside.

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