The Greatest Gift: Advent Calendar

With a growing and developing baby in the house this year, I would love to begin some family traditions.  I went on the hunt for an Advent Calendar that captures the true meaning of this season and found the most lovely one by Ann Voskamp.  This one is not only beautiful, but it highlights the season of anticipation that the Christmas season holds as we wait in joyful hope to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  As a kid, we often had the Advent calendars with small boxes behind windows that you open and would reveal a small treasure or chocolate.  It is a fond memory of mine to have counted down the days in anticipation. 

Ann Voskamp has done something very similar but more liturgical.  Each day highlights a scripture and is then elaborated upon in terms easily understood by children.  The back story highlights the ways in which the verses relate to joyful hope that the season represents.  The day is then summed up in a brief prayer to contemplate for the day.

Today we got to begin Day 1 of the calendar.  Even though for our family the actual Advent season begins on Sunday, this particular calendar aligns with the month of December.   I believe that for many Orthodox Christians, the season is a 40 day period of time leading up to Christmas.

You read the passage that corresponds with the day, discuss it with your family, and then hang the paper ornament on the tree.  I just think this could be a beautiful tradition for our household. And y'all...this book is gorgeous too.  

Hope is such a precious gift that we have as humans.  I appreciate how the Advent season celebrates this gift.  I am look forward to continuing to celebrate the season and adding all of the ornaments.  Oh and bonus, Christmas day's window reveals a star for the top of the pop-up tree! 


Ornament Wreath

The time to throw lavish decor everywhere within one's home is now.  The tacky, the sparkly, the lovely, the sentimental, the gaudy...you name it; it's up right now.  I adore the holidays for this and so much more.  Staring at a tree decorated solely with lights hung on its branches brings me extreme joy.  

When it was time for me to put up my Christmas wreath, I noticed that it had lost its sparkle and was looking slightly dull and drab.  I decided to make a new one.  I absolutely adore the way it turned out!

  • Hot Glue Gun and Glue sticks
  • Base Wreath (Pictured here a simple faux grass wreath $2.97)
  • Ornaments (varied sizes recommended)

I began by gluing medium sized ornaments in the inner and outer rims of the wreath with the hook attachments facing upward.  After this step, you will flip your wreath so that these attachments aren't visible. 

Once you have completed that step, you will want to flip your wreath to add the varied sizes for your finished look.  Taking larger bulbs, you will start to fill in the gap.  Be sure that when you are gluing these bulbs, the hook attachment is pointed toward the wreath base. 

Finally you will want to fill in the gaps with the smaller ornaments.  This finishing touch adds depth to your design.  In order to hang your wreath you may need to add a ribbon loop as well to hang from your wreath door hanger.  Voila! Your wreath is ready to adorn any door, board, or window that you  like!  This would even make a beautiful center piece with a pillar candle in the middle.  Happy crafting! I tried a few color variations and all of them are just delightful.


Another trip around the sun...

On this my birthday I reflect upon the inspirations and thoughts that run on repeat in my mind as of late.  For a girl who is typically obsessed with her birthday, I feel a certain amount of lack luster that goes along with adding another trip around the sun, but I take heart in the fact that I do not act my age (whatever that entails).  I am talented in the art of finding fantasy and dreaming dreams in this beautiful life that I am fortunate to have been gifted. 

By no chance at all, I recently took the advice to pick up the book Love Does.  As a girl with a sort of lack of attention span, I do not often finish a book start to finish.  I fully believe that this book's composition was meant for me.  It's full of short stories that comprise a beautiful direction and way of living. I am inspired.  I want to share.  In Love Does by Bob Goff recently I read, "Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving.  It's about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light.  That's what I want my life to be all about- full of abandon, whimsy, and in love.  I want to be engaged to life and with life." 

Whimsy. Love. Mermaid spottings in rivers and oceans.  Wishing upon stars.  Sweet wishes in the forms of whispered prayers.  Continual HOPE for the future.  Hope that I will hang onto with a full grasp.  It is obvious that I only have so much control over my life and the rest is not up to me.  Enjoying the roller coaster.  Smiling at strangers.  Teaching kindness through my personal actions.  Influencing others in a positive way.  Laughing, giggling, laughing some more. Generally being a nice human and encouraging others to do the same. 

I have a few deep desires in my heart that I have decided to fight for and pursue this year.  Hopefully it goes further than this post and raises strong.  I wanna knock down some doors and open some windows so that y'all can see what I think is part of my intention in life. 

I was gifted a sweet note for my birthday that showed me that people around me are listening.  They see the hopes that I am hoping and the prayers that I am praying.  So as I embark on this next trip around the sun.  I, too, am focused on being engaged in my life, praying for life changing, magical moments, and finding thrill and excitement in what lies ahead.  You are all encouraged to jump on this train and ride along.  It will be a trip for the books.  It will be filled with my love for life with my sweet and caring husband by my side, my compassionate family will come along too, and the beautiful friends that stand beside me daily as well.  Together we will find whimsical moments and makes some splashes in the world with our mermaid (and merman) tails and generally choose to be happy joyous humans.  The world is my oyster...


Last Day of Summer 2015

I am joyful as summer ends because it means the coming of fall.  We can enjoy the cooler weather, pumpkin flavored everything, football season, changing leaves, and the coming of family holidays.  The precipice of change allows for hope in the future.  I adore this idea.

I did not quite accomplish everything I had set out to enjoy on my summer buck list. A few of the things were not feasible due to the heavy rains we had during June. In my review of the season, I realized that much of my activity could not be traced on this bucket list.  

 I began the Spring by planting a garden.  I have herbs that grow year round but the majority of my summer garden consists of plants that only enjoy the warmer weather that accompanies the summer months.  I planted tomatoes (three varieties).  The smallest of them lived the longest when the rain was long gone and the dry times of summer truly set in.  I had dinosaur sized zucchini and squash.  My assumption is that the rain helped them grow to great lengths.  I had potatoes, onions, carrots, and tiny native Texas oranges.  My peach tree, a new addition, even produced some sweet fruit.  I look forward to the time in which it will be more bountiful but I guess that's the truth for many things.  As the summer passed on my garden began to feel the wear and tear of the drought like conditions that summer in Texas inevitably yields.  I am excited to plant some fall/winter veggies and see the new growth.  

A surprise for my summer list was the release of the freshly hatched sea turtles. My family and I witnessed this miraculous event.  They take protected, freshly hatched sea turtles and release them into the ocean.  

The park rangers protect them from the gulls flying overhead so that they may have greater opportunity for survival. 

Never have I ever, seen such cute Oreo sized turtles and been so engaged in watching their slow travels to the big blue sea.  

For more information on this event, visit: http://www.nps.gov/pais/learn/nature/releases.htm

As many Texans do, we spent a week at Gulf shores of Port Aransas with family soaking up the sun (through a layer of sunscreen of course), enjoying the salt and sand, and spending time making memories to last well into the future.  We played a multitude of games and my dancing singing self even had the opportunity to lip sync battle.  It was one for the books.  
Castle Hill Graffiti Gallery made it onto the list of activities.  I had a special request to visit and spray a wall.  Let's just say it didn't take any twisting of the arm or coercion to get me there.  I jumped at the opportunity.  I absolutely adore any chance to be creative .  So we trucked on down to downtown with cans in hand and found a little space to express ourselves for a little while.  If you are presented with this opportunity, I highly encourage you to take it.  If anything, the experience is worth it. 


 Next up, one that was actually on the list, stand up paddle boarding. SUPing as the kids say.  Quite the experience, though it took a while for me to actually get going but once you get the hang of it, it's actually quite enjoyable. 

Summer camp fills my days, and for that I am incredible thankful.  It encourages me to never grow up too much and to embrace a child like wonder of the world around me.  I love to act like a kid in this experience especially.  Luckily I am great at this embrace.  I can dance to my heart's content, play mermaid with little ones who believe that opportunity truly exists, sing loudly without any thought of my key or tone, and general love life.  It is a blessing for which I am grateful. 


July in Austin always involves attending the Zilker summer musical.  This year's production of Hairspray was amazing.  It is with eager anticipation for Shrek the Musical that I wait for next season's production.  You just might catch me singing along through the entire show. 

I intend to take some of the action items from summer and add them to my fall to do list.  I hear Enchanted Rock is much more pleasant in the cooler weather, Brodie (my pup) could use a visit to the dog park, and bowling seems fun any ol' time.  So while it may seem incomplete, it more along the lines of postponed for a bit.  I love fall.  I am in eager anticipation of this season. 

Tomorrow brings the change of seasons, though it may not be visible just yet.  It also brings my birthday!  I am hopeful for the coming year and the welcome changes that it could possibly bring. 


Heart Attack

"Heart Attack" Boxes

Love is in the air.  Finding ourselves on the precipice of Valentine's day, I thought I might as well cut out some hearts and jot down some notes to surprise a couple of people with. 

Using red, pink, purple, and coral scrapbook paper, I cut out some varied sizes of hearts.  As I was taught in elementary school, the easiest way to cut a heart is always to make a fold in the paper to ensure the symmetrical shape of this love symbol.  To add some variety and texture, I also bought a bag of foam hearts (a fair mixture of plain and glittered). 

Then using so Sharpies I wrote some sweet notes of love, friendship and encouragement on the hearts. 

Taking a small few boxes, I taped a solid heart to the outside of the box to indicate the fun that awaited the recipient inside.  I addressed each box to its intended and added a few hearts around their names. 

I then added varied hearts to each box and some curled ribbons as well.  Two of mine were for some kiddos, so I put in a sweet Valentine's teddy bear for added enjoyment. 

I then taped each box closed and headed to the post office to send them off on their way to share some love.  

I just thought this would be a fun and easy way to bring a smile to a few faces this Valentine's Day. 


Goodbye 2014

My blogging hiatus is over... after a relatively brief break, I have decided to begin again in light of tomorrow, the big starting day of 2015 (a year that sounds all too futuristic).  

Today is a good day to be easy on yourself.  To take a moment to relic in the light that shone on you in 2014.  To think of what lies ahead for you in the coming year.  To make realistic goals for the upcoming year.  To take joy in the new beginning. To be thankful for the journey that brought you to where you are.

As one of my major goals of the day, I have decided to revisit my dream board and follow up on the status of what remains to be accomplished.  I love putting a seemingly unrealistic goal on the list and then striving for it.  You never know what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.  And I am one step closer to that unrealistic goal.  I have accomplished so many of the bigger ones and get to carry over some of the others.  As long as progress is evident, I can press forward in hopes of accomplishing new goals and finishing off those that remain.  I will continue to look for those within and without of my reach and see what the future holds. 

The trickiest part of making New Year's Resolutions is closing whether or not to tell another human in the world in order to hold you just that much more accountable when push comes to shove.  I choose to share most of mine with those closest to me, some with everyone, and just a couple with only myself.  The array of pressure is good for you.   

As for tonight, I am looking forward to this opportunity to wear some sparkles, put on my fancy shoes, some lipstick (cause it makes everything better), and toast what lies ahead.  Cheers 2015!  I hope you are all that I hope for.   I place my faith in you and humanity and hope that tomorrow is something better than we can even fathom.  


Veterans' Day

“The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.” – Jeff Miller
Veterans' Day is our official holiday that honors those who have served in the US Armed Forces.   It also happens to coincide with the British's Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which celebrates the anniversary of the end of World War I (that ended on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour of 1918 when the Armistice with Germany went into effect).  In the United States, we used to celebrate Armistice Day as well, but the holiday transformed into what we now know as Veterans' Day in 1954.  Now we celebrate the service of all US military veterans, I include those still serving too. 

It was President Woodrow Wilson who originally proclaimed Armistice Day in 1919.  He said, "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."

Many people wear red poppies for Veterans' day.  Poppies were the first flowers to bloom in areas of Europe devastated by trench warfare during WWI.   In varied countries around the world they are used as a symbol of the sacrifices.  They are worn on lapels as a gentle reminder of this important holiday. 

So on this day we honor our military veterans and give them gratitude for their services.  We are grateful for the freedoms that they have protected and the sacrifices they have made.  

I encourage you all to attend a Veterans' day celebration or parade.  We thank you that have served our nation whether in times of war or peace.  Take time to encourage those family and friends you have for their time in the Armed Forces.  Shout a quick thank you or give a hug.  Dig up old pictures of men and women in their uniforms, listen to stories from your relatives who are currently serving, reach out and let them know you are grateful.  After all, saying thank you shows our gratitude and appreciation for all they have done and continue to do.  

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them." -JFK