Saturday, November 19, 2011

my first bunting.

This morning I got started on my last Thanksgiving project. I'm now done with the November-touches in our home, and I am [more than] ready to welcome December and all the festivities and decorations.

Here's the latest project, a thankful bunting:

I always want to share my inspiration for projects with you because I think the designer should get the glory, but it seems I saw my inspiration, forgot to "pin" it to my pinterest boards, and now it has completely escaped me. I searched for it amongst the blogs I read, but just can't seem to locate it. The original design was a printable bunting in blue lettering on white cardstock. I loved the simplicity of the design and decided to implement that simple look even more so by free-handing the letters and sticking with just pencil.

I started by cutting triangles out of cardstock. My little secret: we have way too many leftover thank you notecards from our wedding, and, although I've been using them lately to send out notes, I don't think my recipients really love getting a card that says "Mr. and Mrs." on the front when really it's just a note from the Mrs. So I cut the triangles out of these notecards to reuse them, and [once again] create a free project. Then I drew the letters lightly with pencil and filled them in darker when I was satisfied with all of them, using pencil again.

It was my first time stitching together a bunting, and I sure was nervous about it. I let the sewing machine catch a few stitched (5-7) between each triangle, then fed in the next piece. Make sure, if you try a bunting, to pull the feed line before and after your pieces to make sure you have string available by which to hang your banner.

I was going to place my bunting over my thankful tree, but decided, since it makes me so happy, it needed to be more prominently hung. So it found a home right over our TV to make me smile and remind me of what I've been trying to work on all month.

Philippians 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (NASB)

I could have been anxious this month. We had a lot of questionable variables in our family and life happen, but I chose to be thankful instead. I chose to concentrate upon what God has blessed me with as I brought the issues on my heart before Him. It was not an easy thing to do, and I often wanted to worry or have a spirit of fear, but I knew [and I know] He had a plan. He has control.

And so with this in mind, I will choose to remain thankful, even outside of this Thanksgiving season. I will remember how special this month was to me because it brought me trials, but it also brought me a new perspective on life.

with peace.

linking up with:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

a dust of decoration.

Our home needed more festive flavor to really get the most out of November, a light pixy-november-y dust of fall decoration.

Well, I would have loved to tell you where I got my inspiration for this project, but it seems that when I re-organized my pinterest boards, I lost all my good holiday pins. (That will take a few, necessary hours of repinning this weekend.) I had seen a project like the one I created made from wooden letters (or something similar) painted in fall colors. Even though I can't find that original post, here is another tutorial that I used as inspiration for the how-to/design element.

I am obviously all about making free crafts rather than buying any new supplies at the store. (Although, Jenny did get her wooden letter for a good price.) So I gathered up materials from what we already have: Aldi cardboard boxes (we grab a few every time we forget our reusable bags), paint (from past projects), scissors, tape (I can't believe I don't have any glue), and old magazines (it doesn't hurt that I've subscribed to Self magazine for the past two years.)

To start, I needed to free-hand draw my letters. I started with the G, and once I was happy with that, used its height and thickness as a base for the other letters. The drawing/cutting out process took me 20-30 minutes. Put on some background TV and get started. (I really should have been catching up on TV shows I've been missing lately: 3 or 4 episodes of Gossip Girl, an episode of The Mentalist, and one of Whitney.)

I originally had wanted to paint my letters with fall colors like the original inspiration/tutorial, but decided to go with a collage look instead. (Collages are way more my style. I used to do so many magazine-cut-out projects in college for design in our dorm rooms, notes, etc.)

I cut out sections of pages with the different colors I was looking for (brown, red, yellow, and orange) and separated them into piles. Then I asked Mr. Allen to pick a color for the first letter and I got started. (I always end up wrangling him into helping with whatever project I am working on. :] ) Cutting little pieces of tape took much longer that I wanted it to, but when you don't have glue (and you don't have money), you do what you need to do. The collage cutting/wrapping/taping took me the better part of an hour or so, and I actually had to finish the E today (you can notice that it isn't finished in one picture) because we really needed to head to bed.

Here's the final look:

The letters found a home in our window sills.

[And, if you've visited our house, there's a little different room set-up. We like it. No, we love it. It's Christmas-tree and baby-swing friendly.]

And there you have it. Sorry there was no full tutorial, but I think you get the idea. Very simple, homemade, cute way to Thanksgiving-ize your home. Let me know if you try it out. And no, I didn't pick out the word "Gobble"; the original inspiration post had used it. I liked it because it was out of the ordinary, and my next project will use the word "Thanks"... there's no need to over do it.

with faithfulness. (as I decorate our home/building its character and as I blog regularly)

Also, PRAISE report - today I accepted another full-time nanny job that starts the day after I am done with Henry. This is a huge answer to prayer. The family is wonderful, it is a job that I actually want (there were some not-so-wonderful ones out there), and they are on-board with the whole bringing-my-baby-to-work-with-me idea. I had no doubt that God had/HAS a plan. He is good. He is faithful.

linking up with these parties:

Creative Me Monday (via The Southern Institute)
Ta-Da Tuesday (via Mommy by day... Crafter by night)
Made by You Monday (via Skip to my Lou)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I might be... or I might not be... a genius.

Actually, I may be the last one on the planet to discover this little trick, but for those of you out there, just in case, I am posting just to let you know about the best cooking/prep trick I have ever thought of.

Last night, I had to make mashed potatoes for a Thanksgiving feast with our small group. 10+ potatoes: peeled... sliced... boiled... mashed... mixed. Done. ...or maybe an hour later. (It's a LONG process.)

But, I can save a little bit of that time for you. Have you ever thought about using an apple corer to cut up the potatoes? Seriously! It cut my cutting time from 20 minutes to [maybe] 3 minutes. It was brilliant. Maybe I could have taken a second more to slice some of the bigger pieces in half, but it wasn't needed. They were perfect size to cook quickly.

That's it. Seriously, get out that apple corer and go to work. Save yourself so much time.

(And if you have a standing mixed, which I am blessed to have, use it! I don't know why I had never thought to use it before to mash my potatoes. Here I was smashing them with a fork. I might be an idiot.)

with goodness.

Monday, November 14, 2011

happy november. (again)

I wish I could say that, because I have been gone for so long, I have tons to catch you all up on. If I did, it would be a lie. I have no new news, no new projects, no new anything.

Currently I can be found in Delaware, spending time with my brother and sister-in-law and their adorable baby boy and girl. I had a nice break from work this week, because Henry's family took a week-long vacation to Hawaii (must be nice, right?). My sister had just gone through some new obstacles in caring for her twins, so one-by-one family has headed to Delaware to help them out around the house and to care for these little joys. I have loved the break from work, the chance to visit family that I hardly see, and to get some out-of-my-ordinary-life time to simply rest.

Back at home, (to which I will be heading tomorrow) I have a few projects started or at least well implanted into my creativity brain. One project, which is a surprise for Mr. Allen's family (and I will be keeping one in this Allen home to enjoy) is a Christmas-y project that is long, hard work, but I can't wait to see finished. I will be revealing the project after Thanksgiving, since that is when the gift will be given. Maybe it will still give you time to start and finish the project... that is, if you set aside a few days/hours to really get into the holiday spirit before December. The other to-be projects are Thanksgiving-y, so they will be moving to the top of my crafty list when I get home so we can fully enjoy them before December comes. I'll be sure to share those too.

I want to talk about blessings for a second. This month of November, a time for Thanksgiving, has been a complete blessing to me as it reminds me to stop and consider all of the blessings that God has given me. My Thankfulness tree has been a physical reminder for me to stop and think each day before I head out the door and again as I settle in at home after work. I am truly blessed... beyond my expectations, beyond what I deserve. And it is hard for me not to be discouraged as we deal with a job loss, low income, daily trials that cast shadows too scary and monstrous for our little family to handle. But these daily reminders to take time and think about and be truly grateful for the wonderful blessings God has given us is sweet. And it is running so deep within me right now. I can't help but praise God for who He is and what He is doing in our lives.

One blessing in particular: friendship. This summer, moving to Chicago full-time, moving in with my husband, changing everything about our lives in such a short time was extremely challenging. I found myself discontented, burnt-out from newness, and ready to run back home so many times. I prayed for God to lead  me to some answers of why I was frustrated and beat-down. It was a long summer in good ways and bad. I had a hard time not focusing on the fact that I was lonely in this new city and needed my roommates and best friends nearby, but that just wasn't an option. (Don't get me wrong, I am madly in love with my husband and he is my best friend. But I am so used to having girlfriends, to having someone to chat with and hang out with. It was weird for me to be living a one-woman life.) Eventually, after much specific prayer to God to send me some friends, He started answering... loudly. I love looking back and seeing His hand in it.

We have been so blessed to meet people through our church, Armitage Baptist. We have a small group we got involved with early on that has couples and families who are being real with us and loving us, and after some weeks together, we have really been able to build relationships. Also, through our Sunday School class, we have met friends that, although the relationships are just starting out, I can tell are going to be good for us as a couple and for me individually.

I am thankful for friendship, for companionship. God didn't put us on this earth to live alone or to even be isolated with a few people, but rather to live in community, constantly building each other up and investing into each other. We have been overly-blessed with new friends. Last week we had 3 friend-dates with families, and this coming weekend we have 4 more.

Praise be to God for knowing our needs, for meeting them, for exceeding them. He is so good. It is so good to be thankful. Happy November! Take time today to be thankful. Make a list of blessings and let it bless you again as you gratefully consider each one.

with joy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

the big reveal.

We had our "20 week ultrasound" today. We saw this little bundle of joy, infantino, tiny tyke, baby bean, our beloved Cubbie squirming and trying to hide itself from the camera. Cubbie takes after Mr. Allen in that regard - not cooperating for pictures.

Well, you know... the technician asked if we wanted to find out the sex, and we talked about it on the way there and decided maybe we didn't want to know after all. Aren't surprises what life is all about?

So, we'll stick to the gender neutral crib, the gender neutral clothing, the gender neutral "it"-ness of the pregnancy and wait until mid-March to find out what our baby is.

with patience. (as we long await our little Cubster.)

No. I'm totally kidding.

I've already waited 4+ months for this day (not to mention 22 years.) We found out instantly. And our baby, Cubbie, will be coming out of that womb and soon to enter a world such like this...

We are having a BABY GIRL! :] And there's no "Maybe, well, it looks like a girl." No, we got a good view of those parts and we know. And we are so excited!

Oh, I can't wait to hold her. My baby girl.

I decided during the ultrasound that I could spend the next 4+ months just watching her squirm and move and grow, and I would be 100% content. I love her, I love her, I love her!

And soon, we will all meet her. (Well, you'll have to visit or expect a visit for that to happen.) Our little miss...
our [Nora Jean Allen].

with love, joy, peace, patience (maybe), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I am all about giving November its full right to holiday spirit. I have been extremely guilty in the past of jumping from Halloween to November 1 means countdown to Christmas. This year, I've vowed to fully enjoy November, especially Thanksgiving. (You're so welcome, Jenna.)

My endless hours on pinterest has led me to some excellent finds. (Remember those raspberry cakes? You know you want those next time you visit! ... and I might want them next time you visit.) Well, I found this little guy and instantly fell in love.

A thankfulness tree; here's my version of it:

Each day of November, I write something on one of the tags that I am truly thankful for. You can find out what I've been writing if you follow me on facebook; I update my status with my thankfulness tag each day. I love this piece in my dining room. Since we moved into our apartment and got our beautiful table (June/July,) I've been wanting a centerpiece, and now I've finally got one... at least for this month.

If you're looking for a more kid-friendly version of a thankfulness tree for your family or classroom, check out my sister's tree that my niece and nephew will be doing throughout November.

If you want to put together your own thankfulness tree like mine (and the one I borrowed from cloned,) here's the simple steps:

Step 1: Gather branches. (Not so easy to do in Chicago; I must say!)

Step 2: Wash out a mason jar/food jar to be your vase. (I had to empty my husband's favorite pasta sauce because it was the only jar in the fridge close to being gone. Shh - don't tell.)

Step 3: Make your tags. (I used recycled cardboard, some paints, and my scissors to make shapes. The original tree tags were made using scrapbook paper and a dye cutter. I'm not that fancy.)

Step 4: Assemble. (Add a bow or other detail to personalize yours. Again, I'm not fancy enough or an experienced enough crafter to have ribbon lying around.)

And wah-lah, you have yourself a beautiful piece for your home to remind you and your family to give thanks each day, not just on Thanksgiving! Let me know if you decide to make a thankfulness tree (any design) or you have another tradition for thanksgiving all month long.

with goodness. (I wish I could add thankfulness to the Fruits of the Spirit.)

PS - These just came out of the over for dinner. YES! :] (Another pinterest inspiration...)

linking up with these parties...


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

occupy halloween monday.

My Monday was hard to occupy with a joyful, celebratory attitude, so week one (although not a complete failure) was most definitely a challenge.

First of all, in order for me to celebrate my Mondays (in the same way I cherish my Fridays,) I have to look good. Seriously - there is something so mind-altering about doing your hair and makeup, and the way that it affects your day is magical. Better yet - as my roommate Bridgett would say, when your nails are painted, you automatically feel like a "10" no matter the actual outfit/situation/what-have-you. (You better believe I painted those puppies. With this preggo belly how it is, I can't bank on actually looking good [not having the belly look a baby rather than like a sack of extra weight.] So I always keep my nails painted as a back-up plan.)

So, Monday morning my alarm goes off at 5:25. Ouch. Other than my dad, I don't know anyone who effortlessly wakes up at that hour. Although it's only 10 minutes before my normal alarm - I'll gladly cherishingly snooze through those 10 minutes. So I'm up and at 'em: shower, hair, makeup, outfit (last minute change since I realized pastel floral was not at all saying "Today is Halloween" but quite the opposite,) make lunches, and out the door, thinking 'Good start to a good day. Maybe those extra 10 minutes are already worth it.'

Then I got to work and found out that family I nanny for is moving hours away... and I'm out of a job in a few weeks. Ouch. Ouch-ouch-ouch. I believe that after they left for work I cried for about an hour straight. Not only do I love my job (please tell me why it took 6 months for me to realize that,) but umm... we're having a baby. And this job was going to accommodate that fact, letting me bring Cubbie to work, but finding another job like this... so, so unlikely. Reminder: we are also a family of one (measly) income: mine. So panic, fear, worry, sadness... all started to set in, but I knew I was supposed to embrace this Monday business.

It took a while, like hours, to come even an inch out of this funk of fear I was in, but I had family and friends messaging me with their sympathy and support, and it was so good. I chose to say immediately after finding out the news a little phrase that I love, stolen from Angie Smith, "My God is the same God now as He was when I walked in that door." I literally said it out loud to remind myself - He is in control, and we are in His hands.

He is good. He is faithful. My brother and sister-in-law and their family are a true testament to His provision and faithfulness when situations seem rough impossible. I've seen His faithfulness even in the past few months, and Mr. Allen and I will stand firm in that.

My day with Henry went well. He's so cute; did I mention that?! And he's completely stolen my heart... which he'll need to give back before he moves out of the state. Mr. Allen came over after classes, and I spent some time looking for jobs online. We went to Taco Bell for dinner. Is Taco Bell the answer to all of life's problems? ...or is that ice cream? (Side note: remind me to tell you about my 3 favorite foods sometime. You'll probably be disgusted and shocked.) Taco Bell sure helped me enjoy and occupy my Monday.

Then we headed north of the city to join some (new-ish) friends and their kids for a trunk-or-treat. Mr. Allen and I were costume-less and childless (minus baby bump,) so we kind of didn't belong, but that was kind of okay. Spending an hour looking at kids in adorable or ridiculously-sweet costumes is on our activities-for-a-perfect-evening-list. (It can also be found on super creepy men's activities list. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that we like to watch kids. It makes us a bunch of weirdos.)

Afterward we went back to our friends' home and got to know them and their 4 boys better. (4 boys - a perfect number of what?! ... maybe plus 13 girls. :] Oh yeah, I've never mentioned on here my obsession of wanting 17 kids. I'll talk about it sometime. I need to make a non-mental-but-actually-physical list of all these "I will talk about that later" post ideas.) The family was so much fun and made a perfect ending to a long, badly-initiated Monday.

My keys to success for Occupy Monday (a sort of to-do list for next week):
- hair and makeup done (which means waking up a bit early)
- painted nails (can be done on Sunday like this week)
- make special plans for Monday night (to really celebrate the whole day)
- read my Bible (I missed this yesterday unfortunately)
- workout (also missed this yesterday)
- have a special treat (like Halloween candy... or a yummy, steamy drink)
- remember your purpose all day long (embracing and celebrating/occupying Monday until it becomes a natural joy)

Thanks for reading my long and dreadful post. Thank you even more to those of you who joined Occupy Monday yesterday. We'd love to have you join us next Monday - to change the view of Mondays, because it is a [day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it!] (Psalm 118:24)

with joy. (even amidst this trial... can I get a "Praise God"?!)