Friday, December 23, 2011


I'm home for Christmas. And, to quote God (you know this will be a good one), "It is good!"

We have more family to see, more hours to drive back and forth to get all the celebrations in within these 4 days, but we are where we need to be.

My heart is still. The bills and debt and unfilled-out, tearing-me-down-slowly paperwork are all back in Chicago. They can't haunt me or frighten me here. They have no power to steal my joy here. I will deal with them again when we return (way too soon), but as for now, my heart is still.


Already, if I wasn't before, I am feeling the holiday spirit. Our cute, little apartment screamed "Christmas is coming" (in a non-tacky completely-tacky(?) way all December long. Our advent calendar was literally a daily surprise and kept us satisfied with a little pre-holiday treat each day to whet our appetite. Not that we needed it; the mound of presents under our tree was giving us enough Christmas spirit alone. We couldn't even wait 7 whole days to open our presents, we just tore into them last week. (And, boy, did Mr. Allen win best-Christmas-gifts-giving-ever this year... Or was it most-gifts-ever? You know both would get me going. And 17 presents later, well, if he didn't have my heart before...) :]

Our plans this weekend:
- 3 present-opening celebrations
- 1 family bowling extravaganza (seriously, extravaganza: snacks, costumes, prizes)
- 1 celebrate-the-bride-to-be-dress-pick-up-appointment with the best friend
- 3 readings of THE Christmas story (at least)
- 1 Christmas day church service
- 1 movie at the theater (or 2 if the first one is depressing, because it's Christmas, and we just can't have depressing movies ending our day)
- 2 pizza dinners (can't go wrong here)
- a WHOLE lot of cuddling, laughing, sharing, living, eating, being with the ones I love

Yes, I'm HOME for Christmas.

And there's no where else I'd rather be.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

la sencillez de Sunday [preview]

I'm going to be starting a new weekly series called "la sencillez de Sunday" [the simplicity of Sunday,] and I have two objectives with these Sunday posts: provide you with a simple craft/project/recipe and a simple truth. I also hope that I can be diligent enough to actually locate and create a simple craft each week, then blog about it. The simple truths will come from the pulpit at church each Sunday.

This is the first week or preview week, and next Sunday is Christmas. I still plan to have a post go up next Sunday morning for the series, but you'll forgive me if not, right!? The series officially starts with the new year.

I hope you will enjoy the simple crafts I share. As always, I'm sure the majority of my inspiration will come from pinterest, but I promise to give creative credit where it is due.

To keep my crafts "simple," here are the rules I will follow:
1) There will be less than 5 steps, start to finish.
2) Minimal craft supplies will be needed. If I suggest a craft supply that I don't think you will have at your house already, (like if I find modge-podge to be absolutely necessary for the project) I promise to re-use that supply in later projects so that if you are crafting with me, you are getting the best bang for your buck. [Let's go in with the goal of no bucks being spent. I don't have very many free dollars floating around; don't know about you...]
3) The crafts will either be seasonal to the time of year we are currently in or multi-use, where then can be used over and over and loved over and over.

So, here is your preview:

Simple Craft: Magazine Christmas Trees
Supplies needed: old magazine
      (That's it. Seriously!)
Optional supplies: paperclip, scissors

Here is my inspiration:

click for source

I just stumbled on this project via pinterest, and, as I scooted around the blog, I absolutely love what I found. [Their projects may become many of my simple craft inspirations.]

Here is my version:

I decided to take it a step further and create three sizes. My largest tree is made from just one magazine (and it is a little bare in the back, so I would recommend using two magazines if you want more fullness, as was suggested on the blog). My two other trees are both made from the same magazine. I cut the magazine with scissors (optional extra supply), making one section about 4" tall, and the other about 7".

¡¿Sencillo, no?! [Simple, no?!]

Here there are in their "home" in our home, on the table next to my sewing machine:

Simple truth: Today's message was take from Matthew 1, the birth story of Jesus - more specifically Joseph's reaction to finding out about Mary's pregnancy. Because Joseph understood that his life was a part of God's story, He understood the need to honor God with his reaction. So, originally he chose that he would not embarrass Mary anymore than needed and would quietly end the engagement. Instead, God stepped in, sending an angel to tell Joseph that this was all part of God's plan being put into action. Because Joseph believed and acted upon his faith, he was able to have a role in bringing baby Jesus to Earth. When we believe and act upon our faith in obedience, we can have a role in bringing Jesus' story into our world. People talk about how their family or friends or neighborhood need Jesus [and that's true!], but if you are believer, you are the Jesus-in-flesh that God has put in your family, friend circle, and neighborhood to share the Gospel.

¡¿Sencillo, no?!

That's is for the preview week of la sencillez de Sunday. I hope you enjoyed! Leave a comment, let me know!

Be sure to enjoy this week-before-Christmas. Enjoy your family, you friends, and the truth of this season - a sacrificial gift, a King.

linking up with these parties:


Saturday, December 17, 2011

when the dog bites, when the bee stings.

...because earlier this week, the bees stung and the dog bit. And sometimes, I just need to look past ignore completely those bludgers [Harry Potter reference] and think of the goods things in life.

[when I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad.]

Nieces and nephews that squirm and smile,
Going home when it's been a while.
Christmas tree lit, the house all a-glow,
Snowflakes falling when there's no where to go.

A little baby girl waiting to arrive,
Her kicks and punches and nose dives.
Getting little-Christmas-somethings for the people I adore,
A yummy cookie, or two, or three, or four.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

5 am.

Whoops, I was supposed to have announced a giveaway winner by now. Sorry for those of you who have been sitting on pins and needles waiting to see if it was you. [Was there anyone that anxious?]

Drum roll please... and the winners of my first-ever giveaway, featuring Blake Mycoskie's Start Something That Matters, are:

Liz, from Here's to Handy Andy
Robin, from Couponing from FL to MI

Congratulations! Send me your address ladies, and I will get those books right out to you. :]


A few months ago, I remember telling God that under no circumstances would I be accepting a teaching job in which I was going to have to wake up during the morning 5 o'clock hour. Since schools in Chicago start at 9 am, with most teachers rolling in around 8:30, I thought it wouldn't be a problem.

I guess I should have been a little more specific with my request demand... I meant I didn't want to wake up that each for any job; not just an early morning teaching job.

But alas, you will find my alarm going off every weekday during that most awful hour. And yes, it has gotten easier, and yes, I am used to it, but I cannot wait for the day that my next/better/eventual job lets me sleep in until at least 6 am.

Reasons anyone should be up before 6 am:
- You have an early morning flight to an awesome destination and booked your flight so early out of excitement, not necessity.
- It's Christmas. [I can totally get on board with this one. Feel free to wake me up at any hour if it means the celebration starts earlier!]
- You voluntarily stayed up all night and are now on your last few hours of that all-nighter, after which you will sleep until 6 pm.

That's it folks. Those are the only good reason to be up that early.

...and yet, 5:25, I'll see you in the morning. [And probably again on Saturday because the 5 o'clock hour has the ability to haunt me like that.]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

still counting.

I haven't just written in a while, so I thought I would take some time today... and just write what's on my heart.

Can you believe that just 2 weeks ago we were celebrating thanksgiving? I was between 2 houses in 2 different cities within a matter of a few hours, which meant lots of food and lots of family. Now those 2 weeks have passed, and are you still counting your blessings? I sure am.

I mentioned just over a month ago that I was losing my job. It was a tough spot to be in. But only s month later, and I'm working for a new family in a completely different part of town, with a little baby that is nothing like Henry. And I am thankful. Adjusting to the new job, new commute, and new work environment is a little hard, but I am so thankful for what God provided so quickly.

One benefit of this new job is that I get every other Monday off. This Monday was my first, and I got to spend it shopping all day with my mom. She drove into the city just so week could keep our yearly shopping-extravaganza tradition going. And how much I love a day with her. As much as I want to be an independent woman, I love to run back to my mom and tell her about everything and laugh with her about nothing. I am thankful for my Monday off, but more so for a chance to refresh the relationship with my mom.

In other news, I am so ready for Christmas to arrive. I am loving al the advent activities that give me a little bit of Christmas each day, but as I stare at the presents under the tree and think about family back in Michigan (and other parts of the country) I get so eager for days in the 20s of December... It will be time to celebrate soon! :) 17 days until the 25th!

In other news, this baby bump (which I promise I will show you all again soon... maybe featured with some second ultrasound pictures :]) is growing and growing, and as far as I can tell it is huge. Yet, I get these comments from people, when they ask how far along I am (almost 6 months), saying how small I look. Yes, our baby is tiny; at least that's what we've been told. But my question is, if this is small, and I'm supposed to look like a complete whale... am I supposed to just live in whale form for the next 3 months o my life?! Are you kidding me? So, I will be thankful for my "small" size stomach. [I can't even see my feet, people, I am not small. ... and yet, I'm sure I will regret thinking I am big now in a few months when I can't fit through doorways.]

with peace (in a time in my life that peace isn't simple.)

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for TOMS' Blake Mycoskie's book! It ends the 11th, and entries are low.

Monday, December 5, 2011

start something that matters [giveaway]

Mr. Allen and I definitely have a favorite shoe. We love one more than all the others. It's comfortable, it's affordable, and better than anything else - for every pair we purchase, a pair is given to a child in need.

You probably already know about TOMS One for One campaign, where they give a pair of shoes to a child without for every pair that is purchased. But if you don't, please read about it here.

I got my first pair in college, when TOMS was pretty new. I had won a pair in a contest and instantly fell in love with their versatility, durability [not that I haven't wore through a few pair from over-loving them], and their brilliant cause. [Seriously, I'm not getting paid to say this. This is how I feel.]

Mr. Allen and I used our wedding day as another way to spread the TOMS story and provide a few more children with shoes. Here is a picture of our wedding party in their new TOMS.

And here is a picture of our collection.
[We each have a few pairs. And even Baby will have one as soon as she's here. Aren't those little ones cute?!]

We love TOMS.

So, the moral of my story, or the point at least, is that a few weeks ago, as I was meandering about on facebook, I saw that TOMS was offering bloggers the opportunity to review Blake Mycoskie's new book Start Something That Matters. Blake is the founder of TOMS and Chief Shoe Giver, and he wrote this book with the aspiration of sharing his story in order to inspire others to "start something that matters" - a business or objective with a greater cause.

I was chosen as one of the bloggers to review the book, which means they provided me with two copies of the book, one to read and one to give away to my readers! [That's you!] I am actually going to do one better and give away both copies, not because I didn't enjoy it, but because I want to get more copies out there and "pass it on."

Here's my thoughts on the book, my honest review:

The book was not extremely well-written, not because of grammar or any problems of that sort, but because stories jumped quickly from one to the other. I think, honestly, it was a result of the author wanting to share a lot of examples of how a business or objective pursued for a greater cause can really make a difference. And I loved reading about all the different companies (large and small) that are truly making a difference in the world, even with small steps. 
Blake shares the story of TOMS shoes and how through trials, he and his team have made a successful business than is for-profit, which guarantees that they can continue to do "shoe drops" (when they distribute the shoes to the children in need) on a regular basis and without waiting for the next order. His story is inspirational, one of overcoming obstacles and thriving in a world that says looking out for "number one" is most important. I really enjoyed reading more about the TOMS story and some of the people who have helped TOMS become the great organization it is today. 
Some of the other organization he focuses on in the book are chartity:water, FEED projects, and method, among others. Reading more about these companies helps me to see the need for business men and women to step outside of the box and work for something bigger than themselves.
Blake shares a ton of practical advice for readers to take the areas in which they feel challenged most, overcome whatever obstacles stand in their way, and really start something (anything) that matters. One of my favorite thoughts from the book was about clarity. So often we want every step of our future to be completely clear and well-planned before we want to pursue it. His words challenged me to see how nothing will ever be clear entirely until I'm in the moment. I need to fall in love with an idea, no matter how confusing and cloudy it may be, and follow it boldly because in the midst is where I will understand how it is going to work out.

So, there you have it. I hope you'll enter my giveaway and win a copy for yourself. I don't think you need to be on the verge of starting a business or anything to benefit from this book. I was challenged to make sure the daily activities and pursuits I have in my life already are being done not for my benefit, but for others. I think bloggers could really benefit from these challenges in how they view their blog as a possible ministry to help and encourage others.

To enter the giveaway, there are 2 easy steps:
#1 - Become a little baby mama bear follower.
#2 - Comment on this post.

For additional entries into the drawing you can do one or more of the following (one entry per item):
- "like" TOMS on facebook
- follow me on twitter @mrsalyssaallen
- tweet, facebook, or blog about this giveaway

Come back and leave a comment for each of the extra entries you complete.

The giveaway will be open until 11:59 pm December 11th, then I will announce the winners and ship the books! Good luck. I can't wait to share this book with you!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

advent calendar. [tutorial]

I swear I don't try to avoid my blog. It just happens. One day I don't post, even though I mean to, and then the next four (five, six...) days are busy, and not before too long I have lost all will to post because I am that far behind. That's how I feel now. Actually, within the last 15 days [that's how long it has been since I've posted...ugh] I considered that maybe I shouldn't blog anymore, maybe it wasn't for me after all.

But I've come around, and I will continue to pursue blogging for the time being. I have too much to share in this post though to catch up on all that's been happening.

Remember how I wanted to make it through November before celebrating Christmas, giving November all its necessary honor and respect? Well, that didn't quite happen. I thoroughly enjoyed November and the Thanksgiving season, and it really was a perspective-changing time for me. But once we got back from visiting our families in Michigan over Thanksgiving weekend, we immediately got out our tree and those Christmas boxes that have been calling my name for weeks now, and we decked the halls, turning this place into a Christmas wonderland. Oh, it makes me so happy! ... every decoration, every Christmas light, every present wrapped beneath our tree waiting for its recipient to open it. Oh, Christmas, I love you.

I talked previously about a Christmasy project I had been planning and working on as a surprise for Mr. Allen's family. I had meant to share it with you all way before December 4, but alas - I think I should follow through with it eventually. Better late than never, right?!

So here it is, my new advent calendar:

It sort of has bunting-mixed-garland style look. I designed the whole concept from scratch, so there's no inspiration that I will forget to link to, just my own mind. I am really proud of the whole creative process, since it was finally my own.

Here's a quick tutorial of how it all happened.

Step one: Gather materials. I found this awesome, green and white striped fabric at Goodwill. It used to be a curtain, and then it sat in my fabric stack for a while, waiting for good use. How perfect was it for this project? (And it was, by far, the cheapest fabric ever. I think the whole sheet/curtain [3-4 yards] was $2.) I used twine (via Joann's), hot glue (I finally have a glue gun of my own), and a red ball trimming (via Joann's). 
Step two: Pick your size, shape, and overall design. Here are the plans I drew up when I was thinking of this project and deciding on the measurements.

[The big-picture design for my calendar.]
[What became my template for cutting all the squares. I left 1/4 inch seam allowance.]

[The pile of squares... so many. Keep in mind though, I made 2 advent calendars - one for our home and one for our family. So I needed 96 sqaures in all.]

Step three: After cutting all the squares, I pinned them in pairs front-to-front for what would become little pockets when sewn. I forgot to take a picture of this step.]
Step four: [Apply these next few steps multiple times, one per pocket ... 48 to be exact if you're making two.] I sewed back the top of each side to create a finished edge.

Step five: Then I repeated with the other side, folding away from the front of the fabric. [You can see the finished edge of the first side where the red stitching is.]

Step six: Cut trimming amount to fit the pocket. Then line it up with the bottom side of the pocket (toward the front of the fabric.)

Step seven: Stack the other piece (front-to-front) keeping the trimming in line with the bottom. You may want to pin this to keep it in its place.

Step eight: Stitch the bottom, securing the trimming between the two pieces.

Step nine: Sew the sides of the pocket. [The top should still be open.]

Step ten: Turn your pocket right-side-out and enjoy. [Ugh, this is not my prettiest pocket.]

Once all the pockets are sewn, simply hot glue a looooong piece of twine to all 24 pockets. I spaced my pockets about 2 inches apart.

Then comes the fun part. This advent calendar is full of festive activities. Each day there is a little something-to-do to get more and more in the holiday spirit. I cut little cards from cardstock (read: old thank you cards from the wedding) and wrote the activity inside and the day-number outside. Each pocket holds one card, and once the card is read on that day, it hangs out of the pocket, adding a visual of how long until Christmas is finally here!

Here is our advent calendar, hung by the window (which should really have some lights up... I'll get to that soon... I think.) We're 4 days in and loving it. Mr. Allen has opened each day's card and most of them will be surprises for him. Today's was to hang up and enjoy the mistletoe. :]'s an all-day type of an activity.

Here is a picture of Mr. Allen's family's advent calendar, hung on the mantle. I think they are really enjoying it too! [I sure hope so at least.]

For ideas of how to fill your advent activity calendar, visit here and here and here.

Some other advent calendar ideas that I've liked: wrapping Christmas books up then reading one each day or wrapping up board and card games and playing one each day. I'm sure some day down the road, when the little one(s) are a little older, these will come into play in our family.

linking up with these parties:

joining this hop party: