Thursday, December 20, 2012

Some Last Minute Gift Ideas

I had thought several times about how much I appreciate some of my kitchen tools, then it occurred to me that others might like to receive these things too.


I call this an ulu but it’s not from Alaska. My neighbor gave me this herb cutter set, and I’ve loved cutting fresh herbs with this. There are some high priced ones out there, but I saw one that looks similar on for $16.99.


This hard working juicer cost me 99cents from our grocery store here in Portugal. I love how it strains out the pulp and seeds and is easy to clean up. I did not find anything as cheap on Amazon, but surely something similar is readily available in your local stores. It seems like one of those items you don’t know you like until you try it. Cheaper than buying bottled juice!

An additional idea: One year we gave someone a small juicer along with some cherry syrup as a cherry limeade set.


This Cutco slicer (I call it a bread knife) is one of my favorites. We have many cheap fresh baked breads available here in Portugal, so this knife is used daily in our house. I was blessed to get a few Cutco knives, but don’t get stumped by the brand. I just think everyone would appreciate one! I saw a Henckels brand on Amazon for $12.95 that had many good reviews.

My last suggestion is not for the kitchen, but for someone to relax and enjoy, kids and adults alike. My girls and I recently finished reading Understood Betsy together, and I think it will remain one of our top favorites. It starts off with an orphan being taken care of by her overbearing aunt—this part can even get on your nerves it’s so bad. But stick to it because the lessons Betsy learns once she has new caregivers are very entertaining and insightful.

I’m always up for gift ideas and recommendations, so I hope this is helpful to someone else too. May your last days before Christmas be full of peace and joy instead of stress!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Yarn Balls and Ornaments Wreath


Last year I decided I didn’t want to use all the ball ornaments on my tree this year. I also wanted a new wreath, but those are not plentiful here in Portugal. So I decided to use what I had apart from buying some yarn from our dollar store. There are many examples of yarn ball wreaths online, but I got my idea of mixing the ornaments and yarn balls from The Pleated Poppy blog.


I covered all the ornaments that I didn’t want to show with yarn. I used some craft glue to attach the yarn to the ornament, then tucked in the end when I had finished wrapping it with yarn.


You can see part of the Styrofoam stand I made above to spray paint some of the ornaments pink.


Once everything was ready, I used the ornament hanging parts to wire them onto the wreath {necessary with the wind we can get here}. A couple of the tops of the ornaments kept coming out when I was putting them on. I think they lost they’re stay-in ability once the neck of the ornament was covered. So I used some hot glue to keep those tops secure. So far we haven’t seen the need to have hot-glued any others!


We are pleased with the fun color on our door and to have this project off my to-do list from last year!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bunny Birthday Party

Our now 8 year old daughter decided to have a bunny themed party this year because we bought our new born rabbits this month a year ago. They would celebrate birthdays together. Here’s the birthday girl and her sister:


When we found this dress at H&M, this started the ball rolling on how to work out the theme. She also liked an invitation we’d seen that had bunnies and chevron stripes, so stripes stuck as well as pink. I was able to come up with a similar-ish invitation with my Silhouette Studio program.

Silhouette Invite Capture

I used the same rabbit silhouette shapes for décor and cupcake toppers


and the same paper for a miniature pennant banner.


This was my first cake to attempt to decorate since my cake decorating extraordinaire friend is not in Portugal now. Thankfully the bunny cake idea we tried came with thorough directions and step-by-step pictures.

For activities, we brought in the bunnies for the girls to have their pictures made with them and hold them if they wanted to.


We made a carrot piñata simply with a cone of poster board reinforced with duct tape and a newspaper-filled tissue-paper-covered ball for the stem. The birthday girl had the first few hits and then got to be the first to hit it again after everyone else had a chance {and break it open!}.















I had stamped some paper sacks with a rabbit stamp for treat bags. They came in handy after the loot was dropped from the piñata!


We also had some sack races so the girls could hop like bunnies. The girls kept wanting to go again and again!


We got to introduce several of the Portuguese girls to Shrinky Dinks. We had printed two bunny outlines on printable Shrinky paper, cut them out, and had the girls color them with markers. These would become the charms for the necklaces they were making. It was a joy to see these girls get excited about the shrinking in the oven!













It might be helpful to discourage kids from using dark colors that will only darken with shrinkage. Yet it is difficult to curb how they want to color it as they see fit!


Here are my two girls’ necklaces. We forgot to coat the charms with a glaze, and my eldest has already seen hers’ smear when it got wet. We’re going to try to fix it with some permanent markers.


Girls, necklaces, charms, candy, a bunny cake with sparklers and candles, lots of pink--it was a great party!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Notice that change?

Have you ever been gone long enough to notice some change the next time you were there?  Has it ever been a mirror to the ways you have changed yourself? I found this to be true when we were back in America for our furlough and especially when I was at something or with someone familiar. It may not have changed, but I had! Maybe my tastes had changed, maybe I was less insecure {Praise God!}… There were clues that I was different in encouraging ways for the most part.


Now we’re back in Portugal. We love discovering changes or new things in our town since we had left. For instance, most of the road construction that’s been happening for years it seems is nearly finished! Our city made some great choices with new sidewalks and flowerbeds, even using cobblestones in white and black to make the crosswalks. Another item that got a big “WOW” from the family were the parking covers at our local LIDL, similar to ALDI if you’re familiar with that.


To see how much our plants and trees had grown at our home was nearly overwhelming! We get a lot of sun here, and since we have sprinklers, all the green things are loving life. I wish I had a before so you could see the difference. Needless to say, we had a bit of pruning to do to make the front of our house look less like a jungle!


This flower bed needed a rehaul with some flowers dead and others overtaking. The giant cabbage had to go! We actually took babies growing from it and replanted those. That’s a large onion stem that got broke off, not a snake—made great baked onion rings though!


The other big surprise was our nectarine tree. It’s on year three since we planted it. We got maybe four fruit from it last year. Check out our coming harvest!


So, we continue to look for changes in all places: finding non-vacuumed-packed corn-on-the-cob and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup at our local grocer for the first time ever was a recent win! I was amazed!

I can tell I am still in adjustment phase as I start week 3 of being back in Portugal. It’s not bad, just weird. I look forward to noticing what has changed in me {for the good hopefully!} once the dust has settled.

How about you? Any recent victories with desired changes around you or in you?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Better Each Time

I’ve been back in Portugal for a week today and was actually able to get out of bed by 7:10AM!  Quite a victory when noon felt like 7AM days ago. I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for nearly four months. Several times I felt inspired to write while we were on our three month stint in America but… here I am now. I hope to recount some of the good things we’ve experienced still.


Before we left Portugal, I felt like the Lord encouraged me to believe that every mode of transportation would be better than the last for this trip. I had nine flights in the last 90 days. My husband had 14!  I didn’t keep count of miles driven. The return overseas flight was my least favorite to look forward to. We had 10.5 hours Houston to Frankfurt before flying to Lisbon. Normally we have a short 6.5 hour jaunt from Newark to Lisbon! I know people were praying {I had Facebooked that request—thanks if it was you!}.

Even though I am not a great plane sleeper, I got a little sleep every time I thought I couldn’t make it any longer—when slumber party nausea tried to set in—how you feel when you stay up all night and don’t eat. My kids and husband slept wonderfully. I really enjoyed a book I started reading, got some cards written even in the midst of prolonged turbulence and really felt encouraged in the Lord. Try listening to Bethel’s The Loft Sessions on a flight. Makes an hour fly by wonderfully!


On our last flight the daughter I was sitting with graciously said she wanted to rest rather than me help her with an activity. A little more sleep for me! It was a joy to be on a flight where people were excited to be landing in Portugal. Some were taking pictures out the window; many clapped upon our arrival. I was thrilled to have made it back.

Two years ago, I had been praying some declarations out of Steve Backlund’s book, Igniting Faith in 40 Days, and I had no idea it would affect me in travel. I had previously been dealing with fear including quite a bit in flying (not just having a crash but also getting sick as I had in the past flights). Within the first few minutes of our flight from Houston to Newark, I felt the Lord say in my mind “Be as if you never had fear,” and I was filled with an amazing peace and joy. I’ve had plenty of chances to test that word since then!

So, on this side of all the travel this summer held, I see that every time I was going from one place to the next, there was grace for me to respond in my heart better than the last, even with lots of turbulence.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lego Friends Party

Have you seen the new Lego sets for girls? They’re great and they came out just in time to add some girly-ness to my now 6 year old’s Lego party. Thankfully there are gobs of ideas for Lego parties. We just had to add the Lego Friends part {we did not put out the brand new sets since my daughter had just received them that morning—too tiny for 12 kids to play with}! We also did not not buy a lot of extra things for the party, mainly because I’d have to order it all from America. I’ll show you what we still able to do for the décor and the games we played.

For party decorations, I asked a Lego-loving friend to make a large heart out of Legos for a centerpiece. He had to use some cross bar pieces for support, so we used it as a platform for the tiny Lego Friends girls. We didn’t have a stash of the more girly colored Legos yet {although my daughter got some as a gift for her birthday!} so the heart was made in traditional Lego colors.


I set a tray with the treat bags on the table. I’d made them by printing out the kids’ names in a free Lego font on a paper sack. {I saw other cute treat bags online with dots on solid color bags, but I couldn’t find small ones here.} I read a tutorial for sending paper sacks through the printer that helped a ton!


I suspended glittery hearts, stars, and flowers with baker’s twine from our chandelier since the Lego Friends have lots of those girly symbols. You can see in the photo below that I used some Duplo blocks to make a tray for purple/red/orange layered jello cups and a stand for some “pigs-n-blankets".” I got the layered jello idea from Crackers Blog {go check out their amazing Lego cake!}.


I printed out some pictures of the Lego Friends sets and several of the logos from online for the doors that go into our living room.



The pièce de résistance was the pink Lego cake my friend iced/decorated for us. I tried to “help” in baking the cakes for her. She graciously coached me in how to get the cake pans right for this project!


I thought the pennant banner might add a fun touch, and I used the same glittery scrapbook papers that matched the invitations and other girly décor.


I attempted cake balls for the first time using a cake ball baking pan set my mom sent me. Worked like a charm—getting the large flower sprinkles to not fall off with the dipping chocolate was another thing. But they sure tasted good!


Our first game was pin-the-circle-on-the-lego. Kids ranging in age from 3-8 years had a ball with this! I first saw this idea at Money Wise Moms.


I wanted everyone to know this was supposed to be a Lego {for the most part I was speaking broken Portuguese to kids who needed all the help they could get to understand what we were doing!}. I used my Silhouette program to print a mirror image of the word Lego. Then I used a charcoal pencil to trace the outlines. I found the charcoal pencil left better marks when I copied it facedown below.


Afterwards I had a template to retrace with a marker. You could save time by printing out the LEGO word and cutting out the circles, but I didn’t want to make a run for more paper or cut more circles.


Next we had two groups hit on our Lego piñatas. I got the idea for these from Delia Creates. Hers is a pull piñata—we did the hitting kind.


I spray painted two boxes, and my husband helped me put ends of Pringles cans in one and Playdoh containers in another. I hot glued them in, spray painted them some more, then wrapped them in fringed crepe paper {so thankful to have found this—what a time saver!}.


The last we played was building the tallest Lego {or Duplos in this case} tower in 60 seconds. We had 3 kids build their own at a time with a winner’s round at the end. We played music and had a countdown. The kids really got into it!


An unplanned game of dodge ball in the back yard let to lots of free outdoor play.


The party was a lot of fun! Our birthday girl was pleased!


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