Sunday, May 31, 2015

Summer Stitching Stash Blast #2 {link-up}

It is time for week two of our sixteen week Summer Stitching Stash Blast! The week flew by for me. How about you? 

I am happy with the amount of stitching that I accomplished this week. Almost every morning I was able to sit down for 30 to 60 minutes of mostly uninterrupted stitching time. I listened to podcasts while I was stitching, so before I knew it the podcast would end, and I put my stitching away for the day.  

This week I listened to a new podcast, Little House Mothering, by Michele and Amy
I enjoyed listening to them discuss the Little House on the Prairie books and their parenting styles. They have been friends for awhile, and you can hear how much they respect and care about each other when they talk. This podcast is just the kind of thing that I wish was around when I was a newer mom because it would have been such an encouragement to me. Even though I have been a mom for almost two decades (my children's ages range from almost 19 to 6 years old), I still enjoyed listening to Michele and Amy discuss old-fashioned mothering. 
If you love the Little House on the Prairie books, are a mother, or just enjoy listening to intelligent and encouraging conversation, I think you should listen to the Little House Mothering podcast

Now it is time for you to show what you have been working on this week. Did you make a lot of progress on your projects? Did you complete a project? Link-up below! 

The rules:

- Write a blog post showcasing your current and recently completed needlework and sewing projects. If you would like to combine your stitching post with another topic, such as a daybook, weekend happenings, book review or what your wore to church, that is cool with me.

- Any post that is not about needlework, sewing, or stitching in some form will be removed from the link-up, as will any post that is offensive. (I do not see that happening, but I need to say it.) See the first post for a the full description of needlework. 

- Please place a link to the most current Summer Stitching Stash Blast in your post so other stitchers can find the link-up.

- Show the other bloggers some love by visiting them and leaving a comment. We all know how hard it is sometimes to finish a project. A little encouragement may be just what she needs to complete her project.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Jamberry Review and 8 Helpful Tips

Back in March I wrote a list of things that I wanted to accomplish before I turned 40. Number eight on the list was to try Jamberry nail wraps.

My sister-in-law commented on my Facebook page after reading my post that she knew a girl who is a consultant with Jamberry. My friend Renee and I picked wraps that we liked and placed an online order a couple weeks later during a Facebook party with that consultant.

Tip #1 - Jamberry wraps are always buy 3 sheets get 1 sheet free. That is a great deal. If you don't want to purchase 3 sheets to start with, consider asking friends and family members if they would like to combine an order with you. If you try them and love them like I do, you probably won't want to combine orders after that. You will want all four sheets for yourself.

My friend Renee and I got together after the order came in and applied our wraps with the help of my blow dryer. She applied her wraps fairly quickly, and they looked great. I was having trouble with the wraps puckering around the edge of my nails. I later found out that I have curved nails. It can be a challenge to apply the wraps smoothly to curved nails. YouTube videos helped me work out some of the kinks in my wrap application.

Tip #2 - Watch YouTube videos before you attempt your first application. There are many helpful videos about Jamberry nail wraps on Youtube. It is important to watch videos on how to apply and remove your nail wraps. There are several ways to remove your wraps properly, and you may want to try them all to find the easiest way for you. 

Our wraps lasted about a week, and we were ready to try new wraps. My second application went a little faster, and I had less puckering than the first time. But I didn't love the color. My mom saw my wraps and said "What is up with the 1980's neutral that you are wearing on your nails?" I must admit that I was a little disappointed with the color when I opened the package. The color wasn't quite what I thought it would be.

Tip #3 - Search wraps that you are interested in on Instagram. Looking at the wraps on fingernails gives you a better idea of what the wrap may look like on your nail. There are tons of photos of Jamberry nail wraps on Instagram. 
Use the Instagram hashtag search option by searching the wrap name with a jn after the name (example: #midnightcelebrationjn). Or you can go to the Jamberry website, click on the wrap name you like, and look at the pictures you see there. 
And If you don't like your wraps, Jamberry does have a decent return policy.

1. Midnight Celebration  2. Marsala (glossy)  3. Kiss Me Ombre  4. Faded Deco

A couple weeks later, a new shipment of wraps arrived. Yes, we placed a second order. What can I say? We were smitten! Renee and I were ready to apply new wraps because we took a short break from wearing the wraps (about two weeks). We took the break because when we took off our second set of wraps, we noticed that our nails were a little dry and brittle. It was at that time that we decided to use cuticle oil daily. 

Tip #4 - Use cuticle oil and keep your hands moisturized. It will help your nails stay strong.

The third time I applied my nails wraps even faster than the previous time. We had invested in the handy mini heater that Jamberry sells, and it sped up the application process for sure. 

Tip #5 - If you are planning on applying Jamberry nail wraps often, invest in the mini heater. It makes applying your wraps easier.

Unfortunately, I realized later in the day that I forgot to wipe my nails down with alcohol before applying the wraps. I had washed my hands with hot, soapy water so I hoped that would be good enough. It wasn't. My wraps were falling off in under 72 hours.

Tip #6 - Always wipe your nails down with the alcohol. This step is very important.

I didn't make that mistake the next time I applied my nails. On my fourth application I decided to use a heavy pattern for the first time. During one of the YouTube videos, I learned that it is a good idea for women with curved nails to use heavy patterns. The pattern distracts from the application flaws. That was a great tip! I loved the heavy pattern. I knew there were a few puckers because I could feel them, but I sure couldn't see them.

Tip #7 - If you have curved or ridged nails, you may want to stick with heavily patterned Jamberry wraps.

French Countryside and Jamberry Smoothing Base Coat

I also have ridged nails. Jamberry has a product to help with ridges. They sell a smoothing base coat. The fifth time I applied my wraps, I put a layer of the smoothing base coat on first. It did help with the ridges, but some of my ridges are so deep that I could still see them. I like the smoothing base coat, but I do not love it. 

One thing that I find appealing about Jamberry is not having to mess with polish. Applying a base coat is the same as applying polish. Having said that, I applied all of my wraps without any puckers at the tips the first time I used the smoothing base coat. Is that a result of using the smoothing base coat? Or am I getting the hang of applying my wraps? We may never know. 

Tip #8 - Applying the smoothing base coat may give you a smoother application or it may not, but it is worth trying it to find out.

Overall, I think Jamberry nail wraps are great. I can see myself continuing to wear them regularly. They last longer than polish on my nails. My friend Renee and I take an hour or two every seven to fourteen days to chat and apply new nail wraps, as it is a fun activity to do with a girlfriend. 

Have you tried Jamberry nail wraps? If you have, do you like them. If you have not, are you thinking about trying them? 

This post was not sponsored, and I am not a Jamberry consultant. I am just a woman who likes to have pretty nails. :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It's the Little Things that Matter {26 Expectations Around the House and Yard}

Chris and I grew up in very different environments. When we bought our first house, we both expected things to happen a certain way. We agreed on some of them while others we did not. Through the early years, we perfected our list of expectations that we required for ourselves and our boys. 

This past weekend we realized that some of our boys had a better understanding than others of what we expect of them. We decided it was time to re-evaluate the list and write it down so that we had a reference point.

Our expectations are not lofty, impossible goals. They are small acts, easily attainable. Though they are small, when the tasks are regularly completed they make a huge impact on maintaining peace and happiness in our daily lives. 

1. Make your bed when you wake up. 

2. Keep the area under your bed free of clutter and toys. 

3. Clean laundry must be put away immediately. 

4. Dirty clothes go in their designated areas. 

5. Put items back in the closet/cabinet/drawer you got them from as soon as you are finished using it. 

6. Keep the bathroom counters mess free by putting your toiletry items in their proper places and wiping out the sink and countertop after each use. 

7. When you use the last of the toilet paper, throw away the empty cardboard roll and replace it with a new roll of toilet paper.

8. Always flush the toilet, put the lid down, and wash your hands. Always hang the hand towel back up. 

9. Always put trash into the trashcan. 

10. Take your dirty dishes to the sink. 

11. Food does not leave the kitchen area. 

12. All chores must be completed after schoolwork and before playtime. 

13. You must ask permission to use an item that belongs to someone else. 

14. Be polite. Say "Please," "Thank you," and "I am sorry" when necessary. 

15. Open and close doors and drawers gently - no slamming. 

16. Walk when you are inside the main part of the house. Running is only allowed in the basement and outside. 

17. Do not bounce or jump up and down the stairs. 

18. If you see a family member struggling with something, offer to help them. 

19. All personal items are brought in from the car after every trip. 

20. Coats are hung in the closet and shoes are put neatly away as soon as you enter the house. 

21. Do not leave sports equipment and yard toys in the grass. Put them away when you are finished using them. 

22. Bring in the mail and the paper if you see that they have been delivered.  

23. Trash that has blown into the yard should be picked up and thrown away. 

24. Pull any weeds that you notice in the landscaping and put them in the yard waste pile. 

25. Stay within the boundary of our yard. 

26. When a neighbor is in his yard, you should smile, wave, and say "Hello." 

As you can see, our list of expectations is achievable. Although some days we fall short and completing everything perfectly does not happen. However having a list helps us stay on track. The list is not meant to be used as a checklist, but rather as a guide. Performing these small tasks and acts of kindness keep us from feeling overwhelmed and helps us feel appreciation for each other and our surroundings.

Do you have a list of expectations or standards that you teach your children? What are a few of the non-negotiables for your family? 

Today I am linking-up at the Sweet Little Ones blog for Tuesday Talk

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Summer Stitching Stash Blast {link-up}

Welcome to a new link-up: Summer Stitching Stash Blast! It is a link-up for needlework and sewing projects.

I am not a craft blogger, but I do like to make things with my hands. I opened one of my craft cabinets several weeks ago and found four unfinished cross stitch projects and the materials for two embroidery projects. I want to finish all of them sooner rather than later, but I knew I would need a reason to sit and finish them, so I decided to host a link-up through the summer.

I love seeing other people's projects, so please consider joining the link-up. And tell your stitching friends!

The rules:

- Write a blog post showcasing your current and recently completed needlework and sewing projects. If you would like to combine your stitching post with another topic, such as a daybook, weekend happenings, book review or what your wore to church, that is cool with me.

- Any post that is not about needlework, sewing, or stitching in some form will be removed from the link-up, as will any post that is offensive. (I do not see that happening, but I need to say it.)

- Please place a link to the most current Summer Stitching Stash Blast in your post so other stitchers can find the link-up.

- Show the other bloggers some love by visiting them and leaving a comment. We all know how hard it is sometimes to finish a project. A little encouragement may be just what she needs to complete her project.

In case you are still feeling unsure if your current project qualifies for this link-up, here is a picture of the cover of my old Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework: 

Even though it isn't technically handwork, I think sewing with a machine totally counts for this link-up because it uses a needle. And I want to learn how to use my machine. Seeing your sewing projects may just give me the kick in the pants I need to figure it out.

Every Sunday I will post a new link-up. The Summer Stitching Stash Blast will run for sixteen weeks. The final link-up will post on September 6th. 

Time to show you my project! 

Here is what I found when I opened my cabinet:

I started three of these projects within the last sixteen months, but the one with the fall leaves is about fifteen years old. I am determined to finish it, but it will probably be the last one I get to this summer. I decided to complete the Dainty Spring Pillow project first because the colors make me happy, and there are a few weeks of Spring left. 

I found this pattern in the March 2014 issue of Cross-Stitch & Needlework magazine. It gave suggestions for color variations, but the project called for 32-count Belfast Linen by Zweigart and DMC Color Variations floss. I decided to use a 16-count white Aida that I had in my stash. When I went shopping to select my DMC Color Variations floss, none of them felt quite right so I picked two: #4040 Water Lilies and #4050 Roaming Pastures. 

The cross-stitch is worked in two strands, so I use one strand of each color variation. I am not sure if I will make it into a pillow, as I mentioned above, I am not very handy with a sewing machine. But maybe this summer will be the perfect time to learn. 

So that is what I am working on this week and probably the next several weeks. 

What are you working on? Link-up below! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

9 Hours of Prayer to St. Rita (because some things feel impossible)

We all have situations in our lives that feel impossible to overcome. We pray daily to for deliverance from what is plaguing us. But sometimes we need help from a powerful prayer warrior, an advocate and intercessor. 

Enter St. Rita of Cascia.

Tomorrow, May 22nd, is the feast day of Saint Rita. She is the Saint of the Impossible and Helper of the Hopeless. She was a wife, mother, widow and nun. Her incorrupt body is on display at the Basilica of Saint Rita in Cascia, Italy. I have a special devotion to her, and I picked her as my Confirmation Saint. 

Tomorrow I will pray a nine-hour novena to St. Rita. At the start of every hour for nine hours I will pray the prayer below. 

Holy Patroness of those in need, St. Rita, you were humble, pure and patient. Your pleadings with your divine Spouse are irresistible, so please obtain for me from our risen Jesus the request I make of you (mention it here). Be kind to me for the greater glory of God, and I shall honor you and sing your praises forever.Glorious St. Rita, you miraculously participated in the sorrowful passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Obtain for me now the grace to suffer with resignation the troubles of this life, and protect me in all my needs. Amen.

If you have an impossible situation, I hope you will join me on this powerful day of prayer. If you would like me to pray for your intention, please leave a comment below or email me. 

St. Rita, pray for us! 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

From Me to You #2 {Giveaway Series}

How the series started: 

A couple months ago I won three giveaways in ten days! I can not tell you how shocked and happy I was to win and winning the giveaways gave me an idea. My birthday was coming up, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to offer a giveaway to celebrate my birthday with all of you. But life kept me busy, my birthday came and went, and I never got to do the giveaway. 

Boy, am I happy it happened that way because one giveaway has now turned into a series. Over the next few months, I will be giving away items that I love and enjoy using, or that have made my life easier, or that I have handmade. 

Now on to the second giveaway in the series!

I hope you are already familiar with the Blessed Is She community. I hope that you receive the daily devotions in your inbox. If you do not already know about Blessed Is She by some chance you should take a minute read all about this wonderful ministry

This week I am giving away one Blessed Is She journal. If you are a regular reader here, I am sure you already know that I love to journal. The Blessed is She Daily Reflection Journal is great because it inspires me to think about the daily reflections in a deeper way. Plus the fact that it is lovely to look at makes me extra happy. I know that you will love it, too! Please use the Rafflecopter widget to enter the giveaway. Click the link below to go to it. Thank you!

This giveaway is for US residents only, please. Thank you! This giveaway closes on Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at 12:00 am.

Friday, May 15, 2015

An Act of Hope {Printable}

Recently I made printable graphics of the prayer An Act of Hope to give as gifts. Spring is the season when many children receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion for the first time. Through the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we unite ourselves with Christ in a very intimate way. When we receive the Holy Eucharist, the actual body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, He strengthens us. 

I thought the prayer An Act of Hope would be an excellent prayer to give to children upon receiving their First Communion. It reminds them that by having a relationship with Jesus they have no reason to fear or despair. He is always with them, strengthening them. With grace from the Lord, they can trust that when they choose wrong over right their sins will be forgiven, all they have to do is ask. With the Redeemer's mercy, they can have eternal life in heaven. By having hope in God's promises, the future is always something to look forward to with joy. 

I made two slightly different graphics with PicMonkey. I saved them to my computer, uploaded them to Shutterfly, and ordered them in an 8x10 size. They turned out great! 

I am sharing them here, in case you would like to print them, too. Just save them to your computer and print them yourself or with a company you trust. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Our Summer School Schedule

It happened over several weeks. We finished books and let those subjects fall from our schedule. Our school day decreased and our free time increased. Then we completed our entire school year last week. 

At the end of most school years, I am ready for a break, but not this year. I didn't feel the joy that I thought I would when we finished. Maybe it is because I feel like I have so much more to teach them, and since I have a son all grown up, I know how fast time flies by us. 

Recently, a friend asked me about a book that I had borrowed. As I searched through the bookshelves for the book, I shifted through all the curriculum materials that I have collected over the years. I found so many wonderful books that I had used with Holden but decided not to use with Thomas. I also found several consumable books that a friend gave to me years ago when she moved, that I had forgotten about having. I pulled them off the shelf and set them aside for Ralph. 

The rest of the day, I thought about the boys and the books, so I decided to create a schedule for summer school. Once the schedule was finished, I talked to Chris about it, and he thought it sounded like a great idea. Then I told the boys, and they were fine with it. 

I am excited about it. Ralph loves to learn. Thomas does not. Keeping a short school day through the summer will give both boys what they need. Ralph the time to continue learning, and Thomas active in a school routine. 

In case you are wondering, Ralph completed first grade, and Thomas completed sixth grade. Our summer schedule is not following a specific grade level, other than Ralph's worksheets. 

Below is our summer schedule. 

Thomas and Ralph: 
I will read aloud from the texts, and we will go over discussion questions orally and complete hands-on projects as they fit in with the lessons.
Science - Exploring Creation with Botany  (30 minutes)
History - From Sea to Shining Sea  (15 minutes) 
Religion  - Stories of the Saints (15 minutes) 

Math Speed Drills (3 to 5 minutes) 
Easy Grammar worksheet (10 minutes) 
Vocabulary  from Stories of the Saints (10 minutes) 
Reading quietly (20 minutes) 

Math 2 to 4 worksheets (10 minutes)
Language Arts 2 to 4 worksheets (10 minutes)
Reading to me (5 to 10 minutes) 

We started this schedule yesterday. All schoolwork is completed in under two hours, so we still have plenty of time for fun summer activities. We will only follow this schedule four days a week, as we hope to have a beach day every week. We also have a family vacation scheduled for the end of June, and we will not do schoolwork that week. 

What are your homeschooling plans for the summer? Do you school all year long? Are you taking the entire summer off? Will you join any summer reading programs? 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Organize, Pray, and Craft {my recent Pinterest pins}

I am not a prolific pinner. I joined Pinterest last year, but it wasn't until recently that I started looking at my Pinterest app regularly. Within the last week, I have pinned quite a few pins that I am excited about, and I wanted to share some of them with you! 

Organize It

I need to get organized. I seriously need to overhaul all major areas of my life: home, school, menu, and hobbies. I was chatting with some smart ladies about creating calendars and charts to help us stay on top of things. They inspired me to go out and purchase a binder, new notebook, colored sticky tabs, and other items. Then I hit Pinterest up for some helpful tips on creating my binder, printables, and organizational tips. 

Here are three that I found helpful: 

How to Make a Cleaning Binder @ Clean & Scentsible  

Get Organized in 2015 with 15 Free Printables @ Simply Stacie 

10 Simple Habits that will Help You Stay Organized @ Just a Girl and Her Blog (these tips are simple and I am doing most of them already, but there are links to other helpful articles at the end of the post) 

Pray It

I met this lovely lady Saturday at the conference. We were placed in the same small group, so I was given links to several of her older blog posts to read to familiarize myself with her and her writing. I enjoyed everything that I read, but I loved her article 50 Ways to Talk to God, so I pinned it. I plan on using with Thomas and Ralph to encourage and develop their prayer life. I am also going to email it to me oldest son, Holden. 

Craft It

I didn't pin the Flower Pot Bunnies craft. My sister-in-law, Emily, pinned it to one of her boards. Then she bought all the supplies and then invited the boys and me over to make them. Yes, she is a pretty special sixteen-year-old! We had a lot of fun designing our bunnies, and it was very easy, even for the youngest in the group. 

Do you like Pinterest? What are some of your favorite pins? 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Conference Thoughts {CWBN Mid-Atlantic}

Saturday was the CWBN Mid-Atlantic Conference. I woke up early, partly because I had a two-hour drive and partly because I was nervous. All week long I had gone back and forth between excitement and fear. But fear is something that I have been working on overcoming, so I kept giving myself pep talks and worked on getting the stuff done that I needed to do to help make the day a success. 

I had a wonderful day and enjoyed meeting some many lovely and talented women. I already felt like I knew quite a few of them from their blogs, so it was nice to be able to talk with them in person. 

There were many wonderful conversations, three excellent talks, and lots of good food. Julie, our host, was so welcoming and made sure that we had an enjoyable day. I could go on and on about the conference, but I am limiting myself to the top three points that I feel characterized the day for me. 

Thought One 

We are all God's "It Girl". We have unique voices. If you feel God calling you to share your story, to send a message into the world, don't shy away from it. You may feel like no one cares, or someone else can say it better, but God wants YOU to use your voice. Do the work He calls you to do and let Him do the rest. 

Thought Two 

Social Media is a huge beast, but it can be defeated. Some people naturally rock all platforms of social media, but I think most of us do not. It can feel overwhelming and like a major time thief. But there are ways to manage it and easily navigate through all platforms. Find a blogger who is doing it well (I am looking at you, Cristina), and reach out to her with questions. I guarantee you that she will be happy to offer advice. My advice is to start small, like with your favorite platform. Learn all the things about it, and then move on to the next one. You can rock social media, and it is not as hard as you think, but only you can decide if you want to! Once you set your mind to learning the tips and tricks, you will be a social media rock star, too. 

Thought Three

There is a common trait among bloggers/writers that I have met. Not all, but a lot of them are introverts, and some are shy, as well. It can seem very intimidating to imagine yourself spending an entire day with people you only interact with online. But believe me when I say that you need to do it! It will be more fun, interesting, and edifying than you can imagine. 

There were moments throughout the day when I needed to go off by myself to regroup or busy myself with a single task so I could put my head down and retreat within myself. I noticed other women went off to spend a few minutes alone, to stare out a window or breathe in a bit of fresh air. But I know that they were happy to be there because they said they were with sincerity. 

If there is a conference being held in your area, please go. I know you won't regret it! And if there is not one, then I want you to reach out to a couple other bloggers in your region and plan to get together. It doesn't need to be fancy, just meet at a restaurant or a park for a couple hours if that is all you can manage. Find a way to gather together to discuss your goals and plans for writing and brainstorm ways that you can encourage and help each other. Pray with and for each other. And if you are a hugger then, by all means, hug them. 

Find out more about the Catholic Women Blogging Network and upcoming conferences here

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Many Shapes of Me

"You would look so much better if you just lost ten pounds."

"I baked a cake today. I saved you a piece without icing."

"No, you can't get the dress! Fat girls shouldn't wear dresses like that!"

I heard the above comments and many variations of them growing up in my grandparents' home. They formed my opinion of myself and stuck with me.

When I was growing up, I was always bigger than my friends. Looking back at pictures I realize that I wasn't much bigger than most of them, although I felt huge. I had wider shoulders, a curved belly, and round thighs. By the time I reached high school, I was curvy and feminine looking, but all I could see was fat. By the time I graduated, I had gained thirty pounds. Looking back at pictures, I think that is when I finally reached a weight that reflected the way I felt inside - fat and out of shape.

It wasn't until I got married and moved out of my grandparents home that I finally lost weight. I started exercising regularly and bought healthier food for my pantry than what was offered to me as a child.

That is when the rollercoaster of weight loss and weight gain started.

I read this article, The "After" Myth, last week. I agree with the author wholeheartedly. After is a myth.

I have been "before" and "after" so many times. It is ridiculous.

Here is a truth I want you to know: The numbers on the scale and my pants' sizes have never made me happy. Never. "After" never truly came because there was only the now and now never seemed to be good enough.

I spent years feeling not good enough. My shoulders were still too wide, my belly always curved, and my thighs would never gap. Add in the fact that my body, my female body that was meant to conceive and carry babies, would not work in the way that it should. Years without a pregnancy or miscarriage after miscarriage, I would work through the pain with either food or excessive exercise.

The scale would go up. The scale would go down. The hormones would shift. The scale would go up. The scale would go down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

And I would never be happy with any of it.

Here is a truth that I finally understand: I am not a weight. I am not a shape. I am not a size.

I am smart, shy, sensitive, and funny. I am lazy, creative, talkative, and moody. I am friendly, faithful, honest, and understanding. All of these things I have been at every weight, size, and shape.

I am me, and my body contains me, but it does not define me.

I finally get it. And it feels good. Right now is good.

Right now, I eat healthy foods and have dessert. Right now, I run and do yoga because I enjoy it. Right now, I look in the mirror and smile because I like what I see. I see me and me is good.
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