winners, prayer and other random things.

First of all, just so you know, Blogher is in charge of choosing winners for ALL of the giveaways that I do through them.  I personally, LOVE that, it takes a lot of pressure off of me because it IS hard to choose just one, especially since I have a personal relationship with so many of you.  With that said...

Blogher has indeed chosen the first two winners: 

Amy won the Zeo Sleep Manager...yay Amy!
Jenn won the Withings Scale...which she will LOVE!

Yay for you ladies!  There's another great giveaway tomorrow!
Random thing number one: 
70 degrees on January 31?  Yes, please. 
We are playground hoppers.  There are several in our area and if the day is warm enough (tolerable for mom) and dry enough, we go.  With boys, you HAVE to get outside.  Trying to contain their brand of crazy indoors is just a recipe for disaster. 
Random thing number 2:
I can't share what's going on here but once again I am standing on the threshold of HOPE.  If you've been here long, you know what to pray for.  Let's just say, it takes a LOT of work to be STEADY regardless of circumstances and how you are treated.  I give myself a B- so far.  I hope I can share lots of great things soon but for now I am hanging to Romans 12:17, Proverbs 25:22, and Psalm 112:7.
Word.
Random thing number 3:  Maps are everywhere.  Versions of this embroidery are everywhere.  Here's my version. :)

I hope your week is going LOVELY. :) I've been getting up in the wee hours of the mornings to read and pray.  If you have a specific request that I can bring to the attention of Jesus on your behalf, I would be honored to do so...just leave a comment on this post or feel free to email me.   I mean it.  Anything.  Nothing but love here.

xo
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custom order sunday.

Hello friends!
A happy, happy Sunday to you!
Here's a little taste of what I've been working on.
This is my newest hoop design.  Simple and sweet and made with little (or big) girls in mind.  I just love it and the sweet message it delivers.  You can buy one here.
And if you've ever wondered "Could Crystal really make a hoho for me out of what I have?".
Let this example put that to rest.  I was sent this obviously, very loved and treasured lovey. 
And though it took a bit of thinking and planning...
I think the resulting hohos turned out very cute. :) I was able to reinforce the stronger areas of the blanket and make it sturdy enough to make hoho parts.  Now the original owners children will have a little bit of their mom to be with them always.  Don't you LOVE them?  I do. :) 
In some cases, I only use what you send me...in others I add to it...either way, it is always a HUGE honor for me to be entrusted with something so meaningful to someone and to create something for them to love all over again.  Keepsake hohos are my FAVORITE hoho's to make.  You can order one for yourself right here.   
And, I don't know why I never thought of this, but I added a little bow to the girl ones. :) Eeek! I love them and I hope their new owners will, too.
And my poor little hoho got into it with the pavement and lost. Thankfully nothing was broken, teeth or otherwise and in the end he was more irritated than anything. 
Don't worry...it hasn't subdued his sass or spunk.  :)

Happy Sunday to you!!
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my problem with homeschooling.

This post will be largely vulnerable for me.  So please take that into account when you comment or email me, OK?  I mean no harm to anyone, am judging no ones choices and am telling all that I have to tell from MY experiences.  OK?

So, if you have been around here for long, you will recall that I have an ongoing issue with the whole to home school or not home school bit.  I have prayed over it and read about it and researched it and done everything I could to work it out.  It was tough.  I was confused for some time.  I was not convinced that homeschooling was for us, but I couldn't let it go.  I began to wonder if God was indeed calling me to home school, which would make for some serious changes in our lives, which, if that was what God wanted me to do, then I would do it.  I know he equips the called to His purposes and that he would do the same for me.  At the same time, homeschooling was not sitting well with me.  Not in what I would expect the normal unsettling feelings would be but more of a "there is something more to this" kind of feeling.  So I kept praying.  And reading.  And researching.  And God kept revealing.

And as I walked through it all, I came to realize that my decision (I say mine, because it was MY issue) on whether or not to send Moses to public school or not, had very little to do with sending Moses to public school or not.  Yes, you may need to read that again. 

You see, God has been working on my hidden issues and hurts.  Ways that are hindering me, and my parenting, and my marriage and my being a friend.  Ways that the enemy LOVES to use because we can't see them.  Because we don't know they are there.  Hurts that are so deep and hidden that they are mysterious even to their owners.  However, much like a torrent wind blowing through the yard, just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there and doesn't mean it can't do harm. 
I have a fierce calling to protect my kids.  I would even venture to say that it is even more so than your average mom.  I'm not saying I am more loving or better or more concerned than your average mom, I just have a past that tries to force up walls when it comes to protecting my kids.  I have no naturally healthy example of appropriate ways to protect my kids...so my defense is all walls up.  I remove those walls one at a time as I learn appropriate and good ways to let them venture out on their own.  If I have ever left you alone with one of my kids...just let me say, that is the highest honor that I could ever, ever, EVER bestow on anyone.  If I have left my kids in your care (and there aren't many of you) it's because I trust you fully to put yourself second when it comes to my kids well being, to look out for their innocence and guard it will all you have.  A pretty high calling for a babysitter, no? 

I guess I should say HAD no healthy example.  God is changing that by being my wonderful and perfect Father. 

I know that things happened to me, physically, spiritually, mentally and sexually that would not have happened had I been protected in the right ways.  My childhood could have been extended...my innocence could have lingered longer.  Some things you just know.  

One of my top parenting goals is to protect my kids from 90% of what I was exposed to as a child.  Their innocence and childhoods are some of my most precious treasures. 

I mean to protect them from things.  And I don't mean normal childhood things.  Those things I can deal with with relative ease.  I am not overly concerned with broken arms or bouts of vomit or attitudes.  Those things I expect and can deal with because they are normal.

I am talking out of the norm, things kids should never have to deal with.  Childhood stealing things.  Things that could be prevented with a little due diligence things.  Innocence stealing things.  Joy stealing things.  Spirit crushing and soul disparaging things.  Years of therapy and counseling things.  Things that only the healing salve of Jesus can heal things.

Things that I was dipped, rolled and breaded in as a child.  Things that I sought healing for (from the wrong source) and was called a liar for speaking of.   

And that is where Jesus met me with this particular journey.  I was called out by the one who knows me best.  I heard him clear as day explain to me "Your issue is not to home school or not, it's about protecting your kids in a way that you were never protected". 

Touche'.  A glorious and wonderful revealing moment.  I was finally released from the "to or not to home school" question.  My issue WAS how can I protect my kids if I send them into the big scary world...doesn't that mean I don't love them...or want to care for them...or want to protect them?  Doesn't that mean I'm not doing my job as a parent seeking to do my VERY best at my very favorite occupation?  No, no, no.  All I was really saying is "God, you didn't protect me, how can I trust you to protect them?".   

God used a blazingly bright issue to light up an issue in the dark.

And often times, as it goes, acknowledging an issue makes it easier to deal with.  And dismember.  When you know what you are working with you can seek the truths that apply to that situation.  And God is always good to give them to you if you ask.   

God has been building columns for me.  The kind on a crisp, clean and white piece of paper.   In one column are ways He is equipping me as a parent.  The tools and words and scripture He is showing me.  In another column are ways those tools are manifesting themselves in my kids.  Ways that show me that they are secure and feel loved and ARE PROTECTED.  In one more column are the people he is placing in my life at just the right moments to tell me that my kids are awesome and that we are doing a good job...the teachers and friends and family who know my kids and I best.

He has shown me that I am a different kind of parent.  And that my kids will benefit greatly from that.  I am NOT my past.  My kids will not have the same damaging childhood.  They will maintain innocence and childhood joy for just as long as I can grip it.

Homeschooling is not an issue.  Does Kindergarten still scare me?  YES!  But in a normal person kind of way.  God has been good to clear out the cobwebs and shed light where it is needed.

I am "good" as a parent, fully equipped now?  No way. I will be learning how to parent until I die, but where I am at now, is a good good place.  The perfect platform for learning and growing.

And just in case you need some boosts in your journey, I thought I would share some of my favorite "parenting books" with you...

The first is not shown but it's my Bible.  I use an app in my iPhone called YouVersion.  You can choose a plan that suits you.  I use the Bible in a year version and it takes about 15 minutes a day to read.  Skip reading anything else before you skip this.  I can't emphasis how much of a difference in makes in my life.  Each time through the Bible is like a new book for me.     
This is my current repertoire.  I get up an hour before the boys do to drink my coffee and read.  It's time well spent and it sets my day up right.  I love sleep but giving up some of it reaps major benefits for everyone in my family. 
"How to talk so Kids will listen" is cute in that it was written by two older ladies in the early 80s but the lessons are timeless and have already done wonders in communicating with my sensitive child.
The other two are AMAZING as well. 
This book I bought when I was needing a book that just confirmed that my boys are NORMAL.  I did not want a religiously slanted book.  I did not want theories or ideas.  I wanted scientific confirmation that when my four year old acts like a wild banshee that it is normal and even expected.  I run to this book if I am ever worried whether some behavior is normal or not.  I HIGHLY recommend this book.
And this book...has saved lives in my house.  It did miraculous wonders for my boys.  And to this day they are great sleepers and bed time is a non issue.  Bedtime is EASY and SMOOTH and SHORT.  People who have witnessed my boys going to bed are usually impressed because it just happens.  No drama or screaming or long drawn out mess.  They go to bed.  The end.  And the foundation for their great sleep is THIS book.  Buy this book. :)

So that is my two cents.  My disclaimer is this:  this is all about my issues and journey.  Homeschooling is and can be awesome.  Public school is and can be awesome.  It's all about finding our own distinct paths in this world and helping our kids do the same.  Just thought I would share a slice of my journey in the hopes that maybe someone out there needs a little of the same revelation that I did.      
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i heart narwhals.

Little known fact about me?
I am in love with and obsessed with Narwhals. 
Who needs Unicorns when something like this REALLY exists? 
I will take one of each of the following please. :)
Print by House of Tender Beasts.
I could totally rock this t-shirt.  Yes, I could.  In a large. 
Because Etsy shirts are meant for teeny women. 
T-shirt by GnomEnterprises.
Look how fat and cute he is?!  Yes, please.  
Pendant by Metal Smitten. 
Be still my heart.  My wall needs this.  
Print by Black Apple.
Ummmm...a Narwhal cardigan?  Has there ever been an article of clothing more meant for me? 
Cardigan by Marty May.

My favorite thing about Narwhals is telling people about them.  And then trying to convince them that they are actually real things.  They are.  Google them. 

Happy Tuesday!
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what i made for monday-hoho cake aka OMG cake.

I just know, given the nature of people, that someone out there is either confused or offended that I seem to be going back and forth between exercise/health posts and posting about dessert. 

Well, I am not sure there is a proper defense for this other than, this is who I am.  I exercise.  I eat.  I eat dessert.  I see nothing wrong with baking a yummy dessert.  And eating it.  In case you wonder, when I do make something yummy, 98% of the time I farm out 95% of it.  Yep.  I make something, I get a portion, my family gets a portion and then I send the rest out into the world.  To Doug's coworkers, to Moses' teachers, to neighbors and friends across the country...to people who need a little food lovin'. 

I use food to make people feel loved.  I've said before, it's my love language.  I make food and I share it.  That's what I do.  Food is not the enemy.  I dare say, that if you have an issue with food, chances are you have a completely OTHER issue that you are blaming food for and using food to fix.
That is just my thought and defense on the subject.  Back to some OMG cake, okay?

This cake is called Hoho cake.  As in those little rolled cakes that come premade?  I don't eat them so I can't even tell you who makes them...they are chocolate and cream filled and covered in more chocolate.  Know what I am talking about?  I wasn't sure I would like this cake because I don't like hoho's...but I am SO thankful to have plowed ahead and tried it anyways.  And you will be too!

It is SO SO good!  The "filling" layer is AMAZING and wonderful and is so well complimented by the chocolate cake and the chocolate frosting.  So good.  So.  Good. 
I used a combination of recipes.  You CAN use a box chocolate cake mix if you want to do so...but I'm just not a fan of them.  So...

For the cake I used this one from The Pioneer Woman:
Best Chocolate Cake
Ingredients
FOR THE CAKE:
2 cups Flour
2 cups Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
2 sticks Butter
1 cup Boiling Water
1/2 cup Buttermilk 
(I didn't have this so I made some using 1c of milk plus one TBL of lemon juice.  
Let it sit mixed for five minutes before using)2 whole Beaten Eggs
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Vanilla

Preparation Instructions: I used 10 by 14in pan coated with cooking spray. 

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together.  Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool. 

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 25-28 minutes.

For the filling/frosting I used these recipes from How Sweet It Is:

For the filling layer:

1 cup butter room temp
1/2 cup milk
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and slowly add milk and vanilla. Add powdered sugar and salt, beating until mixture is thick, combined and spreadable.  You may need to beat it for some time.  Spread in an even layer on chocolate cake. Set in the freezer for 15 minutes or so while you make the chocolate frosting.

For chocolate frosting:
1/2 cup butter room temp
3/4 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
8-10 tablespoons of water, added one at a time
Cream butter and vanilla. Add cocoa powder and powdered sugar until combined. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture is easy to spread. 
Remove cake from freezer and frost. Store in the fridge.


Make it this week.  You won't regret it.  Make it and share it.  Give some food lovin'. 

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20 minute crafter-Superhero Valentines (with FREE printable)

So I will start by stating that these Superhero Valentines are totally inspired by the ones that I found on Zakka Life.  I saw them.  Loved them.  And knew instantly that Moses would love them and simultaneously have an issue with them.  The issue would be "What superhero are they?"  And sure enough, I showed them to him and he asked "What superhero are they supposed to be?".  :)
So with the help of my favorite Designer, Sara, I present you with Superhero specific Valentine pops. 
Moses loves them...and is already excited to take them to his class.  If you recall, the sole reason that Moses wanted to go to school in the first place was Valentines.  Getting and giving them.  
Here is what you need to make them:
Superhero Printables FREE from Less Ordinary Designs
stiff felt (from Micheals)
hole punch
2in paper punch (or you can use scissors)
coordinating ribbon
lollypops (tootsie pops have nice superhero colors)
glue (hot or craft will work)
cape template (that YOU make)
Start by punching out your superhero circles.
Emblems are for the capes and the messages are for the lolly sticks. 
Cut out your capes using your pattern.
 Glue the superhero emblems onto the capes. 
 Using your hole punch, punch a hole in the top center of each cape. 
Slide the lollypop through the hole and tie a coordinating ribbon on below.
It helps to twist the pop in like a screw almost.
Punch a hole in the top and bottom of each message printable circle and slide onto the stick.
Yay!  You are done and your OCD child will be happy! :)
I love them.  Moses loves them.  Everyone is happy.  

Hope your day is SUPER! :)

Thanks to Sara for the awesome free printable! :)
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Inspiration to Fitness-Num 2

Ugh. This week I hit a roadblock. My intentions for exercise were almost immediately sideswiped by a nasty head cold that has made it difficult to stand let alone exercise.

BUT. This will not stop me.  Since I have had to be, out of necessity, light on exercise this week, I took this opportunity to look at other areas of my life that need a little "Inspiration to Fitness". I have actually found that focusing on other areas to improve upon, has made me EXCITED to feel well enough to exercise. Weird, right? Looking at the photo from last week makes me WANT to get up off my bum and get to work...but first, standing without being dizzy needs to come, right?



So, what have I been focusing on during this time?  Diet, for one.  What are ways that I can improve it? I've started by trying to add in more fresh things...a friend once shared a quote that said something to the effect of "What is left behind when you are done eating? Wrappers and bags or peels and shells?". There is an obvious good choice there and I have been trying to have the latter be the majority.

Another area I am focusing on is, EATING breakfast. Like a real one and not just a huge cup of coffee. ; I have been pouring through Alysa's blog to glean any and all ideas I can find on the subject of breakfast and making healthy food choices in general.

Because really, who can deny that when you eat better, you FEEL better.  And I don't mean deprivation, but moderation.

I have also been paying attention to how much water I am taking in (MORE!) and trying to get to bed at a decent time.  Both of which are crucial items to overall fitness, right?

In a way, being sick this week has MADE me take the time to set up a good foundation of habits that will hopefully help me to continue way beyond the eight weeks that this program is supposed to be.  Any moment now I would like to feel better and get to work on the hard stuff.

And like I said, though I have been light on exercise this week, all that I have focused on has made my will to meet my goals even stronger.

How about you? Have you started a new regime this year? How are you doing?

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for an awesome new Wythings scale!




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pretty work.

You know what my favorite orders are?  The ones where I get an email, the person ordering says "I need something kinda like this"...shares a kinda vague idea and lets me run with it. 
And you know what?  They usually get my very best because creativity can just flow unrestrained.   
My friend Beth requested something reminiscent of a state fair with some gingham thrown in for her daughters 5th birthday. 
What resulted is one of my most favorite things to make ever...the ideas just came coming and it all came together so nicely.
 From the sweet little "blue ribbon piggy"...
 ...with button details and a hand stitched face...
 ...to layers of tulle and vintage pompoms...
 ...I just kept adding details as they came to me...it was FUN to make and easy because I just knew that Beth would love it because she is always so appreciative of the creative process and creative people in general.
And then, when I thought I was done, this HAD to be made...one of those "I have to make this NOW", kinds of ideas. 
 And what little birthday girl doesn't want a fancy little crown?
Just a sweet little extra detail that I hope will make the birthday girl feel all the more special.  I may just need to add these to the shop...SO fun to make!  
I'm so thankful that THIS is my job.  What a blessing.

xo
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what i made for monday-lemon (y) chex muddy buddies

This Monday snack was inspired by two things...1) my craving for a taste of summer and 2) an abundance of leftover chex mix supplies from Christmas.  The result is a light and fresh tasting snack that I can't seem to stop eating!  Want to make some?
So I knew I wanted to make a version of this...but every recipe I found seemed to have the same complaint...either a soggy result or a bland taste.  So I came up with my own recipe that solved both problems. :) These are light, crunchy and have just enough lemon taste to make it wonderful and lemony.  
Here is what you will need:
12 heaping cups of chex...I used a mix of rice and corn.  Put into a HUGE bowl or a 2 gallon zip bag

1 1/4 cups of candy melts (vanilla) I happened to have yellow in my cabinet
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tsp of lemon extract
1/4 cup of butter NOT margarine

2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.
I put in all (except chex and powdered sugar) in my 2 cup glass measuring cup, microwaved for 45 seconds, stirred, microwaved for 30 seconds, stirred, microwaved for 30 seconds (got distracted by something shiny and it bubbled over), stirred until it all became one smooth mix.

If you pay attention to your microwave and aren't distracted by shiny things, you can prevent it from boiling over.  OR you can put it in a larger melting bowl.  BONUS: my microwave is now clean!
Once you have nice smooth melted mix...pour it over your chex evenly and stir it up to coat it all.

If you are using the bag zip it up and shake to coat it all. 
Add 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.
Stir until everything is coated with sugar.
If you are using the bag method add the sugar and zip it closed, shake it up again to coat. 
Once everything is thoroughly coated with sugar, dump it out onto cookie sheets to cool completely.
DON'T leave it in the bag...it will make it soggy. 

Enjoy!  That was easy right?  Good luck not eating it.  Be sure to share with friends! Or send some to work with your husband! :)
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