Transitioning from Christmas Decor to Winter

I am probably the only person who will say this, but I miss my farmhouse Christmas decorations that I shared with you here. As January rolls around and we wind down from Christmas and New Years, our home looks so bare after we pack away the Christmas decor. This year I decided I wanted to keep some semblance of winter and the outdoors.

I tried to repurpose things for the sake of my budget, but I did add something new to our winter decor. Neutrals accessories are a great way to celebrate winter. Personalized pillows are great because you can use them year round. I decided to make this personalized pillow to celebrate my sweet marriage. We will be married exactly 23 1/2 years on Valentine’s Day! You can make one easily with materials for a pillow, a vinyl cutter like a Silhouette Cameo. You can also order one like this or request a custom design here.

pillow couple date watermarked

There’s nothing wrong with repurposing, so that’s what i did with my garlands, pinecones, and snowflakes from my Christmas decor.

Moving snowflakes from the tree to our china cabinet was easy. I simply tied them from some twine. I used a couple of the grapevine wreaths but removed the holly, berries and ribbon.

winter china cabinet decor

Making a snowflake garland took me less than ten minutes by simply stringing plastic snowflakes and crocheted snowflakes onto some jute twine.

winter snowflake garland mantle

Filling boxes and vases with the doorway and archway garlands was just as simple as moving them from one spot to the next. I added pinecones or dead branches to the centerpieces.

winter tablescape

winter entry foyer decor 2

winter centerpiece

I reluctantly put away my porch Christmas trees and filled our galvanized buckets with pinecones and kindling from the yard. I added some cute personalized decals. I decided I wanted to welcome my guests as well as honor our family with each of the decals.

winter buckets and decals

Investing in a grapevine wreath is one way to make decorating easier on you. I have a neutral bow at the top with a wooden initial hanging on mine. I add different seasonal items to it by winding them through the vine or attaching with floral wire, and then I change them out with the seasons. For winter, I added some dried boxwood and snowflake ornaments.

winter porch decor

I utilized the other side of the “Our Savior’s Birth” sign and created a “Let it Snow” design. I made this with my vinyl cutter as well. I’ve really enjoyed having my Silhouette Cameo, but more importantly I have been truly blessed by the way God is using our family’s small business. He has allowed me to help people gift so many custom and personalized gifts to their loved ones for all sorts of reasons and occasions. Their stories are so touching! He’s also developed our talents and gifts in ways that enable us to take clients’ ideas and create all sorts of custom treasures for them and their loved ones! This sign is definitely one of my favorites, but I sure would like to see some of God’s real snowflakes, too!

winter let it snow sign

It may not be snowing here, but we do get our share of cold weather. Curling up on the couch with my blanket and a cup of coffee or cocoa is one of my favorite winter pastimes. I didn’t have to think twice about leaving our cocoa and coffee bar out. It’s been a huge hit for our family and our guests this year.

winter cocoa bar decor

I added little touches of snowflake ornaments and confetti on our bar accessories, too.

winter utensil holder

I actually left the lighted garland on our screened back porch and also left the tabletop Christmas tree, but removed the bow and ornaments leaving it looking more like a simple plant on our table.

I know Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, but I think I’ll leave my snowflake and nature decor out and simply add some hearts and love scriptures throughout our home. These snowflake decorations may be the only snowflakes we see this year in SC. I think I’ll keep them up until spring!

Names of Jesus Ornaments with Christmas Devotions

christmas-ornaments-watermarkedIn years past we’ve used a Jesse Tree and devotions during the Christmas season.  A few years ago I was pinning some of my favorite Christmas crafts I came across a picture of some beautifully crafted glass ornaments with the names of Jesus on them.  I repinned the post and read later (like most of us do when we are short on time).  I really liked this idea, because I ADORE anything that reminds me of all of the names of my precious Jesus.  I also liked the idea that each of my children could make their own set of ornaments to celebrate the advent season.  Not only could they use them to decorate their own trees in their rooms, but they could also keep them over the years and share them with their children.

I began researching and found an awesome Names of Jesus unit study here from the Easy Fun School website.  It teaches 24 names of Jesus, scripture, handwriting pages, word searches, and activities for each subject which are tied to the lesson.  The study actually includes a list of all of the names of Jesus so you can study even more. We did this study and made these ornaments years ago, but my children still use these today and they plan to use their ornaments in their own home some day.

To create our Names of Jesus ornaments and Bible study, I went to my craft closet and gathered all of my supply bins.  I purchased sets of fillable glass ornaments for each child (and one for myself).  I would get extra in case some break.  You can also purchase acrylic ornaments, but they are more costly.

You could utilize paint pens in black, gold and silver to write the names of Jesus and the scripture reference on the outside of the ornaments or you could purchase vinyl decals here.

There are lots of options for decorating the ornaments:

  1. You could pour a small amount of paint into the inside of the ornament, cover the whole and shake. You can also swirl a few colors into the ornaments to give them a marbelized effect. Then be sure to turn the ornament upside down and put it into a bathroom sized paper or plastic cup to drain for a day or two.
  2. I love the look of glittered ornaments, but glitter on the outside is extremely messy. Polycrylic is a clean and beautiful way to glitter ornaments. Simply pour a little polycrylic into the ornament and immediately turn the ornament upside down into a cup to drain out the excess. Then sprinkle a little of your favorite color glitter into the ornament and slowly turn the ornament around in your hands to coat the entire inside with glitter. Add more if needed. Then turn the ornament upside down into another cup to allow the excess glitter to sprinkle out. Then you can immediately put your top back into your ornament. You can pour your excess glitter and polycrylic from your cups back into their respective containers. e of the ornaments, squirt small amounts of paint inside and shake.  You can swirl more than one color inside as well.
  3. Fill ornaments with trinkets that pertain to the scripture reference. For example, for “Bright and Morning Star” we filled our ornament with star confetti. We didn’t completely fill our ornaments with trinkets as sometimes that makes the label on the outside difficult to read. You can also see the trinkets better as well.

You can easily fill ornaments with sweet trinkets. However, I found that it could be quite pricey to fill them completely so I only fill ours half way to be thrify. It also makes it easier to see the trinkets when there is still room inside the ornament. Be creative with your trinkets. If you need some inspiration, here are some ideas:

1. Alpha & Omega–fill with cutouts of the Alpha & Omega symbol.
2. Wonderful Counselor–fill with paint or glitter or beads or filler.
3. Mighty God–fill with cutouts of barbels or gold ball filler or beads.
4. Everlasting Father–fill with artificial pine needles or paint green for evergreens.
5. Prince of Peace–fill with dove confetti or cutouts of doves or crowns or artificial snow filler.
6. The Firstborn of Every Creature– Fill ornament with birthday candles or birthday confetti.
7. The Unspeakable Gift–we made cutouts of gifts using small construction paper or gift-shaped confetti or little bows.
8. Lamb of God–fill with cotton or fiberfill.
9. The Good Shepherd-fill with cutouts of shepherd staffs or mini candy canes.
10. Bright & Morning Star-fill with star-shaped sequins.
11. Messiah–glitter or paint.
12. Immanuel–another filled with paint, glitter, sequins, or beads.
13. Holy–glitter or paint.
14. Light of the World–mini light ornaments or mini light bulbs (just be sure they will fit in the hole of the ornament).

15. Dayspring–glitter or gold, pink, orange paint to represent the colors of a sunrise.
16. The Word–In small font, I printed John 1:1 on paper, cut out multiple, curl, and put inside ornament or Bible confetti.
17. Servant–I printed a small picture of Jesus washing the disciples feet and put inside ornament or paint/glitter.
18. King–Fill with gems or crowns.
19. Rose of Sharon–Fill with real or silk rose petals.
20. Lily of the Valley–Fill with silk lily petals, paint or glitter.
21. Friend–Fill with paint, glitter, sequins or beads.
22. Savior–Fill with cutout crosses or cross shaped beads
23. Shiloh–Fill with paint, glitter, sequins or beads.
24. Ancient of Days–Fill with paint, glitter, sequins or beads.

When your ornaments are all dry you can store them in their box or put them in a bowl, etc.  You can begin utilizing them in whatever fashion works for your family.  We started on December 1st and will follow the study daily for 24 days as a family during our night time devotions, but this is a unit study so you could actually use it during your homeschool day.  During our devotions, we study the name and verse.  We have chosen activities from each day to do together as a family.  Then we close in prayer and each of us puts our ornament of the day on the tree.  Sometimes we put them on the tree. Other years we put them in a crystal bowl or wooden box on our table so we can reflect on the names each time we pass through or sit down to eat in the heart of our home.

If you need simplicity this Christmas season, you can purchase a set of 12 Names of Jesus ornaments here. They come with printed scripture reference and prayer focus. I pray your family is able to utilize this and other ways to enjoy celebrating Jesus throughout the Christmas season.

20 Valentine’s Day Dates and Gifts on a Budget

Valentine's Day Dates on a Budget #budget #datenight #valentinesday www.ruckusandrubies.com

Your loved one is so very special to you, and you want to make Valentine’s Day special. Unfortunately, we just had Christmas and your wallet is empty. I know exactly how you feel. My sweet husband and I have had our share broken budgets on Valentine’s Days over the past 23 years that we’ve been together.

Over the years, we’ve come up with some sweet, budget-friendly dates for Valentine’s Day or any date night. Basically, you just need to think of things you enjoy doing together and plan accordingly. Sometimes it’s even better not to plan. Spontaneity is very romantic!

20 Valentine’s Day Dates and Gifts on a Budget

  • Pack your favorite picnic foods. Take your sweetheart to a quiet local park, hillside, mountain, beach, and arrive just before sunset. Enjoy your picnic dinner and watch the sunset together.
  • Plan a romantic dinner for two at home by asking the grandparents or friends to watch the children. Cook dinner together and enjoy your dinner by candlelight.
  • Go back in time and recreate one of your favorite dates or even your first date.
  • Utilize the internet and apps to search for coupons to keep these dating spots budget friendly:
    • Ice skating rink
    • Bowling alley
    • Restaurants
    • Movies
    • Mini golf
    • Concerts
    • Ballets
    • Plays
    • Sporting events
    • Bed and Breakfast
  • Write love letters or poems to each other.
  • Try to remember a time when your sweetheart was complaining about a problem. Surprise them by fixing it if possible. I love it when my sweet husband fixes something my clumsiness has broken. It shows he is paying attention and cares about the little things that bug me.
  • Write or sing a song to your sweetheart.
  • I am a list maker. If your sweetheart is to, try to nab their to-do list and take care of as many things as you can on the list.
  • Treat your sweetheart to breakfast in bed.
  • Make your sweetheart a thoughtful, crafty gift from the heart.
  • Make a coupon book of your sweetheart’s favorite activities.
  • Take a long walk hand-in-hand.
  • Orchestrate a scavenger hunt with clues and little inexpensive gifts like favorite candies, snacks, etc.
  • Hold your own prom in your living room. Get all dressed up and dance the night away.
  • Watch old romantic movies together. Don’t forget the box of tissues!!
  • Talk and listen. I know it means a lot to me when my sweet husband cares enough to let me vent to him about my struggles, and I listen to his, and we pray for each other.
  • Watch your wedding video and reminisce over photo albums.
  • Discuss and set goals and dreams for your future.
  • Simply plan nothing. Set aside time in your calendar for your sweetie and then just enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes the best days are when you have nothing on the agenda at all. Just let the Lord guide your time together.
  • Plan and begin a Bible study or devotional series together. These studies are amazing:

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be expensive. All you need is a little thoughtfulness! Putting God at the center of your relationship will help you celebrate your sweetheart every day of the year!

Valentine’s Decorating on a Budget

valentineornament closeupAfter the expense of decorating for Christmas, your budget may be a little tight for Valentine’s Day. Today I thought I’d share some budget Valentine decorations with you.  My style is–how would I describe my style? It’s romantic, shabby chic, vintage, traditional-country…well you get the idea.

I made some precious rosebuds for just a couple of dollars. All you need is:

It doesn’t take much artistic ability to make these roses. All you really have to do is play with the crepe paper a little. Picture a rosebud in your mind, or search for a picture of a rosebud on the internet.

Start by folding the end of the crepe paper like this:

creperoses1

Then gently fold the triangle over to the inside:

crepe paper roses #valentine #crafts #decoratingonabudget www.ruckusandrubies.com

Now gently and without creasing, fold the top of the ribbon toward the back:

creperoses3

Begin rolling the crepe paper making the center of the bud.  As you roll the crepe paper toward you allowing the top of the ribbon to fall a little toward the back, it makes the beginning of a petal:

Next you twist the crepe paper and it creates the division between petals that you see:

crepe paper roses #valentine #crafts #decoratingonabudget www.ruckusandrubies.com

Continue this process loosely rolling and folding until you reach the desired size of your bud. Then you can simply glue the end around the bottom of the bud:

creperoses5

Decide what you’d like to do with the buds.

crepe paper roses #valentine #crafts #decoratingonabudget www.ruckusandrubies.com

I opted to make a flower ball ornament.

valentineornament closeup

Using hot glue, begin gluing each bud to the Styrofoam ball. Be sure to alternate the colors if you’d like a multi-colored ornament, or you can use just one single color:

Tie a knot in the center of a ribbon to give your glue more coverage and glue the knot to the ball. Once the glue has cooled and the ribbon is secure, tie the top of the ribbon into a bow so you can hang it anywhere:

valentine ornament

I made lots of extra buds and used them to scatter throughout my favorite hat box, along with some snowflake Christmas ornaments and silk rose petals leftover from another year. You and your children could make sweet paper snowflake ornaments:

valentine hat box

If you’d rather not make your ornaments, an inexpensive decoration is a lantern. You can use them as intended or fill them with all sorts of holiday trinkets. I use my lantern throughout my home as well as on my front porch. I just change the decorations on the inside and sometimes I put a bow on the top. Here’s one I used last year as my centerpiece:

valentine lantern

I just adore vintage Valentines. I found these online and printed them. I attached them to some burlap and used some brown twine to make a Valentine garland. I added a few red polka dot bows between the Valentines. Nothing fancy, but so precious:

valentine garland

If you have a Silhouette you use Silhouette graphics to make adorable Valentine plates. This graphic is really pretty:

Valentine Plate

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know birds are a passion of mine. This lovebird graphic goes well with the monogram of my husband and myself:

valentine plate 2

You could make a wooden or cardstock sign with a Silhouette, too!

valentine sign

Remember, you don’t have to have a big budget to fill your home with reminders of God’s love and your love for your family!  My favorite craft projects are those traditional, all time-favorites using everyday materials from my home, gathering around the table with my sweet family making memories!

Gingerbread House Alternative

 

Building gingerbread houses is a favorite tradition at Christmas time.  As you may know I have one child with gluten allergy, one with gluten sensitivity, and one with soy allergy. Most gingerbread house kits contain these allergens. So do most graham crackers which is what many people use instead of kits.

For the past few years I have made homemade gluten free gingerbread dough, rolled it out, and cut out pieces with a template and baked them. It’s not much more effort than anything else I do for my children with food allergies. I really wouldn’t have it any other way because almost everything I make is from scratch.  Even if they didn’t have food allergies, I’d still prefer to make that effort because homemade foods are much healthier.

However, we’ve had a busy break so far. Some of our traditional activities have sneaked up on me.  So today was the best day for us to make our gingerbread houses, but I did not have time to make them from scratch. There are no stores near us that sell gluten and soy free graham crackers.

I did some research and found a wonderful alternative: cereal treats. You know, those old favorites made from crisped rice cereal or cornflakes and marshmallows. I rushed out to my local store and they were all out of gluten free crisped rice cereal. So, I scanned the aisle and racked my brain for a good substitute.  Cocoa Pebbles were my choice. They do contain more chemicals and sugar than crisped rice, but they are gluten and soy free, and they are brown–perfect for a house!

So I gathered up some of their favorite gluten and soy free candies.  I grabbed some marshmallows, ingredients for icing, and rushed home for some fun with my two youngest blessings.

When I arrived home I made a batch of treats using the traditional Rice Crispy recipe.

Gluten Free Rice Crispy or Cocoa Pebble Treats
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 10 oz bag mini marshmallows
  • 6 cups

Melt butter in a stock pot.  Pour in marshmallows and continuously stir until melted. Dump in the cereal and coat completely with melted marshmallows.

I greased two mini loaf pans, packed most of the mixture into the pans, and inverted the pans onto a plate or cardboard. Then I put them into the freezer to set and harden a little.

Once they were set, I dumped them out of the pans back onto the plates or cardboard. I used the remaining mixture to make roofs for the houses. I greased my hands and molded roofs into the shape of triangles onto the houses. Then I put the houses back into the freezer to finish setting.

While they were setting, I made homemade soy free, gluten free buttercream icing.

Buttercream Icing
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • pinch of salt

Soften and cream butter, milk, and vanilla. Gradually and slowly add powdered sugar while mixing. Add salt. Mix until nice and smooth. Add icing to piping bags or use plastic zipper storage bags by cutting a small corner of the bag after filling.

Allow kids to squeeze or spread icing onto their houses wherever they would like to add accents of snow and candy. We used gluten and soy free sprinkles, gumdrops, peppermints, candy canes, and holiday Skittles. I melted soy free, gluten free chocolate chips into a square plastic dish, froze it, and broke the hardened chocolate to make shingles or stones for pathways. You could decorate with peppermint flavored marshmallows, gummy bears, or red hots, too.

One of the best things about these houses is NO ROYAL ICING! Let’s face it–it’s not that tasty. We weren’t wishing we were an octopus trying to hold panels of gingerbread or graham crackers waiting for the royal icing to harden like glue. Many times in the past our houses have broken during the decorating phase, but not these!

My twins made some beautiful houses this year, and we had so much fun! gbreadhouse2gbreadhouse1

New Years Resolutions for Our Homeschool

new-year-586148_1280
New Years Resolutions for Our Homeschool #homeschool www.ruckusandrubies.com

I cannot believe 2015 is coming to an end.  It seems the homeschool years fly by faster and faster with each passing year. Our children are growing up at record speed! There is so much to teach them about academics and life and so little time.

New Years offers a wonderful opportunity for life lessons with reflection and setting new commitments. We typically call them resolutions, but I’m not sure I like the flippant way society treats resolutions these days. These days resolutions are broken all to easily. If we look at resolutions on more of a spiritual level we realize they are more than just goals. They are commitments. Why settle for having just a good homeschool, when you can have the best homeschool? In order to accomplish this, we need to faithfully commit to the New Years resolutions for our homeschool.

Today I’m sharing with you the New Years resolutions for our homeschool for 2016:

  1. Keep God first in our homeschool. We need to stay committed to prioritizing our day by beginning, ending, and focusing on God through prayer, Bible memorization, reading and discussing His Word, faith-based curriculum, and homeschooling. If we seek Him first, He’ll take care of the rest.
  2. Be more like Christ. We are planning  to study our Bible more and plan more service opportunities for the second half of the year. We want our homeschool journey to be one of growth, outreach, and blessing to us and others. We can spend all the time in the world learning academics, but it won’t do our children any good in this life if they haven’t learned to be like Jesus. True success is measured by how many lives we change.
  3. Smell the Roses. The beginning of the year seems to be so rushed. We jump in with both feet and sprint through the first semester. Many times we miss opportunities for life lessons, cuddling on the couch, sweet discussions with our children. It’s true that they will be grown before you know it. We are so stressed and rushed.  We don’t want to pass these bad habits on to our children.  So take a slow down, take a deep breath, and smell the roses.
  4. Stay up-to-date on paperwork. Oftentimes we get lazy and push aside things that need to be done because we are just too tired. We fit our homeschool schedule around everything else in our lives. It should be the other way around so we are committing to keeping our grading and paperwork current.  That may mean we will need to say no to some opportunities, but it will be worth it in the end because we won’t have a pile of paperwork to do.
  5. More hands on activities, less seat work. By this time of the year, we are becoming weary and are ready for summer break. Livening things up a bit with activities will help us stay motivated during the second semester. Shake up the hum drum a little bit with games, crafts, and field trips.

If you are in need of an overhaul on your homeschool this year and want to start the New Year organized and prepared, check out this wonderful faith-based curriculum:

Sit down with your family and set some New Years resolutions for your homechool. I’m praying for you and your homeschool journey in 2016. May it be successful and fruitful! It is my hope that when summer break arrives, you’ll be able to look back on 2015-16 with little or no regret and an overabundance of blessed memories!