Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top 5 posts from 2012

A quick recap of the most-viewed posts from 2012. It has been a whirlwind of a year. Noelle turned 4 and Noah had his first birthday. Nothing has brought me more joy than watching my babies grow and play together. Their little personalities have me bursting into laughter every day. I am grateful beyond words to be their momma.

At the end of July, I opened an Etsy shop after receiving many requests for my Luke 2:11 sign. It has been a dream of mine to be able to do exactly this and thanks to my hard-working husband, my dream came true. He does the grunt work, preparing the wood for staining and putting everything together. My dad was also a huge help as I hustled to get the orders shipped. I've had a wonderful time not only doing something I love, but also getting to know many of my customers who have become friends. Keep an eye out in 2013 for many more designs added to the shop. 

Here are the top 5 posts from 2012. 

Our Family Code was a simple project using our birthday's and wedding anniversary. 

I had the pleasure of hosting my dear friend Megan's Bridal Shower in 2012 and coming in 2013, her baby shower! 

My baby is 4! We hosted a dessert party for Noelle's birthday. She and her friends had a blast watching the dry ice smoke around the "poison" apples and creating their own swords and princess crowns. 

I can't look at a red wagon without tearing up now. They remind me of my sweet baby boy who is now nearly two. I wish I could jump into this post and kiss his chubby cheeks! 

Our Christmas decorations this year have taken off on Pinterest. The mantle piece was so easy to make. Just 7 boards and a light stain with a fresh wreath. 

Thank you for following along on our journey. May you have a blessed 2013.


Friday, November 30, 2012

A Classic Christmas at the Gardner's

This Christmas is classic and cozy with fresh greens in every room. I added a fresh garland to the sofa table, then the mantle, then the dining room and over the kitchen sink. The house has a cabin feel this year and it smells divine. 


I'm loving my "instant collection" of trees. I rounded them up during a Christmas decoration shopping day in November. Hobby Lobby, Marshall's and Home Goods did not disappoint. I love the whimsical-ness they have.


Deep reds and greens with touches of creamy white bring our classic Christmas together.
HOHOHO pillows


On the mantel, Mr. G and I put a faux gate together and on it hung a fresh wreath. A garland and a pinecone pick in the wreath finish off the simple mantle. I used an anti-transpirant spray on the greens to keep them fresh. I hope they last a few more weeks, but I'm having doubts already. I used two 15 ft. garlands from Home Depot for the house. Picking up another 2 for $5 each before Christmas won't break the bank if need be. Another change to the family room is a swap out in rugs. This fluffy shag rug is from Noelle's room.


When decorating our tree I use these steps:
1. Start with any ribbon or garland, 5 times around the tree.
2. Add any themed ornaments evenly around the tree
3. Find spots for your "treasures" (handmade and special ornaments)
4. Fill in with bulbs.


Noah is a big fan of the tree, and the "balls" that hang on it. Which is why the bottom branches are no longer decorated. Little stinker has ran off with several ornaments.

Photobucket Photobucket

Reindeer Figurine 

In the dinning room, more fresh greens are stuffed in a small crate with LED candles and mason jars.

The Luke 2:11 sign hangs above the nativity instead of on the mantle this year.


This corner needed some height. I stacked the suitcases and strung 10 jingle bells on twine.


In the kitchen, a fresh garland is strung above the sink window. The garland will collect all of our cards over the month and into the new year. These are our Christmas cards from the past 4 years, since Noelle's first Christmas.


I used some of the silver decorations from 2011 in the guest bathroom.


Christmas festivities kick off this weekend with our town parade. Parties and events are filling the December schedule and we are going to soak it up.
May your days be merry.

View our 2011 silver and white Christmas decorations

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Organizing Email/Online Coupons into a Photo Album

Online coupons are becoming widely accepted at large retailers. Stores like Target and Michael's will scan coupons on smart phones, eliminating the need for paper coupons.  I usually have both kids with me while running errands and I've found myself panicking during check out, flipping through my inbox for coupons too many times. To resolve this problem, I started organizing my emailed coupons in a photo album on my iPhone and it has been a complete time saver.

When I get an emailed coupon from a store that I frequent (Michael's, JoAnn, Hobby Lobby, Fresh & Easy), I take a quick screenshot of the coupon on my phone by holding down the power button and the Home button at the same time. The screen will flash and the image is immediately saved in the photo album.
It looks like this:

TO ADD AN ALBUM click on the photo album app > Edit (top right) > Add (top left) > Name Your Album (Coupons)

To get the coupon images into your Coupon album go to your Camera Roll > Move Photo (top right) > touch each image you want to move > Add To (bottom) > Add to Existing Album > Coupons

And all the coupons for the week (or month) will be in one place for easy access (and stress-free checkouts).

Simply delete them when they expire and start over. I've found that my inbox is much more organized as well because I delete the emails after I take the screen shot. Having the coupons in a photo album also saves on battery power!

- Amanda

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Paper Plate Pumpkin Craft

The first rain of the season fell early this morning. It seemed like an appropriate day to make an easy fall craft with the kids. They also needed some winding down after a fun morning of autumn initiation activities - puddle jumping and tree shaking.

{Pumpkin Plate Craft}
Paper Plate - Paint brush - Orange Paint - Construction Paper (green, brown, black) - Glue

I didn't have anything planned so I went with an old standby - paper plates. First, I read It's Pumpkin Day, Mouse, in which the mouse paints different faces on his pumpkins. Then I gave the kids a plate, brush and orange paint. While they worked at covering the entire plate orange, I asked them what face they wanted on their pumpkin (just like in the book) - happy, sad, surprised, silly or scary. They cut out the face, along with a stem and leaves. Then they glued the pieces onto their pumpkins. The leaves turned out to look more like unibrows, so you might want to try to glue crinkle paper on instead. 


Scary, Silly, and Surprised faces.

Noah loves all of Laura Numeroff's Mouse books.

As I said, the morning was spent puddle jumping and enjoying the cool air and cloudy sky.


My niece, Emma, is not afraid of getting dirty.

Noah, new to puddles, decided puddle slapping was much more entertaining. Whatever works, kid.


And there was tree shaking. The leaves aren't quite ready to fall. We only had a few takers, but a few was all we needed.


Welcome, fall. We are so glad you've arrived.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Autumn. {and a corn husk wreath tutorial}

Let me keep it real. Our fall decorations are up. They've been up for a couple of weeks now. We are enjoying them, but right now, Michael Buble Holiday on Pandora is blasting from the speakers in the living room. Martina McBride's version of Baby It's Cold Outside captivated us immediately. Noelle's dancing and twirling her Little Mermaid umbrella. Noah is running around in his pajama's and Aaron is smoking chicken out back taking regular breaks to peak at football scores. It's a typical weekend morning at the Gardner house.

Soon we'll be hosting friends for a BBQ, but first, I'll give you a quick tour of our fall decor (which is just the beginning since we haven't visited the pumpkin patch yet).


To make this sunburst-style corn husk wreath, first gather the supplies: corn husks, small-medium size wreath (any material should work. I already had this one from the Target dollar section), and a glue gun.


First soak the corn husks in water until they are pliable. Drain the water and peal the layers to open the husks and let them air dry. While they are still damp, wrap individual husks around the front of the wreath, hot gluing the back and front of the husk to the wreath. 
Continue around the wreath several times, making the tips of the husk shorter each time around.

It needed an embellishment so I cut three strips of burlap and hot glued a bow together.


A couple of buckets, lanterns and pot of crimson chrysanthemums finished the porch. 


Using carbon paper, I traced "Welcome Friends" onto the pumpkins (real from Target) and painted the tracing gray. If you're intimidated by tiny paint brushes, you could use a sharpie marker. 
On the mantel this year I only added to the "year-round" decor.


The "Harvest" bunting was recycled from the Harvest Fest photo area that I decorated last year at our church.


Besides making the corn husk wreath and picking up the Target pumpkins, I didn't buy anything new this year. In fact, the orange bins labeled "fall" in the garage are still half full. Which either means I'm in a continuous downsizing trend or I have too much stuff to begin with.


Dining room. Our "family code" found a new wall spot.

The weather is cooling off here in California. There was even a chill in the air this morning that required a sweater for fetching the coupons Sunday paper out front. Although Mariah's "All I Want For Christmas" has everyone bobbing around the house, we can wait for a little longer for winter. There's still pumpkins to pick and turkey (or three) to slice. Happy fall.


Monday, September 10, 2012

getting away.

Over Labor Day weekend, we had the opportunity to stay with friends at a gorgeous 7-bedroom home in Lake Tahoe. I was hesitant to go at first because of the long drive. Two kids trapped in a car all day was sure to be miserable and most likely wouldn't be worth the fun memories we would make over the weekend. I was wrong.

My children surprised me. Once again proving that they are much more resilient than I give them credit for. They are road trip super stars.

After nearly 8 hours in the car we arrived in lake paradise.

Noah had no trouble adapting to his new surroundings. He owned the joint the second we walked in the door. 

The rest of us didn't do so bad either. Can't complain when there's great food, continuous laughter with dear friends and a hot tub on the roof waiting to take our aches away.

Aaron and I took the kids for their first jet ski ride. Noelle waved to everyone on land like a beauty queen on a parade float. And Noah fell asleep. Wrapped in a foam vest, soothing water sounds and rhythmic movement - how could he resist?

We've been feeling the need to get away from the house more than ever lately. The sweetness of the summer months when we were all home together has soured with late hours at work and daily evening activities. Taking a break from our new routine allows us a dose of family time that is otherwise impossible.
We need it.

As much as Noah needs naps. 

And sister needs sunshine.

I've experienced moments this month that have literally taken my breath away. Taking a minute to appreciate God's glorious creation from the middle of a vast lake. Watching my children play with my best friend's children - something we've talked about happening since we were in 5th grade. And hearing my college roommate bravely describe her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

I know these are growing moments. Eye-opening lessons. The unfathomable power of our God. The realization that time is quickly passing by. And the uncertainty of the future. Being busy and overworked is not how we want to live so we are consciously taking time together as a family by getting away.