Because Teachers are Awesome {a little teacher gift idea & free printables}

My girls' last day of school was yesterday. (Yay, summer!!!) 

To say the month of May has been a bit busy would be putting it mildly...it has been bordering on insane. (Anyone else feel like this is the craziest month of the year?! Seriously.)  But in the middle of all the projects and events and programs and deadlines and sickness, I wanted to make sure I took the time to thank a few people who were especially instrumental in helping my girls not only survive this school year, but who inspired them to excel and genuinely loved them and invested in their hearts throughout this year.

Between the two of them, we counted 15 teachers who have taught our girls this year...15 teachers who loved them and invested their time and talents and so much of themselves into the lives of not only our girls, but all of their students. These are 15 gifted people whose work never really ends, who spend countless hours planning and teaching and grading papers and evaluating progress, who attend meetings and trainings and continuing education classes, who almost every year have to adjust and adapt to curriculum changes or new testing requirements. And all the while, many of them are raising their own families, volunteering in our community, and doing so much more than anyone ever sees. These are 15 precious souls who are changing the world with every encouraging word they share, every dream they inspire, every lesson they teach, every challenge they overcome, every hug they give, and every single ounce of love they so generously pour out onto every student that comes through their classrooms.

I am so thankful for my girls' teachers. I could never thank them enough for all that they do. I wish I could send them all on a vacation or something.

But gratitude doesn't always have to be extravagant to be meaningful...and just because you can't do something big doesn't mean you might as well not do anything at all. We couldn't give every teacher a big gift this year, but I still wanted to thank each of them in some way. So we kept it simple: A Redbox movie rental code and a bag of homemade chocolate drizzled caramel popcorn. It's really not much, just a tiny token of our gratitude...just a little reminder that they are loved and appreciated.

I found the recipe for the popcorn on Pinterest. You can find the recipe and all the details for how to make it over on the eighteen25 blog here. The only thing we did differently from the recipe was that we used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate to drizzle over the popcorn. But the recipe worked great, and we ended up with SO MUCH popcorn! We are still munching on the leftovers ;) 

Then I purchased the rental codes over on Redbox.com - you can buy bundles of 5, 10, 20, etc. (I had them just emailed to myself when I bought them, and I put a different code on each card for the teachers - super easy!)

And I made my own tags for the popcorn and gift bags, and a card for the Redbox rental codes. The free printable PDF files are below, if you'd like to print and make your own for the special teachers in your kids' lives. :) (Just click on the links below to download the printable PDF files)

Redbox Rental Code Cards

"Thanks for a Great Year" gift tags

"Chocolate Drizzled Caramel Popcorn" gift tags

Teachers, we love you! We could never thank you enough for all you do to partner with us on this journey of raising this next generation of world-changers, preparing them to go out and make a difference in their communities and the world! YOU ROCK! 

The Fourth Day of Christmas Traditions & Freebies: DIY Ornaments

Making ornaments as a family has become another annual tradition for us. I'm sure there will come a day when the girls are no longer as thrilled about doing crafts as a family, but for now they still love it so I'm milking it for as many years as I can ;)

Each year we make a different kind of ornament. And we usually end up making a bunch of them, so we add them to gifts for family and friends. They add the perfect handmade touch to packages or tied onto gift bags.

Some of our favorites through the years have been: 

Snow Globe Ornaments - made with scrapbook paper, plastic party cups, little Christmas trinkets and doo-dads, and some fake snow. We used THIS tutorial for all the details and how-to's (which I found on Pinterest, of course ;) ). (And in case you're wondering, I ordered some of the little Christmas trinkets (the deer and little trees) from HeyYoYo.com and ShopSweetLuLu.com. Since then, I've found a bunch of options on FactoryDirectCraft.com. I also usually hunt the craft stores for miniature Christmas tree ornaments and things like that.)

Embroidery Hoop Ornaments - made with small embroidery hoops, a bit of fabric, thread and buttons. We made these a couple of years ago when the girls were learning the basics of sewing and they wanted to sew all of the things.  (We didn't really use any tutorials for these, we just kinda got creative and did whatever we wanted, but you can search "embroidery hoop ornaments" on Pinterest and get tons of ideas)

Cinnamon Ornaments -  made with applesauce and cinnamon. These are probably my most favorite...they still smell so good even three years later. I want to make some more of these just because I love them so. We used the tutorial HERE to make the dough, but then we used white fabric paint (because it is easy for the girls to squeeze onto the ornaments and it gave the look of icing) to add designs so ours turned out looking more like decorated cookies. So much fun!

Salt Dough Ornaments - made with salt, flour and water. This is another fun and easy recipe (found HERE) and the girls loved cutting out their shapes and adding designs using stamps. We ended up painting these after they were hardened, and I really love the way they turned out. 

Yarn-Wrapped Ornaments - made with cardboard and yarn. We made these last week after seeing the ideas on Pinterest from a couple of online tutorials HERE and HERE. We just cut circles and stars out of cardboard and wrapped  yarn around them. Super easy, and the girls loved it...and it didn't cost me a penny because I just used supplies we already had around the house! :)

There are SO MANY different kinds of ornaments you can make together as a family. And it doesn't matter so much what you make, but that you take time to slow down and just make something together. It could even be as simple as printing out some paper ornaments and coloring them together! And to help you out, I've made some printable ornaments just for you! Just print them (thick paper or card stock would work the best, but you can print them on regular paper too and then just glue them onto construction paper or colorful scrapbook paper if you want), then color them and cut them out. Punch a hole in the top and add some string or yarn and you have our own homemade ornaments for your tree...or add them to gifts for family and friends! (They work great as over-sized gift tags on presents too!)

What's up this week

Here's a bit of what I'm up to around here this week:

I have two books on my table this week that I am working my way through. One I will finish this week, the other will probably take me a while to slowly digest.

The first is this old copy of "Tree and Leaf" by J.R.R. Tolkien. I was not even aware of the existence of this little treasure until I found it at an old book sale a few months ago. The first part of the book is an essay on fairy-stories...and as a lover of fairy tales and fantasy realms like Narnia and Middle Earth, this essay is fascinating.

"If fairy-story as a kind is worth reading at all it is worthy to be written for and ready by adults. They will, of course, put more in and get more out than children can. Then, as a branch of a genuine art, children may hope to get fairy-stories fit for them to read and yet within their measure; as they may hope to get suitable introductions to poetry, history, and the sciences. Though it may be better for them to read some things, especially fairy-stories, that are beyond their measure rather than short of it. Their books like their clothes should allow for growth, and their books at any rate should encourage it."

The other book I am slowing working my way through is The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. I cannot write enough good things about every book of his that I have read...and this one is no exception. I have never had a really great understanding of Sabbath and how to actually practice it consistently. This book is really helping me understand its significance and how to practically live it out. I love love love this book. It is deeply convicting and very much something my soul needs.

"Sabbath-keeping is a form of mending. It's mortar in the joints. Keep Sabbath, or else break too easily, and oversoon. Keep it, otherwise our dustiness consumes us, becomes us, and we end up able to hold exactly nothing.
In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth. But without rest, we miss the rest of God: the rest he invites us to enter more fully so that we might know him more deeply. 'Be still, and know that I am God.' Some knowing is never pursued, only received. And for that, you need to be still."

So good.

I just love this little post and video by The Nester about how to style your sofa. It's like a light bulb went off when I watched it...now I wish I had more than one sofa to style, lol ;) But I will be having fun this week styling our one sofa. I already have a ridiculous number of throw blankets, so that part is easy...it's the pillows that I need to work on...so......

I think I'm going to tweak some that I already have and/or recover them, and I found a few easy tutorials that I'm going to use as inspiration:

 I love this  diy stencil pencil from Wit & Whistle . I'm thinking, though, of just free-handing some words onto some scrap fabric I already have...we'll see. :)

I love this diy stencil pencil from Wit & Whistle. I'm thinking, though, of just free-handing some words onto some scrap fabric I already have...we'll see. :)

 And these  painted pillows with the tassels from A Beautiful Mess  are just too cute! I have a bunch of tassels I made a few weeks ago that still haven't found a purpose...perhaps they will work as little decorative touches on a pillow or two?!

And these painted pillows with the tassels from A Beautiful Mess are just too cute! I have a bunch of tassels I made a few weeks ago that still haven't found a purpose...perhaps they will work as little decorative touches on a pillow or two?!

 And  these painted pillows from The Lovely Drawer  are similar, but I love the pom poms and the polka dots. I seem to be drawn to black and white patterns lately...so I'm thinking my "funky" pillows for my sofa styling will probably have some kind of black and white theme. :)

And these painted pillows from The Lovely Drawer are similar, but I love the pom poms and the polka dots. I seem to be drawn to black and white patterns lately...so I'm thinking my "funky" pillows for my sofa styling will probably have some kind of black and white theme. :)

I'm trying to get our grocery budget under control...I've slacked a bit lately on my couponing and meal planning, and so I spent some time yesterday getting myself back on track. This week I'm trying to use what we already have, and that means getting a little creative. I found a bag of egg noodles in the pantry, and needed an idea of what to do with them. (Usually I just make chicken noodle casserole, but I wanted to do something different...plus, we're all out of chicken at the moment, so there's that.) So it was Pinterest to the rescue! I love how I can just type in "egg noodle recipes" and I have hundreds of ideas at my fingertips. :) 

It didn't take very long for me to find this recipe from Pioneer Woman...it looks yummy, and the only thing I had to pick up from the store was the cottage cheese. It sounds kinda like a lasagna of sorts...we'll see if the family likes it or not ;)

What's your favorite egg noodle recipe? 

This post by Ruth Simons over at Gracelaced is so so good. She writes, "We may think we can win the world with relatability, but I pray we don't lose them on account of portraying our Savior as a milktoast Christ who we don't submit to as King...and who we've assumed is apathetic about holiness. May it not be said of us that we were so "real" that we missed the reality of who Christ really is."   YES. THIS.


And this post by Emily Freeman that she wrote over a week ago is really good. She writes, "The artists who struggle the most are the ones who are obsessed with how their work is received. This becomes their full time job and one day they discover they're no longer making art because their profession as Opinion Manager takes up all their time."

I also love what she says about choosing a filter for content...I'm really thinking about what that means for me and my little corner of the world here. But even more than that, I want to remember that whatever it is I do, I should be doing it for the glory of God, not for the approval of man. 


This breaks my heart. This whole refugee crisis still weighs so heavy on my heart. These precious children...these desperate families...they are so much more than just a news story, and we can't (shouldn't) just flip the page or change the channel and pretend it isn't happening...we can't just close our eyes to their pain and close our ears to their cries.

Just because it isn't happening here, doesn't mean that it isn't happening or that it doesn't matter. It doesn't mean their lives don't matter.
They matter.
They have to matter.

I don't have all the answers, but I do know this: Jesus loves these people. Jesus died for these people. And we are never more like Jesus than when we reach out and help those who are desperate and hurting and homeless and rejected. Even if (and maybe especially if) they are our assumed enemies.

I know we can't fix all the problems in the world...I can't put these families back together that have been torn apart this past week...I can't save these children who are dying, drowning in the waters, tossed from the rafts that carry their fragile hopes. But that doesn't mean I get a pass to look the other way and do nothing. We can all do something. And maybe we start with fervent prayers. And then maybe we help by linking arms with others who are helping...and maybe, just maybe, together we can be a beacon of hope, shining the light of God and the love of Jesus into this desperately dark situation.

(If you want to do something, but don't know what to do, a great place to start is at wewelcomerefugees.com)

This week I'm memorizing this verse from 2 Corinthians: 

 "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8

"God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8

God gives us everything we need...His grace is sufficient in ALL things at ALL times. And His grace abounds to us so that we can turn around and abound "in every good work." He blesses so we can bless.  In a month that centers around gratitude and thankfulness, this is something my soul needs to remember: I am blessed to bless. I like the way the NLT says it too: "And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others."

We always have plenty left over.

I gave away this free little 5x7 printable, along with a bunch of other freebies, in the November monthly email yesterday to all Little House Studio subscribers. Are you not a subscriber yet? No problem, just click here to subscribe. All I need is your email address and you'll get all the freebies every single month delivered right to your inbox! And if you sign up now, I'll go ahead and send you this month's pack of free printables! This month's set includes 2 printable calendars, 2 prints (the 5x7 memory verse and an 8x10 exclusive print), a lock screen image, and a "Give Thanks" banner for your home!

What are you waiting for? SUBSCRIBE today!!

What is inspiring you this week? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday Morning Motivation

Mondays are hard. And sometimes Mondays require a little extra dose of motivation. So I'm going to share with you the things that are inspiring me, encouraging me, and motivating me at the beginning of this beautiful gift of a week.

So, here you go...the things that I'm reading, thinking, trying, memorizing, cooking, making and loving this week:

I'm determined to finish two books this week: Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman, and my advanced reading copy of Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong. Both books are wearing down my pencils as I underline and mark up all of the things. (They are amazing books, and I'll write more about them when I actually finish reading them.) And then I also want to read this little book, Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, this week. We'll see how much I actually get through...but that's my goal anyway. :)

I read this blog post from The Nester last week: When it's Time to Put on Your Thundershirt :: The Ministry of One Sane Space. Seriously realistically inspiring. I'll be creating one sane space in my home this week if it kills me.

This post by Ann Voskamp...I can't stop thinking about it, about what in the world am I risking for this world that is broken and lost and desperately needs Jesus...what kind of grace am I living?
"Cheap grace is this bland vanilla comfortableness, that only wants to taste remorselessly palatable, only wants to gain societal approval and popular acceptability and robust bank accounts - and risk nothing." 

This verse. 
"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." Hebrews 13:16

Free printable of this verse for you here: Hebrews 13:16 5x7 Printable

I picked up some peaches at the grocery store yesterday, and I found this peach dessert on Pinterest that I'm going to try:

Get the recipe over at The Happy Gal

I am love love loving this 3-tiered rolling cart thing I got from IKEA. It. Is. AMAZING. I typically move my "office" around my house throughout the week, lugging all of my things (usually multiple times) all around the house with me. Sometimes I work at my little desk in my bedroom, sometimes I set up shop at the kitchen table, and sometimes I get all cozy on the couch and work from my lap desk in the living room. It's just what I do. And now that I have this cart all loaded up with all my "office" supplies, I just roll it around the house and I have everything I need no matter where I'm working from each day. It is one of my favorite purchases ever. I love it.

I am loving all things yarn lately, especially tassels and finger-knit garland. I just can't stop making them. I'm sure I'll be making more this week...and hanging them all over the house at some point. Yay for yarn! 

If you want to try your hand at your own tassels, The Nester has some awesome tutorials (and a whole e-book) on how to make them...just sign up for her newsletter and you get access to all the tassel goodness. (I used her tutorials to make my own tassels...they are super easy and so much fun...and I can't wait to put them on all of the things!)

And if you'd like to try your hand (or your fingers, rather) at some finger-knit garland, there's a great tutorial on Maggie Whitley Designs blog . (My girls both love making this finger-knit garland...we use it all the time, for so many things...it's especially amazing as Christmas tree garland, or for hanging on the mantle. But if you're like me, you will use it draped all over everything...on curtain rods, in doorways, over the bed...finger-knit garland is basically perfect for all of the things.) :)

 

Well, that's it for this week's edition of Monday Morning Motivation! I hope you have a wonderful week as you celebrate the gift of each and every day!

On trying something new...

Last week I tried my hand at something I’ve never done before: I did some window painting for a local bookstore.

Gottwals Books is a great little locally-owned used book store that I've had to joy to work with a little bit. I am currently helping with their summer reading program, which has been so much fun!  I have a friend who works with Gottwals and she asked me if I would be willing to paint the storefront windows at their quaint little shop in downtown Perry.

At first I hesitated. Any time someone asks me to help with something that I’m not exactly experienced at or not particularly confident about, I get a bit nervous and unsure of myself. (Ok, maybe a bit more than a bit.) I think to myself, “What if I can’t really do this thing they think I can do? What if I totally fail and they don’t like it at all?” So a lot of times (read: most of the time), I say no and turn down new opportunities for no other reason than I’m just scared of failing.

But I’m trying to overcome those often silly, selfish, prideful fears…I’m still having to daily let go of this inner bent toward perfectionism that says that if I can’t do it perfectly then I shouldn’t do it at all.

That kind of thinking has kept me from doing all kinds of things…things I may have loved, things that may have helped others, things that could have brought someone joy (maybe even myself)…all because of my own irrational fears and prideful perfectionism.

So, while I had never painted a window before in my life, and even though my stomach was churning with nervous butterflies as I put the paint to the glass, I went for it. And what do you know? I actually loved doing it! (And I really like the way it turned out. It’s not perfect, but I kinda love the imperfection of it).

In fact, I loved it so much that I went home seriously trying to figure out how I could get away with painting all the windows of my house. ;)

Well, I didn’t paint all the windows (yet). But I did have this old, plain window sitting on our mantle. I got it at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore a while ago for just $4. I never thought of painting the glass…until now. I figured, if I didn’t like it I could always just wash it off…so why not at least try?

So I did.

It was one of the fastest home projects I've done in a while, and I love the way it turned out! Here's what I did:

Sometimes trying something new is worth the risk of failure. Sometimes you just gotta grab the paint and go for it.

Is there something you’ve been afraid to try because of the fear of failure? Has someone asked you to help with something and you said no just because you didn’t want to do it wrong or let them down? Is there a project for your home you’ve been wanting to try but you just don’t think you can do it?

Maybe this week would be a good week to pick up the paint, so-to-speak, and try something new. And remember, as The Nester says, “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful!”