Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Five Quick (and Free!) Knitting Patterns for Last Minute Christmas Gifts

Welcome to the weekly Nap Time Pursuits Link Up hosted by Yoke and Red Door Gardens!

I totally missed the Link Up last week while in the throws of 2nd Birthday/12,000 Christmas party planning, attending and hosting. It was  great week. I am happy to be back to a slightly less frenzied pace in these last few days before Christmas.

I love knitting. It is a quiet meditative activity that actually keeps me still while simultaneously feeding my need to accomplish things while binge watching Sons Of Anarchy (my latest NetFlix obsession).  I always try to make a couple quick handmade gifts for the loves in my life; plus I love having a knitting project to bring along on our holiday travels between Christmas and New Year's Day. Since, I  finally wrapped up the hand knit Christmas stocking for my youngest, it is time to turn to other projects!

I had a hard time narrowing this list down--there are so many great pattern ideas for quick gifts. I'd love to hear what's on your needles this winter!

Frozen Inspired Mittens

I am knitting several pairs of these for my girls and my nieces! The pattern knits up fast (I made two pairs in an evening.) and is  straightforward. I purchased two skeins of yarn and still have plenty left to knit a few more pairs of mittens. The only tricky part is the embroidery--but never fear; here is a great how-to video.

Homemade Dishcloth

This is a favorite hostess gift of mine. You can grab some inexpensive cotton yarn (try Lily Sugar 'n Cream) and do a quick knit of this dishcloth in an evening. Pair with some Mrs. Meyers Hand Soap (my fave!) and you are ready to gift your hosts with a sweet and useful gift of appreciation!

Easy Peasy Leg Warmers

I love leg warmers tucked into my boots or to wear during a yoga class on a chilly day. This pattern was passed on to me from a yarn shop owner and could not be easier! The key is to measure the circumference of your leg, pick a yarn you love and figure out the gauge you need to reach that circumference.

Using 12 inch US 9 circular needles,  cast on 54 stitches of this luxurious Tahki Wool Yarn (two skeins; 131 yards a skein) in hues of gray and black. Knit the leg warmers in a Knit 1, Purl 1, rib in the round. I used a bit of Clover elastic thread with my yarn at the top and bottom of the leg warmer.  I used one skein of yard per leg warmer, for a total finished length of 17 inches.

Heart Fingerless Mittens 

I stumbled upon this free Ravelry pattern from Wasel Wasel. I cannot wait to get rolling on a couple pairs of Heart Fingerless Mittens. Fingerless Mittens are the original tech glove and the heart is perfect for Valentine's Day!

Chunky Ruffled Cowl

This pattern is courtesy of Yarnphoria in Philadelphia, my new favorite yarn store! This project is my holiday week/long car ride knitting project. So excited to make this cowl. I choose Misti Alpaca Yarn in variegated purple hues. I will use my Addi Click Interchangeable Needle kit (my favorite needles set ever! And a fabulous last minute Christmas gift for the knitters on your list)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Giving Tuesday: The Be A Blessing Gift Guide (and Nap Time Pursuits Link Up!)

Happy Giving Tuesday!

With the Christmas shopping season in full swing, I will be spending December nap times shopping from the comfort of my couch!  Some of my favorite gifts also support my favorite charities.  When you purchase the items in this gift guide, charities receive a donation and you help raise awareness of important causes and community organizations.

My family has been blessed with more than we ever need.  I pray that we can be a blessing in this world and spread God's love always. Every Christmas season, I love to shop for gifts that support my favorite charities. Here's my Giving Tuesday Christmas gift list:

1. Alex + Ani
Alex + Ani has a gorgeous line of bangles that support two of my favorite charities. First is the Elephant Charm bangle, that benefits the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation. The FOJ Foundation pairs student athletes with children who are battling pediatric brain tumors. My oldest daughter Lily, who is brain tumor survivor, was adopted by the Temple University Woman's Lacrosse Team in 2010. We love our team and we love the motivation, love and joy those young women have given to our daughter.

The other bangle is the Zest for Life Charm Bangle, benefiting Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. ALSF raises money for childhood cancer research.

Alex + Ani will donate 20-percent of all sales of these bangles to FOJ and Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.  Both bangles are $28.

2. Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation Ornament
Speaking of lemonade, we love the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation ornament! The 2014 ornament was inspired by the Lemonade and Love for Sam stand held each year in Grover Beach, CA to honor the memory of Sam Jeffers, who passed away at the age of 8 from an inoperable brain tumor.  We love Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and we love this gorgeous ornament. It is the perfect way to honor the memory of a hero, celebrate the hope and help raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer research.  The ornament is $20.

3. Monkeez Makes A Difference
I love the line of sock monkeys and friends from MVP Brands line Monkeez Makes A Difference. Our family had the pleasure of hanging out with the Monkeez crew at Toy Fair last year and learning all about these adorable stuffed animals--that teach important lessons about charity and decision making. When you purchase a specially labeled Monkeez stuffed animal (there are monkeys and an octopus and a kitten and so many more!!), your kids can head to the Monkeez website and select a charity for MVP Brands to donate 10% of the wholesale cost of the stuffed animal. Charities include: Samaritan's Purse, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and Best Friends Animal Society. The Monkeez website has lots of great games, tips and even a spotlight on Junior Philanthropists!

Plus the Monkeez and friends are super adorable and make the a perfect stocking stuffer! The toys are available at various retailers, including Amazon and start at $9. My favorite is "Stella" the mini pink elephant. 

4. Stickman Stew
We first encountered Stickman Stew in NYC at a Mexican restaurant. The Stickman Stew and Gold
Heart Crew noticed that our children were behaving (a rare, full-moon like occurrence) and gifted my two kids with a Stickkid Sid and a Stickgirl Shirl. Not only with my girls filled with gratitude, but they were inspired to give other friends Stickkids and Stickgirls!

These adorable stuffed stick-figures are super cuddly and each comes with a back story. Stickman Stew spreads love and respect where ever he goes. Stickgirl Shirl, encourages others to do great things. This Christmas, buy one of the Stickkids (for under $10!) and Stickman Man Stew and the Gold Heart Crew will gift a deserving child with a Stickkid. You can to choose from a long list of children's charities and there is no limit to how many Stickkids your purchase can enable! Share the love and Buy One Give One. 

5.  Make a Be a Blessing Jar! 
This is not a gift you can buy--but a gift that you can share with your family and your community! We made these jars at my church Advent Festival this weekend. Take a mason jar or other container and decorate it. Fill your jar up with random acts of kindness and light up the holiday season with love and goodness!

Each day of Advent, we pick a strip and perform the random act of kindness listed. It is a great way to remember why we celebrate Christmas--it is not about the material presents; it is about the miracle that happened in Bethlehem so long ago and the intangible gifts that God blesses us with everyday. I love to tell my children to be a blessing;  this jar is a great tool to teach them (and remind me!) what being a blessing means!

Want a list of random acts of kindness to pop in your jar? Print the list we used at church. It includes a few empty spots for you to customize with your kids.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ferguson: The Truth Will Make You Free (John 8:31-38)

On any given day, my daughters will have an argument. This morning, it was over a blanket.

Lily pulled the blanket off Chloe.
Chloe was mad. She said Lily did it purposely because Lily is her older sister and treats her like a baby.
Lily said, no, it was an accident.
Chloe is upset. Because in the past, Lily has treated her like a baby.
Lily refuses to apologize.
Chloe refuses to yield.

Then I make Lily apologize. I make Chloe accept the apology. I am teaching them to forgive and be forgiven, I think. More often,  my motivation is peace. I just want peace in my household; a peace that will only arrive if they both acknowledge each others feelings and live in empathy for one another.

Non-factual, non-quanitifiable things like history and feelings and perception and personal truths trump everything else.

Like in Ferguson, where a white cop shot a black kid. It does not matter if that cop was racist or not. The facts, the law, well, those really do not matter either. It is the history of systematic racism, discrimination and inequity in Ferguson and in communities all over the United States that matters. It is the perception of those who have struggled and been treated like less, that matters.

I am white suburban mother. No one will discriminate against me. I'll never be mistaken for a convenience store thief or a gang member. Those things will never, ever happen to me. Those things won't happen to my three children either--my suburban, white privileged children.

However, if I do not teach my children history and empathy, they might be the ones who discriminate. We teach our children everyday to have empathy for their classmates and their siblings. We teach them to respond in compassion when they inadvertently make a mistake. We teach them to everyday to stop whining that things were an "accident" or a "mistake" and to simply, say:

"I sorry. I get it. I hurt you. I will be more careful. I won't do it again. I will learn from it. I understand when you think that, because, well, I have done purposeful mean things before."

I think that cop in Ferguson murdered Michael Brown. You might strongly disagree. You might think he was justified. However, it just does not matter. What matters is that our country has a deep history of racism.  If my brothers and sisters of color tell me that are consistently oppressed and discriminated against, I am listening. I am believing their truth. I standing with them and telling the truth.

The truth is not always pretty. It is not something we want to dwell in. The truth is not something we want to admit to ourselves. However, Christ tells us dwelling in truth is the ticket to freedom.

In John 8:31-38, we read about Christ explaining true discipleship to his disciplines

"Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciplines, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

His disciplines ask him what he means by being made free. And he says:

"Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."

Dwelling in the truth and in the light of Christ frees us from sin.  Christ calls on us to confess, forgive, be forgiven and try harder the next day. Christ tells us we are sinners. Christ calls on us to accept the truth and say the horrible darkness out loud. We live in a broken, fallen world. This world often feels devoid of everything holy. Children are dying. Racism thrives. Lies cover the light. When we close our ears to the truth, we let the lies grow.

Truth is always uneasy. However,  when we open our ears, when we live in empathy, when we apologize without ego, then and only then are we free.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

DIY Feather Napkin Rings: Nap Time Pursuits Link Up

This post contain affiliate links. 

Welcome to the weekly Nap Time Pursuits Link up!  

And Happy Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

We host Thanksgiving every year. On Thanksgiving Tuesday, I begin to hunker down, abandon all meaningful employment and get serious about the turkey and the related fixings.

One of my favorite things is to make custom napkin rings for my table each year. It is easy, fast and lends something super fancy to my table.  I am moderately obsessed with cloth napkins (I use a cloth napkin everyday with my lunch; even if my lunch consists of a half-eaten chicken nugget and some goldfish.). Every good cloth napkin deserves a fabulous napkin ring!

Making DIY feather napkin rings is so super easy. The whole process takes a couple minutes per ring.

I used these gorgeous feathers that I found at my local craft store. I choose a deep red and a lovely dark emerald green (that reminds me of Wicked.). I will use these on both my Thanksgiving and Christmas tables this year.  And bonus, it is super cheap to make these. I spent about $6 to make ten DIY feather napkin rings!

The stems are created with floral wire and wrapped with green floral tape. Floral tape is super forgiving and easy to work with.

In the past, I've used flowers, fake berries and fake greens to make napkin rings using the same technique.

Here's what you need to make DIY feather napkin rings:

To make feather napkin rings:

  1. Remove the feather bunches from the main stem. Try to leave a bit of the wire, so the bunch of feather stays intact.
  2. Cut about 7-8 inches of floral wire. Twist the floral wire around the end of the wire on the feather. Then turn up a 1/4-1/2 inch of the end of the floral wire. This will ensure the end of your napkin ring is not sharp.
  3. Starting at the top, stretch and tightly wrap the floral tape, as you twist the wire stem around. Overlap as you go. When you reach the bottom, reverse direction and wrap back up to the top. 
  4. At the top, rip the end of the floral tape. Grab your favorite cloth napkins and wrap with your snazzy new feather napkin rings!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Reversible Thanksgiving and Christmas Block Art: Nap-Time Pursuits Link Up!

This post contains affiliate links. 

Happy Tuesday! This is the first ever Nap-Time Pursuits Link Up with my pal Lindsay from Red Door Gardens! I am so excited to share great stuff with you each week. There are more details about the Link Up below. But for now.  .onto my new favorite decoration: reversible Thanksgiving and Christmas block art! 

I've had reversible block art on my holiday bucket list forever.  I was so excited to finally complete this project. I did it while my 2-year-old took a long, long nap on a rainy day. My mom joined me and we had a nice afternoon creating and de-stressing.  The project is super easy and I totally love the fun, funky, modern vibe it lends to my Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations.  

The blocks were sourced from A.C. Moore, painted and then decoupaged with my favorite craft tool: Modge Podge! I made a reversible set to cover both Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I think I might try to Modge Podge a side with a Valentine's Day message on one side and maybe get crazy with something Easter-y (He is Risen!) on another side. 

I used "We Give Thanks" and "Merry + Bright" as my phrases. You can write anything you want. Try "Gobble Gobble" and "Jingle Bells" or "Happy Thanksgiving" and "Merry Christmas." If you have extra letters for one phrase, just use that block as a spacer or use a scrapbooking embellishment to jazz it up! 

Here's what you need:

1. Paint all sides of your wooden blocks with white acrylic paint. 
2. While the paint dries, cut out squares from your scrapbook paper. I measured the squares to be about an 1/8" smaller than the blocks. I also cut a bunch of extra squares, so I could play with the placement and pattern of the papers on the blocks.
3. When your blocks are dry, arrange the scrapbook paper squares on your blocks. Rearrange again and again until you have your papers in a pattern that is pleasing to you! 
4. Spread some Modge Podge on your block, place the paper square on the block and then use a paintbrush to cover it with Modge Podge. 
5. Let the blocks dry for a few minutes. Then add your scrapbook sticker letters and cover in Modge Podge again.
6. Let dry. And repeat steps 2-5 for the reverse side.

Happy crafting! 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Honor Jordan: November 18 Random Act of Kindness Day

I found this poem when I was flipping through an ancient set of poetry books long ago gleaned from my grandparents bookcase. I was struggling with how to explain the life of a beautiful girl named Jordan DuPriest when I stumbled upon this Emily Dickinson poem. Like a feather, the poem floated right into my lap and my consciousness. 

Jordan DuPriest is hope. 

Jordan was a warrior-a beautiful, smiling warrior girl who died when she was 12 years old at the hands of ependymoma. Twice, Jordan was the first person to donate to my own childhood cancer warrior's Alex's Lemonade Stand. Twice, Jordan inspired me to never hesitate to give fully and completely when asked to help grow hope. 

Death did not take away the hope that shined through Jordan's eyes like a beacon--her legacy lives on through her family. Her mother, Kimberly, is a relentless advocate for childhood cancer awareness, research and cures. Her steps are fueled by endless love for her child and for the unrelenting belief that Jordan's legacy will be hope: hope for healing, hope for a cure, hope for childhoods free of cancer.

There is nothing more delicious than love and hope, growing and building and battling towards the day when childhood cancer, when brain tumors like ependymoma, are in the history books and we find ourselves victorious.

On Tuesday, November 18, we all have a chance to grow and build the legacy of one special girl: Jordan DuPriest. Jordan passed away on November 18, 2013 at the hands of ependymoma, a vicious pediatric brain tumor, for which there is no cure. Jordan dedicated her short life to raising awareness, to working towards a cure and to waving the feather of Hope for all to see. 

Jordan is a feather—a light in the breeze—a bright shining example of hope and its limitless possibilities. 

On November 18, join the Fairy GodMother Project to honor Jordan’s legacy of selflessness and hope. It is simple:

  • RSVP on Facebook to join the Random Acts of Kindness Day in Honor of Jordan
  • Sign up and receive cards (via email) from the Fairy Godmother Project.
  • On November 18, perform a random act of kindness, heck, perform 12 random acts of kindness. Give the receipt the card; and encourage them to pay it forward. 
  • Share what you did with the FairyGodmother Project, share it on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag: #HonorJordan

 Join me to honor the life of a beautiful girl and to continue her legacy of hope.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Amazing Wubble Bubble Ball Review

When I asked my 5-year-old to give me her Wubble Bubble Ball Review she was pretty clear on her opinion:

“Mommy, I just have one thing to say about the Wubble Bubble Ball: It is so much fun.”

And I have to agree! The Wubble Bubble Ball is a total blast. 

We were so excited to be able to do a Wubble Bubble Ball Review! My kids played with the Wubble Bubble Ball for 4 hours on a cold, blustery day. And by my kids, I also mean my husband and myself. My family of five had a total blast bouncing and kicking and throwing around the amazing Wubble Bubble Ball.  

So, what makes the Wubble Bubble Ball so amazing?  It is truly like a giant bubble that never disappears into thin air. You can bounce and kick and toss and cuddle with the giant Wubble Bubble Ball. My little guy loved it so much, he fell asleep saying Wubble and woke up demanding to play all over again! 

The ball inflates quickly and deflates just as quickly—making it an easy toy to store and transport. 

The Wubble Ball package includes the Wubble, pump, nozzle, nozzle adapter and inflation guide. You just add the 4 "D" batteries (non-included) and within a couple of minutes your Wubble is backyard, front yard and playroom ready for big fun! 

Note: The first time we tried to inflate we did not insert the nozzle deep enough into the hole in the ball and inflation took forever. We started over, inserted the nozzle a little deeper and the Wubble inflated in under 3 minutes. 

Deflation is quick, just insert the nozzle adapter and nozzle, opening the inflation hole in the Wubble and the ball deflates instantly. 

The Wubble Bubble Ball is on my Christmas list for all the kids in my life. 

Things to know:

  • Target selected the Wubble™ Bubble Ball as a 2014 Top Toy for the Holiday Season. It was listed among other popular toys and games that are sure to be on every holiday wish list.
  • Wubble Bubble Ball is a Family Fun Toy Of The Year Award Winner. The 25 winners are featured in the November 2014 issue of Family Fun Magazine. 
  • Inspired by his children's wish for a real bubble to play with, NSI President Frank Landi developed the Wubble™ Bubble Ball to keep children's love for fun, active play alive.
  • Wubble has won numerous toy awards, including an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Toy Award, a National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, a Mr. Dad Approved Award, a Parent's Choice Award and the  Dr. Toy Best 100 Picks Award and more! 
  • Wubble Ball is available at Target, Toys R Us and online at Wubble Ball is on Twitter (@WubbleBall) and Facebook ( 
  • Wubble Ball's are not indestructible, but they have a lifetime replacement guarantee. It costs $6.99 to replace a Wubble under the guarantee. 
  • Please take care not to damage your Wubble Ball during inflation. It might be necessary to use a little bit of oil (whatever you have in your kitchen) to insert the pump into the Wubble Ball the first time. If you have any trouble inflating your Wubble ball, you may find this video about "How to Inflate a Wubble Ball" helpful: 

Disclosure: I was compensated and provided with the amazing Wubble Bubble Ball to review. All opinions are my own.