Monday, December 24, 2012

Handmade Gifts for Hanukkah

Hanukkah has been over for a week now, but I'm just getting around to writing this post.  It has become one of our family Hanukkah traditions to exchange a small gift each of the eight nights.  I also like to send eight little gifts to my parents and my mother-in-law.  This year I had to send a box to our college girl, too, because we were only able to be with her for two of the nights of Hanukkah.  The gifts we exchange are small and thoughtful, especially chosen with the person in mind.  I like to make as many of the gifts as I can. Handmade gifts just seem so much more special, don't they?  Here are some of the gifts I made this year:

A reversible coffee cup cozy in two Star of David fabrics, and Star of David notecards for the gift exchange at the congregation Haley attends - Kehilath HaDerekh (Congregation of the Way) in Manhattan.  We were there for their Hanukkah celebration!

 I also made coffee cup cozies for Haley and her suite-mates at NYU Poly.

I made this apron for Haley and gave it to her with a little cookbook of recipes that she can make in her dorm room with a microwave and Foreman grill.

Another apron I made for my mother-in-law:

And coin purses like these for both her and my mom:

They (and Dad, too) also got peppermint sugar scrub:

...and pocket hand warmers.  These have rice inside. You put them in the microwave for 25 seconds and place them in your pockets to keep your hands warm:

Rebecca got a flower pillow:

...and I decorated this lampshade to match:

I also made her this cute bag.  Can you tell she loves giraffe print?

Haley requested a green Seattle Seahawks messenger style bag:

I made Robert a t-shirt quilt with shirts from Central Elementary, the school where he was principal for 6 years:

And, I forgot to take a photo, but I made some cute kitchen towels similar to these, using this tutorial.

I think that's all...I was busy this year!

Monday, December 10, 2012

What About Christmas?

I've been asked before if I celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas.  The answer is no.  I celebrate Hanukkah because it is such a meaningful holiday.  It is all about God's miraculous protection and provision, and it's a reminder to rededicate our lives to God and to stand up for what we believe in. You can read more about why I love Hanukkah here.  As for Christmas, well, that's another story...

I have many warm and happy memories of Christmas, both from when I was growing up and from when I grew up and had kids of my own.  My parents never told me there was a Santa.  We were always a "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" family, and my husband and I took the same approach with our girls.  Christmas was a happy, fun time for family togetherness, singing, presents, decorating, making cookies, and celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Then a few years ago I started to wonder about some things about Christmas.  Things like why is Christmas on December 25?  Is that really the day Jesus was born, and how do we know?  And why do we have a tree to put presents under, and boughs of holly and yule logs, and why do we kiss under the mistletoe?  Why do we make gingerbread men and go caroling? Why do we hang stockings, especially if we don't believe in Santa?  And where did the whole idea of Santa come from anyway?  Was he really an actual person?  I wondered where all of these traditions came from, and why do we all do them if we don't even really know what they mean?

So I did some research.  And I was horrified.  I found that most of the traditions that have to do with Christmas came from some ancient pagan ritual or custom!  Jesus was not born on Christmas.  He was probably born in September or October, but we don't even know that for sure.  December 25 was the date that the re-birth of the sun god was celebrated in several different cultures long before Jesus was even born.  In an attempt to convert pagans to Christianity and perhaps unite his kingdom, the Roman emperor Constantine decided to incorporate the festival of Saturnalia (Dec. 17-25) and the festival of the birth of Mithras (Dec. 25-Jan. 1) into Christianity. This was the beginning of Christmas.  Evidence of the depraved customs of these pagan festivals still remains today in the modern observance of Christmas.  This evidence is in the tree, the holly, the mistletoe, the yule logs, the gingerbread men, the caroling, Santa, and almost every other tradition you can think of that has to do with Christmas.  None of these things have anything to do with celebrating the birth of our Savior.

When I found out the truth about Christmas, I shared the information with my husband.  We then shared it with our daughters, and we made a family decision.  The decision turned out to be very controversial among our friends and family, but it is very important to us.  We decided not to celebrate Christmas.

Amazingly, even before we made this decision, we had been learning about God's holidays found in the Bible.  We were learning about Passover - the holiday that Jesus was referring to when he said "do this in remembrance of me".  We learned about Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.  We had begun celebrating some of these, and we were learning how full of meaning they are.  They each have significant historical meaning, they each have applications to our lives today, and they each specifically point to Messiah!  They are packed full of symbolism that is so detailed that it could only have been designed and placed there by God himself.  We also learned about Purim and Hanukkah, which commemorate God's amazing and miraculous deliverance of His people.  The traditions associated with all of these holidays are full of significance and purpose.  Through celebrating them we have learned so much about God's incredibly intricate plan and His wonderful love and mercy.  We have learned more about our Messiah Yeshua than we have ever known before!  Throughout the year, each time we celebrate one of these holidays, we are reminded of all we have learned, and each time we learn even more.

So, our decision to not celebrate Christmas was not a difficult one.  Throughout the Bible, God repeatedly tells his people to get rid of their idols and anything that has to do with other gods.  That's what we're trying to do.  We are choosing to honor God by celebrating His holidays that He instructed His people to keep, rather than trying to honor Him with customs and traditions that remind Him of things he hates.  Here's a little story to illustrate what I mean:

Once upon a time there was a man who was the father of many children.  This man's children wanted to do something very special in his honor.  They asked him what he would like them to do, and so he gave them a set of detailed instructions.  He told them the things he loved and the things he hated.  He told them what would mean the most to him, and also the things that he specifically didn't want them to do.  He told them that if they followed these instructions everyone would know that he was their father and they were his children.  He even told them that these instructions were also for their good; that they would be especially blessed if they carried them out.  But, in planning this special event, the children got sidetracked.  They listened to other children of other fathers.  They saw the things that the other fathers preferred, and they thought those things might work better to honor their father, too.  Eventually the instructions were set aside and forgotten.  When it came time for the event, it was huge and spectacular.  But it was nothing like the father expected or wanted.  It didn't include any of the things he had told them he loved, and it did include some of the things he had said he hated, and even some things he had told them specifically not to do!  Although his children loved him very much, it seemed as if they didn't care at all about his instructions.  It seemed more important to them to do what they thought was best.  And sadly, the children missed out on the good things that their father had built into the instructions especially to bless them. 

I think it is so important to do things God's way.  I think He is very disappointed when we choose to do things our way.  Sometimes it's necessary to change our ways to match up with His. When we do this we are blessed.

I will close this post with a challenge to you, dear readers.  If you are a believer in Jesus, and you try to live your life for Him, here is your challenge:

Research history.
Understand the reasons why you do the things you do.
Dig in and really study God's Word.
Know what He wants you to do.
And it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Juice Reboot

Have you seen the movie/documentary "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead"? I've been on a bit of a health kick lately, and I decided to watch it. Wow, it was so inspirational! I asked my husband if he would watch it, too, and we decided that we needed to do a juice "reboot" of our own to give our bodies a little jump start into getting healthy and lose a little weight in the process.

The idea of the juice reboot (or "fast", or "cleanse") is to drink juice from fresh fruits and vegetables, along with lots of water, and the occasional (optional) herbal tea.  The juice gives you lots of micronutrients, while allowing all of the bad stuff to work it's way out because your body isn't working to digest food.

So, we ordered a juicer and started weaning ourselves off of caffeine. The day the juicer came we went out and bought what seemed like a ton of fresh vegetables and fruits.  I looked up juice recipes on, and we started our reboot first thing the next morning.  The juice reboot had begun!  We didn't know how many days we were going to do it.  We decided we would just "see how it goes".

Day 1: The day started off great. We had a breakfast juice of mostly fruit (yum!), and I made the "Mean Green" juice for Robert to take to work with him.  Then I had a rude awakening a little later when I had my second juice of the day.  I found out I hate kale juice.  I mean really, really hate it.  I could hardly gag down that Mean Green juice.  Unfortunately for me, kale has a lot of nutrients, and is the most recommended veggie to include in juices.  Ugh. The Mean Green recipe has kale, celery, cucumber, green apples, a lemon and ginger root in it.  Very nutritious.  Very icky.  But I managed to drink it.  I drank another juice later, made up of mostly vegetables but no kale.  It was a little better, but at this point I was wondering how I would last another day.  I felt very...weird.  Hard to explain.  I couldn't drink my fourth juice of the day...just couldn't make myself do it.

Day 2: This was a difficult day.  I woke up with a headache.  I had been warned about this, but thought I would be okay because of weaning myself off of caffeine.  I was wrong.  The headache lasted through most of the day.  The good news: I had already lost four pounds! Losing weight wasn't the entire reason for this reboot, but it was definitely a big plus, and gave me some motivation.  One thing I was not prepared for was the emotional ups and downs I experienced, especially during day 2.  I went from feeling fine to "why am I doing this...what am I doing...I don't want to do this....I can't do, no, I'm fine....I feel, I'm miserable...WHY AM I DOING THIS?????"  I tried going back to bed for a while to sleep off the headache and the mood swings, but it didn't work. I fell asleep for a few minutes and then tossed and turned.  So, I tried to go about my day as usual, but that was very, very difficult.  Again, I didn't know how I would last another day.  But I somehow made myself drink my water and juices.  I found out that spinach is much more palatable than kale, and just about as nutritious.  But I was very glad when the day was over and it was time to go to bed!

Day 3:  I woke up with a slight headache, but it went away after my morning juice.  I was down another 2 pounds!  Yay!  I felt okay, but still a little weird.  Almost like how you feel after you've been sick with a stomach bug, but without the shakiness and weakness.  I was so glad Robert was doing this juice reboot with me.  We were in this together.  It was Saturday, so we stayed home all day, drank our juices and went for a walk.   We felt fine, but very tired. By the end of the day we were both sick of juice.  We felt like if we drank another juice we would literally be sick.  We talked about it, and made the decision to continue with the reboot, but in a modified way.  We would start adding solid food because we just couldn't (didn't want to) continue on only juice.  So we each ate a baked sweet potato, and it was heavenly.

The next morning I weighed in and I had lost another pound.  We had a few juices throughout the day, but also ate some fruits and vegetables.  Since then we have been eating mostly fruits and vegetables with small amounts of grains, dairy, and meat, and drinking one or two juices a day.  We've been exercising regularly, and we both feel great.

It has been a week since we started the juice reboot.  I am glad I did it. Glad I have a juicer to easily add servings of fresh fruits and veggies to my diet.  Glad I lost a few pounds, and hopeful I will lose a few more.  Glad that it worked: we gave ourselves a jump start to being more healthy.  And most of all, glad I don't have to drink that awful kale juice anymore!

If you haven't seen the movie, you can view it for free here on Hulu, and it's also on Netflix.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why I Love Sukkot: The Festival of Tabernacles

Today is the 7th day of Sukkot, one of my favorite Biblical Holidays. Sukkot is also called the Feast of Tabernacles, Festival of Booths, and the Feast of Ingathering. It is a week long, joyous, harvest-time festival, appointed by God for his people to celebrate and be thankful. You can find it mentioned throughout the Bible. Here are some reasons why I love it:

I love the history of Sukkot.

During the time in history when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, Sukkot was one of the festivals when all of the men of Israel traveled to Jerusalem to keep this special appointment with God. There was music and dancing, ceremonies and sacrifices. Everyone stayed in temporary shelters for the duration of the festival, as a reminder of the years spent in the wilderness in temporary dwellings. At the Temple there were giant candelabra that lit up the city and could be seen from miles away. This festival was an expression of thankfulness for the harvest and the rain; a joyous celebration of God's provision.

I love building and "dwelling" in a sukkah.

One of the ways we celebrate Sukkot today is by building a sukkah. A sukkah is a temporary dwelling, like a little hut. It has at least three walls, is built mostly out of natural materials, and has a roof made of branches that you can see the stars through.  A sukkah is a place to eat, read, pray, and spend time with family and friends. Some people even sleep out in their sukkah. Sometimes our family goes camping in a tent during Sukkot.  When we can't go camping, we build a sukkah in our back yard. Time spent in the sukkah reminds us what is important in life. Material things are only temporary. God is our shelter and our provider!
Our little sukkah last year

I love that Jesus was born during Sukkot!

The Bible doesn't mention specifically when Yeshua was born, but it can be figured out if we do the math. (Note: if you are new to my blog, I use the names "Jesus" and "Yeshua" interchangeably. Yeshua is His name in Hebrew.) Zechariah, the father of Yeshua's cousin John (Yochanan "the Immerser") heard from God that he would have a son while he was ministering in the Temple during the week on the Hebrew calendar of Sivan 12 to 18.  John was born around the time of Passover. We know that Mary (Miriam) conceived Jesus six months after John's conception, which would mean Jesus was conceived during Hannukah. The Light of the World conceived during the Festival of Lights! Forty weeks later is....guess what? Sukkot!  And does a sukkah look vaguely familiar to you?

It is very likely that Yeshua was born in a sukkah! There was no room in the inn because the census was taking place during the festival. The temporary shelters called sukkot were also often built to house animals out in the fields (the Hebrew word for "stable" is succoth!). Yeshua came to dwell or "tabernacle" with us during the Feast of Tabernacles! This makes the festival even more meaningful for us as believers in Yeshua! It's a perfect time to sing all of those songs that I love, like "Away in a Manger", "O Holy Night", and "Silent Night".

I love that we can clearly see Yeshua the Messiah in Sukkot!

An important part of Sukkot is water. During Temple times, a water ceremony was performed during Sukkot to thank God for the rains he had provided for the harvest, and to pray and thank God in advance for rain for the next harvest. A gold pitcher was brought out with water from the pool of Siloam. The priest poured out the water onto the altar and would recite Isaiah 12:1-3.

"Then you will say on that day,I will give thanks to You, O Lord
For although You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away,
And You comfort me.
“Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.”
Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation.

Do you know what the Hebrew word for "salvation" is? Yeshua!!! And it was at this specific time that Jesus said these famous words in John 7:37-38:

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water."

Only the Messiah himself could make such a bold statement!

I love that Sukkot is a "dress rehearsal" for the future.

Prophecy tells us that, in the future, all nations will gather in Jerusalem and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles! (Zechariah 8:22 and 14:16) Revelation 21:3 says:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them

Sukkot makes us think of the future; of the day when we will all gather in Jerusalem and celebrate with Yeshua!

I love that the first Thanksgiving was inspired by Sukkot!

Here in the U.S.A. we celebrate Thanksgiving every year in November.  Many experts and scholars agree that the pilgrims looked to the Bible to find a way to thank God for the harvest and for His provision, and modeled their feast after Sukkot.  (Try an internet search of "Thanksgiving and Sukkot" for more information on this).

Can you see why I love Sukkot? It is a joyous, exciting time: a time for remembering that God is our shelter, a time to be thankful for His provision, a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and a time to look toward the future when we will all celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with Him!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Design: Feedsack Coin Purses

 Well, I did it. I could hardly bear it, but I finally cut into my little collection of feedsack fabric!

Feedsack fabric is from the 1930s and 40s era, when flour, sugar, seeds, rice, fertilizer, and feed were packaged in brightly printed cloth bags. The prudent housewife would save these bags and make useful and beautiful things out of them, like dresses, quilts, and aprons.  The sacks came in many different prints and colors, and ladies would save them up and even trade them to get just the right prints for just the right project.

If you look carefully, you can sometimes find feedsacks in thrift and antique shops. If you know what you're looking for, you can easily identify them by the look and feel of the fabric, and by the little holes along the edges where they were previously stitched into sacks.
I have found several of these lovely sacks, and I've started my own collection. I decided that, besides looking pretty, they were doing me no good just sitting on the shelf, and I want to share them with others. They needed to be made into something useful. So, here's what I've made with them so far for my etsy shop:

I thought coin purses would be appropriate. You can now carry your own pennies in a little piece of history from a time when saving pennies was an important part of daily life.
And they're cute on the inside, too!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lessons From Little Birdies

House Finches
God has created so many beautiful and amazing things! If we are paying attention, there is much to be learned from even the smallest and seemingly insignificant parts of creation. Little birds, for instance. This summer I was blessed enough to observe two little bird families at our house.

I noticed the first bird family when I kept hearing loud cheep-cheep-cheeping sounds when I was in my sewing room. I finally figured out where it was coming from when my little kitty was watching, and then pouncing toward the corner of the window air conditioner unit. She could see the shadows of the baby birds right on the edge of the outside window ledge next to the air conditioner.  If I stood at just the right angle, with my head up against the window looking down, I could see them! Little mouths wide open waiting to be fed. They would start their loud cheeping whenever Mamma and Poppa Bird were nearby.

A couple of weeks later, my husband and I were sitting out on the porch sipping our morning cup of coffee when I saw five little birds having what appeared to be flying lessons. They were landing on wires, flying up, down, and all around, always returning to our roof or the wires right in front of it. I decided to do some research, and I found out our little birds are called House Finches.  The timing would be just right for those birds having their flying lessons to be the same baby birds from the windowsill. What fun to be able to see the little birds in different stages in their lives!

A little while later in the summer, my daughter came running in the house and said, "Mom! Come outside! You have to see this!" I quickly followed her out to the porch, where she pointed to one of the hanging geranium plants. "Look!" I looked, and I saw an intricately woven nest with two tiny, fuzzy baby birds in it! Over the next couple of weeks we watched that nest every day, and Mamma and Poppa Bird watched us, making sure we didn't get too close. They were very protective of their nest, and acted very worried when we sat on the porch sipping our morning coffee day after day. The little birds grew bigger, and began to develop feathers instead of fuzz. Sometimes when we peeked in at the nest they were looking right at us. Then one day I looked in and there was only one little bird! Had the other one flown away? I couldn't believe that they were already ready to fly! They didn't seem big enough. But sure enough, later that day I checked again and the nest was empty. I was sad to see my little birds go. Then the thought occurred to me: could God be trying to show me something through little birds?

I had my own little "bird" who was getting ready to leave the nest, and these little bird families were the Father's own gentle way of preparing me for this. Just like Mamma and Poppa Bird, my husband and I have carefully nurtured and protected our little ones since they were born. And just like the baby birds, now one of them is big enough to learn to fly, and she has left the nest. It all seemed to happen so quickly! She will be back from time to time, and she will need some flying lessons and a lot of practice, but she is out there, testing her wings and fluttering around. I am protective of her, but I know that she is in good hands. God cares about even the little birdies, so I know He will take good care of her. I miss having her in the nest so much, but I am so proud of her efforts to fly! And someday, a day much sooner than I think, she will stretch out her strong, beautiful wings, and she will soar!

"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:26-34 (New American Standard Bible) 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What I Did This Summer

Even though the calendar says the last day of summer is September 21st, we all know that summer is officially over when school starts, right? For the others in my family it's back to school now, and for me it's back to a routine, back to being more productive, and back to blogging after a busy summer.  Here are some highlights of our summer:

Haley graduated from high school and turned 18 the next month.
High School Graduate!
The graduation dress I made for her

We took a trip to the Pacific Northwest, where we visited family and friends and lots of favorite places.
Robert & me at Kalaloch of our favorite places in the world
Haley and Rebecca with my parents in Kennewick, Washington
My girls and me with my sweet grandparents in Port Angeles, Washington
Breakfast with my Mother-in-law and Brother-in-law in Shelton, Washington
Three of my favorite people at the top of the Space Needle

I completed a lot of sewing projects: party decorations, gifts for graduates, for birthdays and for babies, and college dorm projects.
Throw-size rag quilt for Haley's dorm room

We got Haley all ready for college: planning, shopping, paperwork, and several trips to New York City.

We did some of the standard summer stuff, like trips to the beach, movies, and back to school shopping.

We tried to survive the heat and humidity!

And finally, we moved Haley into her dorm room and left her in Brooklyn to start her new adventures at NYU Poly!
The building at NYU Poly where Haley lives now
We got her all settled in her dorm room. You can see the rag quilt, flower pillow, and part of the sock monkey I made, the zebra throw pillows she made, and the bulletin board we made together.
Bye-bye sister! See you again in 7 weeks.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Flower Pillow and a Birthday Cake

I have wanted one of these flower pillows ever since I first saw them in this etsy shop.  I decided to try to make one, so I bought the PDF pattern and made one for Haley's 18th birthday. It wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be, it just took a little time because the flower is sewed completely by hand. I just love that flower!  I decided to use polar fleece instead of felt for the flower, because I couldn't find the right shade of green in felt.  It was pretty easy to work with and turned out great!  This pillow will look great in Haley's room or her dorm room.  Now I need one to coordinate with the quilt on my bed!

I simply cannot believe that Haley is 18 and headed off to college soon!  Here is a picture of the cake I made for her birthday:

By her request I made a mocha coconut cake, and she said it was the best birthday cake she ever had. (See my earlier post for the mocha coconut cupcake recipe).  It was pretty delicious!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sock Bird

Introducing Sock Bird, my latest design! Isn't he cute? Here's his story:
My parents came to visit us in Delaware from Washington State for Haley's graduation. During their visit, they left their bird in the care of some friends, Justin and Crystal. Mom asked me if I would make something as a little thank you gift for them, so I made some note cards for Crystal, and some cute ribbon bookmarks for their daughter, but I couldn't think of anything for Justin. I asked my girls for ideas, and Haley said, "Mom, you should make a sock bird! It would be so cute!" I said, "Um, not sure I know how to make a sock bird?" Her reply was something like, "Mom. You just make it. You can do it. Easy."  So I did.  And here's the result.

Sock Bird!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Smart Cookie Graduation Party

My daughter, Haley, is now a high school graduate! We've been super busy lately getting ready for this momentous occasion! Because Haley is such a "smart cookie", one of the things we did to celebrate was a smart cookie party, where we served the classic after school snack: milk and cookies!  We had six kinds of cookies on the menu: chocolate chip, peanut butter, snickerdoodles, wholesome oaties, chocolate mint, and Oreos (all made by me except for the Oreos).

The cookies were served on pretty cake plates, and the milk was poured into cute little bottles to drink with a straw.
These were Starbucks Frappuccino bottles that my Mom and I peeled and scrubbed the labels off of.
Our decorations were "old school". We wrote on two old cabinet door chalkboards...
...and we had a vintage typewriter for friends to type a message to Haley.

We decorated with fabric bunting that I sewed, and tissue paper flowers made by Haley's grandmas. (I put them to work while they were visiting!)

Haley's Dad and Grandpa helped with the outdoor decorations (preparing for this party was a family affair!), where we had lots of balloons, lights, and a banner.
Congratulations, Haley!!!