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Monday, December 31, 2012

Flourish in the New Year

“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree...” Psalm 92:12

Have you ever seen a palm tree in the midst of a great storm? That tree may be bent so far over that it’s almost touching the ground, but when the wind finally stops, that palm tree bounces right back up. What’s interesting is that while that palm tree is hunched over under the pressure of the storm, it is actually becoming stronger.

See, the reason God said we’d flourish like a palm tree is because He knew there would be difficult times. He knew things would come against us to try to steal our joy and victory, but God said, “You’re going to be like a palm tree because when the storms of life blow, you are going to come right back up stronger than before.”

As you reflect on the events over the last year, remember, the storms you have encountered have only made you stronger ~ you are wiser, you are more alive, and you either had or are headed for a victory. The setbacks you may have faced were not "setbacks", they are setups. God is using the things that were meant for your harm to create a bigger, better, brighter future for you (Jeremiah 29:11 and Genesis 50:20) ~ your brightest days are right out in front of you so always remember that with God on your side, nothing can hold you back!

Father in heaven, thank You for making me strong in You. I trust that You are working in my life, even in the midst of the storms. Thank You for a new year and a new season of blessing in You in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year, New Ideas ~ Refresh Your Home

With the holidays behind us, it's time to set your sights on the year ahead and all it has to offer. Get a jump start on new storage décor with these inspiring ideas for creating clever storage closets.

Cleaning Closet
Finding a place to stow cleaning supplies can be challenging, especially if storage space is limited. Here, a narrow closet nook corrals essential supplies near the kitchen. Small bins organize bottles and brushes, and a door-mounted holder secures taller tools.

Pantry in a Closet
This pantry keeps organization at the forefront with storage that supports on-the-go needs. Stash favorite snacks and extra spices in lidded, labeled jars to extend freshness and ensure efficiency. Clear containers ease preparation, giving you an easy read of what's inside.

Closet to Mini Kitchen
This handy closet eases prep and cleanup time by curbing kitchen clutter. A rolling cart pairs small appliances with utensils for an efficient workstation. Over-the-door hooks provide an accessible spot for dishrags and oven mitts, and a mounted towel dispenser makes for easy cleanup.

Closet to Home Office
This repurposed closet reveals a chic office retreat. A sleek desk and a bright filing cabinet keep the space simple and task-specific. Wall-mounted shelves create more room for fun décor, and a bright rolling chair ties the color scheme together.

Closet to Gift-Wrapping Station
Gift-wrapping supplies can easily make a big mess. Store everything tidily in a made-for-wrapping closet unit that hangs over a closet door. The wire unit organized rolls of wrapping paper, spools of ribbon, and gift bags. Clear glass containers keep things such as cards, gift tags, embellishments, tape, and scissors highly visible and perfectly organized.

Laundry Room in a Closet
A stackable front-loading washer and dryer combo fits easily into a wide closet, leaving ample space for a freestanding shelving unit to corral linens and kitchenware. This closet's location near the kitchen makes multitasking while cooking or cleaning easy.

Changing-Room Closet
Making space for baby stuff can be tricky. Here, a hall closet is converted into a convenient diaper-changing station. A pretty chandelier provides ample lighting and big baskets hold linens below.

Work Zone Closets
These twin closets combine storage and organization for a convenient spot to tackle projects. Labeled magazine holders and colorful document boxes are perfect for stowing project-specific materials. When you are finished working, tidying up is easy: Just draw the curtains.

Creative Closet
Fashion a creative hub in a wide closet with overhead shelves and a wall-mounted desk. Fabric-covered paint canisters and books are pretty ways to collect project supplies, while swatch baskets below the work surface keep clutter at bay.

Closet Communication Hub
Turn a small, cramped closet into a communication hub. Remove closet doors and install a length of countertop at bar height. Outfit the new desk with plenty of boxes and containers to corral papers and office supplies. Tuck baskets beneath the counter and along the sides of the closet for extra storage. Make your communication hub tech-savvy by wiring electrical outlets and add a charging station to the countertop. Consider adding a phone jack to house your wireless router inside the closet, tucking all the equipment and cords out of sight.

Craft Room Closet
Supplies tuck away easily within this hidden crafting corner. Pegboard mounted to the door provides ample storage while rolling containers make the space easily accessible.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christians Acting Ugly

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:37-39

Recently I was skimming some comments left on a social media outlet, which I rarely do. Most were encouraging and kind and some people had a different opinion but stayed civil in their expressions. Then there was a third group, a much smaller but a very loud group.

Their opinions dripped with judgment, harshness, and condemnation. We've all been in this situation (which is why I don't check social media very often) and the saddest thing of all? Sometimes we see others Christians attacking people and not acting or speaking very Christian.

Some say or justify that they are being Christ-like and are just voicing/protecting their Christian beliefs but God doesn't call us to protect Him, He calls us to love Him AND others. Christians acting ugly and justifying it isn't loving.

There is a place to make sure others aren't misaligning the Truth but we must do this carefully and first make sure we aren't misaligning the Truth in our approach. Our response must contain these things: justice, mercy, love and humility. "The LORD has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God." Micah 6:8

This situation can happen to any of us in any walk of life, not just social media. Whether we are hyper-critical of those around us , or we have experienced this hurtful criticism from a friend, family member, or co-worker, these words and actions hurt everyone involved.

There isn't an easy solution to this problem but if this devotion makes a few people stop and think before blasting someone, then it's good and most of all, it reminds me to do what is right to other people ... to love being kind to others ... and to live a little more humbly .

Dear Lord, thank You for Your grace and patience everyday. Help me recognize when I become critical of those around me. I want to show Your love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Front Door Christmas (and Some Winter) Displays and Decor that say Welcome

Transform Premade into One-of-a-Kind
It's easy to customize an ordinary garland for extraordinary impact. Small holiday ornaments secured with hot glue coordinate with this red front door, adding bright pops of color to a premade pinecone wreath. Tall lanterns, adorned with small sprigs of berries, add to the colorful Christmas door decorations.

Balance Your Christmas Door Decorations
Ornate doors and wide front entryways need little decoration. Instead, add accents to the surrounding areas to create the perfect holiday look. Two containers flank this wide entry; their placement plays off the elegant front porch's symmetry. Bright silver and red holiday ornaments accent both the containers and the evergreen wreath.

Use a Single Color
There is a surprising array of diversity in the green color spectrum, from deep and rich to light and bright. These simple and traditional Christmas door decorations focus on color variations to add visual interest. A green ribbon adds luster to an evergreen wreath, while tiny lights brighten the garland around the front door.

Focus on Traditional Wreaths and Garlands
For simple and classic Christmas door decorations, use a traditional evergreen wreath and garland with red accents on your front door and porch. Hang white icicle lights above the entrance to illuminate the festive display.

Try Nontraditional Christmas Door Decorations
There are several ways to decorate a door for Christmas without using a traditional wreath. For a festive and creative idea, accent your door knocker with a pretty picture frame. Frame your door knocker with a golden picture frame dressed up with small red berries and holiday ribbon.

Decorate with Pretty Vintage Ice Skates
You can decorate a door for Christmas by creatively repurposing items, such as this pair of old ice skates filled with tiny wrapped gift boxes. Tie the look together in a wintry blue color scheme complete with small ornaments and pom-poms, or use a traditional red-and-green combination.

Create Fun Holiday Accents
Change a traditional Christmas door display with this easy tip on how to decorate a door for Christmas. Frame a stuffed stocking with a simple over-the-door garland to add an interesting touch to classic Christmas door decorations. Stuff a plain stocking with berries, evergreen, and small pinecones, then hang it with ribbon from the middle of the front door. Arrange a simple garland decorated with pinecones around the door frame, and complete the scene with two miniature Christmas trees in matching pots with pinecones at the base.

Use Seasonal Colors for Christmas Door Decorations
Play up the traditional Christmas red-and-green color scheme with a modern spin. If you have a green door, accent it with an all-red wreath and place your favorite bright red flowers on the front porch (poinsettias would make this scene particularly festive). Don't have a green door? Play around with other color schemes, such as white and blue (good for lighter doors) or silver and gold (good for darker doors).

Adorn Seasonal Items for Christmas Door Decorations
Lean a vintage wooden sled next to the front door and decorate it with a small garland, pinecones, ornaments, and a bright red bow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Party Starters: 12 Bite-Size Appetizers

A Christmas party cannot survive on eggnog alone. Celebrate the giving-est season of the year by providing guests with a selection of savory nibbles and a few substantial snacks......yuletide-themed napkins and a dish of toothpicks should be all you need.

Chili Pecans
A medley of warm spices tempered with a touch of brown sugar is a great match for rich, nutritious pecans. They make a perfect nibble with a drink before dinner or afterward with a cup of espresso.
1 1/2 tablespoon(s) chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) ground cumin
1 teaspoon(s) ground coriander
1 teaspoon(s) paprika
1 teaspoon(s) brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon(s) garlic powder
2 cup(s) pecan halves
1 1/2 tablespoon(s) Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
Directions: Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, brown sugar and garlic powder in a small bowl. Toss pecans and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the pecans, tossing to coat. Spread the spiced nuts on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the pecans, tossing every 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned and very fragrant, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; sprinkle with salt and toss well. Let cool.

Cheese Straws
2 cup(s) self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon(s) ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 cup(s) (2 sticks) butter, softened
7 ounce(s) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (2-cups), room temperature
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On sheet of waxed paper, combine flour and ground red pepper. In large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat butter and cheese until well blended. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture. Beat 5 minutes longer or until very creamy, scraping bowl occasionally.
Into pastry bag or cookie press, fit 1/2 inch star tip. Transfer dough to bag or press. Onto ungreased large cookie sheets, pipe dough into 5-inch-long straws, spacing straws 1/2 inch apart. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, 18 to 20 minutes or until pale golden brown. (Refrigerate remaining straws on cookie sheets until ready to bake.) Cool straws on cookie sheet on wire rack 5 minutes, then transfer with spatula to wire rack to cool completely. Store in tightly sealed container up to 3 days.

Bagel Chips with Ricotta, Chive Puree, and Prosciutto
Using bagel chips as the base for an hors d'oeuvre is a quick way to add flavor and crunch. Grace Parisi tops the chips with fresh ricotta, chive puree, and prosciutto. As an alternative, she sometimes uses dried apricot halves in place of the chips.
1/2 cup(s) snipped chives
1/4 cup(s) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon(s) marcona almonds
1 cup(s) fresh ricotta cheese
48 small plain bagel chips (1 1/2 inches) or dried apricot halves
12 thin slices prosciutto (about 4 ounces), cut into 3-inch-wide strips
Directions: In a blender or mini food chopper, combine chives, olive oil, almonds, and a pinch of salt and pulse to a coarse puree. In a small bowl, lightly season ricotta with salt and spread about 1 teaspoon onto each bagel chip. Carefully spoon a small dollop of chive puree on top of each chip and garnish each with a loosely rolled up slice of prosciutto. Transfer bagel chips to a platter and serve.

Chorizo Poached in Red Wine
2 piece(s) (4 ounces each) dry Spanish chorizo
6 cup(s) dry red wine, about two 750-milliliter bottles
10 clove(s) garlic, peeled
4 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon(s) cayenne pepper
Directions: Combine all of the ingredients in a large skillet. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderately low heat, turning once, until the chorizo are plump, about 15 minutes. Uncover and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to a work surface and slice on the diagonal 1/4 inch thick. Return the chorizo slices to the skillet and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo slices to a shallow serving bowl and pour in enough of the poaching liquid to reach halfway up the side. Serve the chorizo with toothpicks.

Figs Stuffed with Gorgonzola
16 (about 8 ounces) dried Mission figs
1/2 cup(s) port
1 tablespoon(s) balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup(s) (2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup(s) (about 2 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon(s) chopped fresh rosemary
2 ounce(s) sliced prosciutto, trimmed of fat
Coarsely ground pepper to taste
Directions: Snip the stem off each fig and make a crisscross cut two-thirds of the way down to partially open the fig. Trim the base of each fig so it will sit upright when finished. Place the figs, port and vinegar in a small saucepan; cook, uncovered, over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the figs are plumped and softened and most of the liquid is reduced, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, combine Gorgonzola, cream cheese and rosemary in a small bowl; blend with a fork. Cover and refrigerate until the figs are cooled. Cut prosciutto into 1/4-inch-wide ribbons. Using a teaspoon, melon baller or small spoon, place a dollop of cheese mixture in the opening of each fig. Garnish each appetizer with a ribbon of prosciutto. Dust with a grinding of pepper.

Sausage Rolls with Worcestershire Sauce
3/4 pound(s) lean ground pork or veal
3/4 cup(s) finely diced boiled potato
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoon(s) chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon(s) dried sage
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1/2 teaspoon(s) freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon(s) crushed red pepper flakes
1 package(s) (17.25-ounce) frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
Flour, for dusting
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup(s) Worcestershire sauce
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. To make piping bag, snip 1 corner from a plastic food bag with scissors to make a U-inch opening. Combine pork, potato, onion, parsley, sage, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes in bowl; transfer sausage mixture to bag. Unfold 1 pastry sheet; following fold marks, cut sheet into 3 rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half lengthwise to make 6 strips. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each strip into a 12" x 2.5" rectangle. Pipe sausage mixture along 1 long edge of each strip. Lightly brush opposite edge with egg. Starting at edge with sausage mixture, roll up each strip, gently pressing egg-brushed edge to seal. With a sharp knife, cut each log crosswise into eight 1 1/2-inch-thick rolls. Arrange rolls, seam side down, on a broiler pan; brush top with egg. Repeat with remaining pastry and sausage mixture. Bake until golden and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm with Worcestershire sauce for dipping.

Goat Cheese Crostini with Pickled Peppers
20 (1/3-inch-thick) slices of baguette
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
7 ounce(s) (3/4 cup) fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup(s) chopped pickled sweet or hot peppers
2 tablespoon(s) chopped chives
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake for about 8 minutes, until toasted. Spread each toast with goat cheese and top with the peppers. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with the chives and salt, and serve.

Pimiento Cheese and Bacon Crostini
2 1/2 cup(s) shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
2 1/2 cup(s) shredded extra-sharp orange cheddar cheese
1 7-ounce jar pimientos, drained and finely chopped
3/4 cup(s) mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon(s) freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon(s) garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
40 slice(s) baguette, toasted
4 strip(s) cooked bacon, crumbled
Directions: In a mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the white and orange cheddar cheeses. Add the chopped pimientos, mayonnaise, black pepper, and garlic powder; blend at low speed. Season the pimiento cheese with cayenne pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 400° Spread the pimiento cheese on the toasts, top with the bacon, and bake until the cheese is melted and browned, about 2 minutes. Serve.

Tomato Tartlets
All-purpose flour, for rolling
1/2 pound(s) all-butter puff pastry
30 (about 1 pound) cherry tomatoes, halved crosswise
2 tablespoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon(s) fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound(s) fresh ricotta
Directions: Preheat the oven to 425° and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Position racks in the middle and upper thirds of the oven. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 9 1/2-by-17 1/2-inch rectangle. Using a straight edge, trim the pastry to a 9-by-17-inch rectangle. Transfer the pastry to the baking sheet and poke all over with a fork. Top with another sheet of parchment and another baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes on the middle rack, until golden. Remove the top sheet and parchment paper and bake the pastry until lightly browned and dry, about 10 minutes longer. Slide the paper and pastry onto a rack and let cool. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil and 2 teaspoons of thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut side up, and bake on the upper rack for about 15 minutes, until softened slightly. Let cool. In a food processor, puree the ricotta until very creamy. Spread the ricotta over the pastry and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on the ricotta in 5 rows of 12. Sprinkle lightly with fresh thyme. Using a long knife, cut the pastry between the tomatoes into 60 squares. Transfer the tartlets to platters and serve at once.

Shrimp Mini Smørrebrød
1/2 cup(s) reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoon(s) finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon(s) finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon(s) Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon(s) chopped capers
16 slice(s) cocktail-size thin rye or pumpernickel bread
9 ounce(s) cooked salad (or baby) shrimp
1 lemon, cut into paper-thin wedges
Directions: Combine mayonnaise, shallot, parsley, mustard, and capers in a small bowl; cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes (or up to 1 day) to blend flavors. Spread 1 teaspoon on each slice of bread. Top each piece with a few shrimp and a lemon wedge.

Easy Hummus with Tahini
1 can(s) (15-ounce) chickpeas, drained, 1 tablespoon of the liquid reserved
1 small garlic clove, smashed
1 tablespoon(s) fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup(s) tahini
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pinch(s) of sweet smoked paprika
Kosher salt
Pita chips or crudités, for serving
Directions: In a food processor, combine the chickpeas with the liquid, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini and puree to a chunky paste. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the paprika and puree until smooth. Season the hummus with salt, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with pita chips or crudités.

Roasted-Cauliflower-and-Sesame Spread
1 head(s) (2 pounds) of cauliflower, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
1/4 cup(s) vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoon(s) minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) ground coriander
Kosher salt
3 tablespoon(s) tahini (sesame paste)
3 tablespoon(s) fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoon(s) chopped cilantro
Sesame seeds
Pita bread or chips, for serving
Directions: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the oil, ginger, and coriander and season with salt. Spread the cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and lightly browned in spots. Let cool slightly. Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor. Add the tahini and lemon juice and pulse to a chunky puree; season with salt. Add the cilantro and pulse just until incorporated. Transfer the spread to a bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve warm with pita bread or chips.

Enter with This

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” Psalm 100:4

As believers, we have the honor and privilege to enter boldly into God’s presence. Scripture says that we can come to His throne of grace and receive His mercy because He loves us, He has given us unlimited access to Himself 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

However, notice that the key verse tells us that we shouldn’t just come to God any way we feel like and we shouldn’t come empty-handed to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. What can we bring? What do we have that’s worthy of Almighty God? Our praise ~ Our thanksgiving ~ Our worship. We are to enter His gates with an offering from our hearts of adoration because He is worthy!

We have to understand, praise isn’t just about singing songs on Sunday mornings. Praise is the expression of gratefulness to Father God for Who He is and all that He has done. Praise gets God’s attention. Praise is a powerful tool in the life of the believer because God inhabits our praises! When we enter His presence the right way, He enters our circumstances, and when God shows up, the enemy must flee! Today, enter into His gates with thanksgiving and open the door for Him to move on your behalf!

Father, I come to You today with thanksgiving in my heart. I enter into Your courts with praise. Today I declare that You are good, and Your mercy endures forever! Have Your way in me by the power of Your Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Let God Arise So Your Enemies Can Be Scattered

“Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered...” Psalm 68:1

What are you letting arise in your life today ~ what are you focusing your words, energy and thoughts on? You might say, “Oh, it’s just so hard right now. I’ve lost some money.” or “My health doesn’t look good.” or “Somebody walked out on me.” If this is you, you are focusing on the wrong things ~ you are letting defeat, discouragement and self-pity rise up. Why don’t you turn that around and say, “God is still in control. Somebody may have walked out on me, I may be hurting right now, but I know God is the Restorer of my soul.”, “I may have lost money in the stock market, but I’m not worried. I know God is Jehovah-Jeriah, my provider. He is supplying all of my needs. He is fighting my battles.”

When you start giving God glory and letting Him arise in your life, you can’t stay defeated ~ your enemies will be scattered and I mean all of your enemies ~ the addictions, the people, the feelings ~ all those things that are enemies in your life. They’ll tremble at your words of faith. Begin right now by declaring God's goodness in your life and let Him arise so that you can move forward in the victory He has for you!

Father in heaven, I repent right now for allowing any negative, self-defeating thoughts or attitudes rise up in my life. You alone are my God, and I put my trust in You. I bless You today and choose to look for the good things You have for me in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Easy To Make Christmas Centerpieces for Your Table

Make your Christmas table shine with these easy ideas for festive centerpieces. These Fun and Fabulous Christmas centerpieces don't need to take a lot of time or expensive materials. Get inspired with these easy arrangements that will wow your family and guests.

Tiered Tray
Take the holidays to new heights. Use a tiered tray to display seasonal treasures.

Luminarias Centerpiece
Transform plain white paper bags into luminarias for an inventive holiday centerpiece on the cheap. Use a large scalloped-edge punch to create the detail on the bags, then weave ribbon through the openings and secure with double-stick tape. Use battery-operated tea lights instead of candles for long-lasting, safe illumination.

Front and Center
This tabletop take on pomander balls makes an eye-catching Christmas display. Simply soak florist's foam balls in water and cover with red carnations. Place the finished balls atop white vases or urns placed in a row along the center of your table.

Low Glow
Real or artificial magnolia leaves (we gave ours a quick spritz of gold paint) are set on a flat platter to form the foundation for an arrangement of holiday ornaments and tiny berry sprigs. Easy and impressive!

Winter White Holiday Centerpiece
A holiday table is even cozier when layered in winter whites. To make the runner, cut 18-24-inch wide felt by the yard to the needed length. Trace halfway around a drinking glass at the ends of the runner to create scallops; cut out with scissors. Embellish with punched scalloped-edge circles. On smaller sections of felt, punch more scalloped-edge circles, and wrap felt around oversize glass vases. Insert candles for a soft, wintry white glow, and scatter felt snowflake cutouts across the table runner.

Cover Up
Make a vase filled with evergreens more stunning by covering it with fresh flowers. Remove the heads from roses or other seasonal flowers and then hot-glue them to a glass vase or other vessel.

Centerpiece Under Glass
Accent Christmas red with a favorite color, such lime green or turquoise (as shown here), for a colorful holiday centerpiece. Paint a peat pot your desired color and let dry. Create a gift box design on coordinating scrapbook paper and glue to the front of the peat pot. Place a miniature poinsettia plant inside a plastic sandwich bag and place inside the peat pot. (You may need to remove extra soil from around the roots so it will fit in the pot.) Cover the top with shaved soap or purchased coconut for a fresh-snowfall effect. Place the pot in a small dish, beneath a cloche decked out in matching ribbon.

Wrapped-and-Stacked Centerpiece
Stack monochromatic boxes, all in various patterns, on top of a footed cake plate for this centerpiece. Top the tower with a bow and a length of ribbon trailing down on each side. Secure the ends of the ribbon tails to the underside of the cake plate.

Bowl of Bulbs
Let there be light! Tuck a candle into a bowl of Christmas bulbs. Look for the old-fashioned strand of bulbs. Then coordinate your holiday decor by mixing and matching the candle and bulb colors.

Sleigh Ride Centerpiece
Elevate your centerpiece with a handsome vintage sled. Top with an assortment of cloches, ornaments, and greenery. After the holidays, keep the sled, but replace the Christmas-theme accents with winter wares, like white pillar candles in glass hurricanes surrounded by faux snow.

Holiday Gifts Centerpiece
Pretty presents aren't just for placing under the tree. Wrap empty boxes to look like gifts and decorate with a few embellishments to use in a centerpiece. These boxes are decorated with pom-poms, buttons, bows, and jingle bells, and finished with dramatic bows. Display the final products on wide candlesticks intended for pillar candles.

Greetings from Nature
For a centerpiece that is festive yet natural, arrange twigs in a ceramic pitcher and tie greeting cards to the branches. Weave a length of rickrack through the branches for an extra flourish.

Carnation Centerpieces
These three wreaths are easy to make with florist's foam wreath bases, pearl ornaments, and scarlet carnations. Add glass hurricanes and ivory-color candles for classic Christmas centerpieces.

On Display
Vintage tree toppers take center stage when grouped into an antique candleholder. Be sure to secure the toppers with temporary adhesive that won't damage the ornament.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Vision for Your Future

"For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day." Habakkuk 2: 3

God promises that there are set times in our future, but He doesn’t tell us when they will be. Your set time may be tomorrow morning at 9:47 ~ you’ll get the phone call you’ve been waiting for. Your set time may be two years from now ~ you’ll get a good break and that will thrust you to a new level. My question is, “Do you trust God enough to believe that your set times are coming?” Are you willing to wait with a good attitude? Are you willing to get a new perspective?

Remember, that set time is already in your future. Don’t let the negative thoughts talk you out of it. The way you know that you’re really believing is that you have rest on the inside. You’re at peace. You know the answer is on the way. You trust that God is working things out.

Today put your faith and trust in Him and enter into rest. Know that He is good and He is for you! Your set time of favor is on the way!

Father, today I choose to enter into rest. I choose to trust You, I choose to put my faith and hope in You knowing that You are good and that You have good things in store for my future in Jesus’ name! Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cute and Crafty DIY Christmas Gift Ideas for Teachers, Friends, Family, Co-workers, etc

Best Hot Cocoa Mix
The secret ingredient in this mix is the mini chocolate chips, which melt when combined with the boiling water and give the cocoa an extra-rich flavor. The recipe makes enough for four gift-size portions, each of which can be measured into a small plastic bag and tucked into a cup or mug filled with mini marshmallows, candy stick stirrers, and a spoon. Wrap each filled gift cup in cellophane and don't forget to include a tag with the following instructions: "Spoon 3 or 4 generous tablespoons of cocoa mix into your cup (depending on the size), add boiling water, and stir well."
What you'll need
2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup powdered nondairy creamer
1/8 teaspoon salt
How to make it: Measure all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk them until they are evenly blended. Store the mix in a tightly covered container at room temperature until you're ready to package it. Makes about 4 cups of mix.

Cookie Cutter Candles
These holiday candles are ideal gifts and fun for kids to make. Beeswax is a joy to work with: it's flexible, gently scented, and easy to cut with a cookie cutter.
What you'll need
Cookie cutters (choose shapes that can stand up)
Honeycomb wax sheets in various colors (an 8- by 16-inch sheet will make 1-2 candles)
How to make it: For each candle, use a cookie cutter to make 10 identical shapes from the wax sheets. Divide the shapes into two stacks of 5. Sandwich a wick between the two stacks, starting at the bottom and extending it beyond the top by at least an inch. Press the sheets together gently. If they don't stick together, take the wax layers apart and use a hair dryer to gently warm each one before restacking them, adding the wick as instructed above. Trim the wick to about a half-inch. Stand your candle up, shaping the base as needed to make it sit securely.

Handy Coasters
These cleverly personalized coasters offer a fun, open-handed expression of your child's generosity: "Here," they seem to say. "I brought you a drink." For extra appeal and versatility, we've applied different fabrics to the sides of the coasters.
What you'll need
Card stock
2 coordinating or contrasting cotton fabrics
1 package double-sided stiff fusible interfacing
How to make it: Trace your child's hand on a piece of card stock and cut it out to make a template. Use a pencil or chalk to trace the desired number of coasters on one of the fabrics. Trim the fabric into a rectangle that contains all of your tracings, then trim the second fabric and the interfacing to match its size. Following the interfacing package's instructions, fuse it between the two fabrics with an iron (an adult's job). Cut along the traced lines with scissors.

Memory Lane Picture Frame
Is your mother's or grandmother's jewelry box a treasure trove of elegant baubles? Ask her to donate some trinkets to your cause, then use them to decorate a picture frame for a sentimental sister or cousin. Want to get down to brass tacks instead? Make a treasure box with little pieces of hardware scavenged from Grandpa's tool chest. Use any family trinkets and treasured hardware odds and ends to decorate a personalized picture frame and box.
What you'll need
Picture frame (flat wood or plastic works best)
Costume jewelry
Foam brush
Strong craft glue
How to make it: To prepare the jewelry, remove earring and brooch backs and unstring any beads. Remove the glass from the picture frame. Working in sections, use the foam brush to apply a thick layer of glue, then press on the beads and jewelry. When the frame is completely dry, reinsert the glass.

No-Sew Sachets
These sachets are the perfect gift for all kids to make.Even kids who don't sew can help fashion a bunch of these fragrant, colorful sachets. It's a great way to use up all your fabric remnants.
What you'll need
Fabric scraps
Fabric glue
Potpourri, such as lavender flowers or balsam fir needles
How to make it: For each sachet, place 2 matching 5-inch fabric squares back-to-back and glue the edges together on 3 sides. Spread the glue close to the edges to prevent fraying. Once the glue is dry, fill the sachet with about 1/2 cup of potpourri. Then glue together the open edges and again let the glue dry. Arrange the finished sachets in multicolored stacks and tie them together with a festive ribbon or yarn.

Off-the-Cuff Bracelets
Repurpose old wool sweaters by felting the fabric -- shrinking the wool until it's thick and ravel-proof -- and then it's a cinch to create a bevy of stylish bracelets.
What you'll need
Old sweater
Embroidery needle
Embroidery floss
Buttons, felt shapes, paper flowers, and other embellishments
How to make it: To felt the wool, wash the sweater in hot water and dry it on high heat. Repeat, if necessary, so that the fabric's weave is tight enough to be cut without fraying. Cut loops from the sweater's cuffs and arms. Next, decorate the bangles by using embroidery floss to sew on buttons, felt shapes, paper flowers, and more. NOTE:If the diameter of a loop is too big, cut it open, trim the excess length, then overlap the edges and secure them by sewing on embellishments.

Printed Memo Blocks
This gift is super simple to make if you start with a cube of precut memo sheets. Still, if you have a paper cutter available, this project is perfect for using up a stack of old scrap paper.
What you'll need
Colored duct tape
Memo cube pad, memo filler sheets or scrap paper cut into small squares
Ink stamps or Foamies craft foam, plastic bottle caps and double-sided tape
Ink pad
How to make it: Cut a strip of duct tape that measures 2 inches longer than the height of the stack of paper you plan to use (it should be 1 1/2 inches or more). Lay the tape sticky side up on a table. Grasp the stack and tap the sides against a flat surface as you would to straighten a deck of cards, then hold it on its end and press one edge down onto the center of the tape. Wrap the tape ends over the top and bottom of the stack, pressing down firmly to bind the paper. Use more tape to cover the edge, if needed. Now, lift the top sheet of paper and cut the tape just above the second sheet so that the binding is flush with the top of the pad. If you don't already have an ink stamp, cut a fun shape from Foamies craft foam and use double-sided tape to stick it onto a bottle cap. Then use the stamp and an ink pad to print a design on the three untaped sides of the block.

Pinup Containers
These handy holders make a welcome addition to an office or kitchen and a great gift that kids can make. Thanks to a double layer of cork, they also serve as miniature bulletin boards. If you like, make a desk set with a pencil holder and a vase and add a scatter of pretty tacks so that the recipient can pin up a picture of her favorite person (aw, shucks).
What you'll need
Colored or patterned duct tape
14- or 15-ounce can, washed, dried, and label removed
Thin cork sheets or roll
Tacky glue
Rubber bands
Hole punch
Decorative paper
How to make it: Fold a strip of duct tape over the can's top rim (if the rim is sharp, this should be an adult's job). Wrap another strip around the can's bottom portion. Cut a 3-1/2- by 20-inch rectangle of cork. Adjust the size as needed to fit your can. (It should be long enough to wrap around the can twice.) Run a thick line of glue along one narrow edge of the rectangle, then lay the can over the glue. Roll the can along the cork, adding another line of glue every couple of inches. Run a last line of glue at the cork's edge, then wrap the container with rubber bands to hold the cork in place until the glue is dry. Use a hole punch to cut circles from decorative paper and glue them to the heads of the thumbtacks.

Family Photo Books
Showcase family photos in an elegant book filled with favorite photos, this is just the present for a relative or special family friend, particularly one your family sees less often than you'd like.
What you'll need
Assorted photos
Craft knife
4-ply and 2-ply rag board (sold at art supply stores)
26-inch-long piece of ribbon
Colored paper
Glue stick
How to make it: Choose seven favorites from a stack of family photos. Use a craft knife to cut two 5- by 6 1/2-inch rectangles from the 4-ply rag board for the book covers. For the inner pages, cut one 5- by 39-inch rectangle from the 2-ply rag board. Lightly mark 6 1/2-inch increments along the long edges of the 2-ply rag board, and accordion-fold the sheet at those marks Use a ruler edge to press the folds into sharp creases. Lay the ribbon on a tabletop and center the folded rag board on top so that the side with three creases is on the left and lines up with the midpoint of the ribbon Apply glue to the top of the folded rag board. Then lay the left side of the ribbon over the glued page and top with one of the book covers, pressing firmly until well stuck. Flip over the book and use the same method to attach the right side of the ribbon and the back cover. Now, cut the colored paper into seven 4- by 5 1/2-inch rectangles. Glue one onto the center of each page and the front cover. Then glue the photos onto the colored paper. Finally, print the year on the front cover.Open the album into a full circle, tie the ribbon binding into a bow and it's ready to display on an end table or dresser.

Beautiful Beaded Rings
These glamorous rings look so good, the recipients might not even guess they're homemade. Kids can customize them with their favorite beads, and an elastic band means they'll fit any finger (or toe!). They make great gifts for aunts, grandmoms, and friends.
What you'll need
Clear elastic beading cord
How to make it: Cut a piece of elastic. To make the beading easier, we started with a 10-inch length for an adult's ring finger and a 6-inch length for a child's pinkie. Thread the bead or beads onto the elastic (for our larger ring, we used 18). Using a helper's finger as a guide, knot together the ends. Finally, trim the ends and slide the knot into the middle of a bead so it's hidden from sight.

A New Use for an Old Scarf
If last year's scarf doesn't match this winter's wardrobe, turn it into a bolster pillow that'll help you hibernate in comfort and style.
What you'll need
densely woven or fleece scarf
2 hair elastics
How to make it: Cut a densely woven or fleece scarf in two, as shown. Use a simple running stitch to sew the long sides together, forming a fabric tube. Wrap a hair elastic around the tube, a few inches from one end. Stuff the tube with fiberfill, then cinch the other end closed with a second hair elastic.

Felted Sweater Surprises
Felting a sweater is a great way to get more life out of a favorite top that's outgrown or damaged. Use your felted sweater to make a sleeve for a hot to-go drink, or create one of our cozy bags. For the tightest and strongest felt, use a sweater that's at least 90 percent wool. Wash it in hot water (along with a few pairs of jeans or towels for extra friction) and dry it on high heat. Repeat, if necessary, until the fabric's weave is tight enough to be cut without fraying.
Cup Cuff
No tricks up this sleeve, just slip it onto a paper cup to keep your drink hot while protecting your hands. It's reusable, so it's earth-friendly. To make one, simply cut a 2 1/2-inch length from the end of a felted sweater's sleeve, then add a decorative felt shape with fabric glue or a needle and embroidery floss.
Swing Bag
Our blue bag is a cinch to make, requiring only a little sewing. Save the sleeves to make cup cuffs, described above. First, turn the felted sweater inside out. Cut off the sleeves and cut open the top shoulder seams. At the center of the back of the neck, mark a 1 1/2-inch width with chalk; this will be the strap. Use a paper plate or pot lid to draw curves from the mark to the edges of the sweater, as shown. Cut along the lines. Turn the sweater right side out, then overlap the strap ends about 1 1/2 inches and sew them together. Sew the bottom of the sweater closed and add a button to the strap for decoration.
Sleevie Wonder Bag
Depending on how long you choose to make the strap (formed from a sweater's sleeves), you can create a messenger bag or a short, under-the-arm purse.Start by cutting off a felted sweater's sleeves and upper chest as shown; leave the back intact. Fold the back panel flap over the front of the sweater. Trim and round the corners of the flap. Add a flower made from a sweater scrap, if desired. Use embroidery floss to whipstitch the bottom of the sweater closed.Cut one sleeve open lengthwise along the seam, iron it flat, then cut a 4-inch-wide strip from the sleeve. Repeat for the second sleeve. Overlap the ends of the strips about 1/2 inch and sew them together. Trim the strip to your desired strap length. Fold the strip in half lengthwise (creating a 2-inch-wide strap) and whipstitch the sides together. Sew the strap ends to the back of the bag.

Treasure Gift Box
Present collectors with handy decorated boxes to house their trinkets.These boxes are also great for holding earrings, golf tees, loose change and other treasures collected by the grown-ups on your kids' holiday list.
What you'll need
Small wooden box (available at craft stores)
Acrylic paint (or stain) and brush
Tacky glue
Assorted decorating supplies (stamps, magazine pictures, photos, labels, stickers, wrapping paper, wooden or plastic toys)
Nontoxic acrylic sealer and/or Mod-Podge
How to make it: First, apply a light coat of paint or colored stain to the box. While it's drying, pick a theme for the box, such as jungle animals, golf, travel, classical music, cars or ballet dancing, and choose a bunch of fitting decorations. Here, for a nature-loving friend, we chose a bird theme and decorated our box with bird stamps, cutout magazine pictures and bird stickers. Glue the decorating supplies onto the box (and maybe even put a few inside). When finished, brush on a coat of acrylic sealer or Mod-Podge. Lastly, glue a three-dimensional object -- say, a golf ball, a plastic toy or a wooden figurine -- to the top of the box.