Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Handmade Ornaments

While most of my gift projects will have to stay under wraps for a few more days, I also made a few pre-Christmas gifts that I am finally free to post about.

Four years ago I decided to start a tradition of making ornaments every Christmas for my friend B's children. Last year I also began making ornament for B's two youngest siblings and my godson Corin as well. That brings the total to six handmade ornaments, which is why I began working on them in January this year. And starting early gave me high hopes for what I could accomplish—perhaps a little too high.

I chose to make counted cross-stitch ornaments this year with 14-count plastic, back them with felt, and then attach a ribbon for the hanger. I began with this one for my godson Corin:

I had intended to make five more with various scenes from the Christmas Story. However, although this one turned out beautifully, it took me six months to complete. Granted, there were multiple life events happening simultaneously and I was only able to put in a short bit of time each week. Still, I no longer had any ideas of grandeur about finishing five more before Christmas.

Instead, I settled on these adorable miniature stockings:

I completed all five in only a couple months and was quite pleased with how they turned out. Of course, I am especially fond of the one I designed myself, the "flame" stocking for B's 12-1/2-year-old brother:

I am already gathering ideas for next year's ornaments because, clearly, starting early isn't an option—it's a must! If you have any suggestions for handmade ornaments, I'd love to hear them. You can post them below in the comments or email them to the address in the sidebar.

And stay tuned for more gift reveals—I can't wait to share them!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Great Two-Eight

I know a girl is never supposed to reveal her age, but I've never been very good at keeping secrets or, you know, lying. This past week I celebrated my 28th birthday. There. I said it. Now the whole world knows my age. Or at least the handful of people who read my blog. But I'm okay with that because so far being 28 has been great!

The main event of the week was a small dinner party with friends and family the day before my actual birthday—which was also my parents' 35th anniversary. Thus, I dubbed it the Anni-irthday Party. And it was grand. I thought you might enjoy a photo journal of the evening, so please excuse the inordinate number of pictures of ME. I know it's my blog and my birthday, but I still very strange posting all these pictures of, well, me.

The party was hosted by Dave and Carol, whom I often refer to as my "second parents." Good friends for more than 15 years, they are definitely part of the family. Carol decorated beautifully for the occasion:

Here I am in the Birthday Chair:

After eating our dinner of take-out Thai food—what could be better than peanut sauce, fried rice, and not having to cook?—we moved into the living room for gift opening:

My dad, the photographer for the evening, decides to add his feet to the picture for interest:

I decided to join in and show off my cute Christmas socks--just one of the many pairs I own:

My brother Carrington and his girlfriend Melissa anxiously wait for me to open my gifts:

First up, the gift from Dave and Carol:
Along with a 50$ gift card for purchasing art supplies (woohoo!), Carol also made two pairs of earring for me--in pink and purple, of course.  Yep, I'm kind of a girly girl.

Next, a funny card from Carrington and Melissa:

And an even funnier gift:

Okay, it wasn't really a Swiffer WetJet, but Carol thought it was and that made it even funnier.  The real gift was a super-soft scarf.  Here I am looking rather confused about what to do with it:

But don't worry, I figured it out eventually:

The special Swiffer box also contained TEA!  Here I am giddy with excitement:

And for the final gift of the evening, my parents gave me this:

In case you don't know, I'm a bit of a crockpot addict.  I use mine almost every week.  And this new one is a huge step up for me.  See how excited I am?

Dave and Carol also gave my parents this gigantic box of fancy chocolates for their anniversary:

While Carol and Mom get dessert ready, Dad and Dave hang out on the couch:

And Momma Cat joins in the excitement:

While Barney makes mischief under the tree:

Here comes homemade strawberry rhubarb pie!

Yep, it's great to be 28!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gift of Beauty

I have been enjoying an early birthday present this week.

Four years ago, my friend Rachel gave me a potted amaryllis bulb for my birthday. It wasn't in bloom at the time, and it would be a year before we discovered the color of its flowers: A joyous shade of peachy-orange with a light green center. Well worth the year-long wait.

Amazingly, it's bloomed every year since. The flowers just opened up this week, and thanks to the surprisingly abundant sunshine, I was finally able to get some good pictures. Here are some of my favorites:

Happy early birthday to me!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Her Name Is Rael

Across the world in the African nation of Kenya, there is a little girl named Rael. She is just 8-1/2 years old, living with her mother, stepfather, and two siblings. She helps out her family by carrying water and gathering firewood, but when there is a moment for play, Rael loves ball games.

She is just like any girl her age.

Except she is poor.

Except she may go for days without food.

Except she has little access to clean water.

Except she lives under the constant threat of disease, violence, and abuse.

Yes, Rael is just a little girl. But she is in desperate need.

As part of Compassion International's Christmas project, I have agreed to spend the next 31 days praying specifically for Rael and seeking someone to be her sponsor. I will tell you upfront that I am afraid. Afraid that I will not have the courage to ask people to make such a commitment to Rael. Afraid that no one's heart will be broken for Rael. Afraid that at the end of these 31 days, I will have made no impact on Rael's future.

Yes, I am afraid.

But I am also full of hope.

I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that regardless of whether I find a sponsor for Rael before the end of the year, 31 days spent in prayer for her will not be in vain. I believe 31 days of prayer could change the course of Rael's life.

I also believe that God's heart is even more broken for Rael than mine is. I want her to be rescued. He wants to be her Rescuer. I want her to have hope for a better future. He wants her to have the hope of eternal life. I want her to know the love of a sponsor. He wants her to know the love of a Savior.

And I believe that God will stop at nothing to set this little girl free. Free from poverty. Free from fear. Free from hopelessness. Free from sin. Free.

Please join me in praying for Rael in the days ahead. And if you or someone you know is interested in giving hope to this little girl across the world in Kenya, please email me at Courtney AT GrowingIsBeautiful DOT com. The cost is $38/month but the most important gift you will give her is your love. Please visit the Compassion International website for more information about sponsorship and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.