Life Lesson: Never Leave On A Miss

a girl and her softball, glove, and bat

It was the summer before my freshman year of high school. I’d finally reached a triple digit weight, but my hair and feet made up most of it. I was awkward and introverted. But, I loved softball. Summer softball leagues were something I looked forward to every year.

This particular summer softball would change my life. I was playing on a co-ed team and was one of the team’s few pitchers. When I wasn’t pitching I was in right field…or on the bench. Needless to say, pitching is what made me love the sport. There’s no standing around. There’s constant action. It’s the perfect position for someone who can’t sit still (a problem I still have).

Our softball team traveled to other rural Montana communities to play once or twice a week. One afternoon at an away game, I was standing on the pitchers mound. And I was off. Bad off. I couldn’t manage to get the ball across the plate. I asked the coach to take me out, but he insisted I push through it. Throw after throw after throw I walked members of the opposing team. When my own teammates started sitting down on their bases and laying down in the outfield I began to plead with my coach to please take me out.

At one point the coach walked out to the mound where I was in tears…in front of two entire communities, no less. He told me something that I have never forgotten. He said that he wasn’t going to let this get the best of me. We all have bad days and we have to push through them. And, at that point there was no chance of our team coming back for a win, so the best thing he could do for me was force me to work through it. And I did.

I don’t know if it was the humiliation or the anger….LOTS of anger….that got me through the longest softball game of my life, but eventually I got a ball across the plate. Then another. And another. I’ll never forget the smile on my coach’s face and seeing him cheering for me when I finally broke through that wall.

When the game was over I ran to the bus and cried. I didn’t talk to any of my teammates during the ride home. Instead, I stared out my window and seethed. To say I was furious with Coach would be an epic understatement. But, as time passed I learned to appreciate what he did for me. 20-something years later that day still chokes me up when I think about it. Little did I know that one of the most humiliating day of my life would teach me such a huge lesson.

At least once a day you’ll probably hear me say something to my kids about never leaving on a miss. If we’re shooting free throws in the gym…we never leave the court on a miss. If we’re practicing volleyball serves…we never leave on a miss. If I’m learning to bake¬†something new and the recipe is a major failure….I never quit on a miss. I make it again and again until I master it. It’s not about trying to be the best at something, it’s about never letting that something get the best of you.

To Coach: Thank you for not letting me quit.

Dreaming Big & Imaginary Blue Ribbons

It’s icy and cold here in Arkansas. Perfect weather for deep cleaning and reminiscing. I sat down earlier today and went through my cedar chest that holds a lifetime of photos, letters, and a gazillion other keepsakes that I can’t bring myself to part with. I came across a small stack of newspaper clippings from my brief stint as a columnist with our local paper. On the top of the pile was a story I’d written around the end of 2014. It is quite possibly my favorite piece of writing…in a strange, twisted kind of way. There’s no joy in admitting embarrassing moments and failures, but there’s something freeing about throwing them out there for everyone to laugh at. So, I wanted to share the story with you. Warning: It’s long. I write like I talk….a lot.ūüôā Enjoy!

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New Year’s resolutions. I don’t make them. I prefer short-term goals as I’m more likely to reach them. Not that I’m afraid of failure. Quite the opposite. I thrive on failure. Well…maybe thrive isn’t the right word. But, I’ve been rejected and suffered enough failure and disappointment in my life that failure doesn’t scare me anymore. A German philosopher once said “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” (Thank you, Google). So, why not make some realistic goals? If we don’t reach them, so what? We’re stronger for trying.

When I was a kid I used to dream of being on Star Search. I never dreamed it out loud, just thought to myself how cool it would be. I had no talent whatsoever so being on Star Search wasn’t going to happen unless they were looking for uncoordinated, tone-deaf, scrawny middle-schoolers with bad hair. So, I decided I was going to be an astronaut until I learned that you had to be good at math. Through my junior high years I went through phases of wanting to be everything from a doctor to a news anchor. Too bad you had to be smart to be a doctor. My feel of public speaking nixed the news anchor thing.

Hmm…what’s left? CHEERLEADING! Yeah…cheerleading! Anyone can be a cheerleader! My freshman year of high school I decided to try out. I practiced faithfully and learned the routines and cheers. Four cheerleaders would be chosen for the varsity squad and four for the junior varsity squad.

Tryout day arrived. Eight spots were open and nine were trying out. We were to perform a group cheer, a cheer with one other wannabe, and a cheer alone. ¬†No problemo! The judges were representatives from each class, the cheer coach, and a couple of teachers. The group cheer went great. The couples cheer was easy-peasy. As I walked out onto the gym floor for my solo cheer, I panicked. I thought I might pass out. I don’t remember the cheer. I don’t remember anything past “Ready? Okay!” I blinked and tryouts were over.

The nine of us waited in the hallway for results to be posted on the oversized bulletin board on the wall across from the secretary’s office. I got tired of waiting and went to my locker. Wouldn’t you know that they would post results while I was away? As I walked back down the hall, I saw the other girls gathered around the board giggling and hugging each other. As I approached, a few of them scattered. The others looked at me sympathetically and mumbled “Sorry, Tiff.” Seriously? I was the ONE girl that didn’t make the squad? Loser is not strong enough a word to describe how I felt. Humilibarassified pretty much covers it.

Sure…it hurt at the time, but I’m glad it happened. I feel like I’ve felt the worst possible rejection anyone could ever feel (at 14, I thought my life was over). So why not keep trying? And, try I did. I played every sport I could and sat the bench more often than I played until I grew into my feet. I joined every club and learned what it meant to be better. I rarely won anything and have a cedar chest full of red, yellow, and bless-your-heart-thanks-for-trying ribbons to prove it. But, you know what? Without losers there wouldn’t be winners. Think about it. There’s no joy in winning unless you beat someone, right? Every time I lost, somebody else got a certificate or trophy or blue ribbon to hang on their wall…or a spot on the cheerleading squad. You’re welcome!

While I may not be great at any one thing, I love trying. Cooking for instance. I don’t consider myself a fantastic¬†cook or baker, I just do it because I love it. If other people like what I make, then great! If not, that’s okay, too. The most important thing to me is that my family likes what I bake. One of my daily goals is to sit down and have dinner as a family. Dinner time varies depending on hubby’s work schedule, ball games, etc. But, we try to eat as many evening meals together as possible and make them special.

What makes meal time special? Sitting around the table and eating together. That’s it. It doesn’t take fine china and a four course meal to make a meal memorable. My kids are happy with paper plates and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as long as we’re all sitting down together. No phones. No computers. Just good old-fashioned uninterrupted conversation. Every night that we eat together as a family is another virtual blue ribbon on my wall and trophy in my trophy case. Nobody else can see it right now, but I know it’s there. Those imaginary blue ribbons mean a whole lot more to me than any track award, student-of-the month certificate, or Pillsbury Bake-Off ever would. The cool thing is that those ribbons and trophies don’t only belong to me. They belong to my kids too. Only they won’t be able to see them until they’re grown and ready to start adding their own to the case.

 

 

 

Go Dairy Free Snackable Recipe Contest: Cherry Almond Ice Cream Cupcakes

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YAY! It’s time for another Go Dairy Free recipe contest! I look forward to these contests so much that my mind runs with dairy-free recipe ideas all year long! This time the contest theme is dairy-free snacks. Woohoo! As a mom of 5 kids, snacks (especially sweet snacks) is kinda my thing.

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When I first started creating dairy-free recipes it seemed overwhelming. No butter, milk, yogurt, cheese. Ugh! But, So Delicious products make dairy-free eating SO easy and truly SO delicious that I don’t even feel like I’m missing out. One of my favorite discoveries was So Delicious Dairy-Free Almond Milk Frozen Dessert (ice cream). Yummo! I knew right away that I wanted to use a frozen product for this contest, and I knew I wanted to make something so fun and delicious that my kids would go crazy for it. Hence…the Ice Cream Cupcake was born.

I hope you and your gang enjoy this frozen treat as much as we did!

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Dairy Free Cherry Almond Ice Cream Cupcakes in Dark Chocolate Cups
Yield: 6
Ingredients:
1 quart So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Almond Milk Frozen Dessert, softened
1 cup frozen or fresh dark cherries, cut in half plus 6 whole cherries for garnish
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Instructions:
1.  Place 6 cupcake liners in a standard cupcake pan.  Set aside.
2.  Place ice cream in a medium bowl.   Fold in 1 cup cherry halves.
3.  Scoop ice cream into prepared cupcake pan, dividing evenly among the 6 lined cups.  Use a spoon to press ice cream into liners.
4.  Sprinkle almonds on top of ice cream and place in freezer for at least one hour.
5.   Remove from freezer and peel off cupcake liners. Place cupcakes on a small foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet and put back in freezer while preparing chocolate.
6.  Place chocolate and coconut oil in small microwavable bowl.  Heat at 30 second intervals, stirring often, until chocolate is smooth.  Dip bottoms of cupcakes into the chocolate.  Place upside down on baking sheet. and put back into the freezer until chocolate is set.
7.  Serve with a cherry on top.  Enjoy!
Notes: Cupcakes may need to sit at room temperature for a few minutes before removing the liners.
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Saucy Mama Recipe Contest: Around The World Bacon Wrap

Saucy Bacon Wrap

My mind won’t stop running. I’m kind of a spaz that way. When I’m working on a project or an idea I can’t think of anything else until I’m done. I’ve been known to make midnight runs to Wal-Mart for supplies/ingredients just so I can get a good night’s sleep. The project keeping my mind running right now is the Saucy Mama recipe contest. It’s not so much about the prize, but the challenge. I’m up against some heavy hitters for the fantastical (yes, that’s a word) World Food Championship prize from Saucy Mama, so I want to put my best, most creative foot forward.

I literally stood in my kitchen earlier today staring at the bottles of Saucy Mama goodies. Lips pursed, eyes squinted, and hands on hips, I brainstormed for a good hour before an idea came to mind. I used my 15-year old son as my sounding board and he ran with the idea. Between the two of us, we ended up with a simple, but yummy sandwich that we had for lunch, afternoon snack, and supper. It was THAT good!

What was my son’s idea? The¬†Around The World¬†Bacon Wrap. We took flavors/dishes from around¬†the world and meshed it into one doozy of a sandwich. Using Saucy Mama Jamaican Jerk Wing Sauce we made JAMAICAN¬†Bacon (say that 10 times fast!). We incorporated GREEK¬†pita bread, sweet potato FRENCH fries, and AMERICAN cheese for a truly INTERNATIONAL sandwich. Creative, eh?

If you’d like to try Saucy Mama sauces yourself, check out Saucy Mama’s website here and let me know in the comments below what product of theirs you’d like to try. You can also comment on yesterday’s recipe post, Saucy Bird Dog Stuffed Baguette. That’s right! You can enter more than once, although only one comment on each post is allowed. Don’t forget to share the post. If you’re not lucky enough to win yourself, maybe a friend that loves you enough to share will win. ¬†All comments on my Saucy Mama contests posts will be entered into a random drawing for 3 products of your choice! The winner will be announced June 1, so comment away!

On to today’s recipe…..

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AROUND THE WORLD BACON WRAP
Yield 4 Servings

Ingredients
8 sliced bacon
1/2 cup Saucy Mama Jamaican Jerk Wing Sauce
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch strips
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
8 sliced bacon
1/2 cup Saucy Mama Jamaican Jerk Wing Sauce
4 pita bread loaves
1/4 cup Saucy Mama Honey Dijon Dressing
4 slices American cheese
1/4 large purple onion, thinly sliced

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat sweet potato strips with coconut oil, then toss with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and bake on lower rack of preheated oven while bacon is cooking.

Place a cooling rack on¬†a large baking sheet lined with foil (this makes clean up a cinch!). Lay bacon slices on cooling rack and brush top side with Saucy Mama Jamaican Jerk Wing Sauce. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn bacon. Brush again with sauce and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and top with more sauce. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until bacon is beginning to get crisp around the edges. (Remember…the bacon will crisp up some as it cools!) Remove bacon and sweet potato fries from the oven.

To assemble wraps, place each pita loaf on a piece of foil long enough to wrap the completed sandwich. Brush what will be the inside of sandwich with Saucy Mama Honey Dijon Dressing. Place sweet potato fries along the center of each loaf and top with prepared bacon, onion, and American cheese. Bring up sides of pitas and overlap, securing with a toothpick. Wrap sandwiches tightly in foil and place in oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Enjoy immediately (after you remove the toothpick) and serve with additional Saucy Mama Honey Dijon Dressing, if desired.

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Cheesy Italian Rolls – Healthy Spice Blends Recipe Challenge

Cheesy Italian Rolls

Coming up with creative lunch ideas is the pits! We’re a homeschooling family, and¬†more often than not we’re¬†in a peanut butter & jelly rut.¬† (Is it sad that my kids get excited about Ramen Noodles?)

A few years ago, I made my kids what we call “Cheesy Garlic Rolls”.¬† It was an almost-grocery-day scrambling-to-use-up-leftover-stuff kinda day.¬† I had roughly half of a bag of shredded cheese in my fridge, and very little else.¬† I¬†whipped up a¬†basic sweet roll dough and stuffed it with mozzarella, parmesan, garlic, butter, and random seasonings that just happened to work.¬† These rolls became a family favorite that the kids beg for on a regular basis.¬† I was kicking myself that they turned out¬†so¬†amazing because they’re a pain to make.¬† I should say, they were a pain to make.¬† Thanks to Healthy Solutions, I’ve found the perfect seasoning blend for these rolls that totally eliminates a couple steps!

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A couple of weeks ago, I signed up to participate in the Healthy Solutions Spice Blend Recipe Challenge.  When I received my packet of Italian Meatball Seasoning in the mail, I knew it would be a perfect fit for my Cheesy Garlic Rolls.   My kids have already polished off two pans and let me know that this recipe beats the old one hands-down.  These are great alone or served with marinara sauce.

NOTE: For those of you looking for a healthier bread alternative, I’ve made the dough with half Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached White All-Purpose Flour and half Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour and¬†they’re¬†wonderful!

 

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CHEESY ITALIAN ROLLS

Ingredients:
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup salted butter, softened and divided
1 tablespoon yeast
1 cup warm water
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 packet Italian Meatballs Healthy Solutions Spice Blend
2 cups finely grated part-skim mozzarella cheese

Instructions:
Place milk, 1/3 cup sugar, and 4 tablespoons butter in a large microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, just until milk is scalded.  Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together warm water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes or until yeast is foamy.
Using a wooden spoon, stir egg, salt, and 2 cups of the flour into the milk mixture.  Stir in yeast mixture until well blended.  Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough forms a nice ball. Knead the dough with your hand in the bowl until smooth. Cover and let rise until double.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.¬† Place 1 tablespoon of butter in the bottom of 3 9-inch round pans.¬† Place pans in oven while it’s preheating to melt butter. This should only take a couple of minutes.¬† Remove pans from oven and make sure butter is spread evenly over bottom of pans.
In a small bowl, beat together remaining softened butter,  parmesan cheese, and Italian Meatballs Healthy Solutions Spice Blend.  Set aside.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a rectangle that is approximately 30″ by 15″.¬† Use your hands to spread seasoned butter mixture all over the dough, making sure to get butter all the way to the edges.¬† Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.¬† Starting with a long edge, roll dough up tightly.¬† Slice into 21 rolls and place 7 in each prepared pan.¬† Cover and let rise for 30 minutes or until rolls are touching in the pan.
Bake rolls in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until tops are golden brown. If desired, spread with additional butter as soon as you remove rolls from the oven.
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*Healthy Solutions Spice Blends are all natural, low carb, and contain on MSG, fillers, or preservatives.  Healthy Solutions provided me with the Italian Meatballs Spice Blend in exchange for my entry in this recipe contest.

I Would Do Anything for Guac

I attended the World Food Championships last November and was introduced to Chef’s Roll.¬† Chef’s Roll is a network for anyone involved in the food industry…..chefs, photographers, bloggers, you name it.¬† I put off joining because I don’t consider myself a chef and I certainly don’t make significant contributions of any kind to the food industry, but¬†finally decided that it wouldn’t hurt.¬† The great thing about Chef’s Roll is that you can get started for free! Making a profile is simple and it’s¬†a great way to journal your accomplishments and goals while getting your name out to other industry related people including casting producers and the like.

A few weeks ago, I saw that Chef’s Roll was sponsoring a guacamole contest,¬†Guac ‘n’ Roll.¬† Entries were to be inspired by a rock band and song. ¬†First of all, I don’t listen to rock.¬† It’s just not my thing.¬† But, I had plenty of rock songs from high school days to go¬†off of.¬† Unfortunately for me, I was mistaken in thinking that it was a photo contest.¬† Argh.¬† I came up with a great photo idea to accompany my guac and song, I Would Do Anything for Love (Guac) by Meatloaf. Homemade heart shaped rosemary garlic crackers accompanied my mediocre guac and made for a great pic!¬†¬† I’m sharing the recipe even though it’s basic.¬† Use your imagination to spice up this guac…..cayenne pepper,¬† grilled corn, whatever floats your boat.¬† Enjoy!

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I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR GUAC

Ingredients:

3 large Avocados from Mexico, peeled and seeded
3 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions:
In a large bowl, mash avocados with a fork, leaving some chunks. Stir in remaining ingredients. Serve with your favorite chips or crackers.

I used this recipe for Rosemary Crackers with Olive Oil and Garlic as a base for my crackers.   I used minced garlic instead of garlic powder and omitted the coarse salt and pepper for sprinkling.  You can find the recipe HERE.

Oven-Roasted Brussels, Beans, & Bonbon Taters

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Confession.¬† This gluten-free thing hasn’t been as bad as I expected.¬† It helps that ranch dressing and string cheese are gluten-free.¬† Yay! I also had a small stash of recipes that were gluten-free, but I hadn’t ever given it any thought.¬† This recipe is a twist on one of those. While looking for an alternative side dish for Christmas dinner, I came across a recipe for¬†roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash with a mustard vinaigrette. ¬†¬†The adults loved it, but the kids complained about the overwhelming vinegar taste.¬†I loved it¬†enough to keep going back¬†and¬†using as a¬†base for other vegetable dishes.¬† I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made my version since deciding to go gluten-free.¬† The great thing about this dish is that prep time is minimal and I can make just enough for me or multiply the recipe to make enough for the whole gang.

While the whole family loves it, I make it most often as a late lunch or afternoon snack for myself.¬† It’s just sweet enough to appease¬†my sweet tooth without the guilt.¬† Throw in the health benefits of Brussels sprouts, green beans, and sweet potatoes and you’ve got one dandy treat!

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do!  Enjoy!

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OVEN-ROASTED BRUSSELS, BEANS, and BONBON TATERS
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup Brussels sprouts, halved (I used frozen and they work great!)

1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut in half

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

a pinch of ground black pepper

1 tablespoon spicy Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place Brussels sprouts, beans, and sweet potatoes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.  Toss vegetables around to make sure the oil and seasoning is evenly distributed.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.  I like to make sure the Brussels sprouts are cut side down during the last half of cooking so that they get browned and slightly crispy.

Remove from oven and prepare sauce.  Stir together mustard, agave nectar, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Drizzle over hot vegetables and toss lightly with a spoon until sauce covers the vegetables evenly. Serve hot.

NOTES: If using frozen Brussels sprouts, let them sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before cutting.

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Anchors Aweigh! Coconut Almond Blondies

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I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Ever. I feel like it’s just setting myself up for failure.¬† But, when my husband was diagnosed with high cholesterol and we were told that¬†my 9-year old daughter has thyroid problems, I knew I had to make some changes.¬† I’ve been intending to healthify my cooking to treat my Hashimoto’s disease, but never had the motivation….until now.¬† So, I started researching and trying to find ways to eliminate dairy and gluten as well as saturated fats.¬†¬† I’m not gonna lie.¬† It stinks!¬† I hate having to cook this way. I like my sugar and bread and cheese.¬† It’s going to take me awhile to adjust. *sigh*

This morning, while researching healthy dessert recipes, I came across a recipe for Black Bean Brownies.¬† My gag reflex¬†near got the best of me, but I finally decided that flourless, healthy Black Bean Brownies were better than no brownies, right?¬† I dug through my cupboards looking for black beans and came across a can of Bush’s Navy Beans (hence the recipe name).¬† I thought, “Hey! Why not blondies instead of brownies?”.¬† Here is the result. They were yummy. They tasted healthy, but so much better than I expected from a¬†dairy-free, gluten-free dessert.¬† The only thing I’ll do different next time is throw in some dark chocolate chips or drizzle some on top.¬† Enjoy!

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ANCHORS AWEIGH! COCONUT ALMOND BLONDIES

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups raw sliced almonds

1 can (16 oz.) Bush’s Navy Beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup coconut flour

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

1/2 cup brown sugar (you can substitute Stevia, honey, or your favorite sweetener)

1/4 cup almond butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Set aside 1/4 cup sliced almonds.

Place all remaining ingredients in a food processor.  Process until smooth. (Note: If you like a chunkier blondie, keep out oats and shredded coconut to fold in later.)

Press dough into lightly greased 8 x 13-inch baking dish.  Top with remaining sliced almonds.  Press the almonds into the dough slightly. Bake for 20 minutes or until edges are beginning to brown.  Allow to cool completely in pan before slicing.

 

Never Too Old For Secret Santa

I struggle with calling myself a blogger.¬† I’m pretty sure there’s an unwritten rule out there that says you have to write more than two blog posts a year to be a legitimate blogger.¬† Regardless, I accepted an invitation from a real live legitimate blogger to join Arkansas Women Bloggers.¬†¬† The name pretty much says it all, but in case you’re still wondering what ARWB is, it’s a network of women bloggers from around the state.¬† I’m still trying¬† to figure things out, but they ladies from ARWB have welcomed me with open arms.

When I saw the announcement for this year’s ARWB Secret Santa Christmas Ornament Exchange I¬† signed up.¬† Just reading the phrase “Secret Santa” made me feel 13 again and I got all kinds of excited.¬† It took me back to school days¬†in Denton, Montana when we drew Secret Santa names.¬† In a school as small as ours it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who had drawn your name.¬†¬† There was one year in particular that my crush¬†got my name.¬† Bless his adorable little dimpled heart.¬† He had no idea what he had gotten himself into.¬† That was the most glorious few weeks of my 13-year old life.¬† On the day of the big reveal, when we¬†learned the identities of our Secret Santas, I got a beautiful gold bracelet from Dimples.¬† It’s been 25 years and I still have that bracelet stashed safely away in my jewelry box.¬† I had forgotten about it until my girls asked me to show them the box. I had to laugh as I relived that day.¬† My na√Įve, immature self truly thought that he had picked out that bracelet just for me. Maybe he did, but knowing my teenage son like I do, I’m pretty sure that Dimples’ mom picked out that bracelet and most likely forced him to give it to me.

Participating in the ARWB ornament exchange was just as exciting. The only difference was that I didn’t know the identity of my Santa until I received her gift in the mail.¬† My Santa was Julie Kohl from Eggs & Herbs. She¬†obviously did her research because her gift pegged me perfectly! My box included a bottle of homemade vanilla (Hello! Coolest stuff ever!) and 3 beautiful homemade ornaments.

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Head over and check out Julie’s blog.¬† She’s a Jack…er…Jill-of-all-trades.¬† Crafts.¬† Recipes. You name it. She has lots of great stuff to share!

I also want to give a shout out to the blogger that I sent an ornament to:¬† Peggy Bayer from Pork Chop Tuesday.¬† Can I just say….Arkansas has some amazing bloggers!¬† Thanks to everyone that played along…especially my Secret Santa, Julie.¬† Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Arkansas Christmas Ornament with Some Peace on Earth

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It’s December. Officially Christmas time!¬† I’m just a little bit excited and overly optimistic that we’ll have a white Christmas this year.¬† We had snow before Thanksgiving.¬† That has to mean something!

A few weeks ago, I agreed to be part of a homemade Christmas ornament exchange for Arkansas Women Bloggers. My mind has been running ever since. ¬†I’m not artsy. I don’t sew. I don’t paint. ¬†What I picture in my head rarely translates to real life.¬† I really had no idea how I was going to pull this off. ¬†Regardless, I had to see this through.

Long¬†before the days of¬† Pinterest, mom and I made paper sack ornaments. We cut out various Christmas-y shapes from craft paper, sewed them together, stuffed them with a little bit of cotton batting, and painted them. They turned out pretty stinkin’ cute! I wanted to use the same concept this year, but wanted something a little more practical (chocolate is practical, right?) and definitely wanted to include Arkansas somehow. Here’s what I came up with.¬† Let me know what you think!

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What you’ll need for the Arkansas ornament:

Craft paper (you can buy a roll at Dollar General for $1.50)

A state template.¬† You can print these off the internet. Mine was about 4″ at the widest point.

Acrylic craft paint (red, gold/yellow, white and black).¬† You can get these at Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, or Michael’s for less than $1.00.

Sewing machine threaded with white thread

A Sharpie

Dove chocolates aka Peace on Earth

Red ribbon

Mini-bells

How to make:

1. Cut a¬†strip of craft paper about 10″ wide.¬† Fold it in half and iron it until smooth. If your iron has a steam feature, turn it off!

2. With the craft paper still folded, carefully trace around the template. Leave a few inches between each “state”.

3. Cut the traced states apart leaving at least a one inch border.

4.  Paint the inside of the state red and allow to dry.

5. If you’re the artsy kind, you can most likely freehand the front of Santa’s jacket and belt, but I used a ruler so I got straight lines.

6. Paint the trim of Santa’s jacket white and allow to dry.¬† Then paint the belt and buttons black.¬† Allow to dry.

7. Use gold or yellow paint to carefully paint the belt buckle.  I went the width of the jacket trim.

8. When all paint is dry, start sewing along the state border. Your paper should still be folded, so you’ll want to start sewing on the side with the fold.¬† After sewing around three sides, carefully push candy into the ornament. Continue to sew the ornament closed.

9.  Use a Sharpie to trace around the border.  It helps to clean up the ornament and cover up the seam.

10.  Cut around the edge of the ornament leaving a small craft paper border.  If desired, you can color  the border black for a bolder look. When trimming, leave a small tag at the top for the ornament hanger.

11.¬† Finish the ornament with ribbon, bells, and any other decorative touches you’d like to make. I attached a poem to mine to make the ornament more personal.

NOTE:¬† These ornaments are only good for one year.¬† Unless you have more willpower than I do and are willing to leave the chocolate alone.¬† I created an ornament with a pocket that would keep it from being destroyed when getting to the chocolate, but it was LOTS more work.¬† Considering that the expense is minimal, it doesn’t bother me that the ornament will be torn open or cut into.¬†ūüôā