Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reflections on: The Good Book

When we talk about a good book, we of course have to mention THE Good Book, and is the best description I think I have come across to explain why it deserves that title.  It is from the Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.....  

The Story and the Song
"God wrote, "I love you" - he wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea.  He wrote his message everywhere!  Because God created everything in this world to reflect him like a mirror- to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing. 

The way a kitten chases her tail.  The way red poppies grow wild.  The way a dolphin swims.

And God put it into words, too, and wrote it in a book called "The Bible."

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling what you should and shouldn't do.  The Bible certainly does have some rules in it.  They show you how life works best.  But the Bible isn't mainly about you and what you should be doing.  It is about God and what he has done.    

Other people think the Bible is book of heroes, showing you people you should copy.  The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you'll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren't heroes at all.  They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose).  They get afraid and run away.  At times they are downright mean.

No, the Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes.  The Bible is most of all a Story.  It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure.  It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne- everything- to rescue the one he loves. It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about the Story is - it's true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story.  The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.  

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story.  And at the center of the Story, there is a baby.  Every Story in the Bible whispers his name.  He is like the missing piece in a puzzle- the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

And this is no ordinary baby.  This is the Child upon whom everything would depend.  This is the Child who would one day-- but wait.  Our Story starts where all good stories start.  Right at the very beginning.... "                                               ~Sally Lloyd-Jones

I find that I have never loved the Bible more than after I've become a mom.  It's these simple truths that I love re-learning as I read to them that have been clouded by my striving to be "scholastic," or "well-versed" or even "a pastor's wife."  It is the pouring out of my love for the Bible onto my two littles that has made me fall in the love with God's word all over again.

One day, during a mentoring meeting with my pastor's wife, after I ashamedly forgot to bring my Bible along, she handed me hers to borrow. 

It is a thin, soft pink, leather-bound, well-worn, small-scripted treasure.  She asked me to find a verse and read it out loud.  The pages turned so easily as if they have been commanded to do so many times by their owner.  It is well- inked.  Inside this book is the story of her journey with God.  It shows minutes of her meetings with Jesus.  It highlights verses that God pressed on her heart, and in the margins are notes she took while she listened to God speak through others directly to her.  My thoughts drift, not to the verse I am looking up, but to her daughter.  I can imagine her acquiring this treasure one day, and through these pages spending time with both her mother and Jesus.

Holding this book in hand, it makes me think....what if I kept a Bible to give to my girls for when they are grown?  Not my Bible.  (I imagine they would fight over it one day.)  It wouldn't be about my spiritual journey, but rather, the documentation of how God and I poured His love over them by using His Word.  I could write down verses we memorize together, scripture I want them to be sure to know,  and more importantly, the Truth I would pray for God to reveal to them in His own time.

It is the seeking of truth for the purpose of encouraging and loving my girls that has changed me so profoundly.  I will read a verse, underline it, and pen a few simple truths in the margins.  I'll write the date, so they know even when they were young, God and I were thinking about them.  And after I pray, and ask God to press these truths into their heart when they need it most, it's as though He presses it that much deeper into my own.  It is the constant filling for the purpose of spilling.

I hope and pray one day, they will see God's word, not as "a good book", but as The Good Book.  


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday Inspirations- A Good Book, A Quiet Book

    I absolutely LOVE this picture, the detail of all of the characters jumping out of the book, the giant cup of tea, the goose trying to figure out where the little sheep came from and of course the hat, just makes me want to start telling you about each and every character.  I feel like I know them all (and the ones that I don't know quite as well I would love the opportunity to make up the details).  A cup of tea, a lovely hat and a good book.  Life is good.

  So often, between TV, video games, and computer generated entertainment, I worry that children are not given enough opportunities to nurture their own imaginations that God has gifted them with.  As I was searching for inspiration for this topic and needing it to inspire you as well, a stumbled across Quiet Books on Pinterest.  You can do your own search, but here are some that I found that make me just want to get off the computer and start making some for the special children in my life.
 Before the era of smart phones and iPads, the Quiet Book was used to keep little hands, eyes, and minds busy, with the intent of keeping little mouths quiet.  Pages on the Quiet Book are tactile, colorful, and interactive.  They can be quilted, glued, sewn, made out of fabric, felt, beads, and range from simple to highly intricate.  They can encourage many fine motor skills such as snapping, buckling, zippering, weaving, and tying.  Kids can also work on matching, dressing, counting, and sorting skills.  I would like to encourage you to take a look at some of these very talented Quiet Book makers, and hopefully be inspired to try make one for a pair of little hands that you know.
Quiet book baking

lots of fun ideas for quiet books

a magnetic quiet book

Build a sandwich

a free quiet book template

Quiet counting book

Noah's Ark Quiet book with free template
~By Niki (posted by Megan)  :o) 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How-To Tuesday: How to Pick Your Next Good Book

This is the perfect time of year to dive into a new book.  While the weather is keeping you cooped up, exploring other people's adventures is a great way to avoid cabin fever.  I don't claim to be especially widely read, but I do really enjoy reading when I get the chance.  A book is not only a time commitment but an emotional commitment also.  So I have a few guiding tactics I follow when deciding on what to read next to make sure that I enjoy the journey and the destination.  (Disclaimer: I give you full permission to skip through this post and read only about the books that catch your eye.  I have issues with conciseness.)

1.  Make It a Double Feature
More often than not, my motivation for reading a book is that there is a movie adaptation coming out. Maybe that makes me somewhat superficial, but I like to be rewarded at the end of a book with a movie.  It lets me hold onto the characters that much longer.  And it gives me a sense of elitism. Because really, there's nothing better than watching a movie and smugly thinking, "That's not how it was in the book.  What really happened was..."  Here are a few of my favorite books with a movie pay-off:

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
This is my all-time favorite movie.  My sisters and I probably watched it at least once a week growing up, and we can quote the entire thing, start to finish, including the musical interludes, which were a little wobbly from the poor sound quality of our VHS, which was copied from a beta tape.  It took me a little while to track down the book because I was convinced (because the movie says so) that it was written by S. Morgenstern.  That is a lie.  But it doesn't matter because as good as the movie is, the book is even better.  The characters are infinitely more interesting and hilarious.  You learn why Humperdink hates Guilder.  You get Fezzik's back story.  The Pit of Despair is way more epic.  It's just a fantastic read.  Highly recommended.  And when you're done, you get to watch an outstanding movie.  Win-win.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
I admit that I have never been able to make it through The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  It is a whole lot of walking and battling and hopelessness, which just doesn't keep my interest.  But The Hobbit is Tolkien for the rest of us.  It is way easier to follow, way lighter in tone, and you don't have to do too much trudging between action sequences.  I reread The Hobbit in preparation for seeing the first movie installment, which was excellent.  In order to turn it into 3 movies and thicken the connections to LOTR, Jackson included a bunch of material from Tolkien's supplementary material, which annoyed some Hobbit purists.  But I'll allow it.  You're welcome, Peter Jackson.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
I am a big HP nerd.  I got on the bandwagon a little late, but I made up for it.  My friends and I even had a Harry Potter book club where we reread all of the books in preparation for the release of HP7. And we were hardcore.  We had a sorting ceremony; we ate HP-themed food and drank butterbeer; we made wands; we had a triwizard tournament and an end of year feast; we played Quidditch (during which one of our number even broke a few ribs).  Like I said...hardcore.  Week to week, we would have dramatic readings where we'd each take a character and read through a chapter complete with voices and British accents.  When we came to the end of a book, we would watch the movie.  I use the word "watch" loosely because the viewings mainly consisted of us discussing how the movies departed from the perfection of the books.  It was so satisfyingly elitist.  Anyway, this series is extremely well-written for a middle reader series, but the books are still fast reads.  So even though 7 books seems like a huge commitment, you will not regret a moment..except maybe some excessive adolescent angst in books 4 and 5.  But let's be honest...most of the world has already read these books, so really, this is a recommendation to read them again.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
I have not seen the new movie yet because it's tough to pay for a movie plus over 3 hours of baby-sitting.  But I have seen the musical multiple times, and having read the book deeply enriches the experience.  Although the musical sticks fairly close to the book, reading gets you a lot of hidden insights into the characters and a fuller sense of the plot.  I admit, I have only read the abridged version.  My husband is trudging through the unabridged version at the moment, and gauging from what he's told me, I absolve you from having to read the full version.  My recommendation is to start with the abridged version, and if you really love it, you can try your hand at the bigger commitment.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Once again, a confession: I have not read the full compilation.  However, what I have read of Sherlock Holmes, I have loved.  There is a reason that no matter what adaptation of Sherlock you watch, it is witty and highly entertaining.  It's because the source material is extremely well-written and engaging.  And the nice thing about Sherlock Holmes is that it is a collection of short stories. You can pick and choose without having to commit to the entire anthology.  And you can go back to it after a long absence without missing a beat.  Although they don't follow the stories exactly, I do enjoy the Robert Downey Jr./ Jude Law movies.  They have excellent chemistry.  Jason and I have also been watching the 1954 series.  They are short, 20ish minute episodes that stick very close to the original stories.  But my favorite adaptation is BBC's Sherlock.  If you haven't seen it yet, you should.  There are currently 2 seasons with three 90ish minute episodes a piece, and they are so, so good!

2.  Consider the Classics
The classics are classics for a reason.  When reading more modern books, I generally have to read a few different authors to get everything I'm craving.  But the classics often have it all in one book. They immortalize days gone by with intrigue, romance, and adventure.  And if you have a kindle, you can get most of them for free on Amazon.  Win-win.  Here are a few of my favorites:

The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas
Be forewarned: this book is long, and it is not for the faint of heart.  It is definitely a commitment.  But it is also a true adventure with compelling characters and a story that keeps you guessing.  It has everything--love, mystery, suspense, traces of history.  I've yet to read the sequels, but I have read a few other works by Dumas that I have also thoroughly enjoyed (The Queen's Necklace and Camille). They are a good deal shorter that Three Musketeers, so they are a good place to start if you're wary of a longer read.  And the good news is that Dumas has written about a thousand books, so if you like him, you will never run out of things to read.

Everything by Jane Austen
The cynic would say that once you're read one of Austen's novels, you've read them all.  And it's kind of true--there are characters who make reappearances: the vain sister, the stuffy gentleman, the silly neighbor who talks to much.  And you can tell from the beginning who the heroine will end up with.  But there is something so charming and entertaining in Austen's writing and characterizations that just keeps me coming back for more.  My favorite is probably Mansfield Park, but it's possible that it tops my list because I didn't see the movie first.  If there are any Austens that you haven't yet had the pleasure of reading, I highly recommend diving in.

The Comedies by William Shakespeare
Again, I confess myself vastly under-read in the realm of Shakespeare, but I've read a number of his comedies, and I have loved them all.  Once you get into the rhythm of reading plays written in lines of iambic pentameter, they are fast reads.  And again, there are so many that if you so desire, they can keep you reading for quite a while.  My favorite is probably Much Ado about Nothing, but I attribute that to the brilliant and hilarious Kenneth Branaugh adaptation.  His Henry V is also quite good, although I admit I haven't read that play yet.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
This is another one that I read abridged.  This book is well-known for its extensive dialogue between two of the Karamazov brothers discussing the problem of evil.  The abridged version cuts a good portion of that out.  However, I was so caught up with the plot and character development of this book that I'm pretty sure I would gain much more from that section read apart from the rest of the book anyway.  I just couldn't wait to see what happened!  This book kept me flying all the way through in a race to the end.  Each character is so beautifully and interestingly portrayed in his flaws, vices, and motivations.  It is absolutely captivating.

3.  Revisit Childhood Friends
Sometimes there is just something so refreshing about reading something intended for children.  In a world of so much chaos, it's nice to be immersed in a world that is black and white: the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and everyone gets more or less what they deserve in the end.

Grimm's Fairy Tales
These timeless stories never fail to ignite my imagination.  Some of the best songs I've written were based on Grimm's fairy tales.  No matter what your craft, there is something in a fairy tale to inspire you.  Just try it: read a fairy tale and then write a poem, draw a picture, design a quilt... it will take you places you couldn't have reached on your own.  And the best thing about fairy tales is...they're short.  So even stay-at-home-moms have time for them....while their son may or may not be tugging at their leg to get him a drink of water in a different color cup while they're trying to write an overdue blog post...

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
I am indignant that I never got an invitation to attend Hogwarts.  But I am downright heart-broken that I haven't been able to find a portal to Narnia.  It is not from a lack of seeking, let me assure you.  The magic in the world of Narnia, the gentle strength and accessibility of Aslan, the talking animals, and the triumph of good over soul longs for it all.  And I believe that's the point.  We were made for a more wonderful world than the one in which we live.  Narnia reminds me of that and keeps me going back to Aslan and learning to know Him by another name in this world.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
It's a little strange to put this directly after The Chronicles of Narnia.  Lewis and Pullman have just about opposite worldviews.  While Lewis writes to draw people into relationship with a God who is just and kind and loving, Pullman writes from an overtly anti-God and anti-church perspective.  Still, I think that The Golden Compass warrants mentioning because it is an extremely interesting book. There is nothing black and white about it.  Everyone is flawed, and things just don't turn out the way you think they should.  But throughout the entire book, it had me asking questions about good and evil, sovereignty and free will, innocence and knowledge...big paradoxes to tackle in a book intended for children.  But that's what made it so captivating.  It challenged me.  And every now and then, I need that.  (Note: I much prefer TGC to the two sequels, in which Pullman blatantly abandons good story-telling in order to push his anti-God agenda.  It made me very sad, not only for Pullman but for the sake of the story.)

Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Sometimes you just need a bit of silliness.  You need to indulge your inner sulkiness.  You need to threaten to pack up and run away from it all.  Alexander is good for that.  It's just a few minutes of your day to remind you that some days are like that, even in Australia.

4.  Learn Something New
Let's move to the world on Non-Fiction, shall we?  There aren't many non-fiction genres that I read. Generally, when I read a book, it is for the purpose of escape from "the real world."  But non-fiction does have its place, and it is especially helpful in the world of crafting.  Here are my favorite crafting books from the many crafting genres in which I dabble:

Knitting:  Stitch 'N Bitch by Debbie Stroller
Forgive the crude title.  This is by far the best introduction to knitting that I have found.  (Actually, Amy found it.)  It has clear instructions, easy-to-read diagrams, and simple projects that even a beginner can tackle with confidence.

Crochet:  Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs by Edie Eckman
Debbie Stroller does have a crochet book that is incredibly helpful (The Happy Hooker).  But once that book helped me tackle the basics, it was Beyond the Square that made me fall in love with crochet.  It offers 144 circles, hexagons, triangles, squares, and other unexpected shaped that you can create once you learn the magic of reading a crochet chart.  It's the sort of thing that a creative, mathematical mind like mine just eats up.  The book also offers suggestions of how to piece the shapes together to complete larger projects.

Quilting:  The Quilt in a Day series by Eleanor Burns
All of the Giberson girls are huge fans of Eleanor Burns' quilt in a day books.  I believe we've all made quilts from her patterns.  Her pictures and diagrams are clear enough to transform a beginner into a quilter in 24 hours.  Seriously.  If you want to get into quilting, her book on the Log Cabin pattern (linked above) is my hearty recommendation.

Making Clothes:  One-Piece Wearables by Sheila Brennan
If making clothes is more your style, I recommend this book.  It has 25 patterns for clothing made from one piece of fabric.  It is entirely undaunting, and it includes full pattern pieces so you don't have the extra step of taking the book to Staples to have the patterns enlarged and reprinted, which I always have very good intentions of doing but never actually do.

Other Sewing: Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross
In addition to over 40 projects ranging from bags to slippers to baby blankets, this book is also laced with recipes, music playlists, home studio ideas, and tips for incorporating sewing into your life. Ross's patterns all include charming drawn diagrams and easy-to-follow instructions.  It has lots of great ideas, and even apart from the patterns, it is a pleasure to read.

Needleworks:  Anna Maria's Needlework Notebook by Anna Maria Horner
Anna Maria Horner is by far my favorite designer.  I would love to live in the midst of her color palettes.  I also read her blog, and her world seems to be a glorious flurry of creativity, family, and tradition.  Her newest book is all about different kinds of needlework including cross-stitch, needlepoint, embroidery, and crewel.  In addition to teaching the basics of each form and the materials you need to get started, she offers patterns and tips for expanding the forms into projects. And it is all beautiful.

Embroidery:  Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches by Mary Thomas and Jan Eaton
If you really want to hone in on embroidery, then this is the book for you.  It lays out over 400 different embroidery stitches.  Each stitch has written instructions, illustrated diagrams, and a photograph of what the stitch looks like in real life.  It is an incredibly helpful and informative resource for any hand-stitcher to own.

5.  Nourish Your Soul
My final category of books is the spiritual formation genre.  When I want to supplement my Bible-reading with some insight from wiser believers than myself, these are the sorts of books that I turn to:

The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith
I'm currently reading this book with my small group at church.  Each chapter is devoted to an aspect of God's character (His goodness, His generosity, His holiness, etc.).  The author talks about debunking the lies and "false narratives" we believe about God by learning more about the God that Jesus reveals. At the end of each chapter, he offers "soul training exercises" to help you internalize the truths discussed in the chapter.  I'm only a few chapters in at this point, but I find myself resonating with a lot of what he's saying, both in the truths and the lies I believe about God.  I really look forward to reading the rest of it, and I highly recommend it as a good devotional read, no matter where you find yourself in your faith journey, from seeker to seasoned believer.

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
This is a lovely little devotional book that all of the Giberson girls are reading this year.  Each day, there is a short reading written from Jesus' perspective with accompanying Scripture passages.  It offers a nugget of truth to carry with you throughout the day and an invitation to deeper trust in Him.

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer
Parker Palmer is one of my all-time favorite spiritual formation writers.  I have to physically stop myself from underlining every word he writes.  I first discovered him in college as part of my curriculum as a Christian Education major.  Another of his books (To Know as We Are Known) was incredibly formative to the way I think about...just about everything.  But I think Let Your Life Speak is a better introduction to him as an author.  It's a great book for anyone who wants to discern God's purpose and calling for his or her life.  And really, isn't that what we're all looking for?

Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich
If you find yourself longing to delve into the writings of the Medieval mystics, I recommend Julian of Norwich.  By far the most accessible of the mystics I have read, Julian shares her visions of an infinitely loving and sacrificial God.  Her devotion to Him and His love for her pour out of every page and inspire me to deeper devotion.

Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This is another book that has been instrumental in my spiritual development.  It's a tiny book, but be warned that the writing is a little thick.  Nevertheless, it offers so much wisdom as to what the Christian life can and should look like when lived in community.  Get it; read it; chew on it; live it.  It is so good.

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
This is by far the best children's Bible I have ever encountered.  The tag-line of the book is "Every Story Whispers His Name."  It was written to show children how every story in the Bible alludes to the culmination of the Gospel: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Whether the story illustrates our deep need for a Savior or God's everlasting faithfulness in rescuing His people, everything points to Jesus.  For that reason, it's an equally valuable resource for adults.  I highly recommend adding this book to your devotional reading.  It is just so good.

Read-Aloud Bible Stories by Ella K. Lindvall
Another great resource for teaching your kids about the Bible is this four volume set.  Each book has 5 Bible stories written to accommodate even a toddler's attention span.  The illustrations and the language are simple.  But each story offers great Scriptural truths, and at the end of each story it asks, "What did you learn?" and offers a few take-away points.  I love these books because they are simple without being "fluffy" and watered down, and they make the message of the Gospel extremely accessible.

A Good Journal by You!
Lastly, one of the books that has most shaped my spiritual life is a journal.  I prefer mine to be unlined and spiral bound...and they have to have just the right feel to them.  I'm extremely particular (as I am with most things, I guess).  But a journal is my place of prayer.  I write letters to God.  It keeps me focused and helps me to keep a record of what He's doing and where He's taken me. Also, there's something about writing words down that makes them more intentional, honest, and sincere, at least for me.  It's a practice I've done since junior high, and it is inseparable from my relationship with God.  I highly recommend it!

I think that about does it for me...mostly because this post is already several hours late in its posting, and it has me really wanting to stop writing so I can go read something.  So...what are YOUR recommendations?  Any great book/movie pairings?  How about classics that are glaringly missing from my list?  Childrens' books or other fiction?  Books that inspire craftiness or feed your soul? Please share your favorites in the comments!!

Also, if you are part of the mug swap, please don't forget to send out your mug by Friday if you can!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Traditions - A Good Book

Neither of my parents were avid book readers when I was younger (mostly because I never saw my mom sit down long enough to read a book, and my dad was always reading stacks and stacks of political meeting minutes for our town), but my sisters and I cannot get enough of a good book.  I will voraciously attack a book series originally intended for middle-to-high-school-aged girls!  (Yes.  I have read the Hunger Games series approximately 6 times.  Yes.  All three books.  Six times each.  Don't judge!!!  I'm a stay-at-home-mom and I don't get out much.)  But in all seriousness, I really do love to get caught up in the characters lives, envision where the story might take them next, and mourn the loss of reading about them when I come to their story.

Even though my parents didn't read a lot of books themselves, they made a huge effort to read to us every night before tucking us into bed, and both were amazing story tellers.  That's how they met, really.  Both worked at a historical village where my mom was a weaver and spinner and my dad carved decoys.  Both could tell a story, complete with character voices, that would have every member of the audience completely captivated.  My dad loved, in particular, to retell the old Brer Rabbit stories, and my mom would spend an entire 1 1/2 hour car ride to see our grandparents regaling us with the epic Wizard of Oz.

A few years ago my dad started writing down stories about his grandfather, Alonzo.  Alonzo was dead long before my sisters and I came into this world, but I now have an account of his life seen through my father's eyes.  My dad then went on to write a book on his father, and is working on one about himself.    

The cover of Alonzo and Me, complete with "limited edition" sticker.  
Alonzo's book is filled with pictures of important places and events in the Gibersons' history.
My mom followed suite with a book called Traditions, where she assembled all of our favorite family recipes and added some of the best stories from her childhood and ours, all in a binder where we can add our own recipes and stories.

You've seen this before here.
An excerpt from "Easter" from Traditions.

I treasure both with all my heart!  It is such a huge gift to be able to see a glimpse into my family's history, written down, with the characters expanding past the pages they are written on.  It's almost magical, and my favorite kind of book.

Whatever your choice of literature is, whether it's historical, fiction, or inspirational... I think it's really important to read something.  Something that expands your mind, makes your heart swell, or challenges you to become a better you.  And I hope to pass this love of reading on to my boys.  I want them to be able to imagine a better tomorrow because they've read about the past.  I want them to love the written word, and make up their own stories, too.

What kind of books inspire you?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mug Swap

Hello, friends! 

Our first Swan Bay Family Mug Swap is now officially closed.  I just sent out all of the assignments for the swap (via email and facebook).  If you did not receive your assignment, or if you have any questions please let me know.

We have 16 people who will soon be mugged!  :o) 

We hope everyone's mugs will soon be enjoying their new homes!

Friday Craft for Kids: Sending a Warm Cup

In the words of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, "When people are upset, the cultural convention is to bring them hot beverages."

Compassion and kindness are something that I hope to instill in both of my girls.  We have lots of tea parties where they learn to pour and share and have deep conversations over invisible beverages.

While we're stuck inside and have very few people to offer real cups of air to (other than Lambie) I thought it would be fun to send someone a warm cup of love through the mail.  

Draw a mug shape on a piece of construction paper.

Decorate any way you want to....markers, crayons, paint, glue things on, stickers, etc.  This is also a good way to use up any former paintings or works of art that are no longer being fully appreciated.  (Just draw a mug on it and cut it out.)  

She loved coloring...really. 

Cut mug out, along with three more sheets of paper underneath.  (I had to go back and cut out one more.)
Staple together.

Measure the width of tea bag or pouch of hot chocolate, and cut a slit to fit the bag. 

Put tea bags into slots and tape to secure. 

Glue edges.
And write in the card. 

Add a personalized tea bag with yarn and construction paper. 
You can send hot chocolate along with a bag of marshmallows, apple cider, coffee beans....whatever you want.   Maybe you know a friend who is sick or having a rough week at work, or maybe someone who is experiencing some really cold winter weather where they live.  Who do you know who would enjoy a mug card? 

And if you're looking to send someone some real mug love, today is the last day to join our mug swap!  I'll be emailing everyone tonight (9:00 EST) with the address of your recipient.  You will have until next Friday (Feb. 1st) to send your mug.  Thank you so much to everyone who has sent in your address so far.  We have had over 15 participants and we would love to see more!  Please share on facebook, twitter, or instagram to get the word out!  

You never know....sometimes all it takes is a warm cup and a, "There, there" to make someone's day.  

Join us Monday as we share more recipes, inspirations, and tips on our next theme:  
A Good Book.      

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday Reflections- A Warm Cup, A Full Cup

When I think of a warm cup,  I also think of a full cup. We all live such busy lives that it is easy to feel that we have nothing left to give.  I seem to work and live in places where there are a lot of needs.  It is so important to keep filling "our cup" so we have something left to share with others.

These are my suggestions to fill your cup:
Every evening I try to Remember  the day starts the night before
     Genesis 1:5 says, "God called the light 'day,' and the darkness he called 'night.'  And there was evening, and there was morning- the first day."  (Notice: evening came first.)  This makes so much sense.  If I don't get enough sleep the night before, my day will not be as productive.  Trust me--if I could get away with no sleep at all, I would.  When I was a little younger I used to say that I could sleep when I am dead.  One of my friends told me, "When we all get to heaven, everyone will be praising God except you.  You'll be in a chair in the corner sleeping."  So I do try to go to bed at a decent hour now, so I won't be sleeping during praise time in heaven.

Every morning I say this verse - "My help comes from God, maker of heaven and earth."  Psalm 121:2
     This is such a simple verse, with few words to memorize, but so powerful.  I try to start each day knowing that whatever comes my way, the one who created everything is my helper, and I don't have to live this life on my own strength.  What a relief!!
Every morning I pray to see God in all situations
This is a quote from Mr. Rogers   “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

     I work in a school for special needs children, and I have learned so much about God there.  Our God is able to teach us to love and learn from those who you would not ordinarily think would be the teacher.  There was one little blind boy that I got particularly close to a few years ago, and one day when we were taking a walk with the rest of the class he asked me what a sound was.  It was so much in my subconscious that I was not hearing anything, but in the distance I could here birds chirping.  He made me think that he was much more aware of his surroundings than I, as a sited person.  We all have so much to learn from each other.  I try to look for God in even the little things.  When I  put this into practice I can be a much more postive person.  The good is magnified, and the things that aren't so good are dimmed.

     I know that if I start each day the night before, remember where my help comes from, and look for God in all situations,  I will have a full cup that I will be able to share with those that I come in contact with.  

I am praying for a warm...and full cup for each one of you.  

 Remember God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself,
because it is not there. There is no such thing.
CS Lewis

If you haven't done so already, please join our mug swap.  The details are here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday Inspiration: A Warm Cup

Cause really...don't we all need a little inspiration in the middle of the week?

Here are a few little treats of various kinds to get you thinking warm, cozy thoughts...

Awesome Mugs

This is my favorite mug.  Well, mine has an "r" on it, but you get the idea.  They are exactly the right size and shape to wrap your fingers around.  They are sturdy but not too heavy.  And they hold a lot of something hot and delicious.  You can find them here, which just happens to be a link to Anthropologie, which just happens to be where I would shop exclusively if I had unlimited funds.  They have a wide selection of really wonderful mugs, some of which fall into the "teacup" variety if that's more your...cup of tea.  But for me, this is the perfect mug.  And it is only $8.00.  Seriously.  EIGHT DOLLARS!  At Anthropologie, that will usually buy you...half a button?  But instead you can spend only $8 for the perfect mug.  To you, the consumer, I say, "You're welcome." And to you, Anthropologie at large, I say, "I expect a hefty endorsement check and also a gratuitary shopping spree."

Warm Drinks
  • Starbucks Copycats:  The holidays have passed, but our need for deliciously flavored warm beverages has not.  Here is a link to a pretty little image of several recipes including Gingerbread Latte, Pumpkin Spice Latte, and the illustrious Peppermint Mocha.
  • Nutella Latte:  Nutella makes the world a better place.  And this recipe just has milk, nutella, and coffee.  What else could you possibly need?
  • Hot Chocolate: Here is a lovely little compilation of 5 different hot chocolate recipes, including one for my new favorite warm treat--salted caramel hot chocolate.  Mmm...
  • Best Teas Ever: All 4 Giberson girls are partial to The Republic of Tea's Ginger Peach.  Another of my favorite's is Eastern Shore's Cupid's Arrow Tea.  It's a blend of Cherry, Vanilla, and Almond, and it is just divine.  Actually, I've never been disappointed with any of Eastern Shore's teas.  You can find a lovely selection of them here.
  • Yummy Flavored Coffees:  If you're more of a coffee drinker, allow me to recommend Cook's Corner in Smithville, NJ.  They roast the most delicious flavored coffees.  If you are local, definitely pop in, if for nothing else than to sample the heavenly aromas.  But even if you're not in South Jersey, you can order their coffee online!

Amy put together a lovely little tutorial in yesterday's post about how to make those sharpie mugs that are popping up all over pinterest.  Here is a little additional inspiration to get you even more excited about participating in our Mug Swap.  (Note:  You do NOT have to make or decorate a mug to participate.  But you just might get a mug that looks like this:)

Check out this blog for a step-by-step guide for these awesome Big Bang Theory mugs.

Or if BBT isn't your speed but you like the idea of doing a silhouette, check out Silhouettes from Popular Culture by Olly Moss for some inspiration:

If you feel that something like this is beyond your creative reach, you could always do a movie or literary quote like Sarah Fritzler did here:

Why stop there?  Brooklyn Limestone made a whole set of Raven-themed dinnerware for a Halloween party:

Speaking of awesome sisters planned surprise pottery painting for my bachelorette party.  You may think that's weird, but it was absolutely perfect for me.  Each girl made a mug, plate, or platter to make a full set of Harry Potter dessert dishes. very me.  I would love to show you the whole set, but it is still packed from my move...back in October...because my kitchen is still in progress.  But I do have a picture of a pitcher I made to hold the butterbeer:

This would also be a great idea for a bridal shower or engagement party.  How sweet would a custom set of monogrammed dishes be?!?  Pottery painting studios are popping up all over.  I can highly recommend Glazed in Gloucester MA, Color Me Mine in Wheaton IL, and the little place in the shopping center across from the Galloway Library, whose name is currently escaping me and which I cannot seem to successfully google.  :o/

Anyway...we've gotten a little off-topic here.  Back to a warm cup, shall we?

Dress It Up
Perhaps you're in the mood to make something a little cozier than ceramics.  So how about some cozies?

  • Here's a pattern for a sewn cozy at Cosmo Cricket:

  • A pattern for a cable knit cozy at Paper Sensei:
  • And a pattern for a crochet cozy at Bubble Girl:

Well that about does it for me.  Anything you want to try?  How about a recommendation for a favorite tea or coffee?  Or a recipe for a special drink?  What inspires you to get out (or make or dress) a warm cup?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How-To Tuesdays - Making a Warm Cup

Have you seen these mugs decorated with Sharpies on Pinterest?  They are so cute and easy, and I had to try it out.  I drew up a cute little design on a mug, and popped my mug in the oven, just to find that the marker came right off in the dishwasher.  (((humph.)))

So I headed to the craft store, where a very nice kid swore that these are the right markers to use on ceramics....

Then I took my boys to a nearby thrift store and let them pick out a mug of their own.  (Yes.  I was very brave for taking my two rambunctious boys to a store with breakable objects!)  We found some plain ones we liked and spent a whopping $.25 a piece.  You can use any oven-safe, ceramic mug.

I washed and dried the mugs thoroughly, then let my little artists got to town.

Look at that concentration. 
Gotta stick your tongue out if you want to get it just right.  (The boy wears a costume for everything!)

And then a miracle happened.  They went off to play nicely together and I got a whole 20 minutes to MYSELF!  I told you....a MIRACLE!!!!

Idea book, blank "canvas" and a warm cup of tea...perfect!
I found this book at a thrift store a couple of years ago with Victorian stencil images.  (I had great plans of embroidering a bunch of these designs, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.)  Anyway, I thought it would make the perfect design on a mug.

Lots of pretty inspiration!
I sketched a design on the mug with pencil...(Can you see it?)
then filled it in with the black paint pen.
Now, the directions on the markers said that you had to heat-set the paint if you used it on fabric, but said nothing about ceramics.  So, after drying, I tested the paint, and it chipped right off.  (((double humph!)))  So, I attempted to heat set it.  (Disclaimer....the pens say that they're non toxic, but I opened a window when I put the mugs in the oven, just in case.)

I put the mugs in a cool oven and turn it on to 350 degrees.  Once the temperature reached 350, I let the mugs cook for 30 minutes, then shut off the oven and let the oven return to room temperature (a couple of hours). And another miracle....the paint set!  (I am still going to hand-wash my little works of art, just in case.)

Give it a try!  You too can have yourself a pretty new mug to send to your mug swap partner... or keep it for yourself and try this dangerously easy recipe for a molten chocolate brownie cake.  You'd think that since you're cooking it in the microwave it would be gross, but seriously...  Seriously.  It's amazing.  You will love it!

2 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons water
a pinch of Kosher salt (I use Kosher salt for almost everything)
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)

Put the butter in your mug and microwave for 20-30 seconds, or until the butter is completely melted.  Add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, water, vanilla extract and salt to your mug and whisk together with a fork.  Place in the microwave and "bake" it on high for 1 minute 30 seconds, or until the center is set.
Attempt to resist taking a bite right when it comes out of the microwave.  It will seriously burn your face off (and it would be almost worth it).  Let it cool for at least 5 minutes, add a dollup of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream if you wish, and enjoy!

If you haven't joined our mug swap, please check out the details here.