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Monday, October 18, 2010

Cupcake Toppers: Changing Leaves

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Oh my, I've been feeling crafty lately!  I know, I know, two projects in one week...wild stuff going on over here! A couple weeks ago, I threw out the idea of making fall cupcake toppers to match these place cards.  Well, I ended up making a few tweaks, but it's essentially the same idea.  I wanted to create something fun and festive with a little pop, and I think the contrasting black and white ribbon does just that.

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When I put as much time into crafting something, as I did with these little guys, I like to use materials that can be used several times over, so for these cupcake toppers, I used wooden sticks, so that they could be used for many parties over. You can also use these handy lollipop sticks by Wilton. Both are inexpensive options and have many other crafty uses.

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I cut each leaf by hand, so I admit this project took me a little longer than anticipated. However, I made them as a "belated" birthday gift for a lovely blogger friend of mine who I know will put them to good use, so I wanted them to be just right.  I'm shipping them off tomorrow to surprise her (unless she reads this post first and puts two and two together...)

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Which is a good possibility. :-)

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What do you think?  What kind of place cards, cupcake toppers or craft project would you like to see me design? Have a happy day, friends!

Ciao!



Pssst....If you're wondering about these random late night posts, I must explain...my full-time job (not calligraphy) has me neck deep in work right now, which is a great thing, but it just means that I haven't been left with as much time as I would like to respond to all of your wonderful comments, but please know that I truly appreciate each and every one, and I will catch up soon!!  Hugs :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies & Decorative Flags

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Photo Credit: Jenna of  Eat Drink Pretty

This past weekend, we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday with a nice, relaxing family gathering.  (You may recall her birthday celebration at our house last year).  My husband and I were in charge of the dessert, and the love of my life decided on pumpkin whoopie pies for his mom's birthday treat.  Perfect.

So...we baked a ridiculous amount of these little sweets...and...then...he decided that, while tasty and all, they weren't quite the consistency and look he was going for, and since we each have our perfectionist tendencies, I just went with it (plus, he's a pretty good baker, so I figured he knew what he was doing), and the following morning we woke up early and off to the grocery store we went for baking supplies for Round #2.

Our second batch of whoopie pies is what you see here.  We tweaked the recipe a pinch and were really happy with the finished product.  Of course, in our rush to hammer out another batch and make it out the door in time, I completely forgot my camera, but I did remember to string my new cake platter with orange ribbon for the pictures.  Geesh, I swear some days I'd lose my head if it wasn't attached!  However, my sister-in-law Jenna of Eat Drink Pretty was kind enough to take these lovely photos.  These are the benefits of having an excellent blogger in the family.  Always prepared.  Thank you, Jenna!

So, when Ron had mentioned this dessert earlier in the week, I knew that I wanted to add a little something extra as a special treat for my mother-in-law, and I had already made up my mind on creating some sort of little flag for each whoopie pie.

Then, while we were contemplating re-doing the treats altogether late at night, it hit me that while we wanted our treats to be perfect, at the end of the day, it was that extra effort and the thought put into it that really said these treats were "Made With Love".  As soon as that phrase popped into my mind, I ran upstairs and began designing the little flags to top off the whoopie pies.

They're fairly simple, and I just sketched the design for the flag and scribbled the phrase across each one, but I think they really added a fun element to something my husband and I really enjoyed baking together for his mom.  I hope you like them, too. :)

Have a wonderful week, gang!

Ciao!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Heart Sessions: The Art of Encouragement

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time
we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Galatians 6:9
 
I have a friend. Her name is Heather.

Heather has a very special gift that often times I lack…she has this amazing ability to remember every special event from anniversaries to birthdays to a job review to a big race day and everything in between, AND she memorializes this brilliant gift by sending a card or care package in the mail by the exact date of such event. Heather has mastered what I like to call The Art of Encouragement.

You see, every time I open a card from Heather, it’s like a mini cheerleader pops out through her words saying, “God is faithful! He loves you so much! You’re awesome! You can do this! Go get ‘em! Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Sketch by my brother Mark (and a teeny-tiny pinch of me)
Then, she will always include the perfect passages of Scripture to encourage me for the day. Her words are always grounded with wisdom and truth, filled with kindness, and they are always oh-so timely. I save all of Heather’s cards. They really are treasures.

Me, on the other hand, well, I’m not so great about doing this. I’m still working on a birthday project for a friend whose birthday was a couple weeks ago. Shameful, I know. However, because I admire this quality in Heather so much, every once in while I give it a try myself, and this is what I’ve discovered….

First, I get all squirrely and excited to make someone’s day special, which is a happy feeling. Second, I like putting stamps on envelopes (uh, I’m not sure why, but just go with me here), which is a happy feeling. Third, I imagine that person being excited when they open their mailbox, which is an extra happy feeling. Lastly, I know that for the moment, I am looking beyond myself and striving to bless another.

Let’s be honest here, blessing and encouraging others is a wonderful feeling. It’s most definitely #1 in my Top 10 Things to Enhance Feelings of Happiness, by Dr. Nikki, cracked-pot, M.D. (not crackpot, folks. Cracked. Pot., ie. perfectly imperfect, broken, permanently under repair, but sometimes useful.) Encouraging others is one of those rare things in life that automatically blesses us in return for taking the time to do. It makes me wonder why many of us, myself included, don’t take the time to write that encouraging note when we are feeling prompted to do so, or make that phone call or write that Heart Sessions post (wink, wink).

Okay, so back to the card thing…

Sometimes when I receive a card from Heather, there’s a twist.

Sometimes, my insightful friend pulls out the big guns and turns the tables on little ol’, unsuspecting me, and she sends me a card with something *gasp* tricky inside. Sometimes, she sends me a card with one of my own encouragement cards enclosed that I had sent to her, often times years earlier.

You see, every once in awhile she rummages through her archives to find a card that I have given to encourage her, and she sends it BACK TO ME, using my very own words to encourage me. Now, whenever I get one of these little babies in the mail, first of all, I smile and shake my head, as if to say, “I should have known.” Then, I’m reminded that sometimes I need to remember my own advice. Brilliant strategy, Heath.

And…99.9% of the time years have passed since I wrote the encouragement card with which she is now encouraging me, and somewhere along the way I have forgotten my very own words. But Heather knows that, like all of us, sometimes, I just need to remember what I already know in my heart about the character and goodness of God. Sometimes, just sometimes…we all need to be reminded that God is still God, that He’s still in the business of moving mountains, that He still hears and acts on behalf of our prayers and the very cries of our hearts and that He is still sovereign over all things, but most importantly that He is still holding us in the very palm of His hand, still loving us when we don’t feel loved, still pushing us forward when we have no strength to press on, and still holding out His hand for that moment when we’re ready to come back to Him. We serve a truly amazing God!

So, when we take the time to remind others and to remind ourselves of all of these powerful and truthful attributes of our Lord and Savior in such a tangible and encouraging way, we can trust in our heart of hearts that our actions of kindness are making a lasting difference in the lives of others, and that every moment we take to encourage one another will ultimately be blessed by the Lord, reflecting the very nature of Jesus Christ to those around us.

Isn’t it incredible to know that it takes so little to bring sunshine to someone’s dark day? The other day, I scribbled one line in my journal, and it was this: Do something new everyday for someone else. I'm not sure if that makes me entirely pathetic in that I have to actually write myself that reminder, but because I truly desire to seek the needs of others, I will write it down a gazillion times if that's what it takes for me to live it out.

So...for today, my hope is that God will use my life if even in the tiniest capacity to reach out to someone who is hurting or lost or could just really use that little word of encouragement. Today, I write this post for my friend Heather who has walked alongside me through more storms than I care to admit and who I am sending thoughts and prayers to today. I'll be brainstorming new ideas for tomorrow...let me know if you have any good ones!

May the good Lord send some extra sunshine your way today!

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these." ~ Jesus Christ, Mark 12:30-31

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:16-18

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." ~Jesus Christ, John 15:11-13

Blessings,


Monday, October 11, 2010

Place Card of the Week: Butterflies & Tiny Things

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Every once in a while, I'm asked to design place cards around a theme that I absolutely fall in love with.  This is one of those projects.

This past week, I designed these place cards for a little girl's first birthday party, a "tiny" party, that is, with tiny foods and all sorts of tiny cuteness.  The theme of the party is "Tiny food and a ton of fun, for a tiny girl who is turning one."  I'm not sure if you've heard of that theme before (I had not), but it is about as adorable as they come!  The colors for the party are pastel pink and orange with a few other accent colors here and there.  Oh, and there will be hanging butterflies.  I LOVE butterflies.  They're so dainty and whimsical and the perfect addition to a little one's party.

I have to admit that the first place cards I designed for this party didn't look so great (I stared at them for a very long time, trying to decide if I liked them or not. I have a new wrinkle between my eyes from staring so long, as a matter of fact).  So.....I dug a little deeper, started over from scratch, and these little babies are what I came up with.  Now, I'm happy. 

I sketched the banner and made my own stencil awhile back, but I just hadn't put it to good use yet.  
As for the butterflies, well, I used a pattern I came across in one of my mass piles of paper for the shape and created another couple stencils, and then I put my own personal spin on it with gold ink and my calligraphy pen.  I cut each of those little guys out by hand, which makes me appreciate all the more the modern (and beautiful) invention of dye-cuts.  I used iridescent paper for these cards, so they're shimmery and all that jazz...if only my camera could capture the shimmer!  They really are more lovely in person.

AND...that's that.  In other news, for those of you, sweet peas, who asked to see leaf cupcake toppers to match last week's place cards, they are in the works.  Yahoo!  Although, between cutting out all of those leaves and butterflies, my hand is close to falling off (no exaggeration whatsoever here), but I am plowing ahead and hope to have something to share with you very soon.  Yahoo, wahoo, yahoo!

Stay tuned. :) 

Ciao!


Monday, October 4, 2010

Place Card of the Week: Changing Leaves

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Whew, fall came fast this year!  Not that I mind all that much.  Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year.  I love to put on sweaters and comfy slippers on these cool, crisp mornings, and I love any excuse to curl up with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa in hand.  Most of all, though, I love to take in the beauty of the colorful, changing leaves.  Thus, my inspiration for this week's Place Card of the Week. 

I knew I wanted to create something with a leaf pattern, but I wanted it to actually look somewhat like a real leaf, so late last night, I ran outside and gathered a few "real" leaves and used them to trace onto paper.  Sometimes, the best resources for crafting are right outside my door.

I was toying around with the idea of making matching cupcake toppers?  What do you think, gang?  Yes?  No? 

In other news, you may (or may not) have noticed that I was out of commission last week.  I spent a few days on vacation in Tampa, Florida with one of my best friends.  I hope to share some pictures of my trip with you all soon.  It was in the 90's and sunny everyday!  I typically prefer a little bit cooler weather, but it was peeeeeeeeeeerfect for reading by the pool and just relaxing.  I am officially a well-rested, happy camper!

AND for those of you, sweet peeps of mine, who have been asking for another Heart Sessions post, I scribbled a little something for you over {here}. :)

Have a wonderful day!

Ciao!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Heart Sessions: Oh, The Things We Hear And Say


One of my very dearest friends (along with several others) told me a few weeks ago that she missed my Heart Sessions. I was so blessed by her kind words that I knew it was time to open the window to my life yet again. Sarah, my friend, this is for you…

"The unthinkable becomes the thinkable which becomes the talkable which becomes the doable."
I scribbled these words in the margin of my old Bible which is so beaten up and falling apart that it has been in retirement for a few years now. I had to dig it out and flip through the pages just to find this quote, but I knew it was there. I don't know who said these words, other than it was a speaker at my summer Bible camp a million years ago, or so it feels. From the moment I heard these words, they were forever burned into my mind. Oh, the power of what we say and hear.

If you grew up in a Christian church, do you recall the children's Sunday school song, "O, be careful little eyes what you see? O, be careful little ears what you hear? O, be careful little hands what you do? O be careful little feet where you go? O, be careful little mouths what you say? There's a Father up above and He's looking down in love. O, be careful little mouths what you say?"

Whoever wrote that little song was either incredibly in-tune with God, or clearly a genius. Likely, both.

If I haven’t made you uncomfortable yet, I am about to.

Not because I have mastered the art of mastering my yapper (clearly, I have NOT). Rather it’s because I’ve been praying for something to share with you all here for quite some time, for something that weighs heavily on my heart, and over and over again I come back to this topic, and when I woke up this morning it was ringing in my head yet AGAIN. So, I picked up my computer and started to type.

You see, I am convinced…

…What comes into our hearts and minds is likely to flow out through our words and actions…
Jesus promises so, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34
So, let’s be honest here, this topic makes us all a little squeamish. Am I right? I am no saint by any means, and the truth is that more often than not I can almost use the words I speak as a measuring stick for how I’m living my life for the Lord. For real. The truth is, I've fallen in more ways than I have room here to write.

It seems that it is always the little things that slowly turn into big things. The times when I watch garbage on TV purely for entertainment, knowing full well that it is, in fact, garbage is a pretty good indicator of where I'm at spiritually. Those times that I engage in gossip because curiosity gets the best of me, and I like being “in the loop” is a dangerous lure that I have to fight, too. If you've ever been on the receiving end of said gossip, and I know I have, it's all the more reason in the world to guard against it in our own lives. No one likes it, so why do we do it to others? And, perhaps, an even better question is why do we bother to listen to it? It’s like my friend Suzi always says, “If you’re not part of the problem, and you’re not part of the solution, talking about it is gossip.” Hmph. Reality check, yes??

Then, there's all of those other, nasty, little traps, such as how we use our words. You most likely will never hear me swear…unless I get hit by a car while running, get my toe snapped in a mouse trap - that one was a killer!, bang my knee on the corner of a table, drop something either very breakable or very messy (while cooking) and so on. What can I say? It happens. BUT Someone is always watching.

In all honesty, I’m not one to swear (if you haven't been witness to any of the above events, you most likely can testify to this fact), and call me a prude, if you must, but I kind of cringe and just sort of mentally checkout of conversations where people start dropping f-bombs and start talking about crude, inappropriate content…not because I’m better than them (the good Lord knows better), but because I know that the words and content I allow into my mind and heart will soon overflow out through my own words and my own actions.

I know in the depths of my being that I am capable of falling into any pitfall. I am not some superhuman Christian that is above reproach, and I struggle through the tough stuff just like the next guy and gal. Only Christ was perfect. Only Christ was a Master of His words and actions, and it is only through the power of His divine work in my life that I will ever overcome the strongholds of this world….which is exactly why I can tell from my conversations if I am truly living for Him. It’s not that I won’t make mistakes because I will and I do, but if I can limit those mistakes and fight to overcome them by claiming God’s promises in Scripture and through prayer, I can trust that I will be victorious.

It’s not easy.

Everything around us contradicts it.

The world tells us that anything goes. Seriously, we live in a world where everyone says we “deserve” to be happy. We are “entitled” to talk and behave however we choose. Who cares how our words and actions affect others? It’s all about me, me, me...
 
Whatever happened to being holy?

Whatever happened to being the example?

More often than not, I have to remind myself, “Newsflash, Nikki, it’s not about you.”

Life is not about my happiness. It’s not about what I deserve because the truth is that I am a sinner, and I deserve nothing. Not a thing. Nothing.
 
BUT the incredible part about that fact is that I have been given everything I need in this life and for all of eternity through the phenomenal gift of salvation through the One who died to cover my sins. So…my life is no longer about me; it is about taking up my cross daily to follow the example that Christ has given me.

It’s about striving for holiness with a thankful heart for all that I’ve been given, rather than focusing on what I lack. It’s about swallowing my pride and recognizing when I am not fully living for Him. It’s about guarding my mind and my heart. It’s about using my words to build up and not break down others, regardless of my feelings toward them. It’s about fighting the urge to fit in through gossiping about and slandering others.  

It’s about keeping the garbage out and leaving room for all the good to come in. It’s about living in this world and a constantly changing society while clinging to the unchanging Word of God.

So, I’m constantly asking myself, “What am I living for? How are my words and actions affecting others?”

Sometimes, I don’t like the answer, but I will continue to ask the question until I know that I am honoring the Lord with my life.

I often find myself praying this passage of Scripture, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your site, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
This is what I know for sure...

I need Jesus.

I need His Word.

I need to pray.

I need accountability.

So, my prayer today is that the words of my mouth and my actions would be a blessing to others.
This is my prayer for you today, too.

Blessings, 

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