November 27, 2017

Christmas Crafts: DIY Decor: Nut Ball for Mantle (and Potpourri Balls)

The Christmas Nut Ball
{Hazelnuts or Walnuts}

By Renee Neace

For rustic, Christmas charm, try making some Christmas Nut Balls. These are perfect projects for the crafts-disabled person. No artistic talent is needed, just time and patience. I have fond memories of staying up late one night during Christmastime, gluing walnuts to a foam ball. ;)

My husband fondly remembers me emerging from the kitchen, after hours of working on “Christmas crafts,” smiling proudly and displaying my Christmas Nut Balls. “Wow, Mommy made a nut ball!” he said with a sideways grin. Those words have stayed with us throughout the years and have become a Christmas tradition. Each year as we unpack the decorations, we fondly remember when Mommy made her first nut ball.

The supplies are simple and available at your local craft and grocery stores.

• 1–2 foam balls (3” and 4”)
• Glue gun with plenty of glue sticks
• Bag of green moss
• Large bag of nuts from the grocery store (walnuts or hazelnuts work well)
• Dried baby’s breath
• A bag of potpourri to make the second ball (containing red flowers, like dried roses)
• A decorative vine ball


Step 1: Glue the moss onto the foam ball. Break the moss apart into small pieces before you begin gluing.

Squeeze the glue onto a small section of the ball and gently press the moss on. Be careful! The hot glue is HOT! Gently pull off the extra moss as you’re working and then reapply, making sure there are no bald spots. Keep working with it until you’ve covered the whole ball. This can be a little messy and sticky, but it’ll look good when you’re done.

Glue the moss onto the foam ball.

This can get a little sticky and messy, but it'll look good when you're done. :)

Step 2: Start gluing down the nuts. 

Again, this is easy. Imagine an equator around your moss-covered foam ball. Squeeze some glue where you want your first nut to go, then press it firmly in. Continue all the way around the imaginary equator, and begin a second row. Do this until the whole ball is covered with the nuts. Don’t worry about being perfect; some space between the irregular shapes is to be expected.

Imagine an equator around your moss-covered foam ball. Glue on the hazelnuts or walnuts. 

Step 3: You’re almost done! 

At this point, you can decide to keep it plain or to add in some baby’s breath. First, break or cut off some little pieces of the flowers. Squeeze a tiny amount of glue into the tiny nooks and crannies of the nut ball and stick some of the flowers in. You don’t need to fill in every crevice, just a few spots all over the ball.

You’re done!

Make another one, so that you can create a vignette of nut balls for your Christmas mantle. Or make the Potpourri Ball to display with them.

 The Potpourri Ball

Step 1: Glue the moss onto the foam ball like you did for the Christmas Nut Ball. 

(You can use a different size foam ball.)

Step 2: Start gluing down the potpourri. 

Pour the potpourri onto the table and pick out the prettiest pieces and start gluing them on. Cover the whole ball with the potpourri.

Step 3: Fill in gaps with green moss. 

Once you’ve finished gluing the potpourri, gently stick some little pieces of the moss into the spaces all over it. This gives it a more finished look.

You’re done!

Now, set it down on your mantle next to your Christmas Nut Balls.

June 24, 2017

Down Syndrome Kids: Times Tales - Times Tables Made Easy!

"Joshua, my Special Needs learner and 8-year-old middle boy, is thoroughly enjoying it." 
Times Tales is a program that teaches the upper times facts through mnemonic stories. It is the brainchild of Jennie Von Eggers, a homeschooling mom teaching the multiplication facts to her boys. They had trouble remembering their facts from day to day. She developed a way to teach them through clever stories, which enabled them to recall the facts. Several years later, she (along with two partners) developed this system into Times Tales.

I‘m reviewing this product and have to say I am unsure if it works for my family. My older boy Jonathan, 11 years, still struggles slightly with recalling his multiplication facts. But learning the stories for each one seems cumbersome. He’s farther along in knowing his facts and this just slows him down. He’s not the target audience for this system.

Joshua, my Special Needs learner and middle boy, 8 years, is thoroughly enjoying it. He carries the flip chart around with him - through the house, in the car, to church,- and talks about the stories on each page. He recognizes the numbers in the characters and reads the equations to me. But, developmentally, he’s not learning his multiplication facts. I wonder if this will hinder his understanding of the concept of multiplying numbers. I may be putting the cart before the horse with this boy. On the other hand, this may be exactly what will help him see and understand his times tables. He’s a boy that likes to experience life, and learns through seeing things, hearing things, and touching things. Teaching him these clever stories is great for his imagination and story-telling abilities. He’s behind in his expressive language skills, but I see him articulating these stories.I’m willing to continue using this with him and evaluate the outcome. It may be much farther down the road.

Cast of Times Tales Characters:
Butterfly – The number “3” drawn to look like a butterfly.
Chair – The number “4” drawn to look like a chair (4 table legs)
First Grade Class – looks like the “6”
Mrs. Week – looks like the “7”
Mrs. Snowman – looks like the “8”
Treehouse – looks like the “9”

Story #1:
The First Grade Class played musical Chairs for 24 hours.
A flip chart with a really cute picture of little kids with 6’s on their heads walking around a chair shaped like a 4, and musical notes flying around the room.
We talk about the picture and what the kids are doing. Ask questions and get the kids to tell you the story back. Make sure to keep the numbers in order.
Last Act:
Show the kids Flash Cards and have them tell you the story represented by each one. Then reveal to them that their actually doing “math.”

Click Here for Times Tales

November 12, 2016

30 Days of Gratitude

4 Things I'm Thankful For:

1. Videos of my sweet Ella
2. Sons that hug and love on me everyday
3. Warm, fuzzy blankets and pillows
4. Cold, cloudy days (there haven't been any lately)

3 Ways I Can Express Gratitude

1. Smiling more
2. Showing my happy face
3. Saying "thank you" often and with enthusiasm

30 Days of Gratitude: Journey Through Exodus

Week 2: Exodus 5-8

MONDAY: 4 Things I'm Thankful For

  1. Ella, Beautiful Ella!
  2. April the good mama 
  3. Brendan the funny da-da
  4. Rain Storms, Booming Thunder, Crackle of Lightning

TUESDAY: 3 Ways I Can Express Gratitude

1. Love Notes
2. Thank you cards
3. Hand-written, encouraging letters

October 24, 2016

30 Days of Gratitude: Journey Through Exodus

Week 1: Exodus 1-4

MONDAY: 4 Things I'm Thankful for

1. My hardworking, trustworthy husband
2. Rain Storms--beautiful, wet, loud thunder and flashing lightning
3. My Boys! Jonathan, Joshua, Josiah!!
4. My House--safe, warm, filled with love.

TUESDAY: 3 Ways I Can Express Gratitude

1. Back rubs, feet rubs, neck rubs... :)
2. Tell others how much they mean to me.
3. Verbally tell the Lord how much I'm thankful daily.

WEDNESDAY: Record a Favorite Memory

The rain storm this morning at 6 am was incredible. Thunder and lightning dominated the dark sky, and the booming thunder was so loud it scared me and made me almost jump out of my bed. It was so lovely to lay there and snuggle and enjoy the storm.

THURSDAY: Something wonderful that happened today.

The Rain Storm!

June 16, 2014

Capturing the Wedding Dress in Photos

The other day I felt inspired to capture the grace, simplicity, and innocence of April's wedding dress. It's been hanging in my room for so long now (it only left for a few days during the wedding) that it seemed the right place to photograph it. After cleaning all the clutter that was next to my bed, (a pile of unfolded, clean clothes) I propped a mirror against my nightstand, moved my lamp slightly to the right, then draped her veil across both. I opened wide the blinds and with sunshine flooding the room I arranged her dress on a wooden hanger and placed in the doorway. Standing in my kitchen, I shot several views and angles of the dress--front, back, up close and far away.

I worked some magic in Photoshop and refined a few of the shots. I designed this sepia composite of the back and front of her dress, and added several borders and textures. I have a favorite. Which one do you like? The Latte, Coffee and Cream, Mocha, Raisin, Blueberry, Slate, or Rose?

a. Latte

b. Coffee and Cream

c. Mocha

d. Raisin

e. Blueberry

f.  Slate

g. Rose