Once Upon a Time: Jingle Bell Run

So I haven’t posted in over two months. I have some thoughts on that, why blogging has been hard for me, but I need a different space to get those thoughts into a cohesive post. Right now, my parents and I have finished our Christmas (they arrived late afternoon yesterday), and we are all sitting around playing with our iPads. Mine was a Christmas gift from some sweet friends!
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Today’s Once Upon a Time is about what has become one of my favorite traditions. My dad has been running as long as I can remember (33 years apparently) and we figured out today that my mom has been a runner for about 20 years. 18 years ago, they started running together every Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. At first only my mom would tie jingle bells on her shoes, but in recent years my dad has decided he’s not too cool to do it. ;)
I have been running off and on for 8 or 9 years, and I’ve started joining them whenever I can on the Jingle Bell Run. A few years ago we even made t-shirts. Yeah, we’re that dorky! This year, my siblings are with their in-laws for Christmas, so my parents flew down to Memphis yesterday, once my dad’s Christmas Eve pastor duties were finished. This morning we got a rare treat of several inches of snow! We took our Jingle Bell Run to Shelby Farms, which was just gorgeous frosted in white. It was a great run! We only passed two people, an older couple out with their camera but I hope we made them smile!
Look how cute my parents are in their festive garb!
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I hope we continue this for a long time. I look forward to the future when I may have a running stroller to push. Oh, yes, it’ll have some sleigh bells!

xoxo,
Alanna

Pinteresting!

Lately I’ve been actually doing some of the things I’ve pinned. I know – crazy idea, right? I’d even say some of them are becoming household staples.

  1. Borax + washing soda + Fels-Naptha soap = laundry detergent. I just made my second batch – I think the first was in May! It’s easy. It’s cheap. It’s effective. It’s free of a lot of nasty chemicals. If you have any doubts about how clean it can get clothes… I used to use Fels-Naptha to clean my paintbrushes when I did oil painting. It knows its cleaning business.

  2. These sweet potatoes (scroll down the post). Oh my goodness. These are SO good! And really easy. The only tough thing is waiting for them to be ready! I even made them for a friend who doesn’t like sweet potatoes and they were a hit. What I love about it is that I can just cut up half a potato and cook them in my toaster oven for a one-person portion.

  3. I made this meat-veggie-potatoes-in-one-dish meal last weekend. Again, super easy (sense a theme with my homemaking?) and quite delicious! The one thing I’ll do different next time is marinate the chicken breasts beforehand. They didn’t have a ton of flavor, although it was still good. But the carrots and potatoes were amazing! I will definitely be using this in the future. I think it’ll be a great choice for taking meals to new parents. One dish to stick in the oven and one dish to return.

  4. The little man I nanny and I made a hug like this for his dada to take to work. He really enjoyed making it and I think it was a hit with its recipient. We didn’t do a hand print; I traced his hands on construction paper which he had colored.

Have you been putting any pins to practice? Let me know how it’s gone!

xoxo,
Alanna

Influence – The Girl Behind the Blog

I know. I know… Father’s Day is the last time I’ve posted. Things have got busy around here. I moved. I went away for a big chunk of the summer. So much change. Good change… and I’ve been really rethinking the way I want to approach blogging. I’ve been dragging my feet on it really. Last week I marked my calendar to participate in The Girl Behind the Blog vlog link-up today. And then promptly forgot until this afternoon. I was “supposed” to have already done a catch-up, I’m back, let’s relaunch this thing post. I haven’t. But what better way to dive back in than this? So I turned my grandma’s armchair around to face my dining room (the best light downstairs, since I still have no lighting in the living room, and also to hide all the empty moving boxes and piles of Stuff), threw my all-day-with-a-toddler hair into a bun, touched up my make-up, and slipped on some jewelry and my favorite new cardi. So here goes… I hate watching myself, so I haven’t even viewed the video fully myself.

Sorry it’s five minutes long. Here’s a fact about me: I have an extremely difficult time being concise when I’m talking. I just like talking too much. So… I decided to leave it as is. It’s me.

Talk to y’all later… and SOON! I promise.

xoxo,
Alanna

 

Happy Father’s Day!

This morning, the men of my church gave us such a beautiful gift. Several months ago, one of the men had the vision for a men’s choir. So at their last fellowship dinner (this past Tuesday) they rehearsed and this morning lead us in worship with How Great Thou Art! It was so incredible to see probably 75+ men singing with all their hearts, no matter their musical skill. What a witness to us of what it is to be a faithful, godly man! A role model to our boys, and an example to our girls (including this one) of what a husband should be. To God be the glory!

This evening I was painting tiles for Right Focus. One of the designs had III John 4 on it: “I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth.” Y’all know, of course, that today is Father’s Day. As carefully painted the verse several times, I reflected that is such a blessing to be the daughter of a father (and mother!) for whom this is their greatest joy. All I have to do is follow my Lord and I will bring my parents’ joy. It doesn’t matter what job I have, or achievements I gain… if I walk in the truth, I know their hearts are full of joy. It’s not the reason to pick up my cross and follow the Lord, but it is a sweet benefit.

How do I know this is my parents’ greatest joy? They have shown me, in their attitude, teaching, and words to me, but also in the example of their own lives. I don’t have a perfect family; but walking in the truth has always been our family’s primary focus. From Sunday evening family devotions when I was little to daily Bible study before school, my parents have brought me up in the “fear and admonition of the Lord.” Our faith has always come before anything else. Before school (literally!), before material blessings, before entertainment. I have watched both my dad and my mom spend countless hours preparing and planning Bible studies, VBS programs, Sunday School projects, and youth group lessons, all for the purpose of sharing with others how to walk in the truth. Theology has always been as common a dinnertime conversation topic as the day’s activities or current events. My parents’ example has impressed their joy in my own faith as much as the times they have directly expressed that.

I am so richly blessed to have parents who have taught me and shown me how to follow Christ! It grieves me that many children, perhaps even you, have not had this jumpstart to walking in the truth. Even if you don’t have a godly father to celebrate today, you have a heavenly Father Who is the Truth, the one, perfect example. My own dad, as amazing as he is, is still but a dim reflection of God the Father. He loves you more than any earthly possibly could! Ask Him to give you earthly models… hey, if you’re in Memphis, come over to Advent. We’ve got a lot of men who can be as a father in the family of God!

xoxoxoxo,
Alanna

2012 30 Day Journal Challenge – Day 1!

This is my third year participating in the journal challenge hosted by the lovely Janel of Run With Scissors. And this is the year I am bound and determined I’ll actually finish it! Haha… I’m a little behind, but here is my first page:

Prompt: an introduction page.

You can see pages shared from the rest of the participants here, or you can also see what I did last year. And it’s not too late to get started yourself!

xoxo,
Alanna

Once Upon a Time: Beanies!

In the past month, I’ve brought two of my little buddies to my house to visit the kitties. You have to understand, this is a seriously exciting activity when you’re two. But there’s something else in my bedroom both of them have picked out immediately: Bongo.

Bongo was my second Beanie Baby. I was 12 when the craze really got into full swing. Still very much a little girl (thank you parents for protecting my innocence), I got the collecting bug easily. I love cute things; at age almost-27, I still get a little melty inside when I see stuffed animals in stores. And at $5, it was the perfect thing for a preteen’s budget. After we moved to PA, I would walk to the sweet little gift shop downtown every couple weeks to check out the new selection and see if anything I wanted had arrived.

I believe my final count was around 90. I did have some of the big ticket Beanies – including both the tie-dyed Peace bear and the Princess Diana bear. Eventually I sorted through them and sent about 25 to an orphanage in Brazil. But I still have all the rest boxed up in my parents’ storage room.

All except a few special ones who accompanied me to college and eventually Memphis (and the one my mom sent me this year for Valentine’s Day :D). But even amongst those few, Bongo has always been the special one. I got him in my monkey-obsessed phase (it lasted several years, I think). But one of the special things about him was that my dad picked him out.

After being given my first Beanie Baby, I quickly got on the TY website and organized a plan of attack for adding more. Bongo was the top of my list. At that time, my dad met some friends every week for breakfast at a church member’s restaurant, which had a Cracker Barrel-style gift shop. I put him on the watch for Bongo and after not too long, he came home with a paper bag for me! But he hadn’t just grabbed any old Bongo from the shelf. He had spent some time looking at each little monkey to find the cutest face. He knew that’s what I would do (and he may have been following instructions).

Bongo has always been my favorite. As you can probably tell, he slept with me for a while. He sat on a shelf above my desk in college and now he sits on my bedside table. He’s just so cute and truly does have a great face (not all of them are sewn as nicely). However… I think a big part of why he’s got a special place for me is that he represents a special relationship and a special person. A daddy who takes a few extra minutes to pick the very best one for his girl.

xo,
Alanna

Waltzing around the Interwebz

Just a quick pop-in to share some lovely things I found around the Interwebz!

  1. This post from Ann Voskamp – the idea of eating the Word as dessert after every meal, combined with the beautiful photos, made my heart full. Looking forward to having a family one day and making this part of our meal routine.
  2. From the sublime to the rather shallow… how incredible is Erdem’s Resort 2013 collection? The navy and plum colors, the florals, the cuts and tailoring… gah! I would wear every. single. piece. Except perhaps the bikini/high heels combo. Not so practical for the nanny of a toddler!
  3. Incredible, strong, honest, and TRUE article on why we shouldn’t be reading 50 Shades of Gray. Thank you, Erin, for being brave to voice the wisdom God gave you!

Be back later, folks! I have several posts planned and this time I mean to actually follow through!

xoxo,
Alanna

Blog re-design!

Well, looky-looky… I did a little blog-redesign coinciding with my blogiversary! I’ve been wanting a new look and decided it was time to just sit down and do it. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out! It’s very vintage-y and I think it suits me well.

The background of the header is actually one of my favorite skirts. It belonged to my grandmother – vintage Talbots! When she passed away a year ago, my mom sent me a bunch of her clothes. I have fun wearing them.

And that picture on the left side? I’ve been meaning to share this with you for quite a while. Back in March, my good friend and an amazing photographer Beth and I cooked up a really cool vintage photo shoot. I want to share more of the photos soon, but this is your sneak peek! Although if you’re smart, you might find some more on Beth’s blog.

xoxo,
Alanna

Once Upon a Time: A Blogiversary

Once upon a time, year ago yesterday, I wrote my first post. I thought very briefly about doing a big celebratory post with a giveaway, like many other bloggers do. But it seemed a better fit to the way I’ve blogged this first year to just mark it quietly (and a day late)… and anyway, with such a small readership there wouldn’t be anyone to vie for the giveaway. Haha.

I’ve never been a cannonball-into-the-water type of girl. I always inch myself in slowly, one toe at a time. And so it’s been with blogging. I don’t think I’ve been so much a half-hearted blogger as a cautious and hesitant one. Testing the proverbial waters, so to speak. Seeing if it’s safe to plunge in. And with such a crazy, up-and-down year, blogging suffered. I’m a routine girl. I have a hard time being consistent and disciplined when life is crazy and all over the place.

But enough of that! Life is moving on and I’m slowly settling into a new normal, although there’s still some change to come in the next couple months. It’s time to get serious about the blog. So that’s why I planned to hash out The Plan for year number two on the blog. Perhaps I’d give you a bulleted list of Big Goals like new post ideas (and I have plenty), so many shop updates per month, when in my week I’m going to set aside time to blog, etc.

And yet… looking back over the past year, and looking towards the future, that’s still seems not quite the right thing. Before those Big Goals will work, I need one thing.

I want to blog with PURPOSE.

I don’t mean narrowing a focus for the blog. I don’t mean setting goals and keeping myself on track. Those are important and they will follow. But this is what I mean:

I realized recently that in the past year, I don’t think one single time have I sat down to pray over my blog. To ask God what HE would like to do with Charlie + Lu. 1 Corinthians 10:31 say whatever we do, even eating and drinking, should be done for God’s glory. Eating and drinking are basic survival tasks. If I’m supposed to survive for His glory, how much more so should something like blogging be taken seriously for His purpose! Before I get to any goals or to-do lists, I need to sit down and spend some time praying over Charlie + Lu. And listening. My hope for this blog is that what you see in the coming weeks and months will come from a heart guided by the Lord. That doesn’t mean every post is going to be “Christian-y”! But I want Him beside me as I blog. Every time.

Even for a purposeless, hesitant first year of blogging, it’s been a good one. I wrote some heartfelt posts about things like Honduras and a special birthday. I participated in an art journal challenge, Indie Christmas, and the Spring Fling Blog Swap. I showed you a lot of Instagrams. I am beginning to meet some sweet and amazing fellow bloggers.

I’m excited just thinking about what another year could bring when I blog with purpose. For Him. Soli Deo Gloria!

xoxo,
Alanna

DIY Paper Files

So I’ve been super poor this year, blah blah, y’all all know this. :) It’s actually kind of been fun to really stretch my creativity to make beautiful, nice things with a budget of $almostzero. Because I use recycled paper for my earrings, I have a large collection of found papers – wrapping paper, old envelopes, store bags, etc. I needed somewhere to stash it all.

Inspiration hit when I saw a box my roomie had set out for the trash. It was nice and sturdy, having originally held a couple bottles of toilet bowl cleaner. It even had a handy-dandy finger hole. And it was the perfect width – I’d tried a cereal box before, but they were never wide enough to accommodate the catalogs in my collection. I picked up a roll of pretty wrapping paper and some spray adhesive from Wal-Mart for maybe $7. Then I followed the process loosely outlined in the photos below!

1. Find a good sturdy box, with enough depth to hold your papers without smashing them.
2) Cut off the flaps, then decide where you want the down-side of your slanted side to end. Measure and note the distance from the bottom of the box to your desired end-point. Then use a ruler to draw a line from the opposite corner to the end point, wrap straight around the back, and then up to the opposite corner, parallel to the original line (I hope that makes sense).

3) Now you’ve got the finished shape – the cut lines probably make more sense know.
4) Because of how dark and patterned the box was, I knew it would show through the wrapping paper so I first covered it in white contact paper. I didn’t measure exactly but used the grid on the back of the paper to cut my pieces. I covered the bottom first, then the front and back, leaving an inch or so on all sides to wrap over the edge. I made small cuts at the corners to help it not wrinkle and bulge.

5. At this point, the front, back, and bottom were all covered. Don’t worry that where the pieces overlap, it’s a more opaque white. The wrapping paper will even it out.
6. For the sides, the only overlap went over the top (the slant). The other sides of the contact paper piece were square to the edge of the box.
7. Up to this point, the finger hole had been covered in paper. Using an xacto knife, I poked through the paper and folded it back, using a lot of little cuts by the corners to help it lie flat. Then I covered everything with a piece of contact paper to keep the ends secure.

 8. I wrapped the box in the wrapping paper the same way I did the contact paper. I first tried modge podge before the spray adhesive, but it made the paper wrinkly.
9. I folded the corners like one would wrapping a present.
10. I didn’t wrap around the finger hole again – I just cut very carefully next to the edge (on the front)

And then it was done! I liked it so much I did another one in a box big enough to hold my 12 x 12″ scrapbook paper. My craft hutch has always been somewhat organized (I couldn’t stand it if it wasn’t), but I’m trying to further sort/purge and use pretty containers. It’s a good start, wouldn’t you say? Oh, the little metal bins are from the Target $1 spot a couple years ago, but I see them again every now and then.

xoxo,
Alanna