Succulent Cross

Succulents are my one of my all time favorite things, and so are topiaries.  Here is an easy DIY project to add some green to your decor – a succulent cross! 

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It’s finally warm enough to spend some time out on the porch. My first priority of course, are plants and accessories. Never mind that there is no where to sit, or that my pile of rummage sale junk still sits in the corner of the porch. A pretty front door is so welcoming, and something green by the door just makes it so much more inviting.Succulent Cross on door

Succulent Cross materials

Succulents are my one of my all time favorite things, and so are topiaries. I used to work in a green house and we planted dozens of topiaries early in the season. Topiaries were always hot items and they really aren’t difficult to plant. Succulents work well in them because they have shallow roots and don’t need a ton of water. I found this cross topiary online last year and thought it would be perfect for my Easter decor. This would also be a nice project for a grave site planting, as the succulents don’t need a lot of maintenance.

The first step is to soak your topiary in a bucket of water for 10-15 minutes until saturated. Then it’s ready to plant. I only used 6 plants for this project, but I broke them down into smaller pieces as I planted them so they wouldn’t be too big for the narrow parts of the cross.

Succulent Cross close up

I used a screw driver to poke holes into the moss, then inserted the plants. The plants filled up the cross quite well and will grow into place even more over the garden season.

I used a Command Strip to hang it on the glass door.

whole door with cross

I will have to take the cross down and soak it in a tray of water when it is dry since I don’t want to mess up the wooden finish on the door by watering it directly.

cross on the door

I found the blue hydrangea plant recently at Costco. My cross dripped a bit after it hung for a while, you can see a bit of moisture on the lower part of the door. I will have to remember to let it drain for a bit before hanging it up after watering. I have planted the Bunny Topiary in past years, you can read that tutorial here.

Now that my door is ready, perhaps I need to go out and look for an Easter Bonnet?

Enjoy your Holy Week!

 

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How to Keep Your Family Safe Online

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Keeping your family safe online is a huge topic of discussion and concern for people today. I hear every day of families who are distraught, trying to keep their children safe from the uncontrollable Internet. The statistics of children viewing porn and graphic content at younger and younger ages is staggering, even among Christian families. No one is safe from it. As a parent, I don’t want to see it either, it is annoying, frustrating and shocking. One wrong click of the mouse and your child’s innocence can be lost forever. How are we to keep this unwanted content out of our homes? There are a number of things you can do to keep the Internet in check.

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1) Set up parental parameters: Devices your children use such as the Wii, XBox, Nook, the Kindle and hand held game systems have improved internet safety software to keep children from viewing inappropriate content. Set up a parental login and get started.  Check regularly to see what your children are viewing and downloading online on each system. If you don’t know how to set up your device, call technical support and have them help you set it up over the phone.

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2) Set Up Cell Phone Blocking. Did you know you can pay a few extra dollars per month to your cell phone provider to block inappropriate content on all the phones on your plan? We use AT &T, they only charge $4.99 per month for this service.  Click here to find out more information. You can set up time usage limits, text limits, and even block specific numbers. This is money well spent for a bit of peace of mind. Blocking cannot stop all phone to phone content transfer, however. Be aware that if your child gets an email or text from an approved number that is inappropriate, there is no way for you block it. Hopefully, this will change in the future and parents will have even more control over their children viewing content.

3) Set definite boundaries with your children. Do not allow them to have private passwords, you need to be able to check their electronic devices, email and social media accounts for appropriate content. Make it a house rule, all passwords for electronic devices and emails are shared in the home.

4) Keep your computer in an open space. Do not allow your children to have online access behind closed doors. There is no reason they need privacy, they are children. Our children do online classes at home but they understand the doors are to remain open. If this is an issue in your home, try installing some glass doors instead or move your computer to an open area without doors.

5) Set your browser to remember passwords and record website history. Look under the System Preferences icon to on your computer to change this function. Check the browser history frequently to be sure everything is on the up and up.

6) Call your internet service provider and see what parental controls they offer. They may have some tools available that you weren’t aware of. If you bundle your services and have cable TV with them as well, have them help you set up controls on your television for cable.  We use Charter Communications and they have an excellent tutorial on setting up your TV blocking here. Many TVs are set up for Internet streaming, you want to have controls in place for that too, here another link for Charter that may be helpful.

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7) Install a content filtering router. You can purchase a special router to filter unwanted Internet content right at the source where it enters your home. With a router like this, no one in the household will be able to view unwanted content whether they connect to the router directly or wirelessly. A filtering router can work with your current Internet provider and is programmable so you can block unwanted websites and specific content. Generally these routers are rather expensive, but they are available. I recently won a router like this, and I can’t wait get started using it. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

8) Limit your child’s Internet access by age. Young children should have little or no reason to use the Internet, especially when they are unsupervised. Our doctor recommended no more than 20 minutes of screen time per sitting, not more than 2 hours daily for our kids.

These are some pointers, but the best way to keep your kids safe is by being an involved parent. Know who your kids are friends with and what their family rules and values are. Establish your own family rules and stick to them. You may need to step in and make some difficult choices, but your kids will thank you in the long run.

Are you wondering what all this silly artistic censorship is about? These silly art pictures won me the grand prize of a complete content filtering router system! I don’t have the system yet, but I will have more to share soon, including how you can get one for your family!

Stay tuned!

Joining the Link Up!

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10 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

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I am ready for the Christmas season. The house is decorated, and the cookies are baked, the ham is ready to cook. We are so blessed to have each other, our health and so much more.

We have made a few simple gifts to give, but have not purchased gifts this year. This year, we are focused on serving others more than ever before.

For this reason, we are very joyful this holiday season.

We contributed our family’s normal gift budget to a couple of important causes. We bought a goat for a family in need through World Vision. Each year we “shop” through their catalog to purchase a livestock animal to give to families in need so they can support themselves. It is one of our favorite family traditions.

This is the first year I have noticed American children listed among those in need, it’s not just a world wide cause anymore.

We contributed through our church to the Advent Conspiracy program, and joined the masses of people who have decided to give more than they spend. Dozens of our local charities as well as many national ones benefited from the funds our church helped to set aside for them.

We baked cookies to give away and are serving on Christmas eve at church as well. These are our simple family traditions.

There are so many places you can serve no matter how little time or money you have.

I asked my fellow bloggers for some ideas on how they are serving this season. Would you like to join us in serving others this holiday season?

Here’s what they came up with:

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1) Commit Random Acts of Kindness: Ellen over at Confessions of an Overworked Mom has 25 great ideas for giving back to those in need. Commit at least one random act this season, or all 25! The more you do the more joyful you will become, guaranteed.

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2)Buy a pair of pajamas and a storybook: Contribute to the Pajama Program’s One Million Good Nights, NYCJenny blogged about her family’s experience buying a pair of pajamas and a children’s story book for this charity. There are so many children who have never experienced the simple luxury of wearing a new pair of pajamas and being read a bedtime story by a parent. This is so close to my heart, I can’t imagine a child not being tucked into bed by a loving parent. This is her husband in his footy pj’s promoting the event for a local news station.

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3)Teach Your Children to Serve: Briton from Rad Mom Cool Kid has ideas for children and how they can be of service. Teaching your children servitude helps to combat bullying and disrespect. Start now!

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4)Take part in Operation Christmas Child: Melissa from Fab Haute Mamma shared her family’s experience taking shoe boxes and filling them with simple gifts and basic hygiene supplies for Operation Christmas Child. This is also a great family activity! This is a national campaign, look for a drop off site near you and change a child’s life today!

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5)Give Back to your Community: Nichole from Simply Nicole has simple ideas for sharing the holiday spirit such as volunteering at your local senior center and cleaning out your closet for charity. I love the Campout for Hunger program she describes. Volunteers collect and distribute large amounts of canned food for a 5 day period! Wow!

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6)Search the Web for the perfect giving option: Ange from Inspiring Hearts and Homes put together a long list of places you can serve, including the Humane Society and the Make a Wish Foundation. Check out the list, and find an option that works for you in your area.

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7)Decorate a Tree for your favorite Charity: Vanessa Brady from Tried and True decorated a tree for her charity Project BRAVO which benefits the poor in her region of Texas.

Beautiful idea, I can’t wait to do something like this next year!

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8) Donate needed items to a food pantry:  Paula Biggs from the Frog Price Paperie has great suggestions for what is needed at the food pantry this time of year. Did you know that Almond Milk is greatly in demand at pantries? I had no idea! I will buy a couple extra bottles on my next trip to the grocery store.

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9) Ask others to buy Holiday Gifts for Giving Back: Stacy and Eric from Anastasia Vintage Home share their request to family members to give to others instead of themselves. They had some great ideas not on other lists such as Heifer International and Oxfam Unwrapped.

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10)  Be a part of the Drive Thru Difference: Our local Christian radio station started this idea. All you have to do is pay for the car’s order behind you when you are at a drive thru restaurant.  Visit this site to print out a letter of explanation and give it to the cashier when you pay for the meals. This little random act of kindness could change someone’s life today!

Invitation to Silence

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I have been silent lately. Not just here on the blog but everywhere. I am attempting to get back into the swing of things after vacation.

I have discovered, that it is more difficult than it seems, for a number of reasons.

One reason, is that I read the MOST AMAZING book on vacation. When was the last time you read an AMAZING BOOK?

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I happened to see this book on a list of recommended books by another blogger. I checked it out from the library with very low expectations. Nothing personal, it just seems like I haven’t come across a really good book in a long time.

This is Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton.

It was the only book I brought along on our vacation. It was the only one I needed to bring, although I thought for sure I would be done with it in a day and would need another book.

This book is about silence, and how we need to be silent to listen to what God is trying to tell us. 

Sounds simple, right? It’s not.

Before our vacation, I thought that I regularly spent time in solitude. You know, sipping coffee in the morning, between answering emails and making breakfast for the family.

Except, that’s not really solitude. That’s not really spending time, listening to what God is trying to tell you.

I thought this would be an easy subject for me, really I did. After spending several days reading through this book, it and taking notes, I have decided I am lousy at being silent.

Really lousy. Perhaps you have this same problem.

We are so busy in our everyday lives, we don’t realize how physically and mentally tired we are. When we are in this state, we have constant aches and pains, rashes, skin irritations, heart palpitations, panic attacks, sleep disorders, weight problems, the list goes on and on.

These things are all caused by the way we carry unknown stress in our lives. We are, as the author puts it “dangerously tired”.

So tired, we don’t even realize that it’s not normal to feel that way.

After a week of doing nothing but sitting by the pool and soaking up the sun, all my aches and pains were gone and I felt rested for the first time in ages.

Really rested.

And then, I began to hear things, things that God had been trying to tell me but I was too busy to listen. When was the last time you felt you had clear direction in your life? Are you really spending time listening to what God is trying to tell you?

I encourage you to take a single day away from everything and read this book. You may be dangerously tired and not even know it. He may be SHOUTING to you, but if you don’t spend time listening, you will never hear what he has to say.

Enjoy the beautiful sun today in silence!

Living Room Christmas Decor

We are having a blizzard today. The first one of the season. I have been anxiously awaiting it’s arrival. 
I love blizzards.
Especially at Christmas.
Why? It means I can curl up on the sofa in front of the fire and knit for hours on end. It means I can loaf around and watch sappy Christmas movies on Netflix completely guilt free because I couldn’t go anywhere even if I wanted to.
Which, I don’t.
When the sappy movies are over, I can curl up with my cappuccino and read some even sappier Christmas mystery books, and maybe even take a nap.
My colors for this room are a sort of a kaleidoscope variety. So what if I have blue walls, a red sofa, mustard curtains and teal accessories?
I am only a little bit indecisive. 
I just want all the colors, it’s far to hard to choose which ones to use.
The rustic spruce tree sits in a wine barrel borrowed from the garden and filled with logs to hold it in place. 
The tree sports shades of silver, grey, blue, red, and teal. Plus the multicolored LED lights. 
Kaleidoscope Christmas colors.
Part of the Christmas decor includes a promise I made to our son who visited Alaska last summer.
The deal was, that polar bears must be included.
Do you know how hard it is to find polar bear ornaments?
These little guys accompany a favorite Alaskan souvenir.
One bear is caught in a storm at the North Pole. He doesn’t seem to mind. I know how he feels.
The other side of the room features my seasonal card holder frame, click here for more details on this project. My girl friend made the beautiful Christmas quilt. Stockings are from Lands End, there’s a story behind them, I will share that another day as well.
The blue chairs are a favorite place to sit and knit. Just a little secret between you and me, they won’t be blue much longer. 
Don’t tell my husband. He is color blind. He will never notice if they change. Honestly.
Keep the secret. They are soon to be part of a blog post in the near future. Okay?
My ugly blue chairs are balanced by the ugly Darth Vader fireplace and my cool Pottery Barn knock off lamp that I found for $6.00 at the Goodwill Store. Balance can be a good thing.
This is my office space. It is not decorated for the holidays. It is unorganized and not very pretty. I am hoping some super organizing blogger will come along and tell me exactly what to do with it. I wasn’t going to include it in this post, but sometimes a bit of reality is a good thing.
I have two more rooms to finish decorating, time is of the essence! I was supposed to finish it all today, but that blizzard just distracted me. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
More tomorrow!
Linking up today over at:

Confessions of a Plate Addict