Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The sad, sad state of modern Christianity.

My husband and I play a little game during the week. It's called "Who can find the oddest news story." We start on Monday, and email each other the most unique news story we can find until Friday. No "points" are ever rewarded since it's all in fun, but today I think I won for "Most Frightening Excuse for Religion."

According to THIS news story, a church in Ohio is offering drive-by blessings for Ash Wednesday today... for those parishioners who may be too busy to attend a traditional service commemorating the beginning of Lent.

Christians. Too busy for God.

And the church is HELPING this trend?!? Wow.

Yet so many people seem to wonder why we live in a time when Christianity is seen as a joke... something to be avoided & ridiculed. You just don't need to dig too deep for an excuse to avoid church, when things like this are making the news. Lent: a 40-day time of preparation before celebrating the most holy day in the Christian calendar, is now being given the same respect as a fast-food lunch.

If we who call ourselves Christians cannot make the time to set foot within the church, how are we ever to expect others to do the same? How can we expect others to take GOD seriously? I mean, what's next? Pastors standing on the street-corner with squirt-guns "baptizing" people as they go by in the slow-lane?

God is NOT something we should be trying to "squeeze in" on the drive home from work. I am truly ashamed, that people who call themselves Christians seem to think that this is all the more respect that our Heavenly Father deserves. My most humble apologies go out to my non-Christian friends for the terrible example of my faith, that this reflects.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Party 6 Years in the Making

My daughter was born on the Chinese New Year.

I would never have known this, but while I was pregnant my husband was the only non-Hmong person in his department at work. When I went into labor early, EVERY lady made sure to tell him I should do everything in my power to hold out on giving birth until after midnight - because being born during the year of the dragon was VERY very lucky. And yes, somehow she WAS born - two hours into the year of the dragon; my little Chinese New Year baby.

When she was old enough, we told her the story of her birth. On her 6th birthday we surprised her with a pink cheongsam, (Chinese brocade dress) and a pink Asian birthday party. And since that day she has insisted that on her TWELFTH birthday - when it is once again the year of the dragon, she wanted another Chinese tea party birthday.

Since she is a girly-girl, a traditional Chinese New Year party in red & black with dragons everywhere just didn't seem appropriate. So instead, we went with a Cherry Blossom theme where everything was pale pink & dark brown.

For the invitations, we used a cherry-blossom rubber stamp & chalked the image to give it a soft "watercolored" look. Inside, we created a birthday haiku rather than using the traditional "You Are Invited" wording.

For decorations, we strung pink & brown paper lanterns across the ceiling, and scattered pink cherry blossoms across a brown "tablecloth." (it was actually a thrifted bedsheet cut down to size!)

We set each girls place with a silk fan, and chopsticks for each girl to take home.

Being a tea party, the treats were easy to decide on as well. We had chocolate-dipped fortune cookies, almond cookies, and tiny tangerines with jasmine green tea. Rather than a large cake, we made vanilla cupcakes with tangerine frosting & decorated them with the prettiest sugar cherry blossoms I could find.

Everything was set out on the old sewing machine, which doubles as a display-sideboard in the dining room.

While I had originally envisioned framing a piece of Chinese brocade to use as a backdrop, I found the most beautiful painted scroll for $4 that looked absolutely perfect just above the table, and seemed to complete the display perfectly.

At the party, the girls spent hours playing "how many pieces of rice / buttons / tangerine-slices / and flower petals can you pick up with a pair of chopsticks in 30 seconds" before running off to the bedroom to practice a play - to which I was the sole audience.

I'm sworn to secrecy on the details of the play, but it ended with a sweet interpretation of a Japanese fan-dance with flower petals raining down throughout the living room. Then they painted blooming cherry tree branches using straws to blow the paint into the shape of the branches before settling down to watch The Amazing Panda Adventure for bed.

In the morning the girls woke to mandarin-orange rice pudding & tea, before getting ready for church. And to go home, the princess & I had picked up some pretty Bed Bath & Beyond body washes & glittery body-spray in Cherry Blossom, (they were on SALE for 1/3 of their regular cost!) and some pretty soaps. We also tucked in a tiny felt fortune cookie with a handmade fortune that read "Thanks for coming to my party!" This party may have been "six years in the making" but it was both the most laid-back party we've ever had. The girls loved every second of the party, and I loved how everything seemed to come together perfectly for one beautiful celebration for my pretty pretty princess.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Valentine's Day Decorations

I have some WONDERFUL crafts & decorations to share today! February is a special month for us. This month is my mother's birthday, my daughter's birthday, Valentine's Day... AND our anniversary! I am absolutely not a fan of pink though - which means a lot of commercial decorations just won't do. Most of our new ideas came directly from my Valentines Day / Date-Night board on PINTEREST... where you can see links to all of the original posts.

For this month I chose to stick with a single theme for all my new decorations... and I LOVE how it turned out! For our front door, we reused the pretty stuffed-hearts from last year.The kids and I took vintage valentines and printed them onto iron-on patches. These were used both to create this adorable door-hanging AND to fill a pail sitting on our fireplace hearth!

For the rest of the fireplace, we made a heart chain from OOOOOLD book pages. These were carefully Mod Podged so we can reuse them year after year, and I love how this turned out as a simple and unique spin on traditional Valentine's Day "fluff."
The tiny accent table in our living room has a special theme... it's our anniversary-table. The little angel was a gift to us from our pastor on our 10th wedding anniversary, and the maple-leaf vase & tiny glass mousie are in honor of my husband & my nicknames for each other. To tie everything together, I added vintage buttons to the vase, and my little bowl of vintage thread. Then on a whim I took a coat-hanger and bent it into the word LOVE and wrapped that in red yarn. The adorable paper-and-button flowers were my favorite addition however. I just LOVE how these turned out, and all I needed was more of the vintage book, and some coated-wire! In the close-up photo, you can see one of my favorite buttons. The glass button in the front was from a sweater my great-grandmom knit for me when I was a little girl. I've always had a fascination with the pretty "seashell" pattern on these buttons, and was so excited to find a pretty craft to show them off!

In the dining area, I used more of the old book and some wool felt to create a simple centerpiece and drops from the chandelier.Seriously, I am loving how quickly (and inexpensively) all of our new decorations turned out this year!

The rest of our decorations are pretty much the same as last year. In my cabinet-niche we have the little stuffed bears that have sat there every year since my daughter was born. This year they're sitting on a vintage gingham square that doubles as a card-tablecloth.

On top of the china cupboard I have my feather-tree with the pretty glittered vintage Valentines. This year we added a few of the Valentines to our apothecary jar, and I REALLY like how that turned out!

And of course there's the hutch display. The one big change we made here this year, was to put our little mailboxes onto "posts." These were candlestands from the thrift store! The two red ones were painted because they were traditional oak stands & not quite what I had in mind, but the other two were perfect as-is.
How has everyone else decorated for February?!?