Advent (Homespun Happiness..Holiday edition!)

Hi friends,
can you believe December is upon us?  I just can't wait! 
Last year we were wallowing in the endless days and nights of newborn world. 
Praise Jesus, because it got us where we are today. 
With two busy, active, giggling girls.  OH my word, we are SO excited about Christmas this year! 

I wanted to make the girls an advent calendar that included fun activities, acts of service, and treats.  I knew to start early because usually a project lasts for several days (at least) around here.  I only work on these kinds of things when they're asleep, so you do the math. :) 

I took out my trusty scrapbook supplies, washi tape, paint, and other little remnants lying around and first created 25 different tags.  
The next day I labeled them with numbers on one side and the activities on the other.  I'll show you a finished picture soon!  These are going to be clipped on branches that I partially wrapped in yarn! 

Want to know what I included in the activities? 
See below! 

Get the Little People nativity out
 Get Christmas books out
Candy canes
Decorate a cardboard Christmas tree
Decorate sugar cookies
Share cookies with a neighbor or friend
Drive to see the lights! 
Take a Christmas photo!
Make snowflakes
Bake cupcakes
Take cupcakes to friends
Make a snow globe
Visit the bounce place
Make gingerbread houses
Candle lit dinner
Make paint stick stars
Watch a Christmas movie
Surprise Dad at work
Put change in the Salvation Army bucket
Make marshmallow snowmen
Make a snowman pizza
Take a candle to grandparents
Silver Dollar City
Happy Birthday Jesus party! 
CHRISTMAS

Random Act of Kindness (Truth and a Dare)

Today's truth and a dare comes from a lesson God has been teaching me. 
I have thoughts often to step out of my comfort zone and show others how much I appreciate them.  To do random acts of kindness.  How often do actually carry those thoughts out?

Not nearly often enough.  I decided that needed to change.  I love our technology-driven world but can we all Amen that there is just something about a real hug, a real piece of mail, a real muffin....
I've been on a mission to challenge myself to do REAL life things for my real life people.  
One day we delivered muffins to someone to say "thanks".  I'm always saving egg cartons so we placed the mini muffins inside, stuck some cute scrapbook paper on top, and had a very cute gift.  

The muffins were made from a box and were delicious!  (no guilt here)

I challenge you today to one random act of kindness.

Happy Birthday, my Bright-Eyed Betsy Grace






My dearest Betsy Grace is one today.  The big ONE.  In some ways I can hardly believe it. 
I remember before Anna Ruth turned one I was very sad.....I just didn't want my baby to grow up.  With Betsy, it's totally different.  I feel like we've only gotten a glimpse of the HUGE personality her little body holds.  The curtains just barely been drawn back.....and I just adore what I see.

Betsy Grace came in this world rather uniquely, for us at least.  I had an emergency c-section that I stayed freakishly calm throughout.  The presence of God was so thick in the room with me it was almost unbelievable.  I remember, way back in the most human part of my mind, being so scared that something would happen to Betsy.  I didn't tell anyone that until last week actually, when I admitted it to Brett.  But, she DID make it and I remember the nurse handing her to me and I just cried.  My beautiful, screaming baby. 

We came home and life proceeded with two.  Sure, there were challenges, but Betsy Grace has been a pretty great sleeper from the start so things seemed ok.  It was when she was a few months old that I suppose I started to notice her fussiness.  At six months it really peaked.  I remember one particular day at my moms when Betsy Grace would not stop screaming.  I felt utterly helpless.  I called in and got a doctor's appointment for her that afternoon. 

We drove there and discovered she was 12 pounds at six months.  I was nursing her and gaining weight as fast as I could, trying to keep her nourished.  It just wasn't working.  Guilt came in waves....but a sick feeling more than that.  My sweetie was starving.  The doctor gave us until the next day to get her to take a bottle with formula.  She just wouldn't do it. 

Finally, right before bed that night she gulped 3 ounces.  It was a miracle.  I can picture her tiny mouth fitting around that large bottle like it were yesterday.  It was heavenly.  

So you see, my girl is a fighter.  She's tough and brave.  And-she loves to eat.  It didn't take her long to figure out how wonderful formula is as well as other food.  We've skipped baby food with her and moved straight to table food.  

Betsy Grace ..........
is loud,
loves small groups, not big crowds,
has the toothiest grin,
hair that sticks straight up,
wonderfully sweet.

She gives kisses,
moos at the cows,
gets into EVERYTHING that Anna Ruth does,
likes eating everything she can-lotion, crayons, etc,

Her face is very expressive,
her eyebrows are always going all over the place,
and she likes to make her mouth in a "O" shape.

She adores music,
her daddy,
the farm,
truck and Ranger rides,
balloons,
and her cup. 

She's a bundle of joy and passion.  She adores messes.  She has a lot of her mama in her. :) 

My bright-eyed Betsy Grace has been a kiss from heaven. 
Happy first birthday!

Our family photos!


The dreaded family photos.  Haha, that's probably not how you expected this post to start.  But let's be honest, moms and women everywhere are clamoring for a "good" family photo while kiddos and dads are along for the ride.  Am I right?  

Well, I was reluctantly one of those moms this year.  Actually after about 10 minutes of trying to take Anna Ruth's picture inside the house one day I told Brett we weren't even going to try family photos.  Anna Ruth is fiercely independent.  She won't stand still and smile pretty for a camera.  It's just not her personality.  Brett and I were discussing this one night and wondered how other toddlers are posed perfectly smiling and maybe their parents "made" them.  If so, how does that work?  

I'm not going to punish my child for being herself.....I certainly want her to obey but I'm not going to do ________consequence for not smiling pretty for mama's camera.  And you know what? That's not really my photography style anyway I've come to realize.  I like to capture people in their most natural sense.  People being people.  Themselves.  That's how these family photos came about.  




We tried a few with the time and I ran like my life depended on it.  We let the girls explore and be themselves.  My girls are SERIOUS country girls when they can entertain themselves in a cow pasture.  



We snuck a few sweet moments with just the two of us....
"selfies" at their best.

And then, after I was just about to be done and "give up" on a family photo I captured this.  
It made me tear up when I glanced into the camera screen.  I started shouting "I got it! Brett, come look!"  I "got" us.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this picture speaks volumes.  It tells our story...we are country folk, with two busy, happy gals.  We are strong through Christ's never-ending strength.  We love our farm.  

I'm planning on hanging this up in our home....
it is my favorite picture.

Merry and Bright paper banner (Homespun Happiness)

Have you found the happiness in the homespun yet?  
I sure hope so.  This series is fun and do-able for just you, or grab a group of friends and meet once a month to do the projects!  And make sure you include coffee and treats too.... That's certainly how I would do it! 
Todays project has a neat story with it which makes it even better!  I started out blogging purely for myself and a few family members a couple of years ago.  Somewhere along the way my blogging style changed, as did my content.  I wasn't just posting a recap of our life events anymore and with broadened topics came a broadened audience.  THAT has been the fun part.  I've been able to make several friends through Instagram and blogging that I wouldn't otherwise have met. 

I have a friend named Christie from California who is one such friend.  I read her blog and she reads mine.  We are both crafty and have little ones.  Her style is gorgeous (both her clothes and home).  She is definitely someone  would like to have over for coffee.  One day she emailed and asked for my address so she could send me a package!  FUN! She sent me a book about "Glamping" (glamorous camping) and it is fabulous.  So, I wanted to return the favor.  I sent her a book also, a photograph from my shop, and a paper banner I made using the supplies above.


I had read on one of her bog posts that she likes silver and gold so I decided to stick with that color scheme (rather than a rainbow of colors like I might have chosen for myself, lol).  I cut out scallops from Cardstock and then stamped "Merry and bright" onto them.   Then I embellished the scallops with paper tags found at Target in the $1 section.  Last (no picture of this one) I strung them up on red string.   This looked so festive!  

It is SO fun getting to make friends and have a real life pen pal. :) 

Have you made friends because of technology? 

My girls and the golden hour.


Ladies and Gentleman, we have a musician in our midst.  I'm sure I've mentioned it before but Betsy Grace just loves the piano.  I mean this girl can feel the music all the way down to her itty-bitty toes.  I put her on the bench and she goes to town, using a combination of one pointer-finger carefully placed on the keys with both hands slammed down.  And in the meantime her legs kick as fast and hard as they'll let her. 

The real reason I like this shot is because of the light.  I'm still reading as much as I can, when I can about photography.  I am determined to work hard at getting better.  I take the knowledge I read with a grain of salt because some scenarios that light up my eyes I've learned, are technically "wrong".   Light is obviously a biggie in the photography world and I'll give a hearty amen.  But I've been quite amused when I've read several articles speaking against the exact kinds of photos that are in this post and show up frequently on my blog.
One day I even read an article about how NOT to include lens/sun flare spots in your photos...those are the hazy bright light spots that show up.  I chuckled to myself and kept on turning the page.  Because I adore those hazy, happy little spots.  My word for this current season for myself is "light".  So when I see a picture like the one above, I'm quite taken by the light.  Not repelled, thinking it's a "bad" photo.

Of course some photos like this one would be considered awful I'm sure by the "pros".  A lesson I'm learning lately though is to listen carefully to my own mind.  There have been countless times I've felt guilty for putting the word "photographer" on my Instagram account.  I know I'm an aspiring photographer (hey, I'm shooting full time in manual mode now!) and that sometimes the bigger names in the profession might not care for someone like me claiming that status. I don't have a $2,000 camera and Photoshop.  BUT, I have my eyes.  I have a lens in which I see the world that is unique to me, I have a wealth of knowledge that is only growing each day.  I'm learning to trust my own heart and let my heart and eyes be linked.  When I see a photo that makes me feel.......I've got it. 

The thing is, everyone started out somewhere.  I think I've been bullied long enough by the negative thoughts that I'm not "good enough" because I might not have the same equipment.  But to me, the equipment will only get you so far.  It's the heart of the matter that really matters.  The way you see the world around you.  The rest is icing on the cake.  

I'm sticking up for myself today and proudly calling myself a photographer, lens/sun flare and all.  I want to follow my sweet Betsy's lead and feel my photography all the way down to my toes. 

{I am saving for a better camera/lens also.  I know the equipment does matter! Any suggestions?}

I dare you to take a picture. (Truth and a DARE series)


 Today's truth and a dare is brought to you with confidence. 
With an urging! 
You all know how much I love photography.   It just makes me feel something.  It's not really the photo...it's what's IN the photos.  I believe we were made to feel.  The camera can capture a feeling and  even though a photo isn't a living/breathing story it sure has something to say. 
 The truth is that a lot of people will go through life missing the pleasure of photography because of fear.  They're afraid their pictures aren't good enough or worthy enough.  I know, I've been there too (and am STILL there a lot of days--grrrrrrrrr)

Have you ever had that moment where you've captured something glorious in your eyes and then you see a friend's picture and immediately begin criticizing yours?  Surely I'm not just preaching to myself here. :)  Well, I want to challenge that.  
 The truth is-no one on the entire planet has eyesight like yours.  Your eyes come with a unique set of values, thoughts, stories, feelings, and ideas in which you view the world.  Your lense to the world is rare.  
 Something else that stops us/me in our tracks is the big DSLR.  I love my "real" camera and aim to get better and better at taking pictures with it.  But in my real life, day to day moments the phone is often what gets used.  Especially now.  I went months feeling guilty for "just" taking a picture with my phone.  But then Betsy Grace started crawling and getting into EVERYTHING and I just realized I didn't have time to run for the big camera every time I wanted to snap a photo.  

And so I gave myself permission to use my phone.  
These pictures were all taken at the breakfast table with Anna Ruth while Betsy Grace took her morning nap.  It is JUST the kind of memory I want to look back on this season of life and have.  Time for two at the table.  Just us, working away on our journals.  Having sweet little conversations, always observing what's outside...sights and sounds both.  Me-drinking two cups of coffee (one for each girl-ha!).  Saying our "thank-you Jesus" prayers for the day.  

My DARE to you this week is to TAKE SOME PHOTOS! Just do it.
If you're feeling reallllly brave you could always post one on Facebook, or email it to me! 
I'd love to see. :) 
sunshinebysara@hotmail.com

We are a country song, hay bale jumpin' and all.

One Sunday afternoon Brett asked his mom if she would take the little girls to the "Sister's Meeting" that night for a bit....Sister's Meeting is where my mom-in-law gets together with her sisters every Sunday evening.  She readily agreed and Brett and I stayed behind to have a farm date.
We drove around on the Ranger, enjoying the freedom to look around our great, marvelous farm (instead of trying to make sure the girls don't fall out!)  
I am always keeping my eyes out for hidden treasures on the farm.  I spotted this heart rock WAY far away and asked Brett to stop. He was surprised I was even able to see it.  He captured a rare, serious look on my face.  
And then THIS happened.  Brett wanted me to JUMP on hay bales.  Oh my word, I did not want to do this!  I am semi scared of heights....not on roller coasters or anything.  Just in situations where it comes to my own legs being the mode of transportation for the height.  Somehow Brett hoisted me up on the bale (the BIG round bales) and thank goodness no one drove by and saw us! 

Then, I "jumped" (I'm using that term loosely here) from bale to bale a few times.  

We took a stop by the pond also....
and wished we had our fishing poles. 

(See why I said we are a country song?)

Afterwards we drove into town to get a quick cup of coffee.
There was nothing fancy about this date, but it was really fun.  
Just us, being us. 
Dreaming about our future on the farm,
excited to show others how good the homemade/handmade life can be. 

What was your most recent favorite date?  

Now what? Choosing a theme for your PAGES

Have you joined in with the art journaling series I'm doing?  Sometimes it's rather lonely on this side of the screen because I don't know if anyone else is interested in the ideas I'm posting or not.  But as the great Julia Child once said "Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it."  And this my friends, is something I am tremendously excited about. 
So you all know how much I love creating and jumping right into projects.  But I'll admit, this art journaling even had me stumped at first.  I had all my pages assembled (catch up here!), a ton of magazine clippings and other supplies but just didn't know where to start.  I mean, what was I supposed to do with it now? 

So, I decided to think of one theme and gather pictures and words that related to it.  For this particular theme I was thinking about this autumn and how rich and lovely it's been.  Anything that had kind of an orangey/yellow color scheme or words that reminded me of where I am personally this autumn I chose.  I laid it all out on the counter like this, before I ever made my first page.
It was much, much easier to choose from these items to create a few pages than look at ALL my supplies at once.  Here's a look at the pages I ended up creating. 

Some are left with extra room to write, like this particular one.  I can always go back later and write down my thoughts.




See, that wasn't so hard!  
My only criteria for myself is that I must make each page to the best of my ability and LET GO of perfectionism.  No being too hard on myself! 

These pics were taken with my phone because I'm working on this journal most often at night or for a few minutes while the girls nap.  It's such an easy little breather to fit in.  

So tell me-are you art journaling yet?  

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