Holiday Memories (Teacher Gifts 2016)


Kelly’s Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. The 9 year old shooed me away from this cake all day. “Mommy! Stop trying to help! I have a PLAN!”


Outside of building my family, I am most proud of being a part of a thriving community. I’m the kind of gal who rarely lets go of her friends; space and time are meaningless to me. Those fab ladies I lived with in 1998 in Nantucket? Like sisters. College roomies? Would give them a kidney (but after college, the 6 of us might need new livers). Sorority sisters, childhood neighbors, extended family across the country, kids from my Middle School youth group, nursing colleagues, Lilly colleagues…

Some people collect stamps…I collect PEOPLE.


No idea why I wanted cozy utensils, but I made a boatload of these.


And while only a tiny few knew of this autumn’s challenges, those who did rallied around me BIG last week. BIIIGGG. Offers to take the kids, pulling me out of bed, covering me with makeup and taking me to a fancy lunch with an invitation to cry into my bagels and lox, and hours spent at Nordstrom Rack where I covered myself in perfume and tried on dresses I’ll never buy. What can I say? Trying on dresses makes me happy. My community offered me the perfect balance of hugs, the space to cry, and distractions. It made all the difference.


Kelly wanted to be a “Half-Good/Half-Bad Witch”, featuring her cat Penny. Her instructions were PLENTIFUL, but my favorite was “Stand-up collar NOT optional”.


Looking back over the past few months, they really were filled with blessings and precious memories. I found my creative spark around Halloween, and started “making things” again. When I first starting helping “other people’s children”, I was pretty blue. But as it became a normal part of my routine, I woke up to the holidays, and began to find hope within the hopelessness. Thank God this year’s story happened within the season, because I think the added busy carried me along like a tidal wave.



Handed some random flowers and items to my Mother-in-Law, who deftly turned them into award-worthy centerpieces.


And as many of you know, I take a great deal of joy in making what is known as “The Teacher’s Gifts”. You can view past years here, and here, and over here.

I usually have a solid plan by Halloween, but this year I was teetering on gift cards and calling it a day. On Thanksgiving night, I admitted defeat: I got nothin’. But when I awoke the next day, I found myself scrolling through Pinterest, looking for inspiration. I stumbled upon a picture described in a language I couldn’t begin to identify, when Sara peeked over my shoulder and said, “NO WAY.” Kelly jumped over and said, “Double no way. That can’t be done.” Oooh. I smell a perfect distraction from my worries.

SO, in THAT CASE…let’s head to the craft store so I can prove you wrong. Or right. Either way, we’re going to need more hot glue.


Totally boring beginning, but you gotta start somewhere.


I convinced the manager at Michael’s to extend the Black Friday deal on these large Mason jars and sell them to me for $1 each. “It’s for the TEACHERS!”

(A) That was not a lie, and (B) That phrase, when used truthfully and properly, will get you discounts everywhere.


Styrofoam, hot clue, and what-nots. 3D, height…now we’re getting somewhere!


In the end, I decided to create winter-themed jar tops to seal jars filled with bark cookies. How hard could it be to make this? Not hard! How hard could it be to make SEVENTEEN of them? UM?…well??? That was a little harder.


Sara in the background, having her annual laugh at my expense. Well-deserved.

By early December, stationary objects within my home starting to quake with fear, because if sat still, it was getting hot-glued to a jar. Buttons, cricut paper, everything inside the craft closet, possibly things I found in my yard…(kidding…sort of)…


Next phase, spray them ALL WHITE. Wintery. I had to spray them inside, because it was -20 below in my garage. I might have lost a few brain cells (as in, I can no longer recall my middle name), but totally worth it. Lesson learned: You CANNOT spray-paint styrofoam; it will melt. NOW YOU KNOW. I used a styrofoam primer paint first. It worked pretty well! I probably won’t spray paint styrofoam again, because it never looks “filled”, but it was good to learn these lessons.


Not loving the styrofoam look, what if I made it SNOW on my jar tops? That’s wintery! I went to 3 stores, all out of spray snow. (Seriously Indiana, what ARE YOU DOING with so much spray snow? We have ACTUAL snow here, you know.)

I gave up and bought “Snow Tex”. That’s 8 hours of my life I won’t get back, but the craft Gods can keep them…I LOVED playing with this stuff.


It’s like working with a slightly wet sand that dries pretty quickly once you put it on a surface. I used stiff paintbrushes, both ends, to drape the snow across the tops, imagining the physics of how snow falls and accumulates on surfaces.


I tried to do a final spray with an iridescent-opal paint, but with all this going on, it didn’t really show up.

Not done…keep going…make a few hundred bark cookies…


Filling them was no big deal, but transporting them was HIGH-LARE-EE-OUS. I’d give you an instructional as to how I got these safely to school, but I blacked out at some point and woke up on Christmas Eve, covered in spray paint, fake-clay-snow and chocolate.

I think my favorite memory of this craft was the variety in each one. All 17 were quite different.


The girls were SO excited to hand these out! They gathered friends as they went, eventually collecting a gang of gals, giggling about the holidays and maybe a little high from the paint fumes. Kidding! (I hope. This took A LOT of paint.)


New Year’s Eve brought its annual traditions: We attend a “Dead Celebrity Party” hosted by our dear friends. Guests must dress as a celebrity who died within the year, so needless to say, this year was a costume BONANZA. Fidel Castro, Princess Leia, the Red Solo cup guy, Zsa Zsa…it was quite a list. As for us, we were Prince, Willy Wonka, Carol Brady, and Arnold Palmer. We also visit another nearby set of friends, which creates a hilarious buzz as to how we’ll switch from full costume to “normal us”. We race, with me always losing, but I undid this in 10 minutes, so RESPECT, people.


“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today for this thing called LIFE.”

In reality, I was attempting to represent all the greats: Pants were David Bowie, sunglasses and Cross earring were George Michael, hair, velvet jacket, and purple ukelele are Prince. But as my HAIR usually takes center stage, everyone took one look at me and screamed “PRINCE!” He’s my favorite, so fine. I’m PRINCE. To answer the questions asked by my friends (who simply MUST work on their ability to drink champagne, as year after year, I’m left to drink IT ALL): No, I did not cut my hair. It still extends halfway down my back. Nope, not a wig. It’s about 40 bobby pins, a couple of hidden ponytails, and the same hairspray used by Miss America. I might make this look a thing for 2017. Don’t dare me…with the mood I’m in lately…I’LL DO IT.


Annual Dinner With Friends, Christmas 2016

I’ve always been one to set a big table. I LOVE expected company and unexpected company and breaking bread with people from all walks of life. I love making noodles in a kitchen full of kids, and finding flour 4 days later in places which make no sense, geographically-speaking. I love that I handed the dessert table over to my daughters this year, and they knocked it out of the park. I love curling up on my couch with friends, and hearing their stories, and having them comfort me within mine.

I love community, and I have a sneaking suspicion, in 2017, it will be my community who will light my way. God has my heart, and he most certainly owns this story, but He gave me the most beautiful people to hold my hands. And for ALL of this, I am endlessly grateful.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.