"One ought, everyday at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and speak a few reasonable words." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, March 24, 2016

DIY Soda Fountain Table Centerpieces


  1. Hydrate water beads 12-24 hours before needed. Just pour the beads into the bottom of a clean trash can or storage bin and fill it with water. No exact measurement of water is necessary. Just make sure you fill the container pretty full with water so that there will be enough for the beads to expand (they grow as they take on the water). For the packs of beads I used, I probably used about 10 gallons of water each. It might be a good idea to do a practice run with a few beads beforehand so you get the hang of it prior to your event.
  2. Fill vase with water beads using a plastic cup or scoop. Layer colors as desired. (Don't try to cut corners by mixing the colors evenly. We tried it and it ruined the Ice Cream Soda effect.) You will need to fill the vase nearly to the top.
  3. Cut stems of 8 white carnations to about 3 inches below the flower and put them in the vase around the outside edge.
  4. Cut the stems of the purple mini carnations to about 5 inches below the flowers and place them above the white carnations around the circle. Make sure their stems extend into the water beads or they will wilt after a few minutes.
  5. Cut the stems of 3 white carnations long enough to extend into the water beads and bundle the flowers tightly to fit into the small space left above the purple carnations. 
  6. Make any arrangements necessary so that the purple flowers show and everything is lined up nicely.
  7. Nestle the fake cherry between the cluster of 3 carnations in the center.
  8. Shove the straw in between flowers at an angle.
We placed these centerpieces atop a single record for my daughter's 50's themed wedding.

Simple. Cute. Effective.

People raved about them all night long!


FYI: A few water beads go a LONG way! Each one of the above packs of water beads filled a tall kitchen trash can once hydrated (2 trash cans total--one for purple, one for white). I didn't know exactly how much I would need, so I hydrated them all. But I barely made a dent in them to fill 22 vases. Seriously, once all the vases were filled, I could hardly tell I used any! And they are the coolest thing ever! They feel really cool in your hands. I'm told they can also be dehydrated again after use and you can re-use them over and over again.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How to Ask a LOTR Fan to Sadies

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, 
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, 
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, 
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne 
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. 
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, 
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them 
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

--J.R.R. Tolkien,
epigraph to The Lord of the Rings

My daughter wanted to ask a boy with a love for The Lord of the Rings to the Sadie Hawkins (girl’s reverse) dance. This is what she came up with.

First, she used her ninja skills to learn his class schedule at school so she could do a progressive invitation to keep him guessing throughout the day.

Next, she found Lord of the Rings fonts and typed out the poem above in both Elvish and English, changing “Mordor” to “Sadies”.  

She then split the poem into five sections to correspond with each of the boy’s classes and printed it all out on golden parchment (pictures below).

First Hour

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,

Second Hour
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,

Third Hour
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,

Fourth Hour
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of [Sadies] where the Shadows lie.

Fifth Hour
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of [Sadies] where the Shadows lie.

She cut the sections apart and burned the edges.

Then she bought three different kinds of donut gems and one big glazed donut to correspond with the rings in the poem. She packed each of the first 3 portions of the poem with the corresponding number of donuts into little red gift bags with black and silver tissue paper. Here’s how they came together:

For the fourth part of the poem, she did an image search for a map of Mordor and photoshopped the word “Sadies” onto the map like so:

She burned the edges and rolled it into a scroll with the fourth part of the poem attached.

The very last lines of the poem and the big glazed donut were packed into a bigger bag to set  it apart from the others. 

The picture (above) shows, "One ring to rule them all" written on the bag, but the message was actually changed to, “Journey to the Theater after your last class."

She arranged for a couple friends to deliver the little packages to each of his classes throughout the day, but the final wax sealed invitation (below) was delivered by my daughter in person in the Theater. He said "Yes!" 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The White Stocking

"Christmas means giving. The Father gave his Son, and his Son gave his life. Without giving there is no true Christmas, and without sacrifice there is no true worship."
 --Gordon B. Hinckley

The White Stocking
One of my family's most cherished Christmas traditions is the White Stocking. There are six people in my family, but every year we hang seven stockings. Six stockings are embroidered with each family member's name and decorated with the traditional symbols of the modern Christmas culture: Santa, reindeer, elves, and jingle bells all trimmed in red and green. 

But the seventh stocking is not like the others. 

It is plain white with white beading as its only embellishment. There is no name embroidered on the cuff, just some strings of hanging beads that lightly knock against each other when we open and close our front door or someone breezes by the mantel in the hustle and bustle of the season. 

This White Stocking belongs to Jesus. 

Every year on Christmas Eve the six of us gather together to read the Nativity story (Luke 2) and fill Jesus' stocking with gifts we think He would like most. We never put anything tangible in the stocking, just little slips of paper upon which we write specific goals/promises to make the world a better place by aligning our lives and hearts more diligently with His. The gifts are very personal, so we usually don't share them with each other. We fold the little slips up and address them like a gift, making sure to note the year.

We keep these little folded slips of paper in the stocking even after it has been taken down and stored away until the next year. We love to read our gifts from the last year and ponder on how well we gave the gift. We have several years of slips stored in the stocking and it is really interesting to read them year by year.  

Below is the article we read immediately before we filled Jesus' stocking with gifts this year. It was extremely moving. I'm not really a cryer, but I wept three times while I read it aloud to the family. This article will definitely become part of our yearly tradition. It just puts you in the right frame of mind to give gifts to the Savior. Enjoy!

Three Levels of Christmas
William B. Smart 

Christmas is a beautiful time of the year. We love the excitement, the giving spirit, the special awareness of and appreciation for family and friends, the feelings of love and brotherhood that bless our gatherings at Christmastime.

In all of the joyousness it is well to reflect that Christmas comes at three levels.

Let’s call the first the Santa Claus level. It’s the level of Christmas trees and holly, of whispered secrets and colorful packages, of candlelight and rich food and warm open houses. It’s carolers in the shopping malls, excited children, and weary but loving parents. It’s a lovely time of special warmth and caring and giving. It’s the level at which we eat too much and spend too much and do too much – and enjoy every minute of it. We love the Santa Claus level of Christmas.

But there’s a higher, more beautiful level. Let’s call it the Silent Night level. It’s the level of all our glorious Christmas carols, of that beloved, familiar story: “Now in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus....” It’s the level of the crowded inn and the silent, holy moment in a dark stable when the Son of Man came to earth. It’s the shepherds on steep, bare hills near Bethlehem, angels with their glad tidings, the new star in the East, wise men traveling far in search of the Holy One. How beautiful and meaningful it is; how infinitely poorer we would be without this sacred second level of Christmas.

The trouble is, these two levels don’t last. They can’t.

Twelve days of Christmas, at the first level, is about all most of us can stand. It’s too intense, too extravagant. The tree dies out and needles fall. The candles burn down. The beautiful wrappings go out with the trash, the carolers are up on the ski slopes, the toys break, and the biggest day in the stores for the entire year is exchange day, December 26th. The feast is over and the dieting begins. But the lonely and the hungry are with us still, perhaps lonelier and hungrier than before.

Lovely and joyous as the first level of Christmas is, there will come day, very soon, when Mother will put away the decorations and vacuum the living room and think, “Thank goodness that is over for another year.”

Even the second level, the level of the Baby Jesus, can’t last. How many times this season can you sing, “Silent Night?” The angels and the star, and the shepherd, even the silent, sacred mystery of the holy night itself, can’t long satisfy humanity’s basic need. The man who keeps Christ in the manger will, in the end, be disappointed and empty.

No, for Christmas to last all year long, for it to grow in beauty and meaning and purpose, for it to have the power to change lives, we must celebrate it at the third level, that of the adult Christ. It is at this level—not as an infant—that our Savior brings his gifts of lasting joy, lasting peace, lasting hope. It was the adult Christ who reached out and touched the untouchable, who loved the unlovable, who so loved us all that even in his agony on the cross, he prayed forgiveness for his enemies. 

 This is Christ, creator of worlds without number, who wept because so many of us lack affection and hate each other – and then who willingly gave his life for all of us, including those for whom he wept. This is the Christ, the adult Christ, who gave us the perfect example, and asked us to follow him.

Accepting that invitation is the way - the only way – that all mankind can celebrate Christmas all year and all life long.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fortune Cookie Friday - Facebook

The fortunes I will share today are a little slice of the relationship between my husband and I. Perhaps you will not find it funny, but like it or not, this is "us" and we thought it was hilarious!

My husband is anti-Facebook. Well, he doesn't discriminate; it's probably more accurate to say he is anti-Social Networking. He claims it is a "sign of the decline of Western Civilization" or some such nonsense. He scoffs at those of us who fall prey to the charms of the Social Network. Especially me. He teases me incessantly about it. But then...I also tease him about his cranky, anti-social ways.

Our most recent trip to our favorite Thai place turned up a couple of fortunes that we converted into jabs for and against Facebook. 

After finishing our lunch, I cracked this baby open and instantly went for the punch.  

"This is why I use Facebook," I said, handing him the little paper.

He smiled, handed his fortune to me and replied, "This is why I don't."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Being "Wrong"

"Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from."
--Al Franken
"Oh, the Things I Know," 2002

It is election season and I am a Facebook user; therefore, I have been exposed to a lot ideas and opinions that conflict with my own in the past few months. This time around, I decided to keep my opinions to myself and observe my own reactions and assumptions when someone thinks differently than me. It has been extremely eye-opening! 

During my observations of myself, I have often reflected on the following fascinating TED Talk by author Kathryn Schulz. I watched it over a year ago and loved it so much I purchased and read the corresponding book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. It is so interesting how very "right" she is about being wrong!  

What I learned about myself from simply paying attention to my thoughts and reactions with the "Series of Unfortunate Assumptions" in mind has helped me to be more tolerant and entertain different ideas without being offended by them. I have also learned to value the diversity of thought out there. It's incredible how we can all experience the same things and come away with as many different perspectives as there are stars in the sky! 

In the past, I have been guilty of making all three of the Unfortunate Assumptions (below). Have you? If so, have you ever wondered why? If you're brave enough to ask yourself the question, your answer will most likely shift your paradigm for the better, like it did mine. Enjoy!


Excerpt from TED Talk, "On Being Wrong," by Kathryn Schulz. 

(Video of Talk in its entirety below excerpt.)  


Think for a moment about what it means to feel right. It means that you think that your beliefs just perfectly reflect reality. And when you feel that way, you’ve got a problem to solve: How are you going to explain all of those people who disagree with you? It turns out most of us explain those people the same way -- by resorting to:

  1. The Ignorance Assumption: They must not have the same information as you. 
  2. The Idiocy Assumption: They have the same information, but are too moronic to put the pieces of the puzzle together properly.
  3. The Evil Assumption: They know the truth and they are deliberately distorting it for their own malevolent purposes.
This is a catastrophe! This attachment to our own rightness keeps us from preventing mistakes when we absolutely need to, and causes us to treat each other terribly. To me, what's most baffling and tragic about this is that it misses the whole point of being human. It's like we want to imagine that our minds are these perfectly translucent windows and we just kind of gaze out of them and describe the world as it unfolds. And we want everybody else to gaze out of the same window and see the exact same thing. That is not true! And if it were, the world would be incredibly boring!
The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t. We can remember the past, we can think about the future and we can imagine what it's like to be some other person, in some other place.

St. Augustine said, "Fallor ergo sum: I err, therefore I am." Augustine understood that our capacity to screw up - it's not some kind of embarrassing defect in the human system; something we can eradicate or overcome. It's totally fundamental to who we are.

We need to step out of that tiny, terrified space of "rightness" and look around at each other. And look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe. And be able to say, "Wow...I don't know...maybe I'm wrong."  

--Kathryn Schulz
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