Dec 03

December 3rd in Pics

Today’s collage includes photos of my teacher and Mom duties.  In Computer Lab I’m teaching the students how to make photo collages using PicMonkey. Imagine that! Later in the day, Luke and Ben had their final group lesson and Christmas Party at violin. Their lovely teacher, Paula Anderson, recently returned from a trip to Italy and brought each of her students a miniature Coliseum as a Christmas gift. She told them it was because Luke and Stanley had suggested it. Very cool!!

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Here’s a little Christmas music from their practice to get you in the holiday mood!

Dec 02

Welcome to December and a month of collages

It’s December and days of frenzy have arrived. I’m determined to have as relaxing of a month as possible. Since we recently bought a new camera and I’m anxious to use it a lot and learn about all the amazing things it can do, I thought I’d make a collage a day this month.  Here are my first two to kick things off.

December 1 – Ben was taking a test for a few hours so I had some time to kill in Mankato.  I ended up having the car serviced and while I waited I wrote our Christmas letter (on my iPad) and e-mailed it to Office Max where I had it printed!!! I was so excited to be productive and mark this task off of my to-do list. I made a few more shopping stops and then took some practice photos of the world in general.

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December 2 – First Sunday in Advent and our altar at St. John’s looked beautiful with poinsettias. We spent the afternoon decorating our house, and it was a lot of fun!

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Nov 10

Feeling Appreciated!

Did you know that the month of October is designated Pastor Appreciation Month? I didn’t until we moved to Sleepy Eye and were introduced to the most appreciative group of Christians ever!  And this past October was one for the record books in terms of appreciation shared with a pastor and his family.

The month started off with a wonderful wall hanging gift for Pastor from the school children. Each child signed a fabric photo square.

The squares were tied together with a special verse at the top.

A cross and photos of Pastor with the students were included also.  It all came together beautifully and hangs in the school outside his office!

Besides that, throughout the month cards and gifts were gathered for Pastor.

These were presented after church. I was surprised with cards and gifts as well. 😀

We posed for this special photo with the congregation.  I love it!!!

We are so humbled, encouraged and blessed by this outpouring of love and support!!

Oct 27

Social Media Made Easy

I’m leading a breakout session today at Martin Luther College Ladies Auxiliary Meeting titled Social Media Made Easy, and I thought I’d share some of the resources I’ve gathered on the topic.

First up, an overview video on Social Networking from my friends at Common Craft

Next, how-to steps for some of my favorite social networking sites (click each image to view the full article)…

Facebook – from

Twitter – from Lexis Click

Google Plus – from The Queen of Swag!

Pinterest – from Bit Rebels

Instagram – from FatMumSlim

And finally a list of some of the WELS and ELS Facebook Pages I’m aware of. “Like” these pages to see their updates on your Facebook home page.

We will end this day with this light look at how social media may have been used on the first Christmas –

May 28

Family Reading Night

Recently St. John’s PTO hosted a Family Reading Night event, and thanks to our friends at PTO Today, it was a huge success.  Our goal was to promote family reading, and we used the free PTO Today Family Reading Night Planning Kit to guide our event preparations.  They provided posters and tons of great ideas about structuring the night, snacks and activities.  They even sent us a free book to give away.  So with all those great ideas, we were off and running!  Here’s a look at how the night went.

First stop for the evening was our registration table, where each person grabbed a reading passport which they filled with stickers at every stop they made throughout the evening.  They also registered for door prizes

and had family pictures made with Dr. Seuss!

Everyone was divided into three groups and they rotated through our three reading spots.  Special guest readers shared stories including –

Then it was time for snacks.  We enjoyed literary treats including

  • Miss Spider’s Tea Party delicacies – cookies and brownies
  • Hop on Popcorn – popcorn
  • Green Eggs and Ham – pretzels with a dollop of white chocolate and a green M&M
  • Giving Trees – broccoli and cauliflower
  • A Cheese Tree – a foam cutout of a tree with tooth-picked cheese cubes
  • Pink Ink Yink Drink – pink lemonade

Next everyone scattered out to visit the three fun events we had set up.   We had an I Spy table, complete with our own homemade I Spy board and riddles.

There was a make your own “My Family” book spot

and a huge book exchange.  Our friends at Barnes and Noble donated bags and everyone loaded up on tons of books.  Each family brought gently used books to contribute to the exchange, and the school teachers also cleared their shelves of some older titles that were no longer needed.  Free bookmarks and family reading idea sheets were available as well.

We ended the evening with door prizes of … you guessed it, BOOKS!  We gave away copies of the teacher’s favorite books, several book lights, for the parents a copy of Jim Trelease’s The Read Aloud Handbook, and a hardcover copy of the recent Shel Silverstein release, Every Thing On It (thanks again PTO Today for that donation!!).

Then it was time for lights out and bedtime stories.  We shared a couple of classics – Goodnight Moon and Time For Bed – and a modern twist video of one – Goodnight iPad …

A very fun night of reading was enjoyed by all, and we hope it will encourage families to spend many more nights together sharing great books!

May 22

Mega-Collage Magic

My oldest son is finishing his Junior year of high school, and that means he attended his first Prom.  Here’s one of my favorite pics of him and his date, a lovely young lady, I must say!!

Prom also means that Mom served on her first After-Prom Party Committee.  The Junior Class is responsible for Prom at his high school, and the Junior Class Parents are responsible for a huge after-prom party to keep the kids entertained and safe till morning.  This year I volunteered for picture and video duty!  It was a job that was right up my alley, and I learned new things in process.  There were actually several projects involved, and it all came together in a final photo collage of the evening which was printed as a poster and distributed to the attendees after the party.

You may remember that I’ve done photo collages in the past for church events …

Unity Photo Booth Fun

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and for weddings …

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This time, I had the idea of doing something more than just a simple square collage.  The Prom theme was Masquerade so I thought I’d create the collage in the shape of a mask.  I enlisted my artistic middle son to draw a suitable mask shape on graph paper.  Here are a few of his early prototypes …

Finally we decided on this shape …

And he broke it down into 4×4 and then 2×2 grids for me …

After deciding on the 98 photos I wanted to use for the collage and Instagramming them all, I started building the individual 2×2 collages (E1, F1, E2, and F2) …

and combining those into 4×4 collages using the PhotoGene iPad app

Ultimately all of these 4×4 grids came together to form the final collage (can you find the featured section in the big collage??) …

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Big project!  Lots of fun!!

The mini (or maybe not so mini) side projects with the event included a baby pics video …

and a fun photo props booth at the party (yes, I stayed up all night!) …

I’m looking forward to next year’s Prom, when he is a Senior and I don’t have to lift a finger.  😀

P.S. Mom had to create a collage of tux photos too!

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Mar 03


I’m so excited because I actually completed a whole month of images in a photo a day challenge!!  I know many of you may be laughing at me for being so excited about this.  There are people who have done photo of the day for a year or a long string of years.  But not me.  I’ve started and stopped similar efforts on more than one occasion, typically within the first three or four days.  Not this time!!

It helped that is was an Instagram challenge.  I’ve written before about my love for this fun iPad photo sharing app (here and here and here).  It also helped that it was the shortest month of the year.  But other than the obvious commitment and memory involved in doing such a task, there were some other potential roadblocks that almost got in the way including the absence of my iPad for repair and an overnight stay in the hospital with the flu.  But I could not be deterred, and I’m tickled pink to share my month of images with you.

Here’s a quick run down of what I was thinking for each topic …

  1. A foggy MN morning view
  2. Proofing son’s HS research paper
  3. Grandma and Papa
  4. Grass in February in MN?
  5. Live streaming my husband/pastor leading Bible class
  6. (Part of) Dinner (True confession here, I almost forgot and this was all that was left)
  7. Mathlete
  8. Sunny day … Sweepin’ the clouds away
  9. I <3 the doors to my brand new washer & dryer
  10. Me
  11. Listening to my boys fiddle
  12. Winter warmth
  13. Blue???
  14. Amazing sunset from my loving father
  15. Hello
  16. Leading at b’ball (at half time, at least)
  17. Time to send my iPad in for repair 🙁
  18. My fav!
  19. Putting away mountains of clean clothes
  20. Oh, the memories … My father’s distinctive penmanship
  21. Ah, to be 16 again!
  22. Home office
  23. These boots are made for … MN winters
  24. Bathroom cabinet???
  25. Verde
  26. School doors at night
  27. Flu-trition
  28. Money jar
  29. I’m a Grisham girl!

So some were a pretty big stretch, but I really like the finished product especially seeing all of them in the big collage.

In case you are wondering, I’m not attempting the March photo a day challenge.  I’ll just enjoy the fact that I finished one month for now!

Jan 08

You Could Be the Next, Great Computer Programmer

Looking to learn something new in 2012? Why not try computer programming? There are online tools and tutorials to assist wannabe programmers of all ages …

Scratch – From the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT comes this great way to introduce children (or anyone, for that matter) to programming concepts. I’ve written about Scratch before so check out my previous post for more details and examples.

Along the same lines, you may want to check out Carnegie Melon’s Alice and the online programming tool Gamestar Mechanic, which was recently highlighted over at Kevin’s Meandering Mind.  I’m considering introducing this to the students at St. John’s this spring.

HTML – The basic language of the web, W3 Schools offers free interactive tutorials to get you started.  Use the site top menu bar to explore their other tutorials including CSS, XML, ASP, PHP and SQL. The site is loaded with reference materials and examples as well.

Python – Python is a good first-step programming language, and the book Dive Into Python 3 is available for free under Creative Commons license.

After you get your feet wet, test your Python knowledge with The Python Challenge, billed as “the first programming riddle on the net”.

JavaScript – My friends at LifeHacker have a free Night School series titled “Learn To Code: The Full Beginners Guide” which features video tutorials. Check out the first one below then head over to Night School to get started.

Another JavaScript tutorial which I just discovered this week is the Code Academy, an online interactive resource (similar to the HTML site mentioned earlier) for learning JavaScript. Sign up at to receive weekly Code Academy lessons throughout 2012.

Java – Even though they have similar names, Java is a different animal than Java Script. My oldest son is learning Java primarily through the Head First book series. He uses the free, cross-platform Net Beans development tool to write his code. They offer a quick-start Java tutorial on their site.

Will 2012 be the year you turn into a programmer? According to a recent Good Technology article, good programmers may need experience even more than a college degree.  So get started, and let me know how you progress!

Dec 31

Fast Forward Through 2011 – FAV 5: Christmas 2011

If you’ve made it this far on my fast trip through November and December events, you deserve a prize! I’m wrapping up the recap with this post and resuming normal posting (whatever that means) in the new year.

The Christmas season is overwhelmingly full of blessings. I’m not sure how I will accomplish this, but I thought I’d try to condense down the happiness to my favorite five things about our celebration this year. Wish me luck!

Worship – That sweet little baby in the manger who came and saved us from our sins is the number one reason we love Christmas, and we have so many wonderful opportunities to worship Him.

From Christmas caroling to shut-ins

to the Children’s Christmas Eve service

where Luke and Ben had the privilege of playing pre-service and offering violin pieces

to the beautiful candlelight service and festive Christmas Day worship … every moment of Christmas worship is a joy!!

People – We were blessed with so many wonderful opportunities to celebrate the season with friends and family near and far. The fun kicked off with a get together with the area pastors and their wives.

Our tradition is to have a white elephant gift exchange. We’ve learned over the years that the guys and the girls gifts should be kept separate because pastors tend to get much joy from exchanging VERY strange gifts (translate = books and large wrenches).

We also enjoyed a celebration with our church and school staff. We had lots of fun gussing the names of Christmas songs from their drawings. How many can you guess?

Here’s a photo of most of our staff from Christmas Eve. What an awesome group of people we are privileged to serve with!!

We wrapped up our December party season by hosting dinner for good friends including the Wyoming Arndts. What a joy!

Family – We made the most of our time together. Our gift exchange was capped off with a fun scavenger hunt of sorts for the last few gifts. We made a trip to Mankato to see “The Adventures of Tintin” and eat out at Buffalo Wild Wings. And we enjoyed new games of Rory’s Story Cubes and The Journeys of Paul.

We also celebrated with our extended family – video Skyping on Chrismas Eve with Sallie’s family in Mississippi and enjoying special time with Kevin’s parents as well.

New Technology – If you know me at all, you know that I’m always excited by new technology, and this Christmas held many surprises in this area. I was gifted with iPad-related gadgetry. I am now the happy owner of an iRig Mic and a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard (which I’m using to type this blog post)! I’m very pleased with the performance of both, and my iPad is becoming more and more my go-to computing device.

Gifts – The joy of giving was a big theme this Christmas, and we were blessed to be on the receiving end of so many thoughtful gifts. For our family we especially enjoyed giving our family Christmas photo program, written by Kevin and Stanley. It’s a drag and drop photo creation tool.

Have fun with it, and have a very Happy New Year!!!

Dec 30

Fast Forward Through 2011 – Advent by Candlelight

I’m still playing catch-up on all the things I’ve wanted to blog about over the last few months.  This post dates back to a very special event held on December 4th.

Every two years the ladies of St. John’s host an Advent by Candlelight meal. This year’s was an amazing sucess and joy to be a part of. The theme was “Be Still My Soul”. I hosted one of the 12 tables so I had a good time getting creative with my decorations. My table favor was a decorated “snow” filled clear glass ball with a monogramed paper tag (patterned after this one shared at According to Kelly). Luke helped me make them and also folded my poinsettia napkins!

Here’s a look at all of the gorgeouse tables (click to view larger).

The speaker for the evening was my dear friend, Faith Wels, and she gave us great Biblically-focused reminders of the importance of “being still”. She is such an amazing woman, she even wears a cape at times!! Check out the highlight reel.

Capping off the wonderful evening was a world-class meal. St. John’s culinary-gifted members, Mary Bartz and Justin Shrum,

(with lots of helpers) teamed up to prepare the deliciousness which included salad with red pears and pomegranate, herb-rubbed pork tenderloin, potatos, squash, beans, homemade rolls and rye bread and a Merry Christmas cupcake!!

Are you drooling yet? The perfect meal was only made better by the fact that the gentlemen of St. John’s served the meal at our tables. (Why did I get only one photo of the men in action??? They were awesome!!)

Wowza!! Let me just say, it will be hard to top this year’s Advent by Candlelight!! Enjoy the complete event highlight video below, surf over to the St. John’s site to see the huge photo gallery, and mark your calendar for the next Advent by Candlelight at St. John’s in December 2013!

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