• An Early Valentines Project!

    Date: 2015.01.25 | Category: crafts, parenting | Response: 0

    Ah Pinterest… I have a love hate relationship with it.  There are so many great ideas, but sometimes these ideas get out of hand.  Last year when JT’s kindergarten teacher told us to send in some kind of decorated bag or box to collect Valentines, I handed JT a paper lunch bag and told him to decorate it however he wanted.  Apparently I was the only one who didn’t get the memo that Valentines boxes are A THING now!  So many kids came in with adorable boxes that clearly took a lot of time and energy to create.  This year I started thinking ahead and I saw these darling little boxes made out of tissue boxes on Pinterest.

    Super cute and super easy, right?  So of course, I open up my Pinterest page to show JT and what does he see?  This awesome Ninjago box!  And that was that.

    I mean, I can’t blame him, it is super awesome… but it looked like WAY more work than I was planning on.  Anyway, he was really excited about it, so I reluctantly agreed.  Of course, I don’t happen to have a roll of black paper, but I do have a roll of red wrapping paper… and isn’t a red ninja more Valentine-like anyway?  Thankfully, he agreed and was happy with that plan.  I followed the tutorial on Just a Girl and Her Blog and it really wasn’t so bad.  I found an image of Kai (the red ninja) on google images that JT liked and downloaded it and blew it up to the size I wanted to trace for our box.

    I did the cutting and the outlining and JT did all the coloring with a gold sharpie.  He also added some extra flames, once he grew confident in his coloring!  He drew and cut out the arms freehand, I did the face and mask freehand.  JT also asked for a black belt, and he drew a design on it, once I cut out the strip of paper.

    While this project did take a couple of hours, it was really easy and he and I had a lot of fun planning and implementing our design.  We are both thrilled with how well it came out too!

    Now lets just cross our fingers that this box actually survives the two weeks until Valentines Day!

  • Merry Christmas!

    Date: 2014.12.25 | Category: Christmas | Response: 0

    I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas with your family.  We are enjoying a cozy and quiet Christmas at home this year- no travelling for us!  It’s a good thing, because as of right now all three kids and the hubs are sick… boo!

    Our church coffee shop hosted a series of movie nights and the one we went to featured an appearance by Santa.  We got a pretty decent photo of the young cousins with Santa this year!  (Clearly I keep my definition of decent pretty low.)

    In any case, it was much better than the picture I got of Kate and James a few days later…

    That is one sketchy looking Santa!

    For my ornament this year, I decided to go with this darling reindeer that I saw on Pinterest.  I made mine before she posted her tutorial, and I found these teeny little heart buttons for the noses, but I thought her idea was super cute, and they were pretty easy and affordable to make!  Yay!

    The hardest part was finding matching pairs of branches on our trees- our crabapple had the branchiest branches and I mostly used those-

    I’m very happy with how these came out… yay!

    We also got a little punny with our Christmas card this year… I love how our garden gnome Halloween costumes came out (even if James wouldn’t wear most of his!) and wanted to use them in our card, here’s what I came up with…

    I hope that you have a beautiful Christmas!

  • It’s almost time for our trip to Juarez!

    Date: 2014.10.25 | Category: faith, parenting | Response: 0

    It’s almost time!  Our family will be heading down to Juarez again this year to serve at the Arbol de Vida orphanage with five other families during the week leading up to Thanksgiving.  Our plan is to start the drive Friday, November 21 and stay at the orphanage until Wednesday, Nov 26.  We hope to arrive home in time for Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

    Our entire family looks forward to returning to Arbol de Vida to continue building relationships with the students and staff who live there year round.  We are looking forward to seeing our friends there, and our kids are excited about all sleeping in a dorm room with bunk beds again!   We are expanding our focus this year and we also have several projects planned to help a local church in the area.

    As always, we appreciate your prayers for our trip.  We ask that you would pray for safe travel, smart planning, safety as we cross the border, wisdom as we spend time with the students at the orphanage, an abundance of energy, and mostly, that our hearts will be receptive to what God wants us to do every step of the way.

    This year we are attempting to raise funds a little differently than in the past.  Cherry Hills Christian Middle School has offered to help support us on our trip this year, at this point they are planning a few “break dress code” days and other fundraisers to involve the middle school students in our trip.  We are also putting together a concert at the Rock House at South Fellowship Church to raise additional support.  Finally, we are counting on the support of our friends and family to help us make this trip possible.  We need to raise funds to pay for fuel, two nights in a motel, meals on the road, craft supplies, goodies and toiletries for the kids there, a Thanksgiving dinner, building/repair materials, and enough money to pay the orphanage director to cover the costs of our stay and meals.  Any extra funds always go straight to the director for other needs their students have.

    Thank you for supporting us through your prayers, financial contributions, and donations of material goods.  We appreciate you and couldn’t do it without you!

    We can accept checks made out to us personally, or you can contribute through this website… https://www.crowdrise.com/juarez

    If you’d like more information on Arbol de Vida/Tree of Life orphanage, please check our their facebook page and website-

    https://www.facebook.com/TreeofLifeJuarez?ref=br_tf

    http://treeoflifejuarez.org/

    With thanks,

    Chris, Melody, JT, Katie, and James Benschoter

  • A spot (or four) for our eyeglasses!

    Date: 2014.05.09 | Category: crafts, home improvement | Response: 1

    I got my first pair of glasses about a year and a half ago- 40 is creeping up on me faster than I can believe!  I actually like wearing them, my headaches have decreased… and hey!… I can see!  Unfortunately, my kids have not been gentle with my new glasses- I’ve taken them in at least 3 times for repair because the kids have a way of mangling them.  The last time I brought them in the optician warned me that they would probably break the next time (they can only take so much abuse) and he recommended I go for spring hinges with my next pair.  Chris and I discovered Coastal.com several years ago and he’s gotten several cheap/free pairs of glasses through them, so that’s where I ordered my first pair.  I didn’t invest a ton of money in those- free with $17 shipping- and didn’t want to invest several hundred dollars in my next pair either… so I started researching cheap options again and found ZenniOptical.com.  I ordered a pair of everyday glasses and a pair of prescription sunglasses (with the upgraded coating) for $56 shipped!  But now I have two pairs of glasses and I wasn’t sure where to store them.  I had just been keeping them on my bathroom counter, but the kids tend to mess with my stuff and now that there was always a pair sitting there, it was becoming a problem. I was just asking for scratches and more bent hinges.  I did a little etsy and pinterest searching for a good way to store and display them, but couldn’t really find anything like what I was envisioning.  I wanted some way to keep them safe, easily view them, and quickly tuck them in or pull them out as needed.

    Finally, inspiration struck- use a picture frame and some fabric to make a wall mounted spot for them!  I popped into Michaels and found that they were having a huge frame clearance sale.  I wavered between my favorite frame (mirrored) and a more practical option that was deeper and would help protect the glasses (they would be set back rather than sticking out from the frame).  In the end I went for practical… I brought my frame home, popped out the glass, cut up a pair of flannel pjs that had ripped after years of wear, and hot glued a piece of batting under the flannel to the cardboard backing.  I decided to sew pockets into the pouch to help keep the glasses separated- my 8×10 frame could easily hold 3 pair- so I still have room to grow!  I didn’t even have to add that cute contrasting fabric- the jammies already had it.  Yay for easy projects that turn out great!

    I hung it on my wall- and I loved it!!!  A couple of days later Chris casually asked if I would mind making him a couple of frames to hold his glasses.  I asked him how many pair of glasses he wanted to store, so he counted how many he owns… 9 pair!  What?!?  That is so typical of my hubby- he has several pairs that are scratched, out of style, outdated prescriptions- that man holds on to everything!  In the end we decided to make 3 holders for him, and I wouldn’t sew in the dividers so he could maybe fit 4 pair into each frame.  I ran back to Michaels and discovered that they only had two more of the frames I had used for mine.  Oh well, that just meant I would swap mine into the mirrored frame- which I had secretly been kind of wishing I had chosen anyway!  I came home with 3 more frames and set to work- I moved my flannel into the mirrored frame and then made three frames for the hubs.

    Isn’t it so cute?  I’m so glad I ended up with the mirrored frame in the end, it’s much swankier, just like me.  ;)

    I love this little “dressing area” in my closet where I keep all of my jewelry and a mirror for last minute adjustments.  The glasses fit in perfectly here!  Now my kids can’t reach them and mess with them.  They are still at risk while they’re actually on my face, but at least no one is grabbing them off the counter anymore.  And isn’t that sign up above the glasses just perfect?  My girlfriends call me “Make it happen Melody” because I tend to get things done.  I love this gift from a friend and I love that I see it every day.

    We hung Chris’ holders out in the hallway- one for sunglasses and two for everyday glasses.  They are right between his closet and the bathroom, so he can easily grab a pair as he’s getting ready in the morning. (sorry, it’s an awful spot to take a picture!)

    I cut up two more pair of flannel jammies for Chris’ holders.  I used the elastic waist band for the shorter front piece and contrasting fabric from the legs for the back piece.  I think they turned out super cute!  And I love how practical they are.  I ended up hotgluing a dot of glue to the bottom of each of Chris’ frames to help hold them level- when you put glasses in or took them out the frames tended to move alot- a nice dab of hot glue between the frame and the wall holds them steady now!

    Feel free to use my idea to make your own… and send me a picture. I’d love to see how they turn out!

  • Getting ready for Easter

    Date: 2014.04.14 | Category: crafts, parenting | Response: 1

    The kids are getting old enough that they REALLY enjoy doing messy crafts and seasonal crafts and crafty crafts.  And I’m always dragging my feet thinking… I hate messy crafts!  Easter isn’t about eggs and chicks and bunnies!  The prep work… the clean up… I’m too lazy!

    Anyway, this weekend we did two (yes!  TWO!) Spring/Easter crafts and it actually wasn’t even awful.

    The two older kids and I dyed Easter eggs- they particularly enjoyed the trick where we drew on the egg with a crayon first and then the picture was revealed when we dyed it.  We made an egg with each kid’s name, I drew a few bunny faces, Katie made a happy face and some polka dots.  They turned out cute!  Once the eggs were dry, all three kids enjoyed adding stickers to the eggs.

    All three kids also really enjoyed making little pretzel chicks.  We had some orange colored “chocolate chips” leftover, so we melted those and then I poured them over pretzel twists.  We added orange and black sprinkles to make beaks and eyes and legs.  This little endeavor turned out messier than I expected, and the chocolate hardened too fast to decorate them all, and James kept picking his up before they were hard and dripping orange goo everywhere, and blah blah blah.  One or two turned out cute and the kids were happy and they were pretty yummy, so I guess in the end it was a success.

    PS- happy April 14 from sunny Colorado!

  • Hot Artichoke Pesto Crab Dip

    Date: 2014.04.14 | Category: recipes | Response: 0

    I brought an appetizer to a dinner a few nights ago and decided to make something from what I have on hand… I came up with this recipe using spinach and artichoke dip as my inspiration- and it is YUMMY!

    Hot Artichoke Pesto Crab Dip

    1 8 oz pkg cream cheese or neufchâtel- room temp
    1/4 cup 3 pepper mayonnaise
    1/2 cup prepared pesto (we use the large jar from Costco)
    1 can artichoke hearts- cut into small pieces
    1 can real crab meat
    1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese + more to sprinkle on top

    Mix all ingredients, pour into a baking dish (I used an 8×6 8 cup pyrex) and bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Serve with crackers or bread.

    I’m seriously such a bad blogger- I snapped this picture before I baked it, but forgot to take another one when it came out all beautiful… just imagine it!

    Leftovers?  We ended up with about half of the dip leftover, so the next night I tossed it with some half and half, diced shrimp and whole grain spaghetti noodles, then baked it for 20 minutes.  Also yummy!

  • belated Christmas greetings

    Date: 2014.01.02 | Category: Christmas, crafts | Response: 1

    Well hello!  Even though I’m the most erratic blogger E V E R, I thought I’d get a post up with the details about this year’s Christmas ornament… mostly because the story behind it makes me happy.

    When my dad died this past April, we spent time a lot of time reminiscing about our favorite dad quirks and sayings… my dad sure had a lot of them!  He was always saying things like “Mess with the bull, you get the horns” and “I’ll give you something to cry about!”  Or when he’d come into the house he’d shout “Don’t pay the ransom, we escaped!”  One of his funny quirks was that he hated pennies… he thought they were worthless and would sometimes go on about how he wouldn’t bother to bend over to pick one up, or how when he got a handful of change he would throw away the pennies on his way out the door.  This, of course, led to a general sense of outrage by the rest of his cheapskate family, and resulted in several practical jokes involving pennies- glued into jars, covering a box containing a gift, an April Fools Day penny tree, over the years there were many.  On the day of my dad’s burial we each placed a penny on his coffin before it was lowered as a way of sending him off.  So I knew early on that I wanted this years Christmas ornament to somehow involve pennies in his honor.

    I started trolling Pinterest and came across these two ideas, and decided to meld the two together…

    Penny Wreath on Etsy

    Tutorial for a penny pendant

    I ended up with this!

    front of penny wreath ornament

    back of penny wreath ornament

    I am very happy with how they turned out… but man, it was tricky to get them to come together!  It took several different tries before I found a glue/circle size/orientation that was sturdy enough to stay together.  I ended up using Mod Podge Dimensional Magic to cover the green wrapping paper circles- I liked that it didn’t require time in the oven to set, but did find that it took well more than 24 hours to fully cure.  It also kept lifting off with the E6000 glue I used to assemble the wreath, so I finally made the ornaments reversible (I originally envisioned two layers of green facing up with a plain penny back side) so I was only gluing metal to metal and not metal to Dimensional Magic.  I think that ended up turning out nicely anyway, since you often see the backs of ornaments.

    It makes me happy to have a Christmas ornament in my dad’s honor and makes me laugh to think of what his reaction would have been to receive one.  Of course our first Christmas without him just wasn’t the same.  We missed you, dad!

    Since I’m on here posting I thought I’d attach a crummy photo of our Christmas card…

    and a copy of the actual picture since the card came out so dark…

    Happy New Year to you and your family… make the most of your time together this year.

  • We’re making it an annual tradition!

    Date: 2013.11.04 | Category: faith | Response: 0

    Last year our family had such a great trip to Arbol de Vida, that we decided to do it again!  We will be driving down on Nov 22 and returning on Nov 28, just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.  We are so excited that most of the families who joined us last year are returning this year, and we are excited to welcome at least one new family on our adventure. Our kids have talked nonstop about returning to Juarez since our last trip- and they’ve had a countdown going for months!  It was one of the highlights of last year, and we are so glad that we will be able to do it again.

    We are humbly asking for donations to help us cover the cost of our trip, and to provide for some of the needs at the orphanage.  As we did last year, we plan to bring a complete Thanksgiving dinner to share with everyone at the orphanage.  Our out of pocket expenses will include gas and two night’s motel stay.  We have a pretty extensive list of items that we’d like to provide for the orphanage (kitchen utensils, window and shower curtains and rods, toiletries and clothes for the kids) and we would like to bring a van full of supplies down with us again.  While we are there, we have several construction projects on our list, and I’m also planning a few crafts, including pillowcases that each student can decorate, desk organizers, and some type of chalk/bulletin board (since the walls are all cinderblock and hard to personalize!). We also always want to be sure that we leave enough money at the orphanage to cover our food and other expenses while we stay with them.

    In addition to bringing items that the orphanage needs with us, this year we plan to interview each student and put together personal Christmas wish lists.  Our hope is to then pair each student from Arbol de Vida with a student from South Fellowship Church, who can pray for that student and provide some of the requested items to him or her for Christmas.  A group from South Fellowship will be visiting Arbol de Vida the week after Christmas and will hand deliver the gifts.

    As was the case last year, safety is always a factor, and we appreciate your prayers for the long drive and for our time in Mexico.  While we were there last year we stayed within the compound for our entire visit and never felt unsafe, but it is always a concern.  We also ask for prayers for our time with the students, that they would know God’s love through us and that we would quickly connect with them and build relationships with them.  We hope to be an encouragement to them and to remind them that they are not forgotten and that their lives matter!

    In addition to monetary donations, we are collecting donations of new socks and underclothes in sizes appropriate for teenagers, full size toiletries, and rugs and floor mats.  All donations can be sent directly to us.  We hope to receive all donations prior to Nov 15-

    Chris or Melody Benschoter

    2285 Wynterbrook Dr.

    Highlands Ranch CO  80126

    For more information about Arbol de Vida or to partner in supporting them directly, please check their facebook page at www.facebook.com/TreeofLifeJuarez or their website at www.treeoflifejuarez.org.

    Please let us know if you will be praying for us.  We appreciate every one of you who supports us!

    With the love of Christ,

    Chris, Melody, JT, Kate and James

  • Fish and Rice Bowls and Tuscan Chicken with White Beans

    Date: 2013.08.30 | Category: recipes | Response: 1

    I have two new recipes for you!  No pictures, but let me assure you, both of these recipes were excellent and got rave reviews from the fam.  For the rice bowls I combined the basic idea of 2 different recipes to get the flavor I wanted… they turned out so great, and they are super healthy if you go easy on the sour cream and cheese!  The Tuscan Chicken was a Pinterest find and man it turned out yummy!  This one is also very healthy- I thought I had fresh spinach, and then I didn’t, so I subbed in fresh asparagus and it was so good!

    Fish and Rice Bowls

    1 boil in the bag brown rice- prepared
    1 can black beans- rinsed and drained
    1 mango- diced (could substitute peach if you prefer)
    1 bell pepper- diced (we abhor peppers, so we skipped them, but they are so good for you, so add them if you like them!)
    shredded lettuce
    1 jar mango salsa (I used store brand)
    Mexican seasonings
    shredded cheese
    sour cream
    4 tilapia fillets

    Heat oil in skillet.  Season tilapia with Mexican seasonings and  sauté in oil until white and flaky.
    Assemble all ingredients in large bowls and enjoy!

    Serves 4 (or 2 adults and 3 kids)

    Tuscan Chicken with White Beans

    4 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
    olive oil
    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    salt and pepper, to taste
    cheesy garlic (or garlic powder), to taste
    basil, to taste
    1/2 onion, diced
    3 cloves of garlic, minced
    1 15 oz can of Italian diced tomatoes, drained
    1 15 oz can of great northern beans, rinsed & drained
    2 cups of baby spinach (I subbed in about half a pound of fresh asparagus, cut into bite size pieces)

    Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the bacon is slightly crispy, place it on a paper towel then cut it into bite size pieces. Drain all but 1 tsp of the bacon grease from the skillet. Add 1 tsp olive oil to the bacon grease in the skillet and heat on medium high. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic, and basil, on both sides. Once the skillet is hot, add the seasoned chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the skillet, cover with a tin foil tent, and set aside.

    Add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Add the minced garlic, and cook stirring continuously for 1 minute. Add the drained diced tomatoes and white beans. Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the spinach (or asparagus), season with more salt, pepper, and basil, to taste. Pour the juices from the chicken into the pan and mix well. Ladle the beans and spinach onto a serving dish then top with chicken. Serve immediately. Enjoy.

    Serves 4 (or 2 adults and 3 kids)

  • Christmas recap

    Date: 2013.01.28 | Category: Christmas, crafts | Response: 0

    Hello friends!  I know, I know… I’ve fallen off the face of the earth.  Frankly, this past year I’ve had to cut WAY back on all non-essentials.  And blogging just didn’t make the cut.  Now that James is almost a year old I’m hoping I’ll have a little more time for writing.  We’ll see.

    I decided that today was the day to write a quick post to show you the Christmas ornaments I made this year as well as the card we ended up sending out.  I can still blog about Christmas in January, right?  Good, because I’m so pleased with both projects! I have to say that it is SO GREAT having Pinterest to turn to- both my ornaments and cards were inspired by pictures I found on Pinterest.  It’s so nice to have hundreds of other’s ideas to inspire me and a place to keep them to refer back to later!

    For our Christmas card I combined a couple of cute photo ideas into one card.  You can see my inspiration here and here.  I thought that this pose was so sweet and this was the year to do it, with a baby in the house!  It also helped that JT took ownership of it and really wanted to act out the nativity.  He can be pretty tricky to capture photos of right now (he loves to turn his back to the camera and give a stinky face) so I tried to get him excited about the photo shoot and let him contribute ideas and be a big helper.  We also bribed the big kids with the promise of a candy cane before dinner if they cooperated- I’m not above bribery!

    All we did was round up a few brown and tan and blue blankets, wrap them around the kids and set them in front of the tree before we put the ornaments on it.  They really enjoyed being Mary and Joseph and seeing James as little baby Jesus.  I think that part of it’s charm is it’s simplicity- it gets the idea across without actual costuming.  I was thrilled that one of the cardstore.com templates included the phrase O Holy Night with a bible verse- it was the theme I was planning to use and I thought I was going to have to design it myself.  Turns out they did all the work for me!  (Please excuse the cellphone pics- our camera is on the fritz again and we’ve decided to make due with our phones.  It’s hard to complain about not having a working camera when we both enjoy the luxury of new iPhones!)

    When it came to the message on the inside of the card I went around and around about what I wanted to say.  I try to be real and don’t want people to think that our kids are always sweet and “holy”- we took 40 some pictures and only got the one that I was happy with!  Plus I was taking advantage of an awesome deal from cardstore.com- by having them send the cards directly, each card cost less than the price of the stamp, but it also meant that I wouldn’t be hand writing any messages on them this year.  So I ended up using one of our funnier outtakes and writing a short message about how most of our pictures weren’t picture perfect.

    I am really pleased with how they came out.  What do you think?

    For my ornaments this year, I had been pinning every idea that I liked for months and months.  Nothing really spoke to me until I saw this ornament in late October- I knew instantly that it was the one!  I ended up using 4 different fabrics that I had on hand and a variety of trims- no two are alike.  Unfortunately, I seem to have given away all of the ornaments with green fabric!  I didn’t realize it until I went to take pictures and discovered all of ours are white!  (When I make ornaments I always keep one for Chris and I and one for each of the kids.  When they grow up and move out each kid will have a nice little collection of ornaments for their new home.  I also make one for each of my nephews for the same reason.)

    I found the little trees and the salt shakers online and then used fabric and beads and trim I already had.  I tried filling them with regular table salt first, but it didn’t have enough sparkle, so I ended up using a mixture of half table salt and half epsom salt.  I think they turned out darling!

    I ended up making a second batch of ornaments this year.  My group of girlfriends loves to celebrate with sprinkles and when I saw this idea I knew I had to make it happen!  When I ordered the trees I also ordered a package of clear glass ball ornaments.  I already had a big jar of sprinkles, so all I had to do was fill them up, hot glue the tops and tie them with a cute length of ribbon!

    I was glad that I made these this year, because the gifts I ordered for the kids’ teachers didn’t come in time.  I ended up making four more sprinkle ornaments at the last minute and tucking each one in a pair of Christmas socks for a cute little teacher gift.  Of course the gifts I ordered came the next day… so I’m keeping them in reserve for the next time I need a teacher gift!

    So there you have  roundup of my December creativity.  I hope it inspires you!

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