Top Ten Tuesday : OCC Party

For the last two years I’ve thrown Operation Christmas Child box packing parties.

In 2010, we packed 89 boxes.

In 2011, we packed 110 boxes.

The 2012 party is coming up, and we are in full prep mode for this year’s fun!

We’re making lists and doing some online ordering and getting the word out about the party.

As I prepare for the big day, I wanted to share the Top Ten things I’ve learned about throwing an OCC Party.

1. Determine what type of party you want to have. Are you having a birthday party for one of your kids and letting friends pack boxes? Or, are you having a birthday party for yourself (like I do)? Then, you’re going to want a birthday party theme, with party balloons and cupcakes. Are you just having a OCC party? Then, you’ll want a Christmas theme. I always have Christmas music playing, apple cider in the crock pot, and red and green balloons.

2. Be clear on your instructions for what guests are supposed to bring. If you’ve already got the boxes, then they don’t need to bring them! You can order party supplies easily through Samaritans Purse. If you are providing some of the things to go in the boxes, let them know. I try to get some things donated by friends and family each year. They’re my birthday presents. I let my friends know that they don’t need to bring certain items, because I already have 100 of them.

3. Provide a way for your guests to pay for the shipping. It costs $7 per box to ship an Operation Christmas Child box. That $7 either needs to be in the box or you need to pay online and print a label. I provide envelopes and cash for my guests. Then, they can write me a check for $21 and we can put $7 in each box. Or, they can go on my computer (or theirs if they plan ahead) and pay the shipping online. They print out a label to put on their box that allows them to know where it is delivered. How fun is that?

4. Know where you are going to drop off the boxes. Once you’ve packed all the boxes, you’ll need to get them to Samaritan’s Purse. There are drop-off locations all over the country, just visit their website to find one near you.

5. Collect things for boxes all year around. As soon as my Operation Christmas Child party is over, I start collecting for the next one. I now have two big tubs in the garage full of things we’ll use for this years party. Shop clearance sales after holidays. Hit the Dollar Spots at Target and Walmart.

7. Have a note writing station. Can you imagine being able to talk to someone half-way around the world and telling them that God loves them? You can, through a shoebox. Be sure to have a place where your guests can write personal notes to put in each box. And, don’t worry about translation. Somebody on the other side of the world will help with that.

8. Make sure the box is REALLY full. It should be about to burst. In fact, you’ll want some rubber bands available to hold boxes closed. Make sure you box doesn’t have extra packaging in it. Take those matchbox cars and Barbies out of their boxes! You will find that some people are exceptionally good at packing a box. It’s like a big puzzle. Those people that are good at it… keep them around for the whole party.

8. Have a basket of supplies. You’ll need baggies for soap, rubber bands to hold boxes closed, tape to adhere the girl and boy labels, scissors for opening packages, pens and more. Think through everything your guests might need and make sure it is available to them. You’re also going to need more trash bags than you can imagine.

9. Food! Make sure you’ve have munchies for your guests. I usually go with Christmas party favorites like sausage balls, meatballs, veggies and some Christmas cookies. If you are going to have little people, be sure to have some Goldfish and pretzels. And, don’t forget the drinks.

10. Have fun! It’s a party! Make sure everyone is having a great time.

My Operation Christmas Child party has become one of my favorite days of the year. I look forward to it all year around. I smile from ear to ear the entire day. There is nothing better than sending Christmas to a child to experience it for the very first time.

Update: I started an Operation Christmas Child Pinboard to help you get other ideas. And, there is an Operation Christmas Child Virtual Box Packing Party going on!

Have you ever packed a shoebox?

 Linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings.

Top Ten Tuesday : Jasper

Maggie enjoyed playing Jasper in “101 Dalmations” a few months ago. I never shared pictures. So, here you go! There’s ten of them!



Jasper in "Cruella's Fur Vault"

Jasper and Horace (Cast A) in dress rehearsal.

Jasper and her daddy on opening night.

Jasper and Cousin E on opening night.

Jasper and Cousins L and A.

Jasper with Cousin R.

Jasper with Horace and Cruella. Love her smile.

Jasper and Horace hearing Cruella's EVIL plan.

Jasper dancing and singing with Horace and Cruella.

She had SO MUCH fun being Jasper. She LOVES being the bad guy and is currently rehearsing the role of a Hun in “Mulan.” She actually gets to go to Disney World to compete in February with that production.

I think I’m becoming a Drama Mama…. which is really hysterical if you think about it.

Linked to Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday: Where’d My Baby Go?

This is a picture of the Princess as Thomas O’Malley in a production of “Aristocats” at a local children’s theater last week.

Do you see how big she looks? Do you see? What in the world? What happened to THIS LITTLE GIRL?

Where has my baby gone?

It’s not just the pictures that are telling me my baby is growing up. Oh no. We’ve got all kinds of “big girl” coming out here at the House of Hills. I can tell you that we are literally in the middle of a “tween” invasion.

How do I know?

Oh, let me count the ways…

1. I no longer get a hug and kisses when dropping her off at places without demanding asking for them.

2. She actually cares about what she’s wearing. First time in her life she’s had an opinion. (Yes, I know I should be thankful we’ve gone this long.)

3. She actually cares about her hair. As in the box of all the clips and hair bands and what not that she’s had FOREVER is actually on the counter and in use. She even asks her daddy if she looks “good.” What? What?

4. She’s asking questions, lots of questions, about boys and girls and changes and such. (Yes, this is an entire post unto itself as to how to answer all of them. Maybe it’s a series of posts. Maybe I need to read a series of posts. Anybody got a good series of posts on this?)

5. When we go through the Chick-fil-a drive through, I’m now ordering a #5. I can no longer get the kiddie meal. It doesn’t fill her up. Seriously.

6. She now wants to be an “official” volunteer at church. Why? Because she really likes being with the kids and helping them. No longer is it to be with Mommy. She actually feels like she has a purpose with the kids. (This one is pretty cool I think. And, she’s great with the little ones.)

7. She’s going to be in the fourth grade in a week. THE FOURTH GRADE! What? I taught fourth grade. Those kids are big! Oh my heart.

8. She is only 9 inches shorter than me. Now, I’m short. Let’s just get that out there. However, it is still hard to accept the fact that your child is up to your shoulder. Seriously. Hard.

9. She’s learning to control her emotions. The other day I said something she didn’t agree with. She took a deep breath, thought for a moment and then explained in a reasonable tone why she disagreed with me. Didn’t whine. Didn’t throw a fit. Gave a very good argument. (Again, love this one, but still means she’s getting older. And no, I didn’t give in.)

10. She is becoming more and more helpful, more a part of the House of Hills team. She does what’s asked without complaining most of the time and is even picking up her room every once in a while on her own. She’s starting to see what needs to be done and doing it. Wow!

So ya, my baby is growing up.

That’s what she’s supposed to do right? Grow up.

Sometimes it hurts my heart because I miss the cuddly little cutie that giggled and twirled and said, “Watch me Mommy!”

Other times it hurts my heart because it wants to burst with pride with the young woman she’s becoming.

I guess it’s not so bad… the growing up…

I mean. She’s still my baby right? She’ll always be my baby.

And at night… when she’s tired… she still crawls in my lap and cuddles.

And it is pure bliss.

Linked to Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday : What I discovered about me while pinning

So I finally did it. I finally investigated Yes, I know you are all shocked and amazed that I hadn’t investigated sooner, but I was avoiding yet another thing to suck in my time. What got me started? Well, my Sweetie did… when one of my friends said to me, “Judging by what he’s been pinning lately, he’s looking at shelving options.” What? My Sweetie is pinning? What? Of course, that totally made sense. He loves to surf the web looking for design ideas for both the store he manages and our home. Of course he’s pinning. Makes total sense.

Then, I of course had to go find what he’d pinned. Then, I saw what other people were pinning. Then, I had to pin. Of course.

I have started with a strategy. I have this MASSIVE list of bookmarks that is just labeled “recipes.” There is no rhyme or reason. They go all the way back to 2009. I obviously at one point thought I might want to make them, but who has time to go back and look at each link. So, I’m going through the list, pinning the ones that still hold interest, and deleting them from by bookmarks. I’m LOVING how pretty all those pictures look on my boards.

During this process, I’ve learned a few things about myself.

1. I have a thing for breakfast foods, specifically pancakes.

2. I will not keep a recipe if it doesn’t have a picture. Not only does it not “pin,” it doesn’t inspire. This is something I need to keep in mind when I post recipes.

3. I really like recipes from Amy’s Finer Things, Cooking During Stolen Moments, and Good Cheap Eats.

4. I think about others when deciding what to cook/bake. I even started a board for “Possible Office Treats.”

5. I like being “re-pinned.” It’s like having someone say, “You were right. That’s cool.” I love to be right. (Just keeping it real.)

6. I have thought the same recipe was good enough to bookmark it two or three times. (This proves that the bookmarking things doesn’t work for me I think.)

7. I also have a thing for shrimp. I like shrimp…with a sauce…and pasta.

8. I could spend a serious amount of time clicking around on there… serious amounts of time.

9. I really miss my bloggy friends… the ones I got to meet at Blissdom… the ones I get to see every blue moon around here… the ones I’ve never met in person. I’m thankful for this opportunity to get to know them in a different way.

10. I wish I was a better photographer… I am NOT a good photographer…

Well, that’s what I learned going through the over 250 links that were in my recipes bookmark folder.

Yes, 250.

Yes, I clicked on each one.

Yes, many no longer existed.

Yes, it took me hours.

Yes, it was fun.

Yes, I am now addicted to Pinterest too.

Are you addicted? Come visit my boards.

Linked to Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday: Recipes I Need To Blog

I was reading my friend Mary’s, blog today and saw something in her post that made me pause. Then I got excited. Then, I was sad… so very sad.

Mary posted an extremely yummy looking (and WW point friendly) recipe for Baked Apple Crumble. That was exciting. Even MORE exciting was that she was blogging the recipe (Let me pause here. Can I use the word blog like a verb? Is it both a noun and a verb? Like text is now a noun and a verb? It’s something to ponder.) Where was I. Oh, she was blogging the recipe as part of a Secret Recipe Club.

Excuse me… SecretRecipeClub. What? I am so in! I wanna be in! Sounds AMAZINGLY FUN right? Well, for me. Amazingly fun for me. I quickly clicked over to join this fabulous club. Only to realize {cue the tears} I don’t qualify. I’m not “good enough.” That is to say I haven’t blogged enough about food. **GASP** The rules say I need to have 60 recipes on my site to participate. I am a SERIOUS rule follower. I did a quick count. I’m at 12. Yep, 12 recipes. That’s all I’ve found on the House of Hills. (They are all lovingly filed under my Recipes Tab now.) Since I do a terrible lousy not so great job of tagging my posts, there may be more. I just don’t know where they are.

You can see where this is going. Right? My new challenge… cook and blog the recipes more! Looking at my photos, I’ve got pictures of some recipes that I’ve just never put up here. Guess what’s coming soon friends… MORE RECIPES! Whoop!

In true Top Ten Tuesday fashion, these are some of the recipes I shall be blogging (There we go using that word as a verb again.) in the VERY near future.

  1. Crock Pot BBQ Pork

  2. Pizza Roll

  3. Chicken and Rice

  4. Crock Pot Mac & Cheese

  5. Hot Cocoa Mix

  6. Breakfast Casserole

  7. Egg Nogg

  8. Pigs in a Blanket

  9. Buffalo Chicken Dip

  10. Pumpkin Muffins

People, I have pictures of ALL but the last one. Meaning, I had intended to blog the first nine and just haven’t. What’s up with that? What, I say, is up with that? I would be so much closer to the Secret Recipe Club if I had just blogged what I intended to blog! **sigh**

I’ve got some work to do. Don’t I know it! So, the question becomes… which recipe should I blog first? Thoughts?

Linked to Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday: Tweets from the Outlet Mall

Do you tweet? I love to tweet… However, sometimes the tweets come to my head so fast and furious that I can’t punch them into my phone quickly enough. Of course, I’d drive people crazy if I tweeted them all back to back to back.

So, sometimes I just keep track of the tweets in my head and share them here. I shared my internal tweets while I was cleaning one day. Those were pretty funny.

Today, I bring you my internal tweets I had while My Sweetie and I were at the outlet mall after dropping the Princess off at camp yesterday. Enjoy…

1. We’re at the outlet mall… along with the rest Northern Georgia.

2. I’ve lost my hubby in the Pottery Barn outlet. They’ve redone the store, and he may never find his way back out.

3. Why are men’s workout shorts down to their ankles while women’s barely cover the parts they need to?

4. Why should I spend $20 on a graphic t-shirt when my church gives me at least one a year for free?

5. You know you’ve been watching too much “Burn Notice” when look at a dress and think, “Fi would look great in that dress.”

6. Why do companies put the thinnest toilet paper on the biggest rolls guaranteeing that you won’t be able to pull off more than a few inches at a time?

7. You know it’s hot when stores strategically place box fans because their air conditioning can’t keep up with the constant opening and closing of the door.

8. I’m sure I need a set of shot glasses from Ralph Lauren. Seriously? Who pays $30 for a set of shot glasses?

9. Why can I not find shorts for the Princess that cover a decent portion of her thigh?

10. I LOVE looking at an XL shirt and saying, “That’s too big.”

There you have it. What I was thinking/internally tweeting yesterday at the outlet mall.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever thought at the mall?

Oh, and if you want to follow me on Twitter, click here.

Linked to the amazing Ohamanda’s Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday: Hardest Things To Move

So, hopefully we are closing on our new house today and moving in on Saturday. Yes, we’re moving again. Yes, that does mean we’re moving twice in seven months. Yes, we are INSANE. Not really, it made sense to us.

Luckily, this time we are literally moving ten minutes away. From door to door it is roughly ten minutes. Eight of those minutes is getting to the front of the neighborhood in which we currently live. Seriously, we’ve timed it. That short a move means that many things will just be taken from one house, thrown in the mini-van, and then put away at the new house. We even have what I’m calling a mini-van brigade happening with some of my friends.

Even with such an “easy” move, there are still things that are hard to move. I will share them with you.

1. An exercise ball. You could deflate it, but then you just have to blow it back up again. I’m cheating and getting rid of those. Of course, I still have to get them to the people who want them.

2. The stuff in the refrigerator. We’re moving ten minutes away. That means all our current fridge contents can go with us. But we’ve got to pack it in a cooler, drive and then unpack it. Pain in the rear! And, one of the fridges is going with us. That means it’s got to be emptied to move first thing in the morning.

3. Washers and Dryers. I am so glad I am not a man when it comes to the washer and the dryer. Nobody expects me to manhandle that thing into it’s proper place. Whew!

4. The open box of pasta in the pantry. Really, is it even worth the risk.

5. Chocolate. I’m in Georgia. Chocolate will melt in the car nine months out of the year. It’s got to be the last thing in the car and the first thing out.

6. TVs. We’ve got this giant screen thing now. How do you move that? Again, glad I’m not a man and therefore not in charge of those!

7. Bathroom Stuff. For one thing, um, some of it can be rather personal. So, you don’t want random acquaintance opening that box for you. Second, there are lotions and soaps and what not that need to remain upright. It must be packed well!

8. Knives and other sharp kitchen things. You put them in the box carefully. You label the box that there are sharp things there. You then stick you hand in the box and bring it out with blood running down your finger. Oh, is that just me? Never you? Oh.

9. The Lego Hogwarts. It’s got to make the trip without falling completely apart. Ya, not sure that’s going to happen.

10. Electronics cords. You put them in a box that you’re sure you’ll remember when you get to the new house. You then spend two hours opening box after box looking for them. Of course, they are in the “last” box you open.

What do you find is the hardest thing to move?
Is there anything you thought you moved but you haven’t found yet?

Linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Go check out her post today. It’s awesome. Seriously, it is.

Top Ten Tuesday: A Smaller House

We’re buying a house…. in like a few weeks. Seriously, it’s insanity. We were approved for our loan today, all the paperwork is getting put in order, and we are going to be the proud owners of a brand new cottage.

That’s right… we’re buying a cottage. Not a big new house… a cottage. We are literally only purchasing the square footage that we use every day. There will be no extra space. There will be no wasted space. There will be just the space that we NEED.

Are we crazy? Maybe. But we don’t think so. We think we are being wise. Here’s why we are moving into a smaller house cottage.

1. We won’t have extra space to fill up with things we don’t need.
2. EVERY purchase will need to be thought through as to how it fits into our simplified life.
3. We will only be cleaning space that we actually use. No extra cleaning! Whoop!
4. Our utilities will be reduced. Even more so since our new home is an Earthcraft home.
5. We LOVE the neighborhood we’re moving to and are willing to live in a smaller space to be there.
6. The neighborhood is actually one of those that has shops, restaurants and offices in the front section and houses in the back. My office is in the front of the neighborhood. In fact, I can walk to work when it is nice. WALK TO WORK! That will save on some gas.
7. We want to teach our Princess better money habits than we ourselves have. We can do that by taking control and living more simply.
8. We will be closer to church and our church family. That is huge.
9. We will be closer to my Katie’s family, and will be able to play an active role in her children’s lives.
10. We firmly believe that God led us to this place. He lined up the cards/dominoes so perfectly that we are in awe. We can’t wait to see why He wants us there.

Linked to Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday: I’ve missed blogging

I’ve missed you all – my readers, my friends. I REALLY have missed you!

My sweet Katie went to be with Jesus on February 15th, just five days after my last post. I was able to serve her and her family in her final days and the week of insanity that followed. I was honored to write her obituary and give her eulogy – both incredibly difficult things to write. I was able to give ALL of my awesome to her and her family because of the amazing network of family and friends I had surrounding me. For that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you to everyone who blessed me during that time.

Now, I’m trying to get back into the swing of real life. I’m not over my grief. I don’t think it will ever totally leave me. I lost my best friend. It’s hard. I rejoice one minute that she is healed. I’m sad the next that she is gone. I’m mourning, which is healthy.

However, it’s time to blog again. I enjoy blogging. I REALLY do. So, I’m back! To get back in the groove, I thought I’d make a list of the ten things I’ve missed about blogging.

1. Writing – I write for my job, but it’s not the same as writing for me (and my readers).

2. Reading – When I blog, I read other blogs. I’ve been too busy to read much lately. I miss all my bloggy friends.

3. Link-ups – I LOVE linking up to Top Ten Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Things I Love Thursday. Those are so much fun. I’ve missed them.

4. Sharing pictures – One of the reasons I even started blogging in the first place was to share with family (originally) things that were going on in the House of Hills. I’m sure they are in need of a Princess pic. So, here’s one.

5. Sharing stories – Same as above, but stories… I’m sure you want to know the story behind that picture – right?

6. Sharing recipes – I’ve tried a couple of new recipes over the last few months that I’ve yet to share. I’m excited about doing that.

7. Sharing ways to serve – We love to serve at the House of Hills. And, we love to share what we do so you can do it too!

8. Your comments – I miss my comments. I love comments.

9. Dreaming – When I blog, I’m always thinking of ways I can help/serve my readers. I had been dreaming about some neat ideas. I want to start dreaming again.

10. My friends – My readers are my friends. Whether you comment or not. Whether I “know” you or not, you are my friends. You take a minute to peek at my life. You are interested in what I have to say. I’ve missed my friends.

There you have it friends. I’ve missed you. But, I’m back. Hope to see you tomorrow.

Linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Ohamanda.

Top Ten Tuesday: Blissdom Recap

It’s the post you’ve all been waiting for. I know you have. You want to know ALL about my trip to Nashville for Blissdom. Well, I don’t know that I will ever be able to process ALL that was Blissdom, but I will do my best to get some of it down. Without further ado, here is my Blissdom Recap – Top Ten Tuesday style.

1. You can room with three people whom you have never physically met and have instant bonding based on the relationships you’ve built online. I had the BEST time just hanging out in the room with Hilary from The Other Mama (and Mint Julep Monograms), Mary from Giving Up on Perfect, and Kate from Savvy Little Women. These ladies are AWESOME and FUN and HYSTERICAL. There my have been crying due to laughter at some point.

2. The women attending Blissdom were perhaps the most giving group of people I’ve ever been with. There were people there from all walks of life with all different ranges of experience and with all different abilities. ALL of them were willing to share. Willing to share their knowledge. Willing to share there fun. Willing to share their snacks. Even willing to share their jewelry. It was AMAZING! And comforting. And humbling. And loving.

3. Ohamanda is a FABULOUS driving partner, well passenger. We decided to drive up from Atlanta the night before to avoid driving in ice first thing in the morning. Amanda kept me laughing and awake for the entire drive. Then, she introduced me to MANY folks at the Wisdom Workshops so I didn’t feel quite so lost with all those mega bloggers walking around. Love her.

4. The sponsors of Blissdom were OUT OF THIS WORLD! We got a fun box before we even went to the conference. In it was popcorn from Conagra foods, which we thoroughly enjoyed and coupons for Freschetta pizza that the family enjoyed while I was gone. Hallmark gave us a great recordable book that I did for the Princess before I left. She listened to it every night. That doesn’t even include ALL the AWESOME vendors who had booths at the conference. I came home with so many goodies that I don’t even have them all unpacked yet. I think that’s an entire post in and of itself.

5. There is SO MUCH I DON’T KNOW about blogging. I heard terms I’d never heard before. I saw so much on the first day that I had never seen before that I was COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED! But, as the days progressed I understood more and was given many resources to help me figure it out. What I REALLY learned this week is how much I don’t know. And that challenges me. I’m excited about learning more over the next year and returning being able to go into the more advanced tracks.

6. If you stalk follow around the Lands End rep, you will end up winning something from Lands End. Look at this AWESOME bag I won by reading a post on Twitter and showing up at the right place at the right time. I also won a shirt for My Sweetie. In addition, I made a new friend with the Lands End PR rep. She’s so very nice.

7. Twitter is KING of the blogging world. Never in all my days have I seen so many smart phones. And, they were all out ALL THE TIME. If you weren’t tweeting it, it wasn’t happening. At least that’s what I felt like. In fact, my Twitter thumb was TIRED after the conference. As in, it was sore. Seriously.

8. I got to room with (well, even share a bed with) Mary, whose post about weight loss literally changed my life. Her openness and vulnerability online translated wholeheartedly into real life. It was a pleasure to spend time with her and our late night conversations have formed what I hope is a life-long friendship.

9. Massive pajama parties are tons of fun. There is nothing like walking around a huge hotel in your pjs to go eat pizza, dance and get a massage. We played telephone (yes, that childhood game) and LAUGHED hysterically.

10. Finally, I learned that my family can survive without me. They missed me and I SERIOUSLY MISSED them, but they survived. I will say that My Sweetie had a very relieved face when I walked in the door. He was also extremely thankful for all the preparation I did before I left. We used the iPhone Face Time for the first time. I LOVE that technology as it allowed me to give the Princess kisses each night. Although, I think it made me miss them more being able to see them.

That’s a quick recap of my trip to Nashville for Blissdom. Was it everything I learned? Nope! Was it everything that happened? Nope! Was it all I’ve processed so far? Pretty much.

Thanks my friends for indulging my Blissdom posts over the last few months. Hopefully, they are coming to an end. However, integrating all that I learned into the blog is just beginning.

Linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Ohamanda and Blissdom Recap Carnival at Musings of a Housewife.