Monthly Archives: November 2011

A local yule


It’s that time of year again where we catch ourselves adding some seasonal words to our vocabulary like yule, boughs of holly, and bells on bobtail.  And the funny thing about it is that we don’t even think twice when we are singing about bobtails.  Anyway, moving on.  I received this forward in my email from my mom and I read it, liked it and am sharing it with you.  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the idea of giving only 4 gifts one from each category, want, need, wear, read (click here to read that post) because I am feeling the urge to not give in to the consumerism and commercialism of Christmas because, honestly, it is not about that.  I love giving gifts, but it is not fun when you have to give a gift and you have no idea what to get.  We find ourselves spending on useless gifts because we feel we must, and so we get Grandpa another tie, or Aunt Sue another cookbook.  Just read this Birth of a New Tradition, we all have heard about the benefits of buying local when it comes to produce, but what an impact it can have on our community and our economy if we did that with Christmas!  There are so many holiday handmade boutiques going on right now, it is the perfect way to support these small independent businesses while also giving a unique gift.  While I don’t like the negative slant in the article toward the Chinese, because let’s face it, it’s all about supply and demand and we are demanding it, I do like the idea of buying local.  This could be big.  This could be really really good if we all partake!

Christmas 2011 — Birth of a New Tradition
As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods — merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor.

This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!

It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut.  How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?  Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.  Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed?  Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamins on a Chinese made flat-screen?  Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint.  Remember, folks this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes. Plan your holiday outings at local, owner-operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip.  And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre?

Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands. Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house?  When you buy a five dollar string of lights, about fifty cents stays in the community.  If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city.  Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams.  And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine. THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.



Feeling Crafty: Love letters


I have this thing for letters.  Piper has quite a few P’s and Tatum has T’s and I have this R that I made that I hung about a family picture that I made for Brian for his birthday a few years ago.  I filled this Ikea frame with corks, shells, sea glass and coins from our summer travels to Italy and Croatia, and then framed a picture that we took on our anniversary.  It’s time for a new photo to go below the “R” since Biltmore is no longer with us, and Tatum and Frankie are.  I love my “R” and so recently I have been making some for gifts, letters that is, not “R”s.  This time, I figured I would take pictures along the way to show you just how simple this is to make.  First, pick out some cute paper, thin works better as it is easier to fold over the edges.  Trace and cut out the shape using scissors, or use an Exact-o knife.  Leave a little bit of extra so that you can fold down the paper over the sides.  By the way, you can pick up letters at Michael’s or Paper Source, and probably other places too, but that is where I have purchased mine.

Next, measure the width of the letter and mark it on your second sheet of scrapbook paper.  I think two different papers that coordinate look well together.  I measured the width, drew lines and cut out about three 12″ strips.

Apparently, I have used Mod Podge for the past 2o some years and just read the bottle.  This whole time I have been calling it Modge Podge.  Oh well.  Anyway, take your Mod Podge and spread it with a brush your finger over the letter before laying the paper on it, and then brush some more over the top smoothing it out and folding the edges onto the side.  Sometimes it works best to let that dry before moving on to the sides.

Using the same method, apply the strips of paper onto the sides of your letter.  If some wrinkles have appeared on the top smooth them out with some more Mod Podge.

This is my first time adding a little decoration to a letter and I thought it turned out really cute.  I used raffia to make a flower.  I was embarrassed at how my hands looked in the close up picture of me making the flower, so I will just tell you.  I have a bad habit of biting my nails.  The habit was gone for over 10 years, but started again in motherhood.  Not sure how or why.  I need a manicure.  I do really good when my nails are painted.  Anyway, I just cut three 4 inch strips of raffia and glued them with in a circle.  Then I twisted them into a figure 8 and put a dab of glue to keep them that way.  I layered the three figure 8s and used a glue gun to attach it to the “T” and accented the center with some cute buttons!  Voila!  This cute little “T” is for Talia who just turned two!  I hope she likes it as much as I do!

Thirty-two and thankful


It is nice having my birthday so close to Thanksgiving because it puts me in a sentimental mood and has made me think of all the things I have to be grateful for.  I was trying to think of what happened while I was 31.  Nothing significant stood out this past year, but as I started thinking more and more, I came up with some.  I am grateful to have celebrated my girls’ birthday around family and not be thousands of miles away.  I am thankful for our little monster of a puppy who had a dog trainer come last week and work with us so that soon he won’t be such a monster.  Having the opportunity to go back to Germany to visit this past spring was also such a blessing and so much fun too.

As for turning 32, it is already off to a good start.  My mom and step dad are making the move from Arizona to Newport Beach.  Today is Mike’s first day of work and my mom will be here soon, very soon.  Piper and Tatum have never lived close to this set of grandparents, so it will be a first, and I am looking forward to doing crafts and having another free sitter close by.  I am also very excited about a German girl who will be living with us for 7 weeks after the new year!  I think this will be so much fun and am can’t wait to practice my German with her and bring her into our family for awhile.  So, I am welcoming this next year and hoping that I will find joy and blessings in each and every day as there is no doubt that I have many reasons to do so!

I decided to make a list of 32 things I am grateful/thankful for:

family, friends, nice weather, yard, house, two super fantastic kids, a really great hubby, staying home, a husband with lots of time off, the beach, health, love, church community, great grocery stores that I can walk to, gym, new bike, Frankie, ability to travel, internet, Brian’s job, support network, cellphone, really good Mexican food, Target, my neighborhood, Pretend City pass, awesome van, art, electricity, laughter, the rain, nature, our friend’s cabin in the mountains

Some may seem silly, but I’ve been without, so now I am that much more aware of how much I am thankful for these things!  Others, are more obvious, and even though family and Target are on the same list, I am in no way equating them except that they are both things that I am grateful for, of course, one to a much lesser degree 🙂

As for today?  I am going to the movies with my nephew who has the day off from school while my sister babysits.  Then taking a my favorite class at the gym.  And then dinner without the kids at Au Loc, a Vietnamese vegan restaurant that we really like that is owned by a Buddhist who took a vow of silence like 10 years ago.  Very interesting.  OH NO!  I just added the link to the restaurant and I saw that the restaurant is closed Mondays!  Well, dinner somewhere, not sure where it looks like.

Feeling Crafty: super cute garland


I am new to Pinterest, and I don’t exactly know what I am doing, but I saw this picture of this garland using strips of fabric tied to Christmas lights, and I thought, how simple and cute is that!  And then, I made one that I think is even cuter :).  I love fabric, but I hate to sew, so this was perfect for me!  I went to the fabric store (hint:  go to back where many stores sell flat folds of smaller pieces, way cheaper), found this cutest mushroom print that looked so German, I just had to buy it.  I wanted this garland to decorate for my St. Martin’s Day shindig, but I also wanted it to be up for Thanksgiving, so I was looking for fall colors without it being to “pumpkin-y”.  I took my super cute mushroom fabric, that wasn’t super cheap, to the back and found some other fabrics that coordinated that were a third of the price.

this is what I came up with, gotta have a little sparkle for fun

Then I proceeded to cut the fabric into about 1 inch strips and about 8 inches long.  I used pinking sheers to prevent fraying.  I folded the fabric before cutting to make it easier, and for less cutting.

Then, Piper and I tied on the strips to the strand of lights.  Four pieces of fabric between each light seemed to be the perfect amount.  Here is a picture of Piper tying on her strips.  I had her take a picture of me, but it didn’t actually work out very well.  Besides it being not flattering whatsoever, it was blurry.  So here is one of her and her crazy hair tying some knots.  While I wouldn’t call this flattering of her either, 4 year olds don’t seem to mind and love looking at any and all pictures of themselves…or maybe that’s just my 4 year old.

While this project was SUPER easy, it was a little time consuming.  But the finished product was worth it!  Imagine how cute this could looked wrapped around your tree!  Or around your banister, or on your porch!  I love it!

If there was a "like it" button on here, I'd totally push it.

New Traditions


After arriving in Germany for the school year in 2008, we quickly got to experience our first German holiday which has since become a favorite of ours.  Saint Martin’s Day was this past Friday, and while Brian had the day off for Veteran’s day, we were busy making preparations for our lantern parade.  Traditionally, the kids make and decorate lanterns and then go with their local school on a lantern walk accompanied by music and stories, ending with a bonfire.  So, we invited some friends and neighbors over for a taste of this German tradition!  We bought some cheeses and crackers, had crock pots full of cider and glühwein, and put some youtube videos of St. Martin Day songs on the side of the house with a projector.  We had so much fun!  The moon was super bright and the expected rain held off.  The cool weather was nice however, because it felt more authentic to be wearing a coat and beanie.  Oh and I almost forgot!  I even made the traditional St. Martin-shaped bread, Weckmann!

Some little German men!

Piper and her lantern

more little lanterns

Brian and his not-so-little lantern and stick.

I have also heard about this idea (on pinterest) for Christmas, that I am trying to figure out how to adopt as a new tradition.  Every child gets 4 gifts marked with a gift tag reading:  WANT, NEED, WEAR, READ.  I love it!  It could work for the adults or the kids or both!  Somehow Christmas gets overboard each year and it doesn’t need to be.  It doesn’t need to be all about opening the gifts Christmas morning.  Everything about Christmas is fun, from the family parties, to going out to look at lights, and everything in between.  So, it doesn’t really need to be a big “to do” Christmas morning.  While we enjoy giving and receiving gifts, we don’t need to break the bank, stress out, or spoil our little munchkins too much.

In our family, we just do stockings and one gift.  So, we were thinking of drawing tags for the extended family.  The aunts and grandparents will draw either want, need, wear or read for each child.  I think this could be a new tradition!

What are some of your favorite traditions?  And what are some new ones you want to start?




Identity Crisis: Part 2



We wrap up so much of who we are in this thing called identity.  We find our worth in it and we find others worth in it.  We categorize people based on whether they are married or single.  We categorize people differently if they are 19 and are married or if they are 45 and single.  We have this norm and we pretty much associate our worth and others based on where it falls in the normal range.  If we find our identity solely in our marriage status, then what happens if that changes?

I am in a stage where I identify myself as a mother, a stay-at-home mother which identifies me even further.  My day revolves around nap time and that’s just where I am right now.  But even this identity is not guaranteed.  Last year I met 3 women in the course of a month who experienced the loss of a young child.  Heart-wrenching.  Absolutely unfathomable it seems.  But, these women are living their lives, still hurting and still grieving, but still having a purpose to live.  Had they found their identity solely in motherhood then what would be their motivation to wake up each and every morning?  Even this identity can change.  (click here to read about one little boy who impacted the world in his 2 years 10 months on this earth and his mother’s journey)

We identify ourselves with political parties, sports teams, and universities.  We find our identity in the way we look, where we shop, and our athletic ability.  And while it is a culmination of these things that make us who we are, I believe there is something bigger, something that actually has worth.  I believe that my identity must first and foremost be found in my faith in Jesus.  My style might change, my hair will grey some day, if I am blessed to outlive my children, then I will still experience the empty nest once they leave.  My job has changed, and perhaps will continue to change.  But my faith is unwavering.  My worth comes from being a child of God.  Having a belief that I have a purpose to live today and to bring hope to others is my motivation.  I want this identity to infiltrate my life so that my job as a mother, a wife, a friend and all my other identities reflect this.

And so, as we were encouraged to come up with a family mission statement in the parenting class we have been taking for the last 6 weeks, this is what we came up with.  When I am feeling uncomfortable in my skin or when my child is hurt by a mean comment on the playground, I want us to think about the things that really matter; the things that give us our worth.

This is who we want to be as a family.  This is the identity I want my life to reflect.

We, the Ristows, open are hands and hearts to God and others, as we seek to be a family that is giving and forgiving, content but not complacent, bringing joy and hope to neighbors and nations.

Identity Crisis: Part 1


There are a few things things that have been on my mind for months now and I am about to tell y’all about one of them.  This might go a bit deep for a blog and perhaps even a bit personal, but I am willing to put it out there knowing that it’s possible that the entire world could read this if they wanted to.  I am not intending to offend anyone, but maybe just asking you to check yourselves.

I recently visited the school I last worked at just to say hi and to show Piper around.   But when I came home, I found myself wanting to do something, suddenly I wasn’t content with my current situation.  I wasn’t sure what, but I wanted to work again.  I felt that I was becoming worthless.  The last entry on my résumé, if I were to go and apply for a job would be from over 4 years ago and I felt needed to do something about that.  Brian replied,  “That saddens me.  I hate that you would find your worth based on what your résumé looks like.  You are so much more than that.  Who cares what they think.”  Apparently I did.  I find myself in introductions saying that I used to teach before being a stay-at-home mom, because I feel the need for people to know that I actually had a career I guess.

In the past year I have gained weight.  I am not happy about it, but I was happy to get some answers from the doctor.  We are working on treating some of the hormone levels that have gotten out of whack with pregnancies and hopefully shed some of these pounds.  Not an easy thing to talk about, but I know I am not alone in this struggle.  It is a struggle to meet people and know that they don’t know what the “old” me looked like.  It is a struggle to not say, “Hey!  I didn’t always look this way.  And pretty soon, I’m hoping you will see what I used to look like!”  I want to tell them that I actually ran a half marathon this year and that in the process of training I didn’t drop a pound.  I want to tell them that I don’t eat processed foods, and that my diet would having you scratching your heads at why I am not thinner.  I want to explain away just because I care that much about what others think about me.

Some of my friends struggle with not owning a home and feel that their place is inadequate.  I know others who feel lacking because they didn’t get their degrees.  Sometimes I find myself out-of-place if I think I am not “trendy” enough at a particular store or restaurant.  For some reason, I have allowed these areas where I am lacking, whether it be lacking in appearance, or education, or home ownership define who I am as a person.  It changes the comfort level of how I feel in my own skin and how I feel with my identity.

This is humbling.  It’s humbling because I think it shows me that my discomfort comes from my own thoughts.  Being a home owner?  Not a struggle!  I don’t put emphasis on that.  I don’t think others look at me and my house and say, “Wow, did you see her place?  I would not be able to live there.  Her living room is the size of my closet.”  Maybe someone is saying that, but I don’t care.  I hope someday I will have a house of my own, but I see our life as too up in the air to settle down in a house right now (oh yeah, that and the fact that we really can’t afford to buy where we want to live).  But I do care what people think about me and my “job” as a stay-at-home mom.  I care if they think I am sitting on the sofa eating bon bons and watching soap operas.  I do care if people are thinking, “She sure did let herself go.  I would hardly recognize her.”  I care about these things probably because I am guilty of having such thoughts toward others.

I am sure we are all guilty of having judgmental thoughts, and those thoughts are probably the same as your struggles.  If you feel that you could never be seen shopping at the Dollar Tree, then it is probably because you have certain judgmental thoughts toward people who do.  When I was thin, no one would have thought that I overeat, but now I think about and care about those individuals that think that.  Why?

I don’t know.  I do know that I shouldn’t.  I know that when my child goes off to school and comes home saying, “Joshua told me I wasn’t smart”, or “Lisa said that my hair looks like a bird’s nest and that my nose is crooked.”  I will tell my child that it doesn’t matter what these people think about her.  I will tell her that she has a purpose on this planet and that she can’t let these people stop her from fulfilling her job.  I will remind her that she is a child of God, and a beautiful gift to her parents.

I needed that reminder.

gift 1

gift 2