Wood Words + Cricut Explore Air = Custom Wall Art

I love collage walls. Peek in to any room in our home and you'll find at least one wall covered in photos, wall art, memorabilia and more. So when I moved my studio at the beginning of the year I decided I was going to go all out and cover the ENTIRE room with pictures and decorations that inspired me. There was just one smaaaaaaaaaall problem. This space right here. 

No matter how I moved things around, or what I put on the wall, there was that one odd shaped space that I just couldn't figure out and it was making me nutty! Enter my Cricut Explore Air 2 to the rescue!

{FTC Disclaimer: I have received product/payment in exchange for this blog post - but all projects/opinions are mine all mine! This post also contains affiliate links so I might make a few pennies if you buy something!}

SUPPLIES:
Cricut Explore Air 2 with Design Space
Cricut 12x24 Cutting Mat
Cricut Vinyl in Caribbean
Cricut Transfer Tape
Cricut XL Scraper
Cricut Scraper
DecoArt Americana Acrylic Paint in Teal Mint
wood word (different words available at any mass craft stores)
foam brush

I did the project in this particular order because it was more important to me to center the wood word and then add the letters - but if you prefer to do the letters first you can!

Paint your wood word and set aside to dry. 

Create your phrase in Cricut Design Space. Even though it was one phrase I created it in two sections so it would be easier to customize the sizing and spacing.

Before you cut the phrases, place the wood word on the wall (I used 3M Command Strips).

Then measure on either side of the word and size the phrases to fit. You may need to select "attach" so the phrases cut in the same direction on the mat. 

Cut the phrases on the Explore Air 2 and peel off/weed the excess vinyl, then cover both phrases with transfer tape and trim.

Tape or tack the phrases on the wall to make sure you know where you want them. If you can use a tape measure to line them up with other items on the wall...great! My sunshine wall art is not even - so I just did everything by eye.

The new XL Scraper is pretty much the greatest tool on the planet - it makes working on larger projects so much easier! I started at one side of the phrase - removed the tack/tape, peeled away the backing then replaced the tack/tape and used the scraper to adhere the phrase to the wall.

And voila! A piece of home decor that you customize to any theme, color, or size! Awkward empty wall spaces be gone!

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Speaking of home decor - Cricut and Hayneedle.com are having an AMAZING giveaway - head on over and enter to win over $2500 in prizes including a Cricut Explore Air 2 bundle and a $2000 credit to Hayneedle! Who doesn't need that? Hurry though...the deadline to enter is February 24th.

Looking for more fun ideas about using your Cricut Explore Air to add vinyl to just about anything? How about...

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

Maya Road Signed Sealed Delivered Kit

Those of you who were around for "the good old days" of scrapbooking probably know Maya Road. A family owned company that has been around for almost 15 years - we became friends when our booths kept ending up near each other at consumer shows across the country - remember those? Gaaaaaaahhh!!! The industry may have changed but Maya Road's creativity and the quality and uniqueness of their products continue to be amazing. They've just launched a new website and sent me one of their card making kits to celebrate - so I made everything BUT cards with it! Well ok - I made two cards - and you know what? I loved it! Today I'm sharing instructions for SIX projects I made with the kit goodies, and there were PLENTY of leftovers for more! {FTC disclaimer: I did receive this kit for free, but the projects are mine all mine! This post also has some affiliate links - so I might make a few pennies if you buy something!}

Layered Border Card
items from kit:
patterned paper
yellow pom pom trim
blue ribbon
small kraft clock
white lace
thinking of you stamp
additional items:
black ink pad
acrylic block
double sided tape
foam tape
die cutting machine and border dies (I used Diamond Press)

Cut assorted strips of patterned paper and run some through border dies.

Stamp thinking of you image on to patterned paper and trim – leaving small border.

Apply double sided tape about 1” from the bottom of the card and adhere pom pom trim. Cut off excess.

Use foam tape and double sided tape to layer strips, blue ribbon and borders to card front.

Adhere kraft clock, small piece of white lace and stamped image as desired.

Mini Pallet
items from kit:
patterned paper
blue flowers
yellow pom pom trim
crystal heart
burlap flower
flower pin
small kraft clock
additional items:
4x4 mini pallet (Maya Road now carries 6x6)
strong adhesive (I used Xyron 3” Sticker Maker)
die cutting machine and hello die (I used Diamond Press)
Stickles (I used yellow)

Cut paper in to 7/8” x 4 1/16” strips and adhere to mini pallet.

Cut hello die and set aside.

Trim flowers from stem and set aside.

Put adhesive on either side of kraft clock. Starting on the outer edge, wrap yellow trim around clock in a circle until it is filled in. Trim excess and adhere crystal heart to center.

Apply flowers, pin and hello to pallet as desired.

Outline visible portions of patterned paper with Stickles and let dry.

Sending Sweet Wishes Card
items from kit:
patterned paper
tags
large kraft clock
lace
twine
typewriter pin
silhouette
sending sweet wishes stamp
additional items:
black ink pad
acrylic block
white pen
black cardstock
die cutting machine (I used Cricut Explore Air)
acrylic paint (I used FolkArt Aviary Blue)

Cut intricate lace image and adhere to top of card.

String twine through two tags and tie in a bow. Add adhesive to back of both tags and adhere to card – off set to one side. Trim excess tag.

Doodle around edges of tags with white pen.

Stamp sweet wishes image on to patterned paper and trim – leaving small border.

Adhere kraft clock, small piece of lace, stamped image, typewriter pin and silhouette as desired.

Floral Frame
items from kit:
patterned paper
pink flower
tulle flower
wood hearts
additional items:
frame with glass removed (check out this blog post for how I created the distressed pink glitter look with Rust-Oleum Glitter Spray Paint)
acrylic paint (I used FolkArt Baby Pink)
pearl embellishments

Paint small heart and set aside to dry.

Put adhesive on larger heart and apply patterned paper, then trim to fit.

Trim patterned paper to fit frame and add to frame – do not replace the glass.

Adhere pink flower, tulle flower and both hearts as desired.

Bottle Cap Magnet
items from kit:
heart bottle cap
patterned paper
silhouettes
small kraft clock
lace
blue flower
additional items:
acrylic paint (I used FolkArt Aviary Blue and Baby Pink)
magnet strips (I used Xyron Magnet Tape)
pearl embellishments

Paint two silhouettes (paint so they will be facing each other) and set aside to dry.

Snip blue flower from stem and set aside.

Use back of bottlecap to loosely trace heart outline and cut from patterned paper, then continue to trim until it fits inside bottlecap.

Adhere heart to bottlecap, then layer small kraft clock and small piece of lace on top.

Adhere silhouettes, then add flower and pearls as desired.

Add magnet strips to the back of the bottlecap.

Chipboard Heart Ornament
items from kit:
patterned paper
tulle
blue ribbon
medium kraft clock
burlap flower
metal clip
silhouette
scalloped frame
additional items:
chipboard
acrylic paint (I used FolkArt Color Shift in Blue Flash)
die cutting machine (I used Cricut Explore Air)
strong adhesive (I used Xyron Creative Station Lite)
liquid adhesive (I used Glossy Accents)
Crop-A-Dile

Cut ¾” x 1” oval from patterned paper and adhere to scalloped frame. Fill with liquid adhesive and set aside to dry.

Paint silhouette and set aside to dry.

Cut four 5” hearts from chipboard and apply adhesive to one side of each.

With adhesive side facing up, layer two hearts, then apply tulle around second heart.

Add third heart (adhesive facing up).

Adhere fourth heart to back of patterned paper and trim to fit, then apply to third heart.

Punch holes in top of heart and add blue ribbon to create hanger.

Layer kraft clock, burlap flower, metal clip, scalloped frame and silhouette as desired.

One Paint Three Projects with Rust-Oleum Glitter Paint

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The Kingstons have a garage full of spray paint that we use for furniture makeovers, but this month I was challenged by Rust-Oleum to use a can of their Rust-Oleum Glitter Paint in Bright Pink to turn items I had around the house in to something special. I loved it so much I did three projects instead of one! {FTC Disclaimer - I received the glitter paint for free but with no requirement to create this blog post. I do what I want. ;) This post does contain some affiliate links so if you buy something I might make a few pennies!}

If you love Target like I love Target then you might already know about these. If not - you're welcome, or I apologize. Either way. These are concrete jar candles and not only do they look cool...they smell AMAZING. If you live in the Elizabethtown area I can already tell you the Mahogany Embers scent is not available because...ummm...I bought them all. They are also re-useable so make great pieces of home decor. But I digress!

I wanted to create something for my girlfriends that they'd love but also had a personal touch for Galentine's Day. Thanks to my Cricut Explore Air, a scrap of vinyl and some Waverly Inspirations acrylic paint in Fuschia I made a custom stencil and then added some glam with my glitter paint!

To create this project, remove the rope from the lid, then sand it, paint it with acrylic paint, and set aside to dry.

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In Cricut Design Space, add a heart image and size to fit your project. Before you select "go" to begin cutting, move your heart image close to the center of your vinyl scrap (mine was 4x8). It does not have to be exact, you just want enough extra vinyl to "mask" your project.

Once cut, remove the heart image from your vinyl and peel the large vinyl piece from the backing and adhere to the candle. I mean - it looks like a HOT MESS - but as long as the heart stencil is flat you don't need to worry about the rest! Use a dauber to apply the acrylic paint to the stencil and let dry, then cover the rest of the candle with painters tape and spray glitter paint until you achieve the desired amount of glittery awesomeness. Don't forget to add glitter paint to the lid too! This glitter paint dries almost instantly so it is great for those of us who are impatient!

Add a piece of bright ribbon to the lid and you are ready for some Valentine's Day gift giving! I was so giddy with how this turned out I wanted to try a few other quick projects:

I bought this cute little frame from the "dollar section" at Michaels - but you could use any frame you've got at home. To create my distressed glitter look I sanded down the frame, sprayed it with Rust-Oleum Primer, then applied several coats of the glitter paint until I had the effect I wanted.

Did you know painted heart rocks are a thing? Oh yes they are (warning - you can EASILY get sucked in checking them out on Pinterest)! Don and I brought this rock home from our last trip to Washington State - one of our favorite places in the WORLD - and I had been waiting to paint it but was scared to do it by hand. With the same stencil technique I used on the concrete candle I was able to turn my rock in to a special memento in just a few minutes.

The verdict? Rust-Oleum Glitter Paint is easy (and fun) to use and adds the perfect amount of sparkle with minimal drying time and no loose glitter or sticky glitter glue to mess with. It does not give full coverage though, so if you want to create a look like the concrete candle or painted rock you'll need to paint your project first with a coordinating color. Now - go out there and glitter something!

Want more spray painting goodness? Check out these past projects:

Yard Sale Frame to Fun Home Decor - Tale of the Left Out Wall Hanging

We used to have a front room. Or formal sitting room. Or whatever you call it. The room that held our fancy (inherited) furniture that no one ever hung out in, except Baloo because he likes to be alone when he chews on his toys. The furniture is dark grey and yellow, the walls were light grey, and I thought it would be fun to make a quirky wall hanging to bring a little bit of my personality in to the room. So we created this guy.

Then I decided to take over the front room and make it my studio. My all white with bright pops of color studio. And we realized this guy had to go. So now I'm a little sad. This weekend he'll go to a new home, and I'll finish overhauling the front room - but in the meantime I've put together a blog post juuuuuuust in case I decide I need to make his cousin. :)

We used an old frame we found at a yard sale, some spray paint and wrapping paper, added a few embellishments from my scrapping stash...and got to overhauling!

We took the frame apart and spray painted the face, then repeated the process with the deer head.

I used spray adhesive to apply the wrapping paper to the back of the frame, then cut out and layered some scalloped shapes using my Cricut and my Xyron Creative Station.

I used a compass to draw an oval about 2" in from the edge of the frame, then added Stickles to the outline for a little bling!

We cut a hole in the back of the deer and adhered a wood block...

Then drilled holes in the frame and screwed the deer head right in to the frame base.

Added some flowers from my stash - and voila! The wall hanging I love but will never actually get to hang on a wall. I hope his new owners will love him as much as we do!

Creativation Recap - Giving Away Some Goodies!

I'm back from Creativation (formerly CHA, now AFCI - Association for Creative Industries) and now that I've unpacked and gotten a good night's sleep I wanna share a quick recap and give away some goodies!

THE EYE CANDY. Oooohhhhhhh the eye candy. I did not get a chance to walk the whole show floor because I was in the Xyron booth much of the time, but the creativity and attention to detail and talent that this industry is built on is second to none. Everywhere you look there is inspiration and there are gorgeous creations and there are entire booths you just want to pack up and take home with you. Below is just a small sampling! From top left: Jillibean Soup, Vicki Boutin/American Crafts, Tammy Tutterow/Spellbinders, Maya Road, Plaid Crafts, Vicki Boutin (AGAIN - because I am obsessed with her!!)

THE PEOPLE. This is why I am so thrilled to come year after year after year. These are my people. I only get to see my Xyron family a few times a year, and I have been so fortunate to make deep and long lasting friendships with other folks across the industry - and THIS is the place where we come to reconnect, share ideas, make new friends, and just enjoy being together.

THE JOB. The Xyron booth was hopping all weekend long! Teresa Collins did make and takes in the morning and I did make and takes in the afternoon. We were SO lucky to have such great partners - Jillibean Soup and Lawn Fawn brought the pretty to the party with great papers and stamps and embellishments! We highlighted our NEW recyclable 1.5" Sticker Maker, our 3" Sticker Maker and our Magnet Tape - and I'll be sharing quick videos for both of these projects later this month! Want to see us in action? We've got FB Live videos on both the Xyron FB page and my FB page...I'm just not cool enough to know how to link to them here!

THE NEW STUFF. Being at Creativation can be almost overwhelming with the number of new products that are coming to market...but I picked out a few favorites that I just can't wait to get my hands on! From top to bottom:

These DIY 1canoe2 globes are EVERYTHING! They come pre-patterned and you can embellish them with stickers, vinyl words, lights, and much more!

Vicki Boutin's new collection from American Crafts. In addition to being one of THE MOST amazing, kind, talented people I am honored to call friend - Vicki makes mixed media fun and easy and inspires me with her colorful creative projects. I CANNOT WAIT for this!!

I've been looking for a letterboard for my house for a while now - Heidi Swapp to the rescue! Heidi is releasing white letterboards complete with handwritten words and colorful alphabets and you will be seeing these all over the Kingston casa before too long!

I LOVED latch-hooking when I was younger and I've always wanted to try weaving - so when I saw the new Plaid Leave It & Weave It and Ryatie collections I was in HEAVEN!!! I feel the 70s coming back to me in a whole new awesome way!

THE FUN. If you are ever in the Phoenix AZ area you MUST swing by Pinspiration. It is the kind of store/studio/hangout we would all love to own or have in our neighborhood! It is a DIY creative space where you can come with your girlfriends, your kids, your spouse - and choose from TONS of projects to make your own. The gang from DecoArt invited me to tag along for a "friends night out" and it was EXACTLY what we all needed. I...ummmmm...was too busy talking (and drinking wine) and completely screwed up my project - but I've got a tutorial coming up next week to show you how I took a creative "opportunity for embellishment" (ie: mistake!) and turned it in to a fun finished project I'm happy to hang in my living room!

THE GIVEAWAY. ok now let's get to the goods! I was lucky enough to bring home a whole suitcase full of awesomeness - and I want to share! Just leave a comment here and tell me what you saw from Creativation (from this post or anywhere else!) that you are excited about and one lucky winner will receive the following:

--gold Diamond Press machine
--PlaidCrafts tote bag filled with a dozen 2oz paints and8oz of ModPodge Sparkle
--Maya Road make and take bracelet and card
--Lawn Fawn Hoppy Easter stamp set
--Jillibean Soup Chit Chat Chowder collection
--Xyron recyclable 1.5" Sticker Maker

Want more great Creativation coverage? Head on over to Scrapbook & Cards Today for another giveaway (ends February 2nd) and even more inspiration!

White Walls Wednesday - Customizing with Cricut and Washi Tape

White Walls Wednesday is baaaaacck - and today I'm sharing a project that I've been thinking about for YEARS but kept putting off until I got a great little tip about applying intricate vinyl using washi tape. Yep! Washi tape! 

So many military families have a wall hanging similar to this one - a record of all the places you've lived with new duty stations lovingly added along the way. I get mine from WordBoards on Etsy - I love to support other military wives in their small businesses!

The only issue? Unless you wait to buy your boards until after you've left a location you don't have the dates on them! This one hangs prominently in our kitchen and every time we have a new friend over we get the "when did you live in Hawaii?" or "how long did you live in Georgia?" questions - and truth be told, my memory is too terrible to remember! With my Cricut Explore Air, some gold vinyl that washi tape idea I was able to customize my sign in about 30 minutes. I'm just sorry I waited so long!

Ha! I didn't notice until I had this post all ready to go that Bizzy Bee is poking her head around the corner in the photo below. That sweet girl is like Where's Waldo! :)

SUPPLIES:
Cricut Explore Air and Design Space
Cricut Standard Grip cutting mat
Cricut Tools Craft Basic Set
Cricut Vinyl (I used Gold)
light colored washi tape
scissors

Measure the space you've got on your project where you want to put your dates, then select a font in Design Space and type out the dates, sizing to fit. TIP: use a "plain" font, because these are SO small that you will spend a hundred years weeding them if you try to pick something fancy. TRUST me. ;) 

Cut the dates from the vinyl, then use the weeder from the tool kit to weed the excess vinyl from the backing so only the dates remain. Instead of applying transfer tape to the dates - apply washi tape! It is smaller, easier to use, and semi-sheer so you can still see your images to set them in place. WASHI TAPE! Who woulda thought?

Once the washi tape has been applied, cut the dates in to individual sections.

Use the scraper from the tool kit to apply your dates to your project.

And voila! Working on this project brought back so many memories of beautiful places, houses that felt like home, and the incredible people we've met along the way. Luckiest, luckiest, luckiest girl in the world. 

Looking for more great inspiration from military spouses? Check out these amazing projects!

Custom Gift Boxes with Cricut Explore Air Gold

I WANT to be one of those people who plans far enough ahead to bring beautifully packaged and coordinated gifts to parties - but I would always get frustrated when I couldn't find the right size box in the right color and just end up wrapping it in brown paper and adding some ribbon. Don't judge me. ;) Now thanks to my Gold Cricut Explore Air from Jo-Ann (with this cool square glitter image from my friend Oleander & Palm) and some Plaid paint I can turn any old box in to something I am proud to give. Yup - that's right fellow party-goers...I made this!

SUPPLIES:
Cricut Explore Air Gold and Design Space (Gold content available exclusively at Jo-Ann)
Cricut Standard Grip cutting mat
Cricut Tools Craft Basic Set
Cricut Vinyl
Cricut Transfer Tape
Plaid Acrylic Paint (I actually used fabric paint because I loved the colors!)
foam brushes
assorted gift boxes
craft knife
OPTIONAL:
hot glue gun
felt balls (I cut apart this garland from MME!)

Paint each gift box as desired (you may need two coats). Allow to dry.

In Design Space, size image to fit one side of the box and cut from vinyl, then use the weeder from the tool kit to weed the excess vinyl from the backing so only the image remains. Apply transfer tape over your image, peel off, and transfer to your gift box.

Want to line your image flush to the side/edge of the box? Apply the entire image to the box and before you remove the transfer tape use a craft knife to cut away the excess. Then peel off the transfer tape from the rest of the image.

To add a little extra color to my boxes, I hot glued felt balls to the top of each box lid. This actually saved quite a bit of time because I didn't have to paint the lids!

And voila! Bright and festive gift boxes that would be perfect not just for gift giving, but for party favors or as decorations for bridal/baby showers. 

 

 

Cricut Explore Gold - DIY Glitter Pineapple Clutch

I'm a pretty nice person...generally speaking. But if I see you in the clearance aisle of the Target purse/accessories section then it is every man for herself because I NEED all of the fun plain satchels and clutches and backpacks so I can add glittery stuff to them! Exhibit A - this grey pleather tasseled clutch I grabbed up this Fall. I just needed my Cricut Explore Air Gold from Jo-Ann and some glitter iron on (it will change your life - seriously) and in about 15 minutes I turned it in to a sparkly accessory that would be perfect for a night out.

SUPPLIES:
Cricut Explore Air Gold and Design Space (Gold content available exclusively at Jo-Ann)
Cricut Standard Grip cutting mat
Cricut Tools Craft Basic Set
Cricut Glitter Iron On in Gold
Plaid FolkArt Acrylic Metallic Paint in Pure Gold
foam brush
leather or canvas clutch (with tassel - or you can create your own tassel)

In Design Space, size image to fit clutch and cut from glitter iron on. Remember to select the "mirror image (for iron on)" box! 

The image was originally set to cut in three pieces - here is a quick tutorial on how I used the slice feature to customize my pineapple image and make it easier to cut and apply: 

Once you've cut your image, use the weeder from the tool kit to weed the excess iron on material from the backing so only the image remains. Then iron on to your clutch using a thin towel between the clutch and the iron.

Quick tip: when using glitter iron on sometimes you can end up with tiny bits of glitter ironed on to your project. I simply use my fingernail (or one of the tools from the kit) to loosen and then wipe away with a dry paintbrush.

To add a little extra pizazz to my tassel, I laid out a piece of wax paper and fanned out the tassel, painting about 1 1/2" of each tassel strand with gold paint and rotating as I painted until they were completely covered.

Let tassels dry then throw on something cute and take your new bag for a night out on the town!

Gift Idea for Him - Infused Bourbon with DIY Tag

{FTC Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post of my own free will. ;) There are some affiliate links included which means I may make a few pennies if you buy something!}

Looking for a last-minute gift idea for the men in your life (besides some Paper Hatchet cards - wink wink)? You've still got time to make a delicious apple and cinnamon infused bourbon and have it ready for Christmas! The best part? Besides the fact that it is bourbon? We've hacked a printable tag from Southern Living so you can use regular mason jars instead of needing to buy special bottles.

You just need a few ingredients:
1 chopped apple (we used honeycrisp)
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 (750-milliliter) bottle bourbon
1/4 cup simple syrup (which is just water and sugar - you can make your own)
8 oz mason jars (this recipe will fill three with a little left over - you can always use bigger jars!)

Follow this easy recipe and let your concoction sit at room temperature for four days, then pour in to the mason jars and seal. Then you are ready to make your tag!

The Southern Living tags required smooth jars to adhere to - we've made a tag you can tie on to any size/shape jar with just a few quick changes.

SUPPLIES:
Southern Living free printable tags (you get four of the apple/cinammon tags)
trimmer
scissors
Xyron 1 1/2" Sticker Maker
patterned paper (we used a wood pattern)
twine
crop-a-dile or hole punch

Print tags and trim 1 5/8" of the right edge of the entire page, then trim tags on the cut lines and make a pennant cut on the other end of each tag

Run all of the tags (printed side up) through your Xyron Sticker Maker.

Cut patterned paper in to 1 3/8" x 4 1/4" strips, then center tags on to patterned paper and make a pennant cut on one end to match the shape of the tag. 

Punch a hole on the flat edge of the tag, string through twine and wrap around the lid of the mason jar, then tie to secure.

This is a great gift idea for friends, neighbors, coworkers - and would also make a great Father's Day or birthday gift for that hard to buy for man in your life. Happy bourbon infusing and Merry Christmas!

The Gift of Giving - Year Two

Those of you who have been with us for a while know this story - how we came to be involved with a homeless veterans shelter in Louisville, KY. Last year was such a gift - so when we were fortunate enough to be asked back this year we knew we wanted to bring you along for the ride with us once again.

We put out the call for cards from you in mid-November, and right away we were happily overwhelmed by messages from people who had done it last year and were thrilled to participate again, teachers with classrooms full of children who were happy to help - I have never been more tickled to go to my mailbox than I have the last few weeks!

We also put a call out for donations from our friends and family (and so many of you were wonderful to send donations with your cards!) and were BLOWN AWAY by the response this year. More donations meant more goodies for the boxes - so we called in reinforcements! The Kingstons are always looking for a reason to have people over - so we had a "boxing party" and invited our friends and neighbors over for drinks and snacks and an assembly line of packing boxes. 

Here's a tip. When you are married to the most competitive man in America the boxing "party" will turn in to a boxing "race" and your idea of a nice leisurely afternoon will turn in to a frenzy of glitter and tissue paper! We literally could not get the boxes ready fast enough and the guys thought that was HILARIOUS. And then drank bourbon in the kitchen while the ladies finished up the pile of full boxes they had created. :)

When the night of the dinner arrived we were excited, but also a little nervous. I think I told you that last year at the dinner Don and I hid in the kitchen all night because we were a little anxious about being there. Hit too close to home, weren't sure guys would want to talk to other military people, etc. This year Don stayed in the kitchen for a good part of the night...he thinks he has better ideas for running a kitchen than the 20+ women who were there. Ha!

I took a big step out of my comfort zone and hung out in the dining room for a bit, but then slipped out in to the hallway to just try to stay out of the way for a while. I was REALLY struggling, because this year a majority of the guys were young. Like - Don's soldiers young. Don and I have always worried that we don't do enough, or miss the signs that some of his guys might be having a hard time, so to actually see kids who HAD fallen through the cracks was hard to bear. As it turns out though, the hallway I was hiding out in was right near the bathroom and before I knew it there was a line of guys waiting.  Because nothing is more comfortable than a strange woman chatting you up while you are waiting in line for the bathroom I decided to just get over myself and start talking. And you know what happened? Laughter. And stories. Bathroom jokes. Duty stations we had in common. How far along they were on their journey to recovery. All the good things that were going on in their lives. Happiness. Gratitude. Joy. THAT'S what happened.

The dinner itself was just as fabulous as last year. The food was delicious, the entertainment was great (two of the young guys gave an AMAZING acoustic guitar performance) and the vibe was warm and inviting. The women of the Okalona Womens Club are as loving and generous and they are welcoming - and it showed throughout the entire night. 

As the evening drew to a close Iva (our friend who organizes the event) was thanking the people who cooked, the entertainment, the decorating committee, etc and when she thanked us for the boxes and gifts she mentioned that Don was active duty Army (which brought some cheers and applause and - of course - good natured joking). But then she told them that we had mobilized our friends and military family from across the globe to pitch in to make the night special - and the guys went WILD. It was so amazing, just THE BEST feeling in the world and we wish we could find a way to bottle it up and share it with you. YOU did this. These guys left that dinner knowing people all over the world remember them and honor their service and Don and I are so humbled to be the stewards of your love - we just don't have the words. The Kingstons are not great with their feelings, but I hope you know that our hearts are overflowing. This is what it is all about. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

When we left the dinner, two things happened that once again reminded us how many lives you have touched this Christmas.

As Don and I were heading home we stopped for a cup of coffee (yes - at nine oclock at night) and ran in to these two Louisville police officers. I casually asked them if they had any use for some new gloves and hats and toiletries because we had a few extra bags and boxes in the car. They took a trunk full and were so appreciative - think of how many small kind gestures they will be able to make in their community this holiday season because of YOU.

The next morning when I called the shelter director to arrange for the rest of the donation, she told me the guys had had such a good time talking to Don (once Iva told them he was in the Army they couldn't wait to talk to him and swap stories) that they wanted to invite us and any of our military friends to join them for their Christmas lunch next week. So Don and I and the guys Don works with are heading over there on Wednesday for round two of this Christmas celebration - and we will be bringing with us almost $1000 worth of brand new mattresses. Thanks to you not only will these men have a brighter Christmas, your gifts will have a long lasting impact for the shelter and the men who live there. None of this would have happened without you - and we are grateful.  So as our 12th Day of Christmas Giveaway Don and I want to send a little love back out in to the world for you.

Please leave a comment here with the link to an organization or group or story that YOU feel passionate about - and Don and I are going to gift TWO of them with $100 donations. These will be totally selected at random - if I clicked on all the links I would probably be curled up on the couch crying - and I will announce who has been selected tomorrow on my Facebook Page.

Once again Don and I have been made better people by your example. Thank you for your friendship and your kindness and your generosity and your trust. We know how incredibly fortunate we are to be a small part of your lives and we will never take that for granted. You have brought us so much joy this holiday season - we wish the same for you. Merry Merry Merry Christmas. <3