A Commitment to the Community-Excel Youth Gets Their Own Youth Center

IMG_1385Being part of a church that is passionate about reaching the lost in our community is a tremendous blessing to our family.  Typically, I write about my family or my decorating endeavors, but I wanted to share EXCEL youth group’s  building renovation.  I know that many of my readers are looking to make a difference in their church and community, so I thought you would enjoy this.  Word of Life Church (www.wordoflifemarionville.tv) recently expanded to include a youth facility.  A team of hard-working volunteers completely remodeled an empty  building in just fourteen days! Those fourteen days were a complete whirl-wind, but the result is fabulous and is already making a difference in our small town.  Roughly fifteen volunteers spent incredibly long hours laying carpet, painting, wiring the sound system,  decorating, scrubbing, cleaning, constructing, etc.  Can we say, “tons of fast food” and “what is a bed?”.  Joking aside, the entire endeavor has made a difference for the teens in our community. Being a store-front church (we are located in a shopping center with the ONLY grocery store in town), this beautiful new youth center is visible to every person who lives in this town, every time they go to buy groceries.  EXCEL youth group celebrated the grand opening of their new facility with a local band, Seeds of Agape. The grand opening night was a huge success, and the building was full!  IMG_1416We were able to create over-sized art by painting over old church signage and banners.  It was a great way to create relevant art for a fraction of the typical cost.  pic 1The back wall of the stage is actually galvanized metal panels-a very easy find at any home-improvement store.

IMG_1410We used metal repair tape to mimic the X in our new EXCEL youth logo.  It requires precision and measuring, but it is a very easy and inexpensive way to add great detail to a space.

IMG_1411IMG_1387We are fortunate to have a graphic designer and photographer in our church, who made us a new logo and helped with printing promotional materials for the Grand Opening.

IMG_1414IMG_1385The church was very supportive of EXCEL youth group, and many items were donated to this project.  The donated items include: the carpet, computer, game systems,the cost of the chairs and the sound system (donated by a church).
IMG_1394This is my favorite view-the view from the outside.  Every car that pulls up to the local grocery store, everyone who walks by on their way to the neighboring apartment complex, is able to see this fun and safe place for local youth to gather.  Far more than fun and games will be happening in this building-the truth of God’s Word will penetrate hearts and shape futures!  Thanks Word of Life Church for believing in the youth of our community!


DIY Wedding Reception Decor

wedding blog pic

My lovely friend recently got married, and I was privileged to coordinate the decorations for the reception.  The funny part of this story is that I wasn’t fully aware I was doing all of the decorations until 2&1/2 weeks before the ceremony!  Panic ensued, followed by many deep breaths…and then a plan.  The reception was in a church multi-purpose gymnasium, so I knew it was a huge and not-so-beautiful space to begin with.  I thought I would share how we pulled it all together for roughly $60!  That’s right-$60 for table coverings, decor, centerpieces, candles, banners, etc. It came together quickly and it was absolutely beautiful.

Centerpiece  Each centerpiece had six tissue poms hung  from twigs and they were stabilized in antique, quart-sized jars.

centerpiece close-up   Small hearts were cut out of the pages of an old book, and hung with twine.  The hearts added just the right finishing touch to the centerpieces.centerpiece jarcenterpiece with jars I used clear and teal pint sized jars, wrapping them with scrap-book paper.  I cut hearts out of the paper.  "floating candle" jars A small amount of water was placed in the jars, and  floating candles were added to the jars.  The heart cut-outs were lovely, allowing the candles to softly glow.jar closeup I made three buntings with scrap-book paper and old book pages.bunting for the gift tableI layered the different papers and book pages, and then wove the ribbon through holes in the top of the bunting.
closeup of buntingthirteen

The bunting for the Bride and Groom’s table was stenciled with “Mr. & Mrs.”

Mr and Mrs bunting
cake table bunting twelve

reception My friend was so beautiful!  I just had to have a quick pic taken of us!


wedding blog pic

My Sweet Valentines…

Well, it rolled around quickly, the last year our youngest son will distribute Valentines or make a Valentine box..sniff, sniff. So bring on the crazy Mommy! Payton picked out the Army theme, and we found great printables off of Pinterest. Then I rounded up a small green army, found camo fabric for the box, raided the mostly quiet-these-days toy chest & this Mama went to work. The result is a super happy  boy! Next year he will be one of those grown up middle school boys-but today he is still my little boy. And then there is the sweet little sister-no worries-many more Valentine parties ahead for sweet little Delaney! “Wild About You” is the theme we went with, and we found the cutest little printable Valentines on Pinterest. We completed those little babies with “wild” animals & a lovely, sparkly, pink, wild Valentine box. It really helps to have all of those hair-bow supplies at a time like this!

So here’s the result…so much cuteness!
Delaney with box 1

Notice that Delaney dressed in her “wild” theme as well..Mommy & daughter really get into their themes!delaneys box 2

Delaneys box 3

delaneys box 4

delaneys box 5

Here’s a link to the blog that is offering this super cute FREE printable:


Delaneys box 6

payton with box

My littlest man!
paytons box 3

Here’s a link to the blog that is offering this adorable FREE printable:


paytons box 4

paytons box1

paytons box2

Making A (quick & easy) Delicious Cup of Chai Tea

closeup chai teaA chilly fall evening…the perfect occasion for a delicious cup of Chai Tea…but I’ve found that chai tea mixes are quite pricey!  So I recently went on a hunt (Pinterest style…) for a recipe for chai tea mixes, and I found that most of the mixes required an extensive list of ingredients…most of which most of us don’t keep on hand.  I deducted that it would likely be just as cost-effective to buy the expensive mix!  So I set off on a mission to use what I had on hand (only 6 ingredients!!) and make a cup for myself.  The results…Delicious!

Here’s my recipe:

one tea bag, one cup of water, 3/4 cup of milk, 1tsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbs. sugar, and 1&1/2 Tbs liquid flavored coffee creamer (vanilla, caramel,cinnamon flavored etc.  It’s really up to you…most good flavored coffee creamers would work perfectly!)

Directions: Place tea bag in one cup hot water & brew a “strong” cup of tea.  Add the cinnamon and sugar to the hot water and stir vigorously!  This step is important, because you want to fully dissolve the cinnamon in the hot water. Add the milk and creamer.  Stir once again, and heat to desired temperature.  Stir vigorously once again…

Enjoy your perfect cup of inexpensive Chai Tea!

A Little Girl’s Fairy-Tale & Dress Up Photo Session

color bride shotWith three big brothers, little Delaney is pretty good at waiting her turn.  Finally I had some spare moments to spend on my precious daughter (who will out-grow dressing up sooner than I can blink my eyes) and my amateur hobby of photography.  The results were just precious, and I had to share them!

snazzysassycolor mirror closeupwider color brideblack and whitecute picmore brideblack and wadorable color mirrorfavorite shot from above

black and white close upfancy dressupblack and white mirror close upmore fancy dress upDelaney bridelovely color in woodsThis was such a special and memorable photography session…little girls don’t stay little forever!

My Quick and Easy Eggplant Parmesan (healthier too!)

eggplant parmisian pic 2I just love Eggplant Parmesan, but it can be pricey!  Once in a while I can find it on sale for only $.99, as was the case this week.  I bought one, and then remembered-they don’t last long.  So yesterday I sliced it up & prepared six meal-portions, which are now waiting for me in the freezer. ( a great work-day meal!)  I thought I’d share my easy method of preparing this tasty dish!

Eggplant Parmesan (Jilly B’s Version)


-one eggplant

-2 to 3 TB oil for frying

-grated Italian cheese (Italian blend/ pizza blend/ Parmesan/ YOUR choice)

-one small red onion, diced

-one can diced tomatoes with roasted garlic adn onions

-garlic  &  salt


-Slice the eggplant into 1/3-1/2” slices

-heat oil in large frying pan

-place eggplant in hot oil & season with garlic and salt

-let brown on each side, until tender and nicely golden brown

-While still in pan, generously top with cheese

-Remove eggplant from pan & place in oven on 350degrees

-Place tomatoes and diced onion in frying pan and saute until tender.  Season with salt and more garlic

-Remove eggplant from oven (5min. in oven is plenty-you simply want cheese to fully melt)

-Plate the eggplant & top with tomatoe & onion mixture.

-Top it off with a small additional sprinkling of cheese-sooo yummy!

Free Family Resource

I wanted to share this great freebie from Focus on the Family.

This month they are giving away a FREE DOWNLOADABLE activity to help you share your faith with your children!  You can’t beat that!  Free Family Resource.  I hope you will check this out.  It’s so important to share our faith with our kiddos, and it’s also important to answer their tough questions.  This month Focus on the Family featured some excellent discussion reguarding this important topic.  Hope you enjoy!

BBQ Potato-Easy & Delicious

famous dave potatoMy family absolutely loves Famous Dave’s restaurants, because they are huge BBQ lovers!  My personal favorite dish there is their BBQ baked potato.  I love it so much, that I have experimented with my own version of this yummy dish…and here are the results:


baked potato


shredded cheddar cheese

sliced brisket or shredded pork or ham ( I usually use deli shaved ham)

BBQ sauce

sour cream & green onions (optional)


*Bake the potato & coat with butter & salt.  I like to slice the potatos into 1″ thick slices & arrange on plate

top with butter & shredded cheese-(lightly salt the potato, butter & cheese)

combine brisket (or shredded pork or shredded deli shaved ham) with BBQ sauce & heat

Add the BBQ meat to the potato

top with a light additional drizzle of BBQ sauce

If desired, add sour cream & green onions


A Vintage Back to School Party, Betsy McCall Style!

First grade was coming for my little girl…no stopping it, so why not celebrate it?  She had a blast with three special friends, and we celebrated in style!  I found a delightful vintage print of the paper doll series “Betsy McCall”, entitled “Betsy McCall goes to School”.  I added some modern touches, complete with some free printables.  Here’s our fun little party:angled over head shotoverhead shot of tableplace settingslip strawsfavor bagscookiesfavor treatsangled over head shotbetsy mccall goes to schoolhanging decorgirls w lip strawsoverhead shottable shot pretty

We had a blast!  Here is the link to the lovely free printables that we were able to use for the party: http://emmyandgabbie.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/freebie-printable-party-supplies-rainbow-sherbet/    These were wonderful & can be found on the blog Emmy+Gabby.

Here is the link for the cute “straw lips”: http://www.fun-stuff-to-do.com/chocolate-cherry-party.html  What a delightful, whimsical touch! They can be located at Fun-Stuff-To-Do.com.


My little sweetie had a wonderful time!  Here’s a pic of Delaney on her first day of FIRST GRADE!DelaneyCheck out my Pinterest boards for many great Free Printables!



Planning a Party Using Free Printables from Pinterest

Parties are super fun, but let’s face it-they can be very expensive.  Pinterest is great for providing ideas to throw incredible parties, but I’ve found myself spending much more than I intended on some great Pinterest idea.  So my mission this summer, was to see if I could host parties using Pinterest “free printables”.  My goal was to spend $20 or less on the entire party…Is it possible?  YES!  Here are two of my experimental Pinterest (free printables) parties:

Football Party:

football table piccookies and wter bottlescandy 1 w football wrappersfootball water bottlefootball table decorfootball guys

candy 3candy 2

The “football wrappers” on the water bottles & on the willie wonka sugar packs, are actually hot-dog wrappers, and can be located through this link:  http://blog.forrent.com/apt_life/kids-tailgate-fun

The cup-cake/ cookie toppers can be located through this link: http://blog.hwtm.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/BigGameBash_CircleToppers2.pdf

The bunting and sign can be found at this link: http://worthyoftheprize.blogspot.com/2012/10/free-football-party-printables.html

To add a little bit of excitement to the party, you can see that I added a candy buffet; which was a huge success!

The Basketball party was also a hit!

basketball tabledress up durantcups and cookies awesomecookiescupswhole tablehanging decorcookies and cups

I had to be a bit more creative in finding printable basketball items.  Most of the basketball party printables are for purchase only, but I did find a few.  I was able to make it work by being creative, and piecing together several different items.

The cute little “Dress Up Durant” art was actually from ESPN: http://www.behance.net/gallery/ESPN/2169699

The cup-cake/cookie toppers, I also used on the cups!: http://www.scribd.com/doc/86092411/March-Madness-Basketball-Cupcake-Food-pick-Circles

The bunting, I made by printing a basketball scrap-book paper & cutting it myself.

The sign was actually a greeting card that I re-sized and printed as a picture: http://www.greetingsisland.com/prints/PrintPosting.aspx?card=Basketball&id=2049


The cookies were a great replacement for cup-cakes & they were SUPER EASY!

Reeces Peanut Butter Cup Cookies:

1-devil’s food cake mix


1/2 cup oil

1/3 cup apple sauce

MIX together

add one entire bag of peanut butter chips

Bake @ 350 degrees for roughly 15 min.  Check after 10min.

I hope you will check out my Pinterest board to check out tons of more FREE PARTY PRINTABLES!  http://pinterest.com/jillyannb/free-party-printables/ , as well as my other board PRINT IT BABY http://pinterest.com/jillyannb/print-it-baby/

Coming soon, will be my post, “A Vintage Back to School Party, Betsy McCall Style!”. Stay posted to see my latest party, hosted for my little first-grade daughter, as she and her friends celebrated the beginning of school…Betsy McCall style!