Monday, October 29, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

Monday, October 29, 2012

Remember when I said that this blog would include more than cooking and crafts?  I love finding ways to do random acts of kindness for people and that is our discussion today.  First let's begin by taking YOUR kindness temperature.

Think about life in the past few weeks or months.  With gentleness, examine the opportunities you have had to do something for others.  Did you jump right in or hesitate?  Sometimes we pause because we aren't sure we want to get involved.  Will we become sucked into a situation that we will regret at a later time?  Sometimes we consider whether the person will welcome our involvement.  What if we are rebuffed?  How awful that feeling would be!  What if I don't have a lot of extra money to donate to charity.  The good news is many acts of kindness don't require any output of money!

There are several reasons we stop ourselves from reaching out.  But what about the reasons to go ahead and take the leap? 

Eleanor Roosevelt quote

Be honest with yourself, but gentle on the judgment. Lord knows we don't need any more negative voices berating us! If, in your moment of self-examination, you have discovered that you would like to increase the amount of kindness you extend to others, I have many suggestions.

I am involved with a grassroots organization called Heartworks ( and much of what we do involves Acts of Kindness toward people in our community. 

Heartworks logo

I had many of the fears I mentioned earlier about getting involved.  The good news is this...those fears are a myth and only serve to stop us from doing good to people around us.

I have had SO many good, great and awesome experiences through Heartworks and none of the negative assumptions have some to fruition.

Okay, so you don't have a Heartworks group near you to help with giving to others.  There are so many ways to open your heart to friends, family and even strangers.  You may already do some of these things, but be raising your awareness, you'll recognize even more opportunities to add acts of kindness to each day.

1.  Tell your children 5 reasons why you love them.
2.  Write a note to the boss of someone who does a good job. 
3.  Give the good parking spot to someone else.
4.  Make a meal for someone recovering from surgery.
5.  Organize your neighbors to make Thanksgiving dinner for needy family.
6.  Clean up litter in your section of the world.
7.  Get a couple of teenagers to rake leaves, paint a fence or do other yard work for an elderly neighbor.
8.  Send a card of thanks to Veterans living in your area.
9.  When someone is going through dark times, send flowers, a balloon bouquet or a card.
10.  Stop for a person waiting to cross the street.
11.  Let a mother with young children in front of you at the grocery store.
12.  Drop a floral arrangement at a senior center.
13.  Shovel your neighbor's driveway.
14.  Save Box Tops for Education and donate to your local school.
15.  Send a card to a lonely person.
16.  Donate blood.
17.  Donate pet food to the Food Pantry.
18.  Collect school supplies for a local shelter.
19.  Do an act of kindness in the name of someone who has passed.
20.  Walk a friend's dog when they are sick to give them a break.

I will revisit this subject and continue to provide inspiration and giving ideas.  I am quite sure YOU have some fabulous ideas too.  I would love to hear suggestions or ideas that you have tried.  Leave a comment in the comments section.

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."
~Mother Teresa
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pumpkin Craft

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How would you like to do a cute Halloween craft?  These sweet pumpkins are so easy and would make the perfect addition to goodie bags for school. 

paper pumpkins
Jennifer DeSimone for

First you cut a circle from orange cardstock.  I used my Marvy Uchida 2 1/4" punch for the large circle.  Then I punched smaller circles using a Marvy Uchida 1 1/2" punch.  Patterned paper adds interest to the Jack 'O Lantern face.
paper pumpkins
Jennifer DeSimone for
Next, cut a radius cut with regular scissors on the patterned paper (smaller circle).  Shown here:
paper circle
Don't cut more than halfway across the circle.
At this point you will want to draw your faces on the smaller circles.  Try to avoid the area where you've cut the circle. I used a thin Sharpie marker.  Next you will overlap the cut edges of the smaller circle slightly, maybe 1/4" or so and glue or tape on the underside.  You are creating a shallow cone.
Once you have created cones with all the small circles, attach them to the large orange circles with craft glue.  I used Aleene's.  All that's left is to punch a hole and tie a ribbon!
Blue Tabby
Jennifer DeSimone for
Speaking of sweet faces, I couldn't resist putting this adorable photo of my sweet kitty Sapphire!  She's so funny and delicate and cat-like.  (I only say that because I have another cat who is rather NOT cat-like!)  I love this photo of her hopeful bright eyes looking up at me!
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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Autumn Inspiration

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The anticipation is growing here in the Northeast, as we await the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.  Such a pleasant name for something which can bring devastation.  Everyone up and down the coast has stocked up on water, batteries, generators, non-perishable food, propane, pet supplies, medication.  I am usually not impressed by the weather reports of impending disaster.  It's quite often wrong or over-rated.  This time, I am listening and preparing. 

While we still have some leaves on the trees, I took a little walk and got some gorgeous Fall inspiration.  Take a look at what I found:

Barberry bush
The above photo is a barberry bush in my yard.  The colors this time of year are stunning.  What a gorgeous color palette for a quilt, room decor, or a table scape.  Notice the bits of gold peeking through from below.  (Something to remember when I make another greeting card.)
Japanese Maple
I love the Japanese maples in my yard.  We inherited them from the previous owners and I just love them.  There's a large one at the corner of the driveway and the walkway to the front door.  It's a welcoming tree as it looks gorgeous in any season.  The photo above is a dwarf tree next to my driveway, but closer to the road.  It is always full and lush and brings happiness each time I look at it!
Brilliant raspberry colored leaves
This is one of my favorite colors!  If you haven't guessed yet, I'm partial to shades of raspberry, Cabernet, plum and vermilion.  Those of you gardeners out there can help me out with the name of this shrub.  It blooms with tiny purple flowers in the summer and keeps the bees so occupied.  For those who are artists, I could see these colors as an inspiration for jewelry or a scarf.  (Maybe painted silk...?)

These oats are so serene with their subdued colors.  They make nice additions to dried flower arrangements.  What do I love about them?  I like their flatness. should see them up close...they are not like farmer's oats. 

close-up view of oats

I hope this close-up allows you to see what they're like.

This blog is about crafts as well as other things of beauty.  I have a cute pumpkin craft that my mom made for me the other week.  I had to share because it is so darned pretty and easy to make.

Longaberger basket with little pumpkin
You take a Jack-be-Little pumpkin and use hot glue to attach dried flowers to the top 1/4.  Vary the colors to achieve a balanced floral arrangement.  The Jack-be-Little pumpkin is sitting next to a Longaberger pumpkin basket.
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Greeting Cards

Friday, October 26, 2012

Now I've found some photos of cards I made some time ago.  All are already sold, but can provide inspiration for new cards.

Where do you get your ideas for card-making?  I sometimes use a layout I've found in a magazine, but rarely do I mimic the entire card.  I will either utilize the color scheme OR a layout, but rarely both.  Sometimes I will use a favorite layout several times for multiple occasions. 

The card layout is simply a skeleton upon which to place the creative bits I want on the card.  I will add charms, ribbon, stamped and embossed accents, brads, buttons, glitter, stickers, and so much more!  Don't be afraid to add household items like a paper clip or safety pin to the layout for interest.

Hope you enjoy these!

Cala lily sympathy card
Jennifer DeSimone at
 The serene card above demonstrates several techniques.  You'll notice the fancy edging on the papers at the bottom, as well as the use of two sizes of antique brass brads.  The calla lily stamp is from Stampin' Up.  I also added dimension with pop dots under the crimson layer.

Bird rustic birthday card
Jennifer DeSimone at

I love the casual feel of the card above.  The edges are inked with brown ink for an antique feel.  The lace flower IS an antique!  (From my husband's grandmother's collection.)  The patterned papers play very well with this theme.  See how a safety pin can add interest to an empty section?

Silver snap birthday card
Jennifer DeSimone at

Imagine the smile on the face your friend or sister if they received the above card!  The nickel snaps down the middle add a shiny focal point.  I love the patterned papers too.

Friendship greeting card
Jennifer DeSimone at

I just smile when I see this card!  The bubble gum pink, robin's egg and tangerine tones are just happy!  The paper punch used for the white lacy edging is from Martha Stewart.  The addition of rhinestones to the sentiment's flowers is just enough bling.

Banner greeting card
Jennifer DeSimone at
Who would you give the "Enjoy" card to?  Note the adorable pennants in the corner with hand-stitching.  A little bling adds just the shiny touch this card needed.

Martha Stewart craft punch card
Jennifer DeSimone at
The Martha Stewart paper punch came in handy on the above card as well!  The lovely papers don't need much enhancing, and play together nicely.  The dimensional flower sticker is a lovely focal point.

Think about using the layouts shown above for holiday, milestone birthday, thank-you or even an invitation.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination! Pin It Now!

Can't use up creativity

Friday October 26, 2012

Couldn't resist posting this gem from Maya Angelou:

Maya Angelou quote

Have a great day creating YOUR masterpiece! Pin It Now!

Bird Card

Friday, October 26, 2012

Card making is going so well, I have to share this one too!

Purple card with bird detail

This birthday card would be adorable for sisters, girlfriends, aunts and other special women in your life.  Don't you just love the little birdie attached with a safety pin?  The sheer purple ribbon is so eye-catching too!

Close-up of bird, safety pin and ribbon detail

I'm going back to the craft room, (yes, I have one of those) and get busy making more.  A discussion for another day--organizing crafting supplies.  Think about what YOU do to keep all the ribbons, papers, yarns, and other goodies in their place and we'll chat someday soon!  I will post more photos for you to enjoy and use for inspiration!
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Makin' Cards

Friday, October 26, 2012
If you live anywhere on the Eastern seaboard, you've no doubt heard about "Frankenstorm".  We are looking at the possibility of a major hurricane/nor'easter wreaking havoc over a large geographic area.  Not fun!  But we CAN prepare for the worst and hope for the best. 

Onto creative news:  I've been busily creating gorgeous handmade cards for a customer.  I have to share some of the photos, since they've turned out so well.  I love making original cards the are custom to each person.  I have made special cards for milestone anniversaries, birthdays and other occasions.  I am meticulous about detail and will guarantee 100% satisfaction with any order.  Please let me know if you'd like to see a price list with the different greeting card packages I offer. 

Balloon birthday card
Thanksgiving card
Well, what do you think?  I love the use of different materials and embellishments.  Between the ribbon, charm, glitter stickers, and lovely scrapbook papers, the effect  is so unique!  Not something you would find in the grocery store card aisle. 

If you are a creative person you will know what I mean when I say that I just feel better when I've created something.  If a few days go by (eek!) without making some sort of craft, my general sense of well-being goes down.  It took me a long time to realize my NEED to be continually renewing my spirit through creativity.  I now make sure to carve out time regularly for creative efforts.

Hope you are inspired by my photos!  Remember, if you share my photos or other info from this blog, be sure to include a link to the original source...right here at Sunshine Stepping Stones!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sunshine Stepping Stones

Welcome to Sunshine Stepping Stones!  We're going to have fun!  First let me introduce myself...I'm Jen and I love crafts, cooking and being kind.  I am married and have have two active children, ages 12 and 9 who keep me busy. 

I have been crafting since I was in elementary school.  I have tried many different crafts over the years.  There are so many ways to be creative with your hands and a few supplies.  One time, before I had children, I made Easter cards with an embossed stamped gold basket on the front.  To fill the basket with eggs, I punched dots with a standard hole punch and glued them to the front of the card, meticulously placing each color-coordinated dot with tweezers.  Time consuming?  Yes!  Amazing result?  Of course!

I can't wait to share some delicious recipes...soups, stews, salads, desserts...the possibilities!  My mouth is watering at the thought!  Love easy, inexpensive ways to feed your family?  Well, I do to and I'd love to share some tried and true dishes with you.

For starters, here's the Pasta Fagioli recipe I make so often I know it by heart:

Pasta Fagioli

Pasta Fagioli

Doesn't it look yummy?  This is a dish frequently served for lunch or dinner in my house.

8 ounces ditalini pasta
8 oz ditalini

Pasta Fagioli

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (30-ounce) can Italian crushed tomatoes in puree
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups chicken broth
2 (16-ounce) cans cannellini  or kidney beans, drained
8 ounces ditalini pasta
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes, or until softened.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.  Add tomatoes with puree, oregano and broth.  Cover and cook 5 minutes to heat through.  Add beans and simmer 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, cook ditalini about 6-8 minutes until half cooked; drain.  Add to soup.  Cook 15-20 minutes to combine flavors and finish cooking pasta. Season with salt and pepper.  Pass a bowl of grated Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper on the side.

Makes 8 servings

Oh, the journey you and I will go on together!  We will talk about ways we can share handmade items with others.  I love finding ways to share food (universally comforting) and goodies with friends, family and others.  We will talk about ways we can increase our awareness of people around us who may be going through challenging times.

No doubt you have friends and family who like to craft, cook and share...please recommend this blog to them and we'll all have fun together! Pin It Now!