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Archive for the 'Grins & Giggles' Category

Thanksgiving Turkey Treats

Posted by The Neely Team



These fun and adorable treats are perfect for building relationships with the small people in your life. Watch smiles form and grow as you build your turkeys with your children, siblings, nieces & nephews, or little friends. And besides, who doesn’t like to have miniature turkeys around for the week of Thanksgiving? Smile


You will need:

Oreo cookies – 1 per turkey


Large marshmallows – 1/2 per turkey


Candy Corn – five per turkey, plus a few extra


Small amount of frosting

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon milk

Mix all ingredients to make frosting.


Assemble your birds:

Spread a little frosting onto a cookie.


Press half of a marshmallow (cut around the middle “east/west” fashion) onto the cookie, NOT centered.



Place 5 candy corn evenly spaced above the marshmallow. These are the feathers that make your gobbler’s fan. Winking smile


Break a tiny piece from one of the extra candy corn, and stick it to the marshmallow with a teeny bit of frosting. This is the gobbler’s beard. Winking smile


Your bird is complete!


National Lollipop Day!

Posted by The Neely Team



July 20th is National Lollipop Day!

While on our way to VA last week for a family reunion with Mom’s side of the family, we stopped at Sam’s Club to buy the last-minute items for the weekend and, at the suggestion of a sweet, younger member of the Team, we also picked up a couple of boxes of Blow-Pops…


Have a Blow-Pop, anyone?!


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Take time today to rejoice over the little things of life. Don’t pass up an opportunity to make memories with those you love… you won’t regret it.

And, by the way…

Happy National Lollipop Day!

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Watermelon Update

Posted by Kathryn



For all of you who read and laughed over our failed attempt at watermelon growing, with gratitude I can tell you that the Lord saw fit to bless our endeavors at last. 


As they were so late in the season, we did not know whether these two would be edible before the cold settled in, but last week, just before our first freeze, we decided that their time was up and harvested them. How exciting to find that they were indeed ripe!


So, do not give up when a situation appears to be hopeless, when your days seem full of impossibilities. We serve a God of second-chances, the Finisher of the good work which He has begun in each one of us. Look to Him. Rest in His mercy, grace, forgiveness, and strength… and try again!

Try Again

Posted by Kathryn




What could be more delightful on a warm summer day than a big bowl of cool, refreshing watermelon?

Well, something you may not know about the Neely Team is that, as much as we love watermelon, I do not think we could grow them if our lives depended on it.

Growing large quantities of fresh produce has been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember, but I do not believe we have ever been successful at growing a single watermelon. Why, I have no idea. It just doesn’t work.

This year, due to the wedding and everything else going on in our lives, planning and maintaining a garden was more than Dad and Mom could possibly think about, so I became official garden manager. Thanks to the great advice of David Stelzl, we tried a new method, one which includes using large amounts of mulch or compost material, and the Lord blessed our efforts tremendously. Not only did the mulch nourish the soil for a larger harvest in general, but it also kept the weeds down and drastically cut necessary maintenance time.

Anyway, back to watermelon.

In my new position as garden manager, armed with some most excellent watermelon seeds from a friend, I determined to try again. I started the seeds early in a green house, giving the plants a fair head start, and when the weather was right, transplanted them to a place where the soil is rich and they would receive enough sunshine.

And they grew. Slowly, but surely.

Eventually, a few small fruits appeared on the vine. I was sure that this would be the year that we would finally break loose from being first on the record of unsuccessful watermelon growers.

Then, one day last week, I heard some laughter on the back porch and someone called my name as I was working in the kitchen.

“Come quick — look at your watermelon!”

Apparently, the vine had been accidently cut in the previous week’s mowing, and there, surrounded by a dead vine, was my long awaited fruit. (See the picture above.) Beautiful! See the lovely striping, the lush green tones?


I died laughing.

My adorable little watermelon was… just that. Adorable.

Nothing like the giant, impressive 30-40 pounder it descended from.

Well, I guess all I can say that we still have not broken loose from our history of unsuccessful watermelon-ness. However, this whole escapade calls to mind a quote I heard earlier in the year at a home education convention we attended.

“Courage doesn’t always roar – sometimes, it is the quiet voice that, at the end of the day, whispers,

‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’”

And that is just what we will have to do – try again.

What was, to us, a hilarious family memory, also served to remind me that failure, no matter how it may cause us to feel, must not be the end to those of us who are in Christ. He is our hope; He is our reason, and our strength, for rising from bed each morning and determining to try again. We, chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, have been promised victory.

No matter what you are facing today, whether it something as simple as a watermelon, or instead a struggle that causes deep and lasting pain, look unto Jesus Christ, Who has already won the victory, and try again.

Penguin-Loving Poet

Posted by Kathryn



For nearly fourteen years, someone was dwelling in our home and family, of whose true personality and perspective on life we knew but little.

Then, something happened, and out she came!

Penguin-loving, laugh-inspiring, and thought-provoking, Victoria brings such joy to all of us with her unusual and often unbelievable sense of humor! Recently, however, yet another new side of her has emerged. We have discovered that she is quite the poet (and always seems to have the perfect proverb or line of rhyme to share at any given situation). Typically written late at night, while she is comfortably ensconced on the floor in my room, her poetry has greatly blessed and impressed me. The other night she shared this one with Jessi and I, when, as usual, she was journaling on the floor between our beds. I loved it! I’m sure I’ll have to post additional compositions in the future, but for now… enjoy! Smile


Proper English

I once was told I spoke in verse;

At once I realized that was no curse.


My Mother Tongue feels no abuse

When words own color and careful use.


When artful speaking doth occur

These facts must show, of that be sure:


Vocabulary, first, must be enlarged,

While useless words are all discharged.


(No “like’s,” no “um’s,” no “ain’ts” or “got’s,”

No “fan’s,” “that long’s,” or “second shot’s.”


No double negatives, few words used o’er,

Instead of “beach” use “the sea shore.”)


Context, then, is all-important

Without it, sentences will sound discordant.


Structure, now must be considered

Here we’re in danger of sounding withered.


Arrange your words with cautious choice

They’re an accent to your voice.


Feeling, now, with depth, is key –

Ships don’t sail on shallow seas.


Mold inflection to dress the matter

Don’t just robe in useless clatter.


And finally, this last charge I give:

Speak to honor He Who lives –


He Who formed our mouth and ears

That we may speak and words may hear.


We’ve been granted simple tools

To edify God’s chosen jewels.


Use them carefully, we must

For they are a sacred trust.


Hold the tongue which tries to bite,

Speak the words which spread the Light.


There’s much to bridle as we go

Un-necessaries always seem to show


Form each sentence with thought and care;

Our “good name” this form will share.


Use your words to point above –

Speak with feeling, depth, and love.


I love you! You are a great blessing to me!

Welcome, Valiance!!

Posted by The Neely Team



Today marks the two-month birthday of the newest member of the Neely Team —  Valiance (German Shepherd)! She came to us through a series of unexpected and pleasurable events, including a renewed contact, a family discussion, and a shocking(!) conclusion. Arriving as a small bundle of squirming fir, Valiance brightened our day and lives with her many bright  and winsome ways. We love having a puppy around again, with all of the entertainment, opportunities, challenges, and joys that she brings.


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Displaying a certain lack of photogencity :-)

Wonderful bedmates Smile


“Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in his sight.”

~ I Chronicles 19:13

Wear a Red Hat

Posted by Kathryn



Sometimes you need an extra smile. Sometimes those around you need an extra laugh. Sometimes you need to make extra memories.

Sometimes… you need to wear a red hat.


Last Wednesday evening, feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and rather emotional, I talked with Dad and Mom about all I needed to get accomplished the next day. A ginormous amount of Christmas-candy (supposed-to-be-fun-stuff!) to be prepared, a messy house to clean and tidy, two days worth of laundry to be washed and put away, meals to think-through and concoct, a home to manage, music ministry opportunities for which to practice… All of this crowded my tired brain, along with the thought that Mom and Amanda would be unavailable due to important wedding preparations, and Jessi was taking Victoria, Susanna, and the littles out to run errands for the morning and possibly a portion of the afternoon.  That left Lauren and I. Hmmmm.

As we neared the end of our conversation, knowing the lack of joy I was feeling, Dad gave me one of his gentle, almost mischievous smiles and said “You know what? While you do all of that, I think it would be really cool if you wore one of Cocoa’s chef hats!”

Now, to be brutally honest, the idea was not my first choice. I have never considered myself to be a hat person… and… a chef’s hat?! You know, one of those tall things that makes your head appear as though it were an acre of mushy earth under a host of rotting leaves in a damp forest that has sprouted one of those nasty, smushy, gray species of fungus. Uggghh!


But, as always, Dad’s little piece of advice was a good one. Lauren and I had so much fun that day, working together to bless our precious family.

And, you might be interested to know, the hat wasn’t so awful after all. It sparked many giggles and memories, and helped keep me reminded to enjoy the special moments the Lord gives me.

So, maybe today you need to wear a red hat. Or a purple one. Or maybe even a florescent, hurt-your-eyes-when-you-glance-at-it orange one! Maybe today you need a rekindling of joy in your heart as you labor for those you love.

The blessings of the Lord are all around you. Find something for which to be grateful and smile at it.

Or… wear a red hat.

A little taste of our efforts... chocolate covered cherries! A Neely Christmas favorite!Oreo balls in the worksYum!

Oreo balls completed!:-D - For our eldest brother and sister - We love you!

“Auntie Fun-Fun”

Posted by The Neely Team



When we were in Greenville, SC, for music lessons a couple weeks ago, Aunt Miriam (aka Auntie Fun-Fun Smile) made our day extra special by bringing us lunch to enjoy together. It was a good reminder to us of the joy and blessing that simple acts of kindness can bring to those around, even when the action seems small or menial. “Be ye kind one to another…”

IMG_9449Mmmm... lunch!

Miss Smiley Pink-Sweater :)Juice on the floor ;)

SweetOur FAVORITE bakery cookies!

Aunt Miriam is definitely a giver!, so when we were in Greenville again this last weekend for a homeschool convention, she surprised us with St. Patrick’s Day goodies to enjoy at our hotel. Too much fun!

Cookies...Cupcakes!Have a cookie, anyone?

Notice the message on the ring...... they re-lived an experience from almost 25 years ago for us! :)

:)MORE of our favorite cookies!

:) :) :)

So, look around you, and see who needs an extra touch of kindness today. Sow an act of kindness, and reap a harvest of joy!

Thank you, Aunt Miriam!!

Haircutting 101/102

Posted by Kathryn



A few weeks back Mrs. Tammy, a sweet friend of ours, came over for two days and instructed Amanda, Jessi, and I in beginning haircutting! For a while we have been wanting to learn this skill to bless our family and our future families. It was fun, educational, and character-building – it was great character training for Mrs. Tammy, anyway, who learned more about patience in those two mornings than she probably has in a while! 

Thank you, Mrs. Tammy, for so willingly giving of your time and expertise! You truly model the verse from Matthew 10: “… freely ye have received, freely give…”

101: Practice with the mannequins

By the way, your victims must have names, so let me introduce you to Ventura, Charalina, and Jemima. Winking smile

Beginning cutting... the hair started out really long, and we practiced straight cuts and under cuts)To get a straight cut, your arms should be parallel to the hair... as you can see, that skill wasn't my forte... :/... but Amanda did a pretty good job with it

Lovely! :DL to R: Kathryn and Ventura, Amanda and Charalina, Jessica and Jemima :D

102: Practice with the mannequins and the live mannequins

(Special thanks to our dear brothers for being such great guinea-pigs! Smile)


When you are finished... the mannequin is bald and you have a mess to clean upLearning bangs and increased layeringIMG_8816-1


A uniform layered cut that would normally be done on curly hairNow for the live mannequins! They're so much more handsome!"Hmmmm..."

"... I'm not too sure...""... about this live mannequin stuff!"Tapering the back with clippers

Have you ever experienced it when the Lord takes a relationship that you have had and gradually deepens it? You may have known this family or individual for years, and yet suddenly you realize there is a strength in the relationship that you never had before. What causes this?  This blessing is the inevitable result of both sides actively seeking and growing closer to the Lord, because as we draw nearer to Him and are more conformed into His likeness, He unifies our hearts with others within His Body, the Church. Our family has seen this happen over the years… among ourselves, esp. in sibling relationships, Smile for one thing. We have also begun to see it worked out in relationships with other families. What a joy it is!!!

A few weekends ago we were blessed to experience this again with a visit from our friends, the Barnes family. We had a load of fun, played hilarious games, made music, put together jigsaw puzzles, blew up our gingerbread houses, Winking smile and laughed a ton in the process, of course, but the highlight for most of us was the discussions and times of fellowship that were shared. Things the Lord is teaching us, what we are learning from our devotions, favorite passages of Scripture, meaningful insights, prevalent and troublesome issues of today that must be combated with Scripture, and more were shared and discussed. It was a time of exhortation and encouragement, and we came away tremendously refreshed.

And, by the way, our discussions were far too interesting to take the time to jump up and get the camera – – thus the lack of pictures of the afore-mentioned activity! Winking smile

Reading off the names for a rousing game of "Occupation"IMG_8597IMG_8599

"I think so-in-so is such-in-such!" :)IMG_8607An investment in a child is an investment in eternity

One of the blessings of being tall -- you get to change the extremely-hard-to-reach closet lightbulbs. :) Thank you Kevin! the kitchen!

Bethany, Tim and HannahA few of the "puzzlers"

So sweet!

IMG_8647IMG_8649Diligence rewarded!

We found another family that had never had eggnog before, so...The first taste..."Not too bad..."

Mom and Mrs. BarnesIMG_8663Something's funny

Playing "Green Alligators"Playing PIT!!PIT is a favorite with all of us

You had better watch out -- Wes (a Brown Belt) and a group of novices



SmileSmileSmileSmileWinking smileSmileSmileSmileSmileWinking smileSmileSmileSmileSmileWinking smileSmileSmileSmileSmileWinking smileSmileSmileSmile

Height order!

TimReady and waiting...About to pop!

Thar she blows!

Praise the Lord!

So, be encouraged if you desire to see a certain relationship in your life brought to a new level. Seek Christ through His Word, pray with diligence – – and watch and see what the Lord will do.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another…” 1 John 1:7