Saturday, October 31, 2009

MakeThe Barking Stop!!!

We live in a neighborhood full of barking dogs. Almost every backyard has at least one (or in one case half a dozen) outdoor dog. That means there is a constant chorus of barking, yapping, howling and general disorder most of the day and a good portion of the night.

Our girls play outside off and on all day, but we don't allow them to bark incessantly or be alone for very long. We consider it respect for both the dogs and our neighbors.

Most dogs bark because they're bored, they have pent up energy to release or they've learned that barking gets them something. All of these are adjustable situations that can result in a quiet, peaceful home and neighborhood.

1. The bored dog.
Some dogs who live in backyards 24/7 get very little attention. What time they do get is usually confined to the yard itself. This can get very old very quickly - how long can you stay in the house before you have to run an errand just for a change of scenery?

These are the dogs that bark at the mail carrier, the meter reader, the squirrels, a passing car and you when you pull up in the driveway - just for something to do!

The first and best solution to this kind of barker is to simply walk them once a day. They are craving attention and exercise, so give them both on a good long walk. They'll get a new perspective on the neighborhood and you can show them that there's really nothing to bark at.

If this isn't an option for some reason, set aside time every day to interact with them inside their fence. Play fetch with a ball or Frisbee, let them play in the sprinkler or just give lots of belly rubs. Dogs are social creatures and can have a complete change in attitude just by paying them some serious attention.

And when you go inside, leave something in the yard for them to play with by themselves. If they're distracted, they won't notice everything else around them.

2. The energetic dog.
This is the dog that jumps up to the window barking when it hears something outside. It may also be an outdoor dog that has no fence so it's chained up all day.

These dogs need tons of exercise - walks first, and then fetch and other active games. Tire them out so they're ready for a good long nap. It's hard to carry on at the front window when you're too pooped to party.

Because all dogs bark, whine and growl when they hear things or see things, we'll allow the girls a little bit of noise, but when we stay stop, they are to stop and pay attention to us. (More about that in a minute.) The energetic dog will be anxious and jump at every little sound, so desensitizing them is super important. If they can hear the television or a radio while you're gone, it will not only give them soothing sounds, it will block out a lot of the outside noise that causes them to bark. And if they're like Sadie, just leave it on the animal channel and they'll be set for the day!

3. The untrained dog.
This is possibly the easiest one to fix. All dogs want a leader, someone telling them what's OK and what's not. This is totally different than cooing over them when they're barking anxiously. Setting rules about when and how to bark is new to a dog, but something they'll probably pick up easily.

We've taught the girls that if we give them a sharp "Shh" and point at them, then they are to stop whatever they're doing, sit down and look at us. The human has to be in control of the situation if you want to see any changes in your dog.

You may decide you want your dog to bark when someone comes to the door, but stop when you get there. Let them bark until you reach the door, then give a sharp sound ("shh," "stop" or some other sound that gets your dog's attention. Give the sit command and turn to open the door. If they get out of the sit, put them back and try again. Do not open the door until they are under control and quiet. Remember, they're used to getting what they want just because they're barking.

All of these barking situations call for the human to step up and spend time with them, training them and teaching them what's acceptable and what's not in your house. We still work with the girls every day and we see improvements all the time. Have patience and have fun! Your neighbors will thank you.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Save at the Doctor's Office

One of the most expensive parts of our life is our health care. We often have no choice but to seek medical advice for everything from everyday injuries to chronic pain.

There are many ways to lower the amount we pay each time we visit the doctor.

1. Be informed before you walk in. Have a list of your medications, write down all of your symptoms and bring all of your insurance and medical information with you. Don't waste time or money in the office when you can bring what you need with you.

2. Find out if an appointment is even necessary. When you call the office and give your symptoms, ask if they're severe enough to warrant a trip in or if you can get some over-the-counter treatment. The receptionist may tell you to come on in, but she may also recognize right away if you've got something treatable. But always ask.

3. Ask for generics. If you could pay a fraction of the cost for a medicine that works just as well, wouldn't you ask your doctor for it?

4. Look over all your forms and bills. Make sure you know exactly which procedures, tests and labs you're being charged for and which go to insurance. If there's anything you don't understand, ask before you pay anything.

5. Check into payment plans. Doctor's offices these days have all kinds of plans implemented to make sure their patients can pay their bills. If you can't afford your bill the day you're there, ask about what payment plans they have available.

6. Change some lifestyle habits. If you take better care of yourself now, you'll be in the doctor's office less and have a better quality of life. Then you'll only visit the doctor for serious problems and save oodles of money.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On-The-Road Treats

So you're hitting the road over the holidays, but you don't have the time or the money to get snacks and meals along the way? Not a problem - packing some simple, healthy treats before you leave will save hours, dollars and pounds.

If you store your treats in plastic bags and resealable containers, you'll be able to avoid the high prices at convenience stores and the restaurants right off the interstate.

So what are the best choices for on-the-road food?

* Fresh fruits and vegetables. With a cooler this is an easy choice. Choose "easy-to-eat-in-the-car" fruits like grapes, cherries and apple slices. Oranges and bananas are fine if you peel them ahead of time. For veggies, cut up celery and carrots, then throw in some raisins and you're set!

* Dried Fruit
* Trail Mix
* Whole Grain Crackers
* Pre-popped Popcorn
* Chocolate Covered Nuts
All of these prepackaged, resealable snacks are perfect for taking in the car, as long as you're careful not to drop between the seats.

* String Cheese
* Hard-boiled Eggs.
Kept in the cooler, these are great treats that will fill you up quickly. Plus you'll get some much-needed protein and dairy.

* Granola Bars
* Toaster Pastries.
If you need a little sugar kick, use one of these healthier ways to get one. Stay away from too much chocolate (you'd hate for it to melt in the hot car) and other candy since they will just make you tired. Not a good thing when you're driving!

* Sandwiches you made right before you left.
Use really great bread (or those new sandwich thins), deli meat and cheese and a smidge of condiment to make some traveling sandwiches. Don't use anything that will fall out, though, since you may be some distance away from a place to clean up.

* Drinks.
Even though you don't want to stop at every rest stop along the way, you'll need to stay well hydrated. Pack plenty of water so you don't pay exorbitant prices along the way. Pour fruit juice into small empty water bottles to alternate with your water. And tuck in some flavored tea packets to mix in a water bottle later.

While traveling, keep all items that need to be chilled in a cooler and all others in a bag between the seats. If you're traveling with puppies like we are, put them in something zip-topped that they can't get into. I refuse to share my popcorn with anyone but Danny!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

'Tis the Season For Creative Decorating

We are not blessed with the best front door for holiday decorations. We have both a solid door and a screen door and there is very little space in between. I was resigned to the fact that we just wouldn't hang anything this winter.

Then I found this great craft/decorating idea that was so simple and so inexpensive. You can either hang it over the front of your screen door or hang it from a finishing nail on a solid door. So pretty and so versatile!

You will need:
6-8 pine cones (real or artificial)
6-8 2-3' lengths of ribbon
Hot glue gun
Seasonal decoration (like the cranberry heart pictured)
Twine or wire

Note #1: All of the items you need for this craft can easily be found at the dollar store at this time of year. Also look for post-season sales and you can find exactly what you need for very little money.

Note #2: When decorating or crafting with real pine cones, bake them at 200 degrees for 20 minutes before using. This will kill any creep crawlies in them and harden the sap that would otherwise leak out all over your project. Just lay a single layer of pine cones on a baking sheet and watch them closely at about the 15 minute mark. You don't want burnt cones.

1. Cut a variety of lengths of ribbon between two and three feet long.

2. Fold over one end of the ribbon about 1/2" and attach that flap with hot glue to the pine cone. Hold in place for a minute until the glue cools. Repeat with as many pine cones as you would like in your decoration.

3. If you would like to add a seasonal piece like the cranberry heart shown, attach a piece of twine or wire to it and run it behind the lengths of ribbon.

4. Gather the ends of the ribbons together and adjust the lengths so they are appealing to the eye. Tie the top of the ribbons in a knot and trim the ends to even them up.

5. If you are going to loop the decoration over the front door, attach a short piece of twine or wire to the back of the knot and then attach to the top of the inside of the door with a finishing nail. If you are hanging it on the outside of the inside door, simply loop the knot over a finishing nail.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Finally...The Meaning of Life

If you ask the secular world what it thinks the meaning of life is, you'll hear phrases like: motivated by goals, discover your mission, a sense of your own identity, a vision of where you want to go in your life, and going after your dreams for a better life.

While these may sound like worthy ambitions, they all fall miserably short of what the Bible says are to be our focus in life.

The true meaning of life is this: Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, though, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. (Deuteronomy 6:1-3)

In the very first verse we are commanded to "do" these commandments, statutes and judgments - in other words, continually practice them. We have heard His message, and are now instructed to put what we know into practical use in real life. For the Israelites this meant they would be distinguished from all the other nations of the world because of their loyalty to God.

For us, it means that we will also be set apart from the world because of our obedience to the Lord, because it is such a different walk than theirs. Whatever land we possess and whoever is there with us to witness to and interact with, we are commanded to be the example of holiness.

The fear of God in the heart is the most powerful principle of obedience. Verse two says that those who fear the Lord will not only be motivated to keep His statutes themselves, but to pass them on the the next generation. Once we have that fear of God in our own hearts, we should be motivated to teach others the blessings of understanding.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

Only by having a healthy fear and respect of God can we grow in knowledge and understanding of God's will for our lives. The blessing of submission to God's command is crystal clear at the end of the verse: that thy days may be prolonged.

Fear God and it will be well with your soul. If we practice what we have been taught, we are led to our own land flowing with milk and honey. There is no greater reward than prosperity from and closeness to God.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Where Have All the Courteous Drivers Gone?

Driving is one of our favorite things to do. Danny and I love road trips and can't wait for ours next weekend to Louisiana. There's something about the open road that just speaks to you, encouraging you to drive a little further and see what else is out there.

And then you happen upon other drivers. I don't mind sharing the road with courteous drivers, ones who use turn signals and don't talk on their cell phones while gesturing with the other hand. There are some fellow travelers who actually make driving fun again.

But it seems like wherever you go now, rude motorists follow you. Just driving the 20 minutes to church we have to spend time guessing what the cars around us are going to do.

As opposed to popular belief...I am NOT a mind reader!

So please, make the roads safe and enjoyable for everyone on the road with you by being a super-courteous driver. There's more to driving than turning the car on, pointing it in a direction and stepping on the accelerator.

* Use your turn signal - all the time. This is law almost everywhere when you are changing lanes, within 100 feet of your turn or taking an off ramp. Don't make other people nervous wondering what you're about to do in your vehicle.

* Give other drivers plenty of space. Don't hurry up and pass someone so you can exit the highway right in front of them. Don't crowd the line. And please don't tailgate. You may not get caught doing it, but you'll scare somebody half to death. (I mean me!!!)

* Keep your hands on the wheel. It's so easy to adjust the radio, eat, put a new CD in or look for something in your purse, but please don't. One little swerve can panic another driver and cause an accident. Distracted driving is incredibly dangerous and one of the easiest things not to do.

* Look around you before you do anything. Before you back out of the driveway. Before you turn the corner. Before you pass. Before you change lanes. Before you take an off ramp. Be aware of everything that's happening around you - use your mirrors, lean over and look out the windows, and even (gasp) turn your head and look some more!

* Teach the next generation the same ideas. If they don't learn anything else from our influence, we need to be teaching our teenage drivers how to be courteous and defensive on the road. It has to start with us, but it can continue for generations if we instill some common sense in new drivers.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Are Your Priorities?

Usually, we find just enough time to get everyone up and around in the morning, get some work done, run some errands, fix a couple of meals and put everyone to bed. By the end of the day we wonder where the time went and why we're not getting much accomplished outside the everyday stuff.

So where have you set your priorities? What people, activities and tasks are getting the majority of your attention every day? Do you want more family time? Are you wondering where your personal free time went? Would you like some time to breathe during the day? Put your priorities in order and you'll find time here and there just for you.

* God comes first. Time in prayer and Bible study are essential for the morning time. I know I don't feel ready to face the day without Scripture and prayer time before everything else. God deserves the firstfruits of everything we have, including our time. When time with Him is in the forefront of our minds, we can better face the rest of the day.

* Decide where the value lies. Is work taking you away from family? Is your hobby keeping you from attending church services regularly? Are you so busy you don't even remember what your hobbies are? Take a look at what's truly consuming your time and compare those to the things you'd like to be doing. When you put the two lists together, you'll see that you place some of each in high importance. Weave them together and balance out your day.

* Evaluate the time you're spending. Briefly analyze how you spend each hour of the day. You may find that you spend a lot of time running errands when you'd rather be sewing. Can you consolidate trips so you make fewer of them and have more time at home? Think about cooking some meals ahead of time or fixing some in the slow cooker so you're freed up to do other activities.

* Define "critical." Many of the items on our agenda are "have-to's" to keep our homes running smoothly. This includes cooking, cleaning, car pool and some of our errands. The others are things we decide to do in between. Often we label something as a "have-to" when it's really a "I probably should" and it gets bumped up higher on our agenda. If you truly want some time back, spread out those other things over the course of a few days and leave some breathing room for yourself. Not only will you feel better, but you're more likely to enjoy what you're doing.

* Be aware of deadlines. A birthday next weekend will take precedence over Christmas shopping. Fixing dinner for tonight comes before surfing the Internet. If you can put all the tasks for a short period of time into a time line for when they need to be completed, you'll have a great picture of what needs to be done first. Save yourself some rushing later by planning things out now.

* Know when to stop. Why do we often think that we have to push through and finish everything right this minute? Then we get exhausted, find no enjoyment in what we're doing, and make ourselves miserable! Unless it's a life or death emergency, there is no reason why we shouldn't allow ourselves to schedule in some breathing time. Rejuvenate yourself and then tackle that next project.

When you find that extra time you thought you'd lost, spend a little bit of it thanking God for the strength and health to be so busy. We are truly blessed with each moment that we're given, and every one of them should be used for His glory. So look at your priorities in life, in your week and through God's eyes. Then say a prayer and take on the day!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Is Your Pet Pampered?

Now I know that my dogs are a little can tell by the way they jiggle when they walk. And Cayenne is no exception - she has me wrapped around her little paw. But when trying to decide if you just love you pets a lot or they're truly too pampered, ask yourself these questions:
* Are your pet's clothes making a better fashion statement than your own?
* Do you hire someone to walk your dog because you don't think you could make it around the block?
* Does your pet get more massage than you do?
* Do you provide steps to get into your bed instead of letting them sleep on the floor?
* Was your pet's food last night higher quality than what you fed your family?
* Have you ever thought about purchasing vitamin water for your pet?
* Do you let the cat lay across you arm until your finger loses all blood flow?
* When you go on vacation, do you leave your animals at a luxury resort - which is nicer than where you're going?
* How many accessories does your pet have compared to what you have?
* Do your pets receive better gifts for the holidays than you do?
* Have you ever purchased a cookbook for doggie treats?
* Do you harass the kids about picking their stuff up off the floor, and then realize it's all cat toys?
* Have you ever visited
* Would you be disturbed if you dog chewed on a stick instead of the 27 toys laying in the yard around her?
* Do you own a talking dog bowl that comforts your dog while you're away?
* When you get in bed at night, do you maneuver yourself so you don't disturb anything four-legged?
* Did you ever consider buying a pet stroller instead of letting them walk?
* Are you aware of the fact that there are "doggie diaper bags?"
* Do you have more pictures of the cats and dogs than the rest of your family?
* Have they ever had anything custom-made?

We're going out for a walk now, and then I think we'll chase a stick for a while. Care to join us?

Friday, October 23, 2009

We Spent How Much???

After coming home from the commissary this week, I stared dumbfounded at the receipt in my hand. I had estimated how much this trip would cost as I planned the menus, and this was not the figure I came up with.

Does this sound like a typical day at your house, too? Want to know where that money went and how to keep it from happening next week? Here are some of the things I discovered as I assessed the situation.

* Plan your list in advance. As you fill out your shopping list for the week, planning menus and restocking the pantry, stick to exactly what you need. Copy ingredients straight from the recipes and actually look to see what empty. This will keep you from guessing later while you're at the store and buying things you already have.

* Decide now exactly what you'll get as a treat. If you're wandering down aisles at the store and something looks good, you'll throw it in the cart. In the next aisle something else will catch you eye, but you don't put back what you got in the first aisle. Splurging on yourself is totally acceptable, but not a grab bag from throughout the store. If you choose something ahead of time, you can pass up the others and save money.

* Don't shop for groceries when you're hungry. This sounds tired and cliche', but it's absolutely true. You'll buy more, bigger, and differently when you're shopping on an empty stomach. Everything looks good, and you stray from your list, when that voice in your tummy says "Ooh...look!"

* Use coupons only for those items on your list. But I have a coupon for 10 cents off a 75 pound bag of dog food! I'm saving money so I should get it, right? Wrong! Even if it were a great sale, make sure it's something that goes with your meal plan for the week or is something you're running out of. If it's something you never buy or have to buy six more ingredients to make it a meal, skip it for now and plan on it for next week.

* Avoid impulse buys. There are some great sales at grocery stores right now. There are new items being added all the time and they're presented in eye-catching ways. Don't fall for it! If it's not in your spending plan and it won't fit with this week's meals, don't get it! The end caps of aisles are notorious for having "sales" that really aren't. The checkout is the worst place to buy snacks or drinks because they are outrageously expensive. Plan accordingly and save some serious change.

* Don't let others enable your spending. If you're shopping with someone else, make the decision before you ever enter the store that you're going to stick to the list, get in and get out. If you've already decided on your splurges, don't be talked into adding something to the cart. And don't try to talk them into saying it's OK to add something yourself. If you truly want to save money, you have to curb the extras - save them for something truly special.

* Make sure you know your store's policies. Don't assume anything - do you have the current sale paper? Do they offer rain checks when items are sold out? Will the accept coupons printed from the computer? Do they double and triple coupons, or accept competitor's coupons? If you've planned to spend a certain amount and any of these assumptions fall through, you'll spend a lot more than anticipated. Check out the situation before you reach the checkout line.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Delight of a Find

Several months ago we brought a shed-full of boxes Danny's parents had in storage. It's been a blessing to have family mementos where we can see and enjoy them, but there was one special treat tucked in a box.

Danny's mom had saved two plastic bags full of clipped recipes. Now, I know they were at least a decade old because that's how long they had been tucked away, but many were much older. Some were even in her father's handwriting - a real treasure both genealogically and in the eyes of a foodie.

Needless to say I've been sampling recipes from those bags for months. Here's a favorite:

Crab Delight Bake
2 packages Louis Kemp Crab Delights (real crab flakes if you can afford it)
1/4 cup margarine
1 bunch green onions, chopped
6-8 oz can mushrooms, sliced and drained
1/2 cup bread crumbs (something with some flavor!)
salt to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste (the spice, not my cat)
1/3 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese (fresh, please)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Saute mushrooms and onions in medium skillet in margarine. Set on medium heat and saute until tender. Spread mixture in the bottom of an 8x10" baking dish.

3. In a small bowl, combine salt, Cayenne pepper and bread crumbs. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the dry mixture over the vegetable mixture. Top with the crab delights. Cover with remaining bread crumb mixture and then the cheese.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese and crumbs are toasted. Serve with cornbread, rolls or crackers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

To Everything There Is a Season

When we moved this past spring I knew that I wouldn't be sending Christmas cards this year. It wouldn't be because I'd still be unpacking or because I couldn't find what I needed to make, I'm a little more settled in than that.

We're sending Thanksgiving cards instead.

I want to make sure that everyone has our new address before they start sending their Christmas cards. It would also be nice to actually enjoy the Christmas season and not rush trying to get cards done, and then not appreciate the Scripture and message of them.

So in less than a month we'll be sending out cards in all of my favorite colors - I'm addicted to those deep, saturated shades like gold and navy. I much prefer a terracotta or an ivy tone to neon or pastel. Fall is my season!

If you have a similar idea, or just want to create some great fall cards, start pulling out the twine, leaf stamps and textured papers. Match up some denim designs and falling leaves with torn edges and buttons.

And add some great Scripture. Try some of these:

Deuteronomy 11:14
Psalm 1:3
Ecclesiastes 3:1
Psalm 126:5
2 Corinthians 9:6
Galatians 6:9

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Gift of Submission

Whenever we hear the word "submission," we automatically go on the defensive. Why should we turn ourselves into a doormat for someone else? We're grown women making adult decisions, so where is the need to submit to anyone?

First and foremost - the Bible definition of submission is not allowing people to walk all over you. To submit means to obey, to reverence and to honor. We get this picture in our heads of letting someone lord over us, but submission is really about giving credit, respect and authority where they are due.

So when and where is submission most needed in a victorious Christian woman's life?

1. Submission to God's authority. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7) We don't know the future, we don't know what's happening in other people's lives and we don't know the plan for our own lives. There is one God Who does, and He requires our humility, our respect and our submission. God's grace and mercy sustain us, bless us and keep us, and when we yield to His authority, He can have free reign of all that we are. We cannot hold back anything out of pride or indifference, because He expects complete submission from His children.

2. Submission to our husband. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22) In a proper, functional marriage, the Bible says the husband is to be head of the household. As long as we are not asked to do anything that goes against God's Word, we are to follow the instruction of our husband with high esteem and value. They will not always be right, but neither will we. Submission means allowing each half of the marriage to fulfill the roles they were instructed to by God.

3. Submission to other believers. I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. (1 Corinthians 16:15-16) We are to show respect and honor to anyone who is devoting their lives to Christ. There are many senior saints in our midst that deserve our submission for their labor for the Lord. They've been in this walk so much longer than we have, and Scripture says it is only proper that we regard them with the honor befitting a Titus older woman.

4. Submission to earthly authority. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:13-15) Sometimes the government doesn't make Godly choices. Sometimes law enforcement officials don't make Godly choices. Sometimes our bosses and superiors at work don't make Godly choices. Sometimes we wonder why we even bother paying attention at all. We do because the Bible says it is God's will that we obey, as long as we aren't going against His Word. Knowing the motives and rationale of some leaders makes this difficult, but there must still be respect for the position of authority.

When we choose to respect and honor those with influence over our lives, we can be at peace with them and have a closer walk with God. Submission is not throwing away your independence or giving anything up - it's about growing in God's grace and allowing relationships to flourish because we yield to authority, laying our pride aside.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How Does Your Winter Garden Grow?

Now that nighttime temperatures are dropping, we need to be thinking about winterizing our yards and gardens. If your lows are in the upper 30s to low 40s, it's time to get to work preparing for the winter months and making easier work in the spring.

* Clear out flower beds and around trees. Remove weeds, annuals and dying or diseased leaves from trees and other plants.

* Take care of trees and shrubs.
Trim larger, overhanging branches so there are no surprises during winter storms. Don't over-mulch around the bottom of trees, or you'll create lovely little homes for rodents and bugs over the winter. And wait until the first frost to put it out, so you don't attract them while they're looking for a winter home.

* Mulch your perennial vegetables. This will prevent root damage and protect plants from extreme temperature changes.

* Treat perennials appropriately. I was under the impression that when fall was over, you trimmed your perennials down to 6-8 inches for the winter months. Actually, certain plants do wonderfully well in the winter, and don't need to be pruned at all. Check into the specifics of the perennials you have - some of them you'll get to enjoy longer. But once they're done looking their best, trim them out.

* Mow one more time. Set your blades as low as your particular kind of grass will handle and mow one last time this season. Bag all the clippings and put them in your compost pile, if you have one. Then pull or treat your weeds and your lawn will be good to go.

* Water one more time. Think about a nice layer of moisture in the ground before the first freeze hits. Some plants will thrive more than others with that extra water in a coupld of months when they need it, so take the time now.

* Clean up your workspace. Wipe down, oil and put away all your gardening and lawn care tools after your last use this season. Put away water hoses after they're dried out, sharpen blades and cover everything to keep it clean.

A little extra work now will provide you with a clean slate for spring. Take some time to prepare for some pretty winter plants, too, and a clean yard all winter long.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good Morning, Morning!

I think there are basically three types of attitudes when it comes to mornings:

1. "Good morning, morning! It's a grand and glorious day and I'm so excited to start it! Let's get to it and see what wonderful things God has in store for today!"

2. "Hurry, hurry, hurry! There are things to do as always and we have to get out the door. There's no time to slow down and appreciate anything because we've got to go, go, go!"

3. "Well, here's another day pretty much like yesterday. I guess I could get up and around, but bed feels good, the computer seems good, the newspaper seems good, the television seems good. There's no reason to rush things today, and I'll get around to stuff after while."

Did any of those sound familiar? Where we fall in these descriptions will also determine if we're bursting at the seams to start the day with prayer, Bible reading and a light heart, or if we choose to pull the covers over our head and try again later.

On the other hand, God has a special affinity for the morning time. Some of the greatest relationships the Lord ever formed happened early in the morning.

* Abraham: Genesis 22
* Moses: Exodus 8:20 and 9:13
* David: Psalm 5

What woman hasn't gone to bed at night feeling overwhelmed, worn down from the world and hoping a night in her bed will shed a different light on the day's events? When the morning comes, she finds that God has shown her mercy, not judgment. Every morning we have fresh examples of the Lord's compassion toward us. When our feeble efforts at comfort fail, God's compassions never do.

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Each new morning is filled with joy and hope, not because we feel like it but because God provides them. We have the promise of mercy, of renewal with the sunrise and of a faithful God that is waiting to hear from us tomorrow just like He was today.

We may not be able to physically leap out of bed in the morning, but we can be emotionally and mentally ready to meet the day head on because the Lord has promised to extend new mercies every time we step out to face the morning.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pet Allergies - The Pets

We joke around here that it would only be fair if Cayenne were as allergic to me as I am to here. But allergies in an animal are something I wouldn't wish on anyone.

In addition to sneezing and itchy eyes, pets' allergies also develop in their skin and ears. If you see any signs of skin irritation, red in the ears or anything else out of the ordinary, see your vet immediately. They are the ultimate source of information and treatment.

What Are They Allergic To?

Our pets can be allergic to the same things we are. Most common are inhaled allergens (dust, mold, pollen), contact (something that touches their skin), insect (fleas), and food (an ingredient in their daily food). Only specific tests by your veterinarian can tell for sure what you pet's allergies are. Sometimes an educated guess (like sneezing or coughing around certain plants at certain times of the year) can help your vet's diagnosis.

What Are the Symptoms?

Pets with allergies of most any kind will lick excessively, have red or hot ears, or have very itchy skin. They can be caused by airborne allergens, food allergies or insect bites. Certain allergies may cause respiratory distress, such as coughing, wheezing and sneezing. In any of these cases, head to the vet and have them diagnosed.

What Are the Treatments?

Your vet will have specific treatments for individual animals and symptoms. Immunotherapy (allergy shots), corticosteroids and antihistamines may all be considered based on the level of allergic reaction. They may also recommend shampoo treatments or antibiotics, once they know the nature of the allergy.

What Can I Do At Home?

Environmental control is the best method for preventing allergic reactions. On your vet's orders, change their food away from any that contain ingredients they are allergic to. Keep dust and pollen in the house to a minimum. Cool baths and certain sprays can provide temporary relief. Ask your vet for specific names and brands. Watch for excessive scratching and stop them before they create open wounds or remove fur.

Please do not self-diagnose or self-treat an animal's allergies. If you suspect any health problem in your pet, make a vet appointment immediately.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Brown Baggin' It

A frugal woman is always looking for ways to save a few dollars here and there. We are set as stewards over the money and provisions God has provided, and the smart woman will use her creativity to spend less.

One easy way to save on food, especially if there are several people in your family gone during the day, is to prepare brown bag lunches. If you add up how much you spend each week on eating lunch at the local restaurant or in the school cafeteria, the amount you'd spend on a sack lunch is a huge difference.

But brown bag lunches are boring, aren't they? If you use your imagination, they can be the treat of the day.

* Use up your leftovers. Time to raid the fridge! The roast or the ham from last night will make a great sandwich. Many days I'll put some leftover chicken in a container with some frozen veggies and they'll go in the microwave together at lunchtime. Use up that last little bit of "whatever" that won't make a full meal again.

* Plan ahead. Boil some eggs, cook some chicken and cut up some veggies. Pack them in small bags or containers and stack them in the fridge. Anything that saves you time in the morning is a blessing. Plus you're not scrambling to find something interesting to take.

* Make sandwiches interesting. Don't just put meat on a piece of bread - use tomatoes, lettuce, some spices and cheese to dress up something dull. You've probably got plenty of those ingredients leftover too! Experiment with different condiments until you find a spectacular combination.

* Then fancy-up a salad. This one of those that makes us grumble - not another boring salad! How about taco salad today, or a BBQ chicken salad? Adding a different dressing than usual or sald toppers instead of bacon bits can freshen up your greens. How about cubes of cheese, some sweet or spicy peppers and cherry tomatoes? The possibilities are endless.

* Make a fruit and cheese plate. Protein and fruit in one meal...doesn't get much healthier than that. Buy some fruit you don't often use when it's on sale and pair it with the cheese you probably have in your refrigerator. Add some crackers and you've got quite the spread.

* And add a great snack. Skip the vending machines and pack something healthy and interesting. Make your own trail mix with your favorite munchies. Choose dried fruit or mixed nuts to snack on instead of candy. Pack granola bars, veggies and dip or string cheese for an energy pick-me-up.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Superb Slow-Cooker Pork Chops

Are you looking for a fabulous dinner that takes minutes to prepare, but tastes like you slaved over it? Then look no further - these pork chops are a favorite in our house. Plus, they're very inexpensive and sit all day in the's a win-win! And once you have these, you'll never grill chops again.

You need:
8 boneless center cut pork chops
Your favorite meat rub
2 cans (14.5 oz) reduced sodium chicken broth
1 envelope onion soup mix
Potatoes and carrots (optional)

1. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large skillet. Cover your pork chops in the rub and brown on both sides.

2. While chops are browning, combine broth and soup mix in slow cooker and set on high.

3. To make a meal, chop potatoes and slice carrots. Leave out if you only want the meat.

4. Transfer chops to slow cooker and add potatoes and carrots.

5. Cook on high one hour, then reduce to low 7-8 hours. Meat will be incredibly tender - be careful removing it from the slow cooker or it will disintegrate into tasty little chop parts. Serve with potatoes and carrots.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I've Been Framed!

With all of the premade craft project starters out there, it's now super easy to make a great, creative gift. (Or decoration if you like it too much when you're done.)

This stand-up frame is a perfect example. With three pieces of paper, a few embellishments and half an hour, this frame goes together like a dream.

Technically you could make this frame yourself from scratch, but we busy women don't always have the time for that. For a couple of dollars at the craft store, this is a smart alternative.

1. Start by adhering the first sheet of paper to the frame. (Cat supervision is optional.) I used double stick tape, one of my personal favorites, but you could also use glue dots. Steer clear of wet adhesives just so the frame doesn't get soggy.

Wrap double stick tape around the inside edge of the picture opening - you'll see why in the upcoming steps.

2. Using a craft knife or a single blade from your scissors, score an X across the frame, going clear to the inner edge of the frame.

3. With that tape over the inner edge of the frame, you can now fold the flaps of the X back into the opening and they will stick. Trim them as necessary.

4. Decorate as desired.

5. Poke the tip of your scissors through the holes in the back of the top of the frame so you have tiny holes through the paper in front. Use thread, ribbon or twine to embellish the top of the frame.

6. Attach picture from the inside. Now it's ready to be put on display or wrapped and given.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Don't Mess With Your Success

We start out each week with grand and glorious expectations of what we're going to accomplish. Our Christian service is in the forefront of our minds and we're ready to face the day...

...and then something happens. Our schedule gets changed around. We're knocked out of whack by an emergency. We lose our focus. We get lazy. The next thing we know it's Friday, the week has flown by and we didn't accomplish half of what we'd planned. Sometimes we even feel like we've failed the Lord by not doing all we said we would.

Paul wrote in Romans: For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do (Romans 7:18-19).

We are not alone - battling our flesh is daily warfare that every Christian woman faces. So what are the issues we face in performing our service for God and how can we overcome them?

* Procrastination - I put off until afternoon what I could do this morning. I save for tomorrow what should get done today. Then I hit a wall and decide not to do it at about laziness. Any task that I perform for the Lord needs to be done with honor and respect. How can we glorify God in our efforts if we're not even doing them? Plan your Bible study, prayer, visitation, writing, calling and card mailing early and often - make your ministry primary every day.

* Confrontation - I hate cleaning bathrooms...I'm shaking just thinking about it. I know they need to be done today, but I can put it off indefinitely. I have a confrontational attitude toward cleaning the bathroom, but then I think about germs and other icky things in there. I don't want my family (or myself for that matter) coming into contact with anything dirty and nasty. The work that I do may be inconvenient and time consuming, but it's what I'm called to do to protect and care for my home.

* Overreaction - Does it really take FOREVER to unload the dishwasher? No, it takes five minutes. You can do that during a commercial. How long does it REALLY take to write an "I'm thinking of you" card and drop it in the mail? There's another five minutes. Will that woman you'd like to visit really keep you there ALL DAY, or can you spend an hour providing some comfort. When we stop to look at the situation for what it really is, we can truly see the benefits and blessings a little time and effort can supply. That's what happens when we take ourselves out of the picture and look at what God would have us do.

* Refraction - This is that scientific term that means a change of direction. It's what makes the straw in your glass of water look like it's broken. How often do we start a project, get up and say, "Oh, I was going to take care of that" and then go off in a whole different direction? The first task never gets done, and we probably do the same thing with the second. Distraction causes our minds to stay unfocused, keeping us from completing anything. When we stick to the task at hand, know what's coming next and accomplish what we set out to do.

* Disorganization - No...not me! I know exactly what's in that pile. Or was it that pile? This is the easiest one to fix, if we're willing to take a little time. Instead of not sending a card because you have no idea where they are, take a little while to find them all and put them together in one place with your stamps, envelopes and pens. Then next time they'll be in a logical place. Are you less willing to write letters or write a Sunday School lesson because there's no clean space to work? You don't have to clean the whole house, but clear off one spot somewhere and devote that spot to a workspace. Strive to keep that one table or desk clear and available whenever you need it.

* Rumination - Do you think about the task more than the time it would take to actually do it? Have you ever spent a week dreading a chore that took only part of the morning? Our minds can be terrible enemies when we let them go wherever they want. This leads to discouragement and procrastination. Instead, you can talk your mind into more positive thoughts by writing down exactly what you want to accomplish, what you need to do them and how long they will take. You'll be surprised at how easily you can talk yourself into doing something wonderful when you have all the facts.

In the end, all we have to remember is to turn each task of the day over to the Lord. I can of mine own self do nothing (John 5:30), but with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27). The only thing that can mess with our success in Christian service is ourselves. Decide today to put your flesh aside and trust the Lord.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How To Organize Any Room in 5 Easy Steps

When was the last time you said, "Now where on earth is that?" Was it in the past week, the past couple of days, or was it just this morning? If we were just a little better organized we'd all be set, wouldn't we? (OK...a lot more organized. I was trying to be nice.)

What if I told you it only takes five simple steps to organize any room in your home, not matter how large or small? Are you already laughing hysterically at me? Just wait until you try them.

1. Make a wish list. This is the fun part! Take a look at the room and think about exactly what you'd like to see it used for. Do you want new storage? Would you like a different floor plan so it's not so cluttered? Now is the time to put pencil to paper, plan exactly what you'd like to see this room be and get your ideas written out.

2. The design phase. Measure the room and make sure that what you're thinking is feasible. Locate all the outlets, the vents and the washer/dryer hookups - you'll have to rethink your plans if you're covering all the important things. Then decide what size you want new organizing accessories to be, where furniture can be moved to and how much space you have for storage.

3. Materials. Whoo! Take your list and your measurements and see what's available. If you want rolling carts in the pantry, you have the measurements with you to find exactly the right size. If you're getting a mail center for the kitchen, make sure you'll have enough counter space or wall space for it. There's nothing worse than making twelve trips for one silly little accessory. (Note: remember - you're buying for one room at a time. Don't get carried away.) Also make sure you have plenty of trash bags and cleaning supplies- this could get messy.

4. Work time. While this step can be labor intensive, it all depends on how disorganized you really are. Completely clear out the room in question so you have a blank slate to work with. As you take things out, decide if they're (a) something you have to keep, (b) something you need to take time to sort or file later, (c) something to donate, or (d) something that can do straight in the trash bag. Once the room is empty, clean from top to bottom, paying special attention to the walls, corners, windows and floors. Then pull out you master design lists and begin putting things back in the way you planned. Don't bring anything back into the room unless you've put it in its new home. That's how we got this way to begin with.

5. Keep it looking this way. When you get done with something, put it back. When you open the mail, throw out the envelope and little ads and file the forms. When you buy something new, get rid of something used. Take a mental picture (or real one if you want) of how the room looks all clean and organized as a prompt to keep it looking that way.

Clutter is not only dysfunctional, but it creates anxiety and chaos in an otherwise healthy home. Organization simply makes what you're already doing well just a little bit better - and working more smoothly. That sounds like motivation to me!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Time Waits for No Woman

It's the beginning of the week again - do you know everything that needs to be done? There are seven days laid out before you, and Psalm 89:47 says: Remember how short my time is...

So today we'll look at what's important in the upcoming days and how to prepare.

Planning: With everything we have planned in our house over the next week, there's no way I can remember it all on my own. I sit down on Sunday afternoon and plan menus, write down notes of when things need to happen and where we need to be on each day. Then that calendar goes with me everywhere for the week.

Work Time: Because I've mapped out seven days, I already know what chores need to be done on which days, so it's easier to be on task first thing each morning. For you this may be around the house, out running errands or on the job. I feel so much more productive when I can cross things off my list and really see the progress I'm making in my own handwriting.

The Unforeseen: When planning, purposely schedule in some time for emergencies and surprises. If you're scheduling things back-to-back-to-back, there's no way you can handle all of that plus something fun that might come up. Eliminate disappointment and prepare ahead of time.

Relaxation: There's no reason to hurry through the week and then realize you've not had any time for yourself and your family. If you have to schedule in some R&R, do it! Decide that every afternoon after lunch you're going to read for 10 minutes and have a cup of tea. Set up a game time for you and the kids. It's doesn't have to be a whole afternoon of loafing around, just enough to rejuvenate yourself and be ready to move on.

Health and Wellness: If you're not watching what you eat and getting plenty of rest and exercise, the work you want to do will suffer tremendously. If you're starting to drag - drink water, walk the dogs, have some cheese and crackers or sit down for five minutes. Your body is so important, both to your daily activities and to God.

The Extra Stuff: Do you have anything interesting planned for this week? Choose something out of the ordinary or something you haven't done in years and schedule it - in writing. Our time is truly short, and we're so blessed to have an abundance of blessings to partake in. Do some brainstorming and have fun!

Organize for the Future: Lord willing, there's another week coming up after this one. Do you want it to go more smoothly than the one before? Take a few minutes each day to make next week easier. File away the coupons you didn't use this week and plan meals around them. Get all of those appointment cards out of your purse and off the fridge and get them written down in your calendar. Make phone calls now and plan something exciting for next weekend. A little work now can make things a breeze down the road.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pet Allergies - The Humans

Our cat, Cayenne, was looking at me while I wrote today. I think she's fully aware of the situation - she came and jumped up in my lap, snuggled around my face and then plopped down for a nap.

So what's the big deal? Some people would love to have a devoted lap kitty like Cay. She's sweet and lovable and gentle. But I'm sure she's figured out that I'm horribly allergic to her!

If you're like me, you have sympathy for the itchy eyes, sneezing and sinus pressure that come along with pet allergies. There's nothing better than loving on your kitty while making sure the tissue box is handy.

Pet allergies come when your immune system overreacts to something the body thinks is harmful. Cayenne isn't harmful, but my system thinks her hair and dander are offensive, so it sends out histamine to counteract them. That's where the symptoms like red, itchy eyes and difficulty breathing come from.

Now on to the good news. There are ways to live peacefully in the same house as the sweet little pets causing this great big problem. While the obvious is to get rid of the cause of the allergy, that's usually a heart-breaking decision, so let's look at some less drastic options.

* Keep your pet well groomed. Bathe them often and brush or comb them to remove loose hair. You may find that this exacerbates the problem, so ask a loving, caring, wonderful sweet someone else to take care of that chore.

* Clean the floors and walls frequently. It's easy to see the hair in our house - black lab hair on everything light-colored and white Cayenne hair on everything that is dark-colored. It may be time consuming to try to get it all up, but you'll feel a lot better when you can breathe!

* Wash bedding and clothes as often as possible. Cay is notorious for sleeping by my feet during the night, but I'll wake up to her sitting on my chest, her wet nose against mine. She's just staring and trying to get some breakfast out of the deal, but now her hair is all over the bedding. Laundering and getting rid of the allergen will help you sleep better if this is your situation, too.

* Use a pet hair remover on furniture. If you have not seen the new ones, they're two rollers in a plastic case - you roll it back and forth over your furniture and it sucks up all the hair. Check this out!!!

* Use HEPA filters. These filters in your air system can remove a significant amount of hair, dander and allergens from the air. Keep them clean and change them regularly.

* Restrict your pet to certain areas of the house. This may sound cruel, but it keep a lot of their allergens out of that room. Then you can retreat there in peace and clean air.

* Make a doctor's appointment. Your doctor can suggest and prescribe antihistamines, corticosteroids and decongestants. They may even send you through immunotherapy, a series of allergy shots that can train your system to recognize and accept your allergens.

Friday, October 9, 2009

DIY...Or Not

When we begin to think about home repairs and renovations, we instantly want to do as much of the work ourselves as we can and save some money. But is it really cheaper when you spend time and energy ruining a project and then pay to have it fixed, there's not much savings. The idea of hiring somebody to do the work and forking over that kind of money may seem excessive though, but there are certain home projects that may not be DIY.

Exterior doors: If you want to remove an existing door and install a new one, you're looking at a sizable project especially if it's a patio door, but it's still doable. If you need to cut a new hole in the side of the house, though, consider getting an expert.

Garage doors: It might be cheaper to install a new garage door...of you have the proper tools, time and expertise. If you're good at reading directions and are confident in your abilities, go ahead. Of you'd like less hassle and a door that goes up on the first try, you might want to hire a professional.

Roofing: With the proper tools and plenty of time, most types of roofing can be installed yourself. If you'd prefer not to call someone in the middle of the project to fix it, or you just don't have the equipment and energy, call a roofer.

Storage buildings: We put together a small shed a while back and it was fairly easy with three people, just time consuming. For larger buildings, definitely have a team put them together. The money might be worth the time and save you from a headache.

Water heaters: Gas water heaters are more difficult to install and jacket than electric. If you have a gas water heater in your home, you'll probably want an expert to take care of it.

Carpet and flooring: Depending on what you're installing and how much experience you have, replacing your flooring yourself can be a great way to save some money. But if you're not sure what's underneath your existing flooring or you've never tacked a project this expansive before, leave it to the pros. That's less expensive than buying more so they can fix your mistakes.

Kitchen cabinets and countertops: These require precise measurements and accurate fit. If this is your forte, give it a try. If you've always hated math and couldn't tell level with a level, skip this one and hire an expert.

Plumbing: Do you know how to shut off the main water valve? Do you know where the main water valve is? If not, you probably won't know how to proceed from there. That's the time to call a professional. If you do, find a great DIY plumbing book and the proper tools.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Never A Boring Chicken Be

If there's one staple we always have on hand it's frozen chicken. After a while, though, it gets a little dull fixing the same chicken recipes over and over again. But don't despair - instead of hiding your chicken away in the freezer because you can't handle the same old thing, play around with different coatings.

For all of these recipes, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a foil-covered baking sheet with nonstick spray. Coat chicken in egg wash, then in chosen coating mixture. Cook chicken for 30 minutes or until cooked through and the breading is golden.

Seasoned: seasoned bread crumbs

Italian: Italian bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese (pictured above)

Mexican: tortilla chips, chili powder and cumin

Breakfast: crushed cereal (flakes or puffed rice)

Cheesy: crushed cheese crackers, onion powder, pepper

Herb: herb stuffing mix, onion powder, paprika

Onion: crushed fried onion rings

Traditional: flour, paprika, thyme, oregano, ginger, ground mustard

Nutty: crushed salted nuts, honey, corn flakes, thyme

Game Day: crushed potato chips, salt and pepper, paprika

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Frugal Fall Flair

I absolutely refuse to spend gobs of money every season redecorating our house. It's already fall and before we know it winter will be here - I'll just have to put something else up in a few weeks.

But we want our homes to reflect the season, the holiday...and our budget. These pretty fall vases are just one example of how a little can go a long way.

Gather up:
2 glass vases - preferably something you already have or can get at the dollar store. Remember - we're being frugal.
A bag of river rocks - perhaps left over from the fall centerpiece we made three weeks ago (check it out if you didn't see it).
Apples - the number will vary depending on the size of your vases.
2 fall floral picks - the dollar store is a great place to find a variety of these.
Pine cones as needed

1. Cut apart the floral stems and take inventory of all your items. Divide them evenly between the two vases.

2. Layer rocks in the bottom of each vase.

3. Begin alternating apples, pine cones and larger leaves and flowers into vases.

4. Once the largest pieces are in place, fill in the crevices with the tiny flowers, leaves and pine cones. Be careful not to cover up the apples in the middle, as they are probably the focal point of your piece.

In the coming months, switch out the fall pieces for snow and Christmas bulbs. Pull out daisies and green leaves for spring. Replace the rocks with sand in the summer and put in oranges and sea shells.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sweet Sleep With God's Peace

There is one constant through every facet of our lives - sleep. If we don't get enough, we're cranky and irritable and of no use to anyone. If we sleep too long, we waste so much time that could be used serving the Lord. We've been sleeping since the day we were born and we'll sleep until the day we die.

But the perfect amount, that length of sleep that God knows is just what we need, will keep us going all day long.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2

In this busy, bustling world we live in, it is not difficult to become anxious and worried as each day progresses. It is only when we go to God that He can soothe our frazzled minds - and what better way than through sleep. When we are at peace with the Lord and the world around us, we can enjoy undisturbed sleep. This rejuvenates both mind and body, making us better servants when we awake.

This verse teaches us that it is pointless to wake up early or stay up late without God's blessing. This means worrying, working too many hours and participating in living that keeps us out until all hours of the night. This brings on tension, anxiety and trouble due to the lack of good sleep.

As saved, victorious women, we are God's beloved. He delights in blessing us with all we could ever want, and that includes deep, peaceful sleep. When we trust Him as the controller of all things, it is easier to rest at night knowing we don't have to worry or plan because the Lord has it all under control.

So tonight when you crawl into bed after your busy day, give God some time. Have some heart-to-heart prayer time that gives your heart and your concerns over to Him. With your mind clear, you can sleep the sweet sleep that only God's peace gives.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Spiritual House Cleaning

Today we're not going to talk about doing a hint of housework...unless you're led to. This isn't a list of chores...unless you make it one. The subject I'm writing about here may not even affect you...unless you let it.

We strive daily to make our homes a safe-haven and a place of refuge. With the cleaning and fixing and arranging we do we often overlook some of the trouble spots.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul said: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are new. Are there things in your home that shouldn't be? Are there remnants of that former life that haven't been removed, or are there some that you've let creep back in?

Let's go room by room and see what might be lingering.

Living Room: Are there DVDs or CDs that aren't appropriate and fitting for your life as a Christian woman? This is the time to weed out based on language and content - anything that's not glorifying to God goes!

Bedroom: Are there books under the bed that you're ashamed to have out on the shelf? There might be some that are fine and clean, but you've been using them to fill your heart instead of God's Word. These need to be purged and replaced with Scripture and books to feed your soul.

Kitchen: Are there food and beverages in the fridge and cabinets that are feeding your appetites and your waistline? Common sense says there should be no alcohol in a Christ-led home, but what about huge amounts of sugar and processed food? Clearing out all the junk food and making room for healthy, nutritious food can cleanse everyone in the house.

Closets: Are there clothes in your closets that either don't fit you properly or shouldn't be worn outside the house? A wardrobe makeover may be in order if there are some questionable items hanging in front of you every day. Remember modesty and Godliness in all you wear, but that doesn't mean baggy and unappealing. It simply means dressing well and appropriately.

Computer Room: Are there games, pictures, websites and other files on your computer that don't need to be there? They may not be filthy in any way, but they're just time-wasters and distractions. Some entertainment in the day is good, but not if it takes us away from God.

Garage: Are there cars in your garage that need to be cleaned out? I don't mean physically cleared out, but take a look at how you drive. The "old man" speeds, doesn't use turn signals, multi-tasks while behind the wheel and is generally discourteous to those driving near them. You may not have an "I'm a Christian" bumper sticker on your vehicle, but God sees the motives behind everything you do, even behind the wheel.

There is always room for improvement in our home, an the first step is identifying what needs to be addressed. I pray you'll take inventory of the "old things" in your home and replace them with the new through Jesus Christ.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'm Way Too Busy! How Can I Find More Time?

The way of the woman is to be busy, but not to the point of collapse! When you start listing all the things we have to do in a day, it would be nice if there were an extra couple of hours added in somewhere.

But there aren' what are the options for staying stress-free and happily busy?

* Feel free to say no! Just because we're loving, caring Christian women doesn't mean we have to agree to everything. If everyone else is as busy as you are, they'll probably understand if you don't sign up for everything, go everywhere and bring all the things they need. Pick and choose what fits in your schedule, not try to adapt your schedule around other people.

* Where does your time go? Do a quick calendar assessment and see exactly what activities are making you so busy. If there are some unnecessary time-wasters in there, purge them now! Then prioritize those things that are left.

* Figure out why you're doing what you do. Some pursuits like Bible study and ladies' visitation are worthwhile and glorifying to God. Others, like television and the internet, are simply interests. If you're choosing activities that grow you, fulfill God's purpose for your life and praise His holy name, keep at them. If you're caught up in empty time-fillers, consider finding something else to do.

* Keep an eye on your finances. This may sound funny, but how often do we work harder and longer because we need to make a payment or have some extra money saved up? Be super-careful with how you spend what you do have and with how much time you spend earning more.

* Get organized and stay that way. One of the biggest time-wasters I know is digging through piles to find something when it should have been filed weeks ago. If you keep up with the paper crunch throughout the house, you'll be amazed how much more smoothly your life can function. Then move on to books, toys, tools, kitchen drawers...before you know it you'll have tackled the whole house!

* Schedule one hour a day for yourself. What??? I'm already out of can I afford an extra hour? How can you afford not to give yourself sixty minutes of something you love? Take your lunchtime or an hour while laundry is going to do a craft, read a book, do your workout or take a walk. Rejuvenate yourself and the rest of the day will seem so much easier.

* Eliminate distractions. Take the phone off the hook, give the kids a project and turn off the television. Anything will take half the time when you can really concentrate on the task at hand.

* And most importantly, take time for God. Don't let you busy-ness talk you into not reading your Bible and praying. Make the time first thing every day to talk to the Lord, read His Word and get some instruction on how He'd like you to plan your day. The day is always sweeter when we're in touch with God.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

On The Road Again

We're getting ready for a road trip in a few weeks we're taking Bailey and Sadie with us. This is Sadie getting a practice run in!

Why spend money on boarding or pet sitters when you can take your pets with you? Sound like a hassle? It doesn't have to be if you truly want some bonding time with your four-legged companions.

1. Find pet-friendly places to stay. There are lots of hotels and campgrounds that take pets, but find out all of their rules and regulations ahead of time. Some only allow one dog, and others won't let you leave them there unattended. Know what you're getting into before you're actually checking in.

2. Take a few rides beforehand. Some pets will not travel distances very well, and cats especially don't handle being confined for hours. Practice getting them in and out of the car and take progressively longer rides until it's old hat.

3. Make sure you have ID tags and vet info in the car with you. You'll want all the important records handy not just for an emergency, but in case your pet is lost in transit. Microchipping is especially vital if you're traveling a long distance.

4. Prepare the car for animals. Our leather seats would be ruined without some blankets across the back seat. If there is extra stuff in the car, take it out for the duration of the trip so they'll have plenty of room to move and don't decide to chew on things.

5. Schedule a vet visit. You may need to renew medications or get some advice on traveling with a pet that has certain health conditions. You'll also want them updated on all their shots before you hit the road. Keep those papers handy in case you need them.

6. Pack for them the way you'd pack for yourself. Bring all of their medications, grooming tools and a couple of favorite toys. Have them handy in the car for when you stop along the way.

7. Pack a large container of fresh tap water. You'll also want collapsible bowls. The last thing you'll feel like doing is buying more water and dishes every time you stop for exercise. Plus you'll want towels so they don't bring half a bowl of water back on their muzzle. Yes, we have leather seats...

8. Walk your pet right before you head out. The more tired they are the less anxiety and energy they'll have in the back seat. Plus if they do their business at home, you can get a couple of hours of driving in before you have to stop.

9. Plan to stop at least every two hours. You'd hate to be penned up in a tiny vehicle all day with no way to ask to stop. Make the decision for your pet, and make it often. They'll get some exercise, some water and a chance to relieve themselves. Then you'll all feel better.

10. Keep pets on a leash any time you're outside the vehicle. This is probably the most important thought - any pet, no matter how well trained, can get over-excited by new smells and sounds. There would be nothing worse than being away from home and either losing your pet or having them hit by a car. It might seem easier to let them run free for a while, but the risks just aren't worth it.

So be safe, be prepared and have a great trip!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Putting Your Financial House In Order

So you're getting ready for the fall cleaning? Are you fixing up the yard for cooler weather? Have you changed your closets yet with warm clothing?

This is also a great time to give your financial house a good makeover, too. With the economy and our personal finances in a squeeze, every little but helps. Psalm 37:16 says: A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked. So let's put that little we have to good use!

* Take a few minute to peruse the situation. Sit down for a little while one evening with your financial documents in hand and figure out where your money is going. Not knowing the current state of your money is like going out to the car and hoping against hope that there's gas in it. Knowledge is power when it comes to your finances.

* Double-check your payments and balances. Make sure you know exactly what you owe and where, and that you're not paying for something you're not using. Will paying off a certain balance put you in a better financial situation? Can you switch something to get better interest of more benefits?

* Consult a debt calculator. If you have serious debt, consider plugging some numbers into a debt calculator. You can find one on-line or through your bank. All you need is your loan information, your credit card statements and your annual household income before and after taxes. These numbers will help you assess the best ways to reduce and eliminate your obligations.

* Check your insurance rates. If it's been a while, you may be paying much more than you need to for home, renters, car or health insurance. Do some investigating and see what other companies are offering and what their incentives are for switching. This may save you more money than you realize.

* Look at your withholding numbers. Make sure you're not withholding too much from your taxes each year. While getting a nice tax return seems like a great idea, would you rather have your money working for you all year or for the government? If there are any life-altering changes in the past year or you want extra money in your paycheck, review your withholdings.

* Figure out if you can be setting some money aside. If your financial makeover goes well, you might be able to put more each month into savings programs that can really work for you. Allocate funds for retirement, college and holiday spending, and make sure you have at least three months' pay in savings in case of an emergency.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Positively Precious Pop-Up Cards

After making all kinds of flat cards and cards with 3D elements on the front, it's time to move on to something more eye-catching.

The dimensional effects on this pop-up card are made with simple stands cut through the inner paper of the card. Gather some coordinating paper, double stick tape, scissors, a paper cutter and some stickers and die cuts in your selected theme.

1. Cut a piece of cardstock for the base of your card. You want a stronger, stiffer piece of paper because you'll be cutting into in a minute.

2. Mark pairs of lines on the back of the folded card. Each pair will be cut and folded to make stair steps inside. Draw as many pairs as you would like steps inside.

3. Cut up each line, but do not cut across. You want them cut but not separated from the paper.

4. Push the now loose stands in through the slot so they stick out on the inside of the card. Fold the card and crease the steps so they will stand up when the card is opened.

5. The inside of your card should now have little stands. You can decorate the tops and the sides of the steps so your designs will POP up when opened. Make sure your 3D elements don't stick outside of the edges of the card, or it won't fit in the envelope.

6. To cover up the slits you made in the cardstock, cover the back of the card with decorator paper. Then decorate the outside and inside with coordinating papers, inks and embellishments.