Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Embossing Your Edges

One of my favorite techniques for creating a finished edge on paper craft projects is to emboss them. The process is like distressing, but you add the heat embossing powder for some extra shine.

You'll need:
Your paper project
Embossing ink (preferably tinted)
Embossing powder
Heat gun

1. Using one corner of the embossing ink pad, swipe the edges of your paper. Imagine that you're distressing the edge, but you're using light ink. The tinted embossing pads make this much easier.

2. Coat inked areas with embossing powder and tap off the excess.

3. Heat with tool until melted and shiny.

4. Repeat the process on all coordinating pieces.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Peace - Part 5

For the past month we've been looking at what the Bible says about peace - that perfect peace that goes beyond all understanding. There are a few everlasting truths about peace that come straight from Scripture.

* Peace means trusting that the Lord's plan is better than your plan. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Colossians 3:15

* Peace is allowing God to handle the battle. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. Exodus 14:14

* Peace comes from following Him with all your heart. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. James 3:18

* Peace is seeking after the Lord's will in all things. Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 1 Peter 3:11

* Peace is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

* Peace comes by listening for the Lord's voice. And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace. Genesis 41:16

I pray that the Lord of peace, the True and Living God that plants peace deep in the believer's heart, will bless you exceeding abundantly above. Seek His peace, devote yourself to Him and He will provide.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Preparing For Company

We have the pleasure and privilege of having my dad staying with us for week or two. While this is a joy, there's a lot of preparation that goes into opening your home to other people.

1. Keep things in perspective. Remember that your company is here to enjoy time with you, not search through each room and look for problems. Yes, things need to be clean and somewhat tidy, but don't stress out over having every single inch of the house spotless. Inviting, yes. Perfect, no.

2. Make one room a haven. We cleared out our spare bedroom of everything that was junky, cluttered or just taking up room, just so there would be one perfect little place to get away. It has minimal pet hair in it, towels, storage space to unpack and dresser tops for laying things out. It's all about creating a comfort zone for someone unfamiliar with our home.

3. Be sure to stock up. There should be plenty of food in the kitchen, plenty of towels in the linen closet and plenty of free time on your schedule. Think ahead to any needs your guests might have and have the necessities on hand.

4. Make this an opportunity to spruce things up. While you are cleaning and straighten, look at your rooms from a whole different perspective - that of someone who's not usually there. Are the piles of paperwork an eyesore? Take care of some of them before your company gets there and store the rest until after they leave.

5. Have an inviting entryway. Clear off the area around the front door, inside and out, so that everyone feels welcome. Sweep the porch, check all the lighting and clean the welcome mat. Inside, dust, clear away clutter and then sweep and mop.

6. Have several great conversation areas. Whether it's the dining room, around the kitchen table or all over the living room, make sure there are places to just sit and talk. Preferably your guests won't have to move your "stuff" out of the way to make room to sit, so think ahead to the kind of environment will encourage conversations.

7. Keep and open mind. Your guests will have needs and requests when they arrive, so be prepared to make an extra trip for something, adjust your schedule and change your plans. Remember that this is special time, not a set-in-stone plan that has to be followed.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cayenne The Prairie Dog

This is Cayenne's newest trick. It's so simple, but it's the cutest thing! She's addicted to her new treats, so she'll do just about anything you ask.

video

Next we'll try a walrus imitation, or perhaps a mountain goat. There are just so many options!

Friday, March 26, 2010

In A Perfect Coupon World

Have you ever noticed that there isn't as much bang for your coupon buck as there used to be? It seems to me that lately coupons have been getting smaller in amount and few in products I actually use. So in a perfect coupon world:

* All coupons would be for the products I use and not solely for name brand and expensive products.

* Grocery stores would schedule their weekly sales in correlation with the coupons the manufacturers released.

* If a store brand price was less than the name brand price for the same product, you could use your manufacturer's coupon for the store brand product.

* Produce producers would give coupons for their MVP customers, since there are rarely coupons for fruits and vegetables.

* Your grocery store would send coupons and discounts on the items you purchase most, either mail or e-mail, just for your loyalty.

* The store should give you your coupon back after you've used it, then allow you to use it again later in the week.

* Other stores (besides grocery stores) would have coupons, and they would be proportionate to the goods and services they provide.

* Coupons would be perforated so you never have to cut out again.

* You should be given the opportunity to trade in old coupons for their cash value, if you spend it at that store.

* There would be no expiration date for coupons, especially when you have four of the same kind and don't need 12 boxes of cereal this week.

But no, this isn't the perfect coupon world. Until it becomes one, I guess we'll have to do it the old-fashioned way. Clip, plan, use and save.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Are You Out Of Your Cooking Rut?

Two weeks ago I challenged you to break out of your ordinary kitchen routine. If you followed through, I'd love to hear your results.

So here's how our week of "No More Cooking Rut" went!

Sunday: Slow-Cooker

I started to fix the usual pork chops in the slow cooker like I always do, but then I realized that was going completely against my point. So, I pulled out my Crock Pot cookbook (which was a little dusty), and put together Sweet and Sour Shrimp. It only had to cook for 3-4 hours on low, so I turned it on right before I left for the evening service and it was cooking away when we got home. All I had to do was add the last couple of ingredients and we were all set.

Monday: Meal made from grocery store circular

This is very possibly my favorite meal of the week. Our local store had BOGO free bags of chicken, 99 cent bags of potatoes and deeply discounted veggies. So I put them all together in a foil packet with pepperoni, cherry tomatoes and picante sauce. They cooked for 35 minutes at 375 degrees and the house smelled wonderful for two days!

Tuesday: A family event.

This one didn't go just exactly as I'd planned. We had breakfast for dinner, but Danny had work to do on the computer. Instead of putting on his own apron, he talked to me while he typed and I cooked. Still very good time together.

Wednesday: New meal you've been wanting to try.

Danny suggested this one - a Thai chicken. The peanut sauce was wonderful and served with pasta and salad all mixed together

Thursday: Revamp a usual recipe

This one was all Danny! He took my plain shrimp scampi and turned it up six or seven notches - at least half the spice rack. Then we served it over rice instead of pasta. Fabulous is the only word I can use. (For the recipe and my husband.)

Friday: Opposite Day

We eat almost every meal at home, so we chose this day for eating out. We had to go to Raleigh to get the oil changed and the car washed, so we found a great little local place to try. But when we got there, they were right between the lunch and dinner shifts. We consoled ourselves at the Cheesecake Factory instead. I'd post the pictures that I took, but then you'd be drooling on the computer screen - and that wouldn't be pretty.

Saturday: Raid the refrigerator.

After an entire week of fabulous food, we had plenty of leftovers for Saturday night. This was a lovely plan because I attended a ladies' meeting all day and cooking was the last thing on my "That's Something I'd Love To Do" list. We tore through the Thai chicken and tiny bit of shrimp leftover. We added a few other bits in the fridge and had a fabulous, full meal from the blessings of the week.

If you tried this week of getting out of your cooking rut, let me know how it went! We'll probably try it again sometime, just to pull out some new ideas and techniques.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Sweet Baby Clip-On

On Saturday we're having a baby shower for my dear friend Gail's daughter. Christi is her oldest child and this will be her first grandchild. So we're trying to make this an extra-special day, but not spend a ton of money. We found dollar store decorations and prizes, and some clever gifts and giveaways.

One of my favorite ideas were these clips to decorate the serving table. So easy and so adorable!

You'll need:
Computer clip art
Card stock
Glue dots or hot glue gun
Clothes pins

1. Find a great computer clip art design on your word processing program. Size it big so it can be seen easily on the table. Cut it out, leaving a small border around the edge.

2. If you want to, mat the cut-out with a coordinating color and decorate with some 3D embellishments. Be as creative as you want.

3. Using the glue dots or glue gun, attach a clothes pin to the back of each cut-out. Glue it far enough down the clip that it won't be wobbly or fall off.

4. Clip the piece to the edge of your serving bowls or anywhere else you can on your serving table, as place cards or on the gift table.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Peace - Part 4

There are several verses of Scripture that speak of our God of peace. Every time peace is spoken of in the Bible, it is reference to something the Lord has given us. Then why, when we have been given a precious gift like perfect peace, are we still tossed about in a sea of uncertainty?

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:33

We as Christian women have peace planted in our hearts. The difference between those who seem to thrive in a garden of peace and those who fight through the weeds of concern is acceptance. There has to be a conscious decision to say: Lord, I am yours.

Sometimes we find it incredibly hard to let God lead, guide and direct our paths. We get torn between faith and control over the circumstances. If only there were a bright, flashing neon sign that said, This is the right path over here!

That deep-seeded peace only comes when we lay down the need to wallow in confusion and take the God of Peace at His word. He has promised peace to His people and He has already fulfilled every promise He has ever made. That peace is lasting and continuous because those are quality traits of God Himself.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Romans 15:13

Accepting the promises and path of God is what leads to peace in the depth of our souls. The longing and confusion come when we try to strike out on our own and work through things ourselves. That was never God's plan and it isn't His desire for our lives.

Imagine how God's heart breaks when we reject His peace simply because we think our plan is better than His. That's our flesh talking, and our ideas about the paths we should travel are faulty at best. Nothing I could dream up for my future could ever be as beneficial or as blessed as what the Lord has in store for me.

Being deeply rooted and focused on the path God has planned for us is the only road to peace. Instead of struggling through each day, let's start submitting to the will of God and relearning what it's like to be at peace. Perfect, deeply-rooted, all-consuing peace. That's the gift God has for us when we draw near to Him.

Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen. Romans 15:33

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Importance of Piano

I have a tiny piano studio - two students. Before we moved to South Carolina I had upwards of 20, so this is a little more subdued. And easier to schedule around. Teaching piano is natural to me, something that brings joy to my heart.

There's an adorable picture of me in my mother's lap at the piano when I was just months old. From the age of four through high school I took, and loved, piano lessons. I can clearly remember hours a week at the piano in our living room, working on scales and playing hymns from my grandmother's Methodist hymnal. It has always been a part of me and something that brings me joy and relaxation.

So starting a piano studio seemed natural. But like anything else, there are people (yes, that means parents also) that don't take piano lessons seriously. I'm blessed to have two now that love and cherish their lesson time, but it hasn't always been that way.

Why are music lessons, piano in particular, so important?

1. They teach diligence. If a student of any age puts great effort into their piano practice, they will see results. Hopefully after seeing the fruit of their labor, they will learn that the more they put into it the more they will get out of it. This translates into the rest of their life, for the rest of their life.

2. They teach self-discipline. As a teacher, I can tell the difference between the students who practice because they want to and those who are tied to the piano bench until their time is up. Lessons and the incurring practice time helps students learn to sit down of their own free will.

3. They teach focus and concentration. You can't just sit down at the piano and whip through songs on the first go-around. Songs for beginners and advances students alike are written to encourage focus, practice and mastery of concepts. This is so important in school, work and home life as well, but it can be introduced through music.

4. They teach memorization. If you want to improve your brain capacity, learn how to memorize music. A piano teacher can teach students how to see the song as patterns and order, which can help with recall in other areas, too.

5. They teach confidence. Some people say they could never learn to read music, play an instrument or carry a tune in a bucket. The surprise and confidence come when they learn the note names, their first scale and hear the first notes of a song they know. Then they're ready to move on to something bigger and better because the beginner stuff is suddenly too easy. That's confidence that may encourage them to do something in another area of their life because they've been successful in their musical life.

6. They teach how to overcome shyness. The right teacher can bring a quiet student out of their shell through simple music. There is one-on-one time for conversation, opportunity for questions and answers and plenty of personal interaction. This is exactly what the shy ones among us need in order to break out and be confident.

7. They teach dedication. There's nothing more wonderful than mastering a difficult piece or completing an entire book. Only when there are goals and visible steps along the way will a student feel like they've accomplished something in their musical journey. Once they've finished one book, their ready to tackle another one. They see the rewards for their hard work and practice, then want to apply that same philosophy in everything else they do.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How Does Your Mind Use Your Time?

Several of our church ladies had the blessing and privilege of attending a ladies' meeting in North Carolina yesterday. We received a wonderful lesson from one of the sweetest Christian women you will ever meet, Mrs. Debbie Morris from Arizona.

The very first question she posed us has stuck with me for the past several hours. She looked across the room of ladies and asked, When you're laying in bed at night, listening to your husband snore, what are you thinking about?

We all thought for a moment and several things came to my mind - my husband, my family, our finances, my websites. Then came the kicker. She asked us if we think about those things more than we think about God.

The time we have within our 24 hours each day is incredibly precious. I can't begin to imagine how many of those moments I've wasted thinking about things that seemed more important than my Lord - at the time. There are so many things out of my control and so many things that I allow myself the time to think about. But where does God fit into that day planner of my thoughts?

I'd like to say that He's the first thing I think about in the morning, the last at night and most of the time in between. Some days He is, but other times I get overwhelmed with the tasks and responsibilities of the day and push Him to the side.

I'd like to say that I spend more time with God's Word than any other hobby or person or activity of the day. Unfortunately that is far from the reality of my day, and that is to my detriment. How can I get fed for the coming day if I don't spend an appropriate amount of time in His Word?

I'd like to say that I spend gobs of time in prayer and have a strong, healthy prayer life. My prayer time is precious to me, but I know there's not enough of it. Imagine what I could do and be if I was more firmly grounded in prayer.

Mrs. Debbie opened my eyes to the way I've been prioritizing my time each day. I want to devote every part of my life, and especially my time, to the things of God. I've already got a good start, but I know there's so much He'd love to teach me and share with me if I was willing to give Him more of my time.

Take a look at your own thoughts and time today. Are you placing God above all else and making Him the priority of your day, throughout the day? If not, I pray that you'll join me in giving the Lord the time He deserves and requires in the upcoming days. Then we'll see the power and blessings He can bestow in a ready and willing heart.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What Our Pets Would Do...

We've had a terribly busy week at our house. There's been so much to do that I would love a couple of extra hours in the day. Obviously the girls do, too. What do you think they'd do with more time every day?

Maybe they would take a nice nap and get charged up for the rest of the day.

Or just find a good, comfy chair to curl up in.

Perhaps they'd like to doze on the living room floor, cuddled up close.

Because being close is the best way to spend your spare time - that and snoozing.

Or catching some Zzz's on their favorite piece of carpet. Being upside down is optional.

So if they really did have more hours in the day, they'd probably spend it zonked out somewhere.

Oh, what a life!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tax Season

I think next week we'll finally get our taxes done. It's not that we've put it off - we've had two different appointments now, but the tax center on post has had some problems, so we've been postponed again.

While we were figuring out our newest appointment, the sergeant in charge of the tax center scheduling book gave me several tips to make our appointment quick, easy and hopefully painless.

1. Bring in the family's personal information. Have every one's social security, driver's license numbers and birth dates. Make a list of all important dates from the past year (marriages, births) and have it ready if you're asked.

2. Make sure you have identification. Bring your driver's license, social security card and military ID.

3. Have documentation handy. If you've gotten married, had a child, purchased a home, gone back to school or made any other life changes, bring all those papers with you.

4. Bring all employment info. Have your W2s and any other documents that relate to your family members' jobs. If you have a home business, call and ask what specifically you'll need to have.

5. Do you have rental property? Collect all your records of income and expenses and rental asset info for depreciation.

6. Gather up your financial paperwork. You may need proof of savings, IRAs and other investments.

7. If you have other income, bring all your documents. You'll need 1099s, unemployment records, tax refunds and health care reimbursements, for example.

8. Itemizing means more documentation. Check with your preparer for specifics about real estate, taxes, tithing, charitable donations and any employment-related expenses.

If you have any questions about what to take with you or have record of, call your tax preparer and ask before you go. It will save time and energy, because you'll have to make more trips to get everything taken care of.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is There Such A Thing As A Healthy Sweet?

Apparently I was born with sugar running through my veins. My cravings are never for salty snacks or carbonated beverages. I want sweets!

However, we're in the middle of P90X again and to see the results I want, sugar has to be minimized. So what are the other choices? Do I have to forgo them altogether?

Of course not! We can all make healthy food choices and still get that little kick of sweets that keeps us going. Being food-conscious doesn't mean cutting out everything we enjoy, just eating in moderation. Try some of these snack ideas instead of running out for cookies and donuts.

* Fruit and dip
* Smoothies with lots of fruit and yogurt
* Fruit and nut trail mix
* Chocolate chip waffles and pancakes
* Frozen fruit bar
* English muffin with cream cheese and cinnamon/sugar sprinkling
* Baked apples with yogurt
* One piece of top-quality dark chocolate
* Yogurt parfaits with fruit and granola
* Rice pudding with fruit, cinnamon and sugar
* Make your own 100-calorie snack packs of your favorite treat

Don't deny yourself sweets if they're what your body is craving. Just remember portion control, make some wise choices about types and amounts, and enjoy as infrequently as your mind and body allow. You can have your cake and eat it too, just not all at once.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dressing Up My Act

This is the only craft that's been on my mind for the past month. Our church's Ladies Jubilee is just six weeks away and we're working furiously to get the crafts done to go in the ladies' gift bags. And we only have to make 400 of everything!

These sweet little dresses are made of a napkin skirt with a cardstock top. Danny made the hangers out of 18-gauge wire - he can whip out 50 in less than two hours!

I traced the tops from a sample we found at a gift shop, and then copied it onto colored cardstock. If you'd like the pattern, leave me your e-mail address and I'll send it to you. Then I cut them out (with some help from a very dear friend) and stamped the palm trees on them.

The skirts are made from folded napkins - once you get it figured out, it takes about 30 seconds to fold up. They are square napkins, unfolded and accordion folded in the back.

Then the skirts are taped inside the blouses with double stick tape. So pretty! Embellish them with ribbon and you're done!

Our theme this year is faithfulness, so we're using Psalm 92:12-13 as our verse.

The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.

With the palm tree as our theme, I decorated these dresses with a palm tree stamp. Vary the paper and colors for whatever your event and theme.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Peace - Part 3

Yesterday I wrote a bit about taking the control of your life out of your own hands and giving it to God. Our flesh tells us that this is a very difficult process and a very scary thing that probably shouldn't even be tried.

But you know what happens if you try to control all of those little, unpredictable situations that happen in your life every day. You get frazzled, worry wears you out and you turn into someone you never wanted to be. All because you didn't just turn things over to the Lord.

So all of the peace in your life is gone because you've gotten overwhelmed. You're stretched thin and being pulled in a hundred different directions. And know you're ready to give everything up and sit in the corner with your blankie...just until it all goes away.

The reason you don't feel that perfect peace of God in your soul is probably because you don't have peace with God Himself. If you did, it wouldn't be so difficult to hand over control. There's something inside the human brain that says, Keep it. Hold on to it. It's yours to wrestle with. But that's not God's path to peace.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4

Lately I've watched some lovely, older, saintly ladies battle with health problems, the death of husbands, the potential death of husbands and many other situations that come with the passage of time. What separates these ladies from those of the world (and some younger Christian women I know) is that they've handed control of each phase of their lives over to God.

They don't know how much longer they or their husbands have on this earth, but they've decided that the time will be of God's choosing. They don't know how much longer they will be sick and hospitalized, but that is God's decision. They don't know how long there will be pain and suffering in their bodies, but they understand that God does.

With that knowledge comes peace - God's perfect peace - which rests firmly in their souls. You can see it written on their faces when they're sick and dying. You can hear it in their voices when they tell you that everything will be alright. And you can feel it when you watch them go day by day trusting in God's plan.

We younger Christian women don't have to wait for that kind of peace to come with age. We can see it and hear it and feel it in our own lives if we just turn over control of every aspect of life to the Lord. He has made it all so simple, but it's our flesh that always holds us back.

Are you ready for the perfect peace of God, the peace which passeth all understanding? Then lay it all at the feet of Christ. Give up the control that you've been clinging to and trust that He will handle anything and everything that comes your way. And that will clear your heart and mind, bringing you that serenity that only the Lord can bestow.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

Monday, March 15, 2010

RU In CTRL?

Over the past couple of weeks, I've had several circumstances roll through my life that I haven't had the power to control. I think about that button on the computer keyboard - Ctrl. The control button has the power to change the function of other keys, but I sure don't have power like that. As weak and helpless as I have felt lately, it shook me awake to some very concrete realizations.

You can't control what other people say.
You can't control the weather.
You can't control what God has already set in motion.
You can't control the actions of anyone other than yourself.
You can't control accidents that may come along.
You can't control people's reactions to what you do and say.
You can't control or prevent the evil that's in the world.

There are many things that will happen today, not by my own choosing. God's plan will happen as He has set it out and I have no control over that. I can guarantee that some of the people I cross paths with will say and do mean things, and I have no control over that. Things around the house may break or get lost or fall apart, and I have no control over that.

So what can we control? The only things that are left after we read the above list are our own words and actions.

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. Proverbs 25:28

Do you have control of your spirit? Can you keep yourself from saying ugly things? Can you get up and face the day, even if the devil tells you it's not worth it? Can you make your walk match your talk? Can you read, study, learn and grown in God's Word so that you can handle each of those uncontrollable situations as they occur?

This is the reality of control. We get bent out of shape over something that wasn't in our control to begin with, and spend days beating ourselves up over something that was never in our power. How impractical and impossible to try to be in control of everything when it's not our responsibility.

The beauty of being a Christian woman is that we don't have to be in control. Turning over control of the important things for God to handle frees us to live every day for Him. How much time would you guess you've wasted worrying and fretting over circumstances in your life? When you're in that condition you are useless to God. He needs clean, pure, worthy vessels for His service.

By relinquishing control of all the little things in life, we break the chains of doubt, discouragement and sin. This releases us to focus on those things we can control, our actions and our words, and leave the rest up to God.

But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble. Psalm 59:16

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening

By the time evening rolls around at our house, we're lucky to be sitting upright. There are some days a woman just wants to sit and vegetate in front of the television.

But there are still tons of things that need to get done. How can you strike a balance between relaxing for the evening and being productive? What a crazy concept! Have you really thought about all the things you could be doing while you enjoy your favorite shows?

Try some of these TV-multitasking ideas and see what works for you.

* Craft. We've been making little dresses for our Ladies' Jubilee while watching TV and movies. Doing something mindless with your hands, like knitting or stamping, leaves you free to think about your show.

* Sort a drawer. Pull out a kitchen or dresser drawer and bring it into the living room. Keep a trash can nearby.

* File paperwork. Shred during the commercials.

* Bond. Cuddle on the couch with your husband. Set up a play area with the kids. Take time to groom and love on your pets. Interact while you're watching.

* Write a letter. A what??? That's right, pull out a note card and hand-write some letters. Brighten someone's day in just a few minutes.

* Search your files for new recipes to try this week. You don't normally have the time to dig through all the clippings and books you have, so flip through while you're watching TV and make out a grocery list during the commercials.

* Plan ahead. Grab your calendar and plan your day tomorrow. Make a list (!) of what you need to take care of, what errands you need to run and what meal you'll cook. Ironically you'll probably think of more the longer you sit there.

* Exercise. If you truly get motivated, you can do some bicep curls, lunges or just sit-ups and push-ups while you watch. Commercials breaks are a set time, so you'll know how long you have for your mini-workout.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Silly Kitty...Soon To Be Wallpaper Kitty

Cayenne has developed a terrible new habit, one that has driven us to consider kitty wallpaper. Every morning at about 4:00, Cay will sit on the cedar chest and strum the blinds like a harp. The noise is horrid and would disrupt even the deepest of sleepers.

The point of her doing this? I sit up in bed and she runs for the hallway. Eventually, after doing it enough times, she "convinces" me to get up and feed her, let the girls outside and then go back to bed. Unfortunately, we get up early to exercise, so I can only get a few more minutes of sleep. Apparently I have conditioned her to think that "beckoning" me at O-dark:30 is acceptable.

So now we're in training mode for a cat - not the most appealing of propositions. After doing some research I have a handful of methods to try.

1. Strange sounds. Apparently a hiss or clicking will distract some cats enough to make them quit what they're doing.

2. Loud noises. A can full of coins or washers startles them while they're in the middle of the bad behavior.

3. Soft objects thrown in their general direction. Danny said Nerf gun...hmmm. The suggestion is a bean bag or little pillow, something that can be tossed near them but not at them.

4. Water gun. Since most cats hate to get wet, this infuriates them and sends them running. Not a bad idea unless the cat is sitting on your mother-in-law's cedar chest.

5. A can of air. Possibly our best choice. Cay hates the rush of air and the noise it makes. You poof a little bit near their back end and they'll scurry. I think this is the one we'll try first.

If you have any ideas that have worked for you and your cat in the past, please pass them on! We're all ears.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ways To Spend $20

When I was growing up I remember hearing the phrase "Mad Money." That was those few dollars of your own that you could spend any way you liked. As a child you weren't likely to save it, but find little trinkets, a handful of candy or a ride on the mechanical horse outside the grocery store.

But now that you're wearing big girls clothes, you probably have a little more access to cash but still don't really know what to spend it on. Here's a thought...use your "extra" money for special experiences, not things. Here are some examples.

Ways to spend $5:
* Take a friend out for a donut and coffee.
* Go to the dollar store and find some spa products
* Get two full meals from the value menu at your favorite restaurant with your husband.
* Find a couple of great new dog toys and head for the park.

Ways to spend $10:
* Jump-start your spring by buying a new bird feeder.
* Get all the ingredients to have "Ice Cream Sundae Night."
* Invest in a couples' devotional.
* Buy a gift card for someone's favorite store or restaurant, then give it to them anonymously.

Ways to spend $20:
* Join the friends group at your local library.
* Look for a favorite DVD and get some popcorn, then have an evening in.
* Have everyone pick their favorite pizza toppings, then spend the evening in the kitchen.
* Revamp something special in your home - new pillows on the couch, a new throw blanket or some new curtains.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Are You In A Cooking Rut?

Due to several jumbled-up reasons, I have been in a terrible cooking rut lately. What does that mean? I have been relying on the same handful of recipes over and over again. No creativity. No surprises. No new ingredients. No culinary adventure.

Well, I say enough!

If you're having the same problem, or just want to spice things up (literally or figuratively), join me in getting back into the swing of kitchen fun! Start today by using this guide to plan the next week of meals.

Sunday: Put together a slow-cooker meal that will be ready when you get home from church.

Monday: Plan an entire meal using just your grocery store's sale paper. You'll save a bucket of money and use some ingredients you might not normally choose.

Tuesday: Make putting dinner together a family affair. Choose the menu together, assign tasks and spend the entire time in the kitchen as a family.

Wednesday: Dig out an old cookbook (you know you've got tons) and make something you've never ever tried before. Experiment and get out of your comfort zone.

Thursday: Pull out an old standby recipe and drastically change something about it. Change the types of cheese, or meat, or pasta that you use. If you normally bake it, grill it. If you serve it over something, serve it over something else. Make it so that no one would ever guess it was the same recipe.

Friday: Make it "Just The Opposite Day." If you normally go out on Friday night for dinner, stay in. If you normally stay in on Friday night, go out.

Saturday: Pantry and refrigerator raid. After everything you've made this week, you'll have some great leftovers. Set up a buffet on the kitchen counter and let everyone dig in.

Now that you have ideas rolling around in your head, put together a shopping list and pull out those great cookbooks. Spend the next week remembering what it is that you love about cooking.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coordinating Chipboard Shapes

The easiest way to add dimension and texture to any paper craft is with chipboard letters and shapes. But what if you don't want a stark white piece of chipboard on your project?



How can you coordinate it with the papers and colors you're already using? With some ink, embellishments and a couple of tools, you can make even the most boring alphabet look like it was just meant to be on your page.

S - Using a stipple brush or ink dauber, layer three or four shades of stamping ink onto each letter. Start with the lightest, then get darker as you go further down.

H - Cover the shape with adhesive, the lay it upside down on the back of a piece of patterned paper. Using a craft knife or sharp scissors cut around the edges.

M - Apply ink in a coordinating color to the entire shape. Then place stickers on and trim using craft knife or scissors.

R - Using embossing ink and powder, cover and heat emboss the shape.

T - Ink the letter with a dark ink, and the cover it with liquid glass.

Frame - Cover the frame in shades of coordinating inks. Then apply word and shape stickers that go with your theme.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Peace - Part 2

There are many days when I feel a certain level of peace in my life. I'm in that comfortable groove that settles me and keeps me in close to the Lord's side.

Then something happens - something in the circumstances around me - and I'm knocked out of that safe groove. It might be sickness, a family emergency, sudden financial strain or an argument with a loved one. The cause doesn't matter because all I know is that the peace I was relying on has disappeared. Suddenly I'm anxious and stressed over all the little things.

Does this sound like a familiar situation in your own life? Peace is easy to sense when you're in the comfort zone of your usual life, but it seems to vanish during the trials and tribulations.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:33

We recognize the peace in our lives when we're settled and grounded, but as soon as the sand shifts it seems just out of reach. When we feel like a piece or two are missing, Paul reminds us that God offers everything that is calm and thoughtful. Centering your thoughts and hearts in the Lord is the only way to prevent the peaks and valleys that riding the roller coaster of circumstances brings.

The greatest illustration I have of this feeling of peace comes in the form of a waterfall picture Danny gave me several years ago. You can feel the tumult and the power in the falling water and almost hear the crashing on the rocks below. There is constant disruption in the waterfall, but the peace in the pool below is a striking contrast. Despite the disorder and chaos of the fall, there is peace at the bottom. The waters simply swirl and ripple as more water is added.

The circumstances and events of the day can jar my system and cause anxiety, but that's just me in the waterfall. The peace is always there, just waiting at the bottom of the cascade. It's always present, but we're often so caught up in the fast descent toward the bottom that we never see it.

Let us therefor follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. Romans 14:19

If we focus on following after peace instead of lamenting over not feeling it, we'll be able to enjoy the trip down the waterfall and rejoice upon landing in the pool of peace. There are so many higher purposes and more important causes than the smaller matters that just cause strife and contention. God has a purpose and a calling for each one of us, but we'll never see it clearly through peaceful eyes unless we look beyond the day-to-day circumstances.

What's standing in your line of sight today? Is there somethings that's caused stress and tension, knocking you out of your comfortable groove?

Well then, praise God! Now you can see the pool of peace that's always waiting at the bottom of the waterfall. Keep your eyes on the Lord, deal with the everyday events as they happen and enjoy the peace that only faith can bring.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Redecorate In A Snap

One of the greatest challenges a woman faces in her home-keeping is making updates and pretty changes without spending an arm and a leg.

We're to be good stewards of all God has given us. This means using our money and resources in the most responsible way we can. If we put in a little time and effort, we can update our home's look, enjoy some new design and prepare for spring.

There are plenty of smaller projects that can be done in a day or a weekend at the most. Many are also perfect for renters or apartment-dwellers. Will one of these work in your home?

* Paint one wall in the room an accent color.
* Change out the light switch and outlet covers to something updated and coordinating.
* Hang new paintings and pictures on the walls.
* If yours are tacky and broken, replace kitchen and bathroom hardware.
* Replace the knobs and handles on drawers and cabinets.
* Exchange your winter blinds and drapes for something light and airy.
* Clear out your bookshelves, arranging new books and some favorite knick-knacks.
* Add fresh flowers to the rooms you're in the most.
* Hang small shelves randomly around the room for pictures and treasures.
* Find a place to hang a mirror and visually increase the size of your room.
* Set out new pillows on your furniture to replace the old musty ones.
* Trade your old towels and wash clothes for pretty new ones.
* Rearrange the furniture and decorations you already have, and don't spend a dime!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fight The Devil - Spend Time With Your Husband

We learned last week about another Christian couple that has separated. The devil has been working overtime to destroy marriages and families, and I'm sure you can give your own examples. We're seeing this attack in neighborhoods and churches across the country, an attack that ruins lives and hurts everyone in its path.

While there are many different tactics the devil will use to poke and prod at couples. neglect can be one of the worst. We get so busy with work, children, house keeping and hobbies that our husband and marriage fall by the wayside.

If you're ready to fight the evils that hover around our marriages like vultures, get ready to spend some time with your husband in a number of different ways.

1. Get up ten minutes early. Use that time for one single reason - time alone with your husband. Talk to your husband, have a little breakfast together, do a devotion together or just see what he has planned for the day. By making those few early minutes together special, you can start the day off right.

2. Do something special. As soon as he leaves for work, do something unexpected for your husband. Send him an e-card or hide a card in his computer bag the night before so he'll find it when he gets to work. Do one of his chores around the house so he won't have to when he gets home. Get all the fixings for his favorite meal or dessert. Go out of your way to be in his thoughts, even if you're not there with him.

3. Make a phone call. Sometime during the day, call just to say hi. Don't talk about chores or the kids or what needs to happen when he comes home. Just tell him that you love him and you're praying for him today. If you've never done this before, he'll probably be so shocked that he'll think about you all day. If he's always been the one to call you, he'll appreciate you taking some initiative.

4. Have a lunch date. Get together once in a while in the middle of the day just to catch up. If you've got kids in school, this may be the best opportunity to have some alone time. Show genuine interest in your husband's day, his work schedule and his plans. Find a quiet spot in a special place and break up a normal day with some great fellowship.

5. Surprise him. Every once in a while send something to him at work - flowers or an edible arrangement that he can share with his co-workers (if he wants). Plan something out of the ordinary for dinner. Or surprise him at work, whisking him away for dinner on the town. It's about spending time together and getting out of the rut. (Just a guess that you might be in one.)

6. Give him undivided attention. Once you both get home, there are lots of distractions: television, kids, phone calls, computers and reading the mail. Instead of settling in to something of your own, spend the first part of your evening together - no matter what. Talk about your day, do some Bible study together or go for a walk. It doesn't matter what you do as long as you're not multitasking, but focusing on one another.

Some of these ideas may seem silly to you, or seem like an awful lot of work. Just remember that the devil doesn't care how much time and energy he has to put into destroying your marriage. He just wants to see you and your husband miserable. Don't be one of those couples that crumbles under the pressures of the world - fight for every moment of time with your husband that you can, building and strengthening your marriage.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

It's Almost Spring - Has Your Dog Sprung?

Spring is almost official here in South Carolina. With warmer temps in the Midlands and elsewhere in the country, our dogs are spending more time outside enjoying the sunshine. If you're in the same situation (or will be in the next few weeks), start thinking about what special needs your dogs have in the spring.

* Get a vet check-up. Before spending too much time outside with your dog, take her to the vet's office for a physical. You need to update parasite and seasonal insects, and this is a great time to get shots and vaccinations updated. This is especially important if you plan to frequent the dog park. After being inside for the past several months, have your dog checked for allergies. investigate her eating habits and ask about an exercise plan.

* Do some serious grooming. Spring is notoriously the worst time of year for shedding. Most long-haired dogs are losing their thick undercoats and need some help getting it out. Invest in one of those ShedEnder combs and spare your home some clean-up later. A good, cool bath can also prepare skin and fur for being out in the yard. The girls are a little dusty from a pretty sedentary winter, so this is their weekend for some spa treatment.

* Take care of the yard. Chances are you haven't done much in the backyard for the past several months. If this is where you plan on letting your dogs play the most, take some time to clean up their droppings, clean out old leaves where bugs could be infesting and pile up sticks and pine cones. Get some new outdoor toys and a water dish so you can spend quality time with your dog in a clean area.

* Brush up on training. For some dogs, spring will be their first long walks and car trips for a while. Before heading out, review basic obedience with your dog - sit, stay, come and heel are all super important when walking your neighborhood. Keep them safe by reminding them of the basics.

* Do some house cleaning. While you're doing your annual Spring Cleaning, focus on the areas your dogs frequents. There's probably fur piled up in corners and along walls. Deep-clean the carpets after you've bathed the puppies so they'll stay cleaner longer. Wash and air-dry their bedding and wash out feeding bowls. Check toys for rips and tears, throwing out anything that's ruined or dangerous for the dog to have. Just make sure you replace them with something new and great!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Etsy - The Home For Homemade

Have you heard about Etsy yet? This website - www.etsy.com - is a community that allows arts-and-crafts people to connect with shoppers who would love to buy their work. It's a one-stop-shop for handmade jewelry, clothing, painting, woodworking and so many other talents.

Danny and I opened a shop in January and are having a blast with it! Etsy has provided us with a way to showcase what we make to a wide audience. There's no way we could have reached so many people in so many places without a site like this.



If you're looking for something special and different like a custom piece of artwork or a hand-stitched pocketbook, you can browse from the comfort of your home. If you are interested in a vintage table or a crocheted baby set, you can search the site and even make request for personalized pieces.

Or maybe you just want to support another woman's business venture. Many of the sellers on this site are women trying to help support their family income or venturing away from the working world to spend more time with their husbands and children. You can read their personal biographies right at their shop to learn more about them before you ever make a purchase.

So please check out our personal etsy shop - www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com - and then check out what some other fabulous women are creating. You can save tons of money and time, plus support other women in their work.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pasta Bake, Your Way

This basic pasta recipe is so versatile and simple to adjust to your personal taste.

Put together the ingredients here, then mix in all your favorites. This is the perfect dish for a throw-together-night or a clean-out-the-pantry-night.


1 pound ground turkey or beef
5 cups cooked pasta (short styles work best)
1 jar of pasta sauce (I say the chunkier the better)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 8 oz package shredded Mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cook and drain the pasta as directed in a very large pot. Return the pasta to pot.

3. Cook and drain the ground meat.

4. In the pasta pot, mix the pasta, sauce, meat and Parmesan cheese. Spoon the mixture into a 13x9-inch baking dish. Top liberally with Mozzarella cheese.

5. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, until cheeses are browned.

For mix-in ingredients, consider:
* cubed cheddar cheese
* diced tomatoes with chilies or peppers
* kalamata olives
* chunks of pepperoni
*onions and peppers
* ricotta cheese
* bulk sausage
* spices: basil, rosemary, oregano, course black pepper

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Pocket Full Of Fun

Before you throw out those old denim skirts or your husband's worn-out jeans, cut off those back pockets and make this adorable magnet craft.

You'll need:
Old denim
Fabric paint
Self-stick embellishments
Self-stick magnets

1. Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut out the back pockets, keeping the two layers intact. You want to have the two layers to make the actual pocket for putting your treasures in.





2. Decorate with paints and embellishments. Using the self-stick versions will be quicker and easier, plus you can find them in any craft department.

3. When all the paint is dry, attach the magnets to the back of the pocket. If you can't find the self-stick magnets, adhere them with a glue gun.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Peace - Part 1

We can look everywhere the world points and we'll never find deep-seeded peace. We can make resolutions, read books and have a million conversations, but we'll never find peace. When one of my dearest friends gives her testimony, she always talks about how she could never find peace in her life - until she got saved.

In God's eyes, peace is that tranquility that only settles upon us when we accept Him. That peace then becomes available daily as we build our relationship with Him.

But why is this concept so difficult? Many women go through life looking under every rock possible to find calmness in the hustle of today's world.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

Sound easy, maybe too easy? We can have deep-seeded peace in the depth of our souls through simple faith. If you've accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour, you already have the peace - you may just not be aware of it. Often we let the noise of everything else going on in our lives distract us from the peace God has promised. That makes it seem like we just don't have the right to claim something that wonderful.

But it's a gift that comes from a loving Father. With the peace that only comes from trusting the Lord, you can be in the middle of any crowd and still have perfect peace. You can be in swirling in circumstances and still rest in the peace of God. Is that not the greatest blessing the Lord can give?

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3

To claim the peace of God and settle into the tranquility He bestows:
* discard negative thoughts and focus on the truth of God's Word.
* trade in the chaos of the world for the serenity of God's path.
* substitute swirling schedules and tangled choices for calmness of God's instructions.
* exchange confusion for identity and purpose in God's love.

It's all possible with the gifts of salvation and peace through Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2

Monday, March 1, 2010

An Inviting Entryway

That they may teach the young women to be...keepers at home... Titus 2:4-5

In our personal effort is to be keepers at home, think about the first thing that people see when they walk into your house.

Whether you have an actual hallway like we do, or your door opens directly into a room, that entry area leaves a lasting impression on visitors and family members alike.

So what is it that people are going to see in your entryway? Do you have coats and boots piled up or is the area cleared out and clean? Did everyone drop their stuff there when they came home today or does each item have its own place? Have you even thought about that initial visual of your home?

One of the first priorities in your entryway is space. If you just have a little hall or a few feet that open up into another room, you may not have much floor area for furniture. We have Danny's grandfather's hi-fi in ours, and it's all that can fit there. The space is so small that you couldn't put another one in there in any direction, but it's the perfect size to allow room for someone to come inside, walk past and move on through.

This is a conversation piece - pick something for
your entryway that isn't some copy-able piece that anyone could have. Make the entrance to your home special and inviting with the large furniture you choose.

The color of your entryway can speak volumes about your home. Are you a plain white type of person or do you prefer bright bolds? Do you like paint or wallpaper? Thanks to the previous owners of our house, we have the most beautiful, subtle shade of green on our walls. I think it makes the first impression of our home calm and soothing - the perfect combination for a place I'd like to be a refuge.

Once you've chosen color, coordinate everything you can. Not only does it give the tiny space a finished look, but your eye is led around the room to try and see everything, not just drawn to some outstanding color.

The next key is what you choose to display in that first focal point of your home. We don't have anything in our home that doesn't have a story attached to it. We have are family furniture and collectibles that really mean something personally.


The items on display in the entryway should have special ties to your family - the people entering the house want to know exactly who you are, and your choice of decorations tell them that. An antique oil lamp, my favorite candle holder, a photo album of friends, my keepsakes boxes and other pieces that tell a story make me smile when I walk past.

And finally, let all who enter know exactly what you believe. This wooden plaque was the gift I gave Danny on his first spiritual birthday. It's right above the doorway from the entry way to the living room, and it's the first thing I see and thank God for every time I come in the house.

You can be as subtle or as dramatic about that first room of your home, but the important thing is that you make it welcoming and inviting for all visitors. Your family will feel loved and appreciated as well, because their life is made part of the story of what your home is.