Monday, May 31, 2010

Organizing A Craft Closet

It's such a huge blessing to have one whole room for our computer and my craft supplies. It's even big enough to have a folding table up for my workspace.

The best part, though, is that I can have the entire closet organized for scrapbooking bits exactly the way I want them. There's no before picture because you probably wouldn't read the rest of the post if you saw it!

The top shelf is mostly for things I use very sparingly. There's a couple of paper trays for paperwork I need to have handy. My envelopes and note pads live up there, too, along with bags of needlepoint and seasonal crafts. I use the computer for my scrapping and stamping, so the manuals and software are in plain sight.

In order to keep as much in view as I can, I have a small book shelf and a wheeled set of drawers that will fit inside the closet when the doors are closed. Books and magazines go on top of the bookshelf, ink pads and my grandmother's sewing box are right below and the hot glue gun and other larger tools are on the bottom. Since I don't use those very often, I can stack other scrapbooks and photo albums in front so that space gets utilized.

During my days as a scrapbook-store-retail girl, I picked up a set of 12x12 paper trays that stack perfectly on top of the wheelie-drawers. They let me separate by project and by necessity. In the drawers are my very vital tools - tape, scissors, embossing tools - and all of my wood-handle rubber stamps.

Stacked next to the wall are boxes of in-progress projects, my embellishment bag and all of my clear stamps. With the clothes bar accessible I can hang a couple of bags with projects in them so there is a little more space elsewhere.

This system works perfectly for me personally. You may have a smaller space or just a couple of drawers somewhere. Find a system that works for the space and needs you have, and then get creative about storing those precious bits and pieces.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Practice the 3 P's - A Little Time For Me

After several days of going full speed ahead, I realized that I had not spent any time doing the things I really wanted to do. Sure, I had cleaned the house, worked on my etsy website, done my blog, taught piano lessons and gotten many other things accomplished. But where in that list was quiet time for myself?


Does this sound like a familiar story? Women have a habit of packing the days full of activities that will help everyone, but neglect themselves. There are still 24 hours in a day, but there's plenty of time in there for some personal time if you practice the 3 P's of time management: Prayer, Planning and Preparation.


1. Prayer - If I don't start the day in conversation with God about His plans for my day, I feel like I'm just flailing. I can plan, chart, dream, wish and have the best of intentions, but without the Lord's leadership it's all just wood, hay and stubble.


Spending time in prayer first thing in the morning can set the pace for the rest of the day. I can focus, explain my concerns and take the time to put God's priorities first. This is a much more balanced way of starting the day, instead of tackling it head on. Praying for guidance and direction can save you tons of time because you won't be wasting energy taking on projects that God doesn't have planned for you today.


2. Planning - Prioritizing and scheduling help save time, energy and money because you have a clear outline of what needs to be accomplished in the day. It's so much better to look forward and plan what needs to be done than struggle later in the day because you didn't know what you were doing. Gather things you need for running around, lay out clothing for tomorrow in case you need to do mending or ironing, and get a week's worth of menus together so you can make up the grocery list.


You might think that this is unnecessary time, but a moment of thinking ahead can be invaluable. If I have to pick up the dry cleaning, go to the pharmacy and get groceries, I'll pull out the cleaner's slip, my prescriptions and the grocery list with all my coupons. This way I just have to grab the pile and I'm ready to run out the door, saving tons of time running around the house before I'm ready to go.


3. Preparation - Have you ever jumped into a project and realized that you didn't have half the supplies you needed? Have you ever started cooking dinner only to stop and run to the store because you were missing ingredients? The simple act of preparing everything you'll need to accomplish God's itinerary for today will put your time to better use. A few minutes early on can save hours later.

What would you like to accomplish this coming week? Do you have all the bits and pieces you need to complete all those tasks? Do you have phone numbers, change for the meters downtown and a check ready for the baby sitter? Preparing for the days ahead isn't a chore, but a time-saver in the long run.

All that extra time you save implementing the 3 P's can then be used on yourself. Imagine having a whole hour to read a book or play with the kids. You'd be able to actually finish a craft project or maybe just sit with your feet up for a few minutes. Time to relax and unwind is so important in our hurry-up society, so do everything you can to free up a few minutes for yourself.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lost Kitty

One day last week I couldn't find my cat - it was to the point that I was running around the house with the treat bag calling her name like a crazy woman.

I even sent the dogs after her like bloodhounds ...which they are not.


I was panicking, thinking perhaps she had gotten out the back door and gone for a tour of the neighborhood. She doesn't ever go outside, so the thought of her wandering threw me for a loop. She wasn't in the back yard and she still wasn't coming when I called.

She finally came wandering out to the living room a couple of hours later, looking at me like nothing had happened. That's when I started doing some research to find out what to do if she ever really did get lost. Shudder.

The most important thing we can do for our pets is make sure they are micro-chipped. If they end up wandering into a neighbor's yard, they can take her to the vet and be scanned for a chip. Your contact information is registered nationally so that wherever she ends up, you can be found.

Second, make sure they're wearing their collars. I don't usually have Cay's on because it jingles in the middle of the night, but this little incident has made me change my mind. Check the tags to make sure they have the current information on them and you're all set.

Keep access to the outdoors closed at all times. This can be difficult when you're letting dogs in and out or you have children, but being aware of where she is can make all the difference. Also secure all of your window screens from the outside so your kitty won't fall out the window and run away scared.

If your cat does happen to escape, start by checking the little places a kitty could hide in - tires. old cars, buckets, fallen logs - anywhere she could wedge herself in. If there's a way she could get out of the yard, start asking neighbors if they've seen or heard her, taking a picture with you.

Leave some food on the porch and check frequently to see if she's returned. If not, consider calling local shelters and posting her description on the Internet's lost kitty sites. Believe it or not there are actually pet detectives and cat behaviourists whose job it is to find lost animals.

As a last resort, call the local vet's offices to see if she was brought in by a Good Samaritan for injury care. They may just be waiting to hear from you.

These are worst case scenarios, but something serious to be prepared for. An ounce of prevention is worth so much more in this kind of situation.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Think About Money Like A Kid

Sometimes I feel like we're so worried about saving, spending and investing that we don't see the financial forest for the greenback trees. Perhaps it's time to go back to the mindset we had when we were given our first allowance and go from there.

1. Separate wants and needs. As children we saw everything as something we just had to have and couldn't live without. As we age our mindset doesn't always change. Distinguishing between the essentials (tithe, bills, food, gasoline) and the extras (movies, music, books) can truly illuminate where your money goes.

2. Give yourself an allowance. Sit down and figure out exactly how much those essentials cost you each month. With whatever is left, set aside a portion for savings and a part for the extras. This simple plan will help you establish a clear savings plan, plus put you on a budget for your extracurricular spending. Don't go over what you set aside, or you'll deplete that all-important savings plan.

3. Set a spending limit. We're often told as children that you get $5 and that's it - when it's gone, it's gone. If you only allowed yourself $50 to redecorate a room for the summer season, you'd quickly look for the most efficient way to use that amount. It may mean shopping thrift stores or the bargain rack instead of the regular-priced items, but more than likely you'll be more creative in your spending and pick up some great finds.

4. Save for the long haul. Even as adults we love to have a paycheck in our hands, just waiting to be turned into spending cash. Instead of allowing yourself that temptation, have your pay direct deposited into your savings account. Only transfer over to checking what you'll need to pay bills and the extras you already know about. This will help keep as much in savings as possible while protecting you from spending it before you even get it home.

5. Check your work. When you were in school you were taught to double check your math work before you turned it in. The same goes for budgeting and checkbook balancing. If your bank has online banking, check the deposits and withdrawals against what you have in your checkbook ledger. Are you keeping track of each purchase you make whether you wrote a check, used your debit card or paid in cash? Add up everything at the end of the day and balance it with the bank's statement. This will only take a couple of minutes and keep you from overdraft charges.

6. Find your piggy bank. Time for some fun - go around the house and collect all that loose change that's been floating around for months. Put it all in a jar of some kind until it's pretty full and then go to the grocery store's coin changer. This may sound like a silly idea for little kids, but I found almost $10 the other day in just a couple of minutes. Cha-ching! Then keep adding to your piggy bank, changing it over every so often.

7. Create a matching fund. Some parents will have their kids save the equivalent amount of whatever they spend on a shopping trip. For children that might be 50 cents or a dollar. If we implemented the same idea, we could save $80 on a grocery trip, $50 when we go clothes shopping or $15 at the dry cleaner. It will also make us stop and think about the amount that we're spending if we have to have an equal amount going into savings.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Slow Cooker Pork Ribs

This is perhaps the easiest slow cooker recipe in the history of slow cooker recipes. Combine three-ingredient recipes with slow-cooker recipes and I'm there!

Pork ribs were on fantastic sale this week, so I threw eight of them into the slow cooker with a combination of 1 cup of ketchup and 1 cup of cola. Three ingredients - two of which you probably have in the kitchen right now.

I usually set the cooker on high for the first hour and then turn it down to low. This lets you get to temperature quickly and safely. For this recipe I did that, then left it on low for about 3 more hours. It doesn't take very long, but the results are tasty!

With a side of potatoes, veggies and fruit this is a great way to cook a sensible meal without using up half the staples in your cupboards or all of your time and effort.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Easy Personalized Candy Wrappers

I've been craving chocolate for days - just my sweet tooth working in overdrive. Danny gave me a candle holder a few weeks ago that says: Prayer and chocolate...I can't get through the day without them! Really says Laura, I guess.

So to curb my craving (translate: eat my work), I put together some handmade candy wrappers. They're perfect for special occasions because they can be customized for whatever event you need. They're also great gifts: fill a bag with something special for someone special.

All you need are:
Nugget candies - the kind shaped like a brick
Rectangular address labels
Your favorite stamps, ink and embellishments

There are hundreds of different ways to decorate these, so here are a few ideas.

1. Random stamp your image over the sheet of labels. If you want something different on each one, just rip them into individual stickers. Peel it off and wrap it around the candy, meeting on the bottom.


Think doves or hearts for a wedding, mortar boards for graduation, balloons for a birthday and bottles for a baby shower.




2. Think 3-Dimensional! Stamp and cut out your greeting and adhere it to the top. You'll still see your pattern around the sides and on the bottom. Choose other embellishments that can easily be attached with glue dots and fit your theme.


3. If you're planning a meeting or ladies' gathering, put the Scripture for the event right on your candy. Then they'll have a treat to take home and remember - they can keep the verse even after they've devoured the chocolate!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Patience - Part 4

Some days I think I know everything. The very next day I feel like I don't know anything. Circumstances, people and emergencies try my patience to the very last nerve. When everything seems to be whirling out of control, I turn to the Scriptures.

The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. Lamentations 3:24-25


It's not about me. It's never been about me. Those words echo in my head once again. My hope and my patience lie in the Lord and His plan, not in the lusts of the flesh or the random thoughts of my human mind.


I have been blessed with enough up to this point to keep me content for the rest of my life. Impatience comes when we look ahead and take our focus off the moment. When we take ourselves out of the equation and look for God's purpose in each activity of the day, we won't have time to look forward with frustration.

There is no secret to developing patience - it's clearly explained in God's Word. Resting in the Lord and waiting on Him to set all the pieces in place is all it takes.It may sound simplistic, but women tend to make things harder than they really are.

In the upcoming days and weeks, I encourage you to seek the Lord instead of finding news ways to be content. There's nowhere you can go or anyone you can turn to besides God Himself that will grow your patience. Sit back, relax and get ready for God to do some miraculous work in your life once you give up the control.

And don't pray for patience...He'll only give you reasons to have to practice patience. Rest in the Lord instead. Trust Him and He'll be forever faithful.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Staying Healthy While You Travel

Travel season is officially upon us and we'll be headed on our own trip soon. Being on the road can destroy the healthy lifestyle that you're trying to maintain, with all the fast-food restaurants, lack of exercise, germs from a variety of places and weird sleep schedule.

Making an effort to stay healthy while traveling can be a huge challenge. Temptations and "vacation sickness" are everywhere. How can we enjoy our trip and still keep up our plans?

1. Drink plenty of water before, during and after. Staying hydrated will allow the body to keep functioning properly and you to enjoy your trip. Remember that if you're thirsty you're already getting dehydrated.

2. Pack your own snacks. While liquids still aren't allowed on planes, you can pack serving-sized snacks. Think mixed nuts, mini bagels, fruit and veggies and granola bars. Don't forget a little chocolate just for a treat. (And nothing that smells too strongly...there are other people on your flight.) If you're traveling by car, have a cooler and bag full of the good stuff so you're not overwhelmed with poor choices while you're on the road.

3. Actively look for ways to exercise. Your hotel may have a gym and a pool, which are both great ideas. Just get out and walk around the city or do some quick exercises in your room. Anything for you legs and abs is great, but don't over do it before you're out and about all day.

4. Do your research. Before you go, check the Internet for healthy alternatives to fast food and buffets. The locals will have ideas too, and you can learn a lot about the area through their local eateries.

5. Carry hand sanitizer. There are germs and diseases everywhere, and if your body hasn't been exposed to those in a new area, you'll get sick much easier. Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer frequently. Don't bathe in it, but apply some after you've touched door knobs, used bathrooms and shaken hands with people you don't know.

6. Slather on the sunscreen. Nothing ruins a trip (or your wardrobe choices) faster than getting a sunburn. Even on cloudy days you'll still need an SPF 15 or higher to prevent burning.

7. Have some type of a first aid kit. If you're driving, this is super-easy. If you're flying, make sure there are no liquids inside. Just carry the basics so you'll be prepared for an emergency.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Five Minutes Here And There Add Up

As I have stated on more than one occasion, I hate cleaning bathrooms. I'm not terribly fond of cleaning out the refrigerator. And I really don't enjoy cleaning the mud room floor. You probably have several areas around your house that frustrate you in the same way.

Have you ever actually timed yourself to see how long those dreaded chores take? When I cleaned the bathroom today it took five minutes to clean everything outside the shower, and then another five minutes to clean the shower and tub themselves.

That got me thinking...if we took five minutes here and there, what could we accomplish around the house in a day? Don't think about the whole house right now, just think about five little minutes - we can do anything for five minutes, right?

In just five minutes you could:

* Clean out your purse.

* Fill a basket of things that belong in other rooms.

*Wipe down all the kitchen counters.

* Change and make the bed.

* Gather up laundry and start a load.

* Clean the fingerprints off the window on the front door.

* Unload the dishwasher - seriously, that's as long as it takes.

* Sweep and mop the floor in one room.

* Dust the major surfaces in one room.

* Empty and clean one drawer.

* Clean out the microwave.

* Sweep off the front porch.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it's inspiration to do some speed cleaning. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go see what I can do for five minutes.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

While The Humans Are Gone, The Pets Will Play

We're getting ready to go on vacation soon, and we've already talked to the girls about it. I know they understand some things like packing suitcases and loading the car, and I think every time Bailey puts her backpack on she thinks we're all leaving.

Unfortunately they're staying here while we're gone - two black labs and a calico cat on a plane for a five-day vacation doesn't make a whole lot of sense. (Not to mention the trauma to the poor baggage handler who would have to remove them from under the plane...not a pretty picture.

So we're getting a house-sitter instead. We have a friend whose wife is going to Mexico for the exact same days that we'll be in Colorado...thank you Lord! He has agreed to live here with the girls for that long weekend so we don't have to worry about boarding them. I'm always concerned about how much outdoor time they get and whether they're eating right, so having someone we know living here takes a load off our minds.

We're leaving a notebook full of info for the sitter just to cover all the bases. It includes: all of our contact information along the way, especially phone numbers and locations; feeding schedules and amounts; vet info and contact number; locations of things around the house like treats, food, toys and emergency items like circuit breakers and first aid kit.

It's also super important that we've filled up their food containers before we leave. Can you imagine walking into the pet store with a piece of kibble - Excuse me...do you know what kind of food this is so I can buy more? I don't want him to have to buy anything extra for the girls unless he wants to. There are tons of treats in their jars and toys piled in the basket.

Our flight itinerary is laid out for the sitter as well as when to expect us home. (Unfortunately it will be in the wee hours of the morning - let's get the whole house stirred up, right?) We don't want to accidentally cross paths and the girls are alone for too long. They've got great bladders but I don't want to push it.

As for the girls, we're loving on them and explaining the trip as best we can. I know they only understand tone of voice, but sometimes when Sadie looks at me while I'm laying out the itinerary, she almost looks like she is following along. They're getting some extra walk time and playtime in the back yard, so it would be nice if they'd just sleep for the whole weekend!

As great a weekend as it is going to be, we want to make sure that everything is prepared here at home. I would even guess that they'll be having as much fun as we are!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Spring Clean Your Finances

At this time of year we all get geared toward spring cleaning our homes. We want to throw open the windows, clear out all the dust and sort out all the stuff that's collected over the winter months.

Have you ever thought about using that same technique on your finances? They get stuffy and cluttered, too, and that makes it difficult to be good stewards of the money God has given us. This is the perfect time to take a look at your spending, saving and investing to see what needs to be cleaned up and what needs to be throw out.

1. Analyze your money flow. Sit down with your husband and all of your monthly bills. Prayerfully consider where and when your money is leaving the house and when pay checks are coming in. If you go over your finances with a fine-toothed comb, you'll find plenty of ways to plug up leaks. And working together as a couple will strengthen your marriage and allow you to discuss some money issues that you've never addressed.

2. Organize your files. This may be a scary proposition for some of us as we dig into the piles and folders. Only keep a year's worth of pay stubs (once you've gotten your W2's for the year you don't need them anymore) and keep only the last statement from your bills. Shred everything else and then figure out a great filing system that you can actually keep up with.

3. Sign up for on-line bill payments. Get rid of the paper all together by using the bill-pay services your bank may offer on their web site. We pay almost all of our bills through USAA now, so we only write checks for the rent and our tithe. This makes it easier to pay on time and keeps checks from getting lost in the mail - save time, energy and peace of mind all at once!

4. Design a debt payment plan. Now that you're all organized you can begin to focus on the problem areas. If you're not in debt, keep it that way. If you do have debt, look over your monthly income and see how much of it can be used to pay off debt. This means more time with your husband, more number crunching and more decision making. The important part is spending within your means and using what's left over to get back on track.

5. Clean up your credit. If you have great credit, keep it that way. If it's not so great, make sure you're paying bills on time, paying down your debt and using credit cards wisely. Look over your interest rates and negotiate better ones if you can.

6. Check in with your investment adviser. If you have any kind of investment, even if it's just a retirement account, take the time to talk with your adviser. Things change rapidly in the financial world, so she could be able to do some great things to help your money make you more money.

7. Put your house in order. If you were to die and meet the Lord today, where would your money go? If you put in all of this work to spring clean your finances, wouldn't you like to have some comfort in how they'll be used after you pass away? See a lawyer or JAG office the first chance you get to see about wills, living wills and Power of Attorney. Don't take chances with your money when you can take care of it in one afternoon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lemon-Blueberry Trifle

One of the joys of summer is being able to pull out all of those great hot-weather recipes. I had been waiting for a warm, steamy day for ages to make this Lemon-Blueberry Trifle, a favorite in our house. One of my dear sisters in Christ gave this to me several years ago and it's been a go-to recipe ever since.

There's really no recipe, just a list of ingredients.



2 cups of fresh blueberries
1 can lemon pie filling or two boxes of lemon pudding mix
2 - 6oz containers of lemon yogurt
1 baked angel food cake, cut into squares
2 containers of Cool Whip, thawed

Mix the pie filling and yogurt together.

Layer cake, filling, blueberries and then Cool Whip.

Repeat the layers, ending with the Cool Whip on top. Sprinkle with the last blueberries.

The cake will soak up the filling rather quickly, so eat fast - or store it in a tightly sealed container for a day or two. Trust me though, you'll go through it quickly, it's that good!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stamping - Not Just Pretty Flowers Anymore!

As embarrassing as it might be to admit, I am fascinated by stamping. There are so many designs and so many options - you can be creative all day long and never duplicate what you've made.

When stamping first started it was all wood-mount stamps and a handful of flowery designs. Now there is such a variety that you're sure to find something that you love.

For example, this older Close to My Heart wood-mount stamp is one of my favorites. Once stamped and cut out, you make one slice, two folds and TA DA...a tiny sticky note holder. I stamped this one on the back with, When life is too much to stand...kneel. It has a little glittery resin flower on the bottom corner for something special.

The note pad holder and large tag stamps were two of my first stamp purchases and have been used numerous times. Stamps like these make it easier to coordinate with your cards and pages because you can stamp directly onto the decorator paper and not have to search the aisles of the craft store for something that might work.

I also love the versatility of background stamps. They're not words or images meant to be framed and given a space of honor on your project. This one, for example, is a coffee stain ring and drop. They're designed to accent the background of the project. Plus, you can coordinate themes - I used this for a page about our Bailey-dog's coffee addiction. So much fun!

You can also use stamps for a short cut. These clear stamps are stitching - you can skip the needle and thread and use the ink color of your choice to embellish. Clear stamps are also great for this type of project because you can see right through to where you need to place your image.

For the longest time I would make a journal block on my scrapbook pages with a simple square of card stock. As easy as that idea was, stamps designed with blocks and lines already on them make decorating much easier. You can still use your coordinating paper and stamps make them look more finished and special.

You can find the sticky note pad holders and many other cards and gifts for sale on my website: www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Patience - Part 3

Last week I let the girls out the back door like normal and couldn't help but notice this giant butterfly on the screen. Its size and beauty drew me in, so I had to go get the camera. Surprisingly, it waited patiently for me to return.

Its color caught my attention first, and then I noticed that it had definitely been through the storms of life. If you'll notice on its right wing there is a small curl at the very bottom. The one on the left side is missing. I wonder if she caught it on something, or maybe it was ripped off by a predator. I can't begin to imagine what she must have been through in her tiny little life.

So I carefully opened the door again so I wouldn't scare her. I took a picture from a pretty safe distance away so she wouldn't flutter off. She just waited patiently while I got a little closer, took a picture and then got a little closer for another one. She endured my curiosity like a trooper and I was blessed with several precious pictures of her.

That's when God's Word breathed over me like that butterfly's soft little wings. This creature's patience was much stronger than my own. I know that I wouldn't have withstood someone staring and examining me the way I stood over this bug. The beautiful fruit of the Spirit called patience was staring right back at me, making me see a deficiency in my own heart.

There are days when I feel pestered and bothered, and on others I feel neglected and alone. My patience with other people and stressful situations wears thin so quickly, and for that I ask God's forgiveness. This gentle creature that God made for me to see that day had been through a crisis, but somehow she came out on the other side with patience and beauty. I want that sweet strength in my own life when I'm being poked and prodded by circumstances.

The one great difference between this butterfly and me is that I have the ability to make choices in my life. She didn't choose to be patient - she just was. I have to make the decision to practice patience while I'm enduring the storm. This is how I grow in my walk with God and develop the fruit of long-suffering.

I never saw her fly away because I went back to my routine, and I haven't seen her since. But what that beautiful blue butterfly taught me about patience will last much longer than our brief encounter.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fleur de Lis Napkin Folding

We had very special company over Friday night and I wanted something different on the dining room table. I placed the seashell centerpiece out (see last Wednesday's post for details) and needed something else creative.

I found a napkin fold that I liked, but I couldn't get my silly napkins to do what they said they should be doing. So I took the first two steps of their fold and made the rest to do what I wanted.

Step 1: Fold the napkin in half diagonally.











Step 2. Lift the middle of the napkin up to make a pleat.








Step 3. On either side of the large pleat, make one pleat halfway between the large pleat and the edge.







Step 4. Gather the bottom of the three pleats together and tuck them into the napkin ring. Floof (technical term, I'm sure) the top edges so they fall into the Fleur de Lis shape.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just For Today

If you're like me, you're already planning the upcoming week. There is much to do, and it seems like less time to do it in. Just for tomorrow, just for Monday, keep this list handy and see how much you can complete. Yes, it means adding some more to our already-busy schedule. But print this out or keep it handy, just for today.

Just for today:

___ As soon as you wake up, say a prayer of thanksgiving to God. He's kept you alive for one more night! Thank Him for His grace and mercy.

___ Get up a little earlier than normal.

___ Spend time early in Bible study and prayer. Take the time to listen and understand God's plans for your day before you speed off.

___ Write one quick note of encouragement to someone you know needs to hear it.

___ Pray for your husband as he heads off for work.

___ Make healthy food a priority of the day. Your body and your mind will thank you.

___ Whether you have a job outside the home, you work from home or you keep your home all day, dedicate one whole day of your service to the Lord.

___ At lunchtime, pray for your husband again.

___ Spend special time with your children after school. Let them know that they're on your prayer list, too.

___ Plan dinner and evening activities.

___Pray for your husband when he's on his way home from work.

___ Make the evening a special time for family. Focus on each other and the events of the day, not the television or the chores.

___ Have some family altar time before everyone heads their separate ways for the night.

___ Get to bed a little early. It will make getting up in the morning that much easier.

___ Close out the day in prayer, thanking the Lord for all His many blessings.

If this works for Monday, try it again on Tuesday. Modify what you need to, add in some of your own wants and needs and let God do the rest.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Have A New Kitty By Friday

Now, does this look like a cat who would pounce on the bed at 3:00 in the morning, pound on closed doors or bat at the blinds to wake you up? No, she just looks like a sweet, sleepy kitty without a mean-spirited bone in her body.

Well, thanks to some drastic measures and a little patience, she's not quite that bad anymore. Just a couple of weeks ago she had me on my knees in prayer, sobbing, because I was so tired and so frustrated.

Cayenne is a typical cat, nocturnal and very pushy. She is very vocal with her demands and will sit in bed each morning with her nose against mine until I wake up and take care of her. The noises she makes otherwise - pounding on doors and strumming blinds like a harp - are just as nerve-wracking when you're trying to get your beauty rest.

So I did some research, got some ideas about correcting kitty behavior, and started some serious trial and error. I never realized how labor-intensive cats could be (she's my first, and I'm a dog person by nature) so these steps have taken some real effort.

The first thing we did was start moving her feeding time closer and closer to our bedtime. She'll still start talking to me at about 4:00 in the afternoon, but we've discovered that ignoring her does wonders. Every day her feeding time has gotten a half hour later, making sure that she's super-sleepy and fully-fed when we're ready to crash. This makes it a little later in the morning when she's ready to get moving.

We've learned that Cayenne is really just waiting for any acknowledgment, which encourages her to continue what she's doing. So no matter how much she meows, rubs or head-butts me, we've set her feeding schedule and we're sticking with it.

The same goes with the other noises. We tried squirting her with water or an air canister to stop her behavior, but she learned to listen for the sound of movement and then she'd run. Two seconds later she'd be back for another go-around. Ignoring her and allowing her to tire herself out for a minute or two is absolutely the best bet for this issue.

We also put a folding chair on its side in front of the one door in the entire house that is closed - the hall closet. Apparently she is easily offended by closed doors and this is her retaliation. Leaving the chair there keeps her from being noisy in the morning, and hopefully will keep her away in the long run. We'll see.

There are always solutions to the little annoyances if you're willing to look for them. Remember that this is still your house, even if the four-legged ones out number you.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Married...With Money?

When we get married, we promise to be there for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer...and that's the one that can often get dicey. Two separate people with two separate ideas about finances come together under one roof. This could be a recipe for disaster unless God is in the middle of all decisions.

While decisions about spending, saving, investing and giving must be made as a team, there is one Biblical truth in all things.

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Ephesians 5:23

Before women everywhere throw up their hands and run screaming from this blog, the financial implications of this verse are simple. Christian women are not to make major decision in the home without their husbands' input. They are the head of the home, not us. Going against this principle goes against Scripture, breaking our relationship with the Lord.

Working together to make financial choices strengthens communication and improves the marriage little by little. Going off and making decisions that affect an entire household shows a lack of respect, which can tear a marriage apart.

What if you're a saver and your husband is a spender? Or vice versa? How do you agree on money management when your financial personalities clash?

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Extinguishing conflict is so important in any marital conversation, especially one like money. The idea in any relationship, marriage or friendship, is to enjoy, to find pleasure in each other and to end the day happier than it began. If you're at odds about how to spend money, the friction can lead to other disputes elsewhere in the relationship.

The solution can often be simple communication. If you want to spend a large amount of money, sit down and talk about the purchase together, pray about the practicality of the purchase and then make the decision as a couple. This way there is respect, conversation and a lifting up of each other. What a more peaceful way to handle finances than explaining yourself after the fact or arguing about an empty savings account.

Everything in a marriage is a partnership, and finances are no exception. The issue isn't who makes what percentage or who's a spender. It's all about staying on the same page about how God would have you steward your money together.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

When I first heard about hummus it seemed like some fancy-schmancy food that only vegetarians or lovers of organic foods would eat. It wasn't until I tried it at a local pizza place that hummus became a staple on my favorites list.

Ingredients:
one 15.5 oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
6 oz (1/2 jar) roasted red peppers, chopped slightly
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp course-ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
pita bread for dipping

Combine first six ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add in olive oil.

Refrigerate at least one hour before serving, or until firmer consistency.

Serve with slices of pita bread, preferably toasted.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Seashells From The Seashore

When we came back from Myrtle Beach a few weeks ago, I took the pocket-full of seashells I had gathered and dropped them into a box with some others. As I closed the lid and turned away, I felt bad that no one else would see those pretty shells I'd found.

Instead, I rescued them from their sad little box and gave them a place of honor in the middle of the dining room table. After cleaning them really well (use a weak bleach/water solution), I tucked and layered them into a bowl of teal glass marbles. Now they look like they're floating in the surf at the beach again.

As summer approaches and you have some opportunity to gather shells yourself, or want something to do with the ones you've already collected, think about finding special places around the house for them.

* Arrange them in sand around the base of a candle.
* Fill a glass lamp with sand, marbles and shells.
* Adhere some shells to the edge of a tray or picture frame.
* Pile them into a small basket, then place on a low shelf or table.
* Attach shells and drift wood to a small foam wreath.
* Make your own beach in a glass - just add sand and shells.
* Use large clam shells for serving bowls or fill with smaller shells.
* Place large shells on your dresser to hold jewelry.
* String several small seashells on strings to make a beautiful wind chime.
* Hang them, glue them, set them around, frame them and show them off.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Patience - Part 2

I have had one particular prayer request in my book for ages. I have bathed this request in prayer. I have talked with my husband in-depth about it and we are praying together. A couple of my closest sisters in Christ are praying with me about it.

For months this prayer has gone before God's throne from several different lips. I have prayed, listened, waited, prayed about other things, gone about my daily walk and prayed some more. And still this particular request remains in my book, not crossed off or updated.

My flesh says to forget about it, to accept that God doesn't want this request to come to fruition. It would probably be understandable if I moved on and used my energy for other things.

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer: and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

When I think that God's not listening, or perhaps has His machine on and will get back to me as soon as possible, I read His Word. The omnipresent God we serve has given His promise to hear me when I pray. He has assured me time and again that He will work all things together for my good. In His time. In His way. In His perfect understanding.

So I continue to be patient. To do otherwise would be sinful and disrespectful, according to Scripture. I continue to send my petition before the Lord. He is faithful to hear and answer. The answer may come slowly, requiring me to be even more patient. But the answer will come and I have faith that the answer will be perfect.

What are you waiting for? Don't just sit there...be patient!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Technology?

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Red Cross with Danny while he gave blood. I have extremely low blood pressure so they don't let me within several yards of a needle. So I made a pit stop while I was waiting.

While in the bathroom stall, I heard someone come in talking very loudly. She was deep in conversation about something terribly important and going to the restroom wasn't going to stop her.

I heard another door shut and lock and then there was a pause in the conversation.

And then she asked a question...

And then there was a pause...

And then she answered a different question...

That's when I realized that she was talking on the telephone in the bathroom!

Now I have bathroom phobias anyway, but that completely freaked me out! I had heard the Cathedrals' bass singer George Younce tell a similar story. I've even heard that someone I know does this on a regular basis. But it was the first time I had experienced it in person.

There is no limit to where technology can take us in the 21st century, but I think there are some places it shouldn't take us. And this is one of them. What you do in the privacy of your own bathroom is one thing, but I almost died hearing it happen next to me.

Technology is a wonderful convenience that I appreciate on many levels every day. There are advances taking place that amaze me and confuse me all at the same time. I appreciate that there are people out there smart enough to create and improve our technology, making life easier and more pleasant.

But with the exceptions of life-and-death-struggles, perhaps talking someone off a ledge, we will probably never have a conversation that can't be ended at the bathroom door. Please hang up and try your call again later. Technology does allow you to do that these days.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What Is Your Time Worth?

Have you ever considered your time as a precious, valuable commodity? There are only 24 hours in each day and the choices we make in how they're spent is super important.

I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately, especially as I'm choosing prices for the items I sell on etsy. Not only do you consider how much your supplies cost, but you think about how long it took to make your item and how much your time is worth. It's not about pride. It's truly about the effort put into something someone would like to purchase and own.


For example, if you needed your house cleaned, what would you pay someone to do it for you? How much is being able to use that time doing something else worth?

If you needed some Christian greeting cards, what would you pay for someone to make them exactly like you wanted so you wouldn't have to search everywhere for them? (Go to stufffromtrees.etsy.com and let me know!)

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Psalm 90:12

The only things we're actually to spend our time on are the things God loves - prayer, study, work, witnessing and worshipping. Everything else that comes along are the things we place upon ourselves.

We have been allotted 70-80 years of life - where are you in that time period right now? The remaining years of your life are extremely precious to the Lord and to those around you. If we were to number those days, what would each one be worth to you?

I pray that you will take time this week to examine how you spend your time. Are there activities that waste your time and lower your worth? What can you eliminate from your life that will increase your time's worth? If you can whittle down some of the excess will free up tons of time that you can spend growing your relationship with the Lord.

And isn't that the best and most precious use of your time?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

That Noise On The Roof

Since the weather has been so warm and pretty lately, the girls and I have been spending on a lot more time outside. Danny made the neatest gate for the front porch so we can all sit out there together without chasing dogs around the neighborhood.

Sometimes when I'm cleaning I'll send the girls out to the front porch so I can actually get something accomplished. (Though I do get extra exercise dancing around dogs lying on the floor.) So this week I sent them out like normal and let them wander around on the front porch for a few minutes.

I had only been inside for a minute when I heard Bailey growling and Sadie barking like crazy. I automatically assumed that there was another dog walking past or the mailman had driven up. So I went out to lay down the law about being obnoxious.

But when I got out there I saw Bailey just standing there like this. Sadie was dancing around the front door trying to get my attention while her big sister was fixated and making terrifying noises.

So I looked up, following her gaze, and this is what I saw.

This funny little squirrel was sitting at the edge of the roof line laughing hysterically at my girls. He was well out of their reach and he knew it. But that wasn't going to stop Bailey from showing her disapproval with body language and vocalizations.

Bailey has a toy squirrel of her own, Mr. Squirrel, who gets carried all over the house. Sometimes she'll even chew on him like she's cleaning his fur, which I'm sure he appreciates. I have a feeling that's why real live moving squirrels drive her crazy because she can't get at them.

So after a couple of minutes Sadie was tired and ready to go inside, but Bailey was content to lay down by the railing and watch the squirrel's every breath. Eventually he jumped off the roof and headed for another tree. She never took her eyes off him for a moment.

It may seem like a small thing to some people, but for my girls this was the best morning ever...for today. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Benefits Of Being A One-Car Family

If you had told me a little over a year ago that we would be a one-car family, I would have laughed. There was no way we could survive without two vehicles.

Then came the day that Danny's truck died in the parking lot of the funeral home. (Great irony, huh?) And then just a few days after that, the car refused to start, and we found out it needed a new engine. Needless to say a 10-year-old car wasn't worth a new part that serious.

So both of our vehicles were gone and we bought a new one. We contemplated getting two used ones but finally decided we were more comfortable with a new one. One. Just one, not one for each of us. And this totally changed my thinking about a lot of spending matters.

Being a one-car family has been fabulous for a number of reasons.

1. We've cut back to one car payment, one insurance payment and one vehicle registration.

2. Our budget for gas and car repairs has been cut in half.

3. We're more diligent in taking care of this car, saving money on care down the road. I think there's much more appreciation of this one car God has blessed us with compared to when we could be on the go whenever we wanted.

4. Since I only have the car a few days every other week (when Danny's driving the company vehicle while on call), I'm not out and about, being tempted to spend money.

5. The necessity for planning has sky-rocketed. With just one car I have to schedule my errands around when Danny doesn't need the vehicle. That's made me appreciate the importance of thinking ahead and coordinating our plans. Plus I have to time though shopping trips around payday, so we don't get caught short.

6. Danny and I have to communicate much more. This has honestly been the biggest blessing of the whole experience, even beyond the money we're saving. We're talking in the car while we carpool, we plan schedules and activities together and we're calling each other during the day to check in on each other. Want to strengthen your marriage? Downsize to one car!

While your family and work situations may not be designed around one car, and that's fine. For our house, though, it's truly been a blessing, financially and in our marriage.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Can It Be Healthy And Taste Good?

Last week my wonderful loving husband did the most special thing I could ever ask - he took me to a grocery store I'd never been to. Several miles from where we live is a tiny local market with its own deli and many aisles of fresh and organic foods. Unfortunately I was not allowed to live there indefinitely.

Fresh? Organic? Does that mean it's all green or brown with no taste?

Look at this gorgeous spice cake and you tell me! It's made from a Namaste cake mix - completely free of gluten, wheat, soy, nuts, potato, corn, dairy, and casein. For someone with allergies (or just wants something healthy) this is the perfect option.

This cake was the most moist, spicy dessert we've had in ages. I mixed in a large jar of mandarin oranges to up the health factor and it was the perfect combination. I ate two pieces the other night all by myself - does that negate the healthiness of it? I sure hope not!

It's so important to take care of your body by being careful about what you put inside it. Paul said that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost, so we're really taking care of a special, holy place. Making wise decisions about our eating just makes sense!

So step out of your comfort zone this week and find something both healthy and tasty. It's out there, you just may have to look somewhere different to find it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mulberry Paper Techniques

Last week I got adventurous and started digging through some old bags of scrapbooking supplies. It was like going to the scrapbook store and not spending a dime! There were so many things in there I'd forgotten I even owned! Treasure trove!

One of the best finds of the day was a bag full of mulberry paper that I've had for at least six years. Mulberry paper is a handmade paper that shows every single fiber it was made with. The best characteristic of this special paper is that it is designed for tearing, not cutting, and it feathers its edges when torn. It's the perfect specialty paper for heritage or wedding pages, or when you want an extra touch for a layer on a card.

To tear mulberry paper, all you need is a little water. Dip the tip of your first finger in water, then draw on the paper where you plan to tear. Once the paper is damp, put your hands on either side of the new "water mark" and pull away. The mulberry paper will still be a little wet, but the fibers will separate and make a ragged edge.

Continue this around all the edges you'd like to have feathered and then let it dry for a couple of minutes. Then attach it to your project like a normal piece of paper.


This card and many others can be found at my shop: www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Patience - Part 1

Have you ever noticed that when you pray for patience, God will put you in situations where you need an abundance of patience? We just want the blessing of answered prayer - let us do what we want when we want, Lord, and we won't even have to worry about patience at all!

We can't begin to imagine God's purpose behind having us wait on Him. Whether it's staying calm in busy traffic. being patient around cranky people in the checkout line or waiting to see where your walk with the Lord will take you, finding patience in today's world can be a challenge.

Fortunately, God's Word has the answer to all our questions and can fulfill all of our daily needs. Even in the most frustrating of times, Scripture reminds us that there is a purpose for this moment, too.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

We often take this verse for granted and think that God will bless whatever we end up choosing to do. Imagine the heartache and pain we could save ourselves if we simply trust in God's plan to be better than our own. Patience is waiting on the Lord to complete our lives in ways that will always work together for our good.

God's timing is often very confusing if we're not quiet enough to hear what He's trying to explain to us. That is when we get out ahead of His will and do things for ourselves. In our house we call this "kickin' down doors."

Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things. Jeremiah 14:22

I cannot possibly see the big picture from where I'm standing. This is the frustration of my impatience in life, but there is freedom in releasing all to God and allowing Him to control our ways. Patience is simply trusting in the One who has already seen the path ahead of me and following where He leads. Impatience is taking matters into my own hands and choosing not to see what wonderful things the Lord has in store for me on His path.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Unique Jewelry Storage

Last week I got frustrated while untangling some of my favorite jewelry. I knew the boxes I was keeping them in weren't big enough, and I had too much in them.

I don't have a lot of space in our bedroom for any larger jewelry storage pieces, but I did have an empty drawer.

These five little glass bowls came from the thrift shop and after cleaning them up I lined them up in the drawer with a handful of smaller boxes.

The best part of these jewelry holders is that I can organize by color and style, and I can even hang my earrings from the rim of the bowl. They're all in full view and I browse quickly and easily in the morning.

Try using matching glass pieces like I did, or combine a hodge-podge of different tea cups. Use both the cup and saucer to organize even more.

If your dishes slip and slide in the bottom of the drawer, adhere a small piece of fabric or non-skid material to the stand of the bowl. Use your imagination to choose your favorite dishes and combinations of jewelry in each one. Have fun!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Choosing How You Spend Your Time

How do you choose how you'll spend your time this week? Do you balance your work time and your play time? Are there activities you participate in that you don't really enjoy?

There are hundreds of choices for ways to spend your time in the upcoming seven days. You really have to make some decisions when you go beyond those wonderful and necessary activities:

* Church
* Work
* School
* Housework
* Family together time
* Relaxation

Think for a minute about how you'll plan the rest of your time. What errands, meetings and gatherings do you have scheduled that you would rather not be doing? I'm not talking about the ones that you don't particularly like but are responsible for doing. I want you to specifically think about the things you do willingly without really knowing why.

* A bowling league that you play on because someone asked you
* A weekly lunch with someone who frustrates or aggravates you
* Watching television or movies with no redeeming value
* Volunteering for everything that passes by because you'd feel guilty if you didn't
* Anything you attend and wish you were doing something else

There are many activities that we participate in are keeping us from doing what we really want and need to do. Anything that takes you away from time with God and time with family isn't worth it. Anything that forces you to be with people who lead you astray from Christ's teachings isn't worth it. Anything that monopolizes your free time and you get no reward for it isn't worth it.

We make choices daily (sometimes hour by hour) about how we will schedule our time. As long as that planning is in line with God's plan for our day and brings Him glory and honor, we'll be set for the day.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

So whatsoever you choose to do this week, make sure it's to God's glory. And enjoy what you do!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cutting Your Dog's Claws Safely

When I got a pretty good scratch from one of the girls this week (her name will remain unspoken), it was time to trim some toe nails. It had been several weeks since we'd done this task, so it was beyond time.

With 55-pound labs, it's not something I can do by myself. I can't wrestle, trim and be all pleasant-sounding at the same time. Danny, on the other hand, can lay them down, soothe them with his voice and be done clipping before they know it.

So on Friday I ran the girls through their baths and then sat with them on the front porch while Danny did the actual trimming. (Such a blessing!) We put the girls on blankets for comfort and for easy clean up.

We use the "guillotine" style of clippers which make a clicking sound as they cut. Sadie's not too fond of that noise, but Danny can calm her right down with his soft voice and a quick belly rub.

I'm always afraid that I'll cut into the quick on their precious little toes, because you're supposed to stay 2 millimeters out. It's much harder to see on their dark nails, but somehow Danny can see and measure well enough that he just clip*clip*clips and it's all over with. Cutting into the quick will cause bleeding and panic, so it's super important to make small cuts as necessary until you're close.

And then comes the best part - the love, praise and reward. I know it's not easy to be calm and submissive while a human is playing with their feet, so they get tons of belly rubs and behind-the-ear scratches when they get all done. Then they come inside and get treats - labs think with their tummies.

Clipping claws doesn't have to be a strain if you remember these few important things: comfort, safety, praise and reward. Combine these and you'll have beautiful puppy toes - pink polish not included.