Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Miniature Oreo-Stuffed Brownie Bites

Whether you're looking for an easy treat to make for a group or you want a special snack for yourself, you'll love this simple-yet-special brownie recipe.

1 box brownie mix (with no chunks, chips or other special stuff in it - just plain)
eggs, water and oil as directed on brownie box
1 package miniature Oreo cookies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or as otherwise directed on box. Lightly spray a 24-cup mini muffin tin.

2. Prepare brownie mix as directed on the package.

3. Place one spoonful of batter in the bottom of each cup. Center one mini cookie in the middle and cover with another spoonful of batter. The cup will be about 2/3 full.

4. Bake 14-16 minutes, until top is crackled and hard. The cookie will melt slightly into the brownie, so the toothpick test doesn't work very well. Just taste-test them instead - so much more fun!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Repurpose What You Already Have For Your Home Decor

Why do we scour the sale papers looking for new decorating pieces for our home? Why do we think we have to save up tons of money to make a cozy haven? Why can't we just look at what we already own in different ways?

That means being creative and finding new uses for pieces we've used before. This picture is a serving dish a dear friend got me for my birthday. It's intended for food and would look great with some snacks in it - but what about filling it with my favorite decorations and using it as a centerpiece?

I've shown you this metal bundt pan before, decorated with rocks and tiny battery-operated candles. This is another favorite piece simply because it's something special, different and made with my own ideas.

What could you do with:
* an antique basket?
* a child-sized wooden chair?
* glass bowls in several sizes?
* scraps of your favorite fabric?
* all the silk flowers you have packed away?

Sometimes you happen to have a flash of creativity. Since there's no ice cream in the house right now, this sherbet dish can be used at individual place settings to create a summer theme. Fill the dish with stones or jewels, then cover the top with a piece of paper. Flip it over onto the table and slide the paper out.

What do you already have in your home, that you're not using, that would make a great:
* centerpiece?
* wall hanging?
* mantle runner?
* basket filler?
* curtain tie-back?
* conversation piece?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Power And Influence

I was reading an article recently about the most powerful women in the world. They were the heads of politics, business and organizations with reach and influence far and wide. To summarize their opinion, these women were chosen for this list based on the world's view of power and position. But here are a few questions to put things into God's perspective.

* Who has more influence, a CEO or a Sunday School teacher?

* Who has the further reach, a country's dignitary or a family that gives to missions?

* Who has the power, a billionaire or a woman who spends her mornings in Bible study?

* Who will be remembered longer, an entertainer or a faithful church member?

* Who will have more impact, the head of a media organization or a mother who constantly reflects Christ?

* Who will make a lasting difference, a business tycoon or the mother who prays daily for her children?

* Who knows what true power is, a vice president of industry or the woman who studies God's Word?

* Who knows what questions to ask, a talk show host or the woman who is seeking God's wisdom?

* Who knows what has eternal value, the chairwoman or the woman who desires God's will in her life?

You can be saved and be a leader, if that's the Lord's plan for your life. But when we put our world positions in eternal perspective, where are our priorities?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Weekend Of Not Giving Up

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Make this a weekend of perseverance. Giving up is easy - staying by the stuff and staying in the fight is difficult. But the eternal rewards make keeping the faith worth every mile.

Fight the good fight.
Finish your course.
Keep the faith.
Don't give up.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Criteria For Sorting Your Crafts

The plan is to have a garage sale this fall. That's the plan anyway. With so much stuff collected over the years, there's enough to fill the garage, the driveway and probably half the yard. Can you have a garage sale and a yard sale at the same time?

The plan is also to try to sell some of my extra crafting supplies. It's like attempting to pull your own teeth to get me to part with paper, die cuts or even some stamps, but I believe the time has come. Especially if someone else will actually use them and I can make a little mad money.

But how do you make decisions about your passion? Selling some of it would be like selling one of the girls, so here are my rules for what I'm keeping and what's going.

Rule #1 - I will not pull it out all at once. That would be overwhelming and I would probably cry. In my distressed state I would decide to sell the whole kaboodle and regret it later. Instead, I've been sorting a little bit at a time and thinking long and hard about each bag/box/shelf/drawer. This prevents stress and rash decisions.

Rule #2 - I will not use the "But I have a plan for it" excuse. Many of my paper crafting supplies have been with me for about 10 years. If I haven't used them by now, I never will. Tools are not included in this category, but paper, stickers, stamps, thread, glitter, etc. are all fair game.

Rule #3 - If I don't have room to store it neatly, it's going. I don't have room for 27 plastic bins or even one more set of rolling drawers. If I can't organize it in such a way that it fits in the current space and is easily accessible, then it needs to find a new home.

Rule #4 - If this item would make someone else happy and productive, let them have it! If there is someone willing to stop at my house, look through my craft supplies, offer me money for them and then actually use them, why wouldn't I want to put them in the sale? No one can see them in a bag in the closet, but this person might be able to make something absolutely lovely with them. How unfair of me to deny someone else a little crafting joy.

There is already a growing box of craft supplies in the garage ready to be priced. However, there is also a lot of work left to do in the craft room. At least, with the rules I have in place, I don't have to cry...too much. Have I already sorted out the tissue box?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Just Give Up!

Yesterday in the Ladies Sunday School Class, I gave what the world would consider the worst advice ever - just give up! Our flesh tells us that means we've failed or decided to quit. And that makes us feel terrible.

But Scripture tells us that giving up doesn't mean failure or quitting. It means surrendering everything that we are, have and think to the Lord. If we give up the nasty stuff that's clogging us up, we'll have more room for God to fill us with His desires.

This is the list of things God's Word tells us to give up - we only made it through about a third, as you can imagine, and there are many more. I pray you'll find time to study these this week and pray about what you're willing to give up.

A - Attitude (Ephesians 4:23-24)
B - Bitterness (Hebrews 12:14-15)
C - Cares (Luke 8:13-14)
D - Doubt (Romans 4:20-22)
E - Expectations (Psalm 62:5)
F - Fear (Isaiah 35:4)
G - Gloominess (1 Peter 4:12-13)
H - Hair-Trigger (Romans 12:17-19)
I - Impatience (Psalm 27:14)
J - Jealousy (James 3:16)
K - Kidding (Proverbs 26:18-19)
L - Laziness (Colossians 3:17)
M - Mind (Isaiah 26:3)
N - Negativity (James 3:5-10)
O - Obsessing (Philippians 4:8)
P - Pride (Proverbs 8:13)
Q - Quitting (John 4:34)
R - Refusal (Colossians 3:5-10)
S - Self-Criticism (John 1:12-13)
T - The Tongue (Luke 6:45)
U - Unforgiveness (Ephesians 4:31-32)
V - Vacillating (James 1:8)
W - Worldliness (1 John 2:15-17)
X - X-Raying Others (Philippians 2:4-5)
Y - Yes-Woman (Matthew 5:37)
Z - Zero-Sum (Philippians 2:4)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Weekend Of Moon Gazing

Is there anything more dramatic at night than a full moon? The glow lights up the darkness that would normally surround and envelope us.

When I consider thy heavens, the works of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? Psalm 8:3-4

Make this a weekend to discard the "wrapped-up-in-self" feelings that have overwhelmed you. Take a look at the moon tonight and remember David's words. God has created each with a special purpose - talk with Him about what yours is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Stuffed Peppers

On one of those slightly cooler days that is supposed to happen soon, you have to try this delicious recipe. Stuffed peppers can be made with any combination of meats and veggies, so it can be personalized for all those at your table. Make some with red peppers, some with green. Fill some with meats, some with veggies and some with different combinations.

4 red or green bell peppers
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 onion, chopped
optional: cooked rice, other colors and sizes of chopped peppers, thawed mixed veggies, shredded cheese
Spices to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Cut out the tops of each pepper, then into wedges using the humps on top as your guideline. Chop any leftover pieces and set aside.

3. Brown the ground meat in a large skillet. Add chopped veggies after the first two minutes of cooking. Season as desired (Italian, Mexican, Season-All, Montreal Steak, your own personal combination).

4. Spoon mixture into pepper shells and line up in non-stick-sprayed baking dish. Cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with cheese immediately, if desired.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back To School Tag

'Tis the season for the kids to head back to school. We had the sweetest prayer time with the students in our church on Sunday morning. It puts crafters in the mood to pull out the primary colors and do something special for the children.

This tag is a multi-functional piece that you can do just about anything with. Decorate it and personalize it for your little one and let them know that they're in your heart.

You'll need:
Card stock in multiple colors
Templates, stickers, etc
Circle cutter

1. Choose your focal point items. I used a crayon and an apple, each drawn with a template and cut out with scissors.

2. Make two circles in layered sizes using your circle cutter. If you don't have one, find two cups or dishes in slightly different sizes. Then adhere them together in a cute overlapping.

3. Print, stamp or write your sentiment on a coordinating color. Adhere in the middle and embellish as you'd like.

You can use these tags for any number of sweet messages.

* Tuck one in a lunch bag.
* Have it waiting with their after-school snack.
* Put it in their textbook or book bag.
* Punch a hole in the top and tie it onto crayons, pencils, notebook rings or a zipper.
* Lay it in the back seat for when you take them home.
* Make sure you write a special note on the back!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Bumpers Of God's Word

Imagine what parking lots would be like if there were no bumpers out there. Drivers would pull in however they wanted, there would be many more accidents and people walking to their car would have to negotiate the confusing traffic.

Now imagine what life would be like without the direction of God's Word. Christians would walk through life however they wanted, there would be many more conflicts and people walking with us would have to negotiate the confusing messages.

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. Psalm 32:8-11

Being led by the Lord and being guided by His Word is a joy. It's not a boundary that keeps us from enjoying life, but a teaching tool that begins with trust and ends with mercy. Why would we want to be sorrowful over making our own way through life when God has given us the instruction manual?

As we begin a new week, let's pray for guidance and ask for leadership from the Lord Himself. Won't that make the parking lot of our lives so much more orderly? And safer? And more pleasant to look at? And more joyful to maneuver? Enjoy His guidance this week.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Weekend Of Leaving Anger Behind

Do you ever feel like a boiling pot of water? You may not have even realized it, but anger and bitterness have built up so high that you just want to bubble over. It's not healthy and it's definitely too hot to handle.

Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9

Make this a weekend of leaving all that anger behind. Whatever the burner is that's fueling your boiling bitterness - turn it off! Lay it at the foot of the cross and get your heart right. That rolling anger only hurts those closest, and that's you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The New City

And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

And the nations of them which are savedshall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.

And they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it.

And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. Revelation 21:23-27

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bailey Makes Me Laugh

Danny stuck his head back out of the car window. I thought I was getting another kiss goodbye, but instead he gave the Bailey dog some parting advice.

"Make Mommy laugh today, OK Big Dog?"

I was having a terrible day and it was only 7:30. Not the way to start things off. And knowing I wouldn't see Danny again until supper just added a little extra gloom. So the need to laugh was incredible, and he knew exactly who could help with that while he was gone.

Well, Bailey took her instruction to heart and spent the day making me smile, laugh, chuckle, giggle and feel immensely better.

* She always chases the birds and squirrels out of the back yard, making the same patrol around the fence. Then she'll sit under the tree, guarding the area.

* She body-checks her sister while we're on our walks every morning...repeatedly. I'm not quite sure why, but it makes me smile every time.

* If she's not done getting her ears scratched, she'll pin my hand to the floor before I can move away.

* She watches you move around the room without moving her head - just her eyes. It feels like one of those creepy paintings from a horror movie.

* She would much rather you scratch her just above the tail than anywhere else on her body. So she'll move herself very strategically to be right where she wants you.

* No matter where she is in the house or yard, she can hear the cabinet door where her treats are stored. Then you hear the pounding of elephant feet trying to get there as quickly as possible.

* Apparently sleeping upside down is much more comfortable than on her side. Plus her belly is more accessible...just in case you want to rub it for a minute as you pass by.

Not a day goes by that Bailey doesn't make me laugh in one way or another. What are your pet's little quirks?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Veggie Wrap...The Next Level

A month ago I shared a great recipe for veggie wraps - a great summer meal. This week I took it to the next level and made it the perfect vegetarian lunch.

1 bag broccoli and carrot slaw mix
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
Rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, Chinese five spice to taste
2 romaine lettuce leaves

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add slaw mix and spices. Continue to stir fry until it reaches your desired texture.

2. Using the lettuce leaves as an edible bowl, spoon in the slaw mix. Eat and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Surprise Ball

This adorable little craft is a great way to creatively wrap several small gifts in a unique package. It's a little heavy, and lots of fun to open!

Start with a few small trinkets you'd like to give as a gift. This surprise ball is going to a sweet little girl I know, so I found a magnet, eraser, sticker, her initials, tiny dolls and some other bits and pieces. Too fun!

This surprise ball is an easy way to use up your bits and pieces of paper craft fibers, too. Or you can use a new skein of yarn. Start with your largest gift and wind the fibers around it. When you run out of one, tie on the next one.

Once the first trinket is wrapped, add the next one and cover it too. Then keep going!

Once all of your little gifts are wrapped and your ball is finished, choose a pretty fiber to wrap around the outside. Add a tag that explains how to unwind the surprise ball and it's all set to give to someone special!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Revealed By Fire

I sat on the back porch steps with a piece of paper in one hand and a grill lighter in the other. On that piece of paper was written all the wood, hay and stubble lies that I have created for myself.

My list included:
I am tired.
I am sore.
I am frustrated.
I am bitter.
I don't understand.
I can't do it.
I won't ever be different.

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 1 Corinthians 3:12-13

The lies that were written on that paper have been written on my heart for a very long time, and the devil has made sure to reiterate them as frequently as possible. He would like nothing more than to lock me up in a circle of depression, lies and bitterness.

And there they were - all those angry, terrible thoughts in black and white, staring at me from that paper. They looked even uglier there than when I saw them in my heart. There's something about words on paper that make lies nastier and the truth more apparent.

So I carefully folded the paper, said a prayer for strength and flipped the lighter on. The bright yellow flame quickly took hold of that single sheet of paper. It began creeping up, turning the written words into a blackened stick. Soon I couldn't hold it any more and I laid it down on the step beside me. In less than 30 seconds the entire piece of paper was gone, and all that remained was a pile of gray ash.

...because it shall be revealed by fire...

The lies, the anger, the bitterness...they were all revealed in the fire for what they truly were. Ash. They were nothing when put to the test. They don't define me, they don't create who I am and they absolutely don't present the true me. I have done those things myself, and I have allowed Satan to bind my heart and turn it into something I don't like.

But the truth of God's Word prevails again. He has shown me in no uncertain terms how to have victory in my life. The nasty stuff has to go up in flames before I can grow, before I can find peace and before I'll recognize the joy. God has provided a way to purge what is unhealthy and rejoice in His grace.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Weekend Of Kindness

Have you ever had someone do something completely wonderful and completely unexpected, just for you? Do you remember how incredibly special and loved that made you feel?

The desire of a man is his kindness... Proverbs 19:22

Make this a weekend of nothing but kindness. Do something out of the blue. Do something you haven't done in ages. Do something you've never done before.

Show the kindness that God has planted in your heart.

Friday, August 5, 2011

For The Beauty Of The Earth

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Genesis 1:31

The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. Psalm 33:8

His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like liilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. Song of Solomon 5:13

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
Isaiah 61:11

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Man In The Camouflage Shirt

I see the man in the camouflage shirt every morning. He and his dog (a tiny gray mop without the stick) walk at about the same time we do. Some days we chase them around the neighborhood and other days they chase us.

Our interactions on the road are pretty patterned. The three dogs see each other and then try to pull free to visit. This usually results in barking, bristled fur and dislocated shoulders. I always feel terrible because the gray mop usually ends up in the man's arms.

The man in the camouflage shirt and I have had one real conversation - we introduced ourselves one morning and I met the gray mop. He's a sweet little puppy, but they can't trust him around other dogs. I don't know what's happened in the past, but they're not comfortable with him actually meeting the girls. I think it would solve some of the interaction issues, but I also don't want to make the problem worse.

After not walking those 10 days that I was on vacation in Iowa, the girls have gotten back into the "first-thing-in-the-morning walk routine" very easily. But since I've been home, we've only seen the man in the camouflage shirt once. We were walking past his house as he and the gray mop were coming out for their walk. Pulling ensued, growling began and we hurried past. We even took an extra long route so they would be through their walk before we came back by.

Since then, the only time I've seen the two of them is well after we three are back in the house. Apparently the man in the camouflage shirt has adjusted their walking schedule so we won't overlap. I pray that I'm taking this too personally and it's merely a coincidence. I would hate to think that someone is changing their routine because our dogs don't communicate well.

Perhaps the opportunity will arise that we can do a puppy meet-and-greet to get all of these formalities out of the way. I don't have a problem with them sniffing and having a morning conversation - one that's carefully watched over while on leashes. We'll just see how things go. And how my schedule matches up with the man in the camouflage shirt and the little gray mop.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookie Cups

I love recipes that can be adapted to fit the situation. I've probably made these cookie cups a dozen times, but never quite this way.

We were asked to bring peanut butter desserts to our church fellowship this weekend. So here's my adaptation of a favorite recipe.

1 package of refrigerated peanut butter and chocolate ship cookie dough squares
24 miniature Reece's Peanut Butter Cups
Yep...that's it!

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray miniature muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Place one square of cookie dough in each muffin cup. Use your thumb to make a large bowl in each piece of dough.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for nine minutes. While dough is baking, unwrap the 24 Reece's cups.

4. Immediately after removing the cookies from the oven, set a cup in each hole. The heat will melt them slightly so they'll be all ooey-gooey.

If you're not going to serve these immediately, keep them in the refrigerator. Pull them out a few minutes early to bring to room temperature.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Teeny Tiny Little Album

This teeny tiny album is the perfect way to showcase baby pictures, those little school photos or even your favorite Scriptures. It takes just a few minutes to put together and ties up all pretty with a little ribbon.

You'll need:
12x12 card stock
scraps of decorator paper
paper trimmer
assorted embellishments

1. Cut a 2.5 inch strip from the bottom of a 12x12 piece of card stock.

2. Fold the card stock strip into six 2 inch sections. The ends will ultimately be pointing in the same direction.

3. Cut small slits in the outer two folds, just wide enough to thread your ribbon through. Cut the ribbon long enough to tie in a pretty bow.

4. Cut a piece of coordinating decorator paper to measure 2.5x1.5 inches. Fold the album together so the two ends are touching. Adhere the scrap of paper to the edges like a book binding.

5. Decorate each page as desired. Fold together and tie up with the ribbon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What's The Hitch In Your Giddy-Up?

While out walking the girls this morning, I felt something pop in my right hip. I have fibromyalgia, so that was nothing new. But the sharp pain progressed down my leg into my knee, and soon I was limping behind two black labs wanting to go at our normal pace.

Suddenly I wondered if this was what Jacob felt like when the angel of the Lord touched his thigh.

And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacobs' thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. Genesis 32:25

If that very tender area of the body is out of joint, you get a real hitch in your giddy-up, to use that lovely Mid-Western phrase. It affects everything that you do, from sitting to standing to trying to walk. It's a constant pain and a constant annoyance.

Many of my prayers lately have been for the Lord to show me how I can grow more in Him. I've felt very much like my hip this morning - halted by something, being slowed down. But be careful how you pray - He's faithful to answer!

So what's the hitch in your spiritual giddy-up? What's keeping you from growing in the Lord?
* Not enough time studying His Word?
* An inactive prayer life?
* A pitiful heart-attitude?
* Some sin that you haven't completely discarded?
* Plain old laziness?
* Apathy?

I pray that we'll all examine our hearts and pray that God will show us how we can grow spiritually. There's nothing worse than a hitch in your giddy-up!