Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When All You Need Is A Cookie

What's a woman to do when she just NEEDS a cookie?

She could go buy a whole package of cookies - and then eat the whole package of cookies. Or she could go without a cookie - and that is a sad place to be.

Better yet, she could make a single cookie in a cup in just a couple of minutes. That sounds like a plan to me ... and much less tempting than having a whole package sitting around.

1 Tbsp melted butter
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp white sugar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp mini chocolate chips

1. In a bowl, combine ingredients in the order they're listed.

2. Transfer cookie dough into a cup. Microwave for 60 seconds.

3. Eat as is or add some lovely toppings.

Monday, January 27, 2014

You Are Loved So Much

Every woman has moments in her life when she feels about two inches tall.

Maybe it's feeling unappreciated, put down or neglected. People can poke at us, prod us and drive us insane with their words and actions - or lack thereof. There are some who do it unwittingly while other are purposely trying to crush our spirit.

Some days it's dealing with angry people at work. Other days it's friends and family who mean well but step on more than just your toes. Or complete strangers say and do the things in their hearts, not realizing who and what they're breaking.

These hostilities make us wonder if there's anyone out there who loves us. Sure, people say the words, but we often wonder if it's really true.

Are we all alone? Is there anyone left who loves us completely?
Without question?
For all eternity?
to the ends of the earth?

Take a few minutes to read and you'll soon discover the truth, the truth that will set you free:

You are SO loved ... John 3:16
You are cared about ... 1 Peter 5:7
You are GREATLY loved ... Ephesians 2:4-5
You are worth the sacrifice ... Romans 5:8
You are loved by the One Who IS love ... 1 John 4:8
You are crowned with love ... Psalm 103:4-5
You are ALWAYS loved in return ... Proverbs 8:17
You are loved beyond height and depth ... Romans 8:39
You are loved, rooted and grounded ... Ephesians 3:16-19

No one on the face of this earth will ever love you the way God does. When you feel abandoned, betrayed, alone and worthless, read these verses again.

You are loved beyond measure by the One Who created you - and He loves you just the way He made you.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Sketch

One of the characteristics of a great sketch is its flexibility. A good sketch will work for a card or two, but a great sketch can be used time and again in different themes and colors.

This is the perfect example of such a sketch. Imagine, if you will, a basic background that can change color for your event or holiday. The main block is an image that gives a clear picture of the theme. Behind that is a strip that gives more punch and six small images that can rotate through all of the typical thematic elements.

For my card, I prepared for the season of love in true Valentine's style - there's no mistaking this theme. The background is double matted in dark pink and a light pink pattern. Subtlety is important when layering patterns of similar colors.

The banner in the middle is simply a card stock phrase mounted on a long strip of white. The ends each have a triangle snipped out, creating the banner look.

Each pattern is very specifically Valentine's Day - the hearts, ribbons and more hearts. Coordinating colors make sure it's not too overwhelming.

This card, along with many other paper crafts and wood gifts, are available in our Etsy shop. Come visit us at www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Weekend Of Attention

At this time of the year, the deer in our woods are much more alert than normal. It's quieter because of the snow, so they're much more careful.

If you watch them as they walk, they are very aware of the world around them. Their adorable ears are constantly moving and their big eyes take in everything they can. No detail goes unnoticed.

And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. 1 Corinthians 7:35

Make this a weekend of attention - attention to the Lord without distraction. There are enough little things happening these two days that could easily draw us away from our time with God. Instead of charging through the weekend, let's be just as attentive as these deer. Focus on the important things - time with the Lord - and see what blessings He has in store for you.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Savior, Like A Shepherd

No one knows the sheep of the field better than their shepherd. He knows what's best for them, what their individual personalities are and what they need to keep them safe and happy.

Another shepherd could come in, but the relationship would be totally different. They don't know each other or trust each other because there is no foundation to build upon.

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15

As the sheep of God's field, we are protected and led by the Good Shepherd. He knows us personally and knows us better than we know ourselves. He has known us from the foundation of the world, and He knows every hair on our head - what a magnificent and soothing thought.

Jesus Christ knows us so well that He knows what blessings we need and when we need to be poked a little. Just like the shepherd in the field, there is a balance between tender affection and a well placed prodding to keep the sheep in live. Jesus knows the best of both motivations and what will provide us with the best and most wonderful life with Him.

While under the watchful eye of the shepherd, the sheep can relax and trust, knowing that their guardian will take care of them. In faith, we know that the Lord leads, guides and directs while keeping our best interest in mind. This is how we are able to rest in Him in complete peace and satisfaction.

And what a glorious message in these two verses that the Christ who loves us so dearly and protects us so carefully was willing to lay down His very life for us, His sheep. This is how we are sealed for all eternity, safe in the field of Jesus Christ.

I love the look on this little sheep's face. It kind of says it all. He looks wide-eyed in surprise, like he's been startled a little. Under the protective watch of the Shepherd, all we have to be wide-eyed about are His wondrous blessings. There is no reason to worry or fear because the Shepherd has everything under control. This isn't our natural inclination, so it's often surprising when we realize how safe and cared for we really are. What a wonderful way to spend life, looking for those daily blessings and having our eyes opened to how much our Shepherd loves us and how well He cares for us.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Three-Ingredient Berry Cobbler

When it's cold and windy outside, there's nothing more comforting than a warm berry cobbler. Add a couple of dollops of ice cream and you're set!

Better yet, this cobbler uses just three ingredients and takes just about 45 minutes. So within an hour, you'll have a dreamy dessert to fight off the chill.

two bags of frozen berries (I used a bag of basic mixed fruit, plus half a bag each of raspberries and blueberries)
one box of your favorite cake mix (I used french vanilla)
a 20-ounce bottle of Sprite

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Pour a single layer of frozen berries into a 9x13 inch glass baking dish.

3. Evenly cover the top of the berries with the cake mix.

4. Pour the Sprite over the cake mix, making sure it all gets covered. If any mix is sticking out over the top of the Sprite, it will remain uncooked and powdered. Stir it a little bit if you need to.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until it's all bubbly and browned on the top.

6. Serve warm with some ice cream and your favorite toppings.

After polishing this cobbler off in two sittings, Danny and I are already planning the next one. We want to try one with orange soda and some frozen citrus fruit. So many combinations, so many possibilities!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Preparing For Trials

Trials and difficult times come out of nowhere. There is no sign or warning or time for preparation, letting us know that a trying time is coming.

It's often difficult to think or reason when you're in the middle of a crisis. Time moves too fast or too slow - your mind becomes jumbled just attempting to function normally. You may even be physically sick or mentally exhausted. The key is to be learning, studying and growing now before the trouble comes.

You wouldn't sit down in a classroom and take a test without studying, just assuming you'll pass on blind luck. You spend countless hours reading and memorizing and learning so that when the day of the test arrives, scheduled or not, you'll have all the resources you need to be successful.

The same principle applies to tests in your personal life. The more preparing you do in God's Word now, the easier it will be find victory over the obstacles set before you.

Here are just a handful of verses to get you started:

* Pray. Job 5:8-9

* Be patience. 2 Thessalonians 1:4-6

* Trust. 2 Samuel 22:3

* Remember. Psalm 77:11-13

* Pray more. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

* Rejoice. Romans 12:12

* Be faithful. Deuteronomy 4:30-31

* Have cheer. John 16:33

If you're going through a trial right now, I pray that these verses will give you some hope and comfort. If you're just coming out of a trial, I pray that you've grown through it and that it brought you closer to the Lord.

If you're not in one or coming out of one, rest assured that "man's days are few and full of trouble." I pray that these verses will give you the tools and faith you need to trust in the Lord when the difficult times come.

Monday, January 20, 2014

An Afternoon Walk In The Woods

There's nothing better to do during a heat wave than go for a walk in the woods.

And by heat wave, I mean it was 45 degrees - an actual heat wave in southern Iowa right now.

It's a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon in January.

A walk in the woods means we let the girls off their leashes and meander behind them as they traipse through the 33 acres of woods surrounding the house. Along the way, we test the ice on the pond, look for tracks and see what else might be left behind by animals walking through the snow.

It is absolutely gorgeous in the woods right now. The sunshine hasn't melted everything up there yet, so there are plenty of smells for the girls and plenty of sights for Danny and me.

We've got some ideas for springtime, things we'd like to add and change and take out of those trails. It's so much fun to talk and dream and think and walk and enjoy the girls.

And you can tell our ages, too. Bailey turned 12 right after Christmas, and she's starting to act her age. She ran for a bit, then she came to a complete stop and then proceeded to make her way back up tot he front door. My Sadie dog on the other hand, she sticks like glue no matter where we go. Pain or not, she's right by our sides the whole time.

After just about an hour of walking the trails uphill and downhill, we all slept really well.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Sketch

 I absolutely adore this sketch. It's so versatile and easy to be creative with. It's very, very simple, which makes it full of possibilities.

The lefthand side is a border - a border of whatever you'd like. It could be lots of different sizes of the same image, many colors or shapes, or maybe just a layered paper border of a pattern.

Like I said - it's full of possibilities.

The phrase or focal point is in the bottom corner, accented with one more of those embellishments. This leaves the upper righthand corner empty, drawing the eye down the side and across the bottom.
In my card, I used coordinating shades of blue, including the images along the side. This was the fun part - finding everything in pretty shades to go together. I also ink-distressed all of the edges so they would stand out from each other.

The second background layer also has two rounded corners for a little added interested. Now that I look at it, I would probably make this top layer a lightly patterned paper for even more contrast.

Hopefully seeing this sketch and example, you've already got an idea in your mind of something similar you can make. It's a great opportunity to make something special and memorable with a card full of possibilities.

This card, along with many other handmade cards and wood gifts, are available in our Etsy shop. Come visit us at www.stufffromtrees,etsy,com.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

BBQ Chuck Roast

I've been in a meat kind of mood lately. I'm really making an effort to cut out all the sweets and extras we've been eating in our house and do some great, tasty meals.

This BBQ chuck roast is the perfect way to do that. It's fairly effortless and is just full of flavor. Choose a roast with some good marbling and you're set! Plus, it's an easy slow cooker recipe, so set it and go.

4-5 pound boneless chuck roast
Montreal chicken seasoning
olive oil
1 can root beer
1 can red chile enchalada sauce
3 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste
1/4 cup water or milk

1. Heat 2-3 Tbsp olive oil in a cast iron skillet. While it's heating, coat the roast with Montreal chicken seasoning. Sear the meat on all sides.
2. Place the meat in the bottom of the slow cooker and turn it to high.
3. Mix the root beer, enchalada sauce, Worchestershire sauce and hot sauce in a bowl. Pour mixture over the meat and cover.
4. Cook in slow cooker for 1 hour on high, then lower heat for 7-8 hours or just on low for 8-10 hours.

If you're interested in a gravy, remove roast and mix cornstarch into milk until it is slightly thickened, then pour into juices from the slow cooker.
Cook on high 15 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Taking On A Wood Burning Project

I've been up to my ears in special orders for Etsy over the past few weeks, and it's been phenomenal! I love getting to be creative and make some special cards for some very special people.

But after a while, I can't focus on paper anymore. I'm a self-described paper addict, but I have my limits some days.

So I wandered out of my comfort zone and into Danny's. I asked him to cut me some wood rounds, the coasters you get from slicing a large branch, and teach me how to use his wood burning pen.

Now, I've seen him use it many, many times. And he's made a lot of amazing wood gifts for people by wood burning. I, however, have never tried this before.

He readily agreed and walked me through how to use it safely and effectively. I didn't realize how intricate it can be to use or how easily you can ... ummm ... change your project mid-stream.

But it's so much fun. I've been practicing on some easy patterns, like snowflakes and writing, but there are so many ways to use a wood burner.

Stay tuned for some finished projects!

And now, back to my craft room.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Dangers of Overplanning

Lists are wonderful, beautiful organizational tools. They make life simpler and keep us from having to remember and rehearse things in our head. Or at least that's the idea, anyway.

I'm a list-maker. I love seeing everything that I need to do or get or see all in one place, and I love to cross things off my list when they've been accomplished. There is personal satisfaction in that to me.

But, like anything else, too much of a good thing can be destructive. As much as I love lists, I'm learning that relying on them too much - and going overboard - can actually make things worse.

On Friday morning, I made a list that would get me through the entire weekend. On the Saturdays and Sundays that Danny has to work, I close myself up at home to get some major things accomplished. It's my time to be productive and do some things that I've been putting off.

So here is this entire weekend ahead of me on Friday. My list included getting caught up on some blog posts, methodically cleaning my way through the house and finishing up a special order for Etsy. I filled an entire page of a yellow tablet in my enthusiasm - I was all ready to get started early Saturday morning.

But when Saturday morning actually arrived, I couldn't walk on my left leg. That's what Fibromyalgia is like. You'll feel fine one night and then are basically crippled the next morning. I've been like this since I was 16, so it's not so big of a deal anymore, but it meant I wasn't going to be able to accomplish several of the things on my list. It's very, very difficult to sweep when you can't put your full weight on one side of your body, for example.

So there's one whole chunk of my list that I couldn't accomplish. That's enough to put anyone in a funk, but especially me when my plan gets changed without my permission.

I decided to tackle the other parts of the list - I put meat in the slow cooker, I put a couple of new cards on Etsy and I made several pieces for my special order. All of that was feeling pretty good.

But by the time I sat on the heating pad for a while and made it through those few things, it was supper time. Only checking a couple of items off my list didn't look like I'd accomplished very much at all.

And then the voices started:
Well, that will teach you to plan ahead.
How lazy can you be?
That's a wasted day.
Is that really all you can do?
People are going to be so disappointed.

So I cried a little. And I prayed a lot. And I figured out something very important.

A list, a plan or an idea are all good, helpful, needful things, but that's all they are. They're not written in stone or a measurement of my worth. In contrast, they're also not so important that not accomplishing them makes me a terrible, horrible, unChristian person.

Sometimes the things I plan in my head are easy, like when you do something and add it to your list just you can cross it off. It makes you feel good for a moment, but you've not really accomplished anything you set out to do. It's just "stuff."

I can write things out, assign a task to every hour of the day and even gather everything I need to fill a day with "doing." I can even have the best of intentions, but in the end, my performance is not the measure of my standing with the Lord.

So here's my plan for the moment, just so I'm not beating myself up or feeling like a failure. I'm not going to let my plans go beyond today. I'm only promised this one moment, so I'm going to make the most of it. I'm through being overwhelmed by my own overly high standards.

Oh, I'll still write things down - otherwise I'll forget my own name. And I'll still cross things off and smile because it's one more accomplishment for the day. But I'll not let the enemy's lies tell me that I should be more than I am or better than I am.

God's truth says that He will bless the work of my hands that is done in His name. That's better than getting through a to-do list any day. And it should be.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Sketch

A card doesn't have to be intricate and time-consuming to be special and beautiful. A simple layout and gorgeous colors make all the difference - not slaving over a craft table for hours on end.

This sketch is basically three layers for the background - two solids and a pattern - and then three coordinating blocks behind the focal point.

For each piece, you want to make sure there is lots of layering to add depth and color all over this card. Without that technique, you've got boring paper on paper, which seems a little silly.

For my card, I used a coordinating set of blue papers. Starting with the back aqua layer, I matted my way up to the light blue patterned background.

I'm not big on measuring, mostly because I don't like numbers, so I eyeballed the three panels in the middle of the card. If you're more of a perfectionist, you can always measure the space, divide by three and subtract the margins. Yeah, I'm happy making my best guess.

The verse I chose is one of my favorite verse from the book of Psalms. Prayer is such an important part of our spiritual lives, and sharing that message with someone on a card makes it extra special.

If you don't want to use a verse, consider stamping a phrase or choosing a coordinating image that will work as a focal point.

I have these papers in many different colors: blue, green, brown, purple, red. I think a set of cards, one in each color, would be fantastic!

This card, along with many other paper crafts and wood gifts, can be found in our Etsy shop. Come visit us at www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Weekend of Finding Forgiveness

If you're like me, you've failed this week.

Not to be depressing, but I've failed over and over again. They weren't huge, end-of-the-world failures, but I still feel terrible about how I've fallen short of God's expectations.

Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me under the shadow of thy wings. Psalm 17:8

God is always waiting to forgive and move on. Imagine yourself as the apple of His eye, a special child that He loves to love. The shadow of His wings covers, protects and comforts when you've strayed away.

Make this a weekend of finding forgiveness. Whatever it is that's kept you from being everything you need to be, get rid of it. Ask forgiveness from God and forgiveness from those around you. Then turn your heart back to the Lord and find the peace that only He can give.

I pray we'll all purge our lives of anything that separates us from close fellowship with the Lord.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Pecans

After playing around with several different versions and recipes, I've finally figured out my favorite cinnamon sugar pecans. And the biggest surprise, to me anyway, was that I ended up liking brown sugar on my pecans more than regular white sugar. I never would have guessed the difference brown sugar would make.

What you'll need:
1 egg white
3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon (I used my favorite Indonesian Korintje cinnamon.)
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons water
1 1/2 pounds pecans

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Generously spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. I used a 9x13 cake pan and it worked really well.

2. Beat the egg white in a large bowl until it's all foamy. The add the cinnamon, brown sugar, salt and water. Mix it all together until it's smooth.

3. Add in the pecans, stirring until they're all completely coated. Spread on the baking sheet and pour any leftover syrup over the top.

4. Bake in a 250-degree oven for an hour, stirring thoroughly every 15 minutes.

5. Stir one more time and let them cool - if you don't eat them all as soon as they come out!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunday Sketch

 It's so much to do things outside of your comfort zone - especially when you're doing paper crafts!

Numbers and measurements scare me. I like words and I like eye-balling things. That's what makes something look wonderful and homemade.

But a sketch like this doesn't have to be intimidating. And you don't HAVE to measure, although it helps sometimes. The quilt blocks make this an incredibly pretty card, and you can use a variety of coordinating patterns and colors to tie it all together.

Start with one block in one corner and use that one piece to measure out your other ones. That way you don't have to start adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing ... shudder.

To make my card, I actually started with the bird on the "Polaroid" in the middle. Then I was able to make the blocks behind it in the right proportions. And that made the bottom two blocks easy because I just had to use the leftover space and mat my phrase inside it. Sometimes working backwards has its place.

And I love the fabric ribbon around the base of the image. It just "ties" it all together. See what I did there?

This card, along with many other paper crafts and wood gifts can be found in our Etsy shop. Come visit us at www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Weekend of Making Tracks

One of the great things about living in the country when it snows is that you can finally see what's in the woods around you. We don't have night vision goggles, so the tracks left in the snow and on the ice give us a little glimpse into who's out there.

Their snow prints show us a little bit about who they are, where they're coming from and where they're going. The little ones coming up to the back door this morning don't excite me very much (Danny says it's just a cat, but I think it's polar bear), but the ones on the ponds fascinate me. They're large enough that I can see them from the upper deck.

Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:10

Just like those animals walking through the snow, we're leaving a trail behind us, too. Every day that we walk through life as a daughter of the King, we're making impressions on the people we meet. The question then becomes, are we leaving tracks that we'd like someone else to follow?

Those who come behind us will see the tracks we make and that is our legacy here on earth. They show where we came from, where we've been and where we're going. The life we live lays it all out there for everyone to see.

Make this a weekend of making tracks - behaving yourself in a way that is holy, just and without blame in the sight of God. That's how we'll truly leave a mark on the lives of those around us.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Kitchen Storage Revamped

Now that the holidays are over, I'm rearranging the furniture.

And it's a chain of events. Moving one piece meant moving something else which led to rearranging another piece and finding new places for something else.

So here's the first part of the chain. I needed a place to put all of my cookbooks ... and there are a lot of them. (I'll explain why they had to be moved in another post.)

But in order to have this entire cabinet available, I had to rearrange half the kitchen. Maybe I'm the only one who's ever done this, but when we moved in, I just unloaded boxes and put things where I assumed they would be handy. Unfortunately, that's not the case two years later.

So all of the kitchen bits that I had on these four shelves found new homes. And they're homes that make a little more sense. That meant I had these super-deep shelves to put my cookbooks. On three of them, there are either more cookbooks behind them or some kitchen equipment that I rarely use, so I don't need them handy. Then I have some bigger pieces on the bottom like the big slow cooker and my lunch bag. Plus, the girls know which cabinet their treats are in, so those stay put as a book end,

This is so much handier that storing them in the living room, and it forced me to sort and store a lot of extra stuff. Plus, I just love the way it looks! Is it bad to sit in front of open cabinets and just smile? I hope not.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Carrell Dessert Competition

A few days ago, I challenged Danny to a dessert competition. We each had a spice cake basket shell that I made with my new cake pan.

The  challenge was to create the best dessert using that shell and anything we had in the house - no going out and getting more. Hmmm...

For mine, I put in two scoops of vanilla ice cream and added mini chips and a chocolate syrup drizzle. I was so pleased - it looked pretty and smelled so good. I'm a sucker for a great spice cake.

And then my husband showed me what he made.

First, he put a spoonful of frosting into the bottom of the shell and heated it up. That way, when he put the ice cream in, the frosting would be all melted and flow over the edges. On top of that, he added candy raspberries, mini peanut butter cups, mini chocolate chips and chocolate syrup.

I know when I've lost. And yes, I stole a couple of his ideas the next night!