Friday, July 31, 2015

My Book Stack This Week - Or What Happens When You Go To Two Used Book Sales In Two Months

I love book sales. I love to read the titles of every single book. I love to look for certain authors. I love to be surprised by books on subjects I love that I didn't know existed. I love that you never know what you'll find. I love that one man's donated book is another man's treasured book.

I love books.

So having two used book sales in two months in two towns has been a wonderful time for me. I found several books by my favorite fiction writer, as well as trunk-loads of study books and just-for-fun books. I don't think any of them are very new, and that makes them all the more fun!

Did I mention that I love books?

I've already read through many of them, and they have found a permanent home on one of the many bookshelves in our house. The rest are piled up on my end table, just begging to be read.

Here's just a sampling of what's on the stack right now.

1. Making Scrapbooks: Complete Guide to Preserving Your Treasured Memories. Published in 1998, this was one of the oldest books I found, but when you're looking for new ideas for your own work, anything can trigger your creativity. In addition to lots of early layouts, there are also sections on gathering family history, photography tips and how to restore photos that have been damaged. I'm really interested in the chapter on binding techniques so I can do some book making of my own.

2. Reader's Digest book Jesus and His Times. The 336 pages of this book are packed with photos, drawings and historical information about the time period Jesus lived in. I really enjoy learning the background to a story - it makes the truths of the Bible a little more vivid during my daily study. The photography of the region is amazing, and the maps are well worth the dollar I paid for it.

3. Every Woman In The Bible. I am fascinated by the lives of the women in the Bible, particularly those of the New Testament. This book details the lives of the Biblical women - those named and those not named - and their impact on the world around them. This one will have to be read little by little, as there is so much information packed into it.

4. I was thrilled to find Elizabeth George's Cultivating A Life Of Character - Judges and Ruth. She is my favorite study book author, and this is one I didn't have. It is part of her Woman After God's Own Heart Bible study series, and I'll be starting a new notebook for it, like I have with all her others. (I still have a hard time writing in any book other than my Bible.)

5. The Words Lincoln Lived By: 52 Timeless Principles To Light Your Path. Ever since I was a little girl, Abraham Lincoln has always been my favorite president. We took a trip to Springfield when I was growing up, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Again, there's nothing like experiencing history to make you appreciate it. The author chose 52 of Lincoln's thoughts on things like compromise, freedom, courage and determination, then explained why they were so important in Lincoln's life. It's arranged, he explains, to be used during your quiet time once a week for a year, and I love that idea.

6. Sears, Roebuck and Co. Fall 1900 Catalog reprint. This one is completely for fun! In 1970, they reprinted a miniature version of the catalog from 1900, and it's absolutely fascinating. The print is very small, but my curiosity makes me read every word. From spices and soap to clothes and tools, it lists prices, colors and sizes in its detailed descriptions. You could even buy your tombstone for $9.98. I'm reading it page by page until my eyes go crossed.

7. Girl Meets Change: Truth To Carry You Through Life's Transitions. This is the only book on my stack right now that's brand new. Kristen Strong is an amazing blogger ( whom I have been following for ages. I've been able to relate to her stories about life as a military wife and Christian woman, and now she has a book about the truths that carry you through life's transitions. It's so full of Scriptural truths and honest emotion that it's terribly difficult to put down. If you'd like to pre-order this amazing book, look here.

Enough writing. More reading.
I love books.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins

I especially enjoy recipes that use up pantry ingredients. You know, those staples that you almost always have one hand. There's nothing more frustrating than finding a great recipe and having to run to the store because it calls for something out of the ordinary.

That's why I love these special oatmeal muffins. You probably have everything you need to make them right this minute in your pantry - go check!

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk (I used almond)
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups apples, diced

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients.

3. Add the milk, eggs, oil and vanilla. Stir until well combined.

4. Fold in the diced apples.

5. Fill muffin tin 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

6. Cool muffins in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to finish cooling.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chalk + Stencil = Beautiful!

 While digging through a drawer in the craft room, I came across a large container of chalks. I never found the other things I was looking for, but the colors showing through the lid sure got me thinking. I had to sit down and play for a while to get some of my chalky ideas on paper.

Most paper crafters have chalk in their collections but hardly ever use them. If you pair them with stencils, you can have a variety of patterns and shapes at your disposal.

A variety of colors can help you create your own background, coordinating specifically with the paper and embellishments you have on hand. Here is created a primary colored background paper for a birthday card. To make the chalk smudge-proof, just spray it lightly with hair spray.

You can use the same technique with a smaller stencil for a border. Here is chose the smallest circle I could find.

And it became the fall border I wanted for this encouragement card. I stamped the leaves in black so the color from the chalks would show through.

For something completely different, use your template to cut out a shape, then chalk around the edges.

When you move the shape away, you'll have a clean negative space to stamp or write in.

The fall card shown here, along with many other paper crafts and wood gifts, can be found in our Etsy shop. Come visit today - you'll find lots of great ideas and maybe even a gift or two.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Sketch

Pick your favorite patterned paper and get ready for some fun with this week's sketch! With a small sentiment area and just a couple of embellishments, you can really showcase a beautiful set of papers.

Double mat the background using a solid color and your perfectly coordinated pattern. Triple mat with a coordinating solid if you like - the more layers, the merrier, I always say.

The area with your small sentiment starts with a matted strip in a coordinating solid color and a more muted pattern. Then add two embellishments on the corner and you're all set!
For my card, I started with a jeweled, textured card stock and matted one of my favorite fall patterned papers on top of it. Both of them are ink-distressed.

Then I matted a second pattern onto a lighter colored card stock so it would stand out against the busy background pattern. This is the secret to mixing patterns - contrasting colors and making sure they don't overshadow each other.

The phrase is hand-stamped and accented with two gold gems. The paper flowers are attached to the strip with jeweled brads.

This card, along with many other paper crafts and wood gifts, is available in our Etsy shop. Come visit today for more great ideas and a gift idea or two.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Weekend Of Courage

Three of his baby bird brothers had already flown from the nest, but he sat there on the edge. He would flutter his wings little and peer over the side, but he stayed put. There was a whole world out there for him to explore, but he sat on the brink.

It would be two more days before he summoned up the courage to fly to a neighboring tree. The rest of his family took off long before he did, flying to the sky before he was willing to let his little feet let go of the safety of the nest.

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:9

We're all guilty of holding on to the edge of the nest a little too tightly. God is calling us to fly away into something that we're not quite ready for, so we flap our wings a little, sit on the edge a little and focus on how far away the ground looks if we don't make it.

Make this a weekend of courage. One of God's multitude of promises is that we will have Him with us wherever we go. He will never give us instructions without staying by our side wherever we go. And He'll be the one to hold our wings steady and keep us aloft as we let go in faith and take off. What an adventure it will be!

Friday, July 24, 2015

When Water And Gravity Mix

It's been such a rainy, stormy 2015 in Iowa. We laugh that it always rains on Danny's day off, but that's been the truth for the past couple of months. It's difficult to keep up with work on the property when it's either storming or flooding. The ground is so saturated that it hasn't been able to keep up.

The other dramatic effect of the rain is what it does to our driveway. It's a pretty steep incline, and torrential downpours cause huge crevices in the gravel as it flows downhill. A car can make it up and down, but it's a jarring, jolting trip. It's pretty amazing to see how weather works, but it's not so much fun to get sloshed about trying to get home.

It always makes me think about the pioneer days, how they would have handled traveling through across the country with no roads at all. Their roads and land would have looked much like this after the rain, too, and wagon wheels would have had much more trouble getting through these ruts than our modern vehicles do.

The gravel all piles up at the bottom and on the side of the driveway after those heavy rains. Danny switches out attachments on the tractor, pushes it all back into place and then smooths it all down. We can't pave it because the slope would be too steep to get up in the winter snow, so this is the natural alternative. Hopefully we're done with the dramatic weather for the summer so we can work on some other projects.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Honey Cornbread

There's nothing better with chili or beans and rice than warm, gooey, sticky cornbread. If this is your honest opinion, too, you'll love how easy it is to make honey cornbread by altering a box mix.

Use two boxes of cornbread mix, substituting one of the eggs with 1/4 cup of honey. Bake according to the package directions.

When it comes out of the oven, while it's still warm, serve it up and drizzle a little more honey over the top. It will soak in, making it the perfect, oozy-gooey texture.

You can also alter it even further by combining this cornbread recipe with this one for cornbread with actual corn. Drain a little of the corn juice out of the can before you add it in or it will be a little too wet and loose when it comes out of the oven.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Reversible Holiday Blocks

A few weeks ago I told you about a wonderful collection of wooden shapes we had received from friends of ours. I've already made a few projects with them, but this one has to be my favorite.

One side is designed for fall and Thanksgiving ....

While the other side is all ready for Christmas!

 You could do this with any sized block you want, but these are 1 1/4-inches square. First I covered them with a coating of stain. You can see the difference between the finished ones on the left and the plain ones on the right. I think the stain makes them look like little cheesecakes, but that's just me.

Then I used a very light coat of ModPodge on the back of 1-inch squares of seasonal scrapbook paper to attach them to the wood. I let them dry overnight.

Finally, I added foam letter stickers to spell out the wording.

There's one more step after this, but it's a surprise. I'll have these at Walk On Art Street in September, so you'll have to stay tuned to see how I dress them up even more for the show!

Monday, July 20, 2015

We're In Combat Mode

I made a special trip to a local sporting goods store recently to get a pair of shirts.

No, you won't find Danny and me dressed in matching outfits. Ever. Coordinating, perhaps, but not matching.

We needed something to kick-start a change in our lives. We realized we've become pretty complacent in our routine.

You know that a rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out, right?

So we are officially in combat mode.

For us, that means fighting the good fight of faith in every aspect of our lives. No matter what.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13

Here's what combat mode looks like for us:

* spiritual life - daily quiet time and Bible study. Being in church every time the door is open and preparing for worship before we ever get to the church house.

* physically - exercise as often as possible. Eating better and limiting portion sizes. Being active instead of sitting around like bumps on a log.

* financially - being better stewards of the money God has given.

* house and home - again, being better stewards of the home and property God has given. Cleaning, arranging and taking care of every aspect of the house and land.

* relationships - getting outside our happy little bubble and fellowshipping with friends and family. Spending time before and after services with church family, having guests at the house and writing letters to those who live far away. Taking time to notice what the needs are around us and doing whatever we can to meet them.

* attitudes - looking at every task as a calling from God to work for His honor and glory. Getting past the need to be seen of men, the laziness and the apathy that keeps us from going above and beyond the everyday.

Please join us in putting on the whole armor of God. It's time to enter into combat mode and fight the good fight of faith in every aspect of your lives. We know we will come out victorious in the end because the battle's not ours, but God's.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Sketch

Can't choose between a great picture and an amazing phrase? Design a card this week that puts both your image and your sentiment front and center.

Lots of layers are lovely, and this is your opportunity to use them. A beautiful patterned paper is paired with a phrase and image, beautifully balancing each other out.

Layer two coordinating colors, then make a border of pattern on one side.

Mat your image. Mat your sentiment. Add any embellishments you'd like and you're done!
For my card, I chose a beautiful vintage flowered paper and matched it up with two colors of card stock, each ink-distressed. I also cut out an additional flower from he patterned paper as a little extra embellishment.

The block of patterned paper is torn to show the white core, making the definition in the middle a little more stark.

My phrase, Letters are visits when friends are apart, is stamped and matted near the middle, while the embossed image balances it out in the bottom corner.

This card, along with many other paper crafts and wood gifts, can be found in our Etsy shop. Come visit today for more great ideas and the perfect gift for yourself or someone special.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Weekend Of Singing Along

There's within my heart a melody - it's more than just the opening lyrics of a hymn. It's my heart.

If you're around me for any period of time, you'll notice that I'm always singing or humming. It's very rare for me to not have a sing going through my head - and yes, everything reminds me of a sing.

You've been warned...

There's probably a song on your heart, too. It's just another proof that humans are designed to worship the Lord.

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

Make this a weekend of singing along with the song the Lord had placed in your heart. It may be a phrase of praise. Or a tune of thanksgiving. Or a melody of mercy. Or a line of love. Or a chorus of compassion.

Whatever it is, whatever that melody drifting through you is, sing it. Sing it loud and sing it strong. It's the song that God has placed there just for you, and it's the perfect chorus to share with the world around you.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Planning A Grocery List That Will Save You Time And Money

One of our local grocery stores recently rearranged its shelves. I understand their strategy because like items are now grouped together, but it's been a very confusing time for people.

I was actually able to help one woman who just wanted to know where the bread was. She said she felt like she was just wandering in circles, so I walked her two feet over from where she was looking. When she said she felt silly, I told her there was no reason.

It's a confusing time.

My grocery list is set up by aisle, saving tons of time, energy and money along the way. So when the store was turned upside down, I had to redo my list.

With a few spare minutes one afternoon while I was out running other errands, I stopped in to the grocery store. (Once they were done with their arranging.) Beginning with the right side - produce - and working my way to the left - the health market - I mapped out each aisle. This is the path I make when I shop, staying mostly to the outside edge of the store, so this is the order my list is in.

I'm sure the video cameras caught me walking up and down each aisle, writing furiously. I made note of things that we buy every week, keeping them in order. This is what saves me so much time in the long run. I hate backtracking because I forgot something, so having it written down aisle by aisle prevents that.

Once I got home, I typed this new, scrawled list into the computer. My check-off boxes are a visual guide for me, and there's plenty of space to add in special items that we don't always buy. When I'm planning our meals for the week, I have this list out and fill in the blanks as I go.

So how will this save you energy and money? Because you're focused.

1. You're not picking up impulse items because they're not marked on the list.

2. You're not walking up and down every aisle, sometimes multiple times.

3. You've got everything mapped out, so you're not wasting time looking around.

4. You're planning ahead, so you won't have to make an extra trip to the store later because you forgot something.

A few minutes now will save you in hours, dollars and much-needed energy in the weeks to come.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Baked Cake Mix Doughnuts

There are about a hundred things you can do with a boxed cake mix, and these wonderful "cake" doughnuts are a great example. You can mix and match flavors and glazes to make something different every time. When they're warm they taste more like doughnuts, but cooled they taste more like cupcakes. When you eat them is entirely up to you...

Don't follow the instructions on the box or they won't come out as doughnuts. And don't overfill the pan or they'll turn out as cupcakes instead of doughnuts. (Yes, that is your example on the left there.) Instead, use the measurements below, and only fill the pans about half full.

It does mean, however, that there is a little well to hold the runoff of glaze. This is definitely a very good thing.

I took a batch of tiny doughnuts to the church picnic, and they were a huge hit. It's a good thing I kept a few at home or we might not have gotten any.

1 box of your favorite cake mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 egg

1 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup milk
powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees for small doughnuts or 350 degrees for large doughnuts. Spray doughnut pans with nonstick spray.

2. Mix doughnut ingredients in a large bowl. Fill doughnut pans half full.

3. For large doughnuts, bake for 14-16 minutes For small doughnuts, bake for 4-6 minutes, until the top springs back when you touch it.

4. Allow to cool 4-5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before glazing - if you can wait that long.

5. For the glaze, combine melted butter and milk in a large bowl. Add powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency. 

6. Dip tops of doughnuts in the glaze, then allow excess to run off back into the bowl. Leave them on the rack until the glaze begins to harden - again, if you can wait that long.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sea Shell Wind Chimes

I sat with a box of sea shells in front of me. We're still doing some sorting and purging all over the house, and I really didn't want to get rid of these shells. They're the remnants of some amazing crab-stuffed shells, and I knew there had to be something I could do with them.

I decided to make them into wind chimes for the deck. I sit in the sun room for most of the day, so it would be nice to have a little natural music to work by.

After soaking them in water for a few hours, Danny drilled a hole in each shell. We used a total of 10 shells.

With the smaller of two sizes of twine, I tied a knot in the bottom of each strand and strung a shell. Then another knot and shell, and again, and again - I think you get the picture. 

There are three shells on each of the outside stands and four in the middle.

Then I took one of the many sticks that has blown down during the recent storms and broke it to the size I wanted. I tied the ends of each strand to the stick, triple-knotting each end. I'd hate for a strand or two to end up in the next county when a little wind comes through.

For the hanger I used a stronger, thicker twine to make sure it stays attached. You could always do this with a mixture of different kinds of shells and add beads and colored twine.

And now there's a happy sea shell band on the deck and I have some extra closet space!

Monday, July 13, 2015

7 Practical Ways To Cultivate A Spirit Of Encouragement

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you know what it's like to be discouraged.

At some point in our day ... week ... year ... life, circumstances beyond our control take over. Our expectations aren't met and the next thing you know, you're holding a pity party for yourself. It might take a while to shake yourself out of it, but eventually those feelings go away and your life returns to normal - whatever that looks like.

So if you know what it feels like to be discouraged, you should be able to easily recognize it in other people, right?

Maybe you can and maybe you can't, but often the problem is that we just plain don't.

God calls us to be women of encouragement. He very specifically wants us to lift each other up in troubling times and remind one another of life's blessings.

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

If you're interested in cultivating a spirit of encouragement, read on. Here are seven practical ways to get out of your personal bubble and be an encouragement to those who desperately need it.

Keep your eyes open. It's incredibly easy to go about your day with blinders on. You've got x-number of things that need to get done in x-number of hours. But with your head down, pressing forward, you don't take the time to look up and around and see what other people are going through. It's OK to be productive, but you can also be aware of what's going on in the lives of those around you. Otherwise, it's all about you and not about helping where you're needed.

Pray - and not just a "be with her in a special way." Call out to God on behalf of those you're now paying attention to. Pray about the struggles you see and those that only God knows about. Be specific if you can - ask questions, find out what the needs are and then take time to hit your knees and intercede. It may seem like prayer is the very least you can do, but it's also the most powerful thing you can do.

Offer your time, your talents, your checkbook. Now that you know where the needs are, make a move in that direction. After seeing the discouragement in a sister in Christ and praying about how you can help, offer to help meet that need. She may never need you to help pay a bill or have a girls afternoon out, but just knowing you're available can make all the difference. Sometimes the battle with loneliness and discouragement can be overwhelming, and having a partner to help when you've fallen can change lives.

Do something completely anonymously. Be victorious in the battle with your pride. Pride says, "Look what I did to help that woman! She's better now because I ..." Instead, do something that you will never receive thanks for - this side of heaven. Your name doesn't have to be engraved on everything you do, so look for little ways to help and encourage without anyone ever knowing. Write an encouraging verse on a note card and leave it in her pew. Leave a treat or bag of groceries on her porch as a surprise. Plan something that you would normally never do and follow through when no one's looking.

Help out. Pitch in where you're needed. Yes, your time is precious, but there's no better way to spend it than taking the load off someone else's shoulders. Grab a towel and help do dishes after church fellowship. Volunteer to stay in the nursery so some young moms can go to Sunday school or stay in the service. Find out if any of the widows in your church family need help running errands. The sacrifice of your time can mean the world to a woman who's battling discouragement.

Send a note of encouragement. Handmade, snail mail, email, text - it doesn't matter how. Just touch base, share a few kind words and a Scripture and end with a smile. It only takes a few minutes, but the results will be amazing. When you're wallowing in discouragement, you can often think that no one's paying attention and no one cares. Words show that you were thinking about them when they weren't there, you cared enough to spend your time writing them, and that you think they're important.

Know the Scriptures so you know what to share. Discouragement doesn't stand a chance against the Word of God, but what if you don't know what to say? If you're not studying and learning, you don't have the ammunition necessary to fight the fight. But if you know specific verses, chapters and passages to share, you can be a powerful tool for the Lord. So read daily, study daily and pray daily that God will give you exactly what you need when you need it. Then you can be a ready vessel, meet for the Master's use.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Sketch

This week's sketch lets you mix and match patterns, while making your sentiment front and center.

For a fun twist, raise your matted layer on 3D adhesive for some added dimension. Match up the pattern and it will give it an amazing look.

Choose your patterns carefully, as they'll need to stand out against each other. Stay in the same color family, or use papers from a coordinating set. The less thinking the better, right?

A trio of embellishments in the corner and a centered phrase will complete your one-of-a-kind card.
For my card, I used two papers from a coordinating set - see, no thinking required. I matched up two pieces of striped paper for my background, then raised the top layer on 3D adhesive.

Everything is ink-distressed, including the cream card stock piece on top and the flourish die cut.

Three red gems match the color in the patterned paper, but you could use any embellishment here that you like.

And it's finished off with a card stock sticker thanks.

For more great ideas and a selection of paper crafts and wood gifts, come visit our Etsy shop today.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Weekend Of Following Directions

As you drive your car from point A to point B, there are signs everywhere to tell you where to go and what to do.

• Stop
• Yield
• No right turn
• Pedestrians crossing
• School zone
• Railroad tracks
• Keep left
• No U-turn
• Children at play

If you're not paying attention to the signs, you can cause an accident, hurt someone or worse. The signs aren't there to hinder you - they're directing you in a careful way so everybody is safe on the road.

And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21

Make this a weekend of following directions. God has promised to point you in His perfect path, but you have to be quiet enough to hear Him. He says your ears will hear a word behind you, not a shout from in front of you. That takes away the necessity for you to listen for the Lord. The signs are there - you just have to be paying attention.

If you're not hearing His still small voice today, that's probably a hint that you're moving too fast and too loudly. Spend some quiet time with the Lord and listen to what He has to say. You might be surprised at which direction He's asking you to go.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Store Your Outdoor Tools In A Handy Place

 If you walk between our big garage and little garage, you'll think the mailman has a long way to go to deliver our letters. When we first moved here, the mailbox (which is down by the highway) was on its last legs ... literally. We replaced it and this one got lost in a pile of leaves and rocks for three years.

I came across it quite by accident when I was cleaning out the rock bed this spring. It's perfectly good, just a little rusty and its legs were bent and broken. So instantly I knew what I wanted to repurpose it for. 

It now holds all of my garden tools. Inside you'll find bug spray, my work gloves, some plastic bags for trash and my hand tools. Now the things I need for berry picking, gardening and other yard work is all in one place.

The first step was to clean it up, and I used a bleach cleaner since most pests don't like the strong smell. After I removed the snake skin from the back (seriously) and got it wiped out, it was ready to go.

One of the hardest parts of getting out to do any work has been the mental block of having to go several places and gather up all the supplies I would need. Now they're all in one place and right in the middle of our outdoor space. Talk about motivation to get some work done!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Italian Chicken Pasta Bake

We've been looking for a lot of simple, inexpensive recipes lately. We're both so busy, and by suppertime we're blessed to be thinking straight, let alone standing at the stove for long periods of time.

This pasta bake is a great solution for this. It takes abut 20 minutes to put together and 20 minutes to bake. Add a salad and bread and you have a complete meal.

5-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 box of your favorite pasta
1 jar chunky garden pasta sauce
1 bag shredded cheese (Italian mix or mozzarella)

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

2. Prepare the pasta according to the box directions, cutting the cook time by about two minutes.

3. Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add the chicken and season with Italian seasonings.

4. When the pasta is done, mix with the chicken and pasta sauce. Pour into the baking dish and cover completely with the shredded cheese.

5. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. The cheese will melt and begin to brown. Serve with salad and bread.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Walk On Art Street And My Magnetic Personality

Good friends gave us several containers full of wooden shapes while they were doing some cleaning out and organizing at their house. It was like Christmas as I went through them to discover what all we had been so generously given.

Some were specific parts for specific projects, but the ones that caught my eye were the recognizable shapes. There were trees and leaves and several sizes of hearts and stars. The arrows (I think they were originally little houses, but they're the perfect little arrows) have tons of possibilities.

For the Christmas trees, I painted them dark green and embellished them with tiny colored, self-stick gems.

I love how the maple leaves turned out. After a coat of dark orange paint, I drew in the veins with a thin permanent marker.

We have 12 weeks until Walk on Art Street, and I think these will make great magnets for then. I also have special plans for the stars and hearts, which include larger pieces of wood, lots of glitter glue and Bible verses. I'll keep you up to date on all these projects as I finish them. They're so much fun, and hopefully they'll be a little inspiration for you to do some crafting of your own.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Poison Ivy And Lessons Learned

More than three weeks ago I got a terrible, horrible case of poison ivy. Danny had poison oak from cutting down some trees on the property, so I was pretty sure that was what I had, but it was ivy not oak.

I wouldn't wish poison anything on anybody. Not only does it cause itching and fever, it hangs on for as long as it can, and there's very little you can do about it.

Truth be told, I was out berry picking when I got it. We have dozens upon dozens of berry bushes on our property, but the best-looking ones weren't right on the path, they were in the next section back. So after pushing and pulling and cutting my way through the closest bushes, I was able to get back to those really great berries behind them.

I employ the famous two-one method for berry picking - two for me, one of the bucket. Works for me, and there plenty to make a cake and some jam.

But within hours, I knew I had a problem. The itching and bumps came out almost immediately. It took two weeks of Benadryl and two bottles of Tech-nu to get it under control, but I'm almost done with the whole process.

So here's what I learned about berry picking and poison ivy:

- If I had on the path, I wouldn't have this problem. Danny mows the trails, so there was no real reason to be traipsing through the forest. I just wanted to, and that's how I encountered the poison ivy.

- I should have been satisfied with the berries on the bushes in the front, but I wanted to get a full bucket. It was really more than I needed at one time, but they looked so good and I wanted more. This multiplied the opportunities to touch the poison ivy, multiplying the amount of pain and itch I would be in later.

- When you reach in to grab the berry, you're fine. It's when you pull your hand out that the thorns grab on. My arms, even through a long-sleeved shirt, were covered in little cuts, and that doubled (at least) my poison ivy spreading.

I had a handful of people say to me afterwards that there are some definite spiritual applications here. I saw them right away, and even added one to the list.

- If you stay on the path, you won't encounter the problems you will if you stray away. Psalm 119:105 says Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. The Word keeps you on the path, and the light will only shine on the path. When you get off course, you venture away from the light. There are plenty of wonderful experiences on the path, and staying there will keep you both safe and fed.

- If you're not satisfied with what you have along God's path, you often get more than you bargained for. It's a strait and narrow path (Matthew 7) for a reason - it gives you boundaries and direction. When you venture off, you end up scratched and bruised. You encounter trials and tribulations that never would have happened in the middle of the path. Stay with the stuff and stay on the path.

- Sin looks great when you're heading toward it. It's a very visual thing, like Eve and the fruit in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3). But when you're trying to get away, the thorns come out, and you realize the terrible situation that you've gotten yourself into. Staying away from those new, beautiful, shiny things that lead us away from the Lord will protect us from situations we never should have been in in the first place.

I've learned a lot the past few weeks, and despite the occasional episode of itching as my skin heals, I'm doing just fine.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunday Sketch

Here's your opportunity to match up some of those amazing patterned papers I know you have. They're the ones that you love, but you've never been quite sure how to use them to their fullest.

They're also the ones you're saving for a "special occasion." I know because I do that all the time.

For this card, you'll mat your favorite patterned paper on a solid colored background. Then find two more patterns that coordinate.

One will be the circle and the other will be the strip running across the width of the card.

A phrase and some embellishments round out this colorful card.

For my card, I chose a bright orange background and matted one of my favorite busy patterns on top. Both are ink-distressed.

Then I added a circle and banner in coordinating papers and ink-distressed them as well.

The card stock sticker phrase is accented with three buttons, each threaded with white fibers. Since coming across a large collection of buttons a few weeks ago, I've been using them on practically everything.

A great Scripture is tucked inside to finish off this project.

This card, along with many other paper crafts and wood gifts, can be found in our Etsy shop. Come in today for some great ideas or to find the perfect gift.