Thursday, March 31, 2016

Chinese Five Spice Slow Cooker Drumsticks

Ready for better-than-takeout Chinese Five Spice Chicken? Ready to make it in the slow cooker so it's incredibly easy?

Then gather up these ingredients and get ready for a mouth-watering meal.

10 chicken drumsticks
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup orange juice
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 generous squirts of sriracha (to taste)
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp Chinese Five Spice

1. Place drumsticks in slow cooker and turn to high.

2. Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour over chicken.

3. Cook on high 1 hour, then turn to low for five additional hours. Be careful pulling it out of the slow cooker, as its tendency is to fall off the bone.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Butterfly Embellishments With A Heart Punch

Forget looking for coordinating embellishments for your spring projects ever again! You can make matching butterflies using the same paper you're working with and have them ready in just minutes.

You only need a few simple tools - a piece of paper, a small length of wire, a heart punch, scissors and glue.

 Fold your paper in half and punch two hearts from the folded edge. Try to make them as close to the same depth into the paper as possible. 

Fold the end of the wire into a "V" shape and cut evenly.

This will be the antenna for the butterfly. Cover the back of one butterfly with glue, lay the wire in the middle and place the second butterfly on top. Basically, you're making a butterfly sandwich.

Trim up the edges as necessary and you'll have tiny little butterflies to cover your paper crafts.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Light Within You

On this day after Easter, I pray you haven't already lost the wonder of Resurrection Sunday. After days of prayer and preparation, it's easy to fall back into the everyday routine, taking for granted all Christ did for us during the Passion Week.

I think about the parable of the lighted candle at moments like this.

No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light. Luke 11:33-36

Our candle - the light of the risen Savior living inside us - shines brightly on Easter morning. We're emotionally charged as we sing the hymns and hear the story of the empty tomb, all of which are familiar and comforting at this special time of year.

But the familiar and comforting can easily become usual and mechanically when Monday comes along. Our lighted candle gets taken down from its prominent place one day to be put under a bushel the next as we return to the every-day world.

As Jesus spoke these words to a people gathered thick together (read verse 29), I can imagine Him looking ahead to today. He was giving them a common analogy, a picture they would quickly understand, by speaking of the candle. A whole body full of light, when described on its own, wouldn't have made sense, but placing a lighted candle in some secret place would. It would have been so silly that they would make the connect quite easily.

And so it should to us as well, His special, chosen people. If our whole body is full of light, the light of Christ Himself, we can shine brightly for all to see. But they won't be seeing us - they'll be seeing Christ through us and in us and all around us.

This is the only way to keep the promises of Easter close to our heart all year long. When we begin to drift into darkness, taking Christ's light and truth for granted, we are putting our light away in a secret place. That doesn't do us or anyone else, believer or nonbeliever, any good. Only when we sincerely desire to know His Word and keep it shining brightly in our day-to-day lives can we honestly say that we're Easter people. And isn't that what makes us shine, and live, and rejoice?

Let the glory and wonder of Christ's resurrection light your candle today and every day.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Weekend Of Experiencing Earthquakes

There's a fault line that runs near us here in southern Iowa, but we very rarely feel any quaking. I remember a handful of times over the years when there were real, shake-the-room earthquakes, but they're really few and far between.

If you live in an area that is more prone to earthquakes, you know their power and the destruction they can do. Homes that aren't built to withstand the moving of the ground will topple and collapse before your eyes. And even if the building doesn't collapse, there will be damage inside as walls shake and floors vibrate.

There are two moments in the Bible when earthquakes held the most power and most meaning in all of history. One was at Christ's death:

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. Matthew 27:50-51

And the other was at His resurrection:

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the LORD descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. Matthew 28:1-2

In these two significant moments, the earth had no choice but to shake and quake with the power of the Lord. It had no choice but to vibrate as Christ showed the extent of both His power and His love.

Make this a weekend of experiencing some earthquakes in your own faith. Read through the passion week accounts in all four gospels and see how they all weave together. Highlight the passages that mean the most to you and meditate on them. Prepare your heart for Easter Sunday morning, when the church will gather to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior.

Let the earthquakes rock you to your soul.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cranberry Tuna Salad On Apple Slices

I grew up thinking I didn't like tuna. Since I couldn't get past the fishy smell, I never tried it. It seemed like an adult favorite or some kind of acquired taste, so I stuck to my guns and ate everything except tuna.

And then I became an adult. Now I love tuna, especially when mixed and prepared with some other amazing ingredients, like in this cranberry tuna salad.

So if you've written off tuna, you'll want to try this recipe and see what you think.

1 can tuna
2 Tbsp vanilla Greek yogurt
1/4 cup dried cranberries (whole or roughly chopped)

1. Open and drain the tuna, getting out as much of the liquid as you are able. Empty into a medium bowl.

2. Roughly chop the dried cranberries, if you so desire. (I like them whole so I can really taste them, but the choice is yours.) Add to the bowl.

3. Add the yogurt and stir to coat. If you like it creamier, add more to taste.

4. Serve on apple slices or crackers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Jelly Beans In A Bunny Treat Holder

Decorate your Easter table with a cute and clever treat holder! Just grab a piece of tissue paper, jelly beans or other small candy, and ribbon.

Cut the tissue paper into a square and pile your jelly beans in the middle.

Fold the bottom corner up just past the candy.

Then fold the top corner down past the bottom crease.

Bring each of the side corners up and in on either side of the candy pile, making sure to crease them well. These will be the bunny's ears.

Fold the tiny bottom corner up to make a straight crease across the bottom.

Make the ears half their width by folding the outside edges in toward the middle.

 Bring the bottom edge up, creasing it in line with the bottom of the candy, effectively sealing it in.

Take each ear and fold it one more time into the center, right against the edge of the candy pile. This will make the ears stand upright and hold everything together better.

Use a piece of ribbon to wrap twice around the entire folded part.

 When you flip it over, fluff the bunny ears and it's all ready to go!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Sketch

Get ready to tie a ribbon around the perfect little package with today's sketch. Now is the chance to pull out those ribbon scraps you've been saving up and create a one-of-a-kind card.

Choose a background pattern or color that is subtle enough to make the focal point stand out. Double mat it if you'd like for some extra dimension.

On either side of your focal point (a fun image or piece cut from a coordinating patterned paper), you'll tie a small piece of ribbon around a strip running the entire width of the card.

Finish it off with the perfect sentient and you're all set to share a special hand-written message.

For my card, I chose a fun, pattern-striped paper as the background. This way I wouldn't have to put a solid color behind it.

Then I cut a solid purple strip to run across the card, which is just taller than the sentiment. Sometimes it's easier to make a mat fit the sentiment rather than trying to find a sentiment to fit your mat.

I cut out a coordinating flower image for my focal point and chose ribbon that was the same color as the darkest teal in the picture. Two quick knots and it's all done!

For more great paper craft ideas, as well as finding cards and gifts to share with friends and family, come visit my Etsy shop. New items are being added almost every day, so you're sure to find cards, journals, albums, explosion box albums and many more unique items just right for any occasion.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Weekend Of Living In Safety

The tree house looks as though a stiff wind would knock it over, but it's been standing like this since we bought our property. Yes, the red roof has fallen off since then, and I wouldn't ask anyone to host a tea party in it. No matter how wedged in it is, you might not want to lean against it ... or touch it ... or look at it.

Our battered and broken tree house isn't safe enough to be used as a tree house anymore. You would be risking life and limb to try to use it as a tree house instead of kindling for your next bonfire. It's not secure and safe like it once was.

There be many that say, Who will show us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:5-8

Make this a weekend of living in safety. Like you would risk injury trying to climb into a dilapidated tree house, living outside the will of God is just asking for a broken heart. David lay in the darkness calm and secure, knowing that His God would keep him safe. He could fall asleep in peace, knowing that he was protected and cared for.

Whatever is happening in your life this weekend, you can still lay down in peace and sleep soundly. The light of God's countenance and the gift of His presence in your life are enough to keep you safe and secure in the hours and days to come. Give Him your burdens and prepare for a restful night's sleep.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Six Ways To Fight Those Food Cravings

Is your tummy growling right now? Or was that mine?

If you're like me, you're fully aware of those food cravings. You're tummy rumbles a little and immediately you're up and headed for the kitchen. Or maybe you have some treats tucked away right where you are.

Yes, I know they're there. I have them, too.

While we may not be binge eaters, it's all too common for women to overindulge in the food arena. Our emotions, cycles and deep-seeded desires all tend to bring us back to food. But those same emotions, cycles and desires can keep us from putting the right kinds of nutrition in our bodies.

So what should you do the next time food cravings strike?

* Drink water. A whole glass of water. You might not be hungry at all, just dehydrated. If you're still feeling hungry in half an hour, fix a small snack.

* And trade water for some of the other drinks you have each day. In small quantities, coffee, tea and soft drinks are fine, but they can also give you caffeine and sugar rushes. This will just make you hungrier instead of filling you up like water can.

* Stock your refrigerator and pantry with good-for-you foods. Then, when the munchies hit, you'll have lots of healthy choices.

* Set up a schedule and stick to it. Just because you're hungry at 1:30 doesn't mean you have to eat right then. It's good to eat small portions every 3-4 hours, so plan accordingly around your daily schedule.

* Mix the healthy with the indulgences. Just because you have a salad for lunch doesn't mean you can't end the meal with a peanut butter cookie. Eating an entire pan of peanut butter cookies would be wrong on several levels, but enjoying one every now and then is a wonderful treat.

* Your craving might not be food-related at all. Many of us eat when we're tired, lonely, sad, frustrated or stressed. Instead of running to the pantry, tame your emotions first so you'll be thinking clearly enough to make good food choices.

Don't let food consume you when you're supposed to be consuming food. Make some smart choices and you'll be able to achieve victory over those cravings.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Homemade Baked Shamrock Tortilla Chips

In honor of St. Patrick's Day today, make a batch of homemade shamrock tortilla chips. You only need three ingredients and two kitchen supplies to be all festive for the holiday!

1 package spinach tortillas
nonstick spray
Mexican seasoning

You'll also need:
a clover cookie cutter
baking sheets

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheets with nonstick spray.

2. While the oven heats, cut out as many shamrock shapes as you can from each tortilla. Save the leftover edges and bake them at the end to make even more chips.

3. Fill the baking sheets with the cut-out shapes and spray again with cooking spray. Sprinkle with Mexican seasoning, which will stick to the spray.

4. Bake chips at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned and turned up.

5. Remove from baking sheet immediately and put in a brown paper sack. Continue until all of the clover shapes and the outside edges have been baked into chips. Serve with your favorite salsa.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Adding Dimension To Your Paper Crafts Without 3D Adhesive

This is already starting out to be a forgetful kind of week. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many things I've already forgotten in just two days ... but I can't remember what those things were.

When and if I remember, I'll let you know all the things I've forgotten.

The one and only thing I do remember forgetting was to pick up 3D adhesive the last time I was shopping for craft supplies. This is that thick tape or dots that raise your paper slightly, adding some height and shadow to really add dimension to your work.

So I am height-less. And shadow-less. And dimension-less.

But not really.

The easiest way to add dimension without 3D adhesive is to simply add multiple layers of paper between your background and your pattern.

Here, for example, I cut a piece of scrap white card stock down to the size I wanted for this side border. Then I taped it to another white card stock and trimmed it to match. This is all the thicker I wanted it to be, but you could keep adding layers indefinitely to get the right height.

This done, I taped the patterned paper (that I would have put the 3D adhesive on) to the two layered pieces of card stock.

At this stage, I punched the four holes through all three layers of card stock and decorator paper.

Then I adhered the three-layers-thick, punched border to the edge of my card. It was the perfect height to hold my gemstone flower embellishments, and I used up just a little of my scrap paper in the process.

There's always a way around your forgetfulness - you just have to be creative and look for it.

Monday, March 14, 2016

It Has Nothing To Do With Luck

Once this third week of March is over, it will be nice to see a color other than green. It's not a terrible color by any means, but in the days leading up to St. Patrick's Day, everyone is using it on everything.

Add in shamrocks, leprechauns and other lucky charms, and it's beyond overload. It's just a sea of lucky green.

But we know better.

There's no such thing as luck, and there's no such thing as coincidence. We're not just wishing empty wishes and hoping against hope for something wonderful to happen in our lives.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee. Psalm 84:11-12

When we experience success in our lives, it's not because we are lucky.
When we have a wonderful day, it's not because we are lucky.
When everything seems to be going our way, the sun is shining and the temperature is perfect, it's not because we are lucky.

We're not lucky.
We're blessed.

Blessed by a great and merciful God who delights in us. Blessed with every good thing that He joys in giving us. Blessed because of our faith in the Lord and our daily walk with Him.

Remember this when you're trapped in that sea of lucky green.

You're not lucky. You're blessed by God.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Sketch

This sketch will give you the opportunity to use up some of your paper scraps and some of those little embellishments that I know you have plenty of.

You can't hide them. I know they're there - because I have them, too!

While this sketch works best with a square card, you could easily adapt it for a rectangle.

A single color of card stock and a soft patterned paper will help the embellishments really stand out.

Four large embellishments are off-set by two smaller ones and a phrase on the opposite side to balance it.

For my card, I started with a coordinating teal card stock and decorator paper. This light color and not-quite-so-busy pattern let the embellishments be the focal point.

From there, I punched two sizes of circles, one in a coordinating pattern and the larger in card stock.

Two gemstone flowers balance the vellum thank you phrase in the opposite corner.

To see this card and more great ideas, come visit our Etsy shop! You'll find hundreds of cards and gifts, plus a little encouragement of your own.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Weekend Of Following God's Voice

Some days it would be nice to just have a Life GPS - a navigational system straight from God that would tell you what choices to make and which path to take. Wouldn't that take away some of the stress and frustrations of everyday life?

Actually, what it would do is take away our dependence on the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and direct us. By not know exactly where we're supposed to go or what choice to make, we're relying fully on direction from the One who has already been down that path.

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 tot he left. Isaiah 30:21

Make this a weekend of following God's voice. Not the voice of the people around you, not the voice of the world and definitely not your own voice. Those three choices will get you into trouble every time.

Instead, hide away someplace quiet and purposefully listen for God's voice. He is not hiding somewhere, avoiding His role in showing you the way. He's actually patiently waiting for you to notice that He's been there all along. And He delights in walking behind you and whispering direction to you.

God isn't going to lead you anywhere but the best possible path. Trust in Him this weekend to make your path clearer than before, and then find joy in the journey as you travel it with Him.

Friday, March 11, 2016

DIY Carpet Cleaner On The Cheap

Why shell out money for a container of carpet powder time after time when you can make your own inexpensively with just two ingredients?

You probably have an extra box of baking soda in the pantry, and many of us have our favorite essential oils on hand. Combine the two and you'll have your carpets smelling so much better in no time.

When you finish your next shaker of carpet powder, pull off the lid and rinse it out. Once it's dried thoroughly, empty the baking soda into it.
Then add 20-25 drops of essential oil - I use lavender. Put the lid back on tightly and shake gently to mix it all together.

And now the fun part - set it aside for at least an hour and go do something else. This gives the oil a chance to infuse the baking soda.

When you're ready just shake it out lightly onto your carpet.

And the other fun part - leave it there for at least 30 minutes while you go do something else.

When your time is up, vacuum the powder up. I noticed that our carpet fluffed immediately on the first vacuuming.

Because the baking soda isn't as dense as the carpet powder, you'll want to check your vacuum's bags and hoses a little more closely so you don't get clogs.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Slow Cooker Meatloaf Hobo Dinners

I'm a sucker for anything quick and easy in the kitchen. So putting together a meatloaf and potato packet for the slow cooker seemed like a no-brainer to me.

If you've made hobo dinners over a campfire or on the grill, you'll understand the concept immediately. All you're doing is transferring all of the ingredients into the low cooker and letting it do its work.

And because it only takes five hours to cook, you can turn it on when you get up Sunday morning and it will be ready when you get home from church! Fabulous!

1 lb 80/20 ground beef (or turkey or sausage)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup ketchup
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp onion powder
15 butter crackers (not just soup crackers, but the ones you use for dip or entertaining)
4 red potatoes, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp onion powder
3 Tbsp melted butter

1. Spray the inside of a large slow cooker with nonstick spray. You don't need much because the juices from the meat will help. Turn it to low.

2. In a large bowl, combine beef, eggs, ketchup, salt, pepper, onion powder and crackers. Use your hands to get it all worked together.

3. Mold the meat into a loaf and place in one half of the cooker. Try to keep it from touching the edges, so there's less chance of it sticking and falling apart.

4. In a separate bowl, add the sliced potatoes, salt, pepper and onion powder, coating thoroughly.

5. Pull a piece of aluminum foil and pile on the seasoned potatoes. Mold the foil around the potatoes to make a bowl and place it in the other half of the cooker. Drizzle the melted butter over the top of the potatoes.

6. Cover. Cook on low for five hours without removing the lid.

7. When cooking is complete, top with cheese, ketchup or other condiments before serving.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Seed Packet Gift Cards

Spring is just around the corner, and now is a great time to pick up seed packets for your seasonal planting. Garden stores everywhere are starting to stock up on great new product.

So this is also a good opportunity to put together a gardening-themed gift that will absolutely make someone's day! This seed packet accordion card provides pockets for seed packets and lots of space for pictures, journaling or personal messages.

You'll want to gather at least four packages of seeds, a sheet of 8 1/2x11 inch card stock, decorator paper in a gardening or outdoor theme and some coordinating ribbon.

Cut the card stock in half the long way, at 4 1/4 inches. You can use any color that coordinates - I just used white so you could see a little better.

Fold each into thirds.

Fold them in alternating directions to make five total sections when taped together in the middle.

The front of the card will be the panel that opens with the crease on the left hand side, like a real book. The back of the card will be the side that opens up backwards. On the back, tape down your ribbon in the middle. The tape will soon get covered up by decorator paper, so it will be hidden.

Then cover each page with decorator paper, matting it slightly smaller to allow the card stock color to show around the edges. Decorate the cover as desired, making sure the ribbon won't cover up your sentiment when tied.

Each panel will be slightly larger than your seed packet. 

If you are using four seed packets, choose four panels to add pockets to. Cut a rectangle of coordinating decorator paper to the same size as the card stock panel (which is larger than the decorator paper background) and cut diagonally to make the pocket opening.

Tape them down on three sides, leaving the cut edge open for the pocket.

Repeat as many times as needed to hold all of your seeds. You may need to fold the packets slightly to make them fit better, but this is usually not a problem because the packets are rarely filled all the way full. You'll have plenty of room to make them fit and look adorable sticking out the top of the pocket. Then just tie it up and it's ready to go to that special gardener in your life.