Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Sketch

Here's a fun layout for a square card - something unique and different from the normal card sizes you probably make on a regular basis.

Any sketch can usually be turned into a card of a different shape, so make sure you go back and play around with your favorite layouts to make them vertical, horizontal and square, with each one looking a little different.

You'll need three patterns of decorator paper, two  solid colors, a small sentiment and some tiny embellishments. Start with one of the solid card stocks as your background and build up from there.

Make a large panel of your favorite pattern and mat it on the other solid. Then cut two strips, one each from the other patterns, and run them across the card, one slightly shorter than the other.

Add your sentiment overlapping the panel and your embellishments in the bottom corner.

For my card, I chose three purple patterns and two purple card stocks from a coordinating set. My sentiment is a card stock sticker matted on the darker of the two colors.

Three tiny purple gems balance out the left-hand-heavy layout of the card.

For more inspiration, or to buy some of your favorite cards you've seen here, come visit my Etsy shop. You'll find Christian cards, journals and paper crafts, perfect for giving or for treating yourself to something fun.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Weekend Of Discarding Assumptions

I am not an entomologist. Let's get that straight right now. When I found this little guy on the steering column in my car, I assumed it was a grasshopper.

It matches the image in my head of what a grasshopper looks like: the long, thin body, bent up legs and beady eyes.

But it's not. It's a katy did, not a grasshopper. It's about the size of the nail on my pinky finger - too small for a grasshopper - and its antenna are three times longer than its body, another katy did trait.

The image I already had in my mind gave me confidence that I knew what this adorable little bug was. My preconceived notion became an assumption, and that became truth in my mind - until I was faced with the truth.

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come int he flesh is not of GodL and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now is already in the world. 1 John 4:1-3

Make this a weekend of discarding your assumptions. Don't assume that everything you feel, hear or see is from God, as this is incredibly short-sighted. John warned believers to hold up everything they believe against the measuring stick of the Lord's standards so that they wouldn't be deceived.

If our feeble minds can make wrong assumptions about a silly little bug, what will we do when important issues come before us? Will we rely on our own knowledge and understanding, or will we check Scripture and pray that God will enlighten our darkness? One of these choices relies entirely on self while the other puts our trust in God's truth.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Blackberry Glazed Grilled Chicken

One of the best parts of having a property full of wild blackberry bushes is looking for recipes to use them in. I've shared a few with you already, and there will be several more before blackberry season is through.

I don't think you'll mind. And remember, you can substitute other berries if you like them more. It's not about following a recipe to perfection, but in making a meal that's perfect for your family.

So this week I steered clear of sweets and made a lovely blackberry marinade and glaze specifically for chicken. And then I got the grill out and got to work.

5-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups blackberries, partially smashed
1 cup olive oil
1/2 balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp hot sauce
2 Tbsp white sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
steak seasoning to taste

1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup blackberries, partially smashed

1. Combine blackberries, olive oil, vinegar, hot sauce, sugars and seasoning in a gallon bag. Add the chicken, gently shake to coat and refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight.

2. Set grill to medium heat.

3. While grill heats, prepare the glaze. Combine water and corn starch in a saucepan, whisking until smooth. Add sugar, vinegar and blackberries, mashing the berries a little more once in the liquid. Continue to whisk.

4. Heat the mixture until slightly thickened, then remove from heat and cover.

5. Spray the grill with nonstick spray and grill chicken 5-6 minutes, then flip to grill 3-4 more minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken.

6. Spoon sauce over chicken once on the plate, and serve with veggies and potatoes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Embossed Backgrounds

When you can't find a background paper that you like, or you want to try something completely different, try making your own embossed background for your next handmade card.

You'll need a piece of card stock, embossing supplies and a tissue.

Cover the entire piece of card stock with embossing ink. You can either press the card onto the pad until covered, or you can use a brayer to transfer the ink. Then use the tissue to wipe away part of the ink in one corner and cover it with embossing powder.

Wiping off a portion of the ink will give you the perfect spot to stamp a sentiment later. When you pour off the excess powder, you'll be left with an interesting pattern as well. If you don't like it, wipe it all off and try again. 

The amount of embossing ink in each section will determine how thick and bold the embossed image will be. This is half the fun, creating something interesting and unique from scratch.

In a minute or two, once it's cooled, you can stamp directly onto the embossed background. The second, darker ink will sink into the spaces between the dots of embossed pattern. You never know exactly what it will look like then, which is also neat to see.

Lastly, stamp your phrase in the open space using embossing ink and the darkest of your powders. This will make it jump off the page and stand out from the colors around it. You can use it as is, or you can trim it down and mat it to a coordinating color of card stock. Just be careful cutting through embossed images, as they often fray and tear.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Where Do You Place Your Glory?

Everybody loves applause. We enjoy hearing the praise of our performance, getting a pat on the back for a job well done, and even seeing our name up in lights. It feels good to know that we're loved and appreciated for what we do.

But pride is a terrible thing when we place the glory of ourselves before the glory of God. We may know that price is a sin and our talents come from the Lord, but it's hard to fight the desire to hear people brag on us for our good works.

Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24

God doesn't say that it's wrong to be wise, mighty or rich. What He does condemn is the glory given to our own merits when they came from God alone. Yes, you may be a wonderful writer, musician, crafter, mother, wife and church member. These are all wonderful traits to have and use, but do you want the handshake and thank you note or would you rather turn the focus back to the One who gave you the talents to begin with?

If you're going to glory in something, God told Jeremiah to share with the people, glory in knowing Him. Rejoice in having a close, personal relationship with your heavenly Father. Brag on God, about how good He has been in your life. Give a testimony of a time when He was so kind and loving that you could hardly stand the joy overflowing in your heart. Tell of when He cleansed you, changed you and brought you closer to Him.

These moments are His delight, He says. Can you truly grasp how those special times in your life, when He was good and loving and everything you needed, blessed Him just as much as they blessed you? He delights in hearing how much you love and appreciate all He has given, especially when it would be just as easy to take the credit yourself. He knows and understands your heart, and He rejoices when you take the time to know and understand Him, too.

As we begin a new week, let's lay aside the glory that we would normally keep for ourselves. While it may bring us temporary gratification - because who doesn't want a verbal and physical pat on the back? - this glory only lasts for a moment. But giving God the glory and the honor and the praise will lay up another treasure in heaven.

So glory in the Lord, rejoice in knowing Him and celebrate understanding His character a little more every day. What a beautiful way to start the week.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Sketch

Today's sketch will let you combine patterns in an eye-pleasing way, plus making your sentiment, phrase or verse front and center.

Choose a background color or pattern. Then add two patterns, both fairly light, to mat on that background. They'll be overlapped in the middle by that same background paper, bringing its color to the forefront.

Before attaching it to the background, wrap a fiber around the middle a couple of times so you can tie it off next to your sentiment.
For my card, I stayed in the purple family. All three patterns are from the same collection of papers, so they're pre-coordinated.

My sentiment is layered on the same purple and the coordinating yellow, then attached on top of a yellow baker's twine.

Simple, sweet and ready to send!

You can find this card, along with many other great cards, journals and paper crafts, in my Etsy shop. You'll get lots of inspiration, plus you'll probably leave with a gift or two - for you or someone else.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Weekend Of Mushrooming Your Faith

After our thunderstorms last weekend, our yard turned into a hotbed of mushroom activity. Many types of mushrooms seem to appear overnight, which is exactly what ours did. And because they draw in water and expand, they were having a field day - literally - all around our house.

This is why we say that something "mushroomed" when it expands rapidly, or "popped up like a mushroom" when it appeared unexpectedly and out of nowhere. They're common English phrases based on exactly what happens in nature.

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:9-10

Make this a weekend of mushrooming your faith - growing in the knowledge of God and in His wisdom. This isn't something that just happens, though. You have to make a conscious effort to read, study, pray, learn and ask God to show you what He wants you to understand. This isn't like putting a book under your pillow and hoping you'll become a stronger Christian while you sleep.

With God's direction in your life, by striving to walk worthy and be filled with knowledge of His will, your faith will mushroom up and grow healthy and strong. Just imagine being fruitful in all your work, increasing in your understanding of Scripture and finding yourself filled with the Spirit of the Lord. It's really as easy as putting yourself in the place where there is heat, water and soil perfect for growth. You'll find them all in God.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Upcycled Summer Succulents Planter

Summertime is the perfect time to bring some of the outdoors indoors. I have an ever-growing collection of hen and chicks succulents in one of our flower beds, so a few of them now have a new home in our dining room's bay window.

With just a few bits you probably have around the house already, you can make this sweet picket fence planter, too. Wash an empty tuna can thoroughly in soap and water. I don't know if succulents like the smell of old, rotten fish, but I sure don't. Most clothes pins are the perfect size to cover the outside of the tin can. You can use a small flower pot if you have one, but a trimmed-down paper cup will work, too.

Clip the clothespins all the way around the lip of the can.

Because of the clips' two pieces, you'll have an inside ring to keep the pot in place and an outside ring to decorate.

If you're using a cup, make a line around the edge of the inner ring so you'll have a guide line to cut with.

Cut just underneath the line so the cup will tuck in and not be seen.

Fill the trimmed cup with potting soil and add your precious succulents. Decorate the outside of the fencing however you'd like. I used some baker's twine wrapped through the clothespins, and you could add twine, burlap or felt flowers - whatever makes you and your fence happy!

The hens eventually grow some chicks, and then you'll be able to replant the hens in the garden and leave the chicks here to get all big and healthy. Choose smaller succulents so they'll have plenty of room to breathe and grow.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie Stacks

Layers of chocolate, decorated with chocolate sounds like a wonderful way to spend the day, doesn't it? With these super-simple cookie/brownie stacks, you'll have all the chocolate you can handle.

And maybe more.

1 box brownie mix, plus egg, oil and water as directed on box
1 container pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough
1 can chocolate frosting
white chocolate-covered espresso beans, or other garnish.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees or as directed on the brownie mix box. Lightly spray two 13x9 inch baking dishes and two 9-inch square baking dishes with nonstick spray.

2. Mix brownies as directed. Divide between one small and one large baking dish.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

4. Repeat with the cookie dough, dividing between the two remaining dishes. Bake according to container directions. Allow to cool completely.

5. Using a circle cutter or rim of a glass, cut 12 circles out of the chocolate chip cookies. Gently lift them out and save the leftover cookies for ice cream later.

6. Cut 12 circles out of the brownies, saving the leftover brownie for ice cream later.

7. Lay the 12 cookie circles on your serving tray. Frost each one with an abundant amount of chocolate frosting.

8. Top each cookie with a brownie circle and frost the top. Garnish with chocolate-covered espresso beans or other chocolate-themed embellishment.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DIY Wooden Bead Ring Toy

A couple of years ago we were given several large tins full of wooden bits. There were cut-out shapes, partially completed scenes and lots of balls, plugs, circles and other parts that could possibly be turned into ... something. That's when I got the idea for putting together a child's toy with painted numbers, letters and colors. This week I put that idea to work.

All you really need are wooden beads, twine and non-toxic, child-friendly paint. You can buy wood beads with holes already through them, or you can just ask your wonderful husband to do it for you, which seems way more fun to me.

Then do a little planning. I didn't want any of the same colors on each bead or the one next to it, so I mapped out what would go where. Each bead has a number, a letter and a dot of color.

Then comes the fun part! I've never thought of myself as a painter because my hands are a little shaky, but this was so much fun. And I actually followed my own instructions.

You can put whatever you'd like on your beads, so use your creativity. Let them dry overnight before stringing them up.

I used twine for mine to stay with the rustic feel, but a mom friend of mine suggested a crocheted cord. That way it won't frazzle when it gets wet from being chewed on.

Because we learned from experience that this is exactly what would happen! It was a huge hit with the young crowd, and I'm excited to play around with these new suggestions. If you make a set, I'd love to see your pictures.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Ten Paths Of Proverbs 2

There are many times during my Bible study each morning that I notice things about Scripture that I never saw before. It may be a phrase that jumps out at me, or maybe it's an entire verse that I don't remember being in that chapter before. It was right there, of course, tucked in where it always has been. But this time God opened my eyes to something new and exciting in HIs living, breathing word.

Reading through Proverbs for today's daily devotion on the side of this page, two words jumped off the page. Two words are liberally sprinkled throughout Proverbs 2: way and path. For any victorious Christian woman walking with the Lord, these two words are incredibly precious.

Here are the 10 uses of these words in this chapter.

1. The paths of judgment - On these paths, those who make considered decisions and come to a sensible conclusion will find themselves in God's perfect will. We may be tempted to stray from here because it's not the easiest path to walk, but we can depend on God's guidance and direction to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

2. The way of his saints - This way is covered with the grace of God. He preserves this way, providing protection, rest for the weary and strength to continue to the end. While not without its speed bumps and pot holes, the assurance of His grace is the sweetest promise.

3. Every good path - The blessings of staying on this path, the writer explains, include understanding righteousness, judgment and equity. These precious principles will guide us in every situation we will encounter on our walk with God. They teach us how He would have us treat others, run our businesses and our homes and reflect the love of God in all we say and do.

4. The way of the evil man - In stark contrast, there is a dark, foreboding way that has lured away so many throughout the generations. It may easy to walk at the time, as there are no requirements and no restrictions, but the consequences of even setting foot on this way will take their toll.

5. The paths of uprightness - Everything that we've ever learned about the goodness of God has placed us on the path of uprightness. Our faith, our love and our confidence keep us walking hand-in-hand with our Lord because this way bring joy, peace and contentment in Him.

6. The crooked ways and froward paths - Not every path is designed for us to walk on, and this is the perfect example. Even small children know the difference between right and wrong, so as adults we should make sure we're steering clear of any crooked path where we can't see what's beyond the next turn. This is how the enemy keeps us anxious and confused, and we don't want to give him anything to hold on to.

7. The path to the dead - Walked on by the strange woman, as the writer calls her, this path is familiar to those overcome by lusts of the flesh and the pull of the world. Filled with all things false, evil and sinful, this path leads only to a broken heart, spiritual crisis and soul-crushing despair.

8. The paths of life - But there is eminent and ultimate hope for the believer. The wisdom that God alone can give will direct us instead to the path of life. As opposed to the darkness of the the path to the dead, the path of life gives us light for the way, hope for tomorrow and determination to be in God's perfect will.

9. The way of good men - So many generations of believers have gone before us, leaving behind a path that we are encouraged to follow. Why should we make the same mistakes of choosing wrong paths when they have suffered and offer to be our example? This path is paved with broken hearts, new-found wisdom and encouragement to keep on keeping on no matter what comes our way.

10. The paths of the righteous - Our sisters in Christ are looking for these good paths, too, the ones that lead to all the goodness of God. We are not alone in our walk, just as we cannot walk this path without encountering others walking in the same direction. It is through these common circumstances and similar situations that we support one another, help carry burdens and be a sweet motivation when the walk is difficult.

The writer closes the chapter by explaining that these paths all lead to the land where the upright will dwell and where the perfect will remain. A lifetime of walking on the paths God has chosen for us, and promised to walk with us, is worth all the bumps and stumbles along the way. And His wisdom will keep us from turning to the left or the right, focusing on the life He would have us to live - now and with Him in eternity.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Sketch

This is the time to pull out your circle punches, circle cutters, circle templates or circle-drawing ability. You're going to need them for this sketch!

Layered circles in a variety of coordinating colors and patterns are the focal point of this beautiful card layout. If you have several sheets from a mat stack, you've found the easy way out. Or if you're feeling a little more confident, pick a theme or color palette, then mix and match to your heart's content.

Cut two large circles, two medium circles and two small circles, then randomly overlap them from the bottom left corner to the top right.

You'll need a sentiment that's also a circle, or you'll throw this whole sketch out of whack. And we can't have that now, can we?
For my card, I chose a autumn theme, since fall will be here before we know it. The patterns are all from the same paper pack, so they're pre-coordinated, which makes me very happy.

I cut three sizes of circles from five different patterns and overlapped them from corner to corner.

My sentiment is a round sticker, so I double matted it on more coordinating paper.

For more great layout ideas, and lots of other cards and paper crafts, come visit my Etsy shop. You'll find Christian cards, journals and paper gifts, and hopefully some inspiration along the way.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Weekend Of Leaving Behind What You Were

It's easy to tell which blackberries are ready to be picked - the ones that are black.

This may sound silly, but it's truly how you choose berries. If they're completely black, they're good to go. But then there are red ones, light pink ones and even some partially black and partially red.

The color makes a dramatic difference in texture and taste, so we wait until they've changed from their light beginning color to that deep black they get their name from.

If you don't look carefully, you can accidentally pick a berry that is black on the top but red underneath. From your perspective above the bush, it looks like a good, ripe berry. But underneath, it's nowhere close to ready.

Common sense, right?

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

This well-known verse seems like common sense, too. When we accept Jesus Christ, we are a new creature, but how have we done at shedding the old man and putting on the new? Have all the old things of our former life been laid aside? Or are we still holding on to a few old things that feel comfortable and familiar?

Make this a weekend of leaving behind what you were. In Christ you are a new creature, so do a heart condition analysis. If you find anything that would fit into the "old" category, confess it and move on. Continuing to live with these old things in your life is like being a berry that's red on one side and black on the other. It's not good for anything ... yet.

This weekend, grab hold of your new creature status and leave the two-toned life behind.

Friday, July 15, 2016

When A Project Doesn't Go So Well...

Not every project you attempt will turn out like you planned. This became crystal clear to me recently. I wanted to try making a birdseed wreath to hang on the deck, so I gathered what I needed.

I mixed it up according to the directions I found.

And poured it into a prepared pan to set up. But that's where it ended. I'm still not sure what I did wrong, but when I tried to take it out of the pan, it broke in half. It wasn't very sticky, so I assume it was just too big and heavy to stay in that perfect wreath shape

But here's the most important lesson I learned from this crumbling experience: the birds didn't care one way or another if it wasn't in a fancy wreath shape hanging from a burlap ribbon.

They didn't care that I had to set it on the corner tray in a haphazard pile. At least I think that's what this look means.

All they cared about was having a big pile of birdseed that they didn't have the day before. My expectations and their expectations differed quite drastically. So I stood inside, took their pictures and smiled as they had meals for days.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Organization Born Out Of Frustration

 Maybe you've had this experience, or maybe I'm the only one. You're ready to sit down and work on a craft project, and you're even slightly inspired. You're sure this is going to be a wonderful experience with a creative outcome.

Then you try to find the supplies you need, and it's all downhill from there.

That was my experience this week, and I couldn't believe how quickly my inspiration was zapped. I couldn't have made a card to save my life - it was that bad.

So instead of making a paper craft, I made a decision. No longer would I sit here swamped in stuff when it could be used for an actual, creative project. But how could I do that when I wasn't even sure what I had? Good question, self. Let's just pull it all out and see what's actually here.

I was shocked and a little embarrassed at everything I found. I had embellishments I don't remember buying and some I know I've had since my very first scrapbooking party more than 15 years ago. That's not something I would share with just anyone, mind you.

And don't get me started about the stickers. There's a tote underneath this table that has two more bags with nothing but stickers in it. Average 2-3 stickers per card and I'll be making greeting cards in my Old Lady Rocking Chair!

And I've saved every single leftover die cut I've ever purchased - apparently. Many of them are the last one or two of a set, but they have to be good for something. Right? Please say yes.

That was just what was pulled out on the tables from drawers, totes and envelopes. This is the shelves on the other side of the room. Most of this is supplies, ink and tools, so I don't feel so bad about this section. I think I'll just look here and keep my back to the other side of the room.

After pulling out all the paper, this was the look on Molly's face. I think she's questioning my sanity, but she's going to sit right here with me while I get to work. I would love to see the majority of this stuff used in fun and interesting ways, and now that it's out where I can see it, I think I'm going to get that inspiration back. If you need me, you know where I'll be.

But don't expect to see the tops of the tables any time soon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dressed Up BLT Wraps

Summer just wouldn't be summer without a classic BLT, right? The simple combination of bacon, lettuce and tomato is a staple of these hot months.

But what if you were to upgrade the ordinary BLT in a fun and healthy way?

Cook your bacon and slice up a beautiful, ripe tomato. Add some extra protein with slices of hard-boiled egg.

Then lose the bread and substitute a large lettuce leaf, like the romaine I used here. Just fold the edges up and you'll have a neat little package of deliciousness!

What are some of your favorite ways to have a BLT?