Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Travel Food Kits

We are going to the beach! Hooray! I am so excited I can hardly wait.

We leave Sunday and will return on Thursday and that equals A LOT of eating out. A. Lot! But we are trying to watch what we eat which is pretty difficult if not impossible when eating three meals/two snacks a day at restaurants. Restaurants = sugar + sodium + more sugar in amounts more than should be ingested in a month, let alone one meal.

So, to help my family make better decisions food-wise, I have decided to pack along some healthier options. Our hotel provides a refrigerator and microwave in our room which will help immensely with healthy dining/snack options. Here are some kits I plan to put together for the road trip and hotel. I have linked to recipes and products where applicable so you can see exactly what I plan to pack/make.

Basic Breakfast Kit
(Stored in a lidded plastic tote)

Shelf-stable milk
favorite healthy cereals
instant organic oatmeal
Soft Baked Fig Cereal Bars
organic instant coffee
small container of organic raw sugar
bananas


Snack Food Travel Kit
Popcorn Trail Mix
Chocolate Earth Balls
Granola Bars
Fruit Leather
dried fruit
whole grain crackers
small jar peanut butter
all-fruit preserves
aseptic Horizon Organic milk boxes
water bottles


Cooler Travel Food Kit
100% Whole Wheat Bread
Deli meat
small squeezable bottle of mayonnaise
sliced cheese
sliced cucumbers
baby carrots
sugar snap peas
baby spinach leaves
greek yogurt cups - plain/lowfat
blueberries (to add to yogurt...yum!)
peaches (to add to yogurt...my fave!)
strawberries
apples
string cheese

Monday, August 27, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Is it Monday already? Where did the week go? Sheesh. Time flies when your cooking up a storm. (and cleaning the kitchen.)

We are traveling to the beach next week. Hooray! Time for a much needed family vacation. I am so excited! My menu plan will be shortened this week due to said travels and I will write another post with what foods I plan to pack along with us for our trip.

Also, I realized after I wrote last weeks plan, that normally I make a plan and then we end up not eating all the food I originally intended. So I push the meals to the next week. If you see repeats, that is why. We don't literally eat the same things every week. Unless, of course, you are talking about steaks with homemade macaroni and cheese. That is a weekly staple in this house. A girls gotta do what it takes to make her man happy. And steaks with mac and cheese makes my man very happy.

Thursday - General Tso's Chicken served with Ramp and Swiss Chard Dumplings and a garden salad

Friday - BBQ Chicken Pizza on Whole Grain Flatbread

Saturday - Grilled Marinated Chicken served with garden salad and roasted asparagus

After that we will be hitting the waves.

Oh...but wait. The soup for the week will be Cumin Roasted Cauliflower Soup. (More on my recent addiction to soup in another post, very soon.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Neighbors Cruelty to a Certain Runner

Hi Ya'll! Happy Tuesday to you and many happy returns of the day. Today is a good day. A very good day. I ran three long miles.

I am all pumped up now and ready for bed. HA!

No. Really though. Running has caused my insomnia to disappear completely this past month. I sleep like a rock now. Literally. A few nights I do happen to get up to use the restroom (I am drinking TONS of water lately too) but for the most part I am sleeping straight through the night. Every. Single. Night. It's fantastic!

I have yet to see a major increase in my energy levels though. Still waiting on that health benefit to kick in. But at least I am getting better sleep. It's a start.

I don't know if you know this or not, but we don't live in the greatest neighborhood. It's not the worst...definitely not the "hood", (that would be up the street.) but it sure makes for some interesting times running,

For the most part people are pretty nice. I've had a teenage girl shout, "You Go Girl!" at me from where she was sitting on her front stoop while I ran past. Nothing like some postive encouragement to motivate me to pick up the pace a little bit. Just a little bit. (Slowed it down again once I rounded the corner.) Another night we (James and I) had two ladies comment, "Wow. You guys are fast! We just saw you when we parked the car and now we are getting out of the car and here you are again!" (Okay...it must have taken them a good five minutes to get out of the car because we are not THAT fast. Seriously.)

We see some pretty interesting people. Most of the time it is just people walking down the the liquor store at the corner. I often see them walking back home with a brown paper sack on my next round. I never say hello though. People walking around at night carrying brown paper sacks with liquor in them scare me just a little bit.

Sometimes though, people are just cruel to runners. Absolutely cruel. I've almost been run over...twice...in one night...by a mini van. (I walked home after the second time in fear for my life.) James had a cup of ice and soda thrown on him while running under a bridge once. And not just any cup either. The super duper Big Gulp variety. (He refuses to run under bridges now. And this happened like 4 years ago. The hurt runs deep.) I've run by the sides of parked cars and looked the drivers dead in the eyes only to have them blow cigarette smoke in my face as I run past the window. This has happened numerous times. Too many to count. THEY MADE EYE CONTACT! You can't tell me that wasn't on purpose. I am going to die of lung cancer now because I took up running. I just know it.

But that is not the cruelest thing I've had happen to me in my neighborhood while running. Not by a long shot. Tonight, I was running along...minding my own business...thinking happy running thoughts (don't ask. I can't really explain. It's sort of like "I am going to enjoy running so much someday" and "boy, wouldn't James be surprised if I came home and told him I ran 5 miles today instead of 3?" and "I can't wait to try that wonderful soup recipe I just pinned on Pinterest this afternoon." Those kind of happy running thoughts.) when I got smacked right in the face.

CINNAMON BUNS!

Yes. The smell of cinnamon buns hit me right dead center in my face. Talk about cruelty!

Who bakes cinnamon buns at 9:30 on Tuesday night in August? (Never mind that this is totally might be something I would do if I hadn't given up sugar for a month.) It's wrong. Just plain wrong? Don't they know I'm running here? How can I continue with the smell of cinnamon buns wafting through my nostrils every time I pass that house?

Well, continue I must. I pushed on. I finished my 3 mile run, no thanks to those cruel neighbors who bake scrumptious delicacies in the middle of the night and now I must have something yummy. My new love is Greek yogurt with peaches. I am out of peaches so I will substitute cherries. It's all good.

And remember my lesson from today. There are two. Never bake yummy treats while people are running in your neighborhood (especially if they have given up sugar for a month) and please, please, please, exercise extreme caution when running (or walking for that matter) under bridges.

Monday, August 20, 2012

First Day of Second Grade

Journey to Ladyship second grade school year has begun. Sadly, I am a little late in posting about our first day (considering that we just started our sixth week of school today) but better late than never, right?

July 16, we began our day with our traditional sundae for breakfast.

secondgradesundae


Oh yes! We are bad like that.

secondgradesundae2


The first day of school breakfast sundae would not be complete with a cherry on top.

secondgradesundae3


It was a sweet start to our second grade year. We are going to have so much fun this year. We made some changes to our routine that I will share with you in another post. I also have almost decided to take down my separate homeschool blog and mix everything back into one again. I am having such a hard time keeping up with two blogs and really...school is such a major part of our lives and permeates through everything we do that I struggle to divide the two.

Anyways, more on our changes in another post. I also have some incredible books to share with you in another post as well. I actually have so much to share that I don't know how I can get it all in. I guess that is what I get for taking a two month hiatus between posts.

firstday2grade

Menu Plan Monday

Happy Monday to you all. I hope today has found you content and well. We said goodbye to James for the week (He'll be back Friday) and so it's just us girls for a few days. (Can anyone say PAR-TAY?) Just kidding...we will miss him. Desperately. Although Chloe is quite thrilled to be able to sleep in my bed with me. A luxury she only experiences while James is away. Spoiled child!

Anyways, onto the topic at hand. Since I made the decision to eat healthier and use whole foods as much as possible, I contemplated maybe joining in on this blogging food menus craze I've noticed around the blogosphere.  (That word is so funny. Spell checker wants me to use heliosphere instead.) I thought maybe this would be a way to get my blogging juices flowing and produce a steady stream of posts...once a week...about food. Okay. So, I know. That sounds...well...a little boring, if truth be told. But hey! A girls gotta start somewhere when she hasn't blogged more than a handful of posts the entire year and all she's been able to think about for the past 3 weeks straight is food. Give a girl a break, why dontcha. And so...without further ado, I present to you my menu for the next week. (My shopping day is Thursday so my weekly plan starts that evening)

Thursday - Grilled Marinated Chicken served with garden salad and corn on the cob

Friday - BBQ Chicken Pizza on Whole Grain Flatbread found in my copy of Healthy Kitchen Summer 2011 (this is the same magazine I got my Swordfish Skewers and Thai Lettuce Wraps from)

Saturday - Grilled steaks served with Macaroni and Cheese and steamed broccoli

Sunday - Sunday Pot Roast served with Roast Potatoes and Sweet Dinner Rolls

Monday - Black Bean Tostadas served with Amusement Park Cornbread, Mexican Rice and Savory Green Beans (adapted...I'll have to share my updated recipe with you when I am done)

Tuesday - General Tso's Chicken served with Ramp & Swiss Chard Dumplings and a garden salad

Wednesday - Grilled Salmon served with eggplant fries and a garden salad

And our soup for the week is Tilapia Corn Chowder.  Chloe mentioned a couple of weeks ago that she was a little tired of sandwiches for lunch and asked if I could make something else. I decided that soups would be a great lunch. They are not filling enough for James to eat for dinner and if I make one soup a week, Chloe and I can eat on it everyday for lunch. It will be a great way for me to try all the soup recipes I never seem to get around to making.

Oh my goodness! Is it time to eat yet? I'm getting awfully hungry.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Adventures in Cooking

Wow. It's been so long since I have felt like making anything. Food included.

Why?

Well, it seems I've been suffering from a case of depression again. Sigh.

Yes. I know. Sigh again.

Anyhoo. About a month ago I decided to kick it in the rear end. For good! I started running every day (or almost every day) and I changed up my diet. I am eating a TON of fruits and veggies every day, limiting my meat (namely red meat) intake and really focusing hard on portion control.

James came home about 3 weeks ago and said, "Let's give up sugar for a month."

To which I replied, "Okay."

And I've been sticking with it ever since. I haven't even had a speck of sugar in my morning coffee. YIKES! I know. I know. Hard to believe. But true.

I have started to see some results. WHOOPEE! Big cheer. Happy dance and all that jazz. One of the biggest changes I've noticed is my desire to cook. It's back! And it's exciting! I've been all over Pintrest pinning recipes to try. I've cooked some amazing food and tried some delicious (and not so delicious) recipes.

I thought I would share a couple of recent one with you, if you don't mind.

First up are some Swordfish Skewers I tried from a Healthy Kitchen magazine I picked up last year from Whole Foods.

swordfishskewers1


I rubbed the fish pieces with ground coriander and then stabbed them onto the skewers between lemon and red onion. After drizzling some olive oil over them I grilled them on my gas grill for about 8 minutes, turning often, until the fish was done.

swordfishskewers2


Now the magazine recipes stated the grilled lemons are perfectly edible. James nor I could manage to try.

Swordfish is expensive. We paid $18.99 a pound. YIKES! We ate it and it was good. Not $18.99 good though. We didn't notice anything incredibly special about it. But it sure was fun to try a new fish. Now we can say we ate swordfish.

Earlier this week I cooked up some Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps and some Sugar Snap Peas from the same magazine.

Asianchickenlettucewrap1


Yum! Okay. So, I was a little nervous using Sriracha for the first time. I was unsure how hot this sauce would be. Well, as we ate the lettuce wraps, I decided I could have used a little more. The chicken just didn't have enough "kick" to it. I like "kick".

Asianchickenlettucewrap2


We would definitely make this one again. Although I think I am going to try to find a P.F. Chang style chicken lettuce wrap recipe to try first. Like maybe this one. Or this vegetarian one made with tofu. I've never tried tofu before and if Pioneer Woman says its good than it certainly must be.

James mentioned to me about a week ago that he would like to try age-dried ribeye steaks. He heard that they were quite delicious. Age-dried steak. Once you eat it, you can't go back. Especially when the cow was grass fed and raised organically. Talk about delicious.

Steakbeetgreenbeans


Tonight was our second time grilling this steak. I rubbed it with olive oil and then sprinkled some garlic pepper all over it. James grilled it for a minute or two each side. I served the steak with some Savory Green Beans and Roasted Beets.

Both Chloe and James liked the green beans. Next time I will decrease the salt by half. I will also turn the temperature down to med-low and cook for 10 minutes instead of 20. It was James and Chloes first time trying beets. They both liked them.

Well, that has been enough cooking adventures for now. I hope to have many more to share with you soon. Have a fabulous Sunday everyone.

Friday, August 17, 2012

About Blogging

Hello Dear Readers. Thank you for reading my humble blog. If you are still here, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

A few months ago (well...more like many months ago) I felt this nagging in my heart. A nagging that I couldn't shake. Somehow I felt that through my blogging I was, in all actuality, bragging. GASP!

Oh My! NO!

Bragging you say?

Why yes. That is what it felt like to me. Showing off. Presenting what I made to the world so I could hear (read) praise for how wonderful and creative I was.

I also found myself living my life for my blog. Can you believe that? But its true. I would plan events or games or even witty conversations that I thought would be blog worthy. (Most of which actually never made it onto the blog...ironically enough.) I got tired of living like that. I wanted to get back to actually LIVING my life. For me. For my family.

So, I haven't blogged much since. I have taken a step back to ponder reasons why I might continue to blog or even if I should. There have been moments when I half decided to shut this blog down entirely. Then there were moments when I realized that writing/blogging is something I love and how could I do that? How can I just up and quit?

So, now the question remains rattling around my head. Why blog?

What is my purpose in blogging? What message do I want to convey to my readers?

Quite honestly, I have not come up with an answer yet. I just don't know where I want to go with this blog. It appears that I am at a crossroads and I am unsure which direction to take. I have thought about a couple of options. I have read around a few blogs and looked into what makes a good blog. A blog worthy of my daily (or weekly) reading. (I don't actually read very many blogs regularly for lack of time. I am doing my best to limit my screen time and spend more time actually living life with my family.) There seems to be one thing that draws me to a blog. A theme. A purpose. Something I can gain by my reading. Something in it for me.

So how does that translate into my own blog. How can I leave my readers feeling as though their lives have been enriched by reading what I write?

1. I could combine my homeschool blog with this blog (which I used to do, but then thought it easier to separate them...which is NOT easier, I learned) and just use this blog to write about my life...as was my original intention when I began. Just to have a space to write about me.

Can I do that without bragging or showing off? Hmmmm. Would it enrich others lives and draw them into a closer relationship to the Lord Jesus?

2. I could focus solely on crafting and "how-to's" and tutorials.

Can I come up with enough of my own original ideas to warrant a blog devoted to that?

3. Photography. My newest passion. I want to learn all I can about photography. I could devote my blog to photographing my life and hobbies.

4. Food. I love food. I could devote my blog to cooking and eating good food, rating recipes I find on the internet, photographing food.

5. I could offer some conglomeration of all the aforementioned topics...which is not really different than I have done in the past.

I will continue to think and pray about these options and what direction I should take. For now, my main concern is to not turn my blog into my own bragging forum. The bragging must desist.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Alive and Well

Greetings!
I've been to Never-Never Land, or so it would appear, and have once again returned to write about my adventures. Okay. Maybe I haven't actually flown to the third star and on to morning, but I sure have kept busy this summer. So busy, in fact, that I have not had a spare moment during which I felt like blogging. You see, blogging takes an incredible amount of effort. I don't know if you realized that or not. I know there are some who think you just sit down at a keyboard and type and it all magically flows out. Sometimes that can happen. But most of the time, it takes work.

1. Remove pictures from camera onto the computer. (You would be surprised at how daunting that task alone can be. Just ask my sister. She just buys a new memory card instead of deleting the pictures.)

2. Brew a cup of coffee.

3. Find blog site and write title (or leave blank in case a better title comes to mind later).

4. Add creamer and sugar to coffee and take first sip. (This step can take quite a while...especially first thing in the morning.)

5. Type witty first line. Every blog post needs a witty introduction to draw the readers in. Without it they will just click away to a much more sophisticated blog worthy of their attention. (Keep in mind that this step could take anywhere from 1 minute to 1 hour....depending on how long that first sip of coffee took and how much caffeine has entered the bloodstream at this point.)

6. Drink more coffee.

7. Fix child breakfast.

8. Drink more coffee.

9. Type first paragraph.

10. Delete first paragraph because it had nothing to do with witty line.

11. At this point you notice that your pictures have finished transferring to the computer. Its time to browse through the file and pick the ones you need to use in the post.

12. Open photo storage website.

13. Drink more coffee.

14. Upload pictures to photo storage website.

15. Clean spilled cereal from floor before cats lick up the milk and leave tongue imprints on the dark wood laminate.

16. Edit pictures for post.

17. Write post.

18. Brew another cup of coffee.

19. With the increased mental boost additional caffeine produced, edit the post using a thesaurus. (This is the most critical step in the writing process, beneath coffee of course. Words like "spawned" or "fabricated" just look way more cool than "made". You don't "make" a cup of coffee...you SPAWN a cup of coffee. Oh wait...that doesn't work. Delete. Retry. Brew? That works. Think action verbs here, people. Action!)

20. Drink more coffee.

21. Add pictures to post.

22. Read through entire post 2 times to check for final edits. (Like misspelled words or run on sentences or incomplete sentences....or overuse of parenthesis in every other sentence...or improper use of the dot, dot dots trailing off the end of sentences...)

23. PUBLISH!

24. View blog as a reader and read through post again. It's okay to chuckle at your own cleverness of sentence structure. Those dot, dot, dots really are quite funny, no?

25. Suddenly remember that blank title form and hastily edit the post to include something last minute so no readers will happen upon your blog before you remedy the situation.

26. Publish again.

See what I mean? A LOT of work!

So, all this to say that I have been too busy (or lazy as the case may be) to post lately. We are all doing well though. Happy and excited for the future. I promise I will have that Ruffled Garden Apron tutorial up soon that I spoke of the last time I wrote. I just have to find those pictures, edit and...well...you get the point. I also hope to get you all an update on our adoption process soon. A lot going on and so much to catch you up on.

Meanwhile, I promised a little someone I would play Lego Pirates of the Caribbean for her today. I just have to say, I rock at Lego games and she thoroughly enjoys watching me play. It's like watching a movie for her. A movie that I control and totally rock at. Okay. So that might be construed by some as bragging. I hope not. I was merely stating the facts as I see them. Oh well. Can't please everyone. I CAN please her (and save the poor kitty who is suffering patiently through many afflictions) by ending this post and heading downstairs.

Have a wonderful day everyone! Enjoy each and every moment, even if you can't blog about it!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Child's Ruffled Garden Apron Gift Set

Sometimes I find it hard to shop for children who appear to own every item Toys 'R Us carries. And more often than not, I find myself with limited time with which to create unique, one-of-a-kind gifts. I mean, let's face it...who really has an over abundance of time on their hands? I sure don't.

So, what can a mother do in this situation? Meet the situation head on.

This past Friday I headed to Jo-Ann's to pick up the fabric and bias tape so I could sew a gardening apron for the neighbor girl's birthday. I know this family enjoys spending time outside and they have a garden so I felt inspired to create a garden apron and fill it with supplies.




childs ruffled garden apron gift set 2

Chloe helped me pick the perfect fabric. I opted for a duck fabric for the weight and durability.




childs ruffled garden apron gift set

We filled the three pockets on the front of the apron with gardening tools (Fiskars $.88 each at Home Depot), cute garden stakes (Michaels), gardening gloves and hat (Michaels), a water bottle (Michaels.) because you really need to make sure and drink plenty of water while working in the garden, a little watering can (Michaels) and some packets of seeds (Home Depot).




childs ruffled garden apron back ties

I sewed the bias tape in such a way that it doubles as the neck loop and the ties for the back of the apron. I will post a tutorial in the next couple of days so you can make this apron if you like.




childs ruffled garden apron

childs ruffled garden apron 2

It literally took me 1 hour to whip this darling apron up. Such an easy project for a quick gift when you are out of time and the party is that very evening. Of course, you will need an hour or so to shop for supplies to put inside the apron, unless you the apron is the gift itself. Either way, any budding green thumb would love this little apron. 

Friday, May 04, 2012

The War on Cat Hair

(Disclaimer: If you have a weak stomach, I strongly urge you to move on to another blog or website today. I don't know if I am even going to be able to handle what I am about to post. You have been duly warned.)

As many of you long time readers know, I have a little floor fetish. My floors must be immaculate at all times. I know...I know. Tough job, right? You should feel sorry for me. VERY sorry! This is pretty near impossible. Consider for a minute the fact that I have 3 cats. Yes, that's right. Three. T-H-R-E-E. Now you see why keeping the floors immaculate haunts me? Especially a person in my condition? (with that whole floor fetish and all)

I hate sitting down on the couch in my Sunday best to enjoy one last cup of coffee before church, only to rise covered in little hairs. UGH!

James hugs my shoulders and leans way in to give me a peck of a kiss before he leaves for work in the morning. Nothing but my shoulders and arms are allowed to touch his body for fear of cat hair jumping from my clothes to his. UGH!

Nothing is worse than dropping a gummy worm while watching a movie only to receive a mouthful of cat hair when you retrieve and insert it into your mouth. The 10 second rule does not apply in our house. If you drop food, consider it gone forever. This applies to furniture and clothing as well as the floor. If you drop it, its gone. UGH!

Well, its time to do battle. Clean freak style.

Chloe picked out the Libman Freedom Floor Duster from the grocery store the other day stating it would be perfect. I agreed and purchased it. Monday I began my twice a day dust mopping of the kitchen floor. Today Chloe suggested a thrice a day dusting. I may have to take her advice. We shall see. I have also proceeded a counter attack. Every time I enter the kitchen, I wipe down the counters and stove with vinegar water and a paper towel.

But the carpet and couches. UGH! 

James suggested (after listening to my complaints yesterday) that I try vacuuming twice to see how much I pick up the second time. He thought that if I continued vacuuming over and over that maybe after a while the vacuum would cease to pick up stuff, rendering the floors immaculate.

So, this morning I did just that. I vacuumed the entire house. Twice.

Here is what came out of the vacuum after the second sweep.


dirt

UGH!

Okay. So what makes that pile of cat hair, dirt and who knows what else so incredibly disgusting is the fact that I vacuumed AND steam cleaned my carpets this past Monday. I vacuumed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Today is Friday and this was my second time through. Only the second time. (I emptied the canister before I went through again.)

Please know that I take this extremely serious. The cat hair wants a battle and a battle it will have. I don't play around. I will prevail. I will win. I will be able to hug my husband while he is wearing black in a loving and warm embrace. I will. You have not seen the last of me, oh evil cat hair!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Sweet Extravagance...My New Design

To feel the flow of yarn through my fingers once again. To daydream of style and grace and watch it come to life in my hands. The feeling of satisfaction and pride when I stitch the last round. When I hold up my finished creation and hear my daughter sigh with pleasure. I missed these feelings. I really did.

Last week I found a WIP (barely started) in my bedroom drawer that I began back in September. I completely forgot about it. Sad, right?

Well, I pulled it out and proceeded to work on it over the weekend. I finished the last stitch Tuesday morning. Chloe really did ooh and aah over it. There is no feeling in the world like that of someone oohing and aahing over something you just made for them.



Sweet Extravagance Glamour Shot


Chloe asked me to edit these photos with the new Photobucket glamour shot filter. She exclaimed over and over that she feels like the queen from Mozart's Magic Flute opera when she wears this ensemble. The headband was a last minute addition. I had just enough leftover yarn to whip it up and let me just say...I think it perfectly completes the ensemble.



Sweet Extravagence Headband

Sweet Extravagance Shrug


Oh yes. There is nothing quite as sweet as extravagant ruffles and lace on a beautiful little girl.



Sweet Extravagance Ensemble

Sweet Extravagance Ensemble 2

Sweet Extravagance Ensemble 3


It feels so good to design again. I really have missed crocheting.



Sweet Extravagance Shrug Back


The only difference between now and 3 years ago when I designed my last dress is that now I am taking my time. There is no rush. If something doesn't look right, I have no problem ripping it out and trying again. There is satisfaction in seeing something I made and knowing that if I saw this pattern on a website I would want to purchase it. I can't say that for all of my designs but it certainly holds true for this one.



Sweet Extravagance Shrug Side


Oh my goodness. I love this design. I can't wait for you all to be able to crochet this for your darling daughters and granddaughters. The layers of ruffles. The lacy skirt. Ohhhhh...I am dying of sheer pleasure here.



Sweet Extravagance Sleeve Ruffles


The website transformation is moving along nicely. My goal for the Grand Re-Opening is next Friday, May 11.  I have most of the pages created. I still need to figure out how to add my shopping cart onto them though. Part of the transformation will be the release of some children patterns. I am in the process of re-sizing my Pure Sweetness Line into children sizes. That means crocheting up sizes to fit Chloe for a prototype and then typing up the patterns. A lot of work, but it will be totally worth it. I don't think having an empty children pattern page for 5 years helps my google search stats.

Well, I have a lot of work to do so I need to run along. I also have a 7 year old's chocolate chip fiasco in the kitchen to amend.

Confessions of the Chronically Shy

This may come as a complete shock to some of you, others...maybe you've figured it out already but I am just going to say it anyway.

I am shy.

Painfully shy.

Did you know that about me?

Maybe you didn't because I work very hard to hide it. But alas, against my better judgement it comes out when I wish it wouldn't it and at the most inopportune times too. Here are some confessions of mine. Maybe these confessions will help you better understand me and the other shy people of the world.

1. I feel extremely uncomfortable talking in large group settings. I also feel extremely uncomfortable when that large group setting is focused on me because someone else is talking to or about me. I just don't like big groups. (Note: a big group is more than 2.......)

2. I like people. I know that sometimes it may look like I am a recluse and want to be left alone. But actually, the opposite is true. I like to have people around. A lot. Just in small quantities.

3. I don't feel comfortable starting conversations. I get tongue-tied easily and I often say things I regret later.

4. I talk when I get nervous. The more nervous I get, the more I talk. I try to get myself out of this painful situation but the harder I try the worse it gets. I am sorry if you have ever been on the receiving end of my nervousness. If you have met me in person then you most definitely have experienced this pathetic affliction a time or two.

5. I say moronic things when I am nervous.

6. If at any time I feel uncomfortable, my stomach begins flipping and twisting in somersaults. My body shakes uncontrollably and I feel quite nauseous like I need to get to the bathroom NOW because I am about to be sick. This sick feeling worsens as the situation continues and I then feel as though I am about to pee my pants. This is affected by nervousness too. Once this level of nervousness is reached, I can no longer think or speak intelligently. My only thought is to flee.

7. Don't assume that because I am not speaking while in a large group setting that I am not enjoying myself. Actually, the opposite is true. In this situation it is safe to assume that I am 1) happily listening to the cheerful banter around me and 2) quite pleased because I am not saying anything moronic.

8. I write much better than I speak. (At least I hope I do.) I use a thesaurus and I edit multiple times until it sounds just right. Sadly, I am unable to edit my speech. (I wish I could invent a rewind button, giving the user the ability to reword things after they leave the mouth. It would only need to rewind a few seconds, a minute tops. It would save many relationships.)

9. Smile. It lets me know you like me and everything is okay. If you don't smile at me, I'll naturally think you are upset. I'll remember every stupid thing I've ever said to you (see numbers 4 and 5) and never again have the courage to approach you (see number 6 in case you wonder why it would take courage). A smile also lets me know that I don't have toilet paper dangling from my skirt or that pink hair-bow left in my hair from the makeover my daughter gave me this morning.

10. Talk to me. I like to be talked to. I like people, remember? (See number 2.) I simply get nervous. A. LOT. The cure is for the person on the other end to just smile at me and talk conversationally to me. If I feel like someone truly cares about me, I will be drawn out of my nervousness.

That's it for now. I hope these confessions help you in dealing with me or someone afflicted with the same disease as me. 

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Extending Reciprocal Grace

When James had his mountain biking accident followed by a seizure this past fall, I sat in the emergency room longing to call/text every single person in my contact list on the cell phone. I wanted to post a status update on Facebook asking all my friends for prayers. I wanted everyone I knew to come visit us during our three day stay in the hospital.

But it wasn't about me.

James was the one suffering the hospital stay. He was the one being poked and prodded and imprisoned in the bed. And he didn't want anyone fussing over him. While I would have been comforted surrounded by my friends, James would have felt...well...under the spotlight, so to speak. He would have felt extremely uncomfortable.

We are told, quite often, to obey the Golden Rule.

"Do unto others what you would have others do unto you."

But the problem with that rule is, what if they don't appreciate the same thing you do? What if I had invited all of James friends to the hospital room to cheer him up. I would have been following the Golden Rule, right? I would have wanted tons of visitors and so I would merely be doing what I would have wanted, right?

Of course that happens when you take this Rule at face value. But you can't do that, you see. You must take it to a deeper level.

To do unto others as you would have others do unto you, you must look at their feelings. Would I want James to do something that made me uncomfortable? Would I want him to broadcast personal information about me when I asked him not to? The answer is no! So, in return, I would not do anything to make James uncomfortable. But that involves knowing James and understanding what actually makes him uncomfortable. I cannot assume that we have the same levels of comfort or even the same desires.

But situations get sticky very quickly, don't they. 

I mean, think about it for a minute. If you lost a loved one, what would you want your friend's response to be? What words of comfort could they offer you that would ease your suffering? Now step back for a moment and ponder this. That which comforts you  might bring pain to someone else in the same circumstances. While one person would appreciate their friends coming and sitting with them for days on end to help them through the situation, another may need time alone, in bed with only their tears and grief. If I lost James, I would feel completely abandoned and alone if no one came to stay with me during my grief. But not everyone is like me. Someone else might feel invaded or bombarded by the attention and really just want to be left alone for a while.

I appreciate phone calls from my friends. I like it when people call "just to check in" on me. Those little acts of kindness speak volumes to me. I will not call people when I need something. I feel like I am needy when I do that. Other people feel differently than I do. They feel like these "checking in" phone calls are an invasion and if they needed something they would call and ask. So, how do we do unto others in these situations? We must step outside our own comfort zone to reach people where they are and in a way that means something to them.

Take a look around you. There are so many people hurting. So many people in pain, going through extremely difficult circumstances. But how can we reach out to them, comfort them, obey the Golden Rule without hurting them further? This is my question. I think about it a lot. Because I am not good at this. I am terrible, in fact. I don't know what to say when someone tells me they suffered a miscarriage. I can't think of the right words of comfort when a friend loses a loved one. I don't know how to help someone grieving. I try and fail, because no matter what I do, it isn't right.

But do you want to know something? This may come as a surprise to you, but here it is.

I don't mean to hurt people.

I don't walk around with harmful intentions stored up in my heart. I really don't. I say what I think would help. I try to follow the Golden Rule, the deeper aspect of it. But you know what? I say things I regret sometimes. I don't always get it right. In fact, I would go so far as so say that I rarely do get it right. And that's where I ask for reciprocal grace. Could we, as Christians, stop assuming that everyone is out to offend us? Could we maybe begin assuming that people actually mean well? They might not say exactly what you want to hear at that moment, but you know what? They are trying. I am trying. We are all trying. We all need grace. We need it offered to us and we need to offer it in return.

I guess it all boils down to what the famous Love Chapter says about it.

"Love is not easily angered."
- 1 Cor 13:5

And let's remember what we are told in Colossians 3:13

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Jealousy Monster is Eating Me Alive

I struggle with contentment.

I know, I know. So does everyone, right? But I feel like I struggle with it more than most.

I envy what other's have. I see my friends with nice houses, buying even nicer houses. And here I sit, stuck in my tiny townhome with a tiny back yard that I can't even plant a tree in. I want a bigger house. I want their house. I want their trees. I want their multiple bathrooms and their giant kitchens and their spacious bedrooms.

I see my friends with fancy toys for their kids. The walk-in closets filled with dress up clothes for their little girls. The shelves lined with every princess doll ever made. The play equipment in the backyards for the kids to climb on. (Note what I mentioned about my tiny backyard and the lack of trees? This applies to play equipment as well.) The motorized "toy" vehicles with yards large enough to warrant them. Our yard is not large enough to warrant a bicycle.

I see my friends taking wonderful vacations to exotic locations. I see my friends with swimming pools and large screen televisions and beautiful furniture and trendy clothing and fancy jewelry and magazine worthy home decor.

I see my friends pregnant with their third, fourth or fifth child and I cry myself to sleep at night.

The jealousy bug bites.

It continues biting until the very life flowing through my veins disappears. I feel I just cannot be happy unless I am them. If only I were my friend Lucy Lu who has the perfect children who never misbehave. If only I had a large house like Sally SoHo so I could invite the Sunday School class over for a BBQ. Sheesh! If only I knew HOW to BBQ. Maybe my gas grill just isn't large enough...or fancy enough...of maybe I just don't have enough of the right cook books.

And I cease living in the Joy of the Lord. He no longer is my salvation. I think these other things that everyone else possesses will be my salvation. I think their material blessings should have been given to me because then I would be happy. I dig myself down deeper and deeper into the pit of discontentment where the Jealousy Monster lives, ready to devour me alive.

And devour me he does. Head to toe. Until I am a miserable mess, left with no friends because who wants to stand by someone being eaten by the Jealousy Monster. They flee for fear of being eaten themselves.



Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also."
Matthew 6:19-21


Did you catch that last verse? Verse 21? Here let me write it again. I love how the NLT words it.



"Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also."


And just where are the desires of my heart at this moment? Not in heaven, I can tell you that. They are at my friend's house. My heart is sitting in their living room, wishing it were mine. My heart is on Facebook, looking at those photos from last summer, wishing I were in them. My heart is anywhere but heaven where it should be.

And that is why I am not receiving the desires of my heart. I am desiring the wrong thing. I desire the material possessions God has blessed others with instead of desiring that which He has already given me. An eternal home in heaven. With Him. For FOREVER. A home that will never need dusted. A home with a toilet that never clogs or breaks. A home with a coffee maker that doesn't need descaling every 60 days. A home that will never decay or rot. A home that will be everything my little heart desires.

And I can store up my treasures there. I can actually earn treasures. Treasures more valuable than anything I could buy or own on earth. REAL treasures that will never fade or rust or be stolen.

So, I begin the process once again of re-evaluating my heart's desires. Shifting my focus. Checking my storage facility and making sure it is in heaven where it belongs. And someday, when I arrive, I hope I hear the words, "Welcome home my dear child. Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together!" (Matthew 25:23 NLT)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Artist Smock and Gift Set

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Chloe's dearest friend is having a birthday this week. She loves art. Chloe loves art. So together, Chloe and I came up with a gift idea any young artist would love. I found this art smock tutorial over at Make It and Love It and knew it would be perfect.


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And, as can be expected when you hand my daughter a paint brush and an empty paint palette, she posed for a couple of pictures and then proceeded to painting herself (for pretend, of course...or so she informed me).


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I chose it because the front pocket would allow for additional supply storage, making this a gift and wrapping all in one.


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We added watercolor paints, a set of brushes, a palette, oil pastels and some texture sponges to the pockets.


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I folded the smock in half and placed it on top of a ream of art paper which I tied together with satin ribbon.


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Chloe is so excited to give this artist gift set to her best friend tomorrow.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Maybe I Just Don't Have It?

Since we have started our summer break this week, I thought I would take some time to devote to my business. Yippee! So, first thing on the to-do list...list my patterns in my Etsy and Artfire shops. Done. Now onto the dreaded website makeover.

Sigh.

It seems that when learning something new, if you put it down for 7-9 months, chances are that you will forget what you have learned. At least such is the case for me. I spent an hour yesterday trying to remember how to access my Joomla site that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I created. I finally found it.

I then spent the next 5 hours building two pages and trying to link them. Done!

Opps. Snag. My font wouldn't show up on the preview screen. I could see it clearly in the editor though. Ugggggg......all that work.....sigh. I left to take a shower.

Shortly after that, James arrived home and I complained about explained the situation. He sat down at the table and opened the laptop. He clarified that I accessed the Joomla site located on my server, correct? Yes. He smiled at me.

Oh no.

Oh no. No. No. NOOOOOOOOO. He did NOT just find my site and login in less than 2 minutes did he? Yes, he did. What took me an hour to figure out, he did in less than two minutes.

Sigh.

He asked which page I wasn't able to view my font on. I showed him and he pulled it up. He immediately selected all the font on the page and lo and behold, there it was! The same color as my background! I could have screamed. I could have...but I didn't. He did find the problem, but would he know how to fix it? I think not. It shows up just fine in the editor. A nice black, brown color. He opened the editor, highlighted the text and clicked one button. ONE BUTTON. Save, and preview.

Sigh.

My husband just did in less than 5 minutes what would have taken me 5 hours to figure out. (And he didn't even watch the how-to videos.)

Maybe I just don't have what it takes? I smiled as demurely as I know how. I added honey to my voice and spoke gently and quietly, my voice dripping with syrupy sweetness.

"Could you just build my new website for me please? It would take you 2 hours whereas it would take me 2 weeks. I don't think that is the most efficient use of our time, do you?"

He replied, "But that is the only way you will learn. You have to do it yourself and figure it out. How do you think I learned?"

"But this was your FIRST time using Joomla!"

I don't get it. I really don't get it. Why does this come so naturally to him? The man makes it look like a piece of cake. I am telling you this straightforward. It is not that easy.

But alas, my dear and wise husband insists that I need to learn this on my own and build my very own website. From scratch. So that someday I will have it.

Sigh.

So here goes Day 2.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Adoption Homestudy Progress

We finally made progress! Hooray! Boy, when they tell you to have patience they really mean it. You just never know where the snag is going to pop up on the adoption journey.

Our first snag (and hopefully only snag) was the Health Inspection. Our agency informed us that the paperwork time-frame would be roughly 30 days. One month. February. We gathered all the papers and forms we needed in exactly 30 days. All, that is, except for the Health Inspection. Well, the agency would not assign us a social worker until we passed that inspection.  So, we waited. And waited. And waited.


Two weeks ago, I received a phone call from the Health Department, asking me if she could stop by in the morning for the inspection. In the morning? Are you kidding me? That was less than 24 hours away. I thought I would have at least a few days to prepare for this. "This is a rush job," she informed me. "We need to get it done immediately."

"Where's the rush?" I asked. "We submitted the application to you guys over 2 months ago. You cashed our check 5 weeks ago. I don't see the rush!"

Apparently, she had only received the application that very day. I guess they moved offices about the time we mailed our application so we got lost somewhere in the system.

Oh well.

James and I headed over to Home Depot that evening to purchase new trash cans with lids that close (the garbage man with some help from the wind breaks our cans to pieces) and a mat for our bathtub.

The following morning, promptly a half hour late, the inspector arrived and inspected our home. As she was walking towards the door, Chloe peeked around my legs. "Do you need something?" I inquired.

"Did we pass? Do we get to adopt children?" she shyly asked the inspector.

"Yes. You passed," she immediately replied with a smile across her face. "Congratulations and good luck on your adoption."

So, there you have it. We passed the Health Inspection and are now waiting to be assigned a social worker to proceed with the Homestudy. In approximately 4-6 weeks, we will begin the wait for our children. I am so excited I am about to cry.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Manhattan Dress

I purchased the book Sewing Clothes Kids Love a little over a year ago and have been dreaming of magnificent wardrobes ever since. The Manhattan dress ranked high on my list of things I wanted to sew. But alas, I just never found the time to gather everything necessary to create this luxurious dress. Until the week before Easter. I finally made it to the fabric store and Chloe picked out the cotton she wanted for her "Easter Dress". But James requested that I not spend my entire Saturday afternoon prior to Easter sewing the dress. He wisely advised me to purchase a dress that afternoon so I would be able to get a decent amount of sleep before Easter morning. As much as it saddened me, I finally agreed that maybe having a store bought dress for Easter (yet again) would not be the worst motherhood moment ever.

So, I took my time sewing this dress. Two weeks actually. I spent hours embellishing and trimming it. I acknowledge now that I most likely would not have had the time to embellish it quite to this extent had I stayed up all night Easter Eve.



Manhattan dress


The most important feature of this dress (at least in my 7 year old daughter's opinion) is the twirlability. This dress has massive amounts of twirl sewn in. How delightful!



Twirl 1

Twirl 2

Twirl 3


My favorite feature is the ribbon roses sewn onto the dress. They were so incredibly simple and yet add such stunning elegance to the dress, it takes my breath away.



Manhattan ribbon roses


I also love the sewn in loops for the ribbon ties down the back.



Manhattan Dress Back


I added a ruffle of pink tulle around the trim of the skirt lining and sewed a length of grossgrain ribbon over the seam with dainty pre-made ribbon roses interspersed along the edge.

And then came the headband. I browsed the internet for the perfect adornment to compliment this dress. I found this simple headband tutorial that would utilize my leftover fabric from the dress and thought it was perfect.



Headband 1

Headband 2

Headband 3


Chloe says that she feels like she is going to a ball when she wears this dress.



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And here is a rose for you. Thank you for visiting today.



Manhattan dress and rose

The Balancing Act

A young lady enters the circus ring. She steps over to the balancing beam and begins to stretch her arms over her head, holding each pose for a few seconds. She then approaches the beam. Up she hops and after a few seconds of teetering she gains her balance. Gracefully she walks the entire length of the beam and the crowd cheers her performance.

The crowd hushes as the young lady turns and begins to flip through the air, landing back onto the beam with each fluid execution. Amid quiet "ohh's" and "ahh's" of amazement, the acrobat reaches the other end of the beam.

Suddenly, from somewhere in the crowd, a bright purple ball hurtles toward the young lady. No one saw who threw the ball, but our talented young acrobat caught the ball mid-flight and continued her whirling along the beam. Not long after, another ball came flying from the crowd toward the young lady. Then another. The crowd cheered. The acrobat could now do nothing but try to keep her balance as she walked along the beam, juggling the three balls in the air above her.

Inspired, the crowd began throwing bowling pins and tissue streamers at her, expecting her to catch each one and yet remain balanced on the beam. A young man from the second row began chanting for the acrobat to jump and flip in the air while juggling the balls, pins, streamers and other items she carried. The crowd picked up the chant. Fear surfaced on the young acrobat's face. She knew it was impossible. What the crowd expected of her was too much. She couldn't do it.

But the cries grew louder and more insistent. She felt she must, to keep the crowd happy. She was, after all, performing for them. And so, she attempted the impossible. To fly through the air while juggling everything the crowd had tossed her way and land on her feet.

Immediate silence fell while the crowd watched in horror as the young acrobat stumbled and slipped from the beam. One by one, they began to file out of the circus tent, looking for something more exhilarating to watch. The young acrobat was left sitting on the ground in center ring, trying to pick up all the scattered items that fell with her. Tears streamed down her face as she contemplated her failure. Maybe she should have tried harder. Maybe if she had practiced more she could have done it. Maybe....maybe...

And then the Ringmaster entered the ring and walked over to where she sat. He knelt down in front of her and lifted her eyes to His.

"You weren't supposed to perform for the crowd," He gently stated. "You were performing for me. You were to carry out the task I gave you. When you began catching everything the crowd threw at you and started listening to what their standards were for your act, you fell. You can never please the crowd. They will always want more from you than you are able to give."

The Ringmaster took the acrobat's hand and lifted her to her feet. Together they walked out of the ring, leaving behind all the expectations of the crowd. The acrobat knew that she could do what the Ringmaster gave her to do. He would never give her more than she could handle. He would never expect her to balance everything like the crowd had asked. And her simple performance would please Him.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day Cake

I love cake. Maybe you already knew this. But I just thought I should say it again because this is an extremely important fact to make note of. I love cake! I wish people wouldn't give me such a hard time over my consumption of cake or I would eat it more. Really, I could bake a cake for every holiday. Oh. Today is Friday? I have a cake for that.

 Yes, I love cake. I dream of being a cake designer someday. Pipe dreams. Mere pipe dreams. I am so far away from achieving this dream that I might as well join the Olympics this summer. (And anyone who knows me knows how ludicrous that would be, since I am basically a couch potato for all intents and purposes)

 Since we celebrated Earth Day yesterday, in the rain, I decided to whip up an earth cake.


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Chloe mixed up a french vanilla cake mix. We divided the batter in half and stirred in blue and green icing colors. I baked the cake in half of my sport ball cake pan.

 
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Now, in theory, this should have worked. But I found that my blue batter did not make it to the crust of my cake. Only the green. So, in order to see the vibrant colors of our "earth", I had to cut the cake in half. Hmmmm...I will have to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Meanwhile, we ate the cake.

 
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Happy Earth day! Since we received quite the downpour yesterday, we will pick up trash in our neighborhood today.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bird Nest Infatuation

I have always loved seeing bird nests used in spring decor. And while I have never decorated my home much for holidays, this year I longed for some nests. And once I got started, I couldn't stop myself. I filled every bare shelf with nests and eggs.
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I found a tiny nest at Hobby Lobby to put inside this lidded, glass vase. I added some moss and a few teensy tiny robin eggs.
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I just could not resist make a pink nest. Okay. So I know they don't actually exist in nature (I hope/wish I am wrong on this point) but this girly-girl must have some pink in her spring decor. For the nest, I just used a pink, floral garland I bought at Michaels. I left it in the wreath form it came home from the store in and tucked a couple of "rounds" down into the middle of the "nest" to hold the eggs. (I know. I am totally botching up that explanation and it makes no sense whatsoever, but I am sure you can see what I did in the picture.)
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For a more woodland whimsical nest I used a twig wreath. After cutting the twine that held it in the circular shape, I finagled it into somewhat of a nest-like shape and added some natural "balls" I've had lying around. I added bits of moss into this wreath as well.
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I brought out the centerpiece I used for Chloe's Bird Themed tea party we threw last summer to add to my spring decor. I placed my mossy bunnies next to it for Easter.
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I saw this project sheet at Hobby Lobby while I was perusing the nest section looking for tiny eggs. It wasn't a nest but I needed to make it anyway. Maybe I can use it in the future if I can ever talk Chloe into her Woodland Fairy Garden Tea Birthday Party. So, these are my spring decorations. I am pleased to say that I had them out and on the shelves in plenty of time for Easter. I think they were finished at least two weeks prior to the holiday. (This is some kind of record for me.) Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for Chloe's Easter dress. I am still working on the details today. We shall just call it a "Post-Easter" dress.