Friday, November 30, 2012

Simple Changes = No Meltdown

Normally I would have spent the last week knee deep in boxes of red and green attempting to finish the decorating that began over Thanksgiving but didn't reach completion before life resumed on Monday.

Then I would have stressed to no end that said boxes were in the way and would have added 'finish decorating' to my already lengthy to-do list.

All this during one of the busiest weeks of the Christmas season for our family since three out of five of us are involved in our church's Christmas program. So in addition to our regularly scheduled weekly activities, we added a performance at a local retirement home, technical and dress rehearsals, all ending with the actual performances on Saturday and Sunday.

At some point during the week there would have been a nuclear meltdown I'm certain.

But not this year. This year I made a little pact with myself. No decorating (or related activities) until after this week was over. And while it pained me to spend Thanksgiving weekend doing laundry and cleaning in prep for the busy week (especially while everyone else around us was decking their halls), I'm very glad I did it.

This week has gone relatively smoothly - despite the fact that I was on the pediatrician's doorstep Monday morning because Princess Mia had strep throat. (That would have definitely precipitated a meltdown under the previous philosophy.) I've managed to keep my student on task, to keep my family fed, and even completed quite a few unfinished projects (several I started many months ago). I told Tim that I felt like I was nesting even though I wasn't pregnant!

Anyway, as this busy week comes to a close I hope to keep some of the perspective I've gained and truly be able to focus on and enjoy the season of celebrating our Savior's birth.

Yes, we will still decorate. And yes, there will still be lots of hustle and bustle. But perhaps I've learned that a little prioritization goes a long way.

If you're local, please consider coming out to one of our performances on Saturday or Sunday. You will truly be blessed.

Also in keeping with the idea of simplifying, check out one of my real-life friend's blog, Running Monologue, and sign up for her Small Gifts Advent Calendar. Each day from Dec. 2 to Christmas she'll send you a cute e-mail with a little holiday inspiration and fun activity. Take some time to create special memories with your family as you celebrate God's amazing gift to us, His Son Jesus.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Heart of Thanksgiving

It is with a thankful heart that we reflect on our many blessings today - both great and small. But can most of us honestly say that we remembered to be thankful for our heart - our actual beating heart? The heart - the hub of our physical well being that pumps blood along with its key nutrients and oxygen to all our other vital organs. Until recently I took the power of this fist-sized muscle for granted. Not anymore - thanks to Lucas, a high school student and member of our church youth group, and his family.

You see Lucas was born with a heart defect which was for the most part manageable until he hit adolescence and the needs of his body outpaced his heart's capability. Lucas and his family knew that one day a heart transplant would be required - but until a few short months ago they didn't realize how soon.

Lucas was admitted to a local children's hospital in late September with the knowledge that he wouldn't be leaving until he received a new heart. Now just a little over two months later, Lucas - and his new heart - are home celebrating Thanksgiving with his family.

Photo courtesy of Travis Long (, News and Observer
Here is a great article about Lucas and his journey that appeared in our local newspaper today. What a testimony this family is to the miraculous power of God!

If you or someone you know has been touched by the life-saving miracle of organ donation, or if you simply want to have a tangible way to express your gratitude for your healthy heart, please consider making a donation to Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA) in honor of Lucas. COTA is dedicated to organizing and guiding communities in raising funds for transplant-related expenses.

As you celebrate with your loved ones, take a moment to also remember the families who have been able to see beyond their grief and provide others with a second chance at life by donating their loved ones' organs. For them, many are eternally grateful.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Eat, Create, Scavenge

Those words describe what I did all last weekend during my Whatever Craft Weekend adventure.

Upon arrival at the Craft House, we were given our room assignments. I slept in what used to be the playroom. Between colorful quilts and happy hoop art, it was quite the cozy room.

We wasted no time digging into the awesome food that Kimberlee, our chef extraordinaire, had prepared. Between homemade - yes, that's right homemade - cinnamon rolls and spinach-apple salad and savory harvest chili, the food was to die for. Oh, and did I forget to mention the fabulous cheesecake that makes an appearance at every Craft Weekend? And as if that weren't enough, this time she made a pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust. I think I'm having withdrawal - Must. Make. Cheesecake. Soon. (Needless to say all calorie counting went out the window for the weekend.)

After dinner Friday night, we got down to the business at hand - crafting. We started with the Craft Weekend signature ruffle apron. I have ruffle-apron envy every time Meg does a Craft Weekend recap post on her blog. I've never seen one apron that didn't look adorable. Of course, once she let us loose to pick out our fabric, I was completely overwhelmed. With hundreds of fabulous fabrics to choose from, how do you narrow it down to just five? I was afraid that I would be "the one" to make the first ugly apron. But guess what, that didn't happen. In fact, I honestly don't think that's even possible.

There were about 5 more buckets of fabric in every color of the rainbow.

The aprons kept us busy for quite a while. But oh about 11:30 or so we needed a little break so we headed off on our first field trip - Druber's Daylight Donuts. Apparently this local donut shop opens at 11:30 every night to serve hot donuts. Now remember, we're in small-town Kansas, but you walk in and the place is packed. It was the place to be if you were a local college student - or a middle-aged woman living on the edge at Craft Weekend.

A good night's rest (one that didn't include Princess Mia climbing into my bed at 4:00 a.m.) and a leisurely morning prepared us for our next field trip - thrifting and antiquing in Marion.
Note to future Craft Weekenders: When one is flying,
one must keep in mind how much they can realistically transport back home.
Over all I did fairly well. The antique Daisy BB gun provided some good laughs after having to show it to the TSA officials at the Wichita airport.

Some of my finds

Channeling my inner Annie Oakley
A trip to 'the barn' followed our in-town shopping. If I had a vehicle, this stop would have been very dangerous for my bank account. So much dusty, rusty goodness everywhere.

Sharing our treasures

Shopping has a way of working up a girl's appetite, so a quick trip to Sonic for happy hour was in order and then it was back to the house for a crafting marathon and more of Kimberlee's yummy food.

It was a crafty, antiquey (is that a word?), yummy kind of weekend!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My "Whatever Craft Weekend" Adventure

What do you get when you bring together:
  • 12 women (most of whom were complete strangers),
  • 2 super cute and funky crafty helpers,
  • 1 absolutely fantastic house (in Kansas),
  • a plethora of craft supplies and food fit for queens,
  • more antiques and thrifty goodness than imaginable,
  • gorgeous swag from amazing sponsors,
  • topped with the piece de resistance - 2 of the sweetest, most hospitable women you've ever met?
One awesomely fabulous weekend! 

That's how I spent this past weekend. On Friday, I flew to Kansas to meet up with women from all over the U.S. to stay in a house that belonged to someone I had also never met. Who knew that letting a little of my inner spunkiness out would result in such a great experience? I had a blast.

I've been following Meg's blog, whatever, for several years now. And last year she and her friend Kimberlee started Whatever Craft Weekend. It was such a hit they had tons of readers asking to participate so they started a waiting list. E-mail them your name and they'd add you.

Meg and me

Kimberlee and me
But being the responsible, practical person I was, I thought, "Wow, that would be great!" but I'd probably never get picked, and if I did, I probably couldn't go. My dear hubby knew how much fun I thought this would be, so he secretly entered my name and told them I was turning 40 this year and this would be the ultimate gift. Kimberlee e-mailed him back and said that would be cool but the names are randomly chosen each time, so we'd just have to see what happened. He had done all he could do so he promptly forgot about it. That was back in the early part of the year.

Fast forward to early October (~2-3 weeks before my actual birthday). Hubby calls and asks what we had going on the weekend of November 9-11. I informed him that the boys would be on a mission trip but that was all. He said that I should plan to pack my bags then because I was going to Kansas. My name had been chosen for Craft Weekend. It couldn't have been more perfect timing.
Being from the mountains, I was shocked by how flat it was. You could see for miles!
So off I went to Kansas and met up with some great gals that I otherwise would have never had the pleasure to get to know. I also got to meet Meg in real life and she's just as great in person. So is Kimberlee. These ladies definitely have the gift of hospitality. Their mission is to provide a brief escape from the responsibilities and challenges that come with maintaining a household, raising kids, working, and on and on. And they do it so well - we weren't even allowed to carry our own dishes (that had been loaded with some really awesome food) to the sink! Do you know how hard that is for a mom not to do?
My awesome roomies - from Indiana, Oklahoma and Idaho
I have to admit I felt some pangs of mommy/wife guilt while getting everyone ready for their respective weekends away (the hubby took Princess Mia to visit the grandparents). But when my plane took off that guilt quickly flew out the window (yes - pun intended). Even mommies need a little adventure every now and then - and this was the perfect adventure for me!

I have so much more I want to share but it will have to wait for another post. I'm still catching up on laundry - but I don't care because I'm still riding high on the weekend's fun.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

When One of My Birds Leaves the Nest - Temporarily

Most people who know me would probably agree that I am not a helicopter mom. In fact, I can sometimes be quite the opposite of that. I love my children, I try to meet their physical and emotional needs as best I can, I nurture them in my own way - but I don't coddle them and I'm not generally overprotective of them.

Disclaimer - My children typically wear helmets but had taken them off temporarily
to enjoy the rain falling on their head.
I let them participate in sports and activities where they could potentially get injured (and have). I don't immediately rush them to the doctor for every sniffle, ache or pain (even for previously mentioned injuries - yea, I won't be winning mother-of-the-year for that one). I strongly encourage them to handle communication with coaches, teachers, etc. on their own. (Disclaimer - these statements mostly apply to my two teenage boys. I do understand that a preschooler can not fend for herself. Although, I would argue that mine could hold her own. :-) )

Courtesy of Glenn Guy
But let me just say that when one, or both, of my little big birds is gone from the nest for any length of time, even if it's with grandparents, I find myself all out of sorts and wondering what they're doing, if they're OK, if he's behaving, does he miss us, can they figure out what clothes to wear, will he choose to eat at least one vegetable, did they remember their manners, will they make good choices and stay away from bad influences, and on, and on. It's exhausting!

If you haven't guessed by now, one of my birds is temporarily out of the nest - with his grandparents even. I know he's being taken care of and loved on, so it's not a matter of whether he's physically OK or not. To be honest, I think it's more about me and my insecurities as a parent. Have I done all I can to raise good, Christian sons who will remember 'who they are and Whose they are' when they're not under my roof - or at least not in view of my 'you better watch it' look any more? Have I adequately prepared them to stand up for what they believe, for what's right, when they're not necessarily among others who have been raised the same way?

Thank goodness I have a few more years - about 3 1/2 - before I have to worry about this on a more permanent level. That gives me a little more time to get it right, right? Is there a right? Will I be able to tell them/teach them everything they need to know? I'm quickly realizing the answer to those questions is an undeniable no. So I have two choices - I can completely freak out about it all or I can turn it over to the only One who does have the answers to all those questions.

God has really been working on me to relinquish 'control' in many areas of my life - including this one. I am learning to trust that if I follow His guidance as a parent, then my children will be prepared for whatever life throws their way regardless of my inadequacies. Now the clincher is that it's up to them to follow through - even without my 'eagle eye' on them.

So until my little big bird returns to the nest, I'll try not to worry about him too much. Although I was informed that he had eaten chicken and dumplings, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes for dinner last night. It's obvious that I still have my work cut out on educating him regarding what's a vegetable and what's not!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give you today are to be on your hears. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. ~ Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it ~ Proverbs 22:6

Monday, October 1, 2012

Exquisite Eggplant

Eggplant has always been one of those vegetables I just didn't quite know what to do with at home. I liked it when I had eaten it at restaurants but was baffled with how to fix it on my own - until now. My neighbor Suzanne texted me a picture and description of an eggplant dish she had eaten at the beach. She said it was delicious, so I attempted to recreate it. And I must say, the results were quite yummy! So good, in fact, I thought I'd share.

Eggs, beaten
Panko Bread Crumbs
Canola Oil
Feta Cheese (not pictured)
Bacon Ranch Dressing or Balsamic Vinegar

Peel and thinly slice the eggplant.

Dip in beaten eggs.

Dredge in panko.

Heat canola oil in skillet. Place breaded eggplant in hot oil and fry for a minute or two on each side. Remove from oil and blot on paper towel-lined plate.

Sprinkle with feta while still hot. Top with tomato slices and drizzle with bacon ranch dressing. Or if you prefer a lighter taste - which I did - drizzle with balsamic vinegar.


For a lighter version overall, simply 'oven-fry' the eggplant. Coat with bread crumbs and bake on lightly-greased baking sheet at 375 degrees until browned. Then top with the other ingredients.

Friday, September 28, 2012

What Are You - Am I - Waiting For?

I'm waiting...

...for our family schedules to slow down.
...for Princess Mia to get a little older.
...until I catch up on all my household responsibilities.
...until I'm not homeschooling any more. grow up (is that forty, fifty, ...?).
...until I have acquired more wisdom.
...until I'm better at ______.
...until I have it 'together' more.

Why am I waiting? Because my name is Angela and I am a...............procrastinator. Well, at least that's what I tell myself. The funny thing is I'm also an idea person - I have a never-ending list of things I want to do, need to do, or feel called by God to do. Most of those things are not even 'bucket list' kinds of things, just cool things I'd like to try, hobbies I'd like to expand, passions I'd like to pursue.

So if I want to do all those things on my list so badly, why am I not doing them? Let's face it - I am an expert at coming up with fairly legitimate excuses as to why I'm not following my dreams, achieving my goals, pursuing my passions, or even just creating fun projects. Our family schedule is hectic; it is hard to accomplish a lot with a 4-year old underfoot; I do have household responsibilities to take care of.

Yes, those things are important; but are they just masking the real reasons that I don't make time to do some of the things that I know I enjoy - like writing more on this blog, dabbling in new art forms, facilitating an online Bible study, and the list goes on?

As I examine my list of 'excuses', I realize that the first half can be remedied with better time management, more delegation of household responsibilities, prioritizing and modifying expectations. But the second half is a little more nebulous. When will I know what I want to be when I grow up? Maybe I already do but am just too afraid to act on it. When will I be knowledgeable enough or 'good' enough or have it 'together' enough? I seriously doubt those things will ever happen. Does that mean I just say forget it and keep plugging along in life? It's not like I'm unhappy or dissatisfied with my life.

But the question I've been pondering for some time has been, "Am I striving to achieve my God-given potential in ALL areas of my life?"

When you take a question like that to God, it's kind of funny how He uses many different avenues to answer - even fortune cookies. This was the saying from my fortune cookie several weeks ago:
(Disclaimer - I do not typically put stock in random, oddly-worded phrases on little strips of paper in sawdust-flavored cookies.)
I translated that into, "If you don't have time now to pursue the passions/interests that I've (meaning God) placed in your heart, then when do you plan on making time?" That's a good question - and one I didn't have a good answer for.

In the mean time, I've also been reading Renee Swope's book, A Confident Heart. In it, she unpacks all the 'reasons' we don't pursue God's plans and desires for our lives. This has been quite convicting. I've never considered my self insecure. Perhaps that's because I've always chosen to pursue things where I don't doubt my abilities - where I knew enough, where I was good enough.

But what about those things that I'm less sure of? Is my confidence - or lack of - holding me back from God's plan for my life? Maybe - but I won't know until I try. And so what if I fail, God doesn't care. These aren't lessons that I'm learning overnight. I still have a lot of work to do. In fact, it took me days to even have the guts to write all my thoughts about this down. One things for certain though - I know that I'm not going to wait anymore. I'm ready to start fulfilling my potential - or at least give it a try!

What are you waiting for?

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
 and whose hope is the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 17:7

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Princess Mia

Who knew that the small, sweet, cherubic bundle of joy that joined our family four years ago would become a larger-than-life bundle of personality?

Princess Mia, we were smitten with you from the very beginning, and you still have us all wrapped around your little finger. But that's OK because you bring a daily dose of joy to each of us. Your endless energy keeps us all on our toes and your constant singing reminds us to enjoy all life has to offer.

We love you, Princess Mia! And we can't wait to see what life has in store for you - it's sure to be something exciting!

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  ~ Psalm 139:14

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hello September... how you've crept up on me! But I welcome your arrival because you usher in one of my favorite times of year - fall.

Here are a few things I'm saying hello to this month:

Hello Labor Day - despite that it's still 90 degrees around here and that we've been in school for more than a month, Labor Day still signifies the official end of summer for me. Bring on the mums, pumpkins, and everything fall!

Today we labored by putting together all of our recent IKEA purchases (made my first visit to an IKEA store on Saturday and was completely overwhelmed!). I had lots of lovely pictures (ok - maybe not lovely) to include with this post, but as I was heading in to Target today I dropped my phone and - oops - it shattered. So I had to add in a trip to the Verizon store today, and while I got the phone replaced (thank goodness I was eligible for an upgrade) I had not uploaded my most recent photos :-( . So photos with this post are few and far between.

Hello homeschool reading/planning - I survived my first year of homeschooling and am a month into the second. I don't have quite as much to read this year (thank goodness) since I'm down to only one official pupil - and Princess Mia - this year. Right now, we're immersed in the Civil War.

Hello new dining room (aka, the classroom) colors - I finally changed my dining room colors after talking about it forever. Now to work on curtains and accessories.

Hello September birthdays - This month we're celebrating the birthdays of the oldest (Tim) and youngest (Princess Mia) members of our immediate family. My baby girl will be four - how did that happen?!?

Hello fall sports season - Soccer season is well underway and it's been so much fun watching Brandon play for his school. Joshua and lacrosse face off (haha - lacross pun there) this weekend!

Hello fantasy football - No, I do not play fantasy football (I don't even particularly like football at all), but my dearest hubby does. So this means that on Sunday afternoons/Monday evenings he will be connected to the computer/TV and whatever other electronic device he needs to keep track of all his 'players.'

Hello new TV shows - I am anxiously awaiting the return of Criminal Minds, but I'm determined not to get hooked on anything new. Do. Not. Have. Time.

Hello Downton Abbey Season 3 - You premiere in the U.K. this month, but why, oh why, must I wait until January to see you in the U.S.?

Hello big girl bed - Since Princess Mia is turning the big 4 this month, we decided it was about time that she slept in her own bed. (She's been on the floor in our bedroom for quite a while now - don't judge :-) . ) Here's hoping that every night is like this one.

Hello A Confident Heart - This is my Bible study for the month - so I'll leave you with these verses. "So do not throw away your confidence: it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." Hebrews 10:35-36