Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013: One Little Word

I’m trying something new this year. (Here’s where I first heard about this idea.) Since I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but do like to start with a clean slate and a renewed focus, I decided to select a word that would be my theme if you will for the upcoming year. Let me tell you it’s not easy selecting one word to set the tone for an entire year. But after much thought, prayer and reflection, there was one word that kept popping up in various, completely unrelated places and I knew that was it.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to my One Little Word for 2013...


One of the reasons I chose this word was because it has so many different meanings – from the literal to the figurative.

For an object to sparkle, it typically requires light. If I’m to sparkle, I need to remain close to my light source. That light source is Christ. “I am the light of the world.” (Jn. 8:12)
Clear, clean objects sparkle the brightest. I like diamonds. After all, they are a girl’s best friend. But what I like most about diamonds is how much they sparkle, and the more they sparkle the better. But what makes some diamonds sparkle more than others? Their clarity. The same goes for me. I can’t sparkle if my life is dull, dingy and cluttered – both physically and mentally. In order to reach my full sparkle potential for 2013, I need to focus on cleaning up and clearing out. What this means will constantly evolve throughout the year – of that I am most certain.
Objects that sparkle can reflect their light on other objects. What good is it to sparkle, if no one sees? “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Mt. 5:14-15) In 2013 I want to share the sparkle!
Source: http://society6.com/CarriePrytzKoehmstedt/Dont-Let-Anyone-Ever-Dull-Your-Sparkle-IOC_Print

I plan to reflect on my word throughout the year and let it guide my goals, dreams, desires and most importantly my everyday life. Well, with one exception - I will not be adding sequins to my wardrobe.
I'm looking forward to sharing a little 'sparkle' with you during 2013!
Happy New Year!!

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 (tlong@newsobserver.com), 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.


Ingredients:
Eggplant
Eggs, beaten
Panko Bread Crumbs
Canola Oil
Feta Cheese (not pictured)
Tomato
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.


Enjoy!!

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.