The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Monday, February 18, 2013

Use It or Lose It!

How many things do you have that you're saving for that special day/event/moment?  I have some of those things, too.  It's okay; I think we all have things we've purchased or made, then put away and saved for a special day, or for a special someone.

Here's what's not okay:  When those things start taking over our lives.  I'm not talking Hoarders here; I'm talking about somewhere between that and one box of future gifts in your master bedroom closet.  (Yes, I have that box.)

When you have more than a handful of things like I just described, maybe it's time to take inventory.  Fernando's employment situation is uncertain at this point, and we don't know what will be happening over the next month or so.  We've had many discussions about possible employment elsewhere, and one of those possibilities would be to move--as in, not anywhere close to here.  Having just experienced my parents' move from one house to another in the same town, we have vowed that we will not have as much stuff to move as they do.  (Love you, Dad and Mom, but you have a lot of stuff!)

Obviously, de-cluttering is the first thing that comes to mind, and I encourage you to do that.  There's an amazing feeling of freedom as you drive away from Goodwill, having left behind 50 pounds of boxed-up stuff.  In addition to de-cluttering, it's now time to use your stuff.

I remember a story of a woman who bought a beautiful nightgown--probably paid full price, too, because it was so beautiful--and carefully folded it, wrapped it in tissue, and gently placed it in her dresser drawer.  She was saving it for a special occasion--maybe an anniversary trip with her husband, or a cruise.  Long story short, years went by and the nightgown was still tucked away in her dresser drawer.  Eventually, the woman died, and her children found that nightgown, still carefully wrapped, unworn.  I don't want to be that woman!  I want to enjoy the things I have now; I want today to be that special occasion!  So, I've been using my various accumulations.  And so should you.  :)

Eat it Up!

Something sweet and special.  A friend gave me many unmarked bags of what we think are either dates or figs. This item is one of those "Yeah, I'll use those one baking day" things, then they sit on my pantry shelf for months.  No longer.  I must use them or throw them away!  I found a recipe for date/oatmeal cookies, and have made double batches of them. (Update--just checked and they're fig pieces.)

This batch of cookies went to Alpha Omega Math Team with Thomas.

Home-canned goods.  I think I inherited a Depression-Era mentality from my grandmother.  I have all these canned goods in my basement, and I almost get to the point of hoarding them; i.e., I'll use them only every once in a while, for extra special times.  Meanwhile, I go out to Costco (gotta love that warehouse store!!) and purchase multi-packs of diced tomatoes.  What am I doing??  While it's okay to have extra stock on hand, it's not okay to not use the stuff I'm stocking!  I spent all that time planting, watering, growing, and harvesting; it's time to use it up!  Besides, canned goods have a taste-life, and I want to enjoy the best taste I can.  So I'm using them up.

Last season's canned tomatoes.

Do you have unused food items waiting in your pantry?  Check the expiration date and either use them or throw them away!

Burn, baby, burn!

Candles.  I've gone to many a garage sale over the years.  I'll still keep going, too, because I love the hunt!  I love finding candles, since I love to burn them and I love the ambiance they create in my home.  They are a luxury item, though, and since the good ones cost good money, I don't usually buy them.  Over the years, I've collected lots of half-full boxes of Partylite candles, plus candles from my favorite candle shop in upstate New York.  What am I saving them for?  I love burning them, so now I'm burning them.

A garage sale candle sets the mood in my front living room.

A gift from a friend graces our fireplace mantel.

Pretty powder room--compliments of the clearance section at my favorite candle shop.

My dining room table with a Partylite candle and holder.

Valentine's Day candles!

Firewood has been stacked along our backyard fence for forever; plus, my parents gave us a bunch more when they moved.  Each summer, I look over at that wood pile and think about the fires we'll have in our fireplace once it turns cold.  And then winter arrives, and passes, and I realize we've used the fireplace exactly twice.

Big Girls Don't Cry!

Kleenex.  Really.  We buy those multi-packs at Costco, and we end up with tons of pink boxes which we use in our (cranberry and gold themed) master bedroom but how often are we in there?  I've been using them for makeup removal (they're soft and work well) instead of cotton balls.  I've even thought of covering the boxes with decorative paper (or wrapping paper) for use elsewhere in the house.  Just for this post, I took a picture of a Kleenex box from our powder room--nice and blue.  The pink boxes remain in the master bedroom.  :)

It is Better to Give.

Yep, this (below) is that box of gifts I was telling you about earlier.  Do you have one?  Mine is filled with really nice stuff I've bought on sale and saved for Christmas, birthdays, and weddings.  Time to use them!  I've given several so far, and even de-cluttered some (to Goodwill).

See the box to the left of the teddy bear?  That's the gift box.

The Write Thing to Do.

Pens and pencils.  Sometimes I see one of Thomas' pencils lying around, and it's literally two inches long.  I pick it up and toss it.  There are 20 more pencils in the pencil box that need to be used.  :)  Come to think of it, we have several plastic storage boxes for pens, pencils, erasers, markers, etc. on a shelf of our computer desk.  I should be able to combine all that stuff into a box or two.  (That'll have to be the subject of a future post...)

An organized computer desk--pen and pencil boxes are on the top left.  :)

Clean Up Your Life!

Soaps and other bath items.  We don't travel much, but when we do, we love to take home the little soaps and shampoos from our hotels.  We have accumulated quite a collection of little bottles, and I've already used up all the body lotion and shampoo.  But those little bar soaps--they just keep piling up.  We're used to using liquid soap in the shower, so we never reach for a new bar once we run out.  We used the liquid shower gel until we ran out, and now the basket of little bars sits next to our shower.  You'd be surprised at how long some of those little bars last!  At least we're using them now.

Not only are we using the bars of soap, but bottles of bath salts and bubbles await our (my) enjoyment.  We have a garden tub in our master bedroom bath, and I've used it maybe three or four times in the 15 years we've lived here.  I'm too practical to lounge in a warm bath reading a book.  It makes no sense to me.  But I'm determined to at least try to use the bath salts, and the bubbles can be used in the shower for shaving.  :)

Using up stuff gets me in the de-cluttering mood, which I've also been doing as I sift through stuff wondering how I can either use it or get rid of it.  I've made around $200 in the past month or two by listing items on  There's also Craigslist and eBay.  I have lots more to go through, but for right now I'm focusing on de-cluttering by using.

Why save it?  I may not be around to enjoy it later--whether I die, or move, or something else.  If I can use it now, I'm going to use it and enjoy it.  Make today that special day!

Back to life,

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Served With Love

Valentine's Day didn't turn out as I had planned it in my mind.  No, not at all.  But I can say that the Lord ordered the minutes of each day this week, including Valentine's Day!  I had to step back a minute, breathe, and remember that people are more important than preparations or the actual event.

That being said, I did take some pictures of--yep, the food.  Haha, not a single person was captured by my camera yesterday.  But this post is a reminder to me--and to you--that we're here as a vessel for God to declare His glory to people.  The lack of people pictures also means that I was too busy talking to them to take pictures of them!  And that's a good thing.  :)

My mom called me late morning to see if she and Dad could come at 2:00 instead of closer to dinner so that she and I could go over to Kohl's for a little shopping.  Yikes!  My four-hour fiasco with salad dressing yesterday meant that now I was busy making dinner rolls, getting the meat in the crock pot, and baking cookies.   I told her that they could go ahead and come early, then went back to trying to get everything done before they arrived.

It all worked out, the cookies were cooling on the rack, the rolls didn't rise as much as I had hoped but were edible, and the meat was cooking nicely once I realized I forgot to add spices and bouillon to the crock!  Sigh.  Mom and I went shopping, and although I wasn't expecting to find anything, I found a great dress, a couple of summer tops, and a pair of workout shorts.  Plus this new coat:

The most exciting part of the trip was that Mom had a 30% off coupon, and most everything I found was on clearance!!  Once we were back home, I set about trying to remember what I was supposed to be doing food-wise.  Thomas lit the candles on the dining room table...

...and I got the salads ready to serve.  That silly dressing I made yesterday was decent with the lettuce and various berries I added, but I don't think I'll rave about it in a blog post.  The salads sure did look pretty!

For our main course, we enjoyed beef tenderloin with gravy and organic crimini mushrooms, garlic-lemon mashed potatoes, Normandy vegetables (the kitchen help overcooked them but they were still good), and whole-wheat dinner rolls.

We shared great conversation and laughter throughout dinner, then shared more throughout dessert.  Danny served us coffee and tea, and we nibbled our Scotch shortbread cookies and talked and talked some more.

Valentine's Day = family + love + laughter.

Back to life,

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Preparations!!

I thought I'd try my hand at creating a very special Valentine's Day for my sweetie and my parents, by putting together a simple, beautiful dinner for the four of us.  I'd do all/most of the work beforehand, and let our young men serve us at the actual meal time.  They'll be nourished by pizza, so they won't have to eat the "gourmet" meal I've planned.  :)

So, things started the day before Valentine's Day.  I put together a double recipe for Scotch shortbread cookies, covered the dough and refrigerated it.  Not having made it in a long time, I forgot that once cold--the recipe does say to refrigerate the dough for several hours--the dough becomes rock-solid and requires at least two hours of counter time before getting rolled.  So, the dough stayed in the fridge overnight, to be completed on Valentine's Day along with everything else.  :/

Scotch shortbread cookie dough

Then I thought I'd make the dressing for our salad course:  orange poppyseed dressing.  Oops, I forgot to buy poppy seeds.  Off to the store I drove, in and out and home again.  I followed the recipe, using grapeseed oil instead of "light olive oil," but it didn't emulsify like it should have and like it showed in the image on the blog where I found the recipe.

I put it in my Bosch blender, thinking the higher wattage would do the trick.  Nope--still as thin as water.  The taste was a little off, too--too much vinegar.  At least I got some great photos throughout the process.  :)

Orange peel

So, I went ahead and made a second batch, using evoo and my Bosch blender, even going so far as to add the oil last, in a steady stream as most emulsifying recipes call for.

Still no good.  At least it tasted good.  Some research on the internet helped me see that both mustard (already added) and egg yolk help the emulsifying process, so I added an egg yolk (only with farm fresh eggs!).  Barely a difference.  In went another yolk, then its white.  A bit creamier, which was good, but still no go.  I went ahead and added the poppy seeds, stirring it all up, and by this time I needed a quart-sized canning jar to fit it all into.  More internet research--looking up various poppyseed dressing recipes--formulated my decision to add simple mayonnaise to the recipe.  Finally--good consistency, and the taste held up.

Four hours later, and almost dinnertime.  And a sinkful of dishes.  Ack.

Thomas (16) gently led me out of the kitchen and cleaned up the entire mess for me.  (I love that young man!)  And Fernando took me out to Chipotle for dinner, to use a coupon that would expire in a few days.  :)

Back home, I decided I couldn't get into much trouble getting the dining room ready for our special evening.  Fernando had given me roses (25 for our 25 years of marriage!), and those went on my little sewing table in the corner.

I set out plates, glasses, and silverware, then put cloth napkins into rings--no fancy folds--and placed one on each plate.  My candle holder went in the middle, with tealights ready to be lit.

The snowflake tablecloth and napkins are blue--my favorite color but not the best for Valentine's Day.  I think pink will complement the table well, so I'll do something with that color and let you know how it turns out.

I'm trusting the Lord that the rest of the meal will come together easily and without incident!  And those pictures (and their story) will come soon.  :)

Back to life,

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Friday, February 8, 2013

On My Way to a Pretty Pantry

Read all the way to the end for an update!

For a while now, I've been using canning jars and other jars for food storage in my pantry.  I've recently begun to change out labels--and add labels where there weren't any--on the jars, all in an effort to beautify my pantry.

Here are my jars of granola:

I used a free font called Nickelodeon, in a larger font size so I can read the labels.  My, I must be getting old.  ;)

For the labels, I simply typed out each label into a Word document in my chosen font and size, printed out the sheet, and cut out each label.

I store jars three deep on the shelves, mostly because that's what fits.  Here's a close-up of the various labels I started with today:

I use plain ol' packing/shipping tape.  For this particular labeling session, I used the leftover heavy-duty shipping tape from my parents' recent move.  Trust me, the regular stuff works just as well and I prefer it.  This tape is just a little thicker, but it worked just fine.

I ripped of a section of tape and affixed a label onto the tape so that the label could be read when I secured the tape to the jar.  It feels a little like you're doing it backwards, but you're not.  You can see the bubbles in the tape on the jars below.

Aren't they just so pretty?  Here is a jar of my homemade taco seasoning:

I attached the amounts for making tacos to the back of the jar.  If you want my recipe, click here.

As I labeled the jars, I put them back in the pantry.  I'm nowhere near done, because I'm trying to replace smaller jars with larger ones, so I'm working in sections.  Here is the final photo from my afternoon labeling session:

I have big dreams for my pantry, but they'll have to wait.  It takes money to build shelves where there are no shelves!  For now, my two metal shelving units suffice, as they have for 15 years.  They may not be pretty, but they are definitely functional.  I'll save the pretty for the jars and labels.


I've since replaced every one of the above labels.  (Such is the way when you're a natural-born compulsive organizer!)  I added just one thing to my labels:  borders.  I used one-cell charts in Microsoft Word 2010 and chose a simple, clean border, which made cutting out each label in straight lines very easy, plus it made for a neater, prettier appearance.  Here below is the result, so enjoy!

If you like the "Lunch and Snacks" storage box above, click here to see how I made ("prettified") this free storage box!

Back to life,

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Climbin' a Rock

We had so much fun watching and/or climbing, and I took so many photos, that I wanted to share a second post about our rock-wall-climbing adventure.  (My first post was about Joseph and his experience with rock-wall climbing.)

Besides that triumphant time, everyone else had fun, too.  Here's the proof:

One of the harder climbs--follow the blue tape.

The younger guys had just as much fun as the older ones.

Thomas went right on up.

Immanuel followed Thomas up.

Danny and Joseph climbed together!

Danny helped Isaiah with securing his gear.


Isaiah at the top.

Um, that's Marc.




Even little Kaitlyn climbed!

With the right composition, the ladies-in-skirts can be made to look like they're climbing...

Stephen waved for the camera.

Stephen and Thomas.

Tressey rang the bell!

We had a great time!  We're thankful to the Lord for friends who provide awesome adventures for us.

Back to life,

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