Friday, July 22, 2016

Coffee and Chocolate Thank-You

                  Sometimes I want to put together a super-cute. pun-tastic, multi-part thank-you (These S'Mores Jars, for example.). And other times, especially when I need quite a few, I want something that comes together in about five minutes. These. These are that thing. So.Easy.

      I put these together for the kids' VBS teachers this week. I have never sent my kids to another VBS in town that I haven't volunteered at, but Jocelyn had seen an advertisement, and I had a meeting with the director to pick her brain (I'm directing VBS at our church) and I decided that I felt comfortable sending them there. Who knew having every morning from 9am-noon to myself would be so fun? Probably moms who send their kids to public school...I digress. Anyway, I know how much work it is to volunteer for VBS, so I wanted to show my gratitude with a small token.

   The basis behind these is simple: *most* people appreciate candy and coffee, even if only on rare occasion. And when you are exhausted from a week of wrangling other peoples' kids, and months of planning beforehand, there are few things you want more than coffee, some chocolate and a nap! Thus, combined with a great sale on Frappuccinos at Costco, this idea was born!

   No pun this time, (I know, crazy, right?!) but I thought it was cute nevertheless. The label reads:
"After this week you deserve coffee, chocolate and a nap. We can provide two out of three. Thank you for serving the Lord wholeheartedly. Ephesians 6:7" 
   The great part is that these labels are not specialized to VBS volunteers. You could give them to your child's teacher after the first week of school, or to their camp counselors. Or to their coach or music teacher after a week prepping for competition or recitals. Or to any volunteer for a high-prep event that requires a week's worth of work!

   The components require precious little thought. If you have a gaggle of people that need thank-yous like I did, buy the 36 variety Mars chocolate pack from Costco and the 15 bottle Frappuccino pack of coffees. Then you just need some cardstock to print the labels, and some cute ribbon. It was the happiest of coincidences that I had this arrow ribbon from Hobby Lobby on hand. It is an *exact* match to the labels! I didn't plan it that way, I promise, but I was *super* happy with how it turned out!

   The labels require a 2 and 1/2 inch circle punch. I then just used a standard hole punch to thread the ribbon through. I pulled both sides of the ribbon through at the same time, and then the label is actually held on by the fact that it can't slip off over the knot, rather than actually being tied-on, but that is just a personal aesthetic preference.

Here is the printable. Can I just tell you how excited I was that I was able to save it and post it here? Soooo excited!



Coffee and Candy Thank-You Label

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Free 4th of July Printable Verse

    I wanted to share the printable that I made for Independence Day this year. If you have ever seen any of my holiday decorations, you know that I usually avoid "traditional" color schemes. However, I have to say, if you don't use red, white and blue for your 4th decorations, it is well...just plain unpatriotic! However, I did love that Target had a line of little paper goods in their Dollar Spot that included pink and used some less-traditional blues. So I used those to set the tone for my July decor this year!
 I LOVE decorating with coordinating candy, and I used tons this year-there is so much fun Americana colored candy available. I bought Kit-Kats, Reese's Cups, Twizzlers and Toostie Rolls. I was excited with the red, white and turquoise gummy bears I found at WinCo.

    Jocelyn put together this adorable anchor thread art from a kit from Target. I mixed it with some Kraft Star marshmallows, and some Kisses. I love putting seasonally appropriate scripture on the little metal "chalkboard" that my oldest sister sent me. I also happened to have that anchor ribbon already on hand, from Hobby Lobby, and it went great with the whole "nautical" theme.
Red is just the best color for decorating! It works for so many holidays. A friend made me this wreath years ago, and I frequently add little accessories to make it seasonally appropriate. The chipboard anchor is actually a gift tag from the Target collection. That is where the garland is from, too.

I robbed the tags for parts to make the anchor garland, and this is more of the pennants from the same kit-it was quite a few for just $1!

You can always right click on the photo at the top of this post to save and print, but I am also including a shareable link if you find it easier to print from Google Docs. Let me know if it doesn't work!

Looking for more fun 4th of July ideas? I have a whole Pinterest board full of them! Find them here:
Feelin' Independent Pinterest Board.



Galatians Fourth of July Printable


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Do What You Can...


...with what you have. Such an easy thing to say. Such a difficult thing to do. A companion saying to, "Give God thanks with what is in your hands." We live in a culture that often seems to demand perfection, and I am guilty of buying into the lie that things not done perfectly should not be done at all. I would like to challenge that notion. What if perfection didn't look like what we have been told? What if perfection was really about something else?

    This has all been stirring around in my mind for quite a while now-I'm talking well over a year. It goes hand-in-hand with my struggle to define what failure really means. If you consider it with me, perfection is pretty much the opposite of failure to most of us, right? If you have done something perfectly, you get your desired results. That may be praise, power, fame, satisfaction, love... whatever it is you seek. Failure, on the other hand, means you do not get what you want. You may get a participant's ribbon, but you didn't win. You did not achieve your goals, you did not satisfy your desires. You failed.

   Harsh words, am I right? Because I won't lie-my goal is usually to win. And if there isn't tape to tear through at the end of the course then I search for someone, anyone, to define that end point for me. That may be friends and family, Facebook, magazines, radio,...you name it and at one time or the other I have tried to satisfy "their" expectations, whether real or imagined, and "win". It's a tough way to live. It is exhausting to try to be perfect all the time. And no one always wins. We all have moments of failure and defeat.

   And it leads to living scared. You don't do...much. Anything new, untried, unfamiliar. Those things could lead to failure. They are unknown quantities. I lived in constant fear that I would fail. And people don't like losers. Losers do not accomplish anything. And you must do things perfectly to win.

   It sounds so crazy to write it out, but anyone who has heard those thoughts in their own head knows that ration and reason are not usually companions to anxiety. The very nature of being anxious is to be afraid. And we are not afraid of what we know, but rather of the unknown, of the future. And often we are afraid of others-I can't control how you will act or respond, so it is better to avoid you than deal with my fear over not knowing what you will do.

    So we hold back. Countless opportunities are lost, moments wasted, paths not taken, because we might fail. We might not be "perfect". And it is hard for the Spirit of God to lead where there is a constant feeding of the spirit of fear. Those two...they aren't friends.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment." 2 Timothy 1:7 (HSCB)

    But what if we considered that success, perfection, winning...those things are not to be defined by the world, or even those around us. What if we considered that there is only One who can define those, and He has made us perfect?

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:17-19 (NIV)

  If I am made perfect in love, that's all I need. I no longer need to live in fear that I will make mistakes and fail and be useless. It is easy to say, not so easy to do. But that is why I have decided that even though it isn't easy, either, I am going to try to do what I can with what I have. To praise God with what is in my hands, even I see it as imperfect, even if it feels strange. And new. And there are unknowns.

    And it is leading me to do some things that I never thought I would before. To talk to people that I don't know. To sing on the worship team, when there are so many others more qualified. Because these are my talents. No, not the things I am good at, but rather, talents as in the "Parable of the Talents". You know-where one servant gets five talents, another two and the last, only one. Well, I had a very wise pastor who once said he was "two-talent preacher". I thought that was strange, as I felt he was very qualified and successful (there's that word!). But he explained that he still was not the most talented pastor ever, however, he could use what he had, so neither was he hiding his one talent in the ground.

   That's me. With my two talents. In my open hands, hopefully. I don't want to bury what I have in the ground, even if it doesn't seem like much. I am perfectly loved, and so sometimes my failures can be successes. I am working at not allowing fear to keep me from giving of what is in my hands. Even if I don't know where it will lead.

   We went to an art fair a few days ago. Our city has a downtown area that is being restored and rejuvenated, and we followed a little path down under a very well-known bridge. We had never been down there before, and I was surprised by how quaint and peaceful it was. I was also very surprised, but for different reasons, by the scene at the bottom. There, underneath a pylon, was what can only be described as a camp. Someone had neatly spread out a sleeping bag, and carefully placed around it were a backpack, an ashtray, a water bottle, and other items clearly consisting of the entirety of someone's worldly possessions.

   My heart broke. All I could think is that this tiny pile of ragged belongings was all someone had to call "home". I have always had a tender spot towards homeless, but "they" say you shouldn't give money. Who knows what it could be used for? And "they" say that most of the time homeless are drug abusers, and vagabonds who wouldn't live any better if they could. "They" say they are liars and thieves, refusing to work because they are lazy. "They" say that there isn't much we can do for them.

    But you know what was in my hand? Figuratively and literally, a tiny bit of cash (which is, in itself a miracle, since I rarely have "real" money). And the tug on my heart could not be ignored. So I took those few little bills...mites, one might say, and I looked my fear in the face, not only of "them" but of disrupting, of inserting myself into someone else's story unwanted, and I decided that I would do what I could with what I had. And so, I took those tiny paper bits of faith, folded them up and placed them under that ashtray.

   And I don't know how that story ends. I don't know if I was "successful". I don't know that I did things "perfectly". I don't know if I "won". And I don't care. If you read this and think that I am looking for praise or recognition, you've missed the point. I only did it because I knew that I would be held accountable for not listening, for not heeding. And that is the only type of failure that I should be avoiding.

   And I'm not sorry. I realized that I should only be sorry for the times that I didn't. For the times that I have allowed the fear to drive out the love because I fed it, and watered it, and cuddled it close. That the only real failure is refusing to do not just something, but anything. It is a new way of thinking for me-this refusal to try to define everything as a "perfect success" or an "abysmal failure". To realize that following Jesus looks a lot more like mites, and cups of cold water, and two-talents, and saying, "no" but doing "yes", than it does like gold medals, and award trophies and titles and wealth.

   That following Jesus means opening my hands and doing what I can with what I have...over and over again. Until He comes. Because He is perfect, and that is the only way I can truly become more like Him...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Super Simple Supper: Boy Scout Meals

    I feel a tiny bit silly posting this "recipe", but honestly, sometimes these really easy, humble ideas are some of my favorites when I stumble across them on the internet. I don't love to cook, so anything that it mostly tossing ingredients together is right up my alley! This meal fills the bill-and it is a one pan wonder, so clean up is a breeze, especially since you don't even cook directly on the pan! My other favorite part of this is that all of the components are frozen, so it is easy to always keep the ingredients on hand.

  I have seen other takes on this dish elsewhere and it is called a variety of other names: hobo dinners, foil packet meals, but we always called them "Boy Scout Meals". I know foil packet meals are popular for camping, but we always made these at home, in the oven.

    If you know me at all, you know I *don't* camp. The one time in all of our marriage that I threw a kicking and screaming fit (no, I am not proud of it) was the one and only camping trip that we took about three months after we were first married. Long story short, it had been a miserable trip: spiders the size of my hand (we found out later they were tarantulas), vermin in our food, rain, an un-level campsite, sunburns, mosquito bites, and the straw that broke the camel's back: a tornado was spotted several miles away, potentially headed towards our camp. I demanded we go home, a decision I do not regret. I do wish that I had perhaps been a little more adult in the manner in which I asked, but regardless, we came home and have never gone camping since!

   But you don't have to go camping to enjoy these easy, all-in-one meals! You only need a few ingredients and prep time is a matter of minutes.
 Here's what you need:
-Frozen fries: I prefer the thicker crinkle ones, a handful for each patty
-Frozen veggie mix: the classic peas, corn, carrots and green beans, 3/4 cup per meal
-Onion soup mix, 2 tablespoons for each meal
-Burger patties (or ground beef formed into patties)
-foil
Prep time: 5 minutes  Cook Time:30-45 minutes
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Pull out a square of foil and place one of your patties in the center.

And here's why I don't call it a recipe. You throw a handful of fries on top of the patty. Add roughly 3/4 cup of frozen veggies. Shake 2 tablespoons of the onion soup mix over the whole mess.

Then, with no delicacy at all, scrunch (that's a professional cooking word, in case you weren't aware) the foil around the burger. Make sure it keeps all your goodies securely in, but leave it mostly open at the top. The goal isn't to steam the contents, but rather to keep the heat around the patty.

Put your bundles on a cookie sheet. In all my years of making these, I have never had one leak, but I also have never split the foil. I use a jelly roll pan with sides so I don't have to worry, though. Place the meals in the oven and bake at 400 degrees. I don't want to be super precise with my times, I would estimate between 30-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of your patties. I usually set the timer for 30 minutes, and then check a patty in the center for doneness. I cook mine until they are no longer pink in the center. If your patties are frozen, that will also affect the cooking times. If they aren't done after 30 minutes, I check them every 5 minutes or so until they are done. It is fairly difficult to overcook these, but I still like to be on the safe side.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately! I cover mine in ketchup, but Joel prefers A1. You can dump the contents on a plate, but I always just put the whole packet on my plate and eat straight off the foil. Since these are a protein, veggies, and starch all in one convenient bundle, I don't even serve a side! You could definitely pair these with a fruit or salad if that's more your style, though. And because you didn't even cook on the surface of your pan, clean-up is effortless! This meal definitely takes me back to my childhood. Which because of how quick and easy it is, I have time to reminisce about. ;) I think next to my crock-pot meals, this is one of my easiest meals, and fortunately for me, one of my family's favorites! My husband had been asking me to make this for several weeks, so he was thrilled. What's your most favorite easy "recipe"?

Linked:
"Sugar and Spice Link Party" at Sugar, Spice and Family Life

Friday, June 3, 2016

"Thanks for Helping Me Grow" Herb Thank You Gifts

       Usually when I am putting together thank-you gifts, I come up with an idea, and then I have to go try to find the items to fit my vision. This time the opposite happened. I found these terrific watering cans at Ikea and for once I just decided to buy them and figure out what to do with them. The Ikea PS 2002 is a great deal normally, it's $0.99, but this great green color was on clearance so I snagged them for $0.49! I couldn't pass them up for that price, they demanded I come up with a plan.

   Originally, I thought I might put cut flowers in them, but that kind of defeated the whole garden motif, so I moved onto planting flowers. However, if I purchased the six-pack type that are the best deal, I realized I would also have to buy pots to transfer them to, since I wanted the watering can to be able to be used, not as a planter. I moved onto potted plants, and realized they ran around $3-$4 each for decent looking ones. And I wasn't 100% sure that the people I was gifting them to would have a place to transplant them. Then, inspiration finally struck: why not give them herbs? Then, even if the recipient didn't have a garden, they could still enjoy the plant by growing it indoors, and also they would be immediately useful for cooking!


 The other great part about this project? It was SO easy. Probably the easiest thank-you I have ever put together! I only needed a couple of things:
-kraft gift tags (Hobby Lobby)
-Dixie cup
-Bakers' Twine
-Chalkboard Plant Marker
-Chalk pen
-Herbs (Trader Joe's for $2.49!) I bought oregano, thyme and sage
-Watering cans

  Usually I make a printable, but I decided to just write it out this time, because I wanted to use the gift tags. You can see my lettering isn't perfect, but it just ensures the recipient knows it is handmade! ;) I embellished the word "Grow" with little leaves to make it stand out.
 I simply block printed the name of the herb on the plant markers. I left in the original plastic plant marker, just because it has the watering and sun needs on it. The plants came wrapped in cute polka-dotted cellophane. I love Trader Joe's... I stuck the markers in the herbs, and then turned the Dixie cup upside down  and put it in the bottom of the can. Then I set the plant on the cup to elevate the plant so it would be visible above the lip of the watering can.

  I tied the gift tags with bakers' twine and slipped them over the spout. And ta-da: a literally five minute thank-you that is both useful, cute AND calorie-free! Anyone else start to evaluate their diet more closely as summertime approaches? ;)
  I was so pleased with how these turned out. Cute, frugal, and longer-lasting than a bouquet of flowers or candy! And, I really do appreciate how our co-op teachers helped my kids to grow this year. They are an amazing group of women and really do earn my life-long gratitude each year!

   These would be so easy to customize with cute puns, "Thanks for your "sage" wisdom", "I appreciate your "thyme" and dedication". You know how I love a good pun! Or you could go with flowers or veggies if that would be a better fit for your particular recipient.


Linked up:
"Awesome Life Friday" at Reviews, Chews & How-Tos
"Friday Favorites" at The Diary of  a Real Housewife

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