Monday, May 30, 2011

CD Review:Abide with Me

I love my church. The Word is preached, the fellowship is sweet, and we are active in trying to reach our world for Christ. Of course, no church on earth is perfect, and one of the things I wish I could change about mine is the lack of hymns. I love the old hymns, they are so sweet, and are full of inspired words and lovely melodies.

That is probably part of the reason that I thoroughly enjoyed Phillip Keveren's "Abide with Me: Piano and Praise" CD. Keveren puts his on small touches on the songs, but the beauty of the original music still shines through. I really don't love when songs are so re-arranged that you cannot even recognize the original tune; that is not the case with these.

My favorite tracks were "Here I Am to Worship" and "Be Thou My Vision". I sang "Be Thou My Vision" in a youth drama in high school, and it has always been one of my favorites. I was very pleased with this version. I liked that it was just the piano, that way I could sing along if I wanted, but it also made very pleasant back drop music as well.

I was not familiar with all the songs, but even the new ones were still beautiful and made me want to look up the words, so I could appreciate them fully. Most of them I did know, and I loved how all the pieces were reminders of God's promises to be with us, His holiness, and how worthy He is of our worship and praise.

It reminded me of the majestic offertory pieces played by the pianist at the churches I attended when I was younger. You just wanted the song to last a little longer, and you loved the peaceful feeling it left you with. You wanted to just be quiet, and for me, it often was truly a time of worship. Now, I don't have to wait for the infrequent appearance of hymns at my church. I can listen whenever I want!

You can find your own copy of "Abide with Me: Piano and Praise" at Discovery House Publishers website:, as well as other inspirational CDs and books . They kindly provided me with a complimentary copy to review.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: Dug Down Deep

My first experience with Joshua Harris was not memorable. I was 12 or 13 and at a homeschool conference. My parents bought me one of his "NA: New Attitude" t-shirts. He did not make much of an impression on me.

That has certainly changed! Dug Down Deep: Building Your Life on Truths That Last is not a book I will soon forget. My natural inclination is towards fiction. I like stories that make me feel good. I tend to avoid "self-help" and "theology" books because often they make me feel guilty, or are so "spiritual" that they don't apply to every day life.

In Dug Down Deep Harris covers a variety of foundational, spiritual topics. He makes it easy to understand and apply-a hard combination to find! He opens each chapter with a relateable real-life anecdote uses that as a bridge to delve into a more comprehensive discussion. He covers subjects that range the importance of the church, to the Trinity and much more.

This book was easy to read. I have been a Christian for many years, so much of his material was familiar, but presented in new and interesting ways. This would be a brilliant tool for a new believer-especially someone that does not have a background in church. It also includes a study guide that would be a great catalyst for group discussions, or to use as a one-on-one discipling tool.

My favorite aspect was how Harris uses his own life to provide perspective on the topics. He was raised in a Bible believing home, and while he never had any true "prodigal" moments, his story in so many ways mirrored my own that I felt instantly connected. I have struggled with my faith because I want to believe in God, not just because that is how I have been raised. I want to truly understand why certain things (salvation, the Trinity, the infallibility of the Word) are so important, not just accept unfounded opinions.

Harris provides strong, Biblical proof for each of his points. The book is filled with quotes from godly theologians to help round out his presentations. Harris obtained the title from the parable about the wise and foolish builders, and mentions that he wants to be like the wise man-investing the time and energy to build his 'house" on a firm spiritual foundation, one that is deep and lasting.

I walked away from this book with a greater appreciation for my faith. There are so many great concepts that I can apply to my own life, and use to share my faith with others. Joshua Harris may have not been incredibly memorable so many years ago, but what he has to say now will certainly stick with me. Obviously, we have both matured. May it be as much to the glory of God in my life as it has been in Harris'.

Please rank my review! Your email address is used for verification purposes ONLY, you will not receive any communications.

I was provided a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased review, by the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mail Call

I love getting mail. Ever since I was a small child, I have been fascinated by the whole postal process. It amazes me that someone in a far away state (or even country!) can put something in a box at near their home and days, or sometimes weeks, later it arrives at mine.

I faithfully check my mailbox every day. I have figured out when the mailman comes (actually, I think we have a mail-woman, but whatever), so I can be prompt. If I happen to be unable to check it, I will usually go as soon as I can the next day, even if it happens to be on Sunday. My neighbors probably think I'm crazy. They are probably right...

My mail lately has been fabulous! Just this last week, I have received: a photo book,coupons for free: yogurt, sweet potato fries, and allergy medicine, a CD to review, a book to review, and a bottle of shampoo! Checking the mail has become an event.

Our larger packages are delivered to our front door. Joel joked the other day that he can't go outside without bumping into some sort of box. For me, it is like Christmas every day. I get free samples, coupons, magazines, books, all kinds of things!

But it makes Josie sad. Every day she says, "Mom, did I get any mail?". Well, she is 5, so the answer is usually no. Every now and then I will get some kind of kids' catalog that I will say is for her. But usually, she does not get any mail. My mom ordered her a magazine, but we have been having some trouble getting it delivered so usually, while I am rejoicing, poor Josie is lamenting.

Why doesn't she get any mail? Part of it is that she is young. I get plenty of credit card and insurance offers because of my age. Part of it is that she doesn't do anything to get mail. Even if I never did a single thing I would still get mail.

But it wouldn't be the kind of mail I love. How do I get all those things? Well, when I began my couponing I started following a couple of money saving bloggers (Money Saving Mom and Mojo Savings, namely). They would show photos of what came in their mail, all the freebies and coupons. And I was a little jealous.

Until I realized something. I can do what they do. I can fill out forms and surveys. I can write companies. I can join review groups. I can become a member of survey companies. I can put together photo books. And I can get fun mail!

It is silly, I know. But to me, the rewards are worth the effort. For example: it usually takes me 2-3 hours to put together a photo book. I won't pay full price for them, so I am always waiting for a sale. This last book, I only had a few days to put it together before the deal expired, so I had to hurry. It was a little stressful, but oh, the joy of opening that box! All my hard work, come to fruition.

And the surveys I do can take hours. It is not a task for the faint of heart. But, I love getting the test products, and I like knowing my opinion counts. Free stuff to tell people how I feel? Sign me up! I love doing book reviews for that reason, too.

What it boils down to is this: if I sit around and wait for fun mail it probably won't happen with any great regularity. We will occasionally get cards from friends and family, every now and then I might get a cents-off coupon, and there will always be bills and credit card offers. But if I want to get mail that I really enjoy more than every once in a while, I have to get out there and make it happen. I have to be proactive.

How often am I that way about my faith? I accepted Jesus, now I just sit back and wait for the blessings to roll in, right? You can try that, but it won't be very beneficial. You have to get out there."Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12) After coming to faith, we still have a job to do.

Faith is a two-way street. Thankfully, what you receive will always far outweigh what you put in, but you can't just sit around doing nothing and have every prayer answered. You have to invest. It is personal, it takes time, and you may have to wait more than weeks to see the results. Sometimes, you never see the results.

Several months ago, I registered to get coupons for free shampoo and conditioner. I am still waiting for those. I have a feeling I may never get them. But I won't let that stop me. I can't be that way with my faith, either. "But, Lord, I am sharing my faith. I am working with children's/men's/women's/homeless/name-your-group ministries. But I am not seeing any fruit. What gives?"

"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." (1 Corinthians 3:7)

Ugh. We don't like that verse. Basically it means sometimes I can put my best foot forward and nothing will come of it, to our eyes. But God knows. And He will bless our efforts, when they
are solely focused on pleasing Him.

And some things have guaranteed results. I can promise that if you spend time in the Word, it won't return void. Actually, God promises that!

"So is My word that goes out from My mouth:
It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
Isaiah 55:11

But, if you put forth little effort, you will get back fewer rewards. We look to the giants of the faith: Paul, John, Billy Graham, Beth Moore, and say, "I could never be like that." Maybe you won't write award-winning Bible studies (and I can certify that you will never write a book of the Bible!) but you can develop a thirst for the Word like they have.

I am learning, slowly but surely, that I can. I can be in love with God, I can drink up his Words like a man lost in the desert, I can talk to other people about Him, I can share His salvation that has become mine. I can use this little blog, my tiniest corner of the internet world, to be a birthday candle in the vast universe. I can do what I can do with what God has given me. I don't have to be anybody but me, and He will bless that. But not if I hide under a bushel lamenting. Only if I get out there and put forth some effort.

I can make sure that I have fun mail. And I do. When someone leaves a few words in a comment that says, "I believe in you. Your faith inspires me in some small way." When my kids say Bible verses. When a friend leaves a post on my Facebook page. When Josie accepted Christ. When I see the overwhelming awesome beauty of the mountains and I know that God made them with me in His mind. When I am reading His Word and I can be certain that He gave me that particular verse that makes me quiver and cry, knowing it would be exactly what I needed to hear.

It isn't without effort. There are certainly days that go by when I feel like I must be losing ground, or I am at least about to lose my temper. I pity myself saying, "I give and I give..." But then I get the message I really need, "No, I give. And I will continue to-strength, patience, perseverance-you name it, I've got it. Just ask." And I know that He is the One who is responsible for every good thing-in my life and in my mailbox.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Let The Wild Rumpus Start!

I have been throwing parties for a while now, but I haven't done a really good one for my kids. I have decided that pre-organized, buy-all-the-matching-pieces-at-the-party-store parties aren't really my style anymore. Well, Carson turned 3 in April, and I knew it would finally be my chance. He has never had a "real" party, the invite his friends kind, so it was a great time.

I won't lie, I picked to base the party on the book, "Where The Wild Things Are",for myself. I love it-it isn't Carson's favorite or anything. As a matter of fact, he had never even heard it until a few weeks ago! However, it fits his little personality so well, and I know he loves it now!

Of course, I had to have the banner. This one was fun- (my aunt told me a handy tip-click on a photo to enlarge it!) and pretty easy. I simple cut out images from the book and did simple triangle foam flags. I turned to my trusty felt letters for the words. I felt like "Carson's Wild Rumpus" was an appropriate title for a gathering that included kids from 21 months to 6 years. I prefer parties that included the whole family when kids are young, so I needed something good for varied ages and both boys and girls.

Hanging the balloons from the ceiling eliminated the need for expensive helium, but still provided that same effect. I will definitely use that trick again!

Just in case you were wondering, behind that white sheet is our television, DVR, Blu-Ray player and other various ugly cords and equipment. Since this area is the focal point, I didn't want all that stuff to be in the way. I popped a spring tension curtain rod up, threw a white flat sheet over it, and presto-chango, it went away!
This was another great aspect of using this book: one of the party activities was making crowns for all the Kings (and Queens!) of the Wild Things. I bought foam crowns at the Dollar Spot, and fixed each child a baggie of foam stickers, plastic "jewels" and stars. To keep it simple, I made sure everything came with adhesive. Then the kids could do it themselves.

The beloved Dollar Spot strikes again! These little bags were so perfect! I put in a Wild Things sticker play scene, some bubbles (which I labeled "A Magic Trick to Tame the Wild Things) and a pencil. Since the kids would get to take home the contents of the pinata, their crowns, and their masks, I didn't feel compelled to fill the bags with too much other stuff.

These were definitely the hit. I made "vines" out of tissue paper and it couldn't have been easier. They looked terrific. They gave it the space a great 3-D effect. I used this very vague tutorial from Martha. Essentially, you accordion fold the tissue, and cut around it. I made up a little pattern out of cardstock.

This is a better photo of the vines. I forgot to take a picture of them in context before the party. Doesn't an empty table after all the fun is over look so sad?

A cute little touch. I found these Little Debbie kite shaped brownies and couldn't resist them-they were an exact match to the party colors!

The table as a whole. Party basics: pepperoni/salami/cheese/cracker/veggie tray with dip and apples and bananas with fruit dip. The kite brownies are in the basket at the back. The cookie tray-more on that later. I love balloon sticks! One of the best investments for parties-I use them all the time.

The cookies. I was looking for an alternative to the regular old cake or cupcakes. My friend, Denise, suggested "Double Doozies". I made place and bake sugar cookies, used green Betty Crocker "Cookie" frosting and colored vanilla frosting yellow for the filling. They were really fun, not messy (far fewer crumbs and frosting smears than with cupcakes) easy and colorful-in short, ideal!

I made the cake plate by hot gluing cups and plates from Walmart together. It worked really well. I wanted something less stuffy than glass and I wanted it to match. This was a good solution-and the plates were cheap-$1 for 4!

A better shot of the yummy munchies. I mostly stuck with the green and yellow color scheme, even for the food. It makes it more cohesive.The drinks. Bucket was from Walmart. Kiwi-Strawberry Shasta-because Joel wanted it, watermelon Airheads drinks, and re-labeled waters. The labels were a pain, I don't recommend trying to do those unless you are far more computer-savvy than I am. But they did look cute!

Okay, so Josie said these looked creepy, but I thought they were cool. I printed these faces and cut them out to make masks (find the pdfs here) for the kids. I thought they looked neat all together on the wall. Later, while I was reading the book the kids used them.

The birthday boy. Doesn't he look so serious? He was happy with the cookies,which was the important part to me.

The kids after they made their crowns. This activity was well received. It was very easy, but they loved putting the stickers and jewels on. I liked it because it wasn't messy.

You can sort of see the vines in this photo. Laken pretty much always looks that serious!

I read "Where the Wild Things Are". The kids wore their crowns and used the masks to pretend to be Wild Things. It was really fun. Several of the kids hadn't heard the story before and they really liked it. Acting it out got everyone involved.

The pinata. I went with a pirate ship because it was the closest thing I could I could find to Max's private boat. I don't mind being crafty, but there was no way I was making a pinata. Carson specifically asked for a "pinyoda" so I obliged. I guess it isn't a party if you don't get a chance to beat something with a bat.

The party ended across the street at the playground. The weather was beautiful. The party turned out really well, it was definitely worth all the time and effort. And I know Carson liked it, because when he woke up from his nap, he said, "Mom, that was the funnest party ever!" Thanks, Dude.

I got a ton of inspiration from these sites:
-My Rumpus
-Armelle-the Blog

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Covered Clipboard

So, are you ready for me to try another "tutorial" on you? This is a super simple project, but I have kind of developed the habit of taking pictures of anything I make, so I decided to just throw it into a post. I made three of these for our VBS registration table at church. It is just a fun way to give a cheap-o clipboard a little personality.

You need these simple ingredients:

-clipboard (I bought $2 chipboard ones from Target)

-piece of scrapbook paper

-craft paint

-coordinating ribbon

-Mod Podge (of course!)

First, take the time to paint the top part of your clipboard. I suppose you could try to get the paper cut around the actual clip part, but I thought that would be a pain. I decided that it would look more finished if it matched, instead of leaving it plain. There is no real science to this part. Paint the top part beside the clip and a little underneath it. I painted more than I needed to, just to make sure it was all covered.

After the paint has dried, cut your paper to fit your board. I used a ruler to make sure that I had the length right, then I just traced around the board and cut it out.

Cover your board in Mod Podge. Honestly, I am still learning how much is the right amount. My initial inclination was to think that more is better, but I kind of am leaning the opposite way now. I think you should use less than I did probably. The key is to put on a thin coat and very quickly place your paper. If you have a brayer (kind of a handled rolling pin for smoothing paper) it would be great. I don't and it worked fine without it.

After the undercoat dries then coat the top with more Mod Podge to seal it. The longer you can wait for the undercoat to dry, the better. If you get antsy and cover the top too soon it will make your paper bubble.

Then, as a finishing touch, I hot glued two types of ribbon across the top. It covers that seam at the top, and gives it that special touch. That's it! So the next time your clipboard needs a little extra pizzaz, just grab your Mod Podge!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Story of A Song, A Psalm and A Stockpile

"If the Lord delights in a man's way,

He makes his steps firm:

though he stumble, he will not fall,

for the Lord upholds him with His hand.

I was young and now I am old,

yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken,

or their children begging bread.

They are always generous and lend freely:

their children will be blessed.

Turn from evil and do good:

then you will dwell in the land forever.

For the Lord loves the just

and will not forsake His faithful ones.

They will be protected forever."

-Psalm 37:23-28b

I have been so busy lately. In some ways, I think it is my way of trying to avoid thinking about the future. Joel has picked up a second job, and instead of making me feel better, knowing that he was able to find work quickly, that he is desirable as an employee and all the other good things, it has made me frustrated. I have been spoiled by his hours the last couple of months, for the most part he was reporting to his unit early in the morning and then was free the rest of the day. We decided that it would be prudent for him to moonlight (of course, with permission) to have some money put away, and also so that he would have work while he looks for a more permanent job.

I won't lie. I haven't been grateful. It has only been two weeks but he is working nights and I don't like it. It makes me fearful that this will become our future. I don't want to trust. And when I am not trusting, I start closing up.

I have been couponing with some degree of success for about the last six months. I even started a "stockpile". I love looking at my little neat rows of bottles, boxes and cans. Please don't think I have been hoarding, at most I might have 3 or 4 of any one item. However, it still gave me some security. A little measure of pride, knowing that whatever the next however long holds, that at least we will have plenty of bodywash!

Silly, I know. But when faith is lacking, I start looking to tangible things to fill in the gap. My little collection was very slowly becoming a way of telling God, "It's okay, if You can't take care of my family, I will at least have toiletries and food covered.". Wow, it sounds so shallow to even write that, but it is true.

Verse 25 of the above chapter is one of my favorite verses. "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken." I have been quoting it to myself for a while now- probably ever since Joel decided that the Army wasn't for him. Now that getting out is becoming an unavoidable reality, I have really started saying it over and over. I know I have been made righteous by the blood of Christ, so it applies right?

Yet, I still felt like I was being given the opportunity to store all these great deals as a way to provide. Such a tiny little amount of stuff, yet I still felt like it was a good start. I looked at bottles of laundry detergent and thought, "That will see us through for a few months." And it brought me a tiny measure of satisfaction, of security.

Then I realized I had never truly read verse 26. "They are always generous and lend freely..." What? How are those two things linked together? Does that mean the Lord will provide for me-more than enough- and then I can give to others?

No. And I got a little uncomfortable thinking about it. I am pretty sure it means, "Don't wait until everything in your life is in order to start giving." Start giving, and everything will fall into order.

Our church has given us the opportunity to share with the needy. We are filling baskets for missionaries to hand out. And guess what is in them? Yeah, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent. Not so coincidentally, everything in my little stockpile-cereal included.

But, Lord, what about me? What about me? Generous, freely. I can't get away. I want my children to be blessed- and in doing so, I have to stop trying to provide myself. The Lord will not forsake His faithful ones. I want to be faithful with my "few things" (Matthew 25:23) so I can be trusted with many.

And not just my physical things. Also with my time, and my talents. If I feel like my talents are few, yet I am not freely giving them to the Lord's work, how can I ever expect them to increase? I truly have been given so much. I don't want to be greedy.

So I am going upstairs, and downstairs, and into the pantry. I have been given to, and I want to give freely. Somehow, I know if it hurts, it is the right thing. The Holy Spirit won't let me go on this one. My security HAS to be in the Lord. If I stumble, I have to believe that He will uphold me with His hand. But He can't do that if I am so set on making sure I do everything right in my own strength. I have to put myself in a position where He can surprise me, where He can provide for me, and I can't take any of the credit.

"Give Until There's Nothing Left"
Relient K

No one told me
The right way
The right way to go about this
So I'll figure it out for myself
Cause how much
Is too much
To give You
Well, I may never know
So I'll just give until there's nothing else

Yeah, I'll give give give (until there's nothing else)
Give my life (until it all runs out)
Give give (and I'll have no regrets)
I'll give until there's nothing left
I'll give

No one told me
How bad I need You (need You)
But I somehow arrived
To that conclusion all by myself (all by myself)
And I want
All you have to offer (to offer)
So I offer myself and I'll just give until there's nothing else

And I'll give give give (until there's nothing else)
Give my life (until it all runs out)

Give give (and I'll have no regrets)
I'll give until there's nothing left to
Give give give (until there's nothing else)
Give my life (until it all runs out)
Give give (and I'll have no regrets)
I'll give until there's nothing left

Sometimes I think
Like all I ever do
Is ask for things
Until I ask too much of You
But that's not the way (that's not the way)
I wanna live (I wanna live)
I need to change (I need to change)
But something's got to give
Yeah something's got to

Give give give (until there's nothing left)
Give my life (until it all runs out)
Give give (and I'll have no regrets)
I'll give until there's nothing left to give
Give give give (until there's nothing left)
Give my life (until it all runs out)
Give give
Give until there's nothing left
I'll give

I am really willing? I am certainly not able. But He is, and I know He is just waiting. Waiting for me to give up,to give away, to give out. To pour myself out as a fragrant offering...

I'm sorry that you all get drawn into my little dramas and revelations. I can't let myself get away without being accountable, though. To put this out there is to be fragile, exposed. It scares me. But to borrow lyrics from another Relient K song but "to go back where I was would just be wrong, I'm pressing on". (Sorry, I seriously love that group.)

Thanks for putting up with me. Hard to believe that this is my 200th post, huh? That is a whole lotta Clare. But my prayer is that by the time I reach my 400th post I will still be learning and growing- every little thing making me a little more like Him.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Review: The Corruptible

I love a good police/detective/crime scene investigation show. There is something about the combination of intelligence, danger and mystery that draws me right in. The Corruptible by Mark Mynheir has elements of all three.

I love a romance novel, but it is refreshing to read a book that doesn't rely on love relationships for its main storyline. There is plenty to keep the story moving without that. Mynheir is a retired police detective and does a good job giving his main character, private investigator, Ray Quinn, plenty of authenticity. The story follows Quinn as he tries to recover information that was stolen from a very wealthy client. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting.

The Corruptible is the second in a series, but I had no trouble keeping up with the story. I would, however, really like to read the first book. I think it would have helped me to have a greater appreciation for Ray. Nevertheless, I still found him to be engaging. I had a little bit more difficulty connecting to Ray's "sidekick", Crevis. I am guessing that there will be further books that flesh out that character more fully. Ray also has a female friend, not a love interest, who appears again from the first book. Pam is the spiritual part of the equation. She is not very prominent in this book, but it is easy to see that the story is building so that Ray will be more drawn to Christ in the next book(s). Still , she brought a nice element to the story, without being overbearing or cliche.

In all, The Corruptible was a fun, fast read. It kept my interest, even after I had deduced the true perpetrator behind the crime. That is the sign of a good book to me. There were parts that felt a little too forced, but they were few enough to overlook. I would definitely read Mr. Mynheir again, and seek out his previous books.

Please rank my review! Your email address is used for verification purposes only, you will not receive any communications.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for my review by the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

I had a fabulous Mother's Day- truly, it was full of all the things I love. I did not, however, take any photos! Joel took a couple of quick shots of the kids and me before church-as you can see from the one above, it didn't work out so well. However, isn't that just like being a mom? Poor Carson, he was ready for breakfast! He usually eats as soon as he gets up, but he woke up late and since we were heading to grab breakfast anyway, we made him wait. Such mean parents! The morning started out with a nice surprise: I got breakfast for free from McDonald's! I have a love affair with all things fast food, and with two little people (and a husband who had worked until 6:00 am at his new second job) having someone fix me breakfast or going to someplace "nice" just wasn't in the works. I love breakfast at the big "M" though, so it was fine with me. Getting it for free, because it was Mother's Day was an added bonus.

After church (I came home with an armload of crafts and cards from Sunday School projects) we grabbed lunch at Wendy's. I can't stand crowds-I am getting a little claustrophobic in my old age, so no sit-down for us! I was happy to have my new favorite salad, the Baja, there. We came home so Joel could have a nap and Josie and I did a little bargain hunting. I was so excited to snag some free body wash from Walgreen's and do a little more couponing at Target.

After Carson and Joel had both had their naps we grabbed some KFC for our traditional Mother's Day picnic. We went to a little park near our house, and the weather was great. I got to use the picnic set that Joel gave me for my very first Mother's Day when I was pregnant with Josie. And then we flew kites. I have discovered I love doing that, it is just so neat to see the kites way up in the sky and be able to control them with a little string. It also helps me to be a little more appreciative of our ever-present Colorado wind, so that is a good thing.

The kids gave me my gifts when we got home. Jocelyn knew that I really wanted a silver necklace with a key, so that is what she gave me. It was very sweet. Joel and Carson gave me some yummy lotion and an even more delicious box of chocolates! It was a really wonderful day, and makes me wish Mother's Day came around more often!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Music for May

I love music. Few things in life make me happier. If my life was a movie it would have a continual sound track. Running, cleaning house, working on the computer, driving, I am always surrounding myself with music. My tastes are varied, but there are always some groups that I can't get away from. So for my May Faves I decided that I would share my current five favorite albums. In no particular order:

1. "The Shelter" by Jars of Clay. I kind of bought this album by accident. I went to the "Rock and Worship Roadshow" in February mainly because Jars of Clay was performing. I have had a love affair with this group from their very first album way back when I was 16. I currently own pretty much everything they have ever done, but I was missing their album from 2009, "The Long Fall Back to Earth" which has a song that I really love on it. Well, they were running a deal at the show that was basically 2 albums for $20. I realized I didn't have "The Shelter" so I snagged it. WOW! This will probably always hold a place in my top 10 favorite albums of all time. Really. Two songs that send chills up my arms: "Small Rebellions" and "We Will Follow". This is worship music for me. If you like J.O.C. at all BUY THIS ALBUM! Or actually still buy it, even if you don't.

2. "The Outsiders" by Needtobreathe. I loved the song "Let Us Love" from the radio single. This group is kind of a funky southern country/rock group. Not what I usually listen to. But I really like this group. I really like the title track, "The Outsiders" and also "Garden". Fun band, fun album.

3. "Crazy Love" by Hawk Nelson. First Hawk Nelson purchase, not my last. I could not get enough of the "Crazy Love" radio single so this album was a must have! Originally it was a sleeper- there are several tracks I don't care for- but the more I listened to it, the more I liked it. I really like "Your Love is a Mystery" and still haven't gotten bored of the title track, either.

4. "Five Score and Seven Years Ago" by Relient K. An oldie, but a goodie. I don't ever get tired of this album. May have to buy a new Relient K CD soon, though, because I love this group. A couple of songs that make me turn it up and sing: "I Need You", "I'm Taking You with Me" and "Devestation and Reform". This group is loud, and I like that.

5. "Church Music" by David Crowder Band. This is a mixed bag: he can be a little strange, but I have to say, the songs I like I am obsessed with, so I am willing to put up with a few I don't care for in exchange. I absolutely adore his version of "How He Loves" and his version of "All Around Me" is the best. I don't even LIKE those songs when other people sing them. Another excellent worship inducing album.

Not an expert by any means, but I know what I like. Check out any of these tracks on Amazon or Itunes to give them a listen. Maybe you'll find a new favorite, too.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Trendy Tiles

I have been wanting to post about these for a while. I can't even remember where I first saw them. Somewhere about the time my Mod Podge obsession began, I think. I am completely enamored of projects that are something I can use, and that don't require any sewing. I have nothing against sewing, other than that I am jealous of anyone that can. Mostly because I can't, really because I don't have a sewing machine...anyway, that is not the point! Back to the subject at hand: Scrabble tile necklaces! This great project combines several of my favorite things: Mod Podge, scrapbook paper (I don't scrapbook but I loooove the endless variety of papers!) and junk jewelry. Also, it is easy and a quick one-day results type deal. Perfect for someone with no patience such as myself.

To make these you need:
-cardstock (or an index card)
-and X-acto knife
-scrapbook paper
-Scrabble tile
-Mod Podge
-Mod Podge Dimensional Magic
-self-adhesive "crystals" (optional)
-E-6000 glue
-jewelry bails (more about these later)
-thin ribbon to match your paper (for the actual necklace part)

To begin, I make a template to view my papers through. Because you are dealing with a Scrabble tile (this is what forms your necklace pendant) you want to make sure that if you have a patterned paper that you are using it to its best advantage. So, I take a piece of cardstock, lay my tile on it, and carefully cut around it with an X-acto knife.

This is your "viewer". You can place it over you paper to find the right spot, and then you can use it to cut your paper the right size for your tile.

See? I can tell exactly what my tile will look like. I will warn you: not all Scrabble tiles are created equal, so you may have to do a little trimming. Also, in case you were wondering, I purchased my tiles at a yardsale. The great part about that is that they cost me $2 instead of $10. If you found a game that was in poor condition, you could probably get them for even less! Plus, a game has quite a few tiles in it (over 100) so you will have plenty to work with.

Once you have your cardstock cut to size, cover your tile (the back, because it is flat and the paper will adhere better and be smooth) with Mod Podge and immediately place your paper.
Give that a few minutes to dry and then coat the paper with Mod Podge, too. That will seal the surface before you apply the Dimensional Magic later. Allow your tile to dry, about an hour, before handling it too much.

Tiles waiting to have their bails adhered. Aren't they pretty? The tulip one is actually a stamp that Joel brought me from Iraq! I thought that was fun. So, you ask, what is a "bail"? That is the technical term for a jewelry backing that has a loop for a chain or other necklace material (like ribbon) to go through. There is a plate to glue to the pendant and then an eye at the top.

I buy my bails at Hobby Lobby. These are $2.47 for four, but their jewelry "findings" (all the little metal pieces used to make jewelry) are often on sale for 50% off. If you would prefer a metal chain or wire necklace to the ribbon, you can buy those there for around $1-$2 each. Also, a picture of my wonderful E-6000 glue. I usually buy my glues with a 40% off coupon, and Hobby Lobby now stocks all of them, both Mod-Podges and the E-6000.

Apply your E-6000 to your bail and press it firmly to the back of your tile. E-6000 is a very gummy glue, so don't mess with it too much or it will slide around. I set mine aside to dry, usually for at least half and hour.

Then for the Mod Podge Dimensional Magic! This stuff can be a little tricky. First, don't be dismayed that it is opaque. It dries clear and gives you sort of a "bubble"- a fun 3D look for your finished piece. If you are planning on putting a crystal on your tile, put it on before the Dimensional Magic. Then trace the outline of your tile with the Dimensional Magic, filling it in as you go. The tricky part is putting on enough to give it a nice finished effect, but not so much that it spills over the edges. If it does, quickly clean it with a finger, the stuff is water soluble until it dries. Usually it is best to start by testing a little on paper, to make sure you don't have any air bubbles. They don't dissipate, so if you get one try using a needle to pull it off the tile. Give your Dimensional Magic plenty of drying time- at least three hours before handling and overnight before wearing or packaging. If you touch it before it is dry you will leave fingerprints!

I couldn't find the necklaces I wanted so I decided to make mine out of ribbon. I coated the ends with some regular Mod Podge so they wouldn't fray. It dries really quickly and doesn't affect the appearance. Don't you like my lovely work surface? I have found that using a regular notebook as a "cutting board" of sorts is a cheap way to avoid cutting into my counter tops or table, besides when I get glue every where I just rip off the top couple of sheets and I have a fresh surface!

I made little matching bags for the necklaces- I was making them for my Bible study group moms. I used a inch circle hole punch to cut paper and then just hot glued a little ribbon and the circle onto tiny paper bags.

This is a better view of one of the bags. I thought it made for a really cute, simple presentation.

The finished product! You can't really appreciate the 3D quality in a photo, but it gives it a much more "professional" look. You could just leave it with the regular Mod Podge on top, but I prefer it this way. I am not usually a bling girl, but the crystals really give certain papers just the right touch. Those were a fortunate find- a sheet of about 50 in the dollar area at Michael's. I am kicking myself for not buying more! These can be really pricey.

And that's about it! The drying time takes far longer than anything else. If I excluded that, it only took a couple of hours to make 10 necklaces. The funny part is that I ran out of bails before I finished mine, so it is waiting. However, if I got ambitious, it would be easy to have one to match every outfit!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Carrot Patches

I love a simple project that produces (almost) instant results. As soon as I saw these "Carrot Patch Cookies" in my April issue of "Family Fun" I wanted to try them. They are so cute and different. Mine don't look exactly like the model ones, but I still think they turned out pretty well.

The original instructions call for "chocolate wafers" and green licorice called "Rips" that I had never heard of, or seen. I substituted apple "Sour Punch Straws" and chocolate sandwich cookies. I found everything I needed (except the straws) at the Dollar Tree (I am telling you-love that place!) so it made for a cheap craft. We made 10 with the ingredients and I still had plenty left over!

Jocelyn and her friend Bekah filled the "planters" and planted the "carrots". They barely got them together before they had to have a taste. Personally, the thought of a chocolate frosting covered Mike and Ike with Sour Punch straws stuck in it is disgusting to me...but still really adorable!

Carson enjoyed his, too. These were a snap to put together, and I was definitely pleased with how they turned out. We made them on Easter, because making fun cookies on holidays is kind of becoming a tradition (see our Turkey Cookies from Thanksgiving). The kids like doing something special that is just for them. My biggest tip: be sure and make an example at least the day before so that you have an idea of how things need to go! I realized that it would be better for me to assemble the planters and carrots before hand. It was complicated and involved using a knife, so it was better to do it myself. The kids liked filling the planters with the "dirt" and then putting in the carrots. Mostly, they just enjoyed eating them!

The finished product- perfect for munching! These would be fun to serve all spring long- especially if you were having a garden party. Or you could just have a whole "carrot" party with these cute jelly bean favors and crepe paper carrots from Martha! Maybe next year...


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