Wednesday, January 29, 2014

28 Day Bible Reading Guide to Ruth

   I will be honest: after making the last reading guide, my perfectionist self was driven absolutely crazy by all the mistakes I made (A few errors in dates, a couple of typos, and some verse re-arranging that the average reader probably didn't realize was "out of order" but I knew!). Anyway, because I can't save when I put together a printable because of the editing program I used, I couldn't make any changes without completely re-doing the whole thing. And unfortunately, time hasn't allowed for me to let my OCD run wild. Anyway, I really fought against letting my perfectionism prevent me from making another one.

 I prayed and prayed over this one, you guys. Seriously. I don't ever want to stand in the way of the Lord's will, and so I will be honest, I wasn't 100% sure until this week whether or not I was even going to do this. I really don't even know who is using the Ephesians one besides my mom and my friend Christy, (I am, of course!) but the idea just wasn't letting go. So, I prayed that the Lord would show me what book to focus on, and my sister Katy suggested the book of Ruth. Well, it all clicked, and the Lord moved mightily. I am so excited to share this with you!

Right click on the image to download and save, then print!
      The book of Ruth is beyond perfect for the month of February. You know why? Because it is the most romantic book in the Bible, in my opinion! Some might argue for the Song of Solomon, but I would have to disagree. You see, Ruth is the quintessential love story! It has a a tragic maiden, a bitter mother-in-law, a rich hero, and all the fixings to make your heart beat a little faster, hurrying to find out if the guy gets the girl and they all live happily ever after. It is my kind of story! I adore this book, if you can't tell.

    To give a little background, Ruth is set right near the end of the time of Judges, just before Samuel anoints Saul. It is a hard time in Israel's history (not that this was an uncommon occurrence!) because so many are going their own way. However, this is a story of hope and redemption, on so many levels. I had a fantastic time searching out the corresponding passages, and I really had to limit myself on how many to put in the guide!

   Just like last time, this guide gives you a portion of the focal book, Ruth, followed by corresponding passages found elsewhere in the Bible. There are more background and explanatory passages this time, and also plenty of complementary ones, too. This book fits so perfectly into the Bible-and I know that is exactly how God planned it. I hope that you find so much in this guide that proves that to you!

    The reading schedule is set up so that you have Sundays as a day to rest, catch-up if you need to, and reflect on what the Lord is teaching you. Maybe you could use those days to find even more Scriptures that pertain to what you are reading? No pressure, though! I really had to restrain myself from wanting to write commentary to go along with these fabulous passages. I prayed long and hard about it, and again, felt like the Holy Spirit was reminding me that He is the teacher, and that these Scriptures will speak to you without any of my words to accompany His. Maybe someday, because I definitely feel there is a time and place for devotionals, and explanations. This time, though,  just let the purity of the Bible, which can readily stand alone (it *is* the perfect Word of God!) and pray that the Holy Spirit will make the passages, no matter how familiar, surprise and inspire you! I will be praying for you, too.

Linked to:
"Teach Me Tuesday" at Someday I'll Learn
"Fabulously Frugal Thursday" at A Life in Balance 
"Thrifty Thursday" at Living Well, Spending Less 
"Craft Frenzy Friday" at Craft Dictator

Monday, January 27, 2014

Avocado, Corn and Black Bean Salad

             I have a major problem every year around this time: all I want to eat is cream soups and cookies hot from the oven. That doesn't work so well. However, I have also discovered this easy and delicious avocado, corn and black bean salad (Such a nice change from the usual lettuce and cucumbers!) and it is making it a little bit easier to get my 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables! A sweet friend first made this avocado, corn and black bean salad for me. I have changed it up a little to suit my tastes, and I can't get enough of it. I love guacamole, but this bumps up the nutrition factor by adding in tomatoes, black beans, sweet corn, and red onion! I actually will eat this for lunch accompanied by some fruit-it's that good. It is also delicious as a topping for tacos (chicken ones, especially, on corn tortillas! Yum!), enchiladas, or served as a hearty salsa/dip with chips. A friend also suggested putting it on burgers, which I think sounds divine. Try it, you will love it!

Avocado, Corn, and Black Bean Salad- a delicious, healthy side!
Here's what you need:
-two Roma tomatoes, chopped
-1/2 c. black beans, rinsed and drained
-1/4 c. red onion, chopped
-1 avocado (you don't need for it to be super ripe, that way it will stay in "chunks" better!) pitted and chopped
-1/2 c. sweet corn, I use frozen and "thaw" it by popping it in the microwave for about a minute. You don't need for it to be warmed.
2-3 tbsps. of your favorite "fruity" vinaigrette dressing. My friend originally made it for me using raspberry, but I absolutely love Kraft's Zesty Lime Vinaigrette.
-garlic salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together gently, adding dressing and then seasoning to taste. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for 2-4 hours. Refrigerate remaining portion (If there is any left!).  Serves 2-4 depending on whether it is served as a side or a dip.

  It is so easy to throw this together, once your ingredients are all prepped. I prefer mine with a little less dressing, so it is more salad and less salsa, but use your own judgement. It is terrific served straight after tossing, but it is also delicious if you let it marinate in the fridge for a few hours. If you leave it overnight the avocado will brown a little, but it isn't any less tasty! I consider it a personal challenge to see how many times I can sample it while tasting the seasonings. Don't think that this wonderful salad should just be saved for summer, either! It will brighten up any dreary winter's day, and it would make a great Superbowl snack, too. It will be the healthiest thing on the table, but no one will care because it is so delicious!
Don't you just want a big bite? I do! Mine is all gone, but there is always tomorrow...

Linked up at:
"Take-A-Look" Tuesday at Sugar Bee Crafts
"Teach Me Tuesday" at Someday I'll Learn
"Handmade Tuesdays" at Ladybug Blessings
"Create It Thursday" at Lamberts Lately 
"Pin It Thursday" at Sweet Bella Roos 
"Fabulously Frugal Thursdays" at A Life in Balance 
"Thrifty Thursday" at Living Well, Spending Less
"Craft Frenzy Friday" at Craft Dictator

Friday, January 24, 2014

Simple and Unexpected Valentine's Decor (and a Five Minute Garland!)

     Anyone who knows me will tell you: I love a little something out of the ordinary. I love things that make you say, "oh, that isn't the norm!". But in a good way. It is becoming more and more common to use varying colors schemes for seasonal decorations (I use cream, gray and yellow for my fall decor and red and turquoise for Christmas) so, of course, I couldn't let Valentine's Day feel left out! It is one of my favorite holidays (I think because it is so close to my birthday!).

This year, I was inspired by book pages. I know those have been popular for a long time now, and I think it is because there is something so interesting and curious about all those little words. The patterns and colors are soothing and work well with so many palettes.

Since I was using old book pages (that same volume of Shakespeare I have been milking since this wreath! Talk about getting your money's worth.) I decided that black and creamy yellow were a must. I also included silver and gold- the two complementary metallics for those colors.
 The little garland could not have been any simpler. Using my tried and true formula, I put it together in about five minutes.

I used:
-one sheet of metallic silver
-one sheet of metallic gold
-one sheet of metallic dark silver
-one page of cream/black font
-one page of black/white cursive
I bought all these at Hobby Lobby, paper is 50% off this week so my grand total (5x $0.59 x .5= $1.48)
-my own book pages (free!)
-part of a spool of black satin ribbon from the Dollar Store (we will say $0.25)
-staples, use what you have! Mine are purple, but you can't really tell.:) (free!)
-scalloped heart punch, I have this one from Micheal's and I use it *all* the time. I am not including it in the cost because it is like scissors in my mind, you use it constantly! If you buy it, be sure to use a coupon.

Grand total: less than $2

 I didn't include a picture of punching out the hearts, I have enough of those! I cut out four hearts out of each of my 6 papers. I left a little space between each one, and I alternated placing them right side up and upside down. I just laid the heart on top of the ribbon and punched right through both! Easy peasy, as my kids would say. In a little less than five minutes I had over six feet of garland, including the ribbon I left hanging on both ends.
I battle my perfectionism by refusing to measure spaces or use a pattern. It is good for me to be a little less obsessive, and I am always happy with how it turns out. I love how the heart shape is so Valentine but the colors are decidedly less so. It makes for a good combination.

The only other thing I did was to whip up this little printable in Word. I used "Traveling Typewriter" from and wrote "Oh how He loves us all" in all caps justified to the left. I printed it on cream cardstock (I keep white and cream cardstock on hand all the time) and checked "two pages to a sheet" in the printing instructions box. That made it the perfect size to cut out for a 5x7 frame. I love how simple but powerful it is. In my mind, Valentine's Day, being about love, is not completely about romance, but about the One who is Love. Maybe *that's* why it is my favorite!

Anyway, I dragged out items from around the house, I didn't purchase anything new for this. That is the best way to decorate! Whatever your color scheme is, ask yourself: "What do I already have that matches?" It doesn't have to be "holiday"- the only things I have that says Valentine's day in this display are hearts and the printable- they are both easily switched out and cost almost nothing. Look at your things through fresh eyes and borrow from other rooms to decorate. I love to "steal" my own stuff, it makes it feel brand new!

The old-fashioned school bell was a gift from my mom, she had one I coveted, so she bought me one so I wouldn't steal her's! I had a Glade candle that I dressed up with a little washi tape, and I added the little wooden "Trust in the Lord" (also a gift from my mom!). On the other side, I used a copy of "Pride and Prejudice" and a leather bound journal I use to write my husband love letters in- a little nod to romance (you have to have a little!) topped with a mirrored frame (Target clearance) holding one of my favorite pictures of my honey and me. It was taken by the talented Beverly Bender! The "lion dog" as my kids refer to it, is a little ceramic statue from Target that is just the kind of whimsical, eccentric decor I love.

And I couldn't forget the gorgeous shelf! It was handmade by my aunt and uncle, and it works perfectly as a faux mantle. 

And, of course, because I am famous for re-using, I ripped the watches off my New Year's wreath and added three paper hearts. I couldn't resist, it was perfect for this color scheme!

The whole set-up is right above my desk, and I am loving it. It looks fresh and festive and it didn't cost much. It reminds me of things I love, and that is just right for Valentine's Day, isn't it?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pizza Parlor Birthday Party

     Josie turned 8 in November. Right before Thanksgiving. Which (seemed to me) was right on top of Christmas. And in the midst of Christmas, I decided to save her little party to share with you during the somewhat boring, much more laid back month of January!

    Our kids don't have a "real" party every year. We are on a rough every-other-year schedule, and this year it was Josie's turn for a party. She is not an out-of-the-box thinker when it comes to party themes (She suggested two other themes we had already done, and also Chuck E. Cheese, which I put the kibbosh on due to cost.) so I supplied some inspiration. She selected this pizza party theme from the choices I offered her.

    I had not had an opportunity to throw her an all-out, make decorations, plan games, coordinate food party, and I was very excited about this one! It turned out better than I had hoped-which is rare. Josie absolutely loved it, and that is definitely the most important part!
My personal favorite part was the candy buffet- which had a special twist. I only choose candy that looked like pizza toppings! Each guest filled a bag as part of their favor, and the girls loved it.
I purchased white Sixlets (Walmart) as "onions". I also provided classic Starlight mints- for that onion breath! I employed my tried and true technique of filling a variety of white dishes and glass containers. The tiny spoons are from the Dollar Tree.

Junior mints were "olives" (most black candy is black licorice flavored-yuck!) I divided the new Starburst Minis (they come in a pouch-Walmart) into colors- the yellow were "pineapple pieces"-I should have said "bits"! I made the label cards in Picmonkey-they weren't perfect, but they worked. The red licorice was just to add height-and also because I love Red Vines!

The "ham bits" are the pink Starburst minis. The "green pepper" is Rips sour candy strips. I used kitchen shears to cut them into thinner pieces.

You can barely see the "sausage"- a combination of Raisinettes and Cookie Dough Bites (Walmart). Haribo Cola Gummies were obviously soda (World Market)! I lined them up in an olive dish. I didn't get a good photo, but red Rips sour strips were "pepperoni" and also red licorice wheels (World Market).  Not pictured: I had Red Hots as "red pepper flakes".

The centerpiece of the party was the deep dish pizza cake! I was so proud of myself for making this, I am by no means a cake decorator. It is a double layer chocolate cake that I frosted with peanut butter frosting. I used canned vanilla frosting and added peanut butter until it was super think and almost moldable. I pressed it around the sides of the cake, and made sure that I piped a thick round layer around the edge for the "crust". I added red icing tint to more vanilla frosting for the "sauce". My favorite part: the cheese! It is grated white candy melt- I softened it a little in the microwave, and then grated it with my cheese grater. It worked perfectly-and I sprinkled it on just like cheese. The pepperoni is strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups, the sausage is Raisinettes, and the bell pepper is Rips sour strips.
I placed a spring tension rod in my window (actually Joel did) and threw two pieces of red gingham fabric over them. I literally bought two yards at Walmart, and cut it in half. No sewing *at all*! Just my style. I stuck fuzzy mustache stickers (the Dollar Tree) on wooden skewers for the girls to have "chef mustaches". They made for cute photo props. I made the tulle pom-poms using this tutorial. They took a ton of tulle, but it was worth it!
I made the giant pizza slice from foam. It wasn't perfect, but whatever. I bought the foam pieces at Hobby Lobby and freehanded it. I attached it with tulle to the Birthday Girl's chair.
 I used a pizza pan with a Parmesan shaker (both from the Dollar Tree) as a centerpiece. I used old Frappuchino bottles for the flowers (From this shower! I'm such a hoarder!). Josie also requested candles. It was a little tricky with such a small table, but the red tapers made her feel so grown-up. I covered the plastic red gingham table with brown wrapping paper (the Dollar Tree). I also filled a sundae glass with red striped paper straws, for the bottled rootbeer we served!

Each girl had a four pack of crayons (Target Valentine clearance, but you can get them at the party store.) and some "Bendy Sticks" (Party City-$0.10!) with these cute pizza coloring sheets at her place. Kind of a twist on restaurant "place-mats". They had fun playing with them while they were waiting on their server!

I decorated the rest of the living room with more flowers, cans of tomato sauce, and I filled red baskets from the Dollar Tree with fresh onions and bell peppers. They added nice spots of color.

The highlight of the party was that each girl got to make their own pizza. I bought "Mini Murphs" from Papa Murphy's- they were perfect! At $3 each, every girl got all the fixings (sauce, crust, pepperonis and cheese) for an individual sized pizza. They loved the cute little pizza boxes, and they were perfect for the left-overs.

It was so easy for them to make their own pizzas. It was also dual-purposed. I didn't have to make dinner and it was a fun party activity! While the pizzas were baking (they only took about 15 minutes) we played some party games.
I got these terrific "pizza" bingo cards from here. I gave the girls buttons to use as card markers. I had prizes of nail polish and mustache erasers-that I forgot to take photos of!

For the "pin the pepperoni on the pizza" game, I cut a circle out of red poster board and used brown wrapping paper to create a crust. I cut light cream construction paper for mozzarella. I divided the board into eighths and the girls got points for where they put their foam pepperonis. (I cut those out easily with my circle punch!)
I ordered the pizza slice banner from Oriental Trading. The girls got points in the game based on where they placed their pepperonis. 1 point on the lines, 2 points all the way in a slice, and three for right in the center. The girl with the most points are putting up three pepperonis won!
The birthday girl gave us a great big cheesy grin over her cake! It was a magnificent ton of sugar.
To go with even more sugar! The girls actually took their candy home with their favors-which I also forgot a photo of! I bought these cute pizza sticker sheets, pizza gummy candies (from Hobby Lobby-special thanks to my sister, Robyn for finding them!) and soda flavored lip balms (from Walmart).

    I loved this party! It was such a great theme for games, food and decoration. I was a little nervous about bringing my vision to life, especially since so many of the parties I had seen online had professionally made paper goods, and were put together by paid planners. In the end though, it came together, and the birthday girl declared it her best party yet!

Linked up:
"Craft Friday Frenzy" Craft Dictator
"Share the Love Sunday" at Buttercream Bakehouse 
"Whatever Goes Wednesday" at Someday Crafts
"Fabulously Frugal Thursday" at A Life in Balance
"Create It Thursday" at Lamberts Lately
"Pin It Thursday" at Sweet Bella Roos
"Thrifty Thursday" at Living Well, Spending Less

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Favorite Bible Study Tools

    I love to read my Bible. And I will be honest with you, if that is all you ever do, you will still have a great spiritual walk. The Bible doesn't require us to have a Masters in Divinity, or a library full of concordances to understand it. We don't have to buy expensive books or tons of iPhone apps. The Holy Spirit is working in the life of a believer all the time to give us wisdom, knowledge and insight concerning the will of God and His Word. However, there are times that I want to make some comparisons, or there are verses that I can't quite remember, or I would just like another perspective.

1. My Study Bible
   I have an Zondervan NIV (1984) Study Bible. Recently, some editorial changes were made to the NIV translation. I *personally* am not as fond of the newer edition as I am of the old one, but that is primarily because it is not what I am used to. Choose whatever version "speaks" to you. But invest in a quality study Bible because it will be the quickest shortcut to footnotes, commentary and cross-references. My Bible has cross referenced verses in a center column with footnotes that provide commentary at the bottom. It is leather-bound, another recommendation if you have the extra money to spend, just because it is more durable. This is one thing you should not be afraid to spend a little more one. You can definitely get good deals with coupons and shopping online, but don't buy the cheapest you can find, only the cheapest you can afford! This is something worth saving for, because it will end up being a huge investment in your spiritual growth.

2. My Chronological Bible
   I LOVE this Bible! A sweet friend introduced me to the concept of a chronological Bible, and it changed my life. It is all the words of the Bible, but organized by how the events happened historically and it provides an amazing perspective. I have read through this Bible a number of times because it is just so easy. The readings are organized into 365 portions that will only take you about 15-20 minutes a day. If you have never read the entire Bible, this is the way to go. I have the "One Year Chronological Bible-NIV", and it is available for Kindle for only $9.49! I was amazed to find that, if you are reading the books in order, that the story of Job actually happens around the time of Abraham. And it is so neat to read David's Psalms along with the stories that inspired them. Even the "boring" parts, the laws, and genealogies, are interspersed with the more fast-paced parts, and grouped together. This makes them feel much more manageable! I cannot say enough good things about reading the Bible this way. I frequently turn to it as a "tool" to remind me of the historical sequences and settings for whatever passage I'm studying. It really increased my understanding and appreciation for the Word, which is always valuable!

3. My journal
    I have to say, as a "writer" that this method speaks to me. Writing down my thoughts and questions about what I am reading is one way to internalize it. That is because of how I learn. If you aren't one that is prone to journaling, give it a try for a little while. You might be surprised! Even just copying Scripture can be very meaningful. I don't journal with a particular rhyme or reason, but more as a "flow of consciousness". It isn't pretty and it isn't organized. But it works for me. I do recommend that you date your writings-it is always great to look back and remember what the the Lord was teaching me during a particular time in my life. I also take my journal to church, so that I can keep my sermon notes and Bible study thoughts all in the same place- I am constantly amazed at how a certain verse will pop up all over the place (definitely a sign the Lord wants me to pay attention!). Your journal does NOT need to be expensive, but it should be easy to use. Mine is a basic school notebook with a cute cover- back to school clearance for $1. But even a $0.17 college ruled one will do the job! Challenge yourself to journal for a set number of days, and see if it makes a difference. I don't even do it every day-but I make an effort to do it more often than not.

    My phone is pictured for a reason. I do my Bible study in the morning, in my bed. I can grab my iPhone and quickly use it to access amazing online tools. I love it! But even if you have a "dumb" phone, no worries. You can get to any of these things from the regular 'ol internet. I snapped a screen shot of (It's free!) so you can see a little better how I use it. First, it is really easy to type in a few words from a verse that you can't quite remember all the words or the reference. They have dozens of different translations available from which to choose. I frequently use it to look up words related to what I am studying (like "first fruits of creation") to see what other verses come up. Also, they have a great parallel feature. Shown above, I pulled up a parallel of Ephesians 1 in NIV and KJV. This is such a great study tool because it helps you to have a better understanding of whatever passage your are studying. I love to look up verses in more "modern" translations, like the Message or the Voice, it helps me feel like the Scripture is in my language. Sometimes what doesn't seem to make any sense in one version suddenly "clicks" in another!

5. Blue Letter
       This is another excellent *free* online tool. This one is much more "scholarly" feeling than Biblegateway, but don't be scared. The best way that I have found to use this site is to enter the verse or passage that I am looking for. Then it will bring it up, and there will be a little blue box on the left hand side of the verse marked "tools". If you click on it, it will bring up the options above. One of my favorites to use is the commentary. There are so many great choices! And if you aren't a "reader" there are also lots of audio (and even video) options, too.  When you look at the initial options in the screenshot above, you can listen to the words being pronounced in their original form, and click on the word to view it in the lexicon. You can also use the dictionaries and tons of other tools. I could get lost for hours reading commentaries... Don't be afraid of them! They are one person's explanation of Scripture, so don't be overwhelmed. Sometimes, they will even conflict on minor details, but that just reassures me that they are a *human* perspective- I have to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead me to the truth.

Not a "Christian" tool, but a great one for deeper understanding. I use it to look up key words for definitions and synonyms. It is really easy and quick.

    This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is the things I use the most frequently. Don't be discouraged or overwhelmed- start small! Don't make yourself use these things (or any other for that matter) unless you feel led to. If you are curious or confused, that is a good time to make use of one or more of them. But before you do anything- your greatest tool is prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to answer your questions- it's what He is there for!

Be sure to check out my "31 Day Reading Guide to Ephesians" if you are looking for a place to start with your Bible reading!

Linked up:
"Super Saturday Link Party" at Made From Pinterest 
"Inspiration Monday" at I Should Be Mopping the Floor 
"Lovely Ladies Linky" at Life With The Crust Cut Off 
"Pin It Thursday" at Sweet Bella Roos 
"Fabulously Frugal Thursday" at A Life in Balance 
"Thursdays are Your Days" at 52 Mantels

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Announcing "Clare's"!

         So, I am the least of all technologically competent people. But my sweet husband knew that I longed for my own domain name. So, as the *perfect* Christmas present, he bought it for me! What does that mean for you? Well, the short version: you no longer need to type "blogspot" to get to my site. Instead, is the new address. The old one will still get you here, as my blog is still hosted by Blogger. But my new "sleek" name will start showing up in my posts, and also in my links. I am starting to feel like a real blogger people! Yay! What a way to start 2014.:)


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