Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Places You'll Go

Check out this map generator I discovered - it has you fill out all the states you have visited, and the colors coordinate to how familiar you are with that state:

Red means I've just passed through, maybe seen a thing or two.

Amber means I've at least slept there and seen a few things. I have a first-hand idea of what the state is like.

Blue means I've spent a good amount of time in that state.

Green means I've spent a lot of time in that state, weeks at at time on multiple visits – or lived there.

As you can tell, I've basically only seen the middle of the USA, with a little of the north eastern coast. :) You can make one with just the US, or one with the US and Canada. 

Visit the webpage here: to make your own! If you do make one and post it somewhere, leave a link for me in the comments!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It Says "Blue"

We had a slight delay in the painting project - my sister J. was going to help me, but she wound up sick over the weekend. :( So I got started on Monday instead. After doing the walls I realized now the ceiling looks dingy, so I think my project just got bigger...

Ok, so this is really strange, but when I am trying to load the before/after pictures, they keep loading sideways! I've tried a few things, and it's not working, so I'm just going to load them on G+ and put a link to the album here.

Have you seen the Valspar paint commercial with the chameleons? It makes me laugh:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Not Yet!

We had our first snowfall today! AND IT'S STICKING! I'm not ready for this yet!

I think October 20th is the earliest we've had snow since we moved here.

You can see the remains of my tomato plants... guess growing season is over! 

How has your weather been?

Friday, October 11, 2013


I am starting back at square one with the blog... this time I am committing myself to writing at least once a week, instead of every day. After realizing that I could not give that level of dedication, and trying to ignore the blog for awhile, it seemed like something was better than nothing! 

There have been a few more changes in the wind lately. As of today, my oldest sister, N. has been married a full week! Not only did she get married, but is now living much farther away than the bedroom next to mine. She is now closer to old friends and family, and very, very happy - so while we will miss her, we are also happy for her. The wedding was beautiful, and combined vintage nostalgia and woodland elements. 

N.'s dress was our maternal grandmother's wedding dress, with an overlay cut from our paternal grandmother's bridal veil. Since B. used Darcy's quote from Pride and Prejudice when he proposed, there were paper roses and leaves in all the bouquets and boutonnieres taken from a copy of the book.


The second part of changes, which I alluded to in my last post, is really the main, #1 reason why I got distracted from the blog... I'm in a relationship! In August I was still keeping the news relatively low-key in the case that it wasn't going to continue, but now that he has met all of my extended family and friends, and I have met his church family, I suppose it is officially well known enough to announce on the blog. :) You can blame him (or thank him!) for the fact that I now share all the boring the details of my daily life with just one person now, and not all of you, haha. But I still do want to write, and to keep you in the loop, hence my rededication to write at least once a week. 

After the wedding, we were able to spend a few days over the weekend with him and his family. We visited the Ft. Worth botanical gardens and conservatory, which it was unusually chilly outside, but beautiful. 

After church on Sunday, we relaxed at the house and played Boggle and Scrabble:

 A shout-out to B. for 'pinecone'! :)

It all came to an end too quickly, and yet we were also ready to give up our nomadic ways and settle back in at home. I now have a bedroom and "sitting room" with the recent vacancy... I am thinking up all sorts of ways to arrange and decorate in there. More on that soon!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dinosaur Eggs: Make Your Own!

I know... I haven't been on here in a while. :/ I'm sorry! I do have a few good excuses, but I won't tell them to you just yet. :) 

Today we had our annual VBS on Digging For Answers about how dinosaurs fit into the Biblical account of creation. Fascinating stuff! For our outside activity, we created "fossil eggs" for the kids to break open and chip away at with little screwdrivers and toothbrushes. They had a blast, and since we did it outside, there was no cleanup! 

Dino Eggs:
1 1/4C dirt
1 1/4C flour
3/4C salt
1/2C sand

Mix all your ingredients, then slowly add water until the mixture is moldeable. Form a ball roughly twice the size of your dinosaur (or whatever plastic toy you want), flatten onto a piece of wax paper, then gently push the toy into the center and begin folding the 'clay' around it, adding more as needed. How many it will cover depends on the size of your toy. Place on a cookie sheet and put out in the sun to dry - this will take several days, and you will want to rotate them so they get hard all the way around. After a week of drying, ours were still moist in the middle, but the outside was hard enough to provide the kids with a challenge, but not be so rock hard it's frustrating. 

Give the kids mini screwdrivers, bamboo skewers, toothbrushes, etc. to "excavate" their toy out with. For the really little kids, we just gave the eggs a good whack with a hammer and let them pull the pieces off. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Frozen Hot Chocolate

Did you know Dairy Queen now has a $1-$2 frozen treats menu?? Why does nobody tell me these things? Well, to show you my love, I am telling you... the frozen hot chocolate is a must. Daddy bought me one the other day, and I thought, "Wow, I wonder if they are always this good!" So on Sunday, I put them to the test and took Mom along. After one sip, I heard the words "life-changing" "best thing I've ever had" and "I am so having another one of these soon." In my opinion, they taste like Oreo cookies blended to silky smoothness with ice cream - really, what gets better? Ok, maybe peanut butter... Ooh, I wonder if they would put peanut butter in it?! Now look what you've done. I'm going to have to go get another one! You people are making me gain weight. :)

Have you had one yet? No?! Go get one! Then get back here and tell me about your experience! Yes? Good for you! What did you think about it? Leave me a comment!

*Update: After writing this, I discovered they DO make a peanut butter version. So, of course, I had one. It was actually disappointing - the double fudge is the best, hands down!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Settling or Accepting? Think About It Thursday

Folks, I am aware that I have missed the past two Thursdays... I'm so sorry! Things have been super hectic and I have some new things on my plate (hopefully more about that later). I also got my days mixed up last week and didn't even realize it was Thursday until 11:30 that night!

Today's question is a tough one: 

What is the difference between settling for things, and accepting the way things are?

Looking back over life, I feel like maybe I have settled for some things when I could have asked for better, and that I have accepted some things that I should have rejected. I think the key word here is change. Can I change this situation?

When we "settle" for something, we are saying, "I know this situation could be better, but I'm too lazy/afraid/unconfident to change it, so I'm just going to take it the way it is." To put a finer point on it, it's apathy. We don't care enough to put our foot down, so we deal with it. Which can be fine in certain settings, but should never be tolerated in relationships or moral choices that we have control over. Don't settle for less... Keep the standard as high as you want it to be, and stick to it. 

On the other hand, accepting things generally means we don't have a choice. There is something out of our control, and we can either take it or leave it, but if we accept it, we have to realize it is what it is. And once we realize those boundaries, we can begin to work with them and even learn to appreciate them, or how to at least tolerate them. When you accept something,  it generally means that you realize the benefits of the bigger picture outweigh the limitations.  

What things in life have you learned to accept, and what things are you just settling for that you could change?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Asparagus Stromboli Recipe

I decided to experiment for dinner and made this yummy asparagus stromboli - this was super easy, and could be the springboard for tons of different variations. I think it would be yummy with prosciutto or thin sliced turkey with the asparagus, and everything can be improved with onions, garlic, and peppers! I just didn't happen to have them on hand tonight. 

First off, I followed this recipe for making asparagus a few nights ago:
(From Ella Claire)

We had leftovers, and I didn't want to see them go to waste, so I made up the Fifteen Minute Pizza Crust, and got to work. Roll out the dough to completely cover a cookie sheet, then spread thinly with cream cheese and herbs. Place your asparagus (I had about 1/2 a pound) in the center third of the dough, and then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella or colby jack cheese. Cut the sides of your dough to look like this:

(from kirsten787 on Photobucket)

Fold up, alternating strips to create a braided look, and tuck in the ends. Bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes. Cool, then cut into strips and serve with ranch dressing or spaghetti sauce. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Meet Calvin

We just went into the pet store for dog food...

I've always had a soft place in my heart for rats since I was eleven and was convinced to buy one by the Petco associate. It was the best pet I have ever had. Her name was Flower, and after three years she was followed by Galadriel. When we moved to the Big Woods, I sold all of my small furry friends and said my goodbyes. 

Last year, the local pet store move to a new facility that is easier to get to, and we've been frequent visitors to hold the animals and buy dog food. While I was in there today, the store owner's daughter told me that I could have this sweet black and white hooded rat because she just couldn't bear the thought of him becoming snake food, and that was most likely going to be his fate. How could anyone refuse? 

I've named him Calvin, and he is such a sweetie! He sat on my shoulder and supervised me folded laundry today, then he fell asleep in my lap while Mom arranged his cage. Now, I'm watching him run on a bright yellow wheel and search through his food bowl for the best treats. 

Most people think rats are gross, but once you've had one as a pet, you never see them in the same light. They are sweet-tempered, intelligent, cuddly, clean, social, and very laid back. They are always on the alert for a treat or a ride on your shoulder, and their little eyes sparkle with curiosity. Can you tell how much I love them? It's good to have a furry friend of my own again.

Want to see more pictures? Check out the album here!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Chicken and Veggies Over Couscous (Healthy Eating Series)

Chicken and Veggies Over Couscous

This was so good! I used pre-cut, pre-cooked chicken, so this meal was a snap to prepare. In a saute pan, put a tablespoon or so of oil and throw in chopped onions and red bell pepper. Cook at medium until they are just getting soft, then add in thin slices of zucchini. While the zucchini is cooking, make the couscous according to the box directions (if it's plain, throw in some crushed garlic, poultry seasoning, and cumin). Once your zucchini looks like it's nearly done, throw in your cooked chicken and cook until it's all hot. Scoop the chicken and veggies over a bed of couscous, and serve with fresh tomato and avocado - the avocado tastes especially delicious with the cooked chicken. For this meal, I was feeding three light eaters, so I used half of a zucchini, 1C cooked couscous, 1 C cooked shredded chicken, half a bell pepper, half an onion, half an avocado, and one roma tomato. Enjoy!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Baked Veggie Sticks (Healthy Eating Series)

With the onset of summer, I wanted to start eating more fresh veggies, less packaged foods, and minimal salt use. I based some of my recipes off of a Mediterranean-style diet, but not strictly. Since I'm always trying to think of new things to feed my family, I thought you might appreciate if I shared some of the healthy meal/snack ideas I've come up with in the past two weeks. 

Baked Veggie Sticks:

These are so good and easy to make! Preheat your oven to 42oF, and coat a metal cookie sheet lightly with olive or coconut oil. Slice your preferred veggies into about 3in. sticks - I cut the zucchini in quarters, then cut each quarter in half. For this mix, I used carrots, zucchini, and sweet potato. Put the veggie sticks into a plastic baggie, then drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add in your seasonings, and you can also add about 1/4 cup of cornmeal, or flour, or parmesan cheese. Toss around in the bag until evenly coated, then spread in a single layer on the cookie sheet:

Bake for 10 minutes at 420F, then gently flip/shuffle around. Bake another 10 minutes, or until the veggies are just browning and they are soft (I checked the carrots, since they are the hardest). I had coated mine with parmesan and cornmeal, and it made them delightfully crispy. The sweet potato was voted the best - I just figured out how to make my own sweet potato fries! 

Remember, a little seasoning goes a long way, and be sure to watch the last few minutes so they don't burn. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Week In Review +365 Project (119-125)

Spring is finally here! I've enjoyed getting a few flower shots, and all around taking in the color and outdoors feel. 

The lilacs out front

I love these bowls...

Salmon over couscous with roasted brussel sprouts and beets

Music in the "park" (it rained, so we were at the school)

Lunch at the drive-in with Mom 

Safety (and priorities) first!

Anybody know what these are? Purple globe flowers?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Carlyle 5K

Ran my third ever 5K today! Here are a few pictures from the race.

We got these awesome moisture-wicking shirts that are a pretty blue color.

The weather was actually warm and it didn't rain, woohoo!

There were 191 participants

 My time was 49:50, two minutes slower than the Shamwalk, but I did not train for this like I should have!

Had a great time, and now we're looking ahead to the Freedom 5K on July 4th!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What Have You Read That's Inspiring? Think About It Thursday

Sorry this is late, folks! Seem to be getting my days mixed up lately!

There are so many online articles, blog posts, and pins that we read every day... some funny, some sad, and some that are just an 'aha!' moment of inspiration. They make you want to clap for the person who wrote it, except they need to make a digital clap so the author can hear you. Well, maybe just leave a comment and tell them that you were inspired. :)

The article that comes to mind as a recent read was from Smartter Each Day, and it was about raising her kids on NASCAR. Before you make any assumptions, just read the article - it's great! It made me proud to be American, a Southerner, and it made me want to go to a live NASCAR race at least once in my life. 

"I love how NASCAR makes time for my three favorite things – Jesus, America, and country music. And I'm not trying to be flippant about the first one. NASCAR is one of the few remaining entertainment forums where you can still mention “Jesus” if you want to, and say your prayers without whispering, and not cower in the corner shielding your faith with a blanket. There’s something to be said for that." - Jessica Smartt

So what have you read online recently that you find inspiring? A picture? A post? Please share the link in the comments!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fifteen Minute Pizza Crust

If I had to choose just one food to eat for the rest of my life, it would be pizza. I LOVE IT! The only thing better than ordinary pizza is homemade pizza, and I try to make it fresh for my family as often as I can. I have tried many recipes for pizza crust, from using store bought crust to the ones you have to leave out to rise three hours before making... those don't work for me, because I don't think that far in advance. So, Betty Crocker to the rescue! I have taken her recipe and added a few of my own tweaks to make it even more tasty. This is your basic thin crust, and it's ready in the time it takes to preheat the oven! 

Fifteen Minute Pizza Crust 

Mix together in a medium size bowl:
1 packet yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp. yeast)
1 C warm water

Add in:
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp italian seasoning
2 T oil

Mix briskly 20 times, then set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes. Preheat oven to 425F (I usually turn the oven on when dough is setting, it takes about 5 min to heat up). Pull out a flat pan - I use a stoneware cookie sheet - and lightly coat with butter or cooking spray. Sprinkle a thin layer of cornmeal down (optional) and place dough onto surface. Gently knead and stretch dough over the pan edges, either with hands or roller. Brush with oil and place in oven for 7 minutes. Pull out and top with your favorite toppings - leave room around the edges to keep sauce and cheese from oozing off. Put in oven for about 15 minutes. The last two minutes, to give your pizza a golden glow, turn the broiler on at 500F, but watch the pizza carefully to keep it from burning! Enjoy!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Do You Own Your Things or Do Your Things Own You? Think About It Thursday

In light of the recent tornadoes affecting many of the southern states, it makes you stop and think about the importance of "things." Many of those people weren't at home when it hit, or they had a matter of minutes to decide what to grab and run with. How important is the stuff? 

Most people grab a few irreplaceable items and get to safety, but there are a few who say, "If my house goes down, I go down with it." Should we really be THAT attached to something? Is there ever a point in life where our house and our possessions become more important to us than our own safety, even our own life?

As I look around I see items I would be sad to lose. I have a large collection of books, most of them significant for one reason or another. My electronics are all important; I spent a long time saving up for them. I have clothes, makeup, and a hope chest full of thing to be used 'someday.' But it's all just stuff. I have about five things I would truly be heartbroken to lose - but that will be a post for another day. 

The most irreplaceable things in life are not items. They are friendships. They are family. People are the only things that cannot be replaced or left behind without regret. My heart goes out to those in Oklahoma who have lost family and friends in the storm. May they find peace and hope in the days to come. 

Do you own your things, or do your things own you? Something to think about...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Plasma Sky Review: Not Your Mama's Galaga

Where to begin? First off, amazement at how far technology has come... as a kid who played the original black and white Zap!2000 on a Palm Pilot, this game is like the fulfillment of every space shooter fantasy I ever had. Cool graphics, slick controls, 80 levels of challenges, three modes, and three styles of touch control; this game is five star. Get it people - it's AWESOME!

No, I haven't been addicted to it for weeks. I first tried it two days ago, and it's one of those games you hate to put down. I wanted to sit and pass every level at one time; it took me two hours, but I finally did! My only complaint about the game is that it doesn't save the level you are on when you leave the game - you start at level one each time. I haven't ventured into the Hardcore or Survival Mode yet, but I can stay interested at the Conquest mode for quite some time. 

This game offers levels that mimic Asteroids, Galaga, and Zap!2000 all rolled into one. On three of the levels, you are in a face-off with the BOSS... survive or die, and you just might kill the bad dude! I also love the little "wingmen" you can pick up along the way; little ships that follow yours and offer another set of laser shots. I've had up to three at a time, and they are really useful on the levels when you are being surrounded by tiny enemy ships going every which way. 

The game is unfortunately no longer free on Amazon, but the $1.99 price is completely worth it - you would have spent somewhere around $20 for this as a computer game ten years ago, and it still wouldn't have been this good!

You can purchase it for Android or Apple devices from the Plasma Sky page

Have you played it? What did you think?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Arts & Crafts Extravaganza

We  went to the craft fair today - I had the chance to take lots of pictures!

Aren't these guys ADORABLE??

by Empty Nest Creations

by Clay Moon Copper (these were just amazing!)

These always catch my eye... 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Eleven Ways to Shorten the Distance Between You & Your Pen-Pal (Guest Post by Nikki Derouin)

Hey folks! I had my sister Nikki write a guest post for us about how to be a better pen-pal. I love getting snail mail letters, don't you? Hope you enjoy this & maybe we'll see more of her writing in the future!

One of my best friends and I have been pen-pals for over 14 years.  A mutual friend thought Beth and I would be good friends and encouraged us to write.  Thankfully, we both loved writing real, pen-and-paper letters and unlike most long-distance friendships, this one stuck.  We still live over 1,500 miles away, and we still keep in touch.  It wasn't until 3 years ago that we reluctantly went to email over snail mail.  However, we still send random letters, just to keep the nostalgia of letters and stamps alive.  

Over the years I've kept up a pen-and-paper correspondence with several people.   Here are my Top 10 Tips {and a BONUS 11th tip} that I hope will help keep the snail-mail experience alive for you. 

1) Try not to be boring.

Enjoy the process of writing. Write like you talk. Find ways to bring humor to your writing. If you don't want your letter to sound like a list of things you did last week, write about how a certain situation made you FEEL. This will keep the letters from getting redundant. 

2) If all else fails, keep writing. 

Even if you think your letters are boring, keep writing. Even if you don't have a natural knack at being conversational, you still have something to give. I don't mind reading “boring” letters because there is still so much to glean and enjoy. 

3) Write in a journal like fashion.

My favorite letters to receive are the ones that take 4 pages and cover twice as many days. Sometimes seeing the stop and start of how a person corresponds is extremely revealing about their day-to-day life. If you can't dedicate a long amount of time, then write in short spurts, and date each time you change days. 

4) Be willing to learn more about writing.

There are so many books about letter writing. There a websites and classes. Look into these things. Recently, while trying to write a sympathy card, I started to wonder if I could express myself more sympathetically. I did a search and found a funeral home that had a specific page dedicated to writing sympathy notes. I was so grateful for the perspective that was offered. Take time to improve the way you communicate in writing.

5) Remember you don't live next door – be descriptive. 

This is especially true of international pen-pals. Yet, there are so many cultural and demographic differences even in the same country! Try to be aware of ways in which your writing could expand your pen pal’s perspective – if in no other way then mentioning the weather. Beth is already telling me of days that almost reach 90* while I'm still sitting here in wool socks and sweaters hoping it will get to 32* this afternoon! I love to imagine what it would feel like to be in the same place! 

6) Remember you don't live next door – put a little more into it. 

If you lived next door to your friend, you would most likely go out to coffee, bring over a dozen muffins or share something you read in a book or magazine. Value your pen pal as a friend, not as a letter. Try to find ways to make the letters personal or add a little something extra. This can be a simple as a tea bag, or a bookmark, or an article you clipped out of a magazine. Show your pen-pal that you thought of him or her outside of the letter and in your day-to-day life. 

7) Remember you don't live next door – be realistic about problems. 

This is not where I encourage you to be positive and not negative. Some of the most important letters I've ever received have been in response to a “negative” letter I've sent. Some of my pen-pals have helped me through the most difficult times in my life. A letter is a powerful tool! But be realistic. If the person is not fully aware of the situation, do not expect them to be fully sympathetic or fully capable of offering healthy and correct advice. But on the flipside, asking a close pen-pal for advice may be exactly what you need to do. He or she will be removed from the situation and may be able to offer clear-headed advice.

8) Don't assume the worst – write out of turn.

Pen pals take turns. I write, I get a letter, I write back. But life is crazy. Realize the other person has more priorities than just returning a letter. Every once and awhile write out of turn. Don't ask, “So, why haven't you written??” Just write a short little letter or postcard mentioning that you thought of them or had something to share. This will usually jump start their response and give them a good opportunity to write back. If you find that you are always writing out of turn, perhaps the other person is not a good letter writer and being pen pals is not their strong suit. If you enjoy the other person’s conversations, try another form of communication. If you have found little common ground, then perhaps you need another pen pal. But don't give up too soon!

9) Be encouraging.

This is where I say, “ don't be negative all the time”. Make sure that you are giving in this relationship and not just taking. Share something that encouraged you. Be uplifting. Be sincere, but be as positive as possible. I hold on to every. single. letter. And I'm amazed at how much strength I gain from these letters. I hope that the same can be said of the ones I have sent.

10) Motivate without harping. 

Like any friendship, you want to motivate the other person! Find ways to motivate each other. Beth and I both enjoy yarn crafts, and we will ask about each other’s projects … thankfully, she’s kind enough not to mention how many projects I’ve started and never finished. Yet, we still like to ask, motivate, and encourage each other to try new things and to finish what we've started!

BONUS TIP: 11) Do the same thing a thousand miles apart! 

One of the most fun and exciting parts of my friendship with Beth is our attempts to “do things together a thousand miles apart”. How? Well, we both took up jogging at the same time {part of the ‘motivate without harping’ tip} and found 5ks to run on the same day! Even if we had been at the exact same race, we would not have run side by side, but having this “run day” together was so motivational, fun, and just plain silly! She and I also take the same online classes. We encourage each other to do the assignments and we send pictures of our completed coursework. This year Beth and I set a goal to work on memorizing Scripture – we are memorizing the same book of the Bible and using the same memory program. I would never have kept up on my end without her motivation. Other ideas would be – working on the same type of project, listening to the same podcast, reading the same book, or watching the same movie. If at all possible, shorten the space between you and your pen-pal! :) 

I hope these tips will motivate you to keep up a correspondence the old fashion way – but with the blessing of modern technology. If you don't have a pen pal, write a letter to someone who needs encouragement or someone who would love to get a letter from you. It doesn't need to be fancy – it just needs to be heartfelt.

Nikki is an author, part-time babysitter, and full time crafter. She recently published a book for women called Singled Out, which you can purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or CBD.